March 31, 2015 14:13 PM
In ancient Israel, every male was required to go to Jerusalem and present himself before the Lord during three of the seven annual feasts: Passover, Pentecost and Feast of Tabernacles. But why three feasts? And why these three?
We must remember that numbers have meaning and that the Bible is full of types and shadows. The number three represents completeness as indicated by the Trinity. Also, in the book of Revelation we see the number three repeated numerous times: three measures of barley, three angels, three unclean spirits, great city divided into three, three gates on each side of wall surrounding New Jerusalem, etc.. Therefore, it is no coincidence that these three mandatory feasts taken together as a unit also have meaning, including prophetic meaning.
We know that Passover represents the blood atonement of Jesus, the very payment necessary for us to be forgiven and saved. Pentecost depicts the infilling of the Holy Spirit as illustrated when the Holy Spirit was given to Jesus’ disciples after His resurrection. And Tabernacles speaks of Jesus’ return when He will rule and reign on earth and tabernacle with man. It’s all a roadmap and speaks of progression.
Putting it all together we see a beautiful picture. First, we must accept Jesus, our atonement, before being empowered by the Holy Spirit to live this new life as disciples of Christ. And those who have come through Passover and Pentecost, who have presented themselves to the Lord in fulfillment of their deeper meaning, will then be able to enjoy the Feast of Tabernacles, when our beautiful Savior tabernacles with us, not only in our lives right now, but in the era to come when Jesus literally returns to earth to live with His people.
Our modern Easter, commemorating Jesus’ death and resurrection, is really the Lord’s feast of Passover (and “First Fruits” too) when He became that sacrificial lamb whose blood we must apply to the doorpost of our hearts. And if we do, we shall pass from death into life. Note that the three mandatory feasts are listed in order of how they must be observed. Without Passover, we will never be able to participate in Pentecost and Tabernacles. As we are about to celebrate Easter with family and friends, let us not forget the wonder of what the day represents, as well as remember those, in prayer, who have not yet come into the amazing knowledge that they have a Savior who loves them and calls them by name.
Wishing everyone a very blessed and Happy Easter!
Until next time,
December 22, 2014 15:43 PM
Who were the Magi? Tradition tells us there were three of them who followed a star to Bethlehem, then presented Jesus with gifts. For the most part it’s correct, except the Bible doesn’t tell us the number. I suspect the tradition of “three” came about because the Bible mentions three gifts they brought: gold, frankincense and myrrh; all valuable and all prophetic.
So, were these just “smart” men who happened to be looking up at the sky one day and observed something unusual and decided to investigate? No and no. The magi were elite members of a governing class in Persia or modern day Iran. They were powerful, educated and extremely wealthy, and knew astronomy and prophecy, even Bible prophecy. They were from a special cast called Magoi, from whence the name Magi comes, with no connection to magic. But because of their knowledge of astronomy and prophecy, they were considered a mystical priesthood probably with occult powers. They worshipped the elements: fire, water, earth and air, rather than multiple gods which was more typical of those times. They had great political power that continued throughout several successive empires: Babylon, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Parthian. The Megistanes, comprising their upper council, were the kingmakers of the ancient world. Their decision, even in matters of state, were considered final and binding. No one became king without their approval.
It was during the Babylonian era that the magi became acquainted with the prophet Daniel, a Jewish captive who served more than 70 years at court and who was greatly respected. It was surely during this time the magi became exposed to Jewish scripture and the writings of the Jewish prophets, including Daniel’s. His ninth chapter speaks of the coming Messiah and King. It wasn’t long before the Magi’s religious manifestations heavily reflected aspects of Judaism. Since they were well acquainted with Daniel’s prophecy of the birth of a Messiah and great King they were continually studying the stars looking for signs of His coming. And when they saw it, it compelled them to travel countless miles to lay their treasures before this “promised one” and declare Him “king.”
The delegation of the Magistanes would have included up to a hundred magi, a large entourage of servants, and a vast army to protect them. They would have traveled in grandeur and style, and the sight of them would have inspired not only awe but fear. There was no way Herod dared to lay a finger on them.
So these wise men from the east, these kingmakers, came in great pomp and ceremony to declare Jesus, KING. And their spiritual insight was sufficient that when they saw Jesus, in his humble home as a young toddler, they weren’t fooled. They still recognized Him for who He was.
The Bible tells us that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the place were the lambs for the Temple sacrifice were bred and raised. Did the magi know that this was a foreshadowing of Jesus as the Lamb of God and that before Jesus came as King He must first come as the Lamb to be slaughtered as a sacrifice for us? I don’t know. But they did know that here was a great king, and their presence was a declaration of that fact. And according to their power and authority, this declaration, in the natural, was final and binding.
We know Jesus didn’t need the magi to make Him king. He already was/is/will be. But isn’t it just like God to confirm His plan and purpose? To use the natural to confirm the spiritual? As Christmas nears, let us prepare our hearts to not only accept Jesus as the sacrificial lamb, but as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Wishing you all a very blessed and Merry Christmas!
Until next time,
October 27, 2014 14:53 PM
After the Holy Spirit fell upon Jesus’ disciples, and Peter spoke to the crowd bringing three thousand souls into the Kingdom, we next see him and John going to the Temple to pray. Notice that the infilling of the Holy Spirit didn’t inspire the disciples to start a new religion. They were Jews and their Messiah was a Jew. Their intention was not to split with Judaism but to show their brethren how Jesus had fulfilled Scripture.
Before they could enter the Temple, they encountered a lame beggar by the gate called Beautiful (Acts 3:1-26) It was customary for family and friends to carry their handicapped loved one to various places around the city where there was enough foot traffic to give the injured party a chance to collect alms throughout the day. This alms collection was usually their only livelihood.
Though Peter and John had little in the way of money, their compassion was aroused when they saw the beggar. “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk,” Peter boldly says. And after Peter pulled the man to his feet, the beggar began “walking and leaping and praising God.” Now the people knew this beggar well. They had seen him at the Beautiful gate for years. This was no sham miracle. This was real and they knew it.
At once, Peter began speaking of Jesus and how this whole miracle with the lame beggar was brought about through the power of Jesus and through His name. And the people listened. They listened to Peter talk about how and why Jesus died, then rose again. They listened to Peter talk about Moses and the Law and the prophets and how Jesus fulfilled them all. And Scripture tells us that five thousand of them believed that day(Acts 4:4). Five thousand! The healing of the lame beggar made the people want to hear what Peter said. The expounding of Scripture made them believe in the Healer.
Are miracles still for today? Many say no. But I don’t believe that. I’ve heard too many testimonies of supernatural healing, protection, provision. Many years ago it was customary that when an evangelist entered a new community the first thing he did was to seek out the sickest person in town. Then the evangelist would lay hands on that person and pray for healing. You see, the evangelist expected a healing. He believed God’s word that says, if a believer lays hands on the sick “they shall recover.” And when that sick person did, in fact, recover, the townspeople were open to hearing the Gospel. And then many believed.
Miracles aren’t for show. They are not meant as a theatrical ploy. They are meant to demonstrate to the nonbeliever that Jesus is very real and alive and powerful, and that His message is worthy of being heard. So, have any miracles occurred through my prayers or laying on of hands? Not that I know of. But the fault is mine and not in God’s Word. Though I truly believe that God can and does do miracles today, will He do them through me? And there’s the rub. And that’s the thing many Christians wonder: Will God do miracles through them? His word says, yes. And I think it boils down to this: are we willing to go out on a limb and pray for those who need prayer, and believe God’s Word? All the while understanding that it’s not us, but God working through us as His vessel? If we don’t step out and give Him a chance to use us, how will we ever know?
May God give us all the courage to stand on His Word and be truly used of Him.
Until next time,
October 22, 2014 13:41 PM
I love new beginnings. The starting over, the hint of fresh, is always exciting. And I’m excited about this new series which really isn’t a series at all but a bit of potpourri. What I plan to do is go through the Book of Acts, some of the Epistles, then Revelation. Sprinkled in between will be comments on news articles I find interesting or relevant.
I so enjoyed following the footsteps of Jesus, seeing what He did and said. Believe me, I learned a lot as I went. I now look forward to learning even more as I follow some of the apostles. I think the Book of Acts is a great place to start.
Imagine you’re in an upper room full of frightened men and some women, too. They had seen Jesus’ miracles, heard His preaching, touched His wounds after His resurrection and interacted with Him for 40 days then watched Him ascend into heaven. And they had come to know He was no ordinary man but the very Son of God. Even so, most of them had to be depressed and confused. They had given up everything—family, friends, jobs—to follow someone they believed would overthrow the harsh Roman yoke from their nation and lead them to freedom and into another golden age like that of King David and Solomon’s time. With Jesus’ ascension these hopes were dashed. Now what? Should they go back to their communities and jobs? No. Jesus had told them to tarry in Jerusalem and “wait for the promise of the Father,” the Holy Spirit. But how could it possibly change anything since they no longer had Jesus with them? And how could they ever obey Jesus’ great commission and share the gospel of good news to the world? They were outcasts, even hounded men. Their futures looked bleak. But to their credit they stood together and prayed and even appointed, by lot, another apostle to take the traitor Judas’s place.
And then everything changed. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit came upon them like a mighty rushing wind and as tongues of fire, and filled them. Now instead of being frightened and confused, they became fearless, bold, and more sure of the path they should and would take. When they went outside, crowds gathered and Peter boldly proclaimed the message of salvation. Three thousand souls became Christ-followers that day. Pastor Joseph Prince does a wonderful teaching about how three thousand lost their lives at Mount Sinai when the Law was given to Moses, illustrating that the law kills but that God’s grace saves as shown by the three thousand that obtained the promised of eternal life at Pentecost. Something new had happened. It was a totally new beginning, the beginning of the Church Age.
And something new happens every time someone accepts Jesus for the first time. He becomes a new creature, with possibilities stretching out before him never thought likely. And for those who know Jesus, every day is a new beginning. A chance to start over, to let the Holy Spirit take more control of their lives than He had the day before.
Yes, I sure do love new beginnings.
Until next time,
October 13, 2014 15:56 PM
Before beginning my new series I’d like to reprint this blog from last year about the Feast of Tabernacles, because once again my church is celebrating it. I love this feast. Every year our church celebrates it for eight days and nights. We are now in the fifth day. As I wrote last year, the Feast of Tabernacles is one of seven feasts of the Lord. It commemorates the time when the Jews wandered in the wilderness for forty years and literally tabernacled with God. But it’s so much more. It speaks prophetically of a time when Jesus will return and tabernacle with us here on earth, and set up His thousand year reign. Of course the Spirit of God already tabernacles with all true believers, but the Feast references the physical return of our Lord.
For eight days and nights we praise and worship the Lord. Dancers whirl around with their colored flags, as breathtakingly beautiful banners are paraded through the sanctuary declaring Jesus as “Soon Coming King,” “Lord of Lords,” and “Lion of Judah” making it easy to envision the splendor, or at least a small part of the splendor and pageantry and glory that will accompany the event that all Christendom awaits. And when I glimpse it, it creates such a longing in my heart it actually hurts. Scripture tells us that all creation groans for His return (Romans 8:22-23). I think all our hearts have groaned these past several days. I could see it on the faces around me. They groaned because there was such a sweet presence of the Lord in the sanctuary. And while it was wonderful, we knew it was but a foretaste of things to come, a foretaste when once again God will tabernacle with man, and we would have to wait. I was never good at waiting.
But the Feast does something else for me. It reminds me of the here and now, and how important it is to live life fully for the Lord. He is to be our number one priority followed closely by the people He has placed in our lives. He has a plan and purpose for each of us, and we have only one lifetime to get it right. We need to take this seriously because everyday we don’t, is a lost day.
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God . . . And he had on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11-16).
Oh, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Until next time,
October 7, 2014 14:30 PM
After His horrific crucifixion and agony on the cross Jesus rose three days later, on the Feast of First Fruits. And what a glorious event as well as a future promise that is! Jesus was to be the “first fruits” of many, meaning we, too, who believe in Him will experience resurrection life not only here on earth as Jesus brings us into new life with Him, but in the eternal world to come. It is also a type and shadow of the rapture, a future event when we will be transported from the earth and changed in a twinkling of an eye to be forever with our Lord.
The resurrection left a tomb empty of Jesus, but left several symbols for the believer to see. Going from Matthew to Mark to Luke to John we get a good picture of what followed when, first, two women, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James go to the tomb. There is an earthquake as an angle of the Lord comes from Heaven to roll back the stone, then sits on it (Matthew 28:2). That tells us this is an earth shaking God event. No human hands had a part in it. Even so, the tomb was already empty. The rolling away of the stone was for our benefit, to show the world that Jesus had already risen. And with the angel sitting on the stone, the tomb would forever be symbolically open for all to see the truth should they chose to. Nothing or no one could ever put Jesus back into that tomb.
Even so, a lie was already hatching. When “some of the watch” meaning some of the Roman sentries who were stationed to stand guard over Jesus’ tomb, came before the chief priests and elders and told them what happened, they were given money and a promises of protection if they spread the rumor that Jesus’ disciples had stolen His body while the guards were sleeping. Now sleeping on duty was a capital offense punishable by death. But the guards took the money and did what they were told. Since that day to this there have always been lies told about Jesus, who He is, what He did, etc. All to keep people from understanding the truth.
Mark tells us that three women, which includes Salome and the two mentioned by Matthew, entered the tomb. Here they see a young man in a long white splendid garment sitting on the right. That word “long” in the Greek is ‘makros” and means distant in time or place and is derived from “megas” which means “exceedingly great.” I believe the women were seeing into a distant time and dimension and seeing Jesus sitting at the right hand of God the Father.
Luke goes on to talk about two men standing by the women in the tomb in shining garments. Judging by their magnificent clothing these men were not mere men but angles. That word “shining” in Greek, implies flashes like lightening and the Greek word for “garments” suggests they are grand governmental robes. Also that word “stood” means to stand upon, be present, but it also means superimposed, indicating a supernatural quality. So here we have two angels who appear to the women in a supernatural way, like flashes of lighting and in robes suggesting they have come in power and authority. But why have they come? In Jewish law, the testimony of two or three witness was required to verify a fact. And what fact did they come to verify? Their own words tell us: “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He (Jesus) is not here, but is risen.” (Luke 24:5-6) These angels served as witnesses that Jesus had risen just as He said He would.
Finally in John we see a most wonderful symbol. There in John 20:12 Mary Magdalene looks into the tomb and sees “two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.” What a beautiful picture of the mercy seat in the Jewish Temple with the two golden angels on each end. It was over the mercy seat that the High Priest, each year, poured the sacrificial blood of a spotless lamb, to atone for sins. Jesus, our atonement, whose blood was surely all over that slab of stone on which the two angels sat, has, once and for all, paid the penalty for our sins. There will never be any need for another sacrifice for sin. “It is finished,” and remains only for us to claim it.
Until next time,
September 29, 2014 14:10 PM
My “following Jesus’ footsteps” series is nearly over and will include only two more posts—this week and next. Then I will begin a new series.
Jesus’ mode of death was predicted (Psalm 22) over a thousand years before crucifixion was invented by the Romans. It was a barbaric means of execution; excruciating and often taking days for the victim to die by suffocation. Its cruelty was meant to frighten the populace into submission and was most commonly used to punish rebels. But even before Jesus was nailed to the cross, He endured thirty-nine lashes by a Roman scourge or flagrum. The flagrum was usually made of three thongs containing pieces of metal or bone, and literally ripped out pieces of flesh with every strike. Often this type and number of lashes were enough to kill a man.
But scripture tells us that even more punishment was inflicted on Jesus as a crown of thorns was jammed into His head and sadistic guards beat Him about the face and pulled out his beard. Before that long walk down the Via Dolorosa Jesus was already horribly disfigured and bloody. How He carried the heavy wooden cross-beam across His shoulders is hard to imagine. With every bump or rut in the pavement, Jesus’ body was jarred, causing the wood to rub against His open wounds; all the while, His strength and energy draining from Him with every drop of blood lost.
Finally, Jesus reaches Golgotha, the “place of a skull”. Here He is totally stripped, His manhood exposed before being thrown to the ground and His arms stretched out. Then spikes—seven to nine inches long—were driven through small plaques of wood into His forearms. The plaques were meant to keep the nails from tearing through the flesh and the body pulling away from the cross. Even so, the weight of Jesus’ body will eventually cause the nails to rip through His forearms all the way to the wrists. Next, Jesus’ legs were bent and pulled to the side then spikes driven through other small wooden plaques and into the heels. This position makes it difficult to breathe and each breath is only obtained by the very painful upward push of the body. As Jesus gasps for breath, flies and salty sweat sting and irritate his wounds. And having lost a great deal of bodily fluids, Jesus is parched, causing His tongue to cleave to the roof of His mouth and making it difficult to swallow.
And then the real agony begins, as God the Father attributes to Jesus every sin you and I have ever or will ever commit. One by one our sins are place on Jesus as He takes on their shame and guilt and punishment. We are the rebels. But instead of paying the penalty for rebelling against God, Jesus, executed as a rebel by Rome, pays it for us. And when finally the last sin is paid, Jesus shouts, “It is finished.” That word “finished” is “teleho” in Greek and means “complete, execute, conclude, pay, discharge a debt.” It means every sin has been fully paid for.
When you realize the great price Jesus paid to save us from ourselves it is impossible to see any other way to God. If there was, if there was any other route man could take to be acceptable to God, why in the world would Jesus have ever gone through all of the above?
But we do have one part to play in all this. Universal Salvation is a myth. Yes, Jesus died for every sin committed by every person, but forgives comes only IF we accept what He did. It’s like a poor man having a large savings account. It’s doesn’t do him any good unless he actually makes a withdrawal.
In the end, can we ignore this great love Jesus showed us?
Until next time,
September 23, 2014 16:17 PM
Ever heard of a Shemitah? Me either. That is, not until I listened to Jonathan Cahn, of The Harbinger fame, do a teaching on the “Mystery of the Shemitah”. Cahn spoke about how the Shemitah is an ancient Biblical year of the Sabbath, a time of blessing or judgment, depending upon how a person or even a nation honored or dishonored God. It is a seven year cycle, every seventh year being the Shemitah or Sabbath year. It was during a Shemitah year (2001) that the twin towers in NYC were destroyed. Seven years later (2008), according to the biblical Hebrew calendar and another Shemitah, we experienced a global economic crisis.
Now here we are facing another Shemitah year which will begin in just two days, September 25, 2014, and end September 13, 2015. During this time another curiosity will be added, two blood moons on Jewish Feast Days. In scripture these feasts are not called Jewish feasts but Feasts of the LORD. It is unusual to have four blood moons in a row that fall on Feasts days. One of the blood moons occurred five months ago (April 2014), another will take place in October 2015. The remaining two blood moons will actually take place during the Shemitah. Why is that important?
First, let’s consider the Feasts of the Lord. There are seven in all, and all prophetic. The first three have been fulfilled: 1) Passover = the death of Jesus as the sacrificial lamb 2) Unleavened Bread = the burial of Jesus and 3) First Fruits = the resurrection of Jesus. The fourth feast, Pentecost, is currently playing out. It began in an upper room when the Holy Spirit fell upon Jesus’ frightened disciples. It continues today as the “church age” but in the not too distant future this age will end. God is a God of order. His word is sure. His feasts were designed to give us an understanding of His future plans. So when the “church age” is finally over what’s next? We can know by understanding the three remaining feasts: Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles.
Many believe the Feast of Trumpets is when Jesus will return for his bride, the church. Millions and millions of people will vanish in an instant and the “church age” will be over. Then comes Atonement, the time of great tribulation; a time when the earth and all her inhabitants will be sorely tried and tested. And God’s judgment will be harsh. Then finally, Tabernacles, when Jesus returns to earth and sets up His kingdom, and thereby tabernacles with man.
So what does all this have to do with the Shemitah? Maybe nothing. But scripture tells us that God gave us the sun and moon and seasons (feasts) as signs. The next year, from September 2014 to September 2015 is already full of signs. What they foretell we will know soon enough. There is no point in guessing here. But this I do know, this is no time to be on the fence when it comes to our relationship with God. We need to fully commit and live our lives for Him.
Until next time,
June 30, 2014 14:46 PM
In anticipation of July 4th I’m reposting something I wrote four years ago:
This Friday, people across America will be celebrating Independence Day. In essence it’s the celebration of freedom. And oh, what a great thing that is! And what a great country we live in! Though in some ways I see our freedoms eroding, I believe we still live in a land where we are free to dream and then make those dreams come true; where we are equal in the eyes of the law regardless of our race or social position; where we are free to practice the religion of our choice. But it all came with a price. And someone else had to pay it. It wasn’t free at all. People died, blood was shed, families were separated, and hardships endured, and on July 4th our nation will remember that.
But there’s another freedom, even more precious, that also was paid by blood and separation and hardship. It’s the freedom from sin and death that Jesus purchased for us at the cross. And oh, how costly that freedom was! But how willingly Jesus paid it! Those of us who are called by His name know the freedom of which I speak. It is the freedom that a clear conscience brings after knowing you are forgiven every wretched thing you’ve ever done; the freedom from fear of the future, for our future is in His hands; the freedom that comes in knowing that our eternal destiny is sealed.
I love my country and value it greatly. But our life on this planet is so brief—a passing vapor the Bible calls it—so the freedom we should seek, the freedom we should prize about all others is that which is found in Jesus, for it is the freedom we will enjoy throughout eternity.
Wishing you all a happy 4th! God bless America!
Until next time,
June 23, 2014 12:23 PM
Before Jesus takes His disciples to the Mount of Olives and He is betrayed, He prays for unity not only among His current disciples but all the future disciples to come (John 17:20-23). His prayer is that “they would be one just as He and the Father were one.” For Him to teach this at such a critical time says it must be really important. But why?
Unity is a recurring theme in the Bible and one of eight spiritual laws. In Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let us made man in our image” revealing the unity, the agreement and harmony in the God head, the Trinity. When Adam and Eve sinned, they fell out of agreement and harmony with God and it was up to Jesus to restore it by His sacrifice. In Matthew 18:19-20 Jesus said “whenever two of you on earth agree about anything you pray for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where 2 or 3 come together in my name (in agreement and harmony) I am there in the midst of them,” revealing that there is power in His name, especially in unified prayers.
In fact, unity is so powerful that even when used for evil it can accomplish much as evidenced by the Tower of Babel. Because the people were unified and labored for one purpose, God said in Genesis 11:6, “now nothing they have imagined they can do will be impossible for them.”
Nothing? How tremendous is that? If that can be said about people who are defying God, how much more will it apply to those united in His purposes! Think how that would impact the world! But before we can unite with each other we must be unified within ourselves. James 1:8 tells us that a “double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” And he describes this unstable man in verses 6-7: “he is like the waves of the sea tossed to and fro by the wind. Let not that man think he shall receive anything of the Lord.” Matthew 6:24 tells us that “no man can serve two masters.” So as strange as it may sound, we need to be in harmony with ourselves. We need to know what we believe, what we stand for, then live it. And we also need to be unified with God, with His desires, His purposes and not our own.
And once we are so unified, then we will be able to come into unity with those around us: our families, our coworkers, our community, our country—in mission and purpose, working toward a common good or goal. In Matthew 12:25 Jesus says, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”
I think that’s what we are seeing in our country right now. We have forgotten that we are all in this together. We have forgotten the common good. We have forgotten that we can be unified and still diverse. We are not called to be clones or robots. 1Corinthians 12:4-7 tells us that “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service but the same God gives abilities to everyone for their particular service.”
So though we are different, we can still function in unity. And why is that so important, especially for the body of Christ? John 17:20-23 hints at the answer: So the world can see Jesus in us. And so we can accomplish much for God.
So how important is unity? Vital if we want to reach the world for Jesus. And for Christians, Godly diversity should never be an excuse for disunity.
Until next time,