God’s Calendar: Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement)

Well, the Feast of Trumpets (or Feast of Shouting) is over according the Jewish calendar and the next appointed time is quickly approaching.  It is yom Kippur (the day of atonement).  According to the Jewish calendar, the day of Atonement is from this coming Tuesday, Sept. 18th, after sundown, to Wednesday, Sept. 19th, after sundown.

The day of atonement is a very solemn day in the yearly cycle of God’s appointed times.  It is the day where we reflect on the past year and repent of sins that have crept in, both in our personal lives and our corporate lives (our family, our church or synagogue, and our country).  Yes, I said our ‘corporate’ lives.  Much of what God has to say to us is directed at the whole body of believers, not just individuals.  That concept can be seen throughout the scriptures.

God gives us a couple commands for this day.  And actually, those commands are rather forceful in their presentation compared to the commands for the other feasts.  Two of the commands stand out.  One is that the day is to be treated as a very strict sabbath – no work whatsoever.  Second is that we are to ‘afflict ourselves.’  So no work of any kind – a strict sabbath of rest, and ‘afflict’ ourselves.  The only definition for ‘afflict’ in this context is that which has been understood by the Jews for millennia.  And that is to fast.  All those that can should fast.

I’m looking forward to the day.  It is a chance to really look at oneself, and one’s country, honestly.  I like reading through the traditional Jewish prayer (the ‘al Chet’ prayer) for the day as it lists all manner of sin – both physical and thought related – and really gets me to think.  There exists such ‘lists’ also in Christianity (the catechism of Westminster – the 10 commandments section – comes to mind).  If you can, find such a prayer / list / sermon and read through it thoughtfully and prayerfully.

I think that the practice of deeply reflecting once a year is quite important and of great benefit, especially as God set it up for us to follow.  He made us and knows what we need.

So, take a day (or as much as you can – not as much as you are comfortable with, but as much as you can, up to the full 24 hours) and reflect.  And repent.  And pray.  And think about any changes that you need to make in your life, or how you can affect our culture for good.  And remember what Yeshua (Jesus) has done for us!

Shalom,

  • Yosef

 

Unity or Conformity?

I’m different.  I know I’m different.  Why?  Because I consider all of God’s words to be living, active, and relevant to today, and I don’t think that we should add to His words, or take away from them.

But why should that make someone different?  Don’t we all think that what I just said is okay?  Unfortunately, though most will agree with that statement, when it comes to real life, actions don’t follow.

I’d been attending a Christian Bible study for the last year.  I wanted both the fellowship and the opportunity to discuss God’s word with others who follow Yeshua (Jesus).   About a week ago, before the study started up again, the leader of the study came to visit me.  We had a good chat, but his visit was not about anything good.  I was being asked to not come back to the study as there were some in the study that did not want me there.

Odd.  This is the same study where, when the topic of unity in the church came up, a couple of the people stated that they don’t see any disunity.  How can the same group then ask someone to leave?  I have ‘confessed’ Yeshua (Jesus) as Lord and salvation and have done nothing ‘wrong’, yet am asked to leave.  This got me to thinking.

Yeshua (Jesus) prayed, as recorded in the book of John, and asked the Father to ‘make us one as he and the Father are one.’  In other words, he prayed for ‘unity’ for his followers.

I realized that many confuse ‘unity’ and ‘conformity’.  Those in that group that didn’t want fellowship with me are looking for conformity.  Because I didn’t have all the same beliefs that they have, they felt justified in asking me to leave.  Very sad – for them!

Unity is not conformity!

When we restrict ourselves to only fellowshipping with those we completely (or almost completely) agree with, we deny ourselves of chances to grow; opportunities of practicing love and unity; and missing out on God’s presence.

Churches want to see themselves as unique (I don’t know why), and come up with sets of their own rules and ‘statements of belief.’  Why isn’t the Bible the statement of belief?  Why do we have to believe in one doctrine or the other to belong to a church?  I’m quite glad that, at the gates of heaven, there won’t be any questions as to what doctrine we believe (save possibly for teachers, as they are held to higher standards).

Rather, our life will be judged by and through Yeshua (Jesus).  When our lives show that we are following him, and we confess that he came in the flesh and is our Lord, that is enough.

So why isn’t that enough to warrant fellowship with one another?  What do you think?

– Yosef

P.S.: By the way, I’m used to not fitting into groups.  Christian groups don’t accept me because I’m Jewish – not Christian.  Jewish groups don’t accept me because I follow Yeshua (Jesus) as the promised messiah and my salvation.  There are exceptions.

God’s Calendar and the Feast of Trumpets!

Did you know that God has a calendar?  Did you know that He is still following it?  It really saddens me, though, that most of Christianity has thrown out His calendar, and in doing so, they miss out on some of the beauty and richness and grace of God and His word.

What is this calendar?  Well, it isn’t a secret.  It is written about quite a bit in both the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ testaments.  The calendar is marked by special occasions throughout the year.   They are often called the “Jewish Feasts” but that isn’t what God calls them.  He calls them His “appointed times” (this is the clear meaning of the Hebrew word used in the “old testament” when the ‘feasts’ are referred to.)

I know that many in Christianity will say that the feasts no longer apply as Jesus fulfilled them, but even the “new testament” proves that statement false.  Yeshua (Jesus) himself said,

“For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass away until all is accomplished.”  Matthew 5:18 (ESV)

“Do this in in remembrance of me.” Luke 22:19 (ESV) – in context of celebrating the Passover.

There are many more verses showing Yeshua (Jesus) and the apostles (even Paul) celebrating the feasts.  However, this article isn’t about that.  It’s about the next feast in the yearly cycle, the ‘Feast of Trumpets’!

God’s year begins with Passover in early spring.  Then there are a couple more, then a couple months pause.  The feasts start up again near fall time, with the first in a short series being the ‘feast of trumpets’!  For this feast we are told, among a couple other things, to blow trumpets (or shout)!

Now, considering the fact that Yeshua (Jesus) did something appropriate on each of the earlier feasts (died on Passover; gave the holy spirit on Pentecost; – are two examples), it easily follows that this is the next feast where something should happen.  I wonder, if Paul wasn’t thinking of this when he wrote,

“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.”  1 Thessalonians 4:16 (ESV)

The feasts are the markers of God’s calendar, and give God’s timeline for things He has done and is yet to do!

And I must say that I am really looking forward to this coming Sunday night to Monday night (Sept. 9 to 10, 2018), which is the feast of Trumpets!  I get to take the day off work and celebrate!   In Judaism, the day is celebrated as the “Jewish New Year” and, being Jewish, I’ll celebrate that also, but that is just tradition.

I look forward to meeting God at his next ‘appointed time’, the ‘feast of trumpets,’ and hearing the shofar (ram’s horn).  And I look forward to hearing that heavenly shofar calling, announcing the end of all things!

Shalom!   – Yosef

Entitlement Extreme!

The USA just cut all funding to UNRWA.  BBC news (1.Sept.2018) carried this headline: “Palestinians brand US aid cut to UN group ‘a flagrant assault’.”

An “assault”?!  What?!  Behind this comment I see an entitlement mentality that is very deep rooted in their society.  Why do the Palestinians feel that we have to support them?

And, as long as I’m asking a couple questions, here are a couple more.

Why is there a UN group (UNRWA) devoted to a refugee group of a single people, while all other refugees in the world are handled by a different UN group?

Why is UNRWA still around, and continuing to expand its own charter to include more and more Palestinians?

Why is UNRWA still active in the West Bank and Gaza when both those areas are independent Palestinian controlled and run areas?

Okay, just so you know, UNRWA is an UN group devoted solely to helping Palestinian refugees.  It began formal operations on 1 May 1950, not quite two years after the surrounding Arab countries invaded the newly formed Israel (also formed by UN mandate).

Now I don’t disagree that the Palestinians need help, I just question what is really going on?  There is something really fishy (to use some slang) going on.  The above questions point out some of this, and the Palestinians suggestion that we (the USA) somehow ‘owe’ them support is beyond understanding.

The comment from the Palestinian leaders is consistent with the type of language they use to fire up the media to champion their cause.  The phrase ‘a flagrant assault’ is an emotionally laden phrase that immediately puts most people on their side.  (So why does the media fall for this and use such tactics themselves when they champion a cause?) Such emotionalism is usually used to provide a smoke screen over what is really going on.

Personally, I find UNRWA as being counter productive.  There doesn’t seem to be any impetus for any of the surrounding Arab countries to absorb the Palestinians (actually, a couple countries blatantly said ‘no’) even though this is the norm for refugees from other areas.  Neither is there any impetus for either the rulers of Gaza or the West Bank to set up and run a decent infrastructure as they receive so much international aid.

Yes, there is a problem.  But the problem isn’t that the refugees exist and how can they be brought back to ‘their’ land; the problem is why are there still Palestinian refugees and why are they being used as pawns in the push to drive all Jews into the sea?

This is a hot topic among many so I hope to see other’s commenting!

  • Yosef

 

Headlines: Scallop wars! and Deuteronomy 19

A recent headline on the BBC news site (from 29.August.2018) read, “Scallop war: French and British boats clash in Channel.”  Two things may come to mind when reading this.  First, what are scallops?  And second, why does this matter?

Scallops are a type of clam, and many claim they are delicious and healthy.  (Personally, I don’t see how the delicious and healthy claim can be true.)

Does this matter?  Well, yes, on a couple different levels.

The French basically chased the Brits out of a prime scallop fishing ground, claiming that the Brits were decimating the scallop fields.  Such economic crises have started wars.  But that is not my point.

Legally, the Brits weren’t doing anything wrong.  Not according to agreements between France and Britain that pertained to scallop harvesting.  Yet the French were upset, likely due to their decreasing harvests.  So, does the Bible give us, as followers of Yeshua (Jesus), any guidance about how to deal with this situation?

Actually, yes, God does have some instruction.

In the later chapters of the book of Deuteronomy we find this injunction:

“You shall not move your neighbor’s landmark” Deuteronomy 19:14 (ESV).

This may not be a case of moving a physical boundary, but the issue was over when in time that the Brits would be allowed to harvest.  A time boundary.

Yes, God wants us to respect our neighbor’s possessions.  The 10 statements (10 commandments) also covers this: ‘Do not covet’.  And the well known injunction, ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ also covers this.

Another response from followers of Yeshua (Jesus) should be one of, “Yuch! Who wants to eat scallops!”.  Okay, so that is a bit exaggerated, but God does tell us to only eat things from the seas that have fins and scales.  Scallops have neither, so should be left alone to do the job in the sea that God created them to do.

Inevitably, when the topic of restricting what one eats comes up, people will point to Peter’s vision (in the book of Acts, chapter 10) and say, “see, we can eat whatever we want.”

Two quick comments about that.  First, note that this vision occurred years after Yeshua (Jesus) was raised from the dead.  If Yeshua had called all things clean during his ministry, and this vision was restating that point, then I find it interesting that those words of Yeshua had been completely missed by Peter (and the rest of the apostles) for years.  If this is something new that God is telling us through Peter, I’m a bit skeptical for I don’t see God giving commands through one person’s visions anywhere else in the Bible.  (One person’s visions dictating doctrine reminds me of how both Mormonism and Islam started).  If I’m wrong, let me know.  Doesn’t mean He can’t; just that I’m skeptical about it.  And besides, neither Peter nor the Jerusalem church’s elders thought the vision pertained to food (read further in the book of Acts).

So, though God gave ‘all things for food’, we are called to walk in a holy manner (set apart manner).  Let them eat their scallops.  We won’t.  And if it comes to a labor dispute, before joining in, remember that God does not want us to “move our neighbor’s boundary” or covet anything of our neighbors.  This doesn’t apply just to physical things.

Be holy as He is holy.

  • Yosef