Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Who will define reality in our lives and in our nations?

by Donna Diorio

A truth from Frangipane's The Three Battlegrounds is about the battle being waged in our thoughts.

The battle is for predominance to establish a reality over our lives. It is a tug-of-war over hearts and minds to establish either God's reality or the enemy's.

This same battle is being waged in the media to establish the reality over our nations. The dominant message will shape the thinking of the public, and establishes its vision for the future. We must fight for truth to prevail.

I am seeing this clearly in the current media coverage in the U.S. as a majority of the news media are desperately trying to avoid the conclusion that Palestinian-American soldier/psychiatrist was motivated by radical Islamist thinking. The majority of the Liberal media would rather entertain anything BUT the obvious evidence that Hasan repeatedly expressed jihadist doctrine to fellow soldiers (patients) and his colleagues treating them for PTSD.

In Israel we are seeing the same kind of reluctance to acknowledge the radicalized religious-nationalist thinking that motivated a West Bank Settler to commit murders of several Arabs, attempted murders of a Messianic youth and a Peace Now Leftist professor, and even murder and attempted murder of on duty Israeli police. Each one of those diverse types of Israelis are regarded as the enemy of the religious-nationalist activists' aspirations. Whoever does not accept their doctrine is an enemy of their vision for Israel.

It reminds me of the mantra we have heard since 9/11 in the U.S. that "Islam is the religion of peace." Yes, but in radical Islamist doctrine your only hope for peace is in accepting that Islam is destined to dominate. No matter if we are Christian, Jew or Muslim, if our doctrine does not allow for all others to choose their own religious belief, if we cannot co-exist with "the other" but justify whatever is done to the infidel, then we have become radicalized. Terrorism is not far from translating from thought to act.

If Christians would recognize their true relationship ties to the indigenous Body in Israel instead of making connections with traditional religious-nationalists we would not have such a sticky problem on our hands.

It is touchy ground, I know. God gave Israel a lot more land territory than is currently possessed, but there is something incredibly ungodly about trying to cover over, excuse or ignore the type of vigilante law that many of the settler activists hold to. I am not condemning ALL settlers, but those who are in denial of the dangerous radicalism of some settler activists are not doing themselves any favors.

It is the same as a U.S. media, government and military that is in such denial - and so eager not to be Islamaphobic - as to ignore the clear facts. When that happens, the authorities fail to shut down our vulnerability to their violence. It will happen again. If we are not willing to honestly face the facts, then we are doomed to see repeats of carnage.

It used to be that reporters lived by the creed of following the facts wherever the facts might lead. Their search was for the truth. That has been replaced by a search for only the facts that lend support to the agenda. News journalism is now an ideology driven profession.

I hear a spiritual principle repeated often that whatever is the reality in Israel, it is a sign of the coming reality in the nations. If this is so, then watch carefully how Israel media and law enforcement deal with the facts in the Jacob Teitel case.

UNREPORTED FACT: There were others involved in scouting the Ortiz residence before the bombing, and also in placing the bomb-laden package. The lone wolf theory of the crime does not hold up to the evidence in video security tapes.

It may be yet unclear how many were involved in the conspiracy to murder at the Ortiz family home, but it is clear that there is a dangerously radical mind set, or doctrine, among some religious-nationalist activists. This mindset breeds murderous acts.

Last year, even prominent Christians and government leaders hobnobbed with these activists, not discerning or understanding the underlying radical doctrines of many of them. Many Christians are even funding the activities of these groups, even raising money for more illegal outposts to be built in utter disregard for the democratically elected rule of the Israeli government.

Once again, I understand this is a sticky area of controversy, but I am mightily uncomfortable with Christian and government leaders like Mike Huckabee spending most of his time in Israel visiting settlements and with Yeshiva Ateret Hacohanim's Jewish Reclamation Project picking up his trip tab.

Too many Christian leaders in government and out, do not really know the facts about the religious-nationalist groups wooing them, and whom they support. Indeed, many of them do not WANT to know the facts and have repeatedly ignored those who tried to educate them in the facts. Some have even accused and attacked those saved Jews who tried to tell them the truth of being "jealous" or other nonsense.

The word "disabuse" means "to free (a person) from deception or error." To dis-abuse. To reverse the abuse that is being perpetuated (by a deceiver) on someone bringing them into error or deception. To dis-abuse is also to halt the cycle of abuse that such error and deception puts into motion against others.

In the U.S. we are seeking to "disabuse" those who seek to ignore the links of radical Islamist doctrines to acts of terrorism.

In Israel we are seeking to "disabuse" those who seek to ignore the links between radical religious-nationalist doctrines to acts of terrorism committed against a wide array of "others" in Israel.

In one of the newspaper articles I read about the Teitel arrest, in which a reporter was asking why it took the police and Shin Bet a dozen years to catch him, the reporter said that one of the reasons it took so long was because his targeted victims were so diverse - Palestinians, a messianic Jewish family, a Leftist professor, homosexuals, a few policemen. So many different types of people were hated and targeted that it seemed like many perpetrators instead of one.

Indeed, it may still have been many perpetrators, but all out of the same pool of activists. Teitel could easily have claimed sole responsibility for many attacks he participated in with others. By claiming all, he "martyrs" himself to the cause allowing others the freedom to continue in their vision.

The truth is, the diversity of targets makes perfect sense if one is willing to look for potential suspects in the religious-nationalist activists camp for potential conspiracies and/or lone wolf attackers. It is the same thing in the U.S. where everyone has been brow beaten since 9/11 by CAIR, the Council of American Islamic Relations into avoiding any hint of "Islamophobia" or profiling on the basis of Islamist indoctrination.

And that is our choice. We can ignore where the facts lead us and we can guarantee that we will remain vulnerable to more and greater attacks. Face the truth or deny it.

To face the truth does not mean we crank up hatred for Muslims in the United States or religious-nationalist settlers in Israel.

Ami, David and Leah Ortiz provide a sterling example of the heart of God to live out the Sermon on the Mount in spirit and truth. They grant forgiveness to those who harmed them and mercy to their families. They are praying for and trusting God for the salvation and deliverance of their neighbors in the settlements - both Arab and Jew.

Facing the truth does not mean turning on hatred toward anyone. Our battle is for the truth and part of our warfare is to be able to express the sincere love of the Lord for others even though we know and have faced the truth about them.

The quote from Frances Frangipane I was referring to in the opening is this: "The essence of spiritual warfare is in whom shall define reality: the Word of God or the illusion of this present age."

That is the warfare we are waging not only in the spiritual realm of prayer, but also in the natural realm of speaking the truth in love in the public square.

It is often out of our comfort zone, but if we are not adding "salt" into the world around us, what good are we? Prayers have wings, but faith has feet.

We have to get involved in the battle like they did when the walls of Jerusalem were being rebuilt - a hammer in one hand and a spear in the other. We need to rebuild the walls of protection around our nations facing the truth and remaining true to God's love.

Permission granted to forward or republish this writing providing
author’s name and www.israelprayer.com are included.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How to start an Israel Prayer group

Someone from South Africa just emailed me asking for pointers in how to start an Israel Prayer Group. In responding to a question that several have asked about in the last year - and I wish even more would consider - I thought it would be a good topic to share here.

Israel Prayer has been the most faith building prayer group I have ever been associated with.

An annual picnic gathering of Jewish and Palestinian believers in Yeshua in northern Israel - building the bonds of brotherly love.

How to start an Israel Prayer group.

The short version is: Wherever two or three are gathered together in the Name of Yeshua, there He is in the midst!

Israel Prayer groups do not have to have large numbers to make a difference. Anyone with a heart stirred by God to come into agreement with Him over the laborers in His harvest fields (that are white unto harvest) in Israel can do mighty things in the Spirit with the prayer of agreement.

In fact, I have found in 8 years of praying specifically for the Body of believers in Israel that many fewer of God's people understand they are precisely where His priorities really lie in the Land of Israel. As the prophetic proverb goes, "Despise not the day of small beginnings!" We are a type of Gideon's Army sent to prepare the way for a strategic arena of battle: the salvation of "all Israel".

My first Israel prayer team in 2001 started with only five women in a Messianic congregation in Dallas, but we saw mighty things take place. In fact, Israel Prayer has been the most faith building prayer group I have ever been associated with because we actually hear back dynamic answers to prayer - sometimes in just a matter of days or weeks.

Our first year of praying for the Israeli ministries was during a very turbulent period for Israel and the world. We began only a couple of weeks before September 11, 2001. In the aftermath of that horrific Islamist attack on the United States, Israel saw that it was time to move into the Palestinian-held territories to do a 'house cleaning' of bomb factories and other terrorists nests. Israel had been suffering a long and steady string of terrorist bombings against their citizens and it was the perfect time to clean house without reaping massive worldwide condemnation for doing so.

During the Israeli operation, our Israel Prayer team began to get regular reports from a Jewish ministry in Ariel with deep ties to Christian Arabs in the Palestinian territories, David and Leah Ortiz. Many Arab Christians had been arrested by the Palestinians; they were being tortured and some murdered in Palestinian Authority jails.

We were praying for their release as town-by-town the Israelis went in to clear out terrorist nests in the Spring 2002 Operation Defensive Shield. As they did, the IDF also freed what they called "prisoners of conscience" - the Palestinian Arab Christian brothers being held in prison. All the way to the last town, Arab Christians were being freed by the Israeli Defense Forces and we were praying for them all the way. It was so encouraging to our faith to see how God worked in concert with our prayers, and also to see the compassion of Jewish ministries for their Christian Arab brothers.

The next year during my first visit to Israel in 2003, three of us from the Israel Prayer group spontaneously decided one afternoon to visit the Dugit Messianic outreach in Tel Aviv. Inside it "just so happened" that one of the Palestinian Christian men we had been praying for during Operation Defensive Shield was there just hanging out. He was the last man in the last town that the IDF liberated from PA jail because of his Christian faith. The Ortiz prayer requests continually mentioned the plight of "S" and also how much he blessed God and the IDF for rescuing him from his persecutors. In the Dugit shop as "S" shared his testimony with us, we thought: "hmmmm....this sounds really familiar!' Upon return to the U.S. we were able to confirm "S" was the person we had prayed for in 2002. It was a mighty confirmation to us from God that we were on His track in praying for the indigenous believers in Israel.

During the same first year of Israel Prayer we got report after report of Israeli believers who were spared from becoming victims in terror bomb attacks. One young teen got a blinding headache that drove him off his bus one block before the suicide bomber detonated. Several other of the ministry leaders were among the first on the scene of bombings because they were within yards of where the bombers detonated themselves. We saw the mighty hand of God sovereignly protecting the believers.

In all these dramatic things, the Holy Spirit made this point with us: He has a destiny and a Divine Commission on these humble, obscure servants of His laboring among their countrymen in Israel. The Lord bade us to recognize their importance in His eyes to the ultimate salvation of Israel. We were not to dismiss them as a minor determinant or force in what happens to Israel.

As we have gotten to know them as people - through their prayer requests and reports - we have discovered that these are dedicated men and women serving the visions of the Lord for their people and nation. So it is no less encouraging to hear of the wonders God is doing in the ministries, providing needed resources for outreach, giving favor with officials, touching the lives of Israeli Jews and Arabs who have no answers for their lives...but the Lord Yeshua.

It is such a blessing to stand with those brothers and sisters who are doing the work of the Lord in Israel. International politics is one thing, but it is not everything and certainly not even the most important thing. The Lord's heart is for the salvation of Jews and Arabs more than anything else. If the people are saved, will the Lord not arise for the land they live on? One thing most Israel-supporting ministries overlook is the connection to the 10 to 15,000 believers in the Land of Israel. How can God's will for Israel ever be established without making this connection?

So, the first priority in setting up an Israel Prayer Team is to connect with the prayer requests of the Israeli ministries. Each week I send a compilation of prayer requests out - Arrows from Zion are the prayer points in brief, and these are sent with an attachment Weekly Summary of Prayer Requests from Israeli Ministries. The attachment in pdf and word document form, are the actual excerpts from prayer letters that I have received over the previous week from Israeli ministries. We give excerpts to introduce our subscribers to Israeli ministries they do not know and we include contact information for each ministry so subscribers can make direct contact with those they are most drawn to. The Weekly Summary also often include photos which I find helps us to bond more with those we are praying for.

The information given in emailed Israel Prayer Summaries can compromise the safety of the believers if they fall into the wrong hands. The Israeli believers come under much persecution by those who oppose the gospel in Israel. That is why I vet the requests to be on my mailing list and don't post the Weekly Summaries online - just the Arrows from Zion prayer points.

Most Christians are unaware that Jewish believers are being persecuted in Israel. Because traditional religious Jews are generally very gracious to Christians, we often have a hard time accepting they could so despise the Jews who believe Jesus is Israel's Messiah.

There is a lot of denial in the Israel-supporting Christian community on this count and though they mean well, it is a situation that exacerbates the troubles of Jewish believers in Israel. As Christians become aware of their brothers and sisters in Israel, this denial begins to dissolve. We Christians can face the truth about religious persecution of Jewish believers in Jesus without it turning into hatred, but we must face the truth that many of those we have been supporting in Israel are actively opposed to Jewish believers in Yeshua as Messiah.

This reality is something that I need the people who receive this weekly prayer letter to understand and hold as a serious trust not to share the letter with any unbelieving Jews - never, ever. I hope you understand and see the necessity for caution because we want to be a blessing to the Body of Messiah in Israel, so we must be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

If you are interested in starting an Israel Prayer group I would encourage you to either sign up for the weekly mailing of prayer summaries from Israel by emailing me at donna@israelprayer.com or access the Arrows from Zion prayer points on my blog at Israel Prayer Dot Com.

You will be blessed as you pray with the very heart of God for the ministries and believers in Israel.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Integrity of Our Words

"Catch the foxes for us. The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom." Song of Songs 2:15

This morning as I began to do my morning surf for what is happening in the news, I was struck by several stories on the Jerusalem Post talking about a Swedish reporter who has reported that IDF soldiers are kidnapping Palestinians in order to sell their organs.

One of the Israeli headlines is Israel aghast at Swedish report on IDF.

For someone who has routinely witnessed outrageous lies against Israel reported in the Palestinian press - everything from Israel putting sex arousal drugs into Palestinian water to purposefully infecting the Palestinian population to HIV - I thought this kind of lying was confined to the realm of third world sophistry. Who would believe a European newspaper would allow such tripe to be printed as factual or that the Swedish government would not immediately move to denounce it as the foolish racist propaganda it is?

Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee has been touring Israel and I haven't been exactly comfortable with the kind of things he is saying in Israel. It is one thing to be strongly supportive of Israel, it is another to issue statements that sound like they came from the fartherest zones of Israel's far right. Several of the quotes from Huckabee being circulated are, as they say in international diplomatic circles, "not helpful."

Take the one reported in an Israeli newspaper under the title of , Huckabee: 2-state solution 'unrealistic'. Huckabee reprtedly said that there is no room for a Palestinian state "in the middle of the Jewish homeland." Does he not realize that statements like these from U.S. political figures have deep ripple-effects in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? As a political figure, Huckabee should measure his words more carefully and he can do that without being compromised on the truth.

"The politician, a Southern Baptist preacher" also "praised Israel for giving Muslims access to Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock - also the site of the ancient Jewish temples - even thought the presence of a mosque there 'could be considered an affront," the Jerusalem Post reported.

Huckabee is performing like a bull in a china shop with these kinds of political statements. It may please his handlers in Israel (Irving Moskowitz), but these kinds of comments are not good for the already volatile standoff. Temperance, Huckabee.

What's worse is yesterday I received a report from a Christian Zionist organization in Jerusalem that took Huckabee's Dome of the Rock statement and repackaged it to sound even worse: their headline was that Huckabee said outright that the Dome of the Rock was "an affront."

Please, folks! Step back from the taamula, take a deep breath and get a little godly perspective on this. What is the point in ratcheting up an already offensive statement to millions of Muslims? Why misrepresent Huckabee's actual words and meaning? Do you think the Israeli government really wants to deal with Palestinians who have given up completely on negotiations? Speak the truth not exaggerations.

This lack of integrity is showing all around us. We have a president who made all sorts of promises about representing all the people of the United States and then once elected, began steamrolling a far left agenda through without any regard for his promises to the people of the United States. Lying to get in the position to do what you want seems to be the accepted M.O., but not only for the president. It is a plague throughout our society, even accepted in many Christian political circles.

Throughout the election campaign we saw lies, exaggerations and slander flying at record levels - and Christians participated in the melee seemingly without conscience. That really worries me. Are our consciences so seered that we are no longer able to speak with integrity? If that is the case, then our saltiness in society has lost its savor, and we cannot expect the Lord to fight for us.

The integrity of our words is important to the Lord - more important than our being able to prevail in any 'war of words'. We might win little battles by stretching the truth or outright lying, but we will lose the ultimate war if we don't play by God's rules. Integrity speaks the truth without misrepresentation.

This has been on my mind for days because daily we see so much exaggeration, misrepresentation and slander from all quarters - including from people of our faith. If we cannot have the integrity to speak the truth without bearing false witness, then we lack integrity.

1 Corinthians 9:24-26 says that as people of faith, we are running in a race to receive a prize and that every one of us is fervently endeavoring for "the mastery" of this race we are running - not for a crown that perishes, but for one that is immortal. Therefore, we are to run not without certainty (without a moral compass) - as if we are shadow boxing, wasting our energies not hitting anything spiritually solid.

We waste our energies when our words lack integrity. If we have become so embroiled in an issue that we no longer question what the real truth is, then we have been way-laid by the enemy and are no longer serving the purposes of the Lord to be salt and light in our spheres of influence.

We should not kid ourselves into believing anything different.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Today is my birthday. If I was Jewish, my Bat Mitzvah portions would have occurred on the Sabbath before the 9th of Av

I wouldn't have known that if one of the elders at the Messianic congregation hadn't researched our Bar and Bat Mitzvah portions to give us a few years ago.

Baruch HaShem, Dallas

No offense, but I have not be drawn to Messianic Judaism in that way. I am not the least motivated to learn Hebrew so I could read from the Torah in the Shabbat service. In my nearly two decades in the Messianic community I haven't been trying to redefine my Christian identity into a "Messianic Gentile" identity. It seemed to me to defeat the very goal of the LORD to make of two one new man in Messiah.

No more than my marriage union with my husband has eliminated my distinct identity as a woman, my coming alongside the Messianic Jewish believers has not erased my identity as a Christian. Neither of us has anything to be ashamed of, nor to feel inferior to, in our distinct, yet unified identities in Yeshua/Jesus. It isn't a competition, it's a family. I believe our distinctive callings are to be celebrated, not argued over which now holds the dominant role. (An argument that misses the point of "one new man" entirely.)

Anyway, back to "My Jewish Birthday"
- If I had been born a Jew, then on Friday, July 26th, 1963, I would have had my Bat Mitzvah Sabbath. I would have celebrated my 13th birthday by "making aliyah" (going up) to read the Torah. My portion, Davarim ("Words" or Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22) would have been read on "the Sabbath of Vision," (taken from the haftarah portion, Isaiah 1:1-27) because my Jewish birthday falls the Sabbath before Tisha B'av, a day of mourning for the destruction of the first and second Temple.

Okay - that's it! No more bogging down in all the technical intricacies! Here are the things I'm getting at:

First off, I wasn't too crazy about finding out my Torah portion was tied to Tisha B'av. It is not the most uplifting portions one could have linked to their life, although I have to admit - at the time I would have been having my Bat Mitzvah devastating events in my family life were unfolding that would impact our family for decades and generations. So when I received the little index card telling me what my Bat Mitzvah Torah portions were, I thought, "Well isn't this just par for the course!"

Both the passage from Deuteronomy and from Isaiah speak to the rebellion of Israel and God responding with what He intended to do about it. Like I said, not the most uplifting passages...but also not unlike my own life. Perhaps that is why I have always related so personally to the things I've read in Scripture about Israel. Sure, there is all this disobedience, rebellion, failure, but also the promise of God's love toward Israel shines through all that in the end. It always gave me so much hope seeing how His intentions even through all that was for good in Israel's end.

As that great prophet of light-heartedness, Jeremiah put it: "For thus says the LORD....I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."

Rembrant: Prodigal Son

Through all the "rocky road" relationship, Israel has always belonged to God and in the end still holds a pearl of great price: the promise of God to give Israel at last the ability that "they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed." Isaiah 6:10

What I'm saying is, I can relate to the troubles of Israel and also draw great hope for His plan for me in the end - a future and a hope.

Secondly, in doing some investigation into my Bat Mitzvah Torah portion this year, I found many interesting, timely points. One, in the portion from Isaiah, God is telling Israel that He is not interested in sacrifices of animals or solemn assemblies. What He is after is people who are righteous and genuinely holy - not merely religiously pious.
"Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.
Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Seek justice,Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.
'Come now, and let us reason together,' Says the LORD,
'Though your sins are like scarlet,They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.'

This is the striking difference between the righteousness which is by faith and that which is pursued by religious works. Tisha B'av is about the past. The destruction of temples that human hands can build. The future, however, is a vision of being made clean, whole and really holy. Not our man-made attempts at righteousness, but the righteousness of hands that truly are clean, and of lives that are just and seek justice for others.

So close and yet so far

Today, I found also some interesting things on a Hassidic web site. In teaching on my Torah portions, the "Chassidic Masters" note that Deuteronomy is, in fact a 37-day long speech by Moses that ends on the day of Moses' passing.

The Sages of Judaism explain that in the first four books of the Torah, Moses is transcribing everything as he received it from God. However in Devarim, or "Words" (Deuteronomy), Moses is recapping the major events and laws in his own words. This, they note, is because God is seeking human partnership - the "partner in creation" that God has desired from the creation of mankind.

In the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) they explain,
"a human being, Moses, attains a level of identification with the Divine wisdom and will on which his "own words" are completely in harmony with their Divine content -- so much in harmony that they are no less G-d's words than those which G-d dictated in the first four books."

Further, they write of the "partner in creation" that God desires:
A free, independent partner, whose choices are fully his own....Because G-d wanted true partners to His endeavor, not a bunch of employees and messenger boys (He had plenty of those already when He created man -- they're called "angels").

In discussing the Haftarah portion of Isaiah 1:1-3:27, the Chassidic teaching notes:
On the ninth day of the month of Av ("Tish'ah B'Av") we fast and mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

A model display of the Temple

"The Shabbat preceding the fast day is called the "Shabbat of Vision," for on this Shabbat each and every one of us is granted a vision of the third and final Temple, according to Chassidic master Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev. It's significance is expressed in the following metaphor:

'A father once prepared a beautiful suit of clothes for his son. But the child neglected his father's gift and soon the suit was in tatters. The father gave the child a second suit of clothes; this one, too, was ruined by the child's carelessness. So the father made a third suit. This time, however, he withholds it from his son. Every once in a while, on special and opportune times, he shows the suit to the child, explaining that when the child learns to appreciate and properly care for the gift, it will be given to him. This induces the child to improve his behavior, until it gradually becomes second nature to him -- at which time he will be worthy of his father's gift.'

"A basic tenet of our faith," the Chassidic rabbis write, "is that 'The entire earth is filled with His presence' (Isaiah 6:3).

Acknowledging that Israel "failed to measure up" twice the Temple was destroyed.
"So G-d built us a third temple. Unlike its two predecessors, which were of human construction and therefore subject to debasement by man's misdeeds, the Third Temple is as eternal and invincible as its omnipotent architect. But G-d has withheld this "third suit of clothes" from us, confining its reality to a higher, heavenly sphere, beyond the sight and experience of earthly man."

"It is a vision of the Third Temple in heaven -- in its spiritual and elusive state -- like the third set of clothes that the chld's father has made for him but is withholding from him."

Under a sub-heading titled "The Wearable House" the rabbis comment on Rabbi Yitchak's metaphor:

"Why, we might ask, are the three temples portrayed as three suits of clothes? Would not the example of a building or house have been more appropriate? The house and the garment both 'house' and envelop the person. But the garment does so in a much more personal and individualized manner."

"G-d chose to reveal His presence in our world in a "dwelling" -- a communal structure that goes beyond the personal to embrace an entire people and the entire community of man. Yet the Holy Temple in Jerusalem also had certain garment-like features. It is these features that Rabbi Levi Yitzchak wishes to emphasize by portraying the Holy Temple as a suit of clothes."

"G-d chose to reveal His presence in our world in a "dwelling" -- a communal structure that goes beyond the personal to embrace an entire people and the entire community of man. Yet the Holy Temple in Jerusalem also had certain garment-like features. It is these features that Rabbi Levi Yitzchak wishes to emphasize by portraying the Holy Temple as a suit of clothes."

In the traditional understanding of Judaism, as my Messianic Jewish friend Asher Intrater recently pointed out, salvation is viewed in national terms, whereas in Christianity salvation is viewed in personal terms. Do you see how very close this Hassidic teaching is to grasping what God is up to in terms of the salvation of Israel - a personal salvation on the basis of faith in His Messiah on a national scale?

I was also quite astounded by the grasp of these Hassidic teachings as to God's desire from the Garden of Eden to today, to bring forth a people willing to so align themselves with His Will that He could entrust to them the power of creating His will on earth through His Davarim, His words - making His Words our own. I have difficulty reconciling the teachings of these "Chassidic Masters" with the photographs of Haredim persecutors - those throwing rocks at secular Israelis in Jerusalem, as well as those who have waged a relentless campaign of harassment of the Messianic believers in the Negev.
Haredim Protesters in a stalking vigil outside the home of a Messianic Jewish widow with several children in Arad

It also strikes me how close we can be so close to the Truth and still be so far away from it. To bridge the gap that stands between understanding what God is working to bring forth in us and seeing it come to pass, is the revelation of Yeshua and being one in Him.

Over the past few days as I contemplated how many Jews in the Messianic movement are being lured out of the faith by Judaizers, I have thought that reason this is even possible is because of over emphasis been placed on the traditions and culture of Judaism. One thing is important: Yeshua, and our continual abiding in Him.

The Messianic movement is a relatively young one, really only starting to bloom in the same year that Israel recaptured control of Jerusalem. The return of a remnant of faith among Jews is on a parallel track with the restoration by God of the Jews to the land of, and then rebirth of nation of Israel. This is the literal fulfillment of the Ezekiel vision of the valley of dry bones and like the government of Israel, the restoration of a Jewish branch of the faith in Jesus has also been coming incrementally.

What I am saying is, that because the Messianic movement is a fairly 'new creation' it has been growing up. Part of the growing up process has been the reclamation of its Jewish identity. That has meant Messianic Jews have had to throw off the insistence of both Christians and Jews that to believe in Yeshua - the Jewish Messiah - meant losing their Jewish identity. It is not so but the battle continues in both groups. Little by little Christians are realizing this is not so, and also little by little so are Jews. No where is this more discernible than in Israel among secular Jews.

As with any new revelation, it seems we always go from one extreme to the other before we finally find the Divine balance. These early decades of the Messianic movement have rightly sought to recapture Jewish identity for Jewish believers in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua. However, when we see the movement beginning to lose Yeshua in the process of regaining traditional Jewish identity, then it is high time for a course correction.

Wherever Yeshua is not the primary focus - and our abiding in Him to the point of our transformation into His likeness - we will be susceptible to losing people to other things. This is just as true in the Christian churches as it is in the Messianic synagogues.

We must determine not to serve up 'flavors' of our faith instead of training all eyes on Yeshua, so we may become what we are beholding. Truly He is our Temple model.

Israeli Messianic worshipping

Monday, August 3, 2009

A serious question for Israel supporting Christian ministries

Called from the nations to stand with Israeli Believers

Here is a serious question for Israel supporting Christian ministries – one of those speaking the truth in love type questions.
I understand how much love, zeal and good intention is behind the efforts of many Christian ministries to raise awareness and support of Israel, but why isn’t there more inclusion of actual indigenous Israeli ministries in these efforts?

It is amazing to me how many “Israel Prophecy” conferences are held each year and few ever feature any of the Israeli prophets or indigenous ministries. What are they? Chopped liver? A potted plant in the corner of the room?

How can we have prophecy conferences about Israel where the Israeli prophets are not even given a platform? Don’t we see the irony of such a thing?

There are all sorts of conferences that the major thrust of the event is ISRAEL but RARELY are any ISRAELI worship leaders or pastors, evangelists, apostles, prophets or teachers even included in the featured ministry. Shouldn't the Church see the ones who are doing the work of the ministry in Israel?

This is an amazing slip-up on the part of the Israel-supporting Church! In all our raising of support for Israel, we are almost completely overlooking those who are ministering in the name of the LORD in Israel as Israeli citizens. How about we start exposing the Church to the faithful ministries of Israel?

Gosh, in this case a “token believing Jew” would be a vast improvement to our prophecy seminars and Israel support conferences! The Knesset guy may be the big name, but the 'big name' Israeli to God are those who are about their Father's business in Israel building the kingdom of His Son.

A congregational worship meeting in Jaffa

And while I’m meddling – all those taking tour groups to Israel, how about next time you make arrangements with one or more of the indigenous Israeli ministries and expose Christians to more than just the antiquities of Israel. Give them an introduction to some aspect of indigenous ministry going on in Israel. If you need suggestions, we can help.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

An Israeli Messianic View of Tisha B'av - On the 9th of Av by Orna Greenman, A Sign & A Wonder Ministry

In Hebrew we call it "Tish-ah Be-av" - the 9th day of the 5th month (called "Av"). On this month, the first and second temples were destroyed, and many other tragedies came upon our nation. This date is now a symbol of mourning and of a national disaster. Religious Jews fast on Tishah Beav, and this fast is as severe as the one we hold on the day of Atonement.

The fast of Tishah Beav is Biblical. The OT calls it "the fast of the fifth month". In the days of the prophet Zechariah, the Jews were busy building the second temple. Some of them came to the prophet, to inquire whether there is any need to observe this fast, since the temple was being restored (Zech. 7:3).

I have a feeling that Zechariah's answer surprised them. It was sharp and clear: "what were you fasting for all these years, since the first house was destroyed? You think you don't have to fast anymore just because the house is being rebuilt? Guys, don't you understand - it is not about a ruined house. It is about ruined hearts. If you were fasting in order to find favor with me, you would have taken care of things that are precious in my sight - you would have put an end to your baseless hatred towards one another, and especially stopped the oppression of widows, the fatherless, the aliens and the poor" (see 7:4-11).

Photo of an ancient mosaic by Marty Shoub in Israel

Zechariah is basically rebuking the people for thinking that the first temple was destroyed for no special reason. As if the Lord is an arbitrary God, who sometimes chooses to turn His face from us and enable enemies to trample us, for no seeming reason. The prophet makes it clear that it is the people's behavior that has brought the ruin of the house and the following exile, and that this is what they should fast for, if they do not want history to repeat itself.

Good to know that Zechariah promises that the day will come, when all the fasts which commemorate national disasters will turn into cheerful feasts (8:18). But this time has not come yet. Baseless hatred and exploitation of the poor and the needy are everywhere. Our nation does not understand yet how crucial to our health is the way we treat those who live in the margins. Even among the believers, the emphasis is mostly on those who are capable. They are called "leadership material" and they are considered to be those who are worthy of investment.

But with the rapid changes around the world, it becomes clearer that this world is on the threshold of a major shift - that things will never go back to what they used to be. Days are coming where we will have to believe God for our daily bread literally. I am not afraid of these days, since the world will not be the only place that will change. When evil will become more clear and prevalent, so will God's presence. We may see mana coming down from heaven in creative ways, as God will make sure that His children are well fed and provided for.

But we will need forerunners to march before us in this battle and encourage us to believe that "Yes, He Can". That He does mean what He says. Those forerunners are already being trained now. They are all over the place, in our midst. Those are the brothers and sisters, who are right now learning to rely on Him for their daily bread. Who need daily miracles. Whose God's presence is the only relief from their loneliness and poverty. Who dare to lift their eyes higher than circumstances, and call upon His various names. Most of them are poor and needy, and many of them are widows and fatherless.

This is what our ministry in Ot U'Mofet is all about. God did not call our team to focus on humanitarian aid, as much needed as it is. He called us to teach those He brings to us, to lift their eyes up and allow Him to be what He loves to be - God. All in all. Their providor and husband. The one who brings forth water in impossible places.

The ninth of Av starts this evening. Religious Jews will go to the synagogue and lament for the loss of the second temple and for the other hardships that struck our nation through history.

I will take the next 24 hours to read the book of Lamentations and cry to God for the restoration of a pure and undefiled worship in this nation. I will pray that He will restore it in the body, so that we won't focus so much on temples and buildings and restoration of stones, but on the things that are precious to His heart. I will also pray that this attitude will spread wide into all the levels of the Israeli society, who has become so secular and capitalist. I will take the time to interceed for the many women we have ministered to through the 6 years of our ministry, and will ask the Lord to help them lift their eyes from the enormous mountains they are facing, and use their hardships to build real tabernacles in their own hearts.

If the Lord puts it on your hearts, please take this opportunity to pray along these lines.

Orna Greenman and Ot Of'Mofet (A Sign & A Wonder) ministers to orphans, widows and single parents in the Body of Messiah in Israel. Her website is Restorers of Zion

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pushing the envelope a little further on the 9th of Av

An Israeli minister wrote me in response to the recent article I sent to my mailing list on the 9th of Av and the groups that push the envelope on causing all out war over the Temple Mount.

At first I was going to just stay out of this, but I think as a watchman that I will push the envelope a little further on this issue of the 9th of Av.

Since I did not ask permission of the Israeli minister to use his private response to me, I am only going to take an excerpt from it that I want to get into further and not identify him.

"If I may add my 2 agorot worth: Jewish believers need to stop being sentimental over the destruction of the two temples on Tisha b'Av. God is moving on despite the sin of His people which brought about the destruction. As you said, He is building His Temple now without hands in the Body and Life of the believers, and is we [especially] Jewish believers prefer weeping with still unrepentant Jewish people rather than giving glory to Jesus/Yeshua, who Himself prophesied and gave the reason for the 2nd Temple's destruction, then we, too, are focusing too much on ourselves and our culture, and not enough on Him who crosses both."

My response: I think some people thought I was just being 'mean' but as long as any of us sees ourselves primarily as a victim, then we never are able to overcome.

Even if we are redeemed by the Blood, if we don't let the old things pass away we will never be able to walk as the new creation in Him. I see it over here a lot - in the Messianic congregations there is more of a desire to relate to the Jewish community than there is to walk in the newness of life in Messiah. Is it any wonder that so many in the American Messianic congregations are walking backwards into unbelief even sacrificing faith in the Deity of Yeshua to their desire to be more orthodox?

You are so right about the sentimentality. If I annually pick at the wound on the date of a horrific event in my life, building a shrine to my wounding, it is very unlikely that I will ever truly receive the healing the Lord offers me for it. Healing is available, but we have to receive it. I know this in my own life and believe it applies to the corporate woundings, too.

I read somewhere last week - can't remember exactly where - but about some Black leaders who talked about how wearied they became of every time they would go to an event, there would be forgiveness ceremonies, and how they got tired of every meeting being, 'Will you forgive us, the white man, for what you've suffered?' I'm sure some never tire of being in that position because there is a perverse kind of power in always being recognized in your victim-hood and wounds. The problem is that until we are ready to move on from there, we are stuck there.

I know it is important to teach those who are ignorant of the evils that have been done to the Jewish people - especially to those in the Church who are clueless, but we can't stay there continually rehearsing those things. We will never progress and we will keep those Christians from progressing, too. There are better things in store for us but we have to allow our souls to be healed; to forgive and to move on into the things He has in store for us as one people.

The Full Picture

This picture was taken in late 2005 in Jerusalem next to the Church of All Nations in "the garden of Gethsemane". There is an olive grove behind a Jerusalem stone wall that may be opened to tourists. On the wall near the entry gate is the sign above, which if you have trouble reading it, says,

And the disciples forsook Him and fled.
Mark 14:50

Whoever is daily prepared to lose his life
will be faithful to Jesus in the time of
testing even at the cost of his life.

One of the most treasured things I personally know from experience about Yeshua is His willingness to restore lost sheep. I know this because He said to me what He said to Kefa/Peter in a dark night of the soul: "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers."

This sign reminded me of that instance in my life, and I am glad the picture showed up in my desktop Slide Show today as a reminder once again. Times of testing will come, but if our faith does not fail, we will be made of greater use to our LORD.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Spirit of the Law

One of the ancient churches in Jerusalem, where the spiritual warfare of three major world religions wrestle.

Generally, I believe most Christians have the idea that "the law" (which actually means, "the instruction") is a terrible thing. Obviously it was only a stage in the progressive revelation of God's standards to us, and the covenant we have in the blood of Jesus is superior - in that the Spirit of the Lord actually lives in our hearts making it possible for us to be transformed to the point we are living according to God's standards of holiness. Just knowing what God's standards are does not give us that power, but the indwelling Holy Spirit can if we access what is available to us.

That doesn't mean we automatically make room for the Spirit of the Lord to take control in our hearts. Some receive the Lord as Savior, consider it all they need and go right back to living like they were. Maybe they don't go out honky-tonking anymore, but they certainly give the Holy Spirit a very tiny space in their hearts to dwell in because they retain control of the rest.

The plan of God is not for our hearts to have a tiny little closet of space for the government of the Spirit - He wants to take every spiritual square inch of our hearts so that our lives are entirely governed by the Spirit of God.

The thing about "the law" is not just a collection of do's and don'ts. If a person really studies the Torah through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, you will begin to see God showing us how He judges situations. When Yeshua was walking through Israel in His ministry, He was criticized and marveled at for His interpretation of the Torah - because He understood the spirit behind the judgments. He did not come and say, 'The Torah of God is a useless bunch of rules, forget about them.' No, the scripture says He came and fulfilled every "i dot" and "t cross". He just did it not according to man's misguided - Spirit-less - interpretations of God's standards, but by the SPIRIT underlying the instruction.

Paul said, 16 "if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good....22 For I rejoice in the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

The point of all this is that Paul is talking about believers who practice sin. He is not saying that "the Law" is just something to beat us up with or hold us in bondage to, he is saying that it is a witness against us that we are practicing sin...even as believers.

This is a man who knew what the Torah said, unlike many Christians who never read that part of the Bible because they think it is irrelevant to them. But none of the apostles said it was irrelevant. The things they said about "the Law" were primarily to people who had completely missed the spirit of God's instructions in the Torah and to who had erected man-made "fences" to make sure they didn't get anywhere close to violating God's instructions. They added layers of prohibitions that God did not command as an extra layer of distance from what God did command. In these additions they completely missed the principles of justice - the very spirit of holiness and justice that God was conveying in those instructions.

I have to laugh at many Christians who are the most adamant about putting down "the law" as something evil and imprisoning. (I mean, considering it was God who wrote them with His own finger for Moses, how can we begin to believe that? The rest of the instructions He merely dictated for Moses to write down verbatim.).

Recently I heard a person whose job it is to give exhortations when taking offerings say (paraphrasing), "We give our tithes, but not like a religious thing - not like under the law to tithe." Oh?

Of course, tithing is not a "religious" thing, it is a spiritual thing. Sowing and reaping, seed time and harvest. The command to tithe is an acknowledgment of God as the source of our increase and it is to be used so there will be food in the house of the Lord.

Malachi 3:10 is God speaking: 10
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,

And try Me now in this,”
Says the LORD of hosts,
“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive

Why would anyone consider this a burdensome "law" instead of a promise of God?

In Exodus 35, God told Moses to take an offering of the people from all "of a willing heart". In verse 21-22 Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the LORD’S offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments. They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart....

Doesn't sound like "a religious" thing to me.

God is not a different God from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant, He is just revealing WHO HE IS little at a time, as man can begin to learn and grasp His nature and character. Jesus was the ultimate expression of the nature of God, but that revelation was built upon the foundation of the Old Covenant prophets as well as the New Covenant apostles. Sometimes in our arrogance, we try to delete the whole revelation of God's nature and character revealed in the Hebrew scriptures, and it is a mistake that will keep us from discerning the Spirit of God's standards of righteousness and justice.

When we look at what the Church is warned about being the conditions of the last days, it is lawlessness, not religious slavery to the Law. That is something we should think about.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Look Back to the Present

This week I was looking through my photo files and found this shot from the Dec 21, 2008 as then-candidate Netanyahu examined damage in Sderot done by Hamas rockets from Gaza.

This week it has been reported that the Obama administration has ordered a halt to a construction project in eastern Jerusalem at the Shepherd Hotel. Isn’t the name ironic? The man who is Israel’s elected “shepherd” will make decisions based on what is in Israel’s best interests which is why the Prime Minister came out in response to Obama’s demand by saying, “I would like to re-emphasize that the united Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel. Our sovereignty over it is cannot be challenged; this means that residents of Jerusalem may purchase apartments in all parts of the city.” Pray for both men to bow only to the Heavenly Shepherd’s desire for Jerusalem.

The morning I received an email from an Israeli leader that I have the highest respect for the consistent purity of his testimony and witness, Howard Bass in Beer Sheva. He too was looking in past files and came across a defense he had written in 1983 for how the Lord guided his decision as a ministry leader whether or not to take up arms in military service. He and his wife, Randi, had been in Israel about two years. I believe it is a living, spiritual parable that speaks to similar issues that many of us are facing in this day. I urge you to read it and receive from the godly wisdom.

A Foreword to A Look Back to the Present
by Howard Bass, Yeshua's Inheritance Beersheva, Israel

While looking through some files, I came across one which was written in 1983. We had been in Israel a little over two years at the time of the writing. Since then, Randi and I have had four wonderful children, three of whom so far have finished or are still serving military duty.

One of the things which distinguishes our faith from religion is that we have a personal relationship with God our Father and the Lord Yeshua Messiah/Jesus Christ. There are some things which God has said, and inspired to be written for our instruction and learning, which are binding upon all believers, whatever stream of the faith we may be in. Departing from iniquity is an example. There are other issues, where there is more room for 'different strokes for different folks'. Our choices must, nonetheless, still be in accord with God's Word, whether for liberty or whether for personal convictions and/or taste. Food is one example of that.

Below is a 'defense' I presented in 1983 regarding what I believe I had received from the Lord for me regarding my military service in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Honestly, I had to learn a few things about the wise ways of our Father, and of the Lord of Hosts/Armies. I thought, and still do, that the issue of taking up arms in the military should be more open than it is as a possible option for believers. The Holy Spirit had to teach me that not all believers needed to lay down their weapons or refuse to take them. Unless someone KNOWS the Word of the Lord to him in such a situation, he will not be able to stand successfully against the opposition, whether from within, or whether from the authority of the State.

The New Testament leaves room for believers to, or not to, carry arms for military service to their nation. In Israel today, there is the accepted norm that when boys(and girls) finish high school, they immediately go into the military, without much thoughtfulness or teaching within the Messianic Body on the subject to allow our children to consider before the Lord as to His will for him or her.

As I said, we have three children who have already been involved in active duty, one of whom is an officer and who taught soldiers how to shoot! Another is in an elite combat unit and served in Gaza in January in the war against Hamas.

Nations have a right to wage war; they should have the objective to win sufficiently enough to deter future war with that nation. Believers attitudes and conduct, even in war, need to be shaped by our being of another Kingdom not of this world, even while in it. Countries are not Christian. Believers can or can not carry arms while still serving their nation in military service. The question remains: What is the will of God for me? when dealing with major issues such as this.

Each of our children has his or her own relationship with Yeshua, and I am certainly glad for that! It is also a lesson for me about God's ways not being ours, and His thoughts not ours. A 'religion' or a cult will impose rules across the board on certain issues, like to young children or to slaves. The faith which was once for all delivered to the saints is lived out in a relationship as sons and daughters to our great God and Savior, who is bringing us to maturity. God is good, and knows each of His children personally.

A Look Back to the Present
Standing in Faith…According to Righteousness 16 Dec 1983

As many here know I have made an important decision concerning my service in the Israeli Defense Forces. I want to share some of the principles which have come out as a result of my decision, for we all fare trials of our faith in Messiah. We have a responsibility to stand in faith in order to bear witness of God in Christ, and not of ourselves or others.

From the very beginning--nearly eight months ago--that I took action by writing to the IDF explaining my position, according to what the Holy Spirit had made known to me, almost immediately I encountered opposing viewpoints from believers and others, who were unaware of my attitude or action. Yet I rested in my peace with God because I felt certain about what He had shown me.

Over the months, the Lord confirmed His Word to me, which strengthened and encouraged me, and for this I gave (give) Him thanks and praise. Looking back I can see His preparing me for stronger and direct opposition from the IDF itself, and more subtle testing of my obedience to faith from those nearer to me. All acted or spoke out of a genuine concern and with good intentions, and some even used the Scriptures. (I appreciated that the most actually.)

Let me emphasize that I appreciate very much the prayer support and encouragement I have received from all of you even though there is not complete agreement or understanding. God in His infinite wisdom will use us as goads for one another to challenge and to prove our faith and resolve, and to enable us to stand the greater trials to come in our sojourn towards the Promised Land.

It is not that we have exactly attained resurrection life or are already able to be perfect, but we are to follow after these in Messiah Yeshua. So I hope that by His mercy I have obtained grace to answer those who have challenged me with love in the assurance of the victory I have in Christ.

In Romans 14 it is written by inspiration of the Holy Spirit that anything not of faith is sin. Just last week as I was reading the Bible, one verse spoke out which could allow someone to take a different stand than I have and justify themselves. A seed of doubt entered my mind despite all that the Lord had spoken and shown to me through the whole of Scripture. This seed, if left unchecked, threatened to weaken my resolve to stand firm upon the truth God had given me, and to be lukewarm is most distasteful to our Lord.

So I asked Him to help me out
, even to the point of providing me a proper way of changing or modifying my position. This time He used another brother, not aware of my doubt, to encourage and strengthen me, as well as ministering to me through His word and through other believers who have taken a similar view. Our perfect Teacher and Father was preparing me to stand by the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony.

Our faith must operate along the distinct path which the Lord has for each of His elect, and which therefore we must accept as from Him. He has His mind for each one of us, and it is our individual responsibility to use the mind of Christ we have received both to know and to do His will. I cannot have faith for another, nor can another for me, insofar as our personal walk by faith in the Spirit is concerned.

Without faith, we cannot please God. And except there be works of faith to test it and give evidence of it, our faith is dead and not living, But what must our faith be subject to or based upon in order for it to build up the inner man and be pleasing to God? The Scriptures say that the righteous shall live by his faith-- his own personal faith. And we see that our faith must be subject to righteousness--our right relationships with God and with man--distinguishing between believers and unbelievers, between family and others, etc.

We are instructed in righteousness by the Scriptures--the inspired word of God--the truth. Except our walk of faith be grounded in truth, it cannot be a walk in the righteousness of Christ , and it will not be confirmed by the Holy Spirit. Anything we do in our life that is not anointed--no matter our intentions or opinions or our own ideas as to how to win souls for salvation; no matter how we allow ourselves to be deceived to justify or rationalize our actions-- can best be described as a filthy rag and will burn in the day of judgment of our works. Only that which is in and of Christ is able to be resurrected-- is able to live eternally and minister life to others. For God is a Spirit and must be worshipped in Spirit; and in fact, the Father is even now seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Faith is the reality of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen. Abraham believed in YHVH--the invisible, self-existent, eternal God--and it was accounted to him as righteousness. We are born again into a new life of righteousness. We are to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. God’s Kingdom is not of this world-- is not of that which is temporal or tangible or in opposition to His sovereign grace-- but of that which is above, unseen, spiritual, eternal.

Our faith must be based upon God’s word and brought to life in us and through us by the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit, for the word of truth alone can also kill and minister death. Truth must pass through the cross in order to glorify God in Christ Jesus.

If we are certain of what God has shown us-- and He cannot contradict His word or else there is no sure foundation-- then we can stand against the schemes of the enemy and overcome the trials of our faith and obedience towards God. Our most difficult trials often come through others whose God is also the LORD.

In 1 Kings 13 it is written of a man of God sent to prophesy against the ungodly ways of the king and the priests. The LORD also instructed the prophet not to eat or drink, nor to return by the same way by which he went. When he had finished his mission, he began to return according to God’s word to him. An old prophet heard of what the man of God had done and went looking for him. Finding him, he invited him to his house. The man of God repeated the word of God spoken to him, and the old prophet lied to him, saying that an angel spoke the word of the LORD to him also, that the man should return with him to his house. So he did so.

Perhaps the old prophet’s heart was with good intent. Maybe he wanted to know more about the man of God and what he had accomplished on his mission. But it was not what the LORD had spoken to the man of God himself. In his disobedience to the living Word of God, he wound up being eaten by a lion on his deterred way home.

We know who the roaring lion is, and he is not usually the Lion of Judah! If we do things leaning on our own understanding or according to our own will contrary to God’s revealed will for us, we too will meet the lion in the form of unrest, lack of inner peace, irritation, or anger when challenged, and our further usefulness will be impaired.

Jesus died for our sins. His blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness. He is risen from the dead in glory. Let us not make the cross of no account in our lives or testimony, or dishonor the price paid for our redemption and salvation. Let us believe the Word of God in faith, and seek the faith to believe when we lack it. Works of Christian faith are not works born of fear or uncertainty. Let us not strive to please men (for man is never satisfied), but rather live to please God. For even He has placed all of His faith in His Word and in the power of the blood of His Son to accomplish His eternal purpose. Surely we can trust Him to take care of us.

amen, brother! DD

Friday, July 10, 2009

Storms, Boats and Sleepers

Someone commented recently on Jesus’ ability to sleep in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee during a terrible storm that He “could sleep because, in His world, there are no storms."

Sounds good, but Jesus was in our world. Of course there were storms in Jesus' world because He was in our world! That was the point of Him being here. He was here as a human being to show God's people what is possible for human beings in this realm. We may progress in our faith that we too can walk fully trusting in God as He did but this is a journey of experience, not just a set of faith principles.

The thing that concerns me about this statement is that no one should think that a denial of the existence of storms is truly what was meant by “resting” in the midst of storms. That only works until the storm bursts through our self-deception.

I have been in the ‘faith movement' long enough to know that too many think faith is the focal point, and that living the successful Christian life is mostly just a matter of thinking rightly. Having faith and speaking faith are wonderful foundational truths but the pit fall is that many people put their faith in their own faith. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. So we believe what the word of God says and our belief becomes trust that grows out of our experience with God’s faithfulness. Our faith is in God, not in faith.

There may be no storms in Heaven, but in this world, brother, there are storms! Even Jesus experienced storms. Hebrews 2:17-18 says, Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren....For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

If there were no real storms to test His 'mettle' then in that way Jesus was not like us. I believe He was like us in every human way otherwise we could not follow in His example. He would have an advantage that we could never rise to. He was made like us so we could see an example of what we can become.

When we understand that His purpose in coming into our world as a “son of man” was to show us what is possible if we allow ourselves to be transformed in His likeness - that changes things! How we look at things changes – including how we look at the things which we suffer and the storms that come against us in life.

Jesus could sleep in the boat during a terrible storm because He was fully persuaded that God had sent Him here with a mission that would be fulfilled. No storm in hell could prevent Him from fulfilling that mission.

I don’t think we appreciate enough how Jesus grew up even in the things of God as a “son of man”. I don’t believe He entered this world all-knowing, but that Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. We should not mistake the point that Jesus came to live like us and be like us in all of the experiences of human life.

In the incident in Jerusalem when Jesus was twelve and had stayed behind listening and asking questions of the teachers in the temple, when his parents confronted him frightened and anxious at having lost him, it says that he went back to Nazareth with them and “was subject to them.” He had answered them that He must be about His Father’s business, but He wasn’t teaching in the temple, He was there learning and asking questions of the teachers of the Word of God.

He was submitted to his earthly parents and human teachers as any normal boy, a true “son of man.” I believe that Jesus learned from the scriptures what His destiny in this world was. He learned like we learn from the word of God and from the storms of human life.

Storms of Life God's Teaching Tools

Even though the four gospels do not speak many details of Jesus’ youth, he undoubtedly experienced the normal ‘storms’ of a human life. How about the storm of being known as a “bastard” child? I am purposely not sugar-coating that word because it was probably not sugar-coated in his life growing up. Jesus probably heard himself called that more than once or twice.

Even Joseph, if he had not been visited by an angel telling him it was okay to stay with the Spirit-impregnated Miriam, would have “put her away secretly” “not wanting to make her a public example.”

There is not a lot of detail about Joseph’s influence on Jesus life but we do know he acted as a true father to Him, and to Jesus' brothers and sisters. We know that Joseph taught his a son the trade of carpentry, a time honored tradition of fathers giving sons training in how to make a living. However, by the time Jesus entered His ministry at there is no more mention of Joseph and it is likely because Joseph had already died. That is a storm in the life of any son at any age, much less a son under the age of thirty.

Scripture says that Jesus learned obedience from the things which He suffered. Not just the things that He suffered at the end of His life, but the things He suffered throughout His life. Like all of us, Jesus learned obedience as a “son of man”. He was not only the “Son of God" but truly a "son of man."

That Jesus could sleep in the boat during the midst of a terrifying Sea of Galilee storm does not mean that He entered this world ‘above it all’. What good would the faith He was modeling to us be if that were the case?

And no one can really fake faith like that. We might be able to fake being ‘above’ all the smaller storms of life, but there is a 'perfect storm' that will show up in all of our lives if we are just faking it. Faith has to be real and to be real it has to spring from trust. That kind of faith is built on believing what God’s Word says and seeing the trust-worthiness of God demonstrated in our journey of life.

Jesus was not just dropped down into our world knowing everything from the start to the finish. He had purposely laid all-knowing-ness aside in order to learn as we do - being made like unto us in all things “that He might be a merciful and faith high priest in things pertaining to God.”

He learned God’s plan for His life the same as we do, through the scriptures,
which He said in John 5:39 “the scriptures…and these are they which testify of Me.”

Jesus was able to sleep in the boat because He had seen in the scripture what was written of Him. He knew his death was not going to come in an accidental boat capsizing, but it would come as the sacrificial lamb of Pesach/Passover. He could sleep because He knew God was not going to let a storm interrupt the plan that was conceived before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8).

Paul’s stormy boat ride

We can see the same attitude in the apostle Paul when the boat that was bringing him in chains to Rome after being arrested in Jerusalem was shipwrecked in the Adriatic Sea (Acts 27). Paul knew he had a destiny – a specific mission from God that he was going to carry out, so no shipwreck could claim his life.

After the ship was broken up on the reef and all the people on the vessel safely made it to the shore of an island, Paul’s faith would again be tested by facing certain death. As he gathered wood on the beach for a bonfire and a highly poisonous snake bit him, Paul could just shake it off because he had a specific word of the Lord of God’s purpose for him in Rome. Nothing from hell or on earth could cut him off from completing his destiny.

The thing is that we grow into trusting God through experience. We come to know what God's purposes are for us and the things we are destined for that hell cannot cut off. We don't get there without lots of experiences which grow our understanding and trust of God - and we sure don't get there in denial that storms exist (or that snake bites can be deadly)! I have seen this approach in the faith movement over the past few decades and it is something that has shipwrecked the faith of many because in this world, there are storms.

If we don't know how to process the storms that hit our lives - if we don't know that there is purpose for our good in the storms and it doesn't just mean that 'our faith wasn't strong enough' or God doesn't care - then storms will be able to wipe us out. Storms will be able to shipwreck our faith if we have the expectation that our lives are supposed to sail along in a storm-less sea. Our faith is not in our faith, our faith is in God.

Paul did not always sleep peacefully in the bottom of a storm tossed boat. He not only learned to trust God for his safety, but he also received a specific word of the Lord that the ship was not going down. Paul was a great man of faith, but he grew into that just like the rest of us. He wrote in 2 Cor 1: 8-9:

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, 10 who delivered us from so great a death ..."

Paul LEARNED through the storms in his life to not trust in himself but in God....and that "no weapon formed against him could prosper" because the Lord had spoken to him a destiny to fulfill.

All the storms pointed to Paul's mission

So by the time that Paul was carrying the contributions from the churches to the Israeli Body of Messiah in Jerusalem (Acts 20), all the prophets along the trip were prophesying warnings to him that he would be arrested in Jerusalem. I believe this is where Paul's trust in God to take care of him was finally perfected. This is where he underwent the major test of trust in God with his life. Would he trust and press in despite the danger or drawback to safety?

Imagine that - every prophetic person he ran into was saying, 'Paul! Don't go! They are going to put you in chains - I am seeing it in the Spirit.'

But Paul told them, 'Quit making me cry. I am bound by the Spirit to complete this journey, to fulfill this mission no matter what anyone sees awaiting me. This is my destiny in the Lord; this is my mission directly from the Lord. Can I be turned from fulfilling it just because it will mean arrest and chains on my legs?'

How could Paul be so certain? Remember what he said to the sailors when they all feared for their life because the storm was so great against the ship?

Acts 27:22-24 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship. For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, [none other than Jesus] Saying, Fear not, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God has given you all them that sail with you.

Paul could have confidence and trust because he had a direct promise of the Lord about his mission. Anything that appeared threatening to him, he could view in light of that word of the Lord. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Even our ability to really hear when God is speaking specifically to us from His word is a God-initiated gift.

Paul was not pretending the threat did not exist, but he understood that the mission he had been given could not be cut off no matter how threatening things looked. He trusted that God was able to keep him safe.

Paul's salvation experience did not make him an automatic ‘Super-Faith Man’. Look at all the things that happened to him during his ministry; these are what brought Paul to that level of trusting God at His Word. As he writes in his own words:

2 Cor 11:23-28 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.

What faith preachers today give that kind of confession? Doesn’t sound like much of a victory walk! But Paul was not ashamed of all these terrible trials that befell him. It was what he had to go through to develop the faith it would take for him to carry out the ultimate purposes of God without backing away from the dangers.

Jesus had the same options as Paul and His example was to answer, “Father, if You be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but Yours, be done.”

It was not a trouble-free life Paul lived in service to the Lord, but in his journey of faith Paul was learning that he could trust God's hand on him for good. In being a partaker of “the fellowship of the sufferings” of Jesus, Paul also learned to trust that nothing could snuff him out before he accomplished all that the LORD had spoken for him to accomplish.

I believe that when Paul made that last trip to Jerusalem, and all along the way prophets were telling him the awful things that awaited him and advising him not to go, I believe that journey was Paul's last great test of faith. Was Paul locked into God's purposes for his life, or would he retreat to a safer place? When he remained "bound by the Spirit" to go to Jerusalem despite the warnings, Paul locked into a level of faith most of us have not heard many testimonies about in our great faith gatherings.

It was not unlike the same thing that Jesus experienced. In one place Jesus said would not be going up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles (Jn 7:6, 8) telling His disciples: "for my time is not yet full come."

How did He know that? He knew He was to become the sacrificial Lamb during the Passover Feast. This Feast of Tabernacles was not the time for Him to be delivered over to any threat against Him in Jerusalem. Notice, He did not put Himself presumptuously into life-threatening situations before his time. But how did Jesus know?

Jesus understood that it was death that waited for Him in Jerusalem but it was according to God's timing and that involved the Passover, not Tabernacles. He didn't move in presumption and He did not move in fear. Until His time had fully come, He trusted God in the situations that came upon Him, and He skirted walking prematurely into situations before God's timing.

When His time was approaching, Jesus knew and began preparing His inner circle for it, telling them "My time is at hand." (Mt 26:10) Jesus was coming to fulfill His purpose which was to die for the sins of the world. Until that time arrived, He could sleep in the boat during a storm with peace because He knew that was not the way His 'time' would unfold or be fulfilled. He knew there was a storm, but He also knew that there was no way any storm was going to take His life and snatch Him from the sacrificial death He would willing give Himself to.

Same way the mob in Nazareth that tried to push Him off a cliff posed no terror for Him. The townspeople were so crazed in a mob mentality that they pushed Him all the way from the synagogue to the edge of the cliff outside of town and when they got there, He walked back through them as if He was just another person in the crowd and not the one they were all trying to kill!

Jesus could have peace because He knew God did not send Him into the world to die like that on the very first day His public ministry began. He lived for God's purpose and no purpose but God's could stop Him.

Jesus knew this the same way Daniel was able to "hear" what Jeremiah's prophecy meant, hearing by the word of God (Dan 9:2),

“I, Daniel, understood by the books(scripture) the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.”

Jesus understood through studying the scripture and asking questions of the teachers, what God’s plan was for Him, just as Daniel understood the prophetic destiny of Jerusalem. As we hear the word of God, God quickens the word to us. It was the same operation in Jesus' life as it is in ours.

Like Paul, if we are going to fulfill our highest purposes in God, we are going to go through the kinds of 'storms' that leave us feeling like we have a sentence of death on our lives. We may experience being beat up and left for dead - if not physically, then emotionally. But there is purpose to every season of suffering we go through and the purpose is exactly what Paul said it was: that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God.

The scripture says that even Jesus learned obedience to God through the things which He suffered. We are not greater than our Master.

We do not pretend that the storm is not beating against us, but our experiences of God's salvation in all the storms of our lives will bring us to a place our highest level of trust in Him. When bad things happen to us in life, we can come out on the other side spiritually strengthened with deeper knowledge that God loves us and has faithfully watched over us with loving care. These storms are meant to work in us "an eternal weight of glory" if we will but believe and trust God , clinging to His purposes for us.

Jesus said that He would give us peace in the midst of the storm, not that He would give us peace without any storms. There are storms in this world, but He said, "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."