Category Archives: discipleship

Perfectly Complete!

We are to be perfect as God is perfect! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard things like, “Ron! There’s no way I can be perfect—right?” almost as a badge of honor . . . or excuse. But what does the word mean? What should it mean, especially in our context as broken humans trying to figure out what God desires so we can follow suit?

Like many other words or concepts in the Bible, such as predestination, foreknowledge, love, or sin, perfection is often misunderstood or misapplied. Our minimal English modern dictionary tends to represent perfection as flawlessness (thank you, Merriam-Webster!). However, the original language and context teach us that biblical perfection is completeness. Remember the Jerry McGuire movie? In it, Tom Cruise utters the infamous phrase, “You complete me!” The concept is the perfection God desires and is what the ancient language teaches us.

We see this use in the Old Testament texts such as 1Chronicals 29:19: “and give to my son Solomon a “perfect” heart to keep Your commandments . . .” Alright: let’s start you on your journey to be Koine (biblical) Greek scholars. The original New Testament word is teleios, which means to be complete, full, whole. In 1Corinthians 13:10, we see that perfection completes the incomplete: “but when the perfect comes, the incomplete will be done away.” The unfinished things of today, even in our worship or knowledge, will be completed when God moves creation to the perfection (completion in Him) it once enjoyed.

An example of the unifying property of perfection can be seen in Colossians 3:14: “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” Anyway, my point is that perfection is meant to be completion in a relationship with God through Christ, not flawlessness. Trying to be flawless is futile, especially today with so much immorality ruling the day (and night). Here are a few biblical references by Jesus, Paul, and Jesus’ half-brother James that support the point that God seeks partners who ‘complete Him’ and whom He completes in a relationship:

Jesus (Matthew 5:48): “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Paul (Colossians 4:12): “Epaphras . . . sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.”

James (1:4): “And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

So, be perfect because God desires it! “But, Ron! How on earth can we be perfect—I mean, complete—with God??” Excellent question! The following article will explore character traits that can keep our fellowship with God perfect in “Perfect Characteristics.”

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

The Future: Jesus in the Feast of Tabernacles

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve written about God’s rescue and rest—the heart of His ordained fall festivals. Trumpets and Atonement deal with His rescue. The final festival, Tabernacles/Booths (Hebrew Sukkoth), celebrates the rest God gave Israel when He rescued her from Egypt about 3,500 years ago. Importantly, it looks forward to the rest God will give His people in the new age. Before exploring the feast’s significance, let’s look at some details and its background.

God implemented the feast so that Israel would remember His provision and shelter during the 40 years they wandered in the desert. It begins five days after Atonement on 15 Tishri, is eight days long, and identifies a completion of the harvest and, therefore, the agricultural year. In the ‘feast context,’ Trumpets happens on 1 Tishri, Atonement happens ten days later on 10 Tishri after the ‘ten days of awe’ for repentance, and Tabernacles occurs five days later.

Today, Tabernacles is Israel’s Thanksgiving for the fall harvest. It’s a party, as people are invited to come and eat and drink and enjoy God’s harvest provision and view creation at night. How do they do that? Well, per God’s instructions, they sleep in a three-sided booth. A relatively open roof made of sticks and leaves allows the inhabitants to see God’s handiwork. This reminds me of Psalm 19:1-2:

“. . . The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge.”

The feast celebrates God’s rest for His Old Covenant people, Israel. It also looks forward to fulfillment when God returns His creation to perfection and once again dwells with His people:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. . . . And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’” (Revelations 21:1-4)

To summarize the fall feasts of God, terrible times happen, and worse are coming, but God will insert Himself into human history when He’s ready and bring rescue and rest for everyone who is His. Where will we go next week? I mentioned the word ‘perfection’ in this article, so let’s learn what the word means in the original language and explore character traits that can keep our fellowship with God perfect.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

The Future: Jesus in the Feast of Atonement

The fall feasts of God celebrate and look forward to rescue and rest. They occur in September or October, depending on the near-total darkness of the sun and moon over Israel and begin with the Feast of Trumpets, which marks the new year and is called the ‘in-gathering.’ In the future, it will announce the rescue of God’s people before His judgment, which will fulfill the Feast of Atonement.

Atonement happens ten days after Trumpets. The time between the two is called the ‘ten days of awe’ used for repentance. On the annual Day of Atonement, the priest entered the innermost part of the Temple to atone for Israel’s sins (temporarily cover the debt to God, so to speak, with the blood of animal sacrifices). Significantly, the Jews believed that God’s final judgment would happen on the Day of Atonement in the future. It makes sense considering that all the other intentional feast days by God were, or will be, fulfilled.

Indeed, Jesus told His disciples in about 26AD and showed the apostle John in a vision in roughly 90AD about this judgment following the future ingathering and subsequent resurrection of all humans:

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32)

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.” (Revelation 20:11-12)

So, how did or does Jesus fulfill this feast? By willingly dying on a horrible instrument of Roman torture and death 2,000 years ago. It’s important to understand that atonement means ‘reparation’ or to make right. In a sense, it’s to repay a debt or settle the books. Jesus began this atoning work by being the one perfect sacrifice to satisfy humanity’s debt to the Creator, who will complete it through His judgment preceding the new age. More on that next week when we dive into the final God-ordained feast and the one we genuinely look forward to, Tabernacles.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

The Future, Jesus in the Feast of Trumpets

Rescue. Rest. God has, does, and will save people who are His and renew them. The spring feast of Passover celebrates God’s power to do just that, beginning with rescuing His people from Egypt nearly 3,500 years ago. Unleavened Bread and Pentecost, also in the springtime, remind us to be set apart for God’s purpose: partnership with Him in returning creation to the perfection it once enjoyed before we messed everything up. If we do this, we too will find rescue and rest at the end of this world to which the fall feasts of God look forward.

There are three God-ordained fall feasts: Feast of Trumpets (often called Rosh Hashanah because it heads up the new year), Atonement (Yom Kippur), and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth). And just like “Passover” comprises Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits, “Tabernacles” comprises Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles.

The fall feasts beginning with Trumpets happen within 28 days in September or October, depending on the lunar calendar. Trumpets begins on the first of Tishri, the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, and is the only holiday on the first day of the month at the new moon. This time of near-total darkness will be significant to Christ’s future fulfillment of the fall feasts upon His return.

Anyway, this time called the “in-gathering” celebrates the harvest of the earth and is a shadow (forerunner) of the harvest of humans at the end of this age—some for destruction (by their choices) and some for eternal life with God. Again, the three fall feasts together celebrate rescue and rest in the past and to come. The feast and future fulfillment begin with a blasting of the trumpets.

“Ron, why trumpets??” Trumpets in the Old Covenant represented God’s voice and power in warfare (e.g., Numbers 10). Blowing them was a warning that something extraordinary was about to take place. In the beginning, it was the ingathering of God’s people at Sinai to be in His presence (Exodus 19). It will announce the gathering of God’s people at the end of this age (e.g., Matthew 24:31; 1Thessalonians 4:16).

For more information about Christ’s return and God’s coming rescue and rest, please consider studying Finding the End of The World—the result of decades of research, writing, and teaching on the subject. Next week, we’ll continue our fall festival discussion with Atonement (Yom Kippur).

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Here Comes the Bride!

We’ve made it through four of seven feasts or festivals ordained by God. Well done! Let’s pause before going to the final three feasts in the fall. Why? Because Jesus’ consummation of the springtime feasts and His departure and impending return fulfill something else: the Jewish wedding process, beginning with betrothal. In other words, He and we are fulfilling a dress rehearsal for our relationship with Him and entrance into the age to come. Please allow me to share this unfolding love story with you.

God called Israel His ‘bride.’ We are Christ’s bride because He and we have fulfilled the marriage covenant since Jesus’ time on earth. No other relationship between humans should be as close as husband and wife, so it makes sense. Here are but a few parts of the ancient ceremony that have, and will be, completed:

  • The father of a potential groom would search for a wife for his son. When a suitable bride had been found, the two families would meet to discuss the possible union. If the young man and woman agreed, they would essentially say, “I will be yours if you will be mine!” This is akin to what God said to His bride, Israel. Our selection for the groom can be seen in 2Corinthians 11:2.
  • To cement the deal, the couple would drink from a cup of wine called the “cup of the covenant” (Matthew 26:27-28). This was the Cup of Redemption, the third of four cups of the Passover Jesus took with His disciples, and it is the foundation of today’s Communion cup. What about the fourth cup? We’ll enjoy that at the marriage ceremony at the transition of the ages (Matthew 26:29; Revelation 19:6-9).
  • After vows, gifts, and ceremonial bathing (like baptism), the couple separated. The boy and his father would build a home for the couple (John 14:2-3 for fulfillment). This separation would typically last a year; however, we continue to wait. Why? Because God’s timing is His timing, He’ll delay until those who’ll accept His mercy have had the opportunity (2Peter 3:7-9).
  • Then, at a time known only to him, the groom’s father summoned the groomsmen to announce the wedding ceremony with shouts and trumpets. We see this in the future in Matthew 24:31. The father started the process; he’ll finish it when he’s ready. So, Jesus’ comment, “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Mark 13:32) made sense to the disciples.

I realize that some people use Jesus’ statement to support an anytime, imminent return and judgment. However, there will be a sequence and signs, as we’ll see in the fall feast articles. Next week, we’ll move to the fall feasts, likely related to Christ’s eventual return and the transition of the ages, including the marriage feast I mentioned above.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Jesus in the Pentecost

Last week, we learned that First Fruits celebrates what God has provided (Leviticus 23:9-14). It represents resurrection like Passover represents redemption, and Unleavened Bread speaks of being set apart for God. The final spring festival, and the second of three that required visiting the Temple in Jerusalem, is Pentecost, meaning ‘fiftieth.’ The Hebrew name is Shavuot. It is also called the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:15), and it occurs fifty days after the Saturday before the First Fruits gathering. Like First Fruits, priests wave the first of the new crop (wheat this time) to thank God for the harvest. It is about much more than thanksgiving, though—it’s about the power and authority of God passed, and passes, to His own.

The first Pentecost brought God’s power through His instructions via the Law. By the way: the original language presents the ‘Law’ as an ‘instruction,’ not debilitating rules and regulations! Anyway, the post-resurrection Pentecost brought God’s power not only through the Law (still valid for civility and morality) but by His Spirit, who began to dwell within anyone who belongs to Him through Jesus. The Spirit enables right living and God’s power and authority. I’ll give you a cool Pentecost tidbit since I’ve still got some room in this week’s article.

After rescuing the Israelites from Egypt, God gave the people ten basic commandments in stone and by proxy through Moses at the first Pentecost. Following them would help keep God’s people from falling prey to the rebellious ways of the non-God-fearing residents of the land that would eventually be theirs. At that Pentecost in about 1445 BCE, 3,000 people lost their lives because they disobeyed God’s standard (Exodus 32:26-28). However, 3,000 people gained their lives by embracing the instructions ‘written on their hearts’ by the Spirit during the post-resurrection Pentecost celebration (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Acts 2:36-41). God always puts things right—even after 1,500 years!

How did Jesus fulfill the feast? By giving us the power of God through Spirit and instruction (e.g., Acts 1:4-8), which had become His right to do so after His sacrifice and resurrection. Jesus’ gift at the post-resurrection Pentecost also put right the deficit of 3,000 souls suffered at the first Pentecost.

What about us? Choose to devote yourself to God through Jesus, receive His Spirit with all guidance and power He brings, and stay there!

Next week? Before we move to the fall feasts, likely related to Christ’s eventual return and the transition of the ages, I’ll share a love story and take the mystery out of some end-times stuff in Here Comes the Bride!

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Jesus in the Feast of First Fruits

Welcome to week three of learning about the feasts and festivals ordained by God! Last week, we moved from Passover to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which Passover initiates. Unleavened Bread is all about removing leaven—yeast—sin from our lives. Jesus came 2,000 years ago to fulfill the feast and make possible a way for us to be free and rejoin the Creator. I’ll introduce the third event (First Fruits) and connect it to the first two feasts and Jesus’ fulfillment.

Passover occurs at twilight (about 6:00 PM) on Nisan 14 of the Jewish calendar. At dusk, the date becomes 15 Nisan. The seven-day feast of Unleavened Bread is part of Passover and begins at that time. First Fruits happens the day after the Jewish Sabbath following Unleavened Bread. Sabbath runs from twilight on Friday to the same time Saturday evening. So, First Fruits occurs on Sunday, the day Jesus was raised from the dead. Considering this and what I wrote last week, here’s a snapshot of the week from Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem until First Fruits:

  • Sunday: enter Jerusalem
  • Monday through Thursday: four days of inspection by religious leaders (to fulfill foreshadowing).
  • Thursday day (14 Nisan): Day of Preparation. Crucified when the Passover lambs were slaughtered. In this, Jesus became our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).
  • Thursday night (15 Nisan): Passover; the Feast of Unleavened Bread starts.
  • Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights: three nights in the grave.
  • Friday, Saturday, and Sunday days: three days in the grave; raised on the third (Matthew 28:1-6).
  • Sunday Day (17 Nisan): First Fruits.

First Fruits celebrates what God has provided (Leviticus 23:9-14) and represents resurrection like Passover represents redemption, and Unleavened Bread speaks of being set apart for God. Sheaves of barley are cut just before sunset late Saturday afternoon and ceremoniously waved before God on the first day of the new week (Sunday). Just as the priests presented the first of the barley harvest to God that day, Jesus presented Himself to the Father as the first of those who would also die and be raised to new life (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). The fulfillment heralded a new era of being set apart for purity and good works in Christ Jesus (e.g., Ephesians 2:10).

How can we apply the concept of new life in Jesus as ‘first fruits?’ First, recognize that we have been ‘crucified’ with Christ when we devote ourselves to God through Him (Galatians 2:20). We become a “new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and put on the new self with its likeness to God (Ephesians 4:24). In other words, we can become ‘first fruits’ to God when we devote, stay, and change.

Next week? Let’s continue our journey with Jesus in the Pentecost.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Jesus in the Feast of Unleavened Bread

Last week, I introduced the Feast of Passover—the first of seven ordained by God. It kicks off the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Passover and the first night of Unleavened Bread are known as ‘high sabbaths.’ They do not happen on an actual Sabbath, which begins on Friday night. This, and the fact that Jesus was buried in the ground for three nights (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) and three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) and raised on the third day, help us understand that Jesus was crucified and buried Thursday day, not Friday, as is our tradition.

So, what prompted the connected Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread? As I mentioned previously, the Israelites had to make a hasty departure from Egypt after God completed ten judgments against the Pharoah. They didn’t have time to use yeast (leaven) to let the bread for the journey rise. Eventually, yeast came to signify the old life of bondage in Egypt and sin.

How is the yeast-less-bread feast celebrated? Deep house cleaning is done by the 14th of Nisan in preparation for the Passover and the first day of Unleavened Bread on the 15th. Special dishes and utensils are used to ensure no contamination. Then, pieces of yeast are hidden to be found during the Feast of Passover after sundown (the start of the 15th).  A ceremonial search for leaven and removal that night (part of the Passover feast) is done by candlelight and with a feather and wooden spoon; all are placed into a bag and burned. The head of the household then says a prayer.

The theme of old and new is an emphatic order to be free of corruption. So, how did Jesus fulfill the feast to stress that? First, He is the ‘Bread of Life’ who did not sin—leaven (John 6:32-35). Second, He had to take on sin—ours—to satisfy a sinful humanity’s debt to the Creator: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of His sinless nature, God didn’t allow His body to decay (such as leaven-oriented fermentation causes). Therefore, He was buried in a rich man’s grave, not thrown onto the trash heap like other crucified criminals (Isaiah 53:8-9), and raised. Most important, Jesus removes the spiritual yeast/leaven/sin from our house, our lives.

How can we apply this? We can start by “. . . lay[ing] aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit” (Ephesians 4:22) and become new. Why? If nothing else, practicing sin, no matter what we may believe about Jesus, will earn a spiritual death sentence (Galatians 5:19-21).

What about next week? We’ll continue exploring God’s ordained feasts and festivals with “Jesus in the Feast of First Fruits.”

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

www.ronbraley.com

http://www.findingdiscipleship.org

The Feasts of God, an Introduction

God appointed certain times for specific things (Leviticus 23:4) and put stars, planets, and constellations in a particular order and position to mark them. (Genesis 1:14). For instance, some seasons and feasts were, and are, dress rehearsals for fulfilling God’s words. Jesus’ first coming in the 1st century AD and his second coming to occur at the end of our current age/world (Colossians 2:16-17) have fulfilled (and will fulfill) them. What about the feasts?

God ordained seven of them. Four occur in springtime: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Pentecost. Three more happen in the fall:  Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Atonement, and Tabernacles (Sukkot). The Jews were required to visit the Temple in Jerusalem for three feasts: Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Let’s take a brief peek at each of the seven events.

Spring Feasts of the Lord (fulfilled by Jesus’ first coming): Roughly March to May)

Feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread: These first two spring feasts commemorate the salvation of the Hebrews from God’s judgment against Pharaoh and their exodus from Egypt in about 1445 BC. Passover commences on the 14th day of the first month at twilight. The Feast of Unleavened Bread lasts for seven days, beginning the day after Passover.

Feast of Firstfruits: This marks the beginning of the harvest period and allows Israel to present the first fruits of that harvest to God in thanksgiving. It occurs 50 days before the Feast of Weeks.

The Feast of Weeks (Pentecost): This feast happens 50 days after the feast of Firstfruits to signal the end of the grain harvest and give thanks to God for His provision.

Fall Feasts of the Lord (will be fulfilled by Jesus’ return to earth): September or October

The Feast of Trumpets: This ‘memorial of blowing of trumpets’ happens on the first day of the seventh month (usually September).

The Day of Atonement: The event is meant to be a time of atonement for the Jews and will most likely mark the manifestation of salvation and reconciliation between God and Israel at the end of the ‘time of the gentiles’ (cf. Luke 21:24 and Romans 11:25-27).

The Feast of Tabernacles: Finally, this feast commemorates the Israelites’ time in the desert just before entering the land of Canaan. During the festival, which lasts seven days, Jews are compelled to live in structures (booths) made of branches, twigs, and leaves. The event will most likely be fulfilled when God makes all things new and once again resides with people in combined heaven and earth.

Where will we go next week? Let’s kick off our deep dive into God’s ordained feasts by learning of Jesus in the Passover!

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

Living Water: Refreshing & Transformative

Have you ever heard of the ‘woman at the well’—the Samaritan woman who believed in Jesus and ran throughout the town telling the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven to anyone who would listen? I thought so! But what do you know about the ‘living water’ God offered her (and still does through Jesus)?

“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’” (John 4:10) “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

The ‘living water’ is the life that comes only through God. The Old Testament folks knew this through their prophets, and they looked forward to the day when the Living Water (the manifestation of God’s promise through Jesus) would come. The Samaritan woman, not knowing of the Old Testament references, believed that Jesus was talking about fresh, running water like the spring that fed the well. So, why didn’t the Samaritan woman understand what Jesus said?

The Samaritans honored only the first five books of the Bible. So, they didn’t know about the Living Water promise through the prophets. For instance, through Jeremiah’s prophecies, we learn that God was, and is, the fountain of Living Waters (Jeremiah 2:13 & 17:13). And from Isaiah, we learn of the Living Water as springs of salvation (Isaiah 12:2-3). According to the Apostle John, Jesus is the One who can give Living Water that comes from the Father above, and our faith in Him and the resulting faithfulness bring the rivers of Living Water by the Spirit. (Joh 4:10, 7:38, & 3:5).

Also, consider Jesus’ glimpse into the future when all who are God’s in the age to come will be continually refreshed by this Living Water: “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb … The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” (Revelation 22:1 & 17)

So, the Living Water is the refreshing God gives. How do we receive it? By answering God’s call with complete devotion to Him. He will then provide you with His Spirit (hence, the regeneration from above and the Spirit from John 3:5). Where will we go next week? Well, Passover is coming. So, I thought I’d introduce the feasts and festivals ordained by God and then dive into each one in the following weeks.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley