Does the Bible Condone Illegal Immigration?

A rabbi and a priest led a protest gathering at the San Diego/Tijuana border. It was a Judeo-Christian defense of illegal immigration. The priest cited the principle of Christian charity while the rabbi compared it to Israel’s sojourn in Egypt (Exodus 22:21).

Catholic priest Roger Vermalen Karban posted an article this week titled,

The Bible Tells Us So: Concern for Immigrants is at the Heart of Faith

The title of the commentary reveals the author’s bias, and since I have recently posted an article on this topic I will only touch briefly on one or two points. Specifically, his citation of the prophet Malachi:

One of the last of the scriptural prophets — Malachi — couldn’t be clearer:

“I (Yahweh) will be swift to bear witness … against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says Yahweh of hosts” (3:5).

My response:

Why is it so difficult for people to understand that the issue is not about immigration, but unlawful violation of a nation’s borders?

As sojourners in Egypt the Jews were not illegal immigrants. They entered lawfully at the invitation of Pharaoh (Genesis 45:17-20).

Today, the issue is that 11 million foreign nationals have entered the United States illegally.

Illegally.

Ancient Israel did not have open borders. A sojourner in Israel represented one of three classifications — indentured servant, traveler, or proselyte (typically a Gentile who converted to Judaism.) Their residency was in accordance with Israeli law. Generally, a sojourner might best be described as a naturalized citizen.

In contrast, millions of “immigrants” have violated the laws and sovereignty of the United States by illegally crossing the border and residing in the country.

The author’s quotation of Malachi 3:5 is misleading. With regards to the “oppression of aliens” I would argue that the United States has been more than hospitable, generous, and tolerant. The Hebrew word גֵּר (ḡêr) can mean alien, stranger, foreigner, immigrant, or sojourner — all of whom were expected to abide by the laws of Israel.

Guwr, from which ḡêr is derived, means properly “a guest”. Illegal resident aliens are not exactly invited guests — certainly not like Jacob and his family.

To cite the Bible in defense of illegal immigration is, frankly, dishonest and deceitful.

Nancy Pelosi recently held a town meeting where, speaking in defense of illegal immigrants, she noted that they just wanted to come here and work hard.

What was that? They want to come here and work hard?

How can they obtain a job if it is unlawful for an employer to hire an illegal immigrant? Why did Andrew Puzder, President Trump’s nominee for labor secretary, withdraw his nomination? Because it was revealed that he hired an illegal immigrant. The Democrats feigned disingenuous outrage while yet clamoring for free and open borders.

No, illegal immigrants cannot be compared to the Jewish sojourners who dwelt in Egypt. Their story ended in Exodus out of Egypt. I don’t see 11 million unlawful residents parting the Rio Grande to return to Mexico.

Notes:

Speaking of Nancy Pelosi, she said that Americans can breathe a sigh of relief that Trumpcare which would have impacted them directly was withdrawn from a House vote.

Impacted them directly? Isn’t that what Obamacare has done? I can’t afford the premiums and deductibles. I can’t choose the plan I want. And I can’t see the doctor of my choice.

A caller to the Rick Roberts radio show complained that his son’s doctor visit cost over $1,000. The man said he couldn’t afford to pay, and asked if they had a cash price.

Yes, $200.

Why the difference? Because insured costs factor in a lot of paperwork, authorization and reimbursement.

For the record, I’m glad the Republican bill was not considered. The government — and insurance companies — have to get out of the health care business. We need a free market system like the guy who paid $200 for his son’s office visit.

Historically, medical care has been a target of totalitarian regimes. It’s all about denying you the freedom of choosing the best health care options for you and your family.

The insurance model tacks on a heavy premium because the insurers are in it to make money. That’s all well and good for their financial health, but not so much for your physical health.

I’m just sayin’ …

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

Remembering Joey Martin Feek

[Editor: In 2016, readers of this blog were most touched by the series of articles we posted on the life-ending journey of Joey Martin Feek. It has been one year since her passing, but millions of people were blessed by her story of courage and faith. The following post, A Proverbs 31 Woman, was our most-read article last year.]

I have shared with my readers the faithful journey of Joey Martin Feek as she battled the aggressive cancer that finally ended her life. Her husband Rory made the announcement on his blog:

My wife’s greatest dream came true today. She is in Heaven.

The cancer is gone, the pain has ceased and all her tears are dry. Joey is in the arms of her beloved brother Justin and using her pretty voice to sing for her savior.

Joey said:

I pray that one morning I just don’t wake up. But I don’t fear anything because I’m so close to God and we’ve talked about it so many times. I know he’s close. And I know he loves me. I’m really at peace. I still believe there’s healing in prayer.

I’ve prayed and prayed and prayed I’d discover I was healed. But I realized I was healed in a different way. I was healed in my relationship with Christ, because it just drew me closer.

Joey was just a small town girl (Alexandria, Indiana) who loved horses and cowboys. Her dream was to go to Tennessee and get discovered on Music Row in Nashville. That’s where she met her future husband, Rory. He was performing at the iconic Bluebird cafe, and Joey fell in love. “I’m gonna marry that man,” she told friends. But when Rory started talking about his daughters, Joey thought her feelings were mistaken.

Two years past when Joey attended a Singer/Songwriter’s night at the same cafe, and Rory (by providence?) was scheduled to perform. Joey learned that he was not married, but a single dad raising two teenage girls. They started dating, and within four months became husband and wife. Rory said, “I couldn’t believe that a woman like her would want a man like me.”

Joey put her singing career on hold as she lived the life of a country gal on the couple’s farm south of Nashville. She raised chickens, planted a garden, cooked, cleaned and mended, was mother to Rory’s two girls — she was, indeed, a Proverbs 31 woman. Even in her last days, Joey was preparing the seedlings for the Spring planting. Sadly, she won’t be here to harvest their fruit.

Joey Martin Feek was an amazing woman. When Bathsheba was counseling her son, Solomon, she certainly had someone like Joey in mind.

Proverbs 31:10-31

10 An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels.

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.

12 She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.

13 She looks for wool and flax
And works with her hands in delight.

14 She is like merchant ships;
She brings her food from afar.

15 She rises also while it is still night
And gives food to her household
And portions to her maidens.

16 She considers a field and buys it;
From her earnings she plants a vineyard.

17 She girds herself with strength
And makes her arms strong.

18 She senses that her gain is good;
Her lamp does not go out at night.

19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff,
And her hands grasp the spindle.

20 She extends her hand to the poor,
And she stretches out her hands to the needy.

21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household,
For all her household are clothed with scarlet.

22 She makes coverings for herself;
Her clothing is fine linen and purple.

23 Her husband is known in the gates,
When he sits among the elders of the land.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.

25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.

26 She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

27 She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.

28 Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:

29 “Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”

30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.

31 Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.

Today, Joey Martin Feek is inside the gates of heaven singing for her Savior. Blessed be His name.

Recommended:

Rory’s WordPress blog: This Life I Live

Joey+Rory Facebook

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

Does Jesus Pray for the World?

The short answer is yes and no. Let me ask you this; is Jesus in any hurry to return? What did Jesus pray?

Okay, let’s reboot. Dr. McGee asked the question — what is the Lord’s prayer? As McGee tells the story, two liberal Seminary professors were debating the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13, Luke 11:1-4). One said to the other, “You don’t even know the Lord’s Prayer.”

“Sure, I do,” replied the man. “It goes like this: When I lay me down to sleep …”

The first professor replied, “Well, I’ll be. I didn’t think you knew it.”

People are taught the Lord’s Prayer in first grade Sunday School. You know, forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us

And my Bible even has a headline over the passage that reads, The Lord’s Prayer. Folks, Jesus did not pray this prayer. Jesus had no sins to be forgiven.

Give us this day our daily bread … what did Jesus tell his disciples when they brought him food at the Samarian well?

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, I have food to eat that you do not know about. So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” (John 4:31-33)

Lead us not into temptation … yet Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).

So, no, Jesus did not pray this prayer.

Luke tells us that one day Jesus was praying in a certain place, and his disciples came to him seeking to learn how to pray like John’s. Jesus would go into the wilderness, or atop the Mount of Olives where he would pray aloud to the Father in heaven as on the day of Transfiguration.

Rabbis taught their disciples short prayers that could be recited from memory, and it is evident from the text that John instructed his followers how to offer supplication unto YHWH.

In this context, then, Jesus is asked to teach them how to pray. It really should be called the Disciples’ Prayer.

In our last post I mentioned that John made no reference to the Lord’s Prayer, but he does give record of what my Bible calls The High Priestly Prayer.

Jesus Christ is our High Priest. What did he pray about? We find the authentic Lord’s Prayer in John 17.

First, how do you pray at church? At home? In your quiet time? Do you close your eyes and bow your head? The pastor always begins the church service, “With eyes closed and heads bowed …” Why do we do that? Did Jesus meekly approach the throne of grace? How did Christ pray?

John tells us:

and lifting up his eyes to heaven … (John 17:1). Wait, Jesus didn’t close his eyes and bow his head? But, you say, the Son has a different relationship with the Father than do we.

So, how did ancient Jews pray to God?

Psalms 120136 are revered in Judaism as the Great Hallel, or Songs of Ascent. They were sung by Jews who made their annual pilgrimages up to Jerusalem.

Psalm 121 begins, I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1-2).

To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! (Psalm 123:1)

And King David cried out,

My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net (Psalm 25:15).

But my eyes are toward you, O GOD, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless! (Psalm 141:8)

The Berean Literal Bible translates this passage from Hebrews,

Therefore we should come with boldness to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and may find grace for help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

A typical Sunday church prayer goes like this:

Lord (long pause), we just want to thank you, Lord, for, Lord, (short pause) bringing us together, Lord, and we pray that you, God, (short pause) would bless us, Lord, as we worship you, God, this morning.

And it continues for another five minutes with even longer pauses and Lord every other word.

What did Jesus say about vain repetition? The Aramaic Bible translates:

And whenever you are praying, you shall not be verbose like the heathen, for they think that they are heard by speaking much (Matthew 6:7).

So, what did Jesus pray?

Our Lord began his prayer seeking the glory of the Father. Then he prayed for his disciples, and concluded with a prayer for all believers.

Returning to my original questions, does Jesus pray for the world, and is he in a hurry to return?

I pray for them (disciples). I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours (John 17:9).

What, Jesus is not praying for the world? In this context, no, he does not pray for the world. But this was before the cross where he did ask the Father to forgive them (Luke 23:34).

For 2000 years the church has anticipated the imminent return of Christ. It may be another 2000 years as it appears that he is no hurry to return and rapture his body.

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one (John 17:15).

There is an unfinished work left to done. Imagine, a world with no Christians. Ellicott wrote this:

The Christian ideal is not freedom from work, but strength to do it; not freedom from temptation, but power to overcome it; not freedom from suffering, but joy in an abiding sense of the Father’s love; not absence from the world, but grace to make the world better for our presence; not holy lives driven from the world, and living apart from it, but holy lives spent in the world and leavening it.

Christians tend to be too sheepish. We need to approach God with confidence. Be relentless like the persistent widow in the parable of Jesus (Luke 18:1-8) so that when he does return he will find a persevering faith.

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

Would You Wash My Feet?

It is one of the most holy sacraments of the Church yet one Gospel writer mentions it not. You may have celebrated this ritual last Sunday. Matthew, Mark and Luke present it in detail. Paul, the Apostle, condemned the church at Corinth for the unruly manner in which it observed this most sacred memorial.

But the Apostle whom Jesus loved, the man who rested his head in the bosom of our Lord at that Passover feast, did not say one word about the Eucharist, or Communion.

We should not consider this to be an oversight as John omits a measure of Synoptic detail. There are no parables in John’s record. Jesus speaks allegorically as when he says, I am the vine … (John 15:1-8); but this is a Hebraism rather than a parable. The religious leaders understood what he meant which is why they sought to kill him.

John does not mention the temptation of Christ. Neither does he include the Transfiguration, Sermon on the Mount — nor even the Lord’s Prayer.

But how could he not include what has become an institutionalized ritual? Do the elements become the body and blood of our Lord Jesus, or are they only symbolic? Catholics and Protestants disagree.

Well, John does not overlook at the last Passover that Judas was sent away to carry out his treachery. When Jesus dipped the bread, Satan entered the betrayer’s heart, and our Lord said to him, What you do, do quickly (John 13:27).

The Gospel of John was the last to be written. The Apostle may have seen or heard of the Synoptics, but his testimony was penned in the style of first person reflective. That is, it was written by one who was an eyewitness to historical events — a record of the ministry of Jesus Christ.

At the Passover, Matthew, Mark and Luke focus on the breaking of bread while John discusses the washing of feet.

Washing of feet? Where are the details of the Lord’s Supper? Why does John ignore what the Church has been debating for 2000 years?

J. Vernon McGee suggested that division in the church was the reason John passed over the elements of Communion. It really has become a contentious ritual. When do we celebrate it? How often should we observe it? Will I get sick and die if I take it unworthily?

Unworthily, what does that even mean?

Jesus commanded that as often as you drink the cup, do so in remembrance of me (1 Corinthians 11:25). Of course, he was speaking of the cup of Passover — and Pesach is celebrated once a year. How often do we take Communion?

There was a gymnasium church in my neighborhood — you know, the non-denominational type that meets in a school auditorium — and their Communion service was, well, short on grace. They had the standard thimble cups of grape juice, and plates full of cracker crumbs arrayed on a table in front of the pastor’s lectern. There were no servers so I had to walk down a steep aisle, in the dark, to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Because of my vision impairment it was quite challenging. Instead of contemplating the Lord’s sacrifice I was nervously praying, “Please, Lord … don’t let me fall.”

This is what the Church has done to Communion. It has become a vain ritual. There is no meaningful connection to the annual Passover feast. Jesus celebrated Pesach, and I imagine he intended that his church use that occasion to memorialize him. Whether the Church does so worthily I’ll leave you to consider.

To simply say, “Thank you Lord, come and get it,” — well, I did not revisit that gymnasium church. What really struck me is that I have never partook of a Communion service where there were no servers.

And that is why, suggests Dr. McGee, that John reflected on the peripheral meaning of the Lord’s Supper — and that is … service.

As they sat around that Passover table, the Apostles pondering who among them was the betrayer — even Peter coaxing John to find out the name of the guilty one — Jesus girded himself in a towel and began to wash their feet.

Remember what I told you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ (John 15:20)

The Apostles still believed that they were going to reign with Christ from the restored House of David. James and John lobbied to sit at his side upon the royal throne (Mark 10:37). In that same chapter of Mark, Peter observed that the disciples had left everything to follow Jesus. The unwritten subtext was, what’s in it for us? Whereupon Jesus replied that all who follow him will receive many times more — even eternal life; but he put an emphasis on servitude by saying the first will be last, and the last, first (Mark 10:31).

Jesus was demonstrating a servant’s heart. This was John’s old-age reflection of that first Communion where Christ came as a suffering servant — an example to his disciples of how we should live our lives.

Instead, we get embroiled in debates about transubstantiation — how the elements of the Eucharist become the body and blood of Jesus.

No, said John.

Communion with Christ is not a ritual, but a relationship. How do we live our lives in a manner worthy of our Lord? YHWH hated festivals and sacrifice — and rituals. The blood flowed daily from Solomon’s temple yet the people continued in their sin.

Peter, not understanding a servant’s heart, protested the Lord’s washing of his feet. To which the Lord answered, If I do not wash you, you have no part with me (John 13:5-9).

Imagine if we only had the Gospel of John. The Eucharist would be unknown, Communion would not be a divisive rite of the Church, and Passover would not have become a great feast of cracker crumbs and grape juice. Instead, the pastor would wash the feet of his parishioners; and you can be sure that no one — certainly not the preacher — would argue that it be done with any regularity, or frequency.

John, however, does not overlook the relevance of the body and blood of Christ. Turn back a few chapters to the feeding of the 5,000 where Jesus relates the manna from heaven as his own body — the bread of life. At the end of chapter 6 many disciples, not understanding, simply walked away.

Jesus declared that he was the bread of life — not like the manna which the fathers ate, but are now dead — but whoever eats his flesh will live (John 6:48-51).

This is a hard thing for your Jewish brothers to understand.

Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him (John 6:52-56).

We have, then, the theology of Communion removed from the Passover, and revealed in context during the earthly ministry of Christ specifically at the feeding of the 5,000.

It was a masterful piece of writing, inspired by the Holy Spirit, that we not turn the elements of the Eucharist into symbols of idolatry, and that we recognize the spiritual significance of Christ’s sacrifice.

As we examine our hearts to partake of the body and blood of Christ may we do so with a clearer understanding of what it means to be a disciple and servant of our Lord. The Apostles did not understand, and Jesus asked if they would also leave. Peter simply replied, “Where would we go?” (John 6:68-69)

I’ve never had a pastor wash my feet. Certainly, with the number of fundamental churches I’m surprised that it hasn’t become a tradition, but don’t expect that it will be added to the Communion service — ever.

Notes:

As we near the season of Passover (April 10 – April 18) may we be mindful of its relevance to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ — that Communion, instituted at the Jewish feast, is an everlasting memorial to our Lord and Savior.

Many Christians know only the tradition of Easter (April 16), and are not taught that Jesus Christ arose on the Feast of Firstfruits — a Jewish holiday following Pesach.

Related: The Kosher Christian and Christ, Our Passover Lamb

Copyright © 2017 Eternal Christ

Goodbye and God Bless

Friends, this will be my last post on WordPress (as Messiah Gate). The five year-old experiment has not produced enough fruit to make it worth my time and effort.

This blog did not begin on WP, and will not continue here. The decision was made after much prayer and contemplation. I’ve been writing since I was ten-years-old; and my hometown paper published my submissions in its Voice of the People column.

The purpose of life is to figure out what your talent is, and use it for the glory of God. If what you’re doing is not working then you have to make an adjustment. We will all stand before God — both the just and unjust. Those who are covered by the blood of Jesus will not stand in condemnation, but will be judged according to their works.

I am not saying that we are saved by works, but our reward in heaven will be determined by the fruit of our lives.

According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

There will be a lot of Christians, standing before the Lord, who smell like they’ve been to a fire sale — very smoky, indeed — yet their souls will be spared the wrath of God because of their faith in Jesus Christ. I think the Protestant church has been too dismissive with regards to the importance of good works, but that shall not be debated here.

Jesus Christ is the foundation, and this blog is just one of many works that are laid upon the stone of salvation. Those of you who post Christ-centered articles will have to determine, in your own heart, if your blog glorifies God, or appeals to your own self-identity.

The first blog I ever published was titled after my own name. My mother corrected me with aged wisdom — “It’s not about you,” she would say; and so I dropped my name from the title. How can I phrase this? I have found that the most successful Christian blogs have been more id-centered than Christ-centered. Do you know what I mean?

I don’t want to make the mistake of King David, and conduct a census of my blog. WordPress does that at the end of the year; and the stats are underwhelming. Fewer than 800 people visited this blog, and not even ten felt compelled to like a post, or leave a comment.

The numbers have been declining since 2013. This tree is not producing fruit. What is most discouraging are the hours of study and prayer that go into managing this blog, and then I see a random blog that has only a title — no posts, no content — and the blank About page has received ten likes.

There are blogs I follow that receive more visits per post than I have received in the past five years on WP. Again, we have to be careful to not judge ourselves vainly. For example, why do we write? Is it to glorify God, or puff up ourselves? In the end, the story is not about you and me, but our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

If I were to consistently water a barren tree … am I making the best use of the time that God has given me? You have to make that decision for yourself, but as for me the answer is …

… no.

Think of all the time, each day, that you devote to pursuing your own interests — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, texting, music, television, blogging, whatever it might be … and measure that to the time that you spend with God. How does it stack-up? Are those hours, spent daily in self-pursuit, building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ? For me, the answer would be no. I mean, do I really have to spend two hours watching Casablanca for the umpteenth time?

Please understand, we all need to relax and refocus; but realize in the stillness that God has given us this time to draw closer to Him — not binge on a TCM marathon of Bogart pictures. If you are a Christian who has never read through the Bible then maybe that is a task you might complete in the New Year.

As for me, I will continue to write for we cannot hide from the purpose to which He has called us. Think of Jonah, or the man who buried his talents.

The Lord has graciously blessed my work elsewhere, and so I will continue to labor in those fields that yield a good harvest. WordPress only gleaned off this fruit as did Facebook and Twitter which are now deleted.

Let me just say that the other blog is very humble in appearance. I was drawn to WP because the blogs looked so flashy and professional. They had eye-appeal, and I was attracted to the presentation. It’s all vanity. Though the other blog looks like my brother’s hand-me-downs it was blessed by God who anoints that which is lowly, and rejects that which is haughty.

May the Lord forgive me.

I was going to post an article on Franklin Graham’s appearance at the inauguration so let me say a few things about that. It came to my attention via AOL that a “contentious” pastor had been invited to Trump’s swearing-in ceremony. Frankly speaking, it was sort of confounding to learn that the divisive pastor was the son of Billy Graham. Pardon me? Oh, yes, due to his anti-gay agenda the younger Graham is supposedly unfit to attend the gala ceremony. (Because of AOL’s tenor I will cancel my account.)

Folks, we live in a day and age where Christianity has become the greatest evil in society. Islam, which has given birth to a worldwide Jihad, is to be respected and revered. After all, they worship the same God as do the Jews and Christians, but in whose name do they terrorize and murder innocent people?

Franklin Graham has murdered no one. His only crime is defending the sanctity of life, and of marriage. Christians are not anti-people. We do stand by God’s judgement of sexual immorality whether homosexual or heterosexual, but this is not an indictment of any person, or class of people, but of a behavior deemed by a righteous God to be immoral.

This is what Satan does — he turns the truth into a lie, and deceives the many who will follow the wide road to destruction for men love the darkness rather than the light; and they certainly don’t want to listen to Franklin Graham teach the Word of God.

To answer Caralyn, Is Christianity Dead?, we can take comfort in the words of Jesus. Millennials are fleeing the church in droves which is not a good sign if you are looking for a worldwide conversion before the return of Messiah; but Jesus said that only the few will find life so it should be comforting to know that we need not carry the burden of discipling the whole world. When it comes right down to it we have to be vigilant to work out our own salvation to make sure we can stand before God with a clear conscience.

My closing prayer is that the body of Christ will endure in faith and in good deeds — that the Holy Spirit will do mighty works until that great and glorious day when Messiah returns. I want to thank the few people who have supported this blog — God knows who you are — and may His blessings be poured out upon my Internet church family.

Copyright © 2016 Messiah Gate

Judge Ye Not

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Do not judge so that you will not be judged (Matthew 7:1).

One of the most misunderstood (and misquoted) verses in the Bible is where Jesus commands us to not judge.

It is a convenient response to Christian expression that is otherwise deemed unfavorable by the one leveling the charge. To say that one is being judgmental is, in fact, casting judgment.

If I don’t like what someone says I am making a judgment on their expression. Now, their expression may be sound, but that doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s not even an expression, but a behavior. Let’s say my neighbor gets drunk every night, and I tell him he should stop drinking. I’m passing judgment on my neighbor, and that would be a sin according to those who say we should not judge. It would be a sin if I staggered over with a bottle of whiskey in hand, and told my neighbor to put down his can of beer. That’s the context in which Jesus is speaking. Reading further down in the passage Jesus says to take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:5). In other words, sober up, put down that bottle of whiskey, then go to your neighbor and discuss his drinking problem.

judge2

To so cavalierly accuse Christians of being judgmental is really wearing thin. We live in a world where Christian expression is muzzled. We are not allowed to take a moral stand, have an opinion or quote the Bible without fear of being charged with hate speech. It’s preposterous, but if you level the charge often enough it becomes the truth; and Christians find themselves marginalized in a society that is predominantly anti-Christian. The lie becomes the truth — we are judgmental bigots.

Let’s examine more closely the Matthean passage. In the very next verse (Matthew 7:6) Jesus says:

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Is Jesus telling us to judge? Clearly, there are unbelievers — characterized as dogs and swine — that we are to avoid. Dust off your feet, save your breath, exercise discernment (judgment) and do not share the Good News with such people.

Jesus said that? Seems kind of harsh in light of His earlier commandment to not judge. It’s only a problem if we don’t compare scripture with scripture, and in context. Obviously, we are to judge with righteous judgment which John Gill described as a sense and judgment of things, according to the truth and evidence of them. [1]

Paul, a chosen instrument of Christ, wrote:

The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one (1 Corinthians 2:15).

What is Paul saying? That the Christian man or woman who is endowed with the Holy Spirit shall judge (or discern) all things, but shall be judged by no one who judges by feelings like one who is blind.

The assembly at Corinth was a complete mess. Paul wrote three, maybe four letters of correction to the disordered church. The congregation was rife with shameful behavior — idolatry, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, greed, thievery, drunkenness and all manner of defilement including the man who was caught sleeping with his father’s wife. Not even the pagans, wrote Paul, tolerated such behavior.

How did the church descend into such chaos? No one wanted to judge another’s behavior. They subscribed to a live-and-let-live attitude. It was a truly bacchanal society. Do your own thing — don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.

Paul laid down the law (1 Corinthians 6:2-3):

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!

Pastor John MacArthur:

It should be noted that this passage has erroneously been used to suggest that believers should never evaluate or criticize anyone for anything. Our day hates absolutes, especially theological and moral absolutes, and such simplistic interpretation provides a convenient escape from confrontation. Members of modern society, including many professing Christians, tend to resist dogmatism and strong convictions about right and wrong. Many people prefer to speak of all-inclusive love, compromise, ecumenism, and unity.

If this greatest sermon by our Lord teaches anything, it teaches that His followers are to be discerning and perceptive in what they believe and in what they do, that they must make every effort to judge between truth and falsehood, between the internal and the external, between reality and sham, between true righteousness and false: righteousness — in short, between God’s way and all other ways. [2]

Judgment can be defined as condemnation, or discernment. No one has the right to condemn. That is the Divine prerogative of Almighty God. But to say that Christians don’t have the right, or responsibility to exercise discernment is to strip us of our Divine calling to be light and salt. Light exposes, salt burns; And this is the judgment, saith our Lord, the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil (John 3:19).

Judgmental? Tell it to the Lord, but as for me I will continue to expose the darkness.

Notes:

1. John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament (3 vols., 1746-8).

2. John MacArthur, Judging Others: The Verse Pagans Love to Quote, April 19, 2016.

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Copyright © 2016 Messiah Gate

Give Christmas Back to the Pagans

I am an ancient soul who doesn’t celebrate my birthday. Don’t misunderstand, I give thanks to the LORD always for the precious gift of life, and so I celebrate Him everyday. I am consciously aware when my birthday comes around, and I do give thanks to G-d for giving me another day … another year; but not with cake or presents. The simple joy of living is to be appreciated every day … giving thanks to the Creator always.

Sadly, I think people spend more time checking their text messages than giving thanks to the LORD.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech wrote an article, Jews and Birthdays, wherein he discusses why he doesn’t celebrate his birthday. In ancient Judaism, birthdays were not celebrated. It was a pagan tradition in which the Gentiles would offer gifts to their idols on the birthday of whatever false deity they worshipped.

Candlelit cakes would be offered to an idol as fire and smoke from the candles lifted the people’s wishes for safety and protection to the outer domain of the gods. This tradition was carried over to the celebration of an individual’s birthday who would blow out the candles and offer birthday wishes for their own personal safety.

In the Hebrew Bible there is only one mention of a birthday, and that was when Joseph interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker.

Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian, wrote in his polemic, Against Apion:

Nay, indeed, the law does not permit us to make festivals at the birth of our children, and thereby afford occasion of drinking to excess ( Book II, Chapter 26).

[Brief digression]

I confess … I am a prohibitionist. This past week two people in my community were killed by drunk drivers. The offenders, as is so often the case, walked away unharmed. One of them had five prior DUI convictions. If I could make the world dry with the snap of a finger but, alas, the Bible does not prohibit drinking.

Scripture does, however, speak rather clearly on the evils of alcohol; and that drunkards will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.

And Bathsheba warned her son, Solomon (Lemuel), that kings should not drink wine, or crave strong drink.

In the B’rit Chadasha, Shaul admonished the Ephesians to not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.

Christian, why do you drink? Or, in this day and age I might ask, why do you smoke dope?

Well, it’s legal and natural. G-d wouldn’t have made it if we weren’t supposed to use it.

So, Eve took a bite of the apple because she saw it was good to eat … I see. That tipsy feeling is not the Spirit of God, but intoxication.

I remember turning 21, and how it was a rite of passage to celebrate by getting drunk. How stupid is that? My peers had been drinking, dropping acid and getting stoned since Junior High so it was sort of anticlimactic, but now they could drink legally. I didn’t do anything on my 21st birthday. Hoorah.

By the way, Jesus turned water into unfermented wine so let’s not go there as I have discussed that on another post.

The Bible is very keen on sobriety. Parties afford tempting opportunities for excess and while ancient Jews did not celebrate birthdays they did celebrate a person’s life upon death.

[End digression]

Now, let’s understand ancient Jewish tradition with regards to the birth and death of the Messiah. The disciples of Jesus did not celebrate his birth. Indeed, the secular version of Christ’s birthday has sold many holiday cards, but it is a fabrication.

There were not three wise men. Most likely it was a caravan of hundreds which is why Herod was so distraught when they arrived in Jerusalem looking for the King of the Jews. King Herod feared an insurrection which is why he ordered the death of all Jewish babies (boys) under the age of two.

The wise men, who most likely were Jewish descendants of the Babylonian exile, found Mary and her child not in a manger, but a house. Orthodox teaching is that the wise men were Gentiles from the East. Why do I say they were Jewish? Recall the Babylonian exile about five centuries before Christ (BC). Ezekiel and Daniel were among the thousands deported. Remember that Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and was made Prime Minister of the province (and chief over all the wise men).

Most of the Jews who were exiled remained in Babylon where they received prophetic revelation from Daniel particularly with reference to the 70 weeks, or 490 years to the coming of the Mashiac.

The wise men, Jewish disciples of the prophet Daniel, embarked on a momentous journey based on the revelation of G-d of the impending birth of Messiah whose star charted a course to the Holy Land.

In Judaism, as Rabbi Blech notes, people have more than one birthday — the day they are born, and the day they become righteous. The second birth is more significant — profoundly so.

What did Jesus tell Nicodemus?

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).

Is this all starting to make sense?

Jewish disciples of Christ did not celebrate his birthday for the reasons so noted. It wasn’t until the 4th century when Emperor Constantine celebrated the first Christmas on December 25, 336 AD. Shortly, thereafter, Pope Julius I made it an official church holy day.

I mentioned earlier that ancient Jews did celebrate a person’s life at death. How did Jesus ask us to remember him?

In his letter to the assembly at Corinth, Shaul wrote of the Lord’s Supper:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me. In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

Video of our community holiday parade is posted on the YouTube channel, and the organizers have pretty much succeeded in taking Christ out of Christmas. Only two local churches participated — the Lutheran, and Episcopalian (whose pastor grabbed the microphone and sang Joy to the World which, by the way, is not a song about Christ’s birth, but his Second Coming).

Oh, how the traditions of men defile everything that is holy and true. It doesn’t help that Christians (who don’t know the Hebrew roots of their faith) have taken the Jew out of Jesus.

I don’t get caught up in the perennial debate — taking Christ out of Christmas — when the Yule season was a pagan celebration long before Messiah was born. If anything, Christmas adopted the bacchanal celebration of the winter festival; and it has, for centuries, brought reproach and contempt to that which a Christian should be remembering, and that is the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua HaMashiach.

All else is vanity, my brothers.

Copyright © 2016 Messiah Gate

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