Prophets and priests – not the same

The Jewish priests in the time of the Tabernacle had to use the Urim and Thummim because they could not hear from God themselves. Moses could – all prophets could. Note that Moses was not the high priest – his brother Aaron was. They had separate roles.

They were the “Navi” (the Hebrew word for prophet) – an entirely separate group of people that often lived apart from people, sometimes alone in the wilderness. God could speak at any time, and they had to be ready. It was hard to integrate that task with “real life”. They were not provided for as the priests were. They did not receive the tithe as payment for their services as the priests did.

It is important to note the tithe in the early church was only used to help those in the community who were less fortunate – those who were sick or out of a job, or didn’t have family to help them. It was never intended to pay the salary of a priestly class, as there was not supposed to be such a thing. It was actually forbidden to have priests, as it created a separation in a Body that was meant to be One. We are all meant to be equal like siblings rather than have those who are higher or lower.

Even today, when a prophet hears from God and tells the priest (self-styled, for their authority comes from man and not God) they are ignored along with the message like many prophets in the past were. Of course they are – because the “priests” are incorrectly exercising control over the church. To admit that they are wrong would mean that they must get past their ego and let God be in charge – not them.

Give up sin, not chocolate, for Lent

God has no need for you to give up chocolate, or playing video games, or wine, or meat, or whatever material thing that you’ve picked, for Lent. In fact, Jesus did not create Lent. The whole idea of giving up something for 40 days does not exist in the Gospel at all. Sure, Jesus fasted (unintentionally) for 40 days while he was in the desert being tempted by the devil. But that doesn’t mean you are supposed to.

Sometimes you have to give up something in order to make yourself appreciate what you do have. We need to remember that everything we have comes from God. We need to remember that we do not control our lives, and that we are not the authors of them. God is. But what God really wants is for us to give up our own wants and tend to the needs of others. God wants our sacrifice of time to help other people, instead of money or offerings. You cannot buy your way into heaven.

Psalm 51:16-17
16 You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering. 17 The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.

1 Samuel 15:22-23 (the prophet Samuel speaking to Saul)
22 Then Samuel said: Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice,to pay attention is better than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,and defiance is like wickedness and idolatry.Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,He has rejected you as king.

Hebrews 13:16
16 Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.

Micah 6:6-8
6 What should I bring before the Lord
when I come to bow before God on high?
Should I come before Him with burnt offerings,
with year-old calves?

7 Would the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams
or with ten thousand streams of oil?
Should I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the child of my body for my own sin?

8 Mankind, He has told you what is good
and what it is the Lord requires of you:
to act justly,
to love faithfulness,
and to walk humbly with your God.

Isaiah 58:3-11
3 “Why have we fasted, but You have not seen?
We have denied ourselves, but You haven’t noticed!”[b]
“Look, you do as you please on the day of your fast,
and oppress all your workers.

4 You fast with contention and strife
to strike viciously with your fist.
You cannot fast as you do today,
hoping to make your voice heard on high.

5 Will the fast I choose be like this:
A day for a person to deny himself,
to bow his head like a reed,
and to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast
and a day acceptable to the Lord?

6 Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore[c] your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will appear like the dawn,
and your recovery will come quickly.
Your righteousness will go before you,
and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard.

9 At that time, when you call, the Lord will answer;
when you cry out, He will say, ‘Here I am.’
If you get rid of the yoke among you,[d]
the finger-pointing and malicious speaking,

10 and if you offer yourself[e] to the hungry,
and satisfy the afflicted one,
then your light will shine in the darkness,
and your night will be like noonday.

11 The Lord will always lead you,
satisfy you in a parched land,
and strengthen your bones.
You will be like a watered garden
and like a spring whose waters never run dry.

——-
All Bible translations are HCSB

Redeemer

Stephen Gaskin was the founder of The Farm, an intentional community near Summertown, Tennessee. Before the commune was settled, he embarked on a speaking tour of America to talk about peace. His goal was to wake people up to a healthier way to be together as a society, a nation, and a global community.
He regularly allowed people to ask questions as part of the talks. Occasionally, some of the questioners had issue with him referring to Jesus. Most people who are considered countercultural don’t talk about Jesus at all, and Stephen did. He said that the Sermon on the Mount was the finest example of a guideline for how people can live together in harmony.
In his book “The Caravan”, he talks about Jesus as the Redeemer. In the usual Christian sense, this means that Jesus covers your sins for you. He pays that bill, so you don’t have to. But Stephen took it in a different direction. He said that in order to have a Redeemer, you have to have a Deemer. A Deemer is someone who deems – who makes a judgment as to whether something is good or not. Deemers separate and divide.
A Redeemer comes after that and makes things right. Redeemers make things whole again, by showing the value in all people. Redeemers point out that God made everyone, and God made everyone good. Redeemers reset us by seeing us as we were originally designed to be – whole, complete, and pure.
Additionally – not something said by Stephen but an extension of this thought – this is how Jesus was able to heal people instantly. He saw them as they were designed to be, before they were damaged by the world. Instead of seeing people as sinners, he saw them as Children of God. He didn’t heal them through any special power. He healed them by unlocking the power that God had put in them from the very beginning. He unlocked it by reminding them of it when he saw through their mask of sin to the person beneath.
The most radical part of this is that Jesus tells us that we have this same ability. We can heal the world by choosing to see people as Children of God. No longer dividing them into “good” and “bad” – but simply as people. We too can redeem the world, with Jesus’ help.

Keep calm and trust in God

I was reading this passage from James 1:2-6

2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. 5 Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.

I was really struck by the verse that says the “doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”

It reminded me of these stories from earlier in the New Testament –

Matthew 14:22-33
22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. 23 After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was already over a mile from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them. 25 Around three in the morning, He came toward them walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and cried out in fear. 27 Immediately Jesus spoke to them. “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 28 “Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.” 29 “Come!” He said. And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those in the boat worshiped Him and said, “Truly You are the Son of God!”

Note verse 30 in particular. Peter becomes afraid – and THEN he begins to sink. He isn’t afraid because he’s sinking. He’s sinking because he’s afraid. The fear came first.

And there is this, an earlier story. This story is in Matthew 8:23-27, but I like the version in Mark 4:35-41 better.

35 On that day, when evening had come, He told them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.” 36 So they left the crowd and took Him along since He was already in the boat. And other boats were with Him. 37 A fierce windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t You care that we’re going to die?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 Then He said to them, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?” 41 And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Is it possible that the storm came about because of the disciples fear?

Is it possible that if we keep calm, the world around us will keep calm? I feel that the politicians want us to be afraid. When we react in fear or anger or disgust at their actions, they are controlling our behavior. They are calling the shots. They are leading the dance. We are Re-acting, instead of Acting.

Be calm, trusting in the One who is in charge – God. Not a politician. Listen to the still small voice of God to tell you what to do – not the shrill shouts of politicians.

I leave you with these words from the prophet Micah (in Micah 6:8) to know how to act in these difficult times (and every other time)

“Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you:to act justly,to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.”

If we do these things, we will be fine.

(All Bible verses are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible)

What are you?

It has finally happened. People in the Messianic Jewish congregation I’ve been fellowshipping with have finally started to ask me which direction I’m coming from. They want to know if I am Jewish or Gentile. I counter with “Why does it matter?” and they get sheepish. It shouldn’t matter to them, because it doesn’t matter to God.

When the angel announced Jesus’ birth to the shepherds, the message was for “all people”

“10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:  11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.” (Luke 2:10-11)  

The prophet Isaiah tells us that foreigners who follow the ways of God will be welcomed.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord minister to Him, love the name of Yahweh and become His servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold firmly to My covenant— I will bring them to My holy mountain and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on My altar, for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:6-7)     

Peter, the one upon whom Jesus built his church, noted with astonishment that the Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they heard them speaking in other languages and declaring the greatness of God. Then Peter responded, 47 “Can anyone withhold water and prevent these people from being baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay for a few days.  (Acts 10:44-48)

His viewpoint was that if God chose these people (the Gentiles), then who where they (the Jews who believed in Jesus) to refuse them the sacrament of baptism.

We are all one in Christ – there is no distinction.

Peter also says

34 Then Peter began to speak: “Now I really understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, 35 but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him.  (Acts 10:34-35)

If God doesn’t show favoritism, neither should we.

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Galatians says –

27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ like a garment. 28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.  (Gal. 3:27-29)

Likewise, Paul says in his letter to the Colossians –

11 In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all. (Col. 3:11)

To the Ephesians he says –

The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Eph. 3:6)

 

Jesus says we are equal, like brothers – with nobody greater than another.

The disciples often argued about who was more important among them –

46 Then an argument started among them about who would be the greatest of them. 47 But Jesus, knowing the thoughts of their hearts, took a little child and had him stand next to Him. 48 He told them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me welcomes Him who sent Me. For whoever is least among you—this one is great.” (Luke 9:46-48)

And likewise, just after the first Lord’s Supper –

24 Then a dispute also arose among them about who should be considered the greatest. 25 But He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles dominate them, and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’  26 But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and whoever leads, like the one serving. 27 For who is greater, the one at the table or the one serving? Isn’t it the one at the table? But I am among you as the One who serves. (Luke 22:24-27)

 

Jesus didn’t care if someone followed him in the way he taught.  What was important was that they do the work of God.  That was how you knew they were OK.

49 John responded, “Master, we saw someone driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him because he does not follow us.” 50 “Don’t stop him,” Jesus told him, “because whoever is not against you is for you.” (Luke 9:49-50)

In a similar concept –

John the Baptist gets angry with Pharisees in Matthew 3:7-10.

7 When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to the place of his baptism,[b] he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance.  9 And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones!  10 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

He says that it doesn’t matter if you are related to Abraham.  God can do anything, and can make children of Abraham without the need for human involvement.  What matters most is that you produce fruit of the Spirit.  Blood doesn’t matter at all, but action.

 

(All translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible)

What’s in a name?

Around late Advent, just before Christmas, it is common to have this reading from the Gospels:

Matthew 1:18-23

18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After His mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly. 20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit.  21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name Him Immanuel which is translated “God is with us.”

Matthew 1:23 refers to Isaiah 7:14.

Isaiah 7:14

14 Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.

(FYI – Immanuel is sometimes spelled “Emmanuel”.)

So is the prophecy fulfilled? A virgin did conceive and give birth to a son – but he was named Jesus, not Immanuel.  Does it matter?

Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua,” which means “The Lord saves” or “Yahweh saves.”

So his name doesn’t even mean the same thing – “God is with us” and “The Lord saves” are not the same.

It reminds me of the discrepancy with the death and resurrection – it wasn’t three days – it wasn’t even 48 hours – that Jesus was entombed.

Does it matter?

Is it a deal breaker?

And how come nobody else has pointed this out?

 

(All translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Translation)

After the resurrection – message

I was wondering about how we will share the earth with all the dead after the resurrection. I can’t even imagine how many people that would be – millions and millions. There will be no room for everyone – the planet is overpopulated with the living as is. We can barely support ourselves.

The answer came that we will all be in a new phase reality. There will be many translucent layers of existence, rather than one. This already currently exists, but isn’t visible or manifest to anyone except prophets and seers. But after the resurrection, we will all see like this.

This will not be overwhelming. We will all have new eyes. We will all be able to shift our perception and see more, as we choose. We will not feel like our lives are crowded with people. They will be like the host of angels – ever present, but not always manifest.