Bowie Apostolic Church
by From the Pastor's Desk on June 23rd, 2014

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. 

We live in a world that wants to be ruled by logic, but logic does not prevail against our most base nature. Therefore, logic becomes a tool for self justifying our desires. This has gone on for so long that we have most definitely lost our way. Now we have a bunch of logically arguments that may very well shut the mouths of our opponents, but they don't even satisfy ourselves for long. We then turn to another frame of logic to adapt to our insatiable nature that needs to change the rules as we go along. Then when we have lost our way, we have lost our sense of our starting point. We have lost our sense of normalcy. There are so many arguments that are thrown at us we don't know what truth is any more. When we lose our way for truth, we lose our way for justice. When we lose our way for justice, morality becomes relative. When morality becomes relative, a society no longer cares about one another. When society no longer cares about one another, it begins to unwind.

I'll prove it. In America, we believe in a society where we have the right to not be exploited. However, when we look around, there is exploitation surrounding us and we are so overwhelmed with how much we should care. Then finally the truth hits us when we are finally confronted. What we really meant all along is we don't want anyone exploiting us and what happens to others is their problem. We started at a logical point of the rights for everyone and then our logic is forced to just be for us.

Our lives are charted for us sometimes and we don't even realize it. Do you remember when there was such a thing as the unthinkable? When you couldn't think about the atrocities that are happening to children? that are happening to women? that are happening to the impoverished? that are happening to men? Now we are forced to watch the news and read the newspaper and see the unthinkable everyday. The unthinkable is no more. We hear atrocity after atrocity and it doesn't even surprise us anymore. We are forced to think about the unthinkable and imagine the unimaginable.

This causes us to spiral into a sense of fear that puts our walls up around us, because we are afraid of the unthinkable visiting us in an even more real way than the 6 o'clock news. We start to distrust strangers. Then we start to distrust people that we know. We start to not care about meeting our neighbors. Who knows who we live next to?

But there is something else that starts to happen that we don't realize. We start to shut God out of the equation in our lives. Sometimes we start to wonder if he was ever in the equation.

There are some that are so noble to try to change the world. Thank God for people who can save some with humanitarian aid, non-profit organizations and other things. But after years of this we realize that the problem does not go away completely. Poverty does not go away. Disease does not go away. Exploitation does not go away.

We in the church know why. We realize that we cannot change the world with human effort. Humans cannot change the world because a human cannot change another human's nature. Only God can do that. Humans cannot deliver us from fear. Only God's love can do that.

Therefore, the shutting out of God from our lives is the same as shutting out all hope for our lives. We are not here to change the world completely. We are here to show people there is a hope that is available in their situation. We are here to let people know there is a God who can wipe away the loneliness of the past; the exploitation of the past, the abuse of the past and yes the hurt, loneliness and emptiness of the past.

We live in a world where there are so many people who feel that there is something missing. Yes. They are right. What is missing from your life is God. He is the one that can take away your fears. He is the one who can be with you through your sorrow. He will be the hope abiding with you through every tragedy that will come. And yes they will come, but they will not last.

by From the Pastor's Desk on April 28th, 2013

Day 11: The Parable of the Bridegroom and His Friends

John 3:29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” 

If you’re married and are anything like me, you feel that your wedding day was not just chosen by you and your spouse, but it was ordained by God. He picked that individual out for you. Therefore, your wedding day symbolizes a monumental occasion that changed the course of your life.

The time that God chose to reveal all His glory through Jesus Christ is another such appointed time that God had chosen. However, this appointed time is not just significant to a couple, but it is significant to the generations of an entire world. John the Baptist is a forerunner to Jesus Christ, calling the nation to repentance. Though there were critics, his message was well received by many. John the Baptist was a BIG DEAL. However, he knew that he was not THE DEAL. It was not about John, it was about God. It was about Jesus.

His statement about the point in time that he had reached in his ministry styles it as the great anticipation of a wedding day. However, John is just a friend of the groom. He is not the groom. It is not his bride. It is not his day. It is not about him. To be clear, in the midst of a great ministry John the Baptist decides to go with the will of God and take a back seat. Despite the fact that he could gather large crowds to come hear him preach, he had the restraint and submission to put his ministry on hiatus. John’s ministry was so pervasive because of his many disciples, that decades after Jesus had ascended into heaven there were still disciples of John who had not heard about the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 19:1-6).

Can we have the restraint in our walk with God to say his words: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”? Can we honestly say that it is not about us and the success that we may have in life and ministry, but it is about Jesus? Calvary is the place where we come to lay all things at Jesus’ feet. It appears that John the Baptist found that place before Calvary ever happened. Praise God.

Day 12: The Winnowing Fork

Matthew 3:12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 

Psalm 1:4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. 

Whether ancient or modern, a society that uses grain as a staple is all too familiar with the work and time it takes to harvest a crop with such small and unnoticeable fruit. They are so small in fact that it can take ours to have enough to make a day’s worth of meal. It takes patience.

The threshing floor is the place where it all happens. This is a unique case in reaping where the fruit of the harvest is beaten. Wheat kernels are naturally encased in an inedible coating known as chaff. Like most encasings, it is hard and has to be broken. This is where the beating comes into play. The wheat kernels are beaten sufficiently so that the chaff cracks and comes loose. At the end of this step, however, the chaff and the wheat are laying on the threshing floor together. This is not the desired effect in the end.

What takes place next is known as winnowing. The winnowing fork is a three pronged wooden “fork” (also called a fan in the KJV) that is used to scoop up the wheat and the chaff together. It is then thrown into the air and the wind separates the wheat from the chaff. This shows that the chaff is undesirable and there is an unstoppable force that rids the winnower of the undesirable.

In this parable Jesus is the winnower. He alone is judge. He alone is Lord of the harvest. He had come to establish His kingdom, but there were people that would oppose His ministry. It was the religious establishment. These people were the undesirables, the chaff. Were they able to be saved? Absolutely. But their desire was to control the Kingdom of God. No one will do that except God. Therefore, there would be an uncontrollable force that will clearly separate the wheat from the chaff.

The imagery of the wind invokes images of the Day of Pentecost. This is when the Holy Spirit came into an upper room and separated the ones who received Jesus Christ and the undesirables that wanted their religion. The Holy Spirit is the distinction.

by From the Pastor's Desk on April 24th, 2013

Day 10: Sour Grapes

We can fill our lives with excuses or we can take ownership of our own mistakes. We can have a realistic, truthful view of ourselves and our walk with God or we can always find someone else to blame for where we are in our lives in regard to Him. The prophet Jeremiah and Ezekiel lived around the same time in ancient Israel’s history, the Babylonian Captivity. This was a time when people were looking for answers as to why calamity had come upon them. Apparently, for some the answer had nothing to do with themselves, but they blamed the generation before them.

There was a distinct cause and effect for what happened to them. Nebuchadnezzar came into Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. He took thousands of captives back into Babylon as slaves. This was an unprecedented time in the history of this chosen nation. The cause of this time in their history was of a spiritual nature. The affect was enacted by God on a visible, natural level. 

In the captives view, they believed that this was happening because of the generations before them and not their current generation. In other words, somehow the fathers had eaten “sour grapes” or had done something to themselves that was going to give them displeasure and discomfort. In this case, the sour grapes represent their unfaithfulness to God. However, instead of their actions taking affect on themselves, it took effect on the next generation. The use of the words “the children’s teeth are set on edge” means that the children or next generation has a stomach ache from what the previous generation had eaten. When you have a serious stomach ache, grinding of the teeth shows your extreme displeasure.

However, through His prophets God is saying you will not be able to say this ever again. In other words, don’t blame the generation before you for the failings of the current generation. This is something that people still like to do today. Instead of taking ownership of their decisions it is easier to just blame someone else. Many times we need to deal with our emotional baggage that we have from our parents or someone else and realize it is not an excuse for what we are doing right now.

by From the Pastor's Desk on April 19th, 2013

Day 9: Axes and Trees

Matthew 3:9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 

There is no more sobering proof, no more greater evidence of the great mercy of God than the great truth that it offsets His great judgment. God is both a God of judgment and of mercy. The way that is made plain to us is that the God of judgment came in flesh and took all of His own judgment upon Himself as a substitutionary sacrifice.  His judgment is real. Judgment is still a part of His character. If God is offering mercy, why would you settle for His wrath? If you reject His mercy and love, His judgment is the only thing that is left for us.

This parable is about God’s impending judgment upon people who have no faith in Him, but have faith in their culture and in there laws. Their hearts had grown cold for the God that they claimed, but they loved God’s law more than they loved God’s person. For this reason, John the Baptist tells this group of ultra religious people that “the axe is laid to the root of the trees.” Unlike the hammer or the drill or screwdriver, the axe is not a tool of construction. It is a tool for demolition, for destruction. In whose hands does this axe rest in? It is not John the Baptist. Is it not God?

The instruction here is for people to bring forth fruit. Just like the useless vine in Ezekiel 15, God wants what He has invested life into to bring for life and fruit. Fruit is results. God is has an expected end. He has a result in mind that He provides for, but we must comply with His will. If not, the tree is going to be cut down and thrown in the fire. It may or may not happen in this life, but without the mercy and grace of God applied to our lives according to the truth of scripture, it will happen after this life.

by From the Pastor's Desk on April 18th, 2013

Day 8: Valleys and mountains

Luke 3:4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’ ” 

Isaiah 40:3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5  And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” 

The bible clearly identifies John the Baptist as the prophet who preceded Christ. He was a forerunner who is the personification of “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” When dignitaries in the last century or two made an entrance, it is customary to roll out the red carpet. This shows honor to the dignitary by giving them something elegant to walk on. In the ancient times, however, the custom was different, but within the same spirit of mind.

We see this concept in Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem or what we know today as Palm Sunday. The people honored Him by putting things into His path so that He and the animal He was riding would not have to walk on the land. They used palm branches and in some cases they used their own clothes.

When a king was coming into town it was proper for someone to go ahead of the king and announce His coming. In other words the forerunner was saying “Make way for the King” or “Get out of the kings way.” Then there would be people after him that would clean up any debris to make the King’s trip as smooth as possible. No inconvenience. No stopping. Just smooth sailing.

However, in this particular prophesy from Isaiah 40:3, it says something peculiar. “Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low: the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.” This refers again to leveling, but in this case it is talking about the whole country. In the case of a normal king, the workers could probably fill a ditch or smooth out a mound of dirt, but they were not going to level a mountain and fill a valley. Our God leaves such an enormous impact that it will affect the entire country. He is no ordinary king. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Make way for the King.

by From the Pastor's Desk on April 17th, 2013

Day 6: Valley of Dry Bones

Ezekiel 37:1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones……..

Prophetic Parables are actually my favorite type of parable. We are used to human parables given by men, but it is something when God lowers Himself to use things that He created to convey what is actually on His mind. Whether it is God speaking only or Him giving His prophet a vision, it is a parable none the less.

In this parable we see God’s view of the spiritual state of the nation of Israel, His children. They are lifeless and it appears to be beyond hope. In this particular time, they have been defeated by the Babylonians are in bondage. Ezekiel himself has been taken into exile away from his homeland of Israel and is now staying in the dreaded city of Babylon. In the Bible, bones represent life. Therefore, dry bones represent their lack of a future. From Ezekiel’s perspective and the perspective of everyone else in Israel there is no hope. This is evident in verse 11 where God shares the opinions of His people saying “Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’” God converses with Ezekiel, perhaps to inspire faith, “… can these bones live?” Ezekiel’s response somewhat shows the pain of the past and a slight glimmer of hope in the future “O Lord God, you know.”

Many times this is the way we who believe in the power of the early church can feel about the possibility of seeing that power again. What we have experienced in the past can affect how we feel about the possibilities of the future, despite the fact that just like Ezekiel, we have a received a word from the Lord. Just like the dry bones of Israel, the faith of many have gone dry for God reviving not just the power in His church, but His power in them as individuals.

God responds to Ezekiel and says “Prophesy over these bones.” It is something how the word of God can bring a change in our lives. Many times we have allowed the miraculous portions of scripture into our fantasy, but have not received the instructional parts of the word of God into our hearts. Rather than dealing with the heart we look only for what is in our imagination. Well friend, it should be clear that if we don’t obey the word of God and allow it to have free reign in our hearts and lives, many things that we have in our minds that will come to pass in our lives just may be in our minds. Our visions and aspirations must be rooted and grounded in the whole counsel of God.

In the bible, in both Hebrew and Greek, the same word used in the language for spirit is also used to mean wind or breath. They are translated as such depending on the context. We see this typology in the creation of Adam when God breathed the breath of life into him and he became a living soul. We also see it on the day of Pentecost when there was a sound of a rushing mighty wind as they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the wind represents the Spirit. When Ezekiel prophesied to the dry bones, the promise was that breath would enter back into them. This breath would come from the four winds of the earth.

It is important that when the word of the Lord comes, the Spirit of God bears witness to it. Jesus said that the true worship the Father in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24). That truth is the word of God. This parable given to Ezekiel in the form of a vision is a representation of God’s faithfulness to revive the dryness in our lives and in our churches. Surely a revival is needed in these times.

Day 7: Rising Waters Flowing from the Temple

Ezekiel 47:1 Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. 2 Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side. 3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. 5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. 6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” 

Another prophetic parable given by God to Ezekiel comes in the vision of the temple. Just as the bones in the prophet’s previous vision of the valley of dry bones we are dealing with life and revival again. Just as bones represent life in the bible, water does as well. In this case the life is again of a spiritual nature. Jesus referred to this spiritual life when he referred to rivers of living waters flowing from the inner most being of a believer (John 7:37-38). He was referring to the Holy Spirit. He also said to the Samaritan woman at the well that if any man would drink of the water that He offered would have this water springing up to everlasting life (John 4:14).

In this particular vision, the temple of Israel had already been destroyed but here again is a story of redemption. There is the temple of God in this vision. This is a promise of the resurrection of what was lost. Even though the temple of Jerusalem would be rebuilt after this vision, the vision is not referring to the restoration of a physical temple. The second temple would also be destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. This vision represents the redemption of Israel through the prosperity of the new covenant.

The waters that flow from the temple represent God enlivening the covenant with His people with His Spirit. His Spirit, however, is too much to be contained in one little temple. It therefore shall flow from the House of God to every corner of the earth. How will this be done? It has already begun through what the True Hope of Israel, Jesus Christ, did on Calvary. This is the first step in restoring what had fallen not just in the case of the Babylonians destroying the temple, but also in the pitiful spiritual state of Israel.

I want you to realize, this temple does not refer to a physical building as much as it refers to a people. Through Christ, we are a part of the covenant that God made with Abraham and therefore we benefit from restoration as well. In these waters of restoration that flow from the temple, the further it gets away from the source, the deeper they get. We see this same principle in the birth of the church. In Acts 1:8 it reads “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” What started in Jerusalem was supposed to spread from that city to the surrounding region and to the uttermost part of the earth. Just as the waters got deeper and deeper as Ezekiel got further and further from the temple, as the message left Jerusalem and got farther away the response and number of converts grew.

We are a part of this restoration of God’s covenant with Israel and it is only going to come through Jesus Christ. In Him we are blessed with them.

by From the Pastor's Desk on April 14th, 2013

Day 3: The Little City

Ecclesiastes 9:13 I have also seen this example of wisdom under the sun, and it seemed great to me. 14 There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. 15 But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. 16 But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard. 17 The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools. 18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good. 

Many remember the mighty, but few remember the wise. Unfortunately, wisdom is not marketable for monetary gain and therefore it is under appreciated. The parable goes to show that even a wise deliverer is quickly forgotten. In addition to the deliverer’s wisdom was his poverty. So often the poor and the wise are both overlooked. Both poverty and wisdom can coincide. Being rich is not a guarantee of wisdom anymore than poverty is a guarantee of the absence of wisdom. 

In our society, strength and power are honored and remembered. Many times it is accompanied by fame and fortune. Many times strength and power are not used to protect or deliver, but to intimidate and to acquire possessions to fulfill our own desires. Wisdom with pure motive does not have to intimidate. It delights in the protection of others from future and present harm.

Day 4: The Potter and the Clay

Jeremiah 18:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 

Jeremiah found a great revelation in the parable that was acted out by the potter. There is wisdom to be learned in how God deals with His people. Many times we are in the potter’s hand, but we don’t cooperate with Him. The love of God, however, is displayed in not throwing away the clay. He keeps the clay, reshapes the clay and reworked the clay into a new vessel.

Are we willing to allow God’s process of reshaping to move on our lives?

Day 5: Jerusalem, a Useless Vine

Ezekiel 15:1 And the word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, how does the wood of the vine surpass any wood, the vine branch that is among the trees of the forest? 3 Is wood taken from it to make anything? Do people take a peg from it to hang any vessel on it? 4 Behold, it is given to the fire for fuel. When the fire has consumed both ends of it, and the middle of it is charred, is it useful for anything? 5 Behold, when it was whole, it was used for nothing. How much less, when the fire has consumed it and it is charred, can it ever be used for anything! 6 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Like the wood of the vine among the trees of the forest, which I have given to the fire for fuel, so have I given up the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 7 And I will set my face against them. Though they escape from the fire, the fire shall yet consume them, and you will know that I am the LORD, when I set my face against them. 8 And I will make the land desolate, because they have acted faithlessly, declares the Lord GOD.” 

The grapevine is not of much use if it does not bring forth grapes. It is only profitable if it does what it was created to do. It was created to bear fruit. What if we who have been recreated in Christ do not do what we were created to do? What if fruit is not evident in our lives? Cedar can be used to for carpentry, but the vine cannot. Just as the vine cannot be used like the cedar, the child of God cannot be used in any other manner than the original purpose: that purpose is to bring God glory through a prosperity of faith, grace, knowledge and wisdom that only comes from God. If there is no fruit, then being burned is the only use of the vine.

Even though this parable is concerning Jerusalem, this city is a geographical representation of God’s covenant with mankind in general. This parable is a warning to the child of God to be wary about the fruitfulness that their faith can bring in their life. Please make sure that through prayer, study and personal ministry that fruit is evident in your life.

by From the Pastor's Desk on April 2nd, 2013

2 Samuel 12:1 And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 

Many see the ministry of Jesus Christ and His use of parables as unique to Him in scripture, but it was something that was used by prophets fairly regularly. Being God manifested in the flesh, Jesus is the source of all prophetic ministries. God is the source of prophecy. Whether it is an Old Testament prophetic parable or a New Testament one, the source is the same.

In today’s parable, we see another prophetic parable. This one was given to King David by a prophet by the name of Nathan. Nathan was the one who originally prophesied promises to David confirming that his kingdom would be an everlasting kingdom. Initially, Nathan had nothing but good things to say about David. But David brought the judgment of sin upon his own house. He was unfaithful to his wife, committed adultery with another man’s wife (Uriah the Hittite), got her pregnant, and ultimately had the husband killed. This was all done in secret, but nothing is done that God cannot see. God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David.

The message began as a parable, but David had no idea it was a parable let alone that it was a parable directed at him. Nathan begins to tell the story of two men, one rich and one poor (representing Uriah and David). The rich man represented David and all his resources. The poor man represented Uriah whom only had an average existence with his one and only precious wife. In the parable, the rich man took the poor man’s lamb even though he had comparatively unlimited resources without having to take advantage of the less fortunate. The point of this parable was that David stole from Uriah what was precious. The parable doesn’t even go into how the poor man was killed.

David (being completely oblivious to the fact that this was talking about him) becomes enraged at the accusation of this insensitive “rich man” who exploits the less fortunate. He did not realize that he was being enraged at his own sin. In verse 7, Nathan identifies the cruel man as David when he says (in the King James) “Thou art the man.” 

Many times we can’t see ourselves past our own self justification and cover ups. But it is the light of the word of God from a prophet or the scriptures themselves that sheds light on all of our deeds. If the same things that we have done in secret in the past were done openly by another, of course we would be so critical and judgmental. The next time we begin to pick up the stone to cast, we should think about how many times we have done things that were not pleasing to God. Sometimes we have been forgiven of far worst things, but we are not willing to give forgiveness to others.

by From the Pastor's Desk on April 2nd, 2013

Judges 9:7 When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and cried aloud and said to them, “Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem, that God may listen to you. 8 The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ 9 But the olive tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?’ 10 And the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 11 But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?’ 12 And the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 13 But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?’ 14 Then all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ 15 And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’ 

Introduction to Parables

This month our theme is parables of the bible. Let us qualify what constitutes a parable in the bible. Herbert Lockyer says it so well:

“In the Old Testament the Hebrew word for  ‘parable’ is Mashal, meaning proverb, similitude, parable. In a wide range of use this word ‘covers several forms of picturesque and suggestive speech – all those forms in which ideas are presented in the robes of imagery. As its applications are thus varied, it is variously translated in our English version.’ The root idea of mashal is ‘to be like,’ and often refers to ‘the sentences constructed in parableism,’ so characteristic of Hebrew poetry. The word is never used in the narrow technical sense of its counterpart in the New Testament.”

Many times we have a bias toward New Testament parables, but the Old Testament has plenty of parables in it as well. Since the New Testament is founded upon and is a fulfillment of the Old Testament, Lockyer’s definition fits for the parables of the Gospel accounts also. The use of parables was a part of the culture of the ancient Middle East. It was the way to teach and/or convey opinions. In this month, the word parable will be referred to as any proverb as well as a symbolic saying, act or vision.


"The Thornbush King"

Our first proverb is from Jotham the son of Gideon (also called Jerubaal). He was one of 70 sons of Gideon. However, Gideon had another son from a different woman. This son wanted to ascend to the throne of his father even though there was no legitimate way it could happen. Therefore, he took the route that so many take when a king dies: he created a power struggle. The struggle went to the most extreme. Abimelech killed all of his half brothers with the exception of Jotham.

The way this came about was Abimelech’s appeal to his hometown of Shechem. Since Gideon was the judge of Israel and had recently passed away, he asked what their preference would be as far as who would rule them. Of course, they chose Abimelech because he grew up there. They gave him enough money to hire a small army to carry out his conquest for the throne.

Jotham, being the youngest of Gideon, escaped by hiding during this apparent massacre. But he came back to give them a very wise saying. He used the imagery of trees. Different trees have different degrees of usefulness. Trees with great usefulness are awarded great honor.

In the parable, the trees were looking for a king. They asked all of the honorable trees: the olive tree , the most ancient of trees which is busy producing oil;  the fig tree, the most common of trees in Israel whose fruit is a staple food; the vine, whose vintage produces wine for libations in the ancient worship. None them would give up their honor to rule over the trees that were asking. Therefore, they asked the thornbush (bramblebush). This bush was used to kindle cooking fires in the desert areas of Palestine. Basically, it was only fit to be burned.

The statement from the bramblebush in the parable about the tries coming to rest in its shadowy is irony that is used to mock the Shechemites. The bramblebush is a thorn. It provides no shade and it is very short. Jotham is showing them that they had made a poor choice for a leader. A choice that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Many people will allow power hungry people to rule over them rather than a leader that stands for truth and the well being of the people. Always gravitate to the people that are not afraid to tell you the truth, even if it hurts. A man’s hunger for power and position will not suffice when you have ministry needs.

by From the Pastor's Desk on April 1st, 2013

Psalm 16:10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 

Luke 24:6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 

Matthew 12:39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

There have been many men who claimed to be the Messiah before and after Jesus Christ was revealed as Messiah. Not only that, but there are a few who without claiming it themselves were proclaimed as Messiah by others. It seemed that early on, they all did the same thing: revolt against the gentile nation that was set over Israel. Initially, the Messiah was an anointed king. This is what the Messiah is referred to as in scripture. However, through the process of time, the “legend” of the Messiah began to surface. This legendary Messiah was to be a warrior-king that delivers Israel from the yoke of it’s oppressors. This led to men rising up to do the same types of things, but really were not the Messiah. They all failed.

Some of these men were:

1.) Judas Maccabeus – He led the revolt against the Seleucid Empire from 167 – 160 AD. Maccabeus literally means the hammer. He was zealous for God and many people thought he was the messiah. If this did not originate their predispositions about the Messiah waging war against their oppressors, it did contribute. However, Judas Maccabeus died.

2.) Simon of Perea – A former slave of Herod the Great. According to the antiquital historian Flavius Josephus “He burnt down the royal palace at Jericho, and plundered what was left in it. He also set fire to many other of the king's houses in several places of the country, utterly destroyed them, and permitted those that were with him to take what was left in them for a prey. He would have done greater things, but care was taken to repress him immediately.” This man was killed and beheaded.

3.) Theudas -   A man who claimed to be a prophet of God. According to Flavius Josephus “It came to pass, while Cuspius Fadus was procurator of Judea, that a certain charlatan, whose name was Theudas, persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with them, and follow him to the Jordan river; for he told them he was a prophet, and that he would, by his own command, divide the river, and afford them an easy passage over it.” This man was also beheaded.

4.) Simon Bar Kochba:  Led a revolt in 132 AD. His name “Bar-Kochba” literally meant “son of a star.” One Rabbi Akiva proclaimed him as Bar-Kochba and therefore identifying him as the messiah. Just as it was done for Jesus Christ, Bar-Kochba proclaimed a year 1. There are coins found in archeology that display this inscription. After coins printed with year 2, his revolt against the Romans was crushed. He was killed.

One of the ways the enemy can cause people to lose faith is to have plenty of copy cats. The copy cats that preceded Jesus detracted from the faith of Israel to the point that people reacted with a "here we go again" mentality when Jesus arrived. The mere fact that there were false messiahs that would arise after Jesus also tells us that there were people who not only did not believe in Jesus as the messiah (probably because from their perspective he had the same end as the previous two messiah attempts) they were some that still were hoping for the messiah to arrive. 

This sheds light on what the bible says about His first disciples not wanting to follow Him after his arrest. Despite the fact that they saw Jesus do things that no one else had done in the history of Israel, the status quo loomed over them in regard to the previous Messiahs. They had also forgot how they were used by God by the commissioning of Jesus Christ in Matthew 10:1.

But here we are following a man named Jesus Christ of Nazareth who also was killed just like all the other Messiah claimants. So what’s the difference? Why is no one even thinking about following Simon Bar-Kocba, Theudas, Judas Maccabeus or Simon of Perea? 

If you ever want to have a test for the real Messiah, here are a couple of tests.

Test Number One: which Messiah got up? Did your Messiah get up? I know my Messiah was killed. I know it was gory. I know they were merciless, but my Messiah got up. Theudas did not. Simon Perea did not.

Test Number Two: Which messiah sent his spirit back to bear witness? Did your Messiah send His Spirit back to you? The Spirit of the Messiah bears witness to the resurrection of the Messiah. My Messiah promised this and fulfilled it. Simon Bar-Kockba did not.

Jesus passes both of these tests. Because it was prophesied that He would see no corruption, this obviously means He would get up from the grave. However, without His Spirit we could not even begin to bear witness to the resurrection. Many can claim what they want about Jesus, but He got up from the grave and His Spirit was sent into the lives of every believer.

The reason why no one is following the others? Simple.

Nobody follows a dead Messiah.

Acts (28)
30 pieces of silver About the bible Abraham Agrippa Arm of the Lord Ascension Berea Bethlehem Bramblebush Caesar Corinth Counsel Damascus David Ephesus Ephratah Euroclydon Everlasting Father Felix Festus Fullness of power Galilee Golden rule Herod His suffering Integrity Isaac Ishmael Jerusalem Jotham Judah Malta Mary Messiah Moses Nathan Passover Paul Philippi Right hand of God Righteous Branch Rome Sanhedrin Saul Silas Son of God Timothy Triumphal Entry Virgin Birth ananias angels appointed time arbiter arrested asset management awe baptism betrayal boast bones borrower breaking point brockenhearted bruise business buyer caesarea casting lots centurion character child rearing colt commitment consistency construction conversion correction cosigning culture debt demon devil discernment disrespect edification edify education environment eternal ethiopian ethnic expectation facade faith family filled finances foolish foul words friends gentiles glory gospel heresy holy spirit honor hope humble humor identity idleness ill-gotten gains intimidation iron irreverence jealousy john joke justice knowledge lamb law of moses lazy learning lender lion love the Blesser love your neighbor love loyalty magician martyr mercy ministry miracle mob mocked moment name of Jesus nations negotiation no corruption obedience peace keeper peace pentecost persecution perseverance peter philip poor taste power pranks prayer preach promise prosper rebellion rebuke referee relationships reproach resurrection reverence rich man's tomb ruin sapphire satan self-promotion seller serpent sharpens shepherd ship silent before slaughter simon slave stephen strife submitted surety teacher temptation timidity truth understanding unsubmitted wealth what goes around comes around wicked wisdom words matter work ethic wounds zeal of thine house