Monday, April 25, 2016

DOUBLE EXPOSURE: The Passover Story and a Revelation of Messiah.

   Last September I wrote in our blog about the Jewish Feasts and why they have taken on a special meaning in our family.  You can read that blog at Why Do We Care?: Why the Jewish Holidays and Feasts are Relevant to Christians.  Today, I want to follow up a little on those feasts and what they mean to our family as well as believers throughout the world.

            Before I talk a little about the Jewish holidays and feasts, I want to say a little bit about God.  Everybody has their ideas of God and who He is and what He is about.  I guess I’m no different.  My experience of God throughout my years is that He is the most loving, patient and concerned being that I have ever met.  In my worst moments in life, those moments when I bowed up my back in rebellion and decided that I knew better than He how to run my life (big mistake BTW), He did not waver from His commitment to me, His love for me and His hand upon me.  That’s how I’ve come to know Him.  That’s why when I pray about decisions now and I don’t get what I want, its okay.  I understand God to have my best interest at heart and accepting that truth is much easier than in my younger days. 

            That said, the ways in which God has spoken to me through the years have been many and as I’m sure it has been for you.  I am convinced that God has gone to great lengths to provide us with snap shots of Himself and there are places in life where these snap shots are like double exposures.  Let me explain.

            I know this is the digital age and I get that we don’t have the problem of double exposure very often.  Some may not even know what I’m talking about.  But back in the day we used to take pictures, rush down to the drug store where the film would be processed and then an hour later we would return to retrieve our pictures.  It was not unusual to flip through the pictures and find some of the film was what was called “double exposed”.  Basically Double Exposure occurred when 2 separate pictures became superimposed on one another telling two stories simultaneously.  In most cases, one picture was more prominent and made its way to the forefront of perception while the other picture was somehow relegated to the background.  Like these pics that were double exposed, the Jewish Feasts and Holidays are God’s double exposure.  In the foreground, we have the Jewish story and tradition running.  In the background, a second picture tells of the Messiah and the Heavenly Father (remember Jesus said if you’ve seen him you’ve seen the Father)!  

            One of the most spectacular double exposure pictures occurs in the Passover story.  The Passover story is about the Hebrew nation being set free from 400 years of slavery and suffering.  But emancipation from slavery is not the only story here.  It is a story of rejection and broken relationship that includes a plan for God to repair and restore the relationship. The plan was the quintessential Father’s heart in action.  God and Abraham entered into a covenant whereby God promised this old man that he would be the father of a great nation.  Abraham wouldn’t see it on earth but he saw it in his spirit and he believed God.  The story proceeds to tell of a famine that forced Abraham’s offspring, later renamed Israel, to live in Egypt whereby they could be fed.  Israel became overrun with blessing and multiplied to the point that the Pharoah’s power base was threatened so he ordered them into slavery. 

            Fast forward 400 years.  So much oppression, intense labor, denigration of the Jews and suffering have become the modus operandi.  The prayers and cries of the Jewish people have mounted and God finally intervenes with a “savior”.  His name is Moses and 10 awful plagues later the children of Israel, the progenies of Abraham, are summoned in the middle of the night and walk out of Egypt as free men, women and children.  A miracle of God and one incredible story that has been told for centuries!

            Now look again.  If you look closely enough, you’ll see a second photo pasted in the background.  Yes, Passover is the celebration of the deliverance of the Jews from tyranny and slavery.  It is also the story of God guiding this incredible nation into a land that He reserved for them.  Passover remembers the tears of heartache (the salt water), the bitterness of slavery and suffering (the bitter herbs) and the intense labor inflicted in slavery (the cheroset apples, walnuts and red wine).  But it is also a revelation of God’s motivation to restore a broken relationship with all mankind and His plan to send a Messiah, through the seed of Abraham, that all might live free throughout eternity. 

            The story of the Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus), like the background photo in a double exposure film, runs constantly throughout Passover.  Here are some of those images:

·       FOREGROUND: The promise of timeless covenant with Abraham
            BACKGROUND: The promise to create a people unto Himself for all eternity
·       FOREGROUND: The fall of nation into slavery
            BACKGROUND:  The fall of man into the suffering of life without God
·       FOREGROUND: The emergence of a deliverer – Moses
            BACKGROUND:  The emergence of a deliverer – Jesus the Messiah
·       FOREGROUND: The sacrificial blood of a lamb applied to the doorpost that causes judgment to pass over
            BACKGROUND:  The sacrificial blood of the Lamb applied by faith to the heart, Jesus that allows judgment to be lifted from our lives
·       FOREGROUND: The journey to Israel was led by God
            BACKGROUND:The journey to heaven is led by God through His Spirit
·       FOREGROUND: The Promised Land to the Jews, that is the land of Israel (hasn’t changed by the way!)
            BACKGROUND: The promised land to whosoever would believe, that is heaven.

These are just a few of the double exposed images.  The more you look at the details, the clearer the double exposure becomes.  The Passover was a dress rehearsal of sorts.  It was revealing what was and is to come.  It was speaking not just of a nation being set free from tyrannical rule but an entire kingdom of people being set free from oppression to live in freedom and to do that throughout all eternity. 

This is why we get excited about the Jewish holidays.  Its like your spouse leaving notes around the house reminding you of their love and commitment to you: the double exposures found in the Jewish feasts and holidays are like God’s love notes reminding us of how much He loves us!

Its not just Passover.  On June 12th, 50 days after Passover, we will celebrate Pentecost.  Be looking for my next blog post around then as I discuss the Double Exposure of Pentecost. 

M. Russell Thomas, PhD

Friday, January 1, 2016


I wanted to share a few thoughts as we shut the books on 2015.  I have heard many of us (both in the family and our friends) say that 2015 was a rough year and they are glad to get through it.  I have to admit, I have had similar feelings.  2015 will go down in the annals of odd.  Words like excitement, disappointment, faith, doubt, loving embrace, emptiness…I could go on but all these words describe 2015.  We've noticed several people posting to their facebook pages in recent days how that 2015 was a difficult year.  It was not all bad. Rather, the good somehow seemed to be constantly followed by the bad.  

It was a real paradox and particularly so for those of us who live by faith.  After getting excited about adding 2 little ones to our clan this year it all came to a grinding halt in February and it didn't happen.  Some would say it was for the best but our emotions didn't necessarily agree.  Excitement followed by disappointment.  We continue to wonder about that one.  

We made 2 wonderful additions to our family this year via marriage.  Karen & I labored to prepare for the March wedding only to have a complete gully washer of a day.  I was bent out of shape and disappointed.  Everyone else just seemed to just go with it and that helped me temper my emotions.  And of course, 2015 made us all say goodbye to someone special and whom we miss terribly.  I was 100% convinced, as many of you were, that we wouldn't see that day.  It still makes no sense and can't be explained to satisfaction. Excitement followed by extreme disappointment.  

In 2015 questions have been followed not with answers but invitation.  "Will you trust?" are the words that continuously pound in the deep places within.  Trust, did you say?  It's too risky and the safer way is to look after your own well-being.  But trust is not an attribute, its a choice.  And this isn't some mega church preacher begging for money.  Its not give and you'll get.  Its a personal invitation, issued by a personal God followed by a personal choice.  Its a question whispered quietly in your heart but somehow cuts through all the noise of life and those hyper drive emotions that scream when life is unexplained.

And looking outside of our own little worlds it doesn’t get any better.  "Where are you Lord?" is the tempting prayer of the day.  "Why are your children, literally children, being beheaded, stabbed and raped?"  I read this morning in Revelation 6 the same question.  After the Lamb breaks open the fifth seal and there are those underneath the altar who have been martyred for their faith their question was the same...“How long [i.e., where are you?, i.e., why?]?”  It is our question too.  “How long, Oh, Lord?”  How long will it be until life settles down?  How long will it be before people can just get along?  How long before You fix all this stuff and life stabilizes?  How long will it be before my wounded heart heals and life feels right again?"  

I hate to say it, but the answer is one I don't like:  "they were told to wait a little longer..." So that was 2015!  Wait a little while longer and it will make sense, feel better, and the blessing will flow again.  In the meantime, the times demand a faith, that just like the scripture says, goes well beyond our sight and even our ability to understand.  It is a faith that tries to take it all in but when the dust clears invites us to believe without understanding the full picture.  You can call it good or you can call it bad…and you’d be right!  But in the end, the question doesn’t change.  "Will we trust?" 

I thank God everyday for each and everyone of you.  I pray for each of you often that you'd be blessed beyond your wildest dreams.  Say what you will, but 2015 brought us all closer to each other and that goes a long way to calming the inward parts that are uncertain.  My prayer is that we will continue to draw from one another's strengths and press on to those things that God has placed in our hearts to do.  Our strength is in our unity and our ability to encourage one another.  And lest I be accused of preaching now, I will stop there and say goodbye to 2015 and we look forward to great things in 2016!