Light on the Rock Blogs

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

Happy “Fathers’ Day”, Almighty YHVH!

On June 16, 2013, the USA has a special day to honor Fathers.  Mothers’ Day is in May.  It is fitting and appropriate to honor our fathers and our mothers.  My father died in 1984 and my Mom died in 1993.  I wish like anything I could be with them and honor them on these days and I miss them so. So many times, some people don’t realize what a gem they have in their father and mother until … until they gone. Don’t let that be your regret, if you have a living father and mother.

Before going further on the topic of our earthly fathers and mothers, I want to say that first and foremost, we have an ultimate Father in God the Father – Yehowah Most High. In the last days, an Elijah work will cause the children of God to turn their hearts back to the One Living Father of the Redeemed—as well as to our Fathers in the faith -- Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And of course it refers also to our earthly fathers.

Malachi 4:5-6
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of YHWH. 
6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

The Elijah work will be about turning hearts. I don’t know who that Elijah at the very end time will be. I know John the Baptist absolutely was a type of that Elijah – for Yeshua said so.

Read the rest of this blog to see what we can learn from John the Baptist and what God says about fathers.

Matthew 17:11-13
Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, ELIJAH IS COMING first and will restore all things. 
12 But I say to you that Elijah HAS come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands." 
13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.

Notice that Yeshua says Elijah HAS come and WILL come, so that is why I believe there is yet an Elijah work.  Concerning John the Baptist, he was commissioned with making ready a people prepared for their God. So it seems clear that turning the hearts to Father starts with turning our hearts to our heavenly Father.  Once that is done, we surely will obey Him and His command to honor our earthly father, in spite of any of his quirks or oddities.  We are to honor our father regardless – simply because he is our father. Too many young people and young adults today are forgetting that.  Now look how the priorities applied to John the Baptizer. What was his first priority? Turning people back FIRST to God our Father.

Luke 1:16-17
16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 
17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to TURN THE HEARTS of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Now notice what has to change first: the HEART. Now notice whose heart turns first; it’s we fathers who have to make the first step. WE have to be the ones who FIRST turn our hearts to our daughters and sons. Once we do that, it’s easier for our children to turn their hearts back to us. So no matter what happens in our family relationships, we fathers are to always have our faces and hearts turned towards our children – even if they don’t want us to just yet.

Think of the father of the prodigal son. He let his younger son have free moral agency and sow his wild oats. But when the son came back, his Dad was out there and saw him coming from a long ways off.  Be that kind of Dad. The father did not insist on first discussing all the bad things that had happened before. Neither did he insist his son get some therapy to manage all his quirks.  He simply forgave him, loved him, covered him and celebrated with a big party. We fathers must be the same way with our children.  

And children of any age, respond. And remember to obey your heavenly Father and always “HONOR your father and mother, that your days may be long upon the land YHVH is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).  Even if your father was absent, didn’t care, or hurt your feelings. God does not say we are to honor them IF this or IF that. He simply says “honor your father”.  Show profound respect for their position and office. And please call your Dad once in a while. Pray for your Dad. Go tell him you love him and give him a big hug – even if he was a less-than-perfect Dad.  Frankly all of us are less than perfect dads, even I.  Remember that your earthly dad is not your real enemy, if you’re having issues with your Dad. We all have one real enemy – his name IS “Adversary” – SATAN.  Our battle is not with Dad, but with spirits in heavenly realms. SEE that, and get back to loving and honoring your father.  And most of all thank God for your Father and pray for him.

THEN we can be healing our relationships and families will start coming back together, as Malachi 4 says.   

Fathers – let’s turn our hearts back to our children.  And let’s be turning OUR hearts back to our own heavenly Father, who indeed has turned HIS heart to us.  Now it’s our turn. Let’s also set the example to our children by showing a deep and profound respect for our living earthly fathers, and honor them in a special way on Father’s Day. But don’t let that example of respect and honor end with one day.

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1 Thessalonians 5:17. Do we “pray without ceasing”?

I’m sure we all know we need to pray. If we’re not praying every day, it’s a habit we need to form. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), but if we’re not seeking Him first thing daily and seeking the Kingdom of God daily (Matthew 6:33), then we are walking in our own strength, instead of being “strong in the Lord and the power of HIS might” (Ephesians 6:10).  (Woe be to the person who thinks he/she can fight their spiritual battles without YHVH with us, around us, over us and in us.)

But as we’ll see, Scripture also says in many places that we are to “pray always” or to pray “without ceasing”.  How can we possibly do that? What does that mean?  Understanding the answers will make all the difference in the level of our relationship with dear Abba, our heavenly Father.

It does not mean that we must literally have our head bowed, eyes closed, while praying non-stop 24 hours a day! We all would have been fired from our jobs long ago if we lived like that. It means we go through each day with an active awareness of the presence of the Almighty.  It means we take time to connect with Him dozens of times a day in quick short prayers. I’ll explain far deeper as we go along in this blog.  

We surely should connect with our Father first and last thing each day – especially in a formal prayer time on our knees.  David and Daniel prayed three times a day in these formal type prayers (Psalm 55:17;  Daniel 6:10, 13).  In these prayers we praise Him, thank Him, ask for His forgiveness for where we fell short, we intercede for others, and we ask for the help we need as well.  But we always praise and thank.  (There are several sermons and teachings on this website about prayer.)  These times of prayer on our knees, I think of as “formal prayer times” and I think they are necessary. It is good for US to be on our knees before our Maker. It is good for US to confess our sins, to ask forgiveness, and then to praise and to intercede.  That’s formal prayer time primarily.  I recommend you be sure you are giving God this honor. Don’t fall for the teaching that its OK to JUST have quickie prayers while we shave or do dishes or drive to work on the freeway.  I teach we should have definite formal prayer times on our knees (if our knees and bodies allow for that) first as the foundation. THEN, to those times, we add the concept of “praying without ceasing”.

First let’s see some of the places we’re told to pray “always”:
•    After discussing the “armor of God” in Ephesians 6, Paul concludes the section in verse 18  by saying, “praying ALWAYS, with all prayer and supplication in the SPIRIT…”.  So we are to pray “in the Spirit”. Praying is part of our spiritual armor. It’s what makes it functional!

•    To the Thessalonians Paul admonishes, “PRAY WITHOUT CEASING” (1 Thess. 5:17).  He goes on to say “in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit.”   Here Paul stresses the connection of effective prayer with thanksgiving and the peace that comes from realizing we are in His hands.  Is there a connection with lack of prayer and quenching the Spirit? Paul seems to imply so.

Read the rest of this blog for HOW we are to pray always and more on WHY we should.  

First let’s continue to see some of the many passages that urge us to “pray always”. 
•    In the parable of the Persistent widow, the context was a parable showing “that men ought ALWAYS to pray and not to lose heart.”  (Luke 18:1-2). 
•    Yeshua also orders us to “watch therefore and PRAY ALWAYS that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).  Here, “watch” refers far more to our spiritual alertness than it means to watch world news or something. We are to watch our own spiritual state, be on guard, to stay awake and alert – and that’s tied in to praying always.  Prayer is about keeping the communication with God alive.
•    We’re told that Cornelius, the first Gentile convert, was a devout man who “prayed to God ALWAYS” (Acts 10:2).  As a centurion, he had many responsibilities, so how could he possibly really pray to God always?  

So HOW do we “pray always”?

I believe it means going through the day with a keen awareness of the presence of Yehowah in your life. That will be easier to do if we started the day on a foundation of prayer, before we eat, before we go to work.  It’s easier to do if you’ve consciously asked Him to help you “turn your heart” back to Him.  After that, you’ll be getting nudged by His Spirit many times a day. You’re ‘hearing His voice” in many different ways, conversations and circumstances. So to me it means that all through the day we’re connecting with Father in dozens of quick short prayers. It’s like touching base with our Maker all through the day. If you’re not doing that already, you’ll be amazed how your life changes once you make a practice of calling on Father and Yeshua all through the day and into the night. He’s a FATHER!  He LIKES hearing from His kids.

A few days ago something was heavy on my mind around 4 a.m. I wasn’t sleeping. So I just decided to get up, get on my knees, and I spent the next 10-15 minutes praising my Father for all the good He does in our lives and asking Him to put my restless mind at peace. I wanted to experience the joy of His grace, to share my heart with Him – and what a wonderful time we had together! It made me think of the many psalms where David says He praised in the wee morning hours.  It was wonderful. That’s one of the ways we can “pray always”.  Just touch base with our Father many times a day and night. Share your concerns and thoughts. Share your joys. Share what’s happening. Fathers like to have sons and daughters who share what’s going on in their lives.  I know, I’m a father and grandfather. If my kids aren’t sharing their lives with me, I feel cut off from them. I’m joyful when they do share something. Just the other day my son shared something with me that made my heart sing all the rest of the day. It wasn’t a big thing, but it was a big deal in how it impacted me. God our Father is the same way. Share your life with Him, all through the day.  

We are the temple of the Holy Spirit!  In the “old days”, one man – the High Priest – could go into the Holy of Holies once a year for a few minutes – and that was it.  Today we HOUSE the Holy of Holies within each of us, we are IN HIM, and He is IN US, and so we can come boldly before His throne of Grace. The Shekinah glory of God should be evident more and more in our lives.  That’s especially true when we come into the Holy of Holies –every time we pray -- in Yeshua’s name. Hallelujah! We have the unprecedented opportunity to come before His presence any time we want, and frankly we should be capitalizing on that opportunity.

So think of “praying always” as a way to be walking and talking with God all day long. Always. Be saying silent prayers before and during important meetings. Lift up a brother or sister in Christ to heavenly realms in prayers several times a day, every day. Look up and just quietly ask Father to smooth out your paths for you, if things aren’t going well. Maybe you should have touched base many times before that point already!  When feeling anxious, I like to look up and say something like, “there I go again. I don’t want it to be me – but to be YOU. I have no reason to worry or fret since you are with me. I have every reason to claim the victory, to shout the joyful triumphs, even long before I see the final outcome, knowing I walk with the King of the Universe!!!”  

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Do you hear Him speaking?

Scripture is replete with examples of mankind hearing the voice of YHVH.  Do you? Do I?  Or has the Almighty gone mute and into retirement as far as your experience is concerned?  Absolutely not.  If we’re not hearing Him, it’s not because He isn’t speaking – but could it be that we simply aren’t listening or we’re not tuned in to Him?  I have spoken on this before, but our recent experiences have been replete with times we felt our Father was showing and telling us exactly what to do next.  It was fun.

I remember going to a neighbor’s home some years back, knocking on his door, calling out his name, but he never heard me. His TV was blaring so loud, and loud music playing as well, that he never heard my voice. Reminds me of what Yeshua says in Revelation 3:20 to the Laodiceans about “if anyone hears my voice…”.  We are a very noisy generation.  Yehowah spoke to the Israelites in a quiet wilderness.  He whispered to Elijah.  The Holy of Holies was a most quiet place – though outside the tabernacle was often a noisy place. So many saw and heard Him speak while in wilderness situations.  You might want to hear my sermon about “Your Wilderness Time” (June 2012).  Turn off the TV. Turn off the music once in a while. Enjoy the sound of silence. And you’ll be in a better position to hear His voice.

There have been other times where people were trying to talk to me but I didn’t hear them because I wasn’t trying to hear. My mind was somewhere else. So we have to tune in.  Yehowah was constantly telling Israel to “SHEMA – HEAR, O Israel….” – part of Deuteronomy 6:4.  It’s surprising how much more we hear when we focus our hearing, expect to hear something, and tilt our ears so we can hear.  

When we pray, is it a monologue of all our requests – or is it a dialogue?  For years now, during my prayers I often stop praying, and with pen and paper in hand, just suggest to Father that I’d like Him to speak now please and tell me what He wants me to hear.  Honestly sometimes nothing happens. But it’s simply astonishing how many times I start writing HIS words, HIS thoughts, HIS commands to me when I shut up for a few minutes and let Father speak through His Spirit. Try this. The first time you experience yourself unable to keep up with His words, you’ll be floored! This has happened to me many, many times now.   

Father also uses His holy Spirit to communicate with us in many other ways.  If we are praying “thy will be done on earth just like it is up there in heaven” – and really believe it – be prepared to see doors opening up and doors slamming shut, to your delight.  For example, recently we made a major decision to move our home and business  across the country. My wife and I told Father we wanted this to be HIS desire for us, His decision, and HIS will and to please slam shut the doors we were approaching if they weren’t HIS open doors. We asked Him to bless us with open doors HE wanted for us. Time and again we saw His providential hand every step of the way, and continue to do so.  When you combine that with a mind at peace and at rest regardless of what’s swirling around you, what a joy this becomes.  He who commanded the stormy Sea of Galilee to calm down was fast asleep moments before. His inside was at peace – and so what was happening outside didn’t bother Him.  

So listen to YHVH speak to you -- through open and shut doors.  Listen to Him speak to you – if you’ve asked Him to speak to you – through people, phone calls, conversations, circumstances, sermons, even through an ass (like Balaam’s ass) if need be. He will use even bad people to get a message across if need be. Remember when Caiaphas said it was better that just one man die instead of the whole nation?  God inspired that (John 11:49-52)!  He also spoke through Gamaliel (Acts 5:34-41).  Sometimes Father chooses children to speak to us, or lessons from nature and creation, or circumstances.  He doesn’t speak to us just through ministers.  But He certainly can and does use ministers as well. So listen. Be aware.

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Leviticus 19:3. What’s the first thing mentioned about being holy? It’s interesting in light of “Mother’s Day”.

This weekend of May 11-12, 2013 in the USA we are honoring our Moms.  I wrote another blog as well – about moms who aren’t so wonderful (see previous blog).  Most parents are wonderful.  Some are not. Certainly no matter how toxic the relationship with your Mom or Dad might be in a few cases, pray for God to help you forgive and to love – for we are to love even our enemies, let alone our mom and dad, even when they’re far from perfect.  I don’t know any of us parents who would feel we are perfect parents. I know I’m not.  And my parents weren’t. And our adult children as parents of our grandchildren aren’t.  In spite of what all the cards might say, no one is perfect. No one.  But I thank God for my mom and dad and wish I had them around now. They both died decades ago.

Look at Lev. 19:3 – where honoring your mom is connected to keeping the sabbaths as part of the holiness teachings of the chapter. Take a look at it. Sabbaths – in plural – refer to ALL the moedim, or commanded holy day appointments. with our Maker.

After telling us to “be holy for I am holy”, Leviticus 19 then enumerates a long list of commands to illustrate how holy people are to live. This blog is about the first command in Lev.19 associated with holiness. It’s interesting for it combines what seem to be two very different topics – but it tells us something very important. Why is this instruction from Yehowah listed FIRST?  

Leviticus 19:2-3
"Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: 'You shall be holy, for I Yehowah your Elohim am holy. 
3 'Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am Yehowah your Elohim (the LORD your God).”

You and I can’t make ourselves holy.  Only holy God can make anything holy by His presence or by Him announcing that something or someone is to be set apart for holy use. We’re sanctified (set apart for holy use) by the blood of the Lamb. His holy spirit in us is what makes us holy – or “saints”. Apart from that, we are mere flesh.

So why is the fifth commandment mentioned along with keeping God’s sabbaths?  
Read the rest of this blog for something you may not have considered before.

First of all, the Almighty doesn’t say exactly why. But could it be because these two summarize love for God and love for man? Could it be these 2 commands are strongly linked in ways you may not have thought about?  Many have commented in the past that a civil society is much more likely when the family unit is cohesive; when children respect and honor their father and mother.  Look at the trends in our present society:  over 40% of children being born in America today are born out of wedlock. In black communities it’s almost twice that.  At least these young mothers are not killing their babies in abortion, but where’s the stable family for those babies to grow up in after they’re born?  And now it’s becoming commonplace for children to speak rudely to their own parents – and to teachers and other adults. I hear it and I’ve witnessed it.  It’s not uncommon for children – even adult children – to dishonor their father and mother. This can only mean that the very fabric of our society is unraveling before our very eyes. Interestingly here in Lev. 19:3, honoring our mother is listed first, even ahead of honoring our Dad.

How does the sabbath figure into this discussion? It’s not arbitrary.

The sabbath is holy time when we must stop all our earthly work, rest now – and “be with” the living God. I like to think of Shabbat (the sabbath) as a date with my Redeemer and my Father too.  After all, it’s the very first of the moedim – the divine appointments with Yehowah –mentioned in Leviticus 23:1-3. Sabbath is time we are to set aside to spend with our Maker. Remember the One who became Yeshua (Jesus) was the one who formed Adam from the adamah – the ground.  

So one way we show honor to our parents is by spending precious time with them. YHVH is our spiritual Father – the one living God in heaven.  Are we spending time with Him in a focused way on the appointed day HE set as holy time when He wants His family to come together as one? I know I just loved it when our whole family would come together and do things together.  And it grieves me mightily when things aren’t all what they should be on the home front.

Think about the connection here:  One big way fathers and mothers feel honored is when their children will talk to them, and want to come and spend time together with them.  Any mom or dad – or God -- can feel unloved and dishonored when their kids won’t spend time or ever call or talk.

We spend time with those we want to spend time with. It’s that simple. A parent gets the picture pretty quickly when a daughter or son won’t come by or return phone calls.  Almighty God is our FATHER. He is our “Parent”.  He wants you and me to call Him, visit Him and spend time with Him. He wants us to seek Him first. Too many of us get distracted or have lost the love for our mom and dad- - and God.

Our heavenly father is saying, as I read it anyway:   “Don’t think you’re honoring Me by coming before me at sabbath services – but you won’t spend time with your earthly mom and dad or really honor them. Hey, we’re linked together. I’m your Abba, your dear father, and I want you to turn your heart to your earthly father and mother too (Malachi 4:5-6).  Sabbath worship and honoring your parents go hand in hand because even the sabbath is ultimately about honoring your ultimate Parent!  YOU don’t get to pick your parents. I chose them for you. And as your heavenly father, I expect you to honor them.  By honoring them – and doing what I told you to do in that regard – you are honoring Me.”   

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Mother’s Day (USA). But what if Mom’s NOT so honorable?

Mother’s day is this coming May 12.  Mother’s Day in some countries does have a pagan root or history apparently, so believers in those countries rightfully do not observe it.  But Mother’s Day in the USA has no such pagan roots to the best of my knowledge – so I teach we should observe it.

Mothers should be honored every day and not just on Mother’s Day. I’m sure millions of words will be spoken and printed about how wonderful mothers are.  And those words should indeed be spoken and written. There certainly are a lot of amazing, incredible moms out there.   

But what about this? What if your mom’s not so amazing, not so incredible? Let’s be honest. Not everyone is amazing, though that adjective is way overused.  Sometimes I’ve been asked something like this:  “My mom frankly is a …(then they tell me something awful like one of these:  “a drunk, a whore, mean spirited, gambler, a drug addict, hot tempered, lazy, etc.”).”  The adult child continues:  “I don’t feel she’s worthy of my honor.  Isn’t respect and honor something that has to be earned?  I just can’t honor her on Mother’s Day.”   (And I know some who feel that way about their dad, and so the same question could come up on Father’s Day.)

OK, now what?  Please read the rest of this blog for those situations: when you have a mom you feel you can’t honor.  

I say honor her anyway. Love her anyway.  The 5th commandment – to Honor your Father and your Mother – does not come with any “if” statements.  Our heavenly father does not say to honor your Mom “IF she is a wonderful mom”.  YHVH says to honor her, period. Without any pre-conditions.  Giving honor in this case would be a matter of obeying God’s command.  

There’s something else: maybe, just maybe, your sincere gestures of giving honor to a woman who has fallen short (so far) of being an excellent mom --  just might be the catalyst to help her get her life back in order.

Even if they don’t admit it to you, most of us parents (including me, very much so) often feel we fell woefully short of being the perfect mom or dad we wanted to be.  We didn’t get weeks of training prior to having our babies.  Weeks?  Most of us got almost no training.  More is required to be able to get a driver’s license – than what’s required to get married or to qualify to have children. Think about that. So we parents all had to learn as we went along.  And suddenly the guilt began to happen.  The baby who wouldn’t stop crying and you’re worn out and it’s 2 a.m. You feel guilty for resenting the baby but you get up and check on the baby anyway.  Or someone’s told you to let the baby cry and not spoil the child.  But the guilt continues if you don’t get up. Then eventually some have a stubborn child who won’t budge. These can wear out the greatest of saints. Or the shy child whose shyness we made worse by always telling everyone in her presence “She’s so shy”.  And just when you thought it couldn’t get any harder, the middle teen years come along. Those of you with just little children, and who are so quick to judge parents who have teens, just you wait.  Your turn will come.  

You think of the many, many times you could have handled issues better – but at the time, you didn’t. Maybe your daughter didn’t get home til the wee hours of the morning. Or maybe you find drug paraphernalia. Or they had yet another car accident or endless traffic tickets. Or your son got someone pregnant. Or wants to drop out of school. Now what?  These are real life issues!

I’ll never forget the long, long chat I had with my mom when I was around 38 years old.  By that time, my youthful bravado had faded and I could see how far I’d fallen short of God’s standards. I was going through some tough, tough times.  I didn’t feel like a very good person – let alone a great dad or husband, and I told my Mom that.  She opened up to me for an hour in a way I’d never imagined. Basically her message was –“I know how you feel. I know I sure fell short of being the mom I should have been…”  Though I assured her otherwise, I could tell she had regrets.

Mom started to sob when I started recounting the many ways I felt she had been an incredible mom.  She was a single mom after her divorce, so I told her that I remember her long hours after work toiling to get the laundry done at the Laundromat, keeping up with the housework and shopping and raising teens – all while somehow trying to make the dollar stretch.  We were very poor. We always had way more month left at the end of the money, it seemed.  I assured her we understood her stresses and that I loved her – especially now that I could see how hard it was to be a parent of kids who would soon be teens at the time. It reached a climax when I blurted out, “Mom, now I appreciate a lot more all you went through…”   

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LEV 21:17 –priests with disabilities and deformities

There’s an intriguing passage in Leviticus 21:17 and the verses which followed:

Leviticus 21:17

"Speak to Aaron, saying: 'No man of your descendants in succeeding generations, WHO HAS ANY DEFECT, may approach to offer the bread of his God.”

This passage enthralled me. We’ve read it before, but it really hits you how serious God is that His priests serving at the altar or in the holy place represented His perfection and holiness. Anyone with any defect could not serve. Wow! I hope you read Leviticus 21 carefully and slowly, on your knees. After all, whether you’re ordained or not, if we’re being called by our Heavenly Father, WE today are being called to be part of a “holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:5; also Revelation 1:6; 5:10; and Rev. 20:6). Yes YOU. Forget the images in your mind of what a priest is, just for a minute. YOU are being called to serve God as part of a “royal priesthood”. Do you have any defects? What does this mean?

1 Peter 2:5, 9

“…YOU also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, A HOLY PRIESTHOOD, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” V. 9 – “royal priesthood”          

We are called the house of God, a spiritual house. Our lives should be a house of prayer. I’ve spoken on that before. But then Peter says we are all being called to be a holy PRIESTHOOD in these new covenant times. In the first covenant times, only men could be priests. But in these second covenant times, though I believe scripture is clear that PASTORS of churches are to be male, scripture is also clear that spiritually speaking we are all of one. No more male or female as far as our spiritual potential goes. Women are co-heirs with us of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).

WOMEN who are led by God’s spirit are also being called to be priests of God in the new kingdom. Now there is no longer (spiritually speaking) male nor female, Jew nor Gentile (Gal. 3:26-28).   SO whether you’re a man or woman, I hope I have your attention. The rules in Leviticus 21 for priests say a lot for us today – those of us in training to be priests of YHVH in the coming Kingdom.

In Leviticus 21, after some rules about dealing with dead bodies and rules for marriage, the rules for physical perfection are listed. We find Yehowah saying in verses 17-20 that if any priest is deformed, lame, blind, a dwarf or has imperfections like severe eczema or scabs -- he couldn’t serve in the tabernacle.

WHY? How does all this apply to us TODAY?

Read the rest of this blog for the intriguing answers. The answer will also help you understand much of the rest of Scripture if you apply the principle I’m going to employ.

 SO what’s the key to understanding why Yehowah the Living God would be so restrictive about who could serve as a priest who would offer the bread of God? It sounds discriminatory today.

It’s relevance for US today is seen in its SPIRITUAL meaning. But first I share something from the Bible Exposition Commentary of the Old Testament by Warren W. Wiersbe:

“Leviticus 21:1-15

The privilege of leadership brings with it the responsibility of maintaining a life that's above reproach. In their devotion and obedience to God, the priests were to be examples to the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, the priesthood in Israel declined spiritually and led the people astray. "They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness. And it will be: Like people, like priests. I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds" (Hosea 4:8-9, NIV).

“… The important thing for all of them was that they remain ceremonially clean before the Lord. The word defile is used four times in this chapter, and the word profane is used eight times. You will notice that at the end of each major paragraph in chapters 21-22, the Lord says, "I am the Lord who sanctifies you," or words to that effect (Leviticus 21:8,15,23; 22:9,16,32)”.

Yehowah called you and me as priests of the new covenant, to be set apart, sanctified, and to walk in His holy way. In fact Yeshua said we were to become “perfect”, as our heavenly father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). I realize that comes from the word meaning mature or grown up, but the point is God wants us representing Him very, very well. WE must put away anything about us that brings reproach to the One we claim to follow.

Having said that, the only one perfect – as we think of that word -- is our Leader, Jesus Christ. I know of no human being – minister or otherwise - - who is without fault. Even the Apostle Paul claimed he had been a chief sinner who had caused many believers to blaspheme by his cruel persecutions (1 Tim. 1:15). Jacob (Israel), late in his life, said “few and EVIL have been the days of my life” (Genesis 49:7).

You’ll soon see this has everything to do with Leviticus 21 and the holiness of the priests.

When we act like unbelievers, it causes people to blaspheme and speak derogatorily of us who are of the Way. Peter, Paul and others say we should no longer do the things we used to do before Christ came into our lives (1 Peter 4:1-4). Who hasn’t failed in this task? Do you remember that after David’s sin of murdering Uriah and seizing Bathsheba, the prophet Nathan also said that David had caused the enemy of Yehowah to blaspheme by his sins (2 Samuel 12:14). We are not a good light, me included, whenever we are poor examples of this Way in our speech and conduct. The priests of God were to bring glory to Him – not dishonor.

We pray: “Oh Master, give us more of your Spirit and please awaken our senses to where we fall so short of your glory. Help us follow you more closely each day. Forgive us, your children, for our imperfect walks. Have mercy, especially on us who teach your way, for we have been called to be leaders and priests. Help us grow up ever more to be in your image, to look and be like you.”

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A lesson from today's Torah reading: coming before YHVH

Each week there is a reading from the Torah (specifically the first 5 books of the Bible) in various Jewish groups or even among Messianics and Hebrew Roots folks. Yeshua said we are to live by every word of God, not just the first five books. In fact Scripture also says the whole Torah is to be read once every seven years while at the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), not once a year every year (Deuteronomy 31:10-13). So I try to read the entire word of God, and not just pre-selected scriptures. Having said that, the Jerusalem Conference does seem to allude to this practice of reading Torah in Acts 15:21. So I keep aware of the Torah readings each week – but just feel more of scripture should be read and discussed.

Having said that, it's interesting that this week's reading starts with Leviticus 16, and holiness as we come before the presence of YHVH. The previous chapters dealt with ritual impurity. Now Yehowah deals with purity and holiness in this week's reading. It is also about the High Priest coming before Yehowah once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).

There's something simple, clean and reassuring about the instructions. The High Priest (Cohen Hagadol in Hebrew) had to first be washed in a "mikvah", almost like a baptism (Leviticus 16:4), and only then could he dress to come before holy Yehowah. But this time he didn't don the colorful and ornate full High Priestly regalia – but a simple white linen tunic. Then barefoot, he took the incense into the Holy of Holies.

There may be some things going on here that we don't give enough thought to. Read the rest of this blog for the answer!

When we come before Yehowah, we need to think about what we're doing. We come reverently. In fact the High Priest would normally wear a gold crown on which was written "Holiness to YHVH". We need to be more aware of this as well.

Almighty God not only wants us to wash before we come before Him – but He wants you to know He SEES you as having washed. Apparently Aaron's two sons who were killed by YHVH earlier either didn't come with profound respect, maybe they were even drunk, but perhaps they hadn't washed either.

My first point is: if we obediently wash, God sees us as washed. It's important that WE recognize this. Regardless of whether or not people see one as washed of their past, the One who counts – DOES. We no longer have to feel dirty about any sinful past.

That's also a part of the lesson of the Passover footwashing: we are acknowledging as we wash our brother's or sister's feet, that WE see that person as having already been washed by the Master (John 13:14).

In our case, our washing is repentance and being washed in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 1:5) and in His Word (Ephesians 5:26). Of course most of us adults who follow His Way also had washed in our watery baptism, ideally with flowing water (Acts 22:16; Hebrews 10:22). Ultimately the Holy Spirit is washing us (Titus 3:5). The Great Innumerable Multitude of Revelation 7 is said to have "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Revelation 7:14).

Titus 3:3-7
3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.
4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,
5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
6 which He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Then the High Priest put on the simple white linen tunic. White, simple, clean. Once again, white is seen as a symbol of purity, holiness and acceptance by our Maker. The absence of the ornate robes depicts humility as we come before His Holy Presence. The High Priest was representing all Israel.

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Quality time with your Father

I’m a father. I just love it when my daughter or son calls – especially if they just kinda want to talk. Or come over. Or want us to come over.  I love that.  Best of all is when one of the young grandkids call on the phone.  My grandson Grey sometimes phones and just blurts out, “Poppy! Turn on Skype! Let’s talk…” – then he hangs up, and of course we HAVE to get on Skype.  

Fathers love hearing from their children. It’s a crying shame how much fathers and mothers are dishonored today by so many. Some children won’t phone or reach out or come visit or touch base with parents. Looking back, I remember writing my mom every single sabbath eve while in college. I didn’t do that with my Dad though, and looking back, I’ve repented of that. It wasn’t right. I should have shown him my love with more frequent calls and letters.  I was studying in England at the time when my father called me to say he had some tickets for me to fly home for a few weeks to see my mom (they were divorced). I had 30 minutes to pack and get on the train. I asked him if I could see HIM.  He said he wasn’t sure, but what made MY day was when I landed in New York, my Dad was there. He loved to surprise us kids. What a glorious hour we had together. I’ll never forget my dad making the effort to meet up with me too.  He said it was because I had asked if I could see him somehow. He said that touched his heart.  I was too young – and not a father yet myself-- to realize how much fathers and mothers crave that love from their adult children. All too often parents are forgotten, unless they are needed for babysitting.

We also have a heavenly Father. When was the last time you spent quality time with Him?  Do we spend more time with Facebook or computer games or social media or TV – than with our dear Abba?  I’ll bet many of us do. If it’s not all that, maybe its non-stop work even til late into the evening (that’s my distraction).  When was the last time you went for a walk with Abba?  Abba (that’s our dear heavenly Daddy) is turning His heart to His children and we must, as His children, respond by turning our hearts back to Him. He wants your heart. All of it. He longs to hear from you. He loves knowing you love Him and think of Him often. We think of what we love!

Call out to your father. Lift up holy hands as you reach up to Him in prayer, as a little child does to its much-loved dad. As we lift up our hands, He is reaching down to us.  Life is about relationships. And the most important one is our relationship with Him. But remember, He won’t hear us if He knows we won’t reconcile with fellow humans first. That’s what Yeshua taught us over and over. Be kind to one another. Repent deeply when you’re not. And yes, I’ve done some repenting of the way I’ve missed the mark myself on that one.  

Now, as I said before, just do it. Call Him -- in prayer, in meditative walks.  Sing to Him. Praise Him. Open your heart to Him.  He is waiting to hear from YOU.  

When my children or grandchildren call my wife or me -- we both just beam, all day long.  May YOU make Abba’s face beam with joy. May His face shine upon you, and He will – if you just spend more time with Him, sharing your heart with Him.  So whether your earthly father or heavenly father:  turn your heart back to him.  Just do it….

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It doesn't take much. Just do it. Call someone.

There are a lot of parents, uncles, nieces, aunts, grandmas and grandpas and – people – out there besides your family, who would love to hear from you. I just got off the phone calling my 85 year old uncle Ken in hospice care. He's had a tough life. We didn't talk long, but I am glad he got to hear me say that my siblings and I all love him and think of him and are praying for him. I think he felt loved by that call. My sister had called him a few days earlier. I think my other 2 siblings have talked with him recently too.

That got me thinking. Why don't we take 5 minutes more often to brighten someone else's day and just say, "You popped into my mind... and I just had to call and say 'hi'" – and let them know you love them. When someone receives an unexpected call, it makes them realize someone out there thinks of them once in a while. When's the last time you called your dad or mom? That old lady or gentleman down the road? Or someone who's "the black sheep" of your extended family? And if you know ANYONE in a nursing home – go by and visit, or at least call. Do that often. Maybe when your turn comes, Abba will reward your kindness today with kindnesses returned to you in the future.

Go ahead. Do it now. And I mean a phone call – not a text message. Especially if the one you're reaching out to is over 60, we're still used to hearing someone's voice. Truly young people, we wonder if some of you are losing the art of conversation with real give and take. Texting and Facebooking is not the same at all, though that's better than nothing. I see people walking on the street with their spouse and they're texting. I see people driving – and texting. I see people in restaurants and they're texting or checking facebook. Folks, what have we come to? For the life of me, if an EMP from the sun or enemy ever happens, and we lose the ability to use electricity and electronics, millions of people in the Western countries especially will be lost!

So call now, while you can. Write now, while you can. Say "I love you" to someone now, while you can. Maybe that person is your son or daughter. Do it, say it, even if they don't respond. You take the high road. Brighten someone's day.

And most of all – take time several times a day to say "hi" to your heavenly Father and to your Saviour as well. "Walk with God" literally. Go on a long quiet walk and just mouth some talking time to Abba. Be sure you don't move your lips too much or someone might think something's wrong (ha, ha) – but yes, Abba is waiting for us to say "hi" and to talk more to Him as well.

Just do it. It takes just minutes. I gotta go ... I can think of another uncle and others to call. After all, "By this" shall all people know you are a disciple of Christ, by your immense love for people (John 13:33-34) and this is one way to show that love.

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NOW….Experience the JOY of His Salvation

We’ve focused a lot on deleavening, putting sin out, replacing the leavened (sinful) life with the Unleavened Bread from heaven – Yeshua.  He is risen; He is living His life anew.  “Yeshua” means “Salvation”.  

Sometimes we (me included) focus so much on the sin, the leaven, the guilt, the consequences of sin, the fear of punishment if we don’t repent – that we don’t focus enough on the JOY of Yeshua. Yeshua MEANS “Salvation”.  

Even MORE than being about the death of the Lamb of God, we need to focus on the joy that results when we accept that blood covering. Yeshua was killed, yes – but by His blood we are granted victory over sin, over its punishment and over its guilt. By His blood we can enter into a new covenant with Him. All covenants involved “cutting” and shedding of blood.  But true, before joy there has to be confession, repentance and commitment to change.  But given all that, the last few days and really ever since we accepted the Lamb, we should have been experiencing profound JOY from our deliverance from sin. 

But the truth is -- most of us humans don’t know how to let go. We keep going back in our minds to the scene of the crime or the sin. That in turn, leads us away from the joy of deliverance and the pardon we’ve been given. We get so sidetracked by doctrinal issues, on the calendar dates issues or on any issue but His love – that we forget the reason for the season!  I’ve done that too. Let’s get back to what we should be focusing on!

Click on “Read more” to get the rest of this important message. We’ll talk about how David expressed his need for joy after confessing the bloodguilt over Uriah and much more. If you aren’t experiencing that joy, please continue reading the rest of the blog.

Perhaps some of us don’t focus enough on the new life, the new creation, the joy of having the peace and devotion we should now feel.  Passover is about freedom, joy, being freed, having Someone who believes in you. OK, WE must be the ones believing in HIM.  I get that. 

But have you considered that HE also believes that YOU can change, YOU can be new, YOU can be a new creation, you are acceptable to Him, you are a new kind of person than you were before – because HE LIVES.  To put it another way, HE is confident of what He can do in you, now that you have put HIM in charge of your life.  (If YOU are still in charge of your life, you’re still in trouble. Yeshua must be LORD and Master now and we do what His Spirit tells us now.) 

In Hebrews 2:10-13, we are told that Yeshua is not ashamed of you or me.  He is not ashamed to call us His brothers and sisters. That frankly boggles my mind. I’ve given Him a lot to be ashamed of over my lifetime – and so have you. So has everybody.  We tend to categorize sinners into “worst of the worst” and “not so bad”, but all of us have incurred the same penalty—the life of the Son of God. Maybe you feel you’re in the “not so bad” category, so I’ll speak for myself:  I’m amazed that He knows who I am.  I’m amazed that He loves me. I’m amazed that He died for ME and was raised for me, and that He lives in me.  Passover has to come to be that personal.  You and I are saying “He did it for me” – not just “for everyone”.  Personalize Yeshua’s mission.  He lived, suffered and died and wants to live again in YOU, in me.  

Hebrews 2:11 says He who sanctifies (God, Yeshua) and those being sanctified or being made holy (that’s us), are all of one!  That’s exactly what Yeshua prayed in John 17:21-23, that WE may be ONE in God as Yeshua was one with Father and Father in Him – all of us are in Christ, in God (Col. 3:3).  

At His Passover with His disciples the night He was betrayed, this incredible Son of God and Son of Man was talking about all of us loving one another the way HE loves us (John 13:33-35). He had just washed Judas Iscariot’s feet! He spoke of the peace we can have in Him, the JOY of the day. Isn’t that incredible? 

So I want readers of this website to understand we need to be about His JOY, His LOVE, His peace – more than about our sin.  Our sins are gone. They’re buried and past. He remembers them no more. It’s time to focus on the real POINT of Passover:  we have an amazing God! We have an incredible Leader and Savior. 

Now that you’ve deleavened your spiritual temple and have repented of your sins and accepted Yeshua as your Savior, we need now to focus on HIM – and not so much now on us, and our sins. Passover and Days of Matzoth (unleavened bread) is freedom and joy.  
I want to focus much more on the consequences of what HE did for me, than what I failed to do for Him. 

I want to focus much more on the JOY of His salvation than I do the pain of the memories of my sins.  

I want to focus now on how Yeshua accepts me into Yehowah’s (God’s) family and flock as belonging to Him – not on the Slanderer (Devil) I used to belong to. Slander and gossip and keeping record of sins are Satan’s way and the way of his children.  God’s children forgive and see the new person we are in Christ. Love keeps no record of wrong (1 Cor. 13:5) or thinks about evil.  

I want to focus much more on how His amazing love is greater than any of my sins. 
This is the same Saviour who told the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:1-12), “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” But He forgave her, encouraged her, accepted her.  This is the same Saviour who inspired Paul to tell the Corinthians to bring back into their fellowship that horrible, horrible sinner who had openly and defiantly paraded his awful sex sins before, but who had now repented. Paul said don’t let him languish out there as a shunned pariah or spiritual leper!  Read it yourself in 2 Corinthians 2:1-11, especially verses 8-11.  

This is the same Savior who now wants to present you and me – His Bride – as a bride without spot or wrinkle.  Of course, we have to present ourselves to HIM to work in us, to let HIS mind be in us and to follow Him as He leads by His Spirit. 

Be watching for a full audio message that will go into far more detail about the JOY and PEACE we should be feeling after repenting and accepting our Savior. We’ll discuss David’s statements at the end of Psalm 51, the changed lives of those who DO move on in His love and joy and much more. Read the last half of Psalm 51 to catch the joy David was looking for. 

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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.

This is an edited update of a blog I wrote ten years ago but I think it’s so important, we need to present it again. I’ve seen articles and heard sermons over the years with this question of who REALLY killed Christ. 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!

(Remember you can just control-click on the scriptures in our blogs and the whole passage will pop up). 

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 or by control-clicking on to the scripture in this blog.

But all of those answers miss the biggest answer of all!

I rarely have seen writers put to pen, or speakers preach, who ultimately killed Christ. It goes beyond the Jews of Jesus’ (Yeshua’s) day, beyond the Roman soldiers and beyond all of humanity requiring His death by our sins. The answer is going to surprise you or even initially upset you, but believe me only if you see it in the scriptures I will give.

As I’ve said, all the answers traditionally given are also correct, but there’s one more who really killed the Christ. 

WHAT was the Messiah? One answer is what John the Baptizer said: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Later, the apostle Paul referred to Christ as “our Passover Lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7), so the Passover and days of Unleavened Bread of Exodus 12 pointed to, prophesied about, the REAL Lamb, the One all those little Passover lambs were pointing to – the Lamb of God. Of course you remember that in Exodus 12, God told Israel they could present a lamb or a goat kid that had no blemish or defect (Exodus 12:5).

Who was responsible in Exodus 12 to select a lamb without blemish and to have a lamb ready on Passover and to kill that lamb for their family in that original Passover service? It was the FATHER of the household who presented the selected lamb (Exodus 12:3) and who killed the family’s Passover lamb in Exodus 12. This was happening among all the Israelites (Exodus 12:6-7).  

So when we read that Yeshua/Jesus was called “the Lamb of GOD”, what was John referring to? Well, we know Jesus was crucified on Passover day, to die in our stead. He was blameless and without sin.

GOD the Father had pre-selected the Word, who became flesh and became the SON of God (John 1:14) to be His Lamb. In fact, Jesus was as good as already slain from before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8; 1 Peter 1:18-20).  So ALL the Passover lambs of Exodus 12 and afterwards, all pointed to the future fulfillment of Messiah, the Lamb of God.

God the Father had to present a lamb for His household – one lamb per household, remember (Exodus 12:1-3).  The Lamb being offered had to be enough for the household. ALL who wish to be part of the Household of God will partake of Father’s lamb, in Father’s house.  On Passover day, the Israelite heads of households took their chosen lamb and killed it, spilling its blood, and establishing a blood covenant between them and God. The splattered blood of the lamb on the lintel and door posts of each home protected the household from the Destroyer – but it was really God Himself who was making the decision who lived and who died. Yehovah Himself inspected and passed over each house – where we get the word “Passover” from, when He saw the blood.

Exodus 12:23
“For YHVH (the LORD) will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when HE sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD (YHVH) will PASS OVER the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.”

So who really and ultimately had to kill the Lamb of God? Who alone truly could do it? Another clue is given by Yeshua himself during his final Passover.  He is quoting from Zechariah 13:7.

Matthew 26:31
31 Then Jesus said to them, "All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:  'I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'

Who is the “I” in “I will strike the Shepherd?”  WHO is going to strike the shepherd? Remember that Yeshua was the Word who was God and WITH God (John 1:1-2).  So let’s see what the original source – Zech 13:7 – says, and notice how God calls that Shepherd “the Man who is my COMPANION”.  If you take the time to read it, it is YHVH who is speaking. Yeshua is quoted in Matthew 26:31 as saying “I will strike the Shepherd” – but He is quoting GOD speaking in Zechariah 13:7. So GOD will strike the Shepherd. Who is the Shepherd? Jesus himself says HE is the good shepherd (John 10:11); the Shepherd who was struck by God.

Many of you know that the end of Isaiah 52 and all of Isaiah 53 is a prophecy about the crucifixion and sacrifice of Yeshua of Nazareth.  (Remember I use the name His mama called Him – the Hebrew name Yeshua, which means “salvation”.)

Let’s see who did the striking and sacrificing here. Isaiah 53 explains John 3:16 – that GOD so loved the world that HE gave his one and only Son. Why? So that those who believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. God the Father saw that by sacrificing His only Son for a time, that in his love he’d be opening the door to potentially millions or even billions more sons and daughters (2 Cor. 6:18). And Jesus was perfectly OK with that too (John 10:17-18). 

Isaiah 53:4,6
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him STRICKEN, SMITTEN BY GOD, and afflicted….
6 All we like sheep have gone astray, We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And Yehovah (the Lord) has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah 53:10-11
10 “Yet it PLEASED YHVH (the Lord) to bruise Him;
HE has put Him to grief.
When YOU make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of Yehovah (the Lord) shall prosper in His hand. 
11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many; For He shall bear their iniquities.”

Did you catch that?  HE – YHVH – has put Him to grief.  WHY would God put His own innocent Son to death?  I know, I know; it’s easier to blame the Jews or the Romans.  But that misses the point of the entire Passover!  Isaiah 53:10 says GOD made His soul an offering for sin in His love for all of us!

So really the One who killed Christ was the Head of the Father’s House – Yehovah Most High, God our Father, for all those in His House who would accept this blood. The blood that covers and cleanses us from ALL our sins, no matter how bad they were. The blood of the Lamb of God, whom FATHER slew for His household, protects us from the Destroyer, saves us from the penalty of death that we earned, and covers us by His grace. Yeshua becomes the Covering for His people, for His Bride.

Still not convinced?  Then what does John 3:16 say?  GOD gave His only begotten son as His LAMB for all and any in the whole WORLD.  The Head of the House had to be the one to slay HIS own lamb at Passover. Perhaps this will make John 3:16 1 John 4:9-11 mean more now. 
What an incredible HEAD of the household of God that we have.  He offered His OWN innocent Son for all of us who will accept Him as our Savior.

Romans 8:31-34
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 HE WHO DID NOT SPARE HIS OWN SON, BUT DELIVERED HIM UP FOR US ALL, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”

John 1:11-13

“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

What an incredible duo. Father and Son.  Yeshua adds another fold to this incredible story.  Father offers His innocent Son in order to save all who would repent and accept Him. The Son – Yeshua - -ALSO offers HIMSELF willingly and agrees to step up to Father’s Plan.  This just gets more and more amazing. Show me another religion whose God offers HIMSELF for His people!

Of course that too was pictured by Abraham offering up his grown son Isaac until God stopped it at the last minute (Genesis 22). Isaac was big and old enough to refuse it, but he obviously agreed too. And Isaac carried the wood, picturing the stake/cross of Christ.

John 10:17-18
"Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father."  

Yeshua, can I speak to you on behalf of all who are reading this: “Well done, our Master, well done. You’re simply amazing. We are not worthy of your grace and love but you offer it anyway. Thank you, our Beloved, thank you, and yes, we accept you and your covering blood again this year. You’ve washed us in your blood, you’ve wiped away our sins, and you’ve washed our feet of any of the dust/sins we’ve picked up in the last 12 months. And yes, Master, we are slowly learning to forgive and love one another as you have loved and forgiven.  You have set such an awesome example for all of us to follow. You’re amazing, holy Brother -- our Lord and Master, our Friend, our Savior, our King, our Husband-to-be, our JOY, our Love – and yes, our God. Thank you. We sure love you.”

“And Father, all of us fathers wish we could be a father like you. You are so kind, so patient, so loving, so giving, so forgiving – over and over. Thank you for that. Thank you for offering up your eternal companion the Word so that ultimately in your plan, he becomes the Firstborn among many brethren.  But what an example you are and please help me and all of us fathers be a better father.  Help all of us fathers to more perfectly turn our hearts to our children and please, please Father, turn our children’s hearts to their fathers, and especially to you, as the ultimate Father. Please. Please teach us how, please make us all one, as you and Yeshua are one. We love you so much, holy Father. Amen.”

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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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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.

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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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