You can defeat the enemy, the Devil… the same way Jesus did!

 

The Israeli desert can be brutal. Satan tried to use it to his advantage. To no avail!

I am known as a tempter, a deceiver and schemer. My goal is to take anything good and wreck it. I have had many, many successes. Eve is the earliest. I was able to confuse her. Oh she had it so good there in the garden… By manipulating the truth just a bit I totally wrecked her life, her relationship with Adam and with God.

I also messed with Abraham, Moses, Saul, David, Solomon, even Peter. The list is endless. And, I’m sure I’ve messed with you.

So the day Jesus entered the wilderness I was poised for another great victory. I watched as he spent 40 long days in solitude.  I waited until he was at his weakest… he was lonely, hungry, and he was likely preparing for his next move. At just the right moment, I pounced!

The Israeli desert is rocky, dry and dirty. Loose stones the size of fists cover the landscape. Just walking can be a chore. And finding a spot to kneel and pray is impossible. With just the right amount of prompting, and the early morning light just so, I knew that Jesus was famished, I figured I may be able to convince him to see small loaves of bread where the path was covered with rocks. This was going to be easier than Eve.  He hadn’t eaten in 40 days. Appealing to his flesh and his position, I said: “If you really are the Son of God, and since you are hungry, why not turn these stones into bread… satisfy your hunger. Can’t you taste a fresh baked loaf, Jesus? Mmmmm.”

Even though he was famished and his body weak, his mind was sharp. He quoted Torah and said: “No one can live on bread alone. People need every word that God has spoken. The word is life. The word is my sustenance, Satan.”

He was stronger than I thought he’d be after 40 days without food.

We walked along for awhile together.  I took him to the City.  The air was hot, not a cloud in the sky. Although no one could see us, we went to the top of Solomon’s great temple. We looked down from the height above and saw people going about their day… the women to the markets and the men to their work. Bright colored awnings peppered the walkway below. I pretended to push him off and challenged his ego. If this is about words supporting him, how about these words from Scripture: “God will give his angels orders about you, Jesus. They will catch you in their arms. Jump, Jesus, Jump!”

He replied by quoting other words from God: “Don’t try to test the Lord!”

I schemed again how I might tempt him… I knew that God has given me the power over this earth, so I used that authority as a bargaining chip… I would gladly give that up if I could get Jesus to merely bow to me!  I’m still angry at God… It was supposed to be me on that throne in heaven! So we went north to Mt. Hermon, the highest elevation in all of the Promised Land. He was still physically weak. Surely I could get him to yield.  “Look to the mountains in the east and the great sea to the west.  This can all be yours, Jesus… all you have to do is bow before me. Think of it… you can bring your people your kind of peace, for all time… think of the wealth of this land, the bounty and riches of the fertile crescent, the many palaces of King Herod… I’ll see to it that it is all yours to do with as you wish… merely worship me.”

This time, he didn’t bow, he bellowed: “Go away, Satan!” Again he quoted the Word of God: “Worship the Lord, the One True God and serve only Him.”

Others were so much easier to cripple… I will continue to press on this one, the Son of God… but for now, I will leave him. I will leave him. But I will be back!

 

The words, actions and thoughts, perhaps, of Satan during temptation of Jesus in Matthew, Chapter 4.

 

Do you know you have the power to defeat the enemy? Use the words of God and the truth of the scriptures. Use the authority Jesus gives to all of us. Most important, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” James 4:7 (NIV).

 

Original sermon video is found here.

Photo by Matthew J. Parker. More info here.
(c) 2017. Rich Ronald.
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When You Meet Jesus, Your Heart Will Change. 

Walking along the Road to Emmaus when suddenly…

It truly was the saddest season of my life. Everything had come crashing down. We had believed in Jesus. We had followed Jesus. We loved him! We knew that He would bring peace to Jerusalem and to our people. And yet, he died. He was brutally murdered.

My name is Cleopas. My friend Thadeous and I had just left Jerusalem for Emmaus. We were talking about the past seven days.  Last Sunday we were cheering and rejoicing over the Nazarene as he rode into the city on the back of a donkey. A week later, with the afternoon sun casting long shadows along the rocky path, we argued back and forth about a very bleak future without Jesus. Our shoulders were slumped. Our gait was slow. We kicked up the dust as we shuffled along.

A stranger approached us as we walked west among the rolling foothills. He asked what we were talking about. I looked at my friend Thadeous as if this man was crazy. He encouraged me with his eyes and so I queried the outsider: “Are you the only man alive in Jerusalem who doesn’t know what just happened?” His blank stare in reply prompted a nervous babbling. “Surely you know,” I stammered.  “About Jesus. The prophet. He did many miracles. With great power. We believed he would free Israel. But our leaders handed him over to be killed. And now it’s the third day…”

“Calm down,” he motioned to me with his hands. Then starting with Moses and all the prophets, this very ordinary looking man patiently explained everything ever written in the Ancient Text about the Messiah and how he must suffer.

We invited the man home for supper. He asked if He might offer the blessing. He lifted his eyes to heaven, broke the bread and began to pray. “Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melekh ha’olam ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.” Praised are you, Lord God, King of the universe, who brings froth bread from the earth.

We took a piece. And at that very moment we realized it was the Master. Jesus!  The loaf fell to the table as he vanished.

Oh, how our hearts burned inside us as He explained the scriptures. He was so graceful, so patient. It showed His great love for us.

The Story IS true. It has happened indeed, just as it was written in the Canticles of old.

Some of the words, actions and thoughts perhaps of Cleopas and Jesus, from Luke 24.

Corrie ten Boom used to say, “When the train goes through a tunnel and the world gets dark, do you jump out? Of course not. You sit still and trust the engineer to get you through.” Why did Jesus tell the story to Cleopas and his friend? So they’d know the Word is true. They could trust that God is in control. He says: “I’ve got you.”

You can trust Him, too.

Once they realized it was Jesus, the two ran back to Jerusalem. Knowing the story changed everything!  Knowing that Jesus was alive, just as He said, meant every other promise in the Word is true! They lifted up those slumping shoulders and their slow gait became a sprint.

How about you?

Whenever you meet Jesus, your heart will change.

 

(c) 2017 Rich Ronald.

Who Do You Say That I Am?

“Who do you say that I am?”

The question cut through the nighttime air with certainty. I remember thinking in that moment, it all comes down to this, doesn’t it?

The Master had taken the twelve of us to Caesarea Philippi. It was a field trip like none other we had ever ventured. Three years we had walked where He walked. Three years we had followed. And now, He brought us here?

This place was unlike any we had ever been before. I had heard of this worship center to the Greek fertility gods, but always with the admonition “you don’t ever want to go there… the sin is as vile as Sodom and Gomorrah.” And in the first few minutes of our arrival we understood why. We tried, in vain, to hide our eyes from the immorality that was on public display for all to see. The beat of the music was rhythmic. The chanting and cheering, deafening. The bonfires illuminated moving shadows on the rocky walls of the cliffs. There were people and animals everywhere.  And nothing was considered taboo.

Most of us were young men, just beginning to get a handle on life… and what it might mean to live worthy of being called His disciple.  And this sure didn’t look like anything Almighty God would be pleased about.  We saw the cave from where the Jordan River began. And we knew that this was the place where the Greeks said was the opening to death, to Hades, itself.

He called us together and against this backdrop He asked: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” John said, “Elijah.” Andrew replied: “John the Baptist.” I looked at Matthew as he said: “Some say Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

Jesus then looked my direction. A fire behind me flickered in His eyes. “What about you, Simon? Who do you say that I am?”

Three years I had watched Him heal the brokenhearted. Three years I had witnessed chains falling off of people. Three years of seeing miracle after miracle. I honestly don’t know if I had truly made up my mind until that very second, but I knew it to be true. “You are Yeshua Hamashiach. Jesus, the Messiah.” I looked at the people all around us worshipping these false Greek gods and added. “You are the Son of the Living God.”

He smiled for the first time since we had arrived and said: “Blessed are you Simon. You didn’t come to this conclusion by seeing what is all around you… but your Father, my Father in Heaven, spoke this to you… Spirit to Spirit.”

And then He said: “From now on, I will call you Peter, the Rock.” And with one hand on my shoulder and another pointing at the stone cliff behind us, He said, “And on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

Truly, my life changed in that instant. I felt this great mantle being placed on me… this spiritual anointing. I knew it was up to me, and to all of the disciples… we were being commissioned for a monumental assignment… to go into all the world.

My life has been a major up and down ever since… I challenged Him the next day or so and He replied by calling me Satan. A week later, we had a sweet and tender Passover together… He was arrested…  I denied I knew Him… He was crucified… and rose again… Days later, we saw Him on the seashore… had breakfast with Him. And three times He asked me if I loved Him… oh, how I love Him…

It’s been years since that Spring night in Caesarea Philippi. I try, but I still fail at life so much, I’m not much of a rock…

He’s the Rock, really. He’s my Rock.

 

Some of the words, actions and thoughts, perhaps, of Peter and Jesus and the disciples, found in Matthew 16.

Many will say the confession at Caesarea Philippi, is truly the turning point in Peter’s faith journey.  He comes face to face with a query every single one of us have faced, or will face. Maybe today is your time to answer this key question: Who is Jesus? Who do you say that He is?

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 (NIV)

 

(C) 2017. Rich Ronald.

Jesus taught gentleness. Peter caught it.

GentlenessI’m the rabble rouser.  I have enough grit and mettle for all of the Twelve. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. It doesn’t take much to really tick me off or to make me happy. And right now, as I reflect on the events of the past couple of months, I’m so amazed and full of great joy because of my Lord and my friend, Jesus.

My name is Peter. He called me “the Rock.” We would laugh because sometimes that meant that I was strong, like a building’s foundation. Sometimes that would mean that I was dangerous and hurtful, like when someone was being stoned. Sometimes that meant that I was just plain dumb as a rock. Funny, huh?

The thing that sticks out the most to me, ever since the Passover, is His gentleness. It started that night. It was my job to wash everyone’s feet when they entered the room. But the week had been crazy. The people shouted along a great parade for Him as he entered town a few days earlier. He had sent some of us ahead to prepare for the Feast. When we all sat down we were exhausted and distracted as the Romans were not too pleased with procession and the recent activities of His followers. Anyway, as the servant for the evening, I was supposed to wash everyone’s feet… but He did it. Our Lord the King! Stooping with humility and gentleness.  I arrogantly protested that He’d never wash MY feet. And then with His one sentence reply, I flip-flopped faster than Herod or any other politician and insisted that He wash all of me! I proclaimed that I was all-in! No one or nothing could cause me to ever leave His side, vowing “I’d lay down my life for you!”

He shook His head, furrowed His brow and predicted my betrayal. “Why, I’ll show Him!” I stubbornly said to myself. Just an hour later, in the Garden, I had my chance. When they came to arrest Jesus, and only Jesus, I drew my sword and attacked one of those with the soldiers! The Master’s gentleness towards our Roman enemy, and His admonishment of my actions, greatly perplexed me.

Three times that very night I had the opportunity to stand up for Jesus… to show the world that I would, indeed, follow Him to the ends of the earth, or to death… And all three times, I bailed on Him… I denied I even knew Him.

Oh, how He knew me better than I knew myself.

The agony continued into the night and as the sun rose on the new day… The trials, the long march to Golgotha, the pain of His crucifixion and death. And through it all, Jesus was like this gentle giant, letting it all play out as He had predicted. He was calm and temperate, yet exuded this amazing strength. Soldiers mocked Him. People spat on Him. Rulers belittled Him. Executioners killed Him.

For two days we were all dejected and hope was hard to find. Then, at dawn on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb after the Sabbath, and His body was not there! Could it be? Was He alive? The joy we felt – and the fear we were experiencing – was this emotional fisticuffs in each of our hearts.

Jesus did appear to all of us on multiple occasions… each time with the gentle greeting: “Peace be to you!” Then, He was gone again.

Days past. We wondered what was next. Would He return? Feeling lost and aimless, I decided to go back to doing what I knew best… fishing. Although, my heart wasn’t in it. Where did He go? What were we supposed to do? All night my mind was racing as I merely went through the motions of throwing the nets overboard, and pulling them back in… empty. We caught nothing. Not even a single minnow.

At day break, we saw Jesus on the shore. Although we didn’t know it was Him at first. He called out to us and told us to once more throw our nets out, this time on the other side of the boat. I thought, “What difference does it make? Right side? Left side? We’re in a boat!” Hesitantly, we followed His friendly advice. And, believe it or not, we caught the most fish in a single net ever! At that moment, we recognized it was the Master!

When we landed on shore and sorted it all out, our hearts were overfilled with great joy! We laughed and cried together as we ate a breakfast that He had kindly prepared for us. And we shared stories of the past week or so. Here was our Lord, our friend, Jesus, just as we knew Him to be.

He took me aside, away from the warm campfire. With much more gentleness than I deserved, He asked me if I loved Him. “Of course I do,” I said. A second time He queried. “Lord, you know that I love you.”  A third time he gently pressed: “Peter, do you love me?”  I was hurt because I felt like I had to defend myself. But He wasn’t angry with me. His eyes expressed great love and deep compassion. And then it hit me and I fell to my knees. Three times He asked… three times I had denied I knew Him. He had to make sure! And I said: “Yes! Yes, Lord! You know me. You know all things! You know that I love you!” And one more time He said, “Follow me.”

I’m pleased to tell you that I have been following Him ever since. We celebrated Pentecost last week. Wow! The Holy Spirit, which Jesus promised would come, showed up in power. We baptized 3,000 people after I spoke that day! Jesus, even after He has gone up to heaven, is so gentle. He loves these people so very much; He has moved in their hearts, as He moved in mine.

So, my friends, I will always be ready to share the hope I have in Jesus. And I will endeavor to do so with the gentleness and respect that our Lord modeled for each one of us. And if I must suffer, I will suffer for doing good, not evil. And I am confident that I will receive a rich welcome into His eternal kingdom.

Some of the words, actions and, perhaps, thoughts of the Apostle Peter, as recorded in the Gospel of John, in Acts Chapter 2 and in 1st Peter.

This is the opening to a sermon from Oak Hills Church, North Central Campus. The video of the entire message is here: http://vimeo.com/161831718

(c) 2016. Rich Ronald.

“Nothing is impossible with God”

GodSaves

 

From the Journal of Miriam (Mary), the mother of Jesus:

I’ll never forget that night. It wasn’t all that long ago. Ah, the little boy is growing up. Just turned two at his last birthday.

So, that night… Jacob, oh my, had been running crazy. We had to get to Bethlehem for the Census. His family is from this region. The four day journey on that donkey? Yes, of course, I grumbled and complained almost non-stop.  I told him we couldn’t go to Bethlehem for the baby was due any day.  He told me we had to do what the law required. And so, we went. Dear sweet Jacob. We looked all over town for a suitable place. And at each door we knocked, the pain only intensified.  The contractions were closer and closer. The hour was later and later. Jacob was at his wit’s end. “Oih vey, it wasn’t supposed to be this way,” he said over and over mostly to no one in particular.  And when he finally found me a place, it was really not a suitable place at all. Of course, I told him it would be fine, but inside my head I kept thinking, “No, no, no! This is not what we had planned.” The air was damp. There was a cow and her nursing calf less than ten feet away!  The place smelled! All we had was a single candle, we could hardly see.

The agony of the labor. The challenges of the delivery. I had no mid-wife. Unless you consider Jacob. But he was venturing into places few husbands ever go. This was the hardest thing I have ever done! And yes, there was much pain, and much blood. And even though Jacob held my hand, I felt very much alone. But all of that changed in an instant.  When that little child was born… it was all so worth it! It was amazing. You wouldn’t believe the little glint in his eyes or the turned up smiled of his pursed lips.

Oh dear Yahweh! I kept thinking, “How am I going to be able to be the mother to this child, Your son? He’s so perfect. And we are so not perfect. I mean, look at this place where he was born. Such an awful, smelly place!  And we are so ordinary people. We are obviously not wealthy. Where was I to put him to rest? In the cow’s manger, the feed trough? Really?”  I wrapped him in the only cloths we had and laid him down and he went fast asleep. Jacob said we are to give the boy the name Yeshua, “Yahweh saves.”

Some shepherds came to visit us. Who knows how they found us? I’m reminded of the prophet Micah who said that Messiah will come from Bethlehem and will shepherd his flock in the strength of Yahweh.

Even now, I wonder how Yahweh will use this sweet child? Will He be a mighty warrior like David?

This has been such an amazing experience! I continued to ponder and treasure every moment as I watched him rest that night in that unlikely crib.  “Impossible,” I thought. But then I remembered the words of the angel nine months prior – the message of the manger: “Nothing is impossible with God.”

 

(c) 2014. Rich Ronald.

Passover for Believers in Yeshua… a “Christian Haggadah”

At our core, Christians are really Jews because Jesus is the Lamb of God.

At our core, Christians are really Jews because Jesus is the Lamb of God, who has taken away the sins of the world.

Passover Celebration

Passover begins Monday evening, April 14th. What follows is a Haggadah that affirms Jesus as the Passover Lamb.

 

This Haggadah was originally written by Rich Ronald for his family in 2000 with input over the years from various teachings by Ilene Zatal, Ray VanderLaan, Martha Zimmerman, David Brickner, Don Finto, Dwight Pryor and James Bankowski. Additionally, portions have been directly excerpted from the booklet “Passover Seder Ritual and Menu for an Observance by Christians” by Barbara Balzac Thompson, published by Augsburg Publishing House, Minneapolis, © 1984.

 

WELCOME

Welcome in the name of Yeshua, Jesus our Messiah!  Tonight we will celebrate Pesach (pah-SACH)… Passover.  This is the celebration of the most incredible feast in the Jewish and Christian calendars.  It intricately weaves a story of God’s power, faithfulness and love for mankind in both the Old and New Testaments.  It was celebrated in the Ancient World, in Jesus’ time, and is still celebrated in traditional Jewish homes today.

The first Passover was not a celebration.  It was a night of apprehension, fear and expectation for the beginning of a new journey for the children of Israel.  The Word tells us that the Hebrews were to take the blood of a perfect lamb, and paint it on their doorposts.  By following this command, the Angel of Death which moved through Egypt that night would “pass over” their homes.  But since the Angel of Death did not pass over Pharaoh’s house, and his first born son was taken from him, his hardened heart was finally softened and the next morning Pharaoh let the Hebrew slaves go free.  This meal that we celebrate tonight, the Seder, is symbolic of the rush to leave Egypt and the bondage it represents.

We also celebrate the significance of Yeshua’s last meal, sometimes called the “Last Supper,” a traditional Passover meal, with His disciples in the Upper Room.  There is a lot of symbolism between the Old Covenant meal and the New Covenant meal.  We hope you’ll enjoy learning how Yeshua tied the two meals together… and how it is applicable for us all.

Tonight, we tell a story, the Haggadah, of how the blood of a lamb saved the people of God in the Ancient times… and still saves today.

John 1:29: The next day, John the Baptizer saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

Reading: Luke 22:7-20

Let us celebrate the Passover together!

 

THE SEDER PLATE

Tonight we celebrate the Seder… the word Seder means “Order” and as we know, God is a God of order.  The Seder is a celebration that usually takes place in homes… and at the center of the table at home is the Seder plate.  It contains items that we’ll talk about tonight… unleavened bread or Matzah, bitter herbs,  sweet apple mixture called the “Charoset” … parsley… a cup of salt water and a lamb bone.  As we tell the story tonight, the “Haggadah,” we encourage you to take in the sights and smells, tasting each ingredient and listening to every word… to hear and see and feel the truth of God’s love for us.

 

LIGHTING THE YOM TOV CANDLES

Like the Sabbath meal, tonight we light the Yom Tov, or the festival candles.  There are two candles on the table… the candle of Creation and a candle of Redemption.  For everything that God creates, He has a plan for redemption. The whole Passover story, both the Old Testament one and the New Testament one, is a story of this plan for our redemption.

Light is a symbol of God’s presence.  In Him there is no darkness.  Tonight is a special night for we’ll see first-hand that Yeshua, the Light of the world, is our true redemption.

In a traditional home, the woman of the household lights the Yom Tov candles… symbolic of Miriam, you know her as Mary, who was the human that God used to physically bring His Light into the world.

And for every item we talk about tonight, there is a prayer of blessing, for the Hebrews have a prayer for everything. So my wife, Linda, will light the Yom Tov candles and I’ll say the prayer in Hebrew, the words will be on the screen for you to repeat in English.

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melekh ha’olam asher kidshanu B’mitzvo-tav v’tzivanu l’hadlik neir shel yom tov.

 

ALL:

Praised are you O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who sanctified us through the commandments and the death and resurrection of Yeshua, our Messiah, the Light of the World and the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.  Praised are you O Lord, our God, King of the Universe who commands us to light the festival lights.

 

SONG:

Shine, Jesus, Shine

Fill this place with the Father’s glory.

Blaze, Spirit, blaze.  Set our hearts on fire.

Flow, River, flow.  Flood the nations with grace and mercy.

Send forth your Word, Lord, and let there be light. (repeat).

(©1987, Make Way Music, Words and Music by Graham Kendrick)

 

KADDESH, THE CUP OF SANCTIFICATION

We’re going to drink four cups of wine, or grape juice, tonight.  They represent four promises God gave to Moses in Exodus 6: 6 and 7.  At your table, please pour the first cup for us to drink together.  And while you’re pouring, let me tell you what the four promises were:

  1. I WILL bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.
  2. I WILL free you from being slaves.
  3. I WILL redeem you with an outstretched arm.
  4. I WILL take you as My own people and I WILL be your God.

The first cup is the Cup of Sanctification.  In the Old Covenant, the Hebrews were saved by the blood of the lamb.  In the New Covenant, we are sanctified by the blood of Yeshua.  It is no surprise that our Sanctification is so important to God that celebrating it is the first thing we do together.  It is the first of four cups we drink. He has redeemed us… and He has set us apart, just as He set the Hebrews apart. He continues this work of sanctifying us throughout our lives.  Tonight, we celebrate our freedom from sin and the bondage it represents. Let us lift our cup together and bless the name of the Lord!  And when we raise our cup, let us do so with our right hand as it symbolizes strength and the right arm reminds us of our Messiah, our strength.

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melekh ha’olam borey pri hagafen.

ALL:

Praised are you, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

 

URECHATZ, THE WASHING OF HANDS

The Urechatz is symbolic of the purification of the priests in the temple.  And for us in the New Covenant, it can symbolize baptism and the washing away of our sins.

Let us consider what Yeshua did at the Passover meal.  John 13 describes how he washed His disciples feet… let me take you there… think of the dusty roads of the hills of Galilee and the desert rocky paths of Qumran. Think of the cobblestone streets in the old city of Jerusalem… Think about in the Ancient Days when the master would be gone on business for a day or several days, having traveled under the hot, sizzling Israeli sun, and coming home tired and worn out and feeling like his feet were going to fall off.  And the slave, his servant, comes and meets him at the door with a towel and a basin of water to wash his feet.  Oh, this is great comfort and a soothing relief.  He is the master and this is his due.  And the other, his servant, his slave, his property… this is his position and he belongs to the master.

Now, Jesus is so incredible!  HE takes that towel and that basin of water, and HE the Master, God in the flesh, God incarnate, God with ten fingers and two legs and two arms and two eyes and two ears and a mind and a heart that feels like we do… GOD took that towel and that basin of water and HE washed the feet of His talmadim, disciples. You may recall that that night Peter was the “designated servant” — for Jesus had told him in Luke 22 to go ahead and prepare the Passover meal.  Some scholars have suggested that Peter sat at the first position around the table, the servant’s seat. So, it’s easy to understand why Peter said, “NEVER!  Never shall you wash my feet!”  You see, because what Jesus had done is He had reversed the roles of the social norm of the Ancient Days.  Incredible!

So, you are going to dip your hands in the bowl of water on your table – the larger one, it contains fresh water, the smaller one contains salt water and we’ll talk about that next. Remember the promise of David in Psalm 24:  Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?  Who may stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart… he will receive blessing from the Lord.

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melekh ha’olam asher kidshanu B’mitzvo-tav v’tzivanu ahl natielat yah doyeim.

ALL:

Praised are you O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who sanctified us through the commandments and the death and resurrection of Yeshua, and who has commanded us to wash our hands and our hearts tonight.

 

KARPAS, THE PARSLEY AND THE TEARS

The Parsley is the Karpas.  It is fresh and it represents life!

But life in Egypt was a life of pain for the children of Israel… suffering, tears, turmoil.  Together now, we will take a sprig of parsley and dip it into the bowl of salt water, remembering that life is sometimes immersed in tears.  May our gratitude for the blessings we enjoy today help to soften the pain of sorrow… and convert tears of mourning to tears of joy!  Just after the Passover meal, Jesus told His disciples that they would go through a time of mourning “in just a little while” while the rest of the world would celebrate their Messiah’s death. But He also promised that their grief will turn to joy. (John 16:20). We also remember the greatest tears shed, those of Yeshua in the Garden… tears of blood… tears of submission… tears that said, “not my will, but, Father, your will be done.”

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melekh ha’olam borey pri hagafen.

ALL:

Praised are you, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the earth.

 

YACHATZ, THE MATZAH

On the main table here, we have a stack of Matzah… unleavened bread.  In the Ancient World leaven, or yeast (the ingredient that makes the bread rise) can symbolize sin.  Tonight, we eat “sinless” bread.

One of the most significant traditions before Passover is for the wife to go throughout the house and remove every spec, every morsel of leaven, for the entire week of Passover the family will not eat bread that rises.

I’m going to take three pieces of Matzah… and take the middle Matzah and break it… and take the piece of broken Matzah and put it here in the cloth… This is called the Afikomen, and I’m going to hide it for dessert later.  So, I need all the children to close their eyes as I hide the Afikomen.  Okay?

(Hide the Afikomen and place the remaining broken piece of Matzah back in between the other two and place the stack back in front of the table host).

Can someone tell me why there are three pieces of Matzah?  In the Old Covenant, they might represent Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  But why break Isaac, represented by the middle Matzah?  In the New Covenant, we can suggest that three Matzah represents God the Father, God the Son, Yeshua and God the Holy Spirit.  The broken Matzah, called the Lechem Oni, is the Bread of Affliction as referenced in Deuteronomy 16:3, and it can symbolize the death of Yeshua on the Cross at Calvary.

 

MAH NISHTANAH, THE FOUR QUESTIONS

The children of Israel were preparing to leave the land of bondage… and oh, how this night is different from all the other nights… this meal is different than any other meal.

A child asks:

  1. On all other nights we eat bread OR matzah.  On this night, why do we ONLY eat matzah?

The Answer:

Tonight we only eat the unleavened bread, because, as the children of Israel knew that they would be released from their captivity in the morning, the bread would not have time to rise.  We remember their haste… and we eat the bread without yeast, without sin.

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melekh ha’olam ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.

ALL:

Praised are you, oh Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth… the bread of life!

(Eat Matzah)

A child asks:

  1. On all other nights we eat all kinds of vegetables.  On this night, why do we ONLY eat bitter herbs?

The Answer:

Tonight we eat the Maror, the bitter herbs, so that we might taste bitterness.  It reminds us how bitter it was for the Hebrews to be enslaved by Pharaoh in Egypt.  The slavery to sin is just as bitter.

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melekh ha’olam asher kidshanu bidevaro vetzivanu al akhilat maror.

ALL:

Praised are you, oh Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who has set us apart by His Word and commands us to eat the bitter herbs.

(Eat Bitter Herbs on a Matzah)

A child asks:

  1. On all other nights we do not dip our vegetables even once.  On this night, why do we dip twice?

The Answer:

Tonight we dip twice during the course of the meal.  The first time was with the Karpas, the parsley, as we tasted the tears of bitter circumstances.  Now, we will dip in the Charoset, replacing the tears with the sweetness of the hope we have in God to free us from bondage and suffering.  In the same way, the Hebrews were counting on God to free them from Pharaoh.  And, oh, how sweet the freedom was going to be after hundreds of years of slavery. Some have suggested that the Chorset reminds us of the mortar used in the bricks that the Hebrews made. You might ask  “if that’s the case then why is it sweet?” Well, it has been said that “even the bitterest of our toils becomes sweet when we know that our redemption is near.”

(Eat Charoset on a Matzah)

A child asks:

  1. On all other nights we eat our meals sitting at the table OR reclining on the floor.  On this night, why do we ONLY recline and sit on the floor?

The Answer:

Tonight we sit on the floor and recline because in the Ancient Times this was a sign of freedom.  Kings and royalty ate their meals leisurely while reclining.  Slaves and servants stood. We are not rushed or hurried by what tomorrow brings as the Hebrews were on the first night of Passover.  We demonstrate our sense of complete freedom by reclining during the meal.

 

THE SECOND CUP, THE CUP OF PLAGUES

(Refill your cup if you need to.)

When people defy the will of God, they bring pain and suffering upon themselves.  God’s law provides blessing and prosperity.  To deny His Law and to do evil brings destruction.  When Pharaoh defied the command of God to release the Jewish people, he invited curses upon himself and his people.  With the second cup we remember each of the plagues that God used against Pharaoh to bring him to the point of releasing the Hebrews from slavery and bondage.

A full cup is the symbol of complete joy.  Joy in God’s mighty deliverance to His children.  Joy in life through Yeshua!  We are going to diminish the wine in our cups to give expression to our sorrow over the losses which each plague exacted.

We’re going to take our pinky finger and dip it into the cup for each plague and allow a drop of  juice/wine to fall on our plate.  Ready?

LEADER STARTS, ALL REPEAT:

Blood!  Blood!  Blood!

Frogs! Frogs! Frogs!

Gnats!  Gnats!  Gnats!

Wild Beasts! Wild Beasts! Wild Beasts!

Cattle Disease!  Cattle Disease!  Cattle Disease!

Boils!  Boils!  Boils!

Hail!  Hail!  Hail!

Locusts!  Locusts!  Locusts!

Darkness!  Darkness!  Darkness!

Death of the Firstborn!  Death of the Firstborn!  Death of the Firstborn!

 

DAYENU, IT WOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH!

Great and numerous are the kindnesses which the Lord extended to the Jewish people… And for each of his kind acts, we offer thanks and humble gratitude.  Any one of these would have been sufficient to show His love for us, His compassion for His chosen people.  How great God’s goodness is!  We declare “Dayenu! It would have been enough!”

If the Lord had merely rescued us, but had not judged the Egyptians…

ALL:  DAYENU!  IT WOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH!

If He had only destroyed their gods, but had not parted the Red Sea…

ALL:  DAYENU!  IT WOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH!

If He had only drowned our enemies, but had not fed us with manna…

ALL:  DAYENU!  IT WOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH!

If He had only led us through the desert, but had not given us the Shabbat, the Sabbath…

ALL:  DAYENU!  IT WOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH!

If He had only given us the Torah, the Word of God, but not the land of Israel…

ALL:  DAYENU!  IT WOULD HAVE BEEN ENOUGH!

But, the Holy One, provided all of these blessings for our ancestors… and not only these but so many, many more!

ALL:

Praised are you O Lord, our God, King of the Universe.  You are our Jehovah Jireh, our provider, for you have in your love and mercy supplied all our needs.

 

THE PASSOVER LAMB

Much could be said about the significance of the Passover Lamb and Yeshua, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  The lamb shank on our Seder plate represents the Lamb of that first Passover whose blood saved the Children of Israel.

Think about the smell of a lamb with all sorts of spices being roasted over an open fire.  That smell is a delight to the Father.  It fills His senses with delight for us, His chosen ones… His children.

Exodus 12: 8, 11-13:

That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with the bitter herbs and bread made without yeast.  This is how you are to eat it:  with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand.  Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover.  On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn, both men and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.  I am the Lord.  The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you.  No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. (NIV)

You see, the Hebrews lived in a section of Egypt called Goshen. And for nine of the ten plagues, they were not affected, for they were geographically separated from the Egyptians. But the tenth plague would affect the entire land. So, they took the blood of the lamb, and as the text suggests, they painted the top of the doorpost, and the two side posts… effectively making a cross… to protect them from the angel of death.  And like the children of Israel, when death comes to visit us, we who are Believers in Yeshua Ha’Mashiach the Lamb of God, death will pass over each one of us and we will have eternal life.

There is a red scarf on your chair for each one of you.  As we now give thanks and eat our Passover meal together, we encourage you to wear this red cloth, reminding each of us of the blood of the Lamb, painted over the door of our home, and worn over the door of our hearts… and remember that the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Yeshua, was made to spare us all from the Angel of Death… to give us Life!  John 10:10 reminds us, in the very words of Yeshua: “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”

 

WE NOW EAT OUR PASSOVER MEAL TOGETHER

(Pray for the meal and provide eating instructions).

 

THE AFIKOMEN, THE DESSERT

Our Seder meal tonight follows God’s plan for redemption.  The first two cups of wine/juice we drank before the meal speak of God’s redeeming us from Egypt and the bondage it represents, through the blood of the lamb and God’s great acts of power!

Now, after the meal, we’ll focus on the resurrection of Yeshua and His looking forward to His second coming.  This Passover Seder is a rehearsal of God’s complete redemptive plan.

Now, let’s talk about the Afikomen:

The word “Afikomen” means dessert.  It is the last food eaten at our meal tonight.  Remember when I hid the Afikomen earlier?  It is time for the children to go and find it and bring it back to me.

(Children go and find Afikomen).

To the child who brings the Afikomen:  Thank you!  Here’s a small reward for finding it. (Leader gives child a reward).

It is said that in a traditional Seder meal, the child who finds the Afikomen remembers what happened last year and they will barter with the father concerning a price to be paid for the Afikomen.  The father then gives the child a gift in the form of a down payment as his promise to the child who found the Afikomen.  And then promises to make the rest of the payment at a later time.  In the Jewish tradition, this is called The Promise of the Father.  In this, we understand that God paid a great price for our redemption.

Now, what does the Afikomen represent?  Remember how we took the middle Matzah out and broke it and wrapped it up in the cloth?  And now it has been found again!  This Matzah represents Yeshua, the bread that was sent from heaven.  Notice how the Matzah has stripes on it?  Notice how it is has been pierced in the baking process in order to make it bake quickly?  And notice the burn marks from the oven? As Isaiah 53 states: “He was pierced for our transgressions…  and by His stripes we are healed.”

At the Last Supper, in Luke 22, Jesus said, “This is my body given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  The Passover cannot be completed without the Afikomen.  Nor can our redemption be complete without Yeshua, the Bread of Life, our Messiah.

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melekh ha’olam ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.

ALL:

Praised are you, oh Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who brings froth bread from the earth… the bread of life!

(Eat Matzah)

 

THE THIRD CUP, THE CUP OF REDEMPTION

(Refill cup as necessary.)

In the Ancient Days of the Old Covenant, the first cup after the Passover meal expressed gratitude for the freedom which the Lord God granted His people.

But again, during the Last Supper in the Upper Room, Jesus did something different.  You see, it was the custom in the days of Jesus’ time that when a man desired to marry a woman, he went to her father and offered him a cup of wine, “take and drink” he would propose.  If the woman’s father accepted the cup, it was his way of saying “yes, you may have my daughter’s hand in marriage.”

During this last formal meal together, Jesus offers bread as His body and then He offers His talmadim, His disciples, a cup and He says, “take and drink.”  It was His way of saying “I want to marry you.  You are my bride.  Will you accept my proposal of marriage?”  And His disciples accept, on behalf of us,  the Church, His bride, by taking the cup and drinking. And do you see? This is where we get communion, the Lord’s Supper.  Jesus says that He won’t drink the fruit of the vine again until the Kingdom of God comes (Luke 22).   That will be when the Father tells the Son that He can go get His bride, the church… us!  Oh, how Jesus loves us… passionately… as a bridegroom loves his bride!  He demonstrated that passion throughout His ministry, but perhaps not so intimately as when He offered this Cup of Redemption to His closest companions, His talmadim, in a quiet upper room.

The word “Pesach” which we translate “Passover” is literally translated “Protection.”  Jesus, in not drinking this Cup of Redemption, forfeits God’s protection against the Angel of Death.

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melekh ha’olam borey pri hagafen.

ALL:

Praised are you, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

 

ELIJAH THE PROPHET

There is a section of the Passover Seder that teaches us that before Messiah returns, Elijah will come (Malachi 4:5).  The Messiah always has a forerunner, a preparer of the way.   During the first coming of Yeshua, Jesus said in Matthew 17 that Elijah already came in the person of John the Baptist.  Luke 1:17 explains that John is of the spirit and power of Elijah.  And yet the Jews today don’t know that Jesus is Messiah, so they are still waiting… first for Elijah… then for Messiah.

So, in the homes of Jewish families today, at this time a young child opens the front door of the home, in effect, welcoming Elijah, and ultimately welcoming the Messiah.

Since we know that Jesus has already come, we skip this portion… But we should be reminded that Jesus will come again.  And He tells us in Revelation 22: “Look, I am coming soon!”

So we say:

ALL:

Maranantha! Come Lord Jesus. Come!

 

THE FOURTH CUP, THE CUP OF PRAISE

(Refill your cup as necessary.)

Let us lift one more cup tonight, the Cup of Praise and let us give thanks to God… Again from Revelation 21, Jesus is not only the Passover Lamb, but He is the Tabernacle of God

I heard a loud shout from the throne saying, “Look, the home of God is now among men, and he will live with them and they will be his people; yes, God himself will be among them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever.”  And the one sitting on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new!”  (Revelation 21:3-5, NLT)

Let us drink the Cup of Praise together!

Barukh Atah Adonai Eloheynu Melekh ha’olam borey pri hagafen.

ALL:

Praised are you, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

 

THE HALLEL, PSALM 136

(Read entire Psalm from a Bible)

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.

ALL:

And His love endures forever!

 

THE FIFTH CUP, THE CUP OF WRATH

Some Biblical scholars have suggested a fifth cup… one that only Jesus drank… the Cup of Wrath.  Malachi 4 and Joel 2 describe the “great and terrible” day when the Lord comes again.  As Jesus prayed in the garden, following the Passover Meal, as recorded in Matthew 26:29, He asked: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”  As we said earlier, Jesus did not drink the Cup of Redemption, the Cup of Protection… so He, by going to the Cross on our behalf, drank the cup of death. Death caused by our sin, the sins the nations. And as He drinks this Cup, only He brings salvation to the world.

He did it again! He took an ordinary moment… the whole evening…  and turned it into a teaching moment for all eternity.

 

THE BLESSING OF AARON BY MOSES

(Numbers 6:24-26)

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord turn His face toward you all the days of your life

And give you His peace.

 

“NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM!”

Lashanah haba’ah bi Yerushalayim!

 

DANCING!

Move the furniture out of the way and dance and celebrate the Life we have through Yeshua, the Passover Lamb! 

 

 

THANK YOU

Thank you for joining us for this wonderful celebration of truth, redemption and a looking forward to our Messiah’s return.

We’d like to encourage you to take time during the coming days to read the whole story of Passover in Exodus.  It is so powerful to see the compassion our Abba, Father has for His chosen people.  For us!  For you!

We are all called to live the Sh’ema, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and might, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Know that God desires us all to walk in relationship with him and His son, Yeshua.  It’s not a “religion.”  It’s communing with Him daily.  Praising Him first thing in the morning and continuing to do so until you fall fast asleep each night.

The Word is true.  The prophesies are true.  Jesus came to fulfill the Old Testament Law not to abolish it.  Isn’t it amazing how the first Passover, celebrated at least 1500 years before Jesus celebrated it with His disciples, has such meaning now that we know Yeshua IS “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” ?

May you be blessed in your relationship with Yeshua!

If you would like to know more about Belonging, Growing and Serving in God’s Kingdom at Oak Hills Church North Central, please contact Rich Ronald, North Central Campus Minister at richr@oakhillschurch.com.

 

“Into Me, See”

Quiet streams of Living Water in the Wilderness of the Israeli Desert. A place of rest. A place of peace. A place of refreshing.

Quiet streams of Living Water in the Wilderness of Zin in the middle of the Israeli Desert.  A place of rest. A place of peace. A place of refreshing. A place of intimacy.

Do you have a “One Word” for 2014? A single, focused idea or goal for the New Year? My word is “intimacy.” As in, “I want to walk closer in intimacy with God the Father.”  To do so, I think, means to be stretched in my times of prayer.  My hope is that it means significant prayer. True connecting prayer. Two way conversations of prayer between God and me. Lingering prayer. Not check-list prayer.

Intimacy. A good pastor friend of mine used to say it this way: “Into me, see.” As in opening your heart and life to one who truly sees into your heart and soul. For most of us, that’s our spouse. But isn’t it also God? And I believe that His true desire is for us to see as deep into His heart as we acknowledge that He sees into ours.

That’s the deep, intimate, prayer-stretching kind of focus that I desire in my personal walk with God the Father, His Son and the Holy Spirit in 2014.

In the past ten days I have eaten up a book I literally stumbled upon at Barnes and Noble the day after Christmas. Its title grabbed me: Signs, Wonders and a Baptist Preacher, How Jesus Flipped My World Upside Down.[1] The Bible says in John 14:12 (NIV): “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  Have you ever wrestled with these words of Jesus?

My spiritual background has included seasons of beauty in seeing God move supernaturally. It has also included seasons of awful abuse of the Biblical text and manipulating God and people seeking Him in prayer.   The bad seasons soured my praying for people for years.

And yet God…

In His grace and love I’m wondering if there is a new season ahead for me personally and others in my circle of friends and family and prayer partners…  a time of seeing Him move “in power”  as a direct result of walking in intimacy with Abba, Father?

Curiously, it’s been a long time since a single book spoke to me the way this one has. The author’s unassuming approach is delightful. I can’t believe how much I’ve underlined, circled and starred… thoughts and ideas that have struck a chord in my heart. Perhaps they will speak to you?

Author Chad Norris talks about walking the walk that Jesus walked while He was here on earth. Can the supernatural be natural for us? Here are a few direct quotes from the first chapters:

If we had followed Jesus while He was on the earth, what would He have asked us to do? …  The only answer I can come up with is that He would have asked us to do what He asked His other disciples to do, even if it led to some awkward moments that left us wondering how we ever got into such a strange situation. (p.43)

I want things that I cannot explain to happen in my life on a daily basis. I want heaven to be attracted to my life in the way it was attracted to Jesus’ life. (p.44)

I yearn to do the things my Master did while He was here. This is not because I want superpowers, this is because I want to follow Jesus. (p.45)

If you long to see more… or maybe just different and faith stretching from God, great! Let’s talk and pray and see where it leads.

I spoke about some of this in a sermon on December 29, 2013. If you want to listen to it you can find it on iTunes. Search “Rich Ronald podcasts.” Look for the sermon called “Gideon’s Power is Our Power Too.”

I’m eager to be more intimate with God the Father in 2014 and see where He guides. How about you?


[1] (© 2013. Published by Chosen, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Minneapolis, MN.
(c) 2104. Rich Ronald.