All posts by revkevye

Divine Appointments

imagesI re-read the June newsletter, after I sent it (unfortunately), and I thought to myself, “What a pretentious twit I am!”  Comparing myself to Luther at the Diet of Worms was kind of ridiculous in that he was looking at the business end of a torch when he made his stand, and while, at worst, I guess I could be martyred, likely not here in St. Louis.  In my defense, I did say that “if I am entrenched, I pray that my entrenchment may be like Luther,” in that, when it comes to culture’s denial of the clear Word of God, all I want to be able to do is stand on that.

But, since I’m comparing myself to great religious figures in history now, I’m going to compare myself to Moses, who in the Jewish culture is considered the great Law-giver.  Comparing myself to Moses is all about the law.  Moses was asked to serve God and his response was, “couldn’t you find someone else?”  OK, this is a paraphrase of Exodus 3-4, but when God called Moses, Moses voiced four objections before he said, in Ex. 4:13, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”  The text goes on with “Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses…”

Has God ever called you to do something that you just didn’t want to do?  Today, I had two meetings with Jewish people that, for whatever reason, I really didn’t want to have.  In fact, I was tempted to call the first and make some excuse for why I couldn’t meet with him.  As I was looking for a good excuse, two presented themselves that were very reasonable.  One, I considered, would have been very pleasant to do, and the other, if I wasn’t careful and attentive to it, would cost me some money.  I didn’t need four objections to the task, two seemed sufficient.  Fortunately, I fought through the temptation, carried through with both meetings, and they were so wonderful, almost, may I say, miraculous!  Both have opened the door to a greater relationship, both were substantive conversations about faith and one even about Jesus.  We prayed together!  On my way back to the office, I was praising God for making me do what I didn’t want to do!   I’m not sure that God’s anger was kindled against me, but I am sure that His Holy Spirit was nudging!

Mo’adai (מועדי ), these are “divine appointments,” that God makes with people and they are set.  The only question is who is going to be there.  What a joy to make it to the appointment and watch God at work!

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The Circle of Life

Calendar Wheel2As I shared in my newsletter this month, the end of the period of the counting of the Omer is upon us and so Shavuot is soon.  It is kind of hard to believe that it is already May, but this month concludes the Easter season and the period of the Omer on May 19 with Shavuot and May 20 with Pentecost Sunday.

It is hard to underestimate the importance of this day as God brought to fulfillment everything He had promised in the Law and the Prophets.  The once-for-all sacrifice had been made, and on May 10, we mark the Ascension, as Messiah Y’shua went to the Father to advocate for us.  His disciples had been told to wait in the city until “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) as they waited “for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4).  That promise is at hand, as they gathered for the feast of Shavuot, and the celebration of God’s giving of Torah to Moses.  That celebration turned into the pouring out of power onto those who received the promise that God had made, salvation through the suffering Son of God!

God’s Spirit is poured out on us in our baptism, and we are empowered now to go and tell.  How then do we participate in this Great Commission to go and make disciples?  Simply by telling!  Those who receive, much like the Ethiopian Eunuch, will be baptized and taught all that our Lord has commanded us to teach.  We may not do the baptizing, or the teaching.  Someone else in the Church may do that, and we may never know.  But we do know whether or not we have told.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to tell, and the Holy Spirit fills those who will receive the promise.  So don’t be discouraged if you don’t know, but be encouraged that the Spirit has filled you with the power to tell.

Some in our ministry have spent the month of April telling in Israel.  That’s exciting and I can’t wait to have them come home from their journey, and to hear how God worked through them.  But those of us left here have been busy too.  Perhaps we don’t all take the opportunity to go to Israel, but God brings to us those whom he wants to hear.  And the teaching goes on.  The cycle of the Church year is wonderful to teach, and on the last day of May marks the near beginning of the story again.  The Visitation marks Mary’s trip to her cousin Elizabeth, and sometimes lost in the pageantry of the Passion and Easter season is the Annunciation, when (this year on Palm Sunday) we marked Gabriel’s visit to Mary when the story began again!  Tell the story, over and over again . . . that’s the circle of life!

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Always remember, never again!

6a00d83453e66269e201b8d2863f46970c-320wiBlessed Easter Season to you.  April is a big month for our ministry, and I’ll plan to go into more depth in the newsletter, but April 1, Easter Sunday, is during Passover celebrating the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt.  That’s no surprise as we know that Jesus’ death and resurrection were accomplished during this festival.  It is these events that are the fulfillment of the prophetic events of the Exodus.  Our Passover Seder this year hosted over 112 guests, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and both those who celebrated this fulfillment and those who as yet, do not believe.  At the end of every Seder, everyone joyfully cries out, “Next Year in Jerusalem,” expressing the ancient hope and the modern aspiration of returning to Jerusalem.  And those of us who have received the deliverance from sin that Messiah effected, express the sure hope that we will celebrate together in the New Jerusalem too.

But that doesn’t keep me from wanting to be in Jerusalem now.  It is a beautiful city filled with wonderful people and cultures.  But it is a city that is constantly reminded that the world and those in it are full of disdain for this city, country and people.   A Jewish lady who is a friend of mine often commiserates about the world’s antipathy for the Jews.  Her plaintive refrain is often, “Why does the world hate the Jews so much?”  And the only answer I can give is that the prince of this world, Satan, hates the Jews because it was the King of the Jews who gave him his greatest defeat.  Since that historic Passover, Satan has taken his rage out against both the ethnic and the spiritual family of Jesus.

April 11 is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day.  The determined refrain of this day is “Always remember.  Never again.”  In Israel, sirens are heard and everything stops in remembrance of this tragedy that in many ways, led to the establishment of Israel.  It is a Jewish homeland that is thought to be a place of safety in the world.  Yet, the world’s attack on this place of safety is clear evidence of Satan’s rage, but he is more subtle than even this.  For he continues to blind many of those who survived and those of us who came after to the reality of a holocaust to come in the time to come.  We are blessed to be able to serve many holocaust survivors, though their numbers are dwindling.  Please keep praying that their eyes would be opened to the truth, that they would truly find their peace in Messiah Y’shua.

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Messiah, Y’shua!

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How can these things be?

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The first two centuries following the birth of Jesus were devastating for the Jewish people in Judea. The Jewish people witnessed the crucifixion of Messiah and growing tensions between those who believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead, and those who were disillusioned and still looked to the Temple sacrificial system for their forgiveness.  Then followed the destruction of that Temple.  The disillusioned refused to look to Messiah, and instead looked to themselves and created a new religion, that of modern day Judaism.  The tensions grew into persecution for the Jewish believers at the hands of both the Romans and the Jewish establishment, and then following the Bar Kokhba revolt, the tensions exploded into Emperor Hadrian’s order of banishment for all Jews, both believers and disillusioned from the land of Israel.  His attempt to thwart God and expunge the memory of Israel from history led to his renaming of the area Syria-Palestina, from which comes the modern name often used of the area, Palestine.  Yet, despite all this, the rabbis of the time would write in the Babylonian Talmud, dated to the 4th century, in a commentary on Numbers 21, “Did the serpent kill, or did the serpent heal?  Rather, when the Jewish people turned their eyes upward and subjected their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they were healed, but if not they rotted from their snakebites” (Rosh Hashana 29a).

I had the opportunity recently to preach this text, accompanied by Jesus’ teaching to Nicodemus that culminated in probably the most familiar verse in the New Testament, John 3:16.  In that gospel lesson, Jesus likens himself to the bronze snake on a pole.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14).  Just as God used a symbol of wrath to draw the Israelites eyes upward in the wilderness, so he did also with Y’shua on the cross.  To paraphrase Rosh Hashana 29a then, if the Jewish people would simply turn their eyes upward and subject their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they would have eternal life.

So often I find myself talking to Jewish people who are asking the same question that Nicodemus asks.  “How can these things be.”  There is really no evidence in the texts that Nicodemus ever confessed his faith in Y’shua as Messiah.  Yet, his provision of embalming spices led Alfred Edersheim, a Jewish believer and author of The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, to conclude that that was a public testimony of his faith.  Pray with me that the Jewish people would simply look up and subject their hearts to their Father in Heaven, in Y’shua’s name.

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“It defies all reason…”

xbaptism-w-dove-624x340.png.pagespeed.ic.Mv9fTJT9hnLast month our family celebrated the birth of my fourth granddaughter, Penelope Joy.  And this month, we celebrated her baptism as her parents obeyed Christ’s command to bring her to the renewing waters.

The Sacrament of Baptism has been a stumbling block for many in our ministry.  More times than I can count I have been told that our Baptismal theology defies all reason.  I have been told this by both Jewish and non-Jewish people, and frustratingly, even by those who already believe in Y’shua as Messiah.  Many years ago, a “Messianic-Jewish” leader actually called me a heretic on his radio show because I believed in infant baptism!  What God gave us for our unity we have made a point of division, even in the Church.

Now truthfully, I understand, perhaps, why some Christians stumble over Baptism.  They have so far removed themselves from their Jewish context that for them, they have no pegs to hang that biblical teaching on, and so they woodenly receive the command as merely an outward expression of faith giving it no power of its own and rejecting what seems to be the clear teaching of Scripture.  (See 1 Peter 3:21.)

But what truly defies all reason is the Jewish believers in Jesus who reject the saving power of Baptism.  St. Paul makes a clear connection between Baptism and circumcision and equates the two.  Trust me, no Jewish family would wait until a boy has grown to an “age of accountability” before they would have him circumcised!  A Jewish lady asked me, jokingly, when we were having a bris for Penelope (I think she was commenting on the fact that I had another girl!) and I told her to come for her spiritual bris and to witness Pippa’s baptism.  (She did come too!)

That day the lectionary cooperated so well with me, as it often does.  The Torah reading for the First Sunday in Lent is Genesis 22:1-18.  This portion is the well-studied text appointed in the synagogue for Rosh HaShanah, called the Akedah, or The Binding of Isaac.  For Jewish people, it demonstrates Abraham’s faithfulness as he, defying all reason, follows God’s command to sacrifice his son.  God provided a substitute for Isaac in the ram, and He provided a substitute for us in the Lamb, His own Son.  How much easier it is to follow God’s command to bring our children to the waters of Baptism, than it must have been for Abraham to take Isaac to Moriah!  But God, who informs our reason through faith by the Spirit, leads us to those waters that cover us in Christ!

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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.

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!

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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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