God’s Appointed Times – Part 3

 Yom Kippur 2014 – The Day of Atonement

In 2014, Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement begins at sundown on October 3rd.  The Tanakh says that the blood of the sacrifice is given to make atonement.   The Hebrew words translated as “atonement” in English are kippur (noun) and kapar (verb).   The root occurs about 150 times in the Tanakh, and is intimately linked with forgiveness of sin and with reconciliation to God.  What does “atonement” mean?

Atonement means making amends, blotting out the offense, and giving satisfaction for wrong done; thus reconciling to oneself the alienated other and restoring the disrupted relationship.

Vayikra (Leviticus) 16 gives detailed instructions for a special sacrifice to be offered once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month – Tishri. On that day the whole community of Israel was to gather at the Tabernacle (and later, the Temple) to fast and to pray.  The high priest followed carefully prescribed steps and entered the Especially Holy Place (Holy of Holies), bringing the blood of the sacrificed animal.  There he sprinkled the blood on the mercy seat.  This animal was a sin offering for the people (16:15).  That sacrifice was an “atonement … to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites”.  Following that sacrifice, Israel was told, “You will be clean before Adonai from all your sins” (v. 30).

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God’s Grace – Part 2

“Perhaps there is no word in the Bible more precious than Grace.”
~ Rick Countryman, Senior Pastor, Big Valley Community Church
Modesto, Ca.

What Is God’s Grace (cont.)

In my last post in this series, we began a new series on the topic of God’s grace. We left off studying the word grace in both the Tanakh and the Brit Hadashah by looking at the Hebrew and Greek words used for grace in the Scriptures.  In this post, I want to finish looking at what God’s grace is from a definitional standpoint.

God’s Power Freely Given: Joyce Meyer’s defines grace as:  “God’s power to help us do whatever it is we need to do.”[1]  If you’ve been in the world very long, you’ve learned that there are very few days that go exactly the way we’d like them to go.  Thankfully, God is never going to put us in a situation without giving us the ability to be in it with joy.

You can have that dose of God’s power today, but you have to receive it, and the only way to receive it is by faith. The Bible says that “God has measured out a portion of faith to each one of you.”  (Romans 12:3b CEB)

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God’s Appointed Times ~ Part 2

Rosh Hashanah – Be Ministers of Reconciliation

Rosh Hashanah:  The Key Is Repentance, Forgiveness And Reconciliation
Biblical References:  B’midbar (Numbers) 29:1 – 6 & Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:23 – 25 – Yom Teruah (The Feast of Trumpets) In 2014, the holiday begins at sundown on September 24th.

Rabbinic Change:  Since this is the first Shabbat of the Fall Holidays, it has been considered as the “spiritual” New Year.  Hence the name changed to Rosh Hashanah, “the head of the year.”  It is also considered the anniversary of creation; the sacrifice of Yitz’chak; the release of Yosef from Pharaoh’s prison; and, the birth of Samuel, the prophet.

The purpose and traditional observance of the Holy Day is summed up in one word – regathering. Since the fall holidays call us to regather to a pure faith in God, Rosh Hashanah has come to represent the day of repentance.  It is the day when people of Israel take stock of their spiritual condition and make the necessary changes to insure that the upcoming New Year will be pleasing to God. The shofar is sounded daily to alert the faithful that the time of repentance is near.  The observance takes on a somber character, yet always with a hint of hope because of God’s forgiveness. The traditional challah is shaped in a circle to symbolize God’s kingship and the coming of Messiah.  Sweet honey cakes and apples dipped in honey are a real treat and symbolize the hope of a new sweet year. Tradition tells of three books that are opened in the heavenly courts during the feast of Rosh Hashanah; one for the completely righteous, one for the completely wicked, and one for the average person.  The completely righteous are immediately inscribed in the book of life.  The completely wicked are immediately inscribed in the book of death.  The average person is kept in suspension from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).  If they deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of life; if they do not deserve well, they are inscribed in the book of death.  Consequently, the Ten Days of Awe are a time of solemn self-examination with time spent in seeking reconciliation and doing good works in the Jewish tradition.
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God’s Grace ~ Part 1

“Perhaps there is no word in the Bible more precious than Grace.”
~ Rick Countryman, Senior Pastor, Big Valley Community Church
Modesto, Ca.

Introduction to Series

We are starting a new series with this post on the topic of God’s grace. [As I indicated in my last post, I will be interrupting this series  over the next few weeks with postings on God's Appointed Times.]  The grace of God is one of the most important subjects in all of Scripture.  At the same time it is probably one of the least understood.  What is God’s grace?  How do we appropriate God’s grace?  How do we deal with perfectionism?  Is grace really amazing?  Is grace sufficient to meet all my needs?  Does grace really mean that we are forgiven?  We’ll look at each of these questions and more in the weeks to come.

By definition, all Believers believe in God’s grace. Many of us frequently quote Sha’ul’s well-known words in Ephesians 2:8-9 (HCSB): “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift – not from works, so that no one can boast.” John Newton’s beloved hymn “Amazing Grace” is said to be the all-time favorite hymn in the United States.

The Bible teaches we are not only saved by grace, but we also live by grace every day of our lives. However, most of us tend to base our personal relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace.  In this sense, we live by works rather than by grace.  We are saved by grace, but we are living by the “sweat” of our own performance.  We give lip service to what Sha’ul said, “But by God’s grace I am what I am….” (1 Corinthians 15:10); but our unspoken motto is, “God helps those who help themselves.”  (You do know that statement or even concept is not in the Bible, correct?)

The realization that our daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Yeshua instead of on our own performance is a very freeing and joyous experience. That is what this series is all about.
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God’s Appointed Times – Part 1

As I mentioned earlier, observant Jews and Messianic Believers will be celebrating the Fall Feasts of the Bible beginning next week. It is my intent in this series to provide the scriptural and traditional background on each of the appointed times that God has asked us to remember and to point out how each of them points to the Messiah Yeshua.  I will be posting a separate description of each as they occur throughout the year.

Date in 5775 Hebrew Calendar(2014-2015) Name Brief Description
September 25th* Rosh HaShanah (Yom Teruah) The Jewish New Year, observed for two days in Israel as well as the Diaspora, marks the commencement of the Ten Days of Penitence which reach their climax on Yom Kippur. An important observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar (ram’s horn).
Rosh Hashanah is also known as ‘Yom Hadin,’ the day of judgment, since, according to tradition, on Rosh Hashanah, mankind is judged by God for its actions during the past year.
October 4th* Yom Kippur The Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Marked by fasting and prayer, it is the day to ask forgiveness from man and from God and to offer restitution for any wrongdoing. According to tradition, one’s fate for the coming year is sealed on this day.
October 9th* Sukkot The Festival of Tabernacles or Booths (Hebrew ‘sukkot’). One of the three pilgrim festivals (the others being Pesach and Shavu’ot) when, in ancient times, Jews made pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem. It derives its name from the ‘sukkah’ or booth, a temporary structure in which time is spent during the holiday to commemorate God’s protection of the Children of Israel during their 40 years in the wilderness.
December 17th Hanukkah** The ‘Festival of Dedication’ also called ‘The Festival of Lights’ commemorates the victory of the Maccabees over the Syrians in 165 B.C.E and the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem which had been defiled by them. Each night of the festival an additional candle is lit until on the last night, eight candles are burning. According to tradition, when the Temple was re-captured, only one small vessel of consecrated oil — enough for just one day — was found. Miraculously, it sufficed for eight days until new oil could be prepared and the festival was established for this length of time to commemorate the miracle.
March 5th Purim** Commemorates the deliverance of Persian Jewry from their intended destruction by Haman, the chief minister of King Ahasuerus (circa Fifth Century B.C.E.). The holiday is marked by the reading of the Megillah (The Biblical Book of Esther) which recounts the details of how Queen Esther and Mordecai managed to thwart Haman’s plot.
Because of its uniquely joyful nature, Purim is the occasion for parties and other festivities. It is customary to send food gifts (‘mishloach manot’) to friends and to distribute charity to the poor. A special festive meal (‘purim seudah’) is held on Purim afternoon.
April 4th* Pesach Eight-day observance (seven in Israel) commemorating the Exodus from Egypt and the liberation of the Israelites from slavery. The first two and last two days (in Israel, the first and seventh days) are full holidays. The intermediate days, ‘Hol Hamoed,’ are half holidays. Matzah, unleavened bread, is eaten during the entire holiday period.
May 24th* Shavu’ot One of the three pilgrim festivals (the others being Passover and Succot) which were marked by pilgrimages to Jerusalem to participate in the special Temple celebrations. It is known as ‘The Feast of Weeks’ because it falls seven weeks after Passover. It is also called ‘The Festival of First Fruits.’ Shavuot is a two-day observance (one in Israel). In Jewish tradition it commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai which took place on this date.

For dates indicated with a ‘*’ the holiday actually begins at sundown on the previous evening.

Technically, Hanukkah and Purim are not included in God’s appointed times, but each is a part of our Jewish heritage and both have implications for the coming of Yeshua. In addition, to these times, we can also include the weekly Sabbath observance and the monthly Rosh Chedosh (New Moon) observance as times of remembrance.

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Discovering Your Ministry Within The Kehilah: Living A Spirit-Filled Life ~ Part 8-G

Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts

In my last post (prior to You Have Potential), I gave you a PDF copy of C. Peter Wagner’s definitions of all 28 Spiritual Gifts and the “Wagner-Modified Houts Questionnaire” to help you discover what your gift-mix might be.  Most of the gifts are pretty self-explanatory.  I hope that you have completed the questionnaire.  Again, if you have any questions at all, please contact me.

In today’s last post of the seriesDiscovering Your Ministry Within The Kehilah:  Living A Spirit-Filled Life,” I’m taking an in-depth look at the spiritual gift of tongues.  This is perhaps the most controversial gift in our culture and I want to look at it more closely.  Fair warning:  This post is twice the usual length of my previous posts, so I will refrain from posting another installment for a few additional days.

The Basics of the Controversy

I’m attempting to provide a balanced approach to this issue and have relied on C. Peter Wagner’s book “Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow” and Charles C. Ryrie’s book “The Holy Spirit.”  C. Peter Wagner is a Christian theologian, missiologist, missionary, writer, teacher, and church growth specialist.  He served for 30 years as Professor of Church Growth at the Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of World Missions[1] until his retirement in 2001.  Charles C. Ryrie is a Christian writer and theologian who served as Professor of Systematic Theology and Dean of Doctoral studies at Dallas Theological Seminary[2] and is the editor of “The Ryrie Study Bible.”

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You Have Potential

I originally planned to not post this weekend to give you more time to complete the “Wagner-Modified Houts Questionnaire” before wrapping up this series.  However, in my morning devotion time this past Friday, I read the following from Joyce Meyer’s “Promises for Your Everyday Life – A Daily Devotional.”  Since it is so germane to this series on Discovering Your Ministry, I thought I should share it.

“It’s amazing how many gifted people there are who just sit on the sidelines of life and do nothing. They never take a step forward to use the gifts God has given them because they don’t believe they’re gifted in the first place. Are you one of them?

The truth is, God has given each one of us gifts, talents and abilities. He has a great plan for you and has equipped you to do great things for His Kingdom. But until you see yourself the way He sees you and trust Him to enable you to use your gifts, you won’t live up to your God-given potential.

If you’re struggling with low self-esteem, a poor self-image and lacking confidence, I want you to know that God created you with amazing potential. And when you trust God and believe you can do whatever He says you can do, you will fulfill His destiny for your life.

Remember, “All things are possible with God” (see Mark 10:27). When you put your confidence in Him, you will be free to live up to your potential.

Prayer Starter: God, help me to see myself through Your eyes, with the gifts and talents You’ve given me. I believe that You made me with great potential because You are a great God. Today, I put my confidence in You and believe that all things are possible with You!”

The Lord willing, we will wrap up this series in my next post focusing on the gift of tongues.

Discovering Your Ministry Within The Kehilah: Living A Spirit-Filled Life ~ Part 8-F


Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts

We have been in this series on Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts over the last few weeks.  In my last post, I gave you five steps necessary to discover your spiritual gift(s).  And, as promised in this post I am giving you a PDF copy of Wagner’s definitions of all 28 Spiritual Gifts and the “Wagner-Modified Houts Questionnaire” to help you with Steps 1 & 2. (Scroll down for link to PDF version.)  Are you ready to actually discover what spiritual gifts God may have given you for your life and ministry?

Before You Start

You should know by now that God has given you one or more spiritual gifts and discovering that gift or gifts will be a thrilling experience.  You will be asked to rate the 125 statements found in the questionnaire.  Thousands of Believers have been blessed by completing the questionnaire over the years.  Again, I want to caution you.  This is only one tool in your tool box.  Go back and review Part 7 in this series and see how the results of your questionnaire fit into your S.H.A.P.E.  Look again at the Five Steps Necessary to Discover Your Spiritual Gift(s) in the previous post.

You will note that the gifts of martyrdom, apostle and leading worship are not included in the 125 statements.  At the time that this questionnaire was created, Wagner had not formulated his thoughts on the gifts of apostleship and worship leader nor could he find a valid way to test for the gift of martyrdom.  Let’s be honest, until we are placed in that imminent threat of becoming a martyr, none of us would truly know how we would react.  Although I am certain that I would die for my faith and my loved ones, I’m not sure that I would do it displaying a joyous and victorious attitude.  But, who knows?

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Discovering Your Ministry Within The Kehilah: Living A Spirit-Filled Life ~ Part 8-E

Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts[1]

In my last post, I attempted to clear away any confusion that you might have about this subject of spiritual gifts.  Recall that in Post 5, we looked at “How We Are or Can Be Filled With the Ruach.”  In that post I said it was not a “how-to-be-filled-with-the-Spirit-in-five-easy-step-by-step-lessons.”  I would also refer you back to Part 7 when we discovered our S.H.A.P.E.   In this post, I do want to give you five steps necessary to discover your spiritual gift(s).

Before getting into those five steps, let me reiterate four fundamental prerequisites:

  • You Must Be A Believer in Yeshua. Spiritual gifts are only given to members of the Kehilah for use in the ministry of the Kehilah. 
  • You Have to Believe in Spiritual Gifts. You should have a sense of gratitude that you were made uniquely for God’s own purpose and a sense of joyful anticipation in finding out what gift(s) He has provided to you.
  • You Must Be Willing to Work. He has a ministry assignment that He wants you to accomplish in the Kehilah. He knows whether you are serious about fulfilling His expectations.
  • You Have to Pray. Pray to the Father sincerely and earnestly for His guidance all the way through the five steps.

Leave out any one of these prerequisites and your will have a very difficult time discovering your gift(s).

Five Steps Necessary to Discover Your Spiritual Gift(s)

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Discovering Your Ministry Within The Kehilah: Living A Spirit-Filled Life ~ Part 8-D

Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts[1]

In my last post, we looked at what God wants you to be by addressing seven questions to help us lay a foundation for discovering our spiritual gifts.  In this post, I will attempt to clear away any confusion that you might have about this subject of spiritual gifts.

Don’t Confuse Spiritual Gifts with Natural Talents

All of us, Believers and non-Believers, have been made in the image of God and therefore possess certain natural talents.  Some of us excel at art, medicine, literature, athletics, gourmet cooking, telling jokes, fixing mechanical devices, etc.  Spiritual gifts, however, are reserved exclusively for Believers.  No non-believer has one and every true Believer in Yeshua does.  While God frequently transforms a natural talent into a spiritual gift, at the same time many spiritual gifts have nothing to do with a person’s natural talent.  For example, from a very early age, I knew that I had a ‘talent’ for geographical navigation (at least on land).  Take me some place once or give me a map to that place and I will always know where I am and how to get back to where I started from.  I know of no spiritual gift that comes close to giving me a supernatural ability at navigation.

Don’t Confuse Spiritual Gifts with the Fruit of the Rauch

The fruit of the Spirit[2] is listed in Galatians. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control.  Against such things there is no law.”  (Galatians 5:22-23 HCSB)  The fruit of the Ruach is the normal, expected outcome of a Believer’s growth, maturity, holiness, and fullness of the Ruach.  The fruit of the Ruach are not discovered as are the gifts, they are developed through the Believer’s walk with God and through yielding to the Ruach.  Although Spiritual gifts help define what a Believer does, the fruit of the Ruach help define what a Believer is.  The fruit is the indispensable foundation for the effective exercise of the gifts.  The gifts without the fruit are like an automobile tire without air – the ingredients may all be together, but they are worthless and they will not do what they are intended to do.  Gifts are task oriented, while the fruit is God-oriented.

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