Archive for June, 2010

29
Jun
10

17th of Tammuz

 Today is the 17th of Tammuz. It is a fast day that memorializes many calamities that have befallen the Jewish people over the centuries. It begins the three weeks of mourning leading of to Tisha B’Av or the 9th of Av, the culmination of these days of mourning.

This morning at Shacharit we were lead in prayers of confession and then in a loud refrain we chanted,

The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; and who cleanses. May you forgive our iniquities and our transgressions and make us your heritage. Forgive us our father for we have sinned; pardon us our king for we have willfully sinned; for you my lord are good and forgiving and abundantly kind to all who call upon you.

 

This fast day reminds us that   we are accountable to God. As individuals and as a community we are not free to live apart from the instruction of God and assume that nothing will happen. As a messianic community we are sometimes under the false impression that because we have embraced the Messiah, we no longer must obey the commands of God. Even though we know that we are accountable, we sometimes think that because our sins have been atoned for by the death and resurrection of Yeshua nothing really will happen if I sin – after all I am forgiven.

While it is true that our sins are forgiven by the death and resurrection of the Messiah, we are still accountable and will still face a judgment for the way we have lived. We read this in 2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  This is an uneasy truth.  It should cause us to fear the Lord. By fearing the Lord I do not only mean to view God with awe – but to fear being in his presence because of our sins; to fear his chastisement.  We read in the liturgy for the 17th of Tammuz: “we were exiled…our enemies tore down the sanctuary…we were scattered from city to city…”   these are the consequences of sin. One might think that this should cause us to run away – to turn away from God.. Yet this fear does not cause us to run away but to draw near to God – to love God as we sing the refrain over and over again about the chesed or loving kindness and forgiveness of God.  It reminds me of the famous line from the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe about Aslan the Lion: ‘Course he isn’t safe; but he’s good. He’s the king I tell you!  The Torah  describes the Messiah as a lion. He couches, he lies down as a lion, And as a lion, who dares rouse him up? Gen. 49:9 this is a “scary” image. This should keep us from being complacent in our faith and practice. This image should motivate us to serve God and not take him for granted.

 But like the description of Aslan, God is good.  The Messiah is describes as a lamb as well as a lion, All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. Isaiah 53:6

The Judge is also the Savior.  We are judged but we are also forgiven. The assurance of our salvation is that God is Good! How is he good? He provided the atonement for our sins in the person of Yeshua. He is our judge and our savior. Embracing Yeshua does not relieve us of our obligation to walk in righteousness.  Embracing Yeshua assures us that our sins are forgiven. Embracing Yeshua empowers us via the Ruach Ha’Kodesh.  This is a day for contemplation of our lives, confession of sins and thanksgiving for our salvation in Messiah.

11
Jun
10

jewish and arab reconcilliation

Back in 1988, when I was living in Los Angeles I initiated a joint meeting of Arab Christians and Messianic Jews. The occasion was the 40th anniversary of Israel’s statehood.  I thought it would be a wonderful testimony to display in a very physical way the peace that Yeshua desires to bring to this world and specifically the peace that is available for Israel and her neighbors in the Middle East. I contacted the Fuller seminary Center for World Missions and was given the names of several Arab pastors. Jamil Fakhoury was the pastor of the Arabic Evangelical Church of the Nazerene and after our initial phone conversation, I visited him in his  home. Both of us realized the potential of this meeting and we were fascinated with each others’ story and with the fact that there are Arabs and Jews who believe that Yeshua is the Messiah.  This began a series of conversations that ultimately led to a joint service on May 1, 1988. Our conversations helped us to understand each other and our respective peoples. We talked about the modern history of Israel and the Arab nations; how we as Messiah followers reconcile political and peoplehood issues; and how we understand what the Scriptures have to say about the destiny of our peoples and the land of Israel. Jamil was born and raised in what was known as “Trans-Jordan.”’ As a young adult he lived in East Jerusalem. He was there in 1967 when Jerusalem became a unified city. I cannot write publically about the contents of our private conversations but I will say that it was an amazing experience to develop a relationship with Jamil. Obviously, we come from very different perspectives. He is a man of God whose primary objective is being a “slave of Messiah” and following  him wherever that may lead.  The joint service reflected that attitude for both of us and all in attendance. We sang songs in Arabic, Hebrew and English. Our kids sang a praise song in Arabic and the Arab kids sang “Heyvenu Shalom Alechem.”  Without negating our respective cultures – or the calling of Israel in relationship to the nations, we developed real relationship. It was not dialogue nor simply a symbolic gesture – it was real relationship. It was a physical manifestation of the peace that Messiah brings. It really felt like a foretaste of the future when the lion will lay down with the lamb.

I left Los Angeles in 1991 but the meetings have continued. Jamil has worked with  several Messianic Jewish leaders and for the last number of years with  Michael Brown (not the author and messianic apologist).  Michael is the Messianic Pastor of Adat Yeshua Ha’Adon Congregation in Los Angeles. He and Jamil have done a fine job in keeping these meetings going. Over the past number years, both Jews and Arabs have shared testimonies of coming to faith in Yeshua and the change that God has made in their lives. I was told that one particular year a former Israeli IDF soldier shared his testimony at the same meeting as did a former Fatah fighter with Yasir Arafat. This was followed by a great moment of forgiveness and reconciliation between them. Since that meeting these two men have travelled and spoken together about reconciliation.

I was invited back this year for the 20th anniversary meeting. (yes, it started in 1988 but they missed two years along the way.)  It was exhilarating to see Jews and Arabs dancing and singing, eating and praying together. One of the speakers who was a former terrorist said “to the Jews I was a terrorist, to the Arabs I was a freedom fighter but to God I was a sinner.” 

There are important lessons to learn from these meetings.  The real enemy is spiritual – Islam is truly the enemy. Another huge lesson is the importance of “blessing the other.”  God calls different people(s) to bless one another. I will write more on this later.   In Messiah there truly is no enmity and if Arabs and Jews can  come together and have real relationship –   then we as  Messianic Jews; husbands and wives; parents and children and others can find peace and understanding as we are filled with the Ruach HaKodesh and walk in manner worthy of our calling.  May God use us to bring the message of Yeshua, the “Prince of Peace”  to the peoples of this world.