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

Remember Purim and the book of Esther

We’ll soon be right on the date for Purim. In the Rabbinic calendar, it is observed this weekend.  When was the last time you read the book of Esther?  ALL scripture is given for our edification, so we should read it.

The book of Hadassah (Myrtle) – that was her Hebrew name – is all about the plot to destroy the Jewish people.  OK, you know her as Esther.  But the real spirit behind that plot to wipe out all the Jews had a more sinister target:  if Haman could wipe out all Jews, then we also wipe out the possibility of having a Jewish Messiah!

I urge you to read the short book.  There are several sub-plots you shouldn’t miss:

• How mightily Yehowah used a strong woman of faith to deliver all of Judah from being exterminated.  Remember that when we are people of God, there no longer should be a huge distinction between male and female, spiritually speaking.  You’ve seen that in Galatians 3:26, right?  We have heard so many sermons and spent so many hours on the men who were spiritual heroes that it is high time to give some time and attention to the women who shine through as well. Esther – or Hadassah (her real name) – manages the events in this short book very masterfully, smoothly and powerfully. In fact, the way she manages events would have been impossible for a man to have done.  Mordecai, her cousin, does urge her on, but the real hero in this story of Purim is the woman Hadassah, renamed Esther by her pagan husband.  Her faith and courage were demonstrated in Esther 4:16-17 when she calls for a fast of 3 days and then states her cause, and wraps it up with – "and if I perish, I perish".

• The word "God" – or Elohim – is nowhere seen in the entire book, but the HAND of Elohim is definitely visible in all the events that transpire.  When everything seems to be going against you, realize that Yehowah has not taken a leave of absence.  He’s there, even though we can’t always “see” or “hear” Him.  He’s especially there in our darkest hours.  I’m having to learn over and over again to praise even at the midnight hour, when we’re all bruised and cut up and languishing in our spiritual jail.  I speak of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 16:22-30. Please read that whole account.  At midnight, they began to sing praises in spite of their dire predicament and pain.  What happened?  Their chains were loosed and dropped to the prison floor with a loud clang, and the jail doors were opened.  But not until they began to praise. We can trust God to turn our deep sorrows eventually to great joy, a lesson I’m still learning.  But first, we praise and thank Him in all things, and for all things, for HE will turn everything eventually into good if we commit all things to Him in praise and thanksgiving (Rom. 8:28; Phil. 4:6).  In our darkest hours, that’s hard to remember, but we MUST learn it, as children of God.

This same lesson rings loud and clear in the book of Esther. The situation was dire, but when Esther and her court fasted and prayed and sought their Maker, He was there. He always was there.

• "Pur" = a lot that is cast to determine a date. Purim is plural, so it means "lots".  Haman cast lots to determine the date he would exterminate the Jews, an early example of ethnic cleansing.  In the change of events that took place (you’ll have to read the story yourself), Purim to Jews today stands for the way the Almighty gave them deliverance from their enemies. Esther 9:26-28 explains how Jews set these 2 days aside each year as a Jewish festival to remember their miraculous deliverance.  This is a Jewish holiday and I would certainly keep it in remembrance if I were a Jew. But even as a non-Jew, I still thank God for Purim because it also made it possible then for us all to have our Savior Yeshua be born many years later. Some believe the feast Yeshua kept in John 5 was Purim, for it fell on a Sabbath.  The ONLY feast that fell on a Sabbath day from 27-38 AD was Purim.  Just a thought. Purim is not one of God’s commanded feasts in Leviticus 23, but it is a feast for Jews and it is mentioned in Scripture.

Esther 9:26-28
26 So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur. Therefore, because of all the words of this letter, what they had seen concerning this matter, and what had happened to them, 27 the Jews established and imposed it upon themselves and their descendants and all who would join them, that without fail they should celebrate these two days every year, according to the written instructions and according to the prescribed time, 28 that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city, that these days of Purim should not fail to be observed among the Jews, and that the memory of them should not perish among their descendants.

• When we don’t obey God fully, the consequences can hit doubly hard years later. 
Oh how well I have experienced this lesson.  And maybe you have too.  Haman, a type of Satan and enemy of the people of God, was an Amalekite.  More than that, Haman was an Agagite, a descendant of king Agag, whom Saul failed to kill.  God had commanded Saul to wipe out the memory of the Amalekite people (see 1 Samuel 15) and everything that pertained to them, because they had attacked Israel at Rephidim (Exodus 17) and continually picked off the stragglers, the old and weak.  Saul kept Agag alive, as well as the choicest livestock.  Apparently Agag had sired a son as well, who also escaped extermination.  This son went on to become a forefather of Haman in the book of Esther.  Interestingly enough, Mordecai was a Benjaminite, as was King Saul.  I’ve often wondered if in fact we might find out later that Mordecai was a descendant of King Saul. I’ve also wondered if some of the most hateful antagonists against Israel today aren’t descendants of the survivors of ancient Amalek.  Just a thought.

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Come alongside, be a comforter

Some days are just plain rough. You know those days: in the mail, you get notice of your termination and now you’re unemployed. Or you get notice your spouse is suing for divorce.  Or those phone calls that your granddaughter had an emergency and is in the hospital. Or maybe it’s about your Alzheimer mom.  Or it’s the vet telling you maybe it would be best to put down your 13 year old dog with the neurological problem -- but she’s been part of the scene for 13 years. Yep, it’s a bad day when these kinds of things happen.

You know those days. They don’t seem to get lighter as we age.  In the “good ol’ days” we could have a bad hair day or maybe burn the toast – and it was a rough day.  No, we’re way, way beyond those kinds of triggers to a bad day. But isn’t it nice to once in a while have someone who lifts your hands up in prayer with you, who encourage you, who assure you that they’ll be with you every step of the way – even when you feel you can’t take another step by yourself. Praise God, praise Yehowah for people like that.

You and I have been called to be someone who comes alongside. In the Greek it was called a“parakletos”, a comforter.  We know the Holy Spirit is a parakletos, but did you know YOU are called to be one as well?  This is what “church” – actually I prefer to say being part of the “called-out ones”, the ekklesia – is largely all about!  We are family! We family of the Household of God stand up for each other and are there for each other. We fight for and defend each other. We tell gossips and those who spread people’s sins like candy -- that we recognize where they’re coming from: they’re getting orders from their leader, Satan, The Accuser of the brethren.

But most of all, we can help so many by simply “being there” when we sense someone is struggling. The arm on the shoulder, the quick squeeze of their shoulder, the quick note on Facebook, or the unexpected assuring phone call can mean so much. Let’s get good at this. Our brothers and sisters need it so badly.

To learn more about becoming a comforter, a parakletos, someone coming alongside – please hear the sermon “Be a Parakletos”, February 2011.  You’ll be glad you did. We’re learning to be family who stand up and alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Be a parakletos.

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Do you “Pray” – or do you “SAY” your prayers?

Yes, folks, there IS a difference.  I always urge people to pray, not just “say your prayers”.  Prayer – whether you are a Christian, Jew, or believer – should be our interaction with our Maker. Many of us believe deeply God is our Father. (Be watching for a sermon real soon on our real destiny.) Any father or mother wants their child to come speak with them from his/her heart. You wouldn’t want your daughter saying someone else’s words – no matter how well-crafted they are, no matter how much more elegant they are than what your six-year old might say on her own.  I would want my child saying what’s on his heart – NOT words someone else wrote hundreds or thousands of years ago.  So quit “saying grace”, quit “saying your prayers” – and just start praying; start talking from your heart.  
Read the rest of this blog for instructions from Yeshua on how to pray.

Yeshua (Jesus) said that when we pray (read Matthew 6:5-13):

•    DON’T do your main prayers in the public venue but in the privacy of your  own room.  Daniel prayed from the privacy of his room as he looked out the window (Dan. 6:10), 3x a day. It says “he prayed”, not “he said his prayers”.

•    Speak your heart – not just any vain repetition.  Even the sample prayer our Master gave us, commonly called “the Lord’s Prayer”, can become a vain repletion.  He was just teaching us a framework. Honor and praise Father and His hallowed name YHVH first. Then pray for Him to send Yeshua soon to set up the Kingdom; Pray HIS will be done here on earth.  Then pray for your daily needs (Give us this day our daily bread) and while at it, pray for others’ daily needs. Be intercessory.

If you’re Jewish, put down the Siddur (Book of Prayers) and just talk to your Maker one-on-one. Yourself. Your words. Don’t worry about not knowing how to elegantly pray.  I promise you, He is much more likely to hear and be pleased with your heart-felt prayer, in your own words, than He is with someone else’s crafted prayer. Call Him “Father”.  Yes, sure, it’s OK to call him “the Blessed One”, or “King of the Universe”, but try saying “My Father”. Try “MY King”.  Then tell Him what you really feel like telling Him.  Ask Him what you really feel like asking Him.  Yes, that’s OK.  Yes, that’s even better than someone else’s prayer you’re reading.

Even we mere mortals are delighted to hear the awkward attempts of our toddlers learning to speak their first words.  “Dad-dah”—we know she’s trying to say “Daddy”.  Everyone in the room exclaims, “HEY, did you hear her?  She just said “dad-dah”!

The Father from whom we get the name “Father” is the same way.  HE put all that into us.  Just PRAY. Just talk to and with Him.  And sometimes just be quiet, get your pad of paper out and a pen and ask Him to speak to you.  Sometimes you’ll find yourself writing rapidly the thoughts coming into your head, and yes - -sometimes that could BE your Father communicating with you.

In these winter months (summer for my Australian and southern hemisphere family), use this time to connect with Abba, our dear Father.  (And hello to all you Southern Hemisphere family!)

I have several sermons on this website about prayer.  Go to the link “Audio Messages and Transcripts” and look up the link for Prayer. I recommend you hear those messages, especially the series on “Hearing God’s Voice”.   Or maybe the sermon on “WHY Pray?” is one you need.  There are also sermons on there about Hindered Prayer.  I have enough problems without having to have ineffective prayer! Now that’s a huge problem!  So check it out – and open the lines to our Maker.

The real PURPOSE of “religion” is not to go to a church building, or to be part of a man-made organization. Hey, we ARE the church; we don’t “GO to church”.  The real purpose is not to feel blessed or holy or something (though we ARE blessed and set-apart holy).  The ultimate purpose is to love God and love mankind.  The ultimate reason we have a spiritual component to living, is to strengthen relationships. The one true living God is all about close and loving relationships. His very commandments were given to be sure we respect one another’s relationships, so we don’t murder, we don’t steal what belongs to another, nor do we flirt with or commit adultery with someone else’s wife or husband. We’ve all broken God’s laws, but now we repent and start walking HIS Way, led by His Spirit in us. And all of that strengthens relationships – with Him and each other.

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His “walk” changed after his Encounter.

Sooner or later, all who are being called by our beloved Father will have their personal encounter with their Creator. That comes in many ways. But looking back, you’ll know you had your “Encounter”.  Some are very dramatic, like Paul’s experience on the way to Damascus (Acts 9).  Jonah got up close and personal with the insides of a great sea creature God specially prepared. Sometimes, as I’ve experienced, it entails severe correction to wake us up. Some have astonishing dreams – like Jacob. And sometimes we have more than one major encounter – again, like Jacob, and his second time was an all-night struggle.

Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, was going back home after many years with Laban his uncle. Jacob’s brother Esau (also called Edom) had other plans. Without elucidating on all the details of the story which you can read for yourself in Genesis 32:22-32, Jacob encounters a Man and ends up wrestling with this Man all night long. Jacob was tenacious and so the Man (the One who became Yeshua!) shrank part of the muscles around Jacob’s hip joint, causing severe pain. Still, Jacob clung to the Man and would not let the Man go until He first blessed Jacob. The Man gives Jacob a new name: Israel, which can mean “contender with God; Prevailer, overcomer with God, prince of God”.

In the meantime though, Jacob’s hip was put out of place and the muscles had shrunk painfully.  From then on, Israel walked with a painful limp. His walk had changed! Since your encounter with your Maker, has YOUR walk changed?  I don’t mean the way you walk when going for a walk – but your way of life.

Read the rest of this short blog for some thought-provoking concepts.

Let’s read the account:
Genesis 32:22-32
22 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. 23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. 24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He [the Man] touched the socket of his [Jacob’s] hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks."
But he said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!" 
27 So He said to him, "What is your name?"
He said, "Jacob." 
28 And He said, "Your NAME shall no longer be called Jacob, but ISRAEL; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed." 
29 Then Jacob asked, saying, "Tell me Your name, I pray."
And He said, "Why is it that you ask about My name?" And He blessed him there. 
30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "FOR I HAVE SEEN GOD FACE TO FACE, and my life is preserved." 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and HE LIMPED ON HIS HIP. 32 Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob's hip in the muscle that shrank.

Hosea 12:3-5 recounts this wrestling with this Being, and in Hosea it says “…he struggled with GOD (Elohim)”.  This was the very One who would come to earth from God and be known as Jesus – or as I prefer, Yeshua (what His mama called Him).

Anyway, back to the point of this blog. It was after this that Israel really takes charge of his family, they put away the pagan idols and they worship at Bethel (Genesis 35:1-4). Bethel was where he was supposed to go in the first place (Genesis 31:13), as that is where Yehowah had made His initial appearance to Jacob with the vision of the Staircase to/from heaven (Gen. 28:10-22). So once again, God commands Jacob “Go back – I’m the God who met you at Bethel – Gen. 35:1-4.

While Jacob allowed himself to be sidetracked in Shechem (Genesis 32) he had nothing but trouble (the Dinah calamity and wiping out a whole city). If you feel like everything is coming AT you all at once as well, maybe you’re driving the wrong way and need to get off that road and on to the Way that God wants you on.

I’ve had to learn and re-learn this lesson so many times in my life, to my shame and anguish. I pass it on for what it’s worth to you. Hopefully as I get older now I will with His help be able to stay on the right path more of the time – and “go to Bethel”, which means “House of God”.  You and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

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Encouragement in your “wilderness” times of life.

Many people, at various times in their lives, feel like they're all alone, away from "civilization" and friends and family. The Wilderness is actually where so many of God’s people find God. It’s in your wilderness times that you will often look back and see that’s when you grew spiritually.  Your wilderness times of your life can be the very moments when Yehovah can shine in your life as no other. One of the sermons on this website that receives a lot of comment, a lot of people getting inspiration, is the sermon I gave on "Your Wilderness Times", recorded in June 2012. I feel led in my spirit to recommend it. Someone out there needs this message.  You can go to June 2012 and download it. You can also put these messages on your iPod or smart phones.  Here’s the link:

On our website, be sure to pull down the tab titled "Audio Messages and Transcripts".  Check out all the sermon titles going back to 2004. There are more than 160 timeless sermons I’ve recorded and several from Jeff Niccum.  But for now, I recommend this “Wilderness” sermon. You’ll be encouraged by it. Let others know about it if you feel this message has helped you. Yehovah bless you and shine His blessings on you.

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What on earth are the royals up to?

No, I don’t mean Prince Harry or Prince Charles and his wife or any other earthly royalty from around the world. But even when they do something peculiar or undignified, it becomes news around the world instantly.  Thankfully the paparazzi don’t care about you and me – but when I say “royal”, I do mean YOU. If you have been called, have turned in repentance back to the Most High God our Father and to our Saviour Yeshua (Jesus is what most call Him), been baptized and received His Holy Spirit – you are a set-apart child of the King of the Universe! YOU are one of the real royals of the coming Kingdom of God about to be set up on earth under King Yeshua, our elder brother and Master.  Peter calls us “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). We’ve been called and chosen – if we’re faithful-- to be “kings and priests” on this earth (Revelation 5:10).

Have we been behaving like the godly royals we have been called to be? The answer for far too many royals of God is “no”. Not even I who write this. I’ve fallen from time to time as maybe you have. But we have a merciful “Abba” who will forgive and help us get back on track if we come before Him with a contrite heart and ask if we can walk with Him again. Yehovah (or Yahweh) is all about relationship. We can say relationship is also about “walking with God”.  We go for walks on a daily basis with those we are close to. Read the rest of this blog for a wake-up call about what we see going on among the true royals of the coming kingdom – and what we should be doing.

Nothing seems juicier to the press than royals fighting one another or shaming one another. That must not be in the family of the Holy Father. Yehovah is starting a family. HE is Father, for there is only one spiritual Father (Matthew 23:9). Yeshua who is also God (John 1:1-3), became His firstborn Son by the resurrection (see Romans 1:1-4).  Yeshua has been raised in glory and is seated on the right hand of our Father and His father (John 20:17). We are also begotten children of the Highest (1 John 3:2). He calls us HIS very own sons and daughters (read 2 Corinthians 6:18). That makes HIS royal family (1 Pet. 2:9). Absorb that. Father has a family!

Every child of God begotten by His seed—His spirit --whether man or woman, is part of His royal family – whether Chinese, American, French, Brazilian, Jew, Japanese, Tunisian, Canadian, Australian, Russian or Kenyan.  Father sees us as part of “the body of Christ” and members of one another (read Romans 12:4-5).  You believers in Yeshua who live in Russia and China are part of me and I’m part of you – in HIM. I feel honored to be included with you, my royal brothers and royal sisters in Kenya or Canada or wherever Yehovah has called you! I can’t wait to meet you in His kingdom!  Our unity with fellow believers should be so profound that we think and act as one body, as one mind:  HIS body, HIS mind (Phil. 2:5). IF we are not acting as one body, it can only mean that we are not in Him; not in HIS one body and His one mind. If we are gossiping about one another, it can only mean that we are not speaking Father’s words, as Yeshua said He spoke only Father’s words. You remember our Lord’s words paraphrased in describing what HIS people would be like:  “You must love one another just like I loved you, just like that, and by this will all people know you are my true followers” (John 13:34-35).

My brothers and sisters, as true royals, let’s stop the infighting. He has much work for us to do, TOGETHER, as the ONE BODY to which we have been called – not more and more splinter groups forbidding some of God’s children from worshiping together. How shameful. Yes, there are some doctrinal differences, but we still come together “UNTIL we come to the unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:13). There are some non-negotiable doctrinal issues such as the divinity of Yeshua, salvation by grace, and a few others – but other perpetually unresolved issues may have to wait for our King to sort out. In the meantime, let’s work together, let’s witness to the resurrection of Yeshua by Him living in us once more – changing our lives! Hallelujah to our beloved Master!  A changing life is the best sermon any of us can preach. It’s much more effective than our words, if those words aren’t backed up by the evidence of Yeshua’s wonderful, happy and obedient life. 

If we want to work together, join others and start building bridges and bringing people together. If we’re not bringing people together in Him, Yeshua says we’re actually scattering (Luke 11:23). No middle ground here. Either we’re bringing believers (other royals) together – or we’re scattering.

Peter’s first two chapters of his first book – if read slowly – is full of admonition to consider our calling carefully. 1 Peter 1:2 – reminds us we’re set-apart, in sanctification for obedience.

1 Peter 1:13-20
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." 
17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

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Living with a sense of history - Updated

Were you born for such a time as this?

Hello, child of the Most High. Yes, you are part of what Peter calls the “royal priesthood” of believers (1 Peter 2:9), called children of God (1 John 3:2). We’re being prepared to lead, serve, and help start the new Kingdom of God coming to earth.  Those who will have gone through the new birth of the Spirit described in John 3:3-8 will be leaders in that kingdom.

Why did I start that way?  Because all too often, it seems God’s children, those led by His spirit – you and I – get sidetracked.  Royals are raised – even groomed -- to be aware of who they are and what they’re destined to become.  We should have no less consciousness of our calling! We forget why we have been called. We lose “the big picture” of what is about to happen. As a “royal” of the coming kingdom, we must start living with a greater sense of purpose and destiny.  Warning though:  we must also never forget that God called the weak of the world – to confound the wise, however (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). If indeed we are in the final 20 years or less before Yeshua lands on the Mt. of Olives with His Bride (the called-out ones), many of us may well see the most exciting, terrifying, inspiring, faith-testing and earth-shaking events this planet has ever seen.  Read the rest of this blog to have our eyes reopened to our task, to our calling  and to the idea that we should be so much more AWARE that we live in historic times. Now PLEASE do not read into this blog that I am promoting a group filled with megalomania or some cock-eyed thing like that! But we can and must live with a sense of purpose and a cause bigger than us.

Imagine being a sailor on one of Columbus’ ships as he sought a shorter route to China. Did they have any idea that what they were doing was about to change the course of history and civilization as they knew it? Sometimes I think we believers are like his sailors going through the motions without the excitement of being a part of something so “game-changing” as that.  Hundreds of years from now children in the Millennium will be studying about our era, the times we live in. They will be reading about how God’s children conducted themselves. They’ll be reading about you and me similar to how we read about the Israelites in the days of Samson or David or Jeremiah.  We don’t see ourselves involved in something history-making enough, but we should be. You don’t have to be “a big name” for that to happen.  Sometimes the most timeless stories are being told about nameless people: “the widow and her last 2 mites” (Mark 12:41-44) or the woman with an issue of blood who had tremendous faith to be healed (Mark 5:25-30; Mark 6:56) – but we don’t even know their names.  Someday we’ll meet those great women and thank them for their faith. We read of Paul’s devotion to the Philippian brethren, his admonishment to the Corinthians and “those of Chloe” who informed Paul of the issues.

The point of this blog is simply to be more aware of the urgency of the times, of the historic period we’re blessed to be part of (not just “fortunate” – as it has nothing to do with “fortune”).  Let’s rise to the occasion. Let’s come together as believers who realize now that all of us blessed with His Spirit are part of the coming royal family of Yehowah.  Let’s be like those of the tribe of Issachar in King David’s days who “had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…” (1 Chronicles 12:32).  Let’s pray He give us that same understanding. We can look at the sky and tell if good or bad weather is coming, but we can’t understand the times we live in (Matthew 16:3). Pray for it. Rise to the occasion.  Let’s encourage one another. Let’s get in touch.  I urge you who read these to get in touch with me too. We all need encouragement.

John the Baptist came to prepare a people ready for their Lord (Luke 1:17).  I believe there is yet a coming type of Elijah, as John the Baptist was (Mark 9:12-13) and we need to be prepared to back him up. There will be the two witnesses (Rev. 11).  And no – these 2 witnesses are not “Christianity and Judaism” as I’ve heard some speculate.  Not at all. These are two literal men who will be martyred at the end of their ministry and whose bodies will be visible around the world on satellite TV (Revelation 11:7-13).  Are you prepared to recognize these leaders and support them and be able to distinguish between false teachers and true teachers?

So let’s talk about this with one another. Let’s dream about it, pray about it, live it – we are a people called for such a time as this, just as Esther was put where she was for her time (Esther 4:13-16).  And just like Esther had the understanding of the gravity of her times, let’s follow her example and proclaim a fast and seek Almighty God in heaven and ask for Him to wake us all up, to bring us together, to live as the royals of the kingdom of God that we are.  Let’s pray and study and overcome sin as never before. We live in momentous times.  When you fast, read Isaiah 58 again and determine to use this fast to change, to repent, to let Yeshua live His life in you and to demonstrate HIS righteousness (listen to my latest sermon on this site).  It would be a great time to ask Him to help us re-set our lives, rededicate ourselves to Him, and understand why He called us. Pray on this day of fasting that He open your eyes to see the big picture.  Pray He put in our hearts a strong sense of destiny and a mission HE wants us to accomplish. Ask Yeshua to come live His life again in you. Invite Him IN to your life.

Our days will be written about and talked about for millennia to come.  Are you grasping this? 
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10 on your own. There Paul tells us to be on our guard, awake to the times, alert, growing in Him, putting on the breastplate of righteousness – and not be caught off guard when our King returns.

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

Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah  - but pronounced with the H sound in  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.

In Scripture, Hanukkah is called “the Feast of Dedication”, since the name “Hanukkah” means “to dedicate”.  It is not one of Yehowah’s holy feasts listed in Leviticus 23, so let’s me make it plain from the start: Hanukkah does not rise to the level of Passover or the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). It is a national holiday celebrating the Jewish victory over the Greek conquerors and how the Jews cleansed the temple and witnessed the miracle of the lights. This “feast” is also called the Feast of Lights. But it is not a holyday. Only Yehowah can make a day sacred or proclaim a “holy convocation”.

John 10:22-23
Now it was the Feast of Dedication [Hanukkah] in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus [Yeshua] walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch.

It was while in Jerusalem during Hanukkah that Yeshua proclaimed Himself divine (“I and my father are one” – John 10:30).

So Yeshua was in the midst of the festivities – in the temple mount area there would have been plenty of Hanukkah festivity going on . IF it were wrong to participate in Hanukkah, the temple would be the last place you would want to be during the 8 days of Hanukkah.  So my first observation is that it is OK to participate in Hanukkah and we could learn some things from it.  Neither would it be wrong to choose not to have anything to do with it. It’s not a pagan holiday. But neither is Hanukkah one of the commanded “moedim”, or divinely appointed festivals of our Creator.

Daniel 8:22-25 prophesied of the time when Alexander the Great’s generals, who divided up his empire, would conquer the Promised Land and desecrate the temple. Years after Alexander’s death, the area of Judea finally came under Antiochus IV “Epiphanes”.  The time period was approximately 165-163 BC when the events which led to “Hanukkah” took place.

Antiochus was intent on “Hellenizing” the Jews, making them accept Greek culture.  Many Jews did, to curry favor with the rulers.  Some quit circumcising their boys. They started dressing, speaking and acting like Greeks and began to drop their Jewish heritage. This is also part of the lesson of this feast: remaining faithful to Yah’s word. Nation states that resisted the Greek empire’s moves, were left out of commerce and deemed “backward”.  If you wanted to be successful, it was tempting to give in to Hellenism.  Many began to practice their faith in secret. Others outwardly in public behaved as Greeks, but in private as Jews. That is – until the Greeks imposed the death penalty for those secretly holding on to their faith.

Antiochus also defiled the temple and altar by sacrificing a pig on their altar. Then he erected a status of Zeus in the very Holy of Holies. Can you imagine the Jews’ consternation over this?  Some believe this was the first “abomination of desolation” prophesied by Daniel in Dan. 11:31-32.  So Jews revolted.  Finally Jews, led by Judah Maccabee, drove out the Greeks in 163 BC and took over Jerusalem and their temple once more. (You may have heard about the Maccabeans. This is what all that was about.)

When they went to light the menorah, they discovered they had only enough of the special oil to last one day. It would take eight more days to find or produce more of this oil. This didn’t stop them. They lit the menorah anyway and the little oil they had for one day somehow miraculously burned for the entire 8 days until more oil was ready.

Thus began the eight-day Feast of Dedication to celebrate this miracle, their great deliverance from oppressors and the dedication of the newly cleansed temple. This explains why it is also called the “Feast of Lights,” when celebrants bring their candles or 9-branched candelabras. Why 9?  
Eight of them recall the eight days they had light even when there should not have been enough oil. The 9th is the "Servant" candle used to light the others. [Many believers see Yeshua in the Servant candle.]. Apparently more and  more candles are lit as the feast progresses. Just one the first night, then two on the second, and so on, until all 8 lights plus "the Servant light" are burning in Jewish homes. Jews today also exchange gifts, have big parties, lots of food and special Hanukkah items.

Many Jews probably gloss over the real meaning of the day, much like Americans may refer to Thanksgiving Day as “turkey day”. Some have virtually turned it into a “Jewish Christmas” with their elaborate decorations and Christmas-like gift-giving. I can’t recommend anything that smacks of turning this holiday into a Christmas equivalent. Hanukkah should remind us that God delivers us from those who try to destroy His people or from those who keep us from worshiping Him in spirit and truth.

IF we understand the real history and background to the original Hanukkah, we could ponder: 
•    How much would we be willing to give up in our worship and service to Father in heaven?

•    Will we compromise when the end-time prophesied “Beast system” forces a false worship on all believers – or die—as Antiochus Epiphanes did to the Jews of 165 BC?

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“A whole lot of shakin’ goin’on”

Get ready for everything as you know it to be shaken.

Events – both political and “natural” earth events – are speeding up dramatically.  There have been more significant earthquakes in recent years than ever seen before, for example. We’re also watching more “political earthquakes” occurring.  BEFORE the return of our King, the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus the Christ), we will see more and more political and natural events shaking the foundations of everything we’ve known. Everything will be shaken – the heavens, the earth, everything – until what remains is only what cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:25-29).  Folks, that shaking has to include us.  Are we spiritually and mentally ready for it? I doubt that many are. I preach to myself too. On the other hand, this is an age of incredible excitement and opportunity, if we’re on the right side of our Maker. You and I have been born into what is likely “the end-time generation”. Could we have been put here for just such a time as this, as Mordecai said to Esther? Let’s be excited about it and play our role with the sure foundation we have in Yeshua and seek the peace that comes from knowing Him.  Read the rest of this blog for scriptures and insight into what kind of shaking has already begun and will continue in intensity before the coming of Messiah.

Hebrews 12:25-29

25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven."  27 Now this, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. 
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

We all know that YHVH, the living God, has many scriptures about “refining” His people. “Shaking what can be shaken” is another way of looking at it.  He says He wants only what can’t be shaken to remain. Children of the Highest, do we realize what this means?  Are we mentally – and more importantly, spiritually – preparing for this?  I believe the shaking has already begun and will increase in intensity until the coming of our Savior and King.

Be sure to hear many more details in my coming full length sermon on this subject. But for now, what can be shaken?  And why the shaking?

In the last decade or so before the Christ lands on the Mt. of Olives, Father will be shaking the whole world so people realize “something really unusual” is going on.  Even now, we call earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes “acts of God”.  So when these events grow in intensity and frequency, more and more people will come to recognize the true Creator of the universe and repent. We know at the very end, there will be “a great innumerable multitude” that is repentant (Rev. 7:9-16).  So the shaking is to get everyone’s attention and eventually many will come to worship Him (Haggai 2:6-7) in Jerusalem. Remember this is exactly what Yehowah said as He sent plague after plague upon Egypt: that they may know that YHVH is the One true God (Ex. 7:14-18; 9:13-21)

So even the “people of God”, the saints, will be shaken. Many of us are Laodicean, or lacking in zeal, or are asleep, or spiritually non-involved. Father also includes us in the shaking because we need shaking up! We need waking up!  And since we’re in the world even if we’re not “of” the world, what happens in the nations around us also affects us!  Our faith will be shaken by personal tests and trials as well as world events. We will be tempted at times to wonder where our loving Father is, as we also go through tough times. Remember that Israel also had to suffer through the first three of the ten plagues in Egypt.  Though many of us believe there will be a place of safety, that doesn’t mean we won’t have to first go through very, very tough times. And ultimately our safety is in Yehowah our God (Joel 3:16).  [Hear my sermon on “Place of Safety”- March 2012]

So we should expect it to be harder and harder to practice our faith.  We will see more attacks on believers.  Laws will be passed that will force us to compromise with sin – or speak up like Esther did. Eventually, we won’t be able to buy or sell unless we come under the worldwide “mark of the beast” (Rev. 13:11-17).  Imagine that! Not being able to buy food, clothing, pay bills, buy or rent a house, buy gas/petrol – imagine! And yet if we do knowingly come under the mark of the end-time “beast power”, we’ll lose out on our eternal rewards (Rev. 16:2; 20:4).   This is a major shaking which many of us will experience.  We’d best resolve NOW to remain faithful to Him who is able to provide for us even when it appears hopeless. Many believers will be martyred during this time as a witness. So our faith is going to be shaken until He knows – like Abraham, the father of the faithful – that nothing will tear us loose from our Abba, our dear Father.

And for true believers, let’s not lose sight that this is the most exciting age anyone could ever have lived in. Hallelujah.  It’s time to speak up for our God and King. It’s the time to be counted. It’s the time be zealous. It’s the time to get our house in order (Luke 21:34-36). It’s the time to pray, fast, study, and establish our relationship with Father and our Savior as never before. It’s the time for our marriages and human relationships to be where they are supposed to be. It’s the time for believers to quit splintering into more and more groups – but to come together as the One Body we are!  It’s the time to demonstrate the amazing agape love between believers that marks us as HIS children.

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OPEN THE DOOR. Our King is knocking!

Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

The scripture above is one said by our Master to one of the churches of Rev. 2 and 3 – Laodicea.  Many believe that church in particular depicts many of the end-time believers. Could Yeshua (Jesus) be trying to come into your life?  Is He possibly knocking at your door?  For that matter He IS the Door to salvation (John 10:9).  Why would a believer not open to our King? Why would we not open the door to our Master?  Is it possible you and I aren’t responding?  Read the rest of this blog to read some possible reasons why we may already be missing His knocking on His door.  We must hear His voice and we must be sure to open the door!

•    We look out the door “peephole” or through a side window, and don’t recognize the One knocking. 

If Jesus (Yeshua) were truly to literally knock on your literal door, would we recognize Him?  I assure you, He doesn’t look today anything like the artists’ paintings – people who never saw him.  He certainly did not have long hair.  But more importantly, I’m thinking of Matthew 25:31-40, where Yeshua says, “when you did these things to the least of these my brethren, you did them unto Me.”

My point is—Yeshua comes to us in many different ways. Anyone with His Spirit is considered a member or part of His “body” (Romans 12:4-5).  When we respond to the needs and prayer requests of His body – the “brethren” – we are responding to HIM.  How many times could He be calling for us, but doing so through one of His brothers and sisters – the called-out ones?

Hear HIS voice, hear his knocking, even if that voice is the voice of a church brother or sister you know very well.  In a way, Yeshua could be considering our response to that brother or sister as the way we are responding to our Savior himself.  Let’s learn to “see Yeshua” living through His Spirit in otherwise ordinary men and women.

•    If we’re spiritually naked, we may be reluctant to open the door.  
Perhaps you’ve had the experience of just coming out of your shower or bath when the doorbell rings.  Most of us would be very uncomfortable opening the door to someone knocking if we’re caught naked. Apply this now spiritually.  Maybe we are beginning to clean up, have taken off our clothes (our own righteousness) and are just beginning to put on the garments of His righteousness, which He offers us. So many scriptures tell us in essence to “be clothed, cover yourself with, and put on, Christ” (Rom. 13:14).  HE is our covering (Ephesians 4:24), HE is our righteousness when we accept the gift of God, His righteousness (Romans 5:15-18).  We are to guard our garments, lest we be caught naked (not covered by Him and His righteousness), lest when He come and knock, we’re not ready to open to Him. Also see Revelation 16:15.  We have to “watch our garments” lest we be found to be spiritually naked.

So the antidote:  put on Christ. Ask for HIS righteousness, which is offered as a free gift to us by faith (Romans 5:17; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; 2 Cor. 5:21).  Of course if Christ lives in us, He will live as He did before: obediently.  We can’t say we belong to Him and not walk as He walked (1 John 2:3-6). But it should be HIM walking in us, working in us. HE is the Vine and we are the branches. When we abide in the Vine, we bear much fruit (John 15:4-5). We certainly can’t by ourselves. I’m mixing metaphors like crazy, but just trying to point out that HE is our righteousness.  Without Him, we’re naked. Many believers apparently are naked and don’t see it (Rev. 3:17). Father is not into having His children be spiritual nudists!

•    We don’t, or can’t, HEAR His voice or His knocking because there is either a lot of noise or because we’re sound asleep spiritually.

If there’s a lot of “noise” in our lives, we won’t hear His knock.  “Noise” can include anything that distracts us:  non-stop TV blaring, for example. So many of us believers spend hours a day or each week on social media – Facebook, Twitter, email, web surfing, internet games, texting – that we simply have put spiritual matters to the sidelines.

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Is Hamas mentioned in Scripture?

Joel 3:19; Obadiah 10.

Gaza and the Hamas firing their hundreds of rockets everyday against Israel has been a big part of the news lately as I write this. Maybe it’s coincidental, or maybe not, but “hamas” is mentioned in Hebrew scripture in relation to Judah or Israel. Hamas was the militant arm of the Islamic Brotherhood, which was the winning faction in Egypt lately. So it’s no surprise to see Egypt’s new President Morsi warmly embracing Hamas in Gaza.  Hamas has never accepted Israel’s right to even exist. The “Arab Spring” and its promise for more democracy and an Arab-Muslim world with closer ties to the USA and Europe - -and maybe even Israel – simply has not materialized. We have a more anti-US set of leaders in North Africa.

There are many examples of “plays on words” in Scripture. To an Arab, the word “hamas” means someone acting bravely in the cause of Allah.  In Arabic it means “zeal” and it’s an acronym in Arabic for “Islamic Armed Movement”.  However, in Hebrew, there might be an interesting play on words. In Hebrew the word “hamas” means “violence.”  (It can also be spelled “chamac” but still pronounced “hamas”.)  Is it possible that we were warned thousands of years ago in Scripture that Hamas would become a violent thorn in Jacob’s (Israel’s) side?  Read the rest of this blog for what might be more than a coincidence as we examine 2-3 places where the word “hamas” is used in scripture and translated as “violence” in direct context of Israel.

Joel 3:19-21
19 "Egypt shall be a desolation, And Edom [Esau’s descendants] a desolate wilderness,
Because of violence [Hebrew: hamas] against the people of Judah,
For they have shed innocent blood in their land. 
20 But Judah shall abide forever, And Jerusalem from generation to generation. 
21 For I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted;
For YHVH dwells in Zion."

Edom – or Esau – always felt that his twin brother Jacob had stolen what was rightfully his. He made sure his children were firmly indoctrinated from their early childhood to hate their uncle Jacob, renamed Israel. The children of Esau included the fierce Amalekites and we may be witnessing some of their offspring in operation today.  It is ironic that Palestinians and Jews are really from the same overall family. Both are children of Abraham and Isaac. Esau and Jacob were brothers. Palestinians and many Arabs are really brothers or cousins to the Jew. But the bad blood between these brothers has been roiling for millennia. And it doesn’t help that the Hebrew or Jewish word for “darkness” or “nighttime” is “erev” – which can sound very much like “Arab” when it is spoken. Jews had no love for the Idumeans, as they had to endure the rule of the Herods, who were Edomites (or Idumeans).  At one point, the famous rock city of Petra, also called Sela in scripture, was the capital city of the Edomites at Mt. Seir.  Read Jer. 49:16 and 2 Chron. 25:11-12 pertaining to a great slaughter at Petra/Sela (which means “rock”).

On your own please read the one-chapter book of Obadiah. It starts out as a prophecy, a vision, concerning Esau/Edom (Obadiah 1:1).  We jump ahead to verse 10, but be sure to read all of it:

Obadiah 1:10 
10 "For violence (hamas) against your brother Jacob [Israel],
Shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.

Yehovah is angered and saddened when brothers don’t support each other and love each other. Edomites cheered the destruction of Israel in ancient times and will do so again in the end. They cheered the 9-11 attacks. Our Creator is particularly upset when brothers act this way. In fact He told Israel that they were forbidden to abhor an Edomite, “for he is your brother” (Deut. 23:7).  But unfortunately for descendants of Edom, the Almighty is going to severely punish them in the latter days. Why?  Because of the violence, the hamas, they perpetrate against Israel before it is all over. In the end however, YHVH rescues Israel – but not before some terrible carnage happens.

If any of you readers are Jew or Arab, please my brothers: in our Messiah we can come out of the hateful ways of this world.  We are not of this world.  Our hearts are set on our heavenly kingdom. Those of us led by the Holy Spirit can become brothers and sisters in Messiah, heirs of the promises given to Abraham through Christ – whether you are Jew or Arab. But first, we each have to come to Him and surrender our lives in humble obedience.  We ask Him to come live in us by His spirit. Only then can we be one with Him and one another. John 17:20-23 tells us how we become one:  in and through our Savior, who also happens to be our Creator (John 1:1-3; Col.1:15-16).  Jesus – Yeshua – was the God-being who spoke the words “Let there be light” and HE was the one who created man out of the dust and then built a woman from Adam’s side.

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Focus on Your More Important Election

(Hint: it’s not the US elections.)

America wakes up to the reality of four more years of President Obama. Some are euphoric and almost as many are depressed. Most feel it was a most important election.  I agree. The course the USA will take domestically and internationally will be dramatic, I feel.  I gave a sermon recently stating that I feel believers should make their voices heard especially about issues like the Biblical and traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman, the sanctity of all human life starting at conception, obeying the laws including citizenship laws of who can vote or be president.  So much is at stake and the Almighty either orchestrated this victory for President Obama or allowed it. It’s the difference between YHVH’s “perfect will” and His “permissive will”.  I believe strongly that God gave America the president the country wants and deserves.  Though He has final say in who our leaders are (Romans 13:1), He also says He allows us the leaders we want, even though they would not have been His choice (Hosea 8:4; I Samuel 8:7).  Either way, Father is involved and so we believers have peace, as we know our main citizenship is in heaven and that is where our heart resides.  Read this blog to hear about a far more important election that involves YOU.

But now there’s a far more important election at stake: our own!

Whether we like the elected leaders or not, both campaigns put extraordinary effort and time into making “ their election sure”.  How about you and me?  In a way, our “election” is in reverse. In the US elections, though there is a popular vote, ultimately it’s the vote of the Electors in the Electoral College who decide the president. So each side spent enormous time and money trying to get the undecided states, as they needed those electoral votes.

In our case, the Elector who decides whether or not you or I will be part of what HE calls His “elect” – or “chosen ones” in the first resurrection – is not a mere human, but is Yehovah, God Almighty himself.

The US election pales into insignificance compared to our own election. We get only one shot at it. And that’s not to be president of the USA, but one of special “first fruits” group of the series of callings.  Being “a first fruit” is not so much about having more power or being “the leader”. Neither is it so much about “being in charge” or ruling the nations, as I heard repeatedly as I grew up in the “church”.  Sure, it includes that. But power without love is just brute force and meaningless. So being a “first fruit” is not so much about in charge as it is being able to be an effective “first responder”. It’s about being “in service”.  The world will be in dire straits. Children, babies, men and women will need to be healed. Millions will need food and water and assurance that all will be well.  Now, power underpinned by genuine love and humility will be something they’ve never really witnessed in their leaders before this.  Think of all the times you wish you could have been more effective to help -- but were unable to. As a glorified child of the Highest changed to immortal spirit, we will be just like He is (read 1 John 3:1-2), for He is spirit.

Now let’s transition to us. Are we taking OUR OWN election – being chosen by God - -for granted? Or are we doing everything we can to be sure we are part of the elect of God?   Are we not working as hard, or even harder, than “the other side”?  Governor Romney’s side in the US elections lost because millions of their own registered voters didn’t bother showing up. They actually had the votes to win, had they been more organized, had they been more successful in getting people to act. That’s a huge lesson for us. A huge lesson. At some point, there’s no more time.

Are we “pulling out the stops” to make our own calling and election (being chosen) sure?   
2 Peter 1:10-11
Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So I ask again, are we earnestly seeking Father and Yeshua with all our hearts to make our own calling and election (being chosen) sure?  Are we working anywhere nearly as hard for our spiritual election as the re-election teams did who worked so hard for President Obama’s election?  At some point, Yeshua says the doors are closed and some are found outside wanting in – when it’s too late. The “it’s never too late” message is a dangerous one and not really Biblical. Ask the millions of Israelites who were not permitted into the Promised Land (Hebrews 3:10-18; 4:1-2).  They heard the warnings and the message, but didn’t mix faith with fervent action into the equation.  Are we living like someone who knows time is short and we need to be close tour God, who is also our Elector?  Our faith is demonstrated by our deeds and actions.

Quick definitions are in order. There’s a sequence. Being “called” is not the same at all as being “chosen” – though we have to be called/invited before we are chosen. Many are called (Matthew 22:14) but few are chosen. And when you study it carefully, GOD does the calling as well as the choosing/election.  But we do have a part to play.

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YHVH’s children won’t keep Halloween

If you profess to be a child of the Highest, surely Halloween is obviously one of the Adversary’s days.  God’s children will have no part in it. We have never participated. We don’t give out candy; we don’t even answer the door. We just go out or stay in our basement during this dark time. I hate this holiday because YHVH is clear that HE hates this kind of day that honors the Adversary and everything evil. God’s children have no dealings with holidays that honor goblins, witches, death and dying, spells – all of which the Bible condemns in the strongest terms.  If you wish to learn more, why not do your own research and just Google the origins of Halloween.  This day comes straight out of paganism, and our Father has told His children not to get involved in any of that (Deut 12:29-32). Children of the Highest -- let’s obey our heavenly Father. He tells us not to add to or take away from His instructions.  If you’ve known for a long time that you should not be participating in this evil day, then make this the year you step up to the plate and do the right thing. Email me if you have any questions.

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I Can’t Wait for the New Administration!

We’re just a few weeks away from the US presidential elections.  Many Senators and Representatives are also up for re-election.  The news media almost seems unaware of any other news in the country or around the world as everyone focuses on who will lead the next administration.  I can’t wait for the new administration either.  But we who are of the heavenly Jerusalem do not overly focus on whether the next president is President Obama or Governor Mitt Romney.  Our focus is like Abraham’s:  focusing on the city whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:8-10).  I’m not discussing in this blog whether we should vote or not.  I’m just reminding us all that our excitement comes from visualizing and anticipating and praying for King Yeshua to come and lead the true next administration, and not just in the USA, but for the whole world.  Let’s check our hearts.  Let’s focus on Him. Delight in Him. Believe in Him.  Put all your hope and confidence in Him, for surely, flesh and blood leaders will disappoint.  King Jesus won’t.  He’s our real hope, our confidence and our constant prayer.

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The “Must visit” site you must not miss this Feast!

Every year after the Feast, people talk about where they went for the Feast, who they ran into, what the messages and sermons were like – and what they saw.  It’s natural – especially if that was your first time to the Oregon coast or to Jekyll Island or Destin, FL or wherever you went.  During the feast, many of us will plan our schedules to make sure we see the “must see” places while we’re at a particular Feast site.  Read on, to be sure you visit, see and often go to -- the one “absolutely must visit” site during your Feast – or you will have indeed missed out.  

After the sermons, in all our hustle and bustle, dining out, sightseeing and all the “doing” we do at Feast of Booths, don’t miss the #1 site of all:  the throne of our Father and Jesus Christ, or Yeshua as I call Him. Let’s be sure we are making and taking the time to pray more than we usually do. Let’s be sure we are taking the time to praise, worship and thank YHVH for still being able to meet peacefully and safely. That’s the #1 destination site, regardless of where you’re keeping Yahweh’s feasts:  HIS presence, His throne, His heavenly Jerusalem.  Let’s not forget the core reasons we are at the Feast: to worship the King of the Universe—our very own Father and His Son, to learn to fear to disobey Him, to learn to worship and praise Him.  

Remember, as I pointed out in a recent sermon, the gates of the temple mysteriously opened every day after Christ died – from 30 AD to 70 AD.  Perhaps father was saying, “Come, all whom I call – please come.  My Son has made it possible for all of you to come before me, in Him, through Him, and in His name.  Come before me. It’s no longer just the priests or high priest who can come in my presence. Come in, the gates are open now in and through my Son.”

King David wanted nothing more than to be in Yahweh’s presence, to stand in His courts, to sing to His name, to acknowledge His presence. We too can stand and visit – in spirit – the heavenly courts of heavenly Jerusalem. Take the time, make the daily journey.

Psalm 135:2-3
2 You who stand in the house of YHVH, in the courts of the house of our God, 
3 Praise YHVH, for YHVH is good; Sing praises to His name, for it is pleasant.

Psalm 96:7-9
7 Give to YHVH, O families of the peoples; give to YHVH glory and strength. 
8 Give to YHVH the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts. 
9 Oh, worship YHVH in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth.

Psalm 100
Make a joyful shout to YHVH, all you lands! 
2 Serve YHVH with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. 
3 Know that YHVH, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; 
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. 
5 For YHVH is good; His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

Enjoy visiting this awesome destination. What an honor.  Rejoice greatly before our awesome Abba and our King Yeshua.  Have a blessed, happy, spirit-rich, spirit-filled, anointed Feast.

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Let’s go celebrate our King!

Here it is! Yahweh’s Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot in Hebrew – known as “The Season of our joy”.  Let’s celebrate our KING!  Indeed.  It pictures a time ahead of us when our Beloved King Yeshua (you may know him as Jesus) - - son of David, son of the Most High -- has returned in majesty and power with His Bride to reclaim the Land from the false ruler of this earth, Satan.  The Fall season of 4 divine appointments starts off pretty dark with the “day of clouds and gloominess of the Day of the LORD (YHVH)” – as Yeshua comes back on the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah).  It’s a day of joy for those of us on His side. It’s a day of war and worldwide catastrophes for those assembled to fight us.  Finally, rebellion will be put down. 

Then Yeshua will accept His people as He calls them from the four corners of the world to which they’ve been scattered. They will come back as “one stick” (Ezekiel 37:15-28), weeping and repenting as our dear Abba Father gives each of them a new heart and YHVH’s  Ruach HaKodesh – His Holy Spirit (Ezek 36:24-32).  There will also be an innumerable number of Gentiles from all nations and tribes who will stand up for truth (Rev. 7:9-17).  Many repentant Gentiles will be part of the Bride of our Messiah and spiritual Israel and inheritors of the covenant with Abraham (hear my recent sermons on Gentiles).  Those from Israel and the nations who repent will be forgiven and their sins covered, pictured by Yom Kippur -- the day of covering, the Day of Atonement.

But before the celebrations can begin in earnest, the one who caused so much trouble – Satan (which means “adversary”) has to be neutralized.  And he will be! We can’t have an end to dissension and trouble until the cause of that trouble is removed. “Cast out the scoffer and strife shall cease” (Prov. 22:10). That old Slanderer (that’s what “Devil” means) has his mouth shut for a while, along with his demons and the rest of the fallen angels – for 1,000 years. 
Revelation 20:1-3
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

Now the Feast of Tabernacles can begin!  Be sure to be checking our website for messages, even from previous years in 2004-2007 you’ll find some messages in the months of September-October of those years.  And by the way: ask Yeshua to bind Satan now in YOUR life, to neutralize his filthy temptations by the power of the Holy Spirit working mightily in us.

So what does Sukkot – Feast of Tabernacles—picture?  It pictures our KING, our beloved KING Yeshua finally taking reigns as the Lion of Judah, as the King of Kings, as the righteous Judge of all the earth.  Finally a time of blessings, a time of peace, and a time of joy – as each part of the world comes under His rule.  Those who won’t submit will just have to take a little longer to experience the joy, peace and blessings and prosperity that the other places who have submitted are enjoying.
It won’t happen overnight. The earth will start off as a total mess from all the earthquakes, wars, volcanic eruptions, plagues, tsunamis and meteorite hits.  It will take time to rebuild. But that’s why we will read so much in the prophets about a time of rebuilding, repairing the breaches, replanting the fields, repairing the mess that Satan’s way caused.

There were 70 bulls sacrificed during Sukkot.  They weren’t all sacrificed in one day, but a certain number each day of the 7 days of the Feast.  This corresponds to the 70 nations of Genesis 10 -- and it pictures how it takes time before all the Gentiles come around to the Way.  But it will be a wondrous time to watch nation after nation finally repent, finally join us in the most joyous celebration – all of us as one, coming together, worshiping together, as one.

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And the band played on…

Don’t be oblivious to world events as we come to Atonement.

We’re right here at the doorstep of the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur (actually “the day of covering”). We will soon see cataclysmic world events, wars and catastrophes – and yet the US President would rather spend his time with ladies of The View and be interviewed by David Letterman and “the Pimp with a limp” than meet with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu or other world leaders while they are in New York. It’s like our leaders and our people don’t realize the titanic world issues in front of us. And like the Titanic, even as it was sinking, the band continued to play on deck.  Are we any different?  Turn on the radio and we find more interest in the latest football or baseball game than in the world events in front of us. There’s more discussion about someone’s tax returns than on the US Libyan ambassador’s brazen assassination. 

World events are spiraling out of control, embassies are being attacked, and at the UN General Assembly the leader of Iran calls for Israel to be eliminated – but there is a deafening silence to his hate speech.  As I write, Iran is airlifting soldiers to Syria. There are “war games” going on in the Golan Heights with 20,000 Israeli soldiers.  Israel has just allowed Egypt to fly reconnaissance along the southern border with Egypt.  The stage is being set for war – and all the while, just like on the Titanic, “the band played on”.  We may within a year, probably much sooner, see a massive war involving Israel and its Arab neighbors, as well as Iran. This will invariably draw in much of the rest of the world as well. Iran openly says it will attack US bases in the area if it is attacked. We could have 100,000 US troops at risk.

In all of this, let’s be one of the few who are awake and alert. Let’s be praying and watching our relationship with Yahweh. I doubt the US election will avert a war with Iran. It just might happen sooner than later if Romney gets in. But war looks imminent.  Sounds like Yeshua’s words of “wars and rumors of war” in Matthew 24. Also pray for the country of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. We know the hills which ring Jerusalem will once again resound with the blasts of war before King Yeshua returns.  Then soon after that, in a soon-coming Yom Kippur, our King will put an end to the violence around Jerusalem and bind the real cause of all human woe – Satan the Devil. Then the true Jubilee will be sounded, when Satan’s captives and slaves will be set free all around the world.

Abba, your children implore you to hasten that day. Please send your Son – our King – soon, so your kingdom’s way will be the norm so that over time, the whole world will go your Way.  Come, our Saviour, come.

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Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem – and more.

As we approach the Feast of Tabernacles, depicting a peaceful world – at last.

As I write this blog, the Middle East is exploding into violent attacks against American and western interests, embassies and personnel. The US ambassador to Libya and three other good men were killed in Benghazi, Libya and the embassy burned. In the meantime Iran (Persia) has repeatedly called for Israel to be wiped off the face of the earth and has hundreds of centrifuges going full tilt – presumably to produce their own atomic weapon. Israel’s Netanyahu meanwhile is snubbed by our leader. During all this our president, for whom we are commanded to pray, has been busier campaigning for re-election than he’s been leading our country, as it is being attacked all over the globe. Don’t forget: embassies are considered to be on their own soil as a matter of practice everywhere.  And soon, children of Yahweh will be observing His feast of Tabernacles picturing the time when the world is at peace under the reign of King Jesus. Read more to discover your role, today, right now. 

I’m giving sermons about Gentiles. The Almighty is the creator of us all – whether Arab or Jew, American or Russian, Chinese or Japanese or Kenyan. We are all of one blood (Acts 17:26). We all come from Adam. We each are made in the image and likeness of our Creator (Gen. 1:26-28). Each of us has within himself or herself the breath of life breathed into our common ancestor Adam (Gen. 2:7). So why are we constantly at war?  Because the Troublemaker Satan is busy at work as the present “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4).

We will soon be worshiping at Yah’s Feasts. Let’s go to this year’s feast with renewed desire for God’s kingdom – our kingdom too, if we are children of that Kingdom, if our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).  Even while away from the usual routine, let’s obey the commands to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:2), even as we pray that it results in our peace and ability to speak the gospel. Let’s remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6), all of Israel, its neighbors and for “Thy Kingdom come” so that God’s will may be done, finally – here on earth – as it always is in heaven.  It’s time, brothers and sisters. It’s time to be looking up.  It's time to remember where our kingdom and citizenship reside. And it’s past time to pray more than ever before.

There are also elections coming up in the USA. As children of God, we can’t pin our hopes in any man. All our hope is in our heavenly Father and His beloved Son.  We long for the day He returns.  I can’t wait. Can you imagine when Abraham himself gathers his children – who include Arabs and Israelites – and tells them all to get along, and then explains how.  And that will be just the beginning.

Now is the time also to be repenting, be renewing your bonds with your Savior and your Father in heaven. NOW is the time to be seeking Him more than ever.  Let’s be at peace with Him and with one another, so we can someday show others how we can be one in Him, because we’ve learned that now, in this life.

And yes, pray for Jerusalem, pray for Israel, pray for our own country, pray for our presidents and prime ministers and kings – even as we long for the coming rulership of our Messiah here on earth.  That’s what the Feast of Tabernacles is all about… and it’s coming up soon. As we pray for Jerusalem, remember: it’s from Jerusalem where the Way and the Law of our God will go forth.  It will be the capital of the world – but this time, under the leadership of King Yeshua.

May the living God speed that day.

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“Lord, teach us to pray”

Heart to heart connections with the King of the Universe

When we speak in prayer to Abba, our heavenly Father, are our hearts speaking  –  or are we just reciting a “prayer” someone else wrote or said years ago?  For that matter, even our own unique prayers, if they’re from the same “prayer list” each day, can even those prayers turn to mere words and not be our hearts being bared to Him who sees our hearts anyway?  There’s nothing wrong with prayer lists (topics to cover); I use them too. Let’s just remember to check that our hearts are in our conversations with the King of the Universe.   Today’s blog is about praying, sharing our hearts with Abba each day; our own soul opening up to our dear Father, our Abba in heaven. 

What would Abba – as our dear Father -- really rather hear from us, His children:  a prepared, memorized standard prayer from a prayer book or devotional – or you pouring your heart out?  It’s clear, isn’t it?  Whether “pouring your heart out” means in ecstatic praise and joy, or from a broken heart in deep repentance, or words pouring from a mother’s heart in anguish as she begs Abba in heaven to heal her child – Abba surely wants our hearts!  Abba means “dear father”, similar to our “Daddy”.  Any of you who are fathers would immediately agree that you’d far rather have your little child speak from her heart to you, rather than have her read someone else’s prayer. Abba in heaven is no different.

One time Yeshua’s disciples overheard Him praying.  I’m sure His disciples had long before memorized the standard synagogue prayers everyone said before meals, or after meals or endless other functions that had their own prepared prayers. You can buy “prayer books” in Israel and everywhere. Most people who had memorized the standard prayers (like even “the Lord’s Prayer”) would claim they know how to pray as they perfectly repeat their “Hail Mary” or “Lord’s Prayer” or rabbinic prayers. But when Yeshua’s (Jesus) disciples heard HIM pray, they knew something different was going on. He was actually connecting with Someone; they could feel it! So one of them asked Him to teach them how to pray.

Luke 11:1
Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples."

Have we ever asked Yahweh, “Abba, our dear Father, teach me how to pray to you"? Teach me how to talk with you. Teach me to open my soul and my heart to you”?  If not, maybe that would also be a good start.

There are many recorded prayers in the Bible. None of them, to the best of my knowledge except the “Lord’s Prayer” (“the Our Father…”), were the standard memorized prayers being said today. When Solomon dedicated the temple in His powerful prayer you can read in 2 Chronicles 6, those words flowed from his heart. When we read David’s prayer when he repented of murdering Uriah and stealing his wife in adultery (Psalm 51), our own hearts break. Our own hearts feel his sincere anguish.  That wasn’t a rote prayer either. No - -that one flowed from his heart too.

Think of prayer as having time with your Abba and also with your Beloved Savior.  You’re spending time like you would if you were going on a walk together, or sitting down over a meal. It’s that kind of feeling as you speak from your heart.

Yeshua gave us some guidelines when we pray.  He doesn’t want us going on and on, especially in something almost like a theatrical presentation in front of a lot of people. Father knows our hearts and we can pray directly and simply without a lot of show business! Neither does He want just memorized words!

Matthew 6:5-8 Apologetics Study Bible
“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 
6 But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 
7 When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. 
8 Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.

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Marital “Withdrawals” or “Deposits”?

Which are you doing with your marital “account”? 

Today’s blog is real simple. Think of marriage as a bank account.  Every time you put in a deposit, that’s a good thing and your bank balance grows.  Every time you take money out, that’s a withdrawal and your balance diminishes. Think of having a marital “bank” account.  Every single thing we say and do – whenever relationships are involved - - is either a deposit or a withdrawal in the strength of our marriage.  It’s either adding to the strength of the marriage – or weakening it. So I ask today:  what does your marital account look like recently: a lot of big deposits – or withdrawals?  Read the rest of this to get some practical examples.  And check out our two most recent sermons on marriage, and man and woman, given in July and August 2012.   

I’ve done more than my share of “withdrawals” from my marital “bank account”.  So I’m an expert on “withdrawals”, but not a kind of expertise I’m proud of.  I’ve also been focusing on making more regular “deposits” as well. Don’t forget:  it’s so often in our moments of abject failure that we come to see we need to turn around, repent, and go the other way.  It is when we hit bottom when we are most likely to look up and cry out for deliverance and redemption from Father and our Redeemer.  So if your marital account is a bit poor right now, I’ve been there.  But let me also remind you:  how hard we fall doesn’t matter as much as how high we bounce back. Withdrawals from a marital “bank account” can be awful and discouraging, but we can come back from virtual marital bankruptcy. So take heart.  I’ve been married 37 years now and we’ve just had a fabulous 5 day anniversary trip.  My wife, my best friend, my lover and “soul mate” – still here after all these ups and downs, and a lot of it has to do with making more deposits than withdrawals. 

What are a few examples of marital “withdrawals”?  (The List could easily be endless.)
•    Walking away after a spat instead of letting the other one speak and hearing him/her out.  
•    Finding fault. Trying to change your spouse.  Not accepting her or him the way they are. Let God be the One who changes what needs to be     changed. HE is the Creator of the new life. 
•    Forgetting key anniversaries or other important dates
•    Complaining about something the other is doing or not doing to your satisfaction. Complaining is always a “withdrawal” from your account.  
•    Saying anything you regret later.  Humiliating your wife or husband in public – or private. 
•    Focusing on other things when your spouse wants your attention.
•    HUGE withdrawals would be the big fight, throwing things, slamming doors, calling your spouse unspeakable names and words.  
•    “Headed to bankruptcy” (divorce):  would include acts of infidelity or adultery.  But even here, remember many climb back from “bankruptcy”     when there is repentance, hope and forgiveness. 

In the money world, a company can still recover from bankruptcy but it’s tough. Same thing in marriage. You can be on the verge of a relational bankruptcy and with a lot of prayer, forgiveness and change, we can slowly rebuild the marriage with God’s grace.  But when a lot of damage has been done, there will be scars and sore points for a long time to come. But it can be done! 

A few examples of “deposits” you can make to your marital account: (List could be endless!)
•    Praising and expressing appreciation for the other (what kind of husband he is, her cooking, what kind of dad or mom the other is, etc.)
•    Accepting the other. Really accepting.  Some do this better than others and what a gift it is to be an accepting person.  In fact you get a “kick” out of his/her little idiosyncrasies.  
•    Overlooking and “covering for” the other’s faults. In fact, you love him or her for what she is – faults, wrinkles, appearance, everything.  You see an inner beauty more and more, rather than the outward. As  we each age, this is a good thing! 
•    Remembering anniversaries and special dates.  (Mark them in your Outlook calendar so you don’t forget!).  Do something very special on these very special days. 
•    Walking hand in hand. Sitting on the couch together. Reading together. 
•    Touching.  Just hug her for no reason at all except you love her. Hug, touch, and affirm a LOT. 
•    Having eyes just for her (or him) – and your spouse knows it!  
•    Your eyes light up when she (or he) walks into the room. 
•    Focus on the positives. The older we get, and the better our marriage gets, it seems more and more that all we see are the positives. But which came first? 
•    Listening intently when the other speaks. You don’t interrupt. This is actually just basic courtesy. 
•    Seriously considering the other’s viewpoint.  
•    Calling her from work just to say “I love you. I miss you.”  
•    Putting little love notes in his suitcase when he leaves on a business trip. 
•    Showing honor and respect for your partner every way you can. 
•    Serving your Beloved every chance you can. Offering to do a chore she thought she had to do – just because you love her. Giving her a day off, a night off to be with friends, and when she comes home, the kitchen is cleaned up, the clothes are put away and the house is spotless. Wives, you can do things for him too.  
•    Praying for your spouse.  Praying with your spouse. Expressing gratitude for your spouse. 
•    Blessing your spouse.  Believing the best of your spouse.

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