Tag Archives: Religion

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!

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , , ,

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)

Tagged , , , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , ,

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.

Tagged , , , ,

We Need to Pray

Spirit war

Prayer is woefully lacking in the modern church. Few Christians have the kind of healthy devotional prayer life that brings them into a place of intimate communion with God on a daily basis. The pressures of daily life inhibit devotion. We appear to be Sunday believers. There has been an increased level of corporate intercessory prayer in the church, including city-wide and cross-congregational intercession. But, we have yet to reach the point that we are recognized by our love for one another. Rather than being known for our love and passion for Jesus Christ, we are more commonly known for our denominational differences. This is a stumbling block to the unbeliever. Jesus admitted that many would stumble over Him. I do not believe that He intended that people would stumble over the behavior of His church.

The revivals of the First and Second Great Awakening forever changed the culture of the Anglo-American world and laid a foundation of Christian values. Corporate prayer had a significant impact in birthing those revivals.

Prayer is one of the essential conditions of revival.  Almost every revival has been preceded by praying committed believers. The foundations of the First Great Awakening were laid by a group of Moravians who started a 24 hour a day prayer meeting that continued for 100 years beginning in 1724. It was missionaries from this same Moravian community that the Lord used to start John Wesley upon his journey to Christ. Moravians from Hernnhut were instrumental in leading Wesley to his own baptism of fire or second work of grace. It was Wesley’s preaching that fueled the Second Great Awakening.The 1857 revival in New York City began with a call to prayer by a single businessman and within six months more than 10,000 others were praying with him in various meetings around the city.

God’s word says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2Cor. 10:4-5) Our minds must be transformed to understand that we are waging a different kind of battle than what the world sees. That battle will be won by the Lord of Hosts. He will join the battle when we corporately humble ourselves and pray.

Tagged , ,

Should Christians Celebrate The Feasts of the Kingdom?

Some years ago, I was involved in a discussion with some Christian brothers and sisters about the difficulty of dealing with the holidays” in a fashion that would glorify God. It was then that the Lord began to reveal to me the importance of our spiritual heritage. It is interesting that the word “holiday” has its roots in the two words “holy days”. The specific holidays, which we were discussing, happened to be Halloween with its associated celebration of the occult and Christmas with its excessive materialism. We were specifically concerned about teaching our children how to deal with these holidays and the accompanying pressures to engage in ungodly behavior. The Lord reminded me that He has provided us with specific times to celebrate and has even shown us how to celebrate in a fashion that would bring glory to Him and draw us closer to Him. He has established feasts and celebrations and these are clearly explained to us in His Word. Thus was begun a study of the biblical feasts.

We are all creatures of habit and it is in our nature to set apart special times of remembrance and celebration. It is interesting that even as Christians we tend to celebrate, along with the world, the events and celebrations that the world system has established. Some of these are benign, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, and there is nothing wrong with celebrating them. The interesting thing to me is that we Christians will go about our lives ignoring the special days that God has ordained. This ignorance has occurred because of the historical perversion of our religious practices that began shortly after the Apostolic Age ended. Constantine began the secularization of our faith, which has continued through history. There is no doubt in my mind that this has been a spiritual strategy of the devil. It is part of his overall scheme to separate us from God and keep us from experiencing the fullness of the relationship that God wants us to have. Anti-Semitism that crept into the church very early in our history has fueled this distortion. Much of the Old Testament is ignored as writings for a by-gone era and for a select group of people, the Jews. Nothing could be further from the truth. The apostle Paul warns us that, “all scripture is profitable….” (2 Tim. 3:16). He was referring to the Old Testament­. As New Covenant believers, we must make a distinction as to what part of the Old Testament is fulfilled and that which is yet to be fulfilled. How do we observe the Old Testament law? Some ask, “But aren’t the feasts for the old covenant?” It’s all God’s word; so 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.

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. 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)

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 of Acts that the Apostles kept the feasts. The reason that all of these foundational truths were abandoned:  anti-Semitism, secularization, and the influence of the spirit of anti-Christ.

I want to make it clear that I am not teaching that we need to keep the feasts in order to obtain salvation. I am not preaching “works”. Paul rebuked the Galatians for observing special days.[1] This was because they had put themselves back under the law, in seeking justification by attempting to keep the law. Rather, I am attempting to explain how we may have a fuller, closer relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We can know Him more intimately by observing the biblical feasts in their New Testament fulfillment and in a New Covenant fashion. We can better understand, appreciate and teach to our children and those we disciple God’s purposes and plan for building a Kingdom for Himself.

The Lord’s feasts are but a shadow pointing to the glory to come. The feasts all prophetically point to God’s plan for establishing His Kingdom. The Old Testament heroes of faith that we read of in Hebrews 11 were saved on the same basis of faith as we are today, but they looked forward to the finished work of the Messiah. All that they had were shadows of what was to come. We have the facts of history. Appreciating the accuracy of those shadows and the faith that they inspired can bolster our faith.

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.

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 have been 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.


[1] Galatians 4:10, NIV.

Tagged , , ,

What About Other Religions

Have you ever been in a discussion with someone who asked you if Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God and what about followers of other religions? Jesus said He was the only way to God, “I am the way, the truth and the life…no man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) If we accept the historical accuracy of the gospel accounts, then as C.S. Lewis once said, we must decide that Jesus is or was either a liar, a lunatic or He is Lord as He claimed. (See John 8:58-59 for a reference where Jesus claimed to be God) The gospels are the most accurate historical documents ever recorded. By standards of manuscript evidence, preservation, and outside corroboration, there is no work of history that can be compared to the Bible. (See McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict or Strobel, The Case For Christ)

It is a fact that Jesus received and accepted worship from His disciples. Peter’s said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter also affirmed in his Pentecost message that Jesus is the only way to God. He said, “There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

In evangelizing, we compete in a culture where pluralism is highly valued. All views are considered to be equally true. The problem with pluralism is that we lose any absolute standards of truth and morality. This thinking has become so pervasive that even many young Christians doubt the truth of Christ’s claim that he is the only way. In our surveys done on the University of Iowa campus, we found that 41% of professing Christians rejected Christ’s exclusive claim. Our culture worships at the altar of tolerance. I once received a solicitation in the mail from Showtime advertising a new show about homosexuals. A theme quotation on their literature proudly boasts, “no limits”. Is this where we’ve come? Knowing the sinful, debased nature of mankind, which is clearly seen by history, that is a scary situation.

Is there absolute truth? Jesus said that He is the truth. As Christians will we stand up for truth? If we are not willing to open our mouth in defense of truth, then we disobey Christ’s great commission. Our secular culture is attempting to force us to shut up. We risk rejection, ridicule and even violence for daring to speak the truth, but there are lives at stake, both in an eternal spiritual as well as in an earthly physical sense.

How should we respond to the person who raises the objection about other religions? First, we must realize that the intellectual argument is, more often than not, a “smoke screen” used to hide true objections, which usually have more to do with sin than truth. But, we have to clear away the smoke to get the person to state their true objections. We begin by making it clear that Jesus is unique. He is God in the flesh forever. (John 1:14) Buddha never made that claim. The avatars of Hinduism were only temporary mythical reincarnations of deity. Jesus is the only person to be permanently resurrected from the dead, He is alive!

All other religions are a man made system of man working his way to God. Christ is God reaching out to man. The cross is a stumbling block to those who would earn eternal life by their own works. It humbles the proud.

What about those who have never heard of Jesus? The patriarchs never heard the name of Jesus and yet The Bible, in both the Old and New Testament, teaches us that they were justified by faith, looking forward to the cross. (Romans 4:3) Anyone truly searching for the truth will find the gospel and be led to God. Creation itself points to God. “The unseen qualities of God, His eternal power and divine nature, have been seen, being clearly understood by what has been made so that man is without excuse.” (Ro 1:20) There are numerous accounts of people who never had heard of Jesus, but who found Christ because they were searching. Samuel Morris is only one example. Read his biography.

Has the gospel been preached to the whole world?  According to Colossians 1:6 it has! All one need do is look at creation. Look at the heavens. They declare the glory of God! (Ps. 19:1)

Curiously one can discover remnants of the redemption story in ancient languages, which may be proof that the gospel was understood but rejected.

I believe that people today who have not heard the name of Jesus are judged on the same basis as the patriarchs. Though Job never heard the name of Jesus, he clearly understood that his creator was his redeemer and that his creator would be God in the flesh. (See Job 19:25-27) The Bible teaches that the righteous are justified by faith. What is that faith in? It is that your creator is your redeemer. To be saved, you must believe that you need a redeemer; that you are separated from God by your sin. You must believe that God offers Himself as a sacrifice for your sin. You must repent of sin and turn to God for salvation.

Tagged , ,

The Place of Character and Charisma in Relationships (Gal. 5:16-26)

It is the character and charisma (power) of God in us that enables true covenant. Galatians 5:16 says, “walk in the Spirit and you won’t fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” The term “flesh” here refers more specifically to the carnal nature, not the physical body. The same chapter compares the deeds of the carnal nature to the fruit of the Spirit. In fact, the context of this whole section of scripture deals with relationship, especially between believers. This section is bracketed by “love fulfilling the law” (5:14) and “bearing each others burdens.” ( 6:2) “Walking in the Spirit” means how we live, our lifestyle. What sustains us?
The carnal nature destroys relationships. The fruit of the Spirit maintains covenant relationships. Our actions should reflect where we live. If we are “born again”, then we live in Christ. Unfortunately, sometimes our actions are more like the folks down the street who don’t know Christ. His Kingdom rule needs to be extended into every area of our life; our relationships, work, finances, feelings, and even our thoughts. The Bible says, “Bring every thought captive to Christ.” (2Cor 10:5) We are God’s workmanship; all we do should reflect that work. The testimony of our moral standards should confirm the testimony of the Word. We are ambassadors for Christ.
The root word for character means “to engrave” or “brand.” Character is the sum of all one’s inner qualities. The key question is: “do we exhibit Godly character or carnal character?” The fruit of the Spirit is the evidence of Godly character. The discipline of the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of the Holy Spirit. One can’t be a disciple if one doesn’t undergo discipline. You can’t lead or disciple others, if you are not disciplined. The Bible says, “Whom the Father loves He disciplines.” Self discipline or control is submission of the will to the Holy Spirit. What does self control mean? It means having the carnal nature in submission to God By the power of God. It doesn’t mean exercise of the self will absent the power of God.
Charisma is the supernatural power of God. It is the power to minister and the power to persevere and be faithful. One of the ways that it comes is by the discipline of the Holy Spirit. Real charisma produces the fruit of the Spirit. Daniel experienced charismatic power, including prophecy, revelations, words of knowledge and words of wisdom. He had a disciplined prayer life. He submitted his will to the Holy Spirit.
There must be a balance between charisma and character. Chapter 12-14 of 1Corinthians deals with charismatic gifts. But, the real theme of those chapters is unity, cooperation and covenant relationships. The gifts are dealt with in the context of community life. 1Cor 12:7 says they are “for the common good..”
Charisma without character will come off phony and hypocritical. One who seeks charisma but resists the character building discipline of the Holy Spirit will be easily led into deception by supernatural forces opposed to God. Carnal efforts to develop character without the charisma of God are doomed to failure. True character development leads to a greater awareness of our inability to produce fruit without the full power of God. Godly character is only produced by the power of God.
So how do we deal with imbalance? First we need to discern the fake from the real. Jesus said you will know a tree by its fruit. People try to imitate real charisma, but false manifestations never bear the fruit of the Spirit. Instead, people get hurt. People try to develop character in their own strength. This leads to religious hypocrisy and legalism. People try to disciple in a carnal fashion by manipulating and controlling others. The answer to these problems is proper use, not disuse. The scripture is our authoritative standard.

Tagged , ,