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05 Aug

What is the Gospel?

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YOU’VE PROBABLY MET PEOPLE who have told you about Jesus Christ, haven’t you? They may have said that Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship. They may have told you that you can have that relationship by saying a simple prayer. But that’s not the Gospel.

People have received many benefits of Christian life in this country, including peace and the ability to gather freely at places of worship, whether that is in a church building, a storefront, or a home. But that’s not the Gospel, either.

Christian fellowship may include teaching, praying, and eating together. Sharing the Lord’s Supper together is a wonderful way to fellowship. But it’s not the Gospel.

Here’s the Gospel. God is holy and righteous. I am not (neither are you). One day you will die and face the Lord God Himself. You will be judged, either on your own righteousness or that of someone else. Our righteousness is as filthy rags, says the Bible. So God caused His Son to walk through this world and live a sinless, righteous life. Then, to pay for all the sins I’ve committed (and you, too), He allowed His Son to be crucified and become the sacrificial lamb to pay for those sins. Then He raised Him from the dead. His death has purchased my freedom and given me His righteousness in place of my own (yours, too).

Now when I stand before God, I will be able to claim Jesus’ righteousness as my own (you can, too) and because of what He’s already done, I will be welcomed into God’s kingdom.

If you understand and believe that, then a simple prayer will, indeed, make you a Christian and guarantee your entrance into heaven. That’s called faith. The Bible says we must come to Him in faith, and His grace will do the rest.

Are you ready to believe? Jesus will save you. And that’s the Gospel truth.

31 Mar

Jesus’ “Best Man”

Jesus' best man

jesusbestmantitleIN ANCIENT Jewish tradition, there was a specific order things were done. First, a covenant was made between the groom and the prospective bride’s father. Then the groom left the betrothed for an unspecified period of time, while he prepared a place for him and his bride to live. When it was ready was determined not by the groom but by his father. When all was ready, the father would tell the son, “Go and get your bride!”

Before Jesus was taken up to heaven, he told his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am, you may be also.” (John 14:3)

Now, an interesting thing happened when the place was ready. The bridegroom returned for his bride, often in the middle of the night when she was not expecting him. His best man came with him and announced the groom’s arrival with a blast of the trumpet and calling out to the bride. He would call her name and make her aware that the time was NOW!

What will happen when JESUS returns for His Bride, the Church? He will be accompanied by His best man, the archangel, Michael. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 says “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trump of God.”

So who is this archangel? The only archangel spoken of in the Bible is Michael, and he has several duties. One such duty is to stand up for the people of Israel, as Daniel was told by An Angel when he met him on the riverbank in Babylon. He is the General of the Armies of God, and a mighty warrior. He is referred to by name three times in the Bible, and the last time is during the end times.

Here’s the thing. Since there is only one archangel, then it must be Michael who returns with Jesus to gather His bride unto Himself so that we may be where He is. What will Michael shout? Perhaps he will call us each by name, announcing that our Groom, our Lord, has returned for us. Will you be ready?

06 Mar

A Christian Seder

Christian seder

The original Seder

MY FAMILY is Christian, although my husband is a Messianic Jew. We don’t often celebrate the Jewish holidays, but sometimes we enjoy doing it. There is no Biblical mandate for Christians to keep the Jewish feasts and fasts, as Christ came “to fulfill the law” (Matthew 5:17), but there’s no reason not to if you want to. This year, we will hold a Christian Seder meal to celebrate Passover, which falls in 2015 on Easter. Resurrection Day is my most favorite day of the whole year, when our salvation was secured over 2,000 years ago.

Passover is a commemoration of the time when God freed the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and brought the famous ten plagues down on Pharaoh who refused to let the people go. You probably know the story, but if you don’t, now would be a good time to read up on it. You’ll find the story in Exodus in the Bible. The story includes the favorite part of Moses parting the Red Sea so that the Israelites could cross on dry land, and then bringing the sea crashing down to drown Pharaoh’s army when they tried to follow.

Here’s a cheat sheet to the order of the Seder. I hope you decide to join us this year and remember the roots of our faith as we celebrate the deliverance of God’s people from slavery to Egypt and slavery to sin.

A traditional Seder table.

Seder service order

KADESH – the Benediction

With the first of four cups of wine, we recite the kiddush. We are reclining to eat the whole meal.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth the fruit of the vine. Amen.

URCHATZ – Purification

Our hands are washed in the ritually correct way, but without reciting the blessing. This is because the next step is dipping the karpas, which is done without utensils.

KARPAS -the Appetizer

Although it may not seem particularly appetizing, a piece of boiled potato or onion are the appetizer, which we dip in salt water, after saying the blessing over the vegetables.
Praised are you, Adonai, Ruler of the Universe, who brings forth the fruit of the earth. Amen.
The salt water symbolizes the tears of the Jews in Egypt.

YACHATZ – Breaking the Matzah

Three pieces of matzah are used during the Seder. They have piercings and stripes on them which remind us of the pierced hands and feet and stripes on the body of Jesus. Two pieces are left whole and one is broken in half, symbolizing Jesus’ body, broken for us. Half of it is hidden inside a napkin, symbolizing Jesus’ burial. It is saved to become the afikoman, or last morsel eaten.

MAGGID – the Haggadah

At this point, the Seder tray is moved aside and the poor are invited in to join the family. A second cup of wine is drunk.

Now comes the most interesting part of the Seder ceremony, the haggadah or telling of the Exodus story. The story includes a brief history of the Jews, the time of their slavery in Egypt, the plagues and the miracles God did on their behalf.

Traditionally, the youngest child asks four questions about why the family is celebrating this day in this particular way, and you must know the story to answer the questions. This is how the traditions were passed from generation to generation, as each child at one point is the youngest. Here are the four questions:

1. On all other nights we eat leavened or unleavened bread; why on this night do we eat only unleavened bread?
2. On all other nights we eat all kinds of herbs; why on this night only bitter herbs?
3. On all other nights we do not dip our herbs even once; why on this night do we dip them twice?
4. On all other nights we eat either sitting up or reclining; why on this night do we all recline?
The answers to these questions can be found in Exodus 13:14.

ROCHTZAH – the Washing before the Meal

After the second cup of wine is drunk comes the traditional washing of the hands, along with the customary blessing in thanks for bread.
Blessed are you, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the ground. Amen.

MOTZI MATZAH – the Eating of the Matzah

Hold all three pieces of the matzot together, with the broken one between the two whole ones. Let the bottom matzah fall back onto the plate and recite the special prayer over them.
[God] who has sanctified us with His commands and commanded us to eat matzah.

Then, breaking off at least an ounce of each matzah, eat them together.

MAROR -the Bitter Herbs

Break off at least an ounce of the bitter herbs and dip it in charoset, shake it off, and eat it while standing. This symbolizes that the Jews had to be ready to flee in a moment, that there was no time to sit down to a meal (which is also why the bread is unleavened, besides the fact that leaven represents sin). Bless the herbs by saying [God] who sanctifies us by His commandments and has commanded us to eat bitter herbs.

KORECH – the Sandwich

Once again reclining, break off at least two ounces of the bottom matzah and make a sandwich with the bitter herbs between the one ounce pieces of matzah and eat it.

SULCHAN ORECH – the Feast

Now the feast begins, starting with hard boiled eggs dipped in salt water. This is a festive time and many delicious foods are served. Next week, I’ll post a list of recipes for your Seder meal.

TZAFUN – Finding the Matzah

After the feast, the children search for the afikoman, the half matzah that an adult may have hidden for this part of the Seder, or it is taken out of the napkin wherein it was wrapped, and eaten. This half of the matzah represents the risen Christ. (In Jewish culture, it represents the sacrificed Passover lamb, which Christ is!) It is the last thing eaten, and nothing else will be eaten or drunk except the last two cups of wine.

Here’s where the Christian Seder departs from the Hebrew one, because the last two cups of wine are drunk in anticipation of Elijah and the Messiah. Since Jesus said Elijah had already come in John the Baptist and Jesus is Himself the Messiah, we drink the wine in anticipation of Christ’s return, saying blessings and ending our feast with singing praise songs to God.

Next week I’ll post some Passover foods, and the week after suggestions for decorating. The final week, I’ll post children’s games and crafts.