Category Archives: Spiritual Maturity

The Cost of Fear

He will not leave you

To our beloved readers:  I write this article as one who has struggled for years with fear.  Bit by bit I have overcome some of my “illegal” fears, but my struggle continues.  I write this article to myself as well as to all of you.  Let us keep our focus on the prize before us.

Fear is one of the emotions that YHVH gave to us for a specific purpose.  We are to fear only YHVH knowing that He is much greater than us and more powerful.   However, many of us fear much more than the awesome might of YHVH.  We humans have many different types of fear.    Yet Scripture tells us repeatedly not to be afraid.

In Exodus 1:19-45 and Numbers  13-14, we read that the Israelites refused to go into the Promised Land because of their fear of the giant people living there.  As they focused on the problem it seemed to magnify, distracting them so that they forgot the signs and wonders that YHVH had already performed to release them from slavery in Egypt.  As a result of yielding to their fear, the Israelites paid a heavy price.  They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation of adults died out.  They not only forfeited a much easier life in a land of abundance, but they failed to assume their divine assignment from YHVH.  Instead of carrying out their mission, they spent the rest of their lives wandering around aimlessly.  YHVH simply waited until a new generation was raised up to replace those who had yielded to fear.

What can we learn from the Israelites? In Exodus 19 and 20, we see that YHVH wants to meet with the people.  The manifestations of His presence (fire, smoke, lightening and thunder and so on) made the people afraid.  We are to have great awe and respect for the Ancient of Days, but we are not to be afraid to speak to Him and hear His voice.  Now, we do not hear YHVH’s voice thundering, but instead we listen for a still small voice inside of us.  YHVH has made it more comfortable for us to hear Him.  In the Exodus account, barriers were erected around the mountain in order to separate YHVH from the fallen, sinful humans, but Yeshua has removed those barriers for us.  The veil in the Temple has been torn and we are free to have a close personal relationship with our Father and His Son.  Do we fear having an intimate relationship with our Father or with Yeshua?  If so, what price are we paying for our fear?  What are we losing?

Our Father spoke His commandments to the Israelites, but they were too afraid to continue hearing from Him.  So He wrote out His commands on tablets of stone.  After Yeshua returned to His Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to write His law on our hearts.  The Holy Spirit not only has put the law on our hearts but works through us so that we can carry out YHVH’s commands.  Do we fear having the Holy Spirit operate in us and through us?

Just as YHVH delivered the Israelites from bondage, He desires to set us free from our bondage to sin and to demons.  Many of us deny that we can be in bondage to demons when we are already born again.  Others of us are afraid of the spiritual realm and the idea of demons, so we stay in denial and try to ignore them.  Just as termites in your house will not go away if you simply ignore them, neither will demons depart from you because you deny their existence or their presence.  Do we fear seeking deliverance from  demons who hold us in bondage and torment us?  Do we fear the spiritual realm?   As the Israelites were commanded to purge leaven from their midst during Unleavened Bread, we are expected to permanently purge sin and demonic influence from our midst.  How does our bondage hinder us from completing our mission on earth and enjoying life in abundance (John 10:10)?

When the Israelites began to fear the giants in Canaan, they abandoned the only fear they were supposed to have, fear of YHVH.  Their fear of the giants became so great that they disobeyed the only One who is to be feared.  Is it the same with us?  Do we fear that which challenges us to the point that we forget to fear YHVH and thus fail in our divine assignments? Will we fail in our mission because our fear is misplaced?  What blessings and joys are we forfeiting because we give in to forbidden fears?

 

YHVH’s Sanctuary

yhvh-is-a-shelterWhat did Yeshua mean when He said in His Olivet discourse: “as it was in the days of Noach” (Matt 24:39)?  In this and other Re(new)ed Covenant Scriptures (2 Pet 2; 2 Thess 2), the authors speak of a future world of great wickedness, such as has not been known since the times of Noach and Sodom.  These Scriptures also speak of YHVH’s judgment on those who are deceived by the lies of hasatan and refuse to turn to the truth of the Creator and Redeemer of the world, Yehovah Elohim.

They also speak of YHVH our Deliverer saving and protecting His people during times of past trials or judgment:

  • Noach and all his family were divinely saved from destruction by the protection of the Ark (2 Pet 2:5). Note that the Hebrew word for ark (tevah) not only means a box or covering, but it also means “word” – so you can think of Noach and his family truly being covered by YHVH’s Word!
  • In the time of Sodom & Gomorrah, we are told that the people were very immoral and ungodly, but also that God [Elohim] rescued Lot from the fiery judgment because Lot was a righteous man who followed the truth (2 Pet 2:6-7)
  • Moses (Ex 44:7), David (1 Sam :14-15) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-8) were all protected in the wilderness
  • In the same way, when YHVH brought all the plagues onto the people in Egypt, He spared the Hebrews from the worst of those plagues (Ex 9). Yeshua became our Passover Lamb 2000 years ago, and now we can cover ourselves with His blood for protection from the enemy’s attacks
  • Finally, in speaking about the end of days, Yeshua says in Revelation 12 verses 6 and 14 that YHVH will once again protect His people from both the unbearable attacks from the adversary hasatan, and also from His own judgments against the wicked

From these Scriptures we know that YHVH has protected His people many times in the past, and has said that He would protect us again during the Tribulation period.  We also know from Yeshua’s words in Matthew 24 and Sha’ul’s prophecies in 2 Timothy 3 that the times before the end of this current world will be characterized by great sinfulness and evil.

What will lead the people of the world into such great lawlessness, though?  We know there are plenty of greedy, boastful and wicked people throughout the world now, but Yeshua says the End will be a time like no other that has ever been seen or will ever be seen again.  Several Scriptures speak of a great apostasy, deception, or falling away (2 Thess 2:3, Matt 24:10).  Reading further in these Scriptures we see many reasons for this falling away of believers in Yeshua, so great that even some of the elect will be led astray (Matt 24:24).  Yeshua speaks of many false prophets and teachers, and the great signs and wonders they will use to try to convince believers that they are the Messiah who is prophesied to return.

There is a stronger deception than simple signs and wonders that will be leading the saints away from YHVH, though.  This deception becomes clear when you look at the expanded meaning of apostasy – it means “an abandonment of the truth”.  In spiritual terms, this means that the end times will involve a wholesale rejection of YHVH’s revelation, a further “falling away” of an already fallen world.  This “end times” falling away is confirmed as the sign that will come before the Tribulation ends and Yeshua returns for His saints (the set-apart ones) in several other Scriptures.

When Sha’ul talks about the end times in II Timothy 3, he talks first about all the wickedness that will mark that time, but then he goes on to say in Verse 7 that people at that time will be: “always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth”.  This agrees with II Thessalonians 2:10-12 which states that the ones who will be judged in the latter days will be the ones who did not believe the truth of YHVH, but instead believed the enemy’s lies.  The crux of this passage in Verse 11 says: “…God will cause them to be greatly deceived, so that they will believe these lies”.

Going back to Matthew 24, Yeshua’s first answer to His disciples about the signs of the end was: “Be careful that no one leads you astray! For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will lead many astray” (Matt 24:4-5).  Remember that one of Yeshua’s harshest reprimands of the religious leaders was in John 8:44 when they accused Him of casting out demons and healing people in the name and power of the devil: “For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies”.

The essence, then, of the reason for the great falling away in the end times will be that a great majority of the people (believers and unbelievers alike) will believe the lies of the false teachers and prophets and of the anti-messiah himself.

So how do we prepare ourselves for these perilous times, so that we can discern false from true teaching and prophecy, and resist following the popular path of believing the captivating lies of the enemy’s allies?  As with all temptations and allurements of our society, we need to put all our trust in our Rock and Redeemer, Yeshua HaMashiach, and be filled with Yehovah’s Holy Spirit.  We need to ask Abba for guidance in discerning the truth from the lies, and then follow that truth no matter what are the world consequences.  While it is true that not all believers will be delivered physically through the Tribulation, we know that if we remain steadfast in our trust and obedience, YHVH will help empower us to overcome the world, by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony.  In this world we will have tribulation, but Yeshua has overcome the world, and greater is He that is in us (the Holy Spirit) than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

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.

 

Yeshua is the Way

thru-the-veil-of-his-fleshIt is clear that Abba Father tore the veil separating the people from the Holy of Holies when Yeshua’s body perished, because the Scripture says it was “torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt 27:51).  The fact that it was torn from top to bottom symbolizes YHVH reaching down from Heaven and opening the way for us to “come boldly to His throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy” (Heb 4:16).  What is this place we are entering into, though?  For Torah observant Jews of Yeshua’s time, they may have wrongly believed that the way had been opened for them to come into the Holy of Holies and worship in YHVH’s presence, where His glory dwelled above the earthly Ark of the Covenant.

However, through history and the Scriptures, we find a much deeper meaning to the tearing of the veil.  From history we know that the Temple was destroyed and the Ark was hidden or taken away, just as Yeshua had prophesied in Luke 13:35.  Our entrance into the Holiest place, then, was not an entrance into an earthly place, but rather an entrance into YHVH’s heavenly throne of grace.  Sha’ul gives us some great hints as to what this means at a deeper level:

  • “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the veil, where Jesus [Yeshua] has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever..” (Hebrews 6:19-20)
  • The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made with human hands,” (Acts 17:24)

The first passage above tells us that Yeshua has gone into the inner place ahead of us, to make a way for us to come before the Father’s throne.  We know from Scripture that Yeshua ascended to Heaven after his Resurrection and now sits at the right hand of the Father, and Hebrews 6:20 tells us that Yeshua is now our high priest.  When He opened the way into the Holy place of the Father in heaven, Yeshua also did away with the sacrificial system.  He became our God-man sacrifice who took away our sins and diseases for all time, not just once a year like the earthly high priest or the animal sacrifices people brought to the Temple.

In the second Scripture above, we learn that YHVH does not live in earthly temples – rather, He dwells in His heavenly Tabernacle, where He now invites us to come and fellowship with Him, through the Way that Yeshua has made for us by tearing the veil.  Yeshua has also made us holy and righteous before Abba, as He has washed us white as snow by His blood (I Cor 6:11).  This is not only a way to the Father, but rather it is the only way to draw close to Abba – in John 14:6, Yeshua Himself said that no one can come to the Father except through Him.

Even with all these insights into the tearing of the veil, though, and the way that has been opened for us into Yehovah’s most Holy place, there is still a deeper and more personal significance to this event.  Hebrews 10:20 (NIV) says that Yeshua opened a “new and living way for us through the veil, but then it equates the veil with Yeshua’s flesh.  This means that we are actually entering into Yeshua’s body when we come before YHVH’s throne – now that is the way to come to the Father!  The next time you come before Abba’s throne in worship, remember that you are entering through the perfect, sinless flesh of the One who showed us His unconditional love by sacrificing His life for us.

Light Revelation

light-shines-in-darknessLight is essential for our survival, both physically and spiritually.  At this time of year, we celebrate light in the darkness.  The menorah symbolizes the light of Yeshua (Ps 119:105, John 8:12)  Arlene Sheldon provides an interesting study on Yeshua’s miracles that correspond with His “I AM” statements ( http://www.wellofbethlehem.witnesstoday.org/menorah.html ) as the living menorah.  The light of the Father poured forth from Yeshua.  Yet, Yeshua tells us that we are the light of the world (Matt 5:14).  What is light? How are we to be light in the darkness?

YHVH created light on the first day, but He created the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day.  What was the light that YHVH created?  Some ridicule the Bible and say that it contradicts itself.  How could YHVH create light but not create the sun until day four?  In his article entitled Sunlight Before the Sun, John D. Morris, PhD. from the Institute for Creation Resource points out that there are many types of light such as short-wave light including ultraviolet light and X-rays and long-wave light including infrared light and radio waves.  Perhaps YHVH created the materials for light on day one and then chose different combinations of materials for various types of light.  YHVH provides various combinations of spiritual light within us as we draw closer to Him, the Source of light.

We can be misled by what we do not see.  For example, when we turn on an incandescent light bulb, we may think that the light we see is the only light produced by the bulb.  However the incandescent bulb emits only around 10% of its energy as visible light and the remainder is infrared light (“Light,” Wikipedia).   We are to be light in the darkness.  Are we incandescent bulbs?  No, we are light in the sense that there is ignorance or defiance of YHVH’s truth and we can reflect the light of YHVH’s truth to those living in the chaos of darkness.  We may think that the light we provide to the world is small and insignificant, but perhaps we are unaware of the various kinds of light that YHVH is able to produce through us.

Light can also mean understanding or comprehension of Scripture.  Psalm 119:130 states, The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple (ESV).  When we read or study Scripture, we can interpret or comprehend on four levels. Peshat is the surface or literal meaning,  Remez the allegorical or symbolic meaning,  Daresh  the comparative meaning given through similar occurrences and Sod is the secret meaning given through inspiration or revelation.  Light can penetrate through layers of darkness.  As we comprehend Scripture and it becomes part of us, we emanate its light to those around us.  Light and truth are closely related to each other.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God (John 3:21 NIV).

YHVH Himself is light.  1 John 1:5 states …God is light, and in Him there is no darkness.   YHVH has many mysteries hidden in the dark and as they are revealed, YHVH will be more fully revealed.  How do we reveal YHVH to others?  Isaiah 58:10 says If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness and your darkness shall be as the noonday.

By steeping ourselves in YHVH’s light through His word and through personal relationship with Him, the oil of the Holy Spirit will keep our lamps burning brightly in the ever increasing darkness of this world.  Our light will shine through our words and actions to others.  Let your light shine in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:16).  We will not only survive in the darkness, we will thrive.

 

Righteous Oaks

righteous-oaksWhen YHVH promises in the beginning of Verse 3 of Isaiah 61 that He will give us: “Beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness”, His end goal is not just to give us temporary help to get us through a crisis in our lives. Ultimately, God is building us up to be trees [oaks] of righteousness. We are the “trees” God is planting in the place He desires us to bear fruit.

Oak trees are known to be the strongest, most sturdy and resilient of all trees on Earth. They can withstand hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, droughts and floods better than almost any other type of tree.  God likens His children to oak trees and says we can be just like them in our character and integrity: “They shall be like great oaks of righteousness”.  These are not the words of a long-ago prophecy that have no meaning for us today. This is the expression of God’s heart for His people down through the generations. God wants us to be strong and enduring and He has given us clear insight in His word as to how we are to make that happen.

The average large oak tree needs as much as fifty gallons of water per day, so the root system is large and goes deep to reach that water. The root system not only brings the needed nourishment to the tree but it provides the anchoring base that allows the tree to withstand all kinds of assaults, from the wind, the rain and the shaking of earthquakes.  The root system of a mature oak tree can total hundreds of miles, and the roots of an oak tree extend out underground up to two and a half times their height.  So how can we as YHVH’s children ever hope to have such deep roots?

Jeremiah 17:7-8 is a powerful amplification of what Isaiah is talking about: “But blessed is the person who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit”.

Both in Isaiah 61 and here in Jeremiah, it is clear that YHVH plants His seeds purposefully. He does not take His seeds and scatter them to the wind, disregarding where they fall.  God picks a perfect place for each of us, personally putting the tender shoot in the ground, knowing exactly what lies ahead. God knows every detail of our lives and the place of our planting and He does not make mistakes; we were not planted in the wrong part of the garden!

We were destined to display the “splendor of the Lord.” It doesn’t matter how you feel, you are destined to display the splendor and majesty of YHVH. There are days when you may not feel that you are reflecting God’s glory to others in your world, but if you have deep spiritual roots and are standing tall in constant relationship with YHVH, you will be displaying His majesty.   In fact, He will “rejoice over you with gladness” (Zephaniah 3:17) and even “protect you from trouble and surround you with songs of victory” (Psalm 32:7).

Trees do not instantly develop deep roots, and neither do people – both must go through difficult times of physical or spiritual drought and hardship, and must be patient until their roots develop.  In the case of God’s people, we must be filled with God’s Holy Spirit and grow in our faith and spiritual maturity, learning to trust YHVH more and more for strength to overcome the attacks and temptations of the world.

Trees contribute greatly to purify the air, and render it fit for us to breathe. When the air around us passes through leaf surfaces, it is purified and invigorated.  In the same way, there is a moral atmosphere around us.  When the air around us passes through our spirit and soul, we have the ability to speak life or death, blessing or curse to those around us.  As YHVH spoke in Deuteronomy 30:19-20, “I call on heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have presented you with life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, so that you will live, you and your descendants, loving the LORD [YHVH] your God, paying attention to what He says and clinging to Him — for that is the purpose of your life!

As YHVH’s children, when we trust in Him with all our heart and follow His ways and His instructions, our roots will go down deep into the “earth” of the Holy Spirit within us, enabling us to withstand all the trials and tribulations of life, bearing much fruit and glorifying Him through our lives.  As YHVH says in Jeremiah 17:7-8 about those whose confidence is in Him: “we will be like trees planted by the stream, that send our roots deep: we will not fear when heat [persecution] comes; our leaves will always be green. We will have no worries in a year of drought and we will never fail to bear fruit”.

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.

Yeshua is the Door

the-door-of-the-sheep“Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.John 10:7

In Yeshua’s “I am” statement about being the Door of the Sheep,  He teaches us that He is “the Door”, not just “a door”.  He is saying that He is not only our Shepherd who leads us into the sheepfold of the Kingdom, but He is the only door by which we can enter and be saved and find safe pasture (John 10:9).  There are deeper meanings for understanding Yeshua as our door into the Kingdom of God, so come with me now as we dig deeper into the Word to explore these meanings.

It is helpful to understand more about sheep and shepherding in general and specifically during Yeshua’s time.  Of all domesticated animals, sheep are the most helpless.  Sheep will spend their entire day grazing, wandering from place to place, never looking up. As a result, they often become lost. But sheep have no “homing instinct” as other animals do. They are totally incapable of finding their way to their sheepfold, even when it is in plain sight. By nature, sheep are followers. If the lead sheep steps off a cliff, the others are likely to follow.

Also, sheep are very susceptible to injuries and are utterly helpless against predators. If a wolf enters the pen, sheep won’t defend themselves or run away.  Sheep are totally dependent upon their shepherd for food, shelter, guidance and protection. So close is the bond between shepherd and sheep that to this day Middle Eastern shepherds can divide flocks that have mingled at a well or during the night simply by calling their sheep, who know and follow their shepherd’s voice. The shepherd leads the sheep to safe places to graze and makes them lie down for several hours in a shady place (think of the parallel to Psalm 23). Then at nightfall, the shepherd leads the sheep to the protection of a sheepfold.

In ancient times, there were two kinds of sheepfolds or pens. One kind was a public sheepfold found in villages. It would be large enough to hold several flocks of sheep. This sheep pen would be in the care of a “doorkeeper”, whose duty it was to guard the door to the sheep pen during the night and admit the shepherds in the morning. The shepherds would call their sheep, each of which knew their own shepherd’s voice, and he would lead them out to pasture (see John 10:4).

The second kind of sheep pen was in the countryside, where the shepherds would keep their flocks in good weather. This type of sheep pen was nothing more than a rough circle of rocks piled into a wall with a small open space to enter. Through it the shepherd would drive the sheep at nightfall. Since there was no gate to close—just an opening—the shepherd would keep the sheep in and wild animals out by lying across the opening. He would sleep there, in this case literally becoming the door to the sheep[fold].

Several ancient Hebrew word pictures point to Yeshua as the Door in a powerful way.  The ancient letter for door is dalet.  This meant the tent flap or door originally, but also the “path” or the “way of life”.  Devar in Hebrew means “word”. When we look at the ancient characters for Devar, though, the root meaning is “the Door of the Son”.  Since Yeshua is the living Word, Devar can also be interpreted as “The Word of YHVH”, as in the book of Deuteronomy [Devarim].  Psalm 19:14 says: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, YHVH, my rock and my redeemer”.  In Hebrew, a word for redeem is Padah and the word picture meaning is “redemption comes by the mouth of the door”. The ancient letters tell us that redemption is by the words of the door, and we know that door is Yeshua. Another significant word is the Hebrew word for Righteous, Tsedek, and the word picture tells us that  a person is righteous when their hook is the Door they follow (hook, or fishhook, refers to that which draws you – your passion or desire).

God’s name, Yehovah, is spelled yod-hey-vav-hey in Hebrew. The letter dalet is added to spell “Yehudah” [Judah], out of whose line Yeshua was descended. These 4 letters of the Name of God plus the letter dalet which means “door,” paint a different word picture:  His name tells us that Praise opens the Door to God“.  Since Yeshua is the Door, and He said everyone must enter through Him, this is a graphic picture of the pathway to YHVH – the key to the Door is praise!

Yeshua tells us that He is not only the shepherd of His sheep, but also the door of the sheep. In doing so, He is inviting us to be part of His sheepfold, where we will never have to fear or want for anything.  All we have to do is praise Him, and follow Him on His path, trusting Him with every part of our lives!

Repairing Reflections

weapons-of-our-warfareThere is great temptation these days to succumb to fear and anxiety.  Yet, Scripture tells us repeatedly not to fear.   Isaiah 35:4,  John 14:27, Joshua 1:9 and Matthew 6:34, are just a handful of examples of YHVH’s teaching on fear. We know that YHVH does not give us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and self-discipline (2 Tim 1:7).  So when trouble seems to loom ahead or is already in our midst, how do we combat those anxious thoughts and feelings that arise?

Our tendency is to tackle the job in the physical realm.  This is a mistake.  Even though our problems are in the physical realm, their source is from the spiritual realm.  The following analogy may help to better illustrate.   Athletes regularly review videos of past games in order to discover what works well and what skills or strategies still need to be honed.  Even though the video reflects what happened during the game, the problems cannot be fixed by editing the video.  Our physical realm is a video or mirror image of what is happening behind the scenes, that is the spiritual realm (Heb 8:5, 1 Cor 13:12).  In order to make effective changes in the physical realm, we have to address the issues in the spiritual realm.

For decades, perhaps centuries, many people have tried to solve the Middle East crisis on the physical level.  There have been numerous treaties, division of land, wars, and discussions.  None of these attempts has been able to resolve the conflicts.  YHVH shows us how He handles the situation.  Prime candidates for terror are experiencing life-changing dreams or visions of Yeshua.  Once these individuals discover Yeshua, their lives are transformed.  Instead of attacking their enemies, they are praying for the salvation and welfare of their enemies!  YHVH is battling in the spiritual realm to resolve terrorism and His work produces everlasting results.

Yeshua came to the earth the first time and demonstrated by signs and wonders in the physical realm that He is the Messiah.  His followers were disappointed and even disillusioned to discover that He did not mean to physically attack the Romans, the physical enemies of that time.   Instead, Yeshua attacked a much more dangerous enemy in the spiritual realm and wrought for all humans a much greater triumph with eternal implications.

Many of Yeshua’s followers today realize that the true battleground is in the spiritual realm and are now publicly engaged in intercession , worship, repentance and reconciliation with others.  In July, evangelical Christians gathered around the Washington Monument to seek YHVH’s help in breaking racism.* Breaking Christian News recently reported that 1,000  “Native American Indian tribes from the United States and Canada collectively forgave the U.S. government for breaking treaties with their ancestors during a public ceremony on the National Mall.”**  There is great power in forgiving others and releasing them from debt.  “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matt 6:12).

A number of us have experienced the power of forgiveness on a more personal level.  We have discovered that when we truly forgive individuals who have hurt us, amazing things happen.  People who were estranged from us contact us seeking reconciliation.  All we did was take our case to YHVH and tell Him that we forgave and released the person(s) from any debt owed to us.  We did not disclose to anyone, not even the individuals we forgave, that we had taken such a step.  Within a short time the physical realm reflected changes made in the spiritual realm.

When Yeshua returns, His job will be to complete the reconciliation and restoration that we have been addressing (Acts 3:21 NLT).   Our adversary and any one cooperating with him want us to be divided and at odds with each other (John 10:10).  Yeshua said that we would be known by our love for one another.  We certainly want Yeshua to recognize us as His own when He returns. Judging or arguing with others stems from fear.  Yeshua said that He would only recognize those who were reaching out in love to others.  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt 3:43-44).   Does Yeshua recognize you as one of His sheep?

*   Rees, Steve.  ‘God break racism!’ Evangelicals on D.C. Mall pray for hope and reconciliation, The   Washington Post, July 16, 2016

** Zauzmer, Julie, An Kirkland and Michelle Boorstein.  “Must Read!  Native Americans are ‘Spiritual Sleeping Giants Awakened’ after Incredible Prophetic Act in Washington:  “May Go Down as One of the Most Important Days in American History,” Breaking Christian News,  Oct. 27, 2016, http://www.breakingchristiannews.com/articles/display_art.html?ID=19576

 

Trust in YHVH with all Your Heart

trust-in-yhvhTrust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh and strength to your bones.” Proverbs 3:5-8

I had memorized this well-known passage in proverbs 3:5-8 many years ago and still repeat it often in many different circumstances.  I would like to be able to say that it always calms my nerves or worries, but I can’t truthfully say that.  I usually have to spend some time with Yeshua remembering all the promises He gave us, that we are not to fear or be anxious for anything.  This tells me then that trust is not just about knowing the Scriptures that tell us God is faithful to watch over and take care of us in all situations.  It is far more about personally knowing the Living Word [Yeshua] who inspired the written Word, than it is about just knowing the written Word.

As believers, we often talk about having faith, more faith, or enough faith to endure whatever trial we are experiencing.  Unfortunately though, faith has become an overused and even watered down concept in our modern society.  Nowadays, we can have faith in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy.  So what do we really mean when we say that we need to have strong faith in God?  Yeshua told his disciples that they could have cast the demon out of the young boy if they even had the faith of a grain of a mustard seed (Matt 17:20).  It is clear from this story that what they needed was not more faith, but rather a solid foundation of trust to back up the faith they had.

As human beings, we understand what it means to trust someone at a much deeper level than just having faith in someone.  Think about yourself for a moment and how you feel about trusting your neighbor. You may trust your neighbor enough to lend them your lawnmower, but do you trust them to watch out for your house when you go on a trip?  Would you trust them enough to give them a key so they can take of your plants when you are away?  Would you trust them to take care of your children for a weekend?

I would like to illustrate this point through a true story about a man named Charles Blondin, who was the greatest tightrope walker of his time, in the mid 1800’s.  He gained great fame in 1859 when he became the first person to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope.  Charles and his friend and manager, Harry Colcord, strung a 2” diameter hemp rope from an oak tree on the American side to a large rock on the Canadian side, and used a series of guy ropes every 20’ (anchored to the shore) to keep the rope as steady as possible.  The greatest risk was the 50’ section in the center of the 1300’ span that could not be reached by anchor ropes.  The incredible thing was that Charles was able to navigate his way across the Falls without any mishaps.  He traversed the Falls a number of times over the next few weeks, carrying props such as a camera and a griddle on which he cooked an omelet, pushing a wheelbarrow, and even doing a backflip on a couple of occasions.

The most daring feat of all, though, was when he carried his manager Harry on his back during one of his crossings.  This is where the rubber meets the road – although the many fans in attendance had faith that Charles was able to cross the Falls (and even bet their money on him), it was only Harry who was able to trust Charles with his life.  A number of guy wires snapped during their crossing, but Charles never wavered.  Harry later told reporters that Charles had coached him to: “look up…you are no longer Harry, you are Charles. Until I clear this place, you are to be a part of me, mind, body and soul. If I sway, sway with me. Do not attempt to do any balancing on your own”.

Here is the essence of trusting God; not just having faith in Him. The spectators watching Charles had faith in him and believed that he was capable of traversing the Falls.  Only Harry, though, trusted him enough to climb on his back and ride across Niagara Falls with him walking on a 2” thick rope.  Is this the kind of trust you have in YHVH – do you trust Him to protect you and care for you and supply all your needs?  Do you trust Him with your whole life – body, soul and spirit – or do you trust more in your own abilities, your financial resources, or your trusted friends? In Psalm 3:6, God promised to direct our paths (keep us going in the right direction) if we would trust and acknowledge Him in every part of our lives.  Are you ready to trust YHVH with your whole heart? He is trustworthy beyond any other person or force in heaven or on Earth.  Go ahead and start trusting Him today – it will be the best decision you ever made!