Tree of Life Messianic Congregation

A Fellowship of Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in Yeshua

Month: November 2018

Fervent Prayer

Sermon 24Nov18
20181124 Parsha Vayishlach – Fervent Prayer

There was once a man who was very faithful in his prayer life. Every morning when he got up he would kneel by his bed and he would pray, ‘God bless me, God bless my family, God bless this day’. And before every meal he would say a prayer ‘God bless this food’. And every night when he went to bed he would pray, ‘God bless me, God bless my family, God bless this night’. And every time he prayed a prayer, he would take a walnut and place it in a glass jar. And over the years his house became full of glass jars, that were full of walnuts. They were on shelves and bookcases and window sills and everywhere. Walnuts… 1000’s of them! And the man felt very pleased with himself – ‘just look at all these jars, just look at all these walnuts, just look at all these prayers that I have prayed’ he would say.

Then one night, Yeshua appeared to him in a dream. And Yeshua took each of the glass jars, opened them, and one by one he took out the walnuts and broke them open. And inside each one it was empty, nothing but dryness and dust. And Yeshua said to him, you know your prayers are like that, although there have been 1000s of them – they are empty, they are dry, they are meaningless.

All too often we simply pray weak prayers, such as “Dear God, help me to have a nice day” and “Help me not to get so angry today.” But, Yeshua challenges each one of His followers to pray fervent prayers. They can be short, but they’re certainly not weak… If you want to maintain the status quo, don’t even begin this prayer. Or if you want to live an average life, leave it alone. But if you have a passion to make a difference in the world—if you have a longing to see Yeshua return in glory as King of kings and Lord of lords—then I invite you to learn more about fervent prayer.

Once you begin to pray fervent prayers in faith, the way will open for great and wonderful things to happen. Your life will truly be transformed, and you will never be the same again.

What is fervent prayer? Webster defines fervent as very hot, exhibiting great intensity, zealous. Does that describe your prayer life? Do you pray life changing prayers or “now I lay me down to sleep” prayers?

Now listen to this – this is important – Fervent prayer enables God to change the world–through you. Did you get that? Fervent prayer enables God to change the world–through you.

James 5:16 says the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man is very powerful.

And I want to share this morning 3 things about fervent prayer that come out from this story of Jacob. Now Jacob had not seen his brother, Esau, in a very long time. You may remember the story of how years before he had tricked his brother out of his birthright and stole his blessing. Because of that Esau wanted to kill Jacob. But Jacob’s mother found out about Esau’s plan and she arranged for Jacob to live with relatives far away. Now after many years had gone by God tells Jacob to go back home but he’s terrified that his brother Esau still wants to kill him.

And so, he comes to the Jabbok river and crossing it means crossing into Esau’s territory. So before crossing the river Jacob decides that he would try to appease his brother, that he would try to pacify him, that he would try to win him over by sending him some gifts. So, he sent his servants ahead of him with gifts for Esau, 220 goats, 220 sheep, 30 camels, 40 cows, 10 bulls, and 30 donkeys.

And as he was making these preparations, he said to himself, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me” (Genesis 32:20).

But his plan doesn’t work. His servants come back with the message, ‘We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him’. (32:6) And it says that Jacob was in great fear and distress. Well, of course he was. If you are going to go and shake someone’s hand you don’t take 400 men along with you. It was obvious Esau was unhappy, it was obvious Esau meant business.

And that brings me to the first thing I want to say about fervent prayer:

1. Fervent Prayer challenges the status quo

Things weren’t looking too good for Jacob. The situation looked hopeless. His angry brother was coming toward him with 400 men – looked like this could be the end. But fervent prayer refuses to accept the status quo. Fervent prayer refuses to believe that things have to be the way they appear.

Faced with the hostility of his brother, faced with certain death – he got on his knees and he held God to his promises.

Genesis 32:10-13 Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, Adonai, who said to me, ‘Return to your land and to your relatives and I will do good with you.’ (11) I am unworthy of all the proofs of mercy and of all the dependability that you have shown to your servant. For with only my staff I crossed over this Jordan, and now I’ve become two camps. (12) Deliver me, please, from my brother’s hand, from Esau’s hand, for I’m afraid of him that he’ll come and strike me—the mothers with the children. (13) You Yourself said, ‘I will most certainly do good with you, and will make your seed like the sand of the sea that cannot be counted because of its abundance.’”

When he was wrestling with God what do you think he meant when he said ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me’. He’s not talking about prosperity, he’s not talking about God giving him more wealth – anyone who can give as a gift 220 goats, 220 sheep, 30 camels, 40 cows, 10 bulls, and 30 donkeys has enough wealth. Jacob wants to be blessed by being reconciled with his brother.

‘Look God… you said. Look God… you promised, and now I’m not going to let you go until it happens’! That’s pretty fervent! And what has God promised for us? What should the reality of this world be?

Through fervent prayer we stand against the status quo and we hold God to His word and to His promises.

In Acts 16 there’s the story of Paul and Silas in prison. They had been beaten, they had been thrown in jail, but they weren’t defeated. They didn’t sit around in chains and say ‘that’s it, we’re done for, it’s time to give up’. They didn’t moan and groan. They didn’t just accept the status quo. The Bible says, they prayed. Right there in that dark, damp, smelly prison, wrapped in chains – they prayed, and their prayers challenged the status quo. Their prayers challenged the ‘what was’.

And it’s no good us sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves and for the state of our nation and our world. Mainstream Christianity is in decline, morality is at rock bottom, Islam is taking over much of the world, there is huge injustice in the world, famine, starvation, poverty and greed. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Fervent prayer stands up in the face of the status quo and says things can be different – things will be different.

2. Fervent Prayer challenges and changes the status quo

That brings us to point number 2 – Fervent prayer not only challenges the status quo, it changes the status quo. Jacob wasn’t prepared to accept the status quo, he wasn’t prepared to go forward with the mentality of ‘que sera sera, whatever will be will be’. He said, ‘things can be different, things will be different’. And that night the most famous and perhaps the most bizarre wrestling match in all of history took place. That night Jacob wrestled with God. He took God to task and held him to his promises, held him to his word. ‘I will not let you go until you do what you promised, I will not let you go until you keep your word, I will not let you go until you bless me’.

I want to share a little Hebrew with you. The phrase “and he wrestled” is the Hebrew word ויאבק . The root word of vayi-vech is avech, which means dust. So, to wrestle, meant that they had a dust up.

And while Jacob wrestled with God in prayer something quite remarkable happened. As Jacob prayed over here – something changed over there. While Jacob was praying here – a change was happening in his brother Esau over there. How do we know that?

Well in Gen 32:7 it says that when the messengers returned they said, ‘we went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him’ – fearing for his life Jacob gets on his knees and pleads with God, wrestles with God until God blesses him – and then in Chapter 33 it says, ‘Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men… (verse 4) Esau ran to meet Jacob and (killed him – NO) embraced him. He threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.’

You see, while Jacob was praying here – a change was happening in his brother Esau over there. He went from being an angry, vengeful, spiteful, hate filled person to a loving, caring, forgiving brother. Fervent prayer doesn’t only challenge the status quo – it changes the status quo.

Many of you are familiar with the saying “Prayer Changes Things”. Through prayer, cancers disintegrate, lame people walk, deaf people hear, the blind receive their sight.

I was on a ship that visited the port of Lubek, Germany in 1971. At that time, one of the major prayers of the Christian population in Germany was about the Berlin wall which had been built 10 years earlier in 1961. Practically every service, every prayer meeting, every gathering included prayers that one day Germany would be a unified country again. Fervent prayers – refusing to accept the status quo. And then, quite suddenly, and without warning on 9 November 1989, a scene I remember vividly – the Berlin Wall was gone. Fervent prayer doesn’t only challenge the status quo – it changes the status quo.

3. Fervent Prayer Leaves a Mark

And that brings me to point number 3. When it comes to fervent prayer you need to be careful what you pray for – you might just get it – and it might just come at a cost.
Jacob wrestled with God. He challenged the status quo and through his praying he changed the status quo – but it came at a cost. Verse 26, ‘When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man’. Why wouldn’t God overpower Jacob? He could have quite easily, but because Jacob was holding him to his word, to his promises allowed Jacob to prevail. God is always faithful to his promises. Verse 31, ‘Jacob called the place Peni-el, (face of God) because he had been face to face with God.

Jacob spent the rest of his life limping wherever he went – because of the fervent prayer he prayed that night. His prayer was answered, the status quo was changed – but it came at a personal cost. So I say, be careful what you pray for – you might just get it – and it usually comes at a cost.

Have you ever seen the movie Evan Almighty – God is explaining to Noah what happens when you pray and he says, ‘If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience, or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If they pray for courage, does God give them courage, or does he give them the opportunity to be courageous?

If you’re praying fervent prayers for the homeless people in our town, don’t be surprised if God whispers in your ear and reminds you that you have a spare bedroom or two. If you’re praying for the hunger and poverty of the world, don’t be surprised if God reminds you of your bank balance and that check book that sits in your draw unused. If you’re praying fervent prayers for the lost people in China, don’t be surprised if God tells you to book a seat on the next plane to Beijing.

You know, if you pray to God to make your Rabbi, a great Torah teacher, a visionary leader, someone who prays and gives spiritual direction. Someone who has a heart for the lost, motivating the congregation toward evangelism. Then don’t be surprised when God starts working on each one of us from the Rabbi on up with a desire to start impacting the community with the Gospel of Yeshua – even though it will cost you financially, it will cost you spiritually, it will cost you in time, it will cost you in talents, it will cost you in gifting, it will cost you in commitment. And it may even cost you in rethinking your own attitudes and belief structures.

If you’re praying for God to start moving among us by the power of the Holy Spirit – don’t be surprised if and when he does. And I can guarantee he won’t turn up the way you want him too. But he will challenge your comfort, he will challenge your attitude. He won’t just sit on the back row and be quiet. He’ll make a fuss, he’ll make a dust-up, he’ll make a noise, he’ll make his presence known – and he’ll say ‘hey now I’m here what you going to do with me’. That’s certainly what happened that first Pentecost in Acts 2.
So be careful what you pray for – you may just get it – and it usually comes with a personal cost.

Recall Yeshua’s prayer in John 17, that God would glorify Him, that the disciples would be protected, and that future believers would be unified. That fervent prayer left physical marks on the body of Yeshua that He was able to display to the disciples after His resurrection.

I’ve finished. But let me just ask you. Do you believe in prayer? Do you really believe that prayer changes things? Or is prayer for you just some kind of ritual that you go through. Some kind of religious act you do because that’s what you think you should do.
A true story is told about a small town that had historically been “dry,” but then a local businessman decided to build a pub. A group of believers from a local church were concerned and planned an all-night prayer meeting to ask God to intervene. It just so happened that shortly thereafter lightning struck the bar and it burned to the ground. The owner of the bar sued the church, claiming that the prayers of the congregation were responsible, but the church hired a lawyer to argue in court that they were not responsible. The presiding judge, after his initial review of the case, stated that “no matter how this case comes out, one thing is clear. The pub owner believes in prayer and the believers do not.”

Remember when Peter was in prison in Acts 12 and it says that the believers were
earnestly praying to God for him. And an angel appeared to him and helped him escape – so he made his way to the house where the people were praying for him knocked on the door – and it says, ‘a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door.

When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her.

They prayed but didn’t really believe.

How often are we just like that? We pray, and we pray, but we never really believe that our prayers will achieve anything. Do you believe in prayer? Do you believe in the power of prayer? Do you believe in the power of fervent prayer? ‘The angel brought Peter out of prison, but it was prayer that brought the angel.

Fervent prayer – challenges the status quo.

Fervent prayer – challenges and changes the status quo.

Fervent prayer – Leaves a mark.!

Fervent prayer enables God to change the world–through you. My prayer is that God would make us a fervent congregation –a fervent people – praying fervent prayers that will change this world.

4 Thing to Remember in Uncertain Times

20181117 Parsha Vayetze

4 Things to Remember in Uncertain Times

This week’s Parsha is one of the most well known of all. Every child with any kind of religious training knows this story. Who has not sung that little ditty from our early years, (sing) We are climbing Jacob’s ladder ladder 3x Children of the Lord.

Today I would like to offer a little different take on this classic tale. I read the following illustration in an old sports magazine.

Willie Mays began his major league baseball career with only one hit in his first 23 at-bats. Though he went on to hit 660 home runs (third on the all-time list), and steal more than 300 bases, his debut was so unimpressive it seemed unlikely he would last more than a few weeks as a big-leaguer, let alone become one of the greatest to play the game. He had a very uncertain future in baseball.

The turning point for Mays occurred when his manager, Leo Durocher, found him crying in the dugout after yet another miserable performance at the plate.

The coach put his arm around Mays and said, “What’s the matter, son?” Mays said, “I can’t hit up here. I belong in the minor leagues.”

Durocher said this to Willie Mays: “As long as I’m manager of the Giants, you’ll be my centerfielder.”

You know how the story ends. The very next time Willey Mays came to bat, he hit a home run and he was on his way to becoming a legend of the game.

Fortunately, there was someone there to encourage him and tell him, “I am behind you, this will work out

We also will face times in our life when we are discouraged and despairing because our future seems so uncertain. Life may be falling apart as a result of our own wrong decisions or through no fault of our own, just as a result of living in a fallen world. Doubt, discouragement, and uncertainty can affect varied aspects of our lives. We might be uncertain about our ability to fulfill ministry obligations. We might be uncertain about our material needs be met. We may be uncertain about our personal relationships, our physical health, or some other area of our lives.

During those times of uncertainty and discouragement we need the same thing that Willie Mays needed. We need a word of encouragement. We need to know that the “coach” is behind us. We need to know that things will work out. The good news is that we can have this need for encouragement and assurance met because God, through his word and Spirit, reminds us of what we need to remember in uncertain times. In fact, this particular passage of Scripture contains four things we need to remember in uncertain times.

The four things we need to remember in uncertain times.
1. In uncertain times remember God’s promises.
2. In uncertain times remember God’s presence.
3. In uncertain times remember God’s protection.
4. In uncertain times remember God’s provision.

Jacob was facing a very uncertain future. He was far from home and could not be sure of ever coming back. He had no assurance of finding a wife, a job, a home to stay in, or even having his basic needs met. He was seemingly all alone in a hostile world with no guarantee that he would not be hunted down and killed by his brother Esau or that he would not be harmed by a bandit or wild animal. Jacob was living in very uncertain times and needed a word of encouragement and assurance from God. Jacob did not deserve anything from God, but God in his mercy came to Jacob anyway.

Jacob had traveled about 70 mi. of his 500 mi. journey to Haran. He needed to rest for the evening and so he set up camp in a “certain place.” This place is not especially noteworthy, it did not even have a name. It was not known as a place for Divine visitations. There was nothing particularly holy about this place. It was just a place of dirt and stones, so Jacob had no reason to expect anything unusual. Soon after Jacob went to sleep with this head on a rock, God came to Jacob in a dream.

God sometimes shows up at unexpected times and unexpected places. It may be in the shower, during the drive to work, or when you’re cooking dinner. God is not limited to showing up at so-called spiritual places, such as the church building. Now of course God is everywhere, but I am referring to God showing up or manifesting himself to us in a special way. In this case, God visited and encouraged Jacob through a special dream.
In the dream Jacob saw a ladder going from earth to heaven, with angels going between the two realms, and Adonai at the top. Jacob would have understood the dream’s symbolism as the ladder being representative of a place where there was access to God. The main point of the dream being to affirm to Jacob that the Lord and his angels were present and active even though he’d been unaware of them, as verse 16 attest. Most of us will not have special dreams like Jacob did, but it has been revealed to us through the Bible that God is present and active even when we are unaware of him.

Keep in mind these two principles. First, God sometimes shows up at unexpected times and unexpected places. Second, God is present and active even when we are unaware of him.

In verses 13-15 The Lord speaks to Jacob, and it is from that speech we learn the four things we need to remember in uncertain times.

Genesis 28:13-15 Surprisingly, Adonai was standing on top of it and He said, “I am Adonai, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your seed. (14) Your seed will be as the dust of the land, and you will burst forth to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed—and in your seed. (15) Behold, I am with you, and I will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land, for I will not forsake you until I have done what I promised you.”

1. First, in uncertain times remember God’s promises.

The first thing God reminds Jacob of is the promises he had made. He basically says, “I made a promise to your father Isaac and your grandfather Abraham to give you the very land where you are now asleep as a stranger and to bless the whole world through your offspring and I am going to do it.” When you consider that Jacob was leaving the Promised Land and that he had not one descendant at this time, this is a very reassuring promise. At this point in Jacob journey, his return to the land and future offspring are very uncertain, so this promise is very encouraging.

This principle is not true only for Jacob, but for us also. When we are facing hard or uncertain times, we need to open up our Bibles and let the Ruach HaKodesh remind us of what God has promised. You can pace back and forth, worry, and focus on the problem or you could be strengthened by focusing on the promises of God; the choice is yours. Now let’s look at the second thing we need to remember in uncertain times.

2. Second, in uncertain times remember God’s presence.

We must know that God is with us if we’re to face the uncertain and fearful future with confidence. Jacob needed to know this also, so in verse 15 God said very clearly, “I am with you!” Jacob may have felt alone, but he never was alone and neither are we! God is with us. Remembering his presence has been a source of encouragement in uncertain times for all the saints. King David said in Psalm 23, “I will fear no evil for (because) you are with me.” Yeshua encouraged his disciples in Matthew 28 by assuring them, “Surely I am with you always.” Hebrews 13:5 says, “God will never leave us nor forsake us.” God’s word to us is the same as his word to Jacob, “I am with you.” This does not mean we will escape the storms of life but the knowledge of his presence in those storms can give us peace and confidence in uncertain times.

Have you ever comforted your children in a storm, when the power goes out? A simple hug and an assurance that all you are there calms a lot of fear.

Now to the third thing we need to remember in uncertain times.

3. Third, in uncertain times remember God’s protection.

God’s protection is the next thing that the Lord reminds Jacob of. He says in verse 15, “I am with you, and I will watch over you wherever you go”. In other words, I’m going to protect you on this perilous journey. This did not mean that nothing hurtful or bad would ever happen to Jacob but it did mean to him and it does mean to us that God will protect us so that his plan, which is good, comes to fruition. Jacob did not have to worry about his brother’s anger, bandits, or wild animals. God would protect him.

In the same way, we do not need to fear the dangers we face in today’s world such as: terrorist, disease, crime, wicked people, etc. God has promised to watch over us and certainly that is enough.

4. Fourth, in uncertain times remember God’s provision.

The promise in verse 15 to “watch over you” had a dual meaning. The Hebrew word שמר ,shamar, meant to protect and to provide for or to take care of. The Hebrew word is first used in Genesis 2: 15 where God instructed Adam to “take care” of the garden i.e. provide for its needs. This means God was also promising to provide for Jacob’s needs in addition to promising to protect him from harm. Jacob clearly understood this because he expects God to both watch over him on his journey and provide food and clothing for him as we see in verse 20.

God has promised to provide for all the needs of his people. Yeshua reminds us that the Father knows we need these things and that since he provides them for the birds of the air, certainly he will provide them for us. We need to remember the promise of God’s provision because even in America, where we are materially blessed, there can be times when we are uncertain as to how our needs will be met. This can cost a lot of unnecessary and harmful anxiety in our lives, but it doesn’t have to do this because God has promised to provide for us.

Let’s recap the four things we need to remember in uncertain times:
God’s Promises,
God’s Presence,
God’s Protection, and
God’s Provision.

Let’s look at Jacob’s response to God’s gracious encouragement and assurance.
Read Genesis 28:16-22

In verse 16 we see that Jacob recognizes that God has intervened in his life in a very special way and that such a Divine visitation should elicit a special response. Jacob then proceeds to set up a stone pillar as a memorial of worship. We also should worship God, especially when he reveals himself to us in special ways.

Then in verses 20-22 Jacob made a vow or commitment to the Lord. This vow could be seen as conditional, “If God does what he promised, I will follow him.” The vow could also be translated as, “Since God has promised these things, I will follow him.” In either case Jacob’s response is to serve Adonai as his God and King and to worship him. We also should respond to God’s assurances to us with worship and commitment.

Often, the miraculous things that God has called us to, or done for us, becomes a dusty memory, or even a point of pain because it has not yet born fruit. It’s at these moments that there is an active component on our part in response to God’s promise.

Recognize. Psalm 119:71 It is good for me that I was afflicted,
so that I may learn Your decrees.

Receive Hebrews 11:6 If a person does not believe God, he cannot please him. Anyone who comes to God must believe that God is real. And he must believe that God will bless those who try to find him. God will reward a person, if he really tries to find God.

Recall Psalm 145:4-7, One generation will praise Your works
to another and declare Your mighty acts.
5 I will meditate on the glorious splendor
of Your majesty and Your wonders.
6 They will speak of the might of Your awesome deeds,
and I will proclaim Your greatness.
7 They will pour out the renown of Your great goodness,
and sing joyfully of Your righteousness.

Recommit. Galatians 6:9 So let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we don’t give up.

Conclusion: Each of us will face uncertain times but we can be encouraged because God is with us and for us.

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

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.