“Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I suffered shipwreck. A night and a day I spent in the open sea. In my many journeys I have been in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the desert, dangers in the sea, dangers among false brothers, in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (2 Corinthians 11:25-27)
Life is a great journey, filled with ups and down, winding roads, and sometimes looping circles. We my become discouraged when we don’t succeed in what we set out to do and when we continually confront denials and letdowns. We may begin to question ourselves, even more, we may question God and His faithfulness toward us. It may be that we begin to ask the age-old question – “Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the treacherous thrive?” (Jeremiah 12:1).
You or someone close to you may be experiencing some of these letdowns right now. You may be asking, “God, where are you and why are you not acting on my behalf?” This may not be to first time you’ve been in this situation; and it may not be the last. If you’ve experienced this before, you know the faithfulness of God because you have come out of it to be a witness. If this is your first time experiencing these trials, or if it seems you have been in this pattern for far too long, remember God’s promises to His children and keep in mind that “God is not a man who lies, or a son of man who changes his mind! Does He speak and then not do it, or promise and not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19). He continues to tell us to “Be still before Adonai and wait patiently for Him. Do not fret over one prospering in his way, over one carrying out wicked schemes” (Psalm 37:7).
Remember, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some consider slowness. Rather, He is being patient toward you” (2 Peter 3:9a). Hold fast to your faith and never take your eyes of the Lord. Testing will come as long as we are in this world but remember, “Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him” (James 1:2). Yes, this is much easier to say than to do but the one who tells us this is faithful to see us through. We too have a part to play in inheriting the promises of God. This is why it’s important that we examine ourselves each day and to rid ourselves of all that defiles us. As written in scripture, “Therefore, since we have these promises, loved ones, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of body and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
You may feel as though you are in a never ending bad situation but “God settles the lonely in a home. He leads prisoners out to prosperity” (Psalm 68:7). It may seem to you that you have nothing to offer, but remember, “A soul who blesses will prosper, and one who gives water will himself be satisfied” (Proverbs 11:25). If you are concerned with the prosperity of the wicked, remember, “Misfortune pursues sinners, but prosperity rewards the righteous” (Proverbs 13:21).
Regardless of your situation today, my prayer for you is that you will strengthen your faith in Messiah and that you will imitate Paul who, even through his litany of tribulations, could write, “I know what it is to live with humble means, and I know what it is to live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment—both to be filled and to go hungry, to have abundance and to suffer need. I can do all thingsthrough Messiah who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:12-13).
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)
God loves peace and promises to bring about perfect peace at the end. Yeshua demonstrated this attribute of God by declaring, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Why then do we find so many conflicts documented in the Bible and why do we live in such a contentious world. Some people may shake their fists at God as the source of conflict but James tell us from where conflicts arise – “Where do quarrels and conflicts among you come from? Don’t they come from this, namely your passions that battle within your body parts?” (James 4:1).
You see, we are the problem. We are the source of conflict and no matter how hard we try, or what ingenious systems we develop we cannot bring about complete peace. But, we do have the ability to bring about peaceful results on a smaller scale. Our fallen human nature, and an opportunistic enemy – Satan – is always acting and reacting in such a way that creates conflict. But we have hope!
They key ingredient to conflict resolution is love, love for God and love for each other (Matthew 22:36-40). Why, because love is unselfish and where selfishness exists we will find pride. This is what James meant when he said, “your passions that battle within your body parts.” The first step to conflict resolution is to look beyond your own feelings. We cannot resolve conflicts when our hurts, shame, guilt, anger, and pride are in the way.
This is never easy! Your feelings may be justified and your response may well be warranted but acting on them may create more harm than good and can make resolution more difficult. These same feelings can lead to sin which can impede our prayers and affect our relationship with God. This is why Yeshua said, “if you are presenting your offering upon the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering” (Matthew 5:23-24).
Today, if you are offended by someone or something and you have not resolved your conflict, the first step is to be honest with how you are feeling. Next, be honest with the offender but not in a confrontational aggressive manner. Discuss the offense before it festers and let love be your guide in what you say and do.
After thousands of years of conflict and attempts at conflict resolution it may be safe to say we have failed at finding the perfect solution. We must look to God, our ultimate peacemaker, to guide us as we make peace with our family, friends, colleagues, and the strangers we meet along the way. “And the shalom of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yeshua” (Philippians 4:7).
“Adonai, in the morning You hear my voice. In the morning I order my prayer before You and watch expectantly” (Psalm 5:4).
Why do we pray? Yes, this question assumes that you pray and that you know other people who pray! Search the internet and you may find many definitions of prayer. No matter how others define prayer, it always involves God as the recipient. One may say that pray is us talking to God.
There may be no limit to why people pray and what we pray for. You may pray because you always want to be communicating with God. Or, you may pray to ask for something for yourself, or for someone else. If you are not sure how to pray, the best practice is to turn to the Bible for examples of prayers. These are some examples of what you will find:(more…)
“In the same way, the Ruach helps in our weakness. For we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Ruach Himself intercedes for us with groans too deep for words. And He who searches the hearts knows the mind of the Ruach, because He intercedes for the kedoshim according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).
What does intercession mean to you and why would you intercede on another’s behalf, or need another to interceded for you? Instead of looking to the dictionary for the meaning, it may be more helpful, in this context, to look at biblical examples of someone acting as an intercessor.
Abraham interceded for Sodom and Gomorrah before God destroyed it. Abraham began appealing to God for the sake of fifty righteous people living in those cities, with his last plea being, “Please, let not my Lord be angry, so I may speak once more. Perhaps ten will be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.” (Genesis 18:16-33). Abraham interceded for Abimelech after he took Sarah thinking she was Abraham’s sister. God visited Abimelech in a dream and told him to return Sarah, or he would die. “So now, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet. And let him pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, know that you will surely die—you and all who are yours” (Genesis 20:7). After a seemingly tense meeting between Abraham and Abimelech, we learn that “Abraham prayed to God and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his female slaves so that they could bear children. For Adonai had completely shut up every womb in Abimelech’s household because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife” (Genesis 20:17-18).(more…)
“So she called Adonai who was speaking to her, “You are the God who sees me.” For she said, “Would I have gone here indeed looking for Him who looks after me?” (Genesis 16:13
Have you been in a place where you wonder, “God, where are you?”. Are you in that place right now and are seemingly not getting a response from God? Sometime God shows up where we are not looking for him and where we least expect. Hagar said, “Would I have gone here looking for Him who looks after me?” No, she wouldn’t, is what she is saying. Who would willingly venture into a dry wilderness with your young child(ren) with little to no food or water?!(more…)
Have you ever been scapegoated?
A scapegoat is a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, and faults of others. Even if it has some truth to the accusations, a scapegoat is often wrongly accused and carries all the guilt of the entire group. Leviticus chapter 16 introduces us to the scapegoat and the purpose it served Israel – to carry away the sins of the people.
“Then he is to take from the congregation of Bnei-Yisrael two he-goats for a sin offering and one ram for a burnt offering. Then Aaron is to offer the bull for the sin offering which is for himself and make atonement for himself and his house. Then he is take the two goats and present them before Adonai at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Aaron will then cast lots for the two goats—one lot for Adonai, and the other lot for the scapegoat. Aaron is to present the goat on which the lot for Adonai fell and make it a sin offering. But the goat upon which the lot for the scapegoat fell is to be presented alive before Adonai, to make atonement upon it, by sending it away as the scapegoat into the wilderness“. (Leviticus 16:5-10)
This Yeshua is ‘the stone—rejected by you, the builders—that has become the chief cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved!” (Acts 4:11-12)
About two thousand years ago, God came to His own so that He might deliver us from the tyranny of sin and death. He did not appear as the people expected and did not live according to the limits they had set in place for themselves and the people of Israel.
The mission was a complete success! Yeshua died on the execution stake for your sins, and mine. Crowds of people greeted Yeshua shouting “Hosanna” the day he entered Jerusalem riding on the donkey (Matthew 21:9). Today we sing hallelujah because He overcame the cross and death and is advocating on our behalf before the Father.(more…)
“We have come to know love by this—Yeshua laid down His life for us, and we also ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. But if someone has material possessions and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Children, let us not love with word or talk, but in deed and truth!” (1John 3:16-18).
One of the most oft-repeated verses of scripture is John 3:16 – “For God so love the world that He gave His one and onlySon, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life“. These words, uttered by Yeshua, express God’s perfect love for us. In it we find no bias or favoritism. God’s love is not limited to a select people, race, or genealogy; His love is for the world, and He expresses it by sending His Son to pay the ultimately penalty for our sins.
God’s love did not and does not end at the cross! He continues to express His love for us through the Holy Spirit, whom He sent on Shavuot (Pentecost) as Yeshua promised (John 14:26).
What about you, how are you a vessel through whom God is pouring out His love on others? The Apostle John said that we have come to know love through Yeshua’s sacrifice and that we should show this same love by doing the same for others. Does the love of God abide in you and is this made clear by your deeds? We share this world with cruel and unloving people. Some of these people may be family members, co-workers, friends, and colleagues. We who call on the name of the Lord have an awesome responsibility to show His love to everyone we meet, regardless of how they treat us.
Today, if you call on the name of the Lord but have not lived in a manner that is a true expression of His love, make that part of your resolution, but not for the coming year alone. God’s love is neither seasonal nor conditional and neither should ours be. Love your neighbor and care for others in the same way the Lord loves and cares for you. Yes, you may fall short but remember, we have an advocate who knows our shortcomings and is willing and able to forgive. When you fall, get up and get moving again. Remember, “Love never fails” (1 Corinthian 13:8).
“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us. Establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:17).
What does it mean to you to have God’s favor? The Psalmist prayed that God’s favor would be upon them and immediately followed up with a prayer that God would establish the work of their hands for them. God said, “Whoever find me find life, and obtains favor from Adonai” (Proverbs 8:35) and Solomon wrote, “Let kindness and truth never leave you—bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will gain favor and a good name in the eyes of God and man” (Proverbs 3:3-4).
Seek God’s favor continuously and ceaselessly, and He will guide you in righteousness. God will guide your steps and direct the work of your hands to make you successful. Yes, we begin with prayer, but we must put our prayer into action as God guides us. This is why the Psalmist asked God to establish the work of his hands. God created us and commanded us to work the land (Genesis 2:15). We are created to be participants in his kingdom in every way and while we depend upon Him to guide us in righteousness we should take part in the plan He has put in place for us.
In all that you do, do it with kindness and truth for in this we gain favor with God. Seek the Lord with all your heart, soul, and strength and you will find Him. In Him is life and this life is the favor of Adonai.
May the favor of Adonai be upon you. “For [Adonai] bless the righteous and “surround him with favor as a shield” (Psalm 5:13).
The world appears to be suffering from identity crisis and this – identity crisis – is having a dramatic effect on each of us. We are created to be social beings, created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). For this reason we have formed social clubs, sports leagues, communities, and political systems that we most identify with. Yet, even among these social clicks we often have a desire to stand out. It is not good enough to identify with the larger community, we tend to try to express our uniqueness among them as well.
The more we seek to stand out, the more we begin to show that we are no different from others who are trying to do the same. In this we prove our focus on self, and that we have more in common with others than we think. The answer to this is humility! Followers of Yeshua (Jesus) must never shy away from having things in common. We should all have the same goal of growing to be more like Messiah Yeshua. We should continually work to have a common faith (Titus 1:4), which has an identity formed in Messiah Yeshua.
Our common faith in Yeshua grants us the right to receive the title “children of God” (John 1:12), “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9) and “God’s people” (1 Peter 2:10).
We often make resolutions at the beginning of the new year which are often based on what we may have failed at accomplishing the year before; some of these resolutions are at times a repeat of what we declared the year(s) prior. Making a New Year’s resolution in not wrong. Though, I wonder how often it has its foundation securely in Messiah? Yeshua said, “Because I live, you also will live! “In that day, you will know that I am in My Father, you are in Me, and I am in you” (John 14:19b-20).
Our identity – as believers in Yeshua – should be base on our common faith in God. We make resolutions partly because we want to change something about ourselves that is inherently part of our identity. I may be that we are trying to more closely fit a societal norm, it may be that we are trying to be more health conscious, or we may be responding to a health concern. No matter the reason, our race for identity should not outpace our common faith. If we call upon the name of Yeshua we should bot be afraid to run as one in Him. “For those whom [God] foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of [Yeshua]” (Romans: 8:29). Those who are of the world may be trying to look more like and stand out among those of the world, “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory—just as from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).