Tag Archive | New Testament

Read Through the Bible with the Barking Fox – Reading Plan for 5778 (2017-2018)

bfb160919-read-meWhen Messiah establishes His kingdom on the throne of His father David, everyone will be surprised.  One reason is the thoughts and ways of infinite God are incomprehensible to mortal humans (Isaiah 55:8-9).  That is not necessarily a bad thing since our Heavenly Parent, YHVH delights in surprising His children.  Those who study the Word of God will always have an incomplete understanding of it, but their hearts will develop a readiness for the instruction of His Holy Spirit.  It is this teachable heart that will help these people adjust quickly to life in the Kingdom – just as the Scripture says:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  (II Timothy 2:15 KJV)

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  (II Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV)

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”  (Matthew 4:4 NKJV, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3)

In the interest of helping the people of YHVH study to show themselves approved unto God, The Barking Fox humbly presents the Bible Reading Plan for the Hebrew year 5778 (2017-2018).  This is the fourth year for our reading plan. Thanks to everyone who pointed out typos, omissions, and other errors in previous editions. Every year brings improvement because of you!

This is a Bible reading plan that goes through the entire Bible in one year through a combination of the Jewish and Christian approaches toward the Scriptures.

The Jewish approach is to read through the Torah (the five books of Moses) in weekly portions, combined with selections from the Haftarah, which are selected readings from the Prophets and other books of the Tanakh (Old Testament).  The Torah cycle begins after the Fall Feasts (Rosh Hashanah/Trumpets, Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement, and Sukkot/Tabernacles), and goes through the entire year to the next occurrence of the Fall Feasts.  This year the cycle begins the week of October 8-14.  The Torah cycle is presented in daily portions as one would find in a Jewish or Messianic reading plan.  The Haftarah readings occur each Shabbat (Sabbath), with additional Haftarah selections for the Feasts appearing at those times during the year.

This plan also follows a popular Christian method of reading through all 66 books of the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings (New Testament) every year.  All of the Tanakh, from Joshua to Malachi, as well as the Apostolic Writings from Matthew to Revelation, appear as daily portions along with the Torah and Haftarah readings.  There is no intentional connection of these readings with the Torah portions, just a straightforward presentation of each book in the order they appear in the Christian canon.

If you are in search of an organized approach to the Word of God, maybe this can help.  Whatever you do, please do get into the Word so that it can get into you!

If you are in search of an organized approach to the Word of God, maybe this can help.  Whatever you do, please do get into the Word so that it can get into you!

Please click here to download the Bible reading plan:  TBF Bible Readings 5778 (PDF)


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2014-2018.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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The Dilemma of the Ger, Part 3: Dealing with the Kinslaying

This is the third part of a dialogue with Dr. Rivkah Adler of Breaking Israel News on the question of whether the biblical concept of ger, or foreigner, could be considered as a possible status for Torah-keeping non-Jews.  It began with Rivkah’s article, “Are We Witnessing the Restoration of an Ancient Biblical Status for Non-Jews?”, followed by my commentary, “The Dilemma of the Ger, and her observations in “A Jewish Response to the Dilemma of the Ger.

Dealing with the Kinslaying

Albert J. McCarn
April 16,2017

The Kinslaying at Alqualondë, by Ted Nasmith. Used by permission.

A motif running through J.R.R. Tolkien’s fiction works is the exile of the Elves from Valinor, the Blessed Realm of the Valar, the gods of Tolkien’s world.  Those who read The Lord of the Rings first encounter the exiles as the High Elves who aid Frodo and his companions in their flight from the Shire.  Readers who venture into The Silmarillion learn that the High Elves are the Noldor, one of three Elven clans who answered the Valar’s invitation to leave Middle Earth and live in Valinor.  The Vanyar and Teleri – the other two clans – remained in Valinor, but the Noldor rebelled against the Valar and returned to Middle Earth to fight against Morgoth, Tolkien’s equivalent of Satan.

The Noldor had justification for their actions.  Morgoth had stolen the Silmarils, the matchless jewels fashioned by Fëanor, greatest of the Elven craftsmen, and had killed Finwë, Fëanor’s father and king of the Noldor.  Nevertheless, their rebellion under Fëanor’s leadership incurred a sentence of exile and separation from any help the Valar could offer.  Over the next several centuries the Noldor and their allies among the Elves and Men of Middle Earth proved unable to defeat Morgoth, and they suffered a long defeat.  At the end of their strength, the humbled remnant repented and begged help from the Valar.  When help came, Morgoth was defeated and the Valar granted clemency for the Noldor to return to the Blessed Realm, bringing with them the remaining Elves of Middle Earth who had never seen Valinor.

This is the unseen backdrop for the Elves appearing in Tolkien’s later and more popular works.  Those who pick up the story with The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings meet wise Elrond, stern yet kindly Thranduil, and gentle Galadriel, but they have no understanding of their history.  Galadriel, for example, was Fëanor’s niece, and along with his sons and her brothers led the Noldor in rebellion.  Upon passing the test of refusing the Ring of Power when Frodo offers it to her, she proves that she, the only surviving rebel leader, is indeed ready to return home as a humble penitent.

In Galadriel’s story we see the stunning panorama flowing through the body of Tolkien’s works.  Yet there is one missing detail:  he never tells us what happens when the exiles return.  It is a significant omission.  We can imagine the scenes of reconciliation as the Noldor made amends with the eternal Valar, but we do not know what happens when they encountered the brethren they had wronged.  At the beginning of their flight from Valinor, the Noldor demanded of their kin, the Teleri, use of their ships.  The Teleri refused, resulting in a terrible battle known thereafter as the Kinslaying.  As Tolkien describes it, “Thus at last the Teleri were overcome, and a great part of their mariners that dwelt in Alqualondë were wickedly slain.”  If that were not enough, when they arrived on the shores of Middle Earth, Fëanor gave orders to burn the wondrous Telerian ships, craft of great beauty the like of which could never be made again.

What happens when the prodigal Noldor return home is a tale we do not know.  We hope they are reconciled with their brethren, but achieving reconciliation requires conscious effort to overcome the debt of blood between them.  Until that debt is paid or forgiven, the bliss of the Blessed Realm remains unbearably diminished.

Tolkien’s epic thus becomes a parable for us, the returning exiles of the House of Yosef (Joseph).  Like the Noldor, we are guilty not only of rebellion against our God and the king He had anointed, but also of an endless Kinslaying of our brethren of Judah.

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My Favorite Super Bowl Commercial: What Do I Tell My Daughter?

Super Bowl LI has passed into the history books as one of the greatest games of the series.  It ranks as that in my opinion, with the New England Patriots staging the greatest comeback in the history of the game.  That, however, is not what made the event so monumental for me.  It was one of those much-anticipated but often disappointing Super Bowl commercials that surprised me by grabbing my heart and wrenching it into an emotional mess.  Oddly enough, it was an automobile commercial.

This jewel of an ad from Audi of America addressed an issue often considered a progressive or liberal cause.  Christian and Messianic conservatives tend to relegate this issue to a lesser status than sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage, or even national defense.  The issue is equal pay for equal work, the call to end wage discrimination against women.  The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) explains the problem this way:

American women who work full time, year round are paid only 80 cents for every dollar paid to men — and for women of color, the wage gap is even larger.  It’s long past time to close the gap.

According to my favorite Super Bowl commercial, Audi agrees.  The ad ends with the words, “Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work.  Progress is for everyone.”  Yet it is not the end of the ad that captured my attention, but the beginning.

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The “Official” Snarky Guide To The Differences Between Christmas and Hannukah – Jeff Dunetz

bfb161220-hanukkah-harryIt is that time of year that Christians celebrate Christmas and Jews celebrate Hannukah, and all of us Messianic and Hebrew Roots folks are somewhere in the middle.

Actually, we’re not really in the middle.  Most of us have opted out of Christmas and opted into Hannukah.  Not because we have rejected Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), mind you.  We understand that His birth happened in the fall, most likely at the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah in modern Jewish practice) rather than in December.  We also understand that all the Feasts of the Lord presented in Leviticus 23 are connected to Messiah’s redemptive and restorative work for the nation of Israel and all the world. 

The fact is, we celebrate Passover (Pesach), Unleavened Bread (Matzot), Firstfruits (Yom Habikkurim), Pentecost (Shavuot), Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Tabernacles (Sukkot) because God established them and called on His people to observe them “as a statute forever”.  That’s different from Christmas, which is a human tradition rather than a Divine decree.  Christmas is a Christianization of the old festivals our ancestors celebrated in honor of other gods before they learned about the One True God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  We have learned that our Messiah is Jewish, which is why we prefer to follow His example rather than the traditions which overshadowed and obscured His Jewishness and the Hebraic origins of our faith.

One might argue that Hannukah is a tradition as well.  Indeed it is, but it is rooted firmly in history as a tale of our God’s salvation of His people in a time of great distress.  Why is it not in the Bible?  Well, it is, in some canons.  The Catholic Bible still has 1st and 2nd Maccabees, the books that tell the Hannukah story.  There is also a mention of it in the New Testament:  John 10:22 tells us that Yeshua was in the Temple during the Feast of Dedication, which is another name for Hannukah.  The point is, the origin of Hannukah is no less real and no less miraculous than the origin of Purim as recorded in the book of Esther.  Our Jewish brethren established both feasts to commemorate the provision of the Almighty and His faithfulness to His covenant.  Is there a better reason to celebrate?

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Israel 2016: In Search of Hebrew Roots Judaism

General Douglas MacArthur wades ashore on Leyte, Philippine Islands, in October 1944 to keep his promised, "I shall return".

General Douglas MacArthur wades ashore on Leyte, Philippine Islands, in October 1944 to keep his promised, “I shall return”.

There is a joke from World War II that no longer makes sense without some explanation.  It is said that a foreign student at an American university wrote an essay about General Douglas MacArthur.  In the early months of 1942, as MacArthur presided over a doomed defense of the Philippine Islands, he was ordered to leave his command and go to Australia, there to organize the multinational Allied force that would halt Japanese expansion in the South Pacific.  At his departure, MacArthur reportedly promised the people of the Philippines and his Filipino and American troops that he would one day come back with an army to liberate them – which he did two years later.  On that momentous day in 1942, though, all he could do was promise, “I shall return.”

Those were inspiring words to Americans about to lose their forward bases and their largest military force in the Far East, and who could not bear to lose with them one of the most senior officers of their Army.  MacArthur’s words inspired this young foreign student as well.  However, his knowledge of English being imperfect, he conducted his research in his native tongue, and therefore committed an unfortunate faux pas when he presented his paper.  Standing proudly in front of his peers, the young man said, “I write about Douglas MacArthur, who said those famous words, ‘I’ll be right back!’”

What is the proper response in such a situation?  If there is no offense, then laughter erupts.  However, if the hearers take offense, then they respond in anger.

It may be that neither is the proper response.  If the one who made the error is trying to communicate in good faith, then the audience should give grace, seek to understand the true message, and help the author overcome the error.  That is the point behind King Solomon’s wise words:

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.  (Proverbs 10:12 NKJV; see also Proverbs 17:9)

Solomon’s observation is rooted in a Torah principle:

You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God:  I am the Lord.  (Leviticus 19:14 NKJV)

Jewish sages understand that this principle refers not only to the physically deaf and blind, but also to people who cannot hear or see things clearly.  Perhaps they are not present when something is said, or perhaps they do not have the language or experience to grasp the intricacies of a subject under discussion.  Consider, for example, a man who is brilliant in his native language, but struggles to order a cup of coffee in English, and is laughed to scorn by those who do not realize the importance of being kind to strangers (another Torah principle).

To be honest, Jews are strangers to me, and I am a stranger to Jews.  Although I identify as a Hebrew Roots follower of Messiah Yeshua, I have yet to grasp the intricacies of Judaism.  The more Jews I meet and get to know, the more I begin to understand, but always what I say and do is tempered with the fear that I may give offense in some way that I had never anticipated.

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Read Through the Bible with the Barking Fox – Reading Plan for 5777 (2016-2017)

bfb160919-read-meWhen Messiah establishes His kingdom on the throne of His father David, everyone will be surprised.  One reason is the thoughts and ways of infinite God are incomprehensible to mortal humans (Isaiah 55:8-9).  That is not necessarily a bad thing since our Heavenly Parent, YHVH delights in surprising His children.  Those who study the Word of God will always have an incomplete understanding of it, but their hearts will develop a readiness for the instruction of His Holy Spirit.  It is this teachable heart that will help these people adjust quickly to life in the Kingdom – just as the Scripture says:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  (II Timothy 2:15 KJV)

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  (II Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV)

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”  (Matthew 4:4 NKJV, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3)

In the interest of helping the people of YHVH study to show themselves approved unto God, The Barking Fox humbly presents the Bible Reading Plan for the Hebrew year 5777 (2016-2017).  This is the third year for our reading plan, and hopefully the experience of the first two years has resulted in some improvement – or at least a correction of the format errors of previous years.  There may yet be a few typos in the text, but thanks to a more thorough quality control process there should be no repetitions or omissions of any passages.

This is a Bible reading plan that goes through the entire Bible in one year through a combination of the Jewish and Christian approaches toward the Scriptures.

The Jewish approach is to read through the Torah (the five books of Moses) in weekly portions, combined with selections from the Haftarah, which are selected readings from the Prophets and other books of the Tanakh (Old Testament).  The Torah cycle begins after the Fall Feasts (Rosh Hashanah/Trumpets, Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement, and Sukkot/Tabernacles), and goes through the entire year to the next occurrence of the Fall Feasts.  This year the cycle begins the week of October 23-29.  The Torah cycle is presented in daily portions as one would find in a Jewish or Messianic reading plan.  The Haftorah readings occur each Shabbat (Sabbath), with additional Haftarah selections for the Feasts appearing at those times during the year.

This plan also follows a popular Christian method of reading through all 66 books of the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings (New Testament) every year.  All of the Tanakh, from Joshua to Malachi, as well as the Apostolic Writings from Matthew to Revelation, appear as daily portions along with the Torah and Haftarah readings.  There is no intentional connection of these readings with the Torah portions, just a straightforward presentation of each book in the order they appear in the Christian canon.

If you are in search of an organized approach to the Word of God, maybe this can help.  Whatever you do, please do get into the Word so that it can get into you!

If you are in search of an organized approach to the Word of God, maybe this can help.  Whatever you do, please do get into the Word so that it can get into you!

Please click here to download the Bible reading plan:  TBF Bible Readings 5777 (PDF)


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2014-2017.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

To My Daughter the Bride: A Lesson in Chosenness

 

My first encounter with a chuppa was watching Norman Jewison's 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. I did not understand at the time the significance of the canopy over the bride and groom. (© 1971 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

My first encounter with a chuppa was in Norman Jewison’s 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. I did not understand at the time the significance of the canopy over the bride and groom.  (© 1971 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Yesterday morning, as I reviewed the news over breakfast, something unusual caught my eye.  It wasn’t actually a news item, but it did appear in one of my usual news sources.  There on the sidebar of The Times of Israel web page was this article with the title, “To My Daughter Under the Chupa”.  As soon as I saw it, I thought, “Hey!  In about a month I’ll have a daughter standing under a chupa.  Maybe I should read this.”

I did read it, and I was greatly blessed.  It is the speech Rabbi Shmuley Boteach presented recently at the wedding of his daughter.  What I found in his remarks was something I have come to expect in Jewish biblical exposition:  a profound depth of truth and wisdom that not only supports, but to a great extent completes what I learned in my Christian upbringing.

Perhaps it would be good to explain what a chupa is.  It can also be spelled chuppa.  The Hebrew pronunciation is difficult for an English speaker, but saying “hoopa” is close enough.  One reputable Jewish source explains the chuppa this way:

The chuppah is a tapestry attached to the tops of four poles.  The word chuppah means covering or protection, and is intended as a roof or covering for the bride and groom at their wedding.

The chuppah is not merely a charming folk custom, a ceremonial object carried over from a primitive past.  It serves a definite, though complicated, legal purpose:  It is the decisive act that formally permits the couple’s new status of marriage to be actualized, and it is the legal conclusion of the marriage process that began with betrothal. . . .

Chuppah symbolizes the groom’s home, and the bride’s new domain.  More specifically, the chuppah symbolizes the bridal chamber, where the marital act was consummated in ancient times.

– Chabad.org, The Bridal Canopy (Chuppah)

This helps explain what I mean when I say that Jewish learning complements my Christian learning.  What I mean in this case is that the pastors and teachers I have been blessed to know have consistently taught me that I am part of the Bride of Christ.  What they did not teach me was what that means.  To understand this requires a Hebraic perspective that takes into account the entire record of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.  That is where the Jewish learning comes in.  The rabbis know that Israel is the chosen of God, and that He will betroth her as His bride.  What the rabbis and the pastors together could not have known until now is that this blessed betrothed one, the Israel of the rabbis and the Church of the pastors, is the same corporate body of believers joined together in the covenant sealed with the blood of YHVH’s Anointed.

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Kingdom Power in Context: A Review of The Restoration and the Gifts of the Spirit by Dr. David E. Jones

BFB160717 Jones - Restoration and Gifts of the SpiritA pendulum swing is taking place in the Hebrew Roots movement in America.  Many followers of Yeshua haMashiach (Jesus Christ) who have sought to embrace the Torah walk He modelled have moved beyond traditional Christianity.  In practical terms, that means they have left the organized church in its various denominations and moved into something that looks sort of Jewish (as in keeping Sabbath and observing the biblical Feasts), but retains faith in Yeshua as Messiah.  Now that this process has been going on for almost a generation, many are beginning to wonder if we might have left some very important things behind in the church.  Things like fellowship, unity, brotherly love, and the Holy Spirit.  This does not necessarily mean that Messianic and Hebrew Roots believers are ready to return to the church, but rather that we are beginning to realize the same thing about Christians as we have come to understand about Jews:  the things we hold in common are far more numerous and more important than the things which divide us.  Consequently, Hebraic believers are now reexamining once again what they believe, taking steps to mend broken bridges and restore precious things which we may have jettisoned too quickly in our zeal to put distance between ourselves and the traditions of man.

Hebraic believers with backgrounds in the Pentecostal or Charismatic branches of contemporary Christianity understand this question in regard to the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaQodesh).  At first glance, the Torah observant lifestyle does not seem compatible with what is generally believed to be the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit.  Yet a deeper study of the Person and purpose of the Spirit reveals something astounding:  living by Torah is impossible without Him.

This is the thrust of The Restoration and the Gifts of the Spirit, a new book by Dr. David E. Jones, Senior Pastor of Ruach Ministries International in Brandon, Florida.  The book grew out of conversations he held with Brad Scott of Wildbranch Ministry.  As Scott writes in his Foreword:

We believe that these gifts were ignored, tossed away, changed or otherwise corrupted just as the feasts and the sabbaths were. . . All of the gifts of the Spirit are from the beginning and all of them are a testimony and revelation of the end.

What follows is a thorough examination of the Holy Spirit from a Hebraic viewpoint.  Starting with Genesis 1 and moving forward through the Scriptures, Jones establishes two very important points.  The first is that the Holy Spirit is YHVH God, nothing less.  This may seem contrary to the common Jewish understanding of echad, or one, which for centuries has held that God is an indivisible entity – One and only One.  That is not necessarily the sense of the Shema, the watchword of Judaism and Hebraic faith, which states, “Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one!”  (Deuteronomy 6:4 NKJV)  Jones explains that echad in that verse and elsewhere in the Bible means, “’one’ as something that is unified as one, not necessarily only.”  In other words, “the One True God is in perfect unity as one.”  Therefore, He can express Himself in multiple ways and still be the same YHVH.
The second point is that the Holy Spirit has been active in the world and in human beings from the very beginning.  This is contrary to a common Christian understanding that the “outpouring” of the Holy Spirit did not happen until the events recorded in Acts 2 at the Feast of Pentecost following Yeshua’s ascension.  Jones cites several examples of people in the Tanakh (Old Testament) filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to do the works of YHVH.  This brings us to the ministry of the Holy Spirit:

We see a common theme throughout all of Scripture in testifying concerning a “spirit-filled” man of YHVH.  This testimony is three fold, it consists of:  wisdom, knowledge and understanding.  Looking at many of the great people of faith, we can see these three things being shown in their lives.

In his examination of Scripture, Jones illustrates these three elements of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding evident in every move of the Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments.  He makes his most powerful argument in presenting the parallels between the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, and the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.  What he reveals is the continuity of the Holy Spirit’s work in the people of YHVH, both before and after the coming of Messiah Yeshua.

This is perhaps the most powerful and greatest contribution of Jones’ work.  It is an understanding that neither traditional Christianity nor traditional Judaism could uncover in that both of them start with the perception that they are separate entities rather than two expressions of the same covenant-keeping YHVH.  It takes a Hebraic believer, with an appreciation of both the Christian and Jewish perspectives and an understanding of the Old and New Testaments, to grasp this essential truth.  Yet he does not stop there.  In the latter chapters, he investigates those controversial questions always present in discussions of the gifts of the Spirit.  How are we to account for and deal with such things as the gifts of prophecy and tongues?  What role do they and other gifts play in the life of a Hebraic follower of Yeshua?  What have we missed by avoiding them?  What do we gain by embracing them in the context YHVH intended all along?  Jones does well in addressing these questions.  The answers he provides may not be complete, but they are an essential component to this ongoing discussion of how the power of the Holy Spirit is to be evident in the lives of YHVH’s people.

The Restoration and the Gifts of the Spirit is a much-needed work on a component still lacking in Messianic/Hebrew Roots understanding of the Scripture.  It is also a powerful addition and enhancement of the Christian and Jewish treatments of the subject.  David Jones has done a great service to the believers of all traditions by his balanced and scholarly investigation of the Spirit of the Living God.

The Restoration and the Gifts of the Spirit is available through Ruach International Ministries, and on Amazon.com.


© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2014-2016.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Connecting the Tribulation Dots: A Review of The Cooper Chronicles, by Daniel Holdings

BFB160530 Daniel HoldingsWhat happens when an author combines the mega-conspiracy theories of Thomas Horn, the spiritual warfare depictions of Frank Peretti, and the science fiction apocalyptic vision of Larry Niven?  The result is The Cooper Chronicles, Daniel Holdings’ End of Days trilogy recounting the adventures of physicist and inter-dimensional globetrotter Dr. Bryce Cooper. 

Apocalyptic literature is fascinating to say the least, but such works are not necessarily encouraging or fun.  If done with the appropriate touch of realism – as, for instance, Nevil Shute’s post-nuclear war drama On the Beach – the work is depressing and scary.  The subject, after all, is the complete eradication of human life on planet earth.  On the other hand, a Terra-über-Alles yarn like Footfall (co-authored by Niven and Jerry Pournelle) makes the human cost merely the backdrop of an adventure story featuring mankind’s technological prowess and luck in overcoming an invasion by a fantastic foe from deep space.  The loss of all of India, for example, registers little to a reader certain that somehow the story will have a happy ending. 

The challenge of balancing realism with readability takes on an added dimension in spiritual subjects.  A writer of Christian fiction must remain true to the Bible, or at least to his or her interpretation thereof.  The result can be dismally flat, contrived, and divorced from real life – which is why it takes a special gift to write such a work.  C.S. Lewis comes to mind as the pioneer and first master of modern Christian apocalyptic fiction, a genre which Peretti further develops.  Yet when it comes to End Times novels which try to tell the tale of the Great Tribulation from a realistic viewpoint, no one has done quite so well as Daniel Holdings.

It helps that Holdings approaches his subject with the understanding that no one is exempt from the trials and devastations prophesied to come upon the earth according to the Bible.  This gives him an advantage over Christian authors who write from the belief that there is a “pre-Tribulation rapture” which will remove Christians to some heavenly safe haven.  To such authors, the real prize is not being on earth when bad things happen, which means their interest is not really in figuring out how the bad things are going to happen. 

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An Explanation to a Jewish Brother

In Interview between Jesus and Nicodemus, James Tissot depicts one Jew's honest attempt to understand Yeshua of Nazareth and his followers. Although Nicodemus eventually became one of Yeshua's followers, Christians have overlooked one very important point: neither he nor Yeshua ever ceased being Jewish.

In Interview between Jesus and Nicodemus, James Tissot depicts one Jew’s honest attempt to understand Yeshua of Nazareth and his followers. Although Nicodemus eventually became one of those followers, the world has overlooked one very important point:  neither he nor Yeshua ever ceased being Jewish.

In recent days my friend Pete Rambo and I have enjoyed a lively email exchange with a Jewish brother.  By this time we have identified many of the key differences in our beliefs and the ways we perceive the world.  I think it is safe to say we are confident enough in our relationship that we can ask some pointed questions without fear of alienating one another.  The good thing is that we are all curious about what we believe, and we genuinely want to know how we each perceive the world.  This has been eye-opening on all sides.  I have learned that some of the things I thought I knew about Jews and Judaism were not quite right, just as our friend has learned that some of the things he thought he knew about Christians and Messianic believers were not quite right.  This is the kind of dialogue that is essential if we are to come to an understanding of one another and begin to cooperate in bringing Messiah and building his kingdom.

What I share here is a response provided to our friend in answer to two questions.  The first concerned our celebration of Passover (Pesach) – as in, why do non-Jews celebrate the Feast, and how do we do it?  The second question involved our description of ourselves as something other than Christian.  In other words, how is it that we believe in Yeshua, or Jesus, as Messiah, but do not consider ourselves Christians (or at least traditional Christians).  In the interest of building mutual understanding, here are my answers to those questions.

This year we participated in a Passover seder with friends in Austin, TX, just as we have done for the last three years.  All of our friends have come out of the traditional church, but all embrace Yeshua as Messiah and have a heart to learn and live the Torah as he taught it.  This year we had ten people around the table, including our youngest daughter.  Although she is 22 and about to graduate from the University of Texas, she was still the youngest person there, and it fell to her to ask the traditional questions.

We used a Messianic haggadah from Lion and Lamb Ministries.  In years past we have produced a haggadah of our own, but it’s easier to take one from a source we appreciate and modify as we go along.  That’s precisely what we did.  Since none of us grew up Jewish, we do not know the traditional songs and sayings and prayers.  However, we know enough to see where the traditions of Judaism mesh with what we have learned about Yeshua as our Messiah.  That is why we are comfortable taking a traditional Jewish seder and inserting Messianic and Christian elements.  For example, although we sang a chorus of “Dayeinu”, most of our songs were Christian hymns celebrating the death and resurrection of Yeshua as our Passover Lamb.  We had the four cups of wine and we said the traditional prayers in Hebrew (since my wife and I have studied the most, we got to lead the prayers), but we did leave out a few things (such as horseradish – much to my chagrin since I like horseradish).

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