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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KEDOSHIM = HOLY ONES

To all those in Rome, loved by God, called to be kedoshim: Grace to you and shalom from God our Father and the Lord Yeshua the Messiah! Romans 1:7

I often hear people give this testimony: “I am a sinner saved by grace.” Technically, that’s true. But the greater reality would be to say: “I was a sinner, but now I am Kadosh = Holy, saved by grace. “Like obedient children, do not be shaped by the cravings you had formerly in your ignorance. Instead, just like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in everything you do. For it is written, “Kedoshim you shall be, for I am kadosh Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7.” (Peter’s 1st Letter: 1:14-16) Because Messiah is holy, and we are in Messiah, we share in His holiness as kedoshim before God. “Therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you have lawsuits among yourselves. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? But you yourselves do wrong and cheat—and against your brothers and sisters at that! Or don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Don’t be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, those who practice homosexuality, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, slanderers, swindlers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. That is what some of you were—but you were washed, you were made holy, you were set right in the name of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah and by the Ruach of our God. (1st Corinthians 6:7 – 11) Notice the life of a sinner is to be a past tense matter for us. As “holy ones” before God, we now live a life of holiness that mirrors our holy, positional life in Messiah Yeshua.

So, “holiness,” is something we are, as well as something we do. Let your standing in Messiah reflect your conduct in Messiah today.

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God’s Good Purpose

In Him we also were chosen cf. Deut. 9:29; 32:8-9., predestined according to His plan. He keeps working out all things according to the purpose of His will. Ephesians 1:11

Heads of state and many large corporations or other organizations have a “Chief of Staff.” Regardless of best efforts, gaffes occur. No human can prevent 100% of missteps or misstatements in a large organization.

It seems that “gaffes” occur in the running of this world: tragedies, disasters, crimes, sickness, and wars. And God usually gets the blame. But the Bible gives testimony that everything proceeds “according to the purpose of His will.” We are told that God’s purposes are good and that He works everything together according to His will. His purpose for us is to conform us to the image of Messiah. “Now we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose. For thoLit. brothers (in Messiah’s community). se 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 8:28-29). If Yeshua endured difficulties: “Though He was a Son, He learned obedience from what He suffered.” (Hebrews 5:8), then this should not surprise us when we do, too.

We walk by faith in God’s good promises and perfect will. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2nd Corinthians: 5:7) Trust Him today for what is happening in your life.

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Abiding in G-d

My days are like a lengthening shadow, and I wither away like grass. But You, ADONAI, sit enthroned forever. Your renown is from generation to generation. Psalms 102:12-13

When you see a butterfly with its beautiful wings fluttering around, you might wonder about its longevity. It has a one-month lifespan. Here in Florida, alligators live about 50 years. There are whales swimming in the oceans that have been around for 200 years. A giant tortoise can celebrate 250 birthdays. The Antarctic Sponge has a lifespan of 1500 years. And there is a species of jellyfish said to be virtually immortal. When it grows old, it has the ability to cycle back to an immature stage and start all over again!

Yet time passes, everything decays, and except for the reality of God, the entire universe will one day burn out, die out, or fade to blackness.

Except, as I said, the reality of God. “But You, ADONAI, sit enthroned forever.” (Psalm 102:13) G-d is our constant in a changing world. He is our stability in unstable times. You can anchor your life on Him, the Rock that abides forever. He died to give us eternal life, and He lives to prepare our eternal home. You can forever abide in Him.

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Have Faith

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of realities not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Most have heard this saying: “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to see (or hear) it, does it make a sound?” This is like one of the situations we face every day. We haven’t actually seen the physical appearance of God.

People who don’t believe often need to see before they believe. Believers don’t need to see it. We rely on the Words of God in the Bible. Faith treats things that are hoped for as reality. Faith is the solid, unshakable confidence in God which is built upon assurance that He is faithful to His promises. “Now without faith it is impossible to please God. For the one who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

Who wouldn’t want a reward from the Creator of the universe and Creator of all things? The path to the reward is rather easy – we just need to have faith in God! Faith is a reality and it reaches out to facts that are more real, more solid, more substantial, and more eternal than anything registered by our physical senses. Have faith!

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