Tree of Life Messianic Congregation

A Fellowship of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Yeshua

Month: September 2017

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…’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… 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… 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… 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… 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… 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…’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…’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 … 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.