Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Why the Messiah Had to Die Before Ushering in Peace--- and Why You Would Want Him To

The other day I was thinking about the standard Jewish objection that Jesus can't be the Messiah because he didn't usher in world peace.

Now, we would say that he came first to die for our sins and later he will establish a kingdom of peace.

I would imagine that sounds like a cop-out to some. But do me a favor and go through the following mental exercise with me.

Imagine the Messiah came, not to suffer our sin, but to establish peace. What would establishing peace entail?

It would require establishing a kingdom in righteousness. And as Isaiah writes, all our righteousness is like filthy rags. So to bring in righteousness, the Messiah would have to judge and punish our righteousness.

That leaves us in a heap of trouble.

So if the Messiah came only one time to rid the world of evil, we would be in a lot of trouble.

Be careful what you wish for. And be thankful that the Messiah came first to bear the sins of his people and then later to judge the world in righteousness, so we have time to turn from our sins.

As David wrote: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."

Friday, August 25, 2006

Jackie Mason Sues Jews for Jesus

Jackie Mason has sued Jews for Jesus. From MSNBC:
The $2 million lawsuit seeks the immediate destruction of the pamphlet, which members of the missionary group have been handing out at various points around New York City.

“While I have the utmost respect for people who practice the Christian faith, the fact is, as everyone knows, I am as Jewish as a matzo ball or kosher salami,” the 75-year-old comedian said in documents filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.
“The pamphlet uses my name, my likeness, my ‘shtick’ (if you will), and my very act, which is derived from my personality, to attract attention and converts,” Mason said in an affidavit.

Jews for Jesus has released a press release.
Jackie Mason, the comedian, is suing Jews for Jesus over one of their evangelistic pamphlets which features his likeness. The pamphlet, entitled, "Jackie Mason, a Jew for Jesus!?" is a good natured look at how anyone, Jew or Gentile, can become a follower of Jesus.

Mason, in his lawsuit, says that the pamphlet gives the impression that he is a proponent of Jews for Jesus. Jews for Jesus denies this. The pamphlet is satirical in style and intended to point out that even someone as Jewish as Jackie Mason can come to faith in Jesus. Mason describes himself "as Jewish as a matzoh ball or kosher salami. . ."

Jews for Jesus executive director, David Brickner, responded, "Jackie may be as Jewish as a matzoh ball, but Jesus is as Jewish as chicken soup. It is our hope that this issue will not have to go through the courts, [the case has been removed from the Supreme Court of the State of New York to Federal Court] but this is a matter of freedom of speech and freedom of religion. We are not claiming Jackie Mason to be a Jew for Jesus. Of course, if he's interested, we're sure Jesus would welcome him as a follower."

Hating Jews for Jesus and the Psychological Reasons Behind It

Lynn Harris, who judging by her column's name is a rabbi's wife, goes into her reasons for hating Jews for Jesus.

The usual confusion between lying and disagreement is there. I've commented on that several times, so search the archives if that interests you.
Then there's the matter of the built-in mind-bender: I'm sorry, no, we cannot be both Jews and "for" Jesus. The "for Jesus" part—that would make us Christians. And it's indescribably offensive to be told that to become truly "fulfilled" or "completed" Jews, we must, in effect, leave Judaism behind. In fact, the Jew/Jesus thing can be seen as an outright lie. The missionaries might move a step or two down the hate scale if they'd quit playing Jewish music and using the star of David and just say, "Hi there! Before you get on the subway, we'd like you to become a Christian."

Lynn Harris goes on:
Even with a more honest approach, there'd still be the matter of Christians converting Jews—historically, an extremely uncomfortable maneuver. "There's more than one way to wipe out a people, and poison, like gas, comes in many forms," writes Burston. "Sometimes it looks like a leaflet. Sometimes it looks like the Internet. Sometimes it looks like a smile."

Way to poison the well. Sort of hard to discuss anything when someone is accusing a group of furthering genocide, regardless of the merits of the claim.

Harris continues to go on about a Christian grandmother who would discuss Jesus with her.

And then she closes:
I do not forgive or feel bad for Jews for Jesus the way I do my grandmother. For one thing, if you'd pressed her about nomenclature, she'd probably have said, "Well yes, accepting Jesus would make you Christian." No confusion—that is, duplicity—there. When it comes to Jews for Jesus, what I'd like to be able to say is something like, "How our sympathies shift when we get to know the people about whom we make assumptions!" But it's not nearly that simple. My own intimacy with their cause makes me both understand and resent them more.

Duplicity confused with disagreement. But I wonder if that's what's going on.

Preaching the good news of the Messiah isn't the problem. Lynn Harris and others repeatedly say that if someone said "become a Christian" they would be OK with that.

Maybe what the problem is that affirming the Jewishness of Jesus and following Jesus makes the message pertinent. And when the message is pertinent then you'll see negative reactions to the message.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Behold Your God Final Report

I saw that Bob Mendelsohn has blogged about the final statistics of what happened during July's New York City-area outreach.

Behind any report are numerous antecdotes and interesting stories. And in everything, may God be glorified.
For the month of July, Jews for Jesus was an unavoidable presence in the
greater New York area —the final stop of the organization’s “Behold Your God”
evangelistic campaigns, which covered every city (54 of them) outside of Israel
with a Jewish population of 25,000 or more.

This Grand Final pulled out all the stops, with over 150 staff and volunteers
from around the world conducting nine simultaneous outreaches to all five
boroughs of New York City, as well as Westchester, Northern New Jersey and Long
Island. Three other outreaches took place among the language groups— Russian-speaking Jews, Israelis, and Yiddish-speaking Chassidim. The Chassidic campaign included the mailing of Yiddish language DVDs of the life of Jesus to 80,000
Jewish households.

In addition, 450,000 direct mail pieces were sent to Jewish households,
1,800,000 evangelistic pamphlets (broadsides) were distributed, 6,410 enquirers
(3,695 [=57%] of them Jewish) who don’t yet believe in Jesus gave their details
for further ministry, and 502 people prayed to receive Jesus as their Messiah
(241 [=48%] of them Jewish) with our teams.

For those who didn’t receive a pamphlet or a mailer, there were the many
billboards, banners, full-page newspaper ads and subway ads that blanketed the
area. The theme, “Jesus for Jews” was picked up by 13 local and national
television news programs that covered the month-long campaign and a feature article
in every major newspaper including the Jewish press.

“I was asked the question “Who is your PR agent?” by several people who were
amazed at how the subject of Jews believing in Jesus was being discussed
everywhere,” said David Brickner, US executive director of Jews for Jesus. “In
response, I would smile and point upward. We really saw the Lord’s hand in
all of this. Over 700 area churches and individuals were praying for us daily;
thousands of others around the world were getting regular prayer requests and
updates. We have been able to partner with local congregations on the
follow-up and in all this, I believe, God is greatly honored.”

Monday, August 21, 2006

Jewish Believer Writes Oratorio

I would be interested in hearing it.
“I was a Messianic Jew in a Messianic temple in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,” when the inspiration came, she said.

Since then, she has based her ministry on the historic and prophetic links between Judaism and Christianity.
“The Coronation of the King” is marked by soaring music and eye-catching props. Performers will march on stage with banners representing the 22 letters of the Torah.

Friday, August 18, 2006

"Properly Educated Jews Won't Believe in Jesus"

How often have you heard this? Often. Now stricly speaking, this isn't true. See my interview with Bob Mendelsohn for a counter-example.

It makes it sound as though properly educated religious Jews are safe from the buffets of the outside world. So imagine my surprise when I discovered a book which discusses why Observant Jews leave Judaism and what to do about it.

Now, I don't want gloat over this situation.

I am hoping that crass and simplistic statements like the title of this post will eventually fade away. People make up their own minds for a variety of reasons, even Orthodox Jews.

Some who professed belief in Y'shua no longer believe in the Messiah. Some who were Orthodox Jews no longer are. Some atheists are now believers in Y'shua. Some are now something completely different. Some are still atheists.

I've heard similar comments from other faith communities besides the Orhtodox Jewish, to be fair.

I think the comment is subconsciously intented to make people feel better about people rejecting something you believe to be true. "Those people believe in because they didn't truly understand what they were leaving." Maybe. Maybe not.

The truth of my faith is grounded upon the veracity of Scripture and the death and Resurrection of Y'shua. People may believe. They may fall away. They may have been educated in the faith. Maybe not. That doesn't affect whether my faith is true or not.

Here was a good comment from a review of the book:
One of her findings is that there is no single all- encompassing reason why observant Jews cease to be so. It can be the coolness of their own observant parents to religion, or the difficulty they have with teachers in school. It can come from their own sense of the religion's simply 'not working' for them. There are many , many reasons. And the author is honest enough to say that she has no formula for any specific case.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Servant of the LORD

Isaiah 49:1-7
1Listen to me, O coastlands,
and give attention, you peoples from afar.
The LORD called me from the womb,
from the body of my mother he named my name.
2He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow;
in his quiver he hid me away.
3And he said to me, "You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified."[a]
4But I said, "I have labored in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
yet surely my right is with the LORD,
and my recompense with my God."

5And now the LORD says,
he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him;
and that Israel might be gathered to him--
for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD,
and my God has become my strength--
6he says:
"It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

7Thus says the LORD,
the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,
to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation,
the servant of rulers:
"Kings shall see and arise;
princes, and they shall prostrate themselves;
because of the LORD, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Another Example of Conflating Disagreement with Deception

NJ Jewish News:
An appearance by a Jews for Jesus missionary arranged by an evangelical church in South Brunswick angered local Jewish leaders, who pledged to expand counter-missionary education efforts within their own institutions.
An ad promoting the Calvary Chapel Crossroads appearance by Telchin, founder and former president of the now defunct Stan Telchin Ministries, ran in the Sentinel, a weekly newspaper published by Greater Media Newspapers. In the ad, Telchin describes how he as a Jew reacted when his 21-year-old daughter confessed a belief in Jesus and how the event spurred his own acceptance of Jesus. The ad included a phone number, address, e-mail address, and Web site for Jews for Jesus.

“The ad was so deceptive it made my blood boil,” said Rabbi Mendy Carlebach of the Chabad House of North and South Brunswick. “We cannot tolerate this kind of deception; telling people they can be both Jews and Christians is totally wrong. Even different priests I know are very angry about it because it’s very deceptive.”

If Rabbi Carlebach actually read the New Testament, he would have seen that one of the main questions is how Gentiles can believe in the Messiah Jesus without becoming Jews. Jews being Jews and believing in Jesus is just understood.

So I'm not sure what priests he's talking to, but they aren't heeding the Scriptures.

Unlike the quotes above, the ADL is saying its not the message but the tactics.
According to the ADL and other Jewish and interfaith groups, Jews for Jesus uses “duplicitous” and “ethically immoral” tactics to attract Jews of marginal observance such as many within the Russian immigrant community.

Ever notice how these tactics aren't specified beyond Jews for Jesus only targets non-observant Jews.

Also, do you notice the repeated insults to non-observant Jews? If they weren't such bad Jews, they wouldn't believe in Jesus.

I wonder what a non-observant Jew would have to say about this accusation. They would probably say they can think for themselves.

So why was Jews for Jesus sending DVDs to the Chasidim?

Well, one blogger I read said the Chasidim must be vulnerable targets. One should tell Rabbi Carlebach that. Why else would Jews for Jesus target them?

Trying to break through this kind of circular logic is incredibly hard.

Maybe, just maybe, Jews for Jesus tries to communicate with everyone about Jesus because Jesus said to preach the gospel to everyone.

And, shock of all shocks, Jews for Jesus even talks to Gentiles about Jesus while out and about on the street. I wonder how they would filter that through their grid.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

College's Hiring of Jew for Jesus Irks Rabbis

A northwest suburban community college has hired an evangelical missionary to teach doctrines of Judaism and Christianity, irking local rabbis who fear the instructor's "subtle evangelism" will creep into the classroom.

Jhan Moskowitz, head of Chicago's chapter of Jews for Jesus, a missionary group that seeks to convert Jews to Christianity, will teach a one-time comparative religion class at Harper College in Palatine on Sept. 21.

College administrators say Moskowitz, 57, has assured them he will teach the basics, not preach the Gospel. To Moskowitz, his academic credentials are more relevant than his full-time job running the evangelical group.

"If I tell you I don't want to increase my sphere of influence in the lives of others in order to make what I believe clear to them, I'd be lying to you," he said. "But the classroom is not the venue in which I do that."

I know Jhan. He has a great depth of knowledge. Who better than a missionary to understand both sides and where they stand?
Rabbi Max Weiss of Beth Tikvah Congregation in Hoffman Estates said he was taken aback when, while flipping through the college catalog, he ran across the course description for "Basic Doctrines: Judaism and Christianity," which identifies Moskowitz.

"The Jews for Jesus organization often resorts to less than straight-forward or honest tactics to accomplish their goals," Weiss wrote in a letter addressed to the college president.

"I fear that this is exactly what he is doing with the class at Harper College," he said in an interview. "They have other people capable of teaching the class from a scholarly perspective."

How many times this summer have I heard the "I don't agree with them that you can be Jewish and for Jesus so they must be deceptive" line of reasoning?

I wonder what those tactics are. One wonders why they named the organization "Jews for Jesus", since the name is upfront with who they are for and what they are advocating. But let's not something as inconvenient as contrary facts stand in the way of a negative charge against Jews for Jesus.

But Jhan doesn't need my defending.
"To simply presume that someone will abuse their power over students because they happen to have a strong point of view is frankly unfair," he said.

Moskowitz said the rabbis have nothing to fear:

"I'm not preaching the Gospel. I'm teaching a class in history. I'm living the Gospel."

Friday, August 11, 2006

Greek Philosophy and the Kaballah

I saw the following on Judaism 101:

To give you an idea of the nature of Kabbalah, I will briefly discuss one of the better known, fundamental concepts of kabbalistic thought: the concept of G-d as Ein Sof, the Ten Sefirot, and the kabbalistic tree of life. This explanation is, at best, a gross oversimplification. I do not pretend to fully understand these ideas.

According to Kabbalah, the true essence of G-d is so transcendent that it cannot be described, except with reference to what it is not. This true essence of G-d is known as Ein Sof, which literally means "without end," which encompasses the idea of His lack of boundaries in both time and space. In this truest form, the Ein Sof is so transcendent that It cannot have any direct interaction with the universe. The Ein Sof interacts with the universe through ten emanations from this essence, known as the Ten Sefirot.
The Sefirot are not separate deities, as some might think by taking this too literally. They are intimately a part of G-d, and yet they are in contact with the universe in a way that the Ein Sof is not. The Sefirot connect with everything in the universe, including humanity. The good and evil that we do resonates through the Sefirot and affects the entire universe, up to and including G-d Himself.

While I am no Kaballah expert this is all very familiar to me.

These seem to be derived from Neo-Platonic thought. 1) the ability to speak of God only in term of what He is not. 2) The emenations from God.

Now, I don't want it to seem that I'm picking on some portions of Orthodox Judaism. Neo-Platonic thinking has also heavily influenced Eastern Orthodoxy.

Here is a Wikipedia article about Plotinus, who is widely considered the father of Neo-Platonism. Try to notice the similarities.
Plotinus taught that there is a supreme, totally transcendent "One", containing no division, multiplicity or distinction; likewise it is beyond all categories of being and non-being. The concept of "being" is derived by us from the objects of human experience, and is an attribute of such objects, but the infinite, transcendent One is beyond all such objects, and therefore is beyond the concepts that we derive from them. The One "cannot be any existing thing", and cannot be merely the sum of all such things (compare the Stoic doctrine of disbelief in non-material existence), but "is prior to all existents". Thus, no attributes can be assigned to the One.
The One, being beyond all attributes including being and non-being, is the source of the world not through any act of creation, willful or otherwise, since activity cannot be ascribed to the unchangeable, immutable One. Plotinus resorts to a logical principle that the "less perfect" must, of necessity, "emanate", or issue forth, from the "perfect" or "more perfect". Thus, all of "creation" emanates from the One in succeeding stages of lesser and lesser perfection. These stages are not temporally isolated, but occur throughout time as a constant process. Later Neoplatonic philosophers, especially Iamblichus, added hundreds of intermediate beings as emanations between the One and humanity; but Plotinus' system was much simpler in comparison.
the One is in no way affected or diminished by these emanations. Plotinus uses the analogy of the Sun which emanates light indiscriminately without thereby "lessening" itself, or reflection in a mirror which in no way diminishes or otherwise alters the object being reflected.

Are there differences between straight Neo-Platonism and the Kaballah? Yes. There are also differences with Eastern Orthodoxy.

But the Greek influences seem to be clearly there.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Y'shua on the Bronze Snake

Numbers 21:4-9
4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!"

6 Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, "We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us." So Moses prayed for the people.

8 The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.

John 3:13-18
13No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

16"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Limits of Orthodox Theology

Due to some Internet searches, I stumbled upon a book by Marc Shapiro, who holds the Weinberg Chair in Judaic Studies at the University of Scranton.

The thesis of his book is that agreement on Maimonides' Thirteen Principles wasn't present prior to Miamonides or even sometimes after him.

This article primarily quotes the book on the eternality of the Torah (the 9th principle).
Most disturbing to Viterbo is what he views as Maimonides' presumptuousness in instructing God, as it were, on how He can conduct Himself. Emden makes a similar point:

“We absolutely do not admit that which Maimonides laid down, that the entire Torah will not change, for there is no decisive proof for this—neither from reason and logic nor from the Bible. Verily, the Sages tell us that the Holy One will give a new Torah in the future. If our King should wish to change the Torah, or exchange it for another, whatever the King wishes, whether it be to descend on Mount Sinai or another of the mighty mountains, or even a valley, there to appear a second time before the eyes of all the living, we would be the first to do His will, whatever be His bidding.

Anyway, I post this since it should not only be an interesting read, but should give us new insight.

When people say Judaism teaches this or Judaism teaches that, we should ask, as I previously posted, what's the authority. Push to the ultimate authority. What does Scripture say? Test a teaching in light of Scripture and see what is true.

One could equally say "Christianity teaches X" or "Christianity teaches Y". Or more likely "the pope says this" or "tradition says this."

When the masses heard Y'shua teach they were amazed because he spoke as one with authority. We should push back to our ultimate authority, the very words of God.

Because when you look to any tradition of any background, you are not going to find complete consistency. Also, if it is not in line with what God has revealed, it is a foundation made of sand.

We should always be testing our beliefs against Scripture.

Friday, August 04, 2006

God Appears as a Man in the Torah

Since the teaching of the incarnation (not man becoming God) seems incomprehensible to some, I wanted to provide the following portion of the Torah. Also worth noting is the food offered to the men at the end of this passage.

Genesis 18:1-8

1And the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. 2He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth 3and said, "O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. 4Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, 5while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on--since you have come to your servant." So they said, "Do as you have said." 6And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, "Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes." 7And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. 8Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tisha B'Av

Right now, as I post this, we are in the final hours of Tisha B'Av, which is a day to commemorate the destruction of both the first and the second Temples.

Given the current unrest in Israel with Hezbollah, it is well worth to take the time to reflect. It's always worth the time to reflect and mourn what should be mourned. But it becomes more poignant.

It is customary to read the book of Lamentations, so here is a link to the book.

It is also worth noting that Y'shua prophecied the destruction of the Second Temple.

Remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Do Christians Believe in Three Gods?

Since the charge of polytheism gets bantered about, I thought the article linked above may be worth a read.

From the article:
The idea in the Scriptures is not that a man became God--God forbid--but that the Messiah would himself be God coming as a man. Isaiah 9:6 portrays the coming of the Messiah in these terms: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." But if God is indeed a "tri-unity," then it is possible for the Messiah both to be called God and also to exist in a relationship characterized as "son of God." This is the conclusion we Jews who believe in Jesus are driven to as we study the Scriptures. With our fellow Jews, we affirm that "the Lord our God, the Lord is one"--a oneness characterized by a "tri-unity."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Justification by Faith Alone in the Tanakh

The teaching of justification by faith alone is the teaching that all those who trust in God and His Messiah are declared righteous. You would not be declared righteous on the the basis of the merits of your good works. Although genuine faith will result in a change and in good works, although no one this side of heaven is perfected.

The Tanakh, the traditional Jewish Scriptures, fully supports this.

First, the Tanakh supports the problem. In Psalm 130 it is written, "If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?"

David, who knew a thing or two about sinning against God, wrote in Psalm 14:
The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.

When Jeremiah describes the new covenant that was coming God says "I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remmeber no more." (Jeremiah 31:34)

In the Torah, it is written: "Abram believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness." (Genesis 15:6)

The Torah does not read "Abram did a bunch of good stuff and it was accounted to him as righteousness." He was accounted righteous by faith. Later, Abraham's act of obedience proved his faith was genuine.

Speaking of the Messiah, Isaiah writes "by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities." (Isaiah 53:11)

We receive the Messiah's righteousness and we give him our iniquities. That is the exchange. Our filth for the Messiah's righteousness.

Zechariah shows this exchange:
Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?" Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, "Remove the filthy garments from him." And to him he said, "Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments."

The Messiah takes away our iniquity and clothes us in his righteousness. That is truly good news.