Blogs

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

Don’t Forget the “Almost Forgotten Day”

Day of Firstfruits

 As I write this on Sunday, April 8, 2012 – it happens to also be Ishtar Sunday and so as a result, believers in Yahweh may be minimizing what should be a glorious day. OK, most people pronounce it “Easter”, but even casual research will show that Easter originated with the worship of the goddess of sex and fertility.  Hence the Easter eggs and Easter bunny.  But because some of us see this for what it is, we have to be extra careful not to ignore this very special “day after the sabbath” during the Passover season.  Check out my sermon on this.  In this blog, I just want to be sure to remind my readers that we should acknowledge this day before Yahweh in solemn and thankful prayer. Though it is not a holy day, it is indeed a very, very special day. 

On this day our Savior ascended to Abba, our dear heavenly father, to be accepted as the first of the firstfruits of the spiritual harvest.  This is an epochal day.  He was resurrected exactly after being “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” as He said, just before sundown the end of Sabbath (Matthew 12:39-40).  Even if we count just portions of a day as a whole day, we cannot find three nights in a Friday night burial and a Sunday morning resurrection.  My sermon will explain it in more detail. Either He is the Messiah and fulfilled the one sign He gave, or not. 

I believe He fulfilled it to the minute.

 Matthew 12:38-40

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You."

39 But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth

The eve of the 15th of Abib is a full moon. The full moon on the 15th in 30 AD was a Wednesday night. Wednesday was the preparation day for the next day, which would be a High Day, a special annual sabbath, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (John 19:31). He was placed into the tomb Wednesday just before sunset (Luke 23:54).  By Sunday morning the tomb was already empty.  Of course! Because 3 days and three nights later would be Sabbath just before sunset.  So when the women checked the tomb Sunday morning, it was empty already. An angel earlier had rolled back the stone to the terror of the Roman guards (Matthew 28:1-9), so by the time they got there, He had long before already left the tomb.  Hallelujah!

Jesus Christ, whom I usually call by His given Hebrew name Yeshua, appears first to Mary Magdalene upon His resurrection. It was early the “first of the sabbaths” or “the first of the weeks”, as this day is the first day of the omer count to Pentecost/Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks.

Young’s Literal Translation has it like this:

John 20:1

And on the first of the sabbaths, Mary the Magdalene doth come early (there being yet darkness) to the tomb, and she seeth the stone having been taken away out of the tomb…

I am confident He rose to our Father and our God (John 20:17) at precisely the moment the high priest was raising the “omer” of finely ground barley flour to be accepted as the firstfruits of the new barley harvest.  HE is called “Christ the firstfruits” in 1 Cor. 15:23. Check out my sermon for full details.

What is translated “sheaves” or “sheaf” in English is from the Hebrew “omer”.  It could be translated either as standing stalks/sheaves – or as a unit of measure, about 2 quarts. In practice, they didn’t wave stalks or sheaves but a bowl of finely ground barley flour. This batch was to be accepted in behalf of the rest of the barley harvest.  Yeshua had to first rise to Father to be accepted in OUR behalf.  Read Lev. 23:9-12 carefully, especially verse 11. On this day, though it’s not a holyday, it is wavesheaf day.  It is firstfruits day.  Shavuot/Pentecost is also a Feast of First Fruits but today is the day honoring Yeshua, the “first of the first fruits” (Exodus 23:19 and 34:26; 1 Cor. 15:23). 

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HAVE a FAMILY PASSOVER

In a few days many of us will be observing the Passover.  In this blog, I just want to encourage as many as possible, to have a Family Passover instead of the corporate Passover so many do. I’m glad we have more and more people keeping Passover, regardless of how or when you feel led to keep it. It beats the alternative (see my last blog). 

What’s a “Family Passover”?  Just as it sounds. Instead of going to a service led by one man doing a monologue with everyone else as silent spectators in a row-by-row service reminiscent of a funeral, let’s get back to doing it the way it is described throughout Scripture: in your homes, with your family and extended family. Don’t forget to invite the singles and widows and those without believing family members. 

First of all, some reminders: the term “Passover” is specifically referring to the 14th day of the Hebrew first month when the lamb was killed. It later came to refer to the entire spring feast Days of Unleavened Bread, though the Passover lamb was killed on the 14th, and eaten later that evening. In Ezekiel 45:21 for example, we read -- “the Passover, a feast of seven days”.  

Numbers 28:16-17 make it clear that the Passover is considered the 14th day, and the first holyday of Unleavened Bread is on the 15th.  The day Christ our Passover died as the Passover Lamb of God (1 Cor. 5:7) was on the daytime portion of 14th of Abib at 3 pm (Mark 15:34-37).  The daytime portion of the 14th was considered a preparation day for the High Day meal and holyday which began that night, the eve of the 15th to the end of the 15th of the Hebrew first month. 
Again, the objective of this blog is to encourage you have a family-style Passover rather than go to a large group or corporate-church style Passover.  The first official Passover in Exodus 12 was for families to select a perfect kid or lamb on the 10th, keep it to the 14th and then roast it and totally consume it in the evening. Nothing was to be left until morning. It was a family event.  They didn’t go to the church building or the big rec hall rented by the church and have the Passover. No, they were home, with family.  Of course all Israel was really one family grown large, but Yahweh’s instructions were to keep this very special time in smaller groups, within houses (read Exodus 12:1-11).  True, once the temple was built, the nation came together to keep Passover in Jerusalem—but again, they had temple services, but the Passover meal and ceremonies were done with family units, in homes or tents. The men, women and children were often there, as we read even of Jesus’ family (Luke 2:41-44).  Sometimes only the men could go. 

Even in New Covenant times, the ekklesia, the called-out ones, are a family and we are to see each other as family.  But even here, the early assemblies met in people’s homes according to many scriptures (such as Romans 16:5 and 1 Cor. 16:19 among many).  Now that many of us do not have families who believe in keeping the holydays and Passover, many of you can’t have families celebrating together. Some may be by themselves, or widowed, or single – or some may even be disallowed into some groups’ fellowship, as was the blind man in John 9. We who have families should be on the lookout for such people and welcome them to our home (assuming we know the people and the fruit of their lives).  We can read how we are to celebrate these feasts with families and remember the orphans and strangers while we’re at it. 

We can read that Yeshua’s family went as a family up to Jerusalem to keep the Passover (read Luke 2:41-44, and you see it was an extended family). Obviously, this is referring to the entire spring feast as is also alluded to in Ezek 45:21, as Luke 2 speaks of “when the days were over”.  But my point is, the family stayed together for the Passover and observed it together. 

I think when we have believing family members in the same general local area, we should strive to keep this Passover service together. So what does a New Covenant Passover service look like when kept by a family together?  Well, when we read any of the passages about Passover in scripture, there was a meal, including at Yeshua’s last Passover. His Passover did not resemble the Passover of Exodus 12 in many ways, and neither did His Passover resemble what so many do today. 
For example:  In Exodus 12, they ate it while standing, with sandals on their feet, rod in hand, ready to leave quickly. In Yeshua’s last Passover they were reclining, relaxed, having very animated conversations -- and their sandals were off their feet (He washed their feet, remember). 

Then Yeshua instituted the emblems of the New Covenant Passover – the footwashing, and the blessing/eating of the broken bread and wine (Matthew 26:26-30).  The traditional blessing over the broken bread includes thanking Yahweh, King of Universe … and for providing us Bread from the earth.  Without realizing it, could it be that Jews were including a prophecy of Yeshua’s resurrection from the earth, as the true bread of life?  Many Church of God Passovers are formal services that have the footwashing and a formal recital of the scripture then the sharing of the broken bread and wine in a very formal and solemn service.  In most of those meetings, there are no children and there is no discussion, conversation and certainly no meal. I just don’t see it that way in Scripture. We need to restore family-based Passovers among believers. 

I know in Exodus 12, only males who were circumcised could participate (Ex. 12:43-49), whether native born or foreigner, one rule for all.  But the whole family was involved.  In the New Covenant, circumcision is now of the heart, and not of the flesh (Romans 2:28-29). Paul was emphatic that the uncircumcised did NOT need to be circumcised (1 Cor. 7:18-19; Gal. 5:2-3).  We do understand that those eating the bread and wine and washing feet should be the spiritually circumcised; i.e., those who are baptized and have God’s Spirit, walking the new walk.  But does that preclude children being present to observe what is going on? No. 

So the family Passover I am teaching is that you get your family and extended family together, and start with a meal in your own home.  Yeshua has already been sacrificed as s the Lamb of God, so I see no reason to have to eat lamb. Because there is no temple or priesthood to approve the lambs, even Jews do not eat lamb at Passover today. Just have a meal with joyous conversation as we explain to our children how the Lamb of God paid the penalty for our sins and shortcomings and what a joy it is to realize that. As you end dinner, it would be good to remind the children that the baptized adults now will do the footwashing and eat the broken matzah and drink of the cup of wine. Again, I don’t see this as a period of someone doing a monologue.  Ex 12 and other passages show the children were asking questions and involved. They were present. 

I believe in a special annual Passover service of breaking of bread and drinking of wine – preceded by a self-examination and then partaking – as the end of 1 Cor. 11 explains. Some believe this is done each Sabbath, at each “potluck”.  But the Passover is a “memorial” of Christ’s Passover and death. Memorials are typically on an anniversary date, in this case, the 14th of Hebrew month Abib. 

The host male could begin and lead the session, perhaps encouraging others to read pertinent passages of scripture as well and have brief discussions relevant to what is being read.  Encourage discussion, rather than someone doing a monologue.  In fact, why not let the older children read some of the scriptures too, and get them involved that way as well?  In Exodus 12:24-27, we clearly read that children will be asking questions and we should be answering those questions, with them present.  Certainly Jews do this in their Seder services with the questions asked by the children.  In New Covenant times, I think only baptized and converted adults who have made the commitment required at baptism, should be eating the broken bread and drinking of the wine.  But, the children are present.  At the end, everyone sings some joyful hymns of deliverance together as we praise Yahweh for His Yeshua – which means Salvation.  So we thank God for Yeshua, our Savior.  It should be upbeat, joyful – and a family event if at all possible.

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Repeating the Gold Calf Sin

Many of you know I don’t keep Easter.  One big reason I don’t, is because I want to learn the lesson from the gold calf incident.  Readers of this site know I don’t keep the pagan holidays that have been labeled “Christian” – and we’re told they are to honor Christ. So we have Easter eggs and bunnies somehow mingled with the resurrection story.  We have Christmas trees somehow dedicated to Christ. Let me explain why I’m not a part of all that, though I love my Yeshua. 

Let’s go back to Israel and the gold calf for a lesson in what NOT to do.  We all know the story of how Israel got Aaron, their future high priest and older brother of Moses to give them a gold calf to worship. Moses had gone up to the top of Mt. Sinai when Yahweh had called him up.  I suspect, by the way, that since the mountain top was all ablaze (Exodus 24:16-18), that Moses may have literally entered into the fire of Yahweh’s presence and protected supernaturally like Daniel’s three friends were in the book of Daniel. I can’t prove it, but it’s worth considering the faith it took for Moses to go to the mountain top.  In any case, he was gone 40 days as he talked with Yahweh.

So Moses was gone a long time and there was no way to know if he was even still alive. The Israelites, steeped in Egyptian paganism, reverted back to their more familiar ways of worship and crafted a gold calf. But in their minds, were they worshiping a gold calf image? NO! In the same way, those who religiously keep Easter and Christmas say and think they are worshiping the son of God Jesus Christ (or Yeshua the Messiah), but are they?

Exodus 32:1-6

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, "Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." 

2 And Aaron said to them, "Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me." 3 So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. 4 And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.  Then they said, "This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!" 
5 So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, "Tomorrow is a feast to YHVH (Yahweh)."

6 Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.

Did you catch verse 5?  They were going to use the gold calf as a visual way to -- in their minds – worship Yahweh! Aaron must have figured, “If we’re going to worship a gold calf, maybe it’s OK if we put Yahweh’s name on it.”   If you continue reading and know the story, Yahweh was royally ticked off at this and 3,000 were executed for mingling the worship of Him with gold calf paganism.  How is that any different from what we do with Easter and Christmas? They originated in paganism but we say it’s all to honor the true God as we worship with pagan festivals!  Of course He’s upset by that!

Don’t make that mistake. Stop worshiping Yahweh with Easter or other holidays that can easily be proven to have pagan connections.  It’s no different than what Israel did with the gold calf!

Do I not believe Yeshua rose from the tomb? Absolutely!  But at sunrise?  Absolutely not.  By the time Mary Magdalene got there, before sunrise, while it was still dark (John 20:1) the tomb was already empty. Mark 16:1-2 does say after sunrise, but the point is, the tomb was already empty, so we can’t know when He was resurrected by those verses alone.  He was placed into the tomb just before sunset three days and three nights before (NOT fractions of 3 days) (Luke 23:50-56).  That day was the “preparation day” (Luke 23:54) for “a High Day”.   That means an annual Sabbath, not a weekly Sabbath. The next day was the first day of Unleavened Bread, a holy day, a “High Day”, an annual sabbath.  So the day Jesus died was the preparation day for the holyday, and it fell that year in the middle of the week. It’s a common error to assume that was a Friday. You can’t get three days AND three nights out of a Friday night burial and Sunday morning resurrection.John 19:31


Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.

We have to have three days AND three nights or He’s not our Savior, because that’s the only sign He gave to prove He will be the Savior (see Matthew 12:40).

He was resurrected at sundown the night before, appeared to Mary early the next day – on “the first of the weeks”, as it is in the original. The word “day” is in “italics”.  This was day #1 in the count of 50 days to Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks. Yes, that year when He revealed Himself to Mary was on a Sunday. On that day He rose to Father’s throne in heavenly Jerusalem to be the first of the firstfruits accepted in our behalf – the rest of the spiritual harvest (see Leviticus 23:9-11).  He was what the first barley firstfruits, raised up by the High Priest to be accepted by Yahweh. After that, the rest of the harvest could proceed. And so it was with Yeshua.  Soon after came the many baptized on the Feast of Pentecost in Acts 2.

The early Christians kept the holydays of Scripture, the “feasts of Yahweh”, or as your Bible probably incorrectly says, “of the LORD”. You can find them all listed in Leviticus 23.  That’s why they were all together in one accord on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-2).  It was a holyday of Yahweh. That’s why Paul spoke of Passover, and being unleavened.

So learn the lesson of the gold calf: let’s not mix the worship of our Maker with pagan rituals. He hates that. He commands us not to add pagan rituals to our religious worship.

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Passover – will yours be a Solemn Joy or a Dirge?

As we come to Yahweh’s (the LORD’s) Passover this year, I want to ask each of you something. So many of the Passover services I’ve been a part of, especially with the Church of God (COG) groups, have been ultra- solemn services composed of the washing of feet and then the breaking of matzah and drinking a small vial of fermented red wine – with of course some prayers, the reading of John 13-17 and a hymn at the end. On the other hand, I realize many Messianic groups and Jewish believers have a distinctly different kind of Passover where there is the Seder feast and readings amidst fairly vocal and open rejoicing. 

I would suggest something in the middle. Most of the COG groups observe Passover the eve of the 14th of Abib as a memorial of the last night Jesus was with His disciples prior to His crucifixion. We do this “in remembrance of” Him (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-25). They see it as a memorial (Exodus 12:14) of the death of the Lamb of God, so it is very solemn. It is also very clear that the last Passover, or some call it “the Last Supper” of Yeshua, was one night earlier than the mainstream Jews were going to keep Passover. So in the COG services, there typically is no meal, no Seder until the following night, the “Night to be Observed”, on the eve of the 15th of Abib. That’s when the COG groups are more festive, more joyous, recounting Exodus from Egypt. (However, don’t forget it is also the time that Messiah was taken down from the tree and buried.) So Passover is seen in COG groups as a very solemn evening.

Though we are remembering our Master’s death for us, we must also remember that He Himself instructed us to have peace and joy on this night and to love one another. It is clear that that during HIS last Passover that His disciples were all talking among each other. They were having a meal; many conclude it was in fact a Seder. In John 13 He teaches the new commandment after demonstrating the servitude of washing feet and how He cleanses us. In John 14 Yeshua joyfully teaches about going to prepare a place for us. He speaks of the indwelling of Father into our lives and we in Him. He ends that chapter with assuring us of His peace. Then in John 15 Yeshua is very upbeat about being a healthy branch on Him, the Vine, and how growth and fruit come into our lives. He reminds us of the life of abundant joy (John 15:11) and “that your joy may be full”. You can read the rest of His words through John 17. It’s all upbeat. It’s filled with peace and joy and assurances and faith. Hardly a funeral-type service at all! Knowing that we have victory over sin by His blood and have new life by His resurrection, surely when we take Passover this year, we can do so with what I call “solemn joy”.

Passover should not have the look and feel of a funeral. But frankly, that’s how it’s felt in too many cases. Isn’t it time to stop the feeling we’ve just gone to a funeral? It’s not that! Neither is it a time to be giddy or joking. But the old rules that people were to come in quietly and say nothing, just find their seats and be quietly reading the scriptures on Passover – where did that all start? Again, it is clear that Messiah Himself and His disciples were having quite an animated discussion at their Passover. I also doubt that they had just a tiny piece of matzah as we do today. Nor did they have just a tiny thimble full of wine in funny plastic or glass vials all set neatly in some tray that was passed around. I’m going to have a sermon soon about how the modern “Christian” church has absorbed so much paganism and customs of the world religions. Let’s rethink this year’s Passover. Certainly after we break the bread and drink the wine, we should rejoice knowing we have the victory in Yeshua! Our hymns at the end should be about our Yeshua, our SALVATION and the JOY that comes with that.

We should come home refreshed, quietly joyous for what HE has done for us. At our Passover, we will be solemnly joyful and I suggest you consider the same.

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Help our wounded

Wounded Warriors Project

 


I watched on TV with dismay and I felt painful jabs in my heart.  What was causing this anguish?

Please click on this site:  https://support.woundedwarriorproject.org/default.aspx?tsid=93 

Wounded Warrior Project: it’s a great way to show our wounded men and women that they have a country behind them who appreciate and love them. Thousands are coming home with traumatic brain injuries. Many have lost an arm or a leg. I watched on TV how one man, blinded by a blast, was led around his home by his 10 year old daughter. Let’s not forget these brothers and sisters.  I can’t imagine what they’ve experienced, what their thoughts were before and during the trauma they went through, or what they’re going through now.  For even just $19 a month donated directly to the Wounded Warrior Project, if enough of us would step up to the plate, a lot of good can be done.  Even if you can afford only one tax deductible donation, I know it will do so much good. One of my own nephews is a major in the US Army and recently served for many months in Afghanistan.  All during that assignment, many of us back home were hoping and praying he would come home alive and without a life-changing incident. Yes, those prayers were answered, praise Yahweh (that’s what “hallelujah” means).  But the whole ordeal made me wonder: how much help would he have received if it hadn’t ended so well?

WHY would I ask you to support this:
1.   We’re not supporting war by doing this.  I believe we are supporting people who need our help. Don’t turn your back on our Savior.  Why do I say that? Remember Messiah says in Matthew 25 that when we extend a hand to someone needing our help, He takes it personally.  “You did it unto me”, He says.

2.  It means we’re practicing what James taught in his epistle. We have to go beyond just saying “you’re in my thoughts and prayers”, but doing nothing concrete besides that to help the needy.  Sure, I believe in the power of prayer.  But James and Yeshua said in Matthew 25, that it must be tangible help as well, whenever it is in our power to do so. 

Read James 2:14-25 again and Matthew 25:37-43.

In the meantime, pray that He sets up His Kingdom soon and may there be peace on earth.

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Understanding “The Thief in the Night”

A well-known phrase but often misunderstood

 Did you know back in the days of the apostles there was an actual person as known among Jews in Jerusalem as “the thief in the night”?  Yeshua and Paul certainly would have been aware of this. Once you read this blog, certain scriptures will jump out with clarity. 

Here’s the background:  the priests were each given certain shifts, schedules and rotations for all the various temple jobs. One of their mandates was that the fire of the large altar was never to go out. So a priest would be assigned each night to be a “watchman” if you will, and to stay awake to watch the altar to be sure the fire never died out. It was a very important job!  So without letting anyone know when, or on which night he would do this, the High Priest would sometimes come around softly in the wee hours of the morning while it was still very dark to check on the priest on duty, to see if he was doing his job as the watchman of the fire. If the priest on duty had fallen asleep and was allowing the fire to go out, the High Priest would literally take some of the burning coals in one of the special shovels and dump the hot coals on to the edges of the sleeping priest’s garments! Of course as soon as his clothes would start to catch fire, he’d wake up in a panic. Naturally he’d throw off all his garments which were now on fire so he himself would not be burned to death. He would literally go running into the night stark naked.  All because he did not stay awake and watch his garments. This would be a most humiliating lesson to him and all the priests. So they nicknamed the High Priest – whom they call the Kohen Gadol – as “the thief in the night”. 

Now does Revelation 16:15 make more sense, with this in mind?
"Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."

Yeshua is telling us to be doing our job – watching the zealous fire of our calling, to guard our garments – which stand for righteousness, God’s righteousness covering us. Remember the Laodiceans are described as not being zealous and being found naked.

The description of “thief in the night” is a description of when He will come – at a time we think not, unexpectedly (Matthew 24:44).  When we couple this understanding with the very clear verses about how He comes, it should be clear that when He actually does return, everyone in the world will know it.  He won’t be coming quietly as a thief in that sense.  But in timing, for those who are spiritually sleeping, He will come as a “thief in the night”.  But for the priests who were awake, and who did not sleep on their watch, when the High Priest came around it was not a bad thing.

If we’re doing our job and watching the fires of our calling to stay on fire for the things of Yahweh, staying zealous, neither should Yeshua appear to US as a “thief in the night”! We won’t be found naked. Nor will we have to go running into the night, naked, ashamed of ourselves.  This is why Paul was able to teach the Thessalonians that “the day of the Lord should NOT come upon them (or us) unexpectedly!”  We should be people “watching the times and seasons”, which pertain to keeping the Holydays as reminders of Yahweh’s great plan and timetable. In the Old Testament, the word for “times” or “seasons” was often the Hebrew word “moed”, meaning God’s holydays, his appointed times, the days we have appointments with Yahweh to keep HIS holydays.  So for us, Yeshua should NOT be returning to us as “a thief in the night”.  Paul makes it very clear that zealous believers should not be caught off guard!

1 Thessalonians 5:1-10
But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.

That all makes a lot more sense now, doesn’t it?

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Adding words to the Bible to magnify functions of service

Almighty God warns us not to add or remove words from His Scriptures.  Did you know the words “the office of” were added by King James to his Bible translation?  Why? He did it to make certain church functions intended for service appear loftier than they are. Yahweh’s people are a family. That’s why I wrote in a blog a while back that I don’t call my brother “Mr. Shields”, and certainly wouldn’t address him as “father” or “holy father”.  In fact doing so would go directly against Yeshua’s teachings. Israel is simply a family grown large. Any called-out believers are also a family. We’re children of Yahweh, part of His family, and part of spiritual Israel. 

Ultimately over time, the family concept was dropped. The Catholic Church became the visible church and they copied the positions of authority in the Roman Empire.  Bishops were over the priests. Cardinals were called a “prince of the church”. They started wearing fancy robes and living lavishly like kings –something the original apostles never did.  Over time, they ruled whole nations and had castles and their own armies and waged wars.  NOT what Yeshua had in mind at all!  Leaders were given big titles like “holy father” – though Yeshua commanded us NOT to do that. Others have “presiding evangelists”, “pastor general”, “directors” and senior pastors and so on. This allowed a class system to arise and divide God’s family. So we have “the clergy” and the “laity”, instead of all being one big happy family.  What did our King say? We have but one Lord.

Matthew 23:6-12

6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues (at church),  7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.'  8 But you, do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.  9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.  10 And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.  11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.  12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Remember that though “Rabbi” translates to “teacher”, the word picture in Hebrew means “my great one”!  Only ONE should be our “great one”! There’s only one “big name” – Yeshua! Jesus!

I said the Catholic Church became “the visible church” because I believe with all my being that the true “church of God” – or congregation of Yahweh, or assembly of believers – is not an organization nor can be confined to an organization.  “The Church” is composed of anyone who has been called out of the ways of the world and has received and is being led by Yahweh’s Holy Spirit.  Period. No matter where they live or where they attend. If someone has God’s spirit, he or she is my brother or sister. Period.  They make up what I’ll call the true “invisible church” of our Father in heaven. The true one body of believers is not confined to any one organization but is composed of the scattered family members led by His Spirit. But that’s hard for humans to control.

Back to this matter of authority and offices.  Yes, there has to be proper order and government, especially as a group grows in size. But that’s not the same as “lording it over others”.  Yeshua taught His apostles to be sure they remembered they were brothers, and to try to see how much they could serve. He warned them not to pursue big titles and commanded them not to lord it over their brothers and sisters, but serve them. Jesus (Yeshua) called those lording it over others-- “benefactors”.  It’s the attitude in the church that says, “If you cooperate with church hierarchy, you will be rewarded. You will be put on the speaking list. You will be ordained. You will be given titles and rewards”.  We are to seek the praises of God more than the praises of men.

Luke 22:25-27 (also see Matthew 20:25-28)
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.

In the 1500’s and early 1600’s, the Catholic Church – and then the Church of England – started having more and more challenges to their authority.  They felt so threatened when Bibles started being translated into everyday languages that they burned many men and women at the stake! So what did they do to entrench their power? They turned church service functions into positions of authority. Deacon for example – from the Greek diakonos – means “a servant, an attendant, a table waiter”.  Even the word “minister” means “servant”.  But they wanted these to be big and lofty titles, so King James added the words “office of” in 1 Tim. 3:1, 10, 13.  More modern translations correctly removed those words, which are in italics; they weren’t in the original!

1 Timothy 3:1 “This is a true saying, If a man desires the office of a bishop…”   (KJV)

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You’re the “Apple of His Eye”

Good Pre-Passover reminder

On this website I’ve been showing recently that each day we are drawing closer to the days of God’s wrath when He shakes the whole world and brings us to our senses. I’ve been showing the need for each of us to repent, and for the body of believers to repent, and how we must be praying that even the nations repent.  It’s obvious as we read the Prophets that Yahweh is ticked off in the “last day”.  

But in times such as this, even when we know we have to repent, it is comforting to realize Abba still sees us as “the apple of His eye” – in spite of times He does get angry with us and has to discipline us.  As we come nearer the Passover season especially, remember what this means. 

 Stevie Wonder helped make that statement famous in one of his songs with the words, “You are the sunshine of my life, that’s why I’ll always stay around.  You are the apple of my eye, forever you’ll stay in my heart.” But really the expression “apple of my eye” comes from our English Bibles where it is used several times in Scripture. Moses reminded the Israelites that YHVH selected Israel to be “the apple of His eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10).  Verse 11 goes on to show how the Eternal hovered over Israel like a mother eagle watches over the eaglets in her nest. 

 The shepherd king David wrote a beautiful prayer of a psalm, Psalm 17:8, wherein he prays:

“Keep me as the apple of your eye.  Hide me under the shadow of Your wings.”

 Zechariah 2:8 is one of my favorites: “For thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apples of His eye”.

 Yahweh is saying a time is coming we will have to flee out of spiritual (unspiritual?) Babylon (verses 5-7) but those who are “messing with” His children better beware because He sees it as poking Him right in His eye! Yahweh says Israel is the apple of His eye. Today there is a national Israel – and a spiritual Israel, the body of believers.

 So even as I have been preaching on our need to pray for repentance and forgiveness, we need to also remember who and what we are in His eyes.  I’ve spoken about how there is an identity we form with our Elohim:  we are His people and He is our God! You are precious to God. When we fall short of His glory, as we often do, we must remember that He does tell us He knows our limitations, is merciful, forgiving and we remain the apple of His eye as we come back to Him.

 Why “apple” of the eye? The Hebrew word is ‘ishown – meaning “little man”. Perhaps it is because when you look intimately into someone’s eyes, you see a reflection of yourself, a tiny image of yourself formed on their retina.  Yes, Father looks into your eyes – and sees Himself in the reflection on your pupil. He realizes you are being transformed into His perfect image “until Christ is formed in you” as Paul says. He knows we are all of one, in Him, and He has covenanted to watch over you as you protect your eye pupil, the apple of your eye.  He sees a little bit of Himself in you, in your eyes – just like you might look at your own children and see a bit of yourself in them.

 I had to have a splinter removed from my eyeball once.  I wanted to blink so badly as the eye doctor slowly moved his instrument into position – even as he warned me to not change my focus or blink, no matter what happened as he picked off the splinter. Yes, the apple of the eye is very precious, very tender, very sensitive.  Our eyelids naturally close when there is perceived danger to   the pupil – the “apple” – of the eye. It is bathed in tears, protected by the eyelid.  So we guard our eyes, especially the pupil of our eyes.  It is a most vulnerable and a most sensitive part of our face.

 So the “apple of the eye” refers to something – someone – cherished, protected, highly valued. Someone we feel very sensitive and tender about.  Just think about how precious your eye pupils are.

  Our Creator sees you as the apple of His eye. You. Yes, you are so precious to Abba. Remember this especially in the days ahead as you prepare your heart and mind for the Passover.

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Is a Nineveh repeat possible?

In a recent audio message on Light on the Rock, I asked whether you are “a Jonah” or “a Matthew”. You’ll have to hear the message to fully find out what I was talking about.  We also talked about how Nineveh repented of their wickedness and turned from their ways (Jonah 3:5-10). Therefore our living God did not destroy that major city. Then my January 2012 sermon was about us first repenting, then praying for our nations to repent – and praying for a Nineveh Repeat!

My question today is this:  Is a repeat of the Nineveh repentance story possible in our day? 

Is it even possible that America, Britain, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands and other modern day remnants of the Ten Lost Tribes can come to repentance?  And if they were to repent, what would that do to all the written prophecies in the books of Revelation, Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah and all the prophets and other prophecies?

Just imagine: what if the books of Revelation and Daniel and other prophecies have to be rewritten because of wholesale repentance by some of the key nations in those prophecies? Wow!

 

Many of you may jump to the conclusion that we’re simply not going to repent as a nation.

I beg to differ. Though I’ll concur that it’s not likely that our nations will repent, I still believe all things are possible with our merciful Father.  Don’t you? Yes, I believe a Nineveh Repeat is very possible. If you want to hear a thorough discussion on this, please check out the most recent sermon on Light on the Rock (January 2012).  In that teaching you will hear of the many Old and New Testament teachers who prayed for their country. Yes, even Paul did!

Here’s why I think a Nineveh repeat is possible:

  • · All things are possible with our merciful God (Mark 9:23)

 

“The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it.”  (Jeremiah 18:7-8).

 

We certainly watched Him do that with Nineveh. More than once right after the Exodus He was ready to eradicate Israel, but Moses interceded. Jeremiah 18:8 makes it clear that this applies more than just to individuals, but to whole nations.

 

  • · This national repentance becomes exponentially more likely to happen if Yahweh’s children would come together
  • Notice I said we need to pray that the nation repents - - not just that they be forgiven.  Forgiveness is a given with our God, if the nation repents. The hard part is for all of us to repent.  But even this starts with our own repentance.

Even if you don’t see yourself as someone not as bad as the worst of sinners, you also have had plenty to repent of. I certainly do. I know that. And praise be to my loving Father in heaven who has been willing to wash away all my sins in His Son’s blood.  If He can forgive even my sins, He certainly can forgive anyone else’s.  He’s willing to do the same for the nation upon repentance.

 

Since I’ve experienced HIS incredible mercy and His willingness to put my sins behind me, I certainly know He can do it for the whole country.  There’s NO question of that in my mind.

 

My dear friends and brothers and sisters – believe. Believe so much in our Father’s mercies that you can believe He also can bring a goodly number to repentance.  The book of Revelation at least concedes that much: that there will be an uncountable number of people who WILL repent at the very end. Many of them will be spared the worst of the worst cataclysms to befall the earth in the last year before Yeshua’s feet land on the Mount of Olives.

If you can believe in our amazing Father’s love and boundless mercy, believe enough to have your own repentance – and then to pray that even YOUR country, whatever and wherever it is, can also come to genuine repentance and experience the same loving forgiveness you have received.  You just might be amazed at how much this prayer may be heard – if enough of us start doing it.

Time is short. Tell others about this message.  And hear the full message on this website – January 2012.  It’s probably one of the most vital and urgent messages I’ve ever preached.  Pray -- and believe.

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Which day is “the Last Great Day of the Feast”?

Hint: John 7:37-39 is not about the 8th Day!

Sabbath keeping Church of God groups have for decades taught that John 7:37-39 was preached on the 8th day Feast, the single day after the 7-day Feast of Tabernacles (or Sukkot, in Hebrew). They've called the 8th day, the day after the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), “The Last Great Day of the Feast”. In this blog I share why I've taught for many years now that surely this is an incorrect conclusion in light of the facts and scripture. I’ll record a full featured sermon with far more facts and points than I can cover in this blog. Be sure to hear and study it. I’ll give a partial bullet-point version in this blog. You can also go to the sermon I preached in October 2006 expounding on the real message Jesus spoke on the 8th day, but that what he said in John 7:37-39 was given on the true Last day of the Feast, the 7th day. 

Here’s the heart and core of it. What church organizations choose to do with their teachings when faced with the facts is up to them. I believe at least two or three COG organizations now “see the light” of this truth and are preaching it correctly. Hundreds of church groups continue in their error, however, of explaining Jesus’ statements in John 7:37-39 were spoken on the 8th day.

John 7:37 NKJV

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.”

John 7:37-39 Apologetics Study Bible

37 On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! 38 The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” 39 He said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were going to receive, for the Spirit had not yet been received, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. 

• Yeshua (Jesus) made reference to drinking, thirsting and to rivers of water. That’s the context. Water was poured out all 7 days of the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot, but no water was ever poured on the 8th day. Yeshua was alluding to lots and lots of water when he spoke in John 7:37-39. But, NO water was poured out on the 8th day according to the Jewish Mishna. What Jesus says makes sense only while a lot of water is being poured out – which happened on the 7th day, the last special day, of the Feast of Tabernacles.

• What’s called “The Feast” of Tabernacles went for seven days from Tishrei 15-21 (Lev. 23:34-36). Deuteronomy 16:13 also says to keep the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days.

The last day of the Feast is therefore the 21st of Tishri, or the 7th day of the Feast itself, not the 8th. In fact, at the end of the 7th day of the feast, the sukkah (or booths) were taken down, in obedience to Yahweh’s command that “SEVEN days (not eight) you are to dwell in booths” (or temporary dwellings). Hmm. How are we doing on that one? Deut 16:15 says “Seven days you shall keep a feast to Yahweh your God….” There was no such thing as “the 8th day of the feast” because “the feast” had ended by the end of the 7th day.

• The 8th day is a separate festival. It is one day. It is linguistically impossible to talk about this one day feast by saying “on the last, the great day of the feast” when it is only one day long. Do you see why it is clear as day that the “last day of the Feast” had to be the 7th?

• Jews have for millennia called the 7th day of the Feast “Hoshana Rabbah” – a wonderful day of deliverance and salvation for the whole world. Hoshana Rabbah means “the Great Hosanna” – or the great time of salvation and praise. They never referred to the 8th day as “the Great day” or “the last day of the Feast” – for indeed it isn’t, it can’t be, “the last day of the Feast”! It’s a separate day. It’s a separate festival. That’s plain as day. But because what Yeshua said fitted so neatly into COG prophetic theological understanding, they made it refer to the 8th day, when the very language in the verses makes that impossible. In fact the 8th day has a unique name among Jews – Shemini Atzeret. So my teaching is more in line with what has always been taught for Millennia: the “last day of the Feast, that Great Day” – HAS to be the 7th day of the Feast, not the 8th. (Note: as usual, Jews keep two days actually, the day after they 8th day they call Simchat Torah). The Feast of Tabernacles is always, every time, referenced as a feast of SEVEN days in Scripture, as I’ve already shown in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Therefore the last day of the 7 day Feast would HAVE to be the 7thday of the Feast of Tabernacles, not the 8th.

I know I keep saying it, but because the wrong explanation keeps being repeated, the truth has to be repeated as well. We are to GROW in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Growing in knowledge means acknowledging when we had misunderstood something before or didn't see something before that we now see. 

Nehemiah 8:17-18

“So the whole assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so. And there was very great gladness. 18 Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner.”

2 Chronicles 7:8-9 “At that time Solomon kept the feast 7 days….v.9 And on the 8th day they held a sacred assembly, for they observed the dedication of the altar 7 days and THE FEAST SEVEN DAYS.” (Verse 10 says he sent them away on the 23rd day of Tishri, the

day after the 8th day of the Feast. Remember again, the Feast went from Tishri 15-21, 8th day was Tishri 22.) 

• The 8th day Feast is simply called that – “the 8th day”. So that’s what I call it. I no longer call the 8th day “the Last Great Day’. It’s a misnomer. The focus is on the word “eight” – which has strong scriptural symbolism of newness, new beginnings. Also, it is never called “the 8th day of the Feast”. Never. It is therefore incorrect to call the 8th day “the Last Great Day of the Feast” – though that incorrectly persists in 98% of the COG groups. Again, the “Last Great Day” of thefeast of Tabernacles HAS to be the 7th day of the Feast.

• In my sermon of Oct 2006 I describe the REAL message of the 8th day – the day AFTER Yeshua said what He said in John 7:37-39. The message of the 7th day, the TRUE Last Day of the Feast, that Great Day, is about the abundance of God’s Spirit flowing by the time we come to the end of the Millennium. I will go in-depth on that in my sermon on and about the TRUE Last Day, the great day of the Feast.

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Did you pray for President Obama today?

This holyday season, we are looking forward to, and celebrating the time when all the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ.
My blog is short today. Though we are “not of this world” in terms of its politics, agenda or religious beliefs, we live here. And so it’s easy for us to lean more to one political persuasion or another. It’s easy to be either liberal or conservative – or “in the middle, a moderate”. It becomes easy to be for or against the leaders we have.
This topic came up because one of the meanings of Yom Kippur – literally meaning “the day of Covering” – or Day of Atonement – is the banishment of Satan for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-2, 7) while the King sets up His kingdom. We long for that day. But in the meantime, we are told to maintain a certain attitude towards our leaders, whether we like them or not, or agree with them or not. So maybe this topic is a timely topic. So just for reminders, here’s what we’re told: 

1 Timothy 2:1-3
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
1 Peter 2:17
Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
Proverbs 24:21 “My son, fear YHVH and the king…”
I’ve done it too. I’ve badmouthed our leaders. I’m no fan of most of our leaders. I want to make it a thing of the past as I try to be more obedient. There’s no place for God’s children to be speaking evil of our leaders. Ministers need to stop doing this too. Many of you don’t even believe in voting – and yet feel free to criticize and condemn. Voting is another topic. But how can anyone feel free to criticize if they don’t participate in the process? And whether you believe you should participate or not in the political process, we’re told to be respectful of our leaders.
So as we look forward to the time we have a new king, let’s obey that coming King and do what He says: honor those HE has put over us. Here are a few more reminders, as we humble ourselves for Atonement and prepare to replace the kings and leaders of this world, in His time, in His way:
Titus 3:1-2
Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.
2 Peter 2:10-11
They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, 11 whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.
Jude 8-9
“Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries. 9 Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"
Exodus 22:28 -- "You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.”
Ecclesiastes 10:20 -- “Do not curse the king, even in your thought ….”
Romans 13:1-7
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
Have you got anything to repent of on this solemn day of repentance and atonement? Maybe this blog has given you some food for thought where we have gone astray at least once recently in this matter.

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A Big Lesson from a little garden

“You reap what you sow”.  How often have we heard that one?

 In previous homes, we often had a little garden. There are SO many lessons for God’s children from such a small plot of ground.  In the house we live in now, there is not much sun-filled areas due to all the trees around so we have not had a vegetable garden. But after watching an episode on gardens from “Little Bear”, my three old niece asked me if we could have a garden for her. So we dug up a small patch together, and she and I planted a few carrots, beans, peas and even a couple tomato plants.  It was fun teaching her to scatter the seed in an organized way rather than empty the whole packet of seeds in one spot! But Poppy and granddaughter had fun with that.  That little patch is getting interesting and got me thinking about a message I had given a couple years ago. 

Sometimes it gets downright discouraging reaping some of what we’ve sown.  Sometimes what comes up doesn’t even resemble what you thought you had sown. Other times, we know there was some bad seed in there too.  We’ve all surely experienced that.  Haven’t we all, at times in our lives – especially when younger and more foolish – sown wild oats and then prayed for a crop failure?  Or sowed even good seed, but didn’t watch it, and so over time the bugs, birds, slugs and mildew – or overcrowding weeds – ruined our hoped-for harvest.

 But here’s one of my favorite many lessons from a home garden:

 If your hoped-for Garden of Eden looks more like a Garden of Weedin’ – it doesn’t have to stay that way. Maybe somehow a lot of weed seeds got in that soil. That’s what got planted – and so that is what you’re reaping. But I learned that if I worked the soil, pulled out the weeds before they went to seed, planted new flowers and vegetables, in time – guess what? I started reaping what I had sown again. But this time, over time, it was becoming a beautiful garden again.

 Father in heaven wants to encourage us. His children encourage their brothers and sisters as well. When we see someone who had once planted a lot of wild oats reaping what he/she had sown, tell them: “you can plant a new garden and have a new life, a new crop in time. You don’t have to think your life will always be a garden of weeds because of what you sowed long ago”. Encourage that person.  Believe he’s entitled to enjoy his new garden. The old weedy garden is gone. It’s a thing of the past. There’s no need to remind him of the past, ugly garden he once had.

 What am I saying?

 Don’t despair if you are reaping the consequences of bad seed you once sowed.  In time, a new crop comes up. Father lets us start over and He believes in his power to change us, even if some people don’t believe in real conversion. People like to go back and harp on the past. That’s what the Accuser of the Brethren does, but God’s children aren’t like the Accuser.

 Someone sent me a message the other day that said the reason our windshield is a lot bigger than our rear view mirror is because our future is more important and still ahead of us.  The past is why we are at the spot we are… but the windshield says, “Look, there’s so much more out there ahead of you. Look ahead, be new, be bold, go in a new direction. Don’t stop where you are.”

 Gardens are like that too. Your life is a like that garden. It won’t stay the way it is now. We have to work our lives.  The main work is on our knees and coming to know our Savior and Father more and more, and to fall deeper in love with our Husband and let His mind work in us.  Work the soil of your life. Plant a new crop – and reap new future. Don’t let carnal people who love to point to your past discourage you.  Plant your new garden.  This works even for facets of our lives. If our marriage, or finances, or child rearing, or coping with stresses need improvement – “plant a new garden” in those areas.  If we want our lives to change, we have to sow new seed. And we will, in time, have a new life. But if we do nothing, or keep doing the same thing, the garden will go to weeds.

 Beware, however. Our Adversary (Satan the accuser) likes to remind you of what you were. Just point to the new life we have in Christ, by His power, His righteousness working in our lives – and rebuke those Satanic thoughts to despairingly look back. Yes, I have to do this frequently myself.

 Father tells us that He sees the way we end up – not the way we started. Yesterday’s shortcomings and sins – the weeds of life -- are forgiven by the court of heaven, whether people do or not. Take heart in that. Believe in HIS word, regardless of the painful whispers and actions from the accusers of the brethren who may even unknowingly be working for their dad, The Accuser of the brethren.

 Ezekiel 18:21-23

21 "But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. 23 Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord God, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live?

 Now go read verse 24. It’s always how we end up which matters most to God.  None of us is yet what we want to be or will be. But praise be to Yahweh – we aren’t what we once were.

 Many of you who will read this someday may be going through your own world of hurt because of bad seed you planted.  Learn from it. Rip out those old weeds and bad seed. Dig deep. Bring in new soil. Sow new seed of doing good and believing in the new creation Father is making of you.

 The angels in heaven are high-fiving in your behalf. The prodigal’s father is rushing out to meet you as you come home (Luke 15:20).  He wants you back with everyone!  And, brethren who have our Father’s mindset will be treating you the same way: welcoming you to the body of Christ as they see you have changed and are changing (read 2 Cor. 2:5-11 for example). I hope you and I are like that: encouraging and accepting of others. Even those who spent all they had on pigs and whores and did other shameful acts …. know the story of the Prodigal son (Luke 15)?  If you realize we all are, to some degree, a prodigal or even the whore in the story – you’ll know the story.  It’s our story.  Yes, even yours.  Compared to God’s holiness, our life, our garden – has often been pretty weedy and even now is a long shot from being a Garden of Eden.  In spite of that, Father is welcoming us home. He sees us belonging here, with him and the rest of the community.

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Justice - or mercy?

“Throw the bum outa here!”  How often we've heard, thought, or even said that. But do we want justice or mercy? Interestingly enough, in listing the “weightier matters of the law”, Messiah lists, in order, “justice, mercy, faith” (Matthew 23:23). Is it a coincidence they are listed in that order? Do you want justice or mercy? How much mercy will you and I be shown in The Judgment or even now?  Here’s a scary verse just in case we haven’t read it lately:

James 2:13
“For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

I don’t think any of us want “judgment without mercy”.  I've decided it’s in my best interest to not be as harsh, impatient, judgmental, critical and - - unmerciful – as I at times have been. How about you? 

It’s inspiring to be around people who have the gift of merciful joy no matter how rough the circumstances.  They smile at incompetent people and say, “no worries, it’s OK.”  Children of God who can overlook and forgive stinging jabs of gossip aimed at them – and leave behind a blessing in return. Blessed saints who seem able to mercifully accept the injustices and wrongs perpetrated against them – and speak a kind word in response.  I marvel at them and pray and hope to join their ranks in time. How enjoyable it is to be around people who aren't sizing everyone up all the time – usually negatively.  How gratifying it is to be around that special breed of people who believe in the best, hope for the best.  They let people who have really messed up in life have a fresh start.  The merciful.  The blessed of God.

These are very gentle and merciful people. Jesus was like that. He must have exuded mercy and an accepting spirit to have had so many friends among the general public. Our Savior was known as a friend to cheats (tax collectors/publicans) and drunkards and women of ill repute (Luke 7:34). And HE’S going to be the judge (John 5:22-27)!  But “sinners” still felt at ease around him. Don’t forget, Yeshua was an exact replica, a perfect image of his and our heavenly Father, God in the Highest (Heb. 1:3).

As we grow up, we too should be looking like, talking like and acting more and more like our Abba as well.  And Abba is known as a wonderfully merciful father and God. He is also perfectly just. In fact we are told to exercise righteous judgment (John 7:24). But justice is covered with mercy in God’s house.

Matthew 23:23 lists justice, mercy and faith as “weightier” matters of law. Which is most weighty?  Since we've all broken the law – I’m looking more for mercy than justice. And according to the story at the end of Matthew 18, if we remember how much mercy has been extended to each of us, you’d think we’d all be experts at doling out mercy. You’d think.

In the Holy of Holies was the ark of the covenant which contained the testimony, the Ten Commandments.  Of course it was the 2nd set, as Moses had already broken all ten himself when he dashed the 2 tablets to the ground when he saw the sin of the Israelites with the golden calf (Ex. 32:19). But my point is, inside the ark, the throne of God on earth, were the Ten Commandments, the law. It represented justice, a  foundation of God’s rule.  Breaking the ten commandments required justice.

But ABOVE the law, atop the box called the Ark, was the solid gold Mercy Seat.  No wonder it says “Mercy triumphs over justice.”  Mercy sat higher and covered the Law. Have you thought of it that way?

If we each really understood how much we've been forgiven, Jesus said we would be among those who “love much” as well (Lk 7:47).  Such was the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears (Luke 7:37-50).  She knew what she was – or had been. She knew how despised she was by the elders of her synagogue and community.  They were wondering how she got in to their pious assemblage. But she also knew the loving mercy of this great man Jesus, the son of God, and it moved her to tears and repentance.  Yeshua let her not only in His presence, but He allowed her to touch His perfect, holy body. More than that, he forgave her and accepted her. He offered His grace and love to her.

Jesus has not changed. Jesus’ body on earth today still accepts despised repentant sinners in its midst (see 1 Cor. 6:9-12). Jesus cleanses us of ALL sin (1 John 1:9). Focus on Luke 7:44-50. There we see it: justice – her sins were many. Mercy was extended. And then Savior concludes by telling her that her faith saved her. As a result, she could enjoy peace. Justice, mercy, faith. In that order. She received mercy and peace that day. Those despising her – got a dose of justice and no joy, no peace.

We can all tend to be harsh to those who messed up big time, even if it was years ago.  Brethren, that’s not Father’s way.  His way is for each of us to recognize we are ALL sinners, we each have been the Prodigal son, we are all worthy of the same penalty:  death. But the prodigal son’s father was rushing to welcome him back into full fellowship in their community even before the son had spoken a word to him. They celebrated his return. But the elder son didn't want his brother who had shamed them all back into fellowship. Of course not! He couldn't even call him his brother (Luke 15:30). As I said in another blog, we don’t get to pick our brothers and sisters. This elder brother was acting like the prodigal had just now squandered everything on harlots.  No love, no welcoming smile.  Instead of offering him the right hand of fellowship, he gave him the cold shoulder.  That’s not Father’s way.

Horrible sinners who have repented need to see the Father’s love in the eyes of their brothers and sisters. It’s easier to forgive and accept yourself when you experience forgiveness and acceptance from others.  But the elder brother was not merciful like his father.  So what happened? While everyone was rejoicing in the father’s mercy, the elder son ended up being the one outside the joyous and merciful festivities.

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"I’m SO glad they lost my baggage"

A lesson for children of God

I fly more than the average person and every now and again my bags get misdirected – or lost. I've learned to pack a change of clothes and toiletries in my carry-on! I've never said, “I’m so glad they lost my baggage”. Today I want to review how our Father has purposely lost our baggage – and given us suitcases full of the best new clothes imaginable. A new look, a new you, clean new garments. We’ll contrast that with what carnal people do – who try to be sure you never get to lose old baggage, and want to bring out your dirty underwear and old junk in old baggage you thought was long gone and display it for all to see. 

When it comes to our spiritual lives, I want to lose my old baggage. God offers me that. People don’t – unless they are truly children of God. Do you help people lose their old baggage and allow them a new look in Christ, covered by the righteousness imparted by the Spirit of God as one of God’s gifts? Isn't that what the father of the prodigal son said right away: “Bring out the best robe… put sandals on his feet… let’s celebrate, for my son who was dead has returned!” – Luke 15:20-31. It was the elder, the older brother, who resisted allowing the other to be accepted back into the church and family community. After all, he had some baggage! The elder, the older brother considered the younger one to be a shame to the community and church, unworthy of fellowship. But Yeshua teaches how the loving father was so happy to have him back. That’s why Paul taught in 2 Cor. 2:5-11 that there does come a time to reaffirm, love, encourage and accept one another back into community and into the body of Christ.


Carnal people are fond of digging up dirt on people and then carefully chronicling it. Maybe it makes us feel better to find out someone has done something worse than we have done. Even too many ministers pick up the dirt shovel and exchange data on people. Most of us call it gossip. My Mom used to tell me, “If someone is willing to gossip to you, they’ll be willing to gossip about you.” Beware of what you tell people, even ministers, unless you absolutely know they are not corpse diggers. By “data” I mean sins that have long been repented of, forgiven and buried in the blood of the son of God. Do we really want to be guilty of grave-digging in the blood of our Savior? But boy oh boy, some of those data tidbits are so juicy, so awful, and so nasty – that we all too often let people bring back someone’s old baggage. All of us have our own “old man” buried in Messiah’s blood, and that’s where the “old man” – the old self we were – should stay buried. Some even relish and specialize in the very Satanic and cruel act of chronicling sins of their fellow sinner humans – and then mail it around to all interested readers. We see it every day in the tabloids – and even in places which dare call themselves the “church of God”.

All this simply should not be, brothers and sisters in Christ.People doing these things are simply following their leader, the prince of darkness. They use his tactics, for he is “the Adversary who slanders”. That’s what “Satan the devil” literally means. God’s kids should have no part in this slander and gossip and bringing back old baggage. What’s really sad is when the children of the Highest start to copy the Slanderer’s children. No, God’s children let a person start over. They know “love covers all sins” (1 Pet. 4:8; Prov. 10:12), especially if repented of long ago. God’s kids encourage people to turn and change (James 5:20). God’s kids know we've all sinned. God’s kids know we all need a new start. God’s kids know we have no business calling someone’s sins – “unforgivable”, for our Savior forgave us of ALL sin (1 John 1:9). They know whisperers separate the closest of friends (Prov. 17:9). God’s children want nothing to do with that dark way of living. People who chronicle forgiven sin and spread it around identify themselves as hateful children of the Adversary – at least for a time.

One pastor even called me years ago to urge me to watch the expose on TV that afternoon of a well-known televangelist’s sins, caught in the act on camera. He seemed disappointed when I said I would not watch it. I knew that televangelist must have been dying a thousand deaths to know it was being splashed all over TV. Instead of watching it – and I never did – I prayed for him and his family. I understand what he was going through, for we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. And I've experienced my sins splashed all over too and know how bad it feels.
This is opposite to what our kind Abba wants from his children. He encourages his kids to “keep no record of wrong”, as just one of the descriptions of his kind of love (1 Cor. 13:4-7 Apologetics Study Bible). In fact in verse 6 He teaches us that HIS children find no joy in unrighteousness or in spreading it. God’s children believe in the power of the new creation that we become in Christ.

God’s children are glad to help you lose your baggage. God’s children will not be chronicling sins or spreading it or discussing it, especially if they are forgiven sins from years ago. Those who do those things are not showing the sign of being followers, disciples of Christ: “By THIS shall all men know you are my disciples -- that you love one another as I have loved you”.

“As I have loved you”. How was that? While we were STILL sinners, he forgave us. He asked for that while hanging on his cross. “Father forgive them…”, remember? Those who follow Him do what he does, walk as he walked, and speak as he spoke more and more and more. True children of God love one another. Love covers a multitude of sin. Satan’s way is to unearth it and then buy a professional grade manure spreader to make sure the “good stuff” we unearthed really gets into every nook and cranny out there.

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A not-to-be-missed summer destination

The Most Amazing place

Summer’s here and many of us will be taking off a week here or there to go see wonderful sites, cities, campgrounds, nature vistas – or just hanging out with family and grand-kids – which is amazing all by itself. Could we end up missing the most amazing summer destination of all though? 

Be sure you go there. It’s astonishing how so many of God’s kids bypass this destination, or rush through it when they finally get there on their summer travels. It’s SO good, so important, you need to go to this place often! This summer, be sure you spend a lot of time at this #1 place to go be at. There are so many places to see and so much to do in the short summers – it’s not surprising so many end up missing this one all summer long.


Perhaps many of you are ahead of me already. The #1 destination site, especially in the busy summer months, surely is the throne room of our heavenly father and of His Son – our future husband, Jesus the Christ. All this is set on the sea of glass – a vast plain of exquisite crystalline, shimmering beauty. The light from our Father creates rainbows all around as His light is transformed by the crystal. There are powerful, radiant angelic beings coming and going. Some look like us, some look like intelligent white stallions or other creatures we are familiar with. There you’ll find thundering and lightning-like flashes of fire. Before you get to see this vast area of crystal and the throne of majesty, you’ll see hills and mountains soaring up 1,500 miles. Gates of solid mother of pearl. Streets of spiritual gold. We have a very interesting sermon on our website given by an elder who is a friend of mine – and so look for “the Big Picture”, as he goes into much more detail about this wondrous city in that sermon.

But think of it, how could we possibly miss this? Surely this tops anything “out there”, if we have eyes to see and understand what’s up there.

Anyway, you know the drill. We get busy, way too busy, to even pray each morning and night as we talk to, and listen to, our Father. We should never be so busy as to miss this #1 destination site. And yes, we can listen to Father and our Savior in prayer as well as being able to talk to them. I have a sermon series on the website about hearing God speak to us. Be sure to check it out….

And most of all, make the time to stop by your heavenly home every day and to say hello to our Abba, our dear Father as well as our wonderfully loving King Jesus. We have to seek first this kingdom. It must be put into first place in our lives. It won’t just slide into first place on its own. We will all find time for what we find most urgent, most important, most interesting and the most fun. If we have spiritual eyes to see, clearly the throne of God IS the most urgent, most important, most interesting and yes, even the most fun, of all possible summer destination sites.

Why wait? It’s easy to visit there. Why not take a few minutes right now to zoom into Father’s glorious presence? Without a doubt, I know he’d love to hear from you -- His kids. I’ll join you there.

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A new look at the “Gates of Hell”

Matthew 16:18. Do we have this all wrong?

I've heard countless sermons where Matthew 16:18 is used to show God‟s church will never die. It can‟t, the preacher says, as “it says right here „the gates of hell shall not prevail‟ against the church.” We know the word “hell” here is hades in Greek, meaning death, the grave. So on first glance, the preacher is right. It does, after all, speak of something “against the church”. But that leaves the picture of God‟s church barely hanging on by a thread, and somehow it manages to survive.Since when do gates go on the attack? 

That‟s not at all what our Master is saying. Read it again. The Messiah is saying he will build his church and he‟s not acting timidly and defensively but going on the attack against death and hell! When attacking a castle or fortress, the final defensive line is the gates of the castle. We've always read Matthew 16:18 to say hell/grave is attacking us, the church, but death/hades won‟t prevail. In fact, it’s the other way around! Read it again. We, the church, are the ones doing the attacking! We, the church, are the ones on the offensive against hell and death. I don‟t know about you, but I‟m not into being a timid, cowering Christian. And I've never heard of gates going on the attack!

We’re the ones attacking sin and death. Christ is simply saying that in the end, hell‟s gates won‟t withstand our barrage. The gates of hell/death won‟t prevail against the church‟s attacks. That‟s the correct way to read this passage and it clearly is saying that. We WIN, in other words. We go on the offensive and win. God is not timid. God‟s church is not timid. We can be strong and go on offense with the sword of God‟s spirit.

Strong gates are defenders‟ last hope against an invading army attacking a fortress. Strong, closed gates keep an invading army from marching right on in to the fortress. Death and hell are the ones on defense; we‟re attacking. I like that much better.

Our King is saying he’s building a church that will be so strong that over time it will overcome everything in its way, including death itself. Christ is not making the point that his church will never die but that He and His way will bring an end even to death itself. WE are the ones on the attack against hell and the grave. Hades won’t withstand OUR attacks against it.

1 Corinthians 15:25-26 - For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

The LAST enemy is death. That is why Yeshua, our Savior, says death/hades won’t prevail.

1 Corinthians 15:54-57
54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
55 "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?"
56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

How?

By the blood of the Lamb. Sin, breaking God‟s law, is the sting of death. We‟ve all sinned and therefore earned death as our wages. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:33). But God sent His Son to pay our death penalty so everyone who believes in Him and surrenders their lives to him will never die the 2nd death – but have everlasting life (John 3:16-17).
Hebrews 2:14-15 (also see 2 Timothy 1:10)

14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?

Not to be seen when it is all said and done. In the new world that our King will set up, there will be no more death, no more dying, no more tears.

Revelation 21:4
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

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"The Islamic Antichrist"

Recommended reading: intriguing book by Joel Richardson

 Over the past couple years, I've been advocating that in terms of prophecy, we need to be willing to “pivot” and being willing to adjust our cherished notions about prophecy as we see events unfolding.  This blog will encourage you to look at a best-selling book which will at least make you pause. You will learn about the Mahdi and the Islamic view of Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary of Nazareth. What Islam says about Jesus will absolutely blow you away.  This book goes into this, and much more – in fascinating detail. 

If Joel Richardson’s theories are wrong, you still will have learned much about looming Islam and how that will affect western cultures more and more.  If he is right, or even just partially right, you will at least have learned of news, people and areas in the world to be watching that you probably are not doing right now…and maybe, just maybe, be watching a whole area of world news in a way you hadn’t before. Net result? Less likely to be totally caught off guard.

 Keep in mind Yeshua our Messiah (Jesus the Christ) prophesied he will return at a time we think not (Matthew 24:36,44).  And yet the apostle Paul says we of the light should not be caught totally off guard (1 Thessalonians 5:3-5). The hints I see from scripture tell me the timing and even the events leading up to the return of Messiah could be very different than we have thought.

 For example, most Christian groups – not just the "Church of God" groups by any means – have taught there will be a final 10 nation group that will be unified under one “Beast” leader and a "False Prophet".  We call them simply "the Beast and the False prophet". Many believe the final "false prophet" will be a future Pope.  Even apart from Joel Richardson’s book, I've for years said that probably will not be the case. We have said the 10 nation Beast power will be composed of 10 western and eastern European leaders, led by a super leader.  We've also taught that the European union will be the "king of the north" and Islam will be "the king of the south".

 What if all this is only partially right or not right at all? Whether right or wrong, surely Islam will play a major role in end time events.  Islam already is playing a major role in world events.

 Even a few years ago I’ve taught it could be very different. I've said it could be ten regions of the world -- not just Europe – each under their own "king".  The world has been divided into ten regions for quite some time now. Revelation 13 says this coming "beast" power will be heralded by all nations, all people, all tribes and all languages!

 But Joel Richardson presents yet another case.

 This blog is simply to say this book "The Islamic Antichrist" is worth reading. I am not yet saying I have been convinced of his conclusions, but I’m pondering them carefully. By reading it, you will learn about the expected coming 12th Imam, the Mahdi. You’ll learn how Sunni Muslims view the coming Mahdi differently than the Shiites.

 On September 17, 2005, Ahmadinejad – the new leader (at that time) of Iran (Persia of Biblical days) addressed the United Nations General Assembly in New York. At the end of his message, he openly prayed for Allah to reveal the mysterious Islamic messiah figure called the Mahdi.

 To quote the back jacket of Richardson’s book:"This groundbreaking book examines in detail who the Mahdi is according to Islamic belief and the many striking similarities that he bears to the biblical Antichrist.  Through theologically sound research, Christian author Joel Richardson makes a convincing case that the Antichrist, his religion, and his empire will emerge our out of the heart of the Middle East rather than Europe, as many prophecy scholars had assumed."

 What I personally found fascinating was Richardson’s examination of the Islamic view of Jesus Christ.  He shows us how the Islamic view of the return of Jesus clashes with Holy Scripture. Remember Jesus warned us not to believe it when someone claiming to be him appears in the desert some place (Matthew 24:23-28). This book will make Jesus' prediction of the end-time confusion surrounding his coming come to light. Find out what Islam teaches about the coming of a Jesus to Islam, and this end-time Jesus’ ability to work miracles, and what their end-time Jesus, the son of Mary, will say and do to Christians and Jews. It’s fascinating. Don’t be caught off guard. Matthew 24:23-28 "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it.  24 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.  25 See, I have told you beforehand." 26 "Therefore if they say to you, 'Look, He is in the desert!' do not go out; or 'Look, He is in the inner rooms!' do not believe it.  27 For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  28 For wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together."

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A new look at Amos 3:3 and walking together

(Have we misused and misunderstood this verse before?)

“Two (or more) can’t ‘walk together’ unless they first be agreed” is quoted over and over for the reason we remain separated from other family members -- brothers and sisters in Christ. We separate in many cases to the point where we won’t visit each other’s congregations, or invite brothers and sisters in Christ to dinner. We've misread Amos 3:3 and have misused it to our shame, partly resulting in the splits upon splits we see happening in the church organizations. I know most of you understand that “the body of Christ” is not the same thing as the organizations calling themselves “church of God” or some variant thereof. Most of you understand the body of the Messiah is the group of people who are being led by His spirit regardless of where they meet.But back to Amos 3:3. Pastors have applied it to explain that brethren can’t – and mustn’t -- come together unless they first agree on every doctrinal point (or variations thereof). 

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Coming…the REAL Royal Wedding!

The Marriage of the REAL KING to His Bride

I’ll bet a lot of you – especially the women – spent some time watching the Royal Wedding with Prince William and now Princess Kate. Indeed it WAS exciting watching the pomp and ceremony, precision of everything, sharing in the joy of a kingdom with its royals as two bodies came together as one. All that preparation and rehearsing, all that hard work to make sure it came off without a hitch, the security protocols – and the love of each for the other that made it happen in the first place…. Priceless. 

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Well Done, Our King, well done!

We've finished Passover -- washing each other’s feet, breaking the bread and drinking of the Master’s cup of the new covenant. Now what? Jesus will say to those sheep on His right, “Well done…” Have you ever wished YOU could say to the King – “Well done, King! Well done”? It struck me, as I read the chapters of John 13-17 at the end of the service, what an incredible “command performance” we see from our Master and Savior on that Passover. 

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