Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

As we enjoy our picnics, trips to the beach or whatever this holiday weekend, let's pause to remember those brave men and women of our military who paid the ultimate price so that we can enjoy these freedoms. I watched the Arlington Ceremony this morning, and VP Joe Biden gave a very good speech. I can see why Mr Obama sent Mr Biden rather than attending the traditional event himself. For one thing, I think our so-called Commander-in-Chief would be very uncomfortable sitting through the National Anthems with all those American flags waving. Unlike the last Democratic Convention in Denver, I doubt anyone threw any of these flags in the trash afterward.

Turning back to the positive, there are still many people in our great country who still support our troops. Michelle Malkin has several good tributes on her blog, and Oliver North has posted a must read Memorial Day tribute on the Patriot Post.

Finally, we’ve posted a Tribute to Our Fallen Heroes on our main website. God Bless our Brave Troops.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Moishe Rosen, 1932-2010

Moishe Rosen, the Founder and first Executive Director of Jews for Jesus, died last week. Mr Rosen had battled prostate cancer for an extended period. I was privileged to read some of his last writings as he continued to minister far past his expected time. Perhaps, it is very fitting that he died on Shavuot, the Jewish Festival of Weeks and the Christian Pentecost. The same day that the Law was given at Sinai and the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem as a deposit or guarantee of the promise, Mr Rosen claimed the promise and went to be with Christ forever.

Mr Rosen founded JFJ in September of 1973 and continued making the Messiahship of Jesus an unavoidable issue to his Jewish people worldwide until his death. Mr Rosen had a great passion for Yeshua (Jesus), and properly understood that a Jew does not cease being a Jew by believing in Yeshua. In fact, he becomes completely Jewish by accepting the Messiah. This message is not always welcomed by Orthodox Jews. Dr Vernon Grounds, noted evangelical and President Emeritus of Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary once said of Rosen, “He was a dynamic and creative witness. When Moishe Rosen came into a city there is either a revival or a riot.”

A Memorial Page has been set up on the JFJ website. Mr Rosen also left a pre-written letter of encouragement for his co-workers in Christ, urging them to continue his work. I’ve personally met David Brickner, who took over as executive director in 1996, and Bruce Rapp, who serves as head of the Phoenix branch, and I can vouch that JFJ is still in capable hands with the Lord’s leading. Here is an excerpt from Mr Rosen’s last letter (the entire letter is available from the JFJ website):

If you are reading this, it means that I have gone on to my reward. As I write this, I can only think of what the Scriptures say and that is, "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, neither have they entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him." (1Cor 2:9) Well, I have a big curiosity and by now, I know.

As I go, I feel that I have left a number of things undone. I think everyone must feel that way… I'd like to encourage you to stay with Jews for Jesus… To be an honest ministry, it can only come from the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit can only indwell those who have the new birth and are born again. Therefore, I would urge you to think very seriously before you support any "ministry" that involves Jewish people and doesn't actually bring the gospel to the Jews. Likewise, I am concerned over something else that I never thought that I would see or hear and that is, Jews who have become believers in Jesus and have important positions in ministry yet feel that their primary purpose is to promote Jewishness and Judaism to the Jews.

I hope I can count on you to show love and respect for the Jewish people, but Jewishness never saved anybody. Judaism never saved anybody no matter how sincere. Romans 10:9-10 make it clear that we must believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus in order to be saved. There are no shortcuts. There is no easy way. Within Judaism today, there is no salvation because Christ has no place within Judaism.

I would also encourage you to be faithful to those Bible-teaching, Bible-preaching churches that give spiritual food. More than ever, the church needs faithful members who can be an example to the young people coming in. Maybe there are some features about your church that keep you from being enthusiastic - look around and see if there might be a better church for you. If there is, join it and enjoy it. If your church is doing a lot right, then stay where you’re planted.

I don't expect that Jews for Jesus will be undergoing any turmoil because of my demise. For many years, the leadership has been in competent hands… Anything done for Christ will last. Anything you do to help and encourage Jews for Jesus at this time will have lasting effects on all of us. So instead of saying "good bye," I'll just say, "until then - I'll see you in the sky."

Moishe

Immigration Question of the Day

Cousin Donna from Austin alerted us to this Ray Stevens video. We got to wondering, who is more likely to be the next person after Mexican President Calderon to be invited to speak before Nancy Pelosi and the US Congress, Raúl Castro or Ray Stevens?

While Mr Castro would be welcomed with open arms (and a likely standing ovation), in the extreme unlikelihood that Ray Stevens could be invited, Ms Pelosi and her fellow Dems would likely walk out in protest.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Feast of Weeks - Shavuot

A few weeks ago, I posted about Christ in the Passover. At that time, our Jewish friends began the 50-day countdown to the Feast of Weeks, or Shavuot. The Passover (Pesach) commemorated God’s deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt. Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Law to Moses at Mt Sinai fifty days later. This year, Shavuot begins tomorrow, May 18, at sunset.

The festivals of Judaism are closely connected with the events of the agricultural year, and Shavuot is no exception. The festival’s Biblical basis is found in Leviticus 23:15-22, which instructs the Israelites to “count down” fifty days “from the day you brought the sheaf” (bundle of wheat). So, the period between Passover and Pentecost became known as the “omer” (Hebrew word meaning “sheaf”) and the countdown as “counting the omer”. This countdown was a reminder to the Israelites to count on God for a fruitful crop. Because Israel was an agrarian society, they were entirely dependent upon God’s favor for their livelihood, since the right land and weather conditions were critical for a bountiful harvest. Likewise, Christians must count on God for fruitfulness in our own lives.

Today, there are many other traditions associated with Shavuot. Observing Jews often read the book of Ruth (harvest theme), the Ten Commandments, or even study the Torah (“Law” - first five books of the Bible) to recall the revelation at Sinai. Homes and synagogues are often decorated with flowers and greens, and festive meals, usually involving dairy foods are eaten.

Christians know this holiday as Pentecost (from the Greek word meaning “fifty”), commemorating the birth of the Church at the pouring out of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) in fulfillment of Joel 2:28. In addition, the prophet Zechariah predicted a future great harvest that would involve another pouring out of the Spirit onto the Jewish people in the end times, ”And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn” (Zech 12:10).

After the giving of the law on Shavuot, the Jewish people looked forward to their entry into the Promised Land of Canaan. Likewise, after the receiving of the Holy Spirit, Christians look forward in anticipation of our heavenly Promised Land.

See our article Hebrew Feasts and Festivals for an introduction to additional Jewish Holy Days.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Safe in the Arms of Jesus

I wanted to work on the Book of Ruth in our Interpreting the Books of the Bible section, but kept feeling compelled to write this article on death and life instead. This subject is way out of my comfort zone, but I knew from past experience that I wouldn’t get anything else done until I had completed this post.

To provide a little background on my mental state, we’ve been receiving frequent news that our son’s marine unit in Afghanistan continues to sustain numerous casualties, including several on Mother’s Day alone. We hope our readers are praying daily for the brave men and women risking their lives to protect our country and to secure freedom for other parts of the world. It is unthinkable that anyone can face death without knowing whether his or her future is eternally secure. After my father died, I wrote an article contrasting the differing views of death between believers and non-believers.

Now, we turn to the subject of this post, a baby named Smith, born to parents Kori and Jon up in McKinney (TX) on April 29, weighing only 24 oz. After clinging valiantly to life for almost two weeks, Smith went home to Jesus on May 10. I was alerted to their situation by email from a friend of a friend of a friend, so I don’t know Kori, Jon and family personally, but they have been a real inspiration the past few weeks. Through the various difficulties of this ordeal, Jon shared Smith’s brief, but miraculous and inspiring life on his blog.

I kept thinking, what does one say to such a courageous couple, or to anyone else who has just lost a loved one? Let me preface these comments by saying that I’m no counselor, so these are just my personal thoughts. As Christians, we’re always tempted to quote Scripture (particularly Ro 8:28) in a well-meaning effort to ease the person’s grief, or to defend God. This is good to a point, but I believe it’s sometimes best just to grieve along with the person and let them know you care. You can then speak of the goodness of God as the healing process begins, which will be sooner or later in different instances. In Jon and Kori’s case, it is apparent that they never questioned God’s goodness, but this still does not ease the pain of their loss.

I’ve met a few well wishers with the attitude that, we should not grieve for a loved one because “they’re in a better place”. Fortunately, these folks (almost always meaning well) are usually a small minority. While the destination of the departed is a great comfort, it is entirely biblical to mourn. Jesus Himself wept at the death of His friend Lazarus, even though He knew that He would shortly raise him from the dead (Jn 11:32-36).

As some of my regular readers may know, I love the old hymns and often research their author and some of the fascinating circumstances surrounding their writing. Earlier today, I came across an old hymn by Frances (Fanny) Crosby, who is credited with writing thousands of hymns even though she was blind. Ms Crosby caught a slight cold at about six weeks of age. A country doctor, who (it was later learned) was not qualified to practice medicine, was called because their family physician was away. He recommended the use of hot poultices, which practically destroyed her eyesight. When the doctor learned of the results, he left town, never to be heard of again. Ms Crosby later said "I have not, for a moment, in more than eighty-five years, felt a spark of resentment against him; for I have always believed that the good Lord, in His infinite mercy, by this means consecrated me to the work that I am still permitted to do”.

In 1859, a child was born to Fanny and her husband, but the child died in infancy, and to this day, no one knows whether it was a boy or a girl. Fanny refused to speak of it, even to her closest friends and relatives, except to later say, “God gave us a tender babe… and soon the angels came and took the infant up to God and His throne”.

On April 30, 1968, about a decade after the infant’s death, a Christian musician, Dr WH (Howard) Doane, knocked on Fanny’s door and said “I have exactly forty minutes before my train leaves for Cincinnati. I need some words for this melody”, then began humming a tune. Fanny quickly prayed, went to work and twenty minutes later, dictated the words to Dr Doane just in time for him to catch his train. This brief collaboration produced one of Ms Crosby’s most beloved hymns, Safe in the Arms of Jesus, which became a great comfort to thousands who had lost a loved one, especially a child.

Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast,
There by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul shall rest.
Hark! ’tis the voice of angels, borne in a song to me.
Over the fields of glory, over the jasper sea.

Refrain:
Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe on His gentle breast
There by His love o’ershaded, sweetly my soul shall rest.

Safe in the arms of Jesus, safe from corroding care,
Safe from the world’s temptations, sin cannot harm me there.
Free from the blight of sorrow, free from my doubts and fears;
Only a few more trials, only a few more tears!

(Refrain)

Jesus, my heart’s dear Refuge, Jesus has died for me;
Firm on the Rock of Ages, ever my trust shall be.
Here let me wait with patience, wait till the night is over;
Wait till I see the morning break on the golden shore.

(Refrain)

We must not assume that God allowed Ms Crosby to lose her child for the sole purpose of providing comfort to others, but we can say that God can use all our experiences, good and bad, to minister to others in similar situations.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Failed Bombing and Comedy Central

Continuing from yesterday’s post, we also had the failed bombing in New York’s Times Square. Once it became clear to the liberals that it wasn’t a crazed Tea Party member who was mad about healthcare, as theorized by Mayor Bloomberg, members of the media set out to explain how a misunderstood all-American Muslim boy could do such a thing. Perhaps CBS came up with the best twist, denying his training in a Pakistani terrorist camp, and postulating that his motive involved money pressure since he “Hasn't Realized Any American Dream”.

Speaking of unbelievable, the Obama representative to the UN stood by and watched while the United Nations elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women’s Rights. This should make women feel much safer, unless they have a suntan.

Finally, the Comedy Central network is planning a new animated cartoon about Jesus called “JC”. This comes only two weeks after the network banned the banned the show “South Park” from displaying an image, or even mentioning the name of the Muslim prophet Muhammed after receiving death threats from the “religion of peace” (h/t NewsBusters).

According to the Hollywood Reporter:

Comedy Central is set to announce "JC," a half-hour show about Christ wanting to escape the shadow of his "powerful but apathetic father" and live a regular life in New York City. In the show, God is preoccupied with playing video games while Christ, "the ultimate fish out of water," tries to adjust to life in the big city.

"In general, comedy in purist form always makes some people uncomfortable," said Comedy Central's head of original programming Kent Alterman. When asked if the show might draw some fire, especially coming on the heels of the network's decision to censor the Muslim faith's religious figure on "South Park," Alterman said it’s too early in the show's development to be concerned about such matters. "We don't even know what the show is yet," he said.

Like all Comedy Central executives, Alterman declined to address the recent controversy over "South Park," where the network aired a heavily redacted episode after the show's creators were threatened by an extremist Islamic Web site.

So, Mr Alterman thinks it’s too early in the show's development to be concerned about offending Christians, but he’s ultra-sensitive about offending Muslims. Although one could argue for freedom of expression (which generally tends to be subjective according to one’s viewpoint), a great amount of discretion should be used with any religious figure, even those of the cults. We should be free to point out the errors in their actions and teachings, but should refrain from personal attacks on their person.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spills and Floods

Whoa, has it been this long since I last posted? I’ve been working on a modern version of the Didache along with notes, commentary, and Scripture references, which was a very rewarding endeavor. Turning to our blog, I have some new posts about ready to load, but let's begin by catching up on a few events.

The one event to monopolize most of the media attention over the past couple of weeks has been the BP oil spill in the gulf. After vilifying President Bush for his perceived slow response to Katrina, the lamestream media yawned when Mr Obama took his time responding to the oil spill. The Dems finally swung into action, emailing supporters to "stand with President Obama to hold BP accountable", and oh yeah, while you’re at it, please send money. This could get interesting, since it was revealed the next day that Mr Obama is the biggest recipient of BP cash. Many dems have returned contributions to BP, but so far, Mr Obama has chosen to keep the money.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration finally sent a representative to view the flood situation in Tennessee. I kept waiting for Nancy Pelosi to demand that Mr Obama rush the money “that we owe these people” as she did to President Bush during the New Orleans flood. I was shocked that Ms Pelosi used the words “that we owe them” instead of “that we should send as a charitable act” or similar. I wasn’t shocked by her “owe me” mentality, only that she chose to use the words in publicly. According to Ms Pelosi, if certain people experience misfortune, the government "owes" them taxpayer money. It certainly wasn’t a surprise when most of the media spiked the comment to protect Ms Pelosi. Perhaps Mr Obama wasn’t as concerned about the Tennessee victims, since they were regular middle class working folks who cling to their guns and religion during times of crisis, rather than looking to the god of government for a bailout.

Let's continue to pray and help our friends in the Tennessee and neighboring states. As a Texan, I'll always be grateful for the brave volunteers who fought and died alongside our ancestors at the Alamo.