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Posts Tagged ‘torah’

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photo by Krystal Tye

I spent last week in Southwest Colorado, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.  My father moved to this area when I was 11 years old (and helped build the condos in the picture) so I’ve been blessed to have a childhood full of mountain memories.  Even before this, our family lived in Grand County, Colorado on three acres of lodge-pole pines.  I have always wished my own children could have grown up having the same adventures I did.  As kids, we lived outdoors – hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, sledding, swimming, spelunking,  backpacking, fishing, biking, four wheel mountain road driving … that’s all the “ing” words I can think of.  I am so glad my parents gave me an appreciation for nature and finding joy in the Creator’s world.  I still have to be outside as much as possible, even if it’s just to sit in my own back yard.  Sitting.. my new “ing”  word for my older body.

Now I am a city dweller, and it has some great perks.  But nothing can compare to watching the mood of a mountain range change five times in a day as the light and clouds change, hearing the wind in the trees before it comes to you, the smell of soil, pine, and sage, and a sky so blue you wouldn’t find a match even in a 64-count box of crayons.  I’ve only been home a day and I’m already homesick for the Rockies.  And I have not even begun to count the ways I love them.

On this visit, my younger two children were finally old enough to take a serious hike.  We took off to climb the mesa behind my father’s house.  My brother has camped on top a few times, so he knew they easy way to the top.  In this case, easy meant avoiding the 80 degree incline directly behind the house and opting for a more gradual slope farther down the road.  But we still had a steep climb with patches of snow, mud, large rocks, cactus, and brush to maneuver around, with no trail.  My six and eight year old kids had never been on anything more challenging than the bike trail behind our house.  I wondered how long before the complaining would begin, but I didn’t start begging to stop for a rest until we nearly reached the top!  My idle ways while living at near sea level revealed themselves as I gasped for air.  My children however urged me on to keep up.  I realized hiking in the mountains from a young age taught me I could do hard things, and that hard things could be very enjoyable, even though painful at times.

The views from the top made it worth the effort.  We could see the entire valley, a lake, and even the state line into New Mexico.  We hiked along the top to the far end,WP_000580 then made our way down farther from the house than we planned.  We tried mud skiing (new sport) down the last incline, investigating a large animal skeleton at the bottom.  As we rounded the base of the mesa and found the road that led home, I realized we had walked farther than we ever do on our city trails.  Yet none of us had grown bored or wished we hadn’t come.  I contrasted this to my various attempts to start a walking program motivated by the fact that it’s good for me.  No comparison.  I tortured my body on this hike and wondered if I would need assistance to get out of bed the next day.  But at home it’s like pulling teeth to get out and walk down my flat, straight city street, or even the bike trail.

WP_000589I sometimes hear people speak of their relationship with God as I do my exercise program; obligatory and guilt-ridden for lack of effort.  I’ve been in that place plenty of times too.  But God is not an obligation – He is an adventure!  The Spirit has so much beauty to show us, so many interesting things to ponder and ask about, full of fresh air and bright light.  My grown-up self often forgets that God isn’t found in the list of things we “should” do to be a good Christian.  He is found in the joy of childlike curiosity, love, and trust.  He delivered us from being servants and pupils under the school master to being sons and daughters of Him, Abba, Daddy.   I love the world He created for us to enjoy and He speaks to me so much when I have the chance to immerse myself in it.  Even in my city, there are places and times to do this.

But sometimes following Jesus isn’t a walk in the park.  He did say there was a cross involved.  Choices, sacrifices, endurance, patience, and pain – these also come with the high calling to “walk as He walked.”  I have been on hikes that lasted longer than I bargained for.  One day, when I was 12, my dad had to carry me the last couple miles back to the truck.  I couldn’t go anymore.  Sixteen miles round trip of steep trails and a few laps around the lake while fishing – I was overly optimistic about my abilities.  But do I regret it?  Not for a second.  What drives people to do crazy things for Jesus?  Joy, Gratitude, and Love.  If obligation is my game, I’m afraid I would give up before I have barely started.  Truly loving relationships don’t understand that kind of drudgery.

When we got home from our trip, my children ran to see their daddy who had to stay behind.  No one had to say, “Please go hug your dad and tell him you missed him.”  Spontaneous love and affection erupted that even the neighbors across the street could hear.  If only we could see ourselves with our Heavenly Father this way.

I can write about this much easier than I can live it.  So easy for my default setting to be task oriented, not love seeking.  Seeing truth is easier than walking.  But I’m thankful my Abba knows when I need Him to pick me up and carry me.  Maybe that’s a third and best way of walking.

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The Hebrew Roots Movement’s often unstated belief (but seen in practice and focus) is that the greatest gift to man was the Torah itself.  So much so, that for an HRM follower, Jesus Himself must be equated with it – as the living version of the stone tablets and scroll.  This is how we justified in our minds, venerating a piece of wood with paper round around it, containing Hebrew writing.  Regardless of how old it is, where it came from, or who owned it last  –   it’s nothing more than wood and paper that was sent out into the world to say, “Look for the One who is to come and hear Him!”  It didn’t bleed and die on a cross, or come back to life, and it most certainly doesn’t forgive me.  No amount of adoration ever helped my black wool turn to white.  It just lies there on the table, or goes where it’s carried.

The main character in the story of Sinai isn’t a Law, but a living God who spoke and lived in a pillar of fire!  God Himself was with them!  In fact it was precisely when they begged God to stop speaking that Moses had to go up the mountain and get the message for them.  The written Law was necessary in part, because the living relationship was too terrifying.  Not that God didn’t have a purpose in how things transpired.  I’m not one who believes God is surprised or has a plan B in His back pocket.

While Moses was gone to get further instructions, they immediately set out to do exactly the opposite of which they had just promised God they would do, which was chiefly to love and worship Him only.  As a consequence of this bold and immediate disobedience, God threatened to not go with them anymore.  He said He would send His angel ahead of them to fight their battles, but He wasn’t going to follow along or lead because, He explained, the result would be consumed people, not chosen people.

But Moses steps in.  He intercedes, and he implores.  And God listens.  I have always loved this part of the story

For the LORD had said to Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘You are a stiff-necked people; if for a single moment I should go up among you, I would consume you. So now take off your ornaments, that I may know what to do with you.'” Therefore the people of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments, from Mount Horeb onward.  

Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp.  Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise up, and each would stand at his tent door, and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the LORD would speak with Moses. And when all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise up and worship, each at his tent door. Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.

When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.  Moses said to the LORD, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’  Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”

And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?”  And the LORD said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”  And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.  

Exodus 33:5-19 ESV

There are so many gems in this passage, it’s tempting to dig them all out.  Firstly though, they now had the book of the Law, (as soon as Moses was sent to make another set of stone tablets) but it as not in this that they found their comfort and direction.  No, they knew their Living God must be with them or they were nothing in this world.  An angel wasn’t going to be enough for what they had waiting for them on this journey, or in the Promised Land.  A book could not tell them in a moment to turn to the right or to the left, and it could not bring water from a rock or manna from the sky.

He made His presence known at various times throughout their history.  The goal of the temple worship was to have the offering accepted and blessed by His presence.   This factor alone is what precipitated the detailed instructions for the priests, and why Aaron lost two sons in a day for not realizing the magnitude of what His Presence meant.  Without it, there would have been nothing to obey, nothing to fear, and certainly nothing to desire or love, as we see Moses here begging God – to really know Him and His ways, and see His Glory!

This was our desire in Torah Observance above all things.  We believed that through this definition of obedience, we would finally know God as we desired.  But in order to experience the Presence as Moses and ancient Israel did, you must have a temple and an Ark of the Covenant, and sacrifices.  Oh, and a priesthood.  Modern Judaism has none of these, and neither does any Torah Observant person.  They have replaced the Presence with a document.  The goal of the book was the Presence, and this goal was met most fully in Jesus.  To go back to the Law and miss Jesus as the fullest way to know God, is tragic.

But what a bold a request Moses made!  He wanted to KNOW God, and His ways.  He wanted to see His Glory.  And this AFTER he had heard the entire book of the Law the first time.  What knowledge of God and His ways did he still lack after this experience of receiving the Torah? I think the answer might be somewhere in the word “mercy” there at the end.  But Moses was already exhibiting the mercy and self-sacrifice of His Maker, because he was bathed in the light of His presence.

I have had the deep yearning for God’s presence and been saddened by those who didn’t even know there was something to miss in their churches, or felt they needed to manufacture the illusion of it instead.  There is the emperor who doesn’t know he hasn’t any clothes, and one that clothes himself with falsehood, and remains naked still.

I can’t take credit for this post really because it was inspired by a sermon on the radio this week, and it’s been well over a year I think since I even turned on a preaching station.  He didn’t make the same applications here as I have, but the implications began to grow in my mind as I listened.

The first thing that came to mind as I heard this sermon (will share an excerpt below) was not the Hebrew Roots Movement, but a young person who doesn’t see anything that portrays God as a reality rather than an idea.   I faced the same struggle at that age.  We as the Church have forgotten what makes us distinct among the peoples of the earth.  His purifying Presence.  There is so little evidence in most congregations of lives being transformed in repentance to God and His apage love for one another.  (Let’s start here before we even move on to signs and wonders please!)  These things can come only through His Spirit in us and with us.  Without Him, we are a facade, a cheap imitation, and a wizard with nothing more than a microphone and a big screen.

The Hebrew Roots Movement cares little for the Presence.  Many come from charismatic circles, and leave behind the excesses of that movement for something more concrete in this one.  Soon the Trinity and the Spirit are relegated to heresy and little more than “wind”.   Others come from churches where immorality and worldliness are rampant with no reverence for the things of God.  Soon they believe they can start a Law-observing campaign to address this heathenism in the ranks. The church has abandoned His Law!!  And yes, it has.  But the Law of Christ.  It cares not for His Presence or His words.  This sermon brought in a parallel New Testament verse that I never saw in this way before.  “

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”  Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  John 14:21-23

He can lead us by an angel, or we can ask for His Presence.  We can seek to know Him and His ways. Jesus said, “my commandments”.  (If you think He didn’t say anything Moses didn’t say, try reading Him again.) The really awesome thing here is that God gave Moses what he asked for!  And I believe this is His heart for us also.  The other verse that comes to mind is “By this will all men know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  The pillar of fire made the Israelites distinct among the nations.  Love is supposed to be our identifying mark in the world.  And that is where we must begin and never end.

Here are the words of the mighty preacher with a delightful accent (sorry couldn’t type that in), who is far more eloquent and educated than I… and a link if you would like to hear it all.

 (quoting Moses) How will anyone know you are pleased with me and your people UNLESS YOU GO WITH US?

That’s the great question of the New Testament.  That’s why the promise of Jesus is, “If a man loves me he will keep my commandments, and I and my father will come to him and make our home with him.”

How will anybody know unless Your presence is with us?
Is there anything remotely tangible about God in my life? That’s the question.  
Is there anything distinguishable about me? I fear lest the answer is, “no.” 

He (Moses) says the only way that people will know is if you are with us. If You’re not with us we’re on our own. And the same is true as you go to your office tomorrow and as we gather here to worship. This is the cry of our hearts, “God, show us that you’re with us.” Otherwise how will anyone be able to distinguish between this and any other event. The only thing that will make it a reality is if you show yourself to be here.

Oh we can get together and have a shindig.  We can get together and sing songs. We can get together and have revelry. We can sing everything on a horizontal level, and make the bystanders walk in and say, “You know, that is a wonderful time.” But we will not see men and women turn from their sins. We will not see men and women broken-hearted before God, unless God comes by His Spirit among His people.

Do you pray for revival in church? Do you pray for the Spirit to be poured out on our congregation? Are you telling me you are content with things the way they are? Are you content to take your place while our neighbors and friends are lost without Christ? Or maybe you’d like another kind of leader, someone who would say simply kind things to you, and tell you, “Listen, it’s just fine.” Loved ones, it is NOT fine. The night comes when no one can work.

….  And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the thing that you ask because I am pleased with you, and I know you by name.”   And Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” It is for this then loved ones, that we long, that God would honestly respond to the cries of our hearts and that He would show us his glory, the revelation of His goodness and his name, a glory that will be seen far more in his mercy than His majesty. A mercy that is fetched from within Himself, and not from any merit in His creatures. I can’t ask God to be merciful on the strength of who I am because who I am is a can of worms. The only way we can ask God to show His mercy is because He fetches His mercy from within Himself. Because He is mercy.

Prone to Wander – part B

Alistair Begg

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Today was one of the most stressful days I have had in awhile.  Recently I asked God for more… an ability to do more for Him, going beyond giving material goods and money, to letting Him give of Himself through me, which really means I have to get out of the way and let Him do His work.  For years now I’ve been involved in charitable pursuits, but seem to have gotten stuck at the level of handing people a toothbrush or a bar of soap and not touching soul to soul.  It has been a wonderful privilege to be involved in these things, but I know there is so much more.  I long to see what God can do, and to see people really reached by His love.

Without delay He has brought me to a place of great stress, having to choose between what I want and what He has placed before me, for the sake of someone else.  Just one small change in the turn of events today changed the entire script, and on the outside it may have looked noble, but on the inside I was so frustrated, and complaining loudly.  This breaking doesn’t come easily.

I recently read an article stating the problem with our culture is no one knows what sin is anymore, and that we must really bring this back into focus if anyone is going to realize their need for God.  To most people this means we must preach the Ten Commandments.  Ask people if they have ever told a lie.  Go through each one and make sure we convince people they have broken them all, and therefore need Jesus, the “Get out of hell free” card.  I won’t say that never works, but I believe the Old Covenant mirror of the Law is far inferior to the New Covenant version.  

Last night I watched a program about a Benedictine monastery  and five men from various walks of life who had decided to go spend some time there for various reasons.  One was an atheist, one a former convict, another a spiritual seeker who had also spent time at a Buddhist monastery.  Being a spiritual seeker myself, most of my life, this show fascinated me, seeing men from vastly different walks of life coming together in answer to a spiritual call in their hearts.  Maybe there would be better places to find the answers than with monks.  But then again, I heard a great deal of wisdom coming from them.  Spending hours a day listening to God in silence must result in learning a few things.

One caveat of wisdom I heard, which I had also come to realize some time ago, is that in order to grow spiritually, we absolutely must live in community with other people.  One man in this episode had a particular distaste for another member of the group.  The monk mentoring him suggested that he had the most to learn from this individual who he detested so badly.

For most of us, the “community” of refining begins in our own families.  Marriage is the one of the most challenging relationships, then parenting.. after the ordeal of growing up with imperfect parents of course.  Outside of family, my culture has precious little that qualifies as genuine community.  The Church has the opportunity to demonstrate to the world how this is done, and what it looks like. People are starving for this!  We need it because God wired us to be connected to each other, living stones in His temple.    

In all these relationships we find both joy and pain.  In all these, the opportunity to seek that which Jesus commanded, “Love one another as I have loved you.” When we pull down our defenses and are willing to see ourselves through the eyes of those closest to us, then we live in honesty, confession, forgiveness, restoration.  The true nature of New Covenant sin is to transgress love.  I Corinthians 13 should be the list of commands, if we thought we needed one to hang on the wall.  

But even community is not the perfect mirror. Once again – Jesus is.  Looking into Him, deeply into Him, we find the most humbling of pictures, the brightest revealing light into our own souls.  We see the cross he invites us to take up and crucify our own desires, ego, agenda, resentments and fear.  Let them die.  The Ten Commandments, or even 613, will never come close to bringing the conviction in our hearts that one look at Jesus will do.  Zacchaeus  knew the law from birth.  He had learned to live with the guilt it bound upon his life.  But as soon as He saw Jesus, and realized Jesus loved Him, he not only truly knew His sin, but was free from it.  He let it go, with great joy in response to the Creator of the world coming to eat at his table.  Beautifully, the root words in the name Zacchaeus mean pure, transparent, and clean.  And the town could not believe Jesus would eat with such a sinner!

Today, even as I prayed for God to deliver me from a task, he herded me right into it.  I had no way of escape.  As the day wore on – the demands increased, and so did my frustration. But He showed me repeatedly that love was a much higher priority than my plans.  Love revealed my own selfishness and impatience.  But love also made a way out to a place of peace.  This is a mirror that not only reflects, but transforms.  By beholding, we become changed, into His likeness. 

 

 

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By definition…
Judaize or Judaise
vb
1. to conform or bring into conformity with Judaism
2. ( tr ) to convert to Judaism
3. ( tr ) to imbue with Jewish principles

They have pure devotion to God as their banner and restoration of the Church back to Israel as their mission so the Jewish people may be saved.  Your pagan Jesus is getting in the way of Israel seeing the truth.  By keeping the law of Moses you will no longer offend them with your foreign Jesus and they will accept Him and you both.   Although it may have remained dormant for centuries, this “Moses is for everyone” mindset is nothing new, finding its birth in the unexpected event of a Gentile coming to Christ and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

In the early church, “those of the circumcision” seemed to cause the most controversy.  Today the majority of people placing the yoke of the Law on believers are in fact Gentiles.  You may find it hard to believe after the great effort the Apostle Paul put forth trying to divert people away from this distraction, that 2000 years later, people are now falling for the same divisive teachings.  If the Galatians were bewitched, we are beyond blind.  So many are willingly choosing a theology that requires Paul’s letter to the Galatians be ignored, denied, or twisted beyond recognition – along with many other New Testament passages addressing these issues long ago.

The quest for the salvation of the Jewish people (a most worthy cause) works as an effective lure to many Christians, especially as some segments of the church become increasingly interested in prophecy and the restoration of Israel.  But the Hebrew Roots/Messianic Movement pulls in Christians from all branches of the church, for many reasons.   Many no longer refer to themselves as Christians at all.  They have traveled down a path towards a Yeshua/Yahshua/Yehoshua/Yahoshua repackaged by modern Judaism rather than the Jesus of the New Testament Scriptures.  Although they can’t quite agree on a name for their new Messiah, they view their Christian roots as entirely pagan and their Hebrew Roots as not only restored truth, but a spiritual identity that causes them to feign a Jewish ethnic identity as well in many cases.  Some even ditch their Gentile names for Hebrew ones.

When I relate the story of our journey out of this movement, many Christians give me a look of disbelief that anyone could fall for something so illogical.  I am happy to reveal our own foolishness and am always relieved when others see it for what it is.  But as crazy and ridiculous as it may seem to some onlookers, the fact remains that this quietly encroaching disease seems to be taking down people left and right.  Every time I find myself wanting to put this to rest and move on to things I would rather talk about, I am presented with a new example of someone who has given their mind over to this movement.  Its teachers have painted a big, red, bull’s-eye target on your church, because you are the only ones with enough knowledge to understand and desire their complicated messages.  The lost person on the street is of no interest to them.

Spiritual Snipe Hunting
After a few years in this persuasion, focusing on the first five books of the Bible, we deeply sensed the group we led needed to study the New Testament scriptures as well.  We referred to the New Testament (called many things, but never New) when it reinforced the Torah study we were in, but we never approached the New Testament with the same systematic, reverent study as we did the Law.  We followed the same study schedule as the Jewish synagogues.

After one failed attempt to add a mid-week study night, we subscribed to a New Testament study course offered from a “Hebraic” perspective.  Although expensive, we felt it might encourage participation and moved the study to an early Sabbath session, before our main Torah study.  The Torah study took priority and could not be rescheduled or set aside.

I believed at last, after nearly six years, I would finally get to see this Jewish Yeshua that I’d been seeking for all along – to understand and see Him in His fullness.  For me, this had been the original attraction.  I’d been led to believe my Christian Jesus was incomplete and there was some deep wisdom and fabric of life underlying those gospel passages I just could not see.  If someone could bring that out for me, I was convinced I would know Him like never before.

The Hunting Outfitters
We initially chose this particular publisher because they avoided the most divisive subjects in the movement, presenting a sleek, scholarly approach.  Even though we are not customers now, we still periodically receive catalogs and fundraising correspondence from them.  Looking at their offerings with new eyes, I have been wanting to share what I believe are some of the most revealing focus statements.  (The letter discussed here can be read below in its entirety.)  Evaluate the following quotes with the overall pattern and focus of the New Testament writings.

Their Mission Statement:

Proclaiming the Torah and it’s way of life, fully centered on Messiah, to today’s People of God.

Proclaiming what? (Torah)  To Whom? (The people of God).  This is their reason for existence.  Does this align with any ministry found in the New Testament?  Searching the word “proclaim” in the ESV New Testament (often translated “preach” in the KJV) produced 27 results.  They overwhelmingly refer to the gospel of the risen Christ, and related subjects. Not a single example supports the direction of this mission statement above.  No one can proclaim Torah as their first priority and still be “fully centered on Messiah”!  If you are fully centered on Him, you will proclaim Him.

Their Plea:
The first paragraph states this mission is financially suffering and needs your help, even though one of their complete volume studies cost nearly $300 (but you can pay as you go, so it’s fair).

…..over 2 billion people in the world identify themselves as Christians…Almost the entire 2 billion of them are unaware of the Jewish roots of their faith and the amazing, transforming teachings of the Torah.  Who is willing to take this message to them?”

Where does the Word of God ever teach that the Law is the source of transformation for those who are in Christ?  In contrast, we are told:

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,  in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3,4

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

What could the Law not do?  Where does our transformation come from?  Who are they replacing with the Torah in these statements?

Some Christians use the Law of Moses as their tool to convict sinners and bring them to Christ, but this ministry is dedicating itself to teaching the entire Jewish system of Law to those who ALREADY trust Christ.  Paul asked the Galatians, “Having begun in the Spirit, will you be perfected by the flesh?” (Gal. 3:3)  Good question.

Their Claim:
The letter becomes increasingly bold as it explains why this is so vitally important, a point which is even underlined for emphasis,

Christian ignorance of Torah is the single-biggest obstacle to Jewish evangelism and the restoration of the body.

The Hebrew Roots solution to antisemitism is to teach Christians how to observe Torah.  Conversely, rejection of Torah, or suggesting Jesus did something new, is often viewed as antisemitic.  They go beyond calling this a reformation but a “restoration” … being entrusted with “the greatest revelation of biblical truth since the apostolic era.”  That is one of the most bold, arrogant claims I have seen. By “restoration of the body”, they mean the inclusion of followers of Yeshua into Israel, which requires their Torah observance.  In their present state, Christians are still defiled and “outside the camp” and the division in the body is our fault for offending our Jewish brothers with bacon and Sunday church attendance.

Jesus was indeed born of the tribe of Judah, keeping the Law, yet the Jewish people as a whole rejected Him then.  Why do these modern teachers think this will work now for the church?  The gospel of John reveals the Jewish leaders sought to kill Jesus because, “being a man, he claimed to be God.”  This is still a huge theological obstacle, and many Messianics have obliged by taking this out of the way as well, conceding that Jesus was just a man.

Impressing or Offending?
I asked a Jewish friend and follower of Christ, living in Israel, to share his perspective on effective Jewish evangelism.  Below is a short interview.  I so much appreciate his willingness to share his thoughts, and grateful to God for bringing our paths together.

8thday4life:  How likely is it that a large sector of Gentile “Christians” pretending to be Jewish (observing and adapting Jewish customs to their own liking) would be a catalyst to help the Jewish people accept their Messiah?

Jeremy:  From my observations most attempts by non-Jews to replicate the rituals of Judaism are clumsy. Therefore the effect is to basically defile those rituals. For example, I knew a (Gentile) pastor who draped a tallit over the podium in an attempt to “make Jews feel at home”. Most Jews are horrified to see their ritual objects used in a way for which they were not intended. It would be like taking the wine and wafer of the Catholic Mass and using it for snacks after the Service. (I have to use a Catholic Mass as an example because I can’t think of sacred objects in most Protestant ritual.)  In actual fact it is my observation that among those adapting Jewish customs Christians who leave Jesus far outnumber Jews who turn to Him. (emphasis mine)

8thday4life:  What do you believe is the single biggest obstacle to the Jewish people recognizing Jesus as their Messiah?

Jeremy:  The Veil. This is a prayer thing. I believe that Christians need to pray and God will speak. God speaking is absolutely the best witness. When Christians humble themselves (in imitation of Christ) rather than imitate a work of man, I believe that this speaks. Love speaks. Love speaks to you, doesn’t it (she?)?

One day during the time when people were witnessing to me I came down with a sore throat. My friends could have laid hands on me and prayed for me and God would have healed me (they prayed their roaches away, so I knew He heard their prayers). But they didn’t do that. They made me hot lemonade. Their love healed my throat.

8thday4life:  What would be the best way for the Church to reach out to them in your opinion?  (Realizing – the history of persecution – the Church has done the Messiah no favors with His people.)

Jeremy:  See above. Make more hot lemonade! But in a natural way, i.e. as God leads. Not in a forced way. Richard Wurmbrand was led to the Lord by a man who prayed all his life that God would let him lead a Jew to Jesus. God put it together. Like I said, I think it’s a Prayer thing. A phony can be spotted a mile off!

(You can read more of his testimony and perspective on the Messianic Movement HERE)

It appears that love, compassion, prayer, and being led by the Spirit may be more effective than parading around in a tallit, nailing a mezzuzah to our door, learning the Shema in Hebrew or abstaining from food on Yom Kippur while we argue about the solar and lunar calendars.  And Jeremy also confirms from his own testimony, and many others like him, the veil Paul spoke of is still the spiritual obstacle to Jewish people seeing their Messiah, which remains while they are reading the Law itself as described in 2 Corinthians 3.

But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:14-17

Lifting up Jesus (and acting like Him), rather than proclaiming our own law-keeping and affinity for Jewishness, seems to be the Scriptural approach.

"Back to the Wilderness" by Ramone Romero

No Snipe for Dinner Tonight
In the end, as we studied this esteemed publisher’s course, I still did not see this elusive Yeshua who was so superior to Jesus.  The course consisted of tedious, dry information which relied heavily on the writings of Jewish Rabbis who had never believed in their Messiah.  While these writings are valuable in many ways to understand Judaism and provide interesting historical insight, they are not helpful in understanding the Person they did not acknowledge.  These same sages have in some cases cursed both Christ and His followers.  Judaism was opposed to Jesus as its Messiah 2000 year ago, and last I checked, has not changed this firm position.  I am reminded of what the disciples were asked when they were looking for Jesus at the tomb.  “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”

Even though we were studying the gospels, it seemed as if the life had been sucked off the pages and replaced with discussions about the Torah, once again.  Because, in this movement,  the law is a god made synonymous with the incarnated God, who is worth an obligatory mention only as He relates to the higher god of Torah.

I am so thankful that before we finished the gospels, I had delved into Matthew again on my own and seen Jesus like I had never seen Him before – standing alone, above the Law and the Prophets.  This revelation is second only in my life to receiving faith in Him as God and Savior many years earlier, but the grief of my repentance was close to the same, if not deeper, because this time the truth I saw was so simple, I could not find any plausible excuses for my ignorance and vain wanderings.

To its credit, this same study course had a lesson with a description of a rabbinic disciple in the time of Jesus, explaining how they would mimic their teacher in every aspect of their lives.  I realized, by definition, I was not a disciple of Jesus because I was not focusing my attention on His words and endeavoring to imitate Him, but Moses.  I was a disciple of Moses first.  In seeking Jesus, my veil was also lifted.

Don’t Be Led Astray

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.  2 Corinthians 11:3, 14

The closing boast of this letter alarmed me most, and prompted me to write this post.

We are in churches, connected with the Church, and bringing truth to the Church with no concern for denominational lines.  Hundreds of pastors from all different denominations read and study FFOZ materials because…. a shared faith in Messiah and Jewish roots is something we all have in common. (emphasis theirs)

This is not about simply engendering understanding between Jews and Christians, but about drawing Christians into Judaism and away from the simplicity of Jesus Christ.  If the common bond you have with someone is defined as Messiah AND something… anything…. presented as “essential and equal truth” you have been taken in by a man-made agenda.  The Jewish people need to be reconciled to their Redeemer and to see in Him the blood of their Passover Lamb they can no longer even sacrifice.  Christianity does not need to be reconciled to Judaism, which is the end goal of this endeavor.  Genuine love will reconcile people to each other who have at one time been enemies, and this unity also comes only in Christ. (See a pattern here?)

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.  For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, Ephesians 2:13-19

The wall of hostility in Paul’s day between Jews and Gentiles was the law.  Jews looked down on Gentiles as a sub-species and history shows Christianity later developed a deep hatred for Jews.  Both of these sad developments of human pride are taken away in Christ.  We don’t need to glorify the Law of Moses, but agree with Paul, a pharisee of pharisees, that it has been taken out of the way for both parties, lifting up the Cross where we can stand united, fellow citizens.  Praise God He has done this, is doing this, and will continue to do this, until His Sovereign will has been carried out in this world!

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This week we finally sat down to watch a DVD someone loaned us weeks ago called “Furious Love”. A man took a movie camera to document the love of God penetrating the world of Wiccans, drug addicts, and the Asian sex industry.  He  also gave a voice to the Persecuted Church in Orissa, India where the secular media has turned a blind eye.    The whole movie showed the power of the Love of God when people are willing to be used by Him in this fractured world.  This film also intensely demonstrates the reality of spiritual warfare.  Not for young children or the faint of heart.

I would strongly encourage anyone who believes they have been called to bring a special message to the world  (i.e. Torah Observance, Sabbath-keeping, speaking of Sacred Names, or some unique end-time prediction, etc… etc..) to watch this film and ask yourself if those who are being set free need to be added to by these most pressing teachings you have focused your heart and mind on.  Not only that, but has your message ever reached anyone in this way?  Does your “truth” compel you at any point to go out into the streets to seek and save the lost sheep?  And I would not ask this just of those who are labeled as “cult” or “heterodoxy” but also those within the mainstream church who have chosen some special point of truth that defines their purpose… if that point is an accessory to Jesus  Christ.  I find the witness of the persecuted church, and the deliverance of souls from the deepest darkness, to be a testimony to the power of Christ alone.  These are the stories that God used to help me to put down my spiritual idols and showed me how powerless they really were.

Most of the ministries featured here echoed the same sentiments.  In short:  “Wake up Western Church!”  Of the many people interviewed for this film, the words of one Dutch man summarized what I have said here too in different ways.  I was about to watch it again just so I could write it down, but found the clip to share instead, which is so much better.  In fact, I found two!  Many more are posted on Youtube.  I encourage you to watch them.

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by Kenneth Bodine

Being raised in the Seventh-day Adventist church, I had always thought of the number 7 as being the most important digit in the Bible.  This thought is carried proudly within the church, for God created for 6 days, but on the 7th, He rested and sanctified the day.  The Sabbath was established and was a sign between God and Israel (Deut 5:2) and is called a “perpetual” or “everlasting” covenant.

A thorough study of this number will show that the number 7 represents a completed cycle.  It is from here that I saw my theology, and interpreted everything by this concept.  The Sabbath was the defining “mark” for true believers, and we believed all other scripture and thought must be interpreted through it – a litmus test of truth.

I have now come to realize that this approach gave me a spiritual near-sightedness, and it kept me from seeing some beautiful and amazing things that were right in front of my eyes all these years.

First of all, I don’t wish to discount the value of seven.  There is no doubt that the number seven has significance in scripture, and I have already identified 7 as a representation of completion.  However, I do want to offer a fresh perspective for the idea that other numbers hold substantial value as well.  Specifically, I want to focus on the significance of the number 8, and how I have come to see it as the number of New Beginnings.

To show that we already have some understanding of numbers being significant in scripture, and that there are indeed numbers other than seven which carry significance in scripture, consider what comes to mind when you think of the number 3:

  • Father, Son, Holy Spirit
  • Three feasts in the OT that called for attendance in Jerusalem
  • Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
  • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
  • Peter, James and John
  • Jesus raised on the third day
  • Peter’s vision given 3 times
  • The Spirit, the water, and the blood (I Jn 5:7)

This is a sampling of how we readily accept these numbers from a factual standpoint, but may not always see the significance.

So what do we know about the number 8 in scripture?  I have written condensed lists of the things found in scripture which correspond to the number eight, and a few thoughts about each.  I do not believe that this list is complete, but a good start for those who are interested in this idea.

1. Eight people were saved on Noah’s Ark (Gen 7:13)

Though I believe this was the literal number of people who boarded the ark, it is interesting that the new beginning for man was based on 8.

2. The sign of the promise given to Abraham occurred on the eighth day (Gen 17:12).    All males were required to take on the sign of the covenant by being circumcised.  The shedding of blood symbolized entering into the promise – that of being a king and priest.  Those entering the covenant given to Moses had to first take on this sign before being allowed to partake in the Sinaitic covenant.

3. First-born was to be given to the Lord on the eighth day (Ex 22:29-30)     These first-borns were allowed to stay with their mothers for seven days, but given to God on day 8.  Interestingly, Jesus was returned to God in the sense that His life on earth was completed – on the eighth day – at His resurrection.

4. Lepers who are pronounced clean are presented on the eighth day (Lev 14:10)  The symbols of his gift to be given when pronounced clean are apparent – it is a symbol of first-fruits, or of rebirth.

5. Feast of First-fruits (Wave Offering) is to be given the day after the Sabbath (Lev 23:11) The wave offering is a first-fruit, and it points to the resurrection of Jesus – and I believe also to the resurrection of the second coming.

Jesus is called the first-fruits from the dead, and James calls us the firstfruits from God – all symbols of being born again or raised from the dead.

6. Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) takes place on the day after 7 Sabbaths (50 days) (Lev 23:15-16) – hence the 8th week of Sabbaths.  Jews celebrate this as the day they received the Torah.  Christians see this as the day the Holy Spirit was given.  I see this as a sign of new beginnings – the Spirit superseding the Law of Moses – and the New Covenant established..

7. Year of Jubilee takes place in the 50th year – after 7 years of Sabbaths (Lev 25:8-12) – hence the 8th year of Sabbaths.  The Jubilee was a release from the life a person was living.  It was a return to what was originally theirs.  This was a “do-over” for Jews, and I see it as a symbol of restoration, of rebirth – everything being made like it was before it was lost.  Consider the parallel with what was to take place at Jubilee for Jews, then apply this to humanity.

8. Feast of Tabernacles was a seven day feast, with a sacred assembly on the eighth day – a closing assembly. (Lev 23:36)

9. David was the eighth son of Jesse, and it was he whom God chose as the heir of his promise (I Sam 16: 6-13)  The people had chosen Saul as their king, but God chose David – and it was through David that Israel received its freedom from the Philistines.  This signaled the rebirth of Israel.

10. Eight resurrections recorded (other than the Lord Himself and the ones that came from the graves at His crucifixion) in the Bible.  There are three OT resurrections with 3 corresponding NT Gospel resurrections performed by Christ.  There are 2 NT resurrections in Acts.  They are as follows:

A. The Widow’s Son

  • Zarephath (I Kings 17:17-25)
  • Nain (Luke 7:11-18)

B. Rich Man’s Child

  • Son of Shunemite (II Kings 4:32-37)
  • Daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:35-43)

C. Grown Men After Burial

  • Elisha’s tomb (II Kings 13:20-21)
  • Lazurus (John 11:1-44)

D. The Other Two Resurrections

  • Tabitha (Acts 9:36-42)
  • Eutycus ( Acts 20:9-12)

The first six resurrections I see as symbols of Jesus and His ministry.  The widow is to me a symbol of the church, who lost their first husband (God) and is now mourning the death of their son.  The Rich man’s son is an obvious reference to Jesus.  The last are believers and their promise of new birth.  Don’t you think you would see life in a different way if you were dead and were reborn?  The last two found in Acts seem to refer to the power of the Holy Spirit to produce life out of death – as each of those were people in service to the Lord.

11. There are 8 miracles which Elijah performed

  • Causing rain to stop (1 Kings 17:1)
  • Multiplying the widow’s meal (1 Kings 17:14-16)
  • Resurrecting the widow’s son (I Kings 17:21-23)
  • Calling fire down from heaven (1 Kings 18:37-38)
  • Calling rain down (1 Kings 18:41-45)
  • Calling fire down on 1st 50 soldiers (2 Kings 1:10)
  • Calling fire down on 2nd 50 soldiers (2 Kings 1:12)
  • Dividing the Jordan (2 Kings 2:8)

12.  There are 16 miracles which Elisha performed (a double-portion 2 Kings 2:9)

  • Dividing the Jordan (2Ki 2:14)
  • Healing of the waters (2Ki 2:21)
  • Calling of the bears (2Ki 2:24)
  • Filling the valley with water (2Ki 3:17-19)
  • The widow’s vessels of oil (2Ki 4:4-6)
  • Blessing of a son for Shunammite woman (2 Ki 4:15)
  • Resurrection of the Shunammite’s son (2Ki 4:34)
  • Cleansing of gourds (2Ki 4:41)
  • Feeding of the hundred (2Ki 4:43)
  • Healing of Naaman (2Ki 5:14)
  • Cursing Gehazi with leprosy (2Ki 5:27)
  • Floating of the axe head (2Ki 6:6)
  • Smiting/Restoring sight of the Syrian army (2Ki 6:18-20)
  • Deception of the Syrians with the sound of chariots (2Ki 7:6)

13.   Jesus spoke on the last and greatest day of the feast of Tabernacles (Jn 7:37-38)  He told all those who thirst to come to Him and He would give them streams of living water – a promise of the Holy Spirit – the born again rebirth spoken of in scripture.

14. Jesus was resurrected on the day after Passover Sabbath – the eighth day.  It is interesting to note that when you read about this resurrection in the original Greek, it does not call the day of Jesus’ resurrection Sunday, it actually calls it the “first of the Sabbaths”.  Literally, it reads, “At the end of the Sabbath, at the beginning of light of the first of Sabbath(s), Mary Magdalene and the other Mary stared at his tomb.” The death of Jesus brought about a new rest, and a new beginning.  Jesus tells us in Matt 11:28 to come unto Him and He will give us rest.  Is it possible that He was referring to this event?

I feel confident in saying that the number 8 is definitely a worthy number for humanity.  Though the number 7 has been important to me in the past, the new beginning that 8 offers is surely worthy my time.  I don’t see 8 having all the things that were attached to 7 transferred to it, but I do see it as 1 better than 7.  Why is it better?  Because it is more than just rest, it is rebirth!  I hope that you have been blessed by this study, and that it leads you to an ever-increasing understanding of your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

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I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this in my many years as a Sabbatarian, or how many times I may have said it.  Now I’m saying it again, because I still agree it’s true.  I may not put it on a bumper sticker like I’ve seen some do, but the next time I see one, I might honk and give them a thumbs up.  Just wish I’d have time to explain why I agree.  They won’t understand.

Most SDA Sabbatarians resolve to observe the correct Sabbath Day but hold the largely false presumption that all of Christianity has replaced Sunday with the 7th day Sabbath as the Biblical day of rest.  It’s true that some do, but this does not represent most Christians.  Most evangelicals don’t “keep” Sunday, they celebrate it.  Does anyone tell you to “keep” your birthday, or mother’s day?  Where is the law that demands you honor the people or events these days commemorate?  There isn’t one, but yet you love to anyway.

The fact is, most Christians have never even stopped to think about the correlation between the 4th commandment and their custom of worship on Sunday, which is why so many of them are easy prey for SDA Sabbath teaching, or other Sabbatarian groups.  And some others have been erroneously taught to see Sunday as a “sabbath” and for them as well as Sabbatarians I resound… “Sunday is NOT the Sabbath.”

Jesus is.

Just as the temple sacrifices pointed to the work of Christ’s atoning blood, the Sabbath was also a foreshadow of Christ’s work… HIS work and our rest in that work.  Jesus didn’t rest on the Sabbath during His ministry, and He infuriated the Jews because of it.

The Sabbath also represents our death with Christ on the cross.  The only way we cease from our own works is to die… reckon ourselves dead, as Paul says.  His flesh, our flesh, lay silent in the tomb on the Sabbath.  Every weekly and festival Sabbath pointed to this event.

Hebrews is a book showing the parallels between the Old Covenant pictures, and the New Covenant reality.  It invites us to walk in the reality, not the shadow.  Chapter 4 speaks to the shadow of the Sabbath showing specifically there is a rest for us in Christ… a rest that is every day… all day.  It’s our daily privilege, to rest (die) daily to our own works.

So what is Sunday if it’s not the Sabbath?  Why did the early Christians begin honoring this day as noted in the earliest Christian writings?  Because the most amazing thing to happen so far in human history occurred on that day!!  Their sorrow and total despair (because they had not believed His Word when He said he would rise again) was turned to unspeakable joy at the discovery that He had risen… just as He said!  Jesus honored this day with His presence among them on numerous occasions after His resurrection.  To stop at the Sabbath and not see the glory of Sunday would be like leaving the movie theater in the saddest part of the film and miss the happy ending!  We praise and thank Him for our rest, but we can’t walk in death.  We walk in newness of life… resurrection life!

“Therefore, if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will surely be united with Him in a resurrection like His….. So you must also reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. – from Romans 6

We find no written command anywhere in the New Testament to the church concerning any specific days or observances outside of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  To worship God on Sunday is to voluntarily rejoice and honor a risen Lord,  a freewill offering of love and corporate fellowship.  And through the Spirit, we can have this joy on any day as the church in Acts met in some form, daily.  It says, “With great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…”  Acts 4:33

If you delve into the message of the apostles, you will find a big emphasis on the resurrection.  Sabbatarians in my experience as a whole, spend very little time on this event in their worship and discussion.  Most refuse to even gather to worship at the yearly celebration of this event… Resurrection Sunday during the Passover season.   We never saw the magnitude of a completed covenant, and the joy of the New one.. in a risen Christ.

Sunday is not the Sabbath, this is true.  The Sabbath pointed to a future rest the adherents of the Old Covenant could not truly enjoy, just as the sacrifices pointed to a future complete atonement the blood of animals cold not procure.  The first (or eighth) day points to something even greater we are looking to now; our own glorification and final union with our Lord in the coming resurrection, our Blessed Hope. Until then we have the seal and promise of His Spirit as we walk by faith, trusting He will do as He said.

He Lives

I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today.  I know that He is living no matter what men say.  I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer.  And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.

Rejoice Rejoice O Christian, lift up your voice and sing Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!  The Help of all who seek Him the Hope of all who find.  None other is so loving, so good and kind.

He Lives, He Lives, Christ Jesus Lives today!  He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.  He lives, He lives, salvation to impart.  You ask me how I know He lives?  He lives within my heart.

Hymn by A.H. Ackley

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Wonderful article from JGIG!

The Law of Christ – Defined and Defended

In the last several months the Law of Christ has become clearer for me.  Not that I haven’t necessarily understood what is the Law of Christ, but expressing that understanding has been challenging, especially when in a discussion with those who believe that we, as believers in Christ, are commanded by God to keep Mosaic Covenant Law…  CONTINUE READING

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In many ways I am thankful for our time in the Hebrew Roots Movement, simply for the perspective we gained.  I find it so difficult to express in words the magnitude of the contrast between a law-based approach to the Word of God and  a Christ centered one (so this post might be a jumbled mess).   In the HRM our eye was filled with the Torah and the modern nation of Israel.  I was recently looking over the website of a self-proclaimed Messianic “prophet” and had to dig long and hard to find any mention of  Yeshua.  I finally found Him mentioned almost in passing, and no New Testament scriptures were referenced anywhere in all his teachings that I could find.  I asked him via email what he believed regarding Yeshua, and he agreed we were reconciled to God through His atonement, yet this fact was not worthy of addressing in his writings. (And of course not applicable if we refuse to obey the Law of Moses.)  Plenty of criticism of Christianity for not keeping the Torah, and other such things, but no gospel.  Not even a false one.  Our focus was not much different. Of course we claimed faith in Jesus, but we seldom spoke of Him unless it was how He upheld the Law in some way.

Reading the gospels now, we sense so strongly the tension Jesus created when He began to declare His  authority both in Word and in demonstration. The point of contention truly was His authority.  The religious leaders were not remotely interested in genuine righteousness or justice.  The Torah put them in the “seat of Moses” so they were not about to let anyone rob them of the influence and authority this gave them.  When Jesus challenged them and the Law itself, establishing His own authority as God, they sought to kill Him.  They said..”What will we do?  Look.. the whole world is following after Him!”  Even Pilate sought to set Him free “For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. ” Matt. 27:18.

John tells how they came to take Him in the Garden and He asked, “Who are you looking for?”  They said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”  He said… “I AM”.   My Bible translates it “I am he” but the footnote says the pronoun is not there in the Greek.  John 18:6 says that when He spoke this, they drew back and fell to the ground.  This is the name of God.  Did it occur to them they were seeking to kill God in order to sustain their own authority?  Isn’t this the bottom line for all of us?  We all have chosen our own authority at some point over God’s.  When we have done so, we also are members of the angry mob yelling “Crucify Him!’

Jesus declared I AM several times through the gospels.  It seems like a subtle way to say.. “I am God, and this is what God is for you.”  I AM the bread of life, I AM the water of life, I AM the light of the world.  In all these things He was showing Himself to be the sustenance of our humanity, our true Source for life and light, and the fulfillment of all the types and shadows contained both in the Law and in the mighty acts of God in the past to sustain and deliver His people.  At the end He prayed to the Father, “I have made your name  known to them.”

Have you ever watched a mystery unfold in a movie?  I enjoy movies where you really can’t predict the outcome.  They hold your attention till the very last minute when everything is finally explained.  The climax of the whole story is to know the TRUTH about what had taken place.  We read the Old Testament now with full knowledge of how Jesus fulfilled it.  We lose sight of the climax factor in the story.  Try to imagine reading the Bible for the first time with no knowledge of the outcome as you read.  Do you realize how HUGE Jesus is to the scope of the story the whole Bible tells?  He is just not one of many interesting stream of characters, He is the climax of the history of the entire human race!  How on earth can we shove him under the table as essential for salvation, but unnecessary in knowing God and His will for us?  How can we look to a contract with an ancient people for our ultimate revelation of who God is?  This is a good definition of insanity now that I look back on it.

So many gain followers by merchandising secrets, but the truth about God is no longer a secret or a mystery!  It has been declared and made manifest in His Son!  Instead we get bored with that simplicity and try to find some other complex hidden thing that no one else has ever found in the 2000 years of the faith.  I promise you.  There is no new truth under the sun.  Lies are often recycled, but truth has been made plain.  We can grow deeper in it – but it doesn’t move.

I have been working through the Gospel of John several times and am seeing a very interesting picture I hope I have time to write about soon – if I can get a working outline.  Jesus truly is everything.

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I don’t have time to blog this morning, but here I am.  My devotional time today landed in Luke 1, (reading through the gospels again).  I never cease to be amazed at the things God reveals in His Word every time you go through it.  New treasures every day.

This morning I was reading the prophetic passage Zechariah spoke after he regained his speech, telling of the work that his son John would do, and also of the coming Messiah.  One passage caught my eye.  (apologies for not formatting – this is straight from e-sword.  Like I say.. short on time! )

Luk 1:68  “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people
Luk 1:69  and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,
Luk 1:70  as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
Luk 1:71  that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us;
Luk 1:72  to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,
Luk 1:73  the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us
Luk 1:74  that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear,
Luk 1:75  in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

The italicized part here jumped out at me because it’s not the part of the Abrahamic Covenant you hear referred to often.  The only part of the Covenant to Abraham I can remember (or find) that resembles this statement is the prophecy of Israel being delivered from Egypt.

Gen 15:13  Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.
Gen 15:14  But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.

Reading the story of Moses and Pharaoh, God speaks through Moses repeatedly to “Let my people go that they may SERVE ME.”   No one needed an explanation of what that meant because even Pharaoh understands.   He tells Moses mid-way through the ordeal to “go ahead and sacrifice to your God here in the land of Egypt.”  Moses explains that the worship their God demands is an abomination to the Egyptians and they would be stoned.   They must go into the wilderness; man, woman, child, and all their livestock, which is the deliverance story that Passover recounts.

So why would Zechariah refer to this promise of deliverance if it had already been fulfilled with Moses?  Did he see, by revelation from the Holy Spirit (passage here says he was filled with the Spirit) that even this deliverance was not an end in itself, but a foreshadow of a greater one to come?

Zechariah was a priest, who knew the fear of the Lord.  He knew what would happen to him if he had gone in to minister in a wrong manner, as had happened to some before him who had disobeyed.  For him to say that we might serve God, without fear, in holiness and righteousness indicates that a far greater deliverance and holiness was coming than had previously been made available through the Levitical priesthood.

He goes on to speak of the One who was coming:

Luk 1:76  And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

Luk 1:77  to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins,

Luk 1:78  because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high

Luk 1:79  to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

As one of my friends brought to my attention recently, John the Baptist not only called sin out for what it was so boldly he lost his head for it, he simultaneously offered a radical grace.  At what point in time did anyone preach repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  No temple?  No sacrifice?  Could it really be that simple to just turn to God with your heart and go down into the water?  He proclaimed Jesus as “The Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world!”   Yet no one understood a God Man as a Passover lamb.  And what about the rules?  John commanded them to do the same things Jesus did – walk in LOVE, justice and generosity.  No mention of rituals or observances.  Luke says, “With this and many exhortations he preached GOOD NEWS to the people.  Jesus told his followers to preach the GOOD NEWS of the Kingdom to all of Creation.

In Jesus, our Passover Lamb, we have reconciliation with a Holy God.  The most vivid picture of this reconciliation in my mind is the veil shrouding the Most Holy Place in the temple tearing from top to bottom at the moment of His death.  At the time of the second temple, the Ark of the Covenant was already gone, lost in the last exile. (or hidden by Jeremiah as some believe, who ares till searching for it.)  The tearing of the veil revealed two things.  First and foremost, the New and Living Way had been opened through the veil of the tearing of the flesh of Jesus.  Secondly, that the Temple made with hands no longer contained the Covenant, the Presence, or the Mercy Seat.  Israel had already lost this Covenant long before Jesus came to make His in flesh and blood.  Through Jesus we are delivered from our “body of death” to serve Him “without fear in holiness and righteousness all of our days.”  We may come BOLDLY before the Throne of Grace.  What an amazing privilege!!  Have we stopped to consider it or do we rather trample on the blood of  Christ by considering it a common thing, either through living in the lesser shadow, or by ingratitude as we live for the flesh?  I believe we can gain a great deal from understanding the shadow, but only that it continues to validate and glorify Jesus as God, Messiah, Redeemer, fulfillment of all prophecies, parables, and promises.  Jesus did not come to point us back to the shadow but to be the Light.  Walk in the Light.

There is more….    but I’m out of time.

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