Friday, August 20, 2010

Fasting a 20 Day Study

The Passionate Participation in God Project will be hosting a 20 day Study on fasting starting Sunday August 22.
Here is the link if you would like this 20 Day Study emailed to you daily.
You may also find book reviews on Fasting Books at

The voluntary abstention from an otherwise normal function—most often eating—for the sake of intense spiritual activity.

Fasting was an integral part of the lives of the people we read about in the Bible. They fasted during times of mourning, in repentance, or to seek blessing, answers, or guidance. Everyone fasted together on the Day of Atonement. A normal fast during biblical times involved abstention from all food and liquid except for water, but during extreme circumstances even water was declined (see Esther 4:16).

Jesus undertook an extreme fast of forty days and forty nights when He experienced the temptation in the desert. He also speaks of fasting as a normal part of life for His followers (Matt 6:16-18). Later, in response to a question about why His followers do not fast, He answers that wedding guests do not fast while the bridegroom is with them, but that “the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matt 9:15). From these words it seems clear that Jesus expected His followers to practice the discipline of fasting.

So why is fasting less common today? Probably the main reason is that we rarely deny ourselves anything, whether food or drink or material goods or entertainment. Fasting forces us to take attention from our desires in order to focus on God. Jesus tells His disciples that His food is to “do the will of Him who sent Me and to complete His work” (John 4:34). Fasting can be a humbling experience, as we see just how controlled we are by our appetites. But it also teaches us that what sustains us is not the food we eat or the pleasures we feel, but God alone.

Yet even now, says the Lord, / return to me with all your heart, / with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.—Joel 2:12
Day 226 Spiritual Practice: Humbling Our Souls Through Fasting
Day 227 Not by Bread Alone
Day 228 David Fasts and Pleads with God
Day 229 A Communal Fast
Day 230 Ahab Fasts and Humbles Himself
Day 231 Sanctify a Fast
Day 232 Fasting for Victory
Day 233 I Afflicted Myself with Fasting
Day 234 Joyful Fasting
Day 235 Rejecting the Royal Rations
Day 236 Spiritual Practice: Fasting from Food
Day 237 Ezra Proclaims a Fast
Day 238 Right Reverence
Day 239 Was It for Me That You Fasted?
Day 240 Fasting in Solidarity
Day 241 Fasting After Saul’s Death
Day 242 The People Assemble with Fasting
Day 243 Return to Me
Day 244 Fasting for the Church
Day 245 They Fasted That Day

The Material above is from the book, ‘A Year With God,’ Edited by Richard Foster

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Spirit, Soul and Body

"Dear Friend,
"Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess. 5:23"
Paul is praying for these Christians to be completely sanctified and he specifies the three areas which make up total human personality: spirit, soul and body.
       The distinction between these three elements of our personality is little understood by most Christians. Yet the Bible provides us with a unique kind of “mirror” which reveals their nature and interrelationship, and shows us how each is intended to function. Failure to use this mirror correctly exposes us to much inner frustration and disharmony.
       In the initial creation of man God said, “Let Us make man in Our image,” and “according to Our likeness.”1 Image refers to man’s outward appearance. In a way that is not true of any other creature, man reflects the outward appearance of God. It was appropriate, therefore, that when the Son of God came to dwell on earth, it was in the form of a man—not an ox or a beetle—and not even in the form of some heavenly creature, such as a seraph.
       Likeness refers to man’s inner nature. Scripture refers to God as a triune being: Father, Son and Spirit. Likewise it reveals man as a triune being, consisting of spirit, soul and body.
       The account of man’s creation reveals how his triune nature came into being: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being”—more correctly, a living soul.
       Man’s spirit came from the inbreathed breath of God. His body was formed from clay, transformed into living human flesh. Instantly he became a living soul.
       The soul thus formed is the ego, the individual personality. It is usually defined as consisting of three elements: the will, the intellect and the emotions. It has the responsibility for making personal decisions and expresses itself in three phrases: “I want,” “I think,”
       “I feel.” Unless touched by the supernatural grace of God, all of human behavior is controlled by these three motivations. Man was created for personal fellowship with God, but his sinful disobedience produced disastrous effects in all three elements of his personality.
Effects of Sin
      Cut off from contact with God, man’s spirit died. This was in fulfillment of God’s warning: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” The physical death of Adam’s body, however, did not follow for more then 900 years.
       Through exercising his will in direct disobedience to God, man became a rebel in his soul. Since that time, every person descended from Adam has inherited the nature of a rebel.
       In Ephesians 2:1–3 Paul describes the results of rebellion that have affected every one of us: “And you . . . were dead in trespasses and sins in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience [rebellion] among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
       As a result of sin, we have all been dead in our spirits. In our souls we have all been in rebellion against God. Our bodies, too, have become subject to corruption—that is, to sickness, decay and death.
       Yet the boundless love of God is such that He continually longs for the restoration of His fellowship with man. “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us.” Furthermore, through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God has opened a way for the restoration of that fellowship which was lost.
Effects of Salvation
       In Ephesians 2:4–5 Paul goes on to describe the outworking of salvation in our spirits: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” Our spirits, being reunited with God, are alive once more. At the same time, our souls—through repentance and faith—are released from rebellion and reconciled to God.
       For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also
rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
       When we realize that we have all been in rebellion against God, we understand why there can be no genuine salvation without repentance. Repentance means laying down our rebellion and submitting ourselves to God’s righteous government.
       Salvation also makes provision for the body. Delivered from the slavery of sin, our bodies become temples in which the Holy Spirit dwells and our members become instruments of righteousness.6 Finally, at the return of Christ, our bodies will be transformed into immortal bodies like that of Christ Himself!
Requirements for Discipleship
       Jesus commissioned His apostles to make disciples of all nations. He did not tell them to make church members. Discipleship requires a radical response in each area of the personality—body, soul and spirit.
       The requirement for our bodies is stated in Romans 12:1: “That you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God. . . .” We are required to offer our bodies upon the altar of sacrifice to God just as completely as the Israelites under the old covenant offered the animals they sacrificed on their altars. There is, however, one important difference. The Israelites killed the animals they offered to God. The body which we offer to God is to be a living sacrifice.
       Nevertheless, from that moment onwards, our bodies no longer belong to us. They are God’s property, God’s temples. We are mere stewards who must give an account to God for the way in which we have cared for His temple. Unfortunately, far too many Christians today continue to treat their bodies as if they still own them and are free to do with them whatever they please.
       Concerning our souls, Jesus stated His requirement in Matthew 16:24–25: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself [literally, his soul] and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life [soul] will lose it, but whoever loses his life [soul] for Mysake will find it.”
       Our cross is the place where we choose to die. God does not impose this upon us. We take it up only of our own free will. It is here that we must deny our soul. This means that we say “No” to the three demands of the soul: “I want,” “I think,” “I feel.” Henceforth, we are no longer controlled by these three motives. Their place is taken by God’s word and God’s will. As we obey the word and the will of God, we find the new life which Jesus offers us. It is only through death that our souls can find this new life.
       As we fulfill the Lord’s requirement for our bodies and our souls, our spirits are liberated to enter into a fellowship with God even more wonderful than that which was lost through the fall. In 1 Corinthians 6:15–17 Paul warns Christians against an immoral sexual union with a prostitute, because this means becoming one body with the prostitute. Then, in direct contrast, he continues,“But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.”
       The implication is clear. The redeemed spirit can now enjoy a union with God which is as close and intimate as sexual union with a prostitute would be for the body. It is the spirit alone, however—not the soul or the body—that can experience this direct intimate union with God.
       It is primarily through the act of worship that our spirits enter into this union with God. In John 4:23–24 Jesus said: “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. . . . God is Spirit, and [all] those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” He made it clear that true worship must be an activity of our spirits.
       In the contemporary church there is little understanding of the nature of worship, mainly because we do not discern the difference between the spirit and the soul. Worship is not entertainment. That belongs in the theater, not the church. Nor is worship the same as praise. We praise God with our souls, and it is right to do so. Through our praise we have access to God’s presence. But once we are in His presence, it is through worship tha twe enjoy true spiritual union with Him.
       To be able to worship God in this way is the goal of salvation—first on earth, and then in heaven. It is the highest and holiest activity of which a human being is capable. It is only possible, however, when the soul and the body come into submission to the spirit and in harmony with it. Such worship is often too profound for words. It becomes an intense and silent union with God.
Yours in the Master’s service,
Derek Prince
P.S. My next letter will clarify how to discern between the spirit and the soul.
1 Genesis 1:26
2 Genesis 2:7
3 Genesis 2:17
4 James 4:5 (NAS)
5 Romans 5:10–11
6 Romans 6:13
P Derek Prince p Jerusalem, Israel

The above article is by Derek Prince and is published with permission of their site: Mailing Address: Derek Prince Ministries P.O. Box 19501 Charlotte, NC 28219-9501 704-357-3556"
The Original Article PDF is at this link.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Gospel Code: FFOZ Blogs

I have taught the Gospels at the Bible college level for years and I am always surprised that many Christians fail to understand that JESUS WAS A JEW. They fail to see the need to understand Jesus our Messiah as a Jew. I have copied the text of this article but really encourage you to go to the original blog and see the pictures and read the whole article The Gospel Code By D. Thomas Lancaster.

While your there Check out the upcoming year long Study Chronicles of the Messiah. You will have the eyes of your understanding opened in a new and A new Biblical understanding of Jesus will refresh and inspire your life in God through Jesus.

"The average churchman is finally figuring out what New Testament scholars have always known: Jesus was Jewish. He wasn't Jewish like a famous actor might be Jewish. For example, you might have watched a lot of old Star Trek episodes and never known that both Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner were Jewish. Shatner doesn't look particularly Jewish, and Nimoy looks Vulcan. On the show, neither of them do anything very Jewish. Their Jewishness is just their ethnicity.

Jesus wasn't like that. Jesus was really Jewish. If you saw Him, you could not possibly mistake it. The man was Jewish. Everything He did and said was patently Jewish. Chronicles of the Messiah is a year-long, subscription based study on the life and teachings of the Jewish Jesus, an intense study designed to help you know Jesus better.

Now you might think, "Why does the world need another commentary on the Gospels?" Well, consider the success of The Da Vinci Code, a fictional book purporting to reveal the historical Jesus. The only thing that the five million copies of The Da Vinci Code actually prove is that people are still interested in reading about Jesus--five million books and a major motion picture, all about Jesus. Those of us who still regard ourselves as disciples of the man from Nazareth should be flattered.

Then again, Jesus has always been popular. In March of 1964, the London Evening Standard published an interview with John Lennon in which he claimed that his rock and roll band, The Beatles, was more popular than Jesus. He was wrong about that. Nearly four decades later, Jesus is still regularly making the cover of Time Magazine. Not so with John Lennon.

Still, the media attention that Jesus gets now-a-days is not what it used to be. Lately critics and scholars have been asking a lot of disturbing questions about the person they call "the historical Jesus." Even the implication of a "historical Jesus" as someone different from the iconic church Jesus is a little disquieting. The idea is that the Jesus venerated through the centuries is not exactly the same as the real Jesus of Nazareth who lived and taught in early first-century Galilee and Judea. It's like the difference between Leonard Nimoy and Mr. Spock. Nobody really believes in Mr. Spock. Leonard Nimoy is the historical Spock--the Jewish one.

Even the Gospels themselves are under scrutiny today. Textual criticism--the science of comparing documents and manuscripts and searching for their most original form--has been around for centuries, but in the last few decades it has begun to leak into the mainstream consciousness. As a result, people are asking questions about the veracity of the gospel stories. That's probably a good thing. Questions are always good, and truth, if it is truth, should be able to withstand inquiry. But some scholars and fiction writers have begun to suggest that our Bibles possess the wrong gospels altogether. Many early Christian writings and pseudonymous and apocryphal works never made canonization. Several liberal scholars think that they should have. They regard these other works as extra books of the Bible, akin to the deleted scenes at the end of a DVD, and they are hoping they will be restored in an extended director's cut edition.

How do we know that the church canonized the right gospels? What makes the gospel of Mark a New Testament scripture, whereas the gospel of Mary Magdalene is neglected and forgotten? How do we know that the recently discovered gospel of Judas shouldn't be considered part of the Bible?

In his best seller The Da Vinci Code, fiction writer Dan Brown posits that the Roman Church purposely destroyed the authentic gospels because they wanted to suppress the truth about the humanity of Jesus. He purports that the second-century, apocryphal Gnostic gospels are more authentic and reliable than the canonized gospels. Thus the truth about Jesus is veiled behind a church conspiracy.

Dan Brown is right about one thing: Throughout the ages, the church has endeavored to conceal certain truths about Jesus. But it would be unfair to characterize this effort as a conspiracy. The real Christian conspiracy is more a collusion of prejudice, anti-Semitism and theological confusion than it is a sinister, secret plot. The embarrassing secret about Jesus that the historical Christian church would have preferred to leave behind long ago is the Jewishness of Jesus.

Ironically, Leonardo Da Vinci's painting, The Last Supper, illustrates this point well.

If you look carefully at the painting, you will notice several curiosities. Aside from the obvious absurdity of everyone sitting on the same side of the table, notice the dinner rolls in front of each disciple. The Last Supper is supposed to be a Passover seder meal, part of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The only bread served at that meal was flat, unleavened bread (matzah), but Da Vinci's painting offers no suggestion of Passover. Stranger yet, notice that the only Jewish-looking person at the table is Judas; everyone else looks distinctly European. Da Vinci's painting gives us clues about the real agenda regarding Jesus: a reflexive denial of His Jewishness.

From the earliest church fathers, to the popes and reformers, to the great artists of Christian history, to the very architecture and iconography of the cathedrals, the clues are everywhere. The church wants to deny the Jewishness of Jesus. If it were possible to erase it, Christianity would have done so centuries ago. The historical Jesus was a Jew.

The first Christians were actually Jews who believed that their rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, was the long-anticipated heir to David's throne. They believed He was the Jewish Messiah; that is to say, the King of the Jews. They pointed to His resurrection from the dead as evidence of their convictions. Those first Christians, however, did not consider themselves Christians. They did not even imagine a religion called Christianity. They were Jews practicing Judaism, just as their rabbi had taught them.

By the early second century, however, Christianity had come to identify herself as a religion distinct and separate from Judaism. The early believers were exiled from the synagogue. Systematic persecutions, two Jewish revolts against the Roman state and theological polemics with mainstream Judaism all shaped the emerging church. Churches became predominantly gentile and sects of the new faith divided on ethnic lines. The Jewish believers disappeared into obscurity, while a new gentile Christianity grew ever stronger and more dominant. The new Christianity defined herself against Judaism and Jewishness.

In order to suppress the Jewishness of Jesus, Christianity found it necessary to suppress the historical Jesus. His humanity--a thoroughly Jewish humanity--was diminished. Unfortunately, it is this suppression and diminishing of the historical Jesus that has left Christianity so vulnerable to attack from liberal theologians, critics and fiction writers.

However, the church's sacred writings--the Gospels and Epistles left behind by those earliest believers--testify to the absolute Jewishness of the man and the original faith. The evidence remains within the books of the New Testament, like an ancient, hidden code. Most Christians read over it without ever suspecting its existence.

The gospel writers did not intend to write in code. They intended to communicate forthrightly and clearly in their own language and cultural context. But when Christianity jettisoned Judaism, we quickly forgot that language and culture. We lost the interpretive tools to correctly understand the Gospels as the gospel writers had intended them to be understood. We began to read the words and deeds of Jesus without comprehension. We began to make up new meanings. The historical Jesus was lost.

The Jewish code language of the Gospels functions on several levels. At its most basic, the code could be described as the preponderance of Semitisisms (Jewish ways of saying things) that constitute the text. Though the Gospels are written in Greek, the syntax, structure, idiom and semantic configurations often betray a Semitic origin.

It seems evident that our Gospels were written by Jews who were far more accustomed to Hebrew and Aramaic than they were to Greek. They were working with Greek translations of Semitic documents, and translating the words of Jesus from Hebrew and Aramaic into Greek. The resulting Greek text is soaked in Semitic terminology and turns of phrase that can sometimes only be understood by first retro-translating a saying or phrase back to Hebrew or Aramaic.

On another level, the Jewish code language of the Gospels consists of innumerable allusions to the wider expanse of Jewish literature and rabbinic thought. These allusions are fraught with meaning. A reader unfamiliar with the works and concepts alluded to by the gospel writer inevitably misses the semantic point of the passage.

The code could also be described as a paradigm of thought and interpretation. The paradigm is late second-Temple Judaism. Therefore, our best resource for interpretation is Jewish literature that was written in the same paradigm. For example, it is hard to correctly interpret the parables of Jesus in isolation, but when the reader compares the parables of Jesus with the hundreds of similar rabbinic parables preserved in ancient Jewish literature, he suddenly has a contextual matrix from which to draw understanding. It's like flipping a light switch.

To decipher the code, we need to compare the New Testament with other ancient Jewish literature. For example, in the late second century, the sages of Judaism began compiling the oral teachings that had been transmitted to them from their teachers. Many of these oral teachings had been handed down from teacher to student for generations--even centuries. The first collection of those teachings is called the Mishnah, a book of legal codes redacted in the Galilee during the early third century. For the next several generations, Jewish rabbis and scholars poured their efforts into commenting and arguing over the Mishnah. Their commentary is called the Gemara, and along with the Mishnah, they form the voluminous works called the Talmud. In addition to these works of legislation, the rabbis recorded oral traditions, teachings and interpretations about the Bible called the midrash. The word midrash means "something searched out." The midrash is a source of many parables similar to the ones Jesus used to tell.

By comparing these rabbinic works with the Gospels, we notice a great deal of crossover. Sometimes, the synonymy of the Gospels with the rabbinic literature is so great that it is difficult to tell if a certain teaching originated with Jesus or with the sages of His day. At other times, the sayings, maxims, parables and ordinances of the rabbis inform the language of the Gospels in a way that makes sense of what is otherwise obscure.

The gospel code is a real phenomenon, not some half-baked, flakey retelling of history. And what is more, the code can be broken. The original meanings can be recovered. Thanks to the wealth of early rabbinic literature preserved by the Jewish world, we are able to decipher the code. We are able to see Jesus from a Jewish perspective again.

Chronicles of the Messiah does this kind of code breaking in every lesson, and the results are exciting. Thanks to the intrinsic Jewishness of our Gospels, their authenticity and antiquity are incontrovertible. No second-, third- or fourth-century church forgers could possibly have manufactured documents so genuinely Jewish. Nor would they have been motivated to do so. What is more, when tested for an authentic, first-century Jewish voice, the apocryphal Gnostic gospels and other non-canonical Christian writings perform very poorly. In the light of Judaism, they are exposed as the late counterfeits that they are.

Chronicles of the Messiah is a Messianic Jewish commentary on the life and teaching of Yeshua of Nazareth. The Chronicles are a harmonization of all four gospels into one continuous narrative. In so doing, we carry on the gospel tradition in the spirit of the evangelist Luke who said, "I too thought it good, having investigated all these matters thoroughly from their beginning, to write them to you according to their order" (Luke 1:3).

In the Chronicles of the Messiah commentary, we "investigate all these matters thoroughly," looking into Jewish sources and literature to better understand the world of the Bible and the culture of the New Testament as we tell the story of Yeshua "in consecutive order." We uncover the Jewish background of the gospels and reveal the foundation of Torah and prophecy on which the message of the Kingdom of Heaven is built.

Chronicles of Messiah attempts to study the gospels as they were meant to be studied: within the context of Torah Judaism. We try to recapture the original Jewishness of the gospel story and the person of Yeshua, the Jewish rabbi. To assist us in this endeavor, we use The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels: An English Translation as our gospel text. The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels employs transliterations of proper names and certain concepts and nouns, and it attempts to reconstruct the original Semitic forms which lie behind the Greek text.

In addition, the commentary for Chronicles of the Messiah consults the never-before-translated Hebrew Gospel commentaries of the nineteenth century, Messianic Jewish luminary Rabbi Yechiel Tzvi Lichtenstein. Rabbi Lichtenstein wrote in the style of classical rabbinic commentary to accompany the Delitzsch Hebrew New Testament. His insights are invaluable.

It's not too late to get on board with a subscription. Take the opportunity to know Jesus better. If you are a disciple of Jesus--the real, historical Yeshua of Nazareth, you should consider spending a year in the Chronicles of the Messiah, and discover the greatest "Jewish" story ever told.

About the Author: D. Thomas Lancaster is Director of Education at First Fruits of Zion, and regular contributor to Messiah Journal. He is the author of the Torah Club programs, and the books Grafted In, Restoration and King of the Jews."

FFOZ Blogs : The Gospel Code