Restoration

Over the last couple of months, I have been working on restoring a couple of World War Two era bayonets. It’s quite the process so I have to work on it when I can. It’s not like I’m ever going to strap these to a rifle and go charging into battle. I’m doing it because there’s something about taking an old, discarded, and damaged item and making it like new and valuable again.

I drive down the road most days and see sweet rides from the 1960s, 1950s, and even older. They aren’t rattling down the street losing parts as they go. No, they’ve been rebuilt, polished, and repaired. They look as though they just rolled off the lot.

I’ll think inside of everyone, there is a heart that greatly appreciates restoration. It’s human nature to want to see things made new. Not everyone will go through the process of restoring an object, but the appreciation is there nonetheless. And I think it’s written into the design of every image-bearing human being because of Who we’re made to reflect.

“And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”” Revelation‬ ‭21:5‬ ‭ESV

God is a God of new beginnings. The entire Bible is a story about restoring the world back to its original design, before sin messed it all up. It’s also about restoring humans back to our original purpose before sin led us astray. We appreciate restoration so much because deep down we long for it to be real inside of us and in the world around us. It’s part of the mission we’re invited into. You don’t even have to be a believer in Jesus to feel it. But the desire broadens to so many more areas and goes to so many deeper levels when you are.

Restoration is in our hearts because our hearts need it so much. That is the offer in the life with Jesus. He takes the old, imperfect, broken, and discarded you, and makes you whole again. He fills the voids, polishes the edges, and refines the character. Jesus, and Jesus only, can make us new. And newness is what we all need.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

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Must Gentile Christians Observe the Jewish Feasts?

jesusinthefeasts

Article by Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

This post was shared with me a week or so ago and I found it very interesting, full of good points. I’ve also written on the subject in the past. If you’d like to read a past article on the matter check out Celebrate Bible-Style.

There are several reasons why this topic is making a powerful comeback. The primary reason is that in the past 20 years Christian Churches around the globe, represented by almost every major Christian denomination, have become much more aware of the Jewish identity of their Savior and King. This, of course, is a wonderful thing.

The question is usually framed in a very simple way: “Must Christians observe the Jewish feasts?” I would submit to you that there are several problems with how the question is formed.

First, the assumption is that “Christians” are members of a non-Jewish movement, independent in every way from the people of Israel. Knowing what we now know about the Jewish background of the New Testament, we can say with full confidence that this is clearly not the case.

Second, the question refers to the Feasts of the Lord as “the Jewish feasts,” as if these feasts did not belong to God himself as their biblically native terminology clearly implies. Only when we adopt the biblical (rather than theological) categories, can we begin to see that we are asking the wrong question. Wrong questions, in turn, are known to lead good and godly people to wrong answers.

Third, the inclusion of “must” is problematic as well. It unintentionally advances the question in the context of the Protestant-Catholic, 16th-century divide regarding personal salvation (faith vs. works).

I would restate the question in a way that, while surely more cumbersome in Christian English (the language of our communication), is more fitting to the biblical context:

“Should the follower of the Jewish Christ, who comes from the nations and not from Israel, also mark as holy ‘the Feasts of Lord’”?

I think the answer to this question is clearly – yes. The question is not “if”, but “how” must Gentile followers of the Jewish Christ observe the Feasts of the Lord in covenantal continuity and partnership with Israel, yet with full realization of the powerful implications brought forth by Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

It is indeed very interesting to note that Christian Churches, especially in their Catholic and Eastern Orthodox expressions, have never claimed that believers should cease to observe the feasts of the Lord.

In fact, both Christian communities (along with most protestant ones) have regularly marked many key biblical feasts with special worship celebrations. Unfortunately, they have often observed the feasts purposely on different dates and often inventing traditions far removed (and sometimes antithetical) to the original biblical injunctions.

Gentile Christians today are called to reunite with the people of Israel through, among other things, Christ-centered observance of the Feasts of the Lord and in so doing to experience their belonging to the Commonwealth of Israel.

For more articles like these are various topics, go to the Israel Bible Center website.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

Communion in Genesis

communion

*Image from crosswalk.com

The act of taking communion is one of the most sacred acts that a believer in Jesus can do. We are told to do it often, even as often as every time we gather together with other believers. Jesus celebrated it with His disciples the night before He carried out the very act it represents. But this was not the first the symbolism of communion was given in the Bible. There are several we can point to but I’d like to focus in on one passage out of the book of Genesis. To understand the context of this passage lets rewind a bit. Abraham had just rescued Lot and many others from enemies in the region. The mysterious figure of Melchizedek, King of Salem, came out to meet Abraham to celebrate the victory. Here’s the passage:

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said,

“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

He gave him a tenth of all. The king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give the people to me and take the goods for yourself.” Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, for fear you would say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’

Genesis 14:18-23 NASB

#1-Bread and Wine: While this was a common feature in most ancient meals, it’s symbolic importance can it be ignored. They became integral parts of the Passover meal, which was a foreshadowing in itself of the very thing that the communion represents, the death of Jesus our Messiah. Jesus himself used these two elements to represent His sacrifice during the last supper.

#2-High Priest: Melchizedek is named as the priest and king of Salem. This is the city that would later become Jerusalem. Only one other figure in all of the Bible is mentioned as being both priest and king…Jesus. In Israel, those two positions were kept separate. But in Jesus, they came together as one as Jesus became both our High Priest and the King of kings. The duty of the priest was to mediate or make peace, between God and man.  Communion represents the ultimate act that brought that peace for us. Instead of daily and yearly sacrifices, Jesus made one final sacrifice for all time.

#3-God’s deliverance: In this passage, God delivered Abraham, Lot, and the people from their captors. God did the same thing on a bigger scale in the rescue from slavery in Egypt remembered in the Passover meal. God did it again in an even bigger way through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Because of Him, we have been delivered from the bondage of sin and death.

More than those connections to the symbolism in communion, Abraham’s response in the passage can instruct us on our response to God’s grace in our own lives. Abraham’s heart was full of gratitude, no greedy for gain. He must have realized that God’s victory had been won and there remained nothing more precious for him to possess. Here is what Matthew Henry’s commentary says on the matter:

Observe the king of Sodom’s grateful offer to Abram, Give me the souls, and take thou the substance. Gratitude teaches us to recompense to the utmost of our power, those that have undergone fatigues, run hazards, and been at expense for our service and benefit. Abram generously refused this offer. He accompanies his refusal with a good reason, Lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich: which would reflect upon the promise promise and covenant of God, as if He would not have enriched Abraham without the spoils of Sodom. The people of God must, for their credit’s sake, take heed of doing any thing that looks mean or mercenary, or that savors of covetousness and self-seeking. Abraham can trust the Possessor of Heaven and earth to provide for him.

Communion is a celebration of that ultimate and fully sufficient provision from the Possessor of Heaven and earth. Praise God for His amazing love!

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters

Worshipping God’s Gifts

“The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.” Exodus‬ ‭12:33-36‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Not only did God rescue Israel from slavery in Egypt, He also showered them with clothing for the journey and with silver and gold. Later on in the story we see that some of that fabric and those precious metals would be used in the construction of the tabernacle. But God would only ask for those with willing hearts to give to the cause of the project.

“And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord ‘s contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for all its service, and for the holy garments. So they came, both men and women. All who were of a willing heart brought brooches and earrings and signet rings and armlets, all sorts of gold objects, every man dedicating an offering of gold to the Lord. And every one who possessed blue or purple or scarlet yarns or fine linen or goats’ hair or tanned rams’ skins or goatskins brought them.” Exodus‬ ‭35:21-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The generosity of all those Israelites never ceases to encourage me to be more open with all God had blessed me and my family with. Since they were slaves in Egypt you know they didn’t have much. Most, if not all, of what they brought had to have been given to them upon their exit from the land. That’s because God is a giving God. As if our freedom is not enough (which obviously it’s more than enough) God goes beyond. He always gives more than we deserve. And the response of a thankful heart is to always give back to God’s mission and purposes. But, unfortunately, this passage in Exodus 35 came after a failed response by the people of Israel a few chapters earlier.

“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”” Exodus‬ ‭32:1-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

All of us will do one of two things when God opens up His storehouses for us. We will either make gods of it, or we’ll be generous with it. We can be conduits of His generosity and let it flow through our hands. Instead, we often fall in into the trap of being dead ends. We set the ‘things’ God gives us at such a high value we never want to let go of them.

I have a saying that I tell to my kids when they’re being reluctant to share. I say, “we don’t deserve to have anything that we’re not willing to share with others.” That’s a lesson I have to occasionally relearn myself. If there is anything we posses that we aren’t willing to use to benefit or aid others, we’ve made it an idol. We are actually worshipping something that God has blessed us with. We might as well melt it down and make a golden calf out of it. Fortunately, God does not forsake us for our moments of selfishness. Hundreds of years later, in the book of Nehemiah, the Levites were recounting the story of the Exodus as the people confessed their sins before the Lord.

“Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies, you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst. Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.” Nehemiah‬ ‭9:18-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I want God’s generosity to create a more generous heart in me. I want to live open handed. When God blesses me, I want to see it as an opportunity to bless others. I want to invest more of my time in the pursuit of heavenly treasures, not earthly possessions. I want nothing to be off limits for those in need.

“”Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew‬ ‭6:19-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Cheers to the generous life!