Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tradition or Torah

The other day I was speaking with a loved one about the Sabbath. She asked me if I set aside Sunday also, the way I do the Sabbath, and I responded "no." I explained that though I do attend worship services on Sunday with my congregation, I believe in a literal 7th day Sabbath as the Lord's holy (i.e. set apart) day. She said, "well that's between you and the LORD." Not wanting to be argumentative, I sat silently and pondered her statement.

Whereas she told me that the day I observe Sabbath is between me and the LORD, I believe that the day set aside to observe Sabbath is between GOD and His people. ADONAI said that Sabbath is to be a lasting ordinance between Him and His people, a reminder of creation and redemption. The reason Sabbath is and always will be the 7th day has to do with Genesis and creation, not with Israel. Genesis tells us "And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation" (Gen 2:2-3). From this we see that God established the seventh day as holy long before He established the nation of Israel; however, Israel later became the beacon of light through which His Word and His ways would be revealed to the nations.

If Sabbath is a lasting ordinance between God and His people, the question that remains is: who are GOD's people? I don't believe in replacement theology that says the Church replaces Israel as GOD's people. Rather, in accordance with Paul's writings in Romans, I believe that we are "grafted in" and that we are being added to the flock (Ez 37:15). This means that we are part of Israel as GOD's adopted children. The theme of adoption is laced throughout the writings of the apostles in reference to the Gentiles. What does it mean to be adopted? It means that the promises and the inheritance of the natural born children belong to us as well. That is why Yeshua serves as Messiah (ie Savior) not just of the Jewish people, but of the whole world. We, the adopted children, would not know our need for a Savior, but for GOD's revelation through Israel. Thus, Yeshua did not come to establish two flocks of sheep. He stated Himself that He is the Good Sheperd and that He is going to bring other sheep to the already established flock that they may be one flock under one sheperd.

So why are so many within the church resistant to Sabbath and the other Festivals ordained (and in fact commanded) by our GOD? I believe the answer is tradition! Tradition is at the heart of our resistance. Tradition is not all bad, but we must carefully guard ourselves against becoming dogmatic about tradition (that which is not written in Scripture) lest we fall into the pit that the Pharisees of Yeshua's day fell into. They preferred their traditions over GOD's Torah and ended up stumbling over the cornerstone. GOD forbid we do the same today in the name of tradition.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

In the Beginning

John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Just as the Holy Spirit is God's breath, so too is Yeshua God's voice and body. He is not a separate entity that would make Him a "lesser god". He is El Shaddai, the Almighty. For this reason, the prophet Isaiah speaking of the Messiah child saying: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." How can Messiah be called Wonderful Counselor when the Spirit of God is called Counselor? How can Messiah be called Mighty God, and Everlasting Father when these are titles of God the Father. The reason that these titles can be attributed to Yeshua HaMashiach is because He is the Word of God (even God's voice). Thus when the Tanakh says that only ADONAI, YHWH, is God and that only He will save, it does not lie. Nor do the Apostolic Writings lie when they say the "Word was God."

Why, then, did the Almighty God, need to become a human to redeem mankind? Why is it important that God became a man?

Torah says that due to Adam's sin, a sin nature entered mankind. That nature is tainted and cannot please God because even our best efforts and works are as filthy rags before the Father. Even if we kept Torah perfectly, we still could not attain true righteousness because there is a flaw in our being, not in our doing. Psalms 14:1-3 says that "the LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one."

So, why did God have to become human? The reason goes back to the covenant God made with Abraham. Abraham's descendants (both of Jews and Gentiles) broke Torah [God's righteous covenant]. They didn't keep Torah perfectly, in fact, they could not. They broke the covenant. Fortunately, when God made the covenant with Abraham and Abraham sacrificed the animals and split them into two rows, only God passed through the pieces (see Gen 15). When God alone passed through the pieces, He took full responsibility for the consequences should the covenant be broken. He, in essence said, "if this covenant is broken, I will pay the consequences." And, so He [the Almighty God] became human to pay for the consequences of the broken covenant.

May it be to the praise of His glorious grace!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Difficult Times

"Seek the sacred within the ordinary. Seek the remarkable within the commonplace."--Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

This has been a difficult few months. I can't even begin to describe what is going through my mind or what is troubling me. It is too noisy to sort through my thoughts and hear clearly. Though I have a deep joy within me, I feel pain.

I read the quote above the other day, and this is what I am looking for. There is so much ordinary going on around me, there is too much ordinary going on inside me, so I'm looking for the message in it all. What is the Father trying to tell me through all that has happened and is happening in my life right now? I don't want to miss the remarkable message because I am too focused on the commonplace.

Father, open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things from your Torah.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Face to Face

My husband set up a web phone for us before he deployed and up until a couple of days ago we couldn't use it because his internet connection was too slow. The other day, my computer was ringing, so I answered it and it was my dear husband on the other end. I got to speak with him face-to-face in a sense since I was able to see the video image of him while we talked. I found it so much easier to talk to him and focus my attention on him while we talked over the video phone.

That got me thinking about a passage of Scripture, 1 Cor 13:12:

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."

I thought about how exciting it will be to speak to my Abba, Father face-to-face. When I pray and talk to Him, I sometimes get distracted and have trouble focusing my attention, but when I truly see Him, it won't be difficult to give him my undivided attention. What a glorious day that will be!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Profound Lesson from an 11-Month Old

The other day we had dinner at a friend's house. After dinner, her two pre-school sons began fighting over the same toy. As the situation progressed, the mother went over to break up the fight that left two young boys crying. Then, came a profound lesson from an 11-month old. My son, who was across the room, saw the elder brother laying on the floor crying. He crawled over to the elder brother, climbed on top of him and began to give him serberts and laugh. At this gesture, the elder brother started laughing, then the younger brother and the mom took to laughing as well. We all ended up laughing in the end, and the toy and the fight were soon forgotten.

It was amazing. The volatile situation was diffused immediately by the tender, playful love of an 11-month old. Isn't that how we should be? Proverbs says that a kind answer turns away wrath. If we would learn to respond to others with a childlike innocence and give them the benefit of the doubt, regardless of what they have done, wouldn't that begin to look like "loving our neighbor as ourselves"?

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Most Holy Day

The Festival of Yom Kippur began last night and ended this evening. It is the most solemn and holy day of the year. It is also known as the Day of Atonement, the sole day that the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies and offer a sacrifice of atonement for himself, and the nation of Israel. It was also the festival when the Israelites would take a scapegoat and confess all the sins of the people upon it and lead it out of the camp, into the wilderness, and then throw it off a cliff.

I was so excited about Yom Kippur until I found out that it was also a day to "afflict yourselves" (Lev 23). “Afflict” or “Self-denial” means fasting. Fasting is such a difficult discipline for me to learn and this fast proved as difficult for me as any I’ve done in the past. I frequently found my stomach yearning for food, and my spirit fighting back saying "no, this is not too difficult". Taking the time to fast, meditate, pray and converse with my mom helped me realize the great significance of this feast day.

I now understand that Yom Kippur not only represents what has already occurred for us as believers in the Messiah Yeshua through His atoning sacrifice on the cross, but it has the following future implications as well. First, it is a national day of atonement for the remnant of the "nation" of Israel as Paul discusses in Romans 10-11. Second, for those who are already believers in the Messiah Yeshua, it represents the marriage supper of the Lamb (refer to Revelation 19).

Now, we wait expectantly for Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles which represents the Millenial Kingdom, when Yeshua will tabernacle and dwell among us. It starts on Friday evening this week. God’s appointments are so exciting, He always shows up on time!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I Could Have Been a Basketcase

I was thinking about the week I had last week and how rough it started out. By the time I got to Thursday night Bible Study, I wasn't even sure that I wanted to go. I was tired and emotionally drained from the stress of the week. After I left Bible study, however, I was completely revived. It was like God gave me a spiritual makeover in that hour and a half.

As I thought further about that turning point in my week, I realized something very profound: I could have been a basketcase! I don't know how people who don't know the awesome Creator of the Universe make it from day to day. When struggles come my way, I may stumble for a moment, but shortly thereafter, my gentle Abba, Father picks me up, dusts off my knees, kisses me on the forehead and says: "It doesn't look so bad." And then I smile and go back to my play called life. If I didn't have HaShem, my Father, to run to when the giant was attacking, I don't know how I would keep my sanity. In fact, there would be no purpose, no reason to get out of bed and try again.

Since I do have a reason to get out of bed and try again in the morning, I start each day with this simple timeless prayer from the Jewish Siddur:

I gratefully thank You, O living and eternal King, for You have restored my soul within me with compassion, abundant is Your faithfulness. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of ADONAI, good understanding to all their practicioners, His praise endures forever. Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity. Amen!