Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

WHERE TO LOOK By Rayola Kelley

To me one of the hardest things to do is to know where to look for things that are lost and obscured in the midst of darkness, uncertainty, and what seems to be utterly ridiculous. I can’t count the times I have lost something and looked for it to only fail to see it or overlook it because my mind had an image of it that which did not line up to the actual article.

That is the problem with the mind, it is mostly clouded by perverted, limited images, ideas, or notions of how something must be and what it will look like. These notions are expectations that are driven like waves on an ocean of vanity that find the height of their hope in unrealistic ideas that are doomed to fail when the reality of what is finally hits them head on. Regardless of what we see, it often comes down to that last image we have of it. We can’t see outside of the box that our mind has created or has been conditioned to see by the influences around us.

When I lose something, a certain panic and aggravation rises up in me. The panic is a matter of realizing that the odds of finding it right off are very minimal and the aggravation comes because I have no idea where to start looking for it. I wrack my mind as to where I last saw the object. However, I do so many things without thinking about it that taking note of something that I may use or need on a constant basis is not a habit.

This brings me to the subject of truth. The world in the midst of its various ways is lost to truth and truth has become lost to the cultures of the world. To the world it is about vain philosophies that are anti-God, and to the cultures of the world it is about pagan practices and vain pursuits to keep alive some form of identity to the past because the present lacks purpose and the future is void of any real hope.

This is where traditions come in. So much of our lives are defined by traditions. Every culture has their traditions, and families have their personal practices around certain days as well. Traditions are meant to be a place of agreement, identification, and many times the two types of the traditions of culture and family meet and become a confusing mishmash of assumed activities for those who participate in them.

Right now, in America, due to traditions, we are trying to ascend the heights of expectation to maintain certain practices. Let me state, Thanksgiving is a true celebration but it has been made into a tradition, and Christmas is a tradition that has been made into a celebration. You might ask how is it that I have put such a distinction on these two events.

A celebration is based on some type of memorial that reminds us of that which is significant and important such as Memorial Day, while traditions in our different cultures are, for the most part, a matter of man-inspired practices that end up being useless and pagan. Take Thanksgiving. It was to remind us as Americans of how wonderful our Creator has been to us in blessing this nation, not only in the good times but in preserving it in the bad. It is at this celebration that we, as a people and a nation, can offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving to our God as we partake of His bountiful blessings with others. However, man has made it a tradition by downplaying the memorial that wise leaders have established. Granted, it is about family gatherings, but how many approach it with such awe and thanksgiving that God is a major part of the equation? It is bad enough that much of the attitude of gratitude and thanksgiving are missing from this celebration, but the main focus for many are the football games.

Let’s consider Christmas. Christmas is 100 percent pagan at the core. Its pagan origins were so abrasive that there were great attempts of some to change the focus of it. Notice I used the word “focus.” There were those who tried to make it about family, especially children, rather than the mob coming into the houses of the elite to eat, drink, be merry, and take what they could. There were those who eventually made it about giving special gifts to family members instead of opening their doors to allow a Mardi-Gras atmosphere into family homes to dictate a tradition that was disruptive and coarse. This giving eventually translated into organizations that would help the less fortunate while soothing the conscience of the elite as they relish in some of their self-serving ways.

Since the clergy was opposed to the decadent ways of Christmas that was also sadly enticing some of the congregation into the vain activities of it, a few decided to insert the birth of Christ into the mix in order to redirect the focus of the believers to consider and ponder the event of God coming in the flesh that would warrant a memorial. Their hope was that it would produce a time of somber recognition of God and a reflection of a great miracle that resulted in our redemption (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 2:7-21). We can debate as to whether this was appropriate or wise due to the fact that the matters of heaven are not in competition with the pagan practices of the world; rather, we are to come out and be separate from it. However, the recognition of Christ’s Incarnation became “part of” or an “add on” to Christmas to give it some meaning and purpose outside of its foolish, ridiculous pagan ways (2 Corinthians 2:14-18).

Granted, Christ was not actually born in December, but if He was born in September as calculated, He would have been miraculously conceived in December. As some know, in some oriental countries the practice of recognizing one’s birth and life is to celebrate one’s birthday on the day of their conception. This is where we get into the conflict of where the factual is credible in denouncing the validity of such a recognition of this event during this time, but it is also where others who approach it from a different angle can technically reason it as acceptable; tradition could embrace it as being so, and religion could justify it based on the truth that Jesus did come into this world, along with the reality that God’s gave us the greatest example of true giving.

When the religious people inserted the event of God miraculously coming in the flesh through a virgin birth in the midst of pagan practices, it was with the intention to remind man that God is the One who gave the greatest gift of all. It was meant to take the birth of our Savior and commemorate it in the midst of the pagan, the ridiculous, and the foolish to change the focus, purpose and meaning of it. In other words, it was to make it into a true celebration based on something that was genuine and worthy of consideration. However, whenever there are pagan origins and man trying to take the reins of tradition to direct them in some way, he will in the end naturally ensure that he benefits from all such activities, which causes any noble attempts to become lost, confused, or profane.

Eventually the commercial realm took Christmas captive. It became a commercial holiday where the god of greed rides high from late October through December as people cast much at its various altars of lust and vanity. What started as giving unique gifts during this time, has become a free-for-all in getting everything the eyes fall on regardless of the oppression it leaves behind. Advertisements and trends move this great wave towards shorelines of utter frustration, despair, resentment, and bankruptcy.

Instead of teaching our children about giving, it often makes them selfish because foolishness is bound in their hearts. Santa who has gone through his own transformation through the years from a mischievous elf to a jolly figure has become the focal figure and why not since it is a pagan holiday. People are not interested in getting their soul saved rather, they are interested in feeding their lust and fantasy. In a sense the Book of Life has been replaced with a naughty or nice list instead of the sober reality that we are all born into sin, and if we do not receive God’s provision of Jesus Christ, our name will be blotted out of His book. The real issue is not reforming what is naughty, but being translated out of darkness of foolishness into light (Proverbs 22:15; Colossians 1:13; Revelation 3:5).

The problem with the tradition of man is it not only replaces, profanes, or secularizes something but it becomes a spiritual vacuum that begins to swallow everything, from the reason behind something to profaning anything that might be pure and genuine. Man has a tendency to go into extremes with matters, and out of the extreme comes confusing mixtures, along with sentimental expectations and empty, lifeless, rigid, rules that leave people reeling from what proves to be the senselessness of it all. Ultimately, whenever man possesses any notions about such holidays as Christmas, he is often left disillusioned, depressed, and forsaken. In fact, if man is suffering from the vanity and indifference of life, such times will magnify his lonely and miserable plight, leaving him more hopeless than before.

Jesus dealt with the religious traditions of the Jews in Matthew 15:1-9, that were recorded in what is known as the “Talmud.” These traditions were added to serve as guidelines to such matters as how far one could walk on the Sabbath without breaking it; how men and their wives, who were seated in different sections in the synagogue were to conduct themselves in their religious service that Paul made reference to in 1 Corinthians 14:34-38, but these guidelines became “the” law and nullified the real meaning and principles behind the true commandments of God. That is why Paul’s challenge over “the law” was that in the end it was up to those who called themselves believers to agree with the commandments set forth in regard to the conduct of the Church or they could remain ignorant in the darkness of traditions and under a great burden. Religious traditions caused outward conformity instead of inward transformation, and self-righteousness rather than godliness. This Jewish law of traditions ultimately superseded God’s Law, negated godly principles, and gave way to a religious spirit that lacks the fruit of the Spirit.

It is clear that mankind is looking for something in different activities which includes holidays. Some may even have some expectation as to what they are looking for. Maybe they are looking for fun that will not leave them empty, excitement that will not fade away in minutes, sentiment that won’t end up in some depressing pit, a type of release from pent up frustration that will not leave them weary with life, or a reason for the practice or tradition that will not end up proving to be just another day after all.

The truth is people are looking for something because they are lost. They think they know what they are looking for. They try satisfying their lusts to no avail. They look for goals that leave them wondering, “Is this all there is?” They pursue some type of vanity to end up possessing nothing of value. They look to traditions for something, anything that would bring some meaning to their aimless life, along with a glimmer of hope in what seems senseless, but they are always left in greater despair. The reason for all of this despair is because man insists on looking into the darkness rather than turn in repentance and face the light. As long as man insists on looking in the darkness, he will not find what he is looking for: the real gift of life, meaning, and purpose—Jesus Christ.

This brings us back to Christians. Are you still looking for something? If you are, the lack rests at your feet for God has provided all you have need of. He has provided you with His eternal, abundant life as well as His Spirit that will empower you and do a greater, deeper work in you.

As a believer I do not look to days to remember what God has done for me; rather, I choose to remember the memorial that marks the event. God does not insert important days into our lives; rather, He has inserted events into our midst and marked them as memorials. Jesus said this of Mary who anointed Him for His burial, “Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her” (Matthew 26:13). Imagine, every time the Gospel is preached it points back to this woman’s one act that became a memorial.

When it comes to Christ’s incarnation, I don’t need a specific day to remember it. Every time I think of Him as the sinless Lamb of God, I remember the event of His miraculous entrance into this world. Every time I think of Him becoming identified with me in my sinful plight, yet He never sinned, I think of Him being fashioned as a man in the womb of a woman, and am reminded of Hebrews 10:4-5, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me.”

I have used the tradition of Christmas to share my faith in different ways because I recognize that a stake has been placed right in the middle of the darkness of this tradition to shine a light, providing me with an opportunity to highlight an incredible event. This event changed history and my life. I must admit I am a bit more reflective during this time of the year, but it is not because I need to remember the memorial that has been established; rather, it is because I am looking for the cracks in the midst of a lifeless tradition in which to shine the light so that lost man may see what he has always been looking for.

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The Goal of Gentle Shepherd Ministries is to preach the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to make disciples in compliance with the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19).

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