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Same Sex Marriage Ruling (Standing Watch) (10 min. video)

The Obedience of Faith (New Horizons)
For many, the ‘O-word’—obedience—is a no-no, especially when it’s obedience to God. ‘I’m saved by grace—obedience is works’, is a common cry. That view is quite illogical. For, although we are free to choose, we will quite willingly trust that the cliff-edge danger warning sign is to be trusted. Or the police when we’re told to ‘move along’ when faced with a bomb threat. Or to show our passport when travelling and that the pilot will take us where we want. It’s the same within the family setting. Children (sometimes!) obey their father’s command.
Don’t we obey because we trust that the sign or the police have good reason for the command? That dad has his reasons? So why not obey God? Don’t you trust Him? When He laid down those ‘Ten Commandments’ was it a mere whim, a code by which He could control us? Or punish?
Clearly not. For example, no society will tolerate murder, a crime written into every justice system. It’s for our protection. So, too, with theft or perjury or respect for the elderly. And are we not, as individuals and nations, reaping the penalty for shattering His marriage code?
God’s ‘Law’—human and divine—is for our protection, to guide us in a way that leads to a successful and longer life. And the path to salvation. [Torah simply means instruction. It is the spiritual Law from the beginning but was written into the Constitution of the physical nation of Israel.]
We can, of course, choose not to accept its guidance. And if we don’t trust that God gave it for our benefit—then we can simply experience the adverse and inevitable consequences!
‘Jehovah commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear Jehovah our God for our good forever, to keep us alive, as today’ (Deuteronomy 6:24).
So—I can choose not to obey my Creator and Saviour—or is that rebellion (Romans 8:7)? But what should we ‘obey’?
The former Bishop of Norwich, Dean Stanley, contends that Exodus 20:7 (the Third Commandment)  should be translated as: ‘You shall not bring the holy Name to anything that is vain [unholy, empty’ (History of the Jewish Church).] In other words, any practice—religious or secular— should be in accordance with the divine will as revealed in the Scriptures. What if you were to test your own religious practices against those criteria?
For example: God says some foods are not to be eaten. Do you argue they have no relevance today? Do you observe Sabbath—or Sunday, which is not observed weekly in the Scriptures? Are your ‘holy days’ listed in the Bible or do you observe Christmas, Easter etc—days that the Bible relegates to pre-Christian practice?
Our often devious excuses for not doing what God has revealed won’t wash with Him. As observed King Solomon: ‘If you keep being stubborn after many warnings, you will suddenly discover you have gone too far’ (Proverbs 29:1).
Shouldn’t we trust that, when God invites us to ‘do this’, He has good reason? Not human reason, then, but ‘the obedience of faith’.

A Beauty to be Shared (Sabbath Meditations)

The other night my wife and I went on a walk in our country neighborhood. It was the first day the temperature had been under 90° for about a week so we wanted to get out of the house and get some air that wasn’t recycled.
About half a mile from our house we came upon a scene that elicited both a chuckle and a feeling of sadness at the same time. It was a house whose owners had obviously put a great deal of work into a flower garden that lay to one side of their property. It wasn’t a large garden, but it was exploding with beautiful color ... that is ... what color you could see. It would have been the perfect scene of natural beauty had it not been for a 4 foot tall metal fence that they had erected around the perimeter of the entire flower garden. It was as if the flowers had been placed in the state penitentiary. Much of the beauty of the garden had been horribly masked by the ugliness of cold steel.
It was obvious to us why they must have put up the fence - the critter population in the area had exploded. These well-meaning people had erected this barricade to defend their prize flowers from becoming critter salad. Flowers and shrubbery aren’t cheap, and rabbits in particular can take out quite a few flower plants in short order.
I couldn’t help but think that, had it been my garden, I would have tried to find some more unobtrusive way to protect my flowers. If, having found none, I think I would rather run the expense of occasionally replacing a few plants than hiding them away in Fort Knox.
You know, looking at the flower bed, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a casual acquaintance I had while in college. This person had qualities very similar to this garden. It took me quite a while to learn that this individual was a wonderful person on the inside. She was witty, thoughtful and enjoyable to be around. The problem was that she was terribly shy and closed up on the outside. Unless you were lucky enough to get behind the walled off exterior, you never would have the pleasure of getting to know much about her at all.
I never knew what circumstances in life caused this acquaintance of mine to shut herself off emotionally from much of the world. I have a hard time believing that she was simply born that way. Her emotional closure exceeded simple shyness. Perhaps, like the flowers in the flower bed, her leaves had been chewed on a few too many times in life. She might have been picked on or teased as a child or perhaps rejected by peers too many times as a teenager. Whatever the circumstances, they led to her to pound in the stakes and erect a practically impenetrable steel cage around her emotions.
Jesus gives some difficult instruction in Luke 6. He says in verses 27-31, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”
I think if I were to summarize these words of Jesus it would be “don't build fences.” Regardless of how people or events might hurt us, we as Christians are to continue to reach out, to open ourselves up, to others. We aren’t to close ourselves off from the world, regardless of how vulnerable we might feel.
I’ve long since lost contact with my acquaintance from college. Actually, it wasn’t till I saw that fenced in garden that she came to mind. I guess there wasn’t much to remember of someone who shared so little of herself. That, in itself, is sad. I pray that she gradually was able to let down her protective fencing and let others in to share her life. I pray that she learned that to risk having a few leaves chewed on is far preferable to the lonelinesss of hiding behind an iron curtain. The work that God is doing within us is simply much too beautiful not to be shared.

Islamic Deception (OzWitness)

Have you ever wondered why the so called ‘religion of peace’ is associated with such horrific violence and barbarism? That is, despite our politicians continuously telling us that those black garbed Islamic terrorists known as ISIS or ISIL, are not connected in any way to the Islamic ‘holy’ book the Koran?
Some of our leaders, like David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK, even claim to have read the book, so why have they not seen this verse – Surah 14:22. The message of this verse is plain in its context, which is about the future Judgement Day for all men, when, says the Koran, Satan will address all Muslims: “Satan will say …God gave you a true promise. I too made promises [in the Koran] but they were false ones. I had no power over you except to call you, and you responded to my call, so do not blame me, blame yourselves. I cannot help you, nor can you help me. I reject the way you associated me with God before. For wrong doers there must be a Grievous Penalty.” – The Koran, Surah 14:22.
Yes, there is a Judgement Day coming to all people and only then will Muslims understand and accept that they have been deceived by the Koran, which Satan, not the archangel Gabriel, gave to Mohammed in that cave in which he was meditating.
The reference here in this verse to a ‘grievous penalty’ is to the Lake of Fire, the penalty set aside for Satan.

Revelation 20:10‘And the devil that deceived them was cast into the Lake of Fire and brimstone, ... and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.’

If Muslims were to actually read the Bible, which the Koran clearly admits is the word of God, they would understand that Satan has the whole world deceived, including almost all of Christianity.
Revelation 12:9‘and the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels [fallen angels or demons] were cast out with him.’

The Agony of Defeat (Children of God)
Beginning in the 1970s, ABC TV had a program called, ‘Wide World of Sports’. Most older people in America will be somewhat familiar with the sports program, because in those days there were only three major TV networks to choose from, and the show was popular for 37 years. A part of the introduction to the program went like this:  “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport ... the thrill of victory ... and the agony of defeat ...  “The agony of defeat” became a symbol for stunning failure.
It seems that in these last days the overall Church of God is taking our Christian calling all too casually. Do we agonize over being true Christians in every sense of the word?  Or, after all these years in the Church, are we just kind of drifting along? Do we strive for the meat of God’s word, or are we content with the low-key, toned-down approach most congregations have settled for? Do we provoke our ministers to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), or have we assumed the posture of our wayward forefathers?
“Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.” (Isaiah 30:10)
In other words, do we say to our ministers, “Tell us that everything is alright? Give us sermons that make us feel good. Don’t rock our boat, because we like things as they are. Don’t make us face any problems, because we don’t want to get that involved. Say it to us over and over again - that God is pleased with us just like we are.”
Could we be setting ourselves up for stunning failure? Just think, if Jesus Christ were to say to us, when we stand before Him to give an accounting of ourselves, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Romans 14:10-12, Matthew 7:23)
Just imagine if Jesus Christ were to say to us, “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the Kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.” (Luke 13:28)
Can you envision the sheer horror of hearing Jesus Christ uttering those words? That, my friend, would surely be the agony of defeat! But, never fear, God tells us how we can turn the situation around 180°. It’s a matter of suffering and denying ourselves now.
“The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day. And He [Jesus Christ] said to them all, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it’.” (Luke 9:22-24)
Do not let anyone fool you; it is not easy to be a Christian. In fact it’s an agonizing and ongoing process of laying down our life daily for Christ’s sake - that’s the only way we will ever hear the words, “Well done, you good and faithful servant … enter you into the joy of thy Lord.” (Matthew  25:21,23)
There is an agony that is involved in defeating sin. Christians are indeed called upon to suffer for righteousness sake - there is no way around it.
“All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
Suffering is part and parcel of our Christian walk. Suffering for a Christian is to be expected - that is why we counted the cost before becoming baptized. We should not be surprised by trials, afflictions and sufferings.
“No man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.” (1 Thessalonians 3:3-4)
“Unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29)
There is an agony we must go through before we are victorious - victory in conquering the self; victory over this evil society; and the victory, ultimately won, over Satan himself.
Jesus came to show us that we are to suffer through many agonizing conflicts in our spiritual quest, but if we faint not, we shall go on and overcome all impediments, and with His help prove victorious at the end. Jesus said: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

The Promise (First Century Christianity)

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. Hebrews 11:8-10

The land of promise: what does that really look like?

greater_israel

The red line is what was actually promised to Abraham and represents approximately 56,000 square miles. In case there is any doubt, Israel never got anywhere close to possessing this amount of land. Yet it was promised to Abraham, so it will happen.

The other part of this promise is about people, not land.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Genesis 12:1-3

This is a promise with a command. Abraham was born to an idolater. Joshua 24:2 shows this. Abraham had to leave his family and his family’s lifestyle and adopt the worship of the One True God. This theme shows up pretty often throughout the Bible and is central to worship of Yahweh. We have to choose whom we will serve:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. “For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.”Matthew 10:34-36

Here, Yeshua restates the mandate that started with Abraham. Living the true faith in this era can be a very lonely proposition. But we do not live for this era, do we? Those of us who have heard the call to come out of Babylon have had to make some tough decisions. We have had to leave our previous beliefs and practices behind, effectively “crossing over” to the faith of Abraham. The word “Hebrew” can mean one who crosses over, incidentally.

For My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from My face, nor is their iniquity concealed from My eyes. “I will first doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted My land; they have filled My inheritance with the carcasses of their detestable idols and with their abominations.” O LORD, my strength and my stronghold, And my refuge in the day of distress, To You the nations will come From the ends of the earth and say, “Our fathers have inherited nothing but falsehood, Futility and things of no profit.” Can man make gods for himself? Yet they are not gods! “Therefore behold, I am going to make them know - This time I will make them know My power and My might; And they shall know that My name is the LORD.”Jeremiah 16: 17-21

You may say to yourself, “those verses are just for the Jews, they don’t apply to Christians”. Au contraire, brethren. Jeremiah’s words came prior to the exile to Babylon and were not just for “Jews” but for all Israelites. The Israelites “crossed over” the Jordan and were supposed to stay pure from false religions. They did not and have suffered ever since for these sins. The same holds true for Christians from the nations, who were bought for a steep price. We were made clean by the blood of Yeshua and called out of the world. We are adopted children of Abraham and heirs according to the promise. Yet our sins pile high to heaven with Christmas, Easter, Sunday, eating unclean things, and Halloween, where hundreds of millions of people who profess to worship the God of Abraham dress up as demons and give honor to mediums and spiritists.

Yes, our fathers have inherited lies. We are those of the nations who have come to know the real God, Yahweh, and His Son, Yeshua. We who have been called-out and have crossed over have to separate from the practices of the world. The Promise was given to Abraham and we are those who realize the blessings of this Promise. When Yeshua returns, the saints are resurrected, and Abraham finally obtains all that land, let us be ready to enter it.

The Imperfect Christian (Morning Companion)

The Book of Acts is one of the rosiest books of the Bible. Yes, there are some false imprisonments and unwarranted persecutions, but in general Luke paints a picture of a small but growing band of believers, who faithfully took the Gospel from Jerusalem to Rome, the very seat of pagan power.

In a way it’s almost beyond credulity that things could get on so well: A few believers with minimal conflicts among themselves and few resources preach the Gospel to both commoner and high officials, with the churches supporting them selflessly. Luke writes a spirit-filled narrative, one that might make us feel inadequate to the cause.

But then we get to the epistles, both Paul’s and the General Epistles that follow. It is here where we get much needed balance. We find in these epistles that we read of churches rent with disagreements and arguments.

In Galatia we see Paul confronting Peter to his face for hypocrisy.

In Philippi we see Paul imploring two women to stock bickering with each other.

In Thessalonica we see people who refused to work leaching off other brethren, using as an excuse what they thought was the soon-coming end of the world.

In Corinth we see a party spirit, an instance with incest that went uncorrected, brother suing brother in courts of law, and people getting drunk and gluttonous on the Passover bread and the wine.

Those epistles illustrate the other side of the First Century church, and actually it should be an encouraging one. The people in those churches that Paul addressed were every bit as Christian as we are and every bit as flawed. The fact is, we all make mistakes, and some of them are egregious mistakes. In spite of all of that, we are still children of God, forgiven upon repentance, and offered eternal salvation. It’s both comforting and inspiring to think of those people, flawed though they were, accomplishing amazing work in the name of God.

Odd as it may seem, when seen in the context of the book of Acts, the epistles are both a balance to Acts and an encouragement to those of us who are not yet perfected. We too can accomplish great things for God in spite of ourselves.

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.