Monthly Archives: May 2015

ALL or nothing

how long o you peopleHow committed are we in our relationship with YHVH? What is it worth to us?  How much are we willing to risk? In theory, most of us would say that we would be willing to sacrifice everything. We know what the answer should be. However, in practice what do we risk? Are we willing to tithe our income or share with others when money is tight? Are we willing to endure rejection and criticism from our family and friends because of our relationship with YHVH?  How bad would it have to get before we crumble?

A few years ago, I thought I was strong in my relationship.  However, after only two weeks in harsh conditions with demonic forces all around, I was beginning to lose it. It was an eye-opener for me. It is one thing to sit in comfort and ease at home and imagine how you would handle hardship, persecution, and danger. It is quite another matter to actually live it.

For YHVH and His Son, our relationship is worth the deepest sacrifice.  YHVH sacrificed His only child, His beloved Son. To lose a child is a parent’s worst nightmare, especially to watch an innocent child die an excruciatingly painful death at the hands of one’s worst enemies.  If YHVH wanted a perfect human, He already had one.  It wasn’t enough. He risked what was most precious to Him for the hope of relationship with all of us.

Yeshua is YHVH’s only begotten Son. He was entitled to all the praise and adoration that creation could muster. Yet, He was asked to sacrifice all in order to gain those who had been created for His pleasure, but who were now His enemies. By the time He was arrested, He had been deserted even by his closest friends. He could offer salvation, but would anyone accept it? Yeshua focused solely on YHVH’s promises instead of all the abuse and agony heaped upon Him. Even His closest friends did not comprehend what He was doing for them. If He relied solely on what His five senses told Him, the prospects were bleak.

Yeshua sacrificed all that He had and, as a result, He gained those who believe in Him.  If He had not been willing to risk His comfort, His dignity, the clothes on His back and even His life, He would have gained nothing and we would be lost forever. Only Yeshua and His Father could see the potential in us.

He relinquished everything He had to reclaim those who had lost everything.

We are called to give all of ourselves to Yeshua, for in Him we have all that He has earned for us: relationship with YHVH, eternal life, and restoration of all we have lost. If we do not give our all to Yeshua, then we have nothing.

In approximately one-third of the world today, our brothers and sisters are giving their all to Yeshua. They suffer oppression, trials, and persecution, even torture and death for the sake of their relationship with Yeshua. The rest of us, who live in relative ease and freedom may one day be called to do the same. In the meantime, we can support our brothers and sisters by speaking out on their behalf, by interceding for them and by sending funds to sustain them.

Maybe through our prayers and actions on their behalf, we will be strengthened so that we will endure if we are required to give our all.

Fountains of Living Waters

Out of their heart

“for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to fountains of living waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Rev 7:17

In last week’s blog about YHVH’s Feast of Shavuot, I talked about YHVH giving us His written Torah, and then pouring into our hearts the living Torah when He gave us His Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) at Pentecost (Shavuot). In Scripture, water sometimes represents the Holy Spirit. In several passages, YHVH uses the images of living or flowing water, or pouring out of water (see John 54:10-11;7:38, Joel 2:28, Zech 14:8, Rev 7:17). There is even a related scripture where YHVH speaks judgment over His people who have abandoned Him “…,Because they have forsaken the LORD [YHVH], the fountain of living waters.” (Jer 17:13)

Abba is saying that His Holy Spirit is not only active but constantly in motion, inspiring us and empowering us to flow in the gifts that He blesses us with. The clearest scriptural confirmation of this is in John 7:39, right after Yeshua said “If anyone thirsts, let them come to Me and drink. The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of their heart will continuously flow rivers of living water.” In verse 39, John [Yochanan] commented on Yeshua’s offer to pour out His Holy Spirit on His people when he said: “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Yeshua was not yet glorified.” This passage also reminds us of the most beautiful prophecy about the giving of the Holy Spirit in Joel 2:28: “…I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.”

Yehovah did not want us to miss His prophecies on the giving of the Holy Spirit, so He even wrote this message in the stars. If you grew up in the 60’s, you probably know the worldly (or New Age) significance of the Zodiac sign called Aquarius. Regrettably, the original meaning of this sign has been corrupted by pagan mythology and worldly Greek philosophy. From the original Hebrew name of this sign, “poured forth” or the pourer forth of water”, we can see that YHVH was telling us that He (The Pourer Forth of Water) would in the future be pouring out the Holy Spirit on his children. We now know that this is what happened at Pentecost [Shavuot], which was the fulfillment of Joel 2:28.

As we meditate on the beautiful message in Joel of the One who pours out His Spirit on all flesh, we remember to look to the One who is doing the pouring, and receive from Him what he desires to give us. But receiving this outpouring (or infilling) of Yehovah’s Ruach HaKodesh into our hearts through the baptism of the Holy Spirit is only the first step. How can we be active vessels of His Holy Spirit, allowing the Ruach to flow through us continuously like rivers of living water (John 7:38)? Jeremiah speaks about YHVH’s judgment on His people: “My people have forsaken me, the spring of living water. And they have dug wells, broken wells that can’t hold water.” (Jer 2:13)

Even though we are leaky vessels as imperfect humans, YHVH can use us in powerful ways when we are flowing in the power and gifts of His Ruach [Holy Spirit] within us. An active, functioning well is one that responds when someone primes the pump: the water flows out to those who need it. In the same way, we need to be open to the prompting of the Holy Spirit and ready to pour out His living water into the lives of others. The Ruach pours wisdom, gifts, and power into us – we have opportunities every day to use His gifts and power to help and disciple others.  How will you use the living waters of the Holy Spirit to bear fruit in this needy world?

Why is Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks) Important?

I will put my spirit within you

One of the least known and understood Biblical feasts of YHVH is the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot in Hebrew or Pentecost in Greek.  As believers in Yeshua the Messiah, you are probably well aware of what happened on the Pentecost following Yeshua’s resurrection and ascension.  The great outpouring of the Holy Spirit came upon Yeshua’s disciples in Jerusalem, and over 3,000 souls were added to the believing Body of Messiah on that day alone.

You are probably also familiar with the Holy Spirit-inspired miracle that occurred during that Shavuot, when the disciples started speaking in tongues of other languages, and each of the thousands of pilgrims in Jerusalem that day understood them in their own language (see Acts 2:11).  Also well known is the fact that this miracle (which represented the overturning of the confusion of languages from the Tower of Babel) was the beginning of the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32, where YHVH prophesied through Joel that the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh.

When we dig down a little deeper into this appointed feast day of YHVH, though, we realize that many questions are raised and mysteries unveiled when we seek answers through the Holy Spirit. We know that this day of Shavuot happened 50 days after Yeshua was raised from the dead, as we have many confirmations of that time period in Scripture. It is stated clearly that Yeshua was on the earth and appeared to over 500 people during the 40 days following His resurrection (1 Cor 15:6). Then, Yeshua clearly told His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them (Luke 24:49):  “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (also see Acts 1:4-8)

You may have studied the similarities between Pentecost and the Shavuot on Mt. Sinai when many Jews believe the Law (Torah) was given to the Israelites.  There is the obvious analogy of fire falling from heaven in both events, first on Mt. Sinai and then on each recipient of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring.  A somewhat less obvious analogy is the giving of the Torah on both occasions (once in written form and once as the Holy Spirit bringing the living Torah to dwell inside of us (see the chapter on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in our book).  Another similarity is the loud sound (YHVH’s voice on Mt, Sinai, which compares to the loud sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind. (Acts 2:2)

What you may not have considered is that the Torah was written on tablets of stone at Mt. Sinai, but Abba said He would write His Torah on our hearts: “I will put My law [Torah] in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people”. (Jer 31:33) And how did YHVH plan to accomplish this miracle? By the power of His Holy Spirit within us: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes [Torah]” (Eze 36:26-27)

Here is the connection: when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the people at Shavuot and they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, YHVH wrote His Torah on their hearts.  When we receive the Holy Spirit to live inside us and guide us, He causes us to walk in His Torah.  A better way to say this might be that He continuously helps us to renew our minds and hearts so that we are transformed into His likeness.  As we go through this transformation, we desire to follow His instructions because we love Him and want to be one with Him as Yeshua said He wanted to be one with us before He left the earth (John 17:21-23)

Spend some time studying God’s word this Shavuot, praising the living Word (Yeshua) and giving glory to Abba Father who sent the Holy Spirit to dwell inside us.  As you do this, you might want to meditate on how you can draw even closer to all three persons of Yehovah God by keeping the Torah that they wrote on your heart, which is kept alive and powerful by the Holy Spirit who lives within you.

Offensive Judgment

for with what judgmentIf you have ever spent time in a congregation, then you most likely have encountered at least one instance of a Christian or Messianic believer judging another. Perhaps you were even the one being judged. Perhaps you were the one who did the judging.

Over several decades, I have been a member of various congregations. I have noticed many instances of Christians or Messianic believers judging a fellow member or a newcomer who showed up at their door, I have experienced many of the examples mentioned below, either as the one who was judged or as the one who judged (or should I say misjudged?).

The effects of our misjudging, whether subtle or blatant, are powerful and can be devastating to others. Actions or reactions such as a certain “knowing” glance, turning away, keeping someone at arm’s length, gossiping, excluding another, and so on, may seem insignificant in a world full of violence and horror. And yet, if we are engaging in any of these actions, we are not following Yeshua’s command to love one another. That means we are sinning and sin is never insignificant (Matt. 5:21-22).

The sheep in wolf’s clothing: Often we judge others by their appearance. The less similar they are to us, the more we tend to suspect them. Does the person wear our kind of clothes, have a similar hairstyle, and so on? If not, then they are automatically suspect. Consider Isaiah 11:3, NLT

Assumptions and generalizations: If you are divorced, then it is your fault and you are considered sinful and loose with your morals. If you are married, then you are automatically moral and upright. The list goes on, but you get the idea. Consider John 8:7 and Rom 2:1.

Talents and gifts or lack thereof: Some gifts may be prized over others, and those with the valued gifts are welcomed more warmly. Those people whose gifts are not easily recognized or deemed less essential may be ignored or otherwise devalued. Consider 1 Cor 12:4.

 Political choices: There are no perfect people or political leaders (except Yeshua). There is no holy and perfect political party. Consider Psalms 146:3 and 118:8 and Jer 17:5.

 Racial prejudice: Belonging to a different race or associating with those of a different race means that you are less moral or upright. Alas, prejudice is still alive and kicking even among those who appear to be strong believers. Consider 1 John 2:9, 1 Cor 12:13 and Gal 3:28.

 Financial status: If you are rich, then you are greedy and selfish or else you are inevitably upright and moral. If you are poor, then you are lazy and worthless or you are good, but unjustly oppressed. In his book, The Blood of Lambs, Kamal Saleem, former terrorist-turned-Christian makes a poignant point. He used to recruit people in the United States for Islam and jihad by taking food to the poor, often in neighborhoods where there were Christian churches. None of the Christians had ever bothered to reach out to those he visited, thus making his task easier. Consider Matt 25:34-36 and Isaiah 58:6-7.

The wolf in sheep’s clothing: We seek to be broadminded sometimes even when we are steeped in ignorance. We implicitly trust people because they claim to be Christian or because they look like us or they seem to be like us in other ways. They appear to be our kind of people, so they must be alright. Many a person has trusted in such a way and lived to regret it. Consider Matt 7:8, 10:16 and 1 John 4:1.

We cannot accurately judge because we don’t see others’ motives, emotions, or past experiences (Prov 16:2; 21:2 NIV). So how do we know when a person is sincere? How do we know if someone really wants to change or is truly seeking YHVH’s help? How do we know if someone is pulling the wool over our eyes?

While it is not our duty to judge others, it is our duty to distinguish to the best of our ability. We are expected to make wise decisions concerning our friends and associates. We must have some order and regulation in our congregations. Leaders especially have a duty to protect their congregations. We obviously cannot rely on our own wisdom, so we must seek YHVH’s wisdom instead. We ask YHVH for the discernment which is provided to us by His Holy Spirit. We must proceed with a judicious mix of caution and love.

When we judge another, we risk offending that person and YHVH.  Above all, we are called to do everything in love. Yeshua commanded us to love one another, not to judge one another (John 13:34). If we perceive someone as an enemy, we are still called to love that person, even if that person has misjudged or mistreated us (Matt 5:44). These Scripture passages are very familiar to us, but how well do we live up to Yeshua’s expectations? This is a question that I must ask myself every day. What about you?

Who Is to Judge?

Who are you to judgeThe topic of judging others leads us into sensitive territory. Discussing this subject tends to unveil misunderstanding, hurt feelings, defensiveness, and a host of other negative reactions in us. It seems that most people harbor strong ideas of what they mean by judging, how and when to “judge,” who is to be judged, and so on.

 Bible verses are quoted to bolster each viewpoint. In order to settle arguments and arrive at some practical solutions, it is wise to consider the original Greek word that was used and translated into the English word “judge”.  I consulted Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance to examine the Greek word used by the authors and translated into English as “judge”. Most New Testament passages using the verb “judge” are translated from the Greek (Strong’s number 2919. krino), and include, but are not limited to, the following passages:

Matt 7:1   “Judge not lest ye be judged…”

Luke 6:37 “Judge not and ye shall not be judged…”

John 7:24 Do not judge by appearance, but judge with right judgment.”

According to Strong’s, the Greek word krino means “to distinguish”. Implied meanings include: to try, condemn, punish. It can also mean avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, go to (sue at the) law, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think.

When krino is used in the New Testament, it is generally used in passages that discourage believers from judging. Although Ephesians 4:25 reminds us to “speak truth to our neighbor,” there is no mention of judging our neighbor. Galatians 6:1 tells us to restore transgressors in a spirit of gentleness. We are also admonished to “keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” We are living in the kingdom of darkness and are still vulnerable to sin to some degree or another.  We are in no position to judge each other, but we are encouraged to assist each other in living according to YHVH’s ways.  If we judge others who sin, then we will be judged in the same way, because we too have our moments of weakness. We may concoct our own “levels” of sin, and conclude that our sins aren’t as bad as those of our neighbor, but beware.  All sin is an abomination to YHVH.

Some may argue that in 1 Cor 5:12, Paul is telling us that we are to judge believers.  Let us look at the context.  There was a person in the congregation at Corinth who was openly engaging in sinful behavior.  Paul was advising that the person be removed from the congregation so that he would not lead other believers to follow his corrupt behavior.  If the person was removed from the congregation, it was in the hopes that he would come to his senses and realize the danger of his poor choices.  There was no need for the others to place him into Satan’s hands; the sinner was already doing that.  Whenever any of us turn from YHVH, we automatically open the door to Satan.

James 4:11-12 explains why we are not to judge.

“Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law, but if thou judge the law, thou are not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?”

The “lawgiver” is YHVH and the “law” or “Word” is Yeshua.  Yet, not even Yeshua judged others when He came to earth the first time, so it is not our place to judge others either (John 12:46-48). When Yeshua returns, He will judge others (2 Tim 4:1). Those who return with Yeshua to reign with Him will also judge the world (2 Cor. 6:2). While we are still in our imperfect state, we are not to judge, for we, too, are still weak enough to succumb to temptation. Therefore, we are to love and encourage each other and to gently admonish one another when necessary, but it is not our job to judge each other.