A Child in Need

Children are amazing.  When they smile, indifference isn’t an option; it changes you.

In America, children are conditioned to “say cheese” any time a camera is put in their face.  Their smiles are plastered all over Facebook and Twitter by the millions per minute.

But for many children around the world, they’ve never even seen a photo.  The idea of some person holding a mechanical box in front of them and snapping a button, the whole while telling them that their image will be placed on a piece of paper, is pretty confusing.

It’s hard to smile when you’re confused. 

But this isn’t the only reason why many of these children aren’t smiling.  You see, for most, these children have little to smile about.  Let me tell you about one of them.  His name is Sazzad Hossain.

Sazzad is 6 years old, and lives in Bangladesh with his father and mother.  Work is hard to find for his father, who tries to get day jobs performing general labor in his community.  Sazzad’s mother does her best to raise Sazzad and his two siblings in a safe and healthy environment.  It’s tough when they only have about $35 a month to live on.  Food is scarce.

It’s hard to smile when you’re hungry.

Sazzad loves to play soccer, which isn’t a surprise since that’s really the only sport he can play.  All it takes is a little bit of space and something that resembles a ball.  But he must be careful, as he lives in an area of the world where abuse and trafficking are always a threat.   That’s got to be pretty scary.

It’s hard to smile when you’re scared.

Today is Sazzad’s birthday.  In America, this is the happiest day of a child’s year.  But today, this day is a day that his life changed forever.

Today is the day my family sponsored Sazzad with Compassion International.

He will receive food, education, and clothing.  But more importantly, Sazzad will have people outside his family who will love him and tell him about the love of Jesus.

It’s $38 per month for my family to provide all of this.  That’s less than eating dinner at a restaurant.  It’s really not much for us to do this.

For Sazzad, it’s more than twice as much as his family earns monthly.

And I’m pretty sure when he finds out that we’ve chosen to help him like this, it will bring a smile to his face.

Happy birthday, Sazzad!

Do you want to change a child’s life?  Click here to learn more!

Lenses: Part 1 – Healing In His Wings

Have you ever looked through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars?  You can still make out the image, but just barely.  For the past 2,000 years, Christianity has been looking at the Scriptures the same way.  It’s time to turn the lenses around.  By looking at the Bible through the proper lenses – the historical, cultural, religious, and geographical context – the Word becomes more vivid, the personalities come to life, and the student becomes more and more connected to the story.  And ultimately, they fall more in love with Jesus.

Part 1 – Healing In His Wings 

Remembering the Commandments – Numbers 15:38-41

“Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner.   And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God.”

The ancient Hebrews were commanded by God to place special tassels on the corners of their garments.  These tassles – called tzitzit – were a symbol of their commitment to obey the commandments of God, found in the Torah.

The tzitzit consists of a specific set of knots and threads.  Each one of these is symbolic.

  • 5 Knots – The first 5 books of the Bible (Torah)
  • 4 Spaces – The Name of God (YHWH)

Each Hebrew word has a numerical value – called gematria.  The numerical value of the word “tzitzit” is 600.  If you combine that value (600) with the 5 knots, made from the 8 threads of the tzitzit, you come to the number 613.  This is the most important number in the entire Hebrew world.  There are 613 commandments in the Torah.  So, the purpose of the tzitzit is to remind Israel that they are to honor the commandments of God, and the very numerical value of the word “tzitzit” equals 613 – the number of commandments they are to obey.

It’s also very important to understand where the tzitzit are attached.  The Hebrew word for corner is “kanaph”.  This word is used in various other ways throughout Scripture, as we will soon see.

Cutting Corners – 1 Samuel 24:1-15

David was anointed future king of Israel, after Saul ignored God’s specific commandment regarding the Amalekites.  After that, Saul became more and more angry and paranoid.  This resulted in his seeking to kill the one man who most clearly understood the unique anointing of God that the king had – David.

While Saul was pursuing David, he entered a cave in the oasis of Ein Gedi.  Unbeknownst to him, David and his followers were also hiding in the cave.  David’s men tried to encourage him to kill Saul, and be done with the whole problem.  But David understood that this would be using his own power and strength to deal with his trials, rather than allowing God to take care of it.  Instead, he snuck up to Saul and cut of the corner of his robe, removing the tzitzit from Saul.

In doing this, he was declaring for all to see that Saul was not honoring the commandments of God.

The Coming Son of David – The Prophets

It wasn’t long after Ein Gedi that David ascended to the throne.  He ruled in righteousness and honored the commandments of God.  And while his son, Solomon, started out well, eventually things deteriorated into pagan worship and the rejection of the commandments.  The nation became divided, the Temple of God was destroyed, and judgment came.

During the time of the captivity in Babylon, the prophets of God began to foretell of another “Son of David” who would come and restore the kingdom to Israel.  He would be the Messiah – the Anointed One – who would rule in true justice and righteousness.  He would properly teach the commandments of God to the people, and Israel would finally fulfill its calling to be a light to the nations.

  • He will bring the political and spiritual revival of Israel, returning them to the land and restoring Jerusalem. (Isaiah 11:1-2; Jeremiah 23:8; 30:3; Hosea 3:4-5)
  •  He will establish a government in Israel that will be the center of all world government – both for Jews and Gentiles (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:10; 42:1)
  • He will rebuild the Temple and re-establish its worship (Jeremiah 33:18; Ezekiel 40-50)
  • He will restore the religious court system of Israel and establish Torah as the law of the land (Jeremiah 33:15)

In essence, they prophesied that the Messiah would return Israel to obedience to the Torah; to keep the commandments that were symbolized by the wearing of the Tzitzit.

The Sun of Righteousness – Malachi 4:1-2

In the final writings of the period of the prophets, Malachi foretold of the “sun of righteousness” who would arise with “healing in His wings.”  This prophecy immediately became associated with the coming Son of David – the Messiah.

As we saw earlier, the Hebrew word for corner is “kanaph”.  Hebrew is considered a “poor language” – meaning that it has many fewer words than languages like Greek, Latin, or English.  That means that one word must be used to describe several different things.  Therefore, in addition to “kanaph” meaning corner, it also means wings.

The Hebrew sages taught that this meant that coming Messiah would have special healing powers in the tzitzit that were attached to the corner of his robe.

Many Pharisees who wanted to be considered candidates for the role of Messiah, would attach especially long tzitzit to their robes, suggesting that they had these special healing attributes.  (Matthew 23:5-7)

The Hem of His Garment – Matthew 9:18-21

One day when Jesus was making His way through the crowds to heal a young girl who was on the verge of death, a woman reached out and grabbed hold of his tzitzit.  In doing this, she was doing much more than believing that He could heal her.  The woman was declaring to all, that she believed Jesus to be the promised Messiah.

Later, many more would make this same declaration by seeking healing by reaching out and grabbing hold of Jesus’ tzitzit. (Matthew 14:34-36)

Why?

It’s time we see Jesus, and the culture He lived in, from a different perspective; to turn the lenses around.  By doing this, we can understand Jesus as His disciples did.  If we are to love someone more fully, it takes understanding them as they really are, rather than as we want them to be.  Jesus was a 1st Century Jew, living in Jewish culture and following many of the traditions of that culture.  When we understand that, we too can join in the Prayer of St. Richard:

Thanks be to you, our Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have given us, for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.  Most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day.  Amen.

 

Next Post: Morning and Evening

What was the symbolism of the morning and evening sacrifices that took place in both the Tabernacle and the First and Second Temples?  How did these sacrifices connect with the covenant made between God and Abraham?  And were these sacrifices fulfilled in the life of Jesus?

Readings for the Week:

  • Genesis 15
  • Exodus 29:38-42
  • Mark 15:21-39
  • Hebrews 10

Return to Eden: Part 9 – A New Heaven & and New Earth

A New Heaven and A New Earth

The idea is so foreign to us that we can’t really even envision it.

Eden restored.

Life as it was intended before we chose our own path and corrupted it. No pain. No death. No crying. No conflict. And if that were all, it would be amazing beyond comprehension, but that’s not even the best part.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Revelation 21:4 ESV

And this is why we can call it Eden again. It is then that we will experience our existence as God originally created us; in perfect, intimate, unrestricted relationship with the One True God.

We spend so much of our time and energy focusing on the lives we have now; our Genesis 3 to Revelation 20 existence. Now there is pain. Now there is death. Now there is crying. Now there is conflict. And now our relationship with God is limited.

Now we live in the wilderness. We’re Israel after the Red Sea and before the Jordan River. We live as nomadic wanderers, never fully feeling like we fit. As soon as we get comfortable in one spot, it seems as if God says it’s time to pick up and move again. We wait daily for the provision of God. We wonder if this was all a mistake. Every moment of every days whispers to our soul that we’re not home yet. As the old gospel song says, “This world is not my home; I’m just’a passing through.”

Please remember this. We aren’t home yet. We struggle and hurt and fall and cry. But a day is coming when that will all be changed.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:5 ESV

And so, whether we realize it or not, our hearts are longing for the day when we hear our Messiah say these words:

It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. Revelation 21: 6-7 ESV

But for now, while we live in this broken world, we are called to live differently. We are called to be the light that guides others to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I’m reminded of the lyrics to this song:

I Then Shall Live

I then shall live as one who’s been forgiven.

I’ll walk with joy to know my debts are paid.

I know my name is clear before my Father;

I am His child and I am not afraid.

So, greatly pardoned, I’ll forgive my brother;

The law of love I gladly will obey.

I then shall live as one who’s learned compassion.

I’ve been so loved, that I’ll risk loving too.

I know how fear builds walls instead of bridges;

I’ll dare to see another’s point of view.

And when relationships demand commitment,

Then I’ll be there to care and follow through.

Your Kingdom come around and through and in me;

Your power and glory, let them shine through me.

Your Hallowed Name, O may I bear with honor,

And may Your living Kingdom come in me.

The Bread of Life, O may I share with honor,

And may You feed a hungry world through me.

And let us also remember what awaits us:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God…

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day–and there will be no night there.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 21 & 22 ESV

It sounds a whole lot like Eden to me. And so I join with John the Revelator in saying, “Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!”

Colorado Shooting: 13 Years After Columbine, Is the Church to Blame?

Colorado Shooting: 13 Years After Columbine, Is the Church to Blame?.

This is an interview I did with ChristianPost.com regarding my comment on the ThirdOptionMen.org article, “The Dark NIGHT Rises: Where is the Light?

The journalist, Alex Murashko, made some additional comments on his personal blog on Sunday.

http://blogs.christianpost.com/alex-wire/sunday-sermon-where-is-the-light-in-the-dark-night-10951/

“Crazy Talk” from Religious Fanatics

Is the Messiah's coming imminent?

Now it sounds like some in Israel and Iran are agreeing with each other.  What is this world coming to?

Yesterday I posted an article from the Jerusalem Post where the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared that sanctions are essentially pointless in deterring Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.  This isn’t any revelation to those who actually have a brain and attempt to use it regularly (as opposed to politicians in D.C. and the UN).  So from that perspective, I agree with the Ayatollah.  But today I read some things that are more startling.  

This past weekend, the blessed supreme leader of Iran told his people to prepare for the “war of the end times.”  This may not seem like anything more than a crazy dude talking “crazy-talk”, but it is important for a few reasons.  Open up Joel Rosenberg’s blog in another window, read it, and then come back for more:

IRAN LEADER: WE MUST PREP FOR THE “END TIMES” « Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog.

OK… so now that the Ayatollah is speaking up on this, and having the state-run media spread the message, it seems as if Iran and its brand of crazy Islamic fundamentalism is moving in a new, and even more disturbing direction.

Now, remember back to the article from Israel Today that I posted a couple of days ago, where a group of religious Jews is declaring that the end is near and that the war of Gog and Magog is imminent.  (Read here)  While these two groups are coming from different ends of the spectrum, they both are preparing for the same thing.

That means that radical Islam and radical Judaism are both preparing for the same thing – a worldwide religious war that results in each religion’s messianic figure arriving on the scene.

Christians also have prophecies that tell of two messianic figures coming on the scene: one a false messiah most commonly referred to as the “Anti-Christ” and another who will come to establish His Kingdom after years of war and tragedy, Jesus the Messiah.

So here’s the question:

Should Christians take these apocalyptic prophecies from other religions seriously, or should we simply brush them off as religious fanaticism?

Please share your thoughts below!

Return to Eden: Part 8 – The Presence of God among Men

What was it like for God to have His relationship with us cut off?  Have you ever taken the time to think about that?  We focus a lot on what sin meant for us, but what about God?

He created us out of a longing to be with beings that could choose to love Him.  He wanted, probably even more than we do, to be with us.  And sin broke that relationship.

So He tried to maintain it as best He could after Eden.  But it was never the same.  The sin that we hold on to so tightly kept Him from us.  At times He had relationships with individuals – Enoch, Noah, Abraham – but it wasn’t what He truly desired.

So in the wilderness of Sinai, He decided to change things up.  He commanded Moses to construct a place where He would dwell on Earth.  It was to be patterned exactly after Heaven (see Hebrews 8:5), and God promised that in it He would sit on the throne – the Ark of the Covenant.  That’s why Moses was told to be sure that Angels and gold, and silver, and precious woods were used in the Tabernacle.  It was His attempt at making Heaven on Earth.

But it still wasn’t the same as Eden.  God was there, but only one time per year would humanity be allowed to enter into the throne-room and come before God’s presence.  It was better than nothing, but not what God longed for.

King David longed for that same type of relationship.  He understood, as best as his limited mind could, that God desired to be present among us.  So he asked if he could build a permanent residence in Jerusalem for Him.    David’s history as a warrior and murderer prevented him from building it, but he was given the honor of preparing everything for his son, Solomon, to build it.  And the Temple was stunning.  It was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  It was absolutely glorious.  But it still wasn’t Eden.  And just as with the Tabernacle only one man was authorized to enter before God’s presence in the Temple, and then only once per year.  It was closer to Heaven on Earth, but still not what God desired.

So God again took a different approach.  If man couldn’t enter before His presence in the Temple, He would leave the Temple and come to them:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV

That Greek word for “dwelt” is actually the same as the Hebrew word “tabernacle.”  That verse could just as accurately – maybe even more accurately –  be translated, “And the Word (Jesus) became flesh and tabernacled among us.”

That’s why we see Jesus refer to His body as the Temple of God over and over again.  The prophet Ezekiel wrote that he saw God’s presence leave Solomon’s Temple (Ezekiel 10:18).  God wasn’t in the Holy of Holies anymore.  The Temple was never a building.  It was the place that God chose to dwell on Earth.  That’s why Jesus so many times said that the “Temple” would be destroyed and rebuilt in three days.  He was the Temple.  God was dwelling among the people, and they finally had a relationship with him.  But as much as Jesus was God, He was still man.  He could only be in one place at a time.  His original desire was still not fulfilled.  It still wasn’t Eden.

And then He left.  Forty days after rising from the grave He returned to Heaven.  And God was no longer on the Earth.  But then on Shavuot, God came back.  He returned, this time as His very Breath filled the Believers on Shavuot.  And God was able to be with humanity wherever His people were.

The Temple became His people.  Paul tells us that we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).  Peter goes so far as to tell us that each one of us who receive Jesus have become a Living Stone being built up into God’s dwelling place on the Earth (1 Peter 2:5).  As His people, together we carry God’s presence on the Earth.  It’s closer to what He desires, but we know that it still isn’t Heaven on Earth.  We are broken.  We are weak.  And there are billions who still don’t have a relationship with Him.  It still isn’t Eden.

And a day will come soon, when Jesus will return.  Those of us who have yielded ourselves to Him will be resurrected to live forever in perfect bodies free from the sin that separates us from Him.  And Jesus will begin a thousand years of showing us what this life could have been like had we followed His Torah, and allowed Him to be our Ruler and Messiah.  But there will be those who have yet to receive His Spirit, or been resurrected to new life.  There will be those who will enter into Messiah’s Kingdom rule after the world nearly destroys itself trying to be its own god.  They will live under His rule and reign, but many will still seek to be separated from His presence.  While life during the Millennial Kingdom will be the most amazing experience since Eden, it still will not be Heaven on Earth.  It still won’t be Eden.

That’s why we will continue to observe the Feast of Sukkot.  Zechariah tells us that each year, there will be the command to go up to Jerusalem and remember that, while Jesus will be here ruling, things still won’t be as they were intended  (Zechariah 14:16-19).  And at the end of those thousand years, many will choose separation from God over relationship with Him.  There will be war again.  But when that is finished, God will finally return us to Eden.

Next Post: A New Heaven and a New Earth

5 Ways My Faith Has Changed After Returning from Israel: The Feasts

My Faith Changed After Returning from Israrel

Have you ever tried to pick up the storyline of a movie after it was half-way over?  Not easy is it?

That’s what most of Christianity has been doing for about 2,000 years.  In fact, we celebrate this approach.  I had a pastor who founded three of the largest churches in my city actually tell me that he tries not to teach the Old Testament because it’s too confusing.  He sticks with the New Testament story.  When children are baptized or dedicated, we give them New Testaments to commemorate the event.  When new Believers ask what they should read, we tell them to start with John and stick to the Gospels.  We ignore the first two-thirds of the story.

This confusion and lack of understanding has hurt us as Christians.  We miss that God laid out His plan for humanity very early on.  The first Christians understood this plan.  They were Jews who had been rehearsing it for 1,500 years.  The plan is seen in the feasts.

You should take a few minutes to read through Leviticus 23.  God’s plan for humanity is described in it.  The cross (Passover).  The burial (Unleavened Bread).  The resurrection (First Fruits).  The Spirit (The Feast of Weeks).  The Second Coming (The Feast of Trumpets).  The Judgment (The Day of Atonement).  The New Heaven and New Earth (The Feast of Tabernacles).

God’s roadmap is there.

And understanding this roadmap makes reading the Scriptures – both the Old and the New Testament – much easier.  You see God’s hand moving to accomplish His plan through these feasts.  Jesus’ teachings take on greater significance.  As do the rest of the New Testament writers.

Understanding the feasts has changed the way I read the Bible.

Want to learn more?  Read Return to Eden here!

5 Ways My Faith Changed After Returning from Israel: Introduction