Don’t “Pass Over” Passover.

Read I Corinthians 5:6-8

Stan presiding over a Seder in Old City Jerusalem

Are you aware that our communion or Lord’s supper comes right out of the Jewish Passover?  If so, you’re ahead of the game.  If not, I hope this brief insight helps.

I’m about to enter my 34th year of presenting “Behold the Lamb” Messianic Passover presentations.  I’ve done these in churches, small groups, on the radio, etc.  The message of Passover is simple – Christ died for us, was buried and rose again!  (I Corinthians 15)

The Jewish Passover (as described in Exodus 12) has numerous elements in the celebration that have phenomenal spiritual parallels to Jesus as our Passover lamb.  In fact, it is amazing to think that as Jesus was celebrating His last supper He was actually observing the Jewish Passover with His disciples.  Many of the Passover truths being discussed as fulfilled in Jewish history find their greater fulfillment in Jesus.

Digging in to the fertile soil of the ancient land and writings.

In the middle of the ceremonial meal, the father who is presiding over the evening takes a piece of bread (called Matzah, unleavened bread) and the third of four cups drunk during the evening.  He passes out a piece of the Matzah to each of the family members as a way to describe that each must taste of this unleavened bread in order to enter into what it means to break away from the old life and enter the new life.  Next, he shares this third cup with each of his family members so that each can taste of this cup, the Cup of Redemption.

It was at this point that Jesus instituted what we now call the Lord’s supper.  He was portraying to His disciples that He was, in fact, the true Unleavened Bread of Life (John 6) and He, through His shed blood as symbolized in this cup, was providing redemption for all mankind.  Thus, Jesus changed forever the Jewish Passover.  Whenever you and I take of this bread and cup we are reminding ourselves of Jesus’ broken body on the cross and His shed blood for forgiveness of sins.

Applying these truths to your life right now: 

  • Read Exodus 12 and related passages to be reminded of the depth and breadth of this wonderful redemption story.
  • Recognize that it’s one thing to read about redemption through the Passover.  It’s another thing to actually experience it.  Have you tasted the forgiveness of sins Jesus provided through His death on the cross?
  • Do you have friends who are searching for truth?  Consider inviting them to a Messianic Passover presentation.  You might also take the knowledge you have and help them understand who Jesus is and how He wants to set them free from their sins through His forgiveness.
  • A helpful tool in the sharing of this wonderful message is my booklet “Behold the Lamb Messianic Passover Haggadah”.  Click on my booklet link on this site for order information.

To “pass over” these truths is to “pass over” the greatest decision this side of heaven.

Jesus Wants to ROCK Our World!

Read Mt. 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8

We had just finished a phenomenal moment near the Church of the Beatitudes (near the Sea of Galilee), the traditional site where Jesus gave the famous Sermon on the Mount.   A member of our tour group, a believer who is a well known soap opera star (you read it right!) gave a dramatic monologue of the sermon on the mount.  He captivated our hearts with his presentation.  (He has memorized, by the way, major portions of the Gospels and has created wonderful, dramatic monologues).

Digging around the fertile soil of the ancient land and writings.

Immediately following this momentous experience, we were asked to take a silent, meditative walk toward the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  We commenced walking.  I marveled at the beauty of the surroundings.  I observed so many places and objects that Jesus probably used as part of His object lessons in His parables – lilies of the field, stony ground, sparrows chirping.  The words of that Sermon rolled through my mind over and over again.

We all ended up at a place with a big rock and wondered why we stopped there.  Our tour guide explained that we were standing at the “traditional” site where it is believed Jesus gave the Great Commission.  Recognizing that many of these traditional sites may not be the actual place for a particular parable or event, nonetheless, the moment struck deep in my heart.

We just finished pondering the practical truths of the Sermon on the Mount, observed God’s beauty expressed in nature in that part of Israel and, whammo, we come to the rock that commemorates the Great Commission.  How profound and how appropriate!

We all felt a sense of a Holy hush, where God was speaking to us and saying, “Yes, you who hunger and thirst and are poor in spirit and meek – it is YOU that I want to use to spread my love, my truth, my gospel to the ends of the earth”.  It was like we were being recommitted to the Great Commission by God in that very spot.

(This is not the exact stone but a very close replica to the Great Commission stone.)

How can this apply to your situation today?

  • Revisit the words of the Great Commission in Mt. 28 and Acts 1.
  • Recognize that you don’t have to “arrive” at some level of spirituality to be used by God to spread His Word.
  • Recommit today to being available to God to simply speak in His name, in His love and with His truth.
  • Rejoice as you watch God use you perhaps in a deeper way than He has ever used you before.

Sometimes, the Great Commission is our great omission!

Living Crossroads

Read Matthew 4:13-16

  (The very beautiful gateway to the city of Capernaum)

One of my favorite cities to visit while hosting Israel trips is the city of Capernaum or in Hebrew Kfar-Nahum.  Capernaum is on the northwestern side of the Sea of Galilee and was famous in its day.

Digging in the fertile soil of the ancient land and writings .

Capernaum was the major center of trade and commerce in Galilee. The international trade route from Egypt through Palestine to Syria and Mesopotamia passed near Capernaum. Located only three miles west of the eastern border of Galilee at the Jordan River, the town became a port of entry and customs checkpoint. A collector of customs from passing caravans, Matthew would also collect fees for fish caught in the lake, levied by Herod Antipas who, in effect, owned the lake.

Roman military personnel were stationed at Capernaum under the command of a centurion. Recent excavations indicate that a military garrison was quartered east of the town. These mercenary troops enjoyed a complete bath installation and other excellent facilities. This would have been the residence of the centurion who built the synagogue in which Jesus taught (Matt 8:1-13; Luke 7:1-10). This garrison served Herod Antipas, the governor of Galilee, under Roman rule.

Capernaum became Jesus’ “headquarters” for almost 2 years of his ministry.  He recognized that the placement of the city was key.  Capernaum sat on the Via Maris “the way of the sea”.  This was the most strategic route that connected Asia and Africa through the ancient land of Israel.  Everyone had to pass through or by this city.

Jesus knew that this was a key crossroads of culture.  Capernaum becomes an example to us of how we are to be a “Living Crossroads” in our culture.

A crossroads was a place of influence, power, impact, a place to stop along the journey for refuge and refreshment, a point of reference, a strategic junction of trade.

How do these crossroads truths apply to my situation today?

  • Have you recognized that God has placed you in this world to be a strategic spiritual crossroads for others?
  • What are some hindrances that are keeping you from being the effective crossroads God wants you to be?
  • Who has God placed in your life today to which you are to be a “living crossroads” for them?
  • What are some ways you can be an intentional “living crossroads” in your community in the days ahead?

Crossroads means someone has to cross your road.

 

“That I Might Save Some”

Read I Corinthians 9:19-23

Carob Pod and Seeds

The apostle Paul took seriously the charge to reach his culture any way that he could.  As I Corinthians 9 describes – he became all things to all people.  Here was the goal – “that I might, by all means, SAVE SOME”.  He recognized that he couldn’t save everyone, that was Jesus’ job.  But Paul could do his part in “saving some”.

Regarding the “Save Some” concept, my mind darts back to 1997 and our first Israel trip.   (We’ve been on a number of others since then as hosts).  We were soaking up the sights, sounds, smells, historical insights and faith lessons of the ancient Middle East.  What an experience.

During a certain part of the tour, we found ourselves in modern Jerusalem standing in front of Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum.   Our wonderful tour guide started to weave the story about what is called, “The Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations”.

Our guide went on to explain the concept.  Lining both sides of the walk way are Carob trees, planted in honor of those Gentiles who did what they could to save Jews during the horrific holocaust period.  It was truly fascinating to see the plaques at the bottom of each tree.  Wow, there was one dedicated to Oscar Schindler and even one dedicated to Corrie Ten Boom!

Our guide answered the question that was on everyone’s mind – why  were Carob trees planted as symbols of the efforts of Righteous Gentiles?

Digging into the fertile soil of the ancient land and writings:

Carob seeds, in ancient days, were used by those who would weigh the preciousness of gems.  In other words, a gem might be described as “24 Carob gold”.  Sound familiar?  It should.  Over the centuries, carob got changed (perhaps through mispronunciation) to the word “carat”, which is what jewelers and gem cutters use now.

He finished his story by describing that the Jewish people planted these Carob trees in honor of the Righteous Gentiles because of how unbelievably precious (like gems) their efforts were to save Jews.

They recognized the risks, the sacrifices, the danger of protecting Jews during that time and they wanted to plant a memorial to those precious Righteous Gentiles that would be a reminder of their victories in the midst of troubling times.

How does this apply to your situtation today?

  • Are you willing to do whatever it takes to reach people with the Good News?
  • Are you going to allow some momentary setbacks to defeat you and knock you out of the running?
  • Are you being intentional about praying for those who need to hear?
  • Keep in mind that Jesus is the Savior of the world, not you or me.
  • All He is asking of you is to do your part in “saving some”.

My some and your some are a wonderful sum!

Who’s Impacting Who?

Read Acts 10:1-2

Hippodrome at Caesarea

I’ve never been to Las Vegas, NV – the Gaming Capital of the World – except to have a short lay over at the airport on the way to California.  However, I’ve been to another Las Vegas type place, a place that you probably would never think of.

Okay, Stan, you’re talking about Atlantic City or Rio or Monte Carlo or St. Louis right?  Nope.  I’m talking about the Las Vegas of Israel.  Uh what?  There was a Las Vegas in Israel.  Well, not exactly but pretty similar.

The place? Caesarea.  Yes, the place that formed the backdrop of last week’s blog about a Jew and an Italian.  Let’s do like TV shows or movies often do when a tragic or explosive scene is taking place and all of a sudden on the screen it says, “Thirteen hours earlier”.  CSI NY just did this the other night.

Digging around the rich soil of the ancient writings and land.

Caesarea was THE place.  Caesarea served as the Roman capital of Israel.  Pilate was there.  Herod built a palace there.  But, further than that, it was the key entry point for the Roman Soldiers as they came for their temporary duty assignment to Israel in the first century.  Yup, thousands of troops came there on TDY!

Herod built all kinds of things to entertain the troops, things like a hippodrome where chariot races, etc. took place.  He also built a number of other establishments that will go unnamed in this blog post but you can imagine.

The place was a “sin magnet”.  Even devout Jews who lived in the area tended to settle north of town to be just far enough away from the sin but close enough to the necessary activities of the day like commerce, going to the market, etc.

I find it fascinating that in the midst of this sin and rampantly ill behavior, we find one named Cornelius who was “a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, a devout man, and one who feared God with all his household and gave alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.”

Yikes!  Can you imagine such a testimony?  One who lived in the midst of the sin magnet and yet maintained a God-focused perspective!!

According to Roman history, Centurions were military men who formed groups of 100.  They were men who rose up in the ranks and were recognized for their bravery and leadership abilities.  Cornelius was a highly ranked Centurion of the Italian cohort.

However God did it, Cornelius’ heart was soft and prepared for Peter’s message about the gospel.  That’s why he and his family were ready to respond so quickly to Peter’s proclamation in Acts 10.

So, how can these truths apply to our lives today?

  • God has called many of us into the “thick” of the marketplace, whether it’s on Wall Street, Main Street, Bourbon Street, Christian bands going into mainstream venues, folks reaching into urban areas.  How are we maintaining our testimony in the midst of “sin magnets”?
  • Is the culture impacting us more than we are impacting the culture?
  • Like Cornelius, are our hearts fertile soil for God’s leadership in our lives?
  • Finally, like Peter, are your spiritual antennae up as you live in the “thick” of the marketplace, daily asking God how you should live and who He wants you to impact today?

Remember – light dispels the dark but too much darkness can overtake the light!

“A Jew and an Italian…A Connection Only God Can Make!”

(Want to know more about Stan?  Log on to www.stankellner.com)

Read Acts 10

 

Ancient Ruins at Caesarea

I grew up near Boston and enjoyed the ethnic communities with all the different lifestyles, foods, traditions, etc.  I’m a Jew and I went to school with many Italians.  For the most part, we all got along very well.

Digging in to the fertile soil of the ancient land and writings:

Not so much, the history of Jews and Gentiles.  In fact, if one was to do historical research, they would find a rift as deep as the Grand Canyon that separated Jews and Gentiles by the time the first century rolled around.

I won’t explain it all here but suffice to say – when a Jew saw a Gentile coming they would literally cross the street to avoid this “lower than life” species.  Even on the Temple Mount there was a wall that separated the Jewish and Gentile worshippers.

Along comes Peter (a Jew) and Cornelius (an Italian).  The story – a military man on temporary duty assignment from Rome to Caesarea, a town just north of modern day Netanya on the coast.  He is a God-fearing man who receives a vision that someone is going to come and tell him “the rest of the story” (as Paul Harvey would say).

Next member of the cast, a good Jewish boy named Peter, living near what is now modern day Greater Tel Aviv.  He, too, receives a vision but his was just a bit different.  He sees a sheet come down from the sky with VERY unkosher animals and the Voice says, “Peter, kill and eat.  What I have made clean is clean”. 

I can hear it now, like a Seinfeld episode.  “Jerry, we’re supposed to eat unkosher stuff?  Oy Vey!  I’d sooner lose my job at Yankee Stadium then to eat unkosher!” Well, you can let your imagination run wild regarding Peter’s reaction.

Whatever the case, Peter is obedient, goes to Caesarea and prepares to speak to Cornelius and his household (apparently quite a large crowd).  So, here’s Peter, a gifted Jewish communicator, preaching from his kishkes and before he comes to the punchline, Cornelius says, “Okay, we believe.  Let’s get baptized”. 

I can picture Peter – “Wait, Cornelius, I’m not done yet.  I still have some good stuff.  How can you be convinced already?

God did a marvelous work whereby He fulfilled Cornelius’ spiritual journey by using Peter.  How unexpected but how awesome for God to show up in such a spectacular way.

Here are a few relevant truths to apply to your life:

  • Don’t assume who God wants to use to reach someone.  It could be YOU!
  • Don’t assume who God wants you to reach. It could be your most distasteful co-worker or neighbor!
  • Don’t assume what God will use to reach them.  A Jew who just broke his kosher “fast”!
  • Don’t just sit on your “tuchus” (Yiddish for your back end) when they say “I believe”.  Get em baptized, baby!

Surrender to God – the Ultimate Networker!

Front Porch of Culture

(Want to know more about Stan?  Go to www.stankellner.com)

Read Acts 5:12-14

Solomon’s Colannade or Porch 

For the most part, the concept of a front porch has become obsolete in our culture.  You can certainly still find them in some of the older cities in the U.S.  But as I’ve traveled nationally I noticed that most newer home developments are devoid of front porches.

I grew up in an older part of the U.S. where front porches abounded.  Memories of warm summer nights, slapping our arms because of mosquitos, someone plucking on a guitar, sipping lemonade and, of course, hearing the latest neighborhood juicy gossip. 

Front porches were warm, inviting, a place of gathering, a safe place, a location that provided a sense of community. 

Let’s dig around the fertile soil of the Old Testament:

Biblical history tells us of an important porch in culture in the days of the Old and New Testaments.  The place?  Solomon’s porch.  As pictured above, it is a specific location on the Temple Mount where “all the believers used to meet together”.

Originally, it was built as a place of judgment.  No doubt it was the gathering place for the Sadducees and Phariesees who would dole out their usual harsh opinions and judgments.

Interestingly, we find that Jesus spent time there (John 10:22-24) revealing truth about Himself to those who were serious inquirers rather than doling out harsh opinions.

By the time the New Testament was written, it was a key place that the followers of Jesus gathered to have fellowship, enjoy a sense of community, a unique working of God in their midst and, by nature of their unity, they were impacting their culture.  Notice it says in Acts 5:14 “more and more people believed…”

So, how do these insights apply to your situation?

On a personal level:

  • Is your life “inviting” to those without Jesus?  In other words, are they attracted to Him because of your warm, winsome witness or do they view you as an obnoxious, holy man or woman?
  • Do you invite God-led, healthy discussions with those around you? (Check out I Peter 3:15)

On a corporate level:

  • Think about your small group, your church, ministry or whatever other community you might be in as a believer.  Do those without Jesus see a reason to inquire about God’s impact in your life?
  • Does your group function as a “holy huddle” or are you willing to invite the world into your group so that they can see Jesus modeled up close and personal.

Do we reflect the image of an inviting “Front Porch” or a “No Trespassing Sign”?

 

Starbuck’s of the New Testament

(Want to know more about Stan?  Log on to www.stankellner.com)

Read Acts 17:16-34

 The Areopagus (Mars Hill) in Athens, Greece

I’m fascinated by culture-observers (for the most part).  Some culture-observers irritate me, however, because they seem to focus only on outward circumstances, the surfacy points of reference – the latest fashion, phone, trend of this, that or the other.

Digging around the fertile soil of the ancient land and writings:

I was captivated some time ago by a culture-observer named Paul.  You may know him better as the Apostle Paul.  Yeah, the guy in the Bible who “went toward the light” and got knocked on his kiester (and that was a good thing!).

During his journeys he was dropped off for a short season in Athens, Greece.  Been there lately?  Beautiful city not far from the Mediterranean, favorite tourist haunt, birthplace of the Olympics.  You know the place.

Paul was greatly distressed in his spirit as he did a walkabout.  It was recorded that he “observed” Athens with all of its idols, shrines and even a statue to An Unknown God.  This word “observe” could also be translated – examine, look closely, study.  Paul quickly became a student of the Athenian culture and all of its trappings, subtleties and nuances.  His heart became broken for them.

Next thing he knew, he found himself at the Areopagus.  What in the world is an Areopagus?  Sounds like an extinct dinosaur.  Nope.  Let’s let the Bible describe what it was – “Now all the Athenians and strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21).  Humph?  Sound familiar?

Paul used his observations as “springboards” of discussion and tied together many God-thoughts and insights, delivering them to the culture influencers.  He wanted to be a messenger of hope. Notice that some believed, some mocked and some said they wanted to talk further. 

Places of cultural influence.  That is how I’d describe many of our local Starbuck’s, Seattle’s Best or Caribou or whatever your local expression of a coffee shop would be.  Next time you’re at your local coffee shop, look closely and observe the types of conversation and communication taking place.

My point?  These meeting places, similar to the Areopagus, have become some of our key points of influence in culture today.

 Application to your situation in life?

  • Take time to slow down and observe your surroundings.
  • Take time to see the people and their hearts, not just a sea of faces.
  • Allow God to move your heart in the way His heart is moved for our world!
  • Be intentional about intersecting at key points in your culture.
  • Ask God to give you some “springboard” ideas with which to initiate a discussion that could lead to spiritual things.
  • Bathe every day in prayer and ask God to help you be sensitive so as to be a life-giver to those who need to know The Way, The Truth and The Life. (John 14:6)

The culture needs to know and see the “grounds” of our faith!

“Staying in Step…”

(More info. about Stan? Go to www.stankellner.com)

Read Psalm 37, esp. vs. 23

I can’t say that I always appreciated my Jewish upbringing.  But, ever since I became a follower of Jesus understanding the Hebraic backdrop of Scripture has been monumental in my life.  Not only did Jesus use practical object lessons in nature, etc. but He also spoke of things in context of the Old Testament backdrop so that listeners would get it.

Let’s dig around the fertile soil of the Old Testament:

If you ever have an opportunity while in Israel to tour the Old City, make sure you get to the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount.  It actually is one of the rare locations where we can say literally that Jesus walked there.  While a good portion of First Century Jerusalem is well underground, such is not the case with the Southern Steps.  They’ve been wonderfully preserved since the First Century.

On one of our trips to Israel we had been taking a break from some excellent but intense teaching regarding Jesus’ ministry around the Temple area when our tour guide through in a nugget for free!

He asked us to notice that the steps leading up to the wall at the Southern Steps were actually irregular in structure.  Most of us are used to steps that are all the same length, height and width. Not so, these steps.  He pointed out from Jewish culture that some are a wider steps than others.  Some are thinner than others.

What was the point?  The steps were constructed in such a way that as worshipper ascended to the Temple Mount they would have to pay attention to where they were stepping.  There are fifteen wide steps out of the total and some suggest that they may have been one of the locations where pilgrims sang the fifteen Psalms of Ascent (120-34) as they went up to worship.

Each step would keep them in the rhythm of the Psalm.  This process would literally force them to keep their focus on the lyrics of the psalms and thus, stay in step with God’s truth.

So, how does this apply to your situation right now?

  • The main reason worshippers could simultaneously walk the steps and sing the Psalms is because they had committed them to memory.  The lyrics became part of their life.  How are we doing with meditating on the Word and even memorizing it?  Is the Word becoming part of our life?  (I’m asking myself the same question.  Boy, am I on the hotseat.)
  • God has a perfect rhythm for our life.  He doesn’t want us to get ahead, yet He doesn’t want us to lag behind – He wants us to keep in step with Him.
  • Dare I say that this rhythm is different for each person?  Maybe this is where we get the idea, “That person is marching to the beat of a different drummer”.  That’s not always bad.  In fact, it could be very liberating to discover your own rhythm with God and not worry what someone else’s rhythm is like.

As you trust Him, stay in step with God’s plan for YOU!

A Pressing Engagement

(For more information about Stan, go to www.stankellner.com.)

(Read Matt. 26:36-44)

 

I was totally awe-struck the first time I entered the beautiful garden area.  A cool breeze was blowing through the olive trees, which in some cases, are 1000-1500 years old.  A holy silence ran through the area.  I found it hard to believe that this place, The Garden of Gethsemane, was the place where Jesus felt more fully the weight of the world on His shoulders.

I so often forget the details of the account.  Not once, not twice but three times Jesus pleaded with the Father about letting the cup pass from Him.  The cup referred to is what we now call the Cup of Wrath. 

How could a place of such peace at one time in history function as the place of the most anguish one man will ever feel in the history of the world? 

How striking that Jesus would come to this place of all places.  You see, Gethsemane literally translated means, “a place for pressing oils”.  Now, what in the world would an oil press have to do with what our Messiah, Jesus, went through on that most horrific night?

Talk about truth from the rich, fertile soil of the Old Testament

Olive trees, olives, olive oil – these all form the backbone of life in Ancient Israel.  From the Olive trees are derived food, oil for lamps, wood for building, anointing of kings.  The list goes on.  A pretty important commodity in Israel.

What’s fascinating is the process from which the oil is derived.  Bunches of olives are place in a circular, carved out stone.  A very heavy circular stone is placed on top of the olives and this stone is pushed around the main stone vat by a donkey.  Round and round the crushing goes. 

Just when you think you are finished, the donkey goes around again, and perhaps, again and again.  The goal was to literally squeeze every last drop out of the olives, since they were in such high demand.  (Maxwell House coffee has nothing on this!)

Each time Jesus goes to the Father to pray, it’s like that much more is being pressed out of Jesus.  He was pouring out His soul on behalf of mankind.  He goes back the second time and that much more is squeezed out.  He goes back for yet a third time and “every last drop” is squeezed out of Jesus before He is arrested.

I can’t begin to imagine the anguish as Jesus was literally submitting Himself to the Oil Press of Sin and Judgment.  He had the cross to go yet. But I believe this was the point in the process where Jesus was literally emptied out so that He could more fully take on the role of substitute, sin-bearer, the Lamb led to slaughter.

Are you facing your own “pressing engagement”?  Are you finding yourself in a situation where it feels like your very life is being squeezed out of you?  Perhaps you are finding yourself at your own Garden of Gethsemane experience.

How can we apply this to our situation right now?

  • Thankfully, God is a big God and He can handle any and every question we throw His way.  He loves us and wants us to be honest with Him.
  • He knows that the more He empties me of myself, the more He can fill my life.  Reminds me of John the Baptist’s quote – “I must decrease…He must increase”.
  • What ever, and I mean, what ever you and I face in life, we must remind ourselves that Jesus is our High Priest who can sympathize with every pain we face.  He’s been there!

While God is pressing on us, He is also impressing in us!