All posts by revkevye

Come and see…

UnknownThe Gospel reading for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany this cycle is from John, Chapter 1, verses 43-51.  It deals with the calling of Philip by Jesus, and then Philip going to his friend Nathanael, and telling him about Jesus.  As you know, Nathanael has some strong ideas about people, especially those from Nazareth, but he responds to Philip’s simple “Come and see,” and Jesus reveals himself to him.

Jesus’ revelation to Nathanael was, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”  And for some reason, with that revelation, Nathanael proclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!  You are the King of Israel!”

His sitting under a tree got me to thinking about trees, especially with Tu B’Sh’vat coming up on January 30 at sundown.  Tu B’Shvat is the “new year for trees,” and trees were really important to people in Israel.  Of course, we know that the Garden was filled with trees in creation, but the fruit of one tree brought Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden.  The ground became hard and tough to work.  Planting trees was important for shade, fruit, and rich soil.  Abraham, following the birth of Isaac, began to establish his home in the land God had promised.  In Genesis 21, we see that he dug a well and planted a tree, consecrating the ground to God.  And planting trees is still important in Israel.

It is a harsh land.  When Jewish settlers purchased land from the Ottoman Empire, the land was barren and dry.  So they planted trees, irrigated and worked the land.  And they are still planting trees.

Tu B’Sh’vat is a great time to plant a tree in Israel, especially honoring one of your Jewish friends.  You can do that treesfortheholyland.com.  And prayerfully, though the fruit of one tree brought us expulsion from Eden, the fruit of another, the one Y’shua was hanged on, will bring them back into the Garden eternally.  “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed”  (1 Peter 2:24).  Come and see.

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Ho Ho Homoousios!

UntitledAmen!  Come, Lord Jesus!  A familiar refrain during this wonderful season of Advent.  And this is a great time to share the gospel through the imagery of Christmas that is all around us.

Our first opportunity is, of course, December 6, where we can wish everyone a “Happy St. Nick’s Day!”  December 6 is the feast day for St. Nicholas, and his legacy appears to have made his entrance at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Yes, Santa Claus is a great opportunity to share the truth about St. Nicholas.  Nicholas was born in 270 A.D. and was raised by devout Christian parents in what is now Turkey, likely a legacy of faith planted by St. Paul as he planted churches in Asia Minor.  Born to wealthy parents, Nicholas was orphaned early but he lived by his parent’s teachings to sell what he had and give to the poor, and Nicholas was known as one who shared his wealth with anyone who had need, with particular care for children.  He became a priest, and then  Bishop of Myra.

During his time as a Bishop, heresy was permeating the Church and the Emperor Constantine convened the First Council of Nicaea to address the Arian heresy.  Arius argued so vehemently during that council for the subordination of Christ to the Father, essentially tearing apart the doctrine of the Trinity, that Nicholas, legend has it, became so angry with Arius that he punched him in the nose!

Not the best way to settle theological disputes, but I get it.  There have been many times that I have been provoked by the profaning of the Messiah that I have wanted to punch someone in the nose.  Fortunately, physical violence is not in my nature, and it is much better to withdraw into prayer.  But the deity of Y’shua, his being of the same essence as the Father, is unequivocal, and essential for our salvation.  God’s sacrifice of Himself in our stead is the only penalty that can pay for our great sin, and Y’shua’s resurrection is the foundation of our hope, especially in Advent.  So, we have another greeting early in Advent…Ho Ho Homoousios!  (The Greek word expressing one nature in the Nicene Creed.)  You can get a great t-shirt with this Christmas greeting here. It would make a great Christmas present for your pastor!

Also, if your interested in our Advent devotional, you can find it on our Facebook page at the link below.  Blessed Advent, Happy Chanukkah and Merry Christmas!

http://www.lije.org http://www.chaivshalom.com http://www.facebook.com/chaivshalom

 

For everything under heaven…

IMG_1952November brings an end to the celebrations of the 500th Anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation.  While the whole year was a build-up to this years’ Reformation Day celebrations, I don’t think 501 years is anything to sneeze at!  But we do all like round numbers, don’t we?

I do love the cycles and seasons of the church year.  Risking being repetitive, back in September I mentioned the Pete Seeger song “Turn, Turn! Turn!” based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.  Of course, this song was made most popular by the folk-rock group The Byrds, who had a #1 single of this song in 1965(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZEYW2ROKK8). Whenever I read Ecclesiastes, I find it difficult not to start singing this song in my head as I read.  This month I was preaching at Trinity Lutheran Church in Northfield, MN, where they had a wonderful banner in their narthex.  It was four panels illustrating the Church Year with the quote from Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything under heaven, there is a time and a season.”  Of course, in my head I started hearing that distinctive 12-string Rickenbacker that Jim McGuinn played.  I don’t know if that is good or bad, but music has a way of penetrating so deeply into the human memory.  This month also brings to an end the current cycle of the Church Year.  November 26 is “The Last Sunday of the Church Year.”   Then the paraments change from green to blue, and Advent is begun.  Music being what it is, I always look forward to hearing all those wonderful Advent hymns of the season.

I think it is interesting that Thanksgiving Day, at least here in the U.S., falls on the fourth Thursday of November.  I’m sure this had nothing to do with the seasons of the Church Year, but what a wonderful opportunity to gather on Thanksgiving Day and give thanks…including thanks for the Church Year.  The last Sundays of the Church Year focus on Christ’s return, and what that means for believers and unbelievers alike.  That focus is good, and leads us into the season of anticipation of Christ’s first coming in the wonderful ways that cycles and circles go.  For everything under heaven, including those who do not yet know Jesus, there is still time to tell!  Give thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!

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The Trinity in Lev. 23?

unspecified-19-1Tonight begins Sukkoth.  Sukkoth, the Feast of Tabernacles (“Booths” in the ESV), is the third of three autumn pilgrimage festivals appointed by God in Leviticus 23.  This particular festival is the celebration festival of the autumn calendar.  The first two, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are solemn, but Sukkoth is festival of rejoicing.

I was on the radio this week, and the guy on the board was talking to me during a break and relating that he saw on Facebook the admonition to not wish Jewish people a “Happy Rosh HaShanah,” because Rosh HaShanah is anything but happy.  It is a solemn memorial.  But to wish Jewish people a Happy Sukkoth would not be untoward.  (Truthfully, I don’t know many Jewish people who would take offense at their friends wishing them a happy Rosh HaShanah, but the usual greeting is La Shana Tova, literally, “A Good Year,” referencing the greater greeting of “May your name be inscribed for a good year,” that inscription being in the Book of Life.)  In our Detroit branch we gave away many baskets of apples & honey with that greeting.  You can see those on the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ChaivShalom/?ref=bookmarks).  But as Sukkoth is a festival of rejoicing, rejoice!  Happy Sukkoth, or even better, Chag Sukkoth Sameach!

We built our booth, or Sukkah, on Sunday afternoon following our service.  (You can see a picture and video on our Facebook page too!)  The Sukkah is a relatively flimsy booth built with a roof of branches that do nothing to keep the rain or the sun out.  It is a reminder of the booths we lived in in the desert as we schlepped from Egypt to Israel following God’s deliverance of his people from bondage.  The message is that anything we build with our hands is flimsy indeed compared to the building that God is providing for us.  A time of remembrance and a time of rejoicing in God’s constant care and provision.

In many ways, and I preached this during Yom Kippur, the three autumn festivals are a picture of God himself and are very Trinitarian.  On Rosh HaShanah, God the Father blows a trumpet to get our attention off of ourselves and onto Him.  Then he shows us our deliverance on Yom Kippur as God the Son takes on flesh and blood and becomes the sacrifice for our atonement.  These are solemn acts indeed and our response is one of quiet solemnity.  But at Sukkoth we rejoice as God, the Holy Spirit, is poured out upon us and shows us His sacrifice, His love, and His provision.  All three persons of the Godhead are there in these three festivals!  What a joy to share this truth with those who cannot see.

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To everything there is a season…

UntitledSeptember brings what I call “learning season.”  Yes, of course, learning is year-round, but the Autumn brings a new crop of students.  This semester I have 15 high school-aged students that I tutor in Classical Conversations (www.classicalconversations.com), and 6 new seminary students who are learning to share their faith in a Jewish context.  Additionally, I have had opportunity to write for a new book coming out by Concordia Publishing House called The Christian Difference, and work with LCMS Witness and Outreach on their new missions curriculum Every One His Witness.

All of this stuff, in addition to the mission society and the congregation, keeps me pretty busy.  But it all serves the mission of the Church, so I am happy to do the work.  But, nothing brings instant gratification!  Everything in missions takes time and perseverance.  The book isn’t coming out until 2019 and I rarely hear from the students that I work with.  So it was with great joy that I received the following e-mail:

“Hi there–remember me?  My husband and I are in SC now.  We started a church here 12 years ago.  We have about 40 members now.  I have become friends with a really interesting Jewish lady who makes me think of you and times I spent with your church.   She came to our Christmas eve service in 2016.  We have had several discussions and she is now willing to take classes with Keith to become baptized and join our church.  Thought you might be interested in hearing about her.  Her parents escaped the Holocaust and came to New York City.”

This dear Jewish lady, Carol, is 77 years old and was baptized in August.  What a blessing!  The pastor and his wife were involved with our ministry while he was a student at Concordia over 17 years ago.

Back in the ’50’s, Pete Seeger wrote “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” (Judy Collins sings it here) an almost verbatim rendition of Ecc. 3:1-8.  We have a Hebrew lithograph of that text on the wall of our sanctuary.  I look at that on occasion and have to remind myself that God’s timing is always perfect, so I just have to wait.  And occasionally, He blesses me with a glimpse.  He did that through that e-mail!  Keep Keith, Judy and Carol in your prayers, as they walk together in Y’shua, especially during this High Holy Season. Now Carol’s name is truly written in the Lamb’s Book of Life!  Shalom, Peace.

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Respite

Solar_eclipse_1999_4_NRToday I experienced a total eclipse of the sun.  My family and I drove 36 miles southwest of St. Louis to Washington, where there was the greatest amount of “totality,” a little over two minutes.

We got there early staking our place out under a tree, down by the Missouri River.  As people gathered, a sense of excitement grew as footballs were thrown, a barbecue grill was started, and a policeman walked around handing out free solar glasses to anyone who needed a pair while she laughed and chatted amiably with the folks.  We built two pinhole cameras to see the eclipse along with our ISO rated glasses.  The glasses were great, but there was something really good about the “old-school” pinhole cameras too.  A couple of guys even older than me had some awesome telescope shaped pinhole cameras.  As the morning went on, I had several good conversations with people who had gathered with us, one family from Oklahoma.

The eclipse started around 11:48, and suddenly, folks were getting their glasses, looking into the sun, and the air of expectation built.  It began slowly, but soon the quality of the light was different … muted somehow.  As it got darker, the shadows through the trees became crescent shaped, and everything grew still as if a curtain had been opened at a theater.  The lights of the town came up as the streetlights reacted to the light change, and the “orchestra” started as crickets and other insects started to chirp.  Suddenly, it was dark and people dropped their glasses and just stood quietly looking at the moon, with the sun’s corona shining around it–colors of pink, purple and magenta flashing–and an amazing sunset/sunrise effect over the river on the clouds.  Then, the crowd started to cheer, as if somehow they instinctively knew that God had presented us with this wonderful drama.

This might have been my first total eclipse.  I know that I remember seeing at least partial eclipses through those, then remarkable pinhole cameras.  But as I stood there marveling at totality, it truly filled us with a sense of awe.  I know my granddaughter Johnna was thrilled and amazed at such a sight, and we were struck with the sense of order that our Creator designed the universe with.  It is just this order of His that gives us the ability to predict such things with such accuracy.

After the past week of lunacy and disorder in Spain, Finland, Charlottesville, Boston, and other places, today was a much-needed counterpoint as we experienced God’s great order in His creation.  Even the people were pleasant!  Surely this is how God meant for us to live.

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Jerusalem & The Temple Mount

shapeimage_3I grew up in a Jewish home, so the State of Israel has always been an important part of my life. However, I have tried to balance my understanding of Israel’s importance to me personally, with a scriptural view of the State of Israel’s place in God’s economy.

In the Jewish community, at least early on, there was dispute about whether or not the State of Israel was truly the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.  Many in the Orthodox community believed that the reestablishment of the State of Israel was not of prophetic importance because Messiah has yet to come.  More recently though, the dispute in the Jewish community is less about Messiah, and more about the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement and the liberal agenda of Israel as “occupier” and the Palestinians as an “oppressed” people.

In the Church, there is also dispute, though all would agree that Messiah has  come.  But it is “end-times” prophecy that gets us all in a stew, seasoned with just a pinch of continuing (and perhaps undiscerned?) anti-Semitism.

Last month we observed the 50th anniversary of the 6 Day War and the return of Jewish sovereignty over the Temple Mount.  This month though, we observe the anniversary of the breaching of the walls of Jerusalem prior to the destruction of the First Temple with an annual fast day known as Tzom Tammuz.  This year, on July 11, it is 2604 years since that event.  This is the beginning of a three-week period of mourning leading up to Tish B’Av, at sundown on July 31, which is the same day that the 1st and 2nd Temples were destroyed, 655 years apart from each other.  Needless to say, Tish B’Av is a day considered by many to be a day of calamity.  What calamity should we expect this year?

For those of us who care enough to want to share our faith with Jewish people, we often find ourselves stuck in this intersection of opinions, looking around wondering who has the right of way! And no matter what, while everyone seems to have an opinion about Jesus, everyone also has an opinion about Israel.  It is becoming harder and harder to talk about Jesus without talking about Israel.  The question posed above is often asked during this time.  And while no answer seems sufficient, pain and suffering is best accompanied by a promise of hope and healing that comes with Messiah Y’shua.

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(For more on Tish B’Av, see my post from August 16, 2016)

The Six-Day War, Nes Gadol Hayah Sham!

UntitledYom Yerushalayim was last month on May 23 in Israel.  Otherwise known as “Jerusalem Day,” it is an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem, which happened following the Six-Day war.  Because of the differences between the Jewish calendar and the Gregorian calendar,  we mark the observance of Jerusalem Day in May (this year), but June 5-10 marks the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day war.  I can’t believe that it has been that long, and I remember it like it was yesterday. We, the American Jewish community, were sure that this was the end of Israel, and yet, much like our dreidel proclaims at Chanukkah, “a great miracle happened there!”

Many people debate about whether Israel has any historical right to the land that they are in.  Some make a biblical argument based on God’s promises to Abraham, others refute that and base their refutation on theological arguments and spiritualize Israel as only the Church and the promised land as “heaven.”  (Certainly Paul, uses Israel to refer to the Church, but also to the land and to the ethnic people…see Romans 9-11.)  Still others refute such a right because they see Israel as an oppressive government that has displaced an indigenous people, the “Palestinians.”  No matter what, Israel is a lightening rod that draws a lot of opinion, anger and attention.

While this is not an excursus on Israel, I just have to say that regardless of all the opinion out there,  there is a modern, historic foundation to Israel’s right to the land that is hard to refute.  It started on November 29, 1947 when the United Nations adopted a partition plan for Palestine following the British withdrawal from the region in 1948.  Effectively, the United Nations gave the area a “two-state solution” that we hear so much about today.  Israel and Palestine were created and the Jewish Agency for Palestine accepted the plan, despite the fact that the newly created Israel would have “indefensible” borders.  But the nations that surrounded Israel, Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq and Syria, along with the newly created “Palestinians,” rejected the plan and attacked Israel.  Anyone who believes a two-state solution would bring peace to the Middle East just needs to study history!

A dear friend of mine was an American military observer in Israel during the Six-Day war.  I remember him saying that the Israeli victory was nothing short of miraculous, that with God there is no such thing as “indefensible” borders, and clearly God is not done with His Jewish people.  These observations are also hard to refute.  Thank you for helping us share the Gospel here and in Israel!

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Memorial Day for whom?

00000563This morning I had the opportunity to sit in on a Lincoln-Douglas Debate.  Their debate prompt was “Resolved:  Rescuing great cultural and artistic achievements from theft or destruction is worth risking one’s life.”  I’m sure part of what prompted this prompt was the destruction and theft of cultural artifacts in Iraq, Syria and Libya by ISIS.  The concern on the part of the students is the fact that with such destruction comes the loss, change or intentional rewriting of history that accompanies it.  Certainly, in the Middle East, ISIS is attempting to eradicate any evidence of the Church’s history in those areas.  But are we in America any better?

Ironically, the Lincoln-Douglas Debate format is based on the 7 debates that Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas held between August 21 and October 15, 1858.  Of course, the coming Civil War was the forefront of those debates.  And here we are today, with the debate still raging as communities attempt to rewrite our history by removing Confederate monuments.  Our new mayor in St. Louis is intent upon removing a Confederate monument in Forest Park because “it’s an emotionally charged issue…that is hurtful to so many people.”  Perhaps we should remove Douglas from the tableau at Lincoln Douglas Square in Alton, IL?  That’s probably coming.

What a ridiculous concept that if we have “hurt feelings” because of history, then we should just rewrite or eradicate that history, rather than learn from it.  This is the same logic that Holocaust deniers and historical revisionists use because there are people who are uncomfortable with the truth.  And where does it end?  Memorial Day emerged from competing Union and Confederate observances eventually becoming Memorial Day by 1882.  Shall we now make distinctions between those Americans who lost their lives in service to our country, but only those Americans who fought for ideals that we agree with?  Vietnam?  The Gulf wars?

Churchill once said that “History is written by the victors.”  But history is rewritten by the those with “hurt feelings.”  Progressive culture really wants to rewrite the Church, who, it seems, from their perspective, is oppressive.  Individuals and our feelings have become our idols.  And I am still awed by the fact that He, who knew no sin, became sin for us, and as Y’shua endured that pain, He was not a victim, but victor who cried out to His Father, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

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Easter Sunday: Passover–Deliverance

EasterIllustration:  “Easter,” by Marc Chagall, oil on canvas, 1968.

“But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay” (Matthew 28:5-6).

He is risen, He is risen, indeed! We can imagine the shouts of both women as they ran throughout the city. Jesus the Messiah has risen from the grave and is alive today! Because of this, we have the promise of eternal life. Hallelujah!

This should be the final message of the Passover meal. It is for this that the entire story of God’s deliverance is passed on from generation to generation. It is for the coming of the Messiah that God’s people pray in this meal. This meal should end with shouts of joy.  Our redemption is won!  He is risen indeed!

Sadly, that truth is still hidden from the hearts of most of those who share this meal. Every year they set a place for Elijah, and pour a cup of wine for him. The door is left ajar, and the children are sent out to see if he is coming. God’s Word tells us that Elijah will be back and announce that Messiah is come. But every year, the wine is untouched, the children are disappointed and the meal is finished on a note of empty hope. Maybe next year? Next year in Jerusalem?

What a joy that you can announce to them, “Elijah HAS come!”  Jesus declared that John the Baptist was “he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you…and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come'” (Matthew 11:10,14).  That “Elijah” came to do one thing:  Point us to the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

It is my prayer that this series, and the artwork of Marc Chagall, has given you some things to meditate on and has blessed you.  I pray that through you many will be blessed.

Prayer:  Our Father in Heaven, thank You for this journey. Guard my steps as I walk on, and help me to be your witness to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. In Y’shua’s name, Amen.

Ponder the path: Pray with me that the families who share this meal tonight and tomorrow will come to know that Elijah has come and that all people will believe in Y’shua our Messiah. For Jesus has made you His witness. Our journey is not yet at the end, for there are many on the path ahead of us.

If you would like some help in sharing your faith, call us at Burning Bush Ministries (or Congregation Chai v’Shalom) at (314) 645-4456. We have a gospel tract written especially for Jewish people who are celebrating Passover and other resources that you can use on your journey.

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