Why Bad Things Happen

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 4

Let no one being tempted say, “I am tempted from God,” for God is not tempted by evil, and so He Himself tempts no one. Rather, each one is tempted, being led away and enticed by his own desires. Afterward, the desire (having conceived) gives birth to sin, and the sin (having become fully-grown) brings forth death. Be not led astray, my beloved brothers! (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 1:13-16, mjlt)

Bad things happen all the time. They happen to “bad” people as much as they happen to “good” ones. So when bad things happen, it’s natural for us to wonder, “Why, God? Why did you allow this bad thing to happen to me?” It’s not a rebellious thought—it’s a question. It’s seeking to know what is quite often unknowable. Yet questioning this way has the potential to become extremely problematic, as it can lead to accusation. “I thought you were a loving God! A loving God would never allow a bad thing to happen, so this bad thing is your fault, God! Or, maybe, you don’t even exist at all!” And down the slippery slope we go. When we reach this point, though, it’s not because we don’t understand God—it’s because we don’t understand the consequences of sin, and how sin works. Read more

Humble Exaltation

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 3

And let the brother who is humble take pride in his exaltation, and the one who is rich, in his humiliation, because, as a flower of grass, he will pass away. For as the sun rises with the burning heat, and THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER OF IT FALLS, and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed, so also the rich man in his pursuits will fade away! Happy is the man who perseveres through the ways of testing, because, becoming proven in his faith, he will receive the crown of the Life, which the Master promised to those loving Him. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 1:9-12, mjlt)

From the moment that mankind became capable of accumulating wealth, there have existed the extremes of those who have abounded in material riches, and those who have had little to none. While this outward inequality may seem to some an immoral injustice, to others it is no more than natural economic reality. Many, in the hopes of doing good, may seek to relieve the plight of the poor—some through voluntary charity, others by forceful rule of law. But in Messiah, all who are wealthy and all who go without will become equalized—not in the things we have, but in the character of who we are. Read more

Seeing the Invisible One

A Special Passover Message

Every year the Passover season brings with it a sense of renewal and hope. It is our annual reminder of the power and sovereignty of God, His unending zeal for His people, and His uncompromising willingness and ability to save. Passover-time is known as the Season of Freedom because it commemorates an event in Israel’s ancient history which God continues to repeat spiritually for all followers of His Son. But even with the freedom that we now have through our Savior Yeshua, many believers in Messiah still struggle to walk daily in that freedom. It is, in fact, Mosheh (Moses)—Passover’s first hero—who shows us how to be truly free.

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Doubting Nothing

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 2

And if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask from God—who is giving to all, generously and not denouncing—and it will be given to him; and let him ask in faith, doubting nothing. For he who is doubting has been like a wave of the sea, driven by wind and tossed about. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Master—a two-minded man is unstable in all his ways.
(יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 1:5-8, mjlt)

When we find ourselves facing difficult and trying times, it’s easy to lose our heads. The brain shuts off, the fear ramps up, and calm, rational decision-making is replaced by emotional, knee-jerk reactions to people and circumstances. Without even realizing it, we are consumed with every negative thought and event, oblivious to the storm inside our minds that we ourselves created through our own poor choices and wrong actions. Not only are we unable to find a way out, but we are past the point of remembering even to look for one. We’re stranded, lost, and hopeless—caught inside our own instability. Read more

Count It All Joy

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 1

From יַעֲקֹב, Ya’aqov, a slave of God and of the Master יֵשׁוּעַ, Yeshua the Messiah; to the Twelve Tribes of Yis’rael who are in the Dispersion: שָׁלוֹם, shalom. Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various ways of testing, knowing that the proving of your faith brings about perseverance in you. And let the perseverance have a maturing work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
(יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 1:1-4, mjlt)

Ya’aqov had every right to brag. Being the brother of Yeshua, he also garnered a great deal of respect and influence as an authoritative voice among the Emissaries. And yet, when he wrote his powerful letter to the Jewish believers “who had been scattered abroad from the oppression that came after Stephen” (Acts 13:19, mjlt), he identified himself in his greeting simply as “a slave of God and of the Master יֵשׁוּעַ, Yeshua the Messiah.” More than a mere statement of humility, acknowledging one’s position as a “slave” emphasizes and elevates the position of one’s “Master.” It speaks categorically as to whose purpose one will serve, and whose will one will subvert. It is from this lowly vantage point that Ya’aqov is fully qualified to address the plight of his brothers and sisters, and to advise them in their behavior and actions as they live their own lives as slaves of Messiah. Read more

Unconditional Obedience

Bearing the standard of Scripture means far more than simply recognizing Scripture as the objective, authoritative, written Word of God. It’s even more than knowing what the Scriptures say—more than faithfully turning to the Word for comfort, counsel and inspiration. If it is our true intention to renounce the voices we have allowed to influence us—to no longer live only for ourselves, but to follow Yeshua completely and without compromise—then it’s time to wake up, and totally commit our lives to God’s Word in absolute, unconditional obedience. As disciples of Messiah, there is no higher calling than to serve and obey the One and Only Master, whom we love.

As faithful disciples of Messiah, and humble servants of the God of Israel, our “grand business” before Him is simply to obey. We have neither the prerogative nor the responsibility to determine our own beliefs, establish our own values, or prescribe our own boundaries for behavior. On the contrary, even though the mere thought of being ordered around makes us squirm in our rebellious skin, our job is no more and no less than to just do what we’re told.

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You Are Not Your Own

Do you remember when you first came to Yeshua? Perhaps you were a child at the time, and you were taught to trust God and love Him as a father—a love and trust that followed you into adulthood; a love and trust that you continue to rely upon as a son or daughter of God.

Or perhaps when you first came to Yeshua, you were a teenager or an adult, and you came to Him as your savior and friend. You began to learn over time to increasingly trust Him as your protector and constant companion—a mighty defender, and an approachable, compassionate and caring God.

And certainly, for as long as we follow Him, God is and always will be all these things: our father, our savior, our friend.

But as disciples of Messiah, we must also not forget the price of our discipleship, which means that we are more than just God’s friend, more than just His children, and more than just the goal of His salvation.Indeed, as Messiah’s disciples, He is also our Master, and we, therefore, His slaves. We show our gratitude, then, for God’s fatherhood, friendship and salvation by devoting our lives—and enslaving ourselves—to the Messiah.

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Deny Yourself: The Atoning Command of Yom Kippur

Excerpts from Kevin’s book of the same name.

In Jewish tradition, the phrase “deny yourself” is essentially an instruction to fast—to not eat or drink for the duration of Yom Kippur—such that one denies himself of that which sustains life. This is clearly a vivid and valid interpretation for how one might conduct himself on this most holy day.

However, we also deny ourselves when we abstain from feeding our appetites and refuse to indulge in the lusts of the flesh. For the disciple of Messiah, this is the very heart of the Spirit-led life, as encapsulated in Galatians 5:16, “Walk in the Ruach, and the desire of the flesh you will not bring to its goal” (mjlt). Read more

Will You Turn and Walk Away… Or Seek Him with All Your Heart?

Walking in forest

Yeshua, therefore, said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you: if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and do not drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves…. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.” …Then many of His disciples, having heard, said, “This word is hard. Who is able to listen to it?” …And from this time, many of His disciples went away backward, and were walking with Him no more. (John 6:53, mjlt)

How well-attended would our congregations be if we eliminated the experience? Or the ritual? What would happen if we took away the “energetic worship,” or the multi-media presentations, or the “relevant” messages that guarantee our encouragement and comfort? This is what my generation—and younger—craves (whether we know it, or admit it, or not), and it is according to these elements that many decide where and with whom we will “worship.” But while older generations may pursue a bit more subdued set of criteria—more traditions, less volume, less technology—where (and whether) we attend services is still about the religious experience. Take that away, and we have no idea what to do with the leftovers—we don’t know how to relate to one another in Messiah, and we don’t know how to make disciples. Read more

For Our Passover Was Sacrificed

nails

This month, all over the world, most Jewish families will be recounting their ancestors’ ancient Exodus from Egypt through the annual tradition of the Passover seder. Sadly, many of them will also fail to hear of the true meaning of God’s salvation and sacrifice.

According to the Torah, it is not only Israel’s responsibility to perform the Passover sacrifice each year, but also parents’ responsibility to explain the purpose of the sacrifice to their children, as captured in the following father/son exchange from Perfect Word Ministries’ Messianic Passover Haggadah, Behold the Lamb.

son: Abba, “what is this ‘avodah [ceremony, rite] you have?” (Exodus 12:26)

abba: It is “a sacrifice of Pesach [Passover] to Adonai, who passed over the houses of the sons of Yis’rael [Israel] in Egypt when He struck down the Egyptians, and our houses He delivered” (Exodus 12:27).

son: Abba, why are we to “take of the blood, and put it on the two side-posts and on the lintel over the houses in which we eat it?” (Exodus 12:27)

abba: It is to remember that “the blood has become as a sign for” us—that when Adonai saw “the blood, He passed over” us, “and a plague for destruction was not on us when He struck the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13).

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