Category Archives: Spiritual Maturity

Kingdom Unity

In the previous article, we discovered the importance of Kingdom focus rather than earthly focus.  While it is true that we live in the world, it is also true that we are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Our assignment is to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth.  How do we do that? 

Yeshua told us that if we believe in Him and the One who sent Him, then the Kingdom of Heaven already resides in us. Some of the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the kingdom of God come?” Jesus answered, “God’s kingdom is coming, but not in a way that you will be able to see with your eyes. People will not say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ because God’s kingdom is withinyou.” (Luke 17:20-21 NCV) The kingdom of God is within us!  As we grow in His ways, the kingdom of Heaven will radiate through us into the world.  The Spirit works through us to change the atmosphere around us.

Yeshua told us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a bit of yeast in a batch of dough. [Yeshua] also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” (Matt 13:33 NLT) As we interact with the world, the “yeast” of the Kingdom within us will begin to permeate every part of the earth. 

The Kingdom of Heaven grows within us as we interact daily with Yehovah and sit at His feet, eager to learn His ways.  We meditate on His word so that we gain more of His wisdom and knowledge.  As we grow more like Him, our influence (yeast) will be more effective and on a larger scale.  We should live in unity and love with our fellow believers.

So, what happened? The Body of Messiah has multiple fractures due to division and even malice among its members.  Yeshua warned us that a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:25).  The Body of Messiah is fractured because we, individually and collectively, have failed to yield to the Holy Spirit. If each of us dies to himself or herself and yields to the Holy Spirit, we will have unity, for the Holy Spirit does not disagree with Himself or with the Father or Yeshua.  Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Where we fail to die to ourselves, we introduce death into the Body of Messiah.

The fractured Body of Messiah is the reason why evil has prevailed in this world.  It is only in unity that we have the strength to address the evil that is covering the world in darkness.  Some leaders and other individuals in the Body of Messiah have already recognized this and have begun to work together and pray together. In order to do this effectively, they have to die to themselves. The rest of Yeshua’s followers must follow their example.  How will we stand before the Judge one day and explain that we were too busy fighting among ourselves to carry out our assignments from Him?  Rather than fight the adversary and his followers, we aided and abetted them with our disagreements and divisions.  How will the Judge respond? 

As we ponder these questions, perhaps we should consider 1 John 4:20 (ESV), If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. Another Scripture verse to meditate on are Yeshua’s words in John 13:35, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” 

When the Holy Spirit reigns in our hearts all the petty disagreements which people have clung to for decades, even centuries, will fall away like so much chaff, and divisions in the Body of Messiah will be healed.  The unity and love that is in us is the yeast that is supposed to permeate throughout the world, just as a little yeast permeates the entire dough as Yeshua explained in Matthew 13:33.  If we want to share the Kingdom with others, we will have to live it as well as preach and teach about it. We can only do this successfully by yielding to the Holy Spirit. 

Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven (Matt 6:10).

Kingdom Focus

We are presently facing numerous challenges on many fronts and fear, unrest, and division are now more prevalent among us.  These reactions are not in keeping with Yehovah’s will for us, for the Holy Spirit brings love, shalom and unity.  How do we handle these challenges without falling into ungodly traps?  We know from Scripture that Yeshua does only what He sees His Father doing (John 5:19).  Therefore, as followers of Yeshua, we must do what we see Yeshua doing, for then we will also be doing what our Father is doing.

Since our challenges are very evident in the physical realm, there is strong temptation to address these issues in the physical realm and to rely on earthly leaders and experts for guidance.  Sadly, many of us are discovering that this is not an effective solution. So, what is a better strategy? 

In response to my cries for help to Abba, the Holy Spirit guided me to pursue the following Bible study: Get a sheet of paper and put a vertical dividing line down the middle. 
Title the left column “Kingdom of Heaven” and the right column “Earthly Governments”.  Now peruse the four Gospels, and record any words or actions of Yeshua that belong to either category.  Below, is a partial listing (the first two gospels) of the results of my own study.  All references were taken from the New Living Translation (NLT) unless otherwise noted. Before we begin, however, let us review some of the governments of Yeshua‘s time.  The Jewish government was headed by corrupt leaders who had created their own religion.  The Romans, known for extreme cruelty, had conquered and occupied Israel.  Anyone traveling the main roads was forced to see victims of crucifixion dying slow, tortured deaths.  The victims might even be family members or close friends.  In view of very real threats and horrors, what was Yeshua’s main focus?

Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God Earthly Governments
Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God  
“Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”  (Matt 4:17).  
Matthew 5-7: Yeshua talks about living as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.  
When Yeshua had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, for he taught with real authority— quite unlike their teachers or religious law (Matt 7 28).  
“And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 8:11).  
“Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matt 10:7).
“And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing and violent people are attacking it” (Matt 11:12).  
“But if I am casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you” (Matt 12:28).  
“You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not” (Matt 13:11).  
Matthew 13 contains several other parables concerning the Kingdom of Heaven.  “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven….” (Matt 18:3-11)  
“Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven…  (Matt 19 12)  
Matt 20:1-16 is the Parable of the Vineyard Workers  
“I tell you the truth, corrupt tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the Kingdom of God before you do” (Matt 21:31).  
Matthew 33-44 is the Parable of the Evil Farmers   Matthew 22:14 is the Parable of the Great Feast  
Matthew 25 is two parables about the Kingdom of Heaven and teaching on the final judgment when the King returns to reign on the earth.  
“The Kingdom of God is near!  Repent of your sins and believe the Good News (Mark 1:15)  
In Mark 4, Yeshua speaks in various parables concerning the Kingdom of God.  
“I tell you the truth, some standing here  right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in power!” (Mark 9:1)  
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands….and if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out.  It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.” (Mark 9:43-48)  
“Let the children come to me.  Don’t stop them!  For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.  I tell you the truth anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”   (Mark 10:14-15)  
“How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God.  In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23-25)  
Parable of the Evil Farmers (Mark 12:1-12)  
Realizing how much the man understood, [Yeshua] said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”  (Mark 12:34)  
And [Yeshua] said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people.  It is poured out as a sacrifice for many.  I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.” (Mark 14:24-25)                      
“Beware of false prophets…” (Matt 7:15-16)  

“You hypocrites!  Isaiah was and right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote… (Mark 7:6-23)  

Watch out!  Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.” (Mark 8:15)  

Jesus turned around and looked at His disciples, then reprimanded Peter, “Get away from me, Satan!” he said.  You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Mark 8:33)  
Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap [Yeshua] into saying something for which he could be arrested…. “Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?  Should we pay them or shouldn’t we?”  [Yeshua] saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me?  Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” When the handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?’ “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well then,” [Yeshua] said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”  (Mark 12:13-17)  
[Yeshua] also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law!  For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces.   And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets.  Yet, they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public.  Because of this, they will be more severely punished.” (Mark 12:38-40)    
Kingdom of Heaven vs. Earthly Governments

As we can clearly see, Yeshua’s main focus was on the Kingdom of Heaven.  Did He make a difference in the physical realm?  Of course!  He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry and taught the crowds.  However, He did not try to change the current governments nor did He get caught up in political arguments.  His focus was on the Kingdom of Heaven.  He did and spoke only what He saw His Father doing and saying.  He submitted Himself to the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19 NIV). Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. (Luke 4:1 NIV).   “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matt 12:28 NIV):

Yeshua did not get caught up local politics with one exception (Matt. 25-15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26).  He frequently admonished and confronted the Jewish leaders because they were disqualifying themselves from the Kingdom of Heaven and they were leading many others to follow suit.  Still, His focus was on building the Kingdom of Heaven.  Many of His followers turned away from Him because they wanted Him to address the issue of Roman subjection.  Actually, He did address the issues of bondage, oppression, cruelty and many other things in His work on the cross and in His resurrection.  But He was going to the source of the problem and the source had its roots in the spiritual realm.  Although He did something physical when He suffered beatings, mocking, and crucifixion, He was addressing a spiritual matter.  Many followers had left Him because He would not take a stand against the Romans.

Instead, He was taking a stand against the evil behind the Romans’ sinfulness and the sinfulness of the whole world.

Our first response to any threat in the physical realm should be seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  He will show you the spiritual root and help you address the problem at that level.  When we get to the source of the problem, we can truly see everlasting results.  When we address only the physical realm, we apply a bandage to a wound that continues to fester.

The bandage will hide the wound, but the wound will still be around, just under the surface.  When we focus on problems, they are magnified.  When we focus on Yehovah, He is magnified. If we keep our focus on Yehovah and seek His kingdom and His ways, then we have His shalom that passes all understanding. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33).  If we focus on Yehovah and His Kingdom of Heaven, we learn to address the fear, unrest and division that is so prevalent in the physical realm by confronting the source of this ungodliness in the spiritual realm.  We will become peacemakers.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matt 5:9 NIV).

Law-Abiding Citizens?

Not everyone who says to meSince the time of Martin Luther, much emphasis has been put on salvation through Yeshua as a gift of YHVH’s grace and not something we merit.  This is true, but it is only a part of the truth.  Yeshua taught about salvation and stressed that reunification with YHVH was possible only through Yeshua Himself.  However, the majority of Yeshua’s teaching focused on how to live in the Kingdom of YHVH (Matt 5-7; 16:19, 18:3, 29-30, 19:23).  Salvation supplies us citizenship in YHVH’s kingdom, but as citizens we must abide by the rules and regulations of our King.  Citizens and visitors in all countries on earth are required to obey the rules of the country where they reside or visit.  What are the consequences of ignoring YHVH’s teaching and commandments?  What are the rewards?  Two books of Scripture (Judges and Ruth) present vivid pictures of the two choices and their consequences.  As we review the stories in these two books, let us look for insights into kingdom living and see how the Body of Messiah measures up.

The Book of Judges provides examples of those who made it to the Promised Land but who failed to follow YHVH’s explicit commands (Judges 2:10).  Let us begin with the story of Micah (chapter 17).  Micah stole 1100 silver pieces from his mother (violating Ex 20: 12, 15).  He overheard his mother putting a curse on the thief.  Micah confessed his sin and returned the money.  His mother used part of the money to “honor” YHVH by creating some idols.  Mixing pagan with sacred and is strictly forbidden by YHVH (Ex 20:3-5).   Micah hired a Levite to serve as a priest in his home.  Levites were to serve YHVH in the Tabernacle, not in individual homes (Num 18:1-2).  How do these choices compare to the development of the Body of Messiah? The church early on mixed pagan with sacred (Christmas and Easter replacing the seven feasts of YHVH), misappropriated funds (selling indulgences and relics), provided idols (statues), and created roles for “priests” that YHVH never authorized.  These practices continue today.  Corruption spreads quickly but is not easily eradicated.  Over time, the Israelites’ disobedience led to their expulsion from the land.  What will be the consequence of our continued disobedience in the kingdom of YHVH?

Next,  the tribe of Dan discovered Micah’s evil setup (Judges 18).  They not only failed to root out the evil, but they stole the idols and the Levite “priest” from Micah thus spreading evil throughout an entire tribe.   Even though YHVH raised up various judges to lead the people, their influence was short-lived.  Strong godly leaders have arisen throughout the history of Christianity.  Revivals have come and gone. Leaders can inspire, exhort and teach, but we make our own choices.  Each person is responsible for establishing and maintaining a relationship with YHVH by loving Him and obeying Him.  We are also responsible for exhorting each other in the Body of Messiah (Col 3:12-17) and rooting out evil from our midst.  Each of us will appear before the Judge (Matt 7:21-23).

Finally, there is the tragic tale of the Levite and his concubine (Judges 19).  The Levite not only failed to protect his concubine, but he used her as a human shield to protect himself.  At that time travel in the Promised Land was no safer than in foreign lands (Judges 19:12).  Israel finally addressed the situation by almost eliminating an entire tribe, not to mention the loss of life in the other tribes.  The first two days Israel fought with the tribe of Benjamin (where the rape and murder had taken place), the other tribes suffered heavy losses.  Was this perhaps punishment for not purging evil from their midst earlier?  On the third day, the tribe of Benjamin was defeated and almost totally destroyed.   A lot of people were killed, but was the evil eradicated?  Being a member of a particular congregation or denomination in the Body of Messiah does not guarantee that we will be righteous before the Judge.  The many incidences of corruption, immorality, etc. within the Body of Messiah today bear witness to our failure to purge evil from our midst.  How many people have sought to know Yeshua and His Father within the Body of Messiah only to be discouraged or even destroyed?  What are we doing to purge evil from our midst?

The book of Ruth provides strong examples of Kingdom of heaven living. Ruth, Naomi and Boaz lived during the same time period as the book of Judges, but their choices brought blessings to themselves and others.  They represent the remnant, those in each generation who truly follow YHVH’s ways, the few chosen from among the many who are called (Matt 22:14).  The climax of the story takes place in the springtime during the barley harvest, the time of Pesach.  Boaz not only followed Torah (Lev 23:22) by allowing Ruth, a poor foreigner, to glean from his fields, but he provided protection and advice for her, unlike the Levite did for his concubine.  We are to welcome the “foreigners” to our faith who seek to know, love and serve YHVH.  We are called to make disciples of them, providing advice, mentoring and protection, not bias and judgment.  Ruth wholeheartedly sought to serve YHVH and her new family.  She was willing to follow the advice of both Naomi and Boaz.  We have much to learn from each other.  Are we proud and obstinate or humble and yielding?  Boaz followed the commandments of YHVH in offering to the kinsman redeemer first in line the opportunity to do his duty.  When the first kinsman redeemer refused, Boaz assumed his assigned duty.  Ruth and Boaz were harvesting barley; we are to harvest souls.  (John 4:35-36).  While bloodlines are important and respected by YHVH, they are no guarantee for eternity.  Neither is the fact that we claim to accept Yeshua as our Savior.  The litmus test for all of us is faithfulness to YHVH and His Torah.

The prevailing excuse given in Judges is that Israel had no king.  Actually, they did have a King who is Spirit, but they failed to recognize Him.  He later came to earth as a human and many still failed to recognize Him.  Our King, who is both YHVH and human resides in heaven, but also in our hearts.  Do we recognize Him as King?  Do we follow His commands?

The Cost of Fear

He will not leave you

To our beloved readers:  I write this article as one who has struggled for years with fear.  Bit by bit I have overcome some of my “illegal” fears, but my struggle continues.  I write this article to myself as well as to all of you.  Let us keep our focus on the prize before us.

Fear is one of the emotions that YHVH gave to us for a specific purpose.  We are to fear only YHVH knowing that He is much greater than us and more powerful.   However, many of us fear much more than the awesome might of YHVH.  We humans have many different types of fear.    Yet Scripture tells us repeatedly not to be afraid.

In Exodus 1:19-45 and Numbers  13-14, we read that the Israelites refused to go into the Promised Land because of their fear of the giant people living there.  As they focused on the problem it seemed to magnify, distracting them so that they forgot the signs and wonders that YHVH had already performed to release them from slavery in Egypt.  As a result of yielding to their fear, the Israelites paid a heavy price.  They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation of adults died out.  They not only forfeited a much easier life in a land of abundance, but they failed to assume their divine assignment from YHVH.  Instead of carrying out their mission, they spent the rest of their lives wandering around aimlessly.  YHVH simply waited until a new generation was raised up to replace those who had yielded to fear.

What can we learn from the Israelites? In Exodus 19 and 20, we see that YHVH wants to meet with the people.  The manifestations of His presence (fire, smoke, lightening and thunder and so on) made the people afraid.  We are to have great awe and respect for the Ancient of Days, but we are not to be afraid to speak to Him and hear His voice.  Now, we do not hear YHVH’s voice thundering, but instead we listen for a still small voice inside of us.  YHVH has made it more comfortable for us to hear Him.  In the Exodus account, barriers were erected around the mountain in order to separate YHVH from the fallen, sinful humans, but Yeshua has removed those barriers for us.  The veil in the Temple has been torn and we are free to have a close personal relationship with our Father and His Son.  Do we fear having an intimate relationship with our Father or with Yeshua?  If so, what price are we paying for our fear?  What are we losing?

Our Father spoke His commandments to the Israelites, but they were too afraid to continue hearing from Him.  So He wrote out His commands on tablets of stone.  After Yeshua returned to His Father, He sent the Holy Spirit to write His law on our hearts.  The Holy Spirit not only has put the law on our hearts but works through us so that we can carry out YHVH’s commands.  Do we fear having the Holy Spirit operate in us and through us?

Just as YHVH delivered the Israelites from bondage, He desires to set us free from our bondage to sin and to demons.  Many of us deny that we can be in bondage to demons when we are already born again.  Others of us are afraid of the spiritual realm and the idea of demons, so we stay in denial and try to ignore them.  Just as termites in your house will not go away if you simply ignore them, neither will demons depart from you because you deny their existence or their presence.  Do we fear seeking deliverance from  demons who hold us in bondage and torment us?  Do we fear the spiritual realm?   As the Israelites were commanded to purge leaven from their midst during Unleavened Bread, we are expected to permanently purge sin and demonic influence from our midst.  How does our bondage hinder us from completing our mission on earth and enjoying life in abundance (John 10:10)?

When the Israelites began to fear the giants in Canaan, they abandoned the only fear they were supposed to have, fear of YHVH.  Their fear of the giants became so great that they disobeyed the only One who is to be feared.  Is it the same with us?  Do we fear that which challenges us to the point that we forget to fear YHVH and thus fail in our divine assignments? Will we fail in our mission because our fear is misplaced?  What blessings and joys are we forfeiting because we give in to forbidden fears?

 

YHVH’s Sanctuary

yhvh-is-a-shelterWhat did Yeshua mean when He said in His Olivet discourse: “as it was in the days of Noach” (Matt 24:39)?  In this and other Re(new)ed Covenant Scriptures (2 Pet 2; 2 Thess 2), the authors speak of a future world of great wickedness, such as has not been known since the times of Noach and Sodom.  These Scriptures also speak of YHVH’s judgment on those who are deceived by the lies of hasatan and refuse to turn to the truth of the Creator and Redeemer of the world, Yehovah Elohim.

They also speak of YHVH our Deliverer saving and protecting His people during times of past trials or judgment:

  • Noach and all his family were divinely saved from destruction by the protection of the Ark (2 Pet 2:5). Note that the Hebrew word for ark (tevah) not only means a box or covering, but it also means “word” – so you can think of Noach and his family truly being covered by YHVH’s Word!
  • In the time of Sodom & Gomorrah, we are told that the people were very immoral and ungodly, but also that God [Elohim] rescued Lot from the fiery judgment because Lot was a righteous man who followed the truth (2 Pet 2:6-7)
  • Moses (Ex 44:7), David (1 Sam :14-15) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:4-8) were all protected in the wilderness
  • In the same way, when YHVH brought all the plagues onto the people in Egypt, He spared the Hebrews from the worst of those plagues (Ex 9). Yeshua became our Passover Lamb 2000 years ago, and now we can cover ourselves with His blood for protection from the enemy’s attacks
  • Finally, in speaking about the end of days, Yeshua says in Revelation 12 verses 6 and 14 that YHVH will once again protect His people from both the unbearable attacks from the adversary hasatan, and also from His own judgments against the wicked

From these Scriptures we know that YHVH has protected His people many times in the past, and has said that He would protect us again during the Tribulation period.  We also know from Yeshua’s words in Matthew 24 and Sha’ul’s prophecies in 2 Timothy 3 that the times before the end of this current world will be characterized by great sinfulness and evil.

What will lead the people of the world into such great lawlessness, though?  We know there are plenty of greedy, boastful and wicked people throughout the world now, but Yeshua says the End will be a time like no other that has ever been seen or will ever be seen again.  Several Scriptures speak of a great apostasy, deception, or falling away (2 Thess 2:3, Matt 24:10).  Reading further in these Scriptures we see many reasons for this falling away of believers in Yeshua, so great that even some of the elect will be led astray (Matt 24:24).  Yeshua speaks of many false prophets and teachers, and the great signs and wonders they will use to try to convince believers that they are the Messiah who is prophesied to return.

There is a stronger deception than simple signs and wonders that will be leading the saints away from YHVH, though.  This deception becomes clear when you look at the expanded meaning of apostasy – it means “an abandonment of the truth”.  In spiritual terms, this means that the end times will involve a wholesale rejection of YHVH’s revelation, a further “falling away” of an already fallen world.  This “end times” falling away is confirmed as the sign that will come before the Tribulation ends and Yeshua returns for His saints (the set-apart ones) in several other Scriptures.

When Sha’ul talks about the end times in II Timothy 3, he talks first about all the wickedness that will mark that time, but then he goes on to say in Verse 7 that people at that time will be: “always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth”.  This agrees with II Thessalonians 2:10-12 which states that the ones who will be judged in the latter days will be the ones who did not believe the truth of YHVH, but instead believed the enemy’s lies.  The crux of this passage in Verse 11 says: “…God will cause them to be greatly deceived, so that they will believe these lies”.

Going back to Matthew 24, Yeshua’s first answer to His disciples about the signs of the end was: “Be careful that no one leads you astray! For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will lead many astray” (Matt 24:4-5).  Remember that one of Yeshua’s harshest reprimands of the religious leaders was in John 8:44 when they accused Him of casting out demons and healing people in the name and power of the devil: “For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies”.

The essence, then, of the reason for the great falling away in the end times will be that a great majority of the people (believers and unbelievers alike) will believe the lies of the false teachers and prophets and of the anti-messiah himself.

So how do we prepare ourselves for these perilous times, so that we can discern false from true teaching and prophecy, and resist following the popular path of believing the captivating lies of the enemy’s allies?  As with all temptations and allurements of our society, we need to put all our trust in our Rock and Redeemer, Yeshua HaMashiach, and be filled with Yehovah’s Holy Spirit.  We need to ask Abba for guidance in discerning the truth from the lies, and then follow that truth no matter what are the world consequences.  While it is true that not all believers will be delivered physically through the Tribulation, we know that if we remain steadfast in our trust and obedience, YHVH will help empower us to overcome the world, by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our testimony.  In this world we will have tribulation, but Yeshua has overcome the world, and greater is He that is in us (the Holy Spirit) than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Who’s Missing?

mind-of-spirit-is-peace

When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. 45 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”

Many of us are familiar with Yeshua’s words from Matthew 12:43-45.  It is possible, however, to read over this passage many times and yet miss some vital information.  This is an important message for all of us, so it is wise to spend some time reflecting on Yeshua’s warning.

First, let us look at the rest of the chapter for context.  At the beginning of the chapter, Yeshua, referring to Himself as Son of Man (Hebrew expression for a human being) is also declaring His identity and authority as Son of God, because He has authority even over the Sabbath.  We know from other Scripture verses that Yeshua emptied Himself, or divested Himself from His power as the Son of YHVH (Phil 2:7) and relied solely on the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1), as He expects His followers to do (Luke 24:49).[1]

As the chapter continues, Yeshua performs miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Beginning in verse 22, Yeshua casts out a demon from a man who is both blind and mute.  The people consult with their leaders after this miracle, saying that surely Yeshua must be the Son of David, the Messiah.  The leaders, who are against Yeshua, tell the people that Yeshua is not using the power of YHVH to perform His miracles, but the power of the prince of demons.  They are denying the power of the Holy Spirit in their attempt to discredit Yeshua.

Now we come to Yeshua’s words concerning an evil spirit who leaves (or is driven out) from its dwelling within a person.  After wandering for some time, the demon returns to its former abode, which has now been swept clean and is in order.  This suggests that the person has repented, been forgiven, and/or had soul wounds healed.  But Scripture also says that the abode is empty, or unoccupied.  Who should be dwelling there now?  The Holy Spirit.  If there is any part of our souls (mind, will, emotions) that have not been yielded to Yeshua and filled with the Holy Spirit, they are prime areas for demons to move in.

In our efforts to quell demonic activity in our lives and repair the damages, we must be intentional in inviting the Holy Spirit to ensure that the former (or potential) dwelling of the demon is not only in order and swept clean, but occupied and guarded as well.   In other words, we cannot truly improve on our own, but need the help of the Holy Spirit. In Mark’s version of this story (chapter 3), Yeshua tells us no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.  On our own, we are not strong enough to withstand the enemy.  The Holy Spirit is the “strong man” that cannot be overpowered by demons.

Yeshua purposely divested Himself of His power and authority as the second Person of YHVH in order to rely solely on the power of the Holy Spirit, thus demonstrating to us that we must divest ourselves of our own power and rely on the Holy Spirit.

Why did Yeshua say “that would be the experience of this evil generation”?  Because the Pharisees wanted to be in control to the extent that they not only denied the power of the Holy Spirit when it suited them, but they gave credit to hasatan for the work of the Holy Spirit.  Some believers today are still falling into that error.  Some say that speaking in tongues is of the devil, for example.  Many of us avoid the Holy Spirit out of fear or reluctance to relinquish control.

Where the Holy Spirit prevails there will be order, unity and love.  Where the Holy Spirit is not welcome, there will be chaos, division, hatred or apathy.  We cannot atone for our sins on our own, but need to rely on Yeshua’s sacrifice on our behalf.  Likewise, we cannot steer our own course through this spiritual battlefield on earth, but must rely on the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Aside from some practice runs, the apostles did not get started on their assignments in YHVH’s harvest until they had been filled with “power from on high” or the Holy Spirit (Acts 2)

Are there areas in your life that are confusing or chaotic?  Are there broken or weak relationships in your life?  How will you sweep these areas clean?  Will you welcome the Holy Spirit to reign in that area of your life as your “strong man”?

[1] Yeshua did not cease to become the Son of YHVH at any time nor did He relinquish His authority as the Son of YHVH, but He operated only by the power of the Holy Spirit to demonstrate to His followers what He expected of them.

 

Yeshua is the Way

thru-the-veil-of-his-fleshIt is clear that Abba Father tore the veil separating the people from the Holy of Holies when Yeshua’s body perished, because the Scripture says it was “torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt 27:51).  The fact that it was torn from top to bottom symbolizes YHVH reaching down from Heaven and opening the way for us to “come boldly to His throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy” (Heb 4:16).  What is this place we are entering into, though?  For Torah observant Jews of Yeshua’s time, they may have wrongly believed that the way had been opened for them to come into the Holy of Holies and worship in YHVH’s presence, where His glory dwelled above the earthly Ark of the Covenant.

However, through history and the Scriptures, we find a much deeper meaning to the tearing of the veil.  From history we know that the Temple was destroyed and the Ark was hidden or taken away, just as Yeshua had prophesied in Luke 13:35.  Our entrance into the Holiest place, then, was not an entrance into an earthly place, but rather an entrance into YHVH’s heavenly throne of grace.  Sha’ul gives us some great hints as to what this means at a deeper level:

  • “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the veil, where Jesus [Yeshua] has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever..” (Hebrews 6:19-20)
  • The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made with human hands,” (Acts 17:24)

The first passage above tells us that Yeshua has gone into the inner place ahead of us, to make a way for us to come before the Father’s throne.  We know from Scripture that Yeshua ascended to Heaven after his Resurrection and now sits at the right hand of the Father, and Hebrews 6:20 tells us that Yeshua is now our high priest.  When He opened the way into the Holy place of the Father in heaven, Yeshua also did away with the sacrificial system.  He became our God-man sacrifice who took away our sins and diseases for all time, not just once a year like the earthly high priest or the animal sacrifices people brought to the Temple.

In the second Scripture above, we learn that YHVH does not live in earthly temples – rather, He dwells in His heavenly Tabernacle, where He now invites us to come and fellowship with Him, through the Way that Yeshua has made for us by tearing the veil.  Yeshua has also made us holy and righteous before Abba, as He has washed us white as snow by His blood (I Cor 6:11).  This is not only a way to the Father, but rather it is the only way to draw close to Abba – in John 14:6, Yeshua Himself said that no one can come to the Father except through Him.

Even with all these insights into the tearing of the veil, though, and the way that has been opened for us into Yehovah’s most Holy place, there is still a deeper and more personal significance to this event.  Hebrews 10:20 (NIV) says that Yeshua opened a “new and living way for us through the veil, but then it equates the veil with Yeshua’s flesh.  This means that we are actually entering into Yeshua’s body when we come before YHVH’s throne – now that is the way to come to the Father!  The next time you come before Abba’s throne in worship, remember that you are entering through the perfect, sinless flesh of the One who showed us His unconditional love by sacrificing His life for us.

Light Revelation

light-shines-in-darknessLight is essential for our survival, both physically and spiritually.  At this time of year, we celebrate light in the darkness.  The menorah symbolizes the light of Yeshua (Ps 119:105, John 8:12)  Arlene Sheldon provides an interesting study on Yeshua’s miracles that correspond with His “I AM” statements ( http://www.wellofbethlehem.witnesstoday.org/menorah.html ) as the living menorah.  The light of the Father poured forth from Yeshua.  Yet, Yeshua tells us that we are the light of the world (Matt 5:14).  What is light? How are we to be light in the darkness?

YHVH created light on the first day, but He created the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day.  What was the light that YHVH created?  Some ridicule the Bible and say that it contradicts itself.  How could YHVH create light but not create the sun until day four?  In his article entitled Sunlight Before the Sun, John D. Morris, PhD. from the Institute for Creation Resource points out that there are many types of light such as short-wave light including ultraviolet light and X-rays and long-wave light including infrared light and radio waves.  Perhaps YHVH created the materials for light on day one and then chose different combinations of materials for various types of light.  YHVH provides various combinations of spiritual light within us as we draw closer to Him, the Source of light.

We can be misled by what we do not see.  For example, when we turn on an incandescent light bulb, we may think that the light we see is the only light produced by the bulb.  However the incandescent bulb emits only around 10% of its energy as visible light and the remainder is infrared light (“Light,” Wikipedia).   We are to be light in the darkness.  Are we incandescent bulbs?  No, we are light in the sense that there is ignorance or defiance of YHVH’s truth and we can reflect the light of YHVH’s truth to those living in the chaos of darkness.  We may think that the light we provide to the world is small and insignificant, but perhaps we are unaware of the various kinds of light that YHVH is able to produce through us.

Light can also mean understanding or comprehension of Scripture.  Psalm 119:130 states, The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple (ESV).  When we read or study Scripture, we can interpret or comprehend on four levels. Peshat is the surface or literal meaning,  Remez the allegorical or symbolic meaning,  Daresh  the comparative meaning given through similar occurrences and Sod is the secret meaning given through inspiration or revelation.  Light can penetrate through layers of darkness.  As we comprehend Scripture and it becomes part of us, we emanate its light to those around us.  Light and truth are closely related to each other.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God (John 3:21 NIV).

YHVH Himself is light.  1 John 1:5 states …God is light, and in Him there is no darkness.   YHVH has many mysteries hidden in the dark and as they are revealed, YHVH will be more fully revealed.  How do we reveal YHVH to others?  Isaiah 58:10 says If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness and your darkness shall be as the noonday.

By steeping ourselves in YHVH’s light through His word and through personal relationship with Him, the oil of the Holy Spirit will keep our lamps burning brightly in the ever increasing darkness of this world.  Our light will shine through our words and actions to others.  Let your light shine in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:16).  We will not only survive in the darkness, we will thrive.

 

Righteous Oaks

righteous-oaksWhen YHVH promises in the beginning of Verse 3 of Isaiah 61 that He will give us: “Beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of the spirit of heaviness”, His end goal is not just to give us temporary help to get us through a crisis in our lives. Ultimately, God is building us up to be trees [oaks] of righteousness. We are the “trees” God is planting in the place He desires us to bear fruit.

Oak trees are known to be the strongest, most sturdy and resilient of all trees on Earth. They can withstand hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, droughts and floods better than almost any other type of tree.  God likens His children to oak trees and says we can be just like them in our character and integrity: “They shall be like great oaks of righteousness”.  These are not the words of a long-ago prophecy that have no meaning for us today. This is the expression of God’s heart for His people down through the generations. God wants us to be strong and enduring and He has given us clear insight in His word as to how we are to make that happen.

The average large oak tree needs as much as fifty gallons of water per day, so the root system is large and goes deep to reach that water. The root system not only brings the needed nourishment to the tree but it provides the anchoring base that allows the tree to withstand all kinds of assaults, from the wind, the rain and the shaking of earthquakes.  The root system of a mature oak tree can total hundreds of miles, and the roots of an oak tree extend out underground up to two and a half times their height.  So how can we as YHVH’s children ever hope to have such deep roots?

Jeremiah 17:7-8 is a powerful amplification of what Isaiah is talking about: “But blessed is the person who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit”.

Both in Isaiah 61 and here in Jeremiah, it is clear that YHVH plants His seeds purposefully. He does not take His seeds and scatter them to the wind, disregarding where they fall.  God picks a perfect place for each of us, personally putting the tender shoot in the ground, knowing exactly what lies ahead. God knows every detail of our lives and the place of our planting and He does not make mistakes; we were not planted in the wrong part of the garden!

We were destined to display the “splendor of the Lord.” It doesn’t matter how you feel, you are destined to display the splendor and majesty of YHVH. There are days when you may not feel that you are reflecting God’s glory to others in your world, but if you have deep spiritual roots and are standing tall in constant relationship with YHVH, you will be displaying His majesty.   In fact, He will “rejoice over you with gladness” (Zephaniah 3:17) and even “protect you from trouble and surround you with songs of victory” (Psalm 32:7).

Trees do not instantly develop deep roots, and neither do people – both must go through difficult times of physical or spiritual drought and hardship, and must be patient until their roots develop.  In the case of God’s people, we must be filled with God’s Holy Spirit and grow in our faith and spiritual maturity, learning to trust YHVH more and more for strength to overcome the attacks and temptations of the world.

Trees contribute greatly to purify the air, and render it fit for us to breathe. When the air around us passes through leaf surfaces, it is purified and invigorated.  In the same way, there is a moral atmosphere around us.  When the air around us passes through our spirit and soul, we have the ability to speak life or death, blessing or curse to those around us.  As YHVH spoke in Deuteronomy 30:19-20, “I call on heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have presented you with life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, so that you will live, you and your descendants, loving the LORD [YHVH] your God, paying attention to what He says and clinging to Him — for that is the purpose of your life!

As YHVH’s children, when we trust in Him with all our heart and follow His ways and His instructions, our roots will go down deep into the “earth” of the Holy Spirit within us, enabling us to withstand all the trials and tribulations of life, bearing much fruit and glorifying Him through our lives.  As YHVH says in Jeremiah 17:7-8 about those whose confidence is in Him: “we will be like trees planted by the stream, that send our roots deep: we will not fear when heat [persecution] comes; our leaves will always be green. We will have no worries in a year of drought and we will never fail to bear fruit”.

Tending the Garden

producing-fruitAt creation, humans were placed in an enclosed garden and were given dominion of the earth and the assignment of tending the garden.  There was at this point no barrier between YHVH and those whom He created in His image and likeness, so it is fair to assume that there was communication between YHVH and Adam and Eve.  YHVH is a God of relationship.  Among other things, perhaps YHVH was giving advice and guidance on how best to tend their garden home.  After all, He is the Creator of all things and knows how everything best functions.

Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we are assigned another task, an additional garden to be tended, the garden of our souls.  When we are born again, our spirit is perfect and sealed (John 3:6, Eph 4:30, 1 Pet 1:23), but the soul and body remain unchanged and must be renewed or improved by our deliberate cooperation with the Holy Spirit.  Scripture tells us that our bodies will be resurrected and transformed (1 Cor 15:50, 53), but what about our souls?  Our souls are made up of mind, will and emotions.  It is here that we must do our greatest work of yielding to the Holy Spirit (Rom 12:2, Eph 4:22-23, Col 3:1-3).  Just as Satan entered the Garden of Eden with evil intent and deceit, so he sends his workers to enter the garden of our souls to wreak havoc of all sorts, especially through deceit.

Just as Adam and Eve had dominion (management) of the Garden of Eden and therefore could have ousted the intruder, hasatan, we have dominion of our souls and can yield ground either to YHVH or to His enemy.  We must oust the enemy in every part of our soul garden so that YHVH is welcome to reside there with us (Rev 3:20).

The Holy Spirit walks with us each day to provide assistance.  With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, it is our job to remove the weeds of guilt, doubt, fear, envy, selfishness, pride, and strife.  It is in these areas that we “do not do the good I want to do. Instead, I keep on doing the evil I do not want to do.” (Rom 7:19).  We must also seek the Holy Spirit to help us identify and heal soul wounds which are deep emotional pains and injuries.   It is in these areas that the enemy can sow new seeds by planting new lies.

We cannot be totally possessed by the devil when we are born again for there is at least one part of us already sealed and off limits.  However, in areas of our soul where we have built false strongholds, we have created a place to welcome and harbor demons.  What is a false stronghold?  It is any attitude or pattern of behavior where we are still in charge or where we rely on anything or anyone other than YHVH to help us.  Strongholds are built of lies and misconceptions and are places of darkness within the soul.  Demons are active in encouraging us to erect strongholds, for this is a place where they can live and get a solid foothold in their work of stealing, killing and destroying (John 10:10).

If demons have infiltrated and taken possession of part of our gardens, they must be removed through deliverance.  Many people avoid this step because of fear of the unknown.  Also, many have seen the drama that can be involved in deliverance.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Deliverance under the guidance of the Holy Spirit can be quiet, civilized and completed in a very short time. It is our duty to remove the enemy from our garden.  Afternward, it is crucial that we identify and tear down the false strongholds that we have built.  Thus we destroy any “homes” for the enemy and can invite the Holy Spirit to move into those areas.  It is in dying to ourselves and yielding control to YHVH in every aspect of our mind, will and emotions that our soul gardens will flourish and prosper.

When we are tempted to neglect the tasks involved in tending our garden, we would be wise to read and meditate on the following Scriptures:

So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.  Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions (Matt 7:19-20)

Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire (Matt 3:10).

Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt 10:28).

Let us take seriously the tending of our soul gardens and yield good fruit so that our Father may be glorified.