Sunday, October 11, 2015

19th Sunday of Gracetide

Shabbat Shalom brothers and sisters:

I am very sorry I have allowed myself to be pulled off the grid so to speak.  As many of you know, I have been diagnosed with Parkinson's, and I am sad to say it has really slowed me down,  I feel though the need to proclaim the Gospel and to address the ills of the world.  I  will do my pest to post readings and lives of Saints, and proclaim God's word as long as I am physically  able, and I desire your prayers for healing and strenth to do the work that the Lord has called me to do.  I am earnest that our children not be led astray.

Currently we are losing a battle.  Some of that loss came around 50 years ago as we abandoned marital fidelity.   We need to go back to Ephesians and I Peter, and see how they liken marriage to the church. Marriage is the icon of the relationship between Yeshua and the church. Is it any wonder that our children no longer understand the permanent bond between Yeshua and his church, since they so rarely see this relationship between their parents.  Where are the Hosaiahs of this world, who are faithful to their wives no matter what?

Worst, we and the kids have been subject to a study bombardment of brain washing.  It started over extramarital sex in the 50s (or maybe even in the 1920s).  It was promoted by TV and movies.  The world swooned over the adultery of Elizabeth Tailor and others, but continued to go watch them.  The Golden Girls promoted prostitution and extra marital sex and we laughed.  Sixteen year old kids told their 14 year old sisters on TV that they should already been having sex.  TV went from showing married couples living together to unmarried couples having sex together without the bonds of matrimony.  It was shameful at one time for a girl to have a child out of wedlock and now it is normal.  In all of this, it is the kids who suffer.  Girls and some guys who drop out of school to  take care of the baby.  Society now lets the poor baby get kept by his 12 or 13 year old mother, instead of adopted out to responsible adults because the  girl wants to keep the baby, who often becomes her excuse.  TV began introducing gay people, first as humerous or sympathetic, and then more and more to the point that many Americans think that homosexuals are between 10 and 50% of the population.  Transgenders etc. no longer have psychological persons, but are heroes for ignoring the facts of life.  We have come to the point where it is considered to speak the truth about these things.    One small study of 167  young men who identified as homosexual showed that 165 of the 167 were sexually molested by an older male before the age of 16.  Studies like this are hiden because it does not promote the current brand of political correctness.

Even commonn sense is going down the dreain.  Houston's new heroe ordiance says that if a  man self identifies as a woman, he can use the woman's restroom.  How many girls and women really want a guy sharing their bathroom?  How many men (especially amomng an increasing number of immature men) aregoing ot take advantage of that law for wrong reasons. John Hopkins reveals that people who have sex change operations still have psychological problems.  

Just when will we go back to the Bible.  One man, one women in marriage.  The man is to treat his wife as his queen, and she to treat her husband as a king.  those who have same sex attraction to enter the monastic life, or learn to live with a person of the opposte sex in marriage.  

We Christinas can begin by shunning those Chritians who throw out the Biblical standards.  We can continue by refising to watch TV or moveis, or listen to songs that promote extramarital sex.  Remember the odl "GIGO."  Garbage in, garbage out.  I ahve noted that gay guys have an easier time of turning off their same sex attraction if they get rid of porn. 

Our society today glorifies in sex. Instead of building porn castles, we need t be glorifying the Lord and building prayer castles to Him.  God is our king, and if we put anything in his place, he will use it to get our attention so that we come to repentance by admitting we are wrong.  So lets read the Bible and proclaim it.  God wants the prisoners set free.  Today those prisoners are chained by sex and materialis.  It is our job to present the Gospel to them.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Problem of Sin

Today, in the United States, we seem to have a real problem with sin.A lot of people are bashing the Bible because they do not like its definition of sin.  In the Old Testament, there are several words translated as sin in English.  One of them means to miss the mark as in archery.  Another means twisted or bent.  Both are important meanings of the word.  God has a perfect plan for each  of us.  If we are not walking in that plan, we are sinning.  The Bible lists specific sins, but any time we are out of God's will we are sinning.

The second use in being bent or twisted is important today.  In society, we like to take good things and twist them.  Food, alcohol, sex, money even are all good things in and of themselves.  But we have this habit of twisting them.  Gluttony or self starvation, alcoholism, fornication, and greed are all results of twisting something good.  This is Satan's favourite sin, when he twists something good.

What can we do about sin?  First we need to recognise it.  A good first step is to read the Bible which gives a pretty good list of sin.  Remember though, that not all the Tanakh is binding on Christians.  The only food laws for Christians is to abstain from eating blood.  None of the ritual laws apply to Christians, although knowing them helps us to understand Messiah.  Everything in the New Testament though, applies to Christians.

Today many people are preoccupied with sin.  WE don't want to do it, but we seem unable to stop ourselves.  On the other hand, there are many who are tempted, but keep themselves from sin.  I find the secret to beating sin in our lives is the Sh'ma:

Hear O Istrael, the Lord your God, the Lord is one.
Love him with all your heart,
with all your mind,
with all your strength
This is the first and great commandment, the second is like unto it.
Lover your neighbour as yourself to obey the law and the prophets.  (Mark 12:29-31)

So is their sin in your life?  Do you love God with all your heart?  Is he the most important thing in the world to you?  If you really love him, you will hate what he hates, and he hates sin.  When we are truly  in love with someone or something, we will try and please that person all the time, and look for their benefit.

Do we love the Lord with all our mind?  Pornography even among Christians and Pastors is a serious problem.  What are we looking at?  Does it glorify God?  And it is not just sex.  Many commercials on TV glorify greed, especially the Old Navy commercials where the lady kicks everyone out so she can go buy stuff on sale at Old Navy.  Do we really want to teach our kids and ourselves that message?  When you see that good looking girl or guy walking down the street, does your mind go straight to sex?  When you see that hot car, or nice dress, do you lust for it?  The secret is to thank God for it, and throw the focus from the object to God.

Do we love the Lord with all our strength?  Really, how much  do most people really resist sin in their lives.  When Clinton had his indiscretion, what was the response?  Everyone does it anyway!  If that were true, we would really be in trouble.  In the first three centuries the church grew by leaps and bounds because "Christians don't do that."  Christians took care of the poor and sick.  Christians were honest with everyone and stayed away from sexual sin.   We need to get out there and exercise those spiritual muscles.  WE need to start looking out for our neighbour in truth.  Quit buying stuff on Sundays so people can be with their families.  Help in the fight against Ebola, in the sex    trade, and abuse of children.  Truly treat your neighbour the way you would like him to treat you.

We are on a slippery slope.  Many today want to redefine sin, and have the church participate in it.  The fact that so many of our clergy are divorced and remarried is a sign that we no longer accept the Bible.  It is time to read it, and apply it to our lives so we may conquer sin with Yeshua.

Monday, November 24, 2014

23 November: Messiah the King

This week, instead of concentrating on the Tanakh, we will be concentrating no the Gospel.  Since today is the feast of Messiah the King, our lesson was from Mark 11:27-33.

They returned to Yerushalayim, and as Yeshua was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the presbyters came to him. They began to ask him, “By what authority do you do these things? Who gave you the authority to do such things?”
Yeshua replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of Yochanan - was it from heaven, or from men? Answer me.”
They debated among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven’ he will reply, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But dare we say, ‘From
men?’” They feared the people, for all considered that Yochanan was indeed a prophet.                                                                                                                           They answered Yeshua, “We do not know!”
Yeshua said to them, “Then neither do I tell you by what authority I do these things.”       

We note the discussion was over the authority of Yeshua.  Was it from man, from Satan, or God.  Yeshua sets a trap for them by asking about Yochanan's (John the Baptist) authority.  They find that Yeshua has trapped them, because if they admit the Baptist came from God, Yeshua will ask why they did not listen to and obey him.  If they say the Baptist was merely a man with no authority from God, they resist a revolt, for many believed in Yochanan. 

Today, our question is not about the authority of the Baptist, but about the authority of scripture, so the question must be asked, "From where does the authority of scripture come?"  For the Orthodox Church, the Old Testament is the LXX or Septuagint version.  In the New Testament, out of 350 Old Testament quotes, 300 come from the LXX.  Most of the quotes in Matthew come from some unkown source, and Matthew or the person who translated Matthew into Greek may have translated it himself.  So we accept the LXX as authoritative, because that is the version accepted by the authors of the New Testament.  

The New Testament, on the other hand is very much a work of the church, but not so much a work by the church.  The church and New Testament very much developed around each other.   For the very early Christians, the Biblical authority was the LXX.  Paul tells us this about the Old Testament:

15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is[b] useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.

Now the New Testament had a different development.  While the early church had the LXX in writing, it had no overtly Christians texts in writing.  What they did have were eyewitnesses to the faith, and when they realised the return of the Lord was not imminent, they began writing things down.  Matthew was probably  the first, writing his Gospel in Aramaic, possibly as early as 50 A.D., if not earlier.  It is said that St. Thomas took a copy of St. Matthew's Gospel in Hebrew (Aramaic) with him to India.  Mark was written by John Mark, who if he knew Jesus, did not know him well.  He is believed to have been a disciple of Peter.  Luke, on the other hand was disciple of Paul, and never met Jesus.  John's gospel was more than likely written by the church of Ephesus, based on either John's teachings and or writing, around the year 100Most of the New Testament was written by Paul, who had a vision or visions of  the risen Messiah.  There are several other books, which may or not have been written by apostles. 

So as the church grows, and apostolic witnesses are dieing out, it needs to develop authoritative books.  The originals of these were probably the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and the Epistles, which were passed around from church to church.  As I mentioned, the church and New Testament grew around each other.  There was no hierarchy in the beginning which said these books were legitimate and these weren't.  When Constantine called the 1st Counsel of Nicaea, he did not have an agenda as to making Christians worship on Sunday, nor a list of books upholding his theological position.  What he did have was a church with much disagreement which was threatening the stability of his empire.   Today, it is popular to say that Constantine did have an agenda and that he imposed that agenda on the church.  But if one studies history, what we find out instead, that basically, the church did not pick a certain set of books because those books upheld their doctrine, but they chose these books because these books were the ones that were  used in the worship of the church.  In other words, the church and the books molded each other.  Another thing at Nicaea, the recognition of Sunday worship being the primary worship of the churchConstantin may have recognised Sunday as a day of rest in his empire, but again, he was merely recognising something already true in the church and going back to the book of acts.

So, is God Lord?  Is God sovereign?  Does he have the power to determine that his will is revealed in scripture?  Many people today, especially our youth choose to believe that God is not sovereign, and that most of the New Testament was written by man without God's inspiration.  They want to boil Yeshua down to the "historical" Jesus, a wise teacher, with no authority. 

This is not the Yeshua I worship.  The Lord Yeshua I worship is sovereign, over history, over  time, over the Bible and the church. If  my Lord had intended to promote extra-marital sex, homo-sexual sex, child sacrifice, then he could have picked another group besides the Jews.  There were various societies who had these practices.  If fact God had some of them exterminated, because he found them to be so evil. 

The problem today, is most people do not want a sovereign God. They want a God who will permit them to do what they want.  They are not interested in God's plan of salvation.  They think the great Santa in the sky will  give them what they want and will not judge them.  No judgement for them, just the worship of self, self gratification, self-righteousness, and self-sufficiency, self which is I, the centre of SIN, the beginning of Idolatry.

It is high time that we begin to recognise that Adonai Yeshua is sovereign.  He inspired the scriptures which show the saints, warts and all.  We are told the scriptures may lead to salvation, and they are useful for correction and training in righteousness.  It is time for the CHURCH to return to the Bible.  Today the CHURCH is week and fragmented, because many no longer believe in God's sovereignty.  We need to recognise that sovereignty, and allow God to rule our lives.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Daniel 9:1-19: A Model Prayer

The Tanakh is full examples to help us to pray and live better lives, to be disciples. Our discipleship brings us to the point where we understand what it truly means to be a disciple.  The little passage in 1 or 2 Timothy, when it is describing what the scriptures are and can do, is referring specifically to the Tanakh, or Old Testament.

We find a marvelous prayer here by Daniel:

Let us note, that Daniel begins his prayer by fasting.

Then he addresses God as the Awesome God who keeps his covenant, recognising who God is.

Next, he describes who we are, we and our ancestors, who have sinned continually against God.

He describes the punishments that God has sent, and asks for God's help, not because there is any reason to forgive us, but because God is merciful

And God answers his prayer.

If we truly want to be disciples,  we need to start with fasting.  The western church forgets fasting more and more every year.  The church  needs to return to regular fasting, and the church needs to return to acknowledging sin. We need to aknowledge our sin of sex outside of marriage and divorce.  We must acknowledge our failure in helping our children to be disciples and in not managing our personal and corporate resources in ways that promote the kingdom.  Sometimes we lock all this in at Lent and forget to do it the rest of the years.  We finish, not because of who we are, but because of who God is, full of mercy, not looking at our sins, but looking at the spilt blood of Messiah.  And if we pray single mindedly as James tells us, with the mind of Messiah, he will answer our prayers.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Pentecost Sunday

For our study this week, we are looking the Wisdom of Solomon 1:1-8, 

Wisdom, in this book is usually regarded as the Holy Spirit, and we are given a grave  warning.  The Holy Spirit will not be  with someone who plots evil, who is not disciplined, or participates in deceit.  The lesson from Joel today is usually believed to refer to the first Pentecost Sunday, but I believe that from time to time we see manifestations of the Spirit, like the Silesian Children's revival, the time of Meister Eckhart, where the Spirit manifests in power with healings, and where we see people acting like the New Testament Church.

Indeed, we had one of these manifestations near by at the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer some years back.  The pastor of this church had  received the Holy Spirit in fullness, and many people came to see what was going on.  People were healed, people spoke in tongues,  people shared their home and a powerful community was growing up.  This all came to an end as sexual scandals by the Rector (chief priest) and elders came to light.  As long as the Rector fought these urges, the Holy Spirit transformed that church.  But when he allowed himself to dwell on temptation, it over came him, and the Holy Spirit departed.  From being a spiritual power house where addicts where healed, where people shared their goods, Church of the Redeemer has dropped into a place where it now shares a building with a Lutheran Church.

The mission of Jesus was to restore.  In our first lesson today, we saw at the tower of Bavel how God confused the languages, because of our pride.  On the Jewish day of Pentecost, we saw that about 3000 died for idolatry.  In Christian Pentecost, all hear in their own languages, and about 3000 are saved.  Those numbers are no accident.  Yeshua came to reconcile us with God the Father.  To do so, when we receive Yeshua in our baptism, we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  We can either allow allow that Spirit to guide us, or we can quench the Holy Spirit by plotting evil, participating in deceit, or by not having discipline.  If we want the true power of God, we must allow Him and Him alone to guide our lives.  When we are guided by the Holy Spirit, we are filled with power.

Look around, is your church guided by the Spirit.  Do you see mighty acts of power.  It is time for all of us to plead that God give us the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and to remove all evil from our lives.  God wants to transform us, but we need to be ready to cast evil out of our lives and out of our churches.   We can no longer call what is evil good, and what is good evil.  God laid down the guidelines for us.  Pray, study the  word, allow him to transform your life.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

27 May 2014

Exodus 16:21-17:7

When I was growing up in the 60s, most people recognised that Sunday was a day of rest, a Christian Sabbath as it were.  Early Christians celebrated the Eucharist on Sunday, because Yeshua rose from the dead on Sunday, and because the Holy Spirit was given on a Sunday.  Sunday was regarded as the 8th day of creation, because Yeshua by his death and resurrection made everything new.  It was natural then that the day of rest would pass from Saturday to Sunday, and when the Emperor Constantine declared that no work should be done on Sunday, he was basically reflecting what the church was already practicing.  

The Blue Laws of Texas, today have all but disappeared, and according to several friends of mine who work at grocery stores, Sunday is now the biggest shopping day of the week.  The lesson from Exodus indicates that we are to have a day of rest, not only a day of resting in the Lord, but a day of rest, no work, a day that can be spent with the family relaxing.  As the blue laws have disappeared we see less unity.  I know some Mexican families who go to the park at 11:00 at night, because Dad works 7 days a week, Mom has off Tuesday, and the kids are in school Monday through Friday.  Some people claimed the blue laws harmed them, but personally, I see that many things were better when they were in place.

Of course I know many of you have to work on Sunday, you no longer have a choice as the forces of secularisation take over.  But for those who do have a choice, working on Sunday shows we don't trust the Lord.   Over the years, I have found that when I give God my tithe, and my time, he meets my needs.  I am not getting rich by any means, but I am blessed with what I need.  God was unhappy with those who went out seeking Manna on the Sabbath, because they were demonstrating that they did not trust God to take care of us.

Of course the world is against having Sunday off.  Somehow it offends them, and they  want to make sure everyone has the right to work on Sunday and not have time off with their families.  We Christians too, have forgotten that we are to be salt and light to the world, i.e. we are to change it.  Laws forbidding work on Sunday go all the way back to Constantine, and all the way back to Alfred the Great among English speaking Christians.  Christians have changed countries and the world in the past, and we can do  it today.  The family and congregations are both hurt because most retail businesses give their employees no choice about working on Sunday.  If you tell them you won't work on Sunday, then you won't work.  

It is time we really looked at our position vis a vis the world.  Is the world to run us, or are we to rule the world.  Many Christians, especially Calvinists believe we are to remake the world.  In the past we as Christians freed slaves, took children out of factories and mines, and abolished sati.  The work is not finished.  Many women and children to this day are slaves even here in the United States, and we must fight these evils.We need to have confidence that we are in the world to change it.

We do that first by changing ourselves.Before Christians run the world, they most run themselves.  For example, bearing in mind the words of Jesus about divorce, why is it that there are more divorces among evangelical Christians than the population in general?  Why is it that the church's teaching on birth control so changed in the 20th century?  Why do more kids get pregnant in the Bible belt?  Why are so few people getting married?

Could it be because we no longer allow the Holy Spirit in  our lives?  The Bible tells us the fruits of the spirit are:
love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.

Do we see these fruits in Christians any more?  What is true love according to the Bible?  Helping those in need.

Are we joyful in our life with Christ?  Do we find that joy in him and obeying him?
Do we truly have the peace or Shalom of God?  It comes through obedience.  Among those whom I have counselled with  besetting sins, many have told me they have no peace, because they know what they are doing is wrong. 
When someone cuts you off on the freeway, do you respond with a curse, or a blessing?
Are we truly kind to one another? (and kindness includes telling someone he is wrong)
Do we try and remove all evil from our lives?
Do we believe and follow God where ever he leads us? Even if it means not going with the world.
Are we gentle with other Christians in correcting and guiding them, and with those outside the church?  (remember gentle does NOT mean sugar coating the truth)
Do we have self control of our own lives?

According to the Lambeth Council of 1930, that very last one is critical.  Why is it that the millenials want to strip the Bible down to what Jesus said, instead of using the entire Bible.  Yeshua frequently quoted from the Old Testament.  Peter in his Second Epistle to Timothy tells us: "
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

If it was good for the early church, why isn't it good now.  I think it is that little word, self control.

(BTW, I stand convicted on several items in the fruit of the Spirit.  I will aim to change, will you?

Monday, March 17, 2014

16 March 2014

Part of our reading from Baruch today is a model prayer for us, very standard for the Tanach.

The prayer begins with what God has done.  This is not done to remind God what he  has done for us, but to remind ourselves and to increase our faith.  , "Dear Lord who delivered me from tobacco and alcoholism, who brought me to and from Honduras various times, who kept my boat afloat and me alive through the tropical storm, who gave me my wife and children and grandchildren."  Just typing this makes me feel more confident in my prayers.

The second part is also a reminder, "who punishes as you told us you would and as you predicted.  God warned them over and over and over, keep the Sabbath, do justice, love one another and take care of the widow and orphan.  "Dear Lord, I saw some one in need to day and didn't help them out, and I derserve to be punished. 

If we really want to pray to God, it is important that we start our prayers this way, filling our minds and heart with the things God has done for us, and reminding ourselves that we are sinful and do not deserve a single blessing, but trusting God to have mercy on us.