Monthly Archives: August 2016

Releasing Love

God's Love

Many of us have accepted Yeshua as our Lord and Redeemer, yet we are unable to trust what He has accomplished for us.  Yeshua bore our punishment for all time so that we could maintain a relationship with YHVH and be a part of His family and His kingdom.  We have all heard this message preached, taught, argued and dissected until the words have perhaps become meaningless to us.   Words are not enough; each of us must experience the love of YHVH.

Too often Yeshua’s sheep silently struggle with guilt, regret, and shame that bog us down and block us from enjoying our Father’s overwhelming love.  Instead, we are inundated with misery that YHVH never intended for us to experience.  Do we believe that if we suffer enough, we can somehow make up for our sins?  Truly, there is no way that we can pay for even one sin.  It doesn’t seem right to us that we can repent and walk away free.  Perhaps that is why we find it so difficult to forgive those who have wronged us.  If others have made us suffer, then we feel justified in wanting them to suffer also.  We do not see things from YHVH’s perspective.  We forget how He rejoices over recovering the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7) or re-uniting with the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32).  When things go wrong, we think that YHVH is punishing us, even when we have repented and turned away from sin.  It is right to loathe the sin, but we must not loathe ourselves.

Our experiences in this world color our perception.  We assume that YHVH loves the way people love:  half-heartedly, sporadically, conditionally, and so on.  Over the last several months, I have encountered numerous others who are struggling to see themselves as YHVH sees them.  I, too, tend to see myself from a worldly perspective rather than as YHVH sees me.  YHVH loves us extravagantly not because of us, but because of who He is.  What does it mean to us that God is love?   1 Cor 13:4-7 provides some helpful insights.

YHVH does not keep a record of our wrongs and is not easily angered.  He is focused on us, not on Himself.  He believes in us, trusts us and hopes in us.  He is willing to endure all things so that we might be loved into reaching our full potential.  Derek Prince in a work entitled “The Divine Exchange” has provided a beautiful illustration of YHVH’s love through Yeshua’s sacrifice.  Below is a summary of “The Divine Exchange”.

  1. [Yeshua] was punished that we might be forgiven
  2. [Yeshua] was wounded that we might be healed
  3. [Yeshua] was made sin with our sinfulness, that we might be made righteous with His righteousness
  4. [Yeshua] tasted death for us that we might share His life
  5. [Yeshua] was made a curse that we might receive the blessing
  6. [Yeshua] endured our poverty that we might share His abundance
  7. [Yeshua] bore our shame that we might share His glory
  8. [Yeshua] endured my rejection that I might have His acceptance with the Father
  9. He was cut off that we might be joined to [YHVH]
  10. Our Old Man was put to death in Him that the New Man might come to life in us

Sin causes damage and loss.  In John 10:10, Yeshua tells us that the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.  Yeshua came so that we might have abundant life.  Yeshua came to recover, restore, replace, re-unite and revive.   Let us throw off the temptation to dwell on the past, on what has been lost or destroyed, and focus instead on what Yeshua has done, is doing, and will do.

YHVH’s love releases us from every burden and barrier, so that we are free to release His divine love to others, including ourselves.  When we are truly set free by His love, we will be able to love as YHVH loves.

 

 

Does God care about Genes or Jeans (Part 2)?

least of these

In Part 1 of this blog last week, I talked about who are YHVH’s children and those who should keep His Torah, and concluded that it is not Abraham’s biological descendants, but rather those who are His spiritual descendants.  The true children of YHVH’s covenant are those are following His will and trusting Him, keeping His Torah and striving to be pleasing to Him in every part of their lives.  That covered the “genes” part of this 2-part series.  This week I want to focus on what God sees when He looks at us: we know from Scripture that He looks on the inside of us and does not focus on our outer appearance or the level of recognition we merit from the world.  In other words, He doesn’t care whether we wear threadbare jeans vs. classy suits, or how many degrees we have achieved or awards we have won.

What is YHVH truly looking for when He looks deep down inside of our souls?  From Hebrews 4:12, we know that He “discerns the thoughts and intents of our heart”.  But what are His criteria in evaluating our hearts – does He look to see how perfectly we are following His Torah, or how diligently we are working to serve our congregation?  Psalm 58 gives us a beautiful window into YHVH’s heart, and we know that our hearts should line up with His heart as we seek to renew ourselves more into His image every day.

God is conveying a very strong message through Isaiah when He tells Him to shout it out with a shofar blast. (Isa 58:1)  He chastises His people for their false piety – they are trying to impress God by putting on sackcloth and ashes, and afflicting themselves severely when they fast.  The only ones they are impressing are people around them though, not YHVH.  He desires them to fast from their hearts when He says:

“..this is the kind of fasting I want: free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help”. (Isa 58:6-7)

If these concepts sound familiar to New Testament readers, that’s because they are.  Listen to what Yeshua said when He was speaking to the goats on His left and the sheep on His right:

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was thirsty, and you gave Me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited Me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave Me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for Me. I was in prison, and you visited Me.’  “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see You hungry and feed You? Or thirsty and give You something to drink? Or a stranger and show You hospitality? Or naked and give You clothing? When did we ever see You sick or in prison and visit You?’  “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these My brothers and sisters,[f] you were doing it to Me!’

“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed Me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give Me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite Me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give Me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit Me.’  “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help You?’  “And He will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these My brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help Me.’  “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

What, then, is truly important to Abba Father when He looks into our souls?  From Yeshua’s words in Matthew 5:7, we know that He desires for us to be pure in heart, not obeying Him out of obligation but because we sincerely want to please Him from the depths of our heart.  And what does He say about those who are pure in heart?  ‘They shall see God’.

This takes us right back to the essence of our relationship with Yehovah – if we want to know Him intimately, we need to align our hearts with His, which means we will automatically do the things that please Him: feed the poor, take care of orphans and widows, shelter the homeless, etc.  In your life, try not to focus on the outward things, but look deep inside your heart.  In the ‘intents and desires of your heart’, after stripping away everything superficial, do you see what YHVH is looking for?

Does God care about Genes or Jeans?

Foreigner keeping TorahIn our recent blog series, Nancy and I made a strong case from the Scriptures that Torah (instruction) has not been done away, but is still just as valid in today’s world as it was in the Temple sacrifice period before Yeshua’s first coming.  In this week’s blog, I would like to focus on to whom YHVH’s Torah applies, and explain why Torah is intended for every person on this Earth, Jew and non-Jew.

In Romans 9, Sha’ul explains to his mostly non-Jewish audience why some of the Israelites are not being saved and brought into God’s Kingdom, while many people who are not Israelites by birth are being redeemed and brought into the body of Messiah by faith.  “Well then, has God failed to fulfill his promise to Israel? No, for not all who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! Being descendants of Abraham doesn’t make them truly Abraham’s children. For the Scriptures say, ‘Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted, though Abraham had other children, too’.  This means that Abraham’s physical descendants are not necessarily children of God. Only the children of the promise are considered to be Abraham’s children”. (Rom 9:6-8)

In the rest of this passage, Sha’ul goes on in Verse 23 to say that God shows mercy to those to whom He desires to show mercy (i.e. He draws them to the truth of Yeshua as the Messiah) and hardens the hearts of others so that they will not listen to the truth.  He then quotes from Hosea, speaking of how the Gentiles (non-Jews from the nations) were “not a people” but now YHVH loves them and calls them His children.  In Verse 24, Sha’ul says that the ones God selects as His children are taken from both the original descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as those who are “gentiles” (not descended biologically from the fathers of Israel).  He also quotes Isaiah 10:22-23 in saying that only a remnant of Israel will be saved: “Though the people of Israel are as numerous as the sand of the seashore, only a remnant will be saved”.

Since we have established in our previous blogs that the Torah is for all of Abba Father’s children to observe, then the agreement between Old and New Testament Scriptures becomes crystal clear.  Sha’ul quotes Isaiah once again in Romans 10:20 in making his point that the Gentiles will be drawn to YHVH, the true God of Creation, and become part of the “Commonwealth of Israel”: I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me” (Isa 65:1).   And again in Romans 10:21 he repeats that many of Israel’s genetic descendants will turn away from YHVH and reject His Messiah: “All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people” (Isa 65:2).

The real clincher for me in terms of making the case that YHVH wants to draw all people into His covenant is in Isaiah 56:6-7: “Also the sons of the foreigner who join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants—everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, and holds fast My covenant—even them I will bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”.  YHVH is clearly speaking of the non-Israelite (Gentile) people of the nations whom He will accept as part of His family, no less His children than the native Israelites.  In the preceding verse (Isa 56:5), YHVH also says: ”Even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off“.

In summary, it is clear that YHVH accepts all of His created humans as His children, whether they are genetic descendants of Israel or foreigners from pagan nations, as long as they keep His Sabbaths and are faithful to His covenant.  This is essentially a restatement of the Torah, as these are YHVH’s key instructions to His people: to keep His Sabbaths (which include His feasts) and live by his Kingdom laws.  It all boils down to Yeshua’s words from Matthew 6:33, to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness – this is the essence of His Torah, where He teaches us how to do this – how can we do any less if we truly love Yehovah our Creator, Lord and Redeemer?  In the nest installment of this 2-part series, I will cover the “Jeans” part of the “Genes or Jeans” equation.

Fire Proof

Fire proves person's valueScripture mentions the word “fire” over 600 times.  What is the significance of fire in Scripture?  One of the major themes that runs through Scripture is that fire is used to destroy evil and refine and strengthen the good.  What are we to learn from these passages and how does it apply to us?

We know that fire consumes evil, as we see in Genesis 19 with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Isaiah 30 beginning at verse 27 presents another example, “Behold, the name of the LORD comes from a remote place; Burning is His anger and dense is His smoke; His lips are filled with indignation And His tongue is like a consuming fire; His breath is like an overflowing torrent, Which reaches to the neck, To shake the nations back and forth in a sieve, And to put in the jaws of the peoples the bridle which leads to ruin.”  Fire consumed the burnt offerings, on which were placed the sins of the people.  “Lay your hand on the animal’s head, and the Lord will accept its death in your place to purify you, making you right with him” (Lev. 1:4).

We also know that fire is also used as a purifier in Scripture, as we see in Psalm 66:10-12, “For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.”       Isaiah 48:10 states, “Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. What does this mean for us?  How can we be sure that we will withstand the fire of affliction?

When the Israelites came before YHVH, they were not to come empty handed.  They were to bring some of the best of the products of their labor.  One day soon we will appear before YHVH (Deut 16:16).  We will not be expected to bring garden produce and animals, for these were merely a prototype of the real fruit that we are expected to produce.   YHVH is looking for the fruit of our labors as workers in His spiritual harvest.  How have we contributed to the building of His kingdom?

We see in Acts 2:3, that when the disciples of Yeshua were baptized with the Holy Spirit, that tongues of fire appeared over each person.  The Holy Spirit provides fire for us, to help us discern that which is pleasing to YHVH and that which is not.  We must follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit in choosing and performing our works for the kingdom.  What we deem as useful may appear only as straw in YHVH’s eyes.  In 1 Corinthians 3:13, Paul tells us that any of our works that are deemed useless will be burned up in the fire.  All we will have left to present to YHVH are the works that withstand the purifying fire.  Peter also warns us about the coming fire of judgment.   

However, the Day of the Lord will come “like a thief.” On that Day the heavens will disappear with a roar, the elements will melt and disintegrate, and the earth and everything in it will be burned up.   Since everything is going to be destroyed like this, what kind of people should you be? You should lead holy and Godly lives, as you wait for the Day of God and work to hasten its coming. That Day will bring on the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt from the heat” (2 Pet 3:10-12).

Are we choosing each day to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit?  When we follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we are sure to have something of value to present to YHVH.  We will be sure to have works that withstand the purifying fire of YHVH.