palm frond with crown of thorns

As we round the corner from Summer to Fall, we can easily become distracted with the busyness, worries, and struggles of life. In times like these, it is more important than ever to fix our eyes on the Master, and to focus on the truth of our salvation. The second group of holy days on Israel’s annual calendar, which take place over the course of just twenty-two days, offers us a unique opportunity to do just this. The Fall Mo’adiym (“Appointed Times”) tell an extraordinary story of remembrance, atonement, joy and rest. These most special days point us powerfully and creatively to the reality of Yeshua’s sacrifice. Read more

clay pot

Yeshua, then, having been weary from the journeying, was sitting this way on the well… and there came a woman out of Shom’ron to draw water. Yeshua said to her, “Give Me something to drink…” The Shom’roniyt woman therefore said to Him, “How do you, being a Y’hudiy, ask for a drink from me, being a Shom’roniyt woman?…” Yeshua answered and said to her, “If you had known the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you, ‘Give me something to drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water….” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not thirst, nor come back here to draw water.” (John 4:6-15, mjlt)

The woman at the well didn’t have much going for her on that fateful day that she met the Messiah. The first strike against her was that she was a Samaritan, with whom Jews—like Yeshua—did not associate. Second, she was a woman, which made it that much less likely that a strange man would even speak with her. Third, she was tired from having to haul buckets of water from Jacob’s well the long distance to her home. And fourth, she was thirsty—wanting desperately to quench her thirst for good, yet having no earthly idea how to do it.

But being a tired, thirsty Samaritan woman was just the beginning of her problems. Read more

milk

When was the last time you read your Bible? …just your Bible? How long has it been since you shut out the sounds and writings of so many “teachers” and expounders of the Word and just read your Bible? For far too many of us, we make a farce of Bible reading by keeping the Book nearby—yet spiritually closed—as we engage with and open up our minds to others’ “revelations,” hidden nuggets, and “lost” truths of the Word. We have exchanged the proper use of the Bible for being entertained by the use of the Bible, and we have done so in the name of craving meat—the solid food of the Scriptures. But how unfed we truly are!

Somewhere along the way, someone convinced a great number of us that the plain, simple Word of Scripture just wasn’t deep enough—that once we have been nourished by the “milk” of the Word, we are supposed to move on to the “meat.” In other words, we think that the fundamentals of the faith are not meant for mature believers, but for the immature. Mature believers, we are told, are to pursue God—to understand and know Him—in deeper, more meaningful ways… and to discover these, we must seek out and explore the exotic and mysterious minutiae under the Word’s surface.

Well… that’s simply not true. Read more

planet in danger

It’s no secret—and, sadly, no surprise—that many of us as believers in Messiah still walk with the world. Much of that influence actually takes place in the innocuous parts of our lives—the parts that we take for granted and rarely give a second thought. More often than not, we share the same life-dreams as that of the society around us: career, status, house, significant other, comfort, leisure, security, etc. We exert effort and choose paths to achieve these ends, almost automatically. We’ve been taught to aim at such obvious targets, and we keep on shooting at them without question.

It is from these various areas of our life, then, that we mistakenly derive our identity and worth. We’ve been programmed to think and feel this way from childhood. They told us we needed to do well in school so that we could go off to college; then we could earn the qualifications for our dream job in a field that interests and fulfills us—even better, a field into which we feel called by God. Unfortunately, what this formula basically translates into is this: your personal happiness and satisfaction in life is the goal. If you can do good in the world, and perhaps even please God while you’re doing it, all the better; but ultimately, what you do is not nearly as important as how doing it makes you feel. Job fulfillment, feeling valued, doing things you enjoy, acquiring stuff you want, and having a good self-image is what defines a happy, healthy life…

…but is this what the Scriptures say? Read more

wheat

And He gave some… for the building up of the Body of the Messiah—until we all come to the unity of the faith and of the recognition of the Son of God; to become a perfect man, and to attain the whole measure of maturity of the fullness of the Messiah, so that we may no longer be little children, tossed and carried about by every wind of the teaching (by the sleight of hand of men, by craftiness, toward the scheme of leading us astray), but speaking the truth in love, we will grow up in all things to Him, who is the head—the Messiah…. (Ephesians 4:11-15, MJLT)

On Israel’s annual calendar, the period immediately following Passover (which spiritually concerns our freedom from sin) and the Feast of Matzah (which is about walking out and practicing that freedom) is the seven-week “counting from the Omer.” During this time, the barley crop is being harvested while the wheat crop continues to ripen, thus carrying with it the spiritual theme of growing to maturity. For the disciple of Messiah, this can be a vital season of watching ourselves and staying in step with God’s plan, as we cooperate with Him and grow into the fullness of who we are as followers of Yeshua.

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crown of thorns

For what renown is it for you if you are sinning, and then, being beaten with fists, you endure it? But if you endure, doing good and suffering for it, this is favorable with God. For you were called to this, because Messiah also suffered for you, leaving Himself to you as an example, so that you may follow His steps—He WHO DID NOT COMMIT SIN, NOR WAS UNDER-HANDEDNESS FOUND IN HIS MOUTH… who Himself BORE OUR SINS in His body upon the tree, so that having died to the sins, we may live to the righteousness… (1Keifa 2:20-24, MJLT)

As we enter into the Passover season, we celebrate not only Israel’s salvation from captivity and oppression in Egypt, but also the individual salvation that this watershed event ultimately foreshadows. During this annual time of commemorating our freedom from sin, we are presented with the unique opportunity to refocus on, recommit to, recognize, and remember what Ye­shua selflessly did on our behalf, and the consummate purpose to which He has called us. Unfortunately, this high calling—which is clearly spelled out by the emissary, Keifa—is essentially foreign to and lost among today’s modern Body of Messiah.

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forest pathway…it has been written in the scroll of the words of Y’sha’yahu the prophet, saying, “A voice of one calling, ‘In the desert, prepare the way of Adonai! Make His paths straight! Every valley will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be made low, and the crooked will become straightness, and the rough roads will become smooth; and all flesh will see the salvation of God!’” (Luke 3:4-6, MJLT)

As disciples of Messiah, we are called to follow Him. Where He walks, we walk; where He goes, we go after Him. He is our Master; we are His slaves—and our hearts’ desire is to always be on the path that leads us straight to Him.

The path of the Master Yeshua—the “way of Adonai”—was prepared for Him by Yo­chanan the Immerser, as prophesied of the Messiah’s forerunner. His path was to be straight, not crooked; filled, not valleyed; lowered, not mountainous; smooth, not rough. In other words, the path prepared for the Messiah was to be completely flat, utterly level, and without twist, bend, or turn.

But why did Yeshua need a forerunner to prepare His path?  Read more

If you have not yet read my book The Real Story of Chanukah: Dedicated to the Death, you may not realize how closely the civil conditions of those days parallel the societal climate in which we presently live. For example, on page 24, I write,

In the political and cultural climate fostered under the “sinful offshoot” Antiochus Ephiphanes [the Greco-Syrian king who occupied Israel], the Jewish people began to test the waters of personal liberty as they explored alternative lifestyles outside of godly boundaries. A vocal, activist, minority within Israel—those who were overtly and shamelessly defiling the Torah—paraded their transgressions before the general population, inciting them also to go astray.

As the story unfolds, we come to find out that such exploration of “personal liberty” and “alternative lifestyles” eventually leads to dire consequences for Israel. Read more

Throughout the Scriptures, we are frequently exhorted to persevere—to keep pressing forward in the face of adversity. We need this encouragement because our natural tendency is to avoid conflict, trials, troubles, or hardship of any kind—to not persevere. No one likes to suffer and endure pain or discomfort, but if we always travel the path of least resistance, we cannot learn and grow from life’s challenges. As disciples of Messiah, we will all encounter a set of difficulties uniquely designed to cause growth in our lives. How we deal with these trials speaks directly to our level of maturity in Him. Perseverance, then, is the stepping-stone from tribulation to maturity.

The Master teaches us, “[A sower went out to sow his seed, which is…] the word of God. [The seed that fell] beside the way were those who heard [the word], then the Accuser came and took up the word from their heart, lest having believed, they might have been saved. [The seed that fell] upon the rock [are] those who, when they heard the word, received it with joy. Yet these who have no root believed for a while, but in time of trial, fell away. [The seed] that fell to the thorns [are] those who have heard, but, going forth, were choked through anxieties [about] wealth and pleasures of life, and bore no [fruit] to maturity. But that [seed which fell] on the good soil are these: they, who with an upright and good heart, having heard the word, retain it, and bear fruit with perseverance.” Luke 8:11-15

One of the primary reasons we do not grow and mature in Messiah is simple: we want the “fruit,” but we don’t have the “root.” As the Master’s parable illustrates, there are various kinds of obstacles that keep us from putting down roots and bearing the fruit of maturity. Our uncultivated, rocky soil doesn’t allow the roots to take hold, and the seed is stolen from us so that we cannot withstand the trials of life. If, by chance, a seed does begin to take root, its growth is choked back by the thorns of anxiety until the plant withers and dies. We may receive the seed and even have it planted within us, but without “good soil,” it will not bear fruit and mature.

The disciple of Messiah is to be like “good soil” for the implantation of the Word of God—having heard the Word, we are to “retain it, and bear fruit with perseverance.” The word translated as perseverance is the Greek hupomone, describing a person who is steadfast, consistent, and enduring. In the Master’s parable, this word describes a characteristic of the “good soil”—it steadfastly holds on to the seed, allowing its roots to grow deep and wide.

But instead of offering ourselves up as “good soil,” we often come with our rocks and thorns and our own “ways” of doing things. We put the seed in this soil and think something miraculous will happen. However, it is only in “good soil” that the work of perseverance can be accomplished so that, in turn, the Word of God can do its work and grow us to maturity. We need to put forth the effort to endure trials and tribulations and hold onto—“retain”—the word, so that we may “bear fruit with perseverance.”

The challenge to live the Messianic life is not unique to our day and age—in fact, the obstacles of life that cloud our understanding of the ways of God have proven to be a formidable foe since the beginning.

To the believers of Galatia, who were trapped by their own doctrines and misconceptions about the Messianic life, Paul wrote,

“With Messiah I have been crucified, and no more do I live, but Messiah lives in me; and that which I now live in the body, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me…” Galatians 2:20 

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