Tag Archives: Christianity

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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Thy Kingdom Come

Kingdom of God

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)

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Godly Zeal

Never be lacking in zeal; but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” (Romans 12:11, NIV)There are some questions that this appeal should stimulate us to ask. What does God mean by zeal and spiritual fervor? What kind of behavior characterizes this zeal? Would the appropriate expressions vary depending upon culture? In Romans 10:2, Paul writes that the Jews are “zealous for God.” Their zeal was commendable in that God was its object, but it was flawed because it was not based on a right knowledge about God’s way of salvation, as Paul proceeded to point out. Paul was referring to their zealousness in strictly observing the law. The Jews failure was that they pursued righteousness by works instead of faith. They were blinded by spiritual pride, thinking that they could attain right standing with God by their own effort and in doing so they stumbled over the stone, which is Jesus and His sacrifice. The modern Jew is much better off. Because of his inability to offer an appropriate sacrifice, he must rely upon God’s mercy. Yet modern Judaism still rejects the proper atonement for sin. True zeal for God is a product of repentance and godly sorrow and never results from pride, self righteousness or observing the law.

Jesus displayed zeal driving the merchants from the temple courts. This is the kind of zeal that the scripture encourages us to and yet how many modern Christians display this sort of zeal? When Christians disobey man’s laws in order to save children from being sacrificed in abortion mills, they are criticized even by the church. But, Christ and the Apostles disobeyed man’s laws in order to obey God on several occasions. There are Christians who are willing to pay severe consequences for obeying God and leaders in the church condemn them for it.

There are numerous examples in scripture of the zeal that characterized the Old Testament saints. Phinehas, the priest, was rewarded by God with a covenant of a lasting priesthood because of his zeal for the Lord. He led the Levites in executing the Israelites who were involved in sexual immorality and Baal worship with Moabite women. It is noteworthy that Phinehas also was allowed into the Promised Land with Joshua and Caleb after the previous generation died in the wilderness because of their unbelief. He later became the custodian of the Ark at Bethel. Both Zadok and Ezra, descendants of Phinehas, were known for their zeal in leading the people in renewal. The Psalmist tells us that Phinehas’ faith was “credited to him as righteousness.” Thus he was identified with Abraham as an inheritor of God’s covenant promises. His zealous deeds are attributed to his faith. His actions were not motivated by a self-righteous determination to enforce human ordinances. They were a product of his faith in God’s purpose to raise up a nation of people that would represent Him before all of the world.

Jehu was another who was commended by the Lord for his zeal. He was responsible for killing Jezebel and Ahab’s sons in accordance with the prophetic word of the Lord spoken through Elijah. He was not timid about proclaiming his “zeal for the Lord” before killing the ministers of Baal. The Lord commended Jehu for his zeal: “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation” (2Kings 10:30, NIV)

Romans 12:11 admonishes us that our zeal should be an expression of service to the Lord. Our fervor should not be expressed in a carnal manner. Any zealous behavior for our own cause would be sin. We must be zealous for God’s cause, not our own. Our zeal should accomplish God’s clearly expressed will as defined in scripture. It is God’s will “to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.” We also know that it is God’s will for “everyone to come to repentance.” We need to make sure that our behavior glorifies God and remains in accord with all of His precepts, taking the entire revelation of scripture into account. In doing so we must be mindful that the greater and newer revelation of the New Covenant interprets the Old Covenant. As such, we no longer have permission from God to kill the prophets of Baal with the sword. But, while we are not free to duplicate the specific actions of Old Covenant zealots such a Phinehas and Jehu, we are exhorted to emulate their passion for God’s cause in ways that are consistent with the New Covenant.

What are appropriate expressions of zeal under the New Covenant? Working for the cause of justice is an appropriate expression of zeal for God. The movement to abolish slavery in the U.S. grew out of the heightened moral consciousness that occurred during the revivals of the Second Great Awakening. Charles Finney hated slavery with a passion and insisted that it was impossible to be on the right side of God and still endorse slavery. When he accepted the position of president at Oberlin College, he did so on the condition that the school be thoroughly integrated. The efforts of Christians to correct the injustice of slavery even led some to civil disobedience. Perhaps the best example of compassion and godly zeal in this effort is the underground railway that delivered slaves to freedom. Perhaps the best example of ungodly zeal is the efforts of John Browne which led to taking of human life without civil authority.

Undoubtedly, the most analogous social evil that we face today is the sin of abortion. I do not intend to argue the point that it is a sin. The word of God is clear to those who would have their eyes opened to it. Much of the work done to right this injustice displays godly zeal. The crisis pregnancy and adoption services that have developed are a clear example of Christian love in action. Unfortunately, most of the political lobbying efforts that have taken place have produced little if any fruit. Christians have spent millions of dollars and hours in massive efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade and we are no closer than we were in 1973 when it was ruled upon. One of the most zealous and fruitful activities that believers have undertaken has been castigated by numerous outspoken leaders in the church as a bad witness and worse, as sinful behavior. I speak of the efforts of Operation Rescue.

The stated purpose of rescues was to save children from death by abortion. They were never intended to be political protests, nor were they intended to forcibly stop anyone from committing a victimless sin. Had that been the case, as their detractors suggested, civil disobedience would not have been an appropriate Christian activity. Rescues were most often criticized by church leaders on the grounds that they violated biblical admonitions to obey civil authorities. But, biblical rationale for civil disobedience has been established by numerous well respected theologians. Jesus broke the civil law. Indeed, Peter said “We must obey God rather than men.” It is God’s commandment to love our neighbor that rescues attempt to obey. It is the same law that moved Corrie Ten Boom to disobey civil authorities when she risked her life to protect Jews from Nazi cruelty. God’s law requires action in loving our neighbor. “Faith without works is dead.” God’s word commands us to love in deed and not to close our heart to a brother in need.  God’s chosen fast requires setting the captives free. When civilian authorities tell us not to rescue our neighbor being sent to the slaughter, they command us not to love, to disobey God.

The only way that one could refute the biblical support for civil disobedience in this case is to close one’s mind to the reality that abortion results in a dead child. Rescues were fruitful. I bare testimony to that fact. I have seen children who are alive because someone blocked a door, granting the mother enough time to think about what she was doing and for God to change her heart. I have labored as a sidewalk counselor at rescues. Unfortunately the Rescue movement died for lack of support. Perhaps as a result, we now have a new breed of frustrated John Browne’s going around killing abortionists and attempting to justify their actions by pointing to God’s laws. Again, this is not godly zeal.

Picketing and public protesting are legitimate expressions of zeal when they are intended to correct injustice, as defined by God. The church has a responsibility to represent God to the world. We are commissioned as ambassadors of reconciliation. If all we do is love and serve, we fail to completely represent our King. It is our task to be a prophetic witness, to reveal sin which separates men from God. We are called to “expose deeds of darkness,” and to be a “light on a hill…the salt of the earth.” Speaking out against injustice is part of fulfilling this command.

Radical obedience and bravery in the face of great danger are marks of zeal for God that have characterized the heroes of our faith. Stephen bravely proclaiming the gospel in the face of death and Paul obediently going to Caesar are only two examples from scripture. Church history is full of accounts of martyrs who died for their obedience to Christ. For their zeal and self sacrifice valiant members of Operation Rescue suffered beatings and imprisonment at the hands of the state and scorn from the secular media. If that were not enough, they also had to endure criticism and rejection from the church. In truth, the zeal, faith and commitment which they displayed was a great testimony to God’s love and power. The days of Christian martyrs have not stopped.

Tireless and extraordinary work for the cause of the gospel is another expression of zeal for God. Certainly the Apostle Paul stands out as an example of such zeal. He was responsible for reaching most of the Roman world within fifteen years. He did this facing incredible resistance including imprisonment and numerous beatings and ultimately martyrdom. John Wesley displayed great zeal for the Lord in preaching the gospel. He traveled more than 200,000 miles, mostly on horseback, and preached over 50,000 sermons. Billy Graham has preached the gospel around the world for sixty-five years and according to Eerdmans’ Handbook To The History Of Christianity he “is undoubtedly the most successful Christian mass evangelist in history” with converts numbering millions. Mother Teresa of Calcutta is certainly another outstanding example of zealous service to others and to God.

In order to be zealous for God, we need the correct world view. Zeal flows from having a proper perspective. Having our hopes centered upon Christ and His kingdom will cause us to be “eager to do what is good.” Observance of God’s chosen fast as given to us in Isaiah 58 will guide us in our efforts to be zealous for God:

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– When you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn, away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.”(Isaiah 58:6-8, NIV)

Christians must be zealous in discharging the commission given to us by our Lord. Christ’s exhortation to the lukewarm Laodiceans was to “be earnest (Greek: Zelos) and repent.” Lost humanity will not believe our testimony unless it is accompanied by great zeal.

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Hate What is Evil; Cling to What is Good

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:21)

We are exhorted to hate evil. The American Heritage Dictionary defines evil thus: “Causing harm or injury.” We are to hate those things that cause people harm or injury. Our hatred is not focused on people. People are victims or tools of unseen spiritual forces and are unwittingly in bondage to behaviors that injure others. I did not say that they are innocent, because they are not; they ignore God’s revelation and choose evil. Nevertheless, we are not to hate the person. We are to hate the behavior. We are to hate the spiritual forces of darkness that manipulate people. We should hate injustice, violence and sin in any form. Sadly, Christians can too often be accused of hating their enemy (even if that is not the case) because of their zeal for a cause. This can happen quite easily when we get involved in political battles. We need to be cautious about being involved in “civilian affairs” when our real battle is spiritual. I am not preaching that Christians should not be politically involved. We need to be “wise as serpents” in choosing our battles and we need to be careful not to wage battle in the manner that the world does. We should never lower ourselves to mudslinging or other carnal acts of revenge.

While hating evil we must cling to what is good. This is a connected thought and is clearly intended to balance the first part. It is interesting that this sentence is sandwiched in between two exhortations to love. Hating evil and loving what is good are expressions of true godly love. Many people dissociate love and hate. Yet, properly directed, hate is an expression of real love. God hates sin and God is love. We must be careful to avoid two extremes. We can be so caught up with hating evil that we forget to cling to what is good, or worse, begin to hate evildoers. Our instruction is to, “overcome evil with good.”

The other extreme would be to never feel any righteous indignation about evil. Many Christians struggle with Jesus’ behavior in driving the moneychangers from the temple. Yet it was His love for the people that caused Him to hate what the money changers were doing in preventing people from worshipping. Guthrie points out that it was the extortion of excessive interest that the moneychangers were exacting on foreign worshippers, thus capitalizing on the people’s desire to worship properly, that probably caused such moral outrage in Jesus. With great moral authority He quoted the prophets, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.” His love for the moneychangers did not prevent Him from taking necessary action to stop the evil that was occurring. Guthrie further points to the fact that none of them resisted as an indication that they themselves were aware of their guilt. Significantly, His disciples, upon seeing this display of moral outrage, recalled the Messianic prophesy, “Zeal for your house consumes me….” Further on in this exposition on sincere love, zeal is identified as an essential characteristic of such love. Yet He did not kill the moneychangers. Instead He willing died for their sins!

Cling to “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable….” Cling to “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.” Cling to God! He is the one who embodies all of these principles. In our battle against evil, never lose sight of the good. Never be so consumed with the battle that we lose our joy, for “the joy of the lord is our strength.” Our joy comes from a revelation of what is good and from He who embodies what is good.

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Give Generously

“if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously….”(Romans 12:8)

Generosity plays an important part in bringing glory to God. When describing the generosity of the Macedonian churches, Paul said, “They gave beyond their ability…. entirely on their own.” Our motivation for giving should always be out of a pure heart of love for the recipient and a desire for God to receive the glory, never for us to receive recognition. Jesus condemned hypocrites for giving to be noticed. Paul promised the Corinthians that their generosity would result in praise and thanksgiving to God.  Many would assert that the church cannot be faulted for not giving and it is true that Christians do give generously. This is a great testimony to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives; however, we are often guilty of failing to exercise good stewardship in our giving. I am specifically referring here to giving offerings and not to tithes.

We need to be discerning about the ministries that we give to. One of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit is discernment of spirits. This gift is not some natural or humanly developed gift or intuition. The gift of discernment involves a revelation from God of the motivating spirit associated with a person or behavior; whether it is holy or evil, demonic or divine, worldly, carnal or Christ-like. We should not be swayed by mass marketing appeals and impassioned sales pitches. We should be led by the Spirit of God in our giving. We in the western church especially need the discernment of the Holy Spirit to insure that our gifts really do benefit those who are needy.

The church needs to be the instrument of true charity to a needy world. There is a burgeoning movement in the church promoting “social justice.”  Unfortunately, many proponents of this movement are masquerading compassion to hide a socialist re-distribution agenda. To these leftists, charity must be dispensed by a behemoth government because they believe that people must be compelled to give through taxation. This is not a biblical approach to charity. Jesus never said, “give to Caesar in order to care for the poor.” No, He commands us to give directly to the poor. True compassion can only be dispensed by free people who give willingly. Each one, as he purposes in his heart, let him give; not of grief, or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2Co 9:7)

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Encourage One Another

The gift of encouraging is vital to the triumph of the church over the kingdoms of this world. Romans 12:8 begins, “If it is encouraging, let him encourage….” One who is an encourager would increase courage in the recipient. Courage is much like faith and is both an indication and a product of faith. The importance of courage in facing our spiritual battles cannot be over emphasized. In the first chapter of Joshua, as the Lord instructs Joshua to conquer the Promised Land, He exhorts Joshua three times to “be strong and courageous.”  Each time, the Lord couples the two character traits together, perhaps indicating a connecting relationship between spiritual strength or vitality and courage.

Barnabas is commended by Luke for his gift of encouraging. In fact, his name means “Son of Encouragement.” In Acts 11 we are told how Barnabas encouraged the new church in Antioch. The scripture describes him as “a good man full of the Holy Spirit and faith….” The result of his work of encouragement was that “a great number of people were brought to the Lord”. He is identified as a prophet in Acts 13:1. One of the main reasons that God gave the church the gift of prophesy is “so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” We see Judas and Silas, identified as prophets, fulfilling this ministry in encouraging the new Gentile church in Antioch.

The ability to fulfill this ministry of encouragement is listed as one of the qualifications for an elder in Titus 1:9. Paul instructed both Titus and Timothy that encouraging the flock is one of the main tasks of a pastor. Encouragement gives the body strength to withstand trials. Timothy was sent to encourage the Thessalonians in their faith “so that no one would be unsettled by these trials.” Encouragement helps us overcome fear by building faith in our hearts. It tells us that we are not alone in the battle. Fear seems to have a grip on the western church. We have been bullied by our secular humanist culture to the point that many Christians are afraid to open their mouths about their faith. We need prophets and pastors with the gift of encouraging others to be bold in their faith.

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Prophesy in the Church Age

In 1 Corinthians 14:1 we are exhorted, “Eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially prophesy.” It is interesting that of all the gifts, this one is the least understood, accepted and practiced in the church today. Many Christians are bound by a cessationist view of certain spiritual gifts, including prophesy. This is a stronghold of demonic thinking in the church. This is exactly the type of stronghold that Paul is referring to when he talks about strongholds in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. He defines these strongholds as arguments and pretensions that set themselves up against the knowledge of God.Those that teach that tongues and prophesy ceased at the end of the Apostolic age, based upon an erroneous interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8, are still “seeing through a glass darkly.” If the “perfect” has already come in the form of scripture, then what have we to look forward to? The purpose of 1Corintians chapters 12-14 is to provide divine guidance for the use of spiritual gifts in the church. One of the tests of divine inspiration is that the instruction is timeless. If the gifts were to cease in less than a century after Paul’s death, then why would the church bishops accept his writings as scripture hundreds of years after the Apostolic age ended?

What we need is relationship with the One who created us in His image. This relationship must include His manifest presence, which is more than words on a page. Books have been written to argue whether or not tongues and prophesy have ceased, so I won’t write another one. Suffice it to say that the world needs a prophetic witness to find God today.

The prophetic gift is probably one of the least understood of all the gifts. John Wimber taught that the gift of prophesy is available to all believers and is an anointing for the situation distinct from the office of prophet.  In the church today, one does not have to be a prophet to exercise the gift of prophesy and exercising the gift does not make one a prophet. Wayne Grudem, in his book The Gift of Prophesy In The New Testament And Today, gives as an example the prophetic ministry of Agabus to Paul in Acts, where his prophetic pronouncement was incorrect in a number of details and in his counsel of application. He refers to Agabus’ prophetic pronouncement in Acts 21:10-11, that the Jews would deliver Paul into the hands of the Gentiles. We see from Acts 2 1:27-35 that the details of his prediction were inaccurate. Grudem points out that by Old Testament standards, Agabus would have been condemned as a false prophet. Yet, Agabus is clearly recognized in more than one scripture reference as a prophet. Many, who believe in this gift, understand and practice it in an Old Testament fashion. The gift of prophesy in the New Testament has a distinct practice and function. Grudem points out that the Old Testament prophets who wrote scripture spoke the very words of God, as did the New Testament Apostles. He claims that New Testament prophesy has a different function and standard of practice. He teaches that in the church age, exercising of the gift of prophesy was never intended to be held up to a standard of infallibility.

Holding New Testament prophesy to a standard of inerrancy has resulted in much prophesy being judged as false and consequently discouraging the exercise of the gift. Because of its abuse, improper administration and misapplication, often resulting in serious damage, church leaders have squelched the practice of prophesy. Here again, this demonstrates a lack of faith in God manifested by a need to control His church.

Some, especially cessationists, have reinterpreted the gift of prophesy to mean only the speaking forth of God’s word in the form of canonized scripture. This wouldn’t seem like much of a spiritual gift, since anyone who is able to read could exercise it. On the contrary, the gift of prophesy involves telling forth God’s heart, His intentions and desires, etc., in the form of the “rhema” or living, active word of God appropriate for the time, person and place. In 1 Corinthians 14:25 Paul refers to an unbeliever coming under conviction when the secrets of his heart have been laid bare by a prophetic word. John Wimber explained the evangelistic exercise of this gift in his book Power Evangelism. He tells the story of receiving a revelation, in the form of what appeared like a tattoo on the forehead of a man he encountered on an airplane. God revealed to him that the man was involved in the sin of adultery. God used this revelation about a stranger to convict the man and John led him to Christ.

John Wesley wrote in his Journal: “Wed., Aug. 15, 1750- By reflecting on an odd book which I had read in this journey, The General Delusion of Christians with Regard to Prophecy , I was fully convinced of what I had once suspected: … That the grand reason why the miraculous gifts were so withdrawn, was not only that faith and holiness were well-nigh lost, but that dry formal, orthodox men began even then to ridicule whatever gifts they had not themselves, and to decry them all as either madness or imposture.”

When Christians begin hearing God, receiving revelation and responding obediently to the Holy Spirit, we will arouse the world’s attention. Then, when we preach the gospel it will be with great power and credibility.

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The Transformation of the Mind

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind in order to prove by you what is that good and pleasing and perfect will of God.“ (Romans 12:2) Until recently, Christianity has been primarily a western world religion. Unfortunately, the world-view of the western world has been influenced predominantly by the scientific rationalism of the Greco-Roman and the European Enlightenment culture. This world-view de-emphasizes or completely denies the existence of the spiritual realm. In contrast, the world-view of first century Hebrews who wrote the scriptures was distinctly eastern, with an accompanying belief in the spiritual realm. The eastern mindset of early Jews and Christians did not require a scientific explanation for everything. Even though the Bible and Christian theology teach about angels, demons, spirits, miracles and a devil, most western Christians live as though they do not believe in such things.

But, this scripture teaches us that our ability to discern or know God’s will is related to the transformation of our mind. If we had a change in our world-view that allowed for spiritual phenomenon, including such things as supernatural empowerment as discussed in 1 Corinthians 12, we might be better able to determine God’s will. Without knowing God’s will how can we be obedient to Him? If we are not obedient to Him how can we fulfill the mission He has given us? Jesus claimed that He only did what the Father told Him to do.The success of His earthly ministry is attributable to His being in union with the Father and only doing what the Father was doing.

Once Christians begin to have the faith to believe in the spiritual realm and the supernatural, and we are in union with God, our witness will be accompanied by great power and our ministry will bear much fruit. Then unbelievers will turn to Christ in droves, because they will see that God is in our midst. Paul said that the Jews seek a sign.  That is a supernatural manifestation, and the Greek (ie. Westerner) seeks wisdom.This is in recognition of the divergent world- views. “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.(1Corintians 2:4) Have you ever tried to convince a person that didn’t believe in God that God exists by rational explanation? When we transform our minds, begin to believe in the supernatural, cease conforming to the scientific rationalism of the world, begin discerning what God is doing and start being obedient to Him, many will be saved.

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THE EXAMPLE OF RUTH

The Book of Ruth has often been described as an allegory pointing to the redemptive relationship between Christ and His church, with Boaz the kinsman redeemer representing Christ and Ruth representing His church. An additional allegory exists in the story. Ruth the Gentile represents the Gentile church while Naomi, her Jewish mother-in-law, represents natural born Israel under the old covenant. It is noteworthy that the adoption of Ruth by Boaz occurs during the harvest and the celebration of Pentecost that is also associated with the birth of the Now Testament Church.

In the account, Naomi, her husband and two sons are refugees from a famine in Bethlehem who have settled in Moab. Naomi’s husband dies and her two sons marry Moabite women one of them being Ruth. Subsequently, Naomi’s sons also die leaving her fruitless and in exile. This situation adequately portrays the spiritual condition of natural born Jews today. They are exiled (even today there are more Jews in New York City than in Israel) without a spiritual husband and without spiritual descendants. They are dead in their sins and trespasses and, having rejected their Messiah they are without a sacrifice to atone for them. God has even taken away their temple so that they cannot perform the Old Covenant sacrifices. Naomi claims that, “the Lord’s hand has gone out against me!”[1]  and, “The lord has testified against me.”[2]

Naomi attempts to persuade her daughters-in-law to leave her and go back to their own people. At first, they refuse, but Orpah eventually concedes. Ruth begs Naomi to allow her to stay and makes the famous statement, ‘Your people will be my people and your God my God.” [3] Ruth thus recognizes that she has no natural right of access into the Kingdom of God and that it is she that must be adopted.

The Gentile church should adopt the attitude of Ruth. We must understand that we are not natural branches and that we have been grafted into the Vine who is vastly different from us. We must understand that the bride will not be complete without the natural branches. We must recognize that the Jews as a people, at least a great many of them, are predestined to eventually heed the call of the Spirit and accept their Messiah. Romans chapter 9 makes it clear that the natural branches were rejected or cut off because of their unbelief. In their pride they stumbled over the Stone and thought that they could earn salvation by their own righteousness. So, they were cut off and left barren like Naomi.

Naomi and Ruth return to Bethlehem (Judea) at the beginning of the Barley harvest. Their return coincided with the celebration of the Feast of First Fruits that occurred on Abib 16 or two days after the Passover. It is interesting to note that Christ was crucified on the eve of Passover and rose on the first day of the week or the Feast of First Fruits. The barley harvest is also a symbol of God’s harvest of the Jews. Ruth goes out to the fields to glean and meets Boaz the lord of that field. He shows her favor and she returns to Naomi full of his praises. Naomi encourages Ruth to go to Boaz’ threshing floor and to lie with him, which she does. They fall in love (perhaps this threshing floor in Bethlehem was to be the place of Christ’s manger centuries later). Boaz promises to redeem Ruth under the customary Hebrew laws of kinship. He sends Ruth back to Naomi with six measures of barley, exhorting her not to go back to her mother-in-law empty handed.[4] This act is symbolic of the gentiles bringing in the harvest of the Jews. This exhortation is to the Gentile church.

Next Boaz goes to the town gates, where the elders meet, in order to redeem Naomi and Ruth in accord with the Hebrew laws for kinsman­-redeemer. Naomi’s closest relative declines to redeem her because he does not want Ruth, as he is already married. So Boaz agrees to redeem Naomi and her property and to take Ruth as his bride. The elders of the village pronounce a great blessing upon Boaz and Ruth:

“May Ihe Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah”.[5]

Ruth bears a son to Boaz. Her son was the grandfather of David and stood in the lineage of Jesus. This prophetically pointed to the inclusion of both Jew and Gentile in the body of Christ. The response of the women in the village is interesting. They tell Naomi:

 “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law who loves you and is better to you than seven sons has given him birth.”[6]

The women of the village report that “Naomi has a son[7] and they name him Obed, which means: “a worker, a servant; one who perfectly does the will of him who sends him.” It is interesting that Ruth’s child is equated as Naomi’s kinsman-redeemer and is seen as the one who will renew Naomi’s life and sustain her in her old age. In the allegory, we can see the prophetic allusion that the gentile church, adopted by Christ and in union with Him will bring forth a child, in this case a people, who will be seen as the fruit of the previously barren Jew and be known as the perfect servant. These redeemed ones will be Christ’s end time army that will walk in holiness, humility and power. They will fulfill the call of the bride. Christ, as Boaz redeems both Jew and Gentile, but it is the child of the gentile that helps to sustain the Jew in her old age. It is the fruit of the gentile womb, filled with the Spirit of Christ that will be seen as fulfilling the call of God’s people to be a blessing to the whole earth. We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s plan foreshadowed and typified in the Book of Ruth, to re-graft the natural branches back into the Vine.

We must come to understand that the natural branches had the manifest presence of God revealed to them. Our modem, materialistic, rationalistic culture hinders us gentiles in relating to God. The Hebrew spiritual, mystical culture was an outgrowth of their knowledge of God. Jesus is the complete revelation of God and we cannot completely understand Him or the things He did apart from the culture and traditions of the ancient Jewish people. Other than the life of Christ the greatest volume of revelation about God and His character and nature occurs in the Old Testament. If the revelation found in the Old Testament is minimized the result is a failure to completely know God to the extent that He has chosen to reveal Himself. To properly understand that revelation, we must properly understand the culture of the Old Testament Jew. God revealed Himself to them in a way that they would understand. Our understanding of scripture can be greatly enhanced by a study of their culture. A study and practice of the biblical feasts helps us to do so as well.


[1] Ruth 1:13, NIV.

[2] Ruth 1:21 NIV.

[3] Ruth I:l6, NIV

[4] Ruth 3:17, NIV.

[5] Ruth 4:11-12, NIV.

[6] Ruth 4:14-15, NIV.

[7] Ruth 4:17, NIV.

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