Light on the Rock Blogs
In this recent Christmas season, there was a lot of talk of “baby Jesus”. Some even use that as an expression. Many speak of “sweet Jesus”. Certainly, he was a baby. Certainly, he is kind.
Some of the most often cited scriptures in the entire Bible are His words about being our Shepherd, a good one at that. And that His Father so loved all of us that he sent his one and only son – Yeshua – to die for us so that any who believe in him would be saved, and not perish. You know many more verses about him being the Way, the truth and the life. He was the perfect son of God. He is our Lord. He’s great, he’s love, he’s terrific, he’s kind and he’s forgiving. All that is absolutely true.
But how often does your pastor ever preach these other verses that are also words spoken by the son of God? Paul and Peter and others certainly did. Paul spoke of the “severity of God”, as well as his goodness. God is love. But God is also just. Sometimes his justice frankly can be severe, especially at people who don’t believe or won’t obey. And faith/belief and obedience go hand in hand, frankly.
Paul didn’t mince his words. In talking to the Romans – and you can go back and get the entire context about the Olive tree analogy – look what Apostle Paul says:
For if God did not spare the natural branches [the Jews], He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness AND severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, IF you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.”
Ministers love the gentle verses about forgiveness, patience, grace, and God’s patience and so on. And so do I. I love to preach of God’s grace and his imputed righteousness we receive by faith, as so many scriptures teach. But I also want to be sure to give you, what Paul calls “the WHOLE counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). So this blog – which could develop into an even more exhaustive sermon on the topic – will do just that: talk about other words of Yeshua that are just as true and pertinent as the ones which are often quoted.
Again, how often do you ever hear these scriptures used in church or on the radio? Brace yourself. You may be surprised these words came from Yeshua. But remember: he is a loving king and Savior to those who seek Him and submit to him as Lord of lords, king of kings. But to those who carelessly believe they don’t need to change, don’t need to overcome, don't need to be prepared and ready for his coming, and don’t need to seek him with all their might – they WILL be in for a big surprise. So here we go; remember these are Yeshua’s OWN words! Check them out!
Luke 12:45-48 -- “But if that servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47 And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
Have I made my point? “Jesus said that?” I can hear people thinking that already. Yes he did. Yeshua spoke of beating ineffective servants with stripes? Yes. Click on “continue reading” to read a few more tough sayings of our King. This should help you understand that our king is not just a “baby Jesus” or always a “sweet Jesus”. If we don’t obey him or prepare for him, his coming will be a very, very sharp wake-up call for many – including many who call themselves his followers, as you shall see.
If you had the opportunity right now to be in front of your Saviour, and you were promised a definite and audible answer directly from him for any three questions you have, what would they be? What would be the most pressing questions on your mind?
Pause reading this for a minute and just ask yourself that question, and what do you instantly come up with? Write down your instant answers before continuing.
I don’t know that there is a “right” or “wrong” answer to this. You’ll find there are questions that just immediately pop up. But the more you let this marinate in your mind, you’ll find other questions, deeper questions, start to surface.
Many would express the perennial questions like “Why did you have to create – mosquitoes?” (Or other annoyances – fire ants, poisonous snakes, any biting insects, etc).
But then far more serious questions you’d like to ask would also bubble up – like “Why did you let my little baby die?” and variations on that theme:
** “Why didn’t you heal so-and-so when so many were praying for healing?”
** “Why don’t you intervene more in wars that hurt and kill so many innocent people?”
** “Why do you let horrible and evil dictators and drug lords continue in their deadly ways?”
Click on “continue reading” to examine other concepts you’ll want to be considering as you ponder this topic today. It’s an important question – “What would you ask Yeshua (Jesus) if you had that opportunity to see him and receive his clear and audible answers today?”
We read the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 and perhaps wonder why would someone just bury his talent? But then I believe many believers are doing the same thing: burying their talent.
A “talent” in the Parable of Matthew 25 was actually a sum of money or possibly a weight, as in “a talent of gold” or “a talent of silver”. It does not mean what our English word “talent” means. A talent of either gold or silver would be worth millions today. We can assume the ruler or master who bestowed these “talents” for growth and development was a powerful and wealthy man – picturing Yeshua, the coming King of kings, actually.
In any case, our Master bestowed money – or talents – to various ones. Since our God is the King of the Universe, and owns all things ultimately, everything you and I have been given, or have access to, is ultimately something that came from our Creator. Besides money and abilities (as in the English word “talent”), our very lives, our families, our home, our opportunities, our abilities, and of course receiving the very spirit of God – and much more – are all “talents” we’ve been given.
Luke 16:10 says “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” There are many scriptures that say we all will have to stand and give account of what we did with what we’ve been given. We’ve each been given a lot. Each of us will also have to account for a lot then as well.
Frankly at times I fear for times in my life when I wasn’t protecting, developing, investing and growing the opportunities and stewardship I had been given. I hope through Christ in me, I hope I’m doing better now. But that got me thinking: are we like the one servant who just buried his talent?
There comes a day of reckoning when we each must stand before our Maker and explain what we did with what he gave us. See Romans 14:10-12 and Hebrews 4:13.
So each of the servants in Matthew 25 gave account. Those who doubled what they were given were commended and invited to enter the joy of Lord and were given more responsibilities. But then he came to the final servant who claimed he was afraid to use – and maybe lose – the sum of money he had been given, so he buried it “for safe keeping”. That man’s talent was given to someone else, because Yeshua makes it clear that those who use and grow what they’ve been given, will be given more. And those who do not will have what they had been given, taken away.
How’s it looking for you? Are YOU and I burying the talents, opportunities, gifts of God’s spirit and all the things we have been given? Or are we putting them to work and growing our opportunities?
Click on “Continue reading” to find out if you’re burying your talents or not. I dare say most of us are doing a mix: profitably using and growing some of what we’ve been given, and disregarding the rest.
I first posted this blog in December 2012 but felt it warranted being posted again.
Hanukkah is here. What is it? Why are more and more Christians, even Sabbath keepers, recognizing and keeping Hanukkah? Some feel it is merely a Jewish counterbalance to Christmas. Others believe it is a Jewish festivity not mentioned in Scripture. What’s true? Should you and I – believers in Yeshua - -keep Hanukkah? What did Jesus do about Hanukkah? Yes, we’re actually told in Scripture!
Read the rest of this blog to learn what Hanukkah is about, what Yeshua did during Hanukkah, whether or not believers can participate in some way and what lessons we can learn from this holiday.
In Scripture, Hanukkah is called “the Feast of Dedication”, since the name “Hanukkah” means “to dedicate”. 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”.
“Now it was the Feast of Dedication [Hanukkah] in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus [Yeshua] walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch”.
So Jesus was there. It was while in Jerusalem during Hanukkah that Yeshua proclaimed Himself divine (“I and my father are one” – John 10:30).
Yeshua was in the midst of the festivities, for 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 vital lessons 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. It is a Jewish celebration and I cheer them on in its celebration.
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 of 165-163 BC was when the events leading to “Hanukkah” took place.
Antiochus was intent on “Hellenizing” the Jews, or making them accept Greek culture. Many Jews did so, 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 as 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?
• The Maccabees had to cleanse their defiled altar and temple. The Greek soldiers had trashed the temple compounds. WE are the temple of the Holy Spirit today. If we took an honest look at our lives, are they holy, set-apart to YHVH – or are our lives “trashed” by worldliness, pagan traditions and secularism? Perhaps this season reminds us to ask Yeshua to cleanse Father’s temple once more: cleanse our lives, our actions, our minds, our words, our bodies.
• The Maccabees resumed proper temple sacrifices. We are living sacrifices (Rom 12:1). Let’s present to our Father the kind of lives that truly represent a holy sacrifice acceptable to Him.
• Hanukkah is more about the rededication of the temple than it is a remembrance of the victory over the Greeks. Is it time for us to re-set, to rededicate ourselves to our Master? I think a resounding “YES” to that!
• In the Hanukkah candelabra, it is the middle light – the “Servant Light” that lights all the others. In the same way we are reminded in scripture that Yeshua is the Light of the world (John 8:12). We are also lights, but we must first receive our light from the Servant light – our Master.
• The Maccabees dedicated the newly cleansed temple. In the same way, we should remember to re-dedicate our lives, our spiritual temples, to the One we worship and live more and more so in harmony with that.
So, though we don’t have to keep Hanukkah, and it is NOT a holyday, apparently Yeshua felt it was OK to be amidst the temple festivities during Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication). So neither do I think it wrong to understand it, or to even thank YHVH for His providence as our Jewish neighbors observe this happy time in their otherwise often difficult history.
I was listening to some young people talking the other day and someone was describing a great and fun and wonderful time they had had at such-and-such a place. “Aw man, it was wicked. It was so much fun.”
I don’t think the young man speaking meant “It was evil” – but that it was great, it was fun in his eyes. Later on, I heard someone else say, “Ohh…you’re bad! But that’s what I like about you”. He didn’t mean the guy was really bad, as in evil, but that he was good.
In Isaiah 5:20 the Everliving One warns us: “WOE to those who call evil good, and good evil…”
So please don’t think of these as harmless expressions. Our Creator specifically tells us to have no part in using expressions or language that perverts a word’s meaning!
It’s happening so clearly in our society today. It’s literally happening. What is truly righteous is being called evil hate speech or something equivalent. And what is truly pure evil is being called good.
Click on “Continue reading” for more language twists we’re hearing today that we should be fully aware of – and not letting them in any way become a part of us.
We call it a “smart phone” but in many ways, if we don’t control the use of it and who can have one– it can be one of the dumbest things we’re involved with. I mean this blog to be an alert and I might even develop this into a full sermon on this site. Should children and teens have “smart phones”?
Sure, it’s great having a little phone that is so great that most people have now cancelled their land line phones. These “Smart phone” we each have is:
*** Also is a portable powerful computer with computing power that used to take a room full of big machinery and spinning reels. Good news: it allows us quick access to so many things. Bad news: it allows quick access to so many things – even for your children and teens when they use their smart phone.
***Sure it’s great that these phones that even children now have are also high quality cameras and movie cameras.
***It’s a flashlight. It’s a compass. It can show us details of someone’s street anywhere in the world. It’s capable of games and videos. We can learn how to play chess better (as I learned when my grandson beat me for the first – and then a second time. HE’S been practicing.) We can look at the night sky and find and identify planets, stars and constellations. We can learn to cook, learn to paint, learn to – just about anything. We can view just about anything as well. We can access any song ever written and hear it blare out or blare into our ear pieces, and some play it so loudly into their ears that we now know many will go prematurely deaf or suffer tinnitus later.
***And we can communicate as never before – and send e-mails with it. And of course now we also get a lot of JUNK email, just like the old fashioned post office junk mail. We can text people around the world with it. We can go on Facebook and see what our family and friends are up to and enjoy their latest photos. We can instantly export pictures of anything and anyone we want all over the world in a split second. Stock trading and investment planning is easy with a smart phone. You can learn new languages more easily with it. You all know I could go on for pages on what the Smart phone has done for us. Young people today wonder how we ever survived without it! Wow, you had to put money into a “pay phone” to call someone?
So there’s a lot to like about smart phones, so don’t get me wrong.
But it also can ruin your present and future life.
So WHY would I call this piece of absolute marvel – a DUMB and even dangerous phone?
Please click on “Continue reading” to see the answer and I hope it will make us all think about the dangerous consequences of the smart phone too, if we don’t curtail how we use it. I’m talking about dangers so great it can affect our future, our reward in the kingdom and much more.
OK, so how can the smart phone be such a dumb phone?
It’s ironic. It allows us to interact with far more people, instantly, than ever before, and yet so many are feeling more alone than ever before. Why? I’m concerned with the younger generation (anyone younger than I am).
Do we know how to converse – in voice – anymore, speaking to and listening to one another, in front of each other, with facial expressions and vocal tones?
I was watching a group of school teens walking home – and I could find NO ONE talking to anyone beside them. NO ONE. They all were transfixed with their cell phone messages, Facebook, Instagram pictures, emails and what not – and nobody was talking.
We’re losing the ability to just TALK and just LISTEN to one another. I’ve had many grandparents complain that their grandkids never CALL anymore. They text – and in short 2-5 word clips. They don’t seem to understand the need for their grandparents and older people – to just let them hear their voices.
It’s a DUMB phone when not controlled because it’s depersonalizing us.
Young people are forgetting the beauty of – QUIET. Can someone (again, especially the young) just go for a walk in silence anymore – without their cell phone, or weed their garden in silence and just meditate, just let the moment envelope them?
Smart phones are being used to bully teens and children – en masse – in large groups, instantly. Photos are added. Information is given. Within seconds the vilest things said and depicted can be sent to thousands – about your child or about you. Some recent stories on the news reveal some bullied children even ended their lives – because, ultimately, of smart phones being used for very evil purposes.
Within seconds, children with these kinds of phones can access the most detailed and graphic pornography – going way beyond mere nudity, to actual sex acts, including hetero and homosexual sex acts, and even bestiality and worse. On Laura Ingraham’s TV news show, she recently had two psychiatrists who said much of their practice is working now with children as young as 10 and 12, boys and girls, addicted to porn. Some older teens 18 and over – are serving jail time because of what they’ve said and sent to minors, perhaps to a girl friend who was only 14 or 15, just a few years younger. But they were accused and convicted of sending porn to a minor.
So should you be letting your children and teens have these phones? You can still find old “flip phones” that are not “smart phones” if you want them to have the ability to call out in emergencies and what not.
Access to computers also gives children and adults access to many video games, many of which are very explicit sexually and many get you involved in graphic violence. I believe these desensitize those who indulge in them so it means nothing to blow someone’s head off with their high powered e-gear, or to rip someone’s heart out or to rape or do other horrible acts – as these often can be part of the “game”. In fact, the trend is to get into virtual sex as well, so you don’t need a real flesh and blood partner anymore. I don’t understand this last part – but it’s apparently out there or coming soon.
PEOPLE are LOSING INHIBITIONS and right to privacy – as apps request your permission to access your phone’s pictures and photos, data, contacts and who know what else – and BILLIONS of people around the world, yes billions, are giving up all of that to the unknown robots that now can peer into your very personal life. What do they do with that? They share it with marketers around the world. So if you do a Search on a particular city, or search for cruises –you’re soon bombarded with ads about cruise lines and things to do in a certain city. How did they all know so quickly?
The “cookies” and other things they have – often with your permission -- are sold to marketers, so now the whole world knows where you are or where you’re going, or that you’re away from home, or what you like, how old you are, your shopping habits, where you went to school, where you live, what your children look like, and who you’re with, etc., etc.
So personally, I don’t give permission for various apps to have access to my data, photos, contacts and the many things they want from me, so I can use their app. I don’t think that’s worth the risk to me. Have YOU thought that through?
I could go on and on. I just want my readers to give thought to how you use these marvelous tools of technology and don’t forget to be human and to remember what counts most: your relationships. Talk to them – live, by voice. Experience one another – for real. GUARD the doors to your mind and refuse to use the phone for violent and sexual games, pornography and anything ungodly. And watch the TIME you’re putting into these phones.
Life is made up of time and how we use that time. Though these phones can save an enormous amount of time when rightly used, they can also use up your life, your time, and distract you from what you should be focused on right now. I’d like to see a study showing how much time people use daily on their phones – texting, reading emails, doing Facebook and Instagram etc , even while at work. I often don’t even have my cell phone with me – on purpose – so I can really focus on what I’m doing right now. You can be video recording an event so much that you miss the fuller experience of just putting the phone/camera down and relishing the full experience.
And no, I would NOT want my teens and children have a full-fledged smart phone yet. I’d give them a phone, but not one with computer abilities. It’s just too dangerous and can ruin someone’s life for the rest of their lives. That’s not worth it.
So USE your smart phone carefully. And realize marketers and industry want all your data you’ll give them – before they spread it to anyone willing to pay for it. Don’t. Don’t regret later what you give up today.
And don’t let your smart phone become your dumb phone – or allow it to ruin your life or the lives of the young ones in your family.
One of my favorite traditions is the family get-together for Thanksgiving Day.
I know some will tie it to ancient pagan rituals, but the history of this day in the USA at least, is not one tied to pagans. Not at all. It is a day when we remember how thankful the early Pilgrims to America were just to be alive, to have food, to have native America Indians show them how to plant corn and helped them survive in a new land. And they certainly did express and show their deep thankfulness to God in heaven.
And – in that vein – it’s a day when we, as individuals and as a country pause as one, together, and look up to the Almighty and thank him for the wondrous blessings he’s poured out on us and on our country.
I’m afraid much of the country no longer remembers to focus this day on thanking the great God we have above. Some don’t even call it “Thanksgiving Day” anymore. They take away from expressions of thankfulness by calling it “Turkey Day”. Many spend the day in shopping sprees. I do commend the stores that close on this day and let their employees have a day with family.
So my family keeps this day and this tradition. We often start by everyone around the table discussing something, even any little thing, for which they are thankful. Even the three year olds and young children participate. We don’t just start eating when the meal is ready. Absolutely not. We thank our Father and Creator for providing us with food and a good land and for all his many blessings – then we can eat.
I hope you’ll remember Thanksgiving this year is a day of Thanksgiving. Don’t just make it a day of watching football and forgetting its real purpose. Watch all the football you want – but first, praise and thank our dear Abba, YHVH the Great Almighty God we have.
And please – PEL-LEASE –PLEASE; don’t cheapen this beautiful tradition this year by just calling it “Turkey Day”. Please don’t. It’s so much richer and deeper in meaning than that. I think we are taking away from the expression of great gratitude to Almighty God when we call it “Turkey Day”.
Are you and I limiting what the Great God of the universe could be doing in your life and mine? I think the evidence is a resounding “Yes!”. So what can we do about it?
In a recent sermon I gave, titled “One Voice” – within it is a quote from John 14 in the words of our Messiah. I’ve thought and thought: We surely must be limiting our Creator from what he can do and wants to do, because I sure don’t see happening today the things we read about in the book of Acts.
After Christ’s resurrection, we have several of the apostles raising the dead. Peter’s shadow passing over someone was enough to heal that person (Acts 5:14-15). Imagine that – without the person even asking Peter to lay hands on him and anoint him. Lots of people were brought to the apostles, and “they were all healed” (Acts 5:16). Demons were cast out by Philip in Samaria in Acts 8. Lame people – who were begging for money and not for healing – were leaping to their feet with a mere statement from Peter and John (Acts 3). People had visions of angels and of the Lord himself. Deadly snakes bit Paul, but he just shook them off. Paul was left for dead after a vicious stoning, but rose again to continue preaching (Acts 14:19-20).
Now I realize that not everyone’s prayer was always answered with a healing or the response desired. Paul was left with his “thorn in the side” issue. Timothy had an issue of “frequent infirmities”. Many early disciples were severely beaten, tortured, imprisoned and killed. So don’t think I’m saying nothing “bad” will ever happen to us if we apply the message in this blog.
But still – where are these powerful signs and wonders and works being seen today. I realize, we shouldn’t be personally seeking for a sign, per Yeshua’s own words (Matthew 12:39), and yet Yeshua himself promised that if we believe, “these signs shall surely follow”, and then he enumerates healings and more. See Mark 16:17-18 – including casting out demons, speak new tongues, not be hurt by deadly serpents or poison, and after laying hands on the sick, they will recover.
Click on “Continue reading” to finish this blog and to see more intervention by God in your life.
By R. Herbert
Sometimes, as Christians, we need to remind ourselves that it is human to doubt. When we occasionally wonder if we are sure about some point of our faith – or even in extreme cases, about our faith itself – we may get caught up in concern about our doubts as much as in the doubt itself and effectively double our problems!
God’s word has something to say about this. It is clear that “untreated” doubts can erode our relationship with God, but a doubt is essentially no different from any other human weakness to be faced and worked on. We need to remind ourselves that the disciples often doubted (Luke 24:38) – even after Jesus’ resurrection: “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17). The interesting thing is that in all these cases Christ gently asked his doubting disciples “Why do you doubt?” but never condemned them for it. Rather he encouraged them to overcome their doubts.
The fact is, we all have doubts about many things in life and do not usually feel badly about that – only when our doubts come within the realm of our faith do we tend to feel that we are failing because of them. In his classic book Know Doubt John Ortberg shows that doubt is actually a necessary part of growth. Our doubts are often based on lack of information and can prompt us to search for truth – in the long run actually strengthening our convictions.
We can still trust despite our doubts, and God wants us to learn to trust him even when we may doubt the details. The Bible shows clearly that God can often continue to work with us despite our doubts. He did it with Peter (Matthew 14:22-33) and He can do it with us. God’s word expressly tells us to “Have mercy on those who doubt” (Jude 1:22), and He does not deal with us any differently.
So how do we deal with the doubts that we get? First, we ask God to help us in that specific area. One of the best examples of this is the way in which the doubting father pleaded for help with his doubts and was rewarded by Christ. The father’s cry of “Help my unbelief” can be ours, and we can ask for help in exactly the same way. In times of doubt it’s easy to make things more complicated for ourselves, however. We can tell ourselves that the doubting father was unconverted and did not fully know the truth – that we who know more should do better. Perhaps the best answer to this comes from the Bible itself, in the account of John the Baptist.
While John was imprisoned and facing execution, he sent to Jesus to ask him if he really was the promised Messiah (Matthew 11). Rather than chastise John for his doubt, Jesus pointed to the miracles and signs that he was doing and thus to the answer to John’s doubt. But the important part of this story that we must not miss is that it was at that exact point in time – just as John had admitted his doubt – that Jesus told his disciples: “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). It was at precisely the moment of John’s greatest doubt that Jesus called him the greatest among men. Clearly, God knows it is human to doubt and is willing and desirous to point us to the answers to our doubts. But like John, we must ask Him.
R. Herbert (a pen name), writes for a number of Christian venues as well as for his websites at LivingWithFaith.org and TacticalChristianity.org where you can also find his free e-books.
Most of you who come to this website do not keep Halloween, I’m pretty sure.But others are new and are not sure if they should or not, or if there’s any harm in it. It’s to you that I address this blog
I’ve spoken and written about Halloween several times. Just write in the Search bar of this website – Halloween-- and you’ll see the other sermons and blogs on it. This also applies to “All Saints Day” that many countries observe on Nov. 1.
We’re in the season now when most of the movies being shown on TV are of demons, vampires, chain saw massacres everything ungodly. To watch these, to participate in any way, is honoring Satan. No thank you. I hope you understand; there can be no ambiguity in this. I strongly urge you NOT to involve yourself in any Halloween decorating. Do not put up images of ghosts, demons, scary people or anything to do with this evil time.
Even adults now have Halloween parties, and usually dress up in ungodly and often immoral garb. God’s children have no part in this. Don’t do it. God’s children do not participate in the world’s pagan-originated holidays. We just don’t.
God’s TRUE children will have no part of HALLOWEEN (All Hallow’s Eve).
Click on “Continue reading” for the rest of this very short, but to the point, blog and what God himself tells us.
Throughout scripture we see how our Maker employs physical objects and animals to point to something spiritual. So we have different animals that were suitable for animal sacrifice – and each one pictured something different about the Messiah. The bull, goat, sheep and dove all represent different virtues. Our Creator didn’t just pick one animal – but different ones to more completely teach us about our Savior.
On the Day of Atonement, we tend to think of the two perfect goats – without spot or broken bones or any blemish – that served different purposes on this solemn day of Coverings. “Yom Kippur” means day of covering, and there were actually several coverings, so it’s often called Yom Kippurim by some. But besides the two goats, there was a bull, a ram, 7 sheep and so on. See Numbers 29:7-11. Were you aware of that? We hardly talk about them. Most sermons I’ve heard on Atonement don’t even say much about the goat which was killed and whose blood was sprinkled in the Holy of Holies. It seems all the attention goes to the azazel – the goat of removal.
So the controversial sacrifices were the two goats. It’s been taught in some circles for decades that the 2 goats were critical to the day. One goat, we were told, pictures Christ, and one goat pictures Satan. That’s right, on the day of ATONEMENT of all days – somehow Satan worms his way in there! Over the years, the entire sermon about the Day of Atonement was often all about the goat of removal – from the Hebrew word “azazel”. And azazel was capitalized, like this – Azazel - like it was a name of someone important, rather than keep it as a simple word meaning “removal”. The word “azazel” is a function, not a name.
Why were there 2 goats? And is there an example in scripture of 2 other identical animals that were part of a ceremony to show what God was doing?
Click on “Continue reading” to hear the rest of this teaching.
As you recount perilous times in your life that you went through, how do you describe it to others?
Assuming we can look back and see times where we had such a “close call” – and can see God’s intervention, do we give God the glory He deserves for answering prayer – or do we say things like, “Boy, were we ever LUCKY!” Or, “We sure dodged a bullet on that one”. I
In 2016, we had Hurricane Matthew – a Cat 3 that hugged the east coast of FL – when suddenly and unexpectedly, after much prayer, it hopped off eastward into the Atlantic 50 miles. Suddenly in the early morning hours. God spared Orange County/Orlando and millions of people. It was supposed to have 95-135 mph SUSTAINED winds for 12-14 hours and gusts higher than that. Our roofs and trees would not have survived. It was one of the most dramatic answers to prayer I’ve ever witnessed.
But after it was over, people were saying, “Boy, were we lucky!” I couldn’t help but jump in with a comment like “Luck had nothing to do with it. We had some powerful answer to earnest prayers going up. God saved us.” I was gratified to see a few signs up in front of people’s homes which said, “Thank you, God, for saving us.”
Then again, we just went through Irma. I can’t stand it when I hear people speak of being lucky. It wasn’t luck! People were beseeching our great God in heaven for days before. And we all watched as the forecasts and paths Irma was supposed to take, didn’t happen. God degraded Irma from what could have been a Cat 5 hurricane to hit FL – down to mostly Cat 2 for most of the state. I realize, many suffered through a Cat 3 and 4, but even then, a Cat 3 hurricane doesn’t begin to pack the wallop of a Cat 5 like the islanders went through.
God was with us. Those who have studied it carefully see how often this monster changed course and changed predictions. It could have been 50x worse in damages or more, if our great God hadn’t intervened. And THANK YOU to the thousands of you who prayed for us. YOUR PRAYERS WERE HEARD.
Click on “Continue reading” for important scriptures and points on this topic
My brother Loren sent me this today: He mentioned a teacher who had said about our daily activities and decisions we make: “God has a part and you have a part. We cannot do God's part and God will NOT do our part. But God will help us do our part."
Then he added:
Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Loren added, “This does NOT mean He gives us what we want. It means He will align us to HIS will. He waits for us as He guides us until we are ready to yield ourselves to Him. Then His ways and thoughts eventually become ours in every matter as our desires become aligned with His desires for us. (See also Rom 8:28 - called for HIS purpose)
“He will align us to HIS will”. That’s a very deep statement, folks. It’s full of meaning and rich in nuances to see what He is all about, and what our lives are truly all about.
I agree. Click on “Continue reading” to finish this short blog.
I assume most of you who read my blogs pray frequently. Or maybe I shouldn’t assume that? A primary focus of this website is to help us all develop closeness with our Maker and to come to know Him, as Paul said also in Philippians 3. I have a recent sermon on the power of even short, but frequent prayers. Plus another one on praying fervently. You see, we are the temple of the God’s Holy Spirit and the temple was called “the House of God” and the “House of Prayer for all nations”. In “the old days”, people went to the temple to pray if they could. So if we’re the temple of the Spirit, our lives should be a living dwelling place for God via his spirit. We should be His House of Prayer as well.
The temple was also where the Urim and the Thummin were, one method God used to communicate to his servants. Plus it was in the temple – or the Tabernacle before that – where God talked to Moses as a man does to his friend, or where God’s will was revealed.
What are your prayers like? The concept I want to convey in this article is this: Prayer is an interactive conversation with your Maker and Savior. It’s not to be a recital of words someone else wrote a thousand or more years ago. Nor should it be a monologue of words coming only from you as you monotonously run down your “Prayer List”. In my experience, conversations where one person does all the talking are not conversations at all -- but monologues – and frankly, these are often boring to the other party present. The “other party present” in this case is your God, your King and your Maker.
So – this blog is about learning to let God speak to you as well, even as you have this conversation called “prayer” with YHVH. This article is about learning to LISTEN when you pray. If you learn this well, your prayer life will be renewed and become so exciting as you start to “hear God’s voice”. I’m convinced God wants to speak to his children, yes – to you – and does speak – but we are not tuned in to his “frequency” or even realize He is speaking, and so we miss his words to us. How tragic.
Please click on “Continue reading” to learn more about this vital tool in effective praying:
We’re all familiar with the story of the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11. But have you given thought to the fact that before Yeshua says, “Lazarus, come forth”… Yeshua first gives another command?
Understanding this simple but profound lesson and its implications from our Master – can change the number of stunning miracles we get to personally experience. In fact, there are several dramatic lessons our Redeemer teaches us in this resurrection story.
What command did Yeshua issue prior to calling Lazarus back to life? Do you remember?
Click on “continue reading” to finish the rest of the story and learn a profound lesson that can change your life.
I gave a recent sermon about your weekly sabbath “date” with your Maker. Imagine that? A personal, worshipful, refreshing, restful weekly appointment with your Creator. In that sermon I give specific ideas of how to make that sacred time of the Sabbath – MORE. More what? More productive, more holy, more effective, more worshipful and happier –more of a great delight.
How about having a family or group discussion –or a “pow-wow” as we say here in America -- wherever you live on how you can make that sabbath date with your Maker more productive, more holy, more uplifting and more worthy of His name?
On each 7th day Sabbath, we remember and memorialize who the Creator of everything in the universe really is. This is especially important as we and our children are constantly bombarded with the false god of evolution. We are supposed to believe that all the intricate and sophisticated life we see around us all just evolved. NONSENSE! And professing to be wise, these professors who espouse this have become fools. But not all. Albert Einstein, even as liberal as he was, when asked if he believed in God, said when he looked at the universe, it was just beyond believability that it could have all just happened without a Creator.
So on sabbath day, on the right and only weekly sabbath day, we bow to and delight in the Creator, Life Giver, Universe Designer and Law Giver who brought this all into existence. Worshiping the Creator and remembering HIM as the creator of all things is the sabbath’s original purpose. Remember: We are to remember the sabbath – the day YHVH RESTED and STOPPED all his work and made the 7th day of each week HIS holy time.
Frankly, I think many sabbath keepers – including me – have especially in recent times become lax in keeping the sabbath holy, restful, worshipful and delightful --and to bring glory to our Maker. It has become to many more of a social club where we go to sabbath services more to meet up with people we haven’t seen for a week instead of focusing more on our Maker.
The weekly sabbath is the appointment your Maker set with YOU and your family for his children to come and worship and be refreshed together. It’s your “date” with your Beloved Messiah. This appointment that HE set (Leviticus 23:3) and calls HIS feast day (moed – divine appointment) begins at sundown the end of the 6th day of the week and goes through sundown the 7th day. Are you ready for your appointment, or are you still shopping somewhere, still have a long drive home after sundown, or are not ready to meet your Maker yet? Remember the Sabbath – shabbat in Hebrew – means “rest”. It’s our weekly stop sign.
Our God said that sabbath should also result in us feeling refreshed.
Exodus 23:12 “Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall REST, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.”
We know our Creator doesn’t need to rest, but he DID – perhaps as much as an example for us as well as the spiritual reminder that we must take time to rest from our work(s) and find refreshment in him. I say again, be sure to read and hear the sermon posted recently about our weekly sabbath “date” with our Maker.
Many teach the sabbath was given just to the Israelites or Jews. But the first sabbath was given to Adam and Eve – ancestors of all mankind, at least 2000 years before Judah was even born! Yeshua himself said he made sabbath for MAN – all mankind – and not just the Jews. Also remember in the new covenant we are all of Israel spiritually anyway. We who have His holy spirit are the “Israel of God” – a phrase especially applied to mostly-Gentile Galatians!
In my sabbath series of sermons we’ve posted, I show numerous examples of Gentiles also being expected to keep the sabbath. BE sure to check those out. Strangers “within your gates”, residents of Israel – foreign or Israelite alike – were to keep the sabbath.
Sabbath was also to be one of the signs identifying the people of God.
Exodus 31:16-17 “Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days YHVH made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.'" (See also Genesis 2:1-3).
But back to my main point: If you, your spouse or your children are not feeling refreshed and rejuvenated by the end of each sabbath day, something is terribly wrong in the way you’re keeping sabbath.
Frankly the way sabbath ends up, many remark how tired they feel. It’s been a long day. Especially those who don’t get to sleep in and have to attend morning services. And if they have a long drive – it’s even harder to be rested and refreshed. I recommend afternoon services where possible, to allow people to sleep a bit longer, to rest and be refreshed and even have time for family and for prayer. And even then, many would admit that going to services ends up being a mad rush to avoid being late.
I’m just saying and asking: what must be done in your household to start having sabbath day be enlightening, refreshing, restful, worshipful, holy and wonderful?
Click on continue reading to for tips and ideas that can change your sabbath experience and make it more of a delight for you and your Maker. Some of these ideas can help make the Sabbath a day you can’t wait for!
In a most recent new sermon I recorded about overcoming worry and fear and even disappointment with God we sometimes feel – I talked about how we so often wish we could sit down with YHVH our God and just ask, “WHY?”
We want to ask why He didn’t intervene and stop a terrible event. Why did He allow your son or daughter to die – and why did he allow the suffering to go on for so long? “Father, why can’t I find a job? Why aren’t you healing my cancer” or “why was I born deaf, or blind, or mute, why?” … fill in the blank. So many “why” questions. I hope you will carefully read this blog. It can change your life, I promise.
In this blog I just want to say a couple more things and explain why dwelling on the “Why, God?” question and frame of mind can be devastating to our faith and joy. I will also explain about what we should do instead.
The “Why” question is certainly commonly found even in the Psalms and it’s stated or implied throughout the Bible. So it’s “common to man” to ask this question.
We certainly see this in Psalms 22:1 – My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me?” and in verse 2 the psalmist implies “why” by asking why his God wasn’t hearing his pleas for help. And as we continue in the Psalms, we read over and over implied statements of David feeling unheard. Psalm 4:1 – he pleads with Almighty God to “hear my prayer”. David at least gets it right when he has these questions – he usually later in that psalm of wondering where God is, states he has confidence God will hear his cry.
Psalm 27 is another psalm where David strongly implies frustration with not hearing more directly from his Maker. “Do not hide your face from me …do not leave me or forsake me, O God of my salvation” (verse 9). But throughout he goes back and forth between questioning and reassuring himself with God’s promises.
Watch for these as you read through David’s psalms and prayers. In Psalm 39:12 he says “Hear my prayer, Yehovah, …do not be silent at my tears; I’m a stranger with you…” So we feel David’s frustration at times, and perhaps this is why so many people relate to the Psalms. It’s as if David is expressing our own thoughts.
But focusing on the “Why, God?” question can also be fraught with danger.
Click here on “Continue reading” to learn why I feel dwelling on this question is not productive – and potentially very dangerous.
On the day after the weekly sabbath that falls during the days of Unleavened Bread, after the Passover, is a SPECIAL day. It’s always on the 1st day of the week –commonly called “Sunday”. This year, and sometimes other years, it happens to coincide with Easter. But we do not keep Easter, but the days our Creator specified in Leviticus 23. We know the New Covenant brethren after the resurrection of Messiah also kept these days. In fact, the new covenant church of believers was founded on a festival holy day – the day of Pentecost, when they received God’s Holy Spirit – and the spiritual harvest of souls got underway.
The Wavesheaf Day was not a holyday, but the harvest of the barley could not begin until a ceremony was first performed. The High Priest would raise a specified amount of fine barley flour to be accepted by God “in behalf of the rest of the harvest.” I HOPE you will spend a few minutes on it. I hope pastors everywhere gave a sermon on the sabbath about the Wavesheaf Day.
For full details on this day, I recommend you hear the re-posting of my sermon on the Wavesheaf, originally given in 2014. Be sure to listen carefully especially to the last 40 minutes of that message.
The first barley Wavesheaf represented our Savior, Yeshua of Nazareth, son of God, son of man, our beloved Master. He is the ultimate firstfruit and once our Father in heaven accepted him in heaven, the rest of the spiritual harvest of human lives could begin. Remember he told Mary of Magdala that she had to let him go as he had to go to “my father and your father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). That was the Wavesheaf he was fulfilling!
The rest of the barley harvest resembled the first fruit that was waved up high. We too, must be in Him, copy him, live like him, let him be in us, and let his mind be our mind. We must come to him daily and eat of him – take him inside us, consciously – and ask him to live obediently in us the way he lived the first time on earth. He will. And with every passing day, every passing year, we are to look more and more like Jesus (Yeshua).
Yeshua gave one sign that he was the genuine Messiah. He said he would be 3 days and 3 nights in the tomb and then be resurrected (Matthew 12:39-40). Our Messiah was placed in to the earth – in a tomb – just before sundown of Passover day (John 19:41-42). Remember the “next day” always began at sundown. That next day was a “high day” – a holy day, an annual sabbath (John 19:31). Exactly 3 days and 3 nights later, to the minute they had put him in the tomb, his Father in heaven resurrected him. So by the next morning, even before sunrise, the tomb was already empty. He had risen!
But he did not go up to heaven to be accepted for our behalf until the actual ceremony by the high priest, which I believe was at 9 a.m. After that ceremony, the rest of the harvest (a work day) could proceed.
So it’s not a rest day. It’s not a sabbath or holy day. But indeed, as I cover in depth in my sermon on it – it’s a very, very special day. Let’s not forget it.
My wife and I at 9 am on Wavesheaf day will say a thankful prayer for all that the son of GOD did for us and you – and we will thank our Father for letting him live again. Without his resurrection, we would have no future (1 Cor. 15:13-17).
Don’t miss Wavesheaf day. It’s a wondrous day. This year it’s April 16, 2017. In it, the victory over sin and Satan is complete. And Father accepted Yeshua’s perfect life for all of us who believe in him.
Be sure to hear the latest sermon posted – the one about the Wavesheaf. Some good reading this time of year – perhaps even as you thank him in prayer on Wavesheaf day – would be:
1 Cor. 15:13-17
Hebrews 10: 4-12
1 Peter 1:3, 21
Praise you Abba. Praise you Yeshua. What a perfect life you lived, and a perfect job you did, that we might all also live. Thank you Father. Thank you – Son of God.
(Note: pass the word. Tell others about this day and how we glorify our God and Yeshua in this website).
As I write this, we’re coming near the end of the 7 days of Unleavened Bread. In a previous blog, I asked “what’s your focus” as you deleaven? I hope you’ll read that one too. It’s amazing how many things have leaven in them – even Grape nuts cereal, and some flat breads that LOOK unleavened, often are not. So often sins in our lives don’t seem all that bad, but are!
But our focus should not be so much on the leaven as much as on what we’re replacing it with represents – Yeshua! Focus on his life, his sinless life, his perfection as we eat unleavened bread, as we eat of him these 7 days.
In this blog, I ask “How are you doing with not eating leaven” during these 7 days? Probably most of you who keep it (few do any more it seems) have faithfully avoided breads, pastas, crackers, cakes, muffins and the like. But again, let’s focus MORE on HIM. As we eat UNLEAVENED bread, remember Christ is the one who washed away all our sins (pictured by leaven) in his blood. I can’t really deleaven my own life. I can’t. I need HIM to, and that’s why we are eating unleavened bread. And now we eat of him, as John 6 says. Be sure to study that chapter if you haven’t in a while. Remember that John 6 was spoken just before Passover (John 6:4).
The only way we can have a 100% sinless “deleavened” life is by faith in his washing away of our sins. We cannot – I repeat, cannot – get all the leaven out of our lives ourselves. Even physically -- in the end, there’s leaven somewhere that we’ve missed -- perhaps deep inside a couch, or behind the back car seats, or in our air ducts or even in the sink drain’s “elbow”! Leaven spores are even in the air. In the end, though we fight sin, in the end we have to trust Christ’s life over us and in us and for us – as the unleavened, sinless life we must have.
Have you noticed also how leaven can sometimes be staring you in the face and somehow you’ve missed it? Oh no, you forgot to replace and throw out the vacuum cleaner bag, or to clean the toaster. So obvious, but sometimes we miss it. As we live in a deleavened home these 7 days, remember there may be some huge sins we’re allowing in our lives.
Some focus SO much on the physical leaven they forget the very POINT of this feast: Don’t focus on the sin, but on the One who removes our sin! Christ is our unleavened bread, HE is the one who deleavened us by washing away ALL our sins in his blood, and HE is the one who should be living obediently in us now, if we have surrendered to God and accepted Yeshua as our LORD and MASTER.
So just as leaven can sometimes be staring us in the face – but it remains in our freezer or cupboard, so can obvious sin be lurking in our lives.
Click on “Continue reading” to find ways we may be allowing obvious sins in our lives.
I wonder what this is about? Are you focused on proper deleavening? Well, many of you reading my blogs and hearing our sermons, know we keep the Passover instead of Easter, and we observe the 7 Days of Unleavens – or unleavened bread, and Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Atonement and Feast of Tabernacles and the 8th day after the Feast of Tabernacles.
Right now many will be “deleavening” or will soon be starting to put out leavened products from our homes – our dwellings. And you’ll feel good about that, maybe even smug. Why? Some of you started so early. Some of you will keep 8-9-10 or more days of unleavened bread, because you want to be so sure all leaven is out DAYS before Passover. But if so, have you missed the point?
And you do it because we’re told to by God himself to do so, and even the mostly Gentile Corinthians, from a pagan background, were obviously keeping Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. And they weren’t Jewish. Paul clearly discusses the Passover in 1 Corinthians 5 and 11. In chapter 11 he speaks of remembering the bread the and cup of wine that Yeshua offered at his Passover, saying the unleavened bread was his body and the cup and its contents represented “the new covenant in my blood”. We keep the Passover because it was kept by Yeshua and Christians long after -- and because it was what inaugurated the new covenant!
Let’s read it. Then we’ll get to the thought-provoking point of this blog. And again, remember, if this was just for the Jews, then why were the mostly pagan Corinthians keeping these days as well. Let’s read it – words spoken to a predominantly Gentile congregation. But I FEAR that many are missing the POINT of the deleavening process!
1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 6-8 --- “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles — that a man has his father's wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. …
6 Your glorying -- not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us KEEP THE FEAST, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with unleavened sincerity and truth.”
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 -- “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of ME.”
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.”
Exodus 12:14-16 --- 'So this day shall be to you a memorial; and you shall keep it as a feast to YHVH throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by an everlasting ordinance. 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day there shall be a holy convocation, and on the seventh day there shall be a holy convocation for you. No manner of work shall be done on them; but that which everyone must eat — that only may be prepared by you.”
All these holydays are listed in Leviticus 23 – and in Lev 23:1-3, Almighty God calls them “the Feasts of YHVH” – not the feasts of the Jews, not the feasts of Israel, but Feasts of YHVH.
Leavened bread in the Bible was usually a picture of sin in most places, though not always. (Even the Kingdom of God, for example, is pictured as leaven in the sense that once it began to do its work, it will spread and someday fill the whole earth—Matthew 13:33). But usually, leavened bread is picturing the work of sin and how it can deceive one and spread.
So – like sin – as we deleaven, we think of how leaven can hide in so many products. Do all the cereals we have – like Cheerios -- have leaven? How about those fruit/nut bars (yes)? Hmm, Grape Nuts in the cereal bin – oh yes. Leavened. So we begin to carefully go through the cupboards and fridge and freezer and look for anything – breads, ice cream bars and ice cream cones, and crackers, and frozen baked goods that we have to consume before the Unleavens begin. We lay them out for all to see, so they’re used up. What’s not used up is thrown away. In the same way, we think about how sin can be hiding in our lives in areas we don’t even think about much – but should be!
We make to-do lists so we don’t forget to clean out the toaster, to empty or replace the vacuum cleaner bags. Oh yes, the cars need to be carefully cleaned out and vacuumed out. We get way down between the seats. We pull the couches apart and vacuum way down and find old missing toys, a half-eaten piece of toast and - maybe – even some money. But keep the money, it’s not leavened.
You get the point.
Now in deleavening, we humans love to see the fruit of our labor. I said “OUR labor”. We like to weed or mow the lawn because it feels so good to see that we accomplished something. After painting a room, we can see what we’ve done, and it feels good. Same thing with Deleavening. We like spending oodles of time of deleavening – even 2-3-4 weeks – because it makes us feel good, like we’re being righteous or something. We can see the results of our work. But IS THAT the real point of deleavening? Beware, lest you miss the point of the exercise.
We love “Do it yourself” (DIY) projects, but we can’t do a DIY salvation, and we really can’t put sin totally out of our lives ourselves. We simply can’t. Not as long as we are flesh and blood. The SPIRIT is willing, but the flesh is weak. Therefore we still sometimes do what we don’t want to do – as Paul explains in Romans 7 and Galatians 5. But nonetheless, we do our best to put sin (leaven) out of our lives and homes.
Some of you start this process 3-4 weeks before Passover. But is that what we should be doing? Is it possible we end up trying to be more righteous than GOD? If you read Exodus 12:15, God himself allotted the Israelites ONE DAY to deleaven. ONE DAY. Let that sink in. But we’ve turned it into a full-fledged spring cleaning and by the time Passover actually arrives, many of you are worn out! Surely you can admit that. And yet it’s true, we’re told to have no leavened food in our homes for 7 days.
Exodus 13:6-8 -- “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to YHVH. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days. And no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all your quarters. 8 And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, 'This is done because of what YHVH did for ME when I came up from Egypt.'
Now we ourselves will take more than a day but not much more. We will carefully remove what leaven we have in our homes. But THAT won’t be my focus. THAT is not where I will put my energy. What IS my focus? What is YOURS?
Click here on “Continue reading” to get the wakeup call we all need right now.
So back to the point of this blog: I hope and pray this will be a wake-up call to many of us, to focus on the right things before Passover.
SO --are you and I as diligent and thorough and focused on putting out the spiritual leaven we have in our LIVES? Are you taking the time to scrutinize your LIFE as carefully as you scrutinize your cupboards? I want you to please think about that. Paul – in discussing leavening – made a point to make this very point to the Corinthians! He said “you Corinthians have put out puffed up bread and yet YOU yourselves remain puffed up and almost proud about the tolerance you show to sin in your midst.” Remember? Go back and read 1 Corinthians 5.
A little leaven leavens the whole lump – he said – as he put the focus on the congregation, not on some unleavened baking they had done. He focused not so much on flat bread – but the unleavened LIVES characterized by sincerity and truth. Paul’s focus wasn’t so much on the leavened bread, but on what leavened bread points to – such as hypocrisy. Christ pointed to the leaven of false doctrine that we allow to leaven our own beliefs and teachings (Matthew 16:6-12).
In other words, do you and I focus as much energy and time – or even more – on the POINT of the leavened bread -- more than the leavened bread itself?
Do we remember, as we hold a sheet of matzah to the light, we can actually see many holes in it, and stripes across each sheet of matzah bread – clearly reminding us of our Lord and what he went through for us? HE is our unleavened bread.
So he clearly ate unleavened bread with that last Passover (the Greek word used –artos - can refer to both leavened and unleavened bread, including the showbread that David ate). Since Yeshua himself said the bread was picturing HIMSELF – surely he would have used unleavened bread, for he was the only one who was ever truly, purely unleavened. Sinless.
So my point, and my warning – is that I feel most of us who keep these days still focus your time, energy, thoughts and efforts on the physical – so there’s simply little time left to focus on YESHUA, and how HE is our unleavened bread, and how HE is the one who makes us pure.
Be sure to hear the sermons I’ve given like “Do this in Remembrance of ME”, and “When I See the Blood”, “Crucified with Christ” and others I’ve given in previous years in the spring.
As diligent as you are in putting out leaven from your home, are you as diligent in putting out gossip from you’re your life? Or keeping the sabbath holy or more sacredly than you do today? Do you put as much effort in FIGHTING sin itself – as you do in getting every little crumb out from between the couch seats? You know your weaknesses. Perhaps you drink too much, or eat too much, or gossip, or take God’s name in vain (Oh my G**), or go on porn sites on the web, or cheat on your tithes or taxes, or simply don’t pray very much. Or maybe you worry – which is a lack of faith. Are you putting as much diligence in fighting these sins – or whatever yours are -- and asking Christ to put sin out of your life and to cover you with HIS righteousness – as you do putting leaven out? Or have you missed that point? THIS is what we should be deleavening and scrubbing from our homes and lives: our SINS. Focus on THAT, much more than the physical leaven.
And therein is the rub: we run out of time! At some point we have to admit, “Master, I did my best to get rid of actual leaven – and I’ve got the point! I can’t get ALL the leaven. Even if I think I have, I know there’s more leaven– even in the air. Yeshua, son of God, I need YOUR life, I need YOU. I need YOUR perfection to cover me and our home. I need YOU to come into my life. I need to follow YOU and your leading. I need faith in YOU, and your perfect work – and not faith in me and my own work of deleavening. Please cover me now, Master, and now I will devote the majority of my time before Passover to prayer and even fasting and meditation on YOU. YOU are my unleavened life. YOU are the hidden matzah. YOU are the bread of Life, that if we eat of it, we shall live.”
Folks, otherwise you’ll be worn out by Passover and the Night to be observant -– and not have the energy left to focus on and deeply appreciate the true meaning of the spring holydays. Focus on the POINT of the deleavening. Christ did (Matthew 16:6-12). Paul did 1 Corinthians 5:1-8. Hear my sermon on what makes us truly unleavened and righteous – and it’s NOT our deleavening that does that! It’s NOT. You can’t put enough sin out of your life yourself to make you righteous enough to qualify for the kingdom. Salvation is a GIFT, not the result of work you do. You are rewarded by your work, but not saved by your work. Rewards may have to do with how many cities you have, or what you will do for eternity. But Salvation is Christ’s work – gifted to us.
And again, CAN you or I even actually ever get all leaven out of our homes? I would confidently say ‘No”. There are even leaven spores in the AIR – and that’s how sourdough bread is made. And surely there will be a few leavened crumbs that even the most diligent will miss. Sin in our lives is the same. Paul himself admitted to still falling short and doing what he hated sometimes. And in striving to be righteous by what WE do, we end up missing the point of the unleavened life.
IT’S NOT our own righteousness; IT’S NOT the fruit of OUR labor of putting sin out that makes us righteous. It’s not how hard WE worked that will produce the unleavened life – but it’s the work of something and Someone totally different from ourselves.
YESHUA is our unleavened Bread, the Bread from heaven. Passover comes before the Days of Unleavened Bread. Passover – and the BLOOD of the lamb of the NEW Covenant – is what washes us from ALL sin. That’s what makes us unleavened. Then AFTER that, we show God we will strive to follow him, but even then, we sometimes still eat a leavened sandwich – especially when we’re away from home. But yes, we are called to live a transformed life as much as we can, as we follow the leading of the spirit, but in the end, it’s Christ’s righteousness that covers us. Let’s read it in Romans 9.
Romans 9:30-32—“What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of FAITH; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has NOT attained to the law of righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.
Folks, did you get that? This is repeated in Philippians 3:9-11, Romans 3-4-5-8 and so many places. You and I cannot work our way into a righteousness good enough for the kingdom of God. We have to have the righteousness of GOD himself, given to us as a gift (Romans 5:17-18), that we receive by faith.
SO --- the point of this blog is this: Yes, deleaven. But as you do, recognize you can’t get it all and won’t get it all. There are even leaven spores in the air. We are deleavened because HE is our unleavened bread. We are righteous because HE is righteous, and we believe he bestows on us HIS righteousness by faith in Him.
AND REMEMBER: days of unleavened bread come AFTER PASSOVER. Passover is what cleanses us from all sin, as we’re washed in the blood of the Lamb.
Our effort, our time, our focus, our energy – is all on HIM as we come to Passover. Not on us, not on our work, not on our effort. Please get that point, or you missing the point.
Israel was told by God to take one day to deleaven. Let’s not be more righteous than God. (Exodus 12:15). Spend more time in prayer, deep meditation and reading of the gospel accounts and in deep appreciation of our dear Savior who – in His Passover – gave us the New Covenant, the better covenant, the covenant of eternal life and HIS righteousness, HIS law written on our hearts. Praise you Yeshua. Praise you dear Abba, our wonderful God and Father.