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Saint Mark

Why are so many young and, middle-aged people leaving the church?  I can’t speak for all of them, but I can speak to the ones I have personally talked to over the last 30 years in the African American community.  Many African Americans feel disillusioned from misinformation, disinformation, and the commercialization of the Christian faith by some.  Thus, leaving many shipwrecked in their faith.

The African Connection to Christianity series is meant to answer many of those questions I’ve been getting over the years.  This is not to lift one race or ethnic group over another, but to include ALL races and groups as it was always intended.  We will see that throughout this series.  But, like all things, there has to be a beginning.

The Christian faith began its trek around the world from the African continent.  Not only that, but those who carried the gospel were African people.  This is something that a large part of the world either neglected to mention or, intentionally deleted from history.

Dr. Thomas C. Oden wrote in his book: HOW AFRICA SHAPED THE CHRISTIAN MIND

“The global Christian mind has been formed out of a specific history, not out of bare-bones theoretical ideas.  Much of that history occurred in Africa.  Cut Africa out of the Bible and Christian memory, and you have misplaced many pivotal scenes of salvation history.  It is the story of the children of Abraham in Africa; Joseph in Africa; Moses in Africa; Mary, Joseph and Jesus in Africa; and shortly thereafter Mark and Perpetua and Athanasius and Augustine in Africa”.

Judaism and Christianity have their roots in the story of a people formed in the space between Africa and Asia.  The people from these two groups, Jews and Christians traveled from Egypt to Jerusalem to Samaria to Antioch, and from there to the rest of the world.

The early Christian footprint was formed on three continents – Asia, Africa, and Europe.  On each of these three lands were three great cities in the maps of late antiquity: Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome.

At the height of its prominence, the Afro-Hellenic city of Alexandria was the larger of the three cities.  Its importance far exceeded that of Antioch and Rome in the world of ideas, literature, and learning.

It’s important to note that the Christian leader of Alexandria came to symbolize and represent all Christians on the continent concerning the ecclesiastical organization.

Other than Alexandria, there was only one other city in the ancient world internationally recognized on the African continent as representative of a large part of Africa, Carthage.

The stand-out difference between Alexandria and Carthage was that Carthage had no known first-generation apostle comparable to St. Mark.  We will get more into the important part St. Mark played in the second part of this series.

Alexandria representing Africa was comparable to Antioch representing Asia and, Rome representing Europe.

In the first half of the first millennium, the African intellect blossomed so much that it was emulated and widely sought out by Christians of the northern and eastern Mediterranean shores.  Origen, an African, was sought out by the teachers of Caesarea Palestina.  Lactantius was invited by Emperor Diocletian (245-313) to be a teacher of literature in his Asian palace in Bythinia.  Augustine was invited to teach in Milan.  There are many other intellectual movement cases from Africa to Europe – Plotinus, Valentinus, Tertullian, Marius Victorinus, and Pachomius are just a few.

As we deep dive into the historical annals of Christianity, we need to understand how the first Christians understood and transmitted the gospel.  It is my opinion that leaving this crucial part of our Christian heritage out of our collective, and personal, conversations could leave us wanting.

For the first five hundred years of Christian history, Africa played an undeniable and pivotal role in shaping the global Christian mind.  If we are going to tell the Christian story we need to tell it all.

I hope you will find it important enough to search and find out for yourself that the Christian faith is for us all, from all of us.

This is the first of a three-part series concerning Christianity’s African connection.

WHY BETHLEHEM?
How is it that this, seemingly, insignificant place was chosen for Jesus to be born?
When the council of heaven convened to consider the advent of Jesus into the earth every detail was carefully planned. How, when and, where was never given to chance. All was by divine appointment.
How?
From the first mention of the virgin birth of Jesus coming into the world, Gen. 3:15, the world was put on notice that the Saviour was coming.
Generational signposts were emblazoned in the minds of God's people as a constant reminder.
The prophet Isaiah said: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Listen carefully, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and she will call his name Immanuel (God with us).” Isa. 7:14 AMP
When?
We can look to Daniel for an answer to that question. In the 9th chapter of the book of Daniel it says this:
“While I was still speaking in prayer and extremely exhausted, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me about the time of the evening sacrifice. He instructed me and he talked with me and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and wisdom and understanding. the command [to give you an answer] was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly regarded and greatly beloved. Therefore consider the message and begin to understand the [meaning of the] vision. Seventy weeks [of years, or 490 years] have been decreed for your people and for your holy city (Jerusalem), to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make atonement (reconciliation) for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness (right-standing with God), to seal up vision and prophecy and prophet, and to anoint the Most Holy Place.”
Dan. 9:20-24 AMP.

He informed me--i.e., gave me understanding (as Daniel 9:2, Daniel 8:16). The angel gave Daniel understanding in the perplexing words of Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 25:1-11; 29:1-10), showing him that what affected his people was a period of seventy weeks that were yet to come, rather than seventy years which were already passed.
The act of anointing as a sign of consecration, though applied to the tabernacle (Exodus 30:26; Exodus 40:9), to the altar (Exodus 40:10), the laver (Exodus 40:11), is never applied to the holy of holies. It is applied most frequently to persons; as to Aaron (Exodus 40:13), to Saul (1 Samuel 10:1), to David (1 Samuel 16:3). The words of Gabriel thus point forward to a time when all iniquity shall be restrained, sin atoned for, and a priest anointed.

Where?

Approximately 700 years before the birth of Christ, the exact location where He would be born was identified by the prophet Micah.
“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah; From you One shall come forth for Me [who is] to be Ruler in Israel, His goings forth (appearances) are from long ago, From ancient days.” Micah 5:2 AMP.

Bethlehem is a collection of very fertile villages that grows almonds and, more importantly, olives for oil. It’s so fertile because Bethlehem sits on an enormous aquifer, which eventually became the water source for Jerusalem in around 200 BCE. There were so many Jewish pilgrims coming to Jerusalem that the city couldn’t cope. The older water supply was contaminated by the animals slaughtered in the temple. They needed fresh water and this came from Bethlehem.
Bethlehem was built specifically to sit on top of the aquifer and be the defensive military installation guarding the whole infrastructure. It’s a fortress town amongst a series of villages, which is why the Bible talks about the best tasting water coming from Bethlehem.
And David had a craving and said, “Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!” 2 Samuel 23:15 AMP.
That’s what Bethlehem is: a place that guards the water. About 200-300 years ago, they built a reservoir. Over the course of history, another three gigantic reservoirs were built just to the south of Bethlehem, which became known as Solomon’s Pools.
They’re still there.

BETHLEHEM
Biblical scholars believe Bethlehem, located in the "hill country" of Judah, maybe the same as the Biblical Ephrath, which means "fertile", as there is a reference to it in the Book of Micah Bethlehem Ephratah. The Bible also calls it Beth-Lehem Judah, the New Testament describes it as the "City of David". It is first mentioned in the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) as the place where the matriarch Rachel was buried "by the wayside" (Gen. 48:7). Rachel's Tomb, the traditional grave site, stands at the entrance to Bethlehem.

According to the Book of Ruth, the valley to the east is where Ruth of Moab gleaned the fields and returned to town with Naomi. It was the home of Jesse, father of King David of Israel, and the site of David's anointment by the prophet Samuel. It was from the well of Bethlehem that three of his warriors brought him water when he was hiding in the cave of Adullam.

The Hebrew Bible, which says that the city of Bethlehem was built up as a fortified city by Rehoboam, identifies it as the city David was from and where he was crowned as the king of Israel. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke identify Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus.
Bethlehem was destroyed by Emperor Hadrian during the second-century Bar Kokhba revolt, its rebuilding was promoted by Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, who commissioned the building of its great Church of the Nativity in 327 CE.
The church was badly damaged by the Samaritans, who sacked it during a revolt in 529, but was rebuilt a century later by Emperor Justinian 1.

The convergence of time and circumstance had convened together on the town of Bethlehem. The Word of God had come to His appointed place and time, as spoken of in the book of Isaiah. The beginning was here. This is when and where God would begin nurturing a personal relationship with His people.
As God began to reveal more of His purpose in the person of Jesus the Christ, all of creation was awakened to bear witness. The heavenly bodies were awakened and the lead star guided the wise men to the savior. The shepherds in the field were awakened by the angel Gabriel that the messiah was born. Previous to these events Mary and Joseph received a visit from the angel Gabriel to assure them that the baby Mary was carrying was indeed the messiah spoken of by the prophets and to give them his human name.
Nothing was left to chance. All was planned from before time began, even his human name.

“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn”. Luke 2:1-7 NKJV

In accordance with the Jewish law, his parents presented the infant Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem, where two people in the temple, Simeon and Anna the Prophetess, gave thanks to God who had sent his salvation.
Time and circumstance had followed the passage that the Almighty had fashioned for them, and brought the promised Messiah a safe place to land.


Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king (Herod the Great), magi (wise men) from the east came to Jerusalem, asking, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. So he called together all the chief priests and scribes of the people and [anxiously] asked them where the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed) was to be born. They replied to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what has been written by the prophet [Micah]: ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not in any way least among the leaders of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.”
Matthew 2:1-6 AMP.

“Hear my prayer, O LORD! Listen to my cries for help! Don’t ignore my tears. For I am your guest— a traveler passing through, as my ancestors were before me.” Psalms 39:12; 119:19 NLT


The word "pilgrim" (which comes to us through the French form Pelerin, from the Latin peregrinus) does not originally, or in this place, mean one on a pilgrimage. It implies no journeying, but simply residence in a foreign country. Here it represents the same Greek word which is rendered "strangers" in 1Peter 1:1 but is used in a metaphorical and not literal sense. Though no longer "scattered," but gathered mercifully once more into "a people," they were still far from home--unprotected residents in an alien and hostile world, which scrutinized their conduct and was anxious for an opportunity to get rid of them.

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” John 14:2-4 NKJV

THE HEAVENLY HOPE

When the writer of the book of Hebrews referred to the enduring hope of the patriarchs of old, he took our minds home with these words:

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say, such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had the opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” Hebrews 11:13-16 NKJV

We have been guaranteed a safe place to land. A homeland.

The watchman

The president of the United States of America is our watchman.  We expect him/her to be the first to sound the national alarm when there is danger.

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:” Ezek. 3:17 


As we approach the fourth quarter of the year 2020 the moral of the country has fallen to a level not seen for over two generations.  In the first three months of the year we witnessed, what came to be known as, covid-19 or, coronavirus.  A deadly virus that would eventually get the attention of the whole world.

By mid-January word of this virus had already breached the White House.  The President received word of this deadly intruder in his daily briefing.  Unfortunately, this was an election year, and to this President, all things were political.

Danger! Should have rang out across the country like the sound of a five-alarm fire.  But instead we were comfortable in our homes recuperating from long Christmas family get togethers and, the New Year’s parties, oblivious to the danger lurking in our country.

The President and his men were huddled in the west wing coming up with a strategy to keep everything on the down low.  After all, he couldn’t have anything in the media that could hurt his re-election chances.

In the Bible, God commissioned Ezekiel to be a watchman for the nation of Israel.  He was appointed to guard the nation, keep watch over them and, to alert them of any danger that threatened so that they could take action to save their lives.

Covid-19 has completely ravaged our nation.  We are like a rudderless ship in a storm.  Scientists and experts project that by the end of the year we will have lost an estimated quarter of a million lives to this virus.  What was once unthinkable is upon us.

If there was any nation on earth that should have been prepared and able to meet and deal with this pandemic the United States of America should have been the one.  We are the richest, have the best medical universities the world over and, we have the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).  We set the global standard that every other country looks to for guidance and support.

Is it fair to say our leaders have failed us?  Well, recent reports have been revealed that our president openly admitted playing the dangers of the virus down.  He knew as early as March that it affected children just as badly as adults.  Despite there being no national plan, he encouraged large and small businesses, as well as churches to reopen.  He discouraged the use of masks and belittled anyone who did wear them.  He even threatened to withhold federal funds from states that refused to go along with him.  He held in-door rallies where people didn’t wear masks or social distanced.  In the wake of reckless governance tens of thousands of innocent people lost their lives.

Our president, commander in chief, leader of the free world was supposed to be helping us.  But instead he was helping the virus.

 

Nathaniel Stalling Jr.

 

Acts 18:24-26 (Appollos); Revelations 2:12-16 (Nicolatians)

John identifies the teaching of Balaam with two problems: "eating food sacrificed to idols" and "sexual immorality".

The early church constantly struggled with compromises with paganism, as we see in Paul's long discussion in 1 Corinthians 8 - 10, as well as in the conclusions reached in Acts 15:20, 29.  Both of these center on food offered to idols, Paul's conclusion being that one could eat such food if purchased in the marketplace, but one should not go to a meal in a pagan temple.

Following this Pauline rule, however, would cut one off from membership in trade guilds, patriotic celebrations (including ceremonies honoring the emperor, considered essential to good citizenship) and many family celebrations.  We can easily see the pressure to rationalize and thereby develop a compromise.

The issue of sexual immorality is more difficult, for it is also mentioned in Revelation 2:20, 22, in the case of Jezebel (an Old Testament code word for a New Testament woman leader of the church in Thyatira, indicating her spirit and God's evaluation, rather than the woman's actual name).  On the one hand, sexual immorality was a problem in the early church, as Paul's discussions show (1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:12-20; compare Hebrews 13:4).

In the middle of a pagan society that accepted the use of prostitutes (although wives were expected to remain faithful), it was difficult to remain obedient on this point and relatively easy to compromise.

On the other hand, "sexual immorality" was used in the Old Testament for involvement with pagan deities.  For example, the Old Testament Jezebel was not to our knowledge physically immoral - she was likely faithful to Ahab all her life - but she did lead Israel into Baal worship.  Since Israel was Gods' "bride", such involvement with other gods was called "adultery" or "sexual immorality".

If then, John is taking the Old Testament examples as the basis for his discussion; the sexual immorality is figurative, standing for their worship of other deities, which was implied in their attending feasts in idol temples.

The Nicolatians, then, appear to be a group that corrupted Gods' people by suggesting compromise with the culture of the day.  Whie the exact issues are different, similar compromises face the church today.  Each society has its own "idols" that it expects all its citizens to worship, whether those idols be the government itself or some values or practices of the society.  Furthermore, the Nicolatians are still with us under a variety of names, for there are always people who in the name of being "realistic" or under any number of other theological justifications counsel compromise with the dominant culture.  This passage warns us that Jesus will not "buy" these justifications.  He demands nothing less than total loyalty to his own person and directions.  Anything less than this will put those who compromise in danger of his judgement.

PROVIDENCEn03122_esther[1].gif
We live in a world governed by a system of laws, natural or spiritual. But in the back of all law, natural or spiritual, there is One who upholds and controls them all, and uses them for His glory:
“…who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power,” … Hebrews 1:3 NKJV
With so much going on around the world, especially in the United States of America, it is no wonder anxiety is high. Many people are forced to stay home from work because safe distancing has become the new order of the day. Then there are others who must work to keep the rest of us safe. The first responders, emergency medical technicians, police officers, doctors, nurses; they all stand on the front line to thwart the invisible dangers head on. They too, are beginning to fall victim to this ravaging virus that have broken out among us.
I would like to offer another perspective on what appear to be a hopeless situation. I would like to steer your attention to a book that I hold above every other book on the planet. The Bible. In this book there’s a story titled after a woman named Esther. If you ever want to see and understand the Providence of God, how He work behind the scenes and, bring everything to a good and perfect end, this is the book for you. The intelligence and wisdom of Providence is revealed in this book.
A man once said, “Fate is blind. Providence has eyes. Fatalism says, whatever is, must be. Providence says, whatever God ordains must be.”
What’s really peculiar about this book is that the name of God is not found in it. Yet, His fingerprints are everywhere. From the time Esther’s’ name was placed in contention to replace Queen Vashti in the Persian empire God stood at a distance, not showing Himself openly.
This is the distinctive feature of Providence in a broad sense. Providence is secret, mysterious, and even unintelligible until its ends are revealed.
We can be sure that God is working for our good, even if we can’t see it, or understand it we can rest with confidence that:
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose”. Romans 8:28 NKJV

Nathaniel Stalling Jr
Elder

Jesus-Christ-on-the-cross[2].jpg
If there is one thing, we the human race, know to be true, it is we will survive. After all, we are the crown of Gods’ creation. For there to be any other outcome would not prove we failed, but that He (God) did. We know for sure God does not fail.
Let’s look at some examples:
• When we (humans) threaten to use the divine law of unity for evil (Genesis chapter 11) God had to intervene to save us from ourselves. 4They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” 5The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6The LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. 7“Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” 8So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth”.
• When we (humans) had sank low into immoral depravity and ungodliness during the days of Noah, a preacher of righteousness, God provided safety for eight people to start again. “And every living thing on the face of the earth was destroyed--man and livestock, crawling creatures and birds of the air; they were blotted out from the earth, and only Noah remained, and those with him in the ark”. Genesis 7:23
• Persecution of the early church had occurred sporadically and in localized areas since its beginning. The first persecution of Christians organized by the Roman government took place under the emperor Nero in 64 AD after the Great Fire of Rome.
These are only a few instances, out of many, that we as Christians and, as human beings, survived.
This virus that is plaguing the whole world, this Covid-19 virus, will not win. We have faced plagues, floods, famines and, persecutions before. None have proven to prevail. I can say with complete confidence that ‘THIS TOO, WILL PASS.
Nathaniel Stalling Jr
Elder

WHEN GOD SPEAKS IN TURBULENT TIMES
COVID-19
A GLOBAL PANDEMIC
What does God say about times like this?
Solomon, Israel’s wisest king, wrote this in the book of Ecclesiastes:
“In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider- God has made the one as well as the other So that man will not discover anything that will be after him”. Eccles. 7:14 NASB

Just a few weeks before Easter Sunday the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, is giving his daily briefing on the novel coronavirus sweeping through the United States and particularly, through his State or New York.
New York, as governor Cuomo puts it, is the proverbial canary in a coal mine. He lays out the staggering number of cases and deaths that seem to double daily. He seems to make it plain that this isn’t some foreign far away problem. He implies that what you see happening in New York is coming to your neighborhood, soon.
Washington State, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida and, Louisiana are beginning to show signs of internal stress on their hospitals/medical systems. All fifty states are under some form of government shelter-in-place order. For the first time in modern history all of the major institutions of worship closed. The Vatican cancels public participation at pope’s Easter events due to Covid-19. These are unprecedented measures in modern times.
There are some that refuse to adhere to such restrictive measures that our scientists, medical professionals and, ministers of faith are suggesting. Instead, some are going about saying that God does not want us to live in fear. I beg to differ. You had better fear. Anything less would leave you and your loved ones vulnerable to a needless death.

Paul, writing to the Christians at Corinth, said:
“I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling...” I Cor. 2:3 NASB
The light and shade in man's life are equally under God's ordering and permission.
Fear is not something that we can altogether do away with. It has a place and, a part to play in our lives. It keeps a proper restraint on our, sometimes, abuse of freedoms:
“And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy but with fear, loathing even the clothing spotted and polluted by their shameless immoral freedom”. Jude 22, 23 AMP
My hope and prayer is that you stay safe and not abuse your freedom.

Nathaniel Stalling Jr
Elder

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THE SOLE SUPERPOWER ON EARTH

August 1, 2019

Only a few nations have risen to superpower status over the centuries, but without exception, they have all fallen victim, primarily, to the same enemy. I will talk more about that shortly.

As an American I can tell you with reasonable confidence that a majority of Americans take great pride in being the 'Sole Superpower' on the planet. I can only imagine how the people of a previous 'Superpower' felt when it was said of them in the 19th century, "The empire on which the sun never sets". This of course was the British Empire, of which its territory spanned the globe. There was nowhere on the planet where the sun didn't always shine on 'some part' of British ruled territory.

The decline of the British Empire was on public display in 1997 when Prince Charles wrote in his, then private journal, while flying back from attending the handover of the colony of Hong Kong to China, "Such is the end of Empire, I sighed to myself,"

While researching another 'Superpower' that enjoyed this status some 2,500 years ago I came upon something exceptionally astonishing and unique to great empires. I happened upon J.R Fears and something he wrote entitled, "REFLECTIONS ON THE RISE AND FALL OF EMPIRES".

After clicking on the above link and reading the article by J.R Fears I'm sure you came away with the same thing I did. We are living in a perilous time for our country. Everyone of us should be concerned. We are witnessing for the first time in American history ALL the signs that toppled every empire from Darius, the King of the Persians, to the present time.

"The greatest mistake made by those in power, like Darius, was the sin of hybris.  That Greek word means "outrageous arrogance."  Hybris (and that is the way it should be transliterated) is the outrageous arrogance that marks the abuse of power.  Only those invested with enormous power can commit the sin of hybris.  Hybris is the imposition of your will, at all costs.  The Greeks believed that hybris was preceded by ate or moral blindness that makes you believe that you can do anything you want to and there will be no consequences from either Gods or men.  It was this hybris that led Darius to undertake a preemptive war against Athens.  It was his moral blindness that believed he would never know defeat.  He ignored all the warnings that the Gods sent him because he felt so secure in his power".


By: J.R Fears

Does this look and sound like America today? If we fail to learn the lessons of the past, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

Nathaniel Stalling Jr.

nstalling@gmail.com

Walking along on a city street I happened upon a childhood friend, Tom. We grew up next door to each other; attended the same schools, elementary through high school. Our parents went to a lot of social functions together. We even vacationed together. There was little we didn't know about each other, personal or otherwise, ...... or so we thought.
We were of the same mind that most of the city was. We know that what we accepted and did not accept was the general consensus of most of the city. Our values and moral convictions were written in our Constitution. We learned and understood them from a very early age. With the exception of one: "Do Not Venture Beyond The City Limits". This one amendment always puzzled me. No one ever talked about it, at least not openly. So I found it very disturbing discussing it even with my most trusted friend. We decided to go somewhere that we could not be overheard. We found ourselves in an empty baseball park. We walked to the middle of the field, looking around to make sure we were alone, we sat and began talking freely. "Have you ever gone past the city limits"? I asked Tom. I could tell he was still very uneasy about this subject. He was looking around nervously. Finally, he spoke, "the law clearly forbids it; but I've heard talk of some that have, and never returned", said Tom. I heard this talk too, but was afraid to ask about it. In fact, my curiosity drove me to the very edge of the city. I was there, I could have crossed over; but I didn't. Fear of the unknown is very real, and very powerful. I got the impression that my friend had been to the city limit as well. He as much as said so. I felt that this was the perfect time to ask him what was really on my heart. After getting all my courage together I turned and looked at my friend, " let's go on the other side", I said abruptly. He turned away, pretending he didn't hear me. Going on and on about the consequences of going beyond the city limits, he stopped and turned to me and made a very startling confession; " I've already been beyond the city limits", said Tom. I couldn't believe my ears. This was unheard of, no one had ever gone beyond the city limits and come back to talk about it. He saw that I was at a loss for words, so he continued. " I went over about a year ago. It took me awhile to adjust to the way of living over there, but once I did I liked it. I met a lady named Wisdom. We became friends, and she took me down to the City Building where they keep all the birth records of everyone born there. I found my name, your name and many others ", said Tom. I guess my expression prompted him to pause. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. How could this be? Weren't we all born here? There must be some mistake. I stood up; looking down at him I said in a very anxious voice, " take me there, now." I had to see this for myself. " I will, but first we have to talk to our parents about this," said Tom. The thought of telling my parents about this made me tremble. They are set in their ways, and more important than that, they are comfortable. Plus, I'm not convinced myself, yet. As though reading my mind, Tom pulled out a map. Part of the map was sectioned off in blue and another in yellow. "This is where we are", said Tom, pointing to the blue section. The name was in bold black letters, 'CHIMERA'. The yellow section was beyond the city limit where Tom had gone, it was called, 'VERISIMILITUDE'. I had never known the name of the other city, until now. Looking at me rather sedately, Tom asked, " do you know what these names mean "? I thought for a moment before admitting my ignorance. Looking around again to be sure one last time that we were alone, Tom leaned to my ear and said, " CHIMERA " means Illusion or Deception, and "VERISIMILITUDE" means Reality or Credibility". I couldn't make the connection, so he helped me understand. " We weren't born here. We were brought here at an early age and was indoctrinated into this lifestyle and value system. None of it is real. That's why they don't want us to go beyond the city limits, because if we do we'll know the truth, and no one would want to come back here", said Tom. This was all an incredible story, but for some reason it rang true in my ears. "Not many people are accepting the truth, because those who came before us bearing this message was not only branded as fanatics, but was persecuted and murdered. Those who oppose it will do anything to stop it", said Tom.
"I heard of these people, and this message: There was Jesus the Christ, The Apostle Paul, Peter and John, there was Augustine, Spurgeon and, Martin Luther", I said. Tom nodded approvingly. "Then, these that they call myths are actually real"? I asked. "Yes, they are real", said Tom. I was stunned and relieved at the same time. Tom was a bearer of the message, and he was asking for my help. "It's going to be hard, and many times you will feel alone; but there are many lives at stake, and I believe, as I hope you will too, that it's worth it," said Tom. We walked to the city limit, looked around, and walked over to 'The Other Side' together.

It is my personal opinion that when Christians celebrate Christmas it should be done to honor Christ, and not for the secular trappings that was brought into the celebration from pagan traditions.

Originally, Jesus birth was celebrated in the East during the 'Feast Of Epiphany' (January 6); but by 354 A.D, the Christmas feast had taken hold in the West and was observed on December 25.
Some Eastern Churches still, today, celebrate Christmas on January 6.
December 25th was a date selected by the Western Church (Rome). By the way, just to keep this into perspective, the Western Church, later to be known as the Catholic Church, used the political model of the Roman empire to set up and run the Church.
December 25th was originally a Mithric pagan holiday celebrating the birthday of the 'Invincible Sun',which coincided with Saturnalia and the winter solstice during the time Mithraism was practiced in Rome. Christians simply adjusted the symbolism of the day, declaring it the birthday of their 'Invincible Son'.
According to events recorded in the gospel of Matthew the date of Jesus birth may actually have taken place much earlier in the year. The word 'Christmas' means 'The Mass of Christ' , and originated in the 11th century as a proper name for this feast. In New England, Christmas was outlawed until the mid-nineteenth century, and classes were held on 'Christmas Day' until 1870.
The use of Evergreens and Wreaths as symbols of life was an ancient custom of the Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews, among others people. Tree worship was a common religious practice among the Teutonic and Scandinavian peoples of Northern Europe before their conversion to Christianity. They decorated houses and barns with Evergreens at the New Year to scare away demons.
It is my personal opinion that when Christians celebrate Christmas it should be done to honor Christ, and not for the secular trappings that was brought into the celebration from pagan traditions.
This is what the prophet Jeremiah had to say about holding to pagan celebrations: "Thus saith the LorD, learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the Palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good". Jeremiah 10:2-5

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