“In sukkot you shall dwell for seven days: all citizens of Israel shall dwell in sukkot.”  (Leviticus 23:42) 

October 2nd— October 9th, 2020 the Biblical Holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles / Booths) begins. This wonderful holiday lasts for a full seven days and completes the cycle of the Fall Feasts. This is is my favorite of all the fall festivals because it points to God’s promise that Messiah will tabernacle with his people when he returns to set up God’s kingdom here on earth. (Micah 4:1-7; Isaiah 9:7; Zechariah 8:3; Luke 1:32,33)

After the somber time of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), Sukkot is a joyous celebration of a renewed relationship with God and His atonement for sin. The Feast of Tabernacles is a special time for all believers to come together and be a blessing to the needy by presenting our financial gifts to God’s people—and God has promised a blessing for doing this! Even the Apostle Paul and the early Church who we know was in Jerusalem for these Feasts (Acts 20:16), must have presented the gifts he collected from the churches across Greece and countries in Asia to assist the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.

Just as the Israelites dwelt in temporary shelters called a sukkah, we are also to dwell in a sukkah for this entire week. “On the first day you are to gather the fruit of majestic trees, the branches of palm trees, and the boughs of leafy trees and of willows of the brook. And you are to rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.” (Leviticus 23:40,41) 

For seven days and nights, we eat in the sukkah and consider it our dwelling. Some live in the sukkah entirely for the duration of the festival—even sleeping in it through all kinds of weather. The sukkah is made with 3 sides with an opening in the front and the roof is made in such a way that the moon and the stars are visible as we remember the promise God made to Abraham that his descendants  would be more numerous than the stars. (Genesis 22:17)

During this festive season, we also recall how God’s faithfulness provided for our ancestors as they wandered the Sinai Desert wilderness for 40 years before entering the Promised Land of Israel. “You shall dwell in sukkot for seven days…that your future generations shall know that I had the children of Israel live in sukkot when I brought them out of Egypt.”  (Leviticus 23:42–43)  

Another observance carried out each day of Sukkot  is the Four Species: an etrog (citron), a lulav (palm frond), three hadassim (myrtle twigs) and two aravot (willow twigs).  They are bound together in such a way that they can be held together easily. Then the four species are taken up with the right hand and the etrog is taken with the left hand. A blessing is recited over the Four Species: “Blessed are You, Lord God, king of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us to take the lulav.” Facing the direction where the Temple in Jerusalem once stood, the Four Species are then shaken in all six directions: right, left, forward, up, down and backward. This may seem strange to most Christians today, but is it any more strange than churches’ order of worship service—stand up, sit down, kneel, or the time when worship services begin? I am of the opinion that if God told us to perform all these things while sitting cross legged in a lotus position, I would gladly comply. 

Rabbinic tradition explains that the Four Species represent the various personalities that make up the community of Israel.  They are held together while a blessing is recited over them to bless the unity of all people, which is emphasized on Sukkot. But another reason for this strange commandment may be that the four species represents all the people whom God had dispersed to the four corners of the earth. (Isaiah 11:12; Mark 13:27) We move the Four Species three times in each of six directions immediately after reciting the blessing. We do this by extending the Four Species in each direction: eastward, southward, westward and northward, upwards and downwards. After each movement, the lulav and etrog are brought towards the heart. We do this to possibly remind ourselves that omnipresent God is everywhere—and in our hearts.

One of the names for Sukkot is ‘The Season of Our Joy’.  In fact, in Scripture the word “joy” appears several times in connection with Sukkot. “Be joyful at your Feast—you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.…For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.”  (Deuteronomy 16:13–15) Did you miss that? God said it was a joyful celebration for everyone—including the aliens, or non-Jews! (See Exodus 12:49 and Numbers 15:15) Since Sukkot is also a harvest festival, we can well imagine that there is great reason for joy.

Eating and drinking during Sukkot? 

“You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year. And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always. And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you.” (Deuteronomy 14:22-27) 

Did you see that? God tells us to “spend the money for whatever we desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves.” But let me repeat this because most Christians don’t understand this. God tells us to eat, drink and be merry before Him! We are commanded to have a good time at the feast! So much for the teaching that strong drink and wine are forbidden by Scripture. Many may misinterpret this Scripture to mean that God commands us to get drunk. This could not be further from the truth! Scripture is clear that getting drunk is forbidden. (Proverbs 20:1; Leviticus 10:9; Romans 13:13; Ephesians 5:18)  A person should only drink if it will lead to positive spiritual results. (e.g. under the loosening affect of alcohol, having a greater awareness of the love for God and His word and the people around you found deep in the heart.

The whole point of God’s feasts is to allow us to be joyful before the Lord and to worship Him for all the good things He has given us. So eat, drink and be merry for all of God’s many blessings!

What’s so bad about that? 

“Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths.” (Zechariah 14:16)

Many Christians today claim that we don’t need to observe any of God’s commandments in the Old Testament anymore because we are no longer under the Law but under grace; and that Jesus gave us a NEW commandment to love one another. (John 13:34)

Interestingly, when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus simply quoted the commandments already found in Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 6:5. When Jesus spoke these words, his words were not revolutionary or new. They were merely confirmation of what was already revealed in the Torah. (The only Bible people had in the first century). 

So why did Jesus say that he was giving a new commandment? Perhaps in the first century, just like today, people had been ignoring the greatest commandment of the Scriptures?  

Jewish sages Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Hillel both taught that loving one’s neighbor was of primary importance. Hillel was famous for saying, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to another. That is the whole Law. The rest is commentary. Now go and learn.” 

Jesus was part of a faith system based on the Tanakh (OT) that encouraged study, debate and practice of one’s faith. Jesus never rejected the teachings of the Scriptures.  And neither did the apostles or the early Church. Rather, they all sought to encourage those around them to understand the truths of God’s Word and incorporate them in daily life. 

Jewish people teach that there are 613 commandments given by God. Exodus 20 lists only 10 commandments to live by. But most fail to obey most (or any) of them. Jesus gave us only two commandments: To love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And to love one another as he loves us. (Matthew 22:37-40) But sadly, most Christians today refuse to even obey those two! The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:15: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? Certainly not!”

Today we are under a deluge of hate, racism and violence; and we are told that this is the “new normal”. This is NOT the new normal! This is not normal at all! And this is not God’s will for us. So how do we return to normal?

God answers that when He said, “If I close the sky so there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send a plague among My people, and if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wickedness, THEN I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14) God has been waiting for generations for His people to do just that, but they refuse.

Remember the words of Jesus: 

“But understand this: If the homeowner had known in which watch of the night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. For this reason, you must also be ready, because the Son of man will come at an hour you do not expect….”  (Matthew 24:36-51)

The apostle John wrote: “By this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome…” (1 John 5:2-3)

If people can’t tell the difference between how you act, speak and live and how unbelievers act, speak and live, then why would anyone have a desire to know God? 

We are now less than a year away from the most consequential election in our country, and not one of the candidates has prioritized addressing the epidemic of child sexual abuse (CSA) as an important issue. 

Many of these survivors of CSA are now adult voters and they aren’t just people looking for services. They are constituents looking for a change to the system. They are working people, taxpayers and consumers who push through their trauma every day—despite being erased by a world that tells them they aren’t as important as the economy, employment, immigration reform or climate change.

 90% of victims of CSA know their abuser well. Many of them live in the same home with them. And even when a perpetrator is arrested and convicted, most judges only sentence them to probation and require them to register as a sex offender. But 23 states, (Including Nebraska) place no restrictions on those convicted of sexually abusing a child. Many of them continue their daily lives without much consequence or repercussions.  

This kind of early childhood trauma has been documented to cause life-long mental, emotional and physical health problems for victims well into adulthood. A child who is the victim of prolonged sexual abuse usually develops low self-esteem, a feeling of worthlessness and an abnormal or distorted view of sex. They also become high risk for drug and alcohol addiction and involvement in other criminal activity. 

President Trump recently made animal cruelty a felony. But there is no federal law that places restrictions on convicted perpetrators of CSA. In fact, there are stricter restrictions on those who abuse animals than for those who abuse children!

And yet no one in the legislature or the current administration has the guts to publicly grapple with this bipartisan issue. It is high time that that the men and women who represent us in the in the Nebraska legislature, as well as in Washington, respond to this national epidemic. I have heard many of you say that children are our future. But what kind of future will we have if millions of our children become wounded adults who struggle with emotional and mental problems because of childhood trauma? 

I have written many of you on this subject before. But the very few of you that responded told that there was nothing you could do. Nothing? Really? IT IS YOUR JOB TO DO SOMETHING!

Our children deserve representatives who value their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—our future and prosperity may well depend on it.

Sincerely,

Jonah Reuben

As a father myself, my heart breaks when my children are bitter towards me. I remember years ago when I was living in New Mexico I paid for my daughter to come and visit me. After she arrived she spent most of her time with her cousins and  other family members while ignoring me. One day I began complaining to God. I said, “God, I paid for her to come here so we could spend time together and she’s spending time with everyone but me. I’ve done so much for her and she just ignores me as if I wasn’t even here and…” Then I stopped myself and said, “ Oh God, is this how I made you feel when I ignored you? I am so sorry. Please forgive me.”

In 2013 my wife and I discovered that our oldest granddaughter was sexually abused when she was 11 years old by her then step-father. We took steps to gain legal custody of our grandaughter in order to keep her safe. The step-father was later charged and convicted of child abuse, but was only sentenced to probation. My daughter still blames us for her ex-husband’s legal problems and for destroying her marriage. Currently my daughter still refuses to speak with me or allow my wife and I to see our grandchildren.

How much more must it break God’s heart when He sees His children ignoring Him and His word while behaving so badly toward each other with instances of everyday nastiness, foolishness, lack of empathy and shortsightedness. 

I remember when my grandfather was on his death bed and called his for his children to come to his hospital bed. After my aunts and uncles arrived they asked my grandfather what he needed. He just smiled and told them that he didn’t need anything. He just wanted to be surrounded by his children without having them fight with each other.

The Day of Atonement (September 27th – 28th, 2020) is a solemn day when God instructs us that we must set aside our usual family and commercial activities to fast and pray and mentally review our actions over the past year, identifying all those whom we have caused pain, or behaved unjustly towards. And to seek out those whom we have frustrated, angered, discarded casually or otherwise betrayed and offer them a complete and sincere apology—and recompense them, if necessary. This is God’s will for the requirement for forgiveness—so long as the apology is real. 

I challenge all of God’s people reading this to take a cue from God’s word and use the Day of Atonement (And every day) to repent, fast and pray and make amends with those you have hurt with either your words or actions. 

“With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be!” (James 3:9-10)

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like fine oil on the head, running down on the beard, running down Aaron’s beard over the collar of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon falling on the mountains of Zion. For there the LORD has bestowed the blessing of life forevermore.” (Psalm 133)

Most Christians today have been convinced that God’s Sabbaths and Feast days and Old Testament laws are for the Jews only. They have been taught that they do not apply to Christians today because we no longer live under the law, but under grace. But Leviticus 23 tells us that all of the Sabbaths and Feast Days and their instructions are not Jewish only, but they are God’s Sabbaths and Feast Days. And God said His laws apply to everyone—the Jew and non-Jew alike. (Exodus 12:48-49; Leviticus 24:22)

Interestingly, the celebrations that are for Jews only are: Purim, Hanukkah, Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israeli Independence Day.  All of them commemorate when people tried to eliminate the Jews—but failed. And not one of these traditional Jewish observances were commanded by God, but by the Jews themselves. 

This is no different than how the Christian church has exchanged God’s Sabbaths and Feast Days for Sunday worship and other traditional holidays of man—Christmas, Easter, Lent, and Good Friday.

Over the years I have been criticized, despised and become the brunt of people’s jokes because of my speaking God’s truth from His word. It wasn’t always like that. I too believed as most Christians do. I celebrated Christmas and Easter and I had many Christian friends and had happy times of fellowship with them—As long as I stayed in the same lane as they did. But once I spoke out about how God revealed His truth to me from His word, by His spirit, all of that changed. Ones whom I thought were my friends avoided me—and even family members turned against me. All because I dared to speak God’s truth from his word. 

I have asked many Christians, “If Jesus’ death and resurrection did away with our obligation to observe God’s Sabbath and Feast Days, were all the apostles and early Church wrong to do so?” I have never gotten a reasonable answer. And as far as I know, none of them have ever sought out the answer in Scripture with an open mind.  

Now I know God well enough to know that I am not the only one that He revealed His truth to and believes the same way as I do. And I know that just like Elijah, God has reserved thousands who have not bent their knee to the traditions of man and false teachings. (Even though as yet I have not met any of them personally)

We are definitely living in the last days. How do I know that?  Because in spite of my years of praying for hours at a time for God to send revival to His church and lead us to repentance, God’s people still have not repented of their wickedness. They have a form of godliness but deny its power. And in spite of the availability of God’s word to everyone in America and across most of the world, many Christians still do not tolerate sound doctrine, but with “itching ears” they gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires. (See 2 Timothy 2 & 3) 

The Law (Torah) is not merely the written Mosaic Law, but the announcement of God’s will by the mouth of his prophets. And there is a contrast between the lawlessness and ruin of a people uninfluenced by its guidance and the joyful state of those who obey the voice of God—whether conveyed in the Old Testament or by the teachings of the apostles. 

Many today are trying to understand the cause of all the anger, hate and rioting happening now. The answer is in the Bible. “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.” (Proverbs 29:18 NLT) 

That’s exactly what happened to the Hebrews in the desert (Exodus 32:24-25), and also to the Israelites under the king of Assyria ( 2 Kings 17: 6-17), and is happening now with us. Remember brothers and sisters, the apostle Peter wrote that “it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God…” (1 Peter 4:17). And the apostle Paul wrote that if anyone preaches a gospel contrary to the one he preached, they will be accursed! (Galatians 1) So shouldn’t we find out just what the true gospel is that Paul preached? Because the gospel that Paul preached is not what is being preached in most churches today.

It is time that we Christians begin to really study God’s word and obey what God says. But be warned! When you open your eyes, heart and mind to God’s truth in His word, and determine yourself to obey God’s word and His commandments, you will become the target of those who deny God’s truth. But be of good cheer, God will help us to endure until the end; when we hear our Lord say: “Well done my good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.”

God’s commandments were not designed to take away our freedom but to make us free.

Yom Kippur / The Day of Atonement Begins at sundown on September 27th – 28th, 2020. It is the second of the Fall Feast Days commanded by God. Although, it is not so much a Feast day as it is a fast day and a repentance day—and why it is one of the most holy days of the Hebrew calendar.

“This is to be a permanent statute for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month, you shall humble yourselves and not do any work—whether the native or the foreigner who resides among you—because on this day atonement will be made for you to cleanse you, and you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It is a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble yourselves; it is a permanent statute…This is to be a permanent statute for you, to make atonement once a year for the Israelites because of all their sins.” (Leviticus 16:29-34)

The Day of Atonement points to the day of the Second Coming of Messiah when he will return to set up God’s kingdom on earth. It will be the Day of Atonement for all nations when they will “look upon him whom they have pierced,” repent of their sins, and The Jews will receive Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah. (Zechariah 12:10; Romans 11:1-6; 25-36)

Yom Kippur is described as a Shabbat of solemn rest in the Torah, a day of fasting, prayer, and reflection. It is the culmination of a period of time during which we are required to take stock of their lives, to ask forgiveness from friends and family, and to take steps toward self-improvement for the year to come. As with other of God’s holy days, the Day of Atonement is not a “Jewish only” holy day. Notice that in Leviticus 16 God told Moses that the Day of Atonement is a “permanent” statute. And it is to be observed by both the “native or the foreigner” who resides among the Israelites.

Traditionally, Jews believe that after judging a person for their deeds over the past year, God decides who will be sealed in the Book of Life. But most simply use the day as a time to reflect on what they want to do differently and how to improve their lives in the year to come.

Yom Kippur is observed for a 25-hour period, beginning at sundown, by refraining from work that is prohibited on Shabbat, and refrain from eating or drinking. Some add five additional prohibitions: bathing; anointing the body with oil; wearing leather shoes; and having sexual relations, but I have yet to find any Scriptural proof of this. In fact, Jesus said, “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.” And in Isaiah 58 the prophet tells us that the fast that God chooses is to “loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free.”  

There are two meals associated with Yom Kippur: the pre-fast meal and the break-fast meal (obviously, for the duration of the fasting holiday, no food or drink is allowed). The pre-fast meal is known as seudah ha-mafaseket (literally, “meal of separation” or “concluding meal”). Meals usually should be prepared with minimum salt, as this could cause dehydration during the fast. It is also important to drink plenty of water before the fast. *Because of health problems or because of their age, some may be excused from a complete fast. To avoid complications, those people should try to only drink fruit and vegetable juice. 

The break-fast meal usually consists of hi-carb dairy foods, and sometimes brunch-style recipes like bagels, quiches, soufflés, eggs, cheese, etc. While others indulge in heavier traditional meals with soups, salads or brisket. 

The Importance of Atonement 

‘Atonement’ to many is an unfamiliar and foreign word. According to the dictionary, it means the action of making amends for a wrong or injury, but in the context of the teachings of the prophets, Jesus and apostles, it also involves reparation or amendment for sin:

 “…If someone sins and acts unfaithfully against the LORD by deceiving his neighbor…He must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value, and pay it to the owner on the day he acknowledges his guilt.” (Leviticus 6:1-6)

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven…For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:36-38) 

“But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, half of my possessions I give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will repay it fourfold.” (Luke 19:8)

It seems that Christians today believe that the way to amend for a wrong is to pray, ask God for forgiveness, and God will cleanse them of their sin. This is always a good thing to do, but they fail to deal with what is the far larger problem of wrongs committed: Instances of everyday nastiness, error, foolishness, lack of empathy and shortsightedness. Leaving the wrongs unaddressed is not only wrong, but sinful.

Here, as in so many areas, we can be inspired by the example of God’s word. God’s word has always given us a particular insight on how to focus on the hurt of others. God knows how easy it is for us to feel it, how hard it is to express it, but also how awkward but necessary it is for us to make amends for perpetrating it. We discover God’s response in the Day of Atonement. 

The Day of Atonement is a solemn day when God instructs us that we must set aside our usual family and commercial activities and mentally review our actions over the past year, identifying all those whom we have caused pain, or behaved unjustly towards. And also to seek out those whom we have frustrated, angered, discarded casually or otherwise betrayed and offer them a complete apology and recompense, if necessary.

This is God’s will as the requirement for forgiveness—so long as the apology is real. I have experienced people who have told me that they were sorry for doing something that hurt me, but their actions let me know that they weren’t sincere. I have even had some who claim that they wanted to apologize to me for bad feelings they had against me, but they really only wanted to let me know what I said or did that upset them.

Too many times we run away from our victims and act with strange rudeness towards them—not because we aren’t bothered by what we did, but because what we did makes us feel uncomfortable around them. Our victims therefore, have to suffer not only the original hurt, but also the subsequent coldness we display towards them on account of our own guilty conscience. 

But the Day of Atonement helps to correct this. A period in which human error is proclaimed as a general truth makes it easier to confess our sins to each other. It is more bearable to own up to the hurt we have caused others when we realize how cleansing it will be for us.

We, as God’s people, need to learn from the Day of Atonement. Functioning without a culture of atonement implies that we are okay, or that our imperfections and sinfulness are all covered by God’s grace. Of course we are deeply imperfect, but we can’t ever progress and live together in harmony if we can’t regularly offer and accept a sincere apology. We need to learn, from God’s word and the example of Jesus and the apostles how to confess our sins, not only to God, but to each other. And forgive ourselves and others. So what’s so wrong with that?

And after we complete our fast and realize how much we need to repent and change maybe, just maybe, we will begin to try to understand each other a little more. 

“We’ve turned from Your ways

Lord Your fruit we’ve ceased to bear

We lack the power we once knew in our prayers

That gentle voice from heaven

We cease to hear and know

The fact that He has risen no longer stirs our soul

Revive us oh Lord

Revive us oh Lord

And cleanse us from our impurities

And make us holy

Hear our cry

And revive us oh Lord!”

“With trumpets and the blast of the horn shout for joy before the LORD, the King.” —Psalm 98:6 

“When you enter into battle in your land against an adversary who attacks you, sound short blasts on the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the LORD your God and saved from your enemies. And on your joyous occasions, your appointed feasts, and the beginning of each month, you are to blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will serve as a reminder for you before your God. I am the LORD your God.” —Numbers 10:9-10 

“Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” —1 Corinthians 15:51-52

In next the few weeks I will be writing a series of articles about God’s Fall Feast Days. No, this is not another article about how we are commanded by God to observe His Feast Days. I have written enough on that subject. Besides, there enough books to fill libraries across the world on what the Bible says what we should and should not do. No, this is about the instructions on how we observe His Feasts and ask the question, “Why do Christians think it’s so bad to observe God’s Feast Days?” 

To many, the fall is their favorite time of year—the cool, crips air, the beauty  of the turning of the leaves, harvesting apples and savoring the flavors of fall. But my favorite part of fall are the Fall Feast Days ordained by God in the Bible. These Feasts Days also point to Messiah. But unlike the Spring Feasts Days that represent Jesus’ first coming, It is generally believed that the Fall Feasts refer to his return, or the Second Coming. Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) this year begins at sunset, September 18th and ends at nightfall, September 20th. 

On the first day of the seventh month (Tishri) the Hebrews were instructed to have a special solemn Sabbath followed by a ten-day period of repentance known as the High Holy Days. (Leviticus 23:23-25) The new year of the civil calendar began on this day. (Nisan was the beginning of the religious calendar) 

I know I’m in the minority of Christians who observe these holy days, but I delight in the opportunity to proclaim what God has done for me and those around me. Unlike ancient Israel, I am not bound by the law for God’s favor and forgiveness, but it is my joy and privilege to reflect upon Gods faithfulness throughout the course of history. 

During Rosh Hashanah we celebrate the harvest and God’s faithfulness in providing for us. When we blow the shofar, we remember how He has shown up over and over again to defend us in our battles and we celebrate His victories with praise. The trumpet (or shofar) sounded a battle call (Numbers 10) so when we blow the shofar, we are both declaring war on our enemy, the devil, and remembering the source of our strength—our God. 

Rosh Hashanah has become very special to my heart. A lot of time is spent around the table tasting and savoring God’s goodness. In my home, we invite friends to gather with us in celebration and praise to God for all the good things He has given us and for His promise of a good year to come. We even take turns  sounding the shofar to proclaim God’s goodness. We spend hours planning a special meal filled with the traditional, sweet foods of Rosh Hashanah. We dip a special round Challah bread and apples in honey as a way to remember God’s goodness. It is a festive celebration of God’s goodness. It’s not something we have to do, it’s something we get to do. 

Setting aside these Feast Days, helps me put a grounding and purpose to my life. Celebrating God’s Feasts also puts structure in my life. When our time is our own, we’re often prone to wander from God’s commandments. But when we surrender our life and our time around God’s works, our thoughts are taken captive to the obedience of  Messiah. (2 Corinthians 10:5) Above all, by observing God’s Feast days we show God how much we love Him in return. (1 John 5:3) 

So this Feast of Trumpets, I’ll stop and remember the goodness of God in my life. I will thank Him for His faithfulness in the past year and pray for the upcoming year to be sweet. 

Our table will be opened to friends and family, so together, we will partake in celebrating God’s Feast and His goodness. I think of it as practice for when every tribe and every nation will gather around the Lord’s table for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

So I ask, “What’s so bad about that?”

William Booth, the co-founder of the Salvation Army with his wife Catherine, embarked upon his ministerial career in 1852, desiring to win the lost multitudes of England to Christ. He walked the streets of London to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, the homeless, the hungry, and the destitute.

Booth abandoned the conventional concept of a church and a pulpit, instead taking his message to the people on the street. His fervor led to disagreement with church leaders in London, who preferred traditional methods. As a result, he withdrew from the church and traveled throughout England, conducting evangelistic meetings.

Thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and drunkards were among Booth’s first converts to Christianity. To congregations who were desperately poor, he preached hope and salvation. His aim was to lead people to Christ and link them to a church for further spiritual guidance. His renown as a religious leader spread throughout London, and he attracted followers who were dedicated to fight for the souls of men and women. 

William Booth was a remarkable man, who had a passion to save men’s souls. He was a man born into poverty and who worked in the midst of poverty his whole life. He was given the title “The Prophet of the Poor.” His life could be summed up in his own statement, “Some men’s passion is for gold. Some men’s passion is for art. Some men’s passion is for fame. My passion is for souls.” 

I believe that William Booth would be very disappointed if he could see how the Salvation Army and many church members have changed. The Salvation Army has become more of a social services center, concerned only with meeting people’s physical needs, more than their spiritual needs. And churches today are not much different.

It’s been reported from people who attended the evangelistic meetings of William Booth that many in attendance would begin to shake so at his preaching that they would tear at the hymnals in their laps! Where is that type of preaching today?

When Charles Finney, a revivalist preacher during the Second Great Awakening during the 1830s, preached at his meetings, whole communities would be converted! Taverns and theaters were turned into places of worship! When he would visit factories, people, would fall to their knees weeping in repentance by the power of the Holy Spirit, without Finney even speaking a word! Where is that spirit in the churches today? Where is the fire of God’s word?   

The following is a poem written by Howard Clinebell, a former professor of pastoral psychology and counseling at the School of Theology in Claremont, California. It describes perfectly the state of the church today:

The Little Lifesaving Station 

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occurred, there was once a crude lifesaving station. The building wasn’t much more than a small hut, and there was only one boat. But the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea, and with no thought of themselves, went out night and day tirelessly searching for the lost.

Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station. So much so that it became famous for its rescue efforts. Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time and money for the support of its work. New boats were purchased and donated to the station and crews were trained to improve the rescue operations of the station.

As the little lifesaving station grew some of the members were unhappy that the building itself was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided for those who were rescued from the sea. So the members raised funds for the station and replaced the emergency cots with beds and placed better furniture in an enlarged building.

Soon the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members. They decorated it beautifully and furnished it so exquisitely that it became sort of a club. The lifesaving station’s logo still prevailed on the wall above the fireplace and its name was still used to raise funds,  but  fewer members were now interested in going out to sea on lifesaving missions. They even hired lifeboat crews to do the work that they used to do themselves.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half drowned people. These people were dirty and sick. And some of them were foreigners who couldn’t speak English. The beautiful club was thrown into chaos. The property committee immediately had a shower built outside the club building with an attached closet filled with clean clothes so that the victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up and dressed properly before coming inside.

At the next club meeting there was a split in the membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club’s lifesaving activities because it was unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social structure of the club. Some members insisted that the lifesaving operations were the primary reason for them being there and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. The latter were finally voted down and were told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters they could start their own lifesaving station further down the coast. That’s exactly what they did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old one. It evolved into a club and later another lifesaving station was founded.

History continues to repeat itself and if you visit that seacoast today you will find a number of exclusive clubs along its shores.  Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but sadly, most of the people there drown.

We have all witnessed the angry protests and riots in cities throughout our country after people of color were unlawfully detained and even killed by police officers. We have all read accounts of children being abused, neglected and killed by those who were supposed to love and care for them. And we have also seen how social media has blown up with hateful comments from both sides of political issues.

And yet, so many professing Christians continue to live their lives as if this is a type of “new normal”. THIS IS NOT A NEW NORMAL! This is not normal at all! Don’t you see that God has been trying to get our attention for years now? He has been trying to get us to repent. But you refuse to listen! How can people study God’s word for so many years and still not understand it or obey what it says?

Churches today are preaching a convenient gospel. One that teaches that all you have to do is confess your sins, accept Jesus in your heart, and you’ll be saved. But without repentance—a change of heart and lifestyle, there is no true conversion and thus, no real salvation. When someone truly repents they become a totally new creature. Their old life is dead and buried with Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Acts 3:19)

Our salvation cost Jesus his life! So how can we expect it to cost us any less? How can we take it so lightly? This is not the gospel that Jesus or the early Church preached. They preached a gospel of repentance and a gospel that brought real change to people’s lives! But if you preach a gospel of convenience—a gospel that makes people comfortable—you will be loved by the world and make yourself an enemy of God! (James 4:4) One of the primary purposes of the gospel is to make people uncomfortable so that they will repent and turn to God. 

The apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, said: “But understand this: In the last days terrible times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good, traitorous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Turn away from such as these!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Jesus prophesied that “lawlessness will abound” in the end times. (Matthew 24:12) That people will overwhelmingly reject God’s laws, and that this lawlessness, unrestrained by the laws of God, will bring this earth to the point of almost complete destruction.

But the Bible also predicts that there will be a very small group—a remnant, who will not embrace lawlessness. In fact, these people will be defined by the how they live their lives by God’s laws, (Isaiah 10:20-21;1 John 5:2-3) and reject the traditions of man taught in the churches, which will make them stand in stark contrast to the world (and worldly Christians) around them. While people’s love grows cold, God’s faithful will hold to the law that teaches love, care and concern for others. (1 John 5:3) But they won’t be honored and respected for their way of life. Jesus said they will be “…hated by all nations for My name’s sake.” (Matthew 24:9) 

Today there are over 2 billion professing Christians in the world—making up the world’s single largest religious group. And about 60 percent of the world’s nations have a majority Christian population. That means that the remnant—those who live their lives according to God’s word—is a minority among those calling themselves Christians. The people of “all nations” who hate and persecute God’s people will include billions of people who claim Christianity as their religion. 

But why will God’s remnant be so violently hated? What could they possibly do to receive such scorn? Because just like the prophet Elijah, John the Baptist, Jesus, Stephen and the apostles who were persecuted for boldly proclaiming the need to repent of sin, God’s remnant will preach the truth that those around them won’t want to hear. Particularly the portion of the gospel message that calls on people to repent, change and align their lives with God’s law. Sadly, most people in churches today stubbornly refuse to repent and obey God’s laws. And because of that, true Christians will be hated—by the world and other Christians. 

I understand that not everyone will agree with everything, but I have read more civil language on social media by professing atheists than from professing Christians! I myself have been a target of hateful rhetoric by professing Christians after posting comments about repentance or obeying God. Why would this be offensive to a true Christian? How can you say that you love God and continue to use hateful speech toward your brothers and sisters? (1 John 4:20-21)

   

Right now, we are experiencing a time when God’s people aren’t facing violent persecution in most places. In fact, in much of the world this may be the safest time in all of human history to be a true follower of God. But as the days get closer to the end, that will change radically—maybe in the next few years. As deception and lawlessness increase, hatred against true Christians will surge. The good news is that God will shorten those days “for the elect’s sake.” (Matthew 24:22) Jesus Christ will come to save His people from those who violently hate them. 

Christian! Don’t you realize how the hate of the world has become like a cancer and has infiltrated and affected your walk with God? As Christians, we are to be the light of the world for all to see but, the Bible tells us we must “put aside all such things as these: anger, rage,  malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8) 

The apostle James wrote, “With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, this should not be!” (James 3:9-10) And yet here we are. 

If the unbelievers in this world can’t tell the difference between you and sinners then your religion is worthless!  Are you comfortable living like the world?  (1 Corinthians 3: 1-3) Do you preach a gospel of convenience? A gospel that does not offend? Then I beseech you, repent now! And be true to God and His word! Ask Him to lead you by His spirit into His truth and live your life according to His word. Remember Jesus said, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” (Matthew 7:21 NLT)

It is time for believers to stop following the traditions of man and dive into what God’s word says.

This is a song I wrote with my brother Mick Byers. Listen to it here: https://www.reverbnation.com/jonahreubenmusic/song/12837080-tears-of-god

My prayer is that this song will speak to your heart and encourage you to repent and turn back again to God.

Tears of God

You don’t call my name except when you swear

Hours for TV and no time for prayer

Your promises are empty while your pockets are full

Your shield has grown rusty and your sword’s become dull

Your lips sing my praises while your heart’s far away

Going through the motions with your worn out cliches

Oh the tears that nobody sees

You think cause I’m God that I don’t have to weep

But I cry but nobody sees

The heartache this world gives to me 

Behold I am standing at your door and I knock

But your lights are turned down and you’ve bolted the lock

You’re bound up with hatred and you’re bound up with fear

Too blind to see and too scared to hear

Oh the tears that nobody sees

You think cuz I’m God that I don’t have to weep

But I cry but nobody sees

The heartache this world gives to me 

The heartache My church…gives to me

Christians! Wake up from your slumber! Repent of your sins and return to God! Begin to again live according to God’s word…

“Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) 

“But now you must put aside all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth.” (Colossians 3:8) 

“The night is nearly over; the day has drawn near. So let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” (Romans 13:12-14)

God is our ONLY hope to become a great nation again. Turn and live for God…Before it’s too late! 

“For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God? And, if it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4:17-18)