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.

Monday, March 10, 2014

First Sunday in Lent: 9 March 2014

Today we will concentrate on Baruch.  Baruch begins by reading his book to the king and noble families, who are struck to the heart, There were four results of the reading, the people wept, fasted, prayed and collected money to send to Jerusalem for the sacrifice.  The people of Jerusalem are instructed to pray for Nebuchadnezzar and his heir, and to confess their sins.

The confession follows.  In the confession, the people admit that they had sinned against God and deserved to be punished.  They admit not only their own sins, but the sins of their ancestors in not listening to the law and the prophets, and because of those sins, they were scattered to the nations.

When we pray, we need to realise there is none who does good, not not one, not without the power of the Holy Spirit.  We also need to remember our ancestors, and plead the blood of Jesus between their sins and ourselves.  We also need to know that God moves in many amazing ways.  The creation of the Jewish diaspora, the adoption of the Aramaic language from the Indus to Israel were all factors in the spread of the gospel.  When Messianic Jews fled Jerusalem in 72 A.D., they went to the Jewish Diaspora, in Cornwall, Ethiopia, Persia, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and even India and China and spread the Gospel.

The other lessons point out things for us as well.  God has his own timing.  Our timing is always now, but God knows the right time.  Could it be that God allowed the Hebrews to suffer a little more, so they would not go running back to Egypt at the first sign of trouble?

The passage from Samuel also raises questions.  We often talk about David's heart, but do we ever talk about Jonathon. Jonathon has a kingdom to lose to David, but is always David's friend and sometime protector.  Jonathon sees in David the greatness that is needed to bind together the 12 tribes.

I hope each of you is benefiting from your Lenten discipline.  Remember, if you fall, just start over again the next day.  We are building up our spiritual muscles.  Be sure and set goals. and there is nothing wrong with modifying those goals as we go along.  The ultimate goal of Lent, is to become more like Christ.

Monday, March 3, 2014

3 March 2014

This week we continue with preparations for Lent, but will also deal with the Tanach of the week. 

The lessons this week all focus on the transfigurations of our Adonai, Yeshua.   The first lesson, deals with Moshe ascending the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24:12-18), while the Prophet is about Eliyahu's experience on the mountain, when he receives his commission (I Kings 19:1-18).  The writing (Job 38:1-41, 40:1-5) follows Job's complaint to God about his circumstances.  God responds out of the whirlwind, and basically asks Job, "Where were you when I made the heavens and the earth?"  God asks him where he was when God made the heavens and earth, when he set the boundaries of the sea, if he could order nature, if he had been to the bottom of the ocean, if he knew the places of light and darkness, if he knew where rain and snow and lighting come from, if he could control the stars, or could feed the wild animals.  God in his questioning is demonstrating that He and He alone had created the Heavens and the Earth.  God in essence is revealing to Iyov that he is Sovereign over all creation because he made it, and that since he is sovereign, it is necessary to obey him.  

In the west today, we have troubles with words like sovereign, king, lord and kingdom.  We think of  a monarchy being something like Great Britain, Spain, Holland, Denmark, etc., where the monarchs are basically figure head monarchs, with very little say in how the country is run.  In the time that the book of Job was written, there was no such thing as a constitutional monarch.  The monarch was president, congress and supreme court all rolled into one.  It is a concept that today we have a hard time understanding, partly because we think such a thing is wrong.  We believe in voting, and kicking the guy out if we don't agree with him.  We don't seem to understand that God is not an earthly king, but as Creator of the Universe, whose nature is love, Absolute Sovereign.  We respond with a false God, the Great Santa Claus in the sky, who gives us what we want when we are good, and not when we are bad and who is too nice to ever punish us.  We have lost the point of view, that God's laws are laid out, for us, to help us live a life of holiness that will help us to truly find our purpose in life.  We have forgotten the virtues of prayer, fasting and alms giving and replaced them with a self righteousness which grieves God and leads to our own condemnation.  We refuse to see punishment for sin as what it was in the Bible, and we refuse to think that the God who punished Israel and Yehuda will do the same for us.  It is indeed a slippery slope, when we start ignoring God's commands.  Yeshua tells us that the Sabbath was made for man (i.e. for our well being) yet we ignore it today.  No Fault divorce (prohibited by Yeshua himself) was placed into practice to keep people from perjuring themselves to get divorced.  (I was flabbergasted when I learned this).   We have decided that the creator of the universe, who made us is not allowed to have any input into how we run our sexual lives.  We forget that God's word tells us that many sins are caused by idolatry, yet we continue to worship the false gods of money and power, and materialism. 

It is then time for the church to truly recognise that God is King and Sovereign, not only of the Universe, but of our lives.  We need to line up our church, our lives, and our society with his word, and not act like it is optional.   Our God is a consuming fire, and he is love.  As Christians, we need to obey him and proclaim his word to all the world.

In addition this is the last Sunday before Lent begins.   We have been talking about things to do with Lenten discipline, and have covered study and piety.  Today, we will talk about action, to which there are several aspects, the first of which is Apostolic Action, which is proclaiming the Gospel.  Before you proclaim the Gospel, you must be in prayer, and know God's word.  Secondly  we need  to have a plan of action.  Who are we going to evangelise.  Once we know who, we start out praying and fasting for that person.  We ask God to give us the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to that person.  Don't worry, he will.  And if that person turns the Gospel down, keep praying, you might just be preparing the ground for someone else.  Once through your efforts someone comes to Messiah, you need to teach them Christian Discipline, and stick with them at the very least until they are baptised.

Action also means holiness of life.  If you are going to attract someone to Messiah, then people need to see Messiah in you.  It is popular to ask, "What would Jesus do?"  Well that is a good question.  You, as a Christian may be the only sign of Jesus that some people will see. 

Action also means stewardship, of money, time, resources.  Do you use your time well.  Do you frequently spend time with God in prayer and study?  Do you regularly help those who need that help?  Do you give at least 10% of your money to God, and spend the rest of it in ways that Messiah will approve?  Do you share your time, your money, even your home with those in need.  That my friends is also action. 

I would like to invite you all to join us. The Great Service of Forgiveness will be Tuesday at 8:00 P.M.  Out Ash Wednesday service will be Wednesday at 6:00 A.M.  Hope to see you.