Sabbath Blog

Web site updated weekly.
This web page last updated
November 25, 2022

All quoted scriptures are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.

I have been encouraged to write a blog for this site. There are different ways that could be done. I'm going to try writing a "Sabbath Blog" where I just take one paragraph to discuss some topic that has been on my mind during the week leading up to the Sabbath. I won't necessarily do this every Sabbath, like when I'm out of town, but I will try to do this most every Sabbath. I hope this will be spiritually enriching for those who read them. If they are, it is through the power of the Holy Spirit and all glory and credit should be given to God and God alone.

 

The Eternal God Promises Christians Eternal Life — November 26, 2022

We have been reviewing the scriptures on the eternal nature of God, that God “lives in eternity.” Here is one more scripture that states that God is eternal. Romans 16:26 (NLT), “But now as the prophets foretold and as the eternal God has commanded, this message is made known to all Gentiles everywhere, so that they too might believe and obey him.” We have reviewed that God’s Plan of Salvation was determined and set before the universe was created. The end result of God’s Plan of Salvation is to give Christians eternal life. John 6:40, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” God calls us His children, created in His image, and we are to become like Him at the First Resurrection. 1 John 3:1-2, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Paul talks many times about God offering us eternal life. Romans 2:6-7, “who will render to each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality;” Romans 6:22-23, “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Titus 1:2, “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began,”. Titus 3:7, “that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” The apostle John also talks about God’s promise of eternal life. 1 John 2:25, “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life.” 1 John 5:11-13, “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” Let us close with one of the most well-known scriptures in the Bible. John 3:15-16, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

God is Eternal — November 19, 2022

We have been discussing eternity, that God “lives in eternity,” God’s eternal Plan of Salvation, that God knows everything and that prophecy proves God is eternal. This Sabbath, let us review a few of the many scriptures that actually state both the Father and Son are Eternal Gods. Isaiah 40:28, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.” As in Isaiah, the Psalms also refer to God as the everlasting God. Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” Micah refers to the future Jesus as Messiah as having existed in the everlasting past. The Hebrew word used here to refer to “everlasting” is the strongest Biblical Hebrew word available to express all eternity. Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” Paul tells us that God the Father says that Jesus’ throne is eternal. Hebrews 1:8, “But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.’” Paul seems to refer to both the Father and Son as eternal in 1 Timothy 1:17, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” As a sidelight, angels are never referred to as eternal beings. They are spirit beings, but they are created spirit beings. For further discussion on this point, listen to the fifth sermon from the recent Feast of Tabernacles on the Church of God Santa Rosa website. Another way of saying the Father and Jesus are eternal is by stating They are the first and last. Isaiah 44:6, “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.’” This is also stated in Isaiah 41:4 and 48:12. In the New Testament this same description is used to refer to Jesus with the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Revelation 1:8, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” The Bible comes to a close with the same statement. Revelation 22:13, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” Let us give praise, honor and glory to the Eternal Father and the Everlasting Son.

The Eternal God Knows Everything — November 12, 2022

Hebrews 4:13 (NLT), “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” God is aware of everything. We should not limit God like the Israelites did. Psalm 78:41-42, “Yes, again and again they tempted God, And limited the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember His power: The day when He redeemed them from the enemy,”. God keeps track of every creature in His creation. Psalm 50:11, “ I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine.” In addition, God knows everything about you and me. Luke 12:6-7, “Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” We might think this is just a poetic statement to make a point, and that’s all. But no, this is absolutely true. God knows everything about us and every living creature. Not only the number of hairs we have, but the number of cells in our body, and so forth. God knows everything we do, everything we are going to say, even everything we think. Psalms 139:1-4 (NLT), “O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.” It is simple for God, He knows all things. 1 John 3:20, “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” The greatness of God is beyond human understanding. Isaiah 40:28, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.” Psalms 147:5 expresses the same thought, (NLT) “How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!” This awareness of His creation and all humans is not only a reflection of God’s unbelievable power, but also His great love. Let us always give praise and thanks to our Great Eternal God.

Prophecy Proves God is Eternal — November 5, 2022

We have been discussing what the Bible means when it states that God is Eternal, that God lives in eternity. Last Sabbath we reviewed the scriptures that state God’s Plan of Salvation was set in place before the universe was created. This Sabbath we will discuss how prophecy proves God exists past, present and future. How else could God predict, from our point of view, the future? It’s easy for God, because He has already witnessed our future. Only God can do this. Isaiah 41:23, “Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, That we may be dismayed and see it together.” Isaiah 46:9-10, “Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’”. Isaiah 48:5, “Even from the beginning I have declared it to you; Before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you, Lest you should say, ‘My idol has done them, And my carved image and my molded image Have commanded them.’” There are a host of a variety of prophecies that have come to pass from Joseph explaining what would happen to Pharaoh’s butler and wine steward to some of the kings of Israel and Judah to Cyrus. However, many of the Biblical prophecies have future fulfillments as in the book of Revelation. Some of the most amazing prophecies that have already been fulfilled are those about Jesus' first coming. Scholars vary on how many Old Testament prophecies Jesus fulfilled because some are very general. The number varies between 300 and 500 with many lists around 350 to 365. One list has 28 prophecies that were fulfilled on the day Jesus was crucified. Let’s look at just a few of these. Isaiah 53:3-5, “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” Psalm 22:1, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?” Psa 22:14-18, “I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” For a more detailed study of this topic, you can listen to the first and third sermons from this year’s Feast of Tabernacles at our Church of God Santa Rosa website.

God’s Eternal Plan of Salvation — October 29, 2022

Last Sabbath we discussed how God "lives in eternity", that is, God simultaneously exists at all times, past, present and future. God calls His offer of salvation His eternal plan. Ephesians 3:11 (NLT), “This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Another interesting Biblical fact is that God established His “Plan of Salvation,” that Jesus would die for our sins, before He created anything. 1 Peter 1:19-20, “but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” Revelation 13:8, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him [the Beast], whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The Father sent Jesus to die for our sins so that we might have eternal life (John 3:16). This also was determined before time began. Titus 1:2, “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began.” This is also stated as receiving grace through Jesus before time began. 2 Timothy 1:9, “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,”. As we have discussed, God knows all things, He knows all about us, and He knew all this before the creation of the universe. Ephesians 1:4-5, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,”. 1 Peter 1:2 (NLT), “God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace.” The Bible talks about predestination. This does not mean God predetermines whether or not we will be saved and then forces that outcome. It means God decides who to call and when He will call them. And He knows what the result of that will be according to how we respond with our freewill. Romans 8:29 (NLT), “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Acts 13:48, (NLT), “When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers.” For further discussion on these topics, listen to the second sermon from the recent Feast of Tabernacles on the Church of God Santa Rosa website. Let us give the Father and the Son glory for their Eternal Plan of Salvation and that we have been chosen to receive that opportunity.

The Everlasting God Lives in Eternity — October 22, 2022

Isaiah 57:15a, “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place,’” God created time. What is time? Time is the movement of heavenly bodies through space. The moon’s trip around the earth is a month. The earth’s journey around the sun is a year. Before God created the universe there was no such thing as “time.” God is not controlled by time. The name God gave to Moses to tell Israel was “I Am Who I Am. Exodus 3:14, “And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”” Continuing in verse 15 in the New Living Translation, “God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.’” In verse 15, the Hebrew word YHWH is translated "Lord" in many versions of the Bible. Scholars vary on the meaning of this Hebrew word YHWH from something as simple as “He Is” or “I Am” to “He Who Makes That Which Has Been Made” or “He Brings into Existence Whatever Exists.” The emphasis of this name is that God is self-existent. Approximately one-third of the Bible is prophecy. Isaiah 42:9, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.” How does God do that? Since God is not limited by time or subject to time, God exists past, present and future simultaneously, or, all at the same time. God is everywhere at all times. Since God exists in our future, He knows all things that will happen because to Him, they are history. Romans 4:17b, “God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;”. David understood the glory of God’s eternity. Psalms 139:4,16 (TMSG), “You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” This doesn’t mean God takes away our freewill. Since God simultaneously exists in our past, present and future, He knows what we will do with our freewill. Does God make some things happen? Yes He does. For instance, the seven seals, seven trumpet plagues and seven vials of Revelation. But for the most part, in our individual lives, God does not control our day-to-day events, He just knows what we will do when left on our own. Does He sometimes intervene in our lives? Yes He does. He answers prayers, He heals us and He protects us. It is a combination of both for Christians, God’s helpful intervention and our freewill. God is eternal, that is one of His names. He knows all things. For a more detailed study of this topic, you can listen to the short sermons from this year’s Feast of Tabernacles at our Church of God Santa Rosa website. We will continue to discuss this in future Sabbath Thoughts. For now, let us close with Acts 15:18, ““Known to God from eternity are all His works.”

The Eighth Day, the Feast with No Name — October 15, 2022

On this coming Monday, we will observe the “Eight Day” of the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles. That’s the way it is described in the Bible. Leviticus 23:33-36, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the Lord. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it.’” Leviticus 23:39, “Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest.” Some churches only count this as one feast with two holy days. They only count three fall feast of God. They add Wave Sheaf Sunday as a Feast of Firstfruits making four spring feast to get seven in total. However, Wave Sheaf Sunday is not a holy day. We rightly count four separate fall feasts of God even though the Eighth Day immediately follows the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles. For the Churches of God, this Eighth Day represents the final phases of God’s Plan of Salvation. It pictures all the salvation events that will occur after the 1000 year Millennium. This Eighth Day is often referred to as the “Great White Throne Judgment Day” as described in Revelation 20:11-12, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” We believe it is more than just this judgment day, that in addition this Eighth Day also represents all the events described in Revelation 21 and 22. These two chapters picture a new heaven and a new earth when the heavenly Jerusalem will descend to this earth along with our Father and Jesus. God does not give us a lot of details about this time period as it is not necessary for us to know at this time relative to our own salvation. However, we do know that God is a loving and fair God who will not assign those who have never even heard about our Savior Jesus to the Lake of Fire. In some way, somehow, God will give everyone a chance to know Him and make a choice whether to accept Jesus as their Savior. Most will, but the incorrigible wicked will refuse and be cast into the Lake of Fire. Revelation 20:14-15, “Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Let us all continue to praise and worship God our Father and Jesus our Savior for their “complete” Plan of Salvation eventually available to all humans who have ever lived.

Sukkot, Feast of Tabernacles — October 8, 2022

Sukkot is the Hebrew word meaning tabernacle or booth. Religious Jews construct a temporary structure made out of lumber, grass, palm branches, or any other natural substance. It is usually decorated with natural materials including tree branches, leaves, flowers, vegetables and fruit. It can be a separate structure or connected to their home. During the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, many people will eat their meals and sleep in their Sukkot for the entire seven days. Others will just spend several hours each day in their Sukkot. This observance is commanded in Leviticus 23:39-43, “Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the Lord for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” For the Jews, this is reminder that they were totally dependent on God for their survival during the 40 years in the wilderness. For Christians, this feast pictures the 1000 year Millennium when the resurrected saints will rule with Jesus over the earth. Revelation 20:4, “And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” There are a multitude of Old Testament scriptures that refer to this Millennium. One of the best known is Isaiah 11:6-9, “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord As the waters cover the sea.” This Feast of Tabernacles will be kept in the Millennium with representatives from all nations required to attend in Jerusalem. Zechariah 14:16, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” We too should be keeping this feast now. May everyone who does have a joyous time in celebrating this Feast of Tabernacles before God our Father and Jesus His Son.

Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement — October 1, 2022

Yom Kippur is this coming Wednesday. The Hebrew word “Yom” in English means “day.” And “kippur” is translated to “atonement.” This is based on Leviticus 23:27, “Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.” The actual Hebrew word translated “atonement” in this verse is “kippurim,” which literally translated would be “cleansing.” The Day of Atonement is a God given Holy Day to atone for our sins and become cleansed and purified from them. Passover is more about forgiveness which can only occur through the shed blood of our Savior Jesus Christ. The importance of Passover is what Jesus did for us. The Day of Atonement also has this aspect, however, the emphasis on this day is the cleansing and purification of both the temple or church and the people who worship therein, the congregation. The emphasis is on what we the people do in response to what God has done for us. Leviticus 16:30, “For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.” Passover is about the forgiveness of individual sins. Atonement is about the forgiveness and cleansing of a group and their place of worship—Israel and the Temple in Old Testament time, Christians and the church in New Testament times. Leviticus 16:32-34, “’And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father’s place, shall make atonement, and put on the linen clothes, the holy garments; then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary [Holy of Holies], and he shall make atonement for the tabernacle of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year.’ And he did as the Lord commanded Moses.” In order for this to happen, the congregation must be in a state of humility and repentance. Hence, this day is a day to afflict our souls, that is, a day of fasting. Leviticus 23:27 which we first quoted, and Leviticus 16:31, “It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever.” This is a most solemn and holy day with special spiritual significance. May all of us reap the blessings inherit in the observance of this Day of Atonement.

Rosh Hashanah, Feast of Trumpets — September 24, 2022

Next Monday is Rosh Hashanah. This is the Jewish name given to the Biblical Holy Day referred to as the Feast of Trumpets. Rosh Hashanah in Hebrew literally means “Head of the Year.” It is the first day of the Jewish civil year. However, later God changed the first month to the spring time which is known as the “sacred calendar.” The Jews believe that on this day in history God created Adam and Eve. The term “Rosh Hashanah” is nowhere used in the Bible. The Bible refers to this day as a “memorial of blowing of trumpets.” Leviticus 23:23-24, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: “In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation.”’” “Blowing of trumpets” is translated from a single Hebrew word, “teruah.” It does not specifically mean to blow a trumpet but can include that action. The Hebrew word actually means “clamor, acclamation of joy, jubilee, battle cry, triumph, alarm, joy, loud noise, rejoicing, shouting and sounding a trumpet. The emphasis of the Feast of Trumpets is not to be on the instrument or devise making the sound, but on the noise or sound it makes which represents the sound of joy. For Holy Day keeping Christians, the Feast of Trumpets represents many things. It pictures the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the First Resurrection. 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” This day represents our joyful worship of God concerning the announcements of His future blessings and salvation for the whole world. Psalms 98:3-6, “He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. Sing to the Lord with the harp, With the harp and the sound of a psalm, With trumpets and the sound of a horn; Shout joyfully before the Lord, the King.” May you have a wonderful Feast of Trumpets as you proclaim your joy with praises for our Great God and Father and His Wonderful Son Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Fear Not, Part 11 — September 17, 2022

Now we come to the New Testament scriptures relative to be not afraid. There are several scriptures related to personal fear due to an unusual situation where they were told not to be afraid. Let us look at those. Zechariah, seeing in angel in the temple, Luke 1:13, “But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.’” Mary, being told she would have a son by the Holy Spirit, Luke 1:30-31, “Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.’” Joseph, finding out Mary was pregnant, Matthew 1:20, “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’” The shepherds upon seeing singing angels, Luke 2:10-11, “Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” Jairus, being told his daughter was dead, Luke 8:50, “But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; only believe, and she will be made well.’” Peter, James and John after catching no fish all night being told to cast their nets once more, Luke 5:9-10, “For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.’” These same three disciple who saw Jesus’ transfiguration, Matthew 17:5-7, “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’ And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, ‘Arise, and do not be afraid.’” The disciples when they saw Jesus walking on water in the middle of the night, Matthew 14:27, “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’” The women who went to the garden tomb finding it empty, Matthew 28:5-6, “But the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.’” As these women left the tomb seeing Jesus, Matt 28:9-10, “And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, ‘Rejoice!’ So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.’” While it is highly unlikely we will face similar situations, we do experience difficult circumstances in our own lives that can cause trepidation and fear. Our Heavenly Father and Jesus would tell us the same thing, don’t be afraid, I am with you and watching over you. Also note the warm and comforting way in which Jesus told these people not to be afraid. Jesus also wants to comfort us in our own difficulties. Next time on this topic we will cover the rest of the New Testament scriptures.

1 Peter 1:3-9 — September 10, 2022

In this section of scripture, Peter uses a variety of superlatives to make his points. He first talks about God’s abundant mercy and living hope. In verse 6 he says we greatly rejoice even though we are grieved by various trials. The reason for greatly rejoicing in our trials is so the genuineness of our faith, which is more precious than gold, may be purified so that it will bring us much praise, honor and glory at the Second Coming of Jesus. Next, Peter describes rejoicing with a glorious, inexpressible joy. Peter’s goal is to strengthen all Christian brethren in their trials. He compares the purpose of trials to the purifying of gold by fire, that is, trials help us eliminate the flaws in our Christian character. Peter describes this as two opposing emotional states that coexist at the same time, somewhat of a paradox: suffering affliction but simultaneously rejoicing in salvation. The sadness of the present trials versus the future joy. It is worth everything for us to establish the true quality of our faith. To encourage us that this process is worth the experience, Peter makes many references to our salvation. While the process can be painful, the end result is a good thing, the salvation of our souls. As we conclude this discussion, let us quote 1 Peter 1:3-9. Please note how often Peter refers to our salvation and Second coming of Jesus before and after his statement on our trials in verse 6. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.”

Promises of God, Salvation, Part 9 — September 3, 2022

In one sense, the whole Bible is about God the Father’s Plan of Salvation. There are many different ways in which this plan and how we obtain eternal life through faith are expressed in the Bible. One important emphasis is that we are saved through Jesus Christ. Joseph was told by an angel that his future wife would bear a son to save humanity. Matthew 1:21, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Simon, a devout man, had it revealed to him that he would see the Savior before his death. He quotes from Isaiah, showing that even the Old Testament foretold of salvation for the Gentiles. Luke 2:30-32, “For my eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” Jesus stated many times that His purpose was to save others. Here are just two. Luke 19:10, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” John 10:9, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Peter preached about this in his first sermon on Pentecost. Acts 2:21, “And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.” Paul also talked about this. Romans 10:9, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:13, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 1 Timothy 1:15, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Notice how positive and encouraging these scriptures are, a sure promise from God our Father. Also note how simple this is stated, believe in Jesus as Savior and we will be saved. But remember, Jesus did say if we love Him, we would keep His commandments (John 14:15). Let us close with a verse from John’s conclusion in his gospel. John 20:31, “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Fear Not, Part 10 — August 27, 2022

Sadly, because of Israel’s disobedience in the end times, God will punish Israel and allow them to go into captivity once again. However, God promises to rescue them and tells them many times not to be afraid. Lamentations 3:55-57, “I called on Your name, O Lord, From the lowest pit. You have heard my voice: ‘Do not hide Your ear From my sighing, from my cry for help.’ You drew near on the day I called on You, And said, ‘Do not fear!” Haggai 2:5, “According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’” God tells Israel He will not only bring them out of captivity, He will also greatly bless them. Joel 2:21-22, “ Fear not, O land; Be glad and rejoice, For the Lord has done marvelous things! Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field; For the open pastures are springing up, And the tree bears its fruit; The fig tree and the vine yield their strength.” Zephaniah 3:16-17, “In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: ‘Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak. The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.’” Zechariah 8:13, 15, “And it shall come to pass That just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, So I will save you, and you shall be a blessing. Do not fear, Let your hands be strong. So again in these days I am determined to do good To Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear.” These were warnings Israel did not want to receive and they rejected God’s prophets of old. But God told his prophets to be strong. Ezekiel 3:9, “Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.” And then we have a personal message from God by an angel to Daniel. Daniel 10:12, “Then he said to me, ‘Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.’” Daniel was overwhelmed by the visions he received. To encourage Daniel, the angel said, Daniel 10:19a, “And he said, ‘O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be to you; be strong, yes, be strong!’ …” These are words all of us would like to hear. And we can if we are faithful and obedient like Daniel.

Jesus’ 48th Command — August 20, 2022

Be a Servant. Matthew 20:25-28, “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.’” Jesus made this statement in response to His disciples’ argument about who be the greatest future ruler among them. The disciples had this debate several times, one time prior to the preceding. Mark 9:33-35, “Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, ‘What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?’ But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.’” Jesus taught many times that we should humble ourselves and serve others. Matthew 23:11-12, “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” He also taught that when we serve others, it is the same as serving Him. Matt 25:37-40, “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” Jesus set the greatest example of humble service by washing His disciples’ feet at His last Passover on this earth. And then He suffered and died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. The apostle Paul also emphasized this principle many times in his letters. Here are just a few. 1 Corinthians 9:19, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;” Serving others fulfills the second greatest commandment. Galatians 5:13-14, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Peter reminds us to use whatever talent God has given us to serve others. 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” The promise of eternal life is a gift from God that we cannot earn with good works. However, in addition, God promises us a reward which is based on our good works. Hebrews 6:10, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” Let us remember the importance of humble service towards one another and put it into practice in our daily lives.

Promises of God, Salvation, Part 8 — August 13, 2022

Adoption. Ephesians 1:5, “having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,”. There are many analogies of human relationships that God uses to picture our future relationship with Him. God does refer to us Christians as His adopted children. The apostle Paul uses the word adoption five times. We must remember that only Jesus was literally conceived by the Father through Mary by the power of His Holy Spirit. 1 John 4:9, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” (See also John 1:18 and John 3:16, 18) We all have human beings for parents. Only Jesus had God the Father as a literal parent. However, God promises to consider us as His real children through adoption whereby we can enter His spiritual family and kingdom through the resurrection. Romans 8:23, “Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” Romans 9:4, “who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises;”. Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” When we become the spiritual adopted sons and daughters of God the Father, we will have full rights like born children. We will be joint-heirs with Jesus, the only begotten Son of God. Romans 8:15-17, “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” What a future we have to look forward to as adopted children into the spiritual family of God our Father with Jesus our Big Brother.

Fear Not, Part 9 — August 6, 2022

God’s prophets often face persecution for warning God’s people. But God tells His prophets not be afraid. Jeremiah 1:7-8, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord.” Ezekiel 3:9, “Like adamant stone, harder than flint, I have made your forehead; do not be afraid of them, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they are a rebellious house.” God warns Israel against cutting trees out of the forest and then nailing it to the floor and decorating it with silver and gold. He goes on to say, Jeremiah 10:5, “They are upright, like a palm tree, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, For they cannot do evil, Nor can they do any good.” God promises to bless those who trust in Him. Jeremiah 17:7-8, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.” Notice how God states that He will punish Israel for the rebellion and disobedience. Yet, He tells them not to fear because He has not forgotten them. Jeremiah 46:28, 27, “Do not fear, O Jacob My servant,” says the Lord, “For I am with you; For I will make a complete end of all the nations To which I have driven you, But I will not make a complete end of you. I will rightly correct you, For I will not leave you wholly unpunished.” “But do not fear, O My servant Jacob, And do not be dismayed, O Israel! For behold, I will save you from afar, And your offspring from the land of their captivity; Jacob shall return, have rest and be at ease; No one shall make him afraid.” These Old Testament scriptures can apply spiritual to you and me as we experience our own tests and trials. God can have many reasons for allowing us to experience tests and trials. However, He does not want us to fear or be afraid regardless of the circumstances because He is always with us.

Jesus’ 47th Command — July 30, 2022

Honor Marriage. Mark 10:2-9, “The Pharisees came and asked Him, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ testing Him. And He answered and said to them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce, and to dismiss her.’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.’” Notice that Jesus uses the word “permitted,” not “commanded” as in a command from God. Moses allowed this mainly to protect the women of Israel. Unfortunately, back then, women were often treated like property. Men could divorce their wives, but wives generally were not permitted to divorce their husbands. Additionally, a man could have “thrown out” his wife without a divorce certificate and she could have been destitute and an outcast. Moses permitted divorce to preserve some rights and dignity for the wife. Jesus is saying this is never what God originally intended. There are several proverbs about marriage. One such is Proverbs 31:10, “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.” Solomon commands husbands in Ecclesiastes 9:9(NLT), “Live happily with the woman you love through all the meaningless days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil.” God says He isn’t listening to Israel because He hates all the divorcing they do. Malachi 2:14-16, “Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the Lord has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. For the Lord God of Israel says ‘That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,’ Says the Lord of hosts. ‘Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.’” Paul also states authoritatively to esteem marriage. Hebrews 13:4(NLT), “Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.” For a more thorough review of all the Bible scriptures on divorce and remarriage, please read the article “Divorce and Remarriage – The Assumption” on the Church of God Santa Rosa website.

Promises of God, Salvation, Part 7 — July 23, 2022

We are reviewing the scriptures that mention our salvation. A wonderful summary is 1 Peter 1:3-5, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Our salvation is the end result of our belief in God our Father and Jesus our Savior. 1 Peter 1:9, “receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” In retrospect, with our historical knowledge of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can understand God’s Plan of Salvation much better than the patriarchs of the Old Testament. 1 Peter 1:10-11, “Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” God’s patience with us gives us time to repent for salvation. 2 Peter 3:15, “and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,”. In the book of Revelation, we are told three times that our salvation belongs to God. Revelation 7:10, “and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 12:10a, “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, …’” Let us close with the praises from heaven regarding our salvation from our Great God. Revelation 19:1, “After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, ‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!’”

Jesus 46th Command — July 16, 2022

Beware of Covetousness. Luke 12:15, “And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’” Almost all modern translation use “every kind of greed” or a similar phrase instead of the word “covetousness.” Jesus taught that physical things, physical wealth is not what is important in life. It is not wrong or a sin to possess physical wealth as long as it is not a deterrent or distraction in seeking the Kingdom of God first. Luke 8:14, “Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” Paul states covetousness is a sin that can keep one from entering the Kingdom of God. Ephesians 5:3, 5, “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;… For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” Paul was also inspired to say greed is idolatry because it is worshiping the things of this world. Colossians 3:5, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Paul also warns that greediness can destroy a Christian. 1 Timothy6:9-10, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” God promises to take care of our physical needs, therefore we need not covet what we don’t have. Hebrews 13:5, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ’I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Instead Jesus told us accumulate wealth in heaven above. Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Jesus 45th Command — July 9, 2022

Forgive those who do you wrong. Matthew 18:21-22, “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” We have this well-known scripture where Peter wanted to limit the number of times he had to forgive someone for offending him. Jesus said 490 times, which obviously means there is no limit. This same sentiment is expressed in Luke 17:3-4, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” Most all scriptures on this topic state we as individuals must forgive others in order to be forgiven ourselves by God our Father. Considering the above two scriptures, do we want God to limit the number of times He will forgive our sins? Of course not. After giving us the “Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus said, Matthew 6:14-15, “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.” Mark states that Jesus said if we want our prayers heard, first forgive others. Mark 11:25(NLT), “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” Jesus stated several conditions that God responds to accordingly. Luke 6:37, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” The apostle Paul also emphasized this principle. Ephesians 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Colossians 3:13, “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” Jesus set the ultimate example. What He said was not just said to the Jews and Romans who crucified Him, it applies to all of us because our sins necessitated His death. Let us close with that scripture. Luke 23:34, “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’”

Fear Not, Part 8 — July 2, 2022

We will review some of the “fear not” scriptures in Isaiah this Sabbath. Isaiah was a prophet during the reigns of five kings in Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah and Manasseh. Jewish tradition says Manasseh had Isaiah sawn in two, but there is no historical source that can confirm this. There are two categories in the book of Isaiah about “fear not.” The first is for Judah and its king not to be afraid of their enemy. To Ahaz, Isaiah 7:4, “and say to him: ‘Take heed, and be quiet; do not fear or be fainthearted for these two stubs of smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and the son of Remaliah.” Later, regarding the Assyrian army, Isaiah 8:11-12(NLT), “The LORD has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, ‘Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them.’” Years later to king Hezekiah, Isaiah 37:6, “And Isaiah said to them, ‘Thus you shall say to your master, Thus says the Lord: Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me.’” The majority of scriptures in Isaiah on “fear not,” about 10, are relative to the Millennium. Let us look at a few of them. A very comforting scripture in Isaiah 12:1-3, “O Lord, I will praise You; Though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For YAH, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation. Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation.” Isaiah 35:4, “Say to those who are fearful-hearted, Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” Another Millennial scripture is Isaiah 40:9, “O Zion, You who bring good tidings, Get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, You who bring good tidings, Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’” While God sends Judah and Israel into end-time captivity, He tells them He has not forsaken them. Isaiah 41:8-10, “But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, The descendants of Abraham My friend. You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its farthest regions, And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away: Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’” God promises to enlarge Israel in the Millennium. Isaiah 54:3-4, “For you shall expand to the right and to the left, And your descendants will inherit the nations, And make the desolate cities inhabited. Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; For you will forget the shame of your youth, And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.” God also promises Israel they will never need to fear their enemies again. Isaiah 54:14, “In righteousness you shall be established; You shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; And from terror, for it shall not come near you.”

Jesus' 44th Command — June 25, 2022

Go to offender and seek reconciliation. Matthew 18:15-17, “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” Notice that this is presented as “if your brother,” meaning someone close to you among your relatives, church members or close friend. This is not something one would necessarily do with a someone you barely know or a coworker. This principle has seldom been practiced and carried out correctly. And it is not easy to do this. Generally, we don’t like to confront others who are close to us. Or when we do, it is because we have let the situation fester to the point where we are angry. This is different, the opposite so-to-speak, of Jesus’ 7th command where He states if we have sinned against a brother, go to him in repentance seeking reconciliation (Matthew 5:21-22). The apostle Paul states that between brethren in the church, if there is a disagreement, it should be solved within the church, not in the world’s legal system. 1 Corinthians 6:1, “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? ” As already stated, doing this process correctly is difficult. It should be done with the right timing, tact, gentleness and genuine concern for the other individual. Galatians 6:1 (NLT), “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.” Paul also discusses this topic in his other letters. 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all.” 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15, “And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.” Also in Jude 1:23 (NLT), “Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” We must also remember that we are commanded to forgive others who sin against us and repent. Let us close with Jesus’ admonition regarding this point. Luke 17:3-4, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

Fear Not, Part 7 — June 18, 2022

This Sabbath, we will continue our review of the scriptures on “fear not.” It is always amazing to me when we pick a particular topic like this one, find all the relative scriptures, and discover just how many there are. As we have discussed before, there is a reason why God inspired so many of these scriptures with the challenges we face in this physical life. Many of these scriptures state to trust in God when we are faced with fearful situations. Psalm 56:3-4, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” God led Israel out of Egypt and kept them safe. Psalm 78:53, “And He led them on safely, so that they did not fear; But the sea overwhelmed their enemies.” God doesn’t promise us a life as a “bed of roses,” but He does promise us we don’t have to afraid of the wicked. No matter what test and trials we may suffer, we should remember God supports His saints. Psalm 118:6, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” God promises that if we obey Him, He will grant us wisdom and we can then rest in peace. Proverbs 3:24-25, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror, Nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes;” The opposite of fear is peace. God not only tells us we don’t have to be afraid, He promises us peace. This is a related topic with many scriptures, let us close with just one. Psalm 29:11, “The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.”

Promises of God, Salvation Part 6 — June 11, 2022

This Sabbath we will continue our review of the scriptures that mention salvation. Paul discusses with Titus how we should live righteously while we wait for our Savior Jesus Christ to appear. Titus 2:11-14, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Paul continues this discussion in the next chapter emphasizing the kindness and love of our Savior God. Titus 3:4-7, “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Paul later on discusses that the purpose of angels is to serve those who will inherit salvation. Hebrews 1:14, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” Jesus’ purpose is to bring many sons and daughters to salvation as our leader. Hebrews 2:10, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Jesus is also the source and author of our salvation. Hebrews 5:9, “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,”. Of course, we know Jesus died bearing our sins and that He will appear again at His Second Coming to deliver salvation to His saints in the first resurrection. Hebrews 9:28, “so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” There are so many wonderful scriptures mentioning our salvation. What a wonderful God and Father and His Son Jesus our Savior who in their great love for us through their grace and mercy, offer us the gift of salvation with eternal life. Let us always give thanks to God our Father and Jesus singing songs of praise and worship.

Counting Pentecost — June 4, 2022

The Bible commands us to count 50 days in order to keep Pentecost correctly. Leviticus 23:15-16, “And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord.” How many Holy Day keepers actually do a literal personal counting of 50 days? Instead, they just keep the day their church tells them to. Let’s examine this closer. Days were counted quite differently in former times by the Jews and other peoples. They did not count a day “as a day” until its conclusion. Please remember that the two men walking on the first day of the week when Jesus appeared to them said it was “the third day” since Jesus’ death. Luke 24:21, “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened.” They said it was “the third day” because the day was not yet over. We today would say it was the fourth day. Jesus was put in the garden tomb late Wednesday shortly before sunset. Thursday was “day one” as the first Holy Day of Unleavened Bread. Friday was “day two” on which the women bought and prepared spices for burial. Saturday was “day three,” the weekly Sabbath. And we would call Sunday “day four.” But not the Jews, the day was incomplete, they didn’t count it as a full day until its conclusion at sunset. This is an extremely import concept in how we should count Pentecost. The Jews counted days the same way we count years, we don’t count a year as a year, a full year, until 365 days have expired. Notice that the year of Jubilee was a count of 49 years, THEN the year of Jubilee was kept. Leviticus 25: 8-10, “And you shall count seven Sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven Sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years. Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family.” Note that for Jubilee, 49 years were to be counted and THEN Jubilee was kept. Please reread Leviticus 23:15-16. Let us read that in the New Living Translation, “From the day after the Sabbath—the day you bring the bundle of grain to be lifted up as a special offering—count off seven full weeks. Keep counting until the day after the seventh Sabbath, fifty days later. Then present an offering of new grain to the LORD.” 50 days were to be counted, THEN offer a new grain offering on Pentecost. 50 days must be complete before observing Pentecost. Observe that the Bible even tells us which is the last day of the 50 day count, the day following the weekly Sabbath. Just like in counting 49 years and then keeping Jubilee, we must count 50 days and then keep Pentecost. Try these two exercises. One, count 50 days by counting quarters of a day, or even half days. And two, do a countdown by partial days, backwards from 50. In both cases, you do not reach 50 or zero until Sunday evening at sunset. If you start observing Pentecost immediately following the weekly Sabbath you have only counted 49 days or still have one day left in a countdown. Some may think that this means we are keeping the 51st day. First, nowhere in the Bible does it say to “keep” the 50th day, the Bible only says to count 50 days before keeping Pentecost. Second, remember, a Biblical day is not counted as a full day until its completion. Let us count by quarter days to illustrate these critical points. The last Saturday in the count at sunset is 49 days. In the middle of the night it is 49 ¼ days. Sunday morning, 49 ½ days. Sunday noon, 49 ¾ days. Sunday at sunset, 50 days. Sunday midnight, 50 ¼. Monday morning, 50 ½ days. Monday noon, 50 ¾ days. Therefore, according to the way the Bible counts days, Monday is the 50th day, until sunset when at its conclusion it historically becomes the 51st day. Think on that in prayer before our God. There are several examples in the Bible where a set number of days were to be counted and then on the following day, after the count was complete, the desired action was to take place. For these scriptures and a more detailed explanation on how to correctly count 50 days to Pentecost, please go to the Church of God Santa Rosa website and read the articles on Pentecost. www.cogsr.org/articles

Jesus’ 43 Command — May 27, 2022

Do not despise those young in the faith. Matthew 18:10, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” Mark 9:42, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” All Christians come to conversion at different times in their lives. We progress at different rates in our Bible knowledge, spiritual understanding and development of faith, hope and love. Jesus is saying to be patient and help those who are new to the Christian belief. The apostle Paul addresses this same situation. Romans 14:1, “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.” However, Paul adds not to get into arguments over little details. He then goes on to say in verse 13 (NLT), “So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” Paul continues the discussion in the next chapter, Romans 15:1 (NLT), “We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves.” The apostle Paul was always being considerate of other Christians, thinking about how his behavior would have an impact on them. 1 Corinthians 9:22-23, “to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” There are many scriptures stating Christians should help one another. Let us close with one. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.”

Fear Not, Part 6 — May 21, 2022

In our Christian lives we have many tests and trials. We could become discouraged because of this. However, if we trust in God, He will eventually see us through these type of events in our lives. Faith is the opposite of fear. Even in the worst of tests and trials we should not fear, but have faith God sees us in our difficulties and will help us. Many are the Psalms that reflect this. David said he would not be afraid even though surrounded by ten thousand enemies when he was forced to flee from Absalom. Psalm 3:1-6, “Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’ Selah But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me all around.” This principle is also stated in the famous 23rd Psalm, verse 4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” David continually put his trust in God. Psalm 27:1-3, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me To eat up my flesh, My enemies and foes, They stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, In this I will be confident.” Psalm 46:1-2, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;” Because God will strengthen us, guide us and protect us, we don’t need to live in fear. Faith triumphs over fear.

Promises of God, Salvation Part 5 — May 14, 2022

In one sense, it could be said that the whole Bible is relative to God’s Plan of Salvation. Whether it be His laws, the gospel, prophecies and even history. We are to learn lessons beneficial to our salvation through all of these Bible categories. Of course, there are a multitude of scriptures that are specific statements of God’s Plan of Salvation. It is those scriptures we are reviewing in these Sabbath Thoughts. God wants to give us the gift of salvation to eternal life, not eternal death. 1 Thessalonians 5:8-10, “But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” Unfortunately, we know some will reject the Father’s offer of salvation. However, it is the Father’s desire that all humans would accept His offer. 1 Timothy 2:3-4, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” As we have discussed before, God has a time order, He is not trying to save all humanity at this time, He will at a future date after a physical resurrection of the unsaved dead. It is a great but difficult privilege to be called in this lifetime with the opportunity to be in the first resurrection, a resurrection to spiritual life. 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,”. The apostle Paul strove to preach this truth even though it resulted in great hardships for him personally. 2 Timothy 2:10-12a, “Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. …” God does not speak directly to us about salvation, but through His inspired scriptures. 2 Timothy 3:15, “and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” What a glorious God the Father and God the Son we have who are offering us such an unfathomable gift of eternal life in the God family.

Jesus 42nd Command — May 7, 2022

Be humble as a little child in order to enter the Kingdom of God. Matthew 18:2-5, “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.’” Humility, next to love, is one of the most important qualities God desires His children to develop. Love is humble. 1 Corinthians 13:4 (NLT), “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud”. The twelve disciple argued several times as to who would be the greatest. Jesus always taught them the same lesson. Luke 22:24-27, “Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.’” The importance of humility is also stressed in the Old Testament. Psalm 131:1-2 (TMSG), “God, I’m not trying to rule the roost, I don’t want to be king of the mountain. I haven’t meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans. I’ve kept my feet on the ground, I’ve cultivated a quiet heart. Like a baby content in its mother’s arms, my soul is a baby content.” God emphasizes the type of person He prefers in Isaiah 57:15, “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.’” Jesus used the example of a little child more than once. Mark 9:34-37, “But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.’ Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, ‘Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.’” Mark 10:14-15, “But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.’” James must have had this in mind when he wrote James 4:10, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” There are many different ways we express pride, arrogance and vanity. This is a character flaw we all should examine ourselves and strive to rid our lives of it.

Genesis 1:1 First Word in Hebrew — April 30, 2022

Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” These famous first ten words in the English Bible are from seven Hebrew words. The first Hebrew word is “bereshit” and is translated “in the beginning.” As we discussed in a previous Sabbath Thought, Hebrew started as a pictorial alphabet where each letter represents a physical item. The Word Bereshit (בראשׁית) in Hebrew letters, right to left, is: Beyt, Resh, Aleph, Shin, Yud, Tav (remember, Hebrew is read right to left.) The very first letter Beyt represents a house, inn or family in the ancient Hebrew picture language (not the modern script letters). In the Torah, the first letter is enlarged, showing the foundation of the world is focused on God’s house. The second letter Resh represents a man’s head signifying first, top, beginning, or person of authority. The third Hebrew letter in Bereshit is Aleph drawn as an ox head in ancient Hebrew pictorial letters representing strong, power, a leader. It is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and represents Elohim. Aleph is often referred to as the “God letter.” Letter number four is Shin, a picture of teeth representing sharp, press, eat, consume and destroy. The fifth letter Yud is a picture of an arm and/or hand and represents a hand, work, throw, or worship. The sixth letter is Tav and is crossed sticks in ancient pictorial Hebrew. It represents a mark, to sign, a covenant, a signal, or monument. Admittedly, we have to be creative in how we view these Hebrew letters, sometimes taking them one at a time, at others combining them. The first two letters spell “bar” meaning “son” in Hebrew and shows the focus is on the house or kingdom of the Son! The first four letters: Beit, Resh, Aleph, Shin, spell the Hebrew word for big tree or timber. The second, third and fourth letters, Resh, Aleph, Shin, equates to our English word head. The last three letters of bereshit, Shin, Yud, Tav make up the Hebrew word shayit. This Hebrew word can have many meanings: thorns, appointed, to lay down. Taking a selected meaning of each letter we have, “house head God destroyed hand mark.” Taking a little artistic poetic sentence structure, selecting words that would make sense in a sentence for each letter or combination of letters, we can come up with “The Son of God crowned with thorns upon His head on a tree.” Of course, we now use Biblical history of what happened to Jesus to guide the word selection, meanings and combinations to use. With this spiritual guidance in mind, sometimes combining letters, we can come up with, “The Son of God is destroyed by His own hand on the cross.” Another possibility is, “The Son of God is destroyed by His own hand making a new covenant.” If we believe in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” then we believe these interpretations are possible. The literal Greek for this scripture is “All scripture is God breathed.” God gave His chosen people the Hebrew language for a reason. This is the language God chose for the Old Testament. God did all this for our religious benefit and growth in spiritual knowledge. However, what is far more important is the overall spiritual message of the Old Testament regardless of which language in which we read it. How the Hebrew alphabet and words are used is interesting, but it is not necessary for our salvation. What is far more important is God’s Plan of Salvation as revealed to us in both the Old and New Testaments.

Repentance — April 23, 2022

In the last two Sabbath Thoughts we have discussed how Jesus suffered and died for our sins and how we are to strive to put sin out of our lives. But, we all know none of us is able to perfectly put sin out of our lives. That is why we need forgiveness of sins. However, in addition to Jesus’ death for the forgiveness of sins, God does require we repent of our sins. The Apostle Peter concluded his first Pentecost sermon on Jesus death by saying repent. Acts 2:38, “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” A most interesting thing about repentance is that this also is a gift from God through the power of His Holy Spirit. Romans 2:4, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Acts 5:31, “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” Jesus suffered and died for human kind. It took a while for Christian Jews to understand this, but eventually they did. Acts 11:18, “When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.’” We all need a “wake up call” sometimes in our Christian lives so that we remember the need to repent. 2 Timothy 2:25, “in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,”. It is our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior, mourning because our sins required His death, that God uses to lead us to repentance. 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” God our Father’s desire is that humans accept Jesus as our Savior and repent of our sins. 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” As we conclude the Days of Unleavened Bread, let us remember that repentance is on our critical path to salvation.

Days of Unleavened Bread — April 16, 2022

There are things only God can do and other things God expects us to do. Only God can forgive our sins. Romans 5:6, 8, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly…But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Only the shed blood of Jesus as God in the flesh can forgive sin. Ephesians 1:7, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” This is pictured by the Passover which we observed last Thursday night. What God expects us to do, what God wants us to do, is make an effort to put sin out of our lives. This is pictured by the Days of Unleavened Bread which started this evening on the weekly Sabbath as a “double Sabbath” being the first day of Unleavened Bread, a Holy Day. During these seven days, leavened bread represents sin. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, “Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” We are to strive to put sin out of our lives. Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” We are to become a “new person” living a better life apart from sin. Romans 6:6, “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” Ephesians 4:22-24, “that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Our responsibility is to strive to put sin out of lives as represented by the Days of Unleavened Bread. None of us can do that perfectly. That is when we repent and ask God to do what only He can do, forgive us of our sins through the shed blood of Jesus our Savior. I hope we all will keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread, remembering what it teaches us. Jesus kept this feast setting us an example. The Apostle Paul was inspired to say “therefore let us keep the feast.”

Jesus Suffered for Our Sins — April 9, 2022

As we approach Passover next Thursday evening, we all know Jesus shed His blood and died for the forgiveness of our sins. In addition, many scriptures tell us Jesus not only had to die, but He had to suffer. Jesus could have died a “quick, easy death” in theory. But that would not have had the impact upon us the Father wanted. The Father knew He had to teach us the terribleness of our sins, the awful consequences of sins, the magnitude of our sins that then required the suffering and death of our Savior by crucifixion, one of the most painful ways to die. Jesus knew in advance that He had to not only die, but to suffer for our sins. Matthew 16:21, “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Jesus not only knew He was to suffer, had to suffer, He knew how He would suffer. Mark 10:32, “Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” Knowing in advance how one is going to suffer will cause a great deal of mental and emotional stress by itself. As Jesus prayed to His Father, and our Father, He was in such great agony knowing what He was about to suffer that He sweat blood. Luke 22:44, “And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” But Jesus knew He had to go forward with these terrible experiences. John 12:27, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” After His resurrection, Jesus explained to His disciples that His suffering was necessary. Luke 24:46, “Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,”. The apostles, beginning with Peter, understood and preached that Jesus had to suffer. Acts 3:18, “But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.” Likewise, the apostle Paul preached the same message, Acts 17:2-3, “Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.’ ” Jesus suffering is an example for us, that as we follow Him in this evil world there will be suffering for us. 1 Peter 2:19, 21, “For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:” As we prepare for the Passover physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, let us remember how our sins required that Jesus suffer and die a horrible death. Let us always repent, love the Father and the Son and give thanks for the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf.

Hebrew — April 2, 2022

Hebrew is a special and unusual language. Most of the Old Testament was written in what is called “Classical Hebrew” or “Biblical Hebrew.” The language that the Israelites spoke and wrote is never referred to in the Bible as Hebrew. Nehemiah simply refers to it as the “language of Judah” in criticizing the Jews, Nehemiah 13:24, “And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke according to the language of one or the other people.” The Hebrew alphabet is composed of 22 letters, all consonants, no vowels. Hebrew is written and read right to left. This language has evolved through several stages to modern times. Hebrew is the only language that has been “resurrected from the dead.” For more than 1000 years it was only spoken in special religious sessions. It was written much, but seldom spoken until revived about 150 years ago (1881) as a common language of Jewish people. Ben Yehuda married his wife in route to Palestine in 1881. They vowed to speak nothing but Hebrew from the moment they arrived. They raised their child to be the first since ancient times to have Hebrew as his mother tongue. They had to “invent” new Hebrew words for modern items non-existent in Bible times like ice cream, bicycle, omelet, handkerchief and towel. He got creative using Hebrew root words to come up with modern words. The words for car and train are based on the Hebrew root word for chariot. Hebrew words are comprised of a root word of 2 to 4 letters to which prefixes and suffixes can be added. Thus, one Hebrew word with several prefixes and suffixes can equally relay what 5 words in English would. Therefore, when translating Hebrew into English, 100 Hebrew words could become 1000 in English. Modern Hebrew has a system of dots and dashes which surround the letters to provide the necessary vowels. These are standard in prayer books, children books, and other basic texts. However, neither the Bible nor most Hebrew literature have them. One just has to get used to it and know the language well enough to pronounce the Hebrew words correctly. The original, ancient Hebrew was a pictographic language. These pictographic letters evolved over time to modern script letters. For instance, the first letter of the pictographic alphabet was a simple stick drawing of an ox’s head and represented the qualities of strong, power, leader. It became known as the “God letter.” It is the equivalent of the letter "A" in Greek, Latin and English. All the Hebrew letters represent some physical object and also some descriptive meaning. Here is a link to a chart with the various versions of the Hebrew alphabet and their meaning: Hebrew Alphabet Next time, we will examine the very first Hebrew word of the Bible.

Fear Not, Part 5 — March 26, 2022

Why are there so many scriptures that say “fear not” or “don’t be afraid”? We live in a world where there is much evil. There is much that can hurt or harm us physically and spiritually. Today, we have wars and rumors of wars. In Old Testament times there were many battles and wars. Under Judah’s King Jehoshaphat, Ammon and Moab sent their armies to attack Judah and Jerusalem. God sent a prophet with a message. 2 Chronicles 20:15, “And he said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” In this case, Jehoshaphat had the army sing as they went into battle. God caused these armies to fight among themselves and destroy each other. Another fascinating story concerns the king of Syria raiding northern Israel cities and towns. Elisha was telling the king of Israel where to be prepared for the next battle. This, of course, greatly upset the king of Syria who sent a large contingent to capture Elisha. Elisha’s servant was distraught at this, but Elisha said, 2 Kings 6:16-17, “So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” I believe we have guardian angels who are assigned to protect us. We should give God thanks for His protection and always call upon Him for the help we need. King Hezekiah was concerned about the Assyrian army and sent his servants to Isaiah. 2 Kings 19:6, “And Isaiah said to them, ‘Thus you shall say to your master, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me.’” When Israel or Judah was obedient and relied on God for help, He helped defeat their enemies. When they didn’t, they lost battles, were defeated in war and became captives of the invading armies. The same applies to us. Trust in and obey God and He will help us in our physical and spiritual battles.

Jesus’ 41st Command — March 19, 2022

Deny yourself and follow Jesus. Luke 9:23-25, “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?’” There are several scriptures with the theme of if we strive to save our physical life in this world, we will lose it, but if we sacrifice the desires of this physical life to follow Jesus, we will receive the gift of eternal life. John 12:25-26 (NLT), “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.” Denying what we want out of this physical life to follow Jesus is considered as a sacrifice by our Father. Romans 12:1-2, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” God inspired other analogies to impress this point upon us. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” In denying ourselves, we live for Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:15, “and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” We should be willing to give up everything in this physical life in order to follow Jesus. Philippians 3:7-8, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” As Jesus Christ sacrificed His physical life for our salvation, we also should make a sacrifice to live by faith in Jesus. Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” God our Father wants to give us eternal life in His Kingdom, His spiritual family. To receive that gift we have to be willing to give up our carnal desires of the flesh and live an obedient life following the example that Jesus set for us. It is a small price to pay for such a large reward.

Promises of God, Salvation Part 4 — March 12, 2022

Simeon , a devout, old man, was inspired by the Holy Spirit to give a prophecy about Jesus and salvation when His parents brought Him to the temple shortly after His birth. Luke 2:30-32, “For my eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” This also is a quote from Isaiah 49:6 emphasizing that Jesus would bring salvation to both Israelites and Gentiles. There is a time order in God the Father’s Plan of Salvation. God is not trying to save every individual during the first 6000 years of human existence. For true Christians, that time is in this lifetime. 2 Corinthians 6:2, “For He says: In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Several translation use the phrase “in a day of salvation”. Paul talks about a time order in 1 Corinthians 15:22-23, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” Salvation is through trusting in Jesus and His message. Ephesians 1:13-14, “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Salvation is by the gift of grace, not our own efforts. Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” While we are not saved by our works, when we receive God’s grace to salvation, God does expect us to live a life of obedience in order to please Him. Philippians 2:12-13 (NLT), “Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Yes, salvation is a gift through faith by the grace of God. God, by the power of His Holy Spirit in us, gives us that faith and desire and ability to obey, to live a good spiritual life whereby God wants to give us the gift of eternal life in His Kingdom, the Kingdom of God.

Jesus’ 40th Command — March 5, 2022

Beware of hypocrisy. Matthew 16:6, 12, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.’ … Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Jesus was critical of the scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees for several reasons. One of which was that they did not always practice what they preached. Many of them were greedy of money and the power of control over others. Matthew 23:13-14, 25, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.” Also, they were self-righteous, often meticulously obeying the letter of the law, but lacking in love, mercy and compassion for others. Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” Often they were more concerned about what others thought about them than what God thought. Matthew 6:1-2, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” The main criticism in the New Testament of these religious groups is that they distorted the true teachings of the Bible. Titus 1:14, “not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.” The apostle Paul warned that in the end times this would be especially prevalent. 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” All of the warnings in the Bible to Israel and the New Testament churches, brethren and ministers are about departing from the faith once delivered. Titus 1:9, “holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.” Jude 1:3-4, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” These are spiritually challenging times at the end of this age. The Truth of the Bible has been distorted and watered down. Let us all strive to understand what is the faith once delivered and keep the letter and spirit of the laws and teachings of Jesus.

Fear Not, Part 4 — February 25, 2022

God has told His people and His servants many times not to be afraid, whether it be in His presence or their fearful circumstances. Previously we’ve seen how God comforted Israel through Moses and then Joshua. Now let’s look at another example with Gideon. Judges 6:22-23, “Now Gideon perceived that He was the Angel of the Lord. So Gideon said, ‘Alas, O Lord GOD! For I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Peace be with you; do not fear, you shall not die.’” The Angel of the Lord is the Word, the Logos, the one who became Jesus. Next we have rebellious Israel’s relationship with God. They asked for a king against God’s will, but God is merciful. 1 Samuel 12:20, 22, “Then Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.’” We too make mistakes, but if we worship the Father and His Son, we do not need to be afraid that They will forsake us. Sometimes we have daunting circumstances, but if we please God, we don’t need to be afraid. For example, Saul was trying to kill David, but Jonathan told David he knew David would be the next king. 1 Samuel 23:16-17, “Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, ‘Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.’“ David as king of Israel told his son Solomon not to be fearful of the magnificent responsibility of building a temple for God. 1 Chronicles 28:19, “’All this,’ said David, ‘the Lord made me understand in writing, by His hand upon me, all the works of these plans.’ And David said to his son Solomon, ‘Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God—my God—will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord.’“ We too as Christians have a spiritual temple to build in our lives. God gives us the same message, do not fear the task, God will guide us in completing the work He has started in our lives.

Jesus' 39th Command — February 19, 2022

Honor your father and mother. While Jesus Himself did not make a declarative statement for this command, He does quote the Old Testament command. Matthew 15:3-4, “He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’” Jesus then chastises the Jewish leaders for their tradition that adult children didn’t have to help support their parents by saying their funds were dedicated for religious causes. Jesus then said, Matthew 15:6b, “… Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.” Here is another major consideration for Christians, do they follow the traditions and laws of men when they are contrary to the laws of God, or, do they obey the laws of God? Peter addressed this in Acts 5:29, “But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’” One of the foundational commands, the fifth, is in Exodus 20:12, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” The apostle Paul calls attention to this command and emphasizes this is the only commandment of the ten that has a promised blessing. Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’” In today’s modern world we are seeing the breakdown of the family due to many causes. We Christians should remember this command and grow and maintain strong family relationships, especially with our parents.

Promises of God, Salvation, Part 3 — February 12, 2022

Luke 3:6, “as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough ways smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” Luke quotes Isaiah 40:3-5 to refer to the mission of John the Baptist in preparing the way for the Messiah Jesus Christ. The apostle John describes the eternal God-ship of Jesus before He became flesh and blood in the first chapter of his gospel. All for the goal John states in John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:” Although the Jews did not understand, there are Old Testament prophecies that salvation would also come to the Gentiles through the Messiah. Luke quotes one of them from Isaiah 49:6 in Acts 13:47, “For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’” Peter spoke of salvation during the Jerusalem conference on circumcision. Acts 15:11, “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they [our forefathers].” Paul also states that salvation is for Gentiles. Romans 11:11, “I say then, have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” There are a few Old Testament scriptures and many New Testament scriptures that show us salvation is for all humans regardless of ancestry and the color of the skin. Peter states in Acts 10:34 that God does not show favoritism. And so does Paul, Romans 2:11, “For there is no respect of persons with God.” God does have a time order. God will show grace to different individuals at different times. Jesus Christ died for all human beings. Our Father’s desire is that all humans repent and accept Jesus as their Savior. 1 Tim 2:3-4, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men [humans] to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” In God’s Plan of Salvation every human will be given an opportunity for salvation, either in this lifetime or in a future opportunity.

Jesus’ 38th Command — February 5, 2022

Do not blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. Matthew 12:31-32, “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” The meaning of these verses in a literal English translation from the Greek can be difficult to understand. Basically, the intent of the Greek is that if you sin against God in ignorance, you can be forgiven. But if one sins against God with understanding about God, whether one is converted or not, that is unforgiveable. This is usually referred to as the unpardonable sin. Another way to understand the unpardonable sin is to state that it is sin without repentance. God will forgive any and all sins when one repents. If someone refuses to repent, then God will not forgive and the end result of that is eternal death in the Lake of Fire. The Message paraphrase captures the intended meaning of these verses. “There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven. But if you deliberately persist in your slanders against God’s Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives. If you reject the Son of Man out of some misunderstanding, the Holy Spirit can forgive you, but when you reject the Holy Spirit, you’re sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.” Paul committed grievous sins against God and Christians, yet he was forgiven. 1 Timothy 1:13, “although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” Paul states this in another way in Hebrews 10:26, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,”. God promises to forgive our sins if we truly repent from the heart. Let us close with one such scripture. 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Fear Not, Part 3 — January 29, 2022

It is very difficult to take over the responsibility a great person who was your predecessor and mentor. Such was the case with Joshua after Moses died. Think about how daunting a situation that would be for Joshua. God, therefore, encouraged Joshua and actually spoke to him. Joshua 1:1, 5-9, “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: … No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” God also told Joshua several times not to be afraid of the kings of Canaan. Let us look at a few. Joshua 8:1, “Now the Lord said to Joshua: 'Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; take all the people of war with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land.'” Concerning king Adoni-Zedek of Jerusalem, God said, Joshua 10:8, “And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not fear them, for I have delivered them into your hand; not a man of them shall stand before you.’” Joshua imparted this same message to the captains of the Israeli army. Joshua 10:25, “Then Joshua said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; be strong and of good courage, for thus the Lord will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.’” Latter, five city kings banded together to battle Israel. Same message from God. Joshua 11:6a, “But the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow about this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel. …” While Joshua and Israel faced physical battles of warfare, we Christians have our own tests and trials and spiritual battles. Just like God encouraged Moses and Joshua to be strong and of good courage and not to be fearful or afraid, so the same message of encouragement applies to us.

Jesus’ 37th Command — January 22, 2022

Matthew 11:28-39, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” The Message paraphrased Bible has an easier to understand clarification of these verses, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” There are many promises from God to take care of His servants, especially at the beginning of the Millennium. Let us look at one in Isaiah 55:1-3, “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—The sure mercies of David.” There is dual prophecy in Isaiah that can be applied to both Jesus’ first and second comings. Isaiah 61:1-3, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” At the end of the Feast of Tabernacles, John 7:37, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.’” We live in an carnal, evil world, but Jesus said His disciples could have peace in their lives. John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Some last words of encouragement for God’s people is found in Revelation 22:17, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” We live physical lives in a physical world where we all have tests and trials. Nevertheless, God promises us spiritual rest and peace even in this life. However, more importantly, eternal rest, harmony and love in the Kingdom of God to come.

Promises of God, Part 2, Salvation — January 15, 2022

This Sabbath let us continue our review of scriptures relative to the gift of salvation that the Father and Son want to give all of us. Regarding Zacchaeus the tax collector, Luke 19:9-10, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.’” Jesus represented Himself as the Good Shepherd and the door to the sheepfold. John 10:9a, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, …” We can receive salvation, but only through the Name of Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Let us now look at several scriptures that the apostle Paul wrote on this subject. Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” We are saved by grace. Romans 5:21, “so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 10:9, 10, 13, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” 1 Corinthians 1:18, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” It is pretty simple in one sense. If we truly believe in our hearts that Jesus is our Savor, that He died for our sins and rose from the dead, and accordingly, live a good life, we will be saved and receive the gift of eternal life. That is a promise from God that cannot lie.

Fear Not, Part 2 — January 8, 2022

Last time on this topic, we reviewed the book of Genesis. This time let us review a few of the many scriptures where God told Israel not to fear when He brought them out of Egypt and led them in the wilderness. Exodus 14:13-15, “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.’ And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.’” There are several good lessons for us today in these verses. We should not let fear rule our lives, but trust in God to help us. And then we should step forward in faith, trusting God to lead us and protect us. Exodus 20:20, “And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.’” We don’t need to be afraid of God, but Moses is telling the Israelites and us, that we should have the type of fear that is a deep reverence and awe for God that will motivate us to avoid sin. God promised He would protect the Israelites if they obeyed Him and therefore they wouldn’t need to be afraid of any other nation. Leviticus 26:6, “ I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; I will rid the land of evil beasts, and the sword will not go through your land.” In addition to the many scriptures that tell us we don’t need to be afraid, there are many scriptures that tell us God will protect us. We’ll close with one. Psalm 32:7, “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah”

Jesus' 36th Command — January 1, 2022

Matthew 11:15, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” This command of Jesus can be restated simply as, “Listen to God’s voice.” Jesus repeated this command several times within different teachings. Jesus spoke in parables, making it difficult for people to understand the spiritual meaning of what He was preaching. Matthew 13:13, “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Jesus had to explain the spiritual meaning to His disciples. Still, as He taught in public with parables, He often concluded with the same command. Matthew 13:9, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Matthew 13:43b, “… He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Mark also records Jesus as saying this several times. One such is Mark 4:23, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” “The Message” paraphrase has an interesting way of stating this, “Are you listening to this? Really listening?” For us to really listen and understand what Jesus preached, we must have the gift of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:10-11, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” We sometimes want big visible miracles to help us chose the correct path. But God usually doesn’t work that way. There is an interesting story of God teaching Elijah a lesson. 1 Kings 19:11-12, “Then He said, ‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.” God was likely making a comparison to when He did speak to the children of Israel at Mount Sinai with fire, lighting and earthquakes. But God is making the point with Elijah that He uses different methods at different times, and regardless, we should listen to what God is trying to tell us. The apostle Paul warns of a time when even Christians will not listen to God. 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” We will conclude in Revelation. Seven times to each of the seven churches God says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Let us notice that God tells us to listen to all seven messages to each of the churches. Are we listening? Really listening?

Jesus' 35th Command — December 25, 2021

Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” This is a difficult principle to put into practice, especially if others are out to hurt and kill us. Here in the United States and most democratic nations, Christians are not actively being persecuted. While it varies from nation to nation, according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom's 2020 report, Christians in Burma, China, Eritrea, India, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Vietnam are persecuted. There are several directives in the Old Testament not to fear those who do not fear God. Let us look at a few of them. Isaiah 51:7, “Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, You people in whose heart is My law: Do not fear the reproach of men, Nor be afraid of their insults.” Isaiah 51:12, “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid Of a man who will die, And of the son of a man who will be made like grass?” Ezekiel 2:6, “And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words or dismayed by their looks, though they are a rebellious house.” A good example of this principle is in the story of Daniel’s three friends. Daniel 3:16-18, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.’” We know in this case God did send an angle to rescue them and save them from death. This is not always the case as we read in Hebrews 11:35b-40, “…Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” Peter also tells us not to be afraid of persecution. 1 Peter 3:13, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’” Christians will be persecuted during the Great Tribulation. Revelation 12:11, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” We pray for God's protection as He promises the Philedelphian church in Revelation 3 and the church in the wilderness in Revelation 12. However, we know not what we might have to endure before these events. A good saying to remember is, “When facing death, think of life, eternal life!”

James vs Paul On Faith, Part 3 — December 18, 2021

James refers to Abraham offering his son as his third example that faith must be accompanied by works to be a living faith. James 2:22-23, “Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.” Let us emphasize two statements. One, faith and works go together to make a perfect faith. Two, Abraham’s belief in God is what God counted as righteousness. It is beneficial to read verses 14 to 26 in “The Message” paraphrased translation, too much to print here, but it really clarifies the issues and understanding of how faith and works go together or faith is dead. Verse 21 could be a verse that seems contradictory. Let us read it in the “New Living Translation”, “Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?” James is saying Abraham’s actions proved he had faith in God and this proof of his faith make him right with God. Let us also read this verse in “The Message” paraphrase, “Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?” We should reread verse 23 where it says Abraham's belief, i.e., faith, alone was counted for righteousness. James emphasis is always on faith and works go together to form a living faith, otherwise without works it is a dead faith. James then goes on to a fourth example, Rahab the harlot. In a short summary, James indicates belief alone in the God of Israel was not enough to save her from death. She had to actually do something to indicate her belief, hiding and saving the two spies at the risk of her own life. It is interesting to note the differences between Abraham and Rahab. Abraham, father of the Israelites, Rahab a Gentile, Abraham a male, Rahab a female. Abraham obedient to the laws of God, Rahab up to this point, a harlot. James is making the point of regardless of our heritage, our skin color, our sex, our earlier lifestyle, as long as we repent and have faith, we can receive salvation. James fifth and final example is verse 26, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” A human body that isn’t breathing is dead. Likewise, faith without works is dead. This is the third time in this chapter that James makes the statement, “faith without works is dead.” While Paul and James emphasized different points as they wrote to different audiences, they totally agree that we are saved by our believing faith as long as we live a good life serving and loving others. There are two Bible Studies available at the Church of God Santa Rosa website that cover this topic in greater detail.

James vs Paul On Faith, Part 2 — December 11, 2021

Let us continue our review of the topic of faith and works as discussed by Paul and James. Paul’s main point is we are justified and saved by faith alone. However, he never said works of obedience are not important. Romans 6:15-16 (NLT), “Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” This is the same thing James said but in different words, that is, our living faith leads to a good life of obedience to God’s laws and loving your neighbor. James goes on to give five examples of where faith without works is a dead faith. First he talks about love to make this point. If you know someone who is hungry and naked and you say you love them, but don’t help them by giving them food and clothing, what good has your so-called love accomplished? “Living love” has works of helping others. James 2:15-17, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” Paul always emphasizes that we live under grace, not the death penalty of the law. But he never says we don’t need to keep the law. Galatians 5:13 (NLT), “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” Secondly, to make his point that belief alone is not enough, James goes on to say Satan and the demons have “faith” that God exist, but their works are evil, therefore their belief in God’s existence does them no good. “The Message” paraphrase really magnifies the inspired words in James 2:19-20, “Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?” Next time we’ll discuss the last three examples James gives to show faith without works is dead.

James vs Paul On Faith, Part 1 — December 4, 2021

Some think what James wrote about faith contradicts what Paul wrote on this topic. In general, this is from people who don’t want to believe the Bible is inspired by God. However, when we study these scriptures knowing they are God inspired, we can not only reconcile both views, but learn important points from the discussion. Paul wrote, Romans 4:2-5, “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,”. We need to remember Paul was writing to Gentile converts who were being told by Christian Jews that they had to be circumcised and obey the Old Testament laws to “earn” salvation. Paul is writing to tell his audience we are saved by faith in God, not by works, for none of us can keep the law perfectly and therefore deserve death. Paul never says works are not important, he just says we are not saved by works. James is writing to scattered Christian Israelites who were saying they now understood they were saved by faith alone, therefore it didn’t matter how they lived their lives. James said if you have a living faith, it will change how you live your life, doing good to help your neighbor. James 2:11, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” James is saying you cannot live a sinful life, a bad life, and expect your faith will save you. James never says we are saved by works, he simply says works are proof we have faith showing we have a righteous relationship with God. James 2:18, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” We will continue this discussion for the next two Sabbath Thoughts. For a more detailed study of this topic, you may listen to the Bible Studies at our Church of God Santa Rosa website.

Jesus’ 34th Command — November 27, 2021

Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Many other translations of this verse have “shrewd” for “wise”. A few translations have “cunning,” For “harmless,” other translations use “gentle”, “innocent”, “pure” or “simple.” “The Message” translation has an expanded paraphrased as follows, “Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, and inoffensive as a dove.” While this is a good principle in general, it is specifically directed to the situation of Christians dwelling among non-believers. We need to remember Jesus’ statement “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” in the specific context of “I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.” 1 Corinthians 14:20, “Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.” Ephesians 5:15-17, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Romans 16:19b, “… but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” Jesus gave this command with dialog in the verses before and after about difficult times and persecution to come for the disciples. As Christians we should be aware of our “political surroundings.” We should think ahead and plan accordingly to avoid dangerous situations. We are dealing with Satan and his wolves in an evil world. But we are not to be wolves. We are not to lie, cheat, insult or hurt others. We are to be innocent as doves and if necessary, suffer accordingly.

Jesus’ 33rd Command — November 20, 2021

Matthew 9:36-38, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’” We’ve had a series of Sabbath Thoughts on sheep and shepherds. Here, literally, Jesus tells us to pray for good shepherds to take care of His sheep. Jesus tells us there are plenty of potential true Christians, they just need someone to guide them and nourish them with spiritual food. This is confirmed in our next scripture, John 4:35, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! ” The apostle Paul asked for prayers in helping him to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Ephesians 6:18-19, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,”. Colossians 4:3-4, “meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” Matthew ends his gospel with this message. Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” Jesus’ final words to His disciple conveyed the same instructions. Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” As the last two scriptures indicated, any spiritual harvest is the result of God’s Holy Spirit working in our lives. The apostle Paul makes this very plain in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.” God the Father and Jesus our Savior want to see a continual increase in their spiritual family beginning with the conversion of human beings on this earth down through the ages. Let us pray for the greatest possible results as we await the Second Coming of Jesus.

Promises of God, Part 1, Salvation — November 6, 2021

There are a multitude of spiritual and physical promises from God to His people. Let us start a series of Sabbath Thoughts that will review those spiritual promises. First, let us look at the scriptures that promise salvation and eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Probably the most famous scripture in the Bible is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” There are several promises from Jesus in the next scripture. John 5:24 (NLT), “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.” Jesus also said that when the Father selects someone to be in the Kingdom of God, nothing will prevent that from happening. John 10:28-29, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. ” Peter made a simple but powerful statement on Pentecost after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Acts 2:21, “And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.” After begin jailed and miraculously had their chains fall off, the jailer asked “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” The answer, Acts 16:31, “So they said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.’” Note the two very positive statements in the last scripture we will review this Sabbath. This is one of my most favorite scriptures. Luke 12:32, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” We have to remember God wants us in the Kingdom of God, everything He has created, everything He has planned, everything He has sacrificed, His only begotten Son, is for the purpose of creating sons and daughters in His future heavenly family. God the Father truly wants to give His physical children eternal spiritual life.

Fear Not, Part 1 — November 6, 2021

I am sometimes surprised by a Biblical topic, that is, how often it is stated in the Bible. One such topic is how many times God says not to be afraid. Let us review this topic beginning with the book of Genesis. Genesis 15:1, “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’” This was related to God’s promise to make Abraham a great nation, indeed, the father of many nations. Genesis 12:2, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.” Genesis 13:16, “And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.” While Abraham and Sarah had to wait 25 years to have their own son by a miracle, God told them not to be afraid, He would take care of them and bless them. We know the story, they got impatient and Sarah told Abraham to conceive a child through Hagar, her handmaid. Then Sarah got jealous and told Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away. God told Abraham to do as Sarah requested. Hagar ran out of water in the wilderness and thought she and Ishmael would die. However, God intervened. Genesis 21:17-19, “And God heard the voice of the lad. Then the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her, ‘What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad and hold him with your hand, for I will make him a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water, and gave the lad a drink.” Isaac had contention with the inhabitants of Canaan regarding the digging of wells for water. God told him not to worry. Genesis 26:24, “And the Lord appeared to him the same night and said, ‘I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake.’” Then we have the story of Joseph, sold into slavery by his brothers, but God made him second in command of Egypt to store food for the seven year famine. Eventually, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers and told them to tell Jacob to come to Egypt. Jacob was reluctant to do that. Genesis 46:3-4, “So He said, ‘I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.’” There are many scriptures, especially in the Psalms, where God says He will protect and take care of His servants. That includes you and me. Let us close with Psalm 91:1-5, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’ Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day,”.

Sheep, Part 17 — Good Shepherds — October 30, 2021

The apostles Paul and Peter directed the ministry of God’s Church to be good shepherds. Acts 20:28, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” 1 Peter 5:1-4, “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” After His resurrection, Jesus told Peter three times to feed His sheep. John 21:15-17, “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’” God promises to give good shepherds for His people in the Millennium. Jeremiah 23:3-4, “’But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,’ says the Lord.” Jeremiah 33:12b-13, “’…and in all its cities, there shall again be a dwelling place of shepherds causing their flocks to lie down. In the cities of the mountains, in the cities of the lowland, in the cities of the South, in the land of Benjamin, in the places around Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, the flocks shall again pass under the hands of him who counts them,’ says the Lord.” The soon-coming Millennium pictures a wonderful time on this earth with Jesus ruling as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus will expand His church to include all Israel and the Gentiles. He will establish a ministry that will nourish His flock with spiritual food. This concludes our 17-part study of how God uses sheep and shepherds to represent His chosen people. For a more detailed examination of this topic, please listen to the six sermons on sheep and shepherds on the Church of God Santa Rosa website. We hope this has been a spiritually uplifting discussion.

Sheep, Part 16— Bad Shepherds — October 23, 2021

Jeremiah 23:1-2, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: ‘You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,’ says the Lord.” God considers religious and political leaders as shepherds over His Christian and Jewish people. Down through the ages, and especially in the end times, God is very upset with these shepherds who do not properly take care of their flocks, God’s people. Jeremiah 50:6, “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray; They have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill; They have forgotten their resting place.” The whole chapter of Ezekiel 34 is God’s disapproval of the shepherds of His people. Let us read the first two verses, “And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD to the shepherds: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks?’” While God also holds His people responsible for their unbelief and disobedience, the leaders will receive the greater condemnation and punishment. Jeremiah 25:34-37, “Wail, shepherds, and cry! Roll about in the ashes, You leaders of the flock! For the days of your slaughter and your dispersions are fulfilled; You shall fall like a precious vessel. And the shepherds will have no way to flee, Nor the leaders of the flock to escape. A voice of the cry of the shepherds, And a wailing of the leaders to the flock will be heard. For the Lord has plundered their pasture, And the peaceful dwellings are cut down Because of the fierce anger of the Lord.” Zechariah 11:16-17a, “For indeed I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces. ‘Woe to the worthless shepherd, Who leaves the flock! …’” Jesus during His ministry, as He preached to the multitudes, said, Matthew 9:36, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” Next time we will review the scriptures where God states He will give Israel good shepherds in the Millennium.

Sheep, Part 15— The job of a shepherd — October 16, 2021

We return to the topic of sheep and shepherds after discussing Bible topics relative to the fall Holy Days: Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles, Eighth Day. Before these, we were discussing the specific responsibilities of a shepherd and are ready for number six. 6. A SHEPHERD WANTS TO FIND HIS LOST SHEEP. The Bible tells us David definitely did this as a shepherd. 1 Samuel 17:34-35, “But David said to Saul, 'Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it.'” Jesus used the analogy of one lost sheep out of 100 to represent the Father’s interest in taking care of Christians. Matthew 18:12, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? ” A good shepherd cares about his sheep as does the Father for Christians. We are talking more about motivation in this point. In the next point, it will be more about action. 7. A SHEPHERD GOES AFTER LOST SHEEP, NOT TO PUNISH THEM FOR GETTING LOST, BUT TO RESTORE THEM BACK TO THE FLOCK. Very similar to point number six, but with a goal, restoration. Matthew 18:13-14, "And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." Jesus said He came to restore that which was lost. Luke 19:10, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost”. God will do the same at the beginning of the Millennium. Ezekiel 34:16a, “I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; …” If we get lost spiritually, God our Father wants to restore us to His spiritual flock of sheep. If we return, God is not interested in punishing us, He rejoices over our return. This is evident in the parable of the prodigal son. 8. A SHEPHERD PICKS UP THE SHEEP AND CARRIES IT BACK TO SAFETY. When sheep get lost and frightened, they “freeze” and make a pitiful bleat. Even when they recognize their shepherd, they will not move. The shepherd has to carry the sheep back to the flock and comfort it until it recovers. Luke 15:5, “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” God uses this analogy again to show His care for His people at the beginning of the Millennium. Isaiah 40:11, “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.” How fantastic these analogies are between a shepherd and his sheep that show the tender care God our Father and Jesus are Shepherd have for Christians.

Jesus Our High Priest — October 9, 2021

A few weeks ago we observed the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur as the Jews call it. What a work day this was for Aaron and subsequent high priest. As high priest, there were many sacrifices that had to be carried out and the blood used to make atonements for the tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, the altar, the Aaronic family and all of Israel. This all pointed to the first coming of Jesus who would suffer and die for our sins. Jesus also became our Eternal High Priest. This is detailed in the book of Hebrews. Let us review the scriptures relative to this topic. In order to become our High Priest, we who are flesh and blood, Jesus had to become flesh and blood. Hebrews 2:17-18, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” In order to become our Eternal High Priest, Jesus had to learn what it is like to obey, in the flesh, the laws of His Father so He could properly be a merciful High Priest. Hebrews 5:8-10, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest ‘according to the order of Melchizedek,’”. Hebrews 4:14-15, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 5 and 7 tell us priest of the Aaronic family served and died. But Jesus lives forever and therefore, even though He is of the tribe of Judah and not Levi, God the Father made Jesus our Eternal High Priest. Hebrews 5:5-6, “So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.'" As He also says in another place: 'You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek;'” Note that Jesus is our High Priest “ACCORDING TO” the order of Melchizedek, not “OF” that order. When Jesus became our High Priest after His resurrection, God the Father established Jesus as the third high priest order. Jesus as High Priest is a priest-king like Melchizedek was over Jerusalem. None of the Aaronic priest were kings. They were imperfect, but Jesus is the perfect High Priest administering a better covenant with the promise of eternal life for us. Hebrews 8:6, “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.” Jesus does not offer a multitude of sacrifices like the Aaronic priest did, He offered Himself once for the real forgiveness of our sins. Hebrews 9:11-12, “But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Jesus death, the shedding of His Holy Blood, gives us direct access the Throne of Grace of God the Father. Hebrews 4:14-16, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” How wonderful it is what the Father and Son have done so that we might have eternal salvation as the Father’s future sons and daughters in His spiritual family.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ — October 2, 2021

Revelation 1:1, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John,”. I’ve always read this as “The revelation to Jesus Christ.” I’ve always thought God the Father revealed future events to Jesus and then for Jesus to reveal them by an angel to the apostle John. This view was flawed for a couple of reasons. One, Jesus, as the Eternal Son of the Father, knows future events just as the Father does, Jesus does not need for them to be revealed to Himself. Two, in the English as translated from the Greek, it is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” Let us read this verse in The Message translation, “A revealing of Jesus, the Messiah. God gave it to make plain to his servants what is about to happen. He published and delivered it by Angel to his servant John.” This revelation of Jesus Christ is highly relevant to end-time events that will reveal “the wrath of the Lamb” and Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Without the book of Revelation we would primarily know Jesus as the humble carpenter who preached the Kingdom of God His Father and that He died for our sins to make the gift of salvation available to us. This would be a very incomplete picture of our Savior. Therefore, God the Father instructed Jesus to reveal His end-time actions and glory as the future ruler of this world. We may tend to think of the destructive events foretold in this book as the wrath of the Father. While that is very true, it is also the wrath of the Lamb. Revelation 6:16, “And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:” Only Jesus was found worthy to open the seven seals. Revelation 5:5, “But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’” We may not have emphasized the fact that Jesus Himself opens each of the seals. Revelation 6:1, “Now I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals; and I heard one of the four living creatures saying with a voice like thunder, ‘Come and see.’” And so it is with the rest of the seals. We learn many things about Jesus that are nowhere else mentioned in the Bible. We see a description of the glorified Jesus in Revelation 1:13-16. Several times Jesus refers to Himself as the Alpha and Omega or the first and the last. We see Jesus' relationship to the seven church and His likes and dislikes with each one of them. Jesus will wed the church and celebrate with a marriage feast. We see Jesus as Lord of Lords and King of Kings ruling for a thousand years. Nowhere else in the Bible is it explicitly stated that the Millennium is a thousand years long. Jesus is pictured as defeating the beast and false prophet in battle. Then we have the glory of Jesus and God the Father when heaven comes to this earth. Revelation 21:22-23, “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” Jesus is pictured as sitting on a throne with His Father. Revelation 22:1, 3, “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. … And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.” Contemplate how incomplete our knowledge of the glorified Jesus would be without the book of Revelation. Contemplate the lack of knowledge that would exist concerning end-time event, the Millennium, the Great White Throne Judgement, and the Father and Heavenly Jerusalem coming to this earth and Jesus involvement in all of these events. More discussion of these topics can be found in six sermons at this year’s Feast of Tabernacles on the "sermons" tab of this website.. Let us give thanks to God our Father for telling His Son, our Messiah, to reveal much more about Himself and have it written in the inspired book of Revelation.

Jesus’ Second Coming — September 25, 2021

There are two phases to Jesus’ Second Coming. In the first phase, Jesus returns in the clouds, the Last Trumpet sounds, the dead in Christ are raised and those who are alive are changed in a twinkling of an eye. Jesus and the resurrected saints then ascend to heaven for the wedding feast of Revelation 19. Then, days or probably weeks later, Jesus, with the saints, return to earth riding white horses ready to fight the battle of Armageddon. Main stream Christianity considers the first phase of Jesus’ Second Coming as the rapture. However, there is disagreement as to whether the rapture occurs pre-, mid- or post -tribulation. Most Christians used to believe in the post-tribulation rapture and apparently associated it with the Second Coming of Jesus as one event, not two distinct events with a short break between them. The pre-tribulation rapture is a relatively recent belief that is growing in popularity. Christians want to believe they will be raptured to heaven before the tribulation begins and therefore miss all that suffering. However, about 10% of Christians don’t believe in a rapture at all. For Church of God Christians, the definition of the rapture is somewhat flawed and is simply the First Resurrection. It is not a mysterious, secret event that no one will notice other than a lot of Christians will suddenly disappear. The Bible tells us that all will see Jesus return with a shout, a mighty angel will also shout and the Trumpet of God will sound for all on earth to hear. 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” The next verse tells us this group of resurrected saints and living Christians changed to immortality will meet Jesus in the air, “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” Matthew 24:30-31, “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” First of all, obviously this is not some secret rapture. Also notice that there is no mention of Jesus’ feet touching the earth or the battle of Armageddon. There are no scriptures that describe and make clear the two phases of Jesus’ Second Coming. We have to use spiritual logic to determine this. Let us draw some conclusions from Revelation 19:11, 14, “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. … And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.” Note that the armies in heaven follow Jesus back to this earth. The wedding of Jesus to the church takes place prior to this in verses 7 to 9. The resurrection has to have taken place prior to both these events. You cannot have the saint follow Jesus back to this earth unless they have ascended to heaven at an earlier time. The Bible is often like a puzzle, we have to find the correct pieces and fit them together properly. Zechariah 14:1-4 describes the second phase of Jesus’ Second Coming. “Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the Lord will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south.” We see a sequence of events from these verses. First, Jerusalem is conquered by the Gentiles. Second, then Jesus will fight against these nations in the battle of Armageddon. Three, next, His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. And four, the Mount of Olives will split to the north and south creating a huge valley. The sixth vial prepares the way for this battle with the drying up of the Euphrates to allow the armies from the east to cross, Revelation 16:6, “Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.” I believe the actual battle of Armageddon is a one-day Day of the Lord event that occurs at the seventh vial, but that is speculation. The good news is that this two phased Second Coming of Jesus will result in hundreds of millions, maybe billions, of Christians being changed into spiritual children of God and entering into the heavenly Kingdom of God. And second, the armies and governments of this world will be defeated by the armies of heavenly saints led by Jesus, thus, making way for Jesus’ peaceful rule over this earth for a thousand years.

Last Trumpet vs 7th Trumpet, Part 2 — September 18, 2021

Last Sabbath we reviewed the scriptures on the “Last Trumpet.” This Sabbath let us compare what is stated about both the “Last Trumpet” and the “7th Trumpet” to see if they are one and the same or two different ones. The 7th Trumpet of Revelation denotes the judgment of God, the Day of the Lord with the associated Seven Vials and death and destruction. Revelation 11:15-18, “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’ And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: ‘We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, And the time of the dead, that they should be judged, And that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, And those who fear Your name, small and great, And should destroy those who destroy the earth.’” Let us also read Revelation 10:7a, “but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel,…” Note that the trumpet sounded by the 7th angel is a multiday event. Just as the 7th Seal is composed of the 7 Trumpets, so the 7th Trumpet is composed of the 7 Last Vials. Whereas the Last Trumpet is a moment in time announcing the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the First Resurrection. These are two fantastically good events that provide hope for all Christians. Let’s review 1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” Please note with emphasis that this verse states “the trumpet of God.” How different is that from the Seven Trumpets of Revelation that are sounded by angels. The angels sound trumpets that announce death and destruction, “destroy those who destroy the earth,” the Day of the Lord that will end humankind’s evil rule on this earth. Who will sound the trumpet that will announce the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the First Resurrection? It is called the “trumpet of God” and it would appear that God Himself would want to announce these two glorious events—God is not going to give this responsibility to an angel. Now, let us consider the timing involved in these events by studying Revelation 11:18 in the “New Living Translation,” “The nations were filled with wrath, but now the time of your wrath has come. It is time to judge the dead and reward your servants the prophets, as well as your holy people, and all who fear your name, from the least to the greatest. It is time to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth.” Please note that the 7th Trumpet has already sounded in verse 15, but the events described in this verse have not yet occurred, “it is time,” meaning at some future time, yet very soon, in the “days of the sounding of the seventh angel” these event will take place. “It is time to judge the dead and reward your servants the prophets, as well as your holy people.” The dead have not been judged immediately at the sounding of the 7th Trumpet, nor have the saints of God yet been rewarded. This is describing the First Resurrection that will occur sometime during the “days of the sounding of the seventh angel.” If the 7th Trumpet denotes a period of several days, maybe 30 days, when does that Last Trumpet sound? The book of Revelation describes major events in a chronological order based on when that event has its major impact. While the 7th Trumpet is blown in Revelation 11:15, we still have major events that have not come to a conclusion, but must before the Last Trumpet sounds. Revelation 12 describes the Christian church being protected in the wilderness for 3½ years. The First Resurrection would not occur during that time period, only afterwards. Revelation 13 describes The Beast and False Prophet and their 3½ year reign of terror. Jesus’ Second Coming will occur after the events of this chapter. Then in Revelation 14, we see the 144,000 are in heaven meaning the First Resurrection has taken place. Note a very important verse on the timing of this topic. Revelation 14:13, “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”” Let us emphasize “and their works follow them.” This verse is saying that those who die in the Lord from this point forward will have to wait for a future resurrection to occur a thousand years later to receive their reward in the spiritual Kingdom of God. There is only one time this verse could be stated as truth, immediately after the First Resurrection has just occurred. The best answer is that the first phase of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the First Resurrection occur just prior to the beginning of Revelation 14. For a "speculative" chart of the events of Revelation, please view Revelation Time Line. A question: Why doesn’t the book of Revelation clearly state and describe the First Resurrection? I do not know. In Revelation 20, the results of the First Resurrection are briefly described, but not the First Resurrection itself. Next Sabbath we will discuss the two phases of Jesus’ Second Coming.

Last Trumpet vs 7th Trumpet, Part 1 — September 11, 2021

Last Tuesday we observed the Feast of Trumpets, or Yom Teruah (Hebrew for day of trumpets or acclamation), or Rosh Hashanah (head of the year). The shofar (ram’s horn) was blown on all of God’s holy days. However, on the Feast of Trumpets, it was to be a “memorial of blowing of trumpets” (Leviticus 23:24). The most important trumpet blast for Christians is the “last trumpet” which occurs at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the First Resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” The Greek word for “last” can mean either “last in point of time” or “last in point of sequence.” In historical and current Jewish synagogue services there is a series of short shofar blast. However, the last shofar blast that closes the ceremony was the longest sound the trumpeter could muster. Currently in Jewish synagogue services, there is a minimum of 30 short shofar blasts and usually 100. Paul is not saying this is the last trumpet to ever be sounded in the future. Matthew 24:31, “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Mark 13:26-27, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.” It is hard to tell for sure, but it could be that Jesus will use another trumpet blast following the “last trumpet” to gather the resurrected saints from around the world. Note that Mark says all will see Jesus returning in the clouds and then He sends forth His angels to gather the elect which Matthew tells us is done with the sound of a great trumpet. So, it could also be that there is just one great trumpet blast that signals both the resurrection and sends forth angels to gather together all those who have now become spirit beings to where Jesus is. The other scripture that discusses this is 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18, “For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” Next Sabbath we will compare this “last trumpet” with the “7th trumpet" of Revelation.

Sheep, Part 14 — The job of a shepherd — September 4, 2021

4. A SHEPHERD USES SUFFERING AS A LAST RESORT TO GET THE SHEEP’S OBEDIENCE IN ORDER THAT THE SHEEP DOESN’T LOSE ITS LIFE. There is a story of a shepherd who broke a renegade sheep’s leg on purpose. This sheep would always wander off, cause problems among the other sheep and would snap at the shepherd. With a broken leg, the sheep was totally dependent upon the shepherd who would feed it, give it water and carry it upon his shoulders until the leg healed. This formerly renegade sheep then stuck close by his shepherd for the rest of its life. God allowed Satan to harm Job in order to teach Job some invaluable spiritual lessons. While God does not tempt us with sin, He does test us and does allow trials in our lives to teach us to have more faith in Him. 1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ”. We read in the book of Revelation of different groups that suffer and many die for their belief in the Father and Son. However, by this process, they will enter the Kingdom of God. Revelation 7:9, 13-14, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, … Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?’ And I said to him, ‘Sir, you know.’ So he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’” I personally believe the greatest number of individuals that will be in the first resurrection will be made up of those who are converted by the end-time events described in the book of Revelation with many being willing to die for their beliefs in Jesus and the Father. 5. A SHEPHERD USES A ROD AND A SHEPHERD’S HOOK TO CARE FOR HIS SHEEP. These are used to defend the sheep against wild animals, to guide the sheep and to rescue them from danger. Shepherds have to constantly move their sheep and guide wandering sheep back into line with the rest of the flock. Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Jesus is our Shepherd and He promises to watch over us. Hebrews 13:5-6, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we may boldly say: 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?'”

Sheep, Part 13 — The job of a shepherd — August 28, 2021

2. A SHEPHERD LIVES WITH HIS SHEEP. A shepherd does not just take care of the flock during the day, then return home for the night. Jacob's 10 sons were taking care of the flocks and were away from home for days at a time, probably weeks. Genesis 37:13, 17, “And Israel said to Joseph, ‘Are not your brothers feeding the flock in Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.’ So he said to him, ‘Here I am.’ And the man said, ‘They have departed from here, for I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them in Dothan.” The shepherds to whom the angel appeared were living day and night with their sheep. Luke 2:8, “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.” God promises to watch over us. Psalm 121:5-8(NLT), “The LORD himself watches over you! The LORD stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The LORD keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” 3. SHEPHERDS ARE TO PROTECT THEIR FLOCK. It was the shepherd's responsibility to protect the sheep from predators, human or animal. 1 Samuel 17:34-35, “But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it.” A lone shepherd would have some sort of shelter for his sheep at night, be that a cave, or an enclosure of wood, brush, tree branches and the like. After counting, examining and bedding down the sheep, the shepherd would like down across the opening to the enclosure to keep the sheep in and the predators out. Jesus provides this protection for His people. John 10:7-11, “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

Sheep, Part 12 — The job of a shepherd — August 21, 2021

We spent several Sabbath Thoughts discussing how sheep represent God’s people. For the next couple of Sabbaths, let's discuss what the Bible has to say about shepherds. 1. SHEPHERDING WAS THE LOWEST OF OCCUPATIONS. Sheep are valuable, but shepherding was one of the lowliest of occupations. The wealthy hired shepherds. Families gave the job to young daughters or youngest son. Laban’s youngest daughter, Rachel, took care of his sheep. Genesis 29:5-6, “Then he said to them, ‘Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?’ And they said, ‘We know him.’ So he said to them, ‘Is he well?’ And they said, ‘He is well. And look, his daughter Rachel is coming with the sheep.’” The Egyptians detested shepherds. Genesis 46:33-34, “So it shall be, when Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ that you shall say, ‘Your servants’ occupation has been with livestock from our youth even till now, both we and also our fathers,’ that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.” David, Jessie’s youngest son, was not even included in the group when Samuel came to select one of Jessie’s sons to be the next king. 1 Samuel 16:11, “And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all the young men here?’ Then he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.’” Life in Palestine was lived mainly outdoors and animal husbandry was a major occupation. Even so, by the time of Jesus, that profession was consider unskilled. While not despised or considered as outcasts, shepherds were relegated to the lower social and economic class of society. However, it is noteworthy and very interesting that God chose to send angels to shepherds for the first announcement of the Savior’s appearance on earth. Luke 2:8-12, “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’” The sheep for the temple sacrifices were kept around Bethlehem and it is likely these shepherds were keepers of such sheep. Jesus if our Chief Shepherd. John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” Jesus was God, but He humbled Himself , became flesh and blood and was looked down upon by most and died the death of a criminal. Philippians 2:7-8, “but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Let us give thanks to our Chief Shepherd and our Father every day for all that they have done for us.

Sheep, Part 11 — Why God Chose Sheep to Represent His People — August 14, 2021

14. SHEEP CANNOT CARE OFR THEMSELVES WHEN WOUNDED. To some extent, other animals can lick their minor wounds when in reach. Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds.” God promises to heal Israel at the beginning of the Millennium. Jeremiah 30:17a, “For I will restore health to you And heal you of your wounds,’ says the Lord, …” Jesus was wounded so that we might be healed. Isaiah 53:5, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” This is quoted in 1 Peter 2:24. 15. SHEEP NEED PLENTY OF WATER. Sheep rely on their shepherd to lead them to water. And it has to be “calm” water reached by a gentle slope. If the slope is too steep, the sheep could fall in and drown. This is also true for rapids, the churning water could spray the sheep getting their coats wet resulting in disaster. Psalm 23:2b, “… He leads me beside the still waters.” Jesus promised to nourish Christians with the Holy Spirit as represented by water. John 7:37-38, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” God promises those entering His kingdom the water of life. Revelation 22:17, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” 16. SHEEP MUST BE LEAD TO GRASS. If left to themselves they will graze in the same place until all the grass is gone. God promises to take care of Israel’s cattle in the Millennium. Isaiah 30:23, “Then He will give the rain for your seed With which you sow the ground, And bread of the increase of the earth; It will be fat and plentiful. In that day your cattle will feed In large pastures.” In summary, let us remember Psalm 23:1-2, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” Let us close with a wonderful scripture about the Millennium, Ezekiel 34:14-16 (NLT), “Yes, I will give them good pastureland on the high hills of Israel. There they will lie down in pleasant places and feed in the lush pastures of the hills. I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign LORD. I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak. But I will destroy those who are fat and powerful. I will feed them, yes—feed them justice!”

Sheep, Part 10 — Why God Chose Sheep to Represent His People — August 7, 2021

11. SHEEP BECOME RESTLESS. Hunger and bugs cause this. There is a bug that torments sheep in the Middle East. It can land on the head and nest. If unchecked, they will multiply and eventually blind the sheep. Shepherds routinely rub olive oil on the sheep’s heads to prevent the bug from landing on them. As Christians fighting our daily battle with our carnal nature and an evil world, we can become spiritually restless. Psalm 6:6, “ I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears.” We look to God for help with the turmoil in our lives. Psalm 42:11, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” Through Jesus our Shepherd we can have peace. John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” 12. SHEEP ARE VALUABLE. They provide meat, milk and wool. They were an indication of a person’s wealth. Job had 7,000 sheep before his trial and 14,000 afterwards. While the Bible does not give a number we know Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had many sheep and goats. God loves us and wants to do good things for us. John 10:27-28, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” 13. SHEEP CAN BE A PERSONAL PET. Most of us likely remember the parable Nathan the prophet told David to indict David for his sin with Bathsheba. 2 Samuel 12:2-4, “The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” At the end of this age, God will rescue Israel. Isaiah 40:10-11, “Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand, And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.” Christians likened unto sheep are important to God and He goes to extra efforts to take care of us. Luke 15:4-6, “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’” We should give Jesus our Shepherd thanks every day for watching over us, protecting us and caring for us.

Sheep, Part 9 — Why God Chose Sheep to Represent His People — July 31, 2021

8. SHEEP REMAIN DIRTY UNTIL SOMEONE CLEANS THEM. The lanolin secreted by the skin coats the wool. While this keeps the animal warm in cold weather, the oily wool is one of the worst dirt-catching devices known to man. Every time a sheep lies down, grass, dirt, burrs, dust and many other things cling to its coat. Sheep are like a huge walking Velcro strip. We need Jesus to cleanse us from our sins. Psalm 51:2, 7, “ Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 9. SHEEP CANNOT GET UP OFF HEIR BACK WITHOUT HELP. This is called “cast down” and happens when the sheep has a full coat. The sheep must be sheared to prevent being “cast down” and losing its life. Matthew 17:7 (NLT), “Then Jesus came over and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’” Mark 3:3 (NASB), “He said to the man with the withered had, “Get up and come forward!’” 10. SHEEP MUST BE SHEARED FOR THEIR OWN GOOD. If the fleece gets too thick and heavy, the sheep will be “cast down” and lose its life. Sheep don’t like to be sheared and it is hard work for the shepherd. But once sheared, the sheep can be cooler for the summer and be free of the fleece that often has manure, mud, burrs, sticks and ticks. Jesus is pictured as a silent sheep before the shearers. Acts 8:32, “The place in the Scripture which he read was this: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; And as a lamb before its shearer is silent, So He opened not His mouth.” Jesus’ sacrifice shears away our filth and purifies us from sin. Titus 2:14, “who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Hebrews 1:3 (NLT), “The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.”

Sheep, Part 8 — Why God Chose Sheep to Represent His People — July 17, 2021

6. SHEEP ARE NOT MEANT TO CARRY BURDENS. This is obvious. One does not load up a sheep with something to carry like you would a donkey, horse or camel. Jesus tells us to put our burdens upon Him. Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” These verses can seem somewhat hard to understand in the Kings James Versions. Let’s look at a paraphrased translation that makes it easier to understand. Matthew 11:28-30 (TMSG), “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” 7. SHEEP WILL SETTLE FOR LESS. Sheep will drink dirty water that is near rather than clean water further away. Sheep will graze on trample grass that is near rather than good grass further away. That is why they need a good shepherd. We see God’s anger against bad shepherds that don’t take good care of their flock. Ezekiel 24:18-19, “Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture—and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet? And as for My flock, they eat what you have trampled with your feet, and they drink what you have fouled with your feet.” As faithful sheep following our Great Shepherd, the Father promises to take care of our daily needs. Matthew 6:31-33, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” We will close this week with Psalms 23:1-2, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.”

Sheep, Part 7 — Why God Chose Sheep to Represent His People — July 10, 2021

4) SHEEP ARE WEAK AND DEFENSELESS. As we stated before in point 1, sheep are dumb. Neither can they fight to protect themselves. This is the responsibility of the shepherd to protect the flock. Matthew 9:36 (NRSV), “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” David was an example of a good shepherd. 1 Samuel 17:34-35, “But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it.” Christians need God’s protection. Psalm 71:1-5, “In You, O Lord, I put my trust; Let me never be put to shame. Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to scape; Incline Your ear to me, and save me. Be my strong refuge, To which I may resort continually; You have given the commandment to save me, For You are my rock and my fortress. Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked, Out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man. For You are my hope, O Lord GOD; You are my trust from my youth.” Jesus is our Chief Shepherd who watches over us and protects us. 5) SHEEP ARE EMOTIONAL AND RECOGNIZE THEIR SHEPHERD’S VOICE. Shepherds can let their flocks mingle. When it is time to leave, they call out to their sheep, and only their sheep will respond to their voice. We see a brief example of this in Genesis 29:1-2, “So Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the East. And he looked, and saw a well in the field; and behold, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks. A large stone was on the well’s mouth.” Jesus made a major point of this in His teachings. John 10:3-5, “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” Much more to come on this topic.

Sheep, Part 6 — Why God Chose Sheep to Represent His People — July 3, 2021

There are some 16 analogies we can make about sheep that describe why they represent God’s people. 1) SHEEP ARE NOT INTELLIGENT. Most of the following items will support this one. Of course, compared to God, Christians are not intelligent. We have to have God’s guidance as our Shepherd to make are way through life. God does not chose the most powerful, wealthiest and wisest people at this time to be His sheep. 1 Corinthians:26-29, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” 2) SHEEP ARE INNOCENT. Sheep are naive about the world around them. Christians should be humble and naïve about evil and mistreating others. Matthew 18:2-4, “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” 3) SHEEP HAVE NO SENSE OF DIRECTION. Sheep tend to wander away from the flock without a shepherd. Christians can easily wander away from God unless they look to God as their Shepherd. Psalms 119:176 (NLT), “ I have wandered away like a lost sheep; come and find me, for I have not forgotten your commands.” Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” 1 Peter 2:25, “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” Christians can easily wander away from God unless they look to God as their Shepherd to keep them on the path to salvation. We will continue on this topic over the next few Sabbaths.

Jesus’ 32nd Command — June 26, 2021

Matthew 7:15-20, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” There will always be those who try to take advantage of the flock of God, either for financial gain or to exert power over the lives of others, bending them to their will. Jesus and the apostles warned that this would be a constant problem. Matthew 10:17, “But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.” Matthew 24:4-5, “And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.’” Matthew 24:11-12, “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” There are many warnings in the Old Testament for Israel, but Israel seldom heeded God’s warnings. Ezekiel 13:10, 16, “Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace—and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar. that is, the prophets of Israel who prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and who see visions of peace for her when there is no peace,’ says the Lord GOD.” 2 Peter 2:1-2, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.” 1 John 4:1-3, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” We live in a spiritual deceived and evil world. Pagan philosophy and teachings have infiltrated even the Churches of God. In Revelation the third chapter Jesus’ warns the Laodicean Church that they have watered down the faith once delivered and are deceiving themselves thinking they are spiritually rich when God warms them it is just the opposite. Let us take heed in our spiritual lives to hunt for and hang onto the original teachings of Jesus.

Jesus’ 31st Command — June 19, 2021

Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” The Apostle Paul tells us it is God’s desire that all humans be saved. 1 Timothy 2:3-4, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” However, Paul also tells us there is a time order, not everyone gets saved at the same time. 1 Corinthians 15:23, “But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.” One has to put all the scriptures together on this topic to understand the different time periods of salvation. The Apostle Paul refers to this as part of the “Mystery of God’s Plan of Salvation” several times: Ephesians 1:9-10, 3:3-5, 6:19, 1 Corinthians 2:7, 4:1, Colossians 1:26-27, 2:2-3, 1 Timothy 3:16. If we are privileged to be given the opportunity to walk through the narrow Gate of Salvation during this first 6000 years of much human ignorance, we should do so. Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” There is much evil is this present world and we must avoid it. Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Ephesians 2:1-5, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),”. Like the Old Testament Israelites, we are being given a choice. Let us choose wisely. Deuteronomy 30:19-20, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

Sitting In Moses' Seat — June 12, 2021

Matthew 23:1-3, “Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.” Is Jesus saying here that we should obey whatever the Pharisees or church leaders teach? When we read the rest of this chapter, we see Jesus warning against what the Pharisees teach and practice. Jesus uses the phrase “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” seven times in this chapter. He verbally blast the scribes and Pharisees for their religious practices. How then do we explain verse 3? This is one of those cases where the English translation does a poor job of conveying what is stated in the original Greek, and as we will see in a minute, the original Hebrew. First, the word “therefore” is very important as it continues the thought expressed in verse 2. Verse 2 refers to Moses and what he taught. The word “therefore” means if what the Pharisees teach is directly from the law God gave through Moses, obey it. Second, there is also another Greek word in this phrase which is untranslated as it is difficult to find a literal English word. This Greek word implies certain additional understood conditions. This means Jesus was not giving a blanket “thus saith the Lord, obey everything the Pharisees teach.” Jesus was saying evaluate what the Pharisees teach compared to what Moses wrote in the books of the law. Meaning, if you find what the Pharisees teach confirmed in the word of God in the Pentateuch, do it – but do not do after their works or follow the example of how they live their lives. This is further confirmed in the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew. There is now evidence that Matthew originally wrote his gospel in Hebrew and there are many such manuscripts in existence. In the oldest Hebrew manuscripts of Matthew, the English word translated as “they” in the Greek is the Hebrew pronoun translated “he” in the English. This pronoun “he” is directly referring back to Moses, not the Pharisees. Let’s translate verse 3 according to the original Hebrew. “Therefore, whatever he (Moses) tells you to observe, that observe and do, but do not according to their (Pharisees) works; for they say, and do not do.” This principle is confirmed in Matthew 16:12, “Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Jesus also chastised the Pharisees in Matthew 15:3, “He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?’” In Matthew 23:3 Jesus is making a general statement to remember what Moses taught, not the Pharisees. If the Pharisees teach to obey God’s laws as Moses taught: love God, love neighbor, pray, study, fast, tithe, remember the poor and so forth, the people should really do these things – even though the hypocritical Pharisees didn’t actually do these things correctly themselves. You can search the internet and YouTube for a more detailed analysis of this Biblical passage with varying opinions and determine what makes the most spiritual sense when compared with all that Jesus taught.

Sheep, Part 5 — God and Jesus are Shepherds — June 5, 2021

We have discussed in past Sabbath Thoughts how God uses sheep to represent His people and shepherds as their religious and political leaders. In addition, God also states that He is the Shepherd of Israel. Genesis 49:24(NLT), ”But his bow remained taut, and his arms were strengthened by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, by the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel.” We all know the most famous Psalm of all talks about God as our Shepherd. It describes how God takes care of us like a shepherd does his flock. Psalm 23:1-4, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” The rod and staff refer to a shepherd’s rod and staff. Another Psalm that talks about God as our Shepherd is Psalm 80:1, “Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock; You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth!” Jesus is referred to as a Shepherd feeding His flock in an Old Testament prophecy. Micah 5:2-4, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting. Therefore He shall give them up, Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren Shall return to the children of Israel. And He shall stand and feed His flock In the strength of the Lord, In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God; And they shall abide, For now He shall be great To the ends of the earth;” In addition, there are several New Testament scriptures that refer to Jesus as the Good and Great Shepherd. John 10:11, 14, 16, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” Hebrews 13:20, “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,”. 1 Peter 2:25, “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 5:4, “and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” What a blessing to know God watches over us, protects us, provides for us like a shepherd, all in His plan to lead us to salvation.

He shall be called a Nazarene — May 29, 2021

Matthew 2:23, “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’” There is no such scripture in the Old Testament that we have. Scholars have come up with a few possible explanations. Some say this refers to some prophet not included in our Bible, but no such evidence has been found to support this. In fact the town of Nazareth is never mentioned in the Old Testament. Some think it is a play on words between Nazareth and Nazarite. While these words may be similar even in the Greek and Hebrew languages, this requires a stretch of the imagination and is not usually how God expects us to understand His inspired words. Some think it is because Nazareth was considered to be a backwater town of no worth. John 1:46, “And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’” The scholars therefore say because Jesus was despised in the eyes of most Jews, this relates to the reputation of Nazareth. The best and most logical explanation is relative to the meaning of the word Nazareth. The Hebrew word for Nazareth probably is a derivative of a Hebrew word meaning “branch” or “shoot,” related to the trees, roots and shrubs which were plenteous around Nazareth. There are several scriptures that point to Jesus as the “Branch of David.” Isaiah 11:1, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” Jeremiah 23:5a, “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; …” Jeremiah 33:15, “In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David A Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.” Zechariah 3:8, “Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, You and your companions who sit before you, For they are a wondrous sign; For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH.” Zechariah 6:12, “Then speak to him, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, saying: ‘Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the Lord;’” The word of God cannot be broken. We just have to dig deep and do some research to find hidden treasures in the inspired words of God.

Which Sabbath? Is There More Than One Choice? — May 22, 2021

Leviticus 23:15, “And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the Sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven Sabbaths shall be complete:” The Hebrew word here for “Sabbaths” means the seventh-day Sabbath. Which Sabbath? The weekly Sabbath During the Days of Unleavened Bread. The first and seventh days of Unleavened Bread are Holy Convocations or “High Days” where other Hebrew words are used rather than the Hebrew word for the weekly Sabbath. A somewhat rare occasion occurred this year where the Days of Unleavened Bread began on a Sunday and the seventh day fell on the weekly Sabbath, a “double Sabbath” as it is often called. So why do most Churches of God chose a different Sabbath rather than the weekly Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread to start the count to Pentecost? In this situation, why do they instead chose the entirely different and separate Feast of Passover? Yes Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread follow one after the other. Just like the Eighth Day follows the Feast of Tabernacles. In each case, however, they are not one and the same feast and should never be considered as such. So why after 40 years of using the weekly Sabbath during the Days of Unleavened Bread did the Churches of God decide in this situation to chose the weekly Sabbath of Passover? They reasoned that the Wave Sheaf Offering had to fall within the Days of Unleavened Bread and therefore they had to count Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread as one feast and use Passover Sabbath as the weekly Sabbath from which to count. This is human reasoning and there are a couple of spiritual errors with this practice. One, the Wave Sheaf Offering is when the first bundle of the spring grain harvest is brought to the priest to be waved back and forth before God. It is a work day which was the official beginning of when the Israelites were allow to start harvesting their fields of spring grain. The problem in this case, is that the day after the Passover Sabbath, is the First Holy Day of Unleavened Bread—a day when harvesting was strictly forbidden. Second, and just as importantly, there is no Biblical statement that the Wave Sheaf Offering has to fall within the Days of Unleavened Bread. Leviticus 23:10-11, “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.” Note how this is stated, when the Israelites begin to reap their harvest, they are to bring a Wave Sheaf Offering on the morrow after the Sabbath. Israelites didn’t go get one bundle of grain, give it to the priest and then go to the Holy Convocation. They were out in the fields all day long except for a brief trip to the local priest. For more discussion on this and other topics relative to Pentecost, please read the three related articles under the “Articles” tab on this website. The main question each of us should ask ourselves is, “Who is our authority?” Is it what people say about the Bible? Or is it the inspired scriptures of the Bible?

Narrow is the Gate to Salvation — May 15, 2021

Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” How many Christians really understand these passages and believe it could apply to them? Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Matthew 23:13, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” To be fair, God’s desire is that all humans be saved. 1 Timothy 2:3-4, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” However, there is a time order. It is very, very difficult to make it into the First Resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15:22-24, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.” Revelation 20:5, “But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” We then see several resurrections at the end of this chapter. This is when the vast majority of humans will have a chance for salvation. How this phase of God’s Salvation will work is beyond our current understanding. There are several Old Testament scriptures that support this principle. We’ll just read three. Proverbs 4:26-27, “Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.” Ezekiel 18:27-32, “’Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive. Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair? ‘Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,’ says the Lord GOD. ‘Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,’ says the Lord GOD. ‘Therefore turn and live!’” Deuteronomy 30:19-20, “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” We will close with a very important principle, Jesus, as to be expected is key to all of this. John 10:7-9, “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”

Sheep, Part 4 — Sheep Represent God's People — May 8, 2021

God uses sheep quite often to represent His people, both physical Old Testament Israel and His New Testament church. He referred to Israel as sheep when bringing them out of Egypt. Psalms 78:52, “But He made His own people go forth like sheep, And guided them in the wilderness like a flock;” Israel as God’s sheep are repeatedly stated as giving God thanks and praise. Psalms 79:13, “So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, Will give You thanks forever; We will show forth Your praise to all generations.” God used sheep to represent the armies of Israel in prophesying they would lose in battle or be taken captive due to their disobedience. 1 Kings 22:17, “Then he said, ‘I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, These have no master. Let each return to his house in peace.’” Psalm 44:11, 22, “You have given us up like sheep intended for food, And have scattered us among the nations. Yet for Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” God also uses sheep to represent a time of peace and safety in the Millennium. Isaiah 65:25, “’The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, The lion shall eat straw like the ox, And dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,’ Says the Lord.” Jesus had compassion on His fellow Jews. Matthew 9:36, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” Jesus told Peter three times to feed His sheep. John 21:1517, “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, Feed My sheep.’” There are several specific reasons why God chose sheep to represent His people. We will cover those reasons in future Sabbath Thoughts.

Jesus’ 30th Command — May 1, 2021

Matthew 7:12, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” This is the well-known Golden Rule. This is another way of stating the Second Great Commandment. Matthew 22:39-40, “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Note how Jesus says regarding the First Great Commandment, love God with all your heart, and The Second Great Commandment, that all the Old Testament writings are based on these two commandments—the same comment He made concerning the Golden Rule. There are several scriptures in the Old Testament that express this thought of the Golden Rule in different ways. Let’s read just one. Zechariah 7:9-10, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion Everyone to his brother. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, The alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart Against his brother.’” Twice the apostle Paul references these principles. Romans 13:8-10, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Galatians 5:13-14, “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Let us remember the spiritual importance of the Golden Rule and strive to live by it every day of our lives.

Humility in Trials — April 24, 2021

James 1:9-11, “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.” As we have read in previous Sabbath Blogs, James begins his letter with “count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” He then talks about how trials increase our faith and patience. Next, he tells us to ask for wisdom to help us endure and learn spiritual lessons from our trials. James now explains the benefit of learning humility in our trials. For the poor, they should look forward to the reward they will receive of glory in the Kingdom of God. The rich should realize trials will help them learn more humility which they must have, trusting in God, not their riches, in order to enter into the Kingdom of God. We must remember Christians were being persecuted at that time more so than we Christians in the free world. The poor don’t have much physical wealth to lose in their trials. The rich should be prepared to lose their riches if they have trials of persecution. Being humbled and trusting in God is good for all of us for our spiritual growth. The rich and all of us must bear any losses from trials with joy and patience, realizing it is also an opportunity to develop Christian values and character that will never perish or be taken away from us. Happiness does not come from worldly riches, these riches will pass away. True happiness and spiritual wealth can come only from God.

Jesus' 29th Command — April 17, 2021

Matthew 7:7-11, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” There are several scriptures in the gospels and 1 John that repeat this concept. Matthew 21:22, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” John 15:7-8, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” This chapter begins with the analogy of the Vine and the branches. This is talking about spiritual nourishment from Jesus so we can bear spiritual fruit. While God indeed does want to bless us with enough physical things to make life enjoyable, the implied emphasis for whatever you ask you shall receive, is about asking for spiritual blessings, strength, knowledge, wisdom, faith, hope and love. James 1:5-6, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” James also states that asking for physical things is not always the proper thing to do. James 4:1-3 (NLT), “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” We might be tempted to say we hardly ever get everything we ask for in prayer. Why? Lack of faith, don’t forgive, don’t have mercy on others, ask for physical things that would not be in our best interest, lack of humility, forget the needy, lack patience, not seeking the Kingdom of God first, and so forth. We also must be obedient. 1 John 3:22, “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.” Again, the context is loving God and our brothers and sisters. When we ask for help in these two spiritual pursuits, God will answer. 1 John 5:14-15, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” This statement is made in the context of believing in the Son of God that we may receive eternal life. It is not wrong to pray for our physical needs but we must do so judiciously. Mainly, when we pray and ask for God’s blessings, the emphasis should be on requesting spiritual assistance in our quest for the gift of eternal life.

Repent and Overcome — April 10, 2021

Revelation 2:7, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” A similar statement is made to all seven churches. We just concluded observing Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread. These two feasts of God convey to us the need to repent and put sin out of our lives. We’ve been told in the past that the word repent means “change” and we were told repent meant to change our actions. Technically, the Greek word for repents means “to think differently” meaning to reconsider, or morally, to feel regret. This is more of a change of mind or change of heart as we might say. Jesus preached repentance from the very beginning of His ministry. Matthew 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Peter’s first sermon on the day of Pentecost concluded with a call for repentance. Acts 2:38, “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” We all know we have to do more than change our mind about sin. We have to make an effort to eliminate the sins in our lives. That is overcoming. The Greek word translated overcoming means “to subdue (literally or figuratively)” and is also translated as “conquer, prevail, triumph and victory.” Paul and the other apostles preached both repentance and overcoming. Acts 26:20b, “… to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Jesus told us to bear spiritual fruit. That is works, that includes overcoming the sin in our lives. While we can never completely eliminate sin in our lives, we have to have the help of God through the power of His Holy Spirit in our lives to make our best effort in this task. 2 Corinthians 2:14a, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, …” 1 John 5:4-5, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” Now, let’s return to the messages to the seven churches. Notice that five of the seven churches are told to repent in addition to overcoming. Let’s just look at Ephesus. Revelation 2:5, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” Christians must both repent and work at overcoming sin. The messages to the seven churches conclude with a promise of a reward if they overcome. Near the end of the book of Revelation is a summary promise of a great reward. Let us conclude with that. Revelation 21:7, “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.”

Jesus is the Bread of Life — April 3, 2021

During the time of Jesus, 70% of the average Jewish diet was bread. Bread was 70% of every meal. This is why there are so many references to bread when Jesus was teaching a lesson. Vegetables and fruits were consumed in season when available, but did not have a long shelf life. Foods like coffee, chocolate, potatoes and tomatoes were unknown to the Jews at this time. Meat like chicken, lamb and beef was too expensive and could only be afforded three or four times a year, usually during festivals. Fish, fresh or dried, was a lot more common. Various beans and nuts along with olives were a substantial part of the Jewish diet. Let’s look at a few of Jesus statements and better understand the context in which they were given. Matthew 4:3-4, “Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’ But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3) Matthew 6:11, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 7;9-10, “Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?” We know twice Jesus took a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, blessed them and fed 5000 and then 4000 men plus women and children. Jesus referenced bread to teach His disciples a lesson. Matthew 16:5-6, 12, “Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.’ … Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” For seven days during the Days of Unleavened Bread, we eat unleavened bread to symbolize humility and the putting out of sin. The unleavened bread taken during Passover represents the broken body of Jesus, by His stripes we are healed. Matthew 26:26, “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’” While it is not a reference to the Days of Unleavened Bread or even unleavened bread specifically, Jesus gave a discourse on His being the Bread of Life. John 6:30-33, “Therefore they said to Him, ‘What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’ Then they said to Him, ’Lord, give us this bread always.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’” Jesus went on to emphasize this point in verses 47-51, “’Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.’” Jesus both sacrificed His body represented by unleavened bread and is also the Living Bread come down from heaven to give us eternal life.

Sheep, Part 3 — Jesus is the Lamb of God — March 27, 2021

This Friday night is Passover where we commemorate the death of Jesus Christ our Savior. For approximately 1,500 years prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, the Israelites sacrificed lambs every evening and morning in addition to killing and eating the Passover lamb. All this was a forerunner to symbolize the actual event of the sacrifice of Jesus our Savior. Isaiah 53:5-7, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.” Jesus is our Passover lamb. He is the Lamb of God our Father who sacrificed His own Son for the forgiveness of our sins so we don’t have to die the second death. God the Father revealed to John the Baptist that Jesus was the Lamb of God. John 1:29, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’” A day later John the Baptist said the same thing, John 1:35-36, “Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’” The Apostle Peter tells us how we are redeemed from sin. 1 Peter 1:18-19, “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Jesus is referred to as the “Lamb of God” 26 times in the book of Revelation. Let’s look at a few of them. Revelation 5:6a, “And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, …” In Revelation 5:12 the angels proclaim, “saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!’” Revelation 7:9-10, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Those in the first resurrection are invited to the wedding feast with the Lamb of God. Revelation 19:7-9, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” Concerning New Jerusalem, Revelation 21:22-23, “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.” What a wonderful picture these scriptures give us of our Savior as the Lamb of God. Let us rejoice and be thankful for what Jesus did for us so that we could receive the gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus as our sacrifice for sin.

Sheep, Part 2 — Sheep & Shepherds — March 20, 2021

Last Sabbath we read that Abel was a shepherd. While sheep are a valuable commodity and indicated how wealthy a person was, taking care of the sheep was considered a lowly profession and regulated to hired hands, women and the youngest children. When Jacob first met Rachel, his future wife, at a well, she was taking care of her father’s sheep. Genesis 29:9, “Now while he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess.” Jacob then serves Laban 14 years for Leah and Rachel, Genesis 29. He then serves Laban another 6 years building his own flocks from the spotted and speckled from Laban’s flocks, Genesis 30. When Jacob and his family moved down to Egypt, Joseph told his brothers to tell Pharaoh they would like to settle in the land of Goshen, away from most Egyptians, because they were shepherds. Genesis 46:33-34, “So it shall be, when Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ that you shall say, ‘Your servants’ occupation has been with livestock from our youth even till now, both we and also our fathers,’ that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.” David was Jesse’s youngest son, and it befell him to take care of his father’s sheep. 1 Samuel 16:11, “And Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all the young men here?’ Then he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.’” It is the responsibility of the shepherd to protect the sheep and retrieve any that were lost, a fact David used to convince King Saul he would be a worthy opponent of Goliath. 1 Samuel 17:34-35, “But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it.’” Shepherds lived with the sheep, moving them from pasture to pasture and sleeping with them at night. God first revealed to shepherds near Bethlehem that the Messiah had been born. Luke 2:8-12, “Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” An interesting side note, the sheep for the evening and morning sacrifice were kept near Bethlehem and these shepherds were likely their caregivers. A shepherd uses a shepherd’s crook and a rod to guide, rescue and defend the sheep in their care. Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” As we approach the Passover season, let us consider these analogies as we remember Jesus is our Shepherd who died for our sins. We’ll discuss this more next Sabbath.

Sheep, Part 1 — Sheep & Shepherds — March 13, 2021

What animal is mentioned the most often in the Bible? The Bible refers to sheep around 212 times, lambs 203, rams (male sheep) 162. That is a total of 577 times. The word flocks is used around 170 times and usually refers to flocks of sheep. The next most often mentioned animal is a close relative of sheep, goats at 172 times. Bulls come in at 171, horses at 166, donkeys at 154 and lions and lioness at 145. Then we drop down to oxen at 98, camels at 71, dogs at 42, eagles at 30 and doves and turtledoves at 30. Guess which current popular pet is never mentioned in the Bible? Cats, house cats are never mentioned in the Bible. The serpent is mentioned in Genesis 3, but the first domestic animals mentioned in the Bible are sheep. Genesis 4:2-4, “Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering,” Abel was a shepherd. How did Abel know to sacrifice a sheep as an offering to God? Genesis 3:21, “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” While the Bible does not state which animal God chose to kill in order to make tunics for Adam and Eve, it is likely that they were sheep. This would have been the first time Adam and Eve witnessed the death of a living creature. It is also likely that God also chose this occasion to teach Adam and Eve that the shedding of blood was necessary for the forgiveness of sin and that animal sacrifices were to be performed in the worship of God. The Bible mentions several times that Abraham had sheep. The next big event to involve a male sheep is in the story of Abraham and Isaac. Genesis 22:6-7, “So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, ‘My father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ Then he said, ‘Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’” After God intervened and spared Isaacs life, we read in Genesis 22:13, “Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.” We know this story represents God the Father offering His Son Jesus Christ as the sacrifice for the sins of all human beings. Why does God use sheep and shepherds to represent His people and their leaders throughout the Bible? We’ll discuss that question in a future Sabbath Thought.

Ask for Wisdom — March 6, 2021

James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James is making a declaration, but doing so nicely in the form of a question. We all lack wisdom, spiritual wisdom is the emphasis here. Specifically, wisdom to endure tests, trials and persecution, as discussed in the prior verses. Wisdom that will keep tests and trials from becoming temptations to do wrong. Wisdom that begins with the fear of the Lord. Wisdom that is far greater than intellectual knowledge. This is a wisdom that should guide our Christian lives. A lack of spiritual wisdom is not only a cause of many problems in our Christian lives, but also within the Churches of God. All Christians are deficient to one degree or another in perfect spiritual wisdom and should ask for more. This should not be a onetime request, but something we pray for daily. Where does this kind of wisdom come from? Studying books written by humans or listening to their lectures? No! This type of wisdom only comes from God. We must therefore ask God for spiritual wisdom in faith. James 1:6-8, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” We must believe and be confident that God can and will give us spiritual wisdom. We must believe God is true to His word, His promises and wants to grant us our request for more spiritual wisdom. James says is we don’t have faith in God answering our request, we cannot expect for that request to be fulfilled. The fault would be with us, not with God. We cannot be double minded, that is, one soul or heart turned toward God and the other turned toward physical things. Now, let us reread the last phrase of verse 5, “God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” God knows we lack spiritual wisdom and He wants to grant us more. God will not ridicule us nor grudgingly, sparingly and reluctantly grant our request. No, God gives liberally, freely, richly and cheerfully. All God wants in return is for us to love and obey Him. God’s love and mercy never fail. God loves to give us wisdom. God is a generous giver. Therefore, let us have faith in asking God for more spiritual wisdom on a continual basis.

Rejoice in Trials — February 27, 2021

James 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” The KJV has “temptations,” but the Greek is more properly translated “trials” or “tests” as most all modern translation do so. Jesus said to pray that we fall not into temptations, but tests and trials are a part of Christian life. This is not a punishment from God, but the reality of living in an unjust world. Tests and trials exercise and increase our faith in God, helping to purify our Christian character as we learn endurance in the process. The Greek word translated “patience” in the KJV implies more than passive waiting and submission to the trial. It means to actively exercise our faith and is translated “endurance” in modern translations. We are not to pray for God to take away our trial, but to give us endurance and wisdom to learn the lessons God wants us to learn from the experience. Tests and trials also help us to learn more about ourselves as Christians and our relationship with God. The development of faith and endurance cannot be learned with a “quick fix” to our tests and trials. Not until we are steadfast and unmoved by any attack of Satan could it be said our faith is perfect or complete. Tests and trials, and yes, persecution too, can diminish our health, our energy, our wealth, cause sorrows and losses and yes, find flaws in our faith and endurance. We must not be swallowed up by these difficulties, but let our faith lead us to a more perfect Christian character. Thus, we shore up our faith so that we can endure even more difficult tests and trials in the future. Peter says the same thing at the beginning of his first epistle, adding how valuable this whole process is for us. 1 Peter 1:6-9, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” We are not being told to rejoice in the physical harms we may suffer in our tests and trials, but to rejoice in the spiritual results of these tests and trails—building more faith, increasing our spiritual endurance with the ultimate outcome of entering into the Kingdom of God.

Loving God, Part 9 — February 20, 2021

Matthew 22:37-40, “Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” We have spent many Sabbath Thoughts on God’s love for us and that we in return should love God. And God tells us to love our neighbor, in reality, by obeying all the laws that God has given us in His inspired Bible. The purpose and intent of all of God’s laws is to teach us how to love God and how to love our neighbor. Galatians 5:14, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said we must keep His commandments in addition to loving Him. John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” Love of God and obedience to His laws go together. You cannot be a true Christian disciple with only one and not the other. Here are different ways of expressing what happens when you have one without the other.
  • Obedience without love is legalism
  • Obedience for its own sake is vanity
  • Obedience without love is cruel and brutal
  • Obedience without love is fruitless
  • Obedience without love is pointless
  • Obedience without love is empty
  • Obedience without love is too hard
  • Love without obedience is to too soft
  • Love without obedience is hypocrisy
  • Love without obedience is empty
  • Love without obedience is ineffective
  • Love without obedience is blind
When you think about the above statements, think about the Pharisees and how they demonstrated the principles of obedience without love. When you think about the above statements concerning love, think about the many modern day Christians who talk about and profess a love for God, that they indeed do have, but do not obey all the commandments of God. These are important principles that we should teach our children, that God loves us and that we should love and obey God. God created humans, Adam and Eve, in love. Our purpose for existence is to return that love and enter into His family, the Kingdom of God. 1 John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us.” Romans 8:38-39, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We should all read 1 Corinthians 13 more often. Let us close these discussions on love with a nice summary scripture. Colossians 3:14, “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”

Loving God, Part 8 — February 13, 2021

Loving God means loving our neighbor as our self. This gets special consideration for our friends and the brethren in God’s church. The scriptures on loving others can often be applied to all three subtopics, neighbors, friends and church brethren. Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for [to help in] adversity.” Unity and harmony are very important in each case. Psalm 133:1, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!” Jesus set the example, He called His disciples His friends. John 15:12-15, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Jesus said there should be a special love between His disciples, including you and me. John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Paul admonished the Galatians to love their spiritual brothers and sisters. Galatians 6:10, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Peter also encouraged unity and loving comradery. 1 Peter 3:8, “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; ” The apostle John states the importance of loving our spiritual brothers and sisters several times. 1 John 5:2, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.” 1 John 3:10-11 (NLT), “So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God.” 1 John 3:14, 16, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Let us follow the example of Jesus in loving others as expounded upon by His apostles.

Loving God, Part 7 — February 6, 2021

We are discussing subtopics within the major topic of loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. That includes your enemies, Matthew 5:43-45a, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; …” Loving our enemy doesn’t mean we have to socialize with them or be around them, especially if they would do us harm. We pray for them to know God in the future as we know God now. The Old Testament had laws that if you saw your enemy's ox going astray or his donkey overburdened, you were to help him, Exodus 23:4-5. The apostle Paul expands on this point by quoting from the Old Testament, Romans 12:19-20, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “’Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’” (quoted from Deuteronomy 32:35 and Proverbs 25:21-22). We are also to love and to help the poor, the fatherless, the widow and the stranger. Matthew 25:37-40, “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’” The apostle John tells us that if we love God and are able, we will help the poor. 1 John 3:17, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” We have read in past Sabbath Thoughts how God watches over orphans, widows and the stranger, Psalm 146:9a, “The Lord watches over the strangers; He relieves the fatherless and widow; …” If we as Christians are growing in love for God and our neighbor, we will be putting these principles into practice. James 1:27, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

Loving God, Part 6 — January 23, 2021

Love your mate and family. We know there are a few scriptures that state husbands should love their wives, as Jesus loved the church. That is a lot to live up to. Ephesians 5:25, 28, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, … So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.” Interestingly, there is no scripture that exactly states wives should love their husbands. The Bible instead uses words like respect, submit and honor. A wife cannot have these attitudes towards her husband if she does not love him. The Biblical word “honor” means to esteem and treat another with respect because of who they are or what they have done. Honor has the sense of value, price or quality. Ephesians 5:25, “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Husbands and wives should be a team working together to enter the Kingdom of God. 1 Peter 3:7, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” In general, but not always, females have less physical strength than males. Husbands should take this into consideration without placing too much emphasis on it. The important statement is that husbands are also to honor their wives as heirs together of the grace of life. As we have discussed here before, men and women are equal in the eyes of God, but God has given them different responsibilities. Both men and women are created in the image of God. Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” The word “man” in the Bible often means all human beings, and as we now say to be politically correct, “humankind.” Parents should love their children and children should love their parents. Again, there are no scriptures that use those exact words. The Bible tells parents to care for, protect, correct in moderation, and teach their children about God. That would naturally include loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. As the apostle Paul points out, the fifth commandment is the first commandment with a promise. Ephesians 6:2, “’Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise:” Here again the word honor is used. Leviticus 19:3, “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God.” Why doesn’t the Bible use the phrases, parents love your children or children love your parents? Perhaps because these are fairly normal emotions for most human beings. Whereas, to love your neighbor is not always a given and therefore a command of God stated several times. The Bible indicates that in the End Time, the love of many will grow cold. Individuals will be mostly concerned with their own interests and welfare, often to the exclusion of others. An interesting statement is made in the last verses of the Old Testament indicating the need for love to be restored and the extreme important of this needing to happen. We’ll close with Malachi 4:5-6, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

Jesus’ 28th Command — January 23, 2021

Matthew 7:6, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” What did Jesus mean with this statement? Are never to tell the unconverted about Jesus? Let us at first concentrate on the last phrase of this verse, “and turn and tear you in pieces.” Jesus is talking about individuals who will react violently if we try to preach the spiritual doctrines of God to them. Solomon made a similar point regarding the correction of others. Proverbs 9:7-8 (NLT), “Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt. So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you. But correct the wise, and they will love you.” The apostle Paul had experience with this. His custom in a new area was to go to the Jewish synagogue and try to convince them from Old Testament scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah. He had mixed results, some believing, some upset. Read the first nine verses of Acts 17. He had an even better result in Berea where the Jews were more fair-minded and searched the scriptures to verify what Paul was teaching them, Acts 17:10-12. Once in a while, Paul even preached to the Gentile Greeks in their public marketplace as at Athens. This is where Greek philosophers came to discuss a variety of topics and Paul was given his chance to speak to them. Some wanted to hear more while others thought his teachings concerning the resurrection were foolishness. Read the last half of chapter 17. Paul was an apostle and had a commission that neither you nor I have. Paul needed to be careful to whom he preached. He sometimes got himself in trouble and even stoned to death one time, but God healed him (Acts 14:19-20). As one minister said, “Never give that which is hallowed and precious to wild, dangerous, out-of-control, wandering, nomadic, diseased, and mangy dogs….” Jesus’ 28th command doesn’t mean we are not to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom Of God to non-believers, it means we don’t try convert someone who is obviously belligerent towards God and the Bible.

Loving God, Part 5 — January 16, 2021

Micah 6:8, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” If we love God, we will want to develop the same characteristics as He has: love, mercy, righteousness, humility, peacefulness, patience, wisdom, and so forth. Luke 6:26, “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” We are told that if we want to receive mercy from God, we must be merciful to others. Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.” We must also strive for righteousness. Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” We must practice a righteous life if we want to be born into the Kingdom of God. 1 John 2:29, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.” We should also seek wisdom in this life. Proverbs 19:8, “He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good.” Psalm 107:43, “Whoever is wise will observe these things, And they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.” It is good to have physical wisdom in business, finances, health, etc. More importantly is spiritual wisdom. James 3:17-18, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” While God is a strong and mighty God, He is a humble God. Jesus, as God in the flesh, came to serve and washed His disciples’ feet. John 13:14, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” If we truly love God, we will follow Jesus’ example. We will show our love for God by loving others with humility as we show them mercy, peace, patience, kindness and serve them in righteousness and wisdom.

Jesus' 27th Command — January 9, 2021

Matthew 7:3-5, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” The command is remove the plank from your own eye first. Jesus precedes this command with an analysis of the Jewish religious leaders who were telling so many others to rid themselves of perceived sins when these leaders were committing far worse sins. Jesus called them hypocrites. We don’t want to be hypocrites. But notice, Jesus did not say it was wrong to help a brother or sister rid themselves of a problem. Jesus strongly states we should just make sure we don’t have bigger problems ourselves. Regarding the woman taken in adultery, Jesus said in John 8:7, “So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’” Our first responsibility is to evaluate our own life. 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT), “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. ” Once we have cleaned up our own life, it is permissible to help others overcome their faults. Jude 1:23, “but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” James 5:20, “let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” Jesus told Peter to help his fellow disciples. Luke 22:32, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” The apostle James states that teachers and elders as leaders in the church have a special responsibility that not everyone should seek. James 3:1, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.” Taking on the responsibility of correcting others is a serious task. We can help others see and overcome their faults. But only after we have examined ourselves and know we have our own lives in good spiritual order. Even then, it should be done with great care and in love.

Loving God, Part 4 — January 2, 2021

John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” A very simple but most powerful statement. A love for God the Father and Jesus the Son of God is admirable. But without total obedience to all the commandments They have given us in the Bible, it is a blind love. Love without obedience can be misguided and empty. Obedience proves our love for God, just like the apostle James said he could prove he had faith by his works (James 2:18). God says these two actions are necessary in order for us as individuals to be blessed. Deuteronomy 7:9, “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” The law of God has to be part of our Christian makeup. Psalm 1:2, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night.” This principle is repeated dozens of times in the Psalms. Here is one more. Psalm 119:97, “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” The commandments of God show us how we interact with others showing them love. Romans 13:8-10, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” The apostle John states the same principle. 1 John 5:2-3, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” We read a great promise in Deuteronomy if we love God and keep His commandments. We will close with a similar promise that Jesus made. John 14:21, 23, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. … If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”

Jesus’ 26th Command — December 26, 2020

Matthew 7:1-2, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” The Greek work used here for “judge” simply means “to judge.” However, there are many different ways one can judge another person. What kind of judging is Jesus warning against? Luke 6:37, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” It is condemning judgment that Jesus tells us we must shun. Jesus is talking about spiritually judging others and stating what sentence or fate we think an individual should receive. None of us can judge what is in another’s heart, only God can. Paul seems to be warning a particular individual in Romans 2:1-3(NLT), “You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things?” There is another type of judgment, the type that is more of an evaluation. Determining right from wrong, recognizing sin and overcoming it or staying far away from it are acceptable forms of judgment. In addition, Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 6 that they themselves should be able to judge civil matters between brethren rather than going to the Roman courts. James, however, warns against judging others in the church. James is referring to spiritually judging and passing sentence, whereas Paul was talking about civil judging. James 4:11-12, “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” Let us remember Jesus prefers mercy over judgment. James 2:13(NLT), “There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” John 12:47-48, “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” There is a Judgment Day coming. If we love and obey God the Father and accept Jesus as our Savior, we do not need fear the Judgment Day. John 5:24, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”

Loving God, Part 3 — December 19, 2020

John 16:27, “for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.” Last time we covered this topic we discussed loving God the Father. Now, let us review a few scriptures that tell us we must also love the Son of God, our Savior. Ephesians 6:24, “Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.” 2 Timothy 1:13(NLT), “Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus.” We are promised current and future blessings for loving Jesus. James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” 1 Peter 1:7-9, “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.” Since we love Jesus, we must live our lives according to His commandments. John 14:15, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” We must also love others and help the less fortunate, for helping them is the same as helping Jesus. Jesus made this analogy in a parable in Matthew 25:34-40. Let’s read just one verse in summary. Matthew 25:40, “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Part of Jesus’ final message to His disciples was to keep His commandments, showing our love for Him. A fantastic blessing is promised if we do that. John 14:21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

Jesus’ 25th Command — December 11, 2020

Matthew 6:33-34, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” This command from Jesus is a summary statement or conclusion to the first part of His Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5 and 6. Jesus first gave the Beatitudes, stating what we must do to enter the Kingdom of God. He then told us to let our light shine and to fulfill the spirit of the Old Testament laws. Jesus emphasized loving our neighbors and even our enemies. He gave instructions on giving, prayer and fasting. All this leads up to the last half of chapter 6 where Jesus says don’t worry about physical things, but seek first the Kingdom of God. The whole of these two chapters, indeed all that Jesus taught, is about how we can enter into the Kingdom of God. It must be our first priority in life. John also made a statement on this topic. John 6:27, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” The apostle Paul also made a similar statement. Colossians 3:3, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Peter gave a list of virtues we as Christians must incorporate in our lives in verses 5 through 9 of 2 Peter 2. He then states, 2 Peter 2:10-11, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Yes, the Kingdom of God must be foremost in our minds. We are to seek first the Kingdom of God. How do we do that? By obeying all the commands of Jesus. Nobody can do that perfectly, but Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins. This was all done because God the Father really wants us to be in His Family, the Kingdom of God. Luke 12:32, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

Pray for Our Leaders — December 5, 2020

1 Timothy 2:1-2, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.” The apostle Paul was inspired to write that Christians should pray for a peaceful and quiet life. How? By praying for their government leaders. These leaders likely do not have the same outlook on life that we Christians do. We may not like their personality or what they represent. However, we are still to pray for them. Not that they be successful in administering policies that might be harmful for the nation, but that whatever they do, it would allow us Christians to continue to practice our Christian beliefs. Regardless, we are to respectful to all our government leaders. Romans 13:1, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” God is aware of all things. He allows, permits or choses who He wants to lead a nation. Daniel explained this same principle to Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel 2:21, “And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.” After Nebuchadnezzar’s had been cast out of his government for seven years, he made this proclamation to his whole kingdom to explain why this had happened. Daniel 4:17, “For this has been decreed by the messengers; it is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses— even to the lowliest of people.” God doesn’t always directly intervene or manipulate events to establish a specific individual as the ruler. God also allows a nation to pick their own leaders. Hosea 8:3-4a, “ Israel has rejected the good; The enemy will pursue him. They set up kings, but not by Me; They made princes, but I did not acknowledge them.” That doesn’t mean God approves of every ruler He puts in power. God allows or actually places certain individuals in power in order that His prophecies be fulfilled. Jesus also commented on this topic as it pertained to His imminent death. John 19:10-11, “Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?’ Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.’” As Christians we have to have faith and trust in God and His promises. His promises to protect us and that all things work out together for good. Jesus told us to love everyone. Let us remember what Jesus commanded in His sermon on the mount. Luke 6:27-28, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.”

Thanksgiving — November 27, 2020

We just celebrated another Thanksgiving Holiday, this year in the midst of more troubles than usual. However, giving God thanks for the good things we have is extremely important for our own spiritual and physical health. Type that in to an internet search and one will find the following. Studies show practicing gratitude can lead to more intimate and connected relationships, less depression, more motivation and engagement, and better overall mental well-being. In some studies, the more grateful people reported being happier, better sleep, less fatigue, less depression, less stress, healthier hearts, greater self-esteem and improvements in mental strength. It should go without saying that being grateful is essential for one’s spiritual health. 2 Corinthians 5:15(NLT), “All of this is for your benefit. And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.” Giving thanks to God and praising Him are similar and something we all should do. Ephesians 5:19-20, “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,”. Whatever our circumstances, we can find something to be grateful for. If nothing else, our spiritual knowledge of God our Father, Jesus Christ our Savior and Their Plan of Salvation. Colossians 3:16-17, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” An interesting observation is that many of the Psalms talk about troubles in this life and ask “where is God,” but then invariably near the conclusion, end with “praise God.” Psalm 69 is one such example. David begins by saying he is up to his neck in deep mire, he is weary with crying and his enemies hate him. But then near the end of this psalm, verses 29, 30 and 31, David says, “But I am poor and sorrowful; Let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high. I will praise the name of God with a song, And will magnify Him with thanksgiving. This also shall please the Lord better than an ox or bull,”. We will end with a simple but very powerful statement from 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Loving God, Part 2 — November 21, 2020

Matthew 22:36-38, “’Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.’” Last Sabbath we started with Mark’s version of this greatest of all commandments to love God and reviewed Old Testament scriptures. This Sabbath, let’s read New Testament scriptures on this topic. Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Here an important blessing is promised to those who love God as do also the following scriptures. 1 Corinthians 8:3(NLT), “But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.” James 2:5, “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” 1 John 4:16-19, “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.” When we think of loving God, we first think of God the Father. In addition, we know we must also love Jesus, the Son of God. 1 John 5:1-2, “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.” We’ll review more scriptures about loving Jesus in a future Sabbath Thought.

Loving God, Part 1 — November 14, 2020

We have spent nine Sabbath Thoughts talking about the love God has for us. Now, let’s discuss how we should return that love. We know that when asked, Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God the Father. Mark 12:29-30, “Jesus answered him, ‘The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.’” This is not a new concept Jesus came up with, He was quoting the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” This is repeated in Deuteronomy 10:12, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,”. In this book that Moses wrote shortly before his death, he emphasized the importance of loving God many times: Deuteronomy 11:1, 13, 22; 19:9; 30:6, 16, 20. David is a great example of someone who loved God. Psalm 18:1, “I will love You, O Lord, my strength.” Psalm 31:23, “Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints! For the Lord preserves the faithful, And fully repays the proud person.” Psalm 97:10, “You who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 116:1, “I love the Lord, because He has heard My voice and my supplications.” Psalm 145:20, “The Lord preserves all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy.” And one scripture in Proverbs, Proverbs 8:17, “I love those who love me, And those who seek me diligently will find me.” Next time we will discuss the New Testament scriptures on this topic.

Jesus’ 24th Command — November 7, 2020

Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” Jesus expands upon this command in the next few verses. Matthew 6:26-32, “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” While we are not to worry about having enough to eat, clothes to wear and a place to sleep, that doesn’t mean we don’t work for and plan for these things. We can’t just sit on the couch and expect God to deliver these things to us with no effort on our part. The key here is to have faith and trust in God that He will help us achieve what we need in order to have enough of these things in our lives. That is why we don’t worry about having enough physical things—we have faith. There is an old saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” There is a lot of truth in that saying. Jesus talks more about this topic in Matthew 13:22(NLT), “The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.” Worrying about physical things and trying to acquire wealth has been detrimental to many Christians. Peter repeated this thought in 1 Peter 5:7(NLT), “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” Let us close with a promise from God found in Jeremiah. Jeremiah 17:7-8, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

Heavenly Record Books — October 31, 2020

The very first clue that we have about heavenly record books is from Moses. Exodus 32:32, “Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.” Moses knew that God was writing a record book. We have to read other scriptures to find more about this topic. David tells us there is a heavenly book that includes the names of the righteous. Psalm 69:28, “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, And not be written with the righteous.” This is confirmed by Malachi. Malachi 3:16, “Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord And who meditate on His name.” There appears to be more than one heavenly book. Another book records everything we do as humans, before we do it. Psalms 139:16 (NLT), “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” As we have discussed before, God is the Eternal God of yesterday, today and tomorrow, His presence exist at all times, that is how God knows the future, He exists in the future. Jesus also told His disciples about a heavenly book. Luke 10:20, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” There are a few other scriptures that reference a book of God, some calling it the Book of Life: Psalm 56:8, Psalm 69:28, Daniel 7:10, Daniel 12:1, Philippians 4:3 and Hebrews 12:23. Most of the references to heavenly books are in Relation. Revelation 3:5, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelation 13:8, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Revelation 17:8, “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” Revelation 21:27, “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” Rev 22:19, “and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” The most informative scriptures are found in chapter 20. Verse 12, “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” In this verse we see both “the books” and “the Book of Life.” “The books” appear to be those which record every event of every human life. If they have done good, their name will be in the Book of Life. If not, we see their fate in verse 15, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Why God keeps heavenly record books is unknown. God has a perfect memory and can keep track of everything that ever happens without it being documented in a record book. Perhaps it is for our benefit plus a warning that we should be mindful of our every action because they are recorded in “the books”. This should motivate us to be more careful how we live our lives so that when we are judged, our name will remain in “The Book of Life.”

"I AM" — October 24, 2020

When God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, Moses asked God what name should he tell the Israelites when they would ask him which God had sent him. God’s answer is in Exodus 3:14, “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” In verse 15, the Hebrew word for LORD is YHWH. Exodus 3:15(NLT), “God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.’” Scholars vary on the meaning of this Hebrew word from something as simple as “He Is” or “I Am” to “He Who Makes That Which Has Been Made” or “He Brings into Existence Whatever Exists.” Before this, God was often known as El or Elohim. These are a title, i.e., "God,” like the word “king.” Whereas YHWH is a personal name like “David”. God is saying I will be known to the Israelites by My Personal Name, not just a title. Jesus, as God in the flesh, also used this phrase. Seven times to express what He meant to the human race. One, John 6:35, “And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’” Two, John 8:12, “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’” Three, John 10:9, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Four, John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” Five, John 11:25, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.’” Six, John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” Seven, John 15:15, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” Twice Jesus uses the phrase “I Am” to show Himself as God in the flesh. John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’” The second time was shortly before His crucifixion when the Jewish religious leaders came to arrest Him. Jesus asked who they were looking for. John 18:5-6, “They answered Him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’ Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” Jesus as the only Begotten Son of God is like His Father. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is the Creator of everything that exists. He is our Eternal Savior.

The Kingdom of God — October 17, 2020

We just finished keeping the Feast of Tabernacles along with the Eighth Day. We look forward to being accepted into the heavenly Kingdom of God as the spiritual children of God. We also look forward to ruling over a physical Kingdom of God on this earth alongside Jesus who Himself will be King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. This was all prophesied in the Old Testament. Many of the Psalms are prophetic. Psalm 2:6-9, “Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’” There are many Messianic and Millennial scriptures in Isaiah. Isaiah 9:6-7, “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 45:22-23, “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath.” Isaiah 66:22-23, “’For as the new heavens and the new earth Which I will make shall remain before Me,’ says the Lord, ‘So shall your descendants and your name remain. And it shall come to pass That from one New Moon to another, And from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me,’ says the Lord.” Daniel saw a vision of Jesus ruling over the whole earth. Daniel 7:13-14, “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.” There are several references to the Millennium in the minor prophets. Let’s look at a couple from the book of Zechariah. Zechariah 2:10-11, “’Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,’ says the Lord. ‘Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.’” Zechariah 14:9, “And the Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be— ‘The Lord is one,’ And His name one.” In one sense, the Feast of Tabernacles represents two kingdoms. First, the Kingdom of God composed of the children of God born into the Family of God through the First Resurrection. And second, a Kingdom of God on this earth composed of physical human beings guided and ruled over by the Heavenly Kingdom of God. We look forward to being in the Heavenly Kingdom of God and seeing our physical descendants enjoying the Kingdom of God on this earth.

Importance of Trees In the Bible — October 10, 2020

Genesis is appropriately the first book of the Bible. Likewise, Revelation provides an appropriate ending for the Bible. These two books are like bookends for all the other books of the Bible. At the beginning and end of these two books, some very important trees are mentioned. Other than God and human beings, trees are mentioned in the Bible more than any other living thing. Trees are directly mention around 322 times in the Bible with additional references to their branches and the like. Many major characters and events in the Bible have a tree associated with them. We have Noah’s ark, Genesis 6:14, “Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.” Moses and the burning bush, likely a small Acacia tree. Acacia wood was also used to build the Ark of the Covenant. Exodus 25:10, “And they shall make an ark of acacia wood; two and a half cubits shall be its length, a cubit and a half its width, and a cubit and a half its height.” There are many varieties of Acacia trees which are the most common type of tree that grows in the semi-arid climate of the Middle East. They grow thorns that are one to two inches in length. It is likely the crown of thorns shoved down on Jesus’ head came from an Acacia tree. Likewise, the cross was likely from a bigger variety of the Acacia tree. Remember, Jesus was crucified on a tree. 1 Peter 2:24, “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.” Now, back to our discussion of trees at the beginning and ending of the Bible. These stories involve the “Tree of Live.” In planting the Garden of Eden, God mentions trees several times. Genesis 2:8-9, “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” At the end of the Bible we see Heavenly Jerusalem with the Throne of God with God the Father and Jesus Christ coming to take up permanent residence on this earth. Coming out from under that throne is a river of living water with trees of life on both sides. Revelation 22:1-2, “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” As we celebrate the “Eighth Day” of this feast time, let us look forward to when we can partake of the Tree of Life in the Kingdom of God.

The Second Coming of Jesus and the Kingdom of God — October 3, 2020

As we start to observe the Feast of Tabernacles on this double Sabbath, we can think about the event that ushers in the Millennium, the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. It is easy for us in retrospect with the scriptures of the New Testament to appreciate and be able to distinguish verses on the First Coming of Jesus as the Messiah compared to the Second Coming of Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The New Testament scriptures make both of these events and their differences crystal clear. If we would have been living at the time of Jesus as the Messiah, this would not have been so easy based on the Old Testament scriptures alone. In fact it would have been very difficult. As a whole, the Jews and their religious leaders thought the Messiah would come to reestablish a physical kingdom of Israel, a powerful independent kingdom like under King David and King Solomon. Basically, the Old Testament scriptures just give us the general idea that a descendent of King David will rule forever. While God made promises to David that he would always have a male descent to sit upon his throne, it is the prophets that really clarify this concept. Jeremiah 23:5-6, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE Lord OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Jeremiah 33:15-16, “In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David A Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In those days Judah will be saved, And Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called: THE Lord OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’” We see in the minor prophets that the whole world will then keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Zechariah 14:16, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” For 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus appeared on several occasions to His disciples teaching them more about the Kingdom of God. Acts 1:3, “to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” The disciples still though Jesus would usher in this kingdom immediately. Acts 1:6, “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’” Jesus told them it wasn’t for them to know the timing of these future events. Neither do we know the exact timing of these events. But we fervently believe they will be fulfilled very soon. We wait eagerly with patient anticipation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the realization of the Kingdom of God.

Our High Priest and the Day of Atonement — September 26, 2020

Jesus is represented as the Lamb of God for Passover. Like a sacrificial lamb, Jesus was slain for the forgiveness of our sins. As we observe the Day of Atonement this coming Monday, we should consider Jesus as our High Priest. Hebrews 3:1,”Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus.” Hebrews 4:14, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” His responsibility as High Priest is to make an atonement for the sins of the world. Hebrews 2:17(NRSV), “Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people.” 1 John 2:2(NRSV), “and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” This atoning sacrifice by our Savior will cleanse and reconcile us to God the Father. 1 John 1:7, 9, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. The end result of this atoning sacrifice that cleanses us is to reconcile us to God our Father.” 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” Colossians 1:20-22, “and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight.” The Day of Atonement represents a wonderful and significantly important concept in God’s Plan of Salvation, that we can ultimately become “at one” with God our Father. The High Priest in the Old Testament was only able to approach the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies once a year. At Jesus’ death, the vail that separated the Holy of Holies from the congregation of Israel was torn in half, top to bottom. Through the shed blood of our High Priest Jesus Christ, we now have direct access to God the Father as He sits on His Throne of Grace and Mercy. Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Jesus 23rd Command, Part 2 — September 12, 2020

This is a special Sabbath, a double Sabbath, the Feast of Trumpets occurring on the weekly Sabbath. We continue our discussion on Jesus’ command to lay up treasures in heaven, not on this earth. This turns out to be somewhat appropriate on the Holy Day of Trumpets or Rosh Hashanah as the Jews call it. The Feast of Trumpets pictures many things: a time of war, the Day of the Lord and the Second Coming of Jesus to name just three. The Bible tells us that physical riches will not protect us from these end-time disasters. Proverbs 11:4, “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death.” Zephaniah 1:18a, “ Neither their silver nor their gold Shall be able to deliver them In the day of the Lord’s wrath; …” We must work to provide food, clothing and shelter for our family. However, we don’t set our hearts on physical wealth. We trust in God to help us take care of our needs. Matthew 6:31-32, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Hebrews 13:5(NLT), “Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’” Here is another scripture that repeats the same principle as Jesus’ 23rd command. Colossians 3:2, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” God promises to reward us with unspeakable riches when we become His children in the Kingdom of God. Romans 8:17, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” 1 Peter 1:4, “to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” Jesus promises to return with a reward for His disciples that obey His commandments. Matthew 16:27, “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” Revelation 22:12, “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” This is what we look forward to, true wealth in the Kingdom of God. May you all have a wonderful Feast of Trumpets.

Jesus 23rd Command, Part 1 — September 12, 2020

Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” While it is not wrong to have material possessions, even an abundance of them, it is wrong to have a love of money and material possessions. It is wrong to put our trust in wealth and rely on it to protect us. It is wrong to covet and want more and more physical wealth. Jesus gave the parable of the rich man who had a huge harvest, tore down his old barns and built bigger ones so he could take it easy and celebrate his wealth. God said he was a fool and his life was forfeit. Jesus then gives the moral of the parable. Luke 12:15, “And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Those who love wealth never have enough wealth. Ecclesiastes 5:10, “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity.” The Bible tells us to earn an honest living. Psalm 62:10(NLT), “Don’t make your living by extortion or put your hope in stealing. And if your wealth increases, don’t make it the center of your life.” There are many things that are more important than wealth. Proverbs 16:16, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” We are talking about physical wealth vs. spiritual wealth. One way we can do this is to use our physical wealth to help the less fortunate. Proverbs 19:17(NLT), “If you help the poor, you are lending to the LORD—and he will repay you!” We all need food, clothing and shelter. While important for our physical survival, we need to be more concerned about our spiritual survival. We’ll continue our discussion on this topic next Sabbath.

>
God Is Love, Part 9 — September 5, 2020

We have been reviewing all the qualities of our loving Father and His Son Jesus Christ. Two major qualities of God’s love are grace and mercy. Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).” While there are differences between mercy and forgiveness, these two qualities are bound together. David asked for forgiveness by requesting mercy because of God’s love. Psalm 51:1, “Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.” Many of God’s qualities are intertwined. 1 Timothy 1:14, “And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” Mercy is more about helping someone who can’t help themselves. God will do the impossible for us, raising the righteous dead and changing them into spirit beings. 1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The Ark of the Covenant that Moses built, the covering lid represented The Throne of God and was called The Mercy Seat. The high priest could only appear before The Mercy Seat once a year on The Day of Atonement and then only after sprinkling blood on The Mercy Seat. We are told we can through Jesus Christ, His shed blood implied, approach The Throne of our Father in Heaven and ask for grace and mercy. Hebrews 4:15-16, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” What a privilege we have that at any time, in prayer, we can go before the Father’s Throne and request His merciful help in our time of need. We can do this boldly, we need not be afraid in approaching The Throne of our Father. We must do this in humility through the shed blood of Jesus that makes us clean. We should approach The Throne of God. God wants us to do so, to ask for His merciful help. We must do this with love, respect, awe and humility for our loving Father through Jesus Christ our Savior.

God Is Love, Part 8 — August 22, 2020

God is love, loves all humans and sent His Son to die for the forgiveness of our sins. In addition to our Father’s great love for all of us, the Bible also tells there are specific character qualities that God also loves. The one most often mentioned is righteousness. Psalm 11:7, “For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright.” Psalm 146:8, “The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord raises those who are bowed down; The Lord loves the righteous.” The Bible mentions that God loves righteousness and justice together several times. Psalm 33:5, “He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” As these verses show us, God has a special love for all individuals who are themselves righteous. God will therefore show them His justice as a result of their righteousness. Psalm 37:28, “For the Lord loves justice, And does not forsake His saints; They are preserved forever, But the descendants of the wicked shall be cut off.” God prophesies that He will love justice in Israel during the millennium and will make a new covenant with Israel. Isaiah 61:8, “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering; I will direct their work in truth, And will make with them an everlasting covenant.” The Father also prophesied that His Son, our Savior, would love righteousness and the Father would therefore anoint Him as our Lord forever. Psalm 45:6-7, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” This important scripture is quoted by the apostle Paul. We’ll close with that. Hebrews 1:8-9, “But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.’”

Jesus 22nd Command, Part 2 — August 22, 2020

Last Sabbath we discussed Jesus’ command to fast found in Matthew 6:16-18. Why should we fast? There are both very good reasons physically and spiritually why we should fast. Let’s first look at physical reasons to fast. Here is a summary from many good articles on the internet about fasting. Fasting can: 1) help lose weight, 2) improve proper insulin sensitivity, 3) speed up the metabolism by giving your digestive system a rest resulting in energizing your metabolism, 4) promotes longevity, 5) can reset your “hunger button” so your body can correctly signal you that you are full, 6) improve eating patterns stopping binge eating disorders, 7) improve brain function and help prevent Alzheimer’s, 8) improves the ability of nerve cells to repair DNA, 9) improves your immune system reducing free radical damage and reducing inflammatory conditions and can starve cancer cell formation, 10) can make you feel more alive and self-enlightened, 11) helps regenerate the body by giving cells a waste removal signal, and 12) helps muscle repair. One does not have to do a total fast to achieve these and other results. Intermittent fasting is also effective and there are several different methods. One can eat solid food only during a 6 hour window and drink plenty of clear liquids for the other 18 hours. There are water fasts, juice fasts, herbal tea fasts, etc. One website said a clear liquid fast with three apples a day is almost as good as a total fast. If we are concerned about our physical health, fasting should be regular activity of our health program. There is lots of good information on the internet. And now let us look at spiritual reasons to fast. We read from Isaiah 58 last Sabbath that we are not to fast to “make God listen to us.” We fast spiritually to get closer to God by humbling ourselves and changing any bad behavior we might have. Psalm 35:13, “But as for me, when they were sick, My clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting; And my prayer would return to my own heart.” Psalm 69:10-11 (NLT), “When I weep and fast, they scoff at me. When I dress in burlap to show sorrow, they make fun of me.” The book of Joel talks about future troubles Israel will face with the following directive. Joel 1:14, “Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Gather the elders And all the inhabitants of the land Into the house of the Lord your God, And cry out to the Lord.” Joel 2:12-13, “Now, therefore, says the Lord, ‘Turn to Me with all your heart, With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’ So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm.” In summary we fast to benefit our spiritual and physical health. Spiritually, we fast to have a closer relationship with God.

Jesus 22nd Command — August 15, 2020

Matthew 6:16-18, “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Fasting should be part of our spiritual lives. Notice, Jesus did say “if you fast,” but “when you fast.” There are many benefits to fasting, both spiritual and physical. In Isaiah, God chastises Israel for finding pleasure when they fasted. Meaning they did not humble themselves and change their sinful ways. Instead, they fasted because they wanted something from God. Isaiah 58:4, “Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high.” The reason we should fast before God is to improve our relationship with God. To humble ourselves, to remember and be thankful for what God has blessed us with and to share that with those who are less fortunate. Isaiah 58:6-7, “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?” When we fast before God like this, then God promises a blessing. Isaiah 58:8-9a, “Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’” More next Sabbath on the spiritual and physical benefits of fasting.

God is Love, Part 7 — August 8, 2020

God loves everyone as we have read in the scriptures. God does have a special place for those who love and obey Him. These are the disciples of Jesus that make up the Churches of God, spiritual Israel that includes both physical Israelites and Gentiles. Jesus parting words to His disciples emphasized His and the Father’s love for them. John 14:21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” John 15:9-10, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 16:27, “for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.” It is notable how many times in Jesus’ parting words to His disciples on the evening before His death, that He emphasized the love of the Father along with His love for His disciples. He was not saying this only to His then current disciples, but all disciples down through the ages. John 17:20, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;”. God also refers to His churches as a spiritual building. 1 Corinthians 3:9, “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.” Ephesians 2:20-22, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” 1 Peter 2:4-5, “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” The defining scripture on this topic is Ephesians 5:25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” We see the wonderful picture of Jesus marrying the Church in Revelation 19:7-9, “’Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, ‘Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true sayings of God.’” The love of God is broad and comprehensive, never failing. He loves us as individuals. He loves us as the disciples of Jesus. He loves us as the spiritual body of Jesus’ followers, the Churches of God.

Jesus’ 21st Command — August 1, 2020

Matthew 6:14-15, “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.” This is obviously an extremely important principle and command. We must forgive others if we want God’s forgiveness. We’ve already read Jesus’ 15th command in Matthew 5:43-47 to love our enemies, bless them, do good to them and pray for them. This command to forgive others complements that command. Peter wanted a limit on how many times he had to forgive others. Matthew 18:21-22, “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” Jesus is really saying there is no limit on how often we should forgive others. Do we want God to have a limit on how often He will forgive us? Of course not. Jesus then goes on to give the parable of the unjust servant. A servant owed his master $100,000, but begged for time to repay it. His master did much more than that, he forgave the whole debt. Then this servant went out and threw someone in jail who owed him $10. When the master heard this, he called this servant a wicked person, reestablished the debt and threw him in prison. Let us read the last verse in this parable. Matthew 18:35, “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” Let us notice and emphasize the phrase “from his heart.” We cannot just forgive others because we have to. We must truly mean it. We should think about how much the Father and Son have forgiven us and remember to likewise forgive others. Paul references this command twice. Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Colossians 3:13, “bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” The greatest example and statement of forgiving others was Jesus on the cross. Luke 23:34, “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” Jesus was not just saying this to the Roman soldiers who actually crucified Him, or the Jews who accused Him of treason before the Romans. We all have sinned and our sins made Jesus’ suffering and death a requirement for the forgiveness of all our sins. Jesus made this statement to all humanity. Since Jesus and the Father want to forgive all of us of our sins, we, from our hearts, should want to forgive all others when they sin against us. It is a requirement before the Father and Son will forgive us.

God is Love, Part 6 — July 25, 2020

Does God love all the Gentile peoples? Of course He does. We know this from the scriptures we’ve already read that state God loves all individuals and desires they all accept Jesus as Savior, repent and be saved. However, God has a time sequence. He showed His love to Israel first and then later on to the Gentiles. Romans 2:10-11, “but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.” Peter said God used him to open the door to salvation for the Gentiles, there is no longer a distinction between Jew and Gentile. Acts 15:7-9, “And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: ‘Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.’” No distinction in receiving the Holy Spirit, spiritual understanding and salvation, all in the love of God for them as Gentiles, just like the Israelites. Romans 3:29-30, “Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.” God is not a respecter of persons. Yes, He has a different time order of selection, but God wants us all to be one in Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” So, is there a plain scripture that actually uses the words “God loves the Gentiles”? No there is not. However, there is one scripture that comes very close that is a prophecy from the Old Testament. Hosea 2:23, “Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’” Paul quotes this scripture but changes the word “mercy” to “beloved”. We’ll close with that. Romans 9:23-26, “and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As He says also in Hosea: “I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, You are not My people, There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

God is Love, Part 5 — July 18, 2020

Over the past few Sabbaths we have reviewed the scriptures that state that God loves all humankind, that His desire is that everyone repent and be saved. This Sabbath let us review some of the scriptures that tell us of God’s love for Israel. Next Sabbath we’ll cover the scriptures relative to God’s love for the Gentiles. Moses relates God’s love for Israel several times in Deuteronomy. We’ll read just one, Deuteronomy 7:7-8. “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” Because of His love for Israel, God made David their king. 1 Kings 10:9, “Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” Here is one of several scriptures on this topic from Psalms, Psalm 78:68, “But chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved.” While Israel has angered God with their sins, God still loves them and will restore them in the Millennium. Jeremiah 31:3-4a, “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: 'Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you. Again I will build you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin of Israel! …'” We will only refer to Ezekiel 16 which has a parable describing God finding Israel as a unkempt baby in the desert, how He took care of her, and when she was old enough, showered her with His love in a marriage covenant. Israel has sinned and defiled herself. Does that mean God has cast them off as His people? Romans 11:1-2a, “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew...” Even though some Israelites may resist Jesus as their Savior, God still loves them and one day will open their minds to the truth of Who is their Messiah. Romans 11:28, “Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.” Next Sabbath, God’s love for the Gentiles.

God is Love, Part 4 — July 11, 2020

This Sabbath let us review some of the scriptures that tell us God loves all humankind. We can begin with the scripture that most Christians are familiar with. John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Paul expresses this same thought and emphasizes that Jesus made this sacrifice while all of us were yet sinners. Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The love of God for all human beings never fails. Psalms 36:7 (NLT), “How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings.” When we sin, we are as good as dead. However, through the love of God we can live. Ephesians 2:4-5, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),”. The Bible further states that it is God’s desire that all humans would accept Jesus as their Savior, repent and be saved. 1 Timothy 2:4, “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” The apostle John emphasized the importance of love more so than any other New Testament writer. We’ll close with a few more of his verses. 1 John 4:9-10, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Because of the great love that both the Father and Son have for us, we not only have an obligation to love them, we should want to return that love. 1 John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us.”

God is Love, Part 3 — July 4, 2020

This Sabbath let us cover the scriptures that state Jesus loves the Father. Actually, there is only one scripture that uses those words. John 14:31, “But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here.” There are other scriptures that indirectly indicate that Jesus loves the Father. John 10:39, “I and My Father are one.” John 8:49b, “… but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me.” There are three other verses like the last two from Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. John 17:1, “Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: 'Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,'”. John 17:4, “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” John 17:25, “O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.” We know Jesus lived a perfect spiritual and physical life in the flesh. He would have obeyed the commandments He gave to us to His fullest extent. Let us close with what Jesus said was the greatest commandment and realize Jesus would have kept this commandment perfectly. Matthew 22:37-38, “Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.'”

Jesus’ 20th Command — June 27, 2020

Matthew 6:9-13, “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” We learn from Luke that this instruction was the result of Jesus’ disciples asking Him how to pray. Luke 11:1, “Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.’” Jesus set the example. Praying to God our Father is something we have learn to do. Remember our first real prayers after truly learning about our Father and Jesus? They were probably short and we didn’t know what to say. But we kept at it and learned how to carry on a conversation with our Father. There are, of course, many scriptures on prayer. We will just site one. Ephesians 6:18 (NLT), “Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” We may not be elegant in our prayers. We may not be poetic in our prayers. That does not matter. What does matter is that we speak from our heart. 1 Samuel 16:7b, “… For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Two good example of this are Hannah and Hezekiah. In 1 Samuel 1 Hannah prayed for a son and wept in anguish. God answered and Samuel was born. In 2 Kings 20 Hezekiah was told to put his house in order for he would die. Remaining in bed, probably too sick to get up, he turned his face to the wall and prayed and wept bitterly. God told Isaiah to return and tell Hezekiah, He, God, would add 15 years to his life. We will close again with Hebrews 10:22, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

God Is Love, Part 2 — June 20, 2020

We’re reviewing the scriptures on the love of God. There are so much about love in the Bible. We are breaking down this major topic into many subcategories and covering them one at a time. On some specific topics, the number of scriptures are few. While that may be true, they are powerful and combined with all the other scriptures on love we get a prevailing command of the importance of this topic of love as a whole. We know God the Father Loves His Son Jesus Christ. Again the actual number of scriptures that state this directly are few. There are sometimes parallel accounts, but we’ll only list one. At Jesus’ baptism, Matthew 3:17, “And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’” A quote from Isaiah 42:1, Matthew 12:18, “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, And He will declare justice to the Gentiles.” At the transfiguration, Matthew 17:5, “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’” As we might suspect, most of the scriptures that state the Father loves the Son are found in the gospel of John. John 3:35, “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand.” John 5:20, “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel.” John 10:17, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.” John 15:9-10, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 17:23-24, “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” We’ll conclude with John 17:26, “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

Jesus’ 19th Command — June 13, 2020

Matthew 6:7-8, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Notice the emphasis is on vain repetitions. Before His crucifixion, Jesus prayed three times asking the Father, if possible, to deliver Him from death, but always saying the Father’s will be done. Matthew 26:44, “So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. ” Jesus also gave the parable of the unjust judge to teach us an important lesson in prayer. Luke 18:1 (NLT), “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.” The vain repetition that Jesus was talking about was the pagans who recited long lists of their gods to make sure they didn’t leave one of them out and consequently would be cursed by that god. In the Greek, “vain repetitions” can mean “empty phrases” or “to babble”. We are to pray from our heart in faith through the power of the Holy Spirit. Hebrews 10:22a, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, …” Romans 8:26-27, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Repetition in prayer is not wrong when it comes from our heart.

God is Love — June 6, 2020

God is love is the most fundamental belief that we Christians have. This is a core theme of the Bible with many supporting scriptures. Amazingly, however, there are only two scriptures that actually use the words “God is love,” and they are both in the same chapter. 1 John 4:8, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:16, “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” There is one more scriptures that states basically the same concept with different words, “the God of love.” 2 Corinthians 13:11, “Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” In one sense, it only takes one scripture to establish the truth. And while there are few scriptures that actually state “God is love,” there are a multitude of scriptures that express the magnitude of God’s love for humankind. We’ll just look at a couple. Ephesians 2:4, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,”. 2 Thessalonians 3:5, “Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.” And, of course, there is that well known scripture in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” There are many scriptures that state that God loves us. We will cover some of those in future Sabbath Thoughts.

Revelation of God vs. Wisdom of Men — May 30, 2020

There are quite a few scriptures in the Bible that warn us about the wisdom of men. Let us read just a couple that specifically tell us the wisdom of men can lead us astray from the Truth of God. Romans 1:22-23, “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man…” Titus 1:13-14, “This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.” 1 Timothy 6:3-5,” If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.” It is not wrong to study the Hebrew and Greek words of the Bible. But that alone can lead to disputes and endless arguments that end up destroying revealed truth. Studying the Hebrew and Greek, commentaries and philosophies of men should not be the foundation of our spiritual understanding. Spiritual revelation should be the foundation. With a solid spiritual foundation, then, and only then, can we separate the wheat from the chaff of the wisdom of men. Spiritual understanding comes from God through revelation. Matthew 11:25, “At that time Jesus answered and said, ‘I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.’” Matthew 16:15-17, “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’” John 14:16-17, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” For 40 years the Church of God observed a spiritual revealed Monday Pentecost, even though church officials did not understand how to correctly count 50 days according to Hebrew word definitions. Then, after 40 years, the wisdom of men changed Pentecost to the day of sun worship, a Sunday. Who will you listen to? The wisdom of men? Or the revelation of God? Please refer to the articles on this church website that defend "the Faith Once Delivered.”

Is Pentecost the 50th Day? — May 23, 2020

There is not one scripture in the Bible that plainly states the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost as we now call it, is the 50th day. Let us review what the Bible does say. Leviticus 23:15-16, “And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord.” Note that 50 days are to be counted, not that Pentecost is the 50th day. This is of the utmost importance. We are also told which day is the last day of the count, the day after the seventh Sabbath, the first day of the week or our Sunday. There is only one other scripture on how to count Pentecost and it gives a different method of counting. Deuteronomy 16:9-10, “You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you.” The Hebrew word for “weeks” here means any seven day period, it does not refer to Sabbath weeks. There is a different beginning point for this count, the day after the Wave Sheaf offering. That would be our Monday. And then we count seven weeks or 49 days with the last day of the count as our Sunday. Now notice a very important word in both scriptures, the word “THEN”. It should be so simple, but it seems most miss this major point. We must completely count and finish 50 full days according to Leviticus 23 THEN keep the Feast of Weeks. We must have a count of 50 full days BEFORE we observe Pentecost. Note that THEN is also used in Deuteronomy 16:9-10. There are several scriptures that explain how to count in the Bible. One of the best examples is Leviticus 25:8-10 which explains how to count the year of Jubilee. Seven Sabbaths of years, or 49 years must be counted, THEN the year of Jubilee is kept. There are many more reasons why Pentecost can only occur on the second day of the week, or our Monday. For a much more detailed discussion on this, please read the articles on Pentecost on this website.

Jesus’ 18th Command — May 16, 2020

Matthew 6:5-6, “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Jesus further berated the Pharisees in Matthew 23:14, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.” There are a few scriptures that show us Jesus prayed in seclusion. Let’s read a couple. Mark 1:35, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” Luke 5:16, “So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.” Peter followed Jesus’ example in Acts 10:9, “… Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour.” This continues the theme of this part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, keep your spiritual practices secret between you and God. We should not seek the praise and approval of men but of God. Let us conclude with 2 Corinthians 10:18, “For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.”

Jesus’ 17th Command — May 9, 2020

Matthew 6:1-4, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” There are many scriptures in the Bible that tell us to remember the poor. But when we do so, we are not to call attention to it. Proverbs 19:17, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, And He will pay back what he has given.” There are several scriptures that state when we help the poor, God notices and will reward us. Isaiah 58:6-9, “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am. …” Hebrews 13:16, “But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” In this sixth chapter of Matthew there is a spiritual theme at the beginning, keep your spiritual practices secret between you and God. We don’t want to be like the Pharisees whom Jesus reprimanded in John 12:43, “for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” Let us be as generous as we can in helping the poor all the while keeping it a secret.

Are Our Sins Written in Heaven? — May 2, 2020

Last Sabbath we discussed how God with His perfect memory does not really forget our sins, but that He chooses not to remember or recall them. There are many scriptures in the Bible that tell us God wants to forgive our sins and does so when we repent through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. What then happens to the record of our sins? Psalm 130:3-4, “ If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.” God not only chooses not to remember our sins, He also erases them from the record books in heaven. The Bible talks about several record books that are maintained by God, the Book of Life, for one. When we accept the blood of Jesus Christ and repent, any record of our sin is deleted from the heavenly record books. 2 Corinthians 5:19, “that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” Most modern translations use the word “counting” in place of “imputing”. Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” The only way this could be true is because any record of our sins is purged resulting in a clean slate. Romans 8:33, “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” The only was no charges can be brought against God’s elect is if there are no sins to be found that would result in criminal charges. The only way we can continue to be recorded in God’s Book of Life is when there are no black marks or sins recorded against us. Revelation 3:5, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” We don’t want any of our sins still on the record books when the final judgment occurs. Revelation 20:12, “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” Through the blood of Jesus Christ we can have a clean slate before God the Father on our judgment day.

Does God Forgive and Forget? — April 25, 2020

Psalm 51:3, “For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.” While we forget about “little” sins of long ago, “big” sins are impossible to totally forget for us humans. What about God? When God forgives our sins by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, does He then forget those sins? The short answer is “No.” There is no scripture that actually states that God forgets our sins. What does the Bible actually say about this topic? Jeremiah 31:34, “No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Notice the difference between our question and this Bible statement, God says He will remember no more the sins of Israel. How is this different? When something is forgotten, it is impossible to recall because for all intents and purposes, it no longer exists in memory. God is eternal, everywhere at all times, past, present and future. With His eternal, perfect recall, He could be constantly aware of everything and He does not actually forget anything. However, with His perfect control over His memory, God says when He forgives us of our sins, He chooses not to remember them. This means that even though the memory of then still exists, He will not recall them or even think about them, He will totally ignore them in His memory. How fantastic is that for you and me? In one sense, the end result is the same. In another sense, this is a distinct and important difference. There are many scriptures in the Bible about the forgiveness of sin. However, there are only four scriptures in the Bible that I could find on this topic of not remembering our sins. Here is one more from Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.” There are two verses in the New Testament on this topic, both quoting Jeremiah 31:34. Hebrews 8:12, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 10:17, “then He adds, 'Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.'” In addition to “not remembering” our sins, what else does God do to remove our sins in order that we might receive the gift of eternal life? We will discuss that question next Sabbath.

Messianic Prophecies, Part 8 — April 18, 2020

We have reviewed a few of the many Old Testament prophecies predicting events in Jesus’ life. There are, of course, also many prophecies that state what Jesus' death would accomplish in the Father’s Plan of Salvation. Often these prophecies will be fulfilled in phases, beginning with the death and resurrection of Jesus, then at His Second Coming and finally when the Father brings New Jerusalem to this earth after the Millennium. Let’s review a few of these. Daniel 9:24, “Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.” Psalm 9:7-10, “But the Lord shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness, And He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness. The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, A refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” Psalm 22:25-31, “My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever! All the ends of the world Shall remember and turn to the Lord, And all the families of the nations Shall worship before You. For the kingdom is the Lord’s, And He rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth Shall eat and worship; All those who go down to the dust Shall bow before Him, Even he who cannot keep himself alive. A posterity shall serve Him. It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation, They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, That He has done this.” Isiah 44:3, “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring;” Isaiah 25:8-9, “He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken. And it will be said in that day: 'Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation'”

Messianic Prophecies, Part 7 — April 11, 2020

Bible students have noticed that the gospels record Jesus making seven statement while hanging on the cross. No one gospel has all seven, but the sequence of them has been resolved. Five of these were prophesied in the Old Testament. One: Psalm 109:4 (NLT), “I love them, but they try to destroy me with accusations even as I am praying for them!” Luke 23:34, “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’” Two, with no Old Testament prophecy. Luke 23:43, “And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.’” Three, also with no Old Testament prophecy. John 19:26-27, “When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold your mother!’ And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” Four, Psalm 22:1, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?” Matthew 27:46, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” Five, Psalm 69:21, “They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” John 19:28, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, ‘I thirst!’” Six, Psalm 22:31, “They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, That He has done this.” John 19:30, “So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” Seven, Psalm 31:5, “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” Luke 23:46, “And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ Having said this, He breathed His last.”

Messianic Prophecies, Part 6 — April 4, 2020

Twenty-eight prophecies were fulfilled in one day during Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion. As stated last week, there are over 300 Old Testament scriptures that predict and describe what happen to Jesus as the Messiah. Mathematicians have calculated the odds of one person fulfilling just 48 of these prophecies as 10 to the 157 power. That is the number one followed by 157 zeros. The book of Psalms predicts that Jesus would offer Himself as a sacrifice, not animal burnt offerings. Psalms 40:6-8, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire; My ears You have opened. Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require. Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.” Psalms also predicts that Jesus would be given gall to drink, which He refused, and later vinegar to quench His thirst. Psalms 69:21, “They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” Passover occurs during a full moon when it is impossible for a solar eclipse to cast darkness on the earth. Yet God the Father did this by a miracle as it was foretold. Amos 8:9, “’And it shall come to pass in that day,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘That I will make the sun go down at noon, And I will darken the earth in broad daylight;’” None of Jesus’ bones were broken. Psalms 34:20, “He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken.” (Also see Exodus 12:46) Many prophecies are found in Psalms 22. Let us look at a few in verses 16 through 18. “For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Verses 7 and 8 also tell us Jesus would be mocked and told to save Himself if He really was the Messiah. “All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, ‘He trusted in the Lord, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!’” Some of these prophecies are repeated in Zechariah. Zechariah 12:10 says future Israelites will look upon Jesus whom they pierced. We are told in the next chapter that the Messiah would be smitten and that His disciples would be scattered. Zechariah 13:7, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.” Only the God of the Bible can accurately foretell the future. We either reject this or accept it to the power and glory of God our Father and Jesus our Christ.

Messianic Prophecies, Part 5 — March 25, 2020

There are over 300 Old Testament scriptures that predict and describe what happen to Jesus as the Messiah. Mathematicians have calculated the odds of one person fulfilling just 48 of these prophecies as 10 to the 157 power. That is the number one followed by 157 zeros. Only the God of the Bible can accurately predict the future, often in great detail. Here are some more prophecies fulfilled by Jesus near the end of His life on this earth. Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus rode on a donkey into Jerusalem presumably on a Sunday, four days before His crucifixion. It was predicted in the Psalms that one of Jesus’ close friends, a disciple, would betray Him. Psalms 41:9, “Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.” And in great detail, the amount of money paid to betray Jesus and what it would consequently be used for was prophesied. There is no way Jesus could have contrived to make these events happen. Zechariah 11:12-13, “Then I said to them, ‘If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.’ So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter.” The chief priests gave Judas 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus. Judas changed his mind and threw down the money before the chief priests. They used that money to buy a potter’s field in which to bury strangers. In Jesus’ mock trial by the Jews, He did not respond to the false accusations by the Jewish religious leaders. Psalms 38:12-14, “Those also who seek my life lay snares for me; Those who seek my hurt speak of destruction, And plan deception all the day long. But I, like a deaf man, do not hear; And I am like a mute who does not open his mouth. Thus I am like a man who does not hear, And in whose mouth is no response.” We only have two choices. One, the birth, life, ministry and crucifixion of Jesus is the greatest contrived story and scam in human history. Or, two, only a God could have foretold these events and we have a Savior, the Son of God, who died for the forgiveness of our sins.

Messianic Prophecies, Part 4 — March 21, 2020

In the Psalms we read many prophecies about the Messiah. Here is one that tells us Jesus would do the will of the Father and preach the Gospel, or Good News of the Kingdom of God. Psalms 40:7-9, “Then I said, Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart. I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness In the great assembly; Indeed, I do not restrain my lips, O Lord, You Yourself know.” Isaiah has many prophecies about the ministry of the Messiah. Isaiah 9:1-2, “… In Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.” As with other prophecies about the Messiah, many are dual, talking about both the Messiah’s first coming and second coming. Also in this case, physical healing and eventually spiritual healing. Isaiah 35:5-6, “ Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. …” During Messiah’s ministry, He would speak in parables so the people would not understand the spiritual significance of His message until later. Isaiah 6:9-10, “And He said, ‘Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.’” Isaiah 61:1-2, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,”. Moses also told us the Messiah would be a prophet like him. Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.” There are many more prophecies like these about Jesus’ ministry. Several websites have a list of them along with the New Testament scripture that fulfills them.

Messianic Prophecies, Part 3 — March 14, 2020

Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” This is one of several prophecies relative to the birth of Jesus as the Messiah. It also tells us the Messiah has an eternal existence. The Hebrew word translated “from everlasting” is the strongest Hebrew word that can be used to express time everlasting. Some of the main prophecies about the Messiah are in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” In Hebrew “Immanuel” literally means “God-With-Us.” Isaiah 9:6, “ For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” From this last verse we learn the Messiah would start life as a child and grow up to rule the world. Along with the joyful news of the Messiah’s birth, is the prophecy of sadness and death, Herod killing all the male infants two years and younger. Jeremiah 31:15, “Thus says the Lord: 'A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.'” As with many prophecies of the Messiah, they are often dual in nature. Just like God brought Israel out of Egypt, God told Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt to avoid death and the hatred of Herod. Matthew quotes the next scripture saying it was fulfilled when Jesus returned to the land of Judea. Hosea 11:1, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.” Only God could foretell these events with such accuracy. Only God born in the flesh as the Messiah could fulfill them.

Messianic Prophecies, Part 2 — March 7, 2020

Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” Most all Bible students recognize this as not only the first prophecy in the Bible, but also a prophecy with three points about Jesus the Messiah. The first point, the Messiah would be born from a women, her seed, singular and sometimes capitalized. Two, the Messiah would suffer. And three, the Messiah’s ministry would destroy the devil’s work. There are a few general prophecies in Genesis that are dual in nature. One, they refer to the blessings on the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They are dual in nature in that they also refer to the blessings the Messiah will usher in, in regards to God the Father’s pan of salvation. Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Some of these prophecies can be applied to both the First Coming and Second Coming of Jesus Christ. In Jesus our Savior Who suffered and died for our sins, all peoples have the blessing of the opportunity for salvation. Jesus will also bring peace and prosperity for the whole earth at His Second Coming. This is true with the next prophecy. Genesis 17:19, “Then God said: ‘No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.’” The word “seed” can be both singular in nature or plural. In the next prophecy, it is both. Genesis 22:18, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” The ultimate fulfillment of these prophecies can only come to pass through our Messiah and Savior Jesus Christ. They have been fulfilled in part already with Jesus as our Passover Lamb sacrificed for the forgiveness of our sins and the resulting promise of eternal life. They will also be further fulfilled at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ as our Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

Messianic Prophecies, Part 1 — March 1, 2020

We have faith Jesus was the Son of God and the promised Messiah. There are many Old Testament prophecies predicting a Messiah. Most of them are only recognized as prophecies “after the fact,” that is, after Jesus fulfilled them. It would have been very difficult for Jews, and we too if we had lived in Jesus’ time, to realize many of the Old Testament statements were describing future events in the life and death of the Messiah. Some of these are very specific, somewhere around 50. Another 50 or more definitely refer to Jesus, but are much more general in nature, often referring to the Father’s plan of salvation that only the Messiah could fulfill. Some Bible students say there are in the neighborhood of 800 prophecies. These are very general statements that happened to an individual, King David for instance, and something similar occurred in the life of Jesus. As we approach the Passover in about 5 weeks, let us review some of these prophecies. But first, let us review some New Testament scriptures that state the prophets of old told us about the Messiah. John 1:45, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” Jesus said in John 5:39, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.” Acts 26:22-23, “Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come—that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.” Romans 1:1-4, “Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” Let us conclude this Sabbath with Jesus’ statement to the two men He encountered after His resurrection as they walked to a town outside Jerusalem. Luke 24:25-27, “Then He said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

Trust in God, Part 2 — February 22, 2020

There are many wonderful and positive verses in the Bible about trusting in God. Let us review a few more of them this Sabbath. Psalm 28:7, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him.” Psalm 52:6-8, “The righteous also shall see and fear, And shall laugh at him, saying, ‘Here is the man who did not make God his strength, But trusted in the abundance of his riches, And strengthened himself in his wickedness.’ But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.” Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;” Proverbs 30:5, “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.” Isaiah 26:3-4, “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, For in YAH, the Lord, is everlasting strength.” Isaiah 50:10, “Who among you fears the Lord? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness And has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord And rely upon his God.” Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.” Ephesians 1:12-13, “that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,”.

Trust in God — February 15, 2020

The word “faith” or “faithful” appears around 31 times in the King James version of the Old Testament, 279 times in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, the majority of the time, faith or faithful is used in describing the relationship between humans, as in being or not being a faithful friend. The main word used in the Old Testament to describe a relation with God like the word faith is used in the New Testament is “trust.” Trust is a synonym for faith. There are several Hebrew words translated as “trust” depending upon the context. The main Hebrew words translated as “trust” can mean: to lean on someone or something, to cling, to be firm and to know something will happen. Trust and its various forms appear 150 times in the Old Testament, 35 times in the New Testament. Like the word faith, it often refers to human relationships. Most commonly, it refers to a relationship with God. Both “faith” and “trust” seldom appear in the first dozen or so books of the Bible. It isn’t until we come to the book of Job or the life of David that we start to see the word “trust” used more frequently with Psalms using it the most frequently at 70 times. Here are a few. Psalms 9:10, “And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” Psalms 56:3-4, “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?” Psalms 91:2, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.’” Psalms 118:8-9, “It is better to trust in the Lord Than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord Than to put confidence in princes.” There are a few scriptures that prophesy about Israel trusting in God in the Millennium. Let’s close with one of them. Isaiah 12:2-4, “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For YAH, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’” Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation. And in that day you will say: ‘Praise the Lord, call upon His name; Declare His deeds among the peoples, Make mention that His name is exalted.’”

Jesus 16th Command — February 8, 2020

Matthew 5:48, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” How are we to understand this knowing we as fleshly human beings can never achieve perfection in this life? First, let us consider the context. Jesus just gave the teaching of “love your enemies.” Jesus told us we are to do this “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” In reality, Jesus is not saying He expects us to be a perfect person without any sin. Jesus is saying, just as the Father loves everyone, so we too should be just like the Father in loving our enemies. The statement “be perfect” is to be specifically applied to the context of “love your enemies.” Second, the implied meaning of the Greek word is “something to be obtained at the end of or completion of a task.” Third, the Greek word for “perfect” was first applied to mechanical construction, as in completeness of parts, that is, no part is defective or missing. The term eventually was applied to humans to mean “finished, complete, pure, holy.” Jesus is saying in order to be a complete Christian with all the basic characteristics of God the Father, we must have the “spiritual part” of loving our enemies. This same principle is expressed in James 1:4, “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” If we have all the “spiritual parts” required, we will have the right spiritual relationship with the Father and Son at the Second Coming of Jesus. Colossians 1:28 (NLT), “So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ.”

Jesus 15th Command — February 1, 2020

Matthew 5:43-47, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” There is actually no Old Testament command that says to hate your enemy. However, God did allow Israel to fight and kill the peoples of enemy nations. There often was a disdain and hatred for surrounding nations. David did state that he hated those who hated God, Psalms 139:21-22. Even the Old Testament laws taught Israel to help their enemies. However, this was only applied to fellow Israelites and that probably was not practiced universally. Exodus 23:4-5, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.” A good scripture on this topic is Romans 12:17-21, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Paul quotes in part from Proverbs 25:21-22. We are to hate evil actions and conduct, but we are not to hate the individual. Now, let’s call attention to why Jesus gave this command, “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” Jesus came to die for all humans. The Father desires that all humans be saved, 1 Timothy 2:4. While we know the incorrigible wicked will not accept the Father as their God and Jesus as their Savior, most humans will in the future and we need to treat all humans as potential future children of God. An additional comment on putting this command into practice. We can love our enemies from a distance. If an enemy is out to do our family, friends or ourselves harm, we can still have love for them and hope they will repent in the future and accept God. We must, however, keep our distance and do what it takes to protect family, friends and self. As Christians, we are to live by a higher spiritual standard than the world we live in. Luke 6:26-36 covers the same topic. Verses 32 and 33 are very powerful statements, “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.“ Verses 35 and 36 are an authoritative conclusion on why we should do this. “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”

Healing Faith — January 25, 2020

Matthew 9:22, “But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, ‘Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.’ And the woman was made well from that hour.” This is the story of the woman with an issue of blood who thought if I can just touch Jesus’ clothes, I’ll be healed. Jesus said it was her faith, not that she touched him, that resulted in her healing. It takes total faith to be healed. There are several scriptures that state this. Two blind men came to Jesus and Jesus asked them a question. Matthew 9:28, “And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’” Jesus then told them, verse 29, “Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith let it be to you.’” Jesus said basically the same thing to the Gentile woman whose daughter was possessed (Matthew 15:28) and the men who tore a hole in a roof to let down a cripple ( Mark 2:5). Conversely, Jesus also said it was a lack of faith that prevented a healing. Matthew 17:20, “So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’” The issue for us humans, even us Christians, is that we have doubts. Doubts prevent healing. Matthew 21:21-22, “So Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.’” James 1:6-8, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” For our last scripture on this topic let us read James 5:14-15, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.”

Jesus Marveled — January 18, 2020

The Bible says about Jesus “He marveled” only twice. This should be a significant lesson for us as both times the topic was about faith. Matthew 8:10, “When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!’” Here is the story of a Gentile Roman officer who had a complete belief that whatever Jesus commanded, it would be done. This Roman centurion had no doubts. He understood power and authority. He had total belief that Jesus had the power and authority to issue a healing command and that it would be done. This caused Jesus to marvel at such great believing faith, and from a Gentile at that. He had not found anyone among the Jews that had such a strong belief in His power to heal. The second time Jesus “marveled,” the situation was the exact opposite. Jesus had returned to where He grew up. On the Sabbath He taught in the synagogue. Those who heard Him, they couldn’t believe the power of His message. They just said He’s just a local boy, who does He think He is? Jesus was actually unable to heal very many of them because of their unbelief. Mark 6:6, “Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief…” Think about the significance of this. Jesus, the all-powerful Son of God in the flesh could not heal many of the people where He grew up because they just could not belief He had the ability to do it. Their unbelief limited the healing power of God. There are several important lesson for us in studying these two events. We’ll talk more about faith and healing miracles in the next Sabbath Thought.

Jesus 14th Command — January 11, 2020

Matthew 5:42, “Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” There is a difference between helping someone with a valid emergency or needing help to get back on their feet. This is different than someone who is always in need because they won’t get a job, or an education, or because of bad life choices and decisions. We can’t help everyone and give them everything they want. This scripture implies we have funds we are able to give. However, we should remember God does not give us everything we want. Think about that last statement. God does what is best for us. Sometimes the best way to help someone is not to give them the money they want. It might be better to offer advice on how to get and hold a job. It might be to educate them on other ways to help themselves. We have all heard the saying, “Give a person a fish, feed them for a day. Teach a person how to fish, feed them for the rest of their lives.” There is no question that we should help the poor as we are able. Deuteronomy 15:7-11, “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs. Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,’ and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the Lord against you, and it become sin among you. You shall surely give to him, and your heart should not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your works and in all to which you put your hand. For the poor will never cease from the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall open your hand wide to your brother, to your poor and your needy, in your land.’” We are to put all the scriptures together on a topic so we can make wise decisions. We are also told to take care of our family. We are not expected to help all the poor to the detriment of our own family. 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” The poor have a responsibility to find work. 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.” There are other scriptures that tell us to remember the widow and orphan. Another group that deserves our attention are the disabled. We should be compassionate and generous with all such people, mainly those in our own vicinity. The poor have their responsibilities to better their lives and change their living circumstances. We have responsibilities to take care of our own families. It is a balancing act requiring wisdom to do what we can to help others without neglecting family.

Jesus 13th Command — January 4, 2020

Matthew 5:41, “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.” This is referring to government forced mail delivery or military support. They didn’t have a separate postal service back then. If a soldier should demand your forced service to carry a bag of mail or military equipment, do not resist or murmur. Do more than required with a smile on your face. If required to supply food or water to soldiers marching through your area, do as they demand. Like we see in the movies, I’m police or FBI, I need your car. When Jesus was too weak from His scourging, the Roman military required Simon to carry it. Matthew 27:32, “Now as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. Him they compelled to bear His cross.” We are told by the apostle Paul to respect and obey the government we live under—it being understood that it doesn’t conflict with the laws of God. Romans 13:1-7, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” We are even to do more than just do as we are told, we are to pray for our government and its officials. 1 Timothy 2:1-3, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.” Notice why we are to do this, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life.” This is the point Jesus is making. Put up with minor inconveniences and injustices for the sake of peace.