What does it mean to repent? How much repentance is necessary? Perhaps it means far more than we think, and perhaps there is much more need to repent than we may understand. This is not a casual thing – especially in this increasingly chaotic time.
It is no coincidence that the first major initiative of B’ney Yosef North America is a call to YHVH’s people to examine themselves thoroughly in a humble, repentant attitude at this season moving into the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashana/Feast of Trumpets, Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement, Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles). In this, as in many other areas, we are grateful for the understanding we have gained of repentance from both Christian and Jewish sources. The details of repentance, or teshuva, is something our Jewish brethren understand very well; our Christian brethren understand that repentance is made complete by the atoning work of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ).
These two perspectives are two halves of a picture that is only now beginning to come into focus. These short daily meditations are one means of acquiring that focus. As of this posting, we are already one week into the 40 Days, but it is a simple matter to jump in at any point. Whatever you do, take time in this season to ask the Almighty for revelation on how to make things better in your relationships with Him and with others.
As we proceed through these forty days of repentance, through the month of Elul and into Tishri through Yom Kippur on 10 Tishri, we are going to look at what happens to our hearts when we are unrepentant. In other words, what we are introducing into our lives and our relationships when we do NOT repent. [please click on the link below to continue reading]
What do Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the pre-Tribulation rapture have in common? There is probably a joke in there somewhere, but the punch line escapes me. The answer, though, is that all of them are part of mainstream Christian practice (at least in the West), but none of them have much basis in Scripture. When held up to the light of Scripture, the Jolly Elf, the Whimsical Rabbit, and the Get-Out-of-Persecution-Free Card actually belong more in the realm of legend, myth, and wishful thinking.
There is no need to explain to Christians that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny do not exist. Everyone knows that – and it would be better if our children understood it from the start rather than having to face their first crisis of faith when their kindergarten friends expose the truth. What everyone does not know, or does not want to admit, is that the doctrine of Jesus coming back to snatch His people away from the earth before the trials of the Last Days is not consistent with Scripture. The problem up to now is that there has been no comprehensive reference book written to examine this question from a critical point of view.
Until now, that is. Author Michael Snyder has at last filled the void with his latest book, The Rapture Verdict. It is 268 pages of systematic investigation of the subject from a man who simply wants to sort out the truth. His stark conclusion is stated in the first chapter:
Unfortunately, there isn’t going to be a pre-Tribulation rapture. In fact, millions of Christians are going to die waiting for a pre-Tribulation rapture that is never going to happen.
Depending on the reader’s disposition, such a statement will make him or her angry, fearful, or vindicated. Those with the latter reaction would be the ones who grew up learning about the rapture in church, but who could never shake the nagging doubt that the few dozen verses pulled out of context to justify the doctrine leave far too many unanswered questions.
What is the purpose of a covenant if the parties in it do not keep their ends of the agreement? The parties enter into a covenant expecting certain results, but those results cannot come about if the covenanters fail to do what they said they would do, or do what they agreed not to do. With that in mind, look at what the New Covenant says:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NASB, emphasis added; see also Hebrews 8:8-11)
This is YHVH’s part of the New (or Renewed) Covenant. He enters into this agreement with the entire nation of Israel, promising to put His Law (or Torah) on the hearts of the people so they will live as He created them to live. Then He will be the God of Israel, and they will know Him intimately.
This is the New Covenant that has come into effect by the redemptive work of Messiah Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice, and it applies to all who accept this gift of salvation offered by YHVH. What, then, is our part of the bargain? Do we agree to sit around for eternity, enjoying an endless party at God’s expense, and literally living happily ever after? Not exactly. Eternal life and the joy of the Lord are the rewards of keeping this bargain with God, but our part of the agreement involves things like this:
Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. (Psalm 119:11 NKJV)
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (I John 2:3-6 NASB)
In other words, our part of the covenant is to learn the Word of God and do what it says; His part is to help us in this process. That is the purpose of His Holy Spirit, the Gift of God to make our hearts ready to receive His truth, which He writes on our hearts (John 14:16-26; Ezekiel 11:19-20; Deuteronomy 30:6-8).
Here is a tool to help God’s covenant partners keep their part of the agreement. This is a Bible reading plan that goes through the entire Bible in one year, but in a slightly different way. This plan is a combination of the Jewish and Christian approaches toward the Scriptures.
The Jewish approach is to read through the Torah (the books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) in weekly portions, combined with selections from the Haftorah, which are selected readings from the Prophets and other books of the Tanakh (Old Testament). The Torah cycle begins after the Fall Feasts of Yom Teruah (Trumpets, also called Rosh Hashanah), 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 4-10. In this reading plan the Torah cycle is broken down into daily portions as one would normally find in any Jewish or Messianic reading plan. The weekly Haftorah readings occur each Shabbat (Sabbath), with additional Haftorah selections for the Feasts appearing at those special times during the year.
One Christian approach to reading the Bible is to go through all 66 books of the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings (New Testament) every year. This plan does that also. All of the Tanakh, starting with Joshua and ending with Malachi, as well as the Apostolic Writings from Matthew to Revelation, appear as daily portions along with the daily Torah and weekly Haftorah readings. There is no intentional connection of these daily readings with the Torah portions, just a straightforward presentation of each book in bite-sized portions 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!
Let’s be honest: how much do we really pray for the peace of Jerusalem? Jews, Christians, and Messianic & Hebrew Roots believers around the world have proclaimed this exhortation as a priority, but how many of us actually pray for Jerusalem and for the land and people of Israel on a regular basis? Is it really that important? Well, yes, it is. Take a look at Psalm 122, the passage where we find that commandment about prayer for the peace of Jerusalem:
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that is built as a city that is compact together; to which the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord—an ordinance for Israel—to give thanks to the name of the Lord. For there thrones were set for judgment, the thrones of the house of David. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, “May peace be within you.” For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good. (Psalm 122:1-9 NASB, emphasis added)
Notice that this command to pray for the peace of Jerusalem comes with a model prayer: “May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces.”
Notice also that there is an explanation why we pray for Jerusalem: “For the sake of my brothers and my friends”, and “for the sake of the house of the Lord our God”.
It would seem that as we pray for Jerusalem, we pray as well for ourselves, for the entire world, and for the Kingdom of our God. That calls to mind another prayer elsewhere in Scripture:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV)
With this in mind, consider joining others around the world in interceding for the peace of Jerusalem, the redemption of Israel, and for the Jewish people throughout the world during the Ten Days of Awe from Rosh Hashanah (the Feast of Trumpets) to Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), September 14-23, 2015.
The 10 Days Israel Prayer is an initiative sponsored by Prayer Surge NOW, with participation by ministries, congregations, and intercessors from many streams. This is a call to united prayer and fasting for the nation of Israel to hasten the vision of Jerusalem being fully established as a praise in the earth, to bring Glory to YHVH, and to seek the fulfillment of Israel’s destiny by establishing her as a source of blessing to all the families of the earth. Each day will feature a one-hour conference call hosted by Messianic and Christian servant-leaders who will lead intercession on topics including the One New Man, national security of Israel, outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Children of Israel, Aliyah, the Abrahamic Covenant, and more. The prayer calls take place at 9-10am EST / 8-9am CST / 7-8am MST / 6-7am PST. To join the call, dial in at 712-432-0075, and at the prompt enter the access code 6149782#.
Two versions of the 10 DAYS ISRAEL PRAYER GUIDE are available for download here. The longer version contains the complete background and day-by-day prayer points. The short version is a condensed summary.
Recently Peter Vest, author ofOrthodox Messianic Judaism, reviewed my book,Give Me A Place Where I May Dwell. His is the first critical review of which I am aware. Critical, that is, but not scathing. His perspective provides ample opportunity for discussion and refinement of our understanding, and much room for agreement. Peter invited me to comment on his review, and I am glad to accept the invitation in hope of advancing a very useful dialogue. Here is his review. My comments follow.
I just finished reading a book that is attempting to do for the Ephraimite Movement what Theodor Herzl’s book “Der Judenstaat” did for Zionism. Some of what it says is good…other portions are very troubling indeed.
First, here’s the author, Albert McCarn:
As you can see, he is a well-decorated ex-military officer. And we can all be very thankful for his many years of service to our country.
Here’s the book which, you will note, displays a proposed national flag for the Ephraimite Nation:
So let’s get into it.
Every book is about a problem and a proposed solution. This book frames the problem something like this:
You very well could be a descendant of the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel which means that you’re living in exile from your homeland (the tribal territories of the Northern Tribes of Israel), deprived of a sense of national community with your people–the Ephraimites, suffering from the onslaught of increasingly hostile, anti-Biblical culture in your host country or even outright oppression.
But there is hope for you to rejoin your lost community and reclaim your birthright to the Northern Tribal Territory of Israel:
You can help restore national consciousness to Ephraim by (1) envisioning the kinship you share with other Ephraimites all over the world and (2) joining many others in a mass exodus from all of their various host countries as they embark on an epic quest to reclaim the “land of the fathers.”