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THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD

Shalom!

I have been very slow in blogging owing to many other conflicting obligations. Special thanks to many of you, who have been contacting me about different topics. This blog is about a question that was posed to me by one of my clients. I pray the 23rd Psalm five or more times daily owing to my line of work. One day, as I was praying this Psalm in unison with a client, we got to the part that says “thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies,” the client in questions said to me: “you know, that is the part that I have never understood, what is it with preparing a table…?”  So let’s try unpack this Psalm.

The 23rd Psalm is a very popular one. It could be said by heart by almost every devout Christian, especially those of the Roman Catholic and Anglican persuasion. It describes Yahweh as the shepherd, a technical term bound with the Ancient Near Eastern culture and Israel. Yahweh is the Shepherd and Israel, His sheep. In this blog, I will try to explore the following phrases: He leads me beside the still waters; He restores my soul (looking at the Hebrew word translated as “restore”); and He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies. However, I need to know that your are interested in this subject by going to my blog page: http://www.copentecost.com and leaving a comment.

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Happy Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day to my Warrior Companions that have served, and are still serving around the globe today! We are grateful for your service to our country. What a thrill it is to be part of a cause greater than oneself! While the country is deeply divided on almost everything today since the election of our President, who did nothing wrong other than winning the election, many of my brothers and sisters are overseas fighting for the cause of freedom. There has been an outrage over the President deploying Soldiers to the Middle East. My recommendation is for the country to focus on coming together and solving the problems at home. I can guarantee you that Soldiers don’t lose sleep over being deployed. It’s a volunteer Army! Any person who enlists to serve in the military, knows what they are getting into. It is called the Armed forces! Soldiers don’t enlist into military service to receive benefits, and to attend college. Soldiers enlist to serve, and to die! The only way to remember Service Members is for the counry to come together, support the President, and accept accountability to God, knowing that we are all imperfect people.

Happy Memorial Day.

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The law makes no exception but grace found me!

Few months ago I was ordered to Farrell, PA, to provide staff assistance to one of my down trace battalions. Those of you who have knowledge of how Uncle Sam does business, know that you will be scheduled to fly on the cheapest and available flight, if the mission is not time sensitive. So my flight itinerary had me going from T.F. Green airport, Providence, Rhode Island to Philadelphia, PA; from there to LaGuardia airport, New York, and from LaGuardia to Farrell, PA. My LaGuardia to Farrell, PA flight was canceled and I had to wait at the airport for six hours. A direct flight from Providence to Farrell, PA would have been less than two hours. I left home at 0800 hrs, on the day in question but didn’t get to Farrell until about 0000 hrs, the following day.

 

So what’s the point? What does my crazy schedule have to do with law and grace or you? I remember talking to my friend as I was driving to my hotel from the airport and her response was: that’s part of the training! A month or so after this experience, I listened to a sermon by The Rev. Dr. Gammon, about Fiorello LaGuardia, a former New York Mayor, whom the airport is named after, and decided to research the history behind this man. This is what I found: Somewhere in the middle of the Great Depression, LaGuardia was the mayor of New York City. This man strived to live with the people. Sometimes, he would ride with firefighters, patrol with the police or go on field trips with orphans.
History has it that on one freezing cold winter night in January 1935, LaGuardia the people’s Mayor showed up at a night court that served the poorest section of the city, dismissed the judge on duty for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within few minutes, an unkempt old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. The woman pleaded with the Mayor- turned judge, explaining that her daughter’s husband had left, her daughter was sick, and her two children were starving. However, the grocery storeowner from whom the loaf of bread was stolen, insisted on pressing charges. “It’s a real bad neighborhood, your Honor,” the fellow said to the Mayor. “She’s got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson.”
LaGuardia sighed. Turning to the woman, he said, “I’ve got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions. Ten dollars or ten days in jail.” But as he pronounced the sentence, the Mayor was reaching into his pocket. He took out a bill and tossed it into his famous hat, saying “here is the ten dollars fine which I now remit; and further more I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant.” The following day, it was reported in the City’s newspaper that $47.50 was turned over to the woman who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her grandchildren from the contributions. The owner of the grocery store himself was among those that made the contribution (I bet you a loaf bread didn’t cost 50 cents in 1935).
This woman deserved to be punished by law for stealing, regardless of her explanations as to why the crime was committed but the Mayor met the demand of the law but also showed mercy. Note that he did not discard or neglect the law. The woman was undeserving but the Mayor was gracious. We live in a culture were words are utilized without much consideration for the meaning behind those words. One of the shocker’s for me when I came to this country almost two decades ago was the way my classmates used words like awesome, terrific and the likes to describe things aesthetic in nature.

 

Well, if something is awesome, and terrific my mind goes to awe inspiring, full of awe, and terrifying, which are all characteristics of Yahweh in the OT and also is the NT. The Hebrew uses the word “chanun” (gracious) as attribute of Yahweh as in hearing the cry of the vexed debtor, and in so many other ways. This word for the most part is paired with another Hebrew word “rachum” (compassionate), Exodus 33:19; 34:6; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 116:5, and host of other passages. It describes how underserving humankind was- deserving to be destroyed, indebted to sin and evil but God showed us grace. We were lost, but grace found us! The law makes no exception.

 

Looking at what is going on in our country today, it’s hard to see this characteristic in action. The level of hate directed against those, who disagree with our views is out of control. It is so shameful to say that this is even worst among the faithful. They delude themselves by insinuating that they are protecting the disenfranchised but they  fail to reflect the God whom they claim to fight or speak for. What a travesty!
When you get up in the morning and love those whom you feel are not worth loving, you are showing grace. When you go above and beyond your duty requirements at work for the benefit of the people to whom you provide care without complaining or doing it to be noticed or rewarded by your boss, you are being gracious. When you pray for your enemies instead of wishing them death, you are reflecting God’s attribute.

 

Remember, we were all lost and death deserving but God’s grace found us!
Shalom!  Jacobs+

 

Jacobs

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In my blog:the masterful suborning of Christians by the Evil One, I talked about how the leftist media and some christians are consumed with hate and disdain for the President, while North Korea develops weapon that is aimed at destroying the United States. I am astonished that the leftist media and liberals are surprised that North Korea test fired a missile that could hit the mainland of continental US. The outrage over this recent missile launch is laughable. We have wasted more than one year and millions of dollars on the so called Russian investigation into our election, while our service members die in large numbers as a result cuts to our defense budgets, making it difficult for the military to service it’s equipments or purchase state of the art armaments to fight and win wars. Then you have those who want the President impeached because he is not presidential (what ever that means ). It’s time for these individuals to wake up! Maybe believe in God or something other. I can’t for the life of me understand how people will wake every morning chearing the failure of another person simply because he/she doesn’t fit their mold, instead of thanking God for being alive. Some of these individuals call themselves Christians and are ready to stand in the place of God, ready unleash their wrath on the infidels……..

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What OT Laws are required of Christians of all generations?

It’s been very challenging not to respond to some teachings of my fellow ministers, who advertently or inadvertently continue to proclaim teachings that not only contradict scriptures but also mislead and disenfranchise the flock they are called to nurture and lead from error into truth. In my next blog, I plan to  look at two laws: ceremonial and morals. Stay tuned.

Shalom!

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Whose Kingdom are you modelling?

I have not written a blog in months owing to other demands of life. When I was in college, I always thought to myself, when I graduate, I will have all the time in the world to study, and do ministry because I will not have to write research papers, do assignments, prepare for exams, learn more languages and the lists go on. It worked well for few months, then I began a graduate program. Again, I said as soon as I complete my graduate program life will be easier because I will not have to take four courses a semester, read five or more required text books for each course, read 15 or more recommended books for research, exegesis, and hermeneutics (and if you are a nerd like one of my classmates and friend by the name of Mike Mercier, you will read more than twenty books for a research paper and God forbid you scores 99.99% on a test, legs would be broken and heads roll lol..). Here I am, more than a decade later, I am still struggling to find time to write a blog. I have also discovered that this dilemma is not unique to this writer because this writer did extend guest blogger invitations to friends and only one person responded.  I have pondered on a lot of likely possibilities that could lead to this scarcity of time and high daily demands of life but could not come up with the right response. Could it be that we are modelling God’s kingdom, (which God’s people are called to copartner with Jesus to build) after the kingdom of the world? Then I looked at Jesus’s ministry. He had a very busy schedule. Anyone who knows a little about the culture in which Jesus did ministry can attest to this. He would hold all day teaching events, healing ministry galore, and as if these were not enough, instead of sending them back to their homes late at night, he will feed thousands of people who were fascinated by his uncommon wisdom and followed him all day. He will also make out time for self-care, which for him was solitude and a time with his father, whose kingdom he came to introduce. As I read about his ministry, I discovered that Jesus possessed what today is clinically known as self-awareness. He was not confused about his identity. He knew who he was. He knew his mission and knew how best to accomplish it. He chose his topics and teaching specifically for each audience. He was fun loving also. Who said you can’t have fun being a Christian? It seems to me that Jesus also liked to party, just like any Jew of his time. You may have a strong aversion to wine, but Jesus seemed to know a little bit about booze, after all he made everything. Was Jesus’ ministerial success as a result of his lack of concern with the solution of worldly problems? Dietrich Bonhoeffer says that Jesus’ word is not an answer to human questions and problem, rather the answer of God to the question of God to man. Jesus’ word is not a solution but a redemption. Jesus’ sole ministerial intent and mission was to introduce the kingdom of God to the world under the control of Satan. I know that this may sound strange to some because we live in a nation that proclaims freedom for all, and has a strong aversion to control, but the cosmos including the United States is under the kingdom of this world, which the evil one controls. In Luke 4: 5-7, Jesus was asked by Satan to worship him in return for the kingdom of the world. Jesus obviously was not enthused by Satan’s offer and would not worship a created being, but Jesus did not dispute Satan’s claim that all the kingdom of the world has been given to him. See 1 John 5:19; Rev 18:23; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11, if you would like to study more on Satan’s claim concerning the kingdom of the world. The good news is that Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. When Jesus was asked by Pilate who seemingly had the power to free Jesus, when he was arraigned before him, made it clear that his kingdom is not of this world.  In my recent sermon, I preached about a counter Cultural God with a counter cultural kingdom. I believe that one of the reasons why our progress in establishing the kingdom of God is stunted is because we are modeling it after the kingdom of the world. Because Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world our approach to building it will differ from that of the worldly kingdom. I look at the daily demands of life, justifiable as they may be, and wonder if I am modelling my ministry after Jesus.’ I wonder if I am modelling building God’s kingdom after that of the world by having to please everyone at the expense of my solitude and personal time with God. I wonder if my ministry and my pursuits are reflective of the One whose kingdom building style we are called to imitate.  This just a food for thought. In my follow up post, I will discuss the contrast of the two kingdoms. I will also help anyone who reads this blog recognize that there is a strong demonic presence polluting all forms of the kingdom of this world and how it has affected how Christians view earthly governments.

Shalom from Oxford!

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You Have no Excuse the Word is near you!

One of the challenging tasks of being a healthcare and a US Army chaplain is being able to support people of all faith traditions. At my military unit of assignment, the Soldiers don’t see me as a priest, they see me as a fellow Soldier and their chaplain. They come to me with their emotional and spiritual concerns in hopes that they can find help. They come to me because as a Staff officer and personal adviser to the brigade Commander, I am what the Army calls the (SME) “subject matter expert” on Religion. And one of my job requirements is to enforce Title 10, of the US Code, free exercise of religion for all Soldiers within the brigade. But the challenge is that there are many Soldiers that have no religious preference, and some who claim they are not religious.

 

Part of my clinical pastoral education is learning how to support people in their religion, faith tradition or lack thereof. It used to be a struggle for me, because as a Christian, I know what the Bible teaches as the instrument of salvation. I know that if anyone confesses with the mouth that Jesus is Lord, that person shall be saved. I know that in God’s eyes there is no Jew nor Gentile, for the same God is the Lord of all. And so how can I minister to the Muslims, the Hindus, the Buddhists and people from other religious group? Then I read Paul Tillich, an American theologian and philosopher, who describes religion as the essence of ultimate concern. That which concerns us the most. For me, it is faith in the risen Lord expressed through Christianity, seconded by my family. For other people, it could be something different, and it is incumbent on me to find out what ‘that ultimate concern’ is for the people to whom I minister, and support them in whatever that is, but at the same time not endorsing, and also not compromising my faith conviction.

 

In the 10th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, Paul goes into a very dense theological discourse, and concludes with this declaration: everyone that calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). In order words, anyone who does not call on the name of the Lord shall not be saved. But what are people saved from? Why do we have to be saved? I am not a slave. I am my own person? What do you mean saved?

 

Historical background: Paul is working with Deuteronomy 30. This passage is full of promises and life. It was well studied by the Jews of Paul’s era. They studied it carefully to find out what God is going to do for them after all the years they have suffered under the Gentile yoke or the pagan nations. Why would they study this passage to find out what God has for them?  Chapters 28-30 are the closing remarks of Moses’ charge to the Israelites before they enter into the Promised Land. These chapters highlight what will happen to Israel in the days to come. If they keep the covenants, God will bless them. If they don’t, the curses will come upon them. Moses had premonition that Israel will disobey God’s word and then be taken into exile. That is what chapters 28 and 29 of Deuteronomy are all about.  But chapter 30 has a fresh word. A word of hope. God promises that even when Israel has gone into Exile and suffer affliction in the hands of their oppressor, if they turn from their wicked ways and turn to Him, He will rescue them.

 

God promises not only to rescue them, but also to transform them, change their hearts so that they can keep His laws. The exile will be over, the curse will be broken; and Israel will be saved. But there are conditions to be met before God rescues them. They have to return to Him. They have to embrace his laws and do them. God had made it easier for them to return to Him by giving them the gift of grace, which will be like the original law.  This gift of grace is found in the person of Christ! And anyone who believes in Him, calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. This is exactly what Paul is saying in this passage. The Messiah has already come down to you. You don’t have to go down into the depths to find Him. He is God’s gift of grace to you like the original law but in a new way.

When the word grace is referenced, a common understanding is that grace is ‘unmerited favor.’ It seems to me from my shallow understanding of biblical languages, in this case the Hebrew language that there is another meaning to grace. Will you be interested in learning about this other meaning?  Stay tuned!

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