Monthly Archives: October 2011

In The Beginning

“The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them” Mark Twain

I’m about to make a sales pitch to you or maybe rather a plea. I have an offer that you really shouldn’t refuse. I will personally stand behind and guarantee this offer as it is backed by an extended lifetime warranty. Not to mention (though I’m about to), I have all the leverage in the world on my side. What I’m about to offer will make you smarter, give you discernment, make you wise unto salvation, correct your errors, equip you for life’s ups and downs, and make you better looking (ok, I added the last benefit-I can’t promise that one). What is this master-plan that I have to offer? Why am I so confident in its ability? How much could something like this cost? What’s the catch?

Let’s review the ?’s once more for clarity and I’ll give you the short answers:

What is the offer? I’m talking about The Word of God aka The Bible aka The Good Book aka Scripture aka The Sword (who doesn’t want to have and know how to use a sword?).

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

Why are you so confident in its ability?  “so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11 ESV)

How much is it? It’s FREE!!! You probably even have a couple of different versions lying around the house. If not and you’re reading this just look it up on google or click on one of the links below.

What’s the catch? You. You’re the catch. It doesn’t have to cost you anything monetarily speaking but it will need your time, energy and effort to begin to unlock its teaching and mysteries.

Stay with me for a minute as I unpack some additional instructions below that have been helpful to me.

Yesterday, in synagogues across the world, the Torah scroll was rolled back to the beginning of B’resheet (Genesis). A new weekly reading cycle of the Torah has begun and will culminate by Rosh Hashannah 2012. The Jewish people have had a structured reading plan for the Torah (Five Books of Moses) dating back to at least the time of Ezra (Nehemiah 8:1) and possibly King Josiah (2 Kings 22:8-23:3). On each week, beginning with Sunday and ending on the Sabbath (Saturday), synagogues across the world are reading and studying from the same portion of Scripture. Judaism has a foundational Bible reading plan that has been established for 2,500 years. Look into it! From experience, there is a synergistic like feeling to know that when you’re following this ancient reading cycle of the Torah that there are millions of other people reading and studying the same words, at the same time as you are.

(In classic sales pitch voice) But wait there’s more! In addition to the weekly Torah readings, there is another weekly portion of Scripture that is taken from the Prophets called the Haftarah, which means completion. The weekly Haftarah portion relates to the weekly Torah portion. Now the Torah and Haftarah reading plan would be a great foundation for anyone who is looking to start a Bible reading plan from the beginner to the most serious students of Scripture.

Here’s an extra Bonus!!! For believers in Yeshua the Messiah or those who are searching out those claims it gets even better. In addition to the Hebrew Bible (Genesis-2 Chronicles), we also get the teachings of the Apostles (Matthew-Revelation), most commonly called the New Testament or B’rit Hadashah in Hebrew. The Messianic Jewish community has also included relevant sections from the Apostolic Writings that fit with the weekly Torah and Haftarah readings. There are also some others making it a focus to study the Gospel accounts of Yeshua along with the normal weekly synagogue readings. After all, the Torah and Gospels are the foundations of our faith!

Whether you adopt this style of reading/study plan, something similar or create your own, the most important thing is to be immersed and washed in the Word as frequently as possible. Also, make it a point to study with family and friends along with some good commentary. They will all open up worlds and dimensions in the Bible that you never even knew existed before. Very cool stuff awaits you my friend!

Now is a great time to start and there is not a better place to begin, than well, at the beginning!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3 ESV)

Here are some ***FREE*** resources that would be helpful on your journey this year:

http://www.biblestudytools.com/cjb/ – This is an online version of Dr. David H. Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible. (This has been my top study Bible translation since 2008).

http://www.esvbible.org/ – Online version of the English Standard Version. Modern language and reading style.

http://www.blueletterbible.org/ – Online Bible resource site that has many different versions and commentaries.

http://ffoz.org/ – First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) is a Messianic Jewish  educational ministry dedicated to proclaiming the Torah and its way of life,  fully centered on Messiah, to today’s people of God.

http://torahportions.org/ – Torah PORTIONS is a ministry resource of First Fruits of Zion intended to make the weekly Torah portion accessible for everyone.

http://yeshuaincontext.com/ – Derek Leman is a rabbi in Atlanta, Georgia. YeshuaInContext.com is about the life and message of Yeshua (Jesus) based on the books, eBooks, audiobooks, podcast and other resources by Derek Leman. Yeshua in Context is a place to find information and inspiration related to the aims and identity of Yeshua. It is a place for beginners as well as inquirers and ongoing learners. (You can also email Derek at yeshuaincontext@gmail.com to get subscribed to his Daily D’var – commentary on the Torah and Gospels).

http://www.flamefoundation.org/parashiot.html – FLAME Foundation is committed to the development of quality educational   materials for use in Messianic Jewish settings.

http://www.aish.com/tp/ – Aish’s educational philosophy is that Judaism is not all or nothing; it is a journey where every step counts, to be pursued according to one’s own pace and interest. Mitzvot (commandments) are not rituals, but opportunities for personal growth, to be studied and understood. We learn the Torah’s wisdom to enrich our own lives, and to share these ideas with all humanity.

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

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Ashes and Fire

“Can you shelter the weak? Will you listen when the strangers speak?…I will shelter you with my love and forgiveness” Ryan Adams from the song Kindness

This post is not about the new Ryan Adams record of the same name, though I will comment on it below. This is my Sukkot Summary for 2011 and the title Ashes and Fire seemed like a good metaphor for the holiday burning up bright, warmly glowing, getting intense at times, and then fading into evidence that will drift away soon, but still leave its mark of where it was on our hearts and minds in the time to come. For my family and I, plus a friend or two along the way, the past few years Sukkot has become synonymous with camping (I’m talking tent camping here. None of that “we’re going camping but we’re staying in a 4 bedroom, 2 bath, full kitchen with a hot tub cabin”, though I have done that before and it is rather nice:-), fire pits, the proverbial “smoke in the eyes”, way too many roasted marshmallows, a grill full of hot dogs, burgers, steaks, fajita meat, kabobs or whatever you will (we take this feast business seriously), beer (especially all of the autumn seasonal varieties…recommendations below…mmm), lounging with a book, naps o’ heavenly naps, music with guitars, star-gazing, did I mention eating?, ok, etc.

Top 5 Sukkot Beer Recommendations (Alphabetical Order):

Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale

Samuel Adams Bonfire

Samuel Adams Octoberfest

Samuel Adams Pumpkin Ale

Shiner Oktoberfest

Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. (Luke 12:31 ESV)

For the past two years we have celebrated Sukkot at the Windermere Baptist camp at Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. This year we were unable to make the trip to the Windermere so we turned our backyard into a celebratory campground. Now before you start thinking that tent camping in the backyard is a walk in the park (I used too), I now can experientialy disagree! It is exponentially harder to leave behind some of your earthly comforts for a week (i.e. warm and cozy bed) and not return to them in the middle of the night when you’ve woken up for the fifth time due to “some noise”, your back is aching, it’s 43 degrees outside and all of the comforts of your home sweet home are only 16 feet away. It may sound funny, but it takes faith. You have to really believe in what you’re doing not just to give in to your physical desires.

You shall rejoice in your feast…..For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God…so that you will be altogether joyful. (Deuteronomy 16:14-15 ESV)

With that being said, we had a heck of a time! Out of the eight days, we only had one rainy night and for 5 days daytime temps were in the mid 80s and the other 3 in the mid 70s with all of them being full of sunshine. I made the comment during the festival to some friends that apart from it being Sukkot, late September or October is a fabulous time to take a vacation in Texas because the weather is just so beautiful!

There wasn’t a single night during the festival when we didn’t have “ushpizin” which means “guests” in Hebrew. We had over a couple of neighbors and their families plus some friends and families from our congregation that live close by. The fellowship for this year’s Sukkot is what made it our best yet. At first we were a little bummed about not getting to go to MO again, but getting to celebrate with family, friends and neighbors more than made up for the idyllic scenery. We all enjoyed good food, great conversations, prayers and blessings, Scripture and liturgical readings, sing alongs, jokes, amature astronomy and many kids running wild and free (for our Erev Shabbat gathering we had close to a dozen kids here under the age of 13). We talked about Yeshua being a focal point for this festival and in our lives past, present and future. We talked primarily about his birth and the Tabernacle themes surrounding it and his return in judgment and praise during this Feast at a future time.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. (John 7:37 ESV)

“As he stared past the fire, His hunger to leave well it gnawed his poor heart alive”

Now to the Ryan Adams record Ashes and Fire. I have been a Ryan Adams fan since about 2000 and yet hadn’t kept up with him recently since his “retirement” from music in 2009. So I was surprised when my brother and his wife stopped by for a bit on Erev Shabbat and handed me the “New Ryan Adams Record”. I couldn’t listen to it immediately but over the new few days I couldn’t stop listening to it! Upon the first listen I thought it was a little sleepy and monotone and yet by the fourth or fifth spin I was hooked and singing its praises to our guests. It ended up being the perfect soundtrack to our nights beside the campfire, as well as for my wife and I when we cleaned up the “camp” in the mornings. This record has a certain maturity about it, an introspective aching for the things that were and a renewal and hope for the things that will be. The music and production are sparse and not over-produced and the lyrics and vocals are intimate and heart-worn. This is not the most diverse record Adams has made or the most instantly gratifying. Still Ashes and Fire a very worthy “comeback” record that finds his songwriting, musical melody and vocals in fine form after weathering the storm that threatened to end his career in 2009 (Adams battled substance abuse, got diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease, and lost a good friend who committed suicide and his grandma who had raised him, to cancer).  Stand-out tracks for me include: Dirty Rain, Come Home, Kindness, and I Love You But I Don’t Know What To Say.

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

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Season of our Joy

“A holy person is a person of deep joy” Daniel Juster

For seven days you shall keep the feast to the LORD your God at the place that the LORD will choose, because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful. (Deuteronomy 16:15 ESV)

Sukkot – Feast of Tabernacles is the culmination of all the appointed times. It is to the other festivals what the Sabbath is to the other six days of the week. It is a prophetic picture of the coming kingdom. It foreshadows the great celebration when the entire world will live in peace and brotherhood under the reign and rule of the righteous Messiah King. Sukkot is Camping Out with God.” Adapted from the FFOZ e-drash: Camping out with God

The Feast of Feast’s is upon us! I’m talking about the “Season of our Joy” Sukkot (Tabernacles) which begins this Wednesday evening, October 12th and lasts until the evening of the following Thursday, October 20th. Eight Days of rejoicing and “camping out with God”!!! Anyone who has never celebrated one of the Biblical Holidays is truly missing a blessing! Also, for those who think that the religious type are too uptight and short on having fun, the Bible commands the exact opposite;

……spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. (Deuteronomy 14:26 ESV)

Today is a day of transition. It’s the day after Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and five days remain until Sukkot (Tabernacles). What are we transitioning from during this time? Some of this transition involves us going from Fasting to Feasting, Denial to Delight, Repentance to Renewal, and Judgment to Joy!

I came across an interesting comment on a blog last week about the High Holiday’s and Jewish Tradition.

“There is a very peculiar theme through out all of Scripture that is one of combining joy and grief. I think this comes through more in the Jewish traditions than in Christendom…..[especially]in relation to the Jewish high holidays. You have the near year [Rosh HaShannah/Yom Teruah] which is mostly joyful….sort of….then you have Yom Kippur which is not joyful….sort of….and then you have Sukkot [back to joyful again]. Such an interesting tradition.” praesto12

If the High Holiday’s were a roller coaster, then the month of Elul would be that slow winding clicking going up to the first major high and plunge (Rosh HaShannah), then twisting and turning through the track (10 Days of Awe) leading to a great introspective and fearful (Yom Kippur) march up to the climatic finale (Sukkot) of exuberance. It’s probably a bad analogy but it’s what came into my head at the time of writing this, plus I had a cool picture to fit the theme:-).

Back to the subject at hand………………..

The Feast of Sukkot anticipates that fearful, though also joyful Day when Messiah returns and steps his feet down upon the Mount of Olives and draws all the nations unto Himself to celebrate the great ingathering of believers (See Exodus 23:16). This is spoken of in Zechariah where it says:

 And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one. (Zechariah 14:9 ESV)

 Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths (Sukkot). (Zechariah 14:16 ESV)

So what part as Christians and Messianic Jews do we have to play in this drama of celebration today? In the present we have the opportunity to get a glimpse of the World to Come and a foretaste of a time in the future that will be Joy manifested to the fullest in a holiness procured by our Messiah. We will be in the presence of our great God and King Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) having the coolest party ever thrown in the history of the universe!

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

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