Book Review: The Mystery of the Shemitah

Since I plan on publishing a treatise about the End Times in the future, I decided that studying some material from Rabbi Jonathan Cahn was essential, in order to stay on top of current works in the field of eschatological study. I took out The Mystery of the Shemitah and read thought through it carefully.

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Cahn, a Messianic Rabbi, leads a congregation in New Jersey and is the head of an organization called Hope of the World. In addition to writing The Mystery of the Shemitah, Cahn received international recognition after writing The Harbinger. More recently, Cahn has written The Book of Mysteries, and he will be releasing The Paradigm this fall.

Let me start off by saying that I really respect Mr. Cahn and his personal strength in standing to call America to her knees in repentance. This is a message that needs to be heard, I believe. Not just America, but Canada, and the whole world for that matter. We all need to constantly turn to the Lord for daily strength, guidance and direction.

Where I disagree with Cahn comes down to the finer details exposited in his book about the Shemitah. I think, as a general principle, God can work in seven-year cycles in terms of how he relates to His people. Cahn himself agrees that God is not bounded or limited to such cyclical patterns. But certainly God is the Lord of the impossible, and He can sovereignly act as He pleases. It is interesting to read the great details that Cahn goes to in studying the Shemitah concept, which essentially is a Biblical, Old Testament pattern that says God “wipes the slate clean” every seven years. Judgement is more likely to occur during the year of the Shemitah, according to Cahn, in the form of economic calamity, agricultural disaster and consequences occurring in other spheres of society.

Cahn conducts a thorough exegesis of the Shemitah concept, even drilling down to the percentage chance that a given collapse or negative outcome could occur within this cyclical pattern. While I am not disputing this per se, I know from my study of the New Testament (and Old) that in addition to being a God of justice, God is also a God of mercy and love. If we do humble ourselves and pray for our nation, God will heal our land (2 Chron. 7:14).

Another concept which I found fascinating in the book was the idea that man has historically erected towers as an act of defiance against Almighty God. Although I do not agree prima facie that building skyscrapers is an offence to God, it can be construed as such under certain circumstances. The Old Testament parallel, of course, is the construction of the great Tower of Babel, when humanity sought to defy God through erecting this formidable structure. In the end, God was not mocked and He foiled humanity’s plan by destroying this tower.

I am very grateful that our God, in Jesus, is loving and forgiving. He has forgiven me of all of my sins, for which I am eternally thankful, and do not deserve. I commend reading The Mystery of the Shemitah to you and suggest that you carefully study Mr. Cahn’s suggestions with an open Bible in hand.

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Canadian Free Speech

In Canada, we’re known to be quiet, reserved citizens, who stay out of people’s business. This week, as we looked south at our neighbours, I have been praying that the combative situation would stop. It is intriguing that issues faced during the Civil Rights period of the 1960’s have not truly gone away, but are flaming up again.

I have been thinking about how much the U.S. First Amendment, concerning free speech, is touted in the States. By contrast, in Canada we seem to be more private, reticent to share our opinions lest extremism befall us.

Canadians like to think of themselves as ‘tolerant’ and not bigoted. This is noble and we need more of this in the world in which we live. I must add, also, that the Christian message of hope and salvation in Jesus Christ alone for the lost of this broken world is the answer to all of society’s problems.

Should Christians Drink? (Part 1)

This is an age-old questions. As many as there are denominations, there are answers.

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It is a question that has merit, though. “Do not be drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,” is what Ephesians 5:18 commands. Bottom line is: if drinking leads you to sin, you need to cut it out.

The same could be said about food, or being addicted to entertainment in our culture of leisure. But there are many passages, of course, in the Old Testament that refer to wine in a positive way. Even Jesus’ first miracle was turning water to wine! (I’ve heard the argument before that it actually wasn’t wine, but grape juice. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy that one.)

Catholicism, Anglicanism and Methodism both embrace wine as part of their communion. Other denominations, like Baptists and Brethren have historically prohibited the drinking of alcohol. Baptists also, at one time, prohibited a number of activities, including card-playing and dancing. Popular author Philip Yancey explores some of these tensions. The question is where to draw the line with activity that could lead to sin?

This process can take time. For some people, if they come from a family where alcoholism was a chilling reality, they choose to cut it out completely. Other people, though, do not have that experience and are able to drink in moderation, exercising self-control. Another aspect that I should point out is that it is advisable, in order to protect the integrity of your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, to not drink with them if they have a drinking problem. Paul addresses this concern in the fourteenth chapter of Romans.

When One Door Closes, Another Opens

How true is that statement?

Experientially, I know this to be true on one level. But also, it is equally true, I believe, that sometimes we must persevere and not take ‘no’ for an answer.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (Rev. 3:20).

Jesus is persistently knocking on our hearts and, although He gives us free will to make our own decisions, he doesn’t want us to turn Him down when He comes knocking.

In His earthly ministry, Christ suggested that we ought to do the same in our prayer lives – to “keep knocking,” as it were. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Many people have pointed out that these are three levels of increasing intimacy: first, asking; second, more diligently seeking; and last, knocking, which implies even more intention on the part of the searcher. The trick too with this verse that has taken me a while to grasp is that when Jesus gives the answer ‘no,’ or even a ‘maybe,’ (or a ‘later’), it’s just as much of an answer as when He is affirmative in granting a prayer request.

Depth of Conversation

It’s hard to go beneath the surface in today’s society. Everyone is trying to cram their thoughts into 140 character Tweets. Don’t get me wrong… I think Twitter is a marvelous tool, but we as humans, I believe, were meant to go deeper in life. In an earlier blog post, I pointed out how face-to-face communication is ideal.

I believe our relationship with others, and with our faith should be deep ones.

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Jesus calls us out on to the waters. Places where we would not otherwise go. Out of our comfort zones.

When I think of being called into the depths in the Canadian context, I think of the canoe. Just last month, I had the opportunity to visit the Canadian Canoe Museum. What a treasure that was! Our own former prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was an avid outdoorsman and canoeist. Our faith, in many ways, can be rugged. We are called to the adventure of life by our wonderful Saviour… and He guides us every step of the way!

Unplugged

It’s difficult to get unplugged, isn’t it?

I relish spending time in the outdoors… some years I’m able to spend more time doing it than others.

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One of the best parts about it, besides connecting with others and having solid discipleship time, is that it gives me an opportunity to be unplugged. In other words, without the need to feel tethered to our technology. This is truly something that is valuable in our day and age… one where we are seemingly “always on.”

Are you making time in your schedule to enjoy the Lord’s creation? Summer is the perfect opportunity. So, get outdoors and marvel in the beauty of what God has made! Jesus Himself made sure to get away from the crowds regularly to get spiritually refreshed…

The Reality of Spiritual Warfare

Many people fail to realize the spiritual dimension of the world in which we live. 2 Corinthians 4:4 teaches that the mind of unbelievers have been blinded.

For Christians, the spiritual battle is real. Though it is not flesh-and-blood, as Ephesians chapter 6 instructs, it is nevertheless something that we face on a daily basis.

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The tendency is to one of two extremes: overemphasize the evil one or ignore him completely. Many places, like Africa, have a deeper understanding of the spiritual world due to familiarity with animism and witchcraft. We, on the other hand, in North America and Europe seem to be all too often happily asleep to the enemy.

C.S. Lewis explores this topic in his book Screwtape Letters. The premise is that a more senior demon is explaining to his junior counterpart about how to really mess up Christians lives and render them ineffective. I highly recommend the read, along with the rest of Lewis’ writings.

It’s time Christians all over the world realize the victory that is already theirs in Christ. When we approach God in prayer through Christ, we have victory over death, hell and the grave. Who wouldn’t want a deal as good as that? We have peace on earth while we are alive, a right-relationship with our Saviour and eternity in heaven with our Creator.

Why not spend a few minutes committing to memory the following verse:

They [the followers of Christ] will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings-and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” (Revelation 17:14)

Notice, how Christ-followers are a) called by God, b) chosen – specially selected to be His ambassadors in this world and c) able to be faithful because He is faithful to us in continuing the good work He started in us (Phil. 1:6).

How Much is Too Much Information?

Have I posted too much information? This is the proverbial question that resurfaces regularly in our modern world of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, the list goes on…

People ask the same question about alcohol, food, work: how much is too much? Well, this happens to be a subject that greatly interests me. God-willing, by the end of the fall, I will have completed an Information Access and Privacy Protection Certificate (IAPP) from the University of Alberta. After six and a half years at Transport Canada and over half a year at Library and Archives Canada in the Access to Information and Privacy field, I have grown quite intrigued by the “information overload” of our digital age.

Many citizens of our day sift through reams of information as they navigate the challenges of daily life. The Internet can be very addictive. Children, and then teens, need to learn responsibility and how to set proper boundaries for themselves so that they don’t spend too much time connected to the online world. Contrary to popular belief, the Internet does not solve all of our problems.

The trouble is that the Internet has solved many of our problems. Or, more accurately, simplified our lives. Supposedly, we save a lot of time by completing purchases online rather than waiting in line-ups. So, from a strictly economic point of view, the Internet has been a real boon. But if one expands one’s notion of the societal impact of the Web, one quickly realizes that the affects of the Internet have been dire, too.

Two key areas of our society that have been affected negatively by the Internet are our social and spiritual realms. Socially, we settle for more mediocre relationships that are “thin,” and many folks prefer conversing on social media rather than meeting face-to-face or even talking on the phone. We cast our net wide by amassing large groups of friends in our various digital networks only to discover that this provides a false sense of security since the quality of these relationships leaves little to be desired. After all, Jesus, the Son of God, ministered to the crowds, but hung out mainly with only twelve, right?

Spiritually-speaking, the Internet has increased the accessibility (and thus the bondage) of people to soul-sapping pornography. Christian apologist Josh McDowell has tried to get the church to wake up to this fact, and has thoughtfully orchestrated a really neat conference entitled the Set Free Summit, in which experts discuss some of the academics of what happens to the brain when it is stimulated in this sinful way. I recommend that you check out some of the resources that are promoted in this conference so that you and your family can better combat this evil in your own lives.

I also commend to your attention an article I wrote not too long ago entitled How the Internet Has Affected Us, in which I highlights positive and negative aspects about the way the Web has changed social, spiritual and business norms so drastically in little over 20 years.

Do What You Love… You’ll Never Work a Day in Your Life!

The saying is ubiquitous. “Do what you love doing, and you’ll never work a single day in your life.”

Sounds simple enough, right?

Wrong. There’s both truth and fiction to that saying.

The truth is that for many people around the world this simply isn’t an option. Putting bread on the table is so hard to do, that for many people, and I would almost go so far as to say that the vast majority of folks, have limited means of climbing out of the cycle of poverty that they find their families in. We, as Christians, ought to reach out to our brothers and sisters in the developing world and help them achieve a greater standard of living.

If you narrow the pool and examine the truth to the saying, you realize that even those with the means and ability to do what they truly love and want to do for a living often lack the motivation to carry out their dreams. Why is that? Well, there are many reasons.

For starters, most folks lack a cohesive vision of where they’re going in life. They have difficulty living beyond the next paycheque, much less envisioning where they would ideally like to be 10 years down the road. Short term thinking is not bad per se, but again as Christians, I believe it behooves us to ponder down the road a little, as it were, so that we can be more effective in achieving God’s best, and His mission, for our lives.

No one knows the future. No one except God. But that shouldn’t paralyze us from planning well and being very intentional with how we live our lives in these evil days (Eph. 5:16). In Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32, Scripture teaches that no one knows but the Father in heaven when Jesus will return… but this should greatly motivate us to live every moment for Him and continually weed out sin in our lives, so that we can unashamedly present ourselves to Him when He comes for His bride!

 

The Beauty of God’s Creation

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There is something about God’s creation that is undeniably appealing. Though we have fallen from Eden, according to the opening chapters of Genesis, His beauty demonstrated in creation is absolutely stunning.

The above photo was taken during my vacation last week with my wife along the Thousand Islands boat cruise, an outing I had experienced also as a child. It was neat too, to see the region via helicopter. From 1,200 feet in the air, we saw the fabulous Boldt Castle, built by the famous George Boldt who was amazingly successful in his career at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. This spectacular castle was completed and opened as a tourist attraction years after Mr. Boldt’s wife passed in the early 1900’s, the inspiration behind the construction of the architectural marvel.

Along with spending time on local beaches (Sandbanks and Presqu’ile Provincial Park), we also visited the rustic, charming town of Picton and drove along the scenic Loyalist Parkway. I don’t think many people realize that our first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, worked as a lawyer in this town at the beginning of his career, before opening up shop subsequently in Kingston, Ontario.

Before reaching our final destination of Toronto and a family reunion in Bolton, we stayed one night in the quintessential Ontario town of Peterborough. The lift locks are a must see if you visit, and the rolling hills are memorable.