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Suppressing God's Truth! (Standing Watch) (10 min. video)

The Flash of Faith, the Thunder of Works (Sabbath Meditations)

We have a ritual in our house during the height of the storm season. It begins with a bolt of lightning. Upon seeing a flash through the window, the countdown begins. “One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand.” Sound can travel approximately one mile in five seconds, so if the rumble of the thunder that inevitably follows that flash occurs before our count gets to five thousand, we know we have about five minutes to accomplish the final phase of our ritual; what I like to call ‘the great unplugging’. We rush around the house disconnecting the power to everything from computers to cable television that might potentially be fried by a direct lightning strike to our house.
In Ephesians 2:8-10 we read, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
With all of the angst in the Christian world about the relationship between faith and works, I think we’d all do good to learn a lesson from nature.
The relationship of that flash of light to the thunder that follows is reliable and predictable. No one questions which comes first, or whether one can exist without the other. The lightning always comes first, and the thunder inevitably follows.
Paul very clearly teaches that, when it comes to salvation, it’s the lightning flash of faith that saves us. Even in our best state we are altogether nothing. There is nothing that you and I can do, no degree of obedience, that can make us worthy of salvation. Our own attempts to be righteous are as filthy rags. It’s God who gets the glory for our salvation, not us.
Continuing in verse 10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Do you hear the thunder?
While it’s true that good works cannot produce salvation, they cannot be separated from the faith that does. Obedience is the fruit of a life that has been saved by Faith. They are products of a changed heart and mind. Obedience doesn’t save us, but it does reflect the fact that we have been saved. In contrast, if our hearts aren’t set toward obeying Him, this is evidence that we never really accepted Him by Faith in the first place. There can be no thunder without the flash of lightning.
So how does that truth affect our Christian walk?
We all are familiar with the story of Mary and Martha. Martha was busy working and preparing in the kitchen while Mary, at least it seemed to Martha, was being lazy, just sitting at the Master’s feet.
When Martha basically asked Jesus to tell Mary to get off her butt and start working, Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
Jesus wasn’t condoning laziness. Far from it. He was simply providing us a lesson in spiritual focus. Martha thought her worthiness came from working and serving. If she did enough work, then her Master would accept her.
Mary though, rather than striving to prove her worthiness to God, focused instead on developing her relationship with Him.
She understood that the key to her spiritual growth lay in seeking to put more of Him into her heart and mind. The more she trusted in Him, looked to Him, came to Him in Faith, the greater His power would be in her to resist sin and overcome this world.
To put it simply. Mary understood that the thunder of works follows the lightning of faith.
While Philippians 2 clearly commands you and me to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” in order to do that we must understand how that work gets accomplished. Paul, in the very next verse, provides the answer.
“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”
It’s the lightning flash of faith, bringing us into relationship with Him, that allows His Spirit to produce within us the rolling thunder of obedience.
The take away?
The degree to which you and I overcome is directly equivalent to the degree that we are growing in relationship with Him. Inversely, if we are not growing, not overcoming, it’s an indicator, not of a need to simply ‘try harder’, but rather to ‘draw closer’. The closer we are to Him, the more time put into growing that relationship through prayer, meditation and drinking in of His Word, the more strength we draw to help in our times of need.  How awesome is it to know that it is not my feeble effort, but His power, His mercy, His strength that helps me to stand!
Thunder follows lightning as works follow Faith. It’s a physical law that mirrors a wonderful spiritual reality.

The Harvest of Pentecost (Children of God)

Pentecost pictures God’s Holy Spirit being bestowed on Christians. In the beginning, God’s Spirit was freely offered to Adam and Eve by way of the Tree of Life. When they failed to take full advantage of that opportunity for Life, God’s Spirit was sealed off from the great majority of mankind until Jesus Christ established the Church of God after He had completed His public ministry.
God’s Holy Spirit was poured out on the first-century brethren in abundance, beginning on that first Day of Pentecost after Jesus died. Every person who was observing the Feast Day with one accord received God’s Holy Spirit and became a child of God at that moment. Pentecost is a major part of the Plan of God and its story is intricately woven in the history of God’s relationship with mankind. In fact, Pentecost is the pivotal Day around which the other Feast Days revolve. We know that Pentecost pictures the Holy Spirit being bestowed on the called out saints. But the story begins way back in the Old Testament.
The Wave Sheaf offering of Leviticus 23:10 pictures Jesus Christ. The Wave Sheaf and Pentecost are connected by the counting of weeks. None of the other Feasts of God are counted or connected in this way. After seven complete weeks (seven weeks of seven days) from the Wave Sheaf day we arrive at Pentecost, the fiftieth day (Leviticus 23:15, Deuteronomy 19:9).
As God’s Church has grown in understanding, the details of Pentecost have become clearer to us as Jesus said they would. He said that the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, would teach us all things, and bring all things to our remembrance (John 14:26).  That is how we are able to understand that the two wave loaves of fine flour represent the firstfruits of the spiritual harvest (Leviticus 23:17). Those two loaves represented all those who would be in the first resurrection.
We are blessed to have been called now to be the firstfruits of God’s spiritual creation – being made unto His image, and eventually unto His spiritual eternal life. At this time we are only a work in progress – not yet complete – not yet like Him as He is (1John 3:2). This spiritual development in us is shown by Pentecost and the events surrounding Pentecost – up to the final Pentecost at Christ’s return when the very last trumpet will sound.
“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (1Corinthians 15:52)
Notice that ‘trumpet’ is singular in this instance – not trumpets (plural), as it is on the Day of Trumpets. The trumpet spoken of here is the very last trumpet to sound – and that occurs at the resurrection of the saints.
“The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Pentecost is the early spiritual harvest of saints spoken of in Exodus 23:16. There are two harvests mentioned in this verse. The early harvest is completed in late May or early June at the time of Pentecost.  The Church of God, including the prophets and the saints of the Old Testament, are a part of the firstfruits, and will be in this better resurrection (Hebrews 11:35).
“You shall observe the Feast of Weeks of the firstfruits of wheat harvest [Pentecost], and the Feast of Ingathering, [Tabernacles] which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labors out of the field.” (Exodus 23:16)
The second harvest is a much larger harvest and comes at summer’s end – the end of the year – corresponding to the Feast of Tabernacles which pictures the great spiritual harvest of the millennium and from the great white throne judgment period (Revelation 20:11).
The Wave Sheaf pictures the sacrifice of Jesus being accepted by God the Father as the First of the firstfruits of the harvest (John 20:17). Jesus’s sacrifice was accepted as the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1:18). The resurrection of the saints is inextricably tied to the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:5-6). When God the Father formally accepted Jesus Christ, it became possible for us too, to be accepted and become future sons and daughters of God – Children of God.
The Day of Pentecost at Christ’s return will constitute the completion of our spiritual Creation when we, the Children of God, become full-fledged members of the Spiritual, Eternal Family of God.

The Festival of Pentecost (Legacy Institute)

Pentecost is one of the three pilgrimage seasons when people would travel to Jerusalem to keep the feast if they could do so. The other two are Passover and Feast of Tabernacles. So the disciples gathered in Jerusalem—just like hundreds of thousands of others were gathered in Jerusalem. What were they doing? They were keeping the Feast of Pentecost as commanded by God in Leviticus 23.
Acts 2:1-4 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
This was not Pentecostal speaking in tongues, which are not understandable. This was speaking in other languages that people could understand. The English word “tongues” here just means “languages.” God poured out His Holy Spirit upon them, which appeared as flames of fire over their heads. What happened NEXT?
Acts 2:5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
These were Jews from many nations around the world gathered at Jerusalem keeping the Feast of Pentecost. They came from Parthia, Media, Elam, Mesopotamia, Judaea, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya. Cyrene, Rome, Crete and Arabia, among other places. They were converts to Judaism, for instance, from the remnant tribes of Israel living in the Parthian Empire across the Euphrates. Or they were part of the Jewish diaspora in many different parts of the world. Gentile proselytes (called “God-Fearers”) were also gathered to worship in Jerusalem on Pentecost.
Because he was inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter preached a sermon of repentance to all the gathered Jews and Proselytes who wanted to hear his message. Peter was speaking Aramaic, or possibly Greek, but the miracle of Pentecost was that everyone HEARD him in their own native language.
Acts 2:11-12 …we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
Notice that the Bible says that they were actual languages, not some sort of Pentecostal gibberish that could not be understood. And no one was falling over backward and writhing on the ground.
Acts 2:16-18 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-29); And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:
Peter preached a sermon of repentance, and over 3000 of the gathered Jews and Proselytes were baptized. This group of new believers formed the foundation of the New Covenant Church.
Who were the 12 disciples and the 3000 people who became the foundation of the New Covenant Church of God? They were Jews and Gentile Proselytes who were given the Holy Spirit. They then carried the Gospel back to their homes in many other areas of the world. The Apostles followed and built church congregations in all these places.
So we see that the Jews of the Old Covenant Church became the foundation of the New Covenant Church. All because the Holy Spirit was given by God on that first Pentecost of the New Covenant Church.

Religion at War (New Horizons)

Over two-thirds of the world openly admit to being ‘religious’. At heart, though, we all harbour some concept of a higher spiritual power, no matter how vaguely. Which faith we embrace is largely down to our parents—for few of us stray far from the tree. Once Christian always Christian, and so on for Hinduism, for Islam, for Judaism etc. The level of our involvement and commitment is a matter of individual choice. Change by individual believers usually means a drift away rather than radical change, but we still continue to be influenced by early teaching and experience. Every major religion has myriad divisions, but all look back to a particular source—the founder, the holy books, the traditions, the later gurus each with his or her own interpretation.
Thus Christians look to Jesus Christ as Founder, and to the Scriptures of the Old and new Testament as their source. Jews focus on Moses and on the Old Testament Scriptures with their traditional interpretations by rabbis down the centuries. Muslims to Mohammed and on the Koran, the Sira (a biography of Mohammed) and the various interpretations by the Imams (the Hadith).
It is such factors that influence the behaviour of whole religions, of nations, of individual believers. And not least on the attitude to conflict. Most world leaders like to stake a claim to being peaceable, to bear arms only in the defence of their sovereign territory. In this world that position is acceptable, for the Creator—God—has delegated rulership to human governments (Romans 13:1-7). Human government, like the family, is a divine institution. Inevitably the style of any secular government reflects the underlying national philosophy or religion. Or, in some cases, the beliefs of a powerful autocratic leadership.
Few, however, understand that they—those who comprise the Government—will be held accountable by the Creator for its conduct. Misrule, and the nation fails, their authority diminished or removed. The approach of the Anglo-Saxon nations, for example, tends to be undergirded by the faith of the Christian Bible—Christianity, Judaism by the Old Testament (the Tanakh), Islamic nations by the Koran. The approach of each to conflict is a reflection of their religious source.
Thus Christian leaders, until recent decades, are inclined to restraint—as large sections of the populace are anti-war and still influenced by the Bible. The Israeli philosophy is ‘an eye for an eye’
even-handed justice. While Islam, reflecting the path pursued by Mohammed, tends to pursue a path of conquest. Christianity, of course, has much blood on its hands. The Middle Ages was awash with the blood of Muslims and the blood of millions of Christians who opposed the established church. Civil wars have pitted Protestants and Catholics against one another.
Recent years have seen ‘Christian’ nations invade Muslim nations. Islam is deeply divided against itself, with different sects bent on annihilating one another in several Islamic nations across the globe. The recently-formed and fanatical so-called Islamic State has its own gruesome specialty killing methods and a focus on the destruction of opposing Islamic sects, and on Jews and Christians. And too many Muslims living in democratic nations seek to undermine the stability of their hosts.
You might think that ‘religion’ is a path to peace and harmony, that it unites rather than divides. Indeed that is the kind of ‘religion’ as it came from the mind of the Creator. Man is a spiritual being and the human spirit has a built-in religious impulse—the desire to express our yearning to be at one with the Creator. But by abandoning the ‘laws of the spirit’ that impulse is distorted, divided, diseased leading to indulgence in all kinds of isms.
Since records began, however, religion has been a source of conflict—only being ‘united’ by coercion. Into the wretchedness and debauchery of ancient Rome God sent His son with the mission to restore the true faith. Jesus commissioned his church to sow the seeds of that true faith.
The ‘weapons’ used by the infant church, however, were never violent: ‘…we do not wage war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but powerful to God for the tearing down of fortresses, tearing down arguments’ (II Corinthians 10:3,4). It is what the Creator intended in the beginning!
Any attempt to use physical force or coercion to advance the faith—any faith—does not come from the one and only God, but from the ‘god of this world’, the Adversary. Mediaeval Christianity, sadly, abandoned its roots in the teaching of Jesus, murdering those who opposed its heretical teachings. Islam is now reverting to the path of conquest by the sword, pursued by its founder and followed until just a century ago (the Ottomans).
Bible prophecy foresees a future when a worldwide tyrant will impose a universal faith by force of arms, by violence opposing all who refuse to serve him, and killing millions of believers of all faiths. We live in perilous times!

Nehemiah, Chapter 3 (Morning Companion)

A boring section of Scripture - but it's there for a reason. It contains name after name of those who built the walls of the city of Jerusalem, describing each one's section of the wall and what they did.
Reading this passage might at first seem like a treatment for insomnia, but read it closely, and it is clear that in writing it, Nehemiah had a purpose. Evidently, he wanted to record for posterity the names of those who sacrificed for the good of the city. Saying thank you is always in order, and especially so when an important undertaking is accomplished. And make no mistake. Building the walls of a city was incredibly important. In those days the walls provided protection from attack, and the strength of those walls could be the difference between life and death, freedom and slavery.
Ezekiel, in the 22nd chapter of his book, laments that in his day God was looking for a man to build a wall and stand in the gap before him on behalf of the land, but he could find no one (v.30). The nation needed a Nehemiah, someone who knew how to build a wall. But just as important, the nation needed an army of Eliashibs and Zaccurs and Hananels. They needed some Meremoths and Zadoks and Jehoiadas. The needed some Meshullams and Melatiahs. It's no different today. Each of us has our own small place on the wall where we can each make difference.
No work is too small, no effort too meager for God to use. When the young lad brought five loaves and two fish to Jesus, the offering was sufficient to be a blessing for the multitude.
So if you ever get discouraged by how little you have to offer, remember Nehemiah 3. Your part of the wall is just as important as any other, and God will honor the work you do to build it.

Take Your Time Returning to the Leavening (First Century Christianity)

Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

(1 Corinthians 5:7-8)
Most often, people who believe like this use this verse to show others that our festival observance is absolutely part of the New Covenant. There really can’t be any doubt of this, since Paul made such a casual reference to observing the festival to the church at Corinth. I want to point out something a little different with this verse. Let’s focus on being a new lump.
Observing the Festival of Unleavened bread shows us a cycle of renewal. In days of old, people did not have access to yeast and refrigerators as we do today. They made their bread from starter lumps of dough. This is dough that was allowed to become leavened naturally,  by sitting in a window sill. When they wanted to make a new batch of bread, they had to take a pinch off of the starter lump and knead it into the fresh dough to cause the fresh dough to rise. When the Hebrews threw out all their leavening, it took a while to get a starter lump going again. This is what Paul is referencing here metaphorically. The Corinthians had become a new lump when they accepted Messiah, and then began to observe the commandments, just like they had to start a new lump of dough after observing the Festival of Unleavened Bread.
In our day, we simply go to the store to return to consuming leavening. Most of us will do this after the sun goes down at the end of the Sabbath, or perhaps on Sunday. We will have fulfilled the literal observance of Unleavened Bread, and this is a wonderful thing. But I want to focus on the spiritual application.

Let us go forward this year and not be in a rush to become leavened again. We have spent the time to purge our houses of the leavening and had set-apart assemblies, but we also spent quality time during this period unleavening our souls. We have heard sermons about how our Messiah paid the ultimate sacrifice to allow us to be adopted into His family. Let’s make sure that we remember this sacrifice daily and weekly as we go back into the world and fulfill our mission to be let the light of Messiah shine in us.

Free Speech - for Good or Evil? (OzWitness)

The Australian Prime Minister, in a speech on National Security, warned that the counter terrorism challenge evident in Australia and across Europe and in the USA is a terrible fact of life which faces all our governments. Essentially, he said that in the need to counter violent extremism we had, in the past, given terrorists the benefit of the doubt, let them take advantage of our hospitality and generosity, let bad people use our good nature against us, and they have taken us for mugs. He continued, that organisations that spread discord and division and those that vilify, intimidate or incite hatred or violence against innocents, will no longer be tolerated.
It is good to hear such a stand against evil, but therein lies a problem. Today we have lost sight of the difference between good and evil’.
Isaiah 5:20, ‘How terrible it will be for those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute what is bitter for what is sweet and what is sweet for what is bitter!”
Consequently, there is a danger that those who speak out the truth about evil, could find themselves accused of vilifying or inciting hatred, unless the laws are framed to protect those whose plain speaking actually seeks only peace, and the removal of those who seek to take advantage of our freedoms to attack our way of life.
It is an undeniable fact, for example, that Islam is a big source of trouble worldwide. It is found behind almost all terrorism. Muslims apparently cannot live peacefully side by side with others of differing religions without strife, unlike any of the other religions. Islam leads to oppression or strife wherever it is found, which is why Muslims flee to non-Muslim lands. Almost all terrorist organisations worldwide are Islamic.
Could a crackdown on vilification prevent this truth being stated? Muslims could say it inspires hatred to speak this truth, but the truth should be admitted even if it is not politically correct.
Zechariah 8:16, ‘These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts.’
The truth is that Muslim extremists have taken advantage of the West’s ‘free speech’ to incite hatred and violence within our lands, because we have forgotten to apply the guidance of God’s laws when we frame the laws of our lands regarding what is permissible in speech.
Ephesians 4:31, ‘Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.’
If we would do that and allow for the truth when we frame the new laws that the Australian Prime Minister has mooted, the condemnation of Islam’s encouragement to violence against non-Muslims could not be claimed to be vilification because it is both true and without malice to those who seek only peace.