Blogs

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

“Am I a City set on a Hill?”

Note from host Philip Shields: This is a blog written by a dear friend of mine – Jason Cartwright in Florida. I’m encouraging more of you who come to this website to contribute messages in these blogs too. Here’s Jason.  


Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden”, Yeshua says.

What would such a city look like? What would such a life look like?

Since this passage is in context of each of us being a light, and standing out, presumably in the dark, it only makes sense that we are to picture seeing the lights of a city at night; perhaps from a distance.

Also of note: cities during that time were commonly built atop hills.

        1) This made the cities easier to defend

        2) This made it easier to spot approaching enemies.

        3) This also made the city more visible, especially at night.

Picture such a city set on a hill at night. It would be very noticeable in the dark. Even from many miles off, its lights could be seen.

So how does this relate to us? Why would our Savior say we are, in effect, by our lights – a city set on a hill?

Consider what such a city, with all its light, would mean to travelers in the night.

1) A city on a hill might draw travelers in, even during the night.

  1.   i) Perhaps the city is a destination for them. A place to settle. 
        When we think about us, as a group, when people come visit our holy sabbath convocation, are our lights so present and welcoming that they might very well feel like they've found "home"?  (A place where they feel welcomed, loved, and desirable to worship in?)
  1.   ii) Perhaps it is a place to rest and be refreshed (from their journey through the dark lands outside) 

Ask yourself: “when people come to me, can they get a spiritual recharge? Again, do I make them feel welcome and accepted? I’m not looking at what they've done, but how God is working with them; Who they are as part of God's Family. Can they "rest" and be relaxed, with me? When they leave my presence, will they leave feeling encouraged and refreshed?

It is interesting to note that though they were in the presence of perfect holiness and righteousness, there was something about Yeshua that even the worst of society felt at ease in his presence. Go back and read Luke 15:1-2. It was in this context that we receive his greatest parables and teachings.

    iii) Maybe a place to get supplies for their continued journey.     

We can serve others, and thus allow them to continue on. There are many ways to serve: Giving of our time, money, expertise; listening to people and their issues; a sincere hug, cooking a meal, visiting the sick, and many, many more. Often even the smallest acts of kindness can make a world of difference in another's life, helping, or even inspiring them to keep going.

  1.   iv) A shining city on a hill (us) could means a job opportunity; a place for them to further their education and training. 

    Am I ready to teach (especially by example)? Am I ready to give answers and give sound, spiritual wisdom from the bible? And am I ready to do it in a loving and non-judgmental way? Can people come to me and learn by example or by word the ways of God?

  1.   v) Perhaps it is a place to take refuge; A safe place. (From enemies, or simply from life's bad weather/storms of life)  

Proverbs 18:10 "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe." 

Am I a place where one could come to in time of crisis? Am I reliable and ready to help someone who is under attack from the devil? (To do this, I too must be aware and vigil, and close to God, and also ready to be instant in prayer) Am I someone people can trust and depend upon for spiritual warfare?  This is a war that we live, daily. Am I ready to help others do battle? (I need to be putting on the Armor of God every day to do this) Can I help others put on their armor, and also be vigil?

  1.   vi) It could be a place they are bringing their burdens to.   

Am I someone who can actively listen and pay attention to others?

Maybe I cannot help take their burdens, but am I someone they could come and at least help lighten their load by being someone they could talk to, and to pray for them and with them?  Can I be a person trustworthy to confide in, and bring God into the picture to show them how He is working all things out for good, even when it seems/feels contrary?

    vii) People coming in from the darkness outside, are now in the light of the city, just like with Christ.

    John 8:12 "Then Jesus spoke to them saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in darkness but have the light of life."

There was a noticeable difference between Yeshua and the world and yet most people felt comfortable in his presence. The only ones he really spoke against were the hypocritical religious leaders.

Do others see the difference between me and those in the world?  Even if they don't like it, are they aware that I am not like others? Are they aware that we live differently and behave differently and speak differently from the world? When they look at me...do the see Christ's example? Is my life glorifying God? 

    viii) Travelers passing by could make camp or safely travel by outside the city, within its light (a guide)  

I must always be a "safe" person; trustworthy and willing to protect others. People should be able to trust me with anything. Their money, their confidence, their family or their business. There should be nothing in my life that makes them question my integrity and therefore their safety with me (once they know me, the new creation in Christ).

2) The city on a hill, with this bright lights (and high placement) might be a warning

  1. For those with ill intent, it might be a warning to stay away. The brighter the light, the more lights there are, the more people (and things of value); the stronger (and larger) the city. Remember Yeshua said those with ill intent seek out the darkness and won’t come into the light.
  1. There is a cool quote that I really like (paraphrasing): 

The devil whispered in my ear, "You are not strong enough to withstand the storm." I yelled back, "I am a child of the ALMIGHTY Father God; I am a man of the faith, and a warrior of Christ the Conquering King! I am the storm with Christ!"     

It is a cool quote, but we know that the devil does not fear us. However, he does flee from us when we resist him. (James 4:7), as we call upon CHRIST'S strength (Philippians 4:13). This also applies to those who are of Satan’s mindset and who wish ill, or wish to instill doubt or cause divisions. They too, will flee.

When we put on the armor of God, and we wield the sword of Truth, we can wage spiritual warfare against evil, against the wiles of the devil.

  • Alternatively, an enemy might view the city as more of a threat to them, and therefore, seek to attack and destroy it.

    The devil doesn't like seeing strength and light from God's people. Being a light standing out in the dark, or a "city on a hill" often makes us a target. The devil HATES Godliness and its effects upon others. He will try to bring such a one exhibiting those characteristics down. But... if the city's walls are high, and it is well lit...the light will shine bright and expose what is in the darkness. The light will expose the enemy and his attacks and methods of attack. LIGHT REVEALS TRUTH.

    Also, such a city's watchmen would see the enemy coming because of the light pouring forth from the city. God is the city’s ultimate defense. Psalm 61:3 "For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy."

3) A city set on a hill might simply be a point of reference in a traveler's journey. (Remember, YOU are the city on the hill) 

  1. i) The city may show them where they are in life; perhaps even causing them to desire to alter their course or change their destination.

Perhaps the interaction with me will be brief, but in that moment, what will they see if given the opportunity to either show Christ or blend in? Will I stand out? Will I exhibit patience, kindness, mercy, love, giving, truthfulness, joy, peace, meekness, etc., and thus, merely by example, perhaps inspire them to look at their own life, and consider? (Maybe even make changes...) Even making a small change for good...is still good! But you never know... God can use us to call others to Him. Is my example noticeable enough to cause someone to want to make changes in their own life?

  1. ii) The city may simply be a "marker" or "landmark." 

 Our example, our light, may be something familiar, or just simply be one day remembered as a "marker" along their journey; Something they merely pass by...but that one day, they will recall that "city" (YOU, your life), and how bright and strong it was. Who knows how or when people might recall an interaction with you and your family or even your congregation – and that memory helps God to put them on the right path?

What do I need to be this city set on a hill?

Whatever the case, if we are to be a city set upon a hill, we need to have the following:

First and foremost, have a relationship with God, seeking first His Will, His Righteousness, and His Kingdom (Matt. 6:33)

Have our lights shining brightly for all to see. (Not blending in with the rest of the world (the dark surroundings)

Have our light of truth exposing the enemy outside.

Have high walls and watch towers (God and His Word)

Be a person that is also welcoming; a "place" where even sinners can find love (as an action, like Yeshua did)

Be ready to serve and provide as a good city would.

Be ever an example of Yeshua, the Savior of mankind, and His love and ways to live life righteously.

And never...Ever...hide or try to blend in to the surroundings....the world and its dark ways.

It doesn't matter if you (your life) are a great big city, or a small city. If you are a city set on a hill, obvious in the day, bright and shinning in the night... you cannot be hidden.

And that is something Christ is telling us we need to be: "For you are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”

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HOW are WE part of “a royal priesthood”?

No doubt you have read in 1 Peter 2:9 which says we are a part of a “royal priesthood”.  Why is that? How does that happen?  Which priesthood makes us royal?    

Frankly, I’ve heard a lot about the Aaronic Priesthood and even the Melchizedek priesthood, but I’m not sure I’ve heard others preach HOW you and I become ROYAL Priests – and of which priestly lineage that is! To be a priest, you have to be part of a priestly line. To be a royal, you must be the child of royalty. So how are you and I royal priests?

You and I cannot be a part of the Aaronic Priesthood, because we are not a descendant of Aaron. Only Aaron’s male descendants within the tribe of Levi were allowed to be bona fide priests of Israel. Even if you were a bona fide descendant of Aaron, there is no priesthood currently certified and working in Jerusalem. And Aaronic priests were never “royal” or royalty.

And besides, there’s a far greater and more glorious royal priesthood you are being called to be a part of.

Yeshua was born as a son or descendant of David of the tribe of Judah. Yeshua was a Jew, something a lot of Christians don’t realize. A Jew could not be a part of Aaron’s priestly line. Yeshua was also the son of God Most High and was resurrected to eternal life, and endless life. But those of the tribe of Judah could not be part of the Aaronic Priesthood.

Hebrews 7:14-17 “For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. 15 And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest 16 who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. 17 For He testifies: "You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."

That is why Yeshua challenged the Jewish leaders of his day to explain Psalm 110:1 – how King David would call his descendant “My Lord”. The answer of course is that Yeshua was both a son of David – a man – as well as the Son of God. So on earth, as God-made-flesh (John 1:14), Yeshua was worshipped and never once did he attempt to stop it. Why would he? He was also God, while on earth, or else being worshipped would have been a terrible sin. But it wasn’t a sin to worship him.

He also demonstrated other powers restricted to being part of the Godhead – such as forgiving sin, knowing people’s thoughts and much more. Remember Yeshua was the Word of God, and the “Word was with God and was God” (John 1:1-3), and the Word – who was God -- “became flesh” (John 1:14).

Yeshua is also definitely called our High Priest (Hebrews 2:17; 3:1; 4:14, etc.) Hebrews 5:10 says GOD himself called Christ to be High Priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

So for Yeshua to be called our High Priest, he could not have been so under the Aaronic priesthood. No, there was a higher priesthood prior to Aaron’s priesthood from the tribe of Levi. That higher priesthood was the priesthood of Melchizedek, who was king of Salem (future Jerusalem), which means “King of Peace”. He was also the High Priest of the Most High God. So HE was both: royalty and the High Priest of God Most High. He was a Royal Priest, in other words.

Melchizedek posted no genealogy. He had no mother or father. Hmm, who could that be? The priests of the Aaronic line had to prove their lineage back to Aaron. Melchizedek was frankly one of those visual appearances of the Godhead – as we’ve been discussing in my recent sermons.

Click on “Continue reading” to finish learning which priesthood you are a part of that makes YOU a “royal priest”.

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A GREAT Way to honor God our Father

 I’ve been doing a series on how the very personal name “YHVH” applies certainly to God our Father, but also to the Word of God Yeshua, or by his Greek-English name Jesus Christ. 

I mentioned that there are teachings going out that – at least the way I see it – end up diminishing the glory and stature of my Savior Jesus Christ. Now in one way, nothing can diminish what glory and position he is being granted in heaven right now, but among ourselves, yes there are things we say, teach and do definitely diminish him in the eyes of other believers. 

So this blog is about a way to honor God our Father – BY the way we honor His Son.

John 5:19-23   Then Jesus answered and said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”

Read verse 23 again a couple times. We honor God our Father by honoring His Son, whom he loves and commends.

It was our Father who said, “This is my BELOVED Son, in whom I am WELL pleased” at Yeshua’s baptism and again on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter recalls that time.

2 Peter 1:17-18   “For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”

This is the same apostle Peter who started his epistle this way in 2 Peter 1:1:

Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our GOD and SAVIOR Jesus Christ”

Certainly God the Father is also our Savior, but so is Jesus Christ.

Certainly God the Father is Supreme, but he does everything through His Son, Jesus Christ as I show in the sermon. So let’s honor the SON – and in so doing, we honor the Father also.

We certainly dishonor our God and Savior when we live a life of sin. By our LIVES we either honor or dishonor God. Our LIVES are our greatest sermons. Please read 1 John 2:3-6; 3:7-8, 10. We must not bring the name of Christ or our Father into disrepute by our wrongful actions and behavior. I have in the past and even from time to time - and so have you. We must be people who can see areas of our lives where we’re overcoming old ways. Now, washed by His blood, we move forward in a life of holiness as we place our faith in the righteousness of Christ living HIS life again in us.

Certainly when we take Yeshua’s name in vain and say as an exclamation “JEEZ! Jesus Christ!” – we’re taking his name frivolously. When we dishonor Christ’s name, surely we dishonor His Father also. I personally try to avoid even the substitute words, the euphemisms, for God and Christ. So I avoid words like “Gosh, O my gosh, Jimminy Cricket (letters of JC – Jesus Christ), Jeez” and so on.

And I also believe when we wrongly teach that the name “YHVH” never, ever, ever applies to the Son of God, that also dishonors Him – and therefore dishonors our Father. Some are erroneously teaching lately that in every instance, 100% of the time, that when we read in the Old Testament --“the LORD” (in all caps) -- that this always refers exclusively to God the Father and never to Christ.

That’s not just semantics. It diminishes the role of Yeshua in the eyes and ears of those who are being taught this.

Folks, let me remind you. You can hear my full sermon “Part 3, YHVH does sometimes apply to Yeshua the Word” for a full exposition. Let me just remind you though:

  • We’re not marrying our Bridegroom’s Dad. We’re not. We’re marrying Yeshua our Messiah (2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:6-9). But someone calling himself “the LORD” also calls himself our Husband. That cannot be God the Father. In several verses he even calls himself the LORD of Hosts. Read Isaiah 54:5 – “For your MAKER is your Husband, the LORD of Hosts is his name”. There’s more on this in my latest sermon on “YHVH – Part 3”.
  • And Zechariah 14 says Someone called “the LORD”, and even “the LORD of Hosts”, will come to fight the armies gathered around Jerusalem. HIS feet will land on the Mount of Olives and HE will rule from Jerusalem for a thousand years and people from all over the world will come worship this LORD. That HAS to be Christ, when you compare it to Rev. 19-20.

SO I teach we need to give Yeshua his proper honored place too as He sits in majesty and honor on the right hand of God the Father Most High.

Remember John 5:23 – we either honor and glorify God our Father or we can dishonor God our Father – by how we treat and teach about Yeshua, our Savior.

2 Peter 3:18 – ‘but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.’

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Celebrating Christmas while focusing on Christ OK?

Many of you know that Christmas celebrations long pre-date the actual birth of Christ and that much of what is included in Christmas celebrations clearly go back to paganism. I mean things like yule logs, wreaths, Christmas trees, mistletoe customs, partying at winter solstice, and on and on.  Any quick Google search into the pagan roots of Christmas will confirm what I say.

On top of that, there’s no way Messiah was born on Dec 25, in the dead of winter, in the rainy season in Jerusalem-Bethlehem. If the DATE of his birth was so important, why are we not told what the date is? And why do 2 gospel accounts completely ignore the details of his birth? And why is there no mention in the book of Acts or any of the epistles telling us about the great Christmas celebrations of the early church? Because they didn’t have them.

And so I don’t celebrate Christmas, Easter and so on. I DO believe and am SO grateful for the birth of my Savior though. But I do not participate in the pagan history of Christmas!

So here’s the point of today’s blog: “But what if, in our home, we keep Jesus as the Reason for the Season? What if we sing praises to him, and worship HIM, and not put as much emphasis on the pagan symbols? Would that be alright then with God?”

The answer is – if you understand the truth, the truth will set you free – and the truth is God’s word. So let’s see what God’s word has to say about worshipping HIM in the way that pagans have worshipped their gods.

First of all, remember the gold calf story? What you might not have realized is that Aaron told the Israelites that as they worshipped that gold calf, they really were to do their worship to YHVH, to “the LORD”. Did you realize that? Here it is below. But did God accept that? Or did that not in fact make him even MORE furious that they put HIS Holy, Set-apart, hallowed name on to a golden calf?!!

READ EXODUS 32 FOR YOURSELF and tell me what God thinks!

Exodus 32:5-8 – “So when Aaron saw it [the gold calf], he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, "Tomorrow is a feast to YHVH (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.

7 And YHVH (the LORD) 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!'"

Now if much of Christmas tradition is rooted in paganism – and then given a Christian re-label, does it matter?

Here’s more of what GOD says:

Click on “Continue reading” to finish the other clear statements from God about how he feels about worshiping him through pagan customs.

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Where was the Messiah actually born?

How wonderful, though we know Christ was not born Dec 25th, how wonderful it is that he was born as our Savior.  We believe all the evidence points to a birth in the fall, probably either on the Feast of Trumpets or possibly even the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, since John 1 says he came to “tabernacle” with mankind. 

But this blog is about WHERE exactly he was born. Could the exact spot in Bethlehem have been foretold 700 years earlier?  I’m not the first to write about this. But most people seem to think he was born in a barn or stall, and might miss a more interesting explanation. There are also those who believe he was born in a sukkah – a booth – since they believe this was during the Feast of Booths/Tabernacles. Of course others believe he was born in a deep cave, the site of the present Church of the Nativity - - a site chosen by Emperor Constantine’s mother Helen, centuries after the birth of Christ. I’ve seen that spot within the church and don’t believe he was born on that spot at all!  

There might be something more to the point. There might be a scripture in Micah that actually tells us where he would be found. And remember, everything I write here is geared to a FALL-TIME birth, not December 25th. So though we do not keep Christmas, we are delighted that God did send his Son to be our savior. Now, where was he born?  

Everyone knows he was born in Bethlehem “in a manger” – which refers to a food crib for animals. According to Luke 2, Caesar had ordered people to go to their home town to register (the KJV “tax” is more correctly referring to a registration, as most other translations have it, and as the Greek word more strongly implies). Usually just the males would have had to go, but since Mary was also a royal descendant of the house of David in her own right, she would have had to register as well.

 Luke 2:1-7

“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” 

Now compare this to a prophecy in Micah 4:8, written 700 years before the birth of our Savior. It’s time to read about the Tower of the Flock, the Migdal Eder. You’ll find this very fascinating!  

Click on “Continue reading” to find out the most likely spot where Yeshua (Jesus) was actually born!

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The Parables of the Old Testament

When we think of parables it is usually the parables of Jesus that come to mind.  His parables were one of the most characteristic features of his ministry. Yet they are not the first parables to be found in the Bible – parables were an essential part of the religious teaching of ancient Israel.  The book of Hosea tells us, for example, that God: “... spoke to the prophets … and told parables through them” (Hosea 12:10).  If we learn to recognize them, we can actually find this form of teaching throughout many books of the Old Testament; and understanding its nature can help us better understand the parables that Jesus gave. 
 
The key to recognizing true biblical parables in the Old Testament (as opposed to figurative or metaphorical statements, short riddles, or stories with an obvious moral) is that a true biblical parable has two parts. In the first part – called the marshal in Hebrew – a simple story is told for the sake of conveying a deeper truth. But that truth is never obvious in the story itself; it has to be revealed in the second part of the parable – called the nimshal – which provides the “key” to unlocking the parable’s meaning. The two parts of content and intent are only brought together at the conclusion of the narrative – which is why, of course, we read in the New Testament that Jesus often taught in parables and later explained them by providing the nimshal or key to his disciples (Luke 8:9, Mark 4:33-34, etc.).
 
We see this two-part structure in one of the earliest parables of the Old Testament.  The book of Judges records that the young man Jotham told the people of Shechem a detailed story of how the trees of the forest made themselves a king (Judges 9:7-15). When the parable is finished, he explains it by showing how the parts of the story fit their own political circumstances (Judges 9:16-20).
 
We also see the two-part structure in the famous story that the prophet Nathan tells King David about a sinful rich man who took his poor neighbor’s only lamb when he had plenty of lambs himself. When David indignantly states that the evil man deserves death, Nathan provides the nimshal to the parable by simply saying “you are that man” – because David had taken the only wife of his general, Uriah (2 Samuel 12:1-4). 
 
In these cases, the connection between the marshal/content of the parables and their nimshal/ntent is easy to grasp, but sometimes the Old Testament gives parables that would be very difficult to understand without the explaining “key” or the background we are given.  Such is the case with the story of the two fighting brothers that was told to David by the wise widow from Tekoa (2 Samuel 14:1-7). In this story David’s general Joab carefully constructs a parable with a meaning we would not guess unless it is explained – as it is by the wise widow (2 Samuel 14:13-14).
 
When we look for such stories that have to be explained in the course of the narrative in which they appear, we find many parables in the Old Testament.  Parables were especially favored by the Hebrew Prophets and the book of Ezekiel, for example, contains at least nine of them.  Isaiah also uses parables in his teaching, and some of these parables clearly influenced those given by Jesus.  In Isaiah chapter 5 the prophet tells a parable of a vineyard and its bad fruit (Isaiah 5:1-6) which he then explains as being relevant to the nation of Israel (vs. 7).   Although Jesus altered the details slightly in his parables found in Matthew 21:33–44 and Luke 13:6–9, the stories are recognizably similar, and their message is identical. 
 
Jesus often framed his own parables on both parable and non-parable stories found in the Old Testament.  His parable of the Good Samaritan is an example of this and appears to be based on a section of 2 Chronicles which tells of the kindness given to Judean captives by men of Samaria who:
“… clothed all who were naked among them. They clothed them, gave them sandals, provided them with food and drink, and anointed them, and carrying all the feeble among them on donkeys, they brought them to their kinsfolk at Jericho, the city of palm trees. Then they returned to Samaria” (2 Chronicles 28:15).
 
In this simple narrative, Jesus found the basis for one of the most profound of his parables, the lessons of which are far-reaching and apply in every age. But the greatest reliance of Christ’s parables on the Old Testament is found not in their use of Old Testament story plots, but in their use of imagery applied to God.  Old Testament parables show God as a king, a father, a husband, and in other key ways.   Of the somewhat more than forty parables of Jesus recorded in the New Testament, at least twenty metaphorically refer to him by means of the same imagery used of God in Old Testament parables and stories.  This self-portrayal with imagery used of God is unique to the parables of Jesus and ties directly to his teachings of his own messianic role. 
 
So the parables of the Old Testament are important not only in their own right, in the stories in which they are found, but also in forming the basis for some of Jesus’ own parables, as well as providing images for his parables that Jewish hearers would associate with God when they understood the parables’ nimshal key or intent.  But although there are numerous well-crafted parables in the Old Testament, there is no doubt that Jesus perfected the art of parable-telling and brought to the form a subtlety and spiritual depth that had not been seen before.
 
R. Herbert (a pen name), Ph.D., was trained in biblical studies and Ancient Near Eastern languages and archaeology. He writes for a number of Christian venues as well as for his websites at LivingWithFaith.org and TacticalChristianity.org where you can also find his free e-books.  
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Hanukkah. Is it OK for believers in Yeshua to keep it?

Hanukkah is here, beginning at sundown Dec 2nd, 2018.

What is Hanukkah? 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”.

John 10:22-23
“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 Maccabees. 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 instead of 7 total lights?  

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 observe it and partake in it -- or to even thank YHVH for His providence as our Jewish neighbors observe this happy time in their otherwise often difficult history.

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Is the Church Our Spiritual Mother? 

Gal 4:26 (NKJV throughout unless noted)  “but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.”

Galatians 4:26 appears to define our spiritual mother as “the Jerusalem above.”  Almost all the various translations have translated verse 26 the same as the New King James.

What does this mean?  How can the “Jerusalem above” – which is a spiritual city in heaven - be a “mother?”

Let’s look further …

Revelation 12:1-2, 4-6, 13-17   “Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.   2 Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. ...   4 … And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.  5 She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.

6 Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days...

13 Now when the dragon saw that he had been cast to the earth, he persecuted the woman who gave birth to the male Child.  14 But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.  

15 So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood. 16 But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

Who is this “woman” who is clothed with the sun?  Rev. 12:1 reveals that she has a “garland of twelve stars.”  This is a symbolic indication that she is associated with Israel.

In Revelation 12:2, 4-5 this woman gives birth to Jesus Christ. 

We know that the lineage of Christ was through Jacob (Israel).  This is a key point to remember. Obviously, a woman who gives birth is a mother.

After verse 5, Revelation 12 then becomes a prophecy.  Verse 6 describes this woman fleeing into the wilderness to a place prepared by God and fed for 1,260 days.  Verses 13 and 14 refer to the same woman as in verse 6.

We know that 1,260 days and time, times, and ½ time is a reference to the 5th seal or the time of tribulation – which takes place at the time of the end.  Who is the protected woman that flees into the wilderness?

Revelation 3:6-7, 10, 12   "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

7 "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,

10 "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

12 "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. …

Revelation 3:7-12 is speaking to the angel of the church in Philadelphia, which is a parallel to the woman protected and fed for 1,260 days in the wilderness. 

Revelation 3:14-19 is a message to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans, which is a parallel to Rev. 12:17, which speaks of Satan going after the rest of the offspring of the woman in the wilderness.  The “rest of the offspring” are identified as those who keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. This is an indication that God will rebuke and chasten some in His church by not keeping them from the hour of trial that we know is the coming tribulation – those Satan will make war against.

Putting it all together, it is a “woman” that gave birth to a male Child that was caught up to God and His throne (Jesus Christ).  That woman has a garland of 12 stars.

Any woman that gives birth is a mother. The woman that is taken into the wilderness to be nourished and protected by God for 1,260 days is the same woman that gave birth to Jesus Christ.

Revelation 3:6-12 identifies the church in Philadelphia is the one that will be kept from the trial that shall come upon the whole world – in which the overcomers shall have the name of New Jerusalem written on them - which connects to Galatians 4:26 which says “but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.”

Revelation 21:9-10  “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, "Come, I will show you the Bride, the Lamb's wife."  10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,…”

Revelation 14:1, 3  “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion (in the 3rd heaven), and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads. ... (See Rev. 3:12)  v3 They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth”.

Those in Rev. 14:1 and Rev. 3:12 both have the name of God written on them.  

The Church (the body of believers led by God’s spirit who keep God’s word to persevere and who overcome) -- has the name of New Jerusalem written on them and is depicted as the holy Jerusalem (Rev.3:12; 21:9-10; Gal.4:26) descending out of heaven.  The woman that gives birth [a mother] in Revelation 12 is nourished and kept from the hour of trial per Revelation 3:10 (Philadelphia era of church).

Putting all the scriptures together gives us our answer!  

The spiritual church = spiritual Israel of God (Gal. 6:16) = the Lamb’s wife = New Jerusalem = our spiritual “mother!”

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Thankfulness, Even Through Tears

Is it possible to have a thankful heart, or have thanksgiving flow from our lips even as tears flow from our eyes? There’s an anonymous saying; “the deeper sorrow carves into one's soul, the greater amount of joy it can hold”. How do we find this joy? Let's look at the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday as a start….

Many may not realize that the proclamation of our national day of Thanksgiving was instituted during our nation’s greatest time of strife and pain. If we rewind to this time, we’ll find ourselves smack-dab in the middle of our U.S. civil war, 1863, just after the battle at Gettysburg where over 51,000 brothers, cousins, and fathers died. Nearly as many Americans died in this one battle as in the entire Vietnam conflict, helping to make the civil war our bloodiest and highest death war in U.S. history at about 625,000 American family members, yes many relatives fought against each other from the North vs South.

This was the setting in which our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln, proclaimed: “the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”. Mr. Lincoln fully understood as he also stated “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.”

Perhaps the following two scripture passages can help us understand or at least find the strength to make our way through our troubles…
 
Rom 5:3-5 But not only that, let us also boast in our troubles; because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope; and this hope does not let us down, because God’s love for us has already been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us. (CJBNot buying in yet? Listen to how James explains from the Living Bible translation:

James 1:2-4 Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.

None of us have this strength on our own, but why would we want to bare the full struggle when we have a helper: HOLD TIGHT to our Savior'shand, He does have the strength that we lack. I can’t emphasize this enough. I personally am not still alive today because of my own strength, but because I held tight to my savior Yeshua’s hand in my most painful time, as He held tight to mine!

President Abraham closed his proclamation by asking his fellow Americans pray “with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

I offer up Thanks to our God as you gracefully stated, and to You also Mr. President.
 
Robert Bates
(all quotations taken from proclamation dated October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln)
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Will it be a true day of Thanksgiving in your home?

This November 22nd, Americans will be remembering Thanksgiving Day. For most, it’s a time for family to get together and share some traditional turkey dinner and have games and fun.  Others are getting away from that traditional meaning.  Some have nothing to do with it, as they have ascribed the cornucopia symbol and autumn festivals with ancient paganism.  So if that’s what they believe, then I respect their opinion not to participate in it.  But I believe the history behind the American annual Thanksgiving Day was rooted in fact, in a deep, deep appreciation for God helping the early Americans get through a very rough year.

Whatever the facts about “thanksgiving days” are, I do know this: it’s always a good thing to be thankful. And it’s always a good TIME to be thankful. Especially to our God and our Savior.

I saw a Facebook post that asked something like this:   “what if you lost tomorrow, everything you didn’t express gratitude for in the last 3 days… what would disappear?” I pondered that seriously. Most days I do go for a stroll outside our home and whisper a sincere thank you to my God for my wife, my children, our home, the yard and plants and trees and flowers and butterflies. But my job is tough. I can go weeks without earning a dime, and weeks of good income – but have I thanked God that I can still earn a living, even as tough as it is?

What if everything for which we hadn’t declared recent thankful appreciation for -- just disappeared, what would be left? If you’re honest with yourself, you’d have to probably say an awful lot would disappear. Maybe even your children, wife, dad, mom, home, food, cars, health or even poor health if you’re alive, an income, a bed to sleep in, your pets, beautiful sunsets and marvelous clouds and rainbows – what would be left?

We certainly eat enough. My girth proves that. Have I thanked Him enough times beyond the perfunctory blessing over the meal – which indeed we still do before we eat. We help some orphan children in Kenya and after the Feast of Tabernacles, where some of us had helped pay for a wonderful meal, one of the orphans (Dennis) said this to me via email: “It was so special. There was plenty of meat. My favorite was chicken. I love chicken. And there was beef, and rice, and vegetables, so much to eat. All of us were so happy afterwards.” And here, we take it for granted. In much of the world – so many feel hunger most of the time.

So I remind you all: it’s not one of God’s holydays, but it’s a good day. Take time to truly be thankful, to express gratitude especially on that day in front of all who are there in your home. LEAD in this. In our home, we usually begin the Thanksgiving meal by asking each one to say something they are thankful for. Some are short. Some are funny. Some are very serious. But they’re all sincere and it puts the proper tone on the day.

God says to give thanks IN all things, and FOR all things (Philippians 4:6-7; Ephesians 5:20) and his peace comes upon us. That’s tough. Sometimes when we’re really hurting in our hearts or bodies, it’s really, really tough. But I find it reminds me that God is present in everything I do and go through. He is in every cell of my body by His spirit if you and I are filled by his holy spirit. He knows my joys – and my deep sorrows. He feels my aches and pains. He knows my joyful heart and my broken heart, which at times feels like it’s shattered into millions of little pieces. And so I can give thanks for -- and in-- the joyful heart and in the shattered heart.

Thanksgiving Day in our home is NOT a day of non-stop football on TV. We may play a little catch with the grandchildren in the backyard while waiting for dinner, but it’s about being with loved ones and remembering the true enduring values. That means our Father and Savior, that means my wife, that means our grandchildren, that means our guests and friends with us.

Nor do I demean the day by calling it “Turkey day”. No, it’s THANKSGIVING day, pe-leez.

Nor do I allow myself or our family to lose sight of the real meaning of the day by spending all day at sales going on. I’m really disappointed that so many big stores have taken to this. It demeans, minimizes and destroys this day in my opinion.  KEEP this day a fun day, a day of thanksgiving, a day for God and family.

So this Thanksgiving Day – do give thanks. And remember the people and blessings you have been given. So much to be thankful for.

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“For it was of the LORD.” When things take a surprising turn in our lives.

Sometimes it sure seems like God is simply not doing anything, or doing enough (in our view), or anything powerful soon enough -- to make things right in our country, in our lives or in the church. Sometimes we’re tempted to shout out in despair, “Where ARE you, God, where are you when I need you?”

In this article I want to show that so often when we think God is doing nothing, he actually is doing a LOT behind the scenes, setting things up in a way for some incredible outcomes that we’ll see later.

Look at this example from the book of Joshua. God had decided that it was time to punish the Canaanites for their evils and to purge them from the land. He didn’t want them trying to negotiate with Joshua as the Gibeonites had done. Notice the wording: 

Joshua 11:18-20   Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. 19 There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon. All the others they took in battle. 20 For it was of YHVH to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might utterly destroy them, and that they might receive no mercy, but that He might destroy them, as YHVH had commanded Moses.

Sometimes we worry about all the “what if” questions – instead of praying that our God intervene and do what is best in his sight and to give us much more faith to trust him no matter what – no matter how bad, how painful or how difficult things might look for us.

Here’s another example. Samson had a problem with women.

Judges 14:1-5   “Now Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, "I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife."

3 Then his father and mother said to him, "Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?"

And Samson said to his father, "Get her for me, for she pleases me well."

4 But his father and mother did not know that it was of YHVH — that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

5 So Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came to the vineyards of Timnah.”

On the surface, it looked terrible for Samson for the judge for that part of Israel at that time to be trying to marry a pagan Philistine woman. And don't ask me to explain beyond what we’re told here: IT WAS OF GOD. God put that into Samson’s mind to desire this pagan woman to start the ball rolling against the Philistines. What was going to transpire was well beyond their marriage. Please read the rest of the chapter.

Now couldn’t God have just ended the heart beats of a few thousand Philistines? Couldn’t He have worked through some other means? Yes – but this is what He chose, for all his own good reasons.

But my point is: something incomprehensible that was going on – was of God. It was HIS doing.

Here’s another one. Solomon had died, and now his young son Rehoboam was being unkind to lesser leaders in the nation of Israel. Again we read in the verse 15 below that Rehoboam’s actions and words were “from GOD”, to – once again – start the ball rolling into the division in Israel eventually forming the kingdom of Judah and the separate 10-tribe kingdom of Israel to the north.

2 Chronicles 10:13-15   Then the king (Rehoboam) answered them roughly. King Rehoboam rejected the advice of the elders, 14 and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, "My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!" 15 So the king did not listen to the people; for the turn of events was from God, that the LORD (YHVH) might fulfill His word, which He had spoken by the hand of Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.”

Here’s another example: You can read the entire book of Esther, and you’ll find that the word “God” or “the LORD” (Yehovah) is nowhere to be found. But don’t deduce from that that our God was not very active. He obviously was very active in the sequence of events to protect the lives of his people of Judah.

This final example I’ll use – and there are SO many we could use – is about a heavenly conference God had with his angels. It’s centered during the time of King Ahab of the kingdom of Israel and King Jehoshaphat, who was king of Judah. Ahab wanted to join forces with Israel’s army to go against a common foe – but the prophet Micaiah was not “cooperating” with what Ahab wanted to do. Here’s what we’re told:

1 Kings 22:18-23 And the king of Israel [Ahab] said to Jehoshaphat, "Did I not tell you he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?"

19 Then Micaiah said, "Therefore hear the word of YHVH: I saw YHVH sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left. 20 And YHVH said, 'Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?' So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. 21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before YHVH, and said, 'I will persuade him.' 22 YHVH said to him, 'In what way?' So he said, 'I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And YHVH said, 'You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.' 23 Therefore look! YHVH has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and YHVH has declared disaster against you."

So when things don't seem to add up, don’t seem to make sense, perhaps – just maybe – there’s much more going on than meets the eye. Maybe some things are “of God” to set up a chain-reaction of events that end up fulfilling his will. 

We’ve been called to live by faith in Him (Romans 1:16-17), and this is especially true when our Father and Savior SEEM to be doing nothing, or moving too slowly for our preferences.

We just might see another example of “for it was of the Lord…” when we look back. This can be happening in our lives, or in our church, or in our nation or in world events between nations. When things just don’t add up, we think - - trust. Commit your frustration or worries to him and wait and see what He has in mind. Just trust him. Have peace in him.

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Where is the POWER of GOD among His People?

Philip’s comments. I’m trying to get more writers to our blogs, and this is from a sister lady in the SE USA. I hope her note makes us all think, as it did for me. WHY are there so many sick in the Body of Christ? Why are so many who are anointed for healing and who have many praying for them – not being healed? Why don’t we see more great miracles like the early church had? She addresses some of these questions. Enjoy. I will add this: Sometimes healings in the church are not happening as they should because of the way we mistreat one another, the body of Christ (1 Cor. 11:29-32). Surely we will have more confidence when we pray when we’ve been living a life of more obedience to love one another and to believe in His Son (1 John 3:21-23).

Here’s my friend’s blog:                                     

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Revelation 3:14 KJV -- And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue (vomit) thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye salve, that thou mayest see.

19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

 These are the words of our Lord as He spoke to John. What does that have to do with us who love and are in awe of our powerful and loving God? We not only love our God and His Beloved Son; we pray to them daily and go to church weekly, then why do many of our prayers seem to go unanswered?

That is the question of a recent conversation I had with a Pastor. He brought up the promises of Yahshua as He spoke to His disciples.

John 14:12 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and GREATER works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”

Matthew 21:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, “Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.”

Luke 10:17 And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, “Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.”

Since Yahshua does not lie, nor does the Father lie and we have been promised we would do greater things than Yahshua even did -- the fault must lie with us.

How can that statement be true? As stated we go to church, we pray daily, we believe completely in a loving and merciful God and His Beloved Son. The scriptures quoted also say you must believe in Yahshua and you must have faith and all of these good and faithful Christians will answer definitively “I do believe and I do have faith”.

Okay, then why haven’t you been able to “raise the dead”, why haven’t “your anointing’s healed the sick” “why haven’t the prayers for peace been answered, why are we not able to comfort the brokenhearted and troubled?”

The questions can go on and on and we seem to find no answer. Could it be the answers are plainly there in scripture, if we search and also could it be the answers lie within our own selves? We have been told to examine ourselves.

1 Cor. 11:28 “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.”

2 Cor. 13:5Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”

Unfortunately, those of us who follow the Holy Days act like we are to examine or prove ourselves only at Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That would make a lot of sense if we only were to sin at that time of year. Examining ourselves is an everyday process, just as our baptism was only the first step in the long process towards being perfected. Maybe we can learn from what it says our Savior went through.

Hebrews 2:9 “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

10 For it became him, (Yah) for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

Hebrews 5:8 “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him”

Luke 13:32 And he said unto them, “Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.”

Again, what does this have to do with Yah not answering our prayers? Israel became Yah’s example to the heathen and pagan world; if they obeyed the laws, statutes, commandments, etc. that were given to them, they would enjoy the blessings of Yah and been His perfect example of a godly nation. In a perfect world, Israel would have been obedient; the true and perfect example. It would be easy to imagine the rest of the world being witness to what was being given to the Israelites and the realization coming upon them, (the heathens, and the pagans) where those blessings originated. We all know what happened, Israel turned to pagan gods and sinful living, not needing God. Yah gave them warning after warning; afflictions after afflictions and yet there was no true and lasting response or repentance.

Could it be that is what is happening today?

Isaiah 29:13  KJV Wherefore YHVH said, “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept (command) of men…”

Ezekiel 33:31 KJV “And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. (gain, profit)”

 Matthew 15:8 “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”

I can only answer for myself, I pray each day, though most of my prayers are short. There have been times, when the phone rang in the midst of a prayer and my curiosity got the best of me. Seeing the phone call was from one of my sons or my grandchildren, Yah was put on hold. After all, He can wait, He knows what I am doing and my poor child or grandchild doesn’t know if I am home or having a health issue. How about you?

Matthew 10:37 “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

No further explanation is needed, I talk a good game, but my actions prove otherwise.

 Yah has told we are not to add to or take from His word.

Deuteronomy 4:2 “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of YHVH your God which I command you.”   Again, see Deut 12:32.

His laws have been done away with or changed by man, along with other changes, additions or deletions and accepted by Judaism and main line Christian Churches as being the truth.

 We are told by Yahshua that we are to live by every word that comes out of the mouth of the Father. (Matthew 4:4)

If we are to believe Yahshua, we are to live by Yah’s word, be obedient to His laws and give continued praise and worship to our loving Father, our powerful God , our Creator.

Yet, we in our wisdom choose to believe and honor the words of tradition, man’s tradition; the changing of the Sabbath from the 7th day to the 1st day of the week; the doing away with the laws and being in total rebellion, disobedience. If our own children did what we do, we would be furious and choose to punish them.

I can cite two examples that I have personally heard from “two different believers”. A very good friend of mine had told me that he understood Christmas was based on a pagan holiday, yet he chose to celebrate it. A woman, very well versed in scripture, attending church weekly told me; yes, she personally believes that the Sabbath, the 7th day of the week, was never changed by Yah to the first day of the week; however, she had no intention of changing her weekly routine.

What did I do? I truly don’t remember, yet I could not have said or done anything of consequence. In scripture, I am told to be BOLD.

Phil. 1:14 “And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

1 Thess. 2:2 But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.

3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:

4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.

Those of us who believe we have been called and yet we choose not to speak God’s truth to those around us with boldness -- are being rebellious, unloving, and without the faith and trust we convince ourselves that we have.

Are we different from the Israelites? They worshipped other gods, behaved as the heathen, yet went to temple and prayed to Yah. Faith, belief and trust are not in words but in deeds, in action.

When I stand by and refuse to acknowledge My Lord, speak not His words, then I am definitely not doing what is expected of me.

How can I be so presumptuous as to believe my God, who gave me the breath of life, yet, I can do and choose to do whatever I want or believe I need.

This study is so different than when I first started. I find it is filled with anger. An anger that is justified, an anger that Yah, Himself is experiencing. We, His children, His creation have decided we know more than He does and we can pick and choose which of His laws we should obey.

Yah’s words are there for all to see and read, yet we choose to listen to another who has the certificate and blessings from a theological college. He has book knowledge, he can quote scripture verbatim, therefore, he has total knowledge and understanding. Is that what Yah says, since He told us He gives to the base and confounds the wise?

1 Corinthians 1:27 “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;”

The anger, also belongs to me, since I am angry with myself that I show myself as being ashamed of my Lord, not willing to speak up more boldly in both my life’s actions and my words.

Philippians 1:20 “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.”

I am ashamed of my Lord when I don’t stand up for God’s words. I need to not only live by His words and by being an example, but, also learn to be better able to use His words to let others see they are not truly following Him when they twist His words according to their own desires and to suit their own purpose.

Matt. 10:32 “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.

33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

When we are obedient to the traditions of man, we reject and turn our backs on our Lord. We tell Him that we don’t see any importance or significance of His sacrifice for us. That makes his humiliation, scourging, the crucifying only symbolic; a token of no consequences. We rather follow man’s traditions and be comfortable in our lives by not looking foolish in the eyes of our families, friends and neighbors. We convince ourselves, we justify; after all we go to church, we don’t commit the “real bad” sins, such as stealing and murder, therefore, Yah will forgive and forget.

Or so we think.

So why are we not experiencing the raising of the dead, the healing of the sick, comfort, peace, joy? Why?

     Because our actions, are the proof of our belief. And our lack of action is the proof of our unbelief.

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WHY Fast on Atonement?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Who is the greatest servant in your home?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How are we treating Yeshua, the Son of God?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acts 9:3-5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Does God Create Evil?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What “apocalypse” really means  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BORDERS – Did YHVH (GOD) create borders?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Did God create boundaries and borders?  How about these:

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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THE VERSE WE ALL KNOW, YET DON’T

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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