Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Change of address

I am going to move my blog posting over to Wordpress as a trial. I have made a couple of posts over there already and really like some of the features and things. I may repost them here as well, but for the time being if you are curious to see what I am writing check it out at this link.

Monday, May 26, 2008

More Than Bread Devotional for 5/26/08

Psalm 116:5-11
5 Adonai is merciful and righeous;
yes our God is compassionate.
6 Adonai preserves the thoughtless;
when I was brought low, He saved me.
7 My soul, return to your rest!
for Adonai has been generous toward you.
8 Yes, you have rescued me from death,
my eyes from tears and my feet from falling
9 I will go on walking in the presence of Adonai
in the lands of the living
10 I will keep on trusting even when I say,
"I am utterly miserable,"
11 even when, in my panic, I declare,
"Everything human is deceptive."

The Psalms are some of the best known and probably most appreciated Scriptures. There is a genuineness in them that touches us at any point of our life. Whether we be in the midst of joy and happiness or grief and sorrow, God's Word in the Psalms speaks to our hearts. The Lord (Adonai in Hebrew) preserves us even when we have no thought about Him. He is our rest and our comfort and we can always trust in Him. In the good times and the bad.

P.S. I used a different translation for this passage. This is the Complete Jewish Translation of the Bible. I have been reading it for a couple of weeks and really enjoy it.

Equal Opportunity Criticism

Lest anyone should think upon stumbling into this blog that I am a Catholic basher; I would like to take this opportunity to take a critical look at the teachings of the Southern Baptist Convention regarding the issue of the Sabbath and "The Lord's Day". The following is from the 2000 edition of the Baptist Faith and Message.
VIII. The Lord's Day
The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Exodus 20:8-11; Matthew 12:1-12; 28:1ff.; Mark 2:27-28; 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-3,33-36; John 4:21-24; 20:1,19-28; Acts 20:7; Romans 14:5-10; I Corinthians 16:1-2; Colossians 2:16; 3:16; Revelation 1:10.

I am going to take the passages one by one. First let me point out that the use of the term the Lord's Day is taken from the passage in Revelation 1:10 and may not be the best way to translate the phrase. It is the only time it is used in Scripture in this manner. Since this one by itself is not conclusive, let's put it on the table to consider with the other support verses.
Exodus 20:8-11 is an odd choice here since it specifically is the command to keep God's Sabbath(specifically the Seventh Day or Saturday for those of us on the Gregorian calendar). These verses actually oppose the viewpoint of Sunday as a special day.
Matthew 12:1-12 is a similar issue. Here Jesus is talking about the Sabbath again and more specifically, He was condemning the Pharisees efforts to add to or outright change what God had commanded regarding the Sabbath.
Matthew 28:1ff does in fact tell us that Jesus was raised from the dead on the first day of the week, but it contains no injunction to celebrate that day for that reason. It's only purpose here can be to confirm that Jesus' resurrection was in fact on Sunday.
Mark 2:27-28 is another point of view for Matthew 12 and the same comments apply.
Mark 16:1-7 is similarly in line with Matthew 28 and those comments apply to it.
Luke 24:1-3;33-36 also establishes the fact that Messiah rose on the day after the Sabbath, but again contains no injunction or command to venerate that day of the week.
John 4:21-24 is a strange passage to include in this discussion. It is Yeshua speaking of the fact that true worship is done spiritually, not bound by location. Date or day of the week doesn't enter the discussion in this passage.
John 20:1,19-28 does not mention the "Lord's Day" but does confirm that the resurrection occured on the first day of the week. Verses 19-28 speak of Jesus appearing to the disciples in the evening of that first day(which in Jewish tradition is actually the next day, but who is nitpicking :P) and again a week later presumably meaning on the first day of the week again. There is no command here to meet on this day instead of any other day.
Acts 20:7 is a good one, since it is quite possible that this actually refers to the evening of the Sabbath. Remember that a Jewish day starts at sundown, so this is likely referring to Saturday night. This actually contradicts the notion that the early church only met on Sunday.
Romans 14:5-10 is a great addition to the discussion since Paul here tells us that no one day is necessarily better than another. If we celebrate any day we should do so unto the Lord. This is an important point to make. There is nothing here so far that would suggest the conversion of Sabbath ideas to Sunday as the RCC church had suggested and there is nothing here to support the first day either. In fact, this is a good time to point out that the good folks who wrote this conveniently left out Acts 2:42-47 which talks of the early church meeting daily(as in every day). This certainly deflates the idea of promoting a "set day" as the "Lord's Day".
1 Corinthians 16:1-2 uses the same phrase that was used in Acts 20:7. We know that the event in Acts was at nighttime and remember that Jewish days began at sundown the day before. This could again refer to Saturday night and there is good reason to think so.
Colossians 2:16 and 3:16. I have dealt with Colossians 2:16 in my previous post. Paul is highlighting the fact that the Jewish celebrations that were instituted by God were a shadow(a picture if you will) of the working of His plan and the things to come. 3:16 deals with worship again, and doesn't apply to the discussion of the day of the week.
In conclusion I would like to quote some wise words that I found in the Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern:
While the New Testament does not abrogate Shabbat as the holy day of rest for the Jews stipulated in the Fourth Commandment, it also contains no command concerning a proper day for Messianic worship. At the founding of the Messianic Community[Church] the believers met together every day(Ac 2:46). In conclusion, what makes sense to me is that a Messianic Jewish congregation can choose any day (or days) of the week for Messianic worship, bu worship elements specific to Shabbat should be included only on Shabbat(Friday sundown to Saturday sundown).

To this end I wish to add a word of clarification. The Church as a whole body should strive to follow the words of Paul in Romans 14 that we covered earlier. Whatever day you choose to worship on, worship unto the Lord. And do not be judgemental of your brother or sister who sees things differently. It has not been my aim in these posts to pass judgment on any group or denomination or person, but rather my desire has been to ask some tough questions of ourselves and our faith. After all, if we can be so easily confused over a small thing like the time we choose to worship corporately and can elevate it to a major issue; what other blind spots or hurdles may we have to overcome?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Why did the Church ditch the Sabbath and the Lord's Feasts?

In my previous post I tackled some issues stemming from the Roman Catholic Church's decision to alter God's calendar. Now I want to look at the Sabbath and the Lord's Feasts in a little more detail.
The Catholic Encyclopedia says this about the Sabbath:
St. Paul enumerates the Sabbath among the Jewish observances which are not obligatory on Christians (Colossians 2:16; Galatians 4:9-10; Romans 14:5). The gentile converts held their religious meetings on Sunday (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2) and with the disappearance of the Jewish Christian churches this day was exclusively observed as the Lord's Day.

This is a terrible abuse of Scripture. Paul is not telling Christians to not celebrate the Sabbath or the Lord's Feasts as celebrated by the Jews. In Colossians 2:16 he is telling the readers not to let anyone pass judgement on anyone else regarding eating or drinking or the keeping of the Festivals. In verse 17, he states that those same festivals are a shadow of things that are coming which seems to indicate that they still have some relevance. And in verse 18 he begins an admonition against following man-made rules and teachings(see previous post on the Magesterium); things like self-mortification(many orders of monks have been big on this) and verse 21 sounds like a direct contradiction of Catholic teachings about avoiding meat on certain days, ect.!
Next, let's look at Galatians 4. But to get the meaning, we need to back up a verse.
8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! 11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

Now the Catholic Encyclopedia is saying that this is referring to the Jewish Feasts. But who was this written to? GENTILES!!! Who were the Galatians serving before they believed? Other gods!!! So, what is Paul talking about them "turning back" to? It certainly isn't Jewish Feasts! Do you think that Paul would call Jewish Feasts weak and miserable principles?!? Do not forget that pagan culture had its own "special days and months and seasons and years" I don't think Paul was worried about Gentiles being enslaved to Jewish Feasts "all over again"!
Lastly, there is Romans 14. The entry above cites verse 5, but for some reason they don't go on to the rest of the passage. You all know the first rule of Bible study and interpretation: context, context, context!!! Romans 14:6 says, "He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God." So it is possible to go ahead and celebrate the Feasts to the Lord, or to not celebrate. But this certainly isn't an injunction to dump them or not celebrate them at all. Later he says in verse 17 that the Kingdom of God is not about eating and drinking but about righteousness. God's Feasts were never about saving anyone (Jew or Gentile); they were a demonstration, a dress rehearsal if you will, of His perfect plan. And they still are.