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2014 Passover Begins with A Blood Moon

By Princella D. Smith

April 14, 2014

This year, there will be two total lunar eclipses known in laymen’s terms as “blood moons”. The first will occur on the first full day of Passover Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 9:46AM Israeli Time. The second will occur on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at 12:25PM Israeli time. Sukkot also known as the Feast of Tabernacles will begin at sundown on October 8th.  In 2015, next year, two more blood moons will follow the same pattern, occurring on the first days of those two major Jewish holidays.

When a set of four scientific occurrences unusually happens so closely together, it is called a tetrad. Thus, the phrase “blood moon tetrad” has been coined over the past seven years in writings of several scientific and religious thinkers.

The reason for this can be traced to the Jewish Talmud, an important Jewish text used to define religious Jewish law and Moses’ five books known as the Torah. Tractate Sukkah 29a indicates that if the moon is in eclipse, it is a sign of wrath that will come upon Israel while solar eclipse of the sun is a bad omen for the world. In the case of a blood moon eclipse, the Talmud adds that: “If its face is as red as blood, (it is a sign that) the sword is coming to the world.” In summary, Lunar Eclipse = bad omen for the Jewish people and Israel; Blood Moon = sword coming; Solar Eclipse = bad omen for the world.

It can also be traced to the findings of Mark Biltz. Seven years ago, Biltz first revealed the correlation between the dates of past and pending blood moons with feast days and historical world events. Biltz continues to have one of the highest selling books on Amazon. His Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs released this past March has piqued the interest of the intellectual, scientific, and religious worlds.  Prominent Christian ministers—notably John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI)—have cited Biltz’s work over the seven-year span to explain the Blood Moon Prophecy in their various publications about Israel’s future.

Biltz, the founder of El Shaddai Ministries, is a Christian who was raised to celebrate both his Jewish and Catholic roots. He spoke  with me several months ago about the wonders of the galaxy that will happen next week as the Jewish people begin their Passover celebration.

“In Genesis Chapter 1 verse 14 when God created the moon, people think it was for light and heat, but if you read, it was for signs. Many westernized Christians read the seasons and think: ‘It’s summer, winter, etc. but translated as Hebrew it’s for signals on the Jewish feast days when significant events are going to happen.’ “

Biltz has a point. If Christians examine the Hebraic roots of their faith more closely, they will understand that the Hebrew terms “moadim” and “owth” are used to describe appointed times, seasons, signs, and omens—not necessarily the temperature and precipitation.

When Biltz visited the NASA website in 2007 and saw the dates of the blood moon tetrad scheduled for 2014 and 2015, he immediately noticed that each was scheduled to coincide with major Jewish feasts because of the knowledge of his Jewish background.

“I immediately wondered how often the world has seen four blood moons in a row.  I also went to aish.com and downloaded the biblical calendar website quickly finding that the next blood moons will happen on Passover and Sukkot which most people know as the Feast of Tabernacles. Was it just a coincidence that this upcoming blood moon tetrad falls on two major Jewish feasts twice? I began to examine the history.”

Biltz has a strong handle on the Hebrew calendar and protests the fact that many western Christians celebrate religious holidays based on the Gregorian calendar. He does not celebrate Christmas but rather celebrates the birth of Jesus in October. “If people would read Luke, it’s very clear to note that Yeshua—Jesus–was born during the Feast of Tabernacles.”

He continued about the blood moons: “2 Partial Lunar Eclipses occurred on the Jewish Passover and Feast of Tabernacles holidays in 70 A.D. when the destruction of the 2nd Temple happened on the 9th of Av according to the Hebrew calendar or August 4th in 70 AD. In 73 A.D., the Roman Army conquered Israel ending over 1,000 years of Jewish rule in the Holy Land.

“Israel regained its independence in 1948, just before a sequence of four red blood moons happened in 1949 & 1950 during Passover and Sukkot which you may know of as the Feast of Tabernacles. Again, this happened in 1967 and 68. There were four blood moons in a tetrad all falling on Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles. The most significant event was in June of 1967 when Israel recaptured Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.”

Biltz’s historical analysis checks out to be accurate, and he begins to spread the word. Soon, Christian theologians worldwide begin watching the skies, repeating Biltz’s findings and forewarning the nations that something significant is bound to happen in the Holy Land.

Rema Ministries completed  series of white papers on the blood moons and point out also that in 1493 and 1494, a blood moon tetrad occurred during Passover and the Feast of Trumpets Jewish holidays just months after King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella  ordered all Jewish people to leave in mass exodus. This is known as the Spanish Inquisition where 200,000 Jews were expelled from Spain. Tens of thousands of them died while trying to reach safety. Horrible crimes were committed against them including knifing deaths by brigands who believed a terrible rumor that they had swallowed gold and diamonds, so they literally searched for treasures in the stomachs of the expelled Jews.

It is a widely taught rhyme in American schools that “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 14 hundred 92”, and he is credited for “discovering America”. Columbus, a Roman Catholic, began his diary: “In the same month in which their Majesties issued the edict that all Jews should be driven out of the kingdom and its territories, in the same month they gave me the order to undertake with sufficient men my expedition of discovery to the Indies.”

America is now home to over 5 million Jews and served as an escape haven for many who sought to escape persecution during the Holocaust.

Not everyone agrees with Biltz. In 2011, David Lev had this to say in Israel National News:

Jewish tradition has mixed views on the mystical and eschatological meaning of lunar eclipses. On the one hand, the Talmud (Tractate Sukkah 29a) says that lunar eclipses are a sign of Divine wrath against the Jewish people for moral failings, while solar eclipses are a bad sign for non-Jewish nations; the Jews date their calendar based on the phases of the moon, while the non-Jews base theirs on the solar year. On the other hand, Jewish tradition repeatedly says that astrological and astronomical signs do not affect the Jewish people, and that the Jews’ direct relationship with G-d overcomes any “natural” effects of the movement of heavenly bodies that could affect other nations.

However, this has not deterred the voices of evangelicals worldwide notably of Pastor Hagee who has written and spoken about this for months. On Daystar television earlier this year, Hagee proclaimed without missing a beat: “Will it be the death of the dollar and a global economic crash? Will God remove His hedge of protection from America because we are rejecting to protect Israel? Every decision we have made has been to placate Iran. If you are for the enemies of Israel, you cannot be for the Nation of Israel. Everything we’ve done in removing the sanction has helped Iran. We gave them 7 billion in a day and then 4 billion a month as a process of helping them develop their nuclear program.”

While Elijah sought for a sign from God, he looked for it in the “wind,”  “earthquake” and “fire.” Instead it came in an unanticipated “small, still voice.” It may be that in this instance God is sending  a message from the plainspoken tongue of a Christian man with Jewish roots whose family had changed their name from Hirsch to Biltz to escape persecution of being a Jew.

“Something significant happens with Israel and then impacts the world whenever there is a blood moon tetrad,” said Biltz. “The world should watch the skies and keep their eyes on Israel.”

Princella Smith is the Senior Contributing Editor for Breaking Israel News. She spent 13 months in Israel pursuing a Master’s in Counter-terrorism and Homeland Security at the IDC in Herzliya, Israel and as a writer, producer, and American Liaison for Israel Hayom Newspaper in Tel Aviv. Prior to this, she served as a communications operative on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and for such political figures as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. She is a native of Arkansas in the United States of America. She is currently an Ambassador for Save A Child’s Heart headquartered in Holon, Israel and resides in Arkansas where she hosts “Engage the Nation” on KARN News Radio, 102.9FM in Little Rock.

 

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Arkansas Pastor Tells Breaking Israel News his Church Celebrates Hanukkah

by Princella D. Smith, Breaking Israel News

 

“Not Your Grandpa’s Pastor”  Scott Stewart

He speaks so quickly that it seems the sound waves of his words hit your ears before his lips stop moving. He is a “young 48 years old”. Even though he has three children, a grandchild, and a grandchild on the way, you would never notice any sign of slowing down with the skip in his step and nearly no sign of gray hair.

“He” is Scott Stewart, and he sat down with Breaking Israel News for his first exclusive interview since the announcement that he will be the newly inducted Pastor of Agape Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The first thing you hear when you enter the office is his pleasant receptionist chirping “Welcome!” She knows it’s time for the meeting and assures that “Pastor Scott will be right with you.” The second thing you hear is Scott’s authoritative yet friendly voice coming from down the hall rattling off a list of items to be done before he dashes into the lobby to greet me: “Hey, Princella. Are you ready? It’s interview time!”

I involuntarily pause for a second. He’s wearing blue jeans with a blue jean jacket and casual shoes. This is certainly a far cry from the usual ensemble of a pastor of a church in Arkansas—or anywhere in the American South for that matter. No suit and tie? No blazer and slacks? Not even a polo shirt and khakis?

Scott’s eyes are shining, and he has the biggest smile on his face—almost like a kid right before he opens his birthday presents. He reaches out to give me a hug like he hasn’t seen me in three months even though we belong to the same church. Immediately, any nervousness I may have had about conducting a good interview for my first Breaking Israel News profile piece goes out the window.

“Let’s go!” he said.

He doesn’t take the traditional seat of sitting behind the pastor’s desk and directing me to sit in the guest chairs. He plops down in one of the guest chairs, and I take the seat at his desk so that I have more room to type.

I’m still really taking all of this in. This is one of the most laid-back ministers I’ve ever met. This man is going to be my new pastor at Agape Church? He’s going to maintain this persona in southern, traditional, bible-belt Arkansas?? This I’ve got to see.

We jump right into what seems to be Scott’s favorite topic (besides his love for God) to discuss: his record of church-planting in Europe and the heavy Hebraic influence of each. Scott’s churches are not the traditional Anglican or Catholic churches which come to mind when the words “Christian Europe” are heard.

It seems the church closest to Scott’s heart is the one he planted in Scotland, “The Church at Stirling”.

There, he instituted “The Jacob Plan” which is an Israel outreach ministry in Scotland.

“It’s our reconciliatory arm of the ministry which reaches out to the Jewish community,” he said.  We are commanded by both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures to honor the seed of Abraham. This arm does that.”

And this is where Scott most distinguishes himself from traditional Christian ministers—especially ones in the American South. He truly believes that Christians should take the lead in repairing the damage done to the spiritual relationship between Christians and Jews which reaches as far back as the days of Constantine the Emperor who brought Christianity to Rome and then Greece.

It’s not that American Christians do not support Israel. In fact, the largest pro-Israel organization in the entire world is Christians United for Israel (CUFI) with a growing membership of over one million members.  However, most Christians would be surprised to know the deep-seated distrust of Christians within the Jewish community due to a combination of historical events, theological misunderstandings, and lingering pain from the Holocaust.

 “The Jacob Plan”

The Jacob Plan at The Church at Stirling will be the defining aspect of Scott’s legacy.  The Jacob Plan aims to find the commonality between Christians and Jews. “We are commanded by both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures to honor the seed of Abraham. The Jacob Plan does that,” Scott explained.

“We named it The Jacob Plan, because, in the Hebrew scriptures, Jacob is renamed ‘Israel’”, Scott continued.  “We created an event as a part of The Jacob Plan that honors the Jewish people for their contribution to the Christian faith and call it ‘A Night to Celebrate Israel’ ”.

Scott is quick to clarify that “A Night to Celebrate Israel” is not the same as “Night to Honor Israel” which is led by CUFI. The main difference between the two is that CUFI’s “Night to Honor Israel” places more emphasis on public policy and includes political figures and policy-makers while Stirling’s “A Night to Celebrate Israel” considers their effort to be more faith-based.

Scott’s face completely lights up when he starts speaking about the reactions to the yearly “Night to Celebrate Israel”. Without seeming to breathe in between sentences, he chirps: “We’ve had so many Jewish people attend the events, and they say ‘What is this? How do you create the electricity in the room like this?’ ”

According to Scott, the Jewish attendees usually appear a bit cautious or not quite at full comfort level when they first arrive. It’s almost as if they do not know what to expect. However, as the service progresses, they find themselves pleasantly amazed at the sight.

The featured music focuses on the Hebrew aspect of Christianity, so Jewish and Christian attendees are comfortably appearing at the service together. They sing songs like “Mighty One of Israel” and even some songs with Hebrew language permeate the room.  Torah and Tanakh scriptures are quoted—known to Christians as the Old Testament—the foundation of the Christian Bible.

Scott and the Church at Stirling leadership want their Jewish guests to know that this is their premiere event of the year. They wear full kilts which is the most formal dress possible in Scotland.

As a result of The Jacob Plan, there are “Nights to Celebrate Israel” in Wales and London and others forthcoming in Ireland and Manchester.

The fact that these things happen in a place like Europe is more than remarkable and quite impressive. Europe is known in many circles for its widespread Anti-Semitism, so my first follow-up question to Scott was: “How do the Jewish attendees respond to this?”

Scott is eager to reply that the Jewish attendees are less expressive during service but express afterwards how impressed they were to worship together. Their raving reviews seemed to have surprised him a bit because they were so quiet during the event.

Nefesh B’nefesh means “soul by soul” or “one by one” in Hebrew. It is an organization promoting Aliyah known as the official process of immigration to Israel. Their mission according to their website is to “…send an unmistakable signal of Anglo-Israeli Jewish solidarity and of our mutual determination to strengthen the State of Israel and thereby increase the likelihood of an ever expanding Aliyah reality.” Yet another entity unusually headquartered in the United Kingdom.

The head of the United Kingdom arm of Nefesh B’nefesh attended one of the services two years ago and couldn’t stop talking about it: “Did everybody feel that?” he asked his fellow Jewish attendees.

Scott is very excited as he offers an effusive description of the man’s astonishment: “He just kept turning to me and asking: ‘How do you do that?’ over and over. So many of the Jewish attendees couldn’t believe it. They felt an energy—a religious energy—and they felt it in a worship service with Christians!”

As proven with The Jacob Plan, Scott seems to have taken the method of “meeting people where they are” in building relationships between Christians and Jews.  Because of his work in Europe, for example, the Jewish community invites members of The Church at Stirling to travel with them to Israel each year on their chartered flights when there are open seats. They even attend ballets and other social events together with the Christian Scots.

Scott’s work with The Church at Stirling has received acclaim from the Israeli government elite itself. Scott had already left Scotland and returned to Arkansas by the time the church held this year’s “Night To Celebrate Israel”, but a true testament to his leadership is that the church continues to hold that celebration as he initiated it, and both the event and the church have developed a growing esteem in the public eye.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognized the 2013 “Night To Celebrate Israel” via an official congratulatory letter. Scott has a copy of the letter on his iPhone and paused in the middle of the interview to send it to me.

An excerpt of Netanyahu’s letter read:  “This special evening affords me the opportunity to express my gratitude to [T]he Church at Stirling and its many guests for your staunch support of the State of Israel. It is heartwarming to know that the people of Israel have such steadfast friends. The friendship is a source of great strength.”

The Jewish Telegraph also covered the event and ran a story on October 21, 2013 citing Glasgow Jewish Representative Council President, Paul Morron: “To see so many people travelling to this event to show their support for Israel is very special. The impact this has had on the local community is quite dramatic in a place which can be quite hostile to Israel at times.”

Earlier in the year, The Israeli embassy in London invited members of the church to Israeli President Peres’ birthday party. When Scott began explaining this, it refreshed my personal memory because I was living in Israel at the time, and there was an attempt for me to meet these members, but we could not get our schedules to mesh.

Things seem to be slowly coming together for me at this point of the interview, but I still want to know what makes a man like this tick?

Scott is so intriguingly unusual. Here is this man from ARKANSAS who has traveled the world and planted Christian churches in EUROPE of all places. Most Christians do not view Europe as a mission field because it is so predominately Christian, but Scott’s mission there was different. It wasn’t as much about converting others to Christianity as it was about leading Christians toward a deeper and more historical, intellectual understanding of the Hebraic roots of Christianity which extend beyond knowledge of the Old Testament. He truly wants Christians to understand the roots of Jewish skepticism of Christianity and thereby repair the relationship worldwide.

How did he get here? How does a person develop such a passion? What is his back story?

“What’s his motivation?”   Scott - Teaching With Bible

Scott is incredibly sensitive. To his surroundings. To other people. To fluorescent light.

At the start of the interview, Scott quickly moved about the room adjusting his window blinds, tinkering with the lamp, and talking with a smile. “Is this lighting okay? I just really don’t like these types of lights. I’m sorry.”

The other offices in the church building have their light switches flipped on, but Scott’s office is lit by the sunlight shining through his window and a lamp near his desk. It fits his personality because people who are sensitive to fluorescent light often dislike how it casts an unflattering glow on colors. This type of person wants the real thing—the real color—not the color reflected by fluorescent light.

As much as Scott has traveled, I wonder if fluorescent light somehow reminded Scott of the cage of a 9am to 5pm type of job. Maybe the fluorescent light is representative of the type of life he has managed to avoid. As much as he has traveled and as adventurous of a personal life that he has led, of course he prefers sunlight. He wants to be out there!

All a part of what makes this man tick.

From the start, it would appear that Scott was destined to lead a nearly textbook southern-American-protestant-Christian-mom’s apple pie-Anglo-Saxon type of life. Scott was raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. His mother was a homemaker. His father owned a construction company, and his family attended a Baptist Church.

However, in true leader form, Scott’s talents began making way for him at an early age, and he began to stand out among his peers.

Scott says he became a baptized Christian at age nine, answered the call to ministry as a teenager, and preached his first sermon at age 15 at the Baptist church in Little Rock where he grew up.  He tells me a story that he has repeated several times in the pulpit.

Scott chuckles as he recalls his first public ministering attempt: “I had written this entire 20-30 minute sermon, and I finished it in 10 minutes!”  His laughter is infectious at this point, and I start laughing, too, because Scott talks so fast.

Scott’s fast-talking is not similar to the smooth, used car salesman. He is just so excited about what he’s saying, and his mind is moving so quickly that is tongue often cannot seem to keep up with his brain. He speaks clearly, but occasionally, he gets tongue-tied and will make fun of himself for saying a word wrong before correcting it and moving on. He did this during an evening sermon I heard him deliver at Agape Church in preparation for his taking over of the pastorate. It invoked the congregation to laughter, and I was sitting one row behind his wife, Loretta, when he did it. “Oh my gosh. He just talks so fast,” I said amusingly. Loretta heard me, turned around slowly and nodded with a knowing smile as if to say: “Yes, I’ve told him this for years.”

As a matter of fact, while Scott explains the story about his 10-minute sermon, he talks fast. He still does it. No need to change what seems to be working for him so far, I guess.

His eyes are dancing at this point. I think he is glad to get a laugh out of me.  So much energy, this guy! He must have been an athlete.

“Were you involved in any sports? You have all this energy, and you seem pretty fit,” I asked while hoping to get some insight into this rare type of leader’s mindset. Scott was almost a black belt in taekwondo until his ribs were broken, but he seemed to enjoy baseball the most. Scott was a very good high school baseball player. He played pitcher and 3rd baseman and quickly notifies me that not only is the pitcher a focal point on a baseball field, but the 3rd baseman position is also known as the “hot corner” in baseball. That’s right. Scott played TWO of the most important positions on the field. Watching an athlete perform in or on the field/court/course/pool will often tell an observer about the persona of said athlete.

I’m a sports enthusiast and former college basketball player myself, so I understand the mental focus, determination, and competitiveness necessary to compete at a high level.

Scott speaks like a true competitor—still recalling play for play the day that he nearly pitched a shut-out game. He sits up in his chair and leans forward to make sure I really hear this.

“One hit. Only one hit. Right at the end of the game, one guy found my rhythm and got a hit off me, and I still regret it.”

He is serious. His entire face changed, but then that famous smile quickly returned.

In Scott’s case, the position of baseball pitcher seems to most accurately describe his individuality. It is the one position in baseball where he determines how the team moves.

“They’re waiting to see if I throw a curve or a fast pitch,” he explains. “Everyone is waiting for what the pitcher is going to do. This position and the catcher control the game. It’s all about what move you make.”

It’s not all about sports when researching the “what-makes-this-man-tick” element of Scott.

He must have made his parents very proud because he’s a dream combination of brawn and brain.

Having a love for the Bible was not enough for Scott, he wanted to know about it from a historical and intellectual level so that he could accurately understand it if he was to preach from it.

He started his undergraduate degree at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock (UALR) before transferring to The American Institute in Arkansas to study middle eastern history and received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees which he received with honors.

He received a PhD in Hebrew Studies specializing in biblical Hebrew language from the Jubilee Christian College Graduate School of Jewish-Christian Studies.  According to its site: “The focus of this Christian college program is to understand that in every area of life the foundation of all truth is found in the principles taught by the ancient Hebrew Prophets.” They even refer to Jesus by his Hebrew name, Yeshua.

Recently, Scott was inducted into the prestigious Oxford Society of Scholars as a fellow. He is now pursuing his 2nd elite degree, a Doctorate of Literature at Oxford University. The doctorate program fits Scott’s modus operandi. It is research based, and he is not required to be in class. He will have to compile and present papers and to also be peer reviewed.

Judging by his international speaking experience and depth of intelligence, it is likely that Scott will not only do this but with flying colors.

Scott believes he will write about: “Constantinian Christianity and the Curse of Cultural Relativism” thereby fulfilling a large component of his goal to educate Christians about the differences between the Hebraic roots of their religion and the Greek influence imposed upon Christianity when Constantine aimed to nearly completely rid modern-day Christianity of anything resembling its Judaic roots.

 “Change the world…No, really – change it”

Scott is 100% Christian, but he does not celebrate Easter. He calls Jesus by his Hebrew name, Yeshua, and he celebrates Chanukah.

“Say, what?!” I asked him incredulously when he said he doesn’t celebrate Easter. “That’s the entire point of being a Christian! We believe Jesus was the final sacrificial lamb for the redemption of the sins of all mankind. How are you even a Christian if you don’t celebrate Easter?” I’m seriously considering whether or not I need to change my church membership at this point in the interview. Do I want to have a pastor who does not celebrate Easter??

Scott goes on to explain: “I celebrate the resurrection. I celebrate Passover the way Yeshua—Jesus—did because He was a practicing Jew! The term ‘Easter’ is pagan and was initiated by Constantine in an effort to entirely separate the Passover celebration from Jesus’ resurrection and to drive a deeper wedge between Christians and Jews. The Easter eggs and rabbits are part of the Babylonian pagan culture.”

It turns out that Scott’s account is accurate. He is not speaking against celebrating the resurrection of Christ as Christians believe. He is against doing it under pagan premises when the entire notion behind it was driven by a hatred of the Jews.  Sadly, most Christians are not aware of this. They are not “separating themselves from Jews” by celebrating Easter. They are celebrating the resurrection of Christ, but they are not aware that so much of the celebration and the secular items surrounding it are a result of Constantine’s anti-Semitism.

www.letgodbetrue.com explains it very similarly to the way Scott explains it:

“Pagans have always got excited about spring, because they saw the sun increasing in power, animals mating, and plant life reviving. With their minds totally blinded by a holy God, they exalted animal and human fertility, reproduction, and sexual love. Goddesses of love and fertility were worshipped with spring festivals and gross immorality. The Roman Catholic Church, seeking to ‘Christianize’ the pagans, gave new names and meanings to the old pagan festivals to keep their unregenerated members happy… But Bible Christians are plainly told to reject any association with pagan religion or any religious things highly esteemed by the world. Any participation in them is spiritual adultery and highly offensive to the most high God. The Oxford English Dictionary reads, ‘Easter. The name is derived from Eostre, the name of a goddess whose festival was celebrated at the vernal equinox; her name shows that she was originally the dawn-goddess.’ Compton’s Encyclopedia reads, ‘Our name Easter comes from Eostre, an ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess, originally of the dawn. In pagan times an annual spring festival was held in her honor.’…Though the King James Bible has the word ‘Easter’ in Acts 12:4, it was used only as a synonym for the Passover, or the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was the event under consideration, as Herod waited for the right time to kill Peter and not offend the Jews (Acts 12:1-3). The OED confirms this use of “Easter” as a synonym for the Jewish Passover.”

 Most Christians recognize Easter eggs and the Easter rabbit as secular and not a part of the religious resurrection story—much like Santa Claus is secular and not related to the religious story of the birth of Jesus—but they don’t know that deliberate paganism is associated with the rabbit and the eggs during Easter.

More from www.letgodbetrue.com :

What does a rabbit with a basket of eggs have to do with Jesus Christ and His religion? Nothing! What about hot cross buns? Nothing! What about a sunrise service? Nothing! What about ham? Nothing! Encyclopedia International (1978) declares, ‘Many of the customs associated with Easter are derived from various spring fertility rites of the pagan religions which Christianity supplanted.’ The Catholic Encyclopedia declares, ‘A great many pagan customs celebrating the return of spring gravitated to Easter.’… Why are children taught that Peter Cottontail has a basket of eggs? Do rabbits lay eggs? Of course not! Rabbits are an obvious symbol of fertility and reproduction, for they are known for their short gestation and large litters… The Catholic Encyclopedia reads, ‘The rabbit is a pagan symbol and has always been an emblem of fertility.’ Encyclopedia International (1978) reads, ‘The Easter rabbit, legendary producer of Easter eggs, was also a symbol of fertility and new life.’ ”

 WOW. At this point, I am rotating between staring at Scott as these facts tumble out of his mouth at rapid speed and trying to type fast enough to keep up with what he’s saying.

“So, you’re actually going to tell a group of Christians in the American South that we aren’t going to say ‘Happy Easter’ anymore?”

“It’ll be ‘Happy Resurrection Day’ “,  Scott answers. It appears that Agape has already said something similar in the past, but most members definitely don’t know all of this history.

“We’re going to celebrate Chanukah, too.”

Say what?

Scott has now stood up and started pacing the room. His voice is elevated like he’s conducting a doctorate-level lecture. He explains that in the tenth chapter of the Book of John in the Bible, it is clearly recorded that Jesus came to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Dedication which is Chanukah.

“Everything Jesus did had purpose,” Scott said. “He did what His Father told him. What was significant about Chanukah that had Jesus celebrate it? Where did they get the design for the menorah? God told them to build the candelabra–the menorah that way. How did they get to this image? It progressed from an image of the tree of life and before that the bush in the desert—the one that Moses saw on fire—a menorah bush!”

Scott is all over the office, now. He’s pulling books out of his bookcase and flipping through his files to find photos. He flashes several photos of a tree that looks like the menorah. As the menorah design progresses in the photos, it looks at one point like the shape of a Christmas tree.

“Why do we put lights on a Christmas tree? Think about it,” he continues. “The original Chanukah happened on Kislev 25th. It’s always on the 25th of the Jewish month because God said to base it off of the moon which is why Chanukah does not fall on the same day each year. Pope Gregory in the 1500’s developed the Gregorian calendar, based it on the sun, and declared that New Year’s Day is on January 1st   following the model of Augustus Caesar. However, the Jews kept the Hebrew biblical calendar which is why our modern-day Christian calendar and their calendar no longer mesh.”

This is deep.

I keep wondering how in the world Scott will convince Agape members that many religious rituals they’ve been practicing for their entire lives and what their parents and their parents before that did were also based on inaccuracies.

“They just have to let me teach them,” Scott insists. “I truly believe that once they hear the truth behind these holidays, they’ll understand. I’m not saying not to celebrate the resurrection or the birth of Yeshua—Jesus. I’m saying that we have to do it the right way, and we owe much more respect to our Hebraic roots. We as Christians have been disrespecting our Jewish brothers and sisters and at the same time disrespecting God’s order, and we don’t even know it! What I want to get at is that the foundation of what we do is Jewish. In order to go forward, we have to first go backwards. We have to go back to why we do what we do and why we believe what we believe.”

I express a high level of skepticism and even some doubt that Scott could pull this off in traditional, Christian Arkansas—the heart of the known “Bible belt” in America. Even if he is right, he is cutting right at the heart of what most Christians believe. Easter and Christmas are the top two holidays, and he doesn’t even want to use the word Easter while adding Chanukah to Christmas.

His response?

In a passionate voice that should have its own soundtrack, Scott mounts his verbal soapbox. “What bothers me is when you know truth and you don’t practice it. Why study truth and then not apply it? Why stay ignorant in what you are doing? I just don’t get it. If you know the truth and don’t practice it, then it does not set you free.”

“The Solution”  

The solution to confusion is truth.

Scott wants to set the religious record straight between two of the world’s major religions, and HERE IS WHERE I FINALLY UNDERSTAND THIS MAN’S MISSION. He wants to change the world! No, really…He wants to COMPLETELY change the way things are done.

Can anyone imagine the religious revolution that would happen in the world if Christians could understand why Jews view them so skeptically and if Jews saw Christians making stronger and more sincere attempts to respect their religion? Can the impact in Western world be fathomed if Jewish people understood that Christians respect the Hebraic faith as the foundation of Christianity and not the bane of its existence?

Now that I feel like I know Scott’s mission, I ask him: “What is the main reason, in your opinion, for the tensions between Jews and Christians?”

He answers: “I believe it is a fundamental misunderstanding of each other. This has a history to it. Jews believe the Holocaust was a Christian event. It wasn’t, but it is perceived that way. The Catholic Church had the Inquisition and the Crusades. And here is what needs to be cleared up: those are Catholic events and not Christian events. Many Jews cannot distinguish the difference between Catholicism as an ideology and the Christian faith as whole. It’s just as wrong to judge Orthodox Jews by what the Reform Jews do. Many Orthodox Jews don’t even view Reform Jews as Jews anymore.”

This is not to say that modern-day Catholics are anti-Semitic, but everything should be put into its proper historical perspective.

The main perception that Scott would like to debunk about Christians is the notion that Christians want to reject the law.

“I was meeting with former president of the Jewish Federation of Arkansas last week. He said he’d never read the New Testament, and he also did not know that ‘Christ’ is not Jesus’ last name. I explained that Jesus’ Hebrew name is Yeshua, and I also told him that Jesus was a rabbi. He did not know. He didn’t know any of this.”

This memory is still fresh with Scott, and he’s shaking his head a little as he continues: “Judaism doesn’t allow for or encourage their people to pursue any knowledge of Christianity. Therefore, there is always going to be a lack of understanding between us. Christianity, on the other hand, has the Old Testament—which I call the Hebrew scriptures to make sure not to sound offensive. We have the entire first half of our religious book dedicated to the Hebrew scriptures, so we have access to it all the time. The Jews do not have anything referencing the New Testament, so they simply have little or no knowledge of any of it.”

Scott believes the burden is on Christians—not Jews–to close the gap of misunderstanding.

He has a list of things that he believes Christians can do better: “They can read their scriptures through Jewish eyes because the only way that the scripture can really be understood is through the context that it was written. Yeshua—Jesus–was a rabbi and not a Greek philosopher. If you put the wrong eyes on a Jewish text, you are going to create a concept that doesn’t exist. When the news of Yeshua went out from Israel, it was distorted from its original form. A lot of people make a big deal out of when the first Christians were called Christians in Antioch. It’s because they spoke Greek there. That’s the only reason why they were called Christians. If we’d go back to the origins, we would drop the celebration of Easter in favor of celebrating Passover. We’d celebrate Chanukah as well as Christmas. We need to put all of these in the right perspective.”

Scott plans to practice what he preaches. He wants to bring the “Night to Celebrate Israel” that he did in Scotland to Agape Church in Little Rock, and he recently issued an invite to the new Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer.

Currently, there are only five states in the union that require Holocaust education in K-12 public schools. Scott would like to push for legislation that would require Arkansas schools to teach it.

Initiatives like this are partially why Scott appears to be the ideal successor to Happy Caldwell as the incoming pastor of Agape Church. Happy currently sits on the board of CUFI and is internationally known among religious circles as a pro-Israel advocate.

Scott no longer considers himself a Baptist and became a member of the non-denominational Agape Church 30 years ago at age 18 under Pastor Happy Caldwell’s leadership. Happy told Scott that he had prayed for the same anointing to be on Scott as is on him.

His words to the teenaged Scott turned out to be prophetic. After 40 total years in the ministry and 35 years of pastoring Agape Church, Happy is stepping away from the pastorate and handing it over to Scott whom he considers a “spiritual son”—exactly 30 years after that conversation.

Scott and his wife, Loretta, will soon be welcoming a new grandson from their daughter,  McKenzie Burke, who has decided to name him Israel.

Caldwells_Stewarts

 

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From West Virginia to the Middle East

by Princella D. Smith, Israel Hayom Newspaper  Israel Hayom Princella Cartoon

The United States is internally weighing and debating its role in the Middle East while Egypt and Syria burn and while Israel negotiates peace.

This internal battle can be perceived as somewhat new territory for the United States due to intraparty differences on how to handle the Middle East on both the Democrat and Republican sides of the congressional aisles and in both chambers of Congress.

What Israelis and other interested parties around the world should remember is that with American policies, partisan politics often plays a defining role. It is certain that whatever decisions are made now will be used by both political parties during the 2014 campaign cycle, and in this cycle, Republicans need to flip six seats in order to gain control of the Senate. This is significant because as the upper chamber of the United States Congress, the Senate has a much more powerful role in international affairs. Three conservative-leaning states with retiring Democratic senators — Montana, West Virginia, and South Dakota — seem to be potential flips for Republicans.

Many legislators blame President Obama’s lack of aggressive leadership or even of a consistent set of policies—so much so that as his party’s leader, he has not provided a pathway for his fellow Democrats in Congress to follow and tout as their stance. At the same time, Republicans continue to criticize the President for an inability to assume the United States’ long-time role of being a leader in Middle East affairs. Therefore, while the world eyes policy-based chaos in the Middle East, they can trace it back to the political chaos in the U.S. capital. This has become particularly evident in Egypt.

Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte, John McCain, Bob Corker and Rand Paul each called for a suspension of aid to Egypt with Ayotte stating that President Obama “fell short when he really didn’t come out and call out the real question on the suspension of aid, because that is the real influence that we have with Egypt.” Sen. Paul more colorfully claimed that American aid to Egypt was more likely to fund an Egyptian military leader’s “chateau in Paris” than “bread in Cairo” for the poor.

A fellow Obama Democrat, Representative Keith Ellison who is the nation’s lone Muslim congressional member, said on ABC: “I would cut off aid. In my mind, there’s no way to say that this was not a coup. It is. We should say so. And then we should follow our own law, which says we cannot fund the coup leaders.” On the flip side, Democrat Representatives Eliot Engel and Jack Reed along with Republican Representative Pete King called for flexibility in President Obama’s decision to continue funding.

Princella D. Smith was a communications staffer to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and a communications director on Capitol Hill. She is a graduate student at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel and a Humanitarian Ambassador for the Save A Child’s Heart in Holon, Israel.

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China and the declining dollar

by Princella D. Smith, Israel Hayom Newspaper     Israel Hayom Princella Cartoon

According to several long-time economists’ recent analyses, the future of the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency is in big trouble.

The Wall Street Daily recently reported that the U.S. Treasury Department has agreed to give China direct access to its auctions. This deal would allow China to purchase Treasury bills without having to place bidsthrough primary dealers, bypassing Wall Street.

In the whole of its 237-year history, the U.S. has never allowed a foreign government such unmediated access to its markets.

Though the deal isn’t illegal, it poses a major problem to U.S. economic sovereignty: China holds over $1.2 trillion in U.S. Treasury bills. At this rate, China will soon own 50 cents on every dollar of the U.S. debt. Couple this issue with the overall decline of the U.S. dollar, and it calls into question whether the U.S. will long remain a sovereign nation.

International Monetary Fund records show that the share of U.S. dollar holdings in global foreign exchange reserves has dropped to 61.9 percent and that its percentage of the total world money supply has plunged from nearly 90% in 1952 to about 15% today.

Floyd Brown, chief political analyst of Capitol Hill Daily, feels that the dollar faces impending, if not immediate, doom.

“Today America is like the fourth-generation heirs of a fabulous fortune,” he said. “We may be making all the wrong moves, but our fortune is large, so it takes time for our spendthrift ways and boneheaded policies to erode the legacy bequeathed to us by our forebears.”

The deal with China coincided with reports this week that American billionaires Warren Buffett, John Paulson and George Soros have all dumped U.S. stocks.

Moneynews.com offered a rationale for the billionaires’ actions in an interview with Robert Wiedemer, an economist and author of the New York Times best-selling book “Aftershock”: “Wiedemer’s explanation starts with the reckless strategy of the Federal Reserve to print a massive amount of money out of thin air in an attempt to stimulate the economy.”

“These funds haven’t made it into the markets and the economy yet. But it is a mathematical certainty that once the dam breaks, and this money passes through the reserves and hits the markets, inflation will surge,” Wiedemer said.

“Once you hit 10% inflation, 10-year Treasury bonds lose about half their value. And by 20%, any value is all but gone. Interest rates will increase dramatically at this point, and that will cause real estate values to collapse. And the stock market will collapse as a consequence of these other problems.”

Phillip Coggan, author of the bestselling book “Paper Promises: Debt, Money and the New World Order,” and a columnist for The Economist, is less alarmist on the issue, stating that he doubts “the dollar is going to disappear as a reserve currency anytime soon.” He made it clear that he doesn’t see it reigning supreme either, though.

Asked if he felt that with China being such a creditor to the U.S., it gives the Chinese more leverage in replacing the dollar as the world currency, Coggan answered: “I think if that happens, it will only happen very, very slowly. If you think about [the British] sterling, which was the dominant trading power in the early 20th century, the U.S. took over from it after the First World War. But sterling was still being used as reserve currency all the way into the 1950s. So I don’t think the dollar is going to disappear as a reserve currency anytime soon.

“So I suggest two possible ways it could go. One is that you could have more than one reserve currency, so the [Chinese] renminbi and the dollar could be virtually equal. … The other one would be that the Chinese are slow to adapt to that world; they don’t like free markets very much. And so they might do a deal with the U.S. akin to the one that existed after the Second World War, where countries fixed their exchange rates against each other.

“So we might have a kind of managed exchange rate system where the Chinese agree to let the currency rise by a certain amount per year and the U.S. agrees to limit the size of its deficits. And that’s not going to happen tomorrow. But if you ever had a crisis in the Treasury bond market then you might end up with that kind of deal in the future.”

One thing is certain: China is definitely telegraphing an interest in handicapping the U.S. economy as evidenced by cyber attacks on Wall Street. We have lost millions of manufacturing jobs to China since it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001, and China’s actions become bolder yearly as its own pending economic collapse has come into question. The average American should be prepared. The world should be prepared.

Princella D. Smith was a communications staffer to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and a communications director on Capitol Hill. She is a graduate student at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

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Aqua Zai attempts to solve global hunger from A to Z

by Princella D. Smith, Washington Times    Princella_white blazer

Despite Israel’s semiarid climate, Israel’s agricultural industry has advanced enough to prevent its desertification, which is defined as the process by which fertile land becomes desert, typically as a result of drought, deforestation, or inappropriate agriculture.

The impressive agricultural industry is so developed, in fact, that Israel has been placed as a world leader in agricultural technologies because of its use as the country’s main tool against desertification.

Four students at the Israeli-based Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya have applied these technological advancements toward a solution for global hunger. Our names are Julian Jubran of Nazareth, Israel; Paul Amos of Milan, Italy; Bezawit Getaneh of Ethiopia and Israel; and myself, Princella Smith of Arkansas, United States.

Schools around the world are forming teams of four or five people to participate in the Hult Prize competition.

The Hult Prize brings together the brightest college and university students from around the globe to focus on solving one of the world’s key social challenges and awards $1 million in start-up capital to the winner. The idea must be capitalist and free-market-based for sustainability. This year, the challenge of focus is global hunger.

IDC Herzliya team’s idea is an agricultural technology business called Aqua Zai, whose purpose is to develop an easier method for farmers in developing nations to preserve and utilize water. This will enable them to produce more crops, store more food, and have enough throughout the year instead of living off of day-to-day farming. The newly grown healthy food will be sold at an affordable price in the urban slum areas where the rate of global hunger is rapidly increasing.


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We will start in Ethiopia.

Aqua Zai discovered, in some parts of Africa, a unique method of planting seeds, using zai holes. A zai hole is a planting pit with a 20-40 centimeter (8-16 inch) diameter and a 10-20 cm (4-8 inch) depth. Zai holes fulfill three functions: soil and water conservation and erosion control for encrusted soils — with the most important element being water conservation.

Plants that are produced with zai holes have an increased productivity of 200-500 percent. However, the reason many farmers have not utilized zai holes is because they believe that it is too difficult and time-consuming to dig the holes.

Since Africa’s primary challenge with agriculture is affiliated with the struggles of an unpredictable rain pattern, Aqua Zai created a method by which digging multiple zai holes at once could become a reality while keeping the holes more regularly watered through drip irrigation, which Israeli farmers have mastered.


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In addition to developing a drilling machine, called the “Zai Bug,” Aqua Zai will model watering techniques after the drip irrigation system Israeli farmers use on their lands.

This will all be performed on Aqua Zai’s zai farms, where we will work with Israeli agricultural experts to teach the methods to the Ethiopian farmers, and then eventually allow local farmers to run the operation so that they can work independently and produce enough food for themselves.

Additionally, Aqua Zai has designed the mobile “Zai Hopper” to transport the freshly grown food from the zai farm to distribution points in the slums, so that residents will be able to purchase clean and affordable food. The Zai Hopper is a simple machine based on fundamental farming technology and railroad grain cars.

Data from the International Monetary Fund confirms a positive trend for Africa. Whereas in the West, dialogue on investment in developing countries is mainly concentrated in Brazil, Russia, India and China, in the last decade six of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world were sub-Saharan African countries.

Between 2001 and 2010, for example, Angola’s economy grew the fastest in the world, with an annual average of 11.1%. Nigeria showed an average annual growth of 8.9%, Ethiopia followed with 8.4%, while Chad and Mozambique both grew by 7.9% annually. Even Rwanda has boasted 7.6% annual growth in that time period. The IMF’s forecast for 2015 reinforces this trend.

The creation of Aqua Zai enhances the already friendly relationship between Israel and many countries in Africa — but especially in Ethiopia, where the company has chosen to launch.

Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia Belaynesh Zevadia, along with the first Israeli Ethiopian woman to be elected to Knesset, Pnina Tamano-Shata, have endorsed the project.

 

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Helping the African deserts bloom

Helping the African deserts bloom

Israeli agricultural technology and know-how is being put to innovative use to combat desertification • Four students at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya have applied these technological advancements toward a solution for global hunger.

Princella D. Smith – Israel Hayom Newsletter

Despite Israel’s semiarid climate, Israel’s agricultural industry has advanced enough to prevent its desertification, which is defined as the process by which fertile land becomes desert, typically as a result of drought, deforestation, or inappropriate agriculture.

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Yair’s ‘Yesh Youth’

by Princella Smith, Israel Hayom    Israel Hayom Princella Cartoon

A little while ago, I was at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya when a handsome and charismatic man in an elegant black suit, black shirt and no necktie made his way across the campus, flanked by an entourage.

“Who is he?” I asked someone in his entourage.

“Yair Lapid. He is the head of the Yesh Atid Party.”

“And are you with him?”

“Yes.”

“What’s your name and position?”

“I am Yaakov Peri. I am a member of Yesh Atid.”

Peri, a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency and the senior security figure on Lapid’s list, granted me an interview for Israel Hayom. He spoke very plainly, as if it was the first time that anyone reading Israel Hayom would have even heard of him or of Yesh Atid. Peri is No. 5 on the Yesh Atid list, and with the party having won 19 seats, this means he will be a member of the new, 19th Knesset.

The stir over Yesh Atid’s surprising gains in this week’s election made me think back to my interview with Peri and connect the dots. Should Israelis really be so shocked by Yesh Atid’s rise? Political ideology aside, these people seem to “get it” when it comes to relating to young people and people concerned with moving Israel forward. Few people make waves in elections by claiming to keep things exactly the same.

When I asked Peri about the importance of the youth vote, he said, “We want to convince them [young people] that there is a lot of change that can occur in our country and in daily life. We want to change the government system by minimizing the number of ministers and vice ministers. We are such a small country. We only need 18. We currently have 35. We want to lower the cost of living and build 150,000 units as business projects to create jobs.”

As an American citizen, I want to be careful not to express a bias for any particular Israeli party over another. I support Israel, and I strongly favor the U.S. having a positive and effective working relationship with Israel and its leaders as the haven of democracy in the Middle East.

While objectively observing Israel’s election results, it is clear that Yair Lapid articulated a simple and optimistic vision for Israel. That observation is justified by his Yesh Atid party’s surprise ending to an otherwise uneventful Israeli election cycle.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is popular with many Israelis — and for good reason — but should Israelis really have been surprised at Yesh Atid’s surge?

Lapid portrayed himself as an average Israeli citizen and a champion advocate of Israel’s young people and the struggling middle class. Political figures who can speak to the next generation generally create a stir in politics. They come across as the everyman ready to take on the challenges of the electorate’s future, and this gets people excited.

In the lead-up to the election, one of Lapid’s party members, Rabbi Dov Lipman, was active on social media with the aim of reaching English-speaking voters and young, technologically savvy voters. He uploaded a video from his YouTube account of Lapid speaking to a group of young people in English.

The seemingly unpretentious, 49-year-old Lapid again donned the black suit with no necktie and captured the young audience by speaking directly to who they were as a people and the pride they should take in moving Israel forward.

“This country was built and established by people your age, 21, 22, from all over the world, who came here and said, ‘If I’m not happy with the reality of my life, I’m going to create a different reality. If I’m not happy with the direction my country’s taking I’m going to make sure and take a different direction.’ Those people said to themselves, this is what I do. I’m a part of a whole. We are all a part of something. That’s the strength of this place. That’s the strength of being Jewish,” Lapid said.

“People spend a lifetime trying to be part of something. They always go to the same bar. They join cults … they join street gangs … all because they want to be part of something. We have this as a birthright, but we have to work on it every day of our life, and this is what you do, and you do it also outside politics. You do it outside politics because this is where things are happening, this is where you change stuff.”

Agree with his political views or not, Lapid seems to “get it.” He spoke to audiences in both English and Hebrew. He spoke of a stronger future for Israel, but he tapped a vein that few others seemed to address when he spoke of the actual essence of being Jewish and bringing a love for Israel to a higher level.

Princella D. Smith is a freelance contributor to Israel Hayom. She was a communications staffer to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and has also served as a communications director on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. She is currently a graduate student at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel.

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Americans Heart Israel

Americans heart Israel

Roy Ashton might be considered a “typical southern male” in the United States. He is a Mississippi resident, a father, and a husband who attends church regularly and considers himself to be patriotic. Although active in his church, he was not particularly interested in traveling to the Middle East. In fact, the only countries that his church mentioned when speaking of missions work were Asian countries in the Far East. But, like many church-going American southerners, Roy eventually became informed of the importance of Israel’s security to the pro-democratic free world and to America’s national security, as well as the biblical significance of protecting Israel, and he had a change of heart. He decided to travel to Israel and to learn about how he could help Israelis to handle emergency situations.

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