Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Son

It honestly feels like yesterday that I wrote my last post here (Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire).  So much time has flown by, so much to talk about, but I'm going to focus on the most exciting, most important, and the one that's been on my mind every hour of everyday!  We're having a baby, and it's a boy!  Last October, the Lord blessed us with the news that Brooke was pregnant.  Soon after we discovered that we're having a son.  His name is Yosef David Manolis.

This post won't be lengthy, as our boy hasn't arrived yet!  But he'll be here very soon as his due date is July 2nd.  I really don't know how many people follow this blog and while I would love to reach a lot of people, God just told me to start the blog and not really worry about it.  However, for those who do follow or occasionally pop in, I wanted to let you all know the exciting news.  Also since it's been so long, I wanted every one to know that we're alive and doing well!  Lastly, and most importantly, perhaps one day my son will read this blog post when he gets older, and he'll read about and see just how excited his daddy was to see him and be his father.

I'm looking forward to being a little less busy, but with what's coming I can't guarantee that!  So, until the next time!

Grace and shalom...

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Out Of The Frying Pan...Into The Fire


In synagogues, after each book of the Torah (the first 5 books of the Bible) is read, the congregation proclaims "Chazak! Chazak! V'nit chazek!", before moving on to the next reading.  This translates as "Be strong!  Be strong!  And let us be strengthened!". 

While these exact words aren't found in the Scriptures, it is still a powerful blessing, but not one to only be used for the end of scripture readings.  How about for our whole life?  We can see throughout the Word of God, the Lord pouring courage into people like Joshua (Joshua 1:9).  We can see David's final words in Psalm 27, to be strong and take courage and wait upon the Lord (Psalm 27:14).  We can see again in the Psalms, particularly Psalm 84, when David says that the children of God go from "strength to strength" in their pilgrimage to be before God in Zion.  Interesting that when I look at these examples with Joshua at the outset of leadership of the Children of Israel into the Land, and David in the Psalms, I see one thing that they have in common:  a transition.

God was pouring courage into Joshua that fateful day in Joshua Chapter 1.  Moses, the great leader of Israel, the one that God had performed such great wonders and terrors through before all Israel and upon all Egypt, had died.  To say that Joshua had big shoes to fill is just plain silly.  It would seem insurmountable.  I think Joshua was scared; scared that the people wouldn't listen to him; scared that God wouldn't do through him what He did through Moses; just plain scared.  This was a time of transition for Joshua, to a position of leadership.  This was also a transition for the people of Israel, leaving what they had known so long, the leadership of Moses and dwelling in the desert, to entering the Land of Israel and driving out the sinful nations that God was expelling.  What did they need during their transition?  God knew.  They needed courage, strength, and the knowledge that God would go before them, and watch their backs as well.  He would surround them in every direction.  He would be with them, bottom line.

In Psalm 27, David is saying to himself, essentially, "God is with me.  He is my light and salvation, why should I be afraid of anyone?"  Though we don't know what was going on particularly when David penned this psalm, it's obvious that it's a time of difficulty and fear.  He's telling his soul NOT to be afraid and he gives a list of worst case scenarios:  should war arise against me, should an army encamp against me and lay in wait, should my parents leave me.  In the end, he encourages himself, and, today he encourages us, in the Lord with these final words to the psalm:  "Put your hope in ADONAI, be strong, and let your heart take courage! Yes, put your hope in ADONAI!"  Again, though I don't know the particular details of the situation with David, I can honestly see transition in this psalm.  I see David going through a difficulty, a threat of wickedness, a time of fear.  He is waiting for the Lord.  He is waiting for God to deliver him and disperse the storm.  Until then, he holds on the hope that he WILL see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  So again, we in times of difficulty, in times of waiting for the help of our great God, in times of great change and difficult transition, that we need STRENGTH.  But where do we get this STRENGTH???

In Psalm 84, David tells a story of the People of God on a journey, a pilgrimage.  Psalm 84, David is describing transition"Passing through the Baka Valley, they make it a place of springs, and the early rain clothes it with blessings.  They go from strength to strength and appear before God in Tziyon."  Now while we aren't physically travelling through the Baka Valley right now, aren't MANY of God's Children passing through some valley?  Our lives are a journey, through the valley, to the ultimate destination: our God in Zion!  We need strength from God for this journey!  In the 84th Psalm, David proclaims to us a blessing, those of us whose STRENGTH is in God.  He is the source of our strength, even as we past through dry land and wilderness.  He goes further by saying that we go from "strength to strength" until we appear before God.  This is our life!  God carries us through, going from strength to strength until we see His face!  Yet, it doesn't always feel like strength does it?  You may right now be in a time of transition, a time of waiting for the help that God has promised.  To that, I point you to the words of Charles Spurgeon concerning the scripture of Psalm 84:  

"Fretful spirits sit down and trouble themselves about the future. "Alas!" say they, "we go from affliction to affliction." Very true, O thou of little faith, but then thou goest from strength to strength also. Thou shalt never find a bundle of affliction which has not bound up in the midst of it sufficient grace."

Our souls can rest and wait in peaceful silence with the knowledge that though we feel at times like we are out of the frying pan and into a fire, we are shielded by the grace of God.  In the words of Rabbi Sha'ul (Paul):  "but He told me, "My grace is enough for you, for my power is brought to perfection in weakness." Therefore, I am very happy to boast about my weaknesses, in order that the Messiah's power will rest upon me.  Yes, I am well pleased with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and difficulties endured on behalf of the Messiah; for it is when I am weak that I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10).

The message here is that God is with us.  In our times in dry and weary lands, in times of transition, and in times of waiting, we have an everlasting source of strength in our weakness.  It is a strength that will take us to the next strength, that will eventually take us into the arms of our Abba Father.  Praise be to God, our loving Father and great King for His great faithfulness!

So, now, not just when we finish a book in God's Word, but EACH AND EVERY DAY, we can say, no, WE CAN DECLARE AND PROCLAIM with confidence and with trusting faith with the power of God's Spirit:

CHAZAK! CHAZAK! V'NIT CHAZEK!!!!!

Grace and shalom...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Return of the King

This will probably be my shortest blog post ever.

I can't wait for Yeshua to return.  What a Day that will be.  The Holy Spirit told me to capitalize the word "day" whenever referring to the Day He returns.

I'm waiting for my wife to get home and I'm preparing dinner for both of us.  However as I prepare everything and wait, I for some reason caught a vision of the Kingdom that's coming.  Yeshua, Melech Yisrael (King of Israel) has returned and we are in the midst of His 1,000 year reign.  Can you imagine?  HE will reign, and He will rule the world by the holy measure of the Torah.  Everything unholy and idolatrous will be destroyed.  What's crazy is that we, His people, we who have believed in Him, will reign with Him (2 Timothy 2: 11-12).  I can scarcely take that thought in.

I honestly can't get past just falling before Him and eating the dust on the ground on which He stands, and staying there forever.  How could I get up and stand in the presence of Him?  It would be enough, or as we say during Passover, "Dayenu!", just to lay there on the ground and in the dirt.  However, He has given us so much more than just that.

I wish I could live in this moment forever.  In this moment, everything that I worry about fades away, and everything that bothers me and everything I get so worked up about is destroyed in the presence of the knowledge of the unfathomable riches of knowing God as my Father and His Son, the firstborn of many brethren (Romans 8:29).  We all know Romans 8:28, that there is no condemnation for those in Messiah Yeshua.  But man oh man, why do we stop at Romans 8:28, when if we read on, we see that Yeshua is not just our Messiah, our Savior, our King, but our Brother?!  My soul can scarcely take this in!

At any rate, if you are reading this, take it from someone who has struggled in these recent months to be happy.  Right now, I am filled with joy.  Right now I could burst with delight.  Our God, our Father, loves us beyond all thought and belief, and His only unique Son, our Brother, is in great anticipation to bring us Home.  I relish this moment, for right now, I can truly say:  IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL!  HALLELUJAH!

Amen!  Come soon Lord Yeshua (Revelation 22:20)!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Theology of Biology


**Warning, this will probably be a lengthy post .  Some of you may give up and move on, but I hope this ministers to and helps at least one of my brothers or sisters.  God moved on my heart to write this, so I'm just following His lead.**

This past Wednesday marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" Speech.  This speech is definitely one of the most well known in America, but it is also considered one of the greatest in the history of mankind.  What is it about?  Certainly, it is about the plight and struggle of the African-American in the United States during the time of legal segregation and discrimination.  However, by the end of the speech, Dr. King's dream becomes something that every one, no matter what race, can grab on to.  This is what I think was most beautiful about Dr. Martin Luther King.  Not only was he about getting victory for his own people, but also for getting the ultimate victory for all mankind.  Dr. King didn't just stop at his own people, but worked to promote equality and unity among all other races.

Being a teacher, it has had me thinking.  Even at one time, Dr. King mentions "Jew and Gentile" joining hands.  That part of the speech always strikes me, because the idea of "Jew and Gentile" and the One New Man, is something I encounter very often, since I am a Messianic Believer, and not just a Messianic Believer, but a Gentile by birth.

Make no mistake, as a person who is very much a part of the Messianic movement, I'm WELL aware of the importance of the Jewish people (Romans 1:16; Romans 3), whom I see as the firstborn of our God and Heavenly Father (Exodus 4:22).  I consider them "my older brother".  I'm aware my spiritual debt to them, thankful that they have kept the oracles and the word of God faithfully throughout the generations.  I know the importance of the land of Israel, and God's eventual fulfillment of prophecy concerning it and its glorious restoration (Isaiah 66).  However, I also want to address in this blog, a struggle I used to have for so long, as a Gentile in the Messianic faith.  I remember after getting past the initial shock of my first experience with the Messianic movement, I had so many questions.  I remember my first visit to a Messianic congregation, it was the first time in so long I had felt the presence of God, and it was the strongest I had ever felt it.  I could almost see it, like a fog and feel it, like a heat.  I saw so much that today I understand, but back then, I didn't.  Tallits, Hebrew, liturgy, the Torah, hearing Yeshua instead of Jesus; guys, I didn't understand a lot, but the entire time it took every thing in me to keep from busting out crying because I knew I had found something special, and most importantly, something truthful.  I'll never forget as I walked out the doors, feeling God's audible voice say "Your life, as you have known it, is over."

By God's grace, I grew in the faith.  I grew in intimacy with God with a new found zeal.  I still had my salvation, but it was so much more intense and I felt it because I was walking out the faith the same exact way as my Messiah, Yeshua, who was and still IS a Jew, did.  I realized that the Shabbat and the Levitical Feasts weren't just for the Jewish people.  They belong to God, and if He's my God, then the Shabbat, and the Feasts were mine as well.  It was so exciting and new!  I ended up joining the praise and worship team, becoming more and more involved.  Then the more I learned, questions began to flicker, then burn in my heart.  What does it mean to be a Gentile in a Messianic community?  Does God love a Jewish person more than me?

Being in a movement that is largely Jewish and Jewish-focused, I have a hard time believing other Gentiles in the movement don't ask this at least once.  Then again, we all struggle with different things.  Either way, let me get to it.  I used to struggle severely with feeling second-class and less favored because of being born non-Jewish, yet being called to be a part of the Messianic movement.  As someone already prone to insecurity, this was something that haunted me ALL THE MORE because of my intense love for God.  I love God so much.  He's my all in all, my heart of hearts, He's my vision, He's my FATHER, and to think that there is something in me that I can't help, in this case, not being Jewish, that would separate me from Him in EVEN the smallest degree, was making me absolutely crazy.  At times Satan would use this against me to make me feel defeated, like I didn't matter, and that because I wasn't Jewish, I wasn't chosen.  At times, it was inflicted upon me by myself, my own insecurity.  Also, on some occasions, it has been inflicted upon me by the hands of fellow brethren.

So I sought the scriptures, I prayed and sought God.  It took me several years, many battles in myself, talks with my rabbi, and a great deal of sweet and comforting words and confirmation from the Lord, and I've concluded with confidence that:  While there is a physical distinction between Jews and Gentiles, and their callings and functions in the Kingdom are different in some cases, their entitlement, their value to God, and their access to His calling, promises, relationship, love, and favor, are the same.  Like the Ted Pearce song says, one People, one God.  There certainly won't be a Jewish table and a Gentile table at the wedding feast of Messiah (Revelation 19:9).  And God, Whose love is perfect, Who is THE PERFECT Father, is EQUALLY rich to all who go to Him in spirit and in truth (Acts 10: 34-35).  I'm hoping this is something that is being taught and pushed and emphasized in all Messianic fellowships.  It's just important to me, and I believe should be important to all of us, because I consider myself grafted into the people of Israel, a people whom I love and cherish, with the calling of Ruth that "Your people shall be my people, your God shall be my God."  I know that God has accepted me, but there's nothing wrong with wanting to be accepted by my fellow brothers in the faith!  As you read, please keep in mind as you continue on, it is ABSOLUTELY NOT my intention to cheapen or diminish the value and significance of the Jewish people. 

Also keep in mind, this is not something that I have encountered day-to-day, all the time, but it has happened and when it does happen, it's not something you easily forget.

Now let me say, it's so refreshing to hear Messianic Jewish Rabbis teach on this.  I remember one teaching where a Messianic Rabbi said:  So you're Gentile, who cares?  So you're Jewish, who cares?  Don't be mistaken or take that the wrong way.  The point of what he was saying was, no one can boast in themselves, which is a very scriptural idea (Romans 3:27).

In my short amount of time walking with God in the Messianic movement, I've seen many extremes.  I have had a few instances where fellow Jewish brethren would intentionally make me feel second class.  I have had a few where it was unintentional as well.  One person I knew very well on a personal level, believed that Jewish people were more favored.  Their identity had unfortunately, become their idolatry.  How could they feel this way, when God commanded the Children of Israel NOT to mistreat non-Jews, but treat them like a native-born (Leviticus 19: 33-24), and how Messiah Yeshua tore down the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles occasioned in the Torah (Ephesians 2:14),  or the story of Ruth, etc.?  Honestly, It's an awful feeling.  I've read in one Messianic periodical where a Messianic Jewish author said that Messianic Jewish Believers were slightly more favored.  I'm sorry, but no matter how more slightly favored this person may feel, they are more than slightly off when that statement is measured against God's Word, especially 2,000 years on the other side of the New Covenant.  This has been an issue and a controversy since the earliest days of the Messianic Community, as the Apostle Sha'ul (Paul), had to rebuke Peter regarding a situation where he displayed an elitist attitude towards Gentiles at the Jerusalem Council (Galatians 2: 11-21).  In this situation, Sha'ul states, Peter was clearly in the wrong.

But again, make no mistake, there's a flip-side to the coin.  As a student of history, I'm well aware of how the majority of the Gentile Believing community has squeezed every bit of Judaism out of our Faith.  It's in the least tragic, at best, demonic.  The majority of the Body of Believers has been robbed of its true heritage.  I've run into Gentile Believers who are totally defunct in their theology about the Jewish people and Israel.  Some of them are in my own family.  I've also known Messianic Gentile Believers who are in the movement who think they have to have the outward appearance of a Super Jew to please God.  I've also known brethren who are Believers in the Messiah, but not Messianic, to be so ignorant, SO flippant, SO painfully INCORRECT about the importance of the Jewish people, their own in-grafting, the Land of Israel, and the significance of the Torah, that it hurts my heart and discourages me to no end.  But the bottom line remains, whether it is the Jew who thinks they are better than the Gentile, or the Gentile that thinks they are better than the Jew, neither of these are correct, Biblical, or expressing in any way, the heart of our God and Father, or the message of the Kingdom that's coming (Revelation 7:9).

So what does matter to God?  Well, as I've said in so many of my posts, THE HEART (1 Samuel 16:7).  Being a child of God starts with an inward change that over flows into an outward testimony.  I'm a big movie buff.  I'm going to use two as an example here.  The first one is "A Knight's Tale".  This is a movie about a young man named William, who is born a commoner, but desires to become a knight.  He lives in a world where you have to have noble blood to be a knight, but his desire to be a knight is so strong he masquerades as one.  We who watch the film, know that William is a TRUE knight, but to other knights, he isn't because of his birth.  Then, when he's found out, he is subject to humiliation, until Prince Edward shows up.  Prince Edward, before the people, knights William, because of his actions, not his physicality.  He honors him.  When I see William I see us before we knew God, and when I see Prince Edward, I see Yeshua, who is freeing us, both Jew and Gentile, from the oppression and humiliation of the adversary and sin and taking us from the ash heap and seating us with Him.  Is this not what our Messiah does for us?  Watch this powerful scene:

Prince Edward and Sir William

My next movie reference is from the film, Prince of Persia.  The lead character is a young man named Dastan, who is in fact, not royal by birth, but was adopted by the Persian king (totally my story with God!).  His two older brothers, however, are royal, and the biological sons of the king.  At the end of the film, when the two older brothers present him to a princess for marriage, they say something so powerful!  When I see Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal's character), I see Gentile children of God who are grafted in.  When I see the two royal brothers, I see Yeshua and the Jewish people.  This is how Yeshua accepts all who come to the Father in His Name, royal blood or not.  This is the attitude WE ALL must have, Jew or Gentile, when welcoming God's new children into the Family of God.  Check this clip out, it's within the first minute or so:

Prince of Persia brothers scene

This blog post is not a blog post about the callings / responsibilities of the Jewish and Gentile children of God.  That's a whole other can of worms.  This blog post is about God's love, favor, and who He sees as His children.  For it doesn't matter who any one is or where they come from when it comes to His love and favor!  We, both Jews and Gentiles, who love and honor, call upon and worship, the God of Israel, in the Name of the Yeshua the Messiah, are considered His people!  There is no rank or favoritism.  Yes there is an order, the Jewish people were chosen first.  Yet it must be kept in mind that it's an order, not a hierarchy.  Both Jew and Gentile are capable of and entitled to the same things, as we are both empowered by the same Holy Spirit, belonging to the same Messiah, and are of the same Father!  When Yeshua was sent down and gave His life, He saved Israel, and He enlarged it!  Whoever you are, know this:  whether You are a wild branch or a natural branch, if you are covered by the blood of Messiah Yeshua, you are a true child of the King, a prince or princess of Israel.  Let us all treat each other this way, for this is the Kingdom of God.  Claim it and believe it!

Grace and shalom...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Measure of a Man


Satan is attacking the men in God's household.  It's true.  I might as well be short and to the point.  While I can't speak for everyone, I certainly know I'm not the only one who sees this crisis in the household of God.  According to studies, women comprise 60% of adults in a typical worship service in the United States.  Mid-week gatherings have an even larger gap, being 70%-80% women.  However, it's not JUST in America, it's all over the place.  It begs the question: Where are the men?  My wife and I are the youth leaders at our congregation.  We don't have a MASSIVE youth group, I would say about 12-14 kids.  (Which by the way, we're happy about because massive numbers means NO discipleship in a group.)  Anyways, out of those 12-14 kids, two of them are boys.  What's disappointing is that there are other guys at our synagogue that are youth age, but they just don't come.  No condemnation for them as its their choice.  I always invite young people to be a part of our youth ministry, but I'm not that youth leader that bugs you every single week about it.  My point is, the young ladies in our youth group, and our two young gentlemen, are galvanized, on fire, and totally zealous and sold out in their love for God and in their worship of God.  Now before I go on, I wouldn't trade one of our precious and pure young ladies in our youth group for ANYONE.  The ladies need to keep doing what they are doing!  All I want is to see is more of a showing of men who are desperate and zealous for the things of God.  So again, what is the deal?

1) The Adversary is attacking men because of their role as spiritual leaders in the Kingdom
God's Word has an order to it but before any one gets up in arms, I'm not saying it's men first, and women second.  That would be a hierarchy, which moves vertically, and the only hierarchy in God's Word is God above and us below.  Order, however, moves horizontally.  Men are not more important than women, or vice versa.  Taking either stance isn't scriptural.  However, scripture very clearly indicates that men and women, while equally important in God's eyes, have different responsibilities in the Kingdom of God.  While its certainly appropriate for women to lead women in a ministry setting, the Bible consistently recognizes giving the responsibility of leading both men and women, to men (1 Timothy 2:12).  Israel only had kings.  Out of Israel's 12 judges, Deborah was the only female judge and speaking of Deborah, when it came to leading Israel into battle, God chose Barak, a man, to go and win victory over Sisera.  However, Barak wouldn't go without Deborah and her response was:  “I will go with you. But you will receive no honor in this venture, for the Lord’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.” (Judges 4:9)  Even Deborah understood that this would be out of place.  Look, God's going to get it done and He'll use whoever steps up, man or woman.  Again, I am asserting the equal importance of men and women in God's eyes, however there is an obvious pattern that can be seen in Scripture that God expects men to step up when it comes to general leadership in the Kingdom.  Are there some that disagree with this?  Of course and I totally respect that, however, I would encourage you to seek the Scriptural idea of the Kingdom of God and not modern culture's idea of society on earth.

The Adversary is working overtime to spiritually disarm men because when he does, he's disarming the strong leadership of God's household on large and small scales, from the congregation to the home.  He will do anything to debunk and counterfeit every single word in the Scripture.  When he sees that with men lie the mantle of collective leadership in scripture, the enemy is going to target them.  This sheds some light on why houses of worship are short on zealous and galvanized men; why we see more women worshiping with reckless abandon than men.  (Disclaimer:  I know there are congregations out there that do have a great deal of zealous men, but again I'm referring to the overall numbers.)

2) Society's image of a man is totally opposite of how God defines a man in His word.
When we look at modern society's view of what a real man is, we think of a guy who is physically imposing and tough.  He's "cool" and not very sensitive.  I'm a public school teacher at a high school here in Georgia.  Often times I gauge the young men in my classes by asking them if they ever cry at movies.  They laugh or very quickly and adamantly say no.  Counseling ministries are often flooded with women, but in comparison, we see few men willing to pour out their hearts.  At congregations during worship, women are in the majority of people dancing and worshiping, while many men stand in the back with their hands in their pockets or sit quietly.  It's such a far cry from what should be, such a far cry from the days of David, when he, the king, danced before the Lord with all his might.  I call this the "Eliab Syndrome", named after King David's older brother, who, because of his physical appearance, was mistaken by Samuel to be the next king of Israel and the man after God's own heart.  It's the belief that it's the biggest, the tallest, the fastest, the most physically impressive / highly credentialed men, that are choice and the best.  The belief that you gotta be tough.  The belief that being a real man means doing "guy" things and that's it.  No crying!  Don't dare dance and worship before the Lord.  Don't talk about your feelings.  Just be cool.  Yeah right.  I believe it's this syndrome that causes many men to not be able to handle hearing the Lord being the "Lover of our souls", or the concept that the Body of Believers' union with Yeshua in the end days will be a wedding, or perhaps even the idea of an intimate, personal relationship.  It's quite sad.


God's definition of a man is quite simple.  It can be found in Acts 13:22, when Paul was giving a sermon in Antioch.  During the sermon, he references David: 

"
But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do..." 

Well that's quite simple isn't it?  God defines a real man as a man who obeys Him.  Not one that's good at sports, or can bench-press 500 pounds.  Not one that has a doctorate or even a bachelor's degree.  Not a man that is "without fear", which I've yet to meet one without some kind of fear.  Not one that is the "it" guy of anything, anywhere.  The measure of a man, depends on his love, worship, and obedience to God.  Period.  Forget the other stuff.  That's what makes a man.

3) The ultimate Man in Scripture, Yeshua (Jesus), is often poorly portrayed outside of Scripture.
When we talk about "The Man", that's Yeshua.  He is the ultimate Man.  When I started typing this section about how our Messiah has been lost in the translation in many ways, what immediately came to my mind is the scene from the film "Talladega Nights:  The Ballad of Ricky Bobby".  The movie is about the life of Ricky Bobby, a southern-American race car driver.  Most people might think the movie is stupid, or funny, but if you really pay attention, the film makes quite the social commentary not only on the South, but American Christianity.  In the movie, Ricky Bobby always prays to "Baby Jesus", and he does so almost defiantly, because he likes "Christmas Jesus" best.  It's funny in a movie, but in reality it's also a sadly true commentary on many Believers.  The attitude towards Yeshua in American Christianity can at times, be like an ownership, but not in a good way.  We have to be careful with "My Jesus", or "My Yeshua", because who we "think" Yeshua is might not be who He really is.  Yeshua is by no means a baby anymore.  He's definitely not a pushover or a softy.  By the same token he's definitely not insensitive, emotionless, or cold, either.

Yeshua was full of grace and truth, gentle as a dove, but shrewd as a viper.  He loved and forgave, but also rebuked and turned over tables.  He is the ultimate man's man.  In the Scriptures, Yeshua is shown as zealous (Matt. 21: 12-13), telling it like it is (Matt. 23), tough (Matt. 4: 1-11), a warrior king (Rev. 19: 11-16).  So yes, on one hand, being tough is good.  We want our Messiah, our Savior, our Deliverer, to be strong and make our adversaries shake in fear!  Which is what Yeshua does.  It gives me goosebumps to know that Satan shudders when he thinks of our Father and Yeshua.  However, on the other hand, Yeshua is also shown in the scriptures as loving (John 21:15-17), compassionate (John 8: 1-11), emotional (John 11:35), and affectionate towards those he loves (John 13:23).  We want our Messiah, our Savior, and our Deliverer to be tender and loving too!

Men have to have the grace with the truth.  We have to be gentle, but also wise.  We need to be tough when the Holy Spirit calls for it, and loving and compassionate when the Holy Spirit calls for it.  We can't lean on ALL the truth with no grace.  We can't lean on ALL God's grace without truth.  No matter who you are, the Holy Spirit requires *gasp*.....sensitivity...in order to know what God wants us to do.  I do know this, God wants more men to step up and step out for the Him, and for their places of worship and fellowship.  We also need to stop judging the strength of one's heart based on the strength of one's arms.  Our bodies are dying and weakening as the years go on.  In the end it's our hearts that should still be vigorous, resolute, and uncompromising about the ways of God, no matter our age.

Grace and shalom...

Monday, February 4, 2013

War




I'm obsessed with military stuff.  Not guns, or weaponry mind you, but I have several pieces of military clothing and accessories.  I have two M65 field jackets that I wear when its cold.  I have an army combat shirt, and a military issue cold weather parka.  I really love the stuff.  I also carry my bible, my tallit (prayer shawl), my journal, and other personal items that I like to keep with me in a military issued tactical backpack that one of my closest friends gave me. 

I suppose I could say I just like the military style of clothing and accessories, but that's not all.  There's something very spiritual about why I like those things.  It's because I'm fighting in a war.  I'm a soldier in an army.  If you are a Believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and are covered by the atoning power of His Son, Yeshua, the Messiah, guess what?  You are a soldier in that war too.  The problem I often encounter with many Believers, in my closest circles at times, is the lack of alertness and sobriety that comes with being a soldier.

The "war" I am referring to is the greatest war of all time.  It has been going on since Genesis and doesn't end until Revelation.  It's the great cosmic spiritual war between good and evil, between the Lord and Satan.  Sounds crazy?  It shouldn't.  It's in the Bible.  Paul mentions it in 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5.  It's a war that isn't fought with physical weapons.  The strongholds and the fortifications of the enemy that we have to destroy aren't physical, but spiritual.  Paul re-iterates it in Ephesians 6:12.  Here, he teaches that we are not struggling against human beings, but the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers governing darkness and evil.

Sounds intense, but then again, we know the ending don't we?  We know that Yeshua has overcome the powers of evil, this world, and death eternal.  However, we are still in this fallen world.  No wonder Paul speaks of ARMOR as we continue on in Ephesians.  The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the feet of readiness, the shield of trust, and the helmet of salvation; these things are needed because the enemy attacks us.  The enemy attacks Believers in all sorts of ways:  exhaustion, disillusionment, depression, stress, doubt, fear; we ALL combat these things.  Fighting the war is complicated, but understanding that we are at war as Believers, and the need to be prepared at all times is quite a simple concept to understand.

If there is anything that the Body of Believers lacks its readiness.  I suppose I should also say UNITY, since the Believing Body is plagued with denominations and separations, which weakens us greatly.  But that in itself, is a blog post.  So let's focus on readiness.  When I think about being spiritually ready, I think about the story of Gideon, and God's selection of the army that would fight with him.  Let's go to Judges 7:3.  By that point, God had narrowed Gideon's army down to 22,000.  However, that was still too many people in God's opinion, so he had Gideon perform another test.  He told Gideon to go down to the water and God screened the army as they drank.  God told Gideon to get rid of every man who got down on his knees to drink the water and keep the men who drank without getting down on their knees (Judges 7: 4-8).  Why did God screen the men like that?  Think about it, because it wasn't happenstance.  The men who got on their knees were thinking about nothing but drinking the water.  So they stopped, got down into a restful position and drank.  Meanwhile, 300 men didn't, because while they needed the water, they couldn't get down on their knees because then they wouldn't be able to see a sneak attack.  They had to be ready in case the enemy surprised them while they were drinking.  They had READINESS and they were fit to fight in Gideon's great army that would change the destiny of the nation of Israel.  It's powerful!

Our brother Peter drives this point home when he says "stay sober, stay alert!" (1 Peter 5:8).  Why?  Because the Adversary stalks us.  He doesn't look to bust through our front door.  He waits until our guard is down.  We have to be sober and alert.  That's not to say we can't enjoy life.  Like I always say, don't take this to the extreme.  We should enjoy life.  God's Word tells us to rejoice always, because it's a great witness to others when we rejoice in this fallen world.  However, in our moments of peace we must understand that we're not home yet.  The great victory was won before the foundations of the earth, but we're not there yet, brothers and sisters.  Our Adversary knows his time is running out, and you can believe that the attacks against God's children are going to get worse.  We can't always be of the mind that we are to just sit still while God fights for us.  Sometimes, it does work that way, as He did for Israel against the Egyptians (Exodus 14: 13-14).  However sometimes, God expects us to go up, charge forth, and fight with the power He gives us, like He did with Joshua when he went into the Promised Land; like he did with David time and time again.

Unfortunately at times, being sober and alert causes lukewarm Believers to think you are "weird", or "too intense" and you need to "lighten up" or "chill out".  It reminds me of a scene in "The Dark Knight Rises", when in one scene, a congressman and another police officer named Foley are talking about Commissioner Gordon.  They are talking about him because they can't understand why, when things are going so well in Gotham City and the crime statistics are so low, that Gordon would want to go back out on the streets to fight more crime.  Here is their dialogue about him:

Congressman:  Anyone shown him (Gordon) the crime stats?
Foley:  He goes by his gut and it continues to bother him, no matter what the numbers.
Congressman:...The Mayor's gonna dump him in the spring.
Foley:  Really?....But he's a hero.
Congressman:  A war hero.....This is peace time.

We need more spiritual "Commissioner Gordons" out there, who keep standing up for what's right no matter what others think of them; who understands that while we'll never be perfect until the Lord returns, there's always work to be done to bring His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.  We need more watchmen on the wall who, during times of peace, still know that we are still at war.  We should never reach a place of ultimate comfort and satisfaction in this world.  We can always go deeper with God.  There's always more room in our imperfect hearts for Him.  We must stay sober and stay alert for attacks from our Adversary.  We should enjoy life, but also understand that this is not our final destination.  We must understand that when God gives us peace during our lives here, it's miraculous, because this world is NOT peaceful, and spiritually, the war wages on even now and we are soldiers in that war!  The REAL peacetime comes at the end of all things when God saves His people and judges this world.  Until then, we must fight on.  We must fight this good fight.  We are still on duty (2 Timothy 2:4).  Until the King returns, the war will never be quite finished, and the day will never be quite ours.  The fight will go on until our God has His day...

Grace and shalom...


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Joseph


This post is about Joseph.  I would say that this is one of my favorite parts of the Bible.  However, how can you choose a favorite?  I think God, in His perfect wisdom, has constructed His Word to be there for us and fit perfectly into our lives at different times.  Our lives change.  We have moments of unique happiness.  Worship is different from praise, peace is different from joy, thankfulness is different from victory, yet when we experience those things it's all great.  We also have unique moments of trouble.  Depression and loneliness are different, insecurity and fear are different, and being assaulted in the physical realm and being assaulted spiritually are also different.  The point is for all those things, our Father has given us an answer in His Word and for whatever situation we are going through, we cling to that part of the Bible and for that situation it's our favorite.

Joseph's testimony is so rich.  I know he can attest to understanding the confusion that God's children feel when they are going through such a hard time and don't know the reason its for.  Joseph was a man of God.  God gave Him favor and spoke to him through dreams but then suddenly, tragedy.  Joseph is sold out by his brothers and ends up a slave in Egypt, totally separated from his family.  However if we see in Genesis chapter 39, verse 2 states "The Lord was with Joseph...". Wow, the circumstances doesn't seem that way, but with the horror of being sold into slavery and exile by those in his own family, we see that God is with him.  Joseph would be made in charge of Potiphar's house, who was one of Pharaoh's officials.  We can apply this in our lives.  Joseph was special, yes, but so are you and I.  God purchased us with the blood of Messiah.  We are precious to Him!  It's not easy and even as I type this I imagine that if something similar were to happen to me like it did to Joseph, I pray that my Father give me the grace to know that He is still with me and working for my good.

And that wasn't all.  Joseph prospered in Potiphar's house, but then, tragedy, again.  Joseph is falsely accused of trying to rape Potiphar's wife (who came on to him!) and is imprisoned again.  However, in the very same chapter, it says again, in verse 21 and again in 23, "the Lord was with him".  Honestly, if we use our mortal and very natural brains in a situation like Joseph's, we would think God had left us!  How could God be with us after being falsely accused then thrown into prison?  It just makes no sense.  Moving on, Joseph gets a ray of hope after successfully interpreting a dream for the Pharaoh's cupbearer, he saves the cupbearer's life but the cupbearer forgets about him!  In this chapter, we also get some insight into how Joseph feels about his situation.  He tells the cupbearer that he doesn't deserve to be in the prison.

This is so rich.  For one, we see that Joseph, though in an obviously horrible and unjust situation, doesn't accept his circumstances as his identity.  He doesn't say, "Well I'm garbage.  I guess God doesn't love me.  I suppose this is as good as it gets for me."  Joseph HATED the dungeon, and he knew he didn't deserve it!  He wanted to get out!  He told the cupbearer that!  It's okay to not be happy with trial and tribulation. It's okay to desire better circumstances just as Joseph desired to get out of imprisonment. It's just not okay to throw away trust and hope in God. It's those times when He is all we have! So why did God make the cupbearer forget?  Well, He had greater things in store for Joseph.  If you belong to God, then you are His, and He saves us, heals us, and restores us on His terms; and God is good, rest assured He NEVER does anything to our detriment.  I can't speak for Joseph.  However, currently being in a situation in my life where I feel imprisoned by uncontrollable circumstances and just all out stuck, I can't help but think he struggled with frustration with God.  He was a man and made of the same stuff we're made of.  His frame was weak and his mind was mortal.

When Joseph's life comes to its climax, we see his release from prison, his exaltation to second-in-command over all Egypt, his provision that would save the nation of Israel, his opportunity to extend forgiveness and receive healing in being reunited with his brothers, and he gets to see his dad again.  In all this, God's grace, mercy, favor, salvation, and justice, come full circle for Joseph.  A beautiful story, and a testament unto the glory of our great God and Father.

Don't let the enemy tell you that God  is finished with you.  If you are in a season right now, where you feel that you are in prison, or just stuck, or treated unfairly, sometimes the only thing you can do is stay faithful.  God's faithfulness is never in question.  He never left Joseph.  However, Joseph also never left God.  His faithfulness, his perseverance, planted seeds that are bearing fruit to this day.  Had it not been for God through Joseph, Israel would not have survived the famine.  No Israel, no 12 tribes of Israel, no tribe of Judah, no king David, no Yeshua, no salvation for us.  God always has something greater involved in the plans for our lives.  No man is an island.  God uses us to impact the universe for His glory and for the good of all.

I have questions, and I'm sure you do too.  Why did this happen?  How could this happen?  Why would God let this happen?  My only advice, is don't give up on the Lord.  He'll never give up on you.  I don't know if you have ever seen "King Of Dreams".  It's an animated movie about the story of Joseph.  I remember watching it, and what really impacted me was this song:  You Know Better Than I.  Yes, it's a song from a cartoon movie, but the message is so powerful.  I think this is the ultimate answer to how to live our life as a Believer.  I hope you take a few minutes to listen to it.

You Know Better Than I

Grace and Shalom...