Category Archives: Gospel

The Kingdom of God on Earth

Kingdom

“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Mat 6:10)

The idea of God’s kingdom on earth is a classical Christian belief. Christians affirm this belief in the Apostles Creed: “He ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead”. In modern western Christian thinking the concept of salvation is usually confined to the spiritual realm. We usually think of salvation in terms of a personal relationship with Christ by faith. We rarely discuss the idea of a progressive fulfillment of the concept to the physical earthly realm. We tend to think of heaven as the goal. But, biblically speaking, salvation is the restoration of the entire creation. That restoration starts with the individual spirit, but it will progress to the entire physical creation. Biblical salvation ends with the physical realm; the restoration of Eden.

Restoration is not accomplished in a single moment. Quoting George Ladd, “The Kingdom of God belongs to the age to come. Yet the age to come has overlapped with this present age. We may taste its powers [Lazarus] and thereby be delivered from this age and no longer live in conformity to it.” The focus of the modern western Church has changed. The common message is usually about how to escape hell and get to heaven. It shows up in how we evangelize. We ask questions such as, “Are you going to heaven?” or we invite people to come to Jesus and get healing, peace, prosperity or some other personal benefit. You don’t very often hear an evangelist say, “Come to Jesus and die to yourself.” Most Christians are not expecting His imminent return and the establishment of an earthly Kingdom.

The hope of the early church was, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that having denied ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live discreetly, righteously and godly, in this present world, looking for the blessed hope, and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,….” (Tit 2:11-13) Jesus will rule on earth with His church. (Rev. 20:4-5; Zech 14:16) God created the earth for a dwelling place with man. His plans are not frustrated; He is not a loser; He doesn’t have a plan B.

God’s church will not be raptured away from this world in defeat. God saves the best for last. The wedding in Cana was a type of the wedding of the bride to come. Just when we think that the wine is all gone, Jesus will perform His great miracle. He is the Creator and He is always doing something better. (Hag. 2:6-9)

But God’s people perish for lack of or a wrong vision. Our focus should be preparing for the Kingdom. Jesus will return when the gospel of the Kingdom is preached to the whole earth. (Mt. 24:14) Heaven will hold Him until He has made His enemies His footstool. (He. 10:12-13) Our part is to hasten the day of His coming. (2Peter 3:12)

How do we prepare the way? Do what Jesus told us to do. Make disciples, not converts, teaching them to obey the things that Jesus taught. (Mt. 28:19-20) Preach that the Kingdom is at hand and serve. (Mt. 10:7-8) That requires being a preserving influence, being salt and light. We must be involved. It is disheartening to see so many Christians not involved in the battle. We are in a struggle for the culture and too many are silent. God has granted us a gift of having a voice in our civil government, but too many believe it is unspiritual to be involved in the fight. The kind of government we have will influence the kind of soil that we sow our seed in. The scriptures teach that God has prepared good works for you in advance. We are to expose darkness by turning on the light.

We must walk in true holiness, not phony legalism, loving God with all of our heart and loving our neighbor as our self. The task is attainable in this life by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Gal 5:16)

THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST

The return of Christ is one of most written about subjects in the entire Bible; it is the main message of God’s word. Christ is coming to rule and reign; to take back His creation. The Bible reveals how to be saved from the judgment to come and be a member of God’s kingdom. This is what Jesus Christ had to say regarding His return to this world:

“But in those days, after that tribulation, ‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.’ “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens…. “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. … What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” Mark 13:24-37

There are some questions about Christ’s return that have interested people throughout the ages: how and when will He return?

How will He come? What will it be like?

This scripture says He will come in the clouds and in glory, not quietly like a babe, and not secretly as some teach. “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.”

The Bible says He will come with fire. This speaks of divine judgment upon those who have rejected His rule. He will judge those who refuse His offer of forgiveness.

“God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.” 1Thessalonians 1:6-7

He will come like a thief, by surprise:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare…. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 2Peter 3:10-12

When will He return?

Jesus said that no one knows the day or the hour, but there will be some signs. What Jesus revealed was not intended to gratify the curiosity of men. Why was He deliberately evasive? He wants us to live by faith. If everyone knew exactly when He was coming back, most would wait until the last second to get right with God. He wants us to always be prepared for His coming. He said His second coming would be like the days of Noah. In other words, things would be occurring normally. People would not be expecting it

Some people think that because Jesus has waited thousands of years to return, that He was not who He said He is and is not coming back. The Bible warns about this deception:

First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2Peter 3:3-11

SO WHAT SHOULD OUR ATTITUDE BE?

We should be eagerly waiting, looking for His return. We should be ready; spiritually prepared and in right relationship with Him.

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 2Peter 3:14

That is why Jesus told many parables about being ready for His return. It is not important that we know the time. It is important that we be ready at all times.

2nd coming

Wise Counsel

Finding God’s will through counsel and revelation.

We can know God’s will. We can “hear” His voice with spiritual ears.
God often speaks through other believers. God speaks through supernatural revelation or prophecy as 1Cor 12 says. Prophecy is not just telling the future. It is communicating God’s heart on a specific matter. The purpose of prophecy (all gifts) is encouragement and edification of the believer. What we consider revelation today should never violate the written word of God. 1Corinthians 13 says that we only hear in part, so we must be careful to check any revelation by the Word of God. God’s will can be proved. “And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” Ro. 12:2

Why should we seek or listen to counsel? Because individually we only hear in part. No one has a monopoly on wisdom or hearing from God. The Bible says that there is wisdom in multitude of counsel. (Prov. 11:14) I believe that this is referring to a cooperative decision where the Lord speaks in times of corporate prayer.

One must be humble in order to receive counsel. The world may view a need for advice as a sign of weakness, but we should not be insecure or defensive. Advice from a friend is precious. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.” Prov. 25:11-12

Who should we allow to speak into our hearts and lives? Should we let just anybody? It is important that we block words that can be bad advice, mislead or injure us. But, we also must be careful not to reject words just because they are hard or difficult to accept. Words from God may be sharp as a sword, discerning thoughts and intents of the heart.

We must have faith to hear God’s counsel through others. A friend earns the privilege to give intimate counsel. The one we should listen to is a covenant friend, one in relationship; one we trust; one with proven wisdom and Godly character. We must judge prophets first by their character rather than charisma.

How is Godly counsel delivered? It is given in a Godly manner and in God’s time. We should prayerfully consider counsel before giving it. It should be offered in humility, realizing that we could be wrong. We should understand the person’s situation before giving advice; don’t be like Job’s friends. Some people need compassion more than advice.

Consider a case of prophetic guidance and free will shown in the Bible in Acts 21:10-14. Agabus was a true prophet. He had a message from God for Paul and then he offered counsel as a solution to that word. The Word of the Lord ends with the prediction that Paul would be placed into bondage. There is no mention that the Holy Spirit prompted the advice. The anointed word was that he would encounter difficulty. The carnal word was “don’t go”. Notice that Agabus and the others didn’t force their will upon Paul. Here we see a case of counsel as to direction not a rebuke for sin. This is not a question of doctrine, or where there is clear guidance in the written word of God. This pertained to what some call the permissive will of God. Paul would not be violating some moral code by disobeying the advice not to go to Jerusalem.

The prophetic word was a confirmation of what Paul had heard earlier from the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:22-24). Later on, he had another word directly from Jesus that confirmed his decision to go to Jerusalem (Acts 23:11). Paul’s friends heard from God about what would happen, but they missed God’s will for Paul. Prophetic guidance must be balanced against freedom to hear and decide individually. We should guide people with spiritual principles and allow them to make their own decisions.

The Greatest Threat

It’s not North Korean or Iranian nukes. It’s not Islamic terrorism or Central American gangs. It’s not having your job shipped overseas. It’s not Obamacare or losing your health insurance. It isn’t Donald Trump. It is the judgment of God on our nation.

You rarely hear about it on the “news”, but occasionally you might catch a nature show talking about Yellowstone or the San Andreas Fault in California. Yellowstone is a giant active volcano crater. The last eruption was the largest cataclysmic event in North America. You might be familiar with the red clay soil that paints a wide swath from Wyoming all the way to Texas and the Gulf coast. It came from Yellowstone and is discernible in satellite images. And scientists warn that it could blow at any moment, just like the San Andreas Fault. A magnitude 9.0 quake on that fault would kill millions in a matter of hours. If Yellowstone erupted in a similar way that it last did, Denver would be covered in ash in a matter of hours. There is no possible way that the population could escape in time. The same fate would fall upon Omaha, Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Dallas in a few days. Bozeman and Casper would be obliterated almost instantly. This volcano dwarfs Mt. St. Helens. It would make a nuclear bomb look like a fire cracker in comparison.

I think the wrath of God is sometimes like a volcano. It may take many years because God is patient and forbearing with our sins. But, He is a God of justice and He has judged nations before. His judgment, when it comes, is swift and sure. Are we deserving of His judgment? Of course we are. And it might come at any moment. We are guilty, as a nation, of murdering more than 30 million innocent children. Our people, including our elected leaders and judges, even Christians have turned a deaf ear to the pleas of those defending the defenseless. Their blood cries out for justice. And infanticide isn’t our only sin. Pornography, fornication, adultery, prostitution and murder are rampant. 2 Timothy chapter 3 perfectly describes where we are as a nation, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;” (2Ti 3:2-4) Our nation has exalted perversion. We could be judged at any moment.

Perhaps, what stays God’s wrath is that there are worshipping Christians in our land. Our churches are everywhere and they are full. It’s perplexing that there are so many Christians in our land and yet evil is pervasive. Has the salt lost its savor? Are our churches filled with phonies or are we blind? Great revivals are always characterized by social change for the better and an increased commitment to godly obedience by the populace. But we don’t see that in America today. For all of our evangelizing and conversions, we see no change in the culture. The culture continues to descend into the sewer. The church, Christians, need to change what they are doing, because what they are doing now isn’t working.

In contrast, the Great Reformation of the 18thcentury that birthed this nation was marked by widespread repentance among the people. It was sparked by a sermon delivered by Jonathan Edwards entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Edwards called people to repentance. He identified sin for what it is, an affront to a holy God. He described sinners as hanging by a spider’s thread over the fiery pit of hell. The hearers shrieked out in fear. I doubt that such preaching would elicit a similar response today. People today would mock those repentant sinners as superstitious. We don’t fear God anymore. We‘re too sophisticated. It’s rare in American churches to hear about sin, judgment and hell today. The message that people have offended God and must repent has been replaced with “Jesus loves you.” Of course He does! That is why He went to the cross. But, that does not negate the need for people to understand their sinfulness. It is conviction of sin that leads people to receive the grace of God and repent.

John chapter 21 is an account of Jesus meeting His disciples by the Sea of Galilee after His resurrection. Peter and the other disciples had decided to go fishing, which was his original profession. They fished all night and caught nothing. In the morning, Jesus appears on the shore and exhorts them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. When they do, they haul in a load of fish that they can barely handle and they recognize that it is Jesus on the shore. One explanation of the meaning of this is that Jesus, when He had first called them, told them that they would now be fishers of men. They had abandoned the calling of God and gone back to their old life and it was fruitless. We must heed God’s calling.

I think this passage has another message for us today. We are trying to be fishers of men and we are not catching very much. Jesus is saying, “Put your nets on the other side. Change what you are doing. Do it my way. Hear my voice.” We must be guided by the voice of the Holy Spirit if we expect to be fruitful.

As I was studying the scriptures on this subject I was reminded of the parable of the sower. Jesus talked about how the seed that fell on stony ground blew away and bore no fruit. I felt the Holy Spirit tell me that America has been paved over. Our soil is concrete! He said we need a jackhammer to break it up! There must be preaching about sin and hell and soon coming judgment.

I sought the scriptures for Jesus’ evangelistic approach. There are numerous examples in the gospels of Jesus doing power evangelism. People listen when someone gets healed or raised from the dead. Most of us don’t believe we can do that, but Jesus said that we could do greater things. He said that He only did what the Father was doing. You see, Colossians tells us that Jesus laid aside the prerogatives of deity and humbled Himself as a man. He only did miracles by obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit within Him that told Him what the Father was doing. We have that same Holy Spirit in us. He speaks, we must listen.

I also found an account of Jesus’ evangelism that did not involve miracles. It is told beginning in Mark 1:14 thru 1:17. Read the red, the words of Jesus. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel.” Now as he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, “Follow me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” (Mar 1:14-17) There it is. Let’s break it down and put it in modern vernacular:

  1. Time’s up!
  2. The good news that God is in control, He is here and He rules.
  3. Stop what you are doing (sinning).
  4. Believe the good news of what God has done to forgive you and re-establish His rule here and now on earth
  5. Follow Jesus. He will tell what you should do. He will do great things through you.

Do it in this order, don’t use old English or Christianese:

Time is up! The hearer must understand that it is urgent. Today is the day of salvation. Jesus didn’t say, “Think about it and we’ll talk tomorrow.” You can fall into judgment at any moment. Yellowstone is ready to blow. Your heart could stop this instant. You might get hit by a car. Remind them of that horror movie where people can’t escape death when their number is up. Moderns relate to movies.

God is in control, not Trump, not Putin, not ISIS, not the banks, not your boss. He is working all things together to put everything under Jesus’ dominion. (Eph 1:9)

Stop sinning. Tell them, “You are going the wrong way!” Just as in Trains, Planes and Automobiles, “don’t mock because there are two semis headed right for you.” The hearer must be told that their sin will soon lead to tragedy.  We must call sin for what it is. We must preach sin and hell. Stop soft pedaling with your neighbor. If he blows you off, shake the dust off your feet.

Tell them the good news that Jesus paid the price for their sin and they need not suffer judgment. Not only that, but Jesus is going to restore Eden, there will be peace on earth when He sits on His earthly throne.

Tell them that they must listen to Jesus and do what He tells them to do. He wants them to have a part in building His new Kingdom.

The Four Faces of God

Discovering Biblical Personhood

I recently attended a men’s breakfast at our church where we heard an excellent lecture from Dr. Robert Lewis on “The Four Faces of Manhood”. Dr Lewis describes the four faces of biblical manhood as follows: King, Warrior, Lover and Friend. He plots these on a graph as follows:

King

Lover —————–  Friend

Warrior

 

God has intended for the King to lead, for the friend to be faithful, for the warrior to be a protector and for the lover to love sacrificially as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25). He then describes how God’s design for man can be perverted by “ugly caricatures”. The King becomes a cruel tyrant or a weak abdicator. The friend becomes a loner or a user of others. The warrior becomes a destroyer or a wimp and the lover becomes critical or cold.

It seemed to me that an unbalanced man would tend to lean in a circular direction and that the ugly caricatures would follow in a predictable pattern so that a tyrant king would be a using friend, a destroying warrior and a critical lover. On the other hand, if the unbalanced man leaned in the other direction he would be a weak abdicator, cold lover, a wimpy warrior and a loner rather than friend.

As I contemplated this, I was reminded of some scriptures about “four faces”. The first was in Ezekiel chapter 1 where Ezekiel has a vision of God’s throne and he describes four creatures (some call seraph) that stand guard around God’s throne:

As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle. Ezekiel 1:10 NKJV

The Apostle John had a similar vision described in Revelation chapter 4:

Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. Revelation 4:6-7 NKJV

It is interesting that the two visions vary slightly, but to my mind it only lends credibility to the authenticity as the scriptures are inspired by God and penned by men with different perspectives. One can only imagine how frightening such a vision might be and how each might have a different memory of it, just as two people observing a horrible accident might have different accounts. If John had meant to copy Ezekiel he would have done it word for word, but he didn’t. But the two accounts are so similar as to confirm that they were seeing the same throne room.

We must understand that all creation is intended to glorify God as originally created. The creatures guarding God’s throne can be considered to display the character and nature of God just as mankind is made in the image of God. So, what do these creatures tell us about God and how does that apply to mankind?

I believe that the seraph show us that God relates to us as a man and a friend. God came to earth in the form of the man Jesus who referred to Himself as “the Son of Man.” God relates to us as King over all creation as the lion rules over all other creatures. Jesus is referred to as the Lion of the tribe of Judah and revelation assures that He will reign over all creation forever and ever (Rev. 11:15). An ox or a calf is a sacrificial animal. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). An eagle is the swiftest of hunters and warriors. In the Psalms God describes Himself as an eagle protecting His flock.  He shelters us beneath His wings (Psalm 17:8).

So the new chart is this:

King/Lion

Lover/Ox —————– Friend/Man

Warrior/Eagle

As I have repeatedly read these scriptures in Ezekiel and Revelation I have wondered at their meaning and significance. I believe through this study that the Lord has granted me a measure of revelation. The four fold nature of God is even displayed in the different gospel accounts. Matthew depicts Christ as King beginning with His royal lineage (Mt. 2:2). Mark, written from Peter’s memories (Mark was Peter’s scribe), describes Jesus as a friend and a brother (Mark 3:35). No one was closer to Jesus than Peter. Mark reveals Jesus as a man (Mark 9:12).

Luke, written from Paul’s memories (Luke was discipled by Paul), displays Jesus as the warrior, the defender of the faith and the faithful. We see in the gospel of Luke the accounts of Jesus’ battles with the religious leaders and Pharisees (those accounts don’t name Paul, but I believe that he was among those who followed Jesus constantly seeking to trip him up; Luke 6:7). It is interesting that Jesus chose Paul, a fanatical defender of Judaism, to be the primary evangelist and his Acts and his letters portray how he battled like an eagle to defend the gospel.

John, the mystic, the romantic, depicts Christ as a sacrificial lover. He tells us that God so loved the world that He gave and describes Jesus as the Lamb of God. John records Jesus saying, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Joh 13:34-35)

These scriptures revealing God’s nature and our response pertain to all mankind, including women. They show us what biblical personhood is. Women are created to reflect God’s image as well. Women are called to lead, love, protect and befriend all be it in a unique way.

As I looked further into Ezekiel’s vision I discovered that it reveals not only the nature of God, but it speaks about how we must walk with God. The vision shows us how not to become unbalanced, fall into sin and display a false, ugly caricature. I noticed that the creatures walked in the Spirit, that is they followed the Holy Spirit. They didn’t become unbalanced and turn to the left or right.

And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went. Ezekiel 1:12 NKJV

The vision goes on to tell us that a strange object followed each of the creatures.

Now as I looked at the living creatures, behold, a wheel was on the earth beside each living creature with its four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their workings was like the color of beryl, and all four had the same likeness. The appearance of their workings was, as it were, a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they moved, they went toward any one of four directions; they did not turn aside when they went. Ezekiel 1:15-17 NKJV

The scripture goes on to describe how the wheels are covered with eyes, depicting the all seeing, all knowing nature of God. This strange object, like the Seraphim, does not turn to the left or right, but follows the straight path, the narrow way. It reminded me of a gyroscope. I searched the definition/ function of a gyroscope.

Gyroscope: an apparatus consisting of a rotating wheel so mounted that its axis can turn freely in certain or all directions, and capable of maintaining the same absolute direction in space in spite of movements of the mountings and surrounding parts: used to maintain equilibrium, determine direction, etc.

Gyroscopes are used in aircraft instrumentation to show relative position to the earth. They help the pilot to know where straight and level is. A gyroscope has two perpendicular axes. One is perpendicular to the earth and the other is parallel. The axes of a gyroscope make a cross.

Our church has recently been studying the book of Romans. Last week I heard a message from chapter 7 by pastor Keith Knight. Chapter 7 is about struggling with sin. The conclusion is that there is deliverance from sin through Jesus Christ. At the climax of the message Keith turned to a cross on the stage and told us that when the struggle is there, he turns to the cross and reminds himself what Jesus did there to save us from sin. That is the key! That is what will keep us on the straight and narrow road.

I know that this vision is meant to show us that God has provided us with a holy gyroscope to help us follow Him. If we focus on what happened on the cross we will keep our spiritual bearings and not wander off to the left or right displaying an ugly image.

It’s interesting that such a mysterious vision should boil down to such a simple truth that is spelled out in the New Testament: that the way to overcome is to walk in the Spirit and keep your focus on Christ’s finished work on the cross. That is exactly how God revealed Himself in the old covenant. Jesus spoke in parables because He searches for seekers who will find revelation in ALL of scripture.

 

 

 

 

 

The Feasts of God’s Kingdom (Rev. 19:6-9)

I was recently discussing with some other pastors the difficulty in evangelizing today as opposed to during the Jesus People revival of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s. We were asking ourselves, “What has changed?” Obviously, our culture has changed significantly. During the Jesus People revivals, our country was in the midst of the Vietnam War. When faced with the very real possibility of dying in a war, many people become idealistic and start looking for answers to the “big” questions of life, such as the existence of the soul, the afterlife and God. Today, people are too comfortable, satisfied with all of the comforts and pleasures that our modern technological age has afforded them. But, they are deceived! God has a better life for them.

We may seem comfortable now, but we can be sure that things will change. We know this from history and we know it from God’s word, the Bible. Our civilization will not prosper forever, ignoring God, because God doesn’t change! History proves it and the Holy Spirit confirms it!

In Jeremiah 2:13, we learn that God had two complaints against Israel: (1) that they had dug their own wells that didn’t yield any water and (2) that they had forsaken God, the source of living water. In other words, they had sought fulfillment in all sorts of things other than God while ignoring Him. Today, people commit the same sin, trying to find fulfillment in toys, games, sports, sex, entertainment, careers and everything else but God. But, God has something better for them. I think that one of the reasons that we have trouble evangelizing today is that people are not being convinced or even told that God has a feast for them, while they are settling for hot dogs. He has living water: abundance, true pleasure and joy.

Most people are unfulfilled. That is why they turn to idols. They are under the curse of sin. In Genesis 3, we read where God cursed man to a life of toil and labor because of our rebellion against Him. So it is true today, as it has been since Adam, that people spend most of their lives working at some task they would rather not be doing in order to survive and pay for all of the things that they are attempting to satisfy themselves with.

Have you ever been to a banquet? A banquet or a feast is a celebration. It is fun. It’s a good time. It is a special occasion. God’s Kingdom Feasts illustrate His plan to bring blessing to our lives. The feasts illustrate His plan to restore His rule on earth, to bring His kingdom, to restore Eden. That is something worth celebrating! My interest in God’s feasts was born out of a passion for seeing His Kingdom established here on earth, for Christ’s return. I often think about what it will be like and when will He come. I want to know how I should prepare myself, and the rest of the world for His coming. The Feasts help us to understand God’s plan for building His church and bringing His Kingdom. The feasts were and are a prophetic revelation of the foundational principles of our faith referred to in Hebrews 6. These are not new principles. God revealed them in the Old Testament. Today, He is restoring the age-old foundations, as He promised He would in Isaiah 58:12.

Some ask, “But aren’t the feasts for the old covenant?” It’s all God’s word; how do we apply it in the new covenant? Jesus said, “Till the heaven and the earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall in any way pass from the Law until all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18 MKJV) Has all been fulfilled? What has been fulfilled? What is suspended? The civil law has been temporarily suspended, but not the moral law. The civil law and penalties were for the theocracy of Israel, which was a type of the Kingdom to come.

Why did God command His people to establish an earthly kingdom and why did it fail? The answer lies in the fact that they had not the power of the Holy Spirit within; they had unchanged hearts. They had the wrong King. Will a theocracy be re-instituted? Absolutely, yes! At that time, God’s civil law will be reestablished. Zealous Phinehas was a type of those who will rule with Christ.

We must know what is fulfilled and how we are to observe the fulfillment. Christ fulfilled the sacrificial law. Now, we are to offer a living sacrifice. Christ fulfilled the Sabbath. Today, we must rest in His finished work.

Why did the church stop celebrating the feasts? Why did they cease to move in the gifts? Why did they reject the authority of scripture? We can see from the book Acts that the Apostles kept the feasts (Acts 18:21, 20:16). The reason that all of these foundational truths were abandoned: anti-Semitism, secularization, influence of the spirit of anti-Christ. The feasts will be kept in the millennial kingdom. Zechariah 14 says, “And it shall be, everyone who is left of all the nations which came up against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, Jehovah of Hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”(Zechariah 14:16 MKJV)

As with all of the Old Covenant, the feasts were and are a shadow of things to come. Celebrating the feasts should be faith building, keeping us focused on God’s plan. Therefore, God made it a command to all believers that we keep His feasts, “as a lasting ordinance.” They are not part of the sacrificial law that has been fulfilled. They are not part of the civil law for Israel that has been temporarily suspended. His feasts are not just for Jews, they are for all believers, all true Israelites. God never intended for the celebration of the feasts to stop under the new covenant. The Apostles understood this, they all continued to keep the feasts.

As Creator, part of God’s nature is that He displays order and design. He does not do things haphazardly. He does significant deeds at significant times and places. He tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mt Moriah in order to prophetically reveal how He would offer His only begotten son, Jesus, on the same hill, 2000 years later.

At a stable in Bethlehem, a Jew named Boaz and a gentile named Ruth united to bring forth the perfect servant, Obed, grandfather of David, who is a type of Christ, both King and Priest. God was showing that through their descendant, Jesus, He would bring forth the one new man, neither Jew of Gentile, but one in Christ. 1000 years later Christ was incarnated in a stable in Bethlehem

God also has done certain foundational actions at specific times, during His feast days. Passover marked Israel’s deliverance from the curse of death in Egypt. The Israelites were commanded to sacrifice a spotless lamb and mark the door-posts of their homes with the blood of the lamb and it would be a sign that would spare them from judgment. Significantly, it was on Passover that Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed to bring deliverance from sin and death for His people who have by faith applied the blood of His sacrifice to the door-posts of their heart. Three days after Passover, on the feast of Firstfruits, Christ rose from the dead, offering Himself as a type of first fruit of the harvest of souls.

It was on Pentecost that God gave the law amidst tongues of fire on Sinai. It was on Pentecost that Ruth and Boaz were married. It was on Pentecost that God poured out the Holy Spirit upon His people, empowering them to keep the law.

The Feasts portray God’s time clock. Jesus said, “open your eyes, you can tell when it’s time for the natural harvest…” The Kingdom is coming soon. 6000 years of God working is rapidly coming to a close and then Christ will have a Sabbath reign here on earth for 1000 years. Don’t be confused by man’s calendars. God doesn’t follow the Gregorian calendar.

The Feasts of the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar start with the ten-day Feast of Trumpets, which ends on the day of Atonement or Yom Kippur. They end with the 7-day Feast of Tabernacles. These feasts foreshadow the completion of God’s plan for establishing His Kingdom, bringing eternal judgment. The seventh and last trumpet of Rev. 11, whose sound announces the establishment of God’s earthly Kingdom, is the same trumpet which is blown on Yom Kippur, the same one referred to in 1Thessalonians 4 and in 1Corinthians 15:52

The Feast of Tabernacles was God’s ordinance for reminding the Israelites of their wilderness wanderings after they were delivered from Egypt and dwelt in tents. God wanted them to remember the lessons that they learned in the wilderness. Prophetically it points to the time when we will dwell with God face to face on this earth in a physical body or tent. According to Zechariah 14, this Feast will be celebrated each year during Christ’s millennial reign on earth, reminding us of the time that we lived in this present wilderness in our earthly bodies and of the lessons we learned during that time.

To understand the observance and meaning of the feasts we should look to God’s word: “Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth of this month they shall take to them each man a lamb for a father’s house, a lamb for a house… Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year.… And you shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month. And the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take some of the blood and strike on the two side posts and upon the upper door post of the houses in which they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roasted with fire, and unleavened bread. They shall eat it with bitter herbs….And the blood shall be a sign to you upon the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you. And the plague shall not be upon you for a destruction when I smite in the land of Egypt. And this day shall be a memorial to you. And you shall keep it as a feast to Jehovah throughout your generations. You shall keep it as a feast by a law forever. You shall eat unleavened bread seven days; even the first day you shall put away leaven out of your houses. For whoever eats leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.”(Exodus 12:3, 5, 6-8, 13-15 MKJV)

Passover or Unleavened bread foreshadowed the sinless sacrifice of Christ. It revealed the foundation of being in holy communion with God. It shows us that we must repent from dead works and have faith toward God.

“And you shall count to you from the next day after the Sabbath (Passover), from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete. To the next day after the seventh sabbath you shall number fifty days. And you shall offer a new food offering to Jehovah. You shall bring out of your homes two wave loaves of two-tenth parts. They shall be of fine flour. They shall be baked with leaven, firstfruits to Jehovah….And you shall proclaim on the same day that it may be a holy convocation to you. You shall do no work of labor. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not completely reap the corner of your field. When you reap the gleaning of your harvest, you shall not gather. You shall leave them to the poor and to the stranger. I am Jehovah your God.” (Leviticus 23:15-17, 21-22 MKJV)

Pentecost or Weeks reveals that God continually has greater grace. God is always doing something new, continually offering more grace and power. The revealing of the law on Pentecost was an act of greater grace in which God put His holy requirements in writing for man to see. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was an act of even greater grace giving His people the power to keep the law. God says in Haggai 2:9 that the glory of the latter temple shall exceed that of the former. This reveals a divine principle. Jesus saved the best wine for last when He performed His first miracle at the wedding in Cana (Jn 2). The Bible teaches that there is a progression from order to glory to judgment in which the greater the glory, the swifter the judgment. The best days of the church are ahead, because God gives more grace. Pentecost reveals God’s foundational purpose, that we be holy, as He is holy. We must be baptized in the Holy Spirit daily.

“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, a holy convocation. Ye shall do no, servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.” (Leviticus 23:24-25 KJV) Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be a holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. 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. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among, his people. Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.” (Leviticus 23:27-31 KJV)

The feasts of the seventh month, Trumpets and Tabernacles, are the Feasts of Ingathering. They celebrate the completion of the harvest of souls for God’s Kingdom. Trumpets announce the coming of the King. The message of trumpets is, “Prepare to dwell with God, prepare the wedding feast; celebrate the coming of the King.” To do so necessitates the laying on of hands, discipling, empowering and equipping people for service in God’s army. We are commanded to blow the Trumpet. In other words, open your mouth and make the coming Kingdom known. Today, many Christians are telling people how to get to heaven, but we aren’t saying much about heaven coming here. If you study the evangelistic ministry of Paul in the book of Acts, you will notice that what continually got him in trouble with the Roman authorities was not his telling people about a way to heaven, but that a new King was coming. Preparing for the coming Kingdom will enable the fulfillment of God’s purpose for the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.

How should we keep the Feasts in faith now? We must understand God’s plan and our purpose here. Ro 12:1 calls us to live our lives as living sacrifices. Keeping the Feasts daily; not as annual rituals. How do we observe Passover? Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me” as He broke bread with His disciples. We keep the Passover by remembering that it was Christ’s sacrifice that is the unleavened bread of Passover, the sacrificial Lamb of God. He is the source of our forgiveness, healing and deliverance from sin and death. We keep the feast by offering our lives as a living sacrifice, holy unto the Lord, which is only possible because of our Passover. We live holy by the power of the Holy Spirit within us, which is only possible because Christ offered the only sacrifice that could cleanse our temples, making them fit dwelling places for His Spirit. We keep the Passover by being in communion or fellowship with God and with His people.

We celebrate Pentecost by availing ourselves of greater grace each step of our walk with Christ, going beyond tongues (not forgetting), going beyond the initial baptism to being baptized daily. Be like God: do something new. Give of yourself sacrificially. Be a blessing to others.

We celebrate Ingathering by being a disciple who makes disciples. Blow the trumpet daily; prepare the way for the Kingdom. Afflict yourselves, die to self, become a living sacrifice. Adopt a lifestyle of fasting and prayer. Celebrate Tabernacles by dwelling with God in the tent of your body in this earthly wilderness until He brings you into the fullness of His Kingdom.

Live at God’s banqueting table! God’s feasts remind us that God has fullness and blessing for us. Live a life that people will envy. Practice evangelism that works. Be confident that we have something that the world can’t provide. We have been delivered from the curse of sin and death because we have been restored to fellowship and have abandoned idols. Tell people about the great and wonderful Kingdom which Jesus is about to inaugurate here on earth. There will be no more death. The earth will bear fruit. We will no longer have to toil to reap blessing and security. There will be no more pain and sorrow in raising children. It will all be good.

The Kingdom is already here in part; we can begin to receive a measure of blessing now. We can be fruitful in order to bless others. We can have joy; we can celebrate. We can be content, satisfied and thankful; 1Thess 5:16 says, “…rejoice, give thanks… this is God’s will.” Rejoice, celebrate, and give thanks in the feasts!

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Be Joyful

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

 The kingdom of God is characterized by “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” A revelation of God will produce great joy in the heart of the believer. Paul frequently petitioned the Father to give the Ephesians “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation….” Jonathan Edwards’ account of the First Great Awakening contains reports of extraordinary manifestations of joy. He writes:

 “Extraordinary views of Divine things and the religious affections were frequently attended with very great effects upon the body… .The person was deprived of all ability to speak… .the soul so overcome with admiration and a kind of omnipotent joy as to cause the person unavoidably to leap with all his might in joy and mighty exaltation.”

My daughter attended meetings in St. Louis conducted by Rodney Howard-Browne in March of 1994. Mr. Howard-Browne has been used powerfully by the Lord. During one of the meetings, She had a revelation that led to great joy and faith. She became drunk as it were in the Holy Spirit and began to have visions of angelic beings pouring huge buckets of water over the assembled congregation. She saw a vision of the Lord Jesus dancing with a beautiful bride. The Lord spoke to her about His affections for His bride. She was then miraculously healed of a scoliosis of the spine which she had suffered with since childhood. She remained unable to speak for three days. She also experienced emotional healing that enabled her to develop relationships on a level she had previously been unable to attain.

 The scripture does not condemn outward expressions of joy. Indeed, it says that “the joy of the Lord” is our strength.” Certainly, being regularly out of control would result in a bad witness, but occasionally being overwhelmed with joy at the revelation of God’s love and mercy is understandable. This reaction might also occur when experiencing deliverance from oppression or pain. These momentary outpourings can be vital in maintaining that inner peace and joy that would cause others to see Christ in us or to ask what it is that sustains us. Perhaps this is what Peter was referring to when he wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

Certainly this scripture would apply to questions regarding our personal testimony, but it could also apply to curiosity aroused when we display peace and joy through trials. It is significant that Paul couples the exhortation to be ‘joyful in hope,” along with, “patient in affliction,” in Romans 12:12. Sometimes, only the joy that comes down from above can sustain us through the afflictions that come at us from the forces of hell.

The lasting significance of the “Great Awakenings” was the moral foundations that were re-established. The bars and prostitution houses closed and families were preserved. The Cane Ridge Revivals of 1801 radically transformed the frontier. “Instead of gambling cursing and vice, spirituality and genuine Christianity characterized the early westward movement. It was God’s great hour. Revival stopped skepticism in its tracks and returned the helm of the country to the godly.” Pratney points out that sympathy for the poor was affected by the 1857 Awakening. The work of the Salvation Army was born during this revival.

A willingness to be touched by the power of the Holy Spirit and to yield control to God is a mark of godly zeal. In speaking of Whitefield and Wesley, C.H. Spurgeon has noted,  “The world said they were mad; the caricature drew them as being fanatical beyond endurance; but there it was, their zeal was their power. Of course the world scoffed at that of which it was afraid. The world fears enthusiasm which is kindled by the thought of the ruin of men…, the enthusiasm which believes in the Holy Ghost, which believes God is still present with His church to do wonders.”

Our mortal bodies sometimes experience unusual manifestations when we are touched by God, but if we have the faith and trust in God to let Him touch us, He will radically change us. And in doing so, He will use us to radically change our world.

The scripture I refer to here, Romans 12:12, ties a joyful attitude to faithfulness in prayer as well: ”Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” The outpouring at Pentecost came about after the disciples were “All together…with one accord, steadfast in prayer.” It is nearly impossible to be steadfast in prayer without the joy of the Lord in one’s heart. The two concepts are inexorably linked together here. The most important thing Christ’s church can do is pray. When God raises up an army of prayer warriors who are obedient to be in one accord with Him, our world will be won to Christ.


 

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Govern Diligently

Moses

Romans 12:8 continues, “If it is leadership, let him govern diligently.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines diligently thus: “Marked by persevering, painstaking effort.” Many “ministers” in the church today labor diligently. They practice a style of servant leadership that Jesus modeled. But, servant leadership is not the sum of the leadership that Jesus taught and practiced. It is clear that Jesus established the direction and method of His ministry and when His disciples attempted to change the course He rebuked them sternly. Unfortunately, few pastors really govern their churches. This scripture clearly ties leadership to the business of governing. It is part of the pastoral ministry not just to feed, but to lead. Most Christians see their pastor as the leader of the local church, but unfortunately in many cases, pastors do not govern the church. That responsibility has been given to a “governing board” that makes decisions for the church. The pastor serves “at the pleasure of the board” like a sort of “hired hand.”

 

I believe this to be an unbiblical model of church government that developed as an outgrowth of the Protestant Reformation and as a reaction to the misuse of ecclesiastical authority that occurred in the Roman Catholic Church. The abuses were a result of the church’s failure to recognize the authority of scripture, not a result of the structure of church government. Unfortunately, like we are so prone to do, the reformers “threw out the baby with the bath water.” Could you imagine Moses serving at the pleasure of two million men? In those cases where Moses’ authority was questioned or challenged, God’s judgment was swift and sure. The rebellion led by Korah, detailed in Numbers chapter 16, resulted in him and his followers being swallowed up by the earth. In American Christianity, it is not uncommon for pastors to be fired by a board or told what and what not to preach about or what ministries can receive financial support.

 

I have had the unfortunate experience of attending one church where the senior pastor, who had served in that church for twenty-one years, was forbidden by a church board from starting a contemporary worship service. This man had been impressed by the Holy Spirit to reach more people for Christ and was hampered by church government.

 

The Presbyterian or congregational form of church government is especially appealing to the democratic and independent American spirit. But this spirit will not be tolerated in Christ’s kingdom and it should not be allowed to influence how we govern local churches in this age. We are not independent; we are part of a body. A body does not function by having the parts vote about what it should be doing. The spiritual leader of the body is the head and decides where the body goes. Pastors, as Christ’s ordained representatives, should be the spiritual leaders in the local church.

 

Pastors of local churches should also be in submission to those who are performing the functions of the apostolic office. That is, those responsible for overseeing entire movements or denominations. While there are no new Apostles in the church, there are those that perform some of the duties of an apostle. They would be in authority over pastors, teachers, evangelists and prophets within their movement and would have demonstrated faithfulness and fruitfulness in all of the other areas of ministry. There is nothing in scripture to indicate that the local church should be completely autonomous. In fact, in Acts chapter 15 we read of an example where local disputes were settled by a council with higher authority, which was led by one particular individual. The Roman Catholic structure of authority is not necessarily unbiblical, nor was it necessarily responsible for the abuses of power by those in authority. Those abuses may have been avoided had the church accepted the final authority of scripture in matters of faith and practice.

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