1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 Next >>

Our GPS Settings in the Valley of Shadows

Hebrews 12:1-2 “…Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross...”


On Friday July 20, 2012 at around12:38 am, a mass shooting occurred during a midnight screening of the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises at a Century Movie-Theater in Aurora, Colorado. The attack occurred in Theater-9 at the Century-16 Cinema located at the Town Center at Aurora shopping mall. A gunman dressed in protective gear and clothing, set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with multiple firearms, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others. The sole suspect is 24-year-old James Eagan Holmes, who was arrested outside the theater minutes later. So far this is the largest number of casualties of a mass shooting in United States history.


When we look at this type of a demonic massacre, the world can be a very scary place to live in!!! Every time we pick up the morning paper or read the internet news or turn on the television, the media provides us with more evidence of just how terrifying life can be. Fires that rage out of control, brutal warfare abroad, incessant terrorist attacks, gangs and criminals who terrorize our streets, illness, death, unemployment, and a host of more private sorrows are the constant companions of the living. We are all wounded by the simple act of staying alive in this broken world.


Throughout the Bible, we read of the challenges and torments that afflicted the people of God—childlessness, sibling rivalry, murder, loveless marriage, rape, war. Even the humblest of all prophets, Moses, encountered enough bitterness that he several times suggested that he would prefer death to the life he was living. However, when Moses gave his farewell address (Deut 1:1-3:22) on the border of the Promised Land to the people Israel, Moses twice repeats the idea: "Fear not, and be not dismayed" and "Have no dread or fear of them." In fact, Moses quotes God as saying, "I have delivered him [Canaan – the Promised Land] into your hand." Note that the Torah doesn't promise "I will deliver him" but assures that the deed is as good as done. What's going on here? Surely Moses, a man who had suffered so profoundly, knows that life is no bed of roses. So how can he offer this Pollyannaish advice of “Hakuna Matata” (Swahili for “Don't worry; be happy”)? We have some good reasons to fear, so why is God adamant on this point of “No Fear?” Perhaps the Word of God is teaching us about the right attitude with which to face life's painful impediments. In a sense, our propensity to fear can be our worst enemy, more dangerous than the object of the fear itself. In the face of the unknown, our fantasies are more threatening than our realities. In the face of life's challenges, giving way to our pessimism and our fear strips us of our will to fight. Fear is the ally of tragedy, transforming spirited humans into passive victims. God knows about our propensity to fear, and so He instructs us that half of our victory in our battle against fear lies in our refusal to give in to the fear-factor!!!


You may ask…”PM, how in the world do I do that – how do I stand against such paralyzing fears???”  The ANSWER to your question, my dear friend, is wrapped up in the three words from the text message in Heb.12:1-2: “looking unto Jesus.”

Hey, there is something that is much more powerful than fear… and that is HOPE!!! And this “Hope” is derived from the direction we look. If we look at circumstances, at ourselves, at the past or at trends—if we look at the situation from any other view rather than through the lens of faith in God’s Word—we will get fear-filled. HOWEVER, turning our eyes toward God’s redemptive, recovering, restoring possibilities, which are always available through His Son and His Spirit, is the place where true HOPE lives!!! That is where we get HOPE – in Christ Jesus! “Looking unto Jesus” –>“Turning to Him” is the “Turning point”

The commandment of “looking unto Jesus,” when your fear level is up and your hope level is down to low or nothing, isn’t simply a religious summons…it’s a signpost toward a pathway that will provide two things for your recovery: a Director and a Destination.

The first, of course, is the Director (Savior) —the Savior Man like no other, because He is God above all—Jesus, who suffered the horrors of His Friday because He was on His way to the hope- and joy-filled reality of a Sunday. His Friday was a pathway toward the Resurrection, even if all we can see on His Friday is apparent agony and depressing defeat that appears to end with His body being placed in a hopeless hole in the ground.  To listen to Him speak from His Cross on that Friday is to learn to walk toward hope when we face our fears. Hopeless days and fearful times happen in the lives of everyone. They come more often than we think we deserve, and they sometimes last much longer than we think we can stand. That’s the reason every child of Christ needs to have their GPS set to Hebrews 12:1-2 for navigating through hopeless days. When I see people experience fear-filled and hopeless days, I’ve learned to urge them to come to a Destination – the Cross.

The sum of human pain, problem, futility and hopelessness is focused here at the Cross of Christ—all fear, all suffering, all rejection, all painfulness, all exhaustion, all misunderstanding, all anger, all hatred, all sinning, all depression, all loneliness, all death. But also focused here at the Cross is all wisdom and understanding, and all faith, hope and love. It is by and unto that love we are summoned most of all—to look unto Jesus and to welcome Him into our hopeless days, having seen Him approach His agonizing day of crucifixion. Jesus handled his agonizing day in a way that saw beyond it: “For the joy that was set before Him, [He] endured the Cross.” He related to each moment of that agonizing day in a manner that overthrew the power of fear and pain, showing us the way to do the same anytime we face our fears or failures…Ultimately the faith of the believer is the resilience of hope we get in and through and from Christ.

Remember: “A Christian life is impossible to live; only Christ can live it through you…”

Refusing to give in to despair, the Christian can muster the inner resilience that comes from the spiritual depth of Christ where there is a vision of holiness which transcends time. It is not that we can avoid suffering entirely, but we can fashion our response to suffering just as Christ responded to suffering (Hebrews 12:1-2) with a renewed commitment to the Word, Will and Way of the Father and the Spirit. Hence, we too can make our mark in a broken world by how we respond to fear, pain and disappointment. By living out our rich connection to Christ in the midst of fear and hopelessness, we too can embody His remarkable hope and courage: “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27b)

Hey friends…FEAR NOT! Keep looking at Him  - that’s our GPS settings in the Valley of Shadows…


  • The Everyday Torah by  Bradley Shavit Artson
  • Hope for a Hopeless Day: Encouragement and Inspiration When You Need it Most by Jack Hayford

No Free Lunch!

no free lunch Exodus 34:1  . . . . . “Carve two tablets of stone like the first, and I will inscribe upon the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you shattered.”

One thing I have learned in my journeys through the fields of corporate America is that there is NO free lunch—in the end, someone, somewhere, pays for everything somehow…Exodus 32:16 states clearly: “The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing, incised [written] upon the tablets.” This was the Sinai equivalent of the FREE lunch. All Moses had to do was go for a nice hike up the mountain, encounter God, pick up the covenant, and march down a hero—until it all backfires with a Golden Calf and some serious punishing, deadly backlash, and the forced swallowing of a divine brew (the melted-down calf mixed with water)…see Exodus 32:20.

Next time, the Lord God gets Moses back up to the mountaintop for round number two—but this time the free lunch over, and this time, Moses has some work to do. First, God tells him, “Carve two tablets of stone like the first, and I will inscribe upon the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you shattered” (Exodus 34:1). Now the Lord is telling Moses, “This time, we will split the work. You carve, I’ll write.” Now there comes that low-blow reminder from the Lord to Moses about that unfortunate tablet breakup and malfunction. Thus, there needs to be a repeat performance. Moses cooperates—carving the tablets (Exodus 34:4)—but apparently, God wants more from him, because by verse 28 we read that for forty days Moses “ate no bread and drank no water; and he wrote down on the tablets the terms of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.” This time around, Moses is doing all of the work. But wait! The commandments have expanded!!! Last time we got a pretty straightforward “Big Ten”: I am God; no other gods; keep the Sabbath; honor your parents; no murder; no adultery; and all the others. Now, we have the ten commandments PLUS all the other different set of commandments, including drive all those Canaanites and others out of the land, and then destroy their shrines; God gets the first of everything you have; observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days; observe the Feast of Weeks (Shavuot) and the Feast of Ingathering (Sukkot); and no boiling a kid goat in its mother’s milk, etc. etc.
There are some life Messages in these "Texts" to all God’s children, and they are as follows:

Lesson ONE: God teaches us a lot about basic human nature. Give us a freebie, and it won’t probably last long. Make us work for something, and it might
last. The first set of tablets that came to Moses so very easily—well, we know what happened – they were toast! The second set of tablets, however, lasted through forty years of wilderness wanderings—and then, through the period of Joshua, the judges, Samuel, all the way to Solomon’s Temple and beyond

Lesson TWO: Rules need reminders; good ethics require good rituals as a way of reminding, reinforcing, and transmitting. We learn through best through stories, not through lectures. The first set of commandments was beautiful, but they lacked a ritual structure (worship, praise, feasts, celebrations, etc) through which to teach and cajole, remind and reward. With the second set—the one in which Moses shared in the work—we have holidays, feasts and celebrations as a way of showing us the meaning of the commandments…we NEED community, communion and celebrations to uncover the meaning of Christ-centered teachings...BTW, there may be no such thing as a free lunch, but everything from cheesecake to coffee to communion to celebrations in Christ; we have a great menu at TSH!!!

Adapted from a Torah Commentary by Rabbi Daniel G. Zemel from Temple Micah in Washington, DC.

WWJD at the Buffet Line

Acts 6:1 “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.” (ESV)

This text has always amazed me and it continues to amaze me!!!

Just think about the context…


(a)   Jesus had recently risen from the grave and ascended into heaven – God’s plan of redemption, reconciliation, restoration and rulership was recently completed and established ;


(b)   Jesus had recently endued the church with the Holy Spirit and with power;


(c)   Thousands had come into the church, and many are still flocking into the church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1a);


(d)   Sign, Wonders and Power of the Holy Spirit on display like never before in the Church and in the Marketplace


(e)   The Church is on its way to obeying the New Commandment of Christ – John 13:34-35 which reads…”As I (Christ) have loved you (all you disciples) love one another…by this the world will know you are my disciples…”(my paraphrase J)


BUT WAIT!!! In the midst of all these wonderful Holy Spirit-Led REVIVAL in the Church and in the Community…there is a MAJOR conflict!




None other than in a buffet line at a church fellowship dinner!!!


In the midst of revival and rejoicing there is CONFLICT at dinner…


Hey, ever think about where people get ticked off the most in our local churches (plural)??? You guessed it…usually at a church fellowship while waiting to get served at the buffet line or while serving at the buffet line!!! Wow! Imagine that!!!


In Acts 6:1 we see that the Jewish society in the first century had a system to help needy local Hebrew widows. However, Greek widows were particularly needy as they were not native Judeans and did not have relatives to care for them. A lot of older couples came to die in Jerusalem so that they could be buried there. There has been much discussion about who exactly the “Grecian Jews” were. The traditional view since John Chrysostom (c. 347–407 CE) has been that they were Greek-speaking Jews while the Hebraic Jews spoke Aramaic.  These cultural differences also resulted in differences in attitude and outlook. It was likely that these Grecian widows were not deliberately discriminated against. But sometimes things happen in the church – we slip up! The cause of this “slip-up” was the sudden increase in the number of disciples (Acts 6:1a). In an active and expanding church movement it is quite possible for the minority to be IGNORED! But that is still wrong! This “slip-up” contributed to the complaining that took place in the church (Acts 6:1). The word translated “complained” (gongysmos) in Acts 6:1 is an unpleasant word used in the Septuagint (LXX –Old Testament in Greek) for the murmuring of the Hebrews against Moses in the desert (Exodus 16:7; Numbers 14:27).


Think about it…the new Church in Jerusalem in Acts 6:1( in the midst of revival) was now in danger of splitting along racial and cultural lines due to conflict at the  buffet line!!!!


BTW, the Apostle Paul a few years later runs into a similar problem at a buffet line in the Church at Corinth… 1Corinthians 11:33: “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another…”


You see…the house churches in Corinth were well known for their fellowship meals. In this setting Paul is ticked-off (in the Spirit of courseJ) at the fact that wealthy believers are so self-centered and self-absorbed that they leave no food for their poor brothers and sisters. The NIV translates Paul’s words in this way: “Each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else.” It reads literally, “Each goes ahead with his own supper.” Instead of sharing in a kind of “pot-luck” or “pot-blessing,” and ensuring that all people get plenty to eat and drink, some gorge themselves and get drunk at the expense of those who come later or have less. OMG Jude 12 also appears to reflect and address a similar problem.


Here is a piece of pastoral wisdom… Whenever & wherever Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does!!!


Some people, on observing this bad behavior in a religious setting such as a church, conclude that there is nothing different about the church since it appears to be just like the world. Same Selfishness! Same Sin! No different!  


Ah…but wait… there is a difference between the world and a Christ-centered church…a BIG difference…and that is the fact that…just as a hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners. Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised. It’s similar with sinners outside the church. So, Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior. They are, rather, places where human misbehavior is brought out in the open, faced, and dealt with. Conflict is often the result of sin and the consequence of living in a fallen world. In the church where the broken, the sinful and the lost gather, sin brings about conflict. People in the church will experience conflict. It is the essential part of God’s redeeming plan. It is in these conflicts that we will learn to know our needs, acknowledge sin, recognize truth and perfect our faith.


So why are there conflicts at buffet lines, church concerts, and Benny Hinn/Joel Osteen/TD Jakes/Joseph Prince/Billy Graham Crusades where seats and food are limited???  Remember: “Where two or three gather, there will be conflict!” Why? Because in our public gatherings with food & fellowship, selfishness, sin and shortcomings are revealed! It is as though our “default button” gets pushed, and out jumps the “carnal nature”…areas of unbelief and misbehavior are turned up!!!


Whenever & wherever there is a shortage and/or distribution of food and water, some sin nature deep within our collective souls gets stirred up…you see this in the Desert Journeys of Israel (Numbers & Exodus)…you see this trick when the devil tries his First Temptation of Christ (Luke 4:3-4)…you see this when Christ tells His disciples NOT to be solely driven by their base-human need for food and drinks (Matthew 6:31-32)…you see…when people gather together, there is always a collective self-centered drive from individuals to satisfy their base human need for food & water… and this selfish fear-based drive causes people to ignore the less fortunate (1Cor 11:33) or overlook the minority (Acts 6:1)…or simply be rude and sinful toward one another while serving or being served…


So, what’s the solution when we Christians GATHER??? Solution: When we go ANYWHERE in this world… work;  home; church or marketplace…we MUST make a FOCUSED & CONSCIOUS & a FIRM EFFORT to OBEY the way of the Holy Spirit by the Holy Spirit outlined for us in Philippians 2:2-4:  “Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” (The Message)

So, in customer-service terms (at TSH) this means…


·       People are the most important in our church - we celebrate people!

·       People are most deserving of the most courteous and attentive-loving treatment we can give them… so be sensitive to peoples’ needs and feelings… be flexible!


Now let me conclude with a story from God’s own country…Iowa…Field of DreamsJ


In Iowa there was a storm that had flooded out a major city. People were gathering their goods to save what they could. One of the policemen saw a sight that touched his heart. He saw a little boy carrying another little boy on his shoulders, all while still trying to carry goods and luggage and everything else. The policeman went over to help the boy and said, “My, you’re trying to do too much. You’ve got all these bags and then you’ve got that boy on your shoulders. It’s too much weight for you. It’s too heavy.” The little boy looked at the policeman and said, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”


TSH, when you know somebody is your brother or sister, it makes it easier to bear their weight and carry them ….Last week I wrote that the Talmud teaches us a remarkable lesson: ″Welcoming strangers [Hebrew: hachnasat orchim] is a greater mitzvah (work of charity) than welcoming the Shechinah [God’s Presence]″ (Shabbat 127a). Our true spirituality and love for the Lord is seen in how we carry our brothers and sisters in spirit and in truth. Philippians 2:2-4 commands us:  “Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” (The Message)  


Let us put away individualism and self-centeredness, and collectively create sacred communities of welcome and celebrations – giving one another the most courteous and attentive-loving treatment, especially when we are waiting or serving at the Buffet Line.


·       Tony Evans' Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes

·       The NIV Application Commentary

·       The Message Bible

·       Modern Men's Torah Commentary

Chutzpah to Invest!

The Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30)
Everything that a person has, whether it is goods, money or abilities, is given from above. In Jewish thought, God’s creation of the world makes every person a caretaker of what really belongs to God. Each individual who is created in the divine image is gifted by God to be a blessing to His creation (Greek: Kosmos). However, our understanding of God is the primary determining factor in our faithful stewardship. Let’s look at the Words of Jesus in Matthew 25:14-30…
In this parable, a businessman left on an extended journey and entrusted his assets (talents) to several of his employees, “each according to his ability” (Matthew 25:15). To one, five talents (let’s say that is $5,000), to another, two talents (let’s say $2,000), and to the third, one talent (let’s say $1,000). In the parallel story in Luke, the businessman said, “Do business with these until I come back” (Luke 19:13), which was surely the intent of the owner, not preservation but investment. When the master-businessman finally returned he discovered that the five-talent person had made five more, as had the two-talent person, two more. The response of the master-businessman is eye-opening! Their investments yielded two results. First, they received more responsibility: “You have been trustworthy in a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matthew 25:21, 23). Second, the master-businessman invited the servants to share his happiness: “Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew25:21, 23). This surely is one of the deepest expressions of the spirituality of work—to enter into the joy of God, God’s delight in seeing His creation developed, in seeing the earth humanized, and in seeing our neighbors served. This is reminiscent of the famous line in from the movie Chariots of Fire when Eric Liddell, the Olympic runner, says that he feels the pleasure of God when he runs.

But wait… what about the one-talent servant? The harshest words were reserved for this fear-filled one-talent servant: “wicked and lazy.” Why? Because this one-talent servant kept the talent, and returned it to the owner intact with no impact on creation. The result was devastating. The one-talent servant lost the one talent and, worse still, was thrust into darkness “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:30).

The punishment seems harsh because, after all, the one-talent servant did not squander the talent; he did not throw it away; he treasured it. He simply hid it in the ground, safe and secure for the owner’s return, only to hear a harsh rebuke. What was so wrong about the action of the one-talent person? I see two issues with this one-talent servant…
First, the “fear-filled” servant was working out of a wrong understanding of God: “I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground” (Matt.25:24-25). Notice that there is a similarity here to the image of a harsh God preached by some in our modern Christian circles!!! LESSON: A harsh and angry God who is to be feared inhibits risk-taking, whereas a God who is creative, loving, forgiving, and good inspires risk-taking. BTW, with a gracious and loving God, failure in taking a risk might even become a kind of success. We are inspired by the loving graciousness of God in dealing with potential failures and mistakes.

Secondly, the one-talent fear-filled servant was working out of a wrong understanding of stewardship. He thought his job was to keep creation “safe & intact,” rather than take a risk, develop it, invest it, and bring added value to it. He had the wrong understanding of the kingdom of God that God’s mighty rule is to be waited for on earth with non-action!!! There is nothing to do on earth except to fold one’s hands and wait, rather than to join the in-breaking kingdom now in intensive and fruitful activity. LESSON: “Faith without works is dead (James 2:17).
Notice the surprise element in this parable that all the servants had the proper attitude. The five-, two-, and one-talent servants have one common characteristic between them: to please the master. The one-talent servant, however, desired to save the master’s money, so he hid it. Though his action was based upon the best of intentions, he forfeited the potential benefits that could have been gained from investment. By burying the money, he lost all possibility of any profit or discovery. Fear, in fact, guided the actions of this one-talent servant, who failed to grasp the essence of his master’s character. His good intention, misled by a wrong understanding of his master, produced the opposite result. In the end, he was severely punished. According to the message of the parable, good intentions are not enough…The issue boils down to faith anchored in a LOVING GOD... With faith a God who loves us (John 3:16) we can take risks and even make mistakes because we have a great and beautiful God who not only forgives but also redeems mistakes.

I love the way Persian carpets are made. Workers on each side of the loom weave colored wool in the warp and woof at the direction of the master weaver, who is the only one who sees the overall design, viewing it as he does from the front. When a weaver puts in the wrong color, the master weaver does not demand that it be withdrawn, but incorporates the “mistake” into a slightly revised overall design. Such is our God. To work with faith means to heartily trust God, to invest what we are entrusted with and, as an outcome, to enter the joy of God.

Martin Luther, the great leader of the Reformation spoke eloquently about this JOY OF THE LORD in our daily work: “Now you tell me, when a father goes ahead and washes diapers or performs some other mean task for his child, and someone ridicules him as an effeminate fool—though that father is acting . . . in Christian faith—my dear fellow you tell me, which of the two is most keenly ridiculing the other? God, with all his angels and creatures, is smiling — not because that father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith.”

Our understanding of our Lord Jesus Christ is the primary factor which determines our faithful stewardship and ministry. In contrast to the fear of the one-talent servant, the good servants trust in the goodness of their Lord, and as a result of their faith in a good and loving Lord, they are willing to take risks in order to follow the Great Creation Mandate (Genesis 1:26-31) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) – win, lose or draw – whatever the outcome maybe!!! Good servants launch out for their loving Lord…

• Stevens, R. Paul-> Doing God's Business: Meaning and Motivation for the Marketplace
• Young, Brad H.->The Parables: Jewish Tradition and Christian Interpretation

Come On In

Looking up, he saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them.… (Genesis 18:2)

This is a classic text illustrating the Hebrew mitzvah (works of charity) of hachnasat orchim, ″the welcoming of guests″…HOSPITALITY — one of the most important spiritual imperatives in Judaism and Christianity.

It is interesting to note that it is a man (Abraham) who is at the center of the story. Three strangers walk by his tent, and Abraham initiates HOSPITALITY—in a hurry. The key to understanding the text and the underlying message of the story are the verbs used to describe Abraham’s actions: he ran, he rushed, he hastened. ″Quick! ″ He cajoles Sarah. The Hebrew verbs are even more dramatic: vayaratz, vayimaheir, mahari! The word for ″run″ is used twice, ″rushed″ three times, and ″fetch″ four times (Genesis 18:2-8).

The biblical commentators have a field day with this story. What was Abraham’s situation as he sat in the heat of the day at the entrance of his tent (Genesis 18:1)? Turn back to the end of the previous chapter, and we learn that Abraham had just circumcised himself at the age of ninety-nine! Moreover, Abraham was occupied with another visitor: ″The Lord appeared to him …″ (See Genesis 18:1). Rashi, the great medieval Hebrew commentator, points out that Abraham was healing; hence, the imperative of bikkur cholim, ″visiting the sick.″ Other commentators imagine that Abraham was either praying or mediating… spending time in God’s Presence! And yet, when the three complete strangers come into view, we imagine Abraham turning to God and saying, ″Excuse me, Lord, gotta go!″ and rushing off to greet them… Oh, by the way, one further observation…Abraham has NO idea who these strangers are; he has NO clue that they are ″angels of God″ sent to announce that Abraham will, at long last, have an heir. To Abraham, they are simply travelers in need of a rest, and he implores them to enjoy his HOSPITALITY. From this example, the Talmud (during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry in Jerusalem) teaches a remarkable lesson: ″Welcoming strangers [hachnasat orchim] is a greater mitzvah (work of charity) than welcoming the Shechinah [God’s Presence]″ (Shabbat 127a).

WOW! WOW! What a lesson for us at TSH! Our true spirituality and love for the Lord is seen in how we treat our fellow members of the human race – BTW, this lesson from the Talmud is reflected in Hebrews 13:1-2, which reads “Let brotherly love continue. Do NOT forget to show HOSPITALITY to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” I have often wondered why Christians seem to have lost the spiritual practice of hospitality.

On airplanes, in elevators, even walking down the street, we rarely engage the stranger. Perhaps the Abrahamic DNA for hospitality has been dulled from individualism or isolation or persecution and/or fear of the stranger. For some of us it is not easy to approach unfamiliar people. And yet, the simple act of smiling, extending a hand, sharing a word of welcome can be the first step in a new relationship--between us and our fellow man [Hebrew: bein adam l′chaveiro].

For each of us individually, and for us collectively to create sacred communities of welcome, we would be well served to emulate the model of Abraham, the greatest greeter in the OT


  • Adapted from DR. Ron Wolfson’s commentary in the Modern Men's Torah Commentary

You can show the Way

When he reached Shechem, a man came upon him wandering in the fields. The man asked him, “What are you looking for?” He answered, “I am looking for my brothers.” (Genesis 37:14–15)

You are walking through the mall, down the street, across campus and a stranger—obviously a tourist—has that panicked look of being completely lost. Would it surprise you to discover that you could literally change the course of this person’s life with a few kind words??? I think you can. We can prove the point from the story of Joseph in chapter 37 of Genesis—look it up!!!

Jacob sent his son Joseph to find his brothers, and Joseph gets lost. Along comes a nameless man who finds him wandering around in the field, and he asks Joseph, “What are you looking for?” Joseph tells him he is looking for his brothers, and to paraphrase the man’s response, he says, “They went that-a-way.” Think about it for a minute. If this mystery man had given the wrong directions, or if he had said “I don’t know,” or if he had sent Joseph home, it would have probably jeopardized the rest of Israel’s redemptive story— perhaps no journeys to Egypt and perhaps no Exodus??? Think about it…

Now I ask you the question “Who was that nameless man in Exodus 37:14-15?”

I like to tell people that there is no such thing as a coincidence. They credit me with great faith in God’s plan for humanity, that the Holy One has put everything in motion for a purpose. I humbly acknowledge that I do NOT know all the ways in which He works. Most times God works in my life in ways I do not completely understand! Thus, when I say that there is no such thing as a coincidence; I mean that there is an explanation for everything in this world—good, bad, or indifferent. For example, the football bounced into the hands of the defense because of the trajectory of the throw and the angle of the receiver’s fingers. You got a particular grade in your class because of how well (or how not so well) you prepared. Your beloved relative contracted a terminal illness not as punishment, but because the combination of genetics and marriage choices and the environment conspired to make him or her susceptible to it. Like the butterfly that flaps its wings and becomes the main actor in chaos theory, nothing is incidental, and therefore nothing is coincidental. Everything counts, and the Lord is sovereign over all!!!

So when I tell you that Joseph’s encountering that guy in the field was no coincidence, what do I mean? I mean that the Lord deliberately works out His great redemptive plan for all
humanity in Israel’s history through the kind act of one stranger. BUT the Bible leaves the man’s name out!!! This is small Act of Random Kindness (“ARK” was an acronym used by Morgan Freeman playing the role of “God” in the movie “Evan Almighty”).

This man in Gen.37:14-15 reaching out to help a confused teenager find his way is the small Act of Random Kindness (ARK) that I hope any one of us at TSH might perform in similar circumstances. We hold the door for the people entering a building behind us. We provide some change for the homeless person on the street. We give a lost tourist some important directions. The man in Gen.37:14-15 helped Joseph by discerning a need, getting out of his comfort zone and asking a lost kid a question. His name isn’t mentioned and his origin is unknown, but he offers, perhaps, one of the most elevating lessons in the entire Bible: there is no person, no act, no kindness, and no outreach that is incidental…Every good deed counts in Christ’s Kingdom. Each disciple of Christ (Matthew 16:13-18) can determine the course of human history. Wow—what a response-ability!!!
I hope it makes you consider the consequence of every action you make in your life. I hope that it offers you a sense of humility, the ability to see a big picture of this world which is actually God’s domain – and in God’s domain YOU and me as a children of God COUNT!!! God’s plans works through our lives…our simplest decision to obey His Word and His Spirit. You and I can change the course of a person’s life with a simple “Act of Random Kindness” (ARK).

Do you want to know the answer to my original question? Do you want to know “Who’s that nameless man in Genesis 37:14-15?”

Answer -> It is Christ-in-you…the Hope of Glory!!!


  • Adapted from the Torah Commentary for Teens by Jewish Lights Publishing
1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 Next >>