Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Messianic Seal

My wife and I recently completed a do it yourself remodel of our living room. Come to think of it this was probably the primary reason my extra-biblical book reading was derailed (forget all that stuff I said about me being lazy a few posts ago). In talking with our friend and neighbor Coley, he suggested that we try to etch or paint the Messianic Seal (a symbol consisting of the Menorah, Star of David and the Ichthus) on our planned concrete staining of our floors. We kind of laughed it off at the time and thought it would be cool but professionals we are not. Then a few weeks later we thought why not paint the symbol on the wall? Although our logic to paint it instead could be a bit confusing since we are definitely not professionals in this area either.

So we finished our remodel towards the end of November (a couple of pictures of our Messianic Seal at the bottom). The Messianic Seal is located in the entryway that leads from our front door to the living room. My friend Coley had picked up the book The Messianic Seal of the Jerusalem Church back during the summer when he was visiting one of our local Messianic Synagogues. He had mentioned some interesting things he had read in the book and I asked if I could borrow it to read and get a better understanding of this seal which has become the all but official seal for the Messianic Movement. I figured I had better be able to explain this seal to the best of my ability since we just plastered it on the wall for all to see when they enter our house. Ultimately, this seal may never be authenticated due to the nature of the findings explained in the book and therefore never find validation in the eyes of the official archeological and biblical authorities. To me, whether this seal is an authentic 1st or 2nd Century work or if it’s a modern creation by a Monk in his basement in the 1950’s misses a major point of what it represents: A continuity of Biblical heritage that is found in valid expressions of faith in the God of Israel and His Messiah Yeshua (Jesus).

My wife and I are both Gentile Christians who have an affinity for the Jewish people and long to see a restoration of Jewish faith in Jesus. As external reminders of our shared faith and Judeo-Christian heritage we have a mezuzah affixed to our front door and a wooden cross on the wall in our living room. Neither of these symbols hold any special powers or ward off witches and vampires, but instead are daily reminders of God’s faithfulness to His people throughout all generations. We felt the Messianic Seal would be a good addition to bridge the gap to what some may see as symbols of faith which are diametrically opposed. The Mezuzah representing Judaism and The Cross representing Christianity. For us, the Messianic Seal is a representation of the “One New Man” and the New Covenant reality of Jew and Gentile as one in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) and The Olive Tree of Israel.

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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God In Search of Man – Part I

Jump on Board with JBOM

 JBOM stands for Jewish Book of the Month Club. This book club was started last year by Messianic Rabbi and blogger Derek Leman. The goal of this book club is to get a group together within the greater Body of Messiah reading, sharing and getting educated in Jewish works that we or our families and communities might not ever otherwise explore. I encourage you to hop on board the train! The JBOM book for Jan and Feb is God In Search Of Man (A Philosophy of Judaism) by Abraham Joshua Heschel. Check out Derek’s latest post on God In Search of Man.

 Abraham Joshua Heschel was a Jewish Thinker. But not just a Jewish Thinker. Heschel was one of the foremost Religious Thinkers of his day and one of the greats in any generation. Heschel received a traditional yeshiva education as well as his Rabbinic ordination in Germany. Heschel was arrested by the Gestapo and deported to Poland before getting the chance to leave for London due to his fortunate circumstances as a Jewish Scholar. Heschel’s family wasn’t as fortunate. His mother and three sisters died at the hands of the Nazis. Heschel never returned to Germany or Poland for the rest of his life. In 1940 Heschel came to New York where he would hold teaching positions at Hebrew Union College and later at Jewish Theological Seminary until his death in 1972.

I had first heard of God in Search of Man a little over a year ago. My brother was taking an Intro to Judaism course at one of our local Universities and this was the main textbook for the course. After starting this book a week ago I quickly found out why. This book starts at the academic level. I quickly learned I couldn’t just casually read this book on a Sunday afternoon while the tv is blaring its sports and news and the kids are running all through the house pretending to be superheros, at least not if I wanted to soak up any of its depth. After starting off with all of the attractions or you could say distractions of having family and friends in town for New Years and my daughter’s birthday last weekend I found that I had read, re-read and re-re-read the first chapter all within the first week. I am happy to report that I’m in Chapter 4 and moving along rather nicely now:-).

Section: God       Chapter I – Self Understanding Judaism

Heschel’s problems are our problems. The post-modern world that Heschel encountered has only become more apparent and unfortunately no less a problem for Religion to deal with in the 21st Century. Heschel states that Religion is its own worst enemy and to be blamed for its woes. He says that Religion’s purpose is to answer man’s ultimate questions but when it becomes oblivious to those ?’s, it becomes irrelevant and the crisis has begun.

“Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion its message becomes meaningless”

Heschel is on a quest for the forgotten questions of Religion and this is where philosophy comes in to play. Heschel states that philosophy is the art of asking the right questions. Depending on the object or subject (in our case the religion of Judaism specifically), philosophy is a specific way of thinking and at it’s best may be defined as a science with a minimum of presuppositions. The role of religion is to also be a challenge to philosophy and not merely an object for examination or criticism. Philosophy of Religion must not be mishandled or misunderstood and turn into a Religion of philosophy. Philosophy is reflective thinking and philosophy of religion must begin at self-clarification and self-examination in order to determine its own authenticity in order to ask its ultimate questions.

“Wise criticism always begins with self-criticism”

Self-clarification asks: What do we stand for? What are our ultimate claims? What are the insights gained and attitudes expressed from our experiences?

Self-examination asks: Is our religious attitude one of conviction or mere assertion? Is the existence of God a probability to us or a certainty? Is God a word, a name, a hypothesis, or is He a living presence? Is the claim of the prophets a figure of speech to us or a compelling belief?

“Religious thinking, believing, feeling are among the most deceptive activities of the human spirit. We often assume it is God we believe in, but in reality it may be a symbol of personal interests that we dwell upon. We may assume that we feel drawn to God, but in reality it may be a power within the world that is the object of our adoration. We may assume it is God we care for,  but it may be our own ego we are concerned with. To examine our religious existence is, therefore, a task to be performed constantly”

Heschel goes on to look at area’s such as Science and Rationalism in comparison and in compliment to Religion on its quest to man’s ultimate questions.

On Religion and Science, Heschel states that they do not deal with the same problem. The Bible regards creation as an event; Science regards it as a process. The Bible doesn’t categorize an explanation of the origins of the world with its terms and conditions borrowed from nature, rather it alludes to what made nature possible, namely, an act of the freedom of God. Science seeks the truth about the universe; Religion guided by the Spirit seeks the truth that is greater than the universe.

“The intention of scientific thinking is to answer man’s questions and to satisfy his need for knowledge. The ultimate intention of religious thinking is to answer a question that is not man’s, and to satisfy God’s need for man”

On Religion and Rationalism, Heschel states that Reason’s goal is the exploration and verification of objective relations; Religion’s goal is the exploration and verification of ultimate personal relations. That the way to truth is an act of reason but the love of truth is an act of the spirit. That reason, as beneficial and necessary as it is, is not self-sufficient, that without spirit it withers.

 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

10 You felt secure in your wickedness, you said, “No one sees me”; your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray, and you said in your heart, “I am, and there is no one besides me.” Isaiah 47:10

As we continue on our journey, Heschel will take us through our problem: What are the ultimate questions of existence which religion comes to answer?

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah!


Greater Things Are Yet to Come

 These are my notes and reflection from the sermon today at Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue given by guest speaker Chief Kenny Blacksmith. 

Today was one of those days where I was totally surprised. I was not expecting the speaker at BHS today to be who he was or to bring the message he did. Up until today I had no idea who Chief Kenny Blacksmith was. I had seen that we were going to have a guest speaker and I had assumed (you know what that gets you) that Chief Kenny Blacksmith was probably a local police or fire chief who would be bringing a topical motivational message based on the Bible. Not that there would have been anything wrong with that and in fact I usually like to hear those types of stories of the struggle overcome and faith persevering. Today would not be one of those days.

Chief Kenny Blacksmith is actually the Founder/Executive Director of Gathering Nations International a First Nation Charity. Chief Kenny is a member of the Cree Nation of Quebec, Canada and is in part responsible for translating the Bible in the native tongue of the Cree’s. Chief Kenny and Gathering Nations International is also a part of the Toward Jerusalem Council II inititive to see repentance and reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles.

“….you will see greater things than these” John 1:50

Chief Kenny told some amazing stories and visions that he had had over the last 15 years. One of these visions involved his introduction to the Jewish culture and tradition. Chief Kenny said he and his wife had been on a long road trip in Canada and that he had seen a vision of Yeshua (Jesus) on top of a mountain and dressed in all white with a life-like electricity emanating from him. In this vision Yeshua pulled back a bow with an arrow in it and shot it off into the distance. Chief Kenny had this vision a few years before this particular road trip but it had always stayed with him as a powerful message that he couldn’t figure out. During the trip his wife said she needed to stop by the Christian bookstore to pick up a few things and while they were there Chief Kenny sat down on a bench in front of a bookcase. He decided to reach up behind him and pull out a book to thumb through and the book he pulled out just happened to be the Torah with commentary. He opened the Torah and begin to read the intro and right off it stated that the root word of  Torah (yarah) was an archery term. The commentary described that the Torah was like the arrow of God that hits the mark. Chief Kenny was amazed and immediately shared the book with his wife and they felt that his vision had been satisfied and that a piece of his “prophetic drama” that God had shared with him had been put into place. 

18 Three things are too wonderful for me;
four I do not understand:
19 the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a serpent on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a virgin.  Proverbs 30:18-19

Chief Kenny’s primary message was about what God has been doing among the First Nations people in Canada and around the world and also Canada’s solidarity with Israel. Chief Kenny’s message was built around Proverbs 30:18-19. He told about the Cree people and other Native Americans who had a high view of spirituality and creation but had worshiped it instead of the Creator. He told of an old Native American prophecy that stated “some day a people from across the sea will bring the Black Book and it will teach us what we need to know about the Higher Being and life”. He kept repeating the phrase that “greater things are yet to come” and “greater things are still to be done” which had my mind humming the song  God of This City by Chris Tomlin through-out the sermon. I highly recommend listening to this sermon if you get the chance at some point this week. You will be blessed.

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua the Messiah!


Mark, ready, set, go

So, it’s a new year right? A time for new beginnings? A time for renewal and refocus? Yeah I know you hear it everywhere, a resolution for this, a resolution for that, a resolution not to ever make another resolution lest you be found a liar again! Ha, I’ve been there and usually come back around to those thoughts about Dec 26th or so every year.

So toward the end of 2010 I started thinking about creating another Bible Reading Plan (not that I have ever personally created one) amidst the hundreds if not thousands that already exist. So why another Bible Reading Plan? I wanted a Bible Reading Plan that would go through the Torah (Genesis – Dueteronomy) according to the yearly synagogue cycle in addition to the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures (OT) and Apostolic Scriptures. Easy enough right? But that’s not all. I also wanted the plan to included the relevent Biblical/Jewish Holiday and Life Event Scriptures (i.e. Esther @ Purim or Ruth @ Shavuot (Pentecost)) and make an attempt to include like-minded books in succession (i.e. Gospel of John to 1st-3rd John to Revelation or Gospel of Luke to Acts to Hebrews).

If you know of a plan that exists in this format or one close let me know. I’ve searched and haven’t found one yet. I’m in the process of developing one primarily for our family to use that I will share hopefully at some point this year. This intro brings me to Mark and his version of The Gospel. I chose to start the 2011 year off with The Gospel of Mark.

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark 1:1

Modern scholarship dates Mark to somewhere between 65-75 CE. This would make Mark the earliest of the Gospel accounts. It wasn’t until the 19th Century that scholars and the church at large begin to have a renewed interest in Mark. Up until that time it was thought that Mark was sort of just an abbreviated version of Matthew and Luke. In fact, Mark might be the closest in time of all the Gospels to the Historical Yeshua (Jesus).

“She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.” 1 Peter 5:13

Could Mark’s Gospel really be Peter’s? That is the view according to Papias. According to Papias, Mark acted as interpreter for Peter, at least on some level.

About the origins of the Gospels, Papias (as quoted by Eusebius) wrote this:

Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements. Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.

Now this we don’t know for certain but it’s interesting. The Gospel of Mark moves fast and is the shortest of all the Gospel accounts. Mark doesn’t waste anytime in revealing Yeshua as the Son of God and the not-so-secret Messiah!

If your into face-paced, instant gratification Biblical narratives and you need a jump-start on your Bible reading, may I suggest Mark. It’s a fine way to get you ready and set to go and fulfill that resolution (I know you have one) to read your Bible more this year.

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the matchless name of Yeshua the Messiah!


2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2010. That’s about 5 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 65 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 92 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 13mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was March 26th with 52 views. The most popular post that day was About Messiah Connection.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were digg.com, facebook.com, slashingtongue.com, derek4messiah.wordpress.com, and who-will-win-fifa-worldcup-2010.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for gospel of john from the mouth of yochanan, yochanan gospel of john, brad scott wildbranch ministries, reb yhoshua, and messianic church philadelphia.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

About Messiah Connection February 2010
2 comments

2

JBOM: Visions of the Fathers – Part 1 April 2010
1 comment

3

Background and Beliefs March 2010
1 comment

4

JBOM: JPS Haggadah Commentary – Notes and Comments Part 6 April 2010

5

JBOM: The Lost – Part I May 2010
2 comments


A Message of Hope

 These are my sermon notes and reflection from the message given today by guest speaker Eitan Shishkoff at Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue.

 “….But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

How did 2010 treat you, your family, friends, co-workers, community, state, country, world?

For me personally, 2010, like all other years of my life that I can recall came with trials, triumphs and transitions. I turned 30, our family left the church we had been apart of for 7 years, my brother got married, I got diagnosed with NDPH and I was transferred involuntarily from the work location I had been at for 4+ years to a new location farther from my home. To end the year, a day before New Year’s Eve (which is my daughter’s birthday) my daughter and son were both diagnosed with the flu and now to start the New Year my wife is feeling pretty achy as well. So where is the message of hope you ask?

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, [1] for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Throughout 2010 God remained faithful when I didn’t and led me according to His will when I didn’t understand it or want to. In fact, He has done this for us all no matter what the circumstance you’re in.

Turning 30 wasn’t so bad and I can honestly look back at the last decade and thank God He didn’t leave me where I was at 20 or even 29. Leaving the Village Church was a difficult decision but one we felt was warranted by what God had put on our family’s heart to be a part of the work that God is doing amongst the Jewish community and Messianic Judaism. My brother was blessed by God to have had a relationship restored after almost 10 years that led to the marriage to such a beautiful and talented wife with a lovely daughter. At some point over the Summer I begin to notice a consistent pressure or tension in the upper right side of my head. After a few months of this I decided (or I could say my wife decided :-)) to have this pressure checked out. Of course I had a thousand things going through my head about what it could be and the doctor determined it was something called New Daily Persistent Headaches which is a form of a migraine. This was somewhat surprising to me since I had very rarely had any headaches in my life and the pressure I felt didn’t feel like a normal headache. I’m still searching about this condition and it seems there is relatively little known about its causes and treatments. In the latter part of this year I was told I would be transferred from my the work location that I had been at for the past 4+ years to a new location and I didn’t have a say or option in the matter. Initially, I was bummed about leaving the relationships I had established over the years with co-workers and customers. I was also bummed that my commute to work would probably increase by 15-20 minutes each way. Soon after receiving the news about the transfer I begin to realize the opportunity to establish relationships with people I normally wouldn’t have encountered and to have doors open that I didn’t even know existed. I can say now at 3 months later this move has been one of the easiest transitions I have ever made and I have gotten recognized for my job performance by upper management more in the last 3 months then maybe the last couple of years combined, praise God!

 Even though our family is feeling the effects of the flu today, we thank God for sustaining us throughout 2010 and leading us into 2011!

I didn’t really get into any of the particulars of Eitan’s message but I encourage you to check it out if you get a chance next week. Here is a couple of portions of Scripture contained in the Book of Lamentations and Jeremiah, both penned by the Prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a man who was familiar with distress and despair and in the midst of his wailing and weeping, he offers these words of hope:

21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; [1]
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.  Lamentations 3:21-26

and

“11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare [1] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

May grace and shalom be multiplied upon you in the name of Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah in 2011 and always!