Monday, April 10, 2017

Crumbs

The Lord’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the Lord’s Festival of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast.
~ Leviticus 23:5-6
Passover is upon us. It's an annual reminder of God's salvation. God saved the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt. When Jesus came, he used that as an image of what he was doing spiritually, saving people from their sins.

The most prominent command surrounding the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread is the removal of yeast/leavening from one's house. Just as the early Israelites ate bread without yeast in their hasty exit from Egypt, we remember this by eating unleavened bread today. On top of that, yeast became a symbol for sin. The annual removal of yeast should serve as a reminder of what thoughts or actions in our lives are inhibiting our relationship with the Lord. Even if you don't want to tackle the chore of removing all yeast from your home, take some time cleaning something as simple as your toaster. What comes out when you open it? Just as all those burnt crumbs tumble out, spend some time reflecting on what needs to be cleaned out from your life.


Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
~ 1 Corinthians 5:7

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Great Miracle Happened There

Today was Christmas and the first day of Hanukkah (how often does they coincide like this?). What is this day about?

Christians around the world commemorate the arrival of Jesus born in lowly conditions in Bethlehem. God come to earth. God had not abandoned the earth to its sins but was personally intervening to deal to it. Jesus' Hebrew name, Yeshua, means 'salvation'.

Going back to about 165 BC, we find the origins of Hanukkah. The land of Israel was under the rule of the Greeks. Under the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Torah was outlawed. The Temple was desecrated. The Jews rose up in rebellion and, against impossible odds, overthrew the Greeks! They rededicated the Temple and that is what is remembered at this time of year. Hanukkah means 'dedication'.

At Hanukkah, there's a traditional game called the dreidel. There are four letters on a dreidel: nun (N), gimel (G), he (H), and shin (Sh). They stand for the phrase, Nes Gadol Haya Sham, "A great miracle happened there". (In Israel, the shin is substituted for a pe (P) for Nes Gadol Haya Po, "A great miracle happened here") God intervened miraculously to save his people from the Greeks so they could worship him instead of idols. In the same way, an even greater miracle happened 160ish years later in the birth of Jesus. These are just two examples of how God has been at work in our world. How have you seen God working in your life in the past year?

Dreidels

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sermon - Grumbling and Gratitude

When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.
~ Deuteronomy 8:10
I had the privilege to preach again last weekend. Given the Thanksgiving weekend, I decided on something on gratitude.

It's easy to focus on what's wrong in life and grumble and complain about it. I'm as guilty as anyone on this. However, this is not how it should be. God calls us to something better - a life of gratitude. God has blessed us; we need to continually remind ourselves of that.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Vote for Saul!

So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”
~ 1 Samuel 8:4-5
After the Israelites came out of Egypt, they conquered the land of Canaan and settled it. Then the era of the judges began. The people would be prosperous and turn from God, which would lead to ruin (invading armies). As a result, they turned back to God. God sent a judge to rescue them. Prosperity returned. And thus the cycle repeated itself.

The prophet Samuel was the last judge. As he grew old, the elders of the people decided it was time for a change. They didn't want the destructive cycle continuing anymore. Their solution: establish a monarchy. The problem was that this contradicted the idea of God as their king. Interestingly, God granted their request and gave them the king they were asking for, a man named Saul.

While Saul started out pretty good, winning various battles, he became less concerned about the Lord. His kingdom was not a strong one. He fit what the people were asking for, even if he wasn't good for them.

As the United States nears a presidential election, that story has been in my mind. It feels like both candidates for the major parties are like Saul. They may not be good for the country, but they're what we've been asking for. We have the candidates we deserve.

I pray my nation and world will wake up before it is too late. No matter what happens, the Lord is the true King of the universe.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tent Specifications

Celebrate this as a festival to the Lord for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters.
~ Leviticus 23:41-42
The festival of Sukkot (tablernacles/booths) is upon us again! It began Monday. I'm typing this from within my sukkah (singular of sukkot).

When I was in Israel this summer at a place called Neot Kedumim, I wandered around an area they have of various sukkot. The sages decided what made for a valid sukkah. This little village demonstrates what is permissible and what is not. Here is a sampling:
An overview of the sukkah village
If a sukkah is built on a cart, it is valid
This sukkah is too tall!
Enjoying some shade in a sukkah
Just as the Israelites lived in tents in the desert, God commanded his people to live in tents for a week each year to remember the event. Paul (2 Corinthians 5:1-4) and Peter (2 Peter 1:13) both refer to our current bodies as tents. They are temporary and will eventually wear out. Like the Israelites in the desert, we are on a journey for a permanent dwelling place. Just as the land of promise was better than the hot, dry desert, so too will our eternal dwelling be better than the life we know now!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Overturned

Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown."
~ Jonah 3:4
Today was Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is the holiest day of the Biblical calendar where atonement was made for the nation of Israel (see Leviticus 16).

One of the traditional readings on this day is the book of Jonah because of its connection to repentance and mercy. God threatened to destroy the city of Nineveh and sent the prophet Jonah to announce its demise. After a detour at sea involving a storm and a great fish, Jonah arrived in Nineveh, proclaiming a five word message in Hebrew: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown." The people of Nineveh heeded his message and repented.

There is an interesting nuance in the Hebrew of his message. The word "overthrown" is the Hebrew word haphak, meaning "to turn about or over; by implication, to change, overturn, return, pervert". Think about it this way: in forty days, the city would be changed. It could be changed for the better or the worse. It was up to the people to decide. In the end, rather than their destruction, they were changed via their repentance. In a sense, Jonah's message still came true.

So what about you? I am not a prophet so I can't say the same statement with any authority to my city or nation. Nevertheless, the call for repentance remains. It was the core message of Jesus: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." (Matthew 4:17) Repentance is not merely saying "I'm sorry." It also requires a change of action.

May your change be for the better and not for the worse. Repent and turn to God!

A fishy sculpture in modern Joppa

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Cover Up

As the dig came to a close, we had one final task on our last day: cover up what we found. One of the problems with archaeology is that it's inherently destructive. You can only dig something up once. Sometimes, an exposed area is left for people to see. Other times it is buried again to preserve it. Our area was in between those extremes.

First, we took some large rolls of material to cover over the major pieces of our area, steadying it with rocks and the jute bags that lined around our excavated area. Normally, this would be good enough. Unfortunately, the region around Tel Dan contains wild pigs which like to eat this material. Therefore, an additional precaution was needed. A backhoe drove in and picked away at our mountain of dirt, dumping some of it back in the hole a few inches deep. It was painful to watch with all those hours of work and scores of bucket lines! The archaeologist said it will take about two days of digging to remove.

Covering our Assyrian wall
The backhoe begins dumping dirt around
The finished product that tourists will see for the next couple of years
This is how our hole should remain for about two years. They hope to get approval in the summer of 2018 for another season of digging. I'm glad I was part of this dig. I'd like to do it again sometime. Is this something that would appeal to you? It's not for everyone, but I found it very satisfying.