• The Way of the Master
  • Let Down Your Nets

    There is no exclusion put upon any tribe or clan, no classes are laid under ban, no individuals are exempted. Therefore, Church of Christ, by the love you bear to your crucified Master, by His wounds and death for you, and by His living love to you, seek out the lost and gather together the outcasts. You fishers of men, launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught. You sowers of holy seed, go abroad, and sow the untrodden wastes. You consecrated builders, break away from old foundations, and lay fresh groundwork for a larger temple for your God and King. Surely the Spirit of love in a church will suggest this. ~ C. H. Spurgeon

    16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. ~ Romans 1:16, 17

    28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: ~ Colossians 1:28

    16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. ~ 1 Timothy 3:16

    6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. ~ John 14:6

    21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

    25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? ~ John 11:25,26

    16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. ~ John 3:16-18

    24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. ~ Galatians 3:24

    23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23

    8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. ~ Ephesians 2:8-10

    3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. 7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.~ John 3:3,7

    3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; ~ 1 Timothy 2:3-5

    13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. 14 But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; 15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. ~ Acts 3:13-15

    19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; 20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: 21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. ~ Acts 3:19-21

    36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. ~ John 3:36

    11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. ~ 1 John 5:11,12

    21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. ~ John 14:21

    7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. ~ 1 John 5:7

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Yemen ~ VOM’s Prayer Parlour Diary

Tuesday January 11, 2011

20For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. ~ Matthew 18:20

The small number of Christians in Yemen often leaves them isolated from fellow Believers.

Wednesday January 12, 2011

17So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. ~ Romans 10:17

Praise God for radio broadcasts and discrete evangelism bringing many Yemenis to Christ.

Thursday January 13, 2011

10Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. ~ Revelation 2:10

Nine foreign Christian relief workers were abducted, three killed, for evangelising.

Friday January 14, 2011

1But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: ~ Titus 2:1

Pray for effective church planting and sound Biblical teaching for new Believers.

Saturday January 15, 2011

4Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand. ~ Acts 4:4

Pray nationals will come under the message of the Gospel and be saved.

Sunday January 16, 2011

8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8

Pray for President Ali Abdullah Salih to turn to Jesus Christ the Saviour.

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COUNTRY Yemen YE
DESCRIPTION Yemen is one of the poorest countries on the Arabian Peninsula. About 90 percent of the men use a drug called “khat”
daily, limiting national advancement. Islam is the official religion, and Shariah law is the ultimate source of all legislation. It is illegal for non-Muslims to proselytize and for Muslims to convert to Christianity.

Category: Restricted Nation
Religion: Muslim 99.94%, Christian 0.05%
Ideology: Islam
Head of State: President Ali Abdallah Salih

Yemeni converts from Islam face the death penalty if discovered. VOM is connected with a small community of Muslim background believers — handfuls of indigenous believers in several different areas. These believers live under constant threat. Nine foreigners, including three children, were kidnapped by an unknown group in June 2009. Three of the foreigners were killed, including two who were accused of missionary work. Pictures of national Christians were posted online earlier this year; soon afterward the people in the pictures were arrested. Yemenis recognize honesty in Christians, and this makes them open to the gospel message.

RELATED LINKS Persecution.com Story – Yemen: Christians killed
Be-A-Voice Prayer Bulletin – Abducted Christians Alive
Be-A-Voice Prayer Bulletin – Christians Abducted

Vietnam ~ VOM’s Prayer Parlour Diary

Saturday January 1, 2011

16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16,17

Pray for spiritual growth for the 500,000 new Christians among the Hmong tribe.

Sunday January 2, 2011

3But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 5For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Pray for the many who continue to persecute Christians to turn to Christ.

Monday January 3, 2011

9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. ~ Galatians 6:9

VOM’s Families of Martyrs fund assists families like that of martyred Pastor Y-Ben Hdok.

Tuesday January 4, 2011

3But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil. ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:3

Pray for protection of Christians who gather in secret to baptize new Believers.

Wednesday January 5, 2011

10But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. ~ 1 Peter 5:10

Pray for Le Thi Cong Nhan, Nguyen Van Dai and other imprisoned Christians.

Thursday January 6, 2011

7How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! ~ Isaiah 52:7

Pray for bicycle and motorbike ministries taking God’s Word across Vietnam.

Friday January 7, 2011

38Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. ~ Matthew 9:38

More trained pastors and leaders are needed to shepherd the growing church.

Saturday January 8, 2011

32And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. ~ John 12:32

Pray VOM’s Underground Reality: Vietnam DVD draws many hearts to pray for Vietnam.

Sunday January 9, 2011

18To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. ~ Acts 26:18

Pray many become disillusioned with Buddhism and communism and turn to Christ.

Monday January 10, 2011

6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. ~ Romans 5:6

Pray for President Nguyen Minh Triet to experience salvation through Jesus Christ.

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COUNTRY Vietnam VN
DESCRIPTION Vietnam is one of the few remaining communist nations in the world. The constitution guarantees religious freedom,
but the atheistic regime tries to control all religion with a system of obligatory registrations. Despite religious figures cited below, the CIA World Factbook reports religious affiliation as “none” by 80 percent of the population.

Category: Restricted Nation
Religion: Buddhist 54.14%, Christian 8.16%
Ideology: Communism
Head of State: President Nguyen Minh Triet

Persecution of Christians is harsh, particularly for unregistered and ethnic minority churches. Many churches have chosen to remain unregistered because of the unreasonable restrictions the government imposes on registered
churches and believers. Arbitrary arrests, harassment and fines are common. Many Christians are in prison. Only a few have been released, and many have been forced to renounce their faith. Several ethnic Christians reportedly died after being released from prison or while in police custody because of injuries caused by torture. Government efforts have intensified as churches respond to persecution with growth and outreach. Despite persecution, many Vietnamese, especially from ethnic groups in the mountains of Central and Southern Vietnam, have turned to Christ in the past 10 years. They baptize at night in streams and walk for days to obtain and distribute Bibles. Because of this growth, there is a great need for trained teachers and leaders. On Dec. 17, 2008, local government officials destroyed a new wooden church building built by Hmong Christians in Cu Hat village, Dak Lak province. Police with electric cattle prods beat hundreds of distraught Christians who rushed to the site to protect the building. Five people were injured in the attack, including a child who suffered a broken arm and a woman who was poked in the stomach with a cattle prod.

RELATED LINKS Persecution.com Story – Vietnam: Family Flees Village
VOMBooks Product – Underground Reality: Vietnam Set
VOMBooks Product – Bold Believers in Vietnam
VOMBooks Product – Underground Reality Vietnam Study Kit
PrisonerAlert Prisoner – Le Thi Cong Nhan
PrisonerAlert Prisoner – Nguyen Van Dai
PrisonerAlert Prisoner – Father Nguyen Van Ly
Be-A-Voice Prayer Bulletin – Christian Abducted
Be-A-Voice Prayer Bulletin – House Churches Raided

Uzbekistan ~ VOM’s Prayer Parlour Diary

Friday December 24, 2010

13But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; ~ Hebrews 3:13,14

Pray for Believers arrested and fined for distribution of Christian material.

Saturday December 25, 2010

23And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:23,24

Members of the Baptist denomination in Uzbekistan have been targeted with harassment.

Sunday December 26, 2010

9The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. ~ Psalm 9:9

Religious gatherings in private homes are illegal. Pray for protection for house-churches.

Monday December 27, 2010

8We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; ~ 2 Corinthians 4:8,9

Pray for Gafur Yusupov, banned and isolated from meeting with fellow Christians.

Tuesday December 28, 2010

6For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. ~ Proverbs 2:6

Religious education classes for children are illegal. Pray for wisdom for children’s ministry.

Wednesday December 29, 2010

25But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. ~ 1 Peter 1:25

Pray for protection of religious materials, many are being confiscated and burned.

Thursday December 30, 2010

8I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. ~ Psalm 32:8

Pray for wisdom for VOM to effectively encourage and minister to Uzbek Christians.

Friday December 31, 2010

23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ Romans 6:23

Pray for salvation and submission to God of President Islom Karimov.

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COUNTRY Uzbekistan UZ
DESCRIPTION Uzbekistan is a secular state that promotes a moderate form of Islam. Almost all Christians are ethnic minorities. Pressure against religious minorities, including Protestants, has increased recently.

Category: Restricted Nation
Religion: Muslim 83.50%, Christian 1.28%
Ideology: Islam/Communism
Head of State: President Islom Karimov

This past year, officials cracked down on Christians throughout Uzbekistan. In southeast Uzbekistan, police have campaigned to prevent children from attending worship services. The campaign, which uses the state-controlled mass media, attacks schools and parents who allow children to attend religious “sects.” At least 25,000 ethnic Uzbeks are believed to have converted to Christianity since 1990. Many have joined the approximately 65 unregistered fellowships scattered throughout the country. Uzbekistan’s religion law bans unregistered religious activity and any activity by an
unregistered group; even importing books is illegal. Thirteen Uzbek Christians from an unregistered Baptist church in the city of Almalyk were arrested on March 15, 2009, when the Police Antiterrorism Department raided a home where they gathered for worship. The Christians were found guilty of “attracting believers of one confession to another” and fined 50 times the minimum monthly salary (about US $955.) The verdict stated the church members were distributing religious literature without permission and had gathered for an “illegal religious teaching meeting.” On April 5, 2009, two believers from an unregistered Baptist church were arrested by police at the metro station in Tashkent. Ilgiz Bikkinin and Vera Prokhorova were questioned by police, and their Bibles and other Christian literature were confiscated.

RELATED LINKS Persecution.com Story – Uzbekistan: Believers Arrested
Persecution.com Story – Uzbekistan: Baptists Fined
Persecution.com Story – Uzbekistan: Authorities Crack Down
VOMBooks Product – Bold Believers in Uzbekistan
PrisonerAlert Prisoner – Tohar Haydarov
PrisonerAlert Prisoner – Dmitry Shestakov
Be-A-Voice Prayer Bulletin – Churches Raided
Be-A-Voice Prayer Bulletin – Ministry Loses Court Case

A Case Against Xmas

I posted an article last week titled “Christmas ~ Satan’s Pagan Deception?“, but here is an excellent and a truly wonderful article written by Brother Sean Morris that reveals the Holiness, Wrath and Justice and Mercy and Salvation of Almighty God that every Christian must read. Please click the photo below ~ “A case presented in the light of over 500 verses from Holy Scripture” …

or you can also view a pdf version at the above website, or here .

This article was brought to my attention when I was looking at Brother Vincent and Sister Kelsey’s FaceBook photos of their recent wedding which I attended. If you are looking forward to being edified, please check out “YMBBA Ministries” and the “Church of Arlington” that gathers in Dallas, Texas by clicking the photo hereunder ~

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In closing this post, Brother Vincent and Sister Kelsey (who is from the “Church of Arlington”) were wed in a God-ordained marriage that took place in Empangeni, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on Sunday December 12, 2010. We hereby present to you Mr and Mrs Piater …

Vincent and Kelsey Piater arriving at their reception in Richard's Bay

This is posted all for the Glory of God.

United Arab Emirates ~ VOM’s Prayer Parlour Diary

Friday December 17, 2010

3Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established. ~ Proverbs 16:3

International mission organizations may provide assistance, but no evangelisation.

Saturday December 18, 2010

29And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, ~ Acts 4:29

Pray for tourists and workers to find the opportunity to share the Gospel.

Sunday December 19, 2010

1Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:1

Religious websites are reportedly filtered, pray Christian sites are protected.

Monday December 20, 2010

2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. ~ 2 Timothy 4:2

Pray for protection for Christian materials and effective outreach to nationals.

Tuesday December 21, 2010

4And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. 5And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily. ~ Acts 16:4,5

 As God’s Word is proclaimed, pray for churches to be established.

Wednesday December 22, 2010

19Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. ~ Matthew 6:19-21

Pray citizen’s wealth and luxury don’t deter them from seeking eternal lfe in Christ.

Thursday December 23, 2010

25Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; ~ Romans 3:25

Pray for President Khalifa bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan to be saved.

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COUNTRY United Arab Emirates AE
DESCRIPTION United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) allows only foreign Christians to worship and witness freely. Islam is the state religion, with a Sunni majority. All of the country’s citizens are considered Muslim. Non-Muslim men are not allowed to marry Muslim women. There are at least 31 Christian churches for foreigners in the country, built on land donated by ruling families.

Category: Restricted Nation
Religion: Muslim 65.45%, Hindu 17.00%, Christian 9.25%
Ideology: Islam
Head of State: President Khalifa bin Zayid al-Nuhayyan

Christian education and witnessing to nationals are severely restricted. Though there is no law against evangelism, the government is known to pressure those who try to spread their faith. Several Christian medical agencies are allowed to operate and show Christ’s love to the people of the U.A.E. through selfless service. Other mission organizations may provide humanitarian assistance, but they must not evangelize. Many U.A.E. citizens appear eager to learn about the gospel in private, and they enthusiastically receive Christian materials. Evangelistic work must remain underground.

RELATED LINKS Persecution.com Story – Saudi Arabia: Man Kills Daughter
PrisonerAlert Prisoner – Sirah Sarabi

Christmas ~ Satan’s Pagan Deception?

By Gary Stephen Crous

Preface

This is the time of year that most Christians the world over celebrates on December 25th the birth of Jesus Christ. It is also the time of year when the secular world – unbelievers – and most religions of the world follow after another celebration which mostly takes to partying and revelling in a time of festive fun. But what does this time of year hold in store for the believer and unbeliever? Was Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, really born on December 25th? Or is this Satan’s deception to the world using pagan celebrations?

The Holy Bible reads:

23But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. ~ John 4:23,24

What does God’s Word reveal to us in Scripture? And are we called to celebrate Christ’s birth? Much has been written before about Christmas and whether we are to celebrate the birth of Christ or not. As a Christian we are to read, search and seek God’s Word on this issue. If we are desiring to follow and honour God in all our ways, we will take our lead from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and follow His example. Jesus said:

29And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him. 30As he spake these words, many believed on him. 31Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. ~ John 8:29-32

And so we must be willing to search the Scriptures, like the Bereans (see Acts 17:11) and the history to find out the real truth about Christmas. The Word of God is the final authority and it is from there that we will see whether Christmas is pleasing to God or not.

We also know that the Word of God is to be used:

16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16,17

We should all also heed the stern warnings by Jesus about those who do well-intended religious practices in His Name:

21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. ~ Matthew 7:21-23

I do not celebrate Christmas as the secular world or Christendom celebrates it. The reasons are that in the Holy Bible there is no instruction or commandment from the Lord Jesus or His apostles to celebrate His birth. What we do find in Scripture, though, is a command to remember the Lord’s death until He returns at His second coming. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 reads ~

23For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. (My emphasis added in bold and throughout)

Christmas has many trappings that appeal to the lusts of the eyes and the flesh alike and also has many practices that cannot be associated with Christ or they have no Scriptural basis that followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, as His disciples, should be partaking in. Is it really harmless to celebrate the birth of Christ when there is no Scriptural command for doing so? Before we can even begin to answer these and many other questions surrounding the birth date of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, we need to first read the Biblical account of His birth from God’s Word as recorded by the physician Luke in the Gospel penned by him. Luke has recorded pertinent information that is not recorded in the other Gospels, but when read together they are all in harmony. Let us go first to the Scriptures to read the blessed historic recording of the birth of Messiah inspired by the Holy Spirit – the whole text from Luke 1:1-2:40 is recorded here, especially for the visitors of this blog who do not have the Holy Scriptures available ~

Luke 1

Dedication to Theophilus

1Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; 3It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

5There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.

8And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, 9According to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. 11And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. 16And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. 18And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 19And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings. 20And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season. 21And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. 22And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless. 23And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.

 24And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.

Jesus’ Birth Foretold

26And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, 27To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Mary Visits Elisabeth

39And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. 46And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

 47And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. 48For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. 49For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. 50And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. 51He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. 52He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. 53He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. 54He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; 55As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. 56And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.

The Birth of John the Baptist

57Now Elisabeth’s full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son. 58And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her. 59And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father. 60And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. 61And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. 62And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. 63And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all. 64And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God. 65And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea. 66And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.

Zacharias’ Prophecy

67And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, 68Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, 69And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; 70As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 71That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 72To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, 74That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, 75In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. 76And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; 77To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 78Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 79To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. 80And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.

Luke 2

The Birth of Jesus

1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. 17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. 18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

21And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 22And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; 23(As it is written in the law of the LORD, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) 24And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. 25And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. 26And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. 33And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him. 34And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; 35(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

36And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

The Return to Nazareth

39And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth. 40And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

It is important that you read the full account according to Luke so that no important information is missed.

The Course of Abijah

There is evidence that Messiah was born at Sukkot (Booths / Tabernacles) in 4 B.C. The key to calculating the date of the birth of Jesus is Luke 1:5 where we learn that Zechariah (Zacharias) the father of John the Baptist was a priest of the course of Abijah (Abia). The priests from the sons of Aaron were allotted to serve at the Temple and were divided into twenty-four divisions (courses):

1Now these are the divisions of the sons of Aaron. The sons of Aaron; Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 2But Nadab and Abihu died before their father, and had no children: therefore Eleazar and Ithamar executed the priest’s office. 3And David distributed them, both Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, according to their offices in their service. 4And there were more chief men found of the sons of Eleazar than of the sons of Ithamar, and thus were they divided. Among the sons of Eleazar there were sixteen chief men of the house of their fathers, and eight among the sons of Ithamar according to the house of their fathers. 5Thus were they divided by lot, one sort with another; for the governors of the sanctuary, and governors of the house of God, were of the sons of Eleazar, and of the sons of Ithamar. 6And Shemaiah the son of Nethaneel the scribe, one of the Levites, wrote them before the king, and the princes, and Zadok the priest, and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and before the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites: one principal household being taken for Eleazar, and one taken for Ithamar. 7Now the first lot came forth to Jehoiarib, the second to Jedaiah, 8The third to Harim, the fourth to Seorim, 9The fifth to Malchijah, the sixth to Mijamin, 10The seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah, 11The ninth to Jeshuah, the tenth to Shecaniah, 12The eleventh to Eliashib, the twelfth to Jakim, 13The thirteenth to Huppah, the fourteenth to Jeshebeab, 14The fifteenth to Bilgah, the sixteenth to Immer, 15The seventeenth to Hezir, the eighteenth to Aphses, 16The nineteenth to Pethahiah, the twentieth to Jehezekel, 17The one and twentieth to Jachin, the two and twentieth to Gamul, 18The three and twentieth to Delaiah, the four and twentieth to Maaziah. 19These were the orderings of them in their service to come into the house of the LORD, according to their manner, under Aaron their father, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded him. 20And the rest of the sons of Levi were these: Of the sons of Amram; Shubael: of the sons of Shubael; Jehdeiah. 21Concerning Rehabiah: of the sons of Rehabiah, the first was Isshiah. 22Of the Izharites; Shelomoth: of the sons of Shelomoth; Jahath. 23And the sons of Hebron; Jeriah the first, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third, Jekameam the fourth. 24Of the sons of Uzziel; Michah: of the sons of Michah; Shamir. 25The brother of Michah was Isshiah: of the sons of Isshiah; Zechariah. 26The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi: the sons of Jaaziah; Beno. 27The sons of Merari by Jaaziah; Beno, and Shoham, and Zaccur, and Ibri. 28Of Mahli came Eleazar, who had no sons. 29Concerning Kish: the son of Kish was Jerahmeel. 30The sons also of Mushi; Mahli, and Eder, and Jerimoth. These were the sons of the Levites after the house of their fathers. 31These likewise cast lots over against their brethren the sons of Aaron in the presence of David the king, and Zadok, and Ahimelech, and the chief of the fathers of the priests and Levites, even the principal fathers over against their younger brethren. ~ 1 Chronicles 24

Each course served for two weeks each year, once in the first half of the year and once in the second half of the year.  The Temple priests were also required to serve collectively for three weeks during the three pilgrimage festivals as recorded in Deuteronomy 16:16 ~

16Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty:

Therefore, 24 courses times 2 Temple duties a year equal 48 weeks, plus the three pilgrimage weeks totals 51 weeks. The 51 weeks equate to 357 days which fits within the 360-day lunar year. The course of Abijah is the eighth course (1 Chronicles 24:10), which serves the tenth week during the first half of the year, which is a result of including the Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost) festivals when all of the priests would serve together as recorded in Deuteronomy 16:16, which festivals fall within this first part of the year.

THE JEWISH CALENDAR

MONTH PRE- / POST EXILIC OF YEAR SACRED / CIVIL MODERN EQUIVALENT MONTHS CHARACTERISTICS OF MONTHS
Abib / Nisan 1 / 7 March / April Latter rains; Barley harvest
Ziv / Iyyar 2 /8 April / May Dry season begins
Sivan 3 / 9 May / June Wheat harvest; Early figs
Tammaz 4 / 10 June / July Hot season; Grape harvest
Ab 5 / 11 July / August Olive harvest
Elul 6 / 12 August / September Dates; Summer Figs
Ethanim / Tishri 7 / 1 September / October Former rains; Ploughing times
Bul / Heshvan 8 / 2 October / November Rains; Wheat, barley sown
Chislev 9 / 3 November / December Winter begins
Tebeth 10 / 4 December / January Rains, snow
Shebat 11 / 5 January / February Almond trees blossom
Adar 12 / 6 February / March Latter rains begin; Citrus harvest

Zechariah had his vision while serving in the eighth course of Abijah which fell in the tenth week of the year, calculating from the beginning of the religious year in the month Abib/Nisan, around 14 days before Passover. As with the manner of women, let us add two weeks to comply with the purity laws (Leviticus 15:19, 25) which would then bring John’s conception to be in the 12th week of the year. If he was born about forty weeks later (for we are not sure of the exact day of conception calculated at about 40 weeks from Elisabeth’s last menstruation) during the fifty-second week (12 + 40 = 52) that would bring us to the birth of John at the Passover festival.  I believe that in God’s providence John the Baptist was born at Passover at the very time that Elijah was, according to Jewish tradition, supposed to appear. Let us read what Scripture says about John the Baptist coming in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17). At the transfiguration of Christ, Moses and Elijah appeared to Jesus and His disciples Peter, James and John. And this is recorded in Matthew 17:10-13 ~

10And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? 11And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. 12But I say unto you, That Elias is come already [see Matthew 11:14], and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. 13Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist. [See also Mark 9:10-13 and Luke 9:33]

In the Gospel according to John we also read ~

19And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? 20And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. 21And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. 22Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? 23He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias [Isaiah 40:3]. ~ John 1:19-23

Using the calculations in operation and the Scriptures told, I believe God’s mandate is perfect and He is very specific about times and shadows of events to come (past, present and future), that His Son Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit six months (about 25 weeks) after John the Baptist’s conception. This means Christ Jesus was conceived about the 37th week around the festival Hanukkah. This would mean the Light of the world [see John 1:9] was conceived during the festival of lights!

To fulfil prophecies, the prophecy would have to be fulfilled to the last detail and I do not believe God would generalise specifics as this would take away from His glory. To be precise in the prophetic Word given, God, being a God of divine order, would be exact and precise in bringing His Word to pass, just as the star (see Matthew 2:2) in the night sky appeared at the exact time He sent it to appear, and the angel Gabriel appeared at the exact time he was sent by God as His messenger, so too was the birth of His Only Begotten Son precisely when God chose for His Son to enter this world – on time. Jesus was therefore born forty weeks later (around week 77; that is week 25 of the following year) which brings us to the time of the autumn (fall) feasts in the month Ethanim/Tishri (i.e. September/October). I believe God is giving us a Revelation of when He revealed Himself as His Son, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin and entered into this world as the God-Man –  “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

The Festival of Sukkot

This all points towards the Festival of Sukkot as we examine the Biblical account:

Bethlehem was “booked out.” This was a combination of two aspects – firstly, the taxing (or enrolment) that Caesar Augustus decreed:

1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) ~ Luke 2:1-4

And secondly, every Jew was required to come to Jerusalem for the Festival of Sukkot (Deuteronomy 16:16) and this would also have had the effect of Jerusalem being “booked out” where the Temple was situated as well as Bethlehem just five miles away. Therefore, it would be understandable that there was no room in the inn. Could it also be that they were not able to pay the cost of an inn? (See the sacrifice that they offered in Luke 2:24 in accordance with the law in Leviticus 12:6-8 “… and if she be not able to bring a lamb,” (verse 8a)). We should also remember that Jews attending the Festival of Sukkot would be residing in booths for the duration of the festival according to the Jewish custom.

We read in Genesis 33:17 ~

17And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth*. [*That is Booths]

The word “booth” in this verse is the Hebrew word in the Strong’s Concordance [5521 sukkâh, sook-kaw’: feminine of 5520; a hut or lair – booth, cottage, covert, pavilion, tabernacle, tent. A feminine singular noun meaning a booth, a thicket. This term is used for temporary shelters used to cover animals (Ge 33:17); warriors (2Sa 11:11); and the prophet Jonah (Jnh 4:5). It is used poetically to refer to the clouds (Job 36:29; Ps 18:11[12]). A specialized usage is employed for booths constructed for the fall harvest festival (Le 23:42,43). The festival was known as the chag hassukkôwth (2282), the Feast of Booths (Dt 16:13,16). This was to remind the Israelites that they lived in booths when the Lord brought them up from Egypt (Le 23:43).]

And so we gather that Jesus was born in a temporary shelter that possibly housed animals as He was laid in a manger, a feeding trough used as a crib. This would also point to them staying in a booth during the Feast of Booths as recorded in Leviticus 23:42,43 ~

42Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: 43That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

If Jesus was born on the first day of Sukkot then He would have been circumcised on the “eighth great day” a festival following Sukkot. Shemini Atseret (“Eighth Day of Solemn Assembly”) is a festival observed immediately after Sukkot (Tabernacles), i.e., on 22 Tishri, as laid down in the Pentateuch: “On the eighth day you shall observe a holy occasion … it is a solemn gathering (Atseret); you shall not work at your occupations” (Lev. 23:36; cf. Num. 29:35). The term Atseret (lit. “concluding festival”) is also applied to the last day of Passover (Deut. 16:8) and, by the rabbis, to Shavu’Ot (RH 1:2; Shev. 1:1). This day was the original “Simchat Torah” (Rejoicing of the Law) {n. Judaism A festival celebrating the Law of Moses and the completion of the year’s cycle and subsequent new beginning, observed on the 22nd or 23rd day of Tishri (September/October). [Hebrew śimhat tôrâ, rejoicing in the Torah, Simchat Torah: śimhâ, joy (from śāmēah, to rejoice) + tôrâ, torah.]}(1) – which is now held the following day in Rabbinic Judaism.

So Jesus would have entered the covenant on the day of “rejoicing in the Torah.” Think of the time when Jesus stood up and read from the book of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1-2) in the synagogue ~

16And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. ~ Luke 4:16-21

The point being made is God is precise in bringing His Word to pass on time. Are you hearing?

Sukkot is symbolic of God dwelling in a “tabernacle” (body) with us. John 1:14 reads ~

14And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

The word “dwelt” is recorded in the Strong’s Concordance as [4637 – skēnoō from 4636; to tent or encamp, i.e. (figurative) to occupy (as a mansion) or (special) to reside (as God in the tabernacle of old, a symbol of protection and communion):- dwell]. See also Hebrews 9:11 that Christ is our tabernacle ~

11But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building;

Then there are also certain other historical, archaeological, geographical and meteorological evidence that confirm the time of year of our Lord Jesus Christ’s birth. We should also listen to the actual Words of the Biblical text used which gives us insight into the events that unfolded.

The Shepherds of Bethlehem

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

The word “abiding” is the only time that this word is used with the Greek word agrauleō in the Strong’s Concordance [63 – agrauleō from 68 and 832 (in the sense of 833); to camp out – abide in the field.] The shepherds were camping out which would not be the case if they were in the month of December. Winter would have set in and the latter rainy season would have commenced from late October and it would be unlikely that the shepherds would have their flocks out in the fields at night. When the rainy season started in the late fall, where temperatures would also be freezing, the shepherds would have already brought their sheep in from the fields and sheltered them.

From the Adam Clark Commentary, Volume 5, page 347, we learn “[i]t was an ancient custom among the Jews of those days to send their sheep to the fields and deserts about Passover (early spring) and bring them home at commencement of the first rain.” The authority continues, “during the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and day, as … the first rains began early in the month of Marchesvan, which answers to part of our October and November (begins mid‑October), we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole summer, and as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields by night. On this very ground, the nativity in December should be given up.”

From the Mede’s Works, 1679, Discourse xlvii we read: “It is evidenced that Jesus was not born during the middle of winter, for at the time of His birth, the shepherds were living out in the fields with their flocks. As the bible says: “There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). As is well known the shepherds in Palestine do not “abide in the fields” during the winter season because of the extreme, cold temperatures. The shepherds always bring their flocks in from the mountain slopes and fields no later than October 15th!”

Another quoted source reads: “Israeli meteorologists tracked December weather patterns for many years and concluded that the climate in Israel has been essentially constant for at least the last 2,000 years … broadly speaking, weather phenomena and climatic conditions as pictured in the Bible correspond with conditions as observed today” ~ The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (R.B.Y. Scott, Vol. 3, Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1962, p.625).

The Bible also states that winter is a rainy month:

11For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; ~ Song of Solomon 2:11

and

9Then all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered themselves together unto Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain. … 13But the people are many, and it is a time of much rain, and we are not able to stand without, neither is this a work of one day or two: for we are many that have transgressed in this thing. ~ Ezra 10:9,13

It is also worth noting the “clothing” that the baby Jesus was wrapped in at the time of His birth which would not be appropriate for the middle of winter. One writer also says that the child would not have been laid in a manger if it was in the middle of winter, but His mother Mary would have used her body heat to keep Him warm. We read the account pertaining to the swaddling clothes ~

6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. ~ Luke 2:6,7

The word “swaddling” is in the Greek [4683 – sparganoō from sparganon (a strip from a derivative of the base of 4682 meaning to strip or wrap with strips); to swathe (an infant after the Oriental custom): - wrap in swaddling clothes.] We can see that Joseph and Mary were not only poor by the offering that they offered at the Temple, “a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:24 and see Leviticus 12:6-8), but the clothes were also strips of wrap.

It is clear from the evidence provided that the birth of Jesus Christ could not have been in the middle of winter and therefore we can dispel the notion of a December birth for the Saviour of the world.

December 25th – A compromise with heathens

“December 25th was the day the Romans celebrated the birth of their (pagan) sun-god.”  ~ The Encyclopaedia Americana, Vol. 6, p. 623.

“… to facilitate the acceptance of the faith by the pagan masses, the Church of Rome found it convenient to institute the 25th of December as the feast of the birth of Christ … from the pagan feast, celebrated on the same day in honor of the pagan god, Mithras …” ~ Manual of Liturgical History, 1955, Vol. 2, p. 67.

“In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners who make great rejoicing over the day in which they were born into this world.” ~ Catholic Encyclopaedia, 1908 Edition, Vol. 3, p. 724, “Natal Day.”

1A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. 2It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. ~ Ecclesiastes 7:1,2

“Christmas is a vivid illustration of the world’s power of attraction. It plays upon all of a person’s senses with pleasant music, lights, colours, foods, clothes, gifts, and parties. Though it is a very attractive trap, it nonetheless ensnares the person into destruction. By itself, it does not destroy the person — it is the snare, the trap!

Anyone who has ever hunted a wild animal like a deer knows one cannot bag his prey by blundering through the woods making noise and leaving his scent everywhere. Instead, a hunter makes himself as invisible as possible so that the deer wanders under his stand where he can shoot it. The same holds true with trapping smaller animals. A successful trapper makes a trap that will entice the animal in without letting it know that it will be caught.

Christmas is a well-laid trap. In celebrating it, the people of the land honour, worship, and glorify a god, but not the God of the Bible. It is appealing and attractive with all the ornamentation and catchy music. There is also an appealing baby, born to be the King of kings, and his lovely mother radiant in her motherhood. In addition, what could be better than giving gifts? Certainly giving is Christian. And what about decorating evergreen trees, hanging mistletoe and holly boughs, carolling, stuffing stockings, and burning Yule logs? Everything just seems to go so well together. Nevertheless, it is a trap because it is not true.” ~ Christmas, Syncretism and Presumption by John W. Ritenbaugh; December 2001.

Here are definitions of the word Syncretism ~

A definition from Answers.com – noun  

  1. Reconciliation or fusion of differing systems of belief, as in philosophy or religion, especially when success is partial or the result is heterogeneous.
  2. Linguistics. The merging of two or more originally different inflectional forms.

[Greek sunkrētismos, union, from sunkrētizein, to unite (in the manner of the Cretan cities) : sun-, syn- + Krēs, Krēt-, Cretan.]

A definition from Dictionary.com – noun

1.             the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion.

2.            Grammar. the merging, as by historical change in a language, of two or more categories in a specified environment into one, as, in nonstandard English, the use of was with both singular and plural subjects, while in standard English was is used with singular subjects (except for you in the second person singular) and were with plural subjects.  

Origin:
1610–20; < NL syncretismus < Gk synkrētismós union of Cretans, i.e., a united front of two opposing parties against a common foe, deriv. of synkrēt(ízein) to syncretize + -ismos -ism

Is the celebration of Christmas not an attempted reconciliation of pagan practices with Christianity?

Warnings against Idolatry

29When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; 30Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. 31Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. 32What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. ~ Deuteronomy 12:29-32

9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. ~ Revelation 12:9

From the first deception in the Garden of Eden, that O’ Serpent, Satan, the Devil is still deceiving the masses with his “Did God really say …?” He leads the people of this world captive with his deceptions and delusions into following his way, his damning “customs, traditions and religious practices.” See what 2 Corinthians 11:3,4 says:

3But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

Here is an article The Winter Festival which deals with the pagan practices that have brought about the practice of celebrating Christmas and although we can go into great lengths of discussing the pagan practices and how Santa Claus got into the celebration, I have chosen to use a part of the Winter Festival dealing with the Tree that finds prominence during the Christmas ritual that unfolds yearly.

The Tree

Finally, in connection with the customs of the “Christmas” season, we will mention the Christmas tree. An old Babylonish fable went like this: Semiramis, the mother of Tammuz, claimed that overnight an evergreen tree sprang up from a dead tree stump. The dead stump supposedly symbolized her dead husband Nimrod; the new evergreen tree was the symbol that Nimrod had come to life again in the person of Tammuz!

This idea spread and developed to such a degree that the various nations all have had their legends about sacred trees! Among the Druids, the oak was sacred; among the Egyptians, it was the palm; and in Rome, it was the fir, which was decorated with red berries during the Saturnalia!10 Among the Scandinavians, the fir tree was sacred to their god Odin. “The Scandinavian god Woden or Odin was believed to bestow special gifts at Yuletide to those who honored him by approaching his sacred FIR TREE.”11 And even as other rites of the Yuletide season were absorbed into “Christianity”, so also is the wide-spread use of the tree at this season a carry over of an ancient practice! “The Christmas tree recapitulates the idea of tree worship, with the gilded nuts and balls symbolizing the sun. The festivities of the pagan winter solstice have been absorbed into the celebration of Christmas. The use of holly and mistletoe come from the pagan, Druidic ceremonies, the use of the Christmas tree from the worship paid to Odin’s sacred fir.”12

In at least ten Biblical references, the “green” tree is associated with idolatry and false worship.13 The “green” tree refers to trees that are green all year round, since, of course, all trees are green at one time or another. So the “green” trees that the scriptures are talking about are the evergreen trees or trees within that family! Taking all of this into consideration, it is interesting to notice the reading of Jeremiah 10:1-5 and compare it with today’s custom of decorating a tree :

1Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: 2Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. 4They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. 5They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. ~ Jeremiah 10:1-5

“The customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman with the axe.” “They fasten it with nails and hammers. They deck it with silver and with gold.”

Now of course the people in the days of Jeremiah, as the context goes on to show, were actually making an idol out of the tree. We are not inferring that people today who put trees in their homes during the Christmas season are worshipping the tree, but that the use of the tree is plainly and totally a carry over from paganism. Whatever the difference may be between the ancient use of the tree as compared with present day customs, no one can deny that these things of which we have been speaking are customs of men. And God says: “The customs of the people are vain” (Jeremiah 10:3) – and “the temple of idols have nothing in common with the temple of God.”(II Corinthians 6:16)(2)

Conclusion

In closing we should heed the warnings from God’s Word, the Holy Bible, that we should not be legalistic in our manner of following after the things of this world and man. Born again believers (John 3:3) – Christians – are dead, but risen with Christ. We read:

8Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. ~ Colossians 2:8,9

Listen to what the Living God, Jesus Christ, said to the Pharisees and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem (in essence, apply the vanity of Christmas to this verse):

6He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. ~ Mark 7:6-9

If you hold so fast to the celebrations of Christ’s birth at Christmas time and will not relinquish your commitment to December 25th as a celebrative feast day, then why do you not hold fast to God’s Holy Days that are a shadow of things to come? Why will Christians say we must not be legalistic in keeping God’s Holy Days, but the self same believers follow man made holidays and public days, amongst others Christmas, New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day and (to some) even Halloween!! Are we also so quick to judge other religious cults for mixing truth with error?

14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. 18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 1Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1

18Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? 19What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? 20But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. 21Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. 22Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he? ~ 1 Corinthians 10:18-22

Let us hear one more time what the Lord’s prophet Elijah had to say when he contested with the Baal prophets on Mount Carmel:

21And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. ~ 1 Kings 18:21

Christian, are you being deceived? Ask yourself: What god are you serving?

_______________________

References:

(1)     http://www.answers.com/topic/shemini-atseret

(2)    http://logosresourcepages.org/Holidays/christmas_.htm

(3)    All citations from the Strong’s Concordance are from the Strong’s Complete Word Study Concordance, Expanded Edition, Copyright © 2004 by AMG Publishers

(4)    All Biblical passages quoted are from the Holy Bible, King James Version, 1611

Turkmenistan ~ VOM’s Prayer Parlour Diary

Friday December 10, 2010

3O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. ~ Psalm 43:3

Christian literature distribution is difficult; pray for creativity in providing God’s Word.

Saturday December 11, 2010

10But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. ~ 1 Peter 5:10

Pray Christians are given freedom to gather publically for worship and churches are established.

Sunday December 12, 2010

20And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brasen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD. ~ Jeremiah 15:20

Christians in house-churches continue to receive fines, salary deductions and harassment.

Monday December 13, 2010

17But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the LORD: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. ~ Jeremiah 39:17

Pray for Christians like Shageldy Atakov, falsely accused and threatened because of their ministry.

Tuesday December 14, 2010

14And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. ~ Matthew 24:14

Ask God to establish His church among the Turkmen, Russian and Uzbek ethnic groups.

Wednesday December 15, 2010

21But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand. ~ Romans 15:21

Foreigners suspected of religious activity are expelled; pray for creative outreach.

Thursday December 16, 2010

36He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. ~ John 3:36

Pray for President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow to be saved.

– ooo –

COUNTRY Turkmenistan TM
DESCRIPTION Turkmenistan was one of the republics of the former Soviet Union, and many remnants of the old communist system remain. Religious literature cannot be legally produced in Turkmenistan, and it is difficult to import. Islam was severely repressed under communism, but it is now gaining influence. Constitutionally, freedom of religion is guaranteed, but in practice this is limited to Sunni Islam and Eastern Orthodoxy. Foreigners suspected of religious activity are expelled.

Category: Restricted Nation
Religion: Muslim 91.84%, Christian 2.66%
Ideology: Authoritarian/Communism/Islam
Head of State: President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow

Evangelical Christians have suffered the most persecution under the government’s religious legislation. Participation in house churches has resulted in fines, seizure of family possessions and deductions from individuals’ salaries. The biggest problems facing believers is that they cannot freely maintain public places of worship. Outside the capital city, there is no hope of obtaining registration. Authorities have threatened to seize the property of a formerly imprisoned Christian unless he pays a large sum of money they claim he acquired illegally in 1995. Shageldy Atakov was imprisoned in 1999 on fabricated swindling charges. Shageldy and other local Christians say the charges were made to stop his Christian activity. While in detention at the Seydi Labor Camp, Shageldy was beaten, given inadequate medical care, fed a poor diet and given mind-altering drugs for refusing to abandon his faith. He was released in January 2002, having served his full prison sentence and thus his full debt. Authorities are now demanding he pay back the debt.

RELATED LINKS Persecution.com Story – Turkmenistan: Pastor Faces Charges
Persecution.com Story – Turkmenistan: Pastor Sentenced
Persecution.com Story – Turkmenistan: Pastor Faces Prison
Be-A-Voice Prayer Bulletin – Pastor Imprisoned
Be-A-Voice Prayer Bulletin – Raids on Worship Meetings

Islamic Groups in Indonesia Demonstrate against Worship in Mall

Rights advocates say Islamic groups have no legal basis for opposing worship in shopping malls.

Permission for church services in shopping center not necessary, rights advocates say.

JAKARTA, Indonesia, December 2 (CDN) — After closing churches in West Java, South Sulawesi, Sumatra, and other provinces, hard-line Islamic organizations are now attempting to stop Christian worship in or near shopping malls.

Dozens of people from Islamic organizations demonstrated in front of the Gandaria City Mall in south Jakarta on Nov. 19, protesting worship of an unnamed church at the shopping center. After about an hour, mall management in the presence of the sector police chief spoke with demonstrators, who said they opposed the services because there is a Quranic boarding school nearby.

“In front of the mall is a Quranic school that has been there for dozens of years,” said demonstrator Hamdani, according to Poskota newspaper.

The head of the mall, identified only as Ridwan, denied that there was any church or worship service there. He told Poskota that the demonstrators were misinformed and that he had resolved the matter with them.

Jeirry Sumampouw, executive secretary of the diakonia department of the Indonesian Fellowship of Churches, said that no one has the right to forbid worship in a mall. He said a mall is a public space that can be used for any purpose, including worship.

“A mall is multifunctional and can be used in any manner, as long as it is good and doesn’t disturb things,” he said. “The government must be firm with demonstrators who tried to forbid worship services at Gandaria City Mall, because if nothing is done, this can spread to other places.”

The difficulty of getting building permits for churches has caused an increase of worship in malls, Sumampouw said.

“Because of this, many churches are using malls as places of worship,” he said.

He said the state should protect every citizen that worships, especially those in malls or shopping centers.

“Mall managers are often frightened so much that they will forbid worship activities in their malls,” he added.

Citing the Quranic school as a reason to forbid worship at the Gandaria City Mall is without legal basis and highly subjective, Sumampouw said. Raw emotion without consideration of justice motivates those who wish to stop Christian worship, he said, adding that they merely oppose any appearance of Christianity.

“Remember, this is not a country of one religion only,” he said. “These motives are wrong. The reasons to forbid worship are fabricated.”

Sumampouw said opponents’ motives go beyond mere anti-Christian sentiment – there are hoodlums who are intolerant of minority religions, including those who extort money, seize land, and oppose Christians because of personal grievances.

Saor Siagian, coordinator of the Religious Freedom Defense Team, said that Islamic prohibition of worship in malls urgently needed to be addressed.

“If demonstrators are able to prohibit worship activities, it means that they are able to forbid constitutional rights of citizens, because the constitution states that every citizen is free to practice his faith,” he said.

Forcing worship to stop, Siagian said, not only violates the constitution but is also a criminal offense. “Because of this, the police must act decisively,” he said.

Demonstrators must understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens, he said, because no one has the right to forbid people to practice their faith in Indonesia.

“Because of this, I urge any Christian congregation that is the object of a demonstration to report it to police and lodge a complaint that there is a threat of force,” he said. “It is also fair to see if the demonstrators have a permit or have notified police. There should be no illegal demonstrations.”

Siagian advised all congregations that as citizens they must not give in to vigilantes, including “anyone wearing a robe,” a reference to Muslim extremists from the Islamic Defenders Front and other hard-line groups that wear long white robes.

There is no need to obtain a permit to worship in a mall under Indonesian law, he said. If a worship service took place at Gandaria City Mall, Saor said, the congregation could continue to meet there.

“If a congregation bows to the wishes of a mob, then it is the same as vigilante rule, which violates the constitution,” he said.

Mall managers are not obliged to reject Christian worship, he said, because Article 28 of the 1945 Constitution states that every citizen is free to worship. Siagian added that if Christians were forbidden to worship once a week in a mall, then demonstrators need to be consistent and press for a ban of all forms of worship at malls, including Islamic prayers said five times a day.

“Those would also need to be forbidden,” he said.

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, vice president of the Setara Institute for Justice and Peace, said he was surprised at opposition to worship at Gandaria City Mall. Malls are public spaces where many different activities may take place, he said.

“Because it’s a public space, there is no relationship between permits and worship,” he said. “It’s different if you want to erect a church [building] on your own property.”

Naipospos said churches are meeting in malls because obtaining permits is so difficult. The government and the Interfaith Harmony Forum should quickly resolve the conflict, he said.

“I fear that this incident will become a model that will be imitated by intolerant gangs in other places,” he said.

The demonstrators’ reasoning that worship cannot be held because of the nearby Quranic school is not rational, Naipospos said. Because a mall is a public place, he said, it is not beholden to any particular community or religion.

If there happened to be a worship service in Gandaria Mall, Bonar would urge them to continue meeting.

“Let’s not bow to any intolerant hoodlums,” he said. “We don’t need to worry.”

END

Turkey ~ VOM’s Prayer Parlour Diary

Thursday December 2, 2010

21And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible. ~ Jeremiah 15:21

Pray for Turkey, where much of the Apostle Paul’s ministry was centred, to return to Christ.

Friday December 3, 2010

1Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:1

Pray for fruitfulness from VOM’s Bible distribution ministry within Turkey.

Saturday December 4, 2010

13Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. ~ Ephesians 6:13

A controversial law regarding “insulting Turkishness” could diminish the country’s freedom of religion.

Sunday December 5, 2010

9He will keep the feet of his saints, and the wicked shall be silent in darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail. ~ 1 Samuel 2:9

A Christian compound was accused of proselytizing children and threatened in a land dispute.

Monday December 6, 2010

134Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts. ~ Psalm 119:134

Pray that the vandalized Christian bookstore in Adana will remain functional.

Tuesday December 7, 2010

 18And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. ~ Matthew 16:18

Pray churches are established throughout the 20% Kurdish population in Turkey.

Wednesday December 8, 2010

29And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, ~ Acts 4:29

Pray for safety and encouragement for Believers who are persecuted for evangelising.

Thursday December 9, 2010

18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. ~ John 3:18

Pray for President Abdullah Gul to turn to Jesus Christ the Saviour.

– ooo –

COUNTRY Turkey TR
DESCRIPTION Turkey has experienced political turmoil caused by the struggle between secular proponents, urban moderates and rural Islamist forces vying for government control. Talks over membership in the European Union have repeatedly faltered. There appears to be no sign that Turkey will embrace true religious freedom. In August 2007, Turkey took a step back toward a religiously controlled state when they elected as president a former proponent of political Islam.

Category: Restricted Nation
Religion: Muslim 99.64%, Christian 0.32%
Ideology: Islam
Head of State: President Abdullah Gul

Despite government claims and a constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, Christians do not enjoy freedom of religion in many areas. Politicians, police and the growing Islamist movement are hostile to anything Christian. Foreign missionaries are not given visas. The media portrays Christians as foreign government agents and spreads rumors that Christians bribe young people with money and sex. The public tends to believe these false accusations. A VOM contact has reported people throwing things at him, spitting at him and verbally abusing him for talking about Christ. He was also interrogated by the police after handing out New Testaments. On Feb. 12, 2009, a Turkish Bible Society bookstore in the city of Adana was vandalized by Muslim extremists for the second time in a week. A court trial continues for two men accused of killing two Turkish Christians and one German Christian in Malatya in 2007.

RELATED LINKS Persecution.com Story – Turkey: Bookstore Vandalized
VOMBooks Product – Bold Believers in Turkey
VOMBooks Product – Malatya Film (DVD)
VOMBooks Product – Malatya Film (DVD) – 20 Pack

Ministerial Confessions

By Horatius Bonar (1808 – 1889)

We have been carnal and unspiritual. The tone of our life has been low and earthly. Associating too much and too intimately with the world, we have in a great measure become accustomed to its ways. Hence our spiritual tastes have been vitiated, our consciences blunted, and that sensitive tenderness of feeling has worn off and given place to an amount of callousness of which we once, in fresher days, believed ourselves incapable.

We have been selfish. We have shrunk from toil, difficulty and endurance. We have counted only our lives, and our temporal ease and comfort dear unto us. We have sought to please ourselves. We have been worldly and covetous. We have not presented ourselves unto God as “living sacrifices,” laying ourselves, our lives, our substance, our time, our strength, our faculties, our all, upon His altar. We seem altogether to have lost sight of this self sacrificing principle on which even as Christians, but much more as ministers, we are called upon to act. We have had little idea of anything like sacrifice at all. Up to the point where a sacrifice was demanded, we may have been willing to go, but there we stood; counting it unnecessary, perhaps calling it imprudent and unadvised, to proceed further. Yet ought not the life of every Christian, especially of every minister, to be a life of self sacrifice and self denial throughout, even as was the life of Him who “pleased not himself”?

We have been slothful. We have been sparing of our toil. We have not endured hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. We have not sought to gather up the fragments of our time, that not a moment might be thrown idly or unprofitably away. Precious hours and days have been wasted in sloth, in idle company, in pleasure, in idle or worthless reading, that might have been devoted to the closet, the study, the pulpit or the meeting! Indolence, self indulgence, fickleness, flesh pleasing, have eaten like a canker into our ministry, arresting the blessing and marring our success. We have manifested but little of the unwearied, self denying love with which, as shepherds, we ought to have watched over the flocks committed to our care. We have fed ourselves, and not the flock. We have dealt deceitfully with God, whose servants we profess to be.

We have been cold. Even when diligent, how little warmth and glow! The whole soul is not poured into the duty, and hence it wears too often the repulsive air of ‘routine’ and ‘form’. We do not speak and act like men in earnest. Our words are feeble, even when sound and true; our looks are careless, even when our words are weighty; and our tones betray the apathy which both words and looks disguise. Love is lacking, deep love, love strong as death, love such as made Jeremiah weep in secret places. In preaching and visiting, in counselling and reproving, what formality, what coldness, how little tenderness and affection!

We have been timid. Fear has often led us to smooth down or generalize truths which if broadly stated must have brought hatred and reproach upon us. We have thus often failed to declare to our people the whole counsel of God. We have shrunk from reproving, rebuking and exhorting with all patience and doctrine. We have feared to alienate friends, or to awaken the wrath of enemies.

We have been lacking in solemnity. How deeply ought we to be abased at our levity, frivolity, flippancy, vain mirth, foolish talking and jesting, by which grievous injury has been done to souls, the progress of the saints retarded, and the world countenanced in its wretched vanities.

We have preached ourselves, not Christ. We have sought applause, courted honour, been avaricious of fame and jealous of our reputation. We have preached too often so as to exalt ourselves instead of magnifying Christ, so as to draw men’s eyes to ourselves instead of fixing them on Him and His cross. Have we not often preached Christ for the very purpose of getting honour to ourselves? Christ, in the sufferings of His first coming and the glory of His second, has not been the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, of all our sermons.

We have not duly studied and honoured the Word of God. We have given a greater prominence to man’s writings, man’s opinions, man’s systems in our studies than to the Word. We have drunk more out of human cisterns than divine. We have held more communion with man than God. Hence the mold and fashion of our spirits, our lives, our words, have been derived more from man than God. We must study the Bible more. We must steep our souls in it. We must not only lay it up within us, but transfuse it through the whole texture of the soul. The study of truth in its academic more than in its devotional form has robbed it of its freshness and power, engendering formality and coldness.

We have not been men of prayer. The spirit of prayer has slumbered among us. The closet has been too little frequented and delighted in. We have allowed business, study or active labor to interfere with our closet hours. A feverish atmosphere has found its way into our closet, disturbing the sweet calm of its blessed solitude. Sleep, company, idle visiting, foolish talking and jesting, idle reading, unprofitable occupations, engross time that might have been redeemed for prayer. Why is there so little concern to get time to pray? Why is there so much speaking, yet so little prayer? Why is there so much running to and fro, yet so little prayer? Why so much bustle and business, yet so little prayer? Why so many meetings with our fellow men, yet so few meetings with God? Why so little being alone, so little thirsting of the soul for the calm, sweet hours of unbroken solitude, when God and His child hold fellowship together as if they could never part? It is the lack of these solitary hours that not only injures our own growth in grace, but makes us such unprofitable members of the church of Christ, and that renders our lives useless. In order to grow in grace, we must be much alone with God. It is not in society, even Christian society that the soul grows most rapidly and vigorously. In one single quiet hour of prayer it will often make more progress than in whole days of company with others. It is in the ‘desert’ that the dew falls freshest and the air is purest. So with the soul. It is when none but God is near; when His presence alone, like the desert air in which there is mingled no noxious breath of man, surrounds and pervades the soul; it is then that the eye gets the clearest, simplest view of eternal certainties; it is then that the soul gathers in wondrous refreshment and power and energy.  Nearness to God, fellowship with God, waiting upon God, resting in God, have been too little the characteristic either of our private or our ministerial walk. Hence our example has been so powerless, our labours so unsuccessful, our sermons so meagre, our whole ministry so fruitless and feeble.

We have not honoured the Holy Spirit. We have not sought His teaching or His anointing. “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.” (1 John 2:20). Neither in the study of the Word nor the preaching of it to others, have we duly acknowledged His office as the Enlightener of the understanding, the Revealer of the truth, the Testifier and Glorifier of Christ. We have grieved Him by the slight put upon Him as the Teacher, the Convincer, the Comforter, the Sanctifier. Hence He has almost departed from us, and left us to reap the fruit of our own perversity and unbelief. Besides, we have grieved Him by our inconsistent walk, by our lack of circumspection, by our worldly mindedness, by our unholiness, by our prayerlessness, by our unfaithfulness, by our lack of solemnity, by a life and conversation so little in conformity with the character of a disciple or the office of ambassador.

We have had little of the mind of Christ. We have come far short of the example of the Master. We have had little of the grace, the compassion, the meekness, the lowliness, the love of Jesus. His weeping over Jerusalem is a feeling in which we have but little heartfelt sympathy. His seeking of the lost is little imitated by us. His unwearied teaching of the multitudes we shrink from as too much for flesh and blood. His days of fasting, His nights of watchfulness and prayer, are not fully realized as models for us to copy. His counting not His own life dear unto Him that He might glorify the Father and finish the work given Him to do, is but little remembered by us as the principle on which we are to act. Yet surely we are to follow His steps; the servant is to walk where his Master has led the way; the under shepherd is to be what the Chief Shepherd was. We must not seek rest or ease in a world where He whom we love had none.

We have been unbelieving. It is unbelief that makes us so cold in our preaching, so slothful in visiting, and so remiss in all our sacred duties. It is unbelief that chills our life and straitens our heart. It is unbelief that makes us handle eternal realities with such irreverence. It is unbelief that makes us ascend with so light a step into the pulpit to deal with immortal beings about heaven and hell.

We have not been sincere in our preaching. If we were, could we be so cold, so prayerless, so inconsistent, so slothful, so worldly, so unlike men whose business is all about eternity? We must be more in earnest if we would win souls. We must be more in earnest if we would walk in the footsteps of our beloved Lord, or if we would fulfil the vows that are upon us. We must be more in earnest if we would be less than hypocrites. We must be more in earnest if we would finish our course with joy, and obtain the crown at the Master’s coming. We must work while it is day; the night comes when no man can work.

We have been unfaithful. The fear of man and the love of his applause have often made us afraid. We have been unfaithful to our own souls, to our flocks, and to our brethren; unfaithful in the pulpit, in visiting, in discipline in the church. In the discharge of every one of the duties of our stewardship there has been grievous unfaithfulness. Instead of the special particularization of the sin reproved, there has been the vague allusion. Instead of the bold reproof, there has been the timid hint. Instead of the uncompromising condemnation, there has been the feeble disapproval. Instead of the unswerving consistency of a holy life whose uniform tenor should be a protest against the world and a rebuke of sin, there has been such an amount of unfaithfulness in our walk and conversation, in our daily deportment and talking with others, that any degree of faithfulness we have been enabled to manifest on the Lord’s Day is almost neutralized by the lack of circumspection which our weekday life exhibits.

We need men that will spend and be spent, that will labour and pray, that will watch and weep for souls!

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