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.

Infant and child baptism

As people from various backgrounds and religious former-affiliations come into contact with Light on the Rock, we receive a variety of comments and questions. Another recent inquiry is whether infants or children can be or should be baptized.  

True Biblical baptism of course means “to be immersed” or “immersion” – to be put under the water, not just sprinkled with water as is common on the Catholic and some other denominations. The original Greek word is “baptizo” meaning to completely “immerse, submerge, baptize” (Complete Word Study Dictionary of the New Testament).

In a Biblical baptism your entire body goes under water and then back up again, to picture our burial spiritually into Christ and our resurrection spiritually in Christ as well (Romans 6:3-6).  Being sprinkled with water is not baptism. It’s not the same at all as being buried – in figurative death as we are totally immersed into and under the water.

So any of you reading this who believe you are baptized because as an infant you were sprinkled with water by a priest must understand: in fact, you were never immersed. You were never baptized even a first time. But you should be baptized upon your repentance and confession of sins and accepting Jesus as your master, king and savior. This time, your baptism should be by complete immersion under water.  For those of you baptized as infants, being baptized now will be your first true baptism. Remember – if you read Acts 19:1-9 – you’ll see that some who had been baptized by John the Baptist were re-baptized by Apostle Paul because they did not understand the Holy Spirit. And yet John baptized by immersion and taught repentance and was a true minister and prophet of God.  

Baptism points to us dying with Christ and being resurrected to newness of life in Christ. It all points to Jesus/Yeshua’s death and resurrection. On your own, please study Romans 6:3-14. Here’s the first part.

Romans 6:3-4  --"Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”. 

We know of John the Baptist – the baptizer. Notice where he baptized and why.

John 3:23  -- “Now John also was baptizing [immersing] in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized (immersed).”

John the baptizer baptized in the Jordan “for there was much water there.”  If sprinkling water was all that was required, he would not have needed to find a place where there “was much water”.

 John 1:9 says Yeshua/Jesus came to be baptized (immersed) by John “in the Jordan”.  So Yeshua was baptized in a river. He was not sprinkled with water.

When the Ethiopian eunuch was baptized, it says Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and he was baptized. Then they came back up out of the water (Acts 8:35-39).  Please be sure to read that in your Bible.

So sprinkling water on anyone of any age and calling it “baptism” is simply unscriptural. One’s whole body has to be immersed in water as it actually symbolizes our old self being buried as Romans 6:3-6 explains. 

Now how about the age when a person can be baptized?

Jesus/Yeshua was baptized at age 30. That should say plenty to us. He is our example. He was not baptized as an infant or even as a teenager. He was baptized at age 30. Those of you who believe in infant or even child baptism need to decide if you think Joseph and Mary (his parents) and Jesus himself were all wrong to have Jesus wait til he was 30 years old.  

Neither is there a single clear instance in the Bible that I am aware of, of infants or children ever being baptized.  

But there are other significant points to consider

** Baptism follows repentance and forming a promised, committed relationship with our Almighty Father and Jesus Christ.

After Peter’s sermon on Pentecost (Shavuot – meaning ‘weeks”), people asked him what they could do. Here was his reply.

Acts 2:38 -- “Repent and let every one of you be baptized [immersed] in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” 

God’s Holy Spirit usually came upon the laying on of hands first by the ministry (Acts 8:17; 19:6).  There was the exception of Cornelius and his household, who were given the Holy Spirit first, as a sign to Peter, that God had already “OK’d” uncircumcised Gentiles to come into the church and be baptized.  See Acts 10:44-48.  

How can we possibly say that an infant or even a child or teen has repented and committed himself/herself to God? We can’t. So children and infants should not be baptized. Nor should adults be baptized who have not repented or properly understood repentance yet.  

But neither should you wait, once you’re an adult who has fully and deeply repented. Having repented does not mean you never sin anymore. It means you are choosing to live God’s way now and accept Yeshua as your Savior. You will still sin. If you come to me or any ministers and claim you’re ready for baptism because you don’t sin anymore, I would try to open your eyes to see that we all still stumble in sin. But don’t delay your baptism once you have repented and accepted Christ as your Master and committed yourself to obey Him fully.

            I do have a sermon on “Baptisms”. It’s plural because there are various baptism – of water, of fire, of the Holy Spirit.  I know you’ll learn a lot more by listening to it. It would actually be a good review for anyone, even all those already baptized, as we come up to Pentecost and review what it was that we committed to.   

            https://lightontherock.org/videos/message/baptisms-the-exciting-meaning-of-immersion1.html?highlight=WyJiYXB0aXNtcyJd

Upon receiving the Holy Spirit, that newly baptized person is immersed into the body of Christ and becomes a member or part of the body of Christ, the church, by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:13 says by one spirit we are baptized – immersed – into one Body, meaning the very body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:13a  “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…”

One purpose for us being baptized is to find and prepare a bride for Messiah. A baptized person is committing to happily marry Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). Paul said he betrothed us to Christ, as a “chaste virgin”. Can an infant repent? Can an infant make the commitment to marry the son of God?

Just as you would not put an engagement ring on an infant or child, neither should we ever baptize a child or infant.  It makes no sense. Committing to marriage – especially to the Son of God – takes far more maturity and understanding.

So – no, an infant or child should not be baptized or immersed in the name of Jesus Christ.

If a teenager (let’s say 16-17-18 yrs old)  wishes to be baptized, there should be thorough counseling on the subject first. This should include a complete discussion of repentance, of accepting Christ and what it means to be totally committed to Christ and God’s Way.  I’d personally still advise them to wait until at least 18 or 19 years of age or even later. SO many who were baptized at 16-18 years of age quit later on.

I was present for the baptism of an approximately 16-year old girl who insisted on it. I refused to baptize her before this point.  But then a new pastor came in and baptized her. But now 25 or so years later, she lives in sin, uses profanity freely, openly condemns the minister who baptized her, and she does not display any of the fruit of God’s spirit. Ditto for countless other children and teens who were “baptized”. SO many have discarded all that water baptism was supposed to mean.

So if you’re a teenager and want me to baptize you, I will likely tell you to wait a few more years. I just haven’t seen good fruit from most teens who were baptized.

And again, let me remind you: Jesus was 30 when he was baptized. HE is our model. You’re not “more ready” than he was, if you’re still a teenager.  He waited til he was 30.  Infants and children should NOT be baptized. If you were “baptized” (sprinkled) as an infant, you should seek proper baptism now.

I recommend again you listen to my sermon on “baptisms”. 

https://lightontherock.org/videos/message/baptisms-the-exciting-meaning-of-immersion1.html?highlight=WyJiYXB0aXNtcyJd

I welcome your comments on this and any blog. You must register first, and then write your comments and opinions that are supported by the Bible.

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When the Bible is literal and or figurative

Some people read the Bible and it seems to them that everything is an allegory, figurative or metaphor and most things to them in the Bible are NOT “real” or literal. Others read the same verses and they take most scripture literally and almost nothing is a figure of speech or a picture of something deeper.

This short sharing is just to say – be so careful about forming beliefs and teachings based on everything being all literal or everything being mostly figures of speech or metaphors. A metaphor is a figure of speech where a word stands for something else. If I said to you—“You’re a peach,” I’m not saying you literally are a peach, but you are sweet and delightful. Metaphor.

Whole doctrines based on one or the other way of looking at each scripture can cause whole church groups to split up. I do sometimes wish that our God would have said, “OK children, this next series of verses are not to be taken literally” (or vice versa). But we don’t see that much in the Bible. We’re told about parables, but they’re not quite the same. Or are they?

Let’s look at some of the Bible language and see where YOU fit – do you take the words I’ll bring up more literally, or as more allegorical?

I know people who don’t believe there were literal people called Adam and Eve. I do believe they were there, in a literal garden of Eden. Yes, I believe there was a worldwide flood – and many don’t. Or they call it just a regional flood. I believe God blasted out of existence the cities of the Plain, including Sodom, Gomorrah and other surrounding cities of Admah and Ziboam. Zoar was spared as a potential destination for Lot and his two daughters. And yes, I believe Lot’s wife was turned to a real pillar of salt. Many people think all these things are figurative. Not me.

Many scriptures seem literal to me, but other ministers feel they’re symbolic or figurative. Many don’t believe in a literal 1,000-year reign of Christ and his firstfruits as Revelation 20 tells us. I do take that literally, but you’d be surprised how many don’t. We’ll have to see. But the thousand years are mentioned several times in that one chapter. I’d love to see some of you comment on this on our website. Register first, then leave your comment.

But then others take figurative language and make them all literal.

Here are some more examples of what must be, surely, figurative language:

** In our relationship with God, are we literally Sheep or goats? Or do they represent various kinds of people? Was Christ literally God’s “LAMB”? A literal lamb?

** Does a literal sharp two-edged sword come out of the mouth of Jesus? Some believe so. I do not believe a literal big two-edged sword sticks out of Messiah’s mouth, but I’ve heard preachers who declare it must be true.

** Is Jesus literally a LION – as in lion of Judah, or is God making a point? And is our Messiah a literal Door, or Bread of life? Of course not. Nor is he a literal Vine (nor are we literal stick branches on a literal vine – John 15:1-5). He was using word pictures that people could relate to and help them understand.

** Exodus 19:4 quotes God as saying He brought Israel out of Egypt “on eagles’ wings.” Clearly, they walked out. But many people take this hyper-literally. Others have even tried to find airlines with eagle logos to perhaps find a way that we might also flee to a wilderness in future – “on eagles’ wings.” This is just saying God brought them out supernaturally and with great energy. The first day of walking out could have been a 48-hour period, but no one was sick or infirm. To me, “eagles’ wings” is clearly a metaphor.

One thing we can learn from the words of Yeshua/Jesus is that he was constantly thinking on a higher plane than his disciples. So he used “spiritual” language or alliterative words.

For example Jesus said to “beware of the leaven of Pharisees”  (read Matthew 16:6-11). His disciples started concluding that it was because they had forgotten to buy or have bread on hand. It’s almost funny but we might have reacted and concluded the same as they did. Jesus/Yeshua said  -“no, no, I’m referring to their wrong teachings or doctrine, which can spread throughout the community like leaven.” So doctrine is important too. In another place, he compared the Pharisees’ “leaven” to hypocrisy – just like leavened bread is puffy, airy, and not as big or satiating as one might assume. He wants us to be exactly what people see – and not hypocritical.

So as we read the Bible, we have to ask ourselves if this passage is literal or figurative.

Also consider the source. I’m extremely cautious when reading the Book of Job, because God Himself told Job and his friends that his 3 main friends had NOT spoken correctly of God and his ways. In fact, one of them, Eliphaz – was hearing from a DEMON! Read it for yourself in the last half of Job 4.

So who is speaking? You need to know that when quoting the Bible. The one who said “You shall not surely die” – was Satan himself! So what’s the one thing people still believe today? It is that your soul cannot die. Straight from Satan! So now we have people believing the “immortal soul,” though Ezekiel 18:4, 20 both say, “the soul that sins shall DIE”! And Jesus himself said to fear him who is able to kill both body AND soul in his hell fire. Matthew 10:28 --  “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”  So now people believe the wages of sin is NOT death, but is endless life being tormented by a God who claims to be the very essence of what LOVE is. But what happened to ‘death”? So “they” redefined it as “death is being separated from God as you are being tormented in hell fire forever and ever.”

I obviously cannot agree with that. Death is death. AFTER the thousand years reign by Christ is finished, “the rest of the dead” will be resurrected, and some to suffer the 2nd death as their punishment. Read Revelation 20:3-6, 12-14. They will be as ashes under the feet of the righteous (Malachi 4:3). Now THAT is “death.” Be sure to watch my upcoming sermons on death, God’s plan for us and more.

Here are more example of “is it literal – or figurative”?

**  BABYLON the Great of Rev. 17 and 18. Scripture calls it “that great city” on 7 hills, who rides The Beast – until the Beast casts her off and destroys her. OK, so who/what is Babylon in Rev. 18? Some say it has to be the literal city in Iraq that is slowly being rebuilt but has no consequence so far. Others are certain it’s not that – but perhaps Rome, or perhaps New York City. Many are certain it is Rome or Vatican City or the Roman Catholic Church. Others say it is Jerusalem when the Beast and False Prophet take it over for a few years and perhaps even make Jerusalem their world headquarters. What do you think?

** Will the final Two Witnesses really destroy their enemies with literal fire from their mouths? (Revelation 11). Elijah called down fire from heaven, not from his mouth, to burn the groups of 50 who came to arrest him (2 Kings chapter 1). I won’t test the 2 Witnesses on this – but it will be interesting to see if this is literal or figurative. (I think it’s figurative).

** We’re also called the temple of God’s spirit. But we’re not made up of literal big stones and precious stones of a temple – but allegorically yes, we’re the residence of God’s spirit and God does see his children as very precious in his eyes. But we are not literal stones but actually something far more precious.

** However, I personally do take literally that we are a Royal Priesthood. We’re children of God, and that makes me and you royalty of the highest order possible.

** Now this will challenge some of you: we are also called Children of God. Yes, I take that literally. MOST Christians do not. They think it’s allegorical. But God is my Abba – my wonderful Father. And I am literally called his child, and if you are led by His Holy Spirit, then so are you! You’re not just some sort of “angel” or something. No, you’re his daughter or son. Literally. Now ponder what all that could mean! I have teachings on “Your Breathtaking Destiny.”  When you grasp it, it will “blow your mind” as we used to say.

** The entire Flat Earth movement is based literally on taking scriptures about our planet  super-literally. So because the Bible speaks of the setting of the sun or rising of the sun, they say therefore the sun goes around the earth – and not the other way around. Because the KJV (and only the KJV it seems) mocks “science, so called” (1 Timothy 6:20), some of them say we should not believe science. The Greek word is “gnosis” – meaning knowledge!

So the Flat earthers – and there are millions of them now (for real) – believe the earth does not move at all, does not rotate, does not spin on its axis, does not revolve around sun. They believe the entire “universe” of sun, moon, stars, planets all fit inside a hard dome, the “firmament” that is above the flat earth. The sun is a small light – not a huge star—that is just 3000 miles above our flat earth.  Yep, people believe this. Then the religious Flat Earthers say God’s kingdom of heaven is just outside this dome, not that far from all of us.

The earth is not moving and cannot move at all? That’s one of their main beliefs in the Flat Earth movement. It comes from hyper-realism when reading scriptures, which say the earth cannot be moved. Check the original language too. “Moved” in Hebrew can also mean cannot be made to slip, or change, or fall. God was saying he made the earth correctly – and it’s not going to fall apart of skip – unless HE himself causes it to move! Isaiah 13:13 says “…the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord…”

Also please read Isaiah 24:18-20, where the earth is described as … reeling like a drunkard when God gets involved.

Though many Flat Earthers claim their movement is based on the Bible, it is not. Their most-used model of the flat earth has the North Pole in the middle. But G0d CLEARLY says that HE set JERUSALEM at the center of the nations (Ezekiel 5:5). They believe the South pole – Antarctica – forms around the edge of their round, flat earth, keeping all the salt water in. They say that “edge” is a 150-foot wall of ice, though there’s no proof for any of this. Where are the photographs?

So that’s another point:  use ALL The Bible when setting doctrine so we’re not confused by figurative words. And when we check the original Hebrew or Greek, it often becomes clear. You can also see how other translations translate particular verses.

Get www.BibleHub.com  – it’s free and lets you do all kinds of cross-referencing. So does www.BibleGateway.com . Check them out. EVERY word of God is good, and we are to live by every word of God. There are other free Bible helps as well.

They also don’t believe any man has ever gone into space or the moon – or as they say it, outside our firmament dome. Flat Earthers also say all the photos of our beautiful round earth, as taken from the moon or far out in space, are all really just computer-generated imagery (CGI) and Photo Shop work.

Our world is a sphere, like a globe, folks. It’s not a Flat earth with a hard dome over it. All the provable evidence is there. Flat earthers have a tough time being able to convincingly demonstrate day/night, seasons, lunar eclipses, etc. Don’t fall for the hyper-literalism of Flat Earthers.

I’ll leave it at that and just remind you all to:

  • Check out who’s speaking. Is it God, or Satan? Is it a prophet or false teacher?
  • Check all the verses on a particular subject. Don’t force a doctrine from one verse. Have at least 2-3-4 scriptures which say the same thing.
  • Figure out by context if it’s a literal verse or figurative verse

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IS Circumcision of the flesh still required?

I’m writing and discussing this topic because it keeps coming up, sooner or later, as I work with various groups who want to be obedient to God and his word. I keep hearing that there are those who want to require only circumcised males to be able to keep the Passover. 

It is VERY true that in the Old Testament, in the first or “old covenant”, God’s followers from Abraham onwards had to be circumcised as the sign of them being in covenant with the true living God. But what about today? I want to show both the Old Testament and New Testament teaching on this topic.

I strongly recommend everyone studies this short teaching – whether you are male or female, so you can discuss it correctly and intelligently when the topic rears its head again AND as it also bears heavily on understanding how we’re in the NEW COVENANT now.

So we’ll read some of the Old Testament scriptures first and then see what we’re told in the New Covenant. ARE we required TODAY to circumcise our males for spiritual reasons? Many still circumcise for health and hygienic reasons today, but we’re discussing circumcision for spiritual requirement reasons or not.

Here’s God’ command to Abraham in Genesis 17 saying ANY male in his group – whether freeborn or a purchased slave – were all to be circumcised.

Genesis 17:9-14

And God said to Abraham: "As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations.

10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. 

12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. 13 He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant."

God chose the 8th day because 8 is the number of new beginnings. Like there were 8 in the ark; David was the 8th son of Jesse. But also on the 8th day is when Vitamin K in our blood, needed for strong blood clotting, is at its highest level it will ever be!

It is also true that in the first Passover service in Exodus 12, everyone partaking of the Passover had to first be circumcised. SO understand, before they left Egypt all the males had been circumcised. But we’ll find that in the next 40 years in the wilderness, they did not continue to circumcise any of the newborns. Not at all. Not even Moses enforced it, as we’ll see later on in Joshua 5.

Exodus 12:43-48

And YHVH said to Moses and Aaron, "This is the ordinance of the Passover: No foreigner shall eat it. 44 But every man's servant who is bought for money, when you have circumcised him, then he may eat it. 45 A sojourner and a hired servant shall not eat it. 46 In one house it shall be eaten; you shall not carry any of the flesh outside the house, nor shall you break one of its bones. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it.

48 And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to YHVH, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it.

So that’s clear enough as well! If you wanted to keep Passover back in the day, yes – you had to be circumcised. So all of Israelite males coming OUT of Egypt, had had the circumcision ceremony done on their bodies before they left Egypt. Keep that in mind.

But did you know that in the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the Israelites were not circumcised and so probably did not keep Passover either! You can read that all very clearly in Joshua 5:1-9. Not even Moses had made them get circumcised during the 40 years wandering.

Moses and Jeremiah pointed out the real meaning of circumcision is to cut out anything between you and God. 

Deuteronomy 30:6  

“And YHVH your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”

Deuteronomy 10:16

“Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer”.

Jeremiah 4:3-4 says to take away the foreskins of your hearts.

So please note: circumcision today – for spiritual reasons – points to exposing your HEART to God, in deep repentance and acceptance of Jesus Christ, by FAITH, as your Savior . So even you WOMEN need THIS kind of circumcision, OK?  

Circumcision became an issue in the New Covenant when believers who had been PHARISEES saw uncircumcised Gentiles coming to conversion. Pharisees were super strict and orthodox about keeping the law.

Remember, they did not have any of the New Testament scriptures we have now for the first few DECADES after Christ’s death and resurrection. ALL they had were the scriptures I’ve just read you and if that’s all you had, you too would have said circumcision of the flesh was required.

So there was a ministerial conference in Jerusalem to address this topic of circumcision – AND, verse 5 – whether people had to keep all 613 laws of the entire law of Moses, meaning his 5 books, the Torah. It’s important to understand both questions were being addressed. People were saying one must be circumcised for salvation and keep all 613 laws (the Torah).

You may want to hear my teaching on “The NEW Covenant”.

Acts 15:1-2

And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." 2 Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question. 

Acts 15:5-12

“But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, AND to command them to keep the law of Moses."

6 Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter.

7 And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: "Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, [before those Gentiles were circumcised] 9 and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their HEARTS by faith.

10 Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ WE shall be saved in the same manner AS THEY" (meaning by faith). 

Peter was circumcised. So were all the other Jews present. What is this yoke on the neck that neither they nor their fathers could keep; weren’t “able to bear?” 

It was this: The Old Covenant was all about blessings and cursings. You were blessed if you obeyed and cursed if you did not (Leviticus 25; Deuteronomy 28). The Old Covenant did not offer eternal life to Israel for being obedient. It offered a blessed life, but not eternal life. This is so key to understanding this.

So people like Joshua and others said they chose LIFE (Joshua 24:15), meaning they chose to be obedient and serve the LORD. But they were not offered eternal life except for a very few exceptions of prophets and leaders and some women who were being called to receive the Holy Spirit even way back then. Hear my “New Covenant” sermon please.

The NEW covenant that we and they in Acts 15 were now a part of – was a covenant of salvation, righteousness and eternal life by FAITH in Yeshua and our Father. But too many 21st century believers don’t understand this still. Too many are still trying to QUALIFY for eternal life, instead of receiving the GIFT of salvation. Peter is trying to explain that in Acts 15:9 and 11 especially. Read it again. Salvation by FAITH in Christ and in faith receiving the gift of God’s favor, God’s grace (verses 9, 11). Eternal life is God’s free GIFT (Rom. 6:23). 

12 Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles.

Then for the rest of the chapter – they issued a decree that they wanted 4 points emphasized to the uncircumcised Gentiles: abstain from meat offered to idols, no sexual immorality, don’t eat meat strangled, and don’t be drinking blood (v. 20).

BUT WHAT WAS LEFT OUT of the 4 requirements? CIRCUMCISION.

 Timothy was half Jewish by his mom and half Gentile by his dad. So he was circumcised to keep from offending the Jews.

Acts 16:3

“Paul wanted to have him (Timothy) go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek.”

But Titus, a Greek man, was not required to be circumcised (Galatians 2:3).

WHAT CIRCUMCISION IS REQUIRED – both of men and women of God 

The Apostle Paul, especially, clarifies that circumcision of the male parts is not required or even desired in the new covenant. We become spiritual Jews by faith and circumcision of the heart.

Romans 2:28-29

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh;

29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.

1 Cor. 7:18 is so clear. If a believing man is uncircumcised, “let him NOT be circumcised.” And verse 20 – stay the way you are! It doesn’t get any clearer than that.

1 Corinthians 7:18-20

“Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him NOT be circumcised.

19 Circumcision is NOTHING and uncircumcision is NOTHING, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.

20 Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called.”

This next passage in Galatians 5 is especially strong.

Galatians 5:1-6 especially   v 2, 4

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you NOTHING.”

3 “And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails ANYTHING, but faith working through love.”

Paul goes on in Galatians 6:14-15 to say he did not want to boast in anything he did in the flesh – but just to glory to what Yeshua did on the cross. Paul really puts down those in the church who were advocating for circumcising the men and boys. 

So today, we do NOT seek to circumcise our males for spiritual reasons. If anyone wants to circumcise their 8-day old boys for health reasons, that’s fine; but please – not for spiritual reasons. We ARE all circumcised in the New Covenant if we have repented, opened up and exposed our soul and heart to God, and accepted Yeshua as our Savior. We had circumcision of the HEART, which is what physical circumcision pointed to.

Colossians 3:9-11

“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.

I want to end by reading again, the first 5-6 verses of Galatians 5:

Galatians 5:1-2, 6

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you NOTHING.”

6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love”.

So, are we to be circumcised now, in the New Covenant?

Yes – but only by circumcision of our heart; being tender-hearted to God and baring our soul.

But if someone means physical circumcision of the male foreskin, then NO. Absolutely not.  

So to be clear: in the new covenant, NOBODY has to be physically circumcised today to keep the Passover, or to be baptized, or to be allowed to marry, or to attend church services. Nobody has to be circumcised today, except in our hearts. And we are in the New Covenant!

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Are We Crucified With Christ?

Most of us have not fully comprehended what a gruesome and disgraceful means of execution a Roman scourging and crucifixion was.

It is a wonder Jesus even made it to Golgotha considering the scourging he received. The Jews’ punishment of 39 cuts – or stripes - in the skin was limited for risk of killing the victim.

However the Romans - noted for their brutality and lust for blood carefully engineered scourges with a leather cord knotted with pieces of bone or metal to ensure that chunks of flesh were removed with each lash of the whip. And they were not limited by Jewish rules or traditions to only 39 lashes.

Jesus' physical appearance must have been nearly beyond recognition by the time he arrived at the place of crucifixion.

Isaiah 52:14 (NCV)

14            Many people were shocked when they saw him. His appearance was so changed he did not look like a man; his form was changed so much they could barely tell he was human.

(NLT) 14Many were amazed when they saw him - beaten and bloodied, so disfigured one would scarcely know he was a person.

Psalm 22:14-17 (NLT)

14         My life is poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart is like wax, melting within me.

15 My strength has dried up like sunbaked clay. My tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You have laid me in the dust and left me for dead.

16         My enemies surround me like a pack of dogs; an evil gang closes in on me. They have pierced my hands and feet.

17         I can count every bone in my body. My enemies stare at me and gloat.

This is what Christ went through 1992 years ago.

Scripture says we were “bought for a price.”  There is no higher price that could be paid by both the Father and the Son. What kind of love is shown to us by this voluntary act? 

We have a duty to Christ in return. We must show our honor of what He did for us.

How do we do this? How did Paul do this?

Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)

20I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

(NCV) 20I was put to death on the cross with Christ, and I do not live anymore—it is Christ who lives in me. I still live in my body, but I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself to save me.

 

We must show our honor and respect to our fallen Hero by crucifying ourselves along with Him as Paul did. Three points to this end:

  1. Have an attitude of honor.

2 Samuel 11:6-11 (NLT)

6So David sent word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.”

7When Uriah arrived, David asked him how Joab and the army were getting along and how the war was progressing.

8Then he told Uriah, “Go on home and relax.” David even sent a gift to Uriah after he had left the palace.

9But Uriah wouldn’t go home. He stayed that night at the palace entrance with some of the king’s other servants.

10When David heard what Uriah had done, he summoned him and asked, “What’s the matter with you? Why didn’t you go home last night after being away for so long?”

11Uriah replied, “The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents, and Joab and his officers are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I will never be guilty of acting like that.”

Uriah had an attitude of the utmost honor for his fellow comrades. For his superior officer Joab. And he includes God by reference to the Ark. He denied himself out of honor for them.

We must adopt the attitude of Uriah.

  1. Be Prepared to Suffer

We ARE going to suffer. The cessation of sinning results in suffering! 

Romans 8:16-18 (NKJV)

16The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 

1 Peter 4:1 (NLT)

1So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you are willing to suffer for Christ, you have decided to stop sinning.

Hebrews 12:1-4 (NLT)

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.

2We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.£ He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven.

3Think about all he endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don’t become weary and give up.

4After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

Do we see that by comparison, our crucifixion is nothing compared to Christ’s?

Let’s show our honor by suffering through the cessation of sin. Whatever it is.

  1. Have the attitude of battle

Paul exquisitely explains this in his letter to the Ephesian Church.

Ephesians 6:10-18 (NLT)

10A final word: Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power.

11Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil.

12For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.

13Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm.

14Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.

15For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared.£

16In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan.£

17Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.

It is a constant war, and we must be up to the task. Let us remember

TWO IMPORTANT TRUTHS

(1). Your battle is always for a REASON.

(2). Your battle is always for a SEASON.

Let’s not ever forget this.

I coached youth basketball for 13 years.

Practices were hard. I got them into playing shape by making them suffer. The kids were taught that a floor burn received by diving for a ball was a “badge of honor.”

My job as a coach was more than just teaching the academic fundamentals of basketball.

My job was to have my players ready to play - ready to put forth the maximum effort. I had to inspire them to want to win, and to “leave it all out on the floor.”

Let’s arm ourselves with the attitude of Uriah. Let’s prepare ourselves for suffering. And let’s wage a valiant battle against sin, using the accouterments of war given to us by God as described by Paul.

Let’s get fired up to engage in our war against the Devil. Let us be prepared to suffer and get some badges of honor. Let’s leave it all out on the floor.

 Let’s make sure we crucify ourselves in honor of what Christ went through for us.

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DON’T Forget Wavesheaf Day today

Most of the Christian world is celebrating Easter Sunday today. But those of us who go by the Bible are remembering a very special day – Wavesheaf Day. Don’t let the day go by without you realizing this is such a special day.

For full details, be sure to hear/read the brand-new audio sermon about Jesus’ inspiring Wavesheaf Day.

At 9 am on this day, the day after the weekly sabbath that falls between the first and last day of Unleavened Bread, the High Priest would raise up to God an omer of fine flour beaten from the first barley sheaves. This was done before the rest of the barley harvest could begin. Then he would lower his hands and the flour back down again. Thus the rest of the harvest has been accepted, because of presenting the first fruit of barley first to God.

Leviticus 23:9-11

And YHVH spoke to Moses, saying, 10 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest. 11 He shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be ACCEPTED on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.”

So on this day, Yeshua/Jesus had been resurrected just before sundown the evening before, exactly three days and three nights after being placed in the tomb, and then waited to fulfill what this ceremony pointed to: to HIM and his role in making the harvest accepted by God our Father. He did see Mary Magdalene in the garden and revealed himself to her but told her that he must go to his Father and his God, and to her God and Father first. (John 20:17)

Which he did. What a glorious reunion that must have been with cheering angels, with joy and wonder, with praise and glory to the victorious Son of God. How indescribably moving it must have been for Father and Son to finally reunite and hug and – what JOY! God had sent him to us as a perfect baby, and we returned him all battle-scarred. BUT, Yeshua was sinless, had won the perfect victory over Satan. Satan only had to make Jesus sin one time to win. But Satan lost, and lost badly, as Christ redeemed us all in his complete and total victory.

Yeshua came back down that same day, saw Peter first of all (1 Cor. 15:5; Luke 24:34) in what had to be a beautifully re-affirming meeting with the man who had denied him three times. Then He appeared to the 2 men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:23-35), who then returned to Jerusalem and joined up with the 10 gathered (minus Thomas) there along with others. Then once again our wonderful Savior appeared to them all – minus Thomas -- once more, confirming his resurrection (Luke 24:35-38).

Surely most of us feel so unworthy much of the time and feel rejected by people, even God’s people, and we often can feel rejected by God when we know we have failed. THIS day  affirms God’s acceptance of the rest of the harvest – of those He is calling now. Notice how all of this listed in Ephesians 1 is attributed to Jesus to make it all possible also for us. And notice how positively worded is the entire summary – blessed, the good pleasure of his will, and that wonderful grace and favor of God towards us.

Ephesians 1:3-6

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us ACCEPTED in the Beloved.”

So this day is not just about our Savior rising to his Father and being accepted as the first of the firstfruits – but in that act it also allows US to be accepted by Father. SO this day is also very much about you and me, in and through Christ.

Take time today to bow down and worship in profound gratitude for the meaning of this day. This is what my wife and I do. So today, Wavesheaf day, is not a holy day but a very, very special day that must not be forgotten.  I have more details in the sermon about this day that has been posted.

Please help spread the word to others to remember this vital and loving day.

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The LAST GENERATION

Note from the host PShields: Much of this blog below comes from a writing I loved from Evelyn Ortiz Cabigting in the Philippines with just a few edits. I hope you enjoy it and that it makes you think as much as it did me. Here’s what she writes:

I believe we are in the last generation before the return of Christ. If so, it will be the most exciting time on earth and also the most volatile time on earth.

Six thousand years ago Adam and Eve walked the earth. They – and every human since then, have planted seeds of their actions and lives. With every human since then also planting seed, there’s like a multiplying effect. Can it be that every seed planted from then until now – both good seed and evil seed – will be reaped in abundance in this last generation?

Consider this: The evil that has been sown in mankind will reach its culmination in the “Man of Sin” (2 Thessalonians 2:3).  But conversely, the good that has been sown will also reach its fullness in this generation in the form of Christ in us in all his fullness. [You may wish to check out the sermon on this website “God’s Perfection for us – God’s Way” – 2 part].

Colossians 1:25-28

“to fulfill the word of God, 26 the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. “

Both good and evil are maturing together and are shaping up for the final clash. Satan will even attack God’s throne in heaven (Revelation 12). Satan will be cast back down to earth, but then he will empower the diabolic Beast power and False Prophet. But we’ve read the end of God’s book – and so we know how it ends: God wins. We know the children of God will possess the earth and we will experience the reign of Jesus Christ on this literal earth.

 

You have been born in this hour, this time and place, the greatest hour, the greatest climax of all world events in history! Be excited about it. Your children’s children will ask you someday what it was like in 2022 or 2030.  You’re living and making history.  It reminds me of what Mordecai said to Esther and really says to us in Esther 4:12b—“Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

A time like this is NOT a time for God’s children to get distracted or lose heart. It’s the time to seek God more diligently than ever before, and he will be found of you. It’s the time to seek to come to know Jesus as never before. Spend your time on these things and cut out time wasters. We have no time to waste.

History is “HIS story” which will culminate in this world coming under the complete rule and control of our Lord Jesus Christ. We preach the gospel of the kingdom of God and the good news of Jesus Christ -- a gospel of peace, of salvation, the gospel of the grace of God. But in the end, it’s the good news of the complete rule and leadership of the Lord Jesus as he puts down all evil, all rebellion and Satan is put away and is no longer the god of this world.

All of this could happen in the lifetime of most of us, I believe – perhaps even in the coming years, within this next decade.

The good news of the kingdom is the good news of the TRUE new world order which Yeshua/Jesus will usher in – and the age of the literal kingdom of God on earth. It’s the gospel of hope and expectancy of a new world of peace with no more war, no more famine, no more bloodshed. It will be a world where nature and mankind will dwell together harmoniously.

It’s the good news about the KING of that new kingdom – Jesus the Son of God and everything he has done for us. He is the Lamb of God, our Passover Lamb. HE is the Door and the Way into Father’s kingdom, which Father in heaven grants and shares with Jesus and to us as co-heirs. Jesus – will come as King of kings, Lord of lords, the Lion of Judah, the Prince of Peace and you are being called to be His Bride with him! How exciting that is for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.

It’s the gospel of being born again with our high calling and destiny to usher in Christ’s brand new world where evil, sickness and poverty are forever banished.

THIS is what we must be focused on and be getting very excited about! It will seem to you many times in the next few years that evil is winning, but don’t believe it. God – and good – will prevail. And you have been called to be a part of that winning family of God! We’ve been called to be zealous, to fix our gaze upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith and to be holy for God’s use. Introduce more and more people to their Savior. Disciple the nations.

The fields are ripening for that massive harvest. Get ready for the greatest harvest of souls the world has ever seen. Revelation 7 speaks of a great innumerable multitude who will come to salvation out of the Great Tribulation. They are pictured as having washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. My point is – there are so many of them that they’re impossible to count or estimate. Yes, the greatest harvest of souls anyone has ever seen will happen relatively soon. Your personal life, your example, your sharing of the good news is undoubtedly planting seed in people’s lives that will spring up much later, though we don’t see all that growth yet.

This is not a time to be sidetracked, sidelined or to lose heart. Those who endure to the end will be saved. You will be tempted to lose interest and drop away from the select Body of Christ. DON’T listen to those temptations. Become more zealous for God than you ever have been before. Those with Christ are described as the “Called, chosen AND faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

Get ready for the greatest harvest of souls ever! 

BE there for the most exciting final generation years just ahead. Be sure you’re part of the right team and part of God’s family and Household and the Bride of Christ. Never ever forget who you are – and who Jesus Christ and our Father are.

Shalom and good day!!!  And praise God.

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Correctly understand eating unleavened bread

(This article is an updated version of one I wrote a year ago).

Let me get right to the point. Over the many years in the Church of God and its subsequent branches, I was taught – and I even taught – this about unleavened bread:

**  Leavening pictures sin like malice and wickedness (1 Cor. 5:6-8) as well as false doctrine (Matthew 16:6-12) and so that is why we put it out. (True, but leavening can also picture God’s kingdom that spreads! Matthew 13:33).

**  Then when talking about eating UNLEAVENED bread, it is believed that this pictures our new life committed to obedience and being free from sin.

All that can be true. But it’s not complete. It’s dangerously incomplete, in fact. 

When you deleavened your home, and men – I hope you helped a lot and led the family in this – you threw OUT and disposed of all leavened breads, crackers, cookies, etc. because there was no way to salvage any of it. We couldn’t pick the leaven out of the bread. We could only throw it out – and then we all had to REPLACE it all with brand new unleavened bread that you either made at home or bought matzah from an outside store.

What did the leavened bread you threw out picture? 

The right answer:  It pictures our old carnal selves, not just sin itself, but how we had sin in our lives and were sinners. Leavened bread pictures US. Yes, Christ died for our sins and our Father in heaven forgave us. But then we still stumble in sin, perhaps even daily, even during the days of Unleavened bread. Sinning is no longer our way of life, but we still stumble in sin, as even Paul says in Rom.7:15-20. Please read it carefully.

So we remind ourselves that we must continually be putting out, not just sins, but our sinful old self. We must be totally surrendering to God in every facet of our lives so we can call Jesus our Lord. So the leavening we throw out pictures – US. Not just sin generally, but “US”.  And this is why Paul would say in Galatians 2:20 that he is crucified with Christ. Paul wanted his old self tied down and killed – with Christ.

When you were throwing out your leavened products, did you realize all that leavening pictured – YOU? Your old self; what Paul calls “the old man”? It pictured you giving up the old ways of unrighteousness.

After throwing out the old sinful way pictured by leaven, we go out and buy or bake fresh UNLEAVENED bread that had never been in our homes before. It was brand new. It had no connection to the discarded leavened products. It’s a new product that NEVER had any leavening in it. That’s key.

Sin is defined as breaking God’s law (1 John 3:4), for failing to do the good things we should have done (James 4:17), going against our conscience, doing things “not of faith” (Romans 14:23). All unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:17). We repent of what we ARE – a sinner, as the tax collector did (Luke 18:12-14).

So the Unleavened Bread does not and cannot picture US because there’s still sin in our lives we need to repent of, daily. True unleavened bread has never had any leaven in it. It doesn’t even picture us as we try to keep sin out of our lives because as Paul admits in Romans 7, we all still stumble in sin. UNLEAVENED bread has to picture something more, and someone far greater than you and me. 

Unleavened Bread pictures the One, and the only One, who DID keep sin totally out of his life. HE is the Unleavened Bread of God. HE is the manna, the bread of heaven, from God (John 6:48-51 please read it). He and he alone. This is why Yeshua said, “this is MY body, broken for you.” (Matthew 26:26). The unleavened bread of Passover AND during the days of unleavened bread picture HIS body, HIS life; not mine, not yours.

So far, are you with me? Leavened bread pictures us who still stumble in sin. Each year, we remind ourselves that there are still vestiges of sinful habits and ways of thinking we have to cast out as we cleanse the temple of God, which is our body (1 Cor. 3:16-17).

The unleavened bread pictures Yeshua. Surely it has to, for that’s what Yeshua said – “This is MY body…,” and what Paul echoes in 1 Cor. 11:23-25. It pictures us taking in Christ’s life. The old sinful self – pictured by leavened bread – we threw out. We eat of it, in remembrance of HIM. We focus on Christ now in the new covenant more than on coming out of Egypt. And we don’t focus on ourselves trying to get sin out of our lives by ourselves.

Let me say again: we don’t try to take the leavening out of already leavened products. We can’t. We throw them out. They are not able to be unleavened. They must be replaced. 

In the same way, we must die to this world and its way. We must be crucified with Christ. We cannot – we cannot ourselves make ourselves righteous enough to be acceptable to the “be ye therefore perfect/complete” standard Yeshua/Jesus laid out for us (Matthew 5:48).

We have to eat the unleavened bread that pictures the NEW life, the new bread of our Messiah Jesus Christ. We put out malice and wickedness, remember, and take on sincerity and truth. WHO is the Truth? It is Yeshua/Jesus!

1 Corinthians 5:6-8  “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Therefore throw out the old leaven, that you may be a NEW lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and TRUTH”.

Corinthians – truly are unleavened? Each chapter is about another one of their corporate sins, one after the other. The only way they were unleavened was through Christ, sacrificed for them and who is sincerity and TRUTH. You cannot take leaven out of an already leavened product. Our old self is leavened. We can’t perfect it. It has to be thrown out and we have to accept the NEW UNLEAVENED, SINLESS life of Christ. And HE, by his one offering, we are told in Hebrews 10:14 – “has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”

So the Unleavened Bread does not picture our perfection by us taking each little and big sin out of our lives – but pictures us accepting the forever sinless perfection of Christ’s life now to replace our old life.

In 2 Cor. 5:17 that Paul tells us that in Christ we are A NEW CREATION – like the new unleavened bread you bake or buy that had never existed before in your life. We cannot make ourselves a new creation. The Creator of our NEW CREATION is – guess who? Is GOD through Christ, just like the original creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17-19  “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

Paul goes on after saying all of this is made possible by God. “Now all things are of God.” God’s perfection and righteousness is credited to us as his gift (Romans 5:17; as we accept the justification that is by faith – Romans 5:1)

2 Corinthians 5:21  “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that WE might become the righteousness of GOD in Him.”

And so now we can come boldly before the throne of God’s favor or grace. HOW? Is it because we have become so good now, though we still stumble in sin? No! We come boldly through the blood and pierced flesh of our Savior (Hebrews 10:19). God will remember our sins no more (Heb. 10:17)

Hebrews 10:19-23 –Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Don’t misunderstand me. Now once we have partaken of our Savior we must, of course, fight sin viciously and keep ourselves from intentional sin, willful sin, which is seen very seriously by our God.

Hebrews 10:26-27   “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries”.

As we focus on Christ, we become more and more in his image (2 Cor. 3:17-18). We copy Him, follow him (1 Cor. 11:1) and we let HIS mind become ours. Christ himself is now our new life – Colossians 3:1-4.

So the UNLEAVENED BREAD we eat does NOT picture US primarily. It is NOT about our lives that are now free from the penalty of sin, but we still sometimes sin (leaven) as Paul says in Romans 7:15-17. Though you may not consume any leavened products during the week of unleavened bread , I doubt any of us can claim to have not sinned at all during those seven days. Apostle Paul, as you know in Romans 7, still admitted to stumbles of sin that he hated.

Paul even goes on to make a differentiation between his old carnal sinful fleshly self – and the new creation Paul. In fact Paul says in Romans 7:16-20 that NOW when he sinned, it was not really himself sinning. It wasn’t the new Paul—no,  it was “Sin that dwells in me” that was doing the sinning.

Romans 7:15-17  “but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”

Paul differentiates between the old carnal self that we still have – alongside the new creation of God in Christ, that we now have as well. These 2 fight each other and fight they must. But the UNLEAVENED bread is Yeshua, our Messiah. Each day we eat of it, we are asking God to let Christ BE our new life, and that we follow his guidance and look more and more like HIM.

Our entire life before Christ had been leavened, in other words. We can’t keep any of it. It all has to go – just like your bread, cookies, and crackers. Once a life is leavened, you cannot deleaven it, any more than you can deleaven already leavened bread. A leavened LIFE – which is really what all this pictures – has to be cast out and rejected just like we do leavened bread.

Even GOD has to start with a new creation in us. A once-leavened life cannot be deleavened. It has to be replaced. It is replaced by the life of Christ alive in each of us. So I need a new life pictured by new bread that is unleavened: Yeshua himself.

But my new self is NOT me, trying to qualify for God’s kingdom in my efforts to overcome and defeat sin. In fact, remember that the days of Unleavened Bread come BEFORE the giving of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Imagine claiming you could have any victory over sin without the holy spirit! My old me failed. So did yours. We need something – or Someone – PERFECT, without ANY sin at any time, ever (Hebrews 4:15).

Are you seeing the difference? It’s ALL about Yeshua. ALL about him and how he perfectly obeyed his Father, and our Father.

I eat unleavened bread to remind me that I have to take in Jesus Christ my Savior day after day. We become what we eat. In this season, let’s FEAST on our Messiah. I don’t eat matzah to remind me I no longer sin – because you and I still do. I eat matzah during Passover week – and figuratively the rest of my life – because I need HIM living in me from now on. 

When our Savior handed out the pieces of matzah to the disciples, he does NOT say “Eat this, as this pictures the new you trying your best to ‘make it’ and to finally be good enough to be allowed into the kingdom.” No!           

Yeshua said, “Eat this bread, for this is MY LIFE broken for you. Drink of my cup, for this is MY BLOOD of the new covenant” that he SHED for us (Matt. 26:26-29). Life is in the blood. It’s all about him. “Do this in remembrance of ME,” He said several times (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-25).

I know you know that, but I still keep hearing and reading an emphasis on the unleavened matzah picturing each of US successfully fighting sin. But even just ONE sin makes us a sinner, right? Even one lustful or overly angry thought makes you and me a sinner, right?

Yes, we have to fight sin. Yes, we have to be Christian soldiers fighting the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12). Yes, we have to put on the whole armor of God. All of that is in context that we must “be strong in the Lord and in the power of HIS might” (Eph 6:10).

Unleavened bread does not picture us defeating sin. It’s much more perfect than that. Unleavened bread pictures CHRIST living in me and crushing sin and being my new life. Father sees HIS life, HIS righteousness covering me. As you eat unleavened bread, don’t leave Christ out of your thoughts: you’re picturing HIM.

As you eat unleavened bread, think of it as you pursuing the Messiah, seeking to be with him, learning what it means to abide in him. As you eat unleavened bread, invite him to BE the new you, PERFECTLY at one with Him, prepared to be His Bride. Invite him to cleanse the temple of your body of anything unpleasing to Father. Dwell in him. Invite him and Father to dwell in you.

And this is why you and I must eat unleavened bread each and all 7 days of the Feast. We simply cannot live perfectly enough without it being HIM and HIS righteousness all the time, 7 days a week living as our new life.

To him be all the glory and praise. Amen.

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Remember who you are 

He was driving behind me, impatiently honking because I hadn’t immediately made a right turn when he thought the way was clear.  What he didn’t know was that there was a little old lady crossing right in front of me.  When he honked the second time, I looked in my mirror and told him he was an ‘Idiot’!  Of course he couldn’t hear me and eventually saw the pedestrian, so likely realized that, yes, he had been an idiot.  But that doesn’t excuse me for calling him names, I know 

Our day-to-day interaction with people is going to result in times of annoyance, frustration and anger.  Road rage is rampant and sometimes escalates into horrible accidents and even deaths from something as simple as someone not making a move fast enough for another driver’s agenda.  The news is filled with murders committed in moments of anger and frustration.  Strangers and family alike may find fault with us over many of our ‘mistakes’—real or imagined—and say or do nasty things they may later regret. 

How we react at that very moment is all-important!  Letting anyone else’s wrong actions cause us to react in kind, is certainly not the Christian way!  But stopping ourselves from immediate anger, self-justification and a nasty retort, is not easy!  However, there is a way of thinking that might help!  When you can feel that someone’s behavior is causing your ire to rise, say to yourself, “He will one day know just who I am!”  After all, those in the world have no idea that we—the Firstfruits—will one day be servant-rulers over them.  And not only will we then be leaders to them as Spirit beings and Christ’s Bride, but God makes it clear that He will require an answer of them for ‘every idle word’!  

"But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36) 

So, we could feel very smug, because the day is coming when every single person on earth will know Christ and His Bride.  However, being smug and complacent because of our soon-to-be exalted position is not at all why we should remind ourselves of who we are!  When the rude, impatient, angry, backstabbing, foul-mouthed men and women in this evil world have their eyes opened in the Kingdom and finally realize who they were dealing with in this life, what will they remember about us?!  Are we showing them a Christ-like response now that they will one day look back on with respect?  Or are we acting just like them and proving time and again that we have no control over our anger and annoyance?  And don’t forget, we are being judged now! (I Peter 4:17) 

Called Now to Set a Godly Example 

When those we interact with in this life meet us in the next, we want them to recognize that our light was shining brightly because, either we did not even answer—as Christ often did not—or responded with kindness and patience.  We don’t want their first thought to be: “Fine Christian you were!  You gave as good as you got!  And you knew all along exactly who you were!”   

How much better to hear them say, “You were always so patient and kind, so uplifting and encouraging.  I secretly admired you and wanted to be just like you and now I understand how you were able to always be that way because you never forgot that you were the Bride of Christ!  It all makes sense now!  Wow!  Well done!” 

To hear these words from Christ Himself, “Well done thou good and faithful servant,” we must AT ALL TIMES remember who we are.  (Matt 25:21) 

Christ said many times, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).  Neither is ours!  We must never forget who we are and where we are headed—for all eternity!  Many of the very people who today are irritating, obscene, foolish, hard-hearted, mean and evil, will one day be like our own children to us!  We need to rise above the hatred and stupidity of this world and act on our future.  NOW is our time to shine and show the world what the coming Bride of Christ will be like.   

Christ said to a young man who wanted to take care of his father and mother, instead of following Him, “Let the dead bury the dead.”  It sounds rather harsh until you realize that—except for the Elect, who have eternity now dwelling within them—every person on earth is potentially dead forever! And are presently dead, spiritually. Those with God’s Holy Spirit are the only truly ‘alive’ people on earth!  Look at these amazing statements: 

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”  (John 5:24) 

“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions…” (Colossians 2:13) 

The debt incurred from sin is not just physical death but eternal death, which is why God told Adam and Eve that the moment they sinned, they would die.  While their physical death was not imminent, their Spiritual death was immediate.  Every person has sinned and is therefore facing eternal damnation, which is why Christ had to give His life as a ransom for all.   

Those who follow Him are no longer facing eternal damnation.  The rest of the world still IS!  We were once in the same category as the world, as Paul told the Ephesians: “And you weredead in your trespasses and sins…” (Ephesians 2:1)  We were dead, as the world is now ‘dead’ but are now very much alive through God’s eternal Spirit! 

We know what’s ahead, we know we are the Elect, we know we are already God’s very children (I John 3:2) and the world doesn’t have any idea of our exalted eternal position.  We should always be in awe of the incredible honor of being chosen now!  And not because of anything we have done or will do, but because God, in His mercy, has picked us—for whatever His reasons are.  Unlike the world, the devil has no power over us (unless we allow it). (James 4:7), while the world has little power to resist him (John 8:55).  We have knowledge, understanding, the ear of God and His power at our fingertips, while the world flounders in a morass of religious and pagan nonsense and will die in their ignorance.  So how much better should we behave than those who have no understanding of God’s great plan? 

“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn!” (2 Peter 3:11-12 ESV) 

Whenever you come across nasty, rude, impatient, snide, sarcastic, hateful, vindictive, evil people, remember who you are—a representative of God’s Family!  Act as you want them to remember you! Let’s show by our actions that we are, and live like, talk like true children of the Highest.  

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Children at Passover

The question came up recently about children being involved and participating in the Passover service in one’s home, so I thought we could address it. What follows is what we do at Passover, which we normally keep to 2-3 families in our home; keeping it intimate and family-like.

One’s children were definitely expected to be present at the Passover in the time of Moses.  Let’s read some scriptures and then I will cover what WE do in our home on Passover. In the scripture below, focus on verses 26-28:

Exodus 12:21-28 -- Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, "Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb.  22 And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. 23 For YHVH will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, YHVH will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. 

24 And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. 25 It will come to pass when you come to the land which YHVH will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service.

26 And it shall be, when your CHILDREN say to you, 'What do you mean by this service?' 27 that you shall say, 'It is the Passover sacrifice of YHVH, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.'"   So the people bowed their heads and worshiped. 28 Then the children of Israel went away and did so; just as YHVH had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.”

So children were obviously present, and still are present in the Jewish Pesach (Passover). There’s more in Exodus 13:7-10 and then again in verses 11-16, about redeeming the firstborn, going back to the Passover.

Exodus 13:7-10   “Unleavened bread shall be eaten seven days. And no leavened bread shall be seen among you, nor shall leaven be seen among you in all your quarters. 8 And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, 'This is done because of what YHVH did for me when I came up from Egypt.' 9 It shall be as a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that YHVH's law may be in your mouth; for with a strong hand YHVH has brought you out of Egypt. 10 You shall therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year.”

So it’s clear that children were present at the Exodus 12 Passover and beyond.  In the Jewish celebrations of Pesach (Passover), children are also present. Jews take to heart the scripture – it’s a Mitzvah or law to them -- to be sure to explain to the children present what is going on. But keep in mind that Jews keep 2 Seders on what they call “the first 2 days of Passover”. In many sabbath-keeping Christian groups, children are not present and I think that is unfortunate and let me explain why in a minute. If you aren’t planning on your children being in the service, I hope you’ll reconsider after reading all of this article.

The Jewish Passover is more like what many of us would call the “night to be much observed”, at the end of Passover day and beginning the first day of Unleavened Bread -- where we have a big meal celebration of the freedom we now have after Christ’s death frees us from Satan’s grasp.

In a nutshell, we try to do what Jesus did, regardless of calendar issues. He kept his Passover meal plus the footwashing and bread/wine service the EVE of Passover day, then died on Passover day at 3 pm and was put into the tomb just before sundown, still Passover day. The next day, starting at sundown, was a “high day” (John 19:31-32) – not a regular sabbath but a holyday sabbath, one of the annual “feasts of the LORD” (Leviticus 23:1-2), where God calls them “MY feasts”.   

But I want to stay on topic – children at Passover.

Our own practice is to personally always welcome well-behaved children to be present, as scripture says, as long as they have been prepared ahead of time to be respectful, quiet, observant and obedient. So at our Passover services, our grandchildren and any other children of other participants are welcome and present – and just quietly watch. Maybe 1-2 older teens can sit among them to be sure they aren’t talking and are respectful during the service. Rowdy and untrained children should be left at home with a babysitter.  

Why do we welcome children? Because as I’ve shown, children were present at the original Passover. And I want them to feel included in this deeply spiritual, meaningful, and solemn service. One of my most cherished photos in my old photo album is a picture that shows me at age 6 with my brother and sisters watching our mom during a Passover bread/wine service. So I hope this is going to be something our children also realize is part of their practice as they grow older too. We keep the bread and wine and footwashing on the eve of Passover day, then have a meal the following night, after sundown.

We personally do not keep an official Seder, as some of it is unscriptural and is wrapped in traditions that come out of Babylon (like the egg) and can tend to become too much of a ritual and focused on Judaism, which I won’t do. It also seems to take forever to go through!  I’m familiar with the Haggadah and Seder. Jews often don’t even eat a lamb anymore but chicken instead! Plus in the New Covenant – we copy what Yeshua did. He added the footwashing service and focused on the bread and wine, which pointed to him.

But let me hasten to add, that in the New Covenant, our answers to the children’s questions will include the story of the deliverance from Egypt of course – but then we need to pivot, and turn our focus to point to what the lambs depicted: the sacrifice of our Savior, Yeshua.

Yeshua made clear – Passover needs to be focused on HIM, the intent of all those lambs. In Yeshua’s last Passover supper with his disciples, he is never once recorded as talking about coming out of Egypt, the 10 plagues, etc. – but said this, and this is what we need to teach our children too: the OBJECT LESSON of the Passover Lamb dinner was the bread and body of our Lord Jesus Christ and the cup of wine, picturing his shed blood for us. Life is in the blood and without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22).

Luke 22:17-20   Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves;  18 for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”

19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of ME.”

20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”

Notice how Passover is primarily in remembrance of the Messiah—and not in remembrance of coming out of Egypt. Once the POINT of the service is here (and that is Messiah!), we do not emphasize the “shadow” of the service as much now that we’re in the new covenant. I want children to know and learn about Yeshua too. I want them to see how we grownups love him and our heavenly Father. We are so thankful to be delivered from the enslavement of sin and Satan’s world.

1 Corinthians 11:23-25   “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said,  "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of ME."  25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of ME."

So be sure to teach the children that Passover is really about Messiah and his sacrifice, even more then it is about those lambs sacrificed in Exodus 12, as they POINTED TO our Messiah and the liberty he gives us by his life’s blood shed for us as the Lamb of God.

I’m sometimes asked if children can wash feet and take part in the bread and wine service. I know some of you allow them to participate in the footwashing.

In our service and our home, we absolutely love having children watch the footwashing and the bread and wine service, but they do not partake of any of that portion. We explain the footwashing as the humble act of serving one another AND to remember, as we wash someone’s feet, that Yeshua already has washed them (John 13:12-17). We’re just acknowledging that fact and it’s saying to the one we’re serving as we wash his/her feet, that we see him or her as washed by Christ. It is saying that “we’re not going to see you in any way but washed by Christ, and so you’re cleansed, my brother/sister.”  All that in in context of course, of serving one another as well.

Whether you wish children, especially older children perhaps, to participate in footwashing is your call decision. We reserve all that to baptized members.

Partaking of the bread and wine of Christ is so deep, so special, so spiritual, and one we must be prepared for, so that we are ready to take it in a worthy manner, as Paul says.

So no, we absolutely do not risk this with children not old enough or mature enough to understand. We are severely warned by Paul not to take Passover unworthily, and so let’s let the children grow up more, come to repentance and baptism as adults –and  then by all means at that point let them partake of the bread and the wine.

1 Corinthians 11:27-31    “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.”

Don’t put that burden on yourself as the parent, and don’t put that burden on your children. Let them watch – but no more than that, is my advice. At least that seems to be the clear direction of scripture for me and my household. 

And I personally see no example of children participating in footwashing or partaking of the new covenant very deep symbols of the bread and wine. So at our Passover services, children are welcome to politely and quietly observe, without talking or playing, while baptized adults wash feet and partake of the bread and wine of the body of Christ. Of course the presiding host or minister should be explaining all aspects of footwashing, and the bread and wine – so the children hear all that as well. 

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DON’T let the Passover sneak up on you!

Short but vital blog today. Passover.  For most of us it is coming in April 2022 this year. There are various calendars being used out there, so be sure you know when you’ll be keeping the footwashing and partaking of the bread and wine service. For most of you, the Passover service will be kept sometime between April 14-16, 2022, depending on your calendar you use.

For those keeping Jewish or rabbinic calendar, Passover day is April 15, 2022, and the bread and wine and footwashing kept the eve of the 15th – end of April 14. The first holyday of Unleavened Bread for many will be April 16, sabbath.  For those following the conjunction method and sighting of the new moon in Israel, it will be a day or so later.

Remember scripture is clear that Passover day is Nisan or Abib 14, the daytime portion when our Messiah was crucified. The first Hebrew month is called Abib or Nisan.

Leviticus 23:5-6   On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight is the Lord's Passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the Lord; seven days you must eat unleavened bread.”

Yeshua’s own example for us was that he did the footwashing and bread and wine service the eve of Abib 14, and then died in the daytime portion of Abib 14. Remember Biblical days start and end sundown to sundown. The 15th of Nisan/Abib starts the Feast of Unleavened Bread, again starting at sundown and ending at sundown.

Do also be aware though, that traditionally the whole time – Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread were sometimes all lumped together, and simply called “Passover”, just as we might today call the 7-day Feast of Tabernacles and 8th day Festival – “the Feast of Tabernacles”, though they are technically 2 separate festivals.  

Ezekiel 45:21  "In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall observe the Passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten.”

But back to my topic: Have you given much thought to Passover this year?  Are you ready to take the bread and the wine?  Or did you find Passover rapidly coming up – and you haven’t given it much thought?  If that is what has happened, resolve to make changes so it never happens again. It’s our own fault if that’s happening. But frankly it’s also a reflection on your ministers if that happened. Pastors should have been discussing Passover-type topics for the past few sabbaths.

So here’s my point:  If you’re among those keeping it in April, and you realize it has come up so quickly and you feel caught off guard, this blog is for you! 

God’s people must NOT, must NOT, let the pivotal event in all human history since Adam and Eve were created to “sneak up” on you, to catch you off guard.

When we get new wall calendars each year, I make a point to mark up the calendars with the Passover and the holy days of God, as well as our personal anniversaries or plans we have.  Some of you may have dispensed with wall calendars ages ago. But however you track time, be sure you do. Then I do the same in my cell phone calendar and even make a note 2-3 weeks before Passover, to start thinking heavily about God’s love for me and for you.

Remember that Passover pictures the Son of God, called “the Lamb of God”, who himself was God (John 1:1-3, 14), who gave his life to pay the penalty for your sins and mine and of the world (John 1:29) so that humanity would not all have to die for all of our sins. 

This event, this spilled holy blood of the Lamb, broke the back of Satan’s tyranny, pictured by the death of the first born in Egypt that broke Pharaoh’s hold on Israel. The Passover paid the ransom for sin, paid the penalty for sin, soothed God’s wrath over all our sins, and cleansed each of us of all of our sins. ALL of them, bar none.  ALL of them, no matter how horrendous they were (1 John 1:7, 9).  If you and I deeply repented of each of our sins and our failings and then came humbly before our Maker and confessed our sins and accepted Yeshua of Nazareth as the promised Messiah (Anointed One), then ALL of our sins are washed away in his blood.

Upon baptism we were baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ. 
“For by one spirit were all baptized into one body…and have all been made to drink into one spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13). 

Whose body was that?  Of course, it’s HIS body.  “We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5).  So now we are seen as “members of HIS body, of his flesh and of his bones” (Eph 5:30).  “His body, which is the church” (Col. 1:24)—and us individually as members of that body. 

We are part of HIM, folks. The Bible speaks repeatedly of how we are IN HIM.  So if you think of your own body and your own blood, our blood is coursing through our whole body, giving nourishment, and cleansing the body from head to toe, literally.  

Well we are now part of His body and so His blood continues to cleanse us. Just like YOUR own blood cleanses YOUR body when you cut yourself and infection begins.  Your blood immediately sends out white blood cells and attacks the infection, protecting and cleansing your body.  God’s blood does the same for the parts or members of HIS own body – you and me.  His blood at Calvary forgave us of all our past sins.  Now as we live in him, He continues to cleanse us as long as we continue to stay attached to him, to abide in him as John 15 tells us.  Remember life is in the blood. He spilled his blood for me and for you.

When God looks down upon his children, does He see all of us coming under His son’s blood?  Remember what God said in Exodus 12 – “When I see the blood [splashed on the door posts and lintels of the houses], I will PASS OVER you” – and the people in that household were spared (Exodus 12:13). 

WE – when we repented and answered our Creator’s call – also came under the blood.  God must see us as people who take this all very seriously.

SO, are you ready for Passover?  You do NOT want to be taking it in an unworthy manner or unworthily.  We need to give it careful thought.  We need to be sure we especially in the days before Passover are not taking any ongoing sins in our lives lightly. 

You’re ready if you are very soberly thanking and praising Yeshua for his great work in your behalf. You’re ready if you’ve been giving thought to Passover the last so many days or even weeks.  You’re ready if you have examined yourself and realize – “Boy do I EVER need the washing and cleansing of his blood over me”.  We’re told that after we have examined ourselves, “so LET him drink of the cup” and eat of the broken bread. 

“Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and SO LET HIM EAT of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment on himself, no discerning the Lord’s body.”  (1 Cor. 11:27-29). 

We don’t examine and then decide we are unworthy.  No, no, no. Ultimately just the Lamb is worthy. But when we are IN him, as we are – by His Spirit – we too become worthy because we are a part of Him, his holiness, HIS perfection, HIS righteousness.   But we never, never take this lightly. 

We diligently put out leaven – but be sure you are even more diligent in fighting sin and temptations in your life.  The most effective way is NOT to focus on your sins and weaknesses, but keep your mind and eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, who conquers it all. We become what we think about. Focus on Messiah and become more and more like him in so doing.  

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 -- “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Hebrews 12:1-2 – “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Be sure you are cleaning out the crevices of your heart.  Be sure your focus is on the spiritual elements of this season way more than the physical parts of it. 

We were washed at our repentant baptism, but we also still do the foot washing each Passover to remember to be humble and to serve one another, as well as to keep the spiritual dirt of sin off of us as we walk our walk of life day by day. And as you wash feet this year, don’t miss this:  recognize that Yeshua has ALREADY WASHED this person and we accept that person as a brother or sister in the body washed of any sins, of any gossip about his/her sins, and just love one another in the love of Christ.

So please – be sure to be taking time to focus on Passover and that means focusing on Messiah! I suggest you hear my sermon on “Do this in remembrance of ME!” (Christ speaking). 

I would also recommend this: if you can --before Passover, spend a day in fasting as you examine yourself, your life, your commitment to the Way to which you’ve been called.

But even if you don’t fast, at least spend some time in the days preceding Passover and even after Passover—to recommit to a life attached to Jesus Christ and to express your thanks and gratitude daily to our truly amazing Father in heaven and the Son of God who gave himself for you, because of his love for you.

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Be BOLD in your requests to God

Are you bold when you make requests to God? Is being bold with God -- a good thing, or a bad thing?  Remember our Father is all powerful, all knowing and loves to bless his children. But sometimes I wonder if we’re too “small” in our thinking? God enjoys going above and beyond anything we can hope for and ask for. So many verses tell us that. He won’t give us a rock if we ask for bread. He loves pouring out his holy spirit.

So let’s be bold when we ask Father for some blessings. For example, in terms of healing, sure – we can pray God guide the surgeon or speed up the healing. But why not be bolder?  Why not ask, “Father, when they examine my cancer tumor again before surgery, please – in Jesus’ mighty name, command the entire cancer to just be gone, totally healed. Leave them wondering what happened, but I’ll explain it to them to your glory, dear Father. And I thank you right now, in advance! May your will be done, Father, and I submit to your will.”   (I don’t have cancer right now, but I have been healed of cancer twice.)

Or, if you’re struggling with a chronic sin and temptation, be bold:  “Yeshua, my king and my Savior, I’m struggling with coveting [or whatever your issues are]. I hate it when I do. I know you want us to be content with whatsoever we have and not to covet anything out there. Yeshua, I’m repenting of this and I’m opening the door of my heart to you and I invite you to come into my life. BE my life, Lord. Please Lord, come live in me – obediently as you did 2000 years ago. Please BE my life, BE my thoughts and deeds… I want to say victoriously with Paul, that I no longer live, but the life I live is really Christ living in me, as Paul says in Gal. 2:20. Please show me how to blast this covetousness out of my heart and soul. I hate coveting, Lord, and please let me always be pleasing you. Thank you, Master.”

If you’re struggling with anything, you can ask God through Christ to create and live a new life in you, the very life of Jesus Christ, in complete victory over any sin. This applies to lacking God’s love in your life, asking for help in living your life in JOY and peace, no matter what.  It can apply to impatience, lust, porn, being too loose on sabbath observance, alcoholism, gluttony, being unkind and unloving – and the thousands of other sins people struggle with.  

Perhaps you struggle with forgiving someone from your heart. Talk to God humbly – but boldly – that you’re tired of this struggle and want to claim the victory. You realize if we don’t forgive others who have sinned against us, neither will Father forgive us of our sins against him (Matthew 6:12, 14 and many others). So this could be a very serious problem! Check out my sermon on it, coming out in March 2022.

Without God’s forgiveness, we have no future. On your knees, declare your problem with this, and how bitter and hurt you feel over someone’s sin against you.  Confess how hard it is for you to feel forgiveness and love for that person. Ask God’s forgiveness, ask God to change your heart to be like HIS. And then when you have forgiven, declare to God that you have forgiven this person whom you once claimed to surely be “unforgivable”. Or, if you haven’t and just can’t seem to be able to forgive him/her, boldly again ask Yeshua to come live in you and share with you his gentle and forgiving spirit. 

I remember doing that some time ago. Someone was a terrible thorn in my side, had gossiped badly about me and it was hard for me to like her or care about her. But when I had finally totally forgiven her while praying, the phone rang as I was ending my prayer. I can’t go into details, but it was about this very issue I had been praying about and God turned around my bitterness to a heart of compassion, forgiveness and asking God to bless her. But it wasn’t easy for me. I had to ask Yeshua to rule in my heart.  It took a while.

If you need financial help, remember we are to be content Paul says – if we have food and clothing (1 Timothy 6:8)! But if you truly need a financial blessing, ask boldly – and declare you intend to share it with the needy as well. Have you heard of the Prayer of Jabez?  Be bold, ask God to bless your work, your employment, your income, and thank him in advance, as if you have already received it – and then be sure to share it with others.

Jabez had caused his mother much pain in childbirth, so she named him Jabez – “He will cause pain.”  Imagine that. You could feel cursed! But note what Jabez did and prayed.  This is called “the prayer of Jabez”. It’s a great model for us and God granted his request.

1 Chronicles 4:9-10 -- Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, "Because I bore him in pain." 10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, "Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!" So God granted him what he requested.

Read the scripture above several times. I call it a very bold prayer. Are we limiting what the living God would do in our lives – if we would but ask, and ask boldly?  Do we fall into the category of “you have not, for you ask not” (James 4:2b). So ask! And be sure to ask in a way that is not just selfish, as James tells us. Be sure to ask it be in God’s will.

Look how bold Jabez’ prayer was! And God granted him what he requested! God does not change. He wants to grant you powerful answers too

Matthew 7:7-8 --"ASK, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

Even in the Lord’s Prayer – “give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Deliver us from evil (or the evil one)…”   Pretty bold. 

There’s an old, lesser known story in the Scriptures about Elisha and one of the kings, which has intrigued me for years. Elisha was old and about to die. Joash, one of the righteous kings of the northern ten tribes of Israel, had come to pay his last respects apparently. Elisha asked King Joash to shoot an arrow out of an east window, and then explained that arrow symbolized victory over Syria at a future battle. Now let’s read what happened.

2 Kings 13:14-19

Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die. Then Joash the king of Israel came down to him, and wept over his face, and said, "O my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!"

15 And Elisha said to him, "Take a bow and some arrows." So he took himself a bow and some arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, "Put your hand on the bow." So he put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king's hands. 17 And he said, "Open the east window"; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, "Shoot"; and he shot. And he said, "The arrow of the Lord's deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them."

     [So Elisha had explained what the arrow symbolized.]

18 Then he [Elisha] said, "Take the arrows"; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, "Strike the ground"; so he struck three times and stopped. 19 And the man of God was angry with him, and said, "You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times."

We can’t get into Joash’s head and see what he was thinking. Perhaps he didn’t understand what his action was depicting. Perhaps he lacked faith and wondered how he could crush Syria. We just don’t know. We do know this: instead of vanquishing Syria once and for all, he limited himself to three victories.

The point of this blog is simple: when Almighty God opens a door for us, let’s not be timid or small-minded in our thinking. Let’s not limit our true God who knows no limits. We can all fall into that trap at various times of our lives. We are His children, who are part of His HOUSE. My children are bold about claiming what I have, what I offer. So should we be.

Are we limiting the one Living God and what He wants to do in us, through us, with us? Remember even Yeshua could do virtually no mighty work in Nazareth, his home town, because of their unbelief (Mark 6:4-6).  God works through faith, trust and belief. He often holds Himself back if we don’t believe mightily in His power (see Hebrews 4:2).

When you ask for something from Yahweh – especially when it’s for someone else and your request is being totally selfless – do we ask in a small way?  For example:

  • If we’re asking Father to open up a job for an unemployed brother or sister, do we just ask for a job, or do we ask for a fabulous career job with wonderful benefits and a great group of people to work with?
  • If we’re asking God our Healer to deliver someone from the bonds of illness, are we just asking for that specific condition? Do we ask boldly, or fall back to “whatever your will is”—and keep ourselves from a bold request? Remember when Jesus spoke those words “Thy will be done” in Gethsemane, He knew the divine purpose and will was that He be the sacrifice for all sin. Why not ask Father to heal anything else that isn’t quite right in that person’s body, to imbue him/her with untiring energy, a bright spirit and powerful health that could bring glory to our Father? Be bold, ask big.

I’m sure you can think of many more examples. Don’t limit God. He is limitless. Evaluate where you ARE limiting God.

Go back and read the account of how bold Abraham’s servant’s prayer was when he was tasked to find a bride for Isaac. It’s a great example for us. Read Genesis 24:10-28.

In Psalm 78:12-16, we read of some of the most astounding miracles ever seen by mankind, such as the waters of the Red Sea standing in a heap on either side, providing water from a split rock, providing shade and light in the pillar overhead.  But Israel still questioned Almighty God’s ability to provide, and this angered God.  In Ps. 78:17-20, they got into the “yeah, buts”.  “Yeah, he parted the Red Sea, but can He provide food for this many people?”.  This was limiting the Eternal God. You can read all about it as you continue in Ps. 17:21-32. 

It came down to limiting God, not having faith in His power or in His desire to use His power in our behalf. Do we ever see a miracle and then go into the “yeah buts”?  We know He can work wonders and did do miracles here and there, but then doubt, limit and wonder if Our God would intervene in the same way for us? Doubting and limiting God go hand in hand.

Psalm 78:40-42 – “How often they provoked Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert!  41 Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel. 42 They did not remember His power: The day when He redeemed them from the enemy.”

That’s what I mean by limiting God.

When we have our open window of opportunity as King Joash had, don’t just strike the earth three times. Let’s not limit our request to three arrows or three strikes. Let’s use all our arrows. Let’s think large.  Let’s ask for big things. Believe Father really does want to do beyond what you can even imagine or conceive. Yes, even for you and me.

Can you imagine what God’s children could be involved in, if all of us would learn not to limit God – and watch Him work powerfully, to HIS glory? Ponder your prayer requests. Are they bold, and big – or timid and just going through the motions? Beware we’re not limiting our Maker, who knows no limits!

Why not even declare out loud in prayer – “Father, blast through my petty small-mindedness. Work your glory in your children’s lives – to your glory. Help me think big, and not limit you, and accept whatever you send as well. Thank you so much.”

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WILL I, TOO, BE BEAUTIFUL?

WILL I, TOO, BE BEAUTIFUL?

Psalms 149:4 “…He will beautify the humble with salvation.”

I read this in my morning readings—another verse that jumped off the page at me from the book of Psalms.  (I love the book of Psalms!)   Let me tell you what I think it might mean—in part.  But first I think it will be fun to share some descriptions of Jesus Christ (the Lamb, the Word, the Lord…) in His eternal form:

Revelation 1:13-15 “and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire.  His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace and His voice as the sound of many waters.”

Our Lord is pictured here as a figure of unimaginable power (and with bright white hair)!

 Continuing in verse 16” …His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”

Because He radiates such power, the author here (John) couldn’t even stare directly at Him for too long even in his dream state (or “in the spirit” as he calls it Rev. 1:10) or whatever experience God was having him go through so he could record this book for humanity— The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1).

Jesus Christ (who was the Lord and the Word of the Old Testament) loved beauty!  He didn’t make himself as attractive as the world’s most recognized models when he came in human form but there was a good reason for this.  He wasn’t trying to attract attention to himself in his physical form.  He came to teach us about His Father (also our Father). 

John 17 (whole chapter) is Jesus’ prayer to God the Father about how he came to accomplish this.  He hid himself from public and religious authorities several times during his ministry so that he would not be arrested and crucified before his preassigned three- and one-half year work was finished.  If He had been too attractive, He would have stood out in a crowd.

Yet while in physical, human form, Jesus spoke of the beauties of His creation itself.  He talked about the beauty of the lilies and how gorgeous were some of the birds of the air.  Ironically, He included this in a promise to us to care for us (while on this earth) in a similar fashion as we practice living in faith.  Luke 12:27 “Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” 

Jesus also loved quality, attractive clothing to the degree that the soldiers at the stake where he was crucified bartered over which one of them would take home his coat.  (A side note—this was also prophesied in Psalms 22:18 “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”)

These are but a few of the scriptures that can be found speaking of the beauty of God.  As quoted at the start, we too will be given his beauty. (If we remain humble.)

This EXCITES ME!  I am a woman, so my desire to be beautiful comes naturally in my human form!  I truly appreciate the natural beauty which comparatively few people on this planet have inherited. Biblical history also records some MEN ALSO who had handsome and masculine features.  These traits became part of why they were selected for certain duties. 

Daniel was one of these:

Daniel 1: 4-6 “young men in whom there was no blemish, but good looking . . . who had the ability to serve in the king’s palace . . .Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azzzariah, Abed-Nego.”

I remember a trip to Switzerland that my husband and I took a few years ago.  I wonder why someone didn’t volunteer to tape my mouth shut because it was open much too OFTEN when viewing the stunning vistas that were beyond anything I had ever seen in a photo or on film!  We’ve all seen animals (or, at least photos of animals) that left us aghast at such beauty that we could hardly turn our eyes away.

 Someday, our God (our loving Creator) is planning to share that genetic beauty with me!!!  Someday I get to share in (Look like Him!) “the beauty of the Lord”!  The time is coming when “we shall see him as he is, for we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).  Psalms 27:4 “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that I will seek:  That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple.”

Absalom is argued by some scholars to be the most handsome man in the Bible.  He was the son of King David.  2 Samuel 14:25 says in all Israel there was nobody as handsome as he.

See 2 Samuel 14:25 “Now in all of Israel there was no one who was praised as much as Absalom for his good looks.  From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.”

Among the beautiful women of scripture is Sarah, who was so beautiful that her husband, Abraham feared they might kill him so the king could steal her to become a wife of the king as he passed through that ruler’s land.  In fact, this happened on two different occasions by two different kings!

Genesis 12:10-15 “Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there…And it came to pass when he was close to entering Egypt, that he said to Sarai, his wife, ‘Indeed I know that you are a woman of beautiful countenance.  Therefore it will happen when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live…”  This event happened and she was taken to Pharaoh.  You will enjoy reading this chapter in your Bible.

Later another king, Abimelech, also tried to steal Sarah from Abraham because of her great beauty.  (She was called Sarah by this time.)  Read Genesis 20:1-18. 

And I must add this: God sees his obedient and zealous children and servants as already beautiful in spirit. He even speaks in Romans 10:15 and Isaiah 52:7 of the beautiful feet of those who bring good tidings, the good news. Beautiful feet. We want beautiful feet, as God sees beautiful feet.

God also tells us that even right now he sees the hearts of those who have a meek and quiet spirit as being beautiful in heart, right now. In our present life, our God is more impressed with those beautiful in heart more than those in expensive clothing, fancy hairdos and fine jewelry.

1 Peter 3:3-4  “Do not let your adornment be merely outward — arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel —  4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”

Having said that, I do believe that someday, our God (our loving Creator) is planning to share HIS PERFECT genetic beauty with me!  And not just me—but with all His Spirit born children! God loves living amid beautiful things.  All things created by Him reflect His glory! God loves variety, evident as we look over his creation. So we will all be beautiful, but in many different ways. We won’t all look the same.

Psalms 27:4 “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that I will seek:  That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His Temple.”

MAY GOD SPEED THAT DAY!

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Are you happy to be adopted?

As many of you are aware there is a couple in Kenya who have taken such compassion on the orphans in their town that they now care, feed, and educate 28  orphans. Most of them were only 4-5-6-7 years old when they were first brought to the Cup of Water Home for children. Most of them are now in their mid-teens. Thanks to those of you who materially support them they now have a hope and a future. They went from being hungry, homeless and without any family to having a food, clothing, a home, an education, and a family. Two so far have become certified mechanics and one is almost ready to graduate as a nurse. Another wants training as an electrician when he’s older. Thanks again to all of you who have made that possible.

They are so happy. Compared to the kind of lifestyle most, if not all, of you live, they still live in poverty. But they are rich compared to where they came from. Above all, they have hope that they can be more. They adore their adoptive parents. And they are very, very grateful.

On the other hand when I was a child one of my relatives adopted a 9-year-old boy. He was not happy to be in his new home, even though his adoptive family gave him all the love and material things he could want. He didn’t appreciate what they were trying to do for him. I realize it must be very confusing to be in a new home. He kept his own name, his own identity and he kept contact with his birth mother. He never assimilated into the family. As he grew older, he became more belligerent and began stealing from them. As soon as he was old enough, he left to join the army and they never saw or heard from him again, thus abandoning any rights he may have had as their child. He was ungrateful and didn’t want to be adopted.

WE also have been adopted – by God-- but will be full legal children of our Father in heaven, of God Most High.

Ephesians 1: 3-7 NIV “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us”.

Who do you identify with? Are you happy to be adopted by GOD and appreciate the wonder of what your heavenly father has done for you and what he has in store for you in the future? Or do you resist him? Do you choose to keep contact with your former life? Do you hanker after the leeks of Egypt as Israel did, when God took them by the hand and brought them out of Egypt and fed them with daily manna? See Numbers 11:4-6.

So many want badly to have a child to adopt and go to great lengths to adopt a child. And for newborns or private adoptions it can cost tens of thousands of dollars. They really want that child to be part of their family. (And may God bless those who do it.)

Do you know how much God wanted you to be part of his family? He desired you. He wants to lavish his love and blessings on you. He wants YOU in his family. Do you realize and think about the great price God paid to be able to adopt us into his family?

1 Peter 1:18-19  “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

The adopted child in return not only receives the love and resources of his/her adoptive parents, but also a new identity. He/she is now identified with the adoptive family rather than the birth family. Here’s what Abba, our new heavenly Father says to us:

2 Corinthians 6:18 “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters”, says the Lord Almighty.”

A legally adopted child has all the rights and privileges as a natural child and inherits an equal portion upon the death of the parents.

So do we. We are co-heirs with Christ. Imagine being an heir of God!

Romans 8:17 “and if children, then heirs—heirs of GOD and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together”

Here’s how the NLT puts it:

Romans 8:14-17 NLT  “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God's Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, "Abba, Father." 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God's children! 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”

Those of you who are parents or have adopted a child, do you remember how excited you were and how you prepared a nursery and decorated it and bought cuddly toys and sweet little outfits. God has prepared a place for you too and he can’t wait to show it to you.

John 14:3   “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

God wants you. He really longs for you.

Jeremiah 31:3  “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; with lovingkindness I have drawn you.

God is so thrilled to have you in his family, that Zephaniah says God actually sings to us! How beautiful is that?

Zephaniah 3:17  “The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save;

He will rejoice over you with gladness,  He will quiet you with His love,

He will rejoice over you with singing."

God longs for you. In fact we’re told all creation is yearning for it all to happen – when we’ll be revealed to the whole world as God’s children (Romans 8:18-22).

The question is do you long for HIS love and affection? Do you tell him so? Do you tell others about this wonderful family God our Father has placed you into?

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Don’t give up! God still has a plan for you.

Many of us have probably looked at ourselves and wondered how God could possibly work with “someone like me” when we look at our slip ups, sins and mess ups.  Check out the new AUDIO sermon “When you really MESS UP” to help you, if you feel this way at times.

I just wanted in this blog to add a couple more examples to the ones I have in the sermon, on how our Father has such a powerful and beautiful way of taking even our SINS, our serious life issues and failures, and if we commit it all to him, will work even all those out for good.

Romans 8:28 does say, after all, “ALL things work together for good, for those who love God and are the called according to his purpose.”

I believe “ALL” means “all”.  Everything. Even our worst, horrible SINS. The lineage of the Messiah came through, after all, the prior adulterous couple we know as David and Bathsheba – where David murdered Bathsheba’s husband in an attempted cover up for getting her pregnant! But God chose them to produce the Messianic line to Jesus Christ in Bethlehem!  That’s astonishing to me. But that’s our loving Father for us! 

Father in heaven, God Most High, has a plan for every single human being ever conceived. I believe, somehow, even for those sacrificed in abortion. He has a plan for you. No matter what you’ve been and no matter what you’ve done, as long as you deeply repent and turn back to him – you will be amazed at his lovingkindness to you and ways he can still use you for His Kingdom’s sake. So DON’T give up on God! Or on yourself.

Here are some other examples:

**  The first person who ever saw the risen Messiah was a woman named Mary of Magdala who had SEVEN demons cast out of her sometime before all that.  She was the “crazy woman” in town. Women in that day could not be witnesses in court, as they were deemed “unreliable”. But this was the first person GOD chose to see the risen Son of God. So don’t decide for God that you are unusable because your past is simply too weird, and you had evil personified going on – as Mary Magdalene did. Mary witnessed anyway.  John 20:17-23.  And God gave her that honor and role anyway.

** the first person in Samaria to “see” that Yeshua (Jesus) was the promised Messiah was also a “bad” woman, who had had FIVE failed marriages and was once again shacking up. God selected HER to spread the good news that the Messiah had come. He stayed there a couple days  and many believed on him based on this “bad woman’s” heartfelt testimony and witness. The story is in John 4. So if your marriage failed, and the present one is atrocious – don’t give up on God being able to still have a plan for you.

**  Two super strong examples are of God still showing grace even to the 2 most wicked kings ever. God did not just cast them aside.

Ahab. And King Manasseh. In Ahab’s case, after God had declared Ahab would die a vicious death soon for killing the innocent Naboth, whose vineyard Ahab coveted – but God reversed himself when Ahab humbled himself. See 1 Kings 21, especially verses 25-29.

In King Manasseh’s case, he is called the worst king ever. Please read his story in 2 Chronicles 33, and his repentance in verses 10-17.  God sent him to Babylon – dragged by meat hooks it seems – but when Manasseh repented, God restored him to his throne, though probably as a vassal king. Believe me, you’ve never been down as low as Manasseh, and God still heard from heaven and delivered him. So don’t give up on God or yourself. He is perfectly aware of you and what you’re doing and what your concerns are.

** Paul, who wrote half or more of the New Testament, was initially a very mean, cruel, death-dealing persecutor of the Way he eventually embraced. (Acts 22:4 “I persecuted this Way to the death…”). 

Look at Paul’s own testimony of what he did and how God was still able to use him.

1 Timothy 1:12-16   “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, 13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. 16 However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.”

Let’s humble ourselves as Paul did, admitting we are sinners, maybe even “chief sinner” as Paul said. Let God use your redeemed past to also be a pattern of hope for others who will come and see how you surrendered to God, and how he was able to use you too.

1 Corinthians 15:9-10   “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

YOU can also look back someday and say, when you see what God can and will do through Christ in youif you surrender to Christ fully – “by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain…”

Acts 9:1-2  “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”

In the sermon about really “messing up” I just gave, a big key is for us to truly turn to God now, abide in Christ and stick to him like glue! John 15:4-5. If we do, we are promised that God in us will bear much fruit. The fruit comes from the vine or tree (Christ) as we’re staying firmly attached. We don’t glue fruit on to the tree by our efforts. Fruit is the natural consequence of being part of the Vine, which produces fruit through the branches (us) in due season. We DISPLAY the fruit that the Vine (Christ) produces in us.

Philippians 1:11 – “be filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

 But back to the point of this blog: don’t give up on yourself no matter what you’ve been, or what you’ve done, so far. Yes, repent! Of course.  And going forward, trust in God, don’t give up on your amazing Father in heaven or in Christ, in whom we belong now.

 

Failed marriage(s)? Failed childrearing, and kids who won't talk to you? Have you been “disgraced” by society?  Turn back to God and watch what He does.

And hear the new Audio sermon – “When we really, really mess up!” for further encouragement.

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Why Trials?

We all know very well what happens if muscles are not exercised.  They get flabby.  Not because they ‘turn to fat’ but because they lose the mass that develops when we push them.  It’s nature’s way of conserving energy—‘Ah,’ it says, ‘You’re not needing these muscles now?  Ok, I’ll use the energy somewhere else.’

Muscles do not develop without being pushed.  And even bones do not develop properly if there is no stress put on them—like learning to walk and run.

It’s much the same with trials.  If we didn’t have to go through any difficulties, we might think we’d be happier, but we wouldn’t really be a part of the human race.  Unlike most animals, we have to actually learn to walk and every child has many falls as he learns.  From then on, virtually every new motor skill results in many failures before accomplishment—whether running, jumping, climbing, skating, biking or whatever.  It’s a good thing we start learning these things as children, because a great many adults would likely never try, knowing the struggle it was going to be.  The fear of broken legs and arms keeps a great many of us from learning new skills like ice skating or skiing in older age.

Trials are similar to developing muscle.  They are a necessary part of our growth, maturity and development and are usually not God just punishing us!  It says of Christ that He ‘learned obedience by the things He suffered’  (Heb 5:8)  This does not mean—in any way—that Christ was disobedient!  It means He willingly submitted to the things He suffered in order to learn what it meant to suffer.

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb 4:15-16)

Have you ever had someone young and/or simply inexperienced tell you, “I know just what you’re going through”? Unless that person has gone through just what you’ve gone through, you take their empathy with a grain of salt.  There just is no way to know what it’s like to lose a child, a mate, go through divorce, a serious car accident, loss of a job, long-term illness, etc unless you have gone through it yourself.  We can sympathize with someone’s trials we’ve never experienced but we cannot empathize without a similar experience.

Paul said something very interesting about his trials: “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the church.”  Colosssians 1:24 NIV

What does he mean about afflictions which are ‘lacking’ in Christ’s Body?  This may be just speculation, but it is possible he means that, as Christ continues to live His life in us, our sufferings add knowledge and understanding.  There are all kinds of human afflictions Christ had no time or opportunity to experience during His short time on earth.  Christ never lost an arm or leg, never had a disease, never lost a child, was not born blind, never had his home vandalized, never was in traction for months after a severe car accident…  The list could go on and on.

In order for the Body of Christ—the Church—to be fully empathetic of every type of human tragedy and suffering, it may be necessary that one of the Elect has to go through it.  Then, as a complete entity, the Body of Christ would never encounter anyone throughout the ages who would ever be able to say, “You don’t understand.”

Paul certainly did not ‘deserve’ to be shipwrecked, starved, left in the open ocean to die, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, etc., etc.  But he rejoiced that he was counted worthy to add his afflictions to Christ’s Body—the Church.

So we too should not see trials as God punishing us or even as always the direct result of ours or others’ sins. Sometimes we do bring things on ourselves and others’ actions do affect us and we must acknowledge that.  But many times trials and sufferings come upon the very best of God’s people for no apparent reason.

It’s hard to ‘count it all joy’ when we fall into trials and difficulties, (James 1:2) but it should help to realize we are very likely being prepared to be able to understand those who will come after us. 

Look how Paul says it in the one of the clearest verses which speak of a huge reason for our trials and difficulties: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that WE may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

So ALL of our times of difficulties are there for a purpose of preparing us to effectively help the billions who will be resurrected in the future.

No one in the second resurrection is going to be able to say, “But you never went through that, so you don’t understand!”  While we cannot all go through all the trials life brings (thankfully), we all have our contribution to the whole, and—as One Body—will have experienced every possible type of suffering and trial mankind is capable of.

This will also include all of us who have had to repent of and overcome every possible sinful conduct – but we experienced the victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ! So as a group, the children of God will be able to provide many leaders who will be able to relate with absolutely anyone.

After all, we are going to be priests and rulers to the entire world one day!  (Rev 1:6; 5:10) Like Christ, in order to be an effective priest and ruler, we must understand their sufferings. 

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NEW YEAR – in the dead of winter?

And Possible origin of “April Fools.”

Many go around this time of year proclaiming “Happy new year” to everyone they see whom they know. So in the dead of winter, we find people proclaiming the new year. You might be interested to learn that it wasn’t always that way.

First of all, our Creator specified when the “new year” would be – and it was to be in the spring – with new leaves bursting on to branches and bushes. Flowers like crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths popping up were always a welcome sight and delighted us.

The first of Abib, the first month of the Hebrew calendar, in the springtime of the year, was the first of the year. Not Rosh Hashanah in the 7th month of Hebrew months. New year may have originally been in the Fall of the year when God created Adam and Eve, but God changed it to the spring in the time of Moses -- typically late March or even as late as early April, in our Roman-named months.

Exodus 12:1-2   “Now YHVH (the LORD) spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, 2 "This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.”

That first month was called ABIB (Exodus 13:4), when they came out of Egypt and kept Passover. During the Babylonian captivity, Jews accepted the name given while in Babylon – which was Nisan. See Esther 3:7.

My point is this: God’s “new year” is Abib 1 (or Nisan 1). I prefer the name Abib. Usually it falls at the end of March. Some years, like 2022, it can be later, in early April. So April 1 was the approximate date people used to keep in their heads as being around the time of the new year.

I looked up “April Fools” on a Google search and the History Channel came back with this. Here’s their link, but this quoted section below is the essential part.

https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/april-fools-day  

“Some historians speculate that April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. In the Julian Calendar, as in the Hindu calendar, the new year began with the spring equinox around April 1. 

 “People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes and were called “April fools.”  (emphasis mine) 

So a lot of early believers – who kept God’s holy days, were aware of the true new year being at the time of new spring growth. Since they kept it around April 1, they were often ridiculed and called “April Fools”.

So which makes more sense? Having new year begin in the spring exactly when our Maker says it begins – or the dead of winter, to confirm to a Pope Gregory XIII’s “Gregorian calendar” orchestrated through the Catholic church?

The Gregorian calendar did correct some calendar issues, such as instituting a leap year when necessary to keep the calendar on track. It also shortened the number of days in a year from 365.25 days (Julian) down a tad to 365.2425 days in the Gregorian calendar. It also changed the new year from the spring to January 1.

I personally don’t “keep”, participate in, or celebrate New Year’s day because it isn’t God’s new year’s. We don’t go banging pots and pans or lighting fireworks or go dancing and celebrating as others do. We just stay home. It’s just another night. We don’t watch the new year’s celebrations on TV either. Why should we? It’s not God’s new year, so that’s reason enough.

So if anyone wishes to call me “April Fools” – I’ll accept it with a smile. God our Father knows best.

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The Humor of God

 - By "Sister of Theophilus”

Bet you never gave much thought about our Heavenly God being a teaser, have you?! But He is!!! And I hope no one thinks I am being disrespectful because I am not! You’ll find God’s humor frequently in scripture if you look for it. Even in his creation, God’s humor is evident. Just watch a monkey. And God has fun with me quite often. Today was one of those days:

Lately (I'm not sure why. It may be because of my eyes or my reflexes) I have become a nervous driver. Seattle area traffic, the persistent rain, slick roads, a car that doesn't respond as well as it used to--all these things have contributed. I am sure. So, following a pattern taught me by a much younger friend years ago, I ask God for help with EVERYTHING these days--in detail. I think God likes us giving details when we pray.

See Philippians 4:6 NKJV “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.;”  

Revelations 8:3-4 shows that incense in the temple represented out prayers to God “Then another angel having a golden censor came and stood at the altar and he was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense with the prayers of the saints ascended before God…”

And Leviticus 16:12-13 shows the incense was to be beaten fine before burning it and presenting it to God, picturing our prayers being broken down into detail, I believe. “Then he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, with his hands full of incense beaten fine…And he shall put the incense on the fire before the Lord…”

Today, I had to drive to a nearby town and I was expecting (according to our dependable weatherman) snowy slush mixed with rain.   I didn't want to cancel my appointment so, once again, I asked God for specific things: dry road top where I am at the time, if He doesn't want to provide dry, then make sure my car doesn't slide. I asked for plenty of space between cars for merging onto some busy highways in our area. (I've told Him how important this one is to me. Space between cars is often rare.)

I asked for overall safety and protection for me and drivers in the cars around me. Well folks, He gave me ALL THIS--both coming and going. It didn't surprise me. However, IN ONE SPOT He did surprise me. I was entering one of the Interstate Highways (and I had mentioned this area to God) and He gave me almost 1,000 feet of merging space in front and behind me. I started laughing and said out loud, "AWWW, come on now! You know I'm not THAT bad of a driver!!!"

Does God tease? Well, He certainly did with me. And what about the account of Balaam’s donkey?

See Numbers 22:27 – 30 NKJV “And when the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam’s anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?’ …” The conversation continues with Balaam conversing with the donkey! Check out the rest of the story. Don’t you find this funny and revealing of God’s humor?

Another story comes to mind from many years ago. A friend of ours, in his young adult years, was on his way from Shreveport, LA to an east coast destination to observe the fall festivals assigned by God, the Feast of Tabernacles. He was making good time until he pulled into a highway rest stop but then his older automobile refused to restart. Frustrated he began pacing up and down the rest area searching for a bumper sticker with our church group’s name on it—knowing a fellow church member would be willing to help.

As he paced, he prayed, “Dear God. Please let me find a bumper sticker. Please help me find a bumper sticker!” After a few minutes, he looked down at the ground beneath his feet—THERE was a BUMPER STICKER! I guess he forgot to ask God to make sure it was attached to a car. It was a fun story for years to come. Need I say that, in very short order, a car did pull into the rest stop with that style of bumper sticker attached and, of course, he got the help he needed. God does like to have fun with us from time to time, just like the loving Father that He is.

I am always excited by the way God answers prayers! I tell Him "THANK YOU!" constantly!

You’ve heard the song “Awesome God” by Michael W Smith. It has only four short lines for lyrics but it summarizes much of the book of Psalms:

“Our God is an awesome God

He reigns from heaven above

With wisdom, power and love

Our God is an awesome God"

 

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Do you know the real Mary, mother of Jesus?

Walking around our neighborhood, I see small creches – depictions of the birth of the Christ child with Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus and maybe a few sheep or cows nearby. Sometimes depictions of shepherds or kings kneeling are also shown. So Mary and child and Joseph are clearly there. 

But how do YOU feel about Mary? If you are Catholic, you adore her. But all of you reading this who are not Catholic, how do YOU feel about her? Do you ever speak of her? Does your pastor ever give a sermon about her? And should he?

I am writing on this because I know there’s a proclivity among conservative  7th day sabbath keepers and Hebrew roots folks to just dismiss Mary. Check your own heart on this. After all, she’s been idolized by the world’s largest Christian faction, the Catholics. You may know  -- or not  -- about the Catholic doctrines of the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption of Mary to heaven, and that Catholics call her “the Queen of Heaven” (compare Jeremiah 44) and on and on. There are also many reported visions of Mary by young girls and others.

My point is, for many sabbath keeping folks, there’s a bias against having anything to do with Mary. Again, am I right? Check your own heart.

But folks, we’re talking about the very special, specific young woman God Most High in heaven personally selected to be the woman to be the mother of his own and only son. He picked Mary to give birth to his son and raise him in a good home, good environment and do all they could to help him not ever sin. We’re talking about a woman to whom God sent his special messenger angel Gabriel with this stunning news. And we’re talking about a very humble and gracious woman – and therefore one God could magnify and bring out her greatness. I think it’s time we honor this great woman and learn from her life.

So I have a new sermon about Mary. I hope you’ll watch the video or hear it and review the notes. It’s time we stopped dismissing this great woman, if we do. I personally believe her to be the greatest of all the women of the Bible and in the top 5 or top 10 of all the people in the Bible – men or women! Mary has a lot to teach us by her life example of humility, grace, submission to God and obedience, and so I hope you enjoy the message.

Imagine realizing as you listen to Gabriel, God’s special messenger angel tell you that you’ve been hand-picked by God himself to carry His very son to term  -- conceived of the Holy Spirit – and what all that could entail. She must have thought of the prophecy in Genesis 3:15 where God said this to Satan the serpent after Satan deceived Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, and who then urged her husband to also eat of it, though Adam was not deceived:

Genesis 3:15 -- “And I will put enmity between you and the woman,  And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel."

This was a prophecy about the Messiah and Jews understood that. Mary would have understood that. That future seed of Eve would vanquish Satan. As one song says, “the child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.”  At what point did it really sink in to Mary that she was giving birth to the Deliverer of humanity, and her OWN Deliverer!? In my teaching I discuss how Mary herself needed to be delivered. Imagine the thoughts racing through Mary’s mind to realize it was to be HER seed, HER son, to face combat with Satan.

I don’t know if Mary immediately connected Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 prophecies – to her son. But surely after the resurrection she must have. She knew, her son would be suffering a great deal while fulfilling this calling.

It wasn’t long before she was realizing SHE was the one hand-picked to fulfill the prophecy of a VIRGIN conceiving and bearing a son who was going to be “GOD with us” – or Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14 -- “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

The angel Gabriel told her that the father of this, her first child, would be God himself, and the Holy Spirit would be the means, the seed by which she would become pregnant. The Father of her baby to come, was God himself. The thoughts must have been overwhelming.

So Mary was very, very special. In my sermon, I make plain that we definitely should not ignore her. But on the other hand, what does scripture say about worshiping Mary or praying to her? All that and more is in the sermon.

In the popular song “Mary, did you know?” – I found the lyrics to be surprisingly praising of Christ. It was not about Christmas, but lauding Yeshua! I don’t keep Christmas. Christ was not born on December 25, and Christmas today is rarely even about Jesus anymore. I have many sermons and blogs about why I don’t keep Christmas.

But I do love and worship my Savior, God’s son, Mary’s son. I’m so glad God did send him to us to save us all from our sins. The song “Mary did you know” praises Jesus. It’s not really about Mary but asking her if she realized just how GREAT her son was going to be! Here is part of the lyrics.

“Did  you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?

This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you… 

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?

Did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?

Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?

This sleeping child you’re holding …is the great I Am?”

Nothing wrong with those lyrics at all. Mary was very special to be the one hand-picked to raise such a child.

In the sermon I also discuss – was she immaculately conceived? What does the Bible say about that? Was she assumed body and soul to heaven? All that and more.

I hope you’ll enjoy the sermon.

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Where was our Messiah actually born?

How wonderful, though we know Christ was NOT born Dec 25th, how wonderful to experience the love of our Father to send His Son to be born as our Savior. We believe all the evidence points to his birth most likely being in the fall, probably either on the Feast of Trumpets or possibly even the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, since John 1 says – in the Greek that he came to “tabernacle” (translated “dwell”) with mankind. The Bible simply does not specify the date when our Messiah was born.

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

There could be a scripture in Micah that actually tells us where he would be found at his birth.  And remember, everything I write here is geared to a FALL-TIME birth, not December 25th. In other sermons about the TRUE STORY of Jesus’ birth, I went into more detail on why I say in the Fall. So though we do not keep Christmas, we are delighted that God did send his Son to be our savior.  

Now, where was he born in Bethlehem? Where more specifically?

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

Luke 2:1-7
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Note that Yeshua was her “firstborn son”, by the way. Mary did not remain a virgin! Scripture clearly states she had at least 4 more sons and at least 2 daughters (carefully read Matthew 13:53-56; Mark 6:2-3).  We know that James, the presiding elder over Jerusalem was his brother – the same one who wrote the epistle of James. (Please read Galatians 1:19; 1 Cor. 9:5).  Jude was also his brother. So Mary had a LOT of children.

Now compare Luke 2:6-7 to a prophecy in Micah 4:8, written 700 years before the birth of our Savior. We’ll read about the Tower of the Flock, the Migdal Eder as it is called in Hebrew.  You’ll find this very fascinating! 

Micah 4:8
“And you, O tower of the flock, The stronghold of the daughter of Zion, To you shall it come, Even the former dominion shall come,The kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.”

Hmm.  What’s this all about?  When the shepherds were told about the birth of Yeshua, the sign they were given is that he would be found in “swaddling cloths, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).  They were very aware of the Micah 4:8 and it says in Luke that they “came with haste”.  Why? 

Micah 4:8 refers to the “Migdal Eder” – translated “Tower of the Flock”.  The lambs that were to be sacrificed at the temple were primarily raised in the fields around Bethlehem, which is about 4 miles from the Jerusalem temple mount area. It’s not far. The priestly shepherds would watch over their flocks destined for sacrifice from the Migdal Eder, the “tower of the flock”. 

The  priestly shepherds were careful when a lamb was birthed in the lower areas of the Migdal Eder (tower of the flock) to wrap the newborn lamb in swaddling cloths to keep it from being marred in any way, so it could be used as a lamb sacrifice. Then they’d place the newly wrapped lamb into a feed stall (manger) nearby until it settled down. Then once calm, they would carefully put the newborn lamb with its mother. They were careful to not mar or harm the lamb in the any manner so it could be sacrificed for the sins of the people. Remember sacrificial lambs had to be without spot or any issues.   

Back to Micah 4:8.  Priests were aware that Micah 4:8 was a Messianic prophecy.  Their new ruler would be born in the Migdal Eder (THE tower of the flock) and from there – as it goes on to say in Micah 4 – he would eventually set up his dominion and kingdom! 

So when these priestly shepherds were told the newborn Lamb of God would be found in swaddling cloths in a manger, they knew where to look – the Migdal Eder – and there they found him, as the angelic messenger had foretold!  Remember they were told the One born that day was their promised Messiah (Christ, meaning “anointed one”), the Lord.

Luke 2:11-12
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ [Messiah] the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."

Remember that the original “city of David” was Bethlehem.  It was only later, when he became king of Jerusalem, that the ancient city of Jebus (Jerusalem) was called the “city of David” also. The shepherds were beside themselves with joy – their SAVIOR had been born, right where they expected him to be, in the Tower of the Flock as Micah 4:8 had foretold.  They found Him in swaddling cloths – just like the newborn lambs destined to die as the sacrifice for sins were wrapped in swaddling cloths. 

Bethlehem has other significant connections:

  • Bethlehem had a lot of meaning to Jacob (Israel), King David, and of course Yeshua.
  • David and Yeshua were born in Bethlehem.
  • Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel died there while giving birth to Benjamin, her 2nd son. His name means “son of my right hand” – perhaps a prophecy about Jesus, who is the Father’s Son at HIS right hand. There is to this day the Tomb of Rachel, carefully guarded and highly regarded site for Jews.

Let’s look more closely at Jacob’s (Israel’s) connection to this very site through Rachel.

Genesis 35:16-22
Then they journeyed from Bethel. And when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath (Bethlehem), Rachel labored in childbirth, and she had hard labor. 17 Now it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said to her, "Do not fear; you will have this son also." 18 And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni; but his father called him Benjamin. 
19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).
20 And Jacob set a pillar on her grave, which is the pillar of Rachel's grave to this day.
21 Then Israel journeyed and pitched his tent beyond the TOWER of EDER.”

David was a shepherd. Though the temple had not yet been built, is it possible that David also shepherded flocks whose lambs would be offered at the Tabernacle? I think so. Have you thought of that?  That inspires me, that a future son of David – the Lamb of God – may have been represented by lambs David watched over. We know for sure that after the temple was built, the lambs from Bethlehem definitely were the ones used for temple sacrifice – and they all pictured Yeshua. Could it be David used this very watchtower to watch over his own sacrificial lambs – depicting “The Lamb of God” yet to come (John 1:29)? 

Watchtower. It was a great place to watch the flocks and see any dangers approaching. From the tower they could also observe the road from Jerusalem, to see who or what was coming down the road. Yeshua is our watchtower. HE is observing his flock very carefully. I think it’s very significant that he very, very likely was born in this very watchtower – about 1000 paces from Bethlehem, in the fields. How beautiful.

So even though many of us do not participate in Dec 25 festivities, due to all the reasons I’ve spoken on before, I thought it was interesting to learn about Micah 4:8 and I hope you found that interesting too.  And yes, I do praise our Father in heaven for sending His Son to be His Lamb to be sacrificed for all of us, to take away our sins.  IN his blood was the antidote for the curse of sin – from Adam to our own sins.  Yeshua probably was born in the Autumn.  And praise you Yeshua, our wonderful brother, our awesome Friend, our King and Savior and Redeemer, thank you for being willing to be our sacrifice to remove our sins. Thank you. Thank you.

Here's a picture of the Migdal Eder outside Bethlehem.

MidgalEder

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The 2 Witnesses: two people or groups? Revelation 11:1-14

We’re all interested, and some are anxiously wondering – who are the 2 Witnesses of Revelation 11? Who is the False Prophet?  Who/what is the whore called “Babylon” in Revelation 17-18?  

Today let’s zero in a bit on the two witnesses. I plan to eventually give a full sermon on this, but felt one issue needs to be handled first:  Are the 2 Witnesses 2 individuals, or 2 groups? 

MOST Bible students believe they are two individuals, who perform similar miracles as Moses and Elijah did. In fact God promises to send “Elijah” before his great and dreadful day of the LORD (Malachi 4:5-6).  John the Baptist fulfilled that partially, and yet he clearly was not the actual Elijah preaching just before the terrifying Day of the LORD, which is yet to come.

Malachi 4:5-6  “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.

6 And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,

And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse."

Yeshua also clearly implied there would yet be another “Elijah” to come in the future, when he says in Matthew 17:11 that Elijah IS COMING first and “shall restore all things” – and then he added that Elijah HAS come, referring to John the Baptist.

Matthew 17:11-13  NKJV --  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.”

John the Baptizer also came as an Elijah-type, but there is still one more time we’ll see an end-time Elijah prophesying in Jerusalem.

But John the baptizer did not restore all things or reunite fathers and sons as Malachi 4:5-6 says. Plus, John the baptizer had died some years before Yeshua said all these things. Again, the Elijah to come will come just before the awesome and terrifying Day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5-6). 

But there are also a persistent few who promote the notion that these 2 Witnesses in the future actually represent groups of people and not just two individuals. Let’s tackle that today. Sometime later I will go in depth in a sermon about the two witnesses. Some believe these represent Old and New covenants. Or Jews and Gentiles. Or the Philadelphian and Laodicean churches of Revelation 3.  Or representatives of the Law and the Prophets. And on and on and on. 

When we read about the 2 Witnesses, the description of them and their work cannot, surely cannot, apply to groups. The account is fully discussed in Revelation 11:1-14.  I recommend we all read it carefully.  I’ll post the entire scripture text at the end of this blog.

Revelation 11:3 says these two witnesses prophecy for 1260 days (3.5 years) and are clothed in sackcloth.  Are we expected to believe that two GROUPS of people will all be clothed in sackcloth?

Rev 11:4-6-- The descriptions in verses 4-6 clearly apply to individuals and not groups. Are groups going to devour their enemies by fire coming out of each individual in those two GROUPS?  Will two GROUPS, dressed in sackcloth be turning water to blood? No, the idea of these two individuals actually being two groups is not making any sense. Water to blood points to Moses’ miracles.  Destroying enemies by fire and calling for famine points to Elijah’s miracles.

Revelation 11:7-13:  Can we expect the dead bodies of GROUPS to be in the city and then GROUPS of people be resurrected 3-1/2 days later? That just would not make sense and the wording here seems to clearly point to two individuals.

Revelation 11:10 clearly says these are TWO PROPHETS, not groups, who are to be tormenting the world with their plagues. The world will not like them at all.   

So I won’t be preaching or teaching that the two witnesses represent two groups, when I prepare the full sermon on the topic.

For those of you without your own Bibles in parts of the world, here is what Scripture says, using the New King James Version:  

Revelation 11:1-14

Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, "Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. 2 But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.

3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth."

4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. 5 And if anyone wants to harm them, fire proceeds from their mouth and devours their enemies. And if anyone wants to harm them, he must be killed in this manner. 6 These have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy; and they have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to strike the earth with all plagues, as often as they desire.

7 When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. 9 Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. 10 And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two PROPHETS tormented those who dwell on the earth.

11 Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. 12 And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here." And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them. 13 In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand people were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.

14 The second woe is past. Behold, the third woe is coming quickly.”

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