Book Sale

Monday 25 December 2023

The Stages of Christmas Understanding.

Stage 1: The child who loves Christmas because they get gifts.

Stage 2: The young adult who grows up and sees Christmas as not that special. As they can buy what they want, anyway.

Stage 3: The parent or aunty or uncle, who relives the joy of Christmas by lavishing gifts on the children they love.

Stage 4: Recognizing that the real gift is Christmas itself, because of the blessing it brings to society. Especially the message of the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, the king that was born in Bethlehem.

Christmas takes on a far deeper meaning when you really take to heart what a gift it is, in and of itself. The gathering to celebrate what the Lord has done. The down time from the work schedule. The feasting, the celebrating, and the contemplating of the year. When the joy of the gift of Christmas settles in your heart, the old school Christmas carols take on a new and deeper meaning each year. O Holy Night, Joy to the World, and others, really begin to speak to the soul.

I hope you have a merry and blessed Christmas with your family, friends and church fellowship. God bless.

Saturday 23 December 2023

Fall On Your Knees


Philippians 2:1-11

We live in a strange and interesting world, don’t we? A world of inherent contradictions. There are those in our world who say that we should all be equal, then there are those in this world who say that some should rule over others. Then there are those that say both of these things. That we should all be equal, but some of us should be greater at being equal. Or that some of us are destined to be better equals. We are told simultaneously to be greater and equal, not recognizing they are inherently contradictory things. This world is full of these inherently contradictory cries to go this way or that way, and much of the media, television, and culture, especially the self-help culture, tries to encourage us to look within to find the greatness that we can be and can achieve.

We see this kind of thinking even amongst Jesus disciples. It is recorded several times in the gospels that the disciples argued with each other about who would be the greatest, who would be the best among them.

There is this great flaw in human nature for people to think better of ourselves than we should. To try to puff ourselves up, to make of ourselves more than we should. We call this pride. There is a good kind of pride, like when you are proud of your son or daughter for doing something charitable or otherwise good for their sister or a friend, or succeeding at school. But there is a wicked kind of pride that emanates from us human beings and we see it all over the place. The dragon of pride within us that wants to rise up above others. And it wreaks havoc in our world. It binds people up, interferes with friendships, dismantles marriages, topples governments, and brings all sorts of terrors and strife’s. And it was into this very world that our Lord and saviour Jesus was born. And one of the things his coming did was force us to rethink how we think about who we are.

We should be on our knees, spiritually speaking, much more than we are. Let’s see what Paul says about this in Philippians.  

Have you Christ (Phil. 2:1)? Do you have faith in Jesus? Paul says here, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,…” Paul is addressing believers here. If you are listening to this and you are not yet a believer I will come back to that a bit later. Here he is directly addressing those with a love and hope in the gospel, those who have been transformed by the message of Jesus Christ, those who know what love is through the lens of Jesus. Those who have been given the Holy Spirit and who therefore are filled with this renewed heart.

One of the most foundational truths of Christianity is that we need to be changed. Not everyone likes this message. Our culture likes to tell us that we should be accepted how we are, we are good the way we are. People should not expect you to change. How often have you heard it said that we need to learn to accept ourselves? This idea is built on a tiny grain of truth. There are aspects of ourselves that we will never be able to change, they are built into our genes and God designed us to be that way.

But we also know that we do a lot wrong, we sin, we are sometimes lazy, we are sometimes too critical, or to accepting of wrong. We know that we are flawed and we know deep inside of ourselves that we should do better and be better in many ways. One of our most fundamental needs as human beings is for transformation. This is so fundamental, that countless spiritualists and new age teachers have turned this into a billion dollar industry.

Christianity shows that true change comes first through repentance, and then trust in Jesus. It is not true that someone cannot be a decent person without Jesus. It is true that none of us can be what we are meant to be without Jesus. It is also true that none of us are good enough to earn entry into heaven, we need Jesus to make us righteous in his sight for this. We need to believe the gospel. If we have been transformed by the gospel, then Paul calls us to live a certain way.

Be Servants (vv2-4) –

2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Paul’s words here cut like a sword in our own culture, don’t they? How often do we seek to do things from selfish ambition? Really think about that. How often do we do things, which others might even see as good deeds, but we do them because we have selfish designs, selfish plans?

Even sometimes when we give gifts to others we do it for selfish reasons. We might want to get the glory of giving that gift. We might want to seek to outcompete what people are giving to us. We might simply do it so that some family member does not get upset about us not participating in their events, not because we really want to give. Or we might do it for some other reason. Such is the weight of sin in this world, that it can sometimes even corrupt good things we do.  

We do many things as human beings for selfish reasons. Selfishness motivates this society. Selfishness is a force that advertising companies and bosses at work seek to try and harness, because it is such a basic human instinct and behaviour. It is a force that economists and governments use to try and incentivize our behaviour. Selfishness is the way of this world.  

How refreshing then in a world of selfishness is it, when we encounter people who do things from truly selfless motives? How refreshing is it when people live like how Paul describes here, “3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We spend so much time thinking about what we can get out of this life, when one of the keys to the kingdom of God is thinking about what we can give.

Jesus said, “It is better to give than to receive.” I think he meant two things with this. He meant that you will find more satisfaction in a life of giving than in just a life of receiving. Giving is its own reward, especially from a joyful and willing spirit. And he also meant giving will get you a better reward in heaven, as well.

And I am not talking about just giving more money to the church, that is not what this message is. We do encourage people to give offerings, but I am talking about that today.

I am talking about taking those moments in your life to think how can you lift up your wife, how can you lift up your husband. How can you show your kids they mean more to you than yourself. How can you show your friends, your extended family, your brothers and sisters in the faith, that you honour them, cherish them and want them to be lifted up. How can you help others be greater than you? 

Christianity is not a religion about equality, that is an inversion, it is a religion about lifting up others. We often forget this, especially in our modern culture with its obsession with equality. But serving is the epitome of Christian living. This can be hard to do at times because our selfishness is strong. But when we consider others as more significant than ourselves, we will be a blessing and we will see blessings returned.

But what does all have to do with Christmas? Well, let’s see.

The Chief Servant (vv.5-8) – What it has to do with Christmas is really simple, it is exactly what our Lord did. Humbly taking on the form of a servant IS the Christmas message,

“5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

We are not saved by imitating our Lord Jesus Christ. But if you love the Lord and are saved by the Lord, and believe the Lord, do you not want to imitate him? What can be better for us?

Look what Jesus did, though he is God, he did not rely on his equality with God, but veiled his glory and became a servant.

Have you noticed how obsessed our modern world is with equality? In most forms the cry for equality is just a cover for covetousness. People are always demanding more, to be heard more, to get more. For most people the cry for equality is just their way of saying, “I want what that guy has.” This is covetousness, equality is just the catch cry.

Jesus, however, is actually equal with God, because he is God the Son, and did he rely on his equality? No, instead of grasping for it, he took the form of a servant. The word servant here literally means bond-servant, or slave. The word is doulos, which you may know.

Jesus was not just a servant in the sense of achieving for us salvation, though he is that. He became a literal servant. Why do you think Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem? Yes, it was to fulfil prophecy, that the Messiah should be born there. But they were also there because the emperor commanded it be so. They were slaves of Rome. The Jews of this time did not rule themselves. They were controlled by Rome and were second- or third-class citizens at best. Really, they were servants who did not control their own destinies.

This is the world in which Jesus entered. The little babe that was born, the little child to which the wise men came and bowed the knee, was born a king, whose people were enslaved and needed redemption. He himself, though a king, was not treated like one.

And the greatest way he served us was by defeating the forces of sin, death and the devil on that cross, “7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” You know what a good servant does? They do what is best for those whom they are called to serve. And they do it with joy.

Jesus was willing to serve to such a point, that he was willing to give his life for us. We know in the garden, that he prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39), because it was not easy. Serving is not easy. Do you think it was easy for God to become a man, to live in the flesh, to work hard for a living, and then be treated poorly, and eventually murdered, by his own people? None of this was easy, but he set his mind on the joy before him and achieved salvation for us all in the process.

We are saved by trusting in what Jesus did for us. Not by imitating it. But we are blessed by imitating it. We are truly and only truly blessed by living the way God wants us to live. And he does not ask anything of us, that he was not willing to do for himself.

The Christmas message is a message of servanthood. How God the Son, instead of asserting his equality, made himself a small child, that he might become a man to save us from our sins by dying on the cross and rising again to glory. 

We Shall All Bow (vv.9-11) – And because of this, every knee shall bow. Every knee,

“9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

I said earlier in the message that I was going to address those who are not yet believers, those who are not yet saved. The message of Christmas is not just a message of servanthood and salvation and joy. It is also a warning, a warning that the king is here, and he IS going to reign. Paul is not just saying that every Christian will bow, he is saying that EVERY KNEE shall bow, even those who say today that they don’t believe in Christ.

Many unbelievers have understood that this has always been the message of Christmas. Herod understood this. Why do you think he tried to kill all of the children who were born? He didn't want to bow before the true king. 

You know who else understood this? Those who wrote some of our secular Christmas carols. Many of those songwriters wrote them because they could not bring themselves to sing the message of Christmas. Messages like this:

O Holy Night[1]

The stars are brightly shining

It is the night of our dear Savior's birth

Long lay the world in sin and e'er pining

'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.


Fall on your knees O hear the angels voices.

O night divine O night when Christ was born

O night divine, O night, O night divine.


Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,

With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.

So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,

Here came the wise men from Orient land.

The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;

In all our trials born to be our friend.


He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,

Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!

The message of Christmas is a message of supremacy, the supremacy of Jesus Christ, who IS Lord and who is one day going to return to judge the living and the dead. And many of the enemies of Christ have realized this, and therefore, they run from it. You can run, but you can’t hide from him for long. The king has been glorified. He came in humility the first time. He is coming in glory the next time. Repent and trust in him.

We all have only two options when it comes to the Lord Jesus: We either acknowledge him now and receive our reward as his servants, or we acknowledge him anyway when he makes every knee bow and every unbeliever is handed over for judgement.

My encouragement to you, if you have not already, is to bow before the king now. Trust in him and make him Lord of your life, before it is too late.

If you have already bowed, if you are already a believer, then let’s imitate our king and seek to be the servants he calls us to be. We should know our place, and if it was good enough for the king to serve, then let’s too serve wherever we can. Let’s pray. 

List of References

[1] Click on this link if you want to hear one of the most epic versions of O Holy Night I have ever heard. “Even the rockers will cry out.”

Friday 22 December 2023

The Threat of Yemen


I have found all that is happening in the Middle East interesting. There is what is happening, and then there is the framework through which you view what is happening. For some of my fellow Christian the rise up of war in the Middle East is the first rumblings of the final tribulation and the immanent return of Christ. For others, it is just a flare up of antisemitism taking the opportunity to lash out at “innocent” Israel in whatever way it can. To still others, it’s just another Friday, that is, they have seen so much conflict in the Middle East that this conflict barely even registers on their list of cares or interests, at least until it causes them to pay more for fuel. When that happens then they are interested, moderately. Different people are looking at this all very differently.

But I think we are seeing more and more of the signs that the American Empire is in its last days. Of course, this line of thinking is not unique to me in the slightest, many have written about it. Vox Day himself has seen this day coming for a least a decade before many of us were aware of the trends. But many others are writing about it as well.

What we appear to see happening is America is being taken down by “a death of a thousand cuts.” Since the withdrawal from Afghanistan two years ago we have seen the flare up in Ukraine, all sorts of low level conflicts and government change overs in Africa, then the war Israel, and now this war in Israel is spreading to Yemen and into one of the world’s most important shipping lanes. Chaos appears to be increasing across the world.

In all of these conflicts the will of the United States has either been thwarted, or directly challenged. In Israel, for example, the United States has had what appears to be very little success in curbing the extent of Israel’s operations in Gaza, even though this war could have detrimental effects for the US presence in the region. In Ukraine, the backing of the United States only ensured that far more Ukrainian men died than was ever necessary. Without the US, Ukraine would have backed down a long time ago, it probably never would have even be brash enough to keep bombing in the Donbass, which is what precipitated the current war. In Africa several western friendly governments have been replaced. None of these events on their own is enough to topple an empire like the United States, but put together they show the trend towards decline is heating up. America’s ability to enforce its will is waning, and now it is being challenged on its ability to maintain order in the Gulf of Aden,

“THE leader of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels has vowed to target American warships if President Biden orders missile strikes against its forces.

Militant leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi also warned that US troops will face a warzone "harsher than Vietnam" if they dare step foot in Yemen.

Rebel chief al-Houthi said today: "We will not stand idly by if the Americans are tempted to escalate further and commit foolishness by targeting our country or waging war against it."

He continued in a televised speech: "Any American targeting of our country will be targeted by us.

"We will make American battleships, interests, and navigation a target for our missiles, drones, and military operations."

It appears to be a direct response to claims that US President Joe Biden is drawing up plans to strike Houthi sites to put an end to the erupting chaos in the Red Sea.

Biden has moved the Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier to the Gulf of Aden, just off the coast of Yemen as he draws up plans to intervene directly against the group.

Yesterday, the US announced a naval task force of 10 countries - "Operation Prosperity Guardian" - which intends to gather a fleet of warships to restore order to the region.”[1]

From what I understand responding to attacks like this on international shipping lanes is one of the legitimate reasons for using military force against a nation like Yemen. But that begs the point, it matters not whether it is legitimate for the United States to respond, what matters is that the United States is being challenged in this way in the region. The US is obviously not as feared as it once was. Which means its ability to maintain order, or as the Chinese would say, maintain the ‘Mandate of Heaven’, is vanishing.  

The American government and its leaders only have themselves to blame for this, because they have lost so many wars in this region and weakened themselves so thoroughly, that it is becoming clearer to more and more people around the world that the United States is weak and vulnerable. It is likely that the enemies of the US see this more clearly than the rest of us. The rise of the economic challenges from Russia and China, and the Brics nations is showing that the US is weak on the economic front. The inability for the US to achieve its will of forcing Russia to backdown in Ukraine shows that militarily they are not to be feared as they once were. Blood is in the water and the sharks are circling. The empire is teetering, and now an already over extended American military and navy has to deal with another threat to its ability to establish order.

It has been interesting to see in the Australian media this last week conservatives criticising the left leaning Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for not sending a warship to the Middle East[2] to join up with the American coalition. The conservative media establishment in Australia is as about neo-conservative as you can get. There is not a war they don’t want to be in. But I wonder if their increasingly shrill comments about China, and Russia, and other issues like this, come from a deep-seated understanding of what is happening? Are they cognizant of the fast decline of the US and are they pushing more and more for conflict, to try and reassert some semblance of power? One has to wonder.

Either way, when Russia started to succeed in Ukraine it was obvious to some of us that other nations would follow suit and assert themselves on the world stage for their own interests. The attacks in Israel show that Hamas has likely been emboldened by a weakened America. Yemen looks to have come to the same conclusion. I think this trend will continue. We will see more and more American satrapies move away from direct support of America and more and more direct enemies or challengers take this opportunity to assert their will in the world. The days of the pax-America are now behind us, or at least they nearly are. We are now in the intermediate phase between the unipolar world empire of the United States, and the rising multipolar world.

We are in World War 3. This does not mean that this war will look like what the first two did. It simply means that the world powers are colliding, through their proxies and the world order is in the process of change. Hang on to your hats everyone. The ride is very likely to get more intense from here on in. Especially if the Houthis manage to sink a significant US vessel in the Gulf of Aden.

The threat of Yemen is not Yemen in and of itself, in my view. Rather, it is the message that such a nation standing up to America and Israel sends to the world: America’s enemies spot an opportunity to break out from US control. This will mean chaos will increase for many parts of the world. As a Christian, I would encourage you to pray that peace may be maintained wherever you live.

List of References

Thursday 21 December 2023

The Purpose of Christmas


Is Christmas pagan? What is the purpose of Christmas? In this message I answer these two questions. 

You can watch the video of this sermon here.


This morning I want us to again think intentionally about Christmas. I want to preface this message this morning with a disclaimer that the start of this message may seem to be anti-Christmas. But this is not my aim, I am a big fan of Christmas, and if you heard my sermon last week you will know why. The coming of Jesus as a small child upturned the Spiritual realm and signalled to the devil that his defeat was near. Also, getting together with family, and friends, celebrating, blessing each other with gifts, are also all wonderful things. So, my aim is not to bash Christmas, but to remind you again what the real purpose of Christmas is, or at least was originally. So, here’s what I am going to do this morning. I am going to give you a brief history of winter celebrations from well before Christianity, then I am going to talk about how Christmas came about and why it came about, and then I am going to show how this applies to us today, and how we should think come Christmas time.  

One of the tendencies of Christians is that we can become too insular, too inward thinking, and forget our true purpose in this world is to make disciples. Jesus designed his church to light the way to him, to show people the way of salvation, and what this looks like. God leaves us here because he wants us to bring glimpses of his kingdom justice into this world, to be his witnesses, and to work through us in creative ways to bring people to salvation. Christmas is part of this glorious tradition of mission. So, let’s look at the origins of Christmas and then we shall see how we can apply this knowledge this year, to be more missionally minded.

But first, let’s read our guiding passage this morning: Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 –

“19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

Just keep this passage in mind as we begin with a brief look at the history of Christmas.

A Brief History of Christmas - We often like to say that the first Christmas was when the magi found Jesus and worshipped him. I think this is legitimate, because they did gather to worship the Lord and celebrate his birth. But Christmas didn’t become an official Christian celebration or holiday until about the fourth century AD. It was celebrated before this, but not officially. In fact, the gospel of Mark, often considered the first gospel written, does not even mention the birth of Christ, though the other three do. Can you guess the major festival Christians did celebrate? (Easter).

This isn’t surprising as Jesus’ death and resurrection are at the centre of our faith. Indeed, the Easter celebration for Christians replaced the Passover, and the early Christians referred to the celebration as Pascha, which means Passover in Greek, because Jesus is the true Passover lamb. So where does Christmas originate?

Winter Solstice – for as long as we know into pre-history and history the various pagan peoples of Europe celebrated the winter solstice. This is the shortest day of the year. ‘Solstice’ means ‘the sun stands still’.

The reason people were so keen to party at this time of year is, 1) They were celebrating the fact that the ‘sun was returning to full strength’. The days would get longer, and it would get warmer. 2) In Northern Europe this time of year is very bleak, crops don’t grow, you’ve slaughtered your meat for winter, so drinking, feasting, and partying was a way to slog through the shortest, darkest days of the year (if you have been to Europe in Winter you will know what I mean).

In Scandinavia one tradition at this time of year was to take a massive log, usually a cut down tree, and from the Winter Solstice (Around December 21st) they would burn it, they would feast and party until it was fully burnt. It usually took 12 days to completely burn up. Hence the idea of the 12 days of Christmas and the yule log.

People would decorate their homes, and even bring inside trees and plants to make them look nicer in the bleak winter.

In Germany, people honoured the pagan God Odin (the father of Thor), who was said to fly about the sky at night during the Winter Solstice and observe his people’s behaviour. He had white hair, and a long white beard. He knew when you were sleeping, he knew when you were awake. He knew if you’d been good or bad…He was even said to put toys into children’s stockings, left by the chimneys.  

Yule, or Yuletide, or the Winter Solstice stretches back in history as far as we know these Northern European peoples existed.  

Saturnalia – Further south, where it is warmer and the sun more prominent in winter, the Romans celebrated Saturnalia, which was the celebration of the Birth of the unconquerable Sun God Mithra. It finished on the 25th of December.

This festival included drinking, singing door to door merry songs, sometimes naked, eating human-shaped biscuits, and the servants would become masters for the period of the festival, among other things. So where does Christmas come in?

Christmas begins – Our first known mention of Christmas feast is in 360 AD in the city of Rome. It became an official Christian holiday later in the fourth century. It was instituted by Pope Julius 1, who established the date of the 25th of December. So why did they start celebrating Christmas at the same time of year as this pagan holiday? Well it was all about discipleship.

Remember Jesus said that we are to make disciples of all nations, Matthew 28:19-20 – “19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is what the fourth century Church was seeking to do, it was seeking to make disciples of all the people’s in the Roman Empire. In fact, they were seeking to teach two groups about Jesus:

Firstly, at about this time there were many heretics in the church who did not believe Jesus was really a flesh and blood human being, as well as God. What better way to teach these errant Christians that Jesus was fully human and divine, than celebrating his miraculous birth.

So, one of the purposes of Christmas was to teach Christians proper belief about Jesus. Now very few, if any Christians, don’t know Jesus was God and man, and Christmas helped this. Every year we celebrate God becoming a man, born of a virgin, in a small human village.   

But it also aided in bringing ancient pagans into the church. As we know the ancient Romans liked to party, they loved their holidays, and instead of asking them to give up everything they loved, the early church took their holidays and rebranded them.  

Instead of celebrating the Sun God, they were taught to worship the true Son of God. Instead of singing pagan songs, they taught the pagans to sing Christian ones. It actually took some time for the behaviour of the pagans to change, but eventually the Christmas celebrations became all about Jesus, and what he commanded.

By medieval times Paganism was virtually gone from much of Europe, though some of it was incorporated in what would become the Roman Catholic Church.

As Christianity spread out over Europe, and encountered the various Germanic peoples, which includes all the peoples we think of as English, French, German, Dutch, Austrian, Scandinavian, Norwegian, etc, they encountered their Winter celebrations, and again brought them into the church, and gave them new meaning and significance.  

The Germanic peoples loved to decorate their homes with foliage in winter, hence the origins of the Christmas tree and Christmas wreaths. We now decorate it with Christians symbols.

Their Germanic ideas of Odin, were replaced with Saint Nicholas of Myra, the generous, kind hearted Christian bishop, who defended the weak, and wasn’t afraid to punch heretics. This began the seeds of the modern Santa Claus.

It must be stressed that Saint Nicholas was a person who honoured God in word and deed. He looked after the poor and oppressed, and he was a staunch defender of Orthodox Christianity. He was also highly respected among the church. He represented orthodox Christian belief, which Christmas does as well.

Old Saint Nick would be horrified to find out that he had replaced Jesus as the central figure of Christmas. In fact, there is an ancient legend that he slapped the heretic, Arius, once at the council of Nicea because he did not believe the man was giving Jesus his rightful respect and honour. It is said they threw him in jail over that. Whether the legend is true or not, St Nick would not be happy to know that for many people he has replaced Jesus.  

These ancient Christians kept the feasting, the drinking, the gift giving, and all the other celebratory functions, but taught the pagans about Jesus, the saviour who was born of a virgin, who came to achieve their salvation from their false gods, to believe in the true God.

In other words, the early church was seeking to obey Jesus in making disciples of the nations, and they were following Paul’s example of being all things to all people in order that we may save some. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 –

“19 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

Christmas is an example of the early church seeking to be all things to all people in order to save some. It is an example of the church thinking creatively about how to make disciples, thinking about how it could bring more people into the church, and therefore more people to faith in Jesus. The true purpose of Christmas was to make disciples, and it was very effective in doing this.

World’s Culture vs Jesus Christ’s Culture – But sadly, Christmas today has become again more of a pagan holiday, than a Christian one. Over the last 80 years or so the progressive de-Christification of Christmas has been happening at a consistent rate.

Starting with heaps of Christmas carols which turned the focus away from Jesus towards the rituals and outwards shells of Christmas (white snow, silverbells, reindeer, Rudolph and Santa, presents and more). Followed by movie, after movie, that has de-emphasized the Christian elements of Christmas more and more. Combined with marketing that hammers on about Santa Claus and buying expensive gifts. It’s very obvious what is happening.

We are living in a time where paganism is seeking to reclaim Christmas again for itself. Babylon is reasserting itself. Now why is this important?

Because as Christians we know for certain that at the centre of paganism is this important fact: it can only offer people bondage. Paganism is designed to turn us away from the creator towards created things: Romans 1:21-23 says this:

“21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

In other word’s Paul says decline happens, because people became focused on “things” instead of the creator of those things. It’s not a coincidence that as Christ is removed more from Christmas, that it becomes more about things, and more about spending, spending, spending, which traps people in a materialistic cycle of debt.

By subversive Christmas carols, and Christmas movies that direct people to things rather than Jesus Christ, Christmas has become one of the main drivers of pushing people to something Jesus wanted to save them from: the love of things. It’s an inversion, and a sad irony.

Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying we can’t like these carols, or watch those movies. Just don’t fall under their spell and forget what Christmas is really about, and don’t be afraid to reassert the true meaning of “Christ’s mass”.  

The message of modern Christmas is indebt yourself to impress with gifts. The message of the real Christmas is: Jesus offers us a “free gift” (Rom. 6:23) that pays off our debts, the debts we owed God. Could you get a more wicked inversion than the one in which we now live?

I think we need to be shedding ourselves of the pagan inversions of Christmas as much as possible. John said this, “4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues…” (Rev. 18:4). The world system is very clever at getting us to not only participate in it, but celebrate it, and perpetuate it.

The more pagan our culture becomes, the more in bondage people are going to get. The less things like Christmas will be a celebration and the more they will become a burden on people, and the more people will begin to start looking for true hope, a hope beyond possessions.

If we are intentional about making Christmas about Jesus first and foremost, rather than the message of the world, the more we remove ourselves from Babylon’s ways, the more we will stand out from our culture and be an attractive light to those who want freedom from the world’s ways.

This was one of the reasons why Christmas was so powerful in the first place, because it was centred around the message of the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. There’s nothing wrong with giving and getting gifts and singing about reindeer and snow at Christmas (as silly as that is for us Aussies, but ‘Let it Snow’ is my favourite secular carol for one reason: it’s the song at the beginning and end of Diehard) but the fact that this has become the main thing for many people is what is wrong.   

Think Missionally This Year – My encouragement to you this Christmas, is to think first, not about gifts, nor about feasts, though all these things are good things. Think first this Christmas about how you can teach people about Jesus, whether your family, your friends, your neighbours, or your work colleagues. Think Missionally this year about how you can teach people about Jesus through what you say and what you do, in word and in deed. Invite them church over Christmas, to Christmas Eve service, and let’s show them a bunch of people who have a hope better than any material gift could ever give us.  

Invite people to the Christmas carol event on Christmas Eve. If they don’t want to come to church, maybe at the family lunch read from the story of Jesus’ birth in Matthew or Luke. Be creative in bringing back Christian tradition into your celebrations. Maybe you can buy people a gift that points them to Jesus.

Also seek to show that Christmas is not about things for you, but about more. So many people focus on what they do, or do not get at Christmas. Be that different person who cares more about presence, than presents.

Look out for those in your life who are lonely and include them in your family events. If you are lonely find someone else who you can celebrate with.

Look for creative ways to engage people this year, to teach them about Jesus, and model to them the freedom that Jesus offers us, freedom from the world’s way of doing things.

Conclusion – The true purpose of Christmas is gospel mission, let’s do that this year. If we want to truly celebrate Christmas as it was intended we must seek to worship Jesus for who he is and what he has done, and also teach others about him, especially the unsaved. Jesus came to die, and rise again, and in doing so achieved our salvation. Peace and goodwill to all men, comes through trusting in him. Tell people about Jesus this year. Let’s pray.

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Christmas is Pagan?

When people say that Christmas is pagan, just remind them that there is no greater pagan tradition than repenting, and bowing before Jesus and confessing him as Lord,

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

I will address this later in the week in more detail. But for now let me say, I can’t think of any better holiday to celebrate than one which tells people they need to bow before the Lord Jesus.


Monday 18 December 2023

The Angel of Light


We all know this phrase that the devil presents himself as an angel of light. But what is the original context of that verse? Let’s have a look,

 “1 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ… 12 And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”[1]

Paul is having some trouble with these so called “super apostles” (v 5). They are preaching a false gospel, leading people away from Christ and causing all sorts of issues. And where does he hark back to? Back to Genesis 3 and Eve’s encounter with the devil:

“3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ…13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”[2]

Paul saw exactly what we talked about; the devil pretending to be a good guy, a liberator. Isaiah 14 tells us this,

“12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”[3]

This is the famous King James translation, which uses the famously ancient translation of the Hebrew word “heylel”, into the latinised Lucifer, to describe him as the ‘morning star’, or the bright star of the morning. 

You will hear some people object to calling the devil Lucifer for two reasons. One is that this passage in verse 4 is addressed to the King of Babylon. The other is because the Hebrew word translated “Lucifer” here just means “Day Star” or “Morning Star”, alluding to the bright star that is still visible in the morning. But we must remember that here Isaiah is using an ancient understanding of the devil’s fall from heaven to talk about the king of Babylon. Consider too that we are to interpret the Old Testament through the New. And who is the real king of Babylon in Revelation? The dragon. The devil. He is behind it all.

In fact, Isaiah says this to the Philistines about Babylon: “Rejoice not, O Philistia, all of you, that the rod that struck you is broken, for from the serpent's root will come forth an adder, and its fruit will be a flying fiery serpent.”[4] In some sense, Isaiah is saying that the spirit of Babylon is not finished and that the dragon shall rise again from her. I do not understand how someone cannot see a connection to the devil here, for he is the dragon at the source of Babylon’s evil. Also “Lucifer” is a very fitting name for the devil because it means “light bringer” or “light source”, and that is what he claims to be; the giver of “divine light”, or divine knowledge.

And this is exactly how his servants work themselves into the church:

“13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15 So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”[5]

This pattern of pretending to be good, while being truly evil is seen often in the servants of Satan. Judas was the “son of perdition”, destined to betray Jesus, and possessed by the devil when he did so: “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve.”[6] But he presented himself as someone who cared about the poor:

“4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.”[7]

The servants of evil will often place themselves in positions where they are responsible for doing good, especially if there is money involved. Just like their master. Be aware of this. 

List of References

[1] 2 Corinthians 11: 1-3, 12-15.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Isaiah 14:12-14 (KJV).

[4] Isaiah 14:29.

[5] 2 Corinthians 11:13-15

[6] Luke 22:3.

[7] John 12:4-6.

Saturday 16 December 2023

Tolerate Satanism?


We have to tolerate Satanism? No. That is nonsense, and it is strange to hear some people asserting that this should be the case.

Those who assert that classical liberalism asserted from the start that things like Satanism should be tolerated are ignorant of the historical facts and the roots of classical liberalism.

A good example can be found Locke's Letter Concerning Toleration. One of the founding documents of classical liberalism. In that letter, Locke argued that if society were to allow for the toleration of non-Protestant forms of Christianity or pagan religions, that our laws would fall into confusion and contradiction and all liberty would begin to disappear.

Why is this the case? Because many religions allow for practices which are not only considered sins by Christians but criminal by civilised peoples (for example Sati which was once practiced in India, or animal sacrifice in other religions). The existence of such practices would require more power from the state to legislate against certain religious practices which would in turn diminish everyone's liberty. Fascinating that he saw the inevitable rise of a more powerful state and the diminishing of liberty as direct results of a multicultural society. And he was right as we now live in a society where more and more laws are passed year on year to try and quell the conflicts that arise in a society with no common creed, or vision.

Here is an extended quote from Locke on the subject of the limits of toleration,

“But to come to particulars. I say, first, no opinions contrary to human society, or to those moral rules which are necessary to the preservation of civil society, are to be tolerated by the magistrate. But of these, indeed, examples in any Church are rare. For no sect can easily arrive to such a degree of madness as that it should think fit to teach, for doctrines of religion, such things as manifestly undermine the foundations of society and are, therefore, condemned by the judgement of all mankind; because their own interest, peace, reputation, everything would be thereby endangered.

Another more secret evil, but more dangerous to the commonwealth, is when men arrogate to themselves, and to those of their own sect, some peculiar prerogative covered over with a specious show of deceitful words, but in effect opposite to the civil right of the community. For example: we cannot find any sect that teaches, expressly and openly, that men are not obliged to keep their promise; that princes may be dethroned by those that differ from them in religion; or that the dominion of all things belongs only to themselves. For these things, proposed thus nakedly and plainly, would soon draw on them the eye and hand of the magistrate and awaken all the care of the commonwealth to a watchfulness against the spreading of so dangerous an evil. But, nevertheless, we find those that say the same things in other words. What else do they mean who teach that faith is not to be kept with heretics? Their meaning, forsooth, is that the privilege of breaking faith belongs unto themselves; for they declare all that are not of their communion to be heretics, or at least may declare them so whensoever they think fit. What can be the meaning of their asserting that kings excommunicated forfeit their crowns and kingdoms? It is evident that they thereby arrogate unto themselves the power of deposing kings, because they challenge the power of excommunication, as the peculiar right of their hierarchy. That dominion is founded in grace is also an assertion by which those that maintain it do plainly lay claim to the possession of all things. For they are not so wanting to themselves as not to believe, or at least as not to profess themselves to be the truly pious and faithful. These, therefore, and the like, who attribute unto the faithful, religious, and orthodox, that is, in plain terms, unto themselves, any peculiar privilege or power above other mortals, in civil concernments; or who upon pretence of religion do challenge any manner of authority over such as are not associated with them in their ecclesiastical communion, I say these have no right to be tolerated by the magistrate; as neither those that will not own and teach the duty of tolerating all men in matters of mere religion. For what do all these and the like doctrines signify, but that they may and are ready upon any occasion to seize the Government and possess themselves of the estates and fortunes of their fellow subjects; and that they only ask leave to be tolerated by the magistrate so long until they find themselves strong enough to effect it?

Again: That Church can have no right to be tolerated by the magistrate which is constituted upon such a bottom that all those who enter into it do thereby ipso facto deliver themselves up to the protection and service of another prince. For by this means the magistrate would give way to the settling of a foreign jurisdiction in his own country and suffer his own people to be listed, as it were, for soldiers against his own Government. Nor does the frivolous and fallacious distinction between the Court and the Church afford any remedy to this inconvenience; especially when both the one and the other are equally subject to the absolute authority of the same person, who has not only power to persuade the members of his Church to whatsoever he lists, either as purely religious, or in order thereunto, but can also enjoin it them on pain of eternal fire. It is ridiculous for any one to profess himself to be a Mahometan only in his religion, but in everything else a faithful subject to a Christian magistrate, whilst at the same time he acknowledges himself bound to yield blind obedience to the Mufti of Constantinople, who himself is entirely obedient to the Ottoman Emperor and frames the feigned oracles of that religion according to his pleasure. But this Mahometan living amongst Christians would yet more apparently renounce their government if he acknowledged the same person to be head of his Church who is the supreme magistrate in the state.

Lastly, those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all; besides also, those that by their atheism undermine and destroy all religion, can have no pretence of religion whereupon to challenge the privilege of a toleration.”[1]

So classical liberalism, as originally envisioned, does not require the toleration of evil. That's a complete subversion of how the original classical liberals viewed toleration. Toleration always had to have limits to work. Otherwise, it would just create a series of nonsense contradictions and society would increasingly fracture. Toleration was always meant to be limited, never meant to be absolute. 

When Locke refers to "Mahometan" religion in this letter, he is actually talking about Catholicism, though it was illegal for him to be so open about this while he was writing his case, so he had to speak of it cryptically. Locke saw how important it was for Protestants and Catholics to have their own spheres of influence and authority, because he saw how they would clash, and he saw how loyalty to a foreign sovereign, in this case the Pope, could cause issues in a Protestant nation, where the highest earthly authority was meant to be the king. 

I am not a classical liberal myself, mainly because the term has developed to describe a philosophy for society that has no genuine boundaries and therefore cannot foster a flourishing society. But early on in the formation of what was to become western liberalism, the great thinkers understood the necessity of boundaries for a society to flourish. Boundaries are necessary for anything to flourish. Boundaries are the distinguishing mark of the difference between a garden and a jungle. 

Of course, we today live in a truly transgressive society. There are no longer any boundaries, as far as our elites would say. There are no national boundaries, no religious boundaries, no gender boundaries and even borders have become meaningless in the last few decades throughout the West. So, it makes sense that those who claim the classical liberal, or libertarian, mantels today arc up at the suggestion that we should have firmer boundaries. They have come to believe that we should live in a society without boundaries, because the human will is supreme in working out what is good for it. But the Christian worldview correctly notes the wicked nature of mankind, and that our will is corrupted and misled easily by evil, and therefore the proper Christian worldview recognizes the necessity of good laws to curb evil in society, and this includes in religious matters. If you read the early arguments for liberalism you will see that the importance of those boundaries was recognized and the devastating effects of rejecting them were foreseen. After all, men like Locke and others were students of history themselves. A society can only take so much of the shaking of all boundaries before every bond is broken and the whole civilisation suffers as a result. 

List of References

[1] Locke, John. John Locke: 7 Works . Unknown. Kindle Edition.

Friday 15 December 2023

Don’t Fear The Tribulation


Many Christians fear the tribulation of Revelation, the final trials, because they see how powerful the devil becomes in those days. For some this has even motivated the rapture doctrine, because they believe the wrath on the devil's system will be so terrible that God would not leave his church on the earth in the midst of it.

But, again and again in the book of Revelation, God shows that he is redeeming his people and saving them through the work of Christ throughout the tribulation. However, you interpret this, whether Amill that we are in it now, or Premill that it is 3 and 1/2 or 7 years of intense trials at the end of the age. However you interpret it, one of the points of the book of Revelation is that the power of the devil is limited. Right up until Revelation 18:4 God is still calling his people out of Babylon and towards redemption.

Even at the greatest heights of his power when the beast is ruling the world's system, whether that was about Nero, or about a future antichrist or both (I think there are many antichrists, with a final one coming), still countless people are being redeemed,

"9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God,

    and serve him day and night in his temple;

    and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.

16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;

    the sun shall not strike them,

    nor any scorching heat.

17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd,

    and he will guide them to springs of living water,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:9-17).

The point of Revelation is to show to us the Lord Jesus Christ in his glory and how evil loses. Yes, the tribulation may be terrible, it may be intense, but it will not stop God from redeeming countless people from this earth. In fact, one of the core messages of the book of Revelation is that the more intense and powerful evil gets, the more we should cling to Christ and trust in him for redemption, because in evil there is not hope and no future. The book has great application outside of just worrying about end times. It is a morale booster for those who look at it and see what Christ is doing and that no mater how powerful evil gets, it cannot overcome our Lord.

I think if you have been taught to fear the tribulation or the book of Revelation, you have been taught wrong on the issue, whatever your end time view. Because when the devil is at his most powerful, he helps achieve his own destruction and God's gospel continues to advance and bring many to faith.

Revelation should not cause us to fear the power of the devil. It should cause us to glory in the Lord Jesus, who no matter how powerful the devil gets, Jesus outshines him and achieves his purposes.