This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Posts tagged ‘church’

If you build it. . . (Part III)

PART III OF A DREAM COMING TRUE. . .All things work together

When Lois–our would-be benefactress–passed away on Aug. 9, 2011, the dream of having her home to use as an “Elisha house” in Walnut Cove seemed to shrivel up and die with her. For weeks after her sudden death at age 93, I was confused, disheartened, without clear direction. I had been so sure that Lois would live to see her house in our hands and even be the guest of honor when we dedicated the Lois Dodson Smith Room of Walnut Cove History in that very house.

Now she was gone, and the house had passed to First Baptist Church–the very church where the dream of having an Elisha house was birthed in my heart as a little girl. In addition to the heartache of losing the house, there was the greater heartache of the loss of Lois. I was devastated, having intended to spend time with her once I quit my editor’s job in September, but she passed a month before that.

And my mind kept going back to Sunday morning, July 3, 2011, when I had been sure that God had given us a clear sign that the house would be ours. On that day, our Times of Refreshing group was having our regular church service at the beauty shop where we met. By our starting time of 9:30, only six people were there; several were missing. Strangely enough, the ones present were the only ones who had had ties with my ministry for several years.

I suddenly felt to tell this “elect group” all about Lois’ house and the controversy surrounding it. Up to that point, my mom, my hubster and I had kept the situation private. My friend Yvonne–my dear friend who used to be a crack addict before she devoted her life to the Lord–said that her street friends/crack addicts/drug dealers would come to that house if we ran it. She said she could feel the Spirit running all up and down in her the more we talked about the house. She was bold and said that she really felt that we would get it. She believed that end of town seems to be darker than the rest of Walnut Cove and needs a light somewhere.

I told them that I felt we should gather in a circle and worship together for a while, then pray individually for discernment, then actually go over to Lois’ house–less than a mile away. When our circle broke apart and we went our separate ways, I hit my knees and began to listen to the Lord.

Suddenly I heard Him say that the person who walked right up to the door of Lois’ house and touched the doorknob would know immediately if the house was supposed to be ours. It startled me so much that I nearly jumped out of my skin. I pondered getting a piece of paper and writing what He had said to me so that I would have proof it happened once we all got to the house, but I didn’t want to disturb everyone’s prayer time.

I began asking the Lord if I should go first and run to be the one to touch the doorknob. But no–I felt a peace that whoever got there first would be the right one. Even though my hubster and I brought up the rear of the vehicle procession to Lois’ house (we had to lock up the beauty shop), I still figured I could quickly get to the door. I assumed no one else would think to go to the door, since it was locked and they had seemed more interested in walking around the property.

But as I got out of my car, I saw Darlene march boldly up to that door. I felt my breath catch in my chest. She opened that outer door and grabbed the doorknob. I couldn’t believe (oh Leslie of little faith) that it was happening as He said it would.

My hubster took this picture shortly after Darlene first approached the door.

My hubster took this picture shortly after Darlene first approached the door.

Darlene immediately smiled and turned around to motion for me. She pointed to a decorative window area to the right of the door and asked, “What do you see?” I saw two slivers of wood that had fallen from the wooden framing and had landed on the sill in the shape of a cross.

I gasped, “A cross.”

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Darlene nodded and said, “We’re supposed to have this house.” We all began rejoicing and grew teary-eyed. Sandy felt to go get her anointing oil.

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Sandy brings the anointing oil to Darlene and Mama

Darlene anointed the front doorknob.

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I felt to go anoint the side door which was a separate entrance to the master bedroom suite (Elisha’s chamber!). I wept as I did it, imagining that my childhood dream of having a little room for the prophet was about to come true.

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As we later walked around the property. Darlene said it was like coming home to Grandma’s house. Two familiar crack addicts walked by, looking at us. I waved and called them by name. They are my friends. Yvonne said that the house would provide a place for such people to come–to have something to do, to get counseling, to find help.

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As we were leaving–in a jubilant mood, having even taken our picture in front of the house–my mom lifted her hands and said, “Eli-sha [pronounced in Hebrew el-ee-shah’]–God sets free!” I froze because when I anointed the bedroom door, I had remembered how I once thought we should call the house “Elisha House” in honor of the little chamber the Shunammite woman built onto her house for the prophet to be refreshed.

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I left Lois’ house that morning, knowing for the first time that it was supposed to belong to Times of Refreshing.

But that was in July. Now it was August, Lois was gone and the house had been given away. Were we wrong that July morning? Did we just THINK we heard the voice of God?

Before we knew it, it was autumn. Sometimes someone would bring up the disappointment over the house. By then, I had a strange peace and would just smile at them, saying, “It’s not over yet, you know.” It SEEMED to be over, but I knew down deep that it wasn’t.

We never said another word about the house to outside sources. Before Lois died–when she was so upset over her house not being given to us–I had pleaded with those concerned to follow Lois’ wishes–truly not out of gain to me (the house was so decrepit it would’ve been easier to let someone else have it!) but out of a desire to see a dying woman’s wishes granted.

But once she was gone, I took my hands off the issue and stepped aside. Hadn’t Lois’ last words to us been that it was in God’s hands now?

a way out of no way

And then one day, a miracle happened. A phone call came from a leader at First Baptist Church. We were informed that the pastor, a very Godly man named Jim, had told the church trustees that he didn’t feel it was right for them to accept Lois’ house. He recounted to them how she had told him time and time again that she wanted her house to go to me and my mom.

I was overwhelmed with gratitude! This was a pastor who truly wanted to do the right thing, whose heart must be pure before God. Even if nothing came of his desire to give us the house, I knew that I would forever honor him for his sense of justice.

When word came that the trustees had voted to give us the house, my amazement grew. Although I had trusted God to move in this situation and felt instinctively that the house issue wasn’t dead, seeing it unfold before my eyes was incredible.

But that wasn’t the last step. Next, the vote would go to the deacons. Pastor Jim kept insisting to them that he, with his own ears, had heard Lois make her wishes plain.

We were on pins and needles to hear the outcome of the deacons’ vote. What joy when the call came that their decision was also “yes”!

But it was not over yet. The final step would be to bring the issue to the entire church. The vote would be held on Super Bowl Sunday night, Feb. 5, 2012.

I was tantalizingly close to seeing my childhood dream of having an Elisha house come true, but it all rested on a vote by the people at the very church that helped birth that dream in me. . .

(Continued in “If You Build It–Part IV”)

always believe something wonderful

If you build it. . .(Part II)

PART II OF A DREAM COMING TRUE. . .

Lois at about age 50

Lois at about age 50

When I arrived that early spring day of 2011 at Walnut Ridge Assisted Living at the behest of the imperial Mrs. Lois Dodson Smith, I was nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. I loved Lois–feeling a kinship with her as far as our intense love for Walnut Cove–but she intimidated me just a little. She was a woman who knew what she wanted and usually got it, too! And she could be stern if crossed.

So with a bit of trepidation, I entered her room where I found her with her daytime sitter, Robin, and my mother, whom Lois had also requested to see. My mother had known Lois all of her life, having grown up in First Baptist Church where Lois was a prominent member. Lois had always been fond of my mom, calling her “my little girl” for as long as my mother could remember. And now, my mother went faithfully every Thursday to minister in song to the residents of Walnut Ridge, always taking time to visit with Lois, as she had for many, many years.

As we went to the dining room to talk, Lois pinned me to the chair with her penetrating gaze: “If I gave you my house, Leslie, what would you do with it?” Robin, who loved Lois like a mother, had prepared me somewhat for what Lois wanted to talk to me about, and I was still somewhat in shock over it.

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The Dodson Hotel in Walnut Cove, run by Lois’ father

You see, Lois owned a large, two-story white house on Second Street in Walnut Cove. She claimed that it was one of the oldest houses in town–perhaps THE oldest. She had moved into it at age six after her father–the owner and proprietor of the famous Dodson Hotel–had passed away suddenly. From that point on, Lois lived in the majestic white house all of her life until she made the difficult decision to move to the Assisted Living at age 86.

In the early part of the 21st century, Lois donated her house to the Town of Walnut Cove, asking them to use it for their town hall. Her love for her town was well-known, as was her generosity and willingness to help others. The local paper did a big story on the donation, with a picture of Lois sitting on her porch.

The years passed, and the Town did not follow through with Lois’ desire to convert the house into a town hall. After studies were done, they determined that the cost to transform the house into a place of business such as they needed would be prohibitive, and parking would be an issue. The once-regal house stood vacant, deteriorating more and more as the years went by. The Town and other organizations used it for storage, and Lois constantly chafed at the thought that her house stood empty.

Once, in about 2006, my mother was visiting with Lois as she did weekly. Lois said, “Judy, I wish I could get my house back from the Town. I would give it to you and Leslie and your ministry and let y’all do something good with it!” My mother told me about the incident, but I merely shrugged my shoulders in resignation, never dreaming that the house would be owned by anyone but the Town.

So when the Town voted to give the house back to Lois in Feb. 2011, I was shocked. But I never dreamed she would remember that once upon a time she had wanted to give it to us. In fact, I don’t remember the thought ever crossing my mind.

Until the day the sitter called me. . .

Lois and her sitter, Robin, at Christmas 2009

Lois and her sitter, Robin, at Christmas 2009

As I sat with Lois, I nervously told her the visions and dreams I had for the town I loved so passionately–to have a place of refuge for those who were weary, burnt out, at the end of their rope. To see the the drug addicts set free. To see the alcoholics delivered. To see the chains of poverty and ignorance broken. To see God’s Spirit poured out in a mighty way in Walnut Cove!

Lois listened carefully and questioned me more specifically. How would I use her house for that?

I told her we would use it as a place for church groups to meet, for Bible studies to be held, for classes on healthy living, for workshops on how to break addictions, for a food pantry, for Christian counseling sessions, for whatever the Lord directed. I also related to her my childhood dream of having a chamber set aside for missionaries/evangelists/preachers/teachers to be able to stay for a time of seeking the Lord and/or rest. I mentioned as well that I wanted a room set aside as a historical museum for Walnut Cove, appropriately named the Lois Dodson Smith Room.

When my spiel was done and my heart for ministry had been poured out, Lois sat back with a satisfied look on her face. “I want you to take my house–you and Judy–and do something good for this town with it,” she said matter-of-factly. There were occasional times in that final year of her life that her mind wandered, but there were more times that she was the same old Lois she had always been, and this was one of those times.

And once she made her decision, she never wavered. Lois constantly talked to her sitters and the employees at Walnut Ridge about her desire to give the house to us. She was even bold enough (as always!) to tell the pastor and deacons of First Baptist Church who came to visit that she wanted her house to go to “Judy’s crew,” as she often called us.

But due to legal circumstances beyond our control, Lois’ will was never changed. Although our ministry, Times of Refreshing, was incorporated as a non-profit entity with the State of NC (churches are automatically nonprofit anyway, but we went the extra mile), we were not a 501(c)3 federally. For this reason, the house wasn’t transferred to us, despite Lois’ wishes.

I will never forget the last time that I ever saw her alive. It was a Tuesday–the worst day of the week in many ways for me. Tuesdays were press days and often found me working 18 hours straight to put out The Stokes News. When the phone rang that late July morning, I nearly didn’t answer it, but now I thank God I did.

It was Robin, Lois’ beloved sitter, telling me that Mrs. Lois wanted to see me. I began to make my excuses that it was press day, and I was running behind. Robin, who knew the rigid Lois better than probably anyone else, simply listened and then repeated, “Lois wants you to come down here.”

I sighed and knew then and there that I would obey. Within the hour, I was in Lois’ room, along with Robin and my mother. Lois kept asking, as she did every Thursday when my mother visited, “What are you all doing with my house?” We kept telling her that we couldn’t do anything with it, since it wasn’t ours. She insisted that the house be given to us. We once again repeated that the decision to do that was out of our hands. She even instructed Robin to pick up the phone and call her lawyer. I asked if we should leave the room, being very uncomfortable with the thought of being present while she talked to her lawyer. Lois told us to stay right where we were.

And so we did, eying each other nervously. We had never once asked for the house to be given to us, and although we felt that her offering it was God’s gift to us, we didn’t want to get in the middle of anything or cause trouble.

Lois and her best friend from childhood, Hazel, eating chocolates in their room that they shared at Walnut Ridge

Lois and her best friend from childhood, Hazel, eating chocolates in their room that they shared at Walnut Ridge

As I left her room later that day, I hugged her and told her I loved her. At the door, I looked back at her as she sat upright in her favorite chair. Her face was staring at the wall in front of her, leaving me to see only her regal profile. Her face was solemn, and somehow I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would never see her alive again. Tears sprang to my eyes, and I left quickly before I began to weep openly–something I finally did once I was alone in my car.

On Thu., Aug. 3, my mother saw Lois for the last time. They discussed the house which had not yet been willed to us, and Lois’ last words to my mother were, “It’s in the Lord’s hands now, Judy.”

Five days later, Lois Dodson Smith passed from this earth at the age of 93. Her house went to First Baptist Church, per her unchanged will. Bitterly disappointed, my mother and I decided to trust Lois’ last words, leaving it to the Lord. We never approached the legal system nor the church, opting rather to avoid any trouble or ill will and to honor Lois’ memory peacefully.

What had seemed like God’s beautiful answer to my childhood request to have an “Elisha house” now seemed, through Lois’ sudden death, to be no answer at all. To come so close to your dream and feel it slip away is a heart-wrenching thing, but I kept hearing Lois say, “It’s in the Lord’s hands now.”

And so it was. And so He miraculously moved. And so, through the goodness of many people, the dream did not die after all. . .

(Continued in “If You Build It–Part III”)

delight thyself

If you build it. . .(Part I)

PART I OF A DREAM COMING TRUE. . .

My childhood church, First Baptist of Walnut Cove

My childhood church, First Baptist of Walnut Cove

When I was a little girl, I loved going to Sunday School at First Baptist Church in Walnut Cove, North Carolina. My teachers would teach us wonderful Bible lessons, sometimes using the flannel boards that children so love. While the other kids clamored to hear the more popular stories–Noah’s ark, the baby Jesus being born, the miracle of the loaves and fishes–I was the odd man out.

You see, my favorite story was an unusual one–straight from the Old Testament in the book of II Kings (not a real popular book in the realm of children’s Sunday School!). Something in my little girl heart was touched to the core by the story of the woman of Shunem who talked her husband into building a chamber onto their house for the prophet Elisha.

II Kings 4:8-11: “Now it happened one day that Elisha went to Shunem, where there was a notable woman, and she persuaded him to eat some food. So it was, as often as he passed by, he would turn in there to eat some food. And she said to her husband, ‘Look now, I know that this is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly. 10 Please, let us make a small upper room on the wall; and let us put a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; so it will be, whenever he comes to us, he can turn in there.’ 11 And it happened one day that he came there, and he turned in to the upper room and lay down there.”

elisha-shunammite-womanThere’s more to the story, but that was the gist of it. Somehow, the thought of that Shunammite woman wanting to bless the prophet with a room of his own–a room in which to meditate on the Scriptures, pray unto his God, rest after the labors of ministry–blessed ME beyond measure.

I never forgot it. And I treasured a secret desire deep in my innermost being: the desire to one day do the same–to make a place for a man or woman of God to rest and find the presence of God in solitude.

But when I grew up and got married, there was never any room for visitors. We were financially-challenged much of the time, in small spaces with little room for guests. In our little rental house in Kernersville, there was no room. In the tiny mobile home on the Forsyth County side of Walnut Cove, there was even less room.

Yet still I dreamed.

When we finally bought a house, space was still tight for our growing family, but I wanted to be the Shunammite woman nonetheless! When a preacher came from Maryland to hold revival at our church in Winston-Salem, I quickly volunteered to provide room and board for him and his family, giving up my bed for them. Perhaps I couldn’t build a chamber on the side of my house, but I could give them my own chamber!

One day in about 2004, I heard that a big plantation-style house in Walnut Cove was up for sale. It had been the Pinecrest School–a home for mentally and physically challenged adults. I walked through the house, yearning to buy it so that I could take the little building to the side of it and make an “Elisha chamber” out of it. I drove through the property so often and talked to my four children about it so much that they started calling the little white outbuilding “the missionary house.”

But the asking price was way above our means, and the house was sold to people who chopped down the stately trees in front of my dream house and turned it into a horse farm rather than a place for burned out Christians and/or exhausted missionaries and evangelists.

And so I settled back into routine life, wondering if my dream would ever come true. When I eventually moved to Danbury, I decided that when the kids grew up, I would take one of the bedrooms downstairs and make it into a refuge for any Christian who needed a place to escape the rigors of the modern world for a time of prayer and seeking the Lord.

Still, that seemed like such a long time away.

And then one day in the spring of 2011, destiny came knocking on my door.

By then, I was a busy newspaper editor, trying to run a fledgling Christian ministry on the side. When my phone rang one hectic day, I really didn’t have time to talk. But the caller said something that stopped me right in my tracks.

Mrs. Lois Dodson Smith at age 92 eating at Walnut Ridge Assisted Living

Mrs. Lois Dodson Smith at age 92 eating at Walnut Ridge Assisted Living

Mrs. Lois Dodson Smith–a 92-year-old lady whom I considered the “First Lady of Walnut Cove”–wanted to meet with me and had directed her sitter to call me. I hurried down to Walnut Ridge Assisted Living to see what Mrs. Lois wanted. I had interviewed her in the past for my newspaper column, taking copious notes of her incredible memories of the history of my beloved hometown of Walnut Cove.

But I had gotten so busy working 24/7 for the newspaper that I had neglected to visit Lois in the past two or three years, and now I felt guilty when she called for me. Little did I know that her request to see me would change my life and start me on my way to fulfilling the dream I had nurtured since my long-ago childhood at First Baptist Church. . .

(Continued in “If You Build It–Part II.”)

Feast of Tabernacles: the season of our rejoicing!

I’ve gone through yet another season of what we often call Jewish holidays (I call them Feasts of the Lord), and we’ve come to my favorite one of the year. Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles, is the most joyful feast of all to me.

It is the 7th feast, held in the 7th month, lasting for 7 days. Ahhh, perfection.

And because God loved His people so much, He asked them to extend the festival 1 more day, to tarry with Him a little longer. In fact, an ancient Jewish midrash (story, exposition, interpretation) claims that what God said to His people about His rationale for the extra day was, Your departure is difficult for me. Stay with me one more day.”

Isn’t that beautiful? Think of how much you love your significant other and what it would mean to you if he/she begged you to stay a little longer with him/her. Surely it would thrill your soul. Well, even more so when it’s the Creator of the Universe–the ultimate Lover of your soul–who asks you to linger with Him.

During this 8-day celebration, there is an emphasis on good food. I like that! Each night, observant Jews eat dinner in their sukkah (booth)–a little hut constructed in the yard to recall the reason for this holy feast: that God provided well for the Israelites as they dwelt in booths (sukkot is the plural of booth in Hebrew) in the wilderness. You might invite the neighbors over for cake and wine (grape juice for me–ha ha!) in the sukkah as you enjoy the evening air and gaze on the stars and nearly-full moon in the night sky.

Sound like fun yet?

And guess what God commanded the Jews to do during this week? REJOICE! Wow, somebody please command me to rejoice–I will definitely oblige!

But this is just for the Jews, you say. We Gentiles don’t bother, do we? Well, if we do choose to celebrate Sukkot, we will enjoy the blessing of it. The early church, which was of course predominantly Jewish by birth, still celebrated the annual Feasts of the Lord, until this practice was eventually frowned upon when Catholicism took root.

But the main reason we Christians would profit from studying and/or celebrating Sukkot is that it is a festival of hope for the future. Yes, it celebrates the past (“He has provided for us before, as in the wilderness”) and it solidifies the present (“He is providing for us even now!). But this Feast points forward to the future when His provision will be eternal.

It reminds us that we will tabernacle with our Lord forever one day. Every day in eternity will be Sukkot. You see, the Feast could’ve ended in the prescribed 7 days–7 being the number of divine completion.

But it didn’t. There is an 8th day–8 being the number of new beginning, a number outside of time as it doesn’t exist within our neat, little 7-day week. The 8th day represents eternity.

Jesus fulfilled the 4 spring feasts: His death (Passover), His burial (Feast of Unleavened Bread), His resurrection (Feast of Firstfruits) and His outpouring of the Holy Ghost (Pentecost). But the 3 fall feasts have yet to be fulfilled. A little over 2 weeks ago, we celebrated the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh HaShanah)–representative of His 2nd coming. Ten days after that, we had Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)–symbolic of the coming Judgment Day when His atoning blood will make all the difference for those who follow Him.

What’s next after His return and judgment? Eternity with Him–Feast of Tabernacles–the grand diamond in the crown of Jewish holy days.

When you study this Feast, some passages of the New Testament make even more sense. You’ve probably read John 7 and totally ignored that the whole chapter is about our Messiah celebrating Sukkot. You’ve probably read verses 37-38 and never questioned why Jesus suddenly rose up in the Temple and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Just a random comment? No! If you understand Sukkot, you realize that each morning during the Feast, the priest drew a pitcher of water and poured it out as a sacrifice as part of a plea/prayer to God for rain during the coming winter months. After the long, dry summer, the rains, which began about November in Israel and lasted until around March, were crucial to crop development in the coming year. Sukkot was the time to beseech God to send the blessed precipitation.

So imagine that this water ceremony has just taken place in the Temple. And here comes Jesus–this “upstart” from Nazareth–who interrupts things by crying out that HE is the water they need. And the Word doesn’t say that He just spoke up. HE CRIED OUT.

Can you imagine the horror the Temple leaders felt? “Blasphemy!” they may have whispered to each other.

And our Lord wasn’t finished. The next day, it is recorded in John 8 that Jesus went back to the Temple to teach. He didn’t just haphazardly speak what is written in verse 12: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

That statement seems to come from nowhere. But if you know about Sukkot, you would know that each night of the Feast, there was a fabulous light display in Jerusalem. Not only were the huge Temple lampstands blazing, but also the multitudes of pilgrims in the city celebrating Sukkot would have their sukkahs alight as they rejoiced into the night.

The Jews at that time, who had just been dazzled by the nightly light show for a week, would totally “get” what Jesus was saying. He had just diverted their focus during the water ceremony to Himself, pinpointing Himself as the water they needed. NOW, He diverts their focus on light to Himself, declaring that He is the light they need.

What a nerve, the “big wheels” of that day must’ve thought. Their familiarity with Sukkot made Jesus’ comments even more inflammatory than what we clueless Gentiles perceive. It is imperative that we get out of our comfort zones and study the culture that Jesus preached in. It gives us knowledge we have been ignorant of for too long. Think about how we have sometimes made erroneous doctrines from things the Apostle Paul said in his letters–all because we did not understand the culture of that day or the circumstances of the people to whom he wrote.

Perhaps another reason that we would do well to study Sukkot in particular is that we very well may be celebrating it in Jerusalem one day. Zechariah 14:16-18 says this: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain. If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”

This is an endtime prophecy that pertains to us. EVERYONE will keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Wouldn’t we do well to learn about it now? The Jews see each Feast of the Lord as a “mikrah”–a rehearsal or foretaste of what is to come. So when I keep Sukkot, I see it as a rehearsal of my blessed eternity with Him!

If we belong to Him, we have already started our eternity! We are eternal beings just passing through this mortal life before we move on to our “real” life! We rejoice because He came down to tabernacle with us in the flesh for 33 1/2 years and then returned again as the Holy Spirit Who tabernacles with us constantly!

May we give Him all the glory in this the season of our rejoicing! And to think, WE’VE ONLY JUST BEGUN!

Click on the link below to watch the teaching I did on Sukkot at our church, Times of Refreshing, this past Sunday morning. Just ignore the phone ringing on camera; we are a casual group that meets in a home temporarily. Beneath this link is a handout that will help you follow along with the video. Enjoy!

FEAST OF TABERNACLES (SUKKOT)

What is Sukkot?
The final Biblically-commanded feast of the Jewish year (Lev. 23:33-44)
–Celebrated in the seventh month Tishri on days 15-21 (Lev. 23:34)
–Tishri 22–Day 8–is also celebrated (Lev. 23:36)
–A sabbath with new offerings specified (Num. 29:36-38)
–Called “Shemini Atzeret” (8th, solemn gathering)
— “Atzeret” comes from a root meaning “to hold back”
–God asked Israel to tarry 1 more day! (“Your departure is
                difficult for me. Stay with me one more day.”)
“Sukkot” = “booths” (singular is “sukkah” = “booth”)
–Sometimes called Festival of Booths
–Reminiscent of how Israel had portable dwellings in the wilderness
Also called Feast of Tabernacles
–“Tabernacle” = “mishkan”; also means “dwelling place”
Celebrates fruit harvest (grapes, olives)
–Exod. 23:16– “. . .the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field.”
–Firstfruits celebrated barley harvest, Pentecost–wheat harvest
Called “The Feast of all Feasts” (I Kings 12:32)
–Pilgrims came from all over Israel to Jerusalem (like Passover and Pentecost)

What is required on Sukkot?
First day is a full Sabbath (Lev. 23:35)
Only four things commanded in Torah for this Feast
–Live in sukkah (Lev. 23:42)
–Bring offering in addition to regular offerings (Num. 29:12-39)
–1st day: 13 young bullocks and many other things
–Number of bulls goes down each day: significant
–Gather the four species (Lev. 23:40)–probably to be waved joyfully
–Etrog (citron): “boughs of goodly trees”
–Lulav: “branches of palm trees”
–Myrtle: “boughs of thick trees”
–Willows: “willows of the brook”
–Rejoice (Lev. 23:40)
–Because harvest is done and/or repentance is successful
–Called “season of our rejoicing” (Deut. 16:15)–“. . .because the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you surely rejoice.”
Every 7th year at this Feast, a public reading of Torah (Deut. 31:10-13)

How is Sukkot mentioned in the Bible?
Solomon chose it for consecration of Temple (I Kings 8:2-4)–shekinah glory fell!
Celebrated while wall was being rebuilt in Nehemiah’s time (Ezra 3:4)
Jesus sent His brothers to the Feast (John 7:2-8) then He went secretly (John 7:10-53)
It is mentioned for the future: all nations will come to Jerusalem for Sukkot
–Zech. 14:16– “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”

What are the Jewish traditions of Sukkot?
Many Jews don’t connect this to High Holy Days
Some say living in huts comes from agricultural component (harvesters in huts in fields)
They begin building sukkah at end of Yom Kippur–families building together often
–Sukkah: temporary shelter, roof of branches/twigs/leaves to keep sky visible
–Must eat in it; some sleep in it. Rejoice in it; don’t suffer (go home if it rains!)
–Kids decorate it: fruit/flowers/paper chains/crepe paper/Indian corn/gourds
–God turned their wilderness into a garden
–Stresses the impermanence of life
Special theme of trusting God (as Israel in the wilderness)
–Don’t become entombed in the safety of your houses; trust God
Special “guests” are invited, 1 per night in order: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David (all wanderers or exiles)
–Women, too, now! Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Miriam, Abigail, Esther
They believe waving the 4 species brings a blessing of rain
–They circle sanctuary, branches in hands (7 times on 7th day)
–Number 4 is seen as symbolic–completion on Earth
Praise is recited each day (“hallel”)–often Psalms 113-118
Entire book of Ecclesiastes is read
–Stresses the vanity of life (dwell in huts), so eat/drink/be merry (rejoice)
–Festival season in spring starts with Song of Solomon (idealism of young love) and ends in fall with cynicism of old age!
Special readings are Exod. 33:12-34:36, Ezek. 31:18-39:16 (endtime war)
Special emphasis on birth: Day of Atonement wiped slate clean
–We begin over like newborns (water associated with birth)
Anticipates the messianic end of days (Zech. 14:16)
7th day called “hoshana rabbah” (“the great hosanna”)
–Should be full festival day, but adding 8th day changed that
–Seen as final day of judgment
–Solemn morning service (final seal not on Book of Life/Death until then)
–After morning service, festive meal with nuts, carrot rings (wealth)
Some stay up all night on 7th night to study Torah (Deut.)
–Old tradition: if you see your shadow with no head, you’ll die in next year
Week of great hospitality: visiting from sukkah to sukkah, having wine and cake
–Poor should be invited as guests
Theme of gathering in (harvest) and encircling (God surrounded them in wilderness)
Prayers for rainfall in coming winter months (Nov.-March), especially on 8th day
–Water libation (sacrificial outpouring) each morning at service
–Jesus knew this: John 7:37-38
Lighting ceremony each night (Jesus alluded to this in John 8:12 then healed blind man)
Some save lulav or willows to light fire for Passover to burn leaven or bake unleavened bread
–Ties festival cycle together
8th day: Torah festival
–Pentecost celebrates receiving Torah; Sukkot celebrates having it daily
–Very much a children’s festival with dancing, singing, carrying of flags
–7th day was end of perfect time cycle; 8th is a day beyond time
Strict Jews celebrate a 9th day–”Simhat Torah” (rejoicing in the Torah)
–Scrolls taken from ark then paraded around sanctuary
–Final verses of Deut. read, then 1st verses of Gen. (cycle renewed)
Entire festival has redemption theme–God redeemed them in desert
–Dry times in summer represented desert wandering

What does Sukkot mean for us as Christians?
It comes right after Day of Atonement (after judgment, millennial reign of Christ)
Celebrates harvest of fruit (James 5:7-8–“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
–Joel 2:23 prophesies of endtime when God sends former and latter rains in same month–final harvest!
Fruit planting takes place during spring rains (seed planted during Passover)
–Fruit matures during summer and is ready for harvest in fall
Celebrates God’s provision in the past (wilderness), present (harvest done) and future!
This Feast will be celebrated eternally as we dwell with Him (8th day)–mikrah: rehearsals
We are now tabernacles: I Cor. 6:19–“Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost”
–As He dwelt in the tabernacle of the wilderness, now He dwells in us!
Feast demands joyfulness; so does life in Christ
–Neh. 8:10– “. . .the joy of the Lord is your strength”
–Psalm 16:11– “. . .in thy presence is fullness of joy”
–Phil. 4:4–“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.”
Jesus was probably born during this festival: rotation of priests in OT possibly proves it
–At that time, Israel was divided into 24 districts (I Chron. 24)
–Each district sent 2 priests to the Temple each week to serve
–ALL priests went to Jerusalem 3 weeks each year (Deut. 16:16)
–Zacharias, dad of John the Baptist, priest of the order of Abijah (Luke 1:5)
–His division was 8th division to go (I Chron. 24:10)
–He ministered 9th week of year (all went up 3rd week)
–He was serving his time when he was promised a son (Luke 1:8-13)
–Gabriel came to Mary in 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy
–Would’ve been during Hanukkah–starts 10th month, 25th day
–Jesus born 9 months later–Feast of Tabernacles
–He came to Earth to dwell (tabernacle) among men
–He was the tabernacle in which God dwelt fully (Col. 2:9)
–Wouldn’t it be like God to fulfill a festival cycle? (born and return in 7th month)

I NEVER SHALL FORGET WHAT HE’S DONE FOR ME! (Yom Kippur–Day of Atonement!)

We used to sing a song in the choir at my former church–“Jesus, I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me. Jesus, I’ll never forget how you set me free. Jesus, I’ll never forget how you brought me out, No, no, NO, NEVER!” That’s a song that comes back to me today on Yom Kippur–The Day of Atonement–the holiest day on the Jewish calendar.

Was I born a Jew? No. But I was grafted into the family when Jesus died to redeem the entire world. Do I have to celebrate the 7 Biblically-commanded Feasts of the Lord? No. I have already celebrated the 4 spring feasts symbolically, and I will one day fully celebrate the 3 fall feasts symbolically.

But I believe that each year as the feasts roll around in their cyclical way on the Jewish calendar, it is important for me and mine to study them as they relate to our salvation. Jesus the Messiah is revealed in each one. In studying these holy days on God’s calendar, I learn about the past (how Jesus fulfilled them by His death, burial, resurrection, return as the Holy Spirit), the present (how to live holy per the traditions of the feasts) and the future (how He is coming back and what will follow).

Today is Yom (day) Kippur (covering). No longer do I need an earthly high priest to enter into the Holy of Holies once a year to apply the blood of goats and bulls to the mercy seat to cover my sins.

“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come,with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” Heb. 8:11-12

Yes, instead, Jesus became my High Priest once and for all. When He died on the cross, the veil into the Holy of Holies was rent in two. He had marched into the Holy of Holies, applied His own blood to the mercy seat for me and given free access to the most holy place to all who receive Him.

“For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens;who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” Heb. 7:26-27

He was without sin, yet He became sin for me. I cannot emphasize enough the term that is used several times in the Book of Hebrews–ONCE FOR ALL. Redemption for all who will receive it. And that redemption isn’t jerked away from us when we mess up. He knows our frame, that we are but dust. And because of that, He tells us that if we sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.

We in the church are so quick to condemn those who commit the “BIG” sins. (I know, because I have been on both sides–condemning those who commit the “biggies” and also committing “biggies.”) REALLY? I have seen church members who refuse to listen to a preacher who is divorced or who admits to backsliding into drug or alcohol abuse at some time in his/her Christian walk. REALLY? Who are you to judge another man’s servant?

What about the preachers who practice gluttony regularly with no recognition of that sin? What about those who are mean and hateful to their families behind closed doors while smiling graciously to their parishioners? You listen to them often enough.

What about those church members who crucify each other with their tongues? What about those respected church mothers who are quick to condemn you and murder you in their hearts for the least offense? They’re still teaching Sunday School and leading the choir, aren’t they?

Isn’t this hypocritical? Did He die for our sins (plural) before we get saved ONLY or also for those sins we might (will) commit after salvation? Why do we continue to look at Christians who sin (which is all of us–yes, you, too) and say, “That’s it. You blew it. You cannot minister/teach/preach/lead anything anymore.” REALLY? Show me where you find that in the Bible. Poor ole King David always gets mentioned in discourses on sin because of his murdering, adulterous, lying ways. (Yes, I said that about David).

But guess what? He repented and THEN (yes, after the horrible sins) was called “a man after God’s own heart.” He was still king of Israel and was still used of God.

On this Yom Kippur, I am alarmed that much of the Christian world is making the grace of God of non-effect. We judge which sins are forgivable. You think not? Then why do we say this sin (your gossip or your “white” lies which were probably not repented of) can be overlooked and you can teach Sunday School again? However, this other person who fornicated or got drunk or whatever but was truly repentant is barred from further service in the church. We might allow them to pass out tracts on the street, but no more service inside our “holy walls.”

I don’t mean to sound harsh, but perhaps it’s time we really took stock of what His atonement truly means. Redemption is serious business. Redemption is ongoing, continual. That blood is still flowing symbolically to cleanse us from day to day as we strive to live a holy life despite our flesh.

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb. 4:14-16

And as we rejoice in the fact that we may approach His throne boldly to receive mercy, let us remember that Yom Kippur also represents an event yet to come–Judgment Day. After Rosh HaShanah (Feast of Trumpets–held 10 days ago) which represents His return, there will be the Day of Judgment (Yom Kippur prophetically) followed shortly afterward by the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). (This starts in 5 days on the Jewish calendar–can’t wait! It represents how we dwell with Him eternally. Stay tuned!)

Until then, here is a Scripture that is great to keep in mind as we await His return:

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God,let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” Heb. 10:19-25

Click on the video below to see the teaching I did on Yom Kippur a couple of weeks ago at our church, Times of Refreshing. Please forgive me for not pronouncing everything correctly! Beneath the video is the handout we used in our teaching. It will help you follow along. Enjoy!

YOM KIPPUR (DAY OF ATONEMENT)
What is Yom Kippur?
“Yom” = “day” and “Kippur” = “covering, ransom, redeeming”
Sixth Scripturally-commanded holy day on Jewish calendar
–Held on 10th day of 7th month Tishri for 1 day
Second event in the fall High Holy Days and Days of Awe
–The only mandated holy day that is not a feast
–The only day all of Israel fasted (called “the fast” Acts 27:9)
No mention of it taking place until 444 B.C.
What does Yom Kippur consist of?
Four main components
–Holy convocation (undivided attention to God and gathering on a sabbath)
–Humbling of souls (affliction by fasting and repentance)
–Offerings (Lev. 16, Num. 29:7-11)–including regular sabbath offerings if on a sabbath
–Complete rest (or death as punishment)
Fourfold purpose
–To show the necessity of blood and God’s hatred of sin (Rom. 6:23, Heb. 9:22)
–To show contagious nature of sin–even holy Priest had to be cleansed! (Lev. 16:6)
–To point forward to the death of the Lamb of God
–To be repeated annually to show the way into the presence of God (Heb. 10:3)
What is the order of events on Yom Kippur?
1. High priest bathed his entire body, not just hands and feet as normally
–Washed his flesh in water in the Holy Place
–Had already washed once before entering Holy Place
2. He dressed in white linen with no ornaments
–Holy linen coat, breeches, girdle, fine mitre (headpiece)
–Also wore bells on skirt with rope attached
–Bells: to alert those outside if he was impure and died
–Rope: to drag him out
3. He sacrificed young bull for himself and his house
4. He selected 2 goats
–Goats selected by lot–1 for God, 1 for Azazel (name for Satan?)
–First goat sacrificed for people’s sins
–This blood placed on 2nd goat’s head (scapegoat)
5. Before offering this blood, priest filled censer with live coals from altar and put incense on them
–Cloud of incense covered mercy seat to keep him from seeing God
6. Once in Holy of Holies, blood was sprinkled upon and before mercy seat
–Bull for priesthood’s atonement; 1st goat for people’s atonement
–2 separate trips into Holy of Holies
7. Priest laid hands on head of scapegoat and confessed sins of the people
8. Scapegoat, bearing sins of the people, released into wilderness by trustworthy man
9. Remains of sacrificed bull and male goat taken outside city and burned
What are the Jewish traditions on Yom Kippur?
Main purpose is “teshuvah”–turning FROM sin and TO God
–Process began in 6th month Elul, sped up through Rosh HaShanah and the ensuing 10 days of repentance, reached end on Yom Kippur
Five services held (1 more than usual for festivals); most highly attended all year
–Before leaving for services, blessings pronounced upon children
–Very complicated services
–Proclamations made to nullify any vows/promises unfulfilled in coming year
–Jews still see spoken word as binding: “Words are important. . .The world itself     was created by God through the power of the Word.” (A rabbi)
–Jews believe you can’t be forgiven if you have unfulfilled vows (Matt. 5:24)
–Torah reading describes service in the Temple
–Emphasis also on Isaiah 57:14-58:16
–Book of Jonah read aloud (repentance important)
–They ask God to inscribe them in the Book of Life
Jews seek “kapparah”–cleaning of the slate/new chance at life
–Seen as a “brush with death” (wearing white kittel–burial shroud–and abstaining from life-giving food and water)
Jews observe 5 restrictions (afflictions): “shabbat shabbaton”–sabbath of complete rest
–No eating or drinking (fast day from sundown to sundown, no cooking allowed)
–Children and the sick are exempt
–Fast may be broken immediately after final service
–No bathing (stricter than regular sabbath)
–No anointing of body with oil
–No leather shoes (too comfortable)
–No sexual relations
Day before is a preparation day but also a sabbath
–Based on Lev. 23:32 which calls 9th day of Tishri a sabbath
–Great sabbath meal eaten before sundown!
–Some take mikveh (ritual bath) to purify themselves symbolically
Outdated traditions include twirling rooster or hen around hen while saying prayer for the animal to be killed in one’s stead
–Priests considered this too akin to white magic
–Now some Jews instead wrap money in handkerchief and follow same ritual
–Long ago, some Jews even flogged each other 39 times
–Some Jews still go outside to bless the moon at the end of the day (as at new moon)
Charity containers place in synagogues (typical on holy days)
Candles lit for deceased relatives
Women often wear white; mean wear kittels
Jews believe that the original purpose of this day was to cleanse the Temple of any
pollution that might have infiltrated the priestly system: “Too much pollution will render
   the sanctuary defiled and push the divine presence away.” (A rabbi)
–Since the Temple is no more, they now focus on cleaning up their individual lives,
including reconciliation with others
Shofar is blown to end the holy day–shows successful passage from sin to repentance
Some Jews go home and begin building sukkah
–Ties in Yom Kippur to Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) 5 days later
How does Yom Kippur parallel our salvation?
National cleansing of Israel since the Church will be  raptured out at Feast of Trumpets?
–Zech. 3:9: “. . .And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.”
–Verse 10 refers to the millenium
Jesus, our High Priest: applied blood to mercy seat once and for all! (Heb. 5:1-10,
9:24-10:14)
–We all have access into the Holy of Holies now (Heb. 4:14-16)
Priest washing twice on each trip in: our progression in Christ
–First washing is salvation–a “must” to enter the “sanctuary” (safe place)
–To go into Holy of Holies (His manifest presence), must be saturated in the Word
White garment: us being freed from sin
–No longer can wear the “garments” worn on the outside; must “put on” righteousness
Incense often represents prayer (Psalm 141:2: “Let my prayer be. . .as incense”)
–Prayer brings us into Holy of Holies
Priest sacrificed 1st bull for his household: purity in priesthood (We are all priests now)
Jesus represented by both goats
–Like 1st goat, He was killed and mutilated for our sins
–Like 2nd goat, He took our sins upon His own head (Heb. 13:11-12)
Hebrew word for “atonement” means “covering”
–Same word as “pitch,” the substance Noah applied to the ark walls
–Came between Noah and judgment (the waters)–like Jesus’ blood and us!
Prophetic for us: final Judgment Day–Book of Life opened
–Jews either repented and were forgiven or died in sin
Day the shofar is blown for Year of Jubilee
–Lev. 25:9: “Then you shall cause the trumpet of the Jubilee to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement you shall make the trumpet to sound throughout all your land.”
–Our freedom from debt!
Rabbinical scholars say that at the time of the atonement, a crimson sash was attached to the door of the Temple and another on the horn of the scapegoat
–They knew when the goat was dead in the wilderness because the sash would turn white to signify the forgiveness of sins was complete
–Is. 1:18: “. . .though thy sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”
–Jewish literature says 40 years before the destruction of the last Temple in 70 A.D., the sash stopped turning white (No more need for the blood of animals to atone for sin!)
From the Talmud: “Forty years before the destruction of the Temple (ie. 30 C.E.) the lot did not come up in the right hand, nor did the crimson stripe become white, nor did the westernmost light burn; and the doors of the heikhal (the Holy Place of the Temple) opened of their own accord, until Rabbi Yochanon ben Zakkai rebuked them.”

Rosh HaShanah–Feast of Trumpets–HE’S COMING BACK!

Ever since God directed me to study the Feasts of the Lord back in the late ’90s, I’ve been fascinated with the Christian symbolism in these holy days that many call “Jewish feasts.” Actually, in the Bible, they were never called “Jewish feasts.” They were HIS feasts–seven of them Biblically-mandated.

The apostle Paul called them types and shadows–“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days, Which are a shadow of things to come. . .” (Col. 2:16-17)

And thus each year I study the feasts as they come around, and I even teach on them occasionally. Tonight as I blog this entry, I have finished my celebration of Rosh HaShanah–Feast of Trumpets and the Jewish New Year. It is still technically going on because some of these holy days are celebrated for two days.

Rosh HaShanah, in particular, is a two-day event, because it is the only feast reckoned by the new moon. And the new moon was sometimes tough to spot in ancient Israel. What if it was cloudy? You might miss the appearance of the sliver-sized moon if you were the watchman outside Jerusalem waiting to sound the trumpet signal. So the celebration of Rosh HaShanah went an extra day–just in case. There are other reasons for two-day celebrations of one-day feasts, but that’s not the purpose of this entry.

Our church, Times of Refreshing (on the Old Paths), gathered last week on Sunday, Sept. 9, to study Rosh HaShanah. The video we made is posted at the bottom of this page, along with the handout we used to simplify the lesson.

Last night, Sunday, Sept. 16, some of our group met at 6:30 p.m. in downtown Walnut Cove–a town we have a burden of prayer for. It was not yet Rosh HaShanah as we sat at a picnic table, getting a head start on eating sweet treats as Jews do for the start of their new year.

We reveled in apples dipped in honey–the symbol of a sweet year to come! There was caramel dip as well, mini-Reese’s cups, cookies and other sweet portions, per Ezra 8:10 which tells what they did one Rosh HaShanah: “Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our LORD: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

We sipped our sparkling white grape juice as we talked about what was going on around the world–the Muslim uprisings in particular which I believe are no coincidence as Israel’s High Holy Days begin. I had no idea when sunset was supposed to be. (I am still in such a summertime mode that I figured sunset was about 8 to 8:30.)

A sudden impulse hit me to click on my phone to check the time. Despite the fact that I was afraid Revonda, who was telling us something interesting at that time, would think I was rude, I reached for my phone. It said 7:25. I apologized after a minute, saying that I had to look because my kids were coming at 7:30 plus I was wondering when sunset was. Troy checked the weather page on his phone and was amazed when it said sunset was 7:25–exactly when I had looked at my phone!

The Feast of Trumpets had begun exactly as I felt to check the time.

We laughed joyfully at how the sunset timing had worked out. I later thought about some symbolism in even this simple event.

This past summer, I had attended a family Vacation Bible School at Rural Hall Church of God. They randomly (maybe not randomly by God!) placed me and my children in the tribe of Issachar; they had divided the many participants into the 12 tribes of Israel as classes.

As I looked at my name tag each night of VBS, I kept feeling in my gut that it was symbolic that I was in this particular tribe. When I researched the tribe of Issachar, I realized that at perhaps their most important time in Biblical history, they were the minority–very few in number compared to the rest of the tribes, yet they were the ones that all of Israel consulted in this particular situation. “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do. . .” I Chron. 12:32

People who had “understanding of the times.” I realized last night as I looked at the phone at exactly the time of sunset, when sunset was indeed the time we were waiting for, that that little “coincidence” reiterated something to me: there are those in the Christian church at this time who have an understanding of the times we live in. They are not the majority. Perhaps some of them are those in whom the gift of prophecy works.

Those who have had a hunger put into their very soul to study the Feasts of the Lord–that includes some of you reading this right now–are likely people who have understanding of the times. These feasts can reveal to us many things: from the plan of salvation foreshadowed to what will happen in the world as we near Christ’s return.

What should you do, you people who are types of the tribe of Issachar? You should pray diligently for how God wants you to disperse the knowledge you have. Be on guard that the enemy of our souls does not pervert your gifting and try to take you into legalism with regard to the feasts. He did not call you to bring people back under the curse of the law if they do not celebrate the feasts in a mandatory fashion or they don’t keep the Law precisely as outlined in the Torah.

Galatians 3:13 tells us that “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us. . .”

I do not believe that we are under a curse if we don’t keep the feasts, if we eat the forbidden foods noted in the Law, etc. However, although the curse is removed, I still believe that a blessing applies if we do keep the feasts and the Sabbath or if we try to abide by the dietary restrictions. It is not a matter now of keeping the Torah because we HAVE to, but because we GET to! There is a difference in motivation.

So although I do not believe that we are still under command to keep these holy days, I believe that if we DO, there is a special blessing and revelation in it.

Thus I celebrated Rosh HaShanah from sundown yesterday to sundown tonight. I don’t own a shofar, but I listened to one online in a YouTube video that my bosom friend Robin sent me.

And it ran chills over me, bringing tears to my eyes as I realized the prophetic significance of this holy day. One day the trumpet of God will sound and in the twinkling of an eye, the long season of our wilderness journey will be over! (Remember that there are over three long, hot summer months between the final spring feast of Pentecost and the first fall feast of Rosh HaShanah–representative of how after He fills us with His Spirit as at Pentecost, we must walk out our salvation on a pilgrim journey full of trials and tribulations until the trump sounds to herald Rosh HaShanah–His second coming!)

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” I Cor. 15:51-52

Beloved, I don’t know when the Lord Yahushua is coming back. But I believe that symbolically we are in the sixth month of the Jewish calendar–the month of Elul–the month of preparation for the first day of the seventh, holy month Tishrei which is Rosh HaShanah–the Feast of Trumpets which prophetically points to His return!

If you belong to Him, you have been through the four spring feasts which have already been fulfilled in Jesus Christ–Pesach (Passover) when the blood was applied to your heart through His death, Unleavened Bread when you were freed from sin and buried with Him, Firstfruits when you experienced His resurrection power of new life after conversion and Shavuot (Pentecost) when you were baptized in the Holy Ghost for power in ministry.

You are now in the sultry summer months of the Jewish calendar, waiting for the final three feasts to begin in the fall. As you walk through the fourth month, the fifth month, the sixth month, your eyes are on that seventh month prize–HIS GLORIOUS RETURN (Feast of Trumpets–Rosh HaShanah), JUDGMENT DAY (Day of Atonement–Yom Kippur) and ETERNITY WITH HIM (Feast of Tabernacles–Sukkot).

The four feasts of the spring (four is the number of earthly completion) added to the three feasts of the fall (three is the number of heavenly/Godly completion) equals the divine completion of the number seven. So the next sound we listen for is the sound of the trumpet! THAT’S why I celebrate Feast of Trumpets–to remind me of the day of His appearing!

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” I Thess. 4:16-18

Click on the link below to watch our hour-long class on Rosh HaShanah. (Please forgive my mistaken reference to this feast as the “feast of all feasts.” I confused my notes on Feast of Tabernacles with Feast of Trumpets as I typed the lesson. So sorry!)

Our Bible study handout:

ROSH HASHANAH (FEAST OF TRUMPETS)
What does Rosh HaShanah mean?
“Head of the Year”–this term is not found in the Bible (applied in 2nd century A.D.)
–Considered the Jewish New Year
When is Rosh HaShanah?
“And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. . .” Numbers 29:1
First day of the month Tishrei
–Tishrei: 7th month on the Jewish holy calendar–holy month.
–1st month on the civil calendar (hence New Year)
On our calendar, occurs anywhere from mid-September to mid-October
Only commanded to be celebrated for 1 day
–Jews celebrate some 1-day holidays for 2 days (moon issues)
Why is it also called Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah)?
God commanded them to blow trumpets on that day
“. . .For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets.” Numbers 29:1
–Other new moons were signaled by short trumpet blasts–this one by long ones
What were the Jews to do on this holiday?
23 “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 ‘Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25 You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the Lord.’” Leviticus 23:23-25
Celebrate it as a Sabbath.
“You shall do no customary work.” Numbers 29:1
Blow the trumpets in the Temple and through the land of Israel. (Scriptures above)
–Traditionally, shofar (ram’s horn) was blown, not the silver trumpets of the Temple
–Shofar designated for Yom Kippur, Jubilee, call to battle
–A pattern of blows developed: 1 long blast (tekiah), 3 short blasts (shevarim), 9
staccato blasts (teruah), 1 long blast.
–Blown 100 times that day (several sequences)
Give offerings, some burnt
2 “You shall offer a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the Lord: one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year, without blemish. 3 Their grain offering shall be fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for the bull, two-tenths for the ram, 4 and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs; 5 also one kid of the goats as a sin offering, to make atonement for you; 6 besides the burnt offering with its grain offering for the New Moon, the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings, according to their ordinance, as a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the Lord.”Numbers 19:2-6
How often is Feast of Trumpets mentioned in the Bible?
Besides the instructions on how to celebrate it, only once
–When the Jews returned to Israel from exile in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 3:1-6, Nehemiah 7:73-8:13)
“Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. 3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. . .5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. . . 9And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.’ For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, ‘Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.’ 11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, ‘Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.’ 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.” Nehemiah 8:1-10
What Jewish traditions are held?
Month before (Elul–6th month) is used for preparation
–Shofar blown every morning after prayer service (starting Sabbath before Elul begins)
as a reminder of repentance and approach of high holy days
Week before (last week of Elul) used for repentance
–Selihot (“forgiveness”): repentant prayers made
–Intensifies on final day of Elul: mikveh is popular
Psalm 81 is read (was sung by choir)
3 books are opened: Book of Life (Death) for wicked, Book of Life for righteous, Book of Life for
in-between
–Judge writes everyone’s name in one
–Satan appears before God to accuse Israel
–Shofar blown to confuse him
–Often called Yom Ha-Din–Judgment Day
Greeting is “Leshanah tovah tikatevu” (“May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a
good year!”)–based on Psalm 69:28, Exodus 32:32-33
Casting ceremony “Tashlikh” (“cast off”) held
–Originated in the Middle Ages, still popular
–On the afternoon of Rosh HaShanah, meet near flowing body of water to recite
Tashlikh prayer (Micah 7:18-20, Psalm 118:5-9, Psalm 33, Psalm 130, Isaiah 11:9)
–At end, shake pockets or cast bread crumbs into water (Micah 7:19, Ezek. 18:30-31)
Long services held (morning–5 or more hours often)
–Focus on 3 benedictions: Malkhiyot (Kingships), Zikhronot (Remembrances), Shofarot
(Rams’ horns)
–God’s majestic kingship, His remembrance of His covenant with Israel, the key
role of the shofar in history and the future
Joyful activities are not allowed (no weddings, e.g.)
–Yet there is joy: greeting cards sent, wishing “Shanah tovah!” (“A good year!)
Certain foods eaten
–Apples dipped in honey (next year full of sweetness)
–Fruit not eaten in a while consumed at dinner 2nd night
–Round loaves of braided hallah bread, rather than oval, eaten to symbolize crowns
–Head of fish (head and not the tail)
–No nuts (numerical value of “nuts” equals “sin”)
Observed as the birthday of the world
Believed to be the day the dead would rise for judgment
Sabbath in between Trumpets and Atonement: Shabbat Shuvah (“Sabbath of Turning”
based on Hosea 14:2)
What significance does it hold for Christians?
Does not commemorate any historical event–totally prophetic
Fulfilled in a sense by God’s regathering of Israel
Only holiday held at new moon
–Dark time of the month–like dark day of judgment (Amos 5:18-20, Zephaniah 1:14-16, Joel 2:31, Rev. 6:12-17)
Focus is on the new year, a new beginning
–We are new creatures–God’s focus is on “new”
–New name, song, thing, covenant, tongues, etc.
Takes place in 7th month–month of final harvest
Trumpet reminds us of Jesus’ 2nd coming
–Will call God’s people to assembly (Rapture)
–I Cor. 15:51-52, I Thess. 4:16-17

“Get Right, Church, and Let’s Go Home!”–remembering my friend Scottie. . .

Pretty Scottie

I was covered from neck to wrists to ankles in horrid, red, scaly sores. Clear skin was becoming scarce on my body, particularly on my trunk where the sores seemed to thrive. Embarrassment was my constant companion when I had to go out in public.

Finally, a diagnosis came–pityriasis rosea–a viral, itchy, scaly skin disease. Cure? None–it runs its course in about two months or less and can recur. Its trigger? Unknown–possibly a lack of sunlight.

“Great,” I said sarcastically. My dad had been diagnosed with Stage 3 Lentigo Melanoma the year before, so I had determined to avoid the sun for fear of skin cancer. Now I avoid the sun and get a disease–albeit not deadly–that can be caused by too little sun. Just great. :/

So I sighed and swallowed my pride each time I went to church and had to wear a dress. Even pantyhose couldn’t disguise my sore-stricken legs. I felt like a leper.

Here she came across the pews after church service one Wednesday night back in about 1993–my friend Scottie, a vivacious brunette with a contagious laugh that was almost like a little girl’s giggle. She gave me that look that would cut right through you–a very real look that could detect anything hidden. “What’s going on with you?” Scottie asked.

I told her my dilemma, and she patted me on the back. “Come up to the shop tomorrow,” she said. “I’m gonna put you in the tanning bed and clear those things up.” I hesitated, not sure how to tell her that at this crucial juncture in our lives, I didn’t even have money for tanning sessions.

“I’m not gonna charge you,” she seemed to read my mind. “Come up tomorrow on your lunch break.”

So the next day, I hurried just up the street from my job as an orthodontic office manager in Kernersville to Scottie’s hair salon on Main Street. She welcomed me into the suavely-decorated shop (grays and pinks maybe? It’s been a long time) with her characteristically big smile, full of pretty white teeth.

Before long, I was settled into a tanning bed for the first time in my life, praying fervently that the UV rays would zap those disgusting sores. Scottie would have me back up every few days until, within two weeks, those sores were fading rapidly. Her joy was almost as huge as mine.

“What’d I tell ya?” she giggled that melodic giggle that always made me want to laugh along with her. I was so grateful and never forgot her kindness.

That was nearly 20 years ago, but still those nasty sores try to come back every now and then. When they do, I head to the tanning bed (a rare occasion) and often think of Scottie and her big heart.

Scottie was so at home in her various barber shops throughout the years.

It came as quite a shock to me when the phone call came this past Sunday night that she had passed away. Scottie? A woman so full of life that you just knew she was going to live to at least 120? No way!

I had heard a couple of years ago that she had been diagnosed with cancer, but I had no idea it had gotten to this point. I kept up with her via Facebook, enjoying the pictures of her in seemingly good health. My problem was that I couldn’t imagine anything on this Earth getting the best of Scottie. She was a bit larger than life to me, I guess.

We both had left the church we used to attend together–me in 2003 and her in 2010–and we lived in different areas. I had seen her a time or two through those years, but as often happens when people move away–even if it’s just to another town in the same region–you lose touch.

Scottie back in the day, a few years before I met her.

Yet I thought of Scottie often, like when I’d get a haircut. During my first few years at our church back in the ’80s, I had let my hair grow out to my waist–no bangs, no layers. I was “Plain Jane” Leslie. That vibrant Scottie got hold of me at a makeup party she hosted one night and said, “Come up to the barber shop! I’m gonna cut that ole long hair off and make you look your age.”

I thought I would faint as I saw those long brown tresses hit the floor of the shop she then shared with Jesse on West Mountain Street in Kernersville. “My hair, my hair! What have I done?” I was crying inside.

But when Scottie whirled that chair around to show me the finished product in the mirror, I was pleasantly surprised. Soft layers framing my face down to my shoulders. Scottie was right! I looked like a teenager again! She was like the cat that swallowed the canary when I walked into church on Wednesday night, stunning everyone with my new do.

When spiral perms became all the rage, here came Scottie, telling me my hair–steadily growing longer again–would look great with those long ringlets of spiral curl. And guess what? She was on the money again. Oh, the time we spent together at her shop as she spent literally hours rolling up my hair in those heavy spiral curlers every few months!

Spending time with her was fun–made me feel like a little girl again, sharing secrets and giggling. When she gave birth to her daughter Tiffany, I hurried over to see if maybe childbirth had slowed down that irrepressible Scottie.

Of course not. There she was dressed in nothing but one of her husband Greg’s white shirts, positively glowing with happiness and still laughing. Her joy, like her laughter, was contagious. “They told me I might never be able to have children,” she confided in me. “But they were wrong.” And she always gave God all the glory for it.

Scottie and her beloved Tiffany!

Scottie proudly showed us her little Tiffy. “I prayed for a girl, and that’s what I got!” she declared, shooting Greg a look that dared him to disagree. Not that he would’ve–already he looked proud as a peacock when Scottie would show her many visitors a picture of him as a baby to prove how much Tiffany resembled her daddy.

We were all part of a close-knit church family–sharing birthday parties, camping trips, choir practices, youth camps, revivals, fellowship dinners. Scottie made every party more fun, bringing her infectious laughter and fun-loving personality.

She would tell me how she visited Graceland once right after Elvis purportedly died and how she thought she briefly spotted him there. Once when our pastor mentioned Elvis for some odd reason in a sermon, my family looked over at Scottie from our third-row pew on the right to her second-row pew in the middle. We teased her, mouthing the words, “Elvis is dead.” Her expressive eyes lit up with fire and she pursed her lips together defiantly, shaking her head no. Oh, the fun we had with that.

When I first heard she was battling cancer a couple of years ago, I kept saying, “I’ll go see her.” I did get her mailing address to send a card, but I never did actually lay eyes on her again. I had gone through a tough divorce that left me embarrassed as a Christian, and I let my pride keep me from showing my face around many of my old friends. My irrational fear of possibly being treated differently by those I had so loved (certainly not by Scottie and probably not by anyone at all–the enemy tells us things like this to keep us separated) kept me holed up here in Stokes County. Pride/embarrassment is no excuse; it was selfish of me.

Plus, we humans have this procrastination gene that prompts us to say, “I’ll do it real soon.”

Well, guess what? Real soon became two years, and I lost the chance. Yes, I prayed for her and I communicated through Facebook, but how I wish I could’ve seen those sparkling eyes one more time or heard that musical laugh that just tickled my insides somehow.

If you have somebody you long to see again, don’t put it off. Go now. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

“As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more.” Psalm 103:15-16

I’ve cried several times this week when I’ve thought of Scottie and how her days on Earth were over so soon–only 57 years old when she left us. But some of those tears have also been happy ones because of beautiful memories of her praising God at church, deep gratitude that I was able to know such a strong woman of God, joy thrilling down in my soul that Scottie isn’t gone–just in another dimension–an eternal one where she waits for us to join her in the presence of the Lord one day.

I have lost a lot of beloved people in my life. But somehow I can’t imagine any of them being quite as excited as I can imagine Scottie being when she first saw Jesus. That’s not a slam on any of those other saints of God that I so loved; it’s simply a statement about Scottie’s bubbling joy that she was never ashamed to express. Others of us–with me as chief–let pride hold us back from so much. But not Scottie. She was REAL, as real as real gets.

And I know she’s REAL happy right now–finally at home with the Savior that she so adored and was never ashamed to proclaim.

Scottie loved her family–husband Greg, daughter Tiffany, son-in-law Clayton and precious grandson Clay.

I’ve heard that Scottie requested that someone sing “Get Right, Church, and Let’s Go Home!” for the funeral. We’d all do well to listen to the message of that song and prepare ourselves to enter in. It won’t be long, and we’ll be there with Scottie, shouting along with her and the other saints in glory who have been cheering us on all along.

Scottie fought a good fight, she finished her course, and most importantly, SHE KEPT THE FAITH. Henceforth there is laid up for her a crown of righteousness in a place where there is no more cancer, no more pain, no more crying, and the Lamb will be the light. I figure Scottie’s gonna be snuggled right there next to Him.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Rev. 21:4

Pentecost–God’s covenant with His people!

As you know by now, I am a Christian who is getting back to her roots. My Messiah–my groom–was Jewish, and I want to familiarize myself with His culture. I have been grafted into the commonwealth of Israel, so I want to understand what the Jews do, how they live, what they celebrate.

So, I study the Feasts of the Lord which were outlined in Leviticus 23. And I see Jesus hidden in each one. I see symbolism that is very pertinent to modern-day Christians. I consider these feasts to be types and shadows, as the Apostle Paul said, of things to come.

Sunday, May 27, is Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) on the Jewish calendar. On the Christian calendar, it is called Pentecost. Since the Feast of Firstfruits (Resurrection Day or Easter Sunday morning), the Jews have been counting up to Pentecost–the 50-day countdown (count-up) that is called the Counting of the Omer. My kids and I have been counting along with them. What an exciting time it is!

We are almost at Day 50. For the Jews, Shavuot can come on any day of the week since their lunar calendar is so different from ours. They begin counting the omer the day after Passover, since Passover is considered a sabbath–no matter what day of the week it falls on.

Most Christians who subscribe to the Counting of the Omer, begin counting on Easter Sunday–the day after the “normal” sabbath, so that Pentecost always falls on a Sunday.

Well, guess what? This year, both Jews and Christians celebrate Shavuot (Pentecost) on the same day–Sunday! It just worked out this year that the day of the week matched for both groups.

This has been the case with every feast we have studied since December. There is a strange intermingling of the Jewish calendar and the Christian calendar this year. Could this be a sign of the times in which we live? The times of the end? The times where the Christians are drawn back to the Jewish roots of Christianity as their religion comes full circle–back to the Christianity of the Book of Acts?

Our community Bible study group started studying the feasts with Hanukkah (not one of the 7 Biblically commanded feasts but an important one nonetheless) this past year. The first full day of Hanukkah (the Festival of Lights which focuses on “increasing the light”) fell on Dec. 21–the winter solstice which celebrates the increasing of the light. Hmmm. . .

Then we learned that the 5th day of Hanukkah is the traditional day that the Jews give presents to their children. This fell right at Christmas Eve/Christmas this year. It won’t work out that way next year since Hanukkah is on different dates on our calendar each year.

When Purim came (again, not one of the 7 commanded feasts but one that is still Biblical), the Israeli prime minister had just visited with President Obama and had given him a special Purim copy of the Book of Esther. Very timely, huh?

When the spring feasts rolled around, the dates again were significant–beautifully situated with Easter. Passover came on the actual day that Jesus was crucified. This doesn’t always happen. Passover could be a Monday some years–not the day our Savior was killed.

The Feast of Firstfruits, like the others, can be any of the 7 days of the week. But this year, it was on Sunday–just as it was nearly 2000 years ago when our firstfruits representative, Jesus, arose from the dead. Next year, it won’t work out that way.

Timing is of the essence this year, it seems.

So now it’s time to celebrate Shavuot–a holiday during which we decorate with flowers and greenery, a time to read the Book of Ruth as a beautiful harvest/fertility/marriage story.

Because Shavuot is a love story feast. It represents the marriage of God to His people. The Jews believe that the Torah (law) was given to Israel on Mt. Sinai on the first Shavuot. That was God’s ketubah (marriage covenant) with His people. His laws were written on tablets of stone.

Then came the most well-known Day of Pentecost of all–the one described in Acts 2. Once again, God confirmed His marriage to His people. And not to the Jews only–this time to ALL flesh. He poured out His Spirit in the Upper Room, bringing to pass His earlier Word that one day He would write His laws–not on tablets of stone–but in the hearts of His people.

Shavuot is the time when the firstfruits of the wheat harvest were brought to the Temple and given to God. Two loaves of leavened bread were offered in wave offerings by the priests.

Let us celebrate this time not only as a renewing of the Holy Ghost within us, but also as a time to focus on the harvest. Jesus said that the fields were white unto harvest but that the laborers were few. Let us pray that laborers be sent into the ripe harvest. Let us volunteer to be part of that work crew.

It’s time to bring in the harvest!

Here is the YouTube video of a teaching I did at the Walnut Cove Public Library on Thursday, May 24, 2012. It will teach you so much about Shavuot/Pentecost. I made a handout to accompany the lesson and have included that information beneath the video below. Enjoy!

Here is the handout info that I gave to the participants in our Shavuot class.

FEAST OF WEEKS (SHAVUOT OR PENTECOST)

What is Shavuot?

A biblically-commanded feast to be kept 50 days after Feast of Firstfruits

–Celebrates the beginning of the summer wheat harvest (late May or early June)

“And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought   the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed. Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwellings two wave loaves of two-tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour; they shall be baked with leaven. They are the firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall offer with the bread seven lambs of the first year, without blemish, one young bull, and two rams. They shall be as a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. Then you shall sacrifice one kid of the goats as a sin offering, and two male lambs of the first year as a sacrifice of a peace offering. The priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations. When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.” Lev. 23:15-22

Also called “Pentecost” (from Greek word for 50th)

Held in third Jewish month, Sivan

–Most Jews celebrate it on a fixed date, Sivan 6, which could be a variable day

–They begin counting the day after Passover (“day after the Sabbath”)

–Some Jews, especially Messianic Jews, celebrate a fixed day but variable date

–They begin counting the day after the actual Saturday sabbath that falls during the week of Passover

(will always be a Sunday).

–Torah says to count from when the sickle is first put to standing grain

“You shall count seven weeks for yourself; begin to count the seven weeks from the time you begin to put the sickle to the grain. Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you.” Deut. 16:9-10

–Only biblically-ordained feast not following the moon cycle

–Only Jewish feast celebrated totally on its own

–Spring and fall feasts come in sets of 3

–Passover/Unleavened Bread/Firstfruits, Trumpets/Atonement/Tabernacles

–Connected to Passover by the Counting of the Omer

One of 4 feasts already fulfilled in Jesus

–Represents the baptism of the Holy Ghost first seen in Acts 2

Two loaves of leavened bread brought to Temple as a wave offering

This day was a sabbath, no matter what day of the week it fell on

“And you shall proclaim on the same day that it is a holy convocation to you. You shall do no customary work on it. It shall be a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.” Lev. 23:21

–It was particularly holy–one of only 3 feasts (out of 7 total) in which all Jewish men had to present themselves in the Temple (other 2–Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles)

Jewish tradition: the law was given at Mt. Sinai on the first Pentecost (Ex. 19:1)

What are the Jewish traditions of Shavuot?

Book of Ruth is read in the synagogue

–Deals with harvest/fertility as well as covenant (Ruth/Naomi)

–Supposedly, King David was born and died on Shavuot (Ruth’s descendant)

Houses and synagogues are decorated with flowers (roses, fresh myrtle); green plants; branches

–Based on Ex. 34:3 which implies that land around Sinai was very green and ripe

–This is a harvest festival

Baskets are used for gifts and decorations

–Grain offerings brought to Temple in baskets

–Tradition says that Moses as a baby in his basket was found on Shavuot

Dairy foods are eaten

–Song of Solomon 4:11 implies the Torah (“the beloved”) is like honey and milk

–Promised Land flowing with milk and honey

Many strict Jews stay up all night studying Torah

–At sunrise, they ritually immerse themselves in water

–Just as Israel had 3 days of preparation in the wilderness (Ex. 19:10-11)

All Jews stand while Ex. 19-20 is read (as Israel did at Sinai)

How is Shavuot symbolic of a wedding?

Even before Passover, God saw Israel as His bride

“Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” Exodus 6:6-7

–Verb “take” here is often used to mean “taking a bride”

God took Israel as His bride by joining with them in a covenant (Torah)

–When He birthed His church in Acts, it became His bride as well

Jewish weddings must have a “ketubah” (written contract specifying what each side will do as part of the covenant)

–At Sinai, Torah was the ketubah in stone

–In the upper room in the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit was the ketubah written on hearts

–In the Torah, God’s side of the covenant was salvation, healing, deliverance, blessings

–Why would the NT contract be any less?

Jewish couples stand under a “chupah” (canopy) as they are married

–Israel stood at the foot of Sinai, originally called the “nether” (“under”)

How does Shavuot parallel our salvation?

So far, the spring feasts have represented our initial steps to salvation

–#1: Passover–we accept the lamb (Jesus) and apply the blood (to our hearts)

–#2: Unleavened Bread–we eat bread with no leaven (repentance of sins) and prepare to leave Egypt (the world)

–#3: Firstfruits–we offer the first of our harvest to the priest (we pledge the best of our lives to Jesus as an offering)

Now comes #4: Pentecost–law was written on stone at Sinai

–On the first Pentecost after Jesus ascended, the law was written on our hearts as the Holy Ghost was poured out

“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them” Heb. 10:16

How does the Acts 2 Pentecost mirror the original?

There were supernatural signs

–Sinai: thunder and lightning

“And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.” Exodus 20:18

–Acts: fire from Heaven, mighty rushing wind

“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.” Acts 2:1-3

Different languages were heard

Sinai: Jewish scholars say God’s voice split into 70 languages for whole earth to understand

Acts: 120 believers spoke in other tongues; each listener heard it in his own language

–Jewish custom holds that for a prayer service to be official, 10 people must be present; 12 tribes of Israel (10 x 12 = 120)

Both took place on a mountain

Sinai: jagged mountain

Acts: upper room high in Jerusalem on Mt. Zion

Law was given

Sinai: Written in stone by the finger of God

Acts: Written in hearts by the Spirit of God

“. . .clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” II Cor. 3:3

A repayment was made

Sinai: 3000 killed for worshiping golden calf

“And about three thousand men of the people fell that day.” Exodus 32:28

Acts: 3000 saved after Peter’s sermon

“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” Acts 2:41

The first church was established

Sinai: Israel was called a church just after the law was given

“This is he [Moses] that was in the church in the wilderness” Acts 7:38

Acts: First mention of NT church just after Holy Ghost baptism

“. . .the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Act 2:47

Men swayed as though drunk

Sinai: Priests waved the flour offerings with the bread (Lev. 23:20)

— “wave”–Hebrew “nuwph”–to vibrate and sway, to rock to and fro

Acts: Onlookers thought the people in the upper room were drunk

“Others mockingly said, ‘These men are full of new wine.’” Acts 2:13

Interesting questions and a thought about Pentecost

Why was leavened bread offered when leaven represented sin?

Why were 2 loaves offered?

Were the 120 in the upper room up all night before the Holy Ghost came?

Jews could not skip the first spring feasts and then celebrate Pentecost

–Neither can we skip the early stages of salvation and still receive the Holy Ghost baptism

Here is a video that shows the wheat harvest, set to the tune of that old hymn, “Bringing In the Sheaves.” Oh, what meaning that song has to me now!

Expanding horizon

I had looked forward to an intercessory prayer service at our sister church, Word of Faith Divine Worship Center in the Walnut Tree community of Walnut Cove, ever since I had been invited a month or so ago. I knew deep down it would be something I could not miss, should not miss, WOULD not miss.

And so I went, although at the last minute I had misgivings (isn’t that the way it always is?). I was tired and had battled a headache for the past two days. My hubster was going to get up a bit early to spend time with me before work. It was my daughter’s birthday. I had been running the whole afternoon and wanted to rest.

But we push through the flesh when we know that the Spirit beckons. We maneuver through the mess when the message says, “Go.”

And so I went.

One look at my spiritual sisters’ faces–first Rebecca and Amanda, then Sha and next Lydia–let me know I was in the right place at the right time. Just the five of us–the number of God’s grace–like fingers on a spiritual hand, desiring to see things done.

Our hands joined, we began in prayer in the eternal form of a circle with the Eternal One surrounding us. And thus, we began to enter in. . .into His presence, into realms of prayer that lie beyond a “Now I lay me down to sleep.”

The time came to break the circle, but not the spiritual connection–time to find a prayer corner and intercede for our brothers and sisters, our community, our town.

I could feel that precious anointing as I knelt–hands uplifted sometimes, head down on the pew other times. His presence enveloped me as music by “Shekinah Glory” flowed throughout the room. Oh, how we worshiped! Oh, how we praised! And oh, how He met us there.

I was taken into a realm of the Spirit that I hadn’t seen in a while–a place where the outside world ceases to exist for a time. In the Spirit, I saw the people of God walking down an aisle, although we were not in a building. We were walking freely, not bound, but we could only move forward, backward or to each side about three feet either way (unless we left the path).

The path was lovely. (I know our physical path may be full of trials and tribulations, but remember this was our spiritual path.) Although there were barriers to each side, these boundaries of the aisle were beautiful. I saw golden posts lining the path. And the barriers were not fences to keep us in. There were wide spaces between every golden post that we could simply walk through at any time that we wanted to leave the path. No bondage.

Yet the golden posts were there as markers to show us when we were moving too much to the left or to the right. This illustrated for me that God’s way of guiding us is beautiful and non-constricting. We have free will to go anywhere we like, although He always shows us where He would rather us go.

It seemed to be early evening as we moved confidently forward. And up ahead–oh, up ahead! The aisle opened into a wide place, a spacious area. It was as if you were walking up the aisle at a large church and reached the altar area where there is suddenly room to maneuver.

Except this was much bigger than an altar area, and as I said before, it was not in an enclosed space. The wide-open space was full of light, but I could still tell it was late in the day. There was even a purplish tinge to the entire picture. I could see no end to the vista, and the word “horizon” kept coming to me.

I knew He was letting me know that although God’s people have had freedom to move (remember it was not overly constricted in the aisle), soon we are coming to a place of expansion, a spacious place with a far-reaching horizon. I could imagine the feeling that a baby must experience when he/she reaches the end of the birth canal and is out into the open air at last with no restrictions. Or conversely, the feeling that a mother feels when the baby emerges and the pressure releases.

God’s people are coming into a spacious place. We have walked in designated paths for a long time, but the day is approaching that we will be released into a larger plane. Some restrictions are getting ready to be loosed.

A place of freedom to do as we please? God forbid. A place where moral restrictions do not apply? Absolutely not. Rather a place where God’s people will be free to move into expanded areas of ministry. Be ready to be used in ways you may not have anticipated.

As I lay with my head on the wooden pew, the feeling of peace that accompanied the beautiful picture God showed me was overwhelming. I knew that the fleshly world we inhabit might be getting ready to undergo some birth pangs, some shaking, some destruction–but that the spiritual world God’s people move in will consequently expand.

God’s ways have always been the opposite of what the world expects. We give and therefore receive. We bless those that curse us. Things that seem backward in the world’s perspective fit perfectly into God’s plan as the spirit runs the opposite course of the flesh.

Therefore, in the vision that God gave me, as the physical world seems to contract with trouble, the spiritual world we operate in will conversely expand. And remember that the day was fading as we approached our expanded territory–time is short.

When the time came to rise from our prayer corners and rejoin the circle, I pondered whether to say anything about what I saw. Sometimes you don’t blab out everything you know right away. I felt that if He wanted me to speak, He would give the confirmation in an undeniable way.

Sure enough, as my precious sister Sha to my right began to pray aloud, I had this sudden urge to lay my hand on her and speak the vision I had seen, to encourage her that God was bringing her down some narrow paths into a spacious place, with a far-reaching horizon. Before I could make a move, Sha suddenly cried out, “Expand our horizon, Lord!” And when she did, I was stunned enough to open my eyes and jerk my head toward her in amazement.

When Sha spoke out that word with force, I knew that I knew that I knew that He was confirming His Word to me. And I knew that I should share it with my sisters, and so I did eventually.

Keep moving confidently forward on the path He has placed you. Your true brothers and sisters in Christ are moving right along with you. Very soon, we will emerge into that spacious arena with the expanded horizon. And though the world roar around us, we will do His work with a freedom and power we have long dreamed of.

This is what I saw, and this is what I believe. We serve a mighty God!

(As we prayed, this prophetic message played from a Shekinah Glory CD. It is entitled simply “Prophetic Release.” I could only find it on YouTube as a video posted by a church whose mime group performed to it. The mime routine is powerful; it begins after a Scripture reading by a church leader, so hang on and wait for it.)

Embarrassing Christianity

I remember when the word “gay” meant “happy.” (Yes, I’m that old.) But my kids will never be able to use that word in its original definition, because “gay” has come to mean something totally different in our society.

I’m beginning to think that the same thing is happening to the word “Christian.” Merriam-Webster says it means “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

I guess the key word there is “professes.” I can “profess” to be fluent in six million forms of communication, but that doesn’t make it true (or make me C-3P0, for you “Star Wars” geeks).

You can wear the title of “Christian,” but that doesn’t make you one. There are days I am loath to identify with American Christianity in its current state.

“Why?” you may ask. Because Christians are living more and more like the world? Because Christians are becoming more and more liberal?

Nope. Because the Christians who usually steal the limelight are often arrogant, self-righteous, holier-than-thou and condescending to anyone who doesn’t agree with every single tenet of their beliefs.

I have seen it like never before in the hubbub that surrounds the marriage amendment that is up for a vote on the North Carolina Primary ballot on May 8. This proposed amendment to the NC Constitution reads as follows:

SECTION 1.  Article 14 of the North Carolina Constitution is amended by adding the following new section:

Sec. 6.  Marriage.

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.  This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”

The lines have been drawn, and there is ugliness on both sides. I have seen staunch Christians blacklist those who are against the amendment. I’ve seen committed Christians be too intimidated to admit that they might have reservations about the amendment based on their beliefs that there could be a broader than expected legal interpretation of it which could have implications that reach farther than just a man/woman marriage. I’ve seen ugly comments that border on hatred of anyone who would oppose this amendment.

Call me clueless, but I just don’t get it.

As for the proposed amendment, I don’t understand the pros and cons of it enough to argue either side. I know firm Christians who believe the amendment is the will of God, and I know firm Christians who believe that it is not. (Please realize that not supporting the amendment in its present form doesn’t mean that someone supports homosexual marriage.)

To you liberals: don’t be hating on me, but I personally believe that marriage is a man/woman thing, according to God’s original plan for creation in the Garden of Eden and subsequent scriptures. To you conservatives: HOWEVER, I am not fully persuaded on how I will vote on this amendment. AGAIN, don’t suppose that because someone might be undecided or they have chosen to vote “No” that they are proponents of something other than marriage between one man and one woman. (Then again, they might be, although I personally am not.)

But the marriage amendment is not even the real issue here for me. For all of the people who are arguing that if we don’t affirm the man/woman marriage idea by passing amendments such as this one in NC, the door will be open for all kinds of evil to enter our country and that our nation will go down the tubes, let me say this clearly:

I believe that if you stand on your soapbox with arrogance, condescension, mean-spiritedness and anger against your opponents, it is YOUR behavior that opens the door for evil that could ultimately flush America down the toilet.

“For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” James 3:16

Why? Because no one expects someone they consider to be a “sinner” to act right. But EVERYONE expects a “Christian” to act right.

Yet we have it backwards. We’d rather “be right” than “be righteous.” I have a Facebook friend who commented tonight: “I must remind myself daily it is more important for me to act righteous than to make sure others know I am right. Humility is a cloak we all should learn to wear.”

It is more important to be loving to those who oppose us than to argue our rightness with them. Does loving them mean we are weak? That we have caved in to the opposing viewpoint? That we have compromised?

God forbid. Why on earth do we equate “love” with “compromise” or “agreement”? We have made love a weak, pansy-pie emotion when it is the strongest force on earth. Yes, the strongest. It was LOVE that made Jesus Christ shed His all-powerful blood on Calvary. It was LOVE that God breathed into Adam–He breathed into Adam to give him life–His breath is His Spirit–and if God is Spirit and if God is Love, then even His Spirit consists of LOVE.

If I hug a known liar, the Christian world looks at that as if I am embracing lying. If I treat a drug addict kindly, then I must be accepting of his/her lifestyle. Right? WRONG.

Stop making love and compassion for a sinner equal to agreement and compromise with sin. These things are not synonymous.

And by the way, I smile at you and treat you kindly, yet you have your own imperfections and sins. The majority of you would probably embrace me and love me, but I sure have my own set of faults and sins. Because we treat each other with kindness and love does not mean we are saying, “Hey, it’s okay. Go ahead and continue in your impatience, arrogance, gluttony, lack of self-control, hatefulness and general sin.”

NO. We are saying that we love each other DESPITE our imperfections and that we pray that we ALL overcome sin in this world by the power of Jesus Christ.

You want to win the sinner? Well, you sure won’t do it with your arrogance “because YOU have never done what they do.” Or your holier-than-thou snubs of these people “because YOU would never fall the way they did.”

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1

I noticed the word “meekness” there. And the idea that you and I, too, could be tempted.

But Jesus wasn’t always meek, you say. He got angry in the Temple and overturned tables. He called people “whited sepulchers” and “generation of vipers” and “hypocrites.”

Yep, He sure did. But the people He was coming against were the religious snobs of that day. Those ugly labels were pinned on the Pharisees and Saducees–the religious right of Jesus’ time.

I am conservative. I lean toward the right. But do not identify me with those who parade the title of “Christian” complete with arrogance and condescension.

Jesus wasn’t condescending, yet He didn’t condone sin either. “Go and sin no more,” He said. But He handled each of these sinner situations with love. Find me one instance where He was brutal to a sinner. If He had been disrespectful or snobby, the tax collectors and drunkards wouldn’t have wanted Him to break bread with them.

Again, don’t confuse Jesus’ love with tolerance. He did not tolerate sin, but He loved the sinners and treated them with compassion.

And sinners were drawn to Him because of that. And consequently, lives were changed for the better.

It is the same today. Manifesting the love of Christ through the Holy Spirit–even to those with whom we don’t agree or to those who vote opposite of us on the NC Marriage Amendment–is what will change this world, draw the sinner to repentance and help you and me stop sinning, too.

I have determined to love the people on both sides of this debate. And to my many friends who have a strong belief one way or another on this issue yet have managed to demonstrate integrity and kindness in the midst of your strong convictions, thank you. I am so blessed to call you friends. I feel privileged to be identified with you as Christ-followers.

Christ-follower. I like that. Perhaps until the term “Christian” loses its negative implications brought on by the ugliness of some of its more outspoken professors, I would rather be called a disciple of Christ or a Christ-follower or even a Jesus freak–as long as I am more closely identified with Him than with religious spirits.

Let’s stand strong for the right, but let’s be righteous while we do it.

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