PRAISE TO HIM WHO SITS UPON THE THRONE, AND TO THE LAMB!

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

Ex 12:1-7   And Yehovah spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be to you the beginning of months/new things.  It shall be the first month of the year to you.  Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth of this month they shall take to them each man a lamb for a father’s house, a lamb for a house.  And if the household is too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbor next to his house take according to the number of the souls, each one, according to the eating of his mouth, you shall count concerning the lambYour lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year.  You shall take from the sheep or from the goats.  And you shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month.  And the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall slaughter it in the evening.  And they shall take some of the blood and strike on the two side posts and upon the upper door post of the houses in which they shall eat it.

Ex 12:11-14   . . .It is Yehovah’s Passover.  For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast.  And I will execute judgments against all the gods of Egypt.  I am Yehovah.  And the blood shall be a sign to you upon the houses where you are.  And when I see the blood, I will pass over you.  And the plague shall not be upon you for a destruction when I smite in the land of Egypt.  And this day shall be a memorial to you.  And you shall celebrate it as a feast to Yehovah throughout your generations.  You shall keep it as a feast by a law forever.

Is 53:7   He was oppressed, and He was afflicted; yet He opened not His mouth. He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before its shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.

Mt 5:3-5   Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.  Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Mt 11:28-30   Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke on you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

Mt 1: 18-23   Now the birth of Jesus Christ was this way: after His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.  Then Joseph, her husband to be, being just, and not willing to make her a public example, purposed to put her away secretly.  And as he thought upon these things, behold, an angel of Yehovah appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take to you Mary as your wife.  For that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she shall bear a son, and you shall call His name JESUS/YESHUA, for He shall save His people from their sins.  Now all this happened so that might be fulfilled that which was spoken of the LORD by the prophet, saying, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive in her womb, and will bear a son.  And they will call His name Immanuel,” which being interpreted is, God with us.

Lk 2:30-35   For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel.  And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken by him.  And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, Behold, this One is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign spoken against (yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also), so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

Jn 1:29    . . .Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Mt 27:25-26,29-30   Then all the people answered and said, Let His blood be on us and on our children.  Then he released Barabbas to them.  And when he had flogged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. . . . And plaiting a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand.  And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, Hail, O King of the Jews!  And spitting on Him, they took the reed and struck Him on His head.

Lk 23:34a   And Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.

1Cor 5:7   . . .Messiah, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.

2Cor 13:4   For even if He was crucified out of weakness, yet He lives by the power of God.  For indeed even we are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him by the power of God toward you.  

1Pt 1:17-19   And if you call on the Father, who without respect of persons judges according to the work of each one, pass the time of your earthly residence in fear, knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.  

Rev 5   And I saw a book in the right hand of Him sitting on the throne, written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.  And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book and to loosen its seals?  And no one in Heaven, nor on the Earth, nor under the earth, was able to open the book or to look at it.  And I wept very much, because no one was found worthy to open and to read the book, nor to look at it.  And one of the elders said to me, Do not weep.  Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the book and to loose the seven seals of it

And I looked, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, amidst the elders, a Lamb stood, as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.  And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him sitting on the throne.  And when He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one having harps and golden vials full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.  And they sang a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the book and to open its seals, for You were slaughtered and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation. And You made us kings and priests to our God, and we will reign over the earth.  

And I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and the living creatures and the elders.  And the number of them was myriads and myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a great voice, Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.  And I heard every creature which is in the Heaven and on the Earth, and under the earth, and those that are in the sea, and all who are in them, saying, Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him sitting on the throne, and to the Lamb forever and ever.  And the four living creatures said, Amen.  And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the One living forever and ever.

Rev 6:12-17   And when He had opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake.  And the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood.  And the stars of heaven fell to the Earth, even as a fig tree casts her untimely figs when she is shaken by a mighty wind.  And the Heavens departed like a scroll when it is rolled together.  And every mountain and island were moved out of their places.  And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every freeman, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains.  And they said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him sitting on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of His wrath has come, and who will be able to stand?

Rev 7:1-4   And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth so that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.  And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God.  And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the Earth and the sea, saying, Do not hurt the Earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads.  And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousands, having been sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel.

Rev 7:9-17   After these things I looked, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, out of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palms in their hands.  And they cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God sitting on the throne, and to the Lamb.  And all the angels stood around the throne, and the elders, and the four living creatures, and they fell before the throne on their faces and worshiped God, saying, Amen!  Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever.  Amen.  

And one of the elders answered, saying to me, Who are these who are arrayed in white robes, and from where do they come?  And I said to him, Sir, you know.  And he said to me, These are the ones who came out of the great tribulation and have washed their robes, and have whitened them in the blood of the Lamb.  Therefore they are before the throne of God, and they serve Him day and night in His temple.  And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them.  They will not hunger any more, nor thirst any more, nor will the sun light on them, nor any heat.  For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and will lead them to the fountains of living waters. And God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.

Rev 12:10-11   And I heard a great voice saying in Heaven, Now has come the salvation and power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Messiah/Christ.  For the accuser of our brethren is cast down, who accused them before our God day and night.  And they overcame him by of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony. And they did not love their soul until death.

Rev 19:6-8   And I heard as the sound of a great multitude, and as the sound of many waters, and as the sound of strong thunders, saying, Hallelujah!  For Yehovah God omnipotent reigns!  Let us be glad and rejoice and we will give glory to Him.  For the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself.  And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white. For the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints.

Rev 21:9-10,12,14,22-23   And one of the seven angels who had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, Come here, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of Heaven from God. . . . she had a great and high wall with twelve gates. . .and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the Children of Israel. . . .And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them were the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. . . . And I saw no temple in it, for Yehovah God of Hosts and the Lamb are its temple.  And the city had no need of the sun, nor of the moon, that they might shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb.

Rev 22:1-6   And he showed me a pure river of Water of Life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.  In the midst of its street, and of the river, from here and from there, was the Tree of Life, which bore twelve fruits, each yielding its fruit according to one month.  And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  And every curse will no longer be; but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will serve Him.  And they will see His face, and His name will be in their foreheads.  And there will be no night there.  And they need no lamp, or light of the sun; for Yehovah God gives them light.  And they will reign forever and ever.  And he said to me, These sayings are faithful and true. And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show to His servants the things which must shortly be done.


(2 Tim 4:1; Heb 10:26-31   Yeshua, the Son of God and Son of Man, will judge the living and the dead, because He is the Lamb who was slaughtered and crucified, shedding His blood, to redeem us that we might be saved to live with God forever.  God the Creator will judge each one in his relationship to the Redeemer Lamb and to His blood.)

SUNDAY

Lev 23:10-12  Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, When you have come into the land which I give to you, and shall reap the harvest of it, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.  And he shall wave the sheaf before Yehovah to be received for you. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.  And you shall offer that day when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering to Yehovah.

Act 13:32-33  And we proclaim glad tidings to you, the promise made to the fathers, that this God has fulfilled to us their children, raising up Yeshua, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “You are My Son, this day I have begotten You.”

Ps 118:19-24  Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go into them, and I will praise Yehovah. This is the gate of Yehovah into which the righteous shall enter. I will praise You; for You have heard me, and are my salvation. The Stone which the builders refused has become the Head of the corner. This is from Yehovah; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which Yehovah has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Rev 1:9-11  I, John, who also am your brother and companion in the affliction, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the island that is called Patmos, for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. Also, What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches. . . .

IN DEFENSE OF CHRISTMAS – 25 Dec 2012

As a Jew, I didn’t want to celebrate Christmas when I became a believer, partly because it wasn’t “Jewish”, and partly because it was too paganized and commercialized. But the Lord began to show me that my reasons were not all correct. In my other words, I was throwing the baby out with the bath water. The truth of God is not pagan, and it happened right here in Israel among Jewish people, as prophesied by the prophets of YHVH  long before.

Much of what people do with God’s holy things is to defile them, to paganize them, and Satan is the cheerleader in this, along with our own propensity to be drawn away by what seems ‘good in our eyes’, and to fit in with the surrounding unholy and unclean culture.  As a Jew, I have examined and judged myself and my people for FIRST doing what Christians also do; yet, we continue to keep the Passover (in the light of the New Covenant and greater Passover). We continue to acknowledge Purim and Hanukkah, even though, like Christmas, God did not ordain them, but believers did unto Him and for the people to celebrate God’s mighty acts on their behalf, in keeping with His covenantal promises, despite their own general and widespread unfaithfulness and tendency to heathen practices.  Purim especially has been paganized, and is more like Carnival and Halloween.  God has historically intervened in the lives of His people and of the rest of humanity, redeeming days, etc., so that these times become connected with His redemption, while remaining mere worldly, even pagan, occasions for those not in covenant relationship with Him

It is true, as the Lord spoke through Amos and others, that He hates our sacrifices and fasts and holidays: in other words, when we are doing them according to our own understanding and culture, and not for Him and His honor. That is what I am trying to express: that we should keep His celebrations as a freewill offering in a manner that does honor and please Him, and fills us with thanksgiving and joy in the Holy Spirit. And I do believe that there is much more evidence in Scripture to warrant Yeshua’s birth around this time (Haggai 2 refers several times to the 24th of the 9th [Hebrew Israeli] month Chislev, which corresponds with the first night of Hanukkah that occurred hundreds of years later and corresponds to the Western Christian calendar of the evening of 24th of December), but did not fulfill what the last verses speak of: Yeshua’s coming in the flesh at birth does begin that overthrow, first in our own hearts, and ultimately in all peoples and nations, including Israel. Mary’s new song in Luke 1 expresses her own understanding in faith and hope of what the Lord spoke through Haggai, and other prophets.  The true and brighter and eternal Light that shines in the darkness is not extinguished, and should be given much higher priority over celebrations of mere oil or candle lights that burn out.

The reason that Jewish people as a whole do not celebrate the Lord’s birth is because they do not believe in Jesus, even though the first ones who did celebrate with the angels were Israeli Jews! Neither do the Jewish people, along with many nominal Christians, celebrate His resurrection, also because of unbelief. But the Holy Spirit has brought Gentile Christians into the Commonwealth of Israel through their faith in the promised Messiah to Israel, and have celebrated His life, and His suffering and death, and His resurrection and ascension, and the hope of His coming again — whether with faith or without — for most of this age.

I have put together a timeline that brings together and reconciles all of the appointed/set times, and those which God accepted from His people, to show Yeshua’s birth:  http://streamsinthenegev.com/school-of-fish/conception-and-birth-of-john-the-baptiser-and-jesus-the-messiah/

Just as the second coming of the Lord will be at a time, and a day and an hour, not expected, well. . . it seems that so was His first coming!  The winter objection pre-supposes that the God of Nature can not do something extraordinary to declare His glory, just as I believe He did the night of the Lord’s betrayal, when it was so chilly on a Spring night (and it’s possible that Passover was a late date that year), that Peter and others kept themselves warm with a fire. And the sheep, as far as I have heard others say, were sacrificial sheep, and were handled differently, and were outside yearly. But since these things are not understood by ‘babes’ anyway, they are not central to resolving the controversy. That Jesus ‘tabernacled’ with us does not mean that He was therefore born at the Feast of Tabernacles, which actually is the Feast of Booths (succot). The Hebrew word for tabernacle is mishkan, and is more permanent than a temporary booth. And the priestly course of Abia (Aviyah) is not certain of its annual cycle, nor can we be sure of how the Jewish rulers at that time were regulating matters, since the whole system had become corrupt. But I have read sites that have decided to assume a particular cycle and time, but acknowledging that if another were taken, then it puts John’s father in the Holy Place at a time in a context that Yeshua would be born as tradition maintains. The whole counsel of God together unfolds His revelatory plan and purpose, and Scripture interprets Scripture, and the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus.

Since YHVH is a Man of War and the God of Armies/Hosts, He is not going to reveal things before it’s necessary, because there is an enemy with certain liberty to do what he will in this world, who likes to pre-empt things to ‘muddy the waters’, like he has with the Queen of Heaven, and the whole saturnalia bit. Even if the date of Christmas is the same as saturnalia, the God of gods has come and taken the day for Himself! Passover is celebrated by the heathen and unbelieving Jews even as merely a Spring festival and celebration of freedom. But God’s freedom is for us to serve and worship Him, not to remain independent from Him nor to remain slaves to sin and unbelief.

Despite all, let us take a stand of faith for the name of Christ/Messiah, who is Jesus/Yeshua, our great God and Savior.

God bless you, and, yes, Merry Christmas, and a blessed 2013 in Messiah,
Howard

THE GREAT COMMISSION AND THE LORD’S PRAYERS

–Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Mt 6:33 

Great Commission (Mt 28:18-20)
   –till end of age
   –fullness of Gentiles towards Israel’s salvation  

“Lord’s Prayer” (Mt 6:9-15)
  –actually prayer for disciples and family
  –sanctification of God the Father’s name (3rd Commandment)
  –anticipation and expectation of coming Kingdom of God to Earth over Israel and the nations
  –seeking first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness
    –must forgive
    –not to worry about most basic of human needs:  food, clothing, covering
      –serving God, not mammon
  –fear of God to shun evil
  –living faith and trust in YHVH that He – and we – will prevail, overcome over evil
    –God’s plan, not ours; God’s righteous paths in His grace and mercy, not our own sense of righteousness and judgment; God’s work – believe in Jesus – not our works  

Yeshua’s intercessory prayer for us, not for the world (Jn 17:9, 15-26)
  –Jesus now seated at the right hand of the Father (Eph 1:20-21)
    –the day is still to come for Him to stand as a Lamb, even though a Lion (Rev 5:4-6)
  –love and unity in the truth as proof of who Jesus/Yeshua is, and of the Father’s love for us in Him
    –Local believers and congregations/churches to care for each other for Messiah and the gospel’s sake  

God has something far better in mind than what any nation or government could ever accomplish.  He will even make peace with and among the animals, for example. (Is 11:6-9; Hos 2:18 Eng 20 Heb); Ezek 34:25-28 

We are called and sent out to be ambassadors of Christ, of another King, of another Kingdom.  

Let us do all we can to give people, at the least, to respect – and even to fear —  the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so that they might find mercy when the wrath of God is poured out on those who refuse to repent from evil and to turn to that which is good.

BIRTH, DEATH, AND GOOD FRIDAY OF MESSIAH YESHUA THE LORD – 12 Dec 2012

I just did a quick count-down and count-up and came to this conclusion on this fourth day of Hanukkah:  if Jesus died in 30 AD (which is 40 years before the Temple’s destruction; mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 39b, and also referred to in the Jerusalem Talmud; see http://www3.telus.net/public/kstam/en/temple/details/evidence.htm  ), and was 33 1/2 yrs old (having begun His 3 1/2 yr public ministry when He was about 30 years old, then He was born in Dec., 5 B.C., by my reckoning. http://streamsinthenegev.com/school-of-fish/conception-and-birth-of-john-the-baptiser-and-jesus-the-messiah/  (If He were born in 2 B.C., because of Herod dying in 1 BC instead of in 4 BC before Passover, then His death would have been in 33 AD, which reduces the forty years from the rent veil till the Temple’s destruction).  The magi from the East could have seen His star up to a couple of years before they actually arrived in Bethlehem, Israel.

Yeshua, as the Passover Lamb, began His last week (Passion Week) in Jerusalem on Sunday, the first day of the week (the day after the Sabbath), which would have been the 10th day of the first month (Nisan) leading up to the Passover.  He was “examined” until the 14th of the month (Ex 12), and was found without spot or blemish by the people, by the Jewish rulers (they needed false witnesses in order to “make” Him guilty and condemn Him), and by Pilate and Herod.  He was crucified and died on the afternoon of the 14th of the month, Thursday.  This also fulfills the prophecy connected with Jonah, that Jesus would be in the heart of the Earth for three days and three nights, rising early on the first day of the week as the first-fruits from among the dead, the day after the Sabbath.

“Good Friday” would have been a Sabbath as being the first full day of Passover (Lev 23); and I believe it is called Good Friday because believers — after the fact (and the Holy Spirit from the beginning) — would have come to understand that what took place the day before was actually the greatest victory of all ages and the essence of the Good News and the New Covenant:  Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and to bury our sins with Him, fulfilling the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread at the appointed time of the 15th day of the first month!  HalleluYah!

The Hebrew/Jewish/Messianic roots of New Testament faith are found in the Word of God given to and through Israel.

PRIESTS AND PRIESTHOOD

1Pt 2; Ex 19:6   But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for a possession, so that you might speak the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light….  

The last few weeks we have been speaking of Jeremiah and others who were called and chosen by God to work together with Him, according to His purpose.  In this verse we can see that a primary purpose for which God has called and chosen us is to be a praise to Him who is worthy of all praise.  

What is it to be a priest and a priesthood?  Let’s consider some other verses from the Scriptures to help us know and understand, and to live in the truth:  

Gen 14:18-20a   And Melchizedek the king of Salem brought forth bread and wine. And he was the priest of God Most High.  And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of Heaven and earth.  And blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand.…  

The first priest mentioned in the Bible is Melchizedek.  He serves God Most High (El Elyon); he blessed Abram who also belongs to El Elyon; and he blessed El Elyon, who enabled Abram to defeat his enemies who had taken his relatives captive.  A priest is one who blesses others in the name of the Lord, and who blesses God for His greatness.  Notice that Melchizedek gave Abram bread and wine, the reminders of the sacrificial foundation of all praise and blessing.  

Num 1:47-50   But the Levites, according to the tribe of their fathers, were not numbered among them.  For Yehovah had spoken to Moses saying, Only you shall not number the tribe of Levi, neither take the sum of them among the sons of Israel.  But you shall set the Levites over the tabernacle of testimony, and over all its vessels, and over all its things. They shall carry the tabernacle and all its vessels. And they shall serve it, and shall camp around the tabernacle.  

The Tribe of Levi was called out of the rest of the Children of Israel to serve YHVH as priests.  They were no longer of Israel, while yet they were still related by flesh and blood.  They were separated unto the Lord and service to Him firstly, and then to the rest of their brethren, the Children of Israel, in His Name.  In other words, the priests were holy.  This was to be a service done in love with thanksgiving 

Dt 18:1-2   The priests, the Levites, all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel. They shall eat the offerings of Yehovah made by fire, and His inheritance.  Therefore they shall have no inheritance among their brothers.  Yehovah is their inheritance, as He has said to them 

All of the priests together had no inheritance of land with the rest of their extended family.  What was God’s was theirs!  The whole land was His; by being scattered throughout the land serving the other tribes, they, as a tribe, would inherit the whole, while possessing none of it themselves.  YHVH had told them that HE was their inheritance.  The ministry of the priesthood was their their inheritance to perform it.  

Levi 22:9   And they shall keep My ordinance, lest they bear sin for it, that they may not die for it when they defile it.  I, Yehovah, sanctify them  

Heb 2:11   For both He who sanctifies and they who are sanctified are all of one, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brothers…

Priests are given much honor by being chosen by the Lord to be His, and to represent Him to the people even as they represent the people before God.  The priests carry a heavy responsibility to keep the commandments of the Lord because it is He who has sanctified them – makes them holy.  By keeping His commandments, they sanctify themselves for His sake, and for their own peace and joy, too.  Otherwise, they are guilty of defiling themselves by defiling, dishonoring God’s good and holy commandments 

Levi 18:27   For the men of the land who were before you have done all these [sexual] abominations, and the land is defiled 

1Cor 6:18-20   Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits fornication sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit in you, whom you have of God? And you are not your own, for you are bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s 

Heb 13:4   Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled, but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.  

Mk 7:20-23   And He said, That which comes out of the man is what defiles the man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,  thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:  All these evil things pass out from inside and defile the man.  

Defilement is often associated with sexual immorality and immoral lust, that is, any sex outside the marital relationship, or pornographic thoughts or lust in the heart.  That which is in the heart will come out!  We see here again the truth expressed that in Christ/Messiah we have become joined with the Lord; therefore if we defile our bodies, it brings dishonor not only to ourselves, but even to the name of Jesus/Yeshua.  He who sanctifies, and he who is sanctified are one.  It defiles the ‘land’; it defiles the Kingdom of God on the earth.  We sin against our own bodies, according to the Word of God.  As priests of God in Christ, we have both the honor and the challenge to keep ourselves pure, even as He is pure.  In today’s world, this is a great challenge to love and to trust Jesus for to overcome.   

Ezek 44:23-24   And they shall teach My people to discern between the holy and common, and between the unclean and the clean.  And in a dispute they shall stand in judgment; and they shall judge it according to My judgments. And they shall keep My Laws and My statutes in all My assemblies, and they shall keep My Sabbaths holy.  

All priests are in a relationship with the Lord in a more personal way than others:  we have access in Christ to the Holy of Holies, into the very presence of God at the throne of grace.  In Ps 73, Asaph the priest begins writing about how he almost fell from the faith as he saw the wicked prospering.  He could not understand the righteousness of this before God, whom he served with all his heart in holiness.  What was the point, if the wicked prosper and the righteous “can’t have fun”.  Asaph did not understand, until he went into the sanctuary, into the holy presence of God, and understood that a day of judgment would come, and the wicked would no longer prosper, and the righteous would be rewarded.  

As believers in Jesus, we are called and chosen to be priests, holy to God, to instruct other believers first of all to discern between what is precious to God and has eternal value, and what is merely ‘of the world’.  We are to behave ourselves in a way that is ‘clean’, and not causing ‘little ones to stumble’.  We are to mature in godliness, being conformed to the image of the Son of God, being transformed from what is acceptable to the world, but not to God.  We offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.

In Ps 82 (Jn 10:34-36), the priest Asaph again writes by the Holy Spirit that those to whom the Word of God came to judge righteously were the leaders in Israel.  God says that they are judging unrighteously, acting as mere men than as those who represent the Judge of the whole Earth.  If we are to judge between good and evil, between the innocent and the guilty, we need to know God’s word, His commandments, His laws and ways.  Every earthly lawyer and judge are held to high standards of upholding the laws of their country.  How much more so should we, as priests of God in Christ, uphold the Law of His Kingdom in all things?  

The blood of the cross, the death of our Lord and Savior because of our sinful nature and way of life needs to take deep root in our souls so that we will value more and more what a great God we serve who has loved us so much to pay such a price.  He/She who is forgiven much loves more.  Like Asaph, we must see things from the perspective of God’s holy and righteous throne.  If we are to judge matters according to the authority of GOD’s authority and will, we will be as merciful as possible, for we are all sinners, and we will uphold the truth of God’s Word 

Rev 5:9-10   And they sang a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the book and to open its seals, for You were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation.  And You made us kings and priests to our God, and we will reign over the earth 

Are we singing a new song?  Is our life changing in ways that we ‘march to a different drummer’?  Yeshua has been crucified to redeem us from every kind of people to be a kingdom of priests, ruling and reigning with Him when He returns to establish the Kingdom of God on the Earth, with its center in Jerusalem and Israel.  Our lives now are in preparation for that day:  are we preparing?  Do we see that GOD has a purpose, and He has called us into it to work together with Him?  

To be a king is to have authority to rule, and in God’s kingdom that authority is based on His holiness and righteousness.  To be a priest is to minister unto God in faithful love, and to minister unto the people as those who know God, what honors Him, what pleases Him; for we do so in His Name.  The king is subject to the High Priest:  there were priests before there were kings, and it is the duty of priests to maintain the righteousness and holiness of God’s law.  The prophets received their authority from the Lord to speak in His name His word – to priests, to kings, to the people – to bring all people to obey the true God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob; the God of Israel; the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  These three – prophet, priest, and king – are all part of our calling and chosenness in Messiah – the Anointed One:  the Prophet; the great High Priest; the King of kings.  

Some of you have known from an early age that you wanted to be an engineer, a musician, a doctor, or a teacher; and if you were serious, you prepared for that by making choices in your life which would better make you ready and open the door for you to be accepted at a certain school or by a particular business or hospital.  So, too – and even more so – should we, when we understand that for which we have been called by the Lord, put aside those things which hinder, and focus on the life which God has promised in His Kingdom to those who love Him.  

Heb 13:14-16   For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.  By Him, then, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, confessing His name.  But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.  

We see here, as for the Levites, that the priests of God in Messiah have no possession of any land here.  Yeshua is our inheritance, and we are His; and with Him we will inherit all things in the world to come.  Until then, we sacrificially serve God and others, to the glory of His Name.

ARE BELIEVERS TO TAKE THE KINGDOM OF GOD BY VIOLENCE/FORCE? – Part 2

Mt 11:12-13   And from the days of John the Baptiser until now the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.  For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.   

Lk 16:16   The Law and the Prophets were until John.  Since that time the Kingdom of God is preached, and everyone is pressing into it. 

Yeshua said that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth, and explain the things which He taught; which, He also said, are not always easy to understand at first.

Do you hear what the Lord is saying here in these passages?  The Kingdom of GOD is being preached now, and violent, forceful people are attempting to take what belongs to Jesus.  All of the Law and the Prophets spoke of Yeshua/Jesus.  John the Baptiser was sent by God to prepare the way for Yeshua. 

Those who try to force their way in and pretend to be heirs of the Kingdom mislead others and threaten the true believers, especially the weak and immature.  The response to the preaching of the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven in Jesus Christ has been mostly opposition. (Mt 11; 12; Ps 2)  The whole context of these verses we have read is one of others who are opposed to Jesus and His message.  In Jn 10, Yeshua speaks of Himself as the Good Shepherd in contrast to the false shepherds – the zealots – who wanted to raise a rebellion against Rome, much like the Maccabees in their victory over the Greek Hellenists.  Others with religious and political influence neither believed the Scriptures nor in the power of God.  Other elites sitting in the seat of authority thought that they were deserving of the kingdom and sought to keep others from entering in, even to kill the Heir in their lack of brotherly love, thinking that by this murder they would get the inheritance that is rightfully His. 

Within the Lord’s ‘inner circle, there are some who, naively in their zeal, do not know what spirit they are of, and want to bring down fire from heaven to destroy those who do not yet give honor to the Lord. (Lk 9:53-56)  Others, to our grief, scheme with the enemy to betray Jesus and His interests, thinking to force His hand to suit their personal ambitions and dishonesty.

There is a spirit at work still today that would have some believers take the nations and the world for Jesus, scornful of the blessed hope that Jesus is coming again, and prepared to subject (by force, if necessary) to themselves those who do not agree with them, or else curse them for being ‘not with the program’.   

Yeshua will BREAK THROUGH!  He will suddenly come back from the heavenly Zion to the earthly Zion — and take Israel and the other nations for His inheritance, judging all those who are opposed to Him!

“Violent men want to storm Heaven, to be like God, and to rule the world.”  This is what Satan has done and is doing, and he is lying and deceiving the whole world concerning the truth of who Jesus Christ is.  God has decreed that His Son Yeshua will rule over the world and take away its sin and rebellion.  At the baptism of Yeshua by John, not only did the Holy Spirit descend in bodily form as a dove to rest on Yeshua, but God’s voice was heard from Heaven, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”.  After the immersion, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, and after 40 days without food and drink, the devil comes to tempt Jesus on this very issue:  “If you are the Son of God. . .”

The enemy says, “I will seize the kingdom by tempting the Son of God to submit to me”.  Not succeeding there, he actively works to put to death the Son, the Heir’; and then, while Yeshua was suffering on the cross, Satan tempts Him once more, taunting Him to come down from the cross.  The devil is today stirring up hatred and opposition among the nations against Israel to destroy her.  But it is ISRAEL to where Yeshua will return, and from where He will rule and reign over all the Earth, as in Heaven.

Evil men have sought to rule the world from long ago by force of might, or of personality, or of ‘rights’ – any way except God’s way!. (Dan 11:36-39)  But Jesus, the King of kings, and Lord of lords gave His life a ransom to redeem the hearts and minds of whomsoever, and to restore the Kingdom of GOD in their lives.  The Lion of the Tribe of Judah came as a Lamb, and He was slain.  The Fearless One manifested His glory in humility.  It is clear from Satan’s attacks and temptations that both the cross and the truth of being a son of God are the only ways to receive the Kingdom of God.

YHVH said the it is not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit (Zech 4:6) that His Kingdom will be established.  On the evening that Yeshua was betrayed, when Peter tried to protect Him with the sword, Yeshua said, “Put your sword in its place, for all who live by the sword will die by the sword.  Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than 12 legions of angels?!  How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” (Mt 26:52-54) Before Pontius Pilate, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (Jn 18:36)

Yeshua, to close His teaching and preaching (in Mt 11) in the cities of His disciples before sending them out, calls whosoever will hear and do:  “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Mt 11:28-30)

The writer to the Hebrews tells believers that “there remains, therefore, a rest for the people of God.  For he who has entered [God’s] rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.  Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.” (Heb 4:9-11)

Why is all this so important?  Because we will live according to what we believe if we are honest with ourselves.  Our hearts can deceive us; we can sincerely believe the wrong thing, like Peter.  It is my job and responsibility as the pastor and a teacher to help us all to gain Messiah/Christ – with all our energy invested in that.  The only way to obtain the Kingdom of God is through Jesus and His cross, and whoever comes in that way receives the Spirit of Son-ship.  Satan says to put down the cross:  it’s heavy; it’s a humiliation; there’s an easier way.  Yeshua says that whoever would be His disciple must deny himself, pick up his cross daily, and follow Him.

Let’s finish by reading what the apostle Paul learned from being a disciple of Yeshua, in Phlp 3:7 – 4:1:

“But whatever things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.  But no, rather, I also count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them to be dung, so that I may win Christ and be found in Him; not having my own righteousness, which is of the Law, but through the faith of Christ, the righteousness of God by faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable to His death;  if by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead.

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I am pressing on, if I may lay hold of that for which I also was taken hold of by Christ Jesus.  My brothers, I do not count myself to have taken possession, but one thing I do, forgetting the things behind and reaching forward to the things before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Let us therefore, as many as are mature, be of this mind. And if in anything you are otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this to you.  Yet, as to what we have already attained, let us walk in the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

Brothers, be imitators together of me, and mark those who walk this way, for you have us for a pattern.  (For many are walking, of whom I have told you often and now tell you even weeping, as the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, those who mind earthly things.)  For our citizenship is in Heaven, from which also we are looking for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our body of humiliation so that it may be fashioned like His glorious body, according to the working of His power, even to subdue all things to Himself

Therefore, my brothers, ones loved and longed for, my joy and crown, stand fast in this way in the Lord, beloved ones.”

ARE BELIEVERS TO TAKE THE KINGDOM OF GOD BY VIOLENCE/FORCE? – Part 1

There are a number of passages in the Bible which are sources of controversy and even of division within the Body of Messiah:  Israel, Yeshua/Jesus, the Bible itself, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, certain gifts of the Holy Spirit, the rapture of believers, and more.  The wisdom of God is far above ours, and the devil is smart enough to know how to sow confusion into everything.  It is for us, in the fear of the Lord, to seek true knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, so as to know our Father in Heaven better, and to be faithful as His sons and daughters in our lives and testimonies of our faith in Jesus.  The Holy Spirit is given us to lead us into all truth once we have come to believe that Jesus and the Bible is the truth.

I speak much about the fact that God has a plan, and that we need to see things and to make decisions in the light of His purposes.  We have spoken of prayers and intercessions, and how that the Lord is working to bring us more into His way so that we would pray more intelligently in accord with the name of Jesus, having confidence, then, that God will not only hear, but answer.  There is a sense that a breakthrough is necessary soon by the Holy Spirit to move us on together, not only as one local congregation, but also within our personal and family lives, and the Body of Christ nationally and globally.  The true gospel of the true Jesus needs to be preached and heard, and believers need to press on to the fullness of Messiah.

One such passage, which we find in two of the gospel accounts, over which there are two interpretations, each one opposing the other, is this:

Mt 11:12-13   And from the days of John the Baptizer until now the Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.  For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.

Lk 16:16-17   The Law and the Prophets were until John.  Since that time the Kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it.  And it is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for one tittle of the Law to fail.

There is a passage in one of the prophets which speaks to that time of John, who prepared the way for the Lord Jesus; and it speaks to our day, for the final breakthrough is drawing near at the second coming.

Mic 2:12-13 (Jn 10:1-16)   I (YHVH) will surely assemble all of you, O Jacob.  I will surely gather the remnant of Israel.  I will put them together like sheep of the fold (Botzrah), like a flock in the midst of their pasture.  There will be a loud noise of man.  The Breaker (one who breaks open) will go up before them; they will break out, pass through the gate, and go out by it.  And their King will pass before them, and YHVH at their head.

There are passages of Scripture that do have two opposing interpretations:  for example, the Law is good and holy and righteous, and will be fulfilled completely.  However, it is for sinners, not for the righteous; it is for children and slaves, not for the mature and free.  Being that none of us are as yet perfected, we still have need of some rules and regulations, but if we truly understand what it is to be under grace, we do not need to be under law, whether or not we are Jews.

We will look first at the connection with Micah, and of John’s call to repentance in the spirit of Elijah.  In both there is the preparation of the sheep, of God’s flock, of God’s people for the coming of the Lord Messiah.  It is the Messiah who is the One who breaks open the way, and there is a certain “violence” and “force” in Yeshua opening the way, and in His sheep going through the way which He has just opened.

A sheepfold (dir k’vasim) is a place of incarceration (k’li’a), and of protection.  When the shepherd wants to let his sheep out of the fold (mikh’la), especially when there is danger inside, as when a wolf gets in, the good shepherd protects the sheep and brings them to the gate to let them out to safety.  Coming to the one door, the sheep crowd each other, they are in a close and tight place together, there is a bit of a panic and lots of noise from fear and of discomfort, and all are pushing on each other in hope of being near the door to safety when it is opened for them to go out.  There is a violence and forcefulness in getting to the right place when the one who breaks open does open the door to safety and freedom.

This was what John the Baptizer was doing; he was preparing the way of YHVH; he was preparing the way for Yeshua to come.  John was not the Messiah; he was not Elijah; he was a voice crying in the wilderness for a baptism of repentance in preparation for the Holy One of Israel who was coming to free His sheep – His people – those who recognize and obey His voice.  As John went preaching repentance, and baptizing those who recognized their need for the freedom and peace of a new life from their sinful ways, the multitude came to him, who was preparing the way; he was not The Way.

Jesus came the first time, and declared that He is the Door of the sheep; He is the Good Shepherd, who gives His life for the sheep. (Jn 10:1-16)  Jesus gives a similar illustration of this narrowing of the way in which those who want life will follow Him:  wide is the road which leads to destruction, but narrow is the gate and the way which leads to everlasting life. (Mt 7:13-14)  As His disciples get brought into this narrow road, we are brought very close and crowded together.  We are going to be very uncomfortable; we are going to be pressing in and not so calm, and probably not so peaceable.  And Yeshua our Lord and Shepherd at our head is leading us to safety and freedom, away from the enemies of our souls – whether it is the devil, or the world, or our own flesh.  And there will be a violence, a force, in our being squeezed and pushed together; waiting for God’s breakthrough; and at the same time is the command to trust and love Jesus above all, and to love one another as He has loved us!

At the Passover in Egypt, after hearing the groaning of the children of Israel from all their hard bondage, YHVH God sent Moses to tell Pharaoh to let His people go.  Pharaoh, of course, did not do that.  God did not tell Moses to raise an army among the Israelis to fight Pharaoh, or to plot a revolution by Egyptians against him.  God told Moses to tell the people to watch as He brings Pharaoh to the place and time that he would let the people go, and that the children of Israel should be ready when the time finally came. There was certainly much violence, and anxiety within the people, as they prepared for their protection and their freedom.  When the gate was opened, they left so quickly that the bread did not have time to rise, and till this day matza is eaten at the Passover to remember this great deliverance, and to remind the people from generation to generation of what YHVH their God did to break open their chains of slavery to bring them out to safety that they might serve and worship Him, the true God and Savior, as He led them to the land which He had promised, and to be King over them as a people.

Are you and I sensing any danger to the general health and welfare of believers, which would also hinder us from doing the work which the Lord has given each and all of us to do until He comes?  Do we sense an impasse within ourselves, and in the Body at large, which requires an unclogging, a breakthrough, which will bring a greater and truer expression of unity and love among the believers?  Do we sense any urgency as we understand the times in which we live?

Are we willing to leave quickly what we have been doing or thinking in order to both press in, and to be pressed in?  Are we willing, in love, to be very uncomfortable as we wait for all of the sheep to be ready at the time the gate is opened by Yeshua?  It will become even more uncomfortable as other sheep are squeezing in together, some in a panic, others getting impatient.  But it is not us who open the door; it is not us who first breakthrough.  It is Yeshua at our head, who has both protected us from the enemy by His death and resurrection, and who goes before us; we follow Him, the Lamb, wherever He goes. 

THE FAITH IN MESSIAH YESHUA DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHERS

Tit 1:1-3   truth according to godliness

It is by personal faith in YHVH God and His Word that we are saved and brought into a vital union and fellowship with the Father and the Son.  Natural birth and culture may give privileges and honor, but do not guarantee acceptance.  Many are called but few are chosen.  There are many good things in all religions and cultures; there are many things held in common between them; for there is one true God, who by His Spirit works in the world among all people whom He created in His image.  Yeshua/Jesus alone has the words of eternal life.

Acts 17:1-6; 1Thes 1:9-10  the world turned upside down
This suggests that the new and living way is no mere correction or fine-tuning; nor a re-newed covenant; but rather something new and radical, which turns our world upside down – a very significant thing.
 

 Mt 16:13-18; 1Jn 2:22  belief that Jesus/Yeshua is the Messiah/Christ, the Son of the living God
The holy and righteous Creator God took on flesh and blood to redeem us human beings (whom He had created in His image and likeness) in order to restore us to Himself through the sacrificial death of the Son of God/Son of Man.

 Jer 31:31-34 (30-33 Heb)  a new covenant; not like the old    “You have heard, but I say. . . .”  

    1Cor 3:16; Col 1:26-27; Jn 14:23; 2Cor 6:16; 1Jn 3:24; 4:12-16; Rev 3:20
        God is in us, not just for us, with us, upon us
It has all to do with loving Jesus 
Christ/Messiah Yeshua and  obeying Him in New Covenant relationship and union.

    Acts 2:16-18  the Holy Spirit given to all believers, not only to Israelis, men, prophets, priests, kings

    Jn 15:4; 1Jn 2:24  in Messiah; in the Son and in the Father; not merely a cultural or a national religious affiliation        This gives us the assurance of faith in the hope of the love of God in promise to us – eternal life.

    Jn 1:12; Gal 4:6-7; 2Cor 6:18; 1Jn 3:1  we are sons and daughters of God, not merely slaves or servants
    Such love!   The world does not acknowledge us as children of God, for it does not know [the true] God.  This was our own condition before we were saved by faith and brought into the truth and the light.

    Mk 7:14-16; Acts 10:9-16; Rom 14:2-3,14,20; Heb 13:9  food and other social barriers broken down
        We are freed to eat with whomsoever – and them with us – wherever God may have us or send us!

 

    Heb 7:12; 9:8; 10:20; 1Pt 2:4-5  Law changed; priesthood of all believers–male and female–from any and all families, with direct access to the Father, through our High Priest Jesus, by the Holy Spirit
          Requires no special ordination.  NOT A RENEWED COVENANT!

    Heb 7:20 – 8:6; 1Jn 2:25  a better covenant with better promises
        –the priesthood
        –our sins and sinful nature totally forgiven, removed, and forgotten through shed blood of Messiah
        –we are a new creation; one new man
        –resurrection of the body for eternal life
        –all the other things mentioned above

Gal 1:11-12; Rom 10:1-4; 1Cor 1:21; 11:23  the gospel is neither Jewish nor Greek; not of man, but by revelation from God in Messiah; not of religion or of science or of philosophy, e.g., ‘Darwinism’

Gen 25:23b; Mt 20:24-28; Lk 22:26  the greater shall serve the lesser
       –to whom much is given (the birthright and blessing by sovereign will, wisdom, and grace), much is required
         —Is 40:2; Rom 2:9-10  double honor and double judgment
         —Rom 2:17-20; 3:1-2; 9:4; 11:24  for individuals and for nations

Jn 13:12-17; Mt 20:28; Lk 12:37  Yeshua came to serve; He washed the disciples’ feet; He made them breakfast; He will serve us at the great supper; He cares for us each and every day.

                                               God can not deny Himself; He is who He is!

DO YOU LOVE JESUS?

I went to a website of someone who had written a book I found very interesting, and was shocked to see that he had left the faith, and was even defending his fall as  ‘being set free’.  Not only does he forsake the God of the Bible – whom before he had praised – but also denies that there is any God at all!  In this truly is the Scripture fulfilled, “Professing to be wise, they became fools. . .” (Rom 1:22)

This man gave two primary reasons why he decided that he no longer believed in the God of the Bible – both the O.T. and the N.T.:  because God required that the Israelis kill all men, women, children, and animals under certain conditions (Dt 20:16).  His complaint was not only in the killing itself, but that God told them to do it rather than doing it Himself:  why should God have His own people take vengeance in such a way?!  The second reason why this man apostasized is that he claims that, despite promises of Jesus, God does not really answer prayers for even believers.

Many people have written this man on his blog, trying to reason with him, but he has defended his position and attacked as blind faith and foolish those who would believe in such a God.

DO YOU LOVE GOD?  DO YOU LOVE JESUS?

There are many hard sayings in the Bible for us to understand or to accept easily.  I know believers who are uncomfortable with some of the things God does – or does not do.  I have heard those who say they are believers question whether the God of the Old Testament is the same God as of the New!  Then which God is Jesus the Son of? Is your faith challenged when you are uncomfortable with the thoughts and ways of the God who claims to be the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth?

Lk 19:22-23   In this parable which Jesus told, there was a servant who did not like King of the kingdom, who had left him responsible to “do business (occupy) till I come”.  What did this King answer to such a servant of his?:  “Out of your own mouth I will judge you, wicked servant.  You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow.  Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?”

There are at least two other very hard sayings of Jesus which challenged those who would be His disciples:
Lk 14:25-27   ‘Now great multitudes went with Him.  And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.  And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple”’.

When the requirement of loving Jesus above all is twisted to mean to actually hate those naturally closest to us, it contradicts other clear and equally radical statements of Jesus to not only love your neighbor as yourself, but also to love even our enemies.  What He is saying is not, “Dad, Mom, I love Jesus and hate you!”, but more like, “Dad, Mom, I love you, but love Jesus even more.” 

To carry our cross, on the other hand, is to say that we are sentenced to death!  And who wants to live a life like that in order to be a disciple of Jesus?  Many of the multitudes that were following Jesus apparently did not want to!

The other hard saying is recorded in Jn 6:53-56,60,66:  ‘Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him.”’

Even ‘many of His disciples’ said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?!’  “And from that many of His disciples went back [to their old life] and walked with Him no more.”

Jesus asked those closest to Him – the twelve apostles, “Do you also want to go away”? (v. 67)  But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  And we have come to believe and know that You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!

Do we believe and know?  What does the prophet Habakkuk have to help us when we struggle with the ways of the God who loves us?  (Hab 3:16-19)  “When I heard, my body trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered my bones; and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble.  When he comes up to the people, he will invade them with his troops.  Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls – yet I will rejoice in YHVH, I will joy in the God of my salvationYHVH God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s, and He will make me walk on my high hills.”

Our God is holy.  There is no one like Him, and it does not matter whether we understand everything or not.  But the God of the Bible is the ONLY God who is the REDEEMER of His creation and of sinful men.  “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us”. (1Jn 3:16)  THIS God – our God and Savior – came and died a horrible death.  He came in the Person of Jesus Christ, and took full responsibility for ‘the way things are’.  We accused Him of being a criminal; we did to Him what we thought of Him, and of His ‘way’. 

Jesus asked the Father to forgive us for we knew not what we did, and the Holy Spirit calls on men everywhere to repent, and receive this grace by which we stand in hope of eternal life.  Do we find ourselves retreating from abiding in Jesus when people accuse Him of being in any way evil; or are we willing to die for Him – to lose our own life or reputation – for Him who alone would come down to us to be crucified in our place in order to reconcile us to this God who is an awesome God, and a consuming fire?

As we take the Lord’s Supper together, let us examine and judge ourselves – and check our hearts – if we really do love Jesus – because we do believe and know Him who has brought us back home to our Father in Heaven.