Monday, April 30, 2018

Daily Bible Reading - April 30, 2018

Today's Reading:

Acts 13:26-52

Joshua 20-21

Job 30

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

Today we will look at Paul's Spirit-filled sermon, recorded in Acts 13. He speaks to the crowd about the Death and Resurrection of Christ. And he makes an interesting reference to First Fruits - although he doesn't use this term.

Acts 13:26-31 "Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the Word of this Salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath Day, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him. And though they found no cause of death in Him, yet desired they Pilate that He should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of Him, they took Him down from the tree, and laid Him in a sepulcher. But God raised him from the dead: And He was seen many days of them which came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses unto the people."

Among the witnesses of Christ were those who were resurrected from the dead at His Resurrection. These witnesses were the "first fruits" (secondary to Christ, Who was The First Fruits) which were presented with Yahshua before the Father's Throne on the Day of First Fruits.

Christians today often have a bit of trouble with the timing of Messiah's Resurrection. We know He was the First Fruits and
that He was presented as such, with those witnesses, before the Father's Throne. But what isn't commonly known is that the Feast of First Fruits actually took place in three stages. Understanding this Scriptural detail helps us find the correct timing of His Resurrection - and it wasn't on Sunday, as most believe! 

Let's pause and take a look at Messiah's Resurrection from Scripture, adding in the specific details about First Fruits. As we do this, we'll gain deeper insights into Paul's powerful sermon, debunking a commonly held Christian myth at the same time.

To get the Scriptural backstory and details, see Matthew 27:57-28:20. We've already read this passage in our daily Bible Reading, but now we'll be getting a quick memory refresher. Here are the main points, verse by verse:

  •  Christ died on Passover-at the precise time of the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb for the nation.
  • As the evening is approaching, on the Day of Passover, Joseph of Arimathaea appeared before Pilate to request that he could take the Body of Yahshua down from the cross for burial - Matthew 27:57-58
  • Having received permission, Joseph along with Nicodemus took Yahshua's Body down from the cross and buried Him in Joseph's own tomb. Joseph, Nicodemus, and the ladies (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Yahshua, and Salome) were unable to fully prepare Christ's Body for burial, as the sunset was coming and the next day was a Sabbath. They were able to wrap His Body in linen and they had some of the burial spices (aloe, etc) which they used - Matthew 27:59-61John 19:38-42Luke 23:50-54
  • The next day (the Day after Passover), which was the first Sabbath of Unleavened Bread (an annual Sabbath, which may or may not fall on the Seventh-day Sabbath), a three-day tomb guard was put in place. Also, Messiah's Tomb was sealed with a Roman seal. This was at the request of the Pharisees, who told Pilate that Christ had prophesied He would raise up in three days and three nights (Matthew 12:38-40). The disciples of Christ rested on this Sabbath and could not finish buying spices or anointing His Body until it was finished. It was because the day after Yahshua's Death was a Sabbath (but not the 7th Day Sabbath - as we will soon see) that the Body of Christ had to be buried in haste, before the sun down (Sabbaths all begin at sunset on the previous day) - Matthew 27:62-66

Now, here's the strange part, which doesn't fit with the idea that Passover was on a Friday... The women work with Joseph to remove Messiah's Body and bury it. But they cannot finish because the Sabbath is coming...  They wait for the Sabbath to pass...  Then they buy spices and prepare them to come and finish preparing Messiah's Body... Then they wait for the Sabbath to pass again (markets in Jerusalem were always closed from sunset to sunset on Sabbaths), so that they can actually come to the Tomb and anoint Him... Also, those tomb guards aren't going to let the women pass...  They know this also...  So, there were two Sabbaths - not one - in the story of Christ's death. The first Sabbath was the annual Sabbath of Unleavened Bread. The second Sabbath was the Seventh-day Sabbath.

In other words, Yahshua's Body was in the tomb exactly three days and three nights - Matthew 12:38-40 - just as He foretold in the Sign of Jonah. Additionally, it is interesting to notice that the most repeated time-prophecy in all of the Bible is the time-prophecy concerning Christ's Death. Always, it was three days. 

Matt.12:38-40  Yahshua foretold that He would be three days plus three nights in the heart of the earth (dead and buried). This was the only sign which He gave to prove His "authenticity" as the true Messiah.

Matt. 17:23  The third day He shall rise again.

Matt. 20:19  The third day He shall rise again.

Mark 9:31 And after He is killed, He shall rise again the third day.

Mark 10:34  They would kill Him, and the third day He shall rise again.

Luke 9:22  He will be raised the third day after being killed.

Luke 18:31-33 The third day He shall rise again.

Luke 24:21 Today is the third day since these things were done.

Luke 24:45-46  He will rise from the dead the third day.

Acts 10:39-40 He raised up the third day. 

1 Cor.15:3-4  He was buried and rose again the third day.

Some argue that Jews calculated days by counting partial days. However, it is clear that this wasn't the case in the story of Christ's Death. The Jewish Rabbis who asked for the Roman Tomb-guard specifically requested one for THREE DAYS. And the Roman reckoning of days was three 24 hour periods. This means that the women wouldn't have had access to the Body to finish anointing, even if they had been able to purchase the rest of the spices on Sabbath (which they couldn't).

The following chart outlines the events which took place in the Gospel records - showing the days upon which these events took place. The only way to fit two Sabbaths (one annual and one Seventh-day) and still have only three full days and nights was for Passover to have been on a Wednesday. Interestingly enough, Daniel foretold that Christ would die in the middle of the week (Daniel 9:26-27)!

Day Zero

Day One

Day Two

Day Three
Preparation Day
Unleavened Bread
(Annual Sabbath)
Preparation Day

The Weekly Sabbath

*Preparations were made for the Passover meal in the evening.
*Crucifixion took place in the afternoon.
*Veil rent from top to bottom when Christ died.
*An earthquake occurs .
*Joseph of Arimethea asked for the body of Christ.
*He with Nicodemus prepared the body.
*Christ’s burial at or near sundown.
*Rolled a stone over the tomb entrance.
*The women followed and watched all that happened.

*First day of Unleavened Bread was a High Sabbath.
*Everyone rested to observe the festival.
*No shops could be opened for business.
*Priests fearing the people, appealed to Pilate to secure the tomb through the third day.
*Seal and guard set at the tomb.
*First 24-hours in the tomb.

*Stores open.
*Women buy and prepare the spices.
*Preparation for the weekly Sabbath day is also completed.
*Second day of Pilate’s guards watching over the tomb.
*Second 24-hours in the tomb.

*Christ in the tomb for the third 24-hour period ending at sundown.
*Resurrection at sundown. *Earthquake after shocks. Graves previously opened, then  release their  enlivened saints. 
*These risen saints went into the city.
*Christ came from the tomb exactly 72 hours after being placed in the tomb.

As you can see from this chart, and the Gospel Record, Christ actually resurrected on the Seventh-day Sabbath, at the exact time when He had been buried in the tomb (three days and three nights in the tomb). This is clearly shown in the book of Matthew:
In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulcher. (Matthew. 28:1)

We have observed days and nights changing at midnight for all of our lives.  It is difficult, for some, impossible, to think in any other reference. To the Hebrew mind, however, a day was made up of “evening and morning,” (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13) not morning, noon, and night, as is now regarded in the progression of a day. 

The devout Jews in the first century began their days at sunset. They followed the lunisolar calendar in which the first day of a new month began with the sighting of a new crescent moon just after sunset. Calendar modifications had been made since the days of Jeroboam [“Calendar Reform under Jeroboam,” in King, Cult, and Calendar in Ancient Israel, Jerusalem:  Magnes Press, 1986.]  None of the calendar changes altered the evening-morning reckoning, however.  The Jews in Christ’s day kept Sabbaths from sundown to sundown, just as they do today.
From evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbaths, Leviticus 23:32.

The word  “dawn” in the phrase, “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, “ is found in only two places:  Matthew 28:1 and Luke 23:54. The Greek word usage in each of these texts is slightly different from each other. The number in Strong’s Concordance for “dawn” is #2020. The primary meaning of this word is "to draw near". In other words, it can be translated that as the Sabbath was ending, and the first day of the week was drawing near... 

In Matthew 28:1, the time that could be spoken of as “In the end of the Sabbath,” would not be connected to “As it began to dawn toward…,” without recognizing the Jewish, and biblical, reckoning of the evening ending a day as the next day began.  Indeed, the day always began at sundown. Only through this understanding may we prevent the text from speaking confusion.  Certainly, we can see that it would be totally inaccurate to suppose that the Sabbath ended “as” the sun was coming up Sunday morning.  We must conclude then, that Matthew 28:1 is referring to those few minutes as the sun is going down Sabbath evening, heralding the beginning of Sunday’s night (The evening and the morning was the first day, Genesis 1:5), reminding ourselves that a biblical day begin at sundown.

So, the women were coming to the Tomb as the Sabbath was ending (just prior to sunset on the Seventh Day)...  And they had already missed the Resurrection! This means that Christ had to have raised from the dead before the sunset on the Sabbath.

Since the resurrection timing is cited as the reason for keeping Sunday sacred instead of the Seventh-day Sabbath, this is a huge revelation! Christ didn't resurrect on Sunday at all! The reason people have thought that He did is because they confuse First Fruits. They believe that He had to resurrect on the Day of First Fruits...  But First Fruits happened in three stages - all of which took place on different days. Let's look at the three stages of first fruits.

First Fruits Stage 1: On Passover, the high priest would go out and look at the ripening barley grain. The grain which was deemed "abib" (ripe) was marked by draping a cord about it. This first stage of First Fruits did not happen on the Day of First Fruits. It happened on Passover.

First Fruits Stage 2: On the Seventh Day Sabbath, which fell during the Week of Unleavened Bread, the high priest would return to the marked barley. Now it was cut in preparation to be ceremonially "waved" on the Day of First Fruits. The cutting of the grain did not take place on the Day of First Fruits. It happened on Sabbath.

First Fruits Stage 3: On the Day of First Fruits (which was Sunday), the first fruits barley grain was ceremonially waved (presented as an offering) in the Temple. This ceremony took place at 9 AM on the morning of First Fruits. This is the only part of the First Fruits ceremony which actually happened on the Day of First Fruits.

Now let's see how Yahshua actually fulfilled each of these three stages of first fruits, in the story of His Death and Resurrection.

The Gospel of Matthew does not tell of Mary Magdalene’s private encounter with the Saviour in the Garden.  This detail is added in the Gospel of John. In John 20:11-18, we find that after having viewed the empty tomb, Mary stood weeping the Garden, confused and in great grief.  The Saviour appeared to her there, but at first she mistook Him for the gardener. When she realized Who He was, she clasped His feet and cried for joy.  The Saviour spoke gently to her, instructing her not to touch Him, which is better translated as, “Please do not detain Me.” For He had not yet ascended to His Father. Yahshua was waiting for the precise moment of the offering of First Fruits to gather the resurrected saints and ascend to the Throne of God.  

And now we see the three powerful stages of First Fruits reaching it’s final conclusion.

First Fruits Stage 1: The first stage of First Fruits took place on Passover. This was the time when the First Fruits barley was marked. The barley grain represented people- saved people, who were to be the First Fruits of those taken to Heaven.

 As it says in Matthew 27:50-52, “Yahshua, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.  And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;  and the graves were opened.”

But, the Bible says clearly that no one came out of those marked graves until just after the Saviour was resurrected. Thus, the marking of the "barley" grain was the opening of the graves, which happened with the earthquake on Passover, at the precise moment when Messiah died.

First Fruits Stage 2: The second stage of First Fruits took place on Sabbath just before sunset. This was the time when the First Fruits barley was cut. Just before the sun set, the Saviour arose from the tomb. Immediately after this, the sleeping saints were raised from those marked graves, as the First Fruits of the final harvest of saints to be raised on the Great Day of Christ's Return.

As it says in Matthew 27:53-54, “…and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,  And came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.  Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Yahshua, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.” 

Think about it, if the Resurrection actually happened on First Fruits, the resurrected saints would have been instantly taken to Heaven (at the time of the "waving of the grain"). But there was time between the resurrection and the presentation of the First Fruits grain - time in which to witness!

First Fruits Stage 3: The third stage of First Fruits took place on Sunday morning at 9 AM. This was the time when the First Fruits barley was waved in presentation to God. This was the moment when Yahshua ascended to His Father and His sacrifice was accepted. Because of His accepted Sacrifice, the resurrected saints were accepted into Heaven.

The Psalmist portrayed this exciting First Fruits procession in Psalm 24:7-10  

“Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.  Who is this King of glory?  The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.  Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah.” 

Many confuse the time of the Resurrection with the time of waving the First Fruits grain. But, the Bible tells us that the resurrected saints had time to witness in the city and the women had time to encounter the Saviour before He ascended.  None of this could have happened if the Resurrection was at the same time as the First Fruits grain presentation.   

The Resurrection didn’t happen on First Fruits, this was First Fruits stage 2 – the cutting of the grain.  But, the DAY of First Fruits, was the day when the grain was waved.  Clarity in the order of events comes by looking at the whole Gospel account, and by studying the shadow picture of the rehearsal for First Fruits.

And with that understanding, we have gained some vital backstory behind Paul's powerful sermon - and have quietly nuked the whole basis for Sunday sacredness...  (no offense intended).

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Weekly Torah Studies - April 29-May 5, 2018

The Statutes which are "health laws", as we studied last week, all fall under the main Commandment heading of "thou shalt not kill." It is possible to kill ourselves, one bite at a time. As we will see in our studies this week, there are some Statutes about what to eat that are also about honoring Yahweh as our Heavenly Father.

WEEK OF April 29-May 5, 2018: Overview of this week's Statutes (#383-405):

STATUTES #383-388:

(#383) YAHWEH’s people are not to procrastinate about offering our first fruits to YAHWEH. 

(#384) We are to render to YAHWEH the first fruits of our produce. 

(#385) We are to render unto YAHWEH the first fruits of our juice. 

(#386) We are to willingly yield unto YAHWEH the first born of our livestock. 

(#387) The first born of our livestock are given to YAHWEH on the eighth day. 

(#388) YAHWEH’s people are to consecrate their first born sons unto YAH. Notably sons are circumcised (consecrated to YAHWEH) on the eighth day. 

Rendering first fruits unto YAHWEH is a way we recognize His Ownership and our stewardship of what is rightfully His (Psalm 50:10 & Exodus 13:2).

A Note About 8: Eight, in Hebrew, is the letter chet (pronounced from the back of the throat as khāt). This is the number of grace and new beginnings. For example, the last day of Sukkot, representing the Last Great Day (or start of the world to come) is the eighth day of the Feast. YAHWEH reaffirmed His covenant to Abraham eight times. There were 8 souls saved in the flood, from which to begin a new world. And boys were circumcised on the eighth day of life showing their new beginning in spiritual life.

Exodus 22:29-30 “Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto Me. Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it Me.”

STATUTES #389-390:

(#389) YAHWEH’s people are set apart, holy sanctuaries for the indwelling Presence of YAH’s Spirit. At all times, we are to remember this. 

(#390) YAHWEH’s people are stewards and husbandmen, caretaking their bodies in recognition of the fact that YAHWEH is the Owner of our body temples. As caretakers of our body temples and holy people, we are never to eat flesh that was bitten, torn, or partly devoured by animals.

Exodus 22:31 “And ye shall be holy men unto Me: neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs.”

STATUTES #391-393:

(#391) YAHWEH’s people are never to eat the blood of any creature (See Leviticus 7:26-27). Blood is the life and vitality of any living thing. 

(#392) When we slaughter a clean animal for food, the animal’s blood is to be poured out upon the earth. 

(#393) Obedience to this Statute, is a vital part of being physically and spiritually well.

Some have thought that flesh needs to be completely white and bloodless in order to fulfill this statute requirement, but this is not likely correct, due to the way the Passover Lamb was prepared. If it were against Torah to have any pinkness left in the meat, the Torah commands for preparing the Passover lamb would be against the bloodless principle. 

Remember YAHWEH’s people are NEVER to eat the blood. So, eating the Passover lamb, was not an exception. From the Passover lamb preparations, we see that the throat was to be slit (when an animal was butchered), the blood drained, and then the meat was considered to be free of blood, as required by the statutes, even though it would still be pink flesh. 

According to Exodus 12:6-10, the Passover Lamb was roasted whole. They could not boil it (so there was no way to make the whole creature’s flesh turn fully white from having zero blood). The head, legs and insides were kept intact. This type of preparation clearly indicates that removing the blood by merely taking out whatever blood came out from the slit throat was sufficient to comply with this Statute.

Deuteronomy 12:23-25 “Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh. Thou shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water. Thou shalt not eat it; that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the LORD.”  (See also Leviticus 7:26-27)

STATUTES #394-397:

(#394) YAHWEH’s people are never to eat the fat from any creature. 

(#395) Clean animal’s fat may be used for other uses, however. 

(#396) We are also not to eat of an animal’s marrow (this meaning is included in the meaning of “fat.” 

(#397) In a figurative sense, this statute also applies to offerings given to YAHWEH. Certainly we no longer give YAHWEH animal sacrifices, but we do give Him offerings. 

The figurative meaning of not eating the fat from the offerings is not keeping the best for ourselves. We are to give what is best to YAHWEH. (Judgment) Whoever eats the fat or marrow of animals will be cut off from the Abrahamic Covenant and no longer an heir of the Promise.

Leviticus 7:23-25 “Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Ye shall eat no manner of fat, of ox, or of sheep, or of goat. And the fat of the beast that dieth of itself, and the fat of that which is torn with beasts, may be used in any other use: but ye shall in no wise eat of it. For whosoever eateth the fat of the beast, of which men offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD, even the soul that eateth it shall be cut off from His people.”  

STATUTES #398-405:

This statute set is written specifically about an ox, but it applies to any animal in our care. For example, if a dog bites or harms someone, the principles of this statute apply to the dog and its owner. 

(#398) YAHWEH’s people are responsible to not own vicious animals. If an ox (or other animal in our care) harms a person, the ox must be killed. 

(#399) Even if the killed animal is normally a clean animal (like an ox), and even if it is correctly butchered, if the animal is killed because it harmed a person, its flesh is not to be eaten. 

(#400) If the harm to the person is a one-time event and the owner of the animal had no warning that his creature could harm someone, the owner of the animal is free of guilt in Heaven’s Eyes, when the offending animal is justly slain. 

(#401) However, if YAHWEH’s people have an animal that has demonstrated aggressive tendencies in the past and we know this and do not take pains to prevent the animal from escaping and harming someone, then if our animal kills a person, it is counted by YAHWEH as if WE committed the murder ourselves. 

(#402) If an animal pushes someone’s child or employee (first time offense), but the person isn’t slain, the animal’s owner is to kill the animal and pay any and all medical bills and damages according to a just judgment. 

(#403) If we have an open pit on our land (which we should have taken pains to cover), and a neighbor’s animal falls into the pit and dies, we are to pay the owner for the value of the lost animal. The animal’s body then belongs to the landowner with the pit. 

(#404) If one person’s animal kills another person’s animal, the owner of the offending animal is to pay half the value of the slain animal. 

(#405) However, if one person’s animal kills another person’s animal, and the owner of the offending animal knew it had aggressive tendencies from the past, the offending animal’s owner is to pay 100% of the costs to purchase a new animal to the neighbor whose animal was killed.

Exodus 21:28-36 “If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit. But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.  If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him. Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him. If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his. And if one man's ox hurt another's, that he die; then they shall sell the live ox, and divide the money of it; and the dead [ox] also they shall divide. Or if it be known that the ox hath used to push in time past, and his owner hath not kept him in; he shall surely pay ox for ox; and the dead shall be his own. 

WEEK OF April 29-May 5, 2018

Torah Reading for the week: 

Statute Studies for the week: 

Daily Bible Reading - April 29, 2018

Today's Reading:

Acts 13:1-25

Joshua 17-19

Job 29

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

Today I will focus on the first part of Job 29. In this passage, Job laments the loss of God's blessings and "smile" upon his life. I can think of no position more miserable than this! To some degree, and not for the same reason as Job, I have been there - in that terrible place of shadows, having lost the sunshine of God's smile upon my life. It is a place I hope never to be again - at least never again because I have caused it. If I must go there again, may it be for testing and for the glory of God, as was the case with Job. In my case, I was in this miserable state because of sin.

What about you? Have you ever been in that dark place, bereft of peace and having lost the blessing of the Almighty upon your life?

I'd like to share with you an excerpt from chapter 10 in my new book Escaping from the Dragon's Jaws. May this serve as an encouragement to each of us, that we will not ever lose the blessing of God, by our own choice to leave our "first love".

Have you ever considered the value of God’s Smile on your life? Just what is it worth to you to know that the King of the Universe is looking upon you, viewing your choices, and is pleased with what He sees? Is it worth the cost of losing an ungodly friendship or a compromising job to keep your Heavenly Father’s Smile?

From my earliest childhood memories, nothing meant more to me than knowing that when God looked at me—a little speck of dust in His vast Creation—that He was blessed by my life, if even in a small way. Have you ever thought about it? People can actually bless GOD! David understood this beautiful concept when he wrote the one hundred and third Psalm (Psalm 103:1 and see 2 Chronicles 16:9).

“…Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy Name," Psalm 103:1

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him…” 2 Chronicles 16:9
God is loving and all powerful. It gives Him great joy to bless us. But I think it must give Him even greater delight, when He finds that we desire to also bless Him. And blessing Him had been my lifelong desire.

Now don’t misunderstand, or get me wrong here. I am not even remotely implying that I think I was perfect in the sense of being sinless! The Bible tells us that every man, woman and child has sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). I am no exception!

But the concept of having a perfect heart isn’t about being perfectly obedient and without sin. David was a man after God’s Own Heart (Acts 13:22), yet he had traumatic moments of weakness, demonstrated in his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and in his murder of her husband, Uriah.

Having a “perfect heart” and being a person after God’s Own Heart is really about having “eyes” only for Him. It’s kind of like it says in the lyrics of the old love song, I Only Have Eyes for You:

I don’t know if we’re in a garden,
Or on a crowded avenue.
You are here, so am I.
Maybe millions of people go by.
But they all disappear from view.
(For) I only have eyes for you.

When you love someone, it is only natural to want to do things which please them. You go out of your way to do those things. Bringing a smile to the face of your loved one is a tremendous delight. You rejoice at every opportunity to bless them! That is how it always was for me with God.

I can remember, as a child, lying on the bank of our nearby

river, where my collie and I would spend the late afternoons catching polliwogs, playing in the cool water, and chasing dragonflies. In those moments of rest and contemplation, I would look up into the sky and talk to God. He was real! He was my Father, my Friend, my Everything. And I eagerly looked forward to the Day, when I would see Him Face to face. Because I loved Him so much, I was conscious of what pleased Him. There are many things I didn’t know about how to please Him best, of course. But I kept learning and whatever I knew would bring a Smile to His Face, that is what I wanted to do!

Not that I knew it as a child, but I later discovered that living with “eyes” for God, so that it is our highest joy to bless Him, if even in some small way, always brings His greatest blessings upon us as well. Conversely, when we do not love Him and choose to rebel against His loving Will in our lives, we open ourselves up to curses (Deuteronomy 30:19-20).

Because my heart was turned Heavenward in love and adoration for my King, from the time I was a small child, God has blessed me. In every way that matters most, I was abundantly blessed! I have always had a family who loved me, a warm and cozy place to call home, plenty of good food, and have enjoyed the fulfillment of many of my deepest wishes and desires.

Over the years, many people have looked upon my life, viewed the tremendous blessings in it, and have somewhat enviously commented on my “charmed” existence. To such comments, I was always quick to reply that there was nothing mystical or magical about these favors, rather it was the blessing of my wonderful God, that these folks were observing.

God’s blessings flowed over me throughout my entire life-time, so endlessly present, that I could not imagine my life without them. And I never had to—until I lost my First Love for God, took my “eyes” off of Him (Revelation 2:4-5). Unconsciously I had given part of the place He had held in my heart to Adrianne. Then, for the first time in my life, I no longer walked in the sunshine of God’s Smile. I nearly lost my soul in the shadows of despair and curses.

In the Marriage Covenant, there is the rule of fidelity. If one or both spouses break this largely unspoken law by “stepping out” with another, the Covenant is broken. In the same way, when we rebel against the things God lovingly asks of us, which show what it looks like to live in love for Him, we have “stepped out” on God (John 14:151 John 5:2-3).

Like me, the Children of Israel had left their First Love. They had turned away from “only having eyes” for the One, true God, to “having eyes” for idols—ultimately Satan. In so doing, they departed from their sacred Covenant relationship with God and had the spiritual equivalent of an adulterous affair.

How did this happen? Long ago, the Children of Israel were camped at the base of Mount Sinai. They had been brought to that Mountain for a Divine Appointment. They were privileged to meet God! But they didn’t love God like Moses did. For him the Day with God was wonderful! For them, the Presence of the Almighty, on that trembling Mountain, was terrifying. God wasn’t even finished speaking His loving Rules before they rushed to Moses and begged him to make it stop!

“Please, Moses, You go talk to God! We’ll listen to His Law when you give it to us. But we are too terrified to continue to listen to Him directly.”

So began a saga of solo journeys in which Moses alone went into the Mountain peaks to meet with the Almighty. On one of those dates with God, Moses was gone for quite some time. Days passed and the people became more and more restless.
Finally, their agitation reached the boiling point; and the people actually constructed a golden calf and began worshiping it, all in the Name of Yahweh (the Name of the Almighty in Hebrew)!

Having just received the two Tables of Stone, bearing the Ten Commandments, Moses came down from the Mountain and was horrified to find the people debasing themselves in idolatry! They had taken their “eyes” off the Most High and were no longer delighting to lovingly please Him.

The results of this terrible choice were a series of devastating curses, which fell upon the Children of Israel. But in my opinion, the absolute worst of these was the loss of God’s abiding Presence in their midst. Like a faithful husband who has been betrayed, God moved out! The Sanctuary Temple, where dwelt God’s Shekinah Glory (the bright, fiery Light which rested upon the Ark of the Covenant in the
Most Holy Place of the Sanctuary) was taken from its customary location in the middle of the Camp, to a new site several miles away. God wanted them to know that He was no longer in their midst. This was the most terrible price they had to pay for allowing their hearts to stray from their First Love!

So today, as you worship God and strive to serve Him faithfully, may it be that you keep Him as your first love. May He hold first place in your heart. May it be that each of us will not only enjoy His blessings upon us, but may we also be empowered by Him to bless God this day. As we live in this way, we will walk in the sunshine of His Smile. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Daily Bible Reading - April 28, 2018

Today's Reading:

Acts 12

Joshua 15-16

Job 28

Listen to the Bible







Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

Today I would like to focus on our reading from Acts 12. The story of Peter's miraculous deliverance from prison is one of my all-time favorite Bible stories! Having martyred the apostle James, Herod planned to kill Peter also. But God had other plans. An angel of Yahweh was sent to deliver Peter from prison, right under the guards' noses! This story is a wonderful demonstration of the power of God. It also shows the reality that the people of God are untouchable, unless Yahweh allows it for some good purpose (Romans 8:28). 

Brother Yun from the book The Heavenly Man
We all know the story of Peter. But I'd like to encourage you today with a more recent story - one which bears some striking similarities to Peter's, as you will see... (this portion of the blog is quoted from:

Brother Yun was born in February 1958 in the province of Henan. His original name was Liu Zhenying (刘振营).

Brother Yun became a believer at the age of 16. Soon after he became a Christian, God called him to be His witness in the west and south. As he was obedient to the calling, he eventually became a witness of Christ not just in the western and southern parts of China, but throughout China and in the nations beyond China as well.

Brother Yun was born into a poor family. His family’s financial situation took a turn for the worst when his father became ill with an asthmatic condition that led to lung cancer eventually. His life got worse when he became a Christian as he suffered severe trials and persecutions. In the midst of suffering for the Lord, however, he experienced miracle after miracle, which helped to strengthen his faith.

In 1974, Brother Yun’s father became ill with lung cancer. His  mother, who had been a Christian for many years but had become spiritually cold after the expulsion of Western missionaries during the Cultural Revolution, felt a deep sense of desperation because if her husband had died then, it would leave the family in dire straits. She thought of committing suicide. One evening, as she was lying in bed, she heard a voice saying to her that Jesus loved her. In tears and in repentance, she rededicated her life to God and gathered her family to pray for her husband. The next morning, her husband got better and as a result, everyone in the family, including Brother Yun, put their faith in God.

Brother Yun was 16 when he became a Christian. Soon after, he started hungering for the Word of God. However, his family did not have a Bible. He began asking his mother who Jesus was. In response, his mother would tell him that Jesus was the Son of God and that He had recorded all His teachings in the Bible.

Brother Yun wanted a Bible and his mother recalled that there was a man in another village who had one. So she brought him to see the man. The man was too afraid to show Brother Yun his Bible. So he suggested to the latter that he could pray and ask God for one.

Brother Yun decided to fast and pray for a Bible. For the next 100 days, he ate only one bowl of steamed rice everyday. One day at 4am, after fasting for 100 days, he saw a vision. In the vision, he was walking up a steep hill and trying to push a heavy cart at the same time. He was heading towards a village where he intended to beg for food for his family. He struggled greatly as he continued his climb uphill. The cart was about to roll back and fall on him when he saw three men walking down the hill in the opposite direction. One of them was a kind old man and he was pulling a large cart of fresh bread. When the old man saw Brother Yun, he asked him if he was hungry. He said ‘yes’ and started crying. The old man then took a red bag of bread from his cart and asked his two servants to give it to Brother Yun. As he put the bread into his mouth, it immediately turned into a Bible.

Upon waking up, Brother Yun began to search for the Bible. His search, however, was in vain. All of a sudden, he heard a faint knock on the door and someone was calling out his name. Immediately, he recognized the voice – it was the same voice he had heard in the vision. He quickly opened the door and standing before him were the two servants he had seen in the vision. One of them held a red bag in his hand. In this red bag was a Bible.

It was later that Brother Yun found out the names of the two men. One was Brother Wang while the other was Brother Sung. They were sent by an evangelist to give Brother Yun the Bible. The evangelist, who had suffered terribly during the Cultural Revolution and had nearly died while being tortured, had received a vision from God. In the vision, God showed him Brother Yun’s house and the location of his village. He was asked to give his Bible to Brother Yun. However, he did not obey God until three months later.

Brother Yun began to devour the Word of God. Even though he could hardly read, this did not deter him at all. When he had finished reading the entire Bible, he started to memorise one chapter per day. In 28 days, he had memorised the Gospel of Matthew. Then he went on to memorise the Book of Acts and so forth.

One morning at 4am, Brother Yun had a dream. In the dream, God asked him to be His witness in the west and south. In the same dream, he saw a young man from the south coming to his house. And so at daybreak, he told his mother to expect the young man’s visit and to ask him to wait  for him. Then he sat off to a village he had never heard of in the west. The people in this village had been praying for him to visit as they had heard about how he had prayed for a Bible and got it.

When the meeting at the village concluded and Brother Yun got ready to leave, the villagers refused to let him go. So he stayed on and recited to them the first twelve chapters from the Book of Acts. After that, the villagers finally let him go. From the village to his house, it could take up to 2 hours to walk. Because he did not want to make the young man from the south wait too long, he decided to run home. All of a sudden, he found himself entering his village without any apparent time lapse. What should have taken him a few hours took him just a few moments. It was as if God had supernaturally transported him back to his village.

Brother Yun was arrested by security police numerous times and was thrown into prison three times for sharing the gospel in communist China.

When Brother Yun was arrested the first time, he was only 17 years old. At that time, he was ministering at a meeting far away from home. After he was caught, he was thrown into a freezing cold prison cell. There was no heat in the cell and his winter coat had been thrown into the snow by the security police who had caught him. He began to sing Psalm 150 aloud. The more he sang, the more he was filled with joy. Gradually, his frozen hands and feet regained feeling and he no longer felt cold.

During his first imprisonment in Nanyang, Brother Yun felt that God wanted him to fast without food and water until he could see his family again. This fast lasted 74 days, which was humanly impossible but yet was made possible because he chose to obey God.

During those times when Brother Yun was in the hands of government officials, he was repeatedly beaten and tortured with electric batons. He was also kicked and trampled upon. Furthermore, he had needles being jabbed underneath his fingernails.

Read the story of Brother Yun for Yourself
Once, Brother Yun was paraded through the streets with a red cross tied behind him for half a day. When night fell, he was locked and left alone inside a large interrogation room. The wooden cross was taken off his back but his hands were still tied up. All of a sudden, the rope that was used to tie his hands snapped by itself. He immediately walked out of the interrogation room and walked through the courtyard in the midst of onlookers. Nobody stopped him or said anything to him. It was as if God had blinded their eyes and they did not even recognize who he was.

Because the front gate was locked, the only way Brother Yun could get out was to climb over an eight-foot high cement wall. He climbed up as much as he could manage. Then he looked over the wall and saw that there was a ten-foot wide open tank directly below. Suddenly, he felt as if someone had lifted him up and thrown him over. He was thrown so far that  he did not land in the tank.

The Henan Province of China, where brother Yun was from
Brother Yun’s 3rd imprisonment was a very dark period in his life as the prison guards in the maximum security prison were determined to prevent his escape. So they beat his legs to cripple him permanently. They had him beaten up everyday, even in his crippled state. One day, God instructed him to escape from the prison. This was confirmed by a brother-in-Christ. Thus, on May 5, 1997, he miraculously stood upon his formerly broken legs and walked past dozens of prison guards. He walked out of the maximum security prison in broad daylight. It was as if he had become invisible to the guards. He did not notice that his legs had been miraculously healed until later.

Throughout all the horrendous and painful experiences that Brother Yun went through, the word of the Lord kept coming to him, encouraging him and strengthening his faith.

What a wonderful God we serve. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Peter's miraculous God is still the same God Who watches over His people even today.