Category Archives: Traditions / Holidays

Fond Memories of Holiday Traditions

I have many fond memories of holiday traditions growing up. As a child my family participated in many common traditions such as hunting for Easter eggs. My family has celebrated this way for generations. It is quite difficult even to consider changing these ingrained generational traditions.

Is that reason enough for me to continue these traditions? What does God have to say about common holiday traditions? If we are honest with ourselves, most of us never even think about it. We just continue with what is “normal” and “traditional” based on how we have been raised on based on culture around us.

The truth is that if we have really decided to model our lives after Jesus, then we should take time to explore and study what He celebrated and also the origins of what we may be celebrating. Don’t assume traditions are pleasing to God just because “everyone else is doing it” or even because “everyone else at the church is doing it”. Test everything against the truth of God’s word. Challenge yourself to truly seek to honor Him without bias toward rationalizing and accepting certain traditions because they are associated with fond memories or because it would upset your family to change. After all,  what is more important… pleasing people or pleasing God?

I encourage each of you to take some time and really study the origins of the common traditions and celebrations you take part in. Many are based on pagan worship which have been adapted with “new meaning” whereby people basically have accepted copying and participating in what was once a pagan worship rituals, only now they just call it something else. If you put lipstick on a pig… it is still a pig.

Ask God for help and then challenge yourself to really seek the truth. You can start with any number of sources like online encyclopedias or web search. If there is conflicting information… seek out the truth objectively. Do not just seize upon the rationalization that supports your current practice.

God does not want us to worship Him in the way that the pagans worshiped their gods. Jehovah has provided specific information on how He wishes to be worshiped… we must study the Bible and pray to learn and understand.

Deuteronomy 12:1-8

1“These are the statutes and the judgments which you shall carefully observe in the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth. 2“You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3“You shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place. 4“You shall not act like this toward the LORD your God. 5“But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. 6“There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. 7“There also you and your households shall eat before the LORD your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

8“You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes

 

Deuteronomy 12:28-32

28“Be careful to listen to all these words which I command you, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.

29“When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’ 31“You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

32“Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.

We are to be set apart and holy, different from those that do not worship YHWH. We are not to follow after Him and worship Him in the way that others worship their gods. We are not to simply do what everyone else is doing or what our parents did… but rather what our Lord instructs us to do.

Pray for wisdom and discernment. Don’t ignore what scripture teaches because it is unfamiliar or uncomfortable at first. Explore it and seek to understand it. You can get more information to understand these holy days of YHWH fairly easily, but you need to test everything against scripture. Some aspects are not completely clear and people have varying opinions on them. I suggest starting with Leviticus 23, but I have also included some additional websites I have found helpful below.

Hebrew For Christians

119 Ministries

Set Apart People

The Moedim

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

 

Celebrating Freedom

Many in the USA celebrate freedom as a key part of the heritage of our July 4 national holiday. It commemorates independence for the USA from England and the policies of the government there for which the colonies were not represented. We can be reminded to value our freedom and not take it for granted. Fireworks and parties are commonplace. The birth of a free nation is celebrated. We do not celebrate this freedom by rebelling against the very nation that protects and provides our freedom. We do not declare that our freedom means we are no longer subject to any laws.

This day is a good opportunity for us to reflect deeper on one who is greater than us who also allows us the freedom to make our own choices. Our Creator made us in His image and allows us the freedom to follow Him or live in rebellion to Him, choosing instead to honor and follow the desires of our flesh and sin nature. All of us are inherently sinful. Babies at birth need not be taught to scream when they want something. Young children need to be taught to share, taking what they want comes naturally. We must learn to focus on the needs of others just as we must  learn God’s ways in order to be set apart and different than the world.

Our Father, YHWH, provided us instructions to follow as any good father does for His children. Often the instructions are for the benefit of the children themselves, even if they don’t understand that fully. The instructions have been communicated through thousands of years and neatly compiled into the Bible we have so readily available to us today, so long as we choose to open it or click the link to it. We need only pray for enlightenment from the Spirit and read with a desire to learn and change our behaviors to follow God’s instructions. We should not read with a desire to justify all of our current actions and attitudes… that is redefining God in our image rather than redefining ourselves in His image.

We talk often in Christian community about freedom through Christ. It is amazing, but sadly many get confused by false teaching about this freedom. What are we set free from?

The short answer is that all too often people essentially say we are set free from all boundaries and can do anything and God will be pleased. This is false. This would be akin to saying we are free in the United States and then pretending that there are no laws or boundaries governing what is acceptable behavior and what will land you in prison. God has established guidelines and instructions for us to follow to help us, as a father does for his children. Are we to use our freedom to rebel against the one who gives it to us? No. Christ sets us free from the law of sin and death. He sets us free in that we can be reconciled to YHWH even when we do not live out his instructions perfectly to his standard. This means, simply that we can be forgiven for our sins, because Jesus already paid the price required by the law for our sins. We can be set free from condemnation and guilt, but we are to repent from the sinful ways and do things according to God’s instruction. We are to follow Christ.

Romans 8:1-4

1Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Many teach that we are set free from the law, from God’s instructions, but this is absurd. Jesus followed God’s instructions throughout His earthly ministry and so did His disciples. In fact, he was judged righteous in that he lived perfectly according to the law. He never taught against following God’s law, only against following the man made traditions of the Pharisees and Sadducees that were overburdening people with meaningless traditions and distracting from or even contradicting God’s law. We must ask ourselves… “Is Jesus our example to follow? or our excuse to live how we want rather than how God tells us to?”

Throughout the scriptures, God’s law is highlighted as good, as worthy of love, of setting us free from the lure of sin by showing us what is right. It is a light unto our path to guide us. I have included a few excerpts from Psalm 119, but you should click the link and read the whole Psalm. Many others have similar content. The law of God is to be obeyed. Jesus did not come to set us free from it.

Psalm 119 (excerpts – I encourage you to read 119 completely)

     97O how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.

98Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies,
For they are ever mine.

142Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
And Your law is truth.

143Trouble and anguish have come upon me,
Yet Your commandments are my delight.

162I rejoice at Your word,
As one who finds great spoil.

163I hate and despise falsehood,
But I love Your law.

164Seven times a day I praise You,
Because of Your righteous ordinances.

165Those who love Your law have great peace,
And nothing causes them to stumble.

171Let my lips utter praise,
For You teach me Your statutes.

172Let my tongue sing of Your word,
For all Your commandments are righteousness.

Would it make sense that Jesus came to set us free from wisdom, delight, truth, and peace? Certainly not. This would be absurd. Jesus came to set us free from the law of sin and death. Yes, we all sin, and thus deserve death. However, Jesus sets us free from that guilt and condemnation and judgment because He already paid the price for us. What He calls for in return as part of this freedom is that we submit to God, repent of our sinful ways, and seek after God. True repentance transforms us to be different from the world and to become more and more like Jesus as we continue to grow in wisdom and maturity in our faith over the course of our lifetime.

Just as we see so obviously in the physical world, freedom brings responsibility and accountability for the choices we make. It is similar with our Father in heaven. Freedom comes with responsibility and accountability. There are spiritual consequences in our relationship with God and ultimate destination when we die from this life and go into eternity to heaven or hell. There are also physical and emotional impacts in our lives today based on how well we follow the instructions He has provided. After all, the loving Father and Creator knows how best to guide His creations. He gives us the answers, but we need to listen and obey… even when we don’t understand fully.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Remember the Sabbath

Sabbath can be a very interesting topic to study within the Bible. YHWH had a lot to say to his people about Sabbath. In fact, a seventh day rest is recorded from the beginning with the example of YHWH as he completed creation. We can also perhaps see where Sabbath rest foreshadows the rest we find in Yeshua as Messiah for it is through him and his death and resurrection that we are saved. We need not try to be made righteous through our works, though our works should still be righteous. We can also see the foreshadowing of the rest we find when we die and go to be with the LORD and also when the LORD returns for the second time and begins his millennial reign on Earth. Further, Sabbath is a part of the holy days of YHWH set out in Leviticus 23 and was intended to be part of our relationship with him and intended to help us.

Sabbath is rich in meaning, but unfortunately today most Christians act as if Sabbath is obsolete and has no meaning. I have seen it disappear in my lifetime. Where businesses were shut down for Sabbath in the past, albeit on Sunday, now most are open. People no longer rest but rather remain very busy on basically every day of the week. People go about their agenda in their way. They have lost the Sabbath.

My family and I rediscovered the Sabbath in recent years and have started setting it aside as a day of rest. It is a significant change and may even seem inconvenient at times as you adjust, but it is genuinely worthwhile to pursue. It is important to YHWH and he created it for our benefit rather than his own.

We can, and perhaps should, have robust discussion about how to celebrate Sabbath today, but let us take time today to simply review some of what YHWH has said and demonstrated about Sabbath. Once we help to establish the importance of it, I encourage each of you to continue studying Sabbath and seeking to begin living it in your own lives. Keep growing and learning on this subject. There is much that has been lost for which we should endeavor to recover.

A good and simple place to start as you read through scripture is to recognize that the main theme is that his people should not work and should not cause others to work on Sabbath. It is to be kept as a sign of our covenant with him and he created it for us. It is interesting that I can not find instruction specifically to go to synagogue or temple (or church) on Sabbath day, however it was clearly an accepted custom that even Yeshua demonstrated.

YHWH set an example for us from the very beginning as part of creation to observe a day of rest on the seventh day, after our work has been done.

Gen 2:1-2       1Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. 2By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.

Did YHWH say anything about when his people should stop celebrating Sabbath?

Exod 31:16-27 16‘So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.’ 17“It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.”

YHWH gave guidance to his people to work in the first six days and rest on the seventh, which is consistent with his example during creation. (The seventh day would be Saturday by our current calendar.) He also instructed us not to cause others to work.

Exod 20:8-22    8“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 11“For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

Leviticus 23:3    3‘For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings.

YHWH intended us to recognize Sabbath even during pressure to get work done or accomplish an important task (like handling Yeshua’s body after he was crucified).

Exod 34:21    21“You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest.

Luke 23:54-56     54It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. 55Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. 56Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

YHWH intended the rest to be more than just not doing the work for which we get paid. One can have quite an engaging dialog in defining “work”, recognizing that some of the literal activity which YHWH specifically called out in scripture could arguably not really feel like work in today’s environment / technology. (e.g. lighting a fire, etc.) He also specified not buying things offered for sale on Sabbath

Nehemiah 10:31 31As for the peoples of the land who bring wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the sabbath or a holy day; and we will forego the crops the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.

When does Sabbath begin?

Leviticus 23:32 32“It is to be a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall humble your souls; on the ninth of the month at evening, from evening until evening you shall keep your sabbath.”

This would be consistent with the Hebrew calendar observed by God’s people in Biblical times, where a day started with sundown and ended with sundown. In today’s calendar, this would be Friday night at sundown through Sat night at sundown. (Learn more at Hebrew4Christians.com or 119Ministries.com.)

Is Sabbath casual or important to YHWH? You can probably already tell it is important based on how much YHWH had to say about it to his people and the fact that he set the example during creation.

Exod 20:8    8“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy

Ezekiel 20:20 20‘Sanctify My sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between Me and you, that you may know that I am the LORD your God.’

Deuteronomy 5:12    12‘Observe the sabbath day to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.

Exodus 31:13      12The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 13“But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you. 14‘Therefore you are to observe the sabbath, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Tell the Israelites, “Surely you must observe my Sabbaths, for this will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.

Why is Sabbath important to YHWH?

Exod 31:17 17“It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.”

What example did Yeshua set for proper observance of the Sabbath?

Luke 4:16  16And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read.

Matthew 12:9-15

      9Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. 10And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. 11And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? 12“How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. 14But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

      15But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all,

John 9:13-14   13They brought to the Pharisees the man who was formerly blind. 14Now it was a Sabbath on the day when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.

Mark 2:23-28       23And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. 24The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; 26how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?” 27Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. 28“So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

In order to make the Sabbath day a day of physical rest, we must prepare ahead of time. The sixth day was referred to as the day of preparation.

Exodus 16:5 5“On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily.”

Exodus 16:22-26       22Now on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, 23then he said to them, “This is what the LORD meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning.” 24So they put it aside until morning, as Moses had ordered, and it did not become foul nor was there any worm in it. 25Moses said, “Eat it today, for today is a sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field. 26“Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, the sabbath, there will be none.”

Mark 15:42-43   42When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent member of the Council, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God; and he gathered up courage and went in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus.

Luke 23:54-56     54It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. 55Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. 56Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes. And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

For whose benefit is the Sabbath? Man or God?

Mark 2:27   27Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

We should prayerfully reflect on what the Lord has to say about Sabbath and how we should observe it still today. Invest time to continue studying and begin trying to adjust your lifestyle to incorporate Sabbath. Don’t be overwhelmed trying to “get it all right” and do so overnight. Instead, allow yourself to learn and apply and then continue to learn more and apply that and so on.

I am convinced the Lord is pleased when his people pursue living according to his instruction by pursuing something in our lives as important as Sabbath.

Some additional resources to consider:

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

 

 

 

Celebrating Good Fathers

It is a good thing to celebrate good fathers and to take some time to thank them for their role in the family, just as we do also with mothers. The Lord created the family unit with intent and wisdom… with intelligent design. Each family is intended to have one man and one woman… and of course the children. Not all people get married and not all married people have children… and this is not intended to ignore or discount them. But for father’s day we are taking a day to focus on exactly that… fathers.

Good fathers should pursue after Christ and be spiritual leaders in their family. They should put YHWH first, their wife next and then the children in their priority list and then actually live their lives according to that standard. YHWH has said much about what it means to be a good father. It need not be a mystery.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Psalm 103:13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not exasperate your children, so that they will not lose heart.

Psalm 127:3-5 Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; they will not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies in the gate.

Luke 11:11-12 “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he?

Joshua 24:14-15 “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Perhaps some scripture does not explicitly call out “fathers”, but as in Joshua 24:14-15… he demonstrates the role of a good father as a strong leader for his family committed to serving YHWH even if others refuse to do so. Psalm 127:3-5 shows a good father feels blessed to have received the gift of children.

There are many more such scriptures. I encourage you to do an internet search for “Bible scriptures about good fathers” and invest time to dive deeper.

Good fathers are not perfect… there is only one perfect Father.  So on behalf of all those fathers out there who are trying to lead their families and protect and provide for their families… we appreciate your grace and forgiveness when we get it wrong and we welcome your prayers and encouragement on our behalf so we may become better and better at what YHWH has called us to be… fathers.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

 

Celebrating Pentecost and the Feast of Weeks

Many Christians have heard of Pentecost and remember it as the time to celebrate and remember when the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the early church believers after the death and resurrection of Christ. This truly is a holy day worth celebrating. Our Father sent a Helper to dwell among us… to teach us and lead us as His people. The Spirit dwells amongst believers today, though many have been taught to dismiss the Spirit as an active part of experiencing relationship with our Father in our daily lives. We don’t, as a culture, know how to relate to and experience the Spirit in our lives anymore.

Pentecost is a wonderful event that followers of Christ should want to remember given that we are promised the Holy Spirit dwells in all of us. What a great reminder that we have that Helper from our Creator to guide and teach us… to comfort and counsel us. We are not alone in trying to live our lives obedient and pleasing to the Lord as we face hardship in this world.

Acts 2

The Day of Pentecost

      1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

      5Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. 7They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8“And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? 9“Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” 12And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”

Peter’s Sermon

      14But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words. 15“For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day; 16but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

      17‘AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,’ God says,
‘THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND;
AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS SHALL PROPHESY,
AND YOUR YOUNG MEN SHALL SEE VISIONS,
AND YOUR OLD MEN SHALL DREAM DREAMS;

      18EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN,
I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT
And they shall prophesy.

      19‘AND I WILL GRANT WONDERS IN THE SKY ABOVE
AND SIGNS ON THE EARTH BELOW,
BLOOD, AND FIRE, AND VAPOR OF SMOKE.

      20‘THE SUN WILL BE TURNED INTO DARKNESS
AND THE MOON INTO BLOOD,
BEFORE THE GREAT AND GLORIOUS DAY OF THE LORD SHALL COME.

      21‘AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’

      22“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— 23this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24“But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

25“For David says of Him,
‘I SAW THE LORD ALWAYS IN MY PRESENCE;
FOR HE IS AT MY RIGHT HAND, SO THAT I WILL NOT BE SHAKEN.

      26‘THEREFORE MY HEART WAS GLAD AND MY TONGUE EXULTED;
MOREOVER MY FLESH ALSO WILL LIVE IN HOPE;

      27BECAUSE YOU WILL NOT ABANDON MY SOUL TO HADES,
NOR ALLOW YOUR HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.

      28‘YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO ME THE WAYS OF LIFE;
YOU WILL MAKE ME FULL OF GLADNESS WITH YOUR PRESENCE.’

      29“Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30“And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE, 31he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY. 32“This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 33“Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.

34“For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:
‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD,
“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,

      35UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”’
36“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”

The Ingathering

      37Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39“For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

      43Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Reading through Acts 2, we are reminded of the power of the Holy Spirit in us. What an inspiring event! Look at how Peter was transformed from the man who denied Christ three times as he followed to see what would become of Him on the way to crucifixion into now a powerful man of God addressing large crowds and bringing many to the Lord.

If we dig a bit deeper, note that the very beginning of this scripture identifies that the day of Pentecost was drawing near, and many had gathered for it… before the Holy Spirit showed up.  This day already had significance. It is often referred to as the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot by Jewish people.

Pentecost is simply Greek for “50 days”. It was applied to this day because the Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot, was a festival to be observed seven weeks from the second day of the Passover. Since seven weeks times seven days per week is 49 days… the day after would be 50.

The Feast of Weeks is the second of three major Jewish festivals with the others being Passover and Feast of Tabernacles. This celebration corresponds to when the first fruits of the wheat harvest were offered to the Lord. Many also traditionally associate it with commemorating the giving of the law at Mount Sinai.

Leviticus 34:22-24

22“You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks, that is, the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. 23“Three times a year all your males are to appear before the Lord GOD, the God of Israel. 24“For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the LORD your God.

Leviticus 23:15-21

    15‘You shall also count for yourselves from the day after the sabbath, from the day when you brought in the sheaf of the wave offering; there shall be seven complete sabbaths. 16‘You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD. 17‘You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits to the LORD. 18‘Along with the bread you shall present seven one year old male lambs without defect, and a bull of the herd and two rams; they are to be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD. 19‘You shall also offer one male goat for a sin offering and two male lambs one year old for a sacrifice of peace offerings. 20‘The priest shall then wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering with two lambs before the LORD; they are to be holy to the LORD for the priest. 21‘On this same day you shall make a proclamation as well; you are to have a holy convocation. You shall do no laborious work. It is to be a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.

Numbers 28:26-31

 26‘Also on the day of the first fruits, when you present a new grain offering to the LORD in your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. 27‘You shall offer a burnt offering for a soothing aroma to the LORD: two young bulls, one ram, seven male lambs one year old; 28and their grain offering, fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of an ephah for each bull, two-tenths for the one ram, 29a tenth for each of the seven lambs; 30also one male goat to make atonement for you. 31‘Besides the continual burnt offering and its grain offering, you shall present them with their drink offerings. They shall be without defect.

I am still personally coming up to speed on some of historical context and rich meaning behind the feasts of the Lord as He instructed in the Old Testament. There is much to be studied and appreciated there. Our Father makes a habit of tying together the Old and New Testament events. Often one is a foreshadowing of another, not one a replacement of the other. For example, Jesus was crucified at Passover. This was not coincidence. As Passover celebrates God’s people being set free from slavery in Egypt by the mighty power of God, so too Jesus death and resurrection on the cross should be celebrated as setting His people free from slavery to sin.

Consider also, then that the Holy Spirit being sent to the believers after the death of Christ on Pentecost. This is not coincidence. God intended the two to be linked. We must then explore the Old Testament to fully understand what God is telling us in the New. Consider that a homework assignment… a challenge for each of you who are hungry to seek the Lord. Put some time aside for additional study of Pentecost and how the Old Testament feast foreshadows the coming of the Holy Spirit to our lives.

As a start, I am beginning with my family to set aside the day of Pentecost as a Sabbath day of rest as God instructed. We will discuss the significance of both the Feast of Weeks and Pentecost. Both are worthy to be remembered and celebrated.

You can study more about the creators calendar using sites like Hebrew4Christians.com or Psalm119Ministries (select Time: Our Creators Calendar to see collection of videos available). You can learn about what the scripture says about these holy days, when they occur, why God told us to celebrate Shavuot, and traditions.

There is some debate amongst different sources as to the date of the Passover and thus Shavuot/Pentecost each year.  Don’t let this discourage you from getting started celebrating and studying God’s holy days.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

No Greater Love

As we recognize Memorial Day, it is a good time to reflect on and appreciate those who have laid down their lives for the rest of us to be able to live free in the United States of America. It is a good time to pray for those who are actively serving, have served, or are surviving family of those who have died in service to our country. God gave us this unique nation based on Christian values and heritage. Many have served and died protecting it.

Jesus Himself demonstrated and taught that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for his friends. Jesus laid down His life for all those who choose to follow Him and submit to Him. We can be thankful for sure that our sins can be forgiven because of Him. We could never pay that debt.

Jesus also encouraged His disciples to show this kind of love for one another as well… to lay down their life for one another. So, too, are we encouraged to lay down our lives for one another. At times, we may face a situation where we literally must make that choice in an instant. Other times we lay down our lives by how we live for others rather than living for ourselves.

John 15:12-17

Disciples’ Relation to Each Other

      12“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. 14“You are My friends if you do what I command you. 15“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16“You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 17“This I command you, that you love one another.

Take time to pray for those who risk their lives or lose them for others. Pray also for their families. Of course, not everyone in uniform is righteous or acts with righteous motives, but many have sacrificed none the less to protect our country and our freedom. Pray also for the leadership in our government so that they would lead well and not recklessly. Further, pray for the people of our nation that they would hold in high regard those that serve to protect our nation and risk their lives to do so.

Take time to also pause and reflect on our Savior, Jesus, who laid down his life for us so we could be forgiven and reconciled with the Father. Give thanks to him. Do not let that offer be wasted. Rather, submit to him, turn from your sin, and seek him. Let him be Lord of your life. You will find greater joy and peace in this world and after.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Resurrection and First Fruits

When we devote time to prayer and study of YHWH’s word and ask him to show us the full depth of his word, the Spirit often does just that. We must be willing to let go of traditions of men that we have learned and seek out the traditions of YHWH. I have previously written about my transition away from celebrating Easter in the tradition of the church and culture of today, which includes a number of pagan influences, towards celebrating Passover, which aligns with reinforcing our relationship with YHWH as he previously instructed his people to celebrate.

Without getting into full study here, I do not take this to mean that we perform animal sacrifices, but rather seek to celebrate or memorialize Passover by remembering how YHWH led his people out of slavery in Egypt by his might and power. Now, we also have more reason to celebrate Passover as Yeshua was sacrificed during Passover as our Passover lamb, setting us free from slavery to sin and death. We have much reason to celebrate indeed!

As we look to his resurrection, study indicates that it actually took place during the Biblical celebration of first fruits. Once again, YHWH shows that he will use his holy appointed days to reinforce and amplify the meaning of his relationship with his people.

I have included a brief article from Ligonier Ministries about First Fruits and resurrection below.

“You shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statue forever throughout your generations” (v. 14). Leviticus 23:9–22

Passover was not the only spring festival celebrated under the covenant, for the Israelites also commemorated the Feast of Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost. The Feast of Firstfruits actually took place during the week-long Passover celebration (Lev. 23:4–8), on the first day after the Sabbath that occurred in the midst of the week (vv. 9–11). Pentecost occurred fifty days after that Sabbath (vv. 15–16) and marked the culmination of what started at the Feast of Firstfruits.

As its name indicates, the Feast of Firstfruits marked thanksgiving to God for the firstfruits of the harvest — in this case, the grain and cereal harvested in the spring in ancient Palestine. At this festival, the Israelites offered the very first sheaf of the harvest and were not allowed to eat anything from the crop until they gave its initial portion to the Lord (vv. 9–14). This required a great deal of faith on the part of the Israelites, as they would be giving the offering of firstfruits at a time when not much was ready to be harvested. They had to trust God that He would indeed provide the fullness of grain that had yet to come forth, something that from a human perspective was far from certain given the people’s utter dependence on the right amount of rainfall and so forth to give the best crop.

Somewhere around AD 30, the firstfruits of an even greater harvest issued forth, for it was on the first day after the Sabbath that occurred in the midst of the Passover celebration that Jesus rose from the dead (Matt. 28:1–10). Lest there be any doubt that His resurrection fulfilled the Feast of Firstfruits, Paul tells us explicitly that Christ is the firstfruits of those who will be raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20–23). Just as the firstfruits offered to God under the old covenant anticipated the fuller harvest to come, the resurrection of Jesus anticipates the bodily resurrection of His people first promised under the old covenant (Job 19:25–27).

Fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits was the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost (from the Greek term pentekostos, or fiftieth), which was the grand celebration at the end of the grain harvest. On this occasion, the offerings of food and animals to the Lord were more lavish (Lev. 23:15–22), an appropriate way to thank Him for the tremendous bounty He had provided. Tomorrow we will look at Pentecost in more detail.

Coram Deo

Paul says Jesus was raised for our justification (Rom. 4:25), and so we often celebrate Jesus’ resurrection as proof that our sins have been fully atoned for and that we are now declared righteous in God’s sight. This is entirely appropriate, but we should also remember that our Lord’s resurrection is proof positive that we who trust in Him will be raised in like manner at the last day and dwell with Him bodily in a new heaven and earth.

Passages for Further Study

Numbers 28:26–31
Proverbs 3:9–10
Acts 2:1–4
2 Thessalonians 2:13

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Yeshua Is The Passover Lamb

As the final days of his earthly ministry were passing, Yeshua led His disciples to prepare to celebrate Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Think about that for a few moments. Yeshua, God himself living among us, chose to spend some of the closing moments of His brief earthly ministry in preparation of Passover. It was clearly important to him and for good reason.

The timing is not coincidental that Yeshua would be sacrificed for our sins at Passover time. It was intended that way by our Creator. Passover not only reminds us of deliverance from bondage in Egypt but also foreshadows our deliverance from the bondage of sin through the sacrifice of Yeshua on the cross. Yeshua was sacrificed as our Passover lamb… dying for our sins so we can be set free from sin and death.

Mark 14:12-21

The Last Passover

      12On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 13And He sent two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; 14and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ 15“And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.” 16The disciples went out and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.

      17When it was evening He came with the twelve. 18As they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me—one who is eating with Me.” 19They began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, “Surely not I?” 20And He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who dips with Me in the bowl. 21“For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

These celebrations are not “Jewish” tradition.  They are not just somehow a meaningless or obsolete instruction from our Creator either. Now we who believe in Yeshua as Messiah have more reason to celebrate it than ever before! Passover and Unleavened Bread are part of God’s tradition for celebrating and remembering our deliverance from sin through Christ! It is a wonderful way to teach our children about the Creator’s relationship with His people.

Exodus 13:6-10

6“For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. 7“Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders. 8“You shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9“And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt. 10“Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year.

We should enjoy taking part in our Father’s appointed times rather than creating our own based on the traditions of men. It is not just that He tells us to… that got me started to look into it. Now I see how powerfully these celebrations tie into the core element of my faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and what a wonderful way it is to teach my children. As I reflected personally in this regard, it occurred to me. God has some pretty good ideas. (That is quite an understatement!)

I invite you to take some small steps even today to learn more about Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread and how it is not only a celebration of YHWH* freeing His people out of slavery in Egypt, but also a celebration of our being freed from bondage to sin through the death and resurrection of Yeshua!

*Note: YHWH is the four letter name of God in the Bible derived from the Hebrew. Because the Hebrew did not record vowel sounds, we no longer know how to pronounce it for sure. It is often pronounced Yehovah or Yahweh today. Interesting history if you want to study it.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

A Tale Of Two Responses To Christ

Passover and Unleavened Bread are important celebrations to Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus) and His disciples. Yeshua participated in these holy celebrations and so did his disciples. We see further, that is was important from the fact that Mark includes this explicitly in the timeline of events leading up to Yeshua’s death on the cross and subsequent resurrection. This event was an important part of the timeline for us to understand.

We also get insight in Mark14 into two very different responses to Yeshua. The chief priests, who present themselves to the people as if they are holy and set apart for YHWH’s purposes, are plotting to kill Yeshua… God Himself walking among them. Meanwhile, a humble woman, a “sinner”, comes to anoint him and honor him with very expensive perfume and her own personal time and effort.

This provides a stark contrast that reminds us to use careful discernment in clearly identifying who is following YHWH and honoring him with their lives and who is just playing a part to look holy before the people. To be sure, we should start by looking in the mirror and making sure we have the right attitude toward our Creator.

Mark 14:1-11

Death Plot and Anointing

      1Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him; 2for they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people.”

      3While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. 4But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? 5“For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. 6But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. 7“For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. 8“She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. 9“Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”

      10Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. 11They were glad when they heard this, and promised to give him money. And he began seeking how to betray Him at an opportune time.

Discern carefully who truly follows after Yeshua and learns from him, changing their lives to be more like him, and who uses Yeshua and the scriptures only to manipulate the message to their own gain and the appearance of holiness. In some cases, they genuinely fool even themselves. Do not be so foolish as to assume anyone in “church” leadership is holy and a true disciple of Yeshua, or that others who are not in those positions are not true disciples.

We all have a choice in how we will respond to Yeshua. Will we reject him entirely, will we pretend to serve him but let wickedness and selfishness reign in us, or will we humbly and faithfully serve him even when others will mock us for it?

How will you choose to respond to his offer of love and personal relationship in your life?

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

The Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem

As Yeshua returned to Jerusalem in Matthew 21:1-11, we can clearly see that he once again points back to the Tanakh (often referred to as the Old Testament) and fulfillment of prophecy as significant. Yeshua was going to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, once again reinforcing the observance of the commands of God laid out to His people through Moses. Yeshua was also clearly aware, as we read earlier in Matthew, that he was to die, be buried, and rise again. He was going there to suffer and die for all of our sins.

Matthew 21:1-11

1When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3“If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

5“SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION,
‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU,
GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY,
EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.’”

6The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road.

9The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!”

10When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” 11And the crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

Yeshua clearly has a supernatural awareness of things around him, else he would not know where the donkey colt was and be able to tell the disciples exactly what to expect when they follow his instructions. The disciples did very well to just obey exactly as Yeshua told them.  Everything worked out as planned. We should take care to do the same… obey God’s instructions as he gives them… without changing them to a way we think may be better or more consistent with our culture.

There is much significance for YHWH in the death and resurrection timing coinciding with Passover. It was intentional. The Passover lamb used as sacrifice to save the Israelites was a foreshadowing of Yeshua’s sacrifice for all of us… paying the price for our sins. In both the Passover and death and resurrection of Christ, YHWH’s people must choose to accept his grace and do so publicly. In Passover, by following YHWH’s instructions including putting lamb’s blood on the door post. In accepting Yeshua, we must repent of our sins, submit to YHWH, and ask him to be Lord and Savior. We must no longer live our way, but his way. That is what it means to submit. Those that truly accept Yeshua as Lord will proclaim Him publicly.

Yeshua points back directly to prophecy recorded in the Tanakh and fulfills it. He honors the Father’s instructions given to us through Moses and observes them every time. In this case he comes to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.  We should be careful not to quickly dismiss the Tanakh as no longer relevant. Yeshua showed us the opposite! He honored YHWH’s instructions in the Tanakh and so should we.

Note how many in the crowds came out to welcome Yeshua and celebrate him as prophet. How fickle the crowds are… a week later the crowds shout to free Barabbas and crucify Yeshua. Few stood by Yeshua during the arrest and crucifixion, perhaps none publicly as even Peter denied him three times. We must be careful to look to the Father for our guidance on what is right and never just follow the crowds. Often, YHWH’s people find themselves standing against the crowds if they are to stand for him.

My family and I have found it very enriching to reflect the entirety of God’s word in our celebrations by including Passover along with our celebration of resurrection of Christ. As we started this a few years ago, we find ourselves continuing to study and learn how interrelated these celebrations should be.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.