Blogs

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

Hallelujah – our Master has RISEN!

(No, I don’t mean Easter!)

Messiah said He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth and then be resurrected  (Matthew 12:40).  In the year He died, his death and resurrection schedule matched perfectly the Passover week this year 2013 – IF you’re keeping the non-changed dates. (The Rabbinic Calendar changed God’s holyday dates this year to two days earlier, as they often do many years.) He was placed in the tomb just before sunset on Wednesday night (Luke 23:54) just before the 1st holyday of the days of Unleavened Bread, a “High day” (John 19:31).  You can read about this in Leviticus 23:4-14.  Thursday was the annual holyday High Day this year, also referred to as a sabbath.  So He had to be resurrected just before sunset as well, three days later. That places His resurrection to Saturday just before sunset. So the tomb would be already empty when the women went there before sunrise Sunday morning.  I apologize for using the pagan names of the week, but I want to be clear to all my readers. As I write this, the sun is going down “Saturday” night and my Master has been resurrected as a spirit Son of God!  I’m pretty excited about that.

Of course if you decided to keep the rabbi-changed dates, you will have missed this glorious realization – that 2013 perfectly matches with the year Messiah died and was resurrected.  Sunday March 31, the first of the weeks, is Wavesheaf Day when Christ ascended to His Father and our father, His God and our God (John 20:17) at the precise instant the High Priest was raising the first of the fine barley flour. Don’t miss Wavesheaf Day. THIS year, the pagan Easter holiday coincides perfectly with Wavesheaf Sunday.

Those of you who have come to this website for many years know we don’t keep the pagan holidays but the God-ordained holy days.  Easter is named after Ishtar, the goddess of sex and fertility ---hence the Easter eggs and bunny rabbits. What do eggs and rabbits have to do with the resurrection of Messiah?  Besides, remember that no human witnessed the actual resurrection of Messiah as it happened, and certainly not at dawn. The tomb was already empty by dawn, or as John 20:1 says, it was empty even “while it was yet dark”.

For more about the correct holyday dates, and how this year matches the year Yeshua died – IF you don’t follow the changed dates of the rabbinic calendar, just continue reading. Click “Read more” ….

The correct unchanged dates, based on the sighting of the moon in Jerusalem on March 13, are two days later than the changed rabbinic calendar dates.  Even the full moon was officially March 27, so clearly having Passover day be March 25 was too early.  The first holyday is March 28, not March 26. One can try to reason til the cows come home how man has the right to change His dates, but unless you show me that in scripture, I’m not buying that dangerous argument. Man has changed his holy days, changed His name, and changed the story of how and when our Messiah was really resurrected.

Yehowah told us to meet in a holy convocation on the 15th day after the sighting of the moon, which starts the new month each month.  The 15th day, a holyday in the first Hebrew month, was March 28 in 2013.  April 3 is the last holyday of Unleavened Bread. Those are the dates HE said to meet on.  NO man, no rabbi and no pastor has any business changing HIS appointment times. These are days He is calling us to assemble and meet with Him.  If you missed the first appointment with YHVH, join the growing number of believers who are deciding to obey and keep the holydays on the days Yehowah stipulated. The NEXT HOLYDAY IS APRIL 3, Wednesday – not April 1.  All holydays begin at sundown the night before. Don’t fear any man.  Fear to disobey God. And then pray your pastor comes to see the truth on this and has the courage to preach the truth.

Sunday March 31 will be Wavesheaf Sunday.  Oh how I hate using the pagan names like SUN-day and month of Mars, the war god of the pagans, but I want to be sure you all understand the right date.  Wavesheaf Day is not a holyday, but we should recognize it.  My wife and I usually have a special prayer together before doing our other work on Wavesheaf Day.

Anyway, I just wanted to make the point that if we don’t move His dates, this year is exciting because it copies the timing of the days the year Christ died.

So Yeshua was put into the tomb just before sunset, so He would be resurrected just before sunset three days later! He was resurrected at sundown Saturday night… hence my title: “Hallelujah , Our Master has RISEN!”  The tomb was already empty by Sunday morning, before sunrise. So He was resurrected many hours BEFORE sunrise.  John 20:1 says they found the tomb empty “while it was still dark”.  Luke says “very early in the morning”. Matthew says the day “had began to dawn”.  In any case, the tomb was empty by sunrise.

The important point is that He was RESURRECTED and LIVES TODAY in each of His brothers and sisters who are led by His Spirit. The important thing is that my life must now be HIS life in me.  You and I carnally should have crucified the self and the life we now live is the life of Christ, by faith in Him and using His faith (Gal. 2:20). Our lives are now “hidden in Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), so Father no longer sees you or me, but His perfect Son. This is the only way – in Christ – that we can come boldly before the throne of grace.

The resurrected Jesus should now be living in you and me.  If He is, we will think and act more and more like Him. If He is not, well – we’re in trouble.  These days are days to remember that after accepting Yeshua as our Savior, we now show that appreciation by fighting sin with everything we’ve got, and mostly we do that by abiding in Yeshua. HE won.  He never sinned. HE wants to win again in you by living HIS life. It’s up to us, however, to LET His mind be in us, to offer ourselves a living sacrifice, to seek Him first and constantly each day.

“Abide in me, and I in you, and you shall bear MUCH fruit”, He promises us in John 15:5. That’s the secret.  When I do that, He in me defeats sin.  When I don’t abide in Him, I’m in trouble. For without Him we can do nothing. Nothing. Our overcoming must be because HE is living in us, and not just our own human efforts.  Even Yeshua said even HE could do nothing of His own power, but He did EVERYTHING by the Father.  If HE says He was spiritually powerless apart from the power of the Father, how can we imagine we can start any day without HIS power.  The rest of John 15:5 says, “…for without Me you can do NOTHING.”  Let’s see what Yeshua said even about his own power if not empowered by the Father.

John 5:19, 30
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. 
30 I can of Myself DO NOTHING. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

John 8:28-29
28 Then Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I DO NOTHING OF MYSELF;  but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. 
29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him."

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John 21:11: Why 153 fish?

Scripture is careful what it takes time and space to say about Yeshua. Why does John mention in John 21:11 that there were exactly 153 fish caught after Christ’s resurrection?  There are some interesting answers but I’ll be the first to admit that Scripture doesn’t say anywhere “here’s what the 153 fish means”.  But scripture DOES give some strong indications of what could be going on here, and we’ll explore that today. The explanation will have significant meaning to you and me – especially as we come to the end of the age.  Don’t miss it.

Yeshua told His disciples if they would follow Him, He would make them fishers of MEN (Mark 1:17).  But after Yeshua was crucified, His disciples lost much of their direction and their heart, and at least for a time went back to their old professions – including fishing, as you can read in John 21:1-4.  Once again, the professional fishermen caught nothing after a whole night of fishing.  When you read what follows, it’s almost funny. Here’s a carpenter telling professional fishermen that the reason they weren’t ANY catching fish all night is that they needed to cast their net on the right side of the boat, not the left side. They do this – and now can’t even lift up their net because its teeming with so many large fish. I suggest you read John 21:1-13 yourself.  Peter swims to shore when he hears it is the Lord calling to them. There they find Yeshua already has a warming fire going, some fish already on the coals and some fresh bread. They count the fish – 153 large fish.  They quietly eat the bread and fish Yeshua has already prepared.  Perhaps even this is reminiscent of the miracle of the loaves and fish in some way.

Remember the context:  Peter had said, “Fellas, I’m going back to what I know best – fishing.”  The others joined in. They weren’t called to catch fish, but to catch men for salvation, to be “fishers of men”.  So what’s going on here?  Why are we told there are 153 fish? I believe Yeshua was using that number to make some very important points.  If you’ve ever wondered about this, then be sure to read the rest of the blog to find out why there were exactly 153 fish mentioned.

What’s the context of the revelation of 153 fish?

The greatest event in the history of the world had just happened!  The Son of God, who lived as a man and then died for all of our sins, had just been resurrected! He had already gone to Father on behalf of all the rest of the harvest.  Now He needed to build His group of called-out ones, the select “ekklesia”.  I avoid the word “church” most of the time because of its connotations. The “church” – ekklesia – is the group of people led by Yehowah’s spirit.  It’s not an organization and certainly not a building. So you in China and Russia and Kenya reading this – and any of the other 45 countries who come to this website – if you have repented, accepted Yeshua as your King and Saviour, and are following the leading of the Holy Spirit (ruach ha’kodesh) – ARE the “church”.  I wish I could meet and with talk to all of you in person.

Now back to the story.  So far Yeshua has 11 remaining apostles and a few other followers including the brave women disciples who stood by Him as He was tortured. That’s all He had. On Pentecost there were 120.  And now the leading apostle – Peter – wants to give it all up and go back to fishing!?  NO way!  He was understandably distraught and depressed, but Peter needed some encouragement.  So the story of the 153 fish happens.  There are several interesting “153’s” in the Bible. Could Yeshua be pointing them back to where their focus ought to be?

-    Yeshua uses FISH as a symbol of all humanity.  The disciples were to become fishers of MEN, not fish. Mark 1:17.  FISH are also used in the parable given in Matthew 13:47-48. Fish “of EVERY KIND” were caught.  Surely Peter and the disciples remembered this. Yeshua, without their full understanding even yet, was preparing them for the fact He loves the whole world, and all peoples from all nations who will call upon His name and repent. After all, God so loved THE WORLD, not just the Jews, that He sent His only begotten Son… (John 3:16).  They have work to do!  Surely Peter must have thought of Matthew 13:47 when this happened.

Matthew 13:47-48
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind,  48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.

-    The number of those who built the first House of God was, are you ready, 153,000. 
Could it be that Yeshua was telling Peter and the disciples that we must once again build the House of God, this time a spiritual house that will include all the Gentiles He is calling. You in Africa, South America, China, Philippines, and across Europe who are learning about Yehowah from this website and other websites, glory be to Father!  He is calling so many of you into His body and I hear of your zeal, your desire to learn, and what an example you are to those of us in America who have God’s word readily available.  Thank you for your inspiring example!  But YOU are part of that house of God I speak of.

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Passover: It’s how we end up that counts.

Praise Yah.  With Passover ALL of our sins are covered and washed in the blood of the Lamb of God.  We are freed from sin – which is what the Israelites being freed from Egypt was really depicting.  We were also bought with a price and now we belong to Christ and Father. We do not “belong” to any man-made organizations but to Yehowah (YHVH) our Maker.

ALL of us have sinned. Some of us have -- at least in the sight of men – greater sin than others, though all sin requires the same ultimate penalty:  death.  Either our death or accepting the life of Messiah to pay for our penalty.   I bring this up because many people like to remember people by their failures. God remembers His children by how much they used His Spirit to overcome even the most despicable of sins.  Do you really think when we meet Rahab of Jericho that we will say, “Oh, you are that whore. You’re Rahab the harlot”??  Really?  Or are we going to count it an honor to have met one of only 5 women mentioned by name or alluded to in the genealogy of the Christ?  Be watching for my message about the women in Messiah’s genealogy – because it has everything to do with Passover and the days of Unleavened Bread.

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WHO really killed Christ? It’s not who you think.

I’ve seen articles and heard sermons over the years with this question. You’ve seen them too, I’m sure.  I’ve spoken on it myself.  I think most of the time, the real answer is missed.  Do YOU know who REALLY killed the Messiah?  Don’t assume I’m going to give any traditional answers, because I will not!

Many say the Jews did.  Certainly they’re right.  They did. Paul and others attest to that (see 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15).  Many say the Romans did. They’re right too – for it was the Roman government that had him nailed to the cross and who thrust the spear into His side.  Still others say – and I’ve said in the past too – that we ALL killed Yeshua of Nazareth.  Peter seems to say this to his sorrowful Pentecost audience (Acts 2:36-37), and later to a group in Acts 3:12-17, see especially verse 15.  How did we ALL kill the Christ?  By our sins. Our sins required His death in our stead. Please look up those verses and read them in your own Bible.

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Don’t MISS all your “HIDDEN Leaven”

The HIDDEN Leaven.  You probably know what at least some of it is and where it is in your life.  Oh, physical leaven – bread, crackers, cookies, cakes – that’s all comparatively easy to find and toss out as we prepare for the days of Unleavened Bread. But then the real deleavening starts. The self-examination of our hearts, and not just our homes.  Remember that our hearts and lives have become the home of God our Father and Yeshua (John 14:23). THAT’S the spiritual home Yehowah wants us to be sure to deleaven.  Remember the physical things we do point to the real spiritual lesson. Don’t get so worn out doing the physical that you have nothing left to deleaven your hearts and homes.

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Passover –Unleavened Bread- Pentecost dates this year 2013

Our household does not believe mankind has the right to change the dates Yehowah has given us as divine appointments to meet with him.  Orthodox Jews, rabbinic Jews, some Hebrew roots folks, most of the sabbath-keeping church of God groups and fellowships unfortunately do follow the “postponement” rules set up by rabbis.  They openly admit they’re changing the dates and call them “postponements”, though most of the time the change is to a day or two earlier than it should be. Some of you “see” this error but are afraid to step up and worship on the right days for fear of alienating your friends.  I pray you make the right decision this year if you know in your heart that what I’ll say here is correct.

Even the orthodox rabbis admit that a new month begins with the first visible sighting of the new moon in Jerusalem or Israel. The law goes forth out of Jerusalem, remember. So that’s not the issue.  If you have an issue with that definition, then that’s an entirely different discussion.  But rabbinic Jews believe that in four situations they somehow have the right to move the holydays to a day earlier or so.

This household, this website, does not agree. I keep God’s holy Sabbath on the 7th day because that’s when Yehowah says to keep it. No convenience rules can make me teach that in some cases we should change it to Sunday, the day of the sun.  In the same way, if Yehowah says He wants to meet with us on a particular day of His calendar – in which every month starts with the first visible sighting of the new crescent light of the moon in Jerusalem – then that’s the day we do it. 
Read the rest of this blog to learn more about the unchanged dates for Passover, Night to be Observant, and the Days of Unleavened Bread in 2013.

The new moon was sighted in Jerusalem on our pagan Roman calendar March 13, making March 14 the first day of YHVH’s calendar since all God’s days begin with sundown the night before.  So March 14 is Day 1 of the month of Aviv (Abib) in Yehowah’s calendar.  So on Yehowah’s calendar, Day 14 is the Passover day.  Day 15 is the first holyday of Unleavened Bread.  Day 21 is the 7th and last holyday of the Days of Unleavened Bread.  See Exodus 12 and Leviticus 23:4-16.

On our Roman calendars then, what I’ll be doing this year is this:

·    We’ll do the footwashing and unleavened bread/drink of the Master’s cup the evening of March 26, Tuesday, as Yeshua clearly did that service the evening before He was crucified and sacrificed as the Lamb of God.  The next day, Passover daytime -- at 3 pm Passover day, at the precise instant the Lamb for the nation was being sacrificed on the Temple mount, Yeshua was pierced with a spear and breathed His last, proclaiming “It is finished”, at the same instant the High Priest on the temple mount was saying the very same words as he slew the lamb “It is finished. The lamb for the nation…”

·    The evening immediately after Yeshua died on the stake/tree or cross – is the Night to be Observant.  For us, that will be the evening of March 27, 2013, Wednesday evening.  It is also a proclamation of our liberty from the penalty of sin as we come under the blood of the Lamb.  (I hope to have time to prepare a teaching on the Threshold Covenant as well.) This will also be the start of the 7 days of Unleavened Bread.  I call it “observant” because that is the real gist of the Hebrew.  When armies are leaving an area is a time to be watchful. When we have proclaimed our liberty from sin, is a time to be watchful that we don’t callously and carelessly bring in more sin.  We have to be on guard against the enemy putting sins back into our lives.  Be sure to hear the coming sermon on “the Hidden Leaven”.

·    The two holydays – without the changes made by the rabbis without ANY Biblical authority to do so – will be March 28 Thursday (the 15th of Abib) and April 3, Wednesday, 2013. The days begin at sundown the evening before. Those are the correct holydays! Those are the divine appointments – the moedim – of YHVH and He commands our meeting with Him on THOSE days.  What you do is your business. I’m just telling my readers what Yehowah tells us.  I’m so happy that more and more Church of God folks, Hebrew Roots folks and Karaite Jews understand the corruption of the Postponement rules.  Join us in celebrating our victory over sin on the right days!

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Recommended “Pre-Passover preparation” sermons

Very soon those of the household of Yehowah (YHVH) will all be participating in the Passover as we wash one another’s feet, break the Passover bread and drink of the Master’s cup.  Are you mentally and spiritually getting ready for it?  Many of you are already deleavening your house and car.  Don’t forget the main deleavening of the mind and soul that must be going on right now.

It is also our custom to do Passover-specific studies. We search for sermons that will help us be in the right frame of mind. So with that in mind, here are my personal recommendations from this website that will help you with Passover preparation.  I’ve also included 2 unsolicited comments from others. Perhaps their recommendations will go a long way. Let’s start with theirs.

From someone in the western USA: We listened to and read your Sermon titled “Are You Crucified With Christ?” [March 2007) It was just what we were looking for and needing at this time.  Thank you for this powerful and inspiring message!  Believe us—you just don’t come across sermons like this—the best Passover preparation sermon we have heard in a long time, and we sincerely mean this. This sermon is absolutely life-changing.”

From someone in Canada:

“I just thought I’d mention – this morning I was in the book of Joshua about Jericho and the sin of Achan there – and its consequences and severe punishment. Then I randomly clicked on your sermon – “Sins of ignorance” [March 2011). I really appreciated it again (I’ve heard it before a long time ago) – especially as Passover is getting close on the calendar.Thanks again for your sermons at Light on the Rock. BTW – as I listened through that message, I was surprised at how undated it was – it had few if any references to current events or other dated material. Lots of your messages at LOTR are like that which make them useful now and in the future for anyone who listens. In any case, thanks again for all your efforts.”  

We must also forgive those who have hurt us terribly, whether deserved or not. The standard is “as Christ has forgiven” – which goes very deep. So I recommend this sermon. It’s hard to forgive when the hurt cuts so deep, but we must.    SeeApril 2008 – “Forgiving as Christ Forgave Us” 

When we wash feet, is it just to remember that we are to serve one another, or is there something so, so much deeper than that?  There is. Find out in the sermon about Passover emblems at April 2011. Know why the night after that is the night to be observant – and not the misapplied “to be observed”.  Know also that drinking of the cup has so much deeper meaning that goes beyond the contents of the cup and the red wine.  The pierced matzah and the stripes on the matzah – learn about it.  The “Afikomen” is not to be forgotten.  I might even do this message again.

There are many timeless messages on this website that will help you have a most meaningful Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread season. Many of these messages are ones given from my own soul-searching and desire to have a closer walk with my Redeemer who has made me new.  

Others I strongly recommend:

April 2011 – “Repenting of what you are”

April 2011 – “Don’t Miss the Most Important Deleavening”.

April 2005 – “The JOY of Passover and Unleavened Bread” (It shouldn’t be as sad as some have it! We’re remembering His death, sure – but it resulted in victory!)

March 2009 – “Let’s Keep Passover in a Worthy Manner”

Short message:  “I am Barabbas”   April 2012

April 2012—How Jesus Fulfilled the Passover in intricate Detail

April 2006 – Dramatic Healing and its relation to Passover.  (This goes beyond the “broken bread” and “stripes” for our healing).


And of course the ones we’ve mentioned already:

April 2008 – Forgiving as Christ Forgave Us

March 2011   “Sins of Ignorance vs. Intentional sins”

March 2007 –“Are you Crucified with Christ?”

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Yeshua died for you. Would you die for Him?

John the baptizer declared upon seeing Yeshua – “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:39).  Paul says “Christ [the Anointed one] our Passover was sacrificed for us.”  He did this even while we were still unrepentant and ungodly sinners and enemies of His way – the godly dying for the ungodly (read Romans 5:6-8).

Romans 5:6-8

6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The books of Revelation and Daniel make it very clear there will be major scale martyrdoms of the righteous in the years ahead. If you or I were given an opportunity to spare the lives of our own wife or children or grandchildren if we would just renounce our faith, or our belief in Jesus Christ, would we?

He died for you. Would you die for Him – even if it meant the death of your very own loved ones?

As we come to Passover, read the rest of this blog as part of your Pre-Passover self-examination.

I think we can glibly say “yes, I would die for Him”, but I think it’s a question we should seriously ponder as we come to Passover.  Right now in Iran, there is 34 year old Christian pastor – Youcef Nadarkhani – who has been arrested, tortured, released, and then re-arrested – all stemming from his refusal to renounce Yeshua the Messiah.  He’s a pastor of a small “house church” of believers who put their lives on the line every day for their beliefs.  Now just for a minute take time to pause and pray about this.  Our turn will come in the western world. It certainly will come.  It matters little to me right now if I would agree with all of his beliefs. What matters right now to me is his impressive stand to be willing to be imprisoned, and even to die for the Lamb of God who died for him.

Would you and I go to jail for Christ right now? Would we put our children and grandchildren’s lives in danger because of being a believer? Would we be willing to be tried for apostasy – for which the penalty in Iran is death by hanging?  Don’t think it’s not coming here someday. The time of worst trouble since creation – is just ahead of us (Mark 13:19).

If we’re not willing to speak up and witness for our belief in Yeshua now, will we then when our lives or the lives of our grandchildren are on the line – or will we just try to blend in the woodwork? We are to confess Yeshua. We know about confessing our sins (1 John 1:9; James 5:16, etc.), but we need to learn about confessing Christ as well. If we will confess Him, He will confess our names before the holy angels (please read Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8). Don’t be like the parents of the blind man who was healed but who would not confess what Yeshua had done, because they sought the praise of men more than the praise of God (John 12:42-43).  They went to church services for the social club it has become.  I hope you go to worship, not to just have a place for your kids to play with other kids, or to laugh together over the coffee after services.  I fear “church” has become a social club for many who call themselves believers in Yeshua.

We must confess Him in word but also in action. Why am I talking about confessing Him?  Because if we’re not willing to do it now when it is safe and calm, will we do it when our lives are on the line?  But we also confess Him by our actions.  Titus 1:16 says “they claim to know God, but in works they deny Him” as they continue to practice a way of life that is opposite God’s way.  Is that you? Is that me?  As we come up to Passover and the days of Unleavened Bread, are we putting sin itself out of our daily lives, and not just the leavened bread?  Are we practicing the Kingdom Way of life everywhere we go, thereby confessing Christ by our lives and actions?

I’m not referring to things you did years and years ago.  I’m referring to things you or I do NOW.  Nobody should go digging in the blood of Messiah to uncover the forgiven sins of our past.  HE put that as far as the east is from the west. He’s covered our sins in His blood.  He made us new – until Christ is fully formed in us.  But as we deleaven this year, let’s be sure we truly are repenting of present sins, bad habits and ways we don’t bring glory to God. All of the old way needs to stop.  And then let’s throw THAT leavening of sin out of our lives, even as we throw out the leavened bread – thereby confessing who our Redeemer is.

I realize— sin can be very attractive, like a leavened pastry or baking. Sometimes we just have a tough time giving up ways we enjoyed.  But if God calls it sin, it must go.  This is one way we confess Him now. It’s one way we die for Him now. When Yehowah sees us dying to self, to our fleshly desires and lusts – perhaps He will know we will also be willing to die for Him literally.  If we’re not willing to die to the self, if we’re not able to say with Paul “I no longer live, but the life I live is Christ in me” (Gal. 2:20), how can we claim to be willing to someday literally die for Him?

So we confess Him now in words and in our changing lives, in our actions.  NOT everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom (Matthew 7:21-23).  He must know us and we must know Him, and show it by living like He lived, walking as HE walked — otherwise we’re a liar (1 John 2:3-6).  I confess. I’ve too often lived a lie myself.  Does that shock you?  Well, if you’re honest, you’d have to say the same thing.  Because while we are flesh and blood, we fail from time to time. Even Paul says in Romans 7:15-20, “that which I hate, I do”.  But at least he did hate sin.  That’s why we have the footwashing at Passover – to acknowledge our need to be cleansed (John 13:1-10).  As we wash one another’s feet, we are proclaiming that person as washed, as cleaned by the Master.  We’re just affirming that we see this brother or sister now as clean and no longer what he/she was.

Paul says there’s a birthing process going on “until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). We should be looking more like Him today than a year ago. We should be living more like Him today than 10 years ago.  This is one way – besides words -- how we confess Him.  And yes – I am preaching to myself very much right now. My blogs and sermons always start out first as a study for myself, to self-examine myself.  I have a lot of changing yet to do by God’s spirit. You and I are not yet what we shall be at the 7th trumpet.  But thank God, neither are we what we were – as more and more we grow in His image, by His spirit and by His grace. I hope we can point to some sins in our past which are no longer problems for us.  We are overcomers in some arenas of our lives at least so far as we confess Christ and let HIM live in us, let HIM cleanse our hearts and minds as we submit to Him.

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Remember Purim and the book of Esther

We’ll soon be right on the date for Purim. In the Rabbinic calendar, it is observed this weekend.  When was the last time you read the book of Esther?  ALL scripture is given for our edification, so we should read it.

The book of Hadassah (Myrtle) – that was her Hebrew name – is all about the plot to destroy the Jewish people.  OK, you know her as Esther.  But the real spirit behind that plot to wipe out all the Jews had a more sinister target:  if Haman could wipe out all Jews, then we also wipe out the possibility of having a Jewish Messiah!

I urge you to read the short book.  There are several sub-plots you shouldn’t miss:

• How mightily Yehowah used a strong woman of faith to deliver all of Judah from being exterminated.  Remember that when we are people of God, there no longer should be a huge distinction between male and female, spiritually speaking.  You’ve seen that in Galatians 3:26, right?  We have heard so many sermons and spent so many hours on the men who were spiritual heroes that it is high time to give some time and attention to the women who shine through as well. Esther – or Hadassah (her real name) – manages the events in this short book very masterfully, smoothly and powerfully. In fact, the way she manages events would have been impossible for a man to have done.  Mordecai, her cousin, does urge her on, but the real hero in this story of Purim is the woman Hadassah, renamed Esther by her pagan husband.  Her faith and courage were demonstrated in Esther 4:16-17 when she calls for a fast of 3 days and then states her cause, and wraps it up with – "and if I perish, I perish".

• The word "God" – or Elohim – is nowhere seen in the entire book, but the HAND of Elohim is definitely visible in all the events that transpire.  When everything seems to be going against you, realize that Yehowah has not taken a leave of absence.  He’s there, even though we can’t always “see” or “hear” Him.  He’s especially there in our darkest hours.  I’m having to learn over and over again to praise even at the midnight hour, when we’re all bruised and cut up and languishing in our spiritual jail.  I speak of Paul and Barnabas in Acts 16:22-30. Please read that whole account.  At midnight, they began to sing praises in spite of their dire predicament and pain.  What happened?  Their chains were loosed and dropped to the prison floor with a loud clang, and the jail doors were opened.  But not until they began to praise. We can trust God to turn our deep sorrows eventually to great joy, a lesson I’m still learning.  But first, we praise and thank Him in all things, and for all things, for HE will turn everything eventually into good if we commit all things to Him in praise and thanksgiving (Rom. 8:28; Phil. 4:6).  In our darkest hours, that’s hard to remember, but we MUST learn it, as children of God.

This same lesson rings loud and clear in the book of Esther. The situation was dire, but when Esther and her court fasted and prayed and sought their Maker, He was there. He always was there.

• "Pur" = a lot that is cast to determine a date. Purim is plural, so it means "lots".  Haman cast lots to determine the date he would exterminate the Jews, an early example of ethnic cleansing.  In the change of events that took place (you’ll have to read the story yourself), Purim to Jews today stands for the way the Almighty gave them deliverance from their enemies. Esther 9:26-28 explains how Jews set these 2 days aside each year as a Jewish festival to remember their miraculous deliverance.  This is a Jewish holiday and I would certainly keep it in remembrance if I were a Jew. But even as a non-Jew, I still thank God for Purim because it also made it possible then for us all to have our Savior Yeshua be born many years later. Some believe the feast Yeshua kept in John 5 was Purim, for it fell on a Sabbath.  The ONLY feast that fell on a Sabbath day from 27-38 AD was Purim.  Just a thought. Purim is not one of God’s commanded feasts in Leviticus 23, but it is a feast for Jews and it is mentioned in Scripture.

Esther 9:26-28
26 So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur. Therefore, because of all the words of this letter, what they had seen concerning this matter, and what had happened to them, 27 the Jews established and imposed it upon themselves and their descendants and all who would join them, that without fail they should celebrate these two days every year, according to the written instructions and according to the prescribed time, 28 that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city, that these days of Purim should not fail to be observed among the Jews, and that the memory of them should not perish among their descendants.

• When we don’t obey God fully, the consequences can hit doubly hard years later. 
Oh how well I have experienced this lesson.  And maybe you have too.  Haman, a type of Satan and enemy of the people of God, was an Amalekite.  More than that, Haman was an Agagite, a descendant of king Agag, whom Saul failed to kill.  God had commanded Saul to wipe out the memory of the Amalekite people (see 1 Samuel 15) and everything that pertained to them, because they had attacked Israel at Rephidim (Exodus 17) and continually picked off the stragglers, the old and weak.  Saul kept Agag alive, as well as the choicest livestock.  Apparently Agag had sired a son as well, who also escaped extermination.  This son went on to become a forefather of Haman in the book of Esther.  Interestingly enough, Mordecai was a Benjaminite, as was King Saul.  I’ve often wondered if in fact we might find out later that Mordecai was a descendant of King Saul. I’ve also wondered if some of the most hateful antagonists against Israel today aren’t descendants of the survivors of ancient Amalek.  Just a thought.

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Come alongside, be a comforter

Some days are just plain rough. You know those days: in the mail, you get notice of your termination and now you’re unemployed. Or you get notice your spouse is suing for divorce.  Or those phone calls that your granddaughter had an emergency and is in the hospital. Or maybe it’s about your Alzheimer mom.  Or it’s the vet telling you maybe it would be best to put down your 13 year old dog with the neurological problem -- but she’s been part of the scene for 13 years. Yep, it’s a bad day when these kinds of things happen.

You know those days. They don’t seem to get lighter as we age.  In the “good ol’ days” we could have a bad hair day or maybe burn the toast – and it was a rough day.  No, we’re way, way beyond those kinds of triggers to a bad day. But isn’t it nice to once in a while have someone who lifts your hands up in prayer with you, who encourage you, who assure you that they’ll be with you every step of the way – even when you feel you can’t take another step by yourself. Praise God, praise Yehowah for people like that.

You and I have been called to be someone who comes alongside. In the Greek it was called a“parakletos”, a comforter.  We know the Holy Spirit is a parakletos, but did you know YOU are called to be one as well?  This is what “church” – actually I prefer to say being part of the “called-out ones”, the ekklesia – is largely all about!  We are family! We family of the Household of God stand up for each other and are there for each other. We fight for and defend each other. We tell gossips and those who spread people’s sins like candy -- that we recognize where they’re coming from: they’re getting orders from their leader, Satan, The Accuser of the brethren.

But most of all, we can help so many by simply “being there” when we sense someone is struggling. The arm on the shoulder, the quick squeeze of their shoulder, the quick note on Facebook, or the unexpected assuring phone call can mean so much. Let’s get good at this. Our brothers and sisters need it so badly.

To learn more about becoming a comforter, a parakletos, someone coming alongside – please hear the sermon “Be a Parakletos”, February 2011.  You’ll be glad you did. We’re learning to be family who stand up and alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Be a parakletos.

 

http://www.lightontherock.org/audio/Be%20a%20Parakletos.mp3

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Do you “Pray” – or do you “SAY” your prayers?

Yes, folks, there IS a difference.  I always urge people to pray, not just “say your prayers”.  Prayer – whether you are a Christian, Jew, or believer – should be our interaction with our Maker. Many of us believe deeply God is our Father. (Be watching for a sermon real soon on our real destiny.) Any father or mother wants their child to come speak with them from his/her heart. You wouldn’t want your daughter saying someone else’s words – no matter how well-crafted they are, no matter how much more elegant they are than what your six-year old might say on her own.  I would want my child saying what’s on his heart – NOT words someone else wrote hundreds or thousands of years ago.  So quit “saying grace”, quit “saying your prayers” – and just start praying; start talking from your heart.  
Read the rest of this blog for instructions from Yeshua on how to pray.

Yeshua (Jesus) said that when we pray (read Matthew 6:5-13):

•    DON’T do your main prayers in the public venue but in the privacy of your  own room.  Daniel prayed from the privacy of his room as he looked out the window (Dan. 6:10), 3x a day. It says “he prayed”, not “he said his prayers”.

•    Speak your heart – not just any vain repetition.  Even the sample prayer our Master gave us, commonly called “the Lord’s Prayer”, can become a vain repletion.  He was just teaching us a framework. Honor and praise Father and His hallowed name YHVH first. Then pray for Him to send Yeshua soon to set up the Kingdom; Pray HIS will be done here on earth.  Then pray for your daily needs (Give us this day our daily bread) and while at it, pray for others’ daily needs. Be intercessory.

If you’re Jewish, put down the Siddur (Book of Prayers) and just talk to your Maker one-on-one. Yourself. Your words. Don’t worry about not knowing how to elegantly pray.  I promise you, He is much more likely to hear and be pleased with your heart-felt prayer, in your own words, than He is with someone else’s crafted prayer. Call Him “Father”.  Yes, sure, it’s OK to call him “the Blessed One”, or “King of the Universe”, but try saying “My Father”. Try “MY King”.  Then tell Him what you really feel like telling Him.  Ask Him what you really feel like asking Him.  Yes, that’s OK.  Yes, that’s even better than someone else’s prayer you’re reading.

Even we mere mortals are delighted to hear the awkward attempts of our toddlers learning to speak their first words.  “Dad-dah”—we know she’s trying to say “Daddy”.  Everyone in the room exclaims, “HEY, did you hear her?  She just said “dad-dah”!

The Father from whom we get the name “Father” is the same way.  HE put all that into us.  Just PRAY. Just talk to and with Him.  And sometimes just be quiet, get your pad of paper out and a pen and ask Him to speak to you.  Sometimes you’ll find yourself writing rapidly the thoughts coming into your head, and yes - -sometimes that could BE your Father communicating with you.

In these winter months (summer for my Australian and southern hemisphere family), use this time to connect with Abba, our dear Father.  (And hello to all you Southern Hemisphere family!)

I have several sermons on this website about prayer.  Go to the link “Audio Messages and Transcripts” and look up the link for Prayer. I recommend you hear those messages, especially the series on “Hearing God’s Voice”.   Or maybe the sermon on “WHY Pray?” is one you need.  There are also sermons on there about Hindered Prayer.  I have enough problems without having to have ineffective prayer! Now that’s a huge problem!  So check it out – and open the lines to our Maker.

The real PURPOSE of “religion” is not to go to a church building, or to be part of a man-made organization. Hey, we ARE the church; we don’t “GO to church”.  The real purpose is not to feel blessed or holy or something (though we ARE blessed and set-apart holy).  The ultimate purpose is to love God and love mankind.  The ultimate reason we have a spiritual component to living, is to strengthen relationships. The one true living God is all about close and loving relationships. His very commandments were given to be sure we respect one another’s relationships, so we don’t murder, we don’t steal what belongs to another, nor do we flirt with or commit adultery with someone else’s wife or husband. We’ve all broken God’s laws, but now we repent and start walking HIS Way, led by His Spirit in us. And all of that strengthens relationships – with Him and each other.

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His “walk” changed after his Encounter.

Sooner or later, all who are being called by our beloved Father will have their personal encounter with their Creator. That comes in many ways. But looking back, you’ll know you had your “Encounter”.  Some are very dramatic, like Paul’s experience on the way to Damascus (Acts 9).  Jonah got up close and personal with the insides of a great sea creature God specially prepared. Sometimes, as I’ve experienced, it entails severe correction to wake us up. Some have astonishing dreams – like Jacob. And sometimes we have more than one major encounter – again, like Jacob, and his second time was an all-night struggle.

Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, was going back home after many years with Laban his uncle. Jacob’s brother Esau (also called Edom) had other plans. Without elucidating on all the details of the story which you can read for yourself in Genesis 32:22-32, Jacob encounters a Man and ends up wrestling with this Man all night long. Jacob was tenacious and so the Man (the One who became Yeshua!) shrank part of the muscles around Jacob’s hip joint, causing severe pain. Still, Jacob clung to the Man and would not let the Man go until He first blessed Jacob. The Man gives Jacob a new name: Israel, which can mean “contender with God; Prevailer, overcomer with God, prince of God”.

In the meantime though, Jacob’s hip was put out of place and the muscles had shrunk painfully.  From then on, Israel walked with a painful limp. His walk had changed! Since your encounter with your Maker, has YOUR walk changed?  I don’t mean the way you walk when going for a walk – but your way of life.

Read the rest of this short blog for some thought-provoking concepts.

Let’s read the account:
Genesis 32:22-32
22 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. 23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. 24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He [the Man] touched the socket of his [Jacob’s] hip; and the socket of Jacob's hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, "Let Me go, for the day breaks."
But he said, "I will not let You go unless You bless me!" 
27 So He said to him, "What is your name?"
He said, "Jacob." 
28 And He said, "Your NAME shall no longer be called Jacob, but ISRAEL; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed." 
29 Then Jacob asked, saying, "Tell me Your name, I pray."
And He said, "Why is it that you ask about My name?" And He blessed him there. 
30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: "FOR I HAVE SEEN GOD FACE TO FACE, and my life is preserved." 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and HE LIMPED ON HIS HIP. 32 Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob's hip in the muscle that shrank.

Hosea 12:3-5 recounts this wrestling with this Being, and in Hosea it says “…he struggled with GOD (Elohim)”.  This was the very One who would come to earth from God and be known as Jesus – or as I prefer, Yeshua (what His mama called Him).

Anyway, back to the point of this blog. It was after this that Israel really takes charge of his family, they put away the pagan idols and they worship at Bethel (Genesis 35:1-4). Bethel was where he was supposed to go in the first place (Genesis 31:13), as that is where Yehowah had made His initial appearance to Jacob with the vision of the Staircase to/from heaven (Gen. 28:10-22). So once again, God commands Jacob “Go back – I’m the God who met you at Bethel – Gen. 35:1-4.

While Jacob allowed himself to be sidetracked in Shechem (Genesis 32) he had nothing but trouble (the Dinah calamity and wiping out a whole city). If you feel like everything is coming AT you all at once as well, maybe you’re driving the wrong way and need to get off that road and on to the Way that God wants you on.

I’ve had to learn and re-learn this lesson so many times in my life, to my shame and anguish. I pass it on for what it’s worth to you. Hopefully as I get older now I will with His help be able to stay on the right path more of the time – and “go to Bethel”, which means “House of God”.  You and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13).

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Encouragement in your “wilderness” times of life.

Many people, at various times in their lives, feel like they're all alone, away from "civilization" and friends and family. The Wilderness is actually where so many of God’s people find God. It’s in your wilderness times that you will often look back and see that’s when you grew spiritually.  Your wilderness times of your life can be the very moments when Yehovah can shine in your life as no other. One of the sermons on this website that receives a lot of comment, a lot of people getting inspiration, is the sermon I gave on "Your Wilderness Times", recorded in June 2012. I feel led in my spirit to recommend it. Someone out there needs this message.  You can go to June 2012 and download it. You can also put these messages on your iPod or smart phones.  Here’s the link:

http://www.lightontherock.org/audio/Wilderness.mp3

On our website, be sure to pull down the tab titled "Audio Messages and Transcripts".  Check out all the sermon titles going back to 2004. There are more than 160 timeless sermons I’ve recorded and several from Jeff Niccum.  But for now, I recommend this “Wilderness” sermon. You’ll be encouraged by it. Let others know about it if you feel this message has helped you. Yehovah bless you and shine His blessings on you.

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What on earth are the royals up to?

No, I don’t mean Prince Harry or Prince Charles and his wife or any other earthly royalty from around the world. But even when they do something peculiar or undignified, it becomes news around the world instantly.  Thankfully the paparazzi don’t care about you and me – but when I say “royal”, I do mean YOU. If you have been called, have turned in repentance back to the Most High God our Father and to our Saviour Yeshua (Jesus is what most call Him), been baptized and received His Holy Spirit – you are a set-apart child of the King of the Universe! YOU are one of the real royals of the coming Kingdom of God about to be set up on earth under King Yeshua, our elder brother and Master.  Peter calls us “a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). We’ve been called and chosen – if we’re faithful-- to be “kings and priests” on this earth (Revelation 5:10).

Have we been behaving like the godly royals we have been called to be? The answer for far too many royals of God is “no”. Not even I who write this. I’ve fallen from time to time as maybe you have. But we have a merciful “Abba” who will forgive and help us get back on track if we come before Him with a contrite heart and ask if we can walk with Him again. Yehovah (or Yahweh) is all about relationship. We can say relationship is also about “walking with God”.  We go for walks on a daily basis with those we are close to. Read the rest of this blog for a wake-up call about what we see going on among the true royals of the coming kingdom – and what we should be doing.

Nothing seems juicier to the press than royals fighting one another or shaming one another. That must not be in the family of the Holy Father. Yehovah is starting a family. HE is Father, for there is only one spiritual Father (Matthew 23:9). Yeshua who is also God (John 1:1-3), became His firstborn Son by the resurrection (see Romans 1:1-4).  Yeshua has been raised in glory and is seated on the right hand of our Father and His father (John 20:17). We are also begotten children of the Highest (1 John 3:2). He calls us HIS very own sons and daughters (read 2 Corinthians 6:18). That makes HIS royal family (1 Pet. 2:9). Absorb that. Father has a family!

Every child of God begotten by His seed—His spirit --whether man or woman, is part of His royal family – whether Chinese, American, French, Brazilian, Jew, Japanese, Tunisian, Canadian, Australian, Russian or Kenyan.  Father sees us as part of “the body of Christ” and members of one another (read Romans 12:4-5).  You believers in Yeshua who live in Russia and China are part of me and I’m part of you – in HIM. I feel honored to be included with you, my royal brothers and royal sisters in Kenya or Canada or wherever Yehovah has called you! I can’t wait to meet you in His kingdom!  Our unity with fellow believers should be so profound that we think and act as one body, as one mind:  HIS body, HIS mind (Phil. 2:5). IF we are not acting as one body, it can only mean that we are not in Him; not in HIS one body and His one mind. If we are gossiping about one another, it can only mean that we are not speaking Father’s words, as Yeshua said He spoke only Father’s words. You remember our Lord’s words paraphrased in describing what HIS people would be like:  “You must love one another just like I loved you, just like that, and by this will all people know you are my true followers” (John 13:34-35).

My brothers and sisters, as true royals, let’s stop the infighting. He has much work for us to do, TOGETHER, as the ONE BODY to which we have been called – not more and more splinter groups forbidding some of God’s children from worshiping together. How shameful. Yes, there are some doctrinal differences, but we still come together “UNTIL we come to the unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:13). There are some non-negotiable doctrinal issues such as the divinity of Yeshua, salvation by grace, and a few others – but other perpetually unresolved issues may have to wait for our King to sort out. In the meantime, let’s work together, let’s witness to the resurrection of Yeshua by Him living in us once more – changing our lives! Hallelujah to our beloved Master!  A changing life is the best sermon any of us can preach. It’s much more effective than our words, if those words aren’t backed up by the evidence of Yeshua’s wonderful, happy and obedient life. 

If we want to work together, join others and start building bridges and bringing people together. If we’re not bringing people together in Him, Yeshua says we’re actually scattering (Luke 11:23). No middle ground here. Either we’re bringing believers (other royals) together – or we’re scattering.

Peter’s first two chapters of his first book – if read slowly – is full of admonition to consider our calling carefully. 1 Peter 1:2 – reminds us we’re set-apart, in sanctification for obedience.

1 Peter 1:13-20
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." 
17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

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Living with a sense of history - Updated

Were you born for such a time as this?

Hello, child of the Most High. Yes, you are part of what Peter calls the “royal priesthood” of believers (1 Peter 2:9), called children of God (1 John 3:2). We’re being prepared to lead, serve, and help start the new Kingdom of God coming to earth.  Those who will have gone through the new birth of the Spirit described in John 3:3-8 will be leaders in that kingdom.

Why did I start that way?  Because all too often, it seems God’s children, those led by His spirit – you and I – get sidetracked.  Royals are raised – even groomed -- to be aware of who they are and what they’re destined to become.  We should have no less consciousness of our calling! We forget why we have been called. We lose “the big picture” of what is about to happen. As a “royal” of the coming kingdom, we must start living with a greater sense of purpose and destiny.  Warning though:  we must also never forget that God called the weak of the world – to confound the wise, however (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). If indeed we are in the final 20 years or less before Yeshua lands on the Mt. of Olives with His Bride (the called-out ones), many of us may well see the most exciting, terrifying, inspiring, faith-testing and earth-shaking events this planet has ever seen.  Read the rest of this blog to have our eyes reopened to our task, to our calling  and to the idea that we should be so much more AWARE that we live in historic times. Now PLEASE do not read into this blog that I am promoting a group filled with megalomania or some cock-eyed thing like that! But we can and must live with a sense of purpose and a cause bigger than us.

Imagine being a sailor on one of Columbus’ ships as he sought a shorter route to China. Did they have any idea that what they were doing was about to change the course of history and civilization as they knew it? Sometimes I think we believers are like his sailors going through the motions without the excitement of being a part of something so “game-changing” as that.  Hundreds of years from now children in the Millennium will be studying about our era, the times we live in. They will be reading about how God’s children conducted themselves. They’ll be reading about you and me similar to how we read about the Israelites in the days of Samson or David or Jeremiah.  We don’t see ourselves involved in something history-making enough, but we should be. You don’t have to be “a big name” for that to happen.  Sometimes the most timeless stories are being told about nameless people: “the widow and her last 2 mites” (Mark 12:41-44) or the woman with an issue of blood who had tremendous faith to be healed (Mark 5:25-30; Mark 6:56) – but we don’t even know their names.  Someday we’ll meet those great women and thank them for their faith. We read of Paul’s devotion to the Philippian brethren, his admonishment to the Corinthians and “those of Chloe” who informed Paul of the issues.

The point of this blog is simply to be more aware of the urgency of the times, of the historic period we’re blessed to be part of (not just “fortunate” – as it has nothing to do with “fortune”).  Let’s rise to the occasion. Let’s come together as believers who realize now that all of us blessed with His Spirit are part of the coming royal family of Yehowah.  Let’s be like those of the tribe of Issachar in King David’s days who “had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…” (1 Chronicles 12:32).  Let’s pray He give us that same understanding. We can look at the sky and tell if good or bad weather is coming, but we can’t understand the times we live in (Matthew 16:3). Pray for it. Rise to the occasion.  Let’s encourage one another. Let’s get in touch.  I urge you who read these to get in touch with me too. We all need encouragement.

John the Baptist came to prepare a people ready for their Lord (Luke 1:17).  I believe there is yet a coming type of Elijah, as John the Baptist was (Mark 9:12-13) and we need to be prepared to back him up. There will be the two witnesses (Rev. 11).  And no – these 2 witnesses are not “Christianity and Judaism” as I’ve heard some speculate.  Not at all. These are two literal men who will be martyred at the end of their ministry and whose bodies will be visible around the world on satellite TV (Revelation 11:7-13).  Are you prepared to recognize these leaders and support them and be able to distinguish between false teachers and true teachers?

So let’s talk about this with one another. Let’s dream about it, pray about it, live it – we are a people called for such a time as this, just as Esther was put where she was for her time (Esther 4:13-16).  And just like Esther had the understanding of the gravity of her times, let’s follow her example and proclaim a fast and seek Almighty God in heaven and ask for Him to wake us all up, to bring us together, to live as the royals of the kingdom of God that we are.  Let’s pray and study and overcome sin as never before. We live in momentous times.  When you fast, read Isaiah 58 again and determine to use this fast to change, to repent, to let Yeshua live His life in you and to demonstrate HIS righteousness (listen to my latest sermon on this site).  It would be a great time to ask Him to help us re-set our lives, rededicate ourselves to Him, and understand why He called us. Pray on this day of fasting that He open your eyes to see the big picture.  Pray He put in our hearts a strong sense of destiny and a mission HE wants us to accomplish. Ask Yeshua to come live His life again in you. Invite Him IN to your life.

Our days will be written about and talked about for millennia to come.  Are you grasping this? 
Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10 on your own. There Paul tells us to be on our guard, awake to the times, alert, growing in Him, putting on the breastplate of righteousness – and not be caught off guard when our King returns.

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

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

In Scripture, Hanukkah is called “the Feast of Dedication”, since the name “Hanukkah” means “to dedicate”.  It is not one of Yehowah’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 Yehowah 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. 23 And Jesus [Yeshua] walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“A whole lot of shakin’ goin’on”

Get ready for everything as you know it to be shaken.

Events – both political and “natural” earth events – are speeding up dramatically.  There have been more significant earthquakes in recent years than ever seen before, for example. We’re also watching more “political earthquakes” occurring.  BEFORE the return of our King, the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus the Christ), we will see more and more political and natural events shaking the foundations of everything we’ve known. Everything will be shaken – the heavens, the earth, everything – until what remains is only what cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:25-29).  Folks, that shaking has to include us.  Are we spiritually and mentally ready for it? I doubt that many are. I preach to myself too. On the other hand, this is an age of incredible excitement and opportunity, if we’re on the right side of our Maker. You and I have been born into what is likely “the end-time generation”. Could we have been put here for just such a time as this, as Mordecai said to Esther? Let’s be excited about it and play our role with the sure foundation we have in Yeshua and seek the peace that comes from knowing Him.  Read the rest of this blog for scriptures and insight into what kind of shaking has already begun and will continue in intensity before the coming of Messiah.

Hebrews 12:25-29

25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven."  27 Now this, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. 
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

We all know that YHVH, the living God, has many scriptures about “refining” His people. “Shaking what can be shaken” is another way of looking at it.  He says He wants only what can’t be shaken to remain. Children of the Highest, do we realize what this means?  Are we mentally – and more importantly, spiritually – preparing for this?  I believe the shaking has already begun and will increase in intensity until the coming of our Savior and King.

Be sure to hear many more details in my coming full length sermon on this subject. But for now, what can be shaken?  And why the shaking?

In the last decade or so before the Christ lands on the Mt. of Olives, Father will be shaking the whole world so people realize “something really unusual” is going on.  Even now, we call earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes “acts of God”.  So when these events grow in intensity and frequency, more and more people will come to recognize the true Creator of the universe and repent. We know at the very end, there will be “a great innumerable multitude” that is repentant (Rev. 7:9-16).  So the shaking is to get everyone’s attention and eventually many will come to worship Him (Haggai 2:6-7) in Jerusalem. Remember this is exactly what Yehowah said as He sent plague after plague upon Egypt: that they may know that YHVH is the One true God (Ex. 7:14-18; 9:13-21)

So even the “people of God”, the saints, will be shaken. Many of us are Laodicean, or lacking in zeal, or are asleep, or spiritually non-involved. Father also includes us in the shaking because we need shaking up! We need waking up!  And since we’re in the world even if we’re not “of” the world, what happens in the nations around us also affects us!  Our faith will be shaken by personal tests and trials as well as world events. We will be tempted at times to wonder where our loving Father is, as we also go through tough times. Remember that Israel also had to suffer through the first three of the ten plagues in Egypt.  Though many of us believe there will be a place of safety, that doesn’t mean we won’t have to first go through very, very tough times. And ultimately our safety is in Yehowah our God (Joel 3:16).  [Hear my sermon on “Place of Safety”- March 2012]

So we should expect it to be harder and harder to practice our faith.  We will see more attacks on believers.  Laws will be passed that will force us to compromise with sin – or speak up like Esther did. Eventually, we won’t be able to buy or sell unless we come under the worldwide “mark of the beast” (Rev. 13:11-17).  Imagine that! Not being able to buy food, clothing, pay bills, buy or rent a house, buy gas/petrol – imagine! And yet if we do knowingly come under the mark of the end-time “beast power”, we’ll lose out on our eternal rewards (Rev. 16:2; 20:4).   This is a major shaking which many of us will experience.  We’d best resolve NOW to remain faithful to Him who is able to provide for us even when it appears hopeless. Many believers will be martyred during this time as a witness. So our faith is going to be shaken until He knows – like Abraham, the father of the faithful – that nothing will tear us loose from our Abba, our dear Father.

And for true believers, let’s not lose sight that this is the most exciting age anyone could ever have lived in. Hallelujah.  It’s time to speak up for our God and King. It’s the time to be counted. It’s the time be zealous. It’s the time to get our house in order (Luke 21:34-36). It’s the time to pray, fast, study, and establish our relationship with Father and our Savior as never before. It’s the time for our marriages and human relationships to be where they are supposed to be. It’s the time for believers to quit splintering into more and more groups – but to come together as the One Body we are!  It’s the time to demonstrate the amazing agape love between believers that marks us as HIS children.

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OPEN THE DOOR. Our King is knocking!

Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

The scripture above is one said by our Master to one of the churches of Rev. 2 and 3 – Laodicea.  Many believe that church in particular depicts many of the end-time believers. Could Yeshua (Jesus) be trying to come into your life?  Is He possibly knocking at your door?  For that matter He IS the Door to salvation (John 10:9).  Why would a believer not open to our King? Why would we not open the door to our Master?  Is it possible you and I aren’t responding?  Read the rest of this blog to read some possible reasons why we may already be missing His knocking on His door.  We must hear His voice and we must be sure to open the door!

•    We look out the door “peephole” or through a side window, and don’t recognize the One knocking. 

If Jesus (Yeshua) were truly to literally knock on your literal door, would we recognize Him?  I assure you, He doesn’t look today anything like the artists’ paintings – people who never saw him.  He certainly did not have long hair.  But more importantly, I’m thinking of Matthew 25:31-40, where Yeshua says, “when you did these things to the least of these my brethren, you did them unto Me.”

My point is—Yeshua comes to us in many different ways. Anyone with His Spirit is considered a member or part of His “body” (Romans 12:4-5).  When we respond to the needs and prayer requests of His body – the “brethren” – we are responding to HIM.  How many times could He be calling for us, but doing so through one of His brothers and sisters – the called-out ones?

Hear HIS voice, hear his knocking, even if that voice is the voice of a church brother or sister you know very well.  In a way, Yeshua could be considering our response to that brother or sister as the way we are responding to our Savior himself.  Let’s learn to “see Yeshua” living through His Spirit in otherwise ordinary men and women.

•    If we’re spiritually naked, we may be reluctant to open the door.  
Perhaps you’ve had the experience of just coming out of your shower or bath when the doorbell rings.  Most of us would be very uncomfortable opening the door to someone knocking if we’re caught naked. Apply this now spiritually.  Maybe we are beginning to clean up, have taken off our clothes (our own righteousness) and are just beginning to put on the garments of His righteousness, which He offers us. So many scriptures tell us in essence to “be clothed, cover yourself with, and put on, Christ” (Rom. 13:14).  HE is our covering (Ephesians 4:24), HE is our righteousness when we accept the gift of God, His righteousness (Romans 5:15-18).  We are to guard our garments, lest we be caught naked (not covered by Him and His righteousness), lest when He come and knock, we’re not ready to open to Him. Also see Revelation 16:15.  We have to “watch our garments” lest we be found to be spiritually naked.

So the antidote:  put on Christ. Ask for HIS righteousness, which is offered as a free gift to us by faith (Romans 5:17; 1 Cor. 1:30-31; 2 Cor. 5:21).  Of course if Christ lives in us, He will live as He did before: obediently.  We can’t say we belong to Him and not walk as He walked (1 John 2:3-6). But it should be HIM walking in us, working in us. HE is the Vine and we are the branches. When we abide in the Vine, we bear much fruit (John 15:4-5). We certainly can’t by ourselves. I’m mixing metaphors like crazy, but just trying to point out that HE is our righteousness.  Without Him, we’re naked. Many believers apparently are naked and don’t see it (Rev. 3:17). Father is not into having His children be spiritual nudists!

•    We don’t, or can’t, HEAR His voice or His knocking because there is either a lot of noise or because we’re sound asleep spiritually.

If there’s a lot of “noise” in our lives, we won’t hear His knock.  “Noise” can include anything that distracts us:  non-stop TV blaring, for example. So many of us believers spend hours a day or each week on social media – Facebook, Twitter, email, web surfing, internet games, texting – that we simply have put spiritual matters to the sidelines.

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Is Hamas mentioned in Scripture?

Joel 3:19; Obadiah 10.

Gaza and the Hamas firing their hundreds of rockets everyday against Israel has been a big part of the news lately as I write this. Maybe it’s coincidental, or maybe not, but “hamas” is mentioned in Hebrew scripture in relation to Judah or Israel. Hamas was the militant arm of the Islamic Brotherhood, which was the winning faction in Egypt lately. So it’s no surprise to see Egypt’s new President Morsi warmly embracing Hamas in Gaza.  Hamas has never accepted Israel’s right to even exist. The “Arab Spring” and its promise for more democracy and an Arab-Muslim world with closer ties to the USA and Europe - -and maybe even Israel – simply has not materialized. We have a more anti-US set of leaders in North Africa.

There are many examples of “plays on words” in Scripture. To an Arab, the word “hamas” means someone acting bravely in the cause of Allah.  In Arabic it means “zeal” and it’s an acronym in Arabic for “Islamic Armed Movement”.  However, in Hebrew, there might be an interesting play on words. In Hebrew the word “hamas” means “violence.”  (It can also be spelled “chamac” but still pronounced “hamas”.)  Is it possible that we were warned thousands of years ago in Scripture that Hamas would become a violent thorn in Jacob’s (Israel’s) side?  Read the rest of this blog for what might be more than a coincidence as we examine 2-3 places where the word “hamas” is used in scripture and translated as “violence” in direct context of Israel.

Joel 3:19-21
19 "Egypt shall be a desolation, And Edom [Esau’s descendants] a desolate wilderness,
Because of violence [Hebrew: hamas] against the people of Judah,
For they have shed innocent blood in their land. 
20 But Judah shall abide forever, And Jerusalem from generation to generation. 
21 For I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted;
For YHVH dwells in Zion."

Edom – or Esau – always felt that his twin brother Jacob had stolen what was rightfully his. He made sure his children were firmly indoctrinated from their early childhood to hate their uncle Jacob, renamed Israel. The children of Esau included the fierce Amalekites and we may be witnessing some of their offspring in operation today.  It is ironic that Palestinians and Jews are really from the same overall family. Both are children of Abraham and Isaac. Esau and Jacob were brothers. Palestinians and many Arabs are really brothers or cousins to the Jew. But the bad blood between these brothers has been roiling for millennia. And it doesn’t help that the Hebrew or Jewish word for “darkness” or “nighttime” is “erev” – which can sound very much like “Arab” when it is spoken. Jews had no love for the Idumeans, as they had to endure the rule of the Herods, who were Edomites (or Idumeans).  At one point, the famous rock city of Petra, also called Sela in scripture, was the capital city of the Edomites at Mt. Seir.  Read Jer. 49:16 and 2 Chron. 25:11-12 pertaining to a great slaughter at Petra/Sela (which means “rock”).

On your own please read the one-chapter book of Obadiah. It starts out as a prophecy, a vision, concerning Esau/Edom (Obadiah 1:1).  We jump ahead to verse 10, but be sure to read all of it:

Obadiah 1:10 
10 "For violence (hamas) against your brother Jacob [Israel],
Shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.

Yehovah is angered and saddened when brothers don’t support each other and love each other. Edomites cheered the destruction of Israel in ancient times and will do so again in the end. They cheered the 9-11 attacks. Our Creator is particularly upset when brothers act this way. In fact He told Israel that they were forbidden to abhor an Edomite, “for he is your brother” (Deut. 23:7).  But unfortunately for descendants of Edom, the Almighty is going to severely punish them in the latter days. Why?  Because of the violence, the hamas, they perpetrate against Israel before it is all over. In the end however, YHVH rescues Israel – but not before some terrible carnage happens.

If any of you readers are Jew or Arab, please my brothers: in our Messiah we can come out of the hateful ways of this world.  We are not of this world.  Our hearts are set on our heavenly kingdom. Those of us led by the Holy Spirit can become brothers and sisters in Messiah, heirs of the promises given to Abraham through Christ – whether you are Jew or Arab. But first, we each have to come to Him and surrender our lives in humble obedience.  We ask Him to come live in us by His spirit. Only then can we be one with Him and one another. John 17:20-23 tells us how we become one:  in and through our Savior, who also happens to be our Creator (John 1:1-3; Col.1:15-16).  Jesus – Yeshua – was the God-being who spoke the words “Let there be light” and HE was the one who created man out of the dust and then built a woman from Adam’s side.

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Focus on Your More Important Election

(Hint: it’s not the US elections.)

America wakes up to the reality of four more years of President Obama. Some are euphoric and almost as many are depressed. Most feel it was a most important election.  I agree. The course the USA will take domestically and internationally will be dramatic, I feel.  I gave a sermon recently stating that I feel believers should make their voices heard especially about issues like the Biblical and traditional definition of marriage between one man and one woman, the sanctity of all human life starting at conception, obeying the laws including citizenship laws of who can vote or be president.  So much is at stake and the Almighty either orchestrated this victory for President Obama or allowed it. It’s the difference between YHVH’s “perfect will” and His “permissive will”.  I believe strongly that God gave America the president the country wants and deserves.  Though He has final say in who our leaders are (Romans 13:1), He also says He allows us the leaders we want, even though they would not have been His choice (Hosea 8:4; I Samuel 8:7).  Either way, Father is involved and so we believers have peace, as we know our main citizenship is in heaven and that is where our heart resides.  Read this blog to hear about a far more important election that involves YOU.

But now there’s a far more important election at stake: our own!

Whether we like the elected leaders or not, both campaigns put extraordinary effort and time into making “ their election sure”.  How about you and me?  In a way, our “election” is in reverse. In the US elections, though there is a popular vote, ultimately it’s the vote of the Electors in the Electoral College who decide the president. So each side spent enormous time and money trying to get the undecided states, as they needed those electoral votes.

In our case, the Elector who decides whether or not you or I will be part of what HE calls His “elect” – or “chosen ones” in the first resurrection – is not a mere human, but is Yehovah, God Almighty himself.

The US election pales into insignificance compared to our own election. We get only one shot at it. And that’s not to be president of the USA, but one of special “first fruits” group of the series of callings.  Being “a first fruit” is not so much about having more power or being “the leader”. Neither is it so much about “being in charge” or ruling the nations, as I heard repeatedly as I grew up in the “church”.  Sure, it includes that. But power without love is just brute force and meaningless. So being a “first fruit” is not so much about in charge as it is being able to be an effective “first responder”. It’s about being “in service”.  The world will be in dire straits. Children, babies, men and women will need to be healed. Millions will need food and water and assurance that all will be well.  Now, power underpinned by genuine love and humility will be something they’ve never really witnessed in their leaders before this.  Think of all the times you wish you could have been more effective to help -- but were unable to. As a glorified child of the Highest changed to immortal spirit, we will be just like He is (read 1 John 3:1-2), for He is spirit.

Now let’s transition to us. Are we taking OUR OWN election – being chosen by God - -for granted? Or are we doing everything we can to be sure we are part of the elect of God?   Are we not working as hard, or even harder, than “the other side”?  Governor Romney’s side in the US elections lost because millions of their own registered voters didn’t bother showing up. They actually had the votes to win, had they been more organized, had they been more successful in getting people to act. That’s a huge lesson for us. A huge lesson. At some point, there’s no more time.

Are we “pulling out the stops” to make our own calling and election (being chosen) sure?   
2 Peter 1:10-11
Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So I ask again, are we earnestly seeking Father and Yeshua with all our hearts to make our own calling and election (being chosen) sure?  Are we working anywhere nearly as hard for our spiritual election as the re-election teams did who worked so hard for President Obama’s election?  At some point, Yeshua says the doors are closed and some are found outside wanting in – when it’s too late. The “it’s never too late” message is a dangerous one and not really Biblical. Ask the millions of Israelites who were not permitted into the Promised Land (Hebrews 3:10-18; 4:1-2).  They heard the warnings and the message, but didn’t mix faith with fervent action into the equation.  Are we living like someone who knows time is short and we need to be close tour God, who is also our Elector?  Our faith is demonstrated by our deeds and actions.

Quick definitions are in order. There’s a sequence. Being “called” is not the same at all as being “chosen” – though we have to be called/invited before we are chosen. Many are called (Matthew 22:14) but few are chosen. And when you study it carefully, GOD does the calling as well as the choosing/election.  But we do have a part to play.

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