Saturday, March 29, 2014

URGENT: Ukrainian Messianic Rabbi Asks for Your Prayers

Here is Ukrainian Messianic Rabbi Boris Grisenko explaining a little about the Ukrainian crisis and asking for your prayers (video is at the bottom of the linked-page):


Thursday, March 27, 2014

A New Era of Church History?

Recently I reported that a local Baptist Church we visit, in addition to hosting Messianic events, is now allowing a Messianic congregation to meet in its main sanctuary on Saturdays.  Along the same lines, I just heard from the following from my Jewish friend Warren Marcus on facebook (Warren created that cartoon "Super Book" among other things):

There will be no "One New Creation (Man) Service" this Saturday night at Steele Creek Church of Charlotte. INSTEAD on SUNDAY, March 29 in BOTH services we will be celebrating ONE NEW MAN in the main sanctuary with the whole rest of the church.
I am so honored to join with Pastor Kelvin Smith to expound upon the Book of Ephesians Chapter 2 concerning the One New Man - Jew and Gentile one in Messiah. Our worship team and dancers will be inviting the congregation - the nations to come together to celebrate what the God of Israel has done through Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah. YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS THIS.It happens in BOTH SERVICES - at 9:15 am and then again at 11:15 am. If you have shofars bring them, banners bring them. When our worship team and dancers do the last song let's let everything explode with LAHAIM - LIFE and fullness of the Holy Spirit.
Steele Creek Church of Charlotte - Main Sanctuary!
1929 West Arrowood Rd.
Charlotte, NC 28272"

It's a very multi-cultural church as you can see from the following link:  CLICK HERE FOR LINK

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Star and the Sceptre: How Torah Prophesied That a Davidic Messiah Would Institute One-Law for all Mankind

"I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly." (Num. 24:17-18)
"And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind (Torat ha-Adam), O Lord GOD!" (2 Sam 7:19)
"I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander of the peoples. Surely you will summon nations you know not, and nations that do not know you will hasten to you, because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor." (Isaiah 55)

"11 In that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David [Sukkat David] that is fallen, and will rebuild the ruins of it, and will set up the parts thereof that have been broken down, and will build it up as in the ancient days: 12 that the remnant of men, and all of mankind upon whom my name is called, may earnestly seek me, saith the Lord who does all these things," (Amos 9:11-12, LXX).

If we understand that the Hebrew term for Edom is the exact same word for "mankind" (Adam), these passages tell a very interesting story.

Let's take Amos 9 as an example.  The version quoted by James in Acts 15 is quite different than the version in the Masoretic Text (i.e. the primary Hebraic text used today).  Berding explains:

"Some will object further that Amos' words in 9:12 are not the same as those found in James's citation in Acts 15:17.  The differences between the two are obvious: 
Amos 9:12: 'so that they may possess the remnant of Edom'
Acts 15:17: 'that the rest of humanity may seek the Lord' 
However, the Hebrew word for 'possess' (yarash) could in the ancient Hebrew script be easily mistaken for 'seek' (darash) since the difference would only be in the length of the tail between the letters yod and daleth in that early script.  Moreover, 'Edom' ('edom) and 'man/humanity' ('adam) are almost identical in Hebrew except for the vowels (which were not part of the original text).
     It is true that the Qumran text Florilegium supports James's reading on this clause in Amos.  Therefore, there is a real possibility that the NT and Qumran readings may preserve the better text from Amos, which would make even stronger our argument for the suitability of James's appeal to this text to show that Gentiles had been in the promise-plan of God all along."
So, if Torah uses Edom as a representative for all mankind, the Numbers passage becomes quite a bit broader in scope.  The territory of the future Davidic King of Israel will encompass all of mankind.  This King (whose first coming is marked by a Star and whose second coming is marked by a Sceptre) will "possess" mankind, calling them by His Name (in ancient societies, to call someone by your name meant to possess them).  In effect, He will transform many peoples into One People:
"Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you," (Zechariah 2:11)
 This Davidic Messiah will bring all the peoples into His House which means they'll have to abide by His "rules of the house":
"And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind (Torat ha-Adam), O Lord GOD!" (2 Sam 7:19)
But why does Torah use Edom as a representative for mankind?  Because the Edomites, like mankind, were offered the Torah but rejected it.  As descendants of Abraham, they were supposed to remain circumcised and keep the Law.  But instead they separated themselves from Israel, refusing even to let the Israelites cross through their territory when the Israelites were marching toward the Promised Land. Later they showed themselves to be even greater enemies of Israel.  But King David, believing that these Edomites were family, installed garrisons throughout Edom so that Edom would be subject to David's kingship.  Later still, in 108 B.C., Hyrcanus re-conquered the Edomites and made them subject to Judaism.  He did this because he, like David, believed that the Edomites were family and that, as such, they should act like it.

The Edomites were called to be family but rejected this call time and time again.

But G-d had a plan.

He would change the hearts of all mankind:
"26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.  27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
And the evidence of this heart change would be that the Edomites (or "mankind") would seek after the L-rd:
"that the remnant of men (Edom/Adam), and all of mankind upon whom my name is called, may earnestly seek me, saith the Lord who does all these things" (Amos 9)
Folks, the only thing that could make a people as nasty as the Edomites suddenly "earnestly seek" G-d is the power of the New Covenant, the power of the Ruach working in man's heart.  

May He bring peace and unity speedily in our days!

Psalm 133:1 "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The L-rd's Prayer in Jewish Tradition

The following is excerpted from "Brother Jesus" by the Jewish author Schalom Ben-Chorin:

pg. 89 "In all of this, Jesus operates within the Jewish tradition of his day, as Bultmann rightly recognizes:  'The unique character of the Lord's prayer as contrasted with Jewish prayer does not consist in any special originality of formulation or content.  On the contrary, all petitions have parallels in Jewish prayers' (Jesus and the Word, 181).
     Not only do they have parallels in Jewish prayers, but the prayer that Jesus teaches his disciples is a Jewish prayer from the first word to the last.  On a personal note, whenever I am present when the Our Father is recited, I always pray along, without feeling that I am abandoning or violating my own Jewish faith in the slightest.
     The prayer that Jesus teaches his disciples (Matt. 6:9-13) begins with the invocation 'Our Father in heaven.'  ....'Avinu shebashamayim'...To be sure, Jesus recommends praying not (only) in the synagogue but at home, and yet for the individual the invocation 'Our Father' is still proper, for no individual in prayer is alone.  And the Jewish individual, as a member of a distinctive union of people, is particularly cognizant of his bond with God and therefore rightly utters the words 'Our Father.'....
     In both the prayer invocation and the parables, in the sermons and the conversations of Jesus, the name of God, the never spoken....The intimate father-child relationship that characterizes the faith of Jesus, who cries out 'Abba' (Mark 14:36) in childlike despair....
     Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
    The formula 'hallowed be your name' corresponds to the Kaddish prayer in the synagogue.  The Kaddish is an old prayer.  Although predominantly Aramaic, it also displays Hebrew components that may well derive from the time of Jesus.  The Kaddish begins with the formula 'Glorified and sanctified by his great name in the world which he has created according to his will.  And may he establish his kingdom in your lifetime and in your days, and in the lifetime of the entire house of Israel, speedily and soon, and say, Amen.
    ...In its original form the Kaddish was a hymn with a prospective view of the kingdom of God; the experts in scriptural law used it to conclude their exegesis (derashoth).  This form is still known today in the synagogue as Kaddish derabbanan and is recited after an instructional reading.  This helps to explain wh the Our Father is adjoined (in Matthew) to the Sermon on the Mount.
     Your kingdom come.  Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.     
    ...The Kaddish too begins with the request for the kingdom of God.  In the prayer of Rav (early third century)...'Therefore we wait on you Lord our God, to show us quickly the glory of your victory, to expel and exterminate the godless from the earth, to order the world for the kingdom of the Mighty One.'  Even today the holy service in the synagogue ends with this prayer, known as the 'Aleinu.
    Give us this day our daily bread.    
    It is right that people, even while expecting the kingdom of God, should pray for daily bread.  In Hebrew we would probably read this as lechem chukenu, 'the bread due to us.'  But to pray for more does not seem right to Jesus.  We must especially recall that Jesus rejected the accumulation of material goods, an attitude consistent with the pharisaical ideal of his time.
    And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.     
    We have adduced talmudic passages above, according to which only those people will be forgiven in heaven who themselves forgave on earth.  Jesus elaborates on this thought in the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt. 18:23-25).
    Jesus, who deeply understands human nature, knows that people are exposed to temptation daily.  He thus concludes his prayer with this request:
    And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from evil.    
    'And do not bring us to the time of trial' has an almost literal parallel in the daily morning prayer in the synagogue:  Velo liydei-nissayon, 'and not into the hands of trial.'  Deliverance from trial can also be conceived of as deliverance from evil, though not in the sense of the evil one, the Devil.  In Jesus' language use, the Devil is simply called Satan, whom he had seen fall from heaven in the form of lightning (Luke 10:18)."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Understanding Islam

Came across this informative article earlier:  Understanding Islam.  Also, check out the additional resources link toward the bottom of the article.

Defining Messianic Judaism: A One-Law Approach

While there is no universally recognized definition, Messianic Judaism may be defined as a movement of individuals and communities who believe that, in addition to the physical realm of Israel composed of the physical descendants of Israel, there is a Messianic Kingdom Realm of Israel composed of all the faithful followers of Yeshua (a.k.a. Jesus) who have accepted His Sovereignty over their lives and that this faith-based inclusion bestows a covenantal responsibility for each Messianic, whether Jew or non-Jew, to follow a Way of Life in which the Holy Spirit guides one to keep all applicable Scriptural Instructions (e.g. Holy Days such as Shabbat, dietary instructions such as keeping kosher) and even certain rabbinic traditions whenever they are necessary and proper to carry out those Scriptural Instructions.  

While Messianics oppose the anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism which is notoriously prevalent in Christian teachings and Church history, Messianics love and accept Christians as family and try to serve as witnesses to the Truth that Yeshua and the Apostolic Writings promoted, not the abolishment of Judaism, but rather a New Covenant oriented version of Judaism--a Messianic Judaism.

Finally, Messianics believe that G-d loves all the peoples of the world and wants everyone to receive the gift of salvation offered through Yeshua, the Son of G-d, so that one day, when Yeshua returns to establish His Kingdom on earth, all peoples may flow up to Jersualem to worship in the Temple.  

Am Yisrael Chai!

There has been a recent wave of rocket attacks on Israel (link).  Nothing new.  We know that all of the enemies of Israel are destined to lose.  With each new attack, the dust will settle and Israel will always still be standing.

We thank you HaShem at this time (Purim) for loving your People Israel and for raising up brave men and women (such as the IDF) to protect your People.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Tree of Life: The Menorah as a Messianic Symbol

Hosea 14:5-6 "..he will send down his roots; his young shoots will grow.  His splendor will be like an olive tree." 
Psalm 80 "Thou didst bring a vine out of Egypt, thou didst drive out the nations and plant it.  Thou didst clear the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.  The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches; It sent out its branches to the sea, and its shoots to the River." 
Jeremiah 11:16 "The LORD called your name, "A green olive tree, beautiful in fruit and form"" 

The menorah was a seven-branched candelabra that once stood in the Temple in ancient Israel.  It looked something like a golden olive tree with seven branches holding up seven flaming olive-oil lamps.  It represented the light of G-d being offered to mankind.

As Messianics, we believe that this Light for the World is Yeshua, the promised Messiah of Israel.

Dear reader, do you know where you will be when you die?  Will you go to the place of light?  Or will you go to the place of darkness?

The place of darkness is reserved for those who have no desire to obey G-d:

2 Thessalonians 1:8,9 "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Yeshua.  They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might"
Jude 1:13 They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. 
2 Peter 2:17These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 
Matthew 25:30 "And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'" 
Matthew 25:46 "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." 
But the place of light is reserved for those who love G-d:

John 3:14-21"14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Debunking the So-Called "Messianic Seal of the Jerusalem Church"

If you've visited enough Messianic congregations, you've more than likely seen the Menorah-Star-Fish symbol depicted on the right.  It's supposedly the ancient symbol used by the first Messianic communities two thousand years ago. 

But is this symbol legit?  Or is it based on pseudo-scholarship?

I've blogged previously about pseudo-scholarship (LINK).  Pseudo-scholarship usually has the following three hallmarks:

(1) emotional bias ("This must be a sign from G-d!");
(2) unscientific or sub-standard methodology ("This skull proves that man evolved from monkeys");
(3) conspiracy theories ("The establishment wants to suppress my research because they know my research could change the world")

So what's the evidence for the so-called Messianic Seal?  

It all comes from "The Messianic Seal of the Jerusalem Church" by Schmalz and Fischer.  The story goes like this:

Shmalz and Fischer went to meet this guy named Schneider who claimed that an old monk gave him some ancient artifacts engraved with the Messianic Seal depicted above.  Schneider then presented these artifacts to the curator of the Israel Museum only to later learn that the curator decided to "suppress" them.  To make matters worse, the old monk died before he could bequeath any of the remaining artifacts to Schneider (talk about bad luck).  

So was there any pseudo-scholarship going on?  Let's check:

(1) Were there any emotional bias?

In the preface, Fischer describers how he and Shmalz looked “with awe” at these artifacts—before they were even told about the artifacts provenance!  

(2) Did the investigators use unscientific methodology?

Schneider's first impression of the artifacts was that they were obviously "a long-forgotten testimony informing the world about the true roots of the Church."  And this assessment was good enough for Shmalz (who incidentally was a "self-trained archeologist").  

(3) Did the investigators promote any conspiracy theories?

Only that Schneider claims the Israel Museum has suppressed the artifacts that he had entrusted to them and that Orthodox rabbis organized attack mobs to go after Fischer.  

In conclusion, this is a classic case of pseudo-scholarship.  

Further reading:

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Is There a Biblical Pattern for Messianic Communal Governance?

Is There a Biblical Pattern for Messianic Communal Governance?

Some musings from today...

I feel very strongly based on the Scriptural evidence I have surveyed, that Messianic communities should be governed according to the following three principles:

(1) governance should rest in the hands of plural representatives[1], never a single individual[2] (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; 1 Tim. 5:17);

(2) this body of plural representatives should consist of a quorum of ten elders[3] selected based upon their merits[4] and held accountable by the people[5];

(3) each elder must be male (as the term zeken comes from zakan which means “beard” as in Psalm 133:2[6] and also because Paul is explicit in 1 Cor. 14:34 when he says “Women should remain silent in the assemblies.  They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.”).

But, again, this is just my opinion.  Anyone with a different perspective?

[1] Grudem, Systematic Theology; Levine, The Ancient Synagogue pgs. 388 and 407;
[2] The title "rabbi" did not "gain a technical sense of an office of congregational leadership until the 2nd Century CE," (Hegg. "A Community or a Congregation?").  
[3] Amram, The Zekenim
[4] "GEROUSIA (Gr.; council of elders).  In the Roman period, the affairs of many Jewish communities in the empire--including Erets Yisra'el--were conducted by councils of elders.  The gerousia of Jerusalem was headed by the high priest.  Those chosen for the gerousia were selected for their learning and piety and were not necessarily old.  Josephus applies this term to the seventy elders who were chose to aid Moses (Antiquities of the Jews 4.8.14)," The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion; "After the Hellenist conquest, Israel was governed by the "Gerousia (Greek--Assembly of Zekenim)--a standing body representing supreme authority of the nation when Anshei Knesset ha-Gedolah was not in session...[the Gerousia was presided] over by Kohen Gadol, its members included soferim and notables," (Elazar, Jewish Polity, pg. 101).  Later, during the Second Temple era [circa 63B.C.E. according to the Jewish Encyclopedia 1906 edition], the Gerousia continued under a new name, Sanhedrin (ibid, pg. 113).  The Sanhedrin consisted of approximately seventy "leading scholars who themselves were part of an intellectual meritocracy drawn from a widely popular base," Elazar, The Jewish Polity.
[5] Horowitz, The Spirit of Jewish Law:  Abuse of power by the oligarchy which governed the affairs of the community was checked by three basic principles:
    (1) The governing board even where it had complete administrative authority was required to respect the wishes of the community;
    (2) The board's major decisions under the local ordinances were usually subject to referendum or recall by the membership and;
    (3)  The acts of communal boards were generally reviewable by the bet-din (court), the dayan (judge), or the rabbi of the community (Hayim Or Zarua, Resp., p. 65; Mordecai, Nezikin 482).

[6] Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary