Archive for the ‘Christian Living’ Category

Shavuot is a little known holiday among Christians today. It is ironic to me, since it commemorates the single most important event in Judeo-Christian history—the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. And in the 3,300 years since, the Torah’s ideals—monotheism, justice, responsibility—have become the moral basis for Western civilization.

Shavuot (Hebrew for “Weeks”) occurs on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan (late May or early June). Shavuot commemorates the early harvest in the land of Israel. (See Leviticus 23:9-16 and Deuteronomy 16:9-11) It is one of the three biblical pilgrimage festivals. It also commemorates the anniversary of the day God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses and the Israelites at Mount Sinai.

Since Shavuot occurs 50 days (7 weeks) after the first day of Passover, it is sometimes known in Christian circles as “Pentecost,” a Greek word meaning “50 days.” Shavuot, however, has no connection to the Christian Pentecost holiday.

Many people today are taught that after leaving Egypt on the day of the Passover, only Jews traveled into the Sinai desert. And there, God spoke to the entire Jewish nation and  instructed them to keep the Ten Commandments He inscribed on the stone tablets. (See Deuteronomy 4:1-14) So they mistakenly assume that all of the feasts mentioned in the Old Testament are meant only for Jews. But what most Christians fail to understand is that when the Hebrews left Egypt they were also joined by non-Hebrew people. We read in Exodus 12:38 that a “mixed multitude” went with them. Some perhaps, willing to leave their country after it was laid waste by plagues; others, out of curiosity; perhaps a few out of love for the Hebrews and their religion. And the same laws applied both to the native-born Hebrew and to the foreigner. (verse 49) Also, the Bible never refers to the feasts as Jewish feasts, but the “Feasts of the Lord”. (See Leviticus 23:2, 4, 37, 44; 2 Chronicles 2:4; Ezra 3:5)

How to Celebrate Shavuot

In biblical times, Shavuot was tied to the agricultural calendar. It originally celebrated the first fruits of the wheat harvest seven weeks after Passover (Leviticus 23:15-16). Counting the omer between the holidays added an element of anticipation of looking forward to Shavuot and a bountiful harvest. On this pilgrimage feast, Israelites traveled to Jerusalem to offer the first portion of their crops to the Lord in thanksgiving for His provision of food.

Celebrating the Spiritual Harvest

But Shavuot is more than the celebration of the first fruits of a physical harvest. Today, we observe it as the first fruits of a spiritual harvest. On the first Shavuot after Jesus’s death and resurrection, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit that enabled them to speak so that many people in attendance heard their words in their native tongue! Many who heard these messages in their own languages were amazed, though others thought the disciples were just drunk. (Acts 2:12)

Peter went on to explain that Jesus had been raised from the dead and God had poured out His Spirit in fulfillment of His promise through Joel 2:32-33. When the crowd asked what they should do, Peter urged them to turn their lives around and be baptized in the name of Jesus. Then they would be forgiven and would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:37-39) About 3,000 people were added to the church that same day!

Just as Jesus promised, God sent His Spirit on that Shavuot to enable His people to be witnesses for Him: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Anticipating the Future Harvest

Thus, Shavuot is a reminder that we are living in anticipation of a harvest that is yet to come when people from every nation will be gathered into God’s Kingdom. Until that final harvest time, God expects us to be His witnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to all peoples and nations. And He has empowered us for this task. How we celebrate Shavuot can impact the size of that future harvest as we obey God’s commandments and share the gospel to all peoples, nations and tongues.

True obedience or just looking good? 

“What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

In our human attempts to look good in serving God, there is the temptation to perform certain religious duties rather than to truly obey God. Even good activities, such as giving money to charity, attending church services, or praying in public, are not as important to God as obeying His commands. Disobedience is an act of rebellion, disrespects God’s Word, and is based on looking good to other people rather than to God.

Jesus criticized the teachers of his time for similar practices. Matthew 6 notes three religious activities—fasting, public prayer, and giving to those in need. People often use these things to look good in front of other people rather than to honor God. The problem is not our religious activities or good works, but the disobedience of God’s commands and the desire for approval of people rather than the approval of God.

Charles Spurgen once wrote: “The first thing which God requires of his child is obedience; and though you should give your body to be burned, and all your goods to feed the poor, yet if you do not hearken to the Lord’s precepts, all your formalities shall profit you nothing. It is a blessed thing to be teachable as a little child, but it is a much more blessed thing when one has been taught the lesson, to carry it out to the letter. How many adorn their temples and decorate their priests, but refuse to obey the word of the Lord! My soul, come not thou into their secret.”

Many are up in arms after President Trump told Bill O’Riley in comparing the U.S. to Russia, that “America has killers.” Sometimes the truth upsets people. Especially when it’s an ugly truth.

Targeted killing is a modern euphemism used for the assassination (premeditated killing) of an individual by a state organization or institution outside a judicial procedure or a battlefield. According to a senior CIA official, from July 2008 to June 1, 2011, the CIA launched 220 strikes inside Pakistan. The agency said that some 1,400 suspected militants were killed, along with about thirty civilians. The United States government also carried out the “targeted killing” of Anwar al-Awlaki—A United States citizen who was killed without due process. And two weeks later also killed his 16 year old son without any proof that he was even involved in any terrorist activities. Mayor Marion Barry infamously stated, “Washington should not be called the murder capital of the world. We are the targeted killing capital of the world.”

In a speech before the CIA celebrating its 50th anniversary, President Clinton said: “By necessity, the American people will never know the full story of your courage.” This, of course, is the heart of the problem in the first place. An agency that is above criticism is also above moral behavior and reform. Its secrecy and lack of accountability allows its corruption to grow unchecked. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/inside-the-cias-kill-list/

In an interview on ‘Face The Nation’ John Dickerson asked Vice-President Mike Pence, “Do you think America is morally superior to Russia?” Although Pence skirted around the question, the answer should have been an unequivocal NO.

So, do I think America is morally superior to Russia? 

Absolutely not! Not when U.N. workers and military personnel are allowed to rape women and children without any repercussions; or when 1 in 5 children are molested and raped in their own homes and the perpetrators are allowed to walk free; or when people are more concerned about a women’s right to abortion than they are about the homeless; when our children are taught how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies and STD’s instead of moral purity; and when Bible believing Christians are reduced to name calling and using vulgar language simply because they disagree with someone, then no, we are not morally superior to Russia—or any other country that places human wisdom above God.

When it comes to morals, we have the same age old problem that the rest of the world has: All of us have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) And when a nation collectively rejects God and His wisdom, “Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together.” (Micah 7:1)

Every civilization that rejected God’s laws and instead depended on their own wisdom, fell into moral decay and then finally deteriorated into near destruction. So must we remain under God’s wrath? Are we all doomed for destruction? No! There is another way laid open for us. This is the righteousness of God—That while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) It is by that faith by which we are delivered and spared destruction. A faith that respects Christ as a Savior, in all his three anointed offices as Prophet, Priest, and King; trusting in him, accepting him, and cleaving to him.

In this way Russians, Americans, Israelis, Palestinians, Mexicans—are all welcome to be partakers of God’s grace through Christ. There is no difference, his righteousness is upon all that believe. It is a free grace; there is nothing in ourselves or our own works that deserve such favor; it comes freely to us. But Christ bought and paid the price for that grace with his own blood.

So let us not trample the blood of Christ beneath our feet by giving in to the temptation to lash out; to pay evil for evil. But instead, let us be a light that will lead the world to our only hope: To repent of our wickedness and return to God’s ways. Remember: “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Proverbs 29:2 )

Sin has just about wrecked this world of ours—And the Church is not immune to its effects. Just as Israel of old, we too, have forgotten God and replaced Him with our own golden calf. We have bowed down to the idols of humanism, secularism, and government control, and we have reaped the rewards of our actions.

It is probable that a great majority of church members in America today have few convictions against breaking any of God’s commandments. Child sexual abuse has become an epidemic, that the Church rarely speaks out against. (If they speak about it at all) Deception, robbery, and even sexual assaults have become all too common among Christians in both urban and suburban communities across our nation.

A very insidious doctrine has been developed in both Catholic and Protestant theology which has tended to minimize the authority of God’s commandments and moral precepts. It has led many to look lightly upon transgressions and has made sin to appear less objectionable. In fact, sin has become an acceptable mode of life for both youth and adults in the Church. How can this be? Especially among those who profess such high regard for the Bible, and a love for Christ?

This question becomes more significant when we consider the historical position of Christianity toward the Bible’s Ten Commandments. Almost all of the great denominations have confessed that they support the authority of the Ten Commandments, yet very subtle errors of interpretation have crept into the modern Church that has lead to the present state of confused loyalty toward God’s spiritual laws found in the Torah. (The first five books of the Bible) God’s spiritual laws are those that focus on moral precepts and thankfulness to God.

We need to look at God’s spiritual laws and their relation to God’s grace and salvation. It is so easy to accept the popular clichés concerning God’s laws and grace without searching out the biblical facts by which we will finally be judged. We must find authoritative scriptural answers to questions like these: In what sense are Christians free from the God’s law? What does it really mean to be under the law? Does God’s grace nullify God’s commandments? Can a Christian be justified when breaking any of God’s commandments because they are under grace?

We read in Romans that “the wages of sin is death”, (Romans 6:23 ) and that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) We might as well replace the word “all” with our own name. Because according to 1 John 3:4, “sin is the transgression of the law,” and we are all guilty. Whose law did we break? God’s law. The shocking truth is that we are all guilty and under the sentence of death! And and in God’s court there are no plea deals or appeals that can reverse the sentence!

In desperation, many search for a way to be justified in spite of fact that they have broken God’s law. How can the sentence of death be turned aside? Can we atone for our sins by obeying the commandments of God for the rest of our life? Paul gives the answer in language that no one can misinterpret: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” (Romans 3:20)

There is a logical reason why works will never justify us. A convicted murderer may serve 10, 20 or even 50 years in prison. But because of good behavior, the warden may reduce his sentence. Then soon after completing his sentence, he can try to justify himself, saying that he paid his debt to society. But his crime will still remain on his criminal record that will follow him for the rest of his life. But suppose his sentence is death instead of 50 years? Can the prisoner then hope for a reduced sentence because of good behavior? Never! Even if he should become a model prisoner for a hundred years, the law would still demand his death.

It is the same with us. We have broken God’s law and the sentence is death. And without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. (Hebrews 9:22) This is why good works can never justify us from the sentence of death. Only the shed blood of Christ can satisfy the sentence of death on us. (Romans 3:25)

Is the Law still binding?

Now we are brought to the question that has created confusion for multitudes of Christians: If the works of the law cannot save a person, is it therefore necessary to keep the law? Apparently this was a burning issue in the early church, because Paul asked the same question in Romans 6:1: “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” In other words, does grace give us a license to disobey the law of God? His answer is an unequivocal No! “God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (verse 2 )

Sadly, Christians have invented their own definitions that not only condone lawbreaking, but teach others to do so as well. (Matthew 5:19) The Bible tells us that sin is violating God’s commandments—the law which has been described as irrelevant today by many modern Christians. Don’t be deceived. Every one of God’s spiritual laws and moral precepts are just as timely and needful today as they were when God gave them to Moses, who in turn instructed his people. And nothing has ever happened to make them less binding than they were when God gave them. In fact, if you study the Bible with an open mind, you will discover that Jesus came to bring the full spiritual meaning and intent the law and making it more comprehensive to us. That’s what he meant when he said that he came to fulfill the law. (Matt.5:17)

Countless sincere Christians have been taught and have accepted the idea that the Old Testament was the dispensation of works, but that the New Testament provides for a dispensation of grace. Under this pretzel logic people were saved by works in the Old Testament and by grace in the New Testament. This is simply not true. There is only one way for anybody to be saved—that is by grace through faith. God will not divide people up between those who got saved by works and those who got saved by faith. Those who entered into salvation in the Old Testament were those who trusted the merits of the blood of Jesus Christ, and they looked forward in faith to the atoning death of Jesus. We look back in faith to the same death and are saved in exactly the same way. (See Hebrews 11) The Bible teaches that the entire redeemed host throughout eternity will be singing the same song of deliverance, exalting the Lamb slain from the foundations of the world. (Revelation 5: 11-13)

Did Jesus give us a “new law”?

Some try to ignore God’s commandments on the basis of the “new” commandments of love that they say Jesus introduced. It is certainly true that Jesus laid down two great laws of love as a summary of all the law, but did he give the idea that these were to replace God’s spiritual laws? The fact is that Jesus was quoting directly from the Old Testament when he gave those “new commandments” proves that he had no intention of replacing God’s commandments. “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) And “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Leviticus 19:18) Jesus was merely pointing out the spiritual principles of God’s laws—Unlike the traditions of man taught by the Pharisees. In fact, most of what the apostle Paul spoke about came directly from the Old Testament  Scriptures.

Jesus told a parable of two sons who were asked to work in their father’s vineyard. He asked the Pharisees which son obeyed. After they answered Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do.” (See Mathew 21:28-32)

In 70A.D. the Jew’s Temple was destroyed fulfilling Christ prophecy. (Matthew 24:1-2) The Temple’s sad end slammed the door on the Jew’s sacrificial system. Could it be that God allowed the Romans to destroy His Temple because of  the Jew’s legalistic observance of their traditions and ceremonial-sacrificial laws? Or maybe God just wanted them to realize that He doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. (Acts 7:48) They adjusted, of course, creating new rituals and traditions in their synagogues.

Perhaps that is why God will not destroy the Christian’s houses of worship—Even though they are filled with just as many traditions and ceremonies as was practiced in the Jew’s Temple. Because God knows that we too, would just create new places for our rituals and traditions.

Christians today are no different than the Pharisees when we place traditions above obediance to God’s spiritual laws. Scripture warns against any traditions, customs, precepts, or laws that are in opposition to, or contradictory to God’s commandments. (Deuteronomy 12:31) Customs, rituals, and practices such as Christmas, Easter, or Lent are inventions and traditions of men that Jesus warned against. (Matthew 15:8-9)

We must be cautious of the emptiness of the traditions of men passed down through time—even those from our own forefathers or elders. Because when we place more importance on our traditions than we do on God’s commandments we dishonor God and  turn the grace of Christ into sin. (Jude 1:4)

Remember, there is a thin line between holding onto non-biblical traditions and participating in pagan practices.

Many Christians believe that God’s Old Testament Laws were done away with and fulfilled by Jesus’ death and resurrection—that we are no longer under the Law, but under grace and we no loner are required to observe many of them—Including the Holy Feast Days.

But whose Feasts are they?

Even before the Old Covenant was ratified and before he scaled Mount Sinai to receive the Law from God, Moses was instructed about Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. God told Moses, “Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance.“ (See Exodus 12:12-17)

Note that in Exodus 12:38 it says that a “mixed multitude” went with them—ie; non-Hebrew people, or Goyim. (Hebrew for other nations) Some, perhaps were willing to leave their country because it was laid waste by plagues; others may have been Egyptian slaves who saw the Exodus as a chance for freedom. And perhaps still others left out of a love for the Hebrews and their religion. The point is, is that there were always non-Jews living among the Israelites.

Concerning these Goyim, God told Moses, “If there are foreigners living among you who want to celebrate the LORD’s Passover, let all their males be circumcised. Only then may they celebrate the Passover with you like any native-born Israelite. But no uncircumcised male may ever eat the Passover meal. This instruction applies to everyone, whether a native-born Israelite or a foreigner living among you.” (Exodus 12:48-49) In other words, God’s instructions applies to EVERYONE—whether a native-born Israelite or a foreigner!

We learn in Leviticus 23 that ALL the feasts of the Bible are “festivals to the Lord.  And each of the seven annual Feast observances, God commands Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the Lord, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.” (Lev. 23:2) He leaves us with no doubt as to whom these observances belong. They are God’s Feasts—not Israel’s; and not feasts just for the Jews! So Scripture proves that all these special annual festivals and Sabbaths belong to God and are given to those who seek to truly know and love Him.

But where are the Goyim today?

First, we need to understand that all Jews are Israelites; but not all Israelites are Jews. Just like all Navajos are Native American; but not all Native Americans are Navajo. When God called Abraham, He promised him that because of his obedience, his descendants would become a great nation and that in him all nations of the earth would be blessed. (Genesis 12:1-3) The physical blessings God gave Abraham would continue through his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, also called Israel, whose 12 sons were the progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel. There was also a spiritual promise that all nations would be blessed through Jesus Christ, who was a descendant of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-34)

The Jews make up the kingdom of Judah and Benjamin, But who are the other 10 tribes of Israel today? Although the Bible does not specifically name the modern nations representing all of these people, there is biblical, historical and archaeological evidence that make it possible for us to positively identify the United States, Britain and many of the nations of Western Europe as the nations where descendants of the 10 tribes of Israel largely reside today.

Although God had promised that He would punish the people of ancient Israel for their sins, He also promised that He would not completely destroy them. Instead, God said He would preserve them as He scattered them among the nations.

Speaking through the prophet Amos, God said: “Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, says the LORD. For surely I will command, and will sift the house of Israel among all nations, as grain is sifted in a sieve; yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground.” (Amos 9:8-9)

The introduction to the book of James says, “To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,” which confirms that some in the early New Testament Church knew where at least some of the descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel were located.

The Bible also indicates that the ancient Israelites would eventually migrate in a northwesterly direction away from Jerusalem. According to a prophecy in Isaiah 49:6, God will not only “restore the preserved ones of Israel”, but He will also “give light to the Gentiles”. (Goyim) In verse 12 we read that these people will come from “the north and the west” back to Jerusalem.

When the Assyrians conquered Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, they transported many of the Israelites “to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.” (2 Kings 17:6) Shortly after the Israelites came into these lands, scholars note the appearance of people in this area called Cimmerians and Scythians.

The Jewish historian Josephus stated that “the entire body of the people of Israel remained in that country [Media]; wherefore there are but two tribes [Judah and Benjamin] in Asia and Europe subject to the Romans, while the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers.” (Antiquities of the Jews, 11.5.2, Complete Works of Flavius Josephus)

In addition to biblical and historical evidence, Scythian burial grounds have indicated a connection between these people and those of Nordic ancestry. In July 2006 in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia near China and Russia, scientists made a rare find. German scientists who were part of the discovery team reported that the extremely well preserved mummy of a Scythian warrior was that of a 30 to 40 year old man with blond hair. Blond hair, of course, is a characteristic of Europeans not Mongols. Prior to the discovery of this mummy, artifacts obtained from numerous Scythian burial grounds had likewise indicated that these people were related to Europeans rather than Mongols.

This should prove to anyone with an open mind that the people of the United States, Britain and many of the nations of Western Europe are the actual descendants of the tribes of Israel. Only God could arrange things in order to fulfill His prophecy of Amos 9:8-9 to scatter the house of Israel among all nations! While this historical knowledge is not critical for salvation, it does help one to better understand our connection to Israel and end-time prophecies.

But what about the “New Rules” in Acts 15?

In Acts 15:19-22 we read, “Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren.”

It would seem at first glance that the apostles agreed that the only thing required of the new converts was to abstain from idols, from fornication, from things strangled and from eating blood. But rather than isolate one verse alone and build on that, one must look at the whole chapter. Only in proper context will the meaning become clear. Consider Acts 15:5-11. What group was demanding conversion by circumcision? What was the apostle’s response to this particular group’s demand and why? What does other scripture teach regarding observance for believers—both Gentile and Jewish? Only after answering these questions can one arrive at what this passage is really teaching.

Verse 21 seems to show that while the Torah wasn’t forced on Gentiles all at once, it was understood they would learn it gradually over time, hearing it each week in the synagogues. Just as the Bible isn’t forced on Christians in a day either—they too, receive it over time. The apostle Paul suggested that the new believers be allowed to start off on these four laws so they would have the bare basics to begin fellowshipping with their Jewish brethren and they would learn the rest of Torah each Shabbat at synagogue. Only after pointing out that the Gentiles would learn Torah weekly did it please the apostles and elders to send this letter out to the various churches. (vs 22)

The common misunderstanding.

The mistaken assumption many make is in thinking that all laws in the Old Testament are the same. The fact is, we find five different kinds of law in Scriptures:

  • Spiritual law
  • Civil law
  • Ceremonial-ritual-sacrificial law
  • Judicial-criminal law
  • Natural law

The Feasts (as well as the Ten Commandments) fall into the category of spiritual laws. They reveal the spiritual attributes of God and they transform us spiritually to be more like Jesus when we observe them. They also remind us of how God will always watch over us and protect us with His mighty power.

It was understood by all the apostles that God’s Torah was never changed or replaced. We also know that Jesus considered the “traditions of man” not equal to written Torah, in fact, sometimes the oral tradition (Talmud) violated the written Torah. (Mark 7:7- 9)

The apostles upheld written Torah but frowned on the legalism of oral law. So who is making the demands in Acts 15:5? The Pharisees are. So, Acts 15 is basically dealing with whether Gentiles needed to convert according to Pharisaic tradition; that is, become proselytes to Pharisaic Judaism by circumcision. We know Gentiles could be saved without becoming proselytes—the believing of Cornelius and his family proves this.

Notice that the Pharisee’s complaint wasn’t “we demand that they eat kosher and observe God’s Feast Days and the Sabbaths.” This would be redundant since the Law of Moses already included these individual laws. But circumcision is singled out not as merely 1 of the 613 Pharisaic laws, but instead as the means of making a proselyte to Pharisaic Judaism. That is why Peter argued against this attempt of the Pharisees to put a yoke on the new believers. (Acts 15:7-11)

Note that the oral tradition of the Jews is a burden—Just as some of the oral traditions of the Christian Church is a burden. They are both man’s attempt to enslave others. But in God’s Laws there is freedom. (Leviticus 26:13) God didn’t give us His Laws to enslave us. God gave us His Laws to free us! God’s Laws are never a burden; it is man’s ADDITIONS to God’s Laws that are the burden. (1 John 5:3; James 1:25; Matthew 23:4)

The only laws that were changed by the New Covenant of Jesus were  the ceremonial-ritual-sacrificial laws. The book of Hebrews speaks of that change. (Hebrews 9:9-14)

These ceremonial-ritual-sacrificial laws had been added to the spiritual laws because of Israel’s continued transgressions. (Gal. 3:19) It was imperative that Israel learn the important lesson that sin is a serious thing that separates us from God and requires blood shedding for atonement. But now we rely on the Savior as the ultimate sacrifice, who now intercedes for us as our High Priest. His blood and not the blood of bulls and goats is the only effective antidote to blot out sin. THIS is the change in the law that the Bible speaks of.

We find nothing here or anywhere else in the Scriptures about a change in our responsibility to keep the spiritual laws—meaning either the Ten Commandments or God’s Feast days. Because neither the Commandments nor God’s annual Feast Days are part of the sacrificial laws that were changed with the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Did Jesus’ death and resurrection change God’s spiritual laws?

Matthew 5:17 is the scripture that is most quoted in order to show that Jesus did away with the Law. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” However, they leave off verse 18 where Jesus himself said, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.” (NLT)

Is heaven and earth still here? Yes! Has everything in God’s Word been fulfilled? No! Is the Law of God still in effect? Yes! Jesus says it is! Jesus continues to explain the laws and commandments of God when he says: “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commandments will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (v19)

Although the Ancient Israelites understood the physical basis for keeping the law, they did not comprehend the spiritual intent and meaning of the laws and commandments of God. The part of the plan of God for the salvation of humanity called for Jesus Christ to come and explain the spiritual intent and meaning of these laws and commandments. This is precisely what he did.

Many Christians pick out Colossians 2:16-18 and mistakingly believe that Paul is telling us not to observe the feasts: Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 

Paul is not telling us not to observe God’s festivals or Sabbaths, he is telling us not to let others JUDGE us when we DO observe them! Because, “…These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”

And who are those who would judge us? The legalistic Pharisaic Jews and the worldly Christians who would impose man-made ordinances and rules on us. (See vs. 20-22)

The New Testament Christians obeyed God’s spiritual laws

The Apostle John wrote:

“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2:6)

“By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments.”(1 John 2:3)

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)

“And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments.” (2 John 1:6)

Did the apostle Paul observe God’s Laws?

The New Testament writings raises an important question: Why did Paul observe God’s Feast Days? In Acts 20:6 we are told that Paul observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and in Acts 20:16 he observed the Feast of Pentecost. Notice that even after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the importance that the apostle Paul attached to keeping a Feast in Jerusalem: “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” (Acts 18:21 KJV) I find it interesting that many Bible translations today have removed the part of that verse that says, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem.” Compare it to the NIV which reads, “But as he left, he promised, ‘I will come back if it is God’s will.’ Then he set sail from Ephesus.” Why no mention of keeping the feast in Jerusalem? Could the omission be because it offers such strong support for the validity of God’s Holy Feast Days? If all of God’s laws were replaced at Jesus’ resurrection, was Paul wrong to do so?

Did the 2nd or 3rd Century Church Keep God’s Feasts?

There are at least 5 reasons that it can be concluded that the second century church observed the feasts:

  • Jesus did. (John 2:13, 23, John 7:2–14)
  • The apostles did. (Act 2:1; Acts 18:18-21; 27: 9)
  • They are mentioned in both the Old and New testament.
  • It is a sign of the covenant between us and God. (Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:11-13)
  • The symbolism in every one of the feasts all point to Jesus our Messiah.

Passover points to the Messiah as our Passover lamb whose blood was shed for our sins.

Unleavened Bread points to the Messiah’s sinless life

First Fruits points to the Messiah’s resurrection as the first fruits of the righteous.

Pentecost represents God pouring out His Holy Spirit on His people.

Trumpets represents Jesus’ return for His bride.

Atonement represents when Christ will judge His Church.

Tabernacles represents when we celebrate the wedding feast.

Persecution of Jews and Torah Observant Christians

If God’s laws were not being kept by the early Christians, then certain leaders in the Roman Catholic Church would not have felt the necessity to try to force people not to follow them.

Vatican records declare that millions of people, including Muslims, Jews AND Torah observant Christians were killed by Roman Catholic Clergy and lay-people during 6 Centuries of the Crusades. The Papal inquisition inaugurated the most evil system of extreme tortures, mutilations and deaths lasting up until 1834!

Had Jesus or Paul told us that under the New Covenant we no longer needed to observe the seven annual Feasts, then we wouldn’t have to bother. The reality is, NO ONE in the New Testament said such a thing! In fact, we find a myriad of passages in the New Testament where people intended to keep them and continued keeping them.

Human tradition stops many from observing God’s feasts. Not one professing Christian kept Halloween, All Saint’s Day, Christmas, Lent or Easter until hundreds of years after Christ died. And yet the biblical Holy Days commanded by God have been sadly rejected by most Christians today who instead endorse these pagan practices that were instituted by the Catholic Church.

Let me make myself clear. Obeying God’s commandments and observing His Holy Feast Days have nothing whatsoever to do with salvation. But when my children were young, they obeyed my rules. Not because they thought I would love them more if they obeyed, or that I would love them less if they didn’t. They obeyed my rules BECAUSE they loved me.

I don’t obey God’s commandments because I think God will love me more; I obey Him BECAUSE I love Him!

 

Recently, many have been voicing their fear while comparing Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. This is strangely reminiscent to me of Barak Obama’s run for president.

Comparing someone to Hitler is as ridiculous as comparing someone to the Antichrist.

Every American president since George Washington has likely been suspected of being the one to usher in the end times. FDR, JFK, Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama have all been named by various individuals and organizations as being potential Antichrists. And it most likely won’t be long before Donald Trump is added to that list.

Anyone who studies the Bible would know that the Antichrist will be not be revealed to the world until a great falling away happens first. (2 Thessalonians 2:1- 4)

One has to ask: What would cause a great many people fall away from their faith?

The apostle John states that if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God and has the spirit of the antichrist, which is already here. (See 1 John 2:18; 4:3)

Just as God poured out His spirit onto those who believed, Satan has also poured out his own spirit on those who have rejected God—the spirit of the Antichrist. And without a true repentance and surrender to God’s will, that spirit will continue to grow like a cancer until it destroys all who it infects.

The result of this spirit is people becoming lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. (See 2 Timothy 3:1-9)

But it is not the same with those who profess to be followers of Christ. We are to be submissive to rulers and authorities (provided they do not rule against God’s word), to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. (Titus 3:2)

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray by various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us—not because of good works done by us, but according to his own mercy through Jesus Christ our Savior. (See Titus 3:1-6; Philippians 4:8; 1 Timothy 2:1-15)

I can’t help but think how it must break God’s heart to watch His people, whom He created in His own image, argue amongst themselves about worldly matters. So instead of verbally attacking others who don’t happen to agree with your point of view and speaking slanderously about someone you don’t really know, perhaps we can follow the advice of Ephesians 4:29-31: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

But this will involve repenting of our own wickedness and turning over our own tables in our lives.

If everyone would do this maybe, just maybe together…we could make our country truly great again.

 

 

Over the past few months I have noticed how many people have been taking to social media to voice their displeasure with the recent presidential campaign and the ultimate election of Donald Trump.

The most disheartening aspect of this has been the hateful language from professing Christians from both sides and their slanderous postings. (Many from fake news sights)

The Bible makes it clear that followers of Christ should not be involved in this type of thing:

Exodus 23:1You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.

Psalm 34:13Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.

Proverbs 20:19Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.

Proverbs 26:20For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.

When we repeat such reports from one to another (whether true or false) they provoke us to mutual anger, enmity, and contention; but where there is no whispering of rumors and slander, the quarreling ceases. Animosity, hatred, and quarrels will die away—Just as burning coals eventually die out and are no more than cold ashes under our feet.

But at the same time, dead coals laid on burning coals, or wood on fire, increases the heat and flames of contention. All contentions, whether between private persons, families, churches, or nations, are begun and carried forward by pride. And pride can often lead to unkind tempers and provoking words that produce quarrels and enmities, which destroys all peace and embroil people in endless hostilities against one another.

This should not be happening within the body of Christ.

I realize that this election has left many with great fear—fear of the unknown, fear of what will transpire in the next four years and beyond, and fear that our greatest fear will come upon us. (Job 3:25) But God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)

In Isaiah 41:10 God reassures us to, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

As I was writing this, a heavy wind storm caused some things to crash around outside. When I went out to survey the damage, I discovered that it was just a ladder that had fallen onto my deck. But I was suddenly amazed that my next door neighbors’ trees were being violently tossed to and fro in the wind, but the tree in my back yard was completely still, unaffected by the wind in my neighbor’s yard! Standing there I was reminded of  the verse in Ecclesiastes 11:5 that says, “Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.”

Wherever we are, whatever is happening in our lives, we can always trust that God is in control—if we choose to do it. But if we magnify every little difficulty and start objections and quarrels, we will never be able to fully trust God. Winds and clouds of tribulation are in God’s hands, designed to test us. And God’s work will always agree with his word, whether we see it or not. So we need to trust God to provide for us and protect us, without our anxious, disquieting cares. For in due season, in God’s time, you shall reap—if you do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

Sadly, American Christians have become fat and soft over the years. We have become more dependent on our own strengths and on our political system than we are on God and his system of government.

We claim that our religious rights are being attacked because of some states’ decision to remove monuments of the Ten Commandments on the Capitol grounds, or schools disallowing religious displays, or praying at public meetings, or changing the greeting of “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays”.

But right now, Christians and religious minorities around the world are literally facing death, simply for maintaining their faith.

In Northern Nigeria, Boko Haram has waged a years-long campaign of violence, mass abductions, rapes and village raids against local communities. In many cases, they’ve targeted Christians, as well as more moderate Muslims. Schoolgirls who have been captured have been forced to convert to Islam before being made to become child brides and even suicide bombers. Videos of public executions of Christians have been posted on the Internet to strike fear in the hearts of other believers. There have been reports of Christian aid workers being publicly beaten and even made to watch their own children being tortured in an effort to get them to renounce their faith, before being publicly crucified.

Do you think that our Christian brothers and sisters in these countries argue amongst each other about their political choices?

Our world is changing. What we see happening in other countries will eventually happen here as well. The apostle Paul writing to Timothy said, “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.”

He related his own persecutions and said, “What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. Indeed, all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and imposters go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (See 2 Timothy 3:1-16)

Even Jesus himself said: “…They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.” (John 16:1-3)

So instead of fighting amongst ourselves, we should be strengthening each other and preparing ourselves spiritually for what is to come.

Because, “If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses? If you stumble and fall on open ground, what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5) In other words, if issues like the banning of public prayer and  Christmas greetings weary you, what will you do when real persecution comes?

As a child of God, we no longer have to fear…Anything!

Mudslinging, name calling and misleading political ads have always been all too common during election years. But the 2016 election has become more volatile than anyone can remember. Name calling, cursing, lies and violent outbursts at political rallies have become the new norm.

What saddens me more is how many Christians are speaking the same way on social media sites like Face Book, Twitter and Instagram. If someone disagrees with them they are quick to use words like: stupid, idiot, racist, or Nazi.

To make matters worse, these same people who degrade others with their words have professed to being a “God loving Christian” but have a habit of posting memes of inspirational Bible verses right along with others that portray their opposing candidate as the devil incarnate. “Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. These things should not be.” (James 3:10)

I imagine a non-believer reads those things and thinks, “They’re no different than I am.” Or, “If that’s what a Christian is like, I don’t want to be one.” Or, “Christians are such hypocrites!”

In the midst of political and religious debates it’s easier to attack people rather than lovingly challenge someone’s actions and ideas. But that is not what God expects from His children. The apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” Calling someone stupid or an idiot does none of those things.

“A Covenant for Civility” adopted by a number of evangelical leaders in 2010 asserted seven scriptural steps for civil dialogue:

1) Reflect the spirit of Scripture, being “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19)

2) Acknowledge that all people are created in the image of God. “With the tongue we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. … this ought not to be so.” (James 3:9, 10)

3) Disagree respectfully without falsely impugning others’ motives, character, or faith. We recognize in humility that in our opinions, “we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) We will therefore “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)

4) Watch the use of language, being neither arrogant nor boastful. “Before destruction one’s heart is haughty, but humility goes before honor.” (Proverbs 18:12)

Civility is needed now more than ever. No matter the results on November 8th, civility and Christian compassion will be vital to rebuild community and cooperation in the wake of a contentious presidential election.