The Parable of the Sea Shells

The world is in chaos:

  • Politically
  • Financially
  • Emotionally
  • Spiritually

 

Everyday I learn of another crisis, often in the lives of my friends, 5 of whom have lost a child to suicide! Hearing the cries of the pain of such loss, the pain of health issues, the pain of ….well you name it…makes words of comfort empty.

And yet, in the midst of all this pain and confusion, God keeps bringing me back to the subject of His feasts. In my head it makes no sense when there seems to be more important issues I should be addressing.

But God the Spirit keeps pushing me to try to “recover and restore” His appointed times (His feasts) to the church.

The prophet Jeremiah said it first:

This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!” (Lamentations 3:21-24)

And then the writer of the letter to the Hebrews

Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:17-18)

In other words, hope in God is an anchor to our souls (our minds, our emotions and guides our wills.)  No wonder God’s first command is:

 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Dt 6:4-5

So why the feasts? 

Because they give us hope. 

God designed the feasts as opportunities to:

  • Remember His mighty acts of deliverance and His character
  • Recognize: Jesus, Yeshua
  • Reflect: on the significance of the feasts to our lives, whomever and wherever.

Let me tell you a story:

THE PARABLE OF THE SEA SHELLS

I was living in Tel Aviv, not too far from the Sea.  An early morning walk along the shore as the sun was coming up was a morning necessity. One day I became fascinated by the shells. They were an unusual color so my eyes were riveted.

The Lord’s voice broke through my concentration, “Look up” He said.

I lifted my eyes and the undulating movement of the waves caught my attention.

So many times God shows His power through the waves.  He challenged Job by asking:

”Who shut in the sea with doors,
When it burst forth and issued from the womb;
When I made the clouds its garment,
And thick darkness its swaddling band;
When I fixed My limit for it,
And set bars and doors;
When I said,
‘This far you may come, but no farther,
And here your proud waves must stop!’
 (Job 38:8-11)

The waves also speak of overwhelming pain or anxiety

Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me. (Ps 42:7)

And the love of God referenced, not the waves, but the sand:

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You. (Ps 139:17-18)

The voice of the Lord broke into my thoughts, “Look up” He commanded.

The beauty of the skies was broken.  The sound of horses pawing the air, straining in their eagerness to be released.  (Revelation 6)   “Father, what are You saying to me?”

“This is a parable” the Lord explained.  “The shells represent your daily lives; the simple seemingly insignificant chores of life. Or perhaps a life impacting situation.”

Friends, when facing a major problem, all our attention, rightfully goes to that situation.  It doesn’t matter what else is going on, you are focused on the immediate.

The Lord continued, “The waves represent the world around you -your neighbors, community, your country and even other nations.”

  • At this moment here in Israel we’re facing an election. Ironically so is America.
  • China is fighting a horrifyingly new virus which is infecting thousands and is not only spreading throughout the world, but is impacting financial stability, and as it spreads throughout the world international markets and finances are being impacted.
  • Several years ago there was a terrible tsunami in Japan,
  • Severe hurricanes, fires, droughts
  • Maybe closer to home as a neighbor suddenly dies, or …

Regardless, our attention, even for a moment is off our own problems and our focus, perhaps our money or involvement goes to others.

Our attention bounces from the shells to the waves…back and forth as different issues vie for our attention.

“But Abba, what about the heavens?”

“The heavens are a reflection of Me. My child, you always need to discover my perspective of your life and the world.  Don’t let the ‘facts on the ground make you discouraged or confused.  My perspective will enable you to rise above all cares and confusion and live in peace.”

Friends, seeing the world through eyes of the all knowing, all powerful, all loving God gives us hope.  The same God who parted the Red Sea and delivered Israel is the same God who can deliver you from whatever challenges you are facing.

Because His character never changes, when we align ourselves with His perspective, we can rejoice regardless of our circumstances and rest in His plan for our future.

THAT’s why God appointed times. Sure these special times revolved around God’s mighty acts of deliverance for Israel…that’s because God chose Israel to be His witness to show the rest of the world His character: His mercy, grace, holiness, justice, power, goodness, covenant-keeping love.

  A MANTRA

There was a mantra when I was growing up and learning how to cross streets:

  • Stop
  • Look
  • Listen

This is a good description of God’s special times.

We are to stop, bring our cares and concerns to Him and leave them at His feet

Look up from our cares and concerns and find God’s perspective

Listen to His voice.

And let me add:  Rejoice and rest!

Remembering, rejoicing and resting are what the biblical feasts are all about. 

Celebrating Jesus through the biblical feasts are anchors for our souls.

 

Can Christians Celebrate, Part 1

Not long after I start a spiritual discussion with a Jewish friend, I’m asked two questions: 

  1. Are you Christian or Jewish?    I answer, YES
  2. What holidays do you celebrate… Christmas or Passover?    I answer, ALL of them!

 Our dialogue was confusing because I was quoting the prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, clearly the Jewish Bible, BUT I was talking abut Jesus…talking about Him in a Jewish framework yet some of the things I was saying sounded, well, so “Christian.”

I just didn’t fit into the mold.

Which mold….Jewish or Christian?

 An important Definition

Here a definition is order, a definition based on perceptions.  Everything we hear is processed through our personal grids and perceptions.  That’s why communication is often so difficult. 

We think we’re being clear, but the hearer is hearing something completely different!

Our perceptions, whether true or not —are made through:

  • Culture
  • Religious bias
  • Experience
  • Theology

 So what is the perception of my hearer?

 This will be shocking to most of you —the perception of most Jewish people is that “Christian” is synonymous with Gentile…Let that sink in…“Christian” is synonymous with Gentile.  So, if a gentile = Christian, then billy graham, the pope and hitler…all Gentiles….were all Christian!

Hence the confusion and the questions.

 So not receiving a precise answer to the first question, (was I Jewish or Christian?) the second question was asked:  “Did I celebrate Passover or Christmas? Thus my answer – that I celebrate all of them was even more confusing.

 Friends, my answers kept me out of the box….the mold the questioner was  trying to put me into.  In his perception, holidays were either Jewish or Christian!  The fact that Jesus, a Jew, celebrated the feasts was irrelevant to my friend.

The Holidays we celebrate emphasize the confusion.  

Christmas cf Hanukkah: Jews don’t celebrate Christmas and Christians don’t celebrate Hanukkah (although Jesus did!)   

Passover cf Resurrection: Jews certainly don’t celebrate Easter (Resurrection) which is on a Jewish holiday and Christians rarely celebrate Passover (again although Jesus did)

Interestingly, more and more Gentile Christians are conducting a Passover service, but rarely is it an annual celebration.  And some recognize Hanukkah but focus on a legend about oil rather than the historical truth. 

 Jewish followers of Jesus?

What about Jewish followers of Jesus?  Well that’s an issue strongly being debated to this day.

 When I was a new follower of Yeshua, I was confronted about this issue, first from my Gentile pastor and later from my Jewish pastor.  My Gentile pastor couldn’t understand what I wanted to do for the Day of Atonement when Jesus did it all (meaning provided atonement.)  

I explained, “Pastor that’s exactly WHY I want to celebrate…All my life I sat in synagogue repenting for sins done or imagined and never knew if I’d be forgiven.  Now that I know i am forgiven, how can I NOT celebrate Jesus on the Day of  Atonement?”

And what about Christmas???

 As a child, my family loved Christmas.  Our celebration had noting to do with Jesus, it was just a time when the family got together. 

Yes we had a tree and Daddy made sure that the rabbi who lived across the street couldn’t see it! 

We loved hanging the ornaments…but of course we started with the Star of David so we could call it a Hanukkah bush.

And yes we celebrated Hanukkah too.  Best of both worlds.

 Eventually we stopped doing Christmas. It was the year by brother was bar-mitzvah and we were all convicted that as Jews we shouldn’t be associated with anything “Christian.

 BUT when I became a follower of Christ, I was so eager to celebrate His birth.  I could finally celebrate Christmas….really celebrate Jesus!  My favorite Christmas song, actually the prayer of my heart was and is

O come, O come, Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.  Rejoice rejoice Immanuel HAS come to thee o Israel”

 That first Christmas was not quite what imagined (or hoped) it would be, but I realized that traditions need not divide us when Christ is preeminent. We can learn so much from each other when we worship Him in

  • Spirit
  • Truth
  • Humility
  • Love

Then  I looked forward to celebrating the next holidays (Purim & passover) with my Gentile brethren. But to my shock and sadness, they weren’t interested.  Actually the pastor was surprised that I even wanted to. 

  • The One New Man didn’t celebrate Jesus through those holidays….Why not?
  • The One New Man. Aka the church
  • The one new man for whom Jesus prayed and died for
  • The one new man of Jews and Gentiles, redeemed by God’s grace through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. Didn’t celebrate Jesus? 

Was it because….yes I’m sure it was….. because for thousands of years these feasts have been identified as “Jewish feasts” and not “the feasts of the Lord.”

 The Breach

As time went on I discovered the terrible breach in the foundation of the church that was designed to be built on the Hebrew prophets and Jewish apostles.  And nothing made that breach more obvious than the holidays we celebrated.  Jewish Believers had their celebrations; and the Gentile Believers had theirs.

 But the holidays had a more divisive impact than in just the Body.  Celebrating the feasts even caused divisions in families and confusion in the hearts of the Believers themselves. 

Here is a letter i received: 

It just seems that things have been really hard and confusing ever since we started to try and learn more about observing a Biblical Sabbath.  My older kids (girls 12 and 15) have especially been confused.  We have our friends who make it seem like even saying the word “Christmas”, yet alone celebrating any part of it, is an unpardonable sin.  They have gone as far as to say that they think those who are not following Torah may not make it to heaven. 

My thought then is why did Jesus have to come and die for us?

I love God and want to do what He wants me to do.  I also want to teach my children the right way to live ( I also have 2 boys- 7 and 9).   Obviously I am still confused about a lot.  Like I said, I want to follow God and do what He wants but at times things feel so legalistic and rigid.  LG

 If that makes my heart break, how does God feel?  Here’s a story about a precious friend ….Mary

Mary was the daughter of a pastor so spent her entire life in church….a gentile church. She loved the celebrations I hosted and got my feast book as soon as it was published.  Then several years ago she started attending a Messianic congregation with the intention of “learning enough to share with my pastor.”

 Two years to “learn enough?”   What was to learn that took so long?

 I later discovered the problem was that she was told she had to pray certain prayers and follow Jewish traditions outlined by the Messianic Rabbi (note the change of my vocabulary:  Congregation not church, Rabbi not pastor.)

 As we talked she threw off the shackles and simply celebrated Jesus!  The WHO not the HOW of the feasts.

 Celebrating Jesus can help repair the breach

Friends, celebrating the feasts need not exacerbate the breach. In fact, I contend that nothing can repair that breach and unite the One New Man more than celebrating Jesus through the feasts of the Lord!  So let’s start at the beginning.

 What does the Bible say about the feasts? As I said before, we err when we refer to Biblical holidays as “Jewish Feasts” and yet God calls them HIS feasts – the feasts of the Kingdom.

 “But” you say.  “God gave them to Israel, the Jewish people.”   Yes, He did because:

  • You are my witnesses that a people yet unborn will know Me (Isaiah 43:10)
  • Gave a testimony in Israel (ps 78:5-7)

That they might know

 God designed the feasts and celebrations:

  • Remember His mighty acts of deliverance
  • Reveal His character
  • Recognize Jesus!!!
  • Reflect on the significance of each feast to my life
  • Rejoice

 Today there is a lot of attention on the “restoration” of all things” necessary before Christ returns. While I question the application of that verse, I must if part of that restoration might include restoring the feasts to the church?  hmmm

 So to answer the question can (not should) Gentiles celebrate God’s feasts I ask another question:

 Is there a valid reason why not? 

 Is there a page in our Bibles that does not in some way point to Jesus?  And of course every feast mentioned was fulfilled by His life and ministry:

  • Birth
  • Early ministry (Savior)
  • Death, burial, resurrection
  • Current ministry (Scape goat and high priest)
  • Future ministry (King of all kings)

 So “Yes Church, yes celebrate Jesus through the Lord’s feasts….His feasts.”

WHAT HAPPENED?

Why did the Gentiles who were worshipping the Jewish Messiah stop celebrating Him through His feasts?And why did Jewish Believers not put the new wine into new wine skins but instead try to Judaize others?

 But the larger question we need to ask is….. what now?

 Can we worship our savior and enjoy each other’s traditions learning and embrace in each other?
Sure we can!

 

So next we’ll take a quick look back at the sad history of the breach, then look up to learn about the feasts and then look forward as we celebrate Jesus!

 An excellent resource for the beginner or the experienced:

https://www.novea.org/product/celebrate-jesus-through-the-feasts/

 

 

Faith or Works?

This morning I was fighting doubt;  a disastrous and dangerous feeling to a Believer.  The project before me seems insurmountable, in fact it would be in my own strength.  But God has consistently been doing what only He can do, reminding me that He is in charge.

But for the last few days, there has been some disappointments from unexpected places.  Faith and excitement were soon overwhelmed by doubt and fear.

Yet as I remembered what God has been doing, I instinctively knew that I had to keep going.  I made a choice:

  • Remember who God is and what He did yesterday,
  • Rest in what He will do today,
  • Rejoice in the certainty that He will be the same tomorrow.

Then I read James 2:18-26

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!  But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

As a Jewish follower of Yeshua (Jesus) it would be easy to confuse “works of the law” versus “works of faith.”  One is trying to achieve righteousness before God while the other is the manifestation our faith and righteousness.

Once again God spoke to me as He offered  encouragement and consolation.  My faith in His immutability (unchangingness) was all that I needed to continue on this wonderful journey He has put before me.  Doubt and fear have no place in my soul when my spirit is transformed by the reading of His word.

Whatever you are facing today,

  • Remember God’s faithfulness and mighty acts in your past
  • Rest knowing He will continue to do what He started in your present
  • Rejoicing in the hope of His promises for your future.

So keep on keeping on!

With love, j

Pin It on Pinterest