Blogs

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

Valentine’s Day – why I don’t participate - NEW!

OK, I’m way too late posting this for this year to have any effect but hoping it will help more of you next year understand why many of God’s children do not get involved in most of the world’s holidays - - yes, including seemingly innocent Valentine’s Day. Some of you have kept it for years and may fear having to try to explain to loved ones why you won’t keep it any longer. If you come to that conclusion, do so well before Valentine’s Day next year at least.

Remember we are told to come out of Babylon, this world’s system led by the god of this world Satan (Revelation 18:4). “Coming out” will include no longer participating in its cherished holidays if they go against God’s ideals. So I don’t keep Valentines, and add to that – New Year’s Day, Easter, Halloween, and Christmas.

I saw a Facebook post from Maria Brown about Valentine’s Day. I’ll be the first to say, that like many of the other holidays rooted in paganism, I realize we don’t follow or keep the original ways the day was kept. But please also remember, that the practice of re-labeling pagan days, does not change its roots!

Most of the remainder is Maria Brown’s write-up on the day.

Is Valentine's Day God Blessed?

Valentine’s Day seems so innocent and beautiful! After all it is a time to show love and appreciation to that very special someone with flowers ,candy and small gifts. But is it what Jesus would do?

The history of Valentine’s goes back to pagan practices of the Roman sexual fertility festival of Lupercalia. Lupercalia was an ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral annual festival, observed in the city of Rome from the 13th to the 15th of February to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. This Roman festival was supervised by a corporation of priests called the Luperci.

The origins of the festival are obscure, although the likely derivation of its name from lupus (Latin: “wolf”) has variously suggested connection with an ancient deity who protected herds from wolves and with the legendary she-wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus. As a fertility rite, the festival is also associated with the god Faunus (Pan).

Each Lupercalia began with the sacrifice by the Luperci of goats and a dog, after which two of the Luperci were led to the altar, their foreheads were touched with a bloody knife, and the blood was wiped off with wool dipped in milk; the ritual required that the two young men laugh. The sacrificial feast followed, after which the Luperci cut thongs from the skins of the sacrificial animals and ran in two bands around the Palatine hill, striking with the thongs at any woman who came near them. A blow from the thong was supposed to render a woman fertile.

In 494 CE the Christian church under Pope Gelasius 1 appropriated the form of the rite as the Feast of the Purification. ( Encyclopedia Britannica)

The wicked ruler Nimrod was the origin of the legend of Pan. A wolf hunter and strong man.

Genesis 10:19 “He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, ‘Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord”.

“My Valentine” comes from the practice of during the Lupercalia women would put their name in a box and which would be drawn out by the city’s bachelors to pair off for sexual immorality for the coming year. Sometimes (not usually) these ended in marriage later.

The early Catholics wanting to convert pagans adopted the pagan practice along with other pagan celebrations. But changed them to be more mellow giving them new names.

But Jesus ( Yeshua) would not celebrate this day because we are instructed in Jeremiah and other scriptures not to learn the ways of the heathens. God has His own holyday celebrations in Leviticus 23.

Jeremiah 10:2 “Thus saith the LORD, ‘Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.”

MARIA BROWN

Thank you, Maria, and History channel. Back to Philip writing now – so though these days may seem fun and innocent enough, I will not participate in them. God wants us having nothing to do with pagan holidays. It’s that simple. We are to come out of Babylon – the moniker for this world’s system.

You can Google what was written above and see it’s all there in the history channel. We didn’t make all this up.

https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2

And Cupid? The fat little naked cherub boy who shoots golden arrows of love. That’s all rooted in paganism and pagan gods as well. Here’s what this source says, underlines are mine for emphasis.

Cupid is often portrayed on Valentine’s Day cards as a naked cherub launching arrows of love at unsuspecting lovers. But the Roman God Cupid has his roots in Greek mythology as the Greek god of love, Eros. Accounts of his birth vary; some say he is the son of Nyx and Erebus; others, of Aphrodite and Ares; still others suggest he is the son of Iris and Zephyrus or even Aphrodite and Zeus (who would have been both his father and grandfather).

According to the Greek Archaic poets, Eros was a handsome immortal played with the emotions of Gods and men, using golden arrows to incite love and leaden ones to sow aversion. It wasn’t until the Hellenistic period that he began to be portrayed as the mischievous, chubby child he’d become on Valentine’s Day cards.”

So why should I participate in a day – as sweet as it seems – that goes back to the fanciful Greek god of love, Eros? Now you know why. Remember too, that Satan presents his ways to us as beautiful, for he comes as an angel of light, but he’s really all about darkness.

2 Corinthians 11:14-15 “And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”

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Who is truly God over all this earth? God – or Satan?

WHO is truly God over all the earth – God the Father, or Satan? So many of the people I grew up with use 2 Cor. 4:4 and say “that’s it – Satan’s the god of this world or age. He rules it, he decides everything and that’s just the way it is.”  

If they don’t go that far, they really do believe our Heavenly Father has kept His hands off this world until Christ returns.

Well, HAS God washed his hands completely of this age and this world and lets Satan do whatever he wants?  I think many don’t rightly understand this concept.

Satan is correctly and definitely called “the god of this age” 2 Cor. 4:3-4. 

“But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”

But I wonder if some of us carry this too far and give Satan way more power than he really has? Can Satan do as he pleases, if this is his world, his age? Or does he have to submit to God’s will and God’s rulership over the earth?  What do you think? How would you explain it?

First let me assure you that I  know there are many scriptures that tell us Satan has a lot of power right now over the age and world in which we live.

*** He has deceived the whole world (Rev. 12:9)

*** He is called the “prince of the power of the air”  (Ephesians 2:2)

*** The whole world is under the sway of the wicked one -- (1 John 5:19). 

*** Satan gets involved in our issues and sometimes we forget that our real enemy is the one who is actually called “the Adversary” – as that is what “Satan” means (Ephesians 6:12). 

But I want to remind all of us that in spite of his power, Satan can go only so far.  Remember how Satan complains about the “hedge of protection” God had placed around Job and his family, and sometimes over whole nations, like Israel at various times?             

Job 1:9-12

So Satan answered YHVH and said, "Does Job fear God for nothing? 10 Have You not made a hedge around him, around his household, and around all that he has on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. 11 But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!"

12 And YHVH said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person."  So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.”

Most of you know the story of Job pretty well. Later on God let Satan affect Job’s person – his body, and Satan covered him with painful boils.  But notice that – especially when it comes to the people of God (you and me and others), Satan can go only so far. God keeps him restrained unless for God’s own purposes, he allows certain trials like he did Job, for Job’s sake. That should encourage you.

God also puts shields of protection around US and our family as well (Genesis 15:1; Psalm 5:12).  We’re told the Angel of YHVH encamps around God’s people (Psalm 34:7). We must not let the hedge or wall of protection get torn down – or we will be bitten by the serpent (Ecclesiastes10:8).  Satan had to ask for Peter (Luke 22:31-32), Yeshua said, but our Savior told Peter that he was praying for him. WOW.  The Son of God intercedes for us and keeps Satan at bay!

Luke 22:31-32  And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.  32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."  

I love that verse. What a great big brother we have in Yeshua.

So it’s clear, especially regarding God’s children, Satan cannot touch you or hurt you or do anything to you and me without God’s explicit permission for God’s purposes – like in Job’s case. So though he’s god of this age, his power is limited.

Now what about elections and all that? Is it Satan who is putting rulers and presidents in place? Not at all. God is the one who puts or ALLOWS certain ones to be put into office as Romans 13:1-2 clearly tells us. But that doesn’t mean He is always thrilled about it. He was very unhappy with Israel for rejecting him – God – as king and insisting on having a human be their king as  you can read in 1 Samuel 8. Neither does it mean that since God is the one who puts or allows world rulers to be in place – that they are good people. God chose Jeroboam to be the House of Israel’s first king when they split from Judah. But Jeroboam was a terrible king, but God had his own reasons for selecting him.

God also makes clear in Hosea that he allows rulers but doesn’t always approve of them or like them. So God decides who rule—and then they’re handed over to Satan as part of his kingdom (for now). That’s why we read of “the prince of Persia” for example in Daniel 10:12-13, 20. That was one of Satan’s high demons orchestrating what happened in Persia.

Hosea 8:2-4  Israel will cry to Me, 'My God, we know You!'  3 Israel has rejected the good; The enemy will pursue him.  4 "They set up kings, but not by Me; They made princes, but I did not acknowledge them.  From their silver and gold They made idols for themselves — That they might be cut off.”

Notice how when we reject God and “the good” – the enemy, just another name for Satan, is allowed to pursue us.  Now verse 4—notice what he says about the leaders we want to choose.  And notice when we go after idols or anything we put ahead of God himself, we end up being cut off from God. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We can’t claim to serve God while acting like one of Satan’s children.  We can’t mix the two!  It’s time for us all to turn 100% to our God. 

But notice too: God IS involved, especially with his family today and with the nations that made up Israel of old. 

So among those not yet called OUT of this world, yes – Satan is their god and leader. Yeshua even called Satan their FATHER (John 8:44). Yeshua clearly calls Satan “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30) and he reigns in darkness. 

But Satan can only go so far. How do we square the verses that call Satan the ruler of the world and verses that say God is over all the earth?

God is STILL ultimate ruler over the kingdoms of the earth.

** Psalm 47:2 “For YHVH Most High is awesome;  HE is a great King over all the earth.”    GOD is the ultimate king over all the earth – not Satan!

** Psalm 83:18 – “…YHVH is Most High over all the earth.”

How about this one in the New Testament: Yeshua/Jesus is “ruler over the kings of the earth”  (Revelation 1:5). 

So you may have come to believe that Satan is the real ruler over all the kings of this age and this world, but that’s simply not what scripture says. God is MOST HIGH. Period. Once God FIRST selects or allows the world rulers, then those rulers and their people come under Satan’s sway after that, but God still picks or allows them first (Romans 13:1-2). But this also explains why Satan could offer the kingdoms of the world to Jesus, in one of the temptations in Matthew 4:8.

Yeshua told Pilate that he only had as much power as God allowed him to have.  John 19:11 – ‘Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin."

Paul explains what happens and how God is calling his chosen family first fruits OUT of Satan’s kingdom of darkness. Read Colossians 1:13 several times please. 

Colossians 1:12-14   “giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

So though we are in this world, we’re not “of it”. God is our head, our ruler, and we’re part of HIS kingdom – not the kingdom of Satan and his darkness. No, we’ve been called out of that. Our main focus has to be on heavenly things now. But those not yet called out of Satan’s kingdom – are indeed ruled by him, with certain limits, as I’ve explained.

So – though Satan has been ALLOWED a lot of power – let’s not think of him being more powerful than he is. And remember this, especially in these perilous times. “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world”  (1 John 4:4).   

But we must also remember, if we want to have God’s protection and God’s involvement, we must be rejecting any involvement with Satan’s way.

Let’s focus much more of our remaining time seeking our true wonderful Abba – who happens to be God Most High, king and ruler over all the earth and the universe. He’s elevated Christ to become “king of kings and Lord of lords”, but even then, always with God the Father himself as the exception. Our Father, and HIS Father, is God MOST High (1 Cor. 15:20-28).  

1 Corinthians 15:28 – “Now when all things are made subject to Him (God the Father), then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.” 

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What really keeps us from praying as we should

I recorded an audio sermon that goes in many reasons people give why they just don’t get around to praying “as much as I should”. I hope you benefit from the full-length sermon on it. But in pondering it some more, I think one of the biggest reasons takes a 2nd look. 

In my new audio sermon, I mentioned many things that keep us from praying -- like putting other things first (we call it being “busy”). Or sometimes we feel unworthy to come before God due to some recent sins. Those can certainly keep our prayers to a minimum. Much more is mentioned also in the sermon. But one way or another, since there’s hardly anything more important than prayer, we have to find a way to pray more.

So I’m going to focus on one of the key reasons I mention in the sermon but will draw out a bit further in this blog.

Think back when you fell in love with your sweetheart. Did you find it hard to find time to be together? Of course not. You two were inseparable. You probably – if you were like most – spent a lot of time in person AND on the phone when you couldn’t be in person. You enjoyed the time together. You looked forward to the next one and it couldn’t come soon enough.

I believe this is a huge key in helping us pray more often than we do. We are supposed to be getting married soon – once more – but this time it’s with Yeshua/Jesus Christ. We love Yeshua. And we adore our father – God Most High, God the Father. So when you love and adore someone, you’re there, often, and it’s enjoyable.

I believe this is the bottom line of rapturous prayer: you’re in love with your fiancé Yeshua and adore our Father. Like when you were dating the one you would marry, you will find it easier to pray when you deeply love the one you’re praying to!

But all too often, being in love gets to be old hack. We take our “loved one” for granted. Do you remember the song “You’ve lost that loving feeling”? Some of the words say, “You don’t close your eyes anymore, when I kiss your lips…”… “you’ve lost that loving feeling, and it’s gone, gone, gone….”

We can lose that first excitement and that “first love”. I know, I know – to love Christ is also to obey him (John 14:15). To love Him is also to love his brethren, the poor of his flock – “I was naked, and you clothed me, hungry and you fed me” and so on in Matthew 25:34-40. So it’s much more than a “loving feeling”. I get that. But I still also feel that I want a wife who not only does the work of being a housewife, but also loves to be with me, loves to go for walks with me, loves to hug and hold me – and me to hold her – even while we both do the works for each other that prove our love. I still like having “that loving feeling”.

So we can lose that first love. That’s what happened to Ephesus church. They still did all the works – but they weren’t excited about the relationship anymore, or so it seems. That’s what happens to US when we don’t pray “as much as I know I should”.   We’ve lost that excitement. If we had it in the beginning, we have to find a way to re-ignite it, to rekindle that fire of that first amorous desire to be together always. Here’s what’s said to the church:

Revelation 2:3-6 --- “…and you have persevered and have patience and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent.”

Pray to Yeshua and God our Father about this very situation. TELL God that you want to love Him deeply and always. Pray for that first love. We should ask for what we know God wants us to seek – and that certainly includes having a deep love for Yeshua and God. “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you” – Yeshua teaches in Matthew 7:7. We can ask and pray for restoration of the kind of love for God that He enjoys.

The Ephesians’ zeal was noted, but their love was waning. All gifts of God’s spirit without love ends up being nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-4). First love. “First” refers to the earliest, chief, best. So they continued working hard but lost their sense of PRIORITY. Other things were starting to crowd God out. That can happen to us as well.

We are to seek FIRST the kingdom of God and his righteousness as Matthew 6:33 says.

Let’s make prayer a faithful habit. We wake up and can’t wait to talk to our hero and Savior Yeshua and his/our Father.

God’s given us a special hotline (called “Prayer”) to his presence – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from anywhere in the world, for as long as we wish to talk – and listen. Let’s take advantage of this great and awesome gift from God.

So let’s pray! Let’s pray a lot, lot more than many of us have been. And check out my new AUDIO sermon on it too about what to do when we’re not feeling motivated to pray, to talk with the greatest, most loving Being in the universe!

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Is Christmas OK if we keep Christ in the center? 

My wife and I commented on our daily walk around the neighborhood today how many homes had Christmas decorations – but a few did not have any. Our home was among the “did not have any” group.

Satan appears as an angel of light, especially perhaps at Christmas. Christmas songs are admittedly beautiful. The lights and mystique of the season are alluring. But any of you who have been coming to my website and reading my blogs and hearing my sermons know that we don’t, and we must not participate in Christmas.

I love, love, love the story of my Savior being born in a manger in Bethlehem. The shepherds and the angelic choir, and then some time later the visit from the magi, are details I just love. BUT… if you use the Search bar on the home page, then type in “Christmas”, a lot of my sermons and blogs will show up explaining why true believers will have no part of Christmas.

It's not about the true date of Christ’s birth. If the date was important, God would have told us. What was important is that God’s son was born and came to be our Savior.

In today’s short blog, I want to address just one point. Many concede that Christmas December 25th is a long-standing day that celebrates pagan gods. Just do your own Google, Bing, Edge or Duckduckgo search. Type in “Pagan origins of Christmas” and see what pops up.

Here's the one point: People might say to you – “If we all know the true pagan roots of Christmas, so what? I’m not worshiping pagan gods, Christmas trees or yule logs. I’ve put Christ back in the center. He’s the reason for the season. SO if I focus on Christ, how could there be a problem with that?”

Besides the many scriptures where Yehovah Elohim (The LORD God) says we are NOT to worship him the way pagan people around them were worshiping their gods, there’s another central point: God hates it even MORE when anyone puts HIS NAME on to the pagan worship that he says he detests. Putting God’s name on to a pagan worship does not make it OK with God.

Here's how I prove that. Remember the gold calf? That was one of the biggest sins Israel ever committed, especially in light of how soon it happened after the huge miracles of God delivering them out of Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea on dry land, the daily manna, and much more. So in Exodus 32 the rabble wanted to build a gold calf and worship it. Let’s read what happened, and especially focus on verse 5’

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 the LORD." 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.

Aaron tried the same ploy that Christians try to do who know better about Christmas. Aaron – Moses’ brother -- was going to let the Israelites have their pagan gold calf idol, but Aaron thought if he could just re-label it, and make it look like they were really worshiping the LORD (Yehovah) – as verse 5 above clearly says – that this would make it OK with God, and OK to have this pagan worship. Aaron made it a “hag” or “chag” – a festival to God.

            That’s the same as Christmas, folks. Think of Christmas as the gold calf. God wants to be worshipped in spirit and truth – and there’s not much true about Christmas festivities. Santa and the flying reindeer are a lie; not truth. And saying Yeshua/Jesus was born on Dec 25 is a lie, not truth.

So did God feel the gold calf was OK as long as they followed Aaron and said they were really worshiping the LORD, and in fact announced it as a “chag” – a feast day – to Yehovah. Did that make it alright, or did it in fact anger God even more? Remember Exodus 32:5as it shows us we can’t just re-label pagan worship and claim it’s OK now since we put God’s name on it. No, it made God even more angry. Let’s continue in Exodus 32 now to read what God said about Aaron’s strategy.

Exodus 32:7-10—“And YHVH said to Moses, ‘Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, 'This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!'" 9 And YHVH said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! 10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation."

Does that sound like God was pleased at putting his holy name on their orgiastic worship of a gold calf? Is it any different when people put his holy Son’s name smack dab in the middle of pagan Saturnalia festivities – and worse? Re-labeling makes it worse in God’s eyes, obviously – not better.

We cannot make a pagan-rooted season suddenly OK by putting God’s name on it. It doesn’t work that way. That just makes it worse. Those of you seeking to please our God will do what pleases him, not what angers him. As a result of Aaron’s relabeling, 3,000 Israelites died that day for that terrible sin.

If this helps you understand better, then I pray you all will have the desire to step out in faith and no longer participate at all in festivities that anger our God even more so – because they put his holy name on to what had been festivities to pagan gods, to Saturnalia parties and worse. We will be held accountable for what we know and understand. To whom much is given, much is required.

So let’s worship our God in spirit and in truth – and nothing less.

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“Peace, peace” in Middle East. Then what?

At a recent sabbath fellowship I was asked what I thought of the new “peace deals between Arab states and Israel: are these a good thing or a bad thing, from especially God’s point of view?”  I thought that would be a good topic to cover today.

Peace is usually better than being at war, right? There is a time for war too! (Like Dec 7, 1941;  Ecclesiastes 3:8). But what does God have to say about peace in the Middle East involving Israel especially? The question I was asked got me thinking and I hope this blog will get you thinking too.

We might be seeing a series of major prophecies happening before our very eyes that is setting up the final years before Christ’s return.  Today I want to focus on just one: “For when they say, ‘Peace, peace’ – then sudden destruction.” 

 

1 Thessalonians 5:2-3  “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 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.”

 

In a sermon I gave recently about “as in the Days of Noah”, the one thing that Yeshua focused on about the days of Lot and Noah was this one thing: the “end” came suddenly. We always think of the evils of those times, but the FOCUS was on the suddenness of destruction that hit them all. 

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians that before the sudden destruction of the very end time, there will be a lot of people lauding peace … probably in several places, even while there continue to be wars and rumors of wars. So it’s a strange time.

So what am I talking about? The Middle East, a perennial powder keg for war.  Tiny Israel has been surrounded for many decades by Muslim nations many times its size, who are intent on Israel’s (and America’s) total destruction. We were told for years and years that no peace was possible between the Palestinians and Israel until Israel had agreed to give Palestinians what they considered their own land to have their own independent country – meaning the West Bank.

 

But now all of a sudden – 4, and soon 5, Arab countries have initiated free interaction with Israel, which many are likening to peace treaties. How important is this?

The old preconditions before any established relations could start, meant of course Israel giving up the “West Bank” – which frankly was the core of  the Israelite tribe of Manasseh and part of Ephraim and maybe part of Issachar.

And for years, the surrounding Arab and Muslim countries lived by that understanding: no peace with Israel until Israel gives the Palestinians the West Bank to have their own country.  And never forget that GOD, who decides all nations’ boundaries, gave the land of Canaan to Israel. God considers it HIS land, in fact, and gets very upset when anyone tries to “divide up” HIS land (Joel 3:2;  Jeremiah 12:14).  Please take time to read the scriptures.

So though active war and bullets aren’t being exchanged every day between Israel and its Muslim neighbors, there certainly hasn’t been much peace. In fact, over the past few years many, many thousands of rockets have been fired against Israel from Hamas in Gaza and by the Hezbollah in Lebanon. So when peace is ever mentioned or concluded, that sounds like a good thing.  And it’s better to live in peace than always being on the edge of all-out war.  I agree with that.

So just be aware = that before the final events leading to Christ’s return, yes, there’s going to be a lot of violence and war – BUT, that will all be preceded by a time when the middle east especially SEEMS to be in a state of PEACE. Soon after I write this in December 2020, we may well see more major Arab countries pursuing peace with Israel as well. I’d really take a lot of notice if I see Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq do this.

Peace is nice. But don’t let yourself be caught off guard because of “peace”.  The scripture I started with, in 1 Thessalonians 5, goes on to say in verses 4-6 that God’s children are children of light and we should not be among those caught off guard. No, we’re watching, we’re on our toes, we’re praying, we’re close to God, we seek Him, and we won’t be caught off guard by cries of “peace, peace.”  Peace is a good thing. But we must not let it cause us to start thinking “all is well in the world”.  It surely isn’t!  We need God’s kingdom to come and we stay on our toes.

So after warning about peace and safety (or security), Paul is inspired to tell us all this. And what he says is much more apropos to US even, than it was to his audience in the first century. Please read it carefully and thoughtfully. I’ll start with the verses we started this blog with, but please keep reading to what our true FOCUS should always be. 

1 Thessalonians 5:2-10  “For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 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.”

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

Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah  - but pronounced with the H sound in  Hanukkah) – is here. What is it? Why are more and more Christians, even Sabbath keepers, recognizing and keeping Hanukkah?  Some feel it is merely a Jewish counterbalance to Christmas. Others believe it is a Jewish festivity not mentioned in Scripture. What’s true? Should you and I – believers in Yeshua - -keep Hanukkah?  What did Jesus do about Hanukkah? Yes, we’re actually told in Scripture!  Read the rest of this blog to learn what Hanukkah is about, what Yeshua did during Hanukkah, whether or not believers can participate in some way and what lessons we can learn from this holiday.

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

Hanukkah is also about the triumph of good over evil.  Against all odds, our great God brought victory to the Jews who had rededicated themselves to returning to God and cleansing the temple.  In the times in which we live today, there’s a great lesson here for us. God shows us that – especially when He’s involved – light will trump darkness every time. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our Precious Citizenships

Do we all deeply understand that our primary citizenship is in heaven?  I certainly believe that, love that, acknowledge that, and teach that.  The KJV says “our conversation is in heaven” – but just about every other translation says “citizenship”.

Philippians 3:20“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,…”

And in the prior verse Paul reminds us not to overly focus on earthly things, for – as he teaches in Colossians 3:1-2, we should SET our minds on things above, and not on the earth. So my heavenly calling is my priority, but neither does that mean I ignore my duties and responsibilities here on earth!

We’re also reminded that we need to remember we are “pilgrims and sojourners” upon the earth, as Abraham and his descendants realized, awaiting a city whose builder and maker is God.  All that’s in Hebrews 11:13 as well as 1 Peter 2:11. So I’m very, very aware of these scriptures.

I get all that. But one thing I feel a lot of believers “don’t get” is that Paul, who said his citizenship is in heaven, was more than happy to USE his Roman citizenship when it benefited him. We should be of the same mind. We are actually – according to Paul’s EXAMPLE – DUAL citizens. 

I am a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem – AS WELL as a citizen of the United States. I was BORN a US citizen.  That is something that billions of people would love to be able to say. 

And so many pregnant women from other countries come to America just to have their baby born here in the USA so that baby – according to USA law – is automatically for life, a U.S. citizen. And you, dear believer, as a citizen of heaven if you have God’s holy spirit inside you – are also a citizen of your beloved country.

Just because we are now citizens of heaven does not mean we no longer prize our earthly citizenship as well.  

I’d like you all to read the whole section of scripture where Paul was arrested and was about to be flogged mercilessly by Roman lictors (where we get the expression “he got a lickin’”).  Read Acts 22:22-29.  But it was illegal to scourge a Roman citizen without him first having a chance in court to explain his side of things. Paul is a citizen of heaven – and is about to be whipped. So does he ignore his rights as a Roman citizen, or does he prize it? The answer to this is my point!

Acts 22:25-29 --- And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?"

26 When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, "Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman."

27 Then the commander came and said to him, "Tell me, are you a Roman?"

He said, "Yes."

28 The commander answered, "With a large sum I obtained this citizenship."

And Paul said, "But I was born a citizen."

29 Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.”

I am writing this up because some of you refuse to follow Paul’s example of USING his Roman citizenship rightseven while professing and claiming his heavenly Jerusalem citizenship to believers.  Paul used it here and it kept him from being flogged mercilessly – and he used it again when he appealed to Caesar.  That was basically the same as using his rights as a Roman citizen to appeal to what we nowadays would call appealing to the US Supreme Court.  You can read of it in Acts 25:10-12.

We shall all be JUDGED according to what we’ve been given. We’ve been given our earthly citizenship among other things. USE your citizenship rights. 

Having and being given US citizenship is extremely valuable. We will be judged on how we use and prize this gift from God – like any and all other gifts God gave us. 

So yes, I write and call my Representative and Senators on the issues that concern me. I vote in US elections – because, as I explained in my sermon on voting, though God is said to be the one who puts people into office (Romans 13:1-2), neither is God always approving of what we mankind do (Hosea 8:4 –“they set up kings, but NOT BY ME; they appointed princes, but I did not acknowledge them…”.)  Also see 1 Samuel 8:1-10, where God clearly was not in favor of them choosing human kings, but God ALLOWED IT.

If you won’t vote, how can you ever do or say anything about what is happening in our or your country? You would have no right to ever complain; that’s for certain.

God used men – and politics – to start our country, to frame our cherished Constitution, to establish our laws and freedoms.  Without their meetings and all they did, we would have no USA today.  So many in leadership are corrupt, but what’s new? God still used leaders all through time, whether they were part of Israel or not.

God gives us free choice, free moral agency. He allows us to have our wishes a lot of times, yes – even when it could be against his preferences or his will.   And when we don’t care enough to vote AGAINST those who are killing our babies in the womb and vote FOR those who are for stopping that slaughter – what is God to think of us? When we CAN do something about atrocities, God expects us to DO and SAY what we can. 

When one side is against law and order and is for defunding the police, is FOR open borders, is for higher taxes and on and on – should we not stand up, show up, and speak up by using our God-given citizenship? 

PAUL DID.  I do.  I value my citizenship too much to ignore it.  I will be judged by God if I value it and use it, or just ignore it. 

In the meantime, I praise and honor my King for my citizenship in heaven too. Like Paul, like Abraham, like Isaac and Jacob – I realize I’m a sojourner in a way, but in another way, God has allowed me to use my valuable USA citizenship too.

I thank God I have DUAL citizenship, with my primary citizenship being the one in heaven.  And like Paul, I don’t hesitate to claim US Citizenship as well – and to use it.  So I also Praise Elohim, our wonderful God in heaven, for the wonderful gift of US Citizenship as well. I will neither diminish it nor ignore it. I use it, value it, and praise Him for it – even as I KNOW that my primary citizenship is in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

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Please feel free to forward this blog in its entirety to others if you feel it has been helpful to you. And please also let them know about our free website www.lightontherock.org.  Thank you.

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Praying “…on earth AS IT IS in heaven.” God’s will be done – this way!

Surely, we’d all agree God’s will is always done in heaven. There’s no resistance to him, no disobedience and no disregard for what the Almighty wants. It simply happens.

So it’s no wonder that Yeshua teaches us, when we pray, after we acknowledge the Almighty as our Father in heaven, to say:

Your will be done, on earth just as it is in heaven.”

Have you pondered that last phrase – “on earth as it is in heaven”. God’s son teaches us that God wants to hear from us, and to hear that we hope his will is as perfectly done here on earth as it is in heaven. The strong implication is that God’s will on earth is NOT always done, and certainly not like it is in heaven, unless God intervenes, and unless we ask for it. Otherwise why do we need to pray for it? And what does all that mean in practical terms?

For example, in the USA election this year, some of God’s children didn’t vote because they’re told by their pastors that it’s like voting against God’s will. They assume that God only puts people into office (Romans 13:1-2) who are always exactly the ones he wants. If only that could always absolutely be the case! In terms of the election, if that were always the case, why bother praying at all then for the election? Of course we could have been praying “may your will be done as to the US President will be; your will be done – not our will, but yours be done, here as it is in heaven.”

Why do I say it that way?

Because people who believe we have nothing to do in terms of politics don’t quote the other scriptures that clearly show God often gives mankind what we WANT – even when it’s not good for us. Even when it’s against God’s own will! Keep reading! You read that right!

An example of this is when the nation of Israel got tired of having judges and wanted a king like the nations around them. God let them have that king- - King Saul – but made it very clear through Samuel in 1 Samuel 8 (please read it) that he was disappointed. God said, “They have rejected ME, that I should rule over them” (1 Samuel 8:7). But then God goes on to tell Samuel to warn the nation of what a king will do, and that God will let them have THEIR will be done. God let them have a king.

And in Hosea 8:4a he says this: “THEY set up kings, but not by me; they made princes, but I did not acknowledge them.”

I have another blog where I show God’s will is NOT always done here on earth. Surprised? For example, Christ said HIS will was to protect Jerusalem like a mother hen does her chicks, “but YOU were not willing” (Matthew 23:37-38). Guess what? God let them have their will, instead of his – and they were not protected when the Romans completely destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Another time we read that God’s will for the Pharisees was that they be baptized by John the Baptizer. Luke 7:30—“But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.”

Wow! They rejected God’s will for them, and God allowed it.

So imagine that, we can reject God’s will – and God gives in to what we want so many times – to our own hurt, to teach us lessons – and to allow for free moral agency and free choice.

This is exactly WHY we have to pray “Thy will be done” and then make super clear and bold what we mean by adding “Your will be done here on earth, just like your will is done all the time in heaven.”

Another variation of this is found in Mark 6:1-6 where Yeshua himself COULD NOT do mighty works in Nazareth, except for a few, because of their unbelief. They weren’t willing to believe their own home-town boy could heal anyone, so their lack of faith prevented God’s will from being done. And they could say, “See, I told you so. He can’t heal.” What a shame.

So the point of this write-up is that God DOESN’T always do what HE really wants to do, as I’ve shown. Surprised? Well that’s WHY we have to pray “YOUR WILL BE DONE” – because his will ISN’T always done. How else could we also have free choice, free moral agency? Do you see?

But then we are to positively and bravely add, “Do it down here on earth the way you do it in heaven; your will be perfectly done” – and then we add the specific circumstances we mean by that.

So in heaven, is anyone sick? Is anyone in pain? Is anyone dirt poor and hungry in heaven? Is anyone killing anyone or robbing from anyone in heaven? Is anyone suffering? NO, 100% no.

So when I pray “as it is in heaven” – I apply that to prayers for healing and prayers for blessings. I ask God to take care of people we care for here on earth the way you’d take care of them up there in heaven – healed, blessed, pain-free, etc. I add, “If you feel these people need to learn lessons from the fear, pain, agony, disease, etc. they have, then your will be done, but Father – please – be merciful and help them learn those lessons quickly and then heal and bless.”

But I think more often than we want to admit, we don’t have the faith to declare healing, to declare blessing, so we say ‘your will be done” – as our cop-out (if we’re not careful) to avoid the brave, positive statements and definitive declarations of faith to cast out the illness, to command sickness to leave this body in Jesus’ name, or to command the hurricane in Yeshua’s name to immediately move away from the populated areas. Reminder: they don’t have hurricanes and tornadoes in heaven! “As it is in heaven”.

Oh believe me, I have to struggle with this too from time to time. But I hope this article helps you be bolder in your prayers. Some people didn’t ask for enough, remember, and God chastised them for that. Read the story about Joash striking the ground just 3 times and what happened (2 Kings 13:14-20). Please read it.

Let’s become bolder in our prayers and in our faith and declare we want God’s will to be done down here – just like it is up there in heaven.    

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NO MIDDLE GROUND

Are you a person who seeks God’s will and God’s mind 100% in everything you do?  Or do you find yourself sometimes looking for a middle ground that allows you to feel you’re a zealous child of God – while not being so hard and fast on what God says he wants from us? I admit – as a human – I can find myself slipping into that if I’m not alert.

I’m referring to situations that clearly involve sin or righteousness.

In today’s blog I’m NOT referring to situations that do not involve righteousness or sin. We all have to at times be willing to compromise and make accommodations so everyone can be best served. That’s wonderful, that’s good, where sin is not involved.

But where God’s word is clear about right and wrong, do we find ourselves even in those cases still trying to find middle ground, to compromise, to not “rock the boat” – and end up giving in to at least a little bit of sin? The Bible is clear about the sanctity of life from conception through life, marriage between a man and a woman, respect for law and order. The 10 Commandments are clear: we are to honor the true God, keep the 7th day sabbath, honor our parents, never lie, cheat, or steal or kill – and more, for example. The Bible is clear about same-sex unions. About which days are sacred.

So today we’re talking about how we must avoid compromising God’s word and principles just for the sake of “getting along” or finding middle ground that ends up compromising God’s word and what we do.

When we seek middle ground, in the end – who do we end up serving? Do we end up serving Holy God in heaven – or his/our Adversary, Satan? So where do God’s people – those led by his spirit (Romans 8:14) often try to find middle ground?

Well, for example, Halloween is coming up. Please check out my sermon I’ve recently posted (Oct 2020) titled “Should Christians participate in Halloween?” I believe I show conclusively in that teaching that God’s children who are led by God’s Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14) will not – in any way – participate in Halloween. Not even a little bit!

Too many Christians have settled on a “middle ground” where they feel they can participate – just a little bit – in Halloween and still be pleasing to God.

When it comes to God and his Way, he likes us to be definite. Consider how God warned Laodicea to be either “hot or cold” – but not be the middle ground between hot or cold, which is lukewarm (Revelation 3:14-16). Yeshua said that their middle ground of lukewarmness made him want to vomit! Finding middle ground on God’s word is about our apathy, our Laodiceanism.

God wants ALL our heart, soul, and mind, not just 80% of it. If we’re giving in to sin on some issues can we still say we love God with our whole heart? And again, I’m not talking about everyday compromises in areas NOT involving sin where we have to make compromises to accommodate our spouse’s needs, or to make everything work smoother.

To know when we can and when we can’t compromise at all, means we have to intimately know God’s word, so we recognize times when we must hold firm versus times that are inconsequential.

After I recorded my Halloween sermon, I found other ministers teaching that there IS a middle ground with Halloween involvement. Seeing that actually was the inspiration for this blog. I call it compromise. But again, that kind of middle ground makes our Savior want to vomit. We might not think participating a little in Halloween or other pagan holidays is all that bad, but we end up participating in celebrating what is dark, evil, and Satanic!

Let’s listen to our Master Yeshua on this concept:

Luke 16:10, 13 -- “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 13 "No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."

This blog is asking us: WHERE do we find ourselves compromising and not being totally faithful to God? I preach to myself too.

Click on “continue reading” to finish this blog. You’re halfway through.

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Will you just go hungry on Atonement?

For most of you reading this, Sept 28 – 2nd day of the week – will be the Day of Atonement.  And one of the things we all do – is fast. Or go without food and water. Will our day of Atonement just be a super-hungry day – or will the fasting serve its intended purpose? 

I suggest again that we all re-read Isaiah 58 on this day. Read it in various translations. This chapter explains what should be happening when we fast: we are fasting for various reasons. What follows is how the Complete Jewish Bible translates the passage. Please read it thoughtfully and even prayerfully.

It seems God wants our fasting to result in some drastic changes in our lives. He wants us to use the day to seek him and ask him to show us where we must grow and change – and then do it. He wants us to be people “standing in the breach” – actually doing things to affect change in our communities. My wife and I are pondering our own best actions going forward to have more of a life-changing impact in people’s lives as Isaiah 58:6-7 show us.

Then in verse 8 and beyond, we read God’s response when he sees our fasting actually resulting in changes in our lives and in the lives of those around us. He promises healing and blessing! He promises more “answered prayer” and what a delight that would be! Verses 9-11 – God says things will start to go much better for us. But he wants us to quit slandering each other; to start actively helping people – and going beyond just stating a promise to keep them “in our thoughts and prayers”. God wants action! God wants us doing, working, being involved in the lives of others who need us.

Let’s read it. Much of it will be God’s own words to his people, to us!

Isaiah 58:2-12

“Oh yes, they seek me day after day and [claim to] delight in knowing my ways. As if they were an upright nation that had not abandoned the rulings of their God, they ask me for just rulings and [claim] to take pleasure in closeness to God, 3 [asking,] ‘Why should we fast, if you don’t see? Why mortify ourselves, if you don’t notice?’

“Here is my answer: when you fast, you go about doing whatever you like, while keeping your laborers hard at work. 4 Your fasts lead to quarreling and fighting, to lashing out with violent blows. On a day like today, fasting like yours will not make your voice heard on high.

5 “Is this the sort of fast I want, a day when a person mortifies himself? Is the object to hang your head like a reed and spread sackcloth and ashes under yourself? Is this what you call a fast, a day that pleases Adonai?

6 “Here is the sort of fast I want — releasing those unjustly bound, untying the thongs of the yoke, letting the oppressed go free, breaking every yoke, 7 sharing your food with the hungry, taking the homeless poor into your house, clothing the naked when you see them, fulfilling your duty to your kinsmen!”

8 Then your light will burst forth like the morning, your new skin will quickly grow over your wound; your righteousness will precede you, and Adonai’s glory will follow you.

9 Then you will call, and Adonai will answer; you will cry, and he will say, “Here I am.” If you will remove the yoke from among you, stop false accusation and slander, 10 generously offer food to the hungry and meet the needs of the person in trouble; then your light will rise in the darkness, and your gloom become like noon.

11 Adonai will always guide you; he will satisfy your needs in the desert, he will renew the strength in your limbs; so that you will be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails. 12 You will rebuild the ancient ruins, raise foundations from ages past, and be called “Repairer of broken walls, Restorer of streets to live in.”

SO yes – let’s fast. But let’s fast to help us remember how much we rely on God for life. Fast to humble ourselves in his presence and mention to Him how we would love to have more healing in our bodies and relationships. Fast with lots of prayer of gratitude for God’s atoning work in our lives and what he’ll soon do for the whole world. Fast in joyful thanksgiving to the reconciliation He’s he will offer to the world after Christ returns – and you and I can be a part of that!

Fast to ask God to help us become ever more like him moment to moment.

But don’t just go hungry!

So this year, let’s not just go without food and water for one day. Use the day to pray in repentance and ask God to reveal our Laodicean lukewarmness and spiritual inactivity. Commit to this year being a time of real change and overcoming of real sins that have lingered too long in our lives. And yes, I’m preaching at myself too!

Have a WONDERFUL day of fasting, of humbling, of seeking – and of changing.

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But are you coming to know the AUTHOR?

Many of you study the Bible every day.  If we’re not, we should be.  But are you reaching the correct GOAL and OUTCOME for your Bible study? 

The Bereans were commended for studying the scriptures of what we now call the “Old Testament” to see if what they were being told was true.  And back then, it was much harder, with each book requiring a long scroll. They had no concordances, no various translations on their I-pads, no Holy Bible in one book you could carry in one hand.  Most of them couldn’t afford their own scrolls, so they had to go to the synagogues to study.   Their study took some time and work, compared to what we can do today.  But they did it.  See Acts 17:10-11. 

And what was the primary TOPIC of what Paul was discussing with them?  Go back and look at context.  He began in Thessalonica, and then moved to Berea – but the topic was the same:  that Yeshua was the Son of God and Messiah and died and rose again in 3 days (Acts 17:1-3, 7-8).  He was teaching them about Yeshua.

But WHY do we study the Word of God? Many of us frankly enjoy learning more “things” about scripture:  more data, a fascinating Hebrew word picture, the meaning in the original Greek or Hebrew, some historical tie-in to what we’re reading, and so on.  I do too. But here’s where I caution us as well. 

Yeshua warned us that if we just study God’s word to learn how to live – but don’t seek to come to HIM personally – we’re missing the point! See John 5:39-40

WHY did I write this blog? WHY is it important? Because we could be studying for all the wrong reasons and in the end, it could be for naught. 

Many of you love the scripture, as I do, that prompts us to “grow in grace and knowledge…” (2 Peter 3:18). Some use the verse that says, “Study to show yourselves approved unto God…” (2 Timothy 2:15). Actually the word “study” in 2 Tim 2:15 is an old English word meaning “be diligent”. The Greek in 2 Timothy 2:15 actually has nothing to do with actual Bible Study directly.  

Our modern learning system comes from Socrates, Plato and Aristotle - - the Academy, the academic system, where students are expected to just have new information funneled into their brains while one speaks and everyone else listens.  

But the learning system in Yeshua’s day was far different. Disciples didn’t just learn the concepts their rabbi was teaching –oh no – they wanted to also learn more about their teacher. They wanted to be just like him. So the rabbi’s disciples watched their actions and copied their reactions to everyday situations. They learned by doing and watching a life. It wasn’t enough to pore over the scrolls by themselves. Their teachers were like a parent running alongside a young child learning to ride his bike for the first time without training wheels. They were in the thick of learning by doing and watching – not just studying documents. The goal was to create a bond between teacher and student. The goal was a deep relationship and coming to KNOW their Teacher

As you read our God’s BOOK – are we coming to know HIM better? Are you coming to his SON, and coming to know that you know him? Paul said that was one of his major goals: “That I may KNOW HIM, and the power of HIS resurrection…” (Philippians 3:9-11). Paul wasn’t interested just in the words of the Bible but wanted those words to help him come to know the AUTHOR of the Book much more.  

Click on “CONTINUE READING” now to finish this thought-provoking blog.

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But are you coming to know the AUTHOR?

Many of you study the Bible every day.  If we’re not, we should be.  But are you reaching the correct GOAL and OUTCOME for your Bible study? 

The Bereans were commended for studying the scriptures of what we now call the “Old Testament” to see if what they were being told was true.  And back then, it was much harder, with each book requiring a long scroll. They had no concordances, no various translations on their I-pads, no Holy Bible in one book you could carry in one hand.  Most of them couldn’t afford their own scrolls, so they had to go to the synagogues to study.   Their study took some time and work, compared to what we can do today.  But they did it.  See Acts 17:10-11. 

And what was the primary TOPIC of what Paul was discussing with them?  Go back and look at context.  He began in Thessalonica, and then moved to Berea – but the topic was the same:  that Yeshua was the Son of God and Messiah, and died and rose again in 3 days (Acts 17:1-3, 7-8).  He was teaching them about Yeshua.

But WHY do we study the Word of God? Many of us frankly enjoy learning more “things” about scripture:  more data, a fascinating Hebrew word picture, the meaning in the original Greek or Hebrew, some historical tie-in to what we’re reading, and so on.  I do too. But here’s where I caution us as well.

WHY did I write this blog?  WHY is it important?  Because we could be studying for all the wrong reasons and in the end it could be for naught.

Many of you love the scripture, as I do, that prompts us to “grow in grace and knowledge…” (2 Peter 3:18).  Some use the verse that says “Study to show yourselves approved unto God…” (2 Timothy 2:15).  Actually the word “study” in 2 Tim 2:15 is an old English word meaning “be diligent”.  The Greek in 2 Timothy 2:   15 actually has nothing to do with actual Bible Study directly. 

Our modern learning system comes from Socrates, Plato and Aristotle - - the Academy, the academic system, where students are expected to just have new information funneled into their brains while one speaks and everyone else listens. 

But the learning system in Yeshua’s day was far different. Disciples didn’t just learn the concepts their rabbi was teaching –oh no – they wanted to also learn more about their teacher. They wanted to be just like him. So the rabbi’s disciples watched their actions and copied their reactions to everyday situations.  They learned by doing and watching a life.  It wasn’t enough to pore over the scrolls by themselves. Their teachers were like a parent running alongside a young child learning to ride his bike for the first time without training wheels. They were in the thick of learning by doing and watching – not just studying documents. The goal was to create a bond between teacher and student. The goal was a deep relationship and coming to KNOW their Teacher.

As you read our God’s BOOK – are we coming to know HIM better?  Are you coming to his SON, and coming to know that you know him?  Paul said that was one of his major goals: “That I may KNOW HIM, and the power of HIS resurrection…”  (Philippians 3:9-11).  Paul wasn’t interested just in the words of the Bible, but wanted those words to help him come to know the AUTHOR of the Book much more. 

Click on “CONTINUE READING” now to finish this thought-provoking blog.

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Should I vote in 2020?

2020 2

There has never been a time in the history of the United States where two political candidates for president represent the polar opposites of ideals, goals and a political agenda.

The surprise election of Donald Trump in 2016 has caused a major upheaval in the carefully laid plans of previous administrations. The veil has been pulled back to reveal hypocrisy, lies and lawlessness on a scale that is shocking. From the day President Trump was elected, the Democratic party started threatening impeachment and it seems for several career politicians this became their primary focus. There is a Deep State, men and women, committed to an agenda in defiance of the will of the American people and our elected President. Truly nothing is new under the sun, Jerimiah 11:9 speaks of a conspiracy in ancient Israel, much like today.

Media outlets have been exposed to their bias and fake news. The left-oriented news agencies now openly criticize and mock the President - and the Americans who voted for him. Trusted health organizations like the WHO have failed, their policies and recommendations influenced by their financial connections with China, the source of Covid-19. The result? America’s booming economy has come to a grinding halt in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Civil unrest, rioting, burning and looting in America’s major cities – for over 3 months now. The call to defund police, ICE and removal of correctional facilities from extreme Marxist groups like Antifa and BLM who practice and advocate lawlessness. Mayor DeBlasio sided with the radical extremists and he has shifted nearly 1 billion dollars away from the NYPD budget.

Fake News, Fake Politics, Fake Christianity and Fake Education have taken their toll. A shockingly high percentage of the rioters who are burning our cities are actually teachers!

We are living in ever increasing difficult times that will try all of us. This nation is wracked with fear, people even wearing masks inside a car or their homes when there is no evidence of any real protection. The healthy should never be quarantined, only the sick. Fear has corrupted common sense.

Looking at the Democratic controlled states and cities we see politicians capitalizing on Covid-19 fears forbidding church gatherings, however you are allowed to buy liquor, marijuana and protest in the streets – with or without masks.

There is a spirit of hate, divisiveness and racial tension moving across the land. We know where these spirits originate and who is behind it. Satan hates God, he hates us and he hates this country. The corrupt politicians, lying pastors, deceitful educational and health organizations, and violent rioters are being used by Satan and his demons to incite anxiety, hatred and fear.

The sins of this country have become progressively worse. New York has the highest rate of abortion in the country terminating 1 out of every 3 pregnancies. Yet this wasn’t enough for New York politicians and pro-choice activists who recently passed a law ensuring that even if the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, abortion would be available, even up to the point of live birth. The passing of this bill was celebrated with cheers while Governor Cuomo ordered New York landmarks to be lit up in pink to celebrate this horrifying “victory”.

Let’s briefly look at what the Republican and Democratic parties represent in 2020. Then let’s ask ourselves if God really wants us to remain silent on such vital issues when He has given us this country with the liberties we have enjoyed.

Republicans:

  1. Lower Taxes
  2. Stop illegal immigration, drugs and human trafficking
  3. Strong economy, encouraging all Americans to be employed
  4. Strong national defense
  5. Fair international trade laws
  6. Protection of our Amendment rights, especially Freedom of speech and religion and the right to peaceably assemble and the right to bear arms (Amendment #2)
  7. Support for the Police and ICE and law and order
  8. Support the lives of yet-unborn boys and girls.

Democrats:

  1. Democratic Socialism
  2. Open borders, which encourages more illicit drugs & human trafficking
  3. Higher taxes and more regulation of business
  4. Health care and free education for all illegal aliens
  5. Forfeiture of all guns, especially handguns and AR-15’s
  6. Military cutbacks
  7. Reduced police enforcement, ICE and correctional facilities
  8. Support Planned Parenthood and ending the lives of millions more innocent little unborn boys and girls.

Antifa is a left-wing militant organization committed to achieving their objectives using violence rather than policy reform. While they claim to be anti-fascists, they try to achieve their objectives through harassment, militancy, physical violence and property damage. President Trump has declared Antifa a domestic terrorist group. As of today, August 29, 2020 if you enter antifa.com into a browser you will be redirected to Joe Biden’s campaign website: joebiden.com. Antifa supports Joe Biden, think on that.

As Christians, what are we to do? There are two paths with very different results that will affect every single American. 2020 is a defining year for our country and we can have a part of the outcome – we can use our American right to vote. In most states, you have up until October 3 to register to vote in the upcoming general election.

The Bible never mentions whether we should or should not vote in political elections. However, we do see Paul appealing to Caesar when it appeared that justice would not be served. He used a political right he had. We see the example of Esther, violating the king’s law and risking her own life to appear before him to save the Jews of her day from annihilation. She made a stand, she spoke up, she did something. She could have just as easily reasoned that she could just dismiss any necessary action since surely God could have taken care of the problem without her.

We see through God’s intervention that Joseph, Daniel and his three friends, plus Mordecai and who knows how many others held very high positions in their governments right there in ancient Egypt, Babylon and Persia, the very symbols of sin and evil. They used their positions to further the cause of right and good.

What about the understanding that God has a plan for all mankind, lives in eternity, knows all things and will work them out to His good will? What about the prophecies that show the demise of modern Israel due to our rampant sins? That is indeed true. Yet we also see the pagan city-state of Nineveh repenting (Jonah 3) and God’s judgement delayed for several generations. We also know that in God’s mercy He wants repentance and does not delight in the death of the wicked.

God likes to work through men and women, and often through very difficult times requiring courage, faith and action. Yes, action.

So I ask myself this question, what would I tell God if He asked me why did I not cast a ballot in this election? Since I can clearly discern between what is best for our nation and what will lead to the further weakening our country, why did I not take action to try and prevent the destruction of our people and our land? We know who weakens the nations, Isaiah 14:12.

And remember God judges us largely based on what He has given us. Can we really remain silent and not vote – or does God want his children voicing their strong objection against abortion and taking a stand for the defenseless unborns? Does He not delight in seeing us speak up and using our opportunity to vote to say we wish to obey his command to come together on sabbath to worship him?

To whom much is given, much will be required. We’ve been placed here at this moment “for such a time as this.”

Ezekiel 22:30 talks about God looking for one man to stand in the breach before Him, so he would not destroy the land. Could it be that God is giving each and every one of us that opportunity now as never before to stand in the breach, to let God know his people care? We may never have this opportunity again.

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Nebuchadnezzar’s message for President Trump

For several years now – before the Corona virus -- President Trump aggressively sought to turn the USA’s economy around. And it did turn around. Jobs were plentiful at record numbers.  Employers in fact couldn’t find enough workers. That’s how much work there was. Unemployment rate dropped to all-time lows for every category – whites, blacks, Hispanics, women – they all had record low unemployment rates. Companies that had left the USA were coming back home.  The stock market certainly soared. In fact, the economy had never been so good. People’s incomes were going up, up, up. 

President Trump certainly was very pleased with the results of his work and openly said so and took credit for almost all of it.

But all that was before the China Wuhan virus hit the whole world. Then literally overnight, the economies of most of the world and certainly here in the USA – tanked – as nations spiraled down into lockdown, businesses were shut down, travel almost stopped, commerce went into a tailspin. And how the USA suffered started affecting the whole world.

What happened? Why did it happen?

Yes, certainly most would readily say that the Corona Covid19 virus was a chief cause of the worldwide meltdown. Then add to that the worldwide protests in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing and the wanton destruction of property and attacks on the police forces of America that ensued. Anarchy has followed. Police Department budgets were slashed in numerous cities in one of the most stupid acts I’ve ever seen. More economic impact came from that as well. And now we also have to wonder how safe our country will be with hundreds of police officers retiring early, being laid off, quitting, or finding other work. Why put your life on the line for a city whose leaders don’t have your back?

But was it more than that? Certainly personally for President Trump, could it have been more than just being dealt a bad hand of cards and bad luck and killer virus from China?  

Click on “continue reading” right here to read the rest of this thought-provoking blog revealing the message Nebuchadnezzar would have for President Trump.

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“The Return” – JOIN the Day of national turning, Sept 26, 2020, on sabbath (Saturday)

We’ve all surely read 2 Chronicles 7:14 many times over the years that if God’s people – not the people at large – would humble themselves and pray and seek God, and TURN from THEIR evil ways (talking about US, not anyone else), then God would hear our prayers, forgive us OUR sins and heal our land. Verse 15 says he is attentive to prayers made in his temple. Today, the “temple” IS anyone filled with God’s spirit.

2 Chronicles 7:14 “If MY people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land”.

It's easy for godly people to point judgmentally at the anarchists and ANTIFA and violent protestors – as we clearly see their wickedness. But our Creator God wants each of his children to see his/her OWN wickedness, their own areas that need to be changed, their own sins that need to be repented of and turned from –that’s why he says “If MY people…”

Our country is in a mess spiritually. The solution starts with God’s people seeking the true God as never before and turning back to him. We cannot claim to truly be worshiping our Maker while we continue to allow or even pursue selected areas of sin still in our lives. That’s what I’ve got to stop in my own life and what you’ve got to stop in yours.

So when the Almighty sends the Pestilence, also known as a plague (ever hear of Covid19? See 2 Chronicles 7:13), the remedy is for the Children of the Almighty to turn and seek him as never before and then he’ll heal the land.

Heaven knows our land needs healing. It’s evident we could use God’s blessings and to turn our land back in the direction it needs to be in.

So on September 26, 2020, on the sabbath, there is a planned meeting of people who believe in God who will come together to pray for God’s mercy and God’s forgiveness on ourselves. There will be hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, who will pray from their homes or meet at local church groups. But the main event will be held on the National Mall in Washington DC. This day is also being touted as a day when people all around the WORLD, who believe in the God of the Bible, will be seeking him and asking his forgiveness for OUR own sins. 

Check it out at www.thereturn.org   

Pray that this present Covid19 virus won’t derail this. Pray for protection of the group planning a peaceful, worshipful seeking after God. I sense in my spirit already that Satan is planning to muster his own people to cause trouble. Pray for God to intervene in ways only God can!

Some of you will waiver, thinking you can’t join in with a group of people composed no doubt of some who don’t believe as you do. Maybe they keep Sunday and Christmas. Many will be sabbath keepers, however. In fact this assembly is being called and organized by Jonathan Cahn, a Messianic rabbi/minister who has written many best sellers (******).

But think about Nineveh in the short book of Jonah. You know what happened. I talked about this in my last sermon “Part 2, Understanding the Times, and what we must do”. God was going to annihilate Nineveh for all their sins and wickedness. But when enough of them hearkened to Jonah’s preaching and turned around, fasted, and prayed, and repented, and turned from their violent and evil ways, God relented from his own prophetic words that he was about to destroy them.

To you skeptics who wonder if you should join, consider this: I doubt very much if all those people of Nineveh instantly became sabbath keepers, or destroyed all their idols, or kept Torah all of a sudden. But many of them fasted and prayed in repentance. Enough of them changed enough of their lives, and turned from their violence, that God DID hear. And God cancelled his spoken threat of annihilation for their wickedness. But I truly doubt that overnight everyone in Nineveh became sabbath keepers and perfectly obeyed GOD in all aspects of God’s laws. How would they so quickly even know of all of God’s ways? But – GOD WAS MOVED by their heartfelt responsiveness.

Jonah 3:10 – “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it”.

Our country is at a major turning point if God doesn’t get it back on track. I see this Sept 26 meeting as a lovely thing that should please God. Personally, I’m pleased to see this. Please don’t mock it. Will you join me and join in and help spread the word? Find out all about it at www.thereturn.org  

At least pray for them and everyone doing it even from their homes, as I’m sure the Adversary will get his own children out as well to disrupt and harm people there as best he can. May the Living God watch over all. If the national meeting in DC is cancelled for Covid or any other reason, let’s the REST OF US continue to pray and even fast from our own homes. They can’t stop that. And pray they can’t and won’t stop the national meeting. But do pray for their safety.

This “Return” on Sept 26, 2020 is part of a 10-day searching for God’s forgiveness and benediction that starts with the Feast of Trumpets Sept 19, 2020 and ends on the Day of Atonement on Monday Sept 28, 2020. Imagine that.

God tells us in Malachi 3:7 after warning us that we as a nation have turned from God’s laws and ordinances and not kept them…he then says this – “Return to me and I will return to you.”  

Sept 26 is also 40 days – the number of trial and testing – before the national elections on November 3rd, 2020. It’s also the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower Compact, when the early settlers pledged to build a community that was patterned after the Biblical standard and were blessed by YHVH.

Let’s do it. Please comment that you will be part of this. Or you can also email me directly at this email address:   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

SPREAD THE WORD – PLEASE. Tell your friends, family, and church brethren about this. Tell your pastor. Tell everyone who loves God and reads the Bible about this.

Philip Shields

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Do we really want a “Cashless society”?

Ostensibly because “cash is dirty” and in the Wuhan plague from China (Covid19), it’s supposedly much safer to never have to handle cash – there’s a push lately to go for the cashless society.  And more and more stores are demanding credit card use only – no cash, for ostensibly the same reasons.  

On the surface this might seem like a good idea to many of you. Or maybe you haven’t even heard of it. Either way, this blog today is worth your reading of it to help you see the bigger picture of where this could be headed if fully adopted and applied.

We know a time is coming under the future “Beast” power of Revelation, when nobody will be able to buy or sell unless they conform to the government’s requirements – including the mysterious 666 number on their hand or forehead somehow (Revelation 13:17-18). But here in America, we certainly don’t want to promote that! A cashless society, in my mind at least, is a big step towards setting up the coming worldwide “beast power.”  

Before continuing on about the cashless society that surely is coming, and that’s not a good thing, let me recommend this: read “1984” by George Orwell some time in the coming days and weeks. I am re-reading it too. You can also listen to it audibly if you sign up with Audible.com. I first read “1984” in 1972. It’s so uncanny how he seems to be describing much of the world today, and even in the USA, UK, Canada, and Europe. Certainly, what he says we see happening already in Russia, China, and many dictatorial states.

Now back to Cashless Society: Dave Ramsey is a financial commentator on radio who has helped a lot of people get out of debt and get their financial lives in order. I have a couple of his books and listen to him when I can. Here’s what he has to say about the Cashless Society concept (this is on various Facebook posts too, I’m sure):

In the words of Dave Ramsey...

HERES WHAT NO CASH ACTUALLY MEANS: Remember that CHINA is a No cash society.

A cashless society means no cash. Zero. It doesn’t mean mostly cashless and you can still use a ‘bit of cash here and there’. Cashless means fully digital, fully traceable, fully controlled. I think those who support a cashless society aren’t fully aware of what they are asking for.

A cashless society means:

* If you are struggling with your mortgage on a particular month, you can’t do an odd job to get you through.

* Your child can’t go and help the local farmer to earn a bit of summer cash.

* No more cash slipped into the hands of a child or from their grandparent when going on holidays.

* No more money in birthday cards.

* No more piggy banks for your child to collect pocket money and to learn about the value of earning.

* No more cash for a rainy-day fund or for that something special you have been putting $20 a week away for.

* No more charity collections.

* No more selling bits and pieces from your home that you no longer want/need for a bit of cash in return. No more garage sales as we know it.

* No more cash gifts from relatives or loved ones.
 

What a cashless society does guarantee:

* Banks have full control of every single penny you own.

* Every transaction you make is recorded.

* All your movements and actions are traceable.

* Access to your money can be blocked at the click of a button when/if banks need ‘clarification’ from you which will take about 2 weeks, a thousand questions answered and many passwords.

* You will have no choice but to declare and be taxed on every dollar in your possession.

* If your transactions are deemed in any way questionable, by those who create the questions, your money will be frozen, ‘for your own good’.

Forget about cash being dirty. Stop being so easily misled. Cash has been around for a very, very long time and it gives you control over how you trade in the world. It gives you independence.

I heard a story where a man supposedly contracted Covid19 because of a $20 bill he had handled. But there is the same chance of Covid19 being on a credit card as being on cash. If you cannot see how utterly ridiculous this assumption is, then there is little hope.

If you are a customer, pay with cash. If you are a shop owner, remove those ridiculous signs that ask people to pay by card. Cash is a legal tender, and it is our right to pay with cash. Banks are making it increasingly difficult to lodge cash and that has nothing to do with a virus, nor has this ‘dirty money’ trend.

Please open your eyes. Please stop believing everything you are being told. Almost every single topic in today’s world is tainted with corruption and hidden agendas. Please stop telling me and others like me that we are what’s wrong with the world when you hail the most corrupt members of society as your heroes.

Politics and greed are what is wrong with the world; not those who are trying to alert you to the reality in which you are blindly floating along whilst being immobilized by irrational fear. Fear created to keep you doing and believing in exactly what you are complacently doing.

Pay with cash. Please say no to a cashless society while you still have the choice.

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What does the Bible say about RACE?

There’s a lot being said about racism and race right now. Have you ever wondered what the Bible says about race? Who is listed in the Bible as the first black man or woman?  I hope to have a full sermon on “Race” before too long, but this blog is a good starting point.

The surprising answer actually is that Scripture says amazingly little about our skin color. God is not so fascinated with the color of your skin as much as he is concerned that you and I repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ (or as I say, Yeshua) as our Savior and Redeemer. 

There are some possible indications of race in the Bible – but it’s simply not the Bible’s focus. Actually one of the best things Martin Luther King once said was that we should not be judged by the color of our skin, but by the condition of our heart, our CHARACTER. He was so right about that. That seems to be the focus of the Bible as well.

In any case, all the races came from God, through Adam and Eve, and so for them to produce white, brown, and black descendants, they were most likely a tanned or brown couple themselves. Ok white folks, does that surprise you?

I find it interesting that in his spirit form, the one we know as the Son of God is described as being in the color of “bronze” or “brass” as when refined in a furnace. That’s not white. That’s not black. Bronze is more of a brownish hue/a golden hue. “Brass” on the other hand, can range in color from almost a reddish color to yellowish golden color and everything in between, depending on how much zinc was added to the metal. But “brass” is generally usually thought of as a brownish or even golden color.

Here's the scripture describing Yeshua in his current spirit form (ask yourself if this is the way YOU picture Jesus. It doesn’t seem to describe the popular paintings of “Jesus”):

Revelation 1:12-15

“Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands,

13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.

14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;

15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters.”  

            NIV says “his feet were like bronze …”

            CJB “like burnished brass refined in a furnace…”

Now back to the human race. It’s been said many times before, we are all of one race – the human race. And Paul says we all have the same blood; we all bleed red. Notice where Paul focuses: not on race but on us finding God.

Acts 17:26-28 NKJV

“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.'

Some translations don’t say “from one blood” but “from one man”, but I do like my NKJV and KJV on this.

The first black person directly alluded to was probably Cush, the grandson of Noah. Cush was the son of Ham. The “Hamitic” people are generally seen as the black race – and includes the areas of Sudan and south, and what is called “Ethiopia” in the Bible. Sons of Ham included Cush, Canaan, Put and Mitzraim (Egypt). The ancient Egyptians were more black than modern Egyptians, whose blood lines have been mixed quite heavily with Muslim race from Ishmael and others.

There are notable righteous and notable evil men and women of all races in the Bible. The Bible mentions their name but does not make a big deal of their race. One of the notable evil black men was Nimrod, a descendant of Cush, who led the world into apostasy and mystery religion.

Some notable righteous black people in the Bible include the Ethiopian eunuch who was baptized by Philip in Acts 8. This eunuch was a very high official in his courts. The Bible does not say he was “black” – but was Ethiopian, so very likely was of the black race. The Bible does not make a big deal of one’s color.

Another great example for us was Rahab, the woman of faith from Jericho who converted to the God of Israel and was spared (the story is in Joshua 2 and chapter 6). Being a Canaanite, she could have also been of the black race. What was notable: her powerful faith and how she turned to one true God. She is also included in the lineage of the Messiah Yeshua (Matthew 1:5)! So how’s that for showing God is not racist?

In several places in the Bible where we read “Ethiopia” – it really is “Cush”, the name of their forefather, and refers to Nubians, north Sudan, and the black race. So “Ethiopian” is usually actually “Cushite”. In Jeremiah 13:23 we’re asked, “Can the Ethiopian (Cushite) change his skin?”. To me that tells me the reference is to black skin.

Moses had also married a Cushite wife (Numbers 12:1 NIV), and so one of Moses’ wives was a black woman. Some believe she was a black princess, whom Moses married when he was a great general for Egypt in his younger years.

Numbers 12:1-2

“Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian (Cushite) woman whom he had married; for he had married an Ethiopian woman.”

When this became an issue for Miriam especially, who is listed first here, God made clear to her that He had chosen Moses as his prophet and Miriam was struck with leprosy. Moses’ black-skinned wife was not an issue apparently with YHVH. This matter never came up again.

Today we know Ethiopians and other black runners are fast runners and win many Olympics, whether in sprints or long distance. Read Isaiah 18:1-2 where they are called “swift messengers” even back then.

It’s also possible that one of the early leaders of the church in Antioch could have been a black man – Simon (or Simeon), surnamed Niger. Acts 13:1-3. Many believe his surname was an indication of his skin color – but again, it’s not so clearly stated. Some think this may have been the same man called Simon of Cyrene who was ordered to carry Yeshua’s cross (Luke 23:26); but there’s no strong evidence for that. But it is interesting as you carefully read Acts 13:1-3 to see such a diverse group of leaders from all over the known world working together as they allowed themselves to be led by God’s spirit.

Having said all this, we should not be quick to accuse someone of being racist for calling out some inequities by some groups. For example, because I’m white, I’m being called – by some movements – a “racist” for simply being white. That accusation itself becomes a racist statement.

We should all be careful to avoid making monolithic judgments about groups of people or races where we funnel all people of a particular group or race into one bucket. I think many are doing that very thing as we make broad brush statements about parts of the country, or races, or national groups – whether Japanese, Chinese, Africans, or “whites” or whatever.

My brothers and sisters, let’s all repent of any racism we do discover in our lives. I’m doing my own introspection. Will you join me?

Bottom line: What does God’s word say about race? Actually very little. It’s not a big deal with God. God created us all. God created the races. God loves us all. God’s son died for us all. To God, ALL human life is valuable, and race and skin color just doesn’t come up as an issue for God.

Individuals do count to God – of whatever race – if we live righteously or in an evil way. That’s what counts – how we live. He wants each of us to come to repentance and receive God’s holy spirit – which He’ll supply to anyone he is calling who responds to his call.

If, when you’re honest with yourself, you find yourself disliking whole races of people or groups of people, then I call on you to repent of that racism and get more in harmony with God’s mind.

Our God simply does not want us making skin color an issue. Let’s get over it, if it is an issue – and move on as one family under God. We are to love and pray for all people – even our enemies, so certainly we can all pray for one another.

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What "I Can Do All Things..." Really Means

All

By GUEST WRITER R HERBERT (see more of his writings at www.TacticalChristianity.org)

I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)
 
It’s a verse we all know, a verse that quarterback Tim Tebow inscribed in his eye black, one that has been engraved on thousands of items of jewelry and printed on countless items of Christian merchandising.  But does it mean what most people presume it means? 

For many people this verse (and its slight variant “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” NKJV, etc.) has become a kind of Christian mantra, a spiritual guarantee that whatever we do will succeed if we act in faith. 

The truth is that Philippians 4:13 does not really say or mean anything of the kind. But what it really does say and mean can be infinitely more encouraging.

As with any biblical verse, “context is king.”  To understand what Paul had in mind with these words, we must look at the context in which he wrote them:

“for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV).

The context shows us immediately that Paul was not talking about success in doing things, but about success in dealing with things –  the ability to accept and enjoy or endure (whichever is appropriate) whatever life may throw at us. 

The underlying Greek in which Paul wrote Philippians confirms this meaning. The Greek does not literally say “I can do all things” –  the word “do” does not appear in the verse at all. Rather, the words mean “I have strength for all things” –  in other words, “I can survive, deal with, handle, be content with, all things.”


The apostle tells us that he had fully experienced the positive and negative aspects of life –  “every circumstance” –  and he had learned that through the strength God gave him, he could successfully live through them all.
 
This is important.  Paul tells us he could not only survive the bad things with God’s help, but also the good things of life. Why would we need help in surviving the good things?  Simply put, the scriptures show us that both prosperity and poverty can be snares (Proverbs 30:8-9).  Although poverty can leave us bitter and even lead to stealing, prosperity can encourage complacency,  self-reliance and pride.  But Paul’s words show that with God’s help we can meet whatever circumstances we find ourselves in with a right attitude that does not distance us in some way from God.

As such, Philippians 4:13 has nothing to do with being able to accomplish goals or other things we may want to do in life. God certainly can help us with such things if it is his will, but Paul’s point does not relate to that fact.   Far more importantly,  Paul tells us that God can help us succeed in things that are far more vital than physical accomplishments - the things Paul was talking about. That is why the NIV translates this verse:  “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (emphasis added).

Remember, too, that the apostle penned these words from a prison cell near the end of his life – hardly a position of success and accomplishment in physical terms. Nevertheless, Paul had learned that whether he  found himself in a palace or a prison cell, he could be content in the knowledge that God would help him to deal with it.

For Paul, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” was not about performing well or fulfilling goals at the physical level,  but about achieving the things in life that matter the most. Philippians 4:13 is not about what we can accomplish with God’s help, but what God, through his help, can accomplish in us. 

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The Worst kind of Pride

pride

It is often said that pride –  in the sense of self-elevation rather than what we call being “proud” of other people, such as our children, team, or school, etc. –is the worst of sins because self-oriented pride inevitably leads us to set ourselves up in the place of God. As has been wryly said, we become “self-made men or women who worship their creator.”

Scripture is so clear. Proverbs 6:16-19 lists seven things God especially hates. At the top of the list is “A proud look.”  And Peter tells us God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). God can’t endure him with a haughty look and proud heart (Psalm 101:5).

Pride of this self-elevating type can manifest itself in many ways, but it invariably involves comparison – the way in which prideful individuals compare themselves to others.  The Gospel of Luke gives a clear example of this problem in the parable of the self-righteous Pharisee and the socially despised tax collector:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’  But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’  “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).

There are several not-so-obvious things that we should notice about this parable in relation to pride.  While most Jews only fasted on the yearly Day of Atonement, the Pharisees added to the law of God by fasting before and after every annual festival throughout the year – or even more frequently.  The Pharisee in the parable, however, claims to fast twice each week.  This shows us the level of his pride in that he proclaims that he is even more devout than most of the Pharisees themselves.

But there is another aspect of the Pharisee’s behavior that reflects the nature of comparative pride.  The parable tells us the actual words that the Pharisee prayed – indicating that he “said” these words out loud rather than “thought” them (compare, for example, Luke 12:17).   

Public prayers were made twice each day in the temple – at the times of the morning and afternoon sacrifices.  At those times Jewish temple-goers would assemble in the “Court of the Israelites” directly outside the inner temple.  First the priest would perform the sacrificial offering of the day and then he would enter the inner temple area to offer incense. It was at that point that the Israelites outside would pray, out loud, while the priest made the offering on their behalf (Luke 1:8-10). 

When we realize that the Pharisee’s prayer was not thought, but spoken out loud, we see the deprecating nature of pride at its worst.  By saying “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector…,” the Pharisee publicly shamed the tax collector in order to enhance his own self-exaltation.

The situation described in the parable is a classic example of the way pride, in its worst form, puts down others in order to elevate oneself. 

C.S. Lewis described the phenomenon perfectly: “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”   As a result, the Pharisee prayed but did not see or really communicate with God. That is why, Luke tells us, Jesus taught this parable “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else” (Luke 18:9).

For most of us, pride is not expressed so blatantly or in such an obnoxious manner, but we must always be aware of the human tendency in this direction.   Pride can often be found in even seemingly innocent comparison.  That is why the apostle Paul wrote: “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).

There are a number of tactics we can utilize to avoid this trap, but Paul himself gives us two that we can all put into use.  First, as the apostle wrote to the Philippians: “in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3), or, as the NKJV translates this verse: “in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”  This is the most fundamental deterrent to pride of any type, but especially comparative pride.

Paul gives us another basic principle in his letter to the Galatians. “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else” (Galatians 6:4).   In writing this, Paul shows us that it is not wrong to be happy and thankful to have accomplished something or to have made progress toward our goals, as long as that is not done by comparing ourselves to others.  

Ultimately, the worst kind of pride is avoided when our self-concept is based not on how we compare to others, but how we compare to what God calls us to.  That is always a humbling thought and one that leaves no room for the growth of pride at all.

** ***

For more from R. Herbert – his pen name – go to www.tacticalchristianity.org   

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Some favorite Pentecost sermons from this site

I thought it might be useful to many of you to have links posted to Pentecost-type messages.  Sermons that touch on our calling, God’s Holy Spirit, bearing fruit of the Spirit,  the Meaning of Pentecost and so on… so here they are. Just click on the links and they’ll take you right there.

“I GO Prepare a Place for you”

This one shows the sequence of events when Yeshua returns AND how it’s so intricately tied to Pentecost.  Where and when is the Wedding of the Lamb?  How Christ’s return is a 2-stage return.  How heavenly Jerusalem is our City. Enjoy.   Control-click on the link 

https://www.lightontherock.org/message/i-go-prepare-a-place-for-you-john-14-1-3.html?highlight=WyJwcmVwYXJlIiwiYSIsInBsYWNlIiwicHJlcGFyZSBhIiwicHJlcGFyZSBhIHBsYWNlIiwiYSBwbGFjZSJd

Pentecost DRESS REHEARSAL for past and future events

This teaching goes into the counting of the omer to Pentecost and how this and all holydays of God are “dress rehearsals” for major earth-shattering events from the death and resurrection of the Son of God to the new heavens and new earth.  How is Pentecost a dress rehearsal?  Find out!  Control click ….

https://www.lightontherock.org/component/finder/search.html?q=Pentecost+dress+rehearsal&Search=&t%5B%5D=&t%5B%5D=&t%5B%5D=&t%5B%5D=&t%5B%5D=

Pentecost -- Pinnacle of Joy (Jeff Niccum)  notes only

https://www.lightontherock.org/message/2012-06-15-10-12-00.html

Pentecost’s 5 fold meaning

Most associate – correctly—Pentecost with the giving of God’s Spirit in Acts 2.  That’s terrific, and yet is so much more to this holyday.  This sermon talks of at least 5 of the important meanings of this day.

https://www.lightontherock.org/message/pentecost-s-exciting-5-fold-meaning.html?highlight=WyJwZW50ZWNvc3QiLCJwZW50ZWNvc3QncyJd

BEARING FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT Gal. 5:22-23

God loves fruit and he expects his Holy Spirit to be bearing fruit in us. Can you strive to bear the fruit of the spirit – or…? WHO produces the fruit? ARE we bearing fruit or remaining the same? 

https://www.lightontherock.org/message/bearing-the-fruit-of-god-s-holy-spirit.html

6 reasons to Cherish your First fruits calling, pictured by Pentecost.

Do you often think of the high calling you and I have been given? Do we cherish it? Do we cherish our calling to be in the first resurrection?  WHY is it called the “better resurrection” in Heb 11:35?  Why are those who are part of it called “blessed and holy” (Rev. 20:6).  This message gives at least 6 strong reasons why your calling to the first resurrection is a better resurrection. 

https://www.lightontherock.org/message/6-reasons-to-cherish-your-calling-as-firstfruits-pentecost-2019.html?highlight=WyJwZW50ZWNvc3QiLCJwZW50ZWNvc3QncyJd

22 Things Holy Spirit does for us

You will appreciate God and His Spirit in you much more when you study this message.  Imagine – 22 different jobs God’s spirit will do inside you and for you! 

https://www.lightontherock.org/message/22-things-the-holy-spirit-is-doing.html?highlight=WzIyLCJ0aGluZ3MiLCIyMiB0aGluZ3MiXQ== 

Your WILDERNESS Time and it’s connection to Shavuot/Pentecost

We know that God brought Israel out of Egypt at Passover – and 50 days later he gave them his law at Mt Sinai. IN the end, that adult group of Israelites were consigned to wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.  Sometimes we feel like we have our own “wilderness times”.  Find out what God is doing with you and for you in those precious times when you feel “out there” – in a wilderness.

https://www.lightontherock.org/message/your-wilderness-time-and-it-s-connection-to-shavuot-or-yahweh-s-pentecost.html?highlight=WyJwZW50ZWNvc3QiLCJwZW50ZWNvc3QncyJd

RUTH, Boaz AND PENTECOST

The book of Ruth is read on Pentecost.  WHY?  What’s the connection?  What does it have to do with you and me?  Learn about the “go-el” – Redeemer, threshing floors, gleanings, etc and their spiritual meaning. Learn the lessons of courage and faith.

https://www.lightontherock.org/message/ruth-boaz-and-pentecost.html?highlight=WyJwZW50ZWNvc3QiLCJwZW50ZWNvc3QncyJd

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