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.

WHY Fast on Atonement?

When we keep the Day of Atonement, we normally fast. Why? And if you do, is your fasting effective – OR is it honestly just a day of feeling hungry, thirsty and probably headachy without your morning coffee?

And am I the only one who 12 minutes after we can’t eat or drink for 24 hours – gets this overwhelmingly strong, strong craving desire that I just have to have a drink or a snack. Am I the only one?

We’re told to “afflict your souls” on the Day of Atonement (Lev 23:27, 32). But nowhere do I know that we’re commanded to fast, at least in plain English or plain Hebrew, but we do. And I do. I do have a sermon about the meaning of this day on this website, but what about the fasting?

It goes back to God’s call to make this a day when we “afflict” our souls and do no work.

            Leviticus 16:29 and 31 say “you shall afflict your souls…”

            This theme is repeated in Lev 23:27, 32 and Numbers 29:7.

This phrase “afflict your souls” is widely understood to mean fasting.

The Day of Atonement was commonly called “the Fast” – and Paul says when they sailed, it was dangerous, it was late in the season for sailing, “because the Fast was already over…” Acts 27:9. The Fast was synonymous with Yom Kippur/Atonement.

So “afflict your souls” was understood to mean one should fast. David said he afflicted and humbled his soul with fasting (Psalm 35:13; 69:10)

Psalm 35:13 -- David says he even fasted for those who were against him. “I humbled my soul with fasting”. In Psalm 69:10 he chastened his soul with fasting. David tells us that sometimes we have to wake up and deal seriously with issues in our lives.

During times when people were diligently seeking after God, and repenting, it was common to fast as a symbol you were serious about this and to use the time of preparing and eating the meals to be time to do extra diligent praying. Oftentimes people would dedicate an entire day or more to just fasting and prayer.

When was the last time you and I fasted for at least 24 hours - besides the commanded Day of Atonement?

*** The apostle Paul said he was in “fastings often” (2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27). 

*** Anna the prophetess “served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:37) and God rewarded her diligence. 

People in the Bible equated fasting with deep repentance and seeking after God; seeking a closer walk with our Maker.

For example, when Daniel was personally repenting for himself and the nation, he fasted (Daniel 9:3). He says he was intent on seeking YHVH God “by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes”. You can read his heart-rending prayer in the rest of Daniel 9. But during all that time he was fasting.

When was the last time you and I fasted for someone suffering with cancer, severe pain, or other severe trials? I would say we should be fasting at least once a month or more – and yes, I preach to myself too. I want to commit to that in the coming year myself.

 Click on “Continue reading” to finish the rest of this lesson. Learn about what the Ninevites did, and the main chapter all about fasting, and how we can make this day of fasting result in meaningful changes in our lives.

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Who is the greatest servant in your home?

If people who know you and your family very well were asked who the greatest servant was in your home, what do you think their answer would be? Or if they asked your children those questions, what would the children say? And why does this even matter? You’ll see that this matters a whole lot. What did Yeshua have to say about it? 

If you were to give an honest answer to that question about who serves and helps out most in your own family and household – what would your answer be? In old traditional families, daddy did the work outside and at the office and mom was expected to do the work (and serving) at home. I realize that has been changing with the under 65’s for the past few years, but my question still stands. 

I think many believers “serve” in many ways, especially outside the home. But the point of this blog today is – “OK, but what about at home?” And what about when no one’s around to see? Really this should apply everywhere anyway. Let’s see what Yeshua said. 

Luke 22:24-27 “Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. 25 And He said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.' 26 But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. 27 For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.” 

Please read and re-read those words of our Master and our Servant King several times. He is our Lord, our Master, our leader.  

In the world today, servants are seen as low down the echelon of power or greatness. We speak of “menial” jobs and low-class jobs in a demeaning way. So janitors, yard workers, garbage collectors, even waitresses and many more are looked down on. But think: if they all quit for a few days, we’d all sure know about it, wouldn’t we? 

And we aren’t thrilled when it seems a boss expects you or me to make the coffee – and then, horrors – clean up in the workplace dining area afterwards. 

Would Yeshua have felt demeaned to make coffee? I suggest he might have even offered to be the one to make coffee and clean up and I’ll prove it. First of all remember he said (Luke 22:27)—“…Yet I am among you as one who serves!” 

Click on Continue reading to wake us all up to become great in His eyes, by becoming ever greater in acts of service.

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How are we treating Yeshua, the Son of God?  

As you look over the title of this short article, you might well feel you treat your Savior Yeshua (Jesus) very well. After all, you worship Him formally each day and each week.  You praise him and probably openly profess your love for him, but are you so sure the Son of God always feels loved and appreciated by you?  Do we actually treat the Son of God with the respect, honor, worship and regard that we think we are – and should?  

This might be eye-opening to some of you if you haven’t dwelt on this topic lately. I might even give this topic full attention in a sermon in the near future.

The members of the ekklesia—the called-out ones from the world – are called parts of the body of Christ. Paul says some are like the hands, the feet, the mouth or even the “unseemly parts” of the body of Christ – but all are needed. It would be a great review to read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.  Paul concludes that section by saying when one part of the body suffers, all suffer.  You see, we belong to one another, even as we belong to the Christ.

What does this have to do with how Jesus (Yeshua) feels when we are kind and do good to one another – or if we hurt, gossip about and attack one another?   So here’s one way (there are many potential points) that shows how we’re actually treating Yeshua.

*** Yeshua loves God’s family very, very deeply. The way we treat Yeshua’s brothers and sisters will be the way He feels we are treating HIM. 

Read that again and ponder it.  Here are a couple of textbook examples of this.

Do you remember the story of when God called the Pharisee Saul (later called “Paul”) as he raced up the road to Damascus to imprison new Christian Jews?  Remember the bright light and how Saul heard the voice speaking in Hebrew to him?  Now do you remember what Yeshua said to Paul?  Also Acts 26:12-18.

Acts 9:3-5

As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?"
And he said, "Who are You, Lord?"
Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads."

Where do we read any time that Paul had been persecuting Christ directly? It’s not there in scripture.  Paul was persecuting the brethren – but not directly Jesus Christ. But Christ – Yeshua—took it very personally as Paul shackled, beat, imprisoned and humiliated new believers. Some even ended up like Stephen – dead.

If you stomp on my feet, I feel the pain – for my feet are a part of me.  If you stab my back, I will not enjoy what you’re doing to me.  It’s the same with Christ and how he feels about the way we treat his body, the believers. 

My point is simple:  when you and I gossip against brethren, when we hurt brethren by word or deed, when we selfishly forget to pray for one another or when we do things that show we disrespect and dishonor one another – Yeshua takes that personally. Start with your own family. If we stab a sister or brother – maybe a literal brother or sister or dad or mom – in the back, Christ takes it personally. When you holler at your wife, you’ve hollered at Christ. 

Yes, I see myself in these things too. I’ve had to repent of unkind things I’ve done, apparently against my Savior.  You see, WE – and other believers – make up the BODY of Christ.  So as Paul punched, pummeled and shackled the brethren of the church, Christ himself felt like he himself was being punched, pummeled and shackled – by Paul. Hence his question, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting…ME?”  And again, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,”

OK, so you don’t physically hurt other believers, but we do gossip. Some groups calling themselves a branch of the church of God refuses fellowship with other brethren. Some write scathing articles and letters against fellow believers and ministers.  Please understand:  the Son of God feels all that being said about HIM.  That is why I personally don’t support or get involved in groups that attack other believers – often by NAME, and in print! 

On the other hand, when we pray for one another, say encouraging things about one another, help one another, lift each other up and do everything in our power to leave a wonderful sense of joy and peace among the children of God – wow, we’re doing that to Yeshua the Son of God himself as well!    

Another famous example of this is in Matthew 25:31-46, where Yeshua speaks of gathering everyone before him as sheep and goats.  The “sheep” are the righteous who helped HIM when he needed help. They dug into their own pockets and bought some clothes for HIM when he was naked.  They made sure HE had something to eat. When he was an awkward newcomer to the group, the sheep-type welcomed him and showed him around and introduced him to the others and made him feel at home.

The righteous “sheep” said they didn’t remember ever doing all that. Let’s read that part in Matthew 25:39-40 -- “Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'  40 And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'

So with that in mind, I praise, thank and pray for all of you for example, who help us with the orphan children in Kenya whose parents have died of AIDS.  Our pastor over there has a poor church and he and his wife now feed and care for 30 children now – ages 7-17 now after all these years.  Because of you righteous sheep, we’re even able to send them all to school the last few years – including their required uniforms, fees, dues, school lunches, shoes, supplies, etc. Not to mention their bedding, their well, a home, land – a new shot at a great life in a poor country. We do not wish to perpetuate the cycle of poverty often exacerbated by illiteracy.  In fact many of our students there place in the top 5 of their class! 

The Messiah is saying to you:  “I was hungry, and you gave ME healthy food – when you made it possible for a bunch of orphans to realize there really are people who care for them.  As you do it for them, I take that personally. Well done, well done, and I’ll make sure you have a great reward in my kingdom to come.” 

But you see, it’s not just orphans in Kenya. It’s also about how we treat our fellow believers right here where we live, or in the other group over across town.  It involves your literal dad, your mom, your brother and sister – I mean your siblings. This includes how we treat our husband or wife. 

We are supposed to be the very embodiment of Yeshua walking here on earth through you and me. We are growing to look and be more and more like him.  So when we’re hurt, we say –as HE did – “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  When we have an opportunity, we bless and share what we have.

We want to be a part of a ministry that leads people to love God and love each other – the two greatest commandments.

It is, in fact, this profound LOVE we have for one another that marks us as his disciples. You surely know the scripture – the one on John 13:34-35.  This is why I want nothing to do with groups that often badmouth other believers and other ministers – except that God soften their hearts and open their eyes and lead them to become truly loving people.  

John 13:34-35 – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  35 By THIS all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Every group knows that passage, but few groups even come close to practicing it. Some do. Hallelujah.

Just think what we could accomplish as the body of Christ if we started celebrating the talents our heavenly Father has bestowed on each one and ENJOY each one letting God’s spirit flow out of them in good deeds and uplifting words.  It would be a real life “Dream team” that would bring Father and Saviour great, great joy.  That’s the way the church should be. We enjoy watching God’s people – all of them – using and maximizing what God’s spirit has given EACH ONE, without feeling envious or inferior. 

Finally, there is the “measure for measure” principle.  Our holy Master says that if we don’t forgive each other, he won’t forgive us either.  If we do forgive each other, he will forgive us (Matthew 6:14-15).  Whom do you hate?  Do you still have any grudges you hang on to?  Don’t keep them in your heart.

Scripture is clear: if we are generous to the poor and needy, he takes that personally – and will be generous with us.  He calls it “lending to the Lord”.

He says the standard we use against one another or to help one another is the exact same standard he will use on us in the judgment.  Go read it yourself in Matthew 7:1-2

So I think it would behoove us to be kind and forgiving of one another.  Start at home with your wife or husband.  Or your dad. Marriage and family relationships were given to us as such great training grounds to practice love, forgiveness, kindness and hope – even when we’re not always receiving all of that. It’s a great place to practice living in the Kingdom.   I know I need a lot of forgiveness from God – so, I need to be compassionately forgiving you, my wife, my neighbor and all the other family of Christ I come in contact with.  In fact, like Christ, we are to forgive even our enemies.

Here’s the first point again:  However we are treating other fellow human beings, and especially fellow believers in the true God, is the way the Son of God will feel we are treating HIM. 

Of course there are OTHER ways we show we love the Messiah. This next point is worthy of a whole sermon, but let me mention it:  Christ also feels loved when we obey Him and his commandments – John 14:15 – “If you love me, keep my commandments.”   This point meshes well with the other one actually.

John 15:12-14 --- “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.  14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.

John 14:15---"If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

So – a lot to ponder.  How well are we treating Yeshua, the Messiah – the Son of God?   Does he feel loved by you?

 

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Does God Create Evil?

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7 KJV).

In the King James version of the Bible quoted above, this verse from the Book of Isaiah is one that has puzzled countless people over the centuries since that translation was made.  If God is good, we might naturally ask, how can he create evil?  But three lines of evidence show that the KJV translation is not accurate in this instance and must be revised in order to properly understand what Isaiah wrote.  We will look at the three factors individually.

First, the Hebrew word ra translated “evil” in the KJV of Isaiah 45:7 can mean moral evil, and it is often rightly translated that way in the Old Testament; but the word also has the meanings of physical adversity, calamity, disaster, injury, ruin, or even misery.  So while evil is a possible translation in Isaiah 45:7, it is only one of many and we must look at the immediate context of the scripture and the context of the whole Bible to see which meaning would be most appropriate in this verse.

Second, the immediate context of Isaiah 45:7 indicates that Isaiah did not have moral evil in mind when he composed this verse. Chapter 45 has a clear context in which God says he rewards obedience (for example, vss. 8, 17) and punishes disobedience, rebellion and sin (for example, vss. 9, 16). This immediate context makes it far more likely that Isaiah 45:7 is using the Hebrew word ra in the sense of calamity or disaster that comes upon the wicked as a result of their own actions. We can see this in the exact wording of the verse –  notice how “light and darkness” (two direct opposites) are compared with “peace and evil.” But evil is not the opposite of peace – this second pair of words should clearly be “peace and calamity.”

Finally, everything we are told throughout the Bible about the goodness and righteousness of God indicates that God does not himself create that which is wrong or morally evil.  The prophet Habakkuk tells us of God: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil” (Habakkuk 1:13); the Psalms tell us: “The LORD is upright…there is no wickedness in him” (Psalm 92:15); Isaiah himself tells us that “Those who walk righteously … shut their eyes against contemplating evil” (Isaiah 33:15).  These and a great many other biblical verses show that God clearly does not and cannot contemplate evil.

The fact that the Hebrew word translated “evil” has many other meanings, the fact that the immediate context of Isaiah 45:7 is one of the calamities of punishment for sin rather than the creation of moral evil, and the fact that the Bible is consistent in showing that God does not even look at evil all indicate that it is not moral evil that God creates, but the punishment that comes as a result of sin. 

That is why English translations made since the King James was translated in 1611 have almost all chosen to translate the Hebrew ra not as “evil” but with a word reflecting some kind of punishment. The New International Version, for example, translates the word “disaster,” as does the Holman Bible. The English Standard Version translates it “calamity,” as does the New King  James Version which brings the English of the King James Version up to date.  God does not ever directly create evil, though he creates beings that may of their own will turn to evil and bring punishment upon themselves.

R. Herbert (a pen name), holds an earned doctorate in biblical studies and ancient Near Eastern languages and archaeology. He writes for a number of Christian venues as well as for his websites at LivingWithFaith.org and TacticalChristianity.org where you can also find his free e-books.

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What “apocalypse” really means  

We hear the words “apocalypse” or “apocalyptic” a lot. But what does “apocalypse” mean?  What do you think it means?  I had a dear friend send me a note about this and how revealing it was to learn the true meaning of the word. I thought it could make for an interesting blog. I’ve been aware of the real meaning for a long time, as we used to hear our human church leader often talk of it 30-40 years ago. But perhaps it’s not something you’re aware of. So let’s explore.

On the news or in movies, you’ll hear that word “apocalypse” used in a way that points to things happening of major catastrophic proportions. You’ll hear:  “The damage, carnage and destruction we see all around us right now with the hurricanes and tornadoes we’ve been through is nothing short of apocalyptic”.  Or you might hear this: “If war were to break out between the major super-powers right now, it would surely bring on the apocalypse and Armageddon”.  Yes, you’ll find the concept of Armageddon and Apocalypse often in the same sentence or paragraph. Armageddon of course is a description of a super-catastrophic end-time battle that ends with millions dead (see Revelation 16). 

This usage of the word “apocalypse”, I believe, can all be traced back to the horrendous visions of destruction, war and calamity that we can read about in the book of Revelation.  So I think people tend to use the word “apocalypse” to mean - - “events such as we see described in the book of Revelation”.  The word “apocalypse” comes from the Greek word apokalupsis. But the word does not mean “catastrophe” or destruction or a huge war at all. Not at all.

Click the “Continue reading” button below to finish this short blog. You’ll in for a real revelation.

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What did Yeshua (Jesus) have to say about Sodom?

(Note:  I will use the name Yeshua, the Hebrew given name for Jesus throughout)

A new friend asked me what to say to his gay friends who are being called by God when they ask if they as well as others being called, can be part of the new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  He knows, we all know, that a practicing adulterer, liar, thief, extortioner, homosexual or abuser of himself with mankind, etc. etc. will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).  But God IS calling sinners from all backgrounds, including gay men and women.  What does scripture say to them?  This is my encouraging answer.

We ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But WE like to categorize sinners and levels of sin into ‘not so bad – a sinner like me, much worse than me, unforgivably bad, so bad he/she should be banned from others for forever and ever”.  So we can end up feeling some people with sins in the last 2 categories we set up should never ever be allowed in church fellowship. 

That is so wrong. That is so un-Christ-like.  Let’s look into this. There was a Corinthian man who had done some sexual things so bad that it could barely be described – and he was thrown out of the fellowship (see 1 Corinthians 5).  But later Paul ordered the brethren to welcome him back in upon his repentance (2 Cor. 2).  I’m sure there were some there hoping they’d never have to see him again. Some could have argued he was too dangerous to allow back. Paul said – extend your love to him, welcome him back, lest Satan take advantage.

We can all easily end up a bit like the Pharisee who stood praying how grateful he was that he was not as bad as other people.  Yep, you’ve thought those thoughts; I’ve thought those thoughts, forgetting we all need the same forgiveness.  And we want nothing to do with someone who has issues going on that we hate.  So we might not want to be seen with repentant sinners who were hooked on porn, or who have tattoos all over their body, or who had been practicing homosexuals, or people who had committed serial adulteries.  No, those are not our friends as a rule of thumb.  We like to be seen with acceptable people.

I remember pastoring a church where we had some indigenous American Indians – Mohawks - attending with us.  Some voiced some concern. So in the next sermon I made a statement, “I would be so thrilled if ALL the Mohawk Indians from the reservation nearby would be called by God and start attending with us!”.  

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BORDERS – Did YHVH (GOD) create borders?

Any of you who have travelled abroad, realize you have to go through Customs, have a passport, in some cases show your visa as well, declare your purpose for coming into their country, answer a few questions – and then you can proceed. But we can’t just step into any other country without the proper paperwork and acknowledgement that we are entering as a foreigner into someone else’s country.

 

I start with this because for some reason, some in this country want us to act like we have no border. Even the former president of Mexico recently made the statement “God did not create borders”. 

 

My wife and I immediately reacted to that. Obviously he doesn’t know the Bible very well. Scripture is clear:  GOD created borders.  Let me show you

 

What’s the first “border” you can think of that is clearly mentioned in scripture; a border that YHVH himself imposed?  I’ll grant you, some can make a case for much earlier borders than what I’m about to mention.

 

The Garden of Eden. When our ancient parents transgressed the Almighty’s command – they were ejected from the Garden.  But then what?  YHVH placed cherubs (cherubim is plural) with a flaming sword at the ONE entrance to the garden, keeping out anyone unauthorized to enter.  This is something GOD did, folks.  So our God clearly intended to enforce his borders. Let’s read it:

 

Genesis 3:24  -- “So He (YHVH)  drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”

A case can be made there was a prior illegal border crossing. See Jude 6, which gives us a hint that the first unauthorized border crossing was when Heylel (improperly called Lucifer) and his rebellious angels left their proper domain and attempted the first coup d’état against God himself.

 

Scripture mentions “border” or “borders” close to 200 times. Here’s one. 

Genesis 10:19--- “And the BORDER of the Canaanites was from Sidon as you go toward Gerar, as far as Gaza; then as you go toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.” 

 

Did God create boundaries and borders?  How about these:

Deuteronomy 32:7-8 -- "Remember the days of old, Consider the years of many generations.  Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you:  When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when HE separated the sons of Adam, HE set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel.”

 

Acts 17:24-26 -- “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings…”

Next let’s look at Numbers 34, where indeed the Almighty HIMSELF specifies the borders and boundaries for each of the tribes of Israel.

 

Numbers 34:1-12   “Then YHVH spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Command the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance — the land of Canaan to its boundaries. 3 Your southern border shall be from the Wilderness of Zin along the border of Edom; then your southern border shall extend eastward to the end of the Salt Sea; 4 your border shall turn from the southern side of the Ascent of Akrabbim, continue to Zin, and be on the south of Kadesh Barnea; then it shall go on to Hazar Addar, and continue to Azmon; 5 the border shall turn from Azmon to the Brook of Egypt, and it shall end at the Sea.

 

6 'As for the western border, you shall have the Great Sea for a border; this shall be your western border.   [The Mediterranean Sea]

7 'And this shall be your northern border: From the Great Sea you shall mark out your border line to Mount Hor; 8 from Mount Hor you shall mark out your border to the entrance of Hamath; then the direction of the border shall be toward Zedad; 9 the border shall proceed to Ziphron, and it shall end at Hazar Enan. This shall be your northern border.

 

10 'You shall mark out your eastern border from Hazar Enan to Shepham; 11 the border shall go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain; the border shall go down and reach to the eastern side of the Sea of Chinnereth; 12 the border shall go down along the Jordan, and it shall end at the Salt Sea. This shall be your land with its surrounding boundaries.'"

 

That was YHVH – Yehovah himself speaking there!  So did GOD create borders?  Pretty clear, isn’t it.  He updates Israel’s borders for a future time in Ezekiel 47 and 48. Check it out. 

 

Asaph wrote in Psalm 74:17 the following:  “YOU have set all the borders of the earth;  You have made summer and winter.”

So you see, the former president of Mexico was dead wrong when he said “God did not create borders.” 

Now, having borders does not mean we should not allow visitors, immigrants and new citizens.  But borders are of God. They should be respected.  And foreigners are to be loved and respected  - but they must abide by the same laws that existing citizens have to obey.

 

For a full discussion according to Scripture on what our attitude should be towards foreigners, please check out my sermon on it:

 

It is titled “God’s Word on Foreigners and Aliens” and was given 08/08/2015.   Just click on the link below.   I think it will be thought-provoking for you. 

 

http://www.lightontherock.org/index.php/message/god-s-word-on-foreigners-aliens 

 

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THE VERSE WE ALL KNOW, YET DON’T

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). 


John 3 16For many Christians John 3:16 is their best known and most loved verse in the Bible. It has been called the “golden verse” of Scripture, one of the Bible’s most succinct summaries of the gospel, and the ultimate single-verse summary of God’s plan for humanity.   But many do not realize just how much meaning is packed into this one short verse –  its very familiarity often obscures its richness –  and it can be profitable to look at each part of the verse more closely:

“For…”The word “For” with which this verse begins points back to John’s previous statement that: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him” (John 3:14-15). This refers, of course, to the bronze image of a serpent that God instructed Moses to place on a high pole for the healing of the Israelites who acknowledged their sin in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9). In that story, everyone who “looked at” the serpent was granted life, and in John’s Gospel we see Christ made it clear that in the same way whoever “believes” on him is granted eternal life (John 3:16).  Looking and believing are equal in these accounts of the same story –  faith is “looking” without the eyes, or beyond what the physical eyes see, to a reality that saves (see our article “Seeing Is Believing: The Serpent on the Stake”here).  That is the background to John 3:16 – that our belief is not just the acceptance of an abstract idea about God and what he has done, but an active looking to the Person who is salvation .

“God so loved…”We should also realize that when this verse tells us that God “so” loved the world, it does not mean God loved the world “so much.”  Instead, the Greek in which the verse was written clearly means God loved the world “in this way.” In other words, “God loved the world in this way – he gave his only son …” It’s an important difference.  The Old Testament often stresses God’s love (Isaiah 63:9; Hosea 11:1-4, etc.), but John 3:16 shows the way in which that love was expressed.

“the world…”The Greek word translated “world” is kosmoswhich can mean not just the physical world or universe, but also –  as in this case –  all the inhabitants of the world. Rather than just telling us that God loved people in general, “the world” emphasizes the all-inclusive and universal love that God displayed – love of everyone without exception.

“that he gave…”Giving is, of course, characteristic of the nature of God –  it is one of the things that most clearly defines him –  and the gift of his son is his greatest gift, eclipsing all others (Romans 8:32).  The gift was foreshadowed in the prophets, as Isaiah wrote: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…” (Isaiah 9:6).  

“his one and only son...”In this phrase John stresses that God’s love extended to giving his “one and only" son – a sacrifice that reminds us of the story of Abraham’s willingness to give up Isaac (Hebrews 11:17).  Here the expression marks the unique nature of the gift that God was willing to give (1 John 4:9).

“that whoever believes on him…”The word “whoever” signifies “everyone” and stresses again the universal nature of God’s gift and its availability to anyone who will accept it. John reiterates this truth a little later in the same chapter: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life …” (John 3:36).  Unseen in our English translations is the fact that the word “believes” is a “present participle” in the Greek of the New Testament – a verbal form that stresses continuity of action. The required belief is not just associated with a one-time emotional occurrence – it is ongoing, and it only those who continue to  believe who receive the gift (Matthew 24:13).

 “shall not perish but have eternal life.” Here we see as much stress on God’s desire that we do not perish (2 Peter 3:9) as on his desire to grant us life. The specific words “eternal life” are typical of the teaching of the apostle John, who uses them more than twice as many times as all the other Gospel writers combined. John here uses the expression in the present tense to stress that the life God offers us is not just life that we “shall” have at some future time, but spiritual life that begins now, in the present, and continues eternally from now.

The total message of this great verse is echoed by John in his first epistle: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9). But it is only in John 3:16, the verse we all know but do not always appreciate to the full, that the great message is so clearly and thoroughly explained.

R. Herbert (a pen name), Ph.D., was trained in biblical studies and Ancient Near Eastern languages and archaeology. He writes for a number of Christian venues as well as for his websites at LivingWithFaith.org and TacticalChristianity.org where you can also find his free e-books.

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Are You an Imitation?

 

Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery - it's the sincerest form of learning.”
― George Bernard Shaw

imitationThe word “imitation” often has a negative connotation – we can think of imitation designer clothes that don’t look as good as the real items, imitation coffee or milk that doesn’t taste as good as the real thing, and many other examples.  Usually, the imitation is just not as good as the thing imitated – the real thing.

But there is one type of imitation that is perfectly acceptable - in fact desirable:  when God himself is involved in the process of imitation.  The first chapter of Genesis clearly tells us that God made an imitation when he made the first human.  “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them…” (Genesis 1:26-27).  And, of course, when God had done this,  God looked at the imitation he had made and “God saw… it was very good” (vs. 31).

Naturally, the imitation God made of himself was not endowed with the power, wisdom, goodness and countless other qualities that God has, but it had a small measure of these qualities – just enough to show the family likeness – and  it was good, but it wasn’t as like the original as might be possible.

In most cases, if you have an imitation of something, that’s what you are stuck with.  It’s always going to be a kind of second-class item.  But the interesting thing about the imitation that God made is that it was upgradable.  God made the imitation of himself with the ability for countless ongoing upgrades – with the potential to make the imitation ever more like the original.  In one sense, that’s what life is – or should be – all about: taking the opportunity to fulfill that potential.

So this kind of imitation is not wrong – or in any way second class.  It’s something we should all be doing in our lives – seeking to be a better imitation of God.  You may not have thought about it this way, but that was what Jesus himself was doing, on a daily basis, during His physical life.  Notice what he said in this regard: “… the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19).   Jesus plainly says that even though he was the Son of God, his focus was on imitating God.  He knew the Father and constantly imitated him in his actions and thoughts.

How do we do this?  Although we do not have the unique knowledge of God that Jesus had, fortunately, God has made available clear templates and instructions for us to follow to continuously “upgrade” ourselves to become increasingly better imitations.

First, we can imitate the original by getting to know God better through in-depth study of his word, not just in looking to see what it says, but looking to see what it says about him.  It’s a different approach when we don’t just read the story, but read the story like we would read the instructions for updating the software on our computers – carefully, and focusing on what the words are showing us that we should do to successfully make the upgrade.

Second, we can imitate good copies.  God has given us the examples of his trained and trusted servants who closely imitate him. This is why the apostle Paul repeatedly stresses that we need to look at his example and that of others to the extent that they imitate Christ.  Look at these instances of what Paul says about this: 

“Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus …”  (1 Corinthians 4:16).

“We did this… in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate” (2 Thessalonians 3:9).

These words of Paul dovetail with those found in the Book of Hebrews:

 “… imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Hebrews 6:12).

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).

Third, we can pray specifically for help in becoming a better imitation.   Notice in Philippians Paul tells us something about imitating. He says we should “… have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), and after discussing this he then goes on to say “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (vs. 12).  If we are praying for God’s will in our lives, we should be getting his help to better imitate him and those he has changed – and we can pray for this specifically.

We need to remember that humans are actually programmed to imitate. That’s how we learn language, social skills, and countless other things.  It’s in our natures to imitate, and God put that there for a reason.  As a result, we must be careful, as John says, that we “do not imitate what is evil, but what is good” (3 John 1:11a).  If we are diligently studying, watching and praying to better imitate the model we have been given, God will continue his work in us and our spiritual imitation of his nature will truly be “very good.”

 

R. Herbert (a pen name), Ph.D., was trained in biblical studies and Ancient Near Eastern languages and archaeology. He writes for a number of Christian venues as well as for his websites at LivingWithFaith.org and TacticalChristianity.org where you can also find his free e-books. 

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Did Yeshua (Jesus) really say these?

In this recent Christmas season, there was a lot of talk of “baby Jesus”.  Some even use that as an expression.  Many speak of “sweet Jesus”.  Certainly, he was a baby. Certainly, he is kind.

Some of the most often cited scriptures in the entire Bible are His words about being our Shepherd, a good one at that.  And that His Father so loved all of us that he sent his one and only son – Yeshua – to die for us so that any who believe in him would be saved, and not perish.  You know many more verses about him being the Way, the truth and the life. He was the perfect son of God. He is our Lord. He’s great, he’s love, he’s terrific, he’s kind and he’s forgiving.  All that is absolutely true.   

But how often does your pastor ever preach these other verses that are also words spoken by the son of God?  Paul and Peter and others certainly did. Paul spoke of the “severity of God”, as well as his goodness. God is love.  But God is also just. Sometimes his justice frankly can be severe, especially at people who don’t believe or won’t obey.  And faith/belief and obedience go hand in hand, frankly. 

Paul didn’t mince his words. In talking to the Romans – and you can go back and get the entire context about the Olive tree analogy – look what Apostle Paul says:

Romans 11:21-22

For if God did not spare the natural branches [the Jews], He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness AND severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, IF you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.”

Ministers love the gentle verses about forgiveness, patience, grace, and God’s patience and so on.  And so do I.  I love to preach of God’s grace and his imputed righteousness we receive by faith, as so many scriptures teach.  But I also want to be sure to give you, what Paul calls “the WHOLE counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).  So this blog – which could develop into an even more exhaustive sermon on the topic – will do just that:  talk about other words of Yeshua that are just as true and pertinent as the ones which are often quoted. 

Again, how often do you ever hear these scriptures used in church or on the radio?  Brace yourself. You may be surprised these words came from Yeshua.  But remember: he is a loving king and Savior to those who seek Him and submit to him as Lord of lords, king of kings.  But to those who carelessly believe they don’t need to change, don’t need to overcome, don't need to be prepared and ready for his coming, and don’t need to seek him with all their might – they WILL be in for a big surprise.  So here we go; remember these are Yeshua’s OWN words!  Check them out! 

Luke 12:45-48 -- “But if that servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.  47 And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”

Have I made my point?  “Jesus said that?”   I can hear people thinking that already. Yes he did.  Yeshua spoke of beating ineffective servants with stripes?  Yes.   Click on “continue reading” to read a few more tough sayings of our King.   This should help you understand that our king is not just a “baby Jesus” or always a “sweet Jesus”.  If we don’t obey him or prepare for him, his coming will be a very, very sharp wake-up call for many – including many who call themselves his followers, as you shall see.

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If you could ask the Son of God three questions ….

If you had the opportunity right now to be in front of your Saviour, and you were promised a definite and audible answer directly from him for any three questions you have, what would they be?  What would be the most pressing questions on your mind? 

Pause reading this for a minute and just ask yourself that question, and what do you instantly come up with?  Write down your instant answers before continuing.

I don’t know that there is a “right” or “wrong” answer to this.  You’ll find there are questions that just immediately pop up. But the more you let this marinate in your mind, you’ll find other questions, deeper questions, start to surface. 

Many would express the perennial questions like “Why did you have to create – mosquitoes?”  (Or other annoyances – fire ants, poisonous snakes, any biting insects, etc).  

But then far more serious questions you’d like to ask would also bubble up – like “Why did you let my little baby die?”  and variations on that theme: 

**  “Why didn’t you heal so-and-so when so many were praying for healing?” 

**   “Why don’t you intervene more in wars that hurt and kill so many innocent people?”

**   “Why do you let horrible and evil dictators and drug lords continue in their deadly ways?”

Click on “continue reading” to examine other concepts you’ll want to be considering as you ponder this topic today.  It’s an important question – “What would you ask Yeshua (Jesus) if you had that opportunity to see him and receive his clear and audible answers today?” 

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Are you burying your talent?

We read the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 and perhaps wonder why would someone just bury his talent?  But then I believe many believers are doing the same thing: burying their talent.

A “talent” in the Parable of Matthew 25 was actually a sum of money or possibly a weight, as in “a talent of gold” or “a talent of silver”.  It does not mean what our English word “talent” means.  A talent of either gold or silver would be worth millions today. We can assume the ruler or master who bestowed these “talents” for growth and development was a powerful and wealthy man – picturing Yeshua, the coming King of kings, actually.

In any case, our Master bestowed money – or talents – to various ones. Since our God is the King of the Universe, and owns all things ultimately, everything you and I have been given, or have access to, is ultimately something that came from our Creator. Besides money and abilities (as in the English word “talent”), our very lives, our families, our home, our opportunities, our abilities, and of course receiving the very spirit of God – and much more – are all “talents” we’ve been given. 

Luke 16:10 says “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”  There are many scriptures that say we all will have to stand and give account of what we did with what we’ve been given. We’ve each been given a lot. Each of us will also have to account for a lot then as well.

Frankly at times I fear for times in my life when I wasn’t protecting, developing, investing and growing the opportunities and stewardship I had been given. I hope through Christ in me, I hope I’m doing better now. But that got me thinking:  are we like the one servant who just buried his talent?

There comes a day of reckoning when we each must stand before our Maker and explain what we did with what he gave us.  See Romans 14:10-12 and Hebrews 4:13.

So each of the servants in Matthew 25 gave account.  Those who doubled what they were given were commended and invited to enter the joy of Lord and were given more responsibilities.  But then he came to the final servant who claimed he was afraid to use – and maybe lose – the sum of money he had been given, so he buried it “for safe keeping”.  That man’s talent was given to someone else, because Yeshua makes it clear that those who use and grow what they’ve been given, will be given more.  And those who do not will have what they had been given, taken away.

How’s it looking for you?  Are YOU and I burying the talents, opportunities, gifts of God’s spirit and all the things we have been given?  Or are we putting them to work and growing our opportunities? 

Click on “Continue reading” to find out if you’re burying your talents or not. I dare say most of us are doing a mix:  profitably using and growing some of what we’ve been given, and disregarding the rest.

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Hanukkah. Is it OK for believers in Yeshua to keep it?

I first posted this blog in December 2012 but felt it warranted being posted again.

Hanukkah is here. What is it? Why are more and more Christians, even Sabbath keepers, recognizing and keeping Hanukkah?  Some feel it is merely a Jewish counterbalance to Christmas. Others believe it is a Jewish festivity not mentioned in Scripture. What’s true? Should you and I – believers in Yeshua - -keep Hanukkah?  What did Jesus do about Hanukkah? Yes, we’re actually told in Scripture! 

Read the rest of this blog to learn what Hanukkah is about, what Yeshua did during Hanukkah, whether or not believers can participate in some way and what lessons we can learn from this holiday.

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Woe to those who call evil – good. Isaiah 5:20

I was listening to some young people talking the other day and someone was describing a great and fun and wonderful time they had had at such-and-such a place.  “Aw man, it was wicked.  It was so much fun.” 

I don’t think the young man speaking meant “It was evil” – but that it was great, it was fun in his eyes. Later on, I heard someone else say, “Ohh…you’re bad! But that’s what I like about you”.  He didn’t mean the guy was really bad, as in evil, but that he was good.

In Isaiah 5:20 the Everliving One warns us:   “WOE to those who call evil good, and good evil…”

So please don’t think of these as harmless expressions.  Our Creator specifically tells us to have no part in using expressions or language that perverts a word’s meaning! 

It’s happening so clearly in our society today. It’s literally happening.  What is truly righteous is being called evil hate speech or something equivalent. And what is truly pure evil is being called good. 

Click on “Continue reading” for more language twists we’re hearing today that we should be fully aware of – and not letting them in any way become a part of us.

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The DUMB “smart phone”

We call it a “smart phone” but in many ways, if we don’t control the use of it and who can have one– it can be one of the dumbest things we’re involved with. I mean this blog to be an alert and I might even develop this into a full sermon on this site. Should children and teens have “smart phones”?

Sure, it’s great having a little phone that is so great that most people have now cancelled their land line phones. These “Smart phone” we each have is:

*** Also is a portable powerful computer with computing power that used to take a room full of big machinery and spinning reels. Good news:  it allows us quick access to so many things.  Bad news:  it allows quick access to so many things – even for your children and teens when they use their smart phone.

***Sure it’s great that these phones that even children now have are also high quality cameras and movie cameras.

***It’s a flashlight. It’s a compass.  It can show us details of someone’s street anywhere in the world. It’s capable of games and videos. We can learn how to play chess better (as I learned when my grandson beat me for the first – and then a second time.  HE’S been practicing.)  We can look at the night sky and find and identify planets, stars and constellations. We can learn to cook, learn to paint, learn to – just about anything.  We can view just about anything as well.  We can access any song ever written and hear it blare out or blare into our ear pieces, and some play it so loudly into their ears that we now know many will go prematurely deaf or suffer tinnitus later.

***And we can communicate as never before – and send e-mails with it. And of course now we also get a lot of JUNK email, just like the old fashioned post office junk mail.  We can text people around the world with it. We can go on Facebook and see what our family and friends are up to and enjoy their latest photos. We can instantly export pictures of anything and anyone we want all over the world in a split second.  Stock trading and investment planning is easy with a smart phone. You can learn new languages more easily with it.  You all know I could go on for pages on what the Smart phone has done for us.   Young people today wonder how we ever survived without it! Wow, you had to put money into a “pay phone” to call someone? 

            So there’s a lot to like about smart phones, so don’t get me wrong. 

            But it also can ruin your present and future life.

So WHY would I call this piece of absolute marvel – a DUMB and even dangerous phone?

Please click on “Continue reading” to see the answer and I hope it will make us all think about the dangerous consequences of the smart phone too, if we don’t curtail how we use it.  I’m talking about dangers so great it can affect our future, our reward in the kingdom and much more. 


OK, so how can the smart phone be such a dumb phone?

It’s ironic. It allows us to interact with far more people, instantly, than ever before, and yet so many are feeling more alone than ever before. Why?  I’m concerned with the younger generation (anyone younger than I am).

Do we know how to converse in voice – anymore, speaking to and listening to one another, in front of each other, with facial expressions and vocal tones? 

I was watching a group of school teens walking home – and I could find NO ONE talking to anyone beside them. NO ONE.  They all were transfixed with their cell phone messages, Facebook, Instagram pictures, emails and what not – and nobody was talking. 

We’re losing the ability to just TALK and just LISTEN to one another.  I’ve had many grandparents complain that their grandkids never CALL anymore. They text – and in short 2-5 word clips.  They don’t seem to understand the need for their grandparents and older people – to just let them hear their voices.

It’s a DUMB phone when not controlled because it’s depersonalizing us. 

Young people are forgetting the beauty of – QUIET.  Can someone (again, especially the young) just go for a walk in silence anymore – without their cell phone, or weed their garden in silence and just meditate, just let the moment envelope them?

Smart phones are being used to bully teens and children – en masse – in large groups, instantly.  Photos are added. Information is given. Within seconds the vilest things said and depicted can be sent to thousands – about your child or about you. Some recent stories on the news reveal some bullied children even ended their lives – because, ultimately, of smart phones being used for very evil purposes.

Within seconds, children with these kinds of phones can access the most detailed and graphic pornography – going way beyond mere nudity, to actual sex acts, including hetero and homosexual sex acts, and even bestiality and worse.  On Laura Ingraham’s TV news show, she recently had two psychiatrists who said much of their practice is working now with children as young as 10 and 12, boys and girls, addicted to porn.  Some older teens 18 and over – are serving jail time because of what they’ve said and sent to minors, perhaps to a girl friend who was only 14 or 15, just a few years younger.  But they were accused and convicted of sending porn to a minor. 

So should you be letting your children and teens have these phones?  You can still find old “flip phones” that are not “smart phones” if you want them to have the ability to call out in emergencies and what not.

Access to computers also gives children and adults access to many video games, many of which are very explicit sexually and many get you involved in graphic violence. I believe these desensitize those who indulge in them so it means nothing to blow someone’s head off with their high powered e-gear, or to rip someone’s heart out or to rape or do other horrible acts – as these often can be part of the “game”.   In fact, the trend is to get into virtual sex as well, so you don’t need a real flesh and blood partner anymore.  I don’t understand this last part – but it’s apparently out there or coming soon.

PEOPLE are LOSING INHIBITIONS and right to privacy – as apps request your permission to access your phone’s pictures and photos, data, contacts and who know what else – and BILLIONS of people around the world, yes billions, are giving up all of that to the unknown robots that now can peer into your very personal life.  What do they do with that?  They share it with marketers around the world. So if you do a Search on a particular city, or search for cruises –you’re soon bombarded with ads about cruise lines and things to do in a certain city. How did they all know so quickly? 

The “cookies” and other things they have – often with your permission -- are sold to marketers, so now the whole world knows where you are or where you’re going, or that you’re away from home, or what you like, how old you are, your shopping habits, where you went to school, where you live, what your children look like, and who you’re with, etc., etc. 

So personally, I don’t give permission for various apps to have access to my data, photos, contacts and the many things they want from me, so I can use their app.  I don’t think that’s worth the risk to me.  Have YOU thought that through? 

I could go on and on.  I just want my readers to give thought to how you use these marvelous tools of technology and don’t forget to be human and to remember what counts most: your relationships.  Talk to them – live, by voice. Experience one another – for real.  GUARD the doors to your mind and refuse to use the phone for violent and sexual games, pornography and anything ungodly. And watch the TIME you’re putting into these phones.

Life is made up of time and how we use that time. Though these phones can save an enormous amount of time when rightly used, they can also use up your life, your time, and distract you from what you should be focused on right now. I’d like to see a study showing how much time people use daily on their phones – texting, reading emails, doing Facebook and Instagram etc , even while at work.   I often don’t even have my cell phone with me – on purpose – so I can really focus on what I’m doing right now.  You can be video recording an event so much that you miss the fuller experience of just putting the phone/camera down and relishing the full experience.

And no, I would NOT want my teens and children have a full-fledged smart phone yet. I’d give them a phone, but not one with computer abilities.  It’s just too dangerous and can ruin someone’s life for the rest of their lives. That’s not worth it. 

So USE your smart phone carefully.  And realize marketers and industry want all your data you’ll give them – before they spread it to anyone willing to pay for it. Don’t.  Don’t regret later what you give up today.

And don’t let your smart phone become your dumb phone – or allow it to ruin your life or the lives of the young ones in your family.

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Please, it’s not “Turkey Day”

One of my favorite traditions is the family get-together for Thanksgiving Day.

I know some will tie it to ancient pagan rituals, but the history of this day in the USA at least, is not one tied to pagans.  Not at all. It is a day when we remember how thankful the early Pilgrims to America were just to be alive, to have food, to have native America Indians show them how to plant corn and helped them survive in a new land.  And they certainly did express and show their deep thankfulness to God in heaven.

And – in that vein – it’s a day when we, as individuals and as a country pause as one, together, and look up to the Almighty and thank him for the wondrous blessings he’s poured out on us and on our country. 

I’m afraid much of the country no longer remembers to focus this day on thanking the great God we have above. Some don’t even call it “Thanksgiving Day” anymore.  They take away from expressions of thankfulness by calling it “Turkey Day”.  Many spend the day in shopping sprees.  I do commend the stores that close on this day and let their employees have a day with family.

So my family keeps this day and this tradition. We often start by everyone around the table discussing something, even any little thing, for which they are thankful. Even the three year olds and young children participate. We don’t just start eating when the meal is ready. Absolutely not. We thank our Father and Creator for providing us with food and a good land and for all his many blessings – then we can eat.

I hope you’ll remember Thanksgiving this year is a day of Thanksgiving. Don’t just make it a day of watching football and forgetting its real purpose.  Watch all the football you want – but first, praise and thank our dear Abba, YHVH the Great Almighty God we have.

And please – PEL-LEASE –PLEASE; don’t cheapen this beautiful tradition this year by just calling it “Turkey Day”.  Please don’t.  It’s so much richer and deeper in meaning than that.  I think we are taking away from the expression of great gratitude to Almighty God when we call it “Turkey Day”.

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Are we limiting God?

Are you and I limiting what the Great God of the universe could be doing in your life and mine?  I think the evidence is a resounding “Yes!”.  So what can we do about it?

In a recent sermon I gave, titled “One Voice” – within it is a quote from John 14 in the words of our Messiah. I’ve thought and thought: We surely must be limiting our Creator from what he can do and wants to do, because I sure don’t see happening today the things we read about in the book of Acts.

After Christ’s resurrection, we have several of the apostles raising the dead.  Peter’s shadow passing over someone was enough to heal that person (Acts 5:14-15).  Imagine that – without the person even asking Peter to lay hands on him and anoint him. Lots of people were brought to the apostles, and “they were all healed” (Acts 5:16).  Demons were cast out by Philip in Samaria in Acts 8.  Lame people – who were begging for money and not for healing – were leaping to their feet with a mere statement from Peter and John (Acts 3).  People had visions of angels and of the Lord himself.  Deadly snakes bit Paul, but he just shook them off.  Paul was left for dead after a vicious stoning, but rose again to continue preaching (Acts 14:19-20).

Now I realize that not everyone’s prayer was always answered with a healing or the response desired. Paul was left with his “thorn in the side” issue. Timothy had an issue of “frequent infirmities”.  Many early disciples were severely beaten, tortured, imprisoned and killed. So don’t think I’m saying nothing “bad” will ever happen to us if we apply the message in this blog.

But still – where are these powerful signs and wonders and works being seen today. I realize, we shouldn’t be personally seeking for a sign, per Yeshua’s own words  (Matthew 12:39), and yet Yeshua himself promised that if we believe, “these signs shall surely follow”, and then he enumerates healings and more.  See Mark 16:17-18 – including casting out demons, speak new tongues, not be hurt by deadly serpents or poison, and after laying hands on the sick, they will recover.

Click on “Continue reading” to finish this blog and to see more intervention by God in your life.

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When We Doubt

By R. Herbert

 

Sometimes, as Christians, we need to remind ourselves that it is human to doubt.  When we occasionally wonder if we are sure about some point of our faith – or even in extreme cases, about our faith itself – we may get caught up in concern about our doubts as much as in the doubt itself and effectively double our problems!

God’s word has something to say about this.  It is clear that “untreated” doubts can erode our relationship with God, but a doubt is essentially no different from any other human weakness to be faced and worked on.  We need to remind ourselves that the disciples often doubted (Luke 24:38) –  even after Jesus’ resurrection: “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17).   The interesting thing is that in all these cases Christ gently asked his doubting disciples “Why do you doubt?”  but never condemned them for it. Rather he encouraged them to overcome their doubts.  

The fact is, we all have doubts about many things in life and do not usually feel badly about that – only when our doubts come within the realm of our faith do we tend to feel that we are failing because of them.  In his classic book Know Doubt John Ortberg  shows that doubt is actually a necessary part of growth. Our doubts are often based on lack of information and can prompt us to search for truth –  in the long run actually strengthening our convictions.

We can still trust despite our doubts, and God wants us to learn to trust him even when we may doubt the details. The Bible shows clearly that God can often continue to work with us despite our doubts. He did it with Peter  (Matthew 14:22-33) and He can do it with us.  God’s word expressly tells us to “Have mercy on those who doubt” (Jude 1:22), and He does not deal with us any differently.

So how do we deal with the doubts that we get?  First, we ask God to help us in that specific area. One of the best examples of this is the way  in which the doubting father pleaded for help with his doubts and was rewarded by Christ.  The father’s cry of “Help my unbelief” can be ours, and we can ask for help in exactly the same way.   In times of doubt it’s easy to make things more complicated for ourselves, however. We can tell ourselves that the doubting father was unconverted and did not fully know the truth – that we who know more should do better.  Perhaps the best answer to this comes from the Bible itself, in the account of John the Baptist.

While John was imprisoned and facing execution, he sent to Jesus to ask him if he really was the promised Messiah  (Matthew 11).  Rather than chastise John for his doubt, Jesus pointed to the miracles and signs that he was doing and thus to the answer to John’s doubt.  But the important part of this story that we must not miss is that it was at that exact point in time – just as John had admitted his doubt – that Jesus told his disciples: “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11).  It was at precisely the moment of John’s greatest doubt that Jesus called him the greatest among men. Clearly, God knows it is human to doubt and is willing and desirous to point us to the answers to our doubts.  But like John, we must ask Him.

R. Herbert (a pen name), writes for a number of Christian venues as well as for his websites at LivingWithFaith.org and TacticalChristianity.org where you can also find his free e-books.  

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Why we won't honor Satan on Oct 31

Most of you who come to this website do not keep Halloween, I’m pretty sure.But others are new and are not sure if they should or not, or if there’s any harm in it.  It’s to you that I address this blog
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I’ve spoken and written about Halloween several times. Just write in the Search bar of this website – Halloween-- and you’ll see the other sermons and blogs on it.  This also applies to “All Saints Day” that many countries observe on Nov. 1.

We’re in the season now when most of the movies being shown on TV are of demons, vampires, chain saw massacres everything ungodly. To watch these, to participate in any way, is honoring Satan.  No thank you.  I hope you understand; there can be no ambiguity in this. I strongly urge you NOT to involve yourself in any Halloween decorating. Do not put up images of ghosts, demons, scary people or anything to do with this evil time.

Even adults now have Halloween parties, and usually dress up in ungodly and often immoral garb. God’s children have no part in this. Don’t do it. God’s children do not participate in the world’s pagan-originated holidays. We just don’t.

God’s TRUE children will have no part of HALLOWEEN (All Hallow’s Eve). 

Click on “Continue reading” for the rest of this very short, but to the point, blog and what God himself tells us.

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How 2 identical goats say a lot about our Savior

Throughout scripture we see how our Maker employs physical objects and animals to point to something spiritual. So we have different animals that were suitable for animal sacrifice – and each one pictured something different about the Messiah. The bull, goat, sheep and dove all represent different virtues. Our Creator didn’t just pick one animal – but different ones to more completely teach us about our Savior. 

On the Day of Atonement, we tend to think of the two perfect goats – without spot or broken bones or any blemish – that served different purposes on this solemn day of Coverings.  “Yom Kippur” means day of covering, and there were actually several coverings, so it’s often called Yom Kippurim by some. But besides the two goats, there was a bull, a ram, 7 sheep and so on. See Numbers 29:7-11.  Were you aware of that? We hardly talk about them.  Most sermons I’ve heard on Atonement don’t even say much about the goat which was killed and whose blood was sprinkled in the Holy of Holies. It seems all the attention goes to the azazel – the goat of removal. 

So the controversial sacrifices were the two goats. It’s been taught in some circles for decades that the 2 goats were critical to the day. One goat, we were told, pictures Christ, and one goat pictures Satan. That’s right, on the day of ATONEMENT of all days – somehow Satan worms his way in there! Over the years, the entire sermon about the Day of Atonement was often all about the goat of removal – from the Hebrew word “azazel”. And azazel was capitalized, like this – Azazel - like it was a name of someone important, rather than keep it as a simple word meaning “removal”.  The word “azazel” is a function, not a name.  

Why were there 2 goats? And is there an example in scripture of 2 other identical animals that were part of a ceremony to show what God was doing?

Click on “Continue reading” to hear the rest of this teaching.

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