Do I Have What it Takes?
How could it be? It seems like it was just yesterday when I was holding my oldest grandson in my arms. Now, he is on the threshold of entering his teenage years. My grandson, Jack, is starting a new stage of life. Voices from many different spheres of life will be demanding his attention. As he begins to separate from the safety of his home, he will have new decisions to make. According to writers of The Power of the Blessing, Terry and Melissa Bone, our souls ask unique questions at the entrance of each stage of life. The major question asked by a child entering puberty at the beginning of their teen years is, "Do I have what it takes to make it in this world?"
Life is designed to help us discover our true identities—the one God ordained. Along with this, God has a divine destiny for us. His desire is to bless us, as was shown at creation when He created mankind in His image. "God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it...’" (Genesis 1:28) The teenage years are critical ones for identity formation. To help in this process, the Lord has assigned certain people, particularly parents and grandparents, to bless them through their words and deeds and to affirm who they are.
The Bones make an interesting analogy in their book that describes a teenager as an arrow, based on Psalm 127:4-5. "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." The Bones say, "Children, like mere sticks in a warrior's hands, require shaping. For a while they are protected in a quiver, but there comes a time when they must be taken from their safe place, loaded into a bow, aimed, and fixed at God's destination for their lives. Puberty is that time. Fathers have spiritual authority to call forth their sons and daughters from childhood into maturity. We like to say that a mother is called to string the bow and a father to shoot the arrow. But to shoot an arrow, it first has to be aimed. The shift in spiritual roles of mothers and fathers during the teen years needs to be accompanied by a shift in our parenting approach from teacher to coach." (Page 81)
We can see this scenario being played out when Jesus went to the Temple to engage with the rabbis. Jesus had to remind His parents of the call on His life. The first recognition of His call came from those outside of His immediate family. Teens are looking for honor from family members who will listen to them. The rabbis in the Temple listened to Jesus because they recognized the insight He had been given.
How can we who have teenagers in our lives encourage and bless them? We can be good listeners. We can be sure that every word we speak to them imparts a sense of value and worth. Birthday parties are meant to impart blessing to children. If a child wanders from the straight path, we can pray for them and forgive and love them. We must always remember that the Lord is on our side and that we partner with Him in helping teenagers realize that they do have what they need in their lives to make it in the world. Not only that, but the Lord does also "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us..." (Ephesians 3:20)
We can count on the truth that God is a Redeemer! He sent His son, Jesus, to redeem all of us from the curse of the law. (Galatians 3:13) Even before Jesus came to earth, God was working redemption in the lives of His people. The story of Esther demonstrates this.
Esther and her cousin Mordecai, from the tribe of Benjamin, lived in Persia (Modern day Iran). The generation before them had been exiled to the capital of Susa. Because of her great beauty and sensitivity to the Spirit of God, Esther became queen to King Xerxes without him knowing that she was a Jew. In this position she was introduced to Haman, the second in command to the king. Haman's immense pride, jealousy, and hate for the Jews led him to plot their destruction. We learn that Esther was placed in the palace "for such a time as this." (Esther 4:14) Her cousin Mordecai encourages her to go before the king without being summoned so she could plead for his mercy for her people.
By honoring the king with two exquisite banquets, Esther showed the king her loyalty to him and took advantage of this time to reveal her true identity as a Jew. She also exposed the plan that Haman was about to carry out in killing her and all the Jews in the Persian empire. The king wrote out another decree that allowed the Jews to fight for their lives against those who would attack them. Great fear of the Jews came upon those in the Persian empire, and they won a victory over their enemies. The king gave permission to the Jews to collect plunder from those who were going to kill them. However, no plunder was taken! The Jews understood that doing this would have been an idolatrous action. By not doing so, they could redeem the sin that had taken place years ago.
To understand the redemption that took place, we must look back to the days of King Saul and remember that he was from the tribe of Benjamin. 1 Samuel 15 tells how Saul went to battle against King Agag and the Amalekites. God's instructions to Saul were very clear: "Now go and attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belong to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys." (Verse 3) "But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good." (Verse 9)
The prophet Samuel confronted Saul: "Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?” (Verse 19) "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." (Verse 22) Saul, representing the tribe of Benjamin, committed a sin of disobedience and arrogance against the Lord by stealing His plunder. As Benjamites, Mordecai and Esther were given the opportunity to redeem the taking of idolatrous plunder by the Benjamite King Saul. Is it not fitting that their enemy, Haman, was an Agagite of the Amalekites? With their actions, the Jews vindicated the tribe of Benjamin and all of Israel and destroyed the descendants of God's enemies.
If we look at the larger context of this story, we can see that Haman represents satanic opposition to the Christian community along with the Jews. We too have redemption from Christ's death on the cross and resurrection. Christ won the battle for us so that we can win plunder for Him through sharing the good news of Jesus with those who need to hear it. We can celebrate this season and rest assured of the Lord's redemption for every season. What an encouragement!
"Mohar" - How Many Kings?
It is through Rabbi Jonathan Cahn that I learned about the Hebrew word "mohar." For an ancient Hebrew wedding to take place, the groom had to pay the bride's family a dowry, a precious gift or large sum of money to show his love for his bride. Without the mohar there would be no wedding. No covenant could be made. There is Biblical precedence for this practice in several places in the Bible. Here are a few of them:
Genesis 24:53 - Eliezer, acting in the place of the groom's father, Abraham, gave precious gifts to Rebekah's family as a dowry so that she would come with him to be Isaac's wife.
1 Samuel 18:25 - Saul tells his servant to say to David, "The king wants no other price for the bride than a hundred Philistine foreskins, to take revenge on his enemies." David took Saul seriously and brought back 200 Philistine foreskins for Michal's hand in marriage.
Hosea 3:2 - At God's instructions, Hosea purchased Gomer the prostitute as his wife for "fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley."
Christmas is here, a time when we contemplate the precious gift that God sent from heaven to purchase a bride for His son Jesus. We must see this gift through to its conclusion. The love of Christ is demonstrated not only by His birth, but also by His death. The life and death of Jesus on earth was God’s mohar so that His bride, the Church, can live with Him for eternity. Rabbi Cahn asks a pertinent question about other religions who ask for extreme devotion from their adherents. When we look at Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, and Orthodox Judaism, "Where is the mohar?" A gift was not given to make covenant in these religions. It only happened for those who believe Jesus is the Son of God. The mohar could not be more valuable!
This season I have been touched by the words of a song sang by the group "Down Here," called "How Many Kings?" I encourage you to listen to it. Below you will find some of the words to the song. Please pay particular attention to the questions in the chorus. In essence, the questions can be summed up by asking, "Where is the mohar?"
Verse 1 - "Follow the star to a place unexpected. Would you believe after all we've projected, a child in a manger? Lowly and small, the weakest of all, unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother's shawl, just a child. Is this who we've waited for?" Chorus.
Verse 2 - "Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior, all that we have, whether costly or meek, because we believe. Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure, and myrrh for the cross He will suffer. Do you believe? Is this who we've waited for?"
Chorus: "How many kings step down from their thrones? How many lords have abandoned their homes? How many greats have become the least for me? And how many gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that is torn all apart? How many fathers gave up their sons for me? Only one did that for me."
Let us join in the worship of our God for being willing to be our Mohar.
Shine Your Light
The 400 years between the Old and New Testaments are known as the "silent years." It was during these years that Hanukkah took place. The Jews called the Greek-Syrian General who led the forces against them "Antiochus the Madman." His belief was that he was one of the Greek gods who had come to earth. He took the name Epiphanes, which means "God manifest" and expected the Jews to worship him. In the town named Modi’in, just outside of Jerusalem, a representative of Antiochus came to demand that the Jews bow down and worship a statute of Antiochus. The priestly family called the Maccabees was unwilling to compromise their faith and began a campaign of guerrilla warfare against the Greek-Syrian army.
A miracle was in the working! God honored the Maccabees and their small band of fighters for refusing to assimilate into the world around them by honoring the Word of God . They understood they would be put to death if they lost their battle. But they were “steadfast and immovable” (1 Corinthians 15:58) in their belief. They were “rooted and grounded” (Ephesians 3:17) in the Lord and would not be moved. On the 24th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, in the year 165 B.C., the three-year campaign waged by the Maccabees against their persecutors ended in victory. Antiochus the IV failed in his attempt to "Hellenize" (absorb into Greek culture) the Jews.
Because the Temple had been defiled by the Greek-Syrian soldiers, it had to be cleansed and rededicated. The Maccabees removed all the stones from the altar because it had been defiled by the sacrifice of a pig upon it. A new altar was built, and they set about to relight the seven-branched candelabra known as the Menorah. Once lit, the Jews realized that there was not enough sacred oil to keep the flame of the candles burning for more than one day. It took eight days to prepare more holy oil. The miracle of Hanukkah is that the Menorah oil burned for eight days without any oil being added to the original supply.
Today Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days in honor of the miraculous light that shown brightly in the Temple. The Menorah that is used today has eight branches to signify the eight days the oil burned in the Temple. There is a ninth branch in the center for the Shammas or Servant candle. It sits higher than the other candles and is used to light all the others. Christians may recognize that this candle symbolizes Jesus, "The Light of the World." (John 9:5) He is the Light that shines to show the way for a new beginning for all who come to Him.
Those of us who have been "lit" by Jesus have a responsibility to keep our "lights shining before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) Today we are faced with a society of people with immoral and alternative lifestyles that would like to snuff out our lights. Their scheme is to make us forget who we are as defined by God. They entice us to compromise our faith and encourage us to assimilate into their dark life patterns. We can see the erosion of a Biblical lifestyle. But, we can make a difference because we are the light of the world! (Matthew 5:14) Let the light of the Hanukkah candles remind us of our call to shine the light of Yeshua in the darkness. We have been set ablaze through His love, and the Holy Spirit provides us with an eternal supply of oil. Burn, dear ones! Burn!
Light in the Darkness
Increasing darkness characterizes the season we are currently in as we see the light of the sun slipping away early in the evening. The ninth month on the Hebrew calendar, Kislev, began on Thanksgiving night. Though this is the month of increasing darkness, the meaning of the word Kislev confronts the darkness. It means to trust, rest, or have security. How can we do these things when the darkness expands? This increase not only has a physical manifestation, but also a spiritual one. The deeds of darkness are growing. We read and hear about them in the news. Were it not for the light of Christ, we would be hopeless. Two events crash into the darkness during this season. The center of the Hanukkah celebration is the lighting of the Menorah candles in remembrance of how the Maccabees, against all odds, restored the Temple. This year, Christmas eve occurs on the last day of Kislev. Yeshua, "The Light of the World," (John 8:12) came from heaven, full of glory.
You may be asking, "How can we have rest and security during a time when darkness seems to be overtaking us?" It appears that evil agendas plotted in the darkness are prevailing. We might join the prophet Habakkuk in asking the Lord questions that seem to have no answers and in declaring the circumstances we live in that look hopeless on the surface. He asked God, "Why do you make me look at injustice...The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted." (Habakkuk 1:3,4) "...Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?" (Habakkuk 1:13)
God is not unaware of evil deeds. He tells Habakkuk: "Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion!" (2:6) "Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain..." (2:9) "Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice!" (2:12) "Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor..." (2:15) "Woe to him who says to wood, 'Come to life!' or to a lifeless stone, 'Wake up!'" (2:19)
Dark deeds will not prevail! How can I write this? Jesus, Yeshua, came as The Light of the World. In the book of John we read, "In Him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:4-5) Jesus testified about who He is when speaking to the those who followed Him: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) "I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believers in me should stay in darkness." (John 12:46)
Here is the word of truth coming to us from the Son of God, sent to earth to bring light and truth. John 1:5 is a verse that we should stand on: "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." Jesus told His disciples, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33) Rest and security come in this season as we trust in the truth of God's word. We must receive and believe in this truth!
After complaining to God about the deeds of darkness that were occurring during his lifetime, Habakkuk comes to a conclusion that brings him peace. "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be joyful in God my Savior." (Habakkuk 3:17-18) Adopting this philosophy for us can also bring us peace and rest.
Thankfulness through Generosity
"Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give, and don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. 'For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.' And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need, and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, 'They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.' (Psalm 112:9) For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer, and then bread to eat. In the same way, He will provide and increase your resources and produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous, and when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God." (2 Corinthians 9:6-11 - NLT)
The Lord rejoices in those who are generous! And generosity flows from the heart of one who loves the Lord and is thankful for all He has done. Psalm 112, in the Passion Translation is titled "The Triumph of Faith." Let us look at some of the verses in this Psalm that describe a person of faith who loves the Lord with his entire heart: "Shout in celebration of praise to the Lord! Everyone who loves the Lord and delights in Him will cherish His words and be blessed beyond expectation. Their descendants will be prosperous and influential. Every generation of His godly lovers will experience His favor." (Verses 1-2)
"Life is good for one who is generous and charitable, conducting affairs with honesty and truth. Their circumstances will never shake them, and others will never forget their example. They will not live in fear or dread of what may come, for their hearts are firm, every secure in their faith. Steady and strong, they will not be afraid, but will calmly face their every foe until they go down in defeat. Never stingy and always generous to those in need, their lives of influence and honor will never be forgotten, for they are full of good deeds." (Verses 5-9)
Our country has set aside an entire day to be thankful. Our forefathers did not want a year to go by without a time for thankfulness to God for His generosity to us. When God began to pour out His riches upon the people of the United States it was because He trusted them to use these resources wisely to invest them for Him. The "seeds" He poured out were to be planted in fertile soil and cultivated to produce more seeds. The world was to be the seedbed for the Lord.
In 1 Chronicles 29 we read about the preparation for the building of the Temple. King David was going to task his son Solomon with overseeing the building of a “palatial structure" for the Lord. All of David's resources (seeds) were given to construct this "holy temple." 1 Chronicles 29:9 says, "The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord." David asks a question and implores the Lord to help them: "But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?" (Verse 14) "Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building You a temple for Your Holy Name comes from Your hand and all of it belongs to You...And now I have seen with joy how willing Your people who are here have given to You...Keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of Your people forever and keep their hearts loyal to You." (Verses 16-18)
King David wrote a prayer to honor the Lord and give Him thanks: "Praise be to You, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is Yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; You are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from You; You are ruler of all things. In Your hand are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give You thanks, and praise Your glorious name." (2 Chronicles 29:10-13) May we all use our resources to the glory of God and adopt David's prayer as our prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord.
Dwelling with the Lord
The Feast of Tabernacles, which begins tonight, is a time of remembering God's faithfulness to the children of Israel while they were in the wilderness. Yet this celebration is also for remembering how the Lord brought them into the Promised Land. The sukkah (a temporary dwelling made of broken branches) represents their wilderness journey. However, fruit is present in the branches to represent what was to come in the Promised Land. We could look at this time as one that joins together the wilderness with the Promised Land. Rabbi Jonathan Cahn says that the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles is a joining together of the wilderness with the Promised Land. We, as children of God, could say heaven and earth are being joined together. How appropriate that Jesus taught His disciples to pray, "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)
For God to have more intimacy with us (His greatest desire) there needs to be a connection between heaven and earth. That is one of the reasons that the Lord set up times and seasons for special meetings with Him. All of His feasts come to a culmination during the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. The name of this feast should draw us back to the first time God spoke to Moses and instructed him and the Israelites to construct a tabernacle for Him where He would dwell in their midst. (Exodus 25:8) The Hebrew word "Shakan" means to dwell. The first time this word appears in Scripture is in Genesis 3:22-24. God had to bar Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden after their sin, so He placed cherubim at the entrance. They were to dwell at the entrance to guard the way to the Tree of Life. In this case, the dwelling of the cherubim was an act of kindness.
The desire of God to dwell with His people is shown in many places in the Bible. Exodus 29:45-46 says, "Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them..." God calls the place where He abides with His people the "dwelling for His Name." (Deuteronomy 12:11) The prophet Joel ends his book with a statement that tells us where God will dwell with His people on earth: "The Lord dwells in Zion!" (Joel 3:21) The tabernacle was the temporary structure where God dwelt with His people. Once Israel settled in the Promised Land, they build a permanent structure called the Temple. This edifice was built by Solomon, and God instructed Israel to walk in His statutes and keep His commandments so that He could live among them. He said, "And I will live (dwell) among the Israelites and will not abandon my people, Israel." (1 Kings 6:13)
As explained by Psalm 74:7, the Lord's instructions were not followed. "They defiled the dwelling place of Your name." This did not stop the Lord's pursuit of His people. He is compelled to draw near to us. Look at Zechariah 8:3. "I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem..." The prophets consistently declare that God will dwell among His people. Isaiah 7:14 explains the great lengths that God goes to for intimacy. "Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call Him Immanuel," meaning God with us. The gospel of John brings clarity to this: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." The Feast of Tabernacles is our reminder of God's great desire to dwell with us. Jesus/Yeshua is the tabernacle of God among us. He desires to tabernacle with us. He encourages us to use this season as one to sit in His presence and dine from His table of delights. John 14:23 takes us back to what God said to His children in the wilderness. "...Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home (dwelling place) with them."
Not only are we meant to dwell with the Lord, but we are a dwelling place for His Holy Spirit. Let us use this week called The Feast of Tabernacles to connect with the Lord by setting aside time to contemplate His goodness, listening for His words of affirmation, and celebrating that He is, indeed, God with us, "Immanuel."
Rebuilding One Step at a Time
Life's circumstances have completely changed how I am writing to you tonight. My intention was to bring the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) before you since it takes place on Wednesday. This holiest day on the Hebrew calendar is meant for reconciliation with God. In Biblical days, the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies to present God with an offering to cover the sins of the people. Today Yom Kippur is a day of remembering, fasting, and praying so that the new year (5783) starts properly. Of course, those who believe that Yeshua/Jesus is our Savior know that He took our sins upon His body once and for all. He is the Atonement!
What I want to focus on is what has happened in the southern part of the United States and Cuba. Unimaginable destruction and devastation took place when Hurricane Ian, a Category 4 storm, barreled through the region with monumental winds and water and created surges that completely destroyed entire communities, bringing death and major loss of property. The infrastructures that supported communities are also gone. It is interesting to note that the hurricane is named Ian. What it did as it blew through our country is incongruent with its name. Ian is of Scottish Gaelic origin and is the Scottish version of John or Yohanan in Hebrew. The name means, "God is gracious" or "Gift from God." How do we put this together? It seems like the kingdom of darkness has throne us a curve ball.
I too was thrown a curve ball at the same time. While all this is going on, I was mourning the loss of a friend from church, Linda, who is one of our "Dear Ones." It was at her funeral that I began to feel sick and dizzy. The next day I found myself in ER. The medical staff discovered that I had a small stroke. Praise God there are no lasting effects, and I am home to write this letter. There are still many in hospitals, battling sickness and disease and many whose lives have been pulled apart by the overwhelming losses created by the forces of nature.
The human part of us wants to ask God the question, "Why?" Very rarely have I gotten the answer to any of my why questions. Here is what I do know: God breaks our hearts with the things that break His. We are His ambassadors on earth. We are on earth to glorify Him. He can use our smallest offering to help others, and He will multiply our efforts. God is not the author of pain and suffering, but He will use it to draw us closer to Him. He is with us as we rebuild our lives and will send others to help us.
Remember the Scripture in Zechariah 4:10? Zerubbabel's hands had just laid the foundation for the rebuilding of the temple, and God reminds Zechariah the importance of the first step. "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin..." (NLT) In circumstances that look impossible, let us remember that God is the Lord of the impossible. We must take the first step. Join the Psalmist in declaring, "...I will hope in Your name, for Your name is good." (Psalm 52:9) Remember Psalm 54:4. "Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me." We must release the turmoil within us to the Lord: "Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge." (Psalm 62:8) The Lord stands by to help us with our greatest needs. He desires for us to rest in Him and to be assured that He is our rock and salvation. "He is my fortress. I will never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:2)
A Call to Awaken
The Hebrew calendar is one to encourage the culture of the Kingdom of heaven here on earth. It brings to our attention weekly, monthly, and yearly seasons of rest and times to connect with the Lord. These times are meant to bring us closer to Him. To do this, we must set priorities and need to ask ourselves, "What is my highest priority?" How intentional are we at setting aside special times to seek greater intimacy with the Lord? We have an opportunity this evening at sundown to join with our Jewish brothers and sisters in the celebration of the New Year 5783. After all, we have a common history with them. In Leviticus 23 we find a list of the Feasts of the Lord, and we are told in verse 4, "These are the Lord's appointed festivals, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times." We also see throughout the New Testament that Jesus kept these feasts.
The spring feasts are a reflection of the Messiah's appearance on earth and His death and resurrection. The late spring feast demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit as He poured it out on those who were gathered in Jerusalem. The fall feasts are thought to be the time when Messiah will return to earth to fulfill the Feast of Tabernacles. He will come for the pure and spotless bride called The Church and take her to heaven for eternal fellowship.
Rosh Hashanah means "Head of the Year" and is also referred to as the Feast of Blowing (Yom Teru’ah) or Trumpets. It begins on the first day of the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar called Tishri. For two days sacred assemblies take place, and the shofar (ram's horn) is blown 100 times each day. It is thought to be the day that God created the world and announces the beginning of the fall feasts and what is called "The Ten Days of Awe." These days are meant for self-examination and repentance, prayer and fasting. From Biblical times, these ten days have been set apart as a time for preparation of Yom Kippur or The Day of Atonement. The Israelites would gather as their High Priest went into the presence of the Lord in the Holy of Holies, the innermost sanctuary of the Temple. Here he would present sacrifices and prayers to the Lord on their behalf. During the final celebration, the harvest of the fields is brought in, booths are built for families to live in for seven days so that they are reminded of God's care for their ancestors in the desert, time is set aside to rest and fellowship, and offerings of thanksgiving are brought to the Lord.
In the book The Messianic Church Arising by Robert Heidler, the yearly feasts are called a "Cycle of Blessing." Robert writes, "The fall feasts provide the pattern for revival for any individual or nation. The fall feasts were given to create a pathway into God's glory." Here is what each feast is meant to do:
The Feast of Trumpets: A wake-up call
The Days of Awe: A time for seeking Him
The Day of Atonement: A day to be restored
The Feast of Tabernacles: A week to experience glory
Robert continues. "...I believe Tabernacles is the key feast for the church today. We live in a day when God wants to draw us into His presence in a unique way. It is a time for His power and blessing to be poured out. He wants us to experience His glory."
Our wake-up call comes this evening. We are being called into a new season. We are being called to awaken. God is ready to meet us. Are we ready to meet Him? We can join our Jewish brothers and sisters in the Spirit by remembering our blessings, confessing and repenting of our sins, and bringing the Lord a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. This will set us on a path of blessing for the new year.
Marking Independence Day
In early 1776 Thomas Paine brought the idea of independence from Great Britain to the forefront of the colonists in America through his document called "Common Sense." Its two main points were independence from England and creation of a democratic republic. By July 2, our Founding Fathers decided to declare that independence and on July 4, 1776, America was born. The Declaration of Independence declared that a separation from England was justified to secure our "God-given rights." Later, John Adams said, "The general principles on which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity."
Indeed, Christianity had a profound influence on our Founding Fathers. Many of them recognized that for democracy to be successful the nation's people would have to be educated in the morals and values of Christianity and that the Bible would be the text from which they should learn these. Because of this, many schools were established to teach the principles of the Bible and to encourage faith in God in the country's young people.
The American landscape is full of churches that were planted to worship God and help grow up generations of individuals with strong faith. I believe that without a powerful base of citizens with a strong faith in God America would have failed. It was the faith of the generations that came before us that helped them endure hardships and gave them the willingness to sacrifice for a better tomorrow.
Attacking the faith of the Christian community has been, and continues to be, a strategy of the evil one. It is amazing that we have been able to prevail. Some might take exception with this idea, but I believe that it is the faith of the Christian community that will save the nation of the United States from destruction. There is a remnant of Believers that has taken a stand to defy the attacks of evil. There will continue to be challenges to our Christian activities in the future, but our stand on the foundation of righteousness and justice will be the key to our success.
How should a Christian mark Independence Day this year? May I suggest that we bind together in prayer. Let us repent for the sins of our nation. We must ask God to forgive us for not putting Him first and following His ways. We must acknowledge that we have turned away from the Lord's commandments and justified the sin in our lives. Those who serve our country in government or military need our prayers for protection and blessing. They also need to understand the truth, for it is the truth that will set them free. (John 8:32) For those who are deceived, we must pray for them to be awakened and that salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ would be theirs. It is imperative that we call on the mercies of God to shield and protect the Church in this hour and that she would be strong in shining God's light and love brightly. Expressing our thanksgiving is a must! Let us ask God to awaken and revive our nation so that we will be leaders in proclaiming the goodness of God to the world. We should remember God's promises to us through His Word, especially the one that tells us He will never leave or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:8) Here is what Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians: "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ." (Verse 6)
Joan E. Mathias