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The Encyclopedia Americana (1991 edition) states, “The ancient world of Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Persia celebrated the birthdays of gods, kings, and nobles.” Authors Ralph and Adelin Linton reveal the underlying reason for this. In their book The Lore of Birthdays, they write: “Mesopotamia and Egypt, the cradles of civilization, were also the first lands in which men remembered and honoured their birthdays. The keeping of birthday records was important in ancient times principally because a birth date was essential for the casting of a horoscope.” This direct connection with astrology is a cause of great concern to any who avoid astrology because of what the Bible says about it (Isaiah 47:13-15).

Not surprisingly then, we read in the World Book Encyclopedia (volume 3, page 416): “The early Christians did not celebrate His [Christ’s] birth because they considered the celebration of anyone’s birth to be a pagan custom.” With the foregoing in mind, Jehovah’s Witnesses choose not to share in birthday festivities.

P.E. McMurrain
Greenfield, Ohio

No Harm, No Foul

Re “You Want Silver or Lead?” (Cover Story, September 23). This was an exceptional article. I read it weeks ago, and yet it still moves me when I think about it. I felt for the first time I understood the real cost of recreational drugs. It’s not about people in the U.S. spending some time in jail; it’s really about the people losing their lives and being forced to do things against their will. I believe those people who say, “I am not hurting anybody by doing drugs” need to read this article.

Natalie Mann
via email

So Very Sorry, Ralph

What’s with “Young Men Cause Aggravation” (“City Lights,” October 7)? Got to be the worst title ever. Yeah, I know — YMCA. But it’s just a piece of flippant silliness. Why would a writer ask us to hear about some people’s woes and then make a joke about it in the title?

Ralph Werner
via email

The story’s author did not write the title. — Editor

Help For The Helper

I was gratified to see your story on Thomas Weller, “Breakdown Buster” (“Stringers,” October 7; online title: “San Diego’s Highwayman,” October 2), which revealed his problem with cataracts. Thomas has told me that he has received no tangible assistance as a result, unfortunately; however, I have organized a funding drive among my friends, and I have been working with the San Diego Lasik Institute (which also does cataract surgery) to explore getting him examined and treated.

Now, compounding his problems, the engine on his recovery rig (which he calls Ghostbusters) apparently has failed and needs replacement. I plan to contact San Diego Ford dealers and Ford Motor Company to solicit interest in providing Thomas a replacement engine.

Thomas is too proud to ask others for help, but I feel perfectly at ease doing that for him, considering all that he has done for so many others; his only reward has been the love, respect, and admiration of those whom he has helped and others who know about him. He is a friend of mine. My hobby is the same as his, but he has taken it to a much higher level. I met him in July 2009, after Googling him and calling to arrange a visit when I was traveling from Texas to see my son in Monterey, California.

Walt Brinker
North Carolina

Personal And Short(ish)

Jim Crooks has presented me with a considerable challenge in his letter of October 14. Answering all of his objections point by point accurately and thoroughly would require a detailed exegesis and contextual exposition of each passage he cited. Space does not permit me to do that, so I will just keep it personal.

I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have eternal life solely because I have put my trust in Jesus. I have not done anything to deserve, earn, or merit eternal life. My personal possession of eternal life is entirely the free gift of God. I believe this is true because the New Testament bears witness that it is true, and I believe the testimony of the New Testament. I also believe that the eternal life I possess is irrevocable, and this belief is also based on the testimony of the New Testament. As I study the New Testament daily in the Greek, my convictions concerning the terms and irrevocability of eternal salvation are strengthened all the more.

I have studied all the passages that Jim Crooks claims are contrary to my beliefs. I have studied all of them in the Greek New Testament at various times over the past couple of years. As far as I am able to discern, not one of those passages teaches that a believer can lose possession of eternal life. Neither does any passage teach that one must do more than believe in Jesus Christ in order to receive eternal life.

The New Testament is filled with commandments. I know this because the present imperative second person plural practically jumps off the page. In the vast majority of instances, these commandments are directed exclusively toward Christians. If you think there’s only ten commandments, you’d be shocked to learn that from Romans to Revelation 3 there are hundreds of commandments.

Much confusion has resulted because people mistake what God requires from Christians for the way of eternal life and vice versa. An unbeliever cannot be saved by obeying commandments directed toward Christians, nor can a Christian be obedient to God simply by believing in Christ. As a Christian, when I obey God’s New Testament commandments, I benefit from it. When I am disobedient to God’s New Testament commandments, it’s all bad. However, I am never motivated to obey God out of a fear of losing my salvation or in order to get saved again. God knows what’s best for me better than me or anyone else, so it only makes sense to obey Him for my benefit, for His purpose, and for the glory of Jesus Christ.

If you have never believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, here’s your opportunity. Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, the only one of His kind. As God, He holds the universe together. As a human being, He came into the world to provide eternal salvation. He did this by bearing everybody’s sins while He was hanging on the cross, receiving the penalty for everyone’s sins. As a human being, He died and was buried. After three days He rose from the dead. He is alive eternally and provides eternal life to everyone who believes in Him. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.

John Pertle

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