Some thoughts on the Roman Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Church (hereafter RCC) has been in the news a lot lately for some really terrible reasons, including the apparent sheltering of known sexual predators for decades by RCC officials. Most non-Catholic Christians will probably dismiss this news as having nothing to do with us, or perhaps even take some secret delight in seeing the RCC so widely maligned and discredited.
I think that’s a mistake, and I’ll tell you why.
Most of the people living in this world have only the vaguest idea about the meaning of the words “Catholic” “Protestant” and “Orthodox” much less the different denominations, doctrinal positions, etc. within these sub-groups of Christianity. The reasons for this are not hard to figure out.
It’s impossible to nail down a hard number but it’s safe to say that over half of the people in the world who identify as “Christian” are members of the RCC. Nearly every church one sees in a movie or TV show is a Catholic Church. Nearly every clergyman one sees in a movie or TV show is a Catholic priest. So for most people who get their ideas from movies and TV, that’s the image of “Christians” that they have in their minds, whether we like it or not.
That is ESPECIALLY true of Jewish people.
Here’s a couple of anecdotal stories to show you what I mean.
When Pope John Paul II died in April of 2005, Christian Zionist organizations working in Jerusalem got phone calls of condolence from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the Mayor’s office and even from some leading Rabbis. According to one individual I spoke with who answered the phone that day and heard from a senior Foreign Ministry official directly, they appeared to not have the slightest idea that they were speaking with an organization of Evangelical Protestants who had nothing to do with the Pope or the RCC. This was despite the high level of education and experience of the person making the call and years spent working closely with Evangelical organizations and people on a variety of projects.
Skip ahead a few years to May of 2009 when Pope Benedict XVI came to Israel.
I was in a training course to work as a Tour Guide at the time and one of my fellow students was a guy who had grown up in the US State of Arizona and even graduated from college there. As we were leaving class one evening he turned to me and asked me if I was going to go see the Pope while he was here. I said I had no plans to do so, to which he appeared quite astonished. I asked him why he was surprised and he said “well, you’re a Christian right? Isn’t the Pope like…your king or something”?
Now it was my turn to be astonished, but after a moment I told him “I’m not Catholic bro” which I thought would explain everything. But he just said “Oh, okay” in a manner which made it clear that it hadn’t explained anything.
Months later, we got into a segment of the program where we studied the different denominations within Christianity. By the end of the course he had probably gotten to the point where he wouldn’t repeat his mistake of asking me if I planned to see the Pope while he was visiting Israel.
But the vast majority of Jewish people have not had the benefits of college-level instruction on this material so for them, when they see a story in the newspaper about the death of a Pope, or the RCC being censured for covering up the activities of sexual predators, the reaction they have to that news is going to be directed at the Christians they know of and/or are close to, no matter what denomination they belong to.
This can, and has already many times in the past, had a direct impact on Believers in Israel.
The above mentioned Pope John Paul II’s visit to Israel in March of 2000, during which he issued a public statement at Yad Vashem apologizing for “acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place.” 18 years later I still hear from Jewish people in Jerusalem that it was that statement which caused them to slowly stop having an automatically hostile attitude towards Christians and why, among other things, they are able to be friends with me.
That’s on the good side of things.
On the bad side, as someone else mentioned in a blog here at KNI recently, one of the favorite tactics of the anti-missionary groups here in Israel is to tell landlords that if they rent to Believers, they’re inviting trouble because Believers are into pedophilia and other nasty stuff. They sometimes tell teachers at the schools our children attend the same thing. These stories that have been in the news lately about sexual predators in the RCC lend credibility to these tactics, as unfair as that might be.
So, in conclusion, the conduct and reputation of the RCC should matter to Believers, in Israel and around the world, because like it or not that stuff affects us and our relations with other groups, including Jews. The degree to which this affects whoever might be reading this blog will vary greatly depending on where you live and a variety of other factors, so I can’t advise anyone on how to address this issue, other than the obvious advice that it’s something we should be regularly praying into.
Aaron is a member of Jerusalem Assembly, House of Redemption.
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The special meaning of Yom Kippur for Messianic Believers
Yom Kippur (occurring this year September 18-19) is a biblical feast full of deep, prophetic significance. It points magnificently to the ministry of Yeshua in both His first and second comings. Here are some basic aspects of this special, holy day and ways you can engage meaningfully with God during it.
“The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made by fire to the Lord. Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the Lord your God. Those who do not deny themselves on that day must be cut off from their people. … This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. It is a sabbath of rest for you and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your sabbath.” (Leviticus 23:27-32)
Yom Kippur is translated in English as the Day of Atonement. The word “atonement” likely came into use specifically to convey the unique at-one-ment with God resulting from Israel’s adherence to His commands for this day. (Leviticus 16 and 23:26-32, Numbers 29:7-11) The purpose of these commands was not the impassive, outward-only performance of ritual, but the restoration of intimate relationship between a holy God and His beloved, covenant people.
A summary of Yom Kippur as prescribed and practiced in ancient Israel can be read in Leviticus 16 and then at https://hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Fall_Holidays/Yom_Kippur/yom_kippur.html. This levitical feast required a highly precise sacrificial offering of bulls and goats, together with blood cleansing, by Israel’s high priest. As the high priest conducted the annual and most solemn ceremony, his fellow Israelites fasted and prayed that God would accept the sacrifice and grant atonement for the nation.
When God graciously instituted the New Covenant promised to Israel in Jeremiah 31:33, the sacrificial system was no longer needed. The singular, blood sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua accomplished atonement for all humankind. “He sacrificed for their sins once for all when He offered Himself.” (Hebrews 7:27) In this transformational reality today, Christians do not always know how—or even whether—to observe Yom Kippur and rightly honor the Lord through it. May I suggest that as a 1 Peter 5 holy priesthood, Messianic believers can engage intimately with YHVH on this sacred day in at least five ways—by grace through faith—if they feel so led.
(1) Yom Kippur is a designated Sabbath assembly. It is a day to do no work but assemble before God, focusing attention on Him. If you can not join a live assembly on Yom Kippur, you can assemble before Him by yourself—or join a Messianic service online.
(2) Fasting. Since before Yeshua’s time, the Jewish people have fasted on Yom Kippur as one fulfillment of the command to “afflict” or “deny” ourselves. Could fasting or self-denial be appropriate or relevant this day for Messianic believers? Yeshua assumed His disciples would fast. (Matthew 6:16-18) He further said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) God does not want our lives focused on self-examination or affliction throughout the year. But He does call us to judge ourselves regarding sin. By rightly judging ourselves and turning from sin, we avoid coming under His judgment or chastening. (1 Corinthians 11:31)Yom Kippur could be an especially appropriate day for this. On a somewhat related note, recall that Israel’s high priest had to atone first for his own sins before he could minister to God’s people. Do you desire God’s gracious gifts of conviction, repentance, and renewed holy love relationship? Might He be calling you to consecrate this Yom Kippur as a Sabbath on which to humble yourself, fast, and ask Him to search your heart—then serve in a renewed capacity as a holy, intercessory priesthood?
(3) Yom Kippur may involve personal sacrifice beyond fasting. As New Covenant believers, how do we rightly offer God sacrifice? Romans 12:1 exhorts: “I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” Hebrews 13:15 says, “Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess His name.” Yom Kippur is a highly appropriate day to spend in sacrificial praise and worship.
The crowning highlight of Yom Kippur is the celebration of Messiah’s sacrificial atonement. He is worthy of our worship! We are eternally thankful that Yeshua is our once-for-all atonement: “When Messiah appeared as [High Priest] …. He entered into the Holies once for all—not by the blood of goats and calves but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Hebrews 9:11-12, TLV) Therefore, throughout the day on Yom Kippur we praise, magnify and celebrate Yeshua. For those trusting in Him, He has marvelously done away with sin, not just covered it, as implied in the word “kippur.” But bear in mind that for praise to be sacrificial it must cost something, such as time, resources, energy—or pride.
Lastly, a Messianic or Christian observance of Yom Kippur can involve sacrificial giving to others. “Do not forget to do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16) One of many ways to “do good and share with others” is to pray for them. Yom Kippur can—and I believe should—be a day on which we offer a sacrifice of focused prayer the salvation of others, especially that of Israel and the Jewish people.
(4) Intercession for Israel’s salvation. In Israel and around the world, Jews will gather in synagogues on Yom Kippur to fast, recite Scripture and confess their sins. They will conclude the day hoping those sins were forgiven. Meanwhile, God yearns for His ancient covenant people to be reconciled to Him by grace through faith in Messiah. You are part of a royal priesthood that can effectively intercede this day for Israel’s salvation. “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” (Romans 10:1)
(5) Prophetic foreshadow of Judgment Day. The shofar blast of Yom Kippur carries future prophetic significance that is understood by some traditional Jews, as well as by Messianic believers. A final, heavenly trumpet heralds and releases the coming Day of the Lord (Judgment Day). This is the glorious yet fearsome day of Yeshua’s return. Many believe Yom Kippur prophetically foreshadows either the Second Coming, or day of Israel’s national salvation, or both. Yeshua will return as Judge and King on an incomparably magnificent, future Yom Kippur. Until then, we are to encourage ourselves and others with the hope of His glorious appearing. (1Thessalonians 4:16-18)
For Messianic believers today, Yom Kippur can be a day of profound blessing in at least 5 ways. (1) It is a Sabbath on which to assemble before God and commemorate Yeshua’s atonement. (2) We can fast and receive the grace of personal repentance and renewed intimacy with God. (3) It is a day to offer Him our genuine, joyful sacrifice of praise. (4) Intercession for the salvation of Israel (and others) is highly appropriate on Yom Kippur. (5) Celebrating the promise of Yeshua’s return and hope of His coming is perfect for Yom Kippur!
This article originally appeared on Light of Zion, September 13, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Sandra is co-founder and director, along with her husband Kerry, of Light of Zion Ministries. Light of Zion is an Israeli Messianic Jewish, prophetic intercessory prayer ministry in Jerusalem with humanitarian outreach. Sandra is a prayer mobilizer and network leader, international speaker, prophetic liaison, professionally published author, Bible teacher, and retired attorney.
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Commentary on Parashat Vayelech (He Went)
D’VARIM (DEUTERONOMY) 31:1–30
This week, we read the deeply moving account of Moses commissioning Joshua and the Children of Israel, and preparing them for the task standing before them:
So Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. And he said to them, “I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I am no longer able to come and go, and the LORDhas said to me, ‘You shall not cross this Jordan.’ It is the LORD your God who will cross ahead of you; He will destroy these nations before you, and you shall inherit them. Joshua is the one who will cross ahead of you, just as the LORD has spoken. And the LORD will do to them just as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when He destroyed them. And the LORD will deliver them up before you, and you shall do to them according to all the commandments which I have commanded you. Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. And the LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed.”
Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, in order that they may hear and learn and fear the LORD your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this Torah.
As I was reading the verses above, I was thinking about the incredible connection between Moses and Yeshua our Messiah, but with one very big difference between them. Let’s first look at Moses. Moses commissioned Joshua and the congregation of Israel to enter and inherit the Land of Promise; he told them that God would go before them, that He would destroy their enemies, and that God – who is all powerful and has all authority – would always be there with them. Moses also warned the congregation of Israel to be obedient and faithful to God’s teachings (Torah).
Let’s compare this to what Yeshua said when He commissioned His disciples before He left the earth:
And Yeshua came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Similar to Moses, Yeshua commissioned His disciples (and by extension, us) to go and inherit a land, in a spiritual sense; He commissioned us to enter the land of darkness and to bring His light by making disciples of the nations, teaching them to observe everything that He has commanded. Yeshua, also promised that He would be with us always, even to the end of time, which is very similar to the promise we see in Deuteronomy 31.
It is significant to note that Moses commissioned the Children of Israel before his death to fulfill the task set before them. Together with that, he also promised that God would go before them and be with them always. Yeshua commissioned His disciples after His death and resurrection to fulfill the task set before them and He told them (us) that He is with them always to the end of the age.
I wrote that there is one big difference between Moses and Yeshua: Moses is still in the grave, but Yeshua is not. The big difference has to do with Yeshua’s death and resurrection, which makes Him higher than Moses. What a great comfort and hope we have knowing that God is with us always!
This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.
Moran is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope for Israel, which is a service and resource-providing ministry that aims to bring the hope of the Messiah back to Israel. It is also a resource center for current and timely news updates concerning Israel that provides daily prayer alerts, Bible teachings, and weekly blogs in order to help believers across the world understand what God is doing in the Land, how to pray for Israel and filter everything through the Word of God.
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The key to successful leadership
Moses was 120 years old and was standing in front of the nation of Israel, sharing his last words with them. As a part of this statement he says the following words found in Deuteronomy 31:2:
“He said to them, “I am 120 years old today. I am no longer able to go out and come in…”
At first glance the reader might conclude that Moses had become physically weak with his advanced years and was telling his people why he was transferring leadership to Joshua. However, we know from Scripture that this cannot be the case because in Deuteronomy 34:7 the Torah tells us:
“Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was not dim nor his vigor gone.”
So, if Moses wasn’t saying that he was too old and weak to lead Israel anymore what was he saying? One of the best ways to find an answer to a Biblical question is to look through the Bible to see if the word, expression or phrase is used elsewhere. It is important when comparing words and phrases that we make sure the context the word or phrase is used in is similar because context can dramatically change the meaning of a word or phrase.
In this case we do see this phrase used again in a context that is connected to leadership. We find the same phrased used in 2 Chronicles 1:7-10:
That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask! What should I give you?” Solomon answered God, “You have shown great lovingkindness to my father David and now You have made me king in his place. Now, Adonai Elohim, let Your word to my father David be fulfilled for You have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. Now give me wisdom and knowledge that I may go out and come in before this people. For who can govern this great people of Yours?”
and 1 Kings 3:5-7:
At Gibeon Adonai appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said: “Ask for what should I give you?” Solomon said: “You have shown my father Your servant David great lovingkindness, as he walked before You in truth, righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You. Indeed, You have kept this great lovingkindness for him by giving him a son to sit on his throne, as it is today. So now, Adonai my God, You have made Your servant king in my father David’s place. I am but a youth. I don’t know how to go out or come in.
Notice that the expression to go out or come in is used in reference to leadership by both Moses and Solomon. It is also important that we notice the direction reference used in these words. First go out and then come in. This seems backwards at first if we are looking at the words in relationship to the people. In other words, if Moses and Solomon were using these words in relation to the people of Israel wouldn’t they say I don’t know how to come in and then go out of the presence of the people? Think about it, neither Moses nor Solomon was concerned with how to come in or go out from the people. It wasn’t going in and coming out that they needed help with. It was going out and coming in. These words are not in relation to the people that G-D had given them leadership authority over. They are in relation to going out and returning to the presence of G-D. Moses was not saying he was old and weak and therefore couldn’t do his lead anymore. He was saying that it was no longer his place to be the mediator for Israel, now it was to be Joshua. This same change of leadership is taking place as Solomon is replacing his father David as king and mediator for Israel. Solomon knew the key to successful leadership was spending time in the presence of G-D and then coming out of G-D’s throne room to the people and then returning to the throne room again. Both Moses and Solomon understood that their job wasn’t about leading the people as much as it was about following G-D.
It is this exact lesson that today’s leaders need to remember. It isn’t about entering and exiting the people that makes someone a great leader. It is exiting and entering G-D’s throne room that does.
Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, #ManWisdom, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, Jesus is to Christianity as Pasta is to Italians, and his most recent book God Has No Plan "B".
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Why American Jews are tuning out on their faith
A recent Jerusalem Post article entitled, “The Faith Crisis of American Jewry” (9/12/18) caught my eye, citing the devastating rate of intermarriage, lack of synagogue attendance and even a considerable amount of those who have no belief in God.
Having been an Israeli citizen for the last 25 years, I turned to some American Jewish friends to find out why they, too, seem to have tuned out on their faith. Their responses are probably typical of many secular American Jews, and so here is what they had to say:
- I would have still been involved with the synagogue and more devoted to Judaism, but my husband and my kids gave me a hard time.
- My husband didn’t like the rabbi, so we changed synagogues, but it eventually closed.
- My husband was not really brought up very Jewish. His parents didn’t celebrate holidays or go to synagogue.
- My husband has had a strong influence on my children, making it impossible to be observant.
- I wasn’t educated as a Jew even though my mother was religious. I never had a Bat Mitzvah or studied Hebrew, so I couldn’t understand what was being said at the synagogue.
- The childhood Jewish melodies I knew changed throughout the years, and so when I finally attended synagogue as an adult, I was out of the loop and in unfamiliar territory.
- When my brother goes to temple, all he does is talk. He doesn’t pray.
- My husband and I know we’re Jews, we’re proud of it, keep kosher, make holiday meals, donate to Jewish charities, light memorial candles and that’s enough for us.
- The rabbi didn’t offer any support when my father was dying even though he came to the hospital daily to visit a rabbi in the next room.
- The cost of good seats was unaffordable.
- They wanted control from cradle to death – everything including yeshiva (instead of public school), membership on the Jewish youth sports’ teams, daily involvement and unreasonable financial support. We were not willing to make such a commitment.
- We felt services were boring, not relevant to our daily lives and lacking in spiritual inspiration.
- The only synagogue in our area was not one to our liking.
A common thread in all of the above reasons seems to be a lack of something genuine and fulfilling as well as a good dose of suspicion concerning the control factor. Let’s face it, aren’t those the things which cause most people to tune out?
All of us are seeking to live our lives as best as we can, balancing work, family, social activities and also desiring to be inspired along the way. That source of inspiration is often expected to come from those who point us back to our faith and why it helps us to be a better version of the fallen person we are. When that source is tainted by elements of control, excessive financial gain, social climbing or just plain indifference to our needs, we tune out. After all, there’s no spare time for a counterfeit that doesn’t satisfy.
American Jewry has lost its way from the early turn of the century when most of our grandparents arrived from European shtetls to the shores of what hoped to be a better life. Living clustered in urban neighborhoods which reflected their culture, language, lifestyle and faith was what kept Jews as a closely-knitted group which almost never sought intermarriage, leaving the fold or breaking ranks. Yet today’s American Jewry no longer live that way. With the exception of the very orthodox, most American Jews have totally assimilated, consider intermarriage as a completely viable option and are only loosely connected to a tiny smattering of Jewish tradition which may include circumcision, bar-mitzvah, a Passover Seder, lighting Chanukah candles, sitting shiva (a week of mourning) when a Jewish person dies and marrying under a chuppa (canopy). There just isn’t much beyond that.
Ziona Greenwald, writer of the Jerusalem Post Article states, “For multitudes of Jews to have not only eschewed their heritage but completely shucked off any shred of faith, any relationship, however fraught, with their Divine Creator, gives new meaning to the term “lost souls… The apparent drift toward godlessness among American Jewry should set off alarm bells for Jewish leaders and major organizations.”
I couldn’t agree more with Ziona Greenwald, but the real soul-searching must come from those who hope to entice American Jews to turn towards their faith, but, in this case, it seems to be a classic case of the blind leading the blind. A successful spiritual leader must possess a heart for his constituency – which means real empathy, feeling and genuine love and concern for each individual. The absence of those characteristics will be felt and internalized by the potential members, and the creation of something real and meaningful will be replaced by dry ritual, showy performance and forced commitment, none of which are attractive or appealing.
As far away as this “withering faith group,” as Ziona calls it, may have wandered, it is my fervent belief that there is a dormant seed inside of every Jew which longs to burst through the hard and fallow ground of their sleeping faith. The desire to really know God and feel intensely connected to Him, does not entirely dissipate. It is there, but it must be nurtured. It begins by someone taking a personal interest especially when times are tough. It grows as you remain committed to that individual, and it blossoms as they feel inspired and valued. God does this for us, and we need to do it for one another. Faith is so much more than a weekly trek to the local synagogue. It is truly a daily lifestyle with a daily commitment to be to one another what God calls us to be in order that others can see and feel His love and care extended to them. If we were to live that way, there is no doubt that it would attract not only every Jew, but every non-Jew as well.
I am reminded of Zechariah 8:23 which says, “In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” This is no portrait of a “withering faith group.” To the contrary, this is a compelling picture of the most attractive, appealing and vibrant Jewish faith which makes “trending” look minor. It is a must-have and a “like” to the extreme. According to the scriptures, this is the place where the Jewish faith will arrive. How will it get there? It starts with you and your own need for the real, the genuine and the sincere expression of God. Find it, live it and then spread it to others in real and tangible ways. I guarantee you – No one will tune out on that!!!
Cookie is the former managing director of Makor HaTikvah Messianic School in Jerusalem.