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Soli Deo Gloria is the writing and teaching ministry of Baruch Maoz in Israel. Baruch is engaged in writing original commentaries on the Bible, and theological and practical works in Hebrew. Some of his books are available in English. His critique of the Messianic movement, Come Let Us Reason Together: The Unity of Jews and Gentiles in the Church, has been published by P&R, and his Devotional Commentary, Malachi: A Prophet in Times of Distress by Crossbooks. Both are available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Shepherd Press is now preparing to print his Devotional Commentary Jonah: A Prophet on the Run.
Baruch is also engaged in writing (in Hebrew) a commentary on Romans and Micah, futher books in the Devotional Commentary series, an Introduction to Systematic Theology, editing a modern translation of the Bible into Modern Hebrew and writing other expositional and theological books. In the pipeline are also books on church life and structure, How to Preach and Listen to Sermons, and daily Christian disiplines. To date, Baruch is the only author writing Christian literature n Hebrew.
Baruch and Bracha are Israeli Jewish Christians who have served in Israel for 5 decades now. Between April 1974 and December 2006 Baruch served with Christian Witness to , most of that time as Israel Field Leader. Betwen May 1975 and December 2008 he served as Pastor of Grace and Truth Christian Congregation in Rishon LeTsion, Israel. Our website reflects the experiences gained in the course of that time.
Our monthly newsletter, MaozNews, is available for the asking, with back-issues to be found on this website (Baruch's Writings/News From Israel). To subscribe, click address at the bottom of this page.
About the Passover Seder - from my correspondence:
I've corresponded a bit with you in the past on a couple of questions. I have another one I was hoping you might be able to address for me. A man in my church has a Messianic Jewish Rabbi/Pastor friend who does Seder meals for Gentile Christians to help them experience passover. He asked if we could have him in to do the meal. I asked the man to send me his materials, which I have not seen.
Is it a good idea to do something like this? Do these kinds of presentations typically stick with the Bible, or do they usually bring in Rabbinic traditions that are extra- or contra-biblical? Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Blessings to you!
Thank you for writing.
The Passover Seder as celebrated on Passover eve by the Jewish people is largely composed of rabbinic elements,which shed no light whatsoever on the event Passover is meant to celebrate, on Passover as celebrated in the days of our Lord, or on spiritual truth. Almost of of its symbolisms are human inventions The only biblical ones are the unleavened bread and, where served, the lamb.
The Seder did not exist in the days of our Lord; it is post-biblical (in fact, the earliest source for what a Passover meal was like in the Second Temple period is the New Testament….). The only elements that are known to have been part of the Seder in the days of our Lord are the lamb, the unleavened bread, a uncertain number of cups, a meal and the singing of Psalms.
What is more, the Passover Seder as celebrated by Messianic Jews is a corruption of the traditional Jewish Seder, attributing to various elements of the tradition meanings that are not only offensive to Jewish people, but void of any objective basis. Such attributions are also reprehensible in that they imply the attachment of a kind of inspiration, and therefore both enlightenment and validity, to rabbinic tradition that should be accorded to nothing other than the word of God.
May we exult in the goodness of our Lord and find sufficiency in his word.
Yours in Christ,
March 10, 2014
Postings from Colossians:
These postings serve a series of purposes:
They provide friend who pray for us with a sense of what we are doing and, hopefully, of how God is answering their prayers;
They will hopefully minister to some who read them;
They will encourage friends to purchase my books and thus promote the message.
P&R have produced my assessment of the Messianic Movement under the title of COME LET US REASON TOGETHER. Crossbooks has published my MALACHI: A PROPHET IN TIMES OF DISTRESS and Shepherd Press has published my JONAH: A PROPHET ON THE RUN. All are available from Barnes & NOble and from Amazon.
You can further help by requesting these books from your Christian bookstore and by posting reviews on the Barnes & Noble and the Amazon websites.
Your help is needed.
More from Colossians:
Paul now describes the purpose to which he exerted himself: so that their hearts may be comforted, their being linked together by love and leading to all the riches that belong to a full assurance of understanding, leading [in turn] to full knowledge of God’s mystery – Christ –in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Of course, we will want to unpack this wonderfully rich statement, but we need first to look at it as a whole. Having read as far as we have in this letter by Paul, we are not surprised to discover that his concern here is for unity in the church. Nor are we surprised to note that this unity leads to spiritual growth, particularly to spiritual perception. He has already told us as much. Paul has once again enlisted terminology characteristic of the false teachers who promised adherents a close bond of comradeship, a richer, fuller understanding that actually reaches perfection in mysteries others cannot comprehend. These, Paul insists, are to be found in Christ, nowhere else, and they are to be found in the company of all God’s consecrated ones, that is to say, in the context of faithful church life.
Paul wants their hearts to be comforted. It is possible that the apostle is referring to a specific circumstance the Colossian Christians at that time had to face but of which we know nothing. It is possible that Paul was simply referring to the realities of human life in community, particularly such as are familiar to us from the Book of Acts and from others of Paul’s writings, and to which we have already made some reference. A mixed community of Jews and Gentiles, slaves and freemen, people from various social strata in what was a highly stratified Roman society, would have inevitably accentuated the tensions that are always involved with imperfect people living together since Adam and Eve betrayed one another in the Garden of Eden. Of course, a combination of the two is also possible.
Be that as it may, Paul was engaged in a struggle for their comfort and encouragement. He wanted them to experience the full richness of church life rather than withdraw into a purportedly elite ghetto such as the heretics were seeking to establish. Their comfort had to do with their being linked together by love, a love that (as he reminded the Corinthians (I Cor. 13) under very similar circumstances) does not vaunt itself over others but, rather, seeks their welfare. Love draws people together, and Christians are to love all men, especially those who belong to the family of faith, regardless of any other factor.
The concept of a linkage is very apropos. There is no merging. Jews do not cease to be Jews, Freemen to be freemen nor women to be women. Every link maintains its distinct identity. But each link is firmly connected to another. Love is the connection. If we loved more, we would argue less, criticize far less and give more of ourselves. If we loved more sincerely, churches would not split, Pastors would not be run off of their turf and individual congregants would not be neglected. All would grow together in grace and in the knowledge of God.
Such loving linkage serves important purposes: 1. Leading to all the riches that belong to a full assurance of understanding. There are many Christian truths that can only be understood properly in the context of church life, simply because church life is about loving God in Christ and loving God in Christ is about church life. One simply cannot consistently be a Christian without belonging to a congregation, sharing in its’ life, contributing to its’ welfare, partnering in its’ worship, growing in its’ context and coming under its’ discipline.
When knowledge has been tried and proven, when it is transformed from intellectual knowledge to the kind of knowledge that comes from experience, it congeals into the kind of mature, humble and gracious confidence that Paul here describes as the full assurance of understanding. We know the power of the Gospel because we have experienced it. We know the truth of the scriptures because we have tried them and found them true. We know the grace of God because we experience that grace every day of our lives.
Such assurance, in turns, leads to still further understanding and, when speaking of church life it leads to full knowledge of God’s mystery – Christ – in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Paul has described the mystery earlier in terms of the unity between Jew and Gentile. Now he describes it as Christ himself. The reason for that is simple: Christ in known in the church as he can be known nowhere else. He is known as God’s mystery, because we experience Christ in each other as we reach out across the barriers that normally divide people and experience the transforming power of grace.
March 7, 2014
More from Colossians:
There was a good deal of logic behind the contentions of his fellow Jews as well as those of his fellow Christians who disagreed with him: the Old Testament, a distinctly Jewish book of religion, was the foundation of Paul’s Gospel. That Old Testament contained laws and Jewish tradition (tradition was a much revered term in those days. The older a tradition was, the more sacred it was likely to be) claimed to interpret the Law. How can one be faithful to Messiah without being faithful to the Law, and how can one be faithful to the Law without taking into account Jewish tradition?
But Paul could not and would not back down. He understood more clearly than some of his apostolic peers that grace spelled the end of the law for righteousness, as much as it spelled the destruction of the hoary division between Jews and Gentiles. They were one in sin, one in guilt, one in lostness and one in being the objects of grace apart from any consideration whatsoever but Christ’s work on the cross. To divide the church is to deny grace as the foundation of one’s standing before God; it is to lay a wholly different foundation. To divide the church was to deny the sufficiency of grace and therefor the sufficiency of the work of Christ. Such denials were never an option in Paul's mind, any more than they should be in ours.
That is what Paul suffered for more than anything else.
In these pains, Paul says, he rejoiced. He thrilled over them because he was suffering for the churches and for those men and women who belonged to the churches. In so doing he was filling up in his body what is lacking in the sufferings of the Christ for the sake of his body, which is the church. In other words, he was following in the footsteps of the Master, living out the Gospel by denying himself and taking up the cross daily. He was demonstrating that there is something for which it is worth sacrificing; that life was not a pleasure-cruise, and that God in Christ must come first. Putting God first meant putting the church in a very high place in the apostle’s order of priorities, far before comfort, security, health or even life itself.
He had become a servant of the church. God made him such (in accordance with the responsibility God has given me for you). That responsibility included the duty to accomplish the word of God. To live it out and to proclaim it far and wide, so that the people of God would be gathered out of every tongue, tribe and nation, united by the Gospel in living for him and realizing the wonders of his loving righteousness in the course of their shared daily lives.
The word of God to be accomplished is next described and, as we shall see, we have just described it: the mystery that had been hidden from the beginning of the ages and from generations [past], but has now been shown to his consecrated ones, to whom God wanted to make know what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations. [That mystery] is Christ in you, the hope for the glory. For clarity, let’s abbreviate this long sentence before we consider its’ particulars. The mystery formerly hidden and now revealed has to do with the riches of the glory … among the nations.
That little word, among, is a key. I greatly hesitate to go against the grain of common scholarly opinion, especially since I am not a shcolar myself. But it seems obvious to me that the common way this Greek word, en, is commonly translated is incorrect. Paul does not, at this stage, have individual Christians in mind – he will in a moment – but the church, Chrsitians as a collective. The you of this passage is “you Gentiles,” and the en is not Christ dwelling in the heart of each one, but dwelling in the church, among those (Gentiles) whom he was not expected to dwell. That is the mystery. That is what evokes the hope for the glory. If such a tremendous change has now become reality, then, surely, it must be the harbinger and the assurance of something much greater.
En means, as I have translated it here, among, in Matt. 2:6 (among the princes), for example, and in Matt 3:23, 11:11, Luke 1:1, 25, 2:44, John 7:12, 11:54, Rom. 1:2, 5, 6, 2:24, 11:17, Eph. 1:18, 3:8, 5:3, Phil. 2:15, Col. 1:6, 3:11 and many other places besides.
For still further clarity, let’s look for a moment at the parallel passage in Ephesians 3:4-6 (ESV): the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. The mystery which Paul served, for which he suffered and that loomed so large in the apostle’s mind was exactly that: the unity of the church on the grounds of grace as an indication of the sufficiency of Christ’s work and the finality of his accomplishments. God is to be gloried through his grace; a grace that unites Jews and Gentiles, slaves and freemen, men and women into one body; a grace that both demands of them to live together and equips them to that end.
No let’s turn to the particulars of the passage. This mystery, Paul tells the Colossians, had been hidden from the beginning of the ages and from generations [past]. Please note, this does not mean that the mystery was wholly unknown. It simply means that it was not as clearly known because not as clearly revealed as it has been revealed and therefore known since Messiah came. Grace was always the grounds of a relationship with God. Abraham did nothing to merit God’s call; any good he did was the fruit of that call. That is true of Moses and of the Judges, of Samuel and of David. Nowhere in scripture do we find a case in which God responded to man’s faith or faithfulness and therefore called him. Quite to the contrary; we find men, even after their call, failing yet forgiven and sustained.
What is more, we find that unity between all men under God is not a New Testament invention. Biblical history begins with the history of the world, not with the call of Abraham. God had the world in mind when he called Abraham (Gen 12:3) and throughout the course of the biblical narrative we met up with non-Israelites who love and serve the Lord. The Old Testament eschatological expectation is described in Mal. 1:11 as inclusive of the Gentiles: from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the LORD of hosts.
Israelite identity is not shown in the Old Testament to be the grounds of God’s good favor any more than in the New. The Gospel of grace is to be found in the Old Testament history and law. It is just not as clearly declared.
Instead, it was hidden. Paul does not attribute the hiddenness of the mystery to its nature, nor does he associate it with past generations hardness of heart, unworthiness or anything else that had to o with them. He certainly does not describe the mystery a some kind of response on God's part to reality (for example, Israel’s rejection of the Gospel). It existed from the beginning of the ages but, for reasons divine majesty has not chosen to disclose, it was hidden as a sovereign act by him whose prerogative it is to hide or to reveal it. Generations past, yet he chose not to reveal it.
But has now, in the coming of Christ and the consequent preaching and living of the Gospel by those faithful to him, has been shown to his consecrated ones. The revelation has not come to all, but it has come to all who are the Lord’s consecrated ones, and that included all the Colossian Christians (Col. 1:1). No elite within the church is the recipient of the revelation. In this way Paul challenges the preposterous claim made by the Colossian false teachers that there are among the redeemed some to whom more revelation is given than others.
God wanted to make known to all the consecrated ones what what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations. There are riches of grace and of glory to be found in living together in a church, riches to be experienced especially when those who would not naturally choose live together find a common bond, a common goal and a common affection one for another because of Jesus. Suddenly, differences between people pale into significant because Christ outshine them all. The wonder of his person, the beauty of his Gospel, the power of his presence, the reality of his grace surpass any racial, social, educational, political or doctrinal difference and Christ becomes all in all, which is what he ought to be in the church.
But there is more to it than that. What church life ought and can be in the here and now is but a mere whisper of a hint of the wonders of what will be, a deposit of the glory that is to come or, as Paul put it: the hope for the glory. That’s it! Church life, when properly conducted, putting Christ first and laying grace as the foundation, evokes and sustains an amazing, energizing, thrilling hope for the glory. Note the definite article. Paul does not speak of a hope for glory but of the specifically-directed hope for a very specific glory: the glory of being in Christ, the glory of Christ himself, the exaltation of God through grace for all generations: heaven accomplished and enjoyed!
All that is the product of what Paul describes as Christ among you. Among you as you conduct church, among you as you relate to one another, among you – Jews and Gentiles – united in one body. THAT is what church is all about.
March 6, 2014
March 2, 2014
Paul had a LARGE view of the church. He viewed the church as a harbinger of the future as God designed it to be, the “here and now” and the “already” of the “there and then,” the “not yet” but sure to be. The future has invaded the present, first in the person and work of Messiah (If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you, Matt. 12:28), and second in the life and witness of the church. History has been knocked off it sinful course and forced back into the course of God’s original design: all in Messiah, all subject to God in Messiah.
Of course, even that is not quite correct, but I’m sure you’ll get my point. Every detail of the history of the world is under the guiding hand of God. We’ve already made reference to God’s eternal purpose. Now we’re discussing the practical implications of that purpose’ content. Since God eternally intended to bring all under Messiah, even Satan’s apparent victories serve that purpose. Even what appears to be a deviation from God’s eternal purposes serves those purposes: God intended the world to be united in Messiah through the Gospel, on the grounds of grace. Grace is the means by which God has chosen to glorify himself. Grace is the ground of our salvation, the grounds on which the church was formed and the grounds on which we must conduct church life: to the praise of his glorious grace.
THAT is what makes church life so important, and THAT is what makes how we do church so important. Truly biblical church life focuses on God and his glory. That is the purpose for which the world was created. Because of that, we must be characterized, like the Colossians, by a love for all the consecrated ones. Race, culture, color, social standing, language, doctrinal preference – these and many other distinctions must not be allowed to divide the church. All who are consecrated by God for himself are our brothers and sisters, and we must actively love them by coming alongside them, living with them, serving and worshipping God together.
Is our love as bold and as inclusive? Do we really put God in Christ first as we formulate our choices, particularly with regard to church life? Do we seek to love or be loved, to honor God or be cuddled? Do we seek to give, to forbear, to forgive and encourage, or are we busy measuring churches but how much they give us? Does our church draw us closer to God or to ourselves? Is the preaching in our churches focused on glorifying God or meeting human expectations? These are fundamental questions we must ask ourselves in this selfish, me-first generation that has lost so much of the power of the Gospel because it has lost so much of God in its strivings and aspirations.
Please help promote my books by purchasing, recommending, giving out and reviewing them on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the various readers' blogs:
COME LET US REASON TOGETHER (A Friendly Critique of the Messianic Movement), P&R
MALACHI: A PROPHET IN TIMES OF DISTRESS (The Devotional Commentary Series), Crossbooks
JONAH: PROPHET ON THE RUN (The Devotional Commentary Series), Shepherd Press.
Income from sales helps to enable me to write more.
March 1, 2014
More from Colossians:
Paul tells the Colossians that, when they exert themselves to behave in a manner that is worthy of God and his Gospel, God will provide them with strengths in proportion to the power of his glory. That is quite a proportion!
Think of the biblical descriptions of God’s appearances. At Sinai the mountain shook, there were thunderings and lightenings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled (Ex. 19:16). Or remember Nahum’s description of the coming of the Lord, His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before his indignation?
Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him (Nahum 1:3-6). Read Ezekiel chapter one. That is the proportion of the power of his glory, and that is the proportion of the strength he provides to enable us to live to his glory.
This brings us to the next point. Notice what Paul now says: the power God provides has a goal: to endless endurance and fortitude with joy. It is not for the power to work miracles, change reality, free us from all hardships and transform life into an eternal garden of joys. That is yet to be. At the moment we are to live in this world as it is, and to behave in a way that is worthy of God in spite of our moral and spiritual environment, in spite of mocking glances and unkind responses. We are strengthened to endure these with a combination of fortitude and joy.
Endure, not escape, but endure with the kind of positive attitude to life, with the confident hope that the Gospel provides, so that our endurance is characterized by you rather than self-pity, bitterness or any other unworthy response. That is how the world is overcome. That is how the Gospel is preached through our lives. That is how we demonstrate the reality of a faith that believes that the present state of this world is about to change, that this world’s values are mistaken and that God and our fellow-humans are worthy of be loved and served sacrificially.
Paul then goes on to spell out the source of that joy: giving thanks to the Father, who made you fit for a portion in the inheritance of the consecrated ones in light. An inheritance awaits us. We were not fit for that inheritance, neither were we worthy. By grace, the Father has made us fit. He has changed our hearts and inclined them toward him. He has made his Holy Spirit to dwell within us, altered our priorities, taught us to delight deeply and sincerely in his law and given us a hope that overcomes the world. The inheritance of the consecrated ones is has been secured for us, an inheritance that is enjoyed in the light of his glorious presence.
Of this we receive a portion, a part. None of us have it all. It’s fullness can only be enjoyed in the presence of others, in fellowship with all the redeemed and consecrated ones.
Next Paul described how God made the Colossians, and all Christians, fit for such an inheritance: the Father rescued us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his love. We were under the authority of the darkness until the Father rescued us. As servants of the darkness, we could only do what the darkness commanded us to do, enjoying only those liberties the darkness allowed us. Nor could we save ourselves. But the Father could, and did. Not only so, but he has and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.
In Romans Paul describes the same situation under different terms. Due to the sin of Adam, we were made subject to sin. We were the servants of sin, obliged to do its bidding. Due to the righteousness of Christ – his perfect life on our behalf and his atoning death – and due to the resurrection of Christ, we are free from the guilt of Adam’s sin and therefore from its consequences. We are free from the law of sinning and dying. Christ has made us free, and he has done that so we can serve God in newness of spirit by fulfilling the righteousness of the law by way of our daily conduct. Sin has no authority over us. We are the children of God and, if children, then heirs and joint heirs with Christ.
The apostle hints at the imagery of his letter to the Romans when he says that, in Messiah, we have the redemption. Redemption speaks of the freeing of those once enslaved. Our chains are broken! Our hearts are free! We have redemption! We can live for God. We do not have to sin. We do not have to obey the lusts of our bodies. We can lead holy, godly, spiritually-minded lives, tend to the cultivation of our walk with God and grow in knowledge of him. We are longer under the authority of the darkness, we have been transferred. We have been brought into the kingdom of the Son of his love.
In a very real sense, the kingdom of God has come, and we have entered into it. There is a sense in which the kingdom is yet future. It’s fullest realization is yet to be. But what will be is founded on the basis of what has already come to be in Messiah. The future is in fundamental continuity with the present, just as eschatology is nothing less than salvation fully realized or, to say the same thing in another way, Christology in full bloom.
Explaining God's word is such a glorious, such a holy pleasure!! I thank God for the privilege of such "retirement."
February 28, 2014
From my commentary on Colossians, now being written:
The second reason why Paul gave God thanks as he prayed was that the Colossians had a love for all the consecrated ones. The important word here is the word all. Their love was inclusive. It referred to Jews and to Gentiles, to men and to women,to people from any social status. It was a love that did not distinguish, that realized that, in Messiah, there is no difference (Romans 3:22, 10:12, Gal. 2:6). Distinctions that were part of the woof and fabric of the Roman world, so very much part of the make-up of society, had no relevance in the church. Rodney Starks’s fascinating little book on the early church*1* demonstrates how the early Christians’ inclusive, practical love amazed and changed the Roman world.
This was a major issue in Paul’s mind because such inclusiveness denied the importance of distinctions and therefore implied grace, and grace implied the sufficiency of Christ’s achievement and his primacy in the church. As we shall see, these are themes that occupy a central place in this letter by Paul to the Colossians.
That faith and that love had a foundation, a solid source.They existed because of the hope stored for you in the heavens. Paul elaborated on this idea much more in his letter to the Ephesians: he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the one he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding he made known to us to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ according to his good pleasure which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ (1:4-10).
We’re studying Colossians, so we’ll focus on what Paul has to say in this letter but there is no doubt that what he said in his letter to the Ephesians makes his intention here all the clearer. The Colossian’s faith and love, particularly their love, had to do with their hope for the future, with what we now call eschatology: they loved all without distinction because of the hope stored for you in the heavens, which hope was the accomplishment of God’s purposes, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment. Those purposes are to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
Paul elaborates on that mystery later on in the chapter when he says that he suffers for the sake of his body, which is the church, in which that eternally intended unity is achieve, and 25 of which I have become a servant in accordance with the responsibility God has given me for you, to accomplish the word of God, the mystery that had been hidden from the beginning of the ages and from generations [past], but has now been shown to his consecrated ones, 27 to whom God wanted to make know what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations (compare Eph. 1:8-11, 2:11-3:6) [That mystery] is Messiah in you, , Jews and Gentiles, the hope for the glory, 28 whom we proclaim, warning every person and teaching every person with a full measure of wisdom, 29 so we can present every person mature in Messiah through the activity of him who is powerfully active in me. Paul’s repeated emphasis on every person parallels the Colossians love for all the consecrated ones.
Paul had a LARGE view of the church. He viewed the church as a harbinger of the future as God designed it to be, the “here and now” and the “already” of the “there and then,” the “not yet” but sure to be. The future has invaded the present, first in the person and work of Christ (“If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you,” Matt. 12:28), and second in the life and witness of the church. History has changed its course or, more correctly, has been knocked off it sinful course and forced back into the course of God’s original purpose: all in Christ, all subject to God in Christ.
Of course, even that is not quite correct, but I’m sure you’ll get my point. Every detail of the history of the world is under the guiding hand of God. We’ve already made reference to God’s eternal purpose and now we’re discussing the practical implications of its content. Since God eternally intended to bring all things together in Christ, even Satan’s apparent victories serve that purpose and what appears to be a deviation from God’s eternal purposes in fact serves those purposes: God intended the world to be united in Christ through the Gospel, on the grounds of grace. Grace is the means by which God has chosen to glorify himself. Grace is the ground of our salvation, the grounds on which the church was formed and the grounds on which we must conduct church life: to the praise of his glorious grace.
THAT is what makes church life so important, and that is what makes how we DO church so important. Truly biblical church life focuses on God and his glory, which is the purpose for which the world was created. We must be characterizes, like the Colossians, by a love for all the consecrated ones. Race, culture, color, social standing, language, doctrinal preference – these and many other distinctions must not be allowed to divide the church. All who are consecrated by God for himself are our brothers and sisters, and we must actively love them by coming alongside them and living while serving and worshipping God together.
Is our love as bold and as inclusive? Do we really put God in Christ first as we formulate our choices, particularly with regard to church life? Do we seek to love or be loved, to honor God or be cuddled? Do we seek to give, to forbear, to forgive and encourage, or are we busy measuring our church but how much it gives to us? Does our church draw us closer to God or to ourselves? These are fundamental questions we must ask ourselves in this selfish, me-first generation that has lost so much of the power of the Gospel because it has lost so much of God in its strivings and aspirations.
*1*The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries, Haper, San Francisco, 1997
February 28, 2014
"We are dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. Thus we see more things than they did and farther than they did, not because our sight is sharper or our height greater, but because they lift us into the sky and raise us up by means of their gigantic stature" (Bernard of Chartres)
February 25, 2014
"Jesus Christ is as important to eschatology is he is to every other part of the Gospel ... The fact that Christ himself is the last and the end means that God's creation goal is both revealed in him and attained by him ... If the Gospel is about him, so too is its message about the end. If he is the one around whom the whole New testament revolves, the he is the one, too, around whom God's plans for the world revolve. Indeed, the criteria for any book on eschatology should be: what place do the person and message of Christ have in it?
(From THE ECLIPSE OF CHRIST IN ESCHATOLOGY by Adrio Koning, Eerdmans/Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1989). This book is worth its weight in Gold. The fact that it has not been republished and is not widely know if a poor reflection on the church. I highly recommend this excellent book.
MaozViews - A Periodic View of Israel
Israel, Israel's agriculture is dependent on rain; it is not watered by the mechanical methods developed in ancient Egypt (Deut. 11:10-11). We do not have a mighty river like the Nile, from which water may be diverted to water the fields. The Jordan river is but a trickle compared to the rivers of Europe. Still, through Lake Galilee, it provides a large portion of our water and is itself dependent on rain and the amount of snow that falls on Mount Hermon. To this very day, much of our agriculture and of our drinking water is derived from the lake and from aquifers supplied by rain and snow -- and increasingly deplenished by modern over-use. The Lord has withheld both from us, and we remain in growing need.
At the same time, the needs of the Palestinians continue to grow as their population growth rate remains high and the standard of living in the West Bank rises. Israel supplies a good deal of the water needed for the West Bank and Gaza. It is an irony that Israel supplies Gaza with water, food and electricity, while Palestinians in Gaza utilize those resources to attack us.
Peace negotiations, overseen and driven by US Secretary of State's John Kerry's determination, seem to have drawn both sides to the conflict closer to an agreement -- close enough to raise prickles among those on both sides who oppose any form of compromise. Radicals on both sides demand "justice" of the most absolute kind. But such justice for one side is an horrendous injustice for the other. It remains to be seen whether the radicals will, again, hold sway, of if the more dormant majority will push through an agreement, should such be within reach.
The church in Israel continues to grow. Long reticent to define its doctrinal stance, it is being repeatedly forced to take a stand on doctrinal issues and thereby define itself over against false teachings that seek to take advantage of the confused situation. More and more discussions are taking place within and even between churches on issues of faith as well as practice. After all, one of the most distinctive characteristics of the Gospel is its insistence on the validity truth and of its authoritative claim to man's obedience.
The church in Israel is steadily maturing, while a young generation of extremely promising young men and women are beginning to make their mark on the church and to broaden the impact that the church has on Israeli society. There were days when we had no impact. Our churches are still largely not the kind of believing, worshipping and obedient societies whose God-oriented holiness and righteousness command respect. But a growing number of young people are becoming known for such a quality of life, and provoking the jealousy of their peers and compatriots. God is at work among us in spite of our weaknesses. His strength is made perfect through their, and his wisdom shines through our foolishness.
The knowledge that Jehovah, the God of all the earth, is determined to glorify himself, is a source of strength and of comfort.
Reviews or Baruch’s JONAH: A PROPHET ON THE RUN
in the Devotional Commentary series is available form Cross Focussed Reviews
Click http://crossfocusedreviews.com/ to see recent reviews: Following is one such:
“The Book of Jonah is far more than just a neat little Sunday School story about how a guy from long ago ran from God and found himself as a result in the belly of a large fish. While that is certainly an aspect of the story, what is demonstrated by Maoz in Prophet on the Run is how Jonah relates to the grander biblical drama and message. Jonah in part reflects the character traits of us all and Maoz aptly demonstrates how the Book of Jonah speaks to such issues in our own lives. Practical in tone and approach and replete with timeless biblical truths useful for scholar and laymen alike, this book will be helpful to anyone desiring to work their way through Jonah.”
Reviewer: Michael Boling (IntelMin.org)
Rating: 5 Stars
January 28, 2014
?Here’s the other problem with Facebook and Twitter and even The New York Times. When you expose yourself to those things, especially in the constant way that people do now—older people as well as younger people—you are continuously bombarding yourself with a stream of other people’s thoughts. You are marinating yourself in the conventional wisdom. In other people’s reality: for others, not for yourself. You are creating a cacophony in which it is impossible to hear your own voice, whether it’s yourself you’re thinking about or anything else. That’s what Emerson meant when he said that ?he who should inspire and lead his race must be defended from travelling with the souls of other men, from living, breathing, reading, and writing in the daily, time-worn yoke of their opinions? .? (From Solitude and Leadership by William Deresiewicz, A lecture delivered at West Point, dare unknown)
from the same source:
Introspection means talking to yourself, and one of the best ways of talking to yourself is by talking to another person. One other person you can trust, one other person to whom you can unfold your soul. One other person you feel safe enough with to allow you to acknowledge things—to acknowledge things to yourself—that you otherwise can’t. Doubts you aren’t supposed to have, questions you aren’t supposed to ask. Feelings or opinions that would get you laughed at by the group or reprimanded by the authorities.
This is what we call thinking out loud, discovering what you believe in the course of articulating it. But it takes just as much time and just as much patience as solitude in the strict sense. And our new electronic world has disrupted it just as violently. Instead of having one or two true friends that we can sit and talk to for three hours at a time, we have 968 “friends” that we never actually talk to; instead we just bounce one-line messages off them a hundred times a day. This is not friendship, this is distraction.
January 6, 2014
Another quote from Packer's REDISCOVERING HOLINESS, describing a painful truth:
"People who know they are called to live in love with their neighbor, doubly so when he or she is a fellow believer, make exceptions of those with whom they disagree. Seeing themselves as fighting the Lord’s battle for truth and wisdom, they display their dislike of untruth and unwisdom by personal attacks on those whose ideas seem to them untrue and unwise."
January 1, 2014
From J. I. Packer's Rediscovering Holiness: It has been truly said that the greatest social problem of the modern world is extreme emotional immaturity masquerading as an adult lifestyle. In God’s ordering of things, the human family is meant to function as a relational network in which the lesson of responsible love and life-strategy will be thoroughly learned. But with the weakening of family life almost everywhere this is not happening. Today’s world is full of people with adult bodies housing a juvenile, even infantile, emotional make-up—people, in other words, who just always want to be little boys or girls and to have fun.
The Whole Purpose of Life
God is so far above us, so radically different from us, that we cannot know him unless he reveals himself to us. All I know of God, I know from God's revelation of himself in his word, the Bible.
From the Bible I learn that God made us for himself. Life is, therefore, all about him: loving, obeying, enjoying and glorifying him. We humans strive to find happiness. We eat and sleep, court and love, create, invent, strive, clamor and fight but cannot find the happiness we seek. Why? Because we're self-centered. We try to satisfy our lust for life, thinking that wholeness and peace are the product of sel-fulfillment and self-enjoyment.
That is an illusion, a lie we tell ourselves.
We were made for God and cannot not find peace until we have peace with him. There is no happiness without holiness, and we are decidedly not holy. That is why we are not at peace with God.
Holiness is not a kind of other-worldliness. It is not achieved by dressing, eating or functioning differently. Holiness is a matter of the heart. It has to do with whether we sincerely love God, or don't. That is what determines our motives and the way we lead our lives. That is what sets our goals.
If we love God, we'll gladly be taken up with him, and then will find the way to peace. I love my wife. I think of her often and want to find new ways to please her. I love my children and am occupied with their happiness although they are now grown and have families of their own. If we love God, we'll be taken up with thinking about him and his wishes rather than the satisfaction of our needs and desires. That is when we become attune to the message of his amazingly wonderful grace.
That is what life is all about.
I trust in God and love him, no apologies offered. I trust and love him poorly, but sincerely. He rules over everything -- all that exists and all that occurs -- with infinite wisdom and grace. If he did not exist, there would be nothing. If he did not rule, all would collapse into nothingness.
The Bible tells us that God made the world with all of its physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual aspects. It exists for him. He is the cause, the logic, the goal and the beauty of it all.
I do not claim to understand how some aspects of reality (brutality, for example, or selfishness) ultimately serve God's purpose or portray his beauty. But I know God enough to trust him, and trust him enough to be assured that he will some how, some day, work all of this out.
The Bible further tells us that there is only one God, and that his oneness is a mystery, the kind of mystery we would expect of him. The one God is greater than one as we know it; he is One who is Three, Three who are One, each of the three being equal in glory and in everything that characterizes godhood, yet distinct from the others; known from the scriptures as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are indivisible, inseparable and yet distinguishable, Three who are eternally One.
I do not understand; I adore. Don't ask me to explain it. I don't know how to bake a cake, let alone presume to approach eternal majesty. But I believe it, without reserve, because that is what I learn from God's word about himself.
I also learn from the Bible that man was made by God and for God, to love, obey, enjoy and serve him forever. Man's happiness is wrapped up in his living for God, who is the purpose of life. Nothing else comes near to maximizing the potentialities God has implanted in man when he created man in his own image. Wholeness, holiness, happiness -- these each have to do with serving God lovingly, consistently and with sincere devotion.
That is why man feels miserable when he acts contrary to his nature by living for himself. Refusing to love, obey, enjoy and serve God, man not only rebels against his Maker (a terrible thing to do!), but works against his own highest good.
God created Adam, the first man and the head of all humanity, good. That goodness, like everything else about man, was mutable: man could lose his goodness just like we lose our keys, our eye sight or our appetite. Only God is immutable. It is in the nature of man to be mutable.
God gave man the possibility and the tendency to love, obey, enjoy and glorify his Maker. Such a possibility, to be real, implies the possibility to choose otherwise. In that sense, Adam was free to choose love and enjoy God, or not to do so. The possibility of choice was expressed by the presence of a forbidden tree, placed in the centre of the Garden, exposed to Adam's frequent sight, calling to his attention: "remember: you are called to love, obey, enjoy and serve God. That is your true joy and happiness." God laid down the law and man's joy was to be found in obeying it.
The choice God gave Adam was a real one. It was not used wisely. Adam aspired to be more than just human. He wanted to be the one to define good and evil, apart from God's command. Rebellion promised him all that, so he reached out, took of the fruit and ate – only to discover that rebellion's grand promises were written on ice.
Instead of rising, man fell. Instead of becoming independent of God he became subject to the grossest animal needs. Instead of becoming wise he became a fool. Instead of joy and happiness he experienced alienation from God, his wife and the world in which he lived. Reality became a conflict that leads to death. Man's rebellion became his prison and his condemnation; and that for all mankind, which he represented.
Since then, as expression of the spiritual and moral unity of all mankind in relation to God, all humans are engaged in the same course of rebellion, its consequent misery and its just and painful punishment.
Man's rebellious foolishness cannot change God, who is as kind as he is holy, as loving as he is just. He made the world to be glorified through it, and he will be glorified in the world, come what may! He made man to be glorified in man. Nothing can deflect the majestic Maker from his purposes, or put the slightest dent to them. Even man's rebellion will glorify God.
So God gave man his law. He called a people into existence and, through them and their history, he revealed himself afresh to man. He also gave man, through Israel, a hope that culminated in the coming of an anointed one (a Messiah), through whom God would save man from himself and from his rebellion. Then, as a climax of what he did for and through the nation, God the Father sent the Son to accomplish his eternal purposes and to undo the damage created by man's rebellion. For that purpose, out of the mass of mankind, God chose those whom he would free from that rebellion.
God entered into covenant with Israel. He brought the nation of Israel into being with the express intention of entering into covenant with it, and using the nation to bring a holy happiness to the world. Israel is not the end all and be all of human history, or of the purposes of God; it is a means to an end.
Hope, Frustration and a Prayer
Carl Paul Caspari – A Jewish Follower of Christ
A Periodic View of Israel
Reinventing the Wheel
Ministry and Family News
To read our most recent issue, or any backissues, please click on the link below this box
Baruch and Bracha are engaged in their 2013 tour of the US, in the course of which they expect to be driving through Oregon, Montana, North or South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisianna, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Washington State.
Baruch is available for ministry in most of these states, He is prepared to preach, report on the scene in Israel, or offer an expository seminar on a biblical book. If your church is interested, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Al-Queda inspired Presence is Growing in Gaza, says Jihad Leader
He Would Have Shot Me Too!
The elite Iranian force behind Arms Transfers
A Disturbing Trend:
Israeli officer proposes to girlfriend at Florida gala:
Israel's Technion ranked one of the 100 top Universities - Hebrew U. not far behind:
In seizing Gaza-bound missiles, Israel prevented a game-changer:
Secular Judaism is still Heart of Zionism
Israeli Start-up Seeks to End Computer Viruses
Syrian Father Begs Israel to save his son: He's all I have left.
Ramallah Becoming Technical Hub for Arab World
Iran Claims Successful Ballistic Missile Test
Iran develops long-range ballistic missiles but insists it has no nuclear weapons program --
to what end, then, are the missiles intended?
There is a much cheaper way to deliver messages of peace...
Troubles in the Global Jihad Movement
Arab World: The Twilight of the Brotherhood
Iran develops long-range ballistic missiles but insists it has no nuclear weapons program -- to what end, then, are the missiles intended? There is a much cheaper way to deliver messages of peace...
Israeli start-up helps elderly walk without fear of falling
Assad said to be hoarding WMD's
A Closer Look at the IDF's Field Hospital for Syrian Victims
I have deep respect and love for Baruch Maoz, and the work that he is carrying on in Israel, despite obstacles and opposition. He has been a dear friend for many years. I’ll never forget doing a conference for him in Israel several years ago. I pray that God may use his sound theology, helpful preaching, excellent books, and numerous gifts for the conversion and spiritual maturation of thousands of Israelis and for the abundant glory of God. Rev. Joel R. Beeke, Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation, Author
Baruch Maoz has been a minister of the gospel, author, publisher, and voice for believers in the land of Israel for four decades. I have seen firsthand the fruit of his ministry and I cannot recommend it too highly. Baruch’s preaching, teaching, and writing ministry should be supported by all who care about the gospel and its impact in Israel and beyond! Pastor Jerry Marcellino, Audubon Drive Bible Church, Federation of reformed Evangelicals – Laurel, Mississippi
Knowing and embracing our Lord’s clear directive to bring the Gospel to the “Jew first” I, along with BPC have been extraordinarily blessed to work in partnership with the effective biblical and faithful ministry of Baruch Maoz. His ministry of evangelism, discipleship, along with his strategic and insightful writing/translation projects, only enhance my opportunity to recommend him and his ministry. Rev. Harry Reeder, Senior Pastor, Briarwood Presbyterian Church (PCA), Birmingham AL
Tom Ascol of the Founders Movement writes: "Baruch and Bracha Maoz serve in the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Baruch has served as a pastor, publisher, author and church reformer in his homeland of Israel. He has ministered several times with our Grace Baptist Church family in Cape Coral and our people have come to love Bracha and him dearly. I highly recommend his and his ministry to any church that values expositional preaching and the gospel of God's grace." Dr. Thomas Ascol, Grace Baptist Church (SBC), Founders Movement, Cape Coral FL
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