The Confidence of Christ in Prayer: an example from the account of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary

23 Shevat 5784

Jesus, the Anointed One, our Savior and Messiah demonstrated great confidence in prayer. Let’s learn how to pray with holy boldness, following His example.

The Final Inquiry

A movie came out many years ago called “The Final Inquiry.”  It is a moving story set in 35 AD about a Roman man sent on a mission to determine whether or not the resurrection of Jesus actually happened, or not.  

In one scene, the Roman, named Valerius Taurus, is out by the caves where people had been buried. By this point in the movie, the Pharisees have figured out that Tauro is on a quest to find out the truth, so they come up with a way to explain away the different miracles performed by Jesus, to influence his investigation so that Tauro would conclude that the resurrection was a fraud: only an illusion used to confuse people and cause them to think Jesus was divine.

In an extreme act, the Pharisees offer Tauro a cup of spiked wine.  Tauro is drugged against his will and loses consciousness for several days, so they bury him.  When he wakes up, in graveclothes, the Pharisees use the experience to suggest that the raising of Lazarus, and of Jesus, could be logically explained, and that a true resurrection was nothing but a hoax.  Doubts were sown into Tauro’s heart, but by the end of the movie he experiences the healing power of Jesus (and falls in love with a beautiful Jewish girl – it’s a movie after all) and becomes a follower of the One who legitimately is “the Resurrection and the Life.”

The Example of Lazarus

When Jesus (Yeshua) says in John 11:11, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps,” He is not referring to a drug-induced coma or taking a nap. 

Believers in Jesus who die are often said in Scripture to be sleeping, not to be “dead.” 

The disciples do not understand, and say, “Well, Lord, if he’s sleeping, he will get well” (John 11:12). 

The LORD had to get through to them, so He says plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” (John 11:14).

Our Savior wanted to make it very clear that without Him, Lazarus really was dead. 

Jesus could have gone immediately to heal His friend at the news of Lazarus’ sickness, but He stayed another 2 days where He was before venturing out. 

By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus had been dead for 4 days. 

There was to be no question that Lazarus had died.

This was all part of God’s plan to demonstrate His power, that He would be glorified.

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died”  (Luke 11:21).

We must recognize the extent of God’s miracle-working power

Martha recognized Jesus’ healing power, but she didn’t understand the extent of His power. 

Her faith was limited by her mindset and experience – Martha thought miracles could only happen to the living. 

As always, Messiah Jesus (Yeshua) is patient with Martha.  He says to her, “your brother will rise again” (Luke 11:23).  Martha is still unable to understand and she confesses her belief that Lazarus will have eternal life, but Jesus wants her to understand that in Him is life – even in this earthly life.

Mary comes along and says the same thing: “Lord, had you only been here” (Luke 11:32).  She is weeping and others with her were as well. 

Jesus wept

“Jesus wept” (Luke 11:35).

Jesus wept, too, but He doesn’t weep out of despair like the others. 

He wept for the people who just don’t understand.

For the people who haven’t placed their hope in Him.

The Almighty Lord resolved to demonstrate His power. He told the people to roll the stone away. 

Have an agreeable, teachable spirit

Despite Martha’s confession that she knows Jesus is the Anointed One, the Christ, the Son of God, and despite the fact Jesus had told her shortly before, “your brother will rise again,” she counters Him: convinced that rolling the stone away is a bad idea because of the stench of Lazarus’ dead body.

Jesus would be right to get upset at this point. 

I don’t know in what tone of voice He answered her, but Scripture records Him saying, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (Luke 11:40).

He must’ve been exasperated.

Some people just don’t listen!

If there is one time to be agreeable, it’s when Jesus is standing right in front of you with the full ability and willingness to raise your loved one from the dead!

The people roll the stone away to reveal the dead body of Lazarus. 

The onlookers probably wondered: where was the glory of God in this?

But Jesus’ illustration wasn’t done yet. Some of the people would have lacked a true teachable spirit. They were discouraged, incredulous, and lacking in hope and conviction.

Confronted with the finality of death

Confronted with the evidence of the finality of death, it is hard for anyone to think beyond it.

Have you ever had your hopes crushed? 

Have you ever put your head down on your pillow after a time of turmoil in your life and in the quietness of the night, all that you could wonder was, “why would God let this happen to me?” 

Or

“Where is the glory of God in this?” 

No matter how faithful we are, we all go through times when we ask that question.

Yet Jesus always asks us to believe.  And then we will see the glory of God.

The Confidence of Christ in the face of death

As an example to us, Jesus lifted up His eyes and began to pray with confidence:

Luke 11:41 “And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.”

It is important to note the manner in which Jesus prayed.

There are occasions recorded in the Bible when Jesus knelt down to pray.

There is nothing wrong with folding your hands, closing your eyes, and humbly praying. 

But there are other occasions when prayer is different.

Jesus is standing before a dead man. 

Prayer that requires Conviction and Confidence

His prayer needed to be one of conviction and confidence. 

He lifted up His eyes to the Father, fully aware of the authority His Father has given Him, and He said,

“Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” (Luke 11:41-42).

Jesus uses His prayer to teach the onlookers about having faith and confidence in who they can be as God’s children if they will only believe.  

Do you pray with this kind of confidence? 

Father, I thank You because I know You hear me. 

Father, I know I am Yours, and because of my faith in Jesus, I know that when I call to You, You will answer, and when I am in need of You, You are beside me. 

Do you pray only out of habit, or do you pray because you believe prayer has the power to change lives and to change circumstances? 

Are you able to approach the throne of your Father in heaven and have the absolute confidence that He cares about your requests?

Jesus did not meekly pray, “Father, if it is Your will, please do something about Lazarus.” 

He didn’t stand there as one with little hope and say, “Father, I think You’re up there.  I think You are interested in Me and my unattainable prayer request.” 

He did not mope and shake His head, “Father, I know it’s too late, nothing can be done.” 

Of course not!

Jesus thanked His Father for always hearing Him, and then He went right to work drawing upon that confidence. The Bible says that with a loud voice Jesus said, “Lazarus, come forth!” (Luke 11:43).

 And with that, a bound up dead man came walking out of the tomb.  

What needs to come forth in your life?

What is bound up inside of you that you need released to new life?

In what areas of your life do you need greater confidence?

The Lord says that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed (that’s reallllllllllly small), we can say to the mountain ahead of us: move, and it will move.  

1 John 5:14-15 reaffirms this Truth: “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.”  

Jesus challenges us to believe, and to follow His example.  By simply maintaining a real, living relationship with your Father in heaven, you can witness amazing things happen in your life and the lives of others, simply by praying with confidence. 

We can hold our heads up high because by the blood He shed at Calvary, we stand before the Father blameless.  Jesus was without sin, and He has made a way for us, so we too, are no longer dead, but living.

To be alive in Christ for all eternity is a privilege guaranteed to those sealed by the Holy Spirit. 

Have you encountered Jesus in such a way as to know that without a doubt, your life has been changed and your eternal destiny completely decided, that because of His touch upon your life, you will live with Him forever?  

And do you realize that in the middle of your normal days, you can approach the throne of grace with boldness and present your requests to God with great confidence as a son or daughter of the Most High God?

Repentance for New Life

I can recall each time when I was in the hospital with my newborn sons. It was such a joyful time when friends or family would visit and we would spend time together rejoicing.  And to know they took time out of their day just to be with me, my husband, and the baby.  

It is the same with our Heavenly Father.  He rejoices with gladness when one of His children takes time out of the day to spend with Him to open your heart to Him just for a few moments, and to let Him know how you are feeling and tell Him how wonderful He is.

Don’t ever say you can’t or are too old to seek God. 

I talked to one older fellow once who told me it would be hypocritical for him to start seeking God now that he lived 90 years without God. 

God can forgive a hypocrite who repents. 

People will always say it’s too late but it is not.  

I prayed that that man forgave himself and sought the true Forgiver who could give Him relief of his every burden.

Do you believe what Martha came to believe?

That Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life? 

Do you believe He is Lord and Savior?

Never allow a spirit of unbelief or negativity to dissuade you from following and obeying the Lord. Seek Him and trust in Him and follow Jesus’ example: have confidence even in the face of death because He has the ability to bring new life!

I pray that you will know Jesus as your Lord and Savior today! You do not need to fear. He has provided for your salvation by His sacrifice on the cross of Calvary. When this earthly body fails, you will be resurrected to new life in Christ, if you will only believe and pray sincerely with all your heart! Luke, who recorded this account of Lazarus and Mary and Martha was a doctor. He was an eyewitness to the miracles of Jesus and He recorded this for you and me to believe. If a doctor was convinced: surely we can also know without a doubt that what is written in Scripture is as true today as it was then!

Live in confidence: you can do all things through Christ who is your strength!




16 Fundamental Truths for Understanding the Bible and reaching the world with the Gospel

The Assemblies of God: 85 Million adherents strong

I love being a part of a movement of God that is so large and diverse.

The Assemblies of God (AG) has over 85 million (yes, MILLION) adherents worldwide and continues to grow and flourish because of the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit through Jesus’ servants all over the world. 85 million is a glorious testimony of the wonderful work pastors and missionaries are doing to reach the lost for the sake of the Gospel.

The Assemblies of God operates under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and a firm understanding of 16 Fundamental Truths that are entirely Biblical based.

These 16 Fundamental Truths unite believers all around the world.

More on that in a moment. First, let me tell you a funny story.

The Assemblies of God and church planting (a humorous story!)

I had a humorous conversation the other day when I took my sons to their swimming lessons.

A fellow homeschool mom found out that I had graduated from Divinity School and eagerly asked me to consider planting a church in her area. She said there was only one evangelical church near her rural home and felt another was needed.

The humorous part of this occurred when she went on to describe that evangelical church:

“It’s Assembly of God.”

I chucked. “Oh, you’re not into the Assemblies of God?”

She looked at me with wide eyes and shook her head, vehemently, “no.”

“They are the crazy ones, right?”

She started to backpedal. “Well, um, yeah, kinda. Well, I don’t mean they are that bad…”

I smiled and told her very matter-of-factly, “I’m an Assembly of God pastor! Nice to meet you!”

I went on to gently tell her that not all of us are crazy:

Pentecostal churches can get a bad rap. So much so that even Pentecostals tend to describe themselves as simply, “Spirit-filled” to distance themselves from 1) the true crazies and 2) oneness sects. I am adamant that we need to reclaim the term because there is absolutely nothing wrong with being 100% Trinitarian Pentecostal.

There are healthy Pentecostal churches just as there are unhealthy ones.

I know plenty about it because I just spent a full year in a declining church that refuses to acknowledge its pending demise. It is like a hospice for churches, and that is just plain sad. Churches should be full of life, intergenerational, and reaching the community. Churches should be teaching sound doctrine (such as these 16 Fundamental Truths) and reminding people of why they believe as they do so that they will be encouraged and equipped to reach more people in the community with the Good News.

I encouraged this mom to try another AG church sometime. I also invited her to our church plant which is launching soon.

The Assemblies of God is very intentional about church planting because it is a Biblical model that works. People get excited about being part of something new.

16 Fundamental Truths based entirely on Biblical Principles

Many many years ago, the Spirit of the LORD inspired our forefathers and foremothers to write down 16 Fundamental Truths – quite nearly non-negotiables about the Scriptures. There are 4 Cardinal Doctrines which are absolutely non-negotiable. Those include Salvation, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Divine Healing, and the Second Coming of Christ because they are essential to the core of the Gospel and the church’s mission.

Anyone who learns these basic 16 fundamental principles will acquire at least a basic understanding of the overall picture of God’s plan for the salvation of humanity for those who will believe and trust in His Son Jesus (Messiah Yeshua).

The AG’s 16 Fundamental Truths are considered non-negotiable because each of them are completely and firmly rooted in Scriptural evidence, and Scriptural verses are provided with each one.

I caution seekers to always check an organization’s list of doctrine and ensure that it is entirely Scriptural because otherwise it is very easy for people to be taught incorrectly and led astray by the winds of false doctrine and heresy.

If a church (even an AG one!) falls into the “crazy” category, they may need to be reminded of the Biblical Fundamental Truths because the Bible will not lead us astray, but man’s emotions sure can. We must pray for all Christian churches (both AG and non-AG), that they will follow sound Biblical doctrine.

I invite you to read the Assemblies of God Statement of 16 Fundamental Truths for yourself.

Then you will see, we are not so crazy after all! 😉

And if you really love them, there’s even a song! (Hint: its extremely useful if you are studying for AG credential exams!)

I also have a free PDF printable for Bible memory verses for children based on these 16 Fundamental Truths. You can find that here.

ASSEMBLIES OF GOD STATEMENT OF 16 FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS

16 Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God AG

The Bible is our all-sufficient rule for faith and practice. This Statement of 16 Fundamental Truths is intended simply as a basis of fellowship among us (i.e., that we all speak the same thing, 1 Corinthians 1:10 [KJV/NIV]; Acts 2:42 [KJV/NIV]). The phraseology employed in this Statement is not inspired nor contended for, but the truth set forth is held to be essential to a full-gospel ministry. No claim is made that it covers all Biblical truth, only that it covers our need as to these fundamental doctrines.

  1. The Scriptures Inspired
  2. The One True God
  3. The Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ
  4. The Fall of Man
  5. The Salvation of Man
  6. The Ordinances of the Church
  7. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit
  8. The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit
  9. Sanctification
  10. The Church and Its Mission
  11. The Ministry
  12. Divine Healing
  13. The Blessed Hope
  14. The Millennial Reign of Christ
  15. The Final Judgment
  16. The New Heavens and the New Earth

1. THE SCRIPTURES INSPIRED

The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct.

#16 Fundamental Truths


2. THE ONE TRUE GOD

The one true God has revealed Himself as the eternally self-existent “I AM,” the Creator of heaven and earth and the Redeemer of mankind. He has further revealed Himself as embodying the principles of relationship and association as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

#16 Fundamental Truths

THE ADORABLE GODHEAD

a. Terms Defined
The terms “Trinity” and “persons” as related to the Godhead, while not found in the Scriptures, are words in harmony with Scripture, whereby we may convey to others our immediate understanding of the doctrine of Christ respecting the Being of God, as distinguished from “gods many and lords many.” We therefore may speak with propriety of the Lord our God who is One Lord, as a trinity or as one Being of three persons, and still be absolutely scriptural.

b. Distinction and Relationship in the Godhead
Christ taught a distinction of Persons in the Godhead which He expressed in specific terms of relationship, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but that this distinction and relationship, as to its mode is inscrutable and incomprehensible, because unexplained.

c. Unity of the One Being of Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Accordingly, therefore, there is that in the Father which constitutes him the Father and not the Son; there is that in the Son which constitutes Him the Son and not the Father; and there is that in the Holy Spirit which constitutes Him the Holy Spirit and not either the Father or the Son. Wherefore the Father is the Begetter, the Son is the Begotten, and the Holy Spirit is the one proceeding from the Father and the Son. Therefore, because these three persons in the Godhead are in a state of unity, there is but one Lord God Almighty and His name one.

d. Identity and Cooperation in the Godhead
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are never identical as to Person; nor confused as to relation; nor divided in respect to the Godhead; nor opposed as to cooperation.

The Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son as to relationship.

The Son is with the Father and the Father is with the Son, as to fellowship. The Father is not from the Son, but the Son is from the Father, as to authority.

The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son proceeding, as to nature, relationship, cooperation and authority. Hence, neither Person in the Godhead either exists or works separately or independently of the others.

#16 Fundamental Truths

e. The Title, Lord Jesus Christ
The appellation, “Lord Jesus Christ,” is a proper name. It is never applied in the New Testament, either to the Father or to the Holy Spirit. It therefore belongs exclusively to the Son of God.

f. The Lord Jesus Christ, God with Us
The Lord Jesus Christ, as to His divine and eternal nature, is the proper and only Begotten of the Father, but as to His human nature, He is the proper Son of Man. He is therefore, acknowledged to be both God and man; who because He is God and man is “Immanuel,” God with us.

g. The Title, Son of God
Since the name “Immanuel” embraces both God and man in the one Person, our Lord Jesus Christ, it follows that the title, Son of God, describes His proper deity, and the title, Son of Man, His proper humanity. Therefore, the title Son of God, belongs to the order of eternity, and the title, Son of Man, to the order of time.

h. Transgression of the Doctrine of Christ
Wherefore, it is a transgression of the Doctrine of Christ to say that Jesus Christ derived the title, Son of God, solely from the fact of the incarnation, or because of His relation to the economy of redemption.

Therefore, to deny that the Father is a real and eternal Father, and that the Son is a real and eternal Son, is a denial of the distinction and relationship in the Being of God; a denial of the Father, and the Son; and a displacement of the truth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.

i. Exaltation of Jesus Christ as Lord
The Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, having by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; angels and principalities and powers having been made subject unto Him.

And having been made both Lord and Christ, He sent the Holy Spirit that we, in the name of Jesus, might bow our knees and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father until the end, when the Son shall become subject to the Father that God may be all in all.

j. Equal Honor to the Father and to the Son
Wherefore, since the Father has delivered all judgment unto the Son,

it is not only the express duty of all in heaven and on earth to bow the knee,

but it is an unspeakable joy in the Holy Spirit to ascribe unto the Son all the attributes of Deity, and to give Him all honor and the glory contained in all the names and titles of the Godhead except those which express relationship

(see Distinction and Relationship in the Godhead, Unity of the One Being of Father, Son and Holy Spirit , and Identity and Cooperation in the Godhead) and thus honor the Son even as we honor the Father.

#16 Fundamental Truths


3. THE DEITY OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

The Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. The Scriptures declare:

His virgin birth,

His sinless life,

His miracles,

His substitutionary work on the cross,

  • 1 Corinthians 15:3 [KJV/NIV
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 [KJV/NIV

His bodily resurrection from the dead,

His exaltation to the right hand of God.

#16 Fundamental Truths


4. THE FALL OF MAN

Man was created good and upright; for God said, “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.” However, man by voluntary transgression fell and thereby incurred not only physical death but also spiritual death, which is separation from God.

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5. THE SALVATION OF MAN

Man’s only hope of redemption is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Conditions to Salvation

Salvation is received through repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, being justified by grace through faith, man becomes an heir of God, according to the hope of eternal life.

The Evidence of Salvation

The inward evidence of salvation is the direct witness of the Spirit.

The outward evidence to all men is a life of righteousness and true holiness.

#16 Fundamental Truths


16 Fundamental Truths:

6. THE ORDINANCES OF THE CHURCH

BAPTISM IN WATER

The ordinance of baptism by immersion is commanded by the Scriptures. All who repent and believe on Christ as Saviour and Lord are to be baptized. Thus they declare to the world that they have died with Christ and that they also have been raised with Him to walk in newness of life.

HOLY COMMUNION

The Lord’s Supper, consisting of the elements –bread and the fruit of the vine– is the symbol expressing our sharing the divine nature of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:4 [KJV/NIV]), a memorial of his suffering and death (1 Corinthians 11:26 [KJV/NIV]), and a prophecy of His second coming (1 Corinthians 11:26 [KJV/NIV]), and is enjoined on all believers “till He come!”

#16 Fundamental Truths


7. THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian Church. With it comes the enduement of power for life and service, the bestowment of the gifts and their uses in the work of the ministry.

This experience is distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth.

With the baptism in the Holy Spirit come such experiences as:

  • an overflowing fullness of the Spirit, John 7:37-39 [KJV/NIV], Acts 4:8 [KJV/NIV]
  • a deepened reverence for God, Acts 2:43 [KJV/NIV], Hebrews 12:28 [KJV/NIV]
  • an intensified consecration to God and dedication to His work, Acts 2:42 [KJV/NIV]
  • and a more active love for Christ, for His Word and for the lost, Mark 16:20 [KJV/NIV]

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8. THE INITIAL PHYSICAL EVIDENCE OF THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.

The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift of tongues, but is different in purpose and use.

  • 1 Corinthians 12:4-10 [KJV/NIV
  • 1 Corinthians 12:28 [KJV/NIV]

#16 Fundamental Truths


9. SANCTIFICATION

Sanctification is an act of separation from that which is evil, and of dedication unto God.

The Scriptures teach a life of “holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.”

By the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to obey the command: “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”

Sanctification is realized in the believer by recognizing his identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, and by the faith reckoning daily upon the fact of that union, and by offering every faculty continually to the dominion of the Holy Spirit.

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10. THE CHURCH AND ITS MISSION

The Church is the Body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Spirit, with divine appointments for the fulfillment of her great commission. Each believer, born of the Spirit, is an integral part of the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn, which are written in heaven.

Since God’s purpose concerning man is to seek and to save that which is lost, to be worshipped by man, to build a body of believers in the image of His Son, and to demonstrate His love and compassion for all the world, the priority reason for being of the Assemblies of God as part of the Church is:

  1. To be an agency of God for evangelizing the world.
  2. To be a corporate body in which man may worship God.
  3. To be a channel of God’s purpose to build a body of saints being perfected in the image of His Son.
  4. To be a people who demonstrate God’s love and compassion for all the world.

The Assemblies of God exists expressly to give continuing emphasis to this reason for being in the New Testament apostolic pattern by teaching and encouraging believers to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. This experience:

  1. Enables them to evangelize in the power of the Spirit with accompanying supernatural signs.
  2. Adds a necessary dimension to worshipful relationship with God.
  3. Enables them to respond to the full working of the Holy Spirit in expression of fruit and gifts and ministries as in New Testament times for the edifying of the body of Christ and care for the poor and needy of the world.

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11. THE MINISTRY

A divinely called and scripturally ordained ministry has been provided by our Lord for the fourfold purpose of leading the Church in:

Evangelization of the world.

Worship of God.

Building a body of saints being perfected in the image of His Son.

Meeting human need with ministries of love and compassion.

#16 Fundamental Truths


12. DIVINE HEALING

Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers.

#16 Fundamental Truths


13. THE BLESSED HOPE

The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church.

#16 Fundamental Truths


14. THE MILLENNIAL REIGN OF CHRIST

The second coming of Christ includes the rapture of the saints, which is our blessed hope, followed by the visible return of Christ with His saints to reign on earth for one thousand years.

This millennial reign will bring the salvation of national Israel,

and the establishment of universal peace.

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15. THE FINAL JUDGMENT

There will be a final judgment in which the wicked dead will be raised and judged according to their works. Whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, together with the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, will be consigned to the everlasting punishment in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

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16. THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH

“We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

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Praying for a continued outpouring of the Holy Spirit as missionaries and pastors reach people around the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ

If you are a follower of Jesus, we pray for you and ask that you would pray for us and the continued work that God is doing. We must pray with urgency in these last days, that many more would come into a saving relationship with our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ (Yeshua haMashiach), the King of Israel and the King of the Universe.

The 16 Fundamental Truths are one way that God has united the Pentecostal movement of the Assemblies of God fellowship. We are excited about the future and all God will continue to do using men and women who are willing to step out in faith and preach the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If you will join us in this effort, to pray continually, please leave a comment!

We love to hear from you and pray for you!




The 5 R’s of Church Revitalization

20 Tevet 5784, B”H

The Need for Church Revitalization & Revival

Many churches today are in great need of spiritual revitalization.

Extensive programming, elegant building layouts, and cinematic lighting will never bring revival to the church.

Some churches have become like the Church at Sardis, spoken of in the book of Revelation:

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” Revelation 3:1 (NKJV) (emphasis added)

Is there hope for a church like this?

Can a church that believes it is alive, but is actually dead, experience spiritual renewal, revival, and revitalization?

The answer is: yes!

There is always hope in Jesus our Messiah!

Let’s examine some ways that established assemblies of believers can experience true church revitalization.

1. Revival Requires Repentance

Revival requires repentance – hungering hearts who long for a true, personal, and meaningful relationship with the Creator – with our Father who loves us and gave His Son to die on the cross for our sins.

I like the translation found in the NIV version of Habakkuk 3:2. Here, the Prophet Habakkuk expresses a longing for revival:

“LORD, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.”

Habakkuk 3:2 (NIV)

If a church genuinely wants to experience growth and a spiritual (and often, numerical!) turnaround, that entire congregation needs to get on its knees.

Remember all that God has done in the past! Give thanks for the history of that church!

I always remind church leaders that they must be cautious to entrust the future of their church to God’s Almighty plan, not to their own personal plans.

If we are sincere in our prayers that God will repeat in our day His awesome deeds, we must be willing to do things the way He leads us, not our own ways. When we are willing to obey Him and follow His leadership, we can experience a dramatic turnaround leading to noticeable church revitalization.

2. Revitalization is Restorative

Consider the etymology of the term, “revitalization.”

See the “vital” in there.

Have you checked your spiritual vitals? How is your spiritual pulse doing? Is your church or spiritual life’s heartbeat strong and life-giving?

To “re-vitalize” is “to give new life to” something again. Revitalization is life-giving.

Too many churches have settled in with their routine or their membership numbers. They are content because they make their budget every week, but is there truly “life?”

Life reproduces life. A healthy, life-giving church is full of people who have hearts for evangelism – reaching out to others in their community with the Gospel. Church revitalization occurs when a healthy church begins to see visitor numbers increase and overall enthusiasm increases among the church membership. This is very restorative and provides new hope across generations.

3. Recognition of what remains

Some churches will be beyond repair, in a sense.

Sometimes years of poor leadership, bad financial decisions, or a local crisis can cause a church to make the difficult decision to close its doors.

It can be quite the challenge to experience true church revitalization in a church that has become overly comfortable or unwilling to accept change. Nonetheless, restoration should always be the initial goal, with the acknowledgement/recognition that churches are imperfect human institutions that are not always ultimately viable despite our best efforts.

There are times when planting a new church altogether is a much better option.

The freshness of a new, exciting work led by the Holy Spirit can draw many new souls into a saving relationship with the LORD. Church planting can revitalize a community. If your church leadership is unsure whether or not to work toward church revitalization or scrap it and support the planting of a new church instead, there are church consultants who can help you discern some next steps.

Sometimes it seems we give up too soon on some of the established congregations. Seeking revival and revitalization in an already established church can also bring greater vitality to the surrounding community. However, this requires a great deal of patience and prayer so that the leadership as a whole will be open to the changes necessary to get back on track with outreach and ministry.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9

Working toward church revitalization is a process that requires patience and endurance.

A closer look at the Church in Sardis

Consider the passage from Revelation 3:1-6:

 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.  

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. 

You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.  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. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’ Revelation 3:1-6

The command here is to “be watchful” (v.2).

Observation and Caring Analysis

Sometimes the first step is to simply observe what is going on in a congregation that needs revival. What has caused the lackluster feeling that seems to abound? Did the congregation abandon key components of a healthy doctrine? Did a tragedy occur that damaged the health of the church or community?

Be watchful, in love.

Check out the next part of that same verse. “Strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die…” (Rev.3:2).

“Strengthen what remains.”

The Word of God doesn’t say, “abandon the things which remain” nor does it say “quit now.”

But the Word of God does acknowledge the life-cycle. That certain things are “ready to die.”

Maybe a devotion to certain carpet colors needs to die.

Maybe an obsession with certain music styles needs to die.

Maybe an overall mindset within the church that is hindering the work also needs to die.

Strengthening what remains

Strengthen what remains – make sure there is sound doctrine being preached and love being demonstrated. Make sure that what remains is so very strengthened that it has the capacity to receive newcomers and reach out to the community to invite them into the church.

“Remember therefore how you have received and heard . . .” Revelation 3:3

In order for a ministry to feel refreshed and truly become resurrected, that ministry needs to be standing on the firm foundation of the Word of God. Any deviation from that, and it will fall (and, in that case, probably should because any disinterest in sound doctrine is disinterest in remaining a truly Biblical work). Slick marketing campaigns can’t save a church, but God’s Word sure can.

Doctrinal soundness and purpose

Remember therefore, how you have received and heard. The congregation must be reminded of all that is their legacy. They have received the inheritance of the Gospel and must once again find purpose in that. Intentional church revitalization is not only possible, but it is something that should be sought.

Reminder: repentance is key

Hold fast and repent.” Revelation 3:3

See, there it is. Repentance really is key. In a declining church, something happened at some point that caused the downward turn. Without repentance and a renewed vision, the work cannot be restored. But with repentance and obedience to God’s will and way, church revitalization is absolutely possible.

4. Reassurance for the Remnant

“You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 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 3:4-5

There often remains a remnant of faithful believers who find themselves attending a struggling church. These brothers and sisters in the LORD are charged with praying for church revitalization and remaining faithful wherever God has them.

God’s Word is ever filled with comforting reassurances for those who are truly a part of the remnant:

“They shall walk with Me in white.” Revelation 3:4

We shall walk with Jesus! Wearing white – blameless, for those who love the LORD have been declared worthy (Rev.3:4). Jesus (Yeshua) says that those who have been deemed faithful will not be blotted out from the Book of Life and He will confess our names before His Father and His angels (Rev.3:5).

Church leaders responsible to help an assembly in need of church revitalization should identify the true remnant in that place who have persisted faithfully. Establish consistent prayer meetings and pursue God for help in increasing the spiritual vitality of that local church body.

Signs of church revitalization

A church that is beginning to experience church revitalization will begin to reflect greater love toward one another and neighbors. It is important to pray against the spirit of spiritual apathy. A church that is making a positive turnaround will begin to truly love the community around them. You will notice greater warmth among the believers and heightened enthusiasm.

A healthy church is also multigenerational. If a church has become stagnant, this is often related to a lack of age diversity among the regular attendees. A sign that a church is experiencing revival or revitalization is the presence of many generations, worshipping together in unity. A vibrant church experiencing revival will naturally reach out to the wider community around them.

Churches experiencing revitalization will naturally grow. People will be attracted to the presence of the Spirit of the LORD among the people.

If your church is in need of restoration and revitalization, please let us know so we can be praying for you! Pray for the leaders involved with plans to revitalize ministries – for steadfastness and wisdom! It is exciting to walk with the LORD, and so rewarding as we see churches revitalized and restored!

But always remember – it is not we ourselves who can make these changes – we need the LORD who touches hearts and brings about the healing and restoration our churches need!




Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?

5 Tevet, B”H

I love the question that the wise men asked when they arrived in Jerusalem: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” Matthew 2:2. Let’s ask that same question today.

The Coming of Messiah

The Gospel of Matthew begins with his account of the birth of Messiah. What has always stuck me the most is that the Son of God would be called Emmanuel: God with us:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 

Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 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.  

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.” Matthew 1:18-25

The God of the entire universe humbled Himself and became flesh, to live among us and to die for our sins in order to save us. If you need some reassurance today, know this: God is with us, and He will never leave us nor forsake us.

The Bethlehem Star

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” Matthew 2:1-2

I heard an excellent sermon recently. The pastor invited the congregation to consider all the billions of stars and realize that Scripture reports that the magi knew “His” star. One specific star. God has named each of the stars, and there was one particular star that would be the heralding star of the coming of God Incarnate, Jesus (Yeshua) the Messiah.

“He counts the number of the stars;
He calls them all by name.” Psalm 147:4

Gentile Astronomers

The wise men were probably not ethnically Jewish. Scripture gives us clues to believe these seasoned astronomers were Gentiles.

First of all, the fact that they are looking for the King of “the Jews” suggests this was not “their” king. The wise men didn’t say, “Where is our King?”

This is nonetheless extraordinary because somehow these Gentile star-gazers knew that the Jewish Messiah would come and they wanted to be a part of the history God was writing.

A second reason that suggests that the wise men were not ethnically Jewish is because they did not identify Bethlehem as the place to find Jesus (Yeshua). If they had been deeply familiar with the Jewish Scriptures, the wise men would have been likely to discern that the promised Messiah would be found in Bethlehem, but instead, they ask where they can find Him.

The wise men were Gentile astronomers who fulfilled even this Messianic prophecy from Psalm 147:

“The kings of Tarshish and of the isles
Will bring presents;
The kings of Sheba and Seba
Will offer gifts.
Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him;
All nations shall serve Him.” Psalm 147:10-11

The Gentile nations would come before the Promised King of kings bringing their gifts, their treasures, foreshadowing that the glorious Gospel would be available to all – Jew and Gentile alike.

Relationship Evangelism

I had an interesting conversation with my dental hygienist during my most recent visit. My dental hygienist comes from a very open, liberal background and attends a Unitarian “church.”

She has expressed curiosity about Jesus and I try to minister to her gently when my mouth isn’t full of toothpaste or her dental instruments!

At one point during our conversation, I said something about how Jesus is still alive.

To which she replied, very innocently, “Yes, you mean He still lives on when we talk about Him or in how we live.”

I challenged her nebulous response a bit, by saying, “Well, more than that. Jesus is literally still alive and sitting on His throne at the right hand of God the Father.”

(The Unitarians believe that Jesus and Buddha and Muhammed should all receive equal respect.)

I continued, “Think about it carefully. Buddha is dead. Muhammed is also dead and buried. Ghandi, same fate. Jesus was dead and buried, too, but the difference is, Jesus rose up from the dead and is literally alive and well! He is still alive!”

Her eyes lit up. I know she felt the impact of Truth in that moment. Please pray for her, the LORD knows her name. She is spiritually hungry and is open to hearing the Truth, but is in a relationship with a man who also espouses Unitarianism.

When those who are from spiritually afar come to us wondering who is the King, and is this King alive, and where can they find Him, it is our Commission to openly share the Gospel with them! Be sure to build relationships so that you can help lead others to a saving relationship with our Messiah!

Where is He who was born King of the Jews?

He is in our hearts –

but so much more than that –

He is alive and will forever rule and reign!

He is our King – the King of all kings!

Jesus (Yeshua) our Messiah came to dwell among us, and now He invites us to choose our eternal dwelling place to be with Him.

Shalom!




Hanukkah in the New Testament – and why this might be the best year to join in the celebration!

20 Kislev 5784 B”H

With Israel in the news and the ongoing war against Hamas, the celebration of Hanukkah will be especially meaningful this year. If you and your family have never celebrated Hanukkah, may this be the year! Pray and stand in solidarity with the nation of Israel and celebrate the victory God has given us through His Son, Messiah Jesus!

Hanukkah is mentioned in the New Testament

Many Christians do not realize that Hanukkah is actually mentioned in the New Testament.

Yes, the New Testament!

The reference to Hanukkah (the Feast of Dedication) is found just after Jesus (Yeshua) tells us that He is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for His sheep in John chapter 10.

Our Good Shepherd Jesus (Yeshua) was being criticized by some of the Jewish leaders about His amazing claim and His revelation that He would lay down His life for His sheep.

Jesus (Yeshua) knew how to deal with the spirits of criticism, contention, and unbelief: He focused simply on declaring Truth and revealing who He is.

John records ” . . . many of them said, “He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?” John 10:20 NKJV

Christians should not be uncomfortable with Hanukkah

Similarly with Hanukkah, you will find that some Christians get very uncomfortable with the topic of Hanukkah. I’ve heard it all:

“Hanukkah is a holiday only for Jews.”

“We live in the time of grace.”

“We aren’t bound to the Old Testament.”

“Hanukkah has nothing to do with us.”

It makes me terribly sad that Christians have sat under teachings that ultimately reflect a supercessionist viewpoint.

Like the pharisaical accusers of John 10, some Christians accuse other Christians of being “out of their mind” for sharing in the celebrations of Hanukkah and even Passover. Let us learn from our Master Teacher, Rabbi Jesus, who shows us by His example how not only to respond to questioning but also how to live.

Supercessionist teachings have unwittingly caused Christian antisemitism

“Supercessionism” (also known as “replacement theology”) is the teaching that Christianity has completely “replaced” Judaism and so the “religion” of Christianity is therefore superior. “Replacement theology” leads to antisemitism because Christians distance themselves from their Hebraic beginnings and unwittingly lose sight of the fact that it was the Jews who were waiting for their Messiah. And Jesus came and lived as a Jew among Jews.

On the contrary, Christians really ought in some ways to feel indebted (!) to Israel for being welcomed by the grace of the God of Israel and grafted in to the chosen nation!

While we know that our Savior Jesus (Yeshua) fulfilled the entirety of the Law’s requirements, Biblical Judaism provides the framework for our faith and we need to understand our Hebraic roots. The Scriptures come alive when we immerse ourselves in the culture that is ours both to the native and to the grafted in.

We also need to collectively repent for the antisemitism that does lurk in the church.

The antisemitic attack against Israel by Hamas on October 7, 2023 was an attack against all of us – Jew and Gentile believer alike. We must show our support and love for Israel during such a time as this.

Jesus (Yeshua) is the King of Israel

Do you ever feel like you don’t belong?

In America, sometimes people feel like they don’t belong neither here nor there because they don’t know much about their family history or the countries from which their ancestors emigrated. I think these genealogy sites are helping like ancestry.com because people can start to piece back a bit of their story!

But what is so neat about the Gospel, if you really think about it, is that we see how united we really are. We might be from Europe or from Asia or Africa or Australia, but ultimately, heaven is our homeland:

“But our homeland is in heaven, and we are waiting for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come from heaven. By His power to rule all things, He will change our humble bodies and make them like His own glorious body.” Philippians 3:20-21 NCV, emphasis added

And while we are here on earth, our identity is found in Christ (our Messiah) – the King of Israel.

This time of year many churches celebrate the coming of our Emmanuel. O Come, O Come Emmanuel . . . . born is the King of Israel.

You absolutely belong and you are not without country. We have a King! Our Jesus is the King of Israel and the King of all.

By the way, you absolutely have the freedom and invitation to celebrate the miracles that God has done, right along with Israel. Some unbelieving orthodox Jews consider the participation of Christians in Jewish holidays as religious appropriation, but that is because they do not (yet!) understand the full picture of salvation. We pray for and with them. This really is not religious appropriation because the story of Israel is truly the story of God’s plan for the salvation of the entire world: Jew and Gentile alike.

As to those who are concerned that perhaps we are “binding” ourselves back to Old Testament Law. By no means! Instead, we see our place in history, celebrate all that God has done throughout history, and await the future reality when our King will return for us. We respect and value the entirety of Scripture and embrace the Biblical celebrations of our faith.

The King of Israel celebrated Hanukkah

Our LORD Jesus (Yeshua) revealed Himself as the Good Shepherd who would give His life, even for those who would oppose Him or act incredulously toward Him.

And since He was not always met by cheerful recipients of His message, He sometimes went away.

In this case though, Jesus (Yeshua) did not retreat to the wilderness or the mountains.

He decided to head over to the celebration of 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.” John 10:22-23

In Hebrew, “the Feast of Dedication” is “Hanukkah.”

So if we realize this, it is plain to see that Jesus (Yeshua) went up to the temple for Hanukkah.

Simply, He went for a winter walk.

He got away from his critics and chose to attempt to focus on the beauty of the holiday feast.

Sometimes we need to follow this exact example.

When you find yourself as an outsider or feeling attacked or burdened, step away for a while. Do something you enjoy and surround yourself with those who love you.

The enemy is always on the prowl

Despite His efforts to have some time to enjoy the Hanukkah celebration, Jesus (Yeshua) quickly had to deal with His critics all over again.

Have you ever tried to step away from something only to immediately be bombarded in another way? Maybe you went home to try to get some rest but the phone keeps ringing as your coworkers try to find you? Maybe you took a day off, but issues managed to arise and your hope for a quiet day turned into anything but? Maybe you even retired from a job only to find yourself back in the workforce?

Or maybe you cooked the entire Thanksgiving dinner and wanted to enjoy it, but by the time you finally got to sit down, your portion of food was ice cold. You still loved the company, but you didn’t get to enjoy it quite as much as perhaps you wanted! And then after you are tired and worn out, one of your distant relatives has the nerve to insult you. Surely that has never happened!

Messiah Jesus (Yeshua) was present for the yearly celebration of the rededication of Solomon’s temple and there He was on Solomon’s porch, but He couldn’t just relax and enjoy.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

He found Himself surrounded by a mob of questioners. The Judean leaders insisted that He reveal whether or not He is the Promised Messiah.

“Then the Judean leaders surrounded Him, saying, “How long will You hold us in suspense? If You are the Messiah, tell us outright!” John 10:24, TLV

Our Savior would not have been surprised by any of this. The Feast of Dedication was about having overcome adversity. Solomon’s Temple had been attacked and desecrated, so Hanukkah was all about rededicating the sanctuary to the LORD and a miracle which occurred when a small amount of oil for the menorah (enough for one day) lasted for 8 days.

The Significance of the Temple

On the particular Hanukkah when Jesus was at Solomon’s porch, the mob took up stones as they accused Him of blasphemy. They attempted to stone Him, but His time had not yet come. The Temple would be destroyed and raised in three days – the Temple of His body. This Holy Temple, too, was attacked, but the enemy (again!) could not prevail.

“Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”

But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” John 2:19-22

There – together – Jesus and the Jewish leaders were at Solomon’s Temple to celebrate the purification of the temple from defilement, and yet the leaders were completely missing the point.

Jesus (Yeshua) is ultimately our Hanukkah miracle – our oil of gladness. He is the Anointed One and He pours out His Holy Spirit upon and into us so that we can shine bright for Him, just like the menorah that didn’t go out.

Hanukkah and the Light of the World

The Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, celebrates the victory of the Maccabees but also foreshadows the coming Light of the World who would give us everlasting victory.

When it seems that our victories are not long-lasting, we do not need to become discouraged. The Second Temple was ultimately destroyed by the Romans, but we do not cease celebrating the prior victory of the Jewish nation. Likewise in our world today, we have trouble, but we know that our Messiah and Savior has overcome the world.

Jesus (Yeshua) again had to slip away from his enemies. They were intent on stoning Him that Hanukkah, but He escaped and went beyond the Jordan:

“Therefore they sought again to seize Him, but He escaped out of their hand.” John 10:39

Hanukkah during a time of war

Hanukkah commemorates the reality of war and the reality of victory if we trust in our LORD.

The Jewish people have dealt with diaspora and antisemitism and terrorism throughout their history. But they have not given up. God allowed Israel to become a modern nation in 1948 and it is not time to just give up on the dream of a sustained, safe Jewish homeland.

Israel is at war right now. Yet even so, menorahs have been erected in Gaza and all around the world menorahs will be lit outdoors and placed in prominent windows inside because the Jewish people refuse to cower to fear. Even the dreidels used on Hanukkah represent the toy tops that children would use when they were hiding in the caves during the Maccabean war. Israel is no stranger to war, but Israel will not be destroyed.

The battle is fierce, but history teaches an important lesson: if we trust in God, the flame ignited in our hearts by the Author of our Salvation can never be extinguished.

So if you have never celebrated Hanukkah before, this may be the best year to begin. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Celebrate that God has delivered His people on more than one occasion, and He will not abandon us now. Share online that you are celebrating so that people even in Israel can see how many believers support them and are praying for them. Pray for the salvation of the nation of Israel!

There is a saying among the Jewish people who say:

“The story of Hanukkah is they wanted to kill us, we didn’t let them, we won, and now, we eat!”

So grab yourself some filled donuts (sufganiyot!), make some potato pancakes (latkes), and decorate Hanukkah cookies with your children!

Am Y’israel Chai! Long live Israel! . . . and Have a very Happy Hanukkah!

If you are interested in learning more about origin and the purpose of the Feast of Dedication, you may well enjoy my post on “Hanukkah, Zerubbabel, and the Second Temple” found at this link.




Review: The New Testament for Everyone by N.T. Wright

I am a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid (BG2). As a #BibleGatewayPartner, I have received a copy of the The New Testament for Everyone published by Zondervan Bibles at no cost to me in exchange for an honest review here on the Adonai Shalom USA blog. #BG2 #BGBG

The New Testament for Everyone (3rd edition) Book Review & Description

The New Testament for Everyone by N.T. Wright is a beautiful book with quality binding. The hardcover edition of the New Testament for Everyone by N.T. Wright comes with a sturdy book box sleeve and has the feel of a coffee table book. It is definitely a book worth leaving out for your houseguests to peruse!

N.T. Wright: A Reliable Scholar

Professor N.T. Wright has earned a solid reputation as one of the foremost Biblical scholars of our day. He serves on the faculty of theology and religion at Oxford University and has also taught at Cambridge.

I have long respected N.T. Wright’s ability to defend the historicity of Jesus against some of the popular resurrection deniers like Marcus Borg and John Spong. I was raised indoctrinated in the Borg/Jesus Seminar camp, but I was moved by Wright’s conviction that Jesus did indeed live, die, and rise again in power. I read many books by N.T. Wright before converting to Bible-believing Christianity.

The evangelical church as a whole has been blessed by N.T. Wright’s scholarship because he has been willing to engage in respectful debate concerning the Historical Jesus and provide a wealth of commentary and study materials on various New Testament topics. Wright’s dedication to searching the riches of Scripture proves that it is absolutely possible to remain a person of faith in the academy. Because of people like N.T. Wright, Bible-believing Christians need not become disproportionately distrustful of or shun academic pursuit. We may not agree on everything, but N.T. Wright definitely brings thoughtfulness and a wealth of knowledge to theological study and discussion.

N.T. Wright has chosen to work to help ordinary people understand deep theological concepts and he doesn’t just hide away in an ivory tower, but rather uses his scholastic aptitude for the sake of the Gospel.

Knowing that N.T. Wright values the Bible as the Word of God and is not a deconstructionist theologian trying to disprove or devalue the Word of God makes the New Testament for Everyone all the more appealing.

I never thought of this before, but Wright’s given name is Nicholas Thomas – he goes by his initials N.T. And he is a New Testament (N.T.) scholar! How providential! :). Next time you need a commentary on the New Testament, check out a book by Professor N.T.!

The New Testament for Everyone: A Fresh Translation

The title and tagline immediately grasped my attention: a New Testament translation completed by an eminent theologian who wants “everyone” to be able to understand it. Amazing!

I spent enough time in Divinity School to know that not every professor/theologian cared if the general public could understand their posturing and pontificating.

In contrast, Professor N.T. Wright is using his God-given intellectual abilities to share the Gospel in a way that modern readers can truly understand. This is a gift!

From the back of the book jacket: “If the Bible cannot be understood by everyone, then it is not good news. From the very first days of the church at Pentecost, the good news of Jesus was translated into languages of everyday people through the power of the Holy Spirit, spreading like wildfire to the ends of the earth.”

The Pentecostal minister in me says, “Amen!”

Also, “The language used in this translation seeks to convey the meaning of the original Greek while also being accessible to the modern reader, making it a valuable resources for scholars, pastors, and . . . everyone!”

I believe the New Testament for Everyone translation will become very useful for church Bible studies and pastoral sermon preparation.

Deity Pronouns

“Religious” words such as the “Holy Spirit” and deity pronouns such as “He” when referring to Jesus are traditionally capitalized in Bible translations. It is becoming more common for these words to be printed in lowercase, with academics citing no distinction in the original languages. The New Testament for Everyone follows this custom and I noticed it fairly quickly when I began reading through some of the first pages of the Gospel of Matthew.

This editorial practice concerns me; however, because we live in a day and age in which respect is lacking. The utilization of lowercase text for the third Person of the Trinity simply makes me uncomfortable, but that is just my personal preference.

But speaking of pronoun debates, at least we can all agree here that Jesus was a man. 😂😇

Translation, Updated Language, and the Power of Pentecost

The English language is malleable and has changed over time. Certainly, as a British scholar, N.T. Wright knows this because even his Canadian and American colleagues do not use the queen’s (now king’s!) English.

I was struck by the New Testament for Everyone translation’s rendering of the interaction between John the Baptist and Jesus in Matthew 3:

John tried to stop him. “I ought to be baptized by you,” he said, “and are you going to come to me?” This is how it’s got to be right now,” said Jesus, “This is the right way for us to complete God’s whole saving plan.”

Matthew 3:14-15, New Testament for Everyone by N.T. Wright

Upon reflection, it is so very true that this is the way most of us talk nowadays. It is quite different from the New King James Version’s:

And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

Matthew 3:14-15, NKJV

I really like how N.T. Wright communicates that “fulfilling all righteousness” is “completing God’s whole saving plan.” My only concern would be if this translation is veering far from a literal understanding/translation of the original Greek, but it seems that Wright (accomplished in Greek) is doing his best to express the original in terms we understand today. Indeed, in the preface, Wright shares that he does not intend to paraphrase, but instead to translate as closely as possible while recognizing that there are certain words or phrases that are virtually untranslatable from one language to another. He writes, “all translation is risky, but it’s a risk we have to take.” (Wright, vii).

Returning to the example of Pentecost, N.T. Wright, powerfully points out, “The first thing that happened in the life of the church was translation. On the Day of Pentecost, God’s powerful wind swept through Jesus’ followers, filling them, like the sails of a great ocean-going sailing ship, so that they could take God’s good news to the ends of the earth. And they found themselves speaking other languages, so that everyone in the crowd could understand.” (Wright, vii).

Wright continues his preface in a highly accessible, attention-grabbing writing style. I am looking forward to reading through this entire translation this winter, snuggled under a blanket by the fireplace.

Book Contents

As promoted by the title, this book contains all of the writings of the New Testament Scriptures translated in a way that makes sense to English-speakers today. In the New Testament for Everyone, each of the books is named using the traditional names except for the letter of Jude: N.T. Wright helps readers understand that this letter was written by “Judah,” important for contextualizing the Hebraic nature of much of the writings even of the New Testament.

The New Testament for Everyone also contains maps and a glossary.

Jesus, Messiah

If you know me well, you will notice that I often prefer to write Jesus the Messiah as opposed to Jesus Christ. This is because I feel that “Christ” has become a title almost like a last name but one that, due again to our language, does not carry the original meaning of Messiah/Anointed One that Middle Eastern Jews would have recognized in their language. Using the terminology of “Christ” repeatedly cements the Greek mindset primordially into a text that was intended to reach the Jew first and then the Greek.

Jesus came to be our Messiah and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that linguistically N.T. Wright agrees with me! He has favored the term “Messiah” throughout the New Testament for Everyone which is fairly groundbreaking since this translation is intended for a wide audience!

A sample to give you the idea:

The well known verses from the New King James translation of Philippians 2:9-11:

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (emphasis added)

Notice how N.T. Wright has translated these same verses:

“And so God has greatly exalted him, and to him in his favor has given the name which is over all names: That now at the name of Jesus every knee within heaven shall bow – on earth, too, and under the earth; and every tongue shall confess that Jesus, Messiah, is Lord, to the glory of God, the father.” Philippians 2:9-11, New Testament for Everyone by N.T. Wright, emphasis added

This discovery has really convinced me that I am going to greatly enjoy this new resource and I believe you will, too!

My recommendation:

★★★★★

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The New Testament for Everyone deserves a 5 out of 5.

N.T. Wright exhibits remarkable humility and dedication to the furtherance of the Gospel mission in his New Testament for Everyone. His lifetime of study and teaching has inspired him to translate the New Testament in a fresh manner that will bless laity, students, scholars, pastors, and teachers all over the English-speaking world. I highly recommend this resource to everyone who loves the Word of God.

Rev. Jennifer Mieliulis Fuentes, M.Div., Duke University

Book details

Title: The New Testament for Everyone
Author: N.T. Wright
Publisher: Zondervan Bibles
Release Date: 
2023
Genre: BIBLES/Other English Translations/Text

ISBN-13: 978-0-7852-2771-7

PURCHASE LINKS:  Amazon | FaithGateway Store

#BibleGatewayPartner




Daniel’s 70 weeks Prophecy and the War in Israel

5784 B”H

The Prophet Daniel had much to say about the end times and the war in Israel has really brought some of the Biblical prophecies to light as we witness the ongoing conflict. I have received many questions regarding the Biblical timeline of the end of days, so I thought we should take a closer look at Daniel today.

End-times prophecy in Daniel 9

A key prophecy found in the book of Daniel: 70 weeks

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.

Daniel 9:24

Daniel‘s prophecy describing the determined “seventy weeks” can be better understood as 70 “7’s.”

What is translated as “weeks” in most English Bibles is really describing groupings of 7 in Hebrew.

During the 70 “7’s, 6 important things will happen:

  1. To finish with transgression
  2. To put an end to sin
  3. To make reconciliation (atonement) for iniquity
  4. To bring in everlasting righteousness
  5. To seal up vision and prophecy
  6. To anoint the Most Holy (or the Most Holy Place)

Notice the first three are concerned with eradicating sin and transgression. The last three speak to the everlasting reign of our King.

In the Bible, 6 indicates lack of completion or total fulfillment. Therefore, we know to look more deeply, search God’s Word for more. Let’s move on to the next verse:

“Know therefore and understand,
That from the going forth of the command
To restore and build Jerusalem
Until Messiah the Prince,
There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
The street shall be built again, and the wall,
Even in troublesome times.” Daniel 9:25

We have certainly witnessed the troublesome times of today. In this verse, we see another reference to time: “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks.”

This is all a prelude to the revealing of the antichrist:

“And after the sixty-two weeks
Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;
And the people of the prince who is to come
Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.


The end of it shall be with a flood,
And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week;


But in the middle of the week
He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
Even until the consummation, which is determined,
Is poured out on the desolate.” Daniel 9:26-27

The antichrist is also known as the “little horn” of Daniel 7:

“After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 

I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.” Daniel 7:7-8

Daniel 9:27 clearly informs us that the antichrist (antimessiah) will make a covenant with Israel and then betray Israel. Daniel 7:8 so aptly describes this evil charismatic figure as the epitome of pompousness.

With the war in Israel, many Bible-believing Christians are starting to wonder:

Has the antichrist already been born? Is he walking the earth today?

Only prayer and discernment will answer those questions as history continues to unfold.

But for those who believe that the coming of our King is in the very distant future, consider all that is going on right now. If Iran and even Russia get involved in the current conflict (in a greater way than they already have by supporting Hamas and even Hezbollah) the violence will escalate to a level never seen before. The people of Israel will become desperate for hope and change, and many could quickly be swept away by the lies of a false messianic figure.

The final seven years begin with the covenant.

Are you prepared for the true end of days?

This is not intended to incite fear in you, but do you realize how very close we are to the true end of the age? We are nearing the end of the Biblical timeline of history. We must be prepared! We must know the Word and hide it in our hearts, we must have a living, ongoing relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Yeshua haMashiach), and we must do everything we can to share the Gospel to as many people as we can.

There is revival happening in pockets all around the world. It is not coincidental that we see so many falling away and so many also being rescued just in time. These are all signs that the end is near and soon, so very soon, our Righteous Redeemer will come again and reign!

Time to Forgive

Don’t worry if some of this seems overwhelming. Mathematics has never been one of my strengths so these prophetic words of Scripture make me scratch my head, too!

But there’s no escaping math, and even Jesus said we have to forgive 70 x 7 times!

“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.” Matthew 18:21-22

The return of Jesus Christ (Yeshua haMashiach) is imminent

The imminent return of Christ should motivate each one of us to study the signs of the times and the signs in the heavens. Each of us should be diligently praying and fasting and studying the Word of God. There are so many parallels between the different concepts presented in the Bible and I believe this passage on forgiveness is one such parallel.

Redeeming the time

We know time is short. And so for that very same reason, we must be diligent to love and to forgive so that we can make the most of our time, redeeming our time:

“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.” Ephesians 5:15-17

I pray that you have taken to heart the importance of knowing the Word of God and where we stand in relation to the fulfillment of significant portions of Biblical prophecy.

I am praying for you today, dear reader, and your family – that you and your household may be saved. Please leave a comment below with any prayer requests, comments, or questions!




Sweetness amid the sounding shofar: the prophetic significance of Rosh HaShanah

Elul 5783, B”H

Rosh HaShanah/Yom Teruah

Rosh HaShanah will begin at sundown on Friday, September 15 this year. This Biblical holiday lasts through sundown on Sunday, September 17. Rosh HaShanah is also known as “Yom Teruah,” literally the “Day of the Shout.” Yom Teruah is a more correct name, Biblically, for this feast. Many refer to it in English as the Day of Trumpets, or the Day of the Shofar.

Scriptural precedence for the Biblical feast can be found in Numbers as well as in the Psalms which we will look at in a moment.

 “And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets.” Numbers 29:1, emphasis added

Have you ever heard the sounding of the shofar?

The tone is so profound. To celebrate this holiday, the shofar is sounded:

“Sing aloud to God our strength;
Make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob.
Raise a song and strike the timbrel,
The pleasant harp with the lute.

Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon,
At the full moon, on our solemn feast day.
For this is a statute for Israel,
A law of the God of Jacob.” Psalm 81:1-4
, emphases added

There is a solemnity, calling all hearers to humble themselves before the King of all kings. There is also joy, for we know that one day the shofar will sound and the dead in Messiah will rise and those who are still alive will meet the LORD in the air:

“For the Lord Himself shall come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the blast of God’s shofar,and the dead in Messiah shall rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left behind, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air—and so we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, TLV

Inherent and Inerrant Cohesiveness of the Biblical Narrative

Our Savior and Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) fulfilled the prophetic meaning of each Biblical feast found within the pages of Scripture.

I view so much of this as a “lost history” because so many believers have not been taught about our collective history as the people of God: native and grafted in members of the house of Israel.

The Biblical holidays (particularly the Fall Feasts) are eschatologically significant, pointing us to the end of days and affirming the inherent and inerrant cohesiveness of the Biblical narrative.

The Hebrew Scriptures form the foundation for the New Testament and all of the Scriptures are without error. The entirety of the Word of God is valuable and we must treat it as such!

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Prophetic and Eschatological Significance of Rosh HaShanah/Yom Teruah

The Bible exhorts us to “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!” Psalm 66:1

Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah provides occasion for such shouting, though we should not limit our praise to just one time of year. If we look to the Scriptures, we will see that every aspect of the Feast days points to Jesus (Yeshua).

During the Hebrew month of Elul, spiritual preparation is made because it is known that soon the Bridegroom will come. You may be interested in my recent post explaining a bit about the month of Elul and preparations for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (the High Holidays).

When the shofar is sounded on Rosh HaShanah, we are reminded of the coronation of our King. He has sought us in the field, we are beloved and betrothed, and we await the Marriage supper of the Lamb.

“‘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.”'” Revelation 19:9

Each Rosh Hashanah is sort of like a divine dress rehearsal. Some believe that the final shofar will indeed sound on Rosh Hashanah, but I am cognizant of the Word of God which says no one knows the day nor hour.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24:36

That said, Yeshua (Jesus) may have been alluding to Rosh HaShanah when He said this because “no one knows the day nor hour” had connotations as a wedding idiom at that time. “No one knows the day or hour, but we know those two are getting married!” Also, the Jewish community did not know the exact date or time for Yom Teruah, and it had become commonplace to describe Rosh HaShanah as the feast of which “no one knows the day nor hour!”

Word to the wise: always be ready.

The King is coming.

The Sweetness of a New Year

In Hebrew, Rosh HaShanah means “Head of the year.” It is the start of the Biblical new year and is a time of repentance as well as rejoicing.

I love how Rosh HaShanah occurs always just after the start of the school year. My children are homeschooled and we enjoy incorporating aspects of the Biblical Feasts into our studies of history and Biblical studies. It is customary on Rosh HaShanah to eat apples and honey and to pray for a sweet new year.

In our household, this means praying we will each demonstrate sweetness of character and be kind to one another.

Sweet and Sour: Sweetness amid the Sound of the Shofar

For those of us who are counted among the saved, sanctified, and sealed in the Book of Life, the New Year is very sweet.

But we must also be cognizant of the dichotomy between that which is sweet and that which is not-so-sweet.

If we are honest, Yom Teruah (Rosh HaShanah) reminds us of the sour reality that not everyone will be saved.

Not everyone will heed the warning blast.

Not everyone will repent.

We will find perfect relief of our burden to preach at the end of days, but until then, we must continue to introduce our loving and merciful Savior to a lost and dying world.

To me, it is a bittersweet reality.

We truly must do more to reach the unreached.

So great is ADONAI’s mercy, so sweet and so generous.

We have been commissioned to share that Good News, and we must. Before it is too late.

Wake up sleeper, open your eyes!

Have you heard the song by Austin French, “Wake up Sleeper, Open your eyes”?

“Wake up sleeper
Open your eyes
Oh sinner, arise
Leave your past at the door
Wake up sleeper
Come to the light
Christ is alive
Death don’t live here anymore
Death don’t live here anymore”

These lyrics are so appropriate for Rosh HaShanah/Yom Teruah because the sounding of the shofar is intended to wake up sinners out of their slumber so there will be repentance before it is too late!

As followers of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), we, too, need to be awakened once again. There is so much apathy in the church today and we must repent of our complacency. We must awake from our slumber! Like the Prophet Joel said, we must sound the alarm on God’s holy mountain!

Looking forward to things yet to come

This Rosh HaShanah/Yom Teruah, let us look forward to all that the LORD has in store for those who love Him:

“But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Here is a wonderful worship song that contains that verse:

God’s plans for your life are so great! Keep your eyes on Jesus (Yeshua) and always be ready!

“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.” Revelation 22:17

Sweetness at the mercy seat

Brooke Fraser’s recent song, “Honey in the Rock” also has such beautiful lyrics and it brought me some inspiration today.

Sweetness at the mercy seat
Now I’ve tasted, it’s not hard to see
Only You can satisfy

This Rosh HaShanah, may you experience the sweetness of salvation at the mercy seat of the LORD Most High. Once you have tasted and seen, you will know that our God is so very good and His love endures forever.

Shana tova! Happy New Year!




Elul: repent and rejoice! the King is in the field

Elul 3, B”H 5783

The Hebrew month of Elul

You may recall my post from July about Tisha b’Av. In that post, I introduced the Hebrew months of the year to help ubicate us in understanding the significance of certain dates on the Biblical calendar.

One of those months is called “Elul.”

Elul (Heb. אלול) comes from the root word “to search.”

This is the time of year when we are reminded that the LORD searches our hearts and knows us and we repent for those things which we continue to struggle with in our ongoing journey in holiness.

We are to search inside of ourselves and turn away from that which harms our relationship with the LORD Most High as we enter a new Biblical year.

Psalm 139:23-24

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

Medieval Jewish sages realized that each letter of the word “Elul” in Hebrew can serve as an acronym for the well-known phrase from Song of Solomon 6:3 “Ani l’dodi, v’dodi li” (Hebrew for “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”).

Song of Solomon 6:3

When we reflect on this time of preparation, we see that Elul is a time of preparation for the Bride, for truly the Bridegroom is coming. This is a time of self-examination as we prepare to meet our Coming King. He accepts us with the deepest of love when we come before Him with a pure and contrite heart, made beautiful by our relationship with Him.

Elul, the High Holy Days, and the Coming of the Bridegroom

The month of Elul precedes what are known as the High Holy Days. These days include Yom Teruah (also known as Rosh Hashanah) and Yom Kippur. Yom Teruah occurs on the first day of the next month which is known as Tishrei. The High Holy Days are customarily a time of introspection as Yom Kippur serves as the yearly day of atonement. Israel pleads to be written in the Book of Life, and sealed for another year.

Now that our Messiah and Almighty Savior Yeshua (Jesus Christ) has come, those who have confessed Him as LORD and King have the assurance that the names of the saved are written in the Book of Life, never to be blotted out.

Elul is like the month before the wedding. Preparation is made because soon the Bridegroom will come. The Bride may prepare for the Coming Bridegroom with grace, dignity, and confidence because she has been set apart, consecrated, made ready for the moment when her King comes.

Repentance and Holiness

As saved and sanctified children of God, we continue to pursue holiness and the path of righteousness.

Hebrews 12:14 exhorts us to “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”

Though we may not experience all that which tremendously occurred at Mount Sinai, we now spiritually experience the glory of Mount Zion.

The writer of Hebrews continues: For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.  (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” 

And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.”

See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven . . . ” Hebrew 12:18-25, emphases added.

We are to live our lives with quiet and holy fear (reverence).

To do this fully, a true believer and follower of the LORD will very obviously seek to live in humility, all too aware of our faults and failings, but awesomely and intimately aware that He is perfecting us each and every day. We live with an attitude of repentance, thankful that His mercy blots out a multitude of sins. We do the work of ministry, always seeking to share the Word with those who do not yet know Him – not to gain a place in heaven, but to demonstrate our heavenly citizenship! The world glorifies sin. We glorify only Jesus (Yeshua), the One who died to take away our sins and the One who will return for us!

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.” James 5:20

On the Day of Shavu’ot (Pentecost), Peter urged his listeners to repent:

“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.  

For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’

Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.  You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” Acts 3:19-26.

Teshuvah: Biblical Repentance

The Jewish understanding of the concept of “teshuvah” is slightly different than the traditional Christian interpretation of repentance.

Standard Christian repentance is about simply turning away from sin. There is nothing wrong with that. But teshuvah, true Biblical repentance, goes deeper than that.

Teshuvah is a “return.” More specifically, a return to our first love after being astray.

Inherent in teshuvah is the acknowledgement that we have sinned, but this is more about returning to the Way of the LORD than about guilt: it requires an action on our part to strive to right the wrong.

“Teshuvah” is seen as an action. It is often said one is “doing teshuvah.”

Teshuvah means the individual identifies the wrongs they have committed and actively works toward a behavioral change “to right the wrong.” The sinner confesses to God, but also goes back to the one he or she has wronged to ask for forgiveness and attempt to right the wrong.

Christians know that we cannot earn our salvation, so the concept of “teshuvah” gets a bit difficult for many Christians to understand. I have even found that some Christians simply do not want to understand because they would rather remain complacent. Some use texts about grace to shirk any semblance of responsibility, which is a truly irresponsible way to view YHVH’s immense and perfect grace. I believe in grace. I also believe in doing what is right.

Teshuvah is something the Christian can do in gratitude for salvation. Any decent person of faith ought strive to right their wrongs, right? The difference is, we know that we will never be able to erase the evil we have done to another so we cannot completely right our wrongs and we know that. We trust in our Merciful LORD, the Righter of Wrongs to bring healing, restoration, and ultimately wholeness.

Elul is the time of year when teshuvah is emphasized. Hosea uses the term “teshuvah” in admonishing the people of Israel to return to the LORD.

Hosea 14:2

“Take words with you,
And return to the LORD.
Say to Him,
“Take away all iniquity;
Receive us graciously,
For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.” Hosea 14:2
, emphasis added

Biblical repentance is about returning to the LORD with nothing hindering our relationship. We are cleansed and made new by the blood of the Lamb and we are victorious by the word of our testimony.

We are ready to meet our Beloved.

“Hatred stirs up strife,
But love covers all sins.” Proverbs 10:12

Proverbs 10:12

40 Days of Repentance: Elul or Lent?

The time of repentance observed in the month of Elul is set by Biblical precedent.

It sounds very much like a Hebrew “Lent” for those familiar with Lenten practices.

I will be controversial here, but I’m not one to shy from that . . .

Lent is a manmade invention championed by the liturgical world. It is not Biblical.

Historically, significant efforts were made to distance the “church” from its Jewish (and Biblical, mind you) history. It is no secret that Catholic and Lutheran churches alike were plagued with antiSemitism for many many years.

Those who invented Lent took the concept of Elul (a 40 day time of prayer and fasting lasting from 1 Elul to 10 Tishrei) and “Christianized” it, citing a time to prepare to honor the death and resurrection of Christ. Sadly, the Western inventions of things like Advent and Lent have served to confuse the body of Christ and isolate us from the true Biblical feast days and their significance.

Elul is about returning. Let us return to the basic (Hebraic!) tenets of our faith – to seek to walk on the path of righteousness, guided by the LORD Himself as written in His Holy Word.

From Genesis to Revelation, the Word of God is available to us and if we are not spending time in the Word, that is another reason for repentance.

Collectively, we should repent that the church has strayed so far and has actually contributed to the unbelief of the Jewish people as they observe the glaring discrepancies of many unBiblical “Christian” practices.

May we return to the essence of Elul.

Cheshbon haNefesh: The accounting for the soul

Cheshbon haNefesh is a Hebrew term used frequently throughout the month of Elul. “Cheshbon” is used in modern Hebrew to describe an invoice or bill, such as at a café. Cheshbon: what is owed, what must be paid, the account. Nefesh refers to the soul or what makes you you – it is a word that is also translated as “life” or “being.” Nefesh is the life force within you.

During Elul, we are reminded of His gracious gift. We fall on our knees in the humblest of gratitude, thankful that Yeshua (Jesus) shed His precious blood in payment to redeem our souls.

We owe everything to our Savior yet we know our account has been paid in full.

Elul is a time to reflect on how we are using our nefesh – how are we using the life that is within us to advance the Kingdom of God? It is a time to take ourselves to account.

This is a time to realize where we truly fall short in our relationship with our Creator. In what ways do we fail to love? Do we truly love Him with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind?

HaMelech ba’sadeh: The King is in the field

It is often said during Elul that “the King is in the field.”

The King of all kings, who may seem unapproachable, who is far in His heavenly palace seated on His throne is the same King who reaches out His scepter even when we are unworthy of His mercy. The King of all kings is the same King who comes to our level – He humbled Himself and walked in those fields ripe for harvest.

The Chassidic interpretation is that the King comes when the laborers are in the field – meeting His workers where they are. Surprising them with His presence. Demonstrating kindness.

The King is coming.

The King is in the field.

The King of all kings is approachable and He loves you.

You can go to Him and He will receive you with open arms.

And you will be raptured away in love together.

Personal Prayer and Devotional Time during the month of Elul

It is traditional to read Psalm 27 daily during the month of Elul.

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.

One thing I have desired of the LORD,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the 
LORD.

Psalm 27:8

Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.
When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the LORD will take care of me.

Teach me Your way, O LORD,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.
Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.

Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Perhaps you would like to reflect on this passage during this time, as well. This Psalm truly speaks to the relationship aspect of our faith: that we call upon Him and He answers and we are to seek His face.

The King is in the field and the harvest is ready but the workers are few.

Will you meet Him in the field?

Will you share the Good News that the King is coming back again!?

Repent and Rejoice!

Our King is coming for us!

Please comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts about the month of Elul and the coming of our Almighty King!




7 Biblical responses for when your child experiences racism for the first time

Our family bubble

I like my faith-filled bubble.

Our family prays together and we read the LORD’s Word together and we worship together.

We love to share our faith with those who do not know the LORD and all of us are pretty resilient in the face of argumentation and those who refuse to accept the Truth.

My children are homeschooled and sometimes I forget that we live in this joyful little bubble!

The enemy wants to burst your bubble

And I was taken off guard yesterday.

My son had gone outside to walk our German Shepherd, Canelo, on a small dead-end road that borders one edge of our corner lot house. Our family has walked that way many times because there is rarely a car and we often see beautiful wildlife including deer and sandhill cranes. I often try to get a close-up picture, but the creatures prove elusive.

Canelo

An evening walk has become a new summertime routine for my son. He started taking the dog all by himself about a week or two ago and I believe it is a quiet time for him. I have noticed an improvement in his snarky-young-teenager remarks and so I was very happy that he had learned to get some fresh air and exercise.

The road seems like a peaceful one, with just four houses on the short northwoods street.

The end of the road

Last year, the houses on that road held a little community rummage sale, so we stopped by and met the neighbors. They were all fairly friendly, but the couple living at one of the houses seemed less so . . . and overly interested in detailing the alcohol flask collection they were trying to sell.

We assumed from their demeanor and manner of conversation that they perhaps struggle with drinking.

I hadn’t seen or heard from them since.

Until last night.

My son came home and he had a look of disbelief on his face.

I asked him what had happened.

When loving thy neighbor is put to the test

“The neighbor lady yelled at me.”

I couldn’t imagine this, so I asked for details.

He recounted: “She came out on her porch and yelled out, ‘. . . You need to go use a different path. Can’t you see you’re making my dog bark? Go on.’ Then she just stood there and stared at me until I left.”

I asked him if he replied to her spitefully (which would not have necessarily surprised me).

He said, “No, I just said ‘Ok, I’m sorry’ and came home. I had a million bad things I wanted to say to her, but I didn’t because I know I’m supposed to be Christian.”

Well, there’s a proud mom moment. My child is trying to act like a follower of our Messiah ought to act.

Trying to give the neighbor lady the benefit of the doubt, I asked if she perhaps was kidding? Maybe she had a twinge of humor, “look, kid, you make my dog bark and it drives me crazy…”

“No. She was not joking one bit.”

So the mama bear in me was incensed that our very neighbor could be so mean to a child! Especially my child! My son’s mere presence in the road in front of her house caused her an issue? Our dog wasn’t barking at her dog. I have heard her dog on other occasions. I believe he looks out their front window and barks every time a dog passes. But that is her issue, not mine. And most certainly not my son’s issue.

I want to tell her that the road is public land and my child has the right to walk his doggie wherever he so pleases. And I want to shout right back at her. How dare she hurt my son’s feelings! But alas. I am a Christian. I am a pastor! I have to be “Midwest nice” at the least, right? I have to love my neighbor!?

Ugh. No one said following Yeshua (Jesus) would be easy.

Perceived Racism

But there was something else that my son said that really hurt my mama heart. He said that the woman had muttered something before yelling and he thought it sounded like “you ill . . . ”

I said maybe she meant, “you ill-mannered….”

I asked if he did anything that seemed disrespectful, such as allowing the dog onto her grass.

He said, “no, more like ‘you illegal’ . . . “

I paused and took a deep breath.

My husband is a legal U.S. citizen. But that doesn’t mean everyone knows or believes that about him. Quite honestly, I wish it didn’t matter. My husband is caramel-skinned and was born in Mexico. My son is handsomely half Hispanic with beautiful tan skin, mocha eyes, and dark curly hair.

Whether or not my neighbor said something that horrible or not, my son perceived it that way.

My son felt like a target of racism.

This sweet boy who has grown up fairly sheltered from the ugliness of the world’s ways says he no longer feels safe walking down this small countryish road right next to our own house.

Addressing Fear

He told me not to worry, that he would use the other roads in front of the house instead.

But you see, that requires crossing a much busier road. And it is not fair that my son would have to change where he enjoys walking in nature just to please an angry (and possibly inebriated) lady who isn’t interested in dealing with her own dog.

I have never felt unwelcome or unsafe in this community. But then again, I am white and I grew up just over an hour from where we currently live.

My son said he observed that the woman’s garage was open with two rifles on display.

Now, my son is known to have an active imagination, so I do not know if this is true or not, though it would not surprise me. It doesn’t help that we just watched the movie “Till” the night before.

What saddens me is that my son is now scared.

He said he’s seen the videos where angry people shoot kids who just ring a doorbell or just because of the shade of their suntan.

I told him that he cannot live in fear. We will still walk on that road with our heads held high. I am blessed because my son knows much of the Word of God, so I reminded him of 2 Timothy 1:7:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

I guess I knew we would confront issues of race eventually, but it was so unexpected, right here just a few houses up the road.

That said, I do want to be clear. My neighbor may not have said anything racially charged at all. I am focused on what my child perceived. Racially-motivated or not, the outburst was still unprovoked and unsettling.

So how do you help a child who has encountered real racism OR perceived racism for the first time?

I’m not sure I have all the answers to that one, but I do know that we should turn to the Word of God.

He comforts us because our identity is found in Him alone, not in what the world has to say. I am writing this because it is therapeutic to me today.

I am searching the Scriptures, too, to be able to minister to my son’s little heart and I am hopeful this can help someone else somewhere, too, because our world is full of division and unkindness.

1. Remind your child that all of us were created in the image of God. Race is a social construct and racism is sin.

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27

“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” Acts 17:26

Acts 17:26

“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.” Galatians 3:28

There is no place for racism when living in holiness.

2. If your child has accepted the free gift of salvation that is given to us by putting our faith and trust in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), he or she is part of a holy, set apart and chosen generation and God calls us “special.” We don’t need to rely on anyone else to validate our existence or our skin color.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

3. Encourage your child to turn to the LORD when feeling scared, discriminated against, alone, or unsafe. He is our Stronghold, our Fortress, and our Deliverer.

“I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.” Psalm 18:1-3

4. Emphasize the Biblical mandate to remain peaceful. Always seek shalom: wholeness and peace.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

Matthew 5:9

5. Hear out your child. Allow him or her to express their emotions about racism.

I sat down with my son and I commended his recent progress on working hard and improving his early teenage years attitude. (We had some rough moments a few months ago with this too-big-for-his-britches young fellow!) He acknowledged his improvements, but also admitted having some pretty ugly thoughts about the neighbor. I believe it is so important to allow my son to have space to talk about how he was feeling and even explore this early introduction to racism. He knew that he could trust me to support him and love him through this. I’m grateful he has time to work through this as he matures and potentially encounters something far more direct or offensive.

I told him: you are acting like a child of God.

You have a tender heart and you are seeking to do what is right.

But whether that woman knows it or not, she is serving the devil. As harsh as this sounds, that makes her a child of the devil.

And the devil uses people like that to try to unnerve the children of God.

I told him, clearly, son, you’re doing something right if the devil has to take the time to come out and bother you like that using a daughter of the devil.

The best thing we can do is pray for her to come to understanding and repent and that she would, by God’s grace and abundant mercy, become a daughter of God one day.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12

Our Savior told us to rejoice and not just be glad: “be exceedingly glad!”

We can confront anything with exceeding gladness because we know our journey doesn’t end here. One day we will rejoice in heaven, rewarded for remaining faithful to our LORD.

6. Exhort your child to be an overcomer despite any circumstance.

I told my son that while you pray for those who persecute you or revile you, your duty is to guard your heart and your mind with the Word of God.

“Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

He is your Protector and Defender, and you shall not fear walking down the road.

“The LORD will give strength to His people;
The LORD will bless His people with peace.” Psalm 29:11

Realize that the Scriptures serve for exhortation: we know who God is and we know that He cares for us, therefore we make a conscious choice. We will.not.fear.

This coming from someone who battles anxiety! But I know deep in my heart the Truth that whenever I, with faith and conviction, truly hold onto the hem of His garment, my fear is lost and He makes me brave. I seek to instill this understanding in my children so they, too, will always rely on our Father’s goodness, provision, and security.

Whether confronting racism, sexism, religious discrimination, anti-Semitism, classism, or any other -ism, if we remember that the LORD is on our side, we can and will walk in victory.

7. Pray together in the Spirit.

There is no substitute for prayer.

Pray with your child.

Model a life of faith for your child.

And pray for your neighbors and anyone else who would cause you distress.

Trust that the LORD will work everything out.

Remind your child to wear the armor that God has provided and pray together with your child in the Spirit.

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:17-18

Walk in Faith, no matter what and refuse to be intimidated

This afternoon, my husband and I told our son we were all going to take a family walk.

He looked panicked.

“Can I stay home?”

My husband gently told him in Spanish: “no, m’ijo, pero estaremos contigo.”

“No, my son, but we will be with you.”

Just like the LORD is always with us.

We had our son grab a hold of Canelo’s leash and walk him just like he had the night before. On the very same path.

He learned one step at a time not to be afraid.

Because children of the Most High God shall refuse to be intimidated.