Saturday, December 21, 2019

Deep Theological Thoughts on Resurrection

It has been an interesting week in Christendom.

In case you know nothing about what has been going on, this is what I am referring to:

About a week ago, a precious two-year-old little girl named Olive tragically died.  Her parents are worship leaders at Bethel Church in Redding, CA.  The child’s death triggered a six-day campaign to bring her back to life again. 

Young Olive was not on life support; she was in the morgue.  That is where she remained, while for six days, Christians all over the world participated in the plea for her resurrection.  They did this in many ways:  through fervent prayer, praise and worship, commanding her to “come home,"  declaring/commanding that her life return to her, foot-stomping, claiming that not all deaths are in God’s timing, and trying to raise $100,000 on Go Fund Me. 

I am not sure if they raised the full amount, but many of their actions did raise quite a few eyebrows.

After a week of this “pressing in,” as many would call it, Olive’s parents and the Bethel congregation conceded that she was not going to be raised from the dead, and they have now gone on to bury their precious child. I weep for them.

This has really hit home for me.  Several weeks ago, my beloved unborn grandson died in the womb of his mother, eight days before his due date.  I was heartbroken, but I enlisted the help of some friends to pray that God would raise this sweet baby back to life before he was born.  But alas, it was not to be; my beautiful grandson was born into this world and never took a breath this side of eternity.  I mourn deeply for him; and yet, I have the hope and expectation that someday he will live again.

With all this going on, I just want to try and collect all my theological thoughts here.  I am not saying that my theology is completely correct (indeed, I don’t believe anyone on the planet has 100% correct theology), but I just want to put my thoughts into writing.

There are those who would say we just didn’t have enough faith.  This is an oft-repeated statement within the Word of Faith movement, and one that I don’t agree with.  What a burden to place on someone who is grieving a loss!  In Mark 9:24, we see a father struggling with his own belief:  “Lord, I DO believe; HELP me in my unbelief!”  Yeshua went on to answer this father’s prayer for his son.

There are others who believe that our lives today should look exactly like the lives of the apostles in Acts, who were the first ones to bring the gospel to this world.  Is this true?

In Mark 16, Yeshua is giving the great commission, and speaking of the signs and wonders that will accompany those who believe.  The passage wraps up with “and they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.

Why did Yeshua Himeslf do miracles?  It was to prove that He was who He said He was.  Why do these signs and wonders accompany the believers who are delivering the good news?  To prove that the gospel is true.

I believe these miraculous gifts DID disappear, for the most part, from the church during the dark and middle ages when corruption was widespread and the gospel was not being preached to the world at large.  (When I was saved, it was through a congregation that was cessationist in its belief - in other words, the belief that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit are not for today.  But I changed my view eventually, through Bible study and seeing the hand of God move in many ways).

But ever since the advent of the great missionary movement,which began around the end of the 18th century, signs and wonders have been appearing again in the places where the gospel had never been preached before.  Today, I often read about the things that are happening in places such as China, India, North Korea, Iran… not to mention the dreams and visions that are taking place all over the Middle East. 

This is not to say that God does not perform miracles today among nations and people who are well-established in faith.  He does, according to His will and His purposes.  Several years ago, He healed me miraculously of a lung condition that I’d been suffering from for years, and I praise Him for that.

CAN God raise the dead?  Of course He can. The last time I checked, God was still in charge of the universe.

However,  He gave us His book so that we could study it. Whenever someone was raised from the dead in scripture, it happened at the time of the asking.  Yeshua waited four days to visit the bereaved family of Lazarus, but the moment He called Lazurus forth from the grave, the resurrection happened.  Elijah stretched himself out over the widow’s son three times, and then promptly the young man came back to life.  When Eutychus fell out of the three-story window and died in Acts 20, he was brought back to life immediately. (I’ve heard it humorously said that Eutychus was just trying to avoid greeting time at church 😂😂 But I digress...)

The only place in scripture I have seen the pleading, frantic dancing, foot-stomping, on-and-on demanding of a miracle was the prophets of Baal in the showdown with Elijah.

Let me be clear; I am NOT claiming that the people of Bethel were worshiping Baal.  I believe their faith in the One True God is real.  We Christians need to be careful about writing off folks whose doctrinal understanding is different from our own.  It is not our theology or doctrine that saves us; it is faith and trust in the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua, the Lamb of God/Son of God on the cross that redeems us unto eternal life.

But I believe that staying rooted and grounded in the Word of God is absolutely essential.  And not only that, but it is also important to rely on the whole counsel of scripture and not simply rely on proof texts:  out-of-context verses that seem to prove our point.

Here is an example.  John 14:12 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

That is a verse I heard quoted quite a few times this past week, and I had heard it quoted in charismatic circles so often that I had already studied the verse for myself.  In my spirit, I was disturbed by the idea that anything we could do would be greater than the One that spoke the universe into existence, and then gave His own life as an offering of redemption for all of humanity.

The keyword here is the English word greater (megas in Greek).  It can be defined as farther-reaching in scope.  Yeshua never left the Middle East while on earth, but His followers have taken the good news ALL OVER THE WORLD – therefore having a much greater scope.  To imagine the word greater meant that we would perform bigger and better works than those done by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is mind boggling to me. 

The verse wraps up with Yeshua saying because I am going to the Father, which to me clearly demonstrates the meaning of greater as being more far-reaching.  These Israeli believers were commissioned by the Messiah take the good news to the rest of the planet.  Today, this job is nearly complete.  I wonder if those early believers ever imagined it would take 2000 years?

Meanwhile, may baby Olive and my baby grandson rest in peace until Yeshua returns and resurrects us to immortal life.  And I pray that Christians will base their faith on our Messiah and His word, and not to let the actions or doctrines of other Christians sway them away from that faith.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Blessings of Obedience

In this post, I am going to try and collect some thoughts that have been swirling around in my brain.  Pardon any randomness that is sure to occur!

Recently, I had a friend ask me about Romans 8:1 and how it works together with Romans 14:22-23.  Upon reading the two passages, which have to do with condemnation and judgment, I asked her what version she was reading.  She was working with the NIV and the Amplified Bible.  I told her to read Romans 8:1 in either the KJV or the NKJV, which come from the textus receptus Greek manuscript (as opposed to the more recently-used critical text).  Here is the difference:

NIV: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

NKJV: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Well, that is quite a difference.  One version shows an action associated with it, and the other does not.  But in fairness, chapter 8 continues, and both versions highlight the same concept in verse 4: that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Ooo, suddenly we have a bit of context!  The passage is speaking of walking in New Covenant Law, which is governed by the leading of the Holy Spirit and not by the laws of the flesh that are written on stone tablets under Moses.  (New Covenant law boils down to this:  Love God and love people.)

Do you see how important it is to consider context, and the full counsel of scripture, versus taking one verse out of context?  A person could read 8:1 in the NIV (and most other modern translations) and simply concur that because a person believes in Jesus, they are good to go.  Nothing else required. 

Today in the church, there is much focus on the love of God, as it applies to ourselves.  You hear it quite often in our worship music - He is jealous for me.  Oh, how He loves me.  Oh, He chases me down.  Love is love.  Etc.

And it is true.  God is love.  Scripture says so.  But balance is so critical!  Look at 1 John 4:8: He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

Did you notice that this verse indicates a lack of action?  How about this one a few verses later? We love Him because He first loved us.  Action is demonstrated.  We can only truly love Him (and others) because of His great love that He showed us first.

How about the famous verse, John 3:16?  By itself, it seems that only belief is required, and nothing else.  But if you keep reading, you find that there is more:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

True belief requires action.

Matthew 5:16 says this:  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

And James drives it home in James 2:20- But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?

In other words, don't just stand there, do something!

What we do matters!

Speaking of taking verses out of context, let's visit the book of Jeremiah (which I am currently reading).  There is a verse, beloved by many and claimed as their "life verse."  You know where I am going, right?

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11.

This is a lovely verse and a wonderful promise.  In context, it was made to Israel's southern kingdom as they were getting booted out of the land for disobedience.  God was telling them to go ahead and relocate to Babylon, assuring them that if they obey His command to go, He would take care of them in a foreign land.

But what comes next is God's assurance of what would happen if they do NOT obey Him.  Nobody ever takes Jeremiah 29:17 as their life verse:
thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will send on them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like rotten figs that cannot be eaten, they are so bad. (The passage continues...) And I will pursue them with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence; and I will deliver them to trouble among all the kingdoms of the earth—to be a curse, an astonishment, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, because they have not heeded My words, says the Lord, which I sent to them by My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; neither would you heed, says the Lord.

What we do matters.

Let's visit Deuteronomy 28.  The twelve tribes of Israel are standing on the mountains of Gerazim  (blessing) and Ebal, six per mountain, to hear what causes God's blessings and curses.  The first fourteen verses outline what will happen if they live their lives in obedience to YHVH.  It is lovely, full of prosperity and fruit and rain in season and blessed work and dominion over enemies.

BUT, starting with verse 15 and continuing all the way through 68, YHVH outlines the consequences of disobedience.   And it starts out bad and gets progressively worse.  Why is the warning of the curses so long and detailed?  I believe YHVH really wanted them to understand the price they would pay for disobedience.  The detailed list includes confusion, frustration, pestilence, wasting disease, blight, mildew, famine, defeat by enemies, boils, death, oppression, robbery, scattering, expulsion from the land, and captivity.  Oh, and starvation so bad you will eat your children.  

I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing;
therefore choose life   (Deut 30:19)

What we do matters.

This same theme is carried into the New Covenant on the Mountain of Beatitudes in Matthew 5, but with a New Covenant twist.  Interestingly, Yeshua spends most of his time on the blessings and not the curses.  Verses 3-10 tell us, Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the pursuers of righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted.  For theirs is the kingdom of heaven and they will inherit the earth. (note:  the kingdom of God will someday be on earth and the Messiah will be ruling from Jerusalem).

Now for the twist...  verse 19.  It simply blows me away:
Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Did you notice that the commandment breakers are not booted out of the kingdom?  Yeshua's death lifted the terrible curses that we saw in Deuteronomy 28, but there are still consequences to disobediece.  You'll get into the kingdom if you have placed your trust in Yeshua, but you won't have much of a position there.  Compare that to 1 Corinthians 3:9-15...
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

In other words, by the skin of their teeth.

Now compare this to Yeshua's parables of the talents in Matthew 25.  The ones who use the talents given to him by God is rewarded greatly.  The one who basically does nothing with his gift is strongly rebuked and cast into the outer darkness (fringes of the kingdom) where he will gnash his teeth (experience deep regret).

What we do matters. 

1 John 5:2-3 confirm this concept: By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.

Not burdensome?  More like impossible, at least by our own power!

This is why the appointed time of Shavuot, or Pentecost, is so important.  The Jews have always celebrated the giving of the Torah - the laws of God that were written on stone tablets at Sinai - on this appointed day.  It was no coincidence then, that the Holy Spirit was given to indwell believers on this very same appointed day, when Jerusalem would have been full to overflowing with Jews on their annual Shavuot pilgrimage.

Without the power of the Holy Spirit that was given that day, accompanied by the spiritual gifts that are given to each believer, it is impossible to fulfill New Covenant Law.  

We must discover the gifts that the Spirit has given us, and use them for His kingdom purposes, if we want to hear His beloved voice saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’

What we do matters.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Gospel In the Lion’s Den

I was doing my daily reading the other day, which included Daniel 6.

Daniel in the Lion's Den... it's a story that many of us have heard since before we could walk, and usually it is ripped out of the context of a righteous man living in pagan Babylon.

As I was reading through it this time, new insights flew off the page for me that I had never noticed before.

The chapter opens with King Darius elevating Daniel to a high position.  This is the third time Daniel was promoted; it happened with Nebuchadnezzer after interpreting the king's dream, and then with Belshazzar after interpreting the writing on the wall.  (Granted, the second promotion only lasted an hour or two).  I wonder what Daniel did to impress Darius?  Maybe Darius just heard testimonies about Daniel, his God, and his steadfastness.  Who knows?

Anyway, Daniel's promotion irritated his fellow governors and satraps.   They knew Daniel was a righteous and faithful man, filled with integrity - so they declared that they would have to trip him up in regard to his God's law.

So these schmucks approached Darius with a piece of legislation that they knew Daniel would disobey.  They appealed to Darius' ego, suggesting that for 30 days, nobody be allowed to worship any man or god but Darius himself.

Darius fell for the ploy, and signed the bill into law.  The unchangeable Law of the Medes and Persians.  It was a ridiculous law that Daniel rightfully refused to obey.

Daniel prayed toward Jerusalem

I have often had this fleeting thought while reading about the Law of the Medes and Persians:  why exactly were the laws unchangeable?  Why then, at that point in history?  Many despotic rulers have come and gone and have had no problem changing laws.  Several modern guys come to mind - Stalin, Mao, Kim Jung Un, Hitler.

King Darius was the head honcho.  Why  could he not reverse the law with a kingly declaration?  (This happens again later in the Persian Empire, under King Artaxerxes in the Esther story).

Maybe God is showing us something with the Law of the Medes and Persians.  Maybe it is to demonstrate how His own law is set in stone and unchangeable.

When evil comes, another route must be taken because of the unchangeable law.

C. S. Lewis speaks of this immutable law and the way around it in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  The White Witch declared, "You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill … that human creature is mine. … His blood is my property."

The Witch in the story was quite right. She had legal claim to Edmund's soul because of his treachery. But Edmund would not die for his sins. Instead, Aslan offered to lay down his life in place of the boy.  In the story, the unchangeable law is called the Deep Magic From the Dawn of Time.  Aslan had to take a different route.

Daniel was condemned by an unchangeable law. The king was forced to obey his own law, even though he liked and respected Daniel. Against his wishes, he had to toss Daniel into the lion's den, because the law required it.  Verse 17 says that a stone was put in front of what looked to be Daniel's tomb, and sealed. (Where have we heard that before?)

Daniel in the cave with lions
Thankfully, YHVH intervened and closed the mouth of the hungry felines.  Daniel was spared.

God has made a law that declares the penalty for sin is death. It is immutable. It cannot be changed. And unless we still happen to be on earth when Yeshua returns, we will pay that penalty through the first death.

But, God did provide a means to get around the immutable law. He provided Himself. He came to earth in the flesh as Yeshua, the Son of Man,  and He paid the penalty for the broken law for us, so that by accepting His payment, we will be raised to life immortal.  We will not suffer the second (and permanent) death.  Yeshua came as the sacrificial Lamb of God. in order to circumvent God's unchangeable law for us.

But Yeshua is no longer the meek Lamb.  Someday soon, He will return to earth as the mighty Lion of Judah, and He will destroy His enemies - just as the enemies of Daniel were destroyed by the lions in Babylon.  He will then rule and reign from Jerusalem, and those who belong to Him will rule and reign with Him.

Friday, April 19, 2019

12 Passovers Later

This past weekend, I was privileged to share a Passover Seder with my congregation, most of whom had never experienced one before.  It was an awesome and humbling experience, because I love these dear brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Through Him, they are my family!

I celebrated my own first Passover meal years ago, in 2008.  A couple years prior to that, a thought had popped into my head, "Where does the word Easter come from?  Isn't Jesus supposed to be our Passover Lamb or something?" 

To say I was surprised  by the answer is an understatement.  It was positively life changing.  I am not going to elaborate on that now... you can Google it if you want to.

The question led me to discover God's appointed times and how they all point to Yeshua, our Messiah.  It also gave me a deep, deep love for the Word of God.  I had been a committed follower of Jesus since 1994, but I confess that it took awhile to fall in love with His Word.

That first attempt of mine at hosting a Passover Seder was just that, an attempt.  But I kept at it, learning new things every year and sharing what I was learning with small groups of people who wanted to know more.

Twelve Seders later, I continue to uncover jewels from God's Word.  I marvel at the depth!  I love that He continues to reveal new insights.

This year, during the weeks leading up to Passover, I had been learning more about temple sacrifices.  I knew there was a morning and evening sacrifice during temple times, but I didn't know that they were called the Tamim - the burnt offerings.

The burnt offering was completely offered up.  The priests did not get to eat of this sacrifice; it was consumed entirely on the altar.  The morning sacrifice took place at 9:00 am and was placed on the altar to burn all day.  The evening sacrifice took place at 3:00 pm, and was placed on the altar to burn all night long.

In other words, the burnt offering was a perpetual and total sacrifice.

All those other sacrifices that are detailed in Leviticus - the peace offering, the thank offering, the sin offering, and so on were offered daily by worshippers between the hours of 9:00 am and 3:00 pm.  The priests would receive their share, and the remains would be placed on top of the morning sacrifice.

I had known that the Passover lamb was offered at 3:00 pm, but I didn't know the timing of all the other sacrifices.

Yeshua was nailed to the tree at 9:00 am, and He took His last breath at 3:00 pm.  Not only was He the fulfillment of the Passover lamb, but He fulfilled every other sacrifice as well!

The busiest time at the temple during Passover was 3:00 pm, when the evening Tamim would be offered, immediately followed by the Passover lamb.

I try to imagine the scene the moment Yeshua took His last breath.  Scripture records darkness, earthquakes, and the tearing of the temple veil at the moment of Messiah's death - right in the midst of the evening sacrifice and the Passover sacrifice.

The Roman centurion, observing all that was happening, was the first to call it:  "Truly this was the Son of God."

The Holy of Holies in the temple was considered to be God’s dwelling place on earth, and was only accessible once a year on Yom Kippur, and only by the high priest.

I’ve written previously on the significance of the torn veil: we now have access to the Holy of Holies through Yeshua our High Priest.

But wait, there’s more.

Biblically, the act of tearing one’s garment was an act of deep mourning, especially when a loved one died. Jewish people still symbolically tear a garment when sitting shiva (observing a seven-day mourning period) for a loved one.

Can you see the prophetic picture of YHWH tearing His own garment in deep agony at the moment of Yeshua’s death?


Another insight the Lord gave me this year happened as I was preparing the lamb for the Seder - braised lamb shanks.

Even though lamb is one of the three commanded foods of the Passover celebration, Jews do not eat it for their Seders today due to the absence of the temple, which was destroyed in 70 AD. It occurred to me that Israel as a nation has been without the Lamb for nearly 2000 years.

I believe that is about to change.

As I was cleaning and drying 21 shank bones for my Seder plates, I thought of Ezekiel 37. As I was arranging those dry bones, I pondered how they are symbolic of Israel are coming to life!

Out of the ashes of the Holocaust, the state of Israel was born in 1948, after 1,878 years. Nineteen years later in 1967, Jerusalem was reunified and under Jewish control again for the first time in over 2000 years.

The hand of God is moving and something big is about to happen.  Are you paying attention?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Happy What??

The biblical festival of Purim has just ended.  I hope you had a happy Purim!

I recently asked several of my Christian friends if they knew what Purim was, and I received a universal no.  

Sigh.  Don't forget to study the first two-thirds of your Bible.  It is filled with treasures!

Before I elaborate on the celebration, I just want to point out something interesting from the scriptures.  

There are two books named after women in the Bible - Esther and Ruth.  Both are in the Hebrew scriptures.  One is a Jew who married a Gentile.  The other is a Gentile who married a Jew.  It's like God really intended for there to be One New Man together in Messiah!

So anyway, Purim is a biblical festival, and one of the minor (but fun!) holidays celebrated by the Jewish people today.  You can find it in the book of Esther.

Esther 3:7 tells us that Purim means "lots" in Hebrew.  Evil wicked Haman was irritated at Mordechai the Jew for not bowing down to him.  So in his rage, he threw some dice to determine when and how he should destroy all the Jews in the empire.  The lot finally fell to the thirteenth day of the twelfth month.  

So the following month, Haman went to the king (on the thirteenth of the first month) with his evil plan.  The king said, "well, ok, that sounds good to me."  (These ancient kings though... did they give much thought to what they made into laws??)  This nasty plot of Haman's was to be carried out eleven months later, in the twelfth month, on the thirteenth day.

Is this why the number 13 is unlucky?  Just wondering.

The story unfolds as Esther is called upon to go to the king her husband and intercede for her people.  I am not going to recount the entire story here.  You can go read it.

In the end, the Jews prevail.  They are not wiped out, and therefore the Messiah would still be born.  So you can see how the story of Esther affects you and me even today.

And just like Hanukkah, we have an other They-Tried-To-Kill-Us-We-Won-Let's-Celebrate festival.  As followers of the Jewish Messiah, why shouldn't we celebrate it, too?  Are we not grafted in to the commonwealth of Israel and the household of faith?

Esther 9 summarizes the event and the future celebration of said event nicely:

But the Jews who were at Shushan assembled together on the thirteenth day, as well as on the fourteenth; and on the fifteenth of the month they rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore the Jews of the villages who dwelt in the unwalled towns celebrated the fourteenth day of the month of Adar with gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and for sending presents to one another.

And Mordecai wrote these things and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, to establish among them that they should celebrate yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor. So the Jews accepted the custom which they had begun, as Mordecai had written to them, because Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to annihilate them, and had cast Pur (that is, the lot), to consume them and destroy them; but when Esther came before the king, he commanded by letter that this wicked plot which Haman had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows.

So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur. Therefore, because of all the words of this letter, what they had seen concerning this matter, and what had happened to them, the Jews established and imposed it upon themselves and their descendants and all who would join them, that without fail they should celebrate these two days every year, according to the written instructions and according to the prescribed time,  that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city, that these days of Purim should not fail to be observed among the Jews, and that the memory of them should not perish among their descendants.

Today, Jews continue celebrating this event by sending gifts to the poor and to one another, and by dressing in fun costumes.  Oh, and drinking.  I am not sure why this came to be a thing, but in the Orthodox Jewish world, it is a time of sanctioned over-imbibing in alcohol.  Go figure.

Hamantaschen - meaning Haman's ears.  They are delicious!

Celebrations are filled with reading the Esther story, treats, wine, and noisemakers.

Purim is sometimes called the Jewish Halloween - but without the creepiness.

So next year, I want to have a costume party for Purim.  Who's in?

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Jewish Roots Doctrines and the Two Sauls

I recently met with a friend of mine; a Jewish believer in Yeshua who runs a Messianic dance ministry.  She was telling me about the different groups within the Jewish Roots movement, and sadly she reported that they all hate each other.

Hate each other?  How is this possible when one of Yeshua's main commands was that we love one another?

And yet, we are still humans, running around in these human bodies in a world that still is corrupted.  And often we forget to die to self, as the word instructs us to do.

Anyway, my friend said that there are three main groups:  Messianic Jews, Hebraic Christians, and Hebrew Roots people.  (I knew there were differences within the Jewish Roots movement but did not know they were categorized like this).

Here is a website from a Hebraic Christian congregation that explains the difference between the first two groups:

The third group, Hebrew Roots people, can be a little harder to explain since there is such a wide range of doctrines within the group. 

One of the entities that falls into this third category is the Ephraimites.  These mostly Gentile Christians claim to be a part of the ten lost tribes of Israel, so therefore they actually ARE Israel.  This doctrine also shows up as British-Israelism, Two-House (or Whole-House) Theology, and Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God.  The doctrine is heavily based on Ezekiel's vision of the two sticks coming together in Ezekiel 37.

Also within the Hebrew Roots category are people who hold to the teaching that the Messiah's death did not complete the Moses Covenant, but instead renewed it, expanded it, and wrote it on the hearts of His true followers.  For the most part, those involved advocate the need for every believer to walk what they call a "Torah-observant life."  This means that the ordinances of the Mosaic Covenant must be a central focus in the lifestyle of believers today as it was with the Ancient Jews. 

Hmm. About a third of those ordinances are centered around temple sacrifice - an impossibility to keep today since there is no physical temple.  Didn't James say something about breaking one part of the law breaks the whole thing?  But I digress.

There are a couple people I know who adhere to this third group, and their Facebook posts are rather militant.  In fact, it was a post from one of these people that is the reason for today's post.

This person was elaborating on what she called the false teaching of the Apostle Paul.  She went as far as saying his "conversion" was actually from the Antichrist, and that all of his teachings are false and that his writings should be thrown out of the Bible.

The following is a paraphrase of her example:

King Saul (who was from the tribe of Benjamin) persecuted David and his followers.  The Apostle Paul (whose Hebrew name is also Saul, and he was also from the tribe of Benjamin) persecuted the followers of Yeshua.  Since the Hebrew scriptures are a foreshadow of Messiah, therefore because King Saul was influenced by the devil and met a tragic end, therefore Paul too was influenced by the devil and met with a tragic end.

What a dangerous way to look at the Bible!  This person clearly does not understand how biblical foreshadowing works.  Biblical foreshadows are prophetic snapshots of what is to come, not an exact detail-by-detail fulfillment.

Let me use a different account to make my point.

The LORD stopped Abraham from sacrificing his beloved son, Isaac.  However, the LORD did not stop the sacrifice of His beloved son, Yeshua.  Therefore, since the fulfillment was not exactly like the foreshadow, Yeshua could not be the Messiah.

Can you see the logical fallacy?

However, there definitely is a prophetic connection between the two Sauls, but I never saw it until I read that Facebook post.  

Consider this:

If King Saul the Benjamite (and his ultimate demise) is a prophetic picture of the glorious Sinai Covenant, which is written on stone tablets and ends in death, how much more is Rabbi Saul the Benjamite (and his ultimate redemption) a prophetic picture of the New Covenant, written by the Spirit on our hearts?

Rabbi Saul puts it like this in 2 Corinthians 3:

Our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 

But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.

A story of two hills.  Which is greater?

Well.  No wonder many Hebrew Roots people take issue with the Apostle Paul.  His focus is on the glorious New Covenant and not on Moses and the Mount Sinai Covenant.

So back to the conversation I was having with my believing Jewish friend.  I asked her which of the three groups she identified with, and she said “None.  I am simply teaching people how to worship Yeshua the Jewish Messiah through dance.”  She went on to tell me that one group actually fired her for associating with those from another group.


I cannot imagine that this is what the Messiah had in mind when He commanded us to love one another or when He prayed that we would be unified.

I love studying the Jewish Roots of my faith because of the richness of understanding that it brings to my faith.  But I cannot say that I fully identify with any of these Jewish Roots groups.  The congregation I attend is part of a Christian denomination, and although I am a member, I do not profess any allegiance to the denomination.

My allegiance is to the crucified and risen Redeemer – Messiah Yeshua – and to His holy Word and to His Holy Spirit dwelling within me.  

And as far as Torah observance goes, the Hebrew word Torah simply means instruction.  I believe all scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, is our instruction - our Torah, and it must be understood as a whole, complete set of instructions.  So yes, this makes me Torah observant.