A Reflection On Brexit

I understand the reasons why the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union. Some of those reasons I can sympathise with, and others I simply can’t.

But what’s done is done. And what’s important now is that everyone in the country is gracious to one another, whether in victory or defeat. And in the longer term we have to be united in our efforts to support and lift the disenfranchised, the poor and the weak among us. And more than that we must be a light to the world, generous to those beyond our shores who don’t enjoy democracy, those who don’t live in peace, those who don’t experience freedom, those who can’t even turn to a food bank for their daily bread.

Many people argued that the referendum was about control, but no matter who won, God was always going to be in control. Both sides of the referendum campaign focused on fear, many people on both sides made their decisions through fear, and now the outcome is spreading fear in certain parts of the country and the world.

But while I’m saddened by the result, I refuse to fear the future. My faith is not in politicians or economists. My faith is not in the British electorate, whether or not they agree with me. My faith is not in the UK or the EU, but in Christ alone.

Paganism Declawed

Yesterday was Valentine’s day, and amongst the hearts, flowers and chocolates adorning my Facebook wall was this post:

Valentine’s Day is pagan. Nimrod who you may know as Cupid was the first valentine. Nimrod had sexual relations with his mother. His mother would sleep with him and cause the other women around to do so also.

I believe that in Ancient Rome valentines day was a festival spread over 14 days called LUPERCALIA where the young girls would put their name in a box and the boys would pick a name and choose a random sexual partner each year for the festival.

Look it up for your self. Children of God we should not partake in these things. Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” NO TIME FOR COMPROMISE. #Pagan

I see similar posts at Easter (the festival of Eostre, the goddess of spring), and especially at Christmas (the Roman festival of Saturnus, the god of agriculture, is just one of many that were celebrated at midwinter). Some Christians see pagan symbolism in almost every aspect of daily life, but focus even more on what they see of it in festivals and celebrations. I find it very frustrating, and in the heat of that frustration I have to bite my tongue (or in this case restrain my fingers) so that I don’t come across as judgmental towards someone who I know has a heart for Jesus.

Why do I get frustrated? Because what I see is at best a distraction, and at worst Satan’s double-bluff mind games twisting Christians into doing his bidding.

I’m not particularly interested in Valentine’s Day, so I’m not here to defend it as an institution. I have mixed feelings about Christmas, as it becomes more secularised over the years. I grow more deeply fond of Easter as my appreciation of Christ’s sacrifice on my behalf also grows. So that is where I stand on these particular occasions. And here are my general thoughts on the subject raised in the Facebook post.

1 – A true witness delivers souls, but a deceitful witness speaks lies (Proverbs 14:25)

Myth, conjecture and hearsay are too often mixed up with grains of truth and presented as facts. In this case there is no firm evidence that Valentine’s Day has any connection to Lupercalia, and furthermore neither Valentine’s Day or Lupercalia have anything to do with Nimrod. As for Nimrod being Cupid, I don’t have any idea where this connection comes from. The myths about Cupid are just that – Roman myths, and although we’ve returned to Roman times in the chain, there is no link between Cupid and Lupercalia, so we are just left with a handful of unconnected characters and stories which have been spun into a narrative to suit the argument the writer wants to make. Anyone who researches these topics will see deceit, and this is not going to help bring people to Christ – it might even push them away.

2 – For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)

Whether or not it is what the writer intends, I sense an undercurrent of fear-mongering in Christianity vs Paganism arguments. If the reader continues to celebrate Valentine’s Day with their loved one after reading the post above, they are celebrating false gods and by implication denying the one true God. By sending a Valentine’s card they are associating themselves with incest. Fear of this guilt by association should be enough to stop the reader from practising these heathen rituals. There are often implications that by embracing celebrations with “pagan roots” you will unleash demonic spirits into your life. I’m sorry but this argument isn’t going to persuade me. See my next point too, because ultimately whatever festivals I choose to observe or ignore, I will do it based on my love for God and for people, according to the leading of the Holy Spirit within me. I put my trust in Christ, and in His power over evil.

3 – He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord (Romans 14:5-6)

It is often argued – correctly – that there is no mandate from the Bible to observe Christmas, Easter, or any other special day or event. Is it impertinent of me to mention that the people arguing this will often drive cars, use deodorant, or even preach through microphones, none of which are mandated by the Bible? But the serious point is that there are good reasons why people might wish to celebrate any or all of the festivals mentioned, be it God’s gift to us in the form of His Son, or Christ’s gift to us in the form of His death and resurrection, or the gift of love that we are all at liberty to share with each other. If anyone, for their own reasons, wishes not to celebrate any or all of them, that is perfectly reasonable and acceptable too. This is the Biblical mandate – that whatever we do or not do, it should be to the Lord.

4 – Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another (Romans 14:19)

My advice is simple. Don’t confuse non-Christians or new Christians with talk of paganism, or even pique their curiosity and thereby direct them towards researching practices and beliefs that they are not yet equipped to deal with in the full strength of Christ. There is a place for discussions on these subjects where they can be given proper and prayerful consideration, but a Facebook status is not it. Also, however sincere you are in your belief on these matters, it is clearly not the prevailing belief within the wider body of Christ, and disagreements with fellow Christians are almost inevitable – public disagreements that display disunity in the family of God, rather than the edifying and peace-making discussions that we need.

It is my opinion that whatever our personal views are on the validity of any celebration, any public comment we make should be used in a positive way to proclaim and promote the Gospel of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice on our behalf.

Careless Words

I lost a Facebook friend today. I hope it’s temporary. I lost her because I challenged her about a status she wrote. It sounded like she was saying a news item was evidence of prophecy from the Book of Revelation being fulfilled.

I asked “what verses are you referring to?” And then I commented again about how careful we need to be as Christians making those kind of statements without backing them up. I compared such statements to those of Harold Camping, who instead of being very unspecific was actually very specific, and made himself – and to an extent Christians as a whole – something of a laughing stock.

I should have been more careful myself about how I expressed my opinion, because it probably came over as an attack when I was actually trying to provide loving guidance. And I certainly would have done better to offer that second comment in a private message instead of on my friend’s wall. It’s easy to make mistakes when you’re passionate about something, and ironically we both made mistakes because we’re passionate about the same thing – leading people to Christ.

I’m making my apology to my friend privately, and whether she chooses to accept it is her decision. Here I want to explain a bit more clearly, and more fully, a mistake I think many Christians make.

I’ve been thinking recently about how frustrating it can be, that the Bible starts and ends with the two books that can lead to the most arguments, misconceptions and ridicule, both between Christians and non-believers, and also between fellow Christians! Please let us never forget that the core message we need to declare is in the heart of God’s word – in the Gospels. It’s the message of salvation through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. I’m not saying the rest of the Bible is insignificant, but it has to always be read with reference to Christ’s love, His promise of forgiveness, and our commission to spread that news to the world.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love, and of a sound mind – 2 Timothy 1:7. For this reason, I don’t believe in scaremongering. There are plenty of things for the faithless to be scared about in this world, plenty of worries and concerns. As Christians we have the reassurance of God’s promises that He will provide for us (Matthew 6:33), that He won’t leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6) and that He has a place prepared for us in eternity (John 14:3). It is these reassurances that will move people’s hearts, rather than the equally true promise of weeping and gnashing of teeth for those who are not saved (Luke 13:28). Yes, there is a place for that teaching, but it needs to be considered very carefully, because few will hear it.

Revelation is a very difficult book to understand clearly. It’s so full of symbolism, imagery and metaphor, and it was originally written for an audience who understood its language very differently to the way we do today. So it’s dangerous to quote it at any time with reference to current world events. There are those who believe dearly in the literal truth of every word of the Bible. I respect those people, but I’m not one of them, and I’ll tackle that particular topic in more detail another day, but for now it’s sufficient to say that I believe in the truth of the lessons conveyed in God’s word. So in Revelation, for example, there are lessons about the corruption of the secular world, about Christ’s ultimate victory over evil, and about the final judgement we will all face.

When news stories are quoted in parallel with Revelation’s prophecies, it’s almost like quoting them with reference to Nostradamus – there’s enough vagueness – and symbolism – in the language that the prophecy can be retro-fitted to all manner of events. We have to remember that Christ’s imminent return has been expected by every generation since He ascended to Heaven. He may return tomorrow, but really, why is it any more likely that it will be our generation that sees Him come, rather than any that went before, or any who will follow? Every disaster, natural or man-made, for hundreds of years, has been seen as an apocalyptic omen by some. How many presidents of the United States have been rumoured to be the anti-christ? None of this helps the Christian mission. None of it glorifies God. However sincere you are in your beliefs about the end times, you have to also humbly acknowledge that God’s timetable is not available to us, and it is presumptuous to suggest otherwise.

As I said earlier, the promise of God’s salvation, freely available to all through faith in Christ, is the message we need to get out there. When someone turns to Christ, and becomes a new creation in Him, then the Holy Spirit can really get to work on cleaning up the sin in that person’s life.

The end times are important, and are something the faithful can look forward to with a glad heart, but whenever we speak about them, the words of Christ in Matthew 24 should be clear in our minds. Read the whole chapter, and note in particular these verses:

42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.