Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Christ in the Passover

Today marks the official beginning of the eight-day Jewish Pesach, or Passover. Like other Jewish holidays however, Passover actually commenced at sundown yesterday. Since Passover begins each year on the 14th day of Nisan according to the Jewish lunar calendar, it varies in relationship to Easter each year, which is aligned with the solar calendar and falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon that follows the vernal equinox.

I had the privilege and blessing this weekend to meet Bruce Rapp over at Plano Bible Chapel this weekend. Mr Rapp, who heads up the Phoenix branch of Jesus for Jesus, was in town to present Christ in the Passover, in which he walked though a Jewish Passover Seder (complete with table and traditional Passover items), and clearly demonstrateed the links between the Pesach and Christ as the Lamb of God. JFJ currently has dozens of members traveling and presenting the Seder (Passover feast), so please check the their website for times and locations, or to view the video.

The Pesach is celebrated annually by the Jews to commemorate their deliverance from bondage in Egypt. After the Egyptian Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites travel to the Promised Land, God sent a series of plagues in order to force him to let His people go. The tenth and final plague involved the death of each firstborn male child in the land. At the Lord’s instruction however, the Israelite families sacrificed an unblemished male lamb and covered their doorposts with the lamb’s blood. Thus, when the Lord’s angel came, he “passed over” and spared those who were protected by the blood of the lamb. This account, recorded in Exodus 12, foreshadows how Jesus, our Passover Lamb (Jn 1:29, 1Cor 5:7) shed His own blood on the cross to protect all believers from spiritual death.

While Y’shua (Jesus) as the sacrificial lamb is the fulfillment of all the Passover represents as a whole, each individual portion of the ceremony also points to the Jewish Messiah. For example, just after the main meal, we come to the Afikomen (dessert) and the third of four cups, called the Cup of Redemption. The Afikomen consists of a piece of matzah (bread without chametz – “yeast” or “leaven”) that was broken off and hidden (Heb tzafun) before the meal for the children to search out and find after the meal. The eating of the matzah, representing the broken body of Christ, and the drinking from the cup, reminding us of His spilled blood, should be familiar to Christians. We perform this same ceremony when celebrating the Eucharist (or Communion), which Jesus instituted at the Last Supper (Lk 22:19-20). In addition, the hiding and bringing forth of the matzah pictures Jesus’ body being hidden in the grave, and His coming forth from the dead.

Whenever I see or participate in a Seder, as element after element continues to paint a clear picture of Christ, I always ask myself, why can’t our Jewish friends see this? (Of course, we can also ask the same question of non-Jewish unbelievers concerning God’s other revelations). We could offer many theological answers, but I like to suggest a couple of practical reasons. First, many Jews are cultural rather than religious Jews. That is, they go through the steps because of tradition, without even understanding the Jewish meaning of the ceremonies.

Second, for those who are religious Jews, most believe that being Jewish or being a Christian is mutually exclusive. In other words, by becoming a Christian, they are no longer Jewish. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus was a Jew. The first Christians, including all the writers of the NT (with the possible exception of Luke) were Jews. To accept the Jewish Messiah Y’shua as one’s personal Savior makes one a complete and fulfilled Jew.

Before I end this post, I’d like to say a big “Thank You” to the folks over at Plano Bible Chapel who hosted this event. PBC is a friendly and growing church in East Plano (Texas). I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and speaking with Pastor Larry, who made my wife and I feel right at home. The true church is one body with Christ as the head, but the Scriptures also place great importance on the local assemblies. Our first loyalty (after Christ of course) should be to our home church, but I also enjoy and even benefit from visiting other churches once in a while. It’s always amazing to see the different ways that God is working through various people. I was especially impressed by PBC’s commitment to the historical doctrines of the Christian faith, which have been pushed aside by many churches in a misguided attempt to be “more relevant” to modern society. It was also exciting to see the many missions in which the church is involved, including support for the Jewish people. While the mega-churches receive most of the Christian press, God is doing many great things in the smaller churches. I look forward to returning again soon.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The First Christians

This is the second post regarding the open forum that we held in our Sunday School class a few weeks ago, which was opened up to any questions related to Christian doctrine, difficult passages in the Bible, or any other moral, ethical or family related issues.

This article looks at the raised questions of "Were the Catholics the first Christians?" and if not, "Who were the first Christians"? As I mentioned in the previous post, these questions involve some speculation, so once again, in the spirit of open forums, I've placed a link at the end of the article for those who would like to return to the post and comment.

Read the entire The First Christians article.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Was Jesus Perfect?

A couple of months ago in our Sunday School class, Allan came up with the idea to have an open forum in which all attendees could ask any questions related to Christian doctrine, difficult passages in the Bible, or any other moral, ethical or family related issues. This actually went on for several weeks and provided some very interesting discussions and debates. I’ve written one article featuring some of the questions and have a second one almost completed.

Some of these inquiries pose a different challenge than the ones limited to Bible doctrine. While Bible interpretation almost always requires some reasoning, these discussions involve a bit more speculation than normal. So, in the spirit of an open forum, I’ll be posting a lead-in to each article on our blog, allowing any reader wishing to add their own opinion or comments to return here and do so.

The first article centers on a question regarding Jesus’ humanity while on earth. We know that Jesus was sinless, but “Was He perfect”? In this discussion, we examine the various meaning of the term “perfect”, Jesus’ humanity, His blood (normal or supernatural?), results of the fall, and more.

Read the entire Was Jesus Perfect article.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Real St Patrick

In our modern times, religion continues to be systematically stripped from our governments, schools, and even our history. To many, Christmas is all about Santa Claus and Easter about bunny rabbits and eggs. Likewise, St Patrick’s Day, celebrated annually on March 17, is now about wearing green and gold, shamrocks, the luck of the Irish, leprechauns, and finding the nearest Irish pub. While it’s a fun celebration, particularly for Irish nationals and Irish immigrants worldwide, its true meaning and origin has been minimized or even completely forgotten by many. One of the largest St Patrick’s Day sites on the web devotes almost its entire front page to the various secular festivities. It offers three vanilla sentences to St Patrick himself, with a link for more information. This site is still better than the official Dublin Site that, along with many others, doesn’t even mention the saint at all. Finally, the last sentence on the page reads “Being a religious holiday as well, many Irish attend mass, where March 17th is the traditional day for offering prayers for missionaries worldwide before the serious celebrating begins”. So, the true meaning of the holiday has been reduced to an afterthought, an “as well” to be dispensed of quickly so that the serious celebration can begin.

Of course, the holiday wasn’t always thought of in this way. St Patrick’s Day began solely as a Christian holiday to pay tribute the patron saint and missionary to Ireland, marked by prayers for spiritual renewal and international missionaries. It became a saint’s official feast day in the early seventeenth century, but like most other religious holidays, it gradually became more secularized. The first St Patrick’s Day parade was organized by the Irish Society of Boston in 1737, with the first Ireland parade held in Dublin in 1931.

In the 1990’s the Irish government created the St Patrick’s Festival, a marketing group charged with using the holiday to promote Ireland and its culture. The first festival was held on March 17, 1996, then expanding each year. In 2009, the festival had grown to five days with an attendance of almost 700,000 people.

Read the entire The Real St Patrick article, including a short bio of the patron saint, and how his work lives on today.

[2015 Update] - This year, we're happy to report that the St Patrick's Day site is much improved. The site is more balanced between the sacred and the secular, having added a link (mostly wiki) containing some personal information on St Patrick that also includes his missionary work. In addition, there is a link to some excellent photos of some Historical Sacred sites that have been linked to the Patron Saint. Unfortunately, this is a rare exception among the many secular-only websites associated with the holiday.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

True Believers on the Left

Many conservative writers continue to express bewilderment over the Democrats continuing to push their unpopular socialistic agenda. One columnist, Matt Towery of Newsmax wrote:
In my entire career, I have never been as confounded as I am over President Obama and the Democratic leadership's obsession with a piece of legislation that not one major national poll has shown to be popular. A quick glance at this week's surveys shows about a 10 percent spread between those who favor the latest healthcare legislation and those who oppose it.

In the world of politics, that's a blowout. So I have to ask, why are the president and the leaders of Congress willing to see their entire party and a multitude of other policy proposals go down in flames over something that the public can't stand?... Folks, this is nothing more than a power grab. It's an effort to take one of the most essential elements of every person's life — their health — and put it under the control of government… What the White House and Democrats are hoping is that, after the legislation passes, people will forget about the costs and the hassles in the several years that the whole thing takes to implement. They are wrong.

His article is later concluded with, “And take it from me, the tumble the Democrats will take for such a silly move will be massive”.

Mr Towery makes some great points in this excellent article, but I believe his bafflement, like that of most conservatives, is due to underestimating the determination and resolve of the radical socialist left. This is a moment liberals have been waiting for since the sixties. Someone once said, “Thank God, the sixties is dead”. But the anti-establishment radicals from the sixties didn’t die. Instead, they grew up and became the establishment. We rarely see liberals going into engineering, medicine or other technical fields. Most liberals became lawyers, politicians, philosophers, councilors, teachers or enter other professions that can influence the minds and ideology of others. It is certainly no coincidence that liberals completely dominate the various media and entertainment industries.

Dennis Prager made a very profound observation during a speech at the annual retreat of Republican Members of the House a few weeks ago.

Most people on the Left are True Believers. This is critical to understand. They are willing to lose Congress; Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are prepared to lose both houses to get this through. Why? Because losing an election cycle means nothing compared to taking over more of the American economy.

I can give you an example from our side. There are many folks on our side who, if they could pass an amendment against abortion, would happily sacrifice both houses for a period of time. Understand that just as strongly as some are pro-life or religiously Christian or Jewish, that is how strongly many leftists believe in leftism. Leftism is a substitute religion. For the Left, the "health care" bill transcends politics. You are fighting people who will go down with the ship in order to transform this country to a leftist one. And an ever-expanding state is the Left's central credo.

Indeed, a few weeks later, Nancy Pelosi urged her fellow democrats to Sacrifice their Jobs for Health Care. Yet, most conservatives continue to believe that they are dealing with rational people who will reverse course once they realize that the people who they were elected to represent are angry, and that their jobs are in jeopardy.

Unfortunately, Mr Prager’s point was buried deep within a speech prefaced by "I have never been as proud to be a Republican as I have this past year with your unanimity in opposing Obamacare and the other bills that would transform America".

We salute the few Republicans which have battled against the socialistic agenda of the far left, but for every James Inhole and Jim DeMint, there’s a John McCain and Lindsey Graham. When Jim Bunning took a stand against runaway spending this past week, many of his fellow Republicans joined with the Democrats to criticize him for having the audacity to actually question how to pay for another “temporary” entitlement. Their attitude was, “it’s our job to pass bills, not to worry about how to pay for them”.

I believe we owe much of the Republican resistance to health care and other massive programs to pressure from the TEA parties. If not for their outspokenness, no doubt many of the RINOs would be on board with the Democrats. John McCain has been making all the talk shows, complaining about the massive spending bills “forced upon” the people by the Dems, but he fails to mention that he supported many of them, even suspending his presidential campaign to help ramrod through the first so-called stimulus package. Here in Texas, we were recently bombarded by ads during Kay Bailey Hutchison’s campaign for governor, which claimed she was “leading the fight” against Mr Obama’s agenda. Ms Hutchison however, joined Mr McCain in voting for the bailout and National Service Boondoggle, which basically creates a $6 billion slush fund for liberal groups to indoctrinate more youth.

Thus, the TEA party movement needs to resist the call of Sarah Palin and others to choose sides and to join the Republican Party. Without their independent voice, many Republicans would drop, or at least greatly reduce their resistance to these dangerous policies in the spirit of “bi-partisanship”. Even with the TEA party influence, Republican strategy appears to be that of putting up token resistance to win public favor once the left has bankrupted the country. We can’t wait that long. Conservatives must match the passion and the resolve of the liberal left and put up a fight now… and the first step in a battle is to know your opposition.