(Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 28)

My brothers, if any among you goes astray from the truth, and anyone turns him back, let him know that the one turning back a sinner from the straying of his way will save his soul from death—and will cover a great number of sins. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 5:19-20, mjlt)

For as much as we look inwardly to appraise our progress as followers of Messiah, there yet remains a far greater purpose for us. Yes, all the self-assessment and challenging and strengthening we undergo is designed to make us better—though ultimately not just for the sake of ourselves. Our purpose is not to stay locked inside, merely seeking to perfect our personal holiness, but rather to be equipped to see, and then to act, as Yeshua’s eyes and hands—as bearers of the truth that saves lost souls. Read more

(Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 27)

[If the distressed one] has committed sins, they will be forgiven to him. So be confessing your sins to one another, and be praying for one another, so that you may be healed; for of great power is a prayer from a righteous man—working effectively. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 5:15b-16, mjlt)

Whenever we are faced with hardship and distress, we know that “the prayer of the faith will save” us (5:15a)—that in our suffering and sicknesses, “the Master will raise [us] up” (5:15a), especially if we call to others for prayer (5:14). And because God patiently waits for us to reach out to Him for help, we are only alone for as long as we choose to be. But what if our need is more than just physical or circumstantial? Suppose that there is something deeper within us—something intangible and hard to get a hold of—that remains unresolved even after the help comes? What if we are sometimes the cause of our own continued difficulty and pain? What if that cause is our sin? Read more

(Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 26)

Does anyone suffer hardship among you? Let him pray. Is anyone of you cheerful? Let him sing melodies of praise. Is anyone infirmed among you? Let him call for the z’qeniym of the Called-Forth, and let them pray over him, having anointed him with oil, in the Name of the Master. And the prayer of the faith will save the distressed one from his affliction, and the Mas­ter will raise him up… (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 5:13-15a, mjlt)

For all our connectivity through the wondrous advancements of technology, we are more separated now than we have ever been. Though we can travel half-way around the world in less than a day, or instantly see and speak to one another screen-to-screen from opposite sides of the planet, in the ways that really count, we too often find ourselves alone. These modern conveniences ironically keep us quarantined—unmotivated to even drive across town for anything mildly inconvenient. We also use technology to keep us segregated in our politics and religion, and to shelter us from the prying eyes of judgment and accountability. And the loneliness this creates, though generally not the intended result, is often deliberate and self-imposed. We grow accustomed to thinking and being by ourselves, and the distance carries over into the way we relate to God. Read more

(Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 25)

But before all things, my brothers, do not swear—neither “by the heaven,” nor “by the earth,” nor by any other oath—but let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and the “No” be “No,” so that under judgment you may not fall. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 5:12, mjlt)

Is it ever okay to swear? Not “swear” as in using profanity or foul language (Ephesians 4:29), but as in taking an oath, vow or pledge. Scrip­turally speaking, to swear is to make a kind of promise. But here, the Scriptures say, “do not swear,” and, immediately, the matter becomes confusing. Are we never to make promises? Should we reject all oaths and pledges—like the Pledge of Allegiance? Are we permitted even to speak the promises of our wedding vows? When someone asks for or expects our commitment, are we to simply smile angelically and assure them noncommittally, “If the Lord wills”? Is that really what is at issue here? “Do not swear” seems to be a relatively straightforward command, but there’s definitely more to the story. And if we can’t understand what it takes to make a commitment, then we can’t understand what it means to follow Messiah. Read more

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

As we turn the corner toward Fall, we continue to face severe uncertainty about the future. Everything feels like it is in flux, while we are left to wait for life to settle down into the new normal—whatever that will be. But while we are in this seemingly perpetual holding pattern, we need to resist the inclination to put our walk with God on hold as well. The expectations that God had of us last year are the same expectations that He has for us this year—and, if possible, even more so, now that we are being tested in ways we have never been before. 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

I have had a moment of clarity. Perhaps it won’t be revelatory to you, or perhaps it will open your eyes. But I feel so compelled to share it with you that I created this special section of our website to address what I see as an epic crisis plaguing our country. If you have school-aged children—or know anyone who does, or care about the future of our country—you need to hear this.
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by Esther Geoffrey

As the events of 2020 continue to unfold, I can hardly believe that the images I’m seeing are real—the nation I know and love seems to be crumbling before my eyes. Death tolls rise, statues topple, divisions grow deeper, freedoms evaporate, cities burn, and truth seems irrelevant or imperceptible in the midst of the chaos. In the streets, young people cry out for change and revolution, parroting phrases they can’t explain and shouting slogans they can’t defend. Where did all this come from? How did we get here?
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