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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I always have mixed emotions about Thanksgiving, because on the one hand, at its heart are two of my most favorite things: family and food! But on the other hand, it not only signals the beginning of the commercial winter holiday season (in which we are bombarded by merchandising and inducements to unnecessarily part with our finances), but, to a degree, it’s not really my holiday. I am only a second-generation American-born Jew, so before WWII, my ancestors knew nothing of the American Thanksgiving holiday (though it is indirectly related to our own Autumn Feast, Sukot). So, while I enjoy Thanksgiving on a familial, individual, and American level (because I am very thankful indeed for this country), it also reminds me that I—as my ancestors have been for centuries—am a stranger in a strange land… a man caught between worlds. Read more

Please believe I am not bragging when I say that for many years now, people from all over the world have found the Messianic devotionals I have written to be helpful and inspiring for their daily walk in Yeshua. I give all glory and praise to Adonai for this, because whatever encouragement or insight I have to offer, it is only because I have gained it (usually the hard way!) by His loving and compassionate hand.

Yet, I mention this not to call attention to myself or the character of the devotionals, but to point out the fact that we as believers in Yeshua primarily seek information and inspiration for one purpose: self-edification. While I am personally pleased that my writings have been edifying for so many, the purpose of the devotionals (as well as everything produced through Perfect Word) has never been for self-edification, but always for discipleship—the means by which we first become edified, then multiply that edification by passing it on to others. This, however, is not the way most of us approach a “devotional” or any other kind of spiritual experience—rather, it is generally with the intent to focus ourselves on the Master and increase our devotion to Him.

Such goals are in no way wrong. On the contrary, in a world that is constantly trying to steal our focus away from God, we need to use every means possible to keep our hearts and minds dedicated and devoted to Him. Where we do go wrong, however, is that we tend to stop there, feeding only ourselves, and forgetting the most important reason to increase our own devotion: everyone else. Indeed, the walk we walk in Messiah is ultimately not for our own benefit; rather, “Let no one seek [good for] himself, but each [one for] another’s.” (1Co. 10:24) Read more

Beggar hand with coinOver the past weeks and months, I have been praying earnestly for you—asking the Lord to guide you, and provide for all your many needs. While in the midst of seeking His face, I felt impressed to offer you the one thing I know you need: encouragement. Yet somehow, “Hang in there, it’s going to be okay,” and “Don’t worry, you’ll get through this,” and “Have faith—all things are possible with God” just don’t seem to suffice. Instead, I feel compelled to be somewhat more substantive in my exhortation, and bring you a heartening, yet challenging word.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as if we members of the Body are as concerned with worldly things as those who are of the world. We’re rocked by an unexpected turn of events; we worry about our health, wealth and happiness. Some of us feed that anxiety by obsessively following the daily news; some of us put our heads in the sand and pretend that everything is going along just fine. But what most of us often forget—or only acknowledge intellectually without action based in faith—is that what is happening around us really doesn’t matter… what matters is whether or not we are living for Yeshua. Whether we are being forcefully evicted from our homes, or rushing our deathly ill child to the hospital, or buying a morsel of food with the very last dollar in our pocket, we have a choice. Do we become caught up in the moment and react out of fear, or do we face reality with a conviction of spirit and a heart fortified toward God?

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