For years, when I visited my father-in-law's home in Jerusalem on the Sabbath, we would break bread and bless the bread with the traditional blessing – "Baruch Ata Adonai Eleheynu Melech HaOlam Ha-Motzi Lechem Min Ha'aretz" – which translated means,"Blessed are You Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has given us bread from the earth". After the blessing, my father-in-law would take salt and sprinkle the challah bread as he broke and passed it to everyone at the table.
According to ancient Jewish legend, one day Abraham was shown his father, Terah's room of many idols. Young Abraham, thinking that perhaps he could discover intimacy with them, made some desirable delicacies and placed them before the idols. When nothing happened, he realized that these idols were nothing more than clay — they could do nothing for him or anyone else for that matter. So he proceeded to destroy all the idols, except for one.
I'm not sure how much I enjoy the freezing weather here as we're traveling across the United States, but I certainly can't wait till Spring comes! On the Hebrew calendar Nisan is the month that transitions from winter to Spring.
Chanukah, a time of celebration and rededication, began last night here in the Land and for Jewish people all over the globe. Those of us who are grafted in through the atoning work of Messiah, we who know God, have an opportunity to see the deeper significance in the Jewish holidays and are not only welcome but encouraged to celebrate as well!
While Chanukah is not a Biblical feast, it is an important one. Chanukah commemorates the story of small group of men with much courage — enough courage to defeat even the greatest of the world’s empires.
David is called a “man after God’s own heart.” Considering that he lusted after his neighbor's wife, committed adultery with her, and had her husband murdered, the Lord's description of him is remarkable. How could a man who was convicted a murderer and an adulterer also be called one after God’s own heart?
In Matthew, we read that Judas betrayed Yeshua (Jesus) to the Sanhedrin for thirty pieces of silver, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah. Zechariah foretold that the Messiah's price would be measured at a pittance; thirty pieces of silver. Can we imagine valuing a human life in terms of silver? Unthinkable enough…but then this is no ordinary life; it's the life of God's only Son.
The central fact of the gospel message is the resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus), declared in Psalm 2, the begotten Son of God. In 1952, Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in Cave 4 called the "Messianic Apocalypse". The Messiah's ministry of resurrection is reiterated in these ancient documents with an obvious reference to Isaiah 61:1-3. The scroll identifies someone who "… will heal the wounded, and revive the dead and bring good news to the poor." It is clear that at least some of the authors of these documents clearly understood the central nature and ministry of the coming Messiah, most certainly based on their intimate knowledge of the prophetic writings in the Tenach (OT)…that ministry, resurrection of the dead.
Last night began Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of the fifth month of the Hebrew calendar year. Some of you may know that a lot of bad things have happened to the Jewish people on this date, the first of which was when the spies returned with an evil report of Canaan, the Promised Land, recounted in Numbers 13 and 14. Both the first and the second Temple were destroyed on this exact date, hundreds of years apart. The Crusades began on this day in 1095. The Jews were expelled out of England on this day in 1290, and again were expelled from Spain and Portugal on Tisha B'Av in 1492. And there are many more examples of this infamous day in Jewish history!
When the prophet Jonah entered Nineveh, he gave a message of hopelessness — in 40 days your city will be destroyed! He did not say, Nineveh will be destroyed "unless", but emphatically prophesied destruction to the people of the city — seeming to say their situation was hopeless. Yet hearing this message …
There are times in our lives that we are going through a spiritual valley and we want to get victory — we want to have answers — we want God's power to flow through us again.
Yesterday, a good pastor friend of ours told us that his congregation was experiencing some hardships and division. How often does this happen among us? It breaks my heart — and I believe the Lord weeps over this too.
One of my favorite ministers of the Gospel is D.L. Moody. He tells a story about having heard Pastor Henry Varley once say that, "The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him."
This groundbreaking conversation took place at Caesarea Phillipi, which lies today in the modern day reserve of the Banias in the Golan Heights region of Israel. The city was established by Ptolemaic Greeks, a Hellenistic community where the worship of the god Pan was centered. Reviled by the Jews of Yeshua's time and considered by them the most idolatrous place in the entire Galilee, to this day it remains a place of nature worship and deep paganism…
A young reporter approached an old man on his 100th birthday. "Happy birthday, kind Sir! Can I bother you to answer one question? In all your years, of what are you most proud?" he asked.
If you keep a grain of wheat in your pocket, it will look exactly the same ten years from now. But place it in the right environment — some good ground, enough water — it will sprout into a living sheaf of grain!
Junk mail — those annoying letters that fill your mail box. Along with the junk comes the delightful bills, and renewal notices. Of course the junk, we can just throw away, the bills, unfortunately can't be ignored, but the renewal notices, those we're thankful to see. Without them, we'd likely forget that we need to renew our licenses, our credit cards, membership cards, whatever else.
When a Michigan man entered the hospital for tests one day, he never would have guessed what the doctors would find. A routine chest x-ray revealed that the man’s heart was on the wrong side of his chest! Because of a rare reversed-organ condition, his heart was in the wrong place. This is a strange story indeed, although I think some of us suffer from this condition in a spiritual way.
An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. His contractor was sorry to see such a good employee go, and asked him if he would build just one last house as a personal favor. The carpenter agreed but his heart was not in it. He resorted to bad workmanship and using cheap materials.
Charles William Eliot, former president of Harvard University, had a birthmark on his face that bothered him greatly. As a young man, he was told that surgeons could do nothing to remove it. Someone described that moment as "the dark hour of his soul." Eliot's mother gave him this helpful advice: "My son, it is not possible for you to get rid of that hardship…But it is possible for you, with God's help, to grow a mind and soul so big that people will forget to look at your face."