Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Man Dressed in Linen (Eze. 8-9)


Do you remember that once before, we spoke about the dangerous vision of the Chariot:  the chapter in the Bible that is so dangerous, it’s not permitted to be read in the synagogue?  Do you remember which chapter that was?  It was Ezekiel 1, the first vision of Ezekiel.  And do you remember what was in the Chariot?  A radiant man that glowed like glowing metal.  And who did we say that radiant man was?  Jesus, Yeshua, the Son of God.  Today we’re going to talk about another of Ezekiel’s visions, about a year later, when he saw the Chariot and the radiant man again.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Feast of Tabernacles 2014


Hag Sameach!  (“Happy holiday!” in Hebrew)  Today is the fourth day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Oct. 12, 2014).  It started last Wednesday evening at sunset (Oct. 8), with a Sabbath rest, and will continue until this coming Wednesday at sunset (Oct. 15), when it will be followed by an additional day of rest (Oct. 16).  This is the festival that we will be celebrating with other churches in Hsinchu next Sunday (Oct. 19)! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

The High Holy Days 2014


This is a very special and holy time in Israel, known as the High Holy Days or the “Days of Awe.”  It began with Rosh Hashanah, the Biblical Feast of Trumpets, the week before last (Sept. 25).  Next came the Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish year, which ended yesterday (Oct. 4) just after sunset, and then the Feast of Tabernacles begins this coming Wednesday at sunset (Oct. 8). 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sermon on the Mount II

Location of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount

If there is one message that every Christian should know, it’s Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.  It’s the clearest example in the Bible of the Way of Jesus:  the way that he lived and the way he wants his followers to live, too. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Tower of Babel


A couple of weeks ago, we talked about the Flood of Noah:  both the physical and the historical evidence that this huge catastrophe actually took place just as the Bible and other ancient histories say it did.  Today we want to consider what happened after the time of the Flood. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Tassels


One of the reasons it’s important to understand the Jewish roots of our faith is that it helps us understand the meaning of what we read in the Bible.  For example, what did Jesus mean when he mentioned that the Pharisees lengthened their tassels:  "But they do all their works to be seen by men; for they...lengthen their tassels" (Matt. 23:5)? 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Noah's Flood



(Click play to watch this video of the recent Japanese tsunami washing away an entire town.  Click in the bottom right corner to play the video full screen.)

The Bible says that there was once a worldwide Flood that covered all the mountains on earth and destroyed all life on the land surface of the earth:  the Flood of Noah (Gen. 7-8).  Is this true?  Did it really happen?  And if it really happened, what evidence is there that it happened?  If it really affected the whole world, shouldn’t we be able to see evidence of it all around the world? 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sodom and Gomorrah


The last we talked about Abraham, we left him bargaining with God about the city of Sodom, like a buyer in the market (Gen. 18:27-32):  what if there are fifty righteous?  What if 45?  How about 20?  How about 10?  Why was he bargaining like this with God?  Because God had revealed his plan to Abraham to destroy Sodom.  Abraham was trying to rescue his nephew, Lot, who lived in that city.  So what was the problem with Sodom, and why did God want to destroy it? 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sermon on the Mount

The Sea of Galilee and the Mt. of Beatitudes (the small hill at center
right, just to the right of the area with the tall green trees by the water).

I think you would agree with me that the world is a mess right now.  I ran across the statistic this week that there are conflicts going on in all the countries of the world except eleven!  That’s terrible.   And some of these are truly horrific, like what is happening in Iraq and Syria with ISIS (or IS).  How does Jesus want us to respond to times like these? 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gentile Christians and Israel


I’m sure you’ve noticed in this recent conflict between Israel and Hamas how polarizing the nation of Israel is.  People are either strongly for Israel or against it.  For few other conflicts in the world do you get such large demonstrations everywhere as there were recently.  Why is this?  Why does Israel make people so upset?  And of course the Muslim world is constantly angry at Israel, and constantly plotting its destruction.  Why is this? 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Abraham and the Three Men

A Bedouin Tent in Israel

Why do Christians believe that Jesus is God?  Is it because he healed people?  Other great men of Israel also healed people.  Is it because he raised Lazarus from the dead?  The bones of Elijah also raised a man from the dead.  Is it because he ascended into heaven?  Enoch and Elijah were also taken up by God into heaven.  What makes Jesus different than all these others? 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Did Jesus Claim to be God?

A Fishing Boat on the Sea of Galilee

One of the popular ways that many scholars reject Christianity is to say that Jesus never claimed to be God.  Instead, they say, the early church “made” him into a god.  Jesus, they say, was a popular rabbi—nothing more.  One version of this theory, which is popular in Israel, is that it was the apostle Paul who turned Jesus into a god.  These scholars claim that in the first three gospels, Jesus never says that he is God.  Only later were these claims “added,” as in the gospel of John, which was written later than the others. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Presence of a Holy God

The fire of God falls on the altar in the Tabernacle

How can we cultivate something pure in a corrupt world—if we ourselves are not pure?  How can we cultivate something holy if we ourselves are not holy?  Because that’s what God is asking us to do:  to bring the presence of a holy God into our lives and into our corporate life together, into our church. 

But this is a scary thing.  Why?  Because we are unworthy.  As the centurion said to Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof...” (Matt. 8:8).  That’s true.  We are not worthy.  But that’s what God wants to do.  He wants to come into our lives and live with us here—every day, every hour. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Healing the Sick

Pool of Bethesda

If there is one thing that characterizes the ministry of Jesus more than any other, it’s his healing ministry.  This is what gave his ministry an international reputation. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Is the Holy Spirit Holy?

Banias Waterfall in Israel

I know this sounds like a trick question.  But I just want to point out that we often think of “Holy Spirit” as a name for God’s Spirit, without thinking of what the name means.  What do you think of when you hear the name “Holy Spirit”?  Do you think of God’s power, of his might?  Do you think of lightning from heaven?  Of great miracles?  Or do you think of holiness?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

What is the eternal destiny of the human soul?


What do you believe is the eternal destiny of the human soul?  Notice the special emphasis on eternal. 

Most Christians will say, ‘Well, if you’re good you go to heaven, if you’re bad, you go to hell.’  End of story.  But is this really the teaching of the Bible?  No.  The idea that our eternal destiny is in an immaterial or purely spiritual heaven or hell is not a teaching of the Bible.  Nor is the similar idea that the righteous will become angels and play harps in the clouds of heaven.

So what does the Bible teach?  The Bible says there’s going to be a resurrection of the dead—of both the righteous and the unrighteous!  This will be a real, physical resurrection. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Biblical Giving


In the last few weeks we’ve been looking at the Bible’s plan for leadership in the Church.  An important part of that plan is how we handle the finances, the money, in the Church.    

One of the quickest ways to identify that something is not right in a local church is when it has a preoccupation with building up the organization rather than building up the people.  If the leadership of the church is constantly calling on the people to sacrifice themselves for the church, something is wrong.  It’s supposed to be the other way around.  The leaders are supposed to sacrifice themselves for the people.  We’re not supposed to build man’s kingdoms, but God’s kingdom.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Leadership 3

Ritual Bath (Mikveh)

We’ve been talking a lot about leadership in the church.  And the simple reason for that is that we need to establish some kind of structure in order to be a church.  But for that to work, we need to be in agreement with the Bible’s plan for leadership.  We need to agree with Jesus’ instruction that he alone is the head of the Church, and that all the rest are brothers—all the rest are equal under him.  He alone is our rabbi and leader. 

Jesus taught us that to be great in the Body of Messiah, you must be a servant to everyone else in the Body.  He said, “It will not be this way among you; rather whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you will be your slave” (Matt. 20:26-27).  Why?  Because God’s plan is for us all to submit to each other.  God’s plan is for us all to serve each other.

We’ve also seen that a key part of the structure of the local church is the elders of the church, who are pastors to the others—they help and serve all the others.  But why does the Bible say that elders should be men, and in fact married men (“It is necessary therefore that the overseer [another name for an elder] be above reproach, a husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,” 1 Tim. 3:2)?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Feast of Weeks (Shavuoth)


A few weeks ago we talked about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection at the time of the Passover festival.  But it’s important to remember that Jesus’ resurrection wasn't just a one-time experience for the disciples.  They continued to meet with Jesus in his resurrected body over a period of 40 days.  

But then, after 40 days, he had to leave them.  Why?  So the Comforter could come, the Holy Spirit: (“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you,” John 16:7).  So on the 40th day, he ascended into heaven.  And then, on the 50th day, the Holy Spirit descended on the Day of Pentecost. 

These amazing events were not just random miracles.  They were part of God’s plan from all eternity.  How do we know that?  Because they are a detailed fulfillment of the festivals of Israel. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Leadership 2


Last week we looked at God’s plan for leadership in the Body of Messiah.  And we saw that Jesus’ ideas about leadership are completely different than the world’s ideas about leadership.  In fact, Jesus’ plan for leadership in the Body of Messiah is just the opposite of the world’s way of leading.  He said that to be a leader in the Body of Messiah, you must be a servant; and to be the first, you must be a slave to all the others.  Since he, the Lord, acted this way, there is none of us that is above being a servant, because none of us is above Jesus. 

We got into this topic by talking about God’s plan for leadership in the local church.  So far, we’ve seen that of the five ministry gifts, pastors and teachers were local ministries, while the others were usually travelling ministries. 

We also saw that there was no single pastor in Bible days like there is in so many churches today.  Rather, the word “pastor” was used to refer to the elders, of which there were several in each church.  These elders were involved in teaching, since one of the requirements for being an elder was being “able to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2).  But not all the elders were equally involved in teaching and preaching. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Leadership

An Ancient Synagogue in Israel (Baram)

Last week we talked about the special ministry gifts that God uses to activate and empower the gifting in each and every believer (Eph. 4:11:  “He himself also gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers”).  Paul tells us that they are like ligaments, holding the Body together. 

In New Testament times, the first three, apostles, prophets and evangelists, were mostly traveling ministries.  They moved around from place to place and from church to church.  But the last two, the pastors and teachers, were local ministries.  These were people who were members of the local church.  But as I briefly mentioned last week, the meaning of the name of some of these ministry gifts has changed over time. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

God’s Vision for the Local Church


So what is God’s vision for the body of Christ?  How does he want us to meet together?  What does he want us to do?

The authority for the Christian church comes from Jesus himself, in his final words before his ascension, often called the Great Commission.  Jesus said, “Therefore when you have gone, make disciples of all the nations (all the Gentiles), baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).  We are to go into all the world making disciples.  But what does it mean to be a disciple? 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

We're Not Under the Law of Moses

The Old City of Jerusalem

Last time, we started by observing the Biblical truth that as Christians we are not under the Law of Moses.  This is stated clearly many times in the Bible (“For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace,” Rom. 6:14; also Gal. 5:18, etc.).  But as we saw, many Christians have misunderstood this saying, and in part due to a history of anti-Semitism in the Church, they think that this means the Law is bad or even evil, and that Jesus came to set us free from this evil Law.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gentiles in the Law of Moses

Mt. Sinai

The last couple of weeks we’ve been looking at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, trying to learn as much about it from the Bible and from history and archeology as we can.  I hope you’ve gotten a taste of how much information is available to our generation about the time of Jesus, much more than there has been for almost two thousand years.   Before that we spoke a little about modern Israel and the fulfillments of prophecy that are taking place right now in our lifetimes.  After the horrors of the Holocaust, Christians have been waking up to the Jewish roots of our faith, and the tremendous riches and depth this can give to our understanding of the Bible. 

But the realization of Christianity’s Jewish roots also raises a lot of difficult questions.  Most Protestants are already familiar with the idea that the Church went astray from Biblical truth in the centuries after Jesus.  But how far did it go?  The answer is that almost every area of our faith has been affected.  So many things in Christianity are built on the spider webs of tradition rather than on the rock of faith.  It’s going to take generations to get it sorted out. 

Today we’re going to take a look at just one of these areas:  an area that is absolutely essential to how we understand and live out our faith—an area that Jesus and the disciples spoke about constantly because it’s so important—and one about which the Church has been confused for a long time.  It’s a topic which is one of the most difficult, and yet also one of the most important topics in Christianity today:  the relationship of Gentiles and the Law of Moses.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Jesus' Last Week: Crucifixion and Resurrection


Last week we talked about how Palm Sunday was actually a dangerous day.  It was more of a political demonstration than a religious event:  or at least that’s how most people would have seen it.  The people who were singing and praising Jesus didn’t understand his message.  That’s why he stood on the Mt. of Olives weeping over them and weeping over Jerusalem. 

Then he entered the Temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and threw out those buying and selling there.  This made the leadership of the nation even more angry with him. 

All this time, his disciples believed something fantastic was about to happen, that the kingdom of God was about to come, and the Romans would be removed from their country.  Even at the Last Supper, they were thinking about fighting the Romans.  When Jesus was talking about his crucifixion, they said,   "Lord, look, here are two swords!"  They didn’t understand what he was talking about, and they didn’t understand what was going to happen, even though he had warned them over and over again.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Jesus' Last Week: Palm Sunday and Passover


If we were in Jerusalem today, we would join hundreds of other pilgrims from all over the world for the Palm Sunday Walk.  It retraces Jesus’ steps, or rather the steps of the donkey he rode, up and over the Mt. of Olives and down into the city of Jerusalem. 

The original “Palm Sunday Walk” started in the little village of Bethany on the other side of the Mt. of Olives.*  As John tells it:  “Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead…” (John 12:1).  Why did Jesus arrive so early?  It was the custom to come up to Jerusalem a week early to purify yourself for the festival.  This custom is mentioned in John 11:55:  “But the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the countryside before the Passover to purify themselves.”

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Isaiah 11


Today I’d like to talk about Isaiah 11, one of the most famous and most important Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament.  But before we can do that, I need to establish some background first.  Is that okay?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Where Do You Fit Into History?


Just imagine somebody in Paul’s day sitting in one of the synagogues where he was preaching—in Pisidian Antioch, let’s say—when this stranger from out of town, Paul,  came up to the front of the synagogue and began preaching.  Would this man that was listening know the weight of history pressing in on that moment?  Would he know that people would be studying and reading that sermon that morning for hundreds of years to come?  That it would be recorded in the most widely read and studied and loved book in history?  What do you think?  Maybe not.  But maybe some did.  Luke, who recorded that sermon in the Book of Acts (Acts 13:16-41), obviously thought it was important—as did those who came to faith that day.  But whether they knew it or not, history was being made right in front of their eyes.