Christianity, Christmas, God, Uncategorized

And yet I show you a still more excellent way…

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 38-42, NASB)

 

In a way, we all become like Martha during the Christmas season. It comes with lots of shopping and preparations for guests that will be arriving. When Christmas Eve/Morning finally arrives, everyone rushes to the tree to receive their presents, but this writer would like to ask, is this all there is?

 

The Savior came down from heaven in the form of a man. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death. And because of His perfect sacrifice, we now have access to the very Throne of God. When we think about these things, one would think that Jesus would be the focus of the entire season, but from this writer’s experience, He only gets a cursory mention (if any mention is made at all) before the wrapping paper starts flying off the presents. Is Jesus really the reason for the season?

 

When we open our presents, what are we really getting? Did Aunt Sally get her nephew a sweater in the right size this time, or did she remember to include the receipt so we can get in the exchange line later? Did your spouse get your subtle hints about what you want, or are they breaking new ground? Whatever is under the tree, it’s all material. It will wear out, go out of fashion, or break and be discarded eventually. Nothing material will ever endure, but that’s what we give each other anyway. As I said in the title, there is a better way.

 

What this writer is asking the readers to consider is doing Christmas, and every day of the year differently after this. Instead of looking to this temporary visible material world for presents, let’s look to the invisible world of the spirit which is eternal. You may say, “but we did a Christmas Eve service already,” but this is far beyond that. You might ask, what can we get from the invisible world of the spirit? Just this: His presence.

 

If Jesus really is the reason for the season, then get out of the shopping line with Martha and sit at the Master’s feet with Mary. Choose to be in His presence instead of focusing on presents. Jesus isn’t impressed that you were able to get your kids the most popular toy for this season, but what moves Him is when He sees the child He died for wanting to be with Him. Aren’t we forgetful hearers if we are focusing on presents when we could be in His presence?

 

I know this is a major paradigm shift, and we don’t do Christmas this way. But this writer feels the time has come to stop giving material things that wear out to receiving eternal things that never fade away. Jesus wants to spend time with you!! If you will decide with your family to come into His presence instead of focusing on presents, the smiles of heaven will be on your family. You have chosen the best part along with Mary, and it shall not be taken away from you.

 

God wants you to go deep with Him, but many people are content to stay in the kiddie pool instead of swimming in the deep waters of His presence. He longs for you to be closer to Him, and to show you great and mighty things you didn’t know. He wants to give you gifts: Peace that passes all understanding, love, joy unspeakable and full of glory, healing, and giving you beauty for ashes. These are found in His presence, and He invites you to join Him.

 

And yet I show you a still more excellent way…choose His presence over presents!

 

Be blessed my friends!

 

Chislev 20, 5777

 

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Putting the phones away helps stop distractions when you’re seeking His presence.

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Christianity, current events, God, morality, November 2016 election, politics, religion, Uncategorized

Now That The Election Is Over….

Mr. Trump has been elected to the great relief of many conservatives and Christians, but this is no time to think the battle is over and the work is done. More than ever this is the time the church needs to be in prayer for our President-elect and our nation. Here are some things to keep in prayer:

 

Presidential leadership/appointments

 

President-elect Trump will be at the helm of this nation as it goes through some of the most difficult times it has ever faced. This will require wisdom that is superior to what the world has to offer. Our President-elect will need wisdom from above to do the right thing no matter how much it conflicts with the world’s point of view. Our President-elect will also need strength and perseverance because the forces that will oppose him are strong, they are entrenched, and they aren’t about to just give up and go away. It may be a long and protracted fight, but it’s a fight we cannot afford to lose. We must pray that our President-elect surrounds himself with the right people and has a team that will faithfully stand by him when the battles rage. It’s going to get very hot in the kitchen, and our new President needs people who can handle the heat. I would also urge us to pray that our President-elect will steer a course that God wants us to take. I have heard a lot about “Make America Great Again,” but that will only happen if our priorities align with God’s priorities. I am sorry, but this really isn’t that time to focus on jobs and the economy; it’s time to focus on the repentance and repair the spiritual problems that got us in this mess in the first place. Our President-elect will need godly priorities!

 

Judgment is still coming

 

Judgment may be delayed, but it is still coming; it will begin in the house of God. The church will be shaken like a tree in a strong wind, and what is rotten will fall off. This is the time to get your house in order. Leave the nets behind like Peter did and follow the Lord Yeshua with all your heart. Go in with all your heart without looking back or go home; it’s better to be hot or cold than lukewarm.

 

We must also keep our nation in prayer. The spiritual condition of America is very serious, as evidenced by the election results. Over 60 million voters voted to go in a direction that would make things even worse, so we need to realize we aren’t out of the woods just because this election is over. The reason we have this is because of division. Division has always been a favorite strategy of the enemy, and America is deeply divided. We have deep divisions over God, race, priorities, politics, right and wrong, etc. This isn’t just division in the world, the church has a bad case of division itself. The Adversary loves it when the people of God are fighting each other because it makes it so much easier for him to do his work undisturbed. We get so distracted fighting each other we don’t understand that we have allowed the enemy to set up shop in our midst. Christ is not divided, and so let’s unite against the real enemy of our souls and country and stop fighting among ourselves.

 

We see that in politics Donald Trump’s transition team is already at work in Washington, but the kingdom of God also has a transition team. God has chosen certain vessels who will work to prepare the way for the King of kings! The reign of darkness is coming to an end, and they aren’t about to go away quietly. The darkness knows that its time is short. All of God’s people are supposed to be on this transition team, but for whatever reason, not everyone is making themselves available. Things are also going to heat up spiritually, and this is the time to prepare. That’s what wise people do; they know what’s coming down the road and take appropriate action. If you have choking weeds in your heart, repent and ask God for help so you can be fully focused on His will. Let all other considerations be rescinded so that His will has first place in your heart. The judgment is still coming; will you make yourself available for God’s transition team?

 

This is just a short post and a call to prayer. Judgment begins in the house of God, and America will become great again by humbling herself before God and repenting first. Please pray!

 

Shalom friends!

 

Heshvan 18, 5777

 

 

 

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Christianity, current events, morality

Will someone help Phoebe? A reminder to love and support all of those who labor among us

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

Romans 16:1-2 (ESV)

The prophet Malachi asked the question “Will a man rob God?” This has been brought up countless times when the call to receive tithes and offerings goes out at church gatherings.  It is an important question concerning tithes and offerings, but there is more to robbing God than this. What do I mean? Tithes and offerings are not limited to what gets put in the offering basket. We also rob God when we dishonor our brothers and sisters, send them away empty, and we do not do good to those to whom it is due.

I wish I could say that the church makes Christianity real by showing the world the love we have for one another, but actual experience paints a different picture. Often times I have seen brothers and sisters in need roughly treated by the church. The church even goes on the offensive against needy brothers and sisters by passing the blame to them: “you wouldn’t be going through this if you were in God’s will.” Sometime the church offers “helpful” advice when they say: “just get a job,” “a man who doesn’t support his family is worse than an unbeliever,” and “didn’t Paul work to supply his needs?” People end up feeling worse when they hear such things instead of being encouraged, and it can also excuse the church from supplying the needs of needy members of the body. When the world sees that this is how we treat our own, they turn away from the truth. Mahatma Gandhi once said “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” These things ought not to be.

There are two types of people I have in mind when I speak of needy brothers and sisters. On the one hand, brothers and sisters have become needy due to circumstances beyond their control. An example of this are those have lost employment and are no longer able to support themselves. On the other hand, there are those who have become needy in answer to the call of God. They have given up everything to be obedient to the call of God; these are modern day Levites who go wherever God calls them and whose sole support comes from the people of God. Both of these groups have a legitimate claim to be supported by the church, but in practice, those who suffer involuntary need receive better treatment than those who voluntarily give up everything to obey God.

There is a simple explanation for this. People who become needy involuntarily are respected because their circumstances are not their fault. They were working and self-supporting until they lost employment. They are actively seeking employment again; they just need help until they can get back on their feet. Because they are regarded as truly in need, this makes it easy and respectable to justify doing good for them. Modern day Levites have a tougher time getting support. Because they voluntarily walked away from worldly work and possessions, their need for support is regarded with a degree of suspicion: “Why don’t you just get a job? Didn’t Paul work? Who is your pastor, and why isn’t anyone supporting you?” And the list goes on with many such variations. Such questions seek to undermine the legitimate need modern day Levites have for support from the church. They have even accused of using full time ministry as an excuse to live off the labor of others since they aren’t doing “real” work; this distortion makes it much harder to justify doing good to them. After all, no one wants to support someone who just wants a free ride. Many times in the church it’s the Martha types who get respect and sympathy because they are working (or trying to), but the Mary types are still disdained for wanting to devote themselves to the Lord (Luke 10: 38-42).

Before we dismiss the needs of our modern day Levites, let’s use the light of God’s word to examine the legitimacy of the needs of modern day Levites. If Scripture shows that modern day Levites still walk the Earth today, then we must answer some questions: Does God still call people to give up everything and follow Him? If so, what is our obligation toward them?

Does God still call people to give up everything and follow Him?

Yes. The call to give up everything is explicit in the call to discipleship (Matt 10: 37-39). We cannot love anything more than the Lord Yeshua and still be His disciple, so we must acknowledge that everything belongs to Him, and that He is free to do whatever He wants with it. The shemitah year (which we are now in) reminds us about this because it is a recurring reminder that everything belongs to God. That means we are not owners of anything; we are just stewards entrusted by God to manage His possessions. We must never hold on to anything like it belongs to us. Chuck Swindoll said it very well when he said “hold on to the things you love with loose fingers, because if you don’t, it’s going to hurt when God takes them away.”

God does not always call us away from our vocation. Sometimes He keeps us in our present circumstances as a witness to others on the job or in your neighborhood. He may also want you to use some of the income he provides for you to support others in ministry. But sometimes He does call us away, as when Peter, Andrew, James, and John walked away from the family and their livelihood in the fishing business for something better (Matt 4: 18-22). So what is our obligation to the ex-fishermen among us?

Our obligation to modern day Levites

Since modern day Levites are called by the Lord into full time service, they are entitled to receive their living from their service. Paul wrote that “One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches” Gal 6:6 (ESV) and “If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” 1 Cor 9:11 (ESV). That means we have an obligation to supply their physical, spiritual, and emotional needs so that they will be fully equipped and lack nothing. This is where we must do something to make our support real, not just pray about it (James 2: 14-16).

Physical needs

We must support out modern day Levites so their physical needs are supplied; this can be food, shelter, expenses, or clothing. I have heard the objection that if God is their supplier, then He will supply everything supernaturally. This does not align with Scripture, and this becomes apparent if we use the ministry of Yeshua as a case in point. It is true that Yeshua did multiply loaves and fishes to feed thousands of people, but His ministry was still supported by everyday people:

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their [private] means.

Luke 8:1-3 (ESV)

The Lord’s ministry depended on the contributions of the people to supply physical needs, and if His ministry was supplied this way, then we must also supply our modern day Levites from the resources God blesses us with.

Spiritual and emotional needs

We often look to our modern day Levites to supply comfort, exhortation, teaching, intercession, love, healing, and ministry, but we often forget they also need the same thing. When the enemy attacks and brings setbacks and discouragement, the encouragement our modern day Levite needs comes from the body of believers. When we make mistakes, we still need to confess our faults to each other and bind up each other’s wounds. In short, we need to bear our burdens with one another, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

We must also be particularly vigilant to protect our modern day Levites in the physical and spiritual realms. Just because they are ministering for God doesn’t mean the Adversary leaves them alone. On the contrary, they are often the target of much worse attacks than the rest of us in God’s army. They are uniquely gifted, equipped, and called forerunners in God’s army, and the enemy would love to knock them out of the fight. As such, we must intercede and cover them with prayer; this binds up the enemy so that he doesn’t interfere with their ministry. Don’t forget the power that effective and fervent prayer has (James 5:  16-18). We must also be ready to make a stand with our modern day Levites because some attacks are in the physical realm. Slander, accusations, and all kinds of mistreatment and abuse are often directed at our modern day Levites, and when these things happen we must be prepared to stand up as their defenders and advocates. Do not forget the strength that comes in numbers (Eccl 4: 9-12).

Go all the way when you support the modern day Levites

Don’t give our modern day Levites halfhearted support (in military terms, don’t half step). What I mean is this: Anyone can provide a meal or a coat, but just doing so doesn’t mean the need is fulfilled. Anyone can provide a meal or a coat without any emotional attachment, but doing this is the same as a clanging symbol (1 Cor 13: 1-3). What good does it do to get a meal without the chance to share your heart and connect over the meal? There is a huge difference between receiving a meal from a heart filled with love, and a meal without love. Modern day Levites need all the benefits and encouragement that comes from love (as we all do). This is better, but I want to go one step further and show my brothers and sisters a more excellent way.

Encouraging a modern day Levite over a meal is good, but such encounters are transitory and infrequent. A more excellent way is to provide long term intervention and loving support. If you have an extra room and want to donate the space to support a modern day Levite, that is well and good. But I repeat the same thing here I said about meals: do it in love. I have seen a modern day Levite be provided with a living space at different houses, but no love to go with it. This made the spiritual atmosphere toxic and even adversarial instead of holy and sanctified. The result of these arrangements was conflict, strife, and suffering in the physical and grieving the Holy Spirit in the spiritual. This is unacceptable behavior for those who call Yeshua Lord and it must stop. A modern day Levite needs a safe place to land after a day of ministry to be refreshed, and this is provided with a long term commitment to supply a living space (physical support) and love (spiritual and emotional support) for as long as God assigns that Levite to labor in your area. A long term commitment of love and support is the most excellent way, and this means bonding with another person like they are your family (which they are). I encourage everyone who has the resources to do so to sow into this work. Think of it this way: If you obeyed God’s call and left everything behind, how would you want others to minister to you? Please remember the modern day Levites among us who gave up everything to obey God’s call and honor the Lord Yeshua in them by helping them with whatever they have need of. You will be blessed!

A word of warning

I have gone to great lengths to show that modern day Levites need our support, but what happens when they are ignored and roughly treated? Consider this:

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” Then he will answer them, saying, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

Matt 25:41-46 (ESV)

Withholding good from those to whom it is due is sin, so I ask again: Will a man rob God?

Be encouraged, my beloved!

January 1, 2015

Tevet 10, 5775

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