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This is a site about the good news of the New Covenant (Brit Chadasha). But this is not a site about Christianity. I make this distinction for several reasons.

First, as explained in About Me, this Good News changed my life and drew my interest. Christianity has never affected me in the same way. Thus it has not raised my interest and study as the Covenants revealed in Tanakh and Brit Chadasha have. Since I can only write about what has touched me, I limit this site to the Tanakh and Brit Chadasha.

Perhaps you are wondering about the difference between the two. You might think of it as similar to the distinction between being a Jew and being an Israeli. Many think that these two are the same, i.e. all Jews are Israelis and all Israelis are Jews. But many Jews are not Israelis, being citizens of other nations such as USA, Canada or France. And many Israeli citizens are not Jews, ethnically or religiously. Over 20% of Israelis are Arab (Muslims, Christians and Druze). The world Headquarters of the Bahai religion is in Haifa, Israel. Of course is overlap and influence between Jews and Israel. Israelis have explicitly built their society as a Jewish one. Non-Israeli Jews often have a special affinity and interest in Israel. There is overlap and influence one upon the other – but they are not the same.

Origin of Christians

So it is with the good news of the New Covenant and Christianity. There are many things, beliefs and practices in Christianity that are not part of the other. For example, there are the well-known celebrations of Easter and Christmas. They are probably the most well-known representations of Christianity. These festivals remember the birth and death/resurrection of Yeshua (Jesus Christ), the central person in the Brit Chadasha.  But nowhere in the Brit Chadasha do we find any reference or command to do with these celebrations. Christian clergy removed Easter from its original Passover calendar around 300 CE. So its connection to Passover of Exodus 12 is lost to everyone. I enjoy celebrating Christmas and Easter. But so also do many of my friends who have no interest in the Good News of G-d’s covenants.

So there is much overlap between the two – but they are not the same. In fact, the whole Brit Chadasha mentions the word ‘Christian’ just three times. In its first occurence it indicates that pagans of that day invented the word as their name for the disciples of Yeshua.

So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

Acts 11:26

Development of Christianity

Christianity was seen as a Jewish denomination in those first days. But almost 300 years later, under the Roman Emperor Constantine, Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire. With the alliance of Church and State, it became a powerful institution with popes, bishops, rituals, and customs. Christendom then split between the Roman Catholic Church of Western Europe and the Orthodox Church of Eastern Europe. This occurred in an event called ‘The Great Schism‘ in 1054 CE. Then in the 1500’s with the advent of the Protestant Reformation, the church in Western Europe again split. The various Protestant denominations like the Anglican Church, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Wesleyans, Baptists came from that Reformation movement. Along the way, there was regular anti-semitic persecution of Jews by Christians.

Christianity now has a long history of institutions, patriarchs, archbishops, monasteries, priests, pastors, monks and cathedrals across Europe and around the world, including in Israel. Those people who practice their Christian faith today often do so by attending church on Sunday, getting baptized, performing the eucharist or the breaking of Bread. They go to confession, or even go on pilgrimages to venerated locations. Others give generously to church or other worthy causes or even buy indulgences.

The Gospel: Explicitly for Jews

These practices and institutions, though culturally important to their adherents, are not what the Good News is about. So just like one can be an Israeli without being a Jew, one can also receive the Covenants given by Yeshua without becoming Christian. As stated in the Brit Chadasha:

For I am not ashamed of the Good News, since it is God’s powerful means of bringing salvation to everyone who keeps on trusting, to the Jew especially, but equally to the Gentile. 17 For in it is revealed how God makes people righteous in his sight; and from beginning to end it is through trust — as the Tanakh puts it, “But the person who is righteous will live his life by trust.”

Romans 1:16-17

In fact, one of the most unfortunate by-products of the growth of Christianity is that both Christians and Jews have lost sight of the Jewishness of the ‘New Testament’ (Brit Chadasha). Few know that its name is rooted in promises given through Jeremiah in the Tanakh. All the books in Brit Chadasha (with possible exception of Luke/Acts) were written by Jews, describing Jewish Festivals like Passover, First Fruits, Shavuot, Hanukkah. The central character, Yeshua of Nazareth, was a Jew. The first sentence of the Brit Chadasha emphasizes this:

This is the genealogy of Yeshua the Messiah, son of David, son of Avraham

Matthew 1:1

The central question/debate that this sentence raises: ‘Was Yeshua really the Messiah?’ is certainly a Jewish question if it belongs to any group. So, let’s explore, consider and reflect on this and other questions that were first brought to mankind by the Jews. One possible place to start is at the very beginning, with the creation account in the Torah, when G-d created mankind in His image.

Sweden Canada High Resolution Sign Flags Concept Stock Photo, Picture And  Royalty Free Image. Image 29122412.

I want to share how the Good News contained in the Brit Chadasha became meaningful to me. This was a journey impacted by Shlomo (Solomon) and his whole-hearted pursuit of pleasure and wisdom.  This will allow you to better have a personal insight on the articles on this website.  (Oh and the basic info … my name is Ragnar Oborn – Swedish – and I live in Canada.  I am married and we have a son.  I studied at University of Toronto, University of New Brunswick and Acadia University)

Restlessness in a Privileged Youth

What Causes Spiritual Distraction?

I was born into an upper middle-class professional family.  Originally from Sweden, we immigrated to Canada when I was young. Then I grew up while living abroad in several countries – Algeria, Germany and Cameroon. Finally I returned to Canada for university. Like everyone else I wanted (and still want) to experience a full life. One characterized by contentment, a sense of peace, and of meaning and purpose – along with meaningful connections to others.

Living in these different societies, religions and secular, and being an avid reader, exposed me to many different ideas about ‘truth’ and what a ‘full life’ meant.  I observed that I (and most in the West) had unprecedented wealth, technology and opportunity to achieve these goals. But the paradox was that this full life seemed so elusive.

I noticed that relationships were more disposable and temporary than that of previous generations. Terms like ‘rat race’ was used to describe our lives. I was told that if we can get just ‘a little bit more’ then we would arrive. But how much more? And more of what?  Money? Scientific knowledge? Technology? Pleasure?

Living for what?

What are you really chasing in life?
What gives purpose in Life?

As a young person I felt angst probably best described as a vague restlessness. My father was an expatriate consulting engineer in Africa. So I hung out with other wealthy, privileged and educated western teenagers. But life there was quite simple with little to amuse us. Thus my friends and I dreamed about returning to our home countries and enjoy TV, good food, opportunities, and the ease of western living. Then we would be ‘satisfied’.

But when I would visit Canada or Europe, after the first bit of excitement the restlessness would return. And worse, I also noticed it in the people who lived there all the time. Whatever they had (which was alot by any measure) there was always need for more. I thought I would find ‘it’ when I had a popular girlfriend. And for a while this seemed to fill something within me, but after a few months restlessness would return. I thought when I got out of high school then I would ‘arrive’. Then it was when I could get a driver’s license and gain independence – then my search would be over.

Now that I am older I hear people speaking of retirement as the ticket to satisfaction. Is that it? Do we spend our whole lives chasing one thing after the other. We keep thinking the next thing around the corner will give it to us, and then … our lives are over? It seems so futile!

The Wisdom of King Shlomo (Solomon)

The Secrets Of King Solomon - African Leadership Magazine
King Solomon

During these years the writings of Solomon made a deep impact on me. Solomon (950 BCE), the ancient Israelite King and the successor son of King David, famous for his wisdom, wrote several Wisdom books and poetry in the Bible. In Ecclesiastes, he described this same restlessness that I was experiencing.

The entrepreneur who had everything…

He wrote:

I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless.2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
    I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
    and this was the reward for all my toil.

Ecclesiastes2 :1-10

Riches, fame, knowledge, projects, women, pleasure, kingdom, career, wine… Solomon had it all – and more of it than anyone else of his day or ours. The smarts of an Einstein, the riches of a Bill Gates, the social/sexual life of a Mick Jagger, along with a royal pedigree like that of Prince William in the British Royal family – all rolled into one. Who could beat that combination? You would think Solomon, of all people would have been satisfied. But he concluded:

But miserable to the point of madness

The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”

What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
    “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
    it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
    and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
    by those who follow them.

12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

Ecclesiastes 1:1-14

Life … Folly and Chasing after the Wind

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
    and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
    nothing was gained under the sun.

12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
    and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
    than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
    just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
    while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
    that the same fate overtakes them both.

15 Then I said to myself,

“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
    What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
    “This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
    the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!

17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

Ecclesiastes 2:11-23

Solomon Tried everything ‘under the sun’

Hardly happy! In one of his Biblical poems, The Song of Songs, he records an erotic, red-hot love affair that he was having. This would be the very thing that seems most likely to provide life-long satisfaction. But in the end, the love affair did not give him sustained satisfaction.

Wherever I looked, either among my friends or in society, it seemed like Solomon’s pursuits for a full life were what everyone was trying. But he had already told me that he had not found it on those paths. So I sensed that I would not find it there and would need to look on a road less traveled.

Along with all these issues I was bothered by another aspect of life. It troubled Solomon as well.

Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?

Ecclesiastes 3:19-21

Woody Allen vs. Solomon

Death is utterly final and reigns absolute over us. As Solomon said, it is the fate of all people, good or bad, religious or not. Woody Allen directed and released the movie You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger. It is a funny/serious look at death. In a Cannes Film Festival interview he revealed his thoughts about death with his well-known humour.

Woody Allen - Wikipedia
Woody Allen

“My relationship with death remains the same – I’m strongly against it.All I can do is wait for it. There is no advantage to getting older – you don’t get smarter, you don’t get wiser, you don’t get more mellow, you don’t get more kindly – nothing happens. But your back hurts more, you get more indigestion, your eyesight isn’t as good and you need a hearing aid. It’s a bad business getting older and I would advise you not to do it if you can avoid it.” 1

He then concluded with how one should face life given the inevitability of death.

“One must have one’s delusions to live. If you look at life too honestly and too clearly life does become unbearable because it’s a pretty grim enterprise. This is my perspective and has always been my perspective on life – I have a very grim, pessimistic view of it… I do feel that it [life] is a grim, painful, nightmarish, meaningless experience and that the only way that you can be happy is if you tell yourself some lies and deceive yourself.”

So are those our only choices? Either take the honest route of Solomon resigned to utter hopelessness and futility. Or take that of Woody Allen and ‘tell myself some lies and deceive myself’ so I can live under a more happy ‘delusion’!  Neither seemed very attractive. Closely linked with death was the question of eternity. Is there really a Heaven, or (more alarmingly) is there really a place of eternal judgment – a Hell?

In my senior year of high school we had an assignment to collect one hundred pieces of literature (poems, songs, short stories etc.). Most of my collection dealt with these issues. It allowed me to ‘meet’ and hear many others who also wrestled with these same questions. And meet them I did – from all sorts of eras, educational backgrounds, lifestyle philosophies and genres. 

The Gospel – Ready to Consider it

I also included some of the well-known sayings by Yeshua recorded in the Brit Chadasha like:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10

It grew on me that maybe, just maybe, here was an answer to the questions I was asking. After all, gospel (which had just been a more-or-less meaningless religious word) literally meant ‘good news’. Was the Gospel really good news? Or was it more-or-less hearsay? To answer that I knew I needed to journey down two roads.

The Gospel Journey … Reality

First, I needed to start to develop an informed understanding of the Gospel. Second, having lived in different religious cultures, I had met people and read authors who had many objections to, and held ideas in opposition to, the Biblical Gospel. These were informed and intelligent people. I needed to think critically about the Gospel, without just being a mindless critic or an empty-headed believer.

But even before embarking in earnest on this journey, having lived in Muslim-majority Algeria just after the Yom Kippur war, I thought it remarkable how tiny Israel could stir such emotion and discussion (yes I listened in on lots of opinions on Israel). Even with a cursory read through the Tanakh and the Brit Chadasha I noticed how they predicted these situations that I was witnessing (see here for one example). It gave me impetus to wonder if there was more truth enclosed in its pages since I could see this was proving spot on.

There is a very real sense that when one embarks on this kind of journey one never totally arrives, but I have learned that the Gospel does provide answers to these issues that Solomon raised. Its whole point actually is to address them – a full life, death, eternity, and practical concerns like love in our family relationships, guilt, fear and forgiveness. The Gospel’s claim is that it is a foundation that we can build our lives upon. One may not necessarily like the answers provided by the Gospel. One may not agree with them or believe them. But given that it addresses these very human questions it would be foolish to remain uninformed of them.

… But not always Comfort

I also learned that the Gospel at times made me quite uncomfortable. In a time when so much seduces us to just take it easy, the Gospel unapologetically challenged my heart, mind, soul and strength that, though it offers Life, it is not an easy one.  If you do take time to consider the Gospel you may find the same.  Perhaps, a good place to start is to look at the summary of the Gospel message.

Recently I was in Poland and spent a day at Auschwitz.  Having previously visited Yad Vashem and having read several books on Jewish History, I had prepared myself for what to expect.  However, the vast size of Auschwitz with the endless rows of barracks shocked me as to the size and depth of the horrors of the Shoah.

While standing there reflecting on this modern horror, I noticed a group of people draped in Israeli flags.  It was a group of young people, teenagers mostly.  As they paid their respects to the many people murdered at Auschwitz, they sang the Israeli national anthem.  I recorded it on my phone.

Israelis Singing their National Anthem at Auschwitz

It struck me that these young Israelis singing the Israeli national anthem, on the eve of Israeli Independence Day, in the ruins of Auschwitz, symbolize so well the tragedy but also the hope and the life-from-death history of the Jews.

Jewish history has seen the circumstances of a people bound to their ancient book, to their land, and to surrounding nations in a way that no other people has experienced.  Like a long running dance, the back-and-forth between the Jewish people, their land, and other nations has spanned millenia.  Their ancient book (Tanakh or Bible) claims that this dance is directed by the Creator of the universe, and that it will have a conclusion – that there will finally be shalom for not only the Jews but for the all other nations as well.

This promise of shalom is first hinted when G-d, blessed be He, first called Abraham to leave Ur for Canaan – the promised land, when He stated

I will bless you…
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you. (Genesis 12:2-3)

With the dark pages of history behind us, and the grim reality of events and enemies encircling today, many have given up on this ancient book with its vision of peace.  But the promise did not say that the blessings would be immediate, or that they would come without struggle.  In fact Israel means ‘he struggles with God’ (Genesis 32: 28) and the lives of the patriarchs were filled with testings, fears, as well as failures – so we should not be so surprised that this has been the path of the Jews through history also.

The themes, promises, warnings, commands and history recorded in the Tanakh are certainly worth exploring first-hand.  They have proved to be a source of hope and comfort to many.  Exploring the Tanakh does take work, it is not easy, and it will require us to re-evaluate our assumptions, beliefs and what we choose to trust in.  But as the Psalms say

The Torah of Adonai is perfect,
restoring the inner person.
The instruction of Adonai is sure,
making wise the thoughtless.
(8) The precepts of Adonai are right,
rejoicing the heart.
The mitzvah of Adonai is pure,
enlightening the eyes.
10 (9) The fear of Adonai is clean,
enduring forever.
The rulings of Adonai are true,
they are righteous altogether,
11 (10) more desirable than gold,
than much fine gold,
also sweeter than honey
or drippings from the honeycomb.
12 (11) Through them your servant is warned;
in obeying them there is great reward.

13 (12) Who can discern unintentional sins?
Cleanse me from hidden faults.
14 (13) Also keep your servant from presumptuous sins,
so that they won’t control me.
Then I will be blameless
and free of great offense.

Psalm 19: 7-13

If finding refreshment for the soul, having a joyful heart, and acquiring wisdom to understand are more precious than gold, then surely it is worthwhile to explore these themes in the Tanakh with the same determination that miners have prospecting for veins of gold.

A rich and mysterious theme, one running through the Tanakh, is that between Jews and their Promised Land – Israel.  It is worth understanding this even for purely historical reasons, since many today seek to re-write the Jewish relationship with their historic land.  But as one understands how ancient Promises are being fulfilled, it may also spur us to consider that, perhaps, there is a G-d who is working through history, among the nations, and in the midst of His people whom He promised a blessing to.

If so, it would be worthwhile, to continue by examining the Tanakh with a view to discovering its promises for that elusive shalom which is also anticipated in this ancient volume.  This is the journey we undertake in this site and we welcome your journey alongside us.

May you experience G-d’s shalom.