Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for October, 2012

In a Stable

I think I know why Jesus was born in a stable and not in a house.  This is one of the coolest things I’ve come across in a long time and I wanted to share it with my friends.

Let me start with John the Baptist.  Zechariah, his father, was of the course of Abia. Now, if you can figure out when the course of Abia ministered in the Temple, you can do the math to figure out when Jesus was born.

The answer is found in 1 Chronicles 24 where David doles out the ministrations of the Temple to the chief rulers of the sons of Aaron.  There were 24 of them.  Each one was responsible to minister for two different weeks during the year, and all of them had to show up for the three Feasts of the Lord: Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles, for which all the males of the tribes of Israel were to show up in Jerusalem.  The ministrations were given by lot, and Abia (or Abijah) was given the 8th one.

Now considering that the Jewish calendar was a lunar calendar, there were four weeks to a month (28 days), each starting on the New Moon. The first month Abib (or Nissan) started the year sometime in March or April.  Since the Lunar Calendar runs differently than our Solar Calendar, dates will shift back and forth.

Abia had the 8th ministration, but you also have to figure in the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the first month and Pentecost in the third, so the course of Abia was on the 10th week, which was during the second week of the third month.  Zechariah is visited by the angel Gabriel during his ministration in that second week and is told that his wife will conceive.  Zechariah finishes his ministration on the 14th day and goes home.  Assuming that old Zech was glad to get home and see his wife, John was probably conceived on or around the 15th day of the third month.

Pregnancy is 40 weeks long, or 10 lunar months.  That means that John would have been born during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It is interesting to note that the Jews to this day traditionally set out a goblet of wine for Elijah as an invited guest during this Feast.  John had the spirit of Elijah, so you might say that John showed up right on time.

According to Luke, Jesus was conceived 6 months after John.  So if John was conceived during the 3rd month, Jesus had to be conceived during the 9th month, which right about the time of the Festival of Lights, Hanukah. Since Jesus was the Light of the World, I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to imagine that this was part of the Plan also.

I might also add that the Hebrew word for “feast” actually means “appointed time”.  God is well able to perfectly engineer His astounding appointments.

Okay, now it starts getting really cool.  If Jesus was conceived in the middle of the 9th month (remember, the cycle all starts when Zechariah went home to his wife on the 15th day), that places His birth at the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles.  The Feast of Tabernacles is a feast of 8 days, the last day being the “great day of the feast”, which the Jews call Semini Atzeret.  If He was born on the first day of the Feast, then he had to be circumcised on the eighth day, or the great day of the Feast.

No wonder there was no room at the inn!  Every Tom, Dick, and Harry (or Ira, David, and Jacob) was crowding out every available place for miles around Jerusalem because they were required to attend the Feast.  (Bethlehem is very close to Jerusalem.)  I thought everybody was there because of Augustus’ taxing, but God isn’t controlled by a heathen emperor but by His own holy appointments. That makes a lot more sense to me. Bethlehem was a small village and the great bulk of Israelites could not have been born there, so why was the place so crowded that there was no room at the inn?  Because it was the time of the great Festival!  What better time to tax them than when they all showed up in one place?

Isaiah said He would be called Immanuel, or “God with us”.  The word “tabernacle” means dwelling, or in other words, God would “tabernacle” or dwell with us. What better way to fulfill that than to send His Son, Immanuel, as a Savior right at the beginning of this Feast of Tabernacles and confirm it by His circumcision on the great day of that same feast!

Hang on, this gets even cooler!

The Feast of Tabernacles is also called Sukkoth because it commemorated the trek in the Wilderness and the Jews were supposed to spend that time dwelling in temporary booths.  Where was Jesus born?  In a stable! A temporary dwelling of sorts, not in a house!

Wow. Is that cool?

This may not be some earthshaking revelation that will change your life or anything, but it is one more brick cemented into the wall of our faith that God is not only really there, but He is the Great Architect of the Universe.  He is not only able, but is active in His dealings with men. He is All-Powerful, omnipotent and omniscient.

How small is our faith that we do not take Him at His Word for the great and precious promises that He has given us, and to fully believe Him when He says that He not only hears our prayers, but will answer them!

“Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.”  (Jeremiah 33:3)

 

Brother Dale, dale@revivalfire.org

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I read a chapter of Proverbs every day. Whatever today’s date is, that’s the chapter I read, and there’s always something in there for me that day. The one that stopped me today was Proverbs 16:4 –
The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” 

Wow. What is that supposed to mean? There’s another scripture in Isaiah 45:7 that says, I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”  There are some other Scriptures in the Bible that can really scramble your theologies about the nature of God if you stop and think about them.

Now, I’m not a genius but I’m smart enough to realize how stupid we are. There are a whole lot of things that I don’t think we will every grasp in their entirety until we get to the other side. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13, it is as if we are looking through a glass darkly – we can’t see clearly – but when we die we will see things the way they really are.  Isaiah said it even better when he said, And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.” (Isaiah 25:7).  There is a veil over our eyes, a covering that keeps us from seeing things the way they really are in the scope of Eternity.

(Sigh) It seems like the more I learn, the less I understand.  But Voltaire once said that to know that you know what you know, and that you don’t know what you don’t know is wisdom.  Yeah, I get it. We really don’t know, do we. We just think we know.

But one thing I do know is that God is really real – not just as a theological idea or a point of belief or doctrine to be argued over, but real, as in more real than real. I’ve had a lot of supernatural experiences with God and I know a lot of other people that have also.  Maybe not everybody gets to hear God speak out of the heavens, but it does happen.  And it is not all that uncommon.  And then there are visions, instant healings, and other sorts of miracles.  I’ve seen this stuff with my own eyes.  And I have heard Him speak to me.  I would never have believed if I hadn’t.

But I get a little reticent when speaking about this stuff because a lot of people have not experienced things like that and I’m always afraid they will start looking at me narrowly if I mention them.  As if to say, “You know, he’s really a nice guy, but he’s just a little nuts.”   Sorry, but why should I be afraid to mention these things?  I mean, I didn’t do them to myself, and by golly, there’s a lot of other people that have had the same experiences, so why, as Paul once said, should it seem a thing incredible?  If God can raise the dead, why can’t He speak?

All I know is that God really is real.  He’s there.  And no, I don’t understand how or why God created evil … but He says He did, and that’s good enough for me.  It says in that same chapter of Proverbs that the highway of the upright is to depart from evil and that he that keeps his way preserves his soul.  I guess that’s all I really need to know.

And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding. (Job 28:28)

 

 

Read Full Post »

Everybody I know is going to Heaven. (Let me think for a minute … yep, everybody). From the Alpha+ personalities that charge ahead in their own self-righteousness to the casual believers who relax in their own languid reassurance that all is cool with the “Man Upstairs”. The only folks I know who say they’re not going to Heaven are the ones who don’t believe in Heaven anyway! Well, I guess that just makes everything convenient then. We can all relax and be raptured.
But somewhere there is a line.
If everybody is right, then nobody is wrong; and if everybody else is wrong, what makes you think you are right? Peter said that he knew and was sure that Jesus was the Christ. That’s all fine, but it’s not God who I am wondering about — I trust God. It’s me I don’t trust.
A guy named Howard Pitman had an experience years ago when he died in an ambulance and went up before God. God showed him the Day of Judgment where he saw billions of people going up before God to be judged. Multitudes were shot down into Hell like showers of sparks. Some souls went up to Heaven, but nowhere near as many as those who went to Hell. But every once in a while there would be one who would come up before God and there would be a pause … and then they would be shot down into Hell. He said that when he asked what that was, God replied that those were the self-righteous who thought they were supposed to go to Heaven and stood there justifying themselves to God.
It’s been years since I listened to that vision, but that one scene has never left me. It lines up with the admonition Jesus gave us of the broad and narrow paths. While we may all have our own perspective of what is required to get to Heaven, only one perspective matters – and that would His.
Let us be careful that we don’t walk so squeaky clean that we become Pharisees or so detached from righteousness that we think that going out and looking at the trees is a religious experience with God. Some will echo the old assertion of “I don’t smoke, and I don’t chew, and I don’t go with them that do”, all the while sitting completely stagnant in their lack of mercy for others. Others will float around in their spiritual effervescence, dispensing feel-good prophesies laced with love and sugar plums so that everyone will know they are loved but be clueless as to the holiness that God demands.
There is a walk in the Spirit that found in neither of these extremes nor anywhere between them. It is a completely different path, a different perspective, and an entirely different goal. It is a place of surrender before God where you no longer matter. It is being as porous as an open window so that the Spirit of God can pass through you to shower the true mercy of God on others. You will never gain that place in God through your own efforts or spirituality – only through surrender.

Read Full Post »

Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks: And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.”
(Isaiah 8:7-8)

Hezekiah was one of Judah’s best kings. 2nd Kings says that there was none like him amongst all the kings of Judah. Then why did this happen to him? Sennacherib, the king of Assyria swallowed up the entire breadth of Judah, reaching all the way up to the neck, even the very gates of Jerusalem. That was good news for the folks shuttered up in Jerusalem, but it must have been hell for everyone out in the countryside and all the other cities. If Hezekiah was so righteous, then why did God allow this to happen to the rest of Judah?
The answer goes back to his father Ahaz, the wicked king who ruled before him. Ahaz was facing sure destruction from Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, the king of Israel, but instead of calling upon the Lord for help, he hired the king of Assyria to pull them off him. In gratitude, Ahaz took a trip to Damascus to meet him and, I guess, to thank him for his help.
While he was there, he saw a pagan altar that impressed him so much that he sent the design back to Uzziah the high priest to have one made just like it. It must have been real nice and shiny because he set aside the Brazen Altar that was before the House of the Lord and replaced it with this new modern version. He instructed the High Priest that all the offerings and sacrifices would now be done on this shiny, new modern altar, but had the audacity to say that when he wanted to inquire of the Lord, he would go over and use the old Brazen Altar that now sat on the north side of the Temple. He discarded the established way the Lord had set down to initiate a new, modern way that was based on pagan worship.
Sounds crazy, right? But have we not done the same thing in dismissing that old-fashioned Gospel of the fear of the Lord for a new and gentler modern Gospel of peace, love and prosperity? Did not Jeremiah cry out, “… ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk therein.” (Jer 6:16)
I’m sure Ahaz had plenty of justifications. After all, it was Solomon’s design, wasn’t it? So what’s the harm in upgrading it a little bit? Besides, the Brazen Altar was getting old and burnt around the edges and probably needed some touch ups and a new paint job. This new one was bright and shiny. And yeah, it was patterned after a pagan altar, but it’s not like he was going to offer up his children on it as a burnt sacrifice. So what was the problem?
When we operate outside the fear of the Lord, we set the stage for our own judgment. Isaiah’s resulting pronouncement against Judah came to fruition, not in Ahaz’s generation, but in his son’s. Hezekiah felt the full impact of Ahaz’s foolishness and had it not been for his extraordinary righteousness before God, Jerusalem would have no doubt been overwhelmed.
Many times in the Bible when the great stone wheel of judgment would begin to roll because of their sins, God would raise up a solitary man to stand in the gap for His people — Noah, Joseph, Elijah, Gideon, and many of the judges. Hezekiah was just such a man to stop the full brunt of his father’s sins so that the seed would be preserved to bring humanity to the ultimate of saviors, God Himself in the form of His Son Jesus Christ.
Mercy is not free; neither is it cheap. And although God delights in mercy, He is first and foremost a righteous God and there is a price to pay for sin in the form of judgment. If we, as a people, ignore the warnings against a lighter version of the Gospel, all the while making excuses and justifications for our shiny new altar, we will face the same results our fathers have faced. Let us pray that God will raise up unto us a way for repentance to stave off the results of our lack of the fear of God.

“O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the LORD. They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word.”
(Ezekiel 13:4-6)

Read Full Post »

Revivals have to be prayed in. I think just about everyone agrees; I just don’t think most people comprehend what that really means.
It has been said that Charles Spurgeon was one of the greatest revival preachers, but he, on his own account, attributed everything to his church.  According to David Smithers in a wonderful article about Spurgeon [link], when visitors would come, he would take them to the basement of his church and show them the people on their knees contending before God for souls and declare that this was the powerhouse of the church.  “In Spurgeon’s eyes, the prayer-meeting was the most important meeting of the week.”  It was this furnace room, not his preaching, that brought the great moves of God that came through him.
Search through revival history, and you will find the same intense reliance on prayer for any move of God.  Prior to any serious revival or move of God, people will be crying out to God, sometimes for years before the heavens break wide open.  This is the labor room of travail for the Bride of Christ to give birth to revival. Only this kind of intense passion, tears, and travail will move God into a ferocious outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
The Book of Joel, which is God’s blueprint for revival, cries to us to bring the entire church into the prayer meeting – including the babies – and cry out to God all night long until He answers.  This is what God has laid out for us to do if we want revival.  There are no shortcuts, no special circumstances, and no alternate methods.
Okay, so we all know this.  We’ve all heard it a thousand times.  Yup, we need to pray. Yup, yup, yup.  So when are we going to do it?  Excuse me, but we know this is correct, right? So what will it take to crank up the fire?  How do we stir up the hearts of the Church to rise up in faith, expectation, and zeal to charge into the prayer room to tear down every principality that stands in the way and shake the Throne of God for the supernatural?
Good question.  Wish I had a good answer.  If people are not genuinely charged up in the Holy Spirit, their guilty feelings and manufactured zeal will only take them so far. They know they should do this, but their hearts are dragging far behind.  As I have said before, water seeks its own level, and it won’t take long before people settle back down to their “comfort spot”.  How do we raise the level of that water and crank up the fire in people’s hearts?
I asked the Lord that question. His answer was simple.  You want to raise the level of the water?  Add more water.  Hmmmm.
Water throughout the Bible, represents the Word of God.  The point is simple. We can’t turn ourselves into instant prayer warriors through our own efforts.  Go ahead. Try it. Pray for 3 hours a day in a strong, loud contending voice like Elijah did.  Let me know how far you get.  Only God can give you the power to pray like that. And where does that power come from? The Word. Prayer without faith is pointless, and faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
This is not exactly a slam dunk, and there is not enough space here to go into a long dissertation on the mechanics of the formulation of revival, but suffice it to say that devouring the Word of God is a good place to start.  Without me, Jesus said, you can do nothing … and He WAS the Word of God.
The rest depends on those faithful few who in receiving their power and faith from the Word of God, know how to contend in prayer and have been battle-trained in storming the Throne of God.  This is not for the polite silent prayers of well-meaning church people who clasp their hands and silently offer their thoughts, but for those outrageous souls who will stop at nothing to make their voices heard from on High. This is war, not a skirmish, and the price for failure is not death, but eternal torment for countless millions of souls if you do not succeed.
When we look at the great revival preachers that God has used in the past, let us not make the mistake of thinking that they were responsible for the revivals that God brought through them.  No, it came through the desperate prayers of some few dedicated faithful saints who refused to accept defeat, but claimed, fought, and won the victory with broken hearts, tear-laden cries and bended knees in that prayer room … and who hung on to the horns of the altar until God moved.
You want revival?  Then somebody has to get down on their knees.

Read Full Post »

On a Sandbar

I’ve been spending a few days alone down at the river, just hanging around. This morning, I was walking downstream and crossed over onto one of the sandbars that are so frequent in this shallow, flat-bottom river. Short-lived weeds pop up all over these sandbars for a fleeting gasp of air and sunshine before the river rises and the next surge of water rushes down to wash them all away again. Before they are swept away, however, they rush to sprout seed pods for the next generation in a continuing struggle to survive.
It made me think about Nature’s desperate cling to life. Even in the harshest conditions, there is that ever-present push to not only sustain life, but to press through to regeneration. It’s like a universal war between the animate and the inanimate. There is a force of Nature at work here that is not natural, but that comes from beyond the visible. Something is pushing that drive for life that we see all around us. That something has to be God. What else could it be?
I walked a little farther down the sandbar, my feet crunching the gravelly sand. It was obvious that it was not too long ago that the water had rushed over this spot and had washed everything away. There were a few tracks from deer, raccoons, and three-toed cranes, but little else. Even the weeds looked as if they had been almost pulled out from their tenuous grasp in the sand. But as I looked closer, I noticed some small colorful flowers on the bushes. And then some more. And some more. Here in the midst of a harsh strand of rocks and sand with little nourishment and a short hope for the future, were these little bursts of beauty and color. It was as if to say that not only has God provided the miracle of Life in a cold barren universe, but has punctuated it with the evidence of His love for us with this unheralded witness.
Everyone faces challenges in getting through life. Sometimes we wonder where we are going and why. And where is God in all of this? I can’t say I know the where and why of everything. Sometimes life can get tough and there doesn’t always seem to be any answers. But standing on the barren sand of this sandbar that is poised for the next purging flood that will wash everything away, I am reassured by the evidence around me, as if God was peeking at me though those little bursts of tiny flowers, that He is there and all is well.

Read Full Post »