Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Most High God - Daniel 2:1-13

Previous: Daniel 1:17-21

Now that Daniel and his three friends are in Babylon what will happen to them? Certainly God brought them here for a reason. Let's see.

Daniel 2:1-13 (KJV)
1 And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.
2 Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.
3 And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.
4 Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation.
5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill.
6 But if ye shew the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore shew me the dream, and the interpretation thereof.
7 They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it.
8 The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me.
9 But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can shew me the interpretation thereof.
10 The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king's matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.
11 And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.
12 For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.
13 And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.

Side note: Daniel 2:4-7:28 is written in Aramaic and not Hebrew. Why might this be? Aramaic was the language that many people spoke and understood. The section that is written in Aramaic deals with God's rule over the Gentiles. It seems like this was the section that God specifically intended the Gentiles to be able to read. This seems to confirm that God is not solely interested in one group of people but is rather concerned with all. (Although His concern with other groups does not change God's special interest in and love for the Jewish people.)

What has happened to Nebuchadnezzar (verse 1)? He has been dreaming something unsettling to the point that it woke him up. When he woke what did he do (verse 2)? He called the magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldeans. Why would he do this? Remember that these people were very superstitious and placed high esteem on abilities in magic. Who are the Chaldeans? The term is often used in place of Babylonians. However, in this context it is used for a specific group in Babylon who were "versed in occult learning" (the Free Online Dictionary). In verse 3 Nebuchadnezzar tells the assembled group that he was disturbed by his dream. In verse 4 the Chaldeans tell the king to relate the dream to them so that they could give him the interpretation. But does Nebuchadnezzar do as they requested (verse 5)? No, he says that he doesn't remember the dream. What does Nebuchadnezzar want the magicians to do? He wants them to tell him what the dream was first and then give the interpretation. This is really pretty shrewd on Nebuchadnezzar's part if he really did remember the dream or at least some part of it. The magicians had a very cushy job. Hear the dream and then give any interpretation that they wanted. The king would never be any wiser. But if these magicians were not really as talented as they purported to be, they would surely demonstrate it by relating an incorrect dream. What does Nebuchadnezzar say he will do if they cannot relate the dream and its interpretation (verse 5)? He threatens to cut them in pieces and make their houses dunghills. What would be the reward if they can tell him the dream and its interpretation (verse 6)? He would give them gifts, rewards, and great honor. What is the Chaldeans' response (verse 7)? They reiterate that the king must tell them the dream in order to get the interpretation. How does Nebuchadnezzar respond to this (verse 8)? Nebuchadnezzar tells them outright that they are using a delaying tactic since the king would lose more of the dream as time goes by. Nebuchadnezzar presses them further in verse 9. How do the Chaldeans respond in verse 10? They inform the king that there is no man on earth that can tell him the dream and that no one has ever made such a request before. According to verse 11 who are the only ones who know what Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed? The gods are the only ones who know. What is Nebuchadnezzar's response to this (verse 12)? He is angry and commands that the all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. This decree would affect whom? Remember that Daniel and his friends were also considered to be a part of this group. What happens in verse 13? The decree goes out that all the wise men were to be killed. Daniel and his three friends are included.

What will happen next? Since there is a lot of the book of Daniel left, he obviously can't be killed, at least not yet. Will Daniel escape? Will he be able to save himself in some way? Stay tuned for the next part!


Thursday, September 27, 2012

What a "Fast" Experience!

The idea of fasting, refraining from food, water, or other things,  has been around for a long time. We read it in Scripture quite frequently.

Matthew 4:2 (KJV)
2 And when he (Jesus) had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.

Matthew 6:17 (KJV)
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;

Acts 14:23 (KJV)
23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

Yet, how many of us in the believers' circle actually devote time and energy to fasting? Really, prior to my studying the Hebrew roots of Christianity I tossed the idea around but never really dived in. Then as I began following the Jewish calendar I began practicing a limited amount of fasting. I would do partial fasts during the traditional fast days. Often I would skip one meal and then I would juice for another. But when Yom Kippur would come up I hesitated to fast for the proscribed 24-25 hours. Here again I would do partial fasts so that I could continue to take the various vitamins and supplements that I have in my regimen. This meant that I would continue drinking water and would skip one meal.

But yesterday, I completed the first almost total fast for Yom Kippur. I did drink water (or black coffee). As I skipped breakfast and lunch I felt absolutely fine. When the dinner hour was approaching I found myself with a budding headache. This could have been caused by the fast or any other number of things, since I'm prone to migraines. The worst part of the headache was that it affected my stomach and I began to feel lousy. It also made me very tired, so I thought maybe a short nap would help, but when I woke I felt even worse. I knew that I would not be able to continue further so I did have some almond milk. Immediately, my headache was better and my stomach calmed down. After doing dishes with my husband, we sat down and watched some dvd's until the fast was over. It took my mind off of any hunger that I was experiencing.

My problem is that I believe fasting is supposed to help our focus in prayer. During the day when I was feeling well I didn't notice any difference in my prayer times. Then when I was feeling sick I wasn't able to pray at all. I should have tried during the evening instead of watching the TV, perhaps, but it hadn't occurred to me.

I would like to hear from others about their fasting experiences. How did you handle the physical discomfort? Was prayer different during that time? Was it a valuable experience?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Should We Fear the Day of Judgment?

Tonight at sunset the Feast of Atonement or Yom Kippur begins. It is the culmination of the ten day period of time known as the "Days of Awe" which began at the Feast of Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah. The Feast of Atonement is the holiest day of the Jewish Year. The solemnity of the feast tells us how important this day is. Yet, it can invoke a certain amount of fear, because traditionally it was the day on which the Jews' fate, if you will, was sealed for the coming year. What does Scripture say about the feast?

Leviticus 23:26-32 (KJV)
26 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
28 And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God.
29 For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.
30 And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people.
31 Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.

Verse 27 tells us that this feast day is a day of atonement. There was to be a gathering of the people and offerings were made. It also says that the people were to afflict their souls. Traditionally, this has been interpreted as a fast. Verse 28 adds that there was to be no work done on that day.

Leviticus 16 gives us even more information. I want to highlight just two of the passages.

Leviticus 16:7-9 (KJV)
7 And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
8 And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat.
9 And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD'S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering.

Here we see that the high priest (Aaron at the time of Moses) was to take two goats. One was killed for a sin offering.

Leviticus 16:20-22 (KJV)
20 And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring the live goat:
21 And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness:
22 And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.

The high priest would take the other goat, the scapegoat, and lay both his hands on the head of the goat. He would then confess all of Israel's sins, symbolically putting them on the head of the goat. Then the goat would be taken out into the wilderness bearing the sins of the people away.

In Judaism it is believed that the Book of Life is opened at Rosh Hashanah and God examines each person to see if repentance is complete. The ten Days of Awe can be used as the last opportunity to add to the righteous works that are evidence of repentance. Then on Yom Kippur the Book is sealed for the year. This is a scary deal! It is a day of judgment.

There is, however, a way to be sealed long before the day of the Feast of Atonement. Jesus came to this earth about 2,000 years ago. He came to die on the cross as a payment for the sins of the world.  Through repentance (See more here.) we turn our hearts and minds to God. Then by true faith in Jesus we are born again and are saved. This seals our eternal destiny. We will live with God forever.

However,  those who have not repented of their sin will find that after death their destiny is also sealed. There will be no eternal life with God, but rather hell. The Feast of Atonement is a picture of coming judgment. We have only our lifetime to be ready for the judgment that will occur after death. Should we be afraid? Yes, if we have not put our faith and trust in Jesus.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Our Unchanging God

Yesterday I visited one of my married daughters and my infant grandson. We had such a sweet time of catching up on each other's lives. I also got to feed my grandson, hold him, and play with him. He rewarded me with so many precious smiles. I am a blessed mother and grandmother.

Yet, as I had worked on my laundry two days earlier I remarked to my husband about how weird it was to only have three people in the house. My two daughters are both married with babies, so there is only my son left. While these types of changes are expected and welcomed as your little clan becomes larger, I miss the day-to-day exchange between my girls and me.

But life is constantly made up of changes. They can be good like weddings, births, finishing school, and getting a job. Or, they can be bad like divorce, death, ill health, or losing a job. We can't escape change.

Some people love change; most would rather avoid it. I'm one who really hates change. I love the familiar, the security of it, and the pleasure of it. So change does not come easily. But in a world of change how can someone like me find something to hang onto, something that will never change?

Thankfully, we have a God who will never change.

Hebrews 13:8 (KJV)
8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

He can be our security, the anchor on which we can build our lives. This means we can trust in what He says, too. So all of the promises in Scripture are there for us to grab.

Hebrews 13:5 (KJV)
5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

We can rely on Him to get us through whatever may come our way if and only if we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Why wouldn't you want to have this kind of security?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Slapped Upside the Head!

We've all had those days where everything's been going great. We even pat ourselves on the back a little and congratulate ourselves for our accomplishments. But then "WHAM", something occurs that makes us realize that we're not all that. We even feel a little foolish for our prior thinking.

In my own life it seems that I'm always on this little roller coaster. I feel really good about the things I'm doing and then other times I feel like I'm a total failure. Where is the happy medium?

I'm reminded of Proverbs 16:18 that says, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." When things are going well we often think that we are responsible for how great our accomplishments are. Then our thinking gets the better of us and we start strutting in our pride. But we are imperfect humans and inevitably we will then come crashing down when someone or something points out our stupidity, inability, or foolishness. And probably behind that little "slap" to the head is God himself, reminding us that He is the one responsible for our talents and success. We are brought back to reality.

If we would only remember God ahead of time and not think so highly of ourselves maybe we could prevent the roller coaster and the "slap" to our heads.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What was Jesus' Message - Pt. 3

When God created the world it was a perfect place. Adam and Eve, our first parents, lived with no pain, no sadness, no death, and no evil. They even met with God.

Genesis 3:8a (KJV)
8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day:

Yet we learn from that same chapter that Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating of the one tree that they were told not to, after listening to the voice of Satan. That disobedience resulted in their eventual physical death as well as their spiritual death. They lost the relationship that they had with God. Not only were the humans affected, but the entire world with them began a process of decay.

Romans 8:22 (KJV)
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

The world was given over to Satan's authority.

2 Corinthians 4:4 (KJV)
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

This is the situation that mankind was in prior to the coming of Jesus.

In parts 1 & 2 of my previous posts we learned that Jesus' message was, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). If Jesus is the king of a spiritual kingdom (kingdom of heaven) how was His kingdom "at hand"?

The Free Online Dictionary defines "at hand" as 1). Close by; near and 2). Soon in time; imminent. How does this fit with Jesus' statement?

A king is the representative of his kingdom or nation. When he enters another country the king brings, after a fashion, the kingdom with him. This is what happened when Jesus came to this earth. He, as king of His kingdom, as its representative, officially brought the kingdom with Him. This is how the kingdom of God was "close by".

If you also remember, the subjects of the kingdom of God are those people who have repented of their sins and have been saved. They then also become representatives of the kingdom. As the number of subjects grows the kingdom also grows. This is another way the kingdom is "close by".

Luke 17:20-21 (KJV)
20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.

In this Luke passage this idea is confirmed. Jesus was saying that the kingdom of God is spiritual; we can't see it. But it exists in the hearts and minds of those who have been born again. Hence, the kingdom is "close by".

But as I said in the prior post the kingdom of God will not always be a spiritual kingdom alone. When Jesus returns to this earth He will bring the kingdom with Him and will establish a physical kingdom here on earth, centered in Jerusalem.

Jeremiah 3:17 (KJV)
17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.

Daniel 7:13-14 (KJV)
13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Daniel speaks about the Son of man (the Messiah/Jesus) receiving that kingdom on earth. Jeremiah pinpoints the throne's location as Jerusalem. This kingdom will come at the end of the age when Jesus returns. This is how the kingdom is "soon in time".

We don't know when the end will come. During the first century the Christian believers thought that it would come in their lifetime. It did not. We don't know if it will come in our lifetime. But every day brings us closer to the return of Jesus. We are to wait and watch for it. We are to live as if today could be the day. This is how the kingdom is "soon in time".

So, we have a kingdom that exists spiritually now, but will in the future become a physical kingdom. Satan will no longer be the ruler, but rather Jesus will be king.

And when Jesus returns our world will be restored to the condition that existed during Adam and Eve's time before they sinned. Again, there will be no pain, sadness, death, or evil. We will be able to meet with God.

Previous: Part 2

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

What was Jesus' Message? Pt. 2

What was Jesus' message? If you remember from part one, it is contained in the book of Matthew. Here it is again.

Matthew 4:12-17 (KJV)
12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;
13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:
14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

As Jesus began His ministry He began preaching, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." In part one I discussed how repentance is at the center of everything that Jesus was trying to convey to His followers. But at the end of Jesus' statement we find the reason for our need of repentance. He informed us something about a kingdom and something about it being at hand. Let's look at one of these items today.

The kingdom. Jesus called it the kingdom of heaven. What does this mean exactly? The first thing that we need to understand is that Jesus, His disciples, and His original audience were Jews. Because of this Matthew wrote in a very Jewish way. They realized that the name of God was holy and not something that was to be spoken or written in a casual manner. You can see this when you read Scripture. In English we often see the following:

Psalm 8:1 (KJV)
1 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

Notice how the first "LORD" is spelled in all capitals, while the second "Lord" is spelled with a capital "L" and then the small letters "o", "r", and "d".  In the Hebrew the first "LORD" is actually God's name, spelled with four Hebrew letters. The second "Lord" is just that, the Hebrew word for "Lord". The name of God was not usually spoken or rewritten outright, but another word would be used in Its place. In the case of the "kingdom of heaven" it is likely that "heaven" was also used as a circumlocution, a way of talking or writing around the actual word. Likely, "heaven" stands for "God" or His name. We see "kingdom of God" more commonly written in the book of Luke, but they probably mean the same thing. So this kingdom that Jesus is speaking about is God's kingdom.

But what is the kingdom of God? A kingdom is a realm that is ruled by a sovereign, in this case God. But what would constitute the realm that God is sovereign over? As creator of the world, it could be argued that He is sovereign over everything. But as we look at the world today, we see a lot of evil that doesn't appear to be directly addressed by God, nor does there seem to be any physical entity that falls under the jurisdiction of God either. Because God is a spirit we can look to the spiritual. If we believe in God then it seems likely that His kingdom is spiritual and beyond our physical senses. Jesus says this in John.

John 18:36 (KJV)
36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

Jesus is telling us that, as God, His kingdom is spiritual and not physical. Yet the word "now" implies that His kingdom will one day be physical. This agrees with Old Testament teaching that says that Messiah (God) will one day rule a kingdom from Jerusalem.

Zechariah 14:9 (KJV)
9 And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.

But for now there is only a spiritual kingdom of God.

So who are King Jesus' subjects? After all, you can't have a kingdom without subjects. This brings us back to Jesus' message of repentance. It is through repentance that we can be saved. By being born again and aligning one's life with God we become those subjects and a part of God's kingdom.

My next post will deal with what "at hand" means. Stay tuned.

Previous: Part 1
Next: Part 3

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Will We Hear the Trumpet Call?

Tonight at sunset the Feast of Trumpets or Yom T'ruah (Day of Blowing) begins. It is also known as Rosh Hashanah because as the "head of the year" it begins the Hebrew year of 5773. This is one of the feasts mentioned in Leviticus.

Leviticus 23:23-25 (KJV)
23 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
24 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.
25 Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.

From this brief passage we find that Yom T'ruah is a sabbath day and no work is to be done. There is also to be a gathering of the people and during the days of the Temple or Tabernacle there would have been offerings made to God. Uniquely, it says that Yom T'ruah is to be a memorial of blowing trumpets. But what does that mean? Why would there be blowing of trumpets?

Numbers 10:10 (KJV)
10 Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God.

Psalm 81:3 (KJV)
3 Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.

From Numbers and Psalm 81 we see that the trumpets were blown at the beginnings of the months, or new moons. Since Yom T'ruah falls on the first day of the month of Tishrei the feast includes the celebration of the new moon of Tishrei. The highlight of the services of Yom T'ruah is the blowing of the shofars (rams' horns). They are blown 100 times. It is a moving experience.

But what is the significance of this feast? Yom T'ruah begins the "Days of Awe", a ten day period of  repentance that culminates with Yom Kippur, Israel's most holy day. The focus of repentance is on returning to God and to His Torah.

Matthew 24:29-31 (KJV)
29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (KJV)
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

From these New Testament passages we also see something else. Matthew speaks about the Son of man's return in the clouds. The Son of man is the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) who will send His angels to gather the elect. 1 Thessalonians also speak of the Lord's return. He will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with THE TRUMP OF GOD. The dead believers will rise first from the grave and then the living believers will be caught up in the air to meet the Messiah. The trumpet (or shofar blast) will be the signal that Yeshua is returning. He's returning for His people.

The Feast of Trumpets or Yom T'ruah is our practice for the real event. One day, perhaps on Yom T'ruah itself, we believers will hear the trumpet blast and we will join our Messiah. Will we hear the trumpet this year on the day of Yom T'ruah? We'll see!

The traditional greeting during Yom T'ruah is "May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year", or "May you be inscribed in the Book of Life". Let's make sure that we are right with God. In that way whenever the trumpet calls we will be ready and we will hear it's call!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What was Jesus' Message?

Most people understand that Jesus was a great man, compassionate, forgiving, good, the kind of man that we should emulate. Then there are those that know He is more than that. They know He is God as well as being human. He deserves our worship, honor, and praise. They know that He died on a cross to pay the penalty for mankind's sin. But  do many know what His message was really all about? Was it the salvation of souls? Was it the glorification of God? Or was it to establish a kingdom? Perhaps you're answering "yes" to all of these. He certainly did all these things. But if you could sum up His message what would it be?

Matthew 4:12-17 (KJV)
12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;
13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:
14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

This passage of Scripture describes the beginning of Jesus' ministry. Right after John the Baptist was cast into prison Jesus left Nazareth and dwelt in Capernaum, which was located along the coast of the Sea of Galilee on the border of the tribal lands of Zebulon and Naphtali. This action was a fulfillment of a prophecy in Isaiah (9:1-2). The people in Zebulon and Naphtali would see a great light. Notice how the people are described. They are sitting in darkness and in the region and shadow of death. This is an apt description not only of the Jews of Zebulon and Naphtali but of all mankind. Because of sin we live in a kind of darkness and are living under the constant threat or shadow of death. Jesus is the light that came. Verse 17 of Matthew then tells us what Jesus' ministry and message were about. Jesus preached the need for repentance. The reason for that repentance is that the kingdom of heaven was coming and was near.

What exactly is repentance? We often think of it as "needing to say we're sorry". But how often does someone say he or she is sorry and then repeats the offense? This is not what true repentance is.

Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language gives the following definitions:


1. Sorrow for any thing done or said; the pain or grief which a person experiences in consequence of the injury or inconvenience produced by his own conduct.
2. In theology, the pain, regret or affliction which a person feels on account of his past conduct, because it exposes him to punishment. This sorrow proceeding merely from the fear of punishment, is called legal repentance, as being excited by the terrors of legal penalties, and it may exist without an amendment of life.
3. Real penitence; sorrow or deep contrition for sin, as an offense and dishonor to God, a violation of his holy law, and the basest ingratitude towards a Being of infinite benevolence. This is called evangelical repentance, and is accompanied and followed by amendment of life.
Repentance is a change of mind, or a conversion from sin to God.
Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation. 2Cor. 7. Matt. 3.
Repentance is the relinquishment of any practice, from conviction that it has offended God.

The repentance that Jesus was speaking about is a sorrow for sin that results in a change of mind and a change of action. With true repentance the offender turns away from his or her sin and turns to God. This type of change in mind and behavior further results in salvation, the reconciliation between God and the sinner.

Now, if you are a church attender, do you hear the message of repentance in your church? If repentance is Jesus' message shouldn't the church's message be the same? And if salvation is dependent on repentance how can a person be saved without it? Many of our churches today have lost sight of the message of Jesus and are not preaching repentance, but rather some watered down "feel good" message that doesn't have the power to effect much of anything. We need to remind our pastors and teachers that we need and want to hear about repentance. We need to stand for the hard truths about a sinful mankind and the only way to become right with God, and that is through repentance.

Next: Part 2

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Most High God - Daniel 1:17-21

Previous: Daniel 1:8-16 

Daniel 1:17-21 (KJV)
17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
18 Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
19 And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.
20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.
21 And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.

How are the four young men (Daniel and his three fellow Jews which had been taken captive into Babylon) described in verse 17? While the four were in their three year training period in Babylon God gave them knowledge and wisdom. Daniel was also gifted in the understanding of visions and dreams. What happened to them at the end of the three year period (verse 18)? They had to appear before Nebuchadnezzar. How did the young men compare to the other captives (verse 18)? The king found them to be above the others in excellence. When the king asked them questions that reflected on their wisdom and understanding how more excellent were they (verse 20)? They were ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in the kingdom. What does this say about the Babylonians? They must have been a superstitious people that placed great emphasis on signs and wonders and the "magic" arts. For people of our time these qualifications for high office seems pretty strange. Yet, Daniel and his friends' knowledge, wisdom, and understanding go beyond the fields of magic and astrology. What they had learned would be used to advise the king and would potentially impact the ruling of a country. God had given them these gifts. As our narrative continues we will see how these specific gifts of discerning visions and dreams will impact Nebuchadnezzar's reign. According to verse 21 how long does Daniel labor for the Babylonians? Daniel will continue through the entire Babylonian heyday. King Cyrus marks the beginning of the coming Persian Empire. What does this chapter tell us about how we should live in "horrible" situations? Throughout the book of Daniel we will see Daniel just going about his duties, being faithful to God. What does this chapter tell us about God and our relationship to Him? Daniel was not taken out of trouble, but God was caring for him all the time. If we have a relationship to God we can trust God to do the same for us. He won't necessarily take us out of trouble, but He will see us through, no matter what the outcome.

Next: Daniel 2:1-13

Monday, September 10, 2012

Is it OK to Home Church?

When is it a good idea to stay at home and do church? I have been asking myself this question a lot lately because of how my faith perspective has changed. My eclectic views don't necessarily fit in well anywhere. I am still a very conservative born again Christian, but going to church on Sunday doesn't satisfy me because I believe we should be keeping a Saturday Sabbath. I could attend on both days, but for some reason Sunday Christians seem to preach a lot on how keeping Torah is wrong and how Jesus did away with the keeping of the so-called ceremonial laws. One woman, while sharing at the pulpit, even called the keeping of the Law bondage and we had been freed from that. However, this flies in the face of Paul's understanding of the Law in Romans and John's in 1 John.

Romans 7:12 (KJV)
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

1 John 5:3 (KJV)
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

I could also attend a Messianic congregation on Saturdays, but I object to the use of Contemporary Christian music. It is, in my mind, the blending of the holy with the profane, as spoken of in 2 Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 6:14-17 (KJV)
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

I also recognize the important of gathering together in corporate worship.

Hebrews 10:25 (KJV)
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

So what should I do? For right now my son and I are worshiping at home together, but I'm hoping that I will find something that will work eventually. What do you think?

Friday, September 7, 2012

The New Covenant

Traditional Christianity believes that the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost is the beginning of the church or the church age. It is also believed that the church is under a new covenant as opposed to the old covenant that Moses and the Mosaic Law represented. This understanding of a new covenant comes from Jeremiah 31:31-33.

Jeremiah 31:31-33 (KJV)
31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Verse 31 does indeed speak about a new covenant that God was going to make. According to this same verse, however, with whom would God make this covenant? It says that the covenant would be made with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. In other words the covenant would be made with the whole nation of Israel. Notice that there is no entity called the "church" in this passage. Verse 32 speaks about the new covenant being different from the old covenant that the house of Israel broke. Verse 33 tells us how the new covenant would be different. It says that the Law would be put into the inward parts of the people and would be written on their hearts. The old covenant was not internal, but external, and the people could not keep the Law. With the death and resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus) the Holy Spirit was sent on Pentecost to indwell God's people. When one is born again that person receives the Holy Spirit and the Law is internalized making him or her able to keep it. Notice that this passage says nothing about the Law being changed. It is the same Law. Only its position has changed.

So how can a Gentile participate in this new covenant?

Ephesians 2:11-14 (KJV)
11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

This passage in Ephesians tells us that by the blood of Christ the wall of partition that separated Jews and Gentiles has been broken down and that Gentiles can also be born again, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and become part of the commonwealth of Israel. Then both Jews and Gentiles can be God's people.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

When it Rains it Pours

My husband and I have been putting up with the furniture in our family room. The couch and chairs were comfortable and we were able to seat seven people if need be. However, the material on these pieces of furniture were in sorry shape. We even had one guest refuse to sit on the couch and preferred to sit on the floor instead. Well, really! It wasn't that bad!

So we initially thought about having them reupholstered, since the frames were structurally sound. But we decided that this presented more problems and would cost less to just replace them. Our next "fix" was to purchase a cover for the couch and to flip the cushion on the settee. The settee looked reasonably good, but the cover, although nice when it was first wrestled onto the couch, soon looked wrinkled and never stayed where it was supposed to be.

My husband must have gotten tired of hearing my complaints because he suggested that we look for replacements. He was hoping to get a recliner/rocker for himself, so I think that inclined him in the right direction. So with sales ad in hand we eagerly went to a local store. The recliners were in the back so it took us a while to get there. We were decidedly distracted by the couches and loveseats. It didn't help either that a friendly salesman dogged our every step. We finally decided on the perfect recliner/rocker. But what color? Of course that would depend on the color of the other pieces of furniture in the room. Maybe we should look again at those couches and loveseats. Before we knew it we had purchased a couch, a loveseat, a recliner/rocker, and a cheval mirror (that was for me!). It was tough to spend that kind of money, but we did need the furniture and the sale prices were very good.

Two days later I went to do some vacuuming. But when I plugged in the vacuum the light overhead popped and the vacuum wouldn't turn on. It appeared that a circuit had been blown.  I checked the circuit breakers and found them to be fine. Oh, no, was our freezer on this circuit? I wasn't sure, but our computer and router were. With a son in college classes, I panicked. This situation needed to be corrected immediately. My husband found an electrician who was able to come out the next day. As it turned out a GSF switch had a short in it and simply needed to be replaced. Whew! The cost was a "small" owie.

You can imagine my chagrin when I woke up the next morning, went to take a shower, and heard a dripping noise. I walked into our mechanical room to find water all over the floor and a fast drip coming from a pipe overhead. Thankfully, there is a floor drain within a couple of feet so most of the water was due to splashing. Still, it was not a pleasant sight. Again, my husband was able to find someone to come out that same day to fix the pin hole sized leak and a faulty valve. For one hour's work the cost of this repair was a much "larger" owie.

God, are you still working on my trust issues? I realize that I can worry about money. But, I really did learn this summer that God was trustworthy (see prior post "Our Surprising God"). So as I wrote out the check for the plumber I thanked God that I was able to pay for the job. I affirmed that I was going to fully trust in God's provision, and also prayed that there would be a lull in required repairs.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Most High God - Daniel 1:8-16

Previous: Daniel 1:3-7 

Daniel 1:8-16 (KJV)
8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
9 Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
10 And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.
11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.
13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat.
16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.

Remember that Daniel and his three friends had been taken as captives to Babylon. They had been placed in the care of Ashpenaz the head of the eunuchs. Immediately, it seems that the young men were presented with a problem. What food and drink would they be given (verse 8)? They were to receive a portion of the king's food and wine. Daniel says that the king's food would defile them. Why would this be? In the first place, the Jewish people had strict laws about what they could and could not eat. (See Leviticus 11.) Secondly, some of the food could have been offered to idols. So the young men did not want to be disobedient to God, but how could they disobey their captors? According to verse 9 how did the prince of the eunuchs feel about Daniel? The prince loved and favored him. When Daniel had asked him if he could avoid being defiled, how did Ashpenaz respond (verse 10)? He was afraid that Daniel and his friends would not look as healthy and well-fed as the others. He was afraid that that action would endanger his own life. What is Daniel's challenge to Melzar, the person Ashpenaz had set over the four young men (verses 11 - 13)? He suggested that for ten days the four would only be fed pulse and would have only water to drink. What is pulse? This term refers to legumes and their seeds. After the ten days Melzar would determine how well the young men thrived. Does Melzar go along with this test? Yes. How did the young men look after the ten days (verse 15)? They appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the other children. What did Melzar do then (verse 16)? He took away the king's meat and wine and gave the four pulse and water.

Next: Daniel 1:17-21

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Shabbat Shalom

How was your Shabbat?

I have to admit that my day of rest is usually not quite what I had envisioned. As I light the Shabbat candles I think about all that God has done for me, especially in His willingness to die on the cross so that my sins could be forgiven. As I drink the grape juice and eat the challah bread I focus on His gift of eternal life. Shabbat is a picture of the rest we will one day experience if we are born again. I have prepared for this time and I am going to rest. Yet, as the morning arrives there are things that distract. Breakfast needs to be served and the cat needs to eat. If there is service that day, I can take that time to totally devote to God, but then there is lunch and dishes and half the day is already gone. During the afternoon there are further distractions. Those who do not practice a Saturday Shabbat, schedule events on Saturday and I feel obligated to attend. My husband mows the lawn and wants to go shopping for this or that. Finally, there is dinner and dishes again. Havdalah arrives and all too quickly Shabbat has ended. Where did the time go? Did I rest? Did I focus on God? It never seems to be enough. But then that's maybe what God wants us to experience. He wants us to long for that true rest that will never happen until He brings His kingdom. Until that time we only glimpse little pieces of that rest, a rest that for us lasts only a day. But the desire is there and each week I will try again.

Shabbat Shalom