Archive for October, 2011

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Never a dull moment

October 31, 2011

Holidays are over, day-to-day life is back on track, and with the university school year just started there’s never a dull moment. My life right now, during regular weekdays, look like this:

06:30 – Get up, change diapers on baby and serve breakfast. Older kids have prepared breakfast in fridge. Get dressed, shaved, and put foodbox and breakfast in bag. Make sure I have enough sermons or radio teachings in my mp3player.

07:15 – Wake wife and leave home. Walk 1½ kilometer while listening to 2 bible chapters and a sermon. Get on bus and go to work. Eat breakfast on bus.

08:30-ish – Get to work.

17:00 – Go home.

18:00 – Arrive home. Arrange for dinner to be ready by 19 by showering kids, putting them to bed, set the table (also attempt to make some sort of sorry excuse for dinner if wife is too exhausted)

19:00 – Dinner and coffee with wife while watching something we enjoy, or just talking.

20:00 – Do dishes and take out garbage.

21:00 – Get important stuff done (university studies, prepare homeschooling lessons, do congregation’s accounting, prepare a sermon, etc)

23:00 – Shower and prepare breakfasts for tomorrow.

23:30 – Be in bed. Talk and laugh a lot with wife before we fall asleep.

 

It’s now 23:13. This post took me 13 unnecessary minutes to write. I have 17 minutes to shower and prepare breakfasts.

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Rockets on Ashdod

October 29, 2011

A rocket recently hit Ashdod again. They’ve been coming quite steady for some time now. My brain started to storm and resulted in a bunch of tweets:

 

  • Another rocket on a school in Ashdod. They really got up to speed after the Shalit deal.
  • Whether the convicts are behind part of the rockets or not is irrelevant. It’s the euphoria of “victory” that makes them shoot on us more.
  • I honestly did not think we would see so direct and tangible results of it.
  • Unfortunately the only solution I can see is to make them feel as defeated as possible.
  • The problem is that the shooting is ignored by media, and a military loss of theirs is a PR victory for them. It’s a loose-loose situation.
Update: This event is unfolding. When I wrote this I thought it was just another rocket. One more isolated event. But as it turns out there is a rain of rockets on Ashdod, the schools in all of Southern Israel are cancelled tomorrow, and Israel has stricken back against terror targets in Gaza.
I hope we are finally defending ourselves.
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Gilad Shalit

October 19, 2011

Here are some of the Facebook updates I put out during the day yesterday when Gilad Shalit came home:

Welcome home, Gilad Shalit. So glad to have you back. It cost a heavy price.
Now, what will Israel do about all the elderly people who can’t see the light of the day because they are living on a minimum, and get no care, or the children with abusive parents? Does the government realize that these peoples’ lives are a living hell – exactly like Gilad Shalit’s life has been the last 6 years? And that the price to release these people is much lower than releasing 1,000 murderers? If we can release 1,000 murderers for one person, and accept the costs of security, intelligence, and terrorism it will cause us, then we can spend a few extra million shekels on welfare too!

‎”Despite his having been in captivity without communication with the outside world for more than five years, Egyptian media asked him difficult and loaded questions.” – Ok, this is just evil! You don’t do this to a poor kid! I just wanted to strangle that reporter! According an Israeli newspaper: “The interview was made in spite of Israeli attempts to prevent it. The reporter asked in English, and the translator translated to Hebrew. The first question was how he felt. He answered in Hebrew ‘I don’t feel very good’. The translator translated it as ‘I feel good’.”

Israel was ready to pay a very heavy price to get Gilad Shalit back home. Israel fought and struggled and did all it could, even when the enemy broke all the laws of the Geneva convention, and made ridiculous demands. Shalit did nothing but being at the wrong place at the wrong time, while the 1,000 Palestinian prisoners being released are all convicted murderers. Still, Israel was ready to do this, for one human life is worth and entire world.
This is the place to ask Sweden – what is going on with you prisoner, Dawit Isaak? He has been a prisoner since 2001, and you simply don’t care! Unlike Shalit, who did nothing, Isaak is in prison for being pro-democracy in a dictatorship. And you still don’t lift a finger. Just like you did with Wallenberg. Wallenberg, who needs to release him? Let the Soviets keep him in prison forever, he apparently deserves that since he saved 100,000 Jewish lives.
Israelis – don’t think that this price is something that “any country would pay”. They wouldn’t. Only we would.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilad_Shalit
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dawit_Isaak
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raoul_Wallenberg

A Mother of a terrorism victim, whose murderer is being released just said “I am happy that my son’s murderer will be released. It is worth it if Gilad’s parents can finally hug him again – something that I’ll never be able to do with my son. What do I have to gain from the murderer sitting in jail?”

I, as an Israeli citizen, refuse to be a consumer of the news that intrude into Gilad Shalit’s life. We will not give the news channels any reason whatsoever to harass this boy under the excuse that “that’s what the public wants”. We are the public. And we refuse.

In this conflict over the Shalit deal I must put myself in two very difficult positions:
A) How would I feel if me or my kids are killed by one of the released terrorists? Or if someone kills my kids, and he is later released due to a similar future agreement?
B) How would I feel if one of my kids, when in army duty, is taken captive, and I know that Israel will not try to release him because the price is too high?
These are questions every Israeli parent must ask himself right now. I am happy to know that if any of my children, may God forbid, is taken captive, Israel will do all it can to bring them home. And I am ready to pay the price that murderers will go free. Hatred and revenge feelings of past wrongs will only make us bitter. If A) would, God forbid, happen, I would rather have the murderer released so that another parent would be able to hug his child, rather than being the cause of bereaving the other parent that joy.

 

Oh, and Psalm 60 – note the parts that I have bolded – amazing!

[1] O God, thou hast cast us off, thou hast scattered us, thou hast been displeased; O turn thyself to us again.
[2] Thou hast made the earth to tremble; thou hast broken it: heal the breaches thereof; for it shaketh.
[3] Thou hast shewed thy people hard things: thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.
[4] Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah.
[5] That thy beloved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me.
[6] God hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth.
[7] Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim also is the strength of mine head; Judah is my lawgiver;
[8] Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe: Philistia, triumph thou because of me.
[9] Who will bring me into the strong city? who will lead me into Edom?
[10] Wilt not thou, O God, which hadst cast us off? and thou, O God, which didst not go out with our armies?
[11] Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.
[12] Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.

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Sukkot – the only holiday that gentiles are commanded to keep!

October 11, 2011

About Sukkot

I mentioned the Book of Life when we spoke of Yom Kippur. Jesus told his disciples to “rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Sukkot is indeed the holiday of rejoicing! “and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days.” (Lev 23:40). This true joy can only be achieved, as Jesus stated, when we are free from sin and our names are written in the Book of Life. “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” Psalm 97:11. That is why this holiday must come directly after Yom Kippur.

Sukkot is one of the three holidays of pilgrimage – when we were supposed to come and celebrate at the temple in Jerusalem. The other two are Passover and Pentecost. We now know that Passover was fulfilled when Jesus died on the cross, and that Pentecost was fulfilled when the disciples received the Holy Spirit. Sukkot, however, has not yet been fulfilled. It is still in the future. The future fulfillment of Sukkot is mentioned in Revelation 21:1-7 and in Zechariah 14 – it symbolizes the time when we are with God in heaven. Sukkot is also the third of the Fall Feasts. If Rosh haShana reminds us of the return of the Messiah with the clouds of heaven, and Yom Kippur reminds us of the day of judgement, Sukkot is reminds us of the time when we sit with God in his heavenly Tabernacle.

Why do we sit in a Sukka?
The small booth we make – the sukka – is because God said so. But many explanations have been offered. One of them is the obvious reason that God said – “Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (Lev 23:42-43). So we are celebrating the fact that God brought us out of Egypt – that we are totally dependent on him, and that our security we have from living in fixed stone houses is false – we need to be out is God’s creation and experience the fact that we need him. In a sense we are celebrating “God with us” – Immanuel!

Agriculturally this is the time of fruit harvest – the time when the farmer has finished his work, sits down and thinks “everything’s done – now I can rest. I have provision for the winter, and I don’t need to worry”. This is a security in one’s own work. Exactly at that time of the year God commands us to live outside for a while. To experience that security in our own work is false. We need him.

The Sukka is also a picture of our own life – it’s temporary. Our life here on earth is short. Our permanent home is in heaven.

We mentioned Immanuel – one of Jesus’ names. The sukka is a clear symbol of the Messiah. He came and dwelled with us on the earth for a time. It was a temporary dwelling. It’s also the feast of the “bikurim” – the firstfruits – the same word as “firstborns” in Hebrew. It’s the time to remember the incarnation – how “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). Many believe that Jesus was born on Sukkot, relying on certain mathematical calculations from the NT, claiming that he was even born in a Sukka. Whether it’s true or not, it is important to have one time a year when we remind ourselves of the incarnation and the divinity of Christ.

There are many different symbols of the Messiah, but the Sukka is the only such symbol that you can actually go into – it is like a big hug from the Lord. What a blessing it is, to have our sins forgiven and come to the Lord and receive his protection and blessing all around us. “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.” Psalm 125:2

The Four Species
The Torah tells us to take “the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook” (Lev 23:40). This is directly connected to rejoicing. Branches of palm trees connected to joy – that reminds us of how Jesus entered Jerusalem. That was not at Sukkot, but it still shows us that these branches they took is a symbol of joy. In Nehemiah 8 the description of branches is slightly different, suggesting that the rabbinical modern interpretation of these four things mentione (Lulav, Etrog, Hadas, Arava), is not what God had in mind. In any case, these four things that we by tradition wave with are said to symbolize all 4 types of people, since the Etrog has both smell and taste, the Lulav only taste, the Hadas only smell and the Arava neither. Thus it symbolizes both true believers that have both faith and works, non believers that have neither, non believers that have good works, but no faith, and false believers who profess faith with their mouth but don’t live accordingly. They are waved to all 6 directions, symbolizing that God is king of all kinds of people and of all the World.

About Hoshana Rabba and Simchat Beit haShoava
Hoshana Rabba is the last day of Sukkot, and is known to be the “Day of the Messiah” in Jewish tradition. On this day, the sages believed that God decides how much rain will be given during the winter, and they had a water-related ceremony at the Temple. The talmud states that “whoever hasn’t participated at a Beit haShoeva celebration at the temple, has never experienced true joy”. Isaiah 12:3 was recited and water was poured at the altar. It was at this “great day of the feast” that Jesus stood up and shouted “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” (John 7:37).

About Shmini Atseret and Simchat Torah
This is on the Eighth day after Sukkot, and it’s a separate holiday to itself. Atseret menas “stop” – it’s the last holiday of the season, we stop celebrations after this. It also means “assembly” – a large gathering. The only thing the Bible says about it is “On the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD: it is a solemn assembly (atseret); and ye shall do no servile work therein.”

We can draw two important conclusions from this – since it is the last holiday it will be “with us” as our last holiday memory during our day-to-day life afterwards. To keep our eyes on God, it is therefore important that this holiday is on the one hand connected to the Bible, but also that it is joyful – to bring the happiness of the feast with us into the civic day-to-day life. This is why the Jewish tradition has put “Simchat Torah” on this holiday – the day when we finish reading the last part of the Torah – we read the last Parasha and we rejoice in the Word that God has given us. As we know that Jesus is the Word of God, we must also remember that this is a holiday of Jesus – celebrating Him who is God’s Word that became flesh. We will also read the first chapter of the Bible – to remember that once we’ve finished reading the Bible we must directly start over again – because there’s no such thing as “finished reading the Bible”.

Happy Holiday!

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Amazing Yom Kippur day

October 8, 2011

The nice thing about yom kippur is that you really cut yourself off from the rest of the world for a while. We turned off all computers, took out the phones, and, of course, stopped eating. After the meal yesterday afternoon, as yom kippur just started, I sat with my 7-year old son and we looked through the Arvit prayer for Yom Kippur together. It’s the prayer that is being prayed in the synagogues at the same time, and starts with Kol Nidre. We had already watched a youtube of a beautiful Kol Nidre performance earlier during the day. I was amazed at how interested he was, and really followed. We skipped some long parts here and there, but basically he followed it all the way through. Another year or two, and I’ll bring him to the synagogue.

At the same time I also showed him how long the prayer was and said “imagine praying this three times a day all you life”. Showing him what legalism can lead to. I’d rather have him say one word to God with true meaning from his heart, than pray a thousand prayers like these. Nevertheless, the prayers are beautiful, and my son does clearly see the difference between our faith and their faith. And in many ways, the legalism of the religious Jews do give them an awe and a fear of God that many Christians lack. We are often grateful for being saved, but saved from what? And how often do we take an entire day off from life and focus on our souls and reflect on where we are?

After the kids had gone to bed, me and my wife were like… ok, now what? We usually spend the evening having coffee, eating something, and watching something together. So we spent the evening reading the Bible (After less than 9 years in Israel, and without having studied Hebrew formally, nor having worked in any Hebrew-speaking environment, she is now reading Biblical Hebrew and understands it! I am so proud of her!) The regular Yom Kippur passages. Leviticus 16 (I add 17:11 to that – my Messianic input), the book of Jonah, Isaiah 57:14-58:14, Micah 7:18-20, Psalm 51.

After that we went to sleep. 3 hours earlier than usual. I tried, but couldn’t fall asleep, so I read some more. Skimmed through Hebrews, read through the 1st letter of John, and prayed some more. When I look at my life and realize the amazing blessings God has given me, I am certain that I am truly saved and forgiven. But when I look at myself, I am also amazed at the grace. Because I definitely do not deserve it. When I had read psalm 51 earlier during the evening I just felt like it was me crying out to God. But the bigger the sins, the more amazing the grace. I prayed some more, and read psalm 103 too before I finally got to bed.

Morning. Made breakfast for the kids. No problem. Then I read the kids the story of the Selfish Giant, by Oscar Wilde. It’s such a great story for Yom Kippur, and we’ve made it a tradition to read it every year. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to read the end of it without getting tears in my eyes. What’s even more amazing is that my sister found us an edition in Hebrew that hasn’t censored away the amazing ending.

I think me and wife spent most of the day in the sofa. Some times talking, some times reading. I picked a school book on history from Sweden for Junior high (7th-9th grade) that my wife had brought with her. Junior high school books are on a nice level. They’re not going too deep, and they give a good general grasp. We also read through more of the Yom kippur Bible readings – Romans 3:21-31, 2 Corinthians 5:10-21, Hebrews 10:1-12.

When we had 3 hours left of the fast (and those are the most difficult hours!) we decided to take a short walk, just to kill time, and let the kids play around. It’s the one time of the year when there are no cars on the streets, so one can walk around in the middle of the street. The kids loved it, but the sun and the heat almost killed me. I started to get migraine, and we were eventually able to stay at a playground and let the kids play while I rested in the shade. After a while I felt better, and eventually we went home. We didn’t bring any watches, so we could only guess how much time we had killed. Turned out to be an hour! Great!

After that we sent out the kids to play in the playground, and spent the last time reading. When there was half an hour left we brought in the kids, and did a small teaching on Yom Kippur. I read the entire book of Jonah (in the original Hebrew) and let the kids act the story as I told it (keeps them alert, and listening), and also asked questions about how it relates to Yom Kippur (Jonah turning from his sin, and immediately does what God told him to do. The people of Nineveh repenting of what they did. Jonah as a symbol of the Messiah, being in the belly of the whale 3 days and 3 nights, and also as someone sleeping while a storm is going on, and later making it calm…).

After that we broke the fast with a communion. I don’t think we’ve ever had a family communion in our home before. I just love that way to break the fast. Besides, we should always take the communion when we are 100% clean, and have repented from all our sins, which is exactly the state we should be in when Yom Kippur draws to a close.

We have now had food, coffee, cake, and the small kids are asleep. We have two more big kids to put asleep and then we’ll see what to do. We should get started on building the Sukka…

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Yom Kippur

October 5, 2011

This year, Yom Kippur coincides with Shabbat. Yom Kippur is the day of atonement, described in  Leviticus 16:1-34, 18:1-30. The holiest day of the year. This is the one time once a year when the high priest would go in to the holy of holiest, as described in Leviticus 16. On this day of the year our Jewish brethren pray for forgiveness of their sins and ask that they may be inscribed in the book of life.

How wonderful is it then that we can know that we are indeed inscribed in the book of life! We do not need to renew it once a year because we are signed in the blood of the lamb. We thank our Lord that he forgives our sins and saves us through faith, and not works. He doesn’t ignore our works – but he forgives us when we repent in the name of Jesus and come back to him. See Romans 3:21-31, 2 Corinthians 5:10-21, Hebrews 10:1-12.

We can see the specific commands in regard to Yom Kippur in Leviticus 23:26-32:

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God. For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people. Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.”

It was a very clear statement – afflict your souls. What does that mean? The Jewish custom has developed this to mean 5 prohibitions on this day: No eating or drinking, no washing (except after bathroom), no ointments, no wearing leather, and no sex.

In Leviticus 16 the role of the high priest on this day is described. In the very chapter after that, we read in Lev 17:11: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” – There’s no atonement without blood. Atonement for sins cannot be achieved, as the rabbis claim, through teshuvah, tefillah and zedaka – repentance, prayer and good deeds.

This day was instituted by God to atone the people’s sins once a year. Do we still need that? Yes, we still need atonement, yes we are still all sinners. What has changed? Jesus! Jesus gave himself as a sacrifice to atone all our sins. Jesus Died. That is were our hope is entirely, in the death of the Son of God under the Wrath of God in our place so that we can stand justified on judgment because of the work and performance of another. Christ died and rose that we may have life. Hebrews 10:19-24

Do we still need to ask for forgiveness when we sin? Do we still need to repent? Of course we do! The life of a born-again believer is marked by constant repentance and admission of sins. So what was the difference that Jesus brought?

1) We can always come to the throne and ask for forgiveness, not only once a year.
2) We can know for sure that we are forgiven as long as we truly and honestly repent with all our heart for the sins we’ve committed, and as long as we forgive others that hurt us.

So why do we still need this day? Why should we still fast and afflict our souls on Yom Kippur? First of all because the Bible says “it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings”. The fast is cutting yourself off from the day-to-day activities, and a concentration on the holy. It’s the perfect time to make a thourough examination of you soul for the year that was. It’s the time to “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith” (2Cor 13:5). It’s also the time to ask people for forgiveness, to straighten out misunderstandings and to restore relations. It’s the time to forgive others, whether they hear you or not.

May we all have a blessed Yom Kippur and be inscribed in the Book of Life through the blood of the lamb. Fast starts at sunset on Friday, and ends at sunset on Saturday, evening. A common custom among Messianic Jews in Israel is to break the fast with a communion.

Some people in Israel greet one another with “may you have an easy fast”. But I claim that a fast is not supposed to be easy. So I say “May you have a beneficial fast”.

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Kicking the caffeine addiction

October 2, 2011

I’m normally drinking 3 cups a day.

2 weeks ago I went down to 2 cups a day.

Last week it was one cup a day.

I tried to make in once every second day this week. But after 28 hours without coffee I got a blistering headache, and had to take a cup.

In any case, during this week I’ll make sure to slowly enlarge the time I’m without coffee, from 28 to 36.

On Saturday, the 8th it’s Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. It’s a 24-hour fast, that includes no drinking, no eating, nothing. Not even toothbrushing. In the past I spent the day in horrible headaches instead of prayer. The past few years I’ve kicked the habit in time in this way, and it has worked.

The day after Yom Kippur I’ll go back to 3 cups a day again. Until next year. The good thing with this is that my addiction will always be controlled. And I will always be able to say that “I can quit whenever I want”, knowing that it is actually true.

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