Tree of Life Messianic Congregation

A Fellowship of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Yeshua

Author: treeofl8 (page 2 of 3)

Yom Kippur

I would like to remind everyone that Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement begins this coming Friday evening 29 September. We will have an Erev Yom Kippur Service beginning at 7 pm.

On Shabbat, 30 September we will have a Yom Kippur service beginning at 10:30 AM.

We are now meeting in the Wesley Center at St Peter’s United Methodist Church located at 20775 Kingsland Blvd, in Katy.

Everyone is welcome to come and observe with us this most Holy Day of our Jewish Calendar.

True Wisdom

20170923 Parashat 101 Shabbat Shuvah Sermon – True Wisdom
Today is Shabbat Shuvah – the Sabbath of Return
Our text comes from Hosea, and it tells us of Israel returning to God and His blessing in doing so. I want to focus on Hosea 14:10
Hosea 14:10 Who is wise? Let him discern these things. Who is intelligent? Let him know them. For the ways of Adonai are straight, and the just walk in them, but the wicked stumble in them.
The entire chapter speaks of returning to God and equates it to wisdom, so let’s talk about wisdom.
Are you wise?

Who do you consider wise? What is wisdom?

Here are some random wise sayings I found on the internet

The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom
– H.L. Mencken (American journalist)

Men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives
Abba Eban (Israeli diplomat and deputy prime minister)

Cabbage: A familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man’s head
Ambrose Bierce (American author)

It’s so simple to be wise. Just think of something stupid to say and then don’t say it.
Sam Levenson (American humorist)

Hmmm not sure if that helps or hinders our quest in understanding wisdom….

The dictionary says that wisdom is having the power to judge properly what is true or right…. is having the power to judge properly what is true or right….

When I read that it surprised me a bit…..it’s not the first thing I think of when I think of wisdom….often in our society we link wisdom with people who are older than us, or folks with a great deal of education. Oriental cultures seem to value those of us with grey hair as being wise. I viewed my grandfather as being wise, although he a more “no hair” than grey hair. So, in our society wisdom is often coupled with age….

Wisdom I think is also associated with knowledge…..People who have loads of knowledge on a particular topic are considered wise…..My dad for example knew a lot about fixing things. He was a regular McGiver. It might not have been a pretty fix, but it was solid.

The point is though that society has definite ideas on who has wisdom and who doesn’t……. We all have ideas and people who we think are wise……However today what I want us to think about is not just what society thinks is wise but what is wisdom in God’s eyes? Who does God consider wise?

Let’s briefly review the book of Hosea. Now Hosea was a man called by God to speak God’s message to the people of Israel…..So just like when we read the Bible, we read God’s message to us…..Hosea was actually saying, at times yelling, or even pleading God’s message directly to the people of Israel.

Now Israel were God’s people….they were set apart from the rest of the world….. for his purposes of saving that world. This was a big responsibility…… And I just want you to think for a moment how you respond when you are given responsibility. Sometimes we accept the responsibility with humility, caution, or enthusiasm, depending on our experiences up to that time and our individual personalities.……Other times I think we can assume a superiority…..One that is very aware that you have been given responsibility or power over something or someone else….I think it’s easy to let the “power” go to your head if you have knowledge over someone else…..if you are considered wiser or the wisest….. Israel were to be God’s people set apart to be a light to the rest of the world…..You can nearly see Israel thinking…..Wow we’re different?! Chosen by God…. superior to everyone else….You can nearly see them leap from being set apart by God for his purposes…. to how wise or good are we ….thinking they must have the power to judge properly right and wrong because God has chosen them…..

Yet as we look at our passage today….we see that Israel God’s people have turned away from God….We see Hosea’s plea to return to the Lord your God…..Israel had stumbled in many ways……in chapter 4 verse 1 and 2 we read
Hosea 4:1-2 Hear the word of Adonai, Bnei-Yisrael! For Adonai has a dispute with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, no covenant loyalty, and no knowledge of God in the land. (2) Curse, deceive, murder, steal, commit adultery! They practice violence, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.….
in that same chapter we read from verse 12…Israel had turned to other gods that of Baal and of consulting wooden poles….it’s interesting to note the language of whoredom…..Israel was in relationship with God…..like that of a marriage…..God the husband, the provider, nurturer and deliver has been cheated on by Israel…..

In understanding this….I ask the question “Was Israel as a people considered wise?” By all accounts you would have to say a definite no……People who steal and commit adultery don’t fit into our definitions of wisdom….one assumes that they don’t know what is true or right…..or else they would have carried it out….surely??!! What do you think God thinks of Israel’s behavior…..would it fit by His standards of wisdom??

The first verse in our passage today answers this question ……Read with me from verse 1..(READ)…… Israel has stumbled….They had turned away from their Creator, they had cheated on Him….They had disobeyed his laws for them……Stealing, murdering and idolatry are not part of God’s standard’s of wisdom…..so they’re stumbling…..

However after stumbling they are also hurting…..just like…..when you stumble and your knee breaks open…..It hurts a lot….Israel were hurting…..They needed God…..And that’s exactly what Hosea orders “Return to your God….” The first step in becoming wise in God’s eyes is to acknowledge your Creator and turn to God

Hosea then proceeds to outline what returning to God is…..even giving them the words of a prayer to say to God.

This prayer acknowledges that Israel has done the wrong thing….they have sinned against their God…..and now they are asking God to take away all guilt – forgive us our sins……

Hosea even details what the sins are……(He’s definitely a details man)…..including having affairs with foreign gods….gods that have been made by the work of human hands….wooden poles…. Or relying on Assyria to save them…….a nation Israel was banking on to get them out of hot water…..

It’s very easy to be like Israel….who in their wisdom decided to rely on humans either themselves or other humans as people who have the power to judge properly what is true and right……particularly in the world we live in presently, a world of terrorism….It’s very easy to find refuge in statements made by people like George Bush……

On the day of September 11….George Bush responded with this….”A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining.”

Now to America that was a very inspirational speech…..one that would have encouraged them in their grief……but where are the results of such a speech……there’s still terrorism in the world…..Bali, the UK….there’s still violence in the world…..Ultimately man or woman cannot save us…..just like Assyria could not and did not save the people of Israel…

In our society today we have many gods made by human hands…..many things we worship that lull us into a false sense of security….nice house, good job, money in the bank, being nice to people…..giving money to charity….lots of things we think will ultimately save us…….lots of good deeds done by humans hands…..

Well God says to all return to me, return to your God….Forgive us our sins….take away our guilt…. so that we may offer you the fruit of our lips….so we can praise you God with our words and songs and prayers…. For you God and only you will the orphan or the fatherless find mercy and be saved.

Now if Israel had returned to God and prayed the prayer outlined by Hosea……we see what God’s response would be…. Look at verse 4 onwards and note the language straight away of….I, I , I…this is God speaking through Hosea….(READ) “I will heal their disloyalty…I will love them…because my anger has been turned away”….. The results of God healing them, loving them……are found in the poetic, flowing language of verses 5-7 (READ) ….This describes a beautiful picture of Israel’s bountiful prosperity which would result from being in a restored relationship with their God….They will blossom and their beauty will be like that of an olive tree, the dew will enable Israel’s dry climate to give life to dying grass and plants….. there is such richness in this language, in this imagery describing how Israel could have been healed….

In our last verse…verse 9 we see the message of today summarized……the message of today has been leading up to this verse….please read with me….(READ)…Here are the wise….Here are God’s standards for being wise clearly specified…..And we see it’s not just about understanding what has been outlined in our passage….there must be action…..Note the action words returning, discerning and walking……returning, discerning and walking….

In our intro today….we looked at various definitions of wisdom…..one such definition was having the power to judge properly what is true and right…..but being wise in God’s eyes is so much more than that…..it’s not just having the power to judge properly it’s actually carrying out what is true and right……And Israel….though they might have known what is true and right…..didn’t actually carry it out……one assumes that they didn’t heed to Hosea’s words…their capital city of Samaria was invaded and the people were taken captive…….they continued to stumble tragically….. And this was a pattern repeated generation after generation…..How were people to be wise in God’s standard?

Well it wasn’t actually until Yeshua, God’s only Son, came that we would see the glorious bountiful prosperity as described in verses 5 and 7. He was right with God, without sin, perfect in every single way. Yeshua dealt with the sins of the whole world when he died on the cross…..He is how we can have our guilt removed, our sins forgiven, because He took on the punishment / the wrath that God has for sin……..Israel’s, ours, our neighbors….all sin by all people. Well who are the wise? Who are those considered wise in God’s eyes? Well it’s not those necessarily who are aged, it’s not those who have knowledge about something…..it’s not even those who have the power to judge properly what is true and right…..It’s those who are walking in the ways of the Lord….who turn to Him….who ask for forgiveness of their sins…..knowing that Jesus has paid the price……

Well what are you relying on to save you? Your spouse? An assuring friend that says “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine”….The next charismatic world leader……Your good deeds…..The common denominator in all those is humans trying to save themselves or one …..God’s wisdom is completely opposite to the what the world says is wise that of humans or other gods…..1 Corinthians 1:18 (READ)…..what is at the very core of being saved is Yeshua dying on a cross…..which in the world’s view is utter foolishness…..yet in 1 Cor 1:20 we read that God makes foolish the wisdom of the world …..no human wisdom or human made thing is going to save you…..turn to God….and ask him to take away all guilt….ask for his forgiveness through Jesus and you will be saved not just for this life but for the next as well…….And understand that God’s response is unchanging to those who ask for forgiveness “I will heal their disloyalty, I will love them freely”…..all you have to do is ask….

For those who have turned to God who have been healed by Him……who have received their salvation…….understand that it doesn’t stop there……we are to keep asking for forgiveness ……as the Holy Spirit keeps working in us and convicting us of specific sins…..we need to keep confessing and being active putting to death….. sin in your life

And understand that you are living a blessed life….you will be like a blossoming lily, a deep-rooted tree, a fragrant garden…protected by God’s shade….He is the God who promises to save you and look after you… living a blessed life…..

Would you be considered wise in God’s eyes?

Servitude or Servanthood

Servitude or Servanthood

 

Today we are meeting in a new facility and it seems the world has shifted on its axis since the last time we met.  Members of our congregation have experienced great loss of personal items as well as the loss of friends to the ravages of Hurricane Harvey.  Harry Drennan and Elva had about 3 feet of water in their home.  Cynthia Bowen lost friends to the storm.  There is not a family in this congregation that was not touched by this storm.  It is a time to grieve for our friends and for ourselves.

There are a couple of things I would like to say about this.  It is OK to grieve.  Here in this area, there are a lot of engineers, oilfield and military folks.  I’ve heard it many times when catastrophe hits “it ain’t nothing but a thang”.  It is a mechanism for coping.  As long as no one is physically impacted then it is standard procedure to shrug off massive losses as if grieving was a sign of weakness.  I’m reminded of the Monty Python skit where the knight loses a limb and remarks that it is nothing but a flesh wound.  Losing most of the contents of a home is horrific and it is OK to mourn the loss of your stuff.

There’s another thing we need to understand about what we are going through right now.  It is OK to receive.  Many of us are not accustomed to being in a situation of need.  Perhaps we have been blessed to be in a position of giving during much of our lives.  So now we don’t know how to receive. It’s OK.  You can receive. It won’t be long before you will be able to once again bless others.

When we run into people that have needs it is important to help them retain their dignity.  Torah teaches us to help out our brother when he is in need in such a way that he can regain his footing.

Last week’s Torah portion, as well as this one recounts how Moses was instructed to take of census of all the tribes with the exception of the tribe of Levi.  The reason was to take account of how many men of military age were able to serve in the army of Israel.  Each tribe was counted, all the men from the age of 20 and older.  Notice that there was no upper limit.  There was no age at which the Lord discounted a man as unfit.  There was no retirement age.  Service in the army was mandatory.  All the men were required to be available.  The Bible records that there were just over 600,000 men available for the army. That is what I call servitude.  Mandatory service.  I am sure many of the men did not want to serve in the army.  Later on in Israel’s history the Lord allowed all who were afraid to go home.  There were other exemptions, such as the first year of marriage.

The Levites did not serve in the army, but were dedicated for service in the tabernacle.  Again, this was not optional.  The Lord said “thou shalt” and that that was it.

In recent weeks, we discussed how Yeshua taught his disciples about the virtues of being a servant rather than being a ruler.  It didn’t make a lot of sense in the natural, but Yeshua very seldom concerned himself with the things of the world.  Instead, He focused His attention on the Kingdom of Heaven rather than earthly kingdoms.

Here are some examples of Yeshua’s teaching.

Matthew 20:26  It shall not be this way among you. But whoever wants to be great among you shall be your servant,

Matthew 23:11  But the greatest among you shall be your servant.

John 12:26  If any man serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there also will My servant be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

Remember Yeshua’s example to His disciples of being a good servant by being willing to take on the lowly and sometimes unpleasant tasks of taking care of someone else.

Last night I saw an account of rescue personnel describing their rescue of elderly patients in a nursing home.  They recounted the deplorable conditions in which these poor folks lived on a daily basis and was exacerbated by the rising flood waters that eventually overflowed the nursing home and threatened their lives.  It was readily apparent that their caregivers were not displaying the love of Messiah in caring for these people.

By the same token, there are many stories coming out of this terrible storm that testify of the caring and giving spirit to which Yeshua calls us.  Yesterday I watched car after car pull up in this parking lot with families who were donating items for flood victims.  Items being donated were toys and clothing no longer needed by children who had long ago outgrown them.  But there were also massive amounts of new items that people bought solely for the purpose of giving to the less fortunate. They were showing the love of Messiah to a hurting world.

I saw a line of people that stretched for a city block in front of a distribution center.  These people were not looking for a handout.  This was a group of people standing in line to volunteer to help flood victims.

This cleanup and recovery operation will last for months.  People will get tired or will have to get back to their own jobs and families.  Today I would like to encourage those of you at Tree of life to seek out opportunities to serve.  Serve with gladness. Serve in love.  Let the light of Yeshua shine into the life of those whose lives have been darkened, battered and beaten in the last week.

When we were finally able to get back to our home this week I saw that we had been blessed by not having a great deal of damage to our home.  A couple of shingles, some tree limbs and a garden that was severely battered.  But I noticed something about my garden.  Before the storm I had massive okra plants, some with stalks 2” in diameter and almost 10 feet tall.  Almost all the plants had been blown over and their large, brilliant green leaves blown to shreds.  But on the end of the okra stalk there were pods that survived.  It did not matter to what angle the wind had driven the plant, in the three days between the storm and my return, the plants had redirected the ends that held the fruit.  The plants had twisted so as to face the sun so they could continue to produce fruit.

To me it was a testimony and a lesson.  No matter how much we may be battered, beaten or broken by the storms of life, the Son of God is there to provide hope and help.  We need only to turn our lives over to Him and he will sustain us and make us fruitful.

Today, let us determine not to live in servitude, servants because we are force to serve. But let us live in servanthood, voluntary servants, serving because we love God and want to show that love to our fellow man.

Living Water

The feasts or Moedim, were and continue to be a part of the Mosaic Law that was given to the Children of Israel by God through Moses (Exodus 12; 23:14-17; Leviticus 23; Numbers 28 & 29; and Deuteronomy 16). Moedim means appointed times.  God calls them His appointed times.  They are not just Jewish feasts. The Jewish nation was commanded by God to celebrate seven feasts over a seven-month period of time, beginning in the spring of the year and continuing through the fall.

 

Notice that the feasts fall into three clusters. The first three feasts Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits occur in rapid succession in the spring of the year over a period of eight days. They came to be referred to collectively as “Passover.”

 

The fourth feast, Shavuot, occurs fifty days later at the beginning of the summer. Today in Christian circles, this feast has come to be known by its Greek name, Pentecost, a word meaning fifty.  This feast is also when the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit was given to the 120 disciples who were in the upper room.

 

The last three feasts Trumpets, Atonement, and Tabernacles extend over a period of twenty-one days in the fall of the year. The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is known as the Days of Awe and are a time to reflect and repent.

 

Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot were the mandatory feasts that required all the men in Israel to travel to Jerusalem three times a year to offer sacrifices.

 

The Nature of the Feasts

 

Some of the feasts were related primarily to the agricultural cycle. The feast of First Fruits is a time for the presentation to God of the first fruits of the barley harvest. The feast of Shavuot is a celebration of the wheat harvest. And the feast of Tabernacles is in part a time of thanksgiving for the harvest of olives, dates, and figs.

 

Most of the feasts were related to past historical events. Passover, of course, celebrated the salvation the Jews experienced when the angel of death passed over the Jewish houses that were marked with the blood of a lamb. Unleavened Bread is a reminder of the swift departure from Egypt so swift that they had no time to put leaven into their bread.

 

Although the feasts of Shavuot and Sukkot were related to the agricultural cycle, they both had historical significance as well. Traditionally, we believe that it was on the feast day of Shavuot that God gave the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. And the Feast of Tabernacles is and was a yearly reminder of God’s protective care as the Children of Israel tabernacled in the wilderness for forty years.

 

The Spiritual Significance of the Feasts

 

All the feasts were related to the spiritual life of the people. Passover serves as a reminder that there is no atonement for sin apart from the shedding of blood. Unleavened Bread is a reminder of God’s call on our lives to be a people set apart to holiness. Throughout the Bible leaven has been used as a symbol of sin. We are to be unleavened, that is, holy before the nations as a witness of God.

 

The feast of First Fruits, or Yom HaBikkurim, is a call to consider our priorities, to make certain we are putting God first in our lives. Shavuot is a reminder that God is the source of all blessings.

 

The solemn assembly day of Trumpets is a reminder of the need for constant, ongoing repentance. The Day of Atonement is also a solemn assembly day a day of rest and introspection. It is a reminder of God’s promise to send a Messiah whose blood would cover the demands of the Law with the mercy of God.

 

In sharp contrast to Trumpets and Atonement, Tabernacles is a joyous celebration of God’s faithfulness, even when the Children of Israel were unfaithful.

 

The Prophetic Significance of the Feasts

 

What the Jewish people did not seem to realize is that all of the feasts were also symbolic types. In other words, they were prophetic in nature, each one pointing in a unique way to some aspect of the life and work of the promised Messiah.

 

1) Passover – Pointed to the Messiah as our Passover lamb whose blood would be shed for our sins. Yeshua was crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover, at the same time that the lambs were being slaughtered for the Passover meal that evening.

 

2) Unleavened Bread – Pointed to the Messiah’s sinless life, making Him the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Yeshua’s body was in the grave during the first days of this feast, like a kernel of wheat planted and waiting to burst forth as the bread of life.

 

3) First Fruits – Pointed to the Messiah’s resurrection as the first fruits of the righteous. Yeshua was resurrected on this very day, which is one of the reasons that Paul refers to him in I Corinthians 15:20 as the “first fruits from the dead.”

 

4) Shavuot or Pentecost – Pointed to the great harvest of souls, both Jew and Gentile, that would come into the kingdom of God during the Church Age. The Church was actually established on this day when the Messiah poured out the Holy Spirit and 3,000 souls responded to Peter’s first proclamation of the Gospel.

 

The long interval of three months between Shavuot and Trumpets pointed to the current Time of the Gentiles, a period of time that was kept as a mystery to the Hebrew prophets in Old Testament times.

 

That leaves us with the three fall feasts which are yet to be fulfilled in the life and work of the Messiah. Because Yeshua literally fulfilled the first four feasts and did so on the actual feast days, I think it is safe to assume that the last three will also be fulfilled and that their fulfillment will occur on the actual feast days. We cannot be certain how they will be fulfilled, but my guess is that they most likely have the following prophetic implications:

 

5) Trumpets – (Called Rosh Hashana today.) Points to the Rapture when the Messiah will appear in the heavens as a Bridegroom coming for His bride, the Church. The Rapture is always associated in Scripture with the blowing of a loud trumpet (I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and I Corinthians 15:52)

 

6) Atonement – (Called Yom Kippur today.) Points to the day of the Second Coming of Yeshua when He will return to earth. That will be the day of atonement for the Jewish remnant when they “look upon Him whom they have pierced,” repent of their sins, and receive Him as their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10 and Romans 11:1-6, 25-36).

 

7) Tabernacles – (Called Sukkot today.) Points to the Lord’s promise that He will once again tabernacle with His people when He returns to reign over all the world from Jerusalem (Micah 4:1-7).

 

One final note about the feasts. Six of them the first six are related to man’s sin and struggle to exist. The last feast, Tabernacles, is related to rest. It is the most joyous feast of the year. It looks to the past in celebration of God’s faithfulness in the wilderness. It looks to the present in celebration of the completion of the hard labor of the agricultural cycle. And it looks to the future in celebration of God’s promise to return to this earth and provide the world with rest in the form of peace, righteousness and justice.

 

Before we finish this review of the feasts, I want to briefly link an aspect of the feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot to a vital teaching of Yeshua.

 

Over the years, the various feasts had taken on some extra-biblical traditions that enhanced the experience of the celebration.  For instance, a roasted egg was added to the Passover seder to symbolize life. Chanukah was instituted about 165 years before Yeshua was born as an extension of Sukkot and to commemorate Israel’s victory over Greek occupation.  At Chanukah, huge menoras were lit and the city of Jerusalem was awash with light from the temple.

There were some customs added to Sukkot that we practice even today.  Sukkot is associated with the fall harvest and is also known as the Festival of Ingathering.  This was the time of the agricultural cycle when the vineyards were beginning to peak along with other tree fruits, such as lemons and figs.  Of course, water played a huge roll in the success or failure of their crops.

 

On the 8th day of Sukkot, a priest would draw some water out of the pool Siloam into a golden vessel, and then bring it into the temple with the High Priest leading the procession. As the priests approached the water gate, the shofar would be blown. This was accomplished during the time of the of the morning sacrifice, while the members of the sacrifice were on the altar; the priest would go up and pour the water mingled with wine upon the Altar. At the same time, the people would all be singing with joy Isaiah 12:1-6 (especially verse 6).

Isaiah 12:1-6  In that day you will say: “I will give You thanks, Adonai, for though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.  (2)  Behold, God is my salvation! I will trust and will not be afraid. For the Lord Adonai is my strength and my song. He also has become my salvation.”  (3)  With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.  (4)  In that day you will say: “Give thanks to Adonai. Proclaim His Name! Declare His works to the peoples, so they remember His exalted Name.  (5)  Sing to Adonai, for He has done gloriously. Let this be known in all the earth.  (6)  Cry out and shout, inhabitant of Zion! For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

 

On the last day of Sukkot, when the priests would bring water up from the pool of Siloam, we hear from Yeshua.

John 7:37  On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Yeshua stood up and cried out loudly, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.

 

It seems that all living things get thirsty.  One of our first reflexes upon being born is to drink in the mother’s milk that satisfies and sustains us in those first critical hours.  Throughout our lives we have to stay hydrated.  Being thirsty is absolutely miserable.  And carried to the ultimate conclusion, the lack of water will end our lives.

 

We as humans also have a thirst for other things, earthly satisfaction, fame, fortune.  But none of those things will bring lasting happiness. The more we get, the more we want.

 

When it comes to spiritual things human beings are wired to seek something outside themselves.  Throughout the history of mankind, we see evidence of this quest in temples, idols and ritual artifacts.  But in the end, none of these things will satisfy.  At the end of the day we are still empty and thirsty.

 

Yes, we are predisposed to worship.  Someone has said there is a God-sized vacuum in all of us.  The only thing that can bring us everlasting satisfaction and happiness is putting our faith and trust in Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of the One True God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Belief in anything else will result in a life of emptiness and longing.

 

Yeshua said “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture says, ‘out of his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.”

 

He was speaking of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, that would be given initially to the 120 Believers who were cloistered in prayer.  This new manifestation of God’s love and power caused these men and women of God to overflow.  Not only were they filled with the living water, it flowed out of them in the form of languages that they never learned.  It poured out to the ears of those nearby. Peter spoke and 3000 men were immediately convinced of the deity and Messiahship of Yeshua.  This power ignited a flame that swept the world.  Mankind has never been the same since the coming of the Holy Spirit.

 

This was what Yeshua spoke of when he said anyone who believes in Him would have living water flow out of them. It is significant that He said “living water”, mayim chaim. Running water, literally in Hebrew “Living Water” was required for ritual cleansing and the immersion pools known as mikvahs.

 

Living Water, not still, stagnant, water.

 

Yeshua gives us living water, life, and life abundantly.

 

That living water is available for the asking today.  It’s a simple as repenting of your sins and walking in God’s way.  If you have been thirsty lately, now is the time to drink up from this fountain of living water provided by Yeshua. Now is the time to let the Ruach HaKodesh, God’s Holy Spirit flow through your life, make you clean and satisfy that dry, thirsty soul.

A Matter of Perspective

20170715 Parashat 91 How’s your vision?

Our Torah Portion today is Leviticus 21.  It is a list of instructions to the priests concerning ceremonial cleanliness with regard to caring for the bodies of close family members.  There are also instructions as to who a priest may marry.  There are even more restrictions on marriage for the ones would be high priests.

All the above mitzvot involved actions that a priest should or should not do, but starting verse 18, there is a list of physical defects that would prevent tabernacle of temple service.

Leviticus 21:18  Any man who has a defect is not to draw near: no one blind or lame or disfigured or deformed,

I had originally prepared a sermon that listed each one of the defects and developed a spiritual application for each one.  But at the last hour, I felt led to go in another direction.  This morning I want to draw your attention to only one of the defects.  It happens to be the first one. Blindness.

A prohibition of blindness falls into the ‘well duh’ category. It is too obvious.  You can’t have a priest stumbling around with a knife, trying to offer the sacrifices or feeling his way around in the Holy Place or the Holy of Holies.  He must be able to see. He must have vision.  Today, I want to talk about the concept of vision.  Just to make sure, it should be obvious that I’m not talking about our eyesight.

We need to have a vision for ourselves, our family and our synagogue.  Where do you want to be in the Lord this time next year?  Do you have a plan?  What about your family?  Where do you see them next year, 5 years from now, 10 years from now?  How about Tree of Life Messianic Synagogue?  Do you have a vision for us as well as your part in it?  Do you even plan to be here next year?  Do you see yourself teaching a class, leading the youth, discipling someone who just gave their life to Yeshua?  Hopefully, you don’t see yourself sitting in the same spot next year?  We need to have a vision.

Luke 11:34  Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light. But when it is sick, your body is full of darkness.

What is this passage saying? It’s saying that whatever you focus on, becomes your character. If you are always focused on the negative, you become a negative person.

This may seem like a confusing scripture but I think it is extremely important. I don’t believe that this is talking about our physical eyes notice it says “eye” not eyes.

 

And in verse 35 it says take heed or watch out that the light that is in you is not darkness. This is talking about our perspective or how we see or understand things. Pro.23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” think- that is our understanding, how do we understand or conceive a situation that’s how you will react. Many times, the same circumstances will cause various reactions by different people-why? Because of the way each person perceives or understands the situation.

Here’s a story that illustrates the point of view concept.

One day, the father of a very wealthy family sent his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live. The son spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family.

Upon the son’s return, the father asked, “How was the trip?”

“It was great, Dad.”

“Did you see how poor people live?” the father asked.

“Oh yeah,” said the son.

“So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.

The son answered:

“I saw that we have one dog and they had four.

We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end.

We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night.

Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon.

We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight.

We have servants who serve us, but they serve others.

We buy our food, but they grow theirs.

We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.”

The boy’s father was speechless: Then his son added, “Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are.”

 

I like this way of looking at things.

 

When other people take a long time to do something, they’re slow; when we take a long time, we’re thorough. When they don’t do something, they’re lazy; when we don’t, we’re too busy. When they succeed, they’re lucky; when we do, we deserve it.

Look at Luke 11:36.  If then your body is full of light, with no part of it dark, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its gleam.” . This means that if we have the right perspective we will make right choices. Life is all about our choices. Probably all of us can look back at situations in our lives and realize if we would have chosen differently, things could have been better or we wouldn’t have made a series of bad mistakes.

 

Dr. Pierce Harris, a pastor from Atlanta, Georgia, preached to some prisoners. One of the prisoners got up and introduced himself to the others with these words: “Several years ago, two boys lived in a town in north Georgia. They went to the same school, played together and attended the same Sunday School. One dropped out of Sunday School and said that it was ‘sissy stuff.’ The other boy kept on going. One rejected Christ; the other accepted Him. The boy who rejected Christ is making this introduction today. The boy who accepted Christ is the honored preacher who will speak to us today!”

 

Of course, the perspective we need is God’s perspective. When we look at things through God’s revelation and perspective we respond in ways that bless us.

Let’s look at a story from Luke chapter 7.

Luke 7:36-50.  Now one of the Pharisees was asking Yeshua if He would eat with him. Upon entering the Pharisee’s home, He reclined at the table.  (37)  And behold, a woman in the town who was a sinner, when she discovered that Yeshua was reclining at the Pharisee’s home, brought an alabaster jar of perfume.  (38)  As she stood behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to drench His feet with tears and kept wiping them with her head of hair. Then she was kissing His feet and anointing them with perfume.  (39)  Now when the Pharisee who invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this were a prophet, He would know what sort of woman is touching Him—that she’s a sinner.”  (40)  And answering, Yeshua said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he said, “Say it, Teacher!”  (41)  “A moneylender had two debtors. One owed him five hundred denarii, but the other fifty.  (42)  When neither could repay him, he canceled both debts. So which of them will love him more?”  (43)  Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” “You have judged correctly,” Yeshua said.  (44)  Turning toward the woman, He said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered into your house, and you didn’t give Me water for My feet. But she has drenched My feet with tears and wiped them with her hair.  (45)  You didn’t greet Me with a kiss; but from the time she entered, she has not stopped kissing My feet.  (46)  You didn’t anoint My head with oil, but she has anointed My feet with perfume.  (47)  For this reason I tell you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven—for she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.  (48)  He then said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.”  (49)  But those who were reclining at table with Him began to say to one another, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”  (50)  Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in shalom.”.

 

I really like this story. There is a lot we can see in it. What we are going to look at today is the two different perspectives shown by the Pharisee and the woman and the resulting actions caused by their perspectives. This Pharisee had such an opportunity, he had Yeshua HaMashiach at his home for dinner. But because of his perspective he really missed out. What wonderful things could have happened because Yeshua was at his house for dinner. We know that in the case of Zacchaeus, dinner with Yeshua changed his life. Yeshua declared that salvation had come to his house. Once when Yeshua was at Peter’s house Peter’s mother-in-law was healed. When Yeshua was at Mary and Martha’s house, Mary sat at His feet listening to the word and Yeshua said she had received the necessary thing: to hear the word of God. Mary got to listen to Yeshua teach at her house. Wow!! As we look at this story of the Pharisee we can think of lots of wonderful things that could have been. Even though this Pharisee had such a great opportunity, he missed out.

 

So, what Were the perspectives in this story?

THE PHARISEE: This Pharisee obviously thought he was “all right” as he was. That he was a good guy. According to the world’s way of looking at things he probably was.

THE WOMAN: This woman knew that she was sinful and needed a savior.

GOD’S PERSPECTIVE What is the true perspective-God’s perspective.

ROM.3:23, For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

EPH.2:1-8.  You were dead in your trespasses and sins.  (2)  At that time, you walked in the way of this world, in conformity to the ruler of the domain of the air—the ruler of the spirit who is now operating in the sons of disobedience.  (3)  We too all lived among them in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind. By nature we were children of wrath, just like the others.  (4)  But God was rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us.  (5)  Even when we were dead in our trespasses, He made us alive together with Messiah. (By grace you have been saved!)  (6)  And He raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Messiah Yeshua—  (7)  to show in the olam ha-ba the measureless richness of His grace in kindness toward us in Messiah Yeshua.  (8)  For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not from yourselves—it is the gift of God.

This is very important because until someone realizes that they need a savior they will not want Yeshua.

MARK 2:17. “Those who are healthy have no need for a doctor, but those who are sick do. I did not come to call the righteous, but the sinful.”

This doesn’t mean that some people are not sinners it means that people must recognize that they are and that they need a Savior.

 

LUKE 18:9-14. (Pharisee and Tax Collector) God is ready though the blood of Yeshua to save anyone who will realize that they are sinful and in need of saving. If anyone thinks that they are good enough on their own they make it impossible to for God to save them because they reject Yeshua. We must never forget that without Christ we would be lost.

VIEW FROM ETERNITY: This Pharisee thought he could make it to heaven on his own. There are many twists on this today. Many people feel that since God is good , He would not send any one to hell. In reality God doesn’t send them, people choose to go when they reject God’s plan of salvation. Some people think there is no eternity, you just die. This Pharisee must have thought that his being a Pharisee would get him to heaven. There are lots of religions today that teach that if you are baptized a member of their church that you will go to heaven. This woman on the other hand knew her only hope was God’s mercy and God’s way. She was looking to Yeshua for hope.

 

Again this is so important. You can find all kinds of opinions that will tickle your ears but here is the bottom line God is the one who makes those decisions. Isn’t it smart to look to Him to find the truth. Is there a heaven and hell? MARK 9:43-48. Yeshua was the biggest hell fire and brimstone preacher in the Bible because He doesn’t want anyone to go there. Two very important things we can see here is that there definitely is a real place of torment called hell. Heaven is real according to God’s word. Why would anyone want to miss out on heaven. Those who reject God’s offer of heaven will have to go to hell. The souls that He loves that reject Him will not have another chance JOHN 14:1-3. God made the earth in six days, and He has been working on heaven this long, it’s going to be great.

YESHUA: The Pharisee thought of Yeshua as just a man. Our scripture says he didn’t even treat Him with the same respect that other guests of those days received. The woman saw Him as her Savior. What a difference it makes. What does God say about it?

JOHN 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life! No one comes to the Father except through Me.

JOHN 11:25, I am the resurrection and the life! Whoever believes in Me, even if he dies, shall live.

JOHN 8:58, “Amen, amen I tell you, before Abraham was, I am!”

JOHN 8:24, If you don’t believe that I am, you will die in your sins.

 

1 John 5:11-13  And the testimony is this—that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  (12)  The one who has the Son has life; the one who does not have Ben-Elohim does not have life.  (13)  I wrote these things to you who believe in the name of Ben-Elohim, so you may know that you have eternal life.

 

MATT. 16:13-18. When Yeshua came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  (14)  They answered, “Some say John the Immerser, others say Elijah, and still others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”  (15)  He said, “But who do you say I am?”  (16)  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  (17)  Yeshua said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven!  (18)  And I also tell you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My community; and the gates of Sheol will not overpower it.

God’s revelation or perspective is very important. We have the choice to believe whatever we choose but if we choose to look at things with God’s view point we are blessed. Blessed means, “empowered to prosper.”

 

Let’s look at the responses caused by their perspectives.

 

The Pharisee took his acquaintance with Yeshua very lightly. He didn’t have a desire to serve Him. He didn’t consider it very special to be around Yeshua. He was critical of Yeshua. He was prideful when it came to others. He didn’t put any effort into getting to know Yeshua. He didn’t consider being with Yeshua as special.

The woman on the other hand found being with Yeshua so precious that she risked ridicule and insult to be with Him. She pursued Yeshua. This woman loved Yeshua. She brought Him costly perfume. She humbled herself before Him. What she did was beautiful worship. Her concern wasn’t in someone seeing her or what others thought of her. Her desire was to worship and please Yeshua.

 

My question is, what is our perspective? Our lives will show the view we hold. We might say we love Yeshua but are we like this Pharisee? Many times, people who call themselves Christians are very much like this Pharisee. What place do the things of God hold in Our lives? Do we have a desire to worship? Do we love spending time with Yeshua? Is His word important to us? Do we look down on others because we feel we are better? How much time do we give to the Lord? Will we take ridicule to be associated with Yeshua? Will we serve Him? Will we worship Him even when others don’t? Do we love Him much? What are we doing for Yeshua? Are we just living for ourselves? Are we willing to change for Him? Are we taking opportunities to draw close to Him, or are we more interested in what’s on T.V. than spending time with Him. Our lives will show our love for Him.

 

We need to ask ourselves, do we have God’s perspective when it comes to ourselves. I am not saying that as Believers we should see ourselves as sinners, but we should see ourselves as God sees us, saved by the precious blood of Yeshua and if we do, our appreciation will be evident. The more I learn what God has done for me the more I desire Him and love Him. What is our perspective when it comes to eternity? Do we really believe there is a heaven and a hell? Is it a reality in our lives? Col.3: tells us then to set our minds on things above. How do we see Yeshua? Do we see Him as our only Savior?

 

REV.3:20. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.

 

Yeshua wants to spend time with you! He is knocking will you let Him come in and dine with you?

 

Kadosh Kiddush, & Kaddish

The Torah Portion this week deals with the subject of improper sexual conduct.  It is an exhaustive list of “thou shall not” commandments regarding intimate relations between close relatives, members of the same gender and even animals.  The reading from Romans Chapter One reiterates these commandments and offers a consequence for disobedience.  I am not going to teach specifically about this list of deviant behavior but rather discuss a broader topic.

In our Torah Class this morning Dr. Drennan spoke about the holiness of God.  Leviticus 18 and next week’s Parsha Chapter 19 also speak of God’s holiness.  Today it is common to hear that we are no longer under the Law or that the Law was nailed to the cross.  Even one particular Messianic teacher has said that because of the Law of Christ, the Law of Moses is dead and of no effect.  He concludes his teaching by advising any Jewish Believer in Yeshua that if he wanted to eat a ham sandwich, he is permitted to do so because the dietary laws of the Torah are no longer in effect.

Here at Tree of Life, we reject that interpretation of Scripture and take a much more conservative stance on God’s instruction.

Let’s set the scene for today’s lesson.  The Israelites had been rescued from the slavery of Egypt around 1445 BCE.  They were at Mount Sinai in the Arabian desert for a little over a year.  The Tabernacle was completed and about a month and a half later God told the Israelites to leave Sinai.  Many scholars place the writing of Leviticus in this relatively short time frame of the Tabernacle completion and the sending out of the spies into the land of Canaan.

Leviticus is too often neglected because many consider it to be a collection of arcane laws with little relevance to our lives today.  However, just a cursory view of Chapter 18 seems as fresh as today’s CNN or Fox News.  It sets out a standard of conduct for God’s people that is under assault today. This is part of God’s standard of holiness. He is preparing the Israelites for their future. We have three words today that could apply to Chapter 18.  Kadosh, Kiddush, and Kaddish.

  1. Kadosh קדוש

Kadosh is defined as “holy”.  Kedushah is “holiness”.  All of Torah and Leviticus in particular outlines God’s standard of Holiness.

Leviticus 18:3-4  You are not to act as they do in the land of Egypt, where you used to live. Nor are you to act as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, nor are you to walk in their customs.  (4)  You are to obey My ordinances and keep My statutes and walk in them—I am Adonai your God.

So how is Israel supposed to walk out this standard of holiness?  In very short order God tells them “Don’t walk like an Egyptian”. They had already reverted to the idolatry of the Egyptians when they made the golden calf.  The Egyptians practiced many other acts that God considered an abomination. God was telling His chosen people don’t go back to spiritual slavery from which they were rescued.

God was asking them to be a holy nation.  A morally pure nation.  In fact, He called them to be a nation of priests and kings.

Exodus 19:6  So as for you, you will be to Me a kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation.

God had specific requirements for the priests.  They had to be above reproach in their behavior and even in the way they dressed.  And now Israel was called to be a kingdom of priests!  Every man, woman and child was to be like a priest.

One of the things about priests was that they were separated to God.

  1. Kiddush – קידוש

The word Kiddush actually means sanctification, but it also means separation. So it also serves another purpose.  Kiddush is a blessing recited over the wine as we begin our Shabbat meal on Friday evening.  The following is a translation of the traditional blessing heard in Jewish homes all over the world.

[And the evening and the morning were] the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

Blessed art Thou, Adonai our God, King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine.

[Respond: Amen.]

Blessed are You God, King of the Universe, who made us holy with his commandments and favored us, and gave us His holy Sabbath, in love and favor, to be our heritage, as a reminder of the Creation. It is the foremost day of the holy festivals marking the Exodus from Egypt. For out of all the nations You chose us and made us holy, and You gave us Your holy Sabbath, in love and favor, as our heritage. Blessed are you God, Who sanctifies the Sabbath.

[Respond: Amen.]

All right, so what does this have to do with our Torah Portion?  The Kiddush is what begins our observance of Shabbat.  It separates Shabbat from the rest of the week.  Shabbat is special.  It is to be set aside as a day of rest and as a day to honor God and our Savior, Yeshua.

God was telling Israel that He had physically separated them from Egypt and now he wanted them to separate themselves from the customs and traditions that they had come to know in Egypt. Don’t practice the things the Egyptians did.  Be separate.

  1. Kaddish קדיש

The word kaddish means sanctification and is a hymn of praise to God.  Originally, the Kaddish was recited by the Rabbi after his sermon.  But over the years it has come to be associated with the sorrow that comes with the passing of a loved one.  Here are the words in English.

Exalted and sanctified is God’s great name [Amen] in the world which He has created according to His will, and may He establish His kingdom in your lifetime and during your days, and within the life of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon; and say, Amen.

May His Great Name be blessed forever and for all eternity. Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, elevated and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are spoken in the world; and say, Amen. [Amen.]

May there be great peace from heaven, and life, for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.

I struggled in the composition of this sermon as to where to use Kiddush and Kaddish because both meant sanctification.  But what we see in Leviticus 18 is a clear cut call to be separated.  Be Holy.  Be pure.

The generic meaning of sanctification is “the state of proper functioning. To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer. A pen is “sanctified” when used to write. Eyeglasses are “sanctified” when used to improve sight. In the theological sense, things are sanctified when they are used for the purpose God intends. A human being is sanctified, therefore, when he or she lives according to God’s design and purpose.

Isn’t that what we are seeing in Leviticus 18?  God had a specific design and purpose in mind when he created mankind.  Sin entered in and perverted God’s perfect design. When a person participates in the behavior prohibited by God’s word, he is acting in direct opposition to the will of God.

I think sanctification, or being set apart for God requires each of us to live in a manner that glorifies Him.  But I believe it requires us to live in opposition to behavior that the Bible specifically prohibits.  Too often today, we see organizations that claim to be believers in the Word of God but then accept and in some instances celebrate the sins outlined in our Torah portion.  Today preachers are afraid to call sin what it is for fear of being labeled a bigot or homophobe or any other name that popular culture conjures up to advance their perversion.  The common expression is to “Hate the sin, but Love the sinner”.  That does not mean that we should accept the sinner’s lifestyle.

Recently, Target made the well publicized decision to allow people to use a restroom based on how they identified themselves, not how God identified them when they were born.  Of course this was nothing but a ploy to get the public to accept transvestites and homosexuality. If you see it often enough you just get used to it.

We as believers should fight against those that are trying to pervert the minds of our children and in some cases put our women and children in physical danger.  We should write to these businesses and express our beliefs.  If that doesn’t work then express your belief with your wallet.  I have not been inside a Target store since their outrageous decision.  There are other places to shop.  It is ok to be militant in following God’s word.

To summarize, we should follow the Lord in holiness, separate ourselves from those who live immoral lifestyles and sanctify our lives by living the way that God designed us to live.

Life is in the Blood

20170624 Life is in the Blood

Intro: The blood in our veins is the world’s most amazing medicine for certain sicknesses like cancer, hemophilia, and some cases of AIDS. Blood and the medicines made from it, are saving more lives than any one drug that science has ever discovered, and there is still much to learn in how to use blood in the fight against disease. Blood has always fascinated man, and he has been prying into its mysteries for centuries.

 

In the year 1628, Sir William Harvey, an English scientist, discovered that the blood was a “river of life” flowing around in the body. Thereafter, doctors tried for the first time to replace lost blood with blood of other humans, and animals. Often the patients died, but occasionally a life was saved. However, failures were so common, that during the 17th century, laws were passed forbidding transfusions of blood.

 

It was in the year 1900, that a German scientist, Dr. Karl Lansteiner, discovered that there are four types of human blood namely, A, B, AB and O. This unlocked the door to successful blood transfusions, for it was learned that if blood from a donor of one of these groups, was given to a patient of the same group, no harm could be done. Thereafter, many blood transfusions were made and many lives were saved.

 

People with Type O-negative are the “universal donors” as their blood can be given to people of all other types. However, people with Type O-negative (10% of the population) can only receive O-negative blood in return. People with Type AB-positive blood are the “universal recipients” as they can receive any other type of blood. It was not until 1915, when two American scientists, Peyton Rous, and Joseph Turner discovered a solution which, when mixed with blood, would keep it from clotting.

 

Now, blood could be preserved or “canned” for emergency and future use, and the first blood bank was established by an English army surgeon Oswald Robertson, back of the Allied army lines in France in 1917, resulting in what we have today in the various community “blood banks,” which are endeavoring to serve their area day and night, which have as their slogan, “BLOOD IS LIFE – HELP SAVE A LIFE.” Yes, “blood is life,” and this truth is verified in God’s Word.

Here are some more interesting facts that will shed light on the value of the blood in the body of man and also the church body.

 

In the human body there are many different kinds of tissues. We define them as muscle, nerve, fat, gland, bone and connective tissues. All of these have one thing in common; they are fixed cells, very small and have a special and limited function. But the blood is fluid and mobile, that is, it is not limited to one part of the body but flows throughout the entire body, remember the life of the flesh is in the blood.

 

In the normal human body there are about five quarts of this fluid, and this blood pumped by the heart circulates through the system every twenty-three seconds, the blood is in communication with every cell in the body, to supply food and cleanse the body.

 

The blood is the most mysterious of all tissues, being composed of scores of elements and compounds and strange chemical bodies, whose function is not yet fully understood, but all of which has to do with the mystery of life.

 

The pressure of blood in the body is so very important; it should be kept at a certain level in order for the body to function at its peak. As you know either high or low pressure can cause problems.

 

Now all that has been said about the physical body is true, and when we talk about the blood of the LAMB, it points us to a greater, deeper spiritual truth. The congregation or church that Yeshua died for is called the body, and we are members of that body, Yeshua is the Head and we are all related because of His blood. All believers who have trusted the finished work of Calvary are brothers and sisters, members of one family whether they be Jews or Gentiles, white or black they are all one through the blood of the Messiah, Yeshua.

 

When Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill preaching to them about the unknown God whom they worshipped ignorantly, he told them that God made the world and all things therein, and had made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth.

 

And since God hath made of one blood all nations, and because Adams sinned, the human race has a sin nature and will die, yet because of the blood of Christ all can be made alive.

 

So you see, all men have a common origin in Adam, and all men carry the sentence of death because of the sin that Adam committed. Before the fall Adam was in fellowship with the Father living in the Garden of Eden with his wife Eve. Now we do not know the nature of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We do know that the eating of the tree caused blood poisoning and for this reason all men die a common death, with no exceptions.

 

And because of this transgression, there had to be a sacrifice for sin. “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctified to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Hebrews 9: 13/14

The whole plan of redemption rests upon the power of the blood of Yeshua HaMashiach. “For without the shedding of blood there are no remissions of sins”

 

When Cain murdered his brother Abel look what the Lord said in Gen. 4:10. Yes, blood cries and speaks! One of the greatest Bible subjects “Blood” which is the very life of our faith. This brings us to the subject of the “world’s greatest blood donor,” and none other than God’s own Son, Yeshua, who willingly and sacrificially gave His own blood, so that we poor guilty sinners might have eternal life.

  1. BLOOD SPEAKS OF CLEANSING (I John 1:7; Rev. 1:5; 12:11a).

A dual purpose of physical human blood is to dispose waste & toxins & supply oxygen & energy throughout the body organs. Likewise, the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin & empowers us to have victory over sin and the devil.

 

1 John 1:7  But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of His Son Yeshua purifies us from all sin.

You’ve heard it said that sunshine is the best disinfectant.  Here’s the verse that proves it, only it is the SON-light rather than the sun-light.

 

  1. BLOOD SPEAKS OF VALUE (I Pet. 1:18-19; Acts 20:28).

We were bought & redeemed with the most precious fluid in the universe – the blood of God Himself!

 

1 Peter 1:18-19  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,  (19)  but with precious blood like that of a lamb without defect or spot, the blood of Messiah.

How can we even put a value on the blood of Yeshua?  Can you put a value on your own soul?  Multiply that times all the souls that have ever been born, and the value of Yeshua’s sacrifice still cannot be calculated.

 

  1. BLOOD SPEAKS OF ONENESS (Eph. 2:13).

Bridge the gap of separation between a holy God and sinful, fallen man. The only way a many could be in right standing before God was through Calvary is the meeting place of heaven & earth when the Son of God reconciled us to the Father while He hung on the cross!

 

Ephesians 2:13  But now in Messiah Yeshua, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.

The blood of Yeshua is the great equalizer.

  1. BLOOD SPEAKS OF IDENTITY (Exo. 12:13 cf. I Cor. 5:7).

Yeshua, the Lamb of God, has become our Passover. God says, WHEN I SEE THE BLOOD, I WILL PASS OVER YOU! The blood of a lamb over the doorpost identified God’s people.  The blood of the Messiah applied to our hearts and minds identifies us as a child of God.

  1. BLOOD SPEAKS OF LIFE (Lev 17:11, 17:14; John 6:53-54).

Our Torah Portion today is very clear. The life of the flesh is in the blood.  Without blood there is no life in the natural.  And it is the same in the spiritual realm.  Yeshua said it best.

 

John 6:53-54  So Yeshua said to them, “Amen, amen I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.  (54)  He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

 

Of course we don’t literally drink His blood.  The wine or grape juice remains wine or grape juice.  It doesn’t turn into Yeshua’s blood.  But what He is saying is that we have to consume the concept of His sacrifice.  Take it aboard, make it part of our innermost being.  And when we do, He says we will have eternal life.

 

The life is in the blood.  If we really want to experience life, in this world, as well as in the olam haba, the world to come, it is only through the blood of Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus the Messiah.

Mercy, Not Sacrifice

20170610 Hosea 6 v 6 Mercy, not Sacrifice

The Torah Portion for today is rather difficult and uncomfortable to discuss because it deals with body functions, things that we generally don’t discuss in a public forum.  But it deals with cleanliness and good hygiene. Hashem was interested in the health of His people.  We have been studying this theme since Chapter 11.  What was God trying to tell us throughout these 5 chapters?  (Wait for an answer from the Congregation)

Hashem was setting guidelines for us to follow so that we could live our lives in harmony with His precepts and His will.  He wanted us to be physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy.  Some of these instructions were fairly detailed and mundane. In today’s age of modern medicine, we tend to skip over these chapters as being irrelevant. When we do that we miss what the Lord is trying to tell us.  We need to dig down a little deeper and understand His intent.

Hosea

The Book of Hosea is a difficult read.  Hosea is instructed to marry a promiscuous woman.  This set the stage for a painful parallel between Hosea’s marriage to Gomer and God’s relation, indeed His marriage, to the Children of Israel.  Although Hosea did address the southern kingdom of Judah, his primary focus was the northern kingdom, Israel, often referred to as Ephraim.

Israel had degenerated into idolatry.  In fact, the very establishment of the Northern Kingdom, by Jeroboam, was founded in a fraudulent premise.  Jeroboam erected a temple and altar in the city of Dan to offer sacrifices so that the northern 10 tribes would not feel the need to make the trek to Jerusalem 3 times a year for Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot.  However, God had said that they were not to offer sacrifices anywhere except where He had put His Name.  Of course that would be Jerusalem, the site of the Temple.

Hosea started his prophetic ministry around 750 BCE and continued until ~ 710 BCE.  Even though he is referred to as a minor prophet, he had one of the longest terms as God’s prophet.

Matthew 15:7-8

We see in Israel of that day what we see in today’s religious scene. Hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is a very dangerous and infectious disease. Hypocrisy means saying one thing and doing another or saying one thing and believing another. It’s a dangerous and infectious disease because it infects and affects each one of us from one time to another. It is an age-old problem for God’s people sometimes came to the temple just to worship out of a sense of duty. They came to offer sacrifices as an obligation. They came to do worship to just get it over and done with. God’s people had forgotten that love of God that was to motivate them to show their love to the Lord. The simple fact is when Yeshua came and lived on the earth, he ran into that very same problem. Yeshua came to the Scribes and Pharisees who were the religious leaders of the day and who were trained in religion and righteousness. Yet, they too liked to follow the law so much that they forgot the Lord’s Gospel of love and forgiveness. Finally, Yeshua had to look at them and say in Matthew 15:7-8

Hypocrites! Rightly did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying,  (8)  ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.

NOT LIP SERVICE

The prophet Hosea talks about that very same problem in our text today. The hearts of the children of Israel were far from the Lord. So Hosea comes to the conclusion, as he reminds them and reminds us today as our theme:

 

OUR LORD DESIRES MERCY, NOT SACRIFICE. This divine mercy is —

  1. NOT MERE LIP SERVICE (NOT SUPERFICIAL)

 

CHESED

If you have a King James Version of verse 6 it uses the word mercy.  The Hebrew word is  חסד chesed.  Chesed is generally translated as mercy, Strong’s number H2617.  However, in the Holman Christian Study Bible as well as the Tree of Life version, the word chesed in this verse is translated as loyalty.

 

Hosea, even though called a minor prophet, comes with the same message that the major prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah did. He came with a message of warning for repentance, because the children of Israel once again had slid into the valley of disobedience. They were turning away from the Lord instead of toward him. The Lord was going to give them one more chance.

HOSEA 6:4-5

The Lord says, “Here is my prophet.” The Lord is coming to the end of his patience for them. 4″What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah?

In other words, “What can I do with you Israelites? What can I do with you my chosen people? My children, you do not listen.” Hosea says that in the next verse:

Hosea 6:5

Hosea 6:5  Therefore I cut them down by the prophets. I slew them by the words of My mouth. Now the judgments pronounced against you: light will go forth..

Over and over, the Lord had sent his prophets to his people and told them, “Turn away from those false gods.” Over and over, the Lord had sent warnings to them and said they were going to be forsaken. God said they would be killed with his words and finally he said: My judgments flashed like lightning upon you. The Lord raised up throughout their history enemies who would defeat them. This was God’s judgment against their disobedience. This was God’s judgment against their unfaithfulness. Finally, as Hosea says, the Lord says, “What am I going to do?”

At this point, the Lord has run out of patience.  The problem lies within their hearts.  Verse four continues “For your loyalty is like a morning cloud or like dew rising early, vanishing.” Their love and devotion for the Lord is short lived.  It is like the dew that disappears with the sun. It is superficial.  This brings us to the theme verse that God desires loyalty (mercy) rather than sacrifices.

Hosea 6:6

Hosea 6:6  For I delight in loyalty and not sacrifice, knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. TLV

Hosea 6:6  For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Hosea 6:6  I’d rather for you to be faithful and to know me than to offer sacrifices.

The Lord speaks the same message to us today.  He wants our love to be more than skin deep.  He wants our total devotion.  Do we live out the words of the V’haftah in loving the Lord with ALL of our heart, mind, and being?  It is so easy to be distracted by attractions of our daily lives.  We have all sorts of enticements that attempt to lure us away from Torah.  The internet can be a blessing as well as a curse.  Even in using it for legitimate purposes, it can draw us away from meaningful Bible study and prayer. Stay focused on His Word.  Set a time for prayer.

The Lord is telling ancient Israel and us today that He would rather have our loyalty than our sacrifices.  He wants us to dig down, don’t be superficial and live lives of faithfulness.

  1. FAITHFULL LIVES

It was a last chance here for the children of Israel. Time and again, the Lord had warned his people. God had sent them prophets to turn them from the false gods. He had sent them judgments. Now they are in the Promised Land, and they had another chance to repent. They knew of repentance.

Hosea 6:1

As Hosea chapter 6 starts: 6:1 “Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.

Of course, they look at the Lord and blame him for hurting them when he had not; but they also understood that he was able to heal them. Their God was able to help them only if they would turn.

Hosea 6:2

V2 After two days He will revive us. On the third day He will raise us up, and we will live in His presence.

It reminds us about the Lord’s resurrection when after three days, he was restored to life and the tomb was empty. These people would say: “The Lord will restore us.” They knew God’s mercy and that it wasn’t just a hit and miss prospect. His mercy did not depend on them and their obedience – as they often disobeyed. Listen to how they describe the mercy of God and his forgiveness:

Hosea 6:3

v3. “So let us know, let us strive to know Adonai. Like dawn His going forth is certain. He will come to us like the rain, like the latter rain watering the earth.”

Just as day chases away night, just as rain waters the earth, that is how sure and certain is the Lord’s love. He comes to his people time and time again to show his people his mercy that they might live in the joy of God’s salvation. These were the words of warning. These were the words of encouragement from Hosea the Prophet.

 

As our text began, what does he say about all of this? He writes: Hosea 5:15  I will go and return to My place until they admit their guilt. The Lord was waiting for them to repent, because they had followed false gods and had forgotten the Lord. The Israelites had often merely offered sacrifices out of a sense of duty and obligation. So Hosea waits for their repentance. Hosea continues: Then they will seek My face. In their distress they will seek Me earnestly. As we come to the end of these words and read the rest of the story, we find that the children of Israel did not repent at this warning. The children of God did not understand this mercy instead of sacrifice. The Lord raised up enemies against them once again. They were taken away as slaves never to be returned to the Promised Land. As slaves in a foreign land, just as Hosea said: And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.” They had dwelt in the Promised Land. They forgot the Lord. They were taken away as captives. They remembered how good it had been. The Lord desired mercy, not sacrifice. They finally remembered the Lord in their misery.

REPENT 1 Samuel 15:22

Today we have the benefit of 66 books of Scripture.  We don’t have to repeat the mistakes of Israel and Judah.  We can live deeply rooted and faithful lives before the Lord.  When He said he desired mercy or loyalty rather than sacrifice, God was acting like a father who would rather his children live a life of integrity and obedience so that judgement would not be necessary.  God would rather have His children obey Torah so that they would not need to offer sin offerings.

In 1 Samuel 15:22  Samuel said: “Does Adonai delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of Adonai? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay heed than the fat of rams.

In the days ahead, let’s focus our minds and hearts on being faithful, mature Believers so that judgement and discipline would not be necessary.  Remember, that is what God desires.

Opening the Windows of Heaven

OPENING THE WINDOWS OF HEAVEN

Haftarah Portion 2 Kings 7:1-19

Intro:

This morning I want to talk about the blessings of God that he wants to give everyone no matter what the circumstances are.

When I was growing up, we sang that chorus-“The windows of Heaven are open, the blessings are falling tonight, there’s Joy, Joy, Joy in my heart since Jesus made everything right. I gave him my old tattered garment, He gave me a robe of pure white, I’m feasting on manna from Heaven and that’s why I’m happy tonight.

There’s a lot of truth in that little chorus because the windows of Heaven are open, but many are not experiencing the blessings in their lives. So this morning, I want to give you three things you must do in order to open the windows of Heaven in your life.

Our Haftarah portion begins with verse one of Chapter 7, but we really need to go back to Chapter 6, Verse 24 to set the stage.

2 Kings 6:24-33

Now it came to pass after this, that King Ben-hadad of Aram gathered all his army and marched against Samaria and besieged it.  (25)  Now there was a great famine in Samaria, since they were besieging it, until a donkey’s head was sold for 80 pieces of silver, and the quarter of a kav of dove’s dung for five pieces of silver.  (26)  As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him saying, “My lord the king, help!”  (27)  But he said, “If Adonai doesn’t help you, how would I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the winepress?”  (28)  Then the king asked her, “What’s the matter with you?” She answered, “This woman said to me: ‘Give your son that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’  (29)  So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I told her: ‘Give your son that we may eat him’—but she hid her son.”  (30)  Now it came to pass when the king heard the words of the woman, that he tore his clothes—as he was passing by on the wall, the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth underneath upon his flesh.  (31)  Then he said, “May God do so to me and even more, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on him today.”  (32)  Now Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. The king had sent a messenger ahead, yet even before the messenger arrived, Elisha said to the elders, “Do you see, this son of a murderer was sent to take away my head! Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door and hold the door fast against him. Is not the sound of his master’s footsteps behind him?”  (33)  While he was yet talking with them, behold, the messenger came down to him. So the king said, “Look! This evil is from Adonai—why should I wait for Adonai any longer?”

Jehoram was the king of Samaria and of course we are talking about the children of Israel who were its inhabitants.

Apparently King Ben-Hadad had decided to starve them out rather then attack there and he was being successful for the scripture goes on to say that a donkey’s head sold for 2 pounds of silver and a half pint of pigeon poop for 2 ounces of silver. Things were really bad. Not only that were also eating their own children.

The king became so disturbed about what was happing in the city that he threatened to kill Elisha who was the prophet there. He felt like it was God’s fault they were in this predicament and killing the prophet would help. So he sends a messenger to cut off his head then changes his mind and follows the messenger to Elisha’s house and confronts him there and says this famine is from the Lord. He’s right about that. It was because of their sin and then he says why should I wait any longer the Lord to help us and this is where we pick up the Haftarah text, for Elisha says:

“Hear the word of Adonai. Thus says Adonai: Tomorrow about this time a measure of fine flour will sell for a shekel and two measures of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.”

 

Which brings me to my first point on opening the windows of Heaven in your life and that is:

POINT #1 BELIEVE THE WORD.

This is quite a word Elisha had to say and there was no reason for anyone to believe given the circumstances that were surrounding them. As a matter of fact verse #2 says that the King’s servant or his right hand man – probably his most trusted servant because the King was leaning on him, said to Elisha – Look, even if Adonai should make windows in heaven, could this thing happen? Or in other words, are you kidding? How could this possibly happen. Well we know it did happen when they were in the wilderness when God rained down manna from Heaven.

Elisha’s reply was it will happen and you will see it with your own eyes. But you will not eat of it.

This is such an important step. We know that the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword and we know that the word of God is true for it is backed up by God Himself and we know that every promise in this book will come to pass if we will just believe what it says.

But today we are too prone to look at circumstances. If the doctor or the lawyer or the banker says this is how it is, then we believe that’s how it is.

What ever happened to believing for a miracle? Is that in the distant past? Do we think God can’t do that anymore, or do we believe he just does that for other people?

Do you Agree?

If you don’t believe the word then you have no basis to believe for a miracle. What’s happening today is many people believe it with their head, but not with their heart.

Nothing is impossible with God. Let me repeat, “nothing is impossible with God.” (Pause)

I don’t care how good or how bad things look, God is still on the throne and he can do anything if you will just believe.

If you don’t really believe, then that means you have unbelief and that will stop God from working in your life. That will keep the windows of Heaven closed for you.

The king’s servant did not believe. I can imagine his response was a taunting reply – “Just who do you think you are telling us what will happen tomorrow. That’s why Elisha said, “It will, but you won’t partake of it.” The same thing happened in Yeshua’s hometown when he came to minister to them. They said is this not the carpenter’s son. Just who does he think he is to claim to be the Son of God? If they would have accepted him and received him warmly and believe his word, they would have seen mighty miracles. But instead, very little happened because of their unbelief.

You have to believe what God’s word says if you are going to receive anything from him.

POINT #2 – Step Out in Faith

Now the second way to open the windows of Heaven in your life is to DO SOMETHING. Verse 3 says there were 4 lepers at the entrance to the city gate and one of them said, “why are we sitting here waiting to die.”

If we go into the city, there is famine and if we stay out here we’ll die so let’s go into the Syrian camp. Surely there is food in there. Maybe they’ll have compassion on us. If they give us food we will live. If they kill us, we are going to die anyway so let’s go. There are too many people today waiting for God to do something for them while God is waiting on them to take the first step.

I’ve heard of people who when the doctor tells them they only have 6 months to live, go home and get in bed and wait to die. Every time someone was healed in the scripture, they had to do something. “Rise up and walk.” “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.” “Go show yourself to the priest.” Do something.

I know that the popular saying, ”God helps those who help themselves”, is not scripture, but it sure makes a good point. We can complain about our situation and tell ourselves how bad it is and find others to agree with. Misery loves company, but none of this is going to do you any good.

One day a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally he decided the animal was old and the well needed to be covered up anyway, it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey. He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone’s amazement, he quieted down. A few shovel loads later the farmer finally looked down the well and was astonished at what he saw. With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing! He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer’s neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off!

The lepers decided to do something. Verse 5 says they rose up at dusk and went to the camp of the Syrian and when they came to the edge of the encampment, no one was there. What a shock.

So what happened? The word of the lord was being fulfilled. When Elisha said tomorrow God was going to do something, then that’s exactly what he meant.

God does stand by his word and he will do what it says he will do. He will heal your body. He will supply your needs. He will set you free from sin and all bondages the devil tries to put on you. If you will take the first step and desire to see God working in your life.

So what happened to the enemy? Verse 6 says:

2 Kings 7:6

For the Lord had caused the army of the Syrians to hear the noise of chariots and the noise of horses—the noise of a great army.

Who caused them to hear a noise? The Lord and it was such a great noise that it scared them to death and they weren’t even thinking straight.

“Look, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians to attack us.”

Kings of the Egyptians – they only had one king and verse 7 says:

2 Kings 7:7

So they got up and fled at twilight, abandoning their tents, their horses and their donkeys—the entire camp just as it was—and fled for their lives.

They were so scared they didn’t even take time to saddle up their horses; they had to run on foot.

Isa: 59:19 says:

So from the west they will fear the Name of Adonai, and His glory from the rising of the sun. For He will come like a rushing stream driven along by the Ruach Adonai.

The KJV says it this way: When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him

God is the one who will fight your battles for you. So then because the lepers decided to do something. They were rewarded for their effort. They ate and drank and carried the gold and silver and hid it.

POINT #3 – RECEIVE BY FAITH

But what about the rest of the city? Well they decided they should tell the king what had happened that night. So they went into the city and told one of the kings servants to wake him up, which brings me to my third point on opening the windows of Heaven in your life and that is to ACCEPT GOD’S BLESSING BY FAITH.

When the king hears the news he starts rejoicing right? – wrong!

He doesn’t believe it. He says it’s a trap and they know we are hungry and they have gone out of the camp to hide in the field saying when they come out of the city we will capture them alive and get into the city.

Wait a minute what did Elisha say was going to happen the next day? They were going to have plenty of food. What is faith? Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.

I can tell you that the Lord is your Healer, your Redeemer, and your very present help in time of trouble. I can tell you what he will do for you. But it won’t do you any good unless you accept it by faith.

Hebrews 11:6 says:

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Rather than just accept God’s blessings, we too often have to analyze it, scrutinize it, categorize it and we have to see it to believe it.

Sort of like doubting Thomas. When Yeshua appeared to His talmadim after His resurrection, Thomas was not there and so when Thomas came back Yeshua was gone. But they told him He had been there and he said, “I don’t believe it and I won’t until I see it. Eight days later when Yeshua appeared to them, Thomas was there and saw and Yeshua said, Now that you see you believe, blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.

The king did not accept by faith what he heard, but thank God one of his servants said, “Well let’s go see if it’s true and sure enough it was.

God always honors his word. You can trust what the word has to say. But you must take a step of faith and do something if you want the windows of Heaven open for you.

Body, Soul, Spirit?

Accept by faith what God wants to do for you, for he wants to minister to the whole person body, soul and spirit. Will you let him?

 

Preparing for a Miracle

“Preparing for a Miracle”

Miracles rarely just happen. They are the work of God’s constant intervention in our lives. So how can we prepare ourselves to receive one?

Our lesson today comes from the Haftarah portion that we read earlier. It’s the story of General Naaman of the Syrian army. He’s not a believer, & he doesn’t live in the Holy Land. In fact, when it comes to spiritual things, he’s on the outside looking in.

Naaman is a desperate man, seeking answers to an incurable problem. He has leprosy. Which is a disease that affects the skin. A person with leprosy didn’t have much of a future. It’s a very painful disease to say the least, that has serious physical and social consequences. A Leper finds himself alienated and ostracized from the rest of society. All the while, his body aches from a process of deterioration that occurs from the inside out causing the loss of limbs and legs.

Naaman needs a miracle! He’s got a problem, a big problem. He has an issue that can’t be resolved. That’s the first thing you need to know about miracles. All of God’s miracles have one thing in common, and you know what that is? They all start with a problem. Naaman has a enormously big problem in his life! Now, how many of you here this morning have a problem?  Truth be told, you have problems, I have problems, all God’s children have problems!!! If you have a problem you’re a candidate to receive a miracle.

All the miracles you read about in the Bible have this one thing in common. They all start with a problem or a need. That’s the starting point for God’s action. If you don’t have any problems then you don’t need God.

We don’t know how long Naaman had leprosy or how far the disease had advanced. But Naaman knows that if something is not done quickly, his life will soon deteriorate as the disease progresses. He’s going to lose his career, his family, his fortune, his position. He’ll forever live in isolation and alienation. So he’s got to do something about it.

The first thing that Naaman did with his problem was this: He admitted it. Naaman was willing to look at things for what they were, not what he wished they were. He was willing to bring his problem into the light.

STEP ONE. ADMIT YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.

Now for many of us, this is a very difficult step to take. We don’t like to admit some of our problems, do we? We would rather pretend our problems don’t exist. We falsely think, that If we don’t talk about them, maybe they will go away. And when we’re confronted with them, we have all kinds avoidance strategies like blaming others, getting defensive, or just plain denial.

Naaman, however, was far more realistic. He was beyond the denial stage. His problem was so bad, he couldn’t escape it. It changed his appearance, threatened his career. Who could deny it? Everybody knew that Naaman a problem. Realizing his predicament, Naaman resolves to do something about it.

For most of us here today, our problems are much more subtle than Naaman’s leprosy.  For many, addictions can take hold of a life in such a way that it is hidden from most people.  We even hide it from ourselves. We won’t admit we have a problem. Once we come to the conclusion that a problem exists, we can move toward resolution.

That’s the second step in the process of preparing yourself to receive a miracle.

STEP TWO: BE WILLING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

You see, Naaman was not only willing to admit his problem, but he was willing to do some radical things to get the problem fixed.

The first thing he did, was take advice from a female slave! That’s a miracle in itself! This is an enormous step for a man to take in the ancient world, because it was a man’s world.  So, the first thing Naaman does is take some good advice. He’s willing to listen to what others are saying and entertain their advice.

As it turns out, Naaman likes the advice that’s given to him and he acts upon it. He requests permission from the King of Aram to go to Israel. The King gladly grants permission.

Naaman was willing to do something about his problem. He didn’t give up. He was willing to take his problem to the highest authority in the land. He pulled out all the stops. He didn’t waste any time. There was no delay. Naaman was willing to do something about his problem. And you’ve got to be willing to do something about yours.

You know, some people are experts at diagnosing problems, but that’s about as far as it goes. They are capable of identifying problems, defining problems, analyzing problems, and talking about problems; but it doesn’t go any further than that. So you’re really long on diagnosis, but short on prescription. What good is a Doctor that only tells you what’s wrong and not how to fix it? I’m sure all of us have known people that can always find problems but can never come up with solutions.

These events represent the extraordinary steps Naaman was willing to take to resolve his leprosy. Naaman was willing to do everything within his power and ability to pursue help, including sacrifice.

STEP THREE: BE WILLING TO SACRIFICE.

Naaman’s willingness to sacrifice further established the groundwork for this miracle.

Naaman gathered an enormous amount of his wealth, gold, silver, and ten sets of clothes and a whole entourage of people and set out on a journey with hopes of receiving a miracle. He spared no expense. Naaman was willing to give everything in his possession to see an answer to the problem. He was willing to pay any price, give any gift and make any sacrifice. Nothing would he hold back. Naaman lays it all on the line, and so should we.

If you want to see miracles happen in your life, be willing to sacrifice! Nothing happens except by way of sacrifice.

You need a financial miracle? Be willing to sacrifice and discipline yourself.

You need a marriage miracle? Then you have to be willing to put some other things aside in order to make your marriage a priority. It won’t happen until you sacrifice something.

You need a physical miracle? You’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. Sometimes that calls for a lifestyle change.  I have met people that call me and ask me to pray that God would heal them of their diabetes.  But I knew that every time we got together, they would eat twice as much dessert as I did, drank sugary drinks, and basically did nothing to reduce the effects of diabetes in their bodies.  As cruel as it sounds, I told them straight up that unless they are willing to stop poisoning their bodies with sugar, I would not pray for their healing.

God is looking for some people who are willing sacrifice! So that miracles can happen and the world will know that He is alone is God. And so often He uses what’s in our hand, if only we would be willing to sacrifice it. You see, miracles usually involve some degree of sacrifice. Naaman was willing to sacrifice. Let me give you another example…

You remember the story of the loaves and fishes. This was the only miracle that Jesus performed recorded in all four gospels. That’s how important it was. Jesus is teaching a multitude of hungry people, it’s late in the afternoon and they’re all hungry. Along comes a little boy with 5 loaves and two fishes, Jesus said, “give me your lunch” And the little boy willingly gave up his lunch. He didn’t do it begrudgingly or with hesitation, he gave his lunch to the Savior. Now, did Jesus need the 5 loaves and 2 fishes? No, he could have called down manna from heaven and spontaneously created a hug buffet line. But Jesus didn’t do it that way, He took what little bit that boy had to offer and multiplied it. God typically uses what’s already in our possession. We just have to be willing to give it to Him. The key word is: Sacrifice. Naaman was willing to sacrifice. Are you?

Now, as many of you know, sacrifices come in many ways. Naaman here was put to the ultimate test, little did he know at the time, receiving his miracle would require a different kind of sacrifice. When he meets up with the prophet Elisha, a messenger gave him detailed instructions about what He should do to be healed. Elisha said, You need to go wash in Jordan 7 times and then you’ll be cured and your flesh will be restored. Seven times! Elisha said.

The Bible says, that Naaman got angry. Why did He get angry? Why does anybody get angry? (Answer: Pride) Elisha asked him to do something that required humility. He asked Naaman, a wealthy and prominent man, to go bathe in the Jordan, not only once, but 7 times. You need to know something about the Jordan river, it’s not the cleanest body of water in the region. It’s the drain basin for the hills of Judea, so it is very muddy the further downstream you get.

Naaman was angry because he couldn’t see how a dirty river could cleanse him from an incurable disease… How do you get into a dirty river and come out clean? So he got mad and walked off in a huff. The Bible says that Naaman was in a rage over the whole thing. You see, not only was God dealing with Naaman’s physical disease, he was also dealing with a spiritual disease. And Naaman was a very proud man that needed to learn some lessons in humility. God was calling him to make a sacrifice far greater than just money. In fact, God didn’t use the money. God was calling Naaman to be a living sacrifice. Dipping in Jordan was an act of humility. The remedy for pride is humility. And that’s what God was calling him to do… to be a living sacrifice. And Naaman after giving it some thought and being persuaded, did exactly what Elisha told him to do.

It took some time for Naaman to come around to it. But Naaman came to his senses and dipped his diseased body in the Jordan River, not once, but 7 times he took the plunge. What humility, what sacrifice!!! It was a totally unconventional. But God used it to help Naaman in more ways than one, he got a lesson in humility. You see, Naaman was open to change. For a man of his stature to humble himself and bath in Jordan, that’s a pretty radical departure from what he’s known. But Naaman was open to that change, are you?

STEP FOUR: BE OPEN TO CHANGE!

You have to, because when God supernaturally intervenes, everything is going to change anyway. When miracles happen, nothing stays the same, old things pass away and new things come about. Miracles have a way of changing our habits, attitudes and lifestyles.

One of the changes that took place immediately for Naaman was his attitude toward worship. Naaman’s whole concept of worship was dramatically changed for the better. And instead of worshipping many gods, Naaman, a total non-jewish guy, is totally convinced that all other worship is in vain. He proudly proclaimed that there is only one God in his life and that was the God of Israel. In verse 15 Naaman says, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel.” Later in the same conversation, Naaman offers advanced regrets to Elisha, because he knows that back in Syria, under the King, he’s going to have to stand beside a man who worships other gods. And now, he feels convicted about that and offers regrets in advance. Naaman’s whole attitude in worship changed dramatically after this even. Instead of worshipping many gods, He was resolved to only worship one God. Miracles do that to us, they change us, they change our attitudes and lifestyle.

STEP FIVE….LOOK FOR THE UNEXPECTED!

God performs miracles his way, not our way. Did you catch that? He does it His way, not our way. God has a miracle working agenda and it doesn’t always work the way we think it’s going to work. So you’re going to have to stay on your toes. The miracle may come in a way you never thought. And it may come when you don’t expect it. There’s an element of mystery to it. Miracles are miracles for a reason, you can’t manufacture them. God is not like a vending machine, where you deposit certain inputs, make a choice and get a certain output. God is God, and we are not. And sometimes he chooses to work in a way that we never thought humanly possible. There’s a sense of awe and wonder when a miracle takes place. That’s why we call them miracles and not good fortune or good luck. Life is not a crap-shoot, God is God and if he chooses to do so He can supernaturally intervene in the natural order of things and do a miracle. We serve a miracle working God who works in unexpected ways.

I don’t think Naaman ever expected to walk away from a dirty river a changed man. Not only was his leprosy healed and his skin restored, but he was healed of a far greater disease, his prideful spirit was dealt with. God changed him from the inside out. That wasn’t really what he bargained for, he brought with him a fortune, Naaman would have gladly paid out the bucks to get a mere healing. Some scholars say, that Naaman had the equivalent of 1.5 million in gold and silver with him, and he was willing to give it all. But God was not interested in the money, you can’t buy a miracle. Who knows, perhaps Naaman thought he could. God worked it out in a totally different way, and it didn’t even cost him a dime.

You see, the greatest miracle of all is a changed life. You can read the miraculous accounts of God moving in scripture and you’ll find in every case that it resulted in someone’s life being changed. In the Bible there is a litany of miracles from beginning to end, Jesus performed 39 of them that we know of that got recorded, who knows there could have been hundreds upon hundreds more, in every case there’s the miracle and then there’s the miracle behind it. The real miracle is not walking on water, or feeding a hungry crowd or healing a terrible disease. The miracle behind the miracle is the life change that results from it. God can juggle lightening bolts all day and give us a real showing if he wants to. But real miracles from God have a different agenda, it brings about dramatic life change, and attitude change. You’ll never be the same after a God given miracle. That’s God’s agenda. When God performs miracles, unexpected changes in your life may occur. Look for the unexpected.

 

Humble yourself like a child and come to God holding nothing back. Put yourself on the altar today, become a living sacrifice. The real miracle that God wants to perform in YOU!

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