Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 13

If anyone does not stumble in word, this one is a perfect man, able to also bridle the whole body. Now if we put the bits into the mouths of the horses for their being persuaded by us, then we can also turn about their whole body. Look! also the ships of the sea—being so great, and being driven by fierce winds—are led about by a very small rudder, wherever the impulse of the helmsman wants. So also the tongue is a little member of the body, yet it boasts greatly. Look! such a little fire—yet how great a forest it sets aflame! And so the tongue is a fire—the world of the unrighteousness. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 3:2b-6a, mjlt)

The ability to speak—the capacity to formulate thoughts in our minds, and then to express those thoughts vocally in a way that other people can understand—is a miraculous gift from God to man. One would think that the mouth and the tongue are necessarily subservient to the mind—that one is only capable of saying what he is thinking. But many times—too many times—it seems as if our tongue has a mind of its own. We speak “without thinking,” and then claim we didn’t mean what we said. Or we say exactly what we’re thinking, although we didn’t intend to say it out loud. How is such a phenomenon possible? Can our tongues actually speak independently of our minds? Read more

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 12

Many of you should not become teachers, my brothers—having known that we who teach will receive greater judgment—for we all make many stumbles. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 3:1-2a, mjlt)

It can be an exhilarating experience to see something new in the Scriptures—to be reading through or studying a familiar passage, and then suddenly have the words leap off the page and grab our attention, as if for the first time. It is a stirring reminder that the Word of God is alive—that the Scriptures are a thoroughly spiritual document—and that through it, God is actively speaking to us, engaging us, and interacting with our daily lives.

But sometimes, some of us will make a dire mistake. Read more

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 11

What is the profit, my brothers, if anyone speaks of having faith, but he does not have actions? Is that faith able to save him? [T]he faith by itself, if it does not have actions, is dead. But someone might say, “You have faith, and I have actions.” Show me your faith apart from the actions, and I will show you by my actions, the faith! [B]y actions is man declared righteous, and not by faith only. [F]or just as the body apart from the רוּחַ, ruach is dead, so also the faith apart from actions is dead! (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 2:14-26, mjlt)

We sit and listen; we study and read. We pray. We praise. We seek. We believe. How, then, could it be possible that our faith might actually be dead? How, with all our prayers, all our devotion, all our time spent in the Word, all our focus on the things of God, could the ability of our faith to save us be honestly called into question? Surely, we are doing all that God expects of us. Undoubtedly, He merely desires that we believe. What could we possibly be missing? Read more

A Special Passover Message

The cup of the blessings that we bless—is it not the sharing of the blood of the Messiah? And the bread that we break—is it not the sharing of the body of the Messiah? Because there is one bread, we, the many, are one Body, for we all share of the one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:16-17, mjlt)

Often times, when we find ourselves in trouble, we look to family to bail us out. Conversely, when a close family member needs us, we rush to their aid; or when there is a conflict between two events, and one of them involves family, we choose their event—because that’s what family does. This is what we mean when we invoke the old adage, “Blood is thicker than water.” Friends may come and go, we say, but family is forever. Yet the original meaning of this expression may actually mean the exact opposite—that it’s not familial blood that binds us so permanently, but rather the bond that is forged when two parties ceremonially exchange each other’s blood to seal a promise; that is, they make a blood covenant. And there has never been more precious covenant blood exchanged than that of the Lamb of God—our Master, the Messiah Yeshua. Read more

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 10

For whoever keeps the whole תּוֹרָה, Torah, and stumbles in one point, has become guilty of breaking it all. For He who is saying, “YOU MUST NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,” also said, “YOU MUST NOT MURDER.” And so, if you do not commit adultery, yet you commit murder, you have become a sidestepper of תּוֹרָה, Torah. Therefore, as ones who are about to be judged by a תּוֹרָה, Torah of liberty, so speak, and so do; for the judgment without loving-kindness is shown to him who has not done loving-kindness to others; loving-kindness triumphs over judgment. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 2:10-13, mjlt)

Everyone—everywhere—yearns to be free. Strangely, the definition of freedom changes from one person to the next, and what you may perceive as boundless freedom might be a dungeon-like prison to me. But regardless of the type of thing we each call freedom, no one disagrees that in order to be truly free we must be free of anyone telling us what to think, what we can say, or what we can do… no one disagrees, that is, except for the true disciple of Messiah.

For many believers, their reaction to the idea that “whoever keeps the whole תּוֹרָה, Torah, and stumbles in one point, has become guilty of breaking it all,” is to say, “See! We don’t need to keep all those rules! It would be unjust for God to tell us we have to do all those things, and then to find us guilty when we can’t. And God is not unjust!” But this is not the point at all. Read more

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 9

My brothers, do not hold the faith of the glory of our Master יֵשׁוּע, Yeshua the Messiah in favoritism. For if there comes into your synagogue a man with a gold ring, dressed in bright clothing, and there also comes in a poor man in shabby clothing, and you look upon him wearing the bright clothing and say, “You—sit here well-situated,” and to the poor man say, “You—stand there,” or “Sit under my footstool,” did you not make distinctions fully among yourselves, and so become ill-reasoning judges? Listen, my beloved brothers: did not God choose the poor in the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the Reign that He promised to those loving Him?… If, indeed, you bring the King’s תּוֹרָה, Torah to its goal according to the Scripture, “You must love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show favoritism, you enact sin, and are being convicted by the תּוֹרָה, Torah as sidesteppers. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 2:1-9, mjlt)

My favorite ice cream is peanut butter and chocolate—hands down. Sure, the Sea Salt Caramel gelato from Talenti is unbelievable, but if you put the two in front of me and forced me to choose (“What? I can’t have both?“), I would pick the peanut butter and chocolate all day, every day. Why? I don’t know. It’s yummy. That’s the one I like. It’s my favorite.

We all choose favorites at one time or another. We have favorite foods, colors, clothes, books, songs, sports teams, movies, weather, pets, you name it. Sometimes—probably more often than we should—we even have favorite people. Read more

Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 8

If anyone thinks himself to be devout—not bridling his tongue, but rather deceiving his heart—the devotion of this one is vain. Devotion pure and undefiled with the God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their oppression, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 1:26-27, mjlt)

If you were truly devoted to God—if you were devout—how would you conduct yourself? What would you do? What does that mean? Does it mean that you would spend an hour each morning at dawn reading your Bible, praying, listening to music, and sipping Starbucks? Does it mean that you would be religious—regularly attending worship services, reciting the prayers or affirmations, and embracing the rituals, accoutrements and calendar of the established traditions?

But what if devotion is deeper than that? Simpler? What if true devotion has nothing to do with religion or “devotions” at all, but is instead about being consumed with God in every single thought, word and action? Read more

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything—by prayer and by asking for help, with thanksgiving—let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which is surpassing all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Messiah יֵשׁוּעַ, Yeshua. (Philippians 4:6-7, mjlt)

In today’s uneasy and tumultuous world, there are plenty of things to worry about. Unfortunately, for many believers in Messiah—far too many of us—we find ourselves struggling with worry and anxiety right along with everybody else. This, of course, is not unexpected, as evidenced by the numerous sayings of the Master Yeshua Himself instructing us to not be anxious for tomorrow (Mt. 6:34), or for our life (Mt. 6:25, Lk. 12:22, 21:34), or even for the anxiety of the day and age in which we live (Mt. 13:22, Mk. 4:19, Lk. 8:14). But sadly, the admonition to “be anxious for nothing,” as Paul puts it, goes widely unheeded among the faithful. Instead, anxiety and worry choke us and weigh us down, and—in addition to being absolutely destructive to our physical and mental health—they keep us from being fully effective and useful in the service of our Master. So while worry and anxiety may come naturally, they must be refused—and not allowed to build up and overwhelm us, or to hold sway over our hearts and minds. Read more

I love the Scriptures. I love God’s Word. Every chapter, paragraph, sentence, phrase, word and letter of the Book is life to me. If I could, I would spend each waking moment completely immersed in it. Truly, the Scriptures are perfection.

So, because I love the Word and hold it in such high esteem, I handle it with great care. I don’t take anything about it for granted—I want to clearly hear and obey. I disdain obstacles to understanding, and desire to remove any hindrances that would keep me from the purest possible knowledge of what the Book says and what the Book means. Read more

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