Tree of Life Messianic Congregation

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Parsha Toldot – What are you hungry for?

20181110 Parsha Toldot – What are you hungry for?

Today’s Parsha is Toldot, Histories, or genealogies. This is the shortest of the begats that I know of in the Bible. It simply says “Abraham begat Isaac”. This is important because Isaac was the son of promise. Ishmael was not.

The ages of these men when they had sons is interesting. Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born. Isaac was 60 when Jacob and Esau were born. Rebekah gave birth to Jacob and Esau when she was between 35-40. Abraham died at 175 years which made Isaac 75 and Jacob and Esau 15.

If any of you ladies had children at that age you must know that it was not as easy as if you had been 20 years younger. Rebekah had that same experience. She was having so much trouble with her pregnancy that she went for Adonai and asked Him why it seemed like there was a war going on inside her. The Lord told her it was because there were two nations inside her and that indeed the two nations would struggle against each other.

Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from your body will be separated. One people will be stronger than the other people, but the older will serve the younger.

Genetically speaking, Jacob and Esau were twins, but not identical. They came from two separate eggs. Esau was the first born and was covered in red hair like a fur coat. Jacob on the other hand was not remarkable other than holding on to Esau’s heel as he was being born. Jacob looked like most babies. You know, somewhere between Winston Churchill and Mr. Clean.

As the boys grew up Esau became a very proficient hunter and outdoorsman. While Jacob was not. The Bible describes him as “tam” תם . In Bible usage it means perfect, complete, sound, wholesome, morally innocent, having integrity. I have read commentaries by the sages that explained that Jacob stayed home and tended to the business of the family.

The Bible says Isaac loved Esau because he liked the taste of wild game and Esau could supply that. But Rebekah loved Jacob. The Bible doesn’t tell us why she loved Jacob but she did. Maybe it boils down to the argument ending phrase “just because”.

As the story of Jacob and Esau unfolds, we see a lot of intrigue and rivalry between the boys as well as the parents. The relationships between the four of them could prompt us today to say they had a dysfunctional family.

The twins were about 15 when Abraham died, and according to some accounts, during the period of mourning over Abraham’s death, the episode of the lentil stew transpired. Esau had been out hunting and evidently had not been particularly successful. He came back home exhausted and very hungry.

Jacob, the mild one, had made a lentil stew that was seasoned with something that made it red, which was a cultural dish when a family was mourning the death of someone. Esau, the wild one, asked Jacob for the stew and Jacob agreed if Esau would relinquish his birthright that actually was handed down from their grandfather Abraham.

In ancient times, the birthright was a very important and sacred thing. It belonged to the firstborn. The family name and titles were to pass along to the eldest son. He would also receive a chief portion of the inheritance. But it was more than just a title to the physical assets of a family. It was also a spiritual position, and in the case of the people of God, God would lead the family through patriarchs, or fathers (Hebrews 1:1-2).

Additionally, in the special case of Esau and Jacob, that meant the one to whom belonged the birthright was the one through who the covenant promise made to their grandfather, Abraham, would be realized. Ultimately, the Messiah would come through the holder of the birthright and bless the nations of the earth. Esau was the firstborn, and the birthright was his. But like many, he failed to appreciate its value and sacredness. Possibly because it had been spoken over him as a child that he would not inherit, so as a self-fulfilling prophecy, he ensured that he did not. Regardless, Jacob was hungry for a blessing, and Esau settled for some stew.

There are several references for other men losing the physical and spiritual inheritance that was readily available to them, had not chosen to forfeit their birthright.
According to 1 Chronicles 5:1,

The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel—he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father’s bed, his (physical) birthright was given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel—so he is not reckoned as the firstborn in the genealogical record.

That pulled Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manassah back into the Jewish genealogies, instead of them being excluded into the Egyptian culture.

When we get to the appointment of the Priesthood for the newly formed nation of B’nei Israel, Numbers 8:18 tells us that the Lord took the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel, putting the spiritual authority and inheritance onto the Descendants of Reuben’s brother Levi, instead of Reuben’s sons.

King David fathered 19 sons and one daughter. After a series of betrayals, murders, some unspeakable sex crimes, and multiple other family infighting, David appointed Solomon, his 10th son to receive both his Kingship and his Priestly role over the nation of Israel.

Many times, we read stories like this and perhaps ask ourselves what in the world does that mean for me. We live in a different world. Different times, different cultures.
You might think that we don’t have that in today’s world. But we do have a birthright. Each of us who is a believer in Yeshua HaMashiach has a birthright. With it comes blessings as well as responsibility. The one who received the birthright was to be the spiritual leader in his family. He would be responsible for ensuring that the children were taught the ways of the Lord. Tragically, many have despised their birthright by rejecting the call to repentance and following God’s word so that we could be the leader God would have us to be.

Are we leading our families in the way of the Lord? Are we following Yeshua’s mandate to make disciples within our family, disciples of our co-workers, disciples of our employees? Have you despised your birthright in Yeshua because of something that someone has said over you? Do you cling to your brokenness, rather than walk in the victory, authority, and inheritance from your Father?

Three ways you might be forfeiting the benefits that you have in Yeshua are
A. Chasing worldly mammon
B. Staying Comfortably numb
C. Getting Dizzy with the Busy

In order to fill the void within us, many of us pursue careers, higher salaries, fancy cars rather than the Shema. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 tells us

Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear. For the Day will show it, because it is to be revealed by fire; and the fire itself will test each one’s work—what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss—he himself will be saved, but as through fire.

Or maybe, if our personality is less intense, instead of distracting ourselves with a hunt, as Esau did, we are content to be complacent in our mediocrity and pursue nothing at all. Netflix binging is a routine habit of the comfortably numb believer, distracting one from the call of being sacred, called to something higher, walking in the Birthright. Consider the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. The third servant who buried the talents, rather than use what he had been given was severely reprimanded:

But his master responded, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! You knew that I reap where I didn’t sow and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you should have brought my money to the brokers, and when I came I would have received it back with interest. 28 Therefore take the talent away from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For to the one who has, more shall be given, and he shall have an abundance. But from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 Throw the worthless servant out, into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Finally, an easy one to get lost in at this time of year is Dizzy with the Busy. One of Yeshua’s best friends was gently reprimanded to appreciate what has real value, rather than to be so preoccupied with activity that the important work of being with Him was forsaken in favor of busywork. Luke 10: 39-41 tells the story of Martha.

Martha had a sister called Miriam, who was seated at the Master’s feet, listening to His teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving; so she approached Yeshua and said, “Master, doesn’t it concern you that my sister has left me to serve alone? Then tell her to help me!” 41 But answering her, the Lord said, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and bothered about many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary. For Miriam has chosen the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

So the question remains, what are you hungry for?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:6

You know it; the Shema and it’s call to you. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength. It is hard to do that and still devote your heart, soul and strength to the bowl of Esua’s red stew.

We have a birthright of blessings. One of the greatest blessings I see as a believer is being part of a fellowship, a family, where HaShem is my father, Yeshua is my savior that sticks closer than a brother, and I have a worldwide family. I can call on that family to support me, pray for me, encourage me.

Yeshua said in John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Since He existed before the beginning of the world AND He is the Word, then that means we still keep Torah as best we can. If we are disciples of Yeshua, we buy into the Tanakh (Old Testament) AND the Brit Chadashah (New Testament). That’s part of our birthright.

But there’s something else to which I want to draw your attention. When men ask are you a disciple of Yeshua, do you point to all the mitzvot you have completed since last Yom Kippur? Do you tabulate how much money you put in the little green box on the back of the auditorium? I hope not. Yeshua gave his definition of being His disciple.

John 13:35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is NOT a new commandment, but a clarification of the SAME instructions given to us in the second half of Ten Commandments. Showing love and consideration to each other is a wonderful heritage and birthright. Don’t despise your birthright by disparaging those with whom you disagree personally, philosophically, politically, or even theologically.

A soft answer turns away wrath. The get in your face attitudes and antics that we see in today’s political arena have no place in a Messianic Congregation. How will men know who we are? By how much we love.

Prayer: Father, we need Your eyes. We want to see things the way You do. Let us hunger for righteousness that only you can satisfy. Lord, let us be filled with Your Ruach HaKodesh and constantly pursue the more excellent prize of who You are. Don’t let us be satisfied with the things of this world, but instead be sons and daughters of righteousness who are eager to love. Eager to make disciples of the fallen around us. We choose to answer Your call to love the way You love. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear.
In the name of Yeshua…

Parsha Chayei Sarah The Life of Sarah

20181103 Parsha Chayei Sarah – The Life of Sarah

Sermon Title – The Canaanites

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The Parsha today announces “The Life of Sarah” but then in the same breath says she died at the ripe old age of 127. The Bible tells us that she died in Kiriath-arba which was another name for Hebron and actually is only one-half mile from the center of Hebron today. What follows is the almost comical exchange between Abraham and the Sons of Heth regarding the purchase of a cave in which to bury Sarah. They went back and forth, I would like to buy some land, no we will give you the land, no I can’t accept a gift, sure you can, you are a prince among us, no I still want to buy the land, oh come on, what is the measly price of 400 shekels among friends, ok here is 400 shekels, thank you, the land is yours.

After the death of Sarah, Abraham called his servant Eliezer and commissioned him to go back to Haran, to Abraham’s kin and find a wife for Isaac.

Abraham warned Eliezer not to seek a bride for Isaac from among the Canaanite women. Abraham knew that the Canaanites were destined to be ejected from the land and erased from history. He did not think it prudent that his seed, to whom God had promised the land, should intermarry with a race from whom the land was to be taken. The midrash imagines Abraham reasoning: “My son is blessed, and the accursed cannot unite with the blessed.”

The distance from Hebron to Haran is almost 600 miles, or about a month of travel. He had ten camels and a lot of gifts for the prospective bride and her family. The trip would have taken around 1 month to complete.

In today’s world, there are no Canaanites. The Canaanites ceased to be an identifiable people group long ago. Nevertheless, the warning still has relevance for our outreach efforts today. The Canaanite religion became a toxic poison for the children of Israel, seducing them into idolatry and syncretism. Likewise, we must not bring the religion of Canaan into the house of Abraham. In our zeal to make converts, we should not allow the idolatrous world to exercise its influence over the Assembly of Messiah:

2 Corinthians 6:14-16 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? (15) What harmony does Messiah have with Belial? Or what part does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? (16) What agreement does God’s Temple have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God—

On the other hand, the disciple of Yeshua should have no hesitation about reaching out to the godless, the wicked, the secular, or the idolater. The transforming power of the gospel is not limited by ethnic or sociological boundaries. The good news taught by our Messiah can transform even the most reprehensible idolater into a worthy spiritual bride,
sanctified to make her holy, having cleansed her by immersion in the word. Messiah did this so that He might present to Himself His glorious community—not having stain or wrinkle or any such thing, but in order that she might be holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:26-27)

Yeshua’s disciples needed to learn this lesson before they could be effective apostles. Two incidents from the New Testament illustrate the matter: the story of Yeshua’s encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4) and the story of the Peter’s encounter with Cornelius the centurion (Acts 10).

The story of the Master’s encounter with the Samaritan woman in John 4 reminds readers that, in those days, “Jews had no dealings with Samaritans” (John 4:9). The Jewish people of the day considered Samaritans as the equivalent of Canaanites, but the Master shoved aside the conventional prejudices and engaged the Samaritan woman in conversation. His example opened the way for His disciples to present the gospel to the Samaritan people.

The story of Peter and Cornelius opened the scope of the gospel message even wider. Peter deemed Gentiles as outside the purview of God’s redemption. He regarded them as “Canaanites,” so to speak, in that he had never imagined taking the message of the gospel directly to non-Jews. He misunderstood the commission to go to all nations as a reference to the Jewish people and converts to Judaism scattered among the nations, but the vision of the sheet let down from heaven reoriented Peter’s thinking. The gospel is sufficient to save even the Gentiles.

I find it tragically ironic that today we find ourselves in a situation in which deranged individuals who have been given the greatest gift in the world, the offering of eternal life, are somehow turning that around and pouring hate on to the people who gave us the Messiah. A Jewish Messiah.

My heart aches for those who lost loved ones in Pittsburgh. I can’t even begin to imagine the horror those people felt at the time and the loss they feel now. According to that great teacher Hillel, Torah can be summed up in two commandments. Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Everything else is commentary.

When asked what is the greatest commandment, Yeshua said

Matthew 22:37-40 “‘You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ (38) This is the first and greatest commandment. (39) And the second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (40) The entire Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Who is your neighbor? In Luke 10:30-37 Yeshua responds to the question of who is your neighbor by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. You all know this story of how a man was attacked by robbers and left for dead. A priest and a Levite passed by him on the road and made excuses for not helping him. But then a Samaritan, that despised race of half-breeds who in the Jewish mind of that day were unclean and on a level of dogs walked by. This man didn’t see a Jew or Egyptian, or Edomite. He saw a human being in need. The Samaritan tended to the man and brought him to safety and paid for his maintenance until he was able to go on his own.

That was a hard lesson for Yeshua’s audience that day. Samaritans were despised as a people group. They were Jews who assimilated with their Assyrian conquerors. They had their own temple and mountain on which to offer sacrifices. In the Jewish mind, these people were the lowest of the low. But this man was merciful. And Yeshua later said that his disciples were to go to Samaria and preach the gospel and make disciples of the Samaritans! What a hard concept for them to grasp. But they eventually did take hold of the idea of God’s love for all mankind. Phillip, one of the first 7 elders spent his life ministering in Samaria.

The lesson for today is that we are all the same in that we are sinners who have fallen short of God’s standard of holiness. We must not look down on any person or people group. God loves all of us the same. He gave his only son to give us right standing before Him. We need to love people into the Kingdom and not condemn them. Certainly, we can’t erase the hatred that some people have for our Jewish brethren, but we can pray for their souls, that they would open their eyes and see the salvation that is before them.

Don’t fall into the trap of hating someone or a group of someones because they are different racially, economically, geographically or even theologically. God loves them all and so should we. Assimilation is not the answer but neither is isolation.

John summed it up fairly well in:

1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (16) For everything in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and the boasting of life—is not from the Father but from the world. (17) The world is passing away along with its desire, but the one who does the will of God abides forever.

There is a lot of discussion and electronic ink poured out these days on making the church relevant. Substitute Messianic Congregation for the word “church” and the argument is the same. When the body of Messiah starts diluting God’s standard of Holiness otherwise known as Torah, we start down a dangerous and slippery slope that can only end in eternal disaster. I read the other day where one pastor said that they don’t use the Bible much because it makes people uncomfortable. A caller on a popular radio talk show said she was Jewish but really looking for something else because the last time she attended a Shabbat service, the Rabbi spent his entire time extolling the merits of Al Gore’s book Inconvenient Truth. Assimilation is part of what brought Israel down to exile.

People are searching for answers. I’ve had several phone calls, emails and texts this week from people who are concerned. They tell me that they have never in their lives seen such hate as we are experiencing here in our own country. The good news is, we who have Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah in our hearts have the answer people are searching for. And we are charged with proclaiming the Besorah, the Good News of Yeshua to everyone, Jew and Gentile alike.

Abraham understood it, and so did Yeshua. We don’t have to marry the world in order to win the world. Don’t compromise. Don’t assimilate. But don’t stop loving. God never stops loving, and neither should we.

Shavuot

Today we are celebrating Shavuot a few hours early as it actually begins tonight at sunset. But since we don’t have our own facility yet, we have to be a bit flexible.
So what is Shavuot? How many of you have never celebrated Shavuot before? Today we will be looking at several aspects of this feast and why it is significant.
Shavuot – a time for both physical and spiritual harvest

In ancient Israel agriculture was the basis of the economy, and the nation’s wealth and welfare were tied to the Land. God wanted Israel’s approach to agricultural success to be different from that of all the other nations. If we obeyed God and His Word, there would be plenty of rain and an abundant harvest. If we disobeyed, we would find a shortfall at harvest time.
On Shavuot the nation of Israel was expected to bring the first fruits of the wheat crop to God. Giving the Lord the firstfruits of the harvest was a way of showing Him our gratitude and declaring that all our wealth ultimately comes from Him. It is right to offer to God the firstfruits, the beginning and the best of the harvest. Therefore Shavuot teaches us to regard all of God’s gifts with gratitude, returning to Him, in the form of the firstfruits, that which we receive.

During Passover we offered to God the firstfruits of the barley harvest. That was symbolic of Yeshua’s resurrection. Fifty days later we returned to Jerusalem to offer the firstfruits of the wheat harvest. The harvest was extended from the barley to the wheat. Fifty days after Yeshua rose from death His first Jewish followers were gathered together in Jerusalem and the Spirit that raised Him from the dead was poured out on His first disciples. The Messianic Community, the Body of Messiah, came into being. God’s harvest was extended to more of humanity. That happened on the day of Shavuot, in fulfillment of Shavuot.

One name for Shavuot is “Atzeret shel Pesach,” the completion of Passover. Messiah Yeshua died on Passover to atone for sin, then He rose from death to overcome death. Forty days later He ascended to heaven, and from there He sent His Spirit on Shavuot to enable us to overcome sin and experience victory in our lives. The coming of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit) completes the work of the Passover Lamb’s death on the cross. The Spirit of God indwelling us gives us the power we need to overcome our tendency to evil and completes the work of salvation.
Though marvelous in its own right, God knew that the death of the Passover Lamb and the redemption from sin was not enough. Just as the cycle of the Spring festivals would be incomplete without Shavuot, the work of salvation is not complete until a man’s sin nature has been dealt with and the power to overcome it has been granted.

Therefore, Shavuot is a time when we thank God for His gracious provisions in our life, both for His material provision, the firstfruits of the wheat harvest, and for His spiritual provision – the Holy Spirit which brought a rich harvest among those first Messianic Jews in Jerusalem.

Shavuot – a time for union between Jews and Gentiles

The Megillah of Ruth is one of the texts that is read on this holiday. Megillat Ruth is about the harvest, but also included the message of gathering Gentiles into the commonwealth of Israel. Ruth, a Gentile, joins herself to the Jewish people. Speaking to Naomi she says, “Your people will be my people, your God will be my God.” Ruth later marries a Jewish man by the name of Boaz, and from that union, in the third generation, came King David, and through him, King Yeshua.
On Shavuot, the High Priest waved two loaves of wheat bread made with leaven. This is the only offering in all of Scripture that included leaven. In general the biblical principle is that offerings had to be without leaven, which is usually symbolic of sin. By waving the two loaves of wheat bread, Israel’s High Priest was praying: “Lord, thank you for extending the harvest to the wheat. We offer up to you the first fruits, the beginning, the best of this crop, and Lord, we ask you to bring in the rest of the harvest throughout the year.”
Why were two loaves of bread waved and not just one big loaf? These two loaves of bread can be understood to be symbolic of the two peoples that make up the Messianic Community. In Romans 11 Rabbi Paul talks about the Olive Tree of salvation and blessing made up of the original branches, the Jewish people. Then wild olive branches, the Gentiles, were grafted into the olive tree. It could be that the two loaves represent the original branches, the Jewish people, and the wild branches, the gentiles that we grafted into the Olive Tree. Each one is incomplete without the other. The Jewish loaf needs the Gentile loaf to be complete, and the Gentile loaf needs the Jewish branch to be complete.

Shavuot – a time of empowerment

On Shavuot we remember and thank God for “Mattan Torah,” the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, one of God’s greatest gifts to us. It was about this time that the Ten Commandments were given to the Jewish people. Torah means more than just “Law;” it means “teaching or “instruction.” Through the Torah God clearly communicated to us His ways, His nature, and His will for us. Today, Shavuot is a time when religious Jews will stay up late into the night studying the Torah and reading from the Psalms.

On Shavuot we also remember “Mattan Ruach,” the giving of the Spirit, the One through whom God writes His law on our hearts. The Spirit gives us the power to live out the full spiritual intent of the Torah. We don’t dismiss the Law when we have the Spirit. On the contrary, the Law becomes alive to us. At the deepest level of our hearts, it becomes our desire to please God and to fulfill all His commandments.

Law, by itself, has an inherent weakness. It lacks power. Lawmakers may pass laws, but that doesn’t mean the people will have the desire or the ability to comply with them.
The rabbis determined that Shavuot was the same time when the Jewish people received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. While Moses was up on Sinai receiving the Torah, Israel was at the bottom of Sinai worshipping the golden calf and breaking the Law. Moses came down from the Sinai, saw what was happening and called out, “whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” The Levites came to Moses and they went throughout the camp of Israel and killed three thousand Jewish men who lead that rebellion of false worship. Three thousand Jewish men were killed on Shavuot when the law was given. When the Holy Spirit was given another three thousand Jewish people came alive!

At the time the Law was given (Exodus 32:19-29), three thousand Jewish men were put to death because their actions were now deemed “illegal,” they were weak, and the giving of the Torah alone didn’t strengthen them. But the Spirit gives us a new desire to fulfill God’s Torah and the power to do so. The Spirit gives us power to live, power to witness, power to please God, and power to have victory over the world, the flesh and the devil. It is hardly coincidental that, on the day of Shavuot when the Spirit was given, three thousand Jewish men were empowered to witness to Yeshua and His Resurrection Life.

Shavuot – a time to grow in the Spirit

Prior to the coming of Messiah, the ministry of the Spirit was limited. He seems to have come upon fewer people, to a lesser extent and for a shorter duration of time. King David had to pray, “Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” The full indwelling of God’s Spirit was not to be realized before Yeshua died.

The indwelling of the Spirit is the greatest gift we can receive in this life. He regenerates us when we are spiritually dead, and revives us when we are spiritually cold. If it weren’t for the work of the Spirit none of us would have any spiritual life at all.

The Spirit also baptizes us into the body of Messiah. He joins us, both to the Father and to one another. Believers in Yeshua all share the same Spirit. We have a new unity and oneness with each other. We are no longer alone, but are part of an eternal community.

The Spirit assures us of eternal life and that we truly belong to God. “You have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness that we are children of God (Romans 8:15-16). Do you have that inner witness of the Spirit that God is your Father, and that you are truly one of His?

The Spirit of God guides our prayers. “We do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26).

The Spirit gives gifts to every child of God. Every believer has at least one gift from the Spirit, and you are expected to put yours to good use. Ask Him to reveal what your gifts are and then start using them.

Leavened vs unleavened Bread.

There is one last thing I would like to leave with you this morning and that is a comparison between the unleavened bread of Passover and the leavened bread of Shavuot. We all know that in the Bible, leaven is analogous with sin. Paul said it only takes a small amount of leaven to affect the whole loaf. It is the same with our lives. Just a small amount of sin that is allowed to grow will eventually affect your entire being.

So, if leaven is such a bad thing, why was is specified for Shavuot. Because that was the time that God blessed his people with the Torah and then he blessed all of mankind with the Holy Spirit. The leaven shows us that God does not use perfect people. He uses imperfect people. People just like you and me to accomplish his purposes. Don’t wait to come to the Lord until you are ‘good enough’. You will never be good enough. Come as you are. Today is the day of salvation. Don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way. Won’t you come to Yeshua today?

Be Authentic – You are the salt of the earth

Our B’rit Chadasha reading this morning from Matthew is near the beginning of Yeshua’s most famous sermon, The Sermon on the Mount.
In this message, Yeshua affirms that the Laws of God are unchanging. They will be in effect until this earth is replaced with a new heaven and earth after his millennial reign.
He also called his followers to the highest standards of conduct.
He challenged us to “turn the other cheek.”
He commanded us to love our enemy, to forgive those who do us wrong, and to be sure we act with the purest motives.
He said there are two roads, a wide road that leads to destruction and a narrow one that leads to life.
Today I would like to back up a few verses and take a look at verse 13. Yeshua calls those who follow Him to choose to be a godly influence on the world in which they live.
Those are tough commands. And where are these commands rooted? In our Torah portion. God gave us his standard of holiness on Mount Sinai. Then Yeshua reminded us that he didn’t come to change Torah, but to fulfill it. So God’s word is still our standard of holiness today.
Let’s take a look at Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt should lose its flavor, how shall it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

Yeshua clearly expects the world to be transformed by our presence.
Sodium Chloride, table salt like Morton’s that you buy at the store is pure. But the Morton Salt Co. did not exist back in the first century.
When they mined salt from the quarry or pit it was never completely pure.
Occasionally the salt they gathered was so impure that it was not very salty at all.
When that happened they would cast it out the door to harden the pathway that led to their home.
What Yeshua is saying in these verses is that if we as His followers are going to change the world we have to be pure salt, (P) we have to be the real deal.
Our lives cannot be a mixture of impurities. We have to be un-compromised, pure, and authentic.
When Yeshua says:”You are the salt of the earth.”
He is saying “Be Authentic.” Be the Real Deal! That doesn’t mean that we all must be Morton Salt. No, we are who God made us, each a little different, different talents, different personalities.
He uses each of us in different ways. None of use can reach every person for the Lord. Our specific talents, education, experiences are tools that God can use to reach people. But we have to be authentic.
An inconsistent lifestyle repels people from the congregation.
It repels people from coming to know Messiah as Savior and Lord.
So, how authentic is your walk?
Are the people around you drawn to faith by your life?
Do people who cross your path recognize that there is a difference ……in the way you live?
I cannot tell you how many times I heard someone share they know someone who says they are a Believer in Yeshua, but their life is impure.
We may be the only Bible that our neighbor may truly ever see.
Are you authentic?
Are you the real deal?
Or have you let the impurity of the world dilute your saltiness.
The key is to be authentic; the key is being real, …… not trying to appear to be perfect.
In Ancient Greece they had great theatrical events, plays in large amphitheaters.
They did not have microphones to make their voices heard, and they did not have cameras to magnify their images, so they invented a system.
They developed large masks. The masks made them look like the characters they portrayed. Built into the masks were megaphones to amplify their voices.
The actors on stage, got behind their masks and they became somebody else, someone different than they really were.
The Greeks called these types of actors …..The Hypocrites.”
There are many people whose lives are nothing more than a act.
They play the same role today.
They too are…..The Hypocrites.
Listen to what Yeshua says to us in:
Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, Torah scholars and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.

You see, God wants to change us, but not superficially.
He calls us to be conformed to the image of His Son.
“Believers are to be the good news before they share the good news.”
A Peanuts cartoon, showed Peppermint Patty talking to Charlie Brown. She said,
“Guess what, Chuck.
The first day of school and I got sent to the principal’s office. It was your fault, Chuck.”
He said, “My fault? How could it be my fault? Why do you say everything is my fault?”
She said, “You’re my friend, aren’t you, Chuck?
You should have been a better influence on me.” (Pause)
While Peppermint Patty was seeking to pass the buck, she was in a very real sense right.
We should be a positive influence on our friends.
We certainly do have an influence, all be it for good or for bad.
We are always some type of influence to those in our lives. We are called to be the Salt of the Earth.
Salt is a seasoning, a preservative, but unless it is Brought into contact with another Object its influence is wasted!
Salt becomes Invisible to have a Visible effect.
Salt by itself is nothing more than little fine particles …… and in that state it is worthless.
BUT when it is rubbed onto and into meat, or added to food it becomes Invisible and Then becomes what it was intended for ….Influencing the flavor!
Are you having a visible effect on the world?
Are you influencing the flavor of those that God sends you?
Salt that just sits in the shaker is of no use.
It is much like believers, who become complacent, who no longer share grace; who refuse to take a moral stand; who refuse to share their faith.
They are sitting in a shaker!
Are you authentic are you the real deal or are you wearing a mask.
Are you too often playing the role of the hypocrite.
Is your salt sitting on the shelf or are you in contact with and bringing flavor to those that God has sent you?
What you say and do influences those God puts into your life.
You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.
Today is the day!
Today is the day to dedicate or rededicate your life to the Lordship of Yeshua Messiah.
You are the salt of the earth! You are an influence to those around you.
Let both your life and your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

When God Says No

20180421 Parsha 128

When God says no.

I have to admit, today’s topic is a tough one. Can you imagine praying to God, pointing out all the good reasons you need this or that, only to discover that it’s not going to happen. You don’t have to look too hard to find a preacher out there online or at your local megachurch that will tell you differently. You deserve whatever you ask for. Well we need to look a little closer into that concept.
Let’s look at three fellows that didn’t get what they wanted.

Moses and the Promised Land. His Request

Deuteronomy 3:24-25 ‘O Lord Adonai, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your strong hand—for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do deeds and mighty acts like Yours? (25) Please! Let me cross over and see the good land across the Jordan—that good hill country and the Lebanon.’
This sounds like a reasonable request. Moses had put up with the most unruly, ungrateful, uneverythingful people for 40 years. They had tested his patience at every corner. There were even revolts against his authority. I would think Moses would have no problem with this request. But I would be wrong. He was rejected.

Moses. His Rejection

Deuteronomy 3:26-28 “But Adonai was angry with me because of you, so He would not listen to me. ‘Enough!’ Adonai said to me, ‘Do not speak to Me anymore about this matter. (27) Go up to the top of Pisgah, look around to the west and the north and the south and the east, and see with your eyes—for you will not cross over this Jordan.

(28) But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will cross over before this people, and he will enable them to inherit the land that you will see.’
Hashem was pretty adamant about this matter. Seems like Moses wasn’t the only one whose patience was being stretched thin.

Moses. The Reason

We read about this a few weeks ago.
Numbers 20:10-13 Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly in front of the rock. He said, “Listen now, you rebels! Must we bring you water from this rock?” (11) Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with the staff. Water gushed out and the community and its livestock drank. (12) But Adonai said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in Me so as to esteem Me as holy in the eyes of Bnei-Yisrael, therefore you will not bring this assembly into the land that I have given to them.” (13) These are the waters of Meribah where Bnei-Yisrael contended with Moses, and where Adonai showed Himself holy among them.
With the Promised Land in sight, Moses made a critical error. After all the years of being the go-between between God and the Israelites he got angry with them and instead of giving God the glory, he took it upon himself to strike the rock. Big Mistake.

Moses. The Reaction

Moses’ reaction was one of humility, seasoned grace and obedience.
Deuteronomy 4:1-8 “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to do, so that you may live and go in and possess the land that Adonai the God of your fathers is giving you. (2) You must not add to the word that I am commanding you or take away from it—in order to keep the mitzvot of Adonai your God that I am commanding you. (3) Your eyes have seen what Adonai did at Baal Peor, for Adonai your God has destroyed from among you everyone who followed Baal Peor. (4) But you who held tight to Adonai your God are alive today—all of you. (5) “See, just as Adonai my God commanded me, I have taught you statutes and ordinances to do in the land that you are about to enter to possess. (6) You must keep and do them, for it is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the peoples, who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ (7) For what great nation is there that has gods so near to them, as Adonai our God is whenever we call on Him? (8) What great nation is there that has statutes and ordinances that are righteous—like all of this Torah that I am setting before you today?
Instead of whining and complaining, writing a book, going on tour with it all the while blaming everyone under the sun for his inability to cross over, Moses pulled up his big boy britches and did the right thing. He instructed the people to obey God. No excuses. No more complaints. Just obedience.
We could learn lesson from this. Instead of trying to figure out a hundred different ways to get around what the Bible says, just do it. Remember that obedience is better than sacrifice. In other words, do it right the first time.

Moses. The Reward

Matthew 17:1-3 After six days, Yeshua takes with Him Peter and Jacob and John his brother, and brings them up a high mountain by themselves. (2) Now He was transfigured before them; His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. (3) And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Yeshua.

Moses eventually made it to the Promised Land. No he didn’t sneak across after Joshua and the people crossed the Jordan. Moses came back in style. He appeared with Yeshua and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration. Possibly Mount Hermon or Mount Tabor.

King David and Building the Temple. His Request

1 Chronicles 17:1-4 After David settled in his place, David said to Nathan the prophet, “Look! I am living in a house of cedar, while the Ark of the Covenant of Adonai is under a tent.” (2) Then Nathan said to David, “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.”
David had a deep-down desire to build a temple and permanent dwelling for the Ark of the Covenant. According to Talmudic sources, the Tabernacle had been at Shiloh for 369 years before being captured by the Philistines at Aphek (probably Antipatris). Great Idea, right? Maybe, but God had other plans.

David. His Rejection

1 Chronicles 17:3-4 But that same night the word of God came to Nathan, saying: (4) “Go and tell David My servant, thus says Adonai, ‘You are not to build Me a house in which to dwell.
Slide 11: David. The Reason (Dusk)
1 Chronicles 22:8 But the word of Adonai came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and fought many battles. You will not build a House for My Name because you have shed much blood before Me on the earth.
David was a warrior and had killed many men on the battlefield and there was also that affair with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah, the Hittite, Bathsheba’s husband. No, God had good reason to reject David’s prayer.

David. His Reaction

1 Chronicles 29:1-3 Then King David said to the entire assembly: “My son Solomon, the one whom God has chosen, is young and inexperienced and the task is great, for the palace is not for man but for Adonai Elohim.

1 Chronicles 29:2-3 Now I have made every effort to prepare for the House of my God gold for the golden objects, silver for silver, copper for copper, iron for iron, and wood for wood; onyx stones and inlay stones, stones of antimony and variegated colors—every kind of precious stones and marble in abundance. (3) Moreover, in my devotion to the House of my God, I have given over my private treasure of gold and silver to the House of my God, in addition to all that I have already supplied for the holy House:
David spent the last years of his reign staging all the materials that would be needed to build the Temple. It was all he could do given the fact that he was not to build the temple and David was certainly smart enough at that point to not go against God’s commands.

David. His Reward

1 Chronicles 17:11-14 It will be that when your days are fulfilled to go with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. (12) He will build a house for Me and I will establish his throne forever. (13) I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me, I will not withdraw My lovingkindness from him, as I withdrew it from the one who ruled before you. (14) I will appoint him over My House and My kingdom forever, and his throne will be established forever.’”
David got his reward. God promised him that one of his Descendants would rule Israel forever. His Messianic Kingdom would be without end.

Paul and a physical affliction

Paul. His Request (Dawn)

2 Corinthians 12:8 I pleaded with the Lord three times about this, that it might leave me.

Paul. His Rejection

2 Corinthians 12:9a But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.”

Paul. G-d’s Reason

2 Corinthians 12:7 ESV So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,[a] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

Paul was around some of the most holy, powerful men of all time, and yet God did not heal Paul by the hands of the apostles. We don’t know if they ever prayed for Paul, but we know that whatever his physical problem was, Paul took it with him to the grave.

Paul. His Reaction

Paul’s response was one of maturity.
12:9b Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Messiah may dwell in me. 10 For Messiah’s sake, then, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in calamities.

Paul. His Reward

2 Corinthians 12:10b For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Timothy 4:4-6 And they will turn away from hearing the truth and wander off to myths. (5) You, however, keep a clear mind in all things, withstand hardship, do the work of proclaiming the Good News, and fulfill your service. (6) For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.
Paul traded physical weakness for spiritual strength. He traded a temporary fix for a reward for eternity.

Has God told you no recently? Don’t be discouraged. You are in good company. When we pray, God ALWAYS hears our prayers and ALWAYS answers them. He doesn’t always answer them in the way we think He should. If He did, then He wouldn’t be God. He would be a heavenly messenger.
It’s time to accept the fact that we don’t always get what we want when we want it. But you can rest assured. God always answers your prayers and His answer is always in your best interest whether you want to accept it or not. Trust Him. You won’t be sorry.

Out of Egypt

I hope all of you enjoyed the Pesach last night. We appreciate all the work that everyone put into making it a successful celebration of God’s Redemption. Passover is a celebration of freedom from bondage. Our people were freed from the slavery of the Pharaoh of Egypt some 3500 years ago. Passover is also a time to rejoice in the redemption for the slavery of sin.
Yeshua HaMashiach gave up his sinless life that we, both Jew and Gentile might be free from the curse of sin. Because of his sacrifice we can be free from the modern day Pharaoh.

Sad to say, but mankind today is still living a life of subjugation. We are slaves to many things. Yes, without Yeshua, we are in bondage.
You might ask what bondage are you talking about? I live in America. I’m free. Haven’t you heard of the Bill of Rights? All that might be true, but we still struggle with all kinds of issues that weigh us down and prevent us from achieving the best God has for us.

Here are a few. There are undoubtedly several others.
1. Addictions – alcohol, tobacco, porn, video gaming, gambling. These things rob you of your time, your health and your resources. They usually start out as little threads that can easily be broken when they are small, but the more you get into the addiction the stronger the chords until you are trapped.
2. Emotions – anger issues, codependence, depression. These bonds are especially dangerous to us because many of them are too embarrassing, shameful, socially taboo. It’s one of those things you hear growing up “We just don’t talk about those things”. But they need to be addressed. Emotional problems are real and they are deadly. Don’t ignore depression in yourself or in others. Again, it can be deadly.
3. Relationships – with parents, spouses, children, coworkers. Of all the bonds that hold us, perhaps our relations with people are the messiest, most misunderstood and hardest to fix. But these are the bonds that Yeshua mentioned specifically, when laying your gift on the altar, if you have something between you and your brother, then leave the gift and go fix the broken relationship. This is vital to your wellbeing. Sometimes it is difficult to separate emotional land relational bonds.
4. Finances – overwhelming debt, out of work, underemployed. I have read that the number one cause of the failure of a marriage are financial issues. Unfortunately for many people, they are never taught how to manage their finances in high school. Most HS graduates don’t know how to balance a checkbook or even write a check. You have heard the blonde jokes about the blonde girl who was arrested for writing hot checks. When she had her hearing, she told the judge, that she did not write bad checks because she still had perfectly good checks in here checkbook.
Until we got a president that understood and promoted capitalism the job market was horrible. Unemployment was way up. There were more unemployed people in the US than ever before. Things have turned around a bit, but many have not caught up with their bills from when they were unemployed.
Credit cards are a mixed blessing. As long as you can keep track of your charges and don’t charge more than what you can pay each month, then you will not have problems. However, many people do not keep track of their purchases and end up getting further and further behind in their debt. That means bondage.
5. Health – physical limitations, mental issues. Sometimes health issues will limit what we can do. Some are born with limitations while others limit themselves with poor health choices. I strongly believe that childhood vaccinations are a major cause of autism.

In Egypt, the Israelites were kept in bondage by force of arms. The Egyptians were armed and the Israelites were not. Our bonds are kept in place by much more subtle means.

Choose Victory
1. Fear of the unknown or fear of change. Many of us are held in place because we are fearful of launching out and making the changes we need to break through.
2. Personalities – how often are we held in check by people of overwhelming personal power or perceived power? We are afraid to speak up for fear of retribution.
3. Our own personal desires and perceived needs. There are those that don’t change because they don’t want to change. The concept of “but I want it” has a devastating effect on our ability to advance.
4. Health Issues. Here again we come to health. Some cannot make a change because they physically cannot overcome their physical limitations.
5. Environmental Issues. Often we cannot achieve breakthrough because we are born on the wrong side of the tracks. I was told by a medical school entrance office that I could not expect to get into medical school even though my grades were exceptional. He told me I was too old, too white, too male and too poor. Remember that this was in the late 70’s.
6. Spiritual Forces can hold us back. Paul the Apostle said it this way.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the worldly forces of this darkness, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

1. Slide 8: The first step is to recognize that you have a problem. Some of you may be familiar with the 12 step program utilized by Alcoholics anonymous. This is their first step. Hi, my name is Steve and I’m an alcoholic. The first step toward repentance is to recognize that we are sinners and need a Savior.

2. Slide 9: Know from where our help comes. The Israelites would make the trek up to Jerusalem every year for Pesach. As they were climbing the mountainous paths they would often sing what we call Songs of Ascents. This helped pass the time and was an encouragement of to the traveler.

One of the Psalms of Ascents is 121:1-2

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains—from where does my help come? (2) My help comes from Adonai, Maker of heaven and earth.

We have to realize who is the author and finisher of our faith. As believers in Yeshua HaMashiach we cannot buy into the false premise of the self-made man. Without God in our lives we are nothing.

3. Understand the weapons available to you. If any of you have played many video games you know that during the quest to get from A to B, you can take on more weapons. This allows you to stay active in the game.

It is the same with our spiritual warfare. We need to know our weapons. Remember that we are not fighting a conventional battle with AR-15’s or Ak-47’s or the like. No, we are fighting in a spiritual arena. An just as we are not battling against flesh and blood, but against powers and spiritual entities, our weapons are suitable for the task.

Study the Bible constantly. Invoke the word of God when you pray.

2Co 10:4
For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly but powerful through God for the tearing down of strongholds.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity but of power and love and self-discipline.

4. Take Action. Get up, get off the pew and do things. The Israelites had to take action in order to escape from Egypt. They had to prepare and pack. They had to go to their Egyptian neighbors and ask for things like God told them to do. They had to slaughter the lamb and put the blood on the door posts.

Not all the Israelites left Egypt. Ancient writing and midrash postulates that only 20% of the Israelite population in Egypt left with Moses.
a. Pay your tithes – the surest way to work yourself out of financial difficulties.
b. Take control of your health. Quit eating junk food. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Don’t make the Holy Spirit live in a cardboard shack.
c. Mend those relationships. Get rid of your anger.

James 1:19-20
Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger— (20) for human anger doesn’t produce the righteousness of God.

The story of the Exodus is a good guide for us today. It is a story of hardship and struggle. It is a story of failure brought on by unbelief. But it is also a story of triumph. It is the story of what can happen when a people cries out to God and then has the courage to step out in faith against overwhelming odds. It is a story of redemption.

Cities of Refuge

The Torah portion for today describes a rather strange phenomenon that doesn’t exist today in this form. The institution of Cities of Refuge was implemented by God to show mercy in a world where sometimes mercy and a second chance was in short supply.

Thomas Dorsey was a black jazz musician from Atlanta who was known in the early 1920’s for the suggestive lyrics he combined with original music. Then God touched his life and in 1926 he gave up the suggestive music and began to write spiritual music. In 1932 times were hard for Dorsey as they were for nearly everyone trying to survive the depression. Perhaps it was because of his past music and his also his musical style some said his music was too worldly. The most difficult night of his life came one night in St. Louis when he received a telegram telling him that his pregnant wife had suddenly died. Dorsey was filled with grief and his faith was shaken, but instead of wallowing in self-pity, he expressed his agony the only way he knew how. He wrote this song. . .
Precious Lord, take my hand, Lead me on, let me stand.
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn. Through the storm, through the night, Lead me on to the light; Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.

In spite of Dorsey’s checkered past he experienced God’s presence during that crises. That song which came out of his pain and grief has comforted and challenged thousands of people since then because if we are honest, most of us have had a moment, or two or three when God’s presence was all that could get us through.
Let’s be honest about something else as well, we don’t really deserve all God’s faithfulness, because if we are honest, all of us will have to admit we haven’t always been faithful to Him.
I know that about you because I haven’t always been faithful either. But I’m glad to tell you this morning that, “God Gives Second Chances.” I’ll show you what I mean. Let’s read our Joshua 20 together this morning.

In addition to our Torah Portion, we see in Joshua 20:1-9 how the Cities of Refuge were put into law.

Then Adonai spoke to Joshua saying, (2) “Speak to Bnei-Yisrael saying, ‘Designate your cities of refuge, about which I spoke to you through Moses. (3) So the manslayer who kills any person by mistake and without premeditation may flee there. They will be your refuge from the avenger of blood. (4) When one flees to one of those cities, he must stand at the entrance of the gate of the city and state his case in the hearing of the elders of that city. Then they are to take him into their city and give him a place to live among them.

(5) Now if the blood avenger pursues him, then they will not hand the manslayer over to him, since he killed his neighbor without premeditation and did not hate him beforehand. (6) So he will stay in that city until he can stand trial before the congregation, or until the death of the kohen gadol in those days. Then the manslayer may return to his own city and to his own house, to the city from which he had fled.’” (7)

So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. (8) Across the Jordan east of Jericho, they designated Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland from the tribe of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan from the tribe of Manasseh. (9) These were the appointed cities for all Bnei-Yisrael and for the outsider who is dwelling among them, so that whoever kills any person unintentionally might flee there and not die by the hand of the blood avenger, before standing trial before the congregation.
Here is a map of the cities as set up by Joshua.

In the ancient middle east the laws of the land were somewhat primitive by today’s standards. The ancient law was called LEX TALIONIS and basically it was the law of retribution. It’s the old “eye for and eye, and tooth for a tooth” mentality. That sentiment still exists to some degree in the Muslim areas of the world today.
The law went something like this. If you were working with someone and unintentionally killed that person, then his clansmen (sometimes called the avenger of blood) could apprehend you and put you to death. Today we would call that involuntary manslaughter. An example would be a negligent driver texting or perhaps impaired by alcohol getting into an automobile and crashing it into another vehicle or a tree resulting in the death of someone else. The penalty today can be severe, but it is never the death penalty.
God gave Israel a way to mitigate the customs of the land while still maintaining the idea that life is precious and the taking of life, even accidentally is serious. Life was hard in those days. Just because a baby made it all the way to birth didn’t mean that it would survive to adulthood. Disease and lack of adequate food often took its toll on family life. So the idea of losing one’s life due to the negligence of another was particularly odious. You can see why this practice was in effect.
But God is a merciful God. He set up these cities so that one who was involved in a deadly encounter could flee to there and find refuge. There were some conditions though that helped prevent the cities of refuge from becoming the refuge of murderers. The party had to present his case to the town council. Then if his case was compelling enough and didn’t involve actual malice aforethought, or as we would say, the death was not premeditated, the individual was granted a temporary asylum until a proper trial could be conducted or until the High Priest died.
If the person was tried and found guilty of murder rather than manslaughter, then he was turned over to the avenger and put to death. However, if the city leaders found that he had no malice or intent to cause the death of another person, he would be granted asylum.
What that meant was that the person had to stay within the confines of the city. If he left the city walls, then he was no longer protected. So we can see that even though there is mercy, there still are consequences.

What does all this have to do with us today? There are no cities of refuge, although there is a movement afoot to become sanctuary cities. Sanctuary cities are nothing more than attempts by the Democrat party to shelter lawbreakers until such time that they can somehow either legally or illegally vote and preserve the power base of the Democrats.
No, we have a much better refuge than that. We have Yeshua HaMashiach as our refuge. When we have fallen short, and we all do, we can go to the Son of God, our refuge and find forgiveness. We can find peace. We can find a second chance. Even though, because of what we have done, we have consequences, we can find refuge.
God made a way that his banished can find an opportunity to have right standing before the Almighty.
The cities of refuge were established before they were needed. Yeshua was slain before the foundations of the earth. God knew that we would need a savior.
The cities of refuge were available to Jew and gentile alike. Salvation from Yeshua is available to all. Whosoever.
The cities of refuge were always open to those who needed it. Yeshua is always available to meet the needs of those in trouble.
Do you need a place of refuge today? He’s waiting for you. In ancient Israel, a man had to stay in the city until the High Priest died. He was safe. Our High Priest is alive forever more and will not die. So we have refuge as long as we stay anchored in Him.

Boundaries

Today’s Torah portion is one of those passages that we tend to skip over or speed read through as we put our brain on pause. There are names we can’t pronounce and places we can’t locate on Google earth. And what difference does it make anyway. It certainly doesn’t look like international borders today. So why study it?
Well there are some important lessons about the character of God that can be learned from dividing up the land. Here are a few.
Order, not Chaos
I’ve said many times that God is not the author or confusion. He does not sew discontent. In this chapter we see evidence of that again. Israel is about to go into the promised land and drive out the inhabitants and divide it among the various tribes. God is taking an active role in the process. He actually told Moses who he wanted on the steering committee. He names each individual. Then he gives them some guidelines. The leadership was not left to chance or arguments. No confusion as to who was chosen. God said it, that was the end of it.
Fair and equitable
Israel had already taken a census in order to determine how many people were in each tribe. So now they were to partition the land and portion it out according to the size of each tribe. The larger tribes received more land while the smaller tribes received less. So we see that on a per capita basis, every person or family received an equal share.
Peter recognized this characteristic of God in the home of the Roman Centurion, Cornelius.
Acts 10:34-35 Then Peter opened his mouth and said, “I truly understand that God is not one to show favoritism, (35) but in every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.
Our creator does not love the Billy Grahams and Mother Theresas of this world any more than he does the vilest sinner. He loves us all. He proved it by sending his son to die for our sins. You know the famous verse John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Yeshua truly made everyone equal. He elevated the status of women. Paul put it this way.
Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua.
Today we hear a lot of noise about discrimination. You are all familiar with the buzz words, black lives matter, blue lives matter, white privilege, cultural appropriation, illegal immigration. The list goes on. Seems like you can’t take a breath without offending someone. But rest assured. With God we are all equal. And no one is more equal than anyone else. Because we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. No one gets a free pass. We all come to salvation only through the shed blood of Yeshua HaMashiach.
God Set Boundaries
Boundaries are very important to our very existence. Without boundaries society would devolve into chaos and anarchy. All civilizations whether primitive or modern have had some kind of boundaries under which they functioned and carried out their daily lives. It may have been something as simple as making sure the chief gets the best cut of meat after the hunt. It was still a rule that helped the group function.
Of course, today we have evolved and I use that term guardedly, we have evolved into a very complex society wit mountains of rules and regulations. Just look at the tax code to get an idea of the absurd manner in which we live today.
Hashem had a different take on rules. If we look at what He gave us at Mount Sinai, we see 613 rules. These instructions covered civil, moral and ceremonial aspects of their society. It was God’s standard of holiness. The Torah has been condensed into what we call the Ten Commandments. Those Ten Commandments are as appropriate today as they were 3500 years ago. There is not one of those commandments that we can point to and say “oh that’s outdated and no longer applies”. Some people try to do that, but they are only deluding themselves.
So God gave the Israelites physical boundaries that we see in today’s reading and he gave them societal boundaries in the 613 laws of Torah. There were some further instructions regarding boundaries.
Don’t Move the Boundary Markers
Deuteronomy 19:14 “You must not move your neighbor’s boundary marker that the first generations marked out, in the inheritance you will receive in the land Adonai your God is giving you to possess.
Property rights were very important to the Israelites and it is borne out in the above verse. It speaks to us about honesty and integrity.
Deuteronomy 27:17 ‘Cursed is the one who removes his neighbor’s boundary marker.’ Then all the people are to say, ‘Amen.’
This is one of the curses that were shouted from one mountain to the other when Israel entered the land further cemented their relationship with Hashem by repeating both blessings and curses which were tied to their obedience of Torah.
Many of us own property and the corners of our property is marked with an iron rod driven into the ground by the surveyor. The corners at my place are further marked with a big post placed immediately next to it so it is easy to find. It would be against the laws of the State of Texas and well as the Law of God to move the boundary marker into my neighbor’s property so my property would be bigger.
What about the spiritual and moral boundaries that are given to us in the Bible? Are we guilty of moving the boundaries?
There are those in our churches and synagogues today who are doing exactly that. They have moved the moral boundary markers. No longer is it an abomination to live a homosexual lifestyle. Modesty has been thrown out the window. Honesty has been replaced with extensive contracts because a man’s word and handshake is no longer good enough.
Some denominations are now ordaining people of the LGBT persuasion. Ministers are being indicted for all manner of crimes from assault to embezzlement. The boundary markers have been moved.
This morning I want to caution us all to leave God’s boundary markers in place. When the Bible says there will be no liars in Heaven, I believe God means it. When Romans Chapter one describes behavior that is called an abomination, I believe God means it.
But when we live within the boundaries that God has given us we have blessings beyond imagination.
Live within His boundaries and be blessed.

Warrior Mentality

20180310 Parsha 123 Warrior Mentality

The parsha for this week is the entire chapter 33 of Numbers. It begins with a recounting of the travels of the Israelites from the Exodus to their present location, the Plains of Moab.
Many of the locations we remember from earlier Parashot because something noteworthy occurred there. Let’s recap some of these events, as they lead up to B’Nei Israel becoming ready for their transition from Egyptian Exodus to Conquering Canaan.
1.Pillars of Cloud and Fire
2.Red Sea Crossing
3.Healing of Marah Waters
4.Manna and Quail
5.Ten Commandments
6.Korah’s Rebellion
7.Zeal of Pinchas

After B’nei Israel left this first campsite, the Lord attended them in a cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:20–22).

They had witnessed all the plagues of Egypt, but were still unsure of their security with G-d as Father. In many ways, their understanding of Him was nearly like a fairy tale, an oral narrative that had been passed down the generations since Abraham. They were taking their first steps as a nation, the same way a child takes unsteady steps toward a patient father. The pillars served as a constant guide, like a night light warding off the things that go bump in the night.

Israel passed through the Red Sea, laden with the riches of Egypt, and the promise of a future. (Ex. 14; Num. 33:8).

In a miracle that should have been the sealing of their faith, the nation of Israel is born through the parting of the waters. They left Egypt laden with the riches of and every necessary thing that would help them build the Tabernacle that would house the Holy One of Israel.

The Lord healed the waters of Marah when Moses threw the Tree into the water. (Ex. 15:23–26).
Allowing their flesh to cloud their minds, they complained of thirst, not trusting Adonai to provide for them. The waters of Marah were as bitter as their souls, yet Adonai made it sweet again when Moses threw the Tree bringing life and healing to the water and the people.

G-d used Manna to lay the foundations of Shabbat, as they were to collect it for 6 days, a double portion on the 6th day, then rest on the Sabbath. (Ex. 16).
The Lord established many things on the journey to Canaan, and his Holy Shabbat was one of the alterations to their lives that they were instructed to honor. He used Manna to teach them what Shabbat was, and to prove to them that He is their portion.

G-d called Moses up (with Joshua) to the mountain to receive the two tablets of stone with the ten commandments written by the finger of God. (Ex. 19–20).
God called Moses and Joshua up to Mt. Sinai to give firm boundaries to the Hebrews, establishing the Law which would become the code by which they would be identified through all generations. The Law laid the foundations that led the way to understanding the need for blood to cover sin, so that we could know why we need Yeshua HaMashiach to be our savior and redeemer.

Israel spent 38 years here, where everyone over the age of 20 from the original exodus from Egypt died, numbering 1.5 million Hebrews. Also Korah’s Rebellion.
Kadesh Barnea saw a lot of action, as the Hebrews spent nearly all of their desert experience in this location. Miriam died here, as did the rest of the ungrateful and grumbling generation who refused to believe the goodness of God. Significant events here include Korah’s Rebellion, where Adonai firmly established the sanctity of the priestly line through Aaron. Spies were sent out to neighboring kingdoms, resulting in a distinction between the original unfaithful generation, and the younger generation that was ready to overcome the enemies of G-d.

Where contention existed between the Israelites and G‑d, Pinchas sought to replace it with love, as G‑d says, “Pinchas… has turned My wrath away from the children of Israel.’
The Israelites have been wandering about in the Middle Eastern desert for 40 years. Everyone over the age of 20 who came out of Egypt was condemned by God to die in the wilderness because of their lack of faith. They chose to believe the report of 10 faithless spies who convinced the people that they could not take the land God had promised them. Only two men remained from that generation, Joshua and Caleb, and now they are beginning a new phase of the journey.
Pinchas embodied the zeal that filled the hearts and minds of the younger generation, who were ready to do whatever it took to bring healing to the nation and restore relationship to G-d. Their zeal paved the way for the Hebrews to occupy Canaan and claim their promised birthright.

God’s chosen people were on the cusp of realizing the promise given to their father Abraham some 600 years earlier.
Then Adonai appeared to Abram, and said, “I will give this land to your seed.” So there he built an altar to Adonai, who had appeared to him.
600 years is a long time to wait, but here they were. There had to be a lot of emotions swirling around the people at this time. I’m sure they felt apprehension, maybe fear, eager anticipation, anxiety. Just about every human emotion would have been present as this teeming mass of people prepared for the next step in God’s plan for their lives.

They were preparing for war. This is not a pretty passage of scripture. I’m sure it makes some people uncomfortable the think that God is telling Joshua to go into the land and drive out all the inhabitants. Don’t leave anyone alive in the land. They must all be driven out or killed.
There is a practical application for us today. Whether you want to admit it or not, we are at war.
We are at war with those who demand that our children leave their Bibles and their Godly values at the door of the school building.
We are at war with those who say it is ok for a man to go into a women’s restroom and put our women and children at risk.
We are at war with the forces of evil that push violence, sex and perversion on our youth every day in the form of TV, movies, and social media.
We are at war with those hateful regimes that strive to annihilate the nation of Israel. Not a week goes by but what we read about some terrorist killing or attempting to kill innocent people in Israel for no other reason other than they are Jewish.
We must vigorously battle those political voices in this nation that constantly denigrate people of faith and morality. That also includes those screeching voices on TV that ridiculed our Vice President because he said he listens to the voice of Jesus.
I could go on and on about who and what we should be confronting this morning, but I think you get the picture.
We cannot sit idly by on our CAT, sigh and say oh how terrible. You know what a CAT is don’t you? It’s a Complacent American Tukis. No, we need to get up on our feet.
The children of Israel lost a golden opportunity to conquer the land of Canaan because of fear and unbelief. An entire generation of people lost their lives because of their unwillingness to take up the sword and follow Adonai Elohim Tzva’ot, the Lord God of Hosts into battle and certain victory.
When an army prepares to go into battle what do they do?
They train, making sure that they are strong, fit, and capable of waging war against the enemy.
How do we train for war? Praying and reading God’s word. We cannot be overcomers if we are weak, out of shape, ill prepared believers.
What else does the successful army do before battle? They equip themselves.
The apostle Paul had something to say about equipping ourselves for spiritual combat.
Ephesians 6:10
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.
This is a very important point here. Be strong IN THE LORD. Not in ourselves. If we rely on our own puny resources we are bound to fail. Remember, we are not battling flesh and blood but powers and principalities. Spiritual battles require spiritual leadership.
If we are to be successful in battle, we need the proper equipment. Paul says to put on the whole armor of God. Half measures lead to defeat and failure. Spiritual battles require 100% effort and dedication.
What is the full armor of God?
Belt of Truth – What was the purpose of a belt in ancient times? The same as today, it holds stuff up. The belt was important to the Roman infantryman. It held his money and possible ID. It also was a place that could keep his Sword at hand.
Breastplate – protected the soldier from frontal attack. It protected the soldier’s heart . Righteousness protects our hearts today. We need to constantly guard against those that would steal our hearts away from the one true God.
Feet strapped with cloth and leather to protect against the elements. Allowed the soldier to move over rough terrain. We need our feet protected so that when we walk over sharp rocks, thorns, and stinging creatures, the obstacles don’t slow us down or distract us from the battle. We need to be ready for anything the enemy can throw up against us.
The shield of faith is essential for when the enemy throws flaming arrows at us in the form of fear and doubt, we can fend them off. Without faith we are powerless.
The helmet of salvation. Knowing the Messiah is the crown jewel of our lives here on earth. An injury to most of the body parts already mentioned can be serious but normally, not fatal…. The brain can be particularly vulnerable in battle. But salvation and God’s grace is always effective.
The sword of the Spirit. The Ruach HaKodesh was the power that propelled the 70 to start speaking in foreign languages. It was that power that gave Peter boldness. It was that power that sustained the early believers during the lean years in Jerusalem.
I would like to point out one other thing associated with this parsha. Paul told the kehila at Ephesus, that when they had done everything they knew how to do in order to stand against evil, Then Stand.
I am a big fan of Winston Churchill. He said one time that we should never, never, ever give up. Of course he was speaking of surrender to Nazi Germany, but that would apply today to the forces of evil that so forcefully surround us today. Never, ever surrender because “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.

We all have our own personal Canaan lands to conquer. Now is not the time to be complacent or to give up our guns. Don’t lay down your armor.

Covenant of Shalom

This week’s Torah portion is a continuation of last week’s story of Balak and Balaam. Balaam had advised Balak that the way to defeat Israel was to attack their morality. Sure enough, the women of Moab soon began corrupting the men of Israel to great effect. A great plague came on the people because of their sin. The Bible records that 24,000 died.

One particular prince of the Tribe of Simon took a woman named Kozbi and basically defied God and flaunted their sin before all Israel in front of the tent of meeting. Aaron’s grandson Pinchas (or Phineas), was so incensed over their flagrant display that he followed them back to their tent and ran a spear through them.
Hashem spoke to Moses and said that Pinchas had turned away His wrath from Israel and the plague stopped. God also said something very interesting. Adonai made a covenant with Pinchas. This was an unusual covenant in that it was cut with Pinchas, not in anticipation of something that he would do in the future. This was not an ‘if’ – ‘then’ covenant. It was more like a ‘because’-‘then’ covenant. Because of the zeal of Pinchas, then God made a covenant with him.

God called it a Covenant of Shalom, or Covenant of Peace.
Today I want to look at the word shalom and expand the meaning of the word to what it really means in Hebrew.

All of us here today are familiar with the word Shalom. I recite it every week in the Aaronic Benediction. We see congregations called Sar Shalom, Prince of Peace. Shalom is often used to mean the absence of war.

I often begin email and other correspondence with the word Shalom. In Israel you pick up your phone and the first word you say is Shalom. Commonly Shalom closes your phone conversation.

We can guess that God did not give Pinchas a covenant of Hello or Goodbye. So, what did this word שלום really mean?

“Shalom” is taken from the root word shalam, which means, “to be safe in mind, body, or estate.” It speaks of completeness, fullness, or a type of wholeness that encourages you to give back — to generously re-pay something in some way.

True biblical shalom refers to an inward sense of completeness or wholeness. Although it can describe the absence of war, a majority of biblical references refer to an inner completeness and tranquility. In Israel today, when you greet someone or say goodbye, you say, Shalom. You are literally saying, “may you be full of well-being” or, “may health and prosperity be upon you.”

If this is the way we understand biblical peace, then suddenly many verses take on a whole new meaning. With this Hebrew thought of shalom in mind, let’s look at a few common Scriptures about peace:
Numbers 6:23-26 “Speak to Aaron and to his sons saying: Thus you are to bless Bnei-Yisrael, by saying to them: (24) ‘Adonai bless you and keep you! (25) Adonai make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you! (26) Adonai turn His face toward you and grant you shalom!’

The context of the Aaronic Blessing is ironic (pun intended). God told Aaron to bless Israel with peace while they were getting ready to go conquer the Promised Land. If peace means “the absence of war,” then this doesn’t make sense, since they would soon be destroying cities. God was referring to an inner peace and completeness brought on by sharing in His countenance and His protection. That was the blessing that Israel needed! Israel was to rarely experience times of outward peace, but even in the midst of battle, they were to have an inward rest brought on by the presence of the Lord, regardless of the outward circumstances — so it should be for us as well.

Psalms 122:6-7 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem—“May those who love you be at peace! (7) May there be shalom within your walls—quietness within your palaces.”
Today many are praying for the peace of Jerusalem due to the rising threat from Israel’s enemies. However, this exhortation to pray is not so Israel can live without conflict. It is so that Jerusalem can fulfill its destiny as set by the only One who can bring complete restoration to the city, which Yeshua referred to as “The city of the great King.”

Psalm 122:6-7 should serve as a prayer for Israel’s spiritual revival. Verse 7 says that we are praying for peace within Jerusalem’s walls and palaces. That is where true biblical peace is found — within. Pray for the fullness and completeness of Jerusalem. Pray that there may be such wholeness and safety found in her palaces that it overflows to others. From this perspective, it almost sounds like we are praying for the return of Israel’s Messiah, the Prince of Peace, to establish His throne in Jerusalem.

Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
In this verse, Yeshua is not referring to mediators or political negotiators, but to those who carry an inward sense of the fullness and safety that is only available through son-ship with God. In the biblical Hebrew understanding of shalom, there is a point at which you have so much shalom that it spills out from you, and is repaid or rendered to others. And so, as you make others peaceful and inwardly complete, that makes you a peacemaker. Yeshua said these peacemakers will be called sons of God. Yeshua was called the Son of God. By sharing God’s uncontainable peace with others, we become just like Yeshua.

John 14:27 “Shalom I leave you, My shalom I give to you; but not as the world gives! Do not let your heart be troubled or afraid.

Completeness and wholeness I leave with you, my own fulfillment, comfort, completeness I give to you; but not as the world gives.

There are many other examples worthy of study regarding shalom. Peace is so much more than the world’s one-sided definition. We must find our understanding of it through the Bible, from the God of Israel. We will need it in the days ahead
There is so much more to shalom that what you knew before today. When Yeshua says that He is leaving peace for us, he meant so much more than no fighting.

This morning do you feel like your life is lacking something? You just never seem to look forward to getting out of bed in the morning. Your marriage, your kids, your career, your friends will never be able to completely satisfy your soul. Only Yeshua can satisfy that hunger.

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