Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Unknown Holiday

I'm going to start this article with a quote from a commercial currently playing during NASCAR races. Yes, I'm a fan of NASCAR, but that's not where I'm going here. If you watch like I do, I'm sure you will recognize where this comes from, but here we go. Ready? "Who doesn't love, love?" Sounds a little corny, I know, yet ask yourself that question. Don't we all love the feeling of being in love? Yet what many don't seem to understand, or better yet feel, is that the Gospel of Christ is a story of love. Most believers should know by now that the hope of the Church, what we call the rapture, is the culmination of this love story. Since Jesus is Jewish, it is expected that His wedding to His bride, the Church, will follow the pattern and traditions associated with Jewish weddings.

In this country, we observe a holiday called Valentines Day, a day set aside to celebrate love. But what most people don't know is that in the Jewish culture, they have a similar holiday called Tu B' Av, or the fifteenth of Av. Yet I call it an unknown holiday because most have never even heard of it, much less understand the traditional beliefs associated with it. It isn't even listed on my Jewish calendar along with all of their other holidays, which makes me wonder why it is so "forgotten"? If you look it up on the internet, you will find that most sites call it a "minor" holiday in Jewish culture, but for the reasons I am about to make you familiar with, I think it's entirely possible this might be the most important holiday you've never heard of.

One; Tu B'Av was declared a celebration by the first generation after the forty year wilderness wandering from Egypt during the Exodus. If you recall, God commanded that an entire generation must die because of their sin before a new generation could enter the Promised Land. After forty years, seeing the full moon told the new generation that the appointed time had passed, and they were able to enter the land that God had led them to. Remember the Jewish calendar is lunar, so the months are calculated by observing the phases of the moon. and the full moon always occurs on the night of the 14th/15th. (don't forget the new day starts at sunset). So this new generation declared this day a new day of celebration.

Two; The Jewish Talmud, which is a collection of ancient Rabbinic writings, teaches that on this day, Tu B' Av, the tribes of Israel were allowed to intermarry. The rest of the year, it was required that you marry only within your tribe, but on this one day every year, women were free to marry whomever they wished from any tribe. For this reason, and because it also marks the end of the wheat harvest in Israel, many believe this is the day that Ruth married Boaz. If you recall the story, Ruth was not a Jew, but a Gentile. Yet as a distant relation, she and Boaz, who was Jewish, were allowed to marry. Their marriage occured at the end of the harvest, and since on this day, marriages to others were allowed, it follows that this must have been the day of their wedding.

Three; As a result of a civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of Israel, only 600 males survived the conflict. The leaders of Israel decided they would allow these men to take wives from "the daughters from Shiloh". It seems there was a celebration at the beginning of the grape harvest at Shiloh where the daughters would go into the vineyards and dance. The surviving men were told they were to hide in the vineyards and catch themselves a wife from the girls who came out to dance. (Judges 21:16-22) In later years this day became known as a traditional day of love and courtship, where girls would exchange white clothing so that prospective husbands would not know who was rich or who was poor.

Four; Tu B' Av is the last holiday of the year in Israel. Since the New Year begins on Rosh Ha Shanah, which is just a month and a half away, this is the last holiday, as well as the last harvest of the year. Being the last of the holidays, it is a time of celebration both in looking back, and looking forward to the new year that is approaching. This day is also considered to be the time where planting of crops or trees was to end for the year. During the time of the Second Temple, Tu B' Av was proclaimed as the beginning of the grape harvest which continues until Yom Kippur.

Five; Prophetically speaking, Tu B' Av pictures the future marriage of Christ with His church.

"In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
John 14:2-3 NKJV

So in review, there is a holiday in Israel that many know nothing about, is a traditional day celebrating love, a day many choose as their wedding day, is the only day that Jews were allowed to marry outside their own tribes, comes at the end of the wheat harvest, is the last celebration of the year, and perfectly pictures the future marriage of Christ with His church. Many look at this day as a perfect time for the rapture of the Church to occur, and in all honesty, I would have to agree. But as we all know, God has His own timetable and as far as we know, He hasn't made it crystal clear. Yet with all the clues we do have, and all that has been happening lately in the world, many are convinced that this truly could be the day. Who knows, but as tomorrow is the full moon, I would be lying if I said I wasn't going to be watching the skies more than usual. The day is approaching when we will be taken to be with our Lord forever. I'm praying it will be soon.

Keep watching.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Day of Mourning

This is an updated post from last year at this time that I wrote concerning the Fast Day in Israel called Tisha Be-Av. As you will read, many feel there are reasons to be watching on this particular day for something to occur in the Middle East concerning the nation of Israel. I also would ask for your prayers as I have a speaking engagement this week on the subject of God's plans for Israel.

Many are familiar with the seven feast days appointed by God for the children of Israel to observe, but not all are aware that He also created four days of fasting to commemorate tragedies that occurred during Israels' history.

"Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'The fast of the fourth [month], The fast of the fifth, The fast of the seventh, And the fast of the tenth, Shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts For the house of Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.' Zecharaiah 8:19 NKJV

Zechariah goes on to say that when the Messiah comes, these fast days will become days of celebration and feasting, but for now they are still days of mourning.

The fast of the fourth remembers the day that Moses came down from the mountain to find the children of Israel worshiping the golden calf and then broke the tablets God had given him. The seventh commemorates the assassination of the governor appointed by Nebuchadnezzar to govern the Jews left behind in Israel after the destruction of the temple. The tenth recalls the day that Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to the city of Jerusalem. But it is the fifth fast, which occurs on the ninth of Av on the Jewish calendar that I would like to explore today.

Called Tisha Be-Av, this day of mourning and fasting reminds Israel of the day that the temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the Jews taken back to Babylon in captivity. This day has become, however, one of the most significant days in Israel's history due to the astonishing "coincidence" of numerous national disasters occurring on this exact day since it's inception. These are:

1312 BC Spies return from 40 days in Israel with evil reports of the Land of
Israel. Jewish people cry in despair, give up hope of entering the Land of

587 BC Destruction of First Temple by the Babylonians, under Nebuchadnezar. About
100000 Jews killed during invasion. Exile of remaining tribes in southern
kingdom to Babylon and Persia.

70AD Destruction of Second Temple by Romans, under Titus. Over 2,500,000 Jews die as a
result of war, famine and disease. Over 1,000,000 Jews exiled to all parts
of the Roman Empire. Over 100,000 Jews sold as slaves by Romans.
Jews killed and tortured in gladiatorial "games" and pagan celebrations.

71AD Turnus Rufus plows site of Temple. Romans build pagan city of Aelia Capitolina
on site of Jerusalem.

135AD Bar Kochba revolt crushed. Betar destroyed - over 100,00 killed.

1095AD First Crusade declared by Pope Urban II. 10,000 Jews killed in first month of
Crusade. Crusades bring death and destruction to thousands of Jews, totally
obliterate many communities in Rhineland and France.

1290AD Expulsion of Jews from England, accompanied by pogroms and confiscation of books
and property.

1492AD Inquisition in Spain and Portugal culminates in the expulsion of the Jews from
the Iberian Peninsula. King Ferdinand of Spain issued the expulsion decree,
setting Tisha B'Av as the final date by which not a single Jew would be allowed
to walk on Spanish soil. Families separated, many die by drowning, massive loss
of property. With funds provided by Ferdinand, Christopher Columbus, a Messianic
Jew, sets sail to locate the land which will become a Jewish refuge.

1914AD Britain and Russia declare war on Germany. First World War begins. First World
War issues unresolved, ultimately causing Second World War and Holocaust. 75% of
all Jews in war zones. Jews in armies of all sides - 120,000 Jewish casualties
in armies. Over 400 pogroms immediately following war in Hungary, Ukraine,
Poland and Russia.

1942AD Deportations from Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka concentration camp begin.

1989AD Iraq walks out of talks with Kuwait.

1994AD The deadly bombing the building of the AMIA (the Jewish community center in
Buenos Aires, Argentina) which killed 86 people and wounded some 300 others.

1990AD The First Gulf War begins in and as a result Saddam Hussein launches missiles
into Israel

Obviously more than just coincidence, one can't help but wonder what the future holds for Israel on this date? We know that the Bible tells us of many prophetic events yet to occur in Israel, most of which could be classified "judgmental" in nature. By far the most significant would be the start of the Seventieth Week of Daniel, otherwise known as the tribulation. The start of this period of time would obviously be considered a time of mourning in Israel, much as the Babylonian Captivity (also a judgment by God for their disobedience) was.

The Ninth of Av will occur this week on July 20. With all that seems to be happening in the world today, one can't help but wonder if we should pay special attention to these dates to see if God will again allow something to happen in Israel just as He has done in the past?

Keep watching.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stumbling Around In The Dark?

Your word [is] a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
Psalms 119:105 NKJV

A circumstance most of us have experienced is stumbling around in the dark looking for a light when the power suddenly goes out and you need to find a flashlight. Then of course, if you are like me and lucky enough to find one that works, your next step is trying to find a way to light up the house so you can see well enough to fix dinner or otherwise take care of the business at hand.

Last week I heard a song using this verse on an old CD that I hadn't played in years, and the first thought that popped into my head as I reflected on this verse was "why mention a light and a lamp"?
Seems redundant until you think about the circumstances in which you use both, and what they are intended to do. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that God's intention was to tell us that there are two ways to use His word to provide the light we need to shine for Him in the dark circumstances we so often find ourselves in.

First of all, a lamp is used to illuminate our immediate surroundings, and generally speaking, does not move. Since God says that His Word is a "lamp to my feet", a question we can all ask of ourselves is do we use the Word of God to see where we are, and then examine ourselves and especially the circumstances in which we find ourselves in order to determine if we are conforming to His expectations?

Examine yourselves [as to] whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified.
2 Corinthians 13:5 NKJV

Something I have had reason to notice is that the light in my bathroom at home is not the same as the light in the bathroom at work. Why? Because after getting ready for work in the morning, I often find when I look at myself in the mirror at work that I missed something while getting ready at home. You see, the light we choose to use to examine ourselves and our immediate circumstances must be the best and brightest we can find. According to God, as believers that light is the lamp of His Word. So my question is are we using the Bible to examine where we are and what we are doing, or are we using the world and others to determine what is "socially acceptable" behavior? God's Word is our lamp, not the world or MTV.

The second thing God tells us is that His Word is a "light to my path". So the difference between a lamp and a light is that the light is portable and can be taken with us as we move in order to see where we are going. When you start to think about what you are going to go or do, is your first thought to examine the path you intend to travel by the light of God's Word?

Let your eyes look straight ahead, And your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established.
Proverbs 4:25-26 NKJV

I personally think that one of the greatest inventions to come around in a long time is the little LED lights you can clip onto the brim of a hat. I enjoy duck hunting, and I can tell you from experience that when carrying a bag of decoys and a gun at four in the morning in the boondocks, the flashlight is most definitely your best friend. The best part about these lights is that since they are on your head facing forward, they light the path ahead wherever you turn and look. As we walk the paths of our daily lives, God tells us that in order to keep from stumbling, we need to use His Word as the light that tells us not only where to go, but what to avoid as well. The time to decide what path to take is before you put your feet in motion, not after. Use the Word of God as a flashlight to illuminate the path ahead so you can avoid taking a wrong turn and walking down the path of darkness Satan wants you to take.

The Bible is both a lamp and a light, showing us where we are, and where we are going. Are you stumbling around in the dark, or using the most important tool God has given us to find your way. As this world seems to be moving towards the darkness rather than the light, it seems obvious the Word of God is the most indispensable gift we have been given. Use it wisely.

Keep watching.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Empty Hands

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:
Philippians 4:11 NKJV

Have you ever found yourself at a place in your life where you could truly say the words; “I am content”? I know when I first began to look at this passage many years ago, one of the first things I realized is what most people have in common is the desire to have something they don't. Now many might say this is just human nature, and it's not necessarily a bad thing while pointing out all the good things that have resulted from a desire to have more. Yet the question remains; is it a good thing to want more?

When I looked closely at this verse from Paul I noticed that he says something very interesting; “I have learned...”. Did you realize contentment is learned? It's not natural. Try telling someone that they need to learn to say “no” to something they want and see how far you get with that. I'm sure you have heard the old saying, “whoever dies with the most toys wins!” Call me crazy, but when I look at Satan tempting Eve in the garden, would it be fair to say that the “original sin” was a result of the desire to have something more, and not be content with what you had?

Satan's tactic was to convince Eve that it was unfair of God to say no to something she rightly deserved. Have you ever experienced anger, or frustration, or impatience with God when you want something and never get it? Have you ever really considered the possibility that there is a reason the all knowing God of the universe told you no? Unfortunately, the normal response by the majority of people is to simply pursue obtaining whatever it is they want, and ignoring the possibility that it really is not something they need.

With that thought in mind, notice what Paul goes on to say;

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 NKJV

I have no doubt most of you are familiar with this verse, but I want to challenge you with a question. Do you claim this promise, and like Paul, have no needs? You see, Paul had learned that he could and should be content with what he had because he had a promise from God that his needs would always be taken care of. So in reality, Paul was saying contentment comes from the knowledge that God promises to give us whatever we need, when we need it. Yet the vast majority of us go on our merry way pursuing what we think our “needs” are, and not waiting to see what God will do. Is that because we think God is incapable of fulfilling His promise to us, or that He is not in the position to know what our needs really are? Let me share a question I heard recently in a sermon that I think applies well to this subject. “How can God give you anything if your hands are full?”

You see, if we spend all our time pursuing our “dream” and stay busy acquiring “things”, we take away from God the chance to give. Let me share two stories from personal experience that may help illustrate what we are talking about. The first begins with me buying a larger truck to use in my business. Of course, I then had no available cash for a tool box that would fit in the bed and carry all my tools, so I just complained a little and carried on while trying to save enough to get one. Finally I had saved enough, so I went to the store and ordered one. I came home that day and cheerfully informed my wife that I had ordered one and immediately saw thunderclouds forming in the kitchen. Why? It seems she wanted to do something nice for me so she had gone out and ordered one too. Oops. You see, that fell under the category of frustrating someones ability and desire to do something nice for me. Have you ever considered the possibility we do that to God by not waiting for Him to give in His own good time?

One of my favorite memories about my oldest daughter occurred when she was just learning to ride a bicycle. All the other girls had the famous and highly desirable “Barbie” bike, while she did not. She was old enough to know they were expensive, and in all reality probably thought she would never own one. At Christmas, however, your's truly went out and bought one and hid it in the hall closet on Christmas Eve. (Yes, I know, I spoiled my daughters.) On Christmas morning we opened all our gifts as usual, then sat around looking at what we all got. After a bit, I told my daughter that she should look in the closet for something to put all the wrapping in. At first, I thought I had really messed up because her reaction was to start crying, but I soon realized she was overwhelmed because she never expected to get one.

Have you ever received something from God that you did not expect? What was your reaction? The most overlooked part of verse nineteen is that we are promised to receive “according to His riches”. Ever think God can afford a little more than you can? His riches are infinite. I think Paul is attempting to teach us the wisdom of waiting on God and seeing what He provides rather than trying to get it ourselves.

Are your hands full? Learn contentment by emptying them, then practice contentment by telling yourself no to the things you think you need. If you wait on God to provide what you truly need, the surprise at the abundance of His provision will stay with you the rest of your life.

Keep watching.