Musing on the Days of Awe (Yamim Noraim)

Recently on this blog there was some reflection on The Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) which has also been commented on in two previous articles one in 2008, the other in 2009. There has been little commentary on this blog regarding the days following Rosh Hashanah or on Yom Kippur. This year this writer is being stirred to comment on these as well. Starting with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur are ten days known as the ‘Days of Awe’ (Yamim Noraim) also known as the ‘Days of Repentance.’ Part of the reason these days have not been addressed is because of the perspective of doing something to get right with God to assure being in good standing and possibly reversing God’s judgment. The views is that the actions taken on the Days of Awe can alter what God had written on “The Feast of Trumpets” with the final judgment being cast on the day of Judgment. The viewpoint is that during this time a person can engage in one of three actions: “teshuvah, tefilah and tzedakah,” repentance, prayer, good deeds. There is also the focus on reconciling with those who you have done wrong as Jewish though based on the Talmud suggested that the Yom Kippur sacrifice does not atone for what you have done wrong to others. So,w hile the ten day focus on repentance and getting right with God is honorable, it is coming from a missing perspective.

As a Christian, the perspective of repentance is different, as we do not focus on whether or not we have to “earn God’s favor.” Nothing that we do makes us right before God, as we have been redeemed, covered by the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Yet, if you take some time to examine and consider there is a Christian perspective on these days and it is certainly worthwhile to take time to engage in extended reflection on our relationship with God and others. Note, that these days start with the “trumpet blasts” of the Feast of Trumpets. The blasts are a wake-up call stating the time is now and time is left before the coming day of Atonement, the great day of judgment. The period between the “wake-up” alarm and the serious day of atonement may well be reflective of the tribulation period. God does nothing without meaning and what he established is a shadow of what is to come. So it is worthwhile to take these days seriously and reflect on repentance. On this blog up until Yom Kippur the article focus will be on various aspects of repentance. From a Christian perspective this is examining both what have done wrong and what am doing right. It is seeking God to know and learn what area of life he is refining toward change. It is a time to look at the things that have been left undone. It is a time to allow the Holy Spirit to work on our hearts and move through the ongoing sanctification. It is also worthwhile to consider or relationship with others and reconcile with those we have wronged and forgive those who have wronged us.

It is also important to be aware that for each of us this process should be a daily process. As being a member of the Kingdom of God and being made clean by the blood of the Lamb of God, every day is really a day of Awe. Every day is a day to consider our relationship with God: where we are missing the mark due to action or inaction. Daily we need to forgive and be forgiven. Daily we need to make right what we have done wrong. Yet, there is the time of the calendar between God’s established days that we can learn from. The majority of the Christian church has lost awareness of these days. Some parts of the church have taken the concept and used it for other extended periods of reflection such as Lent. Yet, God has set some days for His purpose and being aware and remembering what God has done and is doing is important. It is worthwhile to reflect on what God has done, what he is doing, and what is yet to come. As a believer in Messiah, God has made me clean and redeemed me. I am currently in an ongoing process of being cleaned known as sanctification where that which is unclean is being refined and done away with. There is a coming and future point where as a part of the body of Christ, we will be presented as clean before Jesus as the “bride of Christ.” For those who accept Jesus as Messiah, each has no fear of the day of Judgment for the position before God has been established. We await the great and future day of true great Awe and wonder as we await Jesus who will straighten out all of which has been made crooked and twisted and all shall be brought into proper account. So take time, reflect. Repent. Pray. Act in love toward others. These are actions of people in the Kingdom of God, not because they put us in right position with God, but because he loved us and we desire to serve and grow into a greater reflection of Jesus the Messiah. It is a day by day, step by step process.

The true reconciliation: Comparing Tax day and Judgment Day

Yesterday was the day where everyone has to report to the United States government there income and assess the appropriate level of responsibility.  It is a day of accounting and ensuring appropriate reconciliation of the data. Up until the day taxes are do people work on adjusting the ledgers and seeing how they can reduce their share of responsibility and get most for self.  Every possible angle at reducing the cost to self is examined. Stress levels increase; conflicts arise, all over sorting through what the financial reconciliation of data comes up to.  There is relief and joy when the numbers are put together in such away that money is returned. Agony, despair, and desperation can occur when the numbers line up to needing to pay money in. 

Now there is a more important Day of Judgment and reconciliation of facts coming; the day when God will judge all of mankind. Now many think of God’s judgment to be like Tax day. Does the good behavior, selfless acts overcome the selfish, hurtful things. Is there more good than bad?  Was enough done to just make it by, am I just good enough?  Well guess, what?  God has a short form. God has a means of cutting through and sorting through everything that was done and the motives behind it.  The means of cutting through that is known as redemption and forgiveness.  God created a means by which there is no need to reconcile a balance of good and bad.  God sent Jesus to reconcile for all and pay the debt. It is as if someone with immeasurable resources agreed to pay for your tax burden if you chose to accept the offering and follow his directions.  Most people though choose to run their own life, sort out the reconciliation for themselves.  Most figure they got the balance tilting pretty well on the postive side.  Most of us really do not grasp the level of depth of own self-centeredness.

There is one true way in the judgement to come to have favorable results, move beyond self and take the gift of having it all accounted for.  Yes, it means loss of  just doing things your own way, but doing things your own way while driving down a path that only leads to a sudden extreme destructive drop-off.   In order to gain you need to give up self.  It is that simple.

Peace on Earth Goodwill to Humanity

Christmas and all the trapping of the celebration have come and gone. Gifts have been given and received. Carols sung. Time with family and relatives spent. Countless sermons preached on the various elements of the story of the birth of Jesus. For this writer though, it all boils down to reflecting on what the birth of Jesus means. More particularly, the reflection of what the Angels announced to the Shepherds. The angles announced that Jesus came to bring peace on earth and goodwill to men. It strikes me that the people at Jesus time missed the meaning. They expected Jesus to come as a conquering hero and bringing all things under his reign. He would bring peace by re-establishing the throne of David. Here is the amazing thing. The depth and true meaning of peace is a common element to life in Israel. The Hebrew word for peace, Shalom, remains the common greeting. Perhaps with the daily greeting of peace the true meaning of the word gets lost. At the same level, has the gift of Jesus sacrifice at the cross so common a reference that we lose sight of what the gift truly means?

Jesus coming to earth did bring peace on earth and goodwill to men, just not in the way people expected. The Hebrew and Greek words for peace point to wholeness. Peace is not about the absence of conflict or suffering rather it means being complete, whole. The gift was Jesus that we needed because since the fall, when humanity made a choice not to be dependent on God for knowledge of right and wrong, humankind has not been whole. True wholeness comes when we are in fellowship and at peace with God. Any peace without being at peace with the Creator is limited and impotent. In order for the restoration of all of creation, first the debt of turning from God had to be paid. Jesus paid the price and made a way of reconciliation with God. That way established through the sacrifice of Jesus. His death and resurrection set all things right for those who choose to walk in the way. The way is a way of giving of self in whole, for only by whole surrender is true wholeness found. This is the meaning of peace on earth, goodwill to humanity. Jesus reconciled us with God enabling humans to be in right relationship with God and thus whole. This option is of benefit for all and is good news for all to embrace. For there is nothing to anyone needs to do to be right with God, other than surrender to God. It is noting earned by merit, it is simply a benefit received by turning from self to be in relationship with God.

Here is the difficulty though, while all should embrace the good news it falls short of expectations. Jesus life resulted in death because of failed expectations. People reject true peace today because of failed expectations. People expect a loving God would do away with all suffering and strife. What people fail to understand is that you cannot have peace without surrender. True peace is readily available to all who are willing to stop fighting and striving for self and return to listening to God and following His ways. His ways are good and simple. We are to love God first and then love others. Simple to say yet very difficult to do, as it is far easier for each person to focus on self. The path of true peace though comes with ever growing in loving response. In addition, as we love, we help generate true peace and goodwill in the lives of others, as we reflect the light of God’s peace and spread His goodwill. So if your desire is to see more peace, and less conflict in this world. It all starts with yourself and being at peace with God. Any other peace is faulty and temporary. Remember it all starts and ends with Jesus. His surrender leads to our surrender and by which comes peace on earth and goodwill to humankind.

Thoughts from a Funeral: Do you fully love?

My wife plays piano and as such at times I get privileged to attend things like other peoples weddings and funerals that normally would not attend.  Tonight I was at a funeral of  Josephine “Josie” Foy mother to a member of New Joy church, David Foy.  The church is the one I am a member of and had asked for prayer for the pastoral search earlier this year.  I don’t recall if I ever met Josephine in my time around the Foy family, but I don’t think so.   Being around funerals or intense emotion is always intense for me as I take on the emotions that are there as an empathetic response.  The funeral was touching and one that did present a sound Gospel message as well.  The special music was touching and fitting of the event and those mourning the loss certainly must have been touched.   The funeral as a whole touched me as well, particularly the Eulogy David Foy shared and the bit of this woman’s life.

Josephine “Josie” Foy apparently lived a hard life and her father was physically abusive. She was a simple woman with limited skills.  David may the point that why her skills may be limited she always gave her all.  She gave everything she had into trying to raise her children in difficult times and much poverty.  She poured herself into her children.   So the first way I was touched is to reflect on the importance of total giving of self to God.  If we do not give fully of what God has given us and walk in true surrender we fall short of genuine response to God.

Another point that touched me from what David shared in the Eulogy was his description of Joyce as content.  He indicated that  whatever she was asked she responded “I’m fine.”   He suggested that her reply was not the simple polite exchange but a true reflection of her state of mind, for her she was always fine regardless. 

The third element David shared about his mother that touched me, was that he was uncertain until just before she died of her position in Jesus.  His wife Heidi years ago and been led to share Jesus with his mom and her significant other and they at that time, opened their hearts to Jesus.  David had doubted the sincerity of that encounter until his mother assured him that she was ready to die on all levels, meaning she was right before God.

Now all that is interesting but the most powerful element learning about David and his mother was his telling about his reaction to the fact that as children his mother had given away David and his sisters and they moved on to foster care.  David talked about confronting his mother as a young adult and being able to let go of bitterness because he learned that her action was one of self-sacrifice and love.  She couldn’t care for the children herself so she gave them away.   This story really points to the importance of perspective.  When looking at things from our own eyes and pain we can view things that were done of pure love, to be something done out of evil.  We have the view that no one who loves another would cause pain or abandonment.  Yet, here, David’s mother Josephine Foy gave up David and his sisters because she loved them enough to recognize they needed more than she could provide.  And ultimately God has used that story even to this day with David’s Eulogy of his mother, and the impact on myself and others. 

Ultimately from this story the over all message is that of the importance of loving totally, giving all of self.  Josephine gave her all at great personal loss and even becoming the object of anger because of love.  She did not hold back.  Her life reflected brightly God’s love.  True, she likely made many hurtful choices that came from self, but she also reflected God’s love even before she had entered His Kingdom.  In reflecting on  1 John 4:7 (KJV) comes to mind:

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

Josephine Foy before officially entering the Kingdom of God, showed pure love.  When she was presented with the opportunity to turn fully to God, she did not hesitate and accepted it so easily it left lingering doubt.  Yet, the quick acceptance seems to flow  from the truth of this verse.  Those that love are born of God and know God and when told of how to reconcile fully to God, there is no real hesitation as the state of heart being centered on love accepts what is known in the heart as true.

Now to wrap this article up, please consider to take to heart the life of Josie Foy.  Love God and others with all that you are and by so doing reflect God’s love.  In so doing you will learn more about God and grow in intimacy, for intimacy with God is known in how we love. 

 

 

 

Musings on the pain of separation and relationship to feast of trumpets (Rosh Hashanah)

Well this last Saturday was Rosh Hashanah. If you haven’t read last years article on the subject I hope you take the time to do so, it focused on the alarm and awakening aspect of the first trumpet. Now while I have some other thoughts related to Rosh Hashanah for another article I want to first attend to thoughts related to my experience which happened to fall on Rosh Hshanah.  The day for me was a traveling day.  Me and the wife were in the midst of traveling to visit family in Brazil.  In this process we needed to leave our little dog, Bella, behind.

Now we left her in good hands with my mother. She will be treated more like a dog and will have the company of my mom’s dog.  Yet, leaving her behind was very difficult.  As we left her friday night, the sadness was great.  The worst part was when we left and she followed us right to the door expecting to leave with us and having to see her watch us leave not understanding what was going on. My mother reported that whole first night she kept looking for us to see if we were returning.  She has now settle into the routine of that house but clearly she missed us.  Now, me and the wife feel this way over our little dog. I cannot yet imagine what it is like to be separated from a child you love. 

Thoughts that came to my mind during this time centered on how much pain God experiences over separation from us. There are two thoughts related to this.  First of all is the separation of sin.  The choosing to turn from God that goes back to Eden had to be devastating for God. God was enjoying his fellowship with his creation and then choices were made that brought on lasting separation.  This separation is so severe that God refers to it as death.  God certainly felt an intense amount of grief over that choice.  In the same way each time we go our own way, chase after whatever idol seems to satisfy, God is in great pain. He wants be with us.  He wants to be with us so much that he has taken whatever means necessary to reconcile the relationship.  He pursues connection and for each rejection, He has great pain.  The thought of such pain of separation draws me to examine myself and turn from that which separates me from the love of God. It is important to note, that once reconciled with God, there is nothing that we do that brings back that separation of sin. God has made it so that pain does not have to be experienced again.  Nothing will ever separate us from his love again.

The second thought the pain of separation brings to mind is about the joy of reuniting.  During this trip we are going to spend time with the wife’s family. Several of them we haven’t seen in five years.  When we landed the family members that were present were literally jumping with joy.  It is of great joy to be reunited with those you love after separation.  The same is true with God’s relationship with us.  There will be nothing of greater joy than when Jesus is able to end the separation and return to be with us.  The first trumpet is a call that says the time is truly near and Jesus is coming soon.  Now regardless of end times theology one subscribes, the fact is the first trumpet signals the soon and coming return of  Jesus. It is a time of exceeding joy.  The time of the pain of separation is over, and the joy of fellowship returning.  

Another thought that crosses my mind is that when there is separation we always have something to look back on with memory. For our dog we left something behind with our scents on it.  We have pictures, videos, and our memories to ease the times of separation from those we love.  God did not leave us without means of relationship.  He left us two things.  The Bible and the Holy Spirit.  The bible gives us God’s words and gives us pictures, memories and directions on how to live until his return.  Yet, he did not just leave us with his Word but also has indwelt us. While Jesus has left, we do have the Holy Spirit dwelling within.  God is truly with us.  For me it may seem like interacting with God on similar levels to communicating by phone or internet.   We have that direct connection but yet it is not quite the same as full physical contact with another body.  Yet, God even left us a third piece to deal with that separation.  We are the body of Christ. When we interact with one another, we  are able to step into the void of seperation. We reflect and demonstrate pieces of God’s love. 

So for each Christian, we eagerly await the soon and coming return of Jesus.  We long to hear that first trumpet blast that says the time is rapidly approaching.  God left us the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and each other to help us in this time of separation. But the time is soon coming when we will no longer be longing for the return of Jesus and experience the joy of His return.

Cultural Commentary: John and Kate Gosselin and state of marriage in America

Recently the fceractured marriage of John and Kate Gosselin has been in the news.  The pair became famous after establishing a reality television show chronicling their attempts to parent their eight children.  The couple has one pair of twins and sextuplets.   However, in April the couple on air for a season finale announced their separation and pending divorce. It was the highest rated episode of the show ever.  The marriage reached a failure point connected at a minimum to Kate’s  chasing fame, and John chasing other women.  Yet, the roots to the marriage failure were there well before those elements surfaced.  They reached their goals of children, felt the other didn’t satisfy wants or expectations, and went after the paths that attracted them, leading to the marriage destruction.

There is no shortage of rumors regarding the difficulties of this couples marriage. Any signs of fight or conflit make assorted news providers and blogs around the Internet.     According to Associated Press, Kate Gosselin made a recent appearance on Regis and Kelly and Regis suggested that the marriage still has hope of being repaired.  Kate responded with, “I can’t say that I think you’re right, at all.”  The end of this marriage is sad, yet it is a common result of marriage in the United States.  According to varied sources the divorce rate is at 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. John and Kate simply reflect what transpires in the culture at large.

Unfortunately according to George Barna research Christians are not indistinguishable from anyone else regarding divorce rate according to a Christian Post article. So the question is why do marriages so frequently end in divorce? Why is there no difference between Christians and other people? The prime reason in general is because people take a self-focused approach to marriage.  The focus is on what the partner is doing to display love or meet the interpersonal needs for the other.  It can easily become about what is lacking versus focusing on building each other up.

In general, couples have a hard time doing the work to keep the relationship together.  The Bible gives clear directives on the need to focus on each other in a marriage. The husband is to love his wife as Jesus loves the truth. Think about that for a minute. Jesus stands by and loves us when we are unfaithful or even directly turning our back on Him.  Such love is very difficult, because it in essence but the needs and cares of the wife first.  Now the wife is simply submit and respect the husband, just as we believers are to do with Jesus.  If we had this other focus, marriages would be much healthier and divorce rates much lower.  Now, admittedly this author is far from this standard of relationship in marriage. Yet, it is these essential principles that are a core to marital health.

The fact is divorce, while painful and destructive to all those involved, is a ready out. It is seen as an escape when there is significant damage to self.  Many folks even point to the stated Biblical standards where divorce is appropriate.   When there is the betrayal of adultery in a marriage, the idea of divorce comes too readily.   Yet, if we are to have the mind of Jesus and given the Biblical directives for relationships, divorce should be the last course.

Sadly, separation does not come at times when it should. When a spouse not only fails to interact with Biblical love, but engages in direct, specific harm to a spouse through assorted forms of abuse, then the way of love is to separate and pray for repentance.  Reconciliation should come with significant evidence of repentance and change.

Marriage takes work. There are several sound Christian resources on the Internet that can help with the assorted struggles a couple can encounter in marriage.  Here are a few:

There are certainly other resources out there. If you are in a marriage is struggling or seems to be coming to an end, please look into any of the linked resources.  Besides those resources, please consider seeking sound biblical based marriage counseling. At a minimum, seek support and prayer from any around you willing to stand by you.  If you lack support, at a minimum spend time praying daily for your spouse and work to display love.

Frank Vennes commentary revisited: A needed apology

In a previous commentary, this writer referred to Mr. Frank Vennes Jr. as a potential wolf in sheep’s clothing.  I was wrong to have made such an assertion.  In looking back, the impetus for making such a comment stemmed from anger.  Anger at so many people being deceived and good ministries being put in harms way.  Now, I tried to temper my anger and recognized that what I was attending to is no different then the rest of us.  In my anger, I certainly jumped to conclusions based on a small report of the facts. My anger in turn minimized the importance of the points I was trying to make about things each of us need to examine.

The first point was about true repentance.  In reading the initial article about Mr. Vennes my attention was drawn toward and apparent lack of repentance.  Only God and Mr. Vennes know the truth of this matter. The way I commented about it was wrong.  We all need to constantly evaluate and recheck to see if we are holding on to things we should not be.   It really comes to a matter of forgiveness coupled with repentance.  We all need to forgive those who have wronged us. Only God knows for each of us if we reached that point.

My second point was about surrender to the King of Kings and not seeking own kingdom.  I saw within the story the ability to again make that point, however I did so while making a judgment again with a partial understanding of the facts and based on how things appear based on evidence.  Again, Mr. Vennes and God know where he is at in his life related to surrender and whether he is pursuing his own interests and wealth or not.  The point to me is we all at times invoke our own will and seek our own kingdom.  We often let stuff that is all ours get mixed in to what God may want to do. My errors in the commentary certainly are evidence of that, and as always I take all expressed concerns to heart. 

The third point was the need for discernment in the church. The overall anger was fueled by the overarching concern for the many ways deception is creeping into the church and the many ways the church does not see clearly and fails to exercise sound judgment or sound discernment. 

So in my anger and in haste to write something of interest to draw people into evaluating themselves, I wronged a brother.  No matter what my concerns are or the rightness of the points I feel led to make, the way I went about it is wrong.  I ask for Mr. Vennes and friends for their forgiveness in the matter and will remember the reactions when writing future commentary.   At some point soon there also will be commentary focusing on all of our tendencies to respond in anger, since there are many things many can get angry about these days, not just the Thomas Petters fraud and those used or conned in implementing it.