A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the sea. . . Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD. . ." (2 Chronicles 20:2-3).
Periodically in life you get “bad news” — a kick in the teeth that you did not expect. The painful message may be related to your health, relationship, career, children, parents, finances or whatever. The news can touch the very fiber of your being — emotionally and spiritually. A kick in the head!
Have you ever had someone bring you really bad news? It was so bad that when you heard it your stomach immediately became upset. You went into a crisis mode.
This was the situation for King Jehoshaphat of Judah in 2Chronicles 20. He had just been informed that his country was going to be attacked and destroyed by an army much larger than his. However, instead of panicking, he immediately turned to the Lord by calling for a time of a fasting and prayer. The people from every town in Judah responded.
King Jehoshaphat prayed and reminded God of His promise to Israel. Then he asked God for strategy. "For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." At the end of his prayer the Scriptures say that King Jehoshaphat and Judah waited on God's answer. It came through the prophet, Jahaziel son of Zechariah. He said, "Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's'" (2 Chron 20:15-16).
God supernaturally wiped out their enemies that day. They didn't even have to fight. God caused the enemy to fight themselves. However, the one thing the people did do was that they began to praise God on the battlefield. "As they began to sing and praise, the LORD set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated" (2 Chron 20:22-23).
King Jehoshaphat did four things in response to bad news. He called for prayer, he called for fasting, he asked for God's strategy, and he began his battle by praising God in the midst of the battle.
Maybe you've just gotten some bad news. If so, follow the example of King Jehoshaphat set forth for us (Romans 15:4): Pray. Fast. Ask. Praise.
Yes, illness, divorce, death of a loved one, spousal-parents-kids, health, and financial issues do bring “bad news” sometimes, and such news can drop us to our knees. But the person of faith and resilience gets up and challenges life’s headwinds with new resolve — grateful to be alive and have more opportunities to experience the “God stuff” available for those who are able to move ahead. Hopefully you have, or will follow the pathway King Jehoshaphat set forth for us (Romans 15:4): Pray. Fast. Ask. Praise.
“Blessed are those who MOURN, for they will be COMFORTED.”Matthew 5:4
Have you ever wondered about the different ways Christians try to explain these words spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount???
Most often we are used to hearing these words from Matthew 5:4 at a funeral service or when someone has gone through a terrible loss. Some people even say that the real comfort of Matthew 5:4 can only occur in the Millennial Kingdom when Christ returns.In traditional Christian interpretations, the Biblical Scriptures are most often interpreted through the lens of Plato, Aristotle and Socrates – the Greek philosophical traditions which view God as transcendent and impassable, i.e. distant and mostly uninvolved.
As a Pastor I DO NOT support the idea that God is transcendent (beyond the realm of human understanding) or impassable (cannot travel to touch Him)...from the Scriptures! For the Lord Jesus is the descent of God into the middle of our muddled lives, just as they are, not the ascent of our lives to God, hoping that somehow he might approve when He sees how hard we try. This Word of the Lord shows us that the commitment that God is looking from humankind is NOT to escape from this life but to realize God’s power and presence in the HERE and NOW - this can literally transform both our lives and our society. Unfortunately, the history of the Church reveals to us that when Christians become fixated about only finding God in the “next world to come", they often miss finding the God of earth and history, the Healer of the Universe, in the here and now – in our soiled ordinariness.
We need to affirm creation by finding a sense of holiness in the here and now. There is no division between the secular and the sacred areas of our lives. It is ALL belongs to God. As stewards of God’s world, Christians are to live within this world and use it in accord with divine directives. In this way, we will know the dynamic presence and power of the Lord at work on earth in our daily lives and activities.
Now back to Matthew 5:4...Let me simply say that to properly understand this text, we must figure out the way Eastern Rabbis used the word “Mourning” and “Comfort” during the times of First Century Judaism. It is very important for us to understand figures of speech, slangs and colloquialisms of First Century Rabbinic Judaism to properly understand the Bible, especially the New Testament which is written by Jewish believers in Classical Greek of the First Century.
To understand Matthew 5:4, let’s look at some examples of American Slangs and Colloquialisms in the following statements:
“Blessed are those who have a GREEN THUMB, for they shall be FRUITFUL.”
“Blessed are those who HIT the HAY EARLY, for they shall find GOOD REST.”
“Blessed are those who don’t go at EACH OTHER’S THROATS, for they shall find peace.”
“Blessed are those who make way for peace when the JERK made them PULL the Car OFF the Road.”
“Blessed are those who don’t get angry when the LITTLE BIRD told all their DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS.”
Americans readily understand the above statements. HOWEVER, for those in other countries who are not very familiar with American-English Slangs and Colloquialisms this could be quite difficult. They will miss the true message of these statements if they rely simply on just grammatical word studies on the English words within these statements. They will miss what people are trying to communicate within our American culture and context. Robert Frost once said that we miss the poetry of a culture when we translate from one language to another language - i.e. Lost in Translation!
To understand the New Testament, especially Matthew 5:4, we must try to understand how First Century Judaism used the words “Mourning” and “Comfort.” There have been vast amounts of Judaic and rabbinic literary data made available to us, especially after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in modern Israel. From these new discoveries we get a better understanding of the rabbinic interpretation of MOURNING and COMFORT of Matthew 5:4 during the time of Christ in ancient Israel:
“MOURNING” is the attitude and action of Biblical LAMENTING – weeping in the Spirit! It is lamenting the fact that God’s Kingdom, Word and Will are NOT evident in one’s life and community due to the dominance of sin. This type of mourning/lamenting was a common community practice after the destruction of the First Temple in 586BC. Just read the Book of Lamentations! This community practice of mourning always involved FASTING & PRAYER for God’s Kingdom to be established in the community. It is even practiced today after the Rabbis of the Talmud assigned the season of “Mourning” during what is called “Tishah B’Av” – the ninth day of the fifth Jewish month (AV). Tishah B’Av became a SINGLE national fast day (25-Hours of fasting) recalling the calamities and misfortunes that occurred to the Jewish people throughout the ages. It was lamenting sin, trials and tribulations expecting the hand of God to move on earth today!
COMFORT: The ninth day of the fifth Jewish month (AV) became a symbol for all the persecutions and misfortunes of the Jewish people since the destruction of the First Temple in 586BC. Yet, Jewish tradition also sees Tishah B’Av as a day of potential promise and salvation – the Talmud reads: “The day the Temple was destroyed, the redeemer was born” (Yerushalmi Berakhot 2:4; Lamenations Rabbah 1:16). The Talmud relates the tale of a woman who gives birth to a child on the very day the Temple was destroyed. This child was named Menahem, “Comforter,” and He will return one day to COMFORT the bereaved people. Jewish lamentations are often paired with Redemption. That is why the Rabbis instituted seven Weeks of Consolation-Comfort following the Ninth of Av…” (According to David Roskies, The Literature of Destruction (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1990), p.565) Thus, not only did the Rabbis make Tishah B’Av into the day of national disaster. They also saw in this day of mourning the seeds of national redemption and comfort.
This combination of “mourning-comfort” is often seen in “fasting-prayer” in “sackcloth and ashes” resulting in the great redemption of the Jewish people especially after the destruction of the First Temple in 586BC. In the Exilic Books of the Bible we some examples of this are found in:
Daniel Chapters 9 & 10
Ezra Chapter 8
Nehemiah Chapter 1
In Daniel 9:1-3 while the Prophet Daniel reads the 29th Chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, he mourns the fact that the prophesy of the seventy years has NOT been realized even though the Jews had been in captivity for almost seventy years. God’s Word appeared to be unfulfilled??? Instead of “mourning passively” the fact that God’s will has NOT been established on earth in Daniel’s community, Daniel mourns for the “comfort of Yahweh” – he “mourns actively!” He “mourns actively” by “fasting-prayer” in “sackcloth and ashes” resulting in the great redemption of the Jewish people (See Psalm 126 – which is a direct result of Daniel’s fasting and prayers). Similarly, in Daniel-10:2-3 the Prophet Daniel mourns and the “comfort of Yahweh” comes to him (Daniel 10:10-21). In Daniel 9 & 10, we see what the Lord Jesus meant when He said in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who MOURN, for they will be COMFORTED.”
In Ezra 8:21-23, we see the mourning of the Jewish community understand the spiritual leadership of Ezra. They were “mourning” for the “comfort of Yahweh” for their perilous journey from Babylon to Jerusalem with NO help from the emperor due to miscalculations by Ezra. !” The entire community “mourns actively” by “fasting-prayer” resulting in the great redemption of the Jewish people (Ezra 8:23). Here we see what the Lord Jesus meant when He said in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who MOURN, for they will be COMFORTED.”
In Nehemiah 1:1-4, the Prophet Nehemiah hears about the brokenness and barrenness of his Jewish community in Jerusalem. The walls and gates of Jerusalem were broken down. Because of the brokenness and barrenness of the city, the enemies of Judah were able to invade, loot, and cause great trouble and shame for the Jewish community. Nehemiah laments for his people (Nehemiah 1:5-11). He “mourns actively” by “fasting-prayer” resulting in the great redemption of the Jerusalem and its inhabitants. Nehemiah “mourns actively” by “fasting-prayer” in the month of November-December (Nehemiah 1:1-4), and the “comfort of Yahweh” arrives in March-April (Nehemiah 2:1-8). Here we see what the Lord Jesus meant when He said in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who MOURN, for they will be COMFORTED.”
As I am writing this blog I can see the Jewish festival of Purim marked down on my calendar, Sundown March-14 to Sundown March-15 in 2014. It is a festival celebrating the great redemption and deliverance of the Jewish community from an almost certain holocaust. Purim is a festival that celebrates “mourning of the Jewish people” turning into “rejoicing” because of the “Comfort of Yahweh.” In Esther-4, Mordecai, Esther and the entire Jewish community “mourn actively” by “fasting-prayer” in “sackcloth and ashes” resulting in the great redemption of the Jewish people. The word "Purim" means "lots" and refers to the lottery that Haman – the enemy of the Jewish people in the Book of Esther, used to choose the date for the massacre. When the Jewish community mourned in fasting and prayer, the lot quickly changed in their favor through the “Comfort of Yahweh!” Here we see what the Lord Jesus meant when He said in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who MOURN, for they will be COMFORTED.”
Now here are some questions for you to think about...
What are the personal “promises of God” in your life that has NOT yet been fulfilled (...like in Daniel 9:1-3)?
What are some “miscalculations” and “mistakes” in your life that you want to repent from BUT you are powerless to change your current circumstances (...like in Ezra 8:21-13)?
What are some of the “brokenness and barrenness” in your life that is opening you up to ridicule, shame, lack of self-control, trouble and trials from the enemy (...like in Nehemiah 1:1-4)?
Do you complain about your “lot in life?” Do you feel that life circumstances are stacked against you? Do you feel that you have been assigned a “bad lot” in life (...like in Esther 3 & 4)?
We are called to exercise the privilege of our role as prayer-intercessors—believing God's promises, speaking His Word, and praying in faith to see social peace, justice, and spiritual opportunity manifest throughout our world. Now let me encourage you to “actively mourn” in fasting and prayer for the “Comfort of the Holy Spirit” – for your miracle that will redeem you from your mess!!! In the New Testament of Christ, the COMFORTER who brings the COMFORT is the HOLY SPIRIT.
Luke 11:9-13 (NIV)– “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”
John 14:15-21 (NIV)– “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate (COMFORTER) to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
In Mark 9:14-29 & Matthew 17:14-21, the Lord Jesus encourages His disciples to fast and pray for certain tough and impenetrable strongholds to be broken! In Acts-12 we find that when the church community prayed, the chains and strongholds fell down resulting in the Apostle Peter’s freedom.
“Blessed are those who MOURN, for they will be COMFORTED.”Matthew 5:4
Now...what are your ACTION PLANS for receiving your BREAKTHROUH by partnering with the “Helper and Comforter of Christ?” (Hint:“Mourning actively” by “fasting-prayer” while listening-obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit (James 5:13-18).
Pastor Jack Hayford writes, “You and I have the power to decide the spiritual and social climate in the local community in which we live, and then beyond that to our state, our nation, and the world. This is our starting place as functioning agents of the Kingdom of God—to respond in faith to the Holy Spirit's assignments, and to pray and invite Heaven's rule into specific situations on Earth. Our prayers are indeed decisive. As the living Church of Jesus Christ, we are called to exercise the privilege of our role as intercessors—believing God's promises, speaking His Word, and praying in faith to see social peace, justice, and spiritual opportunity manifest throughout our world.”
Everything that exists came about by the power of WORDS...It’s a phenomenal truth: everything that exists came about by words. Creation begins with the creative word, the idea, the vision, the dream – a preferred future.
In the most amazing chapter in the Bible pertaining to our world—chapter one of the book of Genesis—we read that God spoke, and all things came into being: “God said…and it was so…God called matter into existence…and it was good…and God blessed it …” (Genesis 1:3, 7, 10, 28).
God created humanity is created in His Image– as seen in Genesis 2:7 - “God formed man out of dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living creature,” and man became “ruaĥ memallelah” (in Hebrew), which means “a speaking spirit.” Humanity was given the dominion over the matter God had created... it was given by the “Spoken Word of God.”
Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
The ‘Spoken word’ reveals ‘invisible thoughts.’ The invisible things of the heart and mind are made visible in this world through our spoken words. In the human community Words, Ideas and Language – and with it the ability to remember a distant past and conceptualize a distant future – lies at the heart of our uniqueness as the image of God. Hence, just as God makes the natural world with ideas & words (“And God said…and there was”) so we make our human-social world (family, community, church, etc) with ideas & words. Words Spoken = (equals) = Worlds Created.
The Lord Jesus Christ cautions us about guarding our hearts and words in Matthew 12:35-37: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
The Bible is intensely aware of the power of speech and of the harm that can be done through speech. In Judaism, the rabbis note that of the 43 sins enumerated in the “Al Cheit confession” recited on Yom Kippur, 11 are sins committed through speech. The Talmud tells that the tongue is an instrument so dangerous that it must be kept hidden from view, behind two protective walls (the mouth and teeth) to prevent its misuse. The harm done by speech is even worse than the harm done by stealing or by cheating someone financially: money lost can be repaid, but the harm done by speech can never be repaired.
The Apostle James, the Pastor of the Church in Jerusalem during the First Century warns us in James 3:3-12 about the power of our words...“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:3-13
A Chasidic tale from the Jewish tradition vividly illustrates the danger of improper speech: A man went about the community telling malicious lies about the rabbi. Later, he realized the wrong he had done, and began to feel remorse. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, saying he would do anything he could to make amends. The rabbi told the man, "Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds." The man thought this was a strange request, but it was a simple enough task, and he did it gladly. When he returned to tell the rabbi, the rabbi said, "Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the feathers." Speech has been compared to an arrow: once the words are released, like an arrow, they cannot be recalled, the harm they do cannot be stopped, and the harm they do cannot always be predicted, for words like arrows often go astray.
The Book of Proverbs warns us about the power of our words...
1. Anyone who answers without listening is foolish and confused. (Prov. 18:13)
2. Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. (Prov. 21:23)
3. A brother who has been insulted is harder to win back than a walled city, and arguments separate people like the barred gates of a palace. (Prov. 18:19)
4. People will be rewarded for what they say; they will be rewarded for how they speak. (Prov. 18:20)
5. There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Prov. 12:18)
6. What you say can mean life or death. Those who speak with care will be rewarded. (Prov. 18:21)
7. A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Prov. 15:1)
8. Without wood, a fire will go out, and without gossip, quarreling will stop. (Prov. 26:20)
9. The words of a good person are like pure silver, but an evil person’s thoughts are worth very little. (Prov. 10:20)
10. The poor beg for mercy, but the rich give rude answers. (Prov. 18:23)
Here are some advice from the Talmud to help us avoid wronging a Person in the marketplace with our words...Leviticus 25:17 says, "You shall not wrong one another." This has traditionally been interpreted in the Talmud as wronging a person with speech. It includes any statement that will embarrass, insult, or deceives a person, or cause a person emotional pain or distress. Here are some commonly-used examples of behavior that is forbidden by this Jewish Mitzvah:
One may not call a person by a derogatory nickname, or by any other embarrassing name, even if he is used to it.
One may not ask an uneducated person for an opinion on a scholarly matter (that would draw attention to his/her lack of knowledge or education).
One may not ask a merchant how much s/he would sell something for if one has no intention of buying it.
One may not refer someone to another person for assistance when one knows that the other person cannot help (in other words, it's a violation of God’s word to give someone the run-around!).
One may not deceive a person, even if no harm is done by the deception. (For example, Jews are not permitted to sell non-kosher meat to a non-Jew telling him that it is kosher, even though no harm is done to the non-Jew by this deception.)
One may not sell a person damaged goods without identifying the damage, even if the price one gives is fair for the goods in their damaged condition.
One may not offer a person a gift or invite a person to dinner if one knows that the person will not accept.
One may not compliment a person if one does not mean it.
As I spend time in prayer for our congregation, I am reminded of the voice of the Holy Spirit gently instructing us back in 2008 that some of the things that we are waiting upon the Lord (both corporately and individually) is going to require our tears, our faith, our patience and simply more time – the Lord’s KAIROS time. So, during these seasons stay faithful, and remember...
Galatians 6:9 “Do NOT get weary in doing good, for in due season you will reap, if you do not give up!”
Isaiah 7:9b “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”
Precious ones, please keep your eyes on Jesus and let Him infuse you with faith and patience through His never-ending love and grace for you! Remember what I've taught often..."A Christian life is impossible to be lived. Only Christ can live it through you." Allow the Lord to manifest His Presence through you.
It is the Christmas Season – one of the highlight moments of the Church’s walk on this earth. It is a time of remembering and responding to the descent, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ Jesus. By the way none of these things would have been possible without the birth of Christ. However, this birth did not come about very easily. Joseph and Mary toiled and walked through some very tough terrain to bring about the promise of God in their lives. They trudged through the Judean countryside in the ninth month of Mary’s pregnancy on a mule – just ask the moms in our congregation on how tough this is for the pregnant women. Many in the Nazareth community misunderstood Mary for being pregnant before the marriage – I call this the scandal of grace! Many Nazarenes bad mouthed this virgin daughter of Israel (John 8:41). Joseph experienced financial and personal woes – the lack of money (Luke 2:24), the lack of proper housing during the birth (Luke 2:7), the losing of “face” in front of the community (the pregnant bride Matt.1:18), the lack of an intimate relationship with his wife until the promise was fulfilled (Matt 1:24-25), and his life is in the hands of some foreign invaders – the Romans (Luke 2:1-3). Despite all these obstacles, the holy family kept moving forward. It is a lesson in faith and love for ALL of us! Let us model this at TSH.
The Scriptures show us that the promise of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) comes about not only through the grace of God BUT also the faith and patience of Joseph and Mary. It was tiring, it got testy and it was tough! Birthing the promises of the Lord in your lives will oftentimes involve some very tiring, very testy and very tough times.
Precious Ones, I exhort you to KEEP MOVING WITH HIM.
Keep your eyes on Jesus – the author and perfecter of your faith. Behind very breakdown there is always a breakthrough, and the Lord will turn your mess into a message of hope and your test into a testimony of triumph. Be strong and of good courage.
To each precious family of the Shepherd’s House, I know your challenges and the craziness of your world. Be of good cheer, the Lord has overcome it for you (John 16:33). My pastoral word to you in this season is to participate in the “Blessings of Bethlehem” during this Christmas 2013 Season. The Lord has called you to something more than the merely celebrate this blessed season – He has called you to “Participate” in it. He is calling you to come back to Bethlehem and follow the ancient pathway of faith paved for us by Joseph, Mary and Yeshua.
This Christmas Season ‘Come Back to Bethlehem” to be re-energized in His Presence so as to receive the promises of your Lord, to recite His promises and respond to those promises in your lives.
"LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?" (Ps 15:1).
In February 2001 Sales and Marketing magazine did a survey and found that among those surveyed:
58% cheat on expense reports
50% work a second job on company time
36% rush closed deals through accounting before they were really closed
22% list a "strip bar" as a restaurant on an expense report
19% give a kickback to a customer*
If Psalm 15 were the core value of every business plan and purpose statement and reviewed with every employee before hiring, the workplace would be a very different place. What type of person can live in the presence of God? The psalmist tells us:"He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken" (Psalm 15:2-5). So here's something for you to think about...
Are you blameless in your approach to your work life?
Are you truthful in all your dealings?
Do you treat customers, vendors and fellow employees as your neighbor?
Do you say what you do truthfully and do what you say?
Do you follow through even if the outcome may not be positive?
Will you lend money without usury to a friend and refuse a bribe?
If you can say yes to these questions then you are a Psalm 15 man or woman,and you can be sure that you will have God's help in your business...
Precious One, pray that God makes this psalm a part of your life, and begin to ask the Lord to show you how to live this Psalm 15 in all you do.
Adapted from "Today God is First" Devotional from Os Hillman, Dec-04-2013
This Thanksgiving-Hanukkah Season I am absolutely thrilled and thankful for all of you. When I sensed the leading of the Spirit in June-06, (right after my graduation from the King’s Seminary) that the Lord is giving me hidden treasures, I knew that those treasures would come in earthen vessels such as you. When the Lord gives a gift, it always wraps it in a person – you are God’s gifts to Victoria, Caleb and me. We are so very grateful for you.
In this season of remembrance and thanksgiving, I would like to pastorally exhort you with the words of the Apostle Paul (Phil 4:4): “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I will say: REJOICE.” The word ‘rejoice’ is in the imperative voice. It is a command from the Lord. The Lord commands you to rejoice because you are the tabernacle of the Holy Trinity, a “Christ-indwelt” being. In the divine flow and the divine dance amongst the Father, Son and the Spirit – you and I are members because of the Son. The Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Joy is in you. A Christian life is impossible to be lived – only Christ can live it through you. Allow Him to rejoice through you – let the Lion of the Tribe of Judah ROAR!
Love and honor your immediate and extended families. No matter how they have behaved or how you have behaved, you are related because our Father God hath ordained it. Remember the ALL-ENCOMPASSING commandment that the Lord gave His children in the New Testament was John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Every other commandment in the Bible (Old and New Testaments) is anchored to this one GREAT New Testament commandment.
In John 13, the Lord Jesus Christ shows us how to celebrate at the last supper (1Cor.11:23-25): “…the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Notice the beginning of verse 23… the Lord Jesus on the night when he was BETRAYED. This was his most agonizing night because his very best friends and family would eventually betray, abandon, and deny Him. He knew that this would happen. Yet in the middle of that muddle, he gathered together with those very people who would eventually betray Him, and He found time to have thanksgiving! Christ has showed us the pathway forward for any healing and reconciliation in the Lord.
This season is a time to share and be thankful for one another. It is a time to set aside our religious, political, interpersonal and cultural differences. It is a time to be thankful for one another and our lives. The pathway toward health and wholeness always begins with being thankful. Just read the Psalms to see this reality. Christ knew that the Father was in charge of His life, and so He rejoiced in the Spirit. The same Father is in charge of your life. His Spirit lives in you, and He wants to REJOICE. Allow Him to rejoice through you – let the Lion of the Tribe of Judah ROAR, and let every obstacle fall!
DO NOT let the Grinch steal your Thanksgiving-Hanukkah-Christmas Season :-)
“Thankfulness is a powerful antidote for many of the emotional and physical problems we see in our society. Thankfulness is a mindset we can choose, and one that we experience emotionally throughout our entire body. One’s state of mind and his physical condition are inextricably linked, and how you feel emotionally affects how you feel physically.
The medical community has scientifically documented the mind-body connection in regard to many diseases. Research indicates that “fear has been shown to trigger more than fourteen hundred known physical and chemical stress reactions, and activates more than thirty different hormones and neurotransmitters.” Uninterrupted long-term stress has been linked to problems in the heart and vascular systems such as hypertension (high blood pressure), palpitations, and arrhythmias. Most recognize the emotional connection to ulcers, gastritis, heartburn, indigestion, and bowel irregularities. The list continues, including skin disorders (psoriasis, eczema, hives, and acne), pain, inflammation, suppressed immune systems, etc.
The “psycho-somatic” connection should not surprise us. God tells us in Proverbs 14:30, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” This passage no longer seems an abstract word of wisdom, but a saying of great impact. Consider also Proverbs 15:13, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit,” and Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries the bones.” The importance of God’s references to the bones is that bones contain the red and white marrow from which come the blood’s red and white cells. Red blood cells carry life-sustaining oxygen to the entire body and white blood cells are a primary defense in our immune system. God clearly directs us to the mind-body connection, establishing for us the deadly consequences of negative emotions in our hearts.
The Bible is filled with records of many people who practiced “thanksgiving” and “thanks-living.” This attitude helped King David endure a life on the run, sleeping in caves and the wilderness, with a death sentence from King Saul on his head. Practicing “thanksgiving” and “thanks-living.” is not the same as practicing denial. It is not the same as denying the pain of a situation or pretending that everything is fine when it really is not. “Thanksgiving” and “thanks-living.” is being able to be thankful in spite of our circumstances because we choose to take a godly perspective.”
Precious ones, how do you do this?
Let me give you some pastoral suggestions from the Holy Scriptures:
Think and write out a Thankful list as directed by Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true (in your family and friends), whatever is honorable (in your family and friends), whatever is just (in your family and friends), whatever is pure (in your family and friends), whatever is lovely (in your family and friends), whatever is commendable (in your family and friends), if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Let me close with a Psalm of Thanksgiving (Psalm 100):
“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations."
Precious ones, read this Psalm 100 aloud at your Thanksgiving feasts.
Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say REJOICE.
Victoria and I love you all VERY much.
May the Lord bless you and keep you! May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you! May the Lord turn His face toward you and give you Shalom. :-)
“…So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God…” (Romans 10:17).
People often ask me about discerning the Voice of God in their lives. What is it? How is it done? How reliable is it? Is it complicated? etc, etc, etc.
I always remind them that God has been speaking to people from the beginning of human history, both directly and indirectly. Whenever and wherever people truly humble themselves before God, and open up their hearts to Him, He always responds to them. I have found that there are at least seven ways God speaks, and has spoken to, humankind. They are found in the Bible, and they are as follows:
God speaks through creation's artistry and majesty with such clarity that all humankind is held accountable to believe in the Creator… We are amazed at the beauty and majesty of His creation…just watch the beautiful sunset on a beach…(see Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:20).
God speaks through the moral sense placed in the human conscience, so that a fundamental sense of right and wrong is innately present… this is your conscience…in your heart you will know if you’ve done the wrong thing…(see Rom. 2:14, 15).
God speaks through the evidential instances of divine providence that affect our lives and speak to our souls… I call these “divine coincidences and connections”…(see Gen. 28:10-17; Acts 16:7).
God speaks through signs and wonders or prophetic prompting by the Holy Spirit, and by these means He often convinces hearts of His power and presence… these may be miraculous things that happen in your life…(see 2 Kings 2:15; Acts 13:12; 1 Cor. 14:5,22-26).
God speaks through the still small voice of God that sometimes addresses people within their hearts… some people call this their “sixth sense”…(see 1 Kings 11:12; Isa. 30:21; Acts 10:9-12).
God speaks through His authoritative Word, the Holy Scriptures (see 2 Tim. 3:14-17), which He has given to us through prophets and apostles by the Holy Spirit…this is your BIBLE (see 2 Pet. 1:19-21).
God has spoken, ultimately and gloriously, through His Son, Jesus Christ, the living Word of God who has declared to us the Father's love for us and the saving way by which we may return to Him…this is our LORD & SAVIOR, Christ Jesus (see John 14:1-12; Heb. 1:1-4).
These seven ways, however, only remind us that (1) These are valid ways in which God speaks to us because the Bible tells us so and (2) we are to measure and validate the “voice of God” that we discern only by the Bible's full teaching and authority. Every thing must be validated only by and through the written Word of God!
God still speaks in all the same ways He always has: He is the changeless God, and His reach to humankind continually extends through every communicative means, including intimately speaking by the Holy Spirit with His own sons and daughters in Christ.
So in this light I welcome you to discipline yourselves to hearing God's voice – in the Bible, the Revealed Word & Will of God.
To open us to God’s wisdom and instruction we must sensitize our ears to HEAR His Word. So, open your Bible to Mark 4, and READ it! It is the most important truth concerning the use of God's Word: Jesus' lesson on LISTENING!!!
The principal truth we will witness in Mark 4 is the absolute importance of hearing the words of the Bible. But hearing His Voice has much more to do with an attitude a Christian disciple must have in his/her heart. It is MORE than hearing the sounds of words and understanding their meanings. It is also OBEYING what it tells us to be and to do…Look at the following texts:
“…Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does…” (James 1:21-25).
“…So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God…” (Rom. 10:17).
These passages make it clear that “hearing the Word of God” has to do with (1) a person's willingness to be changed by what he or she hears and (2) a living faith that BELIEVES and ACTS – obeying His Word!
In short, our willingness to be changed by the truth of God directly determines our ability to see the change happen. We can transform our world by applying the Word's promises in our daily living.
With that in mind, please commit yourself to hearing the Word of God in the Bible – the foremost expression of the voice of God. You will be amazed at the results in your life, if you are willing and obedient to do what the Word of God says for you to do (Isaiah 1:19)!
Jack W. Hayford. Living the Spirit-Formed Life: Growing in the 10 Principles of Spirit-Filled Discipleship
Do you feel uncomfortable when someone critiques you? Do you have a problem when people point out your faults? Many of us do! Having served as a technical leader in corporate America and as a pastor, I have seen people get very uncomfortable in team meetings or during annual performance reviews when I offered constructive criticism that can help them change and grow.
By the way, I used to be a person who was very uncomfortable when people offered me constructive criticisms in personal or team settings. Conflict or Criticism was not a word that brought wonderful pictures to my mind. When I thought of Conflict or Criticism, I used to think of anger, lack of self-control, violence and struggle. I had a tendency to diplomatically sidestep these issues or to postpone it to a later time because I always looked at it from the negative perspective.
My personal transformation happened when I realized that the Holy Spirit never leads us away from conflict and constructive criticism – it is central to the Christian experience toward spiritual maturity. Personal transformation is a journey filled with anguishing choices. We can find encouragement in that we are not alone, nor unattended. The Lord walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4).Conflict and criticisms managed “in-Christ” becomes a learning-growing experience. Avoiding and compromising now transforms into discovery and dialog in Christ onto growth. This was a life transforming discovery for me!
We grow only through discomfort. When we are comfortable, there’s no reason to change. The book of Proverbs helps us appreciate the voices of those who make us feel uncomfortable with ourselves: “He who criticizes a man will in the end find more favor than he who flatters him” (Proverbs 28:23). We all love compliments. They make us feel special and connected to the person who offers them. But Proverbs tells us to be wary of the flatterer, the person who gives us too many compliments. We will do better with the person who offers us solid criticism that can help us grow and change in the future, than with one who offers us the fleeting luxury of a feel-good moment.
How well do you take criticism?
How well do you give it?
The book of Proverbs contains many descriptions of the wise man and the foolish one, comparing and contrasting them, praising one and criticizing the other. One of the most meaningful differences between the wise person and the fool is how they each react to criticism.“Do not criticize the fool for he will hate you. Correct the wise man and he will love you” (Proverbs 9:8).
To understand why wisdom requires criticism, we have to think about the nature of rebuke. The Apostle Paul calls pastors to “rebuke” and “correct” the flock (1Tim5:20; 2Tim4:2; Titus 2:15) so that holiness and health may be way of life in a local church. Rebuke and correction that come from the Word and Spirit of God is health to our lives.
Sincere thoughtful feedback and constructive criticism not only fulfills the biblical command, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall surely rebuke your friend” (Leviticus 19:7), it also helps clear the barriers that stand in the way of a relationship. The great Jewish Rabbi Maimonides tells us how best to give difficult feedback – softly, in private and for the good of the person and not for our own good (Maimonides, Laws of Character 6:7).
All of us still struggle with hearing the hard words properly, and we often put up our emotional defenses during these difficult face-to-face meetings. Proverbs 27:6 tells us that “faithful are the wounds from our faithful friends!”…. in other words, constructive criticisms from our faithful friends are for our health, even if they hurt our egos or sensitivities! These words of rebuke can be a pathway to a more wholesome life.
Many will shrug off a rebuke with the simple dismissal, “It’s just words,” but in the Jewish tradition of the Old/New Testament, words have power, weight and substance (Proverbs 18:21). Words are our intellectual and emotional currency; they exist in the world. They are not wind or air that circulates lightly among us. They have weight and measure. Selecting the right words, the right context in which to use those words, and the right people to whom to say them is the better part of wisdom, especially when it comes to giving criticism and when it comes to the things that we have to say! Constructive criticism aims at clearing a path so that relationships can move forward.
The way that we give and receive criticism is often shaped by culture, community expectations and societal norms. When we are defensive, we lose a whole avenue to introspection that can help us develop and grow in our sensitivity and thoughtfulness to others.
Think of the helpful words of a pastor, mentor, a supervisor, or someone who took your last performance review seriously and gave you feedback that might not have been comfortable to hear but helped you become a better professional. Or the friend who you thought insulted you, but actually helped you become a better person. There’s the word your wife said that offended you, but it actually made you see that you weren’t treating one of your children with the proper respect. Every day we receive messages about ourselves. Every once in a while, someone cares enough to tell us what they see.
“Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness; let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head; let my head not refuse it.” (Psalm 141:5)
Something to do…
Ask someone who is close to you either professionally or personally for feedback about something very specific. Listen carefully and prompt with questions. Think afterwards about what they said, how it made you feel, and what you’re going to do about it.
Think of a relationship that has suffered because you have not been telling someone what you really think. Find a way to give respectful feedback that shows love and concern. How did you do?
Dr. Erica Brown, In the Narrow Places: Daily Inspiration for the Three Weeks (p. 52). Koren Publishers Jerusalem.
2013 Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) 21-Days of Fasting & Prayer
(September-13th @ 6-AM to October-4th @ 6-AM)
“Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”(1Cor.5:7-8)
The Hebrew word Teshuvahmeans REPENTANCE: returning, retracing our steps, coming home. It belongs to the biblical vision in which sin means dislocation, and punishment is exile: Adam and Eve’s exile from Eden, Israel’s exile from its land. A sin is an act that does not belong in one’s life; sin is transgressing the moral boundaries of this world. When one who acts in ways that are NOT in line with God’s Word, s/he eventually discovers that s/he does not belong in proper alignment with God and this world. Increasingly s/he places themselves outside the relationship – of family, community and of being at one with the Holy Spirit – that make one who s/he is. The most characteristic sense of sin is that of being lost. Teshuvah(Repentance) means discovering your way back home again (Luke 15).
We do not need a Temple to secure atonement. The Lord Jesus Christ has already accomplished it for us! But we must remember His sacrifice by setting aside a “holy time.” On this special day on Sep-13, our gathering becomes a holy place and every person will be standing directly before God. By turning to Him inTeshuvah (Repentance) it is as if we had brought an offering into the holy place in heaven because God hears every cry that comes from the heart. Through our Lord Jesus Christ (Heb.4:14-16), we speak to God directly and He accepts our prayer. So it has been for almost two thousand years….
So, during our 21-days of Teshuvah, please reflect and respond to these 10-Questions....These are the 10- Personal “Reflection Questions” for Prayer, Meditation, Re-Focus, Repentance and Reconciliation during our 21-days of fasting and prayer:
Is “CLOSENESS” to the LORD central to my ultimate life goal? What’s standing in the way? What do I have to get “rid of” and what do I need to “work on” to achieve greater closeness with the LORD and His Way?
Who and what is the LORD asking me to forgive? Why is the Lord asking me to forgive? Am I having a difficult time with this issue? Why or Why not?
If I could live my life over again, what would I change? What is the Lord asking me to change right now?
What would bring me more JOY than anything else in this world? Why?
What project or goal, if left undone, will I regret the most at this time next year during the Yom Kippur Prayer Period of October 2014?
If I knew I could not fail, what would I undertake to accomplish in life?
What am I “working at” right now in my life that requires the most time and energy? Is this what the LORD wants me to do with my time?
What do I ideally want to “work at” – i.e. what do I want to be spending most of my time and energy doing? What are the LORD’s Word and Will to me on this matter?
Am I spending enough time in prayer, mediation, worship and the study of God’s Word (2Tim.2:15; 3:16-17)? What adjustments must I make in this area? What is my plan going forward in life?
If I could give my children and/or the next generation THREE pieces of advice, what would they be?
Exodus 3:14 “God said to Moses, “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘Ehyeh has sent me to you.’ ”
As a Judeo-Christian Pastor, I find that my understanding of God is constantly evolving … my theology is NOT static but it is always evolving to a different level. However, in my pastoral ministry I have found that some people interpret Scriptures through their personal worldview and tend to put God in their personal boxes. The problem with these boxes is that God is always outside the box!!! Just ask Abraham, Job, Noah, Peter, Paul, the early church fathers, or any of your local pastors who love and serve the Lord and their communities!!!
Precious one, our God cannot be predicted or controlled. He cannot be confined to categories or predicted in advance. However, this “un-confinable” God wants us to know Him (Eph.1:16-21). But how do we relate to an unpredictable yet faithful-relational God who cannot be confined to categories or predicted in advance?The answer lies in the "FUTURE TENSE" that is anchored in the Holy Spirit's who calls us to walk in faith in the hope of that which is “NOT-YET” (Hebrews 11:8).
Let me explain this statement with an example from the life of Moses…
When Moses encounters God at the burning bush, God calls Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but Moses is reluctant. ‘Who am I,’ he asks, ‘to be worthy of such a task?’ God reassures him, and then Moses asks, ‘Who are you? When the Israelites ask, who has sent you, what shall I say?’ God replies in a cryptic three-word Hebrew phrase, Ehyeh asher ehyeh (Exod. 3: 14).
Jewish Rabbis are surprised to see how Christian Bibles have mistranslated this clause. The King James Version reads Ehyeh asher ehyeh (Exod. 3: 14) as ‘I am that I am.’ Recent translations are variants of the same idea. Here are some examples:
I am who I am.
I am what I am.
I am— that is who I am.
These are all MISTRANSLATIONS, and the error is ancient.
In Greek, Ehyeh asher ehyeh became ego eimi ho on, and in Latin, ego sum qui sum:‘I am he who is.’ Augustine in the Confessions writes: ‘Because he is Is, that is to say, God is being itself, ipsum esse, in its most absolute and full sense.’ Centuries later, Aquinas explains that it means God is ‘true being, that is being that is eternal, immutable, simple, self-sufficient, and the cause and principle of every creature’. And so it continued in German philosophy. God became Hegel’s ‘concrete universal’, Schelling’s ‘transcendental ego’, Gilson’s ‘God-is-Being’ and Heidegger’s ‘onto-theology’.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom points out that the mistake of all these translations is obvious to the merest beginner in Hebrew. The phrase means, ‘I will be what I will be.’ The verb does not use the present tense, but it uses the FUTURE TENSE.
Elsewhere, the Bible does use the present tense when it relates to God. In the Ten Commandments, for example, the first verse reads, ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.’ Here the present tense (‘I am’) is used. But then, that verse does not speak of God’s name. It speaks of His deeds. However in Exodus 3:14, Moses asked God for His name. God could have replied, as did the angel who wrestled with Jacob, with a rhetorical question, ‘Why do you ask for my name?’ implying that the very question is out of order. There are things human beings cannot know, mysteries they cannot fathom, and matters that transcend the reach of human understanding. But that is not what God says. He does answer Moses’ question, but enigmatically, in a phrase that needs decoding. God tells Moses to say to the Israelites, ‘“I will be” sent me to you. It is as if God had said, ‘My name is the future tense. If you seek to understand me, first you will have to understand the nature and significance of the future tense.’
‘I am that I am’ is a translation that owes everything to the philosophical tradition of ancient Greece and nothing to the thought of ancient Israel. The God of pure being, first cause, prime mover, necessary existence, is the god of the philosophers, not the God of the prophets in the Bible.
What, then, is the meaning of ‘I will be what I will be’? The name itself never recurs in the Hebrew Bible, but there is a later echo, in the great scene in which God appears to Moses on the mountain after the sin of the Golden Calf, in which he says, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion’ (Exodus 33: 19). What this means is that God cannot be predicted or controlled. He cannot be confined to categories or known in advance. God is telling Moses, ‘You cannot know how I will appear until I appear; how I will act until I act. My mercy, my compassion, my strategic interventions into history, cannot be controlled or foretold. I will be what, when and how I choose to be. I am the God of the radically unknowable future, the God of surprises. You will know me when you see me, but not before.’
To be sure, in one sense, the future is connected to the past. God keeps His promises. That is an essential element of Judeo-Christian faith. God’s name tells us that He is not an entity knowable by philosophy or science, deducible from the past. God awaits us in the unknown and unknowable future: the God of Israel is the God of the future tense. So just like Abraham our faith is the courage to live with uncertainty of the present world, and walk toward the unknowable future knowing that God will meet us in the place to which He has called us to go (Hebrews 11:8). This journey of faith depends upon hearing the Voice of God in-Christ (Deut.6:4; John 10:27) from the Scriptures through the Holy Spirit. The organ of faith is the ear, NOT the eye. So, we walk by faith and NOT by sight… therefore, lets not put Him in a Box that comes from the world we see and know (worldview)… we will NOT be able to figure Him out because He is much GREATER than our box…Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
God waits for you in the unknown and unknowable future: ‘You cannot know how He will appear until He appears; how He will act until He acts. His mercy, His compassion, His strategic interventions into history, cannot be controlled or foretold. He will be what, when and how He chooses to be. He is the God of the radically unknowable future, the God of surprises. You will know Him when you see Him, but not before!’
So, please don't put God in your box...come out of your box and meet Him...He is there waiting for you :-)
Future Tense: Jews, Judaism, and Israel in the Twenty-first Century (p. 234). Random House, Inc. Jonathan Sacks