Light on the Rock Blogs

The blogs are short articles, almost like a “sermonette” compared to a sermon. They are on a variety of topics, please enjoy.

A DAY FOR FORGIVENESS

R. Herbert

The last Saturday in October (October 26 this year) is National Forgiveness Day in the United States, a day which all people of faith can honor, if they chose, and one to which even many people without religious beliefs can relate. For those of us who take seriously the words “Forgive us our sins as we forgive them that sin against us” (Matthew 6:12), the day is an opportunity to reflect on the need for forgiveness and how to make it a part of our everyday lives. This blog post gives some thoughts to start you on your own reflection on what it means to forgive. 

•Cheerful Forgiveness 
Sometimes it’s possible to forgive and not really forgive.  Just saying the words “I forgive you” or telling ourselves we have forgiven someone, or even forcing ourselves to forget the problem,  isn’t really the same as actual deep down forgiveness.  Saying “I forgive you” with a frown, or telling yourself you have forgiven someone, but still remembering and dwelling on the problem, is not forgiving.  We need to forgive cheerfully.  It’s said that “God loves a cheerful giver”. How much more could we say, “God loves a cheerful forgiver”. 
We invariably know when we have truly forgiven because forgiveness brings peace and even happiness to the one who forgives.  The pain caused by the word or deed that offended us  may still be there, at least for a while, but it invariably diminishes once forgiveness is in place. 
Refusing to be hurt or angry anymore and accepting another person despite what they have done to us should be a positive thing. Forgiveness may not be easy sometimes, but it’s right, and it is ultimately something to be happy about whether we are the one forgiving or being forgiven!

•Help to Forgive
The fact that forgiving others is seldom easy underscores a truth.  Only you can forgive someone who has hurt you, but you may need help to do it.    A fascinating survey conducted by the Gallup Organization found that 94% of those questioned said it was important to forgive, but 85% said they needed some outside help to be able to forgive.   For those of us who choose to ask for it, help is available.  Notice what Paul writes on this: “… clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Colossians 3:12-14). The important thing to realize here is that all the things Paul lists in these verses are fruits and gifts of the Spirit (see also I Corinthians 12, 13).  If we are finding it hard to forgive something, we need to ask for the help that God clearly desires to give.

Sometimes it’s not others that need the forgiveness – and we may not realize it.  Read the rest of this blog for more pointers on forgiving …

•Forgiveness and What We Don’t See
It’s relatively easy to ask God’s forgiveness for the sins and mistakes of which we are all too aware. But what about those errors of which we are actually unaware – either unaware of their significance or simply unaware of their existence?  National Forgiveness Day is not just an opportunity to ask forgiveness for what we know we have done wrong, but also for those things we may be unaware of.
We are all blind to some of our own problems. That’s why David wrote, “But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12). Every Christian who has known the truth for many years knows that, just like weeds, old hidden errors and new unseen ones continue to crop up throughout life. Usually we have to ask God’s help and to think deeply about this in order to see these things, but if we are willing to do it we can come to see what we need to see – as David also acknowledged: “Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part you shalt make me to know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6).  
“Forgive my hidden faults” is a prayer we can all pray. Asking help to see and overcome those faults is another. 

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“It is WELL with my soul…”

This blog follows up on the last one – our ability to bless God. Please read that one before this one.

There’s an old hymn “It is well with my soul”.  It’s worth learning about the background to what led to the composition of that hymn. I believe our Father in heaven and our Savior Jesus Christ are very pleased with the heart behind that hymn. In short, the composer – Horatio G. Spafford— was a successful businessman and believer in the 1870’s in the Chicago area. He was active with efforts to help the poor and spread the word of God. But his faith was heavily tested. In 1870, his four year old son died of scarlet fever. This was devastating, enough, but then the Chicago Fire of 1871 devastated most of his buildings and businesses.  But still Horatio used what money he had left to help the many homeless.  Later on Horatio made plans to send his wife Anna and their four daughters to England to get away and heal up as well as to support some ministries going on in Europe. But on the way, their steamer struck an iron British vessel – and sank in the mid-Atlantic, in waters three miles deep. Only Horatio’s wife Anna was saved among his family. Only 81 of 307 passengers survived. Anna was taken to Wales, where she telegraphed her husband, “Saved alone…what should I do”?   

Can you imagine?  My heart is heavy just writing this! Well, Horatio immediately boarded a ship to bring his beloved Anna back home.  On the way there, the captain of Horatio’s ship called him to the bridge and told him, “This is the spot where your wife’s ship went down.”  That night, Horatio G. Spafford, in the quiet of his cabin…wrote the heart-stirring words to “It is well with my soul”.  

Read the rest of this blog to capture the essence behind having peace in your storms, having joy when everything is falling apart, being able to bless when your fleshly nature just wants to give up.

I recommend you Google “Story behind It is Well with my Soul lyrics” and read the whole story. It is quite inspiring and you’ll be blessed for taking the time to read about it. The title of the song reminds us of the exquisite faith of the Shunamite widow, who – having lost her only son – when asked what was wrong, answered, “Everything is well.” (2 Kings 4:26).   What an example. How inspiring! Your only son is dead and you say, “It is well”.  Wow. Wow. What an inspiring example this woman is to all of us.

That’s what I’m talking about.  I preach to myself too.  So often I have to remind myself to praise and thank and bless my holy heavenly father and my Redeemer no matter what is happening. In fact, what I’m trying to get across is this:  we must do this even MORE so when things are “going to hell in a hand basket” as the saying goes.

It is in the praise and thanksgiving, no matter our pain, no matter our trials, that we actually will experience greater faith.  It’s in our communion at these times with our Maker when we are most likely to feel His presence, to “hear His voice” and draw closer to Him.  It’s in the rough times of life when we grow the most, just like an oak tree apparently puts down roots the fastest during a storm.  

Blessing God in the sunny times of our life is natural – though many of us probably forget to do even that.  But blessing Yehoweh in the stormy seasons of our lives – that’s where the growth happens. Those are the times when we will grow and become deeper, more mature.  So praise and thank Him especially in the hard times.  It’s hard to do.

It’s also in these times when we need to have our eyes open to what others are going through. It’s in those times when we need to become a “parakletos ship” -- a ship that used to come alongside another ship that was in trouble and help those worried passengers and crew.  The parakletos was a “God-send” to them.  It saved their lives!  

YOU be the person sent by God to help people struggling with serious trials  -- and your encouraging presence (not preaching at them) will make it a lot easier for them to pray and bless Yehoweh our Father even in their sore trial. YOU – yes, your gentle presence, your strong encouraging words, and your understanding heart -- may be the catalyst that helps others continue to have faith in God and our King. YOU may be part of the reason they are able to once more bless and praise our great God.

I’ve been blessed to have friends be there for me in my rough times of life.  I’ve been blessed to have a wife who has been strong as a rock to stand with her man when I was finding times hard to stand by myself. I’ve been blessed to have an older brother in California who has a heart of gold and has always been there for us in our times of need, though he himself has been in serious trials for years.  I’ve been blessed with a daughter here in Florida and her husband who have in a thousand ways encouraged us when we were feeling low. And most of all – once all those people and many more-- helped us in our times of need, I was able to more clearly see my truly AMAZING BIG BROTHER YESHUA our MESSIAH who sent them to me. And that in turn helped me to start blessing my God and King again. Hallelujah! Praise Yah!      

Yes, when we come together, it IS well with my soul.  And fellow believers, it’s time for us to give up on the splits in the body of Christ. It’s time for us support and be there for one another – together – as one body. What a powerful body of people we could be if we would forgive one another of all the hurts in the past and just start loving and accepting each other and working together as one! And what a blessing that would be to all around us. And WE – we would be able to exalt our Father and bless His holy name as ONE. Much, much tougher times are coming.  Everything I’m writing today is all about the things we’ll need to have down pat in our lives if we are to survive the coming super tough times.  And a big part of that is to keep looking to God and to keep blessing Him, no matter what is happening.

Philippians 4:6-7
Be anxious for NOTHING, but in EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication, WITH THANKSGIVING, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep in perfect peace, he whose heart is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”  

When we trust someone, we have peace when that One is doing something.  We don’t have to understand HOW everything will work out. We don’t have to understand WHY rough things are happening. We only have to understand with Whom we walk… and with Him, it IS well with my soul.

Here are the words to that inspired song “It is Well with my Soul”, written by Horatio Spafford. (Remember, he had just lost his four daughters at sea, he had lost his son earlier, he had lost much of his business earlier…and somehow as they sailed over the spot of the most recent disaster, and he could bless God and bless all of us with these words :)  

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Our ability and opportunity to bless GOD!

Already, I know many of you are asking, “WHAAT?  Bless God?  HOW can I possibly bless the One who has everything already?”

Well, there are countless verses that tell us to bless YHVH, the one living true Almighty God. In fact in a fellowship I sometimes attend, there are numerous hymns they sing from the Psalms.  Over and over, the hymns – taken from King David’s writings (and sons of Korah, Solomon, Moses and other contributors to the Psalms) have that message.  “Bless the LORD Eternal Oh my soul…” is the way one of their hymns begins, taken from Psalm 103.  

If you’re NOT blessing your heavenly Father, you’re missing out on something very important. In fact, when we ask HIS blessing on our food, or on a project on which we are embarking, be sure to also bless HIM who gave us the true Vine and gave us the true Bread from heaven.  

More on this later, but when you add the concept of “blessing YHVH” can also mean profoundly thanking Him – all throughout the day – then blessing our holy Father, as well as Jesus Christ (Yeshua) becomes easier to understand.  More on that in a minute. God wants your WHOLE heart – even when it’s a broken heart, a heavy or sad heart, or even when we’re upset.  Loving our Father with ALL our heart means at all times, with everything we have to present at any given moment. It’s especially in those times when we need to remember to bless, thank and praise Him.

Still not convinced?  OK, here are a few verses just to be sure you know I’m not making this up. 
Be sure to read the rest of this blog to be sure learn about your awesome opportunity – and even a duty – to bless your Maker! And you can start doing this today.  And please pass a copy of this blog on to others.

It’s a very vital topic for all believers to be practicing.  And those of you who already practice this, wonderful! You’re ahead of most on this topic at least.  

So here are some verses that clearly say we are to “bless the LORD”.  

Where it is translated “the LORD” in your English Bibles, I’m going back to the original YHVH, the name of our true living God – which I pronounce as “Yehoweh”.  YHVH or YHWH we know were the consonants in His holy name, which Jesus taught us to hallow (“Hallowed be your NAME…”).  So your Bibles will say “Bless the LORD…” where I have it “Bless YHVH”.  There was no “the” before the word “YHVH” in the original, as nobody would put the word “the” in front of your name either! And yes, he has many titles but ONE holy name that is His signature name – and it is YHVH. My point is-- we ARE to bless our Maker!     

Psalms 103:1-3
BLESS Yehoweh (YHVH), O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 
BLESS Yehoweh (YHVH), O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: 
Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases,

Psalms 103:20-22
Bless Yehoweh, you His angels who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word. 
Bless Yehoweh, all you His hosts, You ministers [servants] of His, who do His pleasure. 
Bless Yehoweh, all His works, In all places of His dominion.  Bless Yehoweh, O my soul!

Psalms 135:19-20
Bless Yehoweh, O house of Israel! Bless Yehoweh, O house of Aaron! 
20 Bless Yehoweh, O house of Levi! You who fear Yehoweh, bless Yehoweh!

Deuteronomy 8:10
When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless Yehoweh your God for the good land which He has given you.

After King David had prayed a beautiful and powerful prayer asking for God’s guidance and blessing on his son Solomon, and on the project to build the House of God, we read this:

1 Chronicles 29:20
Then David said to all the assembly, "Now bless Yehoweh your God." So all the assembly blessed Yehoweh God of their fathers, and bowed their heads and prostrated themselves before Yehoweh and the king.

So what does it mean to “bless Yehoweh”?  The answer to that is worthy of a whole sermon, frankly.

First of all, though I admire the original intent behind some of the formal written prayers that some churches or even the Jewish people have, I recommend when you say anything to the Almighty, say it from your heart. ANY father would rather hear his children’s words from the heart – rather than the beautiful words written by an old rabbi or priest hundreds of years ago. Father wants YOUR heart, your thoughts, your concerns and your praises – not someone else’s.  “Give me YOUR heart, my son”, God implores, through His word (Proverbs 23:26).  

Now let’s kick it up a notch or two.

Any child of God who is aware that He is present at all times, anywhere and everywhere we are, in every circumstance of life – is going to be filled with a sense of awe for our loving Father. We won’t be restricting our blessings and prayers to set prayer times, and certainly not just to times of worship and group praise--- but we’ll be learning this is something we do all through the day.

But neither am I advocating what is common in orthodox Judaism: that with virtually every action upon awakening you say a prescribed formal prayer. I like the idea of being aware to bless and thank God often from the moment we wake up to the moment we lie down – but surely NOT with the same formal prayers over and over. They can become meaningless after a while. Yeshua himself even warned against the futility of reciting the same thing over and over. He said “don’t think you’ll be heard for your many (repeated ) words” (Matthew 6:7-8). He said pagans do this kind of thing and WE are not to be like that.  

Now having said that, maybe it IS a good idea when you wake up in the morning, bless your Father. But do so in your own words. Don’t worry about it not being “just right”.  Words from your heart will be just right. Bless Him for providing you with wonderful children or grandchildren – as you pass by their photos on the wall.  Bless Him for the fact you are still alive – whether you’re perfectly healthy or not. Do this often, throughout the day. If you are in good health, praise and bless Him for that.  Thank our Maker – who actually was the One in Genesis 2 who became known as Yeshua – for fearfully and wonderfully making our bodies. Thank Him for giving us the ability to heal, to get better, to let the body mend when we change our harmful ways.

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The Feast of Tabernacles, the 8th Day and the Rituals of Water and Light

By R. Herbert

The festivals that God gave to ancient Israel not only foreshadowed His program for humanity, but also richly symbolized many aspects of His plan by means of the rituals performed on those days. Biblically commanded rituals – such as the waving of the first fruits sheaf in the Days of Unleavened Bread   and the blowing of the ram’s horn shofar on the Day of Trumpets – helped clarify and picture the deeper meanings of the festival days on which they occurred.

As time progressed, certain other rituals also became attached to the festivals. These were traditions which were part of Israel’s understanding of the purpose and meaning of the holy days and provided ways in which the priests and people could participate in the festivals. Many of these additional rituals were in place in Jesus’ time, and historical documents such as the Jewish Mishna (Tractate Sukkah, Chapter 5) describe them. Although these traditional rituals were not part of the original commandments relating to the holy days, in some cases Jesus himself used them as background for His message and even compared himself to them in His teaching. If the One to whom many of the holy days point could teach lessons by means of these rituals, we can perhaps learn by looking at them today.

The Feast of Tabernacles involved two examples of rituals that had become associated with the Fall holy days – both of which Jesus commented upon. Until the second temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, each day throughout the Feast of Sukkot or Tabernacles, a special water libation ceremony or water pouring ritual was performed. The temple priests descended the hill on which the temple stood, dropping down to the pool of Siloam in the City of David. There, the priests would fill a golden pitcher with pure sparkling water from the spring and carry it back up to the Temple where the water was ritually offered by pouring it into a silver cup at the corner of the altar. The people of Jerusalem lined the paths along which the water was brought, and thronged the court in the temple to witness the ritual which was performed with celebration and great joy. The ritual is, in fact, believed to be the physical type which lies behind the prophetic verse in Isaiah: “And you shall draw waters with joy from the wells of salvation” (Isa. 12:3).

The waters poured out in the ceremony held a number of meanings for Feast goers of the first century. The ritual was connected to the rainfall of the coming year, and was accompanied by prayers for rain and for blessings on the earth and its produce. On a spiritual level, the water offering was also associated with the waters prophesied to flow out of Jerusalem in the Messianic kingdom: ``And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem....” (Zechariah 14:8, and also Ezekiel 47:1-12). But perhaps most importantly, the ceremony was also connected to the giving of God’s Spirit. The waters were tied to the promise found in Isaiah 44:3: “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon your seed, and my blessing upon your offspring.”

Read more to see how the meanings of these rituals were used by Jesus in teaching the crowds in the Temple.

Understanding the context and meanings of this deeply symbolic water ritual helps us to understand a little more about concepts associated in Jesus’ day with the Feast of Tabernacles, and particularly the final“ greatest day” of the Feast.

It was on this SEVENTH day of the Feast (called “Hoshana Rabbah” in Hebrew – the “Great Hosanna” or “Great Salvation”) that Jesus stood up in the midst of the crowds thronging the temple courtyard and called out: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:37 – 38). When Jesus’ words are seen in the context of the water ceremony they come alive. And the way they were perceived by his ancient Jewish audience become much clearer. Jesus statement was doubtless received with awe and perhaps in some cases with disbelief or doubt, for rather than making a simple analogy using water in an abstract sense, Jesus clearly was tying the water ceremony and its deep meanings to himself – as the One from whom blessings flowed, as the One who would be at the center of the Messianically established Jerusalem, and as the One who would give the Holy Spirit.

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Yom Kippur, Day of Covering-- The Sabbath of Sabbaths

On the 10th day of the Hebrew 7th month, the 10th day from a visual sighting of the first new moon light, YHVH proclaims this day as the Day of Covering. That’s what Yom (Day) Kippur (covering) means.  In Leviticus 23, the word used is actually in the plural –Yom Kippuriym, the plural. A day of coverings.  There’s so much sin, shortcomings and so many sinners (all of us) whom God has to cover. (The word “kippur” or “Kippurim” is used in scripture in other ways besides this one day.) It’s the most sacred day on the calendar, a sabbath of total rest and absolutely no work, and a day of fasting with deep repentance.  The book of Jonah was traditionally read. It was the one day that the high priest – alone – could enter into the Holy of Holies where the ark of YHVH was kept and sprinkle blood on the ark and ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness on the nation.  It is considered so sacred that even many secular Jews will refrain from work on this day.

We who are believers in Yeshua the Messiah, now also our High Priest of the Order of Melchizedek, understand that all our sins have been covered and atoned for by His sacrifice, one time – once and for all, for all time (Hebrews 7:29; Hebrews 9:12, 26).  So we can now come confidently – in HIS name, by HIS grace – before the Mercy Seat of God, the throne of Grace (read Hebrews 4:14-16).  This day reminds us of our standing with God if we have accepted His grace and live His way of Life by His Spirit. It also reminds us of the time the whole world will be atoned for, and when Satan and his demons will be locked up for a thousand years. Hallelujah!

I’ve often thought of this day as a “national Passover”. Maybe that’s just me.  I think of Passover as our personal one-on-one interaction with our Creator and remember how He passed over each of our sins when He sees we have chosen to come under the blood of His Son. Then Yehoweh promised to defend us from the Destroyer and wash away our personal sins.  I think of Atonement as the time the whole nation is forgiven and reconciled with the one true Living God.  Kippuriym has the meaning of reconciliation as well.  This holy day pictures the time when the whole world will have all their sins covered (kippur) and when Satan our Adversary (that’s what “Satan” means) is locked up for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3).

For a full explanation of all of the above and more, be sure to hear the audio sermon that is also posted on the website right now. You’ll hear some points that seldom get mentioned.

Read the Creator’s instructions about this day in Leviticus 23:27-32 as well as Leviticus 16. He tells us it is a day of fasting (afflict your souls). There is to be absolute rest, no work, and total rest, from sundown of the 9th through sundown of the 10th day of the Hebrew month. It is a day of deep repentance and contrition before our Maker.  

To learn more about this most solemn of days-- read the rest of the blog.

We need to also be careful to be fasting on the day Yehoweh says to be fasting on!  It’s the 10th day after the sighting of the new moon. Otherwise, are we keeping the day and fasting on the right day?
On this day we are reminded that we are cleansed from all our sins committed before YHVH.

Leviticus 16:29-30
29 "This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. 
30 For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before Yehoweh.

Leviticus 23:27-32
 "Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to YHVH. 
28 And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before YHVH your God (Elohim). 
29 For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. 
30 And any person who does any work on that same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 
31 You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 
32 It shall be to you a sabbath of solemn rest (Sabbat sabbaton), and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath."

In verse 32, where it says “Sabbath of solemn rest” – in Hebrew it is “sabbat sabbaton”.  In a way you could call it the “Sabbath of Sabbaths”, like “holy of holies” is used.  It is a most holy sabbath when the word “sabbaton” is connected with it.  That second word “sabbaton” is not used here only but also for the sabbatical land rest every 7 years (see Lev. 25:4), the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah)  in Lev 23:24, first day of the Feast of Tabernacles and the 8th day Holyday AFTER the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:39).  “Sabbaton” always implicitly carries with it the meaning of rest, as well as other things in context.  

You’ll also want to read Leviticus 16 to read about the highly meaningful services performed by the High Priest on this day when there was a tabernacle or temple. We do not do this today because Yeshua’s one sacrifice covers all people for all time, and there is no earthly temple today.  YOU are the temple of His Spirit.  You’ll read of the two goats and all the symbolism connected with that.  It will show you what the High Priest did as he came into the Holy of Holies that one time per year only, barefooted, wearing just a simple white linen garment as he stood before the shekinah glory, as he represented all the people before their Creator in a most solemn service.  

Of course today we have THE High Priest Yeshua, of the order of Melchizedek, standing before God Most High in our behalf.  Praise God, Hallelu Yah!  

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“HEAR, my people….”

Every parent has experienced this. We’re trying to get something very important across to our children and what do they do if they don’t like what you’re saying?  They start to walk away, and –if they are totally disrespectful—even put their fingers in their ears to block their hearing.

Do you realize that Yehoweh tells us that’s what too many of us - -His children -- are doing? We aren’t listening. We’ve sometimes even blocked our hearing.  We’ve turned up the volume of the instruments of mass distraction – TV, computers, Facebook, texting, and so on.

In today’s Torah portion, which many Jews and “Messianics” are reading, we see the very scriptures in Deuteronomy 32 where Yah PLEADS with us to hear. He has something to say to us. Please read Deuteronomy 32 yourself. I think it’s significant that this passage is being read just as we come into the Fall holydays. Do we just “go to church” for the Feast days in a rote habitual manner without realizing the seriousness of the times we are in? As we go, let’s go as a people of God going there to hear His voice.

Deuteronomy 32:1-3

Give EAR, O heavens, and I will speak; And HEAR, O earth, the words of my mouth. 
Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew,
As raindrops on the tender herb, and as showers on the grass. 
For I proclaim the name of YHVH, Ascribe greatness to our God (Elohim).  

As we read those words, we remind ourselves that the Fall holydays are upon us. We’re being reminded we’re yet another year closer to the return of Yeshua coming in might, power and glory to rule this world. We’re another year closer to facing some of the most exciting – or scary – times the world has ever seen, depending on how close we are to Him.

When we want to hear someone, we tune in our ears in that direction. We get as close to the Speaker as we can. We take notes. We discuss what we heard afterwards with others. We ask the speaker to repeat something we missed, or to explain it further. PRAY for this kind of desire to hear the words of our God.

As we enter into this season, determine more than ever to STUDY HIS WORDS, to HEAR them explained, to HEAR Him even as you pray, to HEAR Him as you experience life’s experiences.  He speaks to us in so many ways, but many of us just don’t have that RELATIONSHIP with Him enough to even realize He is speaking! Or we’re so busy with our own priorities (see Haggai 1). Or we’re asleep (see Rev. 2). Or we’re naked and ashamed to come to the Door, who is Christ (see the word to the Laodiceans). Or we are so distracted by Facebook, texting, games, computers and the NOISE of life all around us – that we couldn’t possibly hear Messiah speaking to us! I’ve determined to turn off the TV, reduce my Facebook time and spend more time in His word and HEAR HIM speaking to us. 
If you want to hear more about what Yah says about this vital topic of HEARING, click here….

In my next blogs and sermons, I will be speaking about Yom Teruah, the Feast of Trumpets, the day of blasts and jubilant shouts. Hear those words of God.  Then we’ll have messages about the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur – the day of covering) and the Feast of Tabernacles and the 8th day holy day.  
I hope you will hear GOD’S words in those messages and not just my words, assuming I’m asking Him to speak through His servants and through me.

We also hear Him through Bible study.  Do you even bother with daily Bible study now?   We need to get up and study His word first thing, just as Israel had to get up early and gather the Manna (a picture of the word of God, the bread from heaven) before the heat of the day would melt it. So USE that available manna.  GET up, open your Bible, read and hear.  You have His words so close to you, but all too many of us would rather do something else than hear the words of YHVH.

We have several Bibles in every home. As one man recently said, “Sodom had no Bible in their homes. But we do.”  Makes you think, doesn’t it? They had Lot and his preaching.  That’s it.  We have lots and lots of preachers and endless Bibles available. But are we hearing Yah’s words to us? Are we seeking His words?  We will be judged more severely for all the words of God we have sitting on bookshelves or on our table, but books we don’t open up daily and read.  

The book of Revelation was certainly written for and about the last days and end times. We’re there.  And to EACH of the 7 churches of Revelation 2 and 3, Messiah says, “To him who has an ear to hear, let him ear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; Rev. 3:6, 13, 22).  And just before the messages to the assemblies (ekklesia, churches) of the living God, John wrote:

Revelation 1:3
Blessed is he who READS and those who HEAR the words of this prophecy, and KEEP those things which are written in it; for the time is near.

I recommend you do a Bible study 
One more thing; VERY important: We need to even pray for Yah to give us the ABILITY to hear Him. We ask Him to OPEN our hearing spiritually! Without that, we won’t hear or see or grasp anything spiritual! Deuteronomy 29:4 says GOD first has to give us a heart that perceives His words and ears to hear and spiritual eyes to see.

“HEARING” also goes along with faith, and faith with doing.  Our faith is proven by our works of obeying what we’ve heard. Notice Hebrews 3:7-11 and the warning that goes with it.  We are about to enter a whole new world, led by King Yeshua—or are we? We won’t BE there if we don’t stop spending so much time on worthless things and start spending more time seeking His words and hearing Him!

Hebrews 3:7-11
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says:
"TODAY, if you will HEAR His voice, 
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion in the day of trial in the wilderness, 
Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. 
10 Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, 'They always go astray in their heart,
And they have not known My ways.' 
So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest.'"

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A REVIEW OF THE BOOK SITTING AT THE FEET OF RABBI JESUS

R. Herbert
Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg.  First published by Zondervan, 2009.

This is not a new book, but it is the kind of book that never gets old.  It enables you, the reader, to put yourself in the shoes of those who walked and talked with Jesus during his earthly ministry, and in so doing you will doubtless gain a vastly increased understanding of much that you may have read, and read right over, in the Gospels themselves. Not only does the book enable a better understanding of Christianity through a better understanding of its roots in Judaism, but it gives a better understanding of Yeshua (Jesus) as a man, as a teacher and as Messiah.

One of the most important things the book does is to put into context the life and teachings of Jesus as a 1st century rabbi -  a scholar and teacher of the biblical texts who shared this descriptive term with other teachers of that age  long  before the term became a formal religious title as it is used today. Viewing the Gospel accounts through this lens gives countless insights into what Jesus did, said and even, on occasion, what he  did not say that can help us understand these accounts and the social and historical realities behind them.  It is like the situation we find ourselves in today whenever we read a newspaper. Every story has layers of meaning which we grasp because of our knowledge of our own culture and recent history – layers of meaning that would be lost to readers of the same document who might read it two thousand years from now.  This is the beauty of  Sitting At The Feet Of Rabbi Jesus. The book fills in much of the missing context and enables us to see how the words of the New Testament would have been understood by the original readers – and to have more of that same understanding ourselves, today.

For example,  by looking at the words spoken at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:11) from the context of 1st century biblical understanding and interpretation, the authors are able to open up this important event with meaning and significance that a modern reader would never have guessed. The verse is completely transformed into something far more meaningful, that most commentaries do not convey. Similarly,  Jesus’ description of himself as the “Good Shepherd” or as the “Son of Man” takes on  entirely new and more powerful meanings when seen from the perspective of  1st century biblical understanding and expectations. These are only small examples, chosen at random.  Few pages go by without New Testament stories, conversations or events being clarified and expanded in a similar way.
The book also does an excellent job of differentiating between the kind of interpretation Jesus and other rabbis of His day used in explaining the plain meaning of scriptures and some of the more symbolic  and esoteric interpretations which were added in Jewish scholarship as later centuries went by.  In the same way, the book shows that the Judaism of 1st century Palestine is not the same as modern Judaism in a great many ways, yet when similarities are there, they are discussed.  However, the  book is not about Judaism per se.  For the most part, it brings information together regarding the culture in which Jesus lived which increases our understanding of  many of the words and deeds of His ministry.
But this book is not only about the Rabbi who was Messiah. It is also about his disciples and what it meant to follow a rabbi in 1st century Israel.  Just as the book expounds on the role and teachings of Jesus, it also greatly enhance the reader’s understanding of the roles and responsibilities of his disciples – both then and now.  It does this by giving a  deeper knowledge of how the disciples of Jesus’ day functioned,  the bonds they developed with their teacher, and the responsibility they in turn took on to make further disciples.  These things have direct application to  anyone aspiring to that same role today, and the book might be said to be a manual for disciples as much as it is an exposition of the life and work of Jesus himself.

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“They thought he was joking” – Gen. 19:14

There’s an interesting verse that you may not have ever heard mentioned in a sermon.  In Genesis 19, the story of the destruction of Sodom is recounted.  If you’re unfamiliar with it, I recommend you read the chapter.  Lot – nephew of Abraham -- was being visited by angels who were forewarning him of Sodom’s impending destruction for their many sins.  He was being urged to leave quickly. So Lot set out to get all his kids, family and in-laws to understand the gravity of the situation and how urgent it was for everyone to leave. And then we read this:

Genesis 19:14

“So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, "Get up, get out of this place; for Yehoweh (the LORD) will destroy this city!" But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking.”

Other translations say Lot came across “as one that mocked” (KJV). NET Bible says the sons-in-law “thought he was ridiculing them”.  Could it be that Lot may have developed a reputation as a kidder, a jokester, or someone always trying to pull the wool over someone’s eyes in a “practical joke” manner?

Have you ever noticed that verse before? Could it be that Lot had at least 3 married daughters and, had they all believed Lot, there could have been 10 righteous in the city, and the city would have been spared, because of Abraham’s intercessory prayer in the previous chapter?  See Gen 18. But because they felt Lot was “pulling their leg” one more time, they didn’t heed his dire warning.

Some of us are known jokesters.  Everything becomes a tease, a joke, a trick, a slight of hand, a wink of the eye.  I know I’ve been guilty of seeing how far I can “kid” someone and get away with something to make people laugh.  But there are times when there’s no laughing matter, no joke – and people need to know we’re serious. But if we’re constantly making people the butt of our “practical jokes” – and they feel mocked or ridiculed as a result – when we DO need to be taken seriously, will they believe us?  

So what happened?  Lot’s sons-in-law basically ignored Lot’s warnings.  I can hear them now, “OK Dad, we know about your jokes. But this time we’re not going to be made a fool of.”  So Lot has to leave town with just his wife and 2 unmarried daughters – and EVERYONE else who were a part of Lot’s family and household died along with the rest of the people of Sodom.  

The time is coming soon when some of us may be given end-time warnings from angels just like Lot experienced. We may be given the opportunity to share a dire warning, an urgent message, with loved ones, brethren and believers. But will they think we’re just pulling their leg, or will they believe us and act?  

Kidding around may be fine on occasion — at the right time and place.  But especially as we come to the darker hours of the end times, we need to put childish pranks away and think and act more soberly , more seriously, more believably.  The lives of our very own loved ones may hang in the balance.

I personally feel there’s too much jesting, joking around, foolish talking and just senseless banter going on among too many of the people of God.  Right now we all need to grasp more of the seriousness of the times. I preach to myself too! There’s a lot of kidding that seems connected also to drinks and drinking.  Both Peter and Paul lay out the admonitions to become more serious. See 1 Pet 5:8; 1 Thess. 5:6-8.  Here are two more:

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What is truly AWESOME and AMAZING

I was chatting with a young 20-something young man not long ago and we were talking about how the American language takes twists and turns.  Eventually I got to a pet peeve and said to him, “You know, there are 4 words in the English language that so many are just misusing.”  I paused. His eyes were begging for me to tell him the mysterious four words, so I continued.  “The four words are like totally awesome and amazing”.  He stared expectantly at me for several seconds and finally blurted out, his voice dripping with exasperation, “Well, are you going to tell me the four words?”  

It does seem like everywhere we go, everything and everyone is being described as “amazing” or “totally awesome”. The smallest accomplishment, the cutest little thing, the slightest effort expended are universally being described as “awesome” and “amazing”.  I for one believe this is destroying those words’ power and impact.  Is it truly “amazing” or “awesome” if I bank-shot a wadded-up piece of scrap paper into the waste can a few feet away? I hear these words bandied about for everything and anything.  

If everything is described as “awesome”, if everyone is “amazing”, then eventually nothing and nobody can be described as truly awesome and amazing. Those words should be used for what they mean – something way above the ordinary; someone truly outstanding. Certainly many things and many people rise to “outstanding” or “very good” or “that’s great” – but “amazing”?  “Awesome”?  

What is truly amazing is the love of our Father in heaven who gave his only son for all of us.  What is truly awesome is what your Savior and mine did for us.  What are totally amazing are the daily paintings our great God drapes across His canvas of skies for us in indescribable sunsets that just scream color and beauty.  Then if you want awesome, have you ever been in a Florida summer thunderstorm that starts with a blinding crack of a bright white lightning bolt followed a few seconds later by thunder that crashes through your neighborhood, so loud that you can’t imagine it if you’ve never been in one?  Then again and again.  

Read the rest of this blog to find out more about what is truly amazing and totally awesome.  

YHVH – the Creator of Heavens and earth – HE is amazing.  What He touches, what He creates, what He designs, what He says, what HE does – now all THAT is what is truly awesome and amazing.  I find His creation truly awesome – whether it’s a tortoise lumbering up my driveway or a brilliant butterfly brightening up my yard. I’d say a vast ocean is amazing. God created it – of course it would be. The colors of the autumn aspens in Colorado or the New Hampshire hardwoods all orange and red in the fall – that’s what you’ll exclaim is awesome. If it’s tied to the Creator in some way, now that is amazing.  The SON of God who SPOKE the universe into existence, who breathed out billions of stars in billions of galaxies (Psalm 33:6, 9; Psalm 148:5), now THAT is truly awesome and beyond our grasp.  The Hubble telescope is giving us glimpses of how vast and limitless is the universe created by the Word, who later stretched out His arms on the cross for you and me.  THAT is totally amazing. HE is our awesome God (John 1:1-3).  

The one true living God – and anything related to Him such as his creation – is what I believe is truly amazing and awesome.  Here are a few of the many verses ascribing awesomeness to God.

Psalms 47:2
For YHVH Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth.

Psalms 66:3
Say to God, "How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You.

Psalms 99:3
Let them praise Your great and awesome name —  He is holy.

There’s something else that’s amazingly awesome:  our high calling.  Paul – when given a glimpse of it – could only describe it by saying your eyes couldn’t imagine it, your ears can’t yet grasp the sounds and harmonies that lie ahead of us.  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9, paraphrasing from Isaiah 64:4).  

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FALL FEAST DATES 2013 – “Non-Postponed”

Many of you are wondering what the non-postponed dates for the Fall Feasts of Yehoweh are.  
Let me make a short explanation about “Postponed” and “Non-Postponed”.   In English, the word “postponed” usually means something is moved to a later date.  But in the holy day calendar business, “Postponement” just means God’s holyday dates were knowingly moved, and oddly enough – they’re intentionally moved 1-3 days earlier in most years.  It’s not a secret that the rabbis are moving the holydays as set by our Creator to something that fits their man-made rules. They call it “postponed” but usually move the dates to an earlier date than they normally would be.  

The rabbinic calendar was put together by rabbis who believed they had the right to decide when the holy days would be if the prescribed appointments with God interfered with their 4 rules. They follow FOUR man-made “Rules of Postponement” to guide them.  Those of us who believe no man can alter the dates God set in Leviticus 23 believe we should NOT move, or “postpone” HIS sacred appointments with us.  The feast days are divine appointments.  Would you tell a king or president that his appointment with you has to be changed for your convenience?  The holydays are appointments when the Family of God comes before Yehoweh to worship our great Father and Yeshua the Son of God. We should be scared to knowingly change His dates or divine appointments with His children.

A case in point:  the Fall holy days (not holidays) begin with the Feast of Trumpets, or Yom Teruah, the Day of Blasts and shouting.  The Bible nowhere calls it Rosh Hashanah by the way - - but Yom Teruah.  It’s supposed to be on the first day of the 7th Hebrew month (Leviticus 23:23-24). That means the first visible sliver of the new moon as seen in Jerusalem.   In the U.S., we say it is a “new moon” when there is no moon.  But most agree that in Bible parlance, a “new moon” is when the first visible crescent is visible with the naked unaided eye.  There has to be a central sighting point – so once again most believe it still should be based on the new moon sighting from Jerusalem.  After all God’s law comes forth out of Jerusalem!  So the dates I keep are based on the moon sighting in Jerusalem.  In many cases, as in this year, it’s a very, very predictable date.  

Read the rest of this short blog to find out the true, unchanged dates Yehoweh, our Great God, set as divine appointments with His children this year, 2013.  

The Rabbinic calendar used by scores of thousands of Christian feast-keepers as well as Jews, has their Feast of Trumpets this year falling on September 5, a Thursday.  That’s too early. The new moon won’t have appeared in Jerusalem yet, but they will still call THAT day the “first day of the 7th Hebrew month”.  Nonsense. It’s re-labeled, but it’s not the new moon.  Check your skies the eve of Sept 5 (end of Sept 4th).  Look for a new visible crescent.  If you see a faint crescent, it won’t be the new moon but the end of the old cycle, the waning moon. That’s NOT what God had mind! I’m hoping more and more pastors will have the courage to speak out on this.  Even most rabbis will agree that Hebrew months begin with the first visible crescent of the new moon, but in this case, as often happens most years, they MOVE the Feast of Trumpets to a more convenient date to suit their 4 laws of Postponements.  Someone please show me where any of those 4 rules are found in the Bible. They’re not. They’re a man-made tradition which goes against God’s clearly stated command to keep the Feast of Trumpets on the FIRST DAY of His 7th month.  For those of you who are new to all this, the first day of the Hebrew 7th month usually falls in our month of September.  (“Oddly enough”, even our month of “September” refers to 7th, “Sept”).  

So these are the dates on which I will be worshiping God along with a growing number of believers who take Yehoweh at His Word – and realize man has no business changing and relabeling His holy days. These are based on the moon in Jerusalem, not the local moon sightings here in America. Those who practice local moon sightings will observe the holydays one day earlier than those of us who base it on what will be seen in Jerusalem.  I will go by the Jerusalem dates.  The holy days begin with sundown the evening before and end at sundown as well.  I will use man’s calendar dates so everyone knows what I’m referring to.

Feast of Trumpets                           Sept 8 “Sunday”. 2013 
Fast of Atonement (the true Yom Kippur date)          September 17 a “Tuesday”

First day of the Feast of Tabernacles             Sunday, September 22, 2013
The 8th Day Festival                        Sunday, September 29

It’s hard for some to keep the holy days on the true dates because so many of their family and friends are stuck on the changed Hebraic Rabbinic calendar. They want to keep the Feast together, as a family, so when it comes down to it, most decide not to “rock the boat” and keep the status quo. Too many people are just going along without even knowing about the 4 rules of postponement, and that men have arbitrarily changed the dates of God’s appointments.  They openly admit to doing so.

So I ask again:  can we really change HIS divine appointments with us as defined and scheduled in Leviticus 23 and other places?  

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HELPING THE SICK: ANOTHER LOOK AT “THE GREAT COMMISSION”

R. Herbert
Most readers of the scriptures are familiar with the “Great Commission” given by Jesus to his disciples after his resurrection.  Many can recite it by heart:  “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you … “ (Matt. 28:19-20).

While those verses are consistently quoted as the  Commission,  in reality they represent the final form of a number of commissions or “job directives” Jesus gave to his disciples during his ministry, and which often get lost in the rush to examine, ponder and discuss the “Great” commission. This is not to say that we should not focus on the final Great Commission, but that it can also be profitable to look back at some of the earlier commissions given during Christ’s ministry to see what we can learn there. For example, look carefully at the ones recorded in the Book of Luke:

Luke 9:2:  “… and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.”

Luke 10:9  “Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’”
Matthew also records one of these earlier commissions: 
Matt 10:7-8  “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons…”   
The difference is obvious.  The earlier commissions specifically included healing the sick – with an emphasis placed on that task almost equal to the emphasis placed on  preaching the Gospel.
That emphasis is undeniably missing in the final “Great Commission” which appears to focus entirely on the work of evangelism without any direct mention of the sick. But does this mean the needs of the sick are no longer to be a vital concern for the Christian?  In answer to that, perhaps we should remember that the Great Commission itself ends with the words “…  teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:20, emphasis added),  so from that perspective alone, the principles of the earlier commissions Jesus gave may still apply to us today as part of the “everything” Jesus had commanded.  
Read more to see how this principle still applies – and what we can do about it …

Helping the sick was certainly part of the example Jesus set for us. He not only used physical sickness as a metaphor in his teaching (Mark 2:17), and as a sign of the divine nature of His work, He also frequently healed and helped the sick purely as a matter of compassion, as we see throughout the Gospels.  Godly concern for the sick also clearly precedes the Christian scriptures.  Psalm 107:20 says  “He sent out his word and healed them,” showing David’s awareness of God’s compassion in this area – compassion which was expressed many times throughout the  Old Testament,  as well as in the work of the disciples who continued  the New Testament ministry of Christ.
Now, this doesn’t mean that the situation has not  changed at all regarding God’s commission to His Church.  It seems clear that while God still can – and does – heal,  He has not continued to do so in quite the same manner as He did when Jesus sent out disciples who routinely administered healings as an everyday part of their work (Matt. 10:1).  But although we may not be empowered to heal today in the way the early disciples were, think about this in terms of the Great Commission:  as individual Christians we may not be directly going into all the world, teaching and baptizing, either  – yet we can support those who do these works, both financially and in prayer and other ways. Even without the same command and power of healing given the early disciples, we can still – to the extent we are able, and with the same compassion - do the work of helping the sick mentioned in all the earlier forms of Jesus’ commission to his disciples.
So while the “Great Commission”, as it is given in Matthew 28, does indeed focus on what would be the central work of the church after the time of Jesus’ ministry, when we consider the nature of what we are called to do we need not discount the compassion for the sick that is clear in God’s Word, and especially in the life of Jesus himself and in the earlier instructions he gave his disciples.  Although the evangelism of the Great Commission should indeed be a central focus point for us, we can still give our physical and prayerful support to those helping the sick,  and many of us can also find opportunities to directly work to serve those who are victims of sickness and disability. 

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When God SEEMS late

You ask, “How could God ever be late? His timing is perfect.”  True enough.  But to us mere mortals, God does SEEM late at times. What do we do then?  As we get into this topic, please do not be offended by my frank discussion – or even the question.  I’m sharing some things I’ve had to learn too.  We have an awesome Abba, our dear Father, and I love everything about Him – though at times, we are all going to be tested. At times, He seems like He’s not answering our prayers fast enough for our urgent needs.  We need a healing perhaps, or to find a job, or to sell a house, or perhaps the answers have to do with requests we’re making for others.  Even those seem to be taking too long – and sometimes, it appears it’s too late and God hasn’t spoken or acted for us.  Or so it seems.

Am I the only one who feels this way sometimes?   If you’re honest with yourself, I know most of you have felt the same thing – or will, sooner or later.   

Here are a few examples from the Bible of what I mean by “when God seems late”:  
•    Abel’s murder at the hands of his brother.  God showed up – but only after Abel was dead.  Would Abel have thought as his brother was killing him, “God’s timing is perfect” – or might he have been tempted to think, “Yehoweh, where are you!? Why aren’t you intervening to save me?”

•    God also intervened in the matter of David and Uriah.  But not until Uriah had been killed. Humanly speaking, Uriah could certainly have felt like Yehoweh was late for him.  

•    Didn’t Mary and Martha think Yeshua (Jesus) was late in coming to heal Lazarus?  He purposely waited two additional days before starting the trip – and by the time he got there, Lazarus had died! (John 11:3-6, 21-23). Think about that one. Mary thought he was late and said so! “Lord, had you been here earlier (or, “on time), my brother would not have died.”  

•    If you were Daniel about to be thrown into the lion’s den and the entrance to the den is being opened and so far you see no divine intervention, was God on time, or from a human perspective, a bit late? In the end, it was to God’s glory.  His timing was perfect. But what about the hundreds of Christian brothers and sisters who were not spared from the vicious lions in the Coliseum of Rome?  Would they have thought God was late - - or even didn’t show up?  (Now don’t panic, more is coming.)  But the fact is, God allowed so many of his people to be tortured and martyred, without apparent intervention from Him.   Why?

When God seems to be deaf to your needs, or not answering your prayers, this blog may help you. Read the rest of this blog to understand more about “when God seems to be late”.  

The fact is, Abba is never late for the ultimate good He has in mind. If He always acted the way WE prayed, we would be tempted to conclude “God is hearing and answering my prayers.” But in fact, if we let God answer in HIS time, in HIS way, we might have seen much more wondrous displays of His blessings and power.  We’re assured that “eye has not seen, nor ear heard” the marvelous things God has prepared for those who love Him.  That can be little solace, however, when a young child is not being healed - - or even dies.  Or when we see so much injustice going on, especially the injustices that affect each of us.  We ask, “Where are you, Father?” when we don’t see any apparent involvement from our heavenly Father.  

I’m not alone in saying this. Read the Psalms.  So many of them are full of the general tone of “where are you, YHVH?”, or “why are you taking so long to help or answer me?”   So many of them have the general idea of “make haste to help me, YHVH” (Psalm 38:21-22; Psalm 28:1-2).  

I recently gave a sermon (June 2013) about “Why YHVH allows so much pain and suffering” in the lives of even His own children. Sometimes we’d be tempted to say, “ESPECIALLY in the lives of even His own children.”  So much is answered in that message.

In the end, it’s about absolutely trusting our dear Father Abba.  We turned our lives over to him and He now owns us. Abba Most High gives special thought and protection to His children, to those who are His.  We are so valuable to Him that Abba paid the ultimate price to have you be His own. The price He paid for YOU: the blood and life of His one and only Son, Yeshua (the name his mama called Him, meaning “salvation”.  Or Yehoshua means “YHWH saves”.)  That precious Being who spoke all creation into existence offered His life willingly, and with the Father’s will, paid for you and me (John 10:17-1    8; John 3:16;  1 Peter 1:17-19).  The Word, our Shepherd, was Yehoweh’s companion (Zech. 3:17).  He was God, and was with God, and made all things we see (John 1:1-3).

So YOU mean a lot to God in heaven.    

If you paid dearly for something or someone, wouldn’t you be watching over that precious person? I know how I watch over my grandchildren.  God does so even more. He calls us the “apple of His eye’ (Psalm 17:8; Deut 32:10).  Anyone who harms the apple of His eye is poking God in the eye, according to Zechariah 2:8.  You might enjoy the blog I wrote that goes into far more detail about being the “apple of His eye” (February 2012).  

So when we think He is unaware of us, or not answering our prayers, don’t worry – He knows everything that’s going on.  And yes, sometimes He will appear to be late or to even be unaware of what you’re going through. You ask Him: why won’t He help you find a job? You’re about to lose your home, and where is God, you ask. Trust Father.  Healings you so desperately want to see don’t seem to be happening.  Stop and ask Him what He’s trying to teach everyone – and then trust. Why isn’t your home selling – the one that’s been on the market for months and months?  Ask Him, and then learn to listen, and trust. Did you ask Him first if He wanted you to sell your home?  I have so many all across the country dealing with that issue.

The older I get, the longer I experience my Father and Savior, the more I have to conclude that if I’ve prayed for something, and if I also prayed for HIS will to be done and not my own, then I should relax and thank God for WHATEVER is happening – yes, even in disease, even in pain, even in sorrow – and yes, even in painful death. But so many times, Father wants to give us far more than we could even imagine.  I’ve experienced both sides of the ledger:  when Father has let me go through terrible anguish, and the other side of the ledger – the joy of seeing far more than I could have hoped for.  The latter seems more likely to happen when I sincerely praise and thank Him in and for all things, regardless of what’s going on.

What Father wants us to remember: Trust Him. Believe you’re precious to Him even though He doesn’t often tell us why He isn’t “intervening” more the way WE think He should.  

Father, our dear Abba, is never late.  He’s doing what He has to do and when He wants to do it – and if we’re among the called, everything will work out for good when it’s all said and done (Romans 8:28).  

However, for many of us, for many times in our lives, getting there will involve severe pain at times.  There could be changes we have to make that may be uncomfortable for us (see R. Herbert’s recent blog on “Do you want to be well?”). But the pain itself often helps us to move in the direction Abba needs us to go in.  Pain makes us move. So start seeing the pain, start seeing God’s “inaction” in new light and even thank Father for pain or for whatever He’s allowing in your life. Yes, I said thank Him for it.  I know people who have had strokes, and can’t feel anything.  They WISH they could FEEL again – including pain.  They don’t even know if they’re cutting themselves, or burning their hands – because there’s no pain.  Pain can be a blessing. If you haven’t heard it yet, I strongly recommend you listen to my most recent message – “Why YHVH allows so much Pain and Suffering” – June 2013.

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DO YOU WANT TO BE WELL?

R. Herbert

In John 5 we find a question asked by Jesus, which might seem strange if we think about it.

John records the healing by Jesus of a disabled man at the pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, a pool called in Aramaic Beth hesda or “House of Mercy” (or “Grace”) probably because of the healing associated with its waters.   Many sick and disabled individuals came to this area and literally lived by the sides of the pool waiting for an opportunity to be healed by the water’s occasional, but seemingly miraculous action.   It was one such individual – a man lame in his feet for a great many years – whom Jesus asked “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6B). If we simply continue the story from that point we see the man affirmed his desire by way of explaining why he had not been healed after many years: because of his lameness he was never able to get to the waters quickly enough when the transient healing conditions occurred.

But if we go back to Jesus’ question it bears thinking about. Ostensibly it doesn’t make a lot of sense. If you were very ill and I came to see you and said “do you want to get well?” you might think I was being sarcastic, exhibiting a strange sense of humor, or at the very least, had poor bedside manner. Obviously, when Jesus asked the question none of these things applied. So what did he mean?

We should remember that the man Jesus healed was not alone at the pool of Bethesda. A great many sick and handicapped individuals were there. For some of these people their illness or disability had doubtless become a means of earning a living by way of the alms of passers-by. Their illnesses had perhaps become a way of life which ultimately was not as bad as what some people face. They were not starving and did not even have to work, though naturally, their illnesses may have precluded many or most of these unfortunate people from working. But the point is that, for many, their illnesses had become a lifestyle to which they had become accustomed (Jer. 10:19) and perhaps in some cases with which they were even reasonably comfortable.   This is not in any way to try to gloss or deny the illnesses and physical hardships these people may have suffered, but perhaps there is an answer to Jesus’ question here.

Keep in mind that in most cases people who had heard about his healings came to Jesus and asked for help. In this instance it was a Sabbath and it appears that Jesus purposely went to an area where he knew there would be a number of sick individuals in order to choose someone to heal as an example that it is not wrong to do healing and helping work on the Sabbath day (John 5:8-10, 16). Now look at this from the perspective of human psychology. Some of the people at the pool of Bethesda, including the man Jesus healed, had been there for many years. Their lives may well have been bleak and seemingly hopeless. But in those circumstances the human mind often tries at least to grasp on to what it can. Perhaps some of these people had become resigned to the fact that this was their life, and that it could perhaps have been worse. Few people gladly embrace drastic change in their lives – sometimes even from bad situations.

Could this possibly have been the reason Jesus asked the man if he wanted to get well? Jesus did not go around asking all the sick at the pool this question. What drew him to this man and caused him to ask a seemingly redundant question? Could it be that Jesus could read the hearts of these people, or was guided by God to do so, and could it be that this man was unusual in his group – a man who did fervently want to be well? If Jesus had compassion on this individual for this very reason, perhaps his question was as much for his disciples’ hearing, and for ours, as for the hearing of the man himself. Perhaps Jesus was not only acknowledging that not everyone at the pool deeply wanted to be well - and let his question single out this individual who truly did – but he was also asking a question that applies to all of us.

The moral of this story is larger than that small pool in Bethesda, and even larger than physical sickness.   Before God calls us, we live in spiritual sickness. We are spiritually blind, deaf and lame. Due to the results of sin our lives may be bleak indeed, yet we still cling to them, often justifying the causes and effects of which we are victims, sometimes longing for something better, yet all too often comfortable in our spiritual sickness, or at least accepting of it. When God calls us He gives us the opportunity to be free from our spiritual illnesses and disabilities. But that is a huge change for our human minds and when the call comes, God does not just reach down and heal us. He asks us, in effect, “Do you want to get well?” and we must choose.

Just as the man healed of his physical ailment at Bethesda had to choose to begin a new life with responsibilities and work that had not been there before, so we have to count the cost and make the decision that we want to start a new life of spiritual health. Then, just as Jesus told the man he healed, we must act to keep sin out of our lives in order to stay spiritually healthy and not revert to spiritual sickness (5:14).   We have to want to be well, and then we have to want to stay well in order for the miracle to continue.

No wonder Jesus asked the lame man if he wanted to be well. But it is a question that applies to all of us as much as it did to the man at the pool of Bethesda!

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Are you a “Scatterer” – or a “Gatherer”?

Do you know that Yeshua (Jesus) says we’re one or the other? No middle ground. You and I are either scatterers or gatherers. Find out what defines that and find out which you are. It’s vital.

Life on earth and for all eternity is all about relationships. Our relationship with our heavenly Father is paramount. Our relationship with our Redeemer-Savior, His Son, determines everything. And here on earth, our relationship with our family – our spouse, our own children, our mom and dad, our siblings and other relatives – affects our joy and quality of life immensely and even involved in the 4th commandment. When any relationships is failing, there’s little joy and often painful anguish. Note the anguish of divorce, or when parent-child become estranged, or when siblings are not close.

On the other hand, nothing’s more beautiful, satisfying and fun to behold, than two sisters who like to do everything together. Or brothers acting as one, enjoying all things together with great joy. I just read a FB posting from a former college friend who reveled in being with his dad for the 4th of July weekend. I know the feeling because I was also a dad reveling in my own wonderful 4th of July weekend with one of my daughters and her family recently. (My other children are 3,300 miles away!)

Now here’s where the spiritual element comes in. Those whom Yehoweh calls “My people” are described in Scripture as being your spiritual brothers and sisters – if you’re one of His people. We should have the same father and the same mother spiritually. The results of that union produce people who are part of the same family. They’re brothers and sisters, “in Christ”. Though each person is unique in the entire universe, we who are of that one family subscribe to living according to the Way of the Family of God. But just like in physical families, there are often different styles, personalities and points of view within families that can cause separation and disunity. But they’re still your brother and sister. I wrote a BLOG a long time ago called “We don’t get to choose our brothers and sisters.”

The Adversary (that’s what “Satan” means) relishes in destroying relationships by getting us to focus on what divides us, rather than on what unites us. If you are estranged from a loved one, it’s not her or you or him behind it. Oh no, it’s far higher than that. It’s Satan and his spirit that wants to drive the thoughts and moods that lead to divorce or children being estranged from mom and dad. It’s the same spirit that drives the spread of ever more denominations – all claiming to serve the same God but who won’t have anything to do with one another. What should unite us is having the knowledge that spiritually we have the same father and His one spirit.

Let’s see what Yeshua, the head of God’s church, says. In context of demonic activity, and how Satan loves to bind people, Yeshua says this (and hence the title of this blog):

Luke 11:23

“He who is not with Me is against Me, and HE WHO DOES NOT GATHER with Me, SCATTERS.”

It’s one or the other. It appears to me that our Master is saying we can’t stand idly by on the sidelines on this matter. Either we are bringing people together – or we’re scattering, by virtue of our INACTION. We’re either helping to fix the massive hurts and divides out there, or –by doing nothing – we’re adding to the problem. This is not a spectator sport with Abba. We’ve got to be fully engaged in putting a spirit out there and actions out there that bring Yah’s children together.

The point of today’s blog is simple. I have a simple question I pose to each of us (including me!): WHAT ARE EACH OF US DOING to gather the people of Yehoweh together? Would Abba say you are “gathering” people together with Him, or – if we’re not gathering, are we basically aiding the Enemy in scattering His flock? Are you taking steps to be reunited with those from whom you are estranged – or do we do nothing, encouraging the divide to just get wider? Do we counsel friends to mend their broken marriage, or by our absence lead more to the scourge and tragedy of divorce? Are we imposing impossible requirements before we can agree to walk together? I also have a blog all about AMOS 3:3 and what that verse really means. Go find it. We don’t have to agree on every minute detail before we can agree to walk together. It’s all explained in that blog a while back.

I suggest this as your simple homework: ask yourself, ask your family – “what can I, what can we, start doing to be a “gatherer” of people with Christ, rather than doing nothing, which just encourages more scattering?” Ask yourself: “what am I doing to forge a stronger bond with my family, my dad, my daughter, my brother or my son? What am I doing to promote unity and harmony at work, in my neighborhood, at “church” and among the various denominations?”

With action guided by God’s spirit, you become a gatherer with Christ. No divinely guided action means you’re a scatterer. So let’s wake up and start recognizing our brothers and sisters, even those with different outlooks and personalities.

Are you a gatherer with Christ -- or are you a scatterer with the Adversary and his wolves (John 10:12-13)?

Satan loves to divide. He’s the Adversary. He’s the Slanderer, and all who promote the spread of slander or defamation or division and separation, are playing right into his hands. Can you imagine the slander used against Rahab, against BatSheva (Bathsheba), and even against the Messiah? I’ve spoken about all of the above in recent full length sermons on this website.

If you’d like to learn more about this vital topic, HEAR THE 5-part “ONE BODY” SERIES of sermons which started in November 2009. The series will also suggest steps by which you can become a gatherer. In the matter of church break-ups, for example, I encourage you to visit across denominational lines. Pastors have to understand you will not be separated from your brothers and sisters in Christ because of political feuds between pastors, for example! Be very wary of ministers who threaten you with expulsion if you visit outside of their own man-made organizational walls.

Our Head is Yeshua (Col. 1:15-18) – not the pastor. We belong to Christ (Mark 9:41), not any man-made organization. Don’t ever say you “belong to” this or that church or organization. No, no, no. They didn’t buy you -- or have they? Frankly many are “bought” by being given positions and opportunities in that fellowship, which appeal to one’s pride. NO! You were bought with the blood of the Lamb of God! HE paid the price and bought you and me, and so we belong to HIM.

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JOSIAH – A GOOD KING, SO WHY THE BAD ENDING?

By R. Herbert

(This blog is written by a long-time minister and close friend who writes under the name R. Herbert. I love this contribution about lessons we can learn from one of my favorite kings – Josiah.  We look forward to many more blogs from this contributor.)

Josiah (Hebrew “Yoshiyahu” meaning “supported by Yah”) was undoubtedly one of ancient Judah’s best rulers. This king took the throne of Judah at the early age of 8 and ruled for thirty-one years (c. 640-609 BC), accomplishing great good during his reign. Yet his death is puzzling and may present lessons to those of us who read the story.

Before we examine the events regarding the death of this great king, we should consider his deeds. The Bible gives few details regarding the early years of his reign, but – perhaps under the influence of Jeremiah - in his eighteenth year Josiah began a great reformation of the faith of Judah. He first repaired the Temple of God and it was during this work that “the book of the law” (perhaps Deuteronomy, if not the whole Pentateuch) was found. Moved by the warnings in the book, for the non-observance of God’s law, Josiah tore his clothes in repentance and called an assembly of the elders and people of Jerusalem and Judah at which the ancient covenant with Yahweh was renewed (2 Kings 23). The king then began to cleanse Judah of idolatry. After the Temple of God was purged of the various paraphernalia and emblems of the pagan god Baal and “the host of heaven,” local cult “high places” were destroyed throughout Judah and even beyond. As a high point of this reformation, a great Passover celebration was kept in Jerusalem, greater than any that had been held since the days of the Judges.

Josiah’s reformation and good deeds are all the more remarkable considering that his father, Amon, and grandfather, Manasseh, were among Judah’s worst kings, committing great evil before God. Josiah clearly returned to the one God and humbly led his people to return also. He was praised for this by the prophetess Huldah, a relative of Jeremiah, who also prophesied that Josiah would be buried in peace (2 Kings 22:20). But something went amiss. Josiah did not die in peace, but as a casualty of war.

To understand Josiah’s death we need to understand the basics of international relations in his day. When Josiah ascended the throne the ancient Near East was in political flux. That world’s “superpower”, the Assyrian Empire (to Israel’s North east), was disintegrating in Josiah’s lifetime, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire (to Israel’s east) was rising to replace it. By 612 BC the Babylonians captured the great Assyrian city, Nineveh, and began to take over Assyrian territories and cities such as Carchemish in Syria. Egypt, another key power player under the strong pharaoh Necho II, perhaps saw Babylon’s attacks as an opportunity to reconquer areas of Syria for itself, and Necho thus led an army north to fight the Babylonians (who would ultimately attack Judah) at the city of Carchemish.

What’s all this have to do with you, me and Josiah and how he ended up? Read the rest of this blog to find out what might have happened to righteous king Josiah – and to glean vital lessons for our own lives.

This is where Josiah enters the picture. Necho requested permission to pass through Judah on the main road to Syria in order to fight the Babylonians, but, ironically – considering Judah’s soon-coming downfall at the hands of the Babylonians – Josiah refused. According to II Chronicles 35:20-21 Necho then sent messengers to Josiah saying, “What have we to do with each other, O King of Judah? I am not coming against you today but against the house with which I am at war, and God has ordered me to hurry. Stop for your own sake from interfering with God who is with me, so that He will not destroy you.” This message is amazing not only in that Necho pleaded with the relatively minor king Josiah not to interfere, but also claimed that God Himself instructed him to do what he was doing. Was this just a detail of cleverly contrived psychological warfare, or was Necho really marching under the influence of God who raises kingdoms and diminishes them (Daniel 2:21)? The biblical account appears to indicate the latter as Chronicles tells us that “Josiah, however, would not turn away from him, but disguised himself to engage him in battle. He would not listen to what Necho had said at God’s command but went to fight him on the plain of Megiddo.” (2 Chron. 35:22, emphasis added). The results of this battle in the summer of 609 BC were disastrous for the Judean king. “Archers shot King Josiah, and he told his officers, “Take me away; I am badly wounded.” So they took him ... to Jerusalem, where he died. “(vs. 23).

Josiah’s folly in taking a huge chance with his life at Megiddo not only led to his own demise, but to the loss of Judean independence, because his defeat in battle meant that Pharaoh Necho now controlled Judah and thus instituted his own puppet ruler.  

What brought about this very bad choice by Josiah? The Jewish Talmud (Taanis 22b) states that Josiah acted on the basis of the scripture which says that “no sword shall pass through your land” (Leviticus 26.6) but this attempt to justify the king’s action is only speculation and is offset by the Bible’s own account that Josiah was warned by God through Necho. The Talmud itself also asserts that Josiah was warned by Jeremiah.

So what happened to this good king of Judah? Did Josiah somehow misunderstand the situation and simply die as a result of his fatal mistake, or had something happened in the king’s life that he no longer enjoyed God’s guidance and protection? There seem to be two logical answers.

Scenario/Lesson One: Good people sometimes make very bad mistakes. It is possible that Josiah continued his close relationship with God down to the end of his life, but that he simply made a wrong choice – a fatal mistake – by getting involved in a power struggle that did not concern him.   Proverbs 26:17 gives the principle of not meddling in a matter that does not concern us, and Josiah may have paid the price for not knowing or heeding that principle. There is no doubt that God sometimes mercifully protects those who love Him from the results of foolish decisions and actions, but He does not guarantee He will do this in any or every circumstance. The principle of not “tempting” God (Deuteronomy 6:16) certainly applies here. Lesson: We can jeopardize our success, our happiness, and even our lives through taking foolish chances - despite our relationship with God. Don’t run the stop lights of life – physical or spiritual.

Scenario/Lesson Two: Sometimes we stop seeking God’s will – with very bad results. Because the Bible is silent regarding a spiritual assessment of Josiah at the end of his reign, it is also possible that this king, despite the wonderful attitude and dedication to God’s way he displayed earlier in life, spiritually “died on the vine” in the sense of losing his dedication and desire to continue seeking God’s way with the same former fervency. While he had earlier sought God’s will through His Word and His prophets, the Bible does not give any evidence that he sought God’s counsel as to whether or not to intervene in Necho’s campaign.     Since Josiah had repaired the temple and begun the worship of the one true God according to biblical commands, he could have sought guidance from the High priest, perhaps specifically through consulting the Urim and Thummim intended to give guidance from God (Exodus 28:30), or he could have sought God’s guidance through one of His prophets living at that time – such as Jeremiah.   Lesson: The life of Solomon and perhaps the life of Josiah show that even the wisest and most dedicated followers of God can lose their original love and die in a lesser relationship with Him. And, of course, it’s not just a problem of kings – Jesus’ words in John 15: 1-5 and the book of Revelation’s message to the Church of Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22) show that we are all capable of such a sad ending.

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Happy “Fathers’ Day”, Almighty YHVH!

On June 16, 2013, the USA has a special day to honor Fathers.  Mothers’ Day is in May.  It is fitting and appropriate to honor our fathers and our mothers.  My father died in 1984 and my Mom died in 1993.  I wish like anything I could be with them and honor them on these days and I miss them so. So many times, some people don’t realize what a gem they have in their father and mother until … until they gone. Don’t let that be your regret, if you have a living father and mother.

Before going further on the topic of our earthly fathers and mothers, I want to say that first and foremost, we have an ultimate Father in God the Father – Yehowah Most High. In the last days, an Elijah work will cause the children of God to turn their hearts back to the One Living Father of the Redeemed—as well as to our Fathers in the faith -- Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And of course it refers also to our earthly fathers.

Malachi 4:5-6
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of YHWH. 
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

The Elijah work will be about turning hearts. I don’t know who that Elijah at the very end time will be. I know John the Baptist absolutely was a type of that Elijah – for Yeshua said so.

Read the rest of this blog to see what we can learn from John the Baptist and what God says about fathers.

Matthew 17:11-13
Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, ELIJAH IS COMING first and will restore all things. 
12 But I say to you that Elijah HAS come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands." 
13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.

Notice that Yeshua says Elijah HAS come and WILL come, so that is why I believe there is yet an Elijah work.  Concerning John the Baptist, he was commissioned with making ready a people prepared for their God. So it seems clear that turning the hearts to Father starts with turning our hearts to our heavenly Father.  Once that is done, we surely will obey Him and His command to honor our earthly father, in spite of any of his quirks or oddities.  We are to honor our father regardless – simply because he is our father. Too many young people and young adults today are forgetting that.  Now look how the priorities applied to John the Baptizer. What was his first priority? Turning people back FIRST to God our Father.

Luke 1:16-17
16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 
17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to TURN THE HEARTS of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Now notice what has to change first: the HEART. Now notice whose heart turns first; it’s we fathers who have to make the first step. WE have to be the ones who FIRST turn our hearts to our daughters and sons. Once we do that, it’s easier for our children to turn their hearts back to us. So no matter what happens in our family relationships, we fathers are to always have our faces and hearts turned towards our children – even if they don’t want us to just yet.

Think of the father of the prodigal son. He let his younger son have free moral agency and sow his wild oats. But when the son came back, his Dad was out there and saw him coming from a long ways off.  Be that kind of Dad. The father did not insist on first discussing all the bad things that had happened before. Neither did he insist his son get some therapy to manage all his quirks.  He simply forgave him, loved him, covered him and celebrated with a big party. We fathers must be the same way with our children.  

And children of any age, respond. And remember to obey your heavenly Father and always “HONOR your father and mother, that your days may be long upon the land YHVH is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).  Even if your father was absent, didn’t care, or hurt your feelings. God does not say we are to honor them IF this or IF that. He simply says “honor your father”.  Show profound respect for their position and office. And please call your Dad once in a while. Pray for your Dad. Go tell him you love him and give him a big hug – even if he was a less-than-perfect Dad.  Frankly all of us are less than perfect dads, even I.  Remember that your earthly dad is not your real enemy, if you’re having issues with your Dad. We all have one real enemy – his name IS “Adversary” – SATAN.  Our battle is not with Dad, but with spirits in heavenly realms. SEE that, and get back to loving and honoring your father.  And most of all thank God for your Father and pray for him.

THEN we can be healing our relationships and families will start coming back together, as Malachi 4 says.   

Fathers – let’s turn our hearts back to our children.  And let’s be turning OUR hearts back to our own heavenly Father, who indeed has turned HIS heart to us.  Now it’s our turn. Let’s also set the example to our children by showing a deep and profound respect for our living earthly fathers, and honor them in a special way on Father’s Day. But don’t let that example of respect and honor end with one day.

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1 Thessalonians 5:17. Do we “pray without ceasing”?

I’m sure we all know we need to pray. If we’re not praying every day, it’s a habit we need to form. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), but if we’re not seeking Him first thing daily and seeking the Kingdom of God daily (Matthew 6:33), then we are walking in our own strength, instead of being “strong in the Lord and the power of HIS might” (Ephesians 6:10).  (Woe be to the person who thinks he/she can fight their spiritual battles without YHVH with us, around us, over us and in us.)

But as we’ll see, Scripture also says in many places that we are to “pray always” or to pray “without ceasing”.  How can we possibly do that? What does that mean?  Understanding the answers will make all the difference in the level of our relationship with dear Abba, our heavenly Father.

It does not mean that we must literally have our head bowed, eyes closed, while praying non-stop 24 hours a day! We all would have been fired from our jobs long ago if we lived like that. It means we go through each day with an active awareness of the presence of the Almighty.  It means we take time to connect with Him dozens of times a day in quick short prayers. I’ll explain far deeper as we go along in this blog.  

We surely should connect with our Father first and last thing each day – especially in a formal prayer time on our knees.  David and Daniel prayed three times a day in these formal type prayers (Psalm 55:17;  Daniel 6:10, 13).  In these prayers we praise Him, thank Him, ask for His forgiveness for where we fell short, we intercede for others, and we ask for the help we need as well.  But we always praise and thank.  (There are several sermons and teachings on this website about prayer.)  These times of prayer on our knees, I think of as “formal prayer times” and I think they are necessary. It is good for US to be on our knees before our Maker. It is good for US to confess our sins, to ask forgiveness, and then to praise and to intercede.  That’s formal prayer time primarily.  I recommend you be sure you are giving God this honor. Don’t fall for the teaching that its OK to JUST have quickie prayers while we shave or do dishes or drive to work on the freeway.  I teach we should have definite formal prayer times on our knees (if our knees and bodies allow for that) first as the foundation. THEN, to those times, we add the concept of “praying without ceasing”.

First let’s see some of the places we’re told to pray “always”:
•    After discussing the “armor of God” in Ephesians 6, Paul concludes the section in verse 18  by saying, “praying ALWAYS, with all prayer and supplication in the SPIRIT…”.  So we are to pray “in the Spirit”. Praying is part of our spiritual armor. It’s what makes it functional!

•    To the Thessalonians Paul admonishes, “PRAY WITHOUT CEASING” (1 Thess. 5:17).  He goes on to say “in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit.”   Here Paul stresses the connection of effective prayer with thanksgiving and the peace that comes from realizing we are in His hands.  Is there a connection with lack of prayer and quenching the Spirit? Paul seems to imply so.

Read the rest of this blog for HOW we are to pray always and more on WHY we should.  

First let’s continue to see some of the many passages that urge us to “pray always”. 
•    In the parable of the Persistent widow, the context was a parable showing “that men ought ALWAYS to pray and not to lose heart.”  (Luke 18:1-2). 
•    Yeshua also orders us to “watch therefore and PRAY ALWAYS that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).  Here, “watch” refers far more to our spiritual alertness than it means to watch world news or something. We are to watch our own spiritual state, be on guard, to stay awake and alert – and that’s tied in to praying always.  Prayer is about keeping the communication with God alive.
•    We’re told that Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, was a devout man who “prayed to God ALWAYS” (Acts 10:2).  As a centurion, he had many responsibilities, so how could he possibly really pray to God always?  

So HOW do we “pray always”?

I believe it means going through the day with a keen awareness of the presence of Yehowah in your life. That will be easier to do if we started the day on a foundation of prayer, before we eat, before we go to work.  It’s easier to do if you’ve consciously asked Him to help you “turn your heart” back to Him.  After that, you’ll be getting nudged by His Spirit many times a day. You’re ‘hearing His voice” in many different ways, conversations and circumstances. So to me it means that all through the day we’re connecting with Father in dozens of quick short prayers. It’s like touching base with our Maker all through the day. If you’re not doing that already, you’ll be amazed how your life changes once you make a practice of calling on Father and Yeshua all through the day and into the night. He’s a FATHER!  He LIKES hearing from His kids.

A few days ago something was heavy on my mind around 4 a.m. I wasn’t sleeping. So I just decided to get up, get on my knees, and I spent the next 10-15 minutes praising my Father for all the good He does in our lives and asking Him to put my restless mind at peace. I wanted to experience the joy of His grace, to share my heart with Him – and what a wonderful time we had together! It made me think of the many psalms where David says He praised in the wee morning hours.  It was wonderful. That’s one of the ways we can “pray always”.  Just touch base with our Father many times a day and night. Share your concerns and thoughts. Share your joys. Share what’s happening. Fathers like to have sons and daughters who share what’s going on in their lives.  I know, I’m a father and grandfather. If my kids aren’t sharing their lives with me, I feel cut off from them. I’m joyful when they do share something. Just the other day my son shared something with me that made my heart sing all the rest of the day. It wasn’t a big thing, but it was a big deal in how it impacted me. God our Father is the same way. Share your life with Him, all through the day.  

We are the temple of the Holy Spirit!  In the “old days”, one man – the High Priest – could go into the Holy of Holies once a year for a few minutes – and that was it.  Today we HOUSE the Holy of Holies within each of us, we are IN HIM, and He is IN US, and so we can come boldly before His throne of Grace. The Shekinah glory of God should be evident more and more in our lives.  That’s especially true when we come into the Holy of Holies –every time we pray -- in Yeshua’s name. Hallelujah! We have the unprecedented opportunity to come before His presence any time we want, and frankly we should be capitalizing on that opportunity.

So think of “praying always” as a way to be walking and talking with God all day long. Always. Be saying silent prayers before and during important meetings. Lift up a brother or sister in Christ to heavenly realms in prayers several times a day, every day. Look up and just quietly ask Father to smooth out your paths for you, if things aren’t going well. Maybe you should have touched base many times before that point already!  When feeling anxious, I like to look up and say something like, “there I go again. I don’t want it to be me – but to be YOU. I have no reason to worry or fret since you are with me. I have every reason to claim the victory, to shout the joyful triumphs, even long before I see the final outcome, knowing I walk with the King of the Universe!!!”  

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Do you hear Him speaking?

Scripture is replete with examples of mankind hearing the voice of YHVH.  Do you? Do I?  Or has the Almighty gone mute and into retirement as far as your experience is concerned?  Absolutely not.  If we’re not hearing Him, it’s not because He isn’t speaking – but could it be that we simply aren’t listening or we’re not tuned in to Him?  I have spoken on this before, but our recent experiences have been replete with times we felt our Father was showing and telling us exactly what to do next.  It was fun.

I remember going to a neighbor’s home some years back, knocking on his door, calling out his name, but he never heard me. His TV was blaring so loud, and loud music playing as well, that he never heard my voice. Reminds me of what Yeshua says in Revelation 3:20 to the Laodiceans about “if anyone hears my voice…”.  We are a very noisy generation.  Yehowah spoke to the Israelites in a quiet wilderness.  He whispered to Elijah.  The Holy of Holies was a most quiet place – though outside the tabernacle was often a noisy place. So many saw and heard Him speak while in wilderness situations.  You might want to hear my sermon about “Your Wilderness Time” (June 2012).  Turn off the TV. Turn off the music once in a while. Enjoy the sound of silence. And you’ll be in a better position to hear His voice.

There have been other times where people were trying to talk to me but I didn’t hear them because I wasn’t trying to hear. My mind was somewhere else. So we have to tune in.  Yehowah was constantly telling Israel to “SHEMA – HEAR, O Israel….” – part of Deuteronomy 6:4.  It’s surprising how much more we hear when we focus our hearing, expect to hear something, and tilt our ears so we can hear.  

When we pray, is it a monologue of all our requests – or is it a dialogue?  For years now, during my prayers I often stop praying, and with pen and paper in hand, just suggest to Father that I’d like Him to speak now please and tell me what He wants me to hear.  Honestly sometimes nothing happens. But it’s simply astonishing how many times I start writing HIS words, HIS thoughts, HIS commands to me when I shut up for a few minutes and let Father speak through His Spirit. Try this. The first time you experience yourself unable to keep up with His words, you’ll be floored! This has happened to me many, many times now.   

Father also uses His holy Spirit to communicate with us in many other ways.  If we are praying “thy will be done on earth just like it is up there in heaven” – and really believe it – be prepared to see doors opening up and doors slamming shut, to your delight.  For example, recently we made a major decision to move our home and business  across the country. My wife and I told Father we wanted this to be HIS desire for us, His decision, and HIS will and to please slam shut the doors we were approaching if they weren’t HIS open doors. We asked Him to bless us with open doors HE wanted for us. Time and again we saw His providential hand every step of the way, and continue to do so.  When you combine that with a mind at peace and at rest regardless of what’s swirling around you, what a joy this becomes.  He who commanded the stormy Sea of Galilee to calm down was fast asleep moments before. His inside was at peace – and so what was happening outside didn’t bother Him.  

So listen to YHVH speak to you -- through open and shut doors.  Listen to Him speak to you – if you’ve asked Him to speak to you – through people, phone calls, conversations, circumstances, sermons, even through an ass (like Balaam’s ass) if need be. He will use even bad people to get a message across if need be. Remember when Caiaphas said it was better that just one man die instead of the whole nation?  God inspired that (John 11:49-52)!  He also spoke through Gamaliel (Acts 5:34-41).  Sometimes Father chooses children to speak to us, or lessons from nature and creation, or circumstances.  He doesn’t speak to us just through ministers.  But He certainly can and does use ministers as well. So listen. Be aware.

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Leviticus 19:3. What’s the first thing mentioned about being holy? It’s interesting in light of “Mother’s Day”.

This weekend of May 11-12, 2013 in the USA we are honoring our Moms.  I wrote another blog as well – about moms who aren’t so wonderful (see previous blog).  Most parents are wonderful.  Some are not. Certainly no matter how toxic the relationship with your Mom or Dad might be in a few cases, pray for God to help you forgive and to love – for we are to love even our enemies, let alone our mom and dad, even when they’re far from perfect.  I don’t know any of us parents who would feel we are perfect parents. I know I’m not.  And my parents weren’t. And our adult children as parents of our grandchildren aren’t.  In spite of what all the cards might say, no one is perfect. No one.  But I thank God for my mom and dad and wish I had them around now. They both died decades ago.

Look at Lev. 19:3 – where honoring your mom is connected to keeping the sabbaths as part of the holiness teachings of the chapter. Take a look at it. Sabbaths – in plural – refer to ALL the moedim, or commanded holy day appointments. with our Maker.

After telling us to “be holy for I am holy”, Leviticus 19 then enumerates a long list of commands to illustrate how holy people are to live. This blog is about the first command in Lev.19 associated with holiness. It’s interesting for it combines what seem to be two very different topics – but it tells us something very important. Why is this instruction from Yehowah listed FIRST?  

Leviticus 19:2-3
"Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: 'You shall be holy, for I Yehowah your Elohim am holy. 
3 'Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am Yehowah your Elohim (the LORD your God).”

You and I can’t make ourselves holy.  Only holy God can make anything holy by His presence or by Him announcing that something or someone is to be set apart for holy use. We’re sanctified (set apart for holy use) by the blood of the Lamb. His holy spirit in us is what makes us holy – or “saints”. Apart from that, we are mere flesh.

So why is the fifth commandment mentioned along with keeping God’s sabbaths?  
Read the rest of this blog for something you may not have considered before.

First of all, the Almighty doesn’t say exactly why. But could it be because these two summarize love for God and love for man? Could it be these 2 commands are strongly linked in ways you may not have thought about?  Many have commented in the past that a civil society is much more likely when the family unit is cohesive; when children respect and honor their father and mother.  Look at the trends in our present society:  over 40% of children being born in America today are born out of wedlock. In black communities it’s almost twice that.  At least these young mothers are not killing their babies in abortion, but where’s the stable family for those babies to grow up in after they’re born?  And now it’s becoming commonplace for children to speak rudely to their own parents – and to teachers and other adults. I hear it and I’ve witnessed it.  It’s not uncommon for children – even adult children – to dishonor their father and mother. This can only mean that the very fabric of our society is unraveling before our very eyes. Interestingly here in Lev. 19:3, honoring our mother is listed first, even ahead of honoring our Dad.

How does the sabbath figure into this discussion? It’s not arbitrary.

The sabbath is holy time when we must stop all our earthly work, rest now – and “be with” the living God. I like to think of Shabbat (the sabbath) as a date with my Redeemer and my Father too.  After all, it’s the very first of the moedim – the divine appointments with Yehowah –mentioned in Leviticus 23:1-3. Sabbath is time we are to set aside to spend with our Maker. Remember the One who became Yeshua (Jesus) was the one who formed Adam from the adamah – the ground.  

So one way we show honor to our parents is by spending precious time with them. YHVH is our spiritual Father – the one living God in heaven.  Are we spending time with Him in a focused way on the appointed day HE set as holy time when He wants His family to come together as one? I know I just loved it when our whole family would come together and do things together.  And it grieves me mightily when things aren’t all what they should be on the home front.

Think about the connection here:  One big way fathers and mothers feel honored is when their children will talk to them, and want to come and spend time together with them.  Any mom or dad – or God -- can feel unloved and dishonored when their kids won’t spend time or ever call or talk.

We spend time with those we want to spend time with. It’s that simple. A parent gets the picture pretty quickly when a daughter or son won’t come by or return phone calls.  Almighty God is our FATHER. He is our “Parent”.  He wants you and me to call Him, visit Him and spend time with Him. He wants us to seek Him first. Too many of us get distracted or have lost the love for our mom and dad- - and God.

Our heavenly father is saying, as I read it anyway:   “Don’t think you’re honoring Me by coming before me at sabbath services – but you won’t spend time with your earthly mom and dad or really honor them. Hey, we’re linked together. I’m your Abba, your dear father, and I want you to turn your heart to your earthly father and mother too (Malachi 4:5-6).  Sabbath worship and honoring your parents go hand in hand because even the sabbath is ultimately about honoring your ultimate Parent!  YOU don’t get to pick your parents. I chose them for you. And as your heavenly father, I expect you to honor them.  By honoring them – and doing what I told you to do in that regard – you are honoring Me.”   

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Mother’s Day (USA). But what if Mom’s NOT so honorable?

Mother’s day is this coming May 12.  Mother’s Day in some countries does have a pagan root or history apparently, so believers in those countries rightfully do not observe it.  But Mother’s Day in the USA has no such pagan roots to the best of my knowledge – so I teach we should observe it.

Mothers should be honored every day and not just on Mother’s Day. I’m sure millions of words will be spoken and printed about how wonderful mothers are.  And those words should indeed be spoken and written. There certainly are a lot of amazing, incredible moms out there.   

But what about this? What if your mom’s not so amazing, not so incredible? Let’s be honest. Not everyone is amazing, though that adjective is way overused.  Sometimes I’ve been asked something like this:  “My mom frankly is a …(then they tell me something awful like one of these:  “a drunk, a whore, mean spirited, gambler, a drug addict, hot tempered, lazy, etc.”).”  The adult child continues:  “I don’t feel she’s worthy of my honor.  Isn’t respect and honor something that has to be earned?  I just can’t honor her on Mother’s Day.”   (And I know some who feel that way about their dad, and so the same question could come up on Father’s Day.)

OK, now what?  Please read the rest of this blog for those situations: when you have a mom you feel you can’t honor.  

I say honor her anyway. Love her anyway.  The 5th commandment – to Honor your Father and your Mother – does not come with any “if” statements.  Our heavenly father does not say to honor your Mom “IF she is a wonderful mom”.  YHVH says to honor her, period. Without any pre-conditions.  Giving honor in this case would be a matter of obeying God’s command.  

There’s something else: maybe, just maybe, your sincere gestures of giving honor to a woman who has fallen short (so far) of being an excellent mom --  just might be the catalyst to help her get her life back in order.

Even if they don’t admit it to you, most of us parents (including me, very much so) often feel we fell woefully short of being the perfect mom or dad we wanted to be.  We didn’t get weeks of training prior to having our babies.  Weeks?  Most of us got almost no training.  More is required to be able to get a driver’s license – than what’s required to get married or to qualify to have children. Think about that. So we parents all had to learn as we went along.  And suddenly the guilt began to happen.  The baby who wouldn’t stop crying and you’re worn out and it’s 2 a.m. You feel guilty for resenting the baby but you get up and check on the baby anyway.  Or someone’s told you to let the baby cry and not spoil the child.  But the guilt continues if you don’t get up. Then eventually some have a stubborn child who won’t budge. These can wear out the greatest of saints. Or the shy child whose shyness we made worse by always telling everyone in her presence “She’s so shy”.  And just when you thought it couldn’t get any harder, the middle teen years come along. Those of you with just little children, and who are so quick to judge parents who have teens, just you wait.  Your turn will come.  

You think of the many, many times you could have handled issues better – but at the time, you didn’t. Maybe your daughter didn’t get home til the wee hours of the morning. Or maybe you find drug paraphernalia. Or they had yet another car accident or endless traffic tickets. Or your son got someone pregnant. Or wants to drop out of school. Now what?  These are real life issues!

I’ll never forget the long, long chat I had with my mom when I was around 38 years old.  By that time, my youthful bravado had faded and I could see how far I’d fallen short of God’s standards. I was going through some tough, tough times.  I didn’t feel like a very good person – let alone a great dad or husband, and I told my Mom that.  She opened up to me for an hour in a way I’d never imagined. Basically her message was –“I know how you feel. I know I sure fell short of being the mom I should have been…”  Though I assured her otherwise, I could tell she had regrets.

Mom started to sob when I started recounting the many ways I felt she had been an incredible mom.  She was a single mom after her divorce, so I told her that I remember her long hours after work toiling to get the laundry done at the Laundromat, keeping up with the housework and shopping and raising teens – all while somehow trying to make the dollar stretch.  We were very poor. We always had way more month left at the end of the money, it seemed.  I assured her we understood her stresses and that I loved her – especially now that I could see how hard it was to be a parent of kids who would soon be teens at the time. It reached a climax when I blurted out, “Mom, now I appreciate a lot more all you went through…”   

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