Posts Tagged ‘Old Testament Law’

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.

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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!

Murders, violence plaguing our schools and cities, physical, emotional and sexual abuse of millions of children, corruption in businesses and politics, human trafficking and genocide. What causes these things? And how do we put and end to it?

The solution is simple, but not so easy. 

The Bible teaches us that if we repent of our wickedness, return to God and obey His commandments, He will bless every aspect of our lives, but if we continue in our wickedness and follow after other gods, all we can expect is more evil in our lives and in the end, destruction. 

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. “ (Deuteronomy 28: 1-6) 

“But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.” (vs 15-19)

Although many Christians place the blame for all the trouble in the world on unbelievers and the devil, these words were directed at God’s people. They were never directed to those who rejected God and worshipped idols. Read what God told Solomon after he finished building the Temple for God: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:13-14)

You see, all the problems we see in the world can all be solved if only Christians would repent and turn back to God and obey Him. Even the apostle Paul wrote, “What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13) So the Bible makes clear that Christians are not to judge unbelievers, but those who claim to be Christians inside the Church. But to do that we must first understand what it means to be a true Christian.

True Christianity—What is it? 

The basic definition of a Christian is a person who professes belief in Jesus as the Messiah based on the teachings of the Bible. People often consider themselves Christians if they were brought up in a religious family or if they go to church. But does this make someone a true Christian? Keith Green once said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.”

The Bible has a lot to say about being a true Christian. The word “Christian” is only used three times in the Bible. In Acts 11:26, the believers of Jesus were first called Christians because their actions resembled Jesus’ behavior. The word is also used in Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16. 

The Bible teaches that a follower of Christ is one who has been born again. In John 3:3 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” The term “born again” has been used (and abused) by many in our generations. But it was considered nonsense by the man Jesus was talking to in this passage. Nicodemus asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old?”  What Nicodemus couldn’t know until later on, was that the phrase “born again” literally means born from above. It indicates a change in one’s heart—a spiritual transformation of someone’s life. 

What is the Result? 

A realization of one’s sin. Romans 3:23 says, “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This sin results in death according to Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The death that the apostle Paul is speaking of is not an earthly death but the second death after the Resurrection. The term “second death” appears only in the book of Revelation. It appears four times: Revelation 2:11; 20:6; 20:14-15; and 21:8. Revelation mentions that there is no second death for those who have repented of their sins and surrendered their lives to God. Only those who have rejected God and His gift of salvation through His son, Jesus.

A true Christian has faith in only Jesus

Having faith in Jesus’ death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and accepting that salvation is a free gift of God—acknowledging that we can’t do enough good deeds to work our way into heaven. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” We cannot become holy by doing things, helping people, giving money, being kind or polite. We can only become holy by believing in Jesus Christ and letting him take control of our lives.

What are the characteristics of a true Christian? 

A true Christian is a new creation. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” The “old” refers to everything that was part of our old nature—pride, love of sin, negative habits and evil passions. We do not inherit the new nature from our parents, nor can we re-create a new nature for ourselves, no matter how good and moral of a person we are. And it doesn’t mean that God simply cleans up our old nature. He creates in us an entirely new and unique person! 

A true Christian is dead to sin. 

Romans 6:11-12 says, “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” A Christian may still struggle with temptation to sin, but they repent to God and are forgiven because of the sacrifice that Jesus made. Repentance is not parroting a prayer and asking Jesus to come into your life. And it doesn’t mean that you’re sorry you got caught in the sin. Repentance means that you’re sorry for the sin itself—that your sin hurt God and damaged your relationship with Him. Repentance means that you turn from your old life of sin and surrender every aspect of your life to God—A life no longer ruled by sin. 

A true Christian is conformed to God’s Spirit.

A true Christian allows God’s Holy Spirit to conform them to the image of Christ. Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.The fruit of the Spirit has nothing to do with soul winning, or preaching, or being successful financially, or even discipling others. The fruit of the Spirit has to do with how one lives their life. I have met many who are homeless, who struggle with health issues and have never won anyone to Jesus, and yet lived their lives according to God’s word. And we have all witnessed so-called successful Christian preachers and evangelists who have never displayed any of the fruit of the Spirit in their personal, private and/ or public life. 

A true Christian is called to live a holy life. 

That means not being conformed to the ways of the world. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 NLT) In Ephesians 4:17-32 Paul gives us instructions on how to live our new life in Christ: “…put off your former way of life, your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be renewed in the spirit of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness…Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building up the one in need and bringing grace to those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” I believe this would apply to our social media posts and Twitter feeds as well.

 A true Christian is to read and obey God’s Word. 

James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” There are many professing Christians today who say, “Because we are now under grace we don’t need to  obey the Old Testament law.”  And, “It’s impossible for us to obey God’s commandments. That’s why Jesus had to die on the cross.” 

But why would God give us commandments that He knew were impossible for us to obey? He wouldn’t. In 1 John 5:3 we read, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome…” And again in 1 John 2:3: “By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments.” When God gave His commandments of blessing and cursing to Moses and to the Hebrew people he said, “…For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off…But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that YOU CAN DO IT.” – Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (Emphasis mine) 

A New Commandment or just the same old one?

Many Christians believe that because Jesus gave us a “new commandment” in John 13:34-35 that he replaced the Old Testament Law. They even give proof by pointing to what Jesus said in Luke 10:27: One day an expert in the law stood up to test Him. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus said. “Do this and you will live.” 

So what was this expert in the Law referring to? Possibly the commandment from Deuteronomy 6:5? “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” And Leviticus 19:18? “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against any of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.” 

Anyone who thinks that the Old Testament is only about strictly obeying the Law and lacks God’s grace, has not studied the Old Testament. It was out of God’s love for His people that He continued to pour out His grace on them—time and time again. The people would rebel against God and serve idols, then they would bring trouble and destruction on themselves. Then they repented and cried out to God, and God saved them—time and time again. And that is exactly how God expects us to love each other. The same way He loves us.

God’s Laws and His Holy festivals that He commands us to obey are not to keep us under His thumb or hold them over our heads. His commandments are for our own safety. 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 if they disobeyed I would love them less. But BECAUSE they loved me they obeyed me. And they knew that my rules would keep them safe. We do not obey God’s commandments because we think God will love us more if we obey, or we’re afraid that God will love us less if we don’t. But BECAUSE we love God we obey His commandments. (1 John 5:3)

Now there will always be sin in the world until Jesus returns and rules on the earth. But the problems plaguing our world today would be greatly reduced if only God’s people would repent of their wickedness and turn again to God and obey only Him. It’s all up to us. 

Listen to what God said: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. So choose life, so that you and your descendants may live, and that you may love the LORD your God, obey Him, and hold fast to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the LORD swore to give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20) 

Passover is regarded as a “Jewish only” celebration by many Christians. But is it? 

Jesus said “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for He wrote of me.” (John 5:46)  Throughout the Scriptures we are told that the Passover and other Feast Days are “the LORD’S feasts”. Not just the Jewish feasts or feasts of the Jews. Jesus also 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 believe that everything was accomplished when Jesus was crucified because before he died he said, “It is finished.” He said that because everything that God had asked him to do he finished. But EVERYTHING will not be accomplished until the new heaven and new earth are created and God will dwell physically with mankind. (Revelation 21: 1-4)

God told Moses, “These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, (Not the Jewish feasts) the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times. The Passover to the LORD begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of the same month begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread to the LORD. For seven days you must eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall hold a sacred assembly; you are not to do any ordinary work. For seven days you are to present an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the seventh day there shall be a sacred assembly; you must not do any ordinary work.” (Leviticus 23: 4-8) *See also Exodus 12:14-28; Numbers 28:16-25; Deuteronomy 16:1-8 

God also told Moses concerning the “mixed multitude” that joined the Israelites in the Exodus, “If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be lone law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” (Exodus 12:43-49)

Christians should realize that everything in the feasts all point to the Messiah (Jesus).

I have no problem with Christians who want to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. I don’t even mind if they call this commemoration Easter. But what I don’t understand is how those who profess to be Bible believing, God loving, Jesus following, Christians can reject God’s command to observe HIS feast days while replacing them with man’s traditional, non-biblical celebrations that include the Easter Bunny, Easter egg hunts and dressing up in fine clothes to be noticed by others. 

Here’s something to think about: Knowing that Jesus was a practicing Jew, I wonder how many would invite him to join you at your Easter dinner that includes the traditional Easter ham? 

Here’s wishing you a blessed Passover and Resurrection celebration.  

“We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.”  – Senator John McCain (2018)

Wiser words were never spoken in our modern time. And yet, this is exactly what has happened, and continues to happen in our world. The question is, Why? 

The answer lies within the pages of the Bible:

“…because they refused the love of the truth that would have saved them. For this reason, God will send them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie, in order that judgment will come upon all who have disbelieved the truth and delighted in wickedness…” – 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 –

“And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion”… In the Last Days many will be deceived by their own sin, and the strong delusion is their punishment. They did not receive the truth or love it, which was their sin; and therefore are given up to believe a lie. Had they received the truth, they might be saved; but not receiving it, they are lost. So that although God is not the author of sin or falsehood, yet he may in justice give them over to their sin, which the apostle calls God’s sending them a strong delusion. It is their punishment; a making of their own, not of God. (See Romans 1: 23-25) 

2 Timothy 3:1-5 warns: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” Sound familiar?

These verses are mainly describing unbelievers in the last days before Jesus returns, but sadly, today they could also apply to those who claim to be Bible believing followers of Jesus. More and more of these so-called believers are demeaning others on Face Book and other social media who happen to disagree with them—Even promoting violence on those who happen to have different views. So many are complaining and arguing over political views—some even coming to blows simply because of their political affiliation.

The Bible teaches us that we will reap whatever we sow. (Galatians 6:7-8; Proverbs 22:8; Jeremiah 17:10)  We’ve replaced the Bible and prayer in our public schools with metal detectors and police security. Those who were designed and appointed to help us and be examples for us—from our teachers and coaches, to our legislators, to the local priest and pastor, on up to the President, have fallen and have led us to the brink of destruction. And no one seems to realize that God may have placed those very people in their positions in order to lead His people to repent of their wickedness and turn once again to Him. (See Psalm 75;4-8; Daniel 2:21)

When people in positions of authority do something stupid and unethical, all of us who are under their authority suffer. But God’s plan cannot be stopped or even slowed by the feeble efforts of wicked men.

Throughout history God has always used wicked leaders to bring repentance unto righteousness in His people. The prophet Habakkuk wrote during the troubled times before Judah’s captivity. During this period, foreign powers invaded Israel again and again, and inside the nation known as God’s people, evil and immorality raged. (Habakkuk 1:5-11) The prophet Jeremiah, a contemporary of Habakkuk, also warned of God’s coming judgment. Many Israelites were confused. Why would a holy God allow such evil to continue? Are we not God’s chosen people?

Is not that the same thing that many Christians today would say? Our nation has been blessed because our country’s beginnings were based on Biblical principals. But because we are so blessed, we have become complacent. Like Israel of old, we fail to seek God; to defend His Word, and to declare His Gospel, because our lives are so comfortable. Rather than making disciples of all nations, we gradually have become just like the world. So God will use our suffering under wicked leadership to try to wake us from our slumber and lead us to repentance. 

We just celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who stood up for the poor and the downtrodden of his day. He believed with all his heart that no matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal by God. Sadly, Dr. King would cringe if he could see what’s happening in America today and what has happened to his dream.

It has passed the time for Christians to stop blindly following the ways of the world like a bunch of unthinking zombies and return to the ways of God!

 

Behold the Lord’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear, but your sins have separated you from your God and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59: 1-2)

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn away from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and forgive their sins and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7: 13,14)

 

Most of us would like to think that people are basically good and that our country will eventually become good and fair for most of us.

I know that the sovereign Creator of the universe will eventually bring his divine plan to fruition. And victory will belong to the faithful because the Lamb of God has overcome by virtue of his death and resurrection (Revelation 5:6; 12:11). And all who stand in opposition to the King of Kings will be vanquished. 

But history has proven to us that sometimes a country has to “hit bottom” before drastic changes are made. I know this: if righteousness exalts a nation (Proverbs 14:34), then unrestrained sin will also destroy it. I also know that God has a moral standard by which He judges nations, and when they reach a certain depth of depravity, He will bring them down (Genesis 15:16; 18:22). 

God gave Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, forty days to get their act together (Jonah 3:4). When they repented, God relented. Assyria then continued for another century and a half. However, the Assyrians degenerated again, and the prophet Nahum was sent to proclaim their destruction (Nahum 1:9). Nineveh fell completely in 612 B.C.

What makes Americans believe that we live in an eternal empire, when in reality this country is on a collision course with oblivion when Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome—none of these superpowers, lasted more than a few centuries? Decadence consumed all of them. And there are clear signals that the same weaknesses are eating away at America as well.

Anyone who reads a local newspaper or watches the evening news will have to admit to the fact that our country is in deep trouble—School shootings, Sexual assaults on children and other cases of child neglect and abuse have become all too common. And our legislators have done nothing to make any real changes. 1 in 5 children will be sexually abused before they reach 18. (Many in their own homes) And even when the perpetrators are convicted, most judges on sentence them to probation!

We’ve replaced the Bible and prayer in our public schools with metal detectors and police security. We’ve given up the security of family values and replaced them with immoral ideas and attitudes. Sanctity of life is no longer fought for, and more often is legislated against. As a result, our children have become uncontrollable beasts who murder without conscience. And those who were designed to be examples for our children—from parents, teachers and coaches, to the local pastor, to our legislators, on up to the President, have fallen and have led us to the brink of destruction. 

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.

I have heard many complain about how corrupt our government is. And they usually blame the current administration for the country’s ills. But God tells us that it is His own people who are to blame: “For exaltation comes not from east or west or out of the desert, but it is God who judges; He brings one down and exalts another.” (Psalm 75:6-7) 

If God is the one who “brings one down and exalts another” then the current administration was placed there by God himself. But why? Why would God place a wicked leader in such a prominent place? So that His people would repent and turn back to Him! (See Habakkuk, Jeremiah and Isaiah) We are like Nineveh. Except God is still waiting for us to repent.

America was once a great nation because it was founded on absolute principles based on God’s Word, the Bible. For years God has been trying to get our attention, calling us to arise from our slumber! To return to him and repent of our wicked ways so that He can heal our land. (II Chronicles 7:14) But we have ignored Him. 

In recent years we had George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barrack Obama as presidents. Each one’s administration and its policies became progressively worse than the last. Yet we refused to repent and turn to God. And now we have Donald Trump who has continually lied to the public, encouraged actions of white supremacists, violated human rights, and has a history of sexual harassments and assaults. And STILL we refuse to repent!

As believers in God and his son, Jesus the Messiah, it is the responsibility of us who have been justified by his death and resurrection to seek God’s face, repent of our apathy and wickedness and pray earnestly for revival! Revival in our own heart first—as well as for our community and our nation.

We have to understand that repentance isn’t just walking in front of the church and parroting a “sinner’s prayer” and then believe that you’re okay as you walk right back into worldly pleasures. Repentance means more than just being sorry. Someone once said that the road to destruction will be paved with the souls of the sorrowful. I’m sure that all of the fallen angels who rebelled against God are sorry now that they followed Satan in his failed revolt against God.

In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

You also have to acknowledge that in your flesh, (that is, in your own strength) this is impossible to accomplish. The foundation of all sin and all the problems that have plagued societies and civilizations since the fall of man is ‘Self’. Everything from lust, to murder, to war, are all sins derived from ‘Self’. Wars are being waged simply because someone has something that the other wants and cannot have. Neither side will compromise, so they go to war. (James 4:1-4)

But how can we know what God’s will is for us? How can we know that what we’re doing is sin that needs to be repented of? 

By studying the Bible (Basic Instructions Before leaving Earth). You see God did not leave us alone without leaving us an instruction manual. By studying the Bible we will understand God’s heart and what He expects from us and how very much he loves us and wants to bless us. And I’m not talking about being spoon-fed a pastor’s version of Scripture, but to really study it for yourselves, allowing God’s spirit to teach you.

But you must also be aware that once you surrender to God’s will and decide to obey Him, the world will come against you—and sometimes the strongest opposition will be among your closest friends and loved ones. (1 Peter 4: 12-16; Romans 5:2-5; Matthew 5:10-12)

I don’t think our nation (or the world) has ever been in a greater sense of turmoil than it is at this moment. All the blasphemy, all the unbelief, all the dirty stories, all the lying, all the deception, all the sexual perversion and all the drunkenness…And that is happening among people who claim to belong to God! This tremendous iniquity continues to rise up in the sight of God. The shadow of darkness and death is over this generation like nothing we’ve ever had before. And yet, the greatest tragedy of all is this: A silent Church in a dying world. We have neither the vision nor the passion, nor at this moment, the intention of setting our house in order “to break up our fallow ground” and to prepare the way of the Lord. (Hosea 10:12)

“…I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. So choose life, so that you and your descendants may live, and that you may love the LORD your God, obey Him, and hold fast to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the LORD swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30: 19-20) 

Some will read that Scripture and interpret it as God saying, “CHOOSE LIFE! OR I WILL DESTROY YOU!” But it’s more like a compassionate father gently saying, “I love you. Please…choose life.”

Our Broken Justice System

When criminals are brought before judges for sentencing, judges should weigh factors including the severity of the crime, public safety, losses to the victim and a defendant’s efforts to change. But all too often judges hand down light sentences to repeat offenders who often go on to commit even more violent crimes. It has become even more common for judges to hand down probation to those convicted of child sexual abuse.

Our Broken Court System

In June of 2013 an 11 year old girl had been sexually abused by her then step-father. (A third degree Felony) He was later arrested and held on a $250,000.00 bond. Even though a great many pages of documents were submitted to Sarpy County Judge Zastera proving that this man had been physically and emotionally abusive to his children and wife for more than 10 years before he was arrested for child sexual abuse, the judge allowed him to plead guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor sexual assault, and only sentenced him to two years probation and required him to register as a sex offender! 

Although Judge Zastera required him to have no contact with his step-daughter, he did allow him to live with his three other biological children. Only ten days after he was released on probation, he was arrested again in Plattsmouth, Nebraska after throwing his then 8 year old daughter across a room and into a wall. The father was later transferred to the Sarpy County jail for violating his probation—after police discovered weapons, drugs, alcohol and pornography in his possession. But he was never charged for abusing his biological daughter! He was then sentenced to less than three months in the Sarpy County jail and then allowed to leave the state; where is allowed to abuse others there.

Judge Zastera has since retired from the bench, but now works as a defense attorney for other sex offenders.

Our Broken Welfare System

Many may ask, “Why didn’t the mother just take her kids and leave?” Many times women who live with an abusive partner don’t leave with the children out of fear of retribution from their partner. Some have even had their abusive partner threaten to kill them and their children if they ever left.

But rather than providing therapy and help for these children and their mother, who all suffer from years of abuse, the children are removed from the home and placed in foster care where they are refused contact with their mother and many times placed in separate foster homes.

In the meantime, the mother suffers even more mental anguish from being separated from her children and may begin to self medicate with drugs or alcohol. This causes CPS to flag the mother as potentially unfit and the children could be removed from her care several times. 

A typical CPS victim family is living below poverty level. Their main concerns have been to take care of their children and make enough money to pay bills each month. They don’t know what the US Constitution says and have never studied laws about child welfare, thus, they are no match for child welfare social workers whose work-life revolves around court cases and separation of children from their families. So long as families are kept confused and “in the dark” about what’s going on, the social workers have a great advantage over them when they go to court.

There has been a great outcry against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for separating young children from their mothers after crossing our borders illegally. Many are calling it inhumane and demanding the dismantling of ICE because of it.  But where is the outrage against Child Protective Services (CPS) and the hundreds of thousands (Yes, thousands) of children separated from their mothers and siblings? 

In 2016, over 687,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care. In June of 2017, the child welfare system in Nebraska had 4,123 children in foster care. And the numbers keep rising. But instead of being safely reunified with their families, many of these children will languish for years in foster homes or institutions. Nebraska historically has removed children at one of the highest rates in the nation. 

Recently the Omaha World Herald reported that state auditors are calling into question more than $26 million worth of Nebraska child welfare spending from last year. The audit also discovered that a state ward was placed in the home of a foster parent whose son was the ward’s boyfriend—even though the boyfriend was convicted of sexual assault in 2011!

HHS agreed that with the auditors that some matters needed correcting, but disputed key findings in the audit. Isn’t placing a child in the home of someone convicted of sexual assault a key finding? 

Foster Care And Minority Children

Racial and ethnic minority children are overrepresented in the number of children in foster care. African American children, Native American children, and children of two or more racial backgrounds are more likely to be in foster care. Even more striking, the time spent in foster care increases for minority children with two or more racial backgrounds. This is a troubling and complex situation.

The Foster Care Review Office data on DHHS wards indicate that minority children are also more likely to be separated from their siblings during their time in care. This is particularly true for African American children and Native American children. But once children are in the foster care system, there is little variation in well-being by race. Many children of all races struggle with a variety of issues related to being in foster care. 

National research shows that children who experience four or more changes in placement are likely to suffer permanent damage from the instability and trauma of broken attachments.

The American child welfare systems is badly broken—and the children are the ones who suffer serious harm as a result. Some will be separated from their siblings. Others will be bounced from one foster home to another, never knowing when their lives will be uprooted next. Too many will be further abused in systems that are supposed to protect them.

Caseworker turnover produces another source of instability. Among the Nebraska cases reviewed, 16.8 percent of children had five or more caseworkers while in their latest episode of foster care. An additional 36.8 percent had three or four caseworkers! 

So it’s no wonder so many children fall through the cracks! It was reported that at least 50 Nebraska children—some as young as 4 years old—have suffered from sexual abuse while in the state’s care. And that’s just in the first 4 months of this year! 

For-Profit Foster Care

For-profit foster care homes were originally created to replace government-funded foster homes. For-profit programs are generally revered because they can cut the corners and costs that public systems can’t. But those corners are generally very important and critical for the wellbeing of children. And when corners are cut, it generally means that those who are supposed to care and provide for children are under qualified, not background-checked, and occasionally criminal. In 2013, the LA Times reported that children living in private, for-profit foster care are 33 percent more likely to experience abuse—be it physical, sexual or emotional.

The Omaha World Herald reported that for five years Nebraska has tried privatized foster care; and it has been a terrible failure. A study compared results achieved by state child welfare workers and by the Nebraska Families Collaborative, the private agency that manages child welfare cases in the Omaha area. It found no cost savings and no significant difference—either positive or negative—in outcomes for children and families. “Privatization promised better outcomes at a lower cost, and that has not happened,” the authors wrote in their report. “It was, perhaps, a worthy experiment, but it has failed.” And yet the Nebraska State Legislature continues to be unable to reach a common sense solution for the child welfare problem in our state.

What does the Bible say about this?

The Bible does not specifically use the term child abuse. What the Bible does tell us is this: children have a special place in God’s heart and anyone who harms a child is inviting God’s wrath upon himself. When Jesus’ disciples tried to keep children from coming to Jesus, he rebuked them and welcomed the children to his side, saying, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Mark 10:14) Then Jesus took the children in His arms and blessed them. (verse 16) The Bible promotes child blessing—not child abuse.

Children are abused and mistreated in several different ways, all of which are abhorrent to God. The Bible prohibits child abuse in its warnings against improper treatment. Though healthy forms of discipline are biblically acceptable, such discipline should never be administered as physical punishment. There is no place for uncontrolled anger when dealing with children.

The Bible also prohibits child sexual abuse in its condemnation of sexual sin. Sexual abuse or molestation is particularly devastating, and warnings against sexual sin abound in Scripture. To force sexual acts upon a child is a horrible, evil offense. 

In addition to committing a sexual sin, the perpetrator is also attacking the innocence of one of the world’s most vulnerable persons. Sexual abuse violates everything about a person from his or her understanding of self to physical boundaries to spiritual connection with God. In a child, these things are so barely established that they are often altered for life and without appropriate help, may not ever heal.

Another way the Bible prohibits child abuse is in its forbidding of psychological and emotional abuse. Ephesians 6:4 warns fathers not to “exasperate” or provoke their children but to bring them up in the “training and instruction of the Lord.” Harsh, unloving verbal discipline, emotional manipulation, or volatile environments alienate children’s minds from their parents and render their instruction and correction useless. 

It has been well documented that many foster parents provoke and exasperate their foster children by placing unreasonable requirements on them, belittling them, or constantly finding fault, thereby producing wounds that can be as bad as or worse than any physical beating can inflict. Colossians 3:21 tells us not to “embitter” our children so they will not become discouraged. Ephesians 4:15–19 says we are to speak the truth in love and use our words to build others up, not allow destructive words to pour from our lips—especially toward the tender hearts and minds of children. Child abuse in any form is evil. 

We are told that if we witness injustice that we are to write to our senators and other lawmakers to make our voice heard. In the past I have written to over 20 state senators pleading with them to do something to protect our children from predators that they are forced to live with—either in their own homes or in foster care—by placing restrictions on those who have been convicted of child sexual abuse. Currently, Nebraska has no restrictions on sex offenders of any kind, so being required to register as a sex offender means nothing. The few who responded: Governor Pete Ricketts, Senators Patty Pansing Brooks, Brett Lindstrom, John McCollister, and Sara Howard, told me that there was nothing they could do.

Nothing they can do? According to the Nebraska Legislature website, a senator is called, among other things to: “…right injustices involving the public; establish state policy by introducing bills to create new programs, modify existing programs, and repeal laws which are no longer needed; study problems between sessions and determine whether legislative solutions are needed to correct them…”

 CPS, the court system, the broken foster care system and lawmakers who refuse to protect our children and allow them to receive justice are just as guilty as the one who abuse them. Jesus said, “…But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. (Matthew 18:6)

But it’s not just CPS, the court system, the broken foster care system and lawmakers that are to blame. Anyone who has witnessed, or know of a child being abused and does nothing are as guilty as those in the broken foster care system who refuse to protect our children. “If someone sins by failing to testify when he hears a public charge about something he has witnessed, whether he has seen it or learned of it, he shall bear the iniquity.” (Leviticus 5:1) 

God’s Justice

The Bible is very clear about refusing to report the crime of child abuse: “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:3-4) “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this’, does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:11-12)

Today, Jesus might well say, “I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not welcome me; afraid, abused and in foster care and you did not visit me. Truly, I say to you, when you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 

The Bible reveals that all of mankind’s systems of government will one day be wiped away. This will happen at the return of Jesus the Messiah, which is detailed throughout God’s Word.  “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” (Dan. 2:44) See also: Revelations 11:15; Obadiah 1:21; Zechariah 14:9

Unlike our current government system, the kingdom of God will not be “left to another people”.  It will not be based upon the ideas of man. This government—the kingdom of God—will be built upon God’s Law, which will be administered perfectly. This newly established kingdom will solve mankind’s most persistent problems, which stem from its flawed systems and governments. But until that day comes, we have an obligation to be a voice for those who are afraid to speak.