Good Friday, Easter…We Are Doing It All Wrong!

A year ago I wrote a post about Easter, Easter, the Celebration of the Fertility Goddess. In that post I explained that Easter is a false god.  The common Easter symbols that we are so accustomed to, the egg and the rabbit, are fertility symbols that are directly linked to the worship of this false god.  In fact, even the date that is chosen each year to celebrate Easter is determined according to when the celebration of the goddess Easter was celebrated, the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox.  This is why there is such a great variance of dates causing the holiday to land anywhere between the end of March and the end of April.  To read more about how and why this religious combination happened, please read the post linked above.

As Christians, followers of Christ, and Yahweh, the one and only true God, we better have a problem with this.  This is doing exactly what the Israelites did on countless occasions, and were punished severely by God…it is mixing honor and worship of Yahweh, “You shall have no other gods before Me”, that Yahweh, with worship of a pagan god.  Don’t tell me you are not doing that.  Do you buy chocolate Easter bunnies? How about Peeps?  I love those marshmallow bunnies and chicks!   Do you decorate Easter eggs?  Do you have an Easter egg hunt?  Probably right before or immediately following the church service in which you celebrated the risen Savior.  These symbols have absolutely NOTHING…NOT ONE…SINGLE…THING…to do with the resurrection of Messiah.

What’s more, there is nowhere in the Bible where Christians are told to hold a celebration of Messiah’s resurrection.  To tell you the truth, I can’t say that I have a problem specifically with celebrating it.  Obviously it is something worth a celebration.  However, the command given by Yeshua was to commemorate His death…”Do this in remembrance of Me.”  And that command was given in connection to a very specific, already established, feast.  The Passover.

The evening of the Lord’s last supper with his disciples was the beginning of Passover.  Passover is every year on the same date, the 14th of Nissan, on the Jewish calendar.  It begins at sunset and ends the following evening at sunset.  The Last Supper was the Passover meal, the Seder.  When Yeshua broke the bread, it was unleavened bread which symbolized His sinless life, and it was the bread they were commanded to eat at Passover by God when He instituted it at the time of the Exodus from Egypt.  Remember, a spotless male lamb was sacrificed, and it’s blood spread on the doorposts so that the people would be saved from the angel of death.  Yeshua is that spotless lamb who was sacrificed on Passover, and who’s blood saved us from eternal death.

Yeshua instructed His followers to continue to observe the Passover, but after His death, to observe it in remembrance of what He did for us on the cross. 

“Do this in remembrance of Me.”  Do THIS.  “This” is the PASSOVER.  Look, what Yeshua did with his disciples was break the bread, and drink the cup, as part of the Passover feast.  The Passover feast always pointed to the Savior who would one day come to save the world.  It was a living prophecy of the coming Messiah.  Yeshua fulfilled that prophecy that day, but He never instructed His followers to cease and desist.  He did instruct them to continue to observe the Passover, not as prophecy to come, but rather as prophecy fulfilled.

As I sat in church this morning, considering the coming Maundy Thursday service, and Easter to follow, I was overwhelmed by the Spirit of Christ.  “This is wrong!!” beat in my heart and throbbed in my head.  Passover.  PASSOVER!!!  That is when we are to remember the sacrifice Yeshua made for us.  We have grieved the Holy Spirit by paganizing the holy celebration of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God on the cross.  And now He is calling us back to Him.  Do you hear His call?  Leave the pagan worship of Easter behind you!  Return to Me and MY ways.  Who of you will stand for the Lord?  Who will dare to brave the “heresy” of leaving Easter where it belongs and celebrating Christ on HIS holy day, Passover?

It is the year 2017 on the solar calendar (the year 5777 on the Jewish calendar).  The 14th day of Nissan is tomorrow.  I am going to lead my family in a Seder meal.  It won’t  be perfect because I don’t know how to do it all, and quite frankly, I’m not totally prepared.  But I know we will be honoring Yeshua Messiah on the right day at the right time.  We will attend Maundy and Resurrection Day services.  The question for you and for me is what about next year?  Will we seek courage from God to speak to our church leaders and encourage a return to God’s feast where Yeshua, and only Yeshua, will be honored?  Or will we cower, and continue to mix pagan worship with Christian worship?  In so doing, will we ignore God’s call to return to Him and away from pagan gods as the Israelites did?  The Church has been celebrating Easter for nearly 2,000 years.  Old habits die hard.  Some habits need to be broken.

Here is a link to instructions for a Christian Passover written by Ann Voskamp:  Why A Christian Family Celebrate Passover: A Messianic Seder

Is Your Cross Empty?

I love southern gospel and I love old church hymns. Generally I find that the old hymns in particular can really put my heart and mind in the right frame for worship. While much of today’s Christian pop music tends to focus on the me side of our relationship with God, and feel-good feelings; it can lack God-centered praise and worship. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of wonderful, praise-filled, God-honoring modern songs. But there really are so many that focus on the feelings, and that can be a dangerous thing. Faith in God is not about having that mountain-high-feel-good feeling all of the time. Just like being in love does not mean feeling all ooey gooey inside every day for 60 years. That kind of love goes deeper than week knees and pitter pattering hearts, just like mature faith goes beyond the mountain high to the low valleys and every where in between. Mature faith causes a Christian to praise and worship through the tears, in spite of pain that is not understood. 

Mature faith is the kind of faith that gave us the hymn It is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford, written after all four of his daughters died in a shipwreck. 

While listening to my favorite gospel album I was struck by the words of a church favorite. I sang it often as a child. It was my brother’s favorite when he was a young boy. If you grew up watching pioneer or cowboy and western era television programs, you may have heard it coming from a small country church. The Old Rugged Cross. Look closely at the words of the last verse and chorus:  

To the old rugged Cross, I will ever be true 

Its shame and reproach gladly bear

Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away

Where his glory forever I’ll share

So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross

Till my trophies at last I lay down

I will cling to the old rugged Cross

And exchange it some day for a crown.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true. I will cherish the old rugged cross. I will cling to the old rugged cross.  You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. 

Something tells me I should not be true to the cross, but to the One who died on it. I should cherish and cling to Yeshua (Jesus’ given name before He was born) and what He did for me on the cross, but not the cross itself. The cross was simply wood, created by the One who hung on it. The cross did nothing but stand there, inanimate unfeeling, incapable of doing anything. I do not owe my loyalty, love or praise to a piece of wood. I owe it ALL to Yeshua, who sacrificed Himself for me, using that cross to do it.

You may think I am nitpicking. Consider the modern day cross. We wear it on a chain around our necks; have statues of it in our homes and churches; print it on clothing, purses, checkbooks, and even tattoo it on our skin. When you sing in church, do you find your eyes resting on the cross hanging on the wall of the sanctuary, or perhaps you finger the cross on a chain.

There is an ad floating around social media now. A company selling ergonomically correct crosses, painted with designs to please the visual palette. The purpose? To make it easy and comfortable for you to hold in your hand and find peace. Please tell me you see where this is a problem. 

We are a people who trivially use the tool our Savior used to save us to become the focus of worship and the source of our salvation. This is why God commanded the Israelites to make no carved, or otherwise, image of anything from the earth. He knew our foolish tendencies. Did you know that God told the Israelites that if they built an alter to sacrifice on, they must not use cut stone, but raw and untouched. Why? For the exact same reason. And yet here we are. We have removed Yeshua from the cross and made it our idol. The cross, empty and standing where is was put by human hands, is worth nothing. 

Over the next few weeks, as we approach Good Friday, I urge you to prayerfully consider the place of the cross in your worship. We must glorify Yeshua who bore the cross, not the cross that bore Yeshua.

Hello. I am a Christian, and I am a Hypocrite.

If you are reading this, there is a good chance you are either a Christian, or you are not a Christian.  If you are a Christian, chances are you read the title and thought, “Oh great.  Another wacko spouting off and making the rest of us look bad.”  If on the other hand, you are not a Christian, you probably saw this title and thought, “Finally a ‘Christian’ who will admit the truth.”

Since you are both here, allow me to explain myself.  Then you can make up your own mind about me.  Here’s the deal.  I am a Christian.  I take the liberty of claiming that because I am a follower of Christ Jesus.  Not only do I follow His teachings, but I have dedicated my life to living in complete service to Him.  I even go so far as to say that I asked Him to be my Lord, the one who has complete say over my life, and my Savior.  He is my Savior because He took the punishment God had reserved for me because of my wrong-doings (known in our circles as sin)…let me emphasize that.  Jesus took my punishment.  What I deserved, He took upon Himself.  He saved me from it.  Thus He is my Savior.

Here’s the other part of this.  I am a hypocrite.  But I’m probably not the kind of hypocrite you are expecting me to confess to.  I think we can all generally agree that a hypocrite is someone who says one thing, but does another, right?  I would add, though, that typically a hypocrite would be considered someone who says something and then intentionally, knowingly, does the opposite.  Wouldn’t you agree? With that definition in mind, I guess I would have to say that

                                                 I AM AN ACCIDENTAL HYPOCRITE.

I’m not really a boldfaced hypocrite as you, the non-Christian, would claim.  I don’t say that I follow Jesus and obey His commands, and then intentionally break them.  You may not believe me, but I really do try to obey His commands.  The thing is that I’m not perfect.  I mess up…all the time…every single day.  I admit it.  I’m a Christian, but I’m still a sinner…at the same time.  Yes.  That is possible.  In fact, that is the reality of every single person who is a Christian.  As much as we would love to be perfect, we aren’t, and we never will be as long as we are living.

There was only one person who was perfect in the history of the world, and that was JESUS.  Jesus was perfect because He was, is, the Son of God.  He is man in the flesh, but also completely God in the Spirit, with all the power that goes with being God.  That was how He was able to take my punishment, and the punishment of every single person who ever had and whoever will live.  He deserved no punishment of His own, SO HE TOOK MINE…and yours.  Oh, I know.  You are pretty certain that because I am such a hypocrite, whether accidental or not, you are much better than me.  Here’s where I leave the political correctness stuff behind.  You aren’t any better than me.  Hold on now.  Before you flip your wig, I’m not better than you either.  I never said that I was.  When it comes to being human, we are all on the same equal playing field.  The Bible says that ALL men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  In other words, everyone, ev-er-y single one, does wrong.  It doesn’t matter how much wrong.  One wrong is the same as a thousand wrongs when it causes us to not measure up to God’s standard of perfection.  You are guilty of it, and so am I.  Flat out.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  It is what it is.  You can argue it until you are blue in the face, but deep down inside there is a part of you that you are desperately trying to squash.  That part that says, “You know she is right.”  You know how I know that?  Because God built everyone of us with this thing called a conscience.  More than that, He put in each of us the innate desire to search for Him.

So if I’m a sinner, and you are a sinner, what is the difference between you and me?  I mean really.  I have already admitted to being an accidental hypocrite.  I have admitted to being no better than you or anyone else.  I admitted to doing wrong every single day.  So what is the difference?  Are you ready for it?  Here it is.  I have been forgiven.  Yep.  That is it.  I have not been forgiven because I’m so special either.  I’ve been forgiven for one simple reason:  I asked.  Oh sure, first I had to admit that I am a sinner.  If I didn’t do that, there was no point in asking for forgiveness in the first place.  After all, if I don’t think I have ever done anything wrong, then what do I need forgiveness for?  But nagging deep down inside of me is the knowledge that I have lied (even little white lies).  I never made a habit of it, but I’ve done it.  I have stolen…a piece of candy when I was a child, and time from my employer when I should have been working.  I’ve been angry and bitter.  I’ve said words I shouldn’t have said.  I have been mean to people.  I’ve been jealous.  I have been ungrateful, rude, disrespectful.  I have gossiped, put my needs before the needs of others, been self-righteous.  The list goes on and on, and is as fresh as yesterday.  I cannot deny that I have done wrong things.  It’s as plain as the nose on my face.  And so is my need for forgiveness.

Every sin is like a brick in a wall that separates us from God.  It is a wall that is built by me, but with eternal bricks that cannot be torn down by human hands or effort.  It is a wall that prevents me from having a relationship with God, and from ever getting to Heaven to live with Him.  The only one who has the power to tear that wall of eternal sin bricks down is Jesus, and He will only do it if we ask Him to.  That means getting to Heaven is our choice…we ask Jesus to forgive us of our sins, and save us from staying on this side of the wall, staying in sin.  He then becomes our Savior.

All sin must be punished.  Jesus took our punishment when He died on the cross over 2,000 years ago.  The punishment for sin is death, eternal death.  That means our bodies die, but our spirits either live for eternity in Heaven with God, or they live an eternal death in Hell separated from God and all His goodness.  When Jesus died, He took our punishment of eternity in Hell.  When He came back to life after 3 days, He demonstrated that the power over life and death are both in His hands, and He cannot be controlled by either.  We Christians say that He conquered death and Hell.  Even though we will all still die a physical death (that is a consequence of sin, as opposed to punishment for it), our spirits don’t die.  And if we ask Jesus to be our Savior, He will break down that ugly (because sin is ugly if we are honest) wall of sin, and welcome us into the presence of God.  If we die with that wall still standing between us and God, then all hope is lost.  The wall remains in the spirit world, just as it was here in the physical world, and there is no way past it to get near to God.  The difference is that in the physical world, God’s Spirit is present in every Christian, and all around us.  Every person experiences the goodness of God as He provides rain for crops to grow, sunshine, love, peace…all the good things we have just a glimpse of here.  In Hell, on the other side of that wall, ALL of His goodness is gone.  None of it remains.  There is only the antithesis of everything good.  No love at all, only hatred.  No peace, only torment.  No laughter, only tears.  All the time, eternally.  And in that spirit world of life after physical death, the wall of sin has also become eternal.  There is no hope of every breaking it down.

Conversely, for those people who asked Jesus for His salvation, and allowed Him to tear that wall down, their spirits get to live surrounded by all of God’s goodness, in purest form, no longer distorted by sin and its effects, for all of eternity.  Completely pure love.  Completely whole peace.  Completely full joy.  All the time, eternally.

My ugly sin was has been torn down.  Jesus is my Savior.  I still sin, because I will never be perfect until my spirit is living in Heaven with God.  But when Jesus tore down my sin wall, He also made it impossible for it to be rebuilt.  He took my punishment once and for all.  When I sin now, I ask for forgiveness and it is given.  There are still earthly consequences for sin.  If I lie to someone, I have still hurt them and damaged our trust.  But I have confidence that Jesus will forgive me, because He promised to, and I know that lie is not going to keep me from living in Heaven.

Now, there is a burning issue that needs to be addressed.  I may be a Christian who is an accidental hypocrite, but there are definitely people who claim to be Christians and are blatant hypocrites.  What about them?  First of all, I don’t know their hearts.  I cannot make the judgement as to whether or not they actually are Christians.  Only God knows that.  What I do know is that God calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  When people are standing on the side of a gay pride parade holding hateful placards, for example, that is not showing the love of God…and it is flaming hypocrisy.  It does not show love, it shows hatred.   The Bible says the world will know Christians by their love.  Hatred is a sin.  And I have just admitted that Christians still sin.  So how do we know what the truth is?  Are they actually Christians who are sinning and giving the rest of us a bad name?  If so, we must remember that we will never be perfect, and that God works in the heart of every Christian to make them more and more like Him.  Hopefully they will eventually recognize their sin, confess it and seek forgiveness.  However, it must also be recognized that these people may not really be Christians at all, but only think they are.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in the world who think they are Christians just because they go to church, or try to be a good person.  Jesus said that He is the only way to be saved.  Going to church won’t save, and no one can be good enough to save themselves.  If those people are relying on something other than Jesus, they are not truly Christians, and do not have the love of God in them.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter.  You will think what you will about me and all Christians.  You will either judge us on a case-by-case basis, or you will judge us as all the same whether you know us or not.  And I will continue to be a Christian, even with my imperfections.  But I am, and always will be, a Christian who knows without a doubt that when I die, my spirit will live with God forever, with a pile of bricks from a torn down wall far behind me.  What about you?  Will you ask Jesus to tear down your wall and be your Savior?  Or will you live eternally on the side of a wall that you can never tear down?  It’s up to you.

 

Unsalty Salt in the Church: Worthless

Have you ever looked at the sodium content for a serving of jerky?  Wowza!!!  Makes your heart pump harder just thinking about it.  Yet without the salt, the meat would not be preserved for the length that it can be, and usable as food.  Just as salt is used, and has been used for thousands of years, to preserve the quality of meat so that it can be eaten days, weeks, even months after the kill, so salt is the preservative of the truth of God’s word in the Church.  Without salt in the jerky, the meat would spoil (never mind modern refrigerators and freezers).  Without salt in the church, it too spoils and becomes worthless.

In Luke 14:35-35 (NKJV) Yeshua says – “Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?  It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

In Matthew 5:13 (NKJV) Yeshua says – “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?  It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

This verse in Matthew 5 is actually near the beginning of Yeshua’s Sermon on the Mount, right after the Beatitudes.  Chapters 5-7 are Yeshua’s instruction manual for how to live as His followers in a world that doesn’t believe in Him.  The disciples understood that salt was a preserving agent.  In referring to His followers as the salt of the earth in the middle of this sermon, his disciples understood, as should we, that we are the preserving agent of all that is godly in this world.

What is godliness?  Living our lives according to the ways Yeshua taught.  Just skimming through the Sermon on the Mount, one can see all kinds of instructions.  Avoid hatred and do not murder, do not judge, do not worry, stand on faith in God, be charitable, be faithful in your marriage, love your enemies, go out of your way to serve others, hunger for righteousness, be pure in heart, be peacemakers, be merciful.  The list goes on.  The passage in Luke 14 is right on the heals of Yeshua’s instruction to give up everything (father, mother, brothers and sisters) to follow Him, not clinging to this world, or he cannot be His disciple.

We are here to preserve godliness in the world of sinners.  We are here to preserve the truth of who God is, and what His Word says, in our every thought, word, and deed.  When we do not act as salt, we have lost our flavor, and are worth nothing more than to be thrown out and trampled on the ground.  Notice in Luke, we are not even worth using in the dunghill.  I’m not sure what purpose there is for salt in a dunghill, but if we aren’t worthy of that, we are truly not worthy of anything.

Now here is where we come to brass tacks.  Has the Church today lost its saltiness?  Unequivocally YES!  Oh, to be sure, there is an element of the Church that continues to preach the truth of God’s Word, without distorting it to the moral-less standards of the world.  But that element is shrinking by the hour it seems.  Church body after church body, pastor after pastor, follower after follower are sliding down slippery slopes of twisted doctrine, distorted Scripture, and outright lies about who God is and what He demands of us.  Sin is no long sin, but personal choice.  Everything is okay if you feel it is okay.  Anyway is good to get to Heaven, even thought Yeshua said that He is the ONLY way.  The Church has become spineless, squishy, weak, false, lightless-not just living in darkness, but teaching it-…the Church has lost its salty flavor.  It is worthy only of being thrown out and trampled on.

If this does not cause big red flags, bells, and warning sirens to go off in your spirit, then you need to recheck your faith.  Do you believe in the God of the Bible?  YAHWEH?  Do you believe in Yeshua (Jesus) Messiah, His Son?  Do you truly believe that God’s Word is HIS Word?  If you don’t believe everything in the Bible is His truth, then you have changed who He is.  You do not worship or serve YAHWEH, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  You serve a god that you have made up according to what you want to believe.  It is time for you to make a decision.  Choose YAHWEH, or choose the world.  As Joshua said, “Choose today whom you will serve.  As for me and my house, we will serve YAHWEH.”

If the lack of salt concerns you, but you know you have lost your flavor, it is time to digest some sodium.  Dig into God’s Word, get on your knees and pray, and create a thirst for righteousness.  Then stand in this world as a pillar of salt, a preserver of godliness and of His truth.

It is time we quit cowering at the face of feel-good, mushy, politically correct godless teaching.  It is time to stand as a beacon of light, with the strength of salt, and the power of the Holy Spirit, and unashamedly speak God’s truth…in love, always in love.

 

Leviticus? Oye!!

How many of you have set out with the admirable goal of reading the entire Bible? Genesis is good. It has a great bunch of stories in it. Certainly can’t complain about Exodus with all the suspense. Both are not only pretty easy to read, but actually rather enjoyable. But then there is Leviticus. Not much else can derail a Bible-reading plan faster than…*snore*…huh? What was I saying? Oh yah, Leviticus, the book of the law.

Not meaning to pat myself on the back or anything, but I am pleased to say I have now finished reading it for the 2nd time. Don’t be too quick to congratulate me, though. It took me several months to read those 27 chapters. With Paul’s words to Timothy floating in the back of my mind, the reminder that all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable, I asked God many times why Leviticus is even in the Bible.

I have read and re-read, with great fascination, the chapters about the  7 God-assigned feasts of Israel. But I have to admit, my eyes were pretty glassy through the rest of the book. I did find that there were so many commands in chapter 19, that I needed to read that one 2 or 3 times to unpack it all.

Leviticus is the third book of the Old Testament, and written by Moses.  It is the record of the law given by God to the Israelite people after leaving Egypt.  It is not the 10 commandments.  Rather, it is the very extensive list of what sacrifices should be performed for what purpose, and the pretty detailed list of how to go about doing that.  It’s not a book for the squeamish as it talks quite a bit about the particular parts of the sacrificial animals that are to be used, and where to pour the blood, etc.  It contains quite a list of sins and what their punishments should be.  Also an extensive list of what makes a person, or thing, unclean and what to do to be considered clean again.  One can even learn how to deal with mold in a dwelling.  It is a book that was obviously meant as an instruction manual for the Israelites.

Leviticus is for a people who had not yet been redeemed by the Messiah, thus the necessity of the sacrificial system.  So what possible purpose could it have for Christians today?  Why even bother making the effort to try to read it?  And yet, the Apostle Paul did say in 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  We must bear in mind that when Paul wrote these words, there was no New Testament.  The Scripture he is referring to was the Books of the Law (including Leviticus), the Prophets, and the Writings, aka the Old Testament.  With this in mind, I can concede that even today it is important to recognize the behaviors listed in Leviticus as ones that God declares sinful.  Still, there must be something more for Paul to declare that ALL Scripture is profitable.  All means all after all.

As I continued reading through this book, pondering its usefulness, and praying for God to reveal that to me, the answer came while reading an unlikely passage.  In chapter 21, verses 16-24 God declared that no descendant of Aaron (the priestly line) who had a physical defect of any kind could go past the curtain of the Tabernacle to the alter and offer the sacrifices because he would profane God’s holy place.  As the daughter of parents who are both totally blind, and as a teacher for students who are blind and/or have other, sometimes quite severe, disabilities, this passage caused me to stop short.  As I paused to pray, I heard the Holy Spirit speak the answer to my first prayer.  Then I understood, not just why this command about the priests with physical defects, but the purpose of the book as well.

The following is the understanding the Spirit gave to me:  The Bible is not just a collection of stories, books, and letters.  It is, in fact, The Incomplete Works of God.  It is a partial biography, or perhaps autobiography of God.  His memoirs.  A record of His works and interaction with mankind.  Of course it is incomplete because no one can know the mind of God…there is so much more about Him that is not recorded in the Bible, but this is what we have.

Each page, chapter, and book is a gradual revealing of who God is.  And each book, as a whole document, has a theme that reveals something to the reader about the characteristics of God.  Genesis shows us that God is the creator.  He created the world, and everything in it.  He created animals and humans.  He created the family that He would send the Messiah through.

Exodus shows us that God is not only God of the Israelites, but God over everything and everyone.  No matter whether a person believes in Him or not.  No matter that person’s status in this world, peasant or king.  There is no one who does not fall under God’s jurisdiction.

Leviticus points to the complete holiness and righteousness of God.  By detailing what is required of His people in order to be holy in His sight, we see that there is no way humanly possible for any man to stand holy and righteous before Him.  Not only that, we see that God cannot, and will not, tolerate any sin, nor the effects of sin, in His presence.  That is what the whole thing about forbidding a priest with physical defects from carrying out a sacrifice was all about.  It was not because the defect was a result of any particular sin on the part of that person, or his parents.  It was because the defect is a result of sin entering God’s perfect creation and distorting all of it.  It was a physical apparition of sin; a living, breathing example of the curse of sin in the world.  This did not say that God did not, and does not love anyone with a disability, by the way.  We can see that He does by looking how mercifully Yeshua (Jesus) healed the many blind, deaf, and lame in the New Testament.  He was the extension of God’s love and mercy, and became the mediator between God and all men.

I wonder what Numbers will reveal?  I have already started reading, and praying for God to show me more of who He is in this book.  I have also begun to keep a record of these revelations in the front of my Bible.  I want a place I can go at any time to be reminded of all God is whenever I need to.  I can’t wait to finish Numbers and see the whole picture!!

 

Predestination: What the Bible Says

There is no doctrine taught that makes me want to jump out of my pew and yell “STOP” more than that of predestination.  How many people on the brink of accepting the salvation of Jesus have turned away because they heard a message that God picks and chooses.  “Obviously if God is going to hand-pick those He wants in Heaven with Him, He is going to choose the cream of the crop.  I can’t meet that standard, so He must not want me.”  And how many Christians do not share the good news of the Gospel because they have been taught, and believe, that God chooses the ones He wants, so therefore, He will make sure they get to Heaven one way or the other.  “Besides, how can I know who God has chosen?  If Bob or Julie aren’t chosen, then I am just wasting my breathe, and putting all of us in an unnecessarily uncomfortable position.”

So where does this idea of predestination come from, and what is meant by the doctrine?  Allow me to answer those questions in reverse.  The doctrine of predestination says that God has pre-determined who will be saved and go to Heaven, and who will not be saved, and will go to Hell.  Simply put, He decides.  The Bible passage often used to support this doctrine is Ephesians 1:4-5 which says:  “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, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.” (NKJV)

If we were to look at only this Scripture passage, the message would seem pretty clear cut.  However, we can’t do that.  No verse or passage in the Bible stands alone.  How can what Paul says here to the church at Ephesus stand against what Jesus Himself said in John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  If God loves the world (and that would be all of it, every human, past, present and future); and if whoever believes (an open-ended invitation), then how can only part of the world receive God’s love, and only a select few be allowed to believe?

Let’s look at some other verses.

1 Timothy 2:3-4 – “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

These verses not only make it clear that God wants all men to be saved, but also that He is waiting patiently, holding back on His plans to establish His kingdom, so that as many people will come to Him as will choose to.

If God has pre-determined who will be saved, why not just pick the lot of us, establish His kingdom and be done with it?  The answer to that is free will.  That I know of, there is no particular place in the Bible that specifically says we have “free will”.  However, there are a number of passages that allude to the freedom that God gives mankind to choose whether to obey Him, whether to receive His salvation and serve Him, or not.  Adam and Eve, of course, are the very first example of that.  God commanded them to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  But when it came down to it, He allowed them to make that choice.  Don’t fool yourself.  He knew it was coming.  He could have posted guards around it to prevent them from disobeying, but He didn’t.  He gave them the choice, but of course, also allowed them to suffer the consequences of that choice.  Some other verses that talk of mankind taking advantage of that free will are listed below.

Deuteronomy 30:19 (God to the people of Israel) – “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”

Joshua 24:15 – And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Mark 8:34 – “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.'”

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

Again I ask, if we have free will to choose, or not choose, God, how then could we be chosen by Him?  Either He presents salvation to us so that we can make the choice, or He picks us and says, “Here, take this.”  Either God so loved the whole world, and offers salvation to all who choose Him, or He designed a path to salvation for only those of the world that He truly loves.  It can’t be both ways.

In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commanded his disciples to go into all the world preaching the gospel.  What would the point be?  Unless.  Unless the Gospel is for everyone.  

Romans 1:18-20 says the following:  “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

Paul is saying here that God put in every human being the ability to recognize Him and know Him, so that they/we would have no excuse to not know Him.  Why would He do that when only a select handful would be chosen?  An excuse would not matter if the right to choose was not there.

Take a moment to scroll back up and re-read Ephesians 1:4-5.  Now read these words from John 1:12 – “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

So here it is.  God has predestined all those who choose to receive Him and believe in Jesus to become His children.  The predestination is linked to the adoption as a result of salvation, not as the salvation itself.  From the beginning of time, God had a plan to offer salvation to all the world.  Abraham was told that through his seed, all the world would be blessed.  The knowledge of God, and the desire to have a relationship is built into each and every one of us.  The invitation to receive salvation through Jesus is extended to every single person in the whole wide world.  And the promise is that everyone who receives it is already guaranteed, pre-determined to be, adopted children of God Most High.

 

 

It’s Undeniable: The End Times are Here…NOW

Here is a 2-part series, published on another site first.

For two thousand years, Christians all over the world have been watching the signs of the times, with an eye on the clouds, always waiting and wondering when Yeshua (Jesus) would return.  

They have witnessed, lived through, and died at the hands of unspeakable evil.  The words of Yeshua in Matthew 24 have been forever on our lips. There have been earthquakes, famines, pestilences, false prophets, wars and rumors of wars.  And always we have wondered how much worse can things get?  Surely this present evil is the last straw, the one which will bring God to the point of judgment.  Yet Yeshua has lingered- God’s patience for mankind reaching far beyond what our own sinful hearts can.  So when leaders in the Christian world today speak of the soon return of the Messiah, many scoff. Perhaps they have been so hardened by the wait that they no longer believe.

There is a problem with what 2000 years’ worth of Christians have looked at to determine the signs of the times, however.  In my 3-part article “Who is Israel? And What Role, If Any, Does She Play in God’s Kingdom” I explain how the Gentile church’s anti-Semitic history has not only removed the Jewishness from Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible, but has also effectively eliminated the importance of the Old Testament.  This, then, is the problem.

What Yeshua said in Matthew 24 was not the be all, end all of end time prophecy.  To get the complete picture, one must study a great deal of the Old Testament.  In fact, sixteen of the OT books are books of prophecy.  Many of the prophecies written there have already been fulfilled in the first coming of Messiah, and the events that happened to the nation of Judah in the year 70 AD when the Jews were scattered throughout the world.  Many others have not.  The only way to truly understand end-time prophecy is to study the Old Testament.

This is the year 2016, and I am telling you that the time of Yeshua’s return is near, very near.  Not because of the evil of this present age, not because of the increase in natural disasters, not because there is unbelievable unrest all over the world.  I am telling you this because of what is happening to and around Israel.  

Israel is the key to understanding end-time prophecy.

The rapture, the 2nd coming of Messiah, the Tribulation, they all center on Israel, not the Church.  When Israel became a nation in her own land in 1948, the ball was set in motion because that was a prophecy that had remained unfulfilled until that time.

I want to address a couple of terms.  First, the House of Israel and the House of Ephraim are one and the same.  They are the 10 tribes of Israel which became the Northern Kingdom after the time of King Solomon.  They were eventually assimilated by Assyria, not to be heard from until this past decade in which the remnant God preserved has begun to awaken and return to the Promised Land.

Second, the House of Judah was the 2 remaining tribes, which became the Southern Kingdom of Israel, or just Judah.  They were taken captive by Babylon (where they were first called Jews), but allowed to return to Jerusalem 70 years later (a fulfilled OT prophecy).  These same Jews were the ones who centuries later bore Yeshua (Jesus), and later played a major role in crucifying Him.  As a consequence, another 70 years later, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, and all the Jews were scattered throughout the world.  The land of Israel was gone, and the people were no longer a nation.  Finally, the Whole House of Israel is all 12 tribes of Israel, the House of Israel/Ephraim and the House of Judah, united as the original nation of Israel that God designed.

With this quick lesson in terminology under our belts, let’s start digging into what Ezekiel has to say about what is happening in our world today.

Ezekiel 36:7-12 (TLV)

Therefore thus says Adonai Elohim: ‘I have lifted My hand. Surely the nations that surround you will themselves suffer scorn.  “‘But you, mountains of Israel, you will shoot forth your branches and yield your fruit for My people Israel; for their return is near.  For behold, I am for you. I will turn to you. You will be tilled and sown.  I will settle a large population upon you—the whole house of Israel, all of it. The cities will be inhabited. The desolate places will be built up.  I will multiply man and beast upon you. They will increase and be fruitful. I will cause you to be inhabited as you were before. I will do better for you than at your beginnings. You will know that I am Adonai.  I will cause people, my people Israel, to walk upon you. They will possess you, and you will be their inheritance. You will no longer deprive them of children.’”

These verses are a promise from God that He would someday return the whole house of Israel to the land He promised them. This little bit of wording is so important in understanding what is being said here.  God said “the whole house of Israel, all of it.”  Israel has not been united since the civil war divided it after King Solomon died.

As I mentioned above, the House of Israel was assimilated by Assyria, and not heard from again.  That was during the time of the great prophets of Isaiah and Jeremiah, in 722 BC.  The House of Judah, which was captured by Babylon and returned to Jerusalem 70 years later, around 538 BC, was again evicted in 70 AD.  The two houses of Israel have not been the “whole house” since some time in the upper 800s BC.  And none of the nation of Israel, Judah or Israel/Ephraim, were in the land of Israel from the year 70 AD onward…until 1948.  

In that year, Israel was established as a nation again, and given at least a portion of the land that God had promised to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Even then, this was only the Jews…those of the House of Judah.  The House of Israel remained lost; lost to the world, but not to God.  God had promised to preserve a remnant of each of the tribes and return them to Israel.  This began in the late 1990s.

Small communities all over the world, who have maintained the Israeli Law of Moses for thousands of years began to awaken- a miracle of God.  They began to recognize themselves and their culture as being of Israel, and they began to seek to return to the land of Israel.  In 2005 Israel approved measures allowing these groups to begin returning home.  These groups are not Jewish, because they are not of the House of Judah (the tribes of Judah and Benjamin), but they are Israelites, from the House of Israel, identifying with the 10 lost tribes who were assimilated 2700+ years ago.  God is bringing the whole house of Israel back to the land.

In Ezekiel 37:15-22 God told Ezekiel to take two sticks.  On one, he was to write the name of Judah, and the other, Israel, each stick representing one of the two houses.  He was to bind the sticks together to symbolize that they would become one stick/nation again.  In verse 24 we are told that “My servant David will be king over them.”  Obviously, this was not in reference to King David, for he had died long before.  This is a reference to the millennial reign of Yeshua when He returns to set up His kingdom on earth, His thousand year reign.

End-time point number one:  the two houses of Israel (Judah and Israel/Ephraim) will be united as one nation again, and be brought back to the land of Israel by the time that Yeshua begins His thousand year reign on earth.  Judah has been back in the land since 1948, and the remaining tribes of Israel have been making their way back gradually since 2005, becoming the whole house of Israel that God talked about.

Next, take a half step back in Scripture to Ezekiel 36:27.  Here God tells His people that He will put His Spirit within them, and that they will keep His laws, and obey His rules.  Israel has returned, but they do not keep God’s laws- the Law of Moses as described in Exodus and Leviticus.  Even the most orthodox Jew who desires to keep the Law is unable to do it completely, because there is no temple.  Certain parts of the Law must be done at the Temple and require animal sacrifice.

With a Muslim mosque standing on the Holy Hill where the Temple of God must stand, how can this be an indicator that the end times are here?

This is how- which brings me to End-Times Point Number Two:  A third Temple will be built at some point during the end times because the AntiChrist will desecrate it.  A group of Orthodox Jews have begun to raise money and build the artifacts for the third Temple, including the altar, which will allow them to resume complete obedience to God and His Law, and which God Himself foretold in Ezekiel 36.  In fact, recently, the altar was completed to the great excitement of many who are following the progress, including myself.

The original Temple that King Solomon built was destroyed when Jerusalem was taken captive by Babylon, and its artifacts were taken as booty.  A second temple was built when Judah returned from that captivity 70 years later, and the artifacts were returned.  This temple was destroyed 70 years after the crucifixion of Yeshua.  The book of Revelation talks about a third Temple, the one that will be rebuilt during the first 3 ½ years of the Great Tribulation, and which will be desecrated by the Anti-Christ.

PART TWO

In part 1 of this article we examined two End-Time Points:  The first is that God promised to not only unite the divided Israel (the House of Judah, and the House of Israel, sometimes called the House of Ephraim), but also to return them to the land of Israel and rule them under one king, David (symbolic of Yeshua/Jesus).  In 1948, Judah was returned to the land of Israel, and as of 2005, the ten lost tribes of the House of Ephraim were beginning to return as well.  What remains is for that process to be completed and for Yeshua to return for His thousand year reign on earth.

The second point is that the book of Revelations speaks of a third Temple during the Great Tribulation, one that will be desecrated by the Anti-Christ.  God said, through Ezekiel, in chapter 36, that He would put His Spirit in the people of Israel and they would again obey His Laws (the Law of Moses).  This obedience to the Law is currently limited without a Temple because animal sacrifice, and certain other ordinances require the Temple and the altar.  In the past few years, a group of Orthodox Jews have been working to rebuild the Temple artifacts (which includes the recent completion of the altar) in preparation for the third Temple, as soon as they are able to do so.  Currently, a Muslim mosque stands on God’s Holy Hill, but rest assured, God will not allow this mockery forever, and with the building of the artifacts, that time appears to be nearing soon.

The world is currently setting the stage for the Gog/Magog war.  In Ezekiel 38:1-6, God gives a list of nations that He will turn toward Israel, and bring up against her.  It seems to be a general consensus that Gog/Magog is Russia.  Gog was a title for a prince, while Magog was the nation.  Also listed is Rosh (northern part of Russia that borders with Europe), Meshech (Moscow), and Tubal (Tobolsk of Siberia).  Verse 3 says, “Thus says the Lord God:  ‘Behold, I am against you, O Gog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.’”

In verses 5-6, God states that Persia, Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer and Togarmah will join Magog in this attack on Israel. Until 1935, the present day nation of Iran was called by its ancient name of Persia.  Gomer is believed to be possibly Germany, or at the very least part of the land which is now Turkey.  Togarmah is known to be in what is now Turkey.

Ezekiel 38:8-12 – “After many days you will be visited. In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate; they were brought out of the nations, and now all of them dwell safely.  You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you.”   ‘Thus says the Lord God: “On that day it shall come to pass that thoughts will arise in your mind, and you will make an evil plan:  You will say, ‘I will go up against a land of unwalled villages; I will go to a peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates’—to take plunder and to take booty, to stretch out your hand against the waste places that are again inhabited, and against a people gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell in the midst of the land.

What does this passage tell us?  First of all, notice that the people of Israel will be brought out from the nations and will be living in the land of Israel.  We know from part 1 of this article, and the review above, that the whole house of Israel is now in the process of being united, and living in the land.

Second, these verses speak of the people of Israel dwelling in safety.  Israel today faces many threats, to be sure.  However, their determination to never again go through anything like the WWII holocaust has led them to build up one of the best, if not the best military defense systems in the world.  They recognize that they need to be able to completely and independently defend themselves because there is no guarantee that any other nation will come to their defense.  The recent vote by the United Nations to allow Iran a pathway to obtaining nuclear weapons is a case in point.  Israel has certainly become a nation secure in its own defense.

Finally, this coming battle is not the Battle of Armageddon.  That battle is when Messiah returns at His second coming and defeats all the armies of the world.  The battle talked about here in Ezekiel is commonly called the Battle of Gog and Magog. The Battle of Armageddon will begin when all the nations of the world, led by the Anti-Christ, surround Israel with the intent to destroy her, completely obliterate her.  The Battle of Gog has a completely different intent.  Russia, Iran, Turkey, Libya, Ethiopia, and probably Germany, will surround Israel in order to plunder her riches.

Is Israel really wealthy enough to care about plundering her?  In the fall of 2015, a huge supply of oil was discovered in Israel’s Golan Heights that is estimated to be billions of gallons.  What does Russia need most?  Oil.  Around the same time as the oil find, Russia began to test the waters militarily.  They moved into Syria under the pretense of fighting ISIS.  How would the rest of the free world respond to their military advancement?  Well, it gave the news outlets something to talk about for a while.

Let’s bundle some of this together.  Israel is now so secure in their ability to defend themselves that they have signed agreements with none other than Russia and Turkey.  The end of last month, Israel and Russia signed an agreement in an effort to stabilize relations in the area.  At the same time, they signed an agreement with Turkey that would allow Israel to build a pipeline through Turkey to enable the transportation of natural gas to Europe.  What better evidence of Israel’s sense of security than agreements with these two nations?  This most certainly could lead to the “unwalled villages” mentioned in the passage above.

Let’s move on to verse 13 – “Sheba, Dedan, the merchants of Tarshish, and all their young lions will say to you [Gog], ‘Have you come to take plunder? Have you gathered your army to take booty, to carry away silver and gold, to take away livestock and goods, to take great plunder?’”

Barely over a week after the Russian and Turkey deals, Israel revealed agreements with four African nations: Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda.  They have offered humanitarian assistance and military aid, as well as education and training in the areas of science and military for decades.  In an effort to make Israel known as an independent military superpower in the region, they have now made this information public.

When the Gog alliance comes against Israel, there will be nations who will openly question their actions, but none will come to her aid.  Israel will stand alone.  The merchants of Tarshish are nations of East Africa.  Sheba and Dedan are England and Spain.

What about the United States?  Last fall, I wrote an article called King of Kings…Lord of Presidents (published on http://www.madisonscpc.net), in which I stated that I believe God is going to place Donald Trump in the office of president.  God has a plan to use this pagan leader to fulfill His purposes for the US.  This was confirmed for me when a contributing writer for Madisons CPC, Terresa Monroe-Hamilton, published a 3-part series entitled Trump: The Russian Connection in which she chronicles an amazing friendship between Donald Trump, a number of his campaign personnel, and highly influential Russians.

It will be interesting to see how that relationship plays out in the days, months, and years ahead now that Donald Trump is indeed President of the United States.

The world may turn their backs on Israel when the Battle of Gog begins, but God will not.  For the first time in centuries, God will make Himself known in a very obvious way.  Israel will know that God has not forgotten them.  And the rest of the world will know that Israel is still God’s chosen people, the apple of His eye.

As Russia, Turkey, Iran, Libya, Ethiopia, and Germany come against Israel, God will show the fury of His wrath.  There will be an earthquake so great that Ezekiel 38:20 says, “the fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all men who are on the face of the earth shall shake at My presence.”  The mountains will crumble.

God will confuse the Israel’s enemies so that they will destroy each other.  There will be pestilence, flooding rains, hailstones, fire, and brimstone from heaven.  The whole world will know that He is GOD!  At the same time, the homelands of these warring nations will come under God’s judgement, as well.  The death toll of Israel’s enemies will be so great that it will take Israel seven months to bury all the dead, and seven years to completely destroy all of the weapons left by them.

The stage is set.  The only questions remaining are when, and what about the Christians?  Don’t they say anything? Do anything?  Some religious scholars believe that the Rapture will come before this time.  With the disappearance of millions of Christians, the world will be in complete chaos, including the markets, and will create a tremendous need to have control of massive oil reserves.  It would also explain the lack of the voice of the church in defense of Israel.

However, other scholars say that there is no evidence pointing in either direction, and so we Christians could very well be here on earth to witness the Gog/Magog war.

Yeshua said no one knows the day or the hour, not even Him.  However, He didn’t want us to be clueless either.  If He had, He would not have given us all the prophecies and signs that point to the end.  Prophecies are undeniably being fulfilled.  We cannot know the day or hour, but we can recognize the season, and it is now.  Prepare the way of the Lord, for He cometh!!

Keep one eye on Israel, and one eye on the clouds.  Come quickly Lord Yeshua!

*Scripture passages taken from the Tree of Life Version and the New King James Version.

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