Monthly Archives: November 2013

Infant baptism; should we have them?

I think that to be able to respond to this question sincerely, one’s denominational affiliation and understanding of baptism have to be considered. But I must start off by saying that the Bible does not in anywhere prohibit infant baptism or stipulate that only adults ought to be baptized. If Baptism is just the outward sign of belief in Christ Jesus as Lord and savior, then infants baptism will not be a possibility since infants on their own cannot profess faith or belief in Christ. However, if baptism represents our union with Jesus in His death, burial and resurrections, then Jesus’ death is for both the infants and adult. If baptism is symbolic of our birth into God’s family, forgiveness of sins, and our new life in the Holy Spirit, that comes through faith in Jesus Christ, then infants ought not to be baptized, because they cannot profess faith in Christ.
    One will argue that with reference to adult baptism, baptism would follow faith or belief in Christ. However, if one views baptism as that which emanates from the ancient Jewish tradition of circumcision, then infants ought to be included in the external expression of faith, since the baptism of an infant is his or her entry point into the covenant community of the family of God’s people-the church. For the denomination that practices infant baptism, the only one reason why infants are baptized is that the parents of the child has accepted the Lordship of Jesus Christ as head of their household. By the virtue of their acceptance of the Lordship of Jesus, such families have now entered into a new covenant relationship with God into which their children will now inhabit until they become of age to make a recommitment of their lives to Christ by way of confirmation of the baptism that was administered to them in their infant years.
    Baptism does not cleanse sin. It does not assure salvation either. It is just part of belonging or identifying with the family of God’s people. Ishmael was circumcised, yet it was not through him that the Child of promise came. Ishmael and his offspring can only be part of the promise by their faith in Christ and not by the virtue of  their circumcision.
    There are no overt mention of infant baptism in the NT, but there is a possibility of children being included in the baptized household referenced in Acts 16:15, 33; 18:8; and 1Corinthinas 1:16. To buttress the point that infants ought to be baptized, one has to consider such passages as 1Cor 7:14; and Mk 10:13-16. As a minister in the Anglican tradition, I am arguing that infants ought to be baptized at the behest of their parents, if the parents are born again believers and Church members in good standing.
What do you think? I need responses. Hundreds of people do view my post, can you imagine how blessed we would be if everyone one of the viewers shared their opinions? I encourage you to respond and if you have questions or something personal you like to share, please feel free to contact me.

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What we worshiped, we kill when we come to Christ!

The word sacrifice is used constantly in our efforts to show how committed we are to a cause. Some people left better paying jobs to stay in their current place of work. Others took a low paying job or moderate means of livelihood to be with someone they love. The list of what we perceive as sacrifice goes on. However, in the Bible sacrifice takes a deeper meaning. It will interest you to know that there is no just one purpose for sacrifice except for propitiation. Propitiation means to turn aside the wrath of God. Some sacrifices are meant to end the wrath of God. The Book of Leviticus is replete with types of sacrifices in the Old Testament. Here are few examples of sacrifices:

 Communion/Eucharist: Although some of us receive communion weekly, we may not know that it is a type of sacrifice: Communion depicts how we are all one because we are eating this meal together.

 Consecration: This is another type of sacrifice. In the Old Testament animals were sometimes offered for consecration. The animals do not represent what happens to the offerer when they die. Instead the animals offered on behalf of the people represent their being sold out for the things of God. In consecration, you offer yourself to God. Consecration comes with variety of forms- like expressing gratitude, thanks offering, *votive offering, or free will offerings. King David says “I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you oh Lord……” It is when God does so much good for you and you want to show gratitude to him so you offer something. People use words like tithes and offering. You offer above and beyond the tithes as expression of gratitude. A free will gift to indicate how grateful you are to God. Tribute is also example of sacrifice.

 Tributes: Tithes are example of tributes. People gave tithes to God, usually animals and sometimes plants or crops as we find in the Old Testament or in the ancient world culture. Giving 10% is usually a symbol in the ancient world for a tribute to a king. For those of you who give tithes in your churches today, when you give tithes, you are saying that God is your king. Samuel told the Israelites when they were demanding for a king that the king will take a tenth of their increase. This is because that is what kings do. So when we give tithes to God, we are saying that He is our king. The difference is that God does not force us to give tithes to Him as the kings did. In the ancient world one cannot come before a king without a tribute. The people either come with a gift or with both hands raised in total surrender or a gesture of giving themselves to the king. We give tithes because we are acknowledging what God has done for us. (this is not a teaching on tithing but if you are interested in the topic we can talk about it at another time).

Another thing we do with offering in expressing our gratitude to God is that you are not only having animal represent you, but you can also kill an animal or kill something or destroy something that you used to worship thereby deepening your commitment to God. For example, Pharaoh says to Moses and Aaron go, offer your sacrifice to your God, but Moses says the sacrifice we offer to our God will be detestable to your eyes that the people will stone us—They will offer rams, but the Egyptians worship rams.

We do this inadvertently in our marriages (for those who are married) or even with our romantic relationships. In every faithful relationship, spouses sacrifice all other past romantic relationships to devote to each other. In other words, you destroy what you once worshiped or adored to deepen your commitment to your current spouse. That is what sacrifice is like when we come to Christ. We kill other gods that we worshiped when we come to Christ to deepen our relationship with Him. One of the dilemmas we face as Christians today is that we are still cleaving to those gods we once worshiped. It is also one of the problems that we have in our marriages today. Some spouses secretly maintain past romantic relationships and try different ploys to hide it from their current spouses. They may try to hide it but not for too long. Many homes and relationships have been broken, and hearts rent asunder; all because spouses don’t understand what sacrifice means or they do understand but are so callous that they don’t care about the aftermath effect of their actions.

What will surprise you is that in all of the OT sacrifices and offerings, there was no single sacrifice for sin committed intentionally. All of the sacrifices were for sins committed inadvertently. Until the coming of Jesus, there was no one single sacrifice for willful sin. The penalty for willful sin was death. That is why the book of Leviticus could be difficult to read if you do not understand what the intent of the author is. The author of Leviticus is painting a picture (a graphic one) and preparing the audience to see God’s redemptive plan that will unfold in the coming of Christ. Not until the coming of Christ, all the sins of the people were covered and not blotted out. Jesus’ death on the cross was the only sacrifice that could take away sins once and for all- that is why the Book of Hebrews has the audacity to say that Christ is the Final sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:10-18).

As you eat your thanksgiving turkey dinner today, I encourage you to ponder on the word sacrifice. If you are still having trouble letting go of past romantic relationships when you are currently married to your spouse; or in a romantic relationship with someone else, then you don’t understand the concept of sacrifice and the worst thing is that you have started filing your divorce papers inadvertently, and pretty soon the relationship would be over. Because when you come to Christ you kill all other gods you worshiped. When you are married to your spouse, you literally kill all past romantic relationships. Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

*Votive offering: an offering in fulfillment of a religious vow, as of one’s person or property.

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FOR WHAT SINS DID JESUS DIE?

FOR WHAT SINS DID JESUS DIE?.

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The National Lockdown

Jesus said that the poor will always be with us but does that mean we should do nothing about poverty?

 

I have a passion for social justice and seeing God’s sovereign rule established over people’s lives their religious affiliation, sexual orientation or racial background not withstanding. This means to feed the poor, be a voice for the disenfranchised and the outcasts, to seek the peace of all. I have also discovered, that while this passion burns within me, it is impossible to completely eradicate poverty or correct all social injustices in our world. However, the first step in addressing these social issues is to acknowledge their existence and to do something about it. The unwise thing to do is to refuse to act because of the enormous nature of the problem. This in my judgment is where the Republican Party leaders miss the point. While, I don’t agree with some of President Obama’s Policies and stance on social issues; and did not vote for him, I believe that his Affordable healthcare act bill though problematic is an indication that he recognizes that healthcare is a huge problem for our country and a step toward addressing it. The fact his predecessors did nothing about the healthcare dilemma could be attestation that they have no solution to the problem. No leader will be able to resolve the problem of healthcare not even the Republicans. I am dubious of the Republican party’s demand for the Healthcare plan to be delayed for another year because I believe that they have no intention to work with president on improving this healthcare bill but a mere ploy to buy time to repeal it. The president’s refusal to address the debt ceiling issue is an example of poor partisan politics that fails to recognize the danger the country faces for failing to act simply because the request came from the opposing party. The stalemate is irresponsible and shows how narcissistic both  parties involved are. The lock down in unnecessary, and the President ought to take leadership and do what is right for the country.

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Pursue PEACE

Text: Hebrews 12:14-16        “Running the Christian Race”

Subject: Why should Christians pursue peace with all men?

Complement: So that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble and by [it?]1 many be defiled2.

Exegetical Idea: Christians should pursue peace with all men so that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble and by him [this one] many be defiled.

Purpose: As a result of this sermon, my listeners will be convinced that we are to run the Christian race as a team; and that we are to encourage one another and seek the well  being fellow Christians, lest any of us fall short of God’s grace.

 

Homiletical Idea: The Christian race is individual, but the prize is won by team work.

Mood: Sober encouragement.

Hebrews 12:14-16

14Eivrh,nhn diw,kete meta. pa,ntwn1 kai. to.n a`giasmo,n( ou- cwri.j ouvdei.j o;yetai to.n ku,rion(  evpiskopou/ntej mh, tij u`sterw/n avpo. th/j ca,ritoj tou/ qeou/( mh, tij r`i,za pikri,aj a;nw fu,ousa evnoclh/| kai. diV auvth/j mianqw/sin polloi,( mh, tij po,rnoj h’ be,bhloj w`j VHsau/( o]j avnti. brw,sewj mia/j avpe,deto ta. prwtoto,kia e`autou/  

 

My Translation: Pursue [together] with all men salvation2 and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord; watching that no root of bitterness springing up should trouble and by this many should be defiled, lest there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his birthright in place of a single meal.

 

Introduction: Have you ever noticed that when athletes compete as a team in a relay race, they do not run at the same speed? Though these athletes are champions in the various states, cities, schools they represent; yet some run at a faster speed than the others in the team. But the remarkable thing is that if the team wins the race, it is not won by individual talents alone. Instead, it is won by a collective effort of the team. So despite the fact that these athletes run at different speeds, they only way they can win the trophy is team effort. Although the race is individual, but as a team victory comes by team work.    

                                                                                   

1.  Eivrh,nhn diw,kete meta. pa,ntwn is the first phrase and the central statement of this passage. The NIV broke the entire passage into several sentences. The NASB separated vs. 14 from the rest of the passage, thereby eliminating the subordinate relationships and created two imperatives statements-pursue and see to it. However, the author connected the pursuit of peace and sanctification with three adverbial qualifiers- excluding individual adverbial modifiers to each, for example  “with all men,” and “without which.” It is fitting to argue that to the author, pursuing peace and sanctification is the positive side of ensuring that none of the believers,  A. Falls short of the grace of God B. Allows a root of bitterness lest it should trouble and defile, and C. acts like Esau by discarding his divine inheritance to satisfy fleshy desire.  

Eivrh,nhn “peace” robs translators and modern preachers the wrong way and has led many to assume that the passage is about pursuing a harmonious relationship that are hampered by the resentment among Christians. To make the matter worse is the fact NIV translations reads make every effort to live in peace with all men. Taking the passage literally, it could mean that, but when one considers that the immediate context 12:14-16, and larger context of Hebrews 12:1-29, the word peace takes a different nuance.  

2. In the OT peace- ~Alv’ generally speaks of well being such as health and prosperity, which comes gift as a from YHWH. Among the prophets, peace becomes eschatological image of Yahweh’s plan for his people. Hence in Isaiah’s later vision, he  sees peace in a spiritual sense, salvation from sin and restoration of all things, see Gerhard Von Rad, Vol. II Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, X vols., gen. ed. Gerhard kittle, trans. Geoffrey Bromiley ; (1964 rpt. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993) pp 405-406. In addition to the usage of peace in the OT, the most significant use of peace

This concept is true for athletes, but isn’t it also true with regard to running the Christian race? Isn’t it true that although the Christian race is individual, yet we still need the solidarity of fellow brothers and sisters in the body to run and win the race?

 

This is what the writer of the book of Hebrews was saying to his audience, who were faced with uncertainties of their newly found faith.3 And is saying to you and I today.

 

[Example] when we accepted newly Christ into our lives, it was a great experience. We were eager to do anything in the church. We attended every service, helped out in the church, gave of our resources to the church, led souls to Christ. We could not say no to any fellow believer who was in need. But then as the years go by, we begin to realize that Christians are not really perfect people. We are full of flaws, the church is not perfect, the pastor is human and can make mistake, we face the same hardship that non Christians face, the frustration of the lure to go back to the old life sets in. When this happens, you need the encouragement of those who have run the race much longer to carry on, or else you could fall back to the old life.

 

In Hebrews 12, The Holy Spirit is admonishing the believers through the great cloud  of witnesses from the preceding chapter, who have suffered all things to win the prize, not to loose heart in their war against sin and in the race which is set before them. If God allows hardship, they are to understand it as the discipline of the Lord, a sure proof of real son ship. They must know that, while no discipline is pleasant, if it allowed to do its work, it will result in righteousness. The believers must therefore strengthen themselves in their weaknesses, lest the disjointed  limb be torn out of joint. They should instead let it be healed. Hence they must pursue peace and sanctification. This peace becomes the ultimate salvation which comes at the end of a life -long spiritual marathon, and the believers are to pursue it together4 with all, and not to allow some among them to fall short, or to become roots of bitterness5, or to act like Esau. This pursuit of peace with all men is not a pursuit of social harmonious relationship with another believer, but in the context of salvation and sanctification6.

(Homiletical idea): He admonishes believers to run the Christian race as a team. Some may fall away due to trials. If they fall away, they will become roots of bitterness and contaminate other members of the body. The writer does not want this to happen because, If they fall away, they may not be forgiven.       

 

The believers are being admonished to  collectively run the Christian race.

 

TRANSITION: In Hebrews 12, the Holy Spirit encourages the converts from Judaism to Christianity to persevere through trials in their new found faith in Christ. They are encouraged to pursue their salvation and sanctification collectively as a team, so that no one is left behind. (Homiletical Idea):He admonishes the Hebrew Christians to encourage each other and be there for each other so that they could win the race as one body. This passage is tells you and I that we are not lone rangers. We have to work as team. We have to ensure that no one named among us falls short of the grace of God. Even though the race is individual, we can only win as a team.  We have been admonished, and this comes to us through the Hebrew Christians.

                                                                                                                                                                                               

 in the NT to reference the salvation that is created by the Messiah. Peace then becomes the end time salvation of the prophets made real in the person of Jesus and made available to those who repent and believe  (I am indebted to my college professor, Andrew Sargent, PhD, for this insight during a class lecture many years ago). This concept of peace as eschatological salvation and the admonition to pursue it collectively lest anyone named among believers fall short of the grace of God becomes the interpretive framework for this passage as we shall see.

3.                     His audience were newly Christian converts from Judaism, who were in kind of dilemma of going back to Judaism as they faced the realities of following Jesus. They have embraced the message of salvation, and have discarded the practices of Judaism. As a result they lost popularity; lost friends, and  are contemplating on going back to Judaism.                

4.                     meta. this preposition is not used when the idea of pursuing peace socially is referenced. When pursuing social harmonious relationship is intended, the rabbis use the preposition !yIB; and the Greeks usually use the preposition pro.j especially if it is in the accusative. The author employing the preposition meta. “with” in this passage is in the context of a

collective effort–together. Geoffrey Bromiley, p 114. His audience are to pursue salvation and sanctification together with all in

solidarity.

 

 

 

I. The Jewish converts were admonished to pursue peace and sanctification with all.

               

                A.            Some Christians love being where they are in their spiritual journey.

                               

                B.            They love the company of believers, but they have not let the Spirit of God transform them.

 

                C.            They feel safe and secure, in the body but have never immersed themselves in the things of                                        God.

 

                D.            Those who are stronger and wiser should join hands with the weak in pursuit of salvation                                          and sanctification, without which no one can see the Lord (vs. 14).

TRANSITION: To the author pursuing peace and sanctification is the positive side of seeing to it that, no one falls short of the glory of God; allows a root of bitterness lest it should trouble and defile; acts like Esau by discarding his divine inheritance to satisfy fleshy desire. You think that it’s warning to the Hebrew Christians, but they are for us today. The writer is not talking about

resentment that hinder unity among Christians, by the phrase “root of bitterness”  Read vs. 15.

 

II.        The “root of bitterness” is a person.

 

A.            He is the believer, who when faced by the discipline of the Lord, becomes defiant and in his frustration

                renounces the  faith he has once cherished.

 

B.            He is the arrogant boaster, who raises his fist in the face of God, and could not allow the  discipline of           God to produce fruit of righteousness in his life.

 

C.            He is like the foot with gangrene that needs to be cut off so that it does not contaminate the rest of the         body (vs. 15).

 

D.            He is the high handed sinner, who tramples the blood of covenant under his feet, and rejects blessing that

 

                                                                                                                                                               

5.             “root of bitterness”   The author is quoting  from the larger phrase from the LXX used in Deuteronomy 29:17-18, which provides the thought context for our passage. In Deuteronomy 29, after the revision of the list of the covenant stipulations, and the enumeration of the blessings and curses for keeping and violating the covenant, Moses briefly reminds them of Yahweh’s deliverance from Egypt, and from Sihon and Og, whose land the two and half tribes of Israel- Gadites, Reubenites, and half of Manasseh occupied, and called the assembly in light of these things that Yahweh has done to take the covenant seriously, for only then can they be established in the new land that God promised to Abraham. Moses uses the destruction of the inhabitants of the lands they were to possess to remind Israel that should they not keep the covenant with Yahweh, they will be met with the same fate as the previous inhabitants those lands. The idolatry of the nations whom God has destroyed should serve a deterrent, lest any man or woman should grow haughty toward God and repudiate the covenant; lest such a person become a poisonous root bearing poisonous fruit. Such person is the arrogant boaster who boasts of peace in his rebellion. Intending to destroy the good land in his arrogance. God will single out this person and pour out the curses of the covenant upon this person. God will not be willing to forgive this person. This arrogant boaster is the root of bitterness. The root of bitterness is person. The reader of Heb 21:5 knows  Deuteronomy 29:18 and is being encouraged to persevere during difficult trails and not to go back to the old way of Judaism, for if after they have experienced the goodness of the Lord in their newly found faith, reject the new covenant, by going back to the old way, they  will be like the one who tramples the blood

of the covenant under his feet. This person may not be forgiven. This one is the person who commits the unpardonable sin- the blasphemy of the holy Spirit. The believers are then encouraged not let such person exist in the body by a collective effort to

pursue salvation and sanctification. Numbers 15:30-31 is another OT text that links the root of bitterness to a person. Other NT

 passages that speak of this are Acts 8:9-24; Mark 3:23-30.

The root of bitterness is the high handed sinner, the corrupter is like a leg with gangrene that needs to be cut off. He is an anti-Christ who rejected the saving work of God through His Holy Spirit God has promised to those who persevere. The Holy Spirit does not want anyone numbered among the believers to be this root of bitterness, and so the believers have to look out for one another– get each other’s back

 

TRANSITION: Like Esau, who despised his birthright,  this arrogant boaster, the corrupter, and the reviler may not be forgiven of his apostasy. So the believers ought not to let this believer go down the wrong path. The believers must then strengthen the knees that are disjointed, ensure that no one becomes like immoral Esau, takes for granted the grace of God, and do damage in the body of Christ. We are in this together. No one should be left behind.

 

III.         It seems that these Hebrew recipients are in a kind of dilemma here (vs. 12:4).   

 

                A.            They have suffered persecution for their newly found faith in Christ, and have begun to shrink in                                  their faith.

 

                B.            The author  Hebrews is confident that his readers will not be like those who shrink back after                                          tasting the goodness of the Lord.

               

                C.            He is confident that his readers will persevere and receive their reward.

 

                D.            The Holy Spirit is confident that you and I will hold fast to our confession and not go on sinning;                   and that no one among us becomes root of bitterness.

 

TRANSTITION:  The believers are to press on like the Heroes of the faith, and not be like Esau. They are to pursue  peace and sanctification together with all, making sure that no one acts like Esau, who sold his inheritance for fleshy appetite. The believers are not to let their period of trials cost them their reward. They should not let the fleeting worldly pleasures hinder them the heavenly blessing which awaits those who persevere to the end. We must run as a team. We must look out for each other. Though we run individually, the prize is won by collective effort.

 

Conclusion: 

 

When we look out for each other, we ensure that no root of bitterness exists among us. When we pursue peace with all, we avoid anyone among us being like Esau. When we persevere in times of trial and help those among us who struggle in their walk with God, we ensure that no one falls short of the grace of God. Homiletical Idea: We are in this together and together we will be victorious.

 

Benediction: may God who has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light endue us with the power and boldness to encourage one another so that no one numbered among us will fall short of the grace of God. Amen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliograpgy

 

 

 

Von Rad Gerhard , Vol. II Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, X vols., gen. ed.           Gerhard kittle, trans., Geoffrey Bromiley; (1964 rpt. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1993) pp 405-406.

 

Greek New Testament.

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FOR WHAT SINS DID JESUS DIE?

 

I remember a conversation with the Lord Bishop during my Ordination to Deaconate Orders at the Ordination Retreat a while ago. I had questioned the Lord Bishop the rationale for a Retreat before the Ordination. His response was “Retreat is a must if I am to lay my hands on you so that you don’t trivialize Holy Orders.”

The church often teaches that Jesus is the son of God who died to save us from our sins, but never really does a good job explaining what those sins are. What are those sins one may ask? Maybe the naughty things we do; or the thoughts we think. Maybe staring at  beautiful ladies or handsome men? What about having a swig of booze or two; or not paying our tithes and offering (Robbing God)? What about not going to church; telling whites lies or embellishing our stories? If these are what we make our sins to be, then like the Lord Bishop said, we are trivializing the death of Christ.

Are our sins not the rejection of God as the daily ruler of our lives? Refusal to deeply care and commit to all of God’s children irrespective of their race, sexual orientation, religious affiliation or lack thereof ? Are our sins not protecting our self interests at the expense of others? How about seeking security in wealth and investments and stocks; and ignoring the poor and the needy among us? Are our sins not failing to speak out against injustice and exploitation of the poor? How about our tendency to develop hatred toward a brother or sister in the Lord because they offended you many years ago and you just cannot seem to forgive them? Are our sins not abusing illegal immigrants and paying them little or nothing to work “under the table” year in year out? What about the church building a sanctuary that can sit 50,000 parishioners, and collecting millions from tithes and offering while there are parishioners that are starving. Think about these and tell me what you think.

Your Comments would be appreciated. All comments are welcome!

Jacobs.+

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A Tribute to my son Levi Nehemiah Jacobs on his Eight Birthday

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Priest & Cup Bearer: A Tribute to my son Levi Nehemiah Jacobs on his Eight Birthday

Eight years ago I was thinking of a Biblical name for our second son. Having completed over year of Greek and Hebrew then (For those of you know what I am talking about; because you think you‘ve all got it all figured out after one semester of the languages only to find out that maybe not), I came up with names like Melek, Mikael; Melek-zedek etc. My spouse did not buy any of that, she asked “who names their child Zedek?” So during one of my morning devotions, I heard the Spirit of God say to me name him Levi. My devotion that morning had nothing to do with choosing a name for our son. At the end of my devotion that mooring, I informed my spouse (then) that we will name our son Levi and went ahead to explain how I came to that decision.

What Amazed me was that she knew the name she had chosen for our son’s middle name all the time that I was trying to find one. She said “I will name him Nehemiah.” I was not sure of her criteria for choosing the name, but it sounded good to me. Not only did it sound good to me, but I also know that many scholars believe that Nehemiah “the cup bearer” was also a priest from the Tribe of Levi. I thought it was a confirmation from God to name our son Levi. Our son Levi is indeed a priest.

Levi never mentions ten words without referencing God or something Christian related. Sometimes, when I am watching news and he happens to come into the living room, I change the channel if it has inappropriate content for kids. He would say to me, “you are Christian why are you watching bad show?” I will have to explain to him that it is not a bad show, but that I changed channel because it was not appropriate for his age. Levi cannot sleep without the Bible being read and prayer said. Each time I am dropping him and his brother off at the their mother‘s, if I forget to anoint them, he will remind me, and he has to be the first one to anointed.

Nehemiah: From Centralized Faith to Localized Faith

One could argue that Nehemiah was as important to the formation of Judaism in the same fashion that the Prophet Moses was to the creation of the nation of Israel. In the book that bears his name, we learn of how Nehemiah obtained the favor of King Artaxerxes, which enabled him to organize a movement that rebuilt the city of Jerusalem. Not only did Nehemiah obtain the king’s favor to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, he also rebuilt the people’s lives.

After Nehemiah secured the “shalom” of city of Jerusalem, he selected certain division of the Levites and charged them not to conduct worship in Jerusalem but to go to the towns and the villages throughout Israel to teach the Jewish faith there and provide priestly services. The temple became dispersed to the people rather than the people coming to the temple. This is a very remarkable achievement by Nehemiah because up until this time all Jewish worship took place in the temple in Jerusalem with the Levites solely assigned to minister that worship.

Nehemiah’s community organizing skills led to the initiation of the synagogue worship system which in about hundred years became the center of religious instruction, decision making, and maintaining of the ethics of the Israelites. About three hundred years later, the synagogue became as important as the temple as the Jews went to their local synagogues to receive instruction and to worship God no matter where they lived, and their only obligation to Jerusalem was to travel there three times a year to celebrate the feasts of First fruit, Passover, and Booths. This is how localized faith became a centralized institution and it all happened because Nehemiah led a delegation that not only rebuilt the city but also rebuilt the peoples lives. The synagogue became the model that was used by the Christians to form the local Christian Churches. The synagogue became the Church and the Rabi became pastor or priest. The book of the law (Torah) became the Bible. It was the synagogue that formed Judaism into a movement that would eventually give us Jesus. And this happened because Nehemiah was not blindfolded by the comfortable lifestyle and luxury associated with “Susa” (Washington DC maybe?) and did not allow affluence to hinder him from pondering on the plight of his people and the city of Jerusalem. I pray God’s shalom on my beloved son Levi on His eight birthday on November 27, 2013 Amen!

Fr. Jacobs

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