And behold, the Lord passed by, & a great & strong wind rent the mountains & brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: & after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the eathquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: & after the fire the thin sound of silence. 1 Kings19:11 & 12

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Communion of Healing.

And so we come again to communion.

Oh, you may be saying to yourself.  What more is there to say about communion?  we’ve discussed the bread & the wine & the cup of the kingdom.  We remember our Lord’s sacrifice.

So much happened we can’t think of it all at once so the aspect of communion I want to look at today is healing ~ & the kind of healing that took place on the cross for us.

I am going to start with the word Gethsemane.  Yes, that is the name of the garden where Jesus went to pray.  The garden where Judas betrayed him.  The garden where Roman soldiers arrested him.  It still exists today, though the olives that would have been young saplings in Jesus day are full grown trees now.  

Now scripture doesn't do anything by default.  God is very careful & he is particularly careful about names & so the meaning of this name is important & tells us something.  Gethsemane means oil press.  That is somewhere where the ripe olives were put under pressure to release their oil.  Now recent studies of Gethsemane’s olive trees have revealed they are amongst the oldest in the world & are all the shoots from just one parent tree.  Stop & think about the implications of that for a moment.  Oil is almost always symbolic of the anointing of the Holy Spirit & so you have something very beautiful taking place here.  It will not come into fullness until the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit is poured out but the pressing takes place at Gethsemane when the sins of the world are laid upon Christ in the garden.  

We are prone to think that the weight of the world’s sin fell on Christ at the cross but it is here in the garden it begins.  See it was sin that was nailed to the cross.  For that to be so Jesus must already have been made sin for our sakes.  It is a process, tied into Jewish religious custom from the scapegoat to the High Priest’s robe woven as a single cloth.  Under the old covenant, as under the new, the was no redemption without the shedding of blood.  There was blood shed in the garden as the weight of mankind’s sin was transferred to Christ.  It was a struggle.  He was in agony ~ from agon which means a contest, a fight ~ so much so the extreme mental & physical stress caused the blood capillaries to expand then burst so that Luke could say Jesus sweated drops of blood.  It was so agonising Christ begged that if it were at all possible the cup would pass him by.

If we read John 17 carefully we find something very beautiful taking place. Yes, we know Jesus is praying for us; us in our time, before we were even born! But look at what He is praying! I in them & you in me.....that they may be one in us...There is only one way that happens ~ if the Holy Spirit abides in us & we abide in the Word. When you study the Greek in this passage you discover that what Jesus is saying is that he is willing (thelō) , He's exercising His will properly to bring this about.  In the process, in order to accomplish this for us, He is crushed, in God's olive press, just as the olives were pressed to release their oil!  

Hebrews 5 :8 remarks that Christ learnt obedience through what he suffered.  Here too I find something very amazing because what holds Christ steady in His purpose, a purpose that has been foreseen from the beginning of the world?  His friends fall asleep at the critical hour, then desert him.  On the cross even God turns his face away.  But Jesus is a rabbi.  He not only is the Word, he knows the word & what the word says is Surely he hath borne our griefs & carried our sorrows….or as Matthew says Himself took our infirmities & bare our sicknesses.  

Redeeming us from sin is one thing.  Redeeming us from the effects of sin is another & greater work!  When sin entered the world, sickness, death & destruction came in his train.  It was not only our sin Christ took to the cross, it was our sicknesses, our diseases.  When we are redeemed from one, we are also redeemed from the other.  The two go together.  There was no sickness, no disease until sin came through Adam.  When Christ took our sin upon himself he also took on our sickness.  If you are unsure of this go through the scriptures & see how often Jesus tied healing to forgiveness.  When the condemnation sin brings is removed, healing & health become possible because we no longer believe we deserve to be sick.

We have read the story of Christ’s crucifixion so often, watched it in gory detail on the big screen & given it cursory acknowledgement when we come to communion that much of it’s impact is now lost on us.  So we will stop & consider what Christ was doing from the moment he stood before the Sanhedrin betrayed & unjustly accused.

No~one spoke for Christ.  He took the unjust accusations that we might stand before God, declared righteous though we are not of ourselves righteous.  This is a fundamental healing of the relationship between us & God.  We must never forget the first purpose of Christ’s suffering was for restoration: of our relationship with God, of our personhood as originally envisioned by God, of our relationships with each other.

Peter, quoting Isaiah, tells us that by whose stripes ye were healed...healing for the body.  The 40 stripes minus one, to try & ensure the beating didn’t kill a person, was for our physical healing.  It is a very well known verse as it is the one quoted most often.  Thus we overlook that Christ was despised & rejected of men, a man of sorrows & acquainted with grief.  

The crown of thorns was probably made from the jujube tree that produced barbs an inch or more long.  As so often in scripture the symbolism  works on multiple levels but I do not want to focus on the redemption of the land from the curse of thorns & thistles but on the redemption of our minds & emotions.  When Paul tells us to take every thought captive to Christ he can because Christ bore our mental & emotional anguish   The crown reminds us both of his anguish & that he is indeed king of kings & lord of lords & his reign extends beyond the physical to the mental & spiritual realms as well.

All of this Christ took with Him to the cross & bore until the moment He gave up His spirit into the father’s hands.  At that moment he declared IT IS FINISHED, the words the high priest uttered ritualistically after the final Passover lamb was slaughtered.

The redemptive work of Christ was finished in that moment.  He gave everything to redeem all of us: our minds, our bodies, our spirits.  There is healing for every part of man through Jesus Christ.

Both John 14:30 & 1 Cor 2:8 tell us that if satan had known what the cross would accomplish he would have prevented Christ from ever getting there!  

During His time on earth Jesus ministry focused on three thing: Teaching, preaching, healing.  He proclaimed it, he taught it & he demonstrated it.  He went to the cross to restore everything that had been lost in the fall. 

 If you are in need of healing today bring your faith to the communion table. I am not talking superstitious nonsense. I am telling you to do what scripture tells you to do: to exercise your faith & not doubt. As Abraham did.  As Joshua did. Your God knows your every need.  He is the Lord that healeth thee.  Receive & give thanks.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Gifts of the Bride.

The reading for this sermon was Genesis 24: 1~28.

There are certain themes that scripture comes back to over & over. Some things just can't be overlooked because God himself does not overlook them. The most important of these is our covenant relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

I will say it again because it is imperative we understand covenant: a covenant is cut in blood; the terms & conditions of the covenant, once entered in to, are irrevocable, unchangeable, unalterable.

Again & again throughout scripture we read of God's covenant arrangements with His people.  It is there in the Old Testament & it is there in the New Testament. As Jesus pointed out: Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me...

We see this very clearly when we read the New Testament but remember, Jesus had no New Testament so the scriptures he was referring to are the Old Testament.  

OK, you might think.  One can see this in some of the prophets, perhaps some of the psalms of David & certain preincarnate manifestations... but I tell you all of scripture points to Christ! Certainly Jesus thought so!

So I was studying up  on this passage in Genesis & a very interesting passage it is because every time we read about a marriage, about a betrothal, about the maritial relationship, we are being shown something about the covenant relationship Christ has with His church because the Church is referred to in scripture as the Bride of Christ.

In this passage a dying Abraham sends his servant off to find a wife for his son Isaac.  He sets out certain terms & conditions because he already has a covenant with his God concerning the land of the Cannanites in which he dwells.  We also know that the one thing the Cannanites were really good at is Baal worship & so Abraham is specific that his son not marry a Cannanite woman.  She would bring her idolatory with her & contaminate the covenant line with its worship & the fertility rites & sexual impurity associated with it.

Instead he returns to Abraham's homeland to choose a bride.  Now watch carefully because the terms & conditions of this covenant are reflected back into the Church as the Bride of Christ.  The servant comes bearing gifts.  This is traditional amongst many cultures.  You want to sign a contract you come with gifts ~ usually lots & very expensive, to show how highly you regard & value what you want.

Abraham's servant comes with 10 camels.  Now a camel, just one, can drink about 4 galleons of water at a go ~ & there are 10 of them.  Do the math.  And he arrives at the outskirts of the city as the women are coming out to draw the evening water.  This is a man who does not really know God for himself.  He addresses God as the God of his master, Abraham.  Nor does he have the Holy Spirit within him to guide & assist him so he does what Gideon will also do many years later; he lays out a fleece.  If such & such then....

He sees Rebekah & the girl is a stunner!  The bible is very restrained but amongst the women the servant notices this one particular girl & notes she was *comely*.  But is she the one?  Is this the wife God has chosen for Isaac?  He asks the girl for a drink & she willingly draws water for him & revealing a servant's heart offers to also draw for the camels until each beast has drunk its fill!  Oh.  My.

Now pay attention.  This is important.  The servant has found & chosen the bride.  He has even entered into preliminary negotiations about accomodation & he brings out his gifts.  Trust me, at this point Rebekah knew what was going on.  She knows she is being offered a marriage proposal.  She is under no obligation to accept.  However, as soon as she accepts the gifts being offered she is contracted.

The biblical understanding of marriage is very different to what we in the west have made of it.  It is, & always has been, a contract between 2 people & in biblical terms it is a covenant contract that is sealed in blood. Understand this because this is something the church needs to understand.  The Church is called to be the bride of Christ, & will be presented without spot or blemish to her betrothed ~ BUT....the Church is under no obligation to accept the contract ~ the covenant contract.

Until she accepts the gifts the church is not the covenant bride!  Ouch?  I was stunned as the Lord was showing me this because like most Christians I understood the Church to be Christ's bride but it is not so.  The bride becomes the bride immediately, & only, if she accepts the bridegroom's gifts.  Not before.  

So what gifts are these?  We are told over & over that when Christ sent His Holy Spirit into the world He sent Him bearing gifts that were to be imparted to the believers!  Those gifts must be accepted before the terms of the marriage contract become binding.

I got this far & the Lord brought up the issue of tongues ~ which is listed amongst the gifts of the Spirit & has caused so much division amongst believers down the centuries.  *sigh*  I try to avoid controversy but the Lord was adamant & I will tell you why.

Firstly: the Lord is very clear that He is returning soon.  Very, very soon.

That being so we need to understand that we are entering a time of great tribulation ~ not The Great Tribulation, but a time of tribulation, that will increase & increase the closer we get to the end of the church age as satan realises his time grows short & fights to destroy all he can.

Now tongues does 3 things & they are very important to a believer in any age but most importantly in this end age.

1. It allows us to pray the Father's will.  When we pray in the Spirit like this it is God's Spirit who prays in us & He always prays out the perfect will of the father.  We don't need to try & guess what God's will is.  We don't need to end our prayers with the little appenage: If it be thy will.... We don't need to hope we've got it right or worry that we've got it wrong. We pray Spirit to spirit exactly according to the Father's will.  Come on people, you know if you have the Holy Spirit in you, you have the very Spirit of God Himself living in you & you have become a temple for His indewelling!

2.  If you are like me you will be praying for something seamingly impossible but you know we are to walk by faith & not by sight & so you muster up all the faith you can to not be a double~minded man who can expect nothing from the Lord & all the time your mind is listing all the reasons why it can not happen! Ugh!  Frustrating. & self~defeating. When you pray in the Spirit this self~defeating exercise is circumvented.  Unless we ask specifically for understanding our reason is circumvented & so cannot undermine our faith!

3. Lastly, & this is a comfort, there are things the Lord wants to share with His people, secrets he wants to confide, directions he wants to give & he doesn't want satan to know about any of it!  So He want to speak Spirit to Spirit.  Satan can't get in there.

There are other gifts also, some just as controversial.  Most are given for the winning of unbelieving souls.  Tongues is a gift given to God's covenant people, a special way of seperating them out so they can chat privately.  We are asked not to grieve the Holy Spirit & not to quench Him.  That He may choose to work in ways that make us uncomfortable or do not fit our doctrine should not surprise us.  We only have to look at what happened to Judaism under Jesus to realise the Holy Spirit sets the world upside down because His whole purpose & intent is to turn men's gaze upon Christ & establish the Kingdom on earth!

Monday, November 11, 2013

When we come to Communion...

 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me... John 12:32

Communion, Eucharist, The Love Meal, the Bread & the Wine is central to Christianity.  The partaking of it is a command.  One that most denominations follow though our understanding of what it means, the how & the when, may differ & the denomination I most closely affiliate with does not practise it.

The practise of communion, by whatever name it goes by, has always fascinated me.  What is it about this humble meal of bread & wine that Jesus had in mind at that final Passover meal?  It was then, as they shared the final cup, the cup of the Kingdom, that Jesus ended the old covenant, at least symbolically.  I know, it gets strange when a Lit major takes to religion, doesn't it?  The bread & the wine was never going to just be the bread & the wine.   How could it?  This is symbolism that goes all the way back to Abraham & Melchizedek.

This simple meal holds so much rich symbolism I am unlikely to cover it all so I will just touch on a few of the more pertinent points here.  

Firstly:  I have mentioned this is a covenant meal.  You will find a fuller explanation of covenant here. There are 2 elements to covenant: flesh & blood.  The flesh is broken; the blood is poured out because For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.  Oh. My.  Even way back in Leviticus!

Jesus names the elements: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for youthis do in remembrance of me...

Ever since whatever is used to represent Jesus body, whether it is a wafer, flatbread, unleavened bread or ordinary bakehouse bread, it is broken in two ~ & it is broken in two so that the one making the covenant may pass between the pieces.  I don't think there is any mistake about what Jesus is doing here.  He is making covenant, which would be sealed on the cross & fulfilled at His resurrection. 

Now the bread that Jesus would have used would have been unleavened Passover bread such as this:
 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed....1 Peter 2:24 

As you can see matzeo bread is striped ~ & punctured.  Jesus would have known he was about to be whipped bloody, have a crown of thorns pushed down on His head & nails driven between the fine bones of His wrists & ankles as He took this bread & tore it in two.  For centuries the Jews celebrated this meal with this bread not knowing Christ was represented there.

Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you....Luke 22:20

I am going to say outright that while I have read & understand the arguments for the *wine* being grape juice & non~alcoholic I do not believe they are valid & I will tell you why.  Firstly, the custom, as it still is in many of these regions where wine is drunk routinely, was to water the wine: one measure of wine to 2 of water.  This is because the water is contaminated & full of germs.  The wine, being antiseptic, acted as a purifier ~ I'm sure you can make the analogy!  It is Jesus blood that purifies us!

Now there is one final point I would like to make because I think this is central to the taking of communion, to life in Christ, to walking out our faith.

What we are meant to do in communion is both to recognise Christ's sacrifice for us & to exalt him.  The word used in John 12:32 is  ὑψόω (hypsoō) & means to exalt, not simply to *lift up*.  We are to exalt our Lord & Saviour.  When we do this He is able to draw us with Him into the abundant life in God that we are meant to share.  

As we prepare for communion & enter into he fellowship of believers who are in covenant relationship with Christ, we are meant to exalt His Holy name & what He has done for us.  Then we can lay claim to all the promises Christ's sacrifice bought us: healing, blessing, grace, abundance, joy, peace ~ all this in the midst of trouble & turmoil because we have not been taken out of the world.  We are in the world but we are no longer meant to be of it.  In the partaking of the communion meal we recognise we are in a new covenant, a people called out, set apart, a holy priesthood, a peculiar people, salt & light in a world that knows not its saviour.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sukkot: The Season of our Joy

Most Christians know Christmas is celebrated on the wrong date.  Many know of the pagan traditions associated with Christmas.  A few, very few, know what the bible has to say about the birth of Christ & the
festival Christians have forgotten.

For an in depth study of the math involved you will need to do your own study.  Math & I are not friends & I am not even going to attempt to do the math.  There are many places that will give you step by step instructions on this.  What I am going to do is give the broad outline, some of the inherent symbolism & the application for us as Christians today.

We actually have a really, really good idea of when Christ was born thanks to Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth.  Elizabeth was married to Zechariah & Zechariah, as we know from the first chapter of the gospel of Luke was a priest of the division of Abijah & Elizabeth was a daughter of Aaron.  Thus both belonged to the Levite line.  

Because Zechariah’s division is mentioned we can date accurately when he was called to serve in the temple, which  would have been twice a year for one week.  Luke also tells us that he drew the lot to go in & burn incense before the Lord, offering up the prayers of the people.  At this point an angel appears, prophesises that in their old age their prayer for a son would be answered & that he would come in the spirit & the power of Elijah.  Zechariah is struck dumb, goes home to his wife & she falls pregnant.  This places John’s birth around Passover, which would be what Christians later termed Easter.

As we read on in Luke we are told that in Elizabeth’s 6th month her cousin Mary visits her.  Mary has some rather startling news to share because she has just found herself in a very unique position & is also pregnant.
We know that according to Luke Mary fell pregnant in Elizabeth’s 6th month.  Count forward 40 weeks & you are in September when the festival of Sukkot is celebrated ~ though like many of the Jewish festivals it is sort of moveable because the Jew’s calendar works on a combined solar/lunar cycle.

That is the foundation.  Scholars can work it all out & practically pinpoint the very day.  That is not my purpose here.  While I know God values accuracy He does something both charming & kind for the mathematically challenged amongst us.  He gives us symbols.  He gives us shadows & types.  He lays down a pattern so that we recognise the real thing when it arrives.

Now it is not my purpose to tell you whether or not you should celebrate Christmas.  Rather I want to reveal the Father’s heart &  add to your joy in the birth of a saviour.

Sukkot falls some time in either September or October.  This year it fell in September.  It is a week long festival & lasted from the 1st to the 7th of October.  In the northern hemisphere this makes it a fall festival & the 3rd of 3 mandatory annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem.  The first is Passover which celebrates Israel’s delivery from Slavery.  The second is Shavout , which celebrates the giving of the Law.  The third is Sukkot, which remembers how Israel wandered for 40 years before being allowed to enter the Promised Land.

Why should Christians bother themselves with this stuff?  It is O.T.  It was for the Jews.  Because this is the shadow of what was to come, indeed came in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ!

Firstly this is the festival that celebrates God Tabernacling with His people.  As He did as a cloud by day & a pillar of fire by night, when the Shekinah glory filled the temple, when Christ became man & dwelt among us & most wonderfully when the Holy Spirit was sent to dwell within us.

This is a 7 day festival that lasts for 8 days.  Why?  Because it is the only Jewish festival that is not Jew~specific.  That is, it was a celebration that was extended to & included the gentile nations, invoking blessing & inclusion to them also.  Sacrifices were offered for the nations of the world.  Traditionally the 8th day is the day God asked his own people to tarry a little longer to enjoy a special time alone, just He & them together.

Sukkot was a time of extending hospitality, especially to the poor.  Each night a chair was set for the specially invited guest for that evening who would be one of the Great Shepherds of Israel: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron ~ or when Christians celebrate this festival, John the Baptiste but most especially Christ Himself!

Sukkot is commonly known by 2 other names:  Holiday of the Ingathering & The Season of Our Joy.  Both have deep symbolism for the believing Christian.  It is said that you have never known rejoicing until you have celebrated Sukkot in Jerusalem!
For the week of this festival it is customary to build temporary shelters & to live in them ~ though modern Jews usually only eat meals in them.  As the weather in Israel is usually mild at this time of year it is perfect for camping out!

Now come forward to the birth of Jesus.  We have established that He was He was probably born in September but what clues do we have that it was at Sukkot?  Firstly we know that Jospeh & Mary went down to Bethlehem for the census.  Bethlehem was considered an outer suburb of Jerusalem.  As traveling was expensive & took people away from their work it would make sense to combine the 2 things.  Joseph would have been close enough to Jerusalem to attend the religious services each day.  After the birth of Jesus Mary was unclean until she offered her sacrifices on the 8th day.

One of the joys of doing word research is what turns up.  What turned up was the Greek word Phatne, which is usually translated as manger & indicates a crib for fodder for animals.  The Hebrew is, yep, sukkot ~ a temporary shelter for animals made of green boughs & the traditional housing for the Jewish festival.  Many sukkot were attached to the outer wall of the temple.

The last point I want to raise is another obscure tradition that has been lost ~ because it tells us something terribly important about who Jesus is & what He came to do.

In the 2nd chapter of Luke he informs us that not only will Jesus be lying in a sukkot, he will be wrapped in swaddling clothes.  I have always found this comment a little strange because surely all babies are wrapped in swaddling bands of some sort?  That Luke mentions it means there is something for us to note.  It is found in a Jewish priestly practise.  When the priestly garments had become worn out in service at the temple & could no longer be worn they were torn into strips & used by Levite families to swaddle their babies to indicate they were priests dedicated to the Lord from birth…

We too have our sukkot ~ this flimsy temporary dwelling we call our body & which now is a dwelling place for God’s Holy Spirit.  God physically dwells with us.   

God gives us such richness to feed our spirits.  When we place things in their correct biblical frame we have the most wonderful promises:  As I dwelt with Israel in the wilderness, so now I dwell with you;  See, I have given you one who has fulfilled all the law & redeemed you from the bondage of sin; I remembered you, though you were not my chosen people & you did not know me ~ but now you do; I have sent my son; from His birth he was a priest dedicated unto the Lord & now, you are my people, my chosen ones.  Come apart & tarry with me, just the two of us together.  Truly this is the season of our joy.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Things that happened in the garden.

When God says His word is a living word He means just that.  It is full of surprises.  And we grow blase because having read the scriptures over & over we think we know what they say.  We think we know what they mean ~ when in fact we know very little at all.

So I was thinking about John 20:17 ~ which is an odd little verse in the midst of an odd little scenario.  Jesus has been crucified & hurriedly tucked into a borrowed tomb because of the Sabbath.  At the first opportunity Mary heads to the tomb.  She has in mind to prepare Jesus body properly for burial but is worried about moving the stone that shuts the tomb.  She is probably carrying the necessary spices, something to hold water so she can wash the body, cloths & linens.  It is very early.

Now here's where I promptly stumble.  The Sabbath lasts from sundown to sundown, about 6pm to 6pm the next evening.  Don't ask me to do the math but because it was Passover there was an extended Sabbath because Jesus didn't just overnight in a tomb.  He was there a full 3 days, from sundown to sundown.  The messy logistics of this are not my point just now & better mathematicians than I have tackled them far more effectively.  What has always arrested my attention are 2 things:  Firstly Mary completely failed to recognise a man she had lived & traveled with & looked at for the better part of 3 years!  She mistakes him for the gardener.  Secondly Jesus says, in effect, Get off me, woman!

What is fascinating about all this is how the scriptures always tell it like it is.

The first thing to note is Mary's expectations.  She is looking for a dead body, not a living man.  This expectation alone, let alone combined with the discovery of the stone rolled away & Jesus' body missing, has defined her reality.  When she finds a living man her immediate reaction is that it cannot possibly be Jesus because she *knows* that Jesus is dead.  She stood at the cross.  She saw the blood & water pour from Jesus side.  She recognised the signs of death.  She saw the body taken down.  She understood what it meant.  Jesus was dead.  No doubt about it in her mind ~ & dead men do not raise themselves.  She has no expectation of meeting Jesus.

Secondly she is distraught with grief.  Grief almost always distorts our reality.  She is grieving.  She doesn't even look at the *gardener* properly.  She is weeping [Jesus comments on it] & most people are not in the habit of looking others directly in the eye when they are weeping.  They avert their gaze, often their whole face.  They turn their body away.  They carve out a private place in public so others cannot intrude on their grief & need not be embarrassed by it.

Thirdly, & we know the story so well it is easy to miss it, it is really early in the morning.  If you are standing under trees at first light, just as the dawn forms the first bright streak across the horizon, before the first birds have begun to sing, you are standing in a murky gloom where nothing is clearly defined.  Seeing a strange man's features clearly would have been difficult.  What we do know is that Mary recognised his voice when he spoke to her.

Visually Mary last saw her beloved Jesus beaten almost unrecognizable, his body twisted in pain upon a cross, naked & bloody.   Alive he was in the habit of wearing the usual male Jewish robe with the Tzitzit clearly visible [this is what the woman with the issue of blood touched] either on the robe or his  prayer shawl,  sandles on his feet.  Jewish men of this day & age did not wear a prayer cap.  

But Mary mistook him for the gardener.  Which immediately raises the question, at least in my mind, What did the gardeners wear?

Apparently something like what the High Priest wore at Yom Kippur [the Day of Atonement]: a linen tunic,  linen trousers, a linen belt & some sort of head covering & barefooted.  Now this is absolutely fascinating because what did the High Priest do on Yom Kippur?  He entered the Holy of Holies to make atonement for the sins of the people!

We need to stay in the garden for a bit & look at what transpires between Mary & Jesus.  Jesus asks why she is weeping ~ why not?  Boy, has he got a surprise for her!  Mary recognizes him & I imagine throws herself at him ~ as you do.  Yes?  In any event Jesus tells her to stop clinging to him.  This seems a little unfeeling on Jesus' part in the light of recent events & the shock Mary has just received on finding a dead man alive & well & chatting with her in the garden.  Issuing her instructions even.  However he also gives her an explanation ~ of sorts.  He tells her he has not yet ascended to his father.

Do you not find this just a little weird?  Not so long after he's letting Thomas poke his grubby fingers in the holes left by the nails.  And it is even later before he ascends on the clouds in full view of the disciples but Mary gets short shift.

Yet here's the thing ~ & it is wonderful & amazing & mind~boggling.  Sin did not originate on earth! Nope.  It did not.  According to Isaiah it began in heaven when Lucifer said: Is15:15 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.Yet you shall be brought down to sheol, to the sides of the pit.

Revelation 12:7 tells us that as a consequence there was war in heaven & a third of the angels fell...

The clues are all there for us.  When Satan sinned he defiled heaven.  In his hate & arrogance Satan set about corrupting what was God's, including what God had made in His own image: mankind.  There was no plan of redemption for Satan & his fallen angels, but there was one for mankind ~ & Jesus knew it.  He was preparing to ascend to His father, as He plainly tells Mary, dressed in His High Priestly linen to perform His first duty as our High Priest, enter the Holy Of Holies & sprinkle His blood on the mercy seat.  For us.

When He returned He set about preparing his people to walk in obedience & faith because He had prepared the way for the Holy Spirit to be available to all who believed on Him. 

 I believe the bible is very literal.  Jesus is not metaphorically our High Priest.  He is our High Priest.  The duties of a High Priest fall to Him.  And He had a duty to fulfill in heaven as our High Priest, the very first thing needed:  He atoned for our sins in the heavenly temple.  With His own blood.  Shed for us.

There is power in that blood.  Power to save.  Power to redeem.  Power to resurrect.  Power to give life.

Deuteronomy 30:19 says it best:

I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

Jesus said: I am the way, the truth & the choose life & live.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why the Word?

When I began this study I hadn't realised how highly God holds his own word.  As I researched & more & more scriptures turned up I realised I hardly had to say a word because it was all there in the word. Edited because as you go along God gives you new insights on things & He was keen to point out something rather obvious that I left out.  The most important reason the word is so important & so highly regarded, so to be honoured & valued, is because it became the Living Word in God's son, Jesus Christ.  We dishonour the son when we don't value the Father's word as we should.

God wants his people to know His word that they might stand firm against all opposition & proclaim it boldly to those who are yet in darkness.

This is the general outline I used but bear in mind I have highlighted pertinent  verses because this was for a particular people whom the Lord is preparing to proclaim His word evangelically so that He might reap a harvest unto Himself.

Opening Prayer:  Acts 4: 23~31
When they were released they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, didst say by the Holy Spirit, 'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things? The kings of the earth set themselves in array, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'-for truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever thy hand and thy plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus." And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

Faith begins where the will of God is known.  Knowledge of the character of the one in whom we believe, what he has done & who he is, is revealed in scripture

Admonition: Colossians 3:16
 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord

Why: Eph 4:11~16 And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error; but speaking truth in love, may grow up in all things into him, which is the head, even Christ; from whom all the body fitly framed and knit together through that which every joint supplieth, according to the working in due measure of each several part, maketh the increase of the body unto the building up of itself in love.

What: Eph 5:26 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word,

[WHY] that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

How: Romans 10:17 
Faith comes by hearing, & hearing by the word of God.

Because: Psalm119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Our Weapon: Hebrews 4:12  For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Against Satan

Our example Christ
Matthew 4 Starting verse 1
Three times Jesus reiterates It is Written & quotes the relevant scripture


Unforgiveness Mark 11:22~26
Not walking in love Galatians 5:6
Breaking natural lawsPhilipians 2:26~30
Marital problems 1 Peter3:7
Unbelief Mark 6:5
Not maintain the right mental attitude Ephesians 4:22~24

Teaching: James 5
13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
Galatians 6:10 refers to us as the Household of Faith
Romans 1:17
... For in it is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith:
as it is written, The just shall live by faith... 
Repeated in Hebrews Galatians, Habakkuk, Zachariah Ezekiel
So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith.
Prayer of faith  [hebrew 11:1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Don’t ask amiss

changes things, not people
Can have the things God desires for us to have. 

Can pray that God’s best will be done in someone’s life.

Can pray that God’s will be done.

A righteous person is someone who has submitted to God’s will, thus positioned themselves in a condition of being right with God.  Knowing the word of God, activates our faith because faith comes by hearing & hearing by the word of God

3 Elements of effective prayer: according to James 5
The word of God
The Name of Jesus

The Holy Spirit

[Romans 8:26] And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered;

The word is to be applied, for we are to be not just hearers of the word but doers also.  The word is a tool to help us walk out our Christian faith but it is only any good to us if we actually know it & apply it!