CHRISTMAS: Should We Celebrate It?

Merry CHRISTmas! Christmas has been and continues to be celebrated around the globe by followers of Jesus (Yeshua) who is the Christ (Messiah). Celebrations of Christmas, however, have not always been focused on Jesus’ birth. In the USA, many people celebrate Christmas without any connection to Christ. Celebrations of Christmas happen and have happened in ways that are devoid of God, Christ, or the Good News which His birth proclaims to Israel and the world.

At various times and places, celebrations of Christmas have neither been received nor accepted among followers of Jesus. There have been times when celebrating Christmas was illegal and forbidden due to the horrible things that took place during those celebrations. This blog is not written regarding a secular or consumeristic Christmas where material possessions are central and Christmas is equated with other get togethers between family members and friends. Nor is this post written regarding celebrations which have engaged in pagan practices—practices of worship outside of the Judaic-Christian worldview and practice—which have also at times born the title, “Christmas.” Rather, this blog is written concerning the celebration of the miraculous birth of Jesus who is the Christ. This blog seeks to raise and provide an answer to the question: “Should we as followers of Jesus (Yeshua) celebrate Christmas?”

Some object to celebrating Jesus’ birth on Christmas because of the secular and/or pagan elements that have been introduced, blended, and far too often accepted by those who celebrate Christmas. These objections should be heard and should be considered as Christians—followers of Jesus from Jews and Gentiles—decide what practices they will participate in should they decide to celebrate Christmas. However, as mentioned above, this blog is not written concerning such forms of Christmas. So please forgive me for moving on from this objection at this point.

Some object to celebrating Jesus’ birth on Christmas because Jesus was not born on December 25th. Jesus was not born in the winter. As shepherds were staying out in the fields at night with their sheep during the time Jesus’ birth (cf. Luke 2:1-12), He was not born in winter time. Though we do not know the day Jesus was born, we know it was either during spring or fall. However, celebrating Christmas as the birth of the Christ does not demand a celebration on the exact date. It is not the date, but the significance of the event that is the cause of the celebration. The event can be celebrated on any day set aside for such purposes. This is true for all celebrations that are memorial in nature—whether of a birth, a marriage, a first date, a graduation, etc.

This year, 2020, of all years has brought forth circumstances that have caused events and celebrations to be altered. Whether celebrations are prevented, postponed or shifted to an earlier date do not nullify such celebrations. Does an adjusted day for celebrating an event remove the celebration itself? Not at all. Suppose a child celebrates their birthday on Sunday even though the date of their birth was on Monday. Does such an adjustment—made in order to enable family and friends to join in the festivities—nullify that child’s birthday celebration? Not at all! In the same way, though Jesus the Christ (Yeshua the Messiah) was not born on December 25th, followers of Jesus can choose to celebrate His incarnation and birth on this day just as has been done for centuries. As December 25 is near the time of the winter solstice, the celebration of the Light come into the world takes place around or on the shortest and darkest days of the year for those of us living in the northern hemisphere. As such, the season serves as a symbol speaking of spiritual realities of which Jesus Himself spoke.

Jesus once said to the teacher of Israel, “Now this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world and men loved the darkness instead of the light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19, TLV). The context of Jesus’ words there are His coming into the world, when God sent His Son into the world in order to save the world (cf. John 3:17). At another time Jesus declared Himself to be the Light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5; cf. 3:19). As the Light of the world, Jesus has ignited His followers and sent them forth as lights in the world as well (Matt. 5:14; cf. Luke 16:8). In other words, Jesus speaks of His life and earthly ministry as bringing forth God’s promised light to Israel and the Nations (cf. Isaiah 5:20, 26; 9:1-6 in Hebrew versions; 9:2-7 in English versions; 42:6; 49:6; 60:1-3). Jesus then sends forth His followers into Israel and the Nations to bear and produce this light (cf. John 3:16-18; 20:21). The light of the world gets brighter and brighter as followers of Jesus live like He lived and make Him known, just as the days following Christmas get longer and longer. In light of such things, why object to such a great seasonal opportunity to speak of spiritual realities to those around us by appealing to the natural realities? This is, after all, what Jesus was doing while speaking to Nicodemus, the teacher of Israel (cf. John 3:1-15).

Advent season and Christmas have been the start of the Church’s liturgical year for many years. Throughout the centuries, the events which shaped the worship and year for followers of Jesus began with the celebration that the Lord has come and with preparation for Him to come again! Though Advent is often understood as a time of preparation for Christ’s first coming—for Christmas—Advent is historically a season to prepare for the return of Christ. Even Christmas itself is incomplete if we stop at the manger. The reason why His birth is celebrated is because of what Christ came to do and what Christ is returning to do—namely, to fulfill God’s promises to His people Israel and the world! This is the Good News: that what God has promised, He has and is doing through the Messiah Jesus. This Good News is for Israel and for all nations, for all who repent and trust in the One appointed as Lord and Messiah of Israel and all creation—Jesus! Throughout the centuries, sisters and brothers in Christ have used the season of Advent and the celebration of Christmas to repent over their sins and the sins of the world, to seek to live in light of the Good News, and to make the Good News known to others. Is that kind of Christmas worth celebrating for followers of Jesus? I think so!

Some, however, have raised the objection to celebrating Christmas because there is no Scriptural mandate for such a celebration. It is true. There is no Scriptural command to celebrate birthdays, nor is there a command to celebrate Jesus’ birth. However, we see the precedent for celebrating Christmas in Scripture in two ways. First, Jesus and His followers celebrated things not commanded to be celebrated in Scripture. Second, Scripture declares celebrations taking place because of Jesus’ birth.

First, Jesus and His followers celebrated things not commanded to be celebrated in Scripture. Though marriage is very important in Scripture, there is no command to have a wedding. Yet, Jesus and His followers were at a wedding celebration in Cana when He performed His first miracle (John 2:1-11). Also, though the Feast of Dedication—Hanukkah—is not commanded to be celebrated in Scripture, Jesus and His disciples celebrated Hanukkah. Jesus was in the Temple teaching in Solomon’s colonnade during this festival (John 10:22ff.). Thus, Jesus and His disciples celebrated important events in the lives of people and events regarding God’s faithfulness to His people Israel—even though they were not commanded in Scripture. In the same way, followers of Jesus are welcomed to celebrate important events in the lives of people and events regarding God’s faithfulness to His people Israel—such as Christmas as the celebration and remembrance of Jesus’ incarnation and birth bringing forth the Messiah, salvation, and God’s Kingdom to Israel—even though they are not commanded in Scripture.

Second, Scripture declares celebrations taking place because of Jesus’ birth. Though there is no command to celebrate Jesus’ birth, Scripture unashamedly records celebrations in the womb, on earth, in heaven, and amongst followers of Jesus because Jesus became a human being and was born!

  1. Jesus’ birth was celebrated while He was in Mary’s womb!
    1. Prior to Jesus’ birth, John the Baptist, who was six months old in the womb of his mother, leaped for joy in the presence of Jesus, who was just a few days or weeks old in Mary’s womb. As John danced in his mother’s womb, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and blessed Mary because of Jesus—the Lord who was the Child God promised to be born of Mary (Luke 1:39-45)!
    1. Mary burst out in a song of great joy to God because of Jesus’ miraculous conception and upcoming birth! Yes, Mary magnified the God of Israel, her Savior, for looking upon her and Israel by showing His mercy promised to Abraham and his seed forever (Luke 1:46-55)!
    1. Three months later, at the time John the Baptist was born—still some six months prior to Jesus’ birth—John’s father praised God and prophesied concerning John and Jesus (Luke 1:56-79). Yes, the priest Zechariah, who had been mute for ten months awaiting the birth of his son (vv.12-22), was miraculously enabled to speak again on the day John was circumcised and named (vv. 59-67). Zechariah prophesied and praised the LORD, the God of Israel, because of Jesus— “the horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David” (Luke 1:69, TLV). Zechariah praised God and spoke of how his son, John, would go before and prepare the way of the Lord—Jesus— “to give knowledge of salvation to His people through removal of their sins” (v. 77), and, “to guide our feet in the way of shalom [peace]” (v. 79b)!
  2. Jesus’ birth was proclaimed and celebrated in heaven and on earth!
    1. On the night Jesus was born, an angel of the Lord appeared and proclaimed the Good News that would bring great joy for all people: “A Savior is born to you today in the city of David, who is Messiah the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
    1. A multitude of angelic armies then appeared in the sky and praised God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth shalom [peace] to men of good will” (Luke 2:14).
    1. The shepherd who heard this Good News and this song of praise then ran to Bethlehem to see the truth of this Good News. After seeing the new born Savior, Messiah and Lord Jesus, they went out telling the Good News and praising God just as the angels had done (Luke 2:15-20)!
  3. When one-month-old Jesus was presented in the Temple, prophets praised the God of Israel!
    1. According to the instruction in the Torah, Joseph and Mary brough Jesus to the Temple to offer the sacrifice of atonement for a firstborn son after Mary waited 33 days for her purification (Lev. 12; Luke 2:21-24).
    1. While in the Temple, Simeon—who was full of the Holy Spirit and was waiting to see the Messiah before he died—took the infant Jesus in his arms and blessed God declaring that he had now seen God’s “salvation” which had been “prepared in the presence of all peoples: ‘A light for revelation to the nations’ and the glory of [His] people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32; cf. Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; 60:1-3).
    1. Simeon then went on to speak of the life and death of Jesus, when a prophetess name Anna, came “up at that very instant, [and] she began praising God and speaking about the Child to all those waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).
  4. When Jesus was two years old, wise men came to worship Him!
    1. A miraculous star had appeared in the sky when Jesus was born. This star fulfilled the prophecy spoken of by Balaam about a King who would later arise from Israel and rule over the nations who would be Israel’s enemies in the future (Numbers 24:15-24).
    1. Wise men from the east saw and recognized this star which had appeared two years prior as proclaiming the birth of the King of the Jews to whom all nations would serve, and they came to worship him (Matthew 2:1-2, 7, 9-10, 16).
    1. The wise men presented Jesus, the King of Jews with gifts identifying Him as King, Lord, and Sacrifice, and they worshiped Him before returning to their distant country (Matthew 2:1-2,9-12).
  5. The early followers of Jesus, sang hymns which spoke of His birth!
    1. Philippians 2:6-11 contains an early hymn speaking of Christ Jesus.
    1. In this hymn, Jesus’ pre-existence as God, His self-emptying by becoming a human being, His willingness to humbly die on the cross, His resurrection, His exaltation as “LORD” of all creation, and His future reign and homage are proclaimed.
    1. The early Christians sang songs of worship which spoke of Jesus’ incarnation!
  6. The Good News begins with reference to Jesus’ birth!
    1. The four gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—are together the Gospel or the Good News about Jesus. Three of these four gospels explicitly begin their gospel with Jesus’ incarnation—with Him becoming a human being.
    1. Matthew traces the genealogy starting with Abraham, through David, and to Joseph who was engaged to Mary. Matthew then records the miraculous conception and virgin birth bringing fulfillment to Isaiah’s prophecy regarding Immanuel (Matthew 1; cf. Isaiah 7:14; 8:8, 10).
    1. Luke begins his gospel with the miraculous conceptions and births of both John and of Jesus. Both were miraculously conceived and Jesus was born to the virgin Mary. Luke then traces the events of Jesus’ birth, circumcision, dedication, and bar-mitzvah (Luke 1-2).
    1. John begins his gospel speaking of Jesus’ pre-existence as God, the creator of all, who then becomes a human being by taking on flesh and tabernacling among us. Jesus is emphatically proclaimed as God, Word, Creator, Light, Messiah, Lamb of God, and Son of God who has come to His people Israel (John 1).

Should we celebrate Christmas as followers of Jesus? Though it is not commanded, I think we should. The angels and shepherds proclaimed Jesus’ birth and praised God for the birth of the Savior. The righteous priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth who were chosen to be the mothers of John the Baptist both joined the celebration of John by proclaiming praises to God concerning the coming of their Lord. Mary sang and magnified the God of Israel because of Jesus who was God’s promised mercy to Abraham and his descendants. The prophets Simeon and Anna both praised God and proclaimed the Good News of Jesus to those in the Temple after having seen the promised Messiah, the salvation sent from God. Wise men from the east journeyed and worshiped Jesus as the King of the Jews. The early church sang hymns speaking of Jesus’ incarnation, death, and resurrection. The gospels devote four chapters to Jesus’ miraculous conception and virgin birth in keeping with the promises of God to His people Israel. The churches throughout the globe have for many centuries celebrated and proclaimed the incarnation and birth of Jesus—the Messiah and Lord, the Savior of Israel and the Nations, the reigning and returning King of kings and Lord of lords. Should we not also join in company with such as these? Should we not also come and proclaim the Good News and worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for sending forth the promised Messiah? I think so.

As the hymns declare, “O come let us adore Him,” and again, “Go, tell it on the Mountain: Jesus Christ is born!” Yes, let us adore Him and make Him known to the nations that they too may experience the joy that is for all who receive the King of Israel as we await His return.

Merry CHRISTmas!

With love in the Lord Jesus, the Messiah,

Pastor Chris Montgomery

Dec. 24, 2020

Who Shows Your Heart Strong? Yahweh? Or your heart? A closer look at Psalm 27:1

This morning, I was taken back by the verse on a daily calendar that sits on my desk. As I turned it to May 18, I read the last verse of Psalm 27. Psalm 27:14 is a glorious verse full of commands, great commands, that blessed me early this morning. I pray they will do the same for you.
Though I have read this chapter and verse multiple times, I was taken back this morning by what I read. I went to look at this verse in Hebrew, Greek, and other English translations because the wording on my desk-top calender struck me as different than what I had read previously. Reading Scriptures in other translations can often invite us to look at them more deeply, or with a new set of eyes, praise the Lord!
Psalm 27:14 is a glorious verse which commands the reader to wait for Yahweh twice and to be strong once. In the midst of these second-person singular commands, these imperatives addressed to “you,” there is one command in the third-person, a jussive addressed to “him” or “it.” The question is who is the subject of this command or entreaty? Is it “him” or “it”? Who is entreated to show your heart strong? Is it “him” or “it”? If it is “him,” then Yahweh is the One entreated to show your heart strong. If it is “it,” then your heart is the one entreated to show itself strong. Both are great! Either way, this entreaty has the intention that your heart is shown strong as you wait for Yahweh! What glorious news! Hallelu-Yah!
However, which is it? Who shows your heart strong? Is it Yahweh? Or, is it your heart? Let us consider this as we take a closer look at Psalm 27:14 together.
Psalm 27:14 reads: קוה אל־יהוה חזק ויאמץ לבך וקוה אל־יהוה
There are two ways to translate this verse:
  1. Wait for Yahweh! Be strong, and let Him show your heart strong! Yes, wait for Yahweh!
  2. Wait for Yahweh! Be strong! Yes, let your heart show strength! Yes, wait for Yahweh!
The difference between my two translations above is who we understand the subject of the third verb to be in this sentence. Who is entreated to show your heart strong? Is it Yahweh? Or, is it your heart? Is Yahweh the One entreated to show/make your heart strong as you wait for Him? Or, is your heart the one entreated to show/make itself strong as you wait for Yahweh? Both are glorious news for us and our hearts! But which one is it?
First, let’s look at my first translation:

Psalm 27:14 Wait for Yahweh! Be strong, and let Him show your heart strong! Yes, wait for Yahweh!


In the first translation, the subject of the verb is understood as the third-person masculine singular subject, “him/it,” which is included in the verb itself. Unlike English, Hebrew and Greek verbs include the subject and thus do not need an explicit noun like English requires. The verb, ויאמץ, is a Hiphil jussive, third-person masculine singular verb with a prefixed conjunction (if this sounds foreign to you, that’s ok! Skip to what it means), meaning, “and let him/it show strength,” or, “and let him/it prove himself/itself strong.” This first translation allows the “him/it” to remain as the subject of the verb in question. In context, that “Him” would refer to Yahweh, the One for whom the reader is commanded to wait. The noun לבך, “your heart,” is then understood as the object of the verb. Thus, it is rendered “and let Him (Yahweh) make your heart strong.” As such this translation identifies Yahweh as the One who is entreated to make your heart strong as you wait for Him.

This is also how the translators of the King James Version (KJV) and of the New King James Version (NKJV) understood the verse. Both render Psalm 27:14 as, “Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD” (KJV). As stated above, this translation understands that Yahweh is the One entreated to strengthens your heart. As you wait for Yahweh, meaning as you put your hope and trust in Him, and as you are strong, then Yahweh is entreated to show or make your heart strong. What glorious news! Hallelu-Yah!
Now, let’s look at my second translation:

Psalm 27:14 Wait for Yahweh! Be strong! Yes, let your heart show strength! Yes, wait for Yahweh!

In the second translation, the subject of the verb is understood as the noun‎ לבך, “your heart.” “Your heart” is the “it” included in the verb itself. Thus we get, “and let your heart show strength.” As such, this translation identifies your heart as the one which is entreated to show or take strength as you wait for Yahweh.
This is also how many translators of accurate, great translations understand this verse (see NASB, ESV, NIV, TLV, CJB, etc.). Both the NASB and ESV are word for word in their rendering except for the “yes” which the NASB includes prior to the last command. They render Psalm 27:14 as, “Wait for the LORD; Be strong; and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD” (NASB). As stated above, this translation understands that your heart is one which is entreated to be strong. In this case, as you wait for Yahweh, meaning you put your hope and trust in Him, and as you are strong, then your heart will show or take strength. What glorious news! Hallelu-Yah!
Both translations are great news for you–provided that you wait for Yahweh and are strong as you wait for Him! Either Yahweh is here entreated to show or make your heart strong as you wait for Him, or your heart is entreated to show or take strength as you wait for Yahweh. Glorious news either way!
Yet still we must ask, which one is right? Who is the subject of the verb? Who is being entreated? Is it Yahweh? Or, is it your heart? Who is entreated to show your heart strong?
Theologically, both are true.
We cannot object on theological grounds to the interpretation that Yahweh is the One who strengthens us or our hearts as we wait for Him. Nor can we object theologically to an entreaty for our heart to show or take strength as we wait for Yahweh. Both are true theologically.
Grammatically, the second translation is correct.
First, in Hebrew the subject normally follows the verb and must match in gender and number. The noun לבך, “your heart,” both follows the verb and agrees with it in gender and number. The noun לבך, “your heart,” is a masculine singular noun and thus agrees with the verb, ויאמץ, which is a third-person singular masculine jussive.
Second, Hebrew has a word, or a grammatical marker, that would be used if the noun לבך, “your heart,” was the object of the verb: את. This word is not translated into English because it is only a grammatical marker in Hebrew to identify the definite direct object in a sentence. If David intended for the noun לבך, “your heart,” to be the object instead of the subject of the verb, then the Hebrew text would read, “ויאמץ את לבך.” We would then translate it without question as, “and let him show your heart strong.”
Third, the translators of the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures in the third century BC, understood the noun לבך, “your heart,” as the subject of the verb. In Greek, the subject is always placed in the nominative case, but the object is place in the accusative or dative case. The Septuagint reads: καὶ κραταιούσθω ἡ καρδία σου. The words ἡ καρδία, “the heart,” are in the nominative case which identifies it as the subject of the verb. Thus, the Septuagint makes explicit that “your heart” is the subject of the entreaty “let it show strength” or, “let it prove strong.”
In light of such things, your heart, rather than Yahweh, is being commanded to show or take strength as you wait for Yahweh.
So why the other translation?
If the grammar shows that “your heart” is the subject, not the object, then why did the translators of the KJV and the NKJV render the subject as Yahweh and “your heart” as the object? I do not know, for I was not present for those discussions, if there were any. Nevertheless we can propose two possible answers.
First, they may have (mis)understood the verb or the noun to be something other than what they are. I do not think this to be the case, but it is possible.
Second, they may have understood that the definite direct object marker was intentionally left out by David due to the genre of the Psalms. The Psalms are poetic, or prophetic, material. As such, normal grammatical rules are at times ignored or broken. This is true whether we are reading Hebrew or English poetic material. Certain grammatical rules can be bent or be broken within poetic texts. Words that would be necessary in narrative material are at times omitted in poetic texts. As such, it is possible for the first rendering to be correct even though the grammatical marker את in Hebrew is missing. Thus, it is possible to understand “your heart” as the object rather than the subject of the verb. This could explain why the KJV and the NKJV translate this passage as they do. This requires us to assume that the object marker was intentionally left out due to the poetic nature of this text. In that case, Yahweh would be the one entreated to show or make your heart strong as you wait for Him. Which is glorious news! Hallelu-Yah!
Both translations are true theologically. Both translations are possibly true grammatically, though the latter has much more grammatical support. Thus, it seems that the second translation is correct. Your heart is the subject of the third-person command. Your heart is commanded to show strength as you wait for Yahweh.
Such an understanding also fits the context of this verse. Psalm 27:4 contains 4 commands. Three of the commands are second-person imperatives addressed to “you.” The fourth command is a third-person jussive addressed to “him/it.” If the jussive is addressed to “your heart,” as is argued above, then even though it is third-person it is nevertheless addressed to “you.” However, should we understand the jussive to be an entreaty to Yahweh, we have a change of addressee with two commands addressed to “you,” then one addressed to “Him,” followed by one more to “you.” It is possible, but not as likely as each of the commands in this verse being addressed to “you.” “You” are commanded to wait for Yahweh twice in this verse. “You” are commanded to be strong once. “Your heart” is commanded to be strong once.
Such an understanding forms a chiastic structure as follows:
       A. You must wait for Yahweh!
                B. You must be strong!
                B1. Your heart must be strong!
       A1. You must wait for Yahweh!
Centered in the commands for you to wait for Yahweh are the commands to be strong which are an expression of Hebrew parallelism: saying the same thing in different words. The imperative command to “Be strong!” and the jussive command to “let your heart show strength” are one and the same. As you wait for Yahweh, you must be strong. Yes, let your heart show strength as you wait for Yahweh.
Who shows your heart strong? Is it Yahweh? Or, is it your heart? Both are true theologically. But the grammar and composition of Psalm 27:14 supports the latter. Psalm 27:14 contains four commands to you. 1) Wait for Yahweh! 2) Be strong! 3) Yes, let your heart show strength! 4) Yes, wait for Yahweh!
Both translations are worth your meditation and prayer. But regardless of our understanding, we are commanded to wait for Yahweh and be strong. Yes, wait for Yahweh!
Psalm 27:14 קוה אל־יהוה חזק ויאמץ לבך וקוה אל־יהוה
  1. Wait for Yahweh! Be strong, and let Him show your heart strong! Yes, wait for Yahweh!
  2. Wait for Yahweh! Be strong! Yes, let your heart show strength! Yes, wait for Yahweh!
May we together be those who wait for Yahweh, those who are strong, and let our hearts show strength. Yes, let us wait for Yahweh!
Pastor Chris Montgomery

We must become EXCELLENT Translators of the Good News WITHOUT Changing It

We must become EXCELLENT Translators of the Good News WITHOUT Changing it. We live in a world that is rapidly changing. The means through which we communicate and engage with the world around us are vastly different than they were a few year ago, let alone decades ago. In light of these changes, we must be able to excel in translating the Good News without changing it in order that the people in our world may hear and come to trust in the Giver of Life.

As followers of Yeshua/Jesus, we should want to live lives which win people for the Lord. Paul speaks about how he sought to live his life in such a way as to win some, whoever they may be (see 1 Cor. 9:19-23). In attempts to live out this glorious aim and to follow Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, many well intentioned followers of Yeshua have sought to blend in with those they are trying to reach. Some followers of Yeshua have used these verses to actually live lives which mirror the culture(s) they are trying to reach, rather than being transformed by the Holy Spirit in order to be conformed/shaped into the image of Messiah Yeshua Himself as one who lives according to His Kingdom (see Romans 12:1-2; 8:29).

Misunderstanding Paul (which is nothing new—even Peter warned about this in 2 Peter 3:16!), some have unintentionally changed Yeshua, His Word, or His Assembly into things they are not. In other words, some have sadly changed the Good News while attempting to better translate it in our day and age.

Please hear me: if we change Yeshua and His message in order to make Him and it more presentable to the world around us, we are failing in our task to translate but not change the Good News. When we do our task of translating the Good News without changing it, people will be able to understand the Message, but they may not easily accept Yeshua or His message for their lives. After all, it is not easy to make Yeshua in His totality, or His Word in its totality, match to the world in which we live… Yeshua and His Word, though they are near to those in the world, are not of it… If we only grab bits and pieces of Yeshua and bits and pieces of His Word (pieces which we or the world likes—like being in a spiritual buffet line), then we can easily shape Yeshua and His Word into the mold of the world around us. Sadly, many well-intentioned followers of Yeshua have done this… In doing so, in an attempt to translate the Good News, some have changed it.

In attempts to reach the lost, some have sadly changed Yeshua, His Word, and His Assembly into things they are not. By doing so, some have reduced the Lord of Heaven and earth into an all-accepting and all-affirming people-pleaser, and have reduced the very gospel message which is the power of God to save both Israel and the Nations to something not powerful enough to change, heal, or free anyone.

It is true that we must be able to live a winsome life and that we must be able to communicate the Good News to those whom we encounter—no matter who or where they are or what they do or affirm. We must reach them with love and service, with grace and truth. But in doing so, we must not change Yeshua or His Good News into things that they are not.

We must be able to honestly engage and communicate with the people created in the image and likeness of our God within the culture(s) around us. To do so, we must be excellent translators of the Gospel! But in our translation, we cannot change Yeshua Himself, or His Word, or His Assembly into things that they are not… In short: we must be excellent translators of the Good News without changing it.

Pastor James Emery White writes about this in his book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017).

Generation Z Book Cover

Pastor White states, “Many Christians seem more intent on fitting into culture, or at least getting its affirmation, than opposing it. And the entire idea of being an enemy, or having one, seems out of sync with the Christ[ian] life. But it isn’t” (White, Meet Generation Z, p. 100).

Pastor White goes on to write:

Suffice it to say, we are behind enemy lines. When behind enemy lines, there are enemies. The goal is not to be enemy-free, as if Christianity at its purest is so winsome and compelling that no one who “gets it” will ever reject it. No, the gospel is scandalous and offensive. Many will openly reject it, not to mention its moral mandates. We are not to embody culture but the Christian counterculture. The kingdom of God we advance is not the kingdom currently in place.
The problem isn’t having enemies. It’s having the right ones for the right reasons. Don’t have enemies because you are intentionally offensive in spirit and interrelated dynamics. Don’t have enemies because you are caustic and abrasive. Don’t have enemies because you are unfeeling and unloving. But…
Do have enemies because you stand for truth. Do have enemies because you will not waver in the face of majority opinion when it crashes against biblical authority. Do have enemies because you will not personally compromise your convictions. After all, Jesus did. (White, Meet Generation Z, pp. 101-2).

May we come to live as followers of Yeshua who are behind defeated enemy lines. People are not the enemy, they are those for whom Yeshua came to save. May we live out a counterculture of the Kingdom in the midst of the culture(s) we have been sent to reach. May we reach them with the Good News of Yeshua. May we become excellent translators of His Good News, without changing it into something it is not.


Christopher Montgomery

Peace: Is it a Reality or mere Proposition?

Dear friends, grace and shalom to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Messiah!

We tend as people, sadly, to seek to divide ourselves from others in every way possible. Whether by color, nationality, neighborhood, income bracket, sports team, clothing label, you name it, we sadly seek to divide ourselves from one another. We as humans, sadly, naturally seek to become hostile to one another in every way and every place. Since this is our natural tendency, it is absurd that we would imagine or proclaim that “peace” and “reconciliation” with one another can take place—as realities and not mere propositions—by our own efforts. If we are naturally divided and at odds with one another, then natural means will not change that. We need something MORE than natural, something super-natural to do that. Praise be to the Lord that we do have such a reality made possible to us in the Messiah Jesus!

When reflecting on the realities—not imaginations—that occur when one enters into salvation by turning and trusting in the Lord Jesus, Paul writes this:

Now in Messiah Yeshua [Jesus], you who once were far off [i.e., Gentiles, meaning everyone who was not a Jew and covenanted to God within Israel] have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. For He is our shalom [peace, wellness and wholeness], the One who made the two [Jew and Gentile] into one and broke down the middle wall of separation. Within His flesh He made powerless the hostility… He did this in order to create within Himself one new man [meaning mankind, humanity] from the two groups, making shalom, and to reconcile both to God in one body through the cross—by which He put the hostility to death. And He came and proclaimed shalom to you who were far away and shalom to those who were near—for through Him we both have access to the Father by the same Ruach [Spirit]. So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household… In Him, you also are being built together into God’s dwelling place in the Ruach [Spirit].

(Ephesians 2:13-19, 22, TLV; bracketed information added for clarification).

Within that passage, Paul addresses profound truths regarding the realities of the separation and hostility that existed and continue to exist between people—a hostility and separation with other people and with God. There is a dividing wall, a real separation of hostility—not mutual love—that naturally exists between people. Praise be to the Lord Jesus that He Himself is our shalom—our  peace, wellness and wholeness! He Himself is the one who destroys that existing separation and hostility! He Himself is our reconciliation, both with God and one another! Though we cannot by our own natural means bring an end to the hostilities and separations that, sadly, naturally exist between peoples, we can nevertheless experience a real—not imagined or simply philosophical—peace and reconciliation with one another in and through the super-natural means of a new life trusting in Jesus! He is our shalom and reconciliation that destroys our previous realities and creates a new reality for us to experience. No longer hostile and separated, but in Messiah we are united together as a fellow citizens, fellow family members, and as a united dwelling place for God’s Presence here on earth. This is not a mere propositional truth—that sounds good, but is not actualized. Rather, this is an effectual reality for those who live their lives lovingly trusting in Jesus! 

The problem is, that rather than living our lives trusting in Jesus, we who claim to be in Messiah far to often do NOT experience His realities. Why? Because they are mere propositions and not reality? Not at all! Rather, we often treat Messiah’s realities as mere propositions and the world’s propositions as realities. In doing so, we begin to—like all people—attempt to live out the realities we accept as real. We then live frustrated lives, for just as we cannot live a reality that is not real, our inner beings constantly cry out for what is real and true. We see this in every sphere of life when there is an apparent disconnect between what should be and what is. In those moments, we cry out for what is real and true. When there is no apparent disconnect, we are satisfied in non-real, untrue “realities.”

By rejecting Messiah’s realities, we fail to experience them, just as a child who rejects their father’s invitation to come home fails to experience their homecoming reception. The existing hostility and separation between peoples is real, not a mere proposition. Those realities are not overcome by mere propositions, but by reality. Hostility and separation is only overcome through new life in Messiah Jesus. If we reject Messiah’s reality of existing shalom and reconciliation to be experienced between all people who are in Messiah, and if we instead accept the world’s propositions—that we are all good and naturally lovingly inclined towards one another, and that we can experience peace and reconciliation devoid of God—as our reality, then we will be frustrated as we find out that the world’s propositions are not reality AND we will have robbed ourselves of the real peace and reconciliation that is available! My brothers and sisters, this is sadly what happens! But this should NOT be! Bottom line, we who are in Messiah have too often stiffened our necks as many of our forefathers have done. We have rejected our God’s ways and commands for our lives, rejected His real shalom and reconciliation, and we have instead enthusiastically sought to live like those in another “kingdom,” which is no kingdom at all.

Do we not recall God’s command to us through His word? “I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice—holy, acceptable to God—which is your spiritual service. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2, TLV). We are not to allow the propositions of this world to shape our minds and actions, but rather allow the Holy Spirit to transform us through His Word that we may know—intimately experience—God’s will for our lives. May I raise a question to us? What are we allowing to influence our thinking, our speech, our relationships? Is it the Word of God and the transforming work of the Holy Spirit as effectual realities within us? Or, is it the erroneous propositions of people, who—just like us—without Messiah can do nothing?

The sad truth is, that we who have received in Messiah Jesus the effectual reality of shalom and reconciliation with God and one another are often far more divided than those who have not yet received such things. I write this to OUR shame. Lord, forgive us, for because of us—Your people—Your Name is blasphemed among the nations! Just as history has shown us the ability for sinful humanity to unite against God’s people Israel, against the churches, against God’s Word—Incarnate and written—history has also shown, time and time again, God’s people sadly refusing to unite as God’s people, and rather desiring to be divided like the people of the world. This needs to stop—for our sake, for the world’s sake, for our God’s Name’s sake.

In the devotional quoted below, we who are part of the church—the community of those trusting in Jesus the Messiah—are challenged to look at any ongoing barriers that we are keeping or putting up. In the Name of the Messiah Jesus, they must come down!  For if Messiah’s community is divided, and continues to be divided against itself, how can it stand? How can it be a light in darkness? How can it bring praise, glory and honor to our Great God and Savior? How can it effectively call those who are truly separated from and hostile towards others and God to experience peace and reconciliation as realities in Messiah? The answer is a resounding, “It cannot.”

Rebecca Van Noord writes:

Peter testifies, “In truth I understand that God is not one who shows partiality, but in every nation the one who fears him and who does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34).

Strangely, Peter’s speech still needs to be heard today. We tend to confine our faith within comfortable borders—cultural, regional, or racial. We need to be challenged to see people from other ethnicities and cultural backgrounds as fellow followers of Christ. If God does not show partiality, then neither should we. The reign of Jesus extends over all people; God will draw His children from all corners of the earth, and there will be no “foreigners” in His kingdom.”

(Quote is from September 12’s devotional in Rebecca Van Noord’s book, “Connecting the Testaments”).

My brothers and sisters, it is time to live out Messiah’s realities and not the propositions of our world. It is time to reenter into Messiah Jesus’ shalom—peace, wellness and wholeness—and reconciliation. Will you join me?


With love to all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, the Messiah and Savior of all,

Pastor Christopher Montgomery

ComeUnity Fellowship

Taking the time to Chew…

Wednesday, January 17, 2018.

When is the last time I took the time to chew? When is the last time I enjoyed savoring every morsel? In the face of busyness (YES, BUSYness), have I simply learned to chew as quickly as possible? Or, have I even just by-passed this process altogether ? Have I learned to control my gag-reflex and to simply open wide, swallow and get on with other things? When is the last time I took TIME to CHEW… especially in regard to the Bread that sustains me: God’s Word, “every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 3:8; Matt. 4:4, NIV)? Continue reading Taking the time to Chew…

The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus

The Gospel of Jesus is at times rejected because it is scandalous… it IS scandalous!
Think about it. The Gospel of Jesus declares that people are NOT saved by their good deeds. The Gospel of Jesus declares that the people who ARE saved are NOT good people! The Gospel of Jesus declares that HORRIBLE, SINFUL, WICKED, NO-GOOD people CAN BE and ARE saved by simply receiving God’s gift of salvation on His terms (NOT ours). This IS scandalous. Especially when we look at what God’s terms for salvation are.
In order for me to be saved, God DEMANDS these things from me (Yes, like all plea-bargains, there are conditions to receiving God’s pardon in Jesus!):
1) Recognizing I am a sinner. If I am to experience God’s pardon in Jesus, I must recognize that I am not good in and of myself, that I am deserving of God’s judgment. Righteous people do not need a savior, sinners do (see Matthew 9:13; Luke 19:10). The problem is that without Jesus WE ALL are sinners (see Mark 10:18; Psalm 14:1-3; Romans 3:9-20, 23)!
2) Turning away from my sin (which is likely something I enjoy – why else would I do it? – and perhaps I even find my identity in it). If I am to experience God’s pardon in Jesus, I must repent, I must turn away from my sin and turn toward the God who loves me enough to die for me – even when I wanted nothing to do with Him (see Romans 5:8). Only those who repent and confess of their wrongs receive forgiveness. Should I justify or excuse my wrongdoings, there is no pardon, no forgiveness (see 1 John 1:8-10)!
3) Trusting and loving Jesus AND willingly obeying Him BECAUSE of that love! If I am to receive God’s pardon in Jesus, I must trust and love Jesus. If I trust and love Jesus not only will I receive His promise of pardon, but I will also begin to willingly obey Him (see John 14:15, 21-24). If I refuse to lovingly obey Jesus, how can He be my Lord (see Luke 6:46)? Though the Lord paid the price for my sinfulness and willingly extends to me a pardon on His terms, it is TRUE that wicked people will NOT be in heaven! I cannot continue to live doing things that should not be done to you, or to God, or to anyone else and still enter the gates of heaven as if my wrongdoing has no consequence! The Bible warns us of deceiving ourselves by thinking such things (see Matthew 7:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 6:7-10; 1 John 2:3-6, 3:7-10; etc.).
These are God’s terms and conditions for me and you and anyone else to receive the greatest pardon of all: forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God because of Jesus! These are His terms and these terms ARE scandalous. Why? Because God’s terms allow ALL people an equal opportunity to be forgiven and experience eternal life. Both those whom WE would call “good” (like Mother Teresa, or the person whom we love and delight in) and those whom WE would call “evil” (like Hitler, Stalin, or child rapists and mass murderers) are given an equal opportunity to be forgiven and live. This is scandalous! Of course, as mentioned above, this equal opportunity will only be experienced IF they would accept the scandalous Gospel of Jesus on God’s terms. If not, though a legitimate pardon was extended to all freely, those who reject it remain guilty and will be judged by God for their sin (see John 3:16-18). Yes, this IS scandalous! But this IS the Gospel of Jesus!
The scandal of the Gospel of Jesus continues because it is true, sadly, that those who reject God’s terms and pardon in Jesus may very well be WAY, WAY, WAY better people than those who later repent of their wickedness and receive God’s pardon in Christ! This is scandalous! People may do MANY good things! Wonderful! But those things will not and cannot save them if they choose to reject God’s pardon on His terms, the pardon which was valid enough – executed and extended to us by the very blood of Jesus. Those who reject such a great salvation will be condemned – though this is the very thing the Lord does NOT desire (see Hebrews 2:1-4; Ezekiel 18:23, 31-32; 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9)! Even the best person amongst us has still fallen short of the perfect score required by God to enter eternal life (see Matthew 5:48; Romans 3:23, 6:23; Hebrews 12:14). Rejecting Jesus and His Gospel for us is rejecting the Living God Himself (see John 14:6; 1 John 2:23). I know this is scandalous… but it is the Gospel, the Good News for us all! The Good News for us all is that WE CAN BE SAVED BECAUSE OF THE SCANDALOUS GOSPEL OF JESUS!

Continue reading The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus

Not doing wrong when we are wronged; Putting on the Full Armor of God

It is so easy to give into the flesh and wrong those who have wronged us. But that is not what Christ has called us to. He has set us free from the lives we once lived, and has called us in holiness, to judge the matters of this life that those who are in the wrong may repent and those who have been wronged may respond in righteousness. Let us put on the full armor of God, not leaving it on the hanger in the closet, and engage in victorious spiritual warfare. God has supplied us with everything we need in Christ Jesus our Lord for victory.