A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

June 16, 2019

"Stuck In The Middle With You"

     If you are of a certain age, you will recognize the title of this song by Stealers Wheel. As the Holy Spirit was speaking to me about this blog post, I suddenly found myself singing some of the lyrics: Well, I don't know why I came here tonight, I got the feeling that something ain't right ... And I'm wondering what it is I should do ... Trying to make some sense of it all, but I can see that it makes no sense at all. Yes, I'm stuck in the middle with you.
     I'm wondering if that's how Nicodemus might have felt when he sought out Jesus under the cloak of night. He knew that Jesus had some kind of connection to God because those kinds of miracles could only be accomplished by someone who walked with YHWH. The spirit in Nicodemus was stirred; there was something here to cling to. But what did it mean and what was he supposed to do with it? And trying to make sense of it all with his carnal mind was getting him nowhere.
     How many in the Body of Christ -- the Church -- are struggling with that same mindset? You see, I don't think we're really all that different from those in the First Century who struggled to make sense of the new message of the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus was bringing. They were stuck in the middle between their religious traditions and a new way to view their relationship with God. Furthermore, they couldn't see that there was a very real connection between the Law and the Prophets and the Kingdom of God.
     Can we agree that everything taught in the Law and the Prophets [which is the Old Testament] point to the advent of the Messiah, the Christ? And what are laws all about anyway? Whether applied to the Bible or your own community, a law is a system of rules by which one is governed. Laws are part of government; you can't have a government without laws. The Kingdom of God didn't do away with laws; it just instituted them in a new way.
      Then there is the matter of the Prophets. If there is a common theme among the Major and Minor prophets of the Old Testament, it is this: the Holy and Sovereign God called His chosen people to turn away from their old ways of sin and return to Him. But what did the people of the Old Testament do? They ignored God and continued to worship the idols they made. And that includes the religious leaders at the time of the transition from the Old to the New Testament. The Pharisees had made idols of their Laws and refused to recognize the Messiah in their midst.
     Yeshua, the Messiah, was the conduit from the Old to the New. He was the instigator of an evolution of understanding; FROM the old government system of the Law and the warning of the Prophets to repent [physically turn away from sinful actions] TO the new government system of the Kingdom of God on earth and the new form of repentance that required one to turn from their old way of thinking to a new mindset, [the mind of Christ, Himself].
     Remember, Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-20, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
      What did He mean by that? Could it be possible that He expected all the laws that are explained throughout the Torah to be in existence today? If you've ever considered all the instruction given in the Bible regarding government, it is hard to think that's what He meant. There are laws regarding citizenship under the Theocracy of God pertaining to slavery; taxation, military laws [age of soldiers, cleanliness in camp, regulations in battle, plunder, etc]; criminal laws; laws pertaining to domestic relations; real estate laws; contract laws; religious laws; laws pertaining to legal procedures such as judgments, appeals, damages, and much, much more. Yet, He said, I didn't come to abolish the laws but to fulfill them.
     That was a stumbling block for many of those who heard Him around 33 AD. And it's a stumbling block still today. But here's what I think He meant... Both the established laws in the Old Testament and the words of the Prophets originated with God. From Moses, to the Judges, to the Major and Minor Prophets, we see God as the Authoritative Ruler of His people. In the Old Testament, God is laying the groundwork -- a foundation, if you will -- for a change in direction of how He will govern when He sends His Son, Jesus Christ.
     Jesus announces this transition when He proclaims, The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.  Jesus is marking the end of one government system and announcing the commencement of a new government administration -- one that must force the old religious framework of government aside. As author Ed Silvoso writes in his excellent book, Ekklesia: Rediscovering God's Instrument for Global Transformation, "It is not possible to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom using the old paradigms, because the Law and the Prophets announced in the past, that something was going to happen in the future, whereas the Gospel of the Kingdom focuses on the present -- the here and now."
     Jesus said, Repent [renew your mind], for the Kingdom of God is at hand [is present; has arrived].  I will grant you that the complete fullness of the Kingdom of God will not permeate the earth until He returns in His Glory, but Jesus said that "it was in their midst". It was present then, and it is present today. But the religious people of Jesus's day were stuck in the old paradigm and could not make the transition to a new form of government and a new mindset. And I see the same problem of being "stuck in the middle" among many of my fellow Christians.
     Please read my following words knowing that it is not my desire to offend or wound ... but I worry that too many Christians are focused on what God accomplished for us in the past (Christ's death on the Cross) -- as glorious and triumphant and beneficial to us as it was -- and what He will do in the future (return in His majesty to defeat evil and establish justice and peace on the earth). But that leaves far too many stuck in the middle, trying to make sense [in the present] of the relevancy of the Gospel of the Kingdom in their lives. 
     That leaves Believers either concentrating on their worship in the building and their traditions and rituals [looking backward to the Cross]; or focused in expectation, waiting on what they think will only happen in the future. Either way, they remain at a spiritual standstill, unable to realize that what has been prophesied in the past, and what Jesus declared, is here in our midst; it is a present reality. The consequences of being stuck in the middle is that we are not doing what Jesus came to inaugurate... we are not taking back our dominion of the earth and advancing God's kingdom on earth. 
     Instead, we may find ourselves part of a large group of inactive Believers, locked into a dormant religious system, waiting for Jesus to appear in the clouds and take us "home". And I get it ... this idea of my role in the Kingdom of God has me asking many questions of God. What is Your purpose, Father, for our little Home Church? If we try to make the transition and become a legitimate ekklesia, which is what Jesus said He was building, what does that look like? Even a small Home Church/Ekklesia can be stuck in the middle! And, I will tell you that even John the Baptist struggled with the transition. He sent messengers to ask if Jesus was the one to come, or should they be expecting someone else? But at least John was not willing to stay stuck. He wanted answers! And Jesus sent back His answer: Tell John what you see and hear ... the blind are receiving sight, the lame are walking, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead are raised, and the poor [in spirit] have the gospel [of the good news of God's kingdom government on earth] preached to them. What you've been preaching about and looking for, John, is here now, and in the present!
     We must be willing to receive the reality and fullness of that same answer. We know the living Christ, the Messiah, is in our midst now. But we must "get unstuck" and do what He told us to do. We must seek the Kingdom, understanding that we have a role to play in God's government here on earth. Then we must become the Ekklesia (ruling, legislative body) that He said He would build. We must fast for spiritual strength and wisdom, and then contend with prayer that is powerful enough to accomplish what He declared to be His will.... that we would confront and prevail against the Gates of Hades now, in the present, until there is a transformation on the earth among all peoples and nations. 
     Jesus didn't just come so that we would build our faith upon religion that tells us what He did in the past and promises what He will do in the future. He came to show us what He was building as His provisional government -- that kingdom government that would occupy the earth between the Law and the Prophets and His Return. He told us to share the good news that Heaven's form of government was now the world's, and He showed us how to validate that message with signs and wonders, and He said He would always be with us as we transform this earth, storming the gates of oppression and torment erected to stop the advancement of the kingdom. None of that sounds like we're to be stuck in the middle! Does it to you? As the Body of Christ, we must find a way to push past our passive mindset and static position to become a Body, not only capable of storming the gates of Hell, but convincing the Enemy's hordes that we are more powerful than his opposing forces. We can no longer be stuck in the middle!

Isaiah 9:7     There shall be no end to the increase of His government and of peace, [He shall rule] on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from that time forward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.


June 13, 2019

Have We Neutered God? We Can't Ignore The Lord of Hosts!

     Please don't be offended by the title of this blog post. It is not intended to be a witty or clever way to gain your attention. Rather, it is a very real question that must be asked in light of the condition of the world under the stewardship of Christians and "the Church". Let me explain.
     Any serious student of the Bible knows that names are important; they have meaning and power, and are prophetic. The name Abram means "exalted [or high] father", but God changed his name to Abraham, which means "father of many". The name Daniel contains "el", generic for god, but means "God is my judge", indicating that the God who revealed himself to the Israelites is Daniel's judge. Again, that same God is revealed in the name of Elijah, [containing both "el" and "jah", or "yah", a shortened version of Yahweh], and means "My God is Yahweh".
     In the same way, God reveals His character and how He wants to be perceived and experienced through the names He goes by. And He is known by many names in the Bible. But when Moses asked Him [in the burning bush] who he should say sent him to the Israelites, the answer was, "I am has sent you". From that moment a tradition was born that His name was too sacred and divine to be uttered. So YHWH, [or Yahweh, or Jehovah] became the accepted name for God, speaking of His immediacy and His presence. It appears in the Bible over 6500 times according to the Jesus Film Project, an organization founded by Campus for Crusade founder Bill Bright.
     I honestly don't know the exact number of names for God in the Bible, but I see over 20, and the ones we are most familiar with include Jehovah [Lord], Adonai, [Lord, Master], El Shaddai [The Lord Almighty] and Jehovah Shalom [The Lord is Peace]. But there is another name that is important to remember and know. It is Jehovah Sabaoth, or The Lord of Hosts. This is the character of God that we most desperately need to recognize in today's world environment.
      The word Sabaoth is translated "hosts" or "armies". In its most literal sense, it means “horde.” The name Jehovah Sabaoth designates God as the commander of the armies of the earth, the stars in the heaven, and invisible heavenly angels. Ultimately, all things, both seen and unseen, are under His command. Another accepted translation is "The Lord of Armies". This name denotes His universal sovereignty over every army, both spiritual and earthly. The Lord of Hosts is the king of all heaven and earth.
     In 1 Samuel 17:45, David recognized Him .... David said to the Philistine, ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD of Hosts [Jehovah Sabaoth], the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. He appears again in Isaiah 3:15, What do you mean by crushing My people And grinding the face of the poor? Declares the Lord God of hosts, and in Jeremiah 48:1, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel,
“Woe (judgment is coming) to [the city of] Nebo, for it has been destroyed! Kiriathaim has been shamed, it has been captured; Misgab [the high fortress] has been shamed, broken down and crushed.
And Psalm 24:10 provides a clear picture of Jehovah Sabaoth: You ask, “Who is this King of Glory?” He is the Lord of Victory, armed and ready for battle, the Mighty One, the invincible commander of heaven’s hosts! Yes, he is the King of Glory! This is our powerful God! 
     In all, various Bible scholars note the name Jehovah Sabaoth, the LORD of Hosts, appears approximately 276-295  times in Scripture -- nearly 10 times more than any other name.  Author and founder of In Christ's Image Ministry, Francis Frangipane says, "From the sheer number of references alone, we see that 'the Lord of Hosts' [or the God of Armies] is the revelation of the God Most High most frequently demonstrated to mankind in the Bible". Author Dean Briggs states, "Lord Sabaoth paints God in the bold military colors of a divine warrior ... He is a real and present threat to evil expressed in the ascendancy of justice, righteousness, truth and salvation."
     Yet many of our Bible translations substitute "Lord Almighty" [NIV, for instance] for "Lord of Hosts [Armies]" and we lose the sense of Him as our Commander in our spiritual battles. The Israelites certainly saw Him this way when He destroyed Pharoah's army at the Red Sea. Elisha's servant certainly understood who He was when the LORD of Hosts opened his eyes and he saw that the mountain was full of "horses and chariots of fire". 
     Throughout the Bible God reveals Himself as a warrior; a champion who wars on behalf of His people to dethrone other nations and their gods. Jehovah Sabaoth fights to destroy earthly kingdoms and strongholds, and to restore justice for all those under the oppression of the god of this world, Satan. So He fights on behalf of us as a loving God who wages war against our Enemy. His warfare is an expression of His love and His covenant with us. 
     Yet, if He is the Commander of Heaven's army, and our Commander in our spiritual battles, shouldn't we be fighting alongside Him as Believers, striking fear in the heart of those who serve Satan? After all, we are the living army of God! Shouldn't the kings of this earth dread our prayers to the Lord of Hosts and fear our service to Him? And if we're not, what is the problem? 
     Can you agree with me that we live in a society of "political correctness"?  As followers of Christ, we have made no real impact on the cultural battlefield.  We can't even claim we've won the battle in our church buildings! How many denominations won't take a stand against abortion, homosexuality, corruption in politics, or the deterioration of the family unit and marriage? Have we forgotten our Commander's battle cry? Those who put forth Satan's agenda on abortion, sexual perversion, sexual confusion, and all other ungodly strategies have rendered us nearly impotent in the war for righteousness and justice. We don't fight back in the arena of public opinion because we're only supposed to exhibit God's loving traits, isn't that right? 
     The men of the Old Testament were called "valient men", "valient warriors" and often depicted as "arrayed for battle". Lord Sabaoth told them to go to war! Yet, we of the New Testament covenant somehow think that the God who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow -- the God who never changes -- has somehow changed!  No! Jesus came, as God, to increase YHWH's government on the earth. He came to conquer "the works of the devil" on behalf of the powerless.  James 5:4 tells us, Listen! Can’t you hear the cries of the laborers over the wages you fraudulently held back from those who worked for you? The cries for justice of those you’ve cheated have reached the ears of the Lord of armies! Jesus came as Lord Sabaoth to wage war on Satan, and to defend those who have no power of their own [no reputation, no rights, and no recourse] in the hope of restoring justice and peace to the earth.  
     But what is our role? There is a time to stand up and to fight alongside Lord Sabaoth's angelic army to defeat the hordes of Satan's army. Seeking peace from an Enemy who doesn't know the meaning of that word will only lead to slaughter. As author Dean Briggs writes in Ekklesia Rising, "Don't be fooled. The promise of peace will not occur by robbing God's victorious army of its weapons... Lord Sabaoth does not emasculate His people to achieve peace. He empowers them. We must avoid human sentimentality in our conception of God's shalom. Peace is not some gauzy, idealized pacifist notion where everybody mutually agrees to lay down arms. Don't kid yourself. Satan will never have an ounce of restraint, kindness, or due process. He must be forcibly restrained."
     Jesus came to restore dominion of the earth back to man, and I can guarantee you Satan won't give it up without a fight! We must realize that we have the full resource of Heaven's army at our disposal. Jesus told us to "Occupy" until He comes. That means we have to be in full battle mode, with our spiritual armor on, and ready to defeat all his weapons of war: tyranny, cruelty, trafficking, murder, pornography, war, famine, and disease. We must listen with an alert spirit for His commands and strategies, and battle plans. It's time we hearken to the voice of Lord Sabaoth! We've abandoned the battlefield for too long, and our nation and the world is paying the price. The prophet Micah tells us "the mountain of the house of the Lord" will be established in the latter days. Lord Sabaoth will reign supreme and we shall never again have to train for war. Until then, we must occupy!

Micah 4:4    Each of them shall sit [in security and peace] under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid, for the mouth of the [omnipotent] Lord of hosts has spoken it.


June 10, 2019

The Ekklesia and The Kingdom: A Fuller Understanding

     In the last post, I began a discussion on the topic of Christ's Ekklesia; the body of Believers He charged with storming the gates of Hades. He promised to give His Ekklesia the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, which would grant them the authority to both forbid and declare according to the lawful standards of His Father's Kingdom -- all with the purpose of doing His Father's will to make earth like Heaven.
     I want to further expound on this topic by delving into the hermeneutics [interpretations of words] of Matthew 16:17-19, the source of this topic of conversation. And I want to make the argument that we must look at it in a 1st Century context, not a 21st Century one. As I have previously explained, all of our English translations of the Bible quote Jesus as saying, "On this rock I will build my church". Even the Aramaic translation uses the word "church", although it gives a detailed notation that the Greek word for "church" is "ekklesia"; even noting that it means "a legislative assembly".
     So, can we agree that Jesus was never casual about the words He used? In fact, Jesus, Himself, tells us in John 12:49, For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has Himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. We know the Father was intentional in having Jesus use the word Ekklesia and not the word Church, which in Greek, meant a gathering; a congregation; an assembly. There was a purpose to the Ekklesia and it was "to govern; to legislate; to rule". And the people to whom Jesus spoke this would have understood that concept.
    Jesus tells us in Matthew 4:4 that we are to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Since Jesus only spoke what the Father told Him, we must take seriously His use of the word "Ekklesia". You see, there is power in this word to identify our role and purpose in the earth. Words have specific meanings, and sadly the English language is not as specific as others. As Christians we cannot afford to be casual with our understanding of Jesus's words. He did not say He would be the bedrock foundation upon which He would build His "church". The word "Church" comes from the Greek word kyriake, or kyriakon, meaning "gathering place, assembly". Jesus was very deliberate in using the word ekklesia, because He knew what its specific meaning was: ek, meaning "out of", and klesis, meaning "a calling".
     I like what author Dean Briggs says in his book, Ekklesia Rising:The Authority of Christ in Communities of Contending Prayer: "[Jesus] could have told Peter He would build His family, His bride, temple, army or kingdom.... or He could have used the word synagogue, which they would have clearly understood as the meeting place where they gathered in regards to their religion". But He wasn't talking about religion. He was talking about government! So He used a word [Ekklesia} that they clearly understood in terms of both the Hebrew and Greek significance. 
     From the Greek perspective, it was a governmental assembly having authority in determining the affairs of their cities and territories, depending on their citizenship. All qualified persons were summoned together for a purpose and expected to participate. From the Hebrew perspective, Jesus's use of that word Ekklesia would have told the hearers that they were a summoned people, assembling together to receive God's heavenly kingdom government on the earth, and to act upon it. I also love how Ed Silvoso, author of Ekklesia: Rediscovering God's Instrument For Global Transformation, explains Jesus's use of Ekklesia: "[The objective of Jesus's use of this word] was the transformation of people and society, rather than acting as a transfer station for saved souls bound for heaven".
     Jesus intends for us to be part of an Ekklesia; agents of His kingdom government to transform earth back to the model of the Garden of Eden, where God's Laws reigned supreme, and man knew nothing of Death. The Jews that Jesus spoke to would have recognized Ekklesia from their history: "the ekklesia in the wilderness", led by Moses, the Law-giver. It was an ekklesia that first assembled around Mount Sinai to receive the Law of God; and from thenceforth, they formed a covenental identity with YHWH.
     Now Jesus comes speaking of an ekklesia that He will build; one that identifies with Him as the Son of YHWH, and receives His commission to carry His rulership into all the earth as part of a covenental community. When He spoke of a Kingdom, they understood that term -- throughout their history they had been governed by Israelite kings, and were now subjected to the rulership of the kingdom of Rome. But here is Jesus, talking about a greater kingdom that is taking over the earth, and a governing assembly of His followers that will transform cities, nations, and the world! 
     But let's go a step further and look at the next sentence after He declares He will build His ekklesia. Jesus says, and the gates of Hades will not be able to overpower it! Once again, the people would have understood the "legislative" connotation of that word "gates". Courts of justice were held at the city gates in the ancient world. Prophets also stood in the gates and delivered their divine messages. Gates were also symbols of the strength or vulnerability of a city. Whoever controlled the gates of a fortress, city, or stronghold ruled that territory.
     Jesus never stopped preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom during His ministry. He continually encouraged the people to change their way of thinking [Repent!] because the Kingdom of God had arrived -- there is a new kingdom come; with a new way of ruling; and He intends on establishing a legislative body of those called [believing in Him] to defeat the gates [ruling power] of the one who has ruled with the power of Death. Furthermore, He is giving us the key of authority to open or close [loose or bind] God's heavenly principles on the earth, thereby offering Jesus as the gate [or doorway] into the kingdom of God. Jesus perfectly models for us God's design to establish His people in His place under His rule.
     Make no mistake, only Jesus has the authority to allow or disallow someone to enter the kingdom of God. But we have the authority -- and yes, the responsibility -- to point everyone to Jesus! I believe that the world needs [and in truth, is looking for] an authentic ekklesia, not a church. They desperately need the government of the Prince of Peace to be established, bringing order out of disorder, and His light into the darkness of this world. And Jesus has called us to be the ruling agents of this transformation. If we are honest with ourselves, what we have established in our Churches has not done what Jesus intended. The earth does not look like heaven. In fact, the "gates" [ruling power] of Satan are fighting back whenever and wherever the ekklesia makes strides to transform any territory.
     For example, the state of Georgia, which just passed a strict anti-abortion law, is now under attack. Bloomberg.com reports that the state's film production industry is now bigger than Hollywood's, but now Netflix, Disney, WarnerMedia, AMC Networks, NBC Universal and CBS Corp. and its Showtime subsidiary, have all threatened to pull their business from Georgia unless the law banning abortion after six weeks is overturned by the courts. This is a clear example of the legislative influence of the Kingdom of God battling against the gates of Hades. An owner of one of the biggest companies, Pinewood Studios Atlanta, is Dan Cathey, the chief executive of Chick-fil-A and outspoken social conservative whose Southern Baptist church opposes all abortions. Who will prevail? 
     One thing is for certain .... the kingdom of God is going to be attacked by the kingdom of Satan. He knows that we are growing in our new identity as the ekklesia, rather than simply being the church. We must continue to spread Jesus's Gospel of the Kingdom, bringing peace, joy, salvation, righteousness, justice, grace and all of God's attributes through our authority as citizens of heaven. We must continue to establish ourselves in our gates as the ruling body on earth, and must not relinquish our authority or function in any arena of society or the nation. As Jesus reminded Peter, we must be setting our minds on the things of God, not on the things of man. Jesus IS coming in His Kingdom! The question is, will He find you and I acting as a member of a church, or the tip of the spear, contending for the rulership of Christ in our territory? Let us take our ekklesial identity and assignment seriously.

Joel 2:15-16     Blow a trumpet in Zion [warning of impending judgment], dedicate a fast [as a day of restraint and humility], call a solemn ekklesia. Gather the people, sanctify the ekklesia, assemble the elders, gather the children and the nursing infants. Let the bridegroom come out of His room and the bride out of her bridal chamber. [No one is excused from the ekklesia.]


June 6, 2019

Why The Church Is Not Christ's Ekklesia

      Please don't be offended by the title of this blog post. This is an important discussion that needs to be conducted because it determines how we see our purpose in the Body of Christ. Let me explain.
     I have been reading an excellent book by Dean Briggs, titled Ekklesia Rising: The Authority of Christ in Communities of Contending Prayer. I highly recommend it to anyone who is seeking to walk in the power and authority Christ conveyed to us, His followers. It is vitally important that we come to a correct understanding of the Word of God, and Jesus's instructions to us. This means we must agree on how the words "church" and "ekklesia" differ.
     I want to be very clear on this matter ... the accepted Greek translation of Matthew 16:18, which is, And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, is more accurately translated in the Aramaic/Hebrew as, I give you the name Peter, a stone. And this truth of who I am will be the bedrock foundation on which I will build my ekklesia—my legislative assembly, and the gates of hell [power of death] will not be able to overpower it!
     The problem is, we modern day Christians assign the same meaning to "ekklesia" as we do "church". But they are not even the same word when translated as Jesus intended! "Church" is the word kyriakon, meaning "assembly or congregation". While the literal translation of ekklesia is "to call out", that meaning became associated with "assembling" and became [wrongly] interchangeable  with "church". But isn't the Church an assembly of people, gathered together for the common purpose of worshipping God? What difference does it make if we call ourselves "the Church" or "the Ekklesia"? 
     Do you see the modifying phrase Jesus uses to describe His ekklesia ... "My legislative assembly"? This had a very specific meaning to Jesus. In using that word "ekklesia" instead of "kyriakon" He is not referencing a religious meaning. Those Jesus was speaking to understood that Ekklesia referenced a legislative body [or ruling council] with expansive authority in determining the affairs of a territory. Theologian William Barclay states that when Jesus declares He will be the foundation of an assembly of called-out followers to rule over Death and the affairs of the earth, "The summons was not to any selected few; it was a summons from [Heaven's government] to every man to come and shoulder his responsibilities; it was a summons from God to every man to come and to listen to and to act on the word of God". Dean Briggs adds, "The responsibilities shouldered by each member came with real and collective power to enforce the will of the ekklesia within the community". That is the real purpose of "the Church"!
     This is a very abbreviated explanation of the power of the word "ekklesia", and I hope you get the idea that if "the Church" was truly acting as an "ekklesia", we would be living up to our responsibilities of governing the earth with the will of God in the areas of abortion, sex trafficking, drug cartels, radical sexual agendas, perversion in our entertainment industries, poverty and racism -- all of which bring death to the soul and spirit.  Jesus says, "You are My ekklesia; My government," but instead of being a true ekklesia, we have settled for being "the Church", where we gather together to celebrate Christ, but we don't rule our communities, and we certainly don't enforce His will!
     I know that last part of my statement will offend those who see our role as only encompassing love and mercy and compassion. I agree that is to be part of our nature, resembling those characteristics of our Father in Heaven, but in Matthew 16:18 Jesus is not calling for those characteristics. He is calling for us to be aggressive in defeating the power of death by storming the gates of hell! Dean Briggs presents a fascinating question; one that each of us who calls ourselves a Christian should consider: "Why are we seated with Christ on a throne, if we refuse to rule?" He then adds this serious statement: "Our passivity is actually rebellion; perhaps sedition, for it undermines His government. God forgive us"!
     You see, in Matthew 16, Jesus deliberately assembled His 12 Disciples at Caesarea Philippi, knowing it was a notorious site known as "the gates of hell", where detestable acts of worship to false gods were committed, including prostitution and sexual interaction between humans and goats. The locals literally believed that the cave located at the foot of a cliff was the gate to the underworld; the gate to Hades [hell]. 
      But Jesus wanted His Disciples to be aware that they were to be His governing body on earth -- His ekklesia. They were not to fear evil such as this, and they were to attack the gates of evil, no matter how fierce the resistance. Furthermore, He told them, I will give you the keys (authority) of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth will have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth will have [already] been loosed in heaven.
     Jesus clearly gave us our ruling authority in Matthew 16, as His ekklesia. But instead, we have become "the Church", wielding little to no power in "determining the affairs" of our communities, our states, our nation. And our society and culture reflect it. Ask yourself this question: Does death, sickness, poverty, child abuse, pornography, or addiction have any voice or influence in Heaven?  We have been given a governing charter by our Sovereign King, and legal authority to forbid these things on earth, or anything that is foreign to Heaven. We are commanded to rule in prayer and authority! If we acted upon our responsibilities and walked in our proper identity as Christ's ekklesia, we could shift the destiny of this nation. We must begin to walk in the strength of our assigned power and authority. We must love our enemies, but we must conquer evil. How do we walk out both sides of that equation? I'll tackle that question in the next post.

Psalm 82:4-6         Your duty is to deliver the poor and the powerless; liberate them from the grasp of the wicked. But you continue in your darkness and ignorance while the foundations of society are shaken to the core! Didn’t I commission you as judges, saying, ‘You are all like gods, since you judge on my behalf. You are all like sons of the Most High, My representatives.’ 

June 3, 2019

My Theory On How We Got So Far Off Track

     What I am about to present to you is my own theory, gleaned from many hours and days and months of contemplating Scripture and the history of the Bible and the Christian faith. It is by no means my intention to declare it definitive or authoritative. But I hope it will make you analyze your own theology and seek revelation from the Holy Spirit. I believe it is time that all Christians examine their faith to discern if there isn't more about our God that we should know. I also believe He is bigger than ever we've been taught in our denominations, and it pleases Him when we seek more of Him.

     As I have proposed in the previous post, it is my opinion that somehow the Gospel of Salvation has displaced the Gospel of the Kingdom as the primary reason Jesus came to earth as the Son of God. And I want to make it very clear that I am NOT saying that the message of Salvation is invalid! It is of paramount importance to every Believer on earth. In fact, it is a central tenet of our faith, and our entrance point into the Kingdom here on earth.
     In 1 Timothy 6:12, Scripture says, Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. That confession is that Jesus is the Son of God; He died on the Cross to pay for our sins, rose on the third day and ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. The Bible is very clear -- if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).
     That's where a lot of Christians stop. They have received salvation and eternal life and they're good to go. That's why Jesus came, they tell themselves, and if we, as the Church, can convert the pagans among us to faith in Jesus Christ, then we are good Christians. Problem is, that's not what Jesus told us to do. His first explicit command is to "Seek the Kingdom, first". And His Commission to all who call themselves His followers is this: Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover (Mark 16: 15-18). 
     This leaves me with two questions ... the first is this, which Gospel? For nearly 1700 years, the Church has believed it is the Gospel of Salvation. But Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom everywhere He went, and only spoke about being born again (Saved) once in private to a religious leader. And He told that leader that unless he was Saved, he would never enter the Kingdom of God. Salvation was a prerequisite to the real reward of faith in Him... entrance into the Kingdom.
     The second question centers around the validity of these verses in Mark. If one denies that they are inspired Scripture (as many do), then one is most likely among those Christians who disavow that we should be displaying the signs and wonders that Jesus modeled, which He did to show us that the way of life in Heaven's Kingdom was now available on earth. Furthermore, if this Scripture is declared invalid, then it is easy to also disclaim Jesus's declaration that the signs and wonders would "accompany those who believe." 

     So what is the grounds for most of our Bible translations noting that "Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include Mark 16:9–20." This argument is based on the fact that Mark 16:9-20 are not in two of the oldest and best preserved complete manuscripts of the New Testament. These are Codex Sinaiticus (Manuscript Aleph) and Codex Vaticanus (Manuscript B). Here is some interesting information that I uncovered about these two aged manuscripts: Codex Vaticanus (Manuscript B) was copied in 350 A.D. and is missing Revelation, Hebrews 11:14 to the end of Hebrews, and 1 & 2 Timothy. (Yet these omissions don't seem to bother Christians as much as the omission of Mark 16:9-20. Why not?) It has been in the Vatican library since 1481.
     Codex Sinaiticus, dated 375 A.D., was discovered in 1859 by Bible archaeologist Constantin von Tischendorf, while staying at St. Catherine's Monastery on Mount Sinai in Egypt. There he observed a monk starting a fire with pieces of parchment from a box. On closer inspection he found in the box a bound copy of the New Testament. It looked very old to him and he asked if he could look at it. He spent all night reading it by candle light. It does not include Mark 16:9-20, but a discerning person must ask what part of the manuscript had the monk already destroyed in the fire? 
     And here's the thing that intrigues me: of the over 600 Greek manuscripts that contain the 16th chapter of Mark, only 3 do not have verses 9-20, and it is included in 5 other prominently accepted manuscripts from the 425-550 A.D. time period. So could there have been an agenda to discourage the belief among Christians that they had access to the power of the Kingdom of God that was exhibited and modeled by Jesus, the Apostles, and the early disciples of the Church? To whose benefit would it have been to promote the Gospel of Salvation [mentioned only 11 times in the Four Gospels] as the primary message of Jesus, but dispel the 120 times He talked about entering the Kingdom of God as His mission?
     Of course the obvious answer is Satan. Since he wrested the dominion of the earth away from Adam and Eve, he would have a vested interest in not seeing that dominion restored, wouldn't he? And, just like our Father in Heaven, Satan loves to work through men. But his agenda is to distort the Word of God.

    Does history show us where that could have happened? It is difficult to pinpoint the exact date when the distortion of the Gospel began, because from the very beginning of what I would call "Christian theology", there has never been a consensus regarding the beliefs and practices of our faith. Even Peter and Paul had disagreements! My research has shown me at least four distinct categories of Christianity in the first century after Christ's death: Catholic Christianity, Gnostic Christianity, Arian Christianity, and Homoousion Christianity. Take the time to do your own research and see how Satan managed to distort and warp God's plan from the beginning of the Church.
     But I submit to you [my theory] that a key factor in Jesus' message [that He came to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom] being supplanted with a message that He came to bring us salvation happened in 325 A.D. at the First Council of Nicaea. This was a Council of Christian bishops who were charged with settling the issue of Jesus Christ's divine nature as the Son of God, and His relationship to God, the Father. This resulted in the first uniform Christian doctrine, called the Nicene Creed, with the intent to define a unity of beliefs throughout Christendom. This Creed has influenced all major Christian denominational doctrines for the last 1700 years. And this is how it reads:

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. AMEN. 

      Can you see that the Nicene Creed restates Jesus's own words that the Gospel of the Kingdom is why He has come, and instead, declares that salvation was the reason? And can you see that the Nicene Creed projects the Kingdom into the future at His Second Coming, and to the life of the world "to come" -- not that it is available NOW? And I find it interesting that Mark 16:9-20 doesn't appear in the two Greek manuscripts copied most recently after the Nicene Creed was written. Could it be that those verses, which speak of our power and authority to cast out demons, heal the sick, and crush the power of the Enemy, challenged the Nicene Creed's assertion that it was our salvation that was the reason Jesus came to earth? Can you see how that would render the Church powerless to help make earth like Heaven, where there is no sickness or pain or torment?

     Could it be that from that moment in history until now, Scripture has been misinterpreted and manipulated by translators and theologians [through the influence of Satan on their thinking] to keep the Church from taking back dominion of the earth for God? Can you receive that the Gospel of the Kingdom is the good news of God's government on the earth through the appearance of Jesus Christ? It is the good news that God governs out of His realm, which is [for now] dimensionally separated from the earth, but that He intends to govern the earth now through us; to interact with us in order to transform the planet to His will and in accordance with the faith and belief of His people -- exactly the great commission Mark 16:9-20 gives us.
     This is certainly not an agenda that bodes well for the fallen angel Lucifer. He actually likes things just as they have been since the Fall in the Garden. He is the ruler of this earth [as Jesus stated in John 12:31] and he knows if we ever get our priorities right, his kingdom will be defeated by a greater Kingdom; the Kingdom of our God. So perhaps we should reconsider what we preach in our church buildings and what message our missionaries and evangelists take to the world. 
     By all means, let us bring salvation to non-believers, because it is essential to God's plan of redemption. But let us show them that salvation is the key that unlocks the door [which is Jesus], and gives them entrance to His Kingdom on earth, and is the starting point of the important part they play in spreading that Gospel and seeing Him return to bring the completion of the Kingdom. Remember: He said, And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. He is waiting for us to share the good news that earth was made to reflect Heaven in all its ways. He is not coming back until that is accomplished! And that is what ALL the parables are about! Every one of them begins with, The kingdom of Heaven is like... He came to restore us to our original design in Genesis One: to be like God in all our ways and to govern the earth like He governs in Heaven. 
     But when Adam and Eve messed it up, Jesus had to come to, first, save us from the death that the new ruler of the earth (Satan) delights in [and which we deserve]; and once we confess our faith in Him [and not the world], then He had to show us how to walk in the power and authority we were given when God first created man, which would inevitably, cause us to begin taking back dominion.
     You may not agree with my theory, and that's okay by me. But I hope I have encouraged you to search the Scriptures yourself and to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and revelation. Neither take my word for it, nor dismiss my theory without searching the Bible. And please do not rely on centuries old doctrine to form your personal theology without doing your own due diligence. Peruse the doctrine yourselves; compare to Scripture; and then seek the Lord in Truth and Spirit. The timing of His return and the fate of the world depends on us getting this right.

Mark 1:15        His message was this: “At last the fulfillment of the age has come! It is time for the realm of God’s kingdom to be experienced in its fullness! Turn your lives back to God and put your trust in the hope-filled gospel!”


May 31, 2019

Is It Really This Simple?

     Over a year-and-a-half ago, I was blessed to be a part of a Women's Retreat for female military veterans. Some of the wonderful benefits of this retreat were the "agape gifts" left at our place at the table at meal time, or on our pillows at night. One of those fortuitous little gifts has blessed me again, some 18 months later.
     Yesterday, out of nowhere, a slip of paper fell from a book on my nightstand and I reached down to pick it up. It was one of the messages I received during the retreat, but it was the only one that I still have, and it simply said, "Listen for My voice".  Now, you might think that this sudden appearance of a slip of paper is an innocuous event, but I have been praying for more of this for quite some time -- to hear from the Father, and to act on His words, just as Jesus did. Jesus had intimate, detailed, thorough, and informative [instructive, edifying] conversations with His Father before He did anything in His ministry. When He was only 12 years-old, He knew His assignment was to "be about His Father's business". The Passion Translation says He understood that He was to be in His Father's House (the Temple, where YHWH dwelt) and to "be consumed with Him". He sought understanding and counsel to see His Father's will and purpose completed on earth. I want all that, too!
     Now, you know that I have been speaking about God's purpose for mankind, as revealed in Genesis, Chapter One: man was created in the Spiritual image of God, with the intent that he would increase, multiply, and "subdue" the earth. That word "subdue" is the Hebrew word kabash, and it means "to tread down; to conquer, to subjugate". In other words, we were not created equal to God, but were made to rule over what He created, and to administrate [be in authority] over this planet, which was designed to reflect Him, His Nature, His Character, and His Kingdom in Heaven.
     So, when this little slip of paper appears, my spirit reminds me to quit asking questions and "listen for His voice"... just be quiet, and listen for what He wanted to reveal. That whisper in my spirit reminded me of a word that was spoken over me nearly two years ago ... that I have lots of questions and am asking questions of God all the time, but I'm not waiting to hear an answer before I'm asking the next question. Apparently, I still haven't learned how to stop and listen enough -- hence, the appearance of the slip of paper at this opportune time.
     Today, I have spent hours just being present in my spirit and letting God bring to my mind what He wants to say. I have been asking why it is so difficult to explain the concept of His Kingdom on earth to my fellow Christians. I understand that we have been stuck on a message that is only part of His plan. But is there a simple way to explain the bigger picture and get our understanding back on track? It would make it so much easier to try to present the Kingdom if I could see [or hear] how the Father sees it. So, I have gone about my day, concentrating on being "tuned into" the Father's voice. And then, an hour or so ago, He presented His simple argument for the defense of the Kingdom gospel. Here it is:

     We are spirit from Spirit; made in the Father's image and sent to earth [knit in our mother's womb] and born as flesh in the earth. That is our first birth. Due to the sin of pride, original man gives up his rulership of the earth to Satan. [Jesus even calls Satan "the ruler of this world" in John 12:31]. But when Jesus begins His ministry for the Father, His first words are, Repent [change your inner self; your old way of thinking], for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand [is now accessible]. Jesus is announcing that He has come to re-establish Heaven's "Kingdom way of life" on the earth [the Father's original plan]. So He begins preaching the "Good News of the Kingdom", because "that is why He was sent" (Luke 4:43).
     But the religious leaders would not receive that message, hanging on to their religious traditions and teachings that had been corrupted since the captivity of God's people in Babylon. But then one night, a religious leader, a Pharisee, comes to Jesus and admits that he knows Jesus has come with God's teachings and demonstrating His power (John 3:2). But then Jesus gives Nicodemus more than he bargained for, saying, "Nicodemus, listen to this eternal truth: Before a person can perceive God’s kingdom realm, they must first experience a rebirth [be borne again from above; spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified] (John 3:3)". 
     That, my friends, is called SALVATION. It is the first step to entering the Kingdom of God on earth. Until you can recognize your need for a Savior, surrender your sinful ways to Christ, and begin living according to Heaven's ways, you cannot be "born again" and enter the Kingdom. Salvation is an essential part of acquiring the Kingdom! But it was not Jesus's primary message!
     Then we see Nicodemus incapable of understanding this principle, and taking everything at face value: "How can a gray-headed man be reborn? It’s impossible for a man to go back into the womb a second time and be reborn!" And here is Jesus's stunning answer: "I speak an eternal truth: Unless you are born of [Living] water and Spirit-wind [the breathe of the Holy Spirit], you will never enter God’s kingdom realm" (John 3:4-5). Unless you are Saved, the Kingdom Jesus brought will be inaccessible. Salvation is essential, but it is not the ultimate goal. Jesus came to bring us more!
     That is the only time that Jesus ever preaches about being born again -- about the necessity of Salvation in regards to its requirement for entering the Kingdom on earth! We are first born into this natural realm called the world, and when we receive our Salvation, we are born again into the spiritual realm, [which is actually where we came from]!  At our conversion, we have been given back our original assignment to rule the earth as created sons and daughters of God the Father and Jesus Christ, our King. 
     But SO MANY Christians stop at that first step, thinking they have completed their assignment. If that was true, why would Jesus say unless you are Saved, you will never enter the Kingdom? Can you see that entering the Kingdom is the primary goal, and Salvation gains you entrance into it? Salvation, as important as it is  -- and I am not diminishing our escape from eternal death -- is a prerequisite to His actual reason for coming [to make earth like Heaven - Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven]!
     That is what Jesus preached! He said, And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. He didn't say, "Just get people saved, and then I will come".  Again ... He didn't say get everyone on earth Saved, and then I will come back. But that has been the Church's primary focus! No! He gives us how God's plan is laid out when He is talking to Nicodemus. Until you are Saved, you are unable to spiritually understand the concept of the Kingdom; and you cannot enter it. And until it is preached throughout the world, He is not coming back. He even tells Nicodemus, If you’re unable to understand and believe what I’ve told you about the natural realm, what will you do when I begin to unveil the heavenly realm?  No one has risen into the heavenly realm except the Son of Man who also exists in heaven.”
     Jesus is sharing a mystery with Nicodemus that is lost on too many Christians. While he was on the earth ministering, Jesus was also in heaven in the spirit realm. Being in two places at the same time is also the privilege given to every believer. We are seated with Christ in the heavenly realm [where we can receive our instructions, just like He did while on earth]. At the same time we are entrusted to take what we've been taught and transform earth to become like Heaven; Salvation is the starting point; the beginning of our assignment process; our introduction to the Kingdom of Heaven, which we can have while still on earth.  Finally, both Salvation and the Kingdom are part of Jesus's "Good News". The gospel of the Kingdom is the Messianic promise of the Kingdom of God which has come to earth, with Jesus as King. For now it is a heavenly kingdom but will be a completed physical kingdom on earth when we do our part of sharing that good news, resulting in our King's return. The gospel of Salvation is the way to become citizens of the Kingdom. This is what it means to be “in Christ.” 
     So, if Jesus taught or preached about the Kingdom of God 120 times in the Four Gospels, but spoke of salvation or being born again only 11 times, how did the Gospel of Salvation come to overshadow the Gospel of the Kingdom in the Church? I'll give you what I'm discerning about how that came about in the next blog post. In the meantime, please take my advice: dedicate some quiet time for you and God to sit and have a quiet conversation. And let Him do most of the talking. Ask Him about the importance of the Kingdom; not only for His will and purpose, but in your life. I can't stress enough that it is important, indeed.

Daniel 7:27    And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.

May 28, 2019

God And His Law


       When I asked Jesus into my heart and proclaimed Him as my Savior over 30 years ago, I became a member of a Church in Austin, Texas that was known for breaking the bonds of strict religious doctrine. Like many churches of that era, the message heard each Sunday changed from "Law" to "Grace". In fact, the mantra became that the Law belonged in the Old Testament, and Jesus's resurrection meant we were now all under Grace, not the Law.
     In the minds of many believers, this has led to the Law of God being positioned in a subordinate role to Grace. But that is a false assumption. The fact that we have a legal standing of righteousness before God bears witness that His Law is still in existence, and it is important to Him -- that standing before God that says we are in covenant with Him as citizens of the Kingdom of God on earth, and our belief in salvation from Jesus Christ [alone], our King.
     Sometimes I think the modern Church has forgotten that God's Laws define righteousness and sin, and the last time I looked, both can still be a problem for man, and are therefore still pertinent in our lives. They are not burdensome and every one of them is for our benefit. The Apostle Paul, who is so often used to justify a "Grace Only" theology, tells us that "the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good", and that "the law is spiritual" (Romans 7:12,14). Doesn't sound much like we should dismiss the Law, does it? 
     But there will be those who say the Law no longer has any significance for us, and that is what the writer of Hebrews is saying in 8:13, In speaking of a new covenant, He makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.  I think it is important that we read this verse within the context of what the writer is talking about. He is speaking about the renewal of the original covenant into a better model. He is not talking about abolishing the Law.
      Also, it depends on exactly what you mean by "The Law".  Then, it depends on a correct understanding of "Old" and "New" Covenant.  The fact that the Mosaic law (and its rituals of animal sacrifice for salvation) has been terminated does not mean that there is no law in this age of grace.  The New Testament is full of references to various forms of law under God's direction:  “the perfect law of liberty" (James. 1:25), “the royal law” (James. 2:8), the Law of Christ (Galatians. 6:2), and the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus (Romans. 8:2). These all point to various commands found throughout the epistles which comprise God's Law. They cover all areas of the believer’s life to direct him in the will of God in today’s world. 
     We can all agree that parts of the Mosaic Law were weak because they were dependent on man’s ability, and God put an end to that sacrificial system with the advent of Christ.  But that was the system God used to divorce the Israelites from the pagan ways of their centuries of bondage in Egypt.  They were so steeped in the occultic practices and sins of Egypt that they had lost any sense of a relationship with their God.  The Mosaic Law was designed to build and maintain a proper relationship (through covenant) between God and His people Israel (blessing versus cursing) until the coming of Messiah and the establishment of a New Covenant. There were portions of the Mosaic Law that were never designed to be a permanent rule of life. But that is not true of all components of the Law.
     So let's talk about the Mosaic Law. It was given specifically to the nation of Israel, and included the Ten Commandments, the ordinances, and the worship system, which included the priesthood, the tabernacle, the offerings, and the feasts, or festivals. The Mosaic Law was intended to reveal the holy character of God to a people who had seemed to have forgotten Him during their 400 years of captivity in unholy Egypt. While they revealed the sinfulness of man, they did not provide eternal salvation. Faith in Jesus would accomplish that.
     And, yes, there were numerous statutes and ordinances that existed then, whose specifics may not apply to us -- rules that dealt with war, slavery, tithes, religious festivals, sacrifices, kosher food, prophecy, the monarchy, and the particulars of the Temple sanctuary. But I would venture that if you would read them today, the spirit of the Law remains intact. And then there are those Ten Commandments. Could it be that they comprise the heart of all of God's Laws? That they existed before Moses received the stone tablets on Mount Sinai, and they are intended to remain at the center of God's government on Earth?
     I recently read an article on the website Life, Hope & Truth, and it presented a very good case for this last statement. For example, the Bible tells us in Genesis 26:5: Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.  Since Abraham obeyed God in these matters hundreds of years before Moses lived, then there have been known laws that have existed before Mount Sinai.
     And think about this: the Bible is very clear in 1 John 3:4 that sin is breaking God's Law. As early as Genesis 4:7, a connection is made between sin and rules [law] to prevent it:  If you do well [believing Me and doing what is acceptable and pleasing to Me], will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well [but ignore My instruction], sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you [to overpower you], but you must master it. This implies the rules of Kingdom [of Heaven] government here on earth.
     The patriarch, Jacob, understood the importance of the First and Second Commandments 300 years before Moses received the stone tablets. On his return to his homeland, he commanded his family and servants to get rid of idols they were carrying with them before he went to Bethel and built an altar to the One True God.
     One of the most interesting discoveries I found in the article pointed out that the Commandment to not take the Lord's name in vain, was obviously known by Job. In the First Chapter of Job, which is believed to be one of the oldest books in the Bible, Scripture says that he offered burnt offerings according to the number of his children. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. To me, this lends to an understanding that Job knew about a law that demanded sacrificial offerings for taking God's name in vain. -- before Mount Sinai. 
     Was God's commandment against adultery known by Joseph [in Genesis 39] when he refused to lie with his master's wife and spoke these words: How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? Was the law forbidding adultery already established when God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, ‘Indeed you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife (Genesis 20)?
     The bottom line is this .... the word "Law" is not a bad word. God has rules by which He intends to see His purpose fulfilled. There is a spiritual morality indicated in each of His Laws -- both those who are no longer needed under the New Covenant, and those that are still to be followed in the New Covenant. But most importantly, we need to understand that all His laws are based on love. They were established to show us how God expects us to love Him and love others. Again, I say they are not burdensome and are a part of His Kingdom government, both in Heaven and on earth. It is by His grace (His power in us that enables us to do what we cannot do on our own) that we love Him and follow His commandments. And that pleases Him!

John 14:15     If you Love Me, keep My commandments.

May 27, 2019

John 15:23

Greater love has no one than this, 
that someone lay down his life for his friends.
     Today the nation will be remembering those who have been willing to make the ultimate sacrifice so that we, the people of the United States, could continue to live in peace and prosperity. It should be a very sobering day, and one that should be commemorated down through our generations. My own father served in WW II, and I have had the privilege to serve those who have served us through a ministry at one of the Fisher Houses at Fort Sam Houston, and to work with a special group of female veterans who have hearts to serve their own.  But those who have gone before us [and paid the ultimate price] should never be forgotten.  
     I hope that everyone honors Memorial Day for what it really is: a day to remember and commemorate the people and events of our history.  And in context of the Bible, the meaning of the Hebrew word for memorial is actually “to remember.”  And God makes it very clear that He feels memorials serve a valuable purpose: to remind us of all He has done for us. 
      One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Joshua 4:1-24.  The Lord was finally delivering His People into their inheritance, and had appointed Joshua to lead the tribes of Israel across the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Joshua was given very specific directions ... have the priests carry the Ark of the Covenant ahead of the people into the Jordan, and God would stop the flow of the river (which always overflowed its banks during this harvest time).  The priests were to stop on this dry ground, in the midst of the Jordan, while the people of Israel passed to the opposite shore.  
     Then the Lord instructed Joshua to send one man from each of the 12 tribes of Israel to where the priests were standing, and to gather a rock from the riverbed. They were to bring them back to where the people were lodging on the west bank.  The purpose for these 12 stones was very important to God: "Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever."
     This very visible memorial would be a reminder to all future generations that the Lord of all the earth had delivered them out of the land of Egypt and into the Land that had been promised to their ancestor, Abraham.  The memorial of stones would cause each succeeding generation to ask of their meaning, and then be reminded of all that the Lord of all the earth had done for them.  It would be a lasting reminder and memorial forever of the goodness of God.
     But I love it that Joshua, himself, also erected a memorial in the middle of the Jordan, where the feet of the priests stood in the dry riverbed.  Perhaps he wanted to offer a personal memorial to God, separate from the corporate one that would be erected on the west bank of the Jordan.  But I think there is a much more consequential meaning to Joshua's actions.  We must take note that once the priests continued with the Ark of the Covenant and set their feet upon dry ground on the opposite bank, the waters of the Jordan were released and this memorial was buried under the raging waters, never to be seen by anyone.  Is there significance to this memorial, as well? 
      Perhaps we can glean some meaning from the waters of the Jordan as being symbolic of judgment, just as the waters of The Flood condemned all corrupted flesh in Genesis 6; and the waters of the Red Sea buried the Egyptians; and Jonah was buried under the waters during his own judgment.  Then there is Hosea 5:6, when God says, "I will pour out my wrath on them like water".
     If this interpretation is a possibility, what is the difference between the two memorials?  Why is one established in the Promised Land, and one is buried under the Jordan River?  If water is judgment, then it makes sense to me that the memorial on the west bank is a picture of being saved from the waters of Judgment.  The Ark of the LORD, which typologically points to Christ, stood in the midst of the Jordan, holding back the waters and allowing the stones to be brought up and erected on the shore as a memorial and sign of God's Deliverance.
     But the other memorial of stones was covered by the Jordan. They cannot be a sign because they cannot be seen.  Those stones are a warning! It was Joshua alone (whose name means YHWH is Salvation) who did the work of setting up the twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan.  It is not only Joshua's name that points to Jesus, but his actions. Jesus is the judge of the living and the dead.  Those 12 stones are a warning about death and judgment!  If people do not repent and trust in Jesus, they remain in the miry clay of a river — and that river will overflow in judgment at death.
     Those 12 stones represent the unredeemed, who have rejected Jesus and are buried in death by the righteous judgment of God… “and they are there to this day”.  But here is the really sad part... they will never be seen or inquired about. They were quickly forgotten and there would be no evidence of them for the rest of eternity.
    As we celebrate the Memorial Day established by this nation, it is my prayer that we would share our own memories of those who so bravely gave their lives as a testimony of their belief and faithfulness to this country. Do not let those memories be buried and those men and women forgotten. But let us also share what the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ has done in our individual lives. Don't let the unsaved think they are safe on whatever dry ground they are standing upon. Tell them how they can be saved from the waters of judgment.  Tell them how, through the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth, and the work of Jesus in saving and sanctifying them, they can be a memorial stone of remembrance of God’s goodness and rulership. Let this Memorial Day mark a new remembrance of the work of the Lord in our nation.