Apostle Paul and the Law

Apostle Paul and the Law

“I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.” Acts 24:14b (NKJV)

The above quote is Apostle Paul’s own words before he left Israel for his final journey to Rome and his eventual death. It would seem to me all of his statements in his various letters should be interpreted in the light of this confession. Paul was neither teaching nor implying that grace replaced the Law.

In my opinion, grace and the sacrificially shed blood of Messiah made provision for the keeping of the Law—of God’s standard of righteousness. Paul does establish that keeping the Law does not earn salvation, but it is the door opener to blessing. Keeping the law is not a substitute for faith in the work of Messiah Yeshua on the cross, but a consequence of it.

Yeshua is the Living Word, the Logos. He is God as well as man. He in effect being God gave the law to Moses and the people gathered at Mt Sinai. During His earthly ministry as a man He amplified and emphasized the law. He never diminished or railed against the word He brought on Sinai. He only spoke against the abuse and manipulation of the word by the religious leaders of the day, or of any day. He proclaimed the consequence for those who taught against the word in Matthew 5:17-20 (NKJV) “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Yeshua came to confirm the prophets and the law. Fulfill does not imply either the words spoken by the prophets or the truth of the law is now of no consequence, that would be to destroy. The prophets and the law has even more significance because Yeshua has come as prophesied by the prophets and the law, in effect validating them.

Apostle Paul, being educated as a Rabbi, was all too familiar with the abuse of the law being made by the spiritual rulers of the day. He saw the fallacy of the pharisaic teaching that by scrupulously following the letter of the law was somehow pleasing to God and would gain eternal reward. As Yeshua taught, Paul taught, that Spirit-empowered keeping of the law was what mattered and pleased God; that could only be done through a personal relationship, a born again experience, with the Lawgiver.

KB
7/1/20

The Subtleties of Heresy

The Subtleties of Heresy

I had not considered specific heresies which might be in today’s ecclesia until participating in intercession with World for Jesus Ministries conference call May 24, 2020.

The intercession consisted of repentance for the ecclesia’s failure to keep the fourth Commandment—remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.

This failure could well be an example of a Nicolaitan heresy (1) that is being harbored and proclaimed by most of today’s ecclesia. It has been a heresy perpetuated through anti Semitic prejudice since at least the third century of the church. Why the Lord has tolerated a blatant violation of His word, I do not know.

It is my opinion that both Islam and Christianity by arbitrarily choosing a weekly holy day, other than the fourth commandment Saturday sabbath has an anti Semitic genesis. This prejudice is well documented by recorded history of both faiths.
By the time of Emperor Constantine and the Council of Nicaea in 325AD it seems much of the Christian Church’s doctrine is motivated by a “Christ killer” mentality. To me this is totally contrary to Paul the Apostle’s teaching in Romans (2) and Ephesians (3) where he speaks of the grafted-in, one new man being neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female. To create a distinction between Israelite (Jew) and Christian creates a “people” God never intended to define as His chosen. The distinction has failed to be made over the millennia between native born and grafted-in. The Church has opted to believe it supersedes God’s definition of chosen, replacing it.

It seems an oxymoron for the Catholic Church to claim Peter the Apostle as the rock upon which it is founded. Peter’s letters are addressed to Jewish believers in Messiah and amplify the definition of the “chosen people of God”. This broadened definition is really not new, but more of an understanding of what God had been defining as His chosen all along—one law for the native born and the believing gentile. Ex 12:49 The difference being the native born, by Messiah’s earthly time had become a broken off branch through disregard for the heart of God’s instruction in favor of man’s interpretation. Yeshua was often pointing out this distinction to the religious leadership of His day.

Peter was acknowledging in his letter the encompassing definition of priest—every believer, whether Jew or gentile, who professed faith in Messiah—sent by God for underlining the definition of His chosen.1 Peter 2:9

God has not abandoned His priestly call on the Levite (4). He has, however, through the faith of His elect in the shed blood sacrifice of Yeshua, made manifest His desire for the encompassing definition of priesthood expressed at Mt Sinai. Ex 19:6 (5)
Let our eyes be opened to the subtleties of heresy embraced by the ecclesia. Then through intercession personally repent for our personal accepting and harboring of heresy. Finally, we must stand in the gap (6) before Father that His chosen repent where they have failed to perceive their identity and calling, embracing heresies contrary to God’s word.

KB 5/27/20

1 See http://missionpossiblepeople.com/blog/ The Tribulation and Intercessory Prayer
2 Rom 11:11-24
3 Eph 2:11-19
4 Exodus 40:15 (NKJV)
5 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (in Hebrew “goy”—people including gentiles)
6 Ezek 22:30

The Tribulation and Intercessory Prayer

The Tribulation and Intercessory Prayer

The coronavirus has raised questions as to whether this is the beginning of the tribulation, the last seven years before the return of Messiah. I have been asking the Lord what and how to pray about this scenario—seeking His face and the guidance of His Spirit. I felt He told me to look at the book of Revelation as a model for intercession.

As with the prophecies of the old testament prophets, it seems to me it is not the sin of the lost that precipitates God’s judgment, but rather it is the sin of God’s chosen, we believers, that will precipitate His judgment.

Could it be the book of Revelation in its recording of the conditions existing in the seven churches provides a checklist of the spiritual condition of God’s children, we believers, which in the aggregate, if not repented of, will produce the tribulation described in such detail in the succeeding chapters of the book?

Again, as with the prophets, God sets forth the sin of His children, which if not repented of and turned from will produce the litany of judgments which will befall the world in the seven years of tribulation. We are told judgment begins first with the household of God. (1 Peter 4:17). This household I believe is at the crossroad of God’s Kingdom plan. His Kingdom is coming on earth, one way or another. The Gates of Eden will be reopened.

It seems to me the thinking has been that the tribulation comes because of the sin of the unregenerate and that all the believers are generally spared. If that were so, history seems to record much worse times of evil among the unregenerate in the world than at present and tribulation was not triggered. The question is, has the sin of God’s children reached the tipping point? And that possibility, I believe, should be the heartbeat of intercession today.

Let’s then look at the sin which God has seen as being so sufficiently rampant in His believers that He is ready to pull the plug on His efforts to see His creation, His chosen, bring forth His Kingdom on earth, hence the tribulation.

Let me say at this point, I think the use of the term “church” in the translations of the New Testament is unfortunate. The Greek word generally translated as church is “ecclesia” which refers to a collection of individuals. We confuse the definition today with the structure, organization and hierarchy of “church.” To get the full impact of Messiah’s response to each church—He is really speaking to each believer, individually, and collectively in that particular assembly (ecclesia) of believers.

You can read what is written to each “church” on your own, I have generally used the New King James Version as my text.

To Ephesus. The first believers to receive the call to repentance were doing Kingdom work in their soulish strength, but had let idols into their spiritual life which vied for place with their relationship with God. Revelation 2:4-5: “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.” God wants relationship. Works apart from relationship are wood, hay, stubble. If my works, even for Kingdom purposes, come out of my strength, my financial ability, my self-reliance—I have raised up idols.

The lampstand is not the building, it is God’s light around which the Ephesians have gathered in community. The angel who has been assigned to this community is, in my opinion, not the pastor. The pastor quite likely is complicit in the sin of this assembly. The angel is a heavenly messenger who has not been heard by those he is shepherding. If the assembly loses its lampstand, its light, the angel quite likely leaves. If the angel leaves, the assembly has lost the covering of God’s appointed spiritual connection to His Spirit. The assembly, at the least, goes deaf in one ear.

History does not clearly reveal what false doctrine the Nicolaitans at Ephesus had embraced (verse 6). I would not be surprised if this isn’t intentional. This would let Nicolaitans be a metaphor for whatever heresy is at any time not being exposed in the assembly, but is being tolerated and harbored.

A caveat here: the correction of the heresy must be directed by the Lord. He is long suffering and warns against harshly judging and calling one “raca.” It is amazing to me that many believers will stoutly proclaim the law no longer applies, yet are often quick and ruthless in arbitrarily applying it against a fellow believer. Unless we connect with our personal, human spirit to God’s Spirit for guidance and direction we will act amiss.

Since the Ephesus assembly is mentioned first, it seems likely this is the most common and most dangerous condition God finds among His people.

To Smyrna. This is a hard set of facts to read and then try to apply a standard of acceptable faith. The description of the conditions at Smyrna reminds me of today’s persecuted church in Asia and Africa, and manifesting in Europe and here in the United States. Though the believers in Smyrna were a minority and in economic poverty, and persecuted by the majority of unbelievers around them, the Smyrna believers are told to keep faithful, to not despair for they have a hope and a promise—they are rich in faith. Smyrna is the polar opposite of Ephesus in the conditions they find themselves, yet their conditions do not excuse them from God’s standard of conduct, even in the face of an unjust death. How did the devil gain the right to use the unbelieving majority to persecute these believers? Were their eyes closed by their circumstances so that they did not see their sin? Was part of their sin a failure to respond to the early signs of persecution? Where has this sin resulted in the conditions in the political climate of today’s ecclesia?

If you agree with me that Messiah used the cumulative spiritual condition of the seven churches to form the agenda in His call for the repentance by His chosen, what then? Then, if faithfully responded to, the seven years of tribulation could, I believe, be forestalled. There will be tribulation in the process, but not the seven years of tribulation of Revelation. The suffering saints at Smyrna must examine their hearts and souls. This thought all the more challenges me to soberly open up to Holy Spirit inspection and helps define an intercessory agenda.

In the end, Smyrna receives a comforting, encouraging word from Messiah as to the final reward for faithfulness when all of the odds of this world seem against you: “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” I believe that faithfulness calls for self examination and repentance. This too, must be Spirit led. Our hearts are deceitfully wicked (Jer 17:9) and trusting in the arm of the flesh is not easy to discern—those works look really good.

Turning to the Pergamos ecclesia, Messiah says it has shown exemplary faithfulness, but they were now harboring those preaching an ungodly, perverted doctrine which would eventually affect the entire body. Think of the sexual deviation so prevalent today. To what extent does that unscriptural condition receive harbor by believers? How is it we have let political decisions be made so that portions of God’s word have become “hate speech?”

To further support my premise of the convicting message of the prophecy of Revelation, I quote chapter 2:16–”Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.”

To Thyatira. Another body of believers who are doing many good works. But, as with Ephesus and Pergamos, are charged with harboring, giving cover to and failing to correct, either an actual woman or more probably a satanic spirit that is loose among the believers. Messiah even promises tribulation as the consequence of unrepented, sinful behavior. Yeshua tells us that it is He who searches the minds (thoughts) and hearts (spirit self)—we cannot hide behind our words.

Harboring, I suspect, is the deceptive sin of the ecclesia that must be discerned, repented of and turned from. Those in sin are called out of their sin. Those not in sin, but failing to deal with the sin in their midst are told to overcome, to get the victory, take some action. If they do, they are qualifying themselves for greater rule in the millennium. As well as pulling their brothers and sisters back into a saving relationship with Messiah.

To Sardis. The NKJV headnotes say, “The dead church.” I would say potentially dead. It seems the ecclesia in Sardis have become preoccupied with things other than God’s Kingdom. There are two words, one in verse two, the other in verse three which let me draw this conclusion: perfect and watch. “Perfect” in the Greek is not perfect, as without fault, but more falling below potential, below the potential of the gifting of the believers. “Watch” in verse three better translates to the idea of being vigilant, keeping awake.

The Sardinians then, were, in my opinion, like much of today’s ecclesia—too involved in the secular and falling far below their spiritually equipped potential in the things of God. They are failing in their vigilance to protect the religious heritage which the founders of the United States sought so diligently to establish—maybe, today’s ecclesia is not dead, but certainly dying.

To Philadelphia. Works open doors. But works are not of our decision, of our design as apparently were those of the Sardinians. Our works must be His, Spirit directed through our individual spirit, as apparently were the works of the Philadelphia ecclesia.

We are told we are not in a works relationship with Yeshua and our salvation, yet to this ecclesia Messiah recognizes their spirit-led works and rewards them with an open door to intimacy with Himself, plus an exemption from “the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”

The intimacy with Messiah involves His personal involvement in our eternal life—favor in the Kingdom, a name change as Abraham and Jacob received, emphasized identification with Father in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The reward for faithful, Spirit-led work in bringing forth the Kingdom should consume each believer in the time allotted in this earthly life.

To Laodicea. Shock and awe: “I will vomit you out of My mouth.”
Complacency and self satisfaction reign in this ecclesia—self is the idol which so repulses Messiah. Is this not the ultimate deception of harboring? I’m sure the Laodiceans in their works were scrupulous to keep the law—with great self righteousness, probably tithing mint and cumin as well. (Matt 23:23)

Messiah really seems to have a heart and a hope for this ecclesia. He is calling on them to repent and upon their repentance He offers the promise of the intimacy of dining together. He even offers to invite them to share His throne next to Father’s throne. But He is not forcing them—He stands at the door ready to enter when they repent—opening the door.

It is the idolatry of their possessions, their self sufficiency that Yeshua is trying to shake loose—be zealous and repent. Don’t think only of yourself, the goal is bringing forth the Kingdom. Zealous has the idea of becoming enthusiastic, getting excited, grabbing the opportunity—Messiah wants them to break out of their complacency. It seems to me it is the same today, especially in the United States,
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I believe the word to the seven ecclesia and to every believer today is summed up by Messiah seven times—“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The promise for those who hear and do is summed up in Rev 2:11–”He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” (Rev 20:14)

That the seven ecclesia did in fact hear, repent and turn from their sin is demonstrated by history—the foretold tribulation did not occur. We can safely assume there has been a hearing and obeying over the intervening nearly two millennia that has been sufficient to forestall tribulation. The question is will the hearing and obeying prevail today? Hence, the work and goal of today’s intercessor.

A study of the seven ecclesia and a resulting Spirit-led self examination and repentance will equip us for the intercessory role required to turn back the seemingly overwhelming tide of the enemy. We must each become God’s gap filler. (Ez 22:30)

If the tribulation comes, we, as believers, have failed God in the bringing forth of His Kingdom. We are not called to prepare for tribulation, but to be holy as He is holy and actively engage in the role He has given each of us in the bringing forth of His Kingdom on earth. Ironically, this is the best way to prepare, personally, for tribulation. Repentance and intercession are integral parts of our role and identity as believers. Should this pandemic be the beginning of sorrows, there is no better preparation than self-examination, repentance and intercession.
KB 4/28/20

Day of Atonement gets Personal

Day of Atonement gets Personal

Year in and year out I’ve rarely failed to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, even Thanksgiving, but Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur—give me a break. Even though I’m told in Leviticus 23:27-29 “you shall afflict your soul and do no work on the Day of Atonement,” it has only been the last few years that I have taken God’s command seriously.

To take the command seriously, I felt I should understand it better.
The scripture equates the affliction of soul and doing no work with atonement. So what is atonement? Webster’s Dictionary says it is “reconciliation”. Let’s say then, Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is a very special, annual day to be sure you are right with God. That should be our every day responsibility, but God, knowing His creation, established a specific day once a year to be sure we take that responsibility seriously.

Particularly when we know we cannot be right with God if we are not right with our fellow man and woman. (Matt 25:40,44) Hence, the incorporation into the day (and in preparation for the day) with the practice of repenting—restoring of any broken relationships. These unresolved exchanges are where most of your affront to God will have occurred over the last twelve months. Hopefully, you will not have waited until the very end of the year to make amends! It is the restoration of broken relationships that is an essential part of reconciliation with God.

Why the connection between “no work” and “reconciliation”? When this observance was first commanded by God it was at Mt. Sinai, not too long after the Israelites had been freed from the shackles of slavery in Egypt. Where will a lot of your offense be likely to occur?—in the workplace! Think what an Israelite’s recent response to a slave environment might have been. Can you forgive that taskmaster you work for? Or, how about the co-worker who uses your just-gathered straw for his bricks? Or, the wife who didn’t put any horseradish in your lunch box this morning when you headed out to make bricks? Or,…fill in your own reactions to your experiences with others which should be addressed and made right.

Doing no work for a whole day becomes that dramatic pause that lets you have time to step back and asses your relationship to work itself.

Last year a big opportunity for me to atone came the morning before the Day of Atonement. My wife commented concerning the way I handled a phone conversation. I didn’t like her suggested corrections and stewed on them all day—all the while knowing this solemn day before the Lord was fast approaching. Finally I confessed to God my inability to let go of my grievance. I didn’t want to confront my wife with my angst as it wasn’t her problem—it was mine: my inability to graciously hear some positive suggestions (“Yeah, right!” had been my thoughts all day long). I repented to the Lord and soon began to feel a softening toward my wife. I could start anticipating a much more successful Holy Day. I did complete the reconciliation by also asking my wife to forgive me for my coolness to her during the day. She forgave me and asked me in turn to forgive her for her abrupt manner of “assessing” my phone conversation—ahhh…sweet reconciliation.

This little example, while not strictly from the workplace, was, nevertheless, a battle of the soul, the will. Since we are retired our home really is our workplace. During that day of preparation my mind, will, and emotions were definitely involved and this realm of the soul is Satan’s favorite battleground. It seems like this thought-life conflict should not be affecting my relationship with Father. After all, don’t I have any privacy? Well, no, I don’t! God knows my every thought and it is these thoughts which, when not dealt with, keep me from having clean hands and a pure heart. (Ps 24:4)

Why has the “affliction of soul” in the Leviticus verse been interpreted as calling for a day of fasting? To me, it goes hand in hand with the “no work” instruction. Nothing is to interrupt the total giving of this one day a year to a stringent soul searching. The soul (mind) is the reservoir of the past year’s interactions, but the vehicle which should be allowed to do the audit is your human spirit. We are body, soul and spirit. It is our spirit’s nexus with Holy Spirit which can truly purge the records of our interrelationships and thought life—of the foibles of our will and emotions. A day uninterrupted by food preparation and consumption excludes the soul and body from interrupting our spirit’s attuning to Holy Spirit.

I hope to spend the Day with an attitude of an ascended spirit—seeking Holy Spirit’s defining and assessing of what is stored in the recesses of my mind. This deliberate one day a year activity between Holy Spirit, my human spirit, and my mind will bring me to the close of a highly successful day of reconciliation with my fellow man, myself—and upper most—Father God.

An Awakened Spirit can Avoid a Dead Body

An Awakened Spirit can Avoid a Dead Body

It all started when I got to wondering about the word “profane” as used in the OId Testament. I had a feeling it meant to dishonor. While this is true, as with most Hebrew words there is a range of interpretation. Not only that, but there are two different Hebrew words that get translated as profane: zur and halal. Zur is the most frequently used word—76 times in the Old Testament, while halal is used only 21 times. Zur in the King James bible is almost exclusively translated as “strange.” But in many modern translations zur is translated as profane. Halal on the other hand is almost exclusively translated as profane.

So, you’re probably asking, “what’s your point?” Well, it’s this, my New King James Bible search of “profane” took me to the “profane” fire offered by Nadab and Abihu. How could their incense offering be profane? The offering was described by the Hebrew word zur—strange. Maybe then it was not the offering, but something more spiritually profound to which the Lord reacted.

Let’s revisit the event and see what might have been at play.
Nadab and Abihu, were the two eldest sons of Aaron, Moses’ brother.
Their tragic story is told primarily in the tenth chapter of Leviticus. The chapter opens describing the young men making an offering to the Lord which had not been commanded by God and which resulted in their death.

In acting as they did, Nadab and Abihu assumed a familiarity with God that was totally at odds with the solemnity of the occasion. They upstaged not only Moses, but also their father, Aaron, the High Priest. Their offering was a spontaneous act which they performed at the conclusion of at least seven days of very intense spiritual significance—the dedication of the priesthood.

Aaron and his four sons were each in their respective priestly garments. They were before the altar in the newly constructed Tabernacle. The sons’ father, the High Priest, had just blessed the thousands gathered to observe the event. The fire of the Lord had spectacularly roared forth and consumed the prescribed offering on the altar.

In their youth and in the exuberance of the event they apparently gave no thought as to how presumptuous and offensive their actions would be to God—how they were drawing attention to themselves and away from their father and from Moses. Their actions diminished the sacred impact of the pageantry of the event—Nadab and Abihu were editing the script—all this High Priest decorum wasn’t necessary, two kids with their own censers could define how you approached and worshipped God.

Their actions profaned, made God common, before the people. The judgment of Nadab and Abihu by God was deserved, swift and just. God did not want another repeat of the Israelites’ faithlessness evidenced at His descent on Mt Sinai the year before. It was there, gathered at the base of Mt Sinai, witnessing the awesome power of God, that the nation vacillated. In the intensity of that experience the Israelites opted to exchange an offered intimacy of relationship with God for one of intercession—as one voice they said, “Moses, you listen to God for us.” Now, in this climactic moment of pageantry in the dedication of the priesthood, God had to quickly, decisively restore His position of holiness, His preeminence and His plan for His chosen.

Although the text does not use both Hebrew words, I make the following distinction. The young men offered a strange, zur, offering, however, it was their inappropriate actions in the circumstance that profaned, made common, were halal to God. Nadab and Abihu attempted to define God in their image—to create a god that He is not—an idol god. Their individual spirit did not perceive God’s spirit—resulting in their dead bodies. God is a jealous God.

There is a tendency today to make God a buddy, a big, huggable bear. Let us not forget that although He loves each of us with a passion and is intimately approachable, He must be respected, esteemed, honored and worshipped. It is best to let Him decide how He wants to present Himself to us in any given situation. I may want the big teddy bear, but in His wisdom, I may need the correction of a father.

When my spirit is awake to His Spirit I will always make better choices, resulting in life for my body.