In Our Time: The Church & Judaism

In Our Time Catholic and Jews.jpg

“Jews and Christians, as children of Abraham, are called to be a blessing for the world …” – Pope John Paul II 

As someone, sometime, somewhere has famously said, “Timing is everything”. As I post this today, the timing is not lost on me. It’s the beginning of Holy Week for Christians and today is Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is the traditional day on the Christian calendar in which Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey while the crowds waived palm branches and shouted “Hosanna in the highest”. According to the Gospels, this event happened a few days before the Passover festival was to begin in Jerusalem. Passover starts in just over a month. This is one example of a calendar difference, an issue of timing between Christianity and Judaism, but that’s another subject for another time. Today I want to share and highlight some of the not oft shared similarities between the two faith traditions as espoused in a recent document released by the Catholic Church. I highly encourage you to read the official document here.

Messiah Journal 122


 -Credit Where Credit is Due-

This post I’m sharing today was inspired by the Messiah Journal 122 article titled “The Vatican’s New Perspective on Judaism: New attitudes inspire hope for reconciliation between Judaism and Christianity” written by D. Thomas Lancaster and published by First Fruits of Zion, Winter 2016/5776. Order here.


Nostre Aetate is Latin for In Our Time. Nostre Aetate was the theologically revolutionary Catholic Church document released by the Vatican II Council in 1965. Nostre Aetate had at its core an objective to work towards repairing and strengthening the spiritual kinship shared by Christianity & Judaism. The document renounced anti-Semitism, the charge of deicide (killing God) and challenged the assumptions of replacement theology (the Church as Israel’s replacement in Gods plan). The effects of Nostre Aetate have remained increasingly relevant to Jewish & Christian relations since its release and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Nostre Aetate, the Vatican released a new theological document, based on Romans 11:29, titled “The Gifts and Calling of God are irrevocable”. The new paper released by the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with Jews, revisits, clarifies and updates the intentions of Nostre Aetate.

In the Preface for “The Gifts and Calling of God are irrevocable”, the stated aim is to explore theological topics “such as the relevance of revelation, the relationship between the Old and the New Covenant, the relationship between the universality of salvation in Jesus Christ and the affirmation that the covenant of God with Israel has never been revoked, and the Church’s mandate to evangelize in relation to Judaism. This document presents Catholic reflections on these questions, placing them in a theological context, in order that their significance may be deepened for members of both faith traditions.” 

I first read about the new Catholic document “The Gifts and Calling of God are irrevocable” a few weeks ago and I was immediately impressed with its progressive ideas, powerful statements and sound theology according to my estimation. I guess I was largely surprised by this because I was largely unaware of Nostre Aetate and the work that has been done in the past 50 years to bridge the gap between Christianity and Judaism by the Catholic Church. I’ve been on record with this blog in the past as someone who has been critical of Catholic doctrine and traditions and this new reflection is in no way an endorsement of Catholic theology as a whole. But reading this new paper from a Messianic Jewish perspective I was blown away by the succinct language employed by the Vatican to communicate Biblical and historical truths that have been neglected for millennia. Especially since the Church was the very reason why suspect theology beget such an unfortunate history towards the Jewish people in the first place. The FFOZ article highlighted the work that has been done by Messianic Rabbi Dr. Mark Kinzer, through him being a key participant in the Helsinki Consultation, which is an ecumenical forum that is focused on the relationship between the Church, the Jewish people, and the Messiah. Rabbi Kinzer discovered Jesus while in a Catholic setting and recently published a book ‘Searching Her Own Mystery’ which calls on the Church to consider its Jewish origins, close affinity and rootedness within the framework of Israel.

The new Vatican document speaks of the special theological status of Jewish-Christian dialogue of the two distinct and yet mutually related faith traditions. With that end in mind, I will share just a small sampling (way too many to include in a short post) of some of the direct quotes I found most stimulating. I urge you not just to blow through these statements but to really comprehend and think on what they’re saying and their implications. I cannot overstate that from a Messianic Jewish theological perspective this is fascinating stuff coming from a Catholic committee.

-On the Jewish Roots of Christianity-

“Jesus was a Jew, was at home in the Jewish tradition of his time, and was decisively shaped by this religious milieu. His first disciples gathered around him, had the same heritage and were defined by the same Jewish tradition in their everyday life.”

“One cannot understand Jesus’ teaching or that of his disciples without situating it within the Jewish horizon in the context of the living tradition of Israel; one would understand his teachings even less so if they were seen in opposition to this tradition.”

“Fully and completely human, a Jew of his time, descendant of Abraham, son of David, shaped by the whole tradition of Israel, heir of the prophets, Jesus stands in continuity with his people and its history.”

“From a theological perspective, Christians need to refer to the Judaism of Jesus’ time and to a degree also the Judaism that developed from it over the ages for their own self-understanding. Given Jesus’ Jewish origins, coming to terms with Judaism in one way or another is indispensable for Christians.”

“The soil that nurtured both Jews and Christians is the Judaism of Jesus’ time, which not only brought forth Christianity but also, after the destruction of the temple in the year 70, post-biblical rabbinical Judaism.”

“Thus Jews and Christians have the same mother and can be seen, as it were, as two siblings who – as is the normal course of events for siblings – have developed in different directions.”

“The first Christians were Jews; as a matter of course they gathered as apart of the community in the synagogue, they observed the dietary laws, the Sabbath, and the requirement of circumcision, while at the same time confessing Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah sent by God for the salvation of Israel and the entire human race.”

“The separation of the Church from the Synagogue does not take place abruptly however and, according to some recent insights, may not have been complete until well into the third or fourth centuries. This means that many Jewish Christians of the first period did not perceive any contradiction between living in accordance with some aspects of the Jewish tradition and yet confessing Jesus as the Christ.”

-On Replacement Theology or Supersessionism-

“While affirming salvation through an explicit or even implicit faith in Christ, the Church does not question the continued love of God for the chosen people of Israel. A replacement or supersession theology which sets against one another two separate entities, a Church of the Gentiles and the rejected Synagogue whose place it takes, is deprived of its foundations.”

“There have often been attempts to identify this replacement theory in the Epistle to the Hebrews. This Epistle, however, is not directed to the Jews but rather to the Christians of Jewish background who have become weary and uncertain. Its purpose is to strengthen their faith and to encourage them to persevere, by pointing to Christ Jesus as the true and ultimate high priest, the mediator of the new covenant.”

“At issue in the Epistle to the Hebrews is not the contrast of the Old and New Covenants as we understand them today, nor a contrast between the church and Judaism. Rather, the contrast is between the eternal heavenly priesthood of Christ and the transitory earthly priesthood.”

-On Salvation and Evangelism-

“Nevertheless, from the theological perspective the dialogue with Judaism has a completely different character and is on a different level in comparison with the other world religions. The faith of the Jews testified to in the Bible, found in the Old Testament, is not for Christians another religion but the foundation of their own faith, although clearly the figure of Jesus is the sole key for the Christian interpretation of the Scriptures of the Old Testament. The cornerstone of the Christian faith is Jesus.”

“Therefore there are not two paths to salvation according to the expression “Jews hold to the Torah, Christians hold to Christ”. Christian faith proclaims that Christ’s work of salvation is universal and involves all mankind. God’s word is one single and undivided reality which takes concrete form in each respective historical context.”

“Since God has never revoked his covenant with his people Israel, there cannot be different paths or approaches to God’s salvation. The theory that there may be two different paths to salvation, the Jewish path without Christ and the path with the Christ, whom Christians believe is Jesus of Nazareth, would in fact endanger the foundations of Christian faith. Confessing the universal and therefore also exclusive mediation of salvation through Jesus Christ belongs to the core of Christian faith.”

“It is the belief of the Church that Christ is the Savior for all. There cannot be two ways of salvation, therefore, since Christ is also the Redeemer of the Jews in addition to the Gentiles.”

“While there is a principled rejection of an institutional Jewish mission, Christians are nonetheless called to bear witness to their faith in Jesus Christ also to Jews, although they should do so in a humble and sensitive manner, acknowledging that Jews are bearers of God’s Word, and particularly in view of the great tragedy of the Shoah.”

My hope and prayer is that this Jewish-Christian dialogue continues to move forward with God speed in a real and tangible way and it reaches the masses and lay people of both faith traditions. It will be a mutual blessing and its end will be eternal riches in Messiah and the World to Come for all of God’s people. Amen & Amen!

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” – Romans 11:33



Before The Wound – The Cure


Before the infliction of the wound, the Holy One, Blessed is He provides the remedy” Megillah 13b

“The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world” Revelation 13:8

Today is a big day. It’s April 1st – The Fool’s Day. Today my wife and I celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary. This day fit our personalities (maybe mine a bit more she’ll say) as the perfect date for us to marry on. As the old song goes I guess we “fooled around and fell in love”. For her and to God I’m thankful and happy. We have a wonderful family, great friends, a beautiful home and good jobs. We have been living a blessed life and on most days we actually stop down for a few minutes to acknowledge our blessings as a family. For us this usually happens once the day is starting to wind down around 9pm or so and we gather in our living room or one of the kids rooms and we thank God for All Things, the good, the bad, the crazy, the funny, but mostly just for letting us fulfill another one of our days that are numbered without us knowing according to His grace. Today is a big day.

Now I will fill you in on the details of why this is such an important day beyond the fact of my Wedding Anniversary or the epic jokes and tricks that I look so-forward to playing on people every April 1st. I will begin this story on New Year’s Eve 2014 which also happens to be my daughter Braylee’s birthday. As such, we were busy prepping to have a slumber party for her and some adult friends over for games that night. At some point during the day, I took a few minutes to reflect on 2014 and the milestones that had happened. We had finished building our first home by the end of Spring, found out that we were pregnant with our 4th child by the end of Summer and Elizabeth starting home-schooling our kids at the beginning of Fall. A thought and a silent prayer came to me during this moment and I said to myself “Lord, please use me for your will and purposes in 2015 and may I be obedient to that calling. Amen.”. Within 5 minutes I was caught back up in the busyness that is our days and this life.

A few days later, it was January 5th. We had rung in the New Year, like all others with a renewed hope and great expectations for what could be in store for us in 2015. We had been referred to a fetal cardiologist at Baylor in Dallas and were told not to worry and that this would probably just be a routine extra check-up as we were in a very low risk pregnancy category. Within the first few minutes of the visit, we were stunned with the news we received. Our baby boy (we didn’t have a name picked out yet) had only developed half a heart. Our worst fears were confirmed when we were told that his condition which is Hypo-plastic Left Heart Syndrome or HLHS for short was one of, if not the very worst Congenial Heart conditions that a baby could have. We were told frankly that his life expectancy would not be long and quality of what time he did have could be in question in comparison to our other “normal” children. There is no medical “fix” for HLHS and ultimately he will need to have a heart transplant at some future date in life, sooner or later. In the mean time, the only medical option we have is a series of 3 open-heart surgeries that re-wire the heart in a way that these kids can function up to a certain level for an uncertain time. Only God knows! This was a punch to the gut. It hurt and everything became a little blurry while sitting in the doctor’s office. My brain was flooded with so many thoughts at once that for a brief moment I couldn’t think about anything at all. Thankfully in short order the first Scripture verse that came to my mind was Romans 8:28 Now we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”. I was still in shock and didn’t understand how or why this could happen, but I was confident in this fact; somehow, someway, God has meant this for good and we will find out someday in this world or the world to come.

“Good theology helps God’s people grieve the unthinkable with grace and confidence. #perplexednotcrushed” Matt Chandler

We finally fell asleep once we got home that night and on the next day we determined that it was time this baby had a name. We knew that we wanted a strong “B” name and had been consulting many options and meanings and we ended up settling on Brighton. Brighton in Hebrew means “the one who is loved”. Beyond Appropriate! We had been suggested Abraham as a middle name and liked it since Abraham is known as the “father of faith” and was heavily tested by God through his son Isaac. In my family, we have 2 middle names so we went with a family name that also has a special meaning; Immanuel “God is with us”. So the day after we received the news and had confirmed a name, we felt there was a reason that we couldn’t decide on one before we got his diagnosis. It was just meant to be. Brighton Abraham Immanuel Bond. His name will forever be a testimony.

Do you believe in Miracles? We do! Whether large or small is a matter of subjection, but we objectively have faith in the miracles of the Bible and those that have occurred personally in our lives. Both Christianity and Judaism are faith traditions built upon the very foundations of historical miracles. We immediately begin petitioning God and asking that it be His will to provide a miraculous healing for Brighton’s heart. But, most importantly we asked God to grant us strength to be obedient to his will for us and Brighton. For the past 2 months we have been on countless appointments and visited multiple hospitals seeking knowledge and answers about Brighton’s condition. We have met some amazing people through this journey, people who undoubtedly we were supposed to meet and form relationships. We have had the privilege of hearing amazing stories and testimonies that have greatly strengthened us and provided comfort to our situation. A light in the darkness. God is faithful and true to provide a miracle, it just might look different from what we have in mind.

“Miracles are not in contradiction to nature. They are only in contradiction with what we know of nature.” St. Augustine

Brighton decided to break forth into this world on Friday, March 27th at 3:20 in the morning taking deep breaths and crying out with strong lungs. He weighed 7.8 lbs and was 21.3 inches long. It was a very fast and relatively easy delivery (easy that is for me to say). Brighton was born with HLHS. Since he came into this world, he has been doing great and has been in very stable condition at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas awaiting his first surgery. Today is a big today. Brighton has his first major open-heart surgery today called the Norwood procedure. Update as of 7:30 pm: Brighton’s surgery was successful and he is now in recovery! Praise God!!! This is nowhere near the end though. There are many other things that have happened over the past 3 months that I would like to share, but my time is short for today. Our lives will forever be changed and this is only the beginning of a very long journey. We are both grateful and thankful that God is faithful to walk with us on this journey. This or something like it is the very reason for our faith and how it is made true. As the quotes at the beginning of this post speak to, before the fall when the whole universe was fractured and sick due to sin, God had already provided the cure through Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah. Before Brighton or any other child in this hospital got sick, God provided the cure. He is the answer! He is risen! Our hope is in Him through His Resurrection! Come Quickly!!!

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

A Delicious Irony

The Parable Small Story Big Idea

“The parable thus continues to provoke, to challenge, to disturb. It is very Jesus, and very Jewish.” Amy-Jill Levine (The Misunderstood Jew)

One year and nine months! That’s how long it has been since I last roamed these halls of the Messiah Connection blog. A lot has changed in my life since then as is usually the case with most peoples lives, but those updates will be for another time, hopefully not in another 2 years! I might never get back to my “prolific” blogging days of years past, think 2010 and 2011. Though I do enjoy writing, er typing I mean and sharing my meager thoughts on theology when the occasion presents itself. The oft-repeated cliche of Time or the lack of it appears to be my main enemy in this endeavor or maybe more appropriately the word Excuse fits rather nicely. So, for the sake of time, I will get on with it.

The Misunderstood Jew

“Jesus cannot be understood fully unless he is understood through first-century Jewish eyes and heard through first-century Jewish ears. the parables are products of first-century Jewish culture, not ours…” 

I felt the impetus to write this post while reading the first chapter last night of The Misunderstood Jew (The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus) by Amy-Jill Levine. Amy-Jill Levine is a well awarded and accomplished Jewish scholar in Biblical Studies. She is the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Professor of New Testament Studies at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. Levine is also part of a growing movement of non-messianic Jewish Biblical scholars who are publishing works on Jesus, Paul and the New Testament from an inherently Jewish academic perspective. This part is very exciting in my view, since these Jewish scholars are studying and writing about Jesus from within the greater Jewish community and interacting with his person, claims, theology and implications in a fresh new way. Yet this “new way” is actually a very old way that dates back to first-century Judea and Galilee. This movement seeks to place Jesus back in his Jewish context of land, language, and community. The culture of Jesus is radically different than ours today and has been for the past 1,800 years. This includes the Great Awakening, The Enlightenment, Reformation, the Dark Ages, and even the period of the Church Fathers. To say Jesus has been misunderstood might be the greatest understatement of all time and yet it is appropriate and it applies to both Jews and Christians individually and Judaism and Christianity corporately. This to me, is one of the great wrongs to right in our time!

“Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, shows both the wallop of the story and the weakness of the standard interpretations that fail to consider the Jewish context of the events described” 

It was in reading Levine’s treatment of the parable mentioned from the quote above that is found in Luke 18:10-13 that the thought about blogging again was sparked within my heart and mind.

Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘O God, I thank You that I’m not like other people – thieving, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and tithe on all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing some distance away, wouldn’t even lift his eyes toward heaven, but beat his chest, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’

In Levine’s short but effective section on Parables found in the 1st chapter of The Misunderstood Jew, titled Jesus and Judaism my understanding of this parable in particular was enhanced and its possible interpretations broadened. For this I’m thankful!

To begin with, Levine shows how common the parable teaching method was in the Jewish tradition by citing examples from the Hebrew Scriptures (2 Samuel 12:1-7 & Judges 9:7-15) & The Talmud (Song of Songs Rabbah & Lamentations Rabbah). The term Parable literally means in Greek “to place or cast things side by side” i.e. to compare two items. The Hebrew term is Mashal which means a similitude or metaphor. The purpose of the parable is to grab the listeners attention and to provide an element of shock value through the way the story is told and its conclusion. As Levine states “The parable thus leaves readers with a sense of both discomfort and closure: difficult ideas are not repressed but channeled into story.” Levine says that due to centuries of misreading the Gospels, parables no longer pack a punch, cause a surprise or outrage in our days – they’re too nice!

Now back to our parable at hand – The Parable of the Pharisee & Tax Collector. Levine positions that we have a problem; The parable has lost its challenge, it’s no longer discomforting, where’s the shock value?

What we often read and hear today is all too easy to believe. The Tax Collector is obviously more righteous and justified than the evil or at least arrogant Pharisee right?

Levine offers a common conclusion “He [Tax Collector] becomes the ideal Christian: he recognizes his sin, he humbly begs forgiveness, and grace is accorded him. How nice….”.

However, when this parable is taken back to its first-century Jewish context, another more complex interpretation presents itself for consideration. To first-century Jewish ears, a “righteous” or “justified” Tax Collector would have been an oxymoron. “Unbelievable!” They would exclaim. Levine provides a modern analogy to help modern readers grasp this; “the Tax Collector would have been viewed as someone like that of an invading foreign government sent to your local community to take your money and the Pharisee as someone as well respected as that of Mother Teresa or Billy Graham in our times.”

To the original audience of the parable a much different picture would have been in the minds than the common one most often presented today. Levine provides 2 primary interpretive shocks resulting from this.

  1. Niether the Greek or context of Luke 18:14 demands only the Tax Collector to be “justified”. It is possible the Pharisee is also justified and maybe even more so! Levine quotes Robert Doran saying “As far as I can see, the only factor in the context that has led interpreters to choose such an exclusive meaning is that one doesn’t want to say that a Pharisee is upright/justified”. In this case, as Levine states “the ancient audience is shocked that the Tax Collector has the greater recognition and today’s audience is shocked that the Pharisee has any recognition at all.”
  2. The Pharisee’s righteous actions (prayer, fasting, tithing) may be the very reasons that make possible the Tax Collector’s right behavior in coming into relationship with God! Levine quotes Timothy Friedrichsen that “Jesus’ Jewish audience would have been shocked, dismayed, or even angered at the very idea that the Pharisee’s righteous behavior and attitude might have benefit, to of all people, their nemesis, a Tax Collector.” Levine offers another helpful modern analogy in that “the righteousness shown by the greatest saint in the church works for the redemption of the greatest sinner”.

The delicious irony of this parable that Levine mentions in the traditional reading, I’m as guilty as anyone! For not just a few times I’ve had the thought when reading this Scripture; “Thank heaven I’m not like that self-righteous Pharisee I’m reading about!” Thankfully due to Levine’s brief treatment of this parable I will no longer have that self-righteous thought. One down – a million more to go!

 May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you and yours in the name of Messiah Yeshua during this holiday season and always!




Elijah Has Come

Elijah's Coming“In haste and in our days may he come to us
with the Messiah son of David.”

Passover 2013

As I type this it’s the first day of Passover. This year Passover started yesterday evening, Monday, March 25th and lasts until the evening of Monday, April 1st. This year marks our family’s sixth year in observing the Passover festival, which is also known and used synonymously with the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This year’s celebration is by far the most unique and exciting Passover that we’ve ever celebrated to date. I’m not just talking about unique and exciting in the fact that it’s a new year and we might have different guests at our Seder table. Or that we have a better understanding and relevance of the holiday or a fresh perspective on the Scripture and Haggadah reading to be enamoured with this year. Nope, all of those things could be true and exciting for many different individuals and families this season. Though the reason this year is different for our family does include a new year to celebrate and to be thankful for, plus a very special, unique and exciting guest at our seder. More on this in a little bit.

For this Passover season I felt compelled to study and write a little bit more about the Prophet Elijah and his connection to the Holiday and this season we find ourselves in.

Who is Elijah?

Elijah’s origins are a mystery. There is no mention of his parents, siblings or any other immediate familial particulars including his upbringing. The Bible mentions only of him being part of a clan from Gilead. “Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead” 1 Kings 17:1

Elijah’s original name is Eliyahu in Hebrew and it meansMy God is YHVH“. Elijah’s name in Greek is Elias.

Elijah is one of a shortlist (Abraham, Moses and David) who have a major impact on the Hebrew and New Covenant Scriptures. Elijah continues to play a prominent role each and every year within Jewish Holiday (Passover – more below) and Life cycles (Circumcision). At the Brit Milah (Circumcision ceremony), like Passover, Elijah is given his own chair. Elijah is also known as the “Angel of the Covenant” for this reason.

Elijah Brings The Fire!

Elijah is amongst the most famous of all the Prophets of Israel and has one of the coolest (literally one of the hottest) showdowns in Scripture. Elijah calls out King Ahab whose wife has introduced the false worship of the pagan god Baal to the nation. Elijah puts a curse on the land of Israel which causes a devastating drought for a few years during which time Elijah seemingly disappears from the scene. Eventually, Elijah steps back onto the stage and throws down a challenge to the 450 prophets of Baal. Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal took place on Mt. Carmel and it involved slaughtering a bull to see whose God would consume the sacrifice. After the prophets of Baal couldn’t entice their so-called god to consume the sacrifice, Elijah started doing some of the best trash talking to the prophets of Baal ever recorded in Scripture “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 1 Kings 18:27. After this episode, Elijah brought it (or you could say God brought it for Elijah)! Elijah set up 12 stones and built an altar for YHVH. Then he dug a trench around the altar and had water poured on top of the wood and the sacrifice three times until the whole altar was soaking wet and the water even filled up the trench. Then Elijah prayed to the God of Israel and “the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.” 1 Kings 18:38

After this, Elijah tells the people of Israel to kill the prophets of Baal and they do. The people agree to serve only the God of Israel and Elijah goes to the top of the mountain and prays for rain again and behold a massive thunderstorm comes and the drought is lifted. Job well done and all is well right? Well, not exactly…..Elijah flees in fear of Jezebel, the People of Israel don’t remain faithful to their commitment to YHVH and Elijah has a few other encounters with calling fire down from heaven and even riding in a fiery vehicle (perhaps the first Hot Rod?) into the Heavens. I haven’t the time to elaborate on these adventures but of course you can read all about them in 1st and 2nd Kings.

Elijah Before Messiah?

It has been a long-held tradition amongst the Jewish sages that the Prophet Elijah would announce the coming of the Messiah and thus usher in the Messianic Age. In fact, this tradition is symbolized and put into practice each year at Passover. During the Seder a seat is reserved, a cup of wine poured, and a door is opened for the Prophet who is expected to arrive during the Passover season to bring the good news of Messiah’s coming. For this reason, one of Elijah’s titles is the Prophet of Passover. The two primary Hebrew Scriptures that this idea comes from are both found in Malachi.

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 3:1

 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” Malachi 4:5

By the time we reach the 1st Century, we have evidence of this Elijah before Messiah theme recorded in the Gospel’s and alluded to by the Qumran Community as evidenced in the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Gospel of Luke records that Zechariah the Priest was serving in the Temple when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him next to the Altar of Incense and gave Zechariah the news of him having a son that should be named John. “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Luke 1:16-17

Zechariah was stunned and in disbelief. He must have recognized the Scriptures that the Angel Gabriel had quoted him from Malachi about the Prophet Elijah. He must have also been perplexed that this most honorable distinction and highest task of “preparing the way of the Lord” would be assigned to a son that he would call his own. True to the Angel Gabriel’s word, when John was an adult he had become great and well-known amongst those in Israel. When the Jewish leaders from Jerusalem sent Priests and Levites to try to figure out who this John was who was making such waves down by the river Jordan, they ask him “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” John 1:19-23

Amazingly, during the 1st century amongst the Jewish people there was a great anticipation for the return of Elijah and a great expectancy for the coming of the Messiah. The Jewish sages knew the Scriptures well and they had calculated that Messiah could appear on the scene at any point and they were searching and investigating hard for that news – news that would be brought by Elijah of course.

There was another man at this time named Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus of Nazareth) who had become very popular with the people by his teachings and the signs that he performed. In fact, he was now even more popular than John had been and the same questions that had been being gossiped through-out the land as to John’s identity were now being directed towards Yeshua, even amongst those that were closest to him and Yeshua asked his disciples “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” Luke 9:18-19  

Then at sometime later a few of the disciples saw what is undoubtably one of the most amazing things ever at the top of a mountain in the Land of Israel. Just like as before in the days gone by when the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob appeared at various times to the patriarchs and the children of Israel, this man Yeshua’s true identity was revealed “And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” And who appeared with him during this transfiguration of glory? And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.” Matthew 17:2-3

You got it! None other than Moses who represented the Torah (Law) and Elijah who represented the Prophets! It’s at this point that the disciples get back to the question of Elijah coming first to announce the coming of Messiah? “And the disciples asked  him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.” Matthew 17:10-13

There are some profound takeaways from just these few verses of Scripture to consider about the Elijah before Messiah theme:

  1. The ancient Jewish Sages had been right in their interpretation of Malachi
  2. It was a common thought even amongst the Disciples of Yeshua to think The Elijah would literally return to Earth
  3. Yeshua himself confirmed the Elijah before Messiah Theme
  4. God had raised up someone in the Spirit like unto Elijah to announce Messiah’s 1st coming
  5. It is logical to suppose that “Elijah” will announce Messiah’s 2nd coming as well
  6. Modern Judaism and some eschatological interpretations are still valid and relevent to expect Elijah’s return
  7. Like Messiah, Elijah has come – Like Messiah, Elijah will come again

Our Elijah

Back to that unique and exciting part I mentioned at the beginning……

Back in July of 2012, we were given a date – March 26th, 2013. We were pregnant and going to have our 3rd child. We have a bit of an affinity with holiday birthday’s in my family that as far as I know started with my dad who was born on Mother’s Day, 1958. I was born on Cinco de Mayo, my brother was born on Thanksgiving, my daughter was born on New Year’s Eve and my 1st son was born on Rosh Hashannah. So immediately after we received the due date, we looked on the calendar and lo and behold what day is March 26th, 2013 – you know by now, it’s Passover! Wow we thought, that would be amazing.

A couple of months went by and we found out that the sex of our new baby was going to be a boy, so it didn’t take much imagination for us to come up with a name – Elijah John – of course knowing the symbolism with the date and Biblical accounts and similarities of the two men. So we waited months and months and months (you get the picture) and on Saturday morning, March 23rd, we thought “it looks like he’s really going to make it to Passover”. Afterall, it would be just 2 days and we had no indication he was coming anytime before then. It looked like we were well on our way to having another holiday baby in the family, but then something started to happen.

That evening after Shabbat was over we were on our way to the grocery store to pickup some supplies for Passover week when my wife began having frequent contractions. We thought, probably “braxton-hicks” right, you know the practice contractions. We made it through the grocery store and went to dinner afterwards and the contractions hadn’t went away yet. At this point my wife was starting to get nervous and couldn’t eat. I started to think this is probably the real deal and we just passed one holiday (Shabbat) and knew there was a good chance we wouldn’t make it to the next (Passover). All we had between now and then if we had this baby was Sunday and all of Monday until Passover started that evening – nothing special there I thought. By midnight on Sunday morning it was becoming ever so apparent that we were going to have this baby soon – real soon – I mean like in a few hours soon.

We had a family friend staying with us and we turned on the tv after we had watched the movie Argo and TBN was playing The Passion of Christ and it hit me “Today is Palm Sunday”! Palm Sunday – the traditional date of Yeshua’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey and the start of Holy Week. I had called my mom by this point to inform her of the baby’s imminent arrival and she looked at the calendar and exclaimed its Palm Sunday! To all of our amazement, this day had been completely off of our radar the whole entire time until the date was actually here. So there we were, on the traditional date that Yeshua’s triumphal entry is celebrated, our Elijah made his own triumphal entry into the world at 4:01am on Palm Sunday. This post is primarily for him which is a bit ironic since he won’t be able to read it for a few years and when he does it may be many more years before he actually appreciates it. One day I hope!

Elijah sleeping

He’s been sleeping beside me for almost 2 hours while I put this reading together which is amazing in and of itself – Here’s to looking at you Elijah John Bennett Bond! May the grace and shalom of our Messiah Yeshua bless you and yours through-out this season and always – Amen!

Happy Passover 2013 – The Bond Family

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Thankful for my Y

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson – Poem of Thanksgiving


 -The YMCA Mission-

To put Christian values into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.

“that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:21 (Official YMCA Bible verse adopted in 1881 to reflect its mission)

A few days before a recent board meeting with the Coppell Family YMCA I was asked to give what we call a “missional moment”. The missional moment is designed for board members to share how the YMCA has impacted their lives and what impact they have had on or experienced with others. At first I was somewhat at a loss for what I would say and share. I felt my story or impact in my short 4 years of serving would surely pale in comparison with others who have given more time, lended more talent and shared more resources than I could hope to bestow in multiple lifetimes of service. 

-My introduction to the Y-

I didn’t grow up in a town with a YMCA. I didn’t know much at all about the YMCA other than what I heard the Village People sing about in their hit song “its fun to stay at the YMCA….” and surely everyone knows the dance that goes along with it. In fact, I didn’t even step foot inside a YMCA until I came to serve on the Board of Management with the Coppell Family YMCA in 2008 when I was 28 years old! I was 28 and the first time I stepped foot inside the YMCA I had no idea what it was all about. Well sure, I could see the gym equipment and I knew it was a Christian based organization but I still had no idea what that combination really meant and or how the Y made their impact on the community.  A “Christian gym” I originally thought, must be a super friendly place to workout and you probably wouldn’t have trouble finding someone to explain how a machine worked or getting someone to spot you with the weights. Nevertheless, I started my board service eager to learn about the inner and outer workings of the YMCA, but extremely nervous about the board setting and strange protocols of “motions” “minutes” and “seconds”. Soon enough though I was working my first fundraising campaign and a short time later I was chairing a sub-committee evoking some of those strange protocols of “motions”, “minutes” and “seconds” myself. How far I had come in such a short time:-).

-Interview with my kids-

To get back to my “mission moment”, I had an idea. I would interview my 5-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son and ask them a few questions about the YMCA and get their thoughts from their perspective about the YMCA’s mission. I thought a quick and genuine video from them would be much better than anything I could share. So I came up with 3 questions and we did a practice run and hit record. What they said is all them as I didn’t have a script for them to go by. So I made this video to share at my board meeting but due to a string of technical difficulties the video didn’t play. I found myself standing there in front of the board unprepared to share my missional moment. So I offered verbal gratitude to those in attendance for their service to the YMCA Mission and thanked them for the encouragement and inspiration they have provided for me in my years of service. So I decided to write this blog in part to share the video. You can watch by clicking the link below.

***Watch the video here***

-Thankful for my Y-

In my time with the Coppell Family YMCA, I’ve heard some amazingly heart wrenching stories of overcoming by some truly amazing people. I’ve witnessed first hand the impact that everyday people who volunteer in various capacities along with the local community can have and how it can affect and completely change someone’s life, a family’s life, a mother, father, daughter, son, someone just like myself and my family. Unfortunately we live in a broken world and bad things do happen to good people. Disease, Disability, Natural Disaster, Job Loss, etc is a reality everywhere and not one community on this earth is immune from it. It is here where the rubber meets the road and the Y has its greatest impact on changing lives. If there is a YMCA in your city, check them out and get involved. You will be the one who is better off for it! As part of the Body of Messiah, we are called to be the “hands and feet” of our Master and the YMCA is one way to make His love known and presence felt in a real and tangible way in your city for His Kingdom!

So from my family to yours, we are Thankful for the Y and hope you have a very Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving 2012!

The Bond Family

My 9/11 Connection

 It happened 11 years ago today, 9-11-01. I wasn’t there, not even close. In fact I was 1,500 miles away from ground zero. Still, I felt connected to what happened that day like I had never been connected to another event before in my 21 years of life. I assume that if you were over 10 years old at the time, we probably all felt that way. It was unprecedented and the magnitude of damage and devastation was almost incomprehensible. America had been directly involved in other cataclysmic events since WWII including a shocking presidential assassination, a painstakingly miscalculated war in Vietnam and a space shuttle explosion, but none of these had been on our physical soil with this scale of loss. This day would be different.

It was a crystal clear Tuesday morning in Dallas, TX on September 11th, 2001. I was on my way to school at 8am trudging through the slow morning rush hour traffic and making my way onto a high-rise exit bridge when the alternative rock station I was listening to at the time broke in and said they were getting reports that a plane might have crashed into one of the twin tower World Trade Center buildings in New York City, but they weren’t sure and went back to playing another song until more details emerged. It didn’t take long. About 15 minutes later, they broke through with another report that a 2nd plane had crashed into the other World Trade Center building. What? “This doesn’t make sense” they were saying and I was thinking the same thing. This seems to be more than just coincidental but it’s utterly confusing. By now I was checking other radio stations and all were coming through with the same reports with various theories starting to amass and unanswerable questions starting to mount up. I felt my heart starting to race and my mind was starting to run wild with imagination on what could really be happening. My school at this time was literally only a few miles away from DFW International Airport and the bulk of my commute was driven for miles alongside the vast airport.

While all of this news was pouring forth from the radio speakers of my truck, I felt the immense urge to call someone and talk to a real live person. This would definitely be out of the ordinary as I never called anyone at 8:30 in the morning just to chat it up. The first people I thought about were my parents, but I knew they would probably not be up just yet and if they were, they had probably not turned on the tv or radio to check the news, it just wasn’t their routine. So next, I thought of my grandparents and knew for sure that they would be both awake and probably attuned to the news that was breaking almost every second at this point. I called and they were in fact watching with horror what was going on and I asked them to tell me what they were hearing and to describe what they were seeing. “War” my grandpa said, he thought it was intentional and an act of war. While I was on the phone with my grandparents, news starting coming in that the Pentagon had been hit as well. Now it was certain, we, America was under attack.

As I was almost to school, news broke that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had ordered an immediate involuntary grounding of all planes in the U.S. and this was the first act of its kind in our history. Being right beside one of the largest airports in the nation, seeing planes all over the sky was commonplace and second nature, so on this morning as I was walking through the school parking lot on the way to class, I took note of only one single plane in sight that was making its way overhead to land. Speaking of class, it was History class that I was making my way to. At the time as I was walking to the classroom, many students were huddled around the tv monitors in the hallway and it was there that I got my first glimpse of the sheer chaos that was taking place in New York and Washington. I thought that for sure given the unprecedented historical event that we were actually experiencing as a nation in the here and now, that our normal class routines would be suspended, especially in a class such as History – I was wrong. The teacher barely even made mention of the event that was captivating the whole world outside of our classroom Somehow we all worked through the teachers agenda for the class just like it was any other normal and boring Tuesday morning. Looking back I still can’t explain why I or anyone else for that matter would sit in that class room for an hour that morning other than the fact that we had not yet fully grasped and comprehended that America and even the world had changed forever.

Immediately after class, I had a message on my phone from my boss saying not to come into work that day, that they were closing for the rest of day and possible even the next. I admit that this was the best news of the day and it did make me happy for a while, but the rest of this day more than any other in my life up to this point wouldn’t be spent thinking about my wants and desires as usual. I called one of my roommates at the time and we met up for lunch at a local Mexican restaurant to talk about the morning and to just be around people and to get a sense of connection as to what was happening to all of us at the same exact time. Unlike any other time before in my life, everyone I encountered, all the faces and body language I saw in person and the media commentators I watched on tv all expressed the same things: shock, awe, empathy, anger, sadness, despair and resolve. We as a country and as individuals were connected on that day in a way that I had never witnessed or experienced before and haven’t since. It was overwhelmingly sad to be sure, but there was also something utterly and unexpectedly beautiful about the unity and togetherness that I felt by the end of that fateful Tuesday and the days and weeks following that I might never experience in that same way again. It will always be a day that I along with the rest of the nation and world will never forget!

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah and may we always remember the innocent who perished on that day as a blessing and give honor to those who gave and risked their lives helping their fellow brethren!

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Politics, God, Jerusalem

 Hello, it’s me. How have you been these last few months? I know its been a while!

I haven’t blogged since this past April (5 months have flown by and I regret not having the time to catch you up now – such is life) and I hadn’t planned to today either until I saw a short YouTube video last night and I felt compelled to share a few words and thoughts. Who knows, maybe this is the spark I needed to get back on my once-a-week usually on Sunday afternoons blogging horse. Maybe the 2-3 of you out there who read my ramblings will begin to find joy in your life once again or maybe I’ll just remain on a perpetual one man island out in the vastness that is called cyberspace or maybe……..

I’m sure you can agree with me based on the subjects listed in the post title, that these have and will always be very divisive topics and even much more so in a presidential election year. I know, I know, politics and religion are not very kosher subjects to talk about to most people. The beliefs on these subjects are often very deep seeded, the opinions run hot and the arguments often times overflow into a full-fledged anger at the opposite human being in your presence that is obviously not as well-informed and definitely not nearly as smart as you are. It’s a good thing those types of people don’ t read this blog;-).

For the record, I don’t have an official party affiliation. I would personally tend to lean more to a Libertarian or Constitutionalist political philosophy that advocates “maximum freedom, minimum government” in our present times, and though this political philosophy has been on the rise in American politics for the past few decades, it still primarily comes down to the Big 2 (Democratic & Republican). As my grandpa says “Don’t waste your vote on someone who you know will not get elected and by default add a vote to the person you like the least” or something like that. Ultimately though, I’m waiting for the Theocracy that will be coming in the future and will completely eradicate the biased, self-serving and greedy political systems of the world. Who will be in charge of this Theocracy? Well, the King of Kings of course – King Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah)!

It was a untelevised Democratic National Convention platform vote on whether or not to include “God” and “Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel” that prompted me to write this post. The event happened in the late afternoon on Wednesday, hours before the primetime speech of former President Bill Clinton that would be broadcast to millions. Apparently, President Obama and his counselors thought it would be best to add the “God’ and “Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel” verbage back into its party platform for this very close election year. Afterall, you wouldn’t want to offend or even worse, lose a vote from many of the nation’s majority of religious voters or the powerful minority of Jewish voters. I had heard about this controversy in the news and read a few articles on the matter over the past few days but I didn’t watch the video until last night and the predominate idea and question of this blog struck me.

If you are a man or woman of faith in the God of the Bible and you believe in its admonition to support Israel and to pray for the peace of Jerusalem in some form or fashion then it should be at the very least concerning if not disturbing to hear the response of half of the Democratic party’s faithful at the convention so vocally against adding “God” and maybe even more so against adding “Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel” part. To be clear, there are obviously many of those who affiliate with the Democratic party who do have an immense faith in God and support Israel and Jerusalem as her undivided capital. As for me, in my hot political and religious opinion, I could not support a party if my and my other party cohort’s zeal for the God of the Bible and her people Israel only made my party’s zeal for the same religious values only lukewarm at best. As most of us are aware of, lukewarm is not a good place to be in relation to God or Jerusalem.

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah, on this election year and always!

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