Category Archives: Teaching

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 22)

Today’s Lesson is about New Covenant water baptism. There is only one legitimate form and formula. The apostle Peter proclaimed this in no uncertain terms, and Early Church history confirms it.

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INTRODUCTION   
Ch 1:  LESSON 1    LESSON 2    LESSON 3    LESSON 4    LESSON 5    LESSON 6    LESSON 7
Ch 2:  LESSON 8   LESSON 9   LESSON 10   LESSON 11   LESSON 12   LESSON 13   LESSON 14   LESSON 15
Ch 2:  LESSON 16  LESSON 17  LESSON 18  LESSON 19  LESSON 20  LESSON 21

LESSON 22

Acts 2:38-39

38 Peter 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.”

WATER BAPTISM

The Lord Jesus made water baptism an extremely important and vital component of His teachings and ministry. It has never been optional. Also, His original method has never been subjected to change by Him. Nevertheless, to this present point in Christian history, we have had about as many water baptism forms and formulas as we have had pretty much everything else that has divided Christianity. And there is no excuse for it. The Book of Acts makes it very clear that there was only one original New Covenant water baptism and it was intended to stay if effect throughout the Church Age.

The word baptism comes from a word that means to immerse totally or overwhelm. All ancient Jewish ritual immersion methods were just that—total immersion. John the Immerser obviously followed this practice. His was a baptism of repentance. His calling was to prepare the nation for the coming King and his kingdom. But he also prophesied the complete destruction of the nation. He knew only a believing Remnant would accept and obey the Messiah and properly repent. These would prove it by bringing forth the fruit or evidence of repentance in their lives. John only used one form of water baptism.

THREE NATIONAL BAPTISMS

There were only three national water baptisms of the nation of Israel throughout its history. Each involved the authority of a prominent spiritual personage representing (1) the Law, (2) the Prophets, and (3) Truth and Grace. The first two were mandatory, as is the third.

The very first baptism was at the Exodus. It is associated with the Red Sea. It took place upon the birth of a new nation just released from Egyptian bondage. It was a baptism unto Moses upon his authority:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. [1Corinthians 10:1-4]

The second national water baptism was for repentance. It is associated with the Jordan River. It was also for the purpose of manifesting the Lord Jesus to Israel and separating those who recognized and accepted their Messiah from those who did not, and to prepare each group for their ultimate fate. It was a baptism unto John upon his authority:

Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!’” Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. [Matthew 3:1-6]

The third national water baptism, in conjunction with repentance, was for the total remission of sin and as preparation for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit as the 120 did in the Upper Room. It is associated with Living Water. It was an opportunity to get spiritually clean, appeal to God for a good conscience, release the hounding burden of one’s sinful and rebellious actions against the Lord Jesus, and gain a personal, reconciled relationship with Him. Whoever may have a casual attitude toward water baptism has likely never fully considered the great cost of purchasing our salvation. Greater love has no one else. He gave His life on our behalf. He did it through His own shed blood.  

The third baptism was unto the Lord Jesus, upon His authority, using His Name:

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” [Mark 16:15-16]

Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” [Luke 24:45-47]

Peter 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. [Acts 2:38] [1]

New Covenant water baptism is a perfect illustration of the virgin Bride taking the Name of the Bridegroom.   

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 21)

Peter commanded the people that they must fulfill two conditions to get right with God and receive the promise of the Father, the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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INTRODUCTION   
Ch 1:  LESSON 1    LESSON 2    LESSON 3    LESSON 4    LESSON 5    LESSON 6    LESSON 7
Ch 2:  LESSON 8   LESSON 9   LESSON 10   LESSON 11   LESSON 12   LESSON 13   LESSON 14   LESSON 15
Ch 2:  LESSON 16  LESSON 17  LESSON 18  LESSON 19  LESSON 20

LESSON 21

Acts 2:37-38

37 Now 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?” 38 Peter 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.”[1]

It began with faith. They believed. This is exactly how it started with Abraham. It took the Upper Roomers less time to develop this faith fully, this complete trust and confidence in the Lord.

For Abraham, he was one man alone and God was an invisible Spirit. In time he began to listen closer—he would pursue—he was spiritually hungry. He had experienced the futility of his family religion and graven idols, and sought spiritual reality the only way he knew how. Yet, it was evident that God spoke first. Abraham felt His voice within. In time his hearing improved. He deciphered what he felt. He began to understand God’s greetings and responded in kind. Once communication was established the relationship grew and Abraham’s confidence in his new spiritual Father and Friend developed and matured.

For the disciples, God was manifested directly to them in human form. They were blessed to spend time with Him daily. One would think their relationship with Him would develop faster, and it did, but it was certainly not any easier. They had to learn how to shift to spiritual learning and no longer resort to instantaneous default understanding, that which merely came naturally. It would take much effort. It is why His students were disciples. They were not only receiving head knowledge from their new Teacher but an entirely new curriculum involving every aspect of their lives. It was 24-hour-a-day learning with a universal application.

In the early going, once true faith comes forth, one sees oneself in God’s eyes and is quickly struck by the presence of previously unrecognized or unacknowledged personal corruption. The presence of sin is initially shocking. One perceives how damaging it is to a relationship with the Lord and is embarrassed to be in His presence. There is an urge to run, to get away quickly. It is why we collapse in a heap at His feet. We do all in our power to get clean. This is real repentance. It is a wholesale turning away 180 degrees from a former lifestyle that fits in perfectly in a fallen world. It’s a no-brainer for sinners to have good relationships with sinners. But such is impossible with God. It is difficult to wrench oneself away and a person must make the choice to either live for God or live for this world. The 120 chose correctly.

REPENT…

Soon, in the crowd of thousands gathered to hear Peter’s powerfully anointed message, a great many others would also choose correctly. They too were on the verge of collapse, having been powerfully convicted of their personal sins and rebellious actions toward their Messiah. Some of them had been hearing God’s voice just as Abraham did in the beginning. It came as a perceived thought, as a feeling, and as something quite real but intangible. They couldn’t figure it out but it seemed as though someone was trying to contact them. Many neglected the voice. Others, intrigued, listened more closely.

As John Wesley spoke his now famous words relating to his early conversion experience, the Israelites who paid attention to the loving voice “felt their hearts strangely warmed.”

He was calling them to new life.     

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 20)

Everyone there was an Israelite—the good guys, the bad guys, and those in between. The entire story, from Abraham to Pentecost, was the saga of a single, small, obscure nation on a sliver of land in the Middle East. This nation was chosen by God two millennia before, long before it ever was a nation, when it was only prophesied as such, when it only existed of a man, a woman, and a hoped-for miracle child. Isaac was his name. Within him were all the future participants, including the greatest One of all.     

INTRODUCTION   
Ch 1:  LESSON 1    LESSON 2    LESSON 3    LESSON 4    LESSON 5    LESSON 6    LESSON 7
Ch 2:  LESSON 8   LESSON 9   LESSON 10   LESSON 11   LESSON 12   LESSON 13   LESSON 14   LESSON 15
Ch 2:  LESSON 16  LESSON 17  LESSON 18  LESSON 19      

LESSON 20

Acts 2:36-37

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.” 37 Now 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?” [1]

Among the Israelites before him, shock and awe plastered on their faces, were undoubtedly some of those who directly participated in clamoring for the Lord’s crucifixion fifty-three days before. The conspiracy that started in the cold, hollow darkness of a few dark hearts, those with great influence, those with the ability to pull strings on a whim, had extended to down line roll players, each playing a part. For these wicked ones it truly was a passion play. They wrote the script, they chose a director, they set the scene, and they hired actors. They even hatched a diabolical plan to compromise the Roman government which otherwise had the power to shatter their dream through laws against such supreme injustice and vendetta politics.

Pontius Pilate, though one who often flaunted his power in taking personal liberties with Roman law, sometimes to the edge, was well versed in such jurisprudence. He was certainly in authority and didn’t shrink from it, but was also under authority. He would have to answer for his actions. Having been called on the carpet before due to prior acts of government malfeasance, most notably in excesses against the native population he presided over, Pilate faced enough perceived threat from his superiors that he was ripe for compromise. And the plotters knew it. They knew they had cards to play that could tie him in a knot. And they did. And their plot worked perfectly. Until, that is, a little resurrection problem.

But you see, in their warped minds, the Man they crucified was just another nutcase nuisance who believed Himself to be somebody—another pretender—a false prophet—a magician. He was a violator of the Torah, they said, while they, of course, obeyed every jot and tittle. If they had to resort to an evil backstabbing conspiracy to take Him out, so be it.

And now Peter was looking directly into their hearts. His eyes flashed with the power of heaven. It was a familiar look to them. They had seen it before in another Man’s eyes…

Powerful, unrelenting conviction came upon them like a load of dirt from the sky. “He knows I’m guilty!” some thought. Peter did not lay the blame just on those direct participants but the whole lot of them. They opposed the Lord to a man. And now in a sudden rush it all came together in their previously deceived and distorted minds. They no longer saw a magician but their Messiah! We killed our Messiah!      

Peter was not merely preaching to the instigators in the crowd before him, or the crowd itself, but directed his message to the whole nation:

“Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” [2]

Imagine being given a great promise. And imagine getting direct clues in the interim that the promise was greater than previously imagined. Then imagine finally receiving it and… Do you see? The promise never changed. The people did. Their sin and rebellion warped their minds and blackened their hearts. But praise God He gives us second chances! Praise God He is forgiving and compassionate! Praise God He is sincere and loving! Because this wasn’t the end for these morons, but a new beginning! Their rocky hearts had been busted wide open by the powerfully anointed sledgehammer preaching of Peter. He kicked their backsides black and blue. He mopped up the parking lot with them. They were left absolutely defenseless and destroyed. Exactly how the Lord drew it up.

Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, brothers?” [3]

They were all brothers! These were all Israelites! —The apostles, all the Upper Roomers, the entire crowd—they were all members of the same nation. Not everyone in the crowd took the message to heart but thousands did, and there would be many thousands more. The prophesied Remnant was coming forth.

National destiny was granting yet another chance for the children of Isaac.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

[2] © New Revised Standard Version

[3] © The New Jerusalem Bible

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 19)

How is it possible that this former hot-tempered don’t-mess-with-me Simon the fisherman could wax so eloquent and preach so powerfully in the face of a hostile crowd on such a momentous occasion and actually break them? This was the dynamic transformational power of the Spirit of God now dwelling within Peter in action. A short time before he was empty and emptied out. He had nothing. Then came the Upper Room experience. And then Peter became a new person and his foundational Early Church message bears that out. He continues in our next passage toward the heart of the matter. 

INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8  LESSON 9  LESSON 10  LESSON 11  LESSON 12  LESSON 13  LESSON 14 

Ch 2: LESSON 15 LESSON 16 LESSON 17 LESSON 18                         

LESSON 19

Acts 2:33-35

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, 35 UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”’ [1]

The Lord Jesus was the first to receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. He was destined to be first in all things, but before then He would be essentially last. He started at the very bottom like most of us. He entered the world in humility. He subjected Himself to lies and gross mischaracterizations throughout His life and ministry. When He needed help from friends and family such help was often not there. This even happened among His own disciples and even His chosen twelve. One betrayed Him. The rest ran off in fear, abandoning Him. He was left completely alone and vulnerable to suffer disgusting attacks from evil disgusting people who possessed absolutely no inkling of spiritual awareness or the fact that they were serving the devil. With no protection He was led into a den of pompous religious bastards bound for hell intent on trashing His holy Name and inflicting as much pain and suffering as possible.

This is how low the Lord had to go—last in all things—the last Man on the planet—treated worse than anyone ever had been or ever would be—for us. And they were just getting started. Their long awaited Messiah had arrived. The great King rejected by their forefathers. The One the nation rebelled against from the start and continually snubbed and rebuffed. They were made a nation by Him, this One standing before them, and delivered by Him—repeatedly. He went through centuries of profane treatment instigated by a profane stiff-necked people devoid of gratitude and unworthy of His love. It was the door He had to go through. Things would get really bad before they got better, the latter of which was His main motivation:

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. [Hebrews 12:2-3]   

HE MADE HIS ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET [PSALM 110]

The Creator came to His people and they nailed Him to an execution stake. They chose wrong. Because of their raging anger and hate what was left of their nation, held together by the Romans, crashed and burned and was destroyed forever, including their great city and indispensable temple. And the vast majority of those offenders responsible for the Great Revolt and destruction likely went straight to hell.

He who became last, however, CAME BACK TO LIFE. Death could not hold Him. Whatever evil they did to finish Him off had the opposite effect. He became the prophesied First Fruits on the morning of Nisan 17, the very day of First Fruits. He then traveled exponentially up the right side of the graph blasting far into the highest heaven and took His rightful place at the Right Hand of God with all authority in heaven and earth: 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. [Colossians 1:15-18]  

THE OUTPOURING OF THE SPIRIT

It was the Lord Jesus who “poured forth this which you both see and hear.” John the Immerser said it was the Lord Jesus who would baptize in the Spirit. If you’re still tangled in the trinity consider this:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” [John 14:26]

“When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me.” [John 15:26]

Is this just a syntactical mix-up in Scripture? On the one hand the Lord Jesus clearly states that the Father will send the Spirit. Exactly one chapter later to the very verse the Lord Jesus says He will send the Spirit. He also says the Spirit proceeds from the Father. If the Lord Jesus sends the Spirit which proceeds from the Father, is it not then obvious who the Father is?

Also, in these two verses He identifies the Spirit as “the Helper,” “the Holy Spirit,” and “the Spirit of Truth.” Then to reveal His identity even more, in John 14:18 He identifies Himself as the Spirit:

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” [John 14:16-18] 

OPENING THE DOOR FOR THE DOOR WHO STANDS AT THE DOOR

“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” [John 10:9] [2]

It is incumbent for every Christian to seek out and receive this infilling of the Holy Spirit. Christians can either go forth in the anointing of His Spirit or attempt to make it without Him. The latter doesn’t work according to His original plan. Far too many Christians insist on serving God according to their own limited strength and ability and the world suffers for it. America is falling fast because of it. Great Christian counterfeits, through their money-grubbing, power-grabbing deceptive agendas, have been created in this regard which have captured the vast market share to the immense detriment of real believers. These shysters treat the Lord the same way those other guys treated Him, in that they reject the spiritual reality first experienced by the originals—those who had no care or concern for what the world thought of them but plowed ahead toward becoming the best disciples they could be, intent on having and exercising the same freely-bestowed power He possessed.

No matter how much they try, the pretenders will never create a socially-acceptable okay-with-sinners Lord Jesus, or put Him in a box, or project forth a “clean on the outside” hypocritical we-aren’t-weirdos persona without also eliminating the Power of His Presence.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock…”

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Please note that the use of all caps in the NASB denotes Old Testament passages occurring in the New Testament.

[2] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 18)

The apostle Peter is keeping his audience enthralled by quoting yet another OT personality, King David, with a compelling prophetic illustration of a thousand years past.

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8  LESSON 9  LESSON 10  LESSON 11  LESSON 12  LESSON 13  LESSON 14 

Ch 2: LESSON 15  LESSON 16  LESSON 17

LESSON 18

Acts 2:25-32

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; 27 BECAUSE 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.’” [1]

David lived from 1040 to 970 BC. There had never been any actual proof of his existence and many high hats deemed him a mere literary construct. This changed dramatically in 1993 with the discovery in northern Israel of the Tel Dan Inscription. We now have archaeological proof of the Lord’s noted ancestor.

Tel Dan Inscription

Photo: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem/Israel Antiquities Authority (photograph by Meidad Suchowolski).

Though we know he was not a perfect man and was sometimes guilty of egregious sin, he was also well acquainted with godly sorrow and extreme repentance. As “a man after His own heart,” whom “the Lord has sought out for Himself” (1Samuel 13:14), David was chosen not by man, as was Saul, Israel’s first king, but by God Himself.

In the above passage (the all caps denote OT in the NT), Peter sets the stage by quoting Psalm 16:8-11, written by David. The Psalm itself gives greater clarity than the Acts reading in that the author claims “I have set the LORD continually before me” (Psalm 16:8). David chose to be close to God and for that he was confident of his life and eternal future. He then draws deep and prophesies the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: “Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay” (Psalm 16:10).

THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES

Closer proximity to the Lord means a greater understanding of His heart. David saw and heard things in the Spirit that few did. His understanding of the Messiah went far beyond the limited perception of David’s times. This lack was arguably worse in the Lord’s time and the decades preceding His arrival. Though the last Hebrew prophet—Malachi—left the scene in the early 400s BC and there was thus no prophetic word by which to gauge the times preceding the Lord, a few had nonetheless received an inkling of what was up, as seeing “through a glass, darkly” (1Corinthians 13:12).

How was this knowledge gained? It certainly wasn’t through mental perception but by an exhaustive study of the Scriptures, and primarily of course, the prophetic content. There was much to choose from.

The Essenes, out by the Dead Sea, proponents of the Zadok priesthood, had initially separated themselves unto the desert in roughly 200 BC after discovering proofs that the existing temple priests were illegitimate. We have their collected works, the illustrious Dead Sea Scrolls, the first few of which were discovered in the late 1940s, that testify of the Messianic track they were on. The members of this Hebrew sect, and undoubtedly other obscure and unknown individuals, understood the times far better than the major denominations—the Pharisees and Sadducees. The “unlearned and ignorant” Galileans were on the cutting edge in this regard.

THE SON OF DAVID

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, 31 he 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.” 

In continuing to drive home his point, Peter, like David, exceeds the common perception of the Messiah. He is attempting here to shed full light to whoever can hear it that the King of kings is far more than a mere military leader or future national figurehead. He quotes Psalm 132:11:

The LORD has sworn to David a truth from which He will not turn back: “Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne.”[2]

Many Bible expositors miss his point entirely as did the Jewish religious leaders of that time. Any mention of David’s son sitting on his thrown is often attributed to Solomon. But this man never fulfilled the many requirements of the position. The prophets referred to an everlasting kingdom led by a King who would rise from the dead.

Why did the learned men of the times not discern this otherwise clear prophetic content? How did they miss it? Why could they not see that the Messiah is God?

—They never witnessed nor believed in the Lord’s resurrection.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Please note that the use of all caps in the NASB denotes Old Testament passages occurring in the New Testament.

[2] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 17)

He did the impossible. He defeated death on our behalf. Peter continues his Pentecost message by telling the throng that “Death Could Not Hold Him.” Neither will it hold His real followers.

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8  LESSON 9  LESSON 10  LESSON 11  LESSON 12  LESSON 13  LESSON 14 

Ch 2: LESSON 15 LESSON 16

LESSON 17:

Acts 2:22-24

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— 23 this 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.”

Imagine that. He defeated death. One of the first sermons I ever remember hearing from my first pastor was entitled something along the lines of “Death Could Not Hold Him.” This man was a great preacher. He could paint a word story that kept us enthralled, filled with emoting and tone changes, teaching all the while. He made a man feel like he was there.

So one thinks about this tricky human condition called death. We seem somewhat invincible in our youth—working all day at hard physical toil, staying up late at night, always having so much energy, a few hours of sleep and we’re back at it. But then slowly but surely a few things start going south. The only thing to do is continue staying a step ahead of the grim reaper. We go from laughing in his face to eventually facing the fact that he will win. Facing this reality can be a killer.

SAVED

But thanks to the Lord He saw a young man with a hungry heart longing for truth and presented an opportunity I did not mess up. Dodging a million bullets since—those unseen slugs that often otherwise find their mark— the Lord blessed with a never-say-die desire to keep moving forward. This comes only by His Holy Spirit. If you live for God you will get knocked down. You can either stay there or get back up. And this is not because death does not await, but because death will not win after all. Because my Father GOT BACK UP, I will too, and so will you if you put your trust in Him. In the meantime the victory comes by laughing death in the face anyway and trying to live absolutely as long as possible working and living for the Lord the whole way. My advice is quit thinking in terms of years remaining and start thinking in terms of decades remaining. More decades means having that many more opportunities to serve the Lord who saved us from death because He died in our place.

There was an old church song we sang in my rookie year that sums up what our attitude should be in this regard. It had a big impact on me because it wasn’t just a song but my life. It was called The Old Account. It featured these lyrics:

There was a time on earth when in the book of Heav’n

An old account was standing for sins yet unforgiv’n;

My name was at the top, and many things below—

I went unto the Keeper, and settled long ago.

Long ago, long ago,

Yes, the old account was settled long ago;

And the record’s clear today, for He washed my sins away,

When the old account was settled long ago.

The old account was large, and growing every day,

For I was always sinning, and never tried to pay;

But when I looked ahead, and saw such pain and woe,

I said that I would settle—I settled long ago.

Until one becomes a real Christian one will never know just exactly what the Lord did by becoming one of us. He actually risked everything. Now, stay with me here because this might get a tad deep. God wanted to ransom humanity. But it obviously could not involve coercion. Each person must decide on his own. But no one could ever defeat death because no one could live without sin. Once Adam released sin into the world all humans have become smitten with it, or might I say slapped upside the head. Someone would have to enter humanity and live a full life without ever committing even a single sin. Someone must be able to actually keep the Law of Moses without violation. You see where this is going.

And no, God didn’t spy His good young Son and tap him on the shoulder and tell Him to go. No father would ever do that to his son. A real father would always go in place of his son. The reality is that the Son did not exist until the Incarnation. There was no such “Eternal Son” in heaven. The only God there was God. And He would have to go Himself. But when He arrived on earth He would have to live a perfect life, something otherwise impossible for us mere mortals. Yet, if He had only sinned once, and it was certainly possible, the entire plan would have been wrecked. There would be no spotless Lamb of God to sacrifice. There would be no Blood of the Lamb to cleanse us of our sins. All humanity would be lost including the Lord Himself. And death would win. And the devil would win the universe.

The Good News is that the Lord did not sin. Not once. And because of that He confidently looked death square in the face with no fear. He would certainly die but would not stay dead. Why? Because “Death Could Not Hold Him.” 

For many Christians, a probable majority, there is little or no self-identification with the Lord’s great sacrifice. His sacrifice may be acknowledged but that’s no good. It must be applied. And that can only happen if a person surrenders to Him completely, holding nothing back, and burning all bridges in the process. We must throw ourselves upon the altar of burnt offering and die in order to receive His help and be reborn. There is no other way. Halfway Christianity takes people all the way to hell.

MISSION POSSIBLE

“Your mission Jim, should you choose to accept it, is to get the big idea that God became a Man, lived a life of absolutely no sin, followed the path and plan perfectly, and then sacrificed it all for you. He knew He would be getting back up, but what He really wants is to see you get back up.”   

I will leave you with one of my favorite sayings of the Lord Jesus that perfectly typifies His powerful no fear approach to His coming death. He always knew what would happen. It was why He came. That didn’t make it any easier but that much more difficult. How many of us guys, if we knew the death we were about to die, would stick with the plan? But not only did He stick with the plan, He slammed death, hell, and the grave as wimps! He called them out for the lowdown disgusting sorry idiots they are and was even willing to let them hit Him first with their best shot. And boy howdy, did they ever comply. Even then, though, it was not enough. They knew the stakes. They had their opportunity. And they failed. They failed because He was too much Man for them. They simply did not understand who they were messing with.

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up!” [John 2:19] [1]

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 16)

Peter had begun the first anointed message of the Early Church. After assuring the assembly of clueless Jews outside that the 120 were high on the Holy Spirit, not wine, he declared prophetic fulfillment!

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8  LESSON 9  LESSON 10  LESSON 11  LESSON 12  LESSON 13  LESSON 14 

Ch 2: LESSON 15

LESSON 16:

Acts 2:16-21

16 “But 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; 18 EVEN ON MY BONDSLAVES, BOTH MEN AND WOMEN, I WILL IN THOSE DAYS POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT And they shall prophesy.” [1]

This was not to be a one time occasion for a few but an all time occasion for everyone. The Upper Room experience would be universal from that time forward throughout the Church Age until the present, dependent only on following the prototypical example of the originals as they followed to the letter the teachings of the Lord Jesus.

THE PROPHET JOEL

There is no consensus regarding the time Joel lived. Various dates have been given. It was most likely before the Babylonian exile. A good case can be made for the early 600s BC. Whatever the case, the Lord anointed Peter to use the writings of this relatively obscure Hebrew prophet as the first Scriptural reference in the very first message ever delivered. One might notice that he chose the prophetic and not the priestly. Until John the Immerser there had been no prophet in Israel since the death of Malachi over four centuries earlier. In that non-prophet gap the priests had finally achieved their dream and had taken over. They substituted their own word and natural reasoning over the anointed message of the prophet. It caused a downward slide they never recovered from, even to the point of killing the greatest Prophet of all.

Joel said something far out would happen in the Last Days, meaning the final days of what was left of the Israelite nation. He spoke of not just a few prophets but many, and they would also include women. Is this not awesome? He also spoke of great celestial signs in the sky, fully observable, epochal, and dripping with spiritual portent:  

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.’

Peter finished this portion with a flourish, telling the vast assembly before him that the Lord’s hand is not too short to save! His ear is not too dull to hear! He extends the promise of Joel to everyone both then and now:

21 ‘AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’” [2]

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Please note that the use of all caps in the NASB denotes Old Testament passages occurring in the New Testament.

[2] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 15)

Beyond the spiritual manifestations of the infilling of the Spirit, there were also the emotional and physical ones. To outside observers, it appeared as though the Upper-Roomers were drunk or high on something.

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8  LESSON 9  LESSON 10  LESSON 11  LESSON 12  LESSON 13  LESSON 14

LESSON 15

Acts 2:12-15

12 And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.” 14 But 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… [1]

In the ancient city of Babel, God transformed the one language of all people into many languages. The people could no longer understand one another and were consequently dispersed into separate regions. Conversely, on the day of Pentecost, the languages of the dispersed peoples of the world were spoken by the power of one Person who resided within many. This was a reversal of the confusion of Babel. This act would unite instead of divide. The builders of the city and tower of Babel were united against God. The constructors of the Church are united for Him. This was the clarion call sent out to all nations to join the kingdom without walls, the spiritual kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the new Jerusalem.

But as now and throughout the church age, some were not impressed. Some people openly mocked the work of the Spirit, claiming the boisterous activity and loud voices were merely the actions of the inebriated and ignorant. Though there have always been excesses, were the Upper-Roomers excessive? Was the Lord Jesus excessive? When He walked the earth, His detractors called Him a wino. Is it merely coincidence that the same accusation emerged once again?

Something about the disciples’ behavior reminded the naysayers of common drunks. Sweet wine, or “new wine,” was that which was produced the same year of its harvest. It was very intoxicating. In a relatively joyless world of difficult toil and little natural merriment, wine provided a relaxing and welcome respite from the rigors of the work week. Maybe few Jews drank to excess but those who did were obvious to all. It was indeed a cheap shot to label the Lord’s people Sunday morning Mardi Gras revelers under the influence of strong drink, but what else were the mockers to think? Such a thing had never happened before. It was relatively early in the day and a house load of fellow Israelites had taken on the apparent appearance of festival-goers too impatient or undisciplined to at least wait until evening before engaging the vino.

But the majority of those below sensed something else. Instead of simply making a quick judgment based on minimal evidence, they were drawn to the spectacle in wonder. The Spirit of God was everywhere around them. They began to feel what the Upper-Roomers were feeling. Joy was spilling out of the windows. Great smiles and laughter abounded. A release was taking place. Over and over the same thought kept running through their awestruck and somewhat confused minds, What does this mean?

Peter, sensing that the time had arrived to explain the current happening, moved to the forefront and prepared for his address. He was no longer the impetuous fisherman, but the articulate and well-versed spokesman of the “fishers of men.”

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 14)

While the unprecedented and astonishing miracle was taking place in the Upper Room with those inside oblivious to the outside world, a great stirring was occurring in the streets below: They had an audience.

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8  LESSON 9  LESSON 10  LESSON 11  LESSON 12  LESSON 13

LESSON 14

Acts 2:5-11

5 Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 They 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, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”

The Lord said they would be witnesses. I remember many years ago I heard a New Testament studies teacher expounding on the subject. He was a brilliant man and a friend, who has since made the big trip. By this time in my walk I had witnessed to countless people but I had never before heard one particular thing that man spoke forth. It stood out within his teaching and has remained strong in my memory ever since. He said, “Witnessing is a forced option.” What he meant was that Christians are witnesses twenty-four hours a day whether they want to be or not, or whether they think they are or not. We are not witnesses only when we are witnessing.

While that particular thought settles in, let’s think about the mindset of the believers in the midst of the greatest event of their lives. Many had their eyes closed, lost in the Spirit, emotions spilling forth. There were loud voices of praise at various levels, male and female, bass, alto, soprano, all speaking forth in languages they had never spoken before. Most were unaware of their surroundings, being completely focused on the Lord. Tears were streaming. Smiles were beaming. Pure joy was breaking out all over. They had been clothed with power from on high.

And in the midst of it all, those on the streets below, Jews from all over the empire in town for the great Feast of Weeks, were beyond perplexed. It was unprecedented for them as well.

The Upper-Roomers were already fulfilling their call to be witnesses and did not even know it.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” [Acts 1:8] [1]

Every one of those temporary residents of Jerusalem and the city dwellers themselves were receiving a forced witness. They had no choice in the matter. They heard unlearned and ignorant Galileans, given away by their accents, “speaking of the mighty deeds of God,” in their own respective languages. It was the first instance of this “sign for unbelievers,” as Paul mentioned, which would be given again and again—the evidence of a surrendered heart and the fruit of holy speech. It was also an awakening moment for those on the outside looking in.

Pentecost was a reversal of Babel.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 13)

It happened fast: A loud sound of wind filling the house—A visible Light filling the Upper Room—Division into smaller Lights upon each believer—Speaking new languages by the power of God…

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8   LESSON 9   LESSON 10   LESSON 11   LESSON 12

LESSON 13

Acts 2:1-4

1 And when the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all assembled together in one place, 2 when suddenly there came a sound from heaven like the rushing of a violent tempest blast, and it filled the whole house in which they were sitting. 3 And there appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were separated and distributed and that settled on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled—diffused throughout their souls—with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other (different, foreign) languages, as the Spirit kept giving them clear and loud expression (in each tongue in appropriate words). [1]

THE TONGUE IS A FIRE

The last member of the human body to yield to the Spirit of God is the tongue. The Lord’s brother James held nothing back when writing the following revelatory verses—strong, intense, and filled with spiritual import—explaining this phenomenon:

Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!

And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. [James 3:3-8] [2]

Speech is a powerful force. It is a great gift from our Creator. Humans are hardwired with the ability to speak. Small children gain the use of extremely complicated language skills, grammars, and word dictionaries with no scientific explanation. We take it all for granted but the evolutionists among us are stymied by this otherwise impossible ability possessed by mere babes.

As all things human can be corrupted and have been corrupted, so it is with speech. In the beginning, God spoke creation into existence. Sinful man destroys by the same power. This is yet further proof that every human is estranged from God until delivered from sin and born anew from above. Those who would gain the Lord’s spiritual life must humble themselves and surrender all. It is not an easy process. As illustrated perfectly by James, the tongue is the deadliest and most sinful member of our body. It dies the hardest.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH

It is no wonder then that the Lord chose speech as an outward sign. It is the last to yield to the Spirit of God and the first to break forth in praises to Him. And this is exactly what the 120 did that morning. Like newborn babes who cry at birth, the first significant thing we ever do under our own power and will, so were these new born babes in the Lord crying forth. They had no idea what they were saying. Remember, these believers were disparaged as mere unlearned and ignorant Galileans, most of whom had no higher education or training. They were certainly not linguists. Yet, from the depths of their hearts, enabled by the newly indwelling Holy Spirit, they were all speaking perfectly and fluently in languages they had never learned.

Again, the same inexplicable phenomenon takes place with babies, whose first word is spoken as early as six months. By eighteen months there are multiple word sentences. They are soon communicating with eye-contact and inflection. Though they pick up this ability in part empirically, most arrives miraculously. Language is far too complex for such unaware babes to develop it at such a young age without some unknown, unexplainable ability.

So it was with the Upper-Roomers. Their speech was miraculous. The sign was unmistakable. The hand of God was evident.    

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] The Amplified Bible © 1965 by Zondervan Publishing House. All Rights Reserved.

[2] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 12)

Pentecost was an either-or option. Though most were not aware of this and many refused to acknowledge the possibility, the nation would either get right with God or suffer complete destruction.

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8   LESSON 9   LESSON 10   LESSON 11

LESSON 12

Acts 2:3

3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.

This was the event prophesied by John the Immerser four years before. He also made a second prophecy that worked in tandem with the first. This was not unlike what the prophet Moses had proclaimed in the early days of the nation. In essence, Moses said that obedience to God equaled blessing and disobedience the opposite. He told the people exactly what would happen to them if they honored the Lord or dishonored Him. The latter was not good.

It may sound as if God was making unfair ultimatums or unreasonable demands, or that He somehow must force people to respect Him. The reality is that God is holy and perfect. He is the Creator. And He knew their hearts. He knows everybody’s heart. He knows those who strive for His morality and righteousness and those who couldn’t care less. The following, as spoken by Moses, is an example of the either-or option:

“All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God: Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country…” [Deuteronomy 28:2-3]

“But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country…” [Deuteronomy 28:15-16]

The apostle Paul said the Law acted as a disciplinarian or schoolmaster before faith came (Gal. 3:24-25). Those who strove to keep the Law in the times of Moses and Joshua were not necessarily gaining salvation through such, since that could only come through faith, but their personal life and society was certainly superior compared to those who did not.

John the Immerser echoed Moses in this regard in that he presented the nation of Israel an either-or choice. Though the Jews had always seen fire as a symbol of the Divine Presence of God, and though it in a sense acts as a purifying agent, fire is primarily presented in the New Testament Scriptures as an agent of destruction. John said this fire was coming soon and would consume entire forests and remaining grain stalks:

“The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” [Matthew 3:10-12][1]

The Day of Pentecost began this process. Over the next forty years an Israelite Remnant would submit to the Lord Jesus and be saved. The rest would reject Him and choose the same fate as the city of Jerusalem itself—the fiery destruction of their souls. 

The Upper Room was a wheat barn.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 11)

While the Spirit of the Lord continued to move among the believers as an unseen wind “filling the whole house,” a visible manifestation also took place, centered among them in the Upper Room.

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8   LESSON 9   LESSON 10

LESSON 11

Acts 2:3

3 And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.

Wind is the movement of air from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. Wind fills a relative void. The lower the air pressure in a given location, the greater the onrushing air there is from a high pressure zone to fill it.

The Upper-Roomers had spent ten days emptying themselves. This was done through much repentance, much fasting, much prayer, much worship, and many tears. They were preparing themselves as a bride adorned for her husband (Rev. 21:2). [1] It was a human low pressure zone. No pride. No sin. No spot, wrinkle, or blemish (Eph. 5:27).

UPPER ROOM DIMENSIONS

Although there is no way of knowing exactly, implications in Scripture would indicate that the Upper Room was probably the same size as the Tabernacle (tent) of Moses, which was 10 x 30 cubits. Based on the Hebrew long cubit of 20.4 inches, the Upper Room would have been 17 x 51 (867 square feet).

An interesting thing happens, however, if it was 840. This number is divisible by every number from 1 to 12 except 9 and 11, which are not especially good numbers for an event like Pentecost (9 is the Biblical number of finality or judgment and 11 signifies disorder and imperfection). In order to arrive at this “perfect” number of 840, the cubit would have to be 20.08 inches, completely within the realm of probability. Based on such, the Upper Room would be 16.73 x 50.2 feet. It would contain 134 feet of perimeter wall space allowing the majority to sit on benches along the walls, and overall floor space would allow each person an average of 7 square feet.

THE BIG EVENT

Pentecost was an explosion of spiritual power and truth—the dunamis of God torqued down to a manageable level for reception within humanity but fully concentrated for the work at hand. They were filled with joy! It was both a release and a reception for those fortunate ones in the Upper Room. In a matter of minutes their pain was gone—the pain of the past, of unrealized dreams, of bitter life in a cold world dominated by the devil’s minions. This was the upper hand! The right hand of God reaching down to infuse them with His strength and might! Though they continued to dwell in houses of clay, they became dynamic and demonstrative.

At nine o’clock in the morning they appeared drunk or high on mushrooms. Joy to the nth degree was ensconced on their shining faces and they were each filled with that very agape love of the Lord that He tried to teach them about previously. They were now as He was, filled to overflowing with a power to work miracles and love others without measure, even enemies who may maim and slander.

As the rushing wind of the Spirit continued to swirl around among the disciples, a visible manifestation accompanied the audible. In the middle of the large Upper Room a great energized Light suddenly appeared, seeming to manifest from thin air. The Spirit of God filled the entire space! The Jews had long considered fire to be a sign of God’s presence and purifying energy and here was God Himself as such fire. He did not come to consume, though, but to infill all these who had properly prepared for His arrival. The warm and engaging Light instantly began dividing into many smaller portions and each of these tiny fire-like Lights began moving about in every direction, this way and that, locating every disciple, and hovering over their heads.

120 small flickering manifestations of God’s presence appeared upon everyone there, and then, as all beheld the great miracle, the Spirit of the Lord entered into each disciple and took up residence in their hearts.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 10)

“Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” [John 20:21-22] 

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8   LESSON 9

LESSON 10

Acts 2:2

2 And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

Our author Luke characterized the loud sound from heaven that morning as a strong and driving wind, a bearing breeze “bringing forth.” But rather than the prevalent word for wind he used another—pnoe—which primarily means “breath” or “breath of life.” It had a purpose and destination: It was the holy breath of God.

The first thing we must recall is this:

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. [Genesis 2:7]

Adam had been formed—created from the element-rich dry soil of the earth—though was in an inanimate condition. He was the highest life form of Creation and made in God’s own image. This is beyond profound. For such a being there could only be one animating force possible. It must be the breath of God.

“The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” [John 3:8]

Though this verse is well known, it is also otherwise well known for containing a subpar translation. In the New Testament, there are a total of thirty-one occurrences of the Greek word for wind—anemos. As in Acts 2:2, this is not one of them. The word “wind” in this verse is from the Greek word pneuma which is translated as “Spirit” in every other instance of its use in the passage. Thus, the Lord never said, “The wind blows where it wishes,” but more like “The Spirit goes where it will.”

Now, let’s try this verse again and see how closely it matches up with Acts 2:2:

The Spirit goes where it will and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” [John 3:8]

And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. [Acts 2:2]

The 120 people in the Upper Room were about to be born again, or born of the Spirit, just as Adam was once literally born of the Spirit, or the breath of God. The Lord specifically told Nicodemus that no one could see (perceive, discern, discover) or enter into the kingdom of God unless he was born again.

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” [John 3:6-7][1]

No one of us remembers our physical birth. Not so with our mothers. It goes without saying, of course, but human birth is a powerful process and unforgettable experience. So is the new birth. It denotes a completely new life and a total transformation. After all, it is the Spirit of God we are referring to here. He is like a rushing mighty wind. There was a sound, a noise. He filled the Upper Room and the entire house with His presence. He would soon fill each person with His Holy Spirit.

He would breathe new life into them just as He did with Adam.  

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 9)

Today’s theme is Christian Unity. For those of you who missed Lesson 8 posted Sunday morning, it contains an excellent typology and is a prerequisite for Lesson 9. I am using Acts 2:1 for both. 

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INTRODUCTION   

Ch 1: LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

Ch 2: LESSON 8

LESSON 9

Acts 2:1

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

A few years ago I made a comment to a friend of mine, a Christian book author, which he found quite amusing. He laughed out loud. We were discussing the Day of Pentecost and the Upper Room, as well as the apparent oxymoronic concept of Christian unity. I said the reason there were only 120 in the Upper Room was because it was the maximum amount of Christians the Lord Jesus could possibly gather together in one place that would remain in spiritual unity.

Since that time, of course, Christianity in general has split into roughly a million pieces with segments fighting segments. It long ago became an idiotic display of morons insisting they must adhere to their simplistic revelations of the moment and immediately build fortresses on the spot willing to defend them to the death against all comers.

The worst thing that ever happened in this regard was what the spiritual fruitcake Constantine did early in the fourth century. Some think he legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire. He actually did nothing of the sort. What he did was create a new syncretic form of Christianity based extremely loosely on Scripture that gave major precedent to human control which bypassed completely the sole authority of the Lord Jesus. This is the religion he legalized. It was the one he fully controlled. All other forms of Christianity were declared illegal, including real Christianity! Constantine and his minions certainly achieved unity in his new enterprise, of course, but it was based strictly on forced submission and authoritarian religious control. All Christian denominations and many churches have adopted the exact format ever since.

It was the very opposite in the beginning. The only central authority was the Lord Jesus and no other. He ruled from on high. He was the only King of real Christianity and remains that way. Below Him every real member in His Community is exactly equal. There is no clergy class. There is no laity. There are none who wrest control over others and set up their own fiefdoms. Whoever the Lord places in the forefront must be the greatest servant of the group. Such servant leaders, as the apostle Peter, must be extremely humble and very careful not to take the spotlight from the Lord. This is why the vast majority of those we refer to as “Christian leaders” are mere pretenders. Some are much worse than others.

The only way to gain actual Christian unity is for each individual believer to first gain 100% unity with the Lord. This demands total repentance and total surrender. When two or three who have done this decide to be in unity with each other, the Lord is there and confirms the spiritual union. From this point on, the individual members of the group increase. It is exactly the same as cell division. It starts with one, one becomes two, two become four, etc. Thus, there are only two necessary components:

1. Initial spiritual union with the Lord

2. Lateral spiritual union with each other

Both are based on serving. This is exactly as the Lord taught. But the big boys hate the very idea. How can they rule over others under such a scenario? How can they transform Christianity into a method to gain riches and a good living doing such serving? How can they create their own little domains or immense worldwide religious kingdoms without a ruling hierarchy and top of the pyramid figurehead? Such commandments of the Lord are utter nonsense to them. They don’t serve the Lord and never have. These are the destroyers of Christian unity. They even destroy the possibility.

The Lord Jesus, however, remains the King of His one and only kingdom. It consists only of those who honor Him only, bow the knee to Him only, and invoke only His holy Name above every name and no other. This is exactly what the 120 did on the Day of Pentecost. They set the example for what all Christian meetings should be.

May we all submit to the King.

“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” [John 17:22-23]   

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! [Psalm 133:1]

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. [Ephesians 4:1-6]  

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. [Colossians 3:12-17] [1]

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 8)

They had been tarrying for ten days. The relative few who remained for the duration in faithful obedience to the Lord’s final instructions had been fasting, praying, and preparing themselves for the highly anticipated promise of the Father.

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INTRODUCTION   

LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

LESSON 8 

Acts 2:1

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

It was early morning on the first day of the week, fifty days after the Resurrection of the Lord. A second Sabbath had passed. The 120 were gathered together in the large Upper Room, the home of Mary, mother of John Mark. No one knew what would happen. They did know it would be a big event, something that had never previously occurred. Throughout the long age of the Hebrew nation from the time of Abraham nineteen centuries before, God had been preparing His people. And now, millions of Israelites later, they were minutes away.

From the vantage point of the Upper Room, historically located on the city’s high southwestern hill, disciples looked down upon the old city of King David immediately eastward across the valley in the glint of sunrise. The former village of the Jebusites, first secured by Israel in 1003 BC, was ornamented gloriously with Jerusalem’s new temple glittering in the morning sun. There, amid the clatter and bustle of street life below, the temple priests attended to their quotidian duties as they had for centuries on end, ever since Solomon completed the first temple over a thousand years before. Unfortunately, due to egregious national sin and rebellion, his magnificent edifice was destroyed by invading Babylonians in 586 BC. After the Hebrew Captivity a second temple was constructed, being completed exactly seventy years later, fulfilling in part the following prophecy:

“For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.’” [Jeremiah 29:10] [1]

By the time King Herod began his energetic building projects in Jerusalem fifty years before this historic Day of Pentecost, the substandard second temple, of no comparison to Solomon’s original wonder, was in serious architectural decay. It was five hundred years old and had not only suffered the onslaught of time but also the ravages of several foreign incursions. Herod actually had to rebuild it entirely. This made it the Third Temple. Religious law, however, and the insistence that temple service must be perceived as perpetual, refused to acknowledge this obvious distinction and rendered this third temple as a continuation of the second, a fact somewhat lost to history.

Meanwhile, back in the Upper Room, there was another form of construction in the works. What King Herod had done in the natural with ornamental dressed stones, the Lord Jesus was doing in the Spirit beyond the perception of the shallow minded and dull hearted. He was building another Temple—the Real One—which all relative Old Testament prophecy pointed toward and of which the other temples were mere three-dimensional types and shadows. The real Temple would be a spiritual house composed entirely of Living Stones.

The Chief Corner Stone, the one the builders rejected, was already set.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101: Acts Chapter 1 Review

Dear Readers: Now that we have completed Acts Chapter 1, it is a good time to review. Please check to see if you have completed the Introduction and each Lesson. Blessings to all.

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INTRODUCTION : Announcing a new teaching series and discussing format. (March 29)

LESSON 1 : Acts 1:1-3 (March 30)

LESSON 2 : Acts 1:4-5 (April 1)

LESSON 3 : Acts 1:6-8 (April 3)

LESSON 4 : Acts 1:9-12 (April 4)

LESSON 5 : Acts 1:13-15 (April 6) 

LESSON 6 : Acts 1:16-20 (April 7)

LESSON 7 : Acts 1:21-26 (April 9)

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© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 7)

The lost apostleship of Judas Iscariot had to be restored. The eleven must again become the twelve. The lesson of Judas is that any believer can become a traitor.

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INTRODUCTION   LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6

LESSON 7

Acts 1:21-26

21 “Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— 22 beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” 23 So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen 25 to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. [1]

Even though it was prophesied in the distant past there would be a man who betrayed the coming Messiah, it was never written in stone that Judas must take the course he did. It was a choice, the result of his own will. There were signs all along that there was something wrong with him that needed attention. And then he betrays the Lord with a kiss? How can any man so blessed be such a jackass?

Most of us would consider being one of the apostles as the highest possible honor. Imagine being with the Lord every day, being taught by Him, and being a witness of His majesty. This was the greatest Man who ever lived living an extraordinary life willing to pay the highest price for those He loved. Walking with Him, regardless of the challenges and persecution, would have been an absolute trip.

But Judas was a thief. He ripped off the Lord. He stole money dedicated to ministry. He griped about perceived excess or waste, even though he ended up wasting his own life. There is no excuse for such behavior, not then and not ever. He was a liar, a pretender, and a manipulator. It appears that other apostles didn’t like or trust him. The Lord called him a devil (diabolos), being defined as one prone to slander, vicious gossip, fraudulent accusations, and bearing false witness. Judas characterized an entire group of people. Was this why the Lord chose him? To reveal to His followers what they would face and to thus be prepared? All the apostles were tempted but Judas was the weak link. He refused to discipline himself properly. He never allowed the circumcision of his heart. He chose to oppose.

There had to be twelve. One must be chosen to replace him. It had to be a man who followed the Lord from beginning to end and witnessed His resurrection. The original twelve apostles represented in part the twelve tribes of Israel. Judas had much in common with the progenitor of the tribe of Dan, who was the likely ringleader in betraying Joseph and sending him off to Egyptian bondage. At some point in history this tribe disappeared. There is no record of Dan in the Book of Revelation tribe list. This lets us know what becomes of traitors.

Matthias (gift of God) was chosen as an honorable replacement to resurrect a dead apostleship and restore fullness to the twelve. The thief would be replaced with a giver. It was the highest of honors for one who must have been a thoroughly humble man.

Matthias was an apostolic example of the new birth.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 6)

The 120 were gathered together in the Upper Room. The apostle Peter took his place as spokesman for the group. Keep in mind that this assembly was the entire Early Church, from the Greek Ekklesia, which is defined as “the community of the called-out ones.”

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INTRODUCTION   LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5

LESSON 6

ACTS 1:16-20

16 “Brethren, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was counted among us and received his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the price of his wickedness, and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out. 19 And it became known to all who were living in Jerusalem; so that in their own language that field was called Hakeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the book of Psalms, ‘LET HIS HOMESTEAD BE MADE DESOLATE, AND LET NO ONE DWELL IN IT’; and, ‘LET ANOTHER MAN TAKE HIS OFFICE.’

This was Luke’s first recorded post-Ascension message of the followers of the Lord Jesus. They had a safe place at Mary’s house. Though the Lord was no longer physically present in the environs of Jerusalem, His small group of disciples was still considered a dangerous heretical faction. From the limited perspective of the Jewish religious leaders, however, with the Lord finally out of the way, there remained a consensual relief not presently threatened by the existence of His small band. But this would soon change.

Regarding the traitor, the greatest villain known to history, he did have second thoughts. He was assisted in his dastardly deed, however, by the devil himself, along with the murderous and conniving chief priests, which assisted in pushing him over the edge.

And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. [Luke 22:3]   

One wonders at the arguments Satan may have made that at last convinced Judas to act. It was more than the man’s love of money. In essence, though, he was simply deceived. His bad spirit, bad attitude, constant grumbling and complaining, and refusal to adhere to real discipleship, caused the man’s unregenerate flesh, his sinful human nature, to remain forever on display. This condition is common to all, and without self-imposed restrictions, wreaks havoc. It is why all real Christians must at the onset deal strongly with this spiritual enemy and defeat it if they hope to have any chance at serving the Lord.

When Judas saw the Lord condemned, and that he had been deceived by the priests and elders, he felt great remorse. He tried to return the money but they wouldn’t take it.

“I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. [Matthew 27:4-5][1]

According to tradition, the Field of Blood was located just beyond the southern edge of the old city of David on the other side of the Hinnom Valley.

This had otherwise been known as Gehenna, the allegorical destination of the wicked.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 5)

After watching the Lord rise up before them enveloped by a cloud, the disciples removed from Mount Olivet and returned to Jerusalem per the Lord’s command. It was time to await the promise.

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INTRODUCTION   LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4

LESSON 5

ACTS 1:13-15

13 When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. 15 At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said…  

This Upper Room was most likely in the house belonging to Mary, the mother of John Mark, as mentioned in the twelfth chapter of Acts after Peter’s miraculous release from certain execution:

…he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. [Acts 12:12] [1]

It was a very large room which, of course, implies a large house. This denotes Mary, a probable widow, as a woman of means. Mark was a cousin of Barnabas, the apostle Paul’s traveling partner, which made Mary his aunt. One can deduce that the respective fathers of Barnabas and Mark were brothers who were wealthy enough to (1) Own a large high end property in Jerusalem with servants, and (2) Send Barnabas, a man of letters with probable training under a rabbi to school. Barnabas was also the most likely writer of the Book of Hebrews.

The Last Supper was held in this same Upper Room, which made the private home a regular place of meeting for the Early Church. In fact, the entire Early Church at that time could take up residence within it. All eleven apostles were there along with possible family members. The Lord’s brothers were there, maybe all four, as was, of course, His mother Mary. Many other women were there, which must have included Mary Magdalene. With all of these together, it came to about 120 people, on the one hand a large group for a house church, but on the other relatively quite small.

After preaching to perhaps hundreds of thousands over a three and a half year period, having a large band of following disciples, and appearing to as many as five hundred after His resurrection, the Lord Jesus only gathered 120 dedicated praying disciples in the Upper Room awaiting the Day of Pentecost.

This should enlighten us to His selection process.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 4)

The Bible records many miraculous historical events. One of the most miraculous, or downright mind-bending if you were there, was the Ascension of the Lord. Some say it defies belief. Believers say He defied gravity.

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INTRODUCTION   LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3

LESSON 4

ACTS 1:9-12

9 And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. [1]

Luke reports the event in an understated matter-of-fact manner. The likelihood is strong that he wasn’t there so he must have received the information from those who were. Since he wrote The Acts of the Apostles about thirty years after the Ascension, it is most probable that many of the firsthand witnesses had already passed on. Nevertheless, I don’t believe Luke would have relied on secondhand information, no matter how credible. Who might have provided their testimony? There was a large group there, not only the eleven apostles. Some of them probably later traveled into the far reaches of the Greco-Roman world. The apostle Paul, whom Luke spent much time with, would certainly have known many who were there that day.

Regarding the Lord’s departure, it must have been hard on everybody. Maybe the thoroughly unique and otherworldly method He chose took some of the edge off. He knew He would still be with them, though in spiritual form. But His disciples likely felt that an unseen floor had dropped away. They spent almost every day of the last few years with Him. He taught them everything they knew. They would miss Him terribly. We have all had such heartfelt goodbye moments, sometimes involving those we would never see again.

As they stood there on the Mount of Olives between Bethany and Jerusalem peering up into the sky at the Lord’s strange private rapture, the disciples were enthralled with an event never possibly experienced before, lost in their goodbyes, and momentarily overcome with loss. How would they manage without Him?

Then the two angels suddenly showed up with more of the matter-of-fact narrative as if the Ascension were a mere ho hum event. “Why are you guys still standing there looking into the sky?” With that statement they announced yet another event, one stranger than the first.

He’s coming back.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 3)

In the first century AD, the Israelites continued to be obsessed with the restoration of their kingdom. Other than brief independence under the Hasmonean Dynasty (c142-37 BC), they had been ruled by foreign powers since the Babylonian Captivity six centuries before.

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INTRODUCTION   LESSON 1   LESSON 2

LESSON 3

ACTS 1:6-8

6 So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; 8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” 

The Lord continued attempting to patiently explain to his disciples that His was a spiritual kingdom. In His Olivet Prophecy, as recorded in Matthew 24 and 25, Mark 13, and Luke 21, He warned them that great tribulation was coming and what was left of the nation of Israel would cease to exist within a generation.

Then He shifted His answer to the immediate future when they would be endowed with a power giving them greater ability to understand. He told them they would become dynamic witnesses of the Gospel message. The Greek word is dunamis and is defined as “strength, ability, inherent power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth.” This would be an entirely different ballgame. The powerful OT prophets and John the Baptist had the spiritual power of God upon them, but they were not indwelt by the Spirit of the Lord. In fact, the Lord said:

11 “Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” [Matthew 11:11]

How is this possible? John was obviously a great and fearless preacher, the forerunner of the Lord. He had what would otherwise be an impossible objective—to prepare the collective heart of the nation for a soon arriving future. For many, if not most, it would be a future of growing tribulation and destruction. The independence and freedom sought by the Jews would continually diminish just as John had prophesied:

7 So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 “Therefore bear fruits in keeping with repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 9 “Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” [Luke 3:7-9] [1]

smaller percentage of the people did repent, though not enough to save the nation, and it was the Community of this repentant Remnant composed entirely of Israelites that the Lord initially gathered as a spiritual people for a spiritual kingdom. For this, they would have to be like Him and receive His power. They must each be filled with the Holy Spirit.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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THE HEBREW MONTH OF NISAN 2020: CROSSING THE JORDAN (Part 2)   

4/3/2020: According to the official Hebrew calendar, Nisan 10 begins tonight at sunset, meaning the anniversary of the Jordan River Crossing is tomorrow, April 4. In reality, however, according to the lunar cycle, it is today. See the above link for historical content.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 2)

The Gospel of Luke is the only one which sets the scene regarding the Lord’s last morning before ascending to heaven. He adds more detail in the opening of Acts. We now continue with the narrative:

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INTRODUCTION   LESSON 1  

LESSON 2

ACTS 1:4-5

4 Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Many Christians are familiar with the incident in which the Lord appeared to two men on a road west of Jerusalem on the day of His resurrection. That afternoon they were heading to the small village of Emmaus, about seven miles away, when the Lord Jesus approached and began walking with them. Luke is the sole gospel writer to record the full story, though it is also briefly mentioned in Mark 16:12. After an eventful evening the two men quickly returned to Jerusalem and met with the apostles and the others, excitedly telling them what happened. While there the Lord again appeared to all of them and began His final instructions. It was then that we have the only occurrence in the gospels of “the promise” as mentioned above: 

49 “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” [Luke 24:49]

In both books Luke records the Lord’s commandment that His disciples remain in Jerusalem to await the big event. It will happen in a matter of days. Before they can be His witnesses they must receive His power and anointing. He called it an immersion in the Holy Spirit (from the Greek baptizo, meaning “to submerge or overwhelm”). Though the specific terminology “promise/Father” is recorded nowhere else but these two verses to this point, there are several other gospel references. The first time Luke mentions it is in the following when he also pairs the two baptisms:

15 Now while the people were in a state of expectation and all were wondering in their hearts about John, as to whether he was the Christ, 16 John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” [Luke 3:15-16]   

One of the most profound events referencing the baptism in the Holy Spirit is recorded in the Gospel of John. It is in Jerusalem at the temple on the final day of the feast of Sukkot in the fall of the year. From it we can gain a greater understanding of the significance and timing of the baptism:

37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. [John 7:37-39][1]

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 1)

After writing his gospel, “about all the things Jesus began to do and teach,” Luke begins Acts by recalling the morning of the Ascension when the Lord gave final instructions to His chosen apostles.

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INTRODUCTION

LESSON 1

ACTS 1:1-3

1 The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. [Acts 1:1-2]

Luke refers here to the Gospel which bears His name as the first of a two volume work. Though many accounts of the Lord’s life and teachings had previously existed in various forms and lengths from which to draw, Luke set out to write the definitive gospel. He would attempt to write the story sequentially, “in consecutive order,” fill in any gaps, and put the previous accounts into a workable whole. All agree that he did a masterful job. He would do the same with The Acts of the Apostles, though would also act as his own historical eyewitness on many occasions, which was not the case previously.

The “beloved physician” was a man of culture. As he did in the introduction to his gospel, he refers to an eminent associate named Theophilus, who likely lent his assistance and donated funding for the project. This man, whom Luke refers to in his gospel as the equivalent of “your excellency,” was probably a Gentile believer who held a relatively high office. Acts begins as if a letter to a friend recounting the life of the Lord Jesus until His Ascension into heaven. Luke uses the final instructions of the Lord to His close disciples as a starting point for his second volume, which draws in the reader and sets the tone for an energizing new phase of ministry in which all believers would participate in taking the Gospel to the entire world.

3 To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. [Acts 1:3] [1]

Luke reiterates the vast body of eyewitnesses who experienced the Lord’s living presence for almost six weeks after His resurrection. The apostle Paul said they were at least five hundred in number. These many accounts give conclusive proof of His resurrection as do manifold thousands of Jews embracing Him as Savior and Messiah. He was not a ghost but fully human and able to perfectly relate and communicate as He had before. God became manifest in flesh and remains so today.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Introduction)

 

Today begins a new teaching series entitled Early Church History 101. Each post will be based on passages from our only text book, The Acts of the Apostles. Your interaction and dialogue are encouraged.

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INTRODUCTION

Because this is an introductory course, I hope to post on as near a regular schedule as possible and keep the lessons fairly brief, hopefully interesting, and possibly compelling. I suggest engaging in your own research as you see the need.

Our goal is to become better acquainted with the beliefs, practices, and accomplishments of the Lord’s original Community. It served as a prototype and foundation of the Church Age which began at Pentecost in AD 32 and continues to the present. During this almost two thousand year period, the Lord Jesus never taught any subsequent transition or alteration which would negate or change the beliefs and practices of our early forebears. We in the present must therefore respect and seek to emulate their holy and courageous example as they worked in close cooperation with the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Early Church was sent into an often hostile world with the life-giving Good News in the opening salvos of a spiritual war destined to cover the planet. Their accomplishments were nothing short of miraculous.

The author of The Acts of the Apostles is Luke—Early Church historian, gifted writer, the beloved physician, oft traveling companion of the apostle Paul, and also author of his masterful “first account,” the Gospel of Luke. It is possible that Luke did not originally affix a title to Acts but the title we have is likely correct. However, based on the author’s chosen vocabulary and grammar, he clearly indicates that this historical record is a continuation of the ministry of the Lord, which means it could have been titled The Acts of Jesus. Some have suggested The Acts of the Holy Spirit.

Inserting Apostles in the title, however, serves primarily to indicate the Lord working through His original twelve (minus Judas Iscariot), but certainly was not limited to them. In fact, it was the entire Community through whom He worked, which includes each and every believer, though the apostles were the most spiritually mature at the time. Because they were His initial chosen ones who followed Him throughout His ministry and witnessed the Resurrection, they were the men primarily utilized in the early years. This was especially the case with the apostle Peter, whom the Lord powerfully anointed on that first Day of Pentecost in ancient Jerusalem to set the many authoritative precedents of the Early Church which continue until today.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.

THE END OF THE AGE—IN PROPHECY [Part 3]

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It is called The Olivet Prophecy. In response to the questions of His disciples about the End of the Age, the Lord Jesus clearly revealed the signs to watch for that some of them would live to see.

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DAYS OF VENGEANCE

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.” [Luke 21:20-22]

A likely majority of Christians have been subjected to false interpretations of Bible prophecy. There is much confusion and misunderstanding. Most believers get lost in all the detail. But in reality, it is not the Word of God that is to blame, especially in regard to the Last Days prophecies made by the Lord Jesus. Many of His teachings have been taken out of context. Many have been misapplied. Thus, it is not His prophetic content or manner of teaching that is causing the lack of comprehension. It is dealing with the inaccurate interpretations that conflict with the truth.

Truth and error do not mix. Error does not add up. The light of truth exposes dark things and reveals inaccuracies. When one is able to identify error, as tares in a wheat field or masquerading goats at a sheep party, and thus eliminate it from the equation, the truth stands out. It comes out of hiding, so to speak. The truth suddenly becomes visible right there in front of us. And we think, it was always there but for some reason I couldn’t see it. We don’t know such truth exists. We are thus blinded by error because we do not perceive it as such. Sometimes we think error is truth.

How can this happen to Christians who otherwise dwell in the light of the Lord? Where does the obfuscation come from? Many Christians spend their lives in states of cognitive dissonance trying to make sense of the competing doctrinal factoids in their heads in an impossible effort at connecting dots and joining contrary puzzle pieces together. We take it for granted that we have the truth on any given subject but rarely or never subject it to the proper testing as the Lord said we must. Much of this arises from whatever Christian cultural arrangement we belong to. The following is an example:

When I wrote my series on Mary Highly Favored this past December, I included her genealogy from the Gospel of Luke. I noted that her father’s name was Eli or Heli, depending on the translation (See Luke 3:23). In talking to someone about this I was taken somewhat to task over it because the person insisted that Mary’s parents were Joachim and Anna. 

I said that was only tradition. And the New Testament does not actually mention Mary’s mother.

It did not matter what I said from that point forward because this person would not consider the truth. The scary thing about it was that the truth in the Word of God was rejected and a mere apocryphal traditional error which is strongly ensconced in that Christian denomination was accepted. If this attitude is applied to the entire Word of God such people could be hopelessly indoctrinated against various truths in favor of the erroneous teachings of their denominational beliefs regarding anything the Scriptures teach.

It is the same with Bible prophecy. Once a person has chosen to believe a particular interpretation and puts stock in it the odds of seeing it differently greatly diminish. But becoming convinced of something we believe to be true does not make it so. It is in part why the Lord has blessed us with His Word. There must be a final appeal to authority and that authority is the Lord Jesus and the written record we have of His teachings. His Word must be the final arbiter.

And His Word always dovetails together. The same way it works with Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah, all the prophetic content in the New Testament about the Last Days comes together into a single comprehensible whole. Of course, since we are dealing with several different books of the Bible which were originally not written by their respective authors as chapters in a single publication (though the Lord meant it exactly that way through His inspiration), it is up to us to do the research and also receive His revelation.

THE OLIVET PROPHECY

In this light, therefore, for those who want the truth of the matter, the Lord’s Olivet Prophecy exists in all three synoptic gospels. These accounts are easily accessible, relatively short, and quite clear. What the Lord prophesies is not all that difficult to understand especially in light of later history, which records exactly what happened up to the final conflagration in 70 AD. You can find the Lord’s prophecies of The End of the Age in the following passages:

         The Gospel of Matthew: Chapters 24 and Chapter 25

         The Gospel of Mark: Chapter 13

         The Gospel of Luke: Chapter 21

Keep in mind that there are no New Testament accounts of what eventually happened regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. But there certainly are NT accounts written in the 60s AD immediately prior to that time. There are other accounts also, such as those in Paul’s letters written within one to two decades of the end that also clearly point to it as a fast approaching future of prophetic fulfillment.

The Lord left no one unaware. He warned His disciples of what was coming and also gave the specific time frame. He said it would come to pass in their generation and some of them would live to see it. Why would He otherwise warn them? Why did He tell them the specific signs to look for unless He knew some of them would be there and must know when to head for the hills? They were also responsible for telling their children and relations so they too would be prepared. Also, they must not only prepare at the time of the end but gear up for it over the duration of the final forty years from the Lord’s time until it happened. They would have to persevere.

It was not an easy thing to know your entire nation, capital city, and beloved temple would one day soon cease to exist through a horrendous conflagration in which millions of one’s fellow citizens would perish. This is how they did it:

“By your endurance you will gain your lives.” [Luke 21:19] [1]   

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

THE END OF THE AGE—IN PROPHECY [Part 2]

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The early Christians of the New Testament era believed they were living in the Last Days. They believed the prophetic events thereof were being fulfilled in their generation.

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They learned this initially from the Lord, of course. He made it clear in the following passage:

“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” [Matthew 24:32-34]

He referred to this generation in many passages. He was consistent in describing it as the most evil generation in the history of national Israel. He also said it was the last one:

You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. [Matthew 23:33-36]   

THE TIME FRAME OF THE FINAL GENERATION

It began with the birth of the Lord. It lasted approximately 70 years. According to Scripture, an average human lifespan was 70 (Psalm 90:10). An average generation in general terms was 40 years. The Lord began His ministry at 30 years of age. Jerusalem was overrun and the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. The final generation officially began with the Lord’s ministry.

This approximate 40 year period included both the first generation of the Lord’s expanding worldwide spiritual Community and the final generation of collapsing national Israel.

These two overlapped. The principle participants on both sides were descendants of Abraham. At first, Christianity was seen by the world as a Jewish sect. This was because there were no Gentiles in the Lord’s Community for at least about seven years. It was composed strictly of Israelites. One might thus refer to the spiritual battle of that time as family oriented internecine warfare.

The spiritual war broke out first. The unbelieving Jews were the chief persecutors of the early Church. They were essentially the only persecutors until ten years into the time of Nero the Roman emperor. Nero came to power in 54 AD. He replaced Claudius who was emperor from 41-54. The early believers flourished during the time of Claudius who believed all peoples in the empire should be allowed to practice their religion. Things changed somewhat with Nero in the early going, persecution grew steadily worse due to anti-Christian influence in his court, and then went into overdrive in 64 AD when he falsely blamed the Christians for the great fire of Rome that summer. Many believed he was covering up his own crimes and the Christians were easy targets and scapegoats.

Meanwhile, things in Jerusalem grew progressively worse. The Zealot uprising eventually overtook all voices of relative reason. The great revolt began in the summer of 66. Jews were fighting Jews. The instability and increasing infighting centered on Jerusalem grew so great Rome had no choice but to eventually intervene in an effort to keep the peace and stem the outbreak of greater war. It was all beginning to happen at that time just as the Lord had prophesied and as the apostles had taught in the intervening 40 year period. Great numbers of believers had faced ongoing intense persecution from their unbelieving brethren who were bound and determined to use every weapon in their arsenal to stomp out the Christian upstarts who, in their darkened view, were making a mockery of their religion and heritage. Their hate was intense and continued growing exponentially. 

DESCRIPTIONS AND JUDGMENT OF THE FINAL GENERATION

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” [Matthew 12:38-40]       

“The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” [Matthew 12:41]        

The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” [Matthew 12:42]       

“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came;’ and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.” [Matthew 12:43-45][1]

In the approximate 70 year period beginning with the Lord’s birth, a time when all was in relatively good order, the demonic presence within the religious and political controllers began manifesting steadily and eventually increased eightfold, in a violent hate-filled massive counter response to a loving God bringing abundant life to His hurting people.

The chosen chose Him.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

THE END OF THE AGE—IN PROPHECY [Part 1]

Destruction of Jerusalem by Ercole de' Roberti

        

The prophet Daniel pointed to it. John the Immerser said it was approaching quickly. The Lord Jesus gave the final warning.

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In 70 AD the end came. Jerusalem was decimated. The Second Temple was destroyed. This was exactly as the Lord prophesied forty years before:

“For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” [Luke 19:43-44]

Many still do not recognize that time of visitation. The Lord warned repeatedly that destruction was nigh, that the people must repent and turn back to Him or lose everything. But not only did they not recognize the times, they refused to honor their Messiah who came to save them. Everything would have been different if they did, but it was not to be. They had reached the point of no return. Though their national sin had not yet reached its complete fullness during the Lord’s time, it was almost there. The nation itself was essentially lost but many who were part of the nation heard the Word. They got the big idea. These were ones who comprised the last days Remnant of the Hebrew people who remained true to God. They recognized God when He arrived. They honored their Messiah. They understood the times. They knew it was the final generation.

“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” [Mark 13:28-30]

THE ANCIENT PRECEDENT

During the time of Abraham, roughly nineteen centuries before the time of the Lord’s ministry, there was a Canaanite tribe known as the Amorites. These were an iniquitous people. They were direct descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham, the son of Noah. God told Abraham (Abram), right after his legendary meeting with Melchizedek, in the immediate vicinity of the city of Salem which would later become Jerusalem, that his descendents would be “strangers in a strange land” but would eventually return after four centuries to this land of promise. In the meantime the Canaanite tribes would become increasingly more evil. The Amorites were especially identified as such:

“Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” [Genesis 15:16]

God was invoking a spiritual principle. Sin is progressive. The Amorites were wicked and would continue growing more depraved over time. There was no check on this process. Degeneration had already begun and nothing would stop it. It was the will of the people. There may be some who escape but the nation itself was doomed. It was only a matter of time until the iniquity of the Amorite was complete.

Centuries later, after the Exodus from Egypt, we discover their fate. As noted in the Book of Numbers, the nation of Israel was traveling back to their date with destiny but the journey came to a standstill, having been blocked by the land of the Amorites. Israel sent messengers and asked Sihon, the Amorite king, for permission to pass through his land. He refused. He later decided to gather his forces, seek out Israel, and go on the attack.

Then Israel struck him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the sons of Ammon; for the border of the sons of Ammon was Jazer. [Numbers 21:24]

This was the end of the Amorite kingdom. Yet, the influence of the Amorites remained. Regarding their destruction and the later final destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, there is the undying voice of the prophet speaking forth a connection and a clue:

“Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem, “Your origin and your birth are from the land of the Canaanite, your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.”’ [Ezekiel 16:2-3]    

 THE END OF THE ISRAELITE KINGDOM

Of course, the Israelites had no official kingdom since the destruction of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, in 586 BC when the Judaic line of kings ceased. They were ruled over by others after their return from Babylon—Persians, Greeks, and Romans—with a brief time of independence under the Maccabees. The Northern Kingdom of Israel, comprised of ten of the twelve tribes, had ceased to exist 750 years before the time of the Lord. What was left of the nation was the Roman province of Judaea which had already been absorbed into the larger province of Syria. It was a far cry from what had once been. Looking at it from an overall historical perspective, Israel had been degenerating ever since the death of King David in 970 BC. If you want to know why, read the Old Testament. It’s all there: An ongoing succession of rebelliousness and disobedience toward God, the very One who saved them from certain destruction through miraculous means and then ongoing saving and assisting after countless screw-ups and betrayals.

But again, during all this there remained a holy Remnant dedicated to the Lord that remained true to Him and faithful. God was never left without a witness. The genealogical line of the Lord Jesus always remained intact. The ongoing experiment of having a people for His own namesake in a world of evil, treacherous nations that hated Him must prevail. There were times when the percentage of good was almost tapped out. The prophet Elijah pretty much thought it was all over in his time until hearing from the Lord that it wasn’t quite as bad as he thought (though still exceptionally sordid), in that a relatively decent-sized Remant remained:

And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” The LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way… I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” [1Kings 19:13-15, 18][1]

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (5)

 

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        Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

        While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

        In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

        When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. [Luke 2:1-20][1]

        © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (Intro)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (1)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (2)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (3)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (4)

 

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (4)

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       There was an unknown circumstance in Mary’s young life that spoke of great humility. We don’t know what this was exactly, and Luke does not elaborate. But there are directive clues. Read on:

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        The following is from Part 1: There is something else here that Luke’s narrative hints at which he does not delve into, possibly because he knew his audience was aware of whatever particulars were involved with Mary and the circumstances of her humble life.

         In the very beginning, after initially being told by the angel Gabriel that she was highly favored and the Lord was indeed with her, Mary became, depending on the translation, troubled/disturbed/perplexed. The Greek says greatly agitated. She wondered where this extraordinary greeting came from and what it could possibly be about. One senses she thought it must be meant for another, that the joyous messenger must have the wrong house.

         In answering a faithful reader’s comment on Part 3 today, who said of Mary, She must have indeed been a highly intelligent, spiritually sensitive young woman, I wrote the following:

         “Yes. A perfect choice. And she had to somehow come to a quick understanding of this fact though her humble nature would otherwise preclude it. She had to look beyond her humble circumstances and do her best to see herself as God saw her. He needed her. He wanted her to be the one. Here we have a good look into the counterintuitive nature of humanity. If Mary had previously thought herself as the best choice she would be disqualified, since that would reveal the presence of sinful pride. But if she thought herself unworthy and could never be persuaded to the contrary she would disqualify herself.”

         Why did she feel so unworthy? And why did she refer to herself not once but twice as a bondslave? I mentioned this in Part 1. The Hebrew word for a female slave is shiphchah. The Greek word used here is doulos, which speaks directly to a slave of the basest order and is used throughout the New Testament. One gets the idea that young Mary was somehow familiar with such status.

         It is also quite interesting that the New Testament never mentions any interaction with Mary’s parents or possible siblings. We know her father’s name was Eli (Heli), from her genealogy in Luke 3:23, but there is never any mention of her mother or her mother’s name. It appears they were no longer around. It is also evident that Mary was an only child. Imagine that. There is also a distinct possibility that Joseph, her betrothed, was her father’s adopted son, as alluded to in the genealogy. This was actually a Hebrew tradition going back centuries for men with no natural male heirs, so the idea isn’t so far-fetched. Any or all of these challenging life circumstances might be the cause of her feelings of unworthiness, but there is yet another, and it is here where we shall gain even greater understanding of the well known verse, “For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1Samuel 16:7).

        There is a Greek word that only occurs four times in the NT. It only applies to two specific people in the NT. Those two people are the Lord Jesus and His mother Mary. The word is tapeinosis. It is defined as “lowness, low estate, and humiliation.” Regarding the Lord it appears in Acts 8:33 in which the author references Isaiah 53:8. Here are both verses with the translated English word underlined:

     “IN HUMILIATION HIS JUDGMENT WAS TAKEN AWAY; WHO WILL RELATE HIS GENERATION? FOR HIS LIFE IS REMOVED FROM THE EARTH.” [Acts 8:33]

         By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? [Isaiah 53:8]

      Here is the verse that references Mary, again with the translated English words underlined:

          “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.” [Luke 1:48]   

         The Hebrew word is otser. It is defined as “restraint, coercion.” It is translated primarily as “oppression.” It refers in a sense to prison or being a prisoner. This indicates a form of slavery. Mary did refer to herself as a bondslave. This speaks indirectly of possessing a particular humble state or condition and we now have a better understanding of what that was. Isaiah chapter 53 is an OT prophetic picture of the Lord Jesus. Here is the verse that ties both Son and mother together:

          He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. [Isaiah 53:2][1] 

           © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (Intro)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (1)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (2)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (3)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (5)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (3)

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       Prior to her visitation by the angel Gabriel, Mary was burdened by an undisclosed life circumstance. We gain further clues of this by her reaction to Elizabeth’s powerful prophetic message.

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         To set the scene for the next historical interlude which bears upon the foundational Gospel account after her journey to Judea to visit Elizabeth, we must acknowledge the fact that, according to Luke’s account, Mary had yet to speak to anyone about the great news.

         She had left Nazareth in a hurry, almost immediately after she had consented to God’s plan. The Holy Spirit had indeed descended upon her and she was overshadowed with the power of the Most High. A miraculous conception had taken place in her womb! She had told no one, not even Joseph. Her elder relative Elizabeth would be her confidant. As the many repercussions played out in her thinking, Mary had remained amazed but laden with knowledge that no one else possessed.

GOD’S PERFECT TIMING

         In Part 1, we covered Luke 1:26-38. In Part 2, we covered Luke 1:39-45. There are several components of the narrative within these verses to be addressed. The first thing we must do, however, is address the timing of the events. The angel Gabriel had told Mary that Elizabeth was already with child and in her sixth month. The human gestation period is 280 days, which is almost exactly 9.5 lunar cycles. An exact 9.5 moons would be a half day longer. Here is the math: A lunar cycle is 29.53059 days. Multiplied by 9.5 the gestation period would be 280.54 days. Since we know the Bible grants much importance to the number 40, it is not a coincidence that 280 is 40 times 7 (another significant number). Regarding the number of days into her pregnancy for Elizabeth at the time, it was somewhere between five and six months because Luke’s account says she was in her sixth month. She had yet to complete her second trimester.

         I submit that it was exactly five and a half months and during a new moon.

       It should have taken Mary less than a week, probably about five days, to get to Elizabeth’s house in Judea from Nazareth since the journey was at least 70 miles as the crow flies but maybe 80 or more considering the roads and terrain. Luke does not tell us the town or Mary’s specific destination in Judea. This was also during the winter rains though most of the precipitation was in the north. We have no knowledge regarding who may have accompanied Mary on the trip. There is no mention of Joseph. Would she have gone alone? From the narrative it certainly appears that she was alone when greeting Elizabeth.

         Regarding the time of year, my research has long indicated that the Lord was born in the autumn. I believe it was likely on the 15th of the month of Tishrei on the Hebrew calendar, which was the first day of the weeklong Feast of Succoth (Tabernacles / Booths) and during a full moon. In 2019 this day fell on October 14th. We have a hint of this as the Lord’s birthday in John’s gospel. The word “dwelt” in the following verse is from a Greek word meaning “to fix one’s tabernacle or tent:”

         And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:14]

         Tishrei was the seventh month of the ancient sacred calendar adopted originally by the Lord during the time of Moses. The spring is the natural beginning of the year and was also the time of the Exodus and the Resurrection of the Lord. It is thus quite clear that the spring feasts are first and then followed by the autumn feasts. Tishrei later became the first month of the civil calendar and begins with Rosh Hashanah, the “head” of the year which is considered the Jewish New Year. This can get confusing, of course, but for the purposes of this study I will number the months as beginning in the spring from the vernal equinox.

         Since the Lord was likely born on Tishrei 15 in the autumn, it would mean the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary nine and a half months before, during a new moon on the 1st of Tevet, the tenth month (if it was a twelve month year, which was most probable). Tevet occurs in Dec/Jan. From this we get a clear timeline of these two miraculous pregnancies of Elizabeth and Mary:

YEAR 1: John was conceived in the summer on the 15th of the fourth month during a full moon.

YEAR 1: The Lord Jesus was conceived in the winter on the 1st of the tenth month during a new moon.

YEAR 2: John was born in the spring on the 1st of the second month during a new moon.

YEAR 2: The Lord Jesus was born in the autumn on the 15th of the seventh month during a full moon.

         After Elizabeth’s greeting and anointed word, Mary responded once again, as she did to Gabriel, with amazement and great humility. It was no insignificant response but revealed a woman of strong intellect, spiritual grace, and much insightful knowledge of Scripture for one so young. Her words reverberate through the centuries illustrating the profound nature of the Lord’s great plan and her own unique circumstances. We don’t hear much from Mary ever again but the following passage is filled with spiritual portent and the faithfulness of God. He has come to His people:

        And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; and sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” [Luke 1:46-55][1]

         Luke tells us that Mary stayed in Judea with Elizabeth for about three months after her arrival. The two would have had many long talks. As I stated earlier, Elizabeth was Mary’s only confidant. She was the only one who would have understood her circumstances because she had the same circumstances. These two ladies would have discussed all the implications of what they were presented with and how best to deal with the outcome and responses of others, especially as how it affected Mary. She still had to tell Joseph. She had to tell her parents. How would they react? She knew how everybody else would react and it was a hard pill to swallow. The time with Elizabeth was cherished because she gained the support she would need, to build herself up, and prepare for the coming storm of controversy.

        And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home. [Luke 1:56]

         One would think Mary would have stayed for John’s birth. We are tempted to add to the narrative and think she must have stayed, but Luke did not present it that way. With regard to why she left early, the calendar gives us a direct clue: It was now the early spring. The first month of Nisan had arrived. The spring feasts, to which Mary had remained faithful her entire life, were upon the nation. Passover week would be happening very soon, within about a week or so. Did Mary leave a few weeks before John’s birth to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem?

         © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (Intro)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (1)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (2)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (4)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (5)

 

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (2)

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      The conventional perception of the mother of our Lord is off. It is way off. She is commonly depicted in religious art, iconography, and statuary as Caucasian, and often northern European.

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         Knowledge of her Hebrew heritage among Christians is largely lost. Even her actual name is mostly unknown. The name Mary derives from the Judeo-Aramaic variant Maryam, from the Greek Mariam, which was derived from the original Hebrew Miryam, the name of the elder sister of Moses and Aaron (which is translated into English primarily as Miriam). New Testament readers know this was a popular name for Hebrew women at that time, as there are several with the name in the Gospel accounts.

      As a young Hebrew maiden of eastern Mediterranean stock, she was likely dark complected with dark hair and Semitic features. Semitic refers to one of the three sons of Noah—Shem—whose descendants predominantly populated the Middle East and still do today. We know from early OT accounts that the ancient Hebrews shared their DNA with many different ethnos of the greater region, including the Canaanite tribes. There were also the two great disruptions to the nation when the ten northern tribes of Israel were deported to the east in 722 BC followed by the Babylonian captivity of Judah 136 years later. The three remaining tribes of the latter—Judah, Levi, and Benjamin—were removed to Babylon for 70 years. They were allowed to return but many chose to stay. The lands of Israel and Judah had been repopulated somewhat by foreigners in the interim, especially the Samaritan region. The land was then ruled by a succession of Persians, Greeks, and Romans. It is therefore difficult if not impossible to arrive at a definitive Hebrew nationality by the first century AD.

         Even so, we do have two extant genealogies of our Lord Jesus from that time, both of which stem from the tribe of Judah and feature the persons of Abraham and David. The genealogy of Joseph the carpenter in Matthew’s gospel descends through King David’s son Solomon, the third and final king of a united Israel. After Solomon’s death the kingdom split into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah. Luke’s gospel contains the genealogy of Mary, which also goes through David but by his son Nathan, Solomon’s brother. This family tree divergence took place over 900 years before the Lord’s birth. The last of the Hebrew kings of the Judaic line ceased with the Babylonian captivity in 586 BC. Zedekiah was the last king of Judah, but was somewhat illegitimate in that he was installed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BC after the siege of Jerusalem. The king before Zedekiah was Jeconiah (AKA Coniah, Jehoiachin), who was carted off to Babylon a prisoner in chains. This is what the prophet Jeremiah said about him:

         “Is this man Coniah a despised, shattered jar? Or is he an undesirable vessel? Why have he and his descendants been hurled out and cast into a land that they had not known? O land, land, land, hear the word of the LORD! Thus says the LORD, ‘Write this man down childless, a man who will not prosper in his days; for no man of his descendants will prosper sitting on the throne of David or ruling again in Judah.’” [Jeremiah 22:28-30]   

         The Hebrew monarchy was thus abolished. There were no more kings. No one could ever again qualify. Joseph the carpenter’s line included Jeconiah and he is listed in Matthew’s genealogy. Nevertheless, it was established that Joseph, the legal stepfather of the Lord, could trace his direct lineage to Solomon and David. Mary’s genealogy could also be traced directly to King David. This means the Lord Jesus had a legal right as king through Joseph and a biological right through His mother. Though the monarchial birthright was essentially revoked by Jeremiah’s prophecy, this did not apply to the Lord Jesus because he was not a blood descendant of Jeconiah. Thus, the only possible way the Davidic line of kings could be restored, even after a six century interval, would be through the following:

       “Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” [Isaiah 7:14]

GREETINGS FROM THE WOMB

         As described in Part 1, Mary was soon on the road south to Judea to visit her relative Elizabeth. The two women were anxious to share the great news of their pregnancies, both of which were only possible through direct miraculous means. Elizabeth was greatly humbled in her long life of barrenness but maintained her faith regardless. Mary was also burdened somewhat by an undisclosed life circumstance. Here we have the young and the old, both of whom must deal with the inevitable gossip of unbelievers, yet blessed abundantly as major players in the great plan of God for the salvation of Israel and humanity. But besides these two who knew each other well, there were others who met for the very first time:

        Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said,

         “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” [Luke 1:39-45][1]

         © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (Intro)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (1)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (3)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (4)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (5)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (1)

NAZARETH

 

       She was given the opportunity to be the mother of Messiah—the Son of the Most High. She accepted without question, filled with wonder, in humble awe of being chosen.

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         In reading between the lines in the initial Gospel references to the mother of our Lord, we happen upon facts otherwise escaping our notice, primarily, her humble origin. We already know her hometown was not the greatest of places, as none other than one of the twelve, Nathanael Bar Tholmai (Bartholomew) articulated,

         “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” [1]

         The rustic community is never mentioned in any of the Old Testament writings, meaning it had yet to exist then, suffered utmost insignificance, or was known by a different name, one of which might have been “white town” or a variation, named after the ready supply of limestone rocks in the area. Nestled among the lower hills of the Nazareth Range in the ancient tribal land of Zebulun, the city lay about halfway between the seas—the great Mediterranean on the west where sailing ships launched for far-off lands, and to the east, the indigenous, often mysterious Sea of Galilee, loved freshwater fishery of the locals.

         From the little we know, Mary was likely born is this little village by the cliffs in circa 18 BC. This was during the early years of Augustus, who became the first Roman emperor in 27 BC, and the local reign of the ruthless client-king Herod the Great who had gained power a decade earlier. How she or her family arrived in the area is lost to history. Though Nazareth was within the small area originally allotted to the Tribe of Zebulun (the tenth son of Jacob and sixth born to Leah), Mary was actually a distant descendent of King David of the ruling line of Judah. Her connection to the latter tribe is somewhat problematic for a Galilean from the north due to her clear connection to relatives in the territory of Judea south of Jerusalem. The unknown story of her family’s transplantation is an intriguing one.

         We know from the later annual pilgrimages made by the holy family to Jerusalem for the feasts that young Mary likely also made such trips as a child growing up, probably as part of small caravans. She was thus familiar with the territory and probably looked forward to such opportunities to see the great city and visit family. Journeying from the north in Galilee, one would traverse the disparaged Samaria, sandwiched between Galilee and Judea, and venture through the ancient tribal areas of Issachar, Manasseh, and Ephraim in the process, and lastly through the allotment of Benjamin on the approach to Yerushalayim which was located on the southern edge of his tribal land.

         The eastern border between the two famous territories of Benjamin and Judah actually runs north and south along the Kidron Valley. The Kidron divides the city of Jerusalem in Benjamin’s territory to the west from the Mount of Olives in Judah’s territory to the east. The southern border between the tribes is divided by the valley of Hinnom which was immediately due south of the ancient city. Beyond these two natural demarcation lines was the fatherland of Judah and the ancestral land of King David to which Mary and her family sojourned frequently. It was also the ancestral homeland of her new husband Joseph, the strong but tender carpenter, chosen also as she was, and suited well for the calling.

AN ANGELIC VISITATION

         Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. [Luke 1:26-27]

       Luke makes it clear in his definitive account that Mary was a virgin when the angel Gabriel revealed to her the plan of God which would soon go into effect upon her consent. She was betrothed to the carpenter, meaning the marriage was not yet fully contracted, and both were honorable and chaste. It is often not acknowledged that young Mary had a choice regarding the Lord’s plan for her life. We all have a choice, and for everyone there is a plan. Notwithstanding the discipline required to live and work for the Lord according to His will and not our own, any other plan created and chosen by a person is always inferior to His. Mary understood this. It is why she replied to Gabriel with no hesitation in her heart:

         And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

         Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

         And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. [Luke 1:28-38] [2] 

         Mary’s use of the word “bondslave” is not without import. It is from the Greek doulos and is defined accordingly as a female slave without any ownership rights of her own. This word, also translated as bond-servant, is used throughout the New Testament denoting the pure servanthood and dedication to the Master by real believers. The Hebrew equivalent for a female servant is shiphchah and has an ancient etymology dating to the book of Genesis. Though we often fail to perceive, in these brief Scriptural renderings, the full connotation and significance of the choice she made, Mary knew exactly what she was doing by deciding in the affirmative. She understood the gravity of the situation, the ramifications thereof, and that is was a lifelong commitment.

         But there is more. Mary alluded to her current state of life before the angelic visitation as thoroughly humble and insignificant. We see this first in her initial reaction to Gabriel’s greeting when he referred to her as “favored one” and said the Lord was with her: But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. She was also afraid, probably for the same reasons you or I would be startled at the appearance of an angel. It was more than this, however. She was concerned about what it meant for her life and, in those first few seconds, that she was in no way worthy of such an astounding visitation and calling.

         Why did she feel this way? There is something else here that Luke’s narrative hints at which he does not delve into, possibly because he knew his audience was aware of whatever particulars were involved with Mary and the circumstances of her humble life.

         In Part 2, I will continue delving into such lesser-known particulars. We will look closer at Mary’s upbringing, family, and momentous visit to her elderly but expecting relative Elizabeth, also a chosen woman of the Lord who found much grace in His sight.

         © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] John 1:46  

[2] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (Intro)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (2)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (3)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (4)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (5)

 

THE UNDYING THREAT OF NEW COVENANT TRUTH

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      They killed the Lord Jesus but He didn’t stay dead. It was a nice effort although a failure. Every other effort to destroy His living legacy also failed. All present and future efforts will end in failure as well.

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         “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” [John 10:10]

          It was the Lord Himself who was the initial target. Herod tried to get Him in the very beginning. There were probably pre-ministry attempts on His life that Scripture does not record. After stepping into open destiny He was under constant threat. The following are four historical instances of such murder attempts from each gospel to illustrate what He faced on a daily basis:

       Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. [Matthew 2:16]

         The chief priests and the scribes heard this, and began seeking how to destroy Him; for they were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching. [Mark 11:18]   

         Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You.” [Luke 13:31]

         For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. [John 5:18]

         We can gather from the preceding accounts that the Lord had many enemies, both civil and religious. We also know the Lord never committed a single sin, never violated the Torah, and never broke any legitimate civil law. He was accused of violations, but interestingly, only by the actual violators.

         It reminds one of Catholics and Protestants taking turns burning each other at the stake. Catholics killed some people representing a threat who did not believe and practice the Catholic religion properly. Protestants killed some people representing a threat who did not believe and practice whatever Protestant religion properly. Protestants killed non-Catholics. Catholics killed non-Protestants. Why all the killing? Why were these crazy religionists so threatened?

     We know why the Pharisees were threatened. They didn’t spend two centuries formulating their perfect religion only to have the Lord reveal it for what it really was. There were no prophets during the time the Pharisees created their belief system, loosely based on the Law of Moses, but heavily dependent on oral commentaries and connections to Babylon. Because there were no prophets in the land no one had the spiritual anointing to object and expose them. It wasn’t until John the Immerser came forth that a true prophet was once again in the land of Israel/Judea. After him, of course, came forth the greatest Prophet of all time. These two revealed Phariseeism for the sham it was and its connection to the devil. It was just another thing prophets were sent to do on a routine basis. Prophets kept the land clean from false beliefs and interpretations. They stood only for the real Word of God.

         This same dynamic invaded Christianity in that new denominations were only based on the New Testament. Additions were made. Subtractions were made. Commentaries were added. This is what the New Testament really means, they said. The new denominations, of course, must have a priesthood or clergy to denote the real and rail against the unreal. But they were only defending their own man-made belief systems and not the actual New Covenant Scriptures. Hence, when they gained enough power, they forced people to believe what they advocated and installed strong penalties for those who refused, including, of course, the death penalty.

         All this within a religion of peace? Right.

         Regardless of all the initial attacks against the Lord, His men, and the early believers by unbelieving Jews, the Lord’s Community not only survived but thrived. Try as they might they could not destroy it. Keep this in mind when trying to differentiate among various Christian denominations and their early histories. The Lord NEVER operated this way, never would, and never will. If you chose not to follow Him or believe His teachings He would still love you. The early Community of the Lord never advocated for such a thing. But false religions know they can be destroyed without using every tool at their disposal including the death penalty. Real Christians know the Lord is eternal, His Word is eternal, the Gospel is eternal, and nothing will ever eliminate Him or them.

         This means New Covenant Truth is an ever-present threat against the forces of evil. Unreal Christianity is an enemy of the truth. Whatever religion or belief system is anti-Lord Jesus or antichrist is an enemy of the truth. One either honors the Lord and the fullness of His teachings or one does not. But if one does not, he or she is okay to believe whatever he or she wants to believe without being under threat by the Lord. The Lord threatens no one. He never stoops to such lowlife tactics as do the false religionists.

         He does warn us, however, that sin is a killer, and unless one does something about it one will pay. One will lose one’s soul. He paid the price for sin with His life. He can remove sin from a person. He can clean us up. He will remove the power of sin in a person’s life. Only He can cure us of the sin disease. This requires repentance on our part. If one refuses the Lord’s free gift then one stands in opposition to Him by his or her own choice. Unlike false religions, including the Christian variety, the Lord never forces conversion. Forced conversions are false conversions.

         Those who oppose New Covenant Truth are the enemies of God. Those who create false religions and belief systems espousing this and defending them to the point of taking lives are the worst offenders.  

        And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” [Luke 9:20-24] [1]

         © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

ALL HOPE HAD VANISHED: THEN THE LORD SPOKE LIFE TO DEATH

     

     He had just been at Capernaum. A Roman centurion’s slave was on death’s door. Due to the centurion’s great faith, the Lord Jesus was able to heal the sick man without ever even seeing him.

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         He traveled with His disciples south from the northern environs of the Sea of Galilee through small towns and fishing villages along the west shore and then out across the plane to the southwest. Passing by the 1,886 foot rounded peak of Mount Tabor jutting up obtrusively on the right about six miles east of Nazareth, they continued on past Endor to the south. Arriving at the outskirts of the ancient town of Nain they were soon accompanied by a large party of locals no doubt enthralled by the many wonders and miraculous happenings associated with the Lord.

       However, rather than any expectancy regarding the immediate event in process before them upon entering the town, all parties adopted a hush of respect for the great mourning suddenly in their midst. A lonely, bereft widow had just lost her only son. Just inside the gate of the village, amid the weeping and wailing of mourners, the Lord’s disciples turned attentive caring eyes toward the procession playing out before them—a dead man was being carried on a crude bier in the opposite direction on the way to the hillside tombs within eyeshot close by. Amid the ordered tumult, the Lord’s gaze fell upon the dark-clad grieving woman whose life’s misery was now compounded beyond bearing. Her much crying since the dread event had lapsed into an intolerable somber anguish without any foreseeable remedy during her few remaining years.

         This was her only son, her only begotten son, a dead son of a dead father. What hope was left? If not for this otherwise chance meeting with someone whose life and mission could relate, who had always known His eventual fate and the dreadful effect it would have on His own mother, and who is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” the bedraggled procession would continue onward to the place of death and perpetual remembrance.

          But that was not going to happen. Not this time.

         When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. [Luke 7:13-14a]

        I believe He was weeping when he told the woman to stop weeping. What could she have been thinking? How incredulous she must have been in that brief moment. Do not weep? What? But she followed His movements. No one said a word. He walked over and placed his hand on the coffin. The procession stopped. The usual ongoing heartbreak and pain associated with life in this world stopped. All eyes were upon Him. He acted in such a way that no one had a chance to impede His interruption, as all were likely shocked at what was playing out before them. What is this stranger doing?

         And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother. Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!” [Luke 7:14b-16]   

SPEAKING TO A DEAD MAN

         When something is done, it is done. It is over. This is what we are taught. Life teaches us this, often brutally. Yet the New Testament narratives persist in telling us this is not necessarily true. Are these just a bunch of old stories? Did the Lord actually do all those impossible things? Once one considers such he may as well throw it all out—throw out the New Covenant, throw out the Gospels, throw it all out. It’s either all true or none of it is true. Though many have done this and will never express any real faith in the Lord, others have seen His hand. It may not be as dramatic as the events of this story but are life-changing nonetheless. In many cases it is not the Lord stopping a horrendous event (often because He will not violate human will) but giving us the otherwise impossible strength to deal with it and overcome it. Such is just as viable and powerful.

         For example, though he gave this poor grieving widow her only son back, he did not stop the man from dying in the first place. He did not stop the death of His friend Lazarus. He was notified that Lazarus was sick but purposely waited two days before he headed over there. His sisters suffered great grief. He also did not stop His own death and thus allowed His mother to suffer terribly as a consequence of it. But in all three cases He raised the dead. In two cases he brought great joy to grieving mothers by doing something otherwise impossible.

         Everyone will die. We know the above two guys died twice. But the Lord promises that those who have faith in Him will rise again. There is a resurrection coming for all. Some will be resurrected to eternal life.

         In the meantime it could well be the case that something has died that the Lord wants to resurrect in the here and now. Maybe it’s something that suffered death as a result of spiritual attack and warfare. Maybe it exists in a weakened condition needing a spiritual jolt to live again.

      Whatever is attempted for the Lord will suffer attack. Some attacks are powerful. Sometimes such attacks succeed. It could be that the attack was so potent and soul wrenching that one cannot muster the strength, ability, or desire to fight back effectively. One wonders of how many things the Lord wanted done that never got done due to losing spiritual battles. Sometimes we do fight back but can’t quite get there. We try. We give maximum effort. We exhaust ourselves in the attempt. And we still know we must try again until we finally succeed.

         Regardless of how it all works out or what is supposed to happen, don’t ever forget that the Lord in fact spoke to a dead man. He did it more than once. Imagine the people standing around that heard it. And then, shockingly, the dead man also heard it and actually responded.

         The dead man sat up and began to speak. [Luke 7:15] [1]

         Is there something the Lord may be telling us?

         © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

A SHOCKING REVELATION

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      Something was wrong in the church. Great spiritual effort was being made to no avail. A hindrance was blocking progress. What could it be? I began praying earnestly to find out.

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         We were young, in our early to late twenties. In the space of six months to a year the Lord brought forth a new membership group by ones and twos in an otherwise small traditional church. We provided a new strength and energy. The church had been struggling. The existing congregation had recently moved from its previous location and built a large, tasteful building. It had not gone as planned. There might have been a split. The church maintained a solid core of strong faithful believers but most were older and determined to maintain traditional practices. The Lord, however, was doing something new.

A NEW AWAKENING

         A nationwide revival of sorts remained on the move. It began around 1960 and spread throughout all denominations. Prior to that time there had been a great divide between Pentecostals and Protestants. The Azusa Street Revival, which began in 1906, had brought Christians of many stripes together for a brief time but after only a few years a major divide had ensued. There were initially arguments among Pentecostals that resulted in splits that created what later became major Pentecostal denominations. Mainline Protestants were at first intrigued with the movement but in general had a hard time giving up or changing their long-held traditional practices. Nevertheless, there was a lot of healthy mixing and cross pollination. In time though, these two groups returned to being estranged from one another.

         What took place in 1960 was possible in part because a relatively few Protestants in key positions of authority were somewhat secretly engaging in Pentecostal practices. Because they were discreet it caused no scandal. They perceived the otherwise questionable practices as perfectly natural and solidly New Testament based. These believers would be used by the Lord to assist in opening doors when the new movement began. By the mid 1960s even Catholic priests and nuns were receiving the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. It was in a certain sense a non-threatening revival, somewhat the opposite of Azusa Street, which blew the doors off and created a powerful worldwide movement. The 60s awakening spread steadily throughout all denominations and even began the new phenomenon of non-denominational churches. The traditionalists could not stop it but likely had great success at times in slowing it down. Non-Biblical traditions die hard.

         In the late 1960s a great many young people, especially it seems, on the west coast, began coming to the Lord. Some of these had no traditional underpinning and therefore had no understanding of how they should properly present themselves. In all the pictures of the Lord Jesus they had seen He wore long hair and a beard so the young men wore long hair and beards. Those who had dressed like hippies pretty much continued dressing like hippies after they became born again Christians. Their hearts were in the right place but their new attitude of spiritual freedom didn’t go over so well among buttoned-down conservative Christians. Even traditional Pentecostal churches had a major problem with this.

         By the 1970s battle lines had formed. It was yet another new guard-old guard paradigm. We know from the Word of God that the prior generation always has a problem with whatever new thing God is doing and regularly opposes it. The new generation, thoroughly enmeshed in the Lord’s new purposes, continues on, as they should, in obedience regardless of the opposition and obstacles. And the old does all in its power to maintain and hang on.

MY NEW CHURCH

         It was this very thing that I was born into. The Lord needed new blood and provided it. The latest members added much new energy and exuberance. It turned out to be a great mix. We thoroughly respected and honored our elders in the Lord, the older people who had supported the church for many years and kept it going. After the big move they had a problem. Most of the shiny new pews were empty every service and remained that way for the most part after the new influx. To rectify the problem the pastor was always preaching about the need for witnessing. This went over the heads of most of the older saints but us younger people took it seriously. We were determined to fill up the church.

       We had a meeting in a couple’s apartment. It was decided that we would continue witnessing all the more but also go on an extended fast and devote much time to prayer. I had learned all about fasting when I joined this church. We were expected to fast one day every week and go on a two day fast every quarter. These were real fasts that allowed only water or coffee. I was great at this. I often fasted two or three days a week though not in succession. I discovered early on that 24 hours was doable but going beyond that very difficult. Some of the guys had decided to fast for a week or two, and one guy pretty much indefinitely. This is how serious we were. We had a great passion to see people saved!

         I continued witnessing up a storm and bringing people to church. We were all on fire for God. This greatly assisted the older saints and gave them a charge. They appreciated how respectful we were and for all the new life! The big fast eventually came to an end. One man fasted an entire two weeks while never missing a day of work. We were praying all the time.

UH OH

         But not much changed. The church building remained as it was. We might have gained a new member or two. I couldn’t understand it. I began seeking the Lord earnestly in prayer. I kept asking what the problem was. I was still a relatively young Christian and had a lot to learn. I was naïve regarding church practice and churchgoers, believing everyone to be solid believers in step with the Lord. Remember, I had been wondering what was causing the problem in the church and why all of our efforts weren’t going anywhere. I had to know why.

         While praying one night alone I finally got an answer. I was stunned. It was the kind of answer one never expects to receive. The Lord had spoken very clearly. He said, “It’s the pastor.” That was all He said. He never said what the problem was. I had no idea what it could be. I never asked. I really wasn’t interested.

         I didn’t know what to do. I decided at last to reveal this shocking answer to my best friend and his wife, the ones responsible for witnessing to me which led to my salvation. I was very careful. I knew he greatly honored the pastor and held him in high esteem. I did my best to reveal the answer in as gentle but strong a way as possible. With the three of us gathered at their house one night, both of them expectantly waiting, I revealed what the Lord had told me. My friend almost immediately hit the roof. I couldn’t believe it. I was asked, or told, to leave. I had arrived there with them and ended up having to walk home. His wife, who never reacted as he had, came outside after me. She asked if I was okay. I will never forget her loving manner and her open tender eyes. But the relationship was broken. I don’t think I ever told anyone else. It wasn’t long after that incident that I had to move on. I moved away to start again. They stayed.

         About a year later the news had reached me. I found out what the problem had been. I discovered why our heartfelt sincere work for the Lord had been unfruitful. While we were busy witnessing, fasting, and praying, our pastor had been having an affair with a church member.

            © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.

ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE WITH GOD

Blog Pic 10.30.19

       

       A Christian can determine how much love and respect he has for the Lord Jesus by whether or not he actually believes this statement and is willing to apply it.

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         And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” [Matthew 19:26]

          Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” [Mark 10:27]

         But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” [Luke 18:27]

I KNOW GOD LOVES ME ‘CAUSE I’M RICH

       Many Jews of the Lord’s time believed prosperity was a sign of God’s approval. The Sadducees were certainly well off. The Pharisees were lovers of money. Accordingly, those without such prosperity, though otherwise hard workers and sincere commandment keepers, were undoubtedly looked upon by more than a few as essentially forsaken or rejected of God. They were seen, even among themselves, as somehow falling short due to some unknown inexpressible inherent weakness. They likely believed that God knew something about them or their character that excluded them from His greater blessings.

         This is why the Lord’s disciples were shocked at His teaching regarding the rich:

         And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” [Matthew 19:23-25]   

THE RICH YOUNG RULER

         There is a man referred to in Scripture as “the rich young ruler.” But don’t go searching for this particular collection of terms because you will not find it. It does not exist. The phrase appears nowhere in the New Testament. It is actually a descriptive compilation using separate single words from three different passages in three different gospel accounts which were later conformed into a whole, likely by preachers and Bible expositors.

         In the gospel of Matthew, this individual is referred to directly as “someone” and “the young man.” He is referred to by implication as “a rich man.” In the Matthew narrative it says he was one who owned much property. In Mark he is called “a man” and by implication “wealthy” and “a rich man.” Mark also says he was one who owned much property. In Luke the man is referred to as a “ruler” and by implication “wealthy” and “a rich man.” He is also said in the narrative to be extremely rich.

         So here we see an overall synopsis of a nameless historical character who unknowingly in his time provided a teaching example for all time. He became the subject of an object lesson that is still used today to present an eternal truth relative to everyone: Will we trade what we consider riches for a walk with the Lord? Will we take the chance? Will we risk everything? Those who do have satisfied themselves, at least to some degree, that all things truly are possible with God. In other words,

         They know that whatever they must surrender of this world to make the transformation to spiritual life simply does not matter and they would do it anyway regardless of what their new future may be.

         They know what the Lord has done in bringing them into the light and adopting them as His children, and that their life has changed dramatically for the better.

       They know as well that the Lord will provide spiritual riches far more valuable than whatever they surrendered.

         They also know He will bless them with compensation of a material or monetary nature necessary for sustaining one’s life in this world.

        (As an illustration, I will quote George Bailey from the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, when he finds out that Clarence the angel has no money: “Ah, well, it comes in pretty handy down here, bub!”)

         The English word “ruler” is from the Greek word archon. Generally, this is one who has rule over others in either the religious or civil realms. The members of the Sanhedrin or synagogue officials were referred to as archons, as were civil magistrates and judges. Beyond these there were also men of wealth and influence known by this term. Scripture is not definitive on what kind of ruler the young man was but it appears clear that he had inherited great wealth from his father who must have been a significant individual. Hence, the young archon felt responsible not only for what he possessed and his own reputation but that of his father as well, who had undoubtedly worked very hard to attain his possessions and place in life.

         Yet we also know that this “rich young ruler” had spiritual things on his mind. Something had been nagging at him. From his demeanor there was no doubt he respected his father but he also had little or no input into the creation of the wealth he now possessed. He was grateful but he wanted something more. He knew there must be more. He had heard about this new prophet called Jesus and made it a point to address Him when he discovered the Lord was near.

         In the narrative we find that the man was raised well in that he knew the Law of Moses and kept it from his youth. Why could he not be satisfied? He was rich, a man of honor, from a good family, and respected the commandments of God. Why would he ever ask the following question: “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18). Had he not already fulfilled what the Law required? There is something missing here, and it is indicative of a person who is dutiful and respectful of God, his family tradition, and his culture, but is otherwise empty on the inside. His spirit is crying out for more, for spiritual sustenance, and his heart for something beyond the wealth of material and social benefits.

         When I was a young man my friends and I, though not Christians at the time or familiar with Scripture, would discuss such topics as wealth and social structure. We were raised on the lower end of middle class. We were not against wealth necessarily but could certainly see the adverse effect it had on people. In general, people with money appeared arrogant. They saw themselves as better than others. I was on a spiritual quest then and was searching for truth. Consequently, I was not as concerned with giving myself over to the acquisition of wealth and position. We worked. We earned money. But it wasn’t an obsession. I knew there had to be more. We talked about the concept of either owning stuff or stuff owning us.

         The Lord understood right away what the problem was. This is what that young man so long ago was going through. In his heart of hearts he wanted to follow the Lord. But with all of his wealth, obligations, and upper class authority over others he knew he could not. The simple solution then, was for him to just get rid of all his stuff, surrender his social status, and quit living for this temporary world. These things were holding him back! They were keeping him from going where he wanted to go and being what he wanted to be.

         “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” [Luke 18:22]

         Think about that. Would you rather have the world’s temporary treasure or treasure in heaven? If you lived back then and were given a direct invitation from THE LORD JESUS to come and follow Him and hang out with them and do all the fun stuff they were doing, would you do it? Could anything possibly be better?

          But the wealthy young archon could not. He couldn’t do it. And this is the test.

EXCUSES AD INFINITUM

         “He would have to give up everything!” And I answer that by saying that everyone who comes to the Lord has to give up everything. And whatever one must surrender is relative to one’s station in life. There is always a great cost because one must give his or her entire heart.

         “But what about making up for all one has surrendered or lost!” Well, I say, the Lord makes provision for that. He said as much in the same passages:

         “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.” [Matthew 19:29]

         Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” [Mark 10:29-30]

          And He said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.” [Luke 18:29-30] [1]

          If the young man had actually done it, if he had chucked it all in and threw in his lot with the Lord, the Lord would certainly have taken care of him. The cries of his heart would have been answered. Whatever he needed concerning the good things of this world the Lord would have given him. He would be rid of the monetary, family, and social obligations keeping him from a higher call. He would have activated his faith, trust, and confidence in the Lord. This in turn would have opened up a door to an entirely new life previously thought to be something that did not or could not ever exist. He would have entered into the glorious kingdom of heaven on earth. His heart would have been filled to overflowing with pure joy. Most importantly, he would have had a King who loved him.

           And he would have seen that all things are indeed possible with God.

           © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

THE MORE FALSE AUTHORITY THERE IS, THE LESS SPIRITUAL LIBERTY THERE IS

       

        All Christian authority is possessed only by the Lord Jesus. He permits the use of His authority only by those who completely submit to Him. His authority within others is never disconnected from Him.

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           And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” [Matthew 28:18]    

          Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” [Luke 24:44-49]

        It is not possible to be real witnesses of the Lord in the way He intended without receiving His power. This is why, forty days after the Resurrection and right before His ascension to heaven, He told the relatively few disciples He still had that they must receive His power first and be His witnesses second. To receive His power they were instructed to go back to the Upper Room, the same place where they had the Last Supper on the night of His arrest. They were to prepare themselves and wait in expectation for the promised outpouring of His Spirit.

HIGHER POWER

         So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free?’”

         Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.

         “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” [John 8:31-36] [1]

          (Notice how the Lord said there were slaves of sin in “the house.”)

        Many Christians have no understanding of the spiritual liberty made possible by the death and resurrection of the Lord. If He had not undergone that process He would not have had the means to release us from the power of sin and make us “free indeed” (instead of pretend free). In spiritual terms, repentance is representative of death. Without the death of the old there can be no birth of the new. We must hate sin and turn away from it. We must do our part to kill it. We must “lose” our life in order to find it.

        His resurrection had to precede our resurrections. But before we experience bodily resurrection we must experience a spiritual resurrection. We must be born again in order to gain spiritual liberty. But one does not become free from the power of sin by osmosis. One’s spiritual resurrection is an event! One knows when it happens! Thus, those Christians indifferent to spiritual liberty and the Lord’s spiritual power have yet to experience these events and are likely unaware of their existence. He knows we all need His authority and power to overcome the power of the evil one. Without it we are defenseless and unaware. He would never send His witnesses into the world (from then until now) without properly training and equipping them. Most important in this regard, of course, is receiving His Holy Spirit.

BYPASSING THE SPIRIT

      Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. [2Corinthians 3:17]    

         Various substitutions for the Lord’s correct spiritual model have been made by Christian religious authorities throughout the Church Age. It began in the early centuries with a drift toward philosophical thought and authoritarianism. This was a wrongheaded attempt by religious dullards to establish the Lord’s authority within unregenerate wannabe potentates.

         The result was nothing more than political authority dressed up in a ridiculous religious costume.

          Rather than having authority spread out and shared among several equal elders within Christian gatherings the way the Lord taught and the early Community demonstrated, the faux Christians developed a pyramid scheme with one guy at the top, whether it was local bodies with a single overseer in which all authority was vested, or hierarchical structures with a false “bishop” over large geographical areas.

       The alternate models perhaps reached their fullness during the 16th through 18th centuries at the time of the Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment. What transpired was a high degree of ecclesiastical intellectualism and the strict authority thereof which continued to serve as a replacement for the Lord’s spiritual Kingdom. The clergy class had been well formed by this time, as Protestants learned well by the longtime example within Catholicism. Individual spiritual liberty, for the most part, did not exist within these structures. Due to their high level of spiritual pride and worldliness, the clergyites deemed the process of repentance and spiritual birth distasteful. 

          Even the laity, the voiceless and largely Biblically ignorant masses (by design) refused to forsake the false models constructed by those who transformed Christianity into a deceptive Nicolaitan power grab and money siphon over unsuspecting followers.

          The followers are just as guilty as the false authority that rules over them and obstructs their freedom.

            © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.  


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

UNREAL CHRISTIANITY MAKES THE TRUTH IRRELEVANT

        “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” [Mark 7:9]

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       “Your tradition” is any Christian belief or teaching that is not found within the teachings of the Lord Jesus. Some of these should be obvious. The reason they are not is because the Christians espousing and believing such are either Biblically illiterate or have been indoctrinated with a false teaching.

         Those who put the Lord Jesus first and are true disciples actually read and study His teachings. They become very familiar with them. They do their best to follow them and obey the Lord. If a Christian refuses to do this or is too lazy to do it, he or she is not a real Christian or at least will not be one for long. If such people remain churchgoers or insist on their particular brand they will end up being deceived the same way the followers of the Pharisees were deceived.

         It was the Pharisees and scribes that the Lord was addressing in the preceding Scripture. These people were evil. They showed it by their actions. They absolutely hated the Lord and everything He stood for. They hounded Him constantly and did everything they could to destroy His reputation. They lied about Him always.

         Unreal Christianity does exactly the same thing. Its members create a Jesus they feel comfortable with, one that suits them, according to their own limited understanding. This Jesus is not the real Jesus. It is only a figment of their imagination. The proponents of Unreal Christianity refuse to honor His pure teachings because they could never carry out their real reason for existence otherwise. They do not want to follow and serve the Lord Jesus; they want to be followed and served.

         That’s why they created a mass laity underclass and keep it subverted to their will. They gain their monetary and social support from this class. They do it through indoctrinating (brainwashing) their followers away from the Lord’s truth and toward their own impure teachings. They use fear, especially the fear of social exclusion. Because they are dealing with spiritually lazy people it is not so difficult to keep them dumbed-down. Some of their followers may be well-versed in their own denominational teachings but that only furthers their Biblical illiteracy.

         Why? Because the substitution of impure teachings makes them oblivious of the Lord’s real teachings. Or they are taught that the Lord’s real teachings are actually heresy and steer their followers away from them. There are millions of Christians who have thus been taught to hate the real teachings of the Lord.

         Regarding any particular issue, one cannot believe truth and untruth at the same time. Regarding a collection of beliefs, the percentage of false teachings and interpretations one holds is directly proportional to the lack of truth they hold. If one fills one’s brain with untruth there will be little left for truth. Another corollary is thus: The more one accepts that which is not true but only appears that way, the less one has a desire for truth. When people are no longer hungry for truth they will not seek it. Whatever then is left in their head is what they believe and what they believe is false though they think it’s true.

         It’s called deception. The Pharisees were masters at deceiving people. So are the Christian Pharisees. They have a different motivation. They put money and social standing above the Lord. They are also excellent liars.

         “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.” [John 8:43-45][1]   

THEY HAVE A DIFFERENT AGENDA          

         Though their followers would be shocked if they could shake themselves from their zombie status and see their leaders and churches for what they actually are, this rarely happens. Not only that, they don’t want it to happen. They often run from the truth. They cover their ears. The truth is far too upsetting. They would have to acknowledge their deception and admit their wrongheadedness. They would have to realign their lives. Such an occurrence is far too much for them to accept. Their pride can’t handle it. They would rather maintain their fake lives, stay socially connected, and keep the money coming in. Thus, actually following the Lord is out of the question. Following Him in some convoluted false manner is preferable. They are not actually following Him or obeying Him but convince themselves that they are. Where’s the proof? How can they deny Him and also obey Him?

         The early followers of the Lord Jesus teach us how it is done. What they believed is what we are supposed to believe. What they did is what we are supposed to do.

         However, the beliefs and practices of the Lord’s early Community are different from those of pretty much every Christian denomination. It is why one rarely or never sees the results the early Christians had within these compromised organizations. Their rejection of truth makes the truth irrelevant.

            As we say in Texas, most are mere drugstore cowboys. They are all hat and no cattle.

           © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.   


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

REVEALING THE FATHER’S NAME

          “I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” [John 5:43-44]

IF HE CALLS HIMSELF A CHRISTIAN AND ENDS UP IN HELL IT’S HIS OWN FAULT

THE GREAT UNIFIER IS ALSO THE GREAT DIVIDER (Part 3)

        Desperation for money and spiritual faith don’t go together. People who do their Christianity for money are desperate. If they build their lives and ministries that way they only build away from God.

 

       And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. [Hebrews 11:6]

         One of you, my readers, had a recent post in which you quoted a famous preacher. I can’t remember the exact words. He had been a minister for decades and said something recently to the effect that he had really messed up a lot of people. I thought his sentiment, or apology, was in one sense a tad refreshing. Of course I also thought that it was about time he finally admitted what so many had always known. This guy was a first class idiot. The devil played him like a banjo. I used to wonder how such an obvious shyster managed to fool so many people.

          I don’t name names here. It’s not the way I work. If you know who I’m talking about and care to comment, don’t use his name. It could be that he might actually be repenting. It may be possible that he has headed down redemption road. But it could also be, and likely is, that he’s still the shyster he always was.

         And there are a lot just like him. The celebrity Christian world has gotten really dark recently. There was steady progress toward that goal. They may still look bright the way the devil looks bright with his fake lighting. They may be more rich and powerful than ever. They may command respect and have lesser “ministers” cowed and afraid to say a word. But the Lord knows the truth. He knows what they are. They took the wrong road long ago.

         Were they desperate? Well, if a man needs to make a buck and he’s really down on his luck he forces himself to do absolutely anything he can to survive. If he’s a good man he does honest work the right way. But there are men in this world who refuse to work like a man and instead seek an easy way out. “Ministry” has always been one of those easy ways. Once a man gets past that first plea for cash and gets a little offering money and sees how easy it was to do, his conscience doesn’t bother him as much. He then figures if a little money is okay why not more?

         I remember stories of this guy raking in so much cash he was paying ten thousand dollars for one night in a hotel. They could buy anything. While the people in congregations all across the country were trying their best to live right before God and were struggling to buy another used tire for their old car or more baling wire to hold it together and doing their best to feed their kids right, these fake idiot ministers had no money problems whatsoever. It would be different if they earned it. And it’s not wrong to give or receive help. But all these guys do is take up collections. There’s nothing hard about that.

         The Lord’s example means nothing to them. They don’t care. They reach a point early on when they can never go back. They are too dependent on the easy money. They had become masters at getting it. There was a guy in the gospels that did something similar but not as a preacher. He was just your common every day little runt rip off artist. And he found redemption:

         He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man called by the name of Zaccheus; he was a chief tax collector and he was rich. Zaccheus was trying to see who Jesus was, and was unable because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” [Luke 19:1-10]

         Based on this story I would say there’s probably somewhere in the vicinity of several trillion dollars that needs to be restored to Christians who were ripped off by fake ministers. It would great if every one of these high-living low-life idiots would make restitution just as little Zaccheus did. But that idea is a pipe dream. There may be one or two here or there but most of the whole lot will keep being what they always were.

          And now they have a lot more power. They have also made good friends with the world and the line between both has gotten so blurred it no longer exists. Nothing will convince them to give it up. They believe their success is due to God’s blessing. Their big brotherhood gives them solid protection. And though they know all about the gross sin among them they strive to keep it hidden so the others won’t suffer.

        That’s in part why you never see one of these guys rat out another. They know if they do they will likely lose their place at the trough.

         The Lord will have to separate these goats out from His sheep.

MEANWHILE, ON THE OTHER SIDE OF TOWN

          When you do it right you have to struggle. I’m old enough to remember the tales of old-timers when I was new to the Spirit-filled life back in the 1970s. I heard about how, in their early days, they often barely had enough to eat. These were good Christian people and real ministers. I was told they had to depend on prayer and “pray things in” just to survive. Think about that.

         I also remember a young evangelist who preached at our church. He had a wife and small children. They would travel the country in their car. He was dependent on offerings. These people received very little. I remember how thin he was but also how much the Spirit of the Lord had shone forth in his face. He was so sincere. He told the following story as I remember it:

         “We spent what little money we had from our last offering. I had what I thought was just enough gas to take us a few hundred miles to our next destination. We were traveling at night. It turned out that gas starting running low and we still had many miles to go. We decided to pray. We had a small console in the front seat. We asked the Lord if he would please bless us with the money we needed so we wouldn’t be stranded. I kept driving on in the dark and at last found an open gas station still a ways from our destination. My wife and I prayed again because we had no money for gas. Being satisfied that the Lord honored our request we lifted up the console and there before us was a five dollar bill…”  

         I remember another story from that time. I had a friend who was married with two small children and money was tight. His wife knew how to pray. She had to go buy a few groceries one day but had very little money. She asked the Lord for help. While walking to the store she heard a little rustling behind her and saw what looked like a small bit of rolled-up paper. She continued walking and it kept following her! I remember her laughing when telling the story. She finally stopped to pick it up and it was two or three dollar bills. She was able to buy some milk for her kids.

         The point with these stories is that the people involved had more desperation for the Lord instead of for mere money, and because their priorities were right they had greater faith. They knew when they prayed that the Lord would provide. They had no doubt. He didn’t dump gold bars on them but gave them what they needed at the time.

         “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” [Matthew 6:5-6] [1]

         Those who are monetarily successful in the ministry without using or needing faith and prayer are likely never receiving anything from the Lord. They are nothing more than carnal people using carnal means and are duded up to appear outwardly spiritual. When the time comes that they desperately need personal faith and prayer they’ll be up you know what creek without a paddle.

         But the Lord’s real sons and daughters will ALWAYS be provided for by Him. And I say Amen to that.

            © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued] 


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

THE GREAT UNIFIER IS ALSO THE GREAT DIVIDER (Part 1)

THE GREAT UNIFIER IS ALSO THE GREAT DIVIDER (Part 2)

THE GREAT UNIFIER IS ALSO THE GREAT DIVIDER (Part 2)

       The Lord Jesus taught that His followers would do what He did. Since this is obviously not the case among the majority of Christians it proves such Christians are not for real. Something is off.

 

         The evidence of His presence is always obvious. When He shows up, believe me, you will know it. When the evidence is lacking His active presence is lacking. The Lord is omnipresent, of course, but that does not mean He has the authority to work. Human beings have free wills and most often reject Him. Thus, restrictions upon Him in Christian circles must be removed. Because one never sees any evidence of His miraculous work in most Christian gatherings it means not only that restrictions upon His work exist in such places but also that they were often put there on purpose and by design.

         Why would so-called Christians do this?

        Again, it is an authority issue. Let me give you a simple example. There are a great many free websites in the world. One can go to such sites and gain free information. Much of this information is excellent. People work very hard at bringing forth the information they present and then give it out for free. This is essentially what the Lord Jesus did with His teachings and what He taught His disciples to do:

         “Freely you received, freely give.” [Matthew 10:8]

         “If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” [Romans 8:31-32] [1]

         But then there are those websites who keep much of their information behind a pay wall. There is nothing wrong with this. It is their right to do it.

         What model do most Christian churches and ministries use? One should notice that the offering always precedes the preaching. One may also notice that celebrity preachers sell tickets. Christian music artists have almost always done the same. Regular church singers never do this. It is because they are most likely not talented enough to charge for their efforts. Can anyone imagine the Lord Jesus insisting on an offering before He would teach? As it was, whatever money His ministry was blessed with by people giving freely likely never went to Him. He had pared down His life to such an extent that He needed very little to live on.

         I bring this up because there is a clear connection between churches and ministries who install a pay wall and exhibit a decided lack of evidence of the Lord’s presence and authority. These two most often go together. If the Lord was there and was allowed to work, miracles would happen. But someone else is in charge and that someone is charging for the services. They refuse to “have church” for free. They refuse to preach for free. They are professionals and they demand payment.

         Now, I believe in giving. I have given very large untold amounts in my time. I have given more money away to churches and ministries than most Christians have by far. I know this because statistics prove the majority of Christians give little or nothing. [2] But I also learned long ago to give it to the Lord. Though I was giving through the medium of a church or ministry, I was actually giving to the Lord Jesus through them, and I did my best to only give where He directed. The Lord also taught me long ago to never pay tithes. The tithe is not a tax. I have given tithes. I give the tithe to the Lord Jesus. If you pay tithes you will likely not receive the promised blessing or increase whatsoever.

         So again, we have this phenomenon in which the Lord Jesus taught for free and gave everything for free. HE EVEN GAVE HIS VERY OWN PERFECT LIFE FOR FREE. This was the greatest life ever lived in which He never, ever sinned. And He gave it away? His salvation is thus absolutely free. Whoever attempts to charge a person for salvation will have to answer to God.

         Since the Lord never charged anyone for anything He ever did in His ministry, where do the majority of “ministers” get off in charging for their “services?” The Lord even did miracles for free. He healed so many hurting sick people for free. They never had to pay a dime. He raised the dead for free. Fake ministers have no power to do miracles. But they charge money for what they offer. They operate behind a pay wall. Most people should see the connection between preachers who only work for pay and who never operate in the Spirit in which there is no evidence of the Lord’s presence. Non-Christians see the connection. It’s much easier to see the fakers from the outside.

        There is an old song by Charlie Daniels, [3] before he began living as a Christian, in which he expresses this idea perfectly. Here is the particular verse:

           Jesus walked on the water and I know that it’s true

           But sometimes I think that preacher man’d like do a little walkin’ too [4]

           © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

[2] Church Giving Statistics, 2019 Edition

[3] Charlie Daniel’s Testimony

[4] Written by: CHARLES EDWARD DANIELS Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

 

THE GREAT UNIFIER IS ALSO THE GREAT DIVIDER (Part 1)

THE GREAT UNIFIER IS ALSO THE GREAT DIVIDER (Part 3)

THE GREAT UNIFIER IS ALSO THE GREAT DIVIDER (Part 1)

       There can be no unity without division. All evil must be separated from the good. This is one’s life in a nutshell, to go one way or the other by the time he exits into eternity.

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         The Lord called them disciples. They were those who would follow Him successfully. Their first task was to lay down their lives and allow the inherent sin and evil within to be purged out.

         It was not at all easy nor was it supposed to be. His standard is the highest. He said all sin and evil must go. To assist in achieving such a monumental task He required His followers to take up an unseen personal cross—a crude and roughhewn, raw and rasping deadweight to serve as an ongoing execution stake.

         And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” [Luke 9:23]  

ALL REAL CHRISTIANS ARE DISCIPLES

         It stems from the word discipline. This invokes extremely hard work. The spiritually lazy need not apply. Discipline does not refer to mere busyness but to the wrenching chore of somehow being conformed to His image and living the life He lived. One’s humanity will always fight the process and most of the time human nature wins. This is why most of what we presently call Christianity is composed of losers and fakers who refuse to do it right and settle instead into a faux form they can handle without getting right with God. They would rather be comfortable within society and create a religion and deity to suit themselves. I guess they figure they will be clever enough to convince the Lord of their artificial righteousness at the Judgment. This is not a good plan.

         Since everyone who comes to the Lord is a sinner, the first order of business is plowing up the sin field and sowing it with salt. This process must go down deep to the very roots. All vestiges of sin and evil must be removed and eliminated. This process—initial repentance—allows for breaking up hard fallow ground and creating deep, pure nutrient-laden soil within which the Gospel seed can be successfully planted. Repentance is thus likened to the process of decomposition and death. The richest soil is that in which the greater decomposition takes place. Think of a healthy compost heap.

THE LEVEL OF REPENTANCE RELATES DIRECTLY TO REAL SALVATION

        “Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow; as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” [Mark 4:3-8]   

         With no repentance the seed is stolen by the devil. With little or shallow repentance, whatever may spring up is weak and dies quickly. It must be noted that the level of initial repentance one engages in is directly related to surviving eventual persecution. If one attempts an easy way he will later fall away. He is too wimpy to survive the inevitable spiritual attacks that will surely come. If he had been harder on himself he would have been stronger:

         “In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.” [Mark 4:16-17]

DIVISION FIRST, THEN UNITY

       “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” [Luke 12:51-53]

           So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. [John 7:43]   

         Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them. [John 9:16]

         A division occurred again among the Jews because of these words. Many of them were saying, “He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?” Others were saying, “These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?” [John 10:19-21]  

BRINGING FORTH SPIRITUAL FRUIT

         No unregenerate human being has the required spiritual seed to bring forth spiritual fruit. It must come from the Lord. This is why one must be born again of the Spirit and not simply the flesh. Some unregenerate humans may be very nice and friendly people willing to help and do good things but they are worthless spiritually. The good things they may do are never eternal. Thus, the Lord put a premium on spiritual things, the same kind of things He was associated with and brought forth during His ministry.

          Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.

         “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” [John 14:8-12][1]

          © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

THE GREAT UNIFIER IS ALSO THE GREAT DIVIDER (Part 2)

THE GREAT UNIFIER IS ALSO THE GREAT DIVIDER (Part 3)

HEAVEN WILL BE SPARSELY POPULATED

Blog Pic. 6.3.19         

        “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” [Matthew 7:14]

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           If you like wide open spaces free from the maddening crowd you will love heaven. It will not be because heaven’s perceived billions will be spread out in such a way over a limitless expanse that it appears relatively empty, but because its population relevant to planet earth will be disproportionately less than many can imagine. This means most humans will never get there.

A HUNDRED MILLION TO ONE

         It reminds one of why the Creator is so generous with seeds so as to greatly boost the chances of fruitfulness. It appears He is thus wasting seeds but in reality He is only increasing the chances of fertility, productivity, success, and abundance.

         One might keep in mind that every human being is the result of one very strong unrelenting little fighting spermy guy who fended off all the other loser spermy guys to make it first to the interior of the great egg at the finish line.

          On average, when the sower sows his seed, 100 million sperm are released. 100 million. That’s roughly 30% of the current population in the USA. Yet these 100 million are reduced down to only one winner. So though we characterize extremely long odds as “a million to one,” this ratio is one hundred times that. This means 100 million minus one are losers. They never get to the finish line. The vast majority all die along the way.

         Now, these little guys can actually live up to about five days once implanted. This means they have five days to get to the egg. So it is not just each other they are competing against—they are also competing against time. Each one of them has the highest of callings but only one in a hundred million actually gets to fulfill it. Many of them get lost. Many run out of steam. Many get sidetracked. Many don’t have the capacity to get very far. They say this is nature’s way of insuring that only the very best make it to the very end. Only one gets there. There is no second place.

         “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” [Matthew 7:14]

         It is the same with humanity. Billions of people exist but the Lord Jesus said only a relative few will make it to the eternal goal. It is not necessarily because He sets very high restrictions. It is mostly because human beings in general are stupid, lazy, selfish, and prideful. Most do not seek truth. Most do not seek deliverance from sin. Most people do not understand that seeds must be planted and that this action calls for sacrifice and self surrender. Most of those who do understand it cannot bring themselves to do it, or do it consistently, or they try but give up.

          Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” [John 12:24-25]  

          Survival of the fittest is also true in the spiritual realm. The Lord Jesus gives us the tools and opportunities to succeed but we must put it all to work and we must always trust Him faithfully regardless of circumstances. The human spirit is extremely strong. Once it is directed properly and functioning properly per the Lord’s will there cannot help but be success. This success, however, is according to the Lord’s standards and not those of this world. Worldly standards dictate that the apostle Paul, for example, was a loser. He left this world with no material possessions beyond the clothes on his back, no retirement, no 401k, no nothing. But according to spiritual standards he perhaps did more for the Lord Jesus and His kingdom than anyone else. All real Christians are still blessed recipients of Paul’s writings to this day.

         How much more can the same be said for the Lord Jesus Himself? He accomplished infinitely more than Paul or all the rest of us put together. He not only made it to the egg but He made it to the greatest egg of all time and opened up a door and a trail for us to get there as He did. Even so, most “believers” will never make it. This is why:

          “Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” [Matthew 13:18-23]   

           No one overcame as many obstacles in completing His course as did the Lord. The early believers illustrated for future generations how one must go about living for God, doing His will, and achieving the objective. They did not have it easy but they did it anyway. Most of today’s Christians take the opposite approach. Most will all die in the opening salvos and machine gun fire on the beaches of Normandy.

           It is an exceedingly tough journey for the little spermy guys to make it to the egg. Not only must they expend energy on the trip, they must also conserve the energy they will need for the end of the trip. Why? Because the egg is actually covered by a thick layer which makes it all the more difficult for conception to occur. The few sperm that get there must have enough left in the tank to penetrate the outer layer of the egg. This is where the remaining few greatest die. Imagine making it that far and not being able to complete the objective.

         This exact seed journey scenario mirrors life in a general sense, but it perfectly captures life in the spiritual sense. The Kingdom of the Lord is therefore only for those who have the unrelenting drive to make it all the way, to dedicate themselves completely to the Lord Jesus, and be determined against often ridiculous odds to complete the course.

              All real Christians will go though the following in the process:

          “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” [Matthew 5:10-12]

           If one is going to make it to heaven one will have to overcome all the persecution along the way. One will have to maintain love and always forgive. One must contend with betrayal and potential traps. The obstacles can be immense. There may be vast scorching waterless deserts to cross or giant mountain ranges with deep snow and icy winds. There will always be much resistance. Many elements of the journey will refuse to cooperate. At times the objective will appear impossible. But because the real Christian is blessed with the indomitable spiritual seed of the great Creator, he has the ability to overcome everything and continue to press on. On one occasion, Paul illustrated the challenge set before us as follows:

           I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. [1Corinthians 9:23-27][1]

         If Paul knew he could miss the mark, we should all know we could also. He put forth maximum effort to stay qualified. We should also. Anyone who has ever accomplished anything significant knows that it takes much work and dedication. This is even truer when it comes to working in the Lord’s kingdom. And it is entirely true when it comes to properly graduating from this life into the next.

            There will only be a relative few at the ceremony.

            © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. 


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

THE INDEPENDENT SOVEREIGNTY OF EACH REAL CHRISTIAN

        When the American colonies were first formed a few centuries ago, each was a sovereign entity. After the Revolutionary War (1775-1781), each colony became a separate sovereign state.

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         Each state was responsible for its own laws and welfare under the general umbrella of coexistence with the other United States. The Federal government had no jurisdiction in the internal affairs of the thirteen states, each of which was akin to a separate nation.

CREATING AN ENTIRELY NEW AMERICA

         The War of Northern Aggression (1861-1865), otherwise known as the Civil War, changed all that. The Federal government made the decision to grossly violate the Constitution by invading and destroying the Southern states. It also stole the authority of not only those states but all the states in the union. After the Civil War the states were no longer sovereign entities and were only separate states in the administrative sense. All states from that time forward were forced to bow to the newly garnered power of the Federal government.

        It is obvious, thus, that central control and power in Washington DC has only grown more immense and unaccountable over time until the present. And though there have been attempts at intervals in American history since the Civil War to correct this wrong and stem the tide, each has failed to curtail the overriding power of the Feds. Those who know history know such federal power was not the vision of the Founding Fathers. Indeed, after the Revolutionary War they had attempted to write a new Constitution (1787) that would continue to respect the sovereignty of states but also grant a greater unifying force at the federal level. Their effort diverged from the first constitution, the Articles of Confederation (1777), which was written and ratified during the war. Article II of the Articles of Confederation states the following:

         Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.

         Thus, in the effort to grant a greater unifying force in the new Constitution of 1787, they took a great risk by granting the possibility of too much federal control. As opposed to the former Articles of Confederation, the Founding Fathers granted what eventually became far too large a loophole within the new Constitution that would eventually allow for unscrupulous and immoral scoundrels to usurp the authority of the states and thereby destroy the authority of the citizens of those states. Since that time, by deviating from the clear intent of the law, authority was unlawfully granted to those who gravitated to yet another man-made government ziggurat in which the few ruled over the many and from which great spoils could be extracted from the citizenry.

         The natural course of this action after 154 years is that much of the vast wealth and authority of America is owned by less than one percent, which is quickly growing to an even smaller fraction. The more they gain the more we lose. Foreign entities and dual citizens are buying up and controlling much of the country. Americans are being squeezed like never before. We are long since past the time of another Revolution, something Thomas Jefferson said we must have at not so long intervals, to maintain the freedom and liberty of the people. It was We the People who originally had the power and wealth. It was what the Constitution called for and to which the original sovereign states agreed to.

THE REAL CHURCH AND THE EVIL FAKERS

       But again, that sovereignty is long gone, as is the original freedom and liberty of Americans. This exact occurrence has also taken place within institutional, traditional Christianity: One must enter a “church” on their terms. One must sit down among a sea of people and remain silent. One is a mere spectator. On must go through choreographed routines and submit to dry “liturgies.” By this practice, if one never matures spiritually, one grossly violates the teachings of the Lord Jesus. He created a Community in which each of His followers has an independent mind and spirit. Each must walk in the freedom and liberty of the Lord. Each believer understands he or she has a duty to the Lord to participate significantly. Indeed, His is a participatory Community that demands the involvement, input, and contribution of every member.    

         According to His teachings, each real Christian is a sovereign entity accountable only to the higher power of the Lord. Any other authority is only lateral. It is why He refers to His people as a family and a Community. Everyone is the same. Each is equal. The only difference is that some believers are more mature than others but all begin at the same place and each can develop to full maturity. Followers of the Lord were never to rule over other believers. These simple facts easily tell us whose methods are wrong and who has robbed individual Christians of their God-given authority and freedom in the Lord. The vast majority of Christians and Christian leaders have gotten it wrong over these last twenty centuries. An extremely small class, the Clergy, has taken over and believes itself to be far superior. The vast 99% of everyone else, the Laity, has surrendered to a false authority as a wimpy dog to a pack leader. The people who comprise these classes will not fare well at the Judgment. The Lord will reprimand one for taking authority He never granted and He will reprimand the other for never taking the authority He did grant.

        Until then, however, millions of real Christians worldwide have thrown off their shackles and insist on doing Christianity the way the Lord Jesus intended. They are having a far greater impact than most people, especially unreal Christians, are aware of. It is the false Christians who are the chief persecutors of the real Christians. But it has always been this way. It is up to real believers to take on and maintain their sovereign authority, walk in spiritual maturity, take the battle to the enemy, and assist the Lord Jesus in doing the work and living the lives He has called them to. This is the only road to spiritual success. It is the only way to fully honor Him. It is the only way to get the job done.

THE REAL CHOSEN PEOPLE

         For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. [Galatians 3:26-29][1]

          © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. 


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

THE SECOND COMMANDMENT PROHIBITS GRAVEN IMAGES: WHAT WAS GOD THINKING?

Blog Pic 2.27.19        

       God is against graven images. He is against idols. It is why the ancient Jews expressed a vigorous rejection of such imagery. There must be a compelling reason.

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         The Hebrew word for idol is pecel. It is defined as “a carved, graven, or sculpted image.” God’s injunction against such images is further defined by the Hebrew word temunah, which follows it. This word is most often translated as “likeness,” and is also defined as “form, similitude, picture, or shape.” What God is describing here is basic statuary of any size. Here is how Merriam-Webster defines the word statue: “A three-dimensional representation usually of a person, animal, or mythical being that is produced by sculpturing, modeling, or casting.” [1] That pretty much covers it.

         “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” [Exodus 20:4-6 NKJV]   

      The preceding is the second commandment as it appears in the list of the Ten Commandments, which is known in Hebrew as the Ten Words (Aseret HaD’vareem). This list of ten, or Decalogue, appears twice in the Old Testament, in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. The ten comprise an initial set of compulsory imperatives directed to the nascent nation of Israel which had just been delivered from prolonged Egyptian bondage. The commandments were designed as a foundational moral code and components of a covenant. From these ten we can construe the behavior and way of life essential for right standing with God. We can also discover what is most important, i.e. our relationship with Him, since the first three commandments refer to how mankind must think of God and relate to and honor Him. The last five commandments tell us which sins and bad behavior God considers to be the most heinous and despicable, which must be eradicated at all cost in order to create an ethical and peaceful community.

THE HISTORICAL SETTING, CIRCA 1446 BC  

         The descendants of Jacob had arrived at the mountain of God in the early part of the third month after the Exodus. God had wasted no time in bringing them to an unprecedented supernatural nexus in the remote wilderness of Arabia. The great mass settled in and camped below the majestic mount, while Moses ventured up to meet with God. After getting his instructions he returned, gathered up the elders, and delivered the covenant pronouncement he had just received. The people immediately agreed to it wholeheartedly. Moses climbed the great mysterious height once again to relay the message to the Lord. He was instructed to tell the people to consecrate themselves, wash their garments, and prepare for the third day. They must all be warned to not go up the mountain or even touch its border on pain of death.

         So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. [Exodus 19:16-20]

         Take a moment and consider what you just read. Does it sound believable? Biblically literate Christians in general become notoriously complacent regarding such passages due to their familiarity with accounts such as this one, often to the point of no longer being effected by them as they should be. But rookie believers or non-Christians must see them differently. One cannot read this for the first time and not be emotionally affected. It gives us a picture of God many would rather not reflect upon.

         There was thunder, lightning flashes, a thick cloud upon the mountain top, and the incessant high decibels of a ram’s horn. All the people down below were shaking in fright. Can you imagine being in that place, having never experienced anything close to that? There was fire, ascending smoke, and the entire mountain quaked violently. Picture Moses actually having to go up there. I would think God was dead serious about the covenant He was making with Israel and expected everyone else to be as well. Whoever may happen to discount the severity of the setting and not respect the laws God was giving may likely be beyond hope.

EDITING THE SECOND COMMANDMENT

         Would you believe that a particular Christian denomination which embraces statuary decided to eliminate the mention of idols and graven images in its preferred version of the Ten Commandments? Agree or disagree, editing the Ten Commandments is a bold move. Perhaps they may wish to mull over what happened at the mountain of God and reconsider. Though they have no discernible respect for the commandment, have never repented for the obvious editing, and justify their actions persistently, God had specific spiritual reasons for the prohibition and has never rescinded it.

        There is something in that particular denomination that is vitally dependent upon graven images and idols, so much so that it was willing to actually remove one of God’s commandments in order to keep them. What is it, exactly, about these graven images and idols? What spiritual power do they have? How are they used? Why could they not do without this statuary? Why are the leaders of this religion so willing to confront God Himself and insist they will not be subjected to His commandments? The ancient Israelites did the same on countless occasions. They often refused the whole counsel of God and took to picking and choosing what laws they would comply with and which to reject.

         This exact attitude also leads to pure idolatry, in that people choose to create a deity to suit themselves.

        They create a god in their own image, according their personal wants and desires. Rather than live under the command of God and subject themselves fully to Him, and thus rightfully subject themselves to all of His laws and teachings, they instead make themselves the personal arbiters of God’s laws. It is the same with so many Christians who refuse to believe in and follow the entirety of the teachings and commandments of the Lord Jesus but instead create syncretic hybrid religions loosely based on Christianity, Christian denominations, and various offshoots.

         If one has a proper attitude before the Lord he knows he must either follow the Lord Jesus completely or not follow Him at all. Such a person knows he would be better off never following the Lord at all than submit to a false or incomplete form of Christianity. Once we choose the Lord Jesus it is never in our power to choose what He does with us or what He wants us to believe. When we choose Him we also choose His entire curriculum. When some people insist they are Christians but refuse the Lord’s full curriculum or create another, it is a clear sign of rebellion and disobedience on their part and signifies that their heart has yet to be circumcised.     

WHY IS GOD AGAINST IDOLS AND GRAVEN IMAGES?

         I don’t pretend to know the whole counsel of God on this subject, but it should not be difficult for us to figure it out. One may recall that the Israelites, after having experienced the incredible spectacle of God on the mountain and agreeing wholeheartedly to the covenant, shortly thereafter decided to make a golden calf and engage in extremely wicked acts right there in that same location. Somehow or another, that false idol had assisted them in their bad behavior. Even though they saw the effects of God’s presence on the mountain, they were more impressed by a three dimensional crafted idol which they could easily behold with their natural senses. God would prefer that we behold Him supernaturally, though we can’t see Him. He would prefer we do not make counterfeits that substitute for Him or spiritual things. Statuary may be legitimized as mere representations or art, but God has a different opinion. He says that creating idols, graven images, and statuary eventually leads to worshipping and serving them.

         “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” [Exodus 20:4-6] [2]

         He is a jealous God. He refuses to allow the imposition of any false gods or deceptive demonic entities in His place. He demands that we worship and serve Him and not be led astray into serving idols. He loves us enough to tell us the truth—that He is the only One who is both loving and compassionate, and able to save us. He shows great lovingkindness to those who love Him and keep His commandments. What happens to those who don’t? What happens to those who edit His commandments?

         Somehow or another, though the advocates of statuary vociferously deny this, there is a hidden understated worship of these abstract representations, though they may be mere statues and works of art. They portend a mental visual within the minds of their beholders which overrides reality, to the extent that reality is replaced with a faux portrayal which serves to reject reality and the desire to discover truth. The people who accept these carved images as benign eventually accept them as genuine representations, but they are not photographs. They are not even good representations, in that they do no service to the original organic flesh and blood historical figures but are mere stylized versions heavy on presence but lacking in human frailty and flaws.

         Regarding representations of otherworldly figures or those whose actual portraiture is unknown, the creation which results is based merely on the whim of the artist or whoever may be directing the artist. Whoever then may behold such statuary as genuine realistic renderings can be convinced, often easily, that whoever or whatever is supposedly represented had actually appeared as such though there is obviously no proof whatsoever. For example, whoever carves a statue of Moses is merely making up the resulting image since no one knows what Moses actually looked like. No one knows what any Biblical character looks like. But this has not stopped Christians from several denominations which reject God’s second commandment from manufacturing millions of statues, paintings, and iconography throughout most of the Church Age. And it has not stopped millions of beholders from becoming grossly spiritually confused, sidetracked, and barricaded from spiritually reality.

         Rather than attempting to experience God in some grand architectural wonder filled with statuary and beautiful art, I suggest heading out to a distant, desert wilderness all alone. If fortunate, one may meet the same Person Moses did.

         © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. 


[1] © 1995 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and Thesaurus, Tenth Edition.

[2] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

SHUNNING THE SHYSTER SHEEPFOLD: FINDING THE HIDDEN DOOR OF LIFE

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       The religious elite hated Him. He looked nothing like them. He was never a member of their religious denominations. He belonged to none of their clerical orders or preacher unions.

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         The classic clergyman has long since taken over Christianity. Christians have been made to believe that the lone preacher in a pulpit having full sway over a congregation is the model started by the Lord to which everyone must submit. This is absolutely wrong.

         It was never that way in the beginning. Why is it that way now? Why has it often been this way throughout much of Christian history? How did we get here? The scope of this article is far too large for this format, so I will have to be relatively brief. I have gone into great detail about this subject in my first book which I feature on this site in case anyone may be interested further on the subject. Suffice it to say that though my book is the result of decades of study and personal experience, is filled with New Covenant scriptural passages, is based directly on the real teachings of the Lord Jesus, and reveals the history of the early Church, some Christians show little interest most likely because the truth contained therein conflicts with the Christianity they are familiar with and comfortable within.

         In other words, if someone wants to write an acceptable Christian book it would be best to stick with the conventional outlook and never ruffle any feathers. The same is true when starting a ministry: Don’t rock the boat. Remain with the tried and true. Use the traditional methods Christianity has adopted to bring in people and get them to support it financially. Everyone knows there can be no ministry success without financial success. Everyone knows there must be a central leader to make it all work. And everyone knows that a successful leader must have style, a charismatic attitude, and good preaching and teaching abilities.

         What relatively few know, apparently, is that such churches and preachers are more the result of Madison Avenue than the New Testament, and that such ministries and leaders most often look absolutely nothing like the Lord.

         The truth of the matter is that the Lord went far out of His way to prove that a real Christian leader is a non-leader. The apostles were non-leaders. The entire early Church was composed of non-leaders. Why? Because they all understood they already had a Leader and that they must have only the one Leader. This truth is proclaimed repeatedly all throughout the Gospels and New Covenant writings. Even the Lord’s own example proves it. Though He is God, and though there is only one God, He showed up as a humble servant. He taught His men to be humble servants. He even said the greatest among them must be the greater servant.

         Now, understand, there were actually no “great’ among them as the world defines greatness. These were not great men but the very opposite. This is part of the reason the religious elite hated them so much. They saw the Lord’s men as absolutely unqualified. They did not look right, they did not dress right, they did not talk right, they had no religious pedigree, and they did not graduate from the right ministry schools or actually any official ministry schools. The Lord’s ministry school was seen as a rebel outfit far off on the outskirts. Not one of the many Jewish religious denominations supported them or recognized them. They would never have been accepted even if they had gone through all the proper channels and applied. They were rejected in the beginning and throughout their lives. In this, every single one of the Lord’s original faithful followers were exactly like Him because it was the same thing they did to Him.

          These evil religionists were jerks of the highest order. Most of them never repented and thus most of them went to hell. The same is true for all the fake Christian ministers since then. One can spin it any way one wants to but the Lord will not stand for any deviations of the true path in order to have outward worldly “success.” The price He paid was far too great. The price they paid was far too great. And now, presently, there remains a large number of real Christians worldwide who have paid the same great price. They have been rejected by the religious powers that be. This is a requisite for being accepted by the Lord. He made it very clear that not only will His followers be rejected by the world, they will also be rejected by the religious world. They were thus not so surprised when it happened and learned to move on.

          “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” [Matthew 15:14]

         Most Christians are nothing more than followers of their leaders. They believe what their leaders believe. They accept what their leaders teach them to accept. They reject what their leaders teach them to reject. They do not stand on their own feet. They cannot defend the New Covenant writings because they are largely unfamiliar with the New Covenant writings. Their churches and ministries are merely based on the New Covenant but few of them know it or follow it exclusively. If they did they would have to leave the club. Their leaders would be disappointed in their approach and their gaining of knowledge, and if they progressed too far their leaders’ disappointment would grow into anger.

      Thus, the only way traditional Christian leaders maintain their glowing outward appearance is by keeping it fake and never subjecting it to challenge. They are uncomfortable with challenge. It exposes their weaknesses. It exposes the fact that their foundations are not as strong as supposed and are only that way because they surround themselves with people who believe exactly as they do. In fact, they train all their followers to do that very thing. They indoctrinate them. This is how they keep everyone on the same page and thus remain in their place of authority.   

      The Lord Jesus did the very opposite. During His ministry, He was no religious indoctrinator. He made DISCIPLES, not mere church members or congregants. The discipline He taught covered every facet of their lives. He left no stone unturned. He went straight to the heart. If one was going to follow Him they would have to give everything. If one was unwilling to do this, to any degree, He would not accept them.

         When a person joined His school, he or she dedicated everything, including one’s heart, exclusively to Him. He must be recognized as the Leader, and most importantly, as the only Leader.

        This authority aspect has certainly been adopted by official Christianity. The difference, of course, is that leaders other than the Lord must be recognized. The idea that Christians must totally respect and honor their leader has become so ingrained there is no escape from the mindset unless one somehow comes to understand the fallacy of the concept. This is only attained by growing closer to the Lord. We can take a relative shortcut by simply reading and studying the New Covenant writings in depth. The more one does this the more one notices the difference between the Lord’s original model and the later fake models. One also comes to the conclusion that The Lord Jesus as the only Leader model is not only the only one taught in the New Covenant writings but the only one that works on a spiritual level.

         But who really cares about this? How many Christians will go to such lengths? Answer: Real Disciples. Christians have already proven over many centuries that they can create alternative Christian models that not only work on a natural level but work great with absolutely no spirituality involved whatsoever. As an aside, it is truly amazing that the Book of Acts has survived since the vast majority of Christians rejects it and wants no part of what is contained therein. This is also due to religious conditioning. It is sad that such a great void has transpired, even to the point that faux Christians become deceived by their own chosen narratives and perceive no reason to escape or search further. Unless they see otherwise it won’t end well.

         And someone said to Him, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” And He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, ‘Lord, open up to us!’ then He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets;’ and He will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.’” [Luke 13:23-27]   

         Apart from these, for those Christians who want the full truth and greatly desire a full and rich spiritual experience and lifestyle with the Lord Jesus, they reject the lifeless religious models with their spiritually dead “leaders.” They refuse to waste their lives playing religious games. They want the Lord. They want all of His spiritual reality. They are fascinated by what happened in Jerusalem in the early first century. Because of this they prove their spiritual hunger for the Lord and the truth, and by this, namely, their faith and their spiritual hunger, the Lord can guide them home. Their spiritual hunger acts as a beacon and attractive force that the Lord can use to help them find Him. Of course, before salvation we are the ones who are lost. This spiritual hunger homing device helps to guide us from out of our lost condition, as one may be lost in a natural wilderness and guided out by natural methods. Without this genuine faith and spiritual hunger, something which arises completely from the individual and is not phony or a constructed religious artifice, the Lord has nothing to work with, which means lost people stay lost, but only due to their own will and desires.

         However, if people who wish to stay in their lost spiritual condition also desire some type of outward Christian expression, either to partially satisfy their conscience or to gain or maintain social or religious acceptance, there are many such Christian expressions to choose from. There are churches one can join that require no actual spiritual repentance, that require no born again experience (something the Lord Jesus demands) or only a weak simulation thereof, and no total surrender of oneself to the Lord. One must submit, of course, just not to Him. They must submit to a denomination and the clergy class that runs it. They must submit to a personal leader who is not the Lord. They must submit to a Christian curriculum only loosely based on the new Covenant. Their focus must be not on real first century Christianity but the lesser Christianity they have joined themselves to. For most Christians, this obviously works for them. They like it. They accept it. They go no further. They find a place in Egypt or the Sinai to make their camp and they stay there. They never get to the Promised Land because they don’t want to go to the Promised Land.

         Those who do get there must follow a Leader who does not look like a leader. Following this Leader will gain them no worldly prestige. In fact, following Him will cost them everything. It is a harrowing journey. Imagine being lost in one of this world’s evil hell holes surrounded by evil people doing evil things with no respect for life. How could one ever escape without a real guide? And though most people refuse to acknowledge it, the planet itself has become an evil hell hole. Though it does not use the exact phrase, the New Covenant writings refer to our planet as a “fallen world” because it is inhabited in part by millions of outwardly extremely rebellious and evil people, some of whom are at the very top. These people don’t care about the Lord Jesus. They hate Him. They rebel against their Creator. They also hate His followers. This is just a standard fact taught clearly by the Lord.

          Case in point:

         “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!” [Matthew 10:24-25]

         To summarize, there had to be a very powerful reason the outward civil and religious leaders and their followers hated the Lord to such a degree. It could not be something relatively insignificant. It could not be based on a few differences of opinion. It had to involve polar opposites. What we arrive at then, based on a great many clues put forth by the Lord Himself, specifically within His many diatribes against them, is that they majored in outer religiosity though they possessed dark hearts. Their over-the-top external ostentation existed in part to hide what they really were. They found that people were weirdly attracted to such outward extravagances as religious clerical dress and graven images, including the living human kind. So they did the following:

       “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.” [Matthew 23:5-7]

         On the Christian side of things, Protestant leaders insist on various titles but prefer the word “pastor.” This has also been adopted by Catholicism. Of course, Catholic priests are still one’s “father,” something the Lord taught against directly. Such titles, such as “rabbi” or “pastor” serve to denote the man in charge. Christian churches used to have only one pastor but then the mega churches adopted the title of “Senior Pastor” to differentiate the head honcho from all the sub-pastors. In the mega churches it gets quite ridiculous and comical, and even embarrassing, to see so many goofy titles is use. No matter what job an “official leader” has in many of these places, they are some kind of “pastor.” It gets really stupid when a “song leader” or “minister of music,” a position never even alluded to in the New Testament or associated with “pastoring” becomes a “pastor of music” or some inane variation. Both rabbi and pastor were words that came into relatively late usage. The word pastor is only mentioned once in the New Testament and it is a bad translation. It only proves that such official ministers don’t really care about the truth and insist on furthering a false idea.

         “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” [Matthew 23:8-13] [1] 

       Hence, the Lord wanted nothing to do with all the outward adorning of religion, whether clerical dress or superfluous titles which were used to deceive the unsuspecting. He thus appeared as a simple man. He was not handsome. He had no outer charisma. He did not look so much like the standard image depicted in pictures and movies. He never wore his hair long like a woman. He had nothing in His outer appearance that would draw in silly religious women attracted to shallow religious leaders. Religious men hated Him but real men saw Him as a real man that they could follow. He was rugged and outwardly strong and tough. He had weathered skin from years of doing manual labor, something the soft and pallid religious leaders never did. He used all His money for others. He had no home and certainly no church building. He never advocated for the building of synagogues or churches. The natural world in the great outdoors was His place of assembly. With a smaller group He sat down on a log or a rock when He taught or used a friend’s humble house. He had no pulpit. He traveled on the open roads by foot.

        Since the Lord Jesus is God Himself and He chose this path and taught it to His followers, where do the clergy boys get their authority to violate His teachings? Why have they created a counterfeit Christianity that draws in millions of people and then imprisons them within their whims and false teachings? Why do they insist on indoctrinating their followers away from New Covenant truth? Why do they insist on taking over and demanding their own way? Their preaching is fake and their manner is fake. They are all about self-promotion. It can be as subtle as their name on a church sign or as ridiculous as their big fat mug on a highway billboard. The more they promote themselves the less they promote the Lord and the less likely anyone under their sway will find anything more than basic surface-level Christian truths. They refuse the Book of Acts or use it only for their own purposes.

         Now, if it appears I am only referring to traditional denominations, it is also the case that Pentecostals and Charismatics are sometimes the worst offenders. Many of these people drag in a lot of stuff from Egypt and outright weird stuff that comes from who knows where. They also suffer from a lack of correct spiritual leadership and do their own part in promoting a clergy class.

         Remember, the Lord said there is only one door into His kingdom. It is a relatively small, humble, obscure, and unadorned door that most people never find or reject if they do. It looks like the opposite of what most humans think such a door into such a great place should look like. It is not pretentious, costly, or highly regarded. Most people walk right past it with no acknowledgment. To the world at large this door is relatively invisible.

         But for the spiritually hungry in heart who yearn for truth and seek it out, who want spiritual reality and purity with no carnal human strings attached or false religious facades, these people will eventually find that door. They will never stop until they do. And when they find it they find the answer their heart has longed for.

         “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” [John 10:7-10]  

         © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

LINK: Exactly eight years ago, in late August of 2010, the Lord spoke to me very clearly: “WE ARE IN THE EARLY STAGES OF A NATIONAL GREAT AWAKENING.”

AWAY IN A MANGER: HE FIXED HIS TENT AMONG US

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         And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:14]

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         In the preceding verse, the word “dwelt” comes from a Greek word which means “To fix one’s tabernacle or tent,” and “To dwell.” There is no doubt this Greek word came from a Hebrew original. God Himself fixed His tent among us.

THE TIME OF HIS VISITATION

         It was in the autumn of the year. The Feast of Sukkot or Ingathering was the last on the annual calendar. It was a weeklong event celebrating the harvest. Also called the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths, it hearkened back to that in-between time in the vast and lonely Sinai desert when Egypt was long gone and in the remote recesses of their rear view mirror. The Promised Land was up ahead in the distant future. It was an unsettled time of transition and hope.

         “You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” [Leviticus 23:42-43]

        These booths were crude, temporary dwellings. Constructed of entwined boughs and branches from desert flora and brushwood, these canopied shelters served as impermanent homes as commanded by the Lord. As in all things spiritual with fleeting types and shadows, their otherwise ostensible purpose and full meaning was known only by Him. The Hebrew word is sukkah. The first time it is used in Scripture, it refers to a corral Jacob built for his livestock, the location of which eventually became the settlement of Sukkoth east of the Jordan.

         In escaping Egypt and entering the unknown and ultra-challenging wilderness of Sinai, the sons of Israel were a nation in the making and a people on the move. Forty years of wandering were on tap in order to learn to walk by faith and know the voice of the Lord. It would be a hard lesson for the current populace of that time, being thoroughly engrained with worldly vestiges of a foreign and pagan nation. It would take long years for the Lord to extract the fetters which opposed spiritual life and add the building blocks of circumcised hearts and willing minds. In His own wisdom He chose an unruly and rebellious people with stiff necks and hard hearts to eventually show forth His glory and to bring to this world the hope of celestial communion.

         These rustic booths of branches were thus a stark opening lesson in spirituality 101—that of pure and holy humility—the door which makes all else possible. Whoever declines the offer and refuses to cross this threshold chooses instead to harbor their pride. It should thus be obvious that God chose the most humble of circumstances to enter into this world.

AWAY IN A MANGER

        While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” [Luke 2:6-12]

      Newborn babies are completely vulnerable. They are entirely dependent on their parent’s love and protection. God had carefully chosen Joseph and Mary if for no other reason than their great faith and obedience born of a humble nature to serve and please the Lord. Mary did not understand why she was chosen but she readily complied. Joseph had a tad tougher row to hoe and it took a few angelic visitations to get him on track. As long as these two remained faithful all would be well, but there was no guarantee.

         There is also no guarantee for anyone in this life outside the will of God. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. Each of us enters this world just as the Lord did but each of us is also initially unaware of God’s purpose. Discovering His purpose is the true quest of life. It is what gives our lives meaning. He’s got it all covered as long as we don’t rebel. We know by the life He lived that rebellion and disobedience were never part of His nature. Some of us learn the lesson somewhat easily by comparison to those who fight all the way. For the majority, it is far too high a price and for them, this life is the only home they will ever know. In the drive to escape all things humble they construct the most humble and temporary life of all compared to the glories of heaven.

         The tabernacles of the Lord’s people are temporary. They are necessary for now. We exist to please Him and nothing pleases Him more than to take care of us, rescue us from the ravages of sin, and bless us. This demands a process not at all unlike the process He chose to be with us. He meets us where we are.

       And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. [Luke 2:13-16]  

GETTING OUR WINGS

        I love the Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life and the overall message it conveys. It illustrates the important role of each person and signifies the far-reaching effect each of us has on the lives of others. We all know the line spoken by George Bailey’s young daughter at the very end of the movie: “Look Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” For every person who overcomes his or her personal pride and surrenders to the Lord, the same thing happens. A miracle takes place.

        “I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” [Luke 15:10][1] 

         By humbly giving our lives to the Lord as He gave His for us, we also effectively fix our tent as He did. From such humble beginnings, He is then able to bring us out of Sinai into our personal Promised Land, a place of greatly meaningful service to Him and to others.

          I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.    

         © 2018 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

LINK: Exactly eight years ago, in late August of 2010, the Lord spoke to me very clearly: “WE ARE IN THE EARLY STAGES OF A NATIONAL GREAT AWAKENING.”

AUTHORITARIAN CHURCHES ARE NON-SCRIPTURAL: WATCH OUT FOR THOSE WHO LORD IT OVER YOU

       The Lord Jesus created a spiritual Community in which He is the sole authority and each of His children is free to minister. Authoritarian churches oppose the entire idea.

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          And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.” [Luke 22:24-26]

         A great many Christians cringe at this truth. They do not know who the Lord Jesus really is. Instead of supporting Him they support any number of authoritarian preachers who have absolutely no spiritual accountability to anyone. Everyone in such circles knows these men are “the boss” and have been indoctrinated to believe this is how the Lord wants it. It is like so many other things that Christians have been coerced to believe in and it is very convenient for the power boys.

         However, as false authority increases the Lord’s authority decreases.

         That’s why most of these places are spiritually dead or far less than what they could be otherwise. The people in these churches have traded the Lord’s authority and the great miraculous events that could transpire there for man’s authority and no such spiritual events.

         Christians in general have been taught that the Lord’s original ministry is gone with the wind. It was there, it ended, and now we should never expect anything like it ever again. This garbage was taught by egghead theological idiots over many centuries and as a result dead tradition has taken over in most churches. And whenever the Lord Jesus even attempts to shine some light He gets slammed. These people will pay.

         Nothing will ever change as long as Christians continue to violate their own God-given rights as believers and give up their own spiritual authority so one man in a pulpit or a small cabal in charge sucks up all the power for themselves. Such power grabs never took place during the early first century New Covenant era by real believers, but only by the false apostles, etc:

        For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds. [2Corinthians 11:13-15]

        Paul always had to defend himself and his ministry from attack by such false apostles. They talked a good game but could never come through in the clutch and had no actual spiritual power. Just like the majority of ministers today, they actually opposed the Lord Jesus. The only reason they had any authoritarian power was because they convinced many people to follow them instead of following the Lord. This is why so many Christians also do not follow the Lord but instead follow their preachers and teachers and particular denominations. Otherwise, why would the Lord have said the following?

         But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” [Matthew 20:25-28] [1]

       The Lord has given us the clear antidote to spiritual pride and the desire to take authority over others. He taught that if anyone wants to be great or first he must eliminate this destructive desire by doing the very opposite and becoming a slave. The early believers called this process “crucifying the flesh.” It is the flesh that wants to take over, not the spirit. This is why most pulpits are manned by flesh men and not spirit men, meaning, of course, that most Christian preachers, ministers, and teachers have never submitted to crucifying their flesh, never submitted to circumcising their hearts, and have never been filled with the Spirit of the Lord. If they had been they wouldn’t do the things they do. They would not insist that all things spiritual revolve around them. They would recognize that the Lord’s way is Community and a Community spirit. They would acknowledge the importance and viability of all real believers. They would take a back seat and become a real servant.

         The way up is down.

         © 2018 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.  


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

LINK: Exactly eight years ago, in late August of 2010, the Lord spoke to me very clearly: “WE ARE IN THE EARLY STAGES OF A NATIONAL GREAT AWAKENING.”

THE DOMAIN OF DARKNESS AND THE LIGHT OF SPIRITUAL REALITY

Blog Pic 12.17.18

         For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son… [Colossians 1:13]

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         The apostle Paul spoke of first-hand experience. He knew well what had actually happened to him out on that dusty Damascus road. He knew it was a rescue.

         “But it happened that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me…” [Acts 22:6][1]   

         Think about this. Paul was apparently not seeking God. He did not appear to be on a search for truth. He had a very strong attitude about what his religion was, what it entailed, and what was required. And he was hell bent on not only performing all the rites and believing all the beliefs of his religion but would do all in his power to force others to do the same. Whoever did not believe as he did would be made to pay.

         He was determined to get them. It was part of his religion to get them. They were nothing but evil heretic Jews who defied the universal synagogue as defined by the Pharisees. Other Jewish sects were recognized by the Pharisees, of course, especially the Sadducees who controlled the temple and ran Jerusalem, and who were also tied into the great wealth of this world and politically aligned with the Romans. But for any up-and-coming offshoot Jewish sect which did not abide by the dictates of the master cult, these must be stomped on and eradicated using any method possible. This was Paul’s attitude as it was with the majority of the cult, though perhaps no one of these had as strong a conviction as he did or were as willing and able and energized to do serious damage.

THE PRESENCE OF THE DEVIL

         It was the work of the evil one. The cult had fought the Lord Jesus every step of the way. It was absolutely opposed to Him and never gave an inch. The Lord knew where those guys were heading. He knew their future. He knew they had already crossed a line of no return and that there was nothing He could do to stop them. They were determined to fight it out to the end and would eventually destroy themselves and their nation forever. Some of them did not know they had been terribly deceived. Most of them bought into the devil’s program because that’s exactly what they wanted and would do it a thousand times over. They were comfortable in the domain of darkness. They loved it. They loved all the sin and vileness, all the corruption and robbery, and all the power and sense of personal pride it brought them.     

         What the Lord had started as good, beginning with Abraham and continued later with Moses, they had transformed into something evil with the mere appearance of good. As long as no one ever challenged them they were able to maintain their exterior benevolent facade. But they obviously were not benevolent at all. It was only a front, a pretense, with an ulterior agenda. They had joined a very dark force to gain their power but never or rarely acknowledged this openly. Again, some of them were deceived. They thought they were doing right.

         Some were not deceived, however, in that they had come to see the cult for what it was but were too frightened to reveal this. To protect themselves and their families, they never said a word.

         I have seen this exact phenomenon in Christianity. It is obvious for all to behold once one studies Christian history. The exact pattern always emerges. Some strong personality starts a new faction or belief system, or simply reveals more spiritual truth. Some of these have been given actual spiritual light and revelation. Eventually, however, standard operating procedure takes over and transforms the new effort into an organized cult built upon a personality or specific doctrines that differ from others. A few of these manage to outlast smaller versions and grow to become official Christian denominations only because of the numbers of people involved. The large numbers are what give the denomination its perceived legitimacy.

         Of course, each of these, simply because they were not Roman Catholic, were collected into the obverse pool of Christian bodies referred to as “Protestant.” These were the ones known specifically as protesters against Roman Catholicism. Why would they protest? What was there to protest against? Incidentally, regardless of any new “reforms” within Catholicism since the Protestant Reformation, Catholicism is still pretty much as it ever was. It really has not changed all that much. One might focus on a minor change here or there and perceive it as major but this is only a matter of perspective. Overall, and effectually, the Catholicism of today is essentially the same as the Catholicism of then. So whatever the Protestants protested against then they could certainly do the same today.

         And the Catholics could certainly fight back. In its history, the Roman Catholic Church has had the same attitude of the ancient Pharisees in that it worked overtime to stomp out any and all dissent or mere perceived dissent. This is one of the main planks it used to gain and maintain power. They would never have become a worldwide religious monolith otherwise. It had used the same methods as its namesake to gain converts and take territory. Many if not most Catholics simply do not know this or they reject it. The Catholicism they possess in their heads is not the Catholicism of reality and history.

         The same is true for Protestants. They have rewritten their histories to reflect a kinder and gentler account, both because their present members for the most part no longer believe as their progenitors did and also because they want to eliminate anything that does not reflect present cultural values. I always find it quite interesting that Christian groups refuse to acknowledge that which gave them power and put them on the map in the beginning, as if they were embarrassed about it. Perhaps they don’t feel comfortable attempting to answer the harder questions. They do not like their origins and past but insist on maintaining their organizations.

GOD NEVER PROMISED US A PLATFORM THRONE

        Both Catholics and Protestants killed a lot of people only because they differed in beliefs and mostly because those killed believed in the real Gospel and were determined to serve the Lord Jesus rather than whatever faux lord was thrust upon them. I have thought, for example, about the ridiculous level of hubris and arrogance it took for some dumb human obsessed with self importance to sit his fat backside on a religious throne and accept completely undeserved honor as some kind of religious potentate. We see this, obviously, with Catholic popes, but we also see it just as obviously with Protestant leaders, though their thrones are not as ornate or evident. We also see it, strangely enough, in the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Nondenominational world.

        I don’t know who first invented these ubiquitous large and often ornate chairs or platform thrones but whoever it was needs to be spanked. First of all, there should not be a platform (a stage). If the platform was not there then the platform throne would not be there. Yet we still see to this day some religious pride guy and his minions squatted in giant chairs up on high to make sure everyone on the premises knows full well who is in charge. If you want to check this against spiritual reality, just imagine the Lord Jesus insisting on His disciples carrying around a very large and decorated throne chair that He could sit in all the time everywhere He taught and preached (and maybe be carried around in.)

        His great humility and example thus destroys all these stupid unrepentant religious lamebrains and all their prideful and arrogant attitudes. The tables will turn one day. They will get theirs. The first will be last. These ever-present departures into darkness, whether it is the tendency to kill rather than discuss or the desire to indulge one’s flesh instead of crucifying it, will be dealt with by the Lord in His way and in His time. He is very patient that we come to our senses. He intercedes for us. He does His best. He even gave His life. But it is apparent that His perfect example and attitude have not been accepted or emulated by most of what is termed Christianity.

        As it was with the false Jewish sects of the first century which refused the Lord and eventually killed Him, the same has happened among great numbers of supposed Christian believers. The LIGHT has come but most still prefer the domain of darkness.

          Like Paul, many Christians need to be rescued.

          © 2018 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

LINK: Exactly eight years ago, in late August of 2010, the Lord spoke to me very clearly: “WE ARE IN THE EARLY STAGES OF A NATIONAL GREAT AWAKENING.”

EXPOSING THE ILLUSION BY REMOVING THE VEIL

         “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” [Matthew 12:30]

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       Those against Him are the minions of anti-Messiah. Everything they do is in opposition to God. They build societies according to their false anti-liberty paradigms. They deceive millions to follow them and reject the Lord. They cause destruction, disruption, mass murder, and poverty.

          It might interest those who may not know that the Christmas season as we know it arose primarily among European Christian cultures that honored the birth of our Lord Jesus. This tradition carried over into America. His birth signified a great new hope for the world. He was seen by these people as one who came to save us from sin and evil and rescue us from the hand of the enemy.

         Anyone with a modicum of knowledge regarding ancient history knows this planet has been plagued for millennia by evil, rotten dictators who force slavery and the building up of societal models which are anti-liberty and which serve only them. In contrast, the Lord Jesus wants everyone to be free and fulfilled. People in general have always gone along with the evil because they felt they had no choice. Whoever might speak out against the injustice would often end up dead. All those too afraid to do so became congealed among the supporters of evil.

         “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” [Matthew 12:30]   

         Of course, the evil dictators and their sycophant minions would also eventually end up dead. And then they would have to face a holy God. They would no longer be sitting on their earthly thrones, would no longer have body guards or armies to protect them, a false media to lie about them, and no one to come to their rescue. At that point justice would be meted out. These unrepentant evil people would not be allowed to infect God’s perfect universe ever again. They would be annihilated and cease to exist forever.

       Back on the surface of the three dimensional world, great state funerals convince majorities that these were actually good men and everyone better recognize them as such. Transforming an evil man’s character borne out by all his evil deeds against humanity into a false sainthood is a great trick and one that most appear to accept handily. Many will even stand up for such evil men and vouch for their character but in doing so they prove their distance from the Lord.

         “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” [Matthew 12:30]

         Thus, the perpetrators of evil are also excellent at creating the grand illusion. There is only one antidote to this, only one way to escape deception. Otherwise, people live their lives believing that which is false but believe to be true. They are propagandized. They are indoctrinated. They are deceived. They are otherwise hopelessly fooled. When the curtain goes up they watch the show. They take it all in. They do not know the show is not real but a mere set-up. They do not know that the curtain is false and does not actually go up but goes down. The false curtain hides reality. The false curtain conceals the truth.

         It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour, because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two. [Luke 23:44-45]

         When this miraculous occurrence took place upon the death of the Lord it revealed to everyone present that they had been living according to a religious sham. The torn curtain of the temple no longer concealed the truth but exposed the fact that there was nothing there. The Holy of Holies was empty. There was no Ark of the Covenant. There was no presence of God. God was actually over on the cross and the real temple—the temple of His body—the veil of His flesh—had just expired. The real temple had been walking among them for approximately three and a half years. This temple was indeed filled with the presence of God. This was the real Holy of Holies.

          And they killed Him.

         “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” [Matthew 12:30]

         Since that time there have been two types of people in the world. One is with Him and one is against Him. There is no in-between.

         Those with Him are the blessed ones. They love Him. They trust Him. They believe in Him. They follow Him. They obey Him. They work for Him. They give their lives for Him. They do not and cannot hide who they are. The world opposes them.  

          One is deceived by the illusion and the other sees the illusion for what it is.

         But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. [2Corinthians 3:15-18] [1]

         © 2018 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

LINK: Exactly eight years ago, in late August of 2010, the Lord spoke to me very clearly: “WE ARE IN THE EARLY STAGES OF A NATIONAL GREAT AWAKENING.”