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Terror Attacks in Jerusalem (Standing Watch) 9 min. video

Can We Skip to the Part Where I Care? (Sabbath Meditations)

As I passed a guy wearing a t-shirt with the message, ‘Can we skip to the part where I care?’, my reaction was to think, ‘What a selfish jerk!’ - but then, ‘Hey, he's kind of got a point’. Let me explain.
I recalled returning from a full and rewarding weekend in Big Sandy, Texas. I visited with church brethren, was treated to some amazing southern hospitality, and took in the very hot but beautiful East Texas countryside.
Consequently, that Monday, when I returned to work, I was excited to share my adventure. So, I did the one thing we humans do when we want attention - feign momentary interest in someone else and then quickly switch the spotlight to myself.
I asked a colleague, “How was your weekend?” Of course, I was hoping for a brief, “ahhh, it was good, how about yours?” Unfortunately, my plan backfired. He launched into a minute by minute recounting of everything he, his wife, children and the family dog had experienced that weekend. Apparently, I had made the mistake of picking someone who had a life.
I wasn’t about to give up though. Seeing my opening somewhere after his third paragraph, I dove in with, “Well, at least you stayed cool. You wouldn't believe the weather in Texas ... whew was it ...” “Yeah, it wasn't too bad here,” he butted in, “but you should have seen the ...” and off he went again.
I listened politely for a few agonizing minutes until, catching a lucky break, his phone rang and he was forced to break off the conversation. Off I went, searching for someone else with whom I might share my experience. Ideally, someone who hopefully wouldn’t have their own story to tell.
Okay, I realize I’m exposing a bit of personal carnality here. But you’ve all been there, right? Each of us, at times, gets so focused on our little corner of existence that we forget there are other people out there. People who have lives and experiences they care about just as much as we care about ours. Sometimes we forget that the earth doesn’t stop spinning for other people when we leave the room. It’s those times that being confronted by a message on a t-shirt that plainly, albeit rudely, tells it like it is from the perspective of those having to put up with our self-centered attitude, might actually do us a service.
Paul, writing to the Philippians, tells them, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4
It’s a great idea in theory. Most of us can manage to look out for other people’s interests at least some of the time. But seriously, “esteem others better than myself?!” That’s a pretty tall order, isn’t it? That would require not only showing interest in the lives of others, but actually caring more about their lives than mine. How many of us really do that? Well, come to think of it, there is one person who did.
Of all men who have lived, I’m sure we’d all agree that Jesus had the most amazing story to tell. Trip to Texas? Huh? Try a first class seat at the helm of the universe! Yet, with so much that He had to share with others, that’s not what He led with. He came first and foremost ministering to the needs of others. He sacrificed His own needs, His own comfort, and ultimately His own life so that others could find meaning and purpose in theirs.
It’s an attitude I wish I displayed more often than I do. Wait a minute. I can.
Paul continues in Philippians 2:5-7, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of men.”
That mind, that heart towards the needs of others can and should be in me. His mind in me should cause me to care about the things that He cared about. His primary care was directed, not inward toward the self, but outward toward others.
Our Lord’s example is pointing us to a life lived outside the self, isn’t it?
We live that life in a million little ways; sacrificing something we want, so that we can contribute to someone who needs it more; directing our energy, skills, and our precious time to further other people’s goals rather than our own.
Paul also tells us here that caring for the needs of others above our own needs is not something we can force. Forcing ourselves to love and care for others, when our heart isn’t really invested, is an exercise in futility and a recipe for resentment. As Paul says here, we have to “let this mind be in (us)...” It’s not something we force, it’s something we allow. We have to allow His Spirit to work in us, filling us with His love so that we can share it freely with others.
Just imagine the day when His love will fill this earth and the hearts and minds all who inhabit it. There will certainly be much less taking and a lot more giving. Folks will be less focused on serving the self and more focused on serving others. And I’m not sure - it’s just a hunch - but I’m guessing we won’t see too many of those t-shirts around either.

Squaring the Circle (Morning Companion)
He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house; he who tells lies shall not continue in my presence. (Psalm 101:7)
... all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Revelation 21:9)
Let’s start with the stipulation that telling the truth is a good thing and that lying is contrary to God’s way, what we call ‘sin’ in Biblical parlance. If that’s the case, then what do we do with King David, a man after God's own heart? He and those surrounding him seem to be truth challenged at times, and all seemingly in God’s service.
In I Samuel 19 his wife Michal lies in order to save David's life.
In I Samuel 20 David’s best friend Jonathan lies to King Saul in order to give David some cover for his own safety.
In I Samuel 21 David lies to the Ahimelech the priest in order to protect and feed his men.
Later in I Samuel 21 David deceives the king of Gath by feigning madness.
And what do we do with Exodus 1? After Pharoah declares that all the Hebrew male newborns are to be killed, the midwives refuse to comply and lie to Pharoah about it. Verse 20 says, ‘God dealt well with the midwives.’ Or Rahab, who is called a woman of faith even though she lied about the whereabouts of the two Israelite spies?
Discussions around this topic can often turn heated. I once began a Facebook discussion on this conundrum, and it wasn’t long before the temperature rose to an uncomfortable level. Wonderful arguments were tossed about, everything from quoting the scriptures at the head of this article, to quoting Luke 12:12 (“The Holy Spirit will teach in that very hour what you ought to say”), to asserting the rabbinical understanding that lying is permissible if it is to save a human life.
Cogent arguments all, but not one to satisfy everybody.
How do we square this circle? If lying is a sin, why are there so many examples in scripture of lies being glossed over and sometimes even honored?
As with many things, the simplest answers can be the best answers, and I believe the simple answer is in Acts 17. In this chapter the Apostle Paul is addressing the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill in Athens, Greece. He has noticed the honorifics to all the false gods throughout the city, a place totally given over to idols. There is even an altar with an inscription to The the Unknown God, just in case they have left some deity out.
Paul uses a concept relevant to our discussion when addressing the Athenians’ pagan thoughts and ways. In verse 30 he says, “The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands men everywhere to repent.” (King James Version)
It seems to me this principle holds for the examples cited earlier. Of course they told lies. They no doubt rationalized doing so. They sinned when they did it. But Paul speaks to God’s graciousness. He knows our weaknesses and is big enough to ‘wink at’ (or ‘overlook’) our weaknesses.  It is what we have known all along: God is a God of grace. He knows and understands our weaknesses (Romans 8:3 and many other places). Notice too that ‘grace’ is not ‘permission’, as so many seem to misinterpret it.  It is not permission to violate God's ways. Rather it is a covering, a forbearance.
As with so much in God’s instructions to us, violating them might in rare instances be an expedient thing to do. Jesus points this out  in the famous example regarding David and his men being blameless even though they ate bread that was dedicated solely to the priests (Matthew 12:3-4).
Having said that, getting into the habit of justifying lies can become just that - a habit where lies are told when the truth would serve just as well. David seem to have fallen into that trap. It began with telling lies to save a life, but it led to telling a lie to the priest Ahimelech (I Samuel 21) when saying nothing would have served just as well. The mind does crazy gymnastics when it is trained to spin every fact.

Peace be unto you (Children of God)

When properly appreciated, the wave-sheaf offering brings a great message of hope and salvation to God’s people. Jesus Christ is the wave-sheaf offering. God gave this very special ritual to Israel long before they were to implement it. The wave-sheaf was to be gathered in the Promised Land, and not before.

Leviticus 23:9-11 The Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.

We have been given the superb New Testament fulfillment of Jesus Christ as the wave-sheaf offering. It took place on the morrow after the weekly Sabbath, after Jesus had died on Passover.

The first day of the week [Sunday] came Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and saw the stone taken away from the sepulcher… And when she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus said unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father…my God, and your God.” (John 20:1,14,17)

In fulfillment of the wave-sheaf offering, Jesus ascended to His Father on Sunday, the first day of the week. In the Old Testament, the wave-sheaf offering was offered to God by Israel's High Priest on behalf of the people. The phrase, “accepted for you,” is most revealing. It pictures Jesus Christ, the true unleavened bread of sincerity and truth, being offered to God the Father and accepted on our behalf. When God the Father formally accepted the resurrected Jesus Christ, it became possible for us to become future sons and daughters of God. That evening, after being accepted by the Father, Jesus appeared to His disciples, and the very first words out of Jesus’s mouth were: Peace be unto you.

John 20:19 Then the same day at evening, being, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and said unto them, Peace be unto you.

Jesus had ascended to His Father. He was the very first to be raised from the dead in God's spiritual harvest of mankind. Jesus opened the way for all men to have the opportunity for eternal life.

1 Corinthians 15:20-22 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Before He died, Jesus knew full well that He would be offered to the Father to be received as an acceptable sacrifice. He prayed that night, looking forward to that acceptance. When we are presented to the Father, we can know that we will be accepted as well.

Colossians 3:4 When Christ who is our life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory.

Jesus is the first of the firstfruits to be resurrected from the dead and accepted by His Father. God the Father will accept us as a wave-sheaf offering as well.

Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Brethren, we too, are to be firstfruits.

Revelation 14:4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.

The incredible truth is that those of the Church of God are included, with Christ, among the firstfruits. James said it so well.

James 1:18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

Jesus Christ presented Himself to God the Father as the wave-sheaf offering, to be accepted as the first of the "firstfruits" resurrected from the dead to eternal life. We, too, will be resurrected and accepted by the Father to eternal life as firstfruits. The wave-sheaf ceremony shows us the completion of the perfect plan of God and our salvation in it. We can now have hope and full assurance that God the Father will accept us to glory, just as Jesus Christ was glorified during the Days of Unleavened Bread so many years ago.

A Joyous Time (Guardian Ministries)

I wish you a most joyous and meaningful Passover/Lord’s Supper and Days of Unleavened Bread.
I think a lot about the night of the Passover/Lord’s Supper. Jesus Christ is, “Our Passover Lamb.” My opening statement to begin this ceremony could be: “You might characterize this celebration as that of the Lamb's Blood.”
The Passover was the lamb - in 2 Chronicles 30:15 we read, “And they slaughtered the passover on the fourteenth of the second month ... “You don’t slaughter a festival or a day or a time. You slaughter a lamb.
But to be fair, the word was also used of the festival and often applied to the entire Days of Unleavened Bread. For us, Christ is our Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7).
On the night He was betrayed He took bread first and gave parts to each disciple saying, “This is my body.” How can we get blood from the lamb without first getting its body? When a lamb brings its body close to you, it’s a sign of its relationship with you. Jesus offered the disciples His body - His being.
The blood comes once that body has been pierced. The blood - a most marvelous life-sustaining substance - has the nutrients of all types to repair and sustain the life of the body. Where the blood circulates, repair and healing take place sooner. In areas of the body where there is little circulation of blood, it takes longer for anything to heal. Have you noticed that cuts, bruises, infections around the ankles and feet take longer to heal than those in the mid section?
“The life is in the blood.” So Jesus offered His body as a sign of His relationship with us. He offered His blood for the forgiveness of our sins and to be the blood of the New Covenant.
I don’t want to be too rigid about this because the Scripture says, “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10 NAU). In other words, Jesus gave it all - His body and His blood.
And, my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, this is what it means for us - regardless of what group or fellowship you attend, regardless of what night or date (I know there are various ideas), you take that Bread and drink that Wine - it is that Bread and Wine that unites us! It is what we have in common.
Look at 1 Corinthians 10:16: “Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing (fellowship) in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?” (NAU)
The Greek word for “sharing” (NAU) or “communion” (KJV) is ‘koinonia’. It is related to the Greek word ‘koine’ - meaning common. The New Testament was written in koine Greek. It meant the common Greek language that the average person spoke and could understand.
The symbols of the Bread and Wine are what we have in common. Regardless of where you live or what fellowship group you attend, it is the basis of our fellowship.
I like to think of these words from Paul: “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:17 NAU)
So when you and I take of that Bread and Wine, let us remember one another and that we are all a part of the “one body” - because we partake of that one bread.

Guardian Ministries will be making the TeleSermon conference call, so you or any who do not have a fellowship group can follow along with us.

The number to listen in is: 1-267-930-4000 code 769949#.

We plan to begin services at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Saving time.

‘Risen’ - a movie review (First Century Christianity)
Truth be told, I don’t have much interest in movies. It’s rare for me to want to watch one on my own and the family has to anchor me to something to get me to watch one with them. If someone recommends a movie to me, I might watch it many months later, on accident, and then remember that someone recommended it to me.
This week, I was bored enough on a flight to see what there is to see on the free movie app that United uses. I think I went through the list looking for a specific movie, but Risen caught my eye. I recalled that it was about Yeshua’s last days on earth as seen through the Roman perspective. I watched it and am glad I did.
The main character is Pontius Pilate’s right hand man, named Flavius but called by his title, Tribune, throughout the movie. The movie opens with Flavius squashing a small rebellion of Jews, and the leader of them dies while referencing the coming Messiah who will destroy Rome. Flavius executes the man saying, “today is not that day”. The first half of this movie is brutal and is meant to show what life was like under Roman rule – brutal to say the least. Flavius returns from this battle only to be sent directly to supervise the end of Yeshua’s execution, and he is the one who orders Yeshua to be stabbed, while the legs are broken on the other two.
What transpires is that Flavius is tasked with finding the body of Yeshua after He is resurrected and, in this hunt, he changes a whole lot. Keep in mind this movie is fiction based on the Gospels. The movie is fiction much like CS Lewis’s works were fiction: it’s based on the Gospels and inserts a fictional character to show the application of the faith and the journey many take to conversion. Many people can’t take fictional Gospel renderings if they look too much like the real thing. Some of us go through phases where we can’t stand to see anything that looks like the faith adulterated in any way. If you’re one of these folks, this movie will irritate you, particularly at the end. But if you can look at it as a purposely crafted fictional work to illustrate a very good Biblical lesson, then it will be of much benefit to you and is a powerful thing. Keep in mind the move is fiction.
Keeping in mind this movie is fiction, what it shows is an incredible lesson of conversion. It shows with, remarkable clarity, the struggle when the conversion process starts. It shows in a very unique way the contrast of contemplating the lives we used to live against the doubts and reluctance to fully submit to our Messiah and His Father. And it shows that once one commits and comes to Yeshua, there really is no turning back.
It took me two flights to finish this film and I am glad I did. If you can look past the fictional aspects and a couple of doctrinal glitches to see the bigger picture, then this movie will be a positive experience in the same way that the great works of the past are.

The Empty Tomb (New Horizons)

The fact was undisputed - even to the Jewish authorities: The tomb was empty. The body of Jesus had disappeared! Since the hour of this discovery, much has been penned to explain - or to explain away - this startling discovery. That Sunday morning at first light the rock tomb in which Jesus of Nazareth had been laid after his crucifixion was bare and empty.
Within hours of the first report by the women, the guards had roused from their coma and staggered into Jerusalem bearing a weird tale of an earth tremor followed by a blinding light. And, after they recovered, they said Jesus’s body was gone. The authorities disputed the story, but it was true - the tomb was really empty.
How could it be possible? Was Jesus spirited away by some cunningly contrived human plot? Were the disciples hallucinating? Had Jesus merely swooned? What really did take place?
The Jewish authorities admitted the fact that Jesus had gone - and they ‘knew’ the answer: the body had been stolen by the disciples. They had pierced the almost impenetrable defence set to forestall this very act. Thus were doubts smoothed away and conscience eased! Such explanations were widespread even a century later in the time of Justin Martyr. Later still, Tertullian reported the account extant in his time: The gardener had stolen the body to protect his lettuce!
More seriously, in modern times various ideas have circulated among scholars. For family reasons, Joseph of Arimathea buried the body elsewhere without telling anyone (Holtzmann). The women, in the darkness, went to the wrong tomb (Lake). It was all a clever invention by the disciples (Reimarus). Jesus had swooned on the cross, recovering later in the coolness of the tomb (Venturini, Schleiermacher). The Gospel story was a myth (Arthur Drew: The Christ Myth). Or the resurrection appearances were merely visions: There had been no resurrection (S.V. McCasland).
Of course, all such attempts to explain away the Bible record are designed to eliminate the miraculous. The aim - to negate the intervention of a divine Creator. Yet, aside from this, they fail to account for the facts as recorded by eye-witnesses.
These facts pose too many questions. Who moved the stone? When? How? What about the missing body? And the wraps? And the guards? Why the strange reaction of the disciples in the tomb? What then, is the answer?
Let’s look at just one convincing proof that Jesus did rise and was not spirited away by  the machinations of any group of men, no matter how determined. Here’s proof that the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah was real. First reports of the disappearance of the body of Jesus were received with scepticism by the disciples, who discounted them as ‘idle tales’. Even though they had heard Jesus tell them time and time again that he would rise from the dead, none of them were convinced. So how can we account for the dramatic turnaround in attitude evoked by what they saw inside the dimly-lit tomb?
One Bible account reads, “Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first went in, too, and he saw and believed.” Seconds before he deemed the idea preposterous! What was the convincing proof?
Could a mere empty tomb work such an instantaneous, such a profound, intellectual somersault? An empty tomb proves little. John had witnessed a phenomenon that convinced him of the impossible. There had been a resurrection! This was no physical resurrection such as John (ch.11) had witnessed when Lazarus had stumbled from the tomb bound hand and foot in his grave clothes, requiring that someone unwrap him (v.44). This resurrection was different, unique.
John’s first glimpse of the shadowy sepulchre through a narrow slit of a window seemed to confirm that the women bore a wild and nonsensical tale. The body appeared undisturbed. John saw the faint whiteness of the wrapped body gleam against the blackness of the rock wall. But, when he went inside and had a close look, he believed. Why? What had so disturbed his scepticism? What startling proof of a resurrection did John now have?
The evidence rests in the appearance of the clothes in which Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had wrapped Jesus’s body. The custom of the time was to wrap the body from neck to toe in a long ‘bandage’ and with many pounds of blended spices. The head was separately encased, leaving visible the face: ‘the grave-cloth that was on His head was not lying with the linens, but was wrapped up in one place by itself’ (John 20:7). [Incidentally, this negates the notion of the one-piece ‘Turin Shroud’ as the burial cloth of Jesus.]
Picture then what John saw as he stood by the body. On the bench hewn from the living rock lay the grave clothes packed with spices - as if Jesus’s body were still within. In a depression in the rock lay the head napkin. But ... the body was not there! The grave clothes were empty.
If, somehow, Jesus had recovered, where were the tangled yards of linen evidence? If somehow, the disciples had stolen past or bribed the guards, would they have stopped to unwrap, then rearrange, the wraps? Could they indeed? The bandages were not in disarray. Nor had they been removed.

We are left with the rather uncomfortable fact that Jesus’s human flesh had been transformed as spirit - and had passed through the wraps as easily as he later passed through a solid door.

He had risen! This was no human plot. The infinite power of the Almighty Creator had worked a miraculous change and released His Son from the bands of death forever. Jesus was - and is - alive!
The proof convinced those men and women of the first century. Jesus was with them on numerous occasions in the six weeks following that memorable morning. When the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians some twenty years later, he cited the living testimony of almost five hundred witnesses of the greatest miracle ever to shake our world: ‘Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures; and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the Twelve. Afterward He was seen by over five hundred brothers at once’ (1 Corinthians 15:3-6).
The resurrection was the central teaching of the New Testament church of God, and upon it is based the enduring religion of Christ. It is the ‘good news’ - the Gospel.
The record of the momentous event remains preserved for 21st century man in the Holy Bible. And the fact of the resurrection remains as much a challenge to us - to all mankind of all faiths - as to those men in the cold sepulchre 19 centuries ago. It’s a challenge none of us can afford to ignore. It irrefutably proves God is alive.
It is evidence that He intervenes in human affairs. It affirms His intense and loving concern for every human on this planet. It testifies to the happy knowledge that we are not alone in this universe, that our Creator will never allow His creation to drift to utter destruction.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is an uncompromising challenge to each of us. It is a challenge to our readers to search out His plan for your own life! Because the Father raised Jesus Christ from cold death and transformed him from flesh to spirit - then you must face what that means for you! Because Jesus Christ was without doubt raised from the dead, then God exists.
There is life after life. And that means you must respond to Him - for He holds you accountable! The Father is, in this age, ‘team building’. He issues a universal invitation to everyone to enter into a relationship with Him through Jesus with the ultimate purpose of working with Him throughout eternity. Those who respond to His call He draws to Jesus: ‘No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draw him, and I will raise him up at the last day’ (John 6:44).
It’s a life-time commitment along a narrow and difficult pathway, and ‘narrow is the gate and constricted is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing’.
Along this pathway we are assured of the guidance and support of the only person raised from the dead to spirit life.