Friday, July 26, 2013

Missional Myopia

As I told you last week, I am away again this weekend, with no access to the internet.  In place of my usual posting, today I thought I would share an article with you from a site I frequent.  The following link is to an article written by Wendy Wippel of The Omega Letter Commentary.  I hope you find it as informative and enlightening as I did.
Keep watching.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Tu B' Av...A Day to Watch

I am away from home this weekend and next so I have decided this week at least, to share an old post from a couple of years ago that may have some significance for this coming week.  I hope you enjoy it.
I think most believers would agree that our hope, the event for which we are all watching and waiting is the rapture of the Church. I'm sure most of us too, are familiar with the Church being referred to as the “bride” of Christ. Many of you are also probably aware of how the events surrounding the rapture follow precisely the pattern of a Jewish wedding. 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. But there is one question I personally have always had with this idea and it is this; does it matter at all to this picture that we the Church are not, strictly speaking, Jewish? The Bible tells us we are "grafted" in, (Romans 11:17) but to which tribe do we belong?

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 reasons I want to share with you, 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

In the Jewish culture, after the engagement the groom goes to prepare the home in which he and his wife will reside, and it is up to his father to decide when the home is ready and the son is allowed to return for his bride.

So in review, we find there is a holiday in Israel that many in the western world are unfamiliar with which is a traditional day celebrating love. It is a day many choose as their wedding day, and historically is the only day that Jews were allowed to marry outside their own tribes. It comes at the end of the wheat harvest and along with being the last celebration of the year, because of the allowance to intermarry it also 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 since Tu B' Av starts at sunset in Israel on Tuesday, 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 14, 2013

Need A Shower?

[Exhort] bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all [things], not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things. Titus 2:9-10 NKJV

When is the last time you took a shower or a bath? Now before you think I am getting a little too personal, take another look at the passage from Titus while I explain the reason for my question today. We have been talking about the rapture of the Church, and just how close to occurring many seem to believe that it is. The picture we are given in the New Testament of Christ returning for His Church is one of a bridegroom coming to receive his bride. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells us this;
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present [you as] a chaste virgin to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2 NKJV

Now I may have mentioned a time or two that I was blessed with three daughters, so as you might imagine, I know a thing or two about a wedding, and all that goes into preparing for one. Especially noteworthy, however, is just what is involved in the bride preparing herself to meet her future husband on the day of the wedding. Although I may have had some idea of what went on, it was enlightening to see just how many hours are expended in the process of taking a shower, getting the hair done, having the makeup applied, and finally putting on the wedding dress.
As I thought about the subject of Christ returning for His bride, I couldn’t help but think back to those weddings and wonder if maybe we as members of the body of Christ should be a little more concerned with the state of our spiritual hygiene than we possibly are? Could we honestly say we are as prepared to meet the bridegroom as we should be, or is there room for improvement? As I thought about these things, I remembered that Paul uses an interesting word in the passage from Titus and it is the word translated “adorn”.

In the Greek, the word for adorn is “kosmeo” which means to put in order, arrange, make ready, prepare, to ornament, adore, to embellish with honor, gain honor. If the word sounds familiar, it is because this is where we get our English word cosmetic. So knowing this, when we look more closely at this passage, it would appear Paul is telling Titus and all believers that we have a responsibility to examine ourselves closely to see if we are reflecting the doctrine of God in our personal lives so that others might see and understand that we are different.
I can’t help but recall occasional articles that regularly appear in the media showing famous people with and without their makeup on, and noticing just how obvious the difference is. If I had to attempt to write a definition of kosmeo without offending my daughters, (or any other women who may read this) I would have to say it is a lengthy process with many steps resulting in an attractive presentation in the best possible light. To me, this gives this passage of scripture, and this particular verse, a whole new meaning. Yet there is another part of this admonition we need to notice and that is what we are told that we need to adorn ourselves with which is the “doctrine of God”.

In the Greek, the word for doctrine is didaskalia, which is translated as teaching, instruction, that which is taught, doctrine, teachings, precepts. Now how do we as believers “adorn” ourselves with the “doctrine” of God? Well I believe the obvious first step is to study and learn what God has revealed to us in His Word.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV

When believers begin to study the Word of God and commit to memory the “teachings and precepts” that we find there, we begin the process of putting on our spiritual makeup. Why a process? Because it appears that what Paul is telling us here is that when we take the first step of learning what God has revealed to us through His Word, it has an effect on our outward appearance. How so? The obvious answer from this passage is that our actions, what others see us do and say, begins to change.

If we look back at the first chapter of Titus, we see that Paul has written this letter to Titus because there are obvious problems in the Church. How obvious? Read how Paul chooses to describe them to Titus.

For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. They profess to know God, but in works they deny [Him], being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.              Titus 1:10-11,16 NKJV

Sadly it would appear that many were not examining themselves to be sure they were putting on their makeup the right way! How do you know if your makeup is on right? Your actions, what others see you do and say, will reveal your understanding and application of His teachings. Paul makes it pretty clear, however, that we can put our makeup on wrong. Just as you can look at someone and tell if they are wearing makeup or not, you can also look at someone’s actions and tell if they are “adorning” the doctrine of God. Paul’s advice to Titus concerning those who were having a little trouble with their “kosmeo” was this;

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,          Titus 3:1-6 NKJV

The bridegroom is coming. Do you need a shower? Examine yourself to see if you are truly ready for the wedding.

Keep watching.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Is the End Really Near?

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.                1 Thessalonians 5:1-5  NKJV
If you have studied scripture for any length of time, you have probably heard someone say that whenever you see a verse that begins with the word “but”, look to see what came before.  The reason for this is that any verse which begins that way is always a continuation of the subject which the preceding verses were discussing.  If we use that idea and look at the verses at the end of chapter four we read this;

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Then we who are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.                                   1 Thessalonians 4:16-18  NKJV
So now we see the subject Paul is discussing is the rapture of the Church, and it is here we find that Paul makes a very interesting statement when he tells us that as “children of light, and children of the day,” we will not be surprised when Jesus returns and takes us away to be with Him.  As I thought about this passage, one of the first things that I began to consider was why Paul uses the difference between day and night to show us why we will not be surprised.  As I began to think more about this, there were a couple of things that seemed obvious, but possibly overlooked, that I had not really considered before.

The first and probably the most obvious is that in the daylight it is much easier to not only see what surrounds us, but also to see what in fact, is right in front of us.  Now if that seems to be an oversimplification simply try walking down a strange hallway in the dark when a few chairs have been scattered about.  Yet turn on a light and it’s a very simple exercise to avoid bumping into any of them.  So in truth, what Paul is telling us   about the rapture of the Church is that those of us who are believers and have accepted the salvation offered to us by the death of Jesus on the cross will not be surprised by the rapture because we will see it coming!
Now if that sounds a little strange to you, consider how Paul also uses the illustration of a thief in the night to explain why believers won’t be surprised.  A thief loves to use the cover of darkness simply because it makes it harder for people to see him, and therefore allows him to come and steal without you knowing he has been there.  So it comes as a surprise to awaken and see what has happened under the cover of darkness.  If the thief tried to break into your house in the middle of the day while you were awake and at home, how far would he get before you recognized what was happening and called the police?  If you were watching and knew what to look for, I think you would have probably called the police when you very first saw and recognized what he was, and long before he approached your door.

I believe what Paul is telling us here is that in the very same way, believers will not be surprised at the rapture because we will recognize “the times and the seasons”.  How is that possible you ask?  The answer to that is found in the phrase Paul uses in verse two where he says that we “know perfectly”.  In my mind, when I examined the meaning of this phrase in the Greek, I immediately thought back to the illustration of the chairs in the hallway. 
As I see it, the advantage to walking down the hall with the light on is that you can see with both perception and recognition.  To my way of thinking, perception is seeing and knowing what is in front of me while recognition is the understanding of how to carefully deal with what I see.  So I was surprised to find that the definitions of these two words seem to say that very thing.  The word “know”, eido, means…to see, to perceive with the eyes, to perceive with any of the senses, to perceive, notice, discern, discover.  The word “perfectly”, akribos, means…exactly, accurately, diligently,  from the root word akribes…exactly, carefully.

So in essence Paul is telling us that when it comes to the “times and seasons” of the rapture of the Church, believers, as children of the day, will not be surprised because we will “know perfectly” or perceive and recognize that our blessed hope is near.  When I first graduated from college my intent was to pursue a career as a coach.  One of my first experiences was learning how to scout the next opponent of our team, and I was paired up with a coach who had more than forty years of experience doing just that.  His method of teaching me was to constantly ask me what I was looking at and what I saw.  I quickly learned from him, and knew I had learned well when I began to watch and see the same things he did.

So let me ask you this question.  Have you noticed in the past few years just how many believers think we are living in the last days?  Do you notice that those numbers are increasing every day?  Have you yourself come to that conclusion based on what you see going on in the world around us?  There is no doubt in my mind, based on what I see that the rapture of the Church could happen at any moment.  I am willing to say that anyone else who believes that is definitely a member of the “children of light, and children of the day,” that Paul speaks of.

Is the end in sight?  When so many in the body say they see the same thing, don’t you believe it’s a reasonable conclusion?  As one very prominent Christian speaker has said, the more you know about the subject of Christ’s return, the more you recognize how close it is.

Keep watching.