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“Before the festival of the Passover began, Jesus realized that the time had come for him to leave this world and return to the Father. He had loved those who were His own in this world and He loved them to the end. ..rose from the supper table, took off His outer clothes, picked up a towel and fastened it round His waist. Then He poured water into the basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry then with the towel around His waist.

When Jesus had washed their feet and put on His clothes, He sat down again and spoke to them, “Do you realize what I have just done to you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘Lord’ and you are quite right, for I am your teacher and your Lord. But if I, your teacher and Lord, have washed your feet, you must be ready to wash one another’s feet. I have given you this as an example so that you may do as I have done. Believe me, the servant is not greater than his master and the messenger is not greater than the man who sent him. Once you have realized these things, you will find your happiness in doing them.”

John 13 (Phillips Translation)

I have been observing the New Testament Passover as a Christian for forty years. Following the pattern set by Christ with His disciples the night before His death I gather with other others and go through the rituals set forth in the gospel accounts.

We wash each other’s feet as an act of humility. We then take the unleavened bread and wine as symbols of Christ’s broken body and shed blood for the sins of mankind. It is a beautiful and remarkable service. In the Church of God it is the most visible ritual we have each year. We do this once annually as a remembrance of the Lord’s death.

The Passover kept in this manner is distinctive and taken in its setting that momentous night in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago defies mixing with any other tradition. That is why this morning’s article in the Wall Street Journal, “Is Passover the New Christmas?” strikes a discordant note.

The article seeks to show multi-faith meaning in the way some Christians and Jews share or observe the distinctive Passover Seder service. As it points out many Christians do look at the Seder to try to understand the Jewish roots of Christianity. Indeed, the other Biblical festivals, such as the Feast of Trumpets and Feast of Tabernacles have drawn the interest of many in an effort to return to an authentic worship. I would encourage anyone to look at what the Bible does say about festivals and the true worship of God. Most would be surprised at what the Bible reveals on this subject. Our booklet Holidays or Holy Days makes a conclusive presentation on the subject.

But there is a problem trying to mix the tradition of the Seder with the Christian traditions.

“These Christianized seders show the Passover story as merely the prelude to the advent of Jesus. This distresses some Jews and Christians. “It’s deceptive to introduce Christian themes into the Jewish seder. When you start talking about Jesus, that is no longer a seder. That is a different creation altogether,” a vehicle for preaching or proselytizing, says Rabbi Neil Gillman, professor emeritus of Jewish philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary.”

The Rabbi is right. Christ is not in the Seder. Nor is Christ in the modern Christian traditions of Easter. People today who try to mix two incomplete traditions create a stew of religious confusion. The article concludes with the observation that mixing these two traditions “makes the Jew invisible”. I would conclude the two traditions, make Christ invisible. That is the greatest error.

Christ instituted a most remarkable ceremony the night before His death. To observe this night in the correct manner is to unlock the great mystery of the ages. It is worth the time and effort to study.

The calls to replace the dollar as the world currency continue. What seems to be a newly formed bloc of nations, the BRICS, met this week in China to discuss the continuing world monetary disorder. These nations, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, desire s greater voice and an end to the economic dominance of the dollar.

In a statement the group said what was needed was, “a broad-based international reserve currency system providing stability and certainty”. “The world economy is undergoing profound and complex changes,” Chinese President Hu Jintao said. “The era demands that the BRICS countries strengthen dialogue and cooperation.”

This group of emerging nations are an interesting mixture of emerging nations. There common theme to date appears to be a strong desire to have a voice in world affairs, countering the more dominant position of western powers. While strident, it does not now appear they have the clout to do assert the type of power that can by itself bring fundamental change. They do, however, add to the growing voice of concern and doubt in America’s economic leadership.

In a week where the Obama administration demonstrated little visionary leadership to curb America’s growing debt bomb this little development on the far side of the world should not be misunderstood. The United States’ role in world leadership is changing on many fronts. Other nations want a voice at the table and are not content to stand by in a secondary role.

America is facing a defining moment for its role as a global power. The sun has not set. At the very least it has reached its zenith. Unless fundamental changes are made the only question remaining is the rate in which it declines.

Tend the Growth

To look at my front yard this spring you will see the effects of last summer’s heat and drought. Because of the lack of rain and heat I did not mow my yard after July. It turned brown and shriveled down to virtually nothing. By November I wondered if the grass would return at all.

A few days ago I raked out a lot of the dead grass and sowed new seed. This week a dose of fertilizer was applied and with the rain and warmer temperature I can now see signs of life returning. New grass is sprouting, the established lawn is returning and the bare spots will fill in. Soon enough I will be mowing the grass for another year, tending and keeping the growth going.

Has your life been like that?

What kind of stress has impacted your life in recent months? Daily I receive in my inbox the stories of people who are dealing with various trials and problems. Health issues seem to be the most prevalent. Cancer strikes a man in his seventies. Small children are hit with life threatening illness. Death takes a child and leaves a family to mourn.

Chronic illness never leave some. Each day remains a struggle to get through. People lose a job and wonder how they will make the next mortgage payment.

Sometimes people write asking me to explain large and complicated issues that impact thousands within their fellowship. They sorrow over the separation of friendships.

Block out any given period of time and this is the sampling of trials and problems that people endure. The stress creates challenges that makes life very hard indeed.

Yet, through all the stress there is the opportunity for growth. Those who endure and remain standing through these times will be those who determine to build their spiritual house on the rock. As the spiritual winds and floods beat against the house it will not fall. (Matthew 7:24-25). The Rock we should build upon is Christ. It is that foundation that will enable us to stand and produce new growth and fruit.  Until we learn to fully trust and rely on God we will be in danger of withering under the stress of personal trials, the cares of this world or the direct attacks Satan makes against the people of God.

This is the Passover season. The Bible identifies this period as a time to solemnly observe the suffering and death of Jesus Christ as the lamb of God (I Peter 1:19). His resurrection is celebrated for seven days by the Days of Unleavened Bread (I Corinthians 5:7, 8). This holy season pictures the hope of renewal of life through Christ.

God provides the refreshing tools of spiritual regeneration at this season. It is the time to focus on spiritual renewal. It is the time to remove the decay of sin and mistakes and focus on sincerity and truth.

God is working to produce new growth and life in you. Let us all pray to be a part of God’s great care and tending of the spiritual body.

America is facing a defining moment in its history.  The United States is fiscally bankrupt and unless it makes some fundamental changes it will decline as a great power. Other countries will not only take its place in the world but will also dictate much of its future.

Any one who looks at the amount of debt we owe and the obligations coming due in the future understand we do not have the money in hand and currently owe more than we can pay. President Obama’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year nearly doubles the current debt position.

No one with an ounce of fiscal sanity can stand by and watch this train wreck about to happen without asking serious questions about the future of the country.  Entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are unsustainable. Promises made to a generation of Americans cannot be met without the United States government going deeper in debt to other nations who are willing to finance our profligate spending patterns.

China, Japan and Saudi Arabia have been willing to buy our bonds and treasury bills, in effect loaning us money to finance what we cannot afford. They hold our future in their hands. Like any bank or lending institution they can call that debt by demanding payment. If you cannot pay you have to return the goods or declare insolvency. For an individual this is bankruptcy. For a nation it can be economic servitude.

What it means for the individual

When we speak of trillions of dollars of national debt it is hard to really picture what that means. The Wall Street Journal carried a recent story that gave an illustration in terms that brings this subject home to the kitchen table. Freshman Republican Congressman Mike Mulvaney explained to a group of his constituents just how serious America’s debt problems are.  “It’s much, much worse than I had expected.”

“Picture, he suggested, a family of four with an income of $46,000, annual costs of $78,000, and a credit-card debt of $281,000. That drew a gasp from the audience of mostly older voters. The figures are roughly proportionate to federal government revenue, annual outlays and the accumulated national debt, he said.” (Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2011)

I think we all know what that would mean if you were sitting around your kitchen table. The only solution would be to file bankruptcy. Sell your assets to pay what you could to creditors and hope for a new start.

Although the protestors have cleared out of Tahrir Square In Cairo life has not returned to the “old normal”. A “new normal” seems to have evolved.

The religious element led by the Muslim Brotherhood is intent on pushing reforms in their direction. A vote last month to change the constitution would tilt the advantage toward the fundamentalist group. There are fears among the young, pro-democracy protestors that the Brotherhood colluded secretly with the military and other government leaders to introduce the constitutional changes.

Now, the Brotherhood says it will throw its support behind new demonstrations called for this Friday to protest against the military and lingering elements of the old Mubarak regime. This article in The Wall Street Journal says, “If this Friday’s protests succeed in pressuring the military to purge what is left of ex-President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, they could help the 83-year old Islamist group reclaim its revolutionary bona fides before parliamentary elections scheduled for September.”

Fear of Egypt turning into an Islamist state remain. More realistic would be a state more like Turkey, where religion and the military have maintained a balanced relationship. But the winds of change are definitely blowing in the region. Egypt remains a critical nation to watch.

The upheaval continues in the Middle East. Last night’s speech by President Obama feel short of a complete explanation and strategy for the intervention in Libya’s current civil war.
Michael Oren asks in today’s Wall Street Journal, “What if Gadhafi Had Gone Nuclear?” In 2004 the Libyan dictator turned his back on development of nuclear weapons. He feared what might happen from America should he develop the ultimate weapon. Remember this was a year after America led an intervention in Iraq and removed Saddam Hussein. Ghadafi feared the same would happen to him.

Had he proceeded with his plans and developed the bomb would he be tempted to use it on his own people in the present uprising? Probably. There is a reason the dictator has remained in power for more than forty years.

The hesitant nature of this present intervention by the United States and Europe has not dispelled the calculus of the region’s nations as they figure the risk and consequences of their actions.
Iran has proceeded forward with with their nuclear plans. In the wake of Egypt’s crisis and what is now happening in Syria they are moving ships and arms through the Suez Canal and into positions for future use. Should they sense that America will not act they could be emboldened to actions that could tip the region into further upheaval.
Oren writes, “The Iranian regime is the pre- eminent sponsor of terror in the world, a danger to pro-Western states, and the enemy of its own people who strive for democracy. It poses all of these hazards without nuclear weapons. Imagine the catastrophes it could inflict with them.”
When Iran develops the bomb it will spur other countries to acquire the same. When a future Arab leader feels his position or his countries existence is threatened what would prevent him from pushing the button? If America’s influence in the region has been diminished from where will arise the moral force to dissuade an action that could ignite a fire larger than anyone can imagine?
It is a scary thought.

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