Category Archives: Restoring the Bride

Who’s Missing?

mind-of-spirit-is-peace

When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. 45 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”

Many of us are familiar with Yeshua’s words from Matthew 12:43-45.  It is possible, however, to read over this passage many times and yet miss some vital information.  This is an important message for all of us, so it is wise to spend some time reflecting on Yeshua’s warning.

First, let us look at the rest of the chapter for context.  At the beginning of the chapter, Yeshua, referring to Himself as Son of Man (Hebrew expression for a human being) is also declaring His identity and authority as Son of God, because He has authority even over the Sabbath.  We know from other Scripture verses that Yeshua emptied Himself, or divested Himself from His power as the Son of YHVH (Phil 2:7) and relied solely on the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1), as He expects His followers to do (Luke 24:49).[1]

As the chapter continues, Yeshua performs miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Beginning in verse 22, Yeshua casts out a demon from a man who is both blind and mute.  The people consult with their leaders after this miracle, saying that surely Yeshua must be the Son of David, the Messiah.  The leaders, who are against Yeshua, tell the people that Yeshua is not using the power of YHVH to perform His miracles, but the power of the prince of demons.  They are denying the power of the Holy Spirit in their attempt to discredit Yeshua.

Now we come to Yeshua’s words concerning an evil spirit who leaves (or is driven out) from its dwelling within a person.  After wandering for some time, the demon returns to its former abode, which has now been swept clean and is in order.  This suggests that the person has repented, been forgiven, and/or had soul wounds healed.  But Scripture also says that the abode is empty, or unoccupied.  Who should be dwelling there now?  The Holy Spirit.  If there is any part of our souls (mind, will, emotions) that have not been yielded to Yeshua and filled with the Holy Spirit, they are prime areas for demons to move in.

In our efforts to quell demonic activity in our lives and repair the damages, we must be intentional in inviting the Holy Spirit to ensure that the former (or potential) dwelling of the demon is not only in order and swept clean, but occupied and guarded as well.   In other words, we cannot truly improve on our own, but need the help of the Holy Spirit. In Mark’s version of this story (chapter 3), Yeshua tells us no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.  On our own, we are not strong enough to withstand the enemy.  The Holy Spirit is the “strong man” that cannot be overpowered by demons.

Yeshua purposely divested Himself of His power and authority as the second Person of YHVH in order to rely solely on the power of the Holy Spirit, thus demonstrating to us that we must divest ourselves of our own power and rely on the Holy Spirit.

Why did Yeshua say “that would be the experience of this evil generation”?  Because the Pharisees wanted to be in control to the extent that they not only denied the power of the Holy Spirit when it suited them, but they gave credit to hasatan for the work of the Holy Spirit.  Some believers today are still falling into that error.  Some say that speaking in tongues is of the devil, for example.  Many of us avoid the Holy Spirit out of fear or reluctance to relinquish control.

Where the Holy Spirit prevails there will be order, unity and love.  Where the Holy Spirit is not welcome, there will be chaos, division, hatred or apathy.  We cannot atone for our sins on our own, but need to rely on Yeshua’s sacrifice on our behalf.  Likewise, we cannot steer our own course through this spiritual battlefield on earth, but must rely on the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Aside from some practice runs, the apostles did not get started on their assignments in YHVH’s harvest until they had been filled with “power from on high” or the Holy Spirit (Acts 2)

Are there areas in your life that are confusing or chaotic?  Are there broken or weak relationships in your life?  How will you sweep these areas clean?  Will you welcome the Holy Spirit to reign in that area of your life as your “strong man”?

[1] Yeshua did not cease to become the Son of YHVH at any time nor did He relinquish His authority as the Son of YHVH, but He operated only by the power of the Holy Spirit to demonstrate to His followers what He expected of them.

 

Tending the Garden

producing-fruitAt creation, humans were placed in an enclosed garden and were given dominion of the earth and the assignment of tending the garden.  There was at this point no barrier between YHVH and those whom He created in His image and likeness, so it is fair to assume that there was communication between YHVH and Adam and Eve.  YHVH is a God of relationship.  Among other things, perhaps YHVH was giving advice and guidance on how best to tend their garden home.  After all, He is the Creator of all things and knows how everything best functions.

Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we are assigned another task, an additional garden to be tended, the garden of our souls.  When we are born again, our spirit is perfect and sealed (John 3:6, Eph 4:30, 1 Pet 1:23), but the soul and body remain unchanged and must be renewed or improved by our deliberate cooperation with the Holy Spirit.  Scripture tells us that our bodies will be resurrected and transformed (1 Cor 15:50, 53), but what about our souls?  Our souls are made up of mind, will and emotions.  It is here that we must do our greatest work of yielding to the Holy Spirit (Rom 12:2, Eph 4:22-23, Col 3:1-3).  Just as Satan entered the Garden of Eden with evil intent and deceit, so he sends his workers to enter the garden of our souls to wreak havoc of all sorts, especially through deceit.

Just as Adam and Eve had dominion (management) of the Garden of Eden and therefore could have ousted the intruder, hasatan, we have dominion of our souls and can yield ground either to YHVH or to His enemy.  We must oust the enemy in every part of our soul garden so that YHVH is welcome to reside there with us (Rev 3:20).

The Holy Spirit walks with us each day to provide assistance.  With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, it is our job to remove the weeds of guilt, doubt, fear, envy, selfishness, pride, and strife.  It is in these areas that we “do not do the good I want to do. Instead, I keep on doing the evil I do not want to do.” (Rom 7:19).  We must also seek the Holy Spirit to help us identify and heal soul wounds which are deep emotional pains and injuries.   It is in these areas that the enemy can sow new seeds by planting new lies.

We cannot be totally possessed by the devil when we are born again for there is at least one part of us already sealed and off limits.  However, in areas of our soul where we have built false strongholds, we have created a place to welcome and harbor demons.  What is a false stronghold?  It is any attitude or pattern of behavior where we are still in charge or where we rely on anything or anyone other than YHVH to help us.  Strongholds are built of lies and misconceptions and are places of darkness within the soul.  Demons are active in encouraging us to erect strongholds, for this is a place where they can live and get a solid foothold in their work of stealing, killing and destroying (John 10:10).

If demons have infiltrated and taken possession of part of our gardens, they must be removed through deliverance.  Many people avoid this step because of fear of the unknown.  Also, many have seen the drama that can be involved in deliverance.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Deliverance under the guidance of the Holy Spirit can be quiet, civilized and completed in a very short time. It is our duty to remove the enemy from our garden.  Afternward, it is crucial that we identify and tear down the false strongholds that we have built.  Thus we destroy any “homes” for the enemy and can invite the Holy Spirit to move into those areas.  It is in dying to ourselves and yielding control to YHVH in every aspect of our mind, will and emotions that our soul gardens will flourish and prosper.

When we are tempted to neglect the tasks involved in tending our garden, we would be wise to read and meditate on the following Scriptures:

So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.  Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions (Matt 7:19-20)

Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire (Matt 3:10).

Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt 10:28).

Let us take seriously the tending of our soul gardens and yield good fruit so that our Father may be glorified.

Healing Our Souls

the-righteous-personYHVH tells us in His Word that He is our Healer (Ex 15:26, Ps 103:1-5; Is 53:4-5).  We know through the sacrifice of Yeshua we can be set free from sin.   And that would have been enough, but Dayenu!  We have a God who always does more.  He heals our bodies and souls completely!  Today, let us focus on healing for our soul wounds.

We all have them.  Some are just under the surface and others are buried deep within us.  It is nearly impossible to reside in this fallen world and remain unscathed.  However, it is up to us whether or not we will remain injured and broken.  It is possible for YHVH to heal  all our soul wounds if we are willing to cooperate with Him. This is often easier said than done, but well worth the effort.

What are soul wounds?  Our souls are made up of mind, will, and emotions.  Many types of wrongs can damage to our souls.  In many societies, we feel pressured to bury emotional  pain and proceed as if nothing happened.  Over time, some hurts get buried deep for so long that we seem to forget about them.  Isn’t it best to forget and move on?  It is best to forgive and move on, but it is also necessary to take the time to work on healing the soul wounds that often remain.  We must not confuse forgiving others with healing the wounds they have inflicted.  The two are separate although closely connected.

Just as untended flesh wounds get worse and cause complications, so do untended soul wounds fester within us.  Fear, anger, bitterness, resentment, rejection, pain, or guilt must be dealt with properly.  Holding onto such burdens slows us down and weakens our relationships with YHVH and others.  We build walls or strongholds to “protect” ourselves from being hurt again.  However, the strongholds do not guarantee that we will be safe from future harm;  they actually imprison us, making us more vulnerable to our enemies.

YHVH is aware of all our injuries and promises in His word to restore us to perfect wholeness (shalom).  Let us examine some of YHVH’s promises.

Fear, anxietyPeace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (John 14:27).

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, (Rom 7:15-16)

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Tim 1:7).

So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Heb 13:6)

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Is 41:10).

Anger, bitterness, resentment:  [YHVH] will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Ex. 14:14)

In your anger do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger and do not give the devil a foothold.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  (Eph 4: 26-27, 31)

Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you (Prov 20:22).

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes (1 John 2:9-11).

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Pet 5:10).

Loss, mourning, rejection: When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken (Ps. 34:17-20)

 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds (Ps. 147:3).

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, (Ps. 20:11)

Sin, guiltTherefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working (James 5:16).

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me (Ps. 51:10).

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1).

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Heb 8:12)

But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:9-11)

How can we cooperate with YHVH to make ourselves whole again?  First, we need to examine ourselves and ask the Holy Spirit to bring soul wounds to our attention.  Next, we take our wounds and lay them at the feet of Yeshua.  Then, we ask YHVH to heal our wounds according to His promises.  We meditate on His promises until they become not mere words, but reality for us.  Healing of soul wounds can lead to physical healing.

Only when we are made whole do we reach the full potential YHVH has planned for us.  During these ten days of awe, let us seek YHVH’s help in examining and healing our souls.

Restoring the Bride of Messiah

marriage of the Lamb

In my previous article, we had a glimpse at how the Bride of Messiah has become fragmented over the past 2000 years and how it is now being restored. YHVH is calling many of Yeshua’s followers to explore their Hebrew roots, to learn His name and use it with reverence and awe, to function in the gifts of the Holy Spirit for strengthening the Bride, and to continue to preach the good news of the Kingdom of YHVH throughout all the ends of the earth. YHVH is uniting the fragments to restore the Bride of Messiah. If indeed YHVH is restoring the Bride and we are part of the Bride of Messiah, then each of us has an assignment, a part to play in this restoration.

 How do we find out our personal assignment and ensure that the Bride is prepared to meet her Husband? YHVH must not only unite the various groups and segments of the Bride, but each individual must understand and operate in all the truth. What do we do? Where do we start?

 The best place to start is to come before YHVH and seek His heart. This is best done through praise and worship. As we worship YHVH, He reveals His heart to us. He lets us know how to intercede for our brothers and sisters in Yeshua. YHVH also communicates to us the direction we are to take or the assignment He has designated for us. Sometimes His revelations will catch us off guard, so we must be open and ready for change, even in ourselves.

 In order to be receptive to what YHVH wants to reveal, we must search our own hearts and minds and ensure that we are actively seeking truth, whatever the personal cost. Seeking the truth means letting go of false strongholds, false beliefs, false perceptions. When we seek truth, we must be ready and willing to relinquish our “comfort zones.”

 Our assignments from YHVH will often begin, not with changing others or with some type of outreach, but rather with submitting ourselves to the Potter to be remolded. Many of us have inherited lies from our ancestors.

 [YHVH], my strength, my fortress,
my refuge in time of trouble,
the nations will come to you
from the ends of the earth, saying,
“Our ancestors inherited nothing but lies,
futile idols, completely useless.” (Jer 16:19 CJB)

 When we come to YHVH, we want to come armed with the truth, not the inherited lies. We certainly do not want to come with idols, for these are an abomination to YHVH. Anything we cling to and cannot relinquish to YHVH is an idol. It may not be a carved statue, but it is still a false god. We must be willing to lay ourselves on the altar and ask YHVH to remove the chaff in our lives and leave us with only the finest wheat. Then, we will be ready for our next assignment in restoring the Bride of Messiah. Let us be about our Father’s business (Luke 2:49 CJB).

The Fragmented Bride

Bride of MessiahIn our own spiritual journey, the Holy Spirit has led Peter and me to various congregations and ministries. Each new experience taught us something about living and functioning as members of the kingdom of YHVH. Although we fellowship with various groups and congregations, we continue our search for the one congregation where we are encouraged to put all the newly-acquired pieces together.

 A brief summary of our journey may help to paint this picture more clearly. At one congregation, we learned to love each other unconditionally. However, the Spirit moved us on to another congregation to learn our Hebrew roots so that we might gain a more accurate knowledge of the history of our faith and acquire a better lens through which to understand both Old and New Testaments. Once again the Spirit moved us on to various ministries and congregations in order to understand better how we should be functioning in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. A separate ministry supplied us with a more mature understanding of our spiritual enemies and how to be delivered from bondage to the enemy. Interaction with various other ministries confirmed the message I had received from Father that we were to call Him by His name. While we are grateful for these congregations and ministries, we wonder why each group seems to have part of the truth, but not all of the truth.  After meditating on Acts chapters 2 through 8, I began to realize just how fragmented the Bride of Messiah has become over the centuries.

 The first eight chapters of the Book of Acts paints a very different picture of the living functioning Bride of Messiah. Yeshua’s followers lived together in close proximity to one another sharing all their belongings. As a unit they prayed, praised and worshipped, studied, healed, preached, taught, learned, and shared all their possessions (Acts 2:42-47). Today, we and many others must search from place to place to acquire what we need to be mature contributers to Yeshua’s Bride.

 When did the fragmenting start? Right away, since the majority of Jewish leaders and many of their followers rejected Yeshua as their Messiah. Yeshua’s followers went to the Temple as YHVH commanded in the Torah, but they had to go outside the Temple parameters in order to learn about Yeshua. Although not perfect, the first generation of Yeshua’s followers provided a more complete picture of what the Bride should be. As time went on the Bride became further fragmented as the good news spread and Yeshua’s followers were scattered over several nations. Distance, persecution, poverty and other trials helped to foster misunderstanding, suspicion, and outright abuse or neglect of each other, especially dividing Jews from non-Jews. Constantine’s efforts to unite his massive empire mingled in pagan practices and beliefs, and at the same time sought to eliminate all ties to Jewish or Hebrew roots. Over time empty manmade rites and rituals increasingly replaced true relationship with YHVH.

 At this time, YHVH seems to be restoring the Bride, perfecting her in anticipation of Yeshua’s return. Several congregations that we have met with locally are seeking to restore the missing pieces in their groups. Three Messianic congregations in India have demonstrated for us the most complete example thus far of how the Bride should function. These congregations function according to their Hebrew roots, actively preach and teach the good news of the Kingdom of YHVH, operate daily in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and call the Father by name. They do so in the midst of daily trials and persecution. What about each of us? How are we participating in YHVH”s work to restore the fragmented Bride?

What Is Wrong with Church?

Bride of Messiah

Scripture has much to say about fellowship among followers of Yeshua. Many people have construed passages such as Heb 10:24-25 and 1 Pet 2:5 to urge us to join a congregation. For centuries people have sought fellowship in church, seeking community, accountability, support and encouragement. However, currently there are multitudes of believers fleeing the established church setting. Why?

 Scripture exhorts us to meet together, to support and encourage one another, to call one another to account and to be accountable to others, to bear one another’s burdens, and so on. While it is true that we need to do these things, it is not necessarily true that a church setting is the best environment to foster such activities. In fact, traditional church practices often hinder or discourage people from following Scripture’s mandates. Here are some examples of how we can lose focus in a church setting:

 Focus shifts to a human agenda rather than the Holy Spirit’s agenda. We can get caught up in our programs and projects and lose sight of our true mission (John 3:6-8; Acts 8:39; 1 John 5:6; John 14:26). We fail to seek guidance daily from the Holy Spirit and draw away from our Father’s plan.

  • Focus centers on the needs of the church entity while neglecting individual needs. Many times people come to service week after week heavily burdened with trials or sin and leave carrying the same burdens. Even if the congregation has an established order of service, does it also provide opportunities through small groups, prayer ministers, or some other means to assist individuals? Is there effective prayer for healing? Are demons expelled? (Matthew 10:7-14)
  • Focus settles on certain truths to the exclusion of the rest of the truth. Is the emphasis on adhering to established doctrines or on learning more about YHVH and His will for us? (John 16:13)
  • Focus turns inward with little or no outreach from the congregation. Do we reach out to those around us who do not yet know the joy of salvation in Yeshua?   Do we help others in need or do we judge them? Do we have an exclusive “club” where we feel comfortable and outsiders remain outsiders? (Matt 25: 35-40; Mark 16:25; Rom. 10:14; Acts 1:8)
  • There is strong temptation to settle into a comfort zone and stagnate. Spiritual growth becomes a threat. Change becomes an unwelcome challenge. (Eph 3:17-19; 2 Pet 3:18)
  • The agenda of an established hierarchy replaces the agenda of the Holy Spirit. (Matt 15:3; Mark 7:3-9)

Recently, we have attended services where the congregations are working hard to address these shortcomings. Even within a worship service, there is room for the Holy Spirit to take over the meeting. Active outreach to the community is passionately pursued by the congregation. There are opportunities for people to seek individual prayer and support so that they do not carry burdens alone.

 We need to broaden our definition of fellowship. There are numerous opportunities to have “church” daily. Tim Mather explains in his book, Escaping Church, that any time we share the good news with another, encourage or advise or pray for another, or have discussions about our faith with others, we are “doing church.”

There are other ways for congregations to restore what is missing that I will discuss in my next article. It is time to repair Messiah’s broken body. It is time for the bride to prepare herself to meet her Husband. It is time for us to have true fellowship with one another.