Category Archives: kibitzing

The primacy of Y’shua for Hebrews

ExodusI was studying Hebrews the other day as I prepared for  “Thy Strong Word” on KFUO (a daily on-air bible study that I am a frequent guest on. . . http://www.kfuo.org).  Sometimes referred to as “The Letter to the Hebrews,” Hebrews is more of a sermon with a short letter appended to the end.  I remember reading Hebrews for the first time shortly after coming to faith in Y’shua, thinking that this “letter” was particularly written for someone like me, a Jewish Christian.  When I read it then, though I knew that it was “anonymous,” I really  believed that it was written by Paul.  After all, in the English, it certainly sounds like Paul.

But, as I got “educated,” I studied Greek, I studied Eusebius, and I along with all the scholars, came to the conclusion that it probably wasn’t Paul, and while authorship was uncertain, I figured it was Barnabus (Paul’s scribe), though Luther posited Apollos.  Luther concluded though, “Who wrote it is unknown, and will probably not be known for a while, it makes no difference.”  He then goes on to speak highly of the theology of Hebrews, though including it among those books which are “antilegomena,” disputed texts that have limited doctrinal value.  Sadly, it does make a difference then, as the primary argument for Hebrews as being a disputed text is that it is anonymous.

I don’t think it was intended to be anonymous, and those for whom this sermon was intended would have known the preacher.  The short letter assumes that the recipients of the letter know who wrote it, and mentions Timothy, as Paul often does.  The main argument against Pauline authorship is the style of Greek used, but do we really believe that someone like Paul couldn’t have managed a more formal Greek?  Do you think that Paul may have preached this primarily for Jewish Christians, but also to those who have yet to believe?  I know that when I preach, and it is to my congregation, my style is much more colloquial than if we have visitors who do not yet know Jesus.  So, maybe I’m back to Pauline authorship.  Regardless, there is much to learn about evangelism to Jewish people from this wonderful sermon, namely the primacy of Jesus over the angels, over Moses, over the Sabbath, over the sacrifices, and over the culture that calls us back to unbelief, all realities still today.  Whoever wrote Hebrews, I am grateful for the encouragement to “have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus!”

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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 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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A Temple That Can Never Be Destroyed!

western-wallHere we are in 2017!  Wow. . . our ministry has survived 35 years, largely thanks to you!  Thank you so much for helping us through what was a tough year, yet a year blessed with opportunity.

This month brings new opportunities for us to share our faith, not only with our Jewish friends, but with all the nations too!

Asara B’Tevet (the tenth of Tevet) is January 8 and is a minor fast day in Judaism.  It commemorates the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar.  On 10 Tevet 3336 (425 BC), Nebuchadnezzar’s armies laid seige to Jerusalem and the siege lasted 30 months, until 9 Tammuz 3338, when the city walls were breached.  Then on 9 Av 3338, the Temple was destroyed and the Jewish people were exiled to Babylon for 70 years.  You can read about these events in 2 Kings 24-25.

During this season, some of our Jewish friends and relatives may be thinking about the destruction of the Temple.  Certainly, because of actions by the U.N., we are thinking about the Western Wall of the Temple, which the United Nations recently declared as “occupied Palestinian territory.”  While I lament such a designation, and remember well my visit to the Western Wall, it is a good time to remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 when he prophesied the destruction of the Second Temple (of which the Western Wall is all that is left), and upon which lies the Dome of the Rock.

But Jesus did more than prophesy the destruction of the Temple, but his own death and the resurrection (John 2:19) that would make us the living stones of a temple that cannot be destroyed! (1 Peter 2:4-5).  No work of man can overcome the will of our God.  It is comforting to us, and critical for those who have not yet received Messiah.

This month also has our ministry hosting a table at the 6th Annual International Women’s Tea in Detroit.  I’ve written a new broadside for that event, which you can see below. Please pray for the ladies that they would be encouraged to share their faith among the nations!

womens-tea-color

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Why do it?

13-04-17-mishegoss1Last Sunday, Congregation Chai v’Shalom celebrated the installation of a new pastor, Rev. Brian Earl, who is serving our ministry in outreach.  He was one of my students in 2006 and continued to work with Rev. Brad Aldrich, who was serving our ministry then.  Following graduation at Concordia Seminary, Brian served a parish in Nebraska for five years, and then moved to St. Louis with his new bride Christa and while he is here serving a Chaplain internship, he received and accepted a call to serve our ministry to help in outreach.

He and his wife have been a blessing to our ministry.  Christa is a violinist, a linguist, and gifted in many other ways along with being from Colorado.  It is nice to talk to someone else who knows Denver!  She and Brian are young (so much younger than me!) and have a lot of energy, and Brian has faithfully been leading our monthly outreaches for some time now.  In addition to a bunch of other things that we do, we hold a monthly outreach on the 2nd Saturday evening of each month and go to an area of St. Louis called “the Loop.”  It is a shopping district in the midst of a vibrant Jewish community and a wonderful area university.

The night before his installation, Brian and I were on the Loop.  We are enjoying really warm weather in St. Louis right now, and there were a lot of people around.  Part of what we do is try to engage people in conversation, prayerfully leading to a spiritual conversation.  Between the two of us in the span of an hour, we had three conversations.  He met a woman who really refused to talk spiritually, and wanted to talk more about the election.  OK. . .that’s fair.  I met a “Hebrew Israelite” who wanted to talk spiritually, but she didn’t really help me understand what “Hebrew Israelite” meant, or what her faith was.  From what I could gather about her, she wasn’t Jewish per se, and not Christian either.  She did allow me to share who I was, and I gave her some literature from our worship service, and also told her where the nearest synagogue was when she asked.  At least we got to talk about Jesus, about whom she seemed to have no opinion!  That’s rare.

Our third conversation that evening was together with two young men who enjoy “intellectual dialogue.”  One said he is an agnostic and the other eschewed all labels.  Both believe in a higher power, but not the Bible or even a traditional understanding of God.  They sort of fell into the Aristotelian concept of the “unmoved mover.”  But when pressed, they chose a deistic approach to God who created everything, got bored, and moved on to another planet.  Yes, we did talk about “extra-terrestrial beings”, and at best we left them contemplating about why God would create all this, and how he chose to reveal himself to us.

All-in-all, an average evening on the Loop.  So, why do it?  The Loop is a snapshot of how badly the world needs Jesus, and how confused it is.  But at least all those who we talked to left knowing about our faith in Jesus.  Sometimes that’s the best we can do, trusting that God is working in these lives through the rest of His Church!

“To Seek and save the Lost”

droppedImage_2I was having a conversation with a good friend and one of our board members about a benefit golf tournament I played in recently for the Kiwanis. The chapter that hosted the tournament is a service organization pledged to reduce or eliminate neonatal tetanus (NT). NT occurs in many countries where deliveries take place in unhygienic circumstances, and would be eliminated by immunizing mothers with a tetanus vaccine that is cheap and very efficacious. In 1988, the World Health Organization estimated that 787,000 newborns died of NT and by 2013 that number had been reduced by 94% to 49,000. Kiwanis International, which has 660,000 members, is committed to serving children and their needs, and is making quite a difference in that area of need, as we see the reduction in NT worldwide. As I was talking about Kiwanis to my friend, he asked, “are you a member of Kiwanis?” I said no, but I answered that I am a member of the largest service organization in the world, the Church.

Last Sunday, our gospel reading was Luke 10:1-20. This is the text that we began our St. Louis ministry with in 1996, as we prayed about how God was sending us into “His harvest.” 2 by 2, with no apparent means of support, we wrote our “mission and ministry plan,” and called it the Luke 10 model of church planting. Since that time, while we have yet to plant another church, we have planted several new mission stations and are prayerfully keeping our focus on the mission of the Church, which is, by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, “to seek and to save the lost” (Lk 19:10).

I think the Church, unlike Kiwanis International, may sometimes lose focus in the face of such need. There are 7 billion people in the world, and 2.2 billion Christians by the last Pew report. “The harvest is plentiful,” but today are there few laborers? One would think that with 2.2 billion Christians in the world, we could no longer say that the laborers are few. But so much of the activity of the Church is not directed toward the mission of the Church, to seek and save the lost. We get caught up in social ministry, administration, or education. These things are important but only useful if it serves our mission. May the Church, in all that we do, keep our focus until that day that our Lord returns!

Our ministry still suffers from few laborers. We are blessed by 4 in Detroit, 2 in Atlanta, 3 in Florida , 2 in Kansas, 2 in Wisconsin, 40 in St. Louis. I’ve just written my quarterly letter to the members of our ministry’s congregation Chai v’Shalom, and noted that over the course of the next quarter, we have 34 opportunities for outreach and fellowship on the schedule already, including Sunday worship services.  And while I don’t really consider worship services an outreach opportunity, they better serve the mission by helping us keep the focus on the mission of the Church and preparing us to go into His harvest! These are all among many opportunities to focus on our mission, to seek and save the lost. May all that we do serve that mission, and may we all rejoice that our names are written in heaven.  Peace to your house!

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Walking around blind

UntitledThis past month I had the opportunity to drive 11 hours west to speak at a church in Western Kansas.  They have been friends and supporters of ours for many years and are truly a blessing to our ministry.  We have known each other now through two pastors, we have done outreaches together, and we even took a congregational field trip to The Creation Museum with them several years ago.  I never dreamed that I would be willing to drive through Kansas for anyone, but for them, it’s a privilege.

Actually, though, there was a time when Kansas was a state I just had to close my eyes (metaphorically), grit my teeth (actually) and just get through.  I’m from Colorado, right in the foothills of the mighty Rocky Mountains, and for reasons I can only guess (namely, meeting my wife), I attended an old family school “back east” in Ohio.  So many times I found myself driving through Kansas, eyes closed and teeth gritted.  Flat, featureless and really, really long!  And it doesn’t help that once, while still in high school, my mother, grandmother and I drove to that same college to attend a building ground breaking, and on the way, broke down.  We were in a 1970 Toyota Corona with two Israeli flags emblazoned across the back window, when we broke down in Mankato, Kansas. (My mother would never take the highway.) The fellow at the station said, “Well, I’m gonna have to go all the way to Salina to get parts for this” (you fill in the accent).  A week later, we were finally on our way, and somehow still made the ground breaking.  But my disdain for Kansas was born that week!

Since then, I have become a believer in Jesus, and have learned to see beauty in all of God’s creation.  And since my friendship with Redeemer Lutheran Church in Atwood, have gotten to drive through Kansas many more times.  I’ve driven through the Flint Hills in blizzards, through rain and drought, and even with blazing fires all around me!  Every time I marvel at the beauty of the region, along with the high plain and the beautiful prairie.  This last time was in the season of that “New Spring Growth Green,” and it was just as beautiful as always.  How could I have taken this for granted?

I wonder how many times we’ve gone through our lives busy, disdainful, taking the things around us for granted.  This isn’t just about beauty in nature, but beauty in people too.  It is so easy today to look around and see nothing but rotten, no good people.  But we have to remember that in every one of those people all around us, there is the breath of God.  Psalm 33 reminds us that “The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds.”  This is the same God that “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).  Please don’t take them for granted.  And God sends us to give them the truth, He who is “the way, and the truth, and the life,” Jesus!  Don’t close your eyes and grit your teeth.  Just look around.  Otherwise, you may miss something beautiful.

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Calendar Woes…

imagesThis month we find ourselves in an interesting conundrum as we note the holidays on the Jewish calendar.  Purim falls on Maundy Thursday and Passover falls on April 23, almost a month after Easter.  So, the conundrum was whether or not to celebrate Easter on March 27, or to celebrate Easter on May 1.

May 1?  Well, the Orthodox Christian Church celebrates Easter according to the Julian calendar, while the western Church celebrates Easter according to the Gregorian calendar.  The differences in these two calendars are similar to the challenges in the Jewish calendar (see February’s newsletter).  The Gregorian calendar was established in the 16th century as an effort to bring the calendar into alignment with the vernal equinox, so that Easter would be on the first full moon following the vernal equinox.  But that makes Easter earlier than the Orthodox Church’s celebration, which is calculated according to the Julian calendar, but also takes into account the adherence by the Orthodox to the early practices of the Christian Church, which, at the council of Nicea, 325 AD, required Easter to take place during the Jewish Passover.

Wow…truthfully, we never considered celebrating Easter in May, but it certainly would have been easier with our schedule.  We are, after all, part of the Western Church, and it would be awkward to deviate from the rest of the Church’s schedule.  And we are reminded by St. Paul to “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:16-17).  We rejoice that in Christ, we have the freedom to celebrate these things or not, and to make adjustments, if needed.  Instead, as you probably know, we celebrated Purim during Purim Katan (again, see last month’s newsletter), and our Passover Seder is still on Palm Sunday, which is March 20.

Freedom in Christ…I understand that.  But if I had to adhere to the law, I would be confused about something I read today.  There is a new product on the market called the HotMat, “a new foldable hotplate designed to give observant Jewish consumers a safe, portable and rabbinically sanctioned method of heating up food on the Sabbath.”  Technology designed for keeping the law comfortably and safely!  How is it that so much time and effort is spent on being flexible about the law, and yet, our people are still so stubborn about Messiah?!

The challenge of all this is that our annual St. Patrick’s Day Outreach, Palm Sunday and our Passover Seder is all the same week.  Oy!  But, the upside is that April should be a quiet month (that never happens!).  Pray for the many people that we meet during this season, that they would consider Messiah Y’shua!

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The hands of Jesus

UntitledIt is convention season in our Church body now, and I am off to convention this Sunday.  Our missionaries in Florida are at convention today (It is June 12 as I write this), and while getting the business done is a priority, one of the opportunities conventions offer is a chance to talk to others in the Church about our mission.

It is amazing that there are still so many that have no idea about what we do.  They find it easy to get their heads around foreign missions, and in fact relish the opportunity to participate in foreign missions.  And after all, it is also mission-trip season.  I just got off the phone with a dear long-term donor who just got back from Honduras, and of course, Ben is going to Alaska next month, which I guess counts as foreign missions, at least in the minds of most.  A good friend of mine just sent me notification of a mission trip to Israel that he is leading (yes, a mission trip, not just a tour!) and all of those mission trips are exciting opportunities to go somewhere different and share the love of Jesus with others who so desperately need to hear it.

Additionally, foreign missions offer great opportunities to do something for others that seems more substantial than “just” sharing the Gospel.  Now this is not to disparage the sharing of the Gospel, but working with children, building homes, digging wells, and various medical missions give us the opportunity to be the hands of Jesus for others too.  And in these various helping roles, we leave behind people whose physical condition is better, we hope, and we take with us the joy of having helped others.  And the Gospel seeds are planted, and by God’s grace, grow into faith.

I do hope you have had or get to have the opportunity to go on a short-term, or even long-term mission to a foreign field.  There is no greater joy and I know, as my family has participated in such, great growth in our own faith follows.

The joy of our mission is that every day is a mission trip for our missionaries in Israel, Russia, Kansas, Detroit, Florida, Atlanta and here in St. Louis.  Every day we have the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, and while Jewish people do not have a lot of physical needs that they need us to help with (the Jewish community does a good job of that), you’d be surprised how many times you will get the chance to do something for someone that makes a great deal of difference.  And Gospel seeds are planted, and by God’s grace, grow into faith.  Rejoice in the mission God gives you, both here and abroad.  You are always the hands of Jesus, and people are desperate for His touch.  Thank you!

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