Thursday, November 14, 2013

Messianic Hanukkah Party - The Messianic Minnesota event that you wont want to miss!

If you're looking for a Hanukkah 2013 event near Minneapolis/St. Paul MN, you won't want to miss this. Beth Immanuel is hosting a Messianic Hanukkah party with games, live Messianic music, Hanukkah crafts for children.

You don't have to be Jewish to celebrate Hanukkah. This Hanukkah event is a great opportunity to visit a Messianic congregation in the Twin Cities area for the first time.

Here are the details:
  • Time: Saturday, November 30 at 6:00 pm (Thanksgiving weekend)
  • Location: 828 3rd St, Hudson WI 54016 (about 20 minutes from St. Paul, Minnesota)
  • Free admission
  • Fun for all ages

Monday, December 5, 2011

Radical Discipleship


Have you ever seen devotional programs marketed toward teens using terms like "radical discipleship"?  Sadly, the product is often neither radical nor discipleship, but just the opposite: watered down Sunday school lessons with a crazy graffiti-like typeface on the cover.

What is discipleship, really?  Discipleship is the art of imitation.  It is the process of becoming like the one you follow.  Disciples of Jesus Christ should seek to be like him.  “Radical” disciples, therefore, should be those who seek to be like him in every possible way and at any cost.

Yet, we are left with a question that few people answer honestly.  What was Jesus Christ really like?  In a sense, we are revisiting the now-cliché bracelet slogan, “What would Jesus do?”  This question is most often terribly misapplied.  The question is framed in absurd contexts such as, “Who would Jesus bring to the school dance?”

The question is posed as “What would Jesus do if he were in my shoes?”  The fact is, Jesus wouldn’t wear your shoes.  Rather, we should be wearing his!  Let's broaden our perspective for a moment.  Rather than making Jesus in our own image, let's ask the question: “What would Jesus really do?”

Would Jesus:
  • Read the New International Version of the Bible?
  • Read the original Hebrew text? (Luke 4:17-19)
  • Eat a ham sandwich?
  • Eat unleavened bread (matzah) on Passover? (Luke 22:7,19)
  • Go to a church on Sunday?
  • Go to a synagogue on Saturday? (Luke 4:16)
  • Wear a WWJD bracelet?
  • Wear ritual fringes (tzitzit)? (Matthew 14:36)
  • Celebrate Christmas?
  • Celebrate Hanukkah? (John 10:22)
The real Jesus (Yeshua, actually) is not an Evangelical Christian, but a strictly observant Jewish rabbi. Christianity might be a religion about Jesus, but it is not Jesus' own religion.

If discipleship is the art of imitation, then we should be looking at what Jesus truly did, and modeling our lives after him.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Did Yeshua (Jesus) Celebrate Hanukkah?

In Christianity, there are a number of holidays and calendar observances: Christmas, Easter, Advent, Lent, and some denominations have special feasts or masses for different saints. In addition, we also have civil holidays. In America, we have Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, and so on. Yeshua (Jesus) and his original Jewish followers would not have observed any of these, however.
Leviticus 23 lists the "appointed times of the LORD" -- that is, the holidays of the Bible. These Biblical Holidays form the basis for the Jewish calendar. However, one well-known Jewish holiday not listed in the Old Testament is Hanukkah.

Hanukkah is not mentioned in the Old Testament because it commemorates an event that transpired after the Old Testament was written.

A Brief History of Hanukkah

  • King Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judea and deported the Jewish people to Babylon.
  • The Babylonian Empire was overthrown by the Persians.
  • King Cyrus of Persia permitted the Jews to return to their land. However, they did not gain independence; they remained a vassal state of Persia.
  • Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire and gained control over the Land of Israel. He permitted the Jews relative freedom as a part of the Greek Empire.
  • When Alexander died, his empire was divided among his four generals
  • Israel was included among the eastern/Syrian provinces ruled by a king named Seleucus. It was then called the "Seleucid Empire."
  • Generations later, the king of the Seleucid Empire was called Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
  • Antiochus became angry that the Jewish people refused to adopt a Hellenistic culture and religion.
  • Antiochus banned the practice of Judaism, including thing like studying the Torah (the books of Moses), circumcision, and eating according to the Bible's dietary laws (keeping kosher).
  • Antiochus defiled the Holy Temple by burning the scroll of the Torah and sacrificing a pig. He also set up a statue of Zeus. 
  • He stole the golden menorah (seven branched candelabrum) that God commanded to remain lit in the Sanctuary.
  • This oppression eventually led to a revolt. A small band of rebels fled to the mountains.
  • The rebels were led by a man of priestly lineage and his sons. They were nicknamed "Maccabee," which means "hammer."
  • Miraculously, this small band of rebels was able to defeat the powerful Seleucid army against all odds.
  • The Maccabees set to cleansing and re-dedicating the holy Temple for God.
  • They built a provisional menorah to replace the one that was stolen. The menorah must be lit using pure, sacred olive oil. 
  • They only had enough of this oil to last one day. It would take eight days to procure more pure, sacred olive oil.
  • A miracle occurred and the menorah remained lit for a full eight days, until the new oil was brought.
  • The Maccabees, who assumed leadership over the Jewish people, established the annual celebration of Hanukkah to commemorate this event. 
  • Hanukkah is a Hebrew word meaning "dedication," referring to the re-dedication of the Temple and altar.

Celebrating Hanukkah

Hanukkah is an eight-day holiday celebrated by:
  • Re-telling the story of the Maccabean revolt
  • Lighting a special menorah called a hanukkiah on each of the eight nights
  • Eating food cooked in oil - in modern times, this is typically latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts)
  • Playing games - a traditional game is dreidel, a simple game of chance played with a spinning top.
  • Singing fun songs and hymns and reciting special blessings and prayers
  • Giving small gifts to children, such as coins, candy, or trinkets.

Hanukkah in the New Testament

Hanukkah is mentioned in the New Testament:
At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. (John 10:22-23 ESV)
The "Feast of Dedication" is Hanukkah. It appears that Yeshua made special effort to be in the Temple on that holiday, even though there is no requirement to do so.

Messianic believers and Hanukkah

Should Messianic believers in Yeshua celebrate Hanukkah? We have compelling reasons to do so:
  • The Maccabean revolt was a miraculous event of God's intervention on behalf of his people. It is something to be thankful for!
  • If it were not for the revolt and the miraculous victory, the Jewish people would have been absorbed into Hellenism. There would be no people of Israel for the Messiah to come to. As some people have said, "Without Hanukkah, there would be no Christmas!"
  • The message of Hanukkah is that we should stand strong and trust in God in the face of religious persecution and maintain our faith and identity.
  • For Messianic believers who are Jewish, celebrating Hanukkah is an important part of your God-given national identity and keeps you connected to your people.
  • The New Testament implies that Yeshua celebrated Hanukkah. As his disciples, we should seek to be like him.

Hanukkah 2011

Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev. On the civil calendar, this changes from year to year. This year, the first night Hanukkah will be celebrated on the night of December 20, 2011 and will last through the day of December 28.

How to spell Hanukkah

Since Hanukkah is a Hebrew word, its correct spelling is with Hebrew letters: חֲנֻכָּה‎. This can be rendered in Roman (English) letters in almost infinite number of ways. Some examples are:
  • Hanukkah
  • Chanukah
  • Chanukkah
  • Hanuka
  • Hanukka
Some people prefer to use a spelling that has eight letters. No matter how you spell it, the correct way to pronounce it is the same. The first sound is a constricted "H" sound. (The CH should never be pronounced like "chicken" or "Chevy.")

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What day is the Sabbath?

For nearly 2,000 years, the Christian church has observed Sunday as the revered day of worship. Some denominations refer to it as the Sabbath, but others just see it as a special day.

Some followers of Jesus observe the Sabbath on the seventh day -- from Friday at sunset until Saturday night -- such as those who practice Messianic Judaism. Consider Beth Immanuel if you are looking for a Sabbath-keeping congregation near Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN.

Most Christians acknowledge that we should be keeping the Ten Commandments. One of the Ten Commandments is the instruction to keep the Sabbath:
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:9-11; see also Deuteronomy 5:13-15)
Some theologians interpret the phrase "the seventh day" to mean every seven days or so from any arbitrary day of the week. For example, one could choose to observe the Sabbath on Wednesdays, and they could still be said to observe every "seventh day." For example, John Piper, a Baptist pastor in Minneapolis, Minnesota writes:
Third, the holy rest day should be one out of every seven. Verse 9: "Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God." Work six, rest one. Work six, rest one. That's the pattern prescribed in the Ten Commandments. Note it does not say that the sabbath ("rest day") has to be the last day of the week or the first day of the week. The concept of weeks is not even mentioned. The command is simply work six, rest one. Every seventh day should be a sabbath.
But when reading the Old Testament, we find that there is no question about which day is the Sabbath. While the Fourth Commandment does not explicitly state, "the seventh day of the week," it does appeal to the creation account and the special blessing and holiness that God specifically granted to the seventh day. This blessing and holiness was given prior to the giving of the law and even before the fall of man:
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:2-3)
When the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, they did not have a choice as to which day to take off:
Moses said, "Eat it today, for today is a Sabbath to the LORD; today you will not find it in the field.  Six days you shall gather it, but on the seventh day, which is a Sabbath, there will be none." On the seventh day some of the people went out to gather, but they found none. And the LORD said to Moses, "How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws? See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day." So the people rested on the seventh day. (Exodus 16:25-30)
From here we can see that the original intention of the Sabbath was to be a specific day, the seventh day of the week, and that the entire people were to keep it together. In fact, the law instructed that if a person violated the Sabbath, they would be put to death (Exodus 31:15; 35:2; Numbers 15:32-36). Such a law would not be possible if everyone was allowed to keep their own personal day of rest whenever they liked.

So perhaps there are reasons that one can choose to observe whatever day he likes as the Sabbath. However, you will not find this justified by the commandments in the Old Testament. If we claim to observe the Ten Commandments, doesn't it make sense to observe them according to their original intention?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jesus in Hebrew: Yeshua

How Yeshua became Jesus

The Gospel of Matthew says that the Messiah was to be named Jesus, "for he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). This is odd. What does the name "Jesus" have to do with saving people from sins? The name "Jesus" does not mean anything in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, or English.
But we can explain this with some history. It is only modern English that pronounces the name "Jesus" with a hard "J" sound. The letter J originally represented a consonantal I, and was pronounced as a Y. Our spelling of "Jesus" comes from the Latin "Iesus," pronounced "yay-soos."
The Latin Iesus was not original either, however. This was a transliteration of the name found in the Greek text: Ιησους (Iesous).
Even Iesous has no meaning, however. But if we look in the Septuagint, which is the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, we can see that the name Iesous is actually the Greek spelling of a Hebrew name: יהושע (Yehoshua), which people usually write in English as Joshua. The name Yehoshua was commonly contracted as Yeshua (ישוע), which you will find in the Old Testament spelled as Jeshua. The names Yehoshua and Yeshua mean "the LORD saves."
This helps understand the Angel Gabriel's message: "You shall call his name Yeshua (the LORD saves), for he will save his people from their sins."
Yeshua was written in Greek as Ιησους (Iesous) because:
  • The Greek Iota can make a consonantal Y sound, like the Hebrew י (yod).
  • There is no way to spell "sh" in Greek letters, so a sigma (Σ) had to be substituted.
  • A sigma was added to the end because this is a normal ending for masculine nouns in Greek.
The name Yeshua (yeh-SHOO-ah) is what his family and companions would have called him. It is a beautiful and prophetic name.

Yahshua?

All the way back to ancient times, nearly all scholars have agreed that Jesus' true Hebrew/Aramaic name was Yeshua. In more modern times, some individuals has proposed that his actual name was "Yahshua." However, this is based on a nonsensical understanding of the Hebrew language and a hyper-literal interpretation of the verse that says that the Messiah comes "in the Father's name." But from a linguistic and historical perspective, "Yahshua" is not even a remote possibility. Other variations on this error include Yahushua and Yahoshua.

Does Iesous come from Hey-Zeus?

Some authors present the sensationalist claim that the Greek name Iesous comes from the name of the Greek god Zeus. This is patently false. The two names bear no historical or etymological connection. In Greek, they do not even resemble each other:
  • Iesous: Ιησους (pronounced yay-SOOS).
  • Zeus: Ζευς (pronounced ZEFS*).
* While scholars often pronounce ευ (epsilon-upsilon) as oo, in New Testament times it was most likely pronounced as ef or ev just as it is today in Modern Greek.

Other Hebrew New Testament names

Just as Jesus was originally called Yeshua, other people mentioned in the New Testament had Hebrew names as well. Here are just a few examples:
  • Jesus' mother Mary would have been called Miriam, the same name as the Old Testament prophetess, the sister of Moses and Aaron.
  • James in Greek is Ιακοβος (Iakobos), which comes from the Hebrew name Ya'akov. In the Old Testament, the name Ya'akov is usually spelled as Jacob. The true name of James was the same as the ancient patriarch, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham.
Matthew, John, Simon, Lazarus, and many others are also Hebrew names. Seeing the Hebrew names of the disciples helps to show the continuity between the Old and New Testaments.

Messianic Congregation in Minneapolis/St. Paul area

A Messianic Synagogue in the Twin Cities metro area

If you are looking for a messianic congregation in the Twin Cities, I recommend Beth Immanuel. They are in Hudson, Wisconsin, which is actually not far at all from Minneapolis and St. Paul, right on the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin on I-94.

A Yeshua-Centered Messianic Congregation

Beth Immanuel is fully committed to Yeshua HaMashiach -- Jesus, the Messiah. They seek to connect with the Jewish faith of his first followers, who practiced first-century Judaism in accordance with his teachings. Beth Immanuel holds regular Bible studies and Torah classes that help people understand the Jewish context of the New Testament. In its original Hebraic context, the teachings of Yeshua and the Apostles come alive in a new way.

Sabbath and Festivals

The community of Beth Immanuel is dedicated to keeping the Sabbath holy, welcoming Shabbat on Friday evening and closing the Sabbath with a havdalah ceremony on Saturday night. They hold special holiday services on Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost), Rosh HaShanah (Feast of Trumpets), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles). There are also parties celebrating Hanukkah and Purim.

Free Online Messianic Audio Teachings

Beth Immanuel also makes Messianic audio sermons and teachings available free online. This is great for people who would like to have access to teachings from a Messianic Jewish perspective but do not live near a Messianic fellowship.

Visit Beth Immanuel online at http://www.bethimmanuel.org.