Monthly Archives: October 2014

Spiritual Maturity: Dying to Grow Up

GrowingUp

When we are born again we are delivered from the kingdom of darkness and admitted to YHVH’s kingdom through His grace (Col 1:13). We do not gain entry into either the physical world or YHVH’s kingdom through our own efforts. We do not choose to be born physically, but we do choose to be born spiritually (Rom. 10:9-10). Just as we were infants after our physical birth, we are spiritual infants after being born again (1 Cor 3:1-5).

When human babies are born in the flesh, they are aware only of their own needs for food and bodily comfort. Spiritual infants are much the same. As spiritual infants, we can handle only spiritual milk and are mostly concerned with our own needs and wants. At this point, we are taking from our Father in heaven and from our brothers and sisters in Yeshua. We are more concerned with ourselves than with our Father’s will or with others’ needs. This is perhaps a necessary phase for our development, but it should not be a permanent condition.  In order to truly live, we must die to self.

 At some point we must learn to stand on our own and progressively assume more responsibility in the kingdom (Eph 4:14). As we mature, we think less of satisfying our own needs and more of serving others. We take responsibility for our learning by deliberately choosing to spend time in prayer and Scripture.   We learn to rely less on the help and prayers of others for every little thing and spend more time interacting with our Father. As our relationship with Father grows, our trust in Him also grows.

As we mature, we notice the work that needs to be done in the kingdom in order to grow and maintain it. We reach out to those not yet in the kingdom, encouraging them to seek admittance into YHVH’s kingdom (Mark 16:15). Our capacity to love and forgive others increases (Col 3:12-14). With the help of the Holy Spirit, we rid ourselves of all influences from the kingdom of darkness and seek to become more like Yeshua, Who is our perfect example (Eph 4:13).

As our spiritual wisdom increases, we realize that Abba has a master plan for building His kingdom. We no longer take it upon ourselves to volunteer for every project that comes along, but we diligently seek what He has planned for us to do (Ps 143:10). We understand that if we fail to perform our assigned task, but instead choose the tasks assigned for others, then we do more harm than good (1 John 5:3). When we follow His plan for our lives, we have far more abundance of all that we would have sought on our own (2 Cor 9:8).

 We are called to develop and mature into spiritual adults in the kingdom just as we are expected to grow to adulthood and accountability in the physical world. It takes time and effort on our part and the process is painful at times just as it is in our physical lives. We will be amply rewarded for our faithfulness.

Spiritual Warfare 301

CombatDemonsAbout a month ago, I had the rare privilege of hearing a first-hand testimony describing the practical results of spiritual warfare in a public institution. The institution was a public high school, probably one of the last places a Spirit-filled believer would go to search for evidence of Holy Spirit power. I heard the school principal’s awesome testimony of the transformation of her school from the most warlike school in the county to the most peaceful. The school essentially came out of the kingdom of darkness and entered into the kingdom of light.

When this principal took over the school three years ago, the halls and grounds were characterized as places of open physical warfare, with acts of hostility, verbal abuse, and physical violence perpetrated by members of opposing gangs. A general spirit of fear prevailed on the campus, especially among the students and their parents. The very negative atmosphere within the school also manifested itself through depressed test scores and the inability to qualify students for AP (advanced placement) classes, which are prime indicators of a school’s academic success.

In each of these areas, the school has taken a 180° turn for the better over the last three years. The school is now one of the safest in the county in terms of controlling / avoiding conflict situations, and has the highest percentage of students who qualify for and enroll in AP classes. The students can now strive for academic excellence in a positive atmosphere where they and their parents can feel safe and secure.

So, how did this dramatic transformation happen? When this school’s principal first took over leadership, her first task was to claim the school (building and grounds) for God (YHVH), and to take back authority from the enemy. She and several spirit-filled volunteers walked every inch of the campus, denouncing Satan and his demons who had gained a stronghold there, claiming back the school for God (as in Matt 10:7-8).

On our tour, the principal gave us numerous examples of victory over the enemy, and how that had changed the atmosphere in the school. In one instance, someone had reported demonic graffiti on the back of the school, so she decided to make a show of force against the enemy (as in Col 2:15) by marking over it with black spray paint and then writing scripture verses next to it that showed the power of God that overcame the demons. As she was doing this she sensed someone else’s presence, so she turned around and looked into the eyes of about ten gang members standing right behind her ladder. She prayed for YHVH’s protection and the power of the Holy Spirit to speak through her words, and with the Lord’s help, she was able to diffuse a potentially dangerous confrontation.

In other situations where there were threats and explosive confrontations between students, the principal was able to get spiritually trained school counselors involved in mediation sessions to bring reconciliation between antagonistic students, even getting the local courts involved in some cases to bring peace between defiant students and people in the community.

Hearing these testimonies of reclaiming a public school for YHVH, how can we apply scriptural principles (Luke 10:19, Mark 16:17) to claim victory in our everyday lives? Knowing this truth, what can we do to take authority over the enemy in our home and workplace and claim victory in the name of Yeshua and the power of the Holy Spirit?

Getting to Know YHVH

WidowsInCloudsWho is YHVH and what is He like? We do not see Him, but we see the work that He does. Although our planet is relatively small compared to the planets in the rest of the solar system, humans have yet to discover everything about it. Each ecosystem, creature, and plant has been carefully designed and crafted to fulfill His purpose. Consider the intricacies of interdependence among the plants and animals in just one ecosystem.

 We know even less about our universe and beyond. YHVH demonstrates through His creation that He is more complex than we can imagine. The Book of Job describes some elements of YHVH’s majesty (Job 26:7-14). YHVH not only created the stars, but He arranged them to tell the story of our salvation. (See “The Gospel Witness in the Stars” posting)

YHVH tracks the smallest particulars of His creation. He knows our thoughts and actions Ps 139:2) and keeps track of the hairs on our heads (Luke 12:7, Matt 10:30). He is concerned with the details of our lives (Matt. 6:25-34).  Nothing escapes His notice.

The Israelites had the opportunity to hear YHVH’s voice and witness some of His glory (Exodus 19) and it frightened them. They were overwhelmed by His power and majesty. And yet our awesome God demonstrates incredible patience and longsuffering in the face of abuse from those whom He created. He patiently worked with the Israelites for over forty years just as He continues to do with us. The most graphic example of His longsuffering is the cruel agony and death Yeshua endured in order to take our punishment and pay our ransom so that we could be reunited with YHVH.

Think of our individual size compared to the earth. We are like miniscule ants on this planet. Yet, our Creator fashioned us in His image and likeness and then took on human form in order to dwell with us. It is wise to have deep reverence and respect for the awesome power and majesty of YHVH. And yet, He desires to call us His children and to take care of us individually. (2 Cor 6:19-20, John 1:12, 1 John 3:1). We are not to forget that He is our Creator and King, but we must balance this with His incredibly deep love and tenderness towards us as our Father. One glimpse of YHVH’s compassion can be found in Jonah, chapter 4.

 YHVH is especially compassionate towards those who are defenseless in our fallen world. Search the Scriptures for YHVH’s attitude towards widows, orphans, the newcomers (strangers or sojourners in the land), and others who are particularly vulnerable. You will see that YHVH is consistently adamant about fair treatment and dignity for those considered the least in society.

 YHVH wants a personal relationship with you. He wants to bless you and show you how to live life to the fullest. Do not disregard the best relationship you can ever have for it is the purpose of your life (Deut 30>19-20).

Their Voice has Gone out to All the Earth

Their voice has gone out (Rom 10 18)In my first posting on the “Gospel in the Stars”, I explained that God (YHVH) created everything in His kingdom for His own purposes (Prov 16:4), including the stars of the sky. The most tangible use of the stars in the natural world is for keeping track of God’s “appointed times” (Moedim). As I had mentioned before, the sun moves through all 12 of the Zodiac (Mazzerot in Hebrew) signs throughout the course of the year – one sign each month. So, if you were stranded on a tropical desert island for a year, where you had no noticeable change of meteorological seasons, you would still be able to keep track of the seasons of the year. Remember from my previous blog that when God speaks of His seasons in the scriptures, he does not mean the well-known seasons of Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, but rather He is referring to His appointed times (the seven annual Feasts of YHVH) outlined in Lev 23 and many other scriptures.

The real focus of this blog series, though, is to illustrate a more significant purpose that God had for creating and arranging the stars in the sky. Paul’s (Sha’ul’s) letter to the Romans quotes Ps 19:4 when it says “But I ask you, have they [the heathens] not heard? Indeed they have, for ‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world’.” (Rom 10:18) The word their in his quotation refers to the stars from Ps 19. He quoted this verse as an irrefutable testimony that even the heathen of the nations outside Israel had seen and heard the witness of the stars, because their voice had gone out to all the earth!

So, let’s talk about some specific examples. Recall from my last posting that Yeshua (Jesus) represents the “strong man” in Ps 19:5 (“which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race”). The association of the strong man with the bridegroom confirms that this verse is talking about the Messiah. I had introduced the strong man examples of El Gibbor (paganized to Hercules in later centuries) and Shur (Taurus in pagan astrological terminology) in my Sept 12 blog “Witness in the Stars”. I want to focus now on the Zodiac sign of Taurus or Shur (“the coming and ruling one” as translated from Hebrew), and specifically on the constellation of Orion.

Since Shur represents the coming and ruling one, there is an indisputable association to the Messiah (Yeshua), the judge and ruler of the whole earth. The three constellations in Shur (by their astrological names) are Orion, Eradinus, and Auriga. Orion (or Chesil in Hebrew) means the strong one or hero. Together with the ancient names of stars in Eradinus, this constellation literally means “the river of the Judge’s wrath breaking forth on His enemies”. This ties in with the verses in Dan 7:9-11 which talk about the final judgment at the throne of the “Ancient of Days” – verse 10 says “A river of fire was flowing, and coming out from before Him…the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.” Auriga means shepherd (as in Isa 40:10-11), which represents Messiah Yeshua, the Good Shepherd who leads His redeemed to safety in the final “Day of Wrath”.

Now, focusing on Orion (Chesil), there are two separate but related meanings that come from these two names for the constellation. As I said above, Chesil means the Strong One; but Orion also comes from a Hebrew root meaning “coming forth as light”. So combining these concepts, we have an obvious and powerful reference to the Messiah as the Strong One and the Branch (from the star Betelgeuse, or Tzemach in Hebrew); the coming Prince (from another star in Orion); and the One who comes forth like light, swiftly crushing the enemy under His foot (from the star Rigel). These awesome testimonies of God’s “Gospel in the Stars” only increase our trust in YHVH as the One and only Creator, Redeemer and Master of the universe, who tells the end of the story from the beginning.

Religion vs. Relationship (Part 2)

FriendshipwithGod

 As a teenager, I had my share of rock ‘n roll idols. I loved getting the latest fan magazines to see what treasured facts I could learn about my idol. I bought all the newly-released records and listened to them over and over again. I spent countless hours imagining a make-believe relationship with someone I did not even know personally. It seemed insignificant that the idol certainly did not know and probably would not care that I existed. I shudder to think how much time I wasted on a mere illusion. I never really wanted to meet the actual person, who might not like me at all. That would have destroyed the illusion.

Religion is much the same. We form congregations, activities, committees, and study-groups so that we can learn more about God.

We hone our image of God and create doctrines. Then we fashion rules and regulations to support our doctrines. Many people who faithfully attend and participate in church never get to know God personally.

Religion provides a false sense of security. There is little or no risk involved. Just as I could change my make-believe relationship with an idol to suit my ideas or moods, people cling to religion for the same reason. I had no idea what the real person was like, but it did not matter. I could make the illusion into whatever I desired at the time. Learning facts about God and performing rituals is a far cry from having a relationship with YHVH.

Are we afraid that YHVH will not like us if we relate directly to Him? It is too late to worry about that. He created us, knows us intimately and already loves us. Is YHVH truly different from what we have learned or imagined? I believe that is often the case. Are we afraid that we will not like the real YHVH as much as our imaginary one?

For many years, I settled for religion. When I discovered that a genuine relationship was possible, I hesitated. What if YHVH didn’t like me? It took some time to get up the courage to give my life to Yeshua, but I finally made a timid effort. What happened? I was flooded with more love and acceptance than I could ever have anticipated, despite all my sins and shortcomings. I discovered that Yeshua and His Father far surpass any illusion I could have dreamed up.

Religion keeps us stagnant. Relationship with YHVH changes and renews us. If you have not done so already, I encourage you to go ahead and take the risk. Tell Yeshua and Abba that you would like to know them personally. It will be the best risk you ever take.  If you are still unsure, meditate on Psalm 139.