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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Behind Before Me!

It's funny to see where you were born. Two weeks ago I did just that.  I went to the place of my birth for the first time since just about when I was born.  Ashland is a funky little town in southern Oregon surrounded by mountains and inhabited by hippies.  Yes, still.   It is a town known for Shakespeare but in my family it is known as Beth El.  Beth El is the place where our forefathers go, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  It is the place where Jacob commits his life to the Lord and God becomes Jacob's God and not just "The God of his fathers".
Thirty something years ago my parents were hippies.  They left New Jersey together and drove across the county in a nasty little van that they lived in until they could scrounge up enough to live in an apartment. They had my brother Jake in a hospital. But three years later (1979) they did it the "natural" way and decided to do a home birth.  Two weeks ago with my parents on the phone I walked up to the apartment where I was born and I knocked on the door. A skinny dude with a winter hat and a big beard came to the door.  I told him I was born in his apartment and he said in true Oregon hippie fashion, "Come on in man!" His wife came out of the kitchen with super long dreads and the apartment smelled like incense (maybe?!).  I felt like I was meeting my parents from thirty two years ago! It was surreal.  I went upstairs and looked at the little room where I came into existence and thought "man, this is crazy!"
I'm a New Yorker. Right now I am a New Yorker who lives in Seattle.  I love Seattle.  It's a funky, cool city and, yes, also still full of hippies.  Almost two years ago I was flying out to Seattle to find an apartment for my family.  I stopped in San Diego to attend a Bar Mitzvah and then San Francisco.  Flying from San Francisco to Seattle took me right over Crater Lake.  As I flew over I sensed the Lord saying to me "Welcome home, Matt." I tried to convince God that I am a New Yorker, which He knows, but I understood that for this time in my life I belong in the Northwest.  God has great things that He wants to do in me and through me here!
Back to Beth El (Ashland).  I have heard all of my life about Crater Lake, Lithia Park, the mountains, the Ashland Foursquare Church and Johnny Otto.  While in Maryland John and I had talked on the phone many times but I had never met him, as an adult.  I was excited to meet him and see all that I had heard about!
John is an awesome guy. He is 83 and has been serving the Lord for a long time. It's a funny thing to meet someone and hear yourself and your dad in his voice.  John is my Dad's spiritual father. If my dad is Timothy (from the Bible), John is Paul.  He taught my dad about the Lord; prayed with him in Lithia Park and encouraged him to follow the Lord with his whole life.  In those days neither of them had much money. My parents were in HUD housing and on food stamps.  They could hardly afford to have coffee together.  But they did. Met early. Prayed. Talked and trusted the Lord together.
I needed to see John and his wonderful wife, Becky.  I needed to see Ashland.  I needed to go backwards to understand my right now.  I needed to see, hear and touch where I started so I could better understand where I'm going.  As John, Becky and I walked in Lithia Park, John wanted me to see the places where he and my dad spent time praying.  One of the paths was grown over and we had to climb some rocks. John no longer walks very well but he was determined to get to the spot.  We got there and prayed and I had an opportunity to bless the man who taught my dad who taught me.  I am who I am because Johnny Otto took my dad under his wing and imparted everything he knew about the faithfulness of God to him.
Sometimes I find myself discouraged.  Sometimes ministry totally stresses me out. Sometimes I stress myself out.  Now, I think of my Beth El (Ashland) and am faced with the reality of the faithfulness of God.  In my family I am only a second generation follower of Yeshua.  If my children choose to walk with Yeshua, they will be third generation.  On my wife's side, her family has been walking with Yeshua for around 400 years.  Talk about God's faithfulness in bringing Laura and me together.  Of course as a Jew, my ancestors have walking with God for 5000 years.  There has been a lot of walking and I am grateful to God for both sides of my children's heritage.
So here in 2011, I discovered something I will take with me for the rest of my life.  The God of my fathers is awesome!  My journey has been awesome!  I love where I come from, where I am and where I am going.  I love that my passport says, "Ashland, OR." I love that the Lord has called this New Yorker to Seattle and I love that He is doing awesome things in me and through me.
Where has your journey taken you? 
Want more? listen to my sermon about this trip: Being RIGHTeous

Thursday, September 1, 2011

7 weeks of Proof for the Messiah

Often the question is asked, "What is the proof that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah?" Often the answer from many Messianic Jews is something along the lines of "He fulfilled all the prophecies for the Messiah!" I agree with that answer. But, I also believe that there is better evidence that is more compelling for my people, Israel, and ultimately the whole world.
In an article on for the Torah Portion Re'eh, Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt wrote an article called "Feats of Amazment."  He writes, "Judaism says: Use your mind. Don't judge by "miracles." Judge by evidence. In the primitive world, miracles impressed. Surely in the 21st century we should know better." What follows in this blog is "evidence" for the sake of my people and for the glory of the God of Israel. All of this is based on original research from my father, Rabbi David Rosenberg, of Shuvah Yisrael Messianic Synagogue in New York.
You can also listen to a recent sermon that I gave at Beit Messiah in Seattle called "Shattering Expectations."

Here is the evidence that Yeshua is the Messiah:
Torah & Haftarah Cycle
At Beit Messiah, we follow the weekly Torah and Haftarah cycles of reading, a traditional Jewish cycle of reading that is believed to date back to Ezra and Nehemiah. In one year we read B’reshit (Genesis) through D’varim (Deuteronomy) and then we start over in Genesis chapter 1 for a new year. The Haftarah cycle is made up of readings from the prophets and the writings of the Tanakh (Old Testament) that coincide with the Torah readings. For most of the year the reading of the Haftarah cycle seem random, meaning they are in no particular order and come from different books of the Tanakh. There is one seven-week period where the Haftarot are all from the same book and are almost in order. This seven-week period is known as the seven messages of Isaiah or the seven messages of consolation.
The Seven Messages of Isaiah
In this seven-week period (as I write we are in the 4th week) the Torah readings go through almost the whole book of Deuteronomy and the Haftarah readings are all from the Prophet Isaiah chapters 40-63. It is called the messages of consolation because after 39 chapters of judgment Isaiah seemingly changes his tune and preaches a message of returning to God and the blessings that will result for Israel for turning back. It is seven weeks during the year where the emphasis is on return and restoration. This makes sense because what always follows the seven message of Isaiah are the Fall High Holy days: Rosh Hashanna (call to repentance), Ten days of Awe (focus on repentance), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkot (celebration of all God has done for His people).
Luke and the seven weeks
There is no specific mention of "the seven message of Isaiah" in the Messianic Writings (New Testament). There is no specific mention of "the Torah and Haftarah cycle" in the Messianic Writings either. But, there are key word indicators and the quoting of the Tanakh that tell us (the readers) what time of year it is. In the Besora (Gospel) of Luke we find five indicators of this seven-week period. In Luke chapters 3-4 we read about Yeshua's immersion in the Jordan River by His cousin John, the recognition of Yeshua by God the Father from Heaven, Yeshua's 40 days in the wilderness with the Devil, and Yeshua coming to His hometown of Nazareth and reading from the prophet Isaiah in Synagogue. 
In these two chapters of Luke there are five scriptures quoted from the Tanakh (plus a Psalm quoted by the Devil): Isaiah 40:3-5, Deuteronomy 8:3, Deuteronomy 6:13-14, Deuteronomy 6:16 and Isaiah 61:1-2.
Luke 3 begins with John quoting Isaiah 40. In Luke 4 Yeshua reads from the scroll of Isaiah 61:1-2 in synagogue. These two quotes from Isaiah are from the Haftarah readings of week 1 and week 7 of the seven messages of Isaiah. The three quotes from Deuteronomy are Torah readings from week 1 and week 2 of the seven messages of Isaiah -- five scriptures all quoted from the same seven-7week period of the Torah and Haftarah cycle. Luke 4:2 tells us that Yeshua went into the wilderness for 40 days. Keep in mind that John and Yeshua did not have their own versions of Tanakh available for personal use. They, as observant Jews, knew what readings were coming and when they were coming. Meaning that even in the middle of the wilderness Yeshua had on His mind what every synagogue in the world was reading during those same weeks. 
You ask, "What does this prove?" For one thing, Yeshua's immersion is generally understood as the beginning of His public ministry and the beginning of revealing to the world that He was the Messiah. Just like a cohen (priest) in the Torah, Yeshua's ministry began at the age of 30 (Luke 3:23). So, Yeshua takes 40 + days to reveal to the Jewish world who He is and He uses the readings of the weekly Torah and Haftarah cycle to do just that: reveal to the whole world that He is the Messiah. It is a genius move on the part of God -- to move and work through the framework of Jewish tradition, the Torah and the prophets in order to reveal to His people what He is doing. Yeshua did not meet people's expectations of what the Messiah was believed to be in the first century. After all, God does like to shatter our expectations and do something more compelling and incredible than we could ever imagine.
9th of Av
All of this begins on the Jewish calendar on the 9th of Av. Isaiah 40 is already read the Shabbat (Sabbath) after the 9th of Av. John was quoting Isaiah 40 because it was the reading for the coming Shabbat. The 9th of Av is a fast day in Jewish tradition and is called "the fast of the fifth month" in the prophets. It is only logical that Yeshua would begin a 40 day fast on a traditional fast day on the Jewish calendar. It is also significant because of the judgment that John lays down while quoting Isaiah. He warns the Jewish leaders by saying, "Already the axe is at the root of the trees, ready to strike; every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown in the fire!" (Luke 3:9). Well, if this takes place on the 9th of Av, right before the seven messages of Isaiah, then He is giving a warning for what will happen exactly 40 (always a number of judgment) years to the day that the second Temple is destroyed in 70 C.E. It is also interesting to note that what John is preaching is repentance and turning from sin. Repentance is the whole theme of the 7 messages of Isaiah and the month of Elul on the Jewish calendar which both precede the Fall High Holy days. 
The Devil
Why is Yeshua's first public act as the Messiah to deal with the Devil? Why not a miracle? Up until this point the Devil didn't know who he was dealing with. Yeshua, as His first act as Messiah, goes in the desert to deal publicly with His enemy. He is giving the Devil a warning shot. He is dealing the Devil his notice that he will be evicted from the premises. Yeshua is letting the principalities and powers of darkness in on God's plan to save creation. The only thing Yeshua has to say to the Devil in the wilderness comes from the first two Torah portions of the seven messages of Isaiah.
At the end of 40 days in the wilderness Yeshua goes home to Nazareth. The following Shabbat Yeshua goes to synagogue in Nazereth "as was His custom" (Luke 4:16). He is given an Aliyah to come and read from the Haftarah portion for that morning. The reading is from Nitzavim, the 7th week of Isaiah, and Yeshua reads Isaiah 61:1-2 and stops reading. Stop. If you look up Nitzavim you will notice that the reading listed begins in 61:10. Why is Yeshua reading verses 1-2? Keep in mind that Yeshua is reading from a scroll. He could not choose a scripture at random. He didn't pick one He liked. He read from the portion that the scroll was rolled to for that morning. After reading Yeshua says in Luke 4:21, “Today, as you heard it read, this passage of the Tanakh was fulfilled!” What?! In other words, Yeshua was saying, "I AM THE MESSIAH." He was saying, “I am the one who has come to ‘set the captives free, to recover sight for the blind...’". He was saying, "I am that guy!" Of course the people in Nazareth get angry and as they try to kill Yeshua, He disappears. 
The Messiah
In the infinite wisdom of the God of our Fathers, Adonai chose a seven-week period on the Jewish calendar to reveal who the Messiah was/is. There are many more details than I can share here but know this. There is compelling evidence and all of the evidence comes from Jewish context that is found all through the Messianic Writings. The Apostles were not founders of a new religion (Christianity) that worshiped another God (Jesus). They were Jews who found the Messiah that was promised to our Jewish people for the benefit of the whole world. What the Jewish leaders in the time of Yeshua could not see was what they refused to see: that Yeshua is the Messiah who came, died, rose from the dead, conquered death, ascended into heaven and sent His Spirit so that our eyes could be opened.
Look out for my next blog: Opening Your Eyes So The Power of God Can Work in You.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Why I Don't eat Dairy on Shavuot

There is a Jewish tradition to eat a dairy only meal during the holiday of Shavuot. This tradition comes out of Exodus 23:19, "You are to bring the best first fruits of your land into the house of ADONAI your God. You are not to boil a young animal in its mother’s milk." In discussing Shavuot and this verse, Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin in his book, To be a Jew writes:

“Some see it as…emphasizing, on this festival which marks the giving of the Torah, the interdependence and unity of the Written and Oral Torah. For the very same verses that speak of bringing ‘the choicest first fruits of the land unto the house of the Lord your God’ in celebration of Shavuot also stress that, ‘You must not boil a kid in its mother's milk’ (Ex. 23:19, 34:6). On the basis of the latter part of these verses, the Oral Torah based its prohibition of eating meat and milk together. Hence, a separate dairy meal is deliberately eaten to emphasize the total unity of the verse and the authenticity of the Oral Torah." (Pg. 240-241)

This is why I do not eat a dairy only meal during Shavuot. As a Messianic Jew I do not believe in the "authenticity of the Oral Torah." For me if the Orthodox are "deliberately" doing anything to show the "authenticity of the Oral Torah" then it is my responsibility as a follower of Yeshua to make sure that my actions to do not conflict with my Chief Rabbi, Yeshua HaMashiach.

The Oral Torah is not bad. The Oral Torah is not evil. The Oral Torah should not be entirely thrown away. But, the Oral Torah was not given at Mt. Sinai. So, when the Oral Torah makes "laws" that God never made, then we should re-examine the intent behind these man-made laws and decide if our Messiah would follow them or not. Yeshua followed many "traditions" but, He also condemned leaders when they were treating man-made laws as if they were from God. And in doing so were lifting up the laws of men rather than the Written Torah that God gave at Mt. Sinai.

Mark 7 gives us an excellent example of this. The Pharisees in Mark 7:5 say to Yeshua, “Why don’t your talmidim live in accordance with the Tradition of the Elders, but instead eat with ritually unclean hands?” Yeshua answers in verses 8-9, “You depart from God’s command and hold onto human tradition. He said to them, “you have made a fine art of departing from God’s command in order to keep your tradition!” For these particular Pharisees the issue here is not whether food was kosher or not. The issue was if the disciples did not wash their hands "in accordance with the tradition of the Elders" then the kosher food they were eating was no longer kosher. The washing of hands is not commanded by God in the Written Torah. It is "commanded" in the Oral Torah and Yeshua clearly condemns these men for trusting in their own laws rather than what God actually commands in the Written Torah.

This is the same reason why I mix milk and meat on a regular basis. I have never "boiled a kid in its mother's milk." And I never intend to, mostly because that would be a weird thing to do. But the mixing of milk and meat is not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk. I recognize that I frustrate many of my Jewish brothers and sisters (and that many do not consider me a brother or a Jew). But, my identity is found in how the God of Israel views me not how anyone on this planet views me. I am a Jew because God gave me the last name "Rosenberg". I am a Jew because my father is Jewish (yes, my mother is not). I am a Jew because I trust in the God of Israel and His son that He sent as the "visible image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15).

When the Oral Torah conflicts with the Written Torah; when Orthodoxy does something to celebrate the "authenticity of the Oral Law," we have a responsibility to check it with our Chief Rabbi who died and rose during Pesach, appeared for forty days during the counting of the omer, ascended to the right hand of the Father on the fortieth day and gave His Spirit on the same day as the Torah: Shavuot!

In short, Dairy Shmairy! Pass me a cheeseburger for the glory of God and in celebration for the authenticity of the Written Torah (Genesis - Revelation) and Yeshua our Messiah.

For more on Shavuot read: What The Heck is an Omer and Why Count 50 Days of Them?

Friday, May 13, 2011

I Want To Be Just Like You

When I was a kid one of the greatest add campaigns was "I wanna be like Mike" by gatorade.  I did! I really wanted to be like Mike!  But, more realistically, "I want to be just like you" has been something I have been saying about my dad, Rabbi David Rosenberg, my whole life.  My dad's desire is to be like Yeshua. "I want to be just like you" was the cry of my dad's heart as he watched his father as a child. For my dad there was a lot of disappointment and pain in the relationship with his dad.  But, through all the pain he found his true father, Adonai.

Yeshua is just like His father.  He often says things like, "My Father has been working until now, and I, too, am working" (John 5:17).  The Besorah (Gospel) of John continues, "Therefore, Yeshua said this to them: ‘Yes, indeed! I tell you that the Son cannot do anything on His own, but only what He sees the Father doing; whatever the Father does, the Son does too’” (5:19).  Yeshua was so in tune with the father that everything He did came from the father. 

The greatest thing I learned from my earthly father is the desire to be just like Yeshua,  who is just like His father. In fact, He and the father are one. Yeshua's prayer before He died was, "I pray not only for these, but also for those who will trust in 
Me because of their word, that they may all be one. Just as You, Father, are united with Me and I with You, I pray that they may be united with Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me" (John 17:20-21). 

Yeshua has enabled us (those who believe) to be just like Him. It's not just a hope. It's not just a prayer. It can be a reality.

It doesn't mean we will be perfect. It doesn't mean that we will be without sin. It doesn't mean we won't fight with our spouses. It doesn't mean we won't yell at our children. It doesn't mean all relationships will be the way they should be. It doesn't mean we will be perfect.

It means we can be like Him. It means we can put the needs of others before ours. It means we can be attentive to God's plan for our lives. It means we can trust our lives (and the lives of those we love) in the hands of the God who created us.

It means we can walk like Him. It means we can walk with Him. It means we can, through the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh), be united with our Messiah and be like Him. It means we can say like Paul, "try to imitate me, even as I myself try to imitate the Messiah" (1 Corinthians 11:1).

What are you doing to be like Him? What are you doing that is keeping you from being like Him?
If you want a song that speaks to these same issues pick up: "Just Like You" by Lecrae 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Will and Kate

Just Kidding.  This is not really about Will and Kate although I did enjoy their wedding (even dvr'd it so we could watch it later).  The Gospel was certainly preached and apparently around 2 billion people saw and heard.  That's pretty cool!

We are in the days of the counting of the Omer (Day 11, 12 at sundown if your keeping track).  Leviticus 23 tells us to count the fifty days that fall between Pesach and Shavuot.  During Passover we had three services and a seder in one week.  A week later I am still pretty tired.  Don't get me wrong, I love Passover and it makes me sad every year that so many Jewish people (and the rest of the world) are aware of Passover but so many have never even heard about the 50 days or Shavuot (aka Pentecost).

Together these three events on the Jewish calendar are called the season of freedom.  The God of Israel accomplished many things during this season.  At Passover God gave us freedom from slavery in Egypt and freedom from sin and death with the death and resurrection of Yeshua.  During the days of Omer we traveled from Egypt to Sinai in fifty days and Yeshua appeared resurrected to His disciples for the first forty and ascended into heaven.  On Shavuot God gave us the Torah and the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) many years apart but on the same day.  Awesome!  These are the best fifty days on the Jewish calendar!

These are such amazing days for Israel, the nations and for all of creation.  The God who created us set these events in motion to call us to remember that not only is He real but He is intimately involved in His creation.

So much attention for a really great wedding and a reminder in that wedding of all that God has done for you and me!  Embrace the season of freedom and the one, Yeshua your Messiah, who has set you free for freedom (Galatians 5).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Facebook & self-loathing

vg-happy-birthday.jpgmy birthday I kept checking my facebook all morning to see if anyone had said "happy birthday" to me.  I was severely disappointed to find that no one did all day.  I began thinking to myself, "did I do something wrong?  I try to say happy birthday to everyone, but maybe no one cares."  Then, I realized that my birthday was not viewable on my profile.  About an hour after I made my birthday viewable about 30 people wrote on my wall, and by the end of the day it was around 90.

Isn't funny how fast we go into self loathing?  I say "we" because I think you do, too.  We are so wrapped up in how much other people respond to us that when they don't we get sad.  I know, some of you are way above these problems, but for the rest of us we need to learn that our self-worth should be rooted in God's love for us and how He views us.
passover.jpgPeter wrote:
"But you are a chosen people, the King’s cohanim, a holy nation, a people for God to possess! Why? In order for you to declare the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; before, you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (1 Peter 2:19-20).

 we approach Pesach this week remember that the God that freed us from Egypt has made a way for you  into His presence through the blood of our Pesach lamb, Yeshua our Messiah.  Don't worry about people and what they think about you, or if they remember you.  Know that the God of all creation has great plans for you and loves you with an incomparable love!

Chag Sameach!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Moving passover

This is the second time we have moved during Passover in the last two years. It makes for a very crazy two weeks. We move this Wednesday (into Seattle proper! what?! what?!) and then a few days later come all of the Passover festivities. And we have a lot. Shabbat service (16th). First day service (19th). Seder (21st). Shabbat service (23rd). Last day service (25th). Board Meeting (27th). Shabbat service (30th). Yikes! (Want to join us? Check out!)
Moving is stressful, especially at such an important and busy time of year. At the same time it is a great reminder of the first Passover. They must have been stressed out! Pharaoh said they could leave ten times and changed his mind ten times. We have had time to prepare and pack. The children of Israel were packed for a long time and ready to go for a long time. When the time came they ran. Pharaoh followed. What a stressful time. Plus, they didn't even know where they were moving (and definitely did not realize they would walk in circles for forty years).
So, is moving stressful? Yes! But there is also excitement for new things (some of which we are entirely unaware). The trick it seems is trusting that God has good plans for us. And God has a good plan for you!
Don't stress.
The Creator of the universe has got your back.
But He also wants your trust. And if you put your trust in Him, He will never leave you or forsake you! Passover is the first time that we see that promise fulfilled for the whole nation of Israel. It's also the time that Yeshua offers Himself as our Passover lamb proving that His desire is to never leave us!
This is a great season of freedom (from Pesach to Shavuot and the fifty days in between). Have you found freedom yet? It's free. And that is exactly what God gives us freedom for: to be free!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

sacrifice + blood + Yeshua = Awesome

In this past weeks Torah Portion (sh'mini; Leviticus 9:1 - 11:47) we continued reading about the Levitical system of priests and sacrifices. At the beginning of this portion we read about the very first High Priest (Aaron) making the very first sacrifice for the very first time in the history of Israel.

In Exodus we read about the instructions of the tabernacle and where everything is placed, the utensils, the altar, the incense, the clothing of the priests, the lineage of the priests, the show bread, the menorah, the curtain, the outer court, the inner court, the holy place, the holy of holies, the presence of God. Finally, here, we begin to see all of this in action.

Lev 9:1-2 says, "On the eighth day, Moshe called Aharon, his sons and the leaders of Isra'el, and said to Aharon, 'Take a male calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without defect, and offer them before ADONAI.'" In verse 6, "Moshe said, 'This is what ADONAI has ordered you to do, so that the glory of ADONAI will appear to you.'"

and then the very first High Priest makes the very first sacrifice for the very first time. Verse 8 says, "So Aharon approached the altar and slaughtered the calf of the sin offering which was for himself."

For himself.
Then verse 15 says, "Then the people's offering was presented. He took the goat of the sin offering which was for the people, slaughtered it and offered it for sin, like the earlier sin offering."

For himself then for the people.
Thats the way the levitical system works. The High Priest makes a sacrifice for himself for his own sins and then makes sacrifices for the people only after his sins have been forgiven. It would be a game changer if the High Priest didn't have to sacrifice for himself. And what if we only needed one high priest? The book of Hebrews talks about this.

Hebrews 7:22-27 says:
Also this shows how much better is the covenant of which Yeshua has become guarantor. Moreover, the present cohanim (priests) are many in number, because they are prevented by death from continuing in office. But because he lives forever, his position as cohen (priest)does not pass on to someone else; and consequently, he is totally able to deliver those who approach God through him; since he is alive forever and thus forever able to intercede on their behalf. This is the kind of cohen gadol that meets our need - holy, without evil, without stain, set apart from sinners and raised higher than the heavens; one who does not have the daily necessity, like the other cohanim g'dolim (high priests), of offering up sacrifices first for their own sins and only then for those of the people; because he offered one sacrifice, once and for all, by offering up himself.

Wow! Yeshua is such a better deal! But how in the world could Yeshua be the High Priest? He is not a descedant of Aaron. He is not even from the tribe of Levi?! The writer of Hebrews deals with this also. Messiah Yeshua is different. He is apart of a priesthood that came before the levitical system.

Hebrews 7:13-16 says:
The one about whom these things are said belongs to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar; for everyone knows that our Lord arose out of Y'hudah, and that Moshe said nothing about this tribe when he spoke about cohanim. It becomes even clearer if a "different kind of cohen," one like Malki-Tzedek (Melchizedek), arises, one who became a cohen not by virtue of a rule in the Torah concerning physical descent, but by virtue of the power of an indestructible life.

Yeshua is a priest in the order of Malki-Tzedek.
We don't know much about Malki-Tzedek.
We know that in the book of Genesis he appears to Abraham. We know that Abraham tithes to him (gives him ten percent of his money). And really thats it. No mother, no father, no history. We don't know any of it. But, he is important enough that Avraham Avinu (Father Abraham) tithes to him. It is possible that "Malki-Tzedek" is a title meaning in Hebrew, "King of Righteousness." In Genesis 14:8 he is refered to as "cohen of El Elyon" (priest of God Most High). A priest but not one in the levitical system. In fact a priest in an order that predates the whole levitical system.

So many preachers and theologians teach that the leviticals system has been done away with because of the sacrifice of Yeshua. The book of Hebrews is often used to make this point. But the writer of Hebrews is not making the point that leviticus is done away with, he is making the point that there is a better system.
The real system.
The system in heaven.
The system that leviticus is a shadow of.

Hebrews 8:1-6 says,
Here is the whole point of what we have been saying: we do have just such a cohen gadol as has been described. And he does sit at the right hand of HaG'dulah in heaven. There he serves in the Holy Place, that is, in the true Tent of Meeting, the one erected not by human beings but by ADONAI. For every cohen gadol is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so this cohen gadol too has to have something he can offer. Now if he were on earth, he wouldn't be a cohen at all, since there already are cohanim offering the gifts required by the Torah. But what they are serving is only a copy and shadow of the heavenly original; for when Moshe was about to erect the Tent, God warned him, "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern you were shown on the mountain." But now the work Yeshua has been given to do is far superior to theirs, just as the covenant he mediates is better.

Better is a strong word. What makes Yeshua better is not that the old is irrelevant. What makes Yeshua better is that He is all three parts of the levitical sacrificial system in one person. Yeshua is the sacrifice. Yeshua is the High Priest making the sacrifice. Yeshua is the God receiving the sacrifice.

Wow! that is better!

The sacrificial system was never meant as an end all. It was important to "see to it that you make everything according to the patter you where shown on the mountain." Why? because what matters is what is really happening in heaven. The levitical system was given to us so we could have some understanding of the real thing.

Hebrews 9:11-14 says,
But when the Messiah appeared as cohen gadol of the good things that are happening already, then, through the greater and more perfect Tent which is not man-made (that is, it is not of this created world), he entered the Holiest Place once and for all. And he entered not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus setting people free forever. For if sprinkling ceremonially unclean persons with the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer restores their outward purity; then how much more the blood of the Messiah, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself to God as a sacrifice without blemish, will purify our conscience from works that lead to death, so that we can serve the living God!

So, Yeshua is better because He is the real thing. After Yeshua was put death He rose from the dead. After He rose from the dead he appeared for 40 days (during the counting of the omer) resurrected. Then on the 40th day He ascended into heaven and took His place at the right hand of the father. His sacrifice is more effective because we only needed it once. One sacrifice to forgive all sin. Not only that but, his blood still flows. Since Yeshua is alive, and we believe that his resurrection was "bodily" (meaning He is still in his body), His blood will never stop flowing. The blood of bulls and goats ran out. Each sacrifice only covered one sin because the blood dried up. When you cut an animals jugular the blood stops flowing. Since Yeshua is forever alive His blood will always flow and since His blood will always flow it can cover all sin. past, present, future! The sacrifice was a one time deal but the blood flows forever! Wow! That is better!

In Revelation John sees the lamb who was slain. Revelation 5:6 says, "Then I saw standing there with the throne and the four living beings, in the circle of the elders, a Lamb that appeared to have been slaughtered." Verse 9 continues, "and they sang a new song, 'You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals; because you were slaughtered; at the cost of blood you ransomed for God persons from every tribe, language, people and nation.'" Verse 12 says "and they shouted out, 'Worthy is the slaughtered Lamb to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory and praise!'" and verse 14 says, "And I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth and on the sea- yes, everything in them- saying, 'To the One sitting on the throne and to the Lamb belong praise, honor, glory and power forever and ever!'"

John continues in his vision in Revelation 7:9-10, "After this, I looked; and there before me was a huge crowd, too large for anyone to count, from every nation, tribe, people and language. They were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palm branches in their hands; and they shouted, 'Victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'"

Verses 13-15 say, "One of the elders asked me, 'These people dressed in white robes - who are they, and where are they from?' 'Sir', I answered, 'you know.' Then he told me, 'These are the people who have come out of the Great Persecution. They have washed their robes and made them white with the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are before God's throne. Day and night they serve him in his Temple; and the One who sits on the throne will put his Sh'khinah (Glory) upon them.'"

Will put His glory on them.
The same thing happened after the very first sacrifice in Leviticus 9:23-24, "Moshe and Aharon entered the tent of meeting, came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of ADONAI appeared to all the people! Fire came forth from the presence of ADONAI, consuming the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces."

Back to Hebrews, this time 10:19-23,
So, brothers, we have confidence to use the way into the Holiest Place opened by the blood of Yeshua. He inaugurated it for us as a new and living way through the parokhet (Curtain), by means of his flesh. We also have a great cohen over God's household. Therefore, let us approach the Holiest Place with a sincere heart, in the full assurance that comes from trusting-with our hearts sprinkled clean from a bad conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us continue holding fast to the hope we acknowledge, without wavering; for the One who made the promise is trustworthy.

The door is open.
The sacrifice has been made.

But, how many times do we see the open door and choose not to walk through it. We can be people who live in the presense of God. At work, at school, in our house, at the store. When the hard stuff of life gets in our way. When people attack and pain comes. When hurt is real. THE DOOR IS OPEN. The way has been made! You can go into the very presence of God and stay there and lay yourself out before the creator of universe and bask in His glory.

Its free.
Its real.
It is ours.

And we can go in any time we want because the blood of our Messiah opened it up to us.
The sacrifice, The High Priest, and God.
all in the same person.
Yeshua our Messiah.
The door is open walk through it!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Timing is Everything

Mordecai says to Esther, “Don’t suppose that merely because you happen to be in the royal palace you will escape any more than the other Jews. For if you fail to speak up now, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from a different direction; but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows whether you didn’t come into your royal position precisely for such a time as this.” (Esther 4:13-14)

"For such a time as this" is such an awesome phrase.  Purim has come and gone for this year but what stays with us is that God is determined to not leave His people behind.  Purim is such a great reminder that though people come against us often for following God (or for believing in Him at all) we know that God is with us just as He was with Esther.

In the face of certain death Esther stood up for her people.  In the day that we live in it is the responsibility of every Messianic Jew and Gentile to stand up for Yeshua our Messiah.  For the rest of the Jewish world and for society at large it is not Jewish to believe in Jesus.  In fact, not believing in Jesus has, for many, become apart of the definition of Judaism.  A Jew can believe in all kinds of things and still be considered Jewish.  But, Yeshua!  No longer a Jew if you believe in Him.  

For Gentiles who find themselves apart or involved in the modern Messianic movement it is not all that different.  Family and friends wonder if they "have joined a cult" or "hope this is just a fad" or are "worried for their salvation".  Some cry, "Why would you get involved in all of that legalism?" or "Don't you know that all that Jewish stuff has been done away with?"

Whether one is Jewish or not, being involved in the modern messianic movement brings all kinds of trouble.  Just look at what our friends in the Arad, Israel are experiencing: (see video)

This is why Paul encourages us to "Proclaim the Word! be on hand with it whether the time seems right or not" (2 Timothy 4:2).  The goal of Messianic Judaism is not to confuse or criticize everyone else who does not believe as we do.  Paul continues, "But you, remain steady in every situation, endure suffering, do the work that a proclaimer of the Good News should, and do everything your service to God requires"(2 Timothy 4:5).  Whether anyone likes Yeshua or not...believes in Him or not.  The foundation of the story is that it is Good News.  People can choose to believe that it is "not Jewish" or that it is a "cult."  People are free to believe anything they want.  But then, so are we!  We are free to believe that the Good News is, in its very nature, a Jewish message.  A Jewish message that is for everyone.   Not because God wants everyone to become Jewish but because God wants everyone to return to Him, their creator, and to trust that He is good.

The modern Messianic Synagogal Movement is here "for such a time as this".  To help make important corrections for the body of Messiah and work for the salvation of our non-messianic Jewish people and the nations. 

Peter picks up on this same message when he says, "If you are being insulted because you bear the name of the Messiah, how blessed you are! For the Spirit of the Sh’khinah, that is, the Spirit of God, is resting on you! Let none of you suffer for being a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or a meddler in other people’s affairs. But if anyone suffers for being Messianic, let him not be ashamed; but let him bring glory to God by the way he bears this name. For the time has come for the judgment to begin. It begins with the household of God; and if it starts with us, what will the outcome be for those who are disobeying God’s Good News? — If the righteous is barely deliveredwhere will the ungodly and sinful end up?” So let those who are suffering according to God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator by continuing to do what is good." (1 Peter 4:14-19).

"If anyone suffers for being Messianic, let him not be ashamed; but let him bring glory to God by the way he bears this name."  Messianic comes from the Hebrew for Messiah.  It literally means, "follower of Messiah."  For those of us that call ourselves Messianic (Messianic Jews or Messianic Gentiles) we should take the name seriously.  In everything that we do and say we represent something bigger than ourselves.  This is why Peter is careful to remind us that "judgement...begins with the household of God."  Why? because we are responsible for what we say and do.  "For God will bring to judgment everything we do, including every secret, whether good or bad" (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

Peter continues, "Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that at the right time he may lift you up. Throw all your anxieties upon him, because he cares about you. Stay sober, stay alert! Your enemy, the Adversary, stalks about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Stand against him, firm in your trust, knowing that your brothers throughout the world are going through the same kinds of suffering" (1 Peter 5:6-9)

You have been called to follow God "for such a time as this".  Trust.  Love.  Know that the same God who never left Esther will never leave you.

Stand up.  Believe.  It's Good News.  and we've got to tell it by the lives we live more than the words we speak.  St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words."  Bam!  Now that's winning!

Peter ends his letter with this, "You will have to suffer only a little while; after that, God, who is full of grace, the one who called you to his eternal glory in union with the Messiah, will himself restore, establish and strengthen you and make you firm. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen" (1 Peter 5:10-11).

The God of all creation, The God of Israel, wants to HIMSELF restore, establish and strengthen you and make you firm.  He is willing.  Timing is everything.  You have been called "for such a time as this."  Jump in.  The time is right!

Friday, February 25, 2011

take it off. take it all off!

I am in the middle of a social experiment.  I have almost entirely given up on wearing ties and "dressing up."  Don't get me wrong.  There are occasions when it is necessary like meeting the President of the United States or officiating a black-tie wedding (Shooster wedding in June!).  Other than a few occasions, I find dressing up to be exhausting.  Wearing a shirt tucked in and a tie is simply not comfortable and I like to be comfortable.  Yes, that includes Shabbat!

Some of you may be thinking, but aren't you a rabbi?  Don't rabbi's have to dress up?  To which I answer, why do rabbi's have to dress up?  It is been said to me often, "We offer our best to God and that's why we dress up on Shabbat."  To which I answer, "Why is my best a suit and tie?" And why does the idea that we must offer our best mean how we dress.

I once had a discussion with a congregant who did not believe in tithing from his paycheck to the synagogue but believed (deeply) that everyone should "offer their best" with what they wear to synagogue.  Similarly, recently I was told by someone that I was not a good example to his teenage son because I wear jeans on Shabbat.  I said to this man, sarcastically, "You're right, I love God and am serving Him with my whole life, I love my wife and my children and I am doing my best to love people. I think your ideas of what is a good example are pretty messed up."

Some say that dressing down is just a gimmick, but for me it is not a gimmick, it is an ideology.  In our everyday life we often face extra-biblical concepts that are not biblical at all.  The old saying "cleanliness is next to godliness" is a great example.  These words are not in the Bible but you would be surprised how many people treat the saying as if it is from God.  Truthfully, some things are just quotes from our mothers!  I don't believe God is more honored when we show up to synagogue in our best.  Not to mention, who's to say that jeans, a t-shirt, and chucks are not our best!?

Some of my friends in ministry have said to me recently, "Seattle is the perfect place for you because everyone dresses down."  True.  It does make the experiment easier, but I don't think the city matters.  People matter, and in my generation I think there is a desire for deep authenticity.  I am not saying no one should dress up ever again.  I am saying it is not for me.  I think I represent myself better when I am just being me and being me means I am a little different than your average rabbi.

I have also been told that "dressing down will not work in Jewish ministry."  And here is where the social experiment comes in to play.  I am not sure wether that statement is true or not but I am determined to figure it out.  Some have said, "dressing down works in the church but not in the synagogue" and I see this statement as a challenge.  Forty years ago it didn't work for the church either.  It took a few leaders who challenged the idea that dressing up and ministry are synonymous, and they challenged that idea and now there are thousands of "dress down" churches reaching millions of people with the Jewish Messiah.

"But Matt," you say, "being a Rabbi is a profession and dressing up means you are a professional."  Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and plenty of others have handled this kind of statement in their spheres of influence.  Titles and the way we dress does not make someone "professional."  I believe that I am good at what I do (improvement is always the goal).  The work should speak for itself.

It takes all kinds of people to reach all kinds of people.  Those who dress up will reach those who dress up.  Those who dress down will reach those who dress down.  I believe there are plenty of Jewish people who are hungry for the truth of God's word that are not interested in wearing ties or dressing up.  I believe there is a place in this world for rabbi's and synagogues that dress down.  Not as a gimmick.  Not based on location.  But, based on a desire to see people from all kinds of backgrounds return back to their creator: The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

In Messianic circles our leaders are often talking about reaching the next generation and growing leaders from the next generation.  I think dressing down speaks to my generation and I believe that my generation is full of awesome, God-loving men and women who are ready to do awesome things for the kingdom of God.  I also believe that there are many in the generations ahead of us who are holding young people back because we don't look like them.  I know there are leaders out there that embrace young people for who they are but our movement is in desperate need of more leaders that will let us lead along side of them.  Even leaders that will allow young people to lead them (jeans and all)!

It is the responsibility of each generation to translate the Jewish message of our Jewish Messiah into the generation of which they are a part.  We should not force one generation to look like the other (which is why I am NOT saying that older Rabbi's should dress down or that every young rabbi should either).  We should be able to work, dream, accomplish and share stages together so that we can do the work of presenting the message of Yeshua our Messiah with compassion, love, grace and truth.  That translates to all people of every generation.

Just remember, "cleanliness is next to godliness!"

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Presence of God

This past Shabbat my sermon was not recorded :(  The following blog is taken from my sermon notes.  I hope it is helpful and inspiring to those who are interested.

In Exodus 19 (from a few weeks ago), Moses and the children of Israel meet God at Mt Sinai.  It is a huge mountain and there is fire, smoke, a loud Shofar blast (that grows louder and louder), earthquakes, and lightning.  It is a fear-filled event for the children of Israel.  Not to mention that Moses went up there!  He is gone for 40 days and nobody knows how he could ever come down from there.  Yet, for Moses, it is quiet and calm as he sits in the presence of a mighty God.  It is much like a hurricane.  The outside is treacherous; but if you can find the "eye of the storm" there is calmness and peace.

In Matthew 17, Yeshua takes three of his disciples and reveals to them His divinity.  The event is similar to Mt Sinai in that there is smoke (a cloud), fire, and a loud voice (of God speaking).  Peter, James and John find themselves just as afraid as the children of Israel were at Mt Sinai.  Even Moses is there! along with Elijah!  Yeshua encourages his disciples to "not be afraid."


The presence of God is a scary, frightening place on the outside; but, if we choose to live in the presence of God, then the Lord will provide everything that we need.  We have the opportunity to “go boldly before the throne of grace.” God’s presence is the place of rest, the eye of the storm, the place of safety in the this time of fear and turmoil.  But the fire, and the cloud and the earthquakes make us afraid to enter the presence of God.  Once we step in though, it is the safest and most fulfilling place to be.  There is always craziness in my life.  And when the craziness comes, that is when I need His presence most.  God invites us not just to enjoy His presence when it is necessary; but to make our residence there and live in His presence all of the time. 

In this weeks Torah Portion (Terumah) God says, “They are to make me a sanctuary, so that I may live among them.” (Exodus 25:8) and that  “You are to make it according to everything I show you — the design of the tabernacle and the design of its furnishings. This is how you are to make it.” (vs 9)  The design is important because He wants us to understand a few things.

The deeper one goes into the tabernacle, the more precious the material and stones. Why?  Because God wants us to value His presence.  The word Mishkan (tabernacle in Hebrew) and the word for Glory (Sheckinah) come from the same root word.  Because the Tabernacle is where God's glory rests. 

In the Messianic Writings, Hebrews 8:5, the writer reminds us, "But what they are serving is only a copy and shadow of the heavenly original; for when Moshe was about to erect the Tent, God warned him, “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern you were shown on the mountain.”  Some people take the words "copy" and "shadow" to mean "no longer needed."  But, they miss the importance of the progressive revelation of the God of Israel.  We can't enter into God's presence without blood.  Without a sacrifice we cannot enter into God's presence.  Not because God is afraid of us or because God's presence can't handle us.  But because we, as sinners, cannot stand in the presence of God.  His presence eradicates darkness.   It is only by the blood of our Messiah that we can enter in.  

What is so amazing about Yeshua is that He is all three parts of the sacrificial system in one.  The God (whom we offer sacrifice to), the High priest (who offers the sacrifice), and the sacrifice (whose blood brings atonement).  Yeshua is pretty awesome!  In John 1:14, the scripture literally says that Yeshua came “to dwell in a tent with us”.  He "tabernacled" among us.  He came to live in our presence so we could understand how to live in His.

In Revelation 21:3, John writes, "I heard a loud voice from the throne say, 'See! God’s Sh’khinah is with mankind, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and He Himself, God-with-them, will be their God.'"  God came to live with us so that we could understand how to live with Him!  And so we could understand that He wants to live in us and work through us!

Like Yeshua said to His disciples, I say to you, "do not be afraid!"  The presence of God is a scary place on the outside but through the blood of Yeshua we can get through the scary stuff and right into the eye of the storm.  We have the opportunity to “go boldly before the throne of grace” everyday because of the sacrifice of Yeshua.

So enter into God’s presence and stay there!! LIVE THERE!!  His desire is to live among us and to make it our desire to live with Him!!  There is no better place for anyone to be!!