Tree of Life Messianic Congregation

A Fellowship of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Yeshua

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Sacrifices of Praise

“LET US OFFER UP SACRIFICES OF PRAISE!”

Blessing

Our Torah Portion this morning is from the first five chapters of the book of Leviticus. It is called Vayikra or “He called”. In fact, the name of the book of Leviticus in Hebrew is Vayikra. It is sometimes referred to as the Torah of the Kohanim. You could say it was the instruction text for the priests because Leviticus largely is about how to conduct the sacrificial system and the form of worship that God was setting up for the Israelites.

Parashat Vayikra specifically outlines the types of sacrifices that are required at what time and for what purpose with what kind of animal or produce.

TEXT: Heb. 13:15-16; Rom. 12:1-2
INTRO: Mention the word “Worship” to someone and see how they respond! To most people the idea of “Worship” is something that happens on a Saturday or Sunday morning in a building somewhere called a Synagogue or Church. For some, the conditions have to be just perfect in order for them to worship…too often people don’t enjoy worship unless things are just right, thus we are good at finding all kinds of reasons to avoid coming to synagogue or church…imagine the world acting like this!

ILLUS: What if we gave up sports: football in the fall, baseball in the summer, basketball in the winter, based on the following 12 excuses:

1. Every time I went, they asked for money.
2. The people I sat next to didn’t seem friendly.
3. The seats were too hard and not comfortable at all.
4. The air conditioning is always too hot or too cold.
5. I went to many games but the coach never came to call on me.
6. The referees made decisions that I couldn’t agree with.
7. The game went into overtime and I was late getting home.
8. The band played songs I’d never heard before and it wasn’t my style of music.
9. It seems the games are always scheduled when I want to do other things.
10. I suspect that I was sitting next to some hypocrites. They came to see their friends and they talked during the whole game.
11. I was taken to too many games by my parents when I was growing up.
12. I hate to wait in the traffic jam in the parking lot after the game.

Worship and praise are not something that comes just from the right conditions
around us, it comes from the heart and from our life….we are always worshipping…it is not just what happens on Saturday or Sunday morning!

The Bible will teach us that both our LIPS and our LIFE should be offering up praise to God continuously.

I. PRAISE FROM OUR LIPS! Heb. 13:15; Rom. 12:2
A. A New Communication Heb. 13:15

1. Notice in the text the link that makes this new communication possible:
“Through Yeshua…..”
a. Praise and worship is possible before coming to faith in Yeshua. We see it in thousands of synagogues throughout the world every day as they read from their siddurim. But praise and worship is enhanced because we have Yeshua!
b. Praise is not just something we do, it is what we are and who we are
connected to….connected to the Messiah makes praise even more possible!

2. Notice here also the sense of praise being “continual”!
a. It is not just at the synagogue where praise from our lips is supposed to happen!
b. The reason it is called a “sacrifice of praise” is because it won’t always
be convenient or when we simply feel like it!
c. There is a real sense here that how we communicate all the time is a
part of worship, every word from our lips should be “praise” in some
form or fashion to God reflecting Yeshua in our lives.
3. Our lips should confess praise and gratitude at all times reflecting Yeshua’s
reality in our lives!

ILLUS: Alexander Whyte, the Scottish preacher, always began his prayers with an expression of gratitude. One cold, miserable day his people wondered what he would say. He prayed, “We thank Thee, O Lord, that it is not always like this.”

4. It is our language at home, work, and shul that is in view in the passage, that our lips are offering up to God ’CONTINUALLY’ a sacrifice of praise!

a. How should this impact that way we talk about others?
b. How should this impact that jokes we tell co-workers on the job?
c. How should this impact our speech around home and family?
d. As well as how we enter into the service at Tree of Life!

5. Too often it is far easier to express praise in a worship service than it is in
day to day routines…yet the sense of “continuously” and “sacrifice” here indicates the daily routine as well as the Worship service.

B. A New Communion

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

1. It is clear that what we say comes from how we think…hence how this passage fits well with the “fruit of lips” issue in Heb. 13:15!

a. We speak how we think!

Luke 6:45 “Out of the good treasure of his heart the good man brings forth good, and out of evil the evil man brings forth evil. For from the overflow of the heart his mouth speaks.”

b. If we are to offer up a sacrifice of praise as the “fruit of our lips” on a
ongoing basis, it will have to spring from the way we think in our hearts
and minds!

2. Paul writes here to express the importance of “conformity”….but to be
cautious not to conform any longer to the thinking of this world!

a. The world has little concern for worship and praise of God…and if we
allow the world’s influence to infiltrate our entire thinking processes we
will find our sense of worship distorted as well!
b. The world puts little value on verbal expressions to God…it is a low priority if one at all!
c. We must be careful that the emphasis of the world does not become ours!
Philippians 4:8-9 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any virtue and if there is anything worthy of praise—dwell on these things. (9) What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—put these things into practice, and the God of shalom will be with you.

ILLUS: Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play and to play at their worship. As a result, their meanings and values are distorted. Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair, and their lifestyles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot.

3. The problem for many Believers today is that we have too compartmentalized our lives into chunks… we think of worship as only this “chunk” of time spent in Synagogue on Shabbat morning, and don’t see how worship is a part of the rest of our week or our activities!
a. We should develop a “worship” mentality in everything!
b. We would be completely different as people if we really had a “KINGDOM OF GOD” mentality over everything in our daily lives and not just when we are in a synagogue!

4. In the strictest sense…everything we do is a part of worshiping God, and all our daily mundane things in life are a part of that expression!
a. Think about how the emphasis in our lives would be changed if we really thought this way?
b. Everything we say and everything we do tests and approves the will of
God … hopefully our lips and our actions will show “His good, pleasing
and perfect will!”

5. The idea here is to have our minds transformed by God’s Word so that we
are no longer conformed to this world and its way of thinking
a. The Greek word translated here “transform” is “metamorpho” from which we get our English word “metamorphosis” from. The idea is that we change from the way the world thinks to the way God thinks, a process of becoming something new and different!
b. This is no doubt a process…worship always is!
c. The renewing of our minds will enable us to think very different from
this world, and by thinking different we will speak different!
d. This will enable us to have the fruit of our lips worship God continuously!

II. PRAISE FROM OUR LIVES!

Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Romans 12:1 I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice—holy, acceptable to God—which is your spiritual service.

A. A New Compassion Heb. 13:16

1. As soon as the writer of Hebrews talks about the “fruit of lips” as a sacrifice of praise he moves to his next thought tying this together with “do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
a. The “fruit of lips” results in the “fruit of living” & vice versa!
b. What we SPEAK we tend to SHOW! (remember in school “SHOW & TELL”) and what we SHOW we tend to SPEAK!

2. What we do as good to others is also a part of our worship of God, it will bear fruit at some point in our lives as well as theirs!

ILLUS: Many years ago two young men were working their way through Stanford University. At one point their money was almost gone, so they decided to engage the great pianist Paderewski for a concert and use the profits for board and tuition. Paderewski’s manager asked for a guarantee of $2,000. The students worked hard to promote the concert, but they came up $400 short. After the performance, they went to the musician, gave him all the money they had raised, and promised to pay the $400 as soon as they could. It appeared that their college days were over. “No, boys, that won’t do,” said the pianist. “take out of this $1,600 all your expenses, and keep for each of you 10 percent of the balance for your work. Let me have the rest.”

Years passed. Paderewski became premier of Poland following World War I. Thousands of his countrymen were starving. Only one man could help, the head of the U.S. Food and Relief Bureau. Paderewski’s appeal to him brought thousands of tons of food. Later he met the American statesman to thank him. “That’s all right,” replied Herbert Hoover. “Besides, you don’t remember, but you helped me once when I was a student in college.”

3. The world does not just look at what we “say” but also what we “do” in determining what kind of “worshiper” we are!
a. The world will rarely criticize our worship style if they know our lifestyle is also godly!
b. We show people what a “sacrifice of praise” is not just by the way we verbally worship on Saturday mornings, but how we live throughout the rest of the week.

4. God is pleased with our “sacrifices of praise” when they come from both our LIPS and our LIVES!
a. The idea from God’s standpoint is that our LIPS match our LIVES!
b. Since this “sacrifice of praise” is supposed to be “continuous” it is supposed to be a constant flow from both our lips in a “worship” service, and from our lives in “willful” service!

B. A New Commitment

Romans 12:1 I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice—holy, acceptable to God—which is your spiritual service.

1. Here Paul picks up this very theme…
a. to worship means to give up more than a couple of hours on Shabbat morning to offer worship as LIP SERVICE, it means to offer up our own bodies as a LIVING SACRIFICE!
b. To offer up our bodies as a “living sacrifice” is “pleasing” to God!
c. The only problem with a “living sacrifice” is that it has a tendency to
“crawl off the altar when the fire gets hot under it!”
2. This really means that God should get the best of us!
a. For too many Believers, our faith is like a weekend thing you do, and so it is treated like “going to the movies” or going somewhere else, it doesn’t have the commitment of the best from us all the time.
b. Only western belief system has this concept of compartmentalizing our relationship to God….many other religions see their commitment to their gods as all embracing, their gods always get their best, not their leftover time and resources!

ILLUS: A missionary tells of a woman in India holding in her arms a weak, whining infant, while at her side stood a beautiful, healthy child. The man of God saw her walk to the banks of the Ganges River and throw the robust youngster to the crocodiles as an offering, and then turn toward home again still clutching the sickly child to her bosom. Tears were running down her cheeks when he stopped to question her concerning her shocking actions; however, she proudly replied in defense of her conduct, “O sir, we always give our gods the best!”
c. Can we say that God gets our very best, or just whatever we have leftover in time, resources, and priorities?

3. It is always too easy to see a sacrifice as something we give, or even something we do, but we need to see the sacrifice as OURSELVES!… a
living one!

4. Paul says that such a living sacrifice in view of God’s mercy is a “SPIRITUAL ACT OF WORSHIP”!
a. The word “spiritual” here in Greek is “LOGIKOS” from where we get our word “LOGICAL” from!
b. In view of God’s mercy it is only LOGICAL that we offer up our bodies as a living sacrifice for God to use!
c. This is both “reasonable” (KJV) and “logical”!
d. Why would God want just the worship of our lips without the worship from our lives?
5. If we are to offer up “sacrifices of praise” we must be willing to offer up our lives as living sacrifices, this will then include what comes from our lips!
a. When done out of love, this sacrifice will not be viewed as a LOSS, but as GAIN!

ILLUS: It is told that in the First World War there was a young French soldier who was seriously wounded. His arm was so badly smashed that it had to be amputated. He was a magnificent specimen of young manhood, and the surgeon was grieved that he must go through life maimed. So he waited beside his bedside to tell him the bad news when he recovered consciousness. When the lad’s eyes opened, the surgeon said to him: “I am sorry to tell you that you have lost your arm.” “Sir,” said the lad, “I did not lose it; I gave it — for France.”

William Barclay, in his commentary on the Gospel of John said “Yeshua was not helplessly caught up in a mesh of circumstances from which he could not break free. Apart from any divine power he might have called in, it is quite clear that to the end he could have turned back and saved his life. He did not lose his life; he gave it. The Cross was not thrust upon him; he willingly accepted it — for us.”

b. too often we think of “sacrifice” as a painful loss, but in reality it is a joyous thing… “holy and pleasing to God” …
c. to God, the content of our worship is wrapped up in the character of the
worshiper!
6. The real life of “worship” then is both what comes from our “LIPS” and from our “LIVES” !
a. So did you come this morning “to worship” or as “a worshiper” ?
b. Are you “continuously offering up to God a sacrifice of praise” or just when you are in the “service” ?
c. Are both your LIPS and your LIFE engaged in praising God?

7. “LET US OFFER UP SACRIFICES OF PRAISE!!”

CONCLUSION: The concept of “praising God” is far more reaching than just what happens on a Shabbat morning worship service! It is also far more reaching than a song of praise or two! The crowds on Palm Sunday were quick to praise Yeshua with their lips, but not with their lives! Praise is a lifestyle of glorifying our Messiah and not just lips that gush “Glory to God in the highest”! Did you come TO worship, or did you come AS a worshiper!? Let us offer up sacrifices of praise through our lips and our lives!

The Finger of God

20200314 Parsha Ki Tisa – The Finger of God

Blessing

The Parsha this week begins with a census where all the men over 20 were counted and taxed one half shekel as atonement for their souls. There are further instructions regarding the Mishkan and its furnishings.

Chapter 31 relates the commissioning of Oholiab and Bezalel who were to be in charge of everything concerning the construction of the Mishkan. The chapter conclude with Moses coming down off Mount Sinai with two tablets of stone. Verse 18 says that the tablets of stone were written by the finger of God.

Chapter 32 tells the story of the Golden calf, an extraordinary episode of failure. First, on the part of Aaron for his lack of leadership. And second, on the part of some of the Israelites who abandoned their moral compass to follow their baser instincts which devolved into idol worship and debauchery. Punishment quickly follows with the elimination of those who led and participated in this sad escapade.

Moses intervened to avoid the destruction of the entire nation of Israel. Even though they sinned greatly, God did not abandon His people Israel.

Israel was told to leave the region of Sinai. They had been there a year. It was time to move on. Moses was instructed to carve out new stone tablets upon which he, Moses wrote down the Ten Commandments. God renewed His covenant with Israel and declared their future victory in Canaan.

The Parsha ends with Moses coming down off the mountain after a miraculous time of fasting of both food and water for 40 days. His close encounter with God was evident, in that his face literally glowed so that he had to wear a veil over his face.

This morning, I want to jump back up to Chapter 31

Exodus 31:18 When He had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave the two tablets of the Testimony to Moses—tablets of stone, written by the finger of God.

The tablets of the Testimony were what we call the Ten Commandments or the Ten Words. Contrary to today’s interpretation, these were the Ten Commandments, not the Ten Suggestions.

What I would like to focus on is that these were written “by the finger of God”. His instructions to His people were so important that God felt that He, personally, should write them.

There are several other places in the Bible that speak of the finger of God, but this morning I want to discuss only three aspects of what is the finger of God.
I. The Finger of God – His Instruction

God is not the author of confusion. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14:33 for God is not a God of confusion, but shalom.

He does not like chaos. He spoke into existence a world of order, where even the smallest particles, smaller than atoms behave in a predictable pattern. Ocean shores are generally fairly constant. We don’t have the Gulf of Mexico at Galveston beach one day and on 29th street in Lubbock the next only to retreat a hundred miles southeast of Corpus Christi. In a macro sense, the earth and all of God creation is neat and orderly. I know the sun will shine tomorrow and I can predict the next blood moon. God is a God of order.

For that reason, He gave us His instructions called Torah, so that we may know what His standard of holiness is. We know what He considers sin. Torah is an act of grace, because we are not judged by some nebulous concept that changes with the seasons. His word is constant, just as He is. We can know how we should act because God wrote it down for in with His own finger.

II. The Finger of God – Judgment

Another time we see directly the hand of God operating directly is found in the Book of Daniel. The grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar had ascended to the throne of Babylon and was hosting a party. He had ordered golden vessels stolen from the Temple to be brought so his guests could toast their gods and goddesses. In the middle of all the revelry a hand appeared.

Daniel 5:5 At that very moment, the fingers of a human hand emerged and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace opposite the lampstand, so that the king could see the back of the hand that was writing.

This passage does not say that it was the hand of God, but Belshazzar certainly reacted as if it was something terrifying. His legs gave out on him and he couldn’t stand.

Daniel was summoned and in his interpretation, he said that what Belshazzar saw was the hand of God.

Daniel 5:22-24 “But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this. (23) Instead you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven. You had the vessels of His House brought before you, and you and your nobles, your consorts and your concubines have been drinking wine in them. You have praised the gods made of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. Yet you did not honor the God who holds in His hand your very breath and all your ways. (24) Therefore, the hand was sent from Him that wrote this inscription.

In this case the hand or finger of God was sent in judgment. We know that Belshazzar was killed that very night and his kingdom conquered by the Medes and Persians. This was an extraordinary display of God’s judgment. It is not seen very often but is devastating in its depth of destruction. If we look back at Exodus Chapter 8 when God sent lice to inflict Egypt, the Egyptian magicians marveled at the plague and acknowledged that it was the finger of God. It was something they could not create, augment or mitigate.

Some prognosticators and commentators are expressing the belief that this Coronavirus is some kind of judgment of mankind or it’s a sign of the end times. I don’t know if it is or not, but I believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a healing God who can protect His people from this virus.

To see a third time God’s finger in man’s affairs we have to go forward 500 years.

III. The Finger of God – His Mercy

John 8:2-11 At dawn, He came again into the Temple. All the people were coming to Him, and He sat down and began to teach them. (3) The Torah scholars and Pharisees bring in a woman who had been caught in adultery. After putting her in the middle, (4) they say to Yeshua, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of committing adultery. (5) In the Torah, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do You say?” (6) Now they were saying this to trap Him, so that they would have grounds to accuse Him. But Yeshua knelt down and started writing in the dirt with His finger. (7) When they kept asking Him, He stood up and said, “The sinless one among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (8) Then He knelt down again and continued writing on the ground. (9) Now when they heard, they began to leave, one by one, the oldest ones first, until Yeshua was left alone with the woman in the middle. (10) Straightening up, Yeshua said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” (11) “No one, Sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Yeshua said. “Go, and sin no more.”

A group of religious leaders opposed to the message and person of Yeshua attempted to set a theological trap for him. They brought to him a woman caught in the very act of adultery. They rightfully said that the penalty for adultery was death by stoning, but they didn’t get all of the elements of the trial correct. They didn’t bring the partner to her sin to Yeshua as was required by Torah. They didn’t hold a proper trial before the Beit Din. They wanted to see if Yeshua would say something that would contradict the law.

Instead, Yeshua, the Son of God bent down and with his finger started to write in the dust. We don’t know what he wrote. Was he writing out the law that addressed this situation, or as some have suggested, did he write the names of the woman’s accusers in one column and the sin of that accuser in another column? We can only speculate, but when Yeshua rose up he said, let him who is without sin cast the first stone. The law required the accuser to throw the first stone. But Yeshua turned it around on his antagonists. How could any of them cast the first stone? They would have had to declare that they had never sinned and that would be blaspheme. Perhaps they saw their name in the dust and horrified and shamed before their colleagues who could now see their own sins. We don’t know.

But we saw here the hand of God through Yeshua create the framework for mercy.

In the three examples I’ve given you this morning we saw God’s hand instructing us. His word is there for all to see if we would just follow it. The choice is ours. We can meet the finger of God in judgment telling us to depart I never knew you. Or we can see the finger of God beckoning to us.

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (29) Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and ‘you will find rest for your souls.’ (30) For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Are you burdened this morning? Does it feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulder? God’s hand of mercy is extended to you. He is inviting you to give Him your hurts, your fears, your failures. He will give you rest.

Worship Without Walls

20200201 Parsha Bo – Worship without Walls

The Parsha today is one of the most important we have to study. It sets up the Passover and describes the events that led up to Israel’s freedom. At the end of the Parsha we see a stark contrast. The firstborn of Egypt were killed but the firstborn of Israel were set apart and dedicated to Hashem.

“Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, from every womb of Bnei-Yisrael, both men and animals—this is Mine.”

Many of you know the significance of being the firstborn in the ancient middle eastern culture. It was a big deal. The first born received a double portion of inheritance as well as other benefits. Rather than stay in the Exodus story, I’m going to jump ahead a few hundred years to the book of Micah.

With what shall I come before Adonai? With what shall I bow myself before God on high? Shall I present Him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? (7) Will Adonai be pleased with thousands of rams, with hordes of rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my belly for the sin of my soul? (8) He has told you, humanity, what is good, and what Adonai is seeking from you: Only to practice justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
What would you do in this situation?

Mike Breaux, the pastor of the Heartland Community Church in Rockford, Illinois tells the story of a man and his wife who go to a restaurant that features steak and a salad bar. As they dine, a girl comes out with a 5-gallon bucket of Thousand Island dressing to fill up the salad bar. But she catches her heel and launches the 5-gallon container of dressing all over this one guy. He’s got Thousand Island dressing from the top of his head to the bottom of his shoes; dripping off his forehead, off his chin, on the lapels of his suit, all over his tie, all over his pants, all over his shoes. He is a mess. Now if you were the one covered by Thousand Island dressing, what would you do? How would you respond?

This guy, he goes ballistic. He starts calling this poor girl every name a marine drill sergeant ever used. And he says, “I can’t believe just how stupid you are. Look at this! This is the first chance I’ve had to wear this suit. It cost me $350 and you have completely ruined it.” She’s going, “Sir…” and she’s trying to clean up. “Get away from me! You caused enough damage already.” His wife chimes in. “That’s right. It’s a $350 suit…blah … blah … blah.”

Everybody in the whole restaurant is watching, and he demands, “I want to see the manager.” The manager comes out and says, “Is there a problem?” “Yes there’s a problem. This stupid girl has ruined my suit. It’s the first chance I’ve had to wear it. It costs $350.”

“Sir, we’ll clean your suit for you. No problem. We’ll take care of that.” The guy says, “I don’t want my suit cleaned. I want a new suit. It’s completely ruined. I want a new suit. I want a check right now for $350.” The manager disappeared, and the guy with him. I imagine he wrote him a check and justice was served.

Now the interesting part of this story is that this happened on a Sunday afternoon. So why in the world would a guy be in a suit on a Sunday afternoon? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe he just came from hearing a great sermon on loving your neighbor as yourself or about turning the other cheek. People who work in food service will tell you that the very worst people to wait on are the people who just got out of church on a Sunday morning. Don’t believe it, just ask Cynthia. That’s tragic, because, friends, we’re called to worship not only inside the walls of a church or synagogue, but to worship without walls.

We’re called to worship in restaurants. We are called to worship at the ball field. We are called to worship at the golf course. We’re called to worship in the classroom. We’re called to worship in the office cubicle. But how do you worship without walls? And what does God expect of such a life of worship outside of Sunday morning? Micah explains 3 requirements of Worship without Walls.

Micah says in Micah 6:8 He has told you, humanity, what is good, and what Adonai is seeking from you: Only to practice justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah shares 3 requirements that are easy to memorize. Repeat them with me,
1. To act justly and
2. To love mercy and
3. To walk humbly with your God.”

Today let’s take a closer look at those 3 requirements and how God calls us to live them out in worship without walls.

Slide: “To act justly
REQUIREMENT 1: “To act justly”: Live by God’s standards. I am male; therefore, I am gift buying challenged. When Pat’s birthday comes along or our anniversary, I need help. I need a list. Give me a list, I can do okay. Don’t give me a list, well, it’s just not pretty what happens. These 3 requirements that Micah gives are God’s list. Want to express love to God, this is what you do.

That’s why Paul says in Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, (12) training us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live in a manner that is self-controlled and righteous and godly in the present age.

The Message Bible says it this way “God’s readiness to give and forgive is now public. Salvation’s available for everyone! 12We’re being shown how to turn our backs on a godless, indulgent life, and how to take on a God-filled, God-honoring life. This new life is starting right now. – “

God welcomes us into the family, and then He gives us a list of how to show our love to Him. Yet some of the items on His list, go against the general culture or standards of our world.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have an attitude that says “I can do it myself”. I am all for God’s agenda as long as it matches what I want. That’s how Israel was living in Micah’s day, and how America lives in our day. To act justly is to live by God’s standards. So Micah lets Israel and you and me know what’s involved.

Letting Israel know what was on God’s list was not original with Micah either. Moses told Israel in

“So now, O Israel, what does Adonai your God require of you, but to fear Adonai your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Worship without walls begins when I act justly, when I live by God’s standards.

REQUIREMENT 2: “To love mercy”: Love others with God’s heart. God’s cry for action continues from Moses throughout the Old Testament. To love mercy is an interesting term. The word love refers to the loyal love of a married couple. The word mercy refers to God’s love to those in His family. To love mercy is to love others with God’s heart. God says in Hosea 6:6 For I delight in loyalty and not sacrifice, knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

Pastor John Ortberg tells the story of a young man named John Gilbert who lived in a California town called Paradise. When he was 5 years old, John was diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. He was told it would eventually destroy every muscle and finally, in a space of 10 years or so, take his life. John Gilbert passed away a few yeas ago at the age of 25. While alive John experienced a lot of exclusion and cruelty from his peers growing up. But at one point he was named the representative for everyone with his condition in the state of California. He was flown to Sacramento and was ushered with mother into the governor’s office for a private meeting.

That night the National Football League sponsored a fund-raising auction and dinner at which John was a guest. The players let him hold their huge Super Bowl rings, which almost extended to John’s wrist. When the auction began, one particular item caught John’s attention: a basketball signed by the players of the Sacramento Kings. John got a little carried away, because when the ball was up for bids, he raised his hand. As soon as his hand went up,

John’s mother pulled it down. In John’s words, “Astronauts never felt as many G’s as my wrist did that night.”

The bidding for the basketball rose to an astounding amount for an item that was not the most valuable treasure on the docket. Eventually, one man named a figure that shocked the room and the no one else could match. The man went to the front and collected his prize. But instead of returning to his seat, the man walked across the room and placed it in the thin, small hands of the boy who had admired it so intently. The man placed the ball in hands that would never dribble it down a court, never throw it to a teammate on a fast break, never fire it from 3-point range. But those hands would cherish it.

Have you bought a basketball for anybody lately? To love mercy is to love others with God’s heart. And to love others that’s a nice way of saying, “love everybody with the heart of God”

Yeshua says in Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.”

Hold a door open for someone. Let that other car go first. Phone a friend, not because you need a lifeline, but because you might be the lifeline God wants to use to touch him or her with His love.

REQUIREMENT 3: “To walk humbly with your God”: Learn to follow constantly God’s direction. The people of Israel ask in

Micah 6:6-7 With what shall I come before Adonai? With what shall I bow myself before God on high? Shall I present Him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? (7) Will Adonai be pleased with thousands of rams, with hordes of rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my belly for the sin of my soul?

How many first born children here today? Non-first born? First-born children tend to answer “No” to Micah’s suggestion. Non-first born tend to say, “What do we have to lose?” Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? The answer is no, and not just because I am first born. It wouldn’t do any good. It wouldn’t pay the price. Only one could and only one did. He was a first-born by the way. First-born Son of God gave His life that we might have life.

Yeshua says in Matthew 5:3, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” — (The Message)

When we reach the point where our only option is God, then we have reached the point we walk humbly with our God. When we reach the point that we recognize God as the source of our success, then we have reached the point we walk humbly with our God.

We walk humbly with God, when we come to him in prayer. I’m sure you’ve heard the prayer that goes, “Dear Lord, so far today I’m doing alright. I’ve not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or self-indulgent. I’ve not whined, …cursed, or eaten any chocolate. I’ve not charged on my credit card. However, I am about to get out of bed in a few minutes, and I will need a lot more help after that.”

Time in prayer and God’s Word daily sets the focus for the day, Take such time to say, “God, this is the day you have made. It’s your gift. Help me to use it wisely for your glory.” Or, “Lord, it’s going to be a long, long day, I need your help and direction.”

CONCLUSION: The answer to the ultimate question.

For most people, the ultimate question in life is “What should I do with my life?” People search for meaning and purpose, and the answer to the ultimate question. The prophet Micah is a kindred spirit to those pursuing The Ultimate Question. As he spoke to the people of Israel, Micah’s focus was to remind people of their purpose. For Micah, the answer to The Ultimate Question is found in the larger purposes of God. “What does the Lord require of you?” asks the prophet with his own ultimate question. God’s answer is “to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God”.

As those words echoed in my mind and heart this week, I found myself waiting to hold a door open for people who were beyond the 5 second behind rule for door holding. I realized this week that as these words permeated my soul, I was cutting people off in traffic, but letting them merge. I became aware of God’s presence in the holy and in the ordinary. I found myself worshipping God without walls. Want to experience a great week this week? Here’s what you do. Answer Micah’s call “to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God”. Amen.

Seven Promises of Adonai

Last week we began the study of Shemot, or the Book of Exodus. I want to thank Geoff Dobbin for filling in for me. As always, he did a great job.

Today we pick up with the continuation of Hashem’s call on the life of Moses. He has already tried speaking with Pharaoh on behalf of Israel only to inadvertently increase the harsh burden on their lives. Moses is pretty much defeated at this point. He tried, and in his mind, failed miserably. But God was not the least bit worried about the situation.

Listen again to what He said to Moses.

Exodus 6:2-5 God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am Adonai. (3) I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, as El Shaddai. Yet by My Name, Adonai, I made Myself known to them? (4) I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage where they journeyed. (5) Furthermore, I have heard the groaning of Bnei-Yisrael, whom the Egyptians are keeping in bondage. So I have remembered My covenant.

God called to mind His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. How he made an everlasting covenant with His people. And how He now has heard their cries for help and is going to uphold his part of the covenant.

What follows are Seven Promises for the Children of Egypt. Every year we observe the feast of Pesach, or Passover. When we do that, the Sages have told us to observe it as if we personally, were the ones that were brought out of Egypt. We are to identify with our ancestors in their trials and also in their triumphs. So listen to these promises laid out by Hashem and apply them to your own situation.

Exodus 6:6-8 Therefore say to Bnei-Yisrael: I am Adonai, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will deliver you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. (7) I will take you to Myself as a people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am Adonai your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (8) So I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, and (I will) give it to you as an inheritance. I am Adonai.”

1. Separation – I will bring you out. Israel had been in Egypt over 400 years. They had arrived as economic refugees fleeing a famine in Canaan and were now slaves of the Pharaoh of Egypt. Their conditions were miserable. They lived a harsh and cruel existence subject to the whims of the Egyptian leadership. Israel had survived famine, and insufferable bondage, and even the slaughter of their male babies.

And yet, through all of the years of misery, HaShem had kept them intact as a people. Now He was calling them out. He was separating them for their captors, from their labors, from their Misery.

2. Freedom – I will deliver you from your bondage. God was not going to just wave His strong arm and declare that Israel was His Chosen People. Not only did He separate them from the population of Egypt, He declared them free from bondage. This was an emancipation proclamation on the order of and perhaps greater than the one declared by Abraham Lincoln.

3. Redemption – I will redeem you. When someone is redeemed, there is a price to be paid. In the case of slaves, there was a set value in the Bible for redeeming a slave. There was also a price to be paid for the redemption of Israel. Only in this case, instead of paying money to the captors, the captors paid the price of redemption for the Children of Israel. Egypt’s land, economy and population lay in ruins. And yet, there was another installment to be paid by Egypt. The price was the lives of their first born.

4. Selection – I will take you as my own. Out of all the nations of the world, God chose the nation of Israel. Even when it was not yet a nation, but a loose collection of tribes. God chose to make one nation special, that He would call His own.

5. Admission – I will bring you into the land. Israel was going to leave Egypt. God was making sure of that, but then they had to go somewhere. That somewhere was the land that he had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to long ago. Through His sovereignty, HaShem was opening up the land to Israel. Israel’s job was to follow God’s leading and trust in Him.

6. Clear Title – (I will) give it to you as an inheritance. The land that was promised was in the possession of 7 different nations. They had been there a very long time, even before Abraham first came to the Land. In the eyes of all the world then and strangely, even in today’s world, Israel had no claim to the Land. And yet God said it belonged to Israel. He made the land; it was His to give to whomever He would. The people of Canaan had rejected God’s ways and had fallen into the pits of depravity. They were bereft of a moral code. And now they were under judgement. Their claim to the land was revoked.

7. Relationship – I will be your God. Probably the most important part of the promises of Exodus Chapter 6 was the assurance that the King of the Universe, the Great Creator, was not only claiming Israel for his own, they were going to have a special relationship with Him. The most immediate effect was HaShem’s presence at Sinai and His dwelling in the Mishkan. This relationship was further enhanced by sending a Moshiach and His Ruach, not only for Israel, but that all the nations would be blessed.

Today as we sit here, I dare say there is no one who has been a slave. And probably very few of us have been in a prison. But we have all at one time been a slave of sin and imprisoned by yetzer hara or evil inclinations. Perhaps a slave to addictions. Rav Shaul, the apostle Paul said that there was something inside him that wanted to do bad even when he wanted to do good. Sound familiar?

But just as we were once enslaved in Egypt, Adonai hears our cries today. He remembers our plight.

1. He separates us out of the muck and mire we sometimes find ourselves in.
2. He frees us from the bondage that has so long held us. John 8:36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!
3. Adonai, through the sacrifice of Yeshua on the execution stake, paid the ransom for our souls. We have been redeemed and can have right standing before God. 1 Peter 1:18 You know that you were redeemed from the futile way of life handed down from your ancestors—not with perishable things such as silver or gold,
4. God has made us his own. He is our heavenly Father. James 2:23 The Scripture was fulfilled that says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”—and he was called God’s friend. Because of the promises of God we too are a friend of God
5. We have been granted entry into a heavenly kingdom. 2 Peter 1:10-11 Therefore, brothers and sisters, make all the more effort to make your calling and election certain—for if you keep doing these things, you will never stumble. (11) For in this way entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Messiah Yeshua, will be richly provided for you.
6. We have a rich inheritance in Yeshua. Colossians 3:24 For you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as a reward. It is to the Lord Messiah you are giving service.
7. God grants us an intimacy with Him that is described very inadequately as the relationship between a husband and wife. Revelation 21:9 …“Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”

Light of the World

Today of course is the 6th day of Hanukkah and tonight we will light 7 candles. Hanukkah has several names such as Feast of Dedication, or Festival of Lights. It is a celebration of the miracle of the Temple lights staying lit for 8 days regardless of the fact that they only had oil for one night.

But I need to back up a bit and give you a Cliff’s Notes version of the origins of Hanukkah.

All through our history, Jews have been dogged by the issue of assimilation. In the face of hostility, in ancient times and in the present, we have asked ourselves: should we uphold the faith of our ancestors, even if that means risking life and limb, or should we just conform to the surrounding culture?

The question became particularly pressing during the Hellenistic period (approximately fourth to second centuries B.C.), after Alexander the Great conquered the Western world. The Apocryphal books of First and Second Maccabees recount the battle of assimilation vs. anti-assimilation that raged during this period of Hellenization that swept the Near East.

During the time of the Maccabees, the Israelites were wedged between two of the kingdoms established after Alexander’s death: Ptolemaic Egypt and Selucid Syria. With the ascent of the chauvinistic Selucid Antiochus IV, who called himself “Epiphanes” (lit. “visible god”), the delicate balance of power tipped in the direction of the Syrians and the fragile position of the Jews became even more precarious. A certain Jason bribed Antiochus and obtained the position of High Priest. Jason proceeded to dress Jerusalem in Grecian trappings but did not tamper with Jewish ritual and religion to the extent that more radical Hellenizers did.

Three years after the start of his reign, Antiochus deposed Jason and replaced him with Menelaus, a staunch Hellenist who out-bribed Jason. Jason laid siege to Jerusalem, but Antiochus’ army quashed his forces, later pillaging and slaughtering the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

During the time of darkness that followed, the Selucids slew many Jewish people, all the while defiling and pilfering the Temple in Jerusalem and attempting to scrub out all traces of Jewishness. To show his utter contempt for the Jewish faith, Antiochus sacrificed a sow in the Temple to the Greek god Zeus.

These abuses continued until Mattathias and his son, Judah Maccabee, led a revolt to bring us out of Antiochus’ darkness into light. Through the heroic actions of a band of guerilla fighters, the Maccabees (as Judah and his brothers were called) regained Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple, and restored the practice of Judaism.

Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple after its defilement under Antiochus. 1 Maccabees 4:59 tells us:

“Then Judas and his brothers and all the assembly of Israel determined that every year at that season the days of dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning with the twenty-fifth day of the month of Chislev” (NRSV).

Moreover, Hanukkah originally resembled Sukkot, partly because the Maccabees were forced to celebrate Sukkot in the wilderness. 2 Maccabees tells us:

“They celebrated it for eight days with rejoicing, in the manner of the festival of booths, remembering how not long before, during the festival of booths, they had been wandering in the mountains and caves like wild animals” (2 Maccabees 10:6, NRSV).

Hanukkah was thus established to echo Sukkot and to commemorate the triumphs of an ancient band of brave Jews who stood up for their way of life and faith in the one true God in the face of overwhelming odds.

According to later rabbinical tradition (not to be found in 1 and 2 Maccabees):

“When the rule of the Hasmoneans prevailed and they defeated the Hellenes, they searched and finally found a tiny pitcher of oil which bore the seal of the High Priest. In it was enough oil to last no more than one day. And a miracle occurred—it endured for eight days! For this reason a period of eight days was marked off for thanksgiving and praise.

The oil miraculously burned for eight days which was the necessary time to prepare a new supply of sacred oil for the temple menorah.
John 8:12

If we back up a few weeks on the last day of the feast of Tabernacles some water from the Pool of Siloam had been poured out in the vicinity of the altar in the Temple. Yeshua had made His appeal for the spiritually thirsty to come to Him and quench their thirst with living water (John 7:37-39). Then the four golden lamps which had illuminated Jerusalem throughout the feast were extinguished.

Soon after this Yeshua’s voice was heard again, making another bold claim pertinent to this feast.

John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. The one who follows Me will no longer walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

This is the second significant “I am” saying of John’s Gospel, in which Yeshua is both unashamedly identifying Himself with the true and living God, and offering Himself to His people.

Light and living water had been two of the symbols of the feast of Tabernacles. In a clearly Messianic prophecy, light and living water are brought together with the appearance of the Lord on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4; Zechariah 14:6-8). The feast of Tabernacles is imposed even upon the enemies of Israel, and those who will not come to this light, and those who will not drink of this fountain, find themselves excluded from the benefits of the kingdom of God (Zechariah 14:16-19).

When the children of Israel left Egypt, the Lord went before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). Not only is Yeshua the guiding light of Israel, but also a light to lighten the Gentiles (Isaiah 49:6). The Apostle Paul turned to the Gentiles in fulfilment of this universal mission of the gospel (Acts 13:46-47).

Yeshua is offering Himself in a personal way to be our light, and our salvation (Psalm 27:1). When we “follow” Him we no longer walk in darkness, but have the light of life (John 8:12). Like the man born blind, we declare that “whereas I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).

On a practical level, this possession of Yeshua as the light of our life should be reflected in our daily walk. We are now the bearers of light to a dark world. We need to renew our faith day by day by taking upon ourselves the armor of light (Romans 13:12).

The source of our light is found in Yeshua Himself. Any light that we may have is at best a pale reflection of His, much as the planets reflect the glory of the sun. The closer we walk with him, the brighter we shine.

Then at last in the Olam Haba, or end times, we shall be translated to a place where the Lord manifests Himself as an everlasting light, and where we shall behold His glory as never before.

Isaiah 60:19-20 No more will the sun be your light by day, nor the glow of the moon be your light, but Adonai will be your everlasting light, and your God for your glory. (20) No more will your sun set, nor will your moon wane, for Adonai will be your everlasting light, as the days of your mourning end.

It is a place where sorrow and mourning shall flee away. There shall be no sun, no moon, no candle, no artificial light, but we shall reign forever and ever basking in the light of God’s glory.

Revelation 22:5 Night shall be no more, and people will have no need for lamplight or sunlight—for Adonai Elohim will shine on them. And they shall reign forever and ever!

Yeshua pronounced the name of God: “I am.” This fact was not lost on His detractors. He testified of Himself, that He is the light of the world. He summons us out of the darkness of corruption into the light of life.

Change of Venue

This Shabbat, 19 October, we will be meeting at 10:30 at the Scout Building which is located at the southeast corner of the St Peter’s UMC property.

Learn to Ride the Wind

20191012 Parsha

Learn To Ride The Wind…

Are you the kind of person that would rather “WALK ON WATER” than to “BUILD A BRIDGE?” Do we desire A NO EFFORT, ride the wave where ever? I sometimes wonder what kind of heart do we have? Am I putting forth an effort and am I learning to grow and be better? Where am I in the process of learning? God takes care of His people, and though we don’t always see it in such striking and noticeable ways, the Bible promises that He will take care of those who are His.

Deuteronomy 32:9-14 But Adonai’s portion is His people—Jacob is the share of His inheritance. (10) He found him in the wilderness land, in the void of a howling waste. He surrounded him, cared for him, guarded him as the pupil of His eye. (11) As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, He spreads His wings, catches him, lifts him up on His pinions. (12) Adonai alone guided him—there was no foreign god with him. (13) He made him mount the heights of the land. so he ate the produce of the field. He suckled him with honey from a rock, with oil from a flinty boulder. (14) Butter of cattle and milk of a flock, with fat of lambs, rams of the Bashan and he-goats, with fat of the kidneys of wheat, and blood of grapes you drank.

This portion of the Bible is a beautiful graphic description of God’s care for Israel over in the 32nd chapter of Deuteronomy. I would like to show it to you, how God lovingly brings about change and maturity in the lives of His people. This sad passage goes on to say that, in spite of all God did for Israel, they ultimately turned away from Him and turned to idols.

Deuteronomy 32:11 As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, He spreads His wings, catches him, lifts him up on His pinions.

What a beautiful picture of how God deals with his people: as a mother eagle training her young to fly. There are seven stages that a young eagle goes through when learning to fly. These stages are also evident in God’s “training” us to live the life of faith. That is the basis of the comparison. As I describe them to you, listen and see if you recognize any of them in your life.

1. The Demonstration Stage To ride the wind we watch. As the time draws near for a young eagle to begin flight training, the mother eagle will frequently push off from the perch where the nest is in the cliff side and hover above her young. In response, the eaglets begin to flap their wings wildly in imitation. It’s as natural and instinctive for them as breathing.

That is what verse 11 is referring to when it says the eagle “hovers” over its young. At this stage the eaglets don’t have enough feathers to fly, but they begin to develop their wing muscles. The key word here is demonstration. The eagle demonstrates flying for her young and they imitate her in response. What a great picture to describe what God has done for us through Yeshua! Yeshua came to earth as Emanuel, “God with us,” the Bible says. He demonstrated the kind of faith and life we should be leading.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Messiah died for us.

2 Timothy 2:8 Remember Yeshua the Messiah, raised from the dead, from the seed of David—according to my Good News.

God hasn’t left us to figure things out on our own. He has cared enough about us to give us a living demonstration. Remember when Yeshua said, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father?” Yeshua was and is the perfect and indispensable demonstration of how we should live the life of faith.

2. TO RIDE THE WIND WE MUST GO THROUGH THE DISCOMFORT STAGE “Like an eagle that stirs up its nest…” It’s one thing for those young eagles to flap their wings in the security of their down-filled home. It’s quite another for them to move to the edge, look over, and imagine stepping out on nothing! Naturally, they don’t want to do it. So the adult eagle does something the young eagles won’t understand until later. She begins “stirring up” the nest! She actually begins to poke through the bottom and tear the nest apart. The young eagles are literally forced to fly.

What often happens to us at this stage of God’s teaching the faith-life is that we begin to be bothered about something. We recognize that something isn’t right. We begin to get a little worried, a little anxious. There is a growing uneasiness in us. Something is out of whack and we don’t quite know what it is, or if we do, we are ignoring it.

Job 30:27 My heart seethes and never stops; days of suffering confront me.

It can be about anything that is bothering us: A relationship, An unfulfilled dream, the stress in our lives, a fear, a weakness, a habit? We find ourselves thinking, “One of these days I’m going to have to start working on that.” The trouble is, like the eaglet is reluctant to get too close to the edge of the nest, we, too, are reluctant to move out of our comfort zone and face whatever it is.

This is God stirring up our nest. He’s getting us ready for change. He wants us to face something we’ve not faced before, so He makes us uncomfortable. Do some of you know what I mean?

Perhaps He wants us to face our neglected finances. Maybe it is a relationship he wants us to mend or maybe even one He wants us to break off. Whatever the case, there is a growing discomfort and uneasiness in us that is hard to ignore.

You know, the sad thing is that some people live their entire lives in this stage. They cling to their nest like terrified eaglets, afraid to do anything about their problem. They’d rather live with discomfort than risk flying. “At least the discomfort is predictable,” they think. “If I were to change, who knows what might happen? When we find ourselves stalled at the discomfort stage, we might understand why God brings us to the next stage of our learning.

3. THE DANGER ZONE comes before we can ride the wind. Eventually, in the case of eagles, the mother eagle gets all the kids out of the nest. Have you ever seen a full grown eagle still perched in the nest of its parents, peeping like a baby for them to bring him something to eat? No, you haven’t, because one way or the other, he gets booted out of the nest with nothing between he and the hard ground but air. He either learns to fly or falls until his mother rescues him. Eagles weren’t meant to be nest-sitters. They were meant to fly! This danger stage is certainly implied.

God often allows a danger or a crisis to come into our lives that moves the issue we’re ignoring off the back burner. He sends us a wake up call. All of a sudden the pain gets so bad we can’t ignore it anymore. Suddenly we get fired or we have an accident or a serious illness. Perhaps a spouse threatens to walk out or a creditor starts foreclosure. Like the eagle’s nest, the bottom falls out from under our lives and we realize we’ve got to do something – fast!

Psalms 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.

It took a crisis of affliction to show David the need to learn to keep God’s word. If you are in a crisis right now or have had one recently, could this be the reason? Is there something you’ve been ignoring? Remember, God wants you to fly, not flutter in the nest. He wants you to grow up!

4. WE MUST COME TO THE DECISION STAGE TO RIDE THE WIND…

The nature of danger or a crisis is that it forces us off the fence or, to use our analogy, out of the nest. We have to decide, “Am I going to move ahead or am I going to retreat? Am I going to face this or try to run away? We are products of our choices. With the nest suddenly gone out from under him and the ground coming up fast, the young eagle has a choice to make. He realizes, “I’ve gotta do something – Now!” So he chooses to fly or fall – to soar or smash on the rocks below – literally, to live or die. God often forces us to that place, have you noticed? Especially if we are reluctant to grow or pay attention to the need to grow. The prophet Joel reveals:

Multitudes, multitudes, in the valley of decision! For the day of Adonai is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon become dark, the stars withdraw their brightness. Adonai will roar from Zion and give His voice from Jerusalem. Heaven and earth will shudder, but Adonai will be a refuge for His people, and a safe place for the children of Israel. Joel 4:14-16

Is God dealing with you right now? Is this the issue? Is it your stubbornness or neglect? When will you decide?

5. DIRECTION STAGE. Will I fly with the wind? Against the wind? The stage of deciding which direction will I fly? The young eagle, falling fast, has decided he must do something. What is it? He must change direction! He must start going up instead of down. When we’re talking about our response to God’s dealing with us, the decision stage and the direction change stage are called repentance.

Repentance is a decision to turn away from evil and turn back to God. It takes place in the mind. In that way it is a decision, but since it is a decision to change, there will soon be a direction change that results.

Sometimes we are reluctant to change direction. Often it is because we haven’t really made a decision to change. Oh, we were sorry things were the way they were. Or we are sorry we got caught? We even cried some real tears over it. But we never really turned loose. We never really changed our minds.

Often Believers struggle with the habit of sin. They are sorry for the struggle. They don’t like the prospect of the consequences. They might even come forward during a service and let the whole congregation know. But there is no direction change as a result.

2 Corinthians 7:10 For the grief that God wills brings a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret. But the world’s grief brings death.

According to this verse, you can have two people side by side who are sorry about their sins. Looking at them, they both look like candidates for eternal life. Yet, one of them goes to heaven, the other goes to hell. The difference? One of them had a sorrow that produced repentance – a change of direction. The other was just sorry. There was no repentance, no change. What are we talking about? We’re talking about God teaching us to fly – to live the faith life in a way that is pleasing to Him and brings us to maturity.

6. SO HERE COMES THE WIND, WE COME TO THE DOING STAGE. WHAT TO DO WITH IT? The adult eagle can teach her young to fly but she cannot fly for them. They must do it. Have you ever seen two adult eagles flying piggyback? Neither have I. It doesn’t happen. Flying takes effort on the part of each individual.

James 1:22-24 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. (23) For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror— for once he looks at himself and goes away, he immediately forgets what sort of person he was.

The very common “do nothing” religion around us is false. It is an aberration of the devil. It is a cheap substitute for the faith of the Bible. Does this mean that we get to heaven on our own merits? Not at all! But God wants us to learn to fly.

Consider this: God often gave his blessings in Scripture while the recipients of the blessings were in the midst of obedience. Remember when Israel crossed the Red Sea? Moses said “Move forward!” The people obeyed. Then when the feet of the priests touched the water, it divided. When they crossed the Jordan on their way to the Promised land it was the same way. They moved forward, put their feet in the water, and it divided.

When Yeshua cleansed the ten lepers, he told them to go present themselves to the priest. Then, “as they were going, they were cleansed.” (Luke 17:14) The eagle learns to fly by striving against the gravity that is pulling him down – in short, by flying.

7. The Deliverance Stage is our final goal. This one is beautiful and it’s right in the text.

Look again at verse 11: “He spreads His wings, catches him, lifts him up on His pinions.” I am told that the adult eagle will actually swoop down and catch her falling offspring on her back and carry them back up to the home perch if they can’t fly. She will try again later. What a beautiful picture of what God does for us!

2 Timothy 3:11 What persecutions I endured! And the Lord rescued me from them all!

Psalms 34:19 Adonai is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those crushed in spirit.

2 Peter 2:9 Therefore the Lord certainly knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and how to keep the unrighteous being punished until the Day of Judgment—

God never leaves us to do it on our own. It’s just that we must be about the doing, in order for the deliverance to come. The promise of deliverance must be accepted. We must believe it and move ahead. We must be striving to ride the wind even if we can’t quite do it yet.

The seven stages of riding the wind: (1) Demonstration, (2) Discomfort, (3) Danger, (4) Decision, (5) Direction Change, (6) Doing (7) Deliverance. Where are you?

Is God teaching you how to ride the wind? If you are a Believer, there is no doubt about it! How is your personal “flight school” going? Are you cooperating or copping out? Have you seen any or all of these stages of God’s flight school in your life? You can be sure they are there now or will be there soon. What is your attitude toward them? Are you focused on the goal of being able to go “solo” or are you clinging to the comfort of the nest? Be sure that God will stir it up if you are reluctant.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ve wondered what is going on in the midst of all this. Maybe you’ve had some rough times recently and haven’t been able to figure out why. Perhaps now you have your answer. Be sure of these things:

God wants you to learn to ride the wind. He will put you through the wind lessons into flight school. You can ignore it, but it won’t stop the process. You can resist it, but it won’t stop the process. You can cooperate and learn to fly for Him! “Training” us to live the life of faith.

Guard Your Soul

20190817 Parsha Vaetchanan – Guard Your soul

Va’etchanan means ‘I pleaded’. This is the story of Moses asking God one more time to rescind his judgement prohibiting Moses from entering the promised land. Midrash says that Moses asked 515 times. But there is no evidence of that. I believe that he did ask multiple time to be allowed to enter the land. That let’s us know that making multiple petitions before God is ok.

Today I want to focus on chapter 4:15-19

Deuteronomy 4:15-19 “So be very watchful over your souls since you saw no form on the day that Adonai spoke to you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire, (16) so that you do not act corruptly and make for yourselves a graven image in the likeness of any figure—the form of a male or female, (17) the form of any animal that is on the earth, the form of any winged bird that flies in the sky, (18) the form of anything that creeps on the ground, the form of any fish that is in the water under the earth— (19) and so that you do not lift up your eyes toward the heavens and see the sun and the moon and the stars—all the heavenly host—and are drawn away and bow down and worship them. Adonai your God has allotted them to all the peoples under all the heavens.

“Be watchful over your souls…”. In some translations it is rendered ‘guard’ rather than ‘be watchful’. So the name of the sermon today is “Guard Your Souls”.

Five Levels of the Soul
1. Nefesh –
2. Ruach
3. Neshama
4. Chayah
5. Yechida

The first verse of this portion makes an interesting premise. It says to guard your own soul, not the soul of your wife, daughter, or son. Your soul is yours to keep.

In Jewish thought, the soul referred to here is the nefesh. Nefesh is the most basic level of our consciousness. It is the animal level, the level which animates and gives function to the body. Every animal that breaths has a nefesh.

The second level is the Ruach. That is the ‘wind’, but could be called the emotion generator.

The next level is the Neshama. Neshama is the third level and it is what allows one to distinguish between good and evil.

The nefesh could be argued not to be a soul at all. It is the most ethereal of all physicality, like a wisp of air disappearing into a small breeze. All animals and all humans have a nefesh, each programmed with the bodily stimuli God wanted for the particular individual or species. Only humans have a neshama. If you want to see the difference, watch the animals. Anything both animals and humans do is of the nefesh, for example, eating an apple. Anything only a human does, is of the neshama. For example, saying a prayer of thanksgiving before and after eating that apple.

The last two levels of the soul as enumerated in Jewish thought are Chaya ‘Life’, and Yechidah ‘Oneness’. These two are complex and beyond the scope of time we have this morning.

In our text this morning, the level of the soul referred to is nefesh. This is the most basic level and just means ‘hey, I’m alive’.

Slide: Bible on Talit
So what is Moses trying to say here? I believe he is saying that we should start with the basics. He was reminding Israel that they needed to go back to the defining moment of all Judaism, the giving of Torah at Mount Sinai. He said to remember that in all the awesome displays of power and majesty at Sinai they never saw God in any physical form. He is a Spirit and as such must be worshipped as a spirit and not as a physical being.

John 4:24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

People in the days of Moses were used to having gods that could be touched, held, seen and carried with them in some cases. These deities appealed to their senses and gave them a feeling of security, confidence, happiness, basically a warm fuzzy. So Moses is warning Israel that their God is not like any of the Canaanite false gods. We look at them and think how foolish the people were to want to put their faith and trust in a rock, or stick.

Fortunately, we don’t do that today. Or do we?…….. Do we make idols out of hardware, software, Hollywood, Washington DC? Do we spend all our waking hours with our eyes glued to a computer screen? Now that might not qualify as worship. But those things certainly divert our mental and emotional and physical resources away from our calling. Does that make all those things idols? Maybe not in the traditional sense, but it is close.

It’s time to go back to basics and make God the central focus of our lives.

How else do we guard our souls? The Psalmist David tells us:

Psalms 39:2 I said: “I will guard my ways, so I will not sin with my tongue. …”

It is an interesting picture that David paints for me because of the words he uses. He says I will guard my ways, my path, my route. Couple that with the image of the tongue as a rudder of a ship. Jacob, in the book of James speaks of the tongue.

James 3:1-5 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, since you know that we will receive a stricter judgment. (2) For we all stumble in many ways. If someone does not stumble in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. (3) And if we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole body as well. (4) See also the ships—though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. (5) So also the tongue is a small member—yet it boasts of great things. See how so small a fire sets a blaze so great a forest!

In my mind’s eye I see a ship pilot guiding the ship through a winding channel. So the tongue can influence or direct our lives through the winding paths that we encounter. Just as a ship has an engine room and propellers to provide the power to push the ship along it still needs that little rudder so that big hunk of floating steel doesn’t run aground. From personal experience I know that running a ship aground can ruin your day and career. You need to control that rudder.

Applied to our sometimes not so boring lives, that rudder known as the tongue can keep us away from the shoals. Hitting the shoals of life can certainly ruin your day, your marriage, your career, your personal relationships. You get the picture.

At the same time, controlling our lives via the tongue brings blessing. In fact that same little piece of flesh can bless God and curse your neighbor. Your choice. Guard your soul.

I don’t think I need to do a cost/benefit analysis for you this morning but just to point out the Biblically obvious.

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart diligently, for from it flow the springs of life.

Guard your heart. Guard your emotions and your spirit. You have now moved up to that third level of your soul. The neshama. That seat of emotion. You may say that you are not an emotional person. Everyone is emotional. It’s just that the right button has not been pushed hard enough. I cannot watch movies where women or children are abused. You want to see me cry like a baby, trick me into watching a movie where the little kid dies of some terrible disease. That’s one of my buttons.

We all have emotional buttons, some good, some bad. Anger can destroy a person. This last week in one of the several stories about mass shootings, the police described one of the perpetrators as being full of anger. It may be one of the toughest emotions to curb.

There are many emotions and habits that we need to curb. I’m sure all of us, if we would be honest with ourselves, could make a list of those things that we need to throttle back on. Make your own list and work on it.

But there are also emotions that we can develop that will build us up, build others up, just make the world a better place. Start with the second greatest commandment. Love your neighbor as yourself. Put others first, ahead of you. How many times do you get to the line at HEB and see that old lady or single mom with the bedraggled look clutching one item and you have a basket full? Do you invite her to go ahead of you? That one is easy. How about putting on the signal to change lanes and the driver in the rear-view mirror speeds up to get ahead of you rather than letting you change lanes? Hello? Buttons pushed anyone?

Doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons just makes your heart feel good. Guard your heart.

And in conclusion, we have talked about what we can do to guard our souls. But did you know you have a helper?

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything—but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the shalom of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua.

We don’t have to struggle alone. We have a friend and advocate. The peace of God, that shalom, that completeness, that comes from knowing Yeshua will guard our hearts and minds.

Invitation

Can the Apostate Return?

20190803 Parsha Mattot-Massei – Can The Apostate Return?

This week’s Parsha is Mattot/Massei. It is a double Parsha. Mattot means Tribes. It speaks of men and women making vows, taking revenge on Midian, and the settling of Reuben and Gad on the east side of the Jordan. Massei means Stages, and it describes the places the Israelites camped in their wilderness journeys, boundaries of the land, a list of the tribal chiefs, cities of refuge, and marriage of female heirs.

There is a wealth of material from which to build a sermon in these seven chapters, however, I will be talking about current events with just a nod to the cities of refuge.

This last week I saw a story pop up on my computer news feed. Joshua Harris, a prominent former Christian pastor and author of several publications, such as “I Kissed Dating Goodbye,” had recently divorced and then later renounced his faith.

Harris explained in an Instagram post, “The information that was left out of our [separation] announcement is that I have undergone a massive shift in regard to my faith in Jesus. The popular phrase for this is ‘deconstruction,’ the biblical phrase is ‘falling away.’ By all the measurements that I have for defining a Christian, I am not a Christian. Many people tell me that there is a different way to practice faith and I want to remain open to this, but I’m not there now.”

In light of this sad announcement, the question arises, has Joshua Harris forfeited his salvation beyond any hope of recovery? It is an understandable question when you consider the following verse in Hebrews.

Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible for those who once were enlightened—having tasted of the heavenly gift and become partakers of the Ruach ha-Kodesh, (5) and having tasted the good word of God and the powers of the olam ha-ba, (6) and then having fallen away—to renew again to repentance, since they are again crucifying Ben-Elohim for themselves and publicly disgracing Him.

This passage has given many backsliders industrial grade heartburn. They ask, “will God take me back? Is God’s mercy big enough to forgive my sins? Am I forever lost?

God Forgives and Restores

Spoiler alert! The answer is all throughout scripture. It should be no mystery. Absolutely yes! God will forgive and restore.

Look at what Hashem said to Israel through his prophet Jeremiah.

Slide:
Jeremiah 3:22 “Return, backsliding children! I will heal your backsliding.”
This passage is not unique in the Bible. Right now, in the Sunday night Torah Study, we are studying the book of Judges where the people of Israel go through a cycle of sin, repentance and restoration followed by sin, repentance and restoration. It seems there is no limit to God’s mercy.

I am often reminded of Peters words:

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some consider slowness. Rather, He is being patient toward you—not wanting anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance.

Consider for a moment the triad of parables in Luke 15. There’s the parable of the lost sheep where the shepherd leaves the flock in a safe place and goes out to find the one lost one. Why does he do that? He still has 99 sheep. What’s one more? Because as a good shepherd he was not willing for even one to perish.

The second parable is about a woman who loses a coin in her home. She lights a lamp and sweeps the house searching high and low until she finds it. Even though she has 9 other coins, that one was important enough that she called her friends and neighbors together to rejoice with her in finding her lost coin. Why? Because she was not willing to forgo the loss of just one coin. Yeshua said “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

And finally there is the story of the prodigal son. We all know this famous story of the younger son who doesn’t want to wait around for his 1/3 of the estate. (Remember the firstborn gets a double portion). He asked his father for his portion now. The father gave him his portion and the lad went out and spent much of his inheritance on wine, women and song. The rest of it he wasted. At the end of the adventure, broke, tired, and hungry he realized that the servants in his father’s household were better off than he was currently residing in a pig pen.

He determined to go back home and beg forgiveness and resign himself to servanthood. His father never got over losing his son. Each day he scanned the countryside in the hope that his son would someday reappear. That father never gave up on his son. There was always mercy and forgiveness in his heart. When the son showed up, the father was overjoyed and held a celebration. Nothing the son did could drive a wedge between him and his father that was big enough to break the relationship.

These three stories illustrate why we are encouraged to pray for those who have fallen and help them find their way back to Hashem. Yeshua’s brother, Yaacov (James) said it like this.

James 5:19-20 My brothers and sisters, if any among you strays from the truth and someone turns him back, (20) let him know that the one who turns a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.

What a great promise that is!

WHAT ABOUT REJECTING GOD

It is true that some people blaspheme the Spirit, a sin for which there is no forgiveness (see Mark 3:22-30). But people who harden their hearts to that degree will have neither the thought nor the desire to repent. They have utterly rejected God.

John also speaks about a sin the leads to death, writing, 1 John 5:16-17

Slide: 1 John 5:16-17
If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he should ask, and God will give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death—I am not saying you should ask about that. (17) All unrighteousness is sin, but there is sin not leading to death.

What, exactly, does John have in mind? There is great debate among biblical commentators, since we have no further background information that brings absolute clarity to his words. There is even debate about what kind of death John speaks of, physical or spiritual.

Slide: Apostate Monthly
It might be safest to say that, in the event that we see someone cross the point of no return, their rejection of the Lord will be so final and ultimate that we will sense the futility of praying for them.

But, to repeat, from the beginning to the end of the Bible, there are calls for backsliders to repent, with an offer of mercy for those who return. Jesus died for those sins too.

HEBREWS IN CONTEXT

Then what are we to make of Hebrews 6:4-6? It’s important that we remember that Hebrews was written to Jewish followers of Jesus. For them, apostasy from the faith could mean a return to Jewish faith without Jesus, a return to the Temple-based sacrifice system, a return to repentance without the Messiah’s blood.

The author appears to be telling them that, as long as they remain in that state, there is no repentance for them. As rendered in the ISV,

Hebrews 6:4-6
For it is impossible to keep on restoring to repentance time and again people who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have become partners with the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of God’s word and the powers of the coming age, and who have fallen away, as long as they continue to crucify the Son of God to their own detriment by exposing him to public ridicule” (my emphasis).

By denying Jesus and going back to their traditional Jewish faith, they were crucifying Him all over again. And to the extent that they did this openly, they exposed Him to public ridicule.

Although they thought they could find repentance in their Jewish traditions without the Messiah, they were sadly, fatally wrong.

TRUE REPENTANCE LEADS TO LIFE

So what is the bottom line? Can a person who denies Yeshua return to the Lord? I believe that if a person is truly repentant and turns away from his sin and apostacy, the Father will run towards him and embrace him saying “For this son of mine was dead and has come back to life—he was lost and is found!”

For this reason I want to ask anyone who is in this building this morning that feels like you have slipped away. Satan has told you that you cannot come back to the Lord. He’s a liar. The Father is on the throne of heaven just waiting for you to repent and return to Him.

Also I want to encourage everyone here today who has friends or family that are not living right, don’t give up praying for them. Remember, God is not willing for anyone to perish. He wants everyone to be saved. He sent his son to die for the world, not just a part of the world, but the whole world.

Life is Precious

20190727 Parsha Pinchas – Life is Precious

The Parsha for today is Pinchas. It is a story that really follows on the heels of last week’s portion. Israel could not be cursed by Balaam. But he advised King Balak to send his women into the camp to entice the Israelite men into abandoning Adonai and embracing Baal. Evidently, this plan met with some success whereas some of the leadership of the tribes of Israel were ensnared by the Moabite women. God commanded the guilty parties to be executed. Pinchas, a cohen took a spear and executed a couple in the act of their sin. The remainder of the Parsha deals with a census and a description of the sacrifices required for the Moedim or the Feasts of the Lord.

But the Haftarah Portion caught my attention so I will be teaching from Jeremiah today.

Jeremiah 1:1-10 The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the kohanim who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin. (2) The word of Adonai came to him during the days of King Josiah of Judah, son of Amon, in the thirteenth year of his reign. (3) It continued during the days of King Jehoiakim of Judah, son of Josiah, until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah of Judah, son of Josiah—until the exile from Jerusalem in the fifth month. (4) The word of Adonai came to me, saying: (5) “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I set you apart—I appointed you prophet to the nations.” (6) Then I said, “Alas, Adonai Elohim! Look, I don’t know how to speak! For I’m still a boy!” (7) But Adonai answered me, “Do not say ‘I’m only a boy!’ For to everyone I send you, you will go, and all I command you, you will speak. (8) Do not be afraid of them! For I am with you to deliver you.” It is a declaration of Adonai. (9) Then Adonai stretched out His hand and touched my mouth and Adonai said to me, “Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. (10) See, today I have appointed you over nations and over kingdoms: to uproot and to tear down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Today, I am going to attempt to show you that Hashem really does know who we are. When I say He knows who we are, I mean He knows us specifically. He knows all about us. And because He knows who we are, our lives are precious in His sight.

In our text we see a story of a young teenager named Jeremiah and how God shares with Him how intimately He knows him. Jeremiah was a prophet in Israel. You may wonder what a prophet is? A prophet was one who would foretell future events; he was one who would receive a specific message from God to speak to people; and he was able to do this by the power of God. A person never just decides one day that they are going to be a prophet. You had to have a calling from God to do this. And it is actually in the midst of Jeremiah’s call to be a prophet that Jeremiah discovers something amazing about God. He discovered that God knew who he was.

We live in a digital world today that robs us of personal contact. Everyone seems glued to one kind of electronic device or another. Sociologists speculate on what effect this will have on our personal relationships. Living in such an isolated environment makes it difficult to imagine that there is a God who truly knows who we are; who knows us on an intimate level. A God that knows you better than any spouse can know you, better than any parent can know. God really knows everything that there is to know about you. That is truly an amazing thought! The creator of the universe knows everything about you, He knows you intimately. How intimately? Well, our text points out some things concerning you and your relationship with God.

I. BEFORE YOU WERE CONCEIVED, GOD KNEW YOU

That is a truly amazing statement and a true statement. I cannot imagine getting to know anyone any better than that. Think about that for just a second. Before you were ever conceived, God knew you! Not even your parents can say that. I remember how excited my wife and I were before each of our children were born. We couldn’t wait to see what they looked like, to see who they were. For nine months they are inside that belly and you get so excited about them coming out to meet you. For the first time in that delivery room you introduce yourself to your new child. We couldn’t wait to see what they would be like. We just couldn’t wait to meet them. But the Bible says that before we were even conceived, God knew us! That means before our parents got together, God knew us!

The word “know” carries with it a sense of relationship and approval. In other words, God had a stamp of approval on Jeremiah’s life. It means that God specifically knew Jeremiah and what he would become. Obviously, God was speaking to Jeremiah here, so you may think that God knew Jeremiah before he was born, but there is no way that he would know you because you are just an average Joe. However, God tells us over and over again in His word that He made us and formed us.

Psalms 139:13-16 For You have created my conscience. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. (14) I praise You, for I am awesomely, wonderfully made! Wonderful are Your works—and my soul knows that very well. (15) My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. (16) Your eyes saw me when I was unformed, and in Your book were written the days that were formed—when not one of them had come to be.

There is no arguing with this Scripture. He specifically says that God knit me together in my mother’s womb. David goes on to say; “your eyes saw me when I was unformed.” You can’t argue the fact that God knew you before you were even born. Another Scripture puts it quite clear for us as well.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship—created in Messiah Yeshua for good deeds, which God prepared beforehand so we might walk in them.

We were created to do good works and the Bible says that God has prepared us in advance to do those works.

There is no doubt that the Bible teaches God knew us before we were born. He didn’t just know Jeremiah but He knew each and every one of us before we ever took our first breath on our own.

You may be wondering why it is such a big deal that God knows us. The big deal is if God knows you then that means He knows what you are going through in life. If God knows us, that means we are not all alone, that means you haven’t been forgotten. God knows the very trial that you are dealing with. God knows the struggles that you are facing in life. God knows the temptations that you come up against. God knows your family situation and He has promised us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. God knows all about your financial dilemmas. He is concerned about you and He knows you. He hasn’t forgotten all about you, He knows your street address. He knows the number of hairs on your head. Before we accept Him as our Savior, there is a God that knows who you are and knows what you have need of and wants to meet those needs. He knows us so well that He knows what is best for us even better than we do. God sees the life that you have come out of, but He also sees the life that you are going into.

Knowing that God knows us should give us confidence. God told Jeremiah this at the beginning of His calling to be a prophet in order to give him confidence. He was commissioned by God to spread a message of judgment to the people of Israel. This isn’t exactly what you would call a fun message to preach. It was as though God was telling Jeremiah, “I know you have got a tough message to deliver but let me tell you something. I know you! I am not going to leave you alone. I am going to be by your side as you deliver this message.” God is giving this same message to some that are here today. He wants you to know before you leave this place that He will not leave you; He is by your side every step that you take. The first thing to know with our relationship with God is that before you were born, God knew you:

II. BEFORE YOU WERE BORN, GOD SET YOU APART

Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I SET YOU APART;”

God set Jeremiah apart. That means God had a specific purpose in mind for Jeremiah before he was ever born. In Jeremiah’s case, he was set apart for the purpose of being a prophet. Jeremiah was born with a certain task he was created to perform.

Each person in this room was created for a specific reason. Each person in this room was created on purpose for a purpose. This indicates to me that there is no one on the face of the planet who is a mistake. No one accidentally came into this world. Some parents may not have expected you, but no one was an accident because God had you in mind before you were ever born. Not only did He have you in mind, but He also had a purpose in mind for you when you came into this world. That is a message that people need to hear! We hear too much that we are no good; we hear that we were a mistake; we hear that we have no purpose in life, but that is not what God says. God says that you were created for a God-given purpose. There is a reason you are here. God made it very clear in Jeremiah’s life that he was here for a purpose.

He even said in Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans that I have in mind for you,” declares Adonai, “plans for shalom and not calamity—to give you a future and a hope.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship—created in Messiah Yeshua for good deeds, which God prepared beforehand so we might walk in them.

God told Jeremiah He had set him apart. The phrase, “set you apart” means to separate. In other words, God made Jeremiah kadosh, or holy. His calling was on Jeremiah’s life to perform a specific task.

God has a calling on your life for a specific task. God has specific directions for your life. Before you were born, God knew you, also, before you were born, He set you apart:

III. BEFORE YOU WERE BORN, GOD APPOINTED YOU

According to Webster’s the word “appoint” means: “to assign officially; equip or furnish.” We could read this Scripture like this: “I assigned you as a prophet to the nations.” “I will equip or furnish you to be a prophet to the nations.” God didn’t hardly give Jeremiah a say in the matter. God appointed Jeremiah to be a prophet before he was even born; He equipped him to be a prophet before he was born. What an amazing thought! Jeremiah could have thought, “Wait a minute. Don’t be so quick as to tell me what I am going to do. I’ve got my rights! You can’t just tell me what to do, I have some decisions I want to make on my own.”

That kind of thinking is backwards. That type of thinking is where we say, “God was created for me. He was created for me to call out to for help; He was created for me to grant me my wishes.” The Bible makes it very clear that we were created for God to do with as He chooses.

Each of us are in the same situation as Jeremiah, whether you know it or not. God knew us before we were conceived. He set us apart before we were born. He appointed us to do good works before we took that first breath.

God had paid a lot of attention to each and every one of us. Even before we were a twinkle in our parent’s eyes. That makes us special. I’m saying every human being is special. You are special. I’m special.

So, when God created us for doing good deeds what can we do? Treat that person sitting next to you like they are special. The second most important law is “love your neighbor as yourself.” That is one of the best good deeds you can do.

Put others ahead of you. Remember, every life is precious. From before birth to burial, every life is precious to our Heavenly Father. He sent His son to die for each of us. That’s how special human life is to God. It is up to us to recognize that and act appropriately.

I challenge each of you this week and all the coming weeks to treat everyone around you like the special person they are.

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