Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

A Faithful Man of God Named Stephen

And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch” Acts 6:5 (KJV)

Acts 6:5 introduces a faithful man of God named Stephen: “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit.” It is noteworthy that there have always been those faithful believers whose love for and commitment to the Lord seem to shine through so greatly that others around them notice, and Stephen was such a man. Nothing is known about the personal life of Stephen his parents, his siblings, or whether he had a wife or children, however, what is known about him is what is truly important. He was faithful, even when faced with certain death.

Stephen found himself in the middle of a conflict between the Jews who still embraced the Jewish culture and those who had turned more toward the Greeks in their language and culture. Satan always causes dissension within congregations, as a means of division; therefore, faithful men such as Stephen were chosen to combat the ever-increasing problems that were rising. After being unable to find a winnable argument for their erroneous beliefs, the unbelievers decided to falsely accuse Stephen, labeling him a blasphemer and having him arrested (Acts 6:11).

Acts 7 is the record of Stephen’s testimony, which is perhaps the most detailed and concise history of Israel and their relationship to God of any in Scripture. Stephen was not concerned about his earthly existence, determining instead to stand firmly on the side of Jesus Christ, no matter the consequences. God inspired him to speak boldly, rightly accusing Israel of their failure to recognize Jesus, their Messiah, rejecting and murdering Him, as they had murdered Zechariah and other prophets and faithful men throughout their generations. Stephen’s speech was an indictment against Israel and their failure as the chosen people of God who had been given the law, the holy things, and the promise of the Messiah. Naturally, these accusations, though true, were not well received by the Jews.

In his speech, Stephen reminded them of their faithful patriarch, Abraham, and how God had led him from a pagan land into the land of Israel, where He made a covenant with him that was still in effect. He spoke of the journey of his people, through Joseph’s sojourn in Egypt to their deliverance by Moses 400 years later. He brought to mind how Moses had met God in the wilderness of Midian in a burning bush, and he explained how God had empowered Moses to lead His people from idolatry and slavery to freedom and times of refreshing in the Promised Land. Throughout his speech, he repeatedly reminded them of their continual rebellion and idolatry, in spite of the mighty works of God to which they were eyewitnesses, thereby accusing them with their own history, which only irritated them until they did not want to hear any more.

The law of Moses states that the sin of blasphemy deserves a death sentence, usually by stoning (Numbers 15:30-36). Just before these arrogant, unredeemed Jews follow the prescribed penalty and begin stoning Stephen, Acts 7:55-56 records his final moments of earthly life, just before he stepped through the veil between heaven and earth: “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'”

The words of Colossians 3:2-3 could have been written about the life of Stephen, even though they are applicable to all believers: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Stephen’s life-and even more so his death-should be an example of how every believer should strive to live: committed to the Lord even in the face of death; faithful to preach the gospel boldly; knowledgeable of God’s truth; and willing to be used by God for His plan and purpose. Stephen’s testimony still stands as a beacon, a light to a lost and dying world, as well as an accurate history of the children of Abraham.

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The Life of Paul

The apostle Paul born a Roman citizen to Jewish parents born in Tarsus, in modern eastern Turkey. Paul the Apostle commonly known as Saint Paul, and also known by his native name Saul of Tarsus, who trace their ancestry to the tribe of Benjamin.

There is much we can learn from the life of the Apostle Paul. Far from ordinary, Paul was given the opportunity to do extraordinary things for the kingdom of God. The story of Paul is a story of redemption in Jesus Christ and a testimony that no one is beyond the saving grace of the Lord. However, to gain the full measure of the man, we must examine his dark side and what he symbolized before becoming “the Apostle of Grace.” Paul’s early life was marked by religious zeal, brutal violence, and the relentless persecution of the early church. Fortunately, the later years of Paul’s life show a marked difference as he lived his life for Christ and the advancement of His kingdom.

Paul was actually born as Saul. He was born in Tarsus in Cilicia around A.D. 1-5 in a province in the southeastern corner of modern day Tersous, Turkey. He was of Benjamite lineage and Hebrew ancestry. His parents were Pharisees-fervent Jewish nationalists who adhered strictly to the Law of Moses-who sought to protect their children from “contamination” from the Gentiles. Anything Greek was despised in Saul’s household, yet he could speak Greek and passable Latin. His household spoke Aramaic, a derivative of Hebrew, which was the official language of Judea. Saul’s family were Roman citizens but viewed Jerusalem as a truly sacred and holy city.

At age thirteen Saul was sent to Palestine to learn from a rabbi named Gamaliel, under whom Saul mastered Jewish history, the Psalms and the works of the prophets. His education would continue for five or six years as Saul learned such things as dissecting Scripture. It was during this time that he developed a question-and-answer style known in ancient times as “diatribe.” This method of articulation helped rabbis debate the finer points of Jewish law to either defend or prosecute those who broke the law. Saul went on to become a lawyer, and all signs pointed to his becoming a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court of 71 men who ruled over Jewish life and religion. Saul was zealous for his faith, and this faith did not allow for compromise. It is this zeal that led Saul down the path of religious extremism.

Because of his extremism Saul might have been present at the trial of Stephen. He was present for his stoning and death and he held the garments of those who did the stoning (Acts 7:58). In Acts 5:27-42, Peter delivered his defense of the gospel and of Jesus in front of the Sanhedrin, which Saul heard. Gamaliel was also present and delivered a message to calm the council and prevent them from stoning Peter. From that moment on, Saul became even more determined to eradicate Christians as he watched the Sanhedrin flog Peter and the others. Saul became more ruthless in his pursuit of Christians as he believed he was doing it in the name of God. Arguably, there is no one more frightening or more vicious than a religious terrorist, especially when he believes that he is doing the will of the Lord by killing innocent people. This is exactly what Saul of Tarsus was: a religious terrorist. Acts 8:3 states, “He began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.”

The pivotal passage in Paul’s story is Acts 9:1-22, which recounts Paul’s meeting with Jesus Christ on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus, a journey of about 150 miles. Saul was angered by what he had seen and filled with murderous rage against the Christians. Before departing on his journey, he had asked the high priest for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for permission to bring any Christians (followers of “the Way,” as they were known) back to Jerusalem to imprison them. On the road Saul was caught up in a bright light from heaven which caused him to fall face down on the ground. He hears the words, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He says, “Who are you Lord?” Jesus answers directly and clearly, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (vv. 4-5). As an aside, this might not have been Saul’s first encounter with Jesus, as some scholars suggest that young Saul might have known of Jesus and that he might have actually witnessed His death.

From this moment on, Saul’s life was turned upside down. The light of the Lord blinded him, and as he traveled on he had to rely on his companions. As instructed by Jesus, Saul continued to Damascus to make contact with a man named Ananias who was hesitant at first to meet Saul because he knew Saul’s reputation as an evil man. But the Lord told Ananias that Saul was a “chosen instrument” to carry His name before the Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel (v.15) and would suffer for doing so (v.16). Ananias followed the Lord’s instructions and found Saul, on whom he laid hands, and told him of his vision of Jesus Christ. Through prayer, Saul received the Holy Spirit (v.17), regained his sight and was baptized (v.18). Saul immediately went into the synagogues proclaiming Jesus and saying He is the Son of God (v.20). The people were amazed and skeptical, as Saul’s reputation was well known. The Jews thought he had come to take away the Christians (v.21). Saul’s boldness increased as the Jews living in Damascus were confounded by Saul’s arguments proving that Jesus was the Christ (v.22).

As a result of this miraculous transformation, Saul became known as Paul (Acts 13:9). Paul spent time in Arabia, Damascus, Jerusalem, Syria and his native Cilicia, and Barnabas enlisted his help to teach those in the church in Antioch (Acts 11:25). Interestingly, the Christians driven out of Palestine by Saul of Tarsus founded this multiracial church (Acts 11:19-21). Paul took his first of three missionary journeys in the late 40s A.D. Paul wrote many of the New Testament books. Most theologians are in agreement that he wrote Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. These 13 “letters” (books) make up the “Pauline Authorship” and are the primary source of his theology. As previously noted, the book of Acts gives us a historical look at Paul’s life and times. The Apostle Paul spent his life proclaiming the risen Christ Jesus throughout the Roman world, often at great personal peril (2 Corinthians 11:24-27) It is assumed that Paul was arrested upon his return to Rome and died a martyr’s death by beheading in the mid-to-late 60s A.D.

So, what can we learn from the life of the Apostle Paul? First, we learn that God can save anyone. The remarkable story of Paul repeats itself every day as sinful, broken people all over the world are transformed by God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ. Some of these people have done despicable things to other human beings, while some just try to live a moral life thinking that God will smile upon them on the day of judgment. When we read the story of Paul and know what he had done, it is difficult for us to believe that God would allow into heaven religious extremists who murder innocent women and children. Today, we might see people on death row as unworthy of redemption because their crimes against humanity are just too great. Yet we live our lives in a sinful manner, expecting that God will be impressed by the fact that we haven’t killed anyone. The story of Paul is a story that can be told today-he isn’t worthy in our eyes of a second chance, yet to God he is worthy. The truth is that every person matters to God, from the “good, decent,” average person to the “wicked, evil” degenerate. Only God can save a soul from hell.

Second, we learn from the life of Paul that anyone can be a humble, powerful witness for Jesus Christ. Arguably, no other human figure in the Bible demonstrated more humility while sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ as Paul. Acts 20:19 tells us that he “served the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to [him] through the plots of the Jews.” In Acts 28:31, Paul shares the good news of Jesus Christ: “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul was not afraid to tell others what the Lord had done for him. This verse is the very definition of Paul’s newfound life in Christ. He would spend the rest of his days working tirelessly for the kingdom of God.

Finally, we learn that anyone can surrender completely to God. Paul was fully “sold-out” for God. “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14). Paul was in prison when he wrote these words, yet he was still praising God and sharing the good news. Through his hardships and suffering, Paul knew the outcome of a life well lived for Christ. He had surrendered his life fully, trusting God for everything. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Can we make the same claim?

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Pesach – Your Hope in the Wilderness

Shabbat Shalom during Pesach!
Because this Shabbat (Sabbath) falls during Chag HaMatzot (Feast of Unleavened Bread), a special reading is inserted into the regular Torah reading cycle.
This special portion will be read in synagogues around the world during the Shabbat Pesach (Saturday Passover) service.
On this weekend as many Christians are also celebrating the resurrection of the Messiah Jesus (Yeshua), it is fitting to recall the physical redemption of the Jewish People from Egypt.
We know you will be blessed as you discover the Jewish roots of your faith in the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach (The Intermediate Sabbath of Passover)
Exodus 33:12–34:26; Numbers 28:16–25; Ezekiel 37:1–14; Luke 24
“You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread [Chag HaMatzot].  Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread [matzah], as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month Aviv, for in the month Aviv you came out from Egypt.”  (Exodus 34:18)
The Parasha (Scripture portion) for this Shabbat occurs in the middle of the Passover week and begins by describing the holy days of Pesach (Passover) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Chag HaMatzot), which lasts seven days.
These two special events are most often blended into one and just called Passover, but there is a crucial difference between the two, which we will explore in today’s study.
During the Passover time frame, there are three distinct events that represent three unique spiritual states or conditions of the soul:
  1. Passover represents salvation: we are saved from the wrath of God by faith in the blood of the Passover Lamb.
“Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”  (John 1:29)
Yeshua (Jesus) was slain on Passover as the perfect fulfillment of the lamb that saved the Israelites on the very first Passover:
“And when I see the blood I will pass over you.”  (Exodus 12:13)
  1. Unleavened bread, also called matzah or the bread of affliction, represents sanctification.
Matzah is flat because it is devoid of yeast (chametz), which represents wickedness, pride, and that which causes us to be puffed up or to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.
“Your boasting is not good.  Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are.  For Messiah, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”  (1 Corinthians 5:6–7)
Chametz is closely related to the Hebrew word chamutz, which means sour.  Yeast is a souring agent.  Likewise, sin causes bitterness in our soul.
“Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread [matzah] of sincerity and truth.”  (1 Corinthians 5:8)
The week of unleavened bread, therefore, represents sanctification accomplished through affliction, trials and testing, and the purging of pride in order to teach us humility and obedience by the things we suffer in our wilderness experiences.
“And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.”  (Deuteronomy 8:2)
  1. First Fruits, also called Bikkurim in Hebrew, which occurs the day after the first day of Unleavened Bread (although there is some disagreement as to the timing), represents resurrection.

    Just as the barley is offered up to the Lord as the first crop after winter, so Yeshua was also raised from the dead on the Feast of Firstfruits.

“But now the Messiah is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”  (1 Corinthians 15:20)
From these distinct elements within Passover, we can understand that between the events of salvation and resurrection is a process of sanctification.
Passover → Unleavened Bread → First Fruits
Salvation → Sanctification → Resurrection
The Intermediate Sabbath—Losing Heart in the Wilderness
When the Israelites were delivered from Egypt, they also had to go through a sanctification process, which took them through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.
Even though the Israelites entered into a covenant with God in the wilderness, and came to understand their identity as God’s treasured possession there, sometimes they responded to hardship and barrenness of the wilderness with discouragement.
In the wilderness, they also lost heart, lost hope, longed for Egypt, grumbled, murmured, and complained.
For that reason, all perished but two—Joshua and Caleb—who followed the Lord wholeheartedly and kept the faith.  The bodies of the other Israelites lay scattered across that vast wilderness.
Even Yeshua spent time in the wilderness—perhaps the Judean or Negev Desert. The Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) led Him there to be tempted by the devil(Matthew 4:1–11)
The Negev is not an easy place to live—even with air conditioning!
It is a land of snakes and scorpions; a place of great danger.  And yet, the wilderness is not a punishment, but a necessary stage in our spiritual journey.
It is often God who leads us into our wilderness experiences to humble us, to test us, to refine our faith, and to teach us perseverance and endurance.
If we come out of it alive, we do so “leaning on our beloved” instead of relying on our own strength or limited sufficiency.  (Song of Solomon 8:5)
The wilderness can be our spiritual university where we learn to trust in and depend upon the Lord, and only God knows how long that lesson will take.
or Believers, in the vast space between salvation and the resurrection lies the wilderness, a dry and thirsty land where water is scarce.  That is where we are sanctified.
Because it is so easy to lose heart in the wilderness—our sanctification process—our response to the trials and challenges will determine how well we make it through to the resurrection.
Discouragement during our wilderness is an especially powerful weapon of the enemy because of its enfeebling, demoralizing effect.
This is not so with hatred, jealousy, fear, and other negative states that may cause us to act foolishly, to fight, or to run.  With these emotional attacks, at least we act.
Discouragement on the other hand, hurts us the most because it ultimately saps the energy right out of us, causing us to sit down, pity ourselves, and do nothing.
Discouragement causes us to give in to the temptation of the enemy who whispers, “Just give up.”
Hopelessness is a very dangerous state of being.  In fact, Scripture tells us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick.”  (Proverbs 13:12)
When Hope Is Lost—The Day With No Name
The Scripture reading between Passover and Bikkurim is simply called “Intermediate Sabbath” (Chol HaMo’ed).  It doesn’t even have a name like the other parshiot.
It describes a time of hopelessness for Israel, wandering the nations without God’s blessing to protect them, as if they were living in a valley of dried up bones.
In our own valleys of dried up dreams and desires, when all hope seems lost, we wonder if everything has been in vain, if the sun will ever shine again in our grieving hearts.
Israel asked the same question in the Haftarah reading for this intermediate Sabbath.
The dry bones, which represent the whole house of Israel, say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.” (Ezekiel 37:11)
Sometimes we feel that we have been cut off from hope itself.  But so often when we feel the darkness is closing in on us, at that moment God is doing His greatest work.
Likewise, it is when Israel’s hope in itself is completely destroyed that God’s promise of restoration comes forth as a breath of life:
“Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel.  And ye shall know that I am the Lord…  And I will put My Spirit [Ruach] in you, and you shall live.”  (Ezekiel 37:13–14)
Ruach, the Hebrew word for spirit, is the same word used in verses 5 and 6 that is translated breath:  “I will cause breath [Ruach] to enter into you and you shall live.”
In the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), Yeshua miraculously foreshadows the fulfillment of this Word.
Yeshua arrived four days after His friend Lazarus had died and been placed in the tomb.  Everyone’s hope in Lazarus being raised from the dead was completely lost.
Why did Yeshua wait for four days?
Jewish tradition holds that a person’s soul hovers around its physical body for three days, but after this time period, the soul leaves.
Therefore, the Jewish people who witnessed Lazarus’ death were convinced on the fourth day that the situation was completely and totally without any hope whatsoever!  Even the soul of the deceased had departed.
But Yeshua called out to Lazarus, TZEH HAHUTZAH!  COME OUT!
And Lazarus came up out of his grave and he lived!
One thing, however, needed to be done before Lazarus could come out of the tomb—the stone had to be rolled away.  Somebody had to do it, and it wasn’t Yeshua.
While He could have easily rolled it away Himself or even commanded the heavy stone to move and it would have obeyed Him, He called upon the people to participate in the miracle.
Yeshua said to them, “Take away the stone.”  (John 11:39)
Why?  Perhaps He wanted to teach us that we are not to be completely passive and expect God to do everything for us.
Maybe there is a stone standing between us and our miracle.
Perhaps, all that is needed is to draw upon the faith and strength within us to “take away the stone” under God’s direction.  Then we will witness God perform a resurrection in our own life!  Halleluyah!
Like the people around Lazarus who thought Yeshua came too late, sometimes we find ourselves in an utterly hopeless situation where it is so tempting to give in to despair and depression.
This is exactly when we should be reaching out for a miracle to the One who said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  (John 11:25)
Before our situation became hopeless, we may have been counting on God to show up to perform a miracle.  But it seems that He did a “no-show,” and the relationship or the business or the whatever we were hoping for died.
That is when deep disappointment sets in.  “Where was God?” we ask.  “Where was His power when I needed Him?”
We could sit there, looking at that stone, crying, and thinking it’s just too heavy or too hard to move—or we can just move away the obstacle, let God in, and see miracles come forth.
May we hear the voice of our Good Shepherd and obey what He tells us to do to see that miracle happen—even if it doesn’t make sense or seems impossible in the natural.
But We Were Hoping
Yeshua’s disciples also knew hopelessness and utter despair.
At Passover, after Yeshua’s death on the cross, it looked like all hope was lost and that the forces of evil had triumphed.  His disciples wandered about in confusion and sorrow.
They had hoped that this finally was the “real deal.”  After so many false Messiahs, they believed that He was truly the Mashiach who would redeem Israel from Roman oppression and restore the Kingdom of Israel.
After Yeshua’s execution, two disciples were traveling to a village seven miles from Jerusalem.  They walked together, chatting and reasoning about the event with quite sad demeanors.
But then Yeshua came near and walked with them along the road.  Still, their eyes were restrained and they did not recognize Him.  (Luke 24:16)
Yeshua’s disciples had a certain expectation of how God was going to work things out.  But even though things didn’t happen the way they thought it should, this was God’s greatest triumph over darkness.
In their darkest hour, in their utter hopelessness, they couldn’t see that Hope was walking right alongside them!  For Yeshua is a Living Hope.  (1 Peter 1:3–4)
Isn’t this just like us when we’ve experienced a disappointment?  We’ve just got to find somebody to talk to about it.  We try to reason the thing out, to somehow make sense out of something that just doesn’t make sense.  This often only causes more sorrow.
When things don’t work out the way we had hoped they would, it could be that redemption is right there with us, walking alongside us.  Sometimes that Living Hope is right under our noses but we don’t perceive it because it comes in a form we didn’t quite expect.
In our darkest hours, we must remember that God never leaves us, for He safeguards our soul as we travel through the wilderness where we are sanctified.
There in our wilderness, our ultimate hope is in Yeshua and His resurrection.
“You who are the Hope of Israel, its Savior in times of distress.”  (Jeremiah 14:8)
“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord.  I will put My laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”  (Hebrews 10:16)
Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday) and Shabbat Shalom

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Different Spiritual Gifts Mentioned in the Bible

There are actually six places in the New Testament where spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed. Romans 12:3-8 mentions seven gifts, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 lists nine gifts, 1 Corinthians 12:25-31 mentions eight gifts, 1 Corinthians 13 & 14 compares three gifts, Ephesians 4:11-13 mentions four gifts (though not all consider these spiritual gifts), and 1 Peter 4:10-11 mentions two gifts (although they may be two categories representing several other gifts). Only one gift appears in all lists (if we assume that “speaks” in 1 Peter 4:11 is a category that includes the gift of prophecy). But most gifts occur in more than one list. Some scholars consider “serving” in Romans 12 the same as “helping others” in 1 Corinthians 12. Also, some consider “leadership” and “administration” in those same two lists to be the same gift. Also, in Ephesians 4 some consider “pastors and teachers” to be two gifts, while others cite reasons it may be better to take them as one gift. With all these variables, there are various counts that are suggested for the actual number of spiritual gifts mentioned in Scripture.

Others, including myself, notice that no two of these six passages completely agree with any of the others in listing spiritual gifts. Since every list leaves off gifts that appear on other lists, none of the lists is comprehensive, listing all the gifts. If this is so, how can we be confident that there might not be other gifts the Spirit could bestow that are not on any of the existing lists? If this is so, then perhaps we cannot come up with a single specific number of spiritual gifts. My efforts to arrange and count the gifts mentioned in the Bible comes to eighteen, but I suspect there are likely others which are not mentioned in Scripture. It may be presumptuous to guess what some of these might be, but I would not be surprised if there might be gifts of such things as apologetics, music, mediation/reconciliation, motivating others. Now most assume there are eleven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Most Bible scholars recognize more than that, although there are reasons not everyone agrees exactly how many there are.

1. Prophecy
2. Serving/Helping Others
3. Teaching
4. Encouraging
5. Giving
6. Leadership/Administration
7. Showing Mercy
8. Message of Wisdom
9. Message of Knowledge
10. Faith
11. Healing
12. Working Miracles
13. Distinguishing Spirits
14. Tongues
15. Interpreting Tongues
16. Apostle
17. Evangelist
18. Pastor/Teacher

In God’s great gift of salvation, we have a number of benefits and responsibilities. Most Christians are quick to point out the personal benefits we receive with our salvation, but we are a little slower to focus on the responsibilities that come with it. When people speak of spiritual gifts, the focus is often on questions like, “Do you know what your spiritual gift is?” or “Have you taken this spiritual gifts survey?” While the knowledge of one’s gifting can be beneficial, we often lose sight of God’s design in these matters. Yes, the particular gifts of the Spirit are benefits to each believer, but they come with great responsibilities. Let’s take a walk through the biblical lists of gifts during this spiritual gifts survey.

There are two Greek words that are primarily used to describe the gifts of the Spirit. Pneumatika refers to their source, the Holy Spirit (pneuma) of God, and charismata refers to the fact that they are granted as an act of God’s grace (charis). Since they are given by grace, we are reminded that they are not based on our worthiness or personal abilities, but on God’s sovereign choice. Since they are given by the Spirit of God, they are a part of the new life granted to us in Christ (and may be drastically different from our perceived capabilities or desires prior to salvation). A brief examination of three key texts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 1 Peter 4:10-11) will show us God’s design regarding His gifts.

One of the first things that becomes clear in these passages is the diversity of the gifts. When Paul listed the gifts in Romans 12; he identified different gifts than what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 12; and when Peter spoke of them in 1 Peter 4:10-11, he didn’t even bother specifying them. Among the things listed are prophecy, ministry, wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, teaching, exhorting, giving, ruling, showing mercy, speaking in languages, and interpreting languages. Whatever the specific use of each one was, they each fit together as the parts of the body work together to make a functional whole (Romans 12:5).

There are varying opinions regarding the number of spiritual gifts, as well as what the gifts are. Romans 12 lists at least seven, and 1 Corinthians 12 lists nine. There is some overlap in these, and there are certainly indications that God has more that He gives His children. What are some of these gifts? First Corinthians says God gives the word of wisdom and knowledge to some. This would seem to identify a particular ability to grasp spiritual truths in the Word of God and apply them to life. Prophecy is the ability to proclaim divine revelation to the church. As it is used in the New Testament, this gift seems more focused on determining God’s will in particular circumstances than on foretelling future events. Discerning of spirits seems to be connected with the gift of prophecy, and refers to checking the authority and validity of the message, in order to prevent false prophecy. Healing and miracles are often referred to as ‘sign gifts,’ since they were part of the validation for the ministry of Jesus and the apostles. God certainly still heals and does miracles, but these gifts to the church have largely ceased with the completion of the Bible and the validation of its message.

One of the most misunderstood gifts is that of language and interpretation. ‘Tongues’ in the KJV is simply a translation of the Greek glossa, which is the normal word for any language. In Acts 2:6-11, the people who were gathered in Jerusalem marveled that, even though the disciples were all untrained Galileans, they heard the ‘wonderful works of God’ in their own languages. Whatever else people might teach, two things here are clear: 1) The people in the crowd heard and understood what was being said about Jesus Christ, and 2) we are told what languages the message was received in at that time. Other gifts mentioned are faith, serving, encouraging, giving, ruling, and showing mercy. These are fairly self-explanatory. Whatever gift we look at, one common denominator is always in place-gifts were given by God Himself and are to be used for His glory in His church.

We can certainly learn of the gifts from these lists, but if we limit the gifts of the Spirit to those few that were enumerated, we miss the point. In all three passages, we are given a specific purpose of the gifts, and that is where we should direct our attention. In Romans 12:8, we are told to use the various gifts according to the character of God and His revealed will “…with simplicity…with diligence…with cheerfulness.” In 1 Corinthians 12:25, we are told that these gifts were given “so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” In 1 Peter 4:11, the purpose is “that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” The best way for us to understand spiritual gifts is to know how we can care for and serve one another to the glory of God. Whether we do that through teaching, feeding, healing, or any other method, we have a responsibility to God and to one another to offer ourselves as servants (2 Corinthians 4:9). So we also see that no one person is to have all the gifts, they are dispersed within the body of Christ, to make the body of Christ whole.

Here are a few more.

Vocational Gifts.

1. Apostles-Special Messengers Commissioned by Christ (the 12 Apostles of the Lamb) And those sent forth by the Holy Spirit Acts 13.

2. Prophets-The office of a Prophet in the Bible is different to an OT prophet. Agabas was a prophet in the New Testament Context and he demonstrated his office by revealing the future famine coming and that Paul would be bound when he went to Jerusalem. A prophet in the New Testament also receives Revelation but not to change anything in the Bible nor to contradict it.

Act 21:10..And as we stayed more days, a certain prophet from Judea named Agabus came down.
Act 21:11..And coming to us, and taking Paul’s belt, and binding his hands and feet, he said, The Holy Spirit says these things: So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man whose belt this is, and will deliver him into the hands of the nations.
Act 11:27..And in these days prophets from Jerusalem came to Antioch.
Act 11:28..And one of them named Agabus stood up and signified by the Spirit that there should be great famine over the world (which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar).
Other NT prophets mentioned.
Act 15:32 And Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, exhorted the brothers with many words and confirmed them.

There were prophets and teachers in the Church mentioned in Acts 13.
This ministry is still functioning today and plays a vital part in Church growth and protection from false prophets and teachers.
3.Pastors– Shepherds of God’s flock, leaders, elders. Mostly known and accepted by all denominations.
4. Teachers– distinct from Pastors and deal more with explanation rather than leadership. Pastor’s teach but in a different perspective to the distinct gift of teaching. Pastors teach with a father’s ability and include discipline and organization.
5. Evangelists– Preach the Good news to bring the message of Salvation to the unconverted and often have the miracles signs and wonders mentioned in the Bible following their ministries. Such was the case with Philip the Evangelist and a host of others recorded in Church history and our modern day.

The gifts of Power revealing God’s Omnipotence
1. The Gifts of Healings (miracle healings)

2. The Gift of Faith (drained of unbelief by the Spirit for a particular miracle purpose)

3. The Gift of working of Miracles. The active operation of a miracle like stretching the rod over the red sea.

The Gifts of Revelation Revealing God’s Omniscience
1. The gift of the discerning of spirits (this is where the Holy Spirit gives a person a view into the spirit world to distinguish a devil spirit, an angelic spirit and the ability to know a prophetic utterance is inspired by the human spirit, a demon spirit, Or the Holy Spirit.

2. A Word of Knowledge- the revelation given to a person by the Holy Spirit of facts past and present that are not known to the person except by the Holy Spirit. Peter knew what Ananaias And Saphira had done by this gift. Cornelius was told facts about where Peter was by this gift. Acts 10:5, 6.

The Gifts Of Inspired Utterance Revealing God’s Omnipresence.
1. Diverse tongues- Ability by the Holy Spirit to speak languages never learned

2. Ability to interpret the Message Of a Language never learned by the power of the Spirit.

3. The Gift of Prophecy- an utterance whereby God puts His word in the mouth of the speaker and the speaker becomes literally the mouthpiece of God.
The real gift of prophecy is just that. God transforms the person prophesying in such a way that God Himself is speaking directly through the human instrument. This is clearly what God is able to do and indeed it’s what He does. Mat 10:20..For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Numbers 22:8

In addition to knowing what the spiritual gifts, I believe it is important to get a perspective on;

1) why the gifts were given,

2) how the spirit uses the gifts to benefit the local church, and

3) what we can learn from personal experience.

I organize the gifts in four ways;

1) Role,

2) Gift,

3) Ministry, and

4) Office. Each gift has a corresponding role, ministry and office. If we want to know what all the gifts are then we need to start with the lists provided in scripture as already referenced, then add to and define all the other roles that Jesus performed when he ministered to people. Jesus commanded us to learn and obey everything he had commanded and carry on the ministry he established through the local church.

As individual Christians we are responsible to fulfill each one of these roles, when the opportunity presents itself, using the natural abilities God has given. We fulfill these roles in order to obey Jesus command to Love One Another. However, this love is first stirred in our hearts by the Holy Spirit and then we are given opportunities to pray, speak and act to express this love to our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ.

As we demonstrate our faithfulness in carrying out these roles, the Holy Spirit begins to release the spiritual gifts were we given on the day we were saved. We will be able to identify these gifts by the impact they have on ourselves and those we serve. For ourselves, I believe we will discover that;

1) our service feels effortless,

2) we have an abiding love and concern for the needs of others, and

3) we experience a joy that is deeply satisfying.

For other believers whom we care for;

1) they often feel incredibly blessed,

2) they encounter God’s presence through us,

3) they are filled with the Holy Spirit,

4) their faith grows and

5) they want to please God with their own service.

As we discover our gifts and begin to faithfully use them, the Holy Spirit then increases the occasions for using our gifts and establishes our ministries. If our eyes are open to the opportunities, I believe we will have occasions to use our gifts on a daily basis. This level of ministry has a profound effect in building up the body of Christ to maturity and completeness.

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Lent

Lent is an observation done by the Catholics, but this is an observation that should be done by every Christian, reason being that a time must be set aside dedicated to God through self denial in pleasures of the flesh. During that time of fasting, our spirit which is an official connector to God’s spirit is brought to life, the gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit do manifest themselves in us and the fellowship with God is complete. Even our Lord Jesus upon receiving the Holy Spirit had to fast for 40 days and 40 nights in order for him initiate his ministry here on earth with full experience in temptations. Daniel also did fasting and many more in the Bible and our lord said after being asked why his disciples did not fast, they will fast when he leaves them but not when he is around, Fasting is Soul lifting in worshiping God as he requires us to worship him in spirit and truth.

Lent is a period of fasting, moderation, and self-denial traditionally observed by Catholics and some Protestant denominations. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday. The length of the Lenten fast was established in the 4th century as 46 days (40 days, not counting Sundays). During Lent, participants eat sparingly or give up a particular food or habit. It’s not uncommon for people to give up smoking during Lent, or to swear off watching television or eating candy or telling lies. It’s six weeks of self-discipline.

Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves of the value of repentance. The austerity of the Lenten season was seen as similar to how people in the Old Testament fasted and repented in sackcloth and ashes (Esther 4:1-3; Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3).

However, over the centuries Lenten observances have developed a much more “sacramental” value. Many Catholics believe that giving something up for Lent is a way to attain God’s blessing. But the Bible teaches that grace cannot be earned; grace is “the gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17). Also, Jesus taught that fasting should be done discreetly: “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen” (Matthew 6:16-18). Jesus’ command to “wash your face” seems to conflict with the practice of rubbing ashes on one’s face on Ash Wednesday.

Fasting can be a good thing, and God is pleased when we repent of sinful habits. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with setting aside some time to focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection. However, repenting of sin is something we should be doing every day of the year, not just for the 46 days of Lent.

If a Christian wishes to observe Lent, he is free to do so. The key is to focus on repenting of sin and consecrating oneself to God. Lent should not be a time of boasting of one’s sacrifice or trying to earn God’s favor or increasing His love. God’s love for us could not be any greater than it already is.

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Biblical Numbers Unlock Secrets of the Hebrew Scriptures

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  (Psalm 90:12)
While numbers are mundane to most people, in Judaism they have a personality and metaphysical meaning; they help reveal the universal truths of the Torah (first five books of the Bible), as well as the writings of the Prophets and Yeshua’s disciples.
Indeed, many people notice when they are reading Scripture that certain numbers show up frequently, and their appearance does not seem coincidental.
While it is important to recognize that numbers are significant in the Bible, they are not magical.
Rightly interpreting the Scriptures requires literal as well as symbolic understanding of Biblical numerology.  Still, this understanding needs to be combined with sound interpretation procedures and is not to be used as witchcraft or fortune telling.
Here is a brief synopsis of the numbers 1 to 7 in the Bible, and how they are viewed in Judaism, by some Bible scholars today, and by the early Jewish Believers.
Echad (אֶחָד or א / One, First)
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called.”  (Ephesians 4:4)
As a number, 1 is unique in the fact that it is the only number that can be multiplied or divided by itself and remain unchanged; for instance, when one is divided by one, the answer is one.
1 x 1 = 1
1 / 1 = 1
From the Jewish understanding, like the number 1, God is indivisible.
The unique properties of the number 1 reflect God’s unchanging Unity or Oneness.
That unique Oneness and Singularity is proclaimed at least twice daily by observant Jews through the Schema, the eternal declaration of Jewish faith:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is Echad [One].”  (Deuteronomy 6:1)
This oneness or echad of God is a complex unity.  For instance, the Word is one with God (John 1:1).  
That Word then became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  And Yeshua, who is the Word in flesh, declared, “I and the Father are one.”  (John 10:30)
Echad has a special place in Judaism.
“The number 1 is an underlying feature of Jewish life: ‘The other nations have many rites, many clergy, and many houses of worship.  We, the Jewish people, have but 1 G-d, 1 Ark, 1 Altar, and 1 High Priest.’  That is why the whole Torah was given by 1 Shepherd (G-d) and taught by 1 leader (Moshe),” states author Osher Chaim Levene.  (Jewish Wisdom in the Numbers)
Although, echad does mean singleness or singularity, it also means first, and this meaning is seen in the Bible in many verses:
“There was evening, and there was morning—the First Day [yom echad / Sunday].”  (Genesis 1:15)
The idea of first also holds a special importance in Scripture, as is seen in the sanctification of the Firstfruits (Bikkurim), which were given to the Kohen (priest), as well as the sanctification of the firstborn animal and the firstborn son.
“Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the LORD your God.”  (Exodus 34:26)
“Consecrate to Me every firstborn male.  The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to Me, whether human or animal.”  (Exodus 13:2)
In Exodus 4:22, Israel is referred to as God’s firstborn son.
The concept of first is also emphasized in the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), where Yeshua is called the firstborn from the dead, as well as the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
“Messiah has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”  (1 Corinthians 15:20; see also Revelation 1:5 and Acts 26:23)
First relates to the beginning, which is the first word of the Bible, bereisheet (in the beginning).  The root of this word is rosh, which means head.
Just as God is the beginning and is holy, the first is related to holiness.  What comes first sets the stage or the pattern for that which follows.
Colossians 1:18 ties all of these concepts together in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
“Messiah is also the head of the assembly, which is His body.  He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead.  So He is first in everything.”  (Colossians 1:18)
Shnayim (שְׁנַיִם or ב / Two)
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit.”  (2 Kings 2:9)
The Hebrew number 2, shnayim, relates to God’s creation, since the Hebrew letter Bet is the first letter of the word bereisheet (in the beginning), which is the first word of the Torah and the creation narrative.
“Bet” is more than a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, it is also the number 2. (Hebrew letters are also numbers.)
Two means “union, division, and witnessing.”  It also means “double” and is associated with the double portion.
In the Bible, we see shnayim in the two tablets of the Covenant, the double portion of manna on the sixth day, and the idea of counterparts and pairs, such as God’s creation of both male and female or the sending out of the disciples in pairs (Luke 10:1). 
In Deuteronomy 19:15, the number 2 is associated with witness as in the requirement of two witnesses in legal matters.
Two is also associated with blessing since in creation itself, God poured out a bounty of blessings into the earth.  As well, creation brought about the possibility of relationship because God created man to be in relationship with Him and with each other.
We can see the possibility of union that two brings in the covenant of marriage, where two become one flesh.  (Genesis 2:24)
The idea of division is also associated with two since on Day Two (Yom Sheni [Monday]) God divided the waters to form the Heavens above and the oceans below.
Indeed, two represents the possibility of separation due to conflict and sin.
The duality of union and division belonging to the number 2 is perhaps best reflected in the fact that although humankind was created to be in relationship with God, people can either be united with God through holiness or separated from Him through sin.
For a relationship to be true, there must be the freedom to choose to be in the relationship, and people can either choose to be in relationship with their Creator or to be in rebellion against Him.
Of course, sin separates all of us from God, and Yeshua makes it possible to be reconciled with our Heavenly Father.  (Ephesians 2:16) 
Moreover, He makes it possible for Believers everywhere to be in union with Him.
“I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one—I in them and You in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.”  (John 17:22–23)
Shlosha (שְׁלוֹשָׁה or ג / Three)
“Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
Three connotes equilibrium or stability, continuity and permanence.  It is considered the number of Divine completeness or perfection.
This number shows up frequently in Scripture and in Jewish life.
The earth was separated from the waters on the Third Day (Yom Shelishi [Tuesday]).  (Genesis 1:9–13)
In Exodus 34:6, God is ascribed the three attributes of channun (gracious), rachum (compassionate / merciful), and chesed (loving  kindness).
The Seraphim (six-winged angelic beings) praise God with a triple invocation that emphasizes God’s perfect holiness, crying “Holy, Holy, Holy.”  (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8)
In the Priestly Blessing (Numbers 6:24–26), God’s covenant name (YHVH) appears three times—an indication perhaps of its completeness and perfection.  God is also mentioned three times in the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4–9).
As a mark of stability or a perfect foundation, Israel has three founding fathers (Avos): the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The Bible specifies three Pilgrimage Festivals (Shelosh Regalim), the three times the Jewish People are obligated to go to Jerusalem bringing at least three offerings: Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).
These three holidays are more than history lessons; they give spiritual illumination to God’s plan of redemption, first of the People of Israel and then through the Messiah:
Pesach commemorates the deliverance from bondage in Egypt with the sacrifice of a lamb as well as the deliverance from eternal death through the sacrifice of Yeshua.
Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai 50 days after God delivered Israel from Egypt, as well as the giving of the Holy Spirit 50 days after Yeshua delivered us from sin.
Sukkot commemorates the protection God provided the children of Israel in their wilderness booths, as He dwelt with them through His Cloud of Glory, as well as the protection He still provides through the Holy Spirit dwelling in us today and will provide during the Messianic reign to come.
Three is also linked to Salvation.
Abraham journeyed three days to Mount Moriah in obedience to God’s command that he sacrifice his promised son (Genesis 22:1–4).  To raise the son of the widow of Zarephat (1 Kings 17:21), Elijah stretched himself out three times over the body.  Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of a whale (Jonah 1:17).
Esther fasted three days and three nights in preparation to save the Jewish People from certain annihilation.

And Yeshua (Jesus) was raised from the dead on the third day.

Arba’a (אַרְבָּעָה or ד / Four)
“After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.”  (Revelation 7:1)
The number 4 is connected to the number 2 through its basic mathematical properties: 2+2=4 and 2×2=4.  The number 4, therefore, is related to creation, the physical realm, the earth, and the four seasons.
In the Bible, we see a connection between four and the earth through the fourth commandment, which is the first commandment that mentions the earth.  As well, the fourth clause of the Lord’s Prayer is the first to mention the earth.
This number relates to the ideas of place and space, such as in Daniel 7:3, which speaks of four earthly kingdoms, and Isaiah 11:12, which promises that God will gather the dispersed of Israel from the four corners of the earth.
The Land of Israel was the Chosen People’s designated place and space.
Redemption involves being returned to one’s rightful place, and the return of the Chosen People is necessary for redemption and fulfillment of their destiny as a nation.
Four also appears in the Bible as the four rivers of Eden; the four divisions of three tribes each surrounding the Mishkan HaKodesh, the holy Tabernacle in the desert (Numbers 2:1–31); four cherubim; four living creatures surrounding the throne (Revelation 4:6, 7:11 ); and the four tassels on the corner of the garment or tallit (prayer shawl).
As well, the Jewish People have four Mothers (Imahos): the Matriarchs Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel.
Hamisha (חֲמִשָׁה or ה / Five)
“To redeem the 273 firstborn Israelites who exceed the number of the Levites, collect five shekels for each one.”  (Numbers 3:46–47)
The number 5 is the number of redemption, Divine grace, and God’s goodness.
In Number in Scripture, E. W. Bullinger states, “If four is the number of the world, then it represents man’s weakness, and helplessness, and vanity….  But four plus one (4+1=5) is significance of Divine strength added to and made perfect in weakness; of omnipotence combined with the impotence of earth; of Divine favour uninfluenced and invincible.”  (p. 135)
God did not only reveal Himself through Creation.  He revealed Himself through the Word.
Therefore, in the Bible, 5 is associated with the five Books of Moses, through which God revealed His will to Israel and the world.  As well, the Ten Commandments were written on two tablets, five commandments on each tablet.
The number 5 has also been associated with sacred architecture (1 Kings 7:39, 49), as well as the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14:17) and grace.
Each of us have been empowered to use what we have received by grace from God and expand upon it through hard work and faith:
“The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five.  ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold.  See, I have gained five more.’  His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant!  You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master’s happiness!’”  (Matthew 25:20–21)
Shisha (שִׁשָּׁה or ו / Six)
“Six days you shall labor and do all your work.”  (Deuteronomy 5:13)
The number 6 symbolizes the natural world, man, and the six directions of the physical realm (forward, backward, left, right, up, and down).  (Jewish Wisdom in the Numbers)
Scripture reveals that God created the natural world in six days and then rested on the seventh, so this number reflects physical completion.
In the same way that God completed His work of creation in six days, people have six days of activity in the week to leave their mark on the world, and are to rest on the seventh, in honor of the Creator of the Universe.
Six has been called the number of man, since Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day and the sixth commandment forbids murder.
The number 6 is considered as the path to the holiness represented in the number 7.  If human activities are not sanctioned by God, and not directed toward the final destination of the World to Come, then they are inconsequential.  (Jewish Wisdom, p.106)
Sheva (שִׁבְעַה or ז / Seven)
“The words of the LORD are flawless, like silver purified in a crucible, like gold refined seven times.”  (Psalm 12:6)
The number 7 is so prominent in Scripture that even scholars who do not give much weight to Biblical numerology recognize its importance.
Seven is the Divine number of completion, fullness, and spiritual perfection, typifying holiness and sanctification.
Seven is such a favorite number in Judaism, in fact, that the Midrash (Rabbinic literature) states, “All sevens are beloved.”  (Vayikra Rabbah 29:9)
Sheva (seven) shares the root (Shin-Bet-Ayin) with oath (shevua) and, therefore, is related to commitment.
From this same root is the word for full or complete, and a related word forsatisfied.
Seven is strongly associated with completion and rest through the Shabbat (seventh day) and other complete cycles of time.
The seventh sabbatical year or Shmita (seventh year in which the soil is allowed to rest), is still being practiced in Israel.
Both the Shabbat and the Shmita highlight six mundane units of time followed by one holy unit of time.  Both the seventh day and the seventh year are given a special sanctity.
As well, Leviticus 23:1–44 outlines seven annual holy Feasts of the Lord: Pesach (Passover), Chag HaMotzi (Feast of Unleavened Bread), Yom HaBikkurim (FirstFruits), Shavuot (Pentacost), Yom Teruah (Trumpets), and Sukkot (Booths).
The holiness and perfection of the Tabernacle is reflected in its seven furnishings: the Bronze Sacrificial Altar, Bronze Laver, Golden Menorah, Golden Table of the Bread of the Presence (Showbread), Golden Altar of Incense, Ark of the Covenant, and the Mercy-seat/ Seat of Atonement.
The Temple Menorah itself had seven branches, which have a connection to the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), since in the Messianic Prophecy of Isaiah 11:2, the Light of the World, Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah), is described as having the seven gifts of the Ruach HaKodesh.
According to Rabbinic Judaism, all men are bound by the seven Noahide laws: the prohibition of idolatry, murder, theft, sexual immorality, blasphemy, eating flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive, and the requirement of maintaining courts to provide legal recourse.
In Leviticus 26:18–27, seven is connected to the punishment of sin:
“If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over….  If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve….
“If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me, I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over….  
“If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over.”
Indeed, because of sin, the Jewish people spent 70 years as captives in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:10).
Yeshua Unveiled: The Incredible 70 Sevens
When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”  (Jeremiah 29:10–12)
While in Babylonian captivity, Daniel received an incredible mathematical message from the angel Gabriel that clearly identified the timing of the coming of the Messiah through a prophecy concerning 70 weeks of yearsnumbers which we have seen involve holiness, completion, perfection, and cycles of time.
In that passage, Daniel ponders Jeremiah’s prediction that Jerusalem would remain in ruins for 70 years; then, Gabriel appears to him.
God Spoke It

God Spoke It

Gabriel confirms the timing for the end of captivity in Jeremiah’s prophecy, but he does not stop there.  He essentially tells Daniel that an end would come to captivity caused by sin:

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.”  (Daniel 9:24) 
This prophecy not only accurately predicts the year that Yeshua’s ministry began, but also His sacrificial death for the sins of the entire world, bringing righteousness to all who follow Him.  As well, it looks forward to the end of the age when the prophetic clock begins to tick again after the re-establishment of the independent state of Israel and the final 70th week plays out.
Yeshua’s cutting off only represents 69 of the 70 weeks.  The last week (7 years) is yet to unfold with the arrival of the anti-Messiah who will make peace that holds for 3 1/2 years.
The remaining 3 1/2 years will be a time of trouble that culminates in the return of Messiah (Daniel 9:27, 11:31; Matthew 24:15).
The prophecy of the 70 sevens reveals that God’s hand is on history and that we have a hope and a future.
That hope is not lost on many Jewish people who have been challenged to read the Messianic prophecy found in Daniel, as well as other Messianic prophecies.
For example, one worker said that Daniel’s vision of the 70 weeks was instrumental in leading him to faith in Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah).
“Before I became a Believer, a good friend who was later to become my pastor, explained to me how Yeshua had to be the Messiah since He appeared in accordance with the description given by Daniel in Daniel 9,” he said.
The Messianic prophecies of the Bible powerfully confirm the message that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah.
We are passionate about bringing Yeshua to the Jewish People through the Messianic prophecies.  Please help us place a copy of the Messianic Prophecy Bible into the hands of every Jewish person so that they can read in these key prophecies for themselves.
I will bless those who bless Israel.  (Genesis 12:3)

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Christians explain what a soul is, especially to non-Christians

The soul is that part of you that transcends life and death. It existed before you were born, as it did for Jeremiah (Jer 1:4-5), and it will exist after you physically die. Irrespective of your fate as a person who rejects God (Mark 9:47-48 – your ‘worm’ is your soul), or a person who finds God and eternal life (John 17:1-2, 3), your soul is eternal. It is the real you.

Genesis 1:26, “And God said, Let Us make a man in Our image, after Our likeness… 27, So God created man in His Own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.” God is a three part spiritual being. We worship God in spirit and in truth. We are body (physical), spirit, and soul. 1 Thessalonians 5:23, And the very GOD of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray. God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In Genesis when Adam sinned, the very essence of man’s nature changed. He became focused more on his soul, that is to say on his own wants. He rejected the spirit, the part of us that is God focused. The curse fell. The soul is the seat of desire. Also can be thought of as heart, your hearts desire. Remember God is a Spirit. We are all born spiritually dead. This is why we need Jesus! 1 Corinthians 15:42-50, 54 55.

It is my belief that you were created by Jesus (Col 1:15-16) at some point other than your birth (Eccl 1:10-11). I believe you existed at the Foundation of the World when God made a choice amongst His Creation (Eph 1:3-4), predestining some to be in His new kingdom (Eph 1:5-6). The grace we received was given before time began (2 Tim 1:8-9). It was based on merit. If it were not, then God could not, in my opinion, be praised as just and true in His choices, at the end of this age (Rev 15:3-4; 16:5-6, 7).

Jeremiah tells us that before he was formed in the womb, he was known by God. Romans 8:28-29 extends that scenario to those whom God called to be conformed to the image of His Son. The soul is shaped and bedecked in the womb with the accoutrements of a physical body. God does these things (Psalm 139:13-14) to a person’s “unformed substance” – their soul (Psalm 139:15-16). It is visible to God, but to us it cannot be seen:

Hebrews 11:3 (NKJV) By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

When we are born, we consist of two parts – physical body and soul. Until we believe on the One True God, and His only begotten Son, Jesus, we are separated from God – spiritually dead. Once we believe the Father, we pass out of spiritual death and into spiritual life (John 5:24). At that point, we become three parts – body, soul, and spirit – God’s Holy Spirit (1 Thess 5:23). What is it that the Father said that we must believe in, in order to obtain eternal life?

Jesus said the words He brings are not His, but from the Father who sent Him (John 14:24). Romans 10:8-9 states that whoever confesses with their mouth, the Lord Jesus, and believes in their heart that the Father raised Jesus from the dead, they will be saved. It is at the point of belief that the Father and Son will come into your heart, via the Holy Spirit, and make their abode with you (John 14:23). (Of which I get the church’s name, ‘The House of the Nazarene’! We house Jesus the Nazarene we are His abode!) Jesus spoke these words on the Father’s authority (John 14:10). He stands at the door of your heart (Rev 3:20), ready to fellowship with you by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit actually indwells a person who has believed. It is referred to in Scripture as being “in the Spirit” (Rom 8:9-10). Again, it requires that you believe God raised Jesus from the dead (Rom 8:11) in order to live by the Spirit (Rom 8:12-13) and qualify as sons of God (Rom 8:14). The Holy Spirit is sent as a teacher (John 14:26). It abides in us. (1 John 2:24-25). The ‘anointing’ (Holy Spirit) is given to us to lead us into all truth (1 John 2:27).

God the FatherTo conclude, the soul is the quintessential fabric of our very being. The physical body is only a covering. As Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:1, our earthly dwelling is a tent, but our heavenly dwelling is a body (spiritual body) not made with hands, i.e. not through procreation, but through transformation into the image of Jesus’ very nature, bearing His righteousness. And while we are in these physical bodies (2 Corinthians 5:2-3) we complain and wish to be in our heavenly bodies, that we may attain to eternal life (2 Corinthians 5:4). The Holy Spirit is given to us as a ‘guarantee’/pledge (2 Corinthians 5:5-6) so that we may find our way back to the Lord.

We will all die naturally. This physical body will die in its time. We will all share in eternity in our souls. This soul that is spiritually alive, thanks to Our Lord will be at home with God. 1 Corinthians 15:55, O death, where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? Jesus relates the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. His soul was in torment. He was spiritually dead. But he will have an eternity!

The spirit and the breath are the same throughout Scripture. When a person dies, it is God’s life-giving power, His breath, the spark of life that returns. The psalmist David states it this way: “His breath (spirit) goeth forth” (Psalm 146:4). It is not some conscious entity. It is not some immortal soul. The Hebrew word for breath throughout Old Testament Scripture is ‘ruach.’ This Hebrew word means air, wind or spirit. Job 27:3 talks about God’s spirit, or breath, in our nostrils. At death this spirit, or breath, returns to God.

God mercifully shuts our eyes at death to all of the sorrow, heartache and disappointment on earth. Since the “dead know not anything” (Ecclesiastes 9:5) and “in the grave there is not remembrance of you” (Psalm 6:5), it is only logical that “the dead praise not the Lord” (Psalm 115:17). The Bible compares death to a sleep more than 50 times. For Christians, death is like sleeping soundly, not aware of time passing (Revelation 14:13).

Jesus said in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” I look forward to that, and to the new glorious body, that I and all others, spiritually alive will spend soul fully in eternity. Thank you LORD for eyes to see and ears to hear.

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Baptized in Jesus’ Name (Acts 2:38), or in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19)

Acts 2:38 records the Apostle Peter’s words on the day of Pentecost, “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This was a strong affirmation by Peter that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Being baptized in the name of Jesus indicates an understanding by the person being baptized that Christ is the Savior.

Christian baptism is also in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Being baptized in this manner simply means we are identifying ourselves with the Trinity. We belong to the Father, are saved by the Son, and indwelt by the Spirit. This is similar to how we pray in Jesus’ name (John 14:13). If we pray in the name of Jesus, we are praying with His authority and asking God the Father to act upon our prayers because we come in the name of His Son, Jesus. Being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is being baptized in identification with them and their power over and in our lives. Jesus Himself specifically tells us to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

In the Book of Acts, new believers were baptized in the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:12; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5). It is, however, essentially the same thing, Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit are one (John 10:30; Acts 16:7). Per Jesus’ own instructions, believers should be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but as the book of Acts proves, baptizing in the name of Jesus is also done. The bottom line is that the name/names in which we are baptized is not as important as the recognition that baptism identifies us with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, our Savior. We are buried with Him and risen to walk with Him in newness of life.

Christian baptismThe Reality of this matter is that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not names they are titles of the three Persons of the Godhead. Jesus said I come in my Father’s Name! We know that Jesus came in His Authority for one, and secondly, He had the Name that is above all Names, yet not glorified yet, but was still the Name of God. As God there can be no Name greater than God’s Name. My contention is that the Three Persons of the Godhead share every Name ascribed to God, for they are fully one, and of one accord!

What if you die before being Baptized?

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Get to Know God Better

Everyone knows that God exists. “God has made it plain” that He is real, “for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). Some try to suppress the knowledge of God, most try to add to it. The Christian has a deep desire to know God better (Psalm 25:4).

In John 3 we read about a man who clearly wanted to know God better and who became more studied than most in the things of God. His name was Nicodemus, and he was a Pharisee, a ruler of the Jews. This Nicodemus knew that Jesus had come from God, and he was truly curious to learn more about Jesus. Jesus patiently explained to Nicodemus how he must be born again (verses 3-15). In order to know God better, Nicodemus had come to the right person “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9). Jesus is indeed the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14). Jesus revealed God through His words and works. He even said that no one comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6). If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus.

Sons and DaughtersSo, we must start with faith. The first step in knowing God better is to know Jesus Christ, who was sent from God (John 6:38). Once we are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can truly begin to learn about God, His character, and His will. “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). By contrast, “the person without the Spirit . . . cannot understand [the things of God] because they are discerned only through the Spirit” (verse 14). There is a difference between the “natural” man and the “spiritual” man.

Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” It cannot be emphasized enough how the study of God’s Word, the Bible, is paramount to knowing God better. We must, “like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it [we] may grow up in [our] salvation, now that [we] have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2-3). God’s Word should be our “delight” (Psalm 119:16, 24).

Those who are learning more about God are also those who obey the command to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Born-again believers always have the Holy Spirit, but Ephesians 5:15-21 teaches us to walk in the Spirit and surrender to His will.

Prayer is also an important part of knowing God better. As we pray, we praise God for His character and for what He has done. We spend time with Him, relying on His power and allowing the Spirit to intercede for us “through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26).

Also consider that one can get to know God better by fellowshipping with other believers. The Christian life was not meant to be lived alone. We learn more about God through the preaching of God’s Word and the godly counsel of those who walk with Him. Make the most of your church experience, get involved, do small-group Bible study, go witnessing with fellow believers. Just like a log ablaze on the hearth soon goes out when it is removed and placed aside, so we will lose our fervor for God if we do not fellowship with other believers. But put the log back into the fire with the other logs, and it will burn brightly again.

To summarize how to get to know God better: 1) Accept Christ as your Savior. 2) Read His Word…it is alive (Hebrews 4:12). 3) On an on-going basis, be filled with the Holy Spirit. 4) Seek the Lord through Prayer. 5) Fellowship and live out your life with the saints (Hebrews 10:25).

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Are You ready for the Jewish High Holy Days 5776/2016- 5777/2017?

For our Messianic Jew Brothers and Sisters, Shalom!

“These are My appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.”  (Leviticus 23:2)
The very special and holy time known as the High Holy Days—Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement)—is just around the corner.
These Biblical feasts and fasts, which are called moadim in Hebrew, are appointed times.
The Book of Leviticus in the Torah specifies the reason for each of them and how they are to be celebrated.
Although many people, including Christians, consider these holidays to be “Jewish holidays,” the moadim are in fact God’s Holy Days and festivals.
As such, they are entirely relevant to anyone who wants to know Him and have a better understanding of the New Covenant.  We invite you to share this special season with us!
“These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times.”  (Leviticus 23:4)

This Jewish Israeli wears his tallit (prayer shawl) over his head as he blows a
shofar fashioned from a Greater Kudu horn.
Sounding the Shofar in Preparation of Rosh HaShanah
We are now in the final days of Elul, the Hebrew month that is set aside as a time to repent and begin the process of asking for forgiveness in preparation for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.
Because of that, the shofar has been and is continuing to be sounded every morning except Shabbat in many Orthodox Jewish communities.
Its piercing, haunting sound stirs our hearts to seek God and repent of the sin in our lives.

Ram’s horn shofar: the call of the shofar is a call to teshuvah (repentance).
A well-known and greatly respected Jewish sage of the Middle Ages, Maimonides, likened the sound of the shofar to an alarm call that awakens us:
“Sleepers, arise from your slumber, and those who are dozing, awake from your lethargy.  Review your actions, repent from your sins, and remember your Creator!”  (Hilchot Teshuvah 3)
Likewise, the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) exhorts us to wake from our spiritual slumber and make the most of our time by loving and following God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength, rather than following empty or frivolous pursuits.
“Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Messiah will shine on you.  Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”  (Ephesians 5:14–16)

An Orthodox man earnestly petitions Elohim (God) at the Western Wall.
Selichot Confessions
As the new year approaches and the month of Elul draws to a close, the call to repentance is being felt all the more urgently throughout the Jewish community.
Since Rosh HaShanah begins on the evening of October 2, special penitential prayers called Selichot (pronounced s’lee-KHOT, meaning forgiveness) were added today to the daily morning prayer service in Ashkenazi communities (Jews of France, Germany, and Eastern Europe and their descendants).
However, the Sephardic Jewish community (Jews of Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East and their descendants) has been saying these special prayers throughout the month of Elul.
And they are not short; they add an extra 45 minutes to the regular daily morning service.
Moreover, they are often recited before the sun rises.
A central theme found throughout these prayers is the 13 Attributes of Mercy (Shelosh-Esreh Middot), which were revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai and enumerated in Exodus.
“The Lord, The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin.  Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished.”  (Exodus 34:6–7)

Selichot is prayed before the morning prayers.
The Hebrew word selichot is related to slichah, which is the equivalent expression for excuse me, I’m sorry, and forgive me.
Although we strive to live a pure and holy life before God, all of us sin and fall short of the glory of God.
Each one of us needs to repent and seek forgiveness for the many errors we make that hurt both ourselves and others.
“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.”   (Lamentations 3:40)

The days before Rosh HaShanah and throughout the High Holy Days are
characterized by seeking and extending forgiveness.
This is a special time in which we request forgiveness from those we have wronged and extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
Jewish tradition, in fact, holds that God cannot forgive us for sins that we commit against another until we obtain forgiveness from the person we wronged.
Forgiveness and saying sorry can be life changing.
They are crucial to leaving the past behind and moving forward with God’s plan for our lives.
Asking for forgiveness is pivotal to repentance, a closer walk with God and to successful relationships with our family, friends and our fellowman.

Women pray in Jerusalem.
Yeshua (Jesus) also identified unforgiveness as a critical issue.
He said that it would keep us from receiving forgiveness from our Heavenly Father.
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  (Matthew 6:14–15)
Since fallen human nature leads to sin and unforgiveness, God provided this special time to focus on repentance and forgiveness.

A Jewish man seeks God at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem.
This period of Selichot, repentance and forgiveness does not end on the last day of Elul, which is next Sunday.
In most Jewish communities, Selichot will continue to be recited in prayer services right through the Days of Awe or Ten Days of Repentance, a special ten-day period that begins with Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year) on October 2, and culminates with Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) on October 12.
This ten-day period is an even more intensive time of introspection and self-examination.
It provides everyone the opportunity to survey the condition of their lives and hearts and get right with God.
Yis-RA-El

Yis-RA-El

Interestingly enough, the very name Israel (pronounced Yis-RA-el in Hebrew) can be taken to mean right with God, from two Hebrew words—Yashar (straight, right, or honest) and El (God).

An Orthodox man in Jerusalem meditates on the
Tehillim (Psalms).
During these final days of Elul and throughout the High Holiday season, may we each be challenged to look inside ourselves, asking the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to reveal hidden sin in our hearts and lives.
Over the next three weeks, please join with the Jewish People worldwide and here in Israel, repeating the prayer of the Psalmist David:
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  (Psalm 139:23–24)
Amen!

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