Is G-d Right?

“If you diligently listen to the voice of ADONAI your God, do what is right in His eyes, pay attention to His mitzvot, and keep all His decrees, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians. For I am ADONAI who heals you.” Exodus 15:26

In many ways, our modern culture is like the ancient society of Israel.  Everyone is doing what is right in his or her own eyes.  In pluralistic cultures, where tolerance is the highest values, people hold dear their rights to do whatever they want.  Indeed, United States citizens have their rights (up to appoint).  But it’s the consequences that arise over time that people don’t like.

When God brought us out of Egypt, He directed us to listen to Him and walk in obedience.  This was a Covenant agreement that we entered into, God promising to bless us for our willingness, in essence, to set aside what we thought was right and do what God said is right. “Why do you call Me ‘Master, Master’ and do not do what I say?  Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and does them, I will show you what he is like. He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock. And when a flood came, the torrent burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. “But the one who hears yet does not do is like a man who built a house upon land without a foundation. When the torrent burst against it, immediately it collapsed—and the destruction of that house was great!” Luke 6:46 – 49

However, our commitment didn’t last long. “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6

By the time Solomon became king he identified as fools those who do what is right in their own eyes. “A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but the wise listen to advice.” Probers 12:15 and “All a man’s ways seem right in his own eyes, but ADONAI weighs the heart.” Proverbs 41:2.

Wise are the people who are willing to believe that what God says is right, is right for them.

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Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur

“ADONAI spoke to Moses saying: However, the tenth day of this seventh month is Yom Kippur, a holy convocation to you, so you are to afflict yourselves. You are to bring an offering made by fire to ADONAI. You are not to do any kind of work on that set day, for it is Yom Kippur, to make atonement for you before ADONAI your God. For anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. Anyone who does any kind of work on that day, that person I will destroy from among his people.

You should do no kind of work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. It is to be a Shabbat of solemn rest for you, and you are to humble your souls. On the ninth day of the month in the evening—from evening until evening—you are to keep your Shabbat.”  Leviticus 23:26-32

Yom-Kippur takes place next week, Friday & Saturday, Oct. 3-4. It is the most revered Holy Day in the Jewish community. Synagogues are filled to capacity with worshipers. Even marginally religious Jews will attend services on this day. It is a day marked by repentance. Rabbinic Judaism teaches: “At this time, when the Temple no longer exists, and we have no atonement altar, nothing is left but repentance. Repentance atones for all transgressions. Even if a man was wicked throughout his life and repented at the end, we must not mention anything about his wickedness to him, as it is written, “You, son of man, say to the children of your people: ‘The righteousness of the righteous person will not deliver him in the day of his transgression. Nor will the wickedness of the wicked person make him stumble in it on the day he turns away from his wickedness. Nor will the righteous person be able to live by it on the day he sins.” (Ezekiel 33:12) Yom Kippur itself atones for those who repent, as it is written, “It is to be a statute to you forever, that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you are to afflict your souls, and do no kind of work—both the native-born and the outsider dwelling among you. For on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. From all your sins you will be clean before ADONAI.” (Leviticus 16:29-30) Moses Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance, 1:3, 2:1, 9–10.

We who are Messianic do not have to wonder whether our repentance has been through and our good works adequate, because our Salvation, finally and forever, rests not on our own performance, but on the finished work of Messiah. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us.  How much more then, having now been set right by His blood, shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!” Romans 5:8-9. Salvation is God’s gift to the believing heart. On Yom Kippur we follow Yeshua our Messiah. “But on the other hand, the One who does remain forever has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save completely those who draw near to God through Him, always living to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:24-26.

As Yeshua intercedes on behalf of the People of Israel, so do we plead with God to forgive, restore and bless our People. May they soon find the truth of Messiah and True Atonement. “I, I am ADONAI—and there is no savior beside Me.” Isaiah 43:11

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Moadim (The Appointed Times)

Moadim (The Appointed Times)

 God called the light “day,” and the darkness He called “night.” Genesis 1:5

G-d created time.  The natural beauty of the world declares the glory of G-d.  “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky shows His handiwork.” Psalms 19:1.  G-d’s will is that we follow His directions.  “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10.  The High Holy Days are a part of G-d’s plans for us as community.  “Speak to Bnei-Yisrael, and tell them: These are the appointed moadim of ADONAI, which you are to proclaim to be holy convocations—My moadim (designated times).”  Leviticus 23:2.  The High Holy Days should not be viewed from our perspective as having to do with our performance.  As we all know “it’s all about G-d and the Messiah”, so we approach this season in His freedom and love.  G-d is the Lord of time, since He created it.  He knows best how we should use our time.  “Make the most of your time because the days are evil.”

Ephesians 5:16.

It is imperative that we come into the High Holy Days with an attitude of appreciation and freedom that we have in the Messiah.  “Therefore, do not let anyone pass judgment on you in matters of food or drink, or in respect to a festival or new moon or Shabbat. These are a foreshadowing of things to come, but the reality is Messiah” Colossians 2:16-17.  It is appropriate, therefore, that we celebrate these festivals in a way that is consistent with our Messianic faith and exalts the Person of Yeshua.  The Moadim (Appointed Times) all find their fulfillment in Messiah.  “Do not think that I came to abolish the Torah or the Prophets! I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.   Amen, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or serif shall ever pass away from the Torah until all things come to pass.”  Matthew 5:17.

G-d’s Moadim (Appointed Times) remind us that He is Lord of the calendar, the King of creation, and that He is to be worshiped every day.  G-d’s Appointed Times have a great deal to teach all who have crowned Him Lord of their lives.

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Freedom “To”

2 Corinthians 3:17- Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Ruach Adonai is, there is freedom.

This freedom in the Spirit is more than just freedom from something, it is freedom “to” something.  In the Spirit we have the freedom “from”!  The freedom from sin, the freedom from death, the freedom from the flesh and certainly the freedom from our enemy.  However, we also have the freedom “to”!  The freedom to follow after the Spirit, the freedom to be in a relationship with God as well as the freedom to be transformed and conformed into the image of Messiah Yeshua.  We also have the freedom to view and understand God without the tainted perspectives that sin and immoral living place upon us (be it our own misdeeds or the misdeeds of others that affect us).  In other words, we have the freedom to be who Messiah Yeshua has called us to be.

Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in this conforming process of “freedom to” in Messiah.  As we are “conforming” and being “conformed” (Romans 12:2) we need to remember that we do not ever need to be condemned in the struggle to be free “to” the Spirit of God.  Our Spirit-formed life is not a life of things “to do” for God; it is a life “being to” God.

We are free to “become” what God designed us to be in spite of any circumstances or “natural wirings” we think we may have.  Being conformed “to” the Ruach means that we engage in a conversation with the Holy Spirit where our reality is challenged and God’s reality is revealed.  So, choose today your conformation “to” by living and focusing on God’s reality through the scriptures, personal and/or corporate worship, intimate prayer and spiritual gifting’s operating in you.  Let the Ruach lead you into God’s reality and “be free” to leave personal distortions behind that hinder your relationship with God.

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Are You Stubborn?

Listen to Me, you stubborn-hearted, who are far from righteousness: I bring My justice near, it is not far off. So My salvation will not delay. I put salvation in Zion, My glory in Israel. Isaiah 46:12-13

Are you stubborn?  If so, is your stubbornness a good quality or bad one?  When our stubbornness means dogged determination to do the will of god to, it’s good.  Perhaps a better term would be perseverance –a quality the Bible upholds at the core of its character.  “And not only that, but we also boast in suffering—knowing that suffering produces perseverance;  and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”Romans 5: 3-4

But when stubbornness is another word for self-will, it’s a destructive force.  “For rebellion is like the sin of divination and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry.” 1 Samuel 15:23.

There is a fine line between stubborn self-will and godly perseverance; and often the Lord uses crisis in our lives to move us from one to the other.  Take our Patriarch Jacob for example.  His story in the book of Genesis is filled with selfish and stubborn choices, which caused pain to himself and others.  But by the end of the story, God used a series of crisis in his life to turn his stubbornness into sanctified perseverance.  (Read Isaiah 46)

We cannot avoid pressure in life, but we should always remember that whenever a crisis we face is God’s way of reshaping our stubborn hearts into models of perseverance and character.

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Meeting Messiah

But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he (Saul) is a choice instrument to carry My name before nations and kings and Bnei-Yisrael. Acts 9:15

When someone meets Messiah later in life, their eyes are certainly opened to “the things of the Spirit”, “Now a natural man does not accept the things of the Ruach Elohim, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14. Many have wasted years, settling for religion, rather than developing a relationship with God through the Messiah.

This is a great problem today. God does not postpone anyone’s salvation until they are “ready.” “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I set you apart— I appointed you prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah 1:5. There are parallel truths exemplified by Saul of Tarsus, who would become the Apostle Paul. Saul met the Messiah after many years of study in the Bible. God used Paul’s past as a scholar to make him Yeshua’s chief Apostle – no one had theological training equal to Paul’s.

I am a Jewish man, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, trained strictly according to the Torah of our fathers, being zealous for God just as all of you are today. Acts 22:3

Regardless of when you truly meet the Messiah, ask God to show you how your knowledge, skills and talents can be used for Messiah’s sake. Don’t settle for less. He is your Lord and Messiah!

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Faithful Servants

‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You were faithful with a little, so I’ll put you in charge of much. Enter into your master’s joy!’ Matthew 25:23

It’s easy to prepare when we know what’s coming. The master in Yeshua’s parable entrusted his servants with money, expecting them to be wise stewards. Only 2 of the servants understood their purpose. The 3rd decided it was easier to avoid the risk of investment; he feared failure and the wrath of his master.

Obedience requires a measure of sacrifice. But when God calls us to something new, we easily focus on the unknowns with the difficulty of the path. Like the 3rd servant, we forget the rewards of serving our Master and His purposes.

The truth is: we serve a generous God. He delights in giving us opportunities beyond the capabilities. He has promised to equip us and remain with us through each bend in the road. Although we may not know what is around the corner, we can trust the One who called us. He is our comfort, encouragement, and sustains us through difficulty and rewarding us generously.

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To the Jew First and Equally to the Greek

Rav Shaul (The Apostle Paul) was known as an “apostle to the Gentiles” but does this mean that he gave up on the Jewish people in regards to faith in Yeshua? Shaul answers this very clearly in the B’rit Hadashah when he says in Romans 11:1-2a

1 I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected His people whom He knew beforehand…”

When reading the writings of Shaul in the B’rit Hadashah, he is very clear that the Good News in word and in deed is “to the Jew first.” The reason for this is that Shaul saw a divine two-step pattern in world redemption. The pattern begins with Israel’s restoration, for without the restoration of Israel there can be no incorporation of Gentiles into the people of God. Shaul was determined in this conviction of “to the Jew first” because to circumvent God’s design of salvation history (first the restoration of Israel and then the incorporation of the nations into the people of God) would certainly and necessarily lead to the Gentiles in superseding Israel in God’s plan which would result in Israel permanently falling away. This is why Shaul expressly highlights Israel’s permanency in God’s plan in Romans 11.

So how does Shaul understand God’s redemptive plan in the context of salvation history? Shaul understands the two step redemption pattern of “to the Jew first” and “equally to the Greek” as salvation going to and through the Jews, who’s acceptance results in the salvation of the willing Gentiles who are then incorporated (not converted) into the people of God. As the Gentiles receive this Good News, and the prophetic incorporation into the people of God results, then the Jews who have been blinded in part will recognize the prophetic fulfillment as the work of God. As they receive this salvation of the Good News of Yeshua it will result in the redemption of all Israel. Shaul sums this up nicely in Romans 11:15

15 For if their rejection leads to the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?”

This is the provocation to jealousy mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:21

21 They made Me jealous with a non-god. They vexed Me with airy idols. So I will make them jealous with a non-people. With a foolish nation I will vex them.”

This process of thought is in light of the accepted Jewish eschatology that the nations will be brought near and into faith with God. Isaiah 2:2-3

2 It will come to pass in the last days that the mountain of Adonai’s House will stand firm as head of the mountains and will be exalted above the hills. So all nations will flow to it. 3 Then many peoples will go and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of Adonai, to the House of the God of Jacob! Then He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” For Torah will go forth from Zion and the word of Adonai from Jerusalem.”

By going to the Gentiles equally, Shaul anticipates those that have been hardened will be provoked to jealousy because of his eschatological ministry success. This jealousy will bring those who have stumbled to the realization that the work of God through Yeshua is resulting in fulfilling promises of understood salvation history.

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When Things Are Going Wrong

Then the seven years of abundance in the land of Egypt came to an end, and the seven years of famine started to come—just as Joseph had said. So there was famine in all the lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was bread. When the whole land of Egypt suffered famine, the people cried out to Pharaoh for food, and Pharaoh said to all of Egypt, “Go to Joseph. Do whatever he tells you.” The famine was over all the entire land, so Joseph opened up all that was among them and sold grain to Egypt. Then the famine became severe in the land of Egypt. Yet the whole world came to Egypt to buy grain—to Joseph—because the famine was severe in the whole world. Genesis 41:53-57

God raised up Joseph to refocus and re-prioritize the nation of Egypt during the prolonged period of drought and famine. During a national crisis, Joseph knew what to do, and everyone looked to him for answers. When the people cried to Pharaoh, he simply replied, “Go to Joseph. Do whatever he tells you.”

That reminds us of another Bible story. In John 2, the wedding party in Cana faced a similar crisis – though far less serious. They ran out of wine during the festivities. Miriam the mother of Yeshua took things in hand. Speaking of her Son, she echoed the words of Pharaoh: “Do whatever He tells you.” (John 2: 5)

We all face shortages at one time or another. It might be a lack of funds, lack of energy, lack of answers, or lack of wisdom. Sometimes we cope with needs that seem to have no provision or crises that seem to have no answer. When problems come, we must refocus on our Messiah Yeshua. We must go to Him. Whatever He says, do it. He will meet your need.

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Addicted to Stress

For God is not a God of confusion, but shalom. As in all the communities of the kedoshim. 1st Corinthians: 14:33

According to report by NPR and the Harvard School of Public Health, more than 63% of Americans are battling stress, and a significant number describes the stress as “great.” The report suggested that some of us have been addicted to stress. We become so conditioned to stress we don’t know what to do with ourselves for not being insanely busy. The Study suggested our busyness may be a way of distracting ourselves of how unsatisfied we inwardly deal with life.

That’s not how God wants us to live. Yeshua said, “Shalom I leave you, My shalom I give to you; but not as the world gives! Do not let your heart be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27) Paul also talked about “the shalom of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Romans 8:6 says, “For the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Ruach is life and shalom.”

Peace with God is obtainable through faith in Messiah Yeshua. He promised to give you peace like a river. “For thus says ADONAI: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream. You will be nursed, carried on the hip, and bounced on her knees.” (Isaiah 66:12). Claim God’s peace and let Him bestow the inward satisfaction you seek. God is not a God of confusion, but of shalom!

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