Monday, April 26, 2010

Can You Help Me? Part 2

Yesterday, I asked the question, "Why did the disciples who had just seen the risen Yeshua go back to fishing?" My point was that it seemed strange that after having witnessed the risen Lord that they would go about their secular tasks. Why were they not running through the streets proclaiming the resurrection? The answer may in part be found by understanding the way the early followers of the Way approached the message of Yeshua versus how the modern church does. The modern evangelical church has its eyes looking heavenward longing for a life in eternity. The early followers of the Way focused on the teachings of Yeshua, not teachings about Him. The document known as "Q" which is composed of teachings found in Matthew and Luke that are not found in Mark give us an early glimpse into early church practices. If "Q" was written in the 50's, it was written long before Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John was most likely the last gospel written, most likely in the 90's. This means that "Q" was the gospel of the early church. One very interesting point of "Q" is that it contains no references to the resurrection of Yeshua. It focused on what He taught and how He lived. The focus was on the now as opposed to the hereafter. In subsequent centuries under a heavy load of Greek thought, that all changed. With the infiltration of Greek philosophy and an emphasis on metaphysics into the church, a separation from the Hebraic roots occurred. Therefore, it became more important to focus on the life in eternity purchased for us through Jesus Christ, then to focus on the teachings of Yeshua the Jewish rabbi. Perhaps this is one reason that the disciples went fishing. The resurrection was not the central issue for the church; the central issue of the Way was to follow the teachings of Yeshua that the Kingdom of G-d had come. And that would never stop you from fishing.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Can You Help Me?

I have a question, and I would like your input. John 21:1-3 says: Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias (i.e. Sea of Galilee). It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (NIV) Does this seem strange to you? Just prior to going fishing, we learned in John 20: On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." (NIV)The disciples had just seen the resurrected Jesus, and they decided to go fishing! The Sea of Galilee is about 60 miles northeast of Jerusalem. That is a long walk. So here is the question, why did the disciples having just seen the risen Lord decide to travel back home and start fishing again? (And yes, there is a point I am trying to make.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

A Hebraic Approach to Prayer

This week I was contacted by the pastor of a church and was asked if I would meet with him. He explained that while he "knew he had G-d," he just needed to talk to someone. I met with him and asked him what the problem was. He explained that he knew he must be doing something wrong because every thing was falling apart. His church had not been able to pay him, he was losing his apartment, and the bank was trying to repossess his car. I listened. I have seen so many walk this path of self destructive criticism. Many Christians feel like that if something goes wrong in their life that it is their fault. I explained this to him and told him that the reason people fall into this trap is that they seek to have the ultimate control of their lives. If it is my fault or if I have caused the problem, then I can adjust my behavior to insure that it never occurs again. To blame yourself is to remove G-d as the decision maker and place your self in control.

I have written theologies on Hebraic prayer, but when facing someone who is in dire need of help, that is not what they need. I explained that some times bad things just happen to good people. It just does. We live in a fallen world. I advised him that this did not mean that we live our lives randomly with just a hope that nothing bad happens to us. The answer to the man's dilemma is found in the Hebraic approach to prayer.

Christians have a different approach to prayer that the Jews. Christians come with a list of needs for themselves or others. Prayer becomes an exercise in informing or educating G-d on the situation. If I can find the right formula, I will ensnare G-d and force Him into making my situation better. The Hebraic approach is all about getting into the presence of G-d. It is about thanking G-d for what He has already done as opposed to asking for something in the future. I explained to the minister that he should begin a pattern of prayer that simply worships G-d and give Him thanks. I told him not to ask G-d for anything. Just praise and thank Him. Further, I explained that G-d had established certain laws of nature such as seed time and harvest. I told him that G-d had given him the breath of life, a strong body, and a good mind. I told him to work hard and not quit. No matter what it looked like, just don't quit.

I pray several times a day, and I use several Jewish prayers such as The Shema, The Amidah, and the Adon Olam. I also repeat what is called, "The Lord's Prayer." Then, I ask G-d to interfere with the laws of nature to heal one of my children from a condition he was born with. That is the only request I make of G-d. The rest of my prayer time is thanking and worshipping the King of the Universe. I left the brother with one final thought, "No matter what occurs in your life, He is still G-d, and He is still on the throne." That is the Hebraic way.

Monday, April 19, 2010

What Was The Last Supper?

Some people think that Jesus was creating something new when He established the "Lord's Supper." Most English Bibles will say something like, "The Lord's Supper Instituted." Others seeking to establish the Hebraic roots of the faith insist that Yeshua was celebrating a traditional Passover meal. Who is right or, are they both wrong? Scripture and Hebraic customs shed some light.

In 30 A.D., Wednesday was Nisan 13. Passover began on Nisan 14, which was a Thursday. Friday was Nisan 15 and was a Sabbath day. Saturday was Nisan 16 and was the seventh day Sabbath. In 30 A.D., there were back to back Sabbaths. It was on Wednesday that Jesus began to make plans for Passover. Later Christian tradition moves the last meal to Thursday night. It appears that Jesus was arrested on Wednesday night, crucified on Thursday, never had the passover meal on Thursday and rose from the dead on Nisan 17 which was early morning on the day after the last Sabbath (what we call Sunday). How can we know this time table is accurate?

John specifies that the Wednesday night "last supper" was "before the festival of Passover (John 13:1)."He also informs us that when Jesus' accusers appeared before Pilate on Thursday morning, they would not enter Pilate's courtyard because they would be defiled and would not be able to eat the Passover that evening (John 18:28). I find it convincing proof that Jesus was not celebrating Passover because of the Greek word used for "bread." It was artos and refers to a loaf of bread, i.e. the bread had leaven and had risen. In the Septuagint, a different Greek word is used to describe the unleavened bread commanded to be used in Exodus 12. It is the word azymos and it means unleavened or unfermented. Jesus used a loaf of bread on the night before His arrest. Have you ever seen a loaf of matzos? No Torah observant Jew would eat leavened bread once Passover began. Further, no Torah observant Jew would encourage others to disobey God's command to eat unleavened bread. For Jesus to remain Torah observant, the last meal could not be a Passover meal.

Another point of interest is would Jesus choose not to be with His four brothers, two sisters, and mother on such an important celebration as Passover? We need to investigate all the things we think we know. We need Biblical truth. It is there if we will investigate.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Twelve Apostles

Is there any message in the order how the twelve apostles are listed? Luke 6:12-16 says: "One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor." (NIV)

Matthew 10:1-4 says: "He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil[a] spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him." (NIV)

Notice that in both lists, Judas Iscariot is listed last. One would assume that is because of his betrayal. However, just prior to Iscariot, in both lists are James, Simon the Zealot, and Thaddaeus or Judas son of James. Why are these three relegated to the back of the pack? Could it be a conscious choice to disconnect the Hebraic connection to Jesus? The three referenced are Jesus' brothers. Many people do not know that Jesus selected his own brothers to be part of the original twelve. If you did not know that, ask yourself why you were never taught that fact. I submit that the reason you never knew was because between the second and fourth century, there is a deliberate move to eliminate the "Jewishness" of Jesus. That move would have included Jesus' family. Have you ever considered how they are portrayed in a negative light? If you want to know more about Jesus, study the historical man, His culture, His family, and His life.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Whose Teaching is the Lord's Prayer?

Ask any number of Christians the above question, and I will guarantee you that the answer will be, "It was Jesus' teaching." But was it? Luke 11:1 says: "He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.'" (RSV) Jesus is asked to teach His disciples the method of praying that John taught his disciples. We have a tendency to downplay John the Baptist. That is a product of a Christian theology that seeks to eliminate everything Hebraic.

Now it could be that the disciples of Jesus asked Him to teach them to pray in a similar fashion as the way John taught his disciples. From the text, both interpretations have validity. Why assume the latter over the first? The reason is that we don't appreciate the work of John the Baptist the way we should. Consider John 3:22-23: "After this Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people came and were baptized." (RSV)From these verses, we learn that Jesus is working in the south in Judea while John is working the northern region. However, and this is the point overlooked, both Jesus and John were baptizing. Instead of seeing them as competing, see them as working together. Both preaching repentance; both seeking to deliver the people from Roman domination.

Perhaps we need to read Scripture again with fresh eyes. Instead of assuming you know what a passage says, actually read what it says. Don't be afraid if you find some long held beliefs invalid because you are on a search for truth. It really will set you free.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Matthew 5:42-45

Matthew 5:42-45 says: "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you...." (KJV) These verses are greatly misunderstood. Generally, they are either seen as setting an ethical standard that is impossible to be met, or they are interpreted to have almost no requirement on how to live. When we remember that Yeshua is Jewish, Matthew is writing to Jews, and Yeshua is using idioms and figures of speech, the passage becomes much clearer.

Matthew records Yeshua saying: Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. (KJV) Is Yeshua requiring that you give every penny you have to others. If you are a strict literalist, that is exactly what He is saying. However, is that the meaning of the text? Adam Clarke explains the verse well: "To give and to lend, are two duties of charity which Christ joins together, and which he sets on equal footing. A rich man is one of God's stewards: God has given him money for the poor, and he cannot deny it without an act of injustice. But no man, from what is called a principle of charity or generosity, should give that in alms which belongs to his creditors. Generosity is godlike; but justice has ever, both in law and Gospel, the first claim. A loan is often more beneficial than an absolute gift: first, because it flatters less the vanity of him who lends; secondly, it spares more the shame of him who is in real want; and, thirdly, it gives less encouragement to the idleness of him who may not be very honest. However, no advantage should be taken of the necessities of the borrower: he who does so is, at least, half a murderer. The lending which our Lord here inculcates is that which requires no more than the restoration of the principal in a convenient time: otherwise to live upon trust is the sure way to pay double."

From a Hebraic perspective, the second part of the verse explains the first part of the verse. The verse is telling the reader to be generous in lending money to those in your community that may need help. You are not to take advantage of them, nor are you to make "hard bargains" with them. You are to treat them fairly with respect. Now read the next few verses and see if you can see where this is heading.

Verse 43 says: Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. (KJV) Yeshua is referencing Leviticus 19:18: Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD. (KJV) It is of interest to note that Psalm 139:21-22 (Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. (KJV) commends the writer for hating God's enemies; however, the Bible does not teach you to hate your enemies. Such teaching must have come from some man-made traditions. Yeshua is attacking the made up traditions of man in this passage. We are not to hate them.

Verse 44 says: But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (RSV) How are we to love our enemies? Someone breaks into your home and threatens to harm your spouse and children. How are you going to "love them?" I am going to love them by sending them to meet God! David Stern in his Jewish commentary says: "Some contrast the 'realistic' ethics of Judaism with 'Christian romanticism' and cite this as an example. However, the command is not to have good feelings about your enemies, but to want and do good for them, and more specifically, to pray for those who persecute you." Again, the second part of the verse explains the first part; loving your enemies is to pray for them.

A well-known medieval Jewish work says: "Pray for your enemy that he serve God." Pray for your enemies. When you do, you will be loving them the way Yeshua said to.

Yeshua has set characteristics in order to look like His Father: lending righteously to those that ask and praying for your enemies. Does that surprise you? Would you not expect that Yeshua would require a certain numbers of hours in prayer or worship? The Father seems to emphasize how we treat each other in determining our holiness.

This seems contrary to our Greek based culture that would stress individual freedom and detachment of responsibility for others. If we are going to approach the Bible and how to conduct our lives from a Hebraic perspective like Yeshua, it is most likely going to involve a paradigm shift, a really big one. Yeshua thinks in terms of community; that is the Hebraic worldview. Assembling together is not about what it does for you, e.g. "I like the music" or "I always feel good when I leave church." Instead, your assembly should be about where you can get involved and serve others. There should be no selfish Christians. Yeshua gave His life, we should be willing to sacrifice also. Don't you agree?

Today, examine your community. Are you sacrificing for them? Are you involved in serving others in some capacity? If not, make a choice to get involved with others. It is the Hebraic way; it is the way of Yeshua.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It Would Be Easier

I told my wife in church today, that it would be easier if I was Biblically ignorant. Then, I could enjoy the foolishness I see without knowing any different. In church, I was told that we needed a haircut and a shave to be right with God. Now to be fair, the "preacher" suggested that the haircut was symbolic to having right thinking and the shave was symbolic of removing from your life things that need to go. About half way through, I closed my Bible, gave it to my wife, and said that I didn't think I would need it the rest of the service.

The modern church is losing it. I understand that recently one church in Texas gave away a BMW on Easter morning as well as a wall of electronic equipment. What a joke! Is this what Yeshua died for? I think not. I am at the point that I am going to refuse to put up with silliness in the name of God. I don't intend to be mean, but at the same time I don't want to waste my time. If the "preacher" can't bring a Word from the Lord, I don't want silly analogies. Bring the Word!

On the other hand, if I could forget what I have learned from studying the Word, I could just jump around like the rest of the happy throng.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2010

Today, April 11, 2010, around the world Jewish people today are commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day in synagogues.

Stories will be heard from Holocaust survivors of the tragedies they went through and how they lost all their loved ones, and also some of the miracles of how God delivered them.

They were rounded up, put on the cattle trains to the death camps. When they arrived at Auschwitz they were stripped, heads shaven, put in forced labor, starved, and then eventually marched to the showers where instead of water coming out it was gas,and they their bodies were put into the ovens – Hitler’s Final Solution to get rid of the God’s Chosen People.

In Israel, Holocaust Memorial Day is a very solemn day because the country was built on the backs of the survivors from the Holocaust.

This day is a painful memory of the Six Million Jews who perished in Hitler’s death camps. That was HALF of the Jewish people.

Many of the 5.5 million Jewish people in Israel today are the children or grandchildren of Holocaust survivors who feel the pain from losing their families to Hitler’s plan to annihilate the Jewish people.

It is a known fact that Hitler was heavily active in occult practices, and Satan used him as his instrument to carry out the Holocaust to destroy God’s Chosen People.

However God is real and His Word is true, so we know that the Jewish people and the Nation of Israel will NEVER be destroyed!

This is what the Lord says through the prophet Jeremiah concerning the survival and existence of the Jewish people.

“Thus says the Lord Who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night; Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; the Lord of hosts is His name. If this fixed order departs from before Me, declares the Lord, then the children of Israel also will cease forever, from being a nation before Me." Jeremiah 31:35, 36

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Ham on Easter?

This was too perfect not to post. Our local newspaper, The Virginian-Pilot had the following in today's paper:

"It's Easter Sunday. But before you dig into that succulent pig (remember Yeshua didn't eat pork BLJ), did you ever stop to wonder if more folks eat ham on Easter or Christmas (the answer is Christmas BLJ)?

Ishtar, also known as Semiramis, bore a son Tammuz, a hunter who was killed by a wild pig. In honor of Tammuz, Ishtar decreed a 40-day period each year during which no meat could be eaten. It concluded with a celebration on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. Ishtar commanded that a pig be eaten then to remember the killer of her son."

Does that sound like Lent?

It is a real shame that a secular newspaper has more truth than most churches.

Pharoah Corners Jews at Red Sea (1313 BCE)

Pharaoh's pursuit of the Jews (see Jewish History for the 18th of Nissan) ended on this day, on the shores of the Red Sea.

A terrified Jewish nation divides into several factions. Some advocated mass suicide, others wanted to surrender and return to Egypt, the bolder ones prepared to battle the Egyptians, while others advised the nation to pray.

G-d thought otherwise. He instructed the Jews to simply proceed onwards -- despite the sea which stood in their path.

The Jews complied, and the entire following night they went through the parted waters of the Red Sea.