"Should Christians Today Give A First Fruits Offering?"
First Fruits in the Old Testament
The first fruits offering was an offering required by God of the Israelites. It's mentioned several times in the Old Testament law:
Exodus 23:19a: "The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God."
Proverbs 3:9 says Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the FIRSTFRUITS of all thine increase: Verse 10 says So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
Rom.11:16 says for if the FIRSTFRUITS be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
Leviticus 23:10 says “When you come into the land which I give you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest,” Leviticus 23:10. It is to be set apart as holy unto God!
Oh Lord our God, the bible says you had been our dwelling place from generation past. Before the mountains were brought forth or ever thou have formed the earth, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God. For this reason we give you thanks and praises, we honor your Holy name and we say thank you because you do always opens our ears to ear the truth in your word and to see the blessings inherent in it. Today Father please open our ears to hear again and our eyes to see the secrets of overwhelming blessings in your word and help us to be diligent enough to do accordingly in Jesus name we pray. Amen.
The Bible is replete with virtually inexhaustible provisions for Man’s comfort here on earth and in eternity. The oldest singular limitation is Man’s refusal to simply obey the WORD of GOD. 3 John 2 for instance reaffirmed God’s persistent intention and plan for man: Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prosperity. However, God not wanting to appear to man as a Dictator, grants man the freewill to enjoy virtually endless benefits ONLY on the condition of total obedience, to the giver of these benefits -The Almighty GOD.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF FIRSTFRUIT OFFERING
God instructed Moses to expose the secret of overwhelming blessings to His chosen Nation of Israel. Moses obeyed God by stating the conditions precedent to man enjoying God’s overwhelming blessings. In the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, Moses stated the significance of FIRSTFRUIT OFFERING, in not less than thirteen (13) occasions.
Exodus 23:19 stipulates strict obedience to giving of FIRSTFRUIT OFFERING. He repeated this again in Exodus 34:26. To remove any ambiguity on the significance of FIRSTFRUIT, God expressly instructed Moses again in Leviticus 23:10 that the euphoria of victory and celebration of wonderful accomplishment must not be allowed to obliterate compliance with His instruction on FIRSTFRUIT OFFERING.
For brevity, let us itemize important points to note on FIRSTFRUIT OFFERING:
- FIRSTFRUIT OFFERING must be taken to God’s house (Exodus 23:19; 34:26);
- The FIRSTFRUIT OFFERING must be delivered to the Priest of the Nation (Lev.23:10; Numbers 18:42) otherwise known as the High Priest as at then in Israel (Numbers 3:32);
- The FIRSTFRUIT OFFERING shall apply to all a man engages in for livelihood (Deuteronomy 18:4);
- The giving of FIRSTFRUIT OFFERING must be accompanied with worship (Deuteronomy 26:10);
- It must be offered once and during each cycle of harvest, which was yearly in biblical time (Nehemiah 10:35). It must however be noted that in situations of multiple planting seasons within one year, FIRSTFRUIT OFFERING becomes due after each harvest exercise;
- The FIRSTFRUIT is the exclusive preserve of the one considered the Nation’s Man of God (II Kings 4:42); and
- The FIRSTFRUIT in Hebrew is “bikkurim” and literally means “promise to come.” And there is ONE who never breaks His promise – God! That is why the truth behind this “promise to come” in God’s Word is so powerful. Though long overlooked by many, this divine establishment of God’s order of things is actually the root that governs the rest. When you KEEP FIRST THINGS FIRST through faith and obedience, you turn God’s promise into provision… ABUNDANT PROVISION! The giving of FIRSTFRUIT must be done promptly along with payment of tithe ( II Chronicles 31:5).
OVERWHELMING BLESSINGS OF GOD
- Givers of FIRSTFRUIT OFFERING enjoy God’s comprehensive insurance. Jeremiah 2:3 says God issues automatic judgment on whoever or whatsoever attempts to devour givers of FIRSTFRUIT
- Isaiah 61:7, “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.”
- God can be called upon to specially favor the giver of FIRSTFRUIT (Nehemiah 13:31);
- The Old Testament text: Proverbs 3:9-10, state clearly that in addition to God honoring the giver of FIRSTFRUIT OFFERING, the giver also enjoys overflowing blessings from the Almighty God;
- The Old Testament text further implies that the honor rendered unto God by the giver of FIRSTFRUITS automatically attracts greater dimension of honor from GOD (I Sam 2:30b).
- FIRSTFRUITS are giving the first portion to GOD. Romans 11:16 says, “If the part of a dough offered as FIRSTFRUITS is HOLY, then the whole batch is HOLY; if the root is HOLY, so are the branches”. Giving the first portion of your finances to God will cause all of your finances for the rest of the year to be HOLY. FIRSTFRUITS causes God to treat your finances as HOLY giving you favor with GOD because your finances are connected to the FIRST FRUIT OFFERING.
- Ezekiel 44:30 “The first of all FIRSTFRUITS of every kind and every contribution of every kind, from all your contributions, shall be for the priests: you shall also give to the priest the first of your dough to cause a blessing to rest on your house.” FIRSTFRUITS impart a blessing on your home. Many times a financial blessing is not our main need or concern. Having a blessing on your home positions you to have healing in your physical, spiritual and emotional need for you and your family. When you give FIRSTFRUITS not only do you benefit but your saved and unsaved loved ones do also.
God’s intention is that Man lives a life of true dominion, comfort and overwhelming blessings. However, realizing this divine desire depends on Man’s prompt, total and consistent obedience to God’s instructions, one of which is giving of FIRSTFRUIT OFFERING.
First Fruits Today
The first fruit itself may vary:
- First paycheck of a new job or the first paycheck of the year
- Portion earned from the sale of something
- Portion of each subsequent paycheck
- Take a Sabbath the first day of the week, and/or have a quiet time in the morning
The reasons stated for giving a first fruits offering also vary:
- To show sacrificial faith that God will provide
- To give thanks that God did provide
- To ensure God will bless the giver's plans for the new year
Closing Prayers: If you have observed that your sincere desire to obey God promptly, totally and consistently, is being frustrated by inability to do so, Jesus is ready to give you the grace right NOW. All you need is to accept Jesus as your Lord and personal Saviour, begin to attend a Bible teaching Church near your home, you will receive grace to experience God’s Overwhelming blessings.
Get the 411 on Lent and its significance here:
Retreating Into the Wilderness with Jesus
Lent is a forty-day period before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on the day before Easter Day. We skip Sundays when we count the forty days, because Sundays commemorate the Resurrection.
In the Roman Catholic Church, Lent officially ends at sundown on Holy Thursday, with the beginning of the mass of the Lord’s Supper.
In most churches, the decorations are purple or blue, royal colors to
prepare for the King.
In Orthodox churches, this season is called the Great Lent. It begins on Clean Monday.
Ash Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Good Friday, April 14, 2017
Easter, Sunday, April 16, 2017
Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days. All churches that have a continuous history extending before AD 1500 observe Lent. The ancient church that wrote, collected, canonized, and propagated the New Testament also observed Lent, believing it to be a commandment from the apostles.
Fasting is a spiritual discipline that does not involve starvation or dehydration. Quite often, our bodily appetites control our actions. The purpose of fasting is to make your bodily appetites your servant rather than your master.
The Western Church
Because Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, we skip over Sundays when we calculate the length of Lent. Therefore, in the Western Church, Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday, the seventh Wednesday before Easter.
In many countries, the last day before Lent (called Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival, or Fasching) has become a last fling before the solemnity of Lent. For centuries, it was customary to fast by abstaining from meat during Lent, which is why some people call the festival Carnival, which is Latin for farewell to meat.
The Eastern Church
The Eastern Church does not skip over Sundays when calculating the length of the Great Lent. Therefore, the Great Lent always begins on Clean Monday, the seventh Monday before Easter, and ends on the Friday before Palm Sunday—using of course the eastern date for Easter.
The Lenten fast is relaxed on the weekends in honor of the Sabbath (Saturday) and the Resurrection (Sunday). The Great Lent is followed by Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday, which are feast days, then the Lenten fast resumes on Monday of Holy Week. Technically, in the Eastern Church, Holy Week is a separate season from the Great Lent.
The purpose of the liturgical calendar is to relive the major events in Jesus’ life in real time, which is why Lent is forty days long. If Jesus were born on 25 December, then His conception would have been nine months earlier, on about 25 March. That is when the angel Gabriel would have announced Jesus’ birth to Mary. Thus 25 March is known in the historic church as The Annunciation.
Roughly speaking, the Western Church consists of Protestants, Catholics, and Anglicans. The Eastern Church consists of the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Oriental Orthodox churches, and the eastern-rite churches affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church
Copyright ©1995-2004 by the Rev. Kenneth W. Collins. All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission.
Feed your spirit each day of Lent with readings from Scripture.
Scriptural Lenten Readings
These readings are an excellent way to focus our thoughts and deepen our understanding of the meaning of Lent by turning to the Bible.
Scriptural Reading for Ash Wednesday Isaiah 58:1-12
Fasting is about more than refraining from food or other pleasures. In this reading for Ash Wednesday from the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord explains that fasting that does not lead to works of charity does us no good. This is good advice as we begin our Lenten journey.
Scriptural Reading for the Thursday After Ash Wednesday Exodus 1:1-22
In this reading drawn from the Book of Exodus, we see the oppression endured by the nation of Israel, the Old Testament model of the New Testament Church, at the hands of Pharaoh. The slavery of the Israelites represents our slavery to sin.
Scriptural Reading for the Friday After Ash Wednesday Exodus 2:1-22
In this reading from the Book of Exodus, we witness the birth of Moses, his rescue from Pharaoh’s order to kill all newborn male Israelites, and his killing of an Egyptian. To escape Pharaoh’s wrath, he flees to the land of Midian, setting into motion the events that will lead to the exodus of Israel from Egypt.
Scriptural Reading for the Saturday After Ash Wednesday Exodus 3:1-20
In this reading from the Book of Exodus, Moses first encounters God in the burning bush, and God announces His plans to have Moses lead the Israelites out of their slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land. We begin to see the parallels between slavery in Egypt and our slavery to sin, and between Heaven and the "land that floweth with milk...
Scriptural Reading for the Sunday of the First Week of Lent Exodus 5:1-6:1
In this reading from Exodus, Moses, obeying God's command, asks Pharaoh to allow the Israelites to sacrifice to God in the desert. Pharaoh refuses his request and, instead, makes life even harder for the Israelites. Slavery to sin, like the Israelite's slavery in Egypt, only becomes harder with time. True freedom comes by following Christ out...
Scriptural Reading for the Monday of the First Week of Lent Exodus 6:2-13
In this reading from the Book of Exodus, God discusses in greater detail the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to bring them into the Promised Land. The Israelites, however, will not listen to the good news that God has revealed to Moses, because they have been worn down by their slavery. Still, God vows to bring the Israelites...
Scriptural Reading for the Tuesday of the First Week of Lent Exodus 6:29-7:25
In this reading from Exodus, we see that, as God predicted, Pharaoh will not listen to the request of Moses and Aaron to allow the Israelites to go out into the desert to worship God. Therefore, God begins to send plagues upon the land of Egypt. The first plague involves turning all the water in Egypt into blood, depriving the Egyptians both...
Scriptural Reading for the Wednesday of the First Week of Lent Exodus 10:21-11:10
In this reading from Exodus, Pharaoh continues to refuse to let the Israelites go, so, for three days, God engulfs Egypt in darkness. The only light in the land is found with the Israelites themselves—a sign, because from Israel would come Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
Scriptural Reading for the Thursday of the First Week of Lent Exodus 12:1-20
In this reading from Exodus, Pharaoh's stubbornness has come to this: God is going to kill the firstborn of every household of Egypt. The Israelites, however, will be protected from harm, because they will have slaughtered a lamb and marked their doors with his blood. Seeing it, God will pass over their houses. This is the origin of the...
Scriptural Reading for the Friday of the First Week of Lent February 27, 2015 Exodus 12:21-36
In this reading from Exodus, the Israelites have followed the Lord's command and celebrated the first Passover. The blood of the lamb has been applied to their door frames, and, seeing this, the Lord passes over their houses. Each firstborn of the Egyptians, however, is slain by the Lord. In despair, Pharaoh orders the Israelites to leave Egypt,...
Scriptural Reading for the Saturday of the First Week of Lent Exodus 12:37-49; 13:11-16
Expelled from Egypt after the Passover, the Israelites head toward the Red Sea in this reading from Exodus. The Lord orders Moses and Aaron to tell the Israelites that they must celebrate the Passover every year. Moreover, once they have come into the Promised Land, they must offer every firstborn son and animal to the Lord. The firstborn...
Scriptural Reading for the Sunday of the Second Week of Lent Exodus 13:17-14:9
As the Israelite approach the Red Sea in this reading from Exodus, Pharaoh begins to regret letting them go. He sends his chariots and charioteers in pursuit—a decision that will end badly. Meanwhile, the Lord is traveling with the Israelites, appearing as a column of cloud by day and of fire by night.
Scriptural Reading for the Monday of the Second Week of Lent Exodus 14:10-31
As Pharaoh's chariots and charioteers pursue the Israelites, Moses turns to the Lord for help in this reading from Exodus. The Lord orders him to stretch his hand out over the Red Sea, and the waters part. The Israelites pass through safely, but, when the Egyptians pursue them, Moses stretches his hand out again, and the waters return,...
Scriptural Reading for the Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent Exodus 16:1-18, 35
In this reading from Exodus, the Israelites, free at last from the Egyptians, quickly begin to slip into despair. Lacking food, they complain to Moses. In response, God sends them the manna (bread) from heaven, which will sustain them throughout the 40 years that they will spend wandering in the desert before entering the Promised Land.
Scriptural Reading for the Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent Exodus 17:1-16
The Lord has given the Israelites manna in the desert, but, in this reading from Exodus, they still grumble. Now, they complain of lack of water and wish that they were still in Egypt. The Lord tells Moses to strike a rock with his staff, and, when he does so, water flows from it.
Scriptural Reading for the Thursday of the Second Week of Lent Exodus 18:13-27
As it becomes clear that the Israelites' journey through the desert will take some time, the need for leaders in addition to Moses becomes obvious in this reading from Exodus. Moses' father-in-law suggests the appointment of the judges, who can handle disputes in small matters, while important ones will be reserved to Moses.
Scriptural Reading for the Friday of the Second Week of Lent Exodus 19:1-19; 20:18-21 God has chosen the Israelites as His own, and now He reveals His covenant to them on Mount Sinai. In this reading from Exodus, He appears in a cloud over the mountain to confirm to the people that Moses speaks on His behalf.
Scriptural Reading for the Saturday of the Second Week of Lent Exodus 20:1-17
In this reading from Exodus, Moses has ascended Mount Sinai at the Lord's command, and now God reveals to him the Ten Commandments, which Moses will take back to the people.
Scriptural Reading for the Sunday of the Third Week of Lent Exodus 22:20-23:9
God's revelation to Moses did not end with the Ten Commandments. In this reading from Exodus, the Lord gives other instructions on how the Israelites are to live, and these are known as the Book of the Covenant.
Scriptural Reading for the Monday of the Third Week of Lent Exodus 24:1-18
In this reading from the Book of Exodus, Israel's covenant with the Lord is confirmed with sacrifice and the sprinkling of blood on the people of Israel. Moses then is called by the Lord to go up on Mount Sinai to receive stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. He spends 40 days and nights with the Lord.
Scriptural Reading for the Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent Exodus 32:1-20
Before Moses went up Mount Sinai, the Israelites confirmed their covenant with God. In this reading from the Book of Exodus, we see that, 40 days later, they had already apostatized and had Aaron create a golden calf, to which they offered their worship. Only Moses' intervention saves the Israelites from God's wrath.
Scriptural Reading for the Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent Exodus 33:7-11, 18-23; 34:5-9, 29-35
When the Lord revealed Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai, He did not show Moses His face. Still, as we learn in this reading from Exodus, the glory of the Lord was so great that Moses himself reflected it. Coming down from Mount Sinai, his face shone so brightly that he had to cover himself with a veil.
Scriptural Reading for the Thursday of the Third Week of Lent Exodus 34:10-28
The Book of Exodus offers two accounts of the Book of the Covenant, and today's reading is the second. We see a restatement of the Ten Commandments and the requirement to celebrate Passover yearly. Most interesting, perhaps, is the fact that Moses fasted for 40 days and nights while the Lord revealed the details of His covenant with the...
Scriptural Reading for the Friday of the Third Week of Lent Exodus 35:30-36:1; 37:1-9
Today's reading from the Book of Exodus is one of the detailed passages of the Old Testament that we often skip over. But the Church includes it here in the Office of the Readings for Lent for a reason.
Scriptural Reading for the Saturday of the Third Week of Lent Exodus 40:16-38
In today's reading from the Book of Exodus, we see more details about the construction of the sanctuary and the Ark of the Covenant. Once the construction was completed, the Lord descended on the tabernacle in a cloud. The presence of the cloud became the signal for the Israelites to remain in one place. When the cloud lifted, they would move...
Scriptural Reading for the Sunday of the Fourth Week of Lent Leviticus 8:1-17; 9:22-24
Today, we leave the Book of Exodus and pass into the Book of Leviticus. The Lord, through Moses, institutes the Old Testament priesthood, which is bestowed on Aaron and his sons. The priests will offer holocausts on behalf of the people of Israel.
Scriptural Reading for the Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent Leviticus 16:2-28
As the high priest, Aaron has to offer a sacrifice of atonement on behalf of the people of Israel. As we see in this reading from Leviticus, the sacrifice is accompanied by great ritual, and it must be performed again and again to make up for the Israelites' sins.
Scriptural Reading for the Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent Leviticus 19:1-18, 31-37
In this reading from the Book of Leviticus, we get another restatement of parts of the Ten Commandments and the Book of the Covenant. The emphasis here is on love of neighbor.
Scriptural Reading for the Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent Numbers 11:4-6, 10-30
Our brief stay in the Book of Leviticus has concluded, and today we move to the Book of Numbers, where we read another version of Moses' appointment of the judges. The Holy Spirit descends on the 70 elders, and they begin to prophesy.
Scriptural Reading for the Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent Numbers 12:16-13:3, 17-33
Israel has come to the edge of the Promised Land of Canaan, and, in this reading from the Book of Numbers, the Lord tells Moses to send a scouting party into the land. They return with the news that the land flows with milk and honey, as God had promised, but they are afraid to enter it, because it is occupied by men who are stronger than they are.
Scriptural Reading for the Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent Numbers 14:1-25
The people of Israel are despondent over the news that the Promised Land is occupied by men who are stronger than they are. Instead of trusting in God, they complain to Moses, and God threatens to strike them down. It is only through Moses' intervention that the Israelites are saved. Still, the Lord refuses to allow those Israelites who doubted His word to enter into the Promised Land.
Scriptural Reading for the Saturday of the Fourth Week of Lent Numbers 20:1-13; 21:4-9
In this reading from the Book of Numbers, we have another version of the story of Moses bringing water from the rock. Even after this miracle, the Israelites continue to grumble against God, and so He sends a plague of serpents. Many of the Israelites die from their bites, until the Lord tells Moses to make a bronze serpent and mount it on a...
Scriptural Reading for the Sunday of the Fifth Week of Lent Hebrews 1:1-2:4
In this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul looks back over salvation history and interprets the Old Testament in light of the New. In the past, revelation was incomplete; now, in Christ, everything is revealed. The Old Covenant, revealed through the angels, was binding; the New Covenant, revealed through Christ, Who is higher...
Scriptural Reading for the Monday of the Fifth Week of Lent Hebrews 2:5-18
All of Creation, St. Paul tells us in this reading from Hebrews, is subject to Christ, through Whom it was made. But Christ is both beyond this world and of it; He became man so that He might suffer for our sake and draw all Creation to Him. By sharing in our nature, He overcame sin and opened for us the gates of heaven.
Scriptural Reading for the Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent Hebrews 3:1-19
In this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul reminds us of Christ's own faithfulness to His Father. He contrasts that faithfulness with the unfaithfulness of the Israelites, whom God rescued from slavery in Egypt but who still turned against Him and were therefore unable to enter the Promised Land.
Scriptural Reading for the Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent Hebrews 6:9-20
In this reading from Hebrews, St. Paul tells us that we should be strong in our faith because we have reason to hope: God has sworn His fidelity to His people. Christ, through His death and resurrection, has returned to the Father, and He now stands before Him as the eternal high priest, interceding on our behalf.
Scriptural Reading for the Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent Hebrews 7:1-10
The figure of Melchizedek, king of Salem (which means "peace"), foreshadows that of Christ. The Old Testament priesthood was an hereditary one; but Melchizedek's lineage was not known, and he was regarded as a man of great age who might never die. Therefore, his priesthood, like Christ's, was seen as eternal, and Christ is compared to him to stress the never-ending nature of His priesthood.
Scriptural Reading for the Friday of the Fifth Week of Lent Hebrews 7:11-28
St. Paul continues to expand on the comparison between Christ and Melchizedek. In this reading from Hebrews, he points out that a change in the priesthood signals a change in the Law. By birth, Jesus was not eligible for the Old Testament priesthood; yet He was a priest nonetheless—indeed, the last priest, since the New Testament priesthood is simply a participation in Christ's eternal priesthood.
Scriptural Reading for the Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent Hebrews 8:1-13
As we prepare to enter Holy Week, our Lenten readings now draw to a close. St. Paul, in the Letter to the Hebrews, sums up our entire Lenten journey through the Exodus of the Israelites: The Old Covenant is passing away, and a New one has come. Christ is perfect, and so is the covenant that He establishes. Everything that Moses and the...
Scriptural Reading for Palm Sunday Hebrews 10:1-18
In the readings for the Fifth Week of Lent, the Church stressed the eternal priesthood of Christ, the High Priest Who never dies. Today, in this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, we see that Christ is also the eternal sacrifice. The new covenant in Christ replaces the old. While the sacrifices of the old covenant had to be offered over and over and could not bring those who offered them to sanctity, Christ's sacrifice is offered once for all, and in it, we can all reach perfection.
Scriptural Reading for the Monday of Holy Week Hebrews 10:19-39
We have an eternal high priest and an eternal sacrifice in Jesus Christ. The Law is no longer imposed externally, as it was in the old covenant, but written on the hearts of those who believe. Now, writes St. Paul in the Letter to the Hebrews, we must simply persevere in the Faith. When we doubt or draw back, we fall into sin.
Scriptural Reading for the Tuesday of Holy Week Hebrews 12:1-13
As Easter approaches, St. Paul's words in the Letter to the Hebrews are timely. We must continue the fight; we must not give up hope. Even when we undergo trials, we should take comfort in the example of Christ, Who died for our sins. Our trials are our preparation for rising to new life with Christ on Easter.
Scriptural Reading for the Wednesday of Holy Week Hebrews 12:14-29
As Moses approached Mount Sinai, this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, we should approach Mount Zion, our heavenly home. God is a consuming fire, through Whom we are all cleansed, as long as we listen to His Word and progress in holiness. If we turn from Him now, however, having received the revelation of Christ, our punishment will be greater than that of those Israelites who grumbled against the Lord and were forbidden, therefore, from entering the Promised Land.
Scriptural Reading for Holy Thursday Hebrews 4:14-5:10
In this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul reminds us that Christ is the great high priest, like us in all things but sin. He was tempted, so he can understand our temptation; but being perfect, He was able to offer Himself as the perfect Sacrifice to God the Father. That sacrifice is the source of the eternal salvation of all who believe in Christ.
Scriptural Reading for Good Friday Hebrews 9:11-28
In this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul explains that the New Covenant, like the Old, had to be sealed in blood. This time, however, the blood is not the blood of calves and goats that Moses offered at the foot of Mount Sinai, but the Blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Christ is both the Sacrifice and the High Priest; by His death, He has entered Heaven, where He "may appear now in the presence of God for us."
Scriptural Reading for Holy Saturday Hebrews 9:11-28
The Old Covenant, St. Paul tells us in this reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, has passed away, replaced by the New Covenant in Christ. Just as the Israelites whom the Lord led out of Egypt were denied entrance into the Promised Land because of their lack of faith, we, too, can fall and deprive ourselves of the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Embodiment of Prayer
"And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory as of God's only son, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). In spite of these words from the Gospel of John, Christianity has often separated body and spirit, rather than recognizing that they are one. Therefore, many of our prayer forms ignore or even seem to deny the body. (How many times were you told as a child not to wiggle in church?!) When we recognize the unity of body and spirit, the body can become a path to prayer. Through your God-given senses you can recognize God's presence in the everyday world. Remember beauty that has opened your eyes to God: sunsets, rose buds, children playing. Remember sounds that tell of God's love: a friend's voice, harp music, crickets. Remember the feel of puppy fur, of cool sand on bare feet, of early morning sunlight. What about the taste of communion bread, hot tea, chocolate, tears? And remember the smell of new mown grass, salt air, campfire smoke. These ordinary events that are experienced through our senses can nurture our relationship with God. Another way our bodies can guide us in prayer is to pay attention to our physical positions when we pray. Notice what happens in a group when a leader says: "Let us pray." Everyone bows their heads. A bowed head is the most common prayer position in the Protestant tradition, but it is only one of many. In experimenting with body positions, I have discovered that different postures evoke different prayers. By paying attention to your bodies and feelings, we can discover the many ways our bodies like to pray. What are your prayers when you bow your head and fold your hands? What do you pray on your knees? Or when you stand with your arms stretched up to heaven? What happens when you pray with your brothers and sisters with your eyes open and holding hands? You cannot answer these questions with your mind. Put your body in the different positions and see what happens. If your body cannot assume some of these postures, close your eyes and imagine yourself in the different positions. You may be surprised at what you discover.
Invitation to Practice Think of an activity that renews your spirit. How does your body participate in that practice?
Scriptures to Ponder:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:30-31)
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Invitation to Practice:
The next time you are with others, friends or strangers, let your judgment drop away and notice the beauty in everyone.
Six Gestures of Morning Praise
Each morning when you arise you may want to begin the day with these six gestures. Join spirit and body in praising the Holy One and offering your thanks for life. As you do the gestures, say a one line prayer and then remain in that posture for a brief time.
1. Offering the Creator praise and gratitude: Stretch your arms high and wide above your head. I thank you, Holy One, for the gift of another day of life.
2. Intentionally being aware of my spiritual bond with all of creation: Hold arms out from your sides, a little below shoulder height. Move (pivot) to the left and to the right with your arms stretching outward toward the cosmos. I reach out in compassion to my sisters and brothers throughout the universe.
3. Offering my life to the Holy One: Stretch your arms out straight in front of you, slightly apart, palms up. I give to you all I am and all I have.
4. Opening to accept what the Holy One offers me this day: Pull your hands close together and cup them as a container. I open my entire being to receive the gift that you have waiting for me in this new day.
5. Remembering to be kind to our planet Earth: Bend over, reach down, and touch the floor, or better yet, the ground, if you are outside. I touch this planet, Earth, with awe, reverence, and gratitude, promising to care well for her today. 6. Awareness of the indwelling presence of the Holy One: Stand up, cross hands over your heart, and bow to the waist. May I be united with you throughout this day, aware of your love strengthening me and shining through me. Invitation to Practice Name five things your body is doing for you right now.
Praying in Color
“Not being changed by prayer is sort of life standing in the middle of a spring rain without getting wet. It's hard to stand in the center of God's acceptance and love."
Praying in Color may help you if you have any of these challenges when praying:
You make a list of the people for whom you want to pray and then don’t know what to pray for?
You can’t sit long enough to get past the “Our Father” or “Hello God” step?
You fumble for the right words and deem the effort hopeless?
You are bored with the same old prayers that you’ve said all your life?
You start to pray and you realize that you are thinking about paying bills?
PLAYFULNESS AND JOY ARE NOT JUST FOR CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS. PRAYING IN COLOR CAN GIVE ANOTHER WAY TO PRESENT YOURSELF BEFORE THE LORD.
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4 NRSV)
“Will they take delight in the Almighty? Will they call upon God at all times? (Job 27:10 NRSV)
“I delight to do Your will, O my God, And Your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8 NKJV)
“...whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Mark 10:15 NKJV)
Whatever season you find yourself in, there may have been many challenges you are faced with. Don't be discouraged! Jesus persevered and because of that truth we can find comfort in knowing we can too.
Obstacles arise when we start to practice perseverance - from little daily challenges to entrenched tendencies. The first is distraction. Our consumer culture with all its so-called technological necessities gives us many ways to get off-course: cell phones, electronic games, DVDs, iPods, iPads, and the like. It is hard to stay focused on anything when there are so many chances to turn away from the task at hand.
Another roadblock to perseverance is fear, which depletes our energy so that we give up on ourselves or on the project we have committed ourselves to do.
We need to become fearless spiritual warriors.
Stress and fatigue can also weaken our bodies and take us out of the game. The antidote is to stay physically fit and to eat wisely. Boredom is another challenge we have to face as we repeat activities. Many of us don't have the emotional make-up to do the same thing again and again. A complicated project, the idea of fasting or repenting (turning completely from) old sinful habits to better ones can even lead us to an experience of the dark night of the soul. When we are weighed down with the anxieties that come with a large project, we are grounded and buoyed by the spiritual practice of patience, which is like a loving sister to perseverance.
So recognizing these roadblocks, how do we cultivate perseverance? Here are some spiritual practices that can help:
* Enjoy Persevering at One Thing. Pick one activity that requires a great deal of perseverance and do it for a designated amount of time each week. Whether you are in the mood to do it, do it anyway. When the time is over, put it down. Then pick it up the next day. See what happens as a result of this to you, and to the activity.
* Find a Hero. "We can do anything we want to do if we stick to it long enough," Helen Keller said. She demonstrated, along with others such as Nelson Mandela, Jackie Robinson, Civil Rights marchers and Biblical characters that perseverance is able to bring about change in both our private lives and the public arena. Choose a Biblical hero that had perseverance to honor and emulate this week, someone who has shown you the value of this positive and powerful virtue.
* Say Affirmations. Affirmations can be a great help in developing your capacity to persevere. Affirmations may include your favorite Scriptures, "Even when the going gets tough, I keep going," or "Each day I will give myself credit for the progress I've made."
JESUS persevered and so can we! In the face of the Cross, instead of giving up on His divine mission He persevered through all the many obstacles He faced. Because He did so successfully, so can you. In this Resurrection season look to HIM, fully God and fully man, as a shining example when you feel most tempted to give up or give in; He will give you the strength to make it!
Praying The Psalms
Psalms has been called the prayer book of the Bible in both Jewish and Christian traditions. It is a collection of sung prayers that has been used in worship from the time of ancient Israel up to the present. Because the psalms range so widely in emotional expression, from the heights of adoration and praise to the depths of vengeful curses against the enemy, they have special relevance to our prayer life. They teach us to hide nothing from God, but to bring all that is real into the only relationship that can bless the best and heal the worst in us.
No matter what we are feeling -- distress, trust, anger or delight, we find the words of the psalms accompany us into God's presence. ... In the psalms we find words to express every conceivable human condition and feeling. These prayers give us words to glorify, confess, hope, ask, and even curse. In so doing, they give us permission to share our whole being with God.
Ready to try it?
Pray these psalms or portions of psalms as prayers to God, expressing honestly your deepest feelings:
• Psalm 70
• Psalm 73
• Psalm 77
SICK AND TIRED
• Psalm 6
• Psalm 9
• Psalm 23
• Psalm 17
AWED BY GOD
• Psalm 29
What are some of your favorite Psalms to pray? Leave us a note telling us which one(s) and why!
Pray For Your Pastor
The pastor’s role is not easy, and it isn’t one that comes without opposition. As a pastor seeks to feed his flock God’s Word, comfort them when afflicted, protect them from danger, and minister the gospel to their souls, he has a target on his back. The enemy knows that “striking the shepherd will scatter the sheep” (Mark 14:27). Pastors need to be on their guards against the world, the flesh, and the devil which can subtly–or not so subtly–lure them away from serving the God they love.
To stand firm in the ministry and fulfill God’s calling, pastors need to be men of prayer and need the prayers of believers in their congregation. The Apostle Paul asked for prayer several times in his letters, for rescue from unbelievers (Romans 15:30-33), for a bold gospel proclamation (Ephesians 6:19-20), and that the word of the Lord would speed ahead and be honored (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2). If Paul needed prayer, your pastor does too!
Praying for your pastor is joining him in ministry. Paul says in his letters, “…strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf…” (Romans 15:30) and “You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (2 Corinthians 1:11).
Your prayers for your pastor and your church will strengthen the work being done and be a service to him.
If you’re wondering how to pray for your pastor, below are several suggestions from Scripture for the pastor’s personal life, family life, and ministry life. The corresponding Bible verses listed provide a command or additional support on how to pray for pastors.
Pray for Your Pastor’s Personal Life
- For him to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)
- To have a deep delight in the Word of God (Psalm 1:1-3)
- For deep satisfaction in Christ (Psalm 63:5-7)
- For a deep and vibrant prayer life (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
- To model the character God mandates for leaders (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9)
- That he wouldn’t be greedy, but content and managing money well (Titus 1:7; 1 Timothy 6:6-10)
- That he would watch his life and doctrine closely (1 Timothy 4:16)
- To be growing in holiness and in hatred for sin and evil (1 Thessalonians 4:3;Proverbs 8:13)
- To constantly walk by the Spirit and display fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16, 22-23)
- For him to find his identity first in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- For a transformed and a continually renewed mind (Romans 12:2)
- To display a spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel might, knowledge, and fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2-3)
- For him to abide in Christ and receive spiritual vitality from Christ (John 15:5)
- That his life would constantly be increasing in faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love (2 Peter 1:5-9)
- To be constantly growing in faith and the obedience of faith (Romans 1:4)
- To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8)
- Model a life of faith and true religion that is unpolluted by the world (James 1:27)
- To enjoy adequate and nourishing rest (Matthew 11:28-30)
- Deep relationships with other believers who can hold him accountable (Proverbs 27:17)
- Protection against Satan and his schemes (Ephesians 6:11)
- That he would walk in a manner worthy of the calling he received (Philippians 1:27)
Pray for Your Pastor’s Family Life
- If married, that he would love his wife and cultivate a strong marriage (Ephesians 5:25)
- For him to lead his wife to be respectable, sober-minded, and faithful in all things (1 Timothy 3:11)
- To be a godly, dedicated, and loving father (1 Timothy 3:4-5)
- For his children to grow up in the fear of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4)
- That God would protect their marriage from inside and outside attacks (Ephesians 5:28-33; Ephesians 4:27)
- That his family would be united in ministry and pursuit of the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:20-25)
Pray for Your Pastor’s Ministry Life
- For his mouth to be filled with the Spirit’s words in conversation and from the pulpit (1 Corinthians 2:13)
- Faithfulness in preaching the Word and applying it to the congregation (2 Timothy 4:1-2)
- That he would preach Jesus Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23, 2:2)
- That his leadership, vision, and service would be in accords with God’s will (Philippians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 12:11)
- To be respected and well thought of by outsiders (1 Timothy 3:2, 7)
- That he would be a pray-er for the congregation (Ephesians 1:16, 3:14-19)
- To offer wise counsel and comfort to his flock (Colossians 1:28; 2 Timothy 3:16-17;Galatians 6:1)
- To teach sound doctrine and rebuke those who oppose it (Titus 1:9, 2:1)
- To be wise in practicing discernment and carrying out church discipline (1 John 4:1;Philippians 1:9-10)
- To diligently work to rightly handle the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
- To be a disciple and a disciple maker who equips other disciple makers
- That he will persevere in ministry and through trials (2 Thessalonians 1:4-5; Galatians 6:9; Romans 5:25)
- That he would be disciplined and a hard worker (Titus 1:8; Col 3:23)
- To protect and shepherd the flock while following the True Shepherd (Ezekiel 34; John 10:11-16)
- To have patience and grace with difficult people (Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:3)
- For him to strengthen the weak, comfort the sick, bring the back the stray, seek the lost (Ezekiel 34:16)
- That your pastor and the church’s governing body would be united with their focus on Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10; John 17:23)
- To be hospitable and create a welcoming atmosphere in the church (Romans 12:13)
- To be a wise administrator and steward (1 Corinthians 12:27-28; Titus 1:8-11)
- For protection from the fear of man (Proverbs 29:25)
- For the church’s protection from Satan (Ephesians 6:12)
- To proclaim the Gospel boldly and clearly (Ephesians 6:19)
- For God to open a door for the gospel (Colossians 4:3)
- For his words to be carefully chosen, gracious, and seasoned with salt (James 3:8;Colossians 4:6)
- A proper alignment of priorities (Matthew 22:37-40)
- That he would avoid gossip, dissention, and unprofitable speech and lead others away from it as well (Ephesians 4:29)
What else should we pray for? Share your prayer ideas in the comment section.
One of the most central and ancient practices of Christian prayer is lectio divina, literally, divine reading. In lectio divina, we begin by reading a few verses of the Bible. We read unhurriedly so that we can listen for the message God has for us there. We stay alert to connections the Spirit may reveal between the passage and what is going on in our lives. We ask, "What are you saying to me today, Lord? What am I to hear in this story, parable, or prophecy?" Listening in this way requires patience and a willingness to let go of our own agendas and open ourselves to God's shaping.
Once we have heard a word that we know is meant for us, we are naturally drawn to prayer. From listening we move to speaking -- perhaps in anguish, confession or sorrow; perhaps in joy, praise, thanksgiving or adoration; perhaps in anger, confusion or hurt; perhaps in quiet confidence, trust or surrender. Finally, after pouring out our heart to God, we come to rest simply and deeply in that wonderful, loving presence of God. Reading, reflecting, responding and resting -- this is the basic rhythm of divine reading.
1. Lectio: Read the scripture slowly. Watch for a key phrase or word that jumps out at you or promises to have special meaning for you. It is better to dwell profoundly on one word or phrase than to skim the surface of several chapters.
2. Meditatio: Reflect on a word or phrase. Let the special word or phrase that you discovered in the first phase sink into your heart. Bring mind, will, and emotions to the task.
3. Oratio: Respond to what you have read. Form a prayer that expresses your response to the idea, then “pray it back to God.” What you have read is woven through what you tell God.
4. Contemplato: Rest in God’s word. Let the text soak into your deepest being, savoring an encounter with God and truth. When ready, move toward the moment in which you ask God to show you how to live out what you have experienced.
READ, RESPOND, REFLECT, REST.
5 Finger Prayers
- When you fold your hands, the thumb is nearest you. So begin by praying for those closest to you—your loved ones (Philippians 1:3-5).
- The index finger is the pointer. Pray for those who teach—Bible teachers and preachers, and those who teach children (1 Thessalonians 5:25).
- The next finger is the tallest. It reminds you to pray for those in authority over you—national and local leaders, and your supervisor at work (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
- The fourth finger is usually the weakest. Pray for those who are in trouble or who are suffering (James 5:13-16).
- Then comes your little finger. It reminds you of your smallness in relation to God’s greatness. Ask Him to supply your needs (Philippians 4:6,19).
Praise Ye The Lord!
Did you know that there a variety of ways to praise God? Aside from clapping, stomping, shouting and dancing, at a foundational level Scripture teaches us that there are different words for praise in Hebrew.
By looking at these different words and methods of praise, we can invoke a different experience of worship of our sovereign Lord. Try them and see what a difference they make in your personal and corporate worship experience!
Halal is a primary Hebrew root word for praise. Our word "hallelujah" comes from this base word. It means "to be clear, to shine, to boast, show, to rave, celebrate, to be clamorously foolish."
Praise (halal) ye the Lord, praise (halal) o ye servants of the Lord, praise (halal) the name of the Lord.
Praise (halal) the Lord! Praise (halal) God in his sanctuary; Praise (halal) him in his mighty expanse.
Let them praise (halal) his name in the dance: let them sing praises with the timbrel and harp.
(Other references: 1 Chr 2)
2 Chr 8:14
Yadah is a verb with a root meaning, "the extended hand, to throw out the hand, therefore to worship with extended hand." According to the Lexicon, the opposite meaning is "to bemoan, the wringing of the hands."
2 Chr 20:21
Give thanks (yadah) to the Lord, for his lovingkindness is everlasting.
So I will bless thee as long as I live; I will (yadah) lift up my hands in thy name.
Oh that men would praise (yadah) the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men.
2 Chr 7:6
2 Chr 20:21
Towdah comes from the same principle root word as yadah, but is used more specifically. Towdah literally means, "an extension of the hand in adoration, avowal, or acceptance." By way of application, it is appratent in the Psalms and elsewhere that it is used for thanking God for "things not yet received" as well as things already at hand.
Offer unto God praise (towdah) and pay thy vows unto the Most High.
Whoso offereth praise (towdah) glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.
2 Chr 29:31
Shabach means, "to shout, to address in a loud tone, to command, to triumph."
O clap your hands, all peoples; shout (shabach) to God with the voice of joy (or triumph).
One generation shall praise (shabach) thy works to another and declare thy mighty acts.
Cry aloud and shout (shabach) for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
Barak means "to kneel down, to bless God as an act of adoration."
O come let us worship and bow down; let us kneel (barak) before the Lord our maker.
1 Chr 29:20
Then David said to all the assembly, "Now bless (barak) the Lord your God." And all the assembly blessed (barak) the Lord, the God of their fathers, and bowed low and did homage to the Lord and to the king.
I will bless (barak) the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
Zamar means "to pluck the strings of an instrument, to sing, to praise; a musical word which is largely involved with joyful expressions of music with musical instruments.
Be exalted O Lord, in Thine own strength, so will we sing and praise (zamar) Thy power.
1 Chr 16:9
Sing to Him, sing praises (zamar) to Him; speak of all His wonders.
Awake my glory; awake harp and lyre, I will awaken the dawn! I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord among the peoples; I will sing praises (zamar) to Thee among the nations.
Tehillah is derived from the word halal and means "the singing of halals, to sing or to laud; perceived to involve music, especially singing; hymns of the Spirit.
Yet Thou art holy, O Thou who art enthroned upon the praises (tehillah) of Israel.
Rejoice in the Lord, o ye righteous, for praise (tehillah) is comely for the upright.
To grant to those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise (tehillah) instead of the spirit of fainting, So they shall be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.
1 Chr 16:35
2 Chr 20:22
MISSION POSSIBLE: OUTREACH
So what's stopping you? Maybe you're a shy person or who one who gets nervous or at the thought of speaking to complete strangers or even those you love or work with. Be prayerful and God will give you the strength and words to share. Also, take a few moments to watch this quick video and learn one cool way to use Romans 6:23 to share the Gospel in a simple and understandable way anytime, any place, with anyone!
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only. This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord, “You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?” The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you" (Attributed to Mary Stevenson, 1936)
I Am With You
I am taking care of you. Trust Me at all times. Trust Me in all circumstances. Trust Me with all your heart. When you are weary and everything seems to be going wrong, you can still utter these four words: “I trust You, Jesus.” By doing so, you release matters into My control, and you fall back into the security of My everlasting arms.
Before you arise from your bed in the morning, I have already arranged the events of your day. Every day provides many opportunities for you to learn My ways and grow closer to Me. Signs of My Presence brighten even the dullest day when you have eyes that really see. Search for Me as for hidden treasure. I will be found by you.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you, saying, “Destroy him!”
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”