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."

Friday, July 3, 2009

Blessing Israel, 8th Anniversary of Israelprayer

August will mark my 8th year of preparing the Weekly Summary of Prayer Requests from Israeli Ministries. I became a member of a Messianic congregation in 1992, so I have been learning 'what's what' for almost two decades. Here is where all that exposure to things-Messianic led me.

Israelprayer was born in 2001. The previous year I worked for a major American Jewish Christian ministry and saw firsthand how Christians who love Israel literally gave millions of dollars each year in an outpouring of generous hearts toward Israel.

It bothered me that while this ministry blessed unbelievers in Israel, it did not contribute to the indigenous community of Israeli ministries who struggled in hard circumstances.

Working there, the visual I had of that ministry was as if it were a dam blocking the flow of a river of Christian donations from reaching the Lord’s harvest fields of Israel.
I struggled with that.

In my heart, I believe God has stirred up such a generous spirit in the heart of Christians for Israel "for such a time as this" for the purpose of blessing those and funding those, who are the Israeli witnesses of the Good News of Messiah to Israelis. Part of their testimony is to bestow the wealth of Christian generosity in the name of Yeshua/Jesus as they reach out to meet the needs of their communities.

There are many ways to bless Israel, but the highest form and purest understanding of the Lord’s heart is blessing those and through those who are carrying the salvation of Israel as their primary vision from the Lord. As Isaiah 52:7 said of these spiritual family members,

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims Yeshua (salvation),
Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

It is one thing to stand united with Israel but it is another thing to stand with the Israeli ministries and congregations who are reaching out to their neighbors and friends throughout Israel with the testimony and power of Yeshua, who is Israel’s true and only Hope. There is no other door to Salvation even to Jews, and no other source of peace for Israel, but the reign of the Prince of Peace in the hearts of Jews and Arabs of the region.

A gathering of some of the indigenous Israeli Ministry leaders in 2003

So, in August of 2001 I resigned from that ministry, got a non-ministry job and started Israel Prayer. I began by compiling the prayer requests of Israeli ministries I was aware of - mostly the Israeli ministries associated with the Messianic congregation I attended. A small team of us began to meet each week to pray over the requests.

I wanted to reach out to more Israeli ministries and began to research and compile information about all the ministries I could find in Israel. I signed up for as many prayer letters as I could find. Sometimes our team would prayer over 20 pages of prayer letter requests!

After a year I set up a web site, – to be “A connecting bridge for the Church to the Israeli body of Messiah” and “To make known to the Church the urgent prayer needs of the Israeli believing community.” Year by year we have added subscribers to the mailing list until we now have people from all parts of the country and many nations praying in agreement with the Israeli ministries. (You can read more of the story here.)

The driving force behind is the revelation I first began to receive in 1991 of the Romans 15:27 indebtedness of the Church to materially support the Israeli Body of Messiah. Paul wrote,

“For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them (Israeli Body of Messiah) in material things.”

As I have read the Scripture over the years since that initial revelation of our duty, the Holy Spirit has opened my eyes to what an important and even critical emphasis the apostle Paul put on that truth. In Paul’s eyes its importance extended to the point of delivering himself into imprisonment in Jerusalem. This was the price he was willing to pay in order to model for us the necessity of carrying ministry support from the Churches to the elders – or ministry leaders - in Israel.

The Church contributions were not sent to the Israeli government leaders, nor the rabbis at the Temple, but were carried directly to the leaders of the Israeli believing ministries for the purpose of supporting the local community of believers and for the forwarding of the gospel in Israel.

This revelation has been my passion…and it has also been my sorrow as I have seen Christian generosity for Israel diverted from the Israeli laborers in the harvest fields to lesser blessings of Israel. Christians are giving millions times millions into Israel for everything from political support to planting trees with only a minuscule percentage reaching the indigenous ministries who are witnesses to the power of Yeshua’s salvation in the lives of Israeli Jews. Just being a “righteous Gentile” will not get many Israelis saved.

Consider that one popular Jewish “Fellowship” raises 78 million dollars annually from Christians to fund needs in Israel and none of that ever benefits the believer community or Israeli Jewish ministries. The Jewish Christian ministry I once worked for averaged an income of around 7 million annually for its programs but rarely – if ever – donated to Israeli ministries. That is quite a gap - 7 to 78 million, but it is an even greater gap for actual Israeli ministries. Perhaps the most well-funded of all the indigenous Israeli ministries has an annual income of only 2.6 million – but that is far above almost all of their fellow Israeli ministries.

If Christians sending donations to the famous rabbi’s fellowship only knew how much more spiritual return their donations would reap if the flow of their generosity only reached Israeli believer ministries instead. It makes me sad, but I believe a day is coming when that dam will give way to the will of God and the river of blessing will flow.