“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.
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.
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.
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.
Then Yeshua says to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship Adonai your God, and Him only shall you serve.’” Matthew 4:10
Our worship of God cannot be isolated from the real world trapped inside the walls of our Synagogue. It must impact us to reach out to and at times confront the culture around us.
The Pharisees knew much about God and His laws; but they didn’t have compassion for the people around them. When Yeshua healed someone on the Sabbath, the Pharisees were critical. When He ministered to sinners, He offended those religious leaders. But true worshipers exhibit a godlike behavior that touches the lives of others in service. When we truly worship God, were transformed into His likeness and become people who reach out to others and serve them. When we enter into the needs of other people and began to minister to them, we recapture the sense of the wonder of who God is. Many of you who’ve gone out of our outreaches have seen the marvelous love of God flow into hurting people. God has shown his way to serve God in touch of those around you. That is truly worship.
If we will turn our hearts to biblical worship, we will see social change! That is the true power of worship!
But every spirit that does not acknowledge Yeshua is not from God. This is the spirit of the anti-messiah, which you have heard is coming and now is already in the world. 1 John 4:3
We often hear different concepts of “spirit”; school spirit, Spirit of America, Olympic spirit, and others. While it’s difficult to define “spirit of”, often means attitudes and behaviors consistent with the season or event being described. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the boasting of life—is not from the Father but from the world. The world is passing away along with its desire, but the one who does the will of God abides forever. Children, it is the last hour. Just as you heard that the anti-messiah is coming, even now many anti-messiahs have come—by this we know that it is the last hour. They left us, but they didn’t really belong to us. If they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But they left us so it became clear that none of them belongs to us.” 1 John 2:15 – 19
John gave us insight toward diabolical spirit: “the spirit of anti-Messiah.” Saying that spirit was already at work, empowering those who denied that the Messiah Yeshua had come in the flesh as a human man; Son of God and the Son of Man. The spirit of the anti-Messiah would be any attitude, behavior, or teaching, that is blatantly against or subtly counterfeiting the true Messiah. There is no reason to suspect that spirit of anti-Messiah was limited to the 1st century. Simply look around today at the number of ways Messiah Yeshua is being opposed or misrepresented in our culture.
It is our responsibility to know Yeshua and His teaching well enough to immediately recognize “the spirit of anti-Messiah.”
“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
G-d means for us to live a fully absorbed life in Messiah Yeshua, but there are times when that life is attacked from the outside, and we stumble into ways of introspection which we thought we had previously left behind. Self-consciousness is the first thing that will upset the completeness of our life in G-d, and self-consciousness continually produces wrestling. Self-consciousness is not sin; it may be produced by a nervous temperament or by a sudden confrontation with new circumstances. It is never G-d’s will that we should be anything less than absolutely complete in Him. Anything that disturbs rest in Him must be cured at once, and it is not cured by being ignored, but by coming to Yeshua our Messiah. If we come to Him and ask Him to produce G-d consciousness, He will always do it until we learn to abide in Him.
Never allow the dividing up of your life in Messiah to remain without facing it. Beware of slippage, of the dividing up of your life by the influence of friends or of circumstances; beware of anything that is going to split up your oneness with Him and make you see yourself separately. Nothing is so important as to keep right spiritually. The great solution is a simple one – “Come to Me.” The depth of our reality is tested, intellectually, morally and spiritually, by these words. In every degree in which we are not real, we will dispute rather than come to Him.
Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in Adonai his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps truth forever, who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives bread to the hungry. Adonai sets the prisoners free. Adonai opens the eyes of the blind. Adonai raises up those who are bowed down. Adonai loves the righteous. Psalm 146:5 – 8
Can you help me? Our natural response to challenges is to react in our own strength. We think and try to strategize our way to a solution. When that fails, we often turn to others. Have you ever experienced this? What did you do?
While these methods sometimes work, we have forgotten the most powerful truth. True wisdom and help comes from God. We are struggling to trust God’s insight and sovereignty; we need to spend more time in His creation. The intricate details and creative coloring of each plant and creature points to God’s power.
Instead of turning to God as an afterthought, we can start with Him. We are His creation and He knows what we need. God knows more about us and our situation than any other being, including ourselves. He’s the only one who can control the outcome. When we realize this, we will seek His expertise and help first. We need to surrender ourselves and our situation to His expertise. We can gain hope and confidence by knowing that He is with us and that He loves to help us.
“Adonai is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me: Your rod and Your staff comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You have anointed my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of Adonai forever.” Psalm 23
He was fully convinced that what God has promised, He also is able to do. Romans 4:21
In this political season, we are hearing many campaign promises. As usual, nobody holds their breath to see if any politician will keep his or her promises. However, we still kind of hope that the one that we support will be different and promises will be kept. Knowing there is a serious credibility gap ingrained in politicians.
God is different. His promises are sure. No matter how many promises He has made, each one is more certain than the sunrise, more enduring than the highest mountain, more abiding the deepest sea. Think about Abraham. “For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:3
Whenever we are tempted to doubt, or lose focus in darkness, we can find a promise in Scripture and cling to it in faith. God is pleased with that. He is faithful. He will always do as He has said. There is no credibility gap in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Let’s focus on having no credibility gap in ourselves. Trust God and live for and through Him. Live carefully and faithfully. It’s all about God and the Messiah!
Counting the Omer
“Then you are to count from the morrow after the Shabbat, from the day that you brought the omer of the wave offering, seven complete Shabbatot. Until the morrow after the seventh Shabbat you are to count fifty days, and then present a new grain offering to Adonai. You are to bring out of your houses two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two tenths of an ephah of fine flour. They are to be baked with hametz as firstfruits to Adonai. Leviticus 23:15-17
“You are to make a proclamation on the same day that there is to be a holy convocation, and you shall do no regular work. This is a statute forever in all your dwellings throughout your generations.” Leviticus 23:21
The tradition of counting 50 days to the day after a Sabbath is divided into two different traditions. The mainline tradition today comes from the Pharisees who believe the counting should begin on the 16th of Nissan. They do this because they consider the day of Passover on the 15th is the Sabbath. The other tradition believes that the Sabbath in this instruction concerns to the weekly Sabbath. Beth Messiah uses this second tradition that puts us in a minority of those who bother to count as instructed. I want you to understand why we do it this way.
Very simply, if we always start counting on the 16th of Nissan, then Shavuot would always fall on the 6th of Sivan. All of the other appointed times have a specific date in the Bible. If God wanted it to fall on a specific date, why would we have to count 50 days? Tradition says we count because He told us to. Interestingly if you look at your calendar you will see that Passover begins Friday evening this year. Therefore, both traditions will be counted the same way. “Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath”. If we count from the weekly Sabbath, (which is the day of Passover this year) Shavuot would fall on the first day of the week, which we call Sunday. I believe that fits better in the instruction given to us. However, if Passover would fall on another day of the week, it would put us in a small minority. I wanted to share why we do it as a Synagogue differently than most others in our Jewish Community whenever Passover falls on a different day. I hope this helps you out.