Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Is There A Single Jewish Person Here?

"Elizabeth, I am heading to Publix to pick up the Seder cookies I signed up to bring tonite."
"Yeah, I gotta go too. I signed up to bring macaroons."
"Hey, I signed up to bring macaroons too. I don't know what they are but Publix has everything. So I might get you a box too because I know how you are going to be short on time tonite." My friend and I laughed because we know it is quite important to bring the food to church that we committed to bring. We hung up and I headed out to Publix.

The reason I was headed to Publix was for our church's Seder Dinner. I was excited to learn about the Jewish tradition of Passover and the Seder Dinner celebration that Jewish families share every year. I heard the symbolism and evidence of Jesus Christ being introduced into what the Pastor referred to as "The Fifth Cup" intrigued me.

However, when I entered the bakery section at my local Publix Supermarket, I was quite surprised to be told that "Kosher" food for Passover would not be available until the next week. In broken English, the Haitian lady pointed me to another table in the middle of the bakery in which she stated, "There are other bakery goods that Jewish people eat." I looked at boxes upon boxes of sugary cookies, bow ties, croissant muffins, merinque cookies. I took a deep breath and knowing the answer asked this dark-skinned well-meaning woman a fifth time, "But how do I know it is Kosher and I can bring to Seder dinner tonite?"

I didn't wait for her to answer. Throwing my hands up in the air, and in an exasperated tone, I loudly growled to no one in particular, "Is there not one Jewish person in this whole Publix who can tell me what I can bring to Seder Dinner tonite?" A woman, the only woman who had been listening to my rant, touched a box in front of her, took a step back and then decidedly dove in to help. She said, "I am Jewish. How can I help you?" I was not surprised actually. My faith dictates that often these types of encounters are part of a divine plan that only the Lord ordains.

This sweet grandmotherly woman agreed with me that nothing on that table was Kosher for Passover. She took control immediately and stated, "There must be a Kosher aisle in this store. Come on honey, we will find it. You will bring something to your Seder Dinner tonite even if it is not macaroons." She touched my arm and steered me to the heart of the store. She interupted a clerk and asked where the Kosher aisle was located. She was on a mission for me - a total stranger - a Gentile no less!

As we were turning down the Kosher aisle, I mentioned I was a Christian and my church was having a Seder Dinner to teach us Gentiles about Jewish tradition. My new friend stopped in her tracks. She planted both feet directly in front of me and asked, "Do you know what Passover is?" I smiled because I did indeed understand Passover was the celebration of the Angel passing over the homes of the Jewish faithful who had painted blood over the lintels of the doors to protect them from death. I also shared that she as a Jew was the chosen one and that I as a Gentile was "grafted in". She was quite pleased with my understanding of Passover.

I was touched by this woman's desire to mentor me in what was appropriate to bring. We decided on a jar of Gefelte fish. I said no to Matza toast - after all everyone would know to bring that! Before I knew it, we were plucking a jar of horseradish off the cooler. I confirmed it was Kosher for Passover and my mentor was pleased that I had made it a point to check for Kosher status. At that point there was not much else to say. I thanked her again. I must have thanked her ten times as I was grateful that she took so much time to teach and share her tradition with me.

I looked at her one last time and I knew it was farewell. I would never see her again. The scavenger hunt was over. Macaroons forgotten. She said to me, "You might come over to the other side. You might become Jewish." Wanting to please her, I did not dive into a salvation message but instead told this kind hearted woman, "You never know - you might see me at  - - at Temple is it?" Grinning from ear to ear, "Yes, yes it is Temple. Maybe I will see you at Temple." I thanked her again and headed to the register. I was still smiling but inside slightly sad.

That wonderful woman knew everything there was to know about Jewish culture, tradition and Old Testament. However, she did not know the Fifth Cup in the Seder Dinner was for available for her to partake of today. Her people still await the return of the Messiah. If only she knew for me to become Jewish was to go backwards but for her to become a Messianic Jew was to have it all!!!

Next blog I will share the Seder Dinner that my church presented that night. It was so amazing to understand the symbolism of the elements and the love for the Word.

When I got home from the store, I called my friend Elizabeth just to let her know I would not be bringing macaroons. I didn't want to let her down! We giggled about my encounter. She told me she had just gotten back from her Publix and she found plenty of macaroons! She had even picked up a box for me.

Needless to say, that night the Gefilte fish remained in my refrigerator. The next day I returned that jar of never-to-be tasted fish. That jar was destined to grace another table for another celebration. Possibly that kind warm and friendly Jewish woman's table or another well-meaning Gentile like myself who had been taught by a loving mentor to properly participate in Passover Kosher-style. It never was about finding macaroons anyway. It was about a Jew and a Gentile enjoying a chance encounter that will stick with both until the Rapture or the last breath either take. I pray this Jewish woman's last words will be "Here I come Jesus my Lord and Saviour". I pray she will embrace Yeshua before it's too late.

No, it never was about the macaroons!!! It was a divine appointment. Happy Passover one and all...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Forgiveness and Adoption = 5 "Alones"

Okay I am going to give it to you straight! Straight from the Bible. I have always appreciated knowing I am adopted into God's family. See, at one time (The Old Testament) only the Chosen People (Jews) were justified. However, as I like to explain, "The Old Testament was the coloring book and the New Testament the crayons. Together the coloring book (OT) with crayons (NT) become a finished work of art (Jesus Christ)."

So many make the Bible to be a complex book of which only the scholarly can comprehend. However, when we have an open mind and an open heart, God will deposit the Truth of the Bible into our minds and will plant a seed which makes its way into our hearts and then becomes a beautifully strong and powerful planting of the Holy Spirit. Only when we realize God Himself wants to teach us what the Bible is all about do we stop fighting man and fearing man's interpretation. God gives us the Truth!!

Here is a word of great significance to those of us seeking forgiveness and adoption into God's Family:

jus·ti·fi·ca·tion –noun

1. a reason, fact, circumstance, or explanation that justifies or defends: His insulting you was ample justification for you to leave the party.
2. an act of justifying: The painter's justification of his failure to finish on time didn't impress me.
3. the state of being justified.
4. Also called justification by faith. Theology. the act of God whereby humankind is made or accounted just, or free from guilt or penalty of sin.
5. Printing. the spacing of words and letters within a line of type so that all full lines in a column have even margins both on the left and on the right.

As a Christian (which means Follower of Christ) I can confidentially tell you that Justification (applying to number 4 above) consists of 2 parts:

#1. The sinner (which applies to all of us Romans 3:23) is forgiven by Christ's righteousness on the Cross Romans 3:24. I love how Romans 3:23 and Romans 3:24 are right there in two verses! Just so we don't miss them they are written one after the other.

#2. The second part of justification is adoption. How wonderful to know that after a life of just feeling like we don't truly belong anywhere - God teaches us that we can become adopted as a child of God. We have all the rights of heirs (co-heirs with Christ actually Romans 8:17) Just in case you are a bit skeptical about this as if it sounds "too good to be true" check out 1 Peter 1:4

I like to refer to the next five supporting Truths as the "Alones". See, we must trust what God is telling us about "how to be justified" is all we need to understand and heed to be right before a perfect God. It's not how many meals we served the homeless, how much money we gave throughout our lifetimes, or about serving as a deacon or whatever we did. Being justified before a loving God consists of: faith alone, Scripture alone, Christ alone, Grace alone and Glory to God alone.

5 "Alones" = God's forgiveness and adoption into the Family of God. Just be reminded that justification means "right standing" with God - which allows for our entrance into Heaven (according to Christianity) and for a person's name to be written into the Lamb's Book of Life. (I could have also called this category the 5 Solas but I am not really a big fan of Latin ;) so I like to call the following "Alones":

1. By faith alone (Sola Fide)
2. Scripture alone (Sola Scripture)
3. Christ alone (Solus Christus)
4. Grace alone (Sola Gratia)
5. Glory to God alone (Soli Deo Gloria)

I have come to grieve the fact that man has made a mess of what God had intended to be a very simple plan. I run back to Jesus Christ each time I experience conflict with others as a result of having to defend my faith. I never did find Christ in a church pew. I found Him in the heart of a loving brother who loved God enough and God's creation (me) so much that he shared the simple plan of salvation and the 5 "Alones" that I have come to love as friends.

See, in all the five "alones" God exists. In it we are "justified" because through the "Alones" God pardons, accepts and delivers a sinner to be "just" on the basis of Christ's righteousness (back to Romans 3:23 & 3:24 - see #1 above).

The results of being "just" before God:

God's peace (Romans 5:1) = leads to receiving His Spirit (allowing you to understand what you are reading right now! Romans 8:4) = and then leads to salvation

If you are still with me reading this then allow me to toss one more word out for you to absorb. Sanctification. I love this word!!! Check out Deuteronomy 29:29, John 17:17 and Galatians 3 (particularly the beginning of that chapter).   What I do every day as a "justified" sinner saved by God's Grace is receive forgiveness so that I can keep running the race marked out for me.

Unlike Justification which is a one-time event, meaning grace through faith in Jesus Christ apart from works and merit of the sinner Romans 1:18 and Romans 3:28 Sanctification is a daily occurance. Knowing this has freed me of alot of guilt and tears over not "being good enough". Because I don't have to be good enough or great enough or any "enoughs" to be justified by God. I am justified because of Jesus dying on a Cross - one time for me forever.

Because I have adopted all of the 5 "Alones" above, I will no longer be alone (Hebrews 13:5)!

And so take a deep breath - another and another as you gratefully realize how much you are loved and sought after as all of what I - no not I but what God has said in His Bible about justification (forgiveness) and sanctification (adoption). Again, seek God not man about the matter of salvation.

I am grateful to have had wise parents who imparted their faith and their traditions to me Proverbs 22:6 . As I navigated through life I found knowing of God was not enough for me. I wanted to know Him personally. I wanted to find that which would fill the hole in my heart that existed since before I took my first breath (Psalm 139). And so I sought forgiveness again and again and one day found myself very alone. That time in the desert prepared me to realize I was never alone and lo and behold - today I have adopted the 5 "Alones" for my life.

I am a forgiven sinner saved by Grace and justified by the death of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Daily I am being sanctified and tho I go down struggling at times to justify myself (pride - and not the good kind!) God isn't done with me yet. Do I know everything I need to know? No!

But I can say this: The Bible is my reference point. I no longer am swayed by what well-meaning people speak into my life. I love them and appreciate them. I never want to fight with them because of religion or false claims. Instead I walk on all the while hoping one day they will understand their aloneness and adopt the 5 "Alones" for their life.