Category Archives: Read About It

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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Awesome Enthusiasm

They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. Psalm 145:6

Awesome and Enthusiasm are two buzz words that are commonly bantered about back and forth in our modern society. This is especially true in the business world where it is “awesome” to hit your daily quota or sales goals for the month; and in order to achieve this objective you must be filled with “enthusiasm” for your employer. To quote the former Green Bay Packers legendary coach Vince Lombardi “If you are not fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm”. I don’t disagree entirely with the reality of the modern use and view of these words, as I frequently use them in the same context myself. I mean come on’, I lead a team in retail banking and I do need this kind of “enthusiasm” from my associates and it is “awesome” when we hit our numbers. However, what if we took away the context of post-modernism and peeled away the layers of western influence? What if we took these words “awesome” and “enthusiasm” back to their Biblical perspective? Once we begin to dig a little deeper, many might be surprised to learn of the theological weight and depth associated with these words that many of us use weekly, if not daily as a part of our regular vocabulary without a second thought.

The word Awesome has all but lost its original scope and depth as a definition for something which is “profoundly reverent or that which inspires awe”. I would say that the majority of events that are connected with its use today are neither that “profound” or “inspiring”. An example of the word awesome used in this fashion would be “I went to Chick-fil-a today and they gave me a free chicken sandwich” “Wow dude, that’s awesome!”. The word Enthusiasm is generally equated with being motivated or ecstatic about something. A common example of how this word is used today might be “John, as a part of your career development, I would like to see you show more enthusiasm during our team meetings and when we have a team contest”. The famous 19th Century writer and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “Nothing great was ever accomplished without enthusiasm”. To the Emerson quote I say an enthusiastically Amen! Hopefully, you will too after some additional insight into what is so awesome about the greater meaning of these two words.

I have been reading a couple of different books simultaneously that I believe compliment each other well; God In Search Of Man – A Philosophy of Judaism by Dr. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Messianic Judaism – A Modern Movement With An Ancient Past by Dr. David H. Stern. This post in part is a continuation of a series (albeit a slow one:-) in which I am going through God In Search Of Man chapter by chapter. You can read other posts in this series here; Beyond the MysteryBeing is MysteriousA Legacy of Wonder, The Sublime, Ways to His Presence, Philosophy and Religion and God in Search of Man Part I.  This post draws heavily from Chapter 7 of God In Search Of Man, with some additional insight provided by Stern around the word enthusiasm.

I will begin with what Stern notes about the word “enthusiasm”, which will in turn set the tone and backdrop to what makes this so “awesome”. Stern notes that the word Enthusiasm comes from the Greek en (in) and theos (God). Enthusiasm therefore literally means to; be in God and have God in you. That bit of info brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “filled with enthusiasm”! Maybe the next time someone in a “secular” setting brings this word up, you could use this info as a great conversation starter about what this means to you. Stern says that when you are in relationship with the God of the Bible and He in you, as His Word promises, then you will surely find yourself enthused in the most ultimate sense. Stern goes on to say that God’s answer to Man’s ultimate questions such as “Is there meaning to life?” and “Does my existence really matter?” is an enthusiastically charged Yes when we are aware and a part of this relationship.

“The loss of Awe is the great block to insight” – Abraham Joshua Heschel

From what I gather, Heschel believes that in order to get to the deeper and spiritual meaning of enthusiasm, we must understand What?, Why? and most importantly Who? it is that is doing this “filling up”. As the quote above alludes to, without Awe, there is no Awesome. I will let Professor Heschel take it from here for a few minutes and give us a broader view that could lead to us regaining this Awe and in turn being able to understand that which is Awesome.

For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. Deuteronomy 10:17

Heschel begins this chapter by stating that “all reality is involved in the will and thought of God, he who wants to understand the world must seek to understand God.” But how do we do this? What is the way of understanding Him?

Heschel says that practical wisdom can availeth much, but human wisdom comes up short when confronted with the mysteries of nature and history. He says that some people may regard wisdom as “an uncommon degree of common sense.” I know that many people, myself included, like to think of themselves as somewhat within this “common sense” realm because we suppose we know a little about a lot of subjects. We may be able to navigate and structure our “wisdom” in a way that makes us look and sound “wise” until we get to the ultimate questions of “What is this life really about?” and “Why does it matter?”.  Human wisdom in and of itself ultimately leads to despair or agnosticism when confronted with ultimate questions because all of its answers are grounded in uncertainty – they are finite by nature; human nature that is. In comparison to the Atheist or Agnostic though, the Bible doesn’t convey the message of “we don’t know”, but “God understands the way to it”. What is unknown or concealed to us is known and open to God. Heschel says that “true wisdom is participation in the wisdom of God.” For the Biblical man, “wisdom is the ability to look at all things from the point of view of God, sympathy with the divine pathos, the identification of the will with the will of God.”

So what is this way to ultimate meaning and wisdom? It is our relationship with God. Heschel says that that relationship begins with awe, which he defines as “an act of insight into a meaning greater than ourselves.” This “act of insight” and “meaning greater than ourselves” is where we begin to get a wider glimpse at the word Awesome and its meaning.

And I said, “O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments” Nehemiah 1:5

Heschel says that Awe is a way of being in rapport with the mystery of all reality. The awe that we sense or ought to sense when standing in “the presence of a human being is a moment of intuition for the likeness of God which is concealed in his essence. Not only man; even inanimate things stand in relation to the Creator. The secret of every being is the divine care and concern that are invested in it.”

What Heschel says here is profound and yet so simple that we almost certainly miss the insight of it every waking hour of the day. With every single person we come into contact with everyday and with every step our feet take we have the opportunity to enter this insight which leads to this awesome experience. Heschel says that this “mystery” is not a synonym for the unknown but rather a name for that which stands in relation to God. Awe is “an intuition for the creaturley dignity of all things and their preciousness to God; a realization that things not only are what they are but also stand, however remotely, for something absolute.”

Heschel relates an expression of awe in an example from Maimonides:

“…any man who wishes to be a true “man of God” must awake to the fact that the great King who constantly protects him and is near to him is mightier than anyone……that King and constant guardian is the spirit emanated upon us which is the bond between us and God.”

This example of Awe by Maimonides sounds like it could be commentary on a number of Apostolic (New Testament) writings which depict the Holy Spirit as God (King) and yet also as our “guardian” and “bond between us and God”. According to Maimonides, the awesomeness that the “man of God” realizes is being “awake” to the fact that God is the great sovereign King of his existence.

 And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear (yirah) of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” Job 28:28

The fear (yirah) of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

Heschel says that according to the Bible, one of the prime religious virtues is yirah. Yirah is a Hebrew word which can mean fear and awe. Heschel says that the Biblical man is not motivated by fear in the sense of God punishing him in this world or the next, but rather by awe, by the realization of the grandeur of God’s eternal love. Heschel defines fear as the “anticipation and expectation of evil or pain.” He contrasts this with hope, which he defines as the “anticipation of good” and Awe, which he says is the “antithesis of fear”. Heschel states that Awe, unlike fear, does not make us shrink from the awe-inspiring object, but, on the contrary, draws us near to it. Heschel believes that Awe precedes faith because it is at the root of faith. Heschel states that for this reason, Awe rather than faith is the cardinal attitude of the religious Jew. He says that in Biblical language the religious man is not called a “believer” which is undoubtably the most popular term in use today, but Yare HaShem (One who stands in Awe of God).

Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. Psalm 66:5

For the Christian or Messianic Jew, our personal and corporate relationship to God is through Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah. It is in this relationship that we find “a meaning greater than ourselves”. It is through this relationship in Yeshua that we are all collectively “One who stands in Awe of God”. That the God of eternity would humble Himself and take on flesh to walk among us is Awesome! That He would suffer with great pain and sorrow, even unto death on our behalf is Awesome! That He would do all of this because of His immense grace and love for humanity and creation is Awesome! That He would provide a new and living relationship with Himself through Yeshua the Messiah in communion with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is Awesome! That through His resurrection He has proved mightier than death itself is Awesome! That He has deposited in all of us this “anticipation of good” which is the resurrection of all who trust in Him is Awesome! That He will complete the work he started in us no matter what is Awesome and should fill us with more than enough enthusiasm to “run the race that is set before us”!

“Who is like you, ADONAI, among the mighty? Who is like you, sublime in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?” Exodus 15:11

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

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Bring Back The King

*Attention: This is not a post about Elvis, Michael Jackson, or even that goofy looking character from the Burger King commercials.*

This post is about a hope and a prayer, that I pray and hope will turn into a plea by Yeshua’s (Jesus’) brothers and sisters according to the flesh (i.e. The Jewish People) really soon in the coming days. Amen! These thoughts are primarily drawn out of the 16th Chapter entitled Life from the Dead in Michael Brown’s book Our Hands Are Stained With Blood.

For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Matthew 23:39 ESV)

Yeshua (Jesus) spoke these words in sadness to Jerusalem not too long before his death. These words come after a long litany of warnings to the oppressive and unbelieving leadership of the Jewish people in Yeshua’s day. Yeshua’s words as recorded here in Matthew are insightful and indeed prophetic. These words are magnificent and the implications are probably beyond our full scope of understanding until they become the reality that will usher in the Age to Come. And yet with clarity, there is an aspect and an event in view that all believer’s should understand right now in this present age – The Jewish People play an integral part in the 2nd Coming of Yeshua!

Ever since I can remember, in my lifetime, there has always been talk of the Lord’s return to this earth. This is popularly known as the 2nd Advent or 2nd Coming. This desire and speculation of Yeshua’s return has not just recently become the hot topic of believers, but it is true of my parent’s and grandparent’s generation as well. In fact, the imminent expectation of Yeshua’s return goes all the way back through every generation of the last two thousand years, even to the very generation(s) in which the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament) were written. But, have we really had genuine reason to believe that He could return at anytime? I suppose that each and every generation could validate and give “evidence” for His return in some form or fashion. Some of the “evidences” of our modern times (most of which I agree with) are the formation of the State of Israel in 1948, Jewish control of Jerusalem for the first time in almost 2,500 years in 1967, Tens of thousands of Jewish people coming to faith in Yeshua in the last 40-50 years, the increased frequency of natural disasters, the increased frequency of wars and rumors of wars, the explosion of knowledge and technology, etc, etc. Yeshua talked about many of these things being a “sign of the end”, but there is still a caveat, there is still something else that must happen before his return – Yeshua said so, very plainly, himself. As Brown makes note of  in his book “He will remain in heaven until Jerusalem welcomes Him back. That is how it must be!”.

So it is with this caveat in mind that I write this post; that Yeshua will not return until his own people, the Jews, welcome him back as Melech Mashiach (King Messiah).

Brown brings up a portion of Scripture from 2 Samuel, having to do with King David, in which he suggests is prophetic in light of Yeshua’s words in Matthew 23. At this point in David’s life, he had been on the run after his son Absalom had stolen his throne. David had previously left Jerusalem out of fear for his life, but now his son Absalom has been killed and David was ready to return and resume his kingship from the City of the King. After hearing of Absalom’s death, the Israelites argued amongst themselves saying;

“The king delivered us from the hand of our enemies and saved us from the hand of the Philistines, and now he has fled out of the land from Absalom. But Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle. Now therefore why do you say nothing about bringing the king back?” (2 Samuel 19:9-10 ESV)

King David took their sentiments a bit further and went right to the source of contention. He sent a message straight to the leadership in Israel at the time and said;

“Say to the elders of Judah, ‘Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his house, when the word of all Israel has come to the king? You are my brothers; you are my bone and my flesh. Why then should you be the last to bring back the king?’ (2 Samuel 19:11-12 ESV)

“You are my brothers; you are my bone and my flesh. Why then should you be the last to bring back the king?’ These words could easily reflect the attitude of Yeshua to his brothers and sisters in the flesh. All the nations of the world are represented in wanting to bring back the King (including Messianic Jews), but until Jerusalem (represented by Israel and the Jewish People as a whole) receive and welcome Him back – He will not return!

So this is one of the great challenges and opportunities we face! Some might say Mission Impossible, it can’t be done or it won’t be done until Yeshua comes back, but wait, according to Yeshua’s own words it must happen before He returns – not after! Many Christians might be surprised to learn that religious Jew’s pray for their Messiah’s return daily, as well as it being a central tenet to their faith (though currently they reject Yeshua as this Messiah).

The 15th blessing of the Amidah (daily standing prayer) is called The Kingdom of David and it appeals to God to bring the Messianic King to sit on David’s throne:

May the seed of David thy servant flourish speedily and may You exalt in Your salvation. For in Your salvation do we hope all the day. Blessed are You, Lord, Who brings forth the horn of our salvation.

The 12th principle in Maimonides 13 principles of Jewish faith states; the belief in the coming of Messiah and the Messianic era.

How can we challenge and change the status quo of long-held assumptions about who the Messiah is? What part can you play in this Divine objective?

For starters, we can all join in prayer a la Psalm 122:6; Pray for the Peace and Salvation of Jerusalem. Jerusalem will not experience true and lasting peace and salvation without her true Messiah, Yeshua.

Second, we must understand Paul’s words in Romans 11 and keep them continually on our heart and in focus:

Christians (non-Jewish believers from among the nations) must understand that it is only in part to Israel’s stumbling that we are able to proclaim God’s amazing grace as grateful believers today.

So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. (Romans 11:11 ESV)

To me, this is also one of the lost callings of the Church and Christianity in general. We have hardly provoked Israel to jealousy by showering them with the love of Christ, but instead, historically speaking, we have persecuted them in Jesus’ name as Christ killers! All believers everywhere must repent for ourselves and our ancestors in the faith. We must take a stand against and denounce all anti-Judaic and anti-Semitic behavior and theology. 

Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! (Romans 11:12 ESV)

I believe that many Christians are eternally thankful to God for “calling them out of the darkness and into His marvelous light”. “For O’ the depths and heights” of God’s blessings that he has bestowed upon us and yet this is only a taste of the mutually universal blessing that will be showered upon all believer’s once Israel is brought back into the fold under her Messiah.

For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? (Romans 11:15 ESV)

This portion of Scripture penned by Paul through the Holy Spirit is astounding! Israel’s rejection enabled all the nations of the world, you and I, to be brought into a personal and corporate relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The I AM who spoke to Moses, the God of Israel, the Tetragrammaton – YHVH! Meditate upon this, all of this was done because of Israel’s (temporary) rejection! We should hardly be able to contain ourselves at the thought of Israel’s future acceptance and welcome message back to her King “Baruch Haba B’Shem Adonai”, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord”! For this message is about one of our primary and eternal hopes – The Resurrection!

The Resurrection is a central tenet to the theology of Christianity and Judaism and is something in which we are all eternally hopeful. Again, from Maimonides 13 principles of Jewish faith; #13 – the belief in the resurrection of the dead.

Finally, I believe that it is to this end that the modern Messianic Jewish movement has arisen in these last days. I believe that Messianic Judaism will be the great bridge of reconciliation between Christianity and normative Judaism. I believe that it is the high calling of the Messianic Jewish movement to prepare the remnant of Israel with all believers from the nations alongside her in love and prayer to proclaim the message “Bring Back The King”!

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

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Philo-Semitic Puritans

No Christian community in history identified more with the People of the Book than did the early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who believed their own lives to be a literal reenactment of the Biblical drama of the Hebrew nation.” Gabriel Sivan – The Bible and Civilization

“For the first time in history, Jewish ethical ideas were legally enshrined into the laws of a non-Jewish nation.”  Ken Spiro – Simple To Remember (Judaism Online)

As I wrote about in last week’s blog A Subject So Heavy, I have been reading Michael Brown’s book Our Hands Are Stained With Blood – The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People. Chapter 3 is called A Blessed and Beautiful Stream. In this chapter, Brown highlights some of the various denominations of Christendom during the last few centuries that have had “mercy and compassion for the Lord’s brothers and sisters according to the flesh”. I wanted to focus on one group specifically during this Thanksgiving week that has had such a huge impact on our nation since its inception and continues to do so up to this very day. This religious group has impacted everything from our government and education systems, to our religious values and holidays; they are The Puritans.

The Puritans were part of a Protestant movement that became prominent in late 16th century and early 17th century England. Originally, they were called “Puritans” because they wanted to “purify” the Church of England from within, much like their early Protestant counterparts wanted to “reform” the Catholic Church from within (hence the name; reformers). Like with the Reformation though, there was a group of Puritans called “Separatists” who thought the moral guidance of the Church of England was so far off base that they would be better off forming their own brand of “true” Christianity. It is this group of Puritans who we know so well as “Pilgrims”, a name they gave themselves due to their wanderings in search of religious freedom. The majority of those who came over on the Mayflower and set up shop at Plymouth Colony in 1620 was from this group of Puritans. The next year, in the autumn of 1621 is when we have what many historians refer to today as the first “Thanksgiving”.

The rest they say is history! Well, yes and no. There are many different angles and topics to discuss around the Puritan movement and what it has meant to our nation on so many levels. For this post though, I wanted to share some of the quotes referenced by Brown in his book as it relates to the Puritans views on the Jewish People.

Consider the testimony of the Puritans. They sought to go back to the Word of God and to separate themselves from the dead traditions of men. They preached the need for individual salvation and holy living. They helped shape the American colonies. And many of them had a special love for Israel.

Consider these quotes by John Owen, who many consider to be the chief of the Puritan theologians:

“The Jews shall be gathered from all parts of the earth where they are scattered, and brought into their homeland.”

“…. of raising up a kingdom unto the Lord Jesus Christ in this world…it is either expressed, or clearly intimated, that the beginning of it must be with the Jews.”

The following is from Robert Leighton, who was another Puritan theologian and contemporary of Owen:

“Undoubtedly, that people of the Jews shall once more be commanded to arise and shine, and their return shall be the riches of the Gentiles, and that shall be a more glorious time than ever the Church of God did yet behold.”

Now we come Samuel Rutherford, who is the third and final Puritan theologian quoted by Brown. It is said of Rutherford, that he knew “the heartbeat of his Savior” intimately, and “in every way, wanted to bring joy to his Master”. Rutherford knew the Jews were still God’s Chosen People and that they “had a special place in the Kingdom of God.” None other than England’s greatest 19th century Preacher Charles Spurgeon had this to say about Samuel Rutherford:

When we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men.

In the quote below, Rutherford echos the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 9:3, in that he would be willing to be separated from the Master he loved so much if he could witness this;

“I could stay out of heaven many years to see that victorious triumphing Lord act that prophesied part of His soul conquering love, in taking into His kingdom the greater Sister, the Jews….Oh, what joy and what glory would I judge it, if my heaven should be suspended till I might have left to run on foot to be a witness of that marriage-glory, and see Christ put on the glory of His last-married bride, and His last marriage love on earth; when He shall enlarge His love-bed, and set it upon the top of the mountains, and take in the Elder Sister, the Jews, and the fulness of the Gentiles!”

Rutherford also had the following to say about Israel’s future restoration:

“O to see the sight, next to Christ’s coming in the clouds, the most joyful! Our elder brethren the Jews and Christ fall upon one another’s neck and kiss each other! They have been long asunder; they will be kind to one another when they meet. O Day! O longed for and lovely day dawn! O sweet Jesus, let me see that sight which will be as life from the dead, Thee and Thy ancient people in mutual embraces.”

What an amazing testimony from these men of the 17th century who came to the New World in search of religious liberty and freedom with a passion for Messiah, a zeal for the Word of God and a love for the Jewish People. They are some of the most influential forefathers that our nation has ever known! Undoubtedly, their love for God and His People merited His blessing and abundance showered upon this nation for centuries to come. May it be the same for us!

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

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A Subject So Heavy

“Hatred of the Jew has been humanity’s greatest hatred. While hatred of other groups has always existed, no hatred has been as universal, as deep, or as permanent as antisemitism.” 

Quote by Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin from the book Why the Jews? The Reason for Antisemitism

Just recently I started reading Our Hands Are Stained With Blood by Dr. Michael L. Brown. This book is part of the required reading material in the membership class, as a prerequisite to membership, at Baruch HaShem Messianic Synagogue. For starters, this book is a hard read, very hard. Not in its style, but in its content and history. The subtitle is The Tragic Story of The “Church” and the Jewish People. I’m only a few chapters in and the detail of hate, persecution, and murder along with the graphic images that come to ones mind are almost inconceivable and unbearable to even imagine the horrors that have been prevalent for centuries upon centuries between the “Church” and the Jewish People. To be sure, Brown does relate many horrors perpetrated by the “Church” against the Jews, but also broadens the spectrum and discusses Anti-Semitism around the world, in various cultures, in the media, and even reviews the claim that the New Testament itself and even Jesus himself make anti-semitic remarks.

“The challenge for the modern-day Christian reader confronting such a history is not only to absorb and own that history, but also to examine current Christian attitudes toward Jews and Judaism.”  The Rev. Phil Windsor

“The vast majority of Christians, even well-educated, are all but totally ignorant of what happened to Jews in history….and the involvement of the Church.”  Edward Flannery – Catholic Scholar

Michael Brown states emphatically that “The Church must know!” It is long over due that the Church universal, from the top down must be made aware of its history and dealings with the Jewish people. Brown states “Whether Catholic or Protestant – there is blood on our fathers’ hands.” Every last ounce of anti-semitic thought, theology and action must be dealt with, rooted out and repented from in order to bring the reconciliation that is so desperately needed between the Church and the Jewish people. Brown states “It is the Church’s tears of repentance that will wash away the stain of blood.” Brown’s primary subject is the “Church”, which is mostly placed in quotation marks to make the reader aware that the true Church, the biblical Church, wouldn’t have anything to do with anti-Semitism, at least not for the most part, for we know that sometimes whats lurking in the depths of the sub-conscience can betray its counterpart.

Many people may not think that anti-Semitism is prevalent and a part of mainstream society in the world today, at least not in the west. We might have the tendency to relegate it to the pages of history books about Hitler and the Holocaust. Others know that anti-Semitism rages in the middle east with leaders such as Iran’s Ahmadinejad and the Palestinian conflict and yet those same people might still not think that anti-semitic thought is a problem in the west, other than the outer fringes of society which includes those such as the neo-nazis and other white-supremacist groups.

Think again. In the almost seven decades since WWII and the tragedy of the Holocaust, anti-semitism hasn’t just went away or faded into the pages of history books. As maybe most would like to think, our post modern society with all of its technological advances and increased knowledge is not above those of past millenia in morality or its mutual hatred of the Jews. It seems that the past 2,500 years worth of generations seem to have at least this in common – on some level they all blame the Jews for theirs and the world’s problems. As the two articles quoted below indicate, anti-semitism is as prevalent today as its ever been and in fact appears to be on the rise at this very moment.

In a blog post at The Podium from the Boston Globe on November 7, 2011: The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism  By Abraham H. Foxman

Anti-Semitism has been resurging around the world over the last decade. The combination of anxiety over terrorism, concerns about financial stability, campaigns against Israel, and the diminution of the long felt shame after Auschwitz about exhibiting anti-Semitism have led to this resurgence. In other words, anti-Semitism is not a history lesson, it is a current event.

In a post at Communities from The Washington Times on November 5, 2011: Wall Street protest: Is the problem greed, envy, or anti-Semitism?  by Bob Siegel

Communism isn’t the only birth child of revolutions spawned by bitter envy. Hitler also used class warfare to bring about a different form of socialism, not global (as Marx preferred), but national. It was called, National Socialism. That’s NAZI for short, kids. And who were the horrible, devil-horned rich people according to the National Socialists? Jews of course!

Yes, that was the past but it was only a matter of time before such villain casting caught up with America. Once the rich are effectively demonized, sooner or later somebody “connects the dots” equating the term rich with the term Jew.

In New York, the repetitious shout, “Jews control Wall Street” can now be heard. Not to be out done by yelling, protesters’ signs say creative things such as “Google: (1) Wall Street Jews; (2) Jewish Billionaires; (3) Jews & Fed Rsrv Bank,” and  “Gaza Supports The Occupation of Wall Street,” (FRONTPAGEMAG.COM, October 26, 2011).

These two posts are just a highlight and small sample of what you can read in the mainstream news everyday in regards to this subject that is so heavy or should be so heavy on the hearts and minds of all those who put thier trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Israel. I plan to devote more than a few posts to some of the various subject nature found in Brown’s Our Hands Are Stained With Blood. In the meantime and going forward from now on I pray that our hearts, especially those of believers and followers of the Jewish Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) may meditate upon these verses of Scripture:

 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Genesis 12:3 ESV)

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! May they be secure who love you! (Psalm 122:6 ESV)

For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (Romans 9:3 ESV)

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

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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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Beyond the Mystery

“The theology of fate knows only a one-sided dependence upon the ultimate power. That power has neither concern for man nor need of him.”

In Chapter 6 of God in Search of Man, Abraham Joshua Heschel discusses why The Enigma is Not Solved. Read related posts in this series; Being is Mysterious,  A Legacy of Wonder, The Sublime, Ways to His Presence, Philosophy and Religion and God in Search of Man Part I.

“He lowered heaven and came down with thick darkness under his feet. 10 He rode on a keruv; he flew, swooping down on the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness his hiding-place, his canopy thick clouds dark with water. 12 From the brightness before him, there broke through his thick clouds hailstones and fiery coals.” (Psalm 18:9-12)

Oftentimes God is hidden. As the Psalmist quoted above says “He made darkness His hiding place”. “Where can God be found when disaster strikes?” asks not only the scoffer but also the grieving mother, father, son, daughter, neighbor, friend, community or even country after the unexplainable loss of a loved one or the unimaginable loss of thousands upon thousands of loved ones due to a circumstance deemed “an act of God”. The reality of nature’s destruction and history’s lack of compassion is a stumbling block for many people seeking answers to universal mysteries. Yet Heschel says “The extreme hiddeness of God is a fact of constant awareness”.

“God thunders wonderfully with his voice, he does great things beyond our understanding.” (Job 37:5)

Scripture, along with the Biblical man is not silent on these matters. Both Scripture and the Biblical man agree that God is hard to find sometimes and that He offers answers that are beyond our capacity of comprehension. But what about God’s perfect justice and righteousness? The skeptic might also ask “if His judgment is true, then why all of the innocent suffering?”.

“Wake up, Adonai! Why are you asleep? Rouse yourself! Don’t thrust us off forever. 24 Why are you turning your face away, forgetting our pain and misery?” (Psalm 44:23-24)

“For God is in heaven, and you are on earth; so let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2)

The verse’s above are good places to start in answering the above questions. For starters, we have a very finite perspective on why things happen the way they do. To put it simply, our lack of ultimate perspective and knowledge should cause all of us to pause when making determinations of God’s perceived inconsistent attributes, as well as declarations of  God’s lack of existence.

Heschel talks about God’s mercy beyond the mystery and circumstances of this world. God’s concern, guidance, will, and commandments are all revealed to man through His Word (Scripture) and capable of being experienced by him. Heschel says that man “is called to responsible living and to be a partner of God in the redemption of the world”. In Judaism this is called “tikkun o’lam” which is “repairing the world“.

Heschel brings up two events in Israel’s experience to show that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is unique in comparison to all of the other so-called gods that have been presented through-out the history of the world:

  1. When God descended upon Mount Sinai and His voice spoke clearly to all the people what did it disclose? The mysteries and enigmas of the universe? No. The condition of departed souls? No. Information about demons, angels or heaven? No. When the voice of God became audible it said: Remember the Sabbath…..Honor your Father and Mother…….Don’t murder, steal, cheat or lie….
  2. When Moses asked God to reveal to him who He was, did He say? I am the all-wise, perfect and most beautiful? No. He said I am full of love and compassion……..Where in the history of religion prior to God’s revelation to Moses, was the Supreme Being celebrated for  His being sensitive to the suffering of man?

In Judaism, history with all of its ups and downs, joy and suffering, is determined by the covenant: God desires relationship with man. The ultimate is not the Law but the Judge over the Law, not an arbitrary power figure but a fair and just Father.

“The ideas of religion are an answer, when the mystery is a problem…….the certainty that there is meaning beyond the mystery is the reason for ultimate rejoicing”.

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