Posts Tagged ‘Christians’

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)

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!”

The apostle Paul said to follow (imitate) him as he follows Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Corinthians 4:16; Philippians 3:17) This is the only safe example; and if we follow this, we can never go astray. 

And yet most Christians today follow unbiblical preachers, evangelists, authors and such, rather than follow the the apostle Paul or the Lord. In fact most Christians today are able to more readily quote from some book that was written by (spiritually) dead men than they can quote God’s word! And this to the Church’s shame! 

And why doesn’t the Church follow the way of the apostles and Christ? Because of selfishness. We want to live our lives OUR own way. But Jesus told his disciples, “…If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16: 24-25) 

The Church today has become an abomination to God! Everyone does what is right in their own mind. The house of God has become a den of thieves, a nest of vipers! And its preachers have become blind guides deceiving and being deceived! We have become like the Church in Laodicea—lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—and Jesus is about to vomit you out of his mouth! (Revelation 3: 14-22) 

Notice that verse 20 is speaking to the Church, not to the unsaved, as many Christians would have you believe. Jesus is knocking on the doors of Christians, asking us—pleading with us— to open up to him that he might come in and fellowship with us. But we will not. Because we believe that we are rich and in need of nothing from him. But until we realize that we are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, we will never reach our full potential in Christ. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” 

“What we need today more than anything else, more even than victory in the war against aggression, are weapons, manpower and strategy to win the war against selfishness.” —Sam Shoemaker, Pastor, author and original founder of AA

God gave us 613 commandments to obey. And most Christians today refuse to obey even 10, or 5, or two! “So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them, will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:19 NLT)  

If the Church today does not live godly lives, if they refuse to obey God’s word, if they continue to follow traditions of men rather than the commandments of God, and teach others to do the same, then all is lost! 

Lord God, I confess that I have not been faithful to seek the lost as I should. I have shed no tears for them. But Lord, I pray that today you give me a great burden for the lost and for your people who are called by your name. Help me to travail in prayer for them. Give me tears for them. Let my heart be broken for them. And I pray that you will raise up mighty men and women of God who are willing to follow Paul’s example of following Christ. And I pray that, like Paul, I will not only be known in heaven, but that I will also be known by the devil and his demons as it was documented of Paul in Acts 19: 13-19. I pray Lord God, that you give me the strength and grace to die daily of self so that many will be saved for your glory. Lord send a revival to your Church now! And let it begin with me.

Amen! 

Spare the rod spoil the child?

The term, “spare the rod, spoil the child” is not actually in the Bible. This phrase is taken out of context and a misinterpretation of Proverbs 13:24: “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: But he who loves him chasteneth him betimes.” (KJV)

A better translation is:Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” (NLT)

In any translation, the intent is disciplining children in order to guide them in the way they should go. To put it simply, it is to instill in our children right from wrong. Much in the same way that shepherds use a staff to guide sheep who begin to splinter away from the flock back to safety, the rod of discipline can be used to keep our children safe from outside influences that will lead them down a dangerous and destructive path. 

The most common misinterpretation of this scripture views this as direction to physically punish children as the best—or only, form of discipline, and is the inspiration for other disciplinary tools like wooden spoons, switches or belts. Children never learn discipline from physical punishment—only fear.

There is a big difference between a rod—a physical object, and the rod, which is used metaphorically. In each scripture that describes disciplining a child, the rod is used, not a rod:

Proverbs 13:24 – “Those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them.”

Proverbs 22:15 – “Foolishness is bound in the heart of the child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.”

Proverbs 23:13 – “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.” 

There are many who were abused by one or both of their parents and they don’t even realize that they were abused. Some even brag about how they were beaten by their parent and how they were better for it. Sadly, they end up doing the same thing to their own children. 

It’s understandable for a parent to to become frustrated with a rebellious child, but when you allow that frustration turn to physical action against a child, your parenting will eventually render your efforts to raise godly, well adjusted children ineffective. 

Here’s why: The idea of punishment implies repaying someone with what he or she deserves. Physical punishment produces a child laden with guilt and determined to get out from under it, and raising kind, loving, well adjusted children are never the result. An effective parent has to learn the difference between punishment and discipline—and also learn the importance of grace.

God’s grace amid discipline

We love the gospel of grace when we come to God and our sins. None of us wants justice in the sense of God giving us what we deserve. But as much as we love God’s mercy when applied to us, we have a really hard time applying it to others—especially when the “other” is someone who can frustrate us as much as our children can. 

This is grace

I like to retell the story of how God used my son to explain grace to both of us. My son, Sean, who was around 9 or 10 at the time, was playing outside with friends when I told him it was time to come inside. After ignoring me for several minutes I again called him to come inside. After refusing to obey me a third time I yelled, “Sean! Get inside! Now!” He finally came inside in a huff, slamming the door and flailing his arms in anger. In doing so, he knocked over my guitar. (My prized possession) We both watched in horror as the neck of my guitar snapped as it hit the floor.

I looked angrily at my son and in a soft, but firm voice I said, “Go to your room, I’m gonna hurt you.” Flying up the stairs to his room, he was already blubbering, thinking I was going to kill him. Later, after I cooled down, I went up to my son’s room to find him hyperventilating from crying so hard. I said, “Sean, do you know what judgement is?” He answered between his breaths, “N-n-no.” I said, “Judgement is getting what you deserve.” At that moment he broke into his sobs again completely convinced that I was going to beat him. After calming him down once more I then asked him, “Sean, do you know what grace is?” He shook his head, no. I said this is grace. And I put him on my lap and just held him.

That is exactly what God does with us. Although we all deserve God’s judgement, if we trust in the saving power of Jesus, God has mercy on us, forgives us of our sins, and wraps His arms around us and loves us.

Effective discipline starts with us being healthy ourselves. If you had a rough childhood with questionable punishments, you hold the power to change the environment for your own children. You are in charge of them having a better upbringing than you had and a better future. 

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as reminders on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.Teach them to your children, speaking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:18-19) 

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath; instead, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)

My wife and I had the privilege of sharing Passover with our granddaughter last night. 

Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) commemorates the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt after suffering over 400 years of slavery. Passover is regarded by many  Christians as a “Jewish only” celebration. Some even claim that Yeshua (Jesus) and his disciples didn’t observe the Passover—even though it states in Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12, Luke 22:8, and John 13:1 that they did! 

So why should Christians observe the biblical feasts? My answer has always been this: We don’t HAVE to observe the feasts—we GET to observe them. But the most important reason for us to observe Passover and all the feasts is that God told us to. We show our love for God by doing what He says. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” (1 John 5:2)  

In Exodus 12:38 we read that there was also a “mixed multitude” that left Egypt with the Hebrews. They were possibly Egyptians who followed them because of the miracles they witnessed, or were from other countries that the Egyptians conquered and forced some of the people into slavery.

We also need to remember that there were many members of  the 12 different tribes of Israel that left Egypt at the time of the Exodus. Not just Jews. (or the tribe of Judah) You see, every Jew is an Israelite, but not every Israelite is a Jew. And every one of us are descendants of those who belonged to one of the mixed multitude that God told Moses that, “The same law shall apply to the native ‘Hebrew’ as to the stranger.” (or non-Jew) And in Exodus 12:48-49 we read that “The same law shall apply to the native as to the stranger (or non-Jew) who sojourns among you.” 

Yeshua said: “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. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, (The smallest letter in the Hebrew language) will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5: 17-20) Many Christians claim that everything was accomplished when Yeshua  was crucified and raised from the dead and that all the Old Testament laws were done away with. The only thing that Yeshua’s crucifixion and resurrection did away with was the sacrificial and ceremonial laws—since he was the ultimate sacrificial Lamb of God. But EVERYTHING will not be accomplished until AFTER Yeshua returns and sets up God’s kingdom and government on earth. 

Yeshua also said “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” (John 5:46) Why would we want to miss out on something that Yeshua said points to him? Besides, throughout the Scriptures we are told that the Passover and other Feast Days and Sabbaths are not Jewish Feast Days and Sabbaths. They are GOD’S. And God said that they are a  permanent statute wherever we live for the generations to come. ( See Exodus 12:14-28; Leviticus 16:29) 

I am amazed that so many Christian pastors and Bible teachers can spend years and years studying in Bible colleges and seminaries and STILL refuse to see this in the Scriptures. And worse yet, refuse to teach God’s truth to their followers! Not only have they rejected God’s Feats Days, but they have replaced them with traditional holy days of man such as Good Friday, Lent, Ash Wednesday, Easter and Christmas—which none of Yeshua’s disciples, the apostles, or any of the early Church ever observed.  

Remember Yeshua, in verse 20 of Matthew 5 said, “…So then, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” All my life I have been considered to be least here on earth. I don’t know about you, but I want to be considered great in kingdom of heaven.

The special foods we eat on Passover not only reminds us of the Exodus, but also helps us to focus on God’s love for us. But what many don’t recognize is that every thing in the Passover Seder, and in fact, all of God’s feasts, points to Messiah.  

Remember the words of the apostle John: “By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments. If anyone says, I know Him, but does not keep His commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone keeps His word, the love of God has been truly perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him: Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.” (1 John 2:3-6) 

“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)

Observing God’s Feast Days and Sabbaths and obeying God’s commandments has nothing to do with salvation. It has to do with obedience to God out of our love for Him. When my children were young they obeyed my rules. Not because they thought I would love them more if they obeyed me, or afraid that I would love them less if they disobeyed. But BECAUSE they loved me, they obeyed my rules. 

And in the same way, we don’t obey God’s commandments because we think He will love us more or that we can work our way into salvation. But BECAUSE we love Him we obey His commandments.

At the end of our Passover seder we pray this blessing: 

“Blessed are You Lord G-d king of the universe, for the produce of the field, and for the precious, good and spacious land, to eat of its fruit and be satisfied by its goodness. Have mercy, Lord our G-d, on your people, Send us your New Jerusalem, your holy city, in our days, and we will rejoice in it and bless you in holiness and purity. And remember us for good on this day of the Festival of Matzot. 

And we all end by saying: NEXT YEAR IN NEW JERUSALEM! AMEN!

I realize that this may offend some, but I must speak God’s truth rather than continue to promote traditions and myths.

 I am continually amazed at how Christians who claim that God, who loves everyone, believe that this same God will condemn the unrighteous to an eternity of torment in a burning hell.

And why these same Christians become so upset when you show them in Scripture that God will only condemn the unrighteous to the “Second Death”—Never to exist again. Is it any wonder that unbelievers resist and reject anything that these Christians tell them about their “loving God”? 

So if a forever burning hell does not exist, just where did this belief come from?

To understand the source of the idea that people are tortured in an ever-burning hell, we have to go outside the Scriptures. That should send up a red flag for anyone who regards the Bible as his or her only truth and source of belief.

“People are deterred from evil courses when, either through descriptions or through typical representations of objects unseen, they learn of divine punishments, terrors, and threats….There is need of religious fear also, and this cannot be aroused without myths and marvels.” —First-century Greek philosopher, Strabo  

Plato (ca. 428–347 B.C.E.) became a key figure in the development of this idea. His name appears frequently in the writings of Augustine, who noted that the Greek scholar had “perfected philosophy” and that he “is justly preferred to all the other philosophers of the Gentiles.” (City of God 8.4) 

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which describes Augustine as a “Christian Neoplatonist,” remarks: “One of the decisive developments in the western philosophical tradition was the eventually widespread merging of the Greek philosophical tradition and the Judeo-Christian religious and scriptural traditions. Augustine is one of the main figures through and by whom this merging was accomplished.” 

One of the key tenets of Neoplatonic thought adopted by Augustine was that humans possess natural immortality of the soul. This was a critical step in his developing the idea that unbelievers could be made to endure eternal torment in hell.

What does the Bible teach?

Pagan cultures and philosophies have contributed greatly to modern concepts of hell. But what does the Bible itself say on the subject? In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word often translated as “hell” is Sheol, though it actually means “the grave.” The Greek word, “Hades” means the same thing as the Hebrew word, Sheol—The grave.

In the New Testament, we find that the the word most often used for hell by Christians is Gehenna, referring to the Gehenna Valley, or the Valley of Hinnom. Just outside the walls of Jerusalem. In Jesus’ day it was where the local population dumped and burned trash.  

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says that the Gehenna Valley “acquired a bad reputation because sacrifices were offered in it to Moloch in the days of Ahaz and Manasseh. (kings of Judah) The Valley of Hinnom came to be equated with the hell of the last judgment in apocalyptic literature.” In extra-biblical Jewish writings from the second century B.C.  the name Gehinnom thus came to be used for the eschatological fire of hell. In the first century A.D. the term was further extended to cover the place where the ungodly were punished, but this was not so in the teachings of Jesus or the Early Church. 

According to Jeremiah 7, the Israelite inhabitants of the region had erected idols in the temple of God, and in the adjacent valley they had set up altars to these false gods. They had even burned their children on these altars to appease their pagan gods. 

In Jeremiah 19:4–7, the prophet offers this message from God: “‘Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built high places to Baal to burn their sons in fire as burnt offerings to Baal, . . . therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the Jehovah, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.” 

This is how Gehenna was known in Jeremiah’s day. In the New Testament, the word Gehenna is generally used in references to the final destruction of evildoers. Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”(Gehenna) (Matthew 10:28) 

In other words, people can kill you, but they can kill only the body. Don’t fear them; fear the One who can put an end to you forever. 

Many Christians today might ask, But what about Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:41? “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’”? And what about Mark 9:47-48? “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” 

In both cases the eternal fire is used in order to prevent them from wreaking any more havoc on the rest of God’s creation. But the “eternal fire” of hell has been misunderstood by the majority of people for many centuries. Note that “everlasting fire” (Matt 25:41) and “eternal fire” (Jude 7) are from the same original words. It is not the fire itself but its effects that are everlasting as in Jude 7: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” 

Of course, Sodom and Gomorrah are not still burning yet they “are set forth for an example” of the results of a sinful course.

And the “worm does not die” in Mark 9:47-48 is referring to maggots. Maggots do not die. They later turn into flies and make more maggots. And the Lake of Fire will not be quenched, but it will eventually burn itself out—Just as a campfire or a charcoal grill will eventually burn itself out. 

The apostle Peter writes: ”And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an example unto those that after should live ungodly;” (2 Pet 2:6) 

The wicked will be burned completely, not burning forever in an eternal fire. “And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Mal 4:3) It is the destruction, not the process that is forever.

The Bible is very clear about what happens to the unrighteous after the resurrection:

“When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever!” (Psalms 92:7)

“Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the Lord, O my soul. Praise ye the Lord.” (Psalms 104:35)

“A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.” (Psalm 37:10)

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) *Perish, not tormented forever in a burning hell. 

“But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.” (Psalms 37:20)

And Psalm 59:12-13 says, “By the sins of their mouths and the words of their lips, let them be trapped in their pride, in the curses and lies they utter. Consume them in wrath; consume them till they are no more, so it may be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob. Selah” 

There are many more Scripture verses that reveal the truth about God’s loving judgments. And the Bible is always clear when you allow it to explain itself.

So what is wrong with believing in and teaching that there is a forever burning hell reserved for the unsaved if some are saved and come to serve God because of it? Because God has not called us to frighten sinners into repentance. And if a person is only following God out of fear, their faith and love for God is not real. They are only using God as a fire escape. And what trauma this will cause them when a loved one dies without Jesus, and they believe that God condemned them to an eternity in a forever burning hell? How then, can you profess to be a follower of Jesus and “love your neighbor as yourself” and yet refuse to speak the truth? 

Many are wondering why the world has become so ugly and hate filled—even by those who claim to be God’s people. The Bible gives us a very direct answer:

“Where there is no prophetic vision or divine guidance, the people cast off restraint. But blessed is he who obeys God’s law.” (Proverbs 29:18)

What is this prophetic vision or divine guidance? It is “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” (Col. 1:26) If a people do not hear and obey God’s Word, then we can only expect society to break down—even within local churches. 

We see it within our own government officials and throughout the world. With the next presidential election coming up this year we hear all kinds of promises from the candidates: Immigration reform, equality for women, ending sex trafficking, Medicare for all, free college education, higher minimum wage, and taxing the wealthy to pay for it all. 

But do you know what won’t be mentioned in any of the speeches? Human rights for children, how to prevent sexual abuse of children and how to protect children from pedophiles living in their own homes or employed at their schools and daycares.

It was recently reported that at least 56 Nebraska educators were linked to sexual misconduct since 2014! Fifty six! And that’s only the ones who were reported! 

At least 74 students or recent high school graduates were victimized. In some cases, the abuse occurred years before the perpetrators were caught!  

  • In return for pictures of a 14-year-old student’s naked breasts, a Norfolk student teacher bumped the girl’s grade from a 79 to a 95. (He was only sentenced to six months in jail)
  • A Loup City teacher set up a camera in a locker room to spy on high school girls changing their clothes. 
  • An Omaha middle school math teacher groomed and then sexually assaulted a female student in his classroom during lunch.

A national expert said less than 10% of abused students tell somebody about the abuse because of fear, guilt or a misguided desire to protect the educator.

(read more at https://www.omaha.com/news/plus/i-m-really-disgusted-to-see-that-number-nebraska-educators/article_3fd2f36a-d6d2-59ae-baab-74fbb029f90c.html)

While many will be outraged by this, (and rightly so) they may be ringing their hands and asking, “How could this happen?” The truth is the reason there is so much immorality today is because God’s Word is not obeyed. And God’s way is perfect. (Psalm 18:30) But the real danger lies in defiling a holy God by transgressing His boundaries. Our God is a God of justice, and “the ways of man are before the eyes of the Jehovah, and all his ways He observes.” (Proverbs 5:21)

Stories of racism and anti-semitism has been in all of the news outlets lately. I just want to say that I love the people of Israel. But I also love the people of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Russia—Just as much as I love the mixed people living in the United States. The problem is not the people, but the political and military leaders of these people. 

It is time that the God fearing people in the world today put away their hate, repent, turn back to God and pray for our enemies. Remember: 

“You are far across the ocean in a war that’s your own—And while you’re winning theirs, you’re gonna lose the one at home—Do you really think the only way to bring about the peace—Is to sacrifice your children and kill all your enemies?” — Great American Novel by Larry Norman

 

 

This is not an attack on the Church and I mean no disrespect. I only desire to encourage Christians to seek God’s truths from His Word, the Bible, and hopefully to give you some constructive correction so that you won’t be deceived. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) 

False Doctrine #1 – Natural immortality of the soul 

The majority of professing Christians today believe that when we die, we have a separate “soul” that continues to live on, so that at the time of their death, those who are saved will immediately be ushered into heaven to live out eternity with Jesus and the angels. But throughout the Old and New Testament, you will not see one verse where God or His people proclaimed an immortal soul teaching. 

Many Christians point to Luke 23:43 as proof of this doctrine: “And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” So, what did Jesus really say? Was He actually saying that on the very day He spoke, that the thief was going to be in paradise in heaven? Because Jesus did not go to paradise that day. The thief could not have gone to paradise that day because Jesus did not go to heaven that day either—but only after God resurrected his body 3 days later and Jesus ascended into heaven. 

So what is the answer? How can this text disagree with our doctrine of natural immortality? The answer is simple. Greek text does not have punctuation. When the Bible was translated, the scholars put in the punctuation that they felt was correct, where it allowed the text to agree with their own interpretation. The scholars simply misplaced a comma which changes the entire meaning of the verse. They put the comma before the word today instead of after the word today. Which would more accurately read: “I tell you the truth today, you will be with me in paradise.”

The most misquoted Bible verse that pastors use to convince you of this false doctrine is, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8) But do you know what that verse really says? Have you even looked it up? The actual verse states, “We are confident, yes, well pleased RATHER to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (NKJ) I would rather be absent from my body and be present with the Lord too. But that won’t happen until Jesus resurrects my mortal body.

All throughout the Old Testament we are taught that after death we know nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5,10; Psalm 115:17). And in Isaiah, we are given a remarkable prophecy concerning the second coming of our Messiah and what happens when we die: “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.” (Isaiah 26:19)

Do you see? Where do we dwell until the second coming of Jesus? In the grave, awaiting our resurrection! Christian, this is the Bible truth. The danger of this false doctrine is that it gives people a false sense of eternal security. I have heard people say of loved ones who have passed away, “They’re in a better place now.” Or, “They’re with Jesus now.” Or, “I know that they’re looking over us from heaven.” This makes no sense because how could anyone enjoy their eternity in heaven if they were able to look down and witness all of the sadness, poverty, murder, rape and other evil that befalls their loved ones on earth?

No one naturally inherits eternal life. When we die, we return to dust and await the second coming of Jesus when He will resurrect us. We do not have an immortal soul, because only Jesus has has the power to give us immortality. (1 Timothy 6:16) The apostle Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 15:53 that “this perishable body must PUT ON the imperishable, and this mortal body must PUT ON immortality. (See also Romans 1:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:2-4)  

False Doctrine #2 – Eternal Hell Fire 

Even though every mention of the word “hell” in the Bible refers only to the ground or the grave, mainstream Christian churches believe and teach that when the lost person dies, he or she will be sent into the “fires of hell”, to remain and burn in anguish in extreme pain and suffering for all eternity!

So let me get this straight…Our “God of love” is going to torture the lost with fire for the ceaseless ages to come? And all for their short life of sin, in a mortal body that is prone to sin because of the fall of Adam and Eve? Does this sound like love? Not one bit. 

Even Jesus himself said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not PERISH, but have everlasting life.”  

This is the most well known Bible verse in the whole world—And yet so few people actually know what it means. There are only two options for us. One is to follow Jesus our Messiah and gain eternal life. The other is to reject Jesus and “perish”. Perish means to be completely destroyed—ie; nothing left! And when you learn the truth that we don’t have an immortal soul, then this really makes complete sense. 

Now don’t misunderstand. The lost WILL be judged and punished with “hell fire”, which Revelation chapters 19 and 20 describes as the “lake of fire”. But that fire will burn them up completely, (Malachi 4:1) and they will die the “second death.” (Revelation 21:8) And this agrees with what the prophet Daniel was foretold long ago. “And many who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, but others to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Daniel 12:1-2) 

This is exactly why God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden after they ate from the tree of good and evil, “…lest he reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” God did not want Adam and Eve to live forever in a state of corruption. When the wicked, (Those who have rejected God’s love and plan of salvation) are resurrected, they will be resurrected with corruptible bodies. (Think “The Walking Dead”) So the most loving thing that God can do is to destroy them in the Lake of Fire to put them out of their misery. 

What sense would it make if a loving God placed someone into a place of torment for ages, only to pull them out of the flames to judge them, and then throw them back into the flames? That is not the act of a loving God. Of course it is a way to instill fear into the hearts of those ignorant of the Scriptures in order to control them. Just as the early Catholic church did. But God has never called us to frighten people into His kingdom.

False Doctrine #3 – The Sabbath Day and Biblical Feast Days Abolished 

Many Protestant and mainline churches have criticized the Catholic church for it’s non-biblical doctrines and practices. But did you know that most of the doctrines taught and practiced in the Protestant churches came directly from the Catholic church? 

Ever wonder who changed God’s seventh day Sabbath to Sunday? In both Old and New Testament there is not a shadow of variation in the doctrine of the Sabbath. God’s Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and ends on Saturday evening. The seventh day Sabbath is the only day ever designated by the term Sabbath in the entire Bible. Not only was Jesus a perfect example in observing the weekly Sabbath, but all His disciples and apostles followed the same pattern even after Jesus had ascended into heaven. 

But if the change did not take place in the Scriptures or through the influence of the apostles, when and how did it happen? 

Most know about the Roman emperor Constantine and his supposed “conversion” to Christianity. But during the time of the Roman Empire, Constantine as well as his army and most Roman citizens were pagan sun-worshipers. At that time the cult of Mithraism or sun-worship was the official religion of the Roman Empire. It stood as the greatest competitor to the new Christian religion. It had its own organization, temples, priesthood, robes—everything. It also had an official worship day on which special homage was given to the sun. That day was called “The Venerable Day of the Sun.” It was the first day of the week, and from it we get our name Sunday. 

Most have also heard the story of Constantine’s supposed “vision” on the battlefield. Afterward, Constantine declared Christianity the new official religion of his kingdom and forced all his pagan soldiers to be Christians. He became very zealous to build up the power and prestige of his “new religion” with the help of the Catholic church. Through his influence, great numbers of pagans were taken into the Christian ranks. And for the first time in history Christians were forced to worship alongside pagan sun- worshippers—and they brought much of their pagan ideas, which they continued to be devoted to, with them. Christmas, Easter and many other pagan customs were Christianized and appropriated into the practice of the Church as well.  

After Constantine made the initial pronouncement and legal decree about the change, the Catholic church reinforced that act in one church council after another. For this reason, many official statements from Catholic sources are made, claiming that the the Catholic church made the change from Saturday to Sunday. 

The Catholic Mirror of September 23, 1894, puts it this way: “The Catholic Church for over one thousand years before the existence of a Protestant by virtue of her divine mission, changed the day from Saturday to Sunday.” 

From the Convert’s Catechism of Catholic Doctrine by Reverend Peter Giermann: “Question: Which is the Sabbath day? Answer: Saturday is the Sabbath day. Question: Why do we observe Sunday instead of Saturday? Answer: We observe Sunday instead of Saturday because the Catholic Church in the Council of Laodicea transferred the solemnity from Saturday to Sunday.” 

From Reverend Steven Keenan’s Doctrinal Catechism we read this: 

“Question: Have you any other way of proving that the Church has power to institute festivals of precept? Answer: Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her; she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday, the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday, the seventh day; a change for which there is no Scriptural authority.”

See? Even the Catholic church admits that it changed the seventh day Sabbath to Sunday! Has the Catholic church, or any religion, ever been given power to make any alterations to the commandments of God? Absolutely not! 

The apostle Paul, who wrote pages of counsel about lesser issues of Jewish and Gentile conflicts, had not one word to say about any controversy over the seventh day Sabbath. Circumcision, foods offered to idols, and other Jewish customs and ceremonial laws were readily challenged and discussed by the apostles and non-Jewish believers in the church, but the weightier matters of the weekly Sabbath and God’s biblical laws were never an issue. Why? For the simple reason that no change was ever made! Had there been a switch from the Sabbath to the first day of the week, you can be sure the controversy would have been more explosive among the apostles than circumcision or ceremonial laws. 

The apostle Paul had warned the early Church that there would be a falling away from the truth soon after his departure: “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:29-31) 

He also wrote to Timothy: “Now the Spirit expressly states that in later times some will abandon the faith to follow deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, influenced by the hypocrisy of liars, whose consciences are seared with a hot iron.They will prohibit marriage and require abstinence from certain foods that God has created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4: 1-4) 

One doesn’t have to read very far in early church history to see just how that prophecy was fulfilled. 

I find it remarkable that out of the Ten Commandments, the one commandment God spent the most time explaining, is the one that Christians have refused to obey the most. I also find it saddening that God gave the Israelites 613 commandments, and most Christians today refuse to obey even ten! 

But I digress. 

There are a few differing views and beliefs concerning the Sabbath day throughout the mainstream Christian churches: 

  • Some believe that the Sabbath day commandment has been abolished completely.
  • Some believe that the Sabbath day has been changed from Saturday to Sunday
  • And others believe that we can keep any day as the Sabbath day. 

But according to Scripture, they are all wrong! Because the seventh day Sabbath still stands today exactly the same as when God commanded it on Mount Sini.

Consider the statement that Jesus Himself made: “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. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. So then, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 17-19)

Let me share with you an interesting discovery I made concerning the seventh day. 

Below is a short list of names for the seventh day of the week in which the root word ‘Sabbath’ is still easily recognizable. There are many, many more you can find by simply doing a Google search.

Arabic: Sabet 

Bosnian: Subota 

Greek: Savvato 

Hebrew: Shabbat 

Italian: Sabato 

Polish: Sobota 

Russian: Subbota 

Somali: Sabti 

Even the Navajo language has a way of counting days that refers to Sabbath. But the Navajo language is so difficult, that it’s a lot easier to use the word for Sunday (Damóo) and use that to frame the succession of days starting from the first day of the week. “Biisk’ání” is the Navajo addition that means, roughly, “the next day.” It’s like saying, “Sunday, and then another day is Monday, and the next day is Tuesday, etc.” But the only day that doesn’t follow this succession is Friday (nda’iiníísh), and it means the end of the work week. (Remember, the biblical Sabbath begins at sundown on Fridays)

It is obvious that Sunday was never considered the biblical Sabbath until later religious leaders substituted Sunday for the true Sabbath day.  

So what did Jesus mean about fulfilling the law and commandments? The prophecy of Messiah coming to fulfill the law is found in the Book of Isaiah: “The Lord (Speaking of Messiah) is well pleased for his righteousness sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable.” (Isaiah 42:21) The English word ‘magnify’ is translated from a Hebrew word that literally means ‘to make great’ or ’cause to be great’. This is exactly what Jesus did. He magnified the law or “made it great and honorable” by showing how good and beneficial it is to us.

False Doctrine #4-Biblical Feasts—For Jews Only? 

Many Christians today believe that the biblical feasts mentioned in the Old Testament were for only the Jews. But does that really make sense? God himself said that the Holy Feast days and Sabbaths were HIS feasts. Not Jewish only feasts. 

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them, ‘These are MY appointed feasts, the feasts of the LORD that you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies. For six days work may be done, but the seventh day is to be a Sabbath of complete rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD.” (Leviticus 23: 1-3) 

Verse 4: “These are the LORD’s appointed feasts…”

Verse 37: “These are the LORD’s appointed feasts…”

Verse 38: “These offerings are in addition to the offerings for the LORD’s Sabbaths…”

Verse 39: “…you are to celebrate a feast to the LORD for seven days.”

And in Exodus 12 God tells Moses several times that these feasts were to be a “permanent law that you and your descendants must observe forever.”

So who was God speaking this to? The Jews only? No! In Exodus 12:38, it is recorded that there was a “mixed multitude” that journeyed with the Hebrews away from Egypt. Nothing is told of exactly who this mixed multitude was. Some may have been Egyptians impressed by the recent miracles and plagues, some may have been foreigners held in servitude to the Egyptians like the Hebrews, happy to escape from their masters. These may also be the ones who were murmuring and causing dissension among the Hebrews in the wilderness. The fact is, NONE of them were Jewish because Judah did not exist yet. 

Everyone living today are descendants of either one of the tribes of Israel or the ancient “mixed multitude”. And if God told Moses that His feasts were to be a “permanent law that you and your descendants must observe forever”, and if God never changes, then these laws must apply to all of us today. 

Many Christians today who claim that we no longer have to observe the biblical feasts point to the apostles’ meeting in Acts 15 as proof:

“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not cause trouble for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals, and from blood. For Moses has been proclaimed in every city from ancient times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” (Acts 15:19-21) 

The apostles suggested these limited rules because they knew that the non-Jewish converts would hear the Mosaic laws discussed every Sabbath in the synagogues. Just as a new convert to Christianity is not expected to follow all of the rules and doctrines of churches immediately after conversion, the four prohibitions seem to have been a temporary arrangement until they were to learn that which was acceptable to God when they went to the synagog every Sabbath.

The New Testament reveals that Jesus, Paul and the apostolic Church also kept all of God’s feast days and Sabbaths. (John 7; Acts 21:22-24;  Acts 18:21; Acts 20:1-60) If God’s feast days and Sabbaths were abolished, was Paul and the apostles wrong for observing them?

I find it interesting that some of the more modern translators made some notable changes to the New testament writings. For example, in Acts 27:9  they use the term, ‘Fast’ in place of  Yom Kippur, or The Day of Atonement. Note that Luke mentions this day of fasting 30 years AFTER the death of the Messiah.  

Why was Acts 18:21 changed? We read in the older translations, “…I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” And he sailed from Ephesus.” But the more modern translations completely removed any mention of the coming Feast. “…I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus.” 

It is bad enough that churches today have rejected God’s commandments; but then they exchanged them for traditional man-made holidays such as, Christmas, Halloween, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and Easter. Pastors teach people that these holidays are Christian holidays and encourage them to observe them. Even though they know that these observances are based on traditions of man and ancient pagan worship—not on the Bible!

And what does Jesus and the apostles say about God’s commandments? 

“Whoever has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him.” 

(John 14:21) 

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

“By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments. If anyone says, “I know Him,” but does not keep His commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:3-4)

We must remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 5: 17-19:  “…whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 17-19)

False Doctrine #5- You must believe in the Trinity to be saved

I have heard many Christians and pastors say that salvation is dependent on believing in the doctrine of the Trinity. God in three persons—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. There is nothing in the Bible—not even a hint, that this is biblical.

To me, this is the most dangerous of the false doctrines in churches today. Because it limits who can be considered to be truly saved and cheapens the blood of the Messiah. This doctrine is no different than many Pentecostal churches who claim that you can’t be truly saved unless you’re able to “speak in tongues”.

I attended a Messianic congregation years ago where during his teaching, the head rabbi said, “Unless you believe in the Trinity you cannot be saved.” I was astounded that a rabbi would make that statement! After I discussed my views based on Scripture and my concerns about it, some people there made it their mission to “reconvert” me. And to this day many of my Christian friends refuse to interact with me as they once did. Maybe they’re afraid of being found guilty by association?

Some have considered me to be legalistic—to trying to earn salvation by observing the Law. Nothing could be further from the truth. When my children were young they didn’t obey my rules because they thought I would love them more if they obeyed, or afraid I would love them less if they didn’t. But BECAUSE they loved me, they obeyed my rules.

I don’t obey God’s laws because I think He will love me more if I obey Him, or afraid that He will love me less if I don’t obey Him. But BECAUSE I love Him, I obey His laws.

I know there are many who would prefer that I remain quiet—to keep my opinions to myself. But regardless what happens, I know in my heart of hearts that what I believe comes directly from Scripture. And I can say with Jeremiah, “If I say, I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name, His message becomes a fire burning in my heart, shut up in my bones, and I become weary of holding it in, and I cannot prevail.” 

Christian, these are important doctrines that Satan has twisted and uses to deceive the masses in these last days. And what is the result of rejecting of God’s laws? Widespread idolatry, pagan religious practices, jealousies, hatefulness, social injustice and sexual perversion. 

When Israel rejected “God’s statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them,” but instead “walked in the statutes of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel.” They lost favor with God and came under the harsh rule of those they followed. (See 2 Kings 17:5-17) This led to the Israelites’ pandemic failure to love their fellow man. 

The prophet Amos spoke of the epidemic of social injustice within the Kingdom of Israel. “…because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals. They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, and pervert the way of the humble.” (Amos 2:6-7) The only way we can be guarded against this same thing is by studying and learning God’s truth and obeying His laws. 

I sincerely pray that you will prayerfully study these things for yourself in the Bible. And I believe that God, through His Holy Spirit, will open your eyes to wonderful things that He is longing to share with you, so that you may stand in the day of temptation and not be deceived. 

God bless you on your journey.

There has been a dangerous shift in God’s Church recently that should disturb anyone who profess to be Christians. Those who have believed and followed the teachings of the Bible for years are now refusing to acknowledge sin. 

In fact, I have witnessed many who actually support those who are living a sinful lifestyle—and even question if their actions are sinful even at all! And these are not new converts who are ignorant of the Scriptures. They are people who have lived godly lives for years—and even taught others the Bible truths that they now claim are not relevant anymore! 

Words we hear a lot of Christians use these days is tolerance and love. They are both good words, but we have applied them too often, where they don’t belong. What has been the result? Murders and violence plaguing our schools and cities, physical, emotional and sexual abuse of millions of children, corruption in businesses and politics, human trafficking and genocide. 

Just like much of the evils in the world, it began oh so subtly. First we invited unsaved people to attend our church services. Not only do we invite them to church, but we go out of our way to make them feel welcome and try not to offend or upset them by calling out their sin. Maybe even go the extra step of making the unbeliever part of your church family by allowing them to work in the nursery or teach a Sunday school class. Then before you know it they’re preaching their lies from the pulpit. 

What’s most concerning is that churches today have altered how they conduct Sunday services and how they market to attract unsaved people to an event they weren’t biblically meant to attend in the first place. The unsaved are not ready to experience what churches are supposed to offer. They’re not ready to hear the truth from God’s Word, the Bible. So churches attempt to accommodate them with worldly influences. Many church services today resemble a rock concert atmosphere more than a place of worship and discipleship. God told Peter, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” But churches today have called clean what God has called unclean! 

In being so tolerant toward sin, churches today have become more like those they once preached against. Remember the words of the apostle Paul: “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good character. Sober up as you ought, and stop sinning; for some of you are ignorant of God. I say this to your shame.” (1 Corinthians 15:33-34)

In some things Jesus was the most tolerant, loving man who ever lived, but by today’s standards, Jesus would be considered one of the most intolerant, narrow-minded and unloving people. Many bring up the fact that Jesus dined with drunkards, prostitutes and other sinful people. But they neglect to acknowledge that he was the most intolerant  and narrow-minded when it came to obeying God.

Jesus was tolerant toward the sinner, but intolerant toward the evil that enslaves the sinner. To the woman caught in the act of adultery He said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” (John 8:11) He forgave her because he loved her, but he condemned her sin because he loathed it with a holy hatred. As Christians, there are certain things that we should be intolerant about too. Jesus was so intolerant toward sin that he turned over the merchant’s and money changer’s tables in the temple and called out the hypocrisy of the priests. And in the end he sacrificed his own life in order to free us from the power of sin. 

The Hebrew and Greek words translated “sin” throughout the Bible revolve largely around two major concepts. The first is that of transgression. To transgress means “to step across” or “to go beyond a set boundary or limit.” Most of the other words translated “sin” in the Bible involve a second concept, “to miss the mark.” 

Both of these concepts translate the idea of failing to measure up to a standard. Academic and athletic courses and tests are graded or judged according to a minimum standard. If we don’t meet that standard, we fail that test or course. 

This is where the biblical definitions of sin become important, because Scriptures define the boundaries and standards God set for us and on how we are to live our lives. The definitions of sin in the Bible are not simply arbitrary dos and don’ts. Instead, they show us the way God lives and the spiritual principles by which He lives—The same standard of conduct He expects His human creations to live by. 

What, then, are the boundaries and standards God has set for us that define sin? The most basic definition of sin is in 1 John 3:4: “Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” Here God defines a boundary for mankind. He says that sin is transgressing His holy, spiritual law (Romans 7:12-14). God’s laws are good. The problem is with us. Breaking that law—crossing that divine boundary, that God has set for us—is sin. 

Just as a good parent shows their love to their children by establishing rules for them, God gave humanity His laws to show us His way of love toward us. Those laws also define how we demonstrate our love to God and our fellowman. (Deuteronomy 30:15-16; Matthew 22:35-40; 1 John 5:3) Sin is in violation of that law of love. God showed us a way to live in peace and harmony with Him and with mankind and defined this way of life by His law. When we violate or transgress that boundary and break God’s law, God defines it as sin. It boils down to whose will is most important in our lives. Is it our will, doing what we want to do? Or is it God’s will, doing what He thinks is most important? 

Revelation chapters 2 & 3 gives us an insight of what Jesus thinks of sin and what happens when God’s people refuse to repent. The question every Christian should ask themselves is, “What church do I belong to?”

The solution for the Church today is simple, but not an easy one. John Bunyan’s classic, “Pilgrim’s Progress” explains the hardships,  trials and temptations the Christian life can be. I have learned that whenever you speak God’s truth to people you will risk being looked at as the enemy. Even from other Christians. But in the end, it will be well worth it.

Shavuot 2019 (pronounced SHävo͞oˈōt) will begin in the evening of Saturday, June 8 and ends in the evening of Monday, June 10. In ancient Israel various herbs and legumes were harvested in spring, but the most important spring crops were cereals—barley and wheat. A spring ritual took particular note of the cereals: Newly harvested grain could not be eaten until the first fruits of grain had been offered on the day after the sabbath of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. (Leviticus 23:9-14) Shavuot, near the end of the grain harvest, included grain and loaf offerings. (verses 16-17) Shavuot was also called “the Feast of Harvest” (Exodus 23:16).

Although Shavuot began as an ancient grain harvest festival, the holiday has been identified since biblical times with the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It is customary for modern Jews to decorate their homes with greens and fresh flowers on Shavuot as a reminder of the spring harvest and the ancient ritual of bringing the first fruits to the Temple. Many Jews prepare and eat dairy foods (often cheesecake or blintzes) on Shavuot as a reminder of the sweetness of Torah.

Many people stay up all night studying Torah on the evening of Shavuot. This custom evolved from the story that says that when Moses went up Sinai to receive God’s laws many of the Israelites fell asleep and had to be awakened by Moses. As a result, many modern Jews stay up all night to study and celebrate receiving the Torah. Interestingly, when Jesus went away to pray in Gethsemane, his disciples also fell asleep and had to be awakened. So to honor our Messiah we too, may want to stay up at night reading Scripture. 

Traditionally, the Book of Ruth is read during services in synagogues on Shavuot. Ruth was a young Moabite woman who married an Israelite man. The Bible refers to both the Moabites and Ammonites as Lot’s sons, born of incest with his daughters. (Genesis 19:30-38) When Ruth’s husband died, she followed her mother-in-law, Naomi and adopted her Hebrew faith and her people as her own. (Ruth 1:16–17) To feed herself and Naomi, she gleaned in the field of Boaz, a rich man. Boaz is taken with her, and eventually they marry. Among their descendants is the famed King David. Ruth (a non-Jew) should be considered an example for all Christians to accept and obey the Torah as God’s holy instructions, just as the Israelites did at Mt. Sinai. 

In Exodus 19:1 we read that the Israelites came to the foot of Mount Sinai in the third month. The third month after the Exodus is Sivan; since this was also the month of Shavuot, the rabbis deduced that God gave the Torah on Shavuot. Today, it is widely accepted that the Torah was given by God to the Hebrew  people on Shavuot. In this sense, every year on the holiday of Shavuot the Jewish people see themselves as renewing this experience. We too can use Shavuot to renew our acceptance of the Torah and observe all that He commanded. 

We need to understand that although God had given the Torah to the Hebrew people, (Israelites) this also included the mixed multitude that left Egypt with them. (Exodus 12:37-38) It is possible that many of these Egyptians were the offspring of Egyptian task masters who had relations with Hebrew slaves. Just as many of the slaveowners (such as Thomas Jefferson) did in America’s history. The Hebrews of the Exodus did not become Jews until after the kingdom was divided into two, with 10 tribes in the northern kingdom of Israel and two in the southern kingdom of Judah. (1 Kings 12; 2 Chronicles 10) This means that all Jews are Israelites but not all Israelites are Jews.

How does this relate to us as Christians?

The Bible also says: “count fifty days”, which is why, in the New Testament, the name for the holiday is usually translated as “Pentecost”. Shavuot and Pentecost are actually two different names for the same Festival. Therefore, the events of the first two chapters of the book of Acts must be seen against this biblical background. For instance, when in Acts 1:4 Jesus commanded his disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, we would better understand this command if we remember that Shavuot is one of the three Biblical pilgrimage festivals, when all Israelites were expected to be in Jerusalem: “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that He will choose: at the festival of unleavened bread, at the festival of weeks, and at the festival of booths.” (Deut. 16:16) Many Jews and non-Jews alike describe these as Jewish only celebrations. But Leviticus 23 makes it plain that these are God’s feast days: “Then the LORD said to Moses, Speak to the Israelites and say to them, ‘These are My appointed feasts, the feasts of the LORD that you will proclaim as sacred assemblies.” (vs. 1 & 2) 

Remember  that mixed multitude that traveled with the Hebrews on their Exodus? Concerning His feast days God proclaimed to them, “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.” (Exodus 12:14)  And in case it wasn’t clear enough God also said, “The same law shall apply to both the native and the foreigner who resides among you.” (v. 49)

Preparing for the Holiday

The Bible teaches that the Israelites had three days to prepare to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. To ready themselves for the momentous occasion, they were instructed to wash their clothes and to stay ritually pure. (Exodus 19:10-11) By recalling those three days, today we can use the three days before Shavuot to prepare ourselves personally and spiritually, as a family, and as a community to re-experience this life-changing event.

Shavuot in the New Testament

In Acts 2 we read, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.”  (Acts 2:1-3) 

We  have to remember  that the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) forms the background of this event and that by the first century the festival was already associated with the covenant made with Moses. We would then understand that it was certainly no coincidence that the descending of God’s Spirit is described on the day of Pentecost, and we would be able to see these beautiful and profound parallels between God giving His Torah and giving His Spirit. On both occasions, Shavuot becomes the day when Heaven is opened and God Himself claims His people. 

The “noise like a violent storm” in Acts 2 definitely echoes the thundering and the fire of Exodus 20:18. It seems that Luke consciously builds these parallels and describes the events of Acts 2 in terms of a “second Sinai”, thus, Jesus’ command to the Apostles to wait in Jerusalem might also be understood as a hint that, as God’s Torah was given on Shavuot, God’s Spirit was also given on Shavuot. 

The Christian version of Pentecost

Today, many Christians are taught that Pentecost was the day that the Church was born. But if Pentecost was the birth of the Church, why did Peter not include Gentiles in his message? Why did Peter not mention the cross, salvation through the blood of Christ, or forgiveness of sins based upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ? Why did he not offer salvation by faith alone, apart from works? Why did he not say a word about the body of Christ? To press further, why did Peter or any of the Twelve ever mention the body of Christ? 

Because Peter didn’t know anything yet about God’s salvation based upon the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ—salvation by faith alone, or even the significance of the blood of Christ! Peter didn’t even know what Church was let alone the teachings associated with it. Peter only knew God’s prophetic, kingdom program. He only knew the prophecies of the prophets which Jesus had proclaimed throughout his earthly ministry. God had kept this revelation a secret until He revealed it to Paul. (Ephesians 3.1-7) The term ‘Gentiles’ would be better translated ‘Goyim’—meaning non-Jew. Or someone outside the tribe of Judah. (Remember, all Jews are Israelites, but not all Israelites are Jews) The prophets reveal that the Goyim will be blessed through the Jews. (Zechariah 8:23)

The confusion continues

Great confusion has resulted from failure to understand that the events of Shavuot in Acts happened to believing Jews and Israelites—not to the Church. Because the Church did not exist yet! Another area of confusion has been the speaking in tongues. Some denominations and churches teach that believers are supposed to speak in tongues as proof that they “have the Holy Spirit” because that was the evidence experienced by Peter and the other followers in the upper room. Some even claim that a person cannot even be saved until they speak in tongues! 

Lastly, we should note that when one is saved by believing Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4) he is immediately baptized by God’s Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12.12-13). This baptism has no sign—such as speaking in tongues. The gift of tongues all but ceased long ago, and one day will be done away with completely. (1 Corinthians 13.8) But even when they operated in the Church, they were not a sign for believers but for unbelievers. (1 Corinthians 14.22)

The Scriptures indicate clearly that the Church—the body of Christ, did not begin at Pentecost. Pentecost is one of God’s feast days and is still in effect today. God had never revealed or even hinted that His feast days were only for Jews, that they would ever end, or that the Church would replace the Israelites as the new body of Christ. What He had revealed was that Goyim would be blessed through the Jews. The Church was merely the method God used to bring us all—Jew and non-Jew alike, to the knowledge of His saving grace through His son, Yeshua Ha’Mashiach. 

And I long for the day that we will all worship him around the throne of God!