Friday, July 27, 2012

The Mourning Fast that will become Joyfilled Feasts!

Most Christians are probably unaware that today is one of the most significant holy days on the Jewish calendar, the fast of the fifth month or often known as “Tish B’Av.”  This fast commemorates 8 national disasters for the Jewish people according to tradition.  These disasters happened all on the same day.  Here are some of them.  First, the wilderness generation from Exodus refuse to go into the land and reject God culminating in punishment.  They are condemned to die in the wilderness because they spurned God and refused to believe in Him (Num 14).  According to the Jewish calendar, that day happened on Tish B'Av.  Second, the first temple was destroyed on this very day in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians after a long siege.  Third, the second temple was destroyed (yup, you guessed it, on the same day) in 70 A.D. by the Romans.  Some others, A Jewish Massacre in 135 A.D. during the last battle of the Bar Kochba rebellion (which was the result of Emperor Hadrian building a temple to idols on the Temple Mount and a self proclaimed messiah) and a couple exiles from countries (England in 1290 and Spain in 1492).  What a very sad day indeed and not one by coincidence.

Think about it, what if we had national tragedies that continued to happen on the same day.  Take Dec 7th or Sept 11th for example.  Just the mere mention of those dates should bring back memories of tragedy.  But imagine several distinctive events that could be attributed to a lack of belief in God.  For Israel, they refused to believe in God and enter into the land and were condemned.  They refused to believe in God and followed after idols so God's glory left (Ezek 8-11) and the first temple was destroyed (2 Chr 36:11–21).  They refused to believe in God incarnate and were judged with the second temple being destroyed (Matt 23:36-24:2).  They followed after a false Messiah and rebelled against Rome in 135 A.D.  What a day to mourn.

But let’s look at something in a little more detail that pertains to the “fifth” month of mourning or Tish B'Av.  Take a look at Zechariah 7.  The Jewish people have been exiled and are coming toward the end of this 70 years. Two representatives come to the priests and prophets to ask about whether they should weep, mourn and fast during the “fifth” month (Zech 7:1-3).  This self-imposed fast was Tish B’Av.  At this time, the fast was to remind them of the First Temple destruction by the Babylonians.  The seventh month fast is the “Day of Atonement” which was commanded by the Lord for them to humble themselves (afflict their souls) over their sin (Lev 16). Yet their hypocrisy is exposed in that this mourning was not done for the LORD but for the people themselves (7:5ff).  They also had a few more self-imposed mourning fasts.  Take a look at Zechariah 8:19–They observed a fourth month —capture of Jerusalem (city wall breached – 2 Kgs 25:3–4; Jer 39:2) and a tenth month– Siege of Jerusalem (2 Kgns 25:1–2; Jer 39:1) fast.  Four fasts in all.  The fourth, fifth,  tenth month fasts all centered around the loss of Jerusalem and the Temple.  The seventh month fast focused on their national sin.

But Zechariah 8:19 also points to something else.  These mourning fasts will one day turn to Joy.  One day, they will stop mourning over the devastation their sin has caused. These sorrowful FASTS will turn to Joyful FEASTS.  But don’t stop there.  Keep reading!  Zechariah 8:20–23, the peoples of the world will one day go up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord.  Not only that, but the Jewish people will one day play a part in World Wide Worship.  Zechariah 8:13 shows that the Jewish people who are a curse among the nations will one day be saved and will be a source of blessing to the nations.  One writer states, “With the Davidic kingdom established, Israel will be a medium of blessing to the entire globe.”

Today, all over the world, Jewish people who observe Tish B’Av will be saying, “Next Year in Jerusalem” in hopes of seeing a restored nation and temple with Messiah ruling.  After the meal that ends the fast, a common saying is maybe “we won’t have to fast this year.” Maybe “Messiah will come and the Temple will be rebuilt before the fast starts.” 
One day, the LORD will send His Messiah a SECOND TIME, and they will look on whom they have pierced and mourn – Zechariah 12:10!!!  Until that day, Tish B’Av will be a day of mourning for the Temple.  After that day, there will be joyfilled feast for God’s people will have come to faith in Christ.

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Righteous Ruler

This weekend marks one of the most somber observances for the Jewish nation.  It is the time when both temples were destroyed on the same day.  There is much to be said of “Tish B’av” and I plan on working through some of these things on my blog for anyone interested.  I am currently in the process of writing my Th.M. thesis on the temple and figured I’d post a few things about it in the next few weeks as well. 

Today, I have been studying Jeremiah.  Both the nation and the king have turned away from following after the LORD.  They have broken His covenant.  In Jeremiah 22, God calls the Davidic kings to “Do justice and righteousness” (22:2-3).  If they obey, then God would perpetuate the reign of David’s descendants on Judah’s throne (22:4).  If they disobey, then David’s “house” would become a desolation (22:5).  All they need to do is follow after God, doing justice and righteousness.  Yet that same theme will come up and expose their lack of these qualities.  They are without” righteousness” and without “justice” (22:13).  Not only will God make the Davidic “house” a desolation, but He has also said if the nation fails to follow after Him and continues to break the covenant, that His “House” (the Temple) will become a desolation (7:12-15; 12:7-11).  The Davidic king and the people were to follow God, not reject Him or His Word.  Yet they fail and the Temple is destroyed, the people exiled and the nation laid to waste.  Tish B'av remembers the destuction of the Temple on the same day in 586 B.C. with the Babylonians and then again in 70 A.D. with the Romans.

While chapter 22 calls for justice and righteousness to be found in the king and then shows that these qualities are lacking, chapter 23 brings about a significant promise for a future Davidic descendant who will one day reign as king and who will do…..”justice” and “righteousness” in the land (23:5).  This coming one will be a righteous Branch from the line of David.  Zechariah 6:12-13 show us that this righteous Branch will also build the temple of the LORD and will be both a priest and king, sitting on the throne of David.  One day, there will be a righteous ruler who does justice and righteousness as King over a one world order.  I love how Jeremiah 23:6 ends, “And this is His name by which He will be called, The LORD our righteousness.”

Israel laments the loss of its temple which signified the dwelling place of God.  They long to rebuild the temple and look to the day when Messiah reigns.  Yet we know that the God-man, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus the Messiah will reign as King over the entire world.  Matthew 25:31ff describes Christ's promise to return in glory, with angels and THEN He will sit on His throne, judging the nations (righteously and justly) and giving those who truly know Him the priviledge to enter into His kingdom (Matt 25:34).  What a promise indeed!

Friday, June 1, 2012

No June Gloom Here!

Today marks the start of my 10th year of being on staff at Church of the Canyons.  It’s amazing how time flies.  I absolutely love what I do.  Ministry to college kids is still so very exciting to me.  It is one of those times in their lives that you can help walk them through decision making, the ups and downs, and the joys and challenges of life.  I got asked just the other day by a student if I was going to do this the rest of my life.  Who knows (except God of course), but I’d love to.  I’ve got so many memories of this stage in my life.  Here are some of my favorite things that I love about college ministry:

·         I love seeing students graduate and move on to different places all over the world with a goal to make a difference for Christ.  Being at a location with several colleges, you get a lot of transition.  While that might be a bummer, it is also a blessing as they move on and plug in elsewhere.

·         I love the college leaders that I’ve worked with over the years.  Often, they come in as students and then come on board as college leaders.  It’s been a blast having great leaders who love God and learn how to serve in a ministry.  Some of my best friends are from those who have served on college leadership with me.

·         I love seeing people grow in their spiritual life and develop their gifting.  It’s always a joy to see people develop and grow and then to be used in whatever God calls them when they move on from college ministry. 

·         I love it when God brings in someone as a young college student and they stick around for years, growing and serving and becoming my close friend.  I’ve watched God bring in people that I began to shepherd and then watch them grow up to be my peer.  That is such a cool thing to see that transition.  I’ve watched people fall in love and get married in the college ministry and then move on to have kids and serve elsewhere.  I’ve watched people move on to serve in other churches.  It is such a blessing to think back over the years and see God’s faithfulness in their lives.

·         I love the staff and elders I have the pleasure of working with at COC.  I continue to learn so much from them.  I have been so blessed to have godly men help shape me in what it means to be a shepherd.  It is so amazing to see their hearts in desiring to invest in the next generation. 

·         I love to see the next year’s group of people.  Transition is the name of this ministry.  Each year brings with it some sadness as we say goodbye to people who have stayed at COC for a number of years.  Yet each year also sees a new group of students come in and plug into the ministry.  Having done this ministry for this long, it’s fun to think back to each new school year and think about who God has brought us and how that has shaped the group.

So those are just a few things I am thankful for in these last 9 years and starting my 10th.  I wonder what the “next ten” will bring!

Monday, May 28, 2012

What's Shavuot gotta do with me?

The feast of Shavuot (pronounced Shav – oo – ot) is one of the 7 feasts found in Leviticus 23.  Shavuot comes from the Hebrew term “weeks” which is a major part of the feast, the counting of 7 weeks.  Most Christians know this feast by its Greek name, Pentecost.  This feast counts fifty days from the Sabbath of the Passover and Unleavened Bread festival.  Hence the Greek name Pentecost which means “fifty.”  This year, the feast is celebrated between May 26-28 or the third month of the Jewish Calendar.  It is also called the “Feast of Harvest” in Leviticus 23:16.

In the last post (below) I have a brief introduction to the feasts.  In summary, the feasts can be divided into two major categories, the spring and fall feasts.  The spring feasts begin with Passover, which is the start of the new year according to Exodus 12 and Leviticus 23. So Passover starts on the 14th of the 1st month.  The next day begins Unleavened Bread that lasts for 7 days.  During this 7 day feast of Passover/Unleavened Bread there is a Sabbath.  That Sabbath is significant because that begins the count down for 7 weeks (49 days) of counting and then Shavuot/Pentecost feast begin on the 50th day.

Some features of this feast according to Leviticus 23:15-22 show that on this day, each person is to bring two loaves of bread to the Tabernacle/Temple and wave them.  Most likely they were to hold a loaf in each hand and wave them.  While Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread marked the beginning of the Exodus out of Egypt, this feast marked the end of the Exodus and the giving of the Law.  The book of Exodus, in 19:1-2 shows that the people of Israel came to Mt. Sinai in the third month and camped there while Moses went up the mountain to get the Law.  The  observance of Shavuot was connected to the giving of the Law, something that Jews even today associate Shavuot with in their celebration.  In fact, part of the current Jewish celebration is to read the Torah all night long on the first night, with special emphasis on the 10 commandments.  It is here, at Mt. Sinai that Israel was given the Law and where they became a “holy nation.”  One of the most significant events of this time was fire.  Exodus 19:18 states that Mt. Sinai was in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Some even wonder if the two loafs being waved were symbolic of the two tablets of the 10 commandments in Moses’ hands.

In the NT, this feast is only mentioned by name 3 times (Acts 2:1; 20:16; 1 Cor. 16:8).  The most significant is Acts 2, which is probably the most familiar to many Christians.  It is here that the first converts to Christianity begin to speak in tongues of fire.  Christ promised in Acts 1:5 that not many days they would be “baptized by the Holy Spirit.”  We see this happen at Pentecost in Acts 2.  We also know from 1 Cor 12:13ff and Gal 3:26-29 that the Spirit baptizes believers into the body of Christ.  This mean that the Holy Spirit places a believer into union with Christ and with other Christians.  In essence, Acts 2 shows the birth of the Church and the giving of the Spirit.  This event was something unique up to this point in redemptive history.

How amazing is that?  The same holy feast that God had appointed (Lev. 23:1) would be both the birth of Israel and the birth of the Church many many years later.  Here are a few more interesting connections.  Under the Mosaic Covenant – Fire on the Mountain, the giving of the Law, the Law written on stone and the birth of the nation.  Under the New Covenant – Fire on believers, the giving of the Spirit, the Law written in the heart through the ministry of the Spirit and the birth of the Church.

What a holiday worth looking back on and celebrating.  This should give us a great appreciation of the OT and how as NT believers, books like Leviticus shouldn’t be crispy!  I trust this was encouraging.  If it was, please leave a note.  If I see this as something beneficial to others, I’ll do more.  But If I am the only one reading this, well I’ll save the time, haha.

The Fun with Feasts

Everyone likes holidays.  You get to have a day off, hang out with friends and usually BBQ like today (Memorial Day) or have some type of abundant spread on the table (like Thanksgiving).  And with it also comes some type of remembrance or celebration.  That’s the fun with feasts.  The Biblical feasts are similar but have so much more, for they connected holidays with specific acts to remember what God has accomplished for His people. The most detailed account of the feasts can be found in Leviticus 23.  Unfortunately, because many Christians have crispy pages that happen to coincide with the OT, the feasts are largely unknown or ignored.  Yet these OT feasts have great significance for even the NT.

I started to think about blogging this when posting a reminder that this weekend was Shavuot (pronounced Sha-voo-ot) which we know mostly by its Greek name Pentecost.  Well, I will post some cool things I have learned over the years in my studies of the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy), but first a brief introduction to feasts.

These feasts can be divided into two categories, fall feasts and spring feasts on the Jewish calendar.  In fact, the Jewish Biblical Calendar starts off in the Spring with Passover.  What can make this confusing for many is that this calendar is totally different than the calendar we use.  Their months are different and the dates for holidays change every year.

The first four feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First-Fruits, and Pentecost) are in the Spring and cover the first three months.  Then a four month period of silence with no feasts.  Then after these four months of no feasts or holidays comes the spring feasts, which occur all in one month!  The 7th month brings with it three feasts (Trumpet, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles).  That’s a lot to take in, so just look at the picture I’ve included to help you.  There is so much in these feasts that maybe we could do a series on each one and its NT theological significance. 

In the Jewish Spring feasts, the first three feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First-Fruits) happen within a week of each other.  The Passover celebrated God’s physical redemption out of Egypt.  The feast of Unleavened Bread starts the next day and lasts for 7 days. So naturally, one of these 7 days of the feast of Unleavened Bread would fall on a Sabbath.  This Sabbath is significant for a later feast, the Shavout. These three feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits) are closely connected to the Exodus of Israel out of Egypt and their journey to the Promised Land.  Even today they are a reminder of God’s deliverance, redemption and provision.   The next feast is Shavout or Pentecost which I will cover in the next post in more detail. 

In the Jewish Fall feasts, these all take place one after another.  The feast of Trumpets happens on the the 1st day of the seventh month (Tishri – Sept thru Oct).  This feast is a national call to repent and calls attention to the coming Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement then comes along on the the 10th of the seventh month, which is a national cleansing.  These first two feasts are somber feasts.  The next feast is the feast of Tabernacles, which comes five days later on the 15th and lasts 7 days and an 8th day was added.  This feast was a high point of Israel because it was a joy filled feast of celebration that brought the feasts to an end.

Remember, holidays are more than just a day off and eating, but a remembrance or celebration of something.  Today not only marks the remembrance of those who gave their lives for our freedom, but it also coincides with the feast of Pentecost, which will be the subject of my next post.

Monday, May 14, 2012

My Year In Review

I noticed that it has been a year since my last post, which prompted an idea of doing a quick year overview. Last year I used the blog to keep people updated on my second trip to Zimbabwe where I taught the Gospel of Matthew to roughly 80 Zimbabwean pastors. A lot has happened since then and yet some things still remain the same. Here is a quick list:

Ministry happenings
  • I will be starting my 10th year in college ministry in June. These 9 years have been a great experience. Such a blessing.

  • We sent out our first home grown missionary family, the Hodzi’s, to Zimbabwe. It has been a wonderful journey to see the Lord grow and provide for them. They went on the field in September.

  • We said goodbye to Elijah Vogel. He graduated seminary and went up into the mountains of California to work at his home church. It was a blessing to see him join our college group roughly 5 or 6 years ago. He joined our leadership team and went to seminary. What a blessing to raise up and send out men who will bring the Lord glory. He left us in January.

  • College ministry was very fruitful this year. One of the highlights was our College worship team. It was a blessing to see roughly 40 students every Sunday get involved in our ministry in some way. We also have been working through the book of Ezekiel. On our Wednesdays Bible study, we have been continuing our study in Matthew and should complete that study by the end of the summer. The question now becomes, what will we study next?

  • We added 2 more missionary families in April. The Holmquist family and the Zeller family. We look forward to their ministry and to our part in that ministry.

  • Steph and I, plus an amazing lady from our church, Jan, were able to go to Italy again. I had the wonderful opportunity to teach Italian pastors and their wives the Gospel of Matthew. This was totally different than my teaching time in Zimbabwe. This class was geared more for an advance course and we spend much time getting into more advanced issues. It was a great time and we look forward to going back in a year, Lord willing.

Personal happenings

  • We added another bulldog to the family in January. He is a tan and white bulldog named Nacho. He is a very adorable bulldog but also is very stubborn. Rocco (our brindle bully) has just started to get along with him. It’s been an interesting process.

  • I finished up what appears to be my last official class of the ThM program. It was class in Dispensational Theology, which I enjoyed very much. Now all that is left is writing a thesis, which I will begin immediately. In fact, I am writing this at the Seminary Library.

Hope you enjoyed a quick summary. There is much more, but that would take way too long. I’m thinking I will begin blogging about things on the Gospel of Matthew and other odds and ends.