Monday, July 22, 2013

21 July

Sirach always has good sound advice for us, and this week is the same.  Sirach often resonate with Jesus the Messiah, as in this week he tells us, what God really wants is obedience, not sacrifice.  But as Paul, he tells the importance of giving cheerfully, and most important to remember what we give back to God is very little compared to what he has given us. 

But we are reminded as well, that God will not accept bribes, and will not favour the poor over the rich, but will see  that justice is done.The prayers of the righteous will pierce through to heaven, no matter what.

Our lesson from Judges is a reminder.  The Jews were not a monolithic people.  Many others came with them through the desert, and during the period of the Judges, language began changing.  We see too that the Jews, like u were not perfect people, but that God was preparing them, still causing them to behave as one people in the 400 year time peoriod of the judges where they are knit together by adversity. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

14 June 2013

Torah:  Genesis 25:1-33
Prophet:  Judges  11:1-40
Writing:  Sirach  34:1-26

Our first two readings are reminders that God does not see the way man does.  In Genesis we rehearse the story of Avra'am down to Yitzhakh and Y'akov.   We are reminded that Y'akov was not the first born, but that God had chosen him before he was born.  The theme is mentioned again in our readings from Judges, as our hero, Yiftach is the son of a prostitute.  We see this theme reported over and over, the choosing of Moshe, of Yosef, of David, none of them the strongest, but all willing to allow God to use them to further his purpose, and indeed God has a  purpose for each of us. 

A brief comment on Yiftach's daughter. Some think she was offered in sacrifice, but many believe that she essentially became a temple servant, and would have remained a virgin all of her life.

Briefly on Sirach, many things we find in Sirach are reflected in the words of Jesus.   Sirach also has much practical advise.  We are not to be misled by dreams, unless they are the ones sent by God.  How do we know they are sent by Go?.  Two ways, a dream sent by God will not be in conflict with the Bible.  Secondly, if a dream is sent by God, he will confirm it.  We are also told in this lesson that traveling is good for us, and that if we fear the Lord, we shall live.  In fact if we truly fear the Lord, then we need have no fear of anything else, for God will protect us.We are then given a strong warning against sin.  When we repent, it needs to be a true repentance.  When we repent and return to our sin, not even God will listen to our prayers, so our repentance must be serious.

Friday, June 7, 2013

2 June 2013

Genesis 20:1-18:

Today's reading is quite interesting and leaves food for thought.  First, we might want to know what was it about Avraham's family that is so important.  Avraham marries his half sister, Sarah.  His son Yitzhak marries his cousin, Rebekka.  Yakov, his son marries his cousins, Rakhel and Leah.  Avraham & Sarah, Yitzhak & Rebekka, and Yakov and Rakhel are all ancestors of King David and of our Messiah, Yeshua. (and let us not forget Lot, Avraham's nephew, who also is an ancestor of King David and Yeshua through Ruth.) We note in passing, they are all descendents of Terah, who left the land of Ur to go to Canaan with his family, but got sidetracked in Haran,  (Was a familial blessing the result of Terah being willing to leave for Canaan?)

Now for the story.  Avimalekh has taken Avraham's wife, believing her to be Avraham's sister.  Yahwey appears to Avimalech in a  dream and informs him of what he has done.  He also tells Avimalekh that he protects the innocent.  In the light of some of the disasters we have had this year, we might wonder if God really protects all the innocent, but, if we seek we shall find answers.  In Sirach we are told that God takes some people from this life at a young age, because they will not be able to resist temptation. An interesting thought, because indirectly, it means that we, with God's help CAN resist temptation.  The question is whether we will decide to or not.  With God, we have the power, but many of us will not fight, and will fall into sin.  So be confident.  If you are here, with the power of God, you can resist whatever temptation it is. Thirdly, trials, temptations and tribulations build us up as good Christians.

But the lesson is important as well in what it says about God and Avraham.  In this lesson, Avraham doesn't show in particular great trust in God.  He is afraid Avimalekh will kill him to take his wife Sarah, and doesn't seem to trust God to take care of the situation.  But take care of the situation is exactly what Yahweh does.  Not only does God protect Sarah's innocence, but he sends a dream to Avimalekh, and to make sure Avimalekh is listening, he makes every animal and person barren until the situation is taken care of.  Now we note, once Sarah is taken,  Avraham did nothing to cure the situation, he had total faith in God to work it out and God did.  It is important to look at Avraham's relationship with God.  Avraham was a man who love and trusted God.  He was God's friend, and I often picture Avraham being like Tevya in "Fiddler on the Roof," sharing with God his problems and preoccupations.  God was eminently real to him, in a way that he does not seem to be real to most of us.  Avraham (and David, and the prophets) knew that the spiritual realm is just as important as the physical realm. Their friendship with God was a true complete friendship, which resulted in blessings.  (bear in mind blessings does not mean riches, and can be both spiritual and/or physical.  Long term friendship with God, leads us to become more like God.  Just as older couples come to resemble each other through years of intimacy, the more we become like God, when we make him a regular part of our lives through studying the word of God, prayer, and obedience to him. 

Lastly we note Avraham's forgiveness.  He prayed for Avimalekh to be healed.  How many of us would be so charitable to one who took our spouse from us?  Love, prayer for, and taking care of our enemies, is deeply entrenched in the Tanakh and the New Testament. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Holy Week and Bright Week

It is not our custom to remember particular saints during Holy Week and Bright Week, so if one of your favourite saints were missed, they will be back next year.  Saints that were missed were:
Richard of Chichester (3 April)
Martin Luther King Jr. (4 April)

Monday, February 25, 2013

2nd Sunday of Lent: Lamentations 2

The Book of  Lamentations was written about 586 B.C. just after the events he is lamenting, the siege of  Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the destruction of the 1st Temple, the capture of Zedekiah and the exile of the Jerusalem.

Each poem shows graphically the destruction, and we are told very clearly that this is God's judgment.  Indeed, Nebuchadnezzar, nor Babylon are mentioned by name, according to many a sign to indicate even more that this is a judgement from God. 

It is a dangerous thing to be the chosen people.  The Jews were held to a higher standard of behaviour, because until the coming of Messiah, they were to be a blessing to the world around them, but part of the way they were to accomplish this was through holiness of life.  We see repeatedly that the prophets call Yehudah and Shomron to repentance over and over, but the people never seem to learn.  If anything, after Shomron was detroyed by Assyria, the people of Yehudah should have been quaking in their sandals.

The second chapter of Lamentations also throws blame on the prophets, not the real prophets whose preaching is found in the Bible, but those false prophets who tell us all is well, those self same prophets who said nothing when the people were worshiping false gods, were mistreating the poor, and forgetting the importance of fidelity in marriage. 

Today, Christendom stands at the cross roads.  There are some prophets trying to warn us.  Our churches have become worldly.  We have forgotten the poor, forcing them to work seven days a week for our convenience, making new workers work part time so they can be fired without increasing unemployment taxes, hiring illegals without providing for them a  living wage, nor health insurance in order to save money.  Sunday is no longer a day of rest, a day of worship, or a day for family, but the most important shopping day of the week.  We have forgotten that marriage is the icon of the relationship between Messiah and his church, and reflecting that, 50% of our kids are born out of wedlock.  We encourage premarital and extramarital sex, and then tut tut when the kids of such unions are abused and grow up in poverty.  God is trying to get our attention.  When 9/11 occurred, a few voices cried out, this is a warning from God.  But all too many laughed at them.  "God doesn't punish nor judge us!"   Ask the people of Israel, driven out of their country three times.  Ask the Jews of Germany, who according to their own Messianic preachers were driven out for reason of greed. At one time we believed in God, a God who moved mountains, a God who was leading this country.  Most Americans and Europeans no longer believe in the true living God.  They believe in the Santa Claus god who gives them what they want, but who makes no demands. 

Well, that is not God.  YHWH Shebaot,  EL Shadai is the Lord and Judge of the Universe, and when he returns, it will be in judgement.  It is time for the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand to repent.  The judgement will come soon, unless we repent.  Ninevah, that great and evil city was preserved because they repented after Jonah's preaching.  We too can be save if we truly repent, that is by treating the poor fairly, by restricting our sexual relationships to the marriage bed, by casting away the evils caused by putting money ahead of people, by casting away our greed. God wants us to take care of each other.  He wants justice to flow like water.  He wants to see people healed (body, mind and spirit) and reconciled to him, to nature and to one another.  When will it happen, or will the judgement come first?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

20 January 2013

This Sunday last, the Torah portion was taken from Genesis 6:1-7:24, which is the story of the great flood.  For the moment we will pass by the sons of God and daughters of men.  Some people believe the sons of God refer to the descendents of Seth and daughters of men the descendents of Cain.  Others that the sons of God were spiritual beings like angels.  We shall leave this question for the scholars.  We are told there were giants, and archeology does up hold that in some areas were some pretty large people, we are not talking about giants like we think of from fairy tales, but people who were around seven plus feet tall.  But again, not important to the thrust of the story.

What is important is that first, God limits man's life to 120 years old.  Second, it is important to note that God regretted making man, because sin was multiplying on earth, and man could only conceive evil. In fact we are told, "all the earth had been corrupted, and was filled with iniquity.

And here we see the human condition, we always turn to sin.  St. Paul puts it eloquently, "14 For we know that the Torah is of the Spirit; but as for me, I am bound to the old nature, sold to sin as a slave. 15 I don’t understand my own behavior — I don’t do what I want to do; instead, I do the very thing I hate! 16 Now if I am doing what I don’t want to do, I am agreeing that the Torah is good. 17 But now it is no longer “the real me” doing it, but the sin housed inside me. 18 For I know that there is nothing good housed inside me — that is, inside my old nature. I can want what is good, but I can’t do it! 19 For I don’t do the good I want; instead, the evil that I don’t want is what I do! 20 But if I am doing what “the real me” doesn’t want, it is no longer “the real me” doing it but the sin housed inside me. 21 So I find it to be the rule, a kind of perverse “torah,” that although I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me! 22 For in my inner self I completely agree with God’s Torah; 23 but in my various parts, I see a different “torah,” one that battles with the Torah in my mind and makes me a prisoner of sin’s “torah,” which is operating in my various parts. 24 What a miserable creature I am! Who will rescue me from this body bound for death?(Romans 7:14-24)

In other words, sin takes on a life of its own.  We know what is write, but we do evil because the sin within us drives us to  it.  Sin corrupts all creation, not just man.  When we try and prove immorality through nature, we are merely relying on something that has already been corrupted by sin.  When Noah was 500 year old, sin had been reigning for close to 1600 years, multiplying, growing and twisting all nature.Yahweh despises sin, so he resolved to destroy all humans, animals and reptiles, and does so in the flood, saving only Noah and his family, for Noah had found grace with God. 

We must realise that sin corrupts nature and man.  Sin prevents us from having relationship with God.  In God's sight, sin must be destroyed, and so it was, perhaps a million people wiped out  in one fell swoop.  When will we realise how lethal sin is.  Adam and Havah were kicked out of the Garden for sin.  Animals were sacrificed to cover their nakedness for their sin.  For sin, animals and nature were corrupted.  All mankind was wiped out for sin.  For sin, the Canaanites had to be destroyed from the land.  For sin, only two adults out of 600,000 came to the promised land.  For sin, Jesus the Messiah was crucified on the cross for sins he did not commit in order to pay for our sins. 

For a Christian, it is of great importance that we realise how fatal sin is.  The Bible tells us the wages of sin is death.  The Bible tells us that many who think they are Christians will be told by the Lord, "

I don’t know where you’re from. Get away from me, all you workers of wickedness!’ 28 You will cry and grind your teeth when you see Avraham, Yitz’chak, Ya‘akov and all the prophets inside the Kingdom of God, but yourselves thrown outside. (Luke 13:27-8).

Sin is deadly, yet today Christians play around with sin.  Christians play with porn, we glorify sex, we destroy families by not giving them any time together.  We turn our stomachs, sports, homes, cars and children into our Gods.  We gripe if the preacher goes more than 10 minutes, yet we have no trouble when the football game goes into overtime.  We see people in need, yet ignore them.  Adultery abounds.  People forced to work without making a living wage.  All of this is either sin, or a result of sin, and it is time for us to worry. 

Will we be slaves of sin, or will we be slaves of Messiah.  If we play around with sin, we are likely to end up not following the Lord.  It is time to remember, Messiah died on the cross to set us free from sin and death.  When we allow him to be in charge, he will give us the power to conquer sin and death.  The decision is yours, slave of sin, or slave of Messiah.