The Purpose of Trouble

Then Yeshua said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  Matthew 16:24-25

An operating room, in the midst of a serious surgery, can be a disconcerting site, yet is for a good purpose. There is a greater good and a higher purpose; correcting the problem that will lead to a better fruitful life. The discomfort is planned and carried out on purpose, but it is only temporary.

Just so, God planned 400 years of discomfort for we, His people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in order to prepare us for our role as a light to the Gentiles. God planned this seclusion in Egypt and revealed it to Abraham years before it happened. “Then He said to Abram, “Know for certain that your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years. But I am going to judge the nation that they will serve. Afterward they will go out with many possessions. But you, you will come to your fathers in peace. You will be buried at a good old age. Then in the fourth generation they will return here—for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” Genesis 15:13 – 16

God was not punishing us, but rather protecting us when we were the family of Jacob in Canaan and in danger of being corrupted by pagan practices. In the midst of our 400 years in Egypt, as slaves, we probably resented our situation – and many lived and died in Egypt without knowing the greater purpose.

God is always working out His will for persons and nations. Don’t let the troubles of the moment hide the glory of that purpose for you.

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“We’ve Never Seen Anything Like This!”

“We’ve Never Seen Anything Like This!”

But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority to pardon sins on earth…. He tells the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home!” At once the man got up, took his mat, and walked before them all. They were all astonished and glorified God, saying, “We’ve never seen anything like this!”  Mark 2:10-12

When your mind turns to Messiah Yeshua, rejoice first on who He is – His person. His divine and human natures, for He is both God and man. Then think of what He has done – His work. Visualize as best you can the scene when He created the heavens and earth. See him entering the world as an infant, becoming a miracle worker, wielding His power over wind and weather, over sickness and sorrow, over death and demons. Remember how He was sacrificed for us, rose again, ascended to heaven, and will soon return in glory. Think too, of what He does for us each day – the blessings. He pours into our lives, the way He is interceding right now for us as our Great High Priest.

Sometimes we’re too busy to consider Him as we ought. Take time today to ponder anew the person and work of Messiah Yeshua. If we really think on these things, maybe we’ll react like the people in Mark 2 who said, “We’ve never seen anything like this!”

 

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Challenging Times

After Pharaoh had let the people go God did not lead them along the road to the land of the Philistines, although that was nearby, for God said, “The people might change their minds if they see war and return to Egypt. So God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Sea of Reeds, and Bnei-Yisrael went up out of the land of Egypt armed.  Exodus 13:17-18

On the way out of Egypt, God protected Israel from military danger by sending them deep into the Sinai Peninsula. Remember, God originally sent us into Egypt to protect us from the moral danger in the land of Canaan (Genesis 38).

Without going into the “worldly” details, some of Jacob’s family – specifically Jacob’s son Judah – became involved in serious immorality because of his families close proximity to the Canaanites. It became apparent that if Jacob’s sons and their families were to remain faithful to God, they needed to leave Canaan until they were morally and spiritually stronger. So God sent a famine on Canaan and arranged for Joseph to provide a place of refuge for Jacob’s family in Egypt, and kept them there for 400 years, separated from the Egyptians in the corner of the land. “Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I’ll go up and tell Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household who were in the land of Canaan have come to me. The men are shepherds, for they’ve been men who handle livestock, who have brought their flocks and cattle and everything that they possess.’ So when Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ you must say, ‘Your servants have been men who handle livestock since the time of our youth until now, both we and our fathers,’ so that you can live in the land of Goshen, because every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians.” (Genesis 46:31 – 34)

We must be careful not to be too quick to judge inconvenient circumstances in our life. God may be at work behind the scenes to protect you from something more serious. After all, His ways are not our ways.

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Imitating Yeshua

I glorified You on earth by finishing the work that You have given Me to do. John 17:3

It is not unusual in families for the firstborn child to establish a pattern or standard that younger siblings tend to imitate – at least at first. It’s only natural for young children to look at older ones to learn family customs and expectations. When young children realize they have a will and a choice, imitation may give way to self-directed behavior, for better or for worse.

“For we are His workmanship—created in Messiah Yeshua for good deeds, which God prepared beforehand so we might walk in them.  (Ephesians 2:10)

Paul spoke of Yeshua as the firstborn. “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.  (Romans 8:29). Therefore, when it comes to our relationship with God, Yeshua has become the model for us. His younger siblings are born through faith. Yeshua lived a life of complete obedience to the Father. He did nothing on His own initiative, but came into the world to accomplish the work that the Father had given Him. Likewise, Paul writes that there are works “which God prepared beforehand so we might walk in them.” Like Yeshua, we have been given work to do by the Father. And Yeshua is the model of obedience we should follow.

If you are facing a challenging task from God today, ask yourself, “How would Yeshua handle this?” Then go and do the same. One of the most important ways to imitate God is showing mercy. Live carefully children.

 

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Is Heaven Boring?

Do not let your heart be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me.

In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? John 14:1 – 2

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “In heaven, all the interesting people are missing.” That’s often how the world views heaven; as irrelevant, vague and uninteresting. According to the Bible, of course, heaven is none of those things. It is a real place, a home, a paradise, a city, a country, a new earth, a prepared place for prepared people. No one there will be bored or boring.

“If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to Myself, so that where I am you may also be. And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Master, we don’t know where You are going. How can we know the way?”

Yeshua said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life! No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:3 – 6)

Yet many believers are confused about heaven, prone to view it as a never ending service or a vapory world with harps and halos. But heaven is mentioned more than 500 times in the Bible, and the information is designed to fill us with anticipation. Our Messiah is in heaven; our relationships are there with those who have gone before us prepared; our resources are there, the investments we’ve made in eternity; our residence is in heaven, our rewards and riches. Think about that often, and do not let your heart be troubled. Messiah has gone to prepare a place for us and will soon come again, that where He is we may be also!

Heaven is not a figment of our imagination. It is not a feeling or emotion. It is not the “Beautiful Aisle of something.” It is a prepared place for prepared people. Are you prepared?

 

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Don’t Just Hear; Do!

But ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror—for once he looks at himself and goes away, he immediately forgets what sort of person he was. Jacob 1:22-24

When we study the Bible, information without application is stagnation. We are instructed to be “doers of the word;” not just “hearers.” If we don’t become “doers” we are only “deluding” ourselves. Jacob compared the Bible to a mirror. As we gaze into the words of God in the Bible, we see ourselves reflected in it. We see our blemishes and stains. We see how we need to beautify our lives in the sight of God. Perhaps we need to apply the salve of the Spirit. Or need to grasp the highlighting grace of faith, or the corrective lines of obedience. Some people walk away from God’s mirror (the Bible) without making the needed change. The key to that is: “But the one who looks intently into the perfect Torah, the Torah that gives freedom, and continues in it, not becoming a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts—he shall be blessed in what he does. (Jacob 1:25). We must not only “look intently” into the Bible; we must “continue in it.” It is important that we must “not become a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts.” If we are willing to do what the Bible says, “we shall be blessed in what we do.”

It’s not enough just to be students of the Bible. We have to be disciples of Messiah. This was the theme of the Sermon on the Mountain in Matthew 5 – 7. Yeshua condemned the religious people who studied the Torah but never got around to applying its’ message. He urged life-changing obedience to His words and concluded the story with 2 builders. One built a house on a rock, the other on sand. The first man’s house withstood the storm, but the house on the sand collapsed. What was the difference? ““Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  (Matthew 7:24, 26)

Don’t just hear: Do!

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Be Good Soil

“You then, hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one having been sown along the road. “The one sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. Yet he has no root himself but lasts only a short while; and when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away. “But the one sown among the thorns, this is the one who hears the word; and the worries of the world and the seduction of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. “Now the one sown on the good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands. He indeed bears fruit, yielding a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13:18-23

If you ever tried raising vegetables in the garden, you had the puzzling experience of different plants of the same variety producing different qualities of fruit when planted in the same soil. Perhaps a large rock is blocking the growth of the roots. Perhaps a poisonous chemical substance was accidentally spilled on the ground. Lots of things can render soil unsuitable for seed.

Yeshua identified soil of the heart is the primary variable of spiritual growth. If the soil is rocky or filled with weeds and brambles, the seed of the Words of God cannot spring up and bear fruit. But if the soil is “good,” then we “hear and understand” that and bring forth an abundant crop of spiritual fruit. Whose job is to make sure the soil the heart is “good,” prepared to receive Kingdom teaching? It is your responsibility to prepare your heart – to be the good soil! Whenever you are about to read the Bible or listen to the Biblical message, ask God to give you a heart of good soil.

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How the West Undermines Survival

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 14:12

The core of this problem is a tremendous cultural shift that has taken place in the West. Centered in intelligentsia, this overthrew the Judeo-Christian moral codes underpinning Western civilization in favor of hyper- individualism. “What is right” was replaced by “What is right for me.” Feelings replaced authority. There is no longer any such thing as objective truth. Everything was subjective and relative.

With all lifestyles now claiming worth, there would be no hierarchy of values or groups. Western culture, identified with the oppression of the world’s powerless, was damned as discriminatory and racist. The only legitimate values were universal, singling a utopian belief in the brotherhood of man.

This was bound to present a problem for us. Judaism gets in the way of all universalizing creeds. That’s because we Jews are a people apart. Our unique form of identity depends upon a unique history and moral precepts. Those Jewish precepts were adopted and adapted by Christianity and underpin Western civilization. Secularism, which took an ax to the West’s religious foundations and tries to appropriate these values as its own. It did so by stripping them of their Jewish and Christian character and pretending that equality, human rights or loving others as yourself, were instead universal precepts.

But they are not. Outside the Jewish and Christian world, they don’t exist. Denying the religious context strips them of meaning and seals their eventual demise. They can’t be defended because, under the guise of everyone laying claim to them, no one lays claim to them. Instead they turn against themselves.

Thus secularism has eroded morality by insisting that beneficial outcomes must be equally shared regardless of differences in behavior. Denigrating individual motivation on the basis that only consequences matter, it refuses to defend victim against aggressor but seeks to split the difference between them. Denying the notion of objective truth, it makes the West unable to recognize when it is being fed up pack of lies. It undermines the fairness of the truth. It could lead to quite a demise.

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I Delight to do Your Will

I delight to do Your will, O my God. Yes, Your Torah is within my being.”  Psalm 40:9

We understand that God loves us enough that He sent His Son to be sacrificed in order to pay the penalty of our sins. So does it make sense that He would play some sort of game with His children, hiding his will? Is it logical that God who says He has a plan for each life would conceal that plan so that His work cannot go forward through His people?  “Yeshua tells them, “My food is to do the will of the One who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” John 4:34

No one would suggest that God the Father hid is will from His own Son, our Messiah Yeshua. There is never any doubt in Yeshua’s mind about God’s will for His life: including the painful conclusion of God’s will. Even though there were countless “diversions” along the way, Messiah’s life at a specific path in conclusion that Yeshua recognized as God’s will. “Going a little farther, He fell face down and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me! Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

“Again for a second time He went away and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, let Your will be done.”   Matthew 26:39, 42

Just as the Spirit led Messiah: “Then Yeshua was led by the Ruach into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  Matthew 4:1,

So Paul says that the children of God are led by the Spirit of God as well: “For all who are led by the Ruach Elohim, these are sons of God.”  Romans 8:14

Just as Yeshua found delight and contentment in fulfilling God’s will for His life, so we can find the same contentment in our life if we trust His Spirit to guide us.

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The Jew and Gentile believers Torah Connection

It is important to understand that the Torah of Moses purpose was to identify what sin was.  Romans 7:12 explains that the Torah is holy; but it must be understood that the Torah was never meant to transform but rather inform.  It was never God’s intention to make people righteous through the Torah because God’s righteousness is not obtainable by simply following a 10 step program much less 613 steps.

Romans 3:20 “20 For no human, on the basis of Torah observance, will be set right in His sight[a]—for through the Torah comes awareness of sin.”

The Torah was and is to be used as the way that points to righteousness which has been revealed through the Son of God namely Yeshua HaMashiach.

Jews should understand that in historical terms, the Torah was their national document that was given specifically to the newly formed and forming nation of Israel.  Although Rabbinic Judaism is the prescribed method of fulfilling Torah in modernity, it is completely appropriate for Jewish believers to remain part of the Jewish community.  These observances today are part of a larger cultural Jewish societal heritage. In all things, as a Jewish believer, observances must fall in line with the promptings and speaking’s of the Ruach HaKodesh in their lives.

Gentiles should understand that the idea of “one people one law” (Gentile conversion and obligation to the Torah culture and norms i.e. Jewishness) misses the point of universal redemption.  God wants all people to be obedient to faith in Messiah but did not ever intend for all Gentiles to become Jews just as he did not and does not want Jews to leave their cultural distinctives to become Gentiles.  Gentiles and Jews should study and know Torah (and all scripture for that matter) and then synthesize its instructions into their own cultural norms.  It is through the study of Torah and the scriptures that Jews and Gentiles, through God’s Ruach HaKodesh, can reach a deeper level of righteousness than the Mosaic Torah could ever offer, namely, walking in love and holiness through the relationship with Messiah Yeshua.

 

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