Archive for December, 2010

THE UPPER ROOM(Pt.3)

Are you living in the “upper room” of life or the lower half of your life? Upper room living means that we live for the things eternal now in time. Lower half of life implies that we are only living for the ‘‘here and now’’, with no consideration for eternal realities.

Paul wrote that if we are risen with Christ, then we are seeking those things which are above; our affections and desires are for the higher things.(See Col. 2:20-3:4)

Man was created to relate to, enjoy and impart heavenly things in the earth. God spoke to Israel of “days of heaven on earth”. Unfortunately, our generation has unwittingly settled for the lower things, and has no living reality of the things of heaven. This is one of the values of understanding and appreciating the feasts of the LORD. They were given to reconnect us to the purposes of God.

Israel’s religious calendar of seven months, comprising three major feasts, were to cause them to enter into a celebration and participation with the LORD. In the first month, Passover: the lamb & his blood delivered God’s people from the bondage of Egypt. Likewise,as believers, we celebrate the fact that Christ Jesus has delivered us from the captivity of sin and its consequences.(See Rom 6:14). Fifty days later in the third month, Pentecost: Israel celebrated the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. God appeared on the top of the mount with fire, the sound of the trumpet blast and quaking. In reality, this manifestation pointed to a greater manifestation in Acts 2, when the Day of Pentecost had come fifty days after Jesus resurrection. There in the upper room God poured out His Holy Spirit upon the 120 believers waiting for the promise of the Father with signs accompanying this reality, both upon them and in them. Now, we consider briefly the final feast and its meaning: the Feast of Tabernacles, which is celebrated in the seventh month of Israel’s religious calendar.

During the Feast of Tabernacles, also called the Feast of ‘‘Succoth’’(Booths),several things are noted: 1. It was a Feast of Thanksgiving for the harvest being brought in from the fields. 2.It was a feast of remembrance of Israel’s exodus from Egypt and their time of wandering in the wilderness. 3. They built little booths or shelters made of plaited branches as witness to their sojourn in the desert for forty years. 4. As part of this Feast, there was the pouring out of the waters of Siloam down the steps in the Jewish Synagogue as they prayed for rain. 5. The seventh and last day of Feast is called the Day of the Great Hosanna. The Hallel (Ps.113-118) is sung during this time; branches are waved (or shaken off), symbolizing the shaking off of their sins. Also, prayers for Messiah are made.

What does this all mean for the believer today? Everything. Even as Christ Jesus fulfilled in Himself the Feast of Passover and Pentecost, giving the reality to the Church (Jew & Gentile alike), so too, this feast is being fulfilled.

John 7 tells that during the Feast of Tabernacles Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He made his appearance there, as it were, in installments. First, he came secretly. His own brothers who did not believe in him as the Messiah taunted him to make a grand display of himself at the Feast. Jesus would not move under their unbelief. He went up privately, moving among the crowd of Feast-goers. Secondly, Jesus appeared in the Temple in the middle of the Feast, teaching those whose hearts were seeking God’s ways. ‘‘Finally, on the last and great day of the Feast, He appeared to all with this announcement:‘That which you seek and thirst for can only be found in me’.’’  John wrote,‘‘On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified’’(John 7:37-39 NIV).

Jesus shows himself as the only One who can satisfy the yearning for the outflow of God’s Spirit to gather the nations unto God. The ingathering of souls into the kingdom of God, the cry from the nations for true salvation and peace, can only come from the Prince of Peace. This is a good reminder of why we celebrate around the world this season of Christmas. God has fulfilled His word in Jesus, our Messiah. ‘‘The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs, and the obedience of the nations is his”(Genesis 49:10)  Come, let us make haste to turn to him. For he alone is worthy to be praised.

Copyright© Walter Fletcher, Jr., 2010. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

1 Adapted from THE FEASTS OF ISRAEL by Kevin J. Conner,Bible Temple Publications,Portland, Oregon 97213,©1980

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The Upper Room (Pt. 2)

“When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying.” . . . . .“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” (Acts 1:12, 2:1 NIV)

“Where do you want us to prepare…?” the disciples asked Jesus in regard to celebrating the Feast of Passover. He instructed them to go into the city and follow a man with a water jar to a large upper room. (See Lk. 22:7-12) We have suggested, in our previous entry, that this “upper room” is more than a physical place where the disciples gathered with Jesus. It pointed to an experience that we must know as a reality in our own lives. Jesus is our Passover Lamb who takes away our sin. (See John 1:29; Rev 5:6-9)

It was fifty days later, in obedience to their Lord, that the disciples were found once again in the upper room gathering and experiencing the reality of the Feast of Pentecost. Several things seem to stand out in Acts chapter two, as witness to the reality of their experience. Let me highlight these things only as a reminder that our God does not merely come to His people with a rational theological explanation. He comes to those who wait for Him in relationship as well, thus confirming the reality of our faith by our experience. In other words, as someone has said in essence, “Religion is not based on feelings. But who would trust a religion that gave no tangible proof of its reality in their life?” I believe it is a sound argument for our hearts as well as our heads.

Notice the tangible “signs” given that the Day of Pentecost had fully come:

(1) Sound- “Rushing wind from heaven”

(2) Sight – “tongues of fire resting on each one”

(3) Power – “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit”

(4) Sign – they spoke in languages they did not previously know

(5) Witnessed – by several thousand Jews & non-Jewish converts

What does all this mean? That was the same question asked by the crowds who witnessed this. Peter stands with the eleven other apostles to give the explanation. He proclaims that this is the fulfillment of what God promised, quoting the prophet Joel, that “In the last days I will pour out My Spirit upon all people, says the Lord…”(Acts 2:17a NIV)

What does it all mean for us today?

First, it means a fulfillment of the celebration of the Jewish Feast observed fifty days (meaning Pentecost) after Passover. This was the time of the waving of the sheaf of firstfruits; it was a harvest festival (See Lev 23:15-17; Exo 23:19; 34:22). It also was a commemoration of the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai to Israel. The LORD God took Israel as it were into a covenental relationship; God is married to His people, Israel.

Second, It means the fulfillment of the “Birthday of the Church” made up of Jew & Gentile alike (See Eph 2:11-22). The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the “Promise of the Father” which Jesus foretold would occur. “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49 NIV). “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”(Acts 1:8).

God was giving in fulfillment of the words of our Lord Jesus the reality of Pentecost. Even as Israel experienced God coming in a cloud upon Mt. Sinai and giving the Law to confirm His Covenental love with them, so today God wants to fulfill in the life of the Church His Covenant of love (See Rom 5:5) . The Holy Spirit is given as a “seal” that God has taken us as His people; He has written His law (His Word) upon the tablets of our hearts to know Him personally; He has given us His “pledge” that He has taken us to Himself as His people. Finally, He has empowered us both with His Word and His Spirit to be witnesses to Jesus Christ among the nations.

So the question Paul puts to the young believers in the City of Ephesus is one we must ask ourselves, “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?”(Acts 19:2) Jesus assures us that it is the Father’s desire to give this unspeakable gift if we will but ask. “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”(Luke 11:13 NIV). Pentecost is an upper room experience. What a gift!

Copyright© Walter Fletcher, Jr., 2010. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com

THE UPPER ROOM(Pt. 1)

“Then you shall say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, “Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ “Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready.’ So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover “(Luke 22:11-13 NKJV)

“Where is the guest room for the Master to eat with His disciples ?” is a great question. It actually should echo down through time, because in many ways it is an eternal question from the heart of God. God looks for an “Upper Room” experience with each and every one of His disciples. As a matter of fact what makes us true disciples is our desire to prepare a room in our inner dwelling to feast with Him as our honored guest.

The occasion in Luke 22 is set in the time of the year when the Jews would celebrate their traditional Passover feast. Moving concurrently with their feast as ritual, Jesus was moving toward His ultimate purpose, the cross. Ritual was about to give way to reality; type was giving way to the anti-type. He would embody all that the prophets had foretold: “This is He who was manifest to take away sins”(1 Jn 3:5).

Jesus sends His apostles ahead of Him in order that everything will be ready when He comes. I wonder if we realize that before there is an appearance of our Lord, there is necessarily preparation to welcome Him. The question comes…”Where shall we prepare?” Notice, Jesus’ words of instruction (Luke 22:7-12):

(1) “Go to the city”. This speaks to me of the “city” that Abraham looked for “Whose builder and maker is God”(Heb. 11:10). The psalmist declared, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God”(Ps. 46:4). I remind you that God placed Adam in the Garden of God, but John sees God’s ultimate plan was the city of God. (Rev 21:2) Make sure you are looking for the right city.

(2) “Follow a man carrying a jar of water”. He is the Lord’s servant. He and the vessel he is carrying will both carry the Water of Life. Not every vessel is a vessel fit for the Master. But His servants will bear His mark upon their lives; they carry living Water from the living God. (Read 2 Co 4:7). When you find such a servant…”Follow him” (See 1 Co 11:1).

It is very interesting that there are at least three “Upper Room” encounters in the scriptures. It seems that each of these speak, individually, of one of the Feasts of the LORD referred to in the Word of God. There are three Feasts in the religious calendar of Israel that they were commanded to not forget to celebrate: Passover (1st month), Pentecost (3rd month) and Tabernacles (7th month). These were so important that God calls them “The Feasts of the LORD”. Those who observed their spiritual significance do so with a promise: “Blessed—happy, fortunate (to be envied)—are the people who know the joyful sound (who understand and appreciate the spiritual blessings symbolized by the Feasts); they walk, O Lord, in the light and favor of Thy countenance” (Psalm 89:15 Amplified).

We will only look at the first Feast in this study, the Feast of Passover. In Luke 22, the Upper Room discourse and gathering is around the time of the Feast of Passover. Jesus longed to eat this meal with His disciples. He knew it would be His last time with them before He was arrested, tried on false charges, and executed on the Cross. This was not accidental. It was in the Father’s plan that while the Nation of Israel was celebrating a remembrance of the Passover lamb slain on the night they were delivered from Egypt and their house of bondage, Jesus would be hanging on the Cross. He was the fulfillment of all that they had done for nearly 1500 years in ritual observance. But now, as Paul declared to us as believers in Jesus, “Christ our Passover Lamb has been slain for us. Therefore let us keep the Feast”(2 Co 5:7). It was in the Upper Room that Jesus would make known that which He was about to do on the Cross of Calvary, which was to give the Feast of Passover it’s full meaning. He was, as John the Baptist announced, “The Lamb that takes away the sin of the world”(John 1:29).

Have you had this “Upper Room” experience? Do you know that He is your Passover Lamb? You can know this for sure. John wrote, “If we confess our sins, He (Jesus) is faithful and just and will forgive us of all sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”(1 Jn 1:9 NIV). The Upper Room was more than a meal. It was the announcement of a fresh start; a new beginning and walk with God—clean and forgiven.

Copyright© Walter Fletcher Jr., 2010. Permission is granted to reproduce this article free of charge, provided that it is not altered in its original form and content. Please direct all correspondence to walterfletcherjr@gmail.com