Saturday, November 24, 2018

What is Hanukkah?


The Jewish Celebration of Lights
And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. John 10:22

There was oil enough for the needs of a single day. 
A miracle was wrought and it burned eight days. Talmud B, Shabbat 21b

Hanukkah is a cheerful Jewish holiday celebrated in December. This joyous celebration is held the twenty-fifth of Kislev to the third of Tevet according to the Jewish calendar. As prophesied in the book of Daniel, the Greeks had control of Jerusalem. Antiochus Epiphanes and his disdain for the things of the Lord was at the climax of Jewish suppression. In 165 BC the Jews fought back and gained temporary victory over the Gentile rulers. The brave Jewish leader Judah Maccabee (called the Hammer) led a fierce military campaign to reclaim the temple from the Syrian (Greek) ruler. Upon regaining control of the temple, the priests began to set in order the furnishings and prescribed means of worship. One thing they were required do was to light the large menorah. The temple menorah as described in the Second Book of Moses (Exodus) was seven feet high and made of solid gold. The priests then lit the temple menorah. There was only enough oil to light the menorah for a single day. Tradition explains the oil lasted not just for one day but even for eight days. The temple menorah had seven lamps as commanded in the Law of Moses. The home menorah to celebrate Hanukkah usually has eight lamps or candles. This way there is a distinction from the seven branched one in the temple. Also the eighth light stands for this unique event when the oil lasted beyond the one day. Each candle in the Hanukkah menorah represents one of the eight days the oil lasted in the temple after the Jewish takeover. There usually is a small ninth candle in the Hanukkah menorah. This ninth candle is a servant candle used to light each of the other ones. The lasting oil also represents the Lord's provision and care for his chosen people, the Jews.

Hanukkah means “dedication.” Hanukkah is a feast of dedication and is a time to remember the rededication of the Jerusalem temple. Light is the traditional theme of Hanukkah. Menorah is a Hebrew word for candelabrum. The eight branched candelabrum is called the hannukiyah. It is traditional not to do work when the menorah candles are lit. It is also tradition to place the menorah where the lit candles can be seen from outside the house. 

The books of the Maccabees recounting the history of this Jewish activity do not mention the miracle of the oil. Josephus, a Jewish historian, first mentions the Festival of Lights. The Talmud then later also speaks of this rededicating of the Temple. Josephus and the Talmud were written after the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. 

This Jewish holiday of Hanukkah celebrates the happening that the one small jar of oil lasted the whole eight days; that the Maccabees won a war for religious freedom for the Jews; and that the Jews have survived for thousands of years of oppression in many nations around the world.

In Israel, Hanukkah is a national holiday. Large menorahs are displayed on public buildings and in the synagogues. Modin, a town north of Jerusalem, is the hometown of the Maccabees. A special ceremony is held in Modin to begin the Hanukkah holiday in memory of the Maccabees Torch runners go from Modin to Jerusalem. The prime minister of Israel lights a public menorah with this same torch. The torch runners then proceed to Mount Zion to take part in a memorial service for those who died in the Holocaust. 

Five traditions which are part of the Hanukkah celebration in the Jewish home are: celebrate for eight days; light candles in a menorah; eat latkes (sufganiyot or jelly doughnuts – or potato cakes); give small gifts; and play the dreidel game. Children are also involved in these activities. Some sing the classic Hanukkah song, “Ma’oz Tsur,” also know as “Rock of Ages.” The Thirteenth Psalm is read called “A Psalm of David” or “A Song of Dedication of the Temple.”

The feast of dedication is associated with Jesus Christ. He went into the temple at that time (John 10:22-23). Light is the theme of this festival. Jesus identified himself with light. Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12) The temple menorah stands for the light which shows access to God. Jesus Christ is like that menorah, showing and making the way for sinners to have true access to God. The Hanukkah menorah is set in a window or other prominent place for all to see. May we who have trusted Jesus Christ as Saviour make the Lord prominent in our lives and let the light of Christ shine from us.

Jesus said: 
“I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46)

James Utter 11/2018
Read this article on the author's website here

Sunday, February 18, 2018

What About School Shootings?

School Shootings
Gun Rights or Gun Control?
School shooting are on the rise. Innocent lives are taken. What is the answer to this shocking chaos? What will make it end? Many people want gun control. They reason if we can just keep weapons from getting into the hands of killers these mass shootings will stop. Others stand for the Constitution believing gun control is not the answer. Sadly the media gets filled with political messages and debate following these tragic events. Less people seem to be concerned for the families and friends who lost loved ones in such a horrific incident. During the time of a tragic loss, people need comfort for their grief. The Bible speaks of a man who experienced grief: "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief."(from Isaiah 53:3) Even though death brings grief, there is a weightier matter to consider. How someone dies is important. However, God also cares about where we will go after we die. It is no surprise to the Lord who said: "...the soul that sinneth, it shall die." (Ezekiel 18:4) That we all die is no secret. The Bible is clear when it states: "For the wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23a) Death in the world is a result of sin. But, where will you go when you die? This life is short. Eternity lasts ... forever. The Bible tells us who will go to Heaven. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) The same book reveals who will go to Hell. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15) Whosoever in the Bible means, all who or whoever. Since God cannot allow sin into His holy presence, those who reject Christ will go to Hell. Jesus Christ died on the cross to take the sinner's place. "For he hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary to pay the penalty for our sins. He was buried but rose from the dead. Those who receive Christ as Savior are forgiven and will go to Heaven. Dear friend, where will you spend eternity? Will you call upon Jesus Christ to save your soul? "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." (Romans 10:13) 

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him [Christ]; he hath put him to grief:
when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin. (Isaiah 53:10a)

James Utter 2/2018

Read this article on the author's website.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


A small Montana fellowship is seeking ministry assistance. We are a church plant currently meeting in a home. We are traditional yet friendly. This is a non-paying position but may grow into one. The best candidate would be a man looking for mentoring under an experienced pastor. Also, men who have a retirement income may want to consider this opportunity. Help with preaching, teaching, evangelism, literature distribution, leading hymn singing and more is desired. We are dispensational, use the King James Bible and live by grace. Located between Billings and the Beartooth Mountains, our ministry reaches mostly small towns and rural areas. Currently there are jobs in Billings and the surrounding communities. There is a need for a conservative Bible church in our area. This work is not for the faint of heart. Gospel work is desperately needed in Montana. Conservative churches are few and far between. If you are missionary minded then read our doctrinal statement and related information. Contact Pastor Utter with questions you may have. Chech out our website: and look under Home fellowship church.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Should America's Embassy Be Located In Jerusalem?

An Important Message from an Ambassador

President Trump boldly announced the United States will move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That embassy houses the official United States ambassador to the nation of Israel. Consider these points regarding a nation's relationship with Israel.

1. God promised a blessing upon those who bless Abraham, the father of the Jewish people. A nation will be blessed for taking care of the Jews.

And I will bless them that bless thee [Abraham], and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:3) [Abram's name was changed to Abraham (Genesis 17:5).]

2. God promised a blessing upon those who bless the nation Israel. People will receive a blessing for demonstrating strong support of Israel.

How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! ... Blessed is he that blesseth thee [Israel], and cursed is he that curseth thee. (Numbers 24:5,9) [Jacob is called Israel (Genesis 32:28).)

3. God will rescue Israel from those who divide Israel's land into parts. This includes dividing Jerusalem. A wise country should not join those who desire to divide the land of Israel.

For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. (Joel 3:1-2)

4. God will make it a terrible burden for those who meddle with Jerusalem. It is prudent to let the Jews decide what to do with their own capital city.

The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
(Zechariah 12:1-3)

5. God himself will fight against all the nations who go against Jerusalem. Exercising restraint and not going against Jerusalem will be a good practice.

Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. (Zechariah 14:1-3)

6. Opposing God's plan for Jerusalem means tampering with something that the Lord cherishes. It is good to hold in high esteem the same things that the Lord does.

For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you [Zion]: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. (Zechariah 2:8) [Jerusalem is also called Zion (1 Kings 8:1).]

7. The Day of the Lord will begin with people crying “Peace and safety”. Destruction will fall upon Israel and the world when the loudest cry for peace in the Middle East comes.

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3)

8. Jerusalem will partly be controlled by other nations until the Messiah comes. Jerusalem, the City of Peace, will not be fully in Jewish control until Christ returns.

And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. (Luke 21:24)

9. Those who lovingly pray for the peace of Jerusalem will prosper.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.
(Psalms 122:6)

10. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. When Christ returns he will make peace in the Middle East. When Christ comes to set up his time of peace, will he let you in? Why not place your full trust in the one who loves you and shed his blood on the cross for you?

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
(2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

James Utter 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

How A Church Strays From The Lord

Bible Issues Today
Doctrines That Are Pressing Hard Upon
Bible-Teaching Churches In Our Time
Orthodox View
Confusing Teaching
The Bible is the Word of God
The Bible contains the Word of God
The Bible has been perfectly preserved - we have God's Words
We are just now finding God's Words through textual criticism
The canon is complete - the Bible
is finished
Prophets or prophetesses give us
yet more revelation
A prophet gives God's very words and prophets no longer exist today
Redefines definition of a prophet to just being a good Bible teacher
Salvation is by simple faith alone,
not by works
Lordship Salvation is required,
adding works to saving faith
I do the believing - 
my Saviour does the saving
Saying a prayer without admitting one's sin will save (Easy Believism)
The fundamentals of the faith are necessary for fellowship
Cast aside the basics of the faith
for the sake of unity
The gift of tongues (languages) ceased by the time the Bible was written
Tongues may be for today (perhaps for mission work in another language)
The Authorized Version is
God's Word in English
God inspired the Authorized Version
(such as the Ruckman view)
The Bible is sufficient for my
mindset and my behavior
Psychological counseling is needed since the Bible does not fully help
Bible-trusting pastors & friends help one another with life's problems
Reformed counseling must be added to conquer sinful habits (Jay Adams)
Jesus Christ died for all - we must
tell everyone in the world
Christ did not die for every person in the world (Reformed doctrine)
We recognize the universal Church which is the body & bride of Christ
Only our church is valid - the only bride of Christ  (such as Landmarkism)
Stays true to the traditional/preserved original languages
Uses varying texts based upon the Westcott & Hort hypothesis
Uses Christ-honoring sacred music unlike the world
Blends traditional and worldly music
or uses worldly music only
Understands the believer's identification with Christ - in Christ
Looks to methods or programs for self-sanctification (addiction groups etc.)
I am crucified with Christ -
I have already died with Christ
(positional truth)
I die daily - I must crucify myself and my sinful nature (denial of position)
The local church is God's program for leadership training & missions
Mission agencies, seminary, Bible college, societies are more important than church - The church takes a back seat to parachurch ministries
Believes God created everything in six literal days
God used a great amount of time to create - Gap Theory, Day-Age Theory
I wear my Sunday best to honor God and show him reverence
I dress the way I want, usually casual and trendy (disrespectful)
Mount Calvary is the only altar of sacrifice I claim
I go to a pagan rock altar of sacrifice
to help me
Prayer meeting is faithfully attended and cherished
Contemplative prayer is what we need to get into
The Dispensation of Grace began in Acts 2 with the Spirit's baptism
The Dispensation of Grace began later with Paul (Hyperdispensationalism)
The Dispensation of Grace could not begin until after Christ shed his blood, was resurrected, and ascended into heaven to send the Spirit
The Dispensation of Grace began with Christ's earthly ministry (Hypodispensationalism)
There are at least three Dispensations - Law, Grace, and the Kingdom
There are only the Old Dispensation and the New Dispensation
Israel and the Church are two different groups with distinct programs
The Church has replaced Israel -
The Church is spiritual Israel
The first covenant named in
Scripture is with Noah
The Covenants of Works and Grace predetermine our beliefs
Noah escaped a world-wide flood - only eight survived
The flood in Noah's day was only local - he didn't need to build an ark
Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God
Jesus Christ became the Son at the incarnation or at some other time
Christ's blood is required
for our salvation
Christ's death is only necessary,
not his blood
Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man
Jesus Christ is God but not man -
Or - he is man but not God
Jesus Christ will return before he sets up his Kingdom on Earth
We are in the Kingdom now - we are building the Kingdom (without the King even being physically
present on Earth)
The Kingdom has a real King (Jesus), real estate (the land of Israel), a people (saved Jews & Gentiles), a capital (Jerusalem), & a throne (seated in Jerusalem)
The Kingdom is only spiritual and not physical - the Jews were mistaken when they were expecting a literal Messiah to rule in Jerusalem over Israel
God is in control of all things - the sovereign Lord actually is sovereign
God does not know the future - we need to have an open view of God
The lost are responsible to believe in the Lord for salvation
The lost cannot believe until regenerated (saved prior to salvation)
Those saved are eternally secure -
we have a perfect Saviour
Those saved may become unsaved -
our saviour can't keep us safe
Water Baptism shows that a believer is one who trusts his Lord
Water baptism saves - The blood of Christ is not enough
The Lord could come for his Church
at any moment
The Lord will pour out his wrath upon his beloved Church
If it is God's will, I may be healed from this sickness or disease
It is God's will for you to be healthy
all of the time
If I work hard and God blesses then I might enjoy material blessings
It is God's will that every Christian be rich and wealthy in this life
God's honor and glory determine what
I can do and how I do it
Reaching the lost by any means possible is our top priority
Success means obeying God's
written Word at all times
Success means a big church, a big building, and a big budget
God has reserved the roles of Pastor and Deacon for men only
Women may teach the Bible to men in some situations if they are called
Hell is a literal place of never-ending fire and torment for Christ-rejecters
A loving God wouldn't send
anyone to hell
I should be careful to abstain from all appearance of evil
I can have a beer if I want to -
who are you to judge me?
I am careful not to forsake the assembling with other Christians
Let's cut back our church services so we won't bother busy families
Note: The orthodox view represents Bible doctrines derived 
from taking the Bible to mean what is says, while using common sense.

Generally speaking, if the church you attend honors those things in the orthodox column, you most likely are trying to honor the Lord.  However, if the church you attend favors those things in the other column, you may be straying away from the one God who loves you.  Please give a time of prayer and study to these matters.  May we choose to honor the Lord in the days in which we live.

James Utter

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Church That Is Different

The Drive Is Worth The Difference
Ten Reasons Why We Are Different
Home Fellowship Park City, Montana

  • Bible – We teach and preach straight from the Bible. 2 Tim. 4:2
  • Hymns – We honor the Lord with our music. Col. 3:16
  • Friendly – We will give you a personal warm welcome. John 13:35
  • Small – You won't get lost in the crowd here. Philemon 1:2
  • Grace – We are saved by grace and live by grace. Eph. 2:8; Heb. 4:16
  • Gospel – We are evangelistic desiring all to be saved. Mark 16:15
  • Leadership – Leadership training is integral to our ministry. 2 Tim. 2:2
  • Discipleship – We offer Bible answers to your questions. Matt. 28:19
  • Jesus Christ – Our Lord Jesus is present at every meeting. Matt. 18:20
  • Glory to God – We attempt to glorify the Lord in all we do. 1 Cor. 10:31

James Utter, Pastor

Monday, September 4, 2017

Are We A House Church?

Are We A House Church?

and to the church in thy house.
Philemon 1:2

Some people ask if we are a house church. More precisely we are a church that meets in a home. Meeting in a house was nothing new to the New Testament church. Since the church's founding groups of Christians have met in homes. As noted in the verse above, the letter to Philemon was also addressed to the church that met in his house. The proper emphasis placement is on the church, not the place where it meets. Some in the modern house church movement tend to place unorthodox prominence on the building, the house. Ironically, a building is often that very thing many in the house church movement are fleeing. We easily find that the church in the Bible (NT) met in private houses. Homes were not the sole place of meeting but is seems to be by far the primary.

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple,
and breaking bread from house to house... Acts 2:46

Undeniably the early church met from house to house. Yet, did they meet in houses only? Acts tells us they did not. They met in the temple which was in Jerusalem. The church met openly in the temple until severe persecution came. Then the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. It was like God gave an unmistakable illustration to his people that the old dispensation (Law) had come to a close and the new dispensation (Grace) had begun. The fresh work of the Holy Spirit ushered in a new era. The church is not a nation, has no land and has no building belonging to it. The church ministers in all nations, can meet on any land and in any building. A church does not strictly have to meet in a house to be a church. The Biblical pattern is that they did. Since the church in the New Testament met in houses, we should take note of that fact and see what we can learn.

And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you,
and have taught you publicly, and from house to house. Acts 20:20

Speaking to the church leaders from Ephesus, Paul states that he taught them in a public forum and from house to house. There was a public ministry of Paul to all. He also provided separate meetings in homes for selected groups. Paul taught in both places. There were no public church buildings at that time. Paul went into the synagogues to preach the gospel first. When he was rejected he gathered the Christians into groups at other locations. Paul's method was to meet in a house. This hard-working apostle continued to openly debate and he did so in a school within the city (Acts. 19:9). The important point here is that there is a place for a public outreach and place for a limited gathering. Both are important.

And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house,
and received all that came in unto him. Acts 28:30

The historical narrative of Acts ends with Paul teaching in his own rented house. People wonder if Paul couldn't get out to go to church, possibly. However, there were no designated church buildings in his ministry context. Thinking the church is a building minimizes the nature of the church. The church was meeting with Paul in his house. That was the church. It was not a house church per say, it was a church meeting in his house. The book of Acts ends with Paul meeting in his house. Should we not learn from this important apostle who was commissioned by the Lord Jesus himself? His method was to plant churches throughout the Roman Empire. Wherever a group of people trusted the gospel of Christ they were gathered into groups to meet together. These groups of Christians were the church … and they met in homes. This is the way church planting began. We find the church meeting the same way as Acts concludes. The key isn't so much the meeting place but in whose name they were meeting. They were meeting because of the person and work of the Lord Jesus. He is the one who made the assembly important, not the building in which they met. Let us now see if those closest to Paul modeled his manner of church planting.

Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus...
Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Romans 16:3,5

Aquila and Priscilla were doing the same thing. Wherever they went they shared the gospel and started churches. They did so by holding meetings in their own house. Both Paul and these two beloved helpers had jobs as tent makers. They provided a home for themselves and for those who would meet with them in the name of Christ. Their house was the place for the church to take communion and hear instruction in the Word of God. On one occasion the church that met in their house sent greetings to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 16:9). Yes, a church that meets in a house is a bonafide church. Nymphas is another example of someone who hosted a church that met in his home. “Salute the brethren which are in Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.” (Colossians 4:15) Other Biblical examples of church ministry taking place in homes can be found as one searches the Scriptures.

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received,
and heard, and seen in me, do... Philippians 4:9

There are benefits of meeting in a house like Paul. It takes a lot less longer to get to know someone in a church that meets in a house as compared to in an institutional building. After years of Sundays people still might not know one another very well. One or two times meeting in someone's home Christians may have more of an opportunity to grow closer to the Lord and to one another . By nature meeting in a home is more personal. Sitting in a pew is nice for a lecture. Looking at the back of someone's head is not very conducive to developing a friendship (Ex. 33:11). The Lord is personal and friendly and so should we be. It cannot be argued against that the early church broke bread from house to house (Acts 2:46). The Lord's Supper, or communion, was never meant to be routine, cold, or distant. Partaking of communion together in a home gives more opportunity to demonstrate care for each other. It is normally more cost effective to meet in a home. Without a large building to upkeep there may be more funds to directly help people. An efficient home ministry has the potential to give more to those needing help in the church, with a personal touch. Missionaries sometimes can be supported easier since there is not the drag of another building to maintain. Practical Bible teaching has the potential of providing more personal application. The church has been able to survive, even thrive, during times of persecution. The Lord saw at its founding that the church would need to minister during times of duress. Churches meeting in houses might get by better in tough times than those who do not. If you are longing for a more personal church and for one that follows the New Testament example, you may want to try a: “church that meets in thy house.”

James Utter 9/2017

James Utter is pastor of Home Fellowship in Park City, Montana.
For more information check out his ministry website.