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.
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.
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:
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. 13:5 “Examine 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
“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.
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.
(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!”.
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.
“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).
For 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.
“Imitation is not just the sincerest form of flattery - it's the sincerest form of learning.”
― George Bernard Shaw
The word “imitation” often has a negative connotation – we can think of imitation designer clothes that don’t look as good as the real items, imitation coffee or milk that doesn’t taste as good as the real thing, and many other examples. Usually, the imitation is just not as good as the thing imitated – the real thing.
But there is one type of imitation that is perfectly acceptable - in fact desirable: when God himself is involved in the process of imitation. The first chapter of Genesis clearly tells us that God made an imitation when he made the first human. “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them…” (Genesis 1:26-27). And, of course, when God had done this, God looked at the imitation he had made and “God saw… it was very good” (vs. 31).
Naturally, the imitation God made of himself was not endowed with the power, wisdom, goodness and countless other qualities that God has, but it had a small measure of these qualities – just enough to show the family likeness – and it was good, but it wasn’t as like the original as might be possible.
In most cases, if you have an imitation of something, that’s what you are stuck with. It’s always going to be a kind of second-class item. But the interesting thing about the imitation that God made is that it was upgradable. God made the imitation of himself with the ability for countless ongoing upgrades – with the potential to make the imitation ever more like the original. In one sense, that’s what life is – or should be – all about: taking the opportunity to fulfill that potential.
So this kind of imitation is not wrong – or in any way second class. It’s something we should all be doing in our lives – seeking to be a better imitation of God. You may not have thought about it this way, but that was what Jesus himself was doing, on a daily basis, during His physical life. Notice what he said in this regard: “… the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). Jesus plainly says that even though he was the Son of God, his focus was on imitating God. He knew the Father and constantly imitated him in his actions and thoughts.
How do we do this? Although we do not have the unique knowledge of God that Jesus had, fortunately, God has made available clear templates and instructions for us to follow to continuously “upgrade” ourselves to become increasingly better imitations.
First, we can imitate the original by getting to know God better through in-depth study of his word, not just in looking to see what it says, but looking to see what it says about him. It’s a different approach when we don’t just read the story, but read the story like we would read the instructions for updating the software on our computers – carefully, and focusing on what the words are showing us that we should do to successfully make the upgrade.
Second, we can imitate good copies. God has given us the examples of his trained and trusted servants who closely imitate him. This is why the apostle Paul repeatedly stresses that we need to look at his example and that of others to the extent that they imitate Christ. Look at these instances of what Paul says about this:
“Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus …” (1 Corinthians 4:16).
“We did this… in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate” (2 Thessalonians 3:9).
These words of Paul dovetail with those found in the Book of Hebrews:
“… imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised” (Hebrews 6:12).
“Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).
Third, we can pray specifically for help in becoming a better imitation. Notice in Philippians Paul tells us something about imitating. He says we should “… have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), and after discussing this he then goes on to say “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (vs. 12). If we are praying for God’s will in our lives, we should be getting his help to better imitate him and those he has changed – and we can pray for this specifically.
We need to remember that humans are actually programmed to imitate. That’s how we learn language, social skills, and countless other things. It’s in our natures to imitate, and God put that there for a reason. As a result, we must be careful, as John says, that we “do not imitate what is evil, but what is good” (3 John 1:11a). If we are diligently studying, watching and praying to better imitate the model we have been given, God will continue his work in us and our spiritual imitation of his nature will truly be “very good.”
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.
In this recent Christmas season, there was a lot of talk of “baby Jesus”. Some even use that as an expression. Many speak of “sweet Jesus”. Certainly, he was a baby. Certainly, he is kind.
Some of the most often cited scriptures in the entire Bible are His words about being our Shepherd, a good one at that. And that His Father so loved all of us that he sent his one and only son – Yeshua – to die for us so that any who believe in him would be saved, and not perish. You know many more verses about him being the Way, the truth and the life. He was the perfect son of God. He is our Lord. He’s great, he’s love, he’s terrific, he’s kind and he’s forgiving. All that is absolutely true.
But how often does your pastor ever preach these other verses that are also words spoken by the son of God? Paul and Peter and others certainly did. Paul spoke of the “severity of God”, as well as his goodness. God is love. But God is also just. Sometimes his justice frankly can be severe, especially at people who don’t believe or won’t obey. And faith/belief and obedience go hand in hand, frankly.
Paul didn’t mince his words. In talking to the Romans – and you can go back and get the entire context about the Olive tree analogy – look what Apostle Paul says:
For if God did not spare the natural branches [the Jews], He may not spare you either. 22 Therefore consider the goodness AND severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, IF you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.”
Ministers love the gentle verses about forgiveness, patience, grace, and God’s patience and so on. And so do I. I love to preach of God’s grace and his imputed righteousness we receive by faith, as so many scriptures teach. But I also want to be sure to give you, what Paul calls “the WHOLE counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). So this blog – which could develop into an even more exhaustive sermon on the topic – will do just that: talk about other words of Yeshua that are just as true and pertinent as the ones which are often quoted.
Again, how often do you ever hear these scriptures used in church or on the radio? Brace yourself. You may be surprised these words came from Yeshua. But remember: he is a loving king and Savior to those who seek Him and submit to him as Lord of lords, king of kings. But to those who carelessly believe they don’t need to change, don’t need to overcome, don't need to be prepared and ready for his coming, and don’t need to seek him with all their might – they WILL be in for a big surprise. So here we go; remember these are Yeshua’s OWN words! Check them out!
Luke 12:45-48 -- “But if that servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47 And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
Have I made my point? “Jesus said that?” I can hear people thinking that already. Yes he did. Yeshua spoke of beating ineffective servants with stripes? Yes. Click on “continue reading” to read a few more tough sayings of our King. This should help you understand that our king is not just a “baby Jesus” or always a “sweet Jesus”. If we don’t obey him or prepare for him, his coming will be a very, very sharp wake-up call for many – including many who call themselves his followers, as you shall see.
If you had the opportunity right now to be in front of your Saviour, and you were promised a definite and audible answer directly from him for any three questions you have, what would they be? What would be the most pressing questions on your mind?
Pause reading this for a minute and just ask yourself that question, and what do you instantly come up with? Write down your instant answers before continuing.
I don’t know that there is a “right” or “wrong” answer to this. You’ll find there are questions that just immediately pop up. But the more you let this marinate in your mind, you’ll find other questions, deeper questions, start to surface.
Many would express the perennial questions like “Why did you have to create – mosquitoes?” (Or other annoyances – fire ants, poisonous snakes, any biting insects, etc).
But then far more serious questions you’d like to ask would also bubble up – like “Why did you let my little baby die?” and variations on that theme:
** “Why didn’t you heal so-and-so when so many were praying for healing?”
** “Why don’t you intervene more in wars that hurt and kill so many innocent people?”
** “Why do you let horrible and evil dictators and drug lords continue in their deadly ways?”
Click on “continue reading” to examine other concepts you’ll want to be considering as you ponder this topic today. It’s an important question – “What would you ask Yeshua (Jesus) if you had that opportunity to see him and receive his clear and audible answers today?”
We read the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 and perhaps wonder why would someone just bury his talent? But then I believe many believers are doing the same thing: burying their talent.
A “talent” in the Parable of Matthew 25 was actually a sum of money or possibly a weight, as in “a talent of gold” or “a talent of silver”. It does not mean what our English word “talent” means. A talent of either gold or silver would be worth millions today. We can assume the ruler or master who bestowed these “talents” for growth and development was a powerful and wealthy man – picturing Yeshua, the coming King of kings, actually.
In any case, our Master bestowed money – or talents – to various ones. Since our God is the King of the Universe, and owns all things ultimately, everything you and I have been given, or have access to, is ultimately something that came from our Creator. Besides money and abilities (as in the English word “talent”), our very lives, our families, our home, our opportunities, our abilities, and of course receiving the very spirit of God – and much more – are all “talents” we’ve been given.
Luke 16:10 says “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” There are many scriptures that say we all will have to stand and give account of what we did with what we’ve been given. We’ve each been given a lot. Each of us will also have to account for a lot then as well.
Frankly at times I fear for times in my life when I wasn’t protecting, developing, investing and growing the opportunities and stewardship I had been given. I hope through Christ in me, I hope I’m doing better now. But that got me thinking: are we like the one servant who just buried his talent?
There comes a day of reckoning when we each must stand before our Maker and explain what we did with what he gave us. See Romans 14:10-12 and Hebrews 4:13.
So each of the servants in Matthew 25 gave account. Those who doubled what they were given were commended and invited to enter the joy of Lord and were given more responsibilities. But then he came to the final servant who claimed he was afraid to use – and maybe lose – the sum of money he had been given, so he buried it “for safe keeping”. That man’s talent was given to someone else, because Yeshua makes it clear that those who use and grow what they’ve been given, will be given more. And those who do not will have what they had been given, taken away.
How’s it looking for you? Are YOU and I burying the talents, opportunities, gifts of God’s spirit and all the things we have been given? Or are we putting them to work and growing our opportunities?
Click on “Continue reading” to find out if you’re burying your talents or not. I dare say most of us are doing a mix: profitably using and growing some of what we’ve been given, and disregarding the rest.
I first posted this blog in December 2012 but felt it warranted being posted again.
Hanukkah is here. What is it? Why are more and more Christians, even Sabbath keepers, recognizing and keeping Hanukkah? Some feel it is merely a Jewish counterbalance to Christmas. Others believe it is a Jewish festivity not mentioned in Scripture. What’s true? Should you and I – believers in Yeshua - -keep Hanukkah? What did Jesus do about Hanukkah? Yes, we’re actually told in Scripture!
Read the rest of this blog to learn what Hanukkah is about, what Yeshua did during Hanukkah, whether or not believers can participate in some way and what lessons we can learn from this holiday.
I was listening to some young people talking the other day and someone was describing a great and fun and wonderful time they had had at such-and-such a place. “Aw man, it was wicked. It was so much fun.”
I don’t think the young man speaking meant “It was evil” – but that it was great, it was fun in his eyes. Later on, I heard someone else say, “Ohh…you’re bad! But that’s what I like about you”. He didn’t mean the guy was really bad, as in evil, but that he was good.
In Isaiah 5:20 the Everliving One warns us: “WOE to those who call evil good, and good evil…”
So please don’t think of these as harmless expressions. Our Creator specifically tells us to have no part in using expressions or language that perverts a word’s meaning!
It’s happening so clearly in our society today. It’s literally happening. What is truly righteous is being called evil hate speech or something equivalent. And what is truly pure evil is being called good.
Click on “Continue reading” for more language twists we’re hearing today that we should be fully aware of – and not letting them in any way become a part of us.
We call it a “smart phone” but in many ways, if we don’t control the use of it and who can have one– it can be one of the dumbest things we’re involved with. I mean this blog to be an alert and I might even develop this into a full sermon on this site. Should children and teens have “smart phones”?
Sure, it’s great having a little phone that is so great that most people have now cancelled their land line phones. These “Smart phone” we each have is:
*** Also is a portable powerful computer with computing power that used to take a room full of big machinery and spinning reels. Good news: it allows us quick access to so many things. Bad news: it allows quick access to so many things – even for your children and teens when they use their smart phone.
***Sure it’s great that these phones that even children now have are also high quality cameras and movie cameras.
***It’s a flashlight. It’s a compass. It can show us details of someone’s street anywhere in the world. It’s capable of games and videos. We can learn how to play chess better (as I learned when my grandson beat me for the first – and then a second time. HE’S been practicing.) We can look at the night sky and find and identify planets, stars and constellations. We can learn to cook, learn to paint, learn to – just about anything. We can view just about anything as well. We can access any song ever written and hear it blare out or blare into our ear pieces, and some play it so loudly into their ears that we now know many will go prematurely deaf or suffer tinnitus later.
***And we can communicate as never before – and send e-mails with it. And of course now we also get a lot of JUNK email, just like the old fashioned post office junk mail. We can text people around the world with it. We can go on Facebook and see what our family and friends are up to and enjoy their latest photos. We can instantly export pictures of anything and anyone we want all over the world in a split second. Stock trading and investment planning is easy with a smart phone. You can learn new languages more easily with it. You all know I could go on for pages on what the Smart phone has done for us. Young people today wonder how we ever survived without it! Wow, you had to put money into a “pay phone” to call someone?
So there’s a lot to like about smart phones, so don’t get me wrong.
But it also can ruin your present and future life.
So WHY would I call this piece of absolute marvel – a DUMB and even dangerous phone?
Please click on “Continue reading” to see the answer and I hope it will make us all think about the dangerous consequences of the smart phone too, if we don’t curtail how we use it. I’m talking about dangers so great it can affect our future, our reward in the kingdom and much more.
OK, so how can the smart phone be such a dumb phone?
It’s ironic. It allows us to interact with far more people, instantly, than ever before, and yet so many are feeling more alone than ever before. Why? I’m concerned with the younger generation (anyone younger than I am).
Do we know how to converse – in voice – anymore, speaking to and listening to one another, in front of each other, with facial expressions and vocal tones?
I was watching a group of school teens walking home – and I could find NO ONE talking to anyone beside them. NO ONE. They all were transfixed with their cell phone messages, Facebook, Instagram pictures, emails and what not – and nobody was talking.
We’re losing the ability to just TALK and just LISTEN to one another. I’ve had many grandparents complain that their grandkids never CALL anymore. They text – and in short 2-5 word clips. They don’t seem to understand the need for their grandparents and older people – to just let them hear their voices.
It’s a DUMB phone when not controlled because it’s depersonalizing us.
Young people are forgetting the beauty of – QUIET. Can someone (again, especially the young) just go for a walk in silence anymore – without their cell phone, or weed their garden in silence and just meditate, just let the moment envelope them?
Smart phones are being used to bully teens and children – en masse – in large groups, instantly. Photos are added. Information is given. Within seconds the vilest things said and depicted can be sent to thousands – about your child or about you. Some recent stories on the news reveal some bullied children even ended their lives – because, ultimately, of smart phones being used for very evil purposes.
Within seconds, children with these kinds of phones can access the most detailed and graphic pornography – going way beyond mere nudity, to actual sex acts, including hetero and homosexual sex acts, and even bestiality and worse. On Laura Ingraham’s TV news show, she recently had two psychiatrists who said much of their practice is working now with children as young as 10 and 12, boys and girls, addicted to porn. Some older teens 18 and over – are serving jail time because of what they’ve said and sent to minors, perhaps to a girl friend who was only 14 or 15, just a few years younger. But they were accused and convicted of sending porn to a minor.
So should you be letting your children and teens have these phones? You can still find old “flip phones” that are not “smart phones” if you want them to have the ability to call out in emergencies and what not.
Access to computers also gives children and adults access to many video games, many of which are very explicit sexually and many get you involved in graphic violence. I believe these desensitize those who indulge in them so it means nothing to blow someone’s head off with their high powered e-gear, or to rip someone’s heart out or to rape or do other horrible acts – as these often can be part of the “game”. In fact, the trend is to get into virtual sex as well, so you don’t need a real flesh and blood partner anymore. I don’t understand this last part – but it’s apparently out there or coming soon.
PEOPLE are LOSING INHIBITIONS and right to privacy – as apps request your permission to access your phone’s pictures and photos, data, contacts and who know what else – and BILLIONS of people around the world, yes billions, are giving up all of that to the unknown robots that now can peer into your very personal life. What do they do with that? They share it with marketers around the world. So if you do a Search on a particular city, or search for cruises –you’re soon bombarded with ads about cruise lines and things to do in a certain city. How did they all know so quickly?
The “cookies” and other things they have – often with your permission -- are sold to marketers, so now the whole world knows where you are or where you’re going, or that you’re away from home, or what you like, how old you are, your shopping habits, where you went to school, where you live, what your children look like, and who you’re with, etc., etc.
So personally, I don’t give permission for various apps to have access to my data, photos, contacts and the many things they want from me, so I can use their app. I don’t think that’s worth the risk to me. Have YOU thought that through?
I could go on and on. I just want my readers to give thought to how you use these marvelous tools of technology and don’t forget to be human and to remember what counts most: your relationships. Talk to them – live, by voice. Experience one another – for real. GUARD the doors to your mind and refuse to use the phone for violent and sexual games, pornography and anything ungodly. And watch the TIME you’re putting into these phones.
Life is made up of time and how we use that time. Though these phones can save an enormous amount of time when rightly used, they can also use up your life, your time, and distract you from what you should be focused on right now. I’d like to see a study showing how much time people use daily on their phones – texting, reading emails, doing Facebook and Instagram etc , even while at work. I often don’t even have my cell phone with me – on purpose – so I can really focus on what I’m doing right now. You can be video recording an event so much that you miss the fuller experience of just putting the phone/camera down and relishing the full experience.
And no, I would NOT want my teens and children have a full-fledged smart phone yet. I’d give them a phone, but not one with computer abilities. It’s just too dangerous and can ruin someone’s life for the rest of their lives. That’s not worth it.
So USE your smart phone carefully. And realize marketers and industry want all your data you’ll give them – before they spread it to anyone willing to pay for it. Don’t. Don’t regret later what you give up today.
And don’t let your smart phone become your dumb phone – or allow it to ruin your life or the lives of the young ones in your family.
One of my favorite traditions is the family get-together for Thanksgiving Day.
I know some will tie it to ancient pagan rituals, but the history of this day in the USA at least, is not one tied to pagans. Not at all. It is a day when we remember how thankful the early Pilgrims to America were just to be alive, to have food, to have native America Indians show them how to plant corn and helped them survive in a new land. And they certainly did express and show their deep thankfulness to God in heaven.
And – in that vein – it’s a day when we, as individuals and as a country pause as one, together, and look up to the Almighty and thank him for the wondrous blessings he’s poured out on us and on our country.
I’m afraid much of the country no longer remembers to focus this day on thanking the great God we have above. Some don’t even call it “Thanksgiving Day” anymore. They take away from expressions of thankfulness by calling it “Turkey Day”. Many spend the day in shopping sprees. I do commend the stores that close on this day and let their employees have a day with family.
So my family keeps this day and this tradition. We often start by everyone around the table discussing something, even any little thing, for which they are thankful. Even the three year olds and young children participate. We don’t just start eating when the meal is ready. Absolutely not. We thank our Father and Creator for providing us with food and a good land and for all his many blessings – then we can eat.
I hope you’ll remember Thanksgiving this year is a day of Thanksgiving. Don’t just make it a day of watching football and forgetting its real purpose. Watch all the football you want – but first, praise and thank our dear Abba, YHVH the Great Almighty God we have.
And please – PEL-LEASE –PLEASE; don’t cheapen this beautiful tradition this year by just calling it “Turkey Day”. Please don’t. It’s so much richer and deeper in meaning than that. I think we are taking away from the expression of great gratitude to Almighty God when we call it “Turkey Day”.