Saturday, 26 December 2015

Watch & Wait. ~ Ganeida.

This is the introductory sermon to next month’s theme on Drawing closer to God.

Most of the Christian world has once again celebrated the birth of a Jewish child born of a young Jewish woman into a country that had been invaded & over~run by one of the cruellest & most despotic empires to ever exist.

He lived as a Torah observant Jew for 30 years, preached about the Kingdom of God for just 3 years, & died as a criminal on a Roman crucifix for blasphemy & treason ~ depending on whether he was tried under Roman Law or as a Jew.

Nowhere in Scripture are we asked or commanded to remember Jesus birth.  We are asked to remember & celebrate is His death.  However, here is what I find fascinating: for over 2000 years the Jews lived with the expectation of the arrival of the coming Messiah.  Every major prophet foretold His coming yet when He arrived just about everyone missed it. Why? I will go back to some basic principles then move forward to explain our present predicament.

Most of what people have believed about Christ’s birth for 2000 years is wrong. This would not matter except for one thing: In the beginning of John’s gospel, chapter 4 Jesus has this to say: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.[a] If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?[b] When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”
As Jesus came the first time so He will return.  As people missed it the first time, so they will miss it the 2nd time.

That’s not possible you will say.  Really?  There are 2 possible dates for Jesus birth ~ neither of which is December 25, both of which are worked out by counting the priestly courses serving in the Temple via Jesus uncle, Zachariah, according to the gospel of Luke. Johnathan Cahn gives a date as the 1st of March while most other scholars believe Jesus was born sometime in early fall during the festival of Sukkot.  This is the theory I hold to for a very simple reason. Luke 2:12 says: This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. The Hebrew word for manger is sukkot.  A sukkot is a temporary shelter.  The Festival of Sukkot is also known as the feast of Tabernacles & Jesus birth heralded in the advent of God tabernacling with Man as a man to show us how to keep God’s Law.

Now here is where it gets interesting.  Jesus says very clearly he has not come to abolish the Torah but to fulfil it.

Matthew 5:17 ~ 2017 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Abolish is
kataluo in the Greek & usually translated destroy.  We have a bad habit of misunderstanding the bible.  We take literal things figuratively & figurative things literally & get ourselves in a right muddle.  However if we look at Mark 2:23-28 we arrive at a better understanding of what Jesus meant. Here we see Jesus accused of breaking the Sabbath laws because his disciples were breaking off heads of grain as they walked through the fields, rubbing the grain in their hands to remove the outer husk, blowing the husk away & eating. Legally they were harvesting threshing & winnowing.  I know that sounds silly to us but that is how the Pharisees chose to interpret the Mosaic Law & Jesus was guilty for allowing what His disciples were doing & not reprimanding them.  

Now Jesus did not choose to address what the Pharisees were doing following Him about & finding fault ~ on the Sabbath too when they were not supposed to travel!  Rather he gave them 3 examples from their own scriptures to illustrate the real purpose of the Law because the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

The Greek word translated “fulfil” in Matthew 5:17 comes from the root word pleroo, which can mean “to make full, to fill, to fill up … to fill to the full” or “to render full, i.e. to complete” to fulfil, i.e. to cause God's will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God's promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfilment.  In other words Jesus was saying that the Pharisees had got it wrong.  They were not fulfilling the Law as it was meant to be lived. This then makes far better sense of Hebrews
10:16 quoting Jeremiah:

"This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the LORD: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds."
Still with me?  At Sukkot people were busy celebrating the festival & babies were born every day: one a minute.  What was one more? It happened all the time.  No~one noted Jesus birth.  The only people for whom it was important were Mary & Joseph.

Yet if we look at Luke 2 we find this:
25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,
29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

A little further along we read of Anna, who also recognised the baby as the promised messiah. What made the difference?  How come they recognised him when so many others did not ~ even though He had been promised.  Even though there were prophecies about him.  Even though there were signs announcing His arrival.

They were expectant!  They were waiting.  They were watching.  And the Holy Spirit told them! They were not so caught up in their day to day lives that they missed it.  They were not blinded by the glitter & the baubles that Satan uses to distract us from the things of God.


25 “Then the Kingdom of Heaven will be like ten bridesmaids[a] who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. The five who were foolish didn’t take enough olive oil for their lamps, but the other five were wise enough to take along extra oil. When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight they were roused by the shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is coming! Come out and meet him!’
“All the bridesmaids got up and prepared their lamps. Then the five foolish ones asked the others, ‘Please give us some of your oil because our lamps are going out.’
“But the others replied, ‘We don’t have enough for all of us. Go to a shop and buy some for yourselves.’
10 “But while they were gone to buy oil, the bridegroom came. Then those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was locked.11 Later, when the other five bridesmaids returned, they stood outside, calling, ‘Lord! Lord! Open the door for us!’
12 “But he called back, ‘Believe me, I don’t know you!’
13 “So you, too, must keep watch! For you do not know the day or hour of my return.

The difference between the bridesmaids who went in & those who were left behind is simply a matter of expectation.  The 5 who went in were prepared.  They were ready & waiting & watching for the bridegroom.  They were not saying, the Groom tarries; He is not coming.  They were not distracted by other things.

God is very fair.  He always gives plenty of warning of His plans.  As he told the world the first time that He was sending a saviour, so He has warned us that His son will return. He warned of signs & wonders &  cautioned in Luke 21 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.

So I say to you most solemnly: Do not be distracted by the things of this world.  Do not be blinded by the tinsel & the tree.  Do not look to what is past & which we were never told to focus on.  Instead allow the Holy Spirit to transform you into the likeness of Christ.  Let Him do that deep work of writing His Laws on your heart. Keep the oil in your lantern full & your eyes on Christ. The hour is late.  Even now Christ stands at the door. He is returning for those that are His.  He has promised & He always keeps His word.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Hanukkah ~ Rabqa

Hanukkah means dedication. The festival is called the feast of
dedication and also the festival of lights & lasts for eight days, beginning on the 25th of Kislev that's November or December and ending on the 2nd or 3rd of Tevet. This is not one of the holy days the that God set forth in the law (Torah). It was as celebrated in 165 BC during the time of Maccabees. The the events leading up to the celebration were foretold in Daniel 8:1-14& 19 – 25 Hanukkah is mentioned in John 10:22 – 42 when Jesus (Yeshua) went to the feast of dedication.

Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 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. 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. I and My Father are one.” 

Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, “You are gods”’? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” 

Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand. And He went away again beyond the Jordan to the place where John was baptising at first, and there He stayed. Then many came to Him and said, “John performed no sign, but all the things that John spoke about this Man were true.” And many believed in Him there. in this passage we see the feast of Dedication is known as the feast of Hanukkah, had it's origin in the liberation & rededication of the temple under Maccabees 165 B. C, after it had been desecrated by the Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes. The security of the sheep lies in the power of the Shepherd & His relationship to the Father. The reference you are gods is taken from Ps 82:6 does not attribute deity to the judges to whom it refers, but was a title of commendation, noting God-given capacities of human life & will that is the fruit of being made in His image. This is clearly seen in the clause "You are children of the Most High (Ps 82:6) Jesus' use here is an argument from the lesser to the greater, not as a designation of His people. In other words God Himself called the Jews gods at that time as verified by their own Scriptures, how more was Jesus now justified in calling Himself the Son of God, as verified by His works which were the Fathers. We are to believe in the miracles of Jesus.

The story of Maccabees and Hanukkah: Alexander the Great was a military genius. In just three years he conquered the known world. His goal was to Hellenise his empire. This means that he wanted to unify everyone by spreading the Greek language and culture everywhere. He died young, and his empire was divided among his four top generals.
Many years later, a savage, arrogant Syrian ruler named Antiochus IV came into power. He was heir to one of the four generals; He wanted to reunite the great empire of Alexander, with himself as emperor, of course; so he tried to force everyone to accept the Greek culture. He called himself "Antiochus Epimane which means Antiochus the Mad,"
The Jewish people did not easily give up their distinctive culture and religion which were based on the law (Torah) of the Lord (YHWH). 

Enraged by Jewish resistance and by military embarrassment elsewhere Antiochus attacked the Jewish people. On Kislev/December 15, 168 BC, he desecrated the temple by placing Zeus carved with his own face near the altar in the courtyard. On Kislev 25 /December 25 for the Birthday of Zeus He sacrificed a pig on the altar and sprinkled its blood in the Holy of Holies.

Antiochus constantly terrorised the Jewish people and tried to force them to forsake their covenant with God anyone who had a scroll of scripture or who kept the Sabbath was executed. Women who circumstances their sons were killed along with their babies.
On the 25th of each month priests were forced to sacrifice pigs on altars in every town in Israel and the townspeople were commanded to participate in the pagan sacrifice by eating the meat. This horrified the Jewish people for God's laws said that pigs were unclean (treif) and when not to be eaten or used as a sacrifice under Antiochus, anyone who refused to participate was tortured and killed.

When Antiochus soldiers came to Modein that is 20 miles north west of Jerusalem to force the people there to disobey God, they encountered
Matthias and his five sons. Determined to remain faithful to the law (Torah) they refuse to cooperate. When another Jewish priest stepped up to offer a sacrificed Matthias filled with anger, leapt forward & killed the first of the priest and then the officer of the King. Calling on the faithful to join him, he and his sons fled into the mountains. Over the next two or three years, families deserted the cities & settled in the wilderness so that they could practice their faith.

Thousands of men joined Matthias to fight against the pagan an oppressors. Judas Maccabeus which means Hammer became the military leader of the resistance when his father died. He led many successful battles against the larger armies that Antiochus sent. The Maccabees drove away much larger Syrian army, as the Lord (YHWH) had said"Not by might nor by power, but by my spirit (Ruah) Zech 4:6.
The Hebrew word for might is chayil means strength, power, force, might (especially an army); valour, substance & wealth. chayil occurs more then 230 times. It's basic meaning is force especially military strength. it may refer to the power of accumulated goods, that is wealth as in Deut 8:17. Occasionally chayil is translated valour especially when describing a military man (Judg 3:29) It is translated army in reference to Deut 11:4 & 2Chron 14:8. In the present reference, God informs the re builder of the temple would not be accomplished through the force of an army (chayil) nor through the muscular power or physical stamina of the workmen; rather it would be accomplished by the empowering of the Spirit of God.

Eventually the Maccabean warriors were able to safely re-enter Jerusalem, but found the temple area desecrated & desolate, the gates
burnt, & and some of the buildings torn down. Weeds grew in the courtyard. After mourning and praying they tore down the desecrated
alter and build a new one of uncut stones according to the law (Torah). Blameless priest purified the place and began Temple service once again. On the 25th of Kislev, exactly three years after it had been desecrated, the altar was consecrated amid much rejoicing, music, and
praise to God.

The ancient Jewish text called the Talmud adds small details to the story. It says that when the Maccabees reclaim the temple, only one small jug of concentrated oil was found, enough to keep the temple lamp (menorah) lit only one day. Miraculously it lasted eight days while the priests prepared more sacred oil. This is the "miracle of light" that is so prominent in modern day celebrations.

In the days of the Maccabees, all agreed that they should commemorate this event for eight days every year, starting on the 25th of Kislev.

The feast of dedication became the yearly celebration we call Hanukkah.

Judas and his brothers had many more battles to fight. The brothers took on the name Maccabees. Although by no means "hammer," some feel that it came from the banner of the Maccabees which read: Mi Kamoka be Elim, YHWH, (Who is like unto Thee among the gods O Lord?").

If the Maccabees and their followers had not fought with the Jewish people they would have been lost to the world, assimilated into the Hellenistic. (Greek) religion and culture. But they did fight; the belief that the one true God did not die out; & Jesus (Yeshua) was born in an oppressed but intact Jewish country.

You can read more about the story in 1 Maccabees 4: 36 – 59 and in 2 Maccabees 10: 1- 8 in the Old Testament of a Catholic Bible. Other Bibles do not include the books of Maccabees, for although there are given sound historical information, they are not considered inspired by God.

You may be wondering why an eight day celebration. There are two possible reasons for this:

1. To cleanse sin & dedication according to to the Law (Torah) takes eight days.

2. The feast of the Tabernacles (Sukkot) lasts eight days. The Maccabees had been hiding in caves & in the hills during that festival, not being able to celebrate in Jerusalem at the proper time.

It is called the festival of lights because the aspects of light & oil were probably added later to minimise the emphasis on the military aspect of the celebration. possible reasons are:

1. Rome ruled, & it wouldn't be wise to emphasise Jewish rebellion.

2. The Maccabees led the rebellion & reclaimed Jerusalem, but the resulting Hasmonean Dynasty became corrupt, which is not something to celebrate.

New Understanding of Old Traditions:
The Hanukkiyah is a special nine branched menorah. Eight candles represent the eight days of Hanukkah. The ninth candle, used in lighting the others, is set above the candles is called the shammash or servant candle.

The Talmud discusses whether one candle should be lit the first night, two the second, adding one more per night as Rabbi Hillel proposed or if eight candles should be lit the first night, seven the second, decreasing the number each day as Rabbi Shammai directed. Today we follow Hillel's view because "in matters of holiness one should increase & not decrease.

The servant candle or shammash reminds us that Jesus (Yeshua) came as a servant, setting an example for His followers. Matt 20:26,28 The light reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world. He tells us, "I have come into the world as a light, so that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness." (Jn 12:46) He told His followers that also they were to be lights of the world.

The Greek word for darkness is Scotia means darkness, gloom, evil, sin, obscurity, night, ignorance, & moral depravity. The New Testament especially uses the word in a metaphorical sense of ignorance of divine truth, Man's sinful nature, total absence of light & lack of spiritual perception. Light equals happiness, Scotia equals unhappiness. Scotia as a spiritual darkness basically describes everything earthly or demonic that is at enmity with God.

We use candles or oil lamps to remember the oil & it's importance. Kings were anointed with oil, Priests were consecrated with oil. Messiah & Christ both mean "anointed one." Jesus Christ is our anointed King & High Priest.

Giving Gelt: Giving money to children is called "giving of gelt." This money was traditionally given to poor children so they could get a religious education. With Christmas falling so close to Hanukkah, the giving of gifts has also become a custom, In some families, each person gives just one large gift, either on the first or the eighth night. In other families, a small gift is given each night.

Dreidel: Another tradition is the playing of games, especially the Dreidel game. The story goes that in those dark days of oppression by the Syrians, when it was illegal to study the Law (Torah), people kept a betting game handy. If a solider walked in on them while they were studying God's Word, they would show him the dreidel to
prove they were only playing a game.

When I learnt that these people would try & prove to the soldiers that they were only playing a game, I could not help but think of queen Esther when she went to speak to the king to save the Jews (the king would invite people he needed to speak to & any one who went into the inner court without being called for, he has but one law – death),Queen Esther was going, come what may & said "If I perish I perish."
We must realise that God places His people in high positions to advance His purposes. Always employ any advantage position for the welfare of God's people.

The wise seeks to "discern the seasons & know what they should do. They use God's favour, not as an opportunity to further selfish ambition, but as an occasion to serve His purpose.

Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5 that our earthly house (our body) is destroyed we have a building from God. In verse 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body & to be present with the Lord.

The present earthly body is like a fragile tent in contrast to the future body which is called a building.

To be present with the Lord is better then our present condition, even if it means being absent from the body. Between death & the day & the day of our resurrection this text disproves any notion that the believer experiences any lapse between death & his presence with Christ.

If you are ever facing death, remember to be absent from the body is to present with Christ. Queen Esther knew this truth when she said, "If I perish I perish."

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Hanukkah~ The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Ganeida

Today is the last day of Hanukkah, an 8 day festival that celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated it in 168BC.

The   story of The Maccabees, who overthrew Antiochus Epiphanes, can be found in the extracanonical texts 1 & 2 Maccabees. What I want to look at is the New Testament application of biblical truths found in the Hanukkah story.

Firstly let us see the man Jesus in John 10: It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication.

He was walking in Solomon’s  Colonnade when the Jews approached Him wanting to know if He was indeed the promised Messiah. Solomon’s  Colonnade was a 3 aisled portico running along the eastern side of the gentile’s court.

There are a number of points that strike me as I read this passage.  Firstly, Jesus is walking along an intersectory point. He is not in the Court of the Gentiles ~ but he is not far away either.  He is close by. This strikes me because in Jesus day the Gentiles had no real access to the God of the Israelites.  They could only worship in the furthermost outer court. If Jesus had come in through The Golden Gate, he would have passed through Solomon’s Colonnade, then the court of the Gentiles, on his way to the court of the Israelites.  As women, we would only have been a little better than the gentiles, with a separate place of worship.

The 2nd thing that strikes me is that this takes place after a long monologue Jesus delivers on being the Good Shepherd. The Jews understood exactly what Jesus was saying.  There was only one Good Shephard ~ Yahweh Ra`ah.

 Now we need to understand something about shepherds in Jesus day because we tend to think today shepherds are pretty weak & woosy.  This is not what was understood by Jesus’ listeners. Remember Psalm 23, which these people knew, was written by a shepherd about a shepherd ~ & that shepherd was strong enough & brave enough to kill both a lion & a bear who threatened his sheep. On his own with little more than a slingshot & a club.
Hosea 13:8 has this imagery about God: Like a bear whose cubs have been taken away, I will tear out your heart. I will devour you like a hungry lioness and mangle you like a wild animal.

In effect Jesus is saying His shepherding is strong, protective, ferocious, brave as well as sacrificial.  So the Jews want to know:  Are you really the Messiah?  How can you prove it?

And Jesus tells them: The proof’s in the pudding! His miracles speak for themselves.  They are His proof.  However He also points out that they are not his sheep.  There is always a clear distinction between God’s people & those who are not His.  Paul puts it this way: The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.

Interestingly John 10 is the only place Hanukkah is ever mentioned. It is never mentioned outside of the New Testament.

Now I always tell people I am not a bible scholar.  I am a Lit Major & so symbols speak very powerfully to me.  Hanukkah is also known as The Festival of Lights so now I want to look at some of that symbolism. 

Symbolism works at a number of different levels, exposing layers of the prophetic.  So when Christians celebrate the festivals they celebrate them in the fulfilment of their prophetic aspect, not always as the Jews do.

John 8:12 ~ Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

During Hanukkah a special nine branched  candle bra is used.  The festival is celebrated for 8 days because when the Jews reclaimed the Temple there was only enough holy oil to keep the Menorah in the Holy of Holies lit for 1 day.  Miraculously it burnt for 8 days.  Eight days is the time it took to prepare a new batch of Holy Oil. There are 8 candles to represent the 8 days of Hanukkah.  The 9th candle is usually white.  It is referred to as the shammash, or the servant candle & is used to light all the other candles. The shammash symbolises Jesus, the Light of the world.

Each night of Hanakkuh a candle is lit.  Day 1, one candle, day 2, two candles etc because in matters of holiness we should increase, not decrease.
Hannukah is a fun festival & the candles of the menorah are usually coloured.  The colours represent 8 different covenants God made with his people.

·      Day 1: Red ~ the servant covenant with Adam Gen3:14~17

·      Day 2:Orange ~ the covenant with Noah symbolised by the rainbow Gen 9:9~16

·      Day 3: yellow ~ the covenant with Abraham Gen 12:3~7

·      Day 4:Green ~ the covenant with Moses of the Law Ex 24

·      Day 5:Blue ~ the covenant with David 2Sam:8~16

·      Day 6:Indigo~ the covenant of Redemption~Matt26:26~29

·      Day 7:Violet ~The covenant of Peace Rev 21:1~4

·      Day 8: white ~ The Bridal Covenant John 14 1~3

Each of these lights shines something of God into a dark world. What’s more, if we abide in Him, & He in us, as we are meant to, taking our nourishment from The Bread of Life then we become the fulfilment of Matthew

 5: 14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Traditionally a menorah is interconnected.  All the wick holders are fed from one source & pure olive oil is used.  Oil is always a symbol for the Holy Spirit.  We see from this image how the Holy Spirit gives light & insight to the things of God, lighting the darkness of our minds so that we might have understanding & become obedient children.

Lastly this is a festival that remembers both the desecration of the temple & it’s cleansing & rededication. For us, as New Testament believers, there is only one temple.

Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 1Cor 6:19

If we are the Temple of God then Hanukkah is a good time to consider how we are functioning as His temple. The Temple was always the place where the people of God went to encounter God: to worship him, to praise Him, to offer sacrifices.  That has not changed.

·      He said to them, "The Scriptures declare, 'My Temple will be a house of prayer,' Luke 19:46

 If we are now that temple, are we a people of prayer?  Are we keeping ourselves free of commercialism & idolatry? Do we make time in our busy day to day lives to have an encounter with the Living God? Do we acknowledge the way He operates in our lives, protecting us, providing for us, giving us ideas & help as we need them?

·      Through him, therefore, let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is to say, the fruit of lips acknowledging · his name. Hebrews13:1
·      Do we praise him?  Do we praise Him even in the bad times because He has given us a wonderful opportunity to be His living sacrifices; a sacrifice that declares the glory of God always? Do we as Eph 5:19 instructs, us sing and make melody in our heart to the Lord? Or do we only remember to praise Him when everything is going well ~ & maybe not always then?
Romans 12:  And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.[b] Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Remember holy has a specific meaning & simply means to be set apart from the ordinary for the special use of God Himself so we are not to defile the Temple He resides in [our bodies] with sin & disobedience but to completely put ourselves at His disposal.
See we are to continually die to ourselves that Christ might live in us. If we try & do that of ourselves we are going to fail miserably because we are clay & part of a fallen world.  But when we put ourselves into the hands of the Living God & allow Him to fill us with Himself through His Holy Spirit all things become possible through Christ] who gives me strength. Phil 4:13 

This is the true miracle of Hanukkah: that God gives freely of the living waters of life & the oil of His Spirit never fails but is constantly available to us if we will avail ourselves of it.

And because church should also be fun we lit the candles, prayed the blessing, sang a Hanukkah song & ate candy!

Blessed are you, oh Lord our God, King of the Universe, who commanded us to live as Children of Light through Jesus our Messiah.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

The Priesthood of the Believer ~ Rabqa

Today we will be looking at why an individual believer has the
spiritual authority to partake of the sacrament, even if they are not a priest or ordained minister 1Pet 2:9 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

 After Christ ascended into heaven as the new heavenly priest & sealed the promises of the new covenant with His blood, He also initiated an earthly priesthood, or a new kingdom of priests, & the Church is the kingdom of priests that is overseen by the High Priest Jesus Christ, from heavenly temple. Melchizedek was the only king & priest of the Old Testament history. Jesus followed the pattern & became a king & a priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Scripture says that we are a royal priesthood. Kings & priests minister, but kings rule. Today we offer sacrifices of praise & financial gifts. But in the future we will rule & reign with Him for one thousand years.

There are some who teach that communion should never be served by a lay-person or a common Christian- but only by an ordained minister, a priest or someone who has been trained to serve in ministry. However, if we are now priests unto God, then we have the spiritual authority of the priesthood through the new covenant to receive the bread & blood of Christ. It is the traditions of man & the church that have restrained members of the church from becoming priests unto God.

The Greek word for chosen is eklektoss. The word means one picked out from among the larger group for special service or privileges.

It describes Christ as the chosen Messiah of God (Lk 23:35), angels as messengers from heaven ( 1Tim 5:21), & believers as recipients of God's favour (Matt 24:22; Rom 8:33; col3:12). T he New Testament traces the source of election to God's grace.
AS a royal priesthood, the kingly nature of the redeemed worshipper is noted in this passage, is rooted in God's call to ancient Israel Ex 19:5-7 & Rev 1: 5 & 6 draw this truth to full application & prophetic fulfilment in the New Testament believer. As with Israel, deliverance through the blood of the Lamb is but the beginning. As promised, dominion & destiny will unfold as their priestly duty is fulfilled. True authority is always related to a walk in purity & a constancy in worship. The spirit of worship is essential to the advancement of the kingdom. Just as ancient Israel will only take the Promised Land while doing battle from a foundation of righteous worship before the Lord. So it is with contemporary Church. We will only experience promised power for evangelism & spiritual victories as we prioritise & grow in our worship of the living God. Kingdom power is kept from pollution this way. As kingdom people we need to keep humbly praiseful before the King & witness His works of power with joy.
True priesthood was transferred before long before A.D 70, & the process began when Jesus at age 30, stepped into the river Jordan to be baptised.

John the Baptist, Christ's cousin was the son of a priest named Zacharias who served in a temple in Jerusalem Lk 1:9-13). John was baptising believers at the Jordan River in an area called Bethabara (Jn 1:28). This was the same location where fifteen hundred years earlier, Joshua had crossed the Jordan River & instructed the Hebrews to take 12 smooth stones out of the Jordan River & build a monument on the Israel side of the river as a memorial & reminder that God opened the Jordan River for them to cross. The priest also lifted 12 stones from the wilderness & placed theses in the dry river bed. (Josh 4:1-10) That day the water from the Jordan River was rolled back all the way to a city called Adam, 10 miles away & to the south toward the dead sea.(Josh 3:16).

The area where Joshua crossed is the same area where John baptised Jesus, & it has powerful prophetic significance. When a high priest was preparing to transfer the priesthood to his son there was a threefold procedure:

1. The high priests son had to submerge in water for purification Lev 8:6

2. The holy oil was to be poured upon the head of the high priests son Lev 8:12

3.The high priest had to publicly declare that this was his son. Num 20:28.

This 3 part process occurred when Christ waded into the Jordan river. Christ stepped into the same area where Joshua had crossed. Joshua's Hebrew name was Yeshuah, & Jesus' actual Hebrew name is Yeshuah. In Joshua's time, the waters of the Jordan were rolled back to the city of Adam, just a Christ's redemptive work removed mankind’s sin all the way back to the first man Adam.

When Christ stepped into the cold waters of the Jordan, He was being recognised by John, who was the son of a Jewish priest. Christ was not being baptised for the remission of sins because He was sinless. There is a deeper meaning to this baptism. Christ was 30 years of age that is the same age a Levitate entered into priesthood (Num 4:30). Little did Israel know that the priesthood in Jerusalem was being transferred to one man- Jesus Christ. That Pattern is seen in His baptism:

1 Christ was baptised in water, symbolic of preparation for the Priesthood.

2 The Spirit descended upon Him like a dove; this was the anointing Matt 3:16.
3 God spoke from Heaven, declaring that Jesus was His Son. Matt 3:17.

The priesthood of the believer is a concept that has only been understood in contemporary times. The traditional Christian Church has placed all spiritual responsibilities for Church ministry solely upon the fivefold ministry (Eph 4:11), especially the local Pastor.
In the 1st century, individuals had church in their homes, & deacons were appointed to preform business tasks so ministers could concentrate on praying & studying (Acts 6:3&4).

In reality, every believer was a witness for Christ, & every believer could participate in some form of ministry. Some believers provided shelter for travelling ministers, some provided food, & others, such as Dorcas made clothing for widows in her city (Acts 9:36-39).
Paul refereed to the faithful believers who loved the ministry & worked for God's kingdom as saints. From Acts 9;13- Rev 20:9 the word saint is mentioned 60times. All 60 reverences use the same Greek word hagios, which literately means morally pure, consecrated & blameless.

Eventually the word saint became an exclusive term reserved for a select group of individuals. The Roman Church developed a list of qualifications to identify a true saint. However in the New Testament, a saint was a holy person who had consecrated his or her life to God & was actively involved in praying, giving, teaching, & walking in the truth of God's Word.

There are several world religions who use priests have developed a form of priesthood. The Buddhist religion has priests, or men who have committed themselves entirely to live at their temples & concentrate on prayers & study of their religion.
In the Roman Catholic Church there is an order of priests, bishops, & cardinals. Following a set order, a man can move from one level to a higher level. In the traditional protestant Church s, most leaders recognise three of the five fold ministries in the Church: Pastor, Teacher & evangelist.

Certainty, God calls individuals into ministry has appointed some in the body of Christ as ministers of God, preaching, teaching,& instructing, however, Rev 1:5 &6 says N L T
And from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. The A MP V6 And formed us into a kingdom (a royal race), priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the power and the majesty and the dominion throughout the ages and forever and ever. Amen (so be it). The N I V (V6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. In John’s apocalyptic vision he describes Christ as wearing a white garment, with a golden sash & standing in the midst of a golden menorah (Rev 1:12-16). This is a description of  a high priest who exchanged his eight garments of glory to those of white linen garments when he entered the holy of holies on the day of atonement! John was seeing Christ as the heavenly High Priest standing in the heavenly temple! This is where John reveals (as the Greek renders it) "He has made us a kingdom of priests". Not just kings & priests BUT a kingdom of priests. Forming a kingdom of priests was God's original plan for Israel when they came out of Egypt. The Almighty Said: & ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests,& a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. Ex 19:6 

When God said a Kingdom of priests He had complete sway in all things, since the earth was His & His obedient loyal people would have dominion in the earth. Holy nation describes a people set apart from the world, dedicated to the Lord God & His service, to the Lord God & His service indwelt by His presence. AS a personal priest we can boldly approach the heavenly temple with our petitions. If we sin we no longer go to mortal man & confess our sins, the Bible tells us "If any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father" & If we confess our sins He is faithful & just to forgive us our sins & cleanse us from all unrighteousness" 1 Jn 2:1 & 1 Jn 1:9).

 Under the old order, a priest would burn incense representing & reaching up to God ( PS 141:2). In the new order priesthood every believer can offer prayers of supplication & thanksgiving & personal requests to God (Phil 4:6). Remember that Confession of our faults & sins is required before receiving the Lords Supper.

Also, the meal that heals should not simply become a ritual & another religious formula, & certainly it should never be viewed as some type of magical formula for healing.

Acknowledgements Perry Stone.