A few weeks prior to Passover, I was approached with a guide for an abbreviated Seder to review. I had actually created a Seder program several years ago that was true to the Jewish traditions while revealing the presence of Jesus as the focus of the program. Because it was traditional in its structure, it was a long program, about 2 hours including the meal, and the Christian attendees got a bit antsy about three quarters through it. I reviewed the new 9 page program (two pages of which were illustrations) and was stunned. This was not a Seder at all. It did not tell the story, which is the primary purpose of the Seder. It was at best a 15 to 20 minute class on the symbolism of the Seder elements, but it did not have the heart of a true Seder. I looked at the advance flyer advertising the event, then read over the program again, and the thought that sprang to mind was “false advertising”! This was not, in my mind, a Seder at all.
Through all of the centuries since the Exodus from Egypt occurred, the Jewish people have handed down this story of redemption year after year through a celebration and ceremony that has changed little. It is like the glue that has held the Jewish people together, though oppressed and scattered across the globe. It is a common thread that makes us a people. No matter what the language, the culture, or the circumstance that exist in a given time or place, the experience is universal and connects us all. The story is retold… once we were slaves in Egypt, and with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm the Eternal God delivered us in keeping with the covenant made with Abraham. We have told, and retold the details of that story, handing it down from one generation to the next, and it cements in us our Jewish identity.
Trying to share the Passover experience without including the story of the Exodus as a key component, in my mind is doomed to be a hollow experience. There is no purpose as it excludes the most important truth that is taught in the Seder, redemption by the grace of God. So I took the old program and began to whittle away at it, taking out all of the fluff, and leaving the bare bones of what makes a Seder a Seder, and pared it down to 10 pages of text. Hopefully, that will be short enough.
I know that people have busy lives, myself included, but some things we just need to make time for. Anything worth doing is worth doing well, and if you can’t allow the time necessary to do it well, perhaps you should not do it at all. Celebrating the Passover by retelling the story opens an individual’s heart to receive the blessings of the Passover. I, for one, want to receive them all, not just some of them. In his book, “Seven Blessings of the Passover”, Steve Munsey lists these blessings and explains them in great detail.
1. Exodus 23:20, 23 God will assign you an angel
2. Exodus 23:22 God will be an enemy to your enemies
3. Exodus 23:25 God will give you prosperity
4. Exodus 23:25 God will take away sickness from you
5. Exodus 23:26 God will give you a long life
6. Exodus 23:30 God will cause increase and inheritance
7. Exodus 23:29, 31 God will cause a year of blessing and return what the enemy has taken
I am certainly willing to set aside an hour or two for that! How about you?
Blessings & Adventure,
Lynn “lynnibug” Rios
The parallel imagery we find in Daniel and The Revelation are striking, but there has been one phrase troubling me for months as I completed a study of Daniel, then another in The Revelation.
I recently wrote about the interpretation of the phrase “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7:13, but was having a hard time reconciling the conclusion I had come to with the obviously different understanding of the same phrase when used in The Revelation.
Now, as I am reviewing my study of the final book of the bible in preparation for a Sunday school class I will be co-leading, I have finally found a resolution to my internal conflict, and put the matter to rest in a most uplifting manner.
Daniel 7:13-14 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Daniel 7:15-18 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this. “So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’”
So, my bible clearly says the “holy people of the Most High” are who the imagery of “one like the son of man” who received the kingdom is referring to. In the previous article I wrote, I conceded that as much as I would like to accept the interpretation that Daniel, like a fly on the wall, was witnessing Jesus returning to heaven and being rewarded for a job well done, the citizen of heaven that answers Daniel’s question as to “the meaning of all this” is quite clear that it represents “the holy people of the Most High”.
“one like the son of man”
In The Revelation we see the same phrase, but here it is clearly representing none other than Jesus. First, we have the name of the book itself, The Revelation of (and from) Jesus Christ, in which Jesus reveals or unveils Himself to John. This entire book is first and foremost all about Jesus.
Revelation 1:12-13 “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was one like a son of man dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.”
Over and over in The Revelation we are offered images and descriptions of the Risen Jesus in all of His Glory – this cannot be confused with the “holy people of the Most High”, so why in two such parallel visions do we have such opposite conclusions to the meaning of “one like the son of man”? This was the conflict I was wrestling with and determined to reconcile, and finally, after much prayer and reflection the answer came.
It came when I least expected it! While I was watching a national news broadcast, Charles Krauthammer commented on what the founding fathers intended our elected officials to do – represent us. He expounded some on what it means to represent, and suddenly I connected the dots. According to the dictionary:
1. to serve to express, designate, stand for, or denote, as a word, symbol, or the like does; symbolize.
2. to express or designate by some term, character, symbol; to represent musical sounds by notes.
3. to stand or act in the place of, as a substitute, proxy, or agent does.
4. to speak and act for by delegated authority: to represent one’s government in a foreign country.
5. to act for or in behalf of by deputed right in exercising a voice in legislation or government.
“one like the son of man”
In Daniel it refers to “the holy people of the Most High” who are represented in every sense of the word – symbolically, spiritually, and most importantly, before God as faultless – by Jesus Christ. That is how they became holy people! In Daniel, we don’t know Him yet, but He represents us none the less. In The Revelation, we recognize Him, and know that we belong to Him.
So how cool is that? What I had been struggling to reconcile was reconciliation itself. Another facet of the person of Jesus has been revealed!
Blessings & Adventure,
Lynn “lynnibug” Rios
Thanksgivukkah… what does it mean?
This year, 2013, the Jewish Festival of Lights, Hanukkah, fell on the same calendar day as Thanksgiving. This prompted a rather large response of funny musical videos portraying various unusual combinations of costumes and holiday traditions, as well as some very creative recipes that mingled the traditional foods of both holidays into a unique Thanksgivukkah cuisine.
According to Wikepedia, “Because the Gregorian and Jewish calendars have slightly different average year lengths, over time they drift out of sync with each other. As a result of this, the first day of Hanukkah will not precede or coincide with Thanksgiving Day again in the foreseeable future. One physicist has calculated that, if the Jewish calendar is not revised, Thursday, November 28 will not fall during Hanukkah again until the year 79811, once it has drifted all the way around the cycle of the Gregorian calendar and back to November. Many media sources have reported this “tongue-in-cheek” calculation as a serious estimate of the date of the next Thanksgivukkah. However, since the Jewish day does not begin at midnight, but on the sunset before it, there will be two more years in which Hanukkah and Thanksgiving partially overlap, with the first night of Hanukkah beginning in the evening of Thanksgiving. These will be the evenings of Thursday, November 27, 2070 and Thursday, November 28, 2165. The most recent such year was 1918.”
Any way you look at it… that is a really long time!
The woman credited with coining the name Thanksgivukkah is Dana Gitell from Boston, MA.
At first, she thought people would find it amusing, but the idea grew. “The more I thought about,” she says, “I realized it’s also an opportunity to celebrate the Jewish-American experience and for Jewish-Americans to give thanks for America and the religious freedoms we enjoy here. It’s also a chance for Hanukkah to enjoy a fresh spotlight, rather than being “lumped in” with Christmas.”
That is what brings me to the serious side of this article. The two holidays that converged this year actually have quite a lot more in common than one might think at first look.
A miracle occurred in the 2nd century B.C., when a small band of Jews led by Judah Maccabee and his sons triumphed over the forces of King Antiochus IV. When they entered the temple in Jerusalem, which had been desecrated by the occupying forces, only a small quantity of oil was found, just enough to last for only one day. Miraculously this oil burned for eight days, enough time to acquire more oil to light the temple, which is why Jews light the candles on the menorah for eight nights.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman recently posted on Chabad.org: “Thanksgiving is a narrative about an arduous journey to escape religious persecution for freedom in a new land, the establishment of a democratic charter and the sense of Divine providence that carried those refugees through their plight. That’s Chanukah, as well, a narrative deeply embedded in the collective Jewish psyche of how we fought back against religious oppression in our own land, earned our freedom and thanked G-d for the miracles.”
Another Rabbi, David Paskin, was quoted as saying, “The story of Hanukkah is a story of religious freedom. It’s a story of a people yearning to truly live as full Jews and yet also be fully integrated into a secular society. The story of Thanksgiving is of pilgrims yearning for their own religious freedom and trying to find their identity in a new world that they didn’t even know yet.”
Hanukkah, just like Thanksgiving, is a celebration of a miracle of God’s provision. Both holidays are deeply rooted in expressions of gratitude for the freedoms and bounty we enjoy. The parallels may not be as striking, nor the symbolism as fundamental as those between Easter and Passover, but the thread of commonality is undeniable, and so I wonder, “Why now?” God’s plan is perfect and because it is His plan, I find myself wondering what He wants us to learn from this alignment of days on calendars that conflict, as we live out our lives in a society full of conflicting viewpoints.
This was all driven home as I watched the Fox News reports on the atheist campaign to take Christ out of Christmas in Times Square. The atheist representative’s point was that we should allow everyone to share in the joy of Christmas equally and without guilt, regardless of whether or not they celebrated Christ as the reason for the season. From my perspective, Christians have always welcomed everyone to join their celebrations at Christmas. Yes, they hold out hope that the seeds of faith might be planted in those who don’t know Jesus, but they have never denied anyone their right to celebrate the holiday with or without religious conviction. For many Christians it is the season of the prodigal as those who do not attend church regularly, are drawn to it at Christmas time. Obviously, you can’t take Christ out of Christmas any more than you could take Thanks out of Thanksgiving or remove the miracle of the oil from the Hanukkah story – RIDICULOUS!
If I could address that man face to face, I would reply, “If you want to have a party and give gifts, have a party and give gifts, but admit there is no occasion for your celebration other than you want to have it, and stop trying to change Christmas to a secular event!” How empty one must be to take such extreme steps to express a need to rely on someone else’s deepest convictions of Truth as an excuse to celebrate, and then defend it as a requirement for tolerance from the Christian community, yet that is apparently the atheist position, and just screams for our prayers!
The glaring Truth is that we all woke up in Babylon today, and most of us will wake up in Babylon again tomorrow. We have a daily choice to follow Jesus or linger in Babylon a little longer. There is no middle ground, no position of compromise.
Thanksgivukkah, and the unity it inspired, gave us a glimpse of life in the Holy City.
Hang on to that image and draw strength from it.
Blessings & Adventure,
Lynn “lynnibug” Rios
As the song says, “You and I were made to worship.”, yet most of us are living in a state of worship interrupted… so much so, that worship becomes something we see as separate from our daily lives and try to fit into our spare time and church time. I imagine Satan is celebrating heartily that he has managed to twist up our priorities so completely. Worship can be, and should be something we are doing all the time. It can be, and should be like the background music of a movie, playing subtly around us no matter what we may be doing.
Too many of us have come to understand worship as the ceremonious things we do in church. Isaiah preached against this attitude of worship long before Christ came and became the ultimate sacrifice for us.
Isaiah 1:11-13 (Gods Word)
11 The LORD asks, “What do your many animal sacrifices mean to me? I’ve had enough of your burnt offerings of rams and enough fat from your fattened calves. I’m not pleased with the blood of bulls, lambs, or male goats. 12 When you appear in my presence, who asked you to trample on my courtyards? 13 Don’t bring any more worthless grain offerings. Your incense is disgusting to me, so are your New Moon Festivals, your days of worship, and the assemblies you call. I can’t stand your evil assemblies.
Isaiah also expressed what the true and genuine worship that God desired of us would look like.
Isaiah 1:16-17 (Gods Word)
16 “Wash yourselves! Become clean! Get your evil deeds out of my sight. Stop doing evil. 17 Learn to do good. Seek justice. Arrest oppressors. Defend orphans. Plead the case of widows.”
When we define worship as including all of these things, we can learn to incorporate this attitude of worship into our daily lives. It all boils down to keeping a “God view” on our daily activities and responding to every interaction with a consciousness that God is always there with us. It will change the way we think and do things, and it will bring blessings into our lives.
I make that last statement with bold authority for a reason…
I recently read a commentary on Daniel’s Dream of the Four Beasts (Daniel 7:1-28) and was awestruck at the way the author described verse 13 as Daniel witnessing Christ being glorified by God in the presence of the heavenly multitude, five hundred and fifty some odd years before the sojourn of Jesus on the earth. It was a beautiful and powerful picture that brought forth feelings of love and worship for our Saviour, yet something was troubling me and I could not put my finger on it. For several days it was like an itch I could not scratch, so I hit the books to get to the Truth, after praying for God to enlighten me.
My study began with some research on the phrase “son of man” which was central to the basis of the commentary I had read. Far different from the phrase “son of man” used in other Old Testament passages, which would simply mean human, Read Post »
Is the 80/20 rule an undeniable fact of life?
A couple of months ago, as an illustration of faith after a painfully detailed ministry potential assessment presentation, Pastor Guy Weatherly quoted from the book of Joshua, Chapter 13, recounting the story of twelve spies sent to collect intelligence and report back to the people after surveying the land God had promised to give them. Of the twelve, ten came back whining about how hard it would be, if at all possible, to possess this land. They compared themselves to grasshoppers, too weak and impotent to challenge the current inhabitants. Only two, Joshua and Caleb, focused on the great bounty of this land with the understanding it was already theirs because God had ordained it. That got me thinking… ten of twelve, or 83%, lacked the vision God intended.
Was the 80/20 rule at play here?
Was the 80/20 rule in fact a biblical principal? Is it really a 90/10 rule as some would say? I continued to consider this and look for examples thinking it would make a great study, but as I began to research the subject, I was pulled in a multitude of different directions. As I begin to write this piece, I have no idea what conclusion I will come to, but I have amassed a tidy stack of interesting facts, so let’s just see where it leads. Read Post »
Web Ministry - The Humble Beginnings
Back in the day… well actually not that long ago, the internet was new and we marvelled at how cool it was to be able to email instead of snail mail. At first it was small businesses that kick started personal use of computers, but as personal computers became more affordable, everything began to change – and it changed very quickly. I remember the very first email I sent. It was actually in 1980 something when the company I worked for set up inter-office email. Back then, no one even considered that someday there would be such a thing as Web Ministry.
Fast forward a few years and the middle class yuppies had embraced email as their favorite way to stay in touch with friends and family. I suppose it was because of the speed at which the messages were delivered, that the nature of the message content also changed. This, I believe, was the birthing place of what came to be known as Web Ministry. There was much concern about the content that would end up flowing through cyberspace, and with good reason. The devil was going pounce upon the opportunity to have a hand in anything that could reach so many people so quickly, and likewise God’s people would respond with something uplifting. Instead of the long letters we used to write about our summer vacation or the what had been going on at work, play, and school, the masses were sending, and forwarding dirty jokes and inspirational stories at an alarmingly increasing rate. As the web expanded with business and entertainment content, dirty jokes gave way to a booming porn industry and inspirational stories gave way to the first attempts at real Web Ministry. I am sad to say the the devil got the bigger foothold initially, and God’s people were not yet prepared to battle for souls in this unknown territory.
Web Ministry – Coming of Age
It was early in 2007 when I first began to really engage online for business reasons. I took a course in web marketing, and started learning about building websites. At this time, most churches had some kind of website to make information about the church available to the seeking public, and most of the big name evangelists had websites that offered some spiritual educational content and sold their books. I suppose we could call that the second phase of Web Ministry. At the same time however, many individuals, myself included, felt a call to be the hands and feet of Jesus on the web, and that is when Web Ministry really began to take hold.
The project I undertook for my web marketing course, which was in stark contrast to my classmate’s commercial websites and sales funnels, was a 31 day study in The Book of Proverbs, offered via email subscription. That site is still live today, and ranks in the top 200,000 websites in the US, and the top 1.5 million worldwide. Considering there are an estimated 182 million websites worldwide (according to Netcraft), and my novice attempt at web ministry is in the top 1% based on traffic, it seems pretty obvious that Web Ministry works. But how far can we, or should we take it?
Web Ministry – To Fulfil the Great Commission
The United Methodist Church, firmly rooted in the style of John Wesley “going to where the spiritual hunger is” has committed to and meticulously researched the potential for Web Ministry, responding with websites, web content, e-newsletters, and even their own social networking platform at ReThinkChurch.org. I am currently taking their online training to equip leaders for Web Ministry for the future. Ideas being discussed are things like live discipleship webinars, interactive calendars that link to your Google calendar, webcast worship services for the homebound, prayer partners via live chat, facebook pages and groups, online committee meetings, and much, much more.
There is still some push back from the traditionalists that hear the words Web Ministry, and understand that to mean that static informational site, and that response is understandable – change can be hard, but… reality is that prayer chains, worship, study, counselling, spiritual warfare, meetings, small groups, even healing services are all going digital. The face of Web Ministry is evolving and expanding, and that gets me very excited!
Blessings & Adventure,
Lynn “lynnibug” Rios
If you aren’t feeling blessed today, what you need is prayer.
If you cannot see yourself as highly favored today, what you need is prayer.
If you cannot picture yourself as an instrument being played by the hand God for the uplifting of His people, then you need to spend some time with Him, in prayer.
If you are able to rest in the knowledge that above all else you are blessed and highly favored,
and if you envision yourself an instrument being played by the hand of God for the uplifting of His people…
what you need is to pray for those who do not.
2 Chronicles 14-15
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”
Blessings & Adventure.
Lynn “lynnibug” Rios
We don’t always notice when God does a beautiful thing…
but He is doing them all the time.
Sometimes we are so caught up in worldly things that we just can’t see the beautiful thing God is doing in the midst of it. Today I witnessed one of these beautiful moments when everything came together with perfection only God can offer, but even in the midst of it, the enemy was doing his best to beat those being blessed down and cause them to miss their blessing.
The body of Christ has a tendency to forget that Pastors are people too. They are not above the body or below it, but rather at the center of it, going through the same trials and tribulations we lay people do, often more so because the enemy can do more damage when he causes one of them to doubt their faith or their call. Pastors, ever conscious that they must lead by example tend to place upon themselves unrealistic expectations of perfection. That being said, I believe it is the sincere desire of our Pastors to speak what is on God’s agenda rather than their own, but sometimes they can judge what comes out as their failure rather than God’s success.
The beautiful thing I witnessed this morning was God taking over in real time, and moving the church to an undeniable demonstration of the depth that the sermon DID SINK IN.
The sermon was not delivered as planned, but the events that unfolded when the sermon was abruptly stifled, became a living, breathing example of what the Pastor intended to convey. It was as if God was saying to the Pastor, “Don’t tell them, let them!”
The scripture the Pastor was preaching on was 2 Corinthians 3:12 through 4:4, but it was not until I backed up a few verses and read 2 Corinthians 3:9-11 that I clearly saw how God’s perfectly beautiful plan had come together.
“Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech– unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”
After reading the passage, the Pastor began to explain the imagery of seeing through the veil that separates the world from knowing God.
Through Jesus Christ, and by His grace, the veil has been lifted for the body of Christ and we can know God intimately. We no longer need to approach God through the veil. What He desires most is that we clearly keep our eyes on Him. In the midst of the sermon, the Pastor suddenly lost his place, experienced a moment of confusion, and then silence. It was one of those awkward moments when nobody knows what to do, and the Pastor was obviously flustered and at a total loss for words.
Then one of the congregation offered a worldly example of what prevents us from keeping our eyes on God the way we should, then another offered an example of how we allow ourselves to only see God through the veil, and then yet another. As the Pastor, still unable to speak, began to offer an apology for being unable to complete the sermon, one member came forward suggesting that just as a doctor should not perform surgery on a member of his family, maybe the subject matter was hitting a little too close to home. Then the entire congregation came forward placing hands on the Pastor and each other, praying that the seduction of the enemy be stopped and the veil be lifted for us all, acknowledging that sometimes there is more power in what is not said than in what is said. The congregation may not have heard the whole sermon with their ears, but indeed they heard it with their hearts and demonstrated that they had understood.
It was indeed a beautiful thing, a thing that only God can do!
After the prayers ended, the Pastor offered the benediction and the service ended, but the touch of the Holy Spirit that blessed the congregation today, and the wisdom received, will not be soon forgotten.
2 Corinthians 3:9-11 (NKJV)
“For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.”
Blessings & Adventure,
Lynn “lynnibug” Rios