Sunday, June 19, 2011

Acts Déjà-vu

            The book of Acts is being lived out again by our Messianic brothers and sisters in Israel.  As they quietly go about their daily lives and simply live out their faith in Yeshua, they become a thorn in the side of religious people who are threatened by their faith.  This past week a dear brother who leads a congregation in Jerusalem was dragged into court under false charges of attempting to convert a minor.  The judge threw the case out when our brother produced a letter they had given the young lady stating that she would only be allowed to attend their congregation if her parents would give their permission.
Praise God for His protection.  This same pastor was told by a rabbi that “harsh opposition” is being planned by other rabbis against the Messianic community.  But in the face of that persecution, he acknowledged that they are not really rejecting him but rather Yeshua.  He continues to walk out love toward those who are making his life difficult.
            This is just one incident in a long list of ways the Believers in Israel are being persecuted.  About 20 years ago the Baptist Church in Jerusalem was burned to the ground by Orthodox Jews who wanted them out of the country.  Two years ago a young teenager was severely maimed and nearly died of his wounds as he opened a Purim gift left on his front porch that exploded when he opened it.  The “gift” had been planted there by an Orthodox group who hate Messianic Jews.
            And there are many other incidents like this.  Many Messianic Believers have lost their jobs when the boss found out about their faith in Yeshua.  Others have been deported, or threatened with deportation, by the Orthodox controlled Department of Immigration.
            Pray for our Brothers and Sisters in Israel.  Early Believers passed on a witness that eventually led to our being included in the Family of God.  Now, 2000 years later, a remnant of Believers is back in the Land as living witnesses to our Living Lord.  May He protect them and increase their witness for His glory.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Shavuot (Pentecost) 2011

Shavuot is June 7, 2011.  “Shavuot” is taken from Hebrew meaning “seven sevens” and reflects the counting of seven weeks, or forty-nine days after Passover.
The Feast of Shavuot is celebrated the next day, the fiftieth day, by staying up all night reading various passages from the Bible because this is the traditional date of God giving Moses the Torah.  It was also celebrated with waving two loaves of leavened wheat bread before the Lord in the Temple. 
            When Holy Spirit was poured out on the first disciples on Pentecost (fifty) He was fulfilling the Feast of Shavuot. The two loaves are a picture of Holy Spirit dwelling in man.  Jesus commanded the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they were given the baptism of the Holy Spirit which the Father had promised.  This baptism was for the purpose of giving them power to be witnesses about Jesus.  When Holy Spirit came upon them, it was a literal fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that the Spirit would be with them and would dwell inside them.  John 14:16-17.
            How marvelous this gift of Holy Spirit is!  The first disciples were saddened that Jesus was leaving them, but Jesus said it was to their advantage that He leave because He would send His Holy Spirit to live inside them.  Stop and meditate on the magnitude of that miracle.  The Third Person of the Trinity actually comes and fills you with His presence.  The result is an intimacy with the Father that you never knew before.  The Spirit can pray through you and intercede for a lost world.  You are given power to be a witness for Jesus.
            Let’s celebrate Pentecost (Shavuot) by pressing into the Father and praying the prayer Jesus taught:  “Father, Your will be done—on earth as in heaven!”  Baptize us with a fresh outpouring of Your Spirit that we may be effective witnesses for Jesus.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Feasts of the Lord.

            Lev. 23 lists eight appointments God wants to have with each us.  The first is a weekly appointment on Sabbath.  The other seven are annual feasts.  These have been referred to as the Jewish feasts, and the Jews do celebrate them.  But these belong to all who call themselves God’s people—they are “the feasts of the Lord.”  The reason I say they belong to all of God’s people is that Jesus has already fulfilled the first four of these feasts and will fulfill the other three upon His return.
            The feasts are:  Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Shavuot, Feast of Trumpets, Atonement, and Booths (or Tabernacles).  The first three occur in one week in the Spring.  The fourth is celebrated 50 days after Passover in early Summer.  The last three are celebrated in the Fall, usually late September or early October.
            Jesus perfectly fulfilled the first three.  He is the Passover Lamb (I Cor. 5:7), a perfect lamb that was selected (on Palm Sunday) and carefully watched for four days.  He was then slain and His blood is what protects us from death, just as the blood applied to the door posts protected Israelites from the Death Angel.
            Jesus also is the sinless Man, a perfect picture of Unleavened Bread.  We, too, are called to live holy lives, free from sin.      
            Then on the feast of First Fruits, Jesus rose from the dead, the first of those who are to be resurrected (I Cor. 15:20-23).
            Now, as we celebrate Pentecost on June 7th, we remember how the early Church was filled with the Holy Spirit, exactly fulfilling the Feast of Shavuot.  The Jewish celebration of Shavuot is remembering the giving of the Law to Moses.  Jesus said the Law would be written on our hearts, which is what happens when we are given the Holy Spirit—He comes, lives inside us, writing God’s Law on our hearts.
            The feasts are God’s snapshots of His Son.  By looking at the feasts we see what Jesus would look like and by celebrating them, we celebrate what God has done through Jesus in our hearts.  There is much more that could be said on each of the feasts.  Hopefully this will give a framework to understand God’s wonderful work in our lives.