Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 24

Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged. Look! the Judge is standing at the door! As an example, brothers, of the suffering of evil and of the patience, take the prophets who spoke in the Name of Adonai. Look! we call happy those who were enduring with the perseverance of Iyov—which you have heard of—and you have seen Adonai’s goal: that Adonai is very compassionate and merciful. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 5:9-11, mjlt)

You’ve been gravely wronged. Or, perhaps, not wronged, but definitely deeply offended. Or maybe not so much offended as frustrated or inconvenienced or mildly bothered in general. But they surely have it out for you, and they’re doing it to you on purpose! Or, perhaps, not on purpose, but they’re definitely being incredibly selfish. Or maybe not so much selfish as neglectful or forgetful or just plain oblivious. Well, they’ve got another thing coming! You’re going to give them a piece of your mind! Or, perhaps, not give them a piece of your mind, but definitely complain about it to someone not directly involved. Or maybe not complain about it so much as moan and groan and grumble about it… to yourself. Read more

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 23

Be patient, then, brothers, until the coming presence of the Master. Look! the farmer awaits the precious fruit of the earth, being patient for it until he receives rain —Yoreh uMalqosh. You al­so, be patient; stabilize your hearts, because the coming presence of the Master has drawn near. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 5:7-8, mjlt)

Anytime, God. In fact, right now would be good. It’s getting kind of hairy down here, and a bunch of us are starting to feel just a tad bit uneasy. Yep. Getting a little too close for comfort, if you know what I mean. So, what do you say, Master? How about you come back for us now? We are totally ready for you, I promise. Even if we have to stretch it to next Tuesday, I think that could still work for everybody, right fellas? Obviously, God, it’s up to you, and you probably know best and all, but seriously—and I mean this with all sincerity—this place is nuts! Get me out of here! Help! Help! Heeeelp! Read more

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 22

Go, now, you who are rich! Weep, howling over your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches have rotted, and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and the corrosion of them will be to you for a testimony, and will eat your flesh like fire. You stored up treasure for yourselves, as if we were not in the last days! Look! the wages of the workmen (…which had been fraudulently withheld by you) cry out…. You lived in luxury upon the earth, and were self-indulgent; you fed your hearts in a day of slaughter…. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 5:1-6, mjlt)

By now, it may be a laughable statistic: the “good old days,” when the U.S. national debt was only $25 trillion—of which the debt per tax payer was merely $200,000. This, of course, does not even seem real—it is literally unfathomable—given that the average American has enough trouble with his share of our collective personal debt (mortgages, credit cards and such) totaling $14 trillion. With such a heavy weight, then, it is understandable for us to see the accumulation of wealth as a way out—a rescue from a mounting and unsustainable deficit. But what if achieving financial security is not the answer? What if being rich is actually more risky than simply having enough? Read more

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 21

To him, then, who is knowing how to do good, but is not doing it, it is sin to him. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 4:17, mjlt)

Sin is one of those tricky subjects with which we, as believers in Yeshua, have a tendency to play fast and loose. We know in our heads and hearts what is right and wrong, but when it comes to applying that knowledge to our lives, we like to lean as far as we can into the grey. It is from that compromised position, then, that Scripture can become twisted or misconstrued in our minds. This is why some believers will defend their sin by saying it’s a matter of conscience, and not all so-called sin is the same. In other words, “it is sin to him” (as the Scriptures say) is actually a statement of relativity (so some of us believe), and, therefore, what is sin for you is not sin for me. Read more

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 20

Go, now, you who are saying, “Today or tomorrow we will go on to such-a-city, and we will pass the time there for a year, and do business, and make a profit”—you who do not even know the things of the next day! What is your life? For you are a vapor that is appearing for a little while, and then is vanishing. Instead of saying, “If the Master wants, we will live and do this or that,” as it is, you boast in your pride. All such boasting is evil! (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 4:13-16, mjlt)

Though much of life is spent preoccupied by the now, in our hearts, we are always looking forward. While we may not often permit our minds to think or dream or hope too much about the future, deep inside, we live there—longing for the mended, the safer, the better. So when we do get down to deliberately planning, we plan not only for the start, but the end. We move forward—sometimes with trepidation, but most times with expectations—wishing for and predicting our happiness and success. Read more

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 19

Speak not one against another, brothers. He who is speaking against a brother, or is judging his brother, speaks against תּוֹרָה, Torah and judges the תּוֹרָה, Torah. And if you judge תּוֹרָה, Torah, you are not a doer of תּוֹרָה, Torah, but a judge of it. One alone is the Giver of תּוֹרָה, Torah and Judge who is able to save and to destroy. But you—who are you to be judging the neighbor? (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 4:11-12, mjlt)

In times of tension and stress, it is not unusual to respond aggressively to disagreement and discord. It is not unusual, but it is unhelpful, as aggression rarely yields a harmonious outcome. The words we speak to one another, then, become influenced by our distorted views of our perceived opponent. This unrighteous evaluation affects whether we deem that person worthy of our civility, honesty and respect—as if our judgment should have the power to adjust our kindness. While it may seem natural to have such a bias toward those we view as enemies, it is especially heinous when we practice this behavior with our own “brothers” and “neighbors”—when we speak against our fellow believers in Messiah. Read more

A Special Message for the Feast of Matzah

The religions of man do their best to prepare us for days and times of spiritual significance. Though many adherents do not strictly follow the schedule of their sects, these groups often—with all sincerity—establish systems to guide their followers into times of spiritual preparedness. To that end, many find significance in patterns, leading to the construction of doctrinal and devotional traditions. Read more

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 18

Be submitted, then, to God; stand up against the Accuser, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners! and purify your hearts, you two-minded ones! Be exceedingly afflicted, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned to mourning, and the joy to heaviness. Be made low before the Master, and He will exalt you. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 4:7-10, mjlt)

The influence of the Accuser is invasive. Given the opportunity, it uncoils within us—tempting, misleading, scheming and lying its way deep into our lives. That ancient serpent, who has the power of death, is able to gain access to us through our “hostility with God” and our complicit “friendship” with the world (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 4:4-6). We are scarcely aware that the world’s wooing is, in fact, such a violent assault on our souls. Read more

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 17

Adulteresses! Have you not known that the world’s friendship is hostility with God? Whoever, then, wants to be a friend of the world is made an enemy of God. Do you think that, emptily, the Scripture says that with envy the רוּחַ, Ruach that He caused to live in us earnestly desires us? But greater unmerited favor He gives! Therefore, the Scripture says, “God sets Himself against proud ones; but to humble ones, He gives unmerited favor.” (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 4:4-6, mjlt)

It is written that “Adonai, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exodus 34:14). This righteous jealousy springs forth from the Creator’s desire that His people love Him and not bow themselves to another god—that they not trade their devotions to some strange and foreign deity. His jealousy, however, is aroused neither from a place of insecurity nor codependence, but rather from a rightful possessiveness and ownership. He is jealous because He does not give away His love casually or cheaply. God’s love comes at a cost that no one but He is able or willing to pay. Read more

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 16

From where do wars and from where do fightings among you come? Are they not from that place created by your passions—which are like soldiers at war in your body’s members? You desire, but you do not have, so you murder; and you are jealous, and are not able to get what you want, so you fight and war. But you have not, because of your not asking; or you ask, and you receive not, because you ask evilly—so that you can spend it on your pleasures. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 4:1-3, mjlt)

Though we as believers in Yeshua are the many members of one, united Body, we nevertheless seem to have a knack for finding things to fight about. They can be petty disagreements (like over the volume or style of music in our worship services) or more serious arguments (such as disputes over doctrinal differences). Some fights are legitimate and worth having, as we confront sin or seek to defend the fundamentals of our faith. But many controversies arise out of jealousy and factions, which lead to division—these days, often before open confrontation ever breaks out in the first place. We just leave. Either way, infighting and unresolved conflict causes devastation and the weakening of Yeshua’s Body. Read more