Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Forgotten Hero of the Titanic

There is a seldom told story of a lone hero of the Titanic. In these days of commemorating that horrible loss some 100 years ago this weekend, I thought it good to pass on to you some good news.

It was the night of April 14, 1912. The RMS Titanic sailed swiftly on the bitterly cold ocean waters heading unknowingly into the pages of history. On board this luxurious ocean liner were many rich and famous people. At the time of the ship's launch, it was the world's largest man-made moveable object. At 11:40 p.m. on that fateful night, an iceberg scraped the ship's starboard side, showering the decks with ice and ripping open six watertight compartments. The sea poured in.

On board the ship that night was John Harper and his much-beloved six-year-old daughter Nana. According to documented reports, as soon as it was apparent that the ship was going to sink, John Harper immediately took his daughter to a lifeboat. It is reasonable to assume that this widowed preacher could have easily gotten on board this boat to safety; however, it never seems to have crossed his mind. He bent down and kissed his precious little girl; looking into her eyes he told her that she would see him again someday. The flares going off in the dark sky above reflected the tears on his face as he turned and headed towards the crowd of desperate humanity on the sinking ocean liner.

As the rear of the huge ship began to lurch upwards, it was reported that Harper was seen making his way up the deck yelling, "Women, children and unsaved into the lifeboats!" It was only minutes later that the Titanic began to rumble deep within. Most people thought it was an explosion; actually the gargantuan ship was literally breaking in half. At this point, many people jumped off the decks and into the icy, dark waters below. John Harper was one of these people.

That night 1528 people went into the frigid waters. John Harper was seen swimming frantically to people in the water leading them to Jesus before the hypothermia became fatal. Mr. Harper swam up to one young man who had climbed up on a piece of debris. Rev. Harper asked him between breaths, "Are you saved?" The young man replied that he was not.

Harper then tried to lead him to Christ only to have the young man who was near shock, reply no. John Harper then took off his life jacket and threw it to the man and said, "Here then, you need this more than I do..." and swam away to other people. A few minutes later Harper swam back to the young man and succeeded in leading him to salvation. Of the 1528 people that went into the water that night, six were rescued by the lifeboats. One of them was this young man on the debris.

Four years later, at a survivors meeting, this young man stood up and in tears recounted how that after John Harper had led him to Christ. Mr. Harper had tried to swim back to help other people,yet because of the intense cold, had grown too weak to swim. His last words before going under in the frigid waters were, "Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved." Does Hollywood remember this man? No. Oh well, no matter. This servant of God did what he had to do. While other people were trying to buy their way onto the lifeboats and selfishly trying to save their own lives, John Harper gave up his life so that others could be saved.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends..." John Harper was truly the hero of the Titanic!

Author Unknown. Sources for this article:
"The Titanic's Last Hero" by Moody Press 1997," John Climie, George Harper, & Bill Guthrie from "Jesus Our Jubilee Ministries" in Dallas, Oregon

Monday, April 16, 2012

Give Thanks! God Is For Us, Not Against Us

The Prayer of Jabez is my prayer for the year. I have prayed it, and plan to continue to pray it, every day of the year. But here’s a thought let’s turn the Jabez prayer from a moaning and groaning prayer of “Oh, that God would bless me indeed” to a thankful cry, “Oh, God you have blessed me indeed.”

Most of us spend our lives wishing for the favor of God. ”Oh that you would bless me!” is often the cry of our hearts when we pray. But in reality we walk about with a mental shroud of gloom and rejection. We don’t feel blessed. We often feel cheated and shortchanged by life. We don’t’ feel like God cares all the time.

We are like Joe Btfsplk form the Li’l Abner cartoon by Al Capp:

Joe Btfsplk, the world’s worst jinx, had a perpetually dark rain cloud over his head; instantaneous bad luck befell anyone unfortunate enough to be in his vicinity. Though well-meaning and friendly, his reputation inevitably precedes him, so Joe is a very lonely little man. He has an apparently unpronounceable name, but creator Al Capp “pronounced” Btfsplk by simply blowing a “raspberry”, or Bronx cheer. Joe’s personal black cloud became one of the most memorable images in the Li’l Abner cartoon strip.

Let’s get rid of the cloud of gloom and doom that so often follows us around. Let’s give thanks for what we do have and what God has done.

We are children of the King. We are joint-heir with Christ. We are seated with Christ in heavenly places. Let’s think like it, act like it, feel like it, live like it. There is a reason God chose to call us “believers.”

What is it we believe? Our thoughts betray us. If we are feeling like paupers it is because we are not believing what God says, but rather what the enemy has sown in our cheated hearts.

The Scripture says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” What are you thinking in your heart today? The Apostle Paul exhorted us give thanks in everything, and for all men. He goes on to instruct us in having the mind of Christ.

“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

A great exercise for the grumblers and complainers among us it to begin the day with an extended time of thanksgiving – nothing else. Then covenant with God that for this 24-hour period you will “put a muzzle on it,” that is, you will not complain, grumble, criticize, or bemoan anything. What a day that will be! And what a wonderful transformation it will bring to our feelings and our families. Try it, you’ll like it!

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Passover Reveals Jesus Christ

The Passover Seder and traditional Haggadah (the order or readings of Passover) is rich in meaning and message for the believer and unbeliever. It truly does, “SHOW THE LORD’S DEATH, UNTIL HE COMES.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) The word “SHOW” here is the Greek word “kataggello” means “Preach the Message.”

When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and the Passover, which was the original Last Supper, we “PREACH AND PROCLAIM CHRIST,” until he comes again. Consider some of the hidden meanings behind the traditions of the Passover Haggadah and Seder.

Searching for Leaven

Leaven in Scripture is almost always a symbol of sin or as the Rabbis say “the evil inclination”. Putting away of Leaven is a picture of sanctification. The Hebrew word for Leaven means bitter or sour. So it is with sin in one’s life. Paul said, “But let a man examine himself first, and then let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.”“Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:” – (1 Corinthians 5:7)

Lighting of the Candle

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12) and again, “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.5 And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:4-5), and again, John 1:11 “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. 12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (John 1:11)

The Cup of Sanctification and Blessing (1st Cup)

Symbolic of the honor of being a chosen people of God. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” (1 Peter 2:9)

Washing of Hands

So Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. (John 13: 4-12)

The Cup of Redemption (3rd Cup)

Then Jesus took the cup of wine, which would have been the third cup of the Seder – the cup of redemption. He said that it was the new covenant in His blood “poured out for you.”


Three matzahs are put together (representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). The matzah itself is designed to represent Jesus, since it is striped and pierced, which was prophesized by Isaiah, David, and Zechariah.


The middle matzah is broken, wrapped in a white cloth, and hidden, representing the death and burial of Jesus.

* * * * * * * The Passover Lamb * * * * * * *

Choosing the Lamb

Jesus came into the city ofJerusalemfive days before the lamb was killed in the temple as the Passover sacrifice for the sins of the people ofIsrael. Five days before the lamb was to be sacrificed, it was chosen. Therefore, Jesus enteredJerusalemon lamb selection day as the lamb of God. The people did not understand the significance of this, since they greeted Him with palm branches and hailed Him as King, shouting “Hosanna,” which means “save us.”

Without Blemish

The New Testament says that Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb. The Passover lamb was to be a “male without defect,” which is the same description given to Jesus. In addition, when the lamb was roasted and eaten, none of its bones were to be broken

The Shofar Blown – The Lamb is Slain

The day Jesus was crucified was the day of the Passover celebration and the day that the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed. For the previous 1,200 years, the priest would blow the shophar (ram’s horn) at 3:00 p.m. – the moment the lamb was sacrificed, and all the people would pause to contemplate the sacrifice for sins on behalf of the people ofIsrael. At 3:00,when Jesus was being crucified, He said, “It is finished”- at the moment that the Passover lamb was sacrificed and the shophar was blown from theTemple.

The Veil of the Temple

At the same time, the veil of theTemple(a three-inch thick, several story high cloth that demarked the Holy of Holies) tore from top to bottom – representing a removal of the separation between God and man.

Sang a Hymn

This included Psalm chapters 115-118 and was called traditionally the Great Hallel. Therefore Psalm 118:24 actually refers to the day of Christ’s crucifixion “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord.” But by application we can use it today, and every day. Psalm 118:22-24 says, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Next Year in Jerusalem

The Seder customary ends by every one saying: “Next Year inJerusalem!” — Believers should say, “Maybe next year in the New Jerusalem (heaven). Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The sands of time have passed and blown across the desert of our minds often clouding our remembrance of the events of the crucifixion and resurrection story. In by-gone eras families often read the Scriptures together and just about everyone attended Good Friday Services. Today the importance is placed on personal experience to the detriment of historical record. It is good to remember, rehearse, and rejoice in the historical and miraculous events of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Take some time this Holy Week to review, reread, and reflect on the Lord’s death. He told us to “remember his death ’til he comes.”

Matthew 26:47-28:20 (114 verses) Mark 14:43-16:20 (96 verses)
Luke 22:31-24:53 (149 verses) John 18:1-21:25 (138 verses)
(A synoptic Gospel combining all elements = approximately 200 verses)

1. Basin – Jn 12:4-5, Mat 27:24
2. Bone Unbroken – John 19:36
3. Chains of Barabbas – Matt. 27:16, Mark 15:15, Lk 23:18, John 18:40
4. Clock – 3rd to 9th hour – Mk 15:33
5. Cross – Luke 23:26
6. Crown of thorns – John 19:2/ Mt 27:29/ Mk 15:17
7. Cup Pass from me – Matthew 26:27, 42, Luke 22:42, John 18:11
8. Dice – Lk 23:34/ Jn 19:24/ Mt 27:35/ Mk 15:24
9. Ear – Mk 14:43
10. Gavel – Luke 23:24
11. Grave clothes – Luke 23:53 /24:12/ John 19:39
12. Halladah – Matthew 26:17
13. Hammer – Mt 27:35
14. Honey comb – Luke 24:42
15. Hymn – Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26
16. Lips – Mt 26:48-49/ Mk 14:44
17. Matzah Bread – Matthew 26:26, Luke 22:7, Luke 22:19
18. Nails – Mt 27:35
19. Napkin – Jn 20:7
20. Net – John 21:1-12
21. Noose – Mt 27:5/ Acts 1:18-19
22. One Angel – John 20:12/ Mt 29:2-6
23. Perfume – Luke 23:56/ John 19:39
24. Pieces of silver – Mt 27:2-9
25. Pillow – John 13:23
26. Plaque “King of the Jews” – Lk 23:38/ Jn 19:19/ Mt 27:37/ Mk 15:26
27. Purple robe – Lk 23:11/ Jn 19:2/ Mt 27:28/ Mk 15:17
28. Purse – Luke 22:36
29. Rock – Lk 23:53/ Jn 19:41-42/ Mt 27:59-61/ Mk 15:46
30. Rod/reed – Mat 27:29-30/ Mark 14:19
31. Rooster – Lk 22:60/ Mt 26:74/ Mk 14:72
32. Rope for hands – Mt 27:2/ Mk 15:1
33. Sandals – Lk 24:12/ John 20:3-4
34. Scull – John 19:17/ Mt 27:33/ Mk 15:22
35. Seal for tomb – Mt 27:62-66
36. Sop bowl – John 13:26-30
37. Spear – John 10:34
38. Stone of tomb – Luke 24:2/ Mt 28:2
39. Sword – Luke 22:50/ Mat 26:51/ Mark 14:47
40. Sword – Mt 26:47/ Mk 14:43
41. Tears in bottle (wept bitterly) – Matthew 26:75, Luke 22:62
42. Two Angels – Jn 20:12
43. Veil of temple – Lk 23:45/ Mt 27:51/ Mk 15:38
44. Vinegar & sponge – Lk 22:36/ Jn 19:29/ Mt 27:34/ 27:48/ Mk 15:23
45. Whip – John 19:1/ Mark 14:15
46. Whip – John 19:1/ Mark 14:15
47. White robe – Jn 19:23-24/ Mt 27:35
48. Wine & Two Cups – Luke 22:17, 20
49. Wood fire – Lk 22:55

So what is the use of listing all this material objects of the Easter Story?
Much in every way, if we use them the way God ordained for Israel to tangibly remember the events of the Passover. The Passover was not just a meal but a celebration of God’s deliverance of the Jews from Egypt by a mighty hand. In that remembrance are objects incorporated into the meal to make it memorable. That is why when Jesus partook of the Last Supper with his disciples (that was the Passover) he said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

In Remembrance of What?
It was to be like the original Passover with specific remembrances of the Lord’s death and resurrection. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Christians today would mimic the Passover Haggadah Service with our own remembrances of Christ’s death and resurrection? I think it would make it more real to the generations to come and remind all of us that these were real events in the real world.

As with the Passover Haggaday (Seder) ceremony it ought to have the past historical look and the present reality of our salvation through the blood of Jesus, but also the forward look of expectation of the Lord’s return. Let us “REMEMBER HIS DEATH UNTIL HE COMES.”

Maybe next year we will be in heaven.
“Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!”
Revelation 22:20

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Thinking About Easter - Part 2 - Calculating Easter's Date

Have you ever noticed that some years we have snow on Easter and other years it is almost May before Easter rolls around? No, it has nothing to do with global warning. It is a calendar thing and an early Easter won't occur again on March 23 until 2228 AD. I don't plan on being here.

A more important question, even a frustration to me, is why Easter is out of sync with Passover? Passover is the whole point of Easter. Jesus died on Passover that year. It was, as always, celebrated on the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan. It seems like it would be a simple thing to keep Easter aligned with the Jewish Passover, but alas, it is not. Easter can fall anywhere from March 22 to April 25. This year, Easter and Passover are a occurring at the same time, and that is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Why? You ask. I am glad you asked. I am going to tell you.

The Jewish Calendar
It all has to do with calendars and the sun and moon. The Jewish calendar was, and is, based on the moon and has only 354 days. Don't ask - it's just the way it is. Since that cycle does not come out even the calendar tends to fall behind, so Jewish Rabbis add an extra month, a leap month every seven years. That becomes the month of Adar II. You guessed it. There is a month of Adar I, which occurs just before Nisan, the month that has Passover. So now you know the reason that Passover moves around from year to year.

Council of Nicea
Now bring in the Christian Church, which wanted to celebrate Easter on Sunday, not on Passover which can be any day of the week. So, in 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicea the subject came up for debate. They set out another formula for calculating Easter (not Passover) based on the sun, not the moon. (Way to go guys!) They mandated Easter to be the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal (spring) equinox, or March 21 (sometimes it's March 20).

The Julian Calendar
At that time (325 A.D.), they used the Roman Julian calendar, which was established by Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. and wasn't very accurate either. The Julian calendar had fallen out of alignment in measuring solar years (keeping months aligned with seasons).

By 1582 everyone was frustrated about Easter and calendars in general. The Julian calendar had fallen ten days in arrears, so that, for instance, the day of the vernal equinox, which should have been March 21, was really March 11. Easter kept getting earlier and earlier each year. No one wanted Easter at Christmas. To remedy the Julian calendar errors it was necessary to omit ten full days in order to bring things back to the proper point.

The Gregorian Calendar
In the year 1572, Pope Gregory XIII realized there was a calendar crisis - one of Christianity's most important dates was falling behind with respect to the seasons. As a result, Pope Gregory XIII ordained that ten days in October, 1582, should not be counted, the fourth of that month being immediately followed by the fifteenth.

Pope Gregory determined that the year should begin with 1 January, and he ruled that three leap years should be omitted every fourth century. He made a couple of other changes to try to resolve the calendar problem like adding a leap day on February 29 every four years, and the rules for the positioning of Easter were changed.

To complicate matters even more, much of the world was not Catholic so they did not recognize Pope Gregory's (Gregorian) calendar so they continued with the Julian calendar. Great Britain did not come to recognize the Gregorian calendar until 1752, the year George Washington was born. In the Julian calendar his birthdate is Feb 11, 1731 and in the Gregorian Calendar it is Feb 22, 1732. Thus in the colonies 10 days had to be omitted that year, so some people were not born - just kidding - some people lost their birth date that year since 10 days went missing.

Gregory's omission of ten days - instead of the twelve that had been lost under the Julian calendar - restored the vernal equinox to the 21st of March, the date set by the Nicene Council. However, under this system the equinox varies between the 19th and the 22nd.

Back To Passover and Easter
So, Easter and Passover are no longer linked by an ecclesiastical mandate that forever sends them drifting in different directions. That is why in 2008 Easter and Passover are separated by nearly a month. And this year, 2012 Passover is the Saturday before Easter

It really is a shame that this has happened in that many people make no connection between Passover and Easter. Month after month during the year we have Communion without ever thinking the Jesus instituted that the Communion service as a memorial to what he did - that is, it is a memorial to the Passover Lamb who was slain for our sins and who three days later rose from the dead triumphant forever over death and hell through the power of the cross. I urge the church and pastor everywhere to restore Passover to the church traditions "in remembrance of Him."

That can be done by yearly inviting a Messianic Jewish pastor or layperson to lead the church in celebrating the Haggadah or Passover Seder. The Haggadah is the order of service for the Seder that includes all the historical traditions and emblems that speak of the Messiah in Passover. You can also do it without a Jewish guest by downloading a simple Haggadah with instructions on foods and preparations, and specific instruction for the leader, and reading and songs to be used in the memorial service. I just downloaded my Haggadah from a wonderful web site that let's you fine tune your own Seder service. There is a do-it-yourself Haggadah available as an App on iTunes (it's free) or you can go to at www.DIYseder.com and build your own Seder. How about this weekend (anytime Thursday to Saturday) you invite some family and friends over for a mini-Haggada Seder in your home? It will start a new, but very old tradition that Jesus used when he celebrated the Last Supper in the upper room.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Passover in 2012 will start on Saturday, the 7th of April
and will continue for 7 days until Friday, the 13th of April.

Note that in the Jewish calander, a holiday begins on the sunset of the previous day,
so observing Jews will celebrate Passover on the sunset of Friday, the 6th of April.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Thinking About Easter

Have you noticed how weird Easter is? Can you imagine how bummed out we'd get if Christmas came at a different time each year, like maybe November 22, nearer to Thanksgiving one year, then the next year it ends up being after December 25? Now that would really get the retailers upset. But Easter, well let's just throw that baby wherever we want, you know, just so long as it is in the spring. How would it be if we treated July 4th with such disrespect? Think about it.

I used to not think about it at all, so it didn't bother me. Then I remembered that Jesus died the week of Passover right after he ate the Passover meal with his disciples. So, I assumed that Easter was chasing Passover like the Easter bunny and that for solar and lunar reasons it came at a different date each year. Hmm… not really. Did you ever notice that sometimes Easter's date isn't any where near Passover? That's right. Sometimes they are nearly a month apart. Sometimes Passover comes in March and sometimes in April.

What perked me up to this fact was this year I thought it would be cool to do a Passover Seder here at home with our family. So, I asked Google when Passover was this year. Guess what? It's April 7, this Saturday, the day before Easter. Wow! Now that is cool. So, you can have the Passover Seder on Friday evening on Good Friday (or Saturday if you like) and still celebrate Easter as if the two were connected somehow.

Dah, they are connected! Easter is about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins and rising from the dead three days later. It happened on Passover (or the night before) when Jesus gathered his disciples in the upper room to have the Last Supper, which was the Passover supper that commemorated the Jews escape from Egypt and God's protection of His people from the last plague. Remember, the angel of death was to kill all the first born children in Egypt. God gave them strict orders to eat the Passover meal as a memorial of God's provision of a lamb's blood through all generations. It is to take place every year on the 14th day of Nissan or the Jewish calendar.

So, why is it so hard for the Church to get its act together and celebrate Easter the Sunday after Passover? It's not that hard. (We'll explain more about this in our next blog.) Just follow Passover, which, by the way, is full of meaning for what Christ did in offering himself as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. The blood of the lamb had to be put on the lintels and doorposts of each Jewish home as a sign to the angel of death that this home was covered by the blood, and thus protected. Wow, what an amazing message!

We are going to muse on Easter/Passover question all this week.

But while we do I just want to give you a head's up about Passover being on Easter Saturday this year. Why not consider following the last steps of Jesus during this Holy Week and celebrating Passover with a mini-Seder (we will publish one here) with your family on Thursday, Friday or Saturday nights.