Monday, September 28, 2009

27 September: 17 Gracetide

Isaiah 57:14-58:14

I am actually writing this on Monday, sadly to say, but our Tanach of the week is interesting and is taken from one of the lessons appointed for Yom Kippur.

First of all, God expresses his love. He wants the road cleared of obstacles, he promises his people he will not give up on them. If they can repent of their greed, then God will heal them. He also gives a promise, that needs to be taken into account: "I have promised that none who are evil will live in peace."

God instructs Isaiah to shout: Tell the people they have sinned. They worship and claim to seek justice, but God does not answer them. Why does God treat them this way when they are fasting (This lesson takes place in the context of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement). Because their minds are not truly on God. The people are being greedy and selfish, thinking only of themselves and taking advantage of their workers.

Is fasting and and dressing in sackcloth what God truly wants? No, to worship God in truth is to free the prisoners, to share food with those who are hungry, to share your home with the homeless, to clothe those in need and not turn away our relatives!! (note: he doesn't say it is to have soup kitchens, build orphanages and shelters, but to take care of it ourselves). So often, we let the institutional church do the work of the body of Christ. Shame on us! When WE do these things, then our light will shine for all to see, and God's glory will defend us. Jesus didn't say build orphanages and shelters, but for us to go out, just as the church did in its first centuries, when it grew by leaps and bounds because people served the Lord by serving the poor, weak and helpless.

Do we serve the poor today? No in fact we are becoming greedy as the Israelites in the time of Isaiah. I note today that a certain rather radical union is rather proud because its members get $7.20 per hour, but at least they have insurance! Seven twenty an hour? Seven twenty an hour? That is fine for a college or high school student, but for a man to work all day at $7.20 per hour. How can he do this? He cannot. He either has to get food stamps to survive, medicaid for his kids, etc. Is it really the job of the United States government to subsidize employers who make their employees work hard and underpay them? Shame on us. What about all the illegals who are hired because they will work without insurance (and end up in the emergency room). Are we called to subsidize these industries as well? Are we called to subsidise doctors too, whose offices are filled with young women (and men) who are paid a pittance to work hard all day? What about fifty plus million children aborted since Roe vs. Wade? Shame, shame upon this nation. A man needs to be paid a fair wage so as to support his family without being subsidised by the government. Greed greed everywhere. We want it cheap without thinking of those who work for that money. God will condemn this nation if there is no repentance. God will also condemn and punish this nation for abortion. Seventy per cent of the population according to some studies oppose abortion, but the courts and certain people claim it a right to murder innocent children for the sins of their parents, or even worse, for convenience. Will this nation repent in time?

If we let our light shine by taking care of the poor, feeding the hungry, treating people fairly, then God will bless us and help us to truly celebrate that he has forgiven our sins when we truly repent of them. We will fast, and study God's word, but it will be a time of rejoicing for truly knowing God.

What will you do this day?

Chag sameach!

Mar Michael Abportus

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Heroes: 22/9/2009

This week we go back to IV Maccabees 1:1 of which most of the rest of this book demonstrates. The NETS version of the Septuagint states that pious reason is able to overcome the passions, and the rest of the book describes this. I sorry I don't have many other versions handy, but another version says religious reason. To me this means that a mind which has been trained in the Bible is able to conquer the passions.

Some examples. A gentleman whom I used to council was sexually abused by older boys when he was about five, and apparently this made him attracted to boys, as he would dream of naked boys. When actually given the opportunity to do something about it in junior high school, he was able to resist, because he had read in the King James Version, that any man who sleeps with another man as with a woman is an abomination. That gave him the power to resist temptation for years, because his mind was fed by the whole word of God. In the early to mid seventies, sadly enough he came in contact with some articles written by Bishop Spong and others declaring the Bible to be wrong on such things and fell into a homosexual lifestyle, of which through counseling and the power of the Holy Spirit, he has been delivered. Forgiveness of those boys who abused him broke the power of pornography over him. (Lord have mercy on those who led him astray.)

Another example from my own life. I was very much a slave of tobacco in the form of Skoal. Swore to myself that when it hit a dollar a can, I would quit. Well the dollar came and went and I was still on it. At the same time I was one of the cosponsors of the EYC in Conroe. One of the kids wanted to try some, and I had to turn him down, because I was his brother in Christ, and could not start him on such an addicting habit. My mind was formed by the Bible, which lead me to understand, that I was responsible for my brother, and this gave me the power to take that Skoal to the altar of the church, leave it there, and pray to God to deliver me from the desire. I have had no desire now in about twenty-five years.

Now I am not exalting our will, not detracting the role of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses the same scripture to guide us and set us on the straight path. What is important is our belief. The first example had power to resist, as long as he believed God's word was true. When that building stone was torn down, it no longer had the power to help him, until he was able to believe again.

When we look at heroes, or the saints of the church, then we see interesting things. Unlike the TV programmes, we don't see super powers (except in the case of Sampson) or many supernatural things going on, except when angels are seen. What makes a Biblical hero a hero, that is a saint? It is his commitment to serve God, guided by knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. Some of the greatest heroes, such as King David, and St. Peter also messed up a lot, but they were willing to confess their faults, and allow God to move in their lives to transform them into instruments to do God's will here on earth.

We too, need to concentrate on learning God's word. Here at Benim Avraham, the entire New Testament is read every four years. The Old Testament in about six years. We hear the whole word of God, and live by it. The Holy Spirit uses that word to guide us as we work for the kingdom.

If you wish to be a hero of the church, you need to read the whole word of God, and apply it to your life.

Shalom b Yeshuah haMoshiach

Mar Michael Abportus

Sunday, September 13, 2009

13 September: 15 Gracetide

Jeremiah 12:1-24

This weeks lesson begins with Jeremiah crying to God, "Why do things go well for the sinners?" a question which many of us have from time to time, especially in these days when we look at Bernie Maydoff or at Allen Sanford and ask why they did so well. Truth is, in the long run they did not do so well and were finally caught. And what does not get caught by man, will be caught by God.

Truth is what God throws at us in life is exactly what we need to develop our characters. When we rise again at the time of the resurrection, God wants us to be perfect and he sends the appropriate training material our way, whether we are saint or sinner, and he fully desires that all come to him. Both Maydoff and Stanford were or will be given the opportunity to come to know Jesus, and their experiences will have helped to pave the way for them to know and serve him, if they accept him as Lord.

God in the same way prepares us for this life here on earth. As I was growing up, it was amazing the various ways I was prepared for my life as a missionary. Canoeing, and compass skills in Boy Scouts were absolutely necessary to life as a missionary on the Miskito Coast, as was the fact that I had studied languages with case endings, giving me a tremendous advantage in learing Miskito, one that English and Spanish speakers do not have. Mechanical skills and many other things that I had learned at an earlier time all were excellent in helping me to be prepared to be a missionary. AS God prepared me for that time in my life, he prepares each of us who love him, and who will love him for the resurrection.

God does give him an answer, which may sound strange. "How will you run against horses if you cannot run against men?" which is God's way of saying here, we are not involved in a fight against men, but in a fight against spiritual forces that are much stronger than us. We can only battle these spiritual forces when we are filled with God's Holy Spirit.

God also makes a promise. Those nations who surround Israel, will be restored if they come to know God. This problem has been partially completed at this time, and will be completed fully at some time in the future. But now we can look at the countries surrounding Israel. The Coptic Christians who speak the language of the Pharaohs are 10% of the population. The Maronite Christians were around 40% of the population of Lebanon. There are still Assyrian and Persian Christians who are the descendants of those countries which persecuted Israel. They are still with us, and while they are moving out of their native lands they show no signs of disappearing.

God kept his promises to them. He too will keep his promises to us, and will use life to make us the best people he can, if we will only let him.

Mar Michael Abportus, OSL
Bishop of La Porte,