|Live Services||"Living Faith"|
|Editorial||Thanksgiving — Should We Observe It?|
|Q&A||Who created the "tree of knowledge of good and evil," mentioned in Genesis 2? If it was God, how can God tempt man to sin by creating something which is evil?|
The Sermon, “Living Faith”, will be given, this Sabbath, by Edwin Pope.
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at the appropriate time, just click on “Connect to Live Stream.”
Thanksgiving — Should We Observe It?
by Edwin Pope
Thanksgiving – Should We Observe It?
By J. Edwin Pope
Next Thursday, November 28, the United States will be celebrating the national holiday of Thanksgiving. While some question whether members of the church should observe this annual holiday, since it is not one of God’s Holy Days, established by Him and recorded in Scripture – the principle of participating in and celebrating national holidays is made clear in the Scripture.
The first observance of this holiday occurred in the fall of 1621, when the Governor of Plymouth Colony, William Bradford, appointed a day for feasting and thanksgiving. That observance was established to show gratitude to the Almighty as that difficult year drew to an end and the harvest was plentiful. Following that first observance, the colonists continued to celebrate days of thanksgiving annually, in recognition of the blessings received of this new land. When we observe this day traditionally, we think of that group of Englishmen who settled at Plymouth in 1620.
This day has been preserved and continued by Presidents of these United States who believed in God and the Bible as a source of national greatness and integrity. Our first President, George Washington, issued a Thanksgiving proclamation in honor of the new Constitution. He stated, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”
God illustrates this principle in Deuteronomy 17:18-19. He specifically shows that it is His desire that the leaders of nations govern based upon the principles and laws of the Bible.
Abraham Lincoln recognized the need for the people of this nation to stay close to God if we would continue to receive the blessings, which were being afforded us by the Almighty. On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of November as Thanksgiving Day; a day set aside to give God thanks for the blessings He continued to bestow upon the nation.
Then in December 1941, the U.S. Congress established the fourth Thursday of November from that year forward, officially, as Thanksgiving Day.
But would God have us keep this day as a national holiday in respect of all that He has done for this people and nation, since this is not a day He established and specifically requires in Scripture?
We have examples of national holidays established by the Jews and recorded in Scripture for historical purposes – days, which were not established specifically by God to reflect His overall plan. Thus, the fact that Thanksgiving Day was established by the early colonists rather than by divine authority, does not, in itself, make it wrong for a Christian to celebrate such a day.
In John 10:22-23, we find Jesus attending the “Feast of Dedication,” which was established by the Jews to commemorate the purification of the Temple at Jerusalem. That feast was celebrated on the anniversary of the day that the re-establishment of divine worship occurred, after Antiochus Epiphanes had been vanquished and the Temple purified. This occurred around 165 A.D.
Thus, Christ’s attendance at the annual holiday clearly illustrated that it was good and right to attend and celebrate a national holiday established for the right purposes. There was nothing wrong in celebrating this holiday and giving special thanks to God on that day!
God led Esther and Mordecai to establish the Feast of Purim to commemorate the deliverance of the Jews from Haman (Esther 9).
A very significant point here is that in neither of the Jewish holidays of the “Feast of Dedication,” nor the “Feast of Purim,” is there any hint of a pagan origin. That is true also in relation to the establishment of Thanksgiving as a national holiday. It is not true with Christmas, Easter, and Halloween, all three of which were originally celebrated in honor of pagan gods and pagan traditions and which, today, continue to be used as counterfeits of God’s ordained Holy Days.
Numerous Scriptures reveal to us that we are to submit to the laws and ordinances of the land as long as these laws and ordinances do not conflict with God’s Laws and His Way of life. Examples of such Scriptures are: I Peter 2:13-18; Matthew 22:21; and Romans 13:1-4.
The overall point in these Scriptures is that orderly government is part of God’s provision for the land, even in a wicked world. No ruler exercises control except as God permits (Daniel 4:17). Under normal circumstances, one who would follow God’s Way is to be obedient to the laws of the land except where those laws contradict the Laws of God. In such a situation – the Christian must obey God, rather than men (Acts 5:29; Daniel 3:16-18; and Daniel 6:10-28).
Of all the national holidays observed in this great land today, Thanksgiving stands out as one that we as Christians can truly embrace.
In the San Diego Union-Tribune, Tuesday, November 19, 2002, there is an article of significance, in which a federal judge in Montgomery, Alabama, ruled a day earlier that a Ten Commandments monument installed in Alabama’s judicial building must be removed (within 30 days) because it violates the separation of church and state. One might wonder how long a national holiday of the stature of Thanksgiving will continue to be allowed in this country.
Thanksgiving is a day that points the family and the nation to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is that God Who will soon be returning to this earth to establish a Kingdom and a Government, which will rule this world based upon the Laws of God. In the meantime we must utilize every opportunity to direct those we come in contact with – to that One, True God. Time for this world is swiftly running out!
This Week in the News
ROME: ASSERTING ITS ROLE
The International Herald Tribune (Online) reported on November 15, 2002: “Pope John Paul II made a historic visit to the Italian Parliament on Thursday (11/14/02), seeking both to move beyond past tensions between the Vatican and the Italian government and to weigh in on challenges that currently confront the country. In a 45-minute speech that marked the FIRST TIME a pope had ever addressed the legislature here, John Paul told Italians to make sure that the expansion of the European Union did not diminish the role and importance of Christianity on the Continent.”
Just how significant this address was is attested to by the attendance of some 800 lawmakers and national leaders–including Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. The article goes on to point out, “The pope’s visit was preceded by day after day and page upon page of news coverage here, and it was suffused with an EXTRAORDINARY SENSE OF OCCASION.”
On November 15, Zenit News Agency summarized the event in this way, “Pope’s Visit to Italian Parliament Mark Full Church-State Reconciliation.” It pointed out that the papal visit “made front-page news in all Italian newspapers today, some dedicating as many as nine pages to the event. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls described the visit as ‘an homage that the Pope wishes to offer to the unique historical role of Italy with Christian humanism,’ adding in comparison to other papal visits to parliamentary assemblies, ‘I think that, in this case, it is about something singular, in a certain sense unique.'” The article pointed out, too, that “according to historian Pietro Scoppola, John Paul II’s presence in the Italian Parliament marks a ‘full and unconditional reconciliation with Italian institutions.'”
A further quote on this historic address, this time from CNN.com for November 15, 2002, shows the authoritative influence wielded by the Pope: “John Paul appealed to European leaders, who are drafting a new EU constitution, to recognize the role Christianity has played on the continent. ‘There is a need to guard against a vision of the continent which would only take into account its ECONOMIC and POLITICAL aspects, and not its RELIGIOUS ones,’ the pope said.”
We bring excerpts from the pope’s speech, as follows:
“A self-confident and internally cohesive Italy can be a great enrichment for the other nations of Europe and the world. I wish to share this conviction with you at this time, when the institutional shape of the European Union is being defined and its expansion to include many countries of Central and Eastern Europe appears imminent, as it were sealing the end of an unnatural division. It is my hope that, thanks also to Italy’s support, the new foundations of the European ‘common house’ will not lack the ‘cement’ of that extraordinary religious, cultural and civil patrimony which has given Europe its greatness down the centuries… In this noble Assembly I would like to renew the appeal which in recent years I have made to the various peoples of the Continent, ‘Europe, at the beginning of the new millennium, open once again your doors to Christ!’… Italy and the other nations historically rooted in the Christian faith are in a sense inherently prepared to open up for humanity new pathways of peace… Illustrious Representatives of the Italian People, a prayer arises spontaneously from the depths of my heart: from this ancient and glorious City — from this ‘Rome where Christ is Roman,’ in Dante’s celebrated phrase (Purgatorio 32:102) — I implore the Redeemer of man to grant that the beloved Italian Nation will continue, now and in the future, to live in a way worthy of its national tradition, and to draw from that tradition new and abundant fruits of civilization, for the material and spiritual progress of the whole world.”
We have proclaimed for decades the Biblical teaching that the Catholic Church will play a very dominant and influential role in restoring in Europe the ancient Roman Empire. In fact, the coming United States of Europe is the final and last resurrection of the Roman Empire, which was later called the Holy Roman Empire. The Bible pictures the city of Rome, which is built on seven hills (Revelation 17:9), as that “great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” (Revelation 17:18).
The Bible also shows that the final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire, under the influence and direction of the Catholic Church, will not remain a peaceful power bloc. It will become responsible for bringing havoc on this earth, launching this world into World War III.
The Bible also indicates very strongly that most of the Protestant churches, including the Lutheran Church, will unite again under the Catholic umbrella. In this light, the following development is very interesting:
On November 17, 2002, Zenit News Agency reported that “‘the Catholic Church continues toward full unity with the Lutheran Church,’ John Paul II said Saturday… ‘We are committed moving further ahead on the path of reconciliation… The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church, signed in 1999, paves the way for more extensive common witness,’ adding that it ‘brings us a step closer to the full visible unity which is the goal of our dialogue.'”
These events occurred against the backdrop of American bishops of the Catholic Church struggling to restore confidence after sex abuse cases rocked the whole institution. In a conference meeting, the bishops were attempting to produce a national policy to address abusive priests–an earlier document had been rejected by Rome.
In the Denver Post, November 17, 2002, the repercussions of the abuse cases were noted, “One in five Catholics has stopped donating to a diocese because of the scandals, according to a Gallup poll released two weeks ago.” This article closed its report with this final statement:
“‘Only the pope can oust a prelate, and he will resist doing so in response to public outcry,’ said… Thomas Reese, editor of the Jesuit magazine America. ‘Rome would never want to look like it’s giving in to pressure,’ Reese said.”
Finally, in The Coloradoan, November 17, 2002, “A Pittsburgh priest who was accused but never convicted of child molestation was defrocked by Pope John Paul II for disobeying orders to not serve as a priest in public.” However, having gone to Rome to appeal the Pope’s order, the priest found little success, because, “The Vatican decree stated that ‘the penalty is unappealable.’ “
News reports such as these highlight an emerging power in Rome as the Catholic Church opens new doors, participates in empire building and rules its own with unflinching authority.
Who created the "tree of knowledge of good and evil," mentioned in Genesis 2? If it was God, how can God tempt man to sin by creating something which is evil?
The Bible teaches that God creates both good and “evil.” Isaiah 45:7 reads (quoted from the Authorized Version throughout), “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” We are also being told in Jeremiah 6:19, “Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not harkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it.” (The New King James Bible translates the Hebrew word for “evil” with “calamity” in both passages. The Hebrew word (“ra”) is the same, though, as used in Genesis 2 to describe the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.)
Originally, God created Lucifer as a perfect being (Ezekiel 28:15), but he was created with the freedom to choose.This meant that Lucifer, by necessity, could and might turn to evil. God, then, created Lucifer with that potential. In the same way, God created man as a free moral agent. He also created the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in order to give man the opportunity to choose life and to reject evil and death (compare Deuteronomy 30:19). Later, Jesus Christ, who gave up His divine attributes to become a human being like us (John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 2:14-18), had to “know” or to learn how to “refuse the evil” (Isaiah 7:14-16; compare Hebrews 4:15). He never sinned, but He had to struggle against sin, and He “learned obedience [or, how to obey in temptation] by the things which He suffered.” (Hebrews 5:6-8).
God created the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, not in order to tempt man to sin (God does not tempt us to sin, James 1:13), but to test man, whether he would obey God or not. When God tests us, He desires that we don’t sin. His tests are giving us opportunity to choose the good and to resist the evil. We read that God let ancient Israel hunger in the desert, to “humble thee, and to prove [or, test] thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.” (Deuteronomy 8:2).
God wants to know the same about us today. Are we willing to resist sin and the desire to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, even in the face of adversity? God wants us to continuously eat instead from the tree of life — to drink in His Holy Spirit, which gives us the power and the strength to resist evil and follow the good. The choice, though, is ours.
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