Saturday, December 27, 2008

28 December 2008: 1st Sunday after Christmas

Beloved in Christ, once again, our reflection is not quite on the Tanach, but in this case the First Book of Maccabees. For those of you who celebrate Hanukkah, we find the incident in I Maccabees.

Roughly, the First Book of Maccabees talks about the war between Antiochus Epiphanes and the Jewish people lead by Judas Maccabeus and later his sons. The miracle here is not so much in oil for one day lasting for seven (or the miraculaous fire in II Maccabees), but in that the Jews conquered the Greek Empire, no small accomplishment. I Maccabees tells in graphic detail how some Jews refused to submit to the Greeks who were trying to force them to eat pork and to leave the children uncircumcised, and in general to abandon the Jewish religion. It is a story of great courage, but it is also a story of how God stands with his people.

One of the great inspirations for Judas Maccabee and his sons were the stories they read from the scriptures, how David defeated Goliath, how Jonathan and his armor bearer conquered a troop of Phillistines and many more. Friends are you down. Do you have ten thousand soldiers agains your group of four hundred. We need to know, God has won the war. We still have the battle, but God is with us, he has conquered the enemy. Our part is to learn to walk with him, and to obey him. To obey and walk with him is victory. When David went against Goliath, he didn't see a giant, he saw a man that the Lord God had already defeated.

We have a real problem in the church today. Most Christians are leading defeated lives. Those few who are living victorious lives, most often are suffering, but putting God first. They know they have the victory. Go look at the icons. Are there any fat Christians among them? These guys knew how to deny themselves for the Lord. Fasting and praying were regular parts of their disciplines (we find this with Judas Maccabeus as well). They were willing to give up things for the common good.

Is it not time we learned from our Christian and Jewish forbears? ARe we willing to give up THINGS and MONEY for God. The church is too much a captive of society today. The Bishop of Rome has stated that greed is the main force behind our economic meltdown, and I agree with him. But has any politician said, "We need to live a simpler lifestyle"? Has any politician in the last 36 years said, "It is an act of patriotism for us to learn to live with less gasoline"? No, they are encouraging people to spend and buy, as if either of those items can really help.

Real joy comes from truly knowing Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and by walking truly with him.
I know, my secular work seems to be drying up (surprise three week unpaid vacation for Christmas), but I also know the Lord will provide, if I am with Him.

Shalom to all,

Mar Michael Abportus, OSL

Saturday, December 20, 2008

21 December 2008

Instead of concentrating on the Tanach for this week, I would like to throw out different ideas which are floating in my head. First, as it is approaching the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord, many discussion lists turn to the date of Christmas, and many comments were made one way or another.

There are currently three schools of thought on the date of the Nativity. The first school is that the Nativity was in the spring, with a possibility of the Messiah being born on or near Passover. Some reasons behind this theory have to do with ideas as to when shepherds would be out with their sheep (the idea that December would be too cold). After studying the habits of sheep and shepherds in Israel and the surrounding areas, I have to discount this idea.

The second school of thought holds that Jesus was born in September or October. There are several reasons for this, the most important of which is that some people take the language of the Gospel of John as suggesting that Jesus was born on the feast of the tabernacles. This is an appealing idea from the Gospel, and of course would relate well to the high holy days. In addition there are several star and planetary formations which suggest this time of year.

The third school of thought was that Jesus was born on or about December 25th, and the date was decided on because of some older feasts such as the Annunciation of the Angel to the Virgin Mary (nine months before Christmas). We note in passing that some people have speculated in the past that Christmas was celebrated on the 25th of December to take the place of the celebration of the invincible sun. Recent and some ancient scholarship suggest though that the feast of the invincible sun was moved to December 25th in order to repaganise the Roman Empire. I would not that no less a personage as Benedict, the current Bishop of Rome goes along with this idea.

To give credence to the latter two times, lambing season begins in October and continues several months. In addition there are winter rains, that would encourage the growth of grass and brush, so more than likely the shepherds would be out with their sheep (and in fact studies show that shepherds were out with their sheep 365 days per year). An interesting additional point, is that the shepherds around Bethlehem were more than likely Levitical shepherds. These were the guys who raise the sheep which were Kashrut (Kosher) for sacrifice. In other words, they were the ones who certified that the newborn lambs were without blemish. Do you see where this is going. To me it is marvelous. Why did the angels apprear to the shepherds? They were to certify that the new born lamb (Jesus) was without blemish, which only a levitical shepherd or priest could do. How great is our heavenly Father, who used Levitical Priest to guarantee that the sacrifice for our sins was without blemish. How great is he who made the things of the universe come out this way.

In addition, tonight we begin the celebration of Chanukah. As you may know, the kingdom of Israel was overund by Greeks under the leadership of Antiochus Epiphanes, who tried to destroy the Hebrew religion. He was not very succesful, and a revolt aros under the leadership of Judas Macabeus and his sons. The Greeks ( apowerful nation in those days) were defeated (a miracle in and of itself demonstrating God's hand and keeping the path open for Messiah), and the temple was cleansed and purified. There was only enough oil to fill the Menorah for one day, but through a great miracle, the oil lasted for eight days, the length of time for dedicating the temple. Chanukkah is very much a festival of light, and is a wonderful celebration of how the light of the world came into the world, and to remind us, that our lights should shine bright, that many could come to know Jesus through our witness.

Shalom b'Yehsua haMoshiach

Mar Michael Abportus, OSA

Saturday, December 13, 2008

14 December 2008

Deuteronomy 12:1-28

Once again, we are told, that these are the laws God is giving to his people, and the first mentioned here is to destroy anything which has to do with the worship of other (specifically the Canaanite gods). Once they are destroyed, we are told emphatically that we must not worship the one true God in the way the Canannites did. At this point we are not reminded, but we should keep it in mind, that one of the reasons that God commanded the Israelites to wipe out the Canaanites was because of their many sins, many of which had to do with their religion. I'll not go into any great detail, but among other things, the Canaanites sacrificed their children and practiced ritual prostitution, both heterosexual and homosexual.

Now at the time the Israelites entered the land, the current idea is that each god had his place, and that is where that God was to be worshipped. The Israelites living among the Egyptians probably picked up some of their religious ideas, and we recall that when Samaria was taken over by Assyria, the Assyrian king sent back for Israelis to teach the new Samaritans how to worship God, and in the Psalms, we here the question, "how may we praise the Lord in a strange land. " Of course the answer to this was that there is one an only one true God, and we worship him in spirit and truth, whereever on or off earth we may be.

Now we can see that the high places were a tempation to the Israelis. There God was a God of deliverence, but maybe they needed the local gods for help in agriculture. The worship of God wa limited to one, place but the worship of the Canaanite gods was not. Great tempation. God knew what he was doing when he commanded that the high places be destroed. Unfortunately, they were not destroyed for many years. We know that Solomon went the the high places to worship.

Two ideas are adressed here. The first is that of syncrotism. Syncretism is the mixing of relitions. There is a great temptation today in the US and the west to syncretise religions. Many say that all religions will lead us to God. A Buddhist or Hindu or Satanist are all going to heaven because all religions lead to God. this is not what the Bible tells us. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Jesus states very clearly, he is THE way, THE light and THE truth. Noone may come to the Father except by him. It doesn't sound fair to western ears, but in fact it is the Kingdom of Heaven, and not the democratic republic of heaven. The King is THE king, not a puppet king limited by parliamentary procedures. If we want to go to heaven, we must go on his terms, or we face the alternative, which is Hell. Let us not follow those who would introduce the idea that all are going to heaven, or that all relgions are equal, it is not so.

The second idea is false worship. Worship can be false in two ways. First, we do not truly love whom we are worshipping. Yeshua told us clearly, we cannot be the slaves of two masters. We must have only one, and therefor should analyse our lives. What do we spend our time, money and effort on. Except in the case of the poorest who are barely surviving the answer to this question will tell us where our hearts are. Our time and money and effort should be spend on the kingdom. If if is not, then what we give our time money and effort to is our God. This could be sports, house, children. It could be something handy like being a volunteer fireman, but that cannot be our God either. Either the Lord is Lord of All or HE is not Lord at all.

The second way that worship can be false is by worshipping something that is not God. Many try to subvert God into something else, the common subconsious, or the Great Spirit, Brahman, etc. But none of those is God. God has revealed himself in Holy Scriptures, and through Jesus Christ. Anything else is not God. Even the Muslim Alah is not god. They are monotheistic, but the concept of Allah is completely different from our heavenly Father.

So let us ask ourselves this week, do we know who the God of the Bible is? If not, we should come to know him. Second question, do we give our time, money and effort to God, or is something else truly our God?

May the Lord richly bless you,

Shalom b'yeshua haMoshiach

Mar Michael Abportus, O.S.L

Sunday, December 7, 2008

7 December 2998

Deuteronomy 11:1-32

Today's lesson is very much a continuation of last week's lesson. We are told, "love the Lord your god and keep his requirements." This commandment is not done to try and to gain God's favour, but an act of thanksgiving. As the Israelites had seen all the wonders the Lord, they were to walk in obedience for thanksgiving, and they were to obey the Lord, so as to have the strength and ability to do as he commanded them.

In fact, from this lesson, we see how very much Jesus saving actions on the cross are reflected in the Passover. We as Christians are to obey Christ for two reasons. The first is because we are thanking him for what he has done and because we love him. Not a very hard concept. We owe God our obedience not to gain salvation, but because he has already saved us. Secondly we obey God so as to have power to fullfill his commandmenst here on earth. These commandments to love God, to love our neighbour, to proclaim the Gospel are not really very hard if we truly love God. He will give us the power.

An example: Many years ago, I used to use snuss. I really had gotten into it bad, using two to three cans per day. I had promissed myself that I would quite when it hit $1.00 per can. Well $1.00 came and went, but I was still using it. Oddly enough, no-one challenged me on this sad to say. At the same time I was one of the adult helpers with the church youth group. One night, one of the kids asked me for a dip,and I told him he shouldn't have any as it was bad for him (no rules against giving it or selling it to people uder 18 in those days). He asked me then, if it was so bad, why was I using it. As I went home, I considered several things. First, since my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, I shouln't be polluting it. Secondly, as an adult helper in the youth group, I needed to set a good Christian example I loved the kids enough to know that I had to do something, so I did. I went back to church (it was never locked in those days), carried my snuss to the altar, kneeled down and prayed something to the effect, "Dear Lord, this is a bad habit, and I am addicted to tobacco. This is a bad example for the kids at church. Lord, you are bigger than a can of snuss. Please take the desrire away from me." I left the church a free man and have never touched any since.

When we truly thank God, he give us the power, the power to be free from sin of whatever type. We who are mature Christians have events in our lives demonstrating the power of Jesus Christ. I regularly share the above even with people who are addicted to cigarettes, so they will know that Jesus can set them free. That too, is part of the lesson today. We who have experienced the living God in our lives are to tell kids, adults, anyone who will listen what God has done for us. He has set me free from tobacco and several other sever addicitons. If he can set me free, he can set you free, and those whom the Lord has freed are free indeed if they want to be.

So let us share the good news. Halleluiah, Jesus is risen, He has freed me from sin, and mean it. God's love gives us the power to even move mountains, if we truly follow him.

So let Jesus free you to conquer sin and deth.

Shalom b'Yeshua haMoshiach,

Mar Michael Abportus

Saturday, November 29, 2008

30 November 2008

Deuteronomy 30:10-20

This lesson is perfect for showing the thrust of traditional Judaism as opposed to Pharisaical or Rabbinical Judaism. What God is looking for is not blind obedience to a written set of rules, but a relationship with him. As St. Paul tells us, we are not bound by the law, but we follow the rulings of the Holy Spirit. If we truly love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul, then we will not worship other Gods, we will not make idols, we will not use his name in vain, and we will honour him on his day. Even more, we will look at each other, and realising that we are all made in God’s image, and if we love God, we will not kill, steal from, lie too, commit adultery against or covet the things of someone who reflects the image of God.

If we truly love the Lord, we will obey him, just as young children obey their parents. That is partly why the way we raise children is so important. The relationship of parents one to another reflect the relationship of God and the church. As children learn to obey their parents, they will learn to pass that obedience on to God if they truly love him.

We are told to love and obey God is to live. The physical blessings promised to the Jewish people are not always meant for Christians, but it is true that as we live for God and love him, we will be blessed. It may be that it is physical blessings for a society, just as American Indians in Argentina have seen their villages prosper as they learned to live for God, or it may be a peace in our hearts as we are persecuted for following the Messiah.

God’s word is very near us. As we seek him truly, he will explain his word to us and allow the living Word to live in our hearts, grant us peace, and guide us on our way.

Shalom b’Yeshua haMoshiach

Mar Michael Abportus, OSL

Saturday, November 22, 2008

22 November 2008

Isaiah 6:1-8:

In the year that King Uzzi'ah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;the whole earth is full of his glory." And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" Then flew one of the seraphim to me, having in his hand a burning coal which he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth, and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven." And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."

This week lesson manages to sum up some very important tenets of Christianity, and well needs examination. To begin with, the lesson gives us a specific time in history, the year King Uzziah died, roughly 736-732 B.C. Isaiah, probably during a worship service sees the Lord. He is high, and lifted up and his train fills the temple. My Bible gives, hem, and the indication is that the Lord’s deeds and presence fill the temple and creation.

The Seraphim were flying about, with two wings to cover their faces, because they were not worthy to look upon the Lord, two to cover their feet, because they were not worthy to stand in the Lord’s presence (and I know others interpret this differently, but this is my reading of it) and two wings to fly. They call one to another, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts and the whole earth is full of his glory. The complete Jewish Bible renders this, “More holy than the holiest holiness,” while the scriptures gives us, “Set apart, set apart, set apart is YHWH of hosts.” The angels are crying, and Isaiah is given to understand that YHWH is wholly other, he is not man, nor anything that we could understand aside from his revelation to us. He is completely set apart from us, yet Isaiah sees him in his holiness.Isaiah cries out, “Woe is me, for I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips.” Isaiah has come to a realization. His worship, expressed primarily through his lips is totally inadequate for a holy God. Even worse, he lives among a people who are of unclean lips, that is a people who do not truly worship the Lord, that is they worship with their lips, but not with their lives (to take off from the General Thanksgiving of Anglican use). A Holy God requires worship that is Holy from people who are Holy. In other words Isaiah realizes that for his sin he (and the people) are completely unworthy to worship a Holy God, and can do nothing about it. God sends a Seraph to Isaiah, who takes a hot coal off of the altar of incense, and he touches it to Isaiah’s lips. In other words, only God can cleanse us of our sin, and that cleansing might not always be pleasant (a hot coal pressed against my lips sounds like no fun at all).After Isaiah has been purified from his sin, the Lord asks, “Whom should I send, who will go for us,” and Isaiah answers the call, “here am I, send me.” When God cleanses us from our sins, it is to a purpose. We are sent as a result of our call. Remember when Peter’s mother-in-law is healed. She gets up and serves them. When Paul has his Damascus Road experience, he goes to preach the Gospel. Today we have a bunch of namby pamby Christians who do nothing. Every one of us has a call on his or her life. That call might be to preach the Gospel (of course we are all called to share the good news in one way or another.) It might be we are to change society, as Wilbur Wilberforce made it his life’s work to stop slavery and reform the manners of the British Empire. It might be just to say something nice to someone, or being a good influence.So confess that sin to God, allow him to cleanse you from your sin and get to work.

Mar Michael Abportus, OSL

Saturday, November 15, 2008

16 November 2008

And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
Today's lesson establishes the principles of kingdom, that we in our "Democratic" societies might not understand today.
First, let us note, God has Moshe to cut two more tablets, as the former tablets had been destroyed. Note that that which was totally made by God, the first set of 10 commandments had been destroyed. The Israelites (and we by extension,) are so sinful that something made entirely by God could not stay in our presence, and God presents the 10 Commnademtn once again to Israel, but this time on two tablets cot by Moshe. In all the scenes on the mountain, we see God as law giver. This was one of the original functions of a King, to be a just law giver.
In these days of extreme freedom, we often resent law givers. Since we are free, we see no need for laws. We see this in traffic every day. How many people actually obey the speed limit. Most treat it as a suggestion, making the road a more dangerous place. The same with running red lights. Many people are too inconvenienced by those silly red lights, and go through any way, also making the world a more dangerous place. Young people think many things we older people do to be silly. Sex only in marriage, how silly, majority rule in California, no way if it interferes with self defnined rights.
Now go back to Deuteronomy. What does God ask? That we fear (repsect) him, walk in his ways, love him, werve him and observe his commands given for our own good. (Emphasis mine). Now indeed there are two reasons why we should obey God, and treat him as our king, the first of which many miss. God made the heavens and earth and everything on them (including us), and as creator, he has the right to expect our obedience. IN other words, God is king by reason that we are his creation and we belong to him, something in modern times we do not really like, but Paul reexpresses it elsewhere in Corinthians. Who does a man's body belong to, why his wife. And a women's body, who does it belong to, but her husband, giving a whole new push into marital fidelity.
The second reason we are to obey God's laws is because they are "given for our own good".
Sometimes we mix up what St. Paul and society say. Are Christians free? Clearly yes, but we are free to use our minds and bodies in a way that glorifies God. We are not free to do as we want, but to seek his will. Unfortuneately, many people accept the rules in the Bible as a red light or speed limit sign, just as a suggestion. That is why the church is so weak today. We look at the Bible and think of it as one great book of suggestions, and we lose out.
When we buy something, it usually comes with an owners manuel If we are smart, we will use that manuel and follow its instructions so that the care will last longer. Do we stick the gas nozzle in the tail pipe? Of course not, that could lead to an explosion. Do we put water in the crankcase? of course not, that would ruin the motor. God has created us with more care than GM ever made a car, and has given us a basic model that we should use. Our owner's manuel is the Bible, which we should consult more often than we consult our car's owner's manual.
On this last Sunday of Kingdomtide, let us remember that the true kindom is a place where we truly obey our kingdom. Let us also remember, Yeshua gives us the spirit to give us the strength to obey him.
Shalom b'Yeshua ha Moshiach
Mar Michael Abportus, OSL

Saturday, November 8, 2008

9 November 2008

Deuteronomy 9:1-29

Blessed brothers and sisters, you who are called out to serve the Lord, the Torah portion for this week begins with a warning, “Do not say in your heart, saying it is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me to inherit this good land, but because of the impiety of those nations that the Lord will destroy them before you.

This is a lesson that we must take to heart. God did not give the people of Israel the land because of their holiness, but because the people there before practiced evil deeds. God did not give us this land because we were especially holy, but because of the impiety of the nations here before us.

Let us take the lesson to heart. These United States have been blessed for much time. A reflection, I believe of the attempt to build a society based on basic Christian precepts. Some of our colonies were founded on religious precepts, such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Georgia. Most of the colonies had state churches, and often the first thing done upon landing was a Thanksgiving service to God. Most of the founding fathers were Christians, and even the deists among them approved of the reading of the Bible for building a moral society. We know from reading the Bible, that blessing of nations relates to their obedience. This is not just by accident. There are spiritual laws laid out, which must be obeyed. Just as ignoring the law of gravity can result in death or injury, so nations that disobey the spiritual laws lay themselves open to the results of violating these laws.

In Daniel 9, Daniel confesses the sins of his people. In 2008, the church and our nation need to confess their sins. Abortion, racism, materialism, greed, lack of respect for authority, drugs, alcoholism, have all made inroads on our society, and the church remains strangely quiet relating to many of these sins. I join with Pastor Chuck Swindoll in inviting each of you to consider the sins of the nation, and repent of your participation in them, and repent of them for the nation. It is time for us as Christians to take action, beginning with prayer on each of these evils. Gross materialism, and living on credit, has taken out not only much of the economy of the USA, but has damaged the world economy as well. We have been so busy getting what we wanted, that we have not considered the ultimate cost. In the New Testament, we are told that greed is a form of idolatry, yet we have made it a national obsession. I think the Amish have it right. No cars because they become a status symbol . My thirteen year old car gets me where I need to go. No need to break my budget to get a new one, and when it gives up the ghost, I’ll just replace it with another old car.

In Honduras, I was occasionally shocked. The street kids begging were treated like trash, but worse was to go to the beach. Here all the rich people with their jet skis, and kids begging food on the beach because their parents couldn’t feed them. I just do not think I could do it. Waste money on what is essentially a toy, knowing so many people didn’t even have the basic necessities. Now I do not think the Bible tells the government to be responsible for these people who have nothing, but we as Christians do have the responsibility. Jesus commands us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, to heal the sick. In fact he says, that he who has two coats should share with the one who has none.

In the Tanakh we are given some basic guidelines which while they cannot be literally followed today, give us an idea. The widows and orphans were not treated as charity cases. The corners of the fields and second pickings were left for them. They still had to earn it by going out and reaping. In James or Peter, we are told, if someone refuses to work, don’t feed them. In other words we are not to take a way a persons basic dignity. In Jewish writings on Tzedakah, a great point is made in attempting to help the poor without them knowing that they are being helped or who helped them. Again, we are to save a person’s dignity. When a person lives on charity, they often come to believe it is owed to them, especially if the government is involved. If we truly desire to help others, then we need to give at least 10% to the church, and to be sure we are in a church which has deacons and deaconesses who look out for those in need. In early Christian Rome, it was the church who helped the poor. In Memphis, it was the church who ministered to the sick in the Yellow fever outbreak. Princess Elizabeth of Hungary, Sister Claire, and others were know for ministering to sick that no-one else could bear to be with.

So, if we are indeed called out to be saints, we must like Daniel confess the sins of our nation, every day. We should listen to what God says about it, and then we are to act, that first act being for our leaders and our newly elected leaders, that they would truly follow God, and help address the problems by dealing with the real root, which is sin.

Please join me in spending at least ten minutes a day praying for our nation (or your nation if you do not live in the USA)

Shalom b’Yeshua haMoshiach

+Mar Michael Abportus
Pastor, Congregation Benim Avraham

Saturday, November 1, 2008

All Saints Sunday: 2 November 2008

Today instead of talking about the Tanakh, we will expand somewhat, as today is All Saints Sunday, otherwise known as All Hallows Sunday. This is one of the four special days we set apart for Baptism. The four days are: The 1st Sunday after Epiphany, in which we celebrate the baptism of Jesus (for obvious reasons); Easter, because we are raised from death unto life, from slavery to sin, to freedom from sin; Pentecost because in baptism we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; and All Saints Day or All Saints Sunday because we become saints through our baptism.

What is a saint? First looking at the Biblical words: the word sanctify, or hallow means to set apart. One of the Bibles I am currently using is called the Scriptures. Repeatedly instead of using the words sanctify, or hallow, it gives us the words to set apart. The holy place is the set apart place. In other words, when we are baptized, we are set apart from the World, and set apart to God’s service. This is truly a high calling. Similarly, Abraham was called to be set apart from worshipping idols. The people of Israel were set apart from the sinful people around them. They were called to wear Tsit Tsit or tassels on the corners of their garments, with one blue thread. I wear this myself, and the one blue thread amongst the white ones reminds me that by reason of my Baptism, I am set apart to do God’s work.

This of course is good news, we are all set apart from the world to do God’s work, not in our own power, but through the power of the Holy Spirit. As we are told in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit will give us the power and wisdom and knowledge we need to do the work of the kingdom, which is two fold, to build up the church by preaching the Gospel, thereby adding new members, and to build up the church by encouraging, teaching, guiding and healing each others.

There is of course the more modern meaning of saint, which is a person who is super good and does miracles on God’s behalf. Now of course the Bible suggests, that if we are truly set apart from the world, that is truly serving God, then we will work miracles. Yeshua himself states we will do greater things than he did, and that whatever we ask in his name will be granted. A saint in this sense is someone who is so set apart from the world, that he truly knows God’s will, and is a servant to that will, and therefore works miracles. Of course not all the saints worked miracles. Some of them witnessed to Yeshua, even being killed for him. We have martyrs even today who go to their deaths singing praises to God. We have other saints who do whatever it takes to serve God in the way he called us. St. Frances, or Mother Teresa of Calcutta would be examples of these saints. Other saints, such as St. Patrick demonstrated wonderful powers of forgiveness. Others like John Wesley were wonderful preachers. Others such as Jerome, Wycliff, Coverdale, and Huss suffered for rendering the scripture into modern languages. In other words, these saints are the heroes of the church. They show us that men who are not God can still do his work.

As we celebrate this day of remembrance of the various saints, let us remember we are called to be set apart from the world, to do God’s work here on Earth, and to be heroes of the church showing others that we can follow Yehsua, “doing justice, loving with all our hearts and walking humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8)

Mar Michael Abportus, OSL
Pastor, Benim Avraham

Saturday, October 25, 2008

26 October 2008

Deuteronomy 7:1-24

On this first Sunday of Kingdomtide, we are given God's absolutes. The nations are to be expelled before the Israelites, and the Israelites are to destroy everthing reflecting the religion of these peoples. We are told that nothing is to be left, there is to be no intermarriage.

Likewise, St. Paul tells us, not to be unequally yoked, that is a Christian should not marry a non-Christian, and truth be known, a Christian should not become business partners with non-Christians. This is in part because we serve a holy God who wants us to be holy too. He does not want us mixing up Christianity with other religions, which all too easily happens today. The Israelites were to practice a pure religion, not confounded with the religion of the Cananites which included child sacrifice and temple prostitution.

Syncretism is all too easy to allow in. Many will be celebrating All Hallows Eve, not as a celebration of sainst, but as a celebration of evil in the world. This celebration was originally a Celtic celebration when it was believed that the spirits of the dead walked the earth, and jack 'o lanterns made of turnips were used to scare them away. Instead of celelebrating witches etc., we should celebrate the saints who were heroes of the church and who show us that we can follow God in truth.

We must always beware of syncretism. It is all too easy to sneek into our faith, especially when their are other faiths masquerading as being Christian. Christ is Lord and Saviour and him alone. We are to worship him, and him alone, and follow him with all our heart and mind and strength.

Shalom b’Yeshua haMoshiach

Mar Michael Abportus, OSL
Pastor, Congregation Benim Avraham
Bishop of La Porte, Texas


Sunday, October 19, 2008

19 October 2008: 24 Gracetide

Deuteronomy 5:1-25

In today’s lesson from Deuteronomy, we start our with the Sh’ma or Shema:

“Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is one; love him with all you heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Record in your minds all that I have told you today, and teach them continually to your children. Tell them in the house or on the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Carry them on your hand and on your forehead, write them on your doorposts and gateposts.”

The Sh’ma is one of the key verses of the Old Testament. It begins with our duty to God, and continues showing that we are to raise up our children in the same duty. If we truly love God, then other things will follow. Yeshua tells us that loving God means to obey him. When we as parents tell our kids to listen, it usually means we want them to obey what we are saying. Thus with the Sh’ma.

First we are to love God. How much do we love him? With all our heart (feelings) soul and strength. That pretty much covers everything. God is to come first, nothing else comes before him. How do we show this love, by obeying, in this instance, by teaching our children the marvels God has done for us. We begin of course with the Bible, but if we truly want our children to catch faith from us, we need to tell them what God has done for us as a people, and what he has done for us as individuals. I let my kids know. I was healed of alcoholism, and several other problems. I was at National Institutes of Health for major surgery, and when the doctor did my pre-op exam, he could find nothing wrong with me. The house I am in is a blessing from God, in that we were able to get it, the lack of damage from the hurricane, and having a good spot for a chapel. Even Friday, I dropped a bottle of vitamins that I am taking and couldn’t reach it because it had fallen under the car. A gentle wind blew them almost right into my hand. I was very thankful, and I shared it with the kids at dinner. We are to share our faith with our children, the kerygma. “Jesus came to Earth to save sinners. As fortold by the prophets, he preached to the people, he healed the sick and other miracles, was crucified, died buried, and rose again. AndI know this to be true because he has worked great miracles in my life.

We ourselves keep scrolls on our doors. The ones in Hebrew have the Sh’ma much as I have quoted it above. The ones in English have the Sh’ma and the 10 Commandments. They are to there to remind us when we go out and when we come in, that we are to obey God, and that God has given us specific guidelines in this obedience.

Many of the commands, like this in the Tanach are in order to remember, or to teach our children. If it was not important, it would not be in the Bible. God wants us to share what he has done for us. This was what the first apostles literally did, they told people how God had changed their lives and changed them. We are to do the same.

As we approach kingdomtide, let us remember that today, we are to proclaim the kingdom.

Shalom b’Yeshua haMoshiach,

+Mar Michael Abportus, OSL

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sukkoth 2008

Lev. 23:33-43

October 13, at Sundown, marks the feast of Sukkoth, or Tabernacles. During this feast the Jewish people build tabernacles or huts, and have all their meals in them and sleep in them as well. Sukkoth was the autumn harvest time and was a type of Jewish thanksgiving. As well, it commemorates the forty years in the desert, and God’s provision. We note in passing, according to Nehemiah, during the forty years in the desert, their clothes did not wear out, in other words, along with manna and water, God provided for all the rest of the people’s needs.

Many Jews today see the Succoth or hut as a sign of God’s protection as well, because God protected the people in the desert as well.

We too, see that Yeshua completes this feast as he does all the others. He provides for us, if we seek the kingdom, and he will protect us. He will not let us be tempted past what we can bear.

As Christians, we too can keep the feast, setting up a tent or dining fly, and having our meals in it. We also set up tents and sleep in them as well, as well as cooking at least lunch and dinner outside. Good time for brisket and smoked turkey as well. We do this in remembrance of the forty years in the desert, and remind ourselves that it took forty years for the children of Israel to become true people of God. Even Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness, and St. Paul spent three years in the wilderness.

During Sukkoth, we remember that becoming a Christian is not an overnight thing, but a process: a process in which for some is quicker, for some is slower, but nevertheless a process in which we learn to apply God’s work to our lives; a process in which we learn to overcome temptation; a process in which we learn to be Yeshua’s hands, and feet and eyes, and mouth; a process in which we learn to trust God; a process in which God builds us into better Christians. As the tent surrounds us, so does God’s provision and protection surround us. We have talked about this process before. The Eastern Orthodox Church refers to it as theosis, that is becoming more God like. As Christ is in God, so we are in Christ. As we become more Christ-like, we become more like the father, for Jesus was his perfect reflection. As Yeshua told Phillip, if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.

It is also a time of thinking. Of the six hundred three thousand plus men to cross the Red Sea and were delivered from slavery in Egypt, only two, Yehoshua (Joshua) and Kalev (Caleb) actually made it to the promised land. Yeshua tells us, many are called, but few are chosen. St. Paul tells us to run to win the race, and that the bones of the Israelites littering the ground were given as an example for us to learn. Let us look at this and tremble.

God has called us. Will we follow? Will we trust him to provide for us? Will we speak out for him when it is not popular? Will we call others to follow the Lord Yeshua? The entire Exodus process is something that every Christian must go through, from being baptized to learning in the desert. There will be trials and temptations. God will test and prove us in order to make us strong. After all, God wants people of good character to reside with him forever.

Let us as we celebrate this holiday, analyse where we are in our relationship with Yeshua. Are we crying for meat and melons, or are we advancing for the Kingdom of God? Are we wondering where Moses went, or are we preparing for the battle? Let us pray for all Christians, that they would grow in love, knowledge and obedience to the Lord Yeshua haMoshiach (Jesus the Christ), and let us pray for all Yehudim (Jews) that they would see how Yeshua completes the feast and recognise him as Messiah, and may we trusting in his protection, guidance, power, and providence go to war against Satin and those forces which attempt to enslave us.

Shalom b’Yeshua haMoshiach

Mar Michael Abportus, OSL
Pastor, Congregation Benim Avraham
Bishop of La Porte, Texas


Monday, October 6, 2008

5 October 2008

Leviticus 16:1-34

October 9 is Yom Kippur, one of the Holiest of the High Holy Days of the Jews which we remember. Our Lesson from Leviticus explains the preparations which the high priest had to make in order to offer the offering for the sins of the people. First he had to wash, a symbol of purity. Then he had to put on the special clothes reserved to the high priest (clothing indicates our deeds). Afterwards, he had to have a sacrifice to pay for his own sins. Then and only then could he enter into the Holy of Holies and sacrifice for the sins of the peoples, which he did by sprinkling blood on the cover of the ark of the covenant. Note even then, he had a rope tied to his foot just in case. The hem of his robe had bells. If the bells stopped ringing, they knew the High Priest had been struck dead for his sins and was pulled out.

Jesus, by his death on the cross finished this sacrifice for ever. Jesus was without sin, so no need to wash, or even sacrifice. He was perfect man, without sin, so he needed no magnificent clothing to symbolize his good deeds, all his deeds were good. Through his goodness and perfection, he was able to enter into that Holy Place, of which the Holy of Holies was only the palest of shadows. Instead of offering the blood of a lamb, he offered his own blood to cover the mercy seat, once and for all, to cover our sins for ever.

The Jews wore white on this day, so symbolize they were clean of sin. The same in days gone past, Christians would don a white garment after their baptism, and wear it for fifty days to remind them that Jesus had paid for their sins and they were cleansed indeed. Another custom that the Jews and my family practice, we go to the river and through breadcrumbs on the water, and watch the river carry them away, as Jesus carried our sins and the punishment for them away from us.

The ninth of this year, and every Friday is good to remember that Jesus, through his life and his death on the cross, provided for us a way to enter into God’s presence. Join with me fasting on this day, so that we may join Jesus in his sufferings so as to remember the wonders he did for us.

Shalom b’Yeshua haMoshiach
+Mar Michael Abportus
Pastor Congregation Benim Avraham

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rosh Hashanah

What Does the Shofar Say

Listen to the sound of the Shofar, this Rosh Hashanah day,
What is it, what does the Shofar say?
Awake, sleepers arise!
Don’t be like sheep, so sound asleep,
Letting the wolf in the door, to destroy, corrupt and more.
He’s in the music, promoting drugs,
He’s on TV promoting sex and rebellion,
He’s in the school teaching one to be a hellion.
Parents, do you love your children,
Then teach them, teach them.
At their rising, at their sitting,
Going out, coming in, at their eating,
Jesus Christ is Lord, He died for you, and many more,
And expects to be your Lord.

Listen to the sound of the Shofar, this Rosh Hashanah day,
What is it, what does the Shofar say?
Awake, sleepers arise!
Don’t be like sheep, so sound asleep,
False shepherds abound misleading the sheep,
Saying science, psychology is King.
If it feels good do it, if it hurts no-one, ‘tis not a sin, or so they sing.
Jesus is not Lord, he’s just one way, of which there are many more.
Stand up O sheep, flee from such shepherds, For at that last day, they shall flee, or
Be astounded, upon finding resurrection is true,
But alas they are blue,
For never having known Jesus, they have condemned themselves,
And those who followed them to a future so bleak,
That to think upon makes me weak

Listen to the sound of the Shofar, this Rosh Hashanah day,
What is it, what does the Shofar say?
Ti ra! Ti ra! Arise, charge, ‘tis time to fight the good fight,
‘tis time to show the adversary our might.
Put on the Gospel Armour, refrain from retreating,
It is time to gain souls, it is time to gain kings,
It is time to show the world our Lord and King.
We have been asleep, allowing Satan his will
And we have had to pay the bill.
The time is over, Satin take cover,
For the church is called to be on the move.
Blow the shofar, blow the trumpet, Good Christians, ATTACK!
You are the mighty hosts of the Lord, armed with his Spirit and Word,
The battle is yours, the war is the Lord’s.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sunday: 28 September 2008

I have been slack in my duty, but it is time to get to work. I apologise for my sloth, and not making time. Hurricane Ike has been part of the more recent inactivity (we were without light for a wee bit), and hurricane Ike suggests the topic.

We have discussed disasters before, and I hope that everyone is clear on what the Tanakh says about such things. God does judge the nations. Let their be no doubt about it, God does judge, and their will be a judgment day in the future.

But let us look at hurricanes and related problems. First, let us be aware, many who lost out to the hurricane, lost through their own lack of forsight. For some strange reason, more people live on the coast here than did at the time of the last major hurricane some 25 years ago. Do we not learn from mistakes made in the past. Remember what George Santayana said many years ago, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Anyway, we can divide those affected by the hurricane into several groups.

1) Those killed by the hurricane: Now were these people any more evil than any others around them? Of course not. They just refused to believe that the storm was going to be as bad as it was, and paid the price. This is just like the Christian who dabbles in sin, and thinks they won't get burned. Let us pay attention. The Bible warns us about sin. Christian pastors who dabble in sin, are invarialbley found out, and eventually come tumbling down. Let us not be foolish, but let us be sensible

2)Those who lost everything: Again, just as we don't dabble with nature, let us not dabble in sin. It is dangerous. Anytime we begin any work, whether buying or building a house, or a new spiritual venture, we should ask God, and we should ask other Christians, and we should investigate. God does not guarantee to protect us if we do wrong or silly things. On the other hand, I saw a home right between two destroyed homes. It had flood damage, but was intact. The owner made sure he had built his house on a rock. It was solid with good foundations and straps. There was damage, but not disaster. If we live in areas of spiritual danger, we need to be prepared, by standing firm on the Rock (Yeshua) and living by his word.

3) Those who had flood damage: Here we have a divided group. Our neighbout had flood damage from rain. The owners of her house did not have the roof fixed, so she suffered. Other people had flood damge, but it was minor. Othters lost most everything in the house. Some lost it from ignorance. I talked to one lady who owned a house my parents owned some forty-one years previously. She told me it had never flooded before, and I corrected her on that. It flooded during hurricane Carla, in 1961, a storm I remember well. Others lost nothing to flood damage. There houses were on stilts or elevated in some way. What do we learn? Some people suffer from their own sins, while others suffer from the sins of others. Remember sin, is like a rock thrown in a pond. The ripples go out to the edge, such is the effect of sin. I might add, in our house we moved everthing important to the second floor, just in case.

4)Those who were inconventienced: Some of us think we have to have electricity, telephone, internte to survive. Its just not so. We were briefly without power, (four days) and others have been out two weeks. The good Lord sent us real fall weather (something that rarely hits the Texas Coast before October) and the A/C wasn't needed. We cooked on the grill, kept ice in the freezer, and survived without telephone, electricity or internet. Here in the US, we do not like to be inconvenienced. It is sad, but one of the main reasons we do not follow God, is it is inconvenient. Inconvenient to go help our neighbour. Inconvenient to go help out at the homeless mission, inconvenient to talk to others about the Messiah. We need to learn how to rejoice and be thankful for the good things we have. I can tell you, I was truly thankful when I drove up to my house and found very little damage, after being told I couldn't get to my house because the moving water was too dangerous to go through. We also need to learn to tell others what God has done and is doing for us and in our lives. God promises we will be blessed. He does not promise us earthly riches, but heavenly riches, and we should share those riches with all the world.

As John Heywood has told us, "It is truly an ill wind which blows nobody any good," there were some good things that came out of Ike. On a personal note, I am no longer worried about a storm surge, because I observed houses similar to mine and how they stood up (we'll still move stuff upstairs). I can deal with repairs. On a more universal note, no lights, no phone, problems and difficulties have led to neighbours acting like neighbours to each other, which is truly a blessing in this land where few people have time for one another. I have spent more time visiting and doing other things with neighbours and getting to know them. There have been more opportunities to reach out and show God's love, especially as a pastor, being there to listen.

May God grant you shalom,

+Mar Michael Abportus