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Saturday, November 13, 2010

How to Keep A Proper Sabbath Observance






Keeping the Sabbath

      As modern Christians we considered our desire to please God and observance of the 7th day of the week, the Sabbath, has come to our attention on more than one occasion.
      
No one wants God to get angry unnecessarily, so a thoughtful reading of Sabbath scriptures was due.  For a time we even attended a Friday night service hosted by a Messianic Jewish brother, and considered purchasing a talith prayer shawl like Jesus wore.

But our traditional church meeting time was Sunday morning and we really had no clear Biblical teaching while in our old church, we only had a minimal understanding about the Sabbath observance.

This was in contrast to almost weekly exhortations to tithe, attend church, and participate in whatever program the current church leadership was focused on.

In the Evangelical Christian world we were part of, we did not “observe the Sabbath because we were under “grace.”  We had heard of 7th Day Adventists and Baptists, Messianic Jewish Christians, and others who strongly emphasized “keeping the Sabbath” like they were. 

But we just were not sure…  In reading the Bible, we saw where Jesus sort of observed the Sabbath and Paul was observed going to visit Synagogues to witness to his Jewish brethren. 

The scriptures say that a proper and Biblical Seventh day, as literally defined by God in the Old Testament, begins at sunset. In Genesis 1:13 for example, God said “There was evening and there was morning, a third day”, and the other 6 days of creation are spoken of likewise. 
So a proper Biblical day began at sunset and a new day began the following day at sunset.

There is no specific mention of the “Sabbath” until Exodus 16:23, which was about 2,500 years after creation.  So we cannot say from scripture Adam, Noah, Abraham, or others had the Sabbath observance for an ordinance.

For simplicity, we will fast forward to Exodus and the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt.  After 430 years of serving the rulers of Egypt as over taxed slaves, the Lord told Moses and Aaron it was high time to get out of Dodge.  (Exodus 12).

The Lord God called the month they were called out of Egypt “the FIRST month (called Abib)(Ex.12:2), and they were given instructions for the next 14 days (which included two sabbaths).

The Lord directed them regarding the mandatory requirement of sacrificing a lamb without blemish, and applying the lamb’s blood to the doorposts of their homes so the death angel would “Passover” and spare their lives.
This was to be observed and diligently kept as “an ORDINANCE FOR EVER”.

The Lord then said in 12:15-20 there was a mandatory feast called “Unleavened Bread” to be kept for “seven days” and as an observance “an ordinance FOREVER.  (In a future article we will set forth how we as Christians, will keep this wonderful feast of Unleavened Bread, which we greatly look forward to!)

And in verse 16 “And in the first day there shall be an holy *convocation, and in the seventh day there shall be an holy *convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which every man must eat, that only may be done of you.”
 (*convocation: means a public meeting, rehearsal, assembly)

Here God gave them the weekend off, no work, He said.
This sounds good so far, and we will get some more on this as we study.

 He also gave them a command to eat unleavened bread for seven days, in fact, the Lord ABSOLUTELY required that “there be no leaven found in your houses” or “eaten that which was leavened”  under penalty of death!   (Ex.12:3). 
God wanted them to be real careful for what they ate or it might be their last meal. 

The children of Israel were doing pretty well with this, the Lord giving them specific instructions regarding the observances of the Passover and the seven days of Unleavened Bread with a FEAST on the 7th day, and admonishing them that when they went back into the Promised Land of the Canaanites they were to keep these observances FOREVER”

Apparently they were happy with this arrangement and God was with them: “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light”.
 –Ex. 13:21  Many “oohs” and “ahhs” were heard at this time in the camp of Israel, and the word “WOW!” was invented to express awe.

Shortly after, King Pharaoh decided to do some “ethnic cleansing” but God intervened by permanently baptizing the Egyptian army in the Red Sea (not to be confused with the Dead Sea)“PRAISE GOD!!” –cried out the Israelites and they celebrated joyously as the final bubbles surfaced over the watery grave of Pharaoh and Co.  “NO MORE TAXES!”

For three months and two chapters the folks of Israel were given a sight-seeing tour by God, being fed, watered, and given specially anointed footwear guaranteed by God not to wear out

Unfortunately, those sorry excuses for victorious believers murmured and complained about how God was treating them.
So in Exodus chapter 16, God gave them some correction, and got a little more direct with them about the sabbath too:
Ex 16:23 And he said unto them, This is that which the LORD hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the LORD: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe

Ahhh, the Sabbath is introduced. Exodus 16:29 “See, for that the LORD hath given you the SABBATH”.

Life was good, no taxes, a nice day of rest, God was feeding them, leading them, and they were getting real comfy with their walk through the countryside.

By chapter 19 of Exodus, it was time for God to give Moses the new rules for His people, so He called Moses to come meet Him up on Mt. Sinai, and bring the people so they could fellowship and find out about God’s plan for their lives.  The Lord mentioned them being so special and how He wanted to bless them.  

But then in chapter 20, God stopped being “seeker-sensitive” while giving them His “Best Life Now” agenda for prosperity.
When “
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. “  

Then it happened:WHOAA!! –we’re outa here!” they said when they saw and heard God was serious, and skee-daddled away from the mount. 

“Ten’s enough for me!!!” - they hollered over their  shoulders as they “removed”.  -“Next thing ya know, He’s gonna bring up tithing!”




God had only got as far as giving the Ten Commandments when this happened, so after the dust settled, He and Moses got back to work up there on Mt. Sinai, and the rest of the folks got back to their sports, games, and small talk about their neighbors and the weather. 

So The Lord and Moses worked out the rest of the details regarding God’s contract with Israel including things like “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (Ex. 21:24), and… THE SABBATH.
 All in all, it is quite a list but it was the best deal they could get out there in the wilderness and God had the keys to the food supply. 

Now then, about that Sabbath…

God was pretty picky when it came to His orders about the Sabbath.
It began on sunset Friday, (that was before Friday was invented, back then they only had numbers).  And the new interpretation (from God Himself) of the 3 month old Sabbath rules went like this:

Ex 20:8 Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Ex 20:10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
No chores for the kids, no tasks for your employees, and you cannot have your dog fetch the newspaper.  No honey-do’s, no fixing the toilet, no dishes to wash.
Oh, that includes the maidservant, nowdays called a “waitress”, or the chef back at the restaurant that you used to visit after Sabbath before you read this.

Ex 31:14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people.

Ex 31:15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to deathNow there’s some strong incentive to be Sabbath-careful!  Keep that in mind when you read the next one!:

Ex 35:3 Ye shall *kindle no fire throughout your habitations upon the sabbath day.
  (*means consume, to burn, or heat.)  You know, like the heater or house furnace, your car’s engine that burns gas, or the blow dryer for your hair. 


Lev 25:4 But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. 

Now there’s a fine Sabbath for you, it lasted a whole year.
No plowing, planting, pruning.  Now with that death penalty, we recommend not pruning the lawn either, just in case.  Even the ground itself got a vacation.

Suddenly, keeping the true Sabbath just got hard, and don’t forget that death penalty in Exodus 31:15.  If you are going to keep the Sabbath now, you just can’t pick and choose verses, you know.

Num 28:9 And on the sabbath day two lambs of the first year without spot, and two tenth deals of flour for a meat offering, mingled with oil, and the drink offering thereof: (this was commanded for the Passover Sabbath)

According to the law of the Passover Sabbath, you must remember to kill two spotless lambs, give two tithes of wheat flour with oil, and a drink offering to the priest.

And just to make sure they got the Sabbath correct, right off the get-go, this happened in Numbers 15:


Lev 16:31 It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall *afflict your souls, by a statute for ever.  *humble, submit, weaken, abase.  Sports fans and football play-off watchers…beware!

Lev 23:3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings.

Lev 23:24 Speak unto the children of Israel, sayingIn the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.  Now here’s a special little Sabbath you probably never heard about…  And a bit more about that:

Lev 23:32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your soulsin the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.

Lev 23:39 Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath

Now hold on, God just said there was a special SABBATH on 7-1, 7-9, and 7-15 of the Jewish calendar??!  Hmmm, how about that, God snuck another Sabbath or three in on the folks just to make sure they were paying attention!  Lord have mercy, this Sabbath keeping just got complicated and you have us on a different calendar to boot!
32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day.

34 And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.  They put him in JAIL for sticks on the Sabbath?

35 And the LORD said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.

36 And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the LORD commanded Moses.

Whoaa, you mean the church had to take that guy out and let him have it with the rocks?  Yes, that’s what God told them to do because he violated the Sabbath law.

About this time you may be thinking, “this Sabbath thing is pretty scary and they sure didn’t explain all those OTHER Sabbath scriptures to me very well.”
   If you thought that you are CORRECT!  And if you thought observing the Sabbath only meant driving over to a meeting Friday night or Saturday morning you were WRONG!

We could stop now with just those verses from the OT Law, and you would have plenty to think about.
 Remember, when Christ and the early church apostles came along, they knew those verses.  All of them, death penalty and taking a year off from farming included.

So when someone tries to put you under the Sabbath, chances are 100% he does not keep the Sabbath law the way it was given either.

 Let’s see, to summarize a few points about really keeping the Sabbath:
-It was a mandatory observance upon penalty of death.

-In the 7th year Sabbath, no planting or pruning. 

-No fire.  Period. Not the one in your cars engine, the house heating system, nor the stovetop.

-No work. Not for you, your kids, your employees, or your servants like the waitress and cook at the restaurant.

-No travel.  Whoops! –there goes the trip to church in the car whose engine burns gasoline for fuel.

-Observance of those tricky 7-1, 7-9, and 7-15 Sabbaths of the Jewish calendar you forgot to buy, and then there is that Passover Sabbath with the two lamb-sacrifice to watch out for.

Please don’t yell at me, go back and re-read those Sabbath verses for yourself.  About now you may be thinking:
"we got us us sabbath problems here"

Why even the apostle Paul said to the church in Galatians: 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

But not to worry, dear reader, the NEW Covenant is called a “BETTER covenant” than the Old Covenant which Paul said “was done away in Christ”, and “Christ is the END of the Law to all that believeth”, and “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace –Eph. 2:15; you can have peace with God and be free of the obligation of trying to keep the law of the Sabbath as given in the Old Covenant. 

for a more thorough Scriptural explanation of our relationship to the OT law.  


Friday, November 12, 2010

Church Outside the Camp






Out of church but not out of God, Christianity Outside The Box


Home church meetings?  Churches without names, buildings, or a hired pastor?  Ideas that once sounded "out there" are rapidly becoming one of the largest spiritual movements in the world.
The George Barna Research Group in a startling survey found that the fastest growing segment of Christianity is among Christians leaving the institutionally organized churches and finding fellowship and support as they gather in homes and other places.  (Google "Barna organic Home Church")
Approximately 7% of adults surveyed were participating in an "organic church", typically, one where people gathered in a home for worship, sharing of faith, and study of the Bible.

In his article, Barna stated "

71% say they are “more likely to develop my religious beliefs on my own, rather than to accept an entire set of beliefs that a particular church teaches.”  And he found, "Levels of distrust toward churches, church leaders and organized Christianity have been growing over the past two decades. That concern – along with the heightened independence of Americans and the profound access to information that has characterized the past decade – may have led to the emergence of a large majority of adults feeling responsible for their own theological and spiritual development."
 There are many authors such as Frank Viola, Andrew Strom, and A.J. Kiesling to name a few.
There are growing numbers  of Christians choosing to gather together much as the early Christians did in the book of Acts.
In fact, a quick word search for "church house" in a Bible Search Program (http://www.htmlbible.com/ )
yielded numerous references such as 1st Corinthians 16:19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca salute you much in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
Colossians 4:15
 Salute the brethren that are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church that is in their house",  -and more.
Reasons for leaving institutional are greatly varied.
Some leave church because they are bitter over spiritual and/or clergy abuse.
Some leave because they cannot live up to expectations. Either their own, others, or even God's expectations as they are perceived.
Some leave because they experience emptiness in routines, programs, financial manipulation, and performance-oriented services.
Some leave the assurance and affirmation of church in order to find a more meaningful relationship to God.
Some leave because they began to read the Bible and saw how the words of Christian church scripture disagree with commonly accepted practices such as tithing and what Jesus called the "Nicolaitane" clergy.
Some leave because God told them to.
Usually the establishment church views them with labels such as "lone-rangers," "disgruntled," "discord sowers," "false prophets," heretics, lone wolves, murmurers, and other labels we ourselves once used to put on people when they left OUR church.
However, in church history, a surprising perspective is found when we realize that many of God's people separated themselves from the mainstream  faith.
Jesus Himself was labeled, castigated, and persecuted by the establishment religious order.
Paul the apostle was converted but did not go to "church" for three years. He later suffered outside the camp of Judaistic Israel after Christ revealed Himself to him.
And of course, ALL of the followers of Jesus came out from among the mainstream sects and denominations of the Jewish religion. For this, they were persecuted, labeled, and spoken evil of by the religious establishment of the day.

Jesus Himself said He came to bring division in Luke 12:51 Think ye that I am come to give peace in the earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division.
It is an astonishing parallel to our day in which there are countless sects, denominations, and divisions under the banner of "Christian". Anyone looking at the "church directory" in the Yellow Pages will quickly become overwhelmed by the smorgasbord of church ads.   
Yet it is an amazing discovery to find that the overwhelming majority of early Christians met in homes with no overhead, hired minister, or the typical furnishings found in the typical church building. It comes as a further shock to realize the pastors of that day were told by the apostle Paul himself, that they (the bishops) should be "so working that you ought to support the weak" (Acts 20:35)

The New Testament knows nothing of a professional clergy. In the typical home church assembly, families and individuals will gather together for a meal, fellowship, worship, and sharing. In this atmosphere, everyone participates or is welcome to; the body of Christ functions as a loving, caring, and sharing spiritual family.
In our own home gatherings, which are rotated among several families, meetings tend to last 6-8 hours in a very enjoyable atmosphere in which most of the people stay well into the night.
One typical Saturday we assembled with spiritual "family" as the Body of Christ from around 2:30 to 11 pm.  We talked, ate, prayed, discussed the Bible, testified, and shared what the Lord is doing in our lives. Several experienced physical healings including from a migraine headache and a back condition.  The intimacy of a home meeting is more conducive to personal ministry, confession of struggles, and ministry one to another which the typical church service does not have room for. Without the formal structure of a programmed church "service," the home meetings facilitate openness and frank expression of needs, problems, and personal giftings each member may have opportunity to exercise. 
Another common objection hurled at non-institutional church goers, is that there is no denominational or spiritual covering, or accountability.
While this may be partly true, especially with those "leaders" who desire to build their own "church kingdom" and seek to be supported by others, many have networked and have learned to make themselves accountable to God and those they gather with. In fact, there is no such thing as the phrase "spiritual covering" given in the scriptures. Nor is there a titled clergy, structured church hierarchy, or even the position of one man called "pastor" put in charge of an assembly.
Again, it comes as a shock to find a multiplicity of elders were given oversight of the churches.  One or several men were exercising the gift of a pastor alongside the other unpaid, ministerial gifts of service to the church.

Giving and tithing according to the tradition of the offering plate is another area where many home churches depart from church traditon. Although we personally found no scriptures instructing churches or saints to pay a tithe, or 10% of income, giving is an important part of our fellowship. Since a home group has no paid minister or church overhead, 100% of giving  goes directly to meet the needs of others, as opposed to typical church overhead and salaries which take 95% of the typical church's income. Some ministries may be supported by choice "as a man purposes in his heart" but not by compulsion.
Home churchers tend to eschew "tax deductible" offerings in favor of private, that is, secret, giving without any desire for record keeping by a church secretary or pastor. Jesus appeared to encourage self-less, secret giving also, (Matthew 6:4 that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret shall recompense thee),  and Saint Paul testified how that he "was careful to remember the poor"  in Galatians  2:10
That is how the home churches tend to function, once they are free from the typical church-mindset.  More of the people become involved in caring and ministering one to another and those around them.
We were persoanlly amazed at the first home church meeting we visited in another city. The simplicity and lack of formal orchestration was like a culture shock but we quickly adapted and came to love it, and we would never want to exchange the close fellowship for a large building and watching others "lead church" up in front.
Admittedly, "home church" is not for everyone, but for many, it fills the need for closer, more intimate Christian fellowship than does the Institutional, program-driven setting of the formal church.
Jesus said simply "where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst". -That also is church.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Greetings saints...........

After a brief hiatus from writing, we are endeavoring to get back to work. Because of some persecution, (I don't know of a better way to describe it), our website was canceled and much of the work we had done is gone...

Our site has been partially recovered and eventually we will link this blog to www.preparehisway.com
We put it in the Lord's hands and since everything was His to begin with, including my "intellectual property". As our ability to edit and write to the new site becomes a reality, this blog will be our dynamic link to those of you we minister the Word of God to.


I know of very few people who are NOT in some form of transition spiritually, physically, relationally, financially, or geographically. God is shaking everyone and everything, it is obvious the world itself is in the throes of upheaval.

So God willing, we will get this post out and return to regular writing as God directs.
Upcoming articles will be about the revelation of the antichrist, the hated, Nicolaitane error, God's judgments in this life and how to recognize them, and more on Bible prophecy.

God's Word is so awesome and wonderful, there is no end to His way and the revelation of His Word as He reveals the "hidden manna".

Thank you for staying tuned!
-rory