Category Archives: Messianic Judaism

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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“Well, we had a good run.”  

Pesach tractI often joke that our Passover Seders are a bit like dinner theater, and if it were truly theater, that is what we might have said.  After more than 20 years “on Broadway” to sold out Seders, our Passover Seder this year was not well attended, 50 adults and 13 children, but we still had a good time.  The upside was that while we’ve never had less than 100 before, we had several new people who got a chance to celebrate Passover with us.  And of course, I led the Seder in three other churches this year, with about 200 people in those other three churches together, sort of “off Broadway,” and I got to go home from one with matzo brie.  So this morning, I enjoyed a wonderful breakfast of leftover matzo brie and salmon.  Yum!

But it does leave me to wonder why we had less interest this year.  While I don’t believe that social media has that much impact on peoples’ opinions, the election not withstanding, it is interesting that this year there was so much on social media objecting to churches celebrating Passover.  Two prominent Lutheran theologians weighed in, agreeing with an article that was published in Christianity Today, written by two Jewish rabbis who contend that “Jesus Didn’t Eat a Seder Meal.”

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/march-web-only/jesus-didnt-eat-seder-meal.html

The rabbis’ contention centers on the fact that the traditions associated with the Seder meal were not instituted until after the destruction of the Temple, long after Jesus was crucified.  Yet in the same article they claim that Jews “have been celebrating the Passover Seder for millenia.”  That is plural, meaning thousands of years.  You see, the rabbis want to have it both ways.  What they are not telling you is that the Hagaddah and other rituals of Passover may not have been written down until after the destruction of the Temple,  but are part of the oral tradition that, according to them, goes back to Moses.  But it is convenient to disconnect anything Jewish with Jesus by playing the “destruction of the Temple” card, effectively removing Jesus and the early Christian Church from any Jewish ritual.

Apart from their faulty logic, the most disturbing thing from them is their charge of insensitivity by Christians who are appropriating their customs.  This is part of a larger arc on their part that seeks to deny Christians any continuity from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  The unstated claim is that the Old Testament belongs to the Jews, and the New Testament is Christian, and “n’er the twain shall meet.”  For this reason, ministries such as ours are deceptive by using Jewish symbols in worship, etc.

There are Jewish cultural symbols that are not biblical.  But there are many biblical symbols that Christians are allowed to use and explore, and truly, even in “traditional worship settings” (whatever that is), much of what goes on is Jewish.  Look around your sanctuary and you will see many things that come from biblical, Jewish, roots.  Seven-branched candelabra, eternal flames, albs and stoles, and Hebrew words like Hosanna, Hallelujah, etc.  You see, if you define adopting anything that is “Jewish” as being insensitive, you then are restricted from using any of the prophetic utterances of God that promise the Messiah and so clearly point to Jesus as Him.  And that is the honest agenda of these rabbis.

Sadly, even prominent Lutheran theologians fall into that trap.  One argues that the Passover Seder is akin to our practice of communion, and that those who celebrate the Seder “should be unified in their ecclesiastical community and in their confession of faith.  Call this ‘closed Passover.'”  I don’t hold that remark against him, but I also don’t expect him to understand the Jewish ethos.  In Judaism though, there is no such thing as a unified ecclesiastical community nor any corporate confession of faith.  Judaism is not that dogmatic.  The only true confession that Jews hold to be common is that “Jews don’t believe in Jesus.”  (Yes, there is Maimonides Thirteen Principles of Faith, but very few of those who celebrate the Seder even know these much less believe them.)

The worst thing that comes from this whole online discussion is the disregarding of the value of celebrating the Passover Seder.  Most objections by Christians about celebrating Passover lead from St. Paul’s counsel to Peter in Galatians 2:14, “But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?'”  The operative word here for Paul is “force,” and leads to a fear of anything Jewish as being Judaizing the Church.  

But compelling and exercising freedom are two different things.  We become so afraid of being Peter to Paul that we forget how to be Paul:

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

The Passover Seder encourages faith, teaches theology, helps some understand culture, and most importantly, points to Jesus.  And an honest reading of the texts make it very clear that Jesus did celebrate the Passover, along with many if not most of the traditions associated with it.  The rabbis argue for respect of their cherished traditions, but these are ours too.

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The Lamb’s Book of Life

bookoflifeLast month I had the opportunity to preach at Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.  It is the home church for our branch in the Detroit area, and they have often invited me to preach in the autumn for the season of Rosh HaShanah/Yom Kippur.

Mary Lou Temple is our branch director there, and she and a group of volunteers put together small baskets with apples and honey in them, and the invitation to the congregation was to take those baskets to their Jewish friends, neighbors and relatives, with a greeting for Rosh HaShanah.  It is a simple and easy way to connect, and some left the names of their friends for us to pray for.

The traditional greeting for Rosh HaShanah is “Shana Tova,” meaning for a good year, but that is just shorthand for the greeting of “May your name be inscribed for a good year.”  That greeting is appropriate because the tradition of this season is that on Rosh HaShanah God opens three books with everyone’s name in them.  By Yom Kippur (this year it is October 11), God chooses either life or death for you, so the hope of this greeting is that God will choose life for you.  For those with a little more chutzpah, I encourage them to greet their friends with the greeting “May your name be inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life.”  After all, that is the only way that God will choose life for us.

While the Jewish tradition of God opening these books is that, the books themselves are not just tradition.  The Torah tells us that God keeps these books, and Moses pleads for the Israelites as he cries out to God “please forgive their sin–but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written” (Exodus 32:32).  This reference to blotting out is carried throughout the Scriptures.  David cries out for his sins to be blotted out (Psalm 51) and for his enemies to be blotted out of the book of life (Psalm 69).  Paul refers to the book of life in Philippians 4:3, and of course John in the Revelation, talks much about the Lamb’s book of life.  Whatever it may be, from a human perpective, God is keeping a record, and “only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” will enter “the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God”  (Revelation 21).

Another theme that came up during this year’s sermon in Michigan was the theme of seasonality.  Just as there are seasons for planting and reaping the harvest, celebrated in the final days of these autumn festivals (Sukkoth), it seems that there are seasons for outreach too.  In the Spring, with the spring festivals of Passover and Sh’vuot (Pentectost), it is a great time for planting seeds of faith.  The long, hot and dry summer is a time to cultivate, water, and feed faith so that by the autumn the Holy Spirit can reap the faith that is grown.  48 names were given in Michigan.  Please pray that many of them will be added to the Lamb’s book of life.

For more on the High Holidays, www.archives.kfuo.org/mp3/FAF/FAF_Sep_29b_2016.mp3

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Divine Appointments

shapeimage_3-1In Levitcus 23:44, the phrase el mo’adai Yahweh occurs as a conclusion to a chapter where Moses has “announced to the Israelites the appointed festivals of the Lord (Leviticus 23:44).  These “appointed festivals” are the Sabbath, Passover (along with the Feast of First Fruits), Sh’vuot (Pentecost), Rosh HaShanah (trumpets), Yom Kippur (atonement) and Sukkot (booths). If you’d like to know more about these festivals, I’ve written a LifeLight Bible Study for Concordia Publishing House called “Bible Feasts.”  There is a link to that study on the Resources page of our website (see below).  And of course, Rosh HaShana is coming soon, and we will be observing the High Holidays here in St. Louis with a service on Oct. 2 for Rosh HaShana, and Oct. 11-12 for Yom Kippur.  As I said in a recent newsletter, this year we are observing our 20th Yom Kippur service in St. Louis.

But this phrase mo’adai  has come to mean more than just the appointed festivals of the Lord.  When I came to faith in Y’shua as Messiah, I became acquainted with the phrase mo’adai to mean a “divine appointment.” Certainly, all the festivals of Leviticus 23 are divine appointments in and of themselves, but God makes other appointments in our lives for many reasons.  Anytime someone comes to faith, it is because of divine appointments in their life.  I had such a divine appointment recently, that I pray will bring someone face-to-face with our Lord, Jesus, where they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and faith.

It came about in tragedy as I was attending the funeral of one of my students who was serving a dual-parish in Wisconsin.  He was my field worker as a student at the Seminary, and we were close to his family as my wife and I were asked to be the godparents to two of his now five children.  When I was asked by my granddaughter Johnna how the funeral was, the only thing I could come up with was that it was a good one.  She responded quizzically, because really, how could any funeral of a 38 year old father of five be good?   But Mike’s funeral gave us time to grieve, yet, surrounded his wife and all of us there with so much hope in Jesus.  I came away wondering why everyone is not Christian, for our faith is the only one that provides so much hope in tragedy.

During the luncheon afterward, I happened to sit next to Mike’s campus pastor, who is still a campus pastor at an area university in Illinois.  We had a great conversation together and shared business cards.  That was that.

But, that evening, as I was visiting another friend of mine in the ministry in the Green Bay area, he “happened” to mention how his wife first got into Jewish evangelism.  It was a Jewish co-worker of hers at a university where they were both professors and she was looking for ways to connect with him and came to our ministry.  Again, he “happened” to mention that this friend of his wife’s is now working… guess … at this same university where this pastor whose card was in my pocket served.  I put them together for another divine appointment!

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Tish B’Av and Unfaithfulness

189094_3296672This year Tish B’Av falls during the month of August.  This is a day of mourning to commemorate many historic tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people.  While it is hard to call this a holiday, by the traditional meaning of the word, it is . . . a holy day to remember primarily the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem.

It is a day of fasting and is the culmination of a three week period of time that begins with the fast of the 17th of Tammuz, which commemorates the first breach of the wall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.

Tish B’Av literally means the 9th day of the month of Av, which falls this year on the 13th day of August.  Though not observed by most Jews, it is considered the saddest day in the Jewish calendar, and believed by many to be destined to be a day of tragedy.  Interestingly, on the 9th day of Av, many calamities have occurred.  The first of which, according to Rabbinic tradition is the night the people cried out after having received the spies report about Canaan in Numbers 13–14.  Because of the lack of faith the people showed that night, God decreed that the 9th of Av would become a day of mourning and tragedy for all their descendants.

And that date has certainly been a date of mourning.  On the 9th of Av, 3175 (587 BC), the First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians and burned through the night until the 10th of Av.  On the 9th of Av 3830 (70 AD), the Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans.  On the 9th of Av 3892 (135 AD), the Bar Kochba Rebellion was crushed and the Temple site in Jerusalem was subsequently plowed under by the Romans.  So, during the 9th of Av, Lamentations is read as the people lament the destruction of the Temple.

But there is more.  On the 9th of Av 5050 (1290 AD) the Jews were expelled from England; on the 9th of Av 5066 (1306 AD) the Jews were expelled from France; on the 9th of Av 5674 (1914) Germany entered WWI, which ultimately led to the Holocaust; on the 9th of Av 5701 (1941), Himmler received approval for the “Final Solution;” and on the 9th of Av 5702 (1942 AD), began the mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka.  There is so much more that happened during this time on the 7th and the 10th but you get the idea.  This time of year is a calamitous time for the Jewish people, all beginning with a lack of faith.

We received a note the other day from someone passing by our building.  Anonymously, they wrote:  “You people are an abomination.  How dare you defile Judaism?  If you believe Jesus was the son of god (sic), you are a Christian!  Leave us out of it!  As a Jew, I find you offensive.”  It is so sad.  They are expressing their anger, distrust, and fear, and I wrote my own note expressing the love of Jesus, and encouraging them to not allow culture and history to keep them so unfaithful that they would not see God’s consolation where God “will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress” (Isaiah 65:19).  Isaiah 64 and 66 are the “little Bible’s” Revelation, and all the Law and the Prophets testify to Him who brings such consolation, Jesus.  Pray they come and see to the end that they might believe in Him.

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Praying to a different drummer…

Prayer MarchI received a call the other day from a mother who is Jewish and who’s son is attending a local university.  She was dismayed as her son was badgered by university professors and students because he is Jewish.  She was calling me because we were the nearest “synagogue” to the university, and she hoped to find some answers as to why her son was being “persecuted” for being Jewish.

As we talked, it came out that her son is a victim of a growing movement on university campuses that promote the concept of Israel being an apartheid nation, even to the point of hosting an annual Israel Apartheid Week and supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement by self-professed Palestinians who are demanding economic sanctions against Israel.

The irony of this movement is that while they continue to demand a two-state solution to the problem of Israeli occupation, they fail to admit that it was the Arab nations’ refusal to allow a two-state solution in the first place when in 1947 the nation of Palestine was created by a U.N. resolution.  We know that history.  And now, having turned Gaza and parts of the West Bank over to the Palestinian National Authority as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the two-state solution has simply provided launching areas for terrorist activities, rockets on Tel Aviv, and murderers in Jerusalem.  A nation is no longer allowed to defend itself, and college-students are the main arbiter of international justice.  And part of that justice is the harassment of Jewish students on college campuses.  What a strange world we live in!

This poor mother is confused and distraught, and her son is considering leaving the university.  I shared with her that our congregation is Messianic, and that we believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that Jesus is the only answer to peace.  I also offered to help her son get adjusted and to be a source of moral support for him, if he and she would let me.  She was very eager to have me do that.

The kind of persecution Jewish students undergo on college campuses is slight compared to the tragedy of Christian persecution in Islamic lands.  But the BDS movement and others like it contribute to the tragic events of what we saw in Paris last November, and the radicalization of American college students who join ISIS.  Our branch in Orlando, where the BDS movement is very strong at the University of Central Florida, is hosting our annual Roundtable and Prayer March for Persecuted Christians and Jews in Orlando on April 16 & 17.

The Roundtable is April 16 from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church, 123 E. Livingston Street.  Religious persecution of Christians and Jews has reached epidemic proportions in the Middle East, Africa, North Korea, Iran, Europe and Asia. Our international panel of experts will give you a rare insight into this problem rarely discussed in Central Florida. There will be a robust question and answer session. Invited speakers include: Elisabeth Sabaditsch Wolff (Austria)– Julie Dass (Pakistan) – Shahzad Gill (Pakistan)– Dr. Wasfy Michael – Ashraf Ibrahim (Egypt) – Nicholas Papanicolaou (Order of St. John) – Rabbi Jonathan Hausman – Senator Alan Hays.  Contact: Rev. Bruce Lieske (407-359-0449) or Mr. Alan Kornman (407-702-0494).

Our Prayer March begins at Lake Eola Park on Sunday, April 17 at 3:30 p.m.  The march will end at the Lake Eola band shell at approximately 5:00 p.m. where we will hear from an international group of speakers who know persecution first hand and will tell their stories. We will also be praying for the persecuted and the persecutors. Churches and other concerned organizations are invited to participate as we continue to profess Jesus, the Prince of Peace, as the only solution to the evil that surrounds us.

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Why is Hanukkah so popular?

imagesAs we get ready for our Hanukkah party this year (Dec. 11), one of our missionaries ran across an article in a Jewish publication trying to answer the question “Why is Hanukkah such a popular holiday?”

There is no question that Hanukkah is one of the more popular holidays in the Jewish calendar, and as the writer of the article notes, there is very little in the Talmud about Hanukkah, especially about the origin and nature of the holiday.

One of the most popular aspects of the holiday of Hanukkah is the lighting of the menorah.  As I’ve said before, that custom stems from a “miracle” that occurred after the Maccabees secured the Temple from the Syrians, and cleansed and rededicated it.  The story goes that as the priests went to light the lampstand in the Temple, there was not enough undefiled oil to keep it lit.  They used what oil could be used, enough to last for a day, but the miracle that occurred is that that little bit of oil lasted eight days, long enough to press and purify more oil.  Many traditions of Hanukkah flowed form this oil miracle.  The problem, of course, is that the history does not record such a miracle, and the miracle of the oil wasn’t even mentioned in the Talmud until around the 4th century.  While some argue for an oral tradition that predates the Talmud, I have often maintained that the miracle of the oil was a distraction for the Jewish people, to take the focus off of the true miracle of Hanukkah, the preservation of the people from whom Messiah Jesus would be born.

I often wonder at what lengths some Jewish people will go to avoid talking about Jesus.  The writer quotes a reference from Rashi from the 11th century and says, “This story shows that the popularity of Hanukkah was so great that it was kept even after the Temple was destroyed. Consequently, it implies that Hanukkah was established earlier, even while the Temple stood. This makes sense because if it was enacted after the Temple was destroyed, it should have been counted among the other mitzvot established by Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai as Zecher L’mikdash, as a reminder of the Temple.”

It implies that Hanukkah was established “even while the Temple stood?”  We don’t truly need Rabbi Yochanan or Rashi to tell us that…Rabbi Y’shua tells us very clearly.  “At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem (John 10:22).”  Y’shua was there, and he used that opportunity to boldly tell the Jewish people that he is the Messiah, born of the Jews.  We can light the menorah to do something other than celebrate his birth, or we can light the menorah to celebrate the miracle of his birth.  Surely the popularity of Hanukkah is not just a distraction so that we don’t have to talk about Jesus?

Merry Christmas to you, and Happy Hanukkah.  It is a wonderful season of true miracles in Messiah!

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Blood Moons and the End Times

Lunar_eclipse_September_27_2015_greatest_Alfredo_Garcia_JrI received an e-mail the other day from a pastor of a church that used to partner with us.  The last time I preached there was in 2010, and they supported our ministry for a couple of years, but eventually, as so often happens, our ministry got lost in the time and tide of every day ministry, even though it is a congregation where we have a ministry advocate!  The last time we heard from anyone in that congregation other than our ministry advocate was 2012, so the e-mail came as a surprise.

The e-mail was a question about another “Messianic” ministry, and the pastor wanted my opinion of that ministry, as he was approached by a member of the congregation who was excited about them.  This particular “Messianic” ministry is led by a man who predicted the second coming of Jesus at Sukkot, 2015, because of the four “blood moons” (tetrad) that occurred between April 15, 2014 and Sept. 27, 2015 which coincided with the festival of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles.  Of course, when Sukkot came and went, he revised his prediction (as is usually the case with predictions of the Second Coming), but continues to spark excitement in many in the Church.

Yes, our ministry observes the Jewish festival calendar as well as the Church calendar, and we have just come through the fall season of Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.  We look forward to celebrating Chanukkah in December, as well as Christmas.  But our observance of all these festivals is not because they are commanded, and not just because we have a Jewish/Lutheran congregation, but because they are a joy as every one of them points to Jesus.  And they give us great opportunities to share the Gospel with Jewish people through the traditions and celebrations of all these Jewish and Christian festivals.

Unfortunately, sharing the Gospel with Jewish people is not as exciting as prophecies about the end times.  But the reality of death apart from a relationship with God through Jesus is far more important than any speculation about the time to come.  Because, when that time does come, there will be no excuses.  The Church calendar is in the period of end times as we approach the last Sunday of the Church year.  All the texts encourage us to stand firm in our faith, not being distracted by the things of this world.  And as the season of Advent approaches, we stand together saying, “Amen, Come Lord Jesus.”  Thank you so much for standing with us, despite all the distractions.

People often ask my opinion of many things both Jewish and not so Jewish.  But I work very hard not to be distracted by prophecies, politics, or personal agendas.  The thing that I know is that Jesus will return when the elect are gathered, and He has called on us to bring in the harvest.

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It’s never too late to thank someone…

UntitledLast month I attended a Worship Arts seminar and one of the plenary speakers was Michael Card.  He is a Christian singer-songwriter, author and teacher   So I was looking forward to meeting him, and hoped that I had the opportunity to talk to him for a couple of minutes.  As it turned out, there were only about 20 or so attending the seminar, and in that intimate setting, I got to do both.  And I was finally able to tell him something that I had wanted to since 1991.

Actually, I have tried to meet him a couple of times over the years.  Every time I attended one of his concerts, I looked for an opportunity, but there was always too many people.  Two years ago, at Christmas, I was recruited to sing in the choir that was part of one of his Christmas concerts, and I thought that would be my opportunity, but I was sick and unable to take part.  So last month was an answer to prayer.

The thing that I most wanted to say to him was “Thank you.”  You see, back in the late 80’s, my wife’s pastor, Rev. Hank Corcoran, and his wife Beth, bought tickets to a Michael Card concert and invited Colleen and me to go with them.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  And I was sure that I didn’t want to go to the concert with them.  It was a Christian concert, at a church, and I sure wasn’t ready for that.

Sure, I had already been witnessed to by my family, I had already been sitting with Pastor David Koch for a while arguing and asking questions, I had even been to church once or twice at St. John’s when my daughter was doing something in church.  But by this time, Pastor Koch had left, Colleen had a new pastor in Hank Corcoran, and he wasn’t quite as gentle as Pastor Koch.  He liked to fight back with me.  And even St. John’s was a little uncomfortable still, so another church was out of the question.

But Hank told me that the music that Michael Card would be doing was from an Old Testament perspective (and it was), and he thought I would find it interesting.  It may have been, but as I sat in that church in Cherry Hills, looking out those magnificent windows at the front range of the Rockies, I heard about Jesus from an Old Testament perspective.  And it wasn’t long after that I confessed faith in Jesus.  I had gotten to thank my family, Pastor Koch, and Pastor Corcoran, but I hadn’t yet had the chance to thank Michael Card.  I was blessed to do that last month.  I think he was blessed too.  I hope you have the opportunity to thank those who so influenced your faith.  And while we may not hear it this side of heaven, I know someone will thank you for sharing Jesus with them!

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http://www.MichaelCard.com

“You can’t be Jewish and believe in Jesus!”

Be More JewishI just returned home from preaching at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Stuttgart, AR.  The pastor there is Rev. Don White, and he and I have been friends for many years now.  Stuttgart is a town about an hour east of Little Rock, and it is a small to medium size town that boasts of being the “Rice and Duck Capital of the World.”  Apparently, they produce more rice there than any place in the world, and duck hunting is also a major sport there, where they produce duck calls that are purported to be far superior to those of the famous Duck Commander calls in Monroe, AR.

The closest I generally get to rice and duck is in a Chinese restaurant, but I enjoyed my time there at St. John’s, and we had a good bible study together, where, as often happens, I didn’t get to my bible study because there were too many good questions to discuss.  Many of those questions surrounded the issue of how you can be Jewish and be a Christian.  This is a recurring theme with me lately.

Some of you followed my Advent devotions this past season on my blog here.  As I was writing those, I received an e-mail from a man with a prominent name in the LC–MS.  He informed me that he would not read my “Jewish devotions” and would read his “Lutheran Portals of Prayer.”  Thinking that he had misunderstood the source of the devotions, I told him that these in my blog were based on a devotional that I had written for Lutheran Hour Ministries, and they were very Lutheran.  He responded with, “no they aren’t, you can’t be Jewish and be a Christian, much less a Lutheran.”  Taken aback, I realized that he was inferring that I was not a Christian!  Wow.

At St. John’s I was preaching on Romans 11.  St. Paul, a Christian, if not a Lutheran, refers to himself still as a Jew.  Together we looked at the history of the Church, noting that in the early Church (and I mean really early), the question was asked whether or not you could be a Gentile and be a Christian.  Peter and Paul argued this out, and it was agreed that one did not have to be Jewish to be a Christian.  Now we are told that you can’t be Jewish and be a Christian.

Paul, to the Church in Rome, warns of this perspective.  He counsels the Gentile Christians to not be arrogant and proud about their faith, but to humbly understand the root that nourishes them, and to somehow make Paul’s “fellow Jews” jealous by their inclusion in this Jewish faith.  Since then, the pride and arrogance of some have been a major stumbling block to sharing our faith with those who are Jewish, non-Jewish, non-Lutheran … you get the gist.  I’m so pleased that St. John’s, in a town with perhaps only one Jewish family, no synagogue and very few Chinese restaurants has welcomed me there.  And thank you for continuing to share the Gospel, that some might be saved!

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