Friday, August 19, 2011

A Worthy Word from Israeli Messianic Jew, Arni Klien

This word was sent out in the prayer letter of Arni and Yonit Klien, who have a prayer and worship ministry in the Judean Hills, called Emmaus Way. There are so many many good words in this writing that I asked permission to share it more publicly than just to my subscribers. Be blessed as you read.

Three lies were planted in the Garden of Eden.
They sit at the root of every spiritual struggle of faith we face in life.

by Arni Klein
July 2011

Receiving Our Gift

From time to time we read about breakthrough discoveries in science or technology that end up making a real difference in people’s lives. Sometimes researchers work for years and years in search of such keys. Other times we seem to just stumble onto great things…by the providence and promise of God. Israel continues to be a light and a blessing to the nations in so many ways.

You would think that with all the contributions and discoveries made by Jews that have dramatically affected the quality of life of so many, the people of the nations would be grateful, and we (Jews) would have a deep sense of accomplishment. Well, at the moment this is not our present reality.

While thinking about this, it occurred to me that many of us don’t recognize the gift we have to give, or perhaps to say, the gift we have been made to be. The system of this world conditions us to think so competitively and comparatively that unless we are the greatest something or other, we often tend to think we have nothing to offer.

This thought come out of a personal moment I find myself in concerning the seminars I have been presenting over the past year in Germany. I am amazed and blessed by how deeply people are being touched by the Lord.

As some of you know, I have been working on these teachings and sharing them in bits and pieces for a long time – about twenty-five years. In one part of me I am convinced that the insights that make up these messages are from God. But another part of me has had a struggle to accept having something that is not common to all and is really a blessing to others.

Can you relate to this? Having the feeling I am not alone in this, I felt to share this bit of my process.

A Piece of the Puzzle

On my last trip (to Germany), a new piece of the puzzle concerning the teaching came into view.

Three lies were planted in the Garden of Eden. They sit at the root of every spiritual struggle of faith we face in life.

In speaking out against God so openly and freely, the serpent insidiously came against God’s omnipotence. (Let us not forget that the serpent was more subtle or cunning than any beast of the field). By the fact that God did nothing to stop the serpent from implying such a negative thing about Him, Adam and Eve were subtly given the sense that God is not over the serpent and therefore not all-powerful.

Next came the not-so-subtle implication about God’s word. The serpent said, “He said you would die, but you won’t.” In other words He is not to be believed.

Lastly, in that He won’t let you eat from that one special tree, He is withholding from you the best part.

The three lies are: God is not all-powerful, He is a liar, and He doesn’t love or really care about you.

Here comes the new part: Each module of the seminar rests on the revelation Name God gave along with each of the three covenants He made with Israel. These names, and the characteristic demonstrated through each, are His answer to satan’s three attacks against His character and nature.

El Shaddai is almighty, all-powerful, all Abraham would ever need.
• Moses received the Torah from Yahweh – I Am That I Am – the unchanging One Whose word never fails.
• The new covenant reveals Yeshua, the savior, who held nothing back, proved God’s love, in Whom we have the Kingdom.

When we come to know God in each of these three dimensions, there is nothing satan can do to shake us from our foundation. The seminars are designed to help us see - in the light of God’s ways - where He is and where we are, so that we can become all He has called us to be, unto the revelation of His glory in Israel and the nations.

I don’t know if this adequately conveys to you our amazement at the completeness of this picture we are looking at.

While the process remains a lifelong endeavor and there are still no short cuts outside of embracing the Cross, the simplicity and clarity of it all blows our mind. The fullness of life is to be found in knowing God according to these three covenant Names.

The Going Forth

Seven years ago we began writing and speaking about the special calling on the third/fourth generation (after the Holocaust).

Since then we have been waiting for the Lord to release His heart cry to the youth of Germany. We sense the time has come to gather together the different groups and individuals from around Germany with whom we have been in touch, for a time of fellowship, exchange, and impartation.

To that end, our friends at TOS Ministries in Tubingen will be hosting a gathering on February 4th-5th of next year (2012). We will be writing more about this in the days to come, but wanted to alert all who might be interested to mark these dates on their calendars.

We are excited about this being in Tubingen for several reasons. Firstly, we have been bonded with TOS since our first days in Germany and deeply admire the depth and sincerity of heart they walk in. They have invested heavily in the relationship between Israel, the Jewish people, and Germany and have been true pioneers in the quest to bring reconciliation and healing to those affected by the Holocaust in Israel, Germany, Europe and the rest of the world as well.

The university in Tubingen was the womb for the marriage between religion and secular humanism and was consequently foundational to the formation of Nazi ideology. Please pray for this generation to take their place in God’s plans and purposes.

Calling to the Men

We have recently come in contact with a group of men that are regularly gathering throughout Germany to spend hours and sometimes days simply adoring the Lord with no agenda. (We trust you realize how uncharacteristic this is of the German soul structure, and especially among men).

In May, while they were with us in Nes Harim, I had a dream. In it I had been ministering in another land (which I understood to be Germany) and was on my way to return home to Israel when I was approached by a multitude of men wanting to relate about the word I had just shared. Their number was simply astounding. It reminded me of the hidden seven thousand in Elijah’s day.

The Lord impressed me that there are many men in Germany ready to walk in a new come before the Lord with no agenda… to wait on Him and relate with one another in a new way. Please pray for the call of the Spirit to be heard that men no longer walk according to the spirit of the sons of Greece but become true sons of Zion.

Grass Roots

More and more we are convinced that the change we long for – the release of the Spirit – the abiding manifestation of the Lord's Presence – will be the result of a grassroots movement of simple people committed to laying their hearts and lives before the Lord and one another.

For decades the western church has looked to big ministries and large conferences for the long-awaited breakthrough. Since we moved to Israel nearly twenty years ago, our perceptions, expectations, and understandings have been dramatically altered. Coming from a thriving congregation of over two thousand in the US, it took awhile for us to understand that bigger was not better, and that as nice as gifts were, they were not what drew God close.

As we wrote above, our minds are being blown by the simplicity of the Lord’s ways. It is hard to grasp how little we need to do to fulfill the desires of His heart.

In the face of ever-encroaching darkness, many are desperately searching for an answer. Are we in fact searching for something that is right in front of us? Could it be we know it so well that we no longer see it? Might we speak it so often that we no longer hear it? It was there when Moses lifted his hands in the midst of the battle. It was there when Jehoshaphat turned his face away from the enemy. It was always before King David. It cannot be learned, it cannot be taught or given from one to another. It’s not a purpose to be accomplished. It’s not a system to be replaced or a structure to be renewed. It’s not new. We talk about it, write about it, and sing about it. When we really find it we lose all our questions. The 'it' of course, is Him.

There’s an infinite difference between looking for something to do and being the dwelling place of God.

Do we know? Do we really know what it means to enter and abide in His How long can we wait? How long can we be still?

The answer to these last questions might be a good measure of how well we know Him.

Arni & Yonit Klein, Emmaus Way in Nes Harim in the Judean Hills
Kleinfax prayer letter
For information on making a contribution

Friday, August 12, 2011

When the love of many waxes cold

I wrote this on a Facebook NOTE this morning but for some reason it has been blocked so no one can see it but me. Must be something worth reading.

I was arrested by the words quoted by Messianic Evan Thomas this week in his prayer perspective from Netanya, Israel.

Referencing the current Israeli housing demonstrations, Etgar Keret, one of Israel's leading journalists recently wrote in HaAretz,

"The fight will be 100-percent Israeli, blue and white. And it, as many of the signs at the demonstration noted, is the battle over the home – not just in the sense of the mortgages and housing prices, but also in the deeper sense of the word, "home," as the place where you feel wanted and valued and to which you feel connected. Our country has long since lost all sense of solidarity and mutual responsibility, replacing them with the only common denominator that remains – the primordial fear of all that is different, the other. And each time a few lazy days of steamy summer go by without missiles, flotillas and any other existential angst-provoking events, we are forced to look at each other and rediscover that we forgot long ago what it is to be one people."

Kachol lavan - blue and white.

I just learned that Israeli motto-to-live-by recently, although I have seen the effects of it in operation for many years. Kachol lavan means Jews depending upon themselves alone. As one author explained it, it was a lesson learned from the Holocaust when the world stood by and saw Jews marched into the fire and did nothing. So instead of ever trusting anyone again to help them, many Israelis operate under the "kachol lavan" way of thinking: Israel can depend on no one to help but Israelis.

It is not so different from the thinking of any other person that has been abused in life. The capacity to love and trust others shrinks more and more as the years go by hardening into bitterness and unfulfilled revenge. No one - no matter how they might try to help is allowed to penetrate the hard shell that forms the encased heart of a wounded soul.

That is one reason that circumcision is a sign of the covenant - not just the circumcision of the foreskin, but the circumcision of the heart which is a sign of our spiritual covenant. In order to become a spiritual people of God, we have to allow the circumcision of our hearts. It is a process where the old, hardened encasing that we have wrongly believed will protect us from further hurts and wounds, is cut away so we can become human beings again - created in the image and likeness of God.

Most of the world is in a state of uncircumcised heart, and most of us who believe have parts of our hearts that still are in need of the hardness being cut away. Where there is no circumcised heart, there are people full of wounds and bitterness who believe they can't trust anyone to look out for them and it's every man for himself. Dog eat dog.

This is the lawlessness of the streets - and I don't condone it in the least, but I am saying that if we could allow a little compassion to creep into what we are seeing in the world today, as spiritual people we could begin to speak to those hardened hearts with new hope. They need salvation. They need Yeshua and the promise of a new heart whereby we are transformed from glory to glory.

I began this note talking about how Evan Thomas' prayer perspective this week was like a critical piece of a puzzle that was working in my spirit already. What Thomas saw in the journalist's statement he deeply identified with. As he wrote to me in a follow up, the journalist "had 'captured' something very important if we want to truly be able to intercede for this nation's peoples right now. I actually believe that there is something very similar going on in the hearts of people all over the Middle East at the moment." Evan was urging us in our intercession over Israel to consider how in the terrible rioting of the Arab nations surrounding Israel, many people are suffering greatly. He wrote:

"The third area of national focus of course is steadily rising tensions leading up to the unilateral declaration in the United Nations General Assembly of an independent Palestinian State. This is supposedly about to take place next month in September. The implications of this of course are huge. The nation is divided in its political position as is the Body of Messiah. ...
"Many voices in the Messianic Jewish community are deeply concerned about the theological implications of dividing the Land. Notwithstanding, Evan is concerned about the social implications of an independent State. Is it economically sustainable? What will it look like? Will it have its own armed security forces and will they represent a realistic threat to Israel's security? Will the Fatah party be strong enough to maintain a political balance or will the new State move towards radical Islam and Sh'ria law?

"How then shall we pray? Firstly, of course, as the Spirit of God leads. Nevertheless, please take into account that amongst our neighbors in Syria, Lebanon and Egypt there are many people suffering extreme hardship. Pray for the children, grieving the loss of fathers (and all-too-often mothers). Pray for families that have lost homes and fields and are struggling to put food on their tables. Pray for the general populations of these countries who are suffering from the sense of betrayal from their own governments.

"Remember that what happens across our borders affects Israel also. Destabilization can quickly lead to rapidly spreading conflict and in the Middle East we are all highly militarized nations with very little love for one another."

Whether we are speaking of embattled nations or spiritually embattled individuals, it is true that so much of the anger manifesting itself around us is simply because people are hopeless and without a saviour. They have given up on love in a very real sense and decided that whatever they get in this world they are going to have to take it for themselves. No one else can be counted on.

What the Israeli journalist Keret wrote about the Israeli housing demonstrations is as true applied to the chaotic streets of Arab nations and London even as it is also true of a troubled young relative of mine locked up in a hardness of heart from the wounds of a lifetime. Not that a lot of bad personal choices haven't been made along the way contributing to the state of such a person, but sometimes in order to catch a glimmer of compassion for those who are creating chaos, we need to consider those much closer to our hearts. We need to think in terms of someone we love who is also fighting futilely to depend only on themselves to survive in a harsh world.

Yeshua made it clear that He did not come into the world to save only the good, whole and righteous people who 'deserved' the blessings of His salvation. He said He came for the distressed, the abused, those whose hearts were sick with the hardness of life's wounds. Doesn't that sound like anyone you know, or maybe have read about or heard about in news reports?

One of the In Christ's Image Training teachings of Francis Frangipane is an interpretation of Matthew 24:12, "And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." His reading of the verse is that it is possible for Christians to allow their hearts to grow cold because of exposure to so much wickedness and iniquity in the world. Isn't it so? Can't you think of several people in your life that you feel cold toward? Be honest with yourself.

We are certainly living in days where love has waxed cold in our world. This is cause and effect of iniquity, or lawlessness, that is abounding. It is a viscous circle. Not only does the abused become an abuser, but as people of God just being exposed to so much rampant lawlessness is able to rob us of our greatest defense - a warm, open and loving heart.

We have to guard our spiritually circumcised hearts from growing cold in love. How does a heart grow cold? It begins to harden. It may not harden against everyone, but begins to shut down warmth toward others. It begins to qualify who deserves our warm heart and who deserves only a serving of icy coldness. To keep our hearts circumcised with warm, living love these days, we have to have Yeshua's vision of people, not our own.

I am not saying we are suckers and that we do not take a realistic view of people. I'm not proposing that we excuse lawlessness, or the abused one that is abusing - but spiritually, we have to find the compassion to appeal to Heaven on their account. We have to become the good Samaritan who cannot just walk around the wretched, beaten up lives we encounter on the road.

I will also confess that I am saying this every bit as much to myself as I am to anyone who reads this note. The truth is that we are all being battered by the harshness of life. If it is not touching you, then it is likely touching someone that at one time you had a very warm heart for. The continual 'seduction' of harsh living conditions is the temptation to harden our hearts is always there.

The seduction is that when we harden our hearts toward someone that it will protect us from further receiving any further hurt from them. That's not the way it really works, but in fact that is the simple process of how an abused person becomes an abuser. Little by little the whole heart is taken over by hardness and the lack of love, that it morphs the person from being a victim into being a predator.

What is the answer then? Only Yeshua, only Jesus can cut away the hardness of our hearts, giving us a new heart. This was a major theme of the prophet Ezekiel:

Eze 18:31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Eze 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

Eze 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:

If Yeshua's mission is our mission, then we too are in the world to seek that which is lost - that which is beaten down, hard-hearted and helpless to change anything in their rotten lives. Clearly our spiritual challenge is to make sure that we have not allowed hard heartedness to creep back in. Talk is cheap. It is easy to repeat all the Christianese love mottos; it is another thing to guard your heart with all diligence to keep a vision for the salvation of the world.

It is like the Ha'Aretz reporter said, "the battle over the home – not just in the sense of the mortgages and housing prices, but also in the deeper sense of the word, "home," as the place where you feel wanted and valued and to which you feel connected."That's the yearning every every human heart - whether they find it or not - to feel wanted and valued and connected in love.

One final thing keeps springing to memory in relation to these things and I think it is an great example of how we can let our hearts grow cold again even after Yeshua has given us a new heart.

Several years ago a prophecy was circulated that made its way to me. It was more pathetic than prophetic, but the prophet had many who defended this word.

The 'prophecy' was based on the biblical story of Abigail who was at first married to the rogue Nabal, who was struck down with a heart turned to stone. Abigail was then legally free of him and then married to David who was to become King. (1 Samuel 25) The prophecy was a word to encourage many women (and some men) that God was about to answer their desire for a godly spouse by striking down their own Nabal - a name that means "fool" or "folly" - so they could move on to a godly spouse worthy of them.

It is such a perfect example of cold love in a believer to me. Good grief - just get a divorce already! Do you honestly think that God is any more pleased with you sitting around fantasizing that your spouse is going to die so you can move on to a worthy, godly mate? That is a heaping helping of cold love - and the people who defended the prophecy could not discern the cold heartedness of it. I'm sure you can think of examples from your own experience. We know what cold love is, even though we don't want to recognize it in ourselves. It is much safer for us to get real about the cold love we still harbor in our heats because cold love is a real enemy to us in these days. Let's keep it real, but let's keep our hearts warm, too.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Blind Spots in the Body

When Martin Luther emerged as a groundbreaking man of faith after nailing his 95 Theses on the door of the Church in 1517, he also believed that God would return salvation to the Jews. In 1514 Luther wrote:

"Conversion of the Jews will be the work of God alone operating from within, and not of man working — or rather playing — from without."

He had that partially right. We can't make anyone see if God has not given them eyes to see. God has to give the revelation to every man - Jew or Gentile - before they can see Jesus.

Luther was completely right that God would return salvation to the Jews. The last nine years of his life though, Luther had become a bitter Christian anti-Semite, penning his infamous treatise, On the Jews and Their Lies.

Apparently Luther came to resent the Jews for not appreciating his position advocating for them. I guess he expected the Jews to be more responsive to him because he was not antagonistic toward them for their rejection of Jesus.

He understood that salvation comes by a revelation of Yeshua that only God can give a person, but what Luther did not understand is that there is a plan of God in operation. In other words, a plan that has a specific time table.

The apostle Paul laid it out very clearly in Romans 9-11, but this plan is also a revelation that must be given by God. We cannot make anyone in the Church or elsewhere see what the plan of God is concerning the Jews, or the timing He has put on His plan which will ultimately see "all Israel" receive the revelation of their Messiah's identity.

What happened to Martin Luther is a little scary, isn't it?

He knew God was going to save the Jews, but allowed himself to become bitter over the Jews not doing so in his timing.

In his turning bitter toward the Jews in the last decade of his life, he really fulfilled the word of wisdom in Hebrews 12:15, "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled."

How much of Christian history has been defiled by the bitterness that took root in Martin Luther against the Jews? He started out well, with an open heart but ended up bitter because his open heart did not unlock the closed hearts of the Jews. The time was not yet, but Luther did not have that revelation.

I wish I had a dollar for every time that after I shared my connection to praying with the Israeli Messianic Jews, and a Christian responded to me in alarm, "What about the Palestinians?" 'Yes, I know,' I explain. 'We pray for both the Jewish and the Arab believers in Israel.'

What I don't say is, 'Your exclusion of care and support for Israeli Jews is not my exclusion of care and support for the Palestinians believers. It isn't either/or, it is one new man in Messiah. Not that there isn't a lot of Palestinian-hatred expressed among Christian Israel supporters. That position is wicked too.

This is the fine line we walk as Christian supporters of Israel. Always a fine line because we are walking through one heck of spiritual minefield in every way. Israel is the center of the storm because the plan of God is being consummated here.

Some Christians don't believe God intends the salvation of Israel on a national scale. Other Israel-supporting Christians do not believe they have a part to play in the salvation of the Jews. The latter is a belief that Jewish salvation is something that God alone will accomplish - much like Martin Luther's quote in this opening - and that it will not occur until after all the Christians have been removed from the earth in the Rapture.

That is not what I believe because I see God is already pouring out the revelation of salvation by Yeshua to Jews. The salvation of the Jews has been occurring in an increasing manner that parallels the return of Jews to the Promised Land, the re-establishment of the State of Israel and the reunification of the capital, Jerusalem. It continues to increase even in the present as those radical enemies of God's Israel in neighboring states are being loosed from the short leash of secular dictators.

The Ezekiel vision of the Valley of Dry Bones was the prophetic picture God gave for what He has been doing in the return from exile of the Jews, as well as the spiritual restoration of Israel. It is a progression that unfolds as it is prophetically commanded on earth. (Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven) When the Church sees that this is the will of God and begins to speak into it like Ezekiel did.

There is a timing of the salvation of Israel and we are moving swiftly now through the rapids in the stream of time toward it.

Despite all that, half of the Christian church does not even believe God even has a plan that includes Israel's salvation. They do not view current events as the fury of the demonic unleashed upon the center of God's will in this season.

How they miss that is a mystery but they cannot recognize it as it is clearly imparted in the Scripture, nor are they able to see it in its fulfillment in real time. It is a revelation that is given by God. Don't let that word revelation scare you. It just means that God shares a nugget of His wisdom, knowledge and understanding with us so we can begin to grasp His love, His Word or His plan.

If God does not give us understanding, then no amount of teaching, preaching or debate will awaken us to the truth of the matter. And it does not matter if Christians are activists working exclusively for the plight of the Palestinian people, or if they are just apathetic toward the Jews denying there is any special purpose that God still has for them - classic replacement theology - there is no way "to make them" see His continued purposes for Israel. Only God can give a heart to see.

Deuteronomy 29:4 Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.

This was the state of the children of Israel in Moses time and throughout biblical history. God knew from the beginning that when the Messiah would walk among them, they would not be able to perceive Him BECAUSE God had foreordained it to be so. Romans 11:30-32:

For as you in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

Jesus also confirmed what Moses had declared of the children of Israel from the beginning:

Mat 13:15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

Do you get that? Paul also said in Romans that "blindness in part has befallen Israel." Why? So through the Jews' unbelief, God could widen the net of His catch to salvation of all the nations. Yet, it is so clear that He intends to return with mercy to the Jewish people, "that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy."

Mercy. That's what Martin Luther ran out of and it defiled generations of Christians toward the Jews.

We have to be careful that we don't run out of mercy too because in America, Jews often vote for Liberal humanistic values and that doesn't set well with many a Christian-Zionist. I see it expressed in political blogs that I frequent and it really irritates even the most conservative of Republican Jews to see a 'more Zionist than thou' attitude from Christian Israel-supporters.

We also have to be careful that we don't run out of mercy in the face of persecution of Messianic Jewish believers in Israel. Not that we have un-sanctified mercy toward their persecutors, excusing or ignoring the aggressions as if they didn't exist. (Or toward the Islamist terrorists for that matter! Terrorists are terrorists.)

Rather, we must stand up and condemn persecution - even when it comes via religious Jewish zealots. We must keep the understanding before us that the apostle who wrote the lion's share of the New Covenant was a persecutor of the Jewish believers just like the anti-missionaries are today.

Spiritually, we have to join in with the Israeli Jewish believers in appealing to Heaven for God to send their persecutors a light from heaven - the same as He sent understanding to the apostle Paul so long ago. The anti-missionaries of modern Israel are EXACTLY like the anti-missionary of the Book of Acts. We are living in the days of Acts chapter 29.

Likewise, we cannot make Christians see who do not have a heart to perceive what God is doing among the Jews in our time - restoring Jewish spiritual eyes to see Yeshua and to hear the good news of His salvation. Blindness in part has befallen them. God is not a respecter of persons. Blindness in part befell Israel and now blindness in part has befallen the Church. In the end though will emerge one new man from the two in Messiah.

This is a great mystery of God to me. On one hand many of those Christians who deny the return of God's purposes to Israel in these last days, are among those portions of the Church that have had so many other truths restored - like the truth that God is still healing and delivering people today and the other miraculous gifts we see the first century believers walked in.

It is a mystery to me that many of the most ardent Christian Israel-supporters do not much believe in the spiritual gifts of the Bible still operating in our day, but they do get the revelation of the salvation of Israel. The only way I can understand this mystery is that God is going to humble both segments of Christians with the understanding at some point that neither of them has it all, and they both need each other for a more complete expression of who He is.

As the apostle Paul broke out in praise after explaining the mystery of God's blinding the Jews to Messiah in Romans 11:33: O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!

On a personal note, a couple of years ago I set out to try to discover how to address the spiritually cutting edge Church that did not understand that God is currently pouring out upon the Jews a heart to perceive Yeshua/Jesus is Messiah. I had been immersed in Messianic Judaism for two decades and felt like I needed a refresher course on how the Church generally regarded the Jews and Israel.

I'll be honest, I've had to struggle with anger and disillusionment at what I've heard. Even though I know only God can open the eyes of their hearts, it has been very hard for me to hear the statements and bear with the attitudes. It so permeates some sectors of the church and they do not even know how offensive some of the expressions are.

On the other hand, I have grown really impatient with much in the Messianic movement, like what I consider too much emphasis on the traditions that are more rabbinic than scriptural. Or, how Christians who join with the Messianic movement not being encouraged to celebrate their own identity in Yeshua rather than adopting a "Jewish lifestyle". That is not how Yeshua makes one new man in Messiah. We can learn to appreciate our Jewish roots without starting to dress like the Frum in Mea Shearim.

I think these things which are not scripturally balanced make for the pitfall of so many in Messianic Judaism falling from faith because they prefer to return to Judaism. We have to be vigilant against providing conditions that make it easy to lose our way.

Not that I am perfect, not by a long shot, but I am longing for the manifestation of the authentic one new man in Messiah. Less than that has become increasingly unsatisfying to me. So I have been living one foot in the Messianic movement and one foot in the Church that doesn't perceive that salvation of the Jews is happening right now - and it is a bona fide prophetic fulfillment of the scriptural plan of God.

What would one new man in Messiah look like?

To me it would look like Jews and Gentiles who are as different in expression as a man and a woman, a husband and wife. Not competing with each other, but complimenting each other in the life the walk together. One, but different; mutually respectful. Equal before God, but serving separate callings before Him, too. The freedom of a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. A Messianic Jew to be a Messianic Jew and a Christian to be a Christian.

The reason I began to write this note was to encourage us, you and me, not to become bitter over those who are still blind to God's purposes in Yeshua/Jesus. We all have blind spots and mercy is clearly the antidote God intends us to use to help others overcome their blind spots.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

No Weapon Formed Against You Shall Prosper

There is a reason “no weapon formed against you shall prosper”. The reason is our inheritance in Yeshua gives us the delegated authority to pass judgment on the condemning words beamed at us. Weapons may form against us, but we do not have to allow the weapon to prosper against us. This is our inheritance when our righteousness is of Him and not of our own.

"Refiner's Fire," watercolor by Jana Winters Parkin, 2007

Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by Me:
whosoever shall gather together against you shall fall for your sake.
Behold, I have created the smith that blows the coals in the fire,
and that brings forth an instrument for his work;
and I have created the waster to destroy.
No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper;
and every tongue that shall rise against you in condemnation
you shall pass judgment upon.
This is the inheritance of the servants of the LORD,
and their righteousness is of Me, says the LORD.

Isa 54:15-17

This is a remarkable passage of scripture explaining so many things that we wrestle over in our faith. Understand that it is first addressed to Israel, yet we who are grafted into the commonwealth of Israel by faith in the Messiah of Israel, also enjoy the inheritance promised by God to Israel – the servants of the Lord whose righteousness springs from the LORD.

Sunday morning as I began this article, it was at first to talk about all the things God revealed through the prophet Isaiah in these three short verses – but it quickly began to unfold as I wrote. Surprisingly, the Purim story of Esther figures into explaining this passage in spiritual warfare terms, and naturally the greater context of Isaiah 54.

In my Bible program the heading on Isaiah 54 is “A Perpetual Covenant of Peace” and verse one begins by describing the state of Israel today,

“Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman,' says the LORD."

The prophet is speaking of the time when God will return to Israel in salvation, or you could say, to save her from her enemies. When that takes place it will come in a way that is probably different than how we have been thinking, in that we will play a much more active role in the deliverance from enemies than we think.

“Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by Me,” God says of that time.

Even though He says He has “created the (black)smith that blows the coals in the fire, and that brings for an instrument for his work” – a weapon formed against you – God tells His servants that those gathered together are not sent by Him, and “whoever shall gather together against you shall fall for your sake.”

That is a pretty severe warning, and the wars against Israel since her rebirth in 1948 are testimony to the fact that God is serious in this declaration.
The fact is that those who have gathered against Israel have fallen for her sake – but not without Israel fighting.

We too have to fight for our deliverance from the weapons that form against us and those that gather against us. We have to fight, but even with overwhelming odds, the promise of God is that no weapon formed against us has the legal right to prosper. This is our inheritance – to fight back in His power.

In the Purim story of Esther, the evil Haman was able to get the king to make an irreversible decree against the Jews, but that did not mean this weapon could actually prosper. It could be formed, but it could not prosper. Of course, our 'inheritance' described in Isaiah 54:17 doesn't mean we are nonchalant about the weapons that form against us either.

In trying to convey truths about spiritual warfare today, and to convince us that it is part of our inheritance in Messiah/Christ that "God is in control," at times it seems we communicate too much nonchalance about the battle.

In Esther we do not see Mordecai taking a nonchalant attitude about Haman's plan to annihilate the Jews. He didn't say, 'Well, God is in control! We win. I read the back of the book.'

No rather, he did the classic Jewish grieving and despair thing, "Mordecai tore his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry." Mordecai was not going to go quietly and neither should we.

“So Esther's maids and eunuchs came and told her, and the queen was deeply distressed. Then she sent garments to clothe Mordecai and take his sackcloth away from him, but he would not accept them.“ Esther 4:4

Esther was in a good place, so good that others had to come and tell her what the state of her closest relative was. Mordecai had secured this good place for Esther which removed her from the street level view of what was happening among her people.

In Romans 9-11, the apostle Paul explains how God used laying aside Israel for a season to open salvation beyond the Jews. In the story of Esther, it is a parallel situation to the state of Christianity today which has also been secured in a “good place” that removes us from seeing the street level view of what is happening to our people, Israel.

“I say then, have they (Israel) stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” Romans 11:11

“For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?“ Romans 11:15

The Gentile Church is like Esther, situated in a good place by our ‘uncle Mordecai,’ the saved remnant of Israel, the chosen nation that has been temporarily set aside by God so salvation could be opened to all the nations, not just to Israel. So the inheritance of the servants of the Lord that Isaiah speaks of, the righteousness which Israel, and now we, walk in, is of God, not of our own righteousness.

This right here is enough to end the argument that Israel failed so God withdrew from them and bestowed salvation on a people more deserving. Do we just give lip service to the idea that none of us deserve the salvation of God? Not Israel and not the Church. Yet He has given us both the opportunity to receive His righteousness as our own.

The apostle Paul could not have laid it out more clearly in Romans that the time would come when the opportunity to receive salvation by faith in Yeshua would return to Israel, and in reality it was never fully lifted. There have been saved Jews throughout the ages since Yeshua was lifted up from the earth.

God did not replace Israel with a people more deserving of salvation, and His promise of salvation to Israel has never been withdrawn. In not understanding this simple truth – that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance – much of the Church is like Esther, who was made a queen, was situated in a palace, but became 'out of sight, out of mind' in what was happening to uncle Mordecai and her people.

Do you see this? Esther was so far removed from the realities of the rest of her spiritual family, that her servants had to come tell her that her uncle was on the street, crying bitterly in torn clothes – sack cloth and ashes.

Esther's reaction at first is a little like Marie Antoinette’s famous line when told that the people had no bread to eat, “No bread? Then let them eat cake.” So removed from the reality of the street these queens were that they could not even grasp the desperation of the situation. For Esther, the focus was, 'Mordecai is out there in torn clothes, so the answer is send him some new duds.'

I don’t want to belabor a story we all know, but only to get you thinking how much the Church is like Esther the queen, installed in the palace and insulated from the threats bearing down on her uncle and her people.

Many Christians do not regard Israel as related to them but this does not change the fact that we are grafted into Israel, we have been made the commonwealth of Israel, and that God has promised clearly to return His salvation to Israel.

Salvation is by no other name than Yeshua, so to participate in the salvation of Israel is to help bring the gospel to them. That's why 'uncle Mordecai' is among them. The saved remnant will sure be facilitated by the Esther church to bring salvation to all Israel.

"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Acts 4:12

It is true today, as it was when the apostle Paul wrote to the Romans (11:5) “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.”

Today, that remnant according to the election of grace is destined by the purposes of God to come to know the salvation by faith in the Messiah Yeshua.

"And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is My covenant to them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as in times past you have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now have not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all." Romans 11:26-32

The Church today has the same role as Queen Esther in helping Israel by heeding the distressed cry of her closest relative Mordecai to act on the behalf of her people before the king.

Can you see that “uncle Mordecai” is the saved Remnant of believers in Israel? These are the Jews who by faith in Yeshua, like the Church seated in the inheritance of faith, are standing still in the streets in order to bring the gospel to all Israel.

Whether it is in the salvation of Israel, or in terms of our own personal, individual spiritual warfare in our lives, Queen Esther went through several stages to secure deliverance for her people.

1. She had to become aware of the distress that she herself was insulated from in the palace. She had to identify with her people even though she was personally unaffected in a good place that had been secured for her by her uncle Mordecai.

2. She had to receive the bad news that not only were her people under severe threat, but that she was in a position to intervene, though it meant sticking her neck out and possibly having it chopped off!

3. She had to make herself ready to hear from God and she did that by fasting and praying – not to change God, but to ready herself to hear His direction to her.

4. At the completion of the third day of her fast, Esther then had to act by faith on the plan she been impressed in the Spirit to take to undo an irreversible decree of her husband, the King.

These are the steps before the Church to play the part that we are called to play in the return of God’s salvation to the people of Israel.

As Mordecai warned Esther, "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

In other words, the participation of the Church in the deliverance/salvation of Israel is not optional. We have a choice, but if we refuse to stick out our necks for them, we are surely going to lose our necks and God will use others who are willing.

As I wrote last week, we have two majority extremes in the Church of how to relate to Israel. One extreme is in denial about God’s faithfulness to His promises about the calling upon Israel. They have concluded wrongly that Israel is tossed overboard so a Plan B replacement can reign in Christ. The other extreme acknowledges God’s eternal covenant for the salvation of Israel, but they gravitate towards unsaved Israel and amazingly ignore the existence of saved Israel. They are trying to be as Esther to her people while flat out ignoring her closest relative, uncle Mordecai. Both are crazy positions.

But the Church that not only embraces ‘uncle Mordecai’ in the face of the Jews who believe in Jesus, and who are also moved with compassion to stick their necks out – to get out of the comfort zone of the palace of their inheritance in Christ for the sake of the salvation of Israel – these are the Esthers that God has brought forth for a time such as this.

All of these things can be understood as part of the big picture – the salvation of Messiah being released to all Israel – and also in our own individual lives as we contend with our inheritance to neutralize the weapons formed against us, as well as every word that rises to condemn us.

The weapons of spiritual warfare are not passive, we must know they exist, why we can use them effectively and then we must contend with active participation.

The Jews would not have survived Haman’s plans for them if all Esther did was fast and pray. We fast and pray to position ourselves to hear the plan from God’s own lips. Then we must move forward with confidence that our righteousness is of Him, and that the weapon-forming blacksmith and the destroyer are on God’s leash. That understanding will give us the courage to stick our necks out when He says, You are going to secure this deliverance for My people.

I hope this will help us in our personal battles, as well as to contend for the salvation of all Israel.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What does the Civil Rights, Women's Rights and Messianic Movement share in common?

What does the Civil Rights, Women's Rights and Messianic Movement share in common? More than you might think.

In each instance God was restoring eroded spiritual truths and in the process the vessels He used to do this were greatly opposed by the Church. The strongholds that held Christians captive from understanding God's will for equality of Blacks and Women, is the same type of stronghold that resists what God is doing in our day to restore salvation (Yeshua) to Israel.

In 1863 President Lincoln signed an executive order called the Emancipation Proclamation but it was not until the 1960's Civil Rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. that real normalcy began to break on the scene.

It was 1848 that the first women's rights convention was held in the United States, and even though women won the right to vote in 1920, it would also be the 1960's before real gender equality began to normalize in the United States.

In 1897, Theodor Herzl called the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, toward the goal of the reestablishment of a Jewish state of Israel. European Jews would still face an near genocide in the Holocaust of the 1940's but the state of Israel would be declared at the end of that war in 1948...with much warfare accompanying it. In 1967, during the American "Jesus Movement," the first leaders of what would become the Messianic Jewish movement were saved.

This morning I woke up thinking about how recognition of the Messianic Jewish portion of the Body of Christ must be a stronghold in those refuse, because for people of faith this should be a slam dunk - it is so obvious in Scripture.

I was reminded of how many Christians refused the concept of equality for Blacks or for Women, both should have been much easier for people of faith to lay hold of the justice of equality for both of these groups, but that was not the case. It makes me reconsider the root of Christian resistance against recognizing how God is doing a new thing in our day.

As obstinate as the South was to recognize their sin of making a race of people their slaves, is this any less obstinate of the refusal of such a great many across Christendom to recognize that God is doing a unique work among the Jewish people and the nation of Israel? Is the resistance to treating our Messianic Jewish brothers as equals in the Body any less than the obstinacy that denied women their place in the world?

In each of these major movements in history - which I have pondered many times over the last three decades - the Church was an integral part of the breakthrough and it was also a major log jam damming up the free flowing stream of God-given freedom.

In the first two movements, even though Christians held key roles at various times in pressing for equality, other ungodly forces were also pressing for equality.

In the abolition of slavery, Abraham Lincoln was forced to preside over the Civil War because the good Christians of the South could not discern from scriptures that God had created all men to bear His likeness. When God raised up Martin Luther King, Jr. to lead a non-violent Civil Rights movement, ungodly forces raised up Malcolm X.

In the Women's Suffrage movement, Elizabeth Cady Staton represented the ungodly forces seeking equality for women, while Lucretia Mott - who along with Staton called for the first women's right conference in 1848 - was a Quaker preacher. A sermon delivered by Lucretia Mott in 1849, show us the hypocrisy she was confronting in the Church regarding both slavery and women's rights:

"It is time that Christians were judged more by their likeness to Christ than their notions of Christ. Were this sentiment generally admitted we should not see such tenacious adherence to what men deem the opinions and doctrines of Christ while at the same time in every day practise is exhibited anything but a likeness to Christ....Instead of engaging in the exercise of peace, justice, and mercy, how many of the professors are arrayed against him in opposition to those great principles even as were his opposers in his day. Instead of being the bold nonconformist (if I may so speak) that he was, they are adhering to old church usages, and worn-out forms and exhibiting little of a Christ like disposition and character. " *1

Today, I am convinced that the acceptance of God's active return to restore Israel to salvation and the Messianic Jewish movement He is using to facilitate that is no less a major crisis of Christian conscience that was the long and hard fight for racial and gender equality in America.

Anyone can justify anything by the scriptures. Those Christians who opposed ending slavery found a scriptural basis to oppose, but as we stand here today in the year 2011, I challenge you to find someone who chalks this up anything less than a deep deficiency in spiritual judgment.

The same goes for all those Christians who opposed allowing women to enjoy the fresh air of liberty and equality. Scriptures were found and pieced together to present plausible biblical reasons for denying women the right to vote, the right to a fair day's wages, the right to not be treated like livestock or property by their husbands.

What? Do you think good Christian men didn't treat their wives like this? Did good Christians not mistreat slaves, beat them, break up families like they were breaking up a litter of puppies? When we do not have a conscience toward God, when our hearts choose to believe in doctrines that deny the freedom and liberty of others - Blacks, Women, Messianic Jews - then our conscience becomes seared toward those groups.

I realize that some readers may be shocked and revolted that I am equating the battle for the soul of Christianity that has been waged in American history over Women's and Civil Rights to the opposition of the spiritual equality of Messianic Jews.

First the natural, then the spiritual. The opposition to recognizing the hand of God in the salvation of Israel in our day is more than a matter of doctrinal convictions. It is a stronghold upon much of Christianity, just as strong as that which gripped the hearts and minds of those who opposed integration and equal pay.

Understand this, opposition to what God is doing cannot be successfully resisted. Even as He began to set the nation right in racial and gender equality, the LORD Himself is at work in restoring the place of the "Hebrews" in their rightful and honorable place in the Body of Messiah.

Paul warned the Romans against arrogance against Israel: "For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is My covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

Paul warned, "But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root."

People quibble over who the root is, but the main thrust of that statement is the same thing that Gamaliel told the Sanhedrin about opposing Jesus: Watch out about opposing what God is doing.

If Paul wrote that "all Israel shall be saved. As it is written," then I would say that all the Christians who say Israel is no longer of any significance are standing on extremely dangerous exactly the arrogance Paul warned us not to fall into.

If you are experiencing the conviction of the Holy Spirit after reading these things regarding your own attitudes toward Israel or toward the Jewish Body of Messiah, please pray this prayer:

Heavenly Father, I come boldly before Your Throne of grace by the blood of Jesus, not depending upon my own righteousness, but the righteous which is by faith in Your Son. Father, I do not want to be held captive by any stronghold that would blind me to what You are doing to return Israel to salvation through Your Son. I confess that I harbor a sense of superiority in my faith over the the faith of Messianic Jews. I confess that where I am not judgmental about the convictions of other Christian denominations, when it comes to Messianic Jews I have been obviously judgmental. I confess that I have rejected the validity of the convictions and faith of those Jewish believers, and also mocking of those who say God is moving to save Israel today. I do not want to be found working in opposition to Your purposes among the Jewish people or Israel, so I ask You, Father, to break any strongholds within my thought processes that put me on the wrong side of what You are doing. Reveal the roots of error and help me to eradicate every trace of religious pride that raises itself up against what You are doing to reveal the Messiah in and through Israel. Give me the grace to receive deliverance from this stronghold, and revelation to perceive Your heart in the matter. In the Name which every knee shall bow to as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Yeshua, Salvation, God with us.

1. This sermon was delivered at the Cherry Street Meeting in Philadelphia, September 30, 1849