Sign Up for my Newsletter Today!



Email Marketing by VerticalResponse

When Was Jesus Born?

JESUS WAS NOT BORN IN DECEMBER!

Most scholars agree that, according to the Scriptures, Jesus could not have been born on December 25.  This fact does not seem to deter the millions of people around the world, not to mention retailers, from continuing the tradition to celebrate on this day.

The celebration of the Feasts of the Lord often elicits arguments if not breaks in fellowship, and yet try to tell a non-Jewish Christian not to celebrate Christmas, a holiday which springs from pagan roots….well you’ve got a real fight on your hands.

My intention here is NOT to argue, debate, judge or to try to change anyone’s mind.  Personally I love the celebratory atomosphere and the fact that the name of Jesus is on so many lips.

My intention here is to give you information.

SO WHEN WAS JESUS BORN?

 Jesus was NOT born in December.

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.”  (Luke 2:8)

 DECEMBER IS COLD!

Anyone who has visited Israel in late November or December understands the folly of thinking that shepherds would have been in the fields at night.  While days in Jerusalem might be sunny and actually warm, when the sun begins to set about 4 PM, everyone reaches for warm jackets!

DECEMBER IS WET

With the end of the Feasts of Tabernacles in late September or early October, the latter rains begin.  Even our paved roads are sometimes hard to travel.  Imagine what it would have been like to travel on dirt roads.  Herod would never have called for a census in December

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.” (Luke 2:6-7)

The only times Jerusalem would be so crowded was during the three pilgrim feasts:

  • Passover in the Spring
  • Shavuot (Pentecost) in the Summer
  • Succot (Tabernacles or Booths) in the Fall

There would not have been an overcrowded situation in December.  Miriam (Mary) and Joseph would have found a place to stay.

So WHEN was Jesus born?  Many people suggest that He was born during the Feast of Tabernacles.  They base this on the promise that one day God would again “tabernacle” with His people.

I suggest that through the Holy Spirit, God IS tabernacling among His people.  And yes, there will come a day when He will do so again in the flesh.

I further suggest, not affirm mind you, that perhaps…just perhaps He was born during the Feast of the Memorial or Rosh haShanna.

To be continued…

To Order: http://www.amazon.com/Celebrate-Gods-Hanukkah-Christmas-Fiction/dp/B0043F4Y50/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1323965093&sr=1-6

The Feasts Revisited

The One New Man

 

As I begin the elaborate preparations for the American holiday of Thanksgiving, I cannot help but reflect on the issue of celebrating the Feasts of the Lord.

This past month has brought one challenge after another from followers of Jesus regarding the Feasts of the Lord.  There is so much consternation, and I suggest confusion, about the appropriateness of their celebration under the New Covenant.  Sadly this issue continues to be a watershed issue bringing division instead of the potential joy and unity if Christians, both Jews and Gentiles, would celebrate Yeshua, Jesus, as the One New Man.

So, once again I take keyboard in hand to reiterate my position.

SALVATION IS ONLY THROUGH GOD’S GRACE AND OUR FAITH IN THE ATONING WORK OF YESHUA, JESUS, – HIS DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION.

Salvation is not dependent on or affected by the celebration of the feasts. 

Nevertheless, I firmly believe that God has given us His feasts as times to celebrate…to celebrate Yeshua!  Subsequently how can there NOT be a blessing when Believers come together to celebrate and worship their God and King?

I contend that the essence and purpose of the feasts is in alignment with God’s purpose for EVERYTHING  He has done; and that is to fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory.  Then the only possible response to experiencing His glory is worship.

ALL of creation was designed to sing God’s praise and worship Him.

Consider:

  • The stars sing and dance
  • The trees will clap their hands
  • The clouds are God’s chariot
  • The wind and waves obey Him
  • The light envelopes and clothes Him
  • The sun and the moon complete their circuit as a bridegroom

Yes, everything that has breath will praise and everything else that has been created will join in the chorus!

God has given us the feasts as times of remembrance and celebration.

Every holiday, [except the beginning of the seventh month which is incorrectly but commonly called Rosh Hashana] commemorates a specific event in Israel’s history.  Each of them reflects a unique aspect of God’s covenant love and purpose for Israel, His chosen nation and His people.  But most important each of them points to His ultimate covenant love and purpose – Yeshua the Messiah, Jesus the Christ.

Consider:

  • Passover commemorates God’s redemption of Israel through the shedding of the blood of the lamb.
    • Jesus shed His blood to redeem all who would believe in Him.
  • Unleavened Bread commemorates Israel’s deliverance from bondage
    • Jesus was buried and separated our sins from us as far as the east is from the west
  • First Fruits celebrates the coming into the Promised Land
    • Jesus was resurrected on the First Fruits, promise of our ultimate redemption and deliverance

Obviously, these historical events have spiritual significance applicable to Believers in Yeshua, Jesus.  Is He and therefore are they not worthy of remembering and celebrating?  Why would we NOT want to remember and celebrate Jesus?

The Law versus the Feasts

 The argument against Believers celebrating the Feasts is their location in the Old Testament. (I’d rather call it the Hebrew Bible).  The argument is that because they were given to Israel and described in Torah, they have no significance to Christians…those under the New Covenant.  Further if Christians (both Jews and Gentiles) celebrate these feasts, they are putting themselves under bondage to the Law.

Is this true?

I could counter with the question, “Does ‘law’ have no significance to Believers?”  If you answer “yes” then you are admitting that you are law-less!  I doubt you mean that because we are under the law of love and the Torah is actually written on our hearts!  May I also point out that the New Covenant was given to Israel and only by God’s grace through faith extended to the Gentiles? Are not the Gentiles grafted into God’s covenant with Israel and receive the blessings of the Commonwealth of Israel?

But all that is a digression.

Another argument I encountered recently is that we cannot observe the feasts because we no longer have the Temple and the sacrifices.

This gets more to the point… the misunderstanding of God’s intention for the feasts. The sacrifices were only part of the WAY they were to observe the holiday.  The greater issue was the WHAT and WHO and WHY they were celebrating.

The argument allso shows a lack of understanding what is in the heart of so many Christians (both Jews and Gentiles) who are celebrating.

Christians (both Jews and Gentiles) are celebrating the feasts because they LOVE Yeshua and are grateful for what He has done for them. 

They are celebrating God’s love which brought them into the New Covenant giving them the same spiritual inheritance He gave to believing Israel.  They are celebrating with the full knowledge and understanding of God’s intention for the feasts.

So let’s be more specific about God’s purposes for the feasts.  His feasts were to:

  • Remind Israel of His acts of redemption,
  • Provide opportunities for them to focus on celebration and worship,
  • Point to their fulfillment through Jesus!

So I ask, “Do God’s intentions and purposes change with the institution of the New Covenant?”  And I answer vehemently “NO!”

As Yeshua said, “I came not to destroy the law but to fulfill it.”

By denying Christians the opportunity to celebrate the feasts, I suggest we are actually destroying the Law.  Those who celebrate the feasts are actually fulfilling the Law by celebrating  Jesus in and through the feasts.

From this perspective, let us look at one of the Sacraments of the Church – Communion.  Regardless of your theology regarding the bread and the wine (whether is actually becomes the body and blood of Jesus or not), is there any follower of Christ that would reject the practice of Communion?  Of course not.

Communion is the commemoration of the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua.  It is a memorial which He commanded us to do until His return.

But remember what Yeshua said as He handed His disciples the bread and the wine, “When you do this, remember Me.”  Remember also the context of that event…they were celebrating the Passover!  Passover, the commemoration of God’s redemption and deliverance of Israel.

Could it possibly be that the Messiah was expecting His followers to continue celebrating the Passover, but to do so as being fulfilled in and by Him?! 

Of course at the moment His words only confused the disciples.

But on the third day, and certainly at the next Passover, the fulfillment of every ritual took on new meaning as they commemorated not only their deliverance from the bondage to slavery, but their deliverance to the bondage of sin.

Finally another challenge.

Consider why you are so quick to celebrate Christmas, a holiday steeped in pagan history and tradition.  Why are you so quick to celebrate your country’s Memorial or Independence Day?  And yet why do so many refuse or hesitate or worse criticize those who desire to celebrate those holidays based in historical fact and steeped in biblical significance?

The feasts of the Lord are beyond every other national or cultural holiday.  They were given to the Kingdom of God – both Jews and Gentiles to point to and then to celebrate the One and the ONLY Savior, Redeemer, Deliverer…

Yeshua!

To order “Celebrate Jesus!  The Christian Perspective of the Biblical Feasts: http://www.celebratejesusthebook.com/

 

 

 

 

September 2011 - Challenges & Celebrations

September 2011 holds opportunities for a myriad of challenges and celebrations.  Just consider two dates of great importance:

  • September 11 is the tenth anniversary of the attack on America, commonly known as 911.  For some it was a day of great tragedy as over 3,000 men and women were killed for no reason other than they existed.  To others,  the attack was considered a triumph over America, called to the attackers as “The Great Satan.”

Ten years later, the world is still held hostage by those who celebrate death and destruction, not only to America but also to Israel.  Even in New York City, site of the greatest devastation, the memorial is frought and diluted with political correctness.  We should ask “Why?”

  • September 20 is the target date for the submission of a proposal to the United Nations to consider Palestine a sovereign state.  Although America has promised to veto such a proposal, the very act of its submission is a brazen act of defiance against the God of Israel.

The ramifications of this proposal, regardless of the outcome, is crucial to the future of Israel and 192 nations of the UN.  God will not be mocked, and however the vote, God’s judgment will descend on any nation or state who attempts to divide His land.

As we consider these events, it is good that we continually keep in mind:

Psalm 2: 2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The Lord shall hold them in derision.
5 Then He shall speak to them in His wrath,
And distress them in His deep displeasure:
6 “Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”

And

Psalm 121:4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

And

Psalm 46:2Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling…

10 Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!

That is why we CAN and SHOULD celebrate!

September is also a month of celebrations.

23 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a sabbath-rest, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25 You shall do no customary work on it; and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD.’”

In the seventh month, which corresponds to the Gregorian months of September and October, there are three Levitical feasts:

  1. New Moon/Feast of Memorial blowing.  More commonly known (incorrectly) as Rosh haShanna
  2. Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement)
  3. Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles)

Follow these links for posts on the specific holidays:

http://celebratejesusthebook.com/CJFall/

http://celebratejesusthebook.com/CJSabbathNewMoon/

For the BEST resource on the Feasts, their significance and application to our lives today, purchase Celebrate Jesus!

http://www.celebratejesusthebook.com/

Tish b'Av, A Day of Mourning

The 9th of the Hebrew month of Av is a day on which God brought or allowed devastation to come on Israel.

The list of catastrophes that are said to have occurred on this one day is sobering to say the least.  Today we relish and rejoice only in the grace of God to the detriment of our relationship with Him.

Let us always see grace from the perspective of His holiness.  Without the fear of God we cannot hope, much less attain wisdom.

Consider the worship of those who surround God’s throne.  The cry is, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.”

Today, I doubt that we would thrice worship God’s holiness, rather we would say, “Love, love, love is the Lord.”  True, He is the epitome of love, as seen in the face of Christ Jesus.  But forbid it that we race too fast past the bruised, broken and dying body of our crucified Lord so that we can gaze upon the glory of His Resurrection.  The beauty of the latter is seen in juxtaposition to the former.

One of the motivations behind “Replacement Theology” (leaving the judgment of God to Israel and applying all the blessings to the Church) is that today we don’t like to consider that we, God’s people, will be judged.

God will NOT be mocked.  While we have forgiveness of our sins, we WILL reap what we sow.

So from sun set to sun set, 8-9 August,  I suggest you seriously consider the state of your relationship with God AND that of your church and your nation.

Traditionally Lamentations is read on Tish B’Av.  The prophet Jeremiah askes the question we should all be asking, “How did this happen when we started out with everything we could possibly have needed or wanted?  What, when, where did we turn away from rightousness, justice to the poor and the fear of God?”

Once again I admonish you to pause and reflect on these questions and apply them to your life.  THEN go to the promised hope of God’s grace through faith in Yeshua: (Lamentations 3:20-24):

My soul still remembers and sinks within me.
This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
“ The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “ Therefore I hope in Him!”

HISTORICAL CALAMITIES

  • 587 BCE (3338)- The First Temple is destroyed by the Babylonians, led by Nebuchadnezzar. The Jews are sent into what later became known as the Babylonian Exile.  [Tisha B’Av occurs in the Hebrew month of Av, but in a way it begins during the preceding month of Tammuz. On the 17th of Tammuz in 70 C.E. the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem, then spent the next three weeks ransacking the city until the Second Temple was burned on the ninth of Av.]
  • 70 CE (3830)- The Second Temple is destroyed by the Romans, led by Titus.
  • 135 CE (3895) – The Romans defeat Bar Kochba’s last fortress, Betar, and destroy his army. Bar Kochba himself is killed along with more than 100,000 other Jews. The Roman Emperor Hadrian turns Jerusalem into a Roman city.
  • 1290 (5050) – King Edward I of England signs an edict expelling all Jews from England.
  • 1492 (5252) – The Alhambra Decree takes effect, expelling the Jews from Spain and from all Spanish territories.
  • 1914 (5674) – World War I begins when Germany declares war on Russia, setting the stage for World War II and the Holocaust.
  • 1940 (5700) – Himmler presents his plan for the “Final Solution” to the Jewish problem to the Nazi Party.
  • 1942 (5702) – Nazis begin deporting Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto.

NOTE: I do not ascribe to the rabbinic tradition that the spies returned with their negative report and thus convinced Israel not to enter the Promised Land, resulting in 40 years of wilderness wanderings because I cannot find substantial Biblical proof for the dating.

********************

For a deeper understanding of the Hebrew words which describe the character of God:

http://www.celebratejesusthebook.com/

The Importance of Memories

As we enter the final cycle of the annual feasts, let us remind ourselves why God gave us His feasts.

Everything God does, from Creation to the Resurrection is to bring glory to Himself as He creates a Kingdom of priests to worship Him and fill the earth with their personal knowledge (from experience) of His character and His ways.

The Feasts were opportunities for Israel to remember and celebrate and through those celebrations to share their personal experience and knowledge of their God.

Continually God commands Israel to “tell your children.”   The Psalmists were constantly iterating that they would “declare, praise, tell, speak, proclaim” God’s goodness, especially to the next generation.

Is not the act of worship a way of remembering and celebrating God?

Sadly many of the Church today consider celebrating the Feasts of the Lord “going back under the Law.”

But how can celebrating God and His mighty acts be anything but the joyous response to His Salvation?  Celebrating is a honor and a privilege.

Recently I heard Ravi Zakarias give an excellent reason for celebrating the Feasts.  He was challenging all of us to build in memories within the family through ceremonies and symbols.

WOW,  I couldn’t say it better.  Listen:

Maybe we are moving so fast that we cannot pause long enough to see the symbolic nature of some of the things we do.

We need to build memories into the lives of our children so that they will go through cetain ceremonies and symbols in their lives that they will miss when they have left home.  It will be a memory to them as long as they live.

Through these kind of memories, the value of the family goes up.

treasured memories of home buildt around the family room

Build the kind of ceremonies and opportunities at home where God is being instructed in everything you do

But this  will only happen when our own personal devtional life is striaghed out with God.

Not only does the value of the family increase, but so does the sense of belonging to the larger community, Kingdom of God.  Sharing and celebrating a common history is one of the greatest blessings of the Feasts.

 

PURIM

Although the feast of Purim is not a Levitical holiday, its significance to Israel and to the church is crucial, especially in these world changing days.

As with the other feasts of the Lord, I suggest that Purim be considered from five perspectives:

  • Seasonal: Purim is the final holiday of the calendar, occurring in the winter, one month before Passover.
  • National: Purim commemorates God’s protection of Israel from the annihilation planned by Haman.
  • Spiritual: Purim reveals God’s character: His love for and protection of Israel, His omniscience and omnipotence.
  • Redemptive: Jesus came to the lost sheep of Israel and He came for a purpose – the salvation of the world.
  • Kingdom: Each of us has been uniquely designed for a purpose and a destiny.

Purim manifests many of God’s promises regarding Israel.  Here are just a few:

  • He who keeps Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
  • Israel is the apple of God’s eye.
  • God will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse her.
  • Whoever plans to hurt Israel will in turn be hurt.

How you celebrate Purim is not as important as WHO you are celebrating: JESUS the Messiah.  Please embrace the joy of God’s protection and deliverance of Israel and adopt and adapt the celebration to your own culture!  And while you’re celebrating, please remember to pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

Here is an excerpt from “Celebrate Jesus! The Christian Perspective of the Biblical Feasts.”

Seeing Israel from the air was shocking.  The Land of milk and honey was just a tiny strip of brown.  I whispered through my tears, “Daddy I’m home.”  Eventually He gave me a date to return and a purpose.

During the next few weeks, God confirmed that Israel was to indeed become my home, although the process would take three years. The wait seemed interminable. Finally, after a week of fasting, praying, and devouring books on Israel’s prophetic future, I heard the Lord’s voice. He gave me a date: December ninth. Then He gave me a purpose: Declare the good news of My salvation, first to the Jews and then to the nations.

Purpose is one of the main themes of Purim.  Jesus came for a purpose and God has designed a unique purpose for Israel, for the church, and for each of us.

To order “Celebrate Jesus” or any of the other books on the feasts, click below:

http://www.celebratejesusthebook.com/

Spring Passover Itinerary

Most of the home meetings will be open to the public. For specific information, contact me at: Joanie@novea.org

Raleigh/Smithfield,N.C.

  • March 4th: Congregation Shalom Peniel 6:00 PM
    Milton’s Pizza, 14520 Falls of Neuse Rd
  • March 5th: Women’s Aglow 9:00 AM
    Hope Elementary School, 1116 N. Blont St
  • March 6th The Light of Christ Church, 10:30 & 6:00
    2735 Buffalo Rd, Smithfield, N.C.

Phoenix, AZ

  • March 8th Women’s Aglow: 11:00 AM
    Contact: Darlene Jenks drjenks@cfaith.com
  • Jewish Voice Live Webcast: 6:00PM
  • March 9th: Home meeting
  • March 10: Jewish Voice Chapel 8:00 AM
  • March 11th, Prayer Meeting 7:00
    Miracle Life Worship Center, 5035 W Greenway Rd. Glendale, AZ
  • March 12th, Congregation Baruch HaShem  4:30 PM
    28660 North Black Canyon Hwy, 623 521 3845

Colorado Springs, CO

  • March 13th Golden, CO
  • March 14th, Colorado Springs, Home meeting
  • March 16: Church at Briargate 6:00  PM
    9550 Otero Ave, COS  719-528 6060
  • March 17: Home meeting

Chicago, IL

  • March 19th SEDER, Hotsted by:St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
    Contact Gail: hugforyou2@aol.com
  • March 20th: Luncheon, St. Marks Episcopal Church
    320 Franklin St, Geneva, IL 60134

Salem, OR

  • March 27th: The Church 10:30 AM
    4660 Portland Rd NE, Salem  503 375 9555

Spokane, WA

  • March 28th SEDER, Women’s Aglow  6:30
    12304 E 9th Ave, Spokane, WA

Sandpoint, ID

  • March 30: Holiday Seminar 10:00-2:00
    Location TBA
  • 7:00 The Cowboy Church
    4281 Cocolalla Loop Rd, Cocolalla, ID
  • March 31: Talk Show, noon
  • River of Life Church 6:00 PM
    702 Church St  Sandpoint, ID
  • April 1st, SEDER
    location TBA  Contact: Ardella: wdnwings@yahoo.com

Walla Walla, WA

  • April 7.  SEDER New Joy Foursquare Church
    3 South Colville, Walla Walla, WA  509 200 0103

Bend, OR

  • April 8th Home Meeting
  • April 9th Home Meeting

Grass Valley, OR

  • April 10: SEDER  1st Batptist

Los Angeles Area

  • April 12: Women of the Word, Granda Heights Church AM
  • Home Meeting, Brea
  • Apirl 14th SEDER, Santago Creek Mobile Homes Park
  • April 16t SEDER Granada Heights Church  6:30

Portland Area

  • April 3rd: Gracepoint (1st Baptist Milwaukie), Milwaukie, OR
    9:30 & 11:00
  • April 3rd, No-host luncheon, location TBA  1:00
  • April 17th: SEDER The Church, Salem, OR
    4660 Portland Rd NE   503 375 9555
  • April 18th Home Meeting: Lake Oswego
  • April 20: Prayer Meeting: Milwaukie 1st Baptist
  • April 21: SEDER Northwest Church
    15555 15th Ave, ShoreLine, WA  206 364 2275
  • April 22: SEDER, Canby Grove Conference Center
    503 490 4390
  • April 23: SEDER, Stevenson, WA  1st Baptist Church
    Contact 509 427 4898

Hope to see many of you.  With love and wishes for a blessed holiday season!

The blood was a sign

New Year for Trees

On the 15th of the month of Shevat a holiday was created to celebrate the taxes on fruit bearing trees.  After all, God wants a cheerful giver!

Seriously, Israel used to be on an agricultural cycle.  Tithes were given on all produce as well as all animals.  There needed to be a way of reckoning based on when the fruit appeared and when animals were born. Thus the calendar embraced a new year for animals, a new year for fruit bearing trees, a new year for the creation of the world…and the new year for the people of Israel.

It is the latter new year that God ordained according to Exodus 12:2 on the 1st day of the month of Nissan.

Regardless of the origins of Tu b’Shevat, it is always appropriate to celebrate the Creator of the universe and enjoy the fruits of His creation.

So what IS Tu b’Shevat?  I’ll let the rabbi speak for himself. The following explanation is from Rabbi Naftali Silverberg.  Following his explanation is a link for Tu b’Shevat recipes.

[The content on this page is provided by AskMoses.com, and is copyrighted by the author, publisher, and/or AskMoses.com. You are welcome to distribute it further, provided you do not revise any part of it and you include this statement, credit the author and/or publisher, and include a link to www.AskMoses.com.]

According to Biblical law, there is a seven year agricultural cycle, concluding with the Sabbatical year. When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, on years one, two, four and five of this cycle, farmers were required to separate a tenth of their produce and eat it in Jerusalem. This tithe is called Maaser Sheni, the Second Tithe, because it is in addition to the (two percent which must be given to the Kohain, and the) ten percent which is given to the Levite. On the third and sixth years of the cycle, instead of the owners eating the Maaser Sheni in Jerusalem, they gave this second tithe to the poor, who were permitted to consume it wherever they wished.

It takes approximately four months for the rains of the new year to saturate the soil and trees, and produce fruit[On the Sabbatical year, no tithes are separated. All produce which grows during this year is ownerless and free for anyone to take.]

It was therefore of vital importance to ascertain when the new year started for produce. Our Rabbis established that a fruit which blossomed before the 15th of Shevat is produce of the previous year. If it blossomed afterwards, it is produce of the “new year.” [By comparison, grains, vegetables, and legumes have the same New Year as humans, the 1st of Tishrei.] Why is this so? In the Mediterranean region, the rainy season begins with the festival of Sukkot. It takes approximately four months (from Sukkot, the 15th of Tishrei, until the 15th of Shevat) for the rains of the new year to saturate the soil and trees, and produce fruit. All fruit which blossom beforehand are a product of the rains of the previous year, and are tithed together with the crops of the previous year.

Although this day is Rosh Hashanah for trees, we attach special significance to this holiday because “Man is [compared to] the tree of the field” (Deuteronomy 20:19). Through cultivating strong roots – faith and commitment to G-d – we produce many fruits—Torah and Mitzvot.

Observances and Customs

On this day it is customary to partake of the fruit with which the Holy Land is praised (Deuteronomy 8:8): olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates. If tasting any of these fruit for the first time this season, remember to recite the Shehecheyanu blessing. (A blessing recited on joyous occasions, thanking G-d for “sustaining us and enabling us to reach this occasion.” This blessing is recited before the standard “Ha’etz” blessing recited on fruit.)

Due to the festive nature of the day, we omit the Tachanun sections (petitions for forgiveness and confession) from the prayers.

In celebration of the fruit of the trees, the holidays is filled with fruit based dishes. Here’s a great link. Eat and be merry!

http://www.jewishfood-list.com/recipes/tu_bshevat/&tu_bshevat_index.html

PRESSURED TO CELEBRATE

Here is a bit of correspondence which represents the current dilemma among Christians (non-Jewish) who feel pressured by friends to “celebrate” the feasts of the Lord.  Rather than celebrating Jesus in the feasts with the freedom of the Holy Spirit, there is a growing tendency to make observance of the feasts more of a burden than a celebration.

You can hear the pain and confusion in the first letter and hopefully hear the freedom in my answer.

… It just seems that things have been really hard and confusing ever since we started to try and learn more about observing a Biblical Sabbath.  My older kids (girls 12 and 15) have especially been confused.  We have our friends who make it seem like even saying the word “Christmas”, yet alone celebrating any part of it, is an unpardonable sin.  They have gone as far as to say that they think those who are not following Torah may not make it to heaven.  My thought then is why did Jesus have to come and die for us?  No man can completely follow Torah.  There is so much in it to ponder and what still applies today  (tattoos, piercings, cutting of hair, mixed fabrics) ???   I love God and want to do what He wants me to do.  I also want to teach my children the right way to live ( I also have 2 boys- 7 and 9).  Our friends also think we shouldn’t do any sports or hikes or anything on the Sabbath.  I think, why would it be wrong to have family time, out in nature, and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation? Is the Sabbath really totally denying oneself of any personal enjoyment?  To me, playing softball on a Friday night is totally enjoyable, and not work at all, but is it wrong?  Obviously I am still confused about a lot.  Sorry for my ramblings.  Like I said, I want to follow God and do what He wants but at times things feel so legalistic and rigid.  LG

Here is my reply:

Thank you for the privilege of answering this question.  I have several comments.

1) Anyone who tries to make you feel second class or “wrong” is not moving in the Spirit of God’s love and grace.  Stand firm against any spirit of religiosity.  Paul makes it clear that we are not to consider one day as more important.  That said…

2) I do think there is a blessing in celebrating the feasts that the Lord has given us.  Certainly the Sabbath is the top of His list as He’s given us 52 times to enjoy the weekly Sabbath, not to mention all the other Sabbath days.  Being in the States, keeping the Sabbath is a challenge, but I do what I can…REST…without phone or computer.  Then I love celebrating the resurrection on Sunday.  That said….

I like to start Sabbath by being with friends for a Friday night Sabbath dinner.  (Most Jewish celebrations revolve around food!  Furthermore I would encourage anything that breaks the routine and stress of the week and enables you to quiet your body, soul and spirit.  The issue is REST…which the Bible interprets for us as “no work.”  Of course the caution here is that we can get too busy with fun activities.  God’s design works best when given a chance to be replenished.’

3)  Christmas is a unique holiday.  We know that Jesus wasn’t born in December and we know the pagan roots of the holiday.  I used to celebrate the Incarnation (and called it that) when I first went to Israel.  After a few years though my friends and I lost interest.   Being in the States, I find I’m enjoying  the decorations and festivities, although I don’t really partake except to join friends for dinner.  I give presents earlier, on Thanksgiving or Hanukkah.  But I do enjoy the tree which my housemate puts up.  So I have a rather special situation – enjoying without the doing.

I’m taking a middle of the road position.  What is important is being obedient to what God is telling you and doing so with grace and humility towards others.

Unity amid diversity is my passion.  I don’t even use the expression “Hebraic roots” as that tends to isolate or elevate one group of people.  The Bible talks about God being our roots.  I like to think of the Old Testament as the preparation for the Kingdom. Therefore the feasts and celebrations are Kingdom roots not Hebraic or Jewish.  That approach might help you with your decisions and with your friends.

I don’t specifically talk about Christmas in my Celebrate Jesus! but I do spend time on dealing with the issue of the Kingdom.  You might also be interested in the new booklet: Celebrate God’s Love, Hanukkah and Christmas, Fact or Fiction.

May you enjoy a blessed holiday season, joanie

While I rejoice learning that God is increasing interest among Christians regarding His feasts, I’m angered at the Judahizing that is infecting the Church.

Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets.  While there is much in the prophets that remains to be fulfilled, Jesus said His words were to be heard, believed and followed.

There are those who argue that since “Torah” is the word and the word became flesh, therefore if we are following Jesus, we must follow Torah.  I think this is a major distortion of the Incarnation.

I believe the Torah, as is the entire Tenach, is glorious and good, but Jesus is so much better.  Let us follow Him with all our heart, soul and strength.

How to Celebrate? Be Yourself!

“How should we celebrate the feasts of the Lord?” is a question I am constantly asked.  When a Jewish believer recently asked the same question I was really surprised.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Actually the one who asked the question had been convicted by my insistence to put the new wine of the Holy Spirit into a new wineskin.  In other words, as Messianic believers, (Jews who love and follow Jesus) we have an opportunity to break from the traditions of our heritage…traditions instituted in many cases by people who refuse to embrace Jesus.

First let me back up to the way I answer the above question.

“Celebrate the feasts in any manner you so desire – just keep Jesus preeminent.”

I believe our celebrations are more about the  WHO and the WHEN of the feasts than about the HOW.  Because most of the holidays commemorate a specific historical event, the WHAT of the holiday is important but is eclipsed by the object of our celebration – Jesus!

To answer to any question of regarding the issues of faith, let us turn to God’s instructions  in the pages of the Bible.  So what does HE say about His feasts?

  1. They were to be times of rest -  cessation from regular and sometimes from all work.
  2. Three times a year  the men were to bring the firstfruits of their harvest to the Temple in Jerusalem.
  3. Specific feasts have certain requirements:
  • Passover was to be observed with a communal meal including roasted lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread.  Because Jesus instituted communion at His Passover celebration, we can include wine in our celebration.  The Passover celebration was to  recount  God’s deliverance of Israel from bondage.
  • The Temple observance of Pentecost included the unique wave offering of two loaves of bread, on one sheet waved before the Lord.
  • During the Feast of Tabernacles, the people were instructed to live in booths made of the branches of “beautiful trees.”

If we stopped at these instructions, we would be stuck in the pages of the Old Testament.  Since Jesus is the object of all our celebrations, we move forward in history to what happened or will happen on those three holidays during His life on earth.

  • Jesus was crucified on Passover, buried on Unleavened Bread and resurrected on firstfruits. These three individual holidays are usually considered as one  – Passover.
  • God gave His people the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost.
  • The Feast of Tabernacles will be celebrated by ALL nations when Jesus returns to rule from Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:16)

So how do I celebrate the feasts?  Let me share with you a recent dialogue with a cherished friend and (Gentile) pastor who has been celebrating the feasts for years.

For holidays, we will have local and joint- congregation activities; we’ll
be here for the Lord’s feast days, but what do you do? What would suggest  with those who are “western” in their thinking?

The issue isn’t HOW we celebrate, but WHO and WHEN we are celebrating.  Because so many of the feasts commemorate a specific historical event, it’s always good to add the element of WHAT, but Jesus takes preeminence over any historical event.

You know my position is that each of us celebrate in our own ways according to our own traditions and culture.  You ARE western so there’s nothing wrong with that.  You cannot and should not try to be eastern, Jewish or Hebrew…you’re not.  Be who you are.  In that way, others will not feel that the feasts are so foreign.

So what I do really has no significance or shouldn’t because I’m different and in a different culture.

That said, what I  do for all the holidays is to remember who  God is and what He has done and then worship so that means a time of teaching and testimony.  Our celebrations always revolve around the feast table with family and friends.  Communion is always part of our celebrations.

For me and my friends, celebrating the holidays is about getting together with family and friends.  Our celebrations are personal and intimate  which is the “eastern” heart and mind.

Let the Lord break the box!  I love you all!  j

So dear friends, enjoy your celebration!