Blogs

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

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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Something we each decide to do

What are your spouse’s marriage scriptures?

What are the marriage scriptures for men? And what are they for women?  If you were asked, as a man let’s say, to recite the scriptures for women, which ones would you read?

I recently posted on Lightontherock.org two sermons about “man and woman”.  By necessity we discussed marriage quite a bit in there as well. This blog’s point is this:  If you asked me to read the “women scriptures”, I’d read you how husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and how I am to understand my wife and honor her, and so on.  “But those are scriptures for the men”, you might protest.  Well, true.  But the point of the blog is this:  I am responsible for the scriptures that apply to me.  For me the “women scriptures” are the scriptures that are telling me how to treat one woman especially, my wife. My wife is responsible for the scriptures that apply to her. It is not up to her to remind me to love her, help her grow or nurture her.  Neither is it up to me to remind her that she is supposed to submit to me.  The scriptures are there for each of us to individually choose to do. Understanding this could make all the difference in our relationships. Keep reading and your life might even change from this simple blog. 

The perfect example is our amazing one true God. He gave Israel a choice on Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Nebo. They could choose life or death. My point exactly: THEY could choose one or the other. He wasn’t making them do one or the other. Sure, there are consequences, but the choice was still theirs.

I think too many marriages suffer because we can plainly see what the other isn’t doing. Maybe she isn’t “submitting herself” or obeying the husband “as unto the Lord in all things”.  Or maybe he isn’t giving himself for his wife, loving her as his own body.  The point is, the wife is to submit herself. That’s not something her husband should be reminding her to do.  And frankly, if we men were doing our assignments properly, it would be a lot easier for any wife to submit to a loving, good and gentle man.  And if the wives were being respectful and honoring in their interactions with their husbands, it would be a lot easier to love a wife like that.  And if both are doing their God-assigned parts, then even the conjugal dues passage of 1 Cor. 7:1-6 would be a lot, lot easier for both sides to fulfill.  It’s hard to be intimate with someone we don’t like, or disrespect, or who has recently hurt our feelings and sense of self-worth.

So even if your spouse isn’t doing his or her part, we each are still being judged by whether or not we are doing our part. Marriage is 100%- 100%, not a 50-50 proposition. Even if the other is giving 0%, we are being judged on how well we are doing OUR role. So even if it’s 100-0, we are to give that 100%. .   After all, Christ loved us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:7-9). He did more than His part when we weren’t giving anything back. That’s our model But if we’re giving 100%, truly, it would be a hardened spouse indeed who wouldn’t start to respond.

Back to our Savior: He did in fact love us while we were giving 0% back to him.  But what was the end result:  “we love him BECAUSE He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).  And that’s hopefully what will begin to happen in all our relationships.  As we follow Christ and walk in His footsteps, we will over time start to see the same results: people responding positively to the positive ways we treat them, regardless of what they are like. Regardless of how we’re treated, we are to treat everyone – even our enemies -- with patience, love, and honor.  Tough to do sometimes, but that’s the goal.

I preach to myself. I obviously don’t have this all dialed in yet myself and have a ways to go too. But that’s what our Master says.  Each one will be judged and rewarded based on HIS (or her) own works – NOT on whether or not the people we were interacting with were doing their part or not.

So don’t be using the scriptures as a sword over your loved ones. Just live the life you’re supposed to lead, and that is the best sermon anyway: the changing life that is evident to all.

With that in mind, please enjoy and benefit from the most recent shared studies.  I’d love to hear back from you.

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Always watch the 9th of Av: Israel’s past and future

It can’t just be coincidence.

In Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, the emperor is warned by an old soothsayer to “beware the ides of March.”  Soon after that, he’s assassinated by several senators including Brutus, his supposed friend.

I’m actually not a big Shakespeare expert, but I’d like to say – be watching the 9th of Av this year but especially in the coming decade. It’s a terrible date in Jewish history, and one we need to be aware of.   That’s the easy way to remember it. The 9th of Av happens in mid-summer.   This year the 9th of Av on the Hebrew calendar falls on the sabbath, July 28, 2012 of our Gregorian calendar.  I am NOT saying anything will happen this year, or next.  But I want my readers to know that it can’t be mere coincidence that so much has happened on the 9th of Av on the Hebrew Calendar. As I write this, we are in the period of time called “the Dire Straits” – from the 17th of Tammuz to the 9th of Av.  Remember it as roughly our month of July most years.  It was during this time that calamity after calamity has befallen Israel.  For example, it was during this time that Moses dashed the two tablets of the 10 commandments to the ground at the gold calf incident. 

Could more calamities befall Israel around this period of time, on the 9th of Av in a soon coming future year?  See the history for yourself if this date leaves a particularly loathsome aftertaste in our Creator’s mouth:

•    It was on the 9th of Av that the 10 of the 12 spies who returned from spying out the Promised Land caused Israel to lose faith, to lose heart, and to rebel. YHVH therefore announces all Israelites age 20 and over would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb were exempted.  You can read the full story in Numbers 14.  After everything Yahweh had done for them – the liberation from slavery, the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, the manna from heaven, the miraculous providence of water from the Rock, the giving of His covenant with them and the Law, after forgiving them of their terrible sin with the gold calf – after all that, they lose faith and rebel once more. That was the last straw. The 9th of Av (mid-late July) has frequently since then been a terrible date for Israel and later, the Jews.

•    The first House of God, more commonly called “Solomon’s temple”, is destroyed on this date, the 9th of Av. Over 100,000 Jews are slaughtered, and most of the remainder are hauled off into captivity to Babylon (where modern day Iraq is) and the area of Persia (modern day Iran).  Have you heard anything about Iraq and Iran lately in the news?

•    The 2nd temple was also burned and dismantled on this exact date as well - 9th of Av in 70 AD by the Romans under General Titus.  It was gruesome.  So many Jews were crucified, the Romans despaired for lack of wood on which to impale their pained victims.  It was from the pain of crucifixion that we get the word “excruciating” – as in indescribable pain.  Over 2,500,000 Jews die from war, famine and disease. Another million are exiled. Over 100,000 are sold as slaves. Many are killed in Roman coliseums for entertainment, in gladiatorial “games” and pagan celebrations.

Want more confirmation? 
•    The Jews rebel again and they believe Simon bar Kochba will be the Messiah. But – on the 9th of Av, 133 CE, the rebels are massacred in the final battle at Betar and 100,000 more Jews shed their blood.

•    One year later, on the 9th of Av 134 AD, the Romans plowed over the Jews’ Temple Mount, their most sacred site. My wife and I have personally walked the excavated streets of the new pagan city the Romans erected on top the ruins of Jerusalem. They call it Aelia Capitolina.

•    1095 AD:  On the 9th of Av, Pope Urban II announces the First Crusade. This is not good news to Jews, as 10,000 are killed in the first month of the Crusade alone. The killing continues for years to come from the “Christian” liberators of Jerusalem.

•    In 1290 AD, on the 9th of Av, all Jews are expelled from England.  Their books and property are confiscated by the government.

•    In 1492, besides all that good stuff about Columbus sailing the ocean blue, Spain’s Queen Isabella and her husband Ferdinand expel all Jews from Spain and allow them just four months to totally get out or else… The drop dead date was, once more, the 9th of Av.

•    World War 1 began on the Hebrew calendar of the 9th of Av, 1914 as Britain and Russia declare war on Germany. The issues surrounding WWI are unresolved, resulting in World War II and the Holocaust.  Millions of Jews die in concentration camps as well as pogroms and “ethnic cleansing” later in Hungary, Ukraine, Poland and Russia.

•    9th of Av, 1942 – Deportations begin from the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto to the Treblinka concentration camp.  (For something interesting, look up the history of the word “ghetto”.)

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Are you ready for the coming financial crash?

It IS coming. It’s just a matter of when.

I recommend you watch this video:  http://www.coyhwh.com/en/worldnews.php?play=June%202012_Israeli%20Intelligence%20Report

Just copy and paste this into your URL and watch a well done presentation of where we are financially, not just in the USA, but in Europe, Israel and the rest of the world.  I don’t necessarily endorse everything the speaker has ever said, or everything he believes, or even everything in this video, but who am I?  I just feel it’s worth watching.  It appears we’re heading for 2008 all over again, only this time – much, much harsher.  It could happen this year. Or several years from now.  But all the forces are in play that could make a huge crash happen before the end of this calendar year.  Our national fiscal incompetence is about to hit us all hard.  Since most people still go to work every day, they don’t see the fiscal cancer that is growing at unprecedented rates behind the scenes.  Most of us, including me, simply don’t understand the complex interaction of so many forces at play. I know enough to say we need to wake up. 

What are a few of the over 2 dozen forces in play? 

•    Our world is much more interconnected that the average man on the street – or I – even realize. What happens in one country impacts us all eventually. 
•    China owns our national debt and could stop loaning us money and cash in its debt. 
•    Our national debt will soon be over $16 TRILLION as of July 1, 2012. 
•    There are steps afoot for world economies to drop the dollar as the world currency and come up with something new or different. This alone could be disastrous to us.
•    Several European countries are on the edge of economic collapse. Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland are among the least stable at present. If even just one of these goes bankrupt, the impact on our economy will be greater than the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008.
•    Cities and counties in the USA are on the edge of bankruptcy. Stockton, CA recently sent shockwaves.  San Jose and San Diego are on the edge.  Who’s next?  People’s confidence in their lifelong pension plans will soon be shot down.  Municipal and state governments have simply promised more than they can deliver. 
•    Banks in Europe are having to be bailed out.  Major banks’ credit ratings are being reduced. 
•    U.S. job growth is at a standstill.  Unemployment rates are stuck above 8%, and the true rate, counting the underemployed or those who have simply given up on finding a job, the real US unemployment number is somewhere between 16-20%, according to some. 
•    A growing demand to use something other than US dollars to pay for oil. At present, it is called the Petro Dollar System.  If this system ends, the US dollar will go into a rapid death spiral. That in turn will impact our economy in ways we can’t even foresee.  Some see this as the beginning of astronomical inflation rates.

Ultimately our faith is in our heavenly father. Having said that, I am not saying that means there is nothing we need to be doing. Joseph – when told there were 7 lean years of severe famine and financial collapse coming, used the 7 good years he had to prepare and save up.

Here are some suggestions:
•    FIRST and foremost: establish your closest possible relationship with our heavenly Father and our savior Jesus Christ (Yeshua).  Nothing else matters if this first point is in place. If you have this in place, neither does it mean we stop there.  I think – just like Biblical Joseph – there are things we can do.

•    Don’t add to your debt.
•    Pay off as much debt as you can. 
•    If you have a way to earn extra income now, do so.  What spending you do should be for absolute essentials and for coping in an emergency. 
•    I’m personally getting out of the stock market.  What you do is your decision. I’m not telling anyone what to do, just making suggestions of things you should ponder.
•    Have a ready cash supply on hand.

•    Stock up on non-perishable foods for a few months’ supply.  Ultimately our faith has to be in God, but we shouldn’t be foolish either. Have a supply of water and food to last you a while in short emergencies.  I personally buy dehydrated food packs from www.eFoodsDirect.com.    Order now. In emergencies, they also run low! 

•    Have a supply of water, flashlights/batteries, food, lanterns, a ready back-up system of being able to stay warm and to cook food. (Camping stove and propane tanks?)
•    Basically be ready to keep on going if the power grid goes down, if there’s no heat, if there’s no running water, and it’s hard to get food for a few months.

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When does Human Life begin, according to Scripture?

Is Abortion mentioned in the Bible?

We’ve all heard the arguments for and against ending a pregnancy.  I remember listening to lectures that an abortion was simply removing “tissue” from a woman, nothing more. We’ve heard the arguments that it is a woman’s right to choose whether to continue the pregnancy or end it.  Many, many of those women who fought hard for that right to end pregnancies are now on the other side, by the way.  I’m going to give you what Scripture has to say about this.

Let me begin by saying that it truly must be tough to find oneself pregnant in an unplanned series of events. Of course I know a woman doesn’t just “find herself pregnant”.  In most cases (except rape and other circumstances), it involveddecisions to engage in sex, maybe in a moment of uncontrolled passion or even drunkenness or under the influence of drugs. And now more decisions have to be made. It is unfortunate that all too often the man involved is nowhere to be found, unless he too may be urging abortion. But all of us have to live with consequences of the life decisions we make. I do, you do, and we all do. 

The huge difference is that this decision – to abort or not – involves the taking of life.

Even the 1973 landmark decision of Roe v. Wade – “Roe”, the woman on which it was based, who claimed to have been gang raped, now wishes she can recant. She says now there was no gang rape, but they wanted to have the best case for the pro-abortion folks.  In Roe v. Wade, Supreme Court Justice Blackmum wrote the majority opinion allowing abortion in the first trimester. The original opinion allowed restrictions in the 2nd and 3rd trimester to protect what was called the “potential” life of whatever was growing in the pregnant woman. 

“Jane Roe” was Norma McCorvey and she’s come out of the closet. She was painted at the time as a poor, destitute 21 year old pregnant woman who could not afford a legal California abortion or an illegal one in Texas. So her case was used as the litmus test.  Many don’t realize that before this case every reached the Supreme Court, Norma had already had her baby and put her daughter up for adoption. Ironically, there’s a living woman in her early 40’s today who is alive because “Roe” – Norma Wade – gave birth to her, while millions upon millions of unborn babies have had their lives ended, all in the name of a woman’s right to privacy and to choose – after she became pregnant.  

Since that 1973 decision, Norma McCorvey (“Roe”) had her baby, told Washington Times columnist Carl Rowan in 1987 that she gave false testimony.  She admits now that she lied about the 1969 account of being raped by three men and a woman. She confesses now that never happened. She confessed in 1987 that she became pregnant by her boyfriend.  Since Roe v. Wade, “Roe” – Norma McCorvey – has participated in numerous anti-abortion rallies.  Had you heard or read about that?  You can easily research this and confirm it. God bless her! She’s trying to help undo this horrible landmark case any way she can.

There was another case – a Sandra Bensing – who was also part of that landmark decision. She has never had an abortion.  This was not her original intent. Both women now admit to having been manipulated by lawyers seeking to overturn state anti-abortion laws.  

Since then, sex education in schools has proliferated. But has the number of unwanted teen pregnancies gone down or up? Has morality improved or gone south?

In the meantime, the debate of when human life begins continues to rage.  Does human life begin at conception? Or is it – as many say – at first breath?  Is it somewhere in the middle, when the fetus’ heart begins to beat?  

True enough; an embryo hardly looks “human” in the first 30-40 days. But certainly, we know it’s not a carrot, or a dog or a flea. It is alive, it is growing, and it is not dead. And it’s inside its mother’s womb, a human mother. The embryo has a beating heart within a few weeks after conception. And by day 50, this new growth looks like a human being. 

Today in some states, there are doctors performing abortions even into the 9th month!  I’ve read testimony and watched videos of nurses who had to leave the abortion clinics because there were fully formed babies being removed and put into garbage cans, left to cry and wail until they died. But its mother has a right to privacy and can determine to end pregnancy, some say – and so the killing continues.

If you’ve never watched an abortion on YouTube, maybe once you should. It will break your heart as parts of the unborn baby are cut out or salted out – and the human life removed by the best available means. If you’re brave enough to learn about and watch a “partial birth abortion”, you’ll cry your eyes out and never think of abortion casually again.  It’s called a “D&E Procedure” and I don’t even want to describe it on this website, it is so horrific.

WHAT the ETERNAL GOD SAYS

Scripture is very clear that Yahweh considers an embryo and/or a fetus to be equivalent to a human adult life!

Exodus 21:22-23 says, if someone hurts a pregnant woman and she miscarries as a result, the LIFE of the man who strikes her is required!  That makes it clear that God considered the unborn fetus or embryo as valuable human life. Let’s read it:

Exodus 21:22-23 "If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman's husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.  23 But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life.”

King David also considered his life before birth to be a human life, known and watched over by Yahweh himself.

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The 9 month Birth Cycle and the Eternal’s Holydays

This blog is going to be sharing what Zola Levitt wrote in October 2008. Zola Levitt was from that wonderful species – the Jew who comes to Jesus Christ and accepts His Jewish Savior. Hallelujah. Yeshua, whose name means “Salvation”, their Maschiach  - their Messiah.  Zola wrote a piece tying the gestation and birth cycle to holydays.  I thought it was just fascinating, so here it is, with very little editing to keep it brief and to fit my blog limits.  Remember the correlations are based on the Hebrew calendar and months.  Their “seventh month” for example, usually fits in to our mid-September to mid-October.  I added some of my own comments in brackets:

Zola Levitt discovered an amazing correlation between the Seven Feasts of the LORD and the gestation of a human baby, from conception to birth. While preparing for writing a new book for new parents, Zola contacted a gynecologist for some help in understanding gestation. 

During that session, the gynecologist shows him a series of pictures, pointed to the first one (an egg and a sperm) and said:  “On the fourteenth day of the first month, the egg appears.” The statement struck a chord in his Jewish mind because that was the date of Passover….

The gynecologist continued: “The egg must be fertilized within 24 hours or it will pass on.”  This reminded Zola of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the seed or grain that “fell to the ground and died” in order to produce a harvest, the first fruits of which were presented to God.

Next, the gynecologist said, “Within two to six days, the fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the womb and begins to grow.”  And sure enough, the Jewish evangelist thought, “The Day of Firstfruits is observed anywhere from two to six days after Passover.”    [This was the day in John 20 where Messiah first went to heaven to be accepted by His Father, as the real first Fruits to be accepted in behalf of the spiritual harvest.]

Next, he was shown a photo of an embryo [first 8 weeks] showing arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, toes, a head, eyes, etc.  The caption said “FIFTY days”.  The gynecologist continued, “Around the fiftieth day, the embryo takes on the form of a human being. Until then, we don’t know if we have a duck or a tadpole.”  Zola thought, “That’s Pentecost!”  [Some feel this is also when the first resurrection will take place, when we will be like Him – 1 John 3:2]

The next picture showed the fetus at seven months. The gynecologist said, “On the first day of the seventh month, the baby’s hearing is developed. For the first time it can hear and distinguish sounds outside of the womb.”  Zola knew that was the date for [Yahweh’s] festival of Trumpets.

The gynecologist continued, “On the tenth day of the 7th month, the hemoglobin of the blood changes from that of the mother to a self -sustaining baby”.  Zola thought, “That’s the Day of Atonement, when the blood was taken into the Holy of Holies”.

Next, the gynecologist said, “On the 15th of the 7th month, the lungs become fully developed.  If born before then, the baby would have had a very difficult time breathing.”  And Zola thought, “That’s the Festival of Tabernacles, a time of celebrating the Temple, home of the Shekinah glory or Spirit of God.”  In the New Testament, the Greek term ‘pneuma’ normally translated as “breath”, is applied to the Holy Spirit.”

Birth takes place on the 10th day of the ninth month. Eight days after birth in Jewish families, a baby boy is circumcised. Zola noted that the 8 days of Hanukkah are celebrated right on schedule, nine months and ten days after Passover.  [Jesus made it a point to be in Jerusalem for Hanukkah – called “the Feast of Dedication” John 10:22]

No human being could have understood the gestation period 3,500 years ago [when Yahweh revealed the seven Feasts of Yahweh to Moses and the nation of Israel].  The establishment of the seven Feasts of the LORD was given to Moses by the LORD Himself. Its correlation with the human gestation period is not only remarkable; it proves “Intelligent Design”.  It proves there is a Creator God who guides the affairs of man.

That was the blog or article by Zola Levitt. I thank Zola and his organization for posting this. Feel free to share this blog and this website with other believers, especially those who keep Yahweh’s feasts.

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Tweets and all that. Who do you follow?

If you’re under 50 you probably know what a “tweet” is.  I’ve been resisting them myself and have never “followed” anyone on Twitter.  I guess famous people are so important that they write a sentence or two every day and people with nothing better to do want to hang on their every word.  Some just have to know the latest thoughts of this rock star or that sports star or whatever.  That’s called “following” someone on Twitter, to those of you who haven’t kept up with this form of “social media”.  (Younger folks are saying “duh!”) 

But then yesterday I came up to a traffic signal and the car ahead of me had a simple bumper sticker:  “Don’t follow me….follow Jesus”.  Got me thinking.  That’s right. He’s my Leader, and I should follow Him, hang on HIS every word, and watch HIS every action in people’s lives and world affairs.  In fact I belong to Him, not to any other church leader or church or association or fellowship – though I may attend with various ones. 

Someone once said, “If it was a heinous crime to be a follower of Jesus (or Yeshua as I like to say), would there be enough evidence to convict you?”  Worth pondering, isn’t it?

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“Were there not TEN….?”

WHY Gratitude is a must for all believers

Have you already many times today, looked up and said, “THANK YOU for….” We all enjoy acknowledgements of gratitude, so how are we doing in terms of being grateful people ourselves?  It’s easy to be grateful for what we see as good things, but all too often we even miss those opportunities. There’s the remarkable story in Luke 17:11-19 about ten lepers who were healed as they obeyed, and headed to see the priests. One, just one, of the ten healed lepers was so grateful that he immediately had to go back to Jesus (Yeshua) and loudly proclaim his profound gratitude. Last year my wife and I toured an old leper colony island called Spiralonga in Crete. What sad lives once walked those hills.  Lepers were outcasts because of their feared physical disease. In Luke’s story, they cried out to Yeshua as they “stood afar off”.  Leprosy would make a person’s body look like something was eating away at it. Disfigurement, abandonment by friends, and isolation all preceded the eventual death.  What a gift this leper had been handed by our Healer.  Let’s pick up the story in Luke 17:15-19. 

Luke 17:11-19

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.
17 So Jesus answered and said, "Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?  18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?"  19 And He said to him, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well."

This is not just a cute story but for our admonition too.  We can almost feel His disappointment. But not just because they couldn’t take the time to thank HIM, but more likely because He realizes that lack of gratitude hurt them more than the One who should have been hearing their ecstatic thank you”. There’s a book titled “The Art of Gratitude”, a compilation of articles. I recommend it.

WHY is it so important to make it a habit to be grateful – every time, every day, all the time?  I thought about it for a while and came up with these points. There are so many. Why don’t you come up with ten more reasons of your own?

·    Grateful people are just happier people and easier to be around. Ungrateful people are more likely to be sour, dour, and certainly seem less happy.

·    ONLY grateful people will be able to obey the commands to “give thanks in everything” (1 Thess. 5:18) and “for all things” (Eph. 5:20).  (That almost elicits a “duh” response, right?).  But this is actually a huge point.   It’s called the sacrifice of praise, the giving of thanks in all things (Heb. 13:15). How on earth are we going to “give thanks” for all things unless we’ve made giving of thanks a habit?  I preach to myself. I’m still working hard on this point myself.  It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well (although we just read an example of nine lepers who couldn’t express gratitude even for that!).  The real test is gratitude when things appear to be going badly.

Especially when things appear to be going badly, people of faith realize we have a great Shepherd overseeing His flock and everything is happening for a lot of good reasons.  That’s why I say “appear to be going badly”.  And for that, we will be grateful. Paul even says we should be giving thanks for ALL men (1 Tim. 2:1).

·    People of gratitude will therefore also be people more at peace with life. They’ll be at peace with other people, even with their enemies.  They’ll be able to practice being at rest with Yahweh and all He sends and allows in our lives.  Related to peace is trust. Grateful people will also tend to more likely be people of strong faith, who trust their Maker and all He is doing.

·    Grateful people will therefore also see life in positives, and see so much more to be grateful for than the dour souls who always see the worst in life. See Prov. 18:14.  Grateful people are more positive and happier.  These tend to be people who have a ready smile.  I admit, this is something I’ve had to work at. I like everything working right, working smoothly, no hassles – and can get irritated when they don’t.  I’ve found when I practice gratitude, it’s quite alright for things to not always go as planned.  In fact, it makes life more interesting.

·    I suspect grateful people will be far healthier in the long run too. Stress,  anxiety, ingratitude, negativity and bitterness just feed disease.  The Proverbs are full of examples of how a merry heart and a grateful person make for healthy hearts and healthy bones and a longer life (Prov. 15:13; 17:22; 12:25).

I could go on and on. The point is simple:  find the moments when you’ve had your “leprosy” healed.  Look for ways to just start saying “thank you” to at least 10 people a day, and at least 10 times a day in short “thank you prayers” to your Maker.  Write an email of gratitude once a day to someone who impacted you. Call someone once a week just to say “thank you” for all they do. Most of all, thank our amazing Father and Savior.

The cool breeze on a hot day –thank you.  The beautiful butterfly that just fluttered into your consciousness – thank you.  Your husband or wife – thank you. Your children and grandchildren – thank you.  For being single – thank you.  For being married – thank you. For being alive another day – thank you.  Thank you for my good health. Thank you for the test of poor health.  Thank you for my parents. Thank you for my dead parents whom I’ll see in the resurrection.  Thank you for my job.  Thank you for the test of faith and peace when I have no job.  Thank you for my many friends. Thank you for those who despise me. Please help me to love them even more.

Either way, in all things and for all things, thank you Abba, thank you Yeshua.

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“Churches of God”, or “Church of God”

WHERE is that true One Body of Called-out Ones?

Yeshua broke bread and said, “THIS is my body”.  A couple years ago I gave a series of sermons about the Body of the Messiah, the Church of God, being one body (Eph. 4:4). What is that Body? Where is the Body of Christ today?

Someone recently in discussing the situation referred to the “churches of God”.  I don’t know about you but that struck me as odd.  After all, Jesus, whom I call by his given name Yeshua, did not say “I will build my churches” (Matthew 16:18) but “I will build my CHURCH” – singular.  The word “church” is ekklesia in the Greek, meaning “called out ones”.  It is an assembly, a group.  It has nothing to do with an organization or a building. Somewhere out there are PEOPLE who are His people, who see HIM as their leader and follow His teachings. They love one another and come together in peace. You won’t hear these people attacking other children of Yahweh or really anyone. They are people who know they have been forgiven of a lot, and how then can they disparage anyone else? They are filled with adoration for their Savior, and joyfully praise and worship Him. They can’t stop talking about Him and His ways. 

The Ekklesia then, is ONE body (not a bunch of bodies or churches) (Col. 1:18). Our King is coming to marry ONE Bride, not five or ten or a thousand.  On top of all that, I simply cannot envision our Lord and Master marrying a “Bride” made up of people who – for the most part – want nothing to do with one another.  No way!  No, in fact He teaches us – paraphrased:  “By THIS shall all know you are my disciples, by the fact you love one another so much,  just as I loved you” (John 13:34-35).  But instead, we all too often see Christian church groups NOT loving one another. Instead we see too many believers who call themselves followers of the Savior -- attacking one another, splitting the brethren from other brethren, and basically NOT fulfilling the biggest sign He gave. He had other signs, and I’ll speak on that again soon. But so far – how are we doing as far as proving to everyone that we surely are “his people”?

How do you think Father feels when He sees us, His children, behaving this way?  It certainly doesn’t make me feel happy to know what He is feeling!  Any of you who are a father or mother, or are a grandparent, know what I mean.  How about WE make some changes?  How about we start bringing Abba great joy to see us coming together? How about we keep our Husband-to-be Yeshua happy and get along better with one another?

So here’s how I believe Scripture teaches it. The Body of Christ is composed of any and all who have and are led by His Spirit, wherever they may attend (Romans 8:9, 14-16).  There are other signs of a true believer and I’ll speak on it soon. Be watching for that new audio.  The Body of Christ is the Ekklesia of God, and scripture says His name is Yahweh. I don’t mean an incorporated “church of God’, as there are hundreds of those.

The true “church of God” is not ANY of the incorporated organizations of men – though there may well be many in some of those corporations who are a part of the spiritual one body of Messiah.  Too many of these organizations are being run like a business or enterprise, instead of remembering we are a family;  we are brothers and sisters. We have one leader, and that is Yeshua, the Son of God.  HE is the head of His called-out ones, His one body, His church.  So true believers are always looking to HIM for guidance and direction, not to any man or woman.

Ephesians 4:4-6

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

With this in mind, remember you belong to Christ (Mark 9:41 read it!).  You do not belong to this or that “church of God”, you do not belong to the Catholic church, the Lutheran church, the Nazarenes, or Baptists.  NO.  If you are an obedient believer living by faith, you believe and belong to Him.  Remember that I also believe and teach that a true disciple will also follow His teachings. The word “disciple” comes from “discipline” – teachings, beliefs, instructions. So I keep Sabbath, the holydays, and believe we are to walk as He walked (1 John 2:4-6).  Otherwise, how can I say I “know him”?

If your church organization keeps you away from other believers, or doesn’t let you discuss the Bible openly, or is suing other believers, or doesn’t show love and forgiveness to all people, especially repentant people, or ….  Maybe it’s time to ask our leader where He really wants us.

I have no interest in hearing about who is attacking whom or what they’re saying.  None.  Don’t involve me in it. I do have a ton of interest in hearing how people are being served by Yahweh’s children.  I do perk up when I hear brethren visiting other church groups and not confining themselves to just one organization.

Remember, a church organization is not the “true” church.  That is not the body of Christ. I’m not saying you shouldn’t attend where you attend. I’m saying, realize you have many more scattered brothers and sisters in Christ who meet in other places.

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Perfect Deleavening

We may not have fully deleavened yet

Warning: most of us probably are not really deleavened this week of Unleavened Bread. In this blog I am going to write about the hardest deleavening, the kind that takes profound commitment.  Even those of us who think we’ve carefully deleavened our homes probably have left the most important deleavening undone. Oh, I’m sure we put out the leavened products, cleaned out the toaster, remembered to empty all the vacuum cleaner bags, and even cleaned out the cars and garage and got it all off-premises by Friday the 6th of April. We know that Friday evening this year began the high day called the First Day of Unleavened Bread. But for most of us, we still have the most important deleavening to do. In this blog, I’ll explain “the more difficult” deleavening in 3 sections. No, I don’t mean the leaven that is even in the air. It’s much, much tougher leaven to get rid of than that. Don’t misunderstand me. We also physically deleaven at this time of year. But our Master teaches us to beware of certain leaven.  In Matthew 16:5-12, you’ll begin to see what I mean. He told His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” But he wasn’t even speaking of bread products. He was warning them of the teachings, the doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees if you read through verse 12.  The Pharisees were the ultra-strict sect from which we get Paul. The Sadducees were primarily the priests who governed the temple precinct. 

We know that later on there were Pharisees and priests (Acts 6:7) who became believers.  We can also read, however, how some brought with them their previous biases and beliefs (Acts 15:5).  All of us probably are bringing baggage with us from our church upbringing.  These doctrines tend to change, add to or take away from the word of God and what Scripture says. We are not to add or remove one single thing. Many of our teachings give a false premise that lead to error and take us away from the pure truth.

For example, we’ve been perhaps indoctrinated against anything that smacks of the “sacred names” movement, so we recoil against someone teaching that our Creator has a name – YHVH, commonly written as Yahweh, and HE says He wants the whole world to know His name. In fact, in the covenant scripture in Jer. 31:31-34, it is stated the whole world will know Yahweh (not “the LORD” in the original Hebrew).  The majority of Christians do not know the name Yahweh or use it, but they substitute “Lord”.  I have two detailed sermons on this vital topic (see October 2011 on this website).

So what have YOU been taught that is adding to, or taking away from, what Scripture actually says? Maybe you have been taught we don’t need to keep Yahweh’s appointed times or His sabbath. Maybe you think Yahweh got it all wrong, changed His mind and concluded His own commandments were not such a good idea after all.  Really?

Whatever it is, it’s highly likely there are some lingering crumbs of the leaven of false teaching still lurking in our lives and homes.

Second category: Another time, Yeshua said the “leaven of the Pharisees” was hypocrisy (Luke 12:1).  Most understand hypocrisy as teaching or professing one thing but doing another. Unless one’s perfect, unless you always follow through perfectly with what you say you believe, I guess all of us by that definition are hypocrites.

So I find it interesting that Yeshua gave the negative sides of these words: false doctrine and hypocrisy. In contrast, Paul emphasizes the flip side of the same things. Instead of false doctrine, he says truth.  Instead of hypocrisy, he says “sincerity”. Focus on verse 8.  Notice HOW we are to focus our feast.

1 Corinthians 5:6-8

6 Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.  8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

So as we go through the week of unleavened bread, be thinking about how real, how sincere, we are. Unleavened bread:  what you see is what you get. No airy puffiness. Flat, humble, small. We need to be “for real”, genuine, nothing fake about what and who we are.  And how faithful are we to the word of God? Remember Yeshua says Father wants to be worshiped in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24), just like Paul, right?

Now the hardest deleavening of all.

1 Cor. 5:7 --PURGE OUT, get rid of, the old leaven, SO you CAN be a new lump, since you are unleavened.  What does that mean? When you were deleavening your home, did you try to remove the leaven from the loaves of bread?  Of course not. You can’t. So what did you do? You chucked it all out. Then you went and bought or baked fresh, new bread that was unleavened bread.

This is the hardest deleavening to do. We still try to pick out the sins in our lives one by one as we try to “unleaven” ourselves.  Leaven is most often used as a picture of sin. We can’t un-sin ourselves, or unleaven ourselves.  IF we could, that would become our own righteousness by our own works, and we could boast (Phil. 3:9-11; Eph. 2:8-10).  When we deleavened our homes, we threw out everything leavened. We gave it all up. We have to do the same thing with our lives. We have to give up the old self, the “old man” as Paul calls it, and bury it in baptism. We are supposed to crucify the old self (Gal. 2:20), so people see a real change. The life they now see is not the old “us” – but should be something we’ve never been before. We’re demonstrating the power of the resurrection of Jesus living inside of us.

Paul says later in Colossians 3:3 that “you died. Your life is hidden with Christ in God”.  In verse 4 he refers to “Christ OUR life…”

But even after we have thrown out the old leaven of our old lives, most of us find we really haven’t given it all up. Just like real leaven, sometimes we find some ugly leaven sitting in plain sight. Sometimes we just aren’t ready to really give up everything we know isn’t up to the image of the perfect standards of our Master. Well, it’s time we do. It’s time we wake up and chuck it. I preach to myself first and foremost.  It’s time.

Every Passover, we renew our commitment to let Him in.  We wash feet, partly to picture accepting our need to clean off the dirt we picked up on our walk over the past year.

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Don’t Forget the “Almost Forgotten Day”

Day of Firstfruits

 As I write this on Sunday, April 8, 2012 – it happens to also be Ishtar Sunday and so as a result, believers in Yahweh may be minimizing what should be a glorious day. OK, most people pronounce it “Easter”, but even casual research will show that Easter originated with the worship of the goddess of sex and fertility.  Hence the Easter eggs and Easter bunny.  But because some of us see this for what it is, we have to be extra careful not to ignore this very special “day after the sabbath” during the Passover season.  Check out my sermon on this.  In this blog, I just want to be sure to remind my readers that we should acknowledge this day before Yahweh in solemn and thankful prayer. Though it is not a holy day, it is indeed a very, very special day. 

On this day our Savior ascended to Abba, our dear heavenly father, to be accepted as the first of the firstfruits of the spiritual harvest.  This is an epochal day.  He was resurrected exactly after being “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” as He said, just before sundown the end of Sabbath (Matthew 12:39-40).  Even if we count just portions of a day as a whole day, we cannot find three nights in a Friday night burial and a Sunday morning resurrection.  My sermon will explain it in more detail. Either He is the Messiah and fulfilled the one sign He gave, or not. 

I believe He fulfilled it to the minute.

 Matthew 12:38-40

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You."

39 But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth

The eve of the 15th of Abib is a full moon. The full moon on the 15th in 30 AD was a Wednesday night. Wednesday was the preparation day for the next day, which would be a High Day, a special annual sabbath, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (John 19:31). He was placed into the tomb Wednesday just before sunset (Luke 23:54).  By Sunday morning the tomb was already empty.  Of course! Because 3 days and three nights later would be Sabbath just before sunset.  So when the women checked the tomb Sunday morning, it was empty already. An angel earlier had rolled back the stone to the terror of the Roman guards (Matthew 28:1-9), so by the time they got there, He had long before already left the tomb.  Hallelujah!

Jesus Christ, whom I usually call by His given Hebrew name Yeshua, appears first to Mary Magdalene upon His resurrection. It was early the “first of the sabbaths” or “the first of the weeks”, as this day is the first day of the omer count to Pentecost/Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks.

Young’s Literal Translation has it like this:

John 20:1

And on the first of the sabbaths, Mary the Magdalene doth come early (there being yet darkness) to the tomb, and she seeth the stone having been taken away out of the tomb…

I am confident He rose to our Father and our God (John 20:17) at precisely the moment the high priest was raising the “omer” of finely ground barley flour to be accepted as the firstfruits of the new barley harvest.  HE is called “Christ the firstfruits” in 1 Cor. 15:23. Check out my sermon for full details.

What is translated “sheaves” or “sheaf” in English is from the Hebrew “omer”.  It could be translated either as standing stalks/sheaves – or as a unit of measure, about 2 quarts. In practice, they didn’t wave stalks or sheaves but a bowl of finely ground barley flour. This batch was to be accepted in behalf of the rest of the barley harvest.  Yeshua had to first rise to Father to be accepted in OUR behalf.  Read Lev. 23:9-12 carefully, especially verse 11. On this day, though it’s not a holyday, it is wavesheaf day.  It is firstfruits day.  Shavuot/Pentecost is also a Feast of First Fruits but today is the day honoring Yeshua, the “first of the first fruits” (Exodus 23:19 and 34:26; 1 Cor. 15:23). 

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HAVE a FAMILY PASSOVER

In a few days many of us will be observing the Passover.  In this blog, I just want to encourage as many as possible, to have a Family Passover instead of the corporate Passover so many do. I’m glad we have more and more people keeping Passover, regardless of how or when you feel led to keep it. It beats the alternative (see my last blog). 

What’s a “Family Passover”?  Just as it sounds. Instead of going to a service led by one man doing a monologue with everyone else as silent spectators in a row-by-row service reminiscent of a funeral, let’s get back to doing it the way it is described throughout Scripture: in your homes, with your family and extended family. Don’t forget to invite the singles and widows and those without believing family members. 

First of all, some reminders: the term “Passover” is specifically referring to the 14th day of the Hebrew first month when the lamb was killed. It later came to refer to the entire spring feast Days of Unleavened Bread, though the Passover lamb was killed on the 14th, and eaten later that evening. In Ezekiel 45:21 for example, we read -- “the Passover, a feast of seven days”.  

Numbers 28:16-17 make it clear that the Passover is considered the 14th day, and the first holyday of Unleavened Bread is on the 15th.  The day Christ our Passover died as the Passover Lamb of God (1 Cor. 5:7) was on the daytime portion of 14th of Abib at 3 pm (Mark 15:34-37).  The daytime portion of the 14th was considered a preparation day for the High Day meal and holyday which began that night, the eve of the 15th to the end of the 15th of the Hebrew first month. 
Again, the objective of this blog is to encourage you have a family-style Passover rather than go to a large group or corporate-church style Passover.  The first official Passover in Exodus 12 was for families to select a perfect kid or lamb on the 10th, keep it to the 14th and then roast it and totally consume it in the evening. Nothing was to be left until morning. It was a family event.  They didn’t go to the church building or the big rec hall rented by the church and have the Passover. No, they were home, with family.  Of course all Israel was really one family grown large, but Yahweh’s instructions were to keep this very special time in smaller groups, within houses (read Exodus 12:1-11).  True, once the temple was built, the nation came together to keep Passover in Jerusalem—but again, they had temple services, but the Passover meal and ceremonies were done with family units, in homes or tents. The men, women and children were often there, as we read even of Jesus’ family (Luke 2:41-44).  Sometimes only the men could go. 

Even in New Covenant times, the ekklesia, the called-out ones, are a family and we are to see each other as family.  But even here, the early assemblies met in people’s homes according to many scriptures (such as Romans 16:5 and 1 Cor. 16:19 among many).  Now that many of us do not have families who believe in keeping the holydays and Passover, many of you can’t have families celebrating together. Some may be by themselves, or widowed, or single – or some may even be disallowed into some groups’ fellowship, as was the blind man in John 9. We who have families should be on the lookout for such people and welcome them to our home (assuming we know the people and the fruit of their lives).  We can read how we are to celebrate these feasts with families and remember the orphans and strangers while we’re at it. 

We can read that Yeshua’s family went as a family up to Jerusalem to keep the Passover (read Luke 2:41-44, and you see it was an extended family). Obviously, this is referring to the entire spring feast as is also alluded to in Ezek 45:21, as Luke 2 speaks of “when the days were over”.  But my point is, the family stayed together for the Passover and observed it together. 

I think when we have believing family members in the same general local area, we should strive to keep this Passover service together. So what does a New Covenant Passover service look like when kept by a family together?  Well, when we read any of the passages about Passover in scripture, there was a meal, including at Yeshua’s last Passover. His Passover did not resemble the Passover of Exodus 12 in many ways, and neither did His Passover resemble what so many do today. 
For example:  In Exodus 12, they ate it while standing, with sandals on their feet, rod in hand, ready to leave quickly. In Yeshua’s last Passover they were reclining, relaxed, having very animated conversations -- and their sandals were off their feet (He washed their feet, remember). 

Then Yeshua instituted the emblems of the New Covenant Passover – the footwashing, and the blessing/eating of the broken bread and wine (Matthew 26:26-30).  The traditional blessing over the broken bread includes thanking Yahweh, King of Universe … and for providing us Bread from the earth.  Without realizing it, could it be that Jews were including a prophecy of Yeshua’s resurrection from the earth, as the true bread of life?  Many Church of God Passovers are formal services that have the footwashing and a formal recital of the scripture then the sharing of the broken bread and wine in a very formal and solemn service.  In most of those meetings, there are no children and there is no discussion, conversation and certainly no meal. I just don’t see it that way in Scripture. We need to restore family-based Passovers among believers. 

I know in Exodus 12, only males who were circumcised could participate (Ex. 12:43-49), whether native born or foreigner, one rule for all.  But the whole family was involved.  In the New Covenant, circumcision is now of the heart, and not of the flesh (Romans 2:28-29). Paul was emphatic that the uncircumcised did NOT need to be circumcised (1 Cor. 7:18-19; Gal. 5:2-3).  We do understand that those eating the bread and wine and washing feet should be the spiritually circumcised; i.e., those who are baptized and have God’s Spirit, walking the new walk.  But does that preclude children being present to observe what is going on? No. 

So the family Passover I am teaching is that you get your family and extended family together, and start with a meal in your own home.  Yeshua has already been sacrificed as s the Lamb of God, so I see no reason to have to eat lamb. Because there is no temple or priesthood to approve the lambs, even Jews do not eat lamb at Passover today. Just have a meal with joyous conversation as we explain to our children how the Lamb of God paid the penalty for our sins and shortcomings and what a joy it is to realize that. As you end dinner, it would be good to remind the children that the baptized adults now will do the footwashing and eat the broken matzah and drink of the cup of wine. Again, I don’t see this as a period of someone doing a monologue.  Ex 12 and other passages show the children were asking questions and involved. They were present. 

I believe in a special annual Passover service of breaking of bread and drinking of wine – preceded by a self-examination and then partaking – as the end of 1 Cor. 11 explains. Some believe this is done each Sabbath, at each “potluck”.  But the Passover is a “memorial” of Christ’s Passover and death. Memorials are typically on an anniversary date, in this case, the 14th of Hebrew month Abib. 

The host male could begin and lead the session, perhaps encouraging others to read pertinent passages of scripture as well and have brief discussions relevant to what is being read.  Encourage discussion, rather than someone doing a monologue.  In fact, why not let the older children read some of the scriptures too, and get them involved that way as well?  In Exodus 12:24-27, we clearly read that children will be asking questions and we should be answering those questions, with them present.  Certainly Jews do this in their Seder services with the questions asked by the children.  In New Covenant times, I think only baptized and converted adults who have made the commitment required at baptism, should be eating the broken bread and drinking of the wine.  But, the children are present.  At the end, everyone sings some joyful hymns of deliverance together as we praise Yahweh for His Yeshua – which means Salvation.  So we thank God for Yeshua, our Savior.  It should be upbeat, joyful – and a family event if at all possible.

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Repeating the Gold Calf Sin

Many of you know I don’t keep Easter.  One big reason I don’t, is because I want to learn the lesson from the gold calf incident.  Readers of this site know I don’t keep the pagan holidays that have been labeled “Christian” – and we’re told they are to honor Christ. So we have Easter eggs and bunnies somehow mingled with the resurrection story.  We have Christmas trees somehow dedicated to Christ. Let me explain why I’m not a part of all that, though I love my Yeshua. 

Let’s go back to Israel and the gold calf for a lesson in what NOT to do.  We all know the story of how Israel got Aaron, their future high priest and older brother of Moses to give them a gold calf to worship. Moses had gone up to the top of Mt. Sinai when Yahweh had called him up.  I suspect, by the way, that since the mountain top was all ablaze (Exodus 24:16-18), that Moses may have literally entered into the fire of Yahweh’s presence and protected supernaturally like Daniel’s three friends were in the book of Daniel. I can’t prove it, but it’s worth considering the faith it took for Moses to go to the mountain top.  In any case, he was gone 40 days as he talked with Yahweh.

So Moses was gone a long time and there was no way to know if he was even still alive. The Israelites, steeped in Egyptian paganism, reverted back to their more familiar ways of worship and crafted a gold calf. But in their minds, were they worshiping a gold calf image? NO! In the same way, those who religiously keep Easter and Christmas say and think they are worshiping the son of God Jesus Christ (or Yeshua the Messiah), but are they?

Exodus 32:1-6

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, "Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." 

2 And Aaron said to them, "Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." 3 So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.  Then they said, "This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!" 
5 So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, "Tomorrow is a feast to YHVH (Yahweh)."

6 Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

Did you catch verse 5?  They were going to use the gold calf as a visual way to -- in their minds – worship Yahweh! Aaron must have figured, “If we’re going to worship a gold calf, maybe it’s OK if we put Yahweh’s name on it.”   If you continue reading and know the story, Yahweh was royally ticked off at this and 3,000 were executed for mingling the worship of Him with gold calf paganism.  How is that any different from what we do with Easter and Christmas? They originated in paganism but we say it’s all to honor the true God as we worship with pagan festivals!  Of course He’s upset by that!

Don’t make that mistake. Stop worshiping Yahweh with Easter or other holidays that can easily be proven to have pagan connections.  It’s no different than what Israel did with the gold calf!

Do I not believe Yeshua rose from the tomb? Absolutely!  But at sunrise?  Absolutely not.  By the time Mary Magdalene got there, before sunrise, while it was still dark (John 20:1) the tomb was already empty. Mark 16:1-2 does say after sunrise, but the point is, the tomb was already empty, so we can’t know when He was resurrected by those verses alone.  He was placed into the tomb just before sunset three days and three nights before (NOT fractions of 3 days) (Luke 23:50-56).  That day was the “preparation day” (Luke 23:54) for “a High Day”.   That means an annual Sabbath, not a weekly Sabbath. The next day was the first day of Unleavened Bread, a holy day, a “High Day”, an annual sabbath.  So the day Jesus died was the preparation day for the holyday, and it fell that year in the middle of the week. It’s a common error to assume that was a Friday. You can’t get three days AND three nights out of a Friday night burial and Sunday morning resurrection.John 19:31


Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

We have to have three days AND three nights or He’s not our Savior, because that’s the only sign He gave to prove He will be the Savior (see Matthew 12:40).

He was resurrected at sundown the night before, appeared to Mary early the next day – on “the first of the weeks”, as it is in the original. The word “day” is in “italics”.  This was day #1 in the count of 50 days to Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks. Yes, that year when He revealed Himself to Mary was on a Sunday. On that day He rose to Father’s throne in heavenly Jerusalem to be the first of the firstfruits accepted in our behalf – the rest of the spiritual harvest (see Leviticus 23:9-11).  He was what the first barley firstfruits, raised up by the High Priest to be accepted by Yahweh. After that, the rest of the harvest could proceed. And so it was with Yeshua.  Soon after came the many baptized on the Feast of Pentecost in Acts 2.

The early Christians kept the holydays of Scripture, the “feasts of Yahweh”, or as your Bible probably incorrectly says, “of the LORD”. You can find them all listed in Leviticus 23.  That’s why they were all together in one accord on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-2).  It was a holyday of Yahweh. That’s why Paul spoke of Passover, and being unleavened.

So learn the lesson of the gold calf: let’s not mix the worship of our Maker with pagan rituals. He hates that. He commands us not to add pagan rituals to our religious worship.

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Passover – will yours be a Solemn Joy or a Dirge?

As we come to Yahweh’s (the LORD’s) Passover this year, I want to ask each of you something. So many of the Passover services I’ve been a part of, especially with the Church of God (COG) groups, have been ultra- solemn services composed of the washing of feet and then the breaking of matzah and drinking a small vial of fermented red wine – with of course some prayers, the reading of John 13-17 and a hymn at the end. On the other hand, I realize many Messianic groups and Jewish believers have a distinctly different kind of Passover where there is the Seder feast and readings amidst fairly vocal and open rejoicing. 

I would suggest something in the middle. Most of the COG groups observe Passover the eve of the 14th of Abib as a memorial of the last night Jesus was with His disciples prior to His crucifixion. We do this “in remembrance of” Him (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-25). They see it as a memorial (Exodus 12:14) of the death of the Lamb of God, so it is very solemn. It is also very clear that the last Passover, or some call it “the Last Supper” of Yeshua, was one night earlier than the mainstream Jews were going to keep Passover. So in the COG services, there typically is no meal, no Seder until the following night, the “Night to be Observed”, on the eve of the 15th of Abib. That’s when the COG groups are more festive, more joyous, recounting Exodus from Egypt. (However, don’t forget it is also the time that Messiah was taken down from the tree and buried.) So Passover is seen in COG groups as a very solemn evening.

Though we are remembering our Master’s death for us, we must also remember that He Himself instructed us to have peace and joy on this night and to love one another. It is clear that that during HIS last Passover that His disciples were all talking among each other. They were having a meal; many conclude it was in fact a Seder. In John 13 He teaches the new commandment after demonstrating the servitude of washing feet and how He cleanses us. In John 14 Yeshua joyfully teaches about going to prepare a place for us. He speaks of the indwelling of Father into our lives and we in Him. He ends that chapter with assuring us of His peace. Then in John 15 Yeshua is very upbeat about being a healthy branch on Him, the Vine, and how growth and fruit come into our lives. He reminds us of the life of abundant joy (John 15:11) and “that your joy may be full”. You can read the rest of His words through John 17. It’s all upbeat. It’s filled with peace and joy and assurances and faith. Hardly a funeral-type service at all! Knowing that we have victory over sin by His blood and have new life by His resurrection, surely when we take Passover this year, we can do so with what I call “solemn joy”.

Passover should not have the look and feel of a funeral. But frankly, that’s how it’s felt in too many cases. Isn’t it time to stop the feeling we’ve just gone to a funeral? It’s not that! Neither is it a time to be giddy or joking. But the old rules that people were to come in quietly and say nothing, just find their seats and be quietly reading the scriptures on Passover – where did that all start? Again, it is clear that Messiah Himself and His disciples were having quite an animated discussion at their Passover. I also doubt that they had just a tiny piece of matzah as we do today. Nor did they have just a tiny thimble full of wine in funny plastic or glass vials all set neatly in some tray that was passed around. I’m going to have a sermon soon about how the modern “Christian” church has absorbed so much paganism and customs of the world religions. Let’s rethink this year’s Passover. Certainly after we break the bread and drink the wine, we should rejoice knowing we have the victory in Yeshua! Our hymns at the end should be about our Yeshua, our SALVATION and the JOY that comes with that.

We should come home refreshed, quietly joyous for what HE has done for us. At our Passover, we will be solemnly joyful and I suggest you consider the same.

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Help our wounded

Wounded Warriors Project

 


I watched on TV with dismay and I felt painful jabs in my heart.  What was causing this anguish?

Please click on this site:  https://support.woundedwarriorproject.org/default.aspx?tsid=93 

Wounded Warrior Project: it’s a great way to show our wounded men and women that they have a country behind them who appreciate and love them. Thousands are coming home with traumatic brain injuries. Many have lost an arm or a leg. I watched on TV how one man, blinded by a blast, was led around his home by his 10 year old daughter. Let’s not forget these brothers and sisters.  I can’t imagine what they’ve experienced, what their thoughts were before and during the trauma they went through, or what they’re going through now.  For even just $19 a month donated directly to the Wounded Warrior Project, if enough of us would step up to the plate, a lot of good can be done.  Even if you can afford only one tax deductible donation, I know it will do so much good. One of my own nephews is a major in the US Army and recently served for many months in Afghanistan.  All during that assignment, many of us back home were hoping and praying he would come home alive and without a life-changing incident. Yes, those prayers were answered, praise Yahweh (that’s what “hallelujah” means).  But the whole ordeal made me wonder: how much help would he have received if it hadn’t ended so well?

WHY would I ask you to support this:
1.   We’re not supporting war by doing this.  I believe we are supporting people who need our help. Don’t turn your back on our Savior.  Why do I say that? Remember Messiah says in Matthew 25 that when we extend a hand to someone needing our help, He takes it personally.  “You did it unto me”, He says.

2.  It means we’re practicing what James taught in his epistle. We have to go beyond just saying “you’re in my thoughts and prayers”, but doing nothing concrete besides that to help the needy.  Sure, I believe in the power of prayer.  But James and Yeshua said in Matthew 25, that it must be tangible help as well, whenever it is in our power to do so. 

Read James 2:14-25 again and Matthew 25:37-43.

In the meantime, pray that He sets up His Kingdom soon and may there be peace on earth.

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Understanding “The Thief in the Night”

A well-known phrase but often misunderstood

 Did you know back in the days of the apostles there was an actual person as known among Jews in Jerusalem as “the thief in the night”?  Yeshua and Paul certainly would have been aware of this. Once you read this blog, certain scriptures will jump out with clarity. 

Here’s the background:  the priests were each given certain shifts, schedules and rotations for all the various temple jobs. One of their mandates was that the fire of the large altar was never to go out. So a priest would be assigned each night to be a “watchman” if you will, and to stay awake to watch the altar to be sure the fire never died out. It was a very important job!  So without letting anyone know when, or on which night he would do this, the High Priest would sometimes come around softly in the wee hours of the morning while it was still very dark to check on the priest on duty, to see if he was doing his job as the watchman of the fire. If the priest on duty had fallen asleep and was allowing the fire to go out, the High Priest would literally take some of the burning coals in one of the special shovels and dump the hot coals on to the edges of the sleeping priest’s garments! Of course as soon as his clothes would start to catch fire, he’d wake up in a panic. Naturally he’d throw off all his garments which were now on fire so he himself would not be burned to death. He would literally go running into the night stark naked.  All because he did not stay awake and watch his garments. This would be a most humiliating lesson to him and all the priests. So they nicknamed the High Priest – whom they call the Kohen Gadol – as “the thief in the night”. 

Now does Revelation 16:15 make more sense, with this in mind?
"Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."

Yeshua is telling us to be doing our job – watching the zealous fire of our calling, to guard our garments – which stand for righteousness, God’s righteousness covering us. Remember the Laodiceans are described as not being zealous and being found naked.

The description of “thief in the night” is a description of when He will come – at a time we think not, unexpectedly (Matthew 24:44).  When we couple this understanding with the very clear verses about how He comes, it should be clear that when He actually does return, everyone in the world will know it.  He won’t be coming quietly as a thief in that sense.  But in timing, for those who are spiritually sleeping, He will come as a “thief in the night”.  But for the priests who were awake, and who did not sleep on their watch, when the High Priest came around it was not a bad thing.

If we’re doing our job and watching the fires of our calling to stay on fire for the things of Yahweh, staying zealous, neither should Yeshua appear to US as a “thief in the night”! We won’t be found naked. Nor will we have to go running into the night, naked, ashamed of ourselves.  This is why Paul was able to teach the Thessalonians that “the day of the Lord should NOT come upon them (or us) unexpectedly!”  We should be people “watching the times and seasons”, which pertain to keeping the Holydays as reminders of Yahweh’s great plan and timetable. In the Old Testament, the word for “times” or “seasons” was often the Hebrew word “moed”, meaning God’s holydays, his appointed times, the days we have appointments with Yahweh to keep HIS holydays.  So for us, Yeshua should NOT be returning to us as “a thief in the night”.  Paul makes it very clear that zealous believers should not be caught off guard!

1 Thessalonians 5:1-10
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.

That all makes a lot more sense now, doesn’t it?

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Adding words to the Bible to magnify functions of service

Almighty God warns us not to add or remove words from His Scriptures.  Did you know the words “the office of” were added by King James to his Bible translation?  Why? He did it to make certain church functions intended for service appear loftier than they are. Yahweh’s people are a family. That’s why I wrote in a blog a while back that I don’t call my brother “Mr. Shields”, and certainly wouldn’t address him as “father” or “holy father”.  In fact doing so would go directly against Yeshua’s teachings. Israel is simply a family grown large. Any called-out believers are also a family. We’re children of Yahweh, part of His family, and part of spiritual Israel. 

Ultimately over time, the family concept was dropped. The Catholic Church became the visible church and they copied the positions of authority in the Roman Empire.  Bishops were over the priests. Cardinals were called a “prince of the church”. They started wearing fancy robes and living lavishly like kings –something the original apostles never did.  Over time, they ruled whole nations and had castles and their own armies and waged wars.  NOT what Yeshua had in mind at all!  Leaders were given big titles like “holy father” – though Yeshua commanded us NOT to do that. Others have “presiding evangelists”, “pastor general”, “directors” and senior pastors and so on. This allowed a class system to arise and divide God’s family. So we have “the clergy” and the “laity”, instead of all being one big happy family.  What did our King say? We have but one Lord.

Matthew 23:6-12

6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues (at church),  7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.'  8 But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.  9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.  10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.  11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.  12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Remember that though “Rabbi” translates to “teacher”, the word picture in Hebrew means “my great one”!  Only ONE should be our “great one”! There’s only one “big name” – Yeshua! Jesus!

I said the Catholic Church became “the visible church” because I believe with all my being that the true “church of God” – or congregation of Yahweh, or assembly of believers – is not an organization nor can be confined to an organization.  “The Church” is composed of anyone who has been called out of the ways of the world and has received and is being led by Yahweh’s Holy Spirit.  Period. No matter where they live or where they attend. If someone has God’s spirit, he or she is my brother or sister. Period.  They make up what I’ll call the true “invisible church” of our Father in heaven. The true one body of believers is not confined to any one organization but is composed of the scattered family members led by His Spirit. But that’s hard for humans to control.

Back to this matter of authority and offices.  Yes, there has to be proper order and government, especially as a group grows in size. But that’s not the same as “lording it over others”.  Yeshua taught His apostles to be sure they remembered they were brothers, and to try to see how much they could serve. He warned them not to pursue big titles and commanded them not to lord it over their brothers and sisters, but serve them. Jesus (Yeshua) called those lording it over others-- “benefactors”.  It’s the attitude in the church that says, “If you cooperate with church hierarchy, you will be rewarded. You will be put on the speaking list. You will be ordained. You will be given titles and rewards”.  We are to seek the praises of God more than the praises of men.

Luke 22:25-27 (also see Matthew 20:25-28)
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.

In the 1500’s and early 1600’s, the Catholic Church – and then the Church of England – started having more and more challenges to their authority.  They felt so threatened when Bibles started being translated into everyday languages that they burned many men and women at the stake! So what did they do to entrench their power? They turned church service functions into positions of authority. Deacon for example – from the Greek diakonos – means “a servant, an attendant, a table waiter”.  Even the word “minister” means “servant”.  But they wanted these to be big and lofty titles, so King James added the words “office of” in 1 Tim. 3:1, 10, 13.  More modern translations correctly removed those words, which are in italics; they weren’t in the original!

1 Timothy 3:1 “This is a true saying, If a man desires the office of a bishop…”   (KJV)

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You’re the “Apple of His Eye”

Good Pre-Passover reminder

On this website I’ve been showing recently that each day we are drawing closer to the days of God’s wrath when He shakes the whole world and brings us to our senses. I’ve been showing the need for each of us to repent, and for the body of believers to repent, and how we must be praying that even the nations repent.  It’s obvious as we read the Prophets that Yahweh is ticked off in the “last day”.  

But in times such as this, even when we know we have to repent, it is comforting to realize Abba still sees us as “the apple of His eye” – in spite of times He does get angry with us and has to discipline us.  As we come nearer the Passover season especially, remember what this means. 

 Stevie Wonder helped make that statement famous in one of his songs with the words, “You are the sunshine of my life, that’s why I’ll always stay around.  You are the apple of my eye, forever you’ll stay in my heart.” But really the expression “apple of my eye” comes from our English Bibles where it is used several times in Scripture. Moses reminded the Israelites that YHVH selected Israel to be “the apple of His eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10).  Verse 11 goes on to show how the Eternal hovered over Israel like a mother eagle watches over the eaglets in her nest. 

 The shepherd king David wrote a beautiful prayer of a psalm, Psalm 17:8, wherein he prays:

“Keep me as the apple of your eye.  Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.”

 Zechariah 2:8 is one of my favorites: “For thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apples of His eye”.

 Yahweh is saying a time is coming we will have to flee out of spiritual (unspiritual?) Babylon (verses 5-7) but those who are “messing with” His children better beware because He sees it as poking Him right in His eye! Yahweh says Israel is the apple of His eye. Today there is a national Israel – and a spiritual Israel, the body of believers.

 So even as I have been preaching on our need to pray for repentance and forgiveness, we need to also remember who and what we are in His eyes.  I’ve spoken about how there is an identity we form with our Elohim:  we are His people and He is our God! You are precious to God. When we fall short of His glory, as we often do, we must remember that He does tell us He knows our limitations, is merciful, forgiving and we remain the apple of His eye as we come back to Him.

 Why “apple” of the eye? The Hebrew word is ‘ishown – meaning “little man”. Perhaps it is because when you look intimately into someone’s eyes, you see a reflection of yourself, a tiny image of yourself formed on their retina.  Yes, Father looks into your eyes – and sees Himself in the reflection on your pupil. He realizes you are being transformed into His perfect image “until Christ is formed in you” as Paul says. He knows we are all of one, in Him, and He has covenanted to watch over you as you protect your eye pupil, the apple of your eye.  He sees a little bit of Himself in you, in your eyes – just like you might look at your own children and see a bit of yourself in them.

 I had to have a splinter removed from my eyeball once.  I wanted to blink so badly as the eye doctor slowly moved his instrument into position – even as he warned me to not change my focus or blink, no matter what happened as he picked off the splinter. Yes, the apple of the eye is very precious, very tender, very sensitive.  Our eyelids naturally close when there is perceived danger to   the pupil – the “apple” – of the eye. It is bathed in tears, protected by the eyelid.  So we guard our eyes, especially the pupil of our eyes.  It is a most vulnerable and a most sensitive part of our face.

 So the “apple of the eye” refers to something – someone – cherished, protected, highly valued. Someone we feel very sensitive and tender about.  Just think about how precious your eye pupils are.

  Our Creator sees you as the apple of His eye. You. Yes, you are so precious to Abba. Remember this especially in the days ahead as you prepare your heart and mind for the Passover.

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