Hear and Know

I find myself frequently praying for Abba to constantly show His presence to me recently. Slowly, I am beginning to recognize how He has been for a long time that only increases as time goes by.

There have been numerous people, including me at one point, who have looked up to religious leaders and teachers as if they were somehow uniquely connected with God on His personal line and that the only way to reach Him was through the people who had the number to it.

In the same token, people accredit certain actions and beliefs to Abba and even Yeshua and question how people can know the difference between when something is of Him or not.

Here’s the thing:

The reason teachers are usually a wealth of information on wise counsel of Abba is because they have built a life that revolves around intimacy with Him.

They dedicate time to Him by seeking counsel alone in prayer, presently meditate on the awareness of His constant presence, talk about Him and reference Him often, seek understanding by challenging ideas with others in a loving way, and the most important part of all of the relationship building that can be done is to actively interact with Scripture.

While not all teachers are great by any means or even so perfect that they are 24/7 absorbed in Him, they have chosen to be dedicated to a relationship just like we (hopefully) do in our marriages.

When we are married to someone and establish a household and a family, that is the center of our focus. We are constantly nourishing what we build, working for their ultimate good, running ourselves ragged to provide every need and be a good example, and take care to set aside time for them in a way that allows true connection.

The best part about connecting with those you love is being able to really see them for everything they are. Even if you can’t describe in words who they are, you understand them because being in their presence becomes something familiar. Recognizing that and honoring that is the purest form of relating with others because it’s unmarred by our own images and ideas.

While we can’t understand Abba for everything He is, we absolutely can learn to understand and build a connection with Him through Scripture by learning His character. Starting with the Torah is such an important foundation for doing that because it lists in detail the exact kind of “person” – being – He is.

He gives us a detailed map of exactly the kind of life He wants us to lead based on what is good. When our parents raised us, they did exactly this over the period of our life and even still teach us wisdom when we are outside of their covering.

Everything about what our parents teach us compiled into one, uniformed image is a look at their identity and character. When they call and you answer, even without looking to see who’s calling, you know their voice. When someone tells you something they’ve said or done, we sometimes say, “That sounds like them!” Because we intimately know their character after years of walking in their presence and teaching.

The more we establish that kind of intimate relationship with Abba, the more readily we can identify what is or isn’t of His character and guidance to us simply because we learned to recognize His voice.

The greatest part about Scripture being an instruction for our daily lives is how we can relate with it on a regular basis. If you’ve ever had to learn a hard lesson from someone by making a mistake and got punished for it, I bet you recall that person or event frequently when you are approached with the same scenario. The same principle applies but on a much grander scale. When I choose to eat something clean over unclean, I think of Him. When I wear my tassels and consider my actions, I have a physical reminder that brings up a passage of instruction saying, “This is His wisdom versus your wisdom.” In our house, music was really important. The more I listen to praise music and fellowship with others, especially when Hebrew is in it, I recall those songs in my daily life without any prompting, while I’m waking up from dreams and falling asleep at night, because it’s a natural reaction for me to sing. How beautiful to know that my mind is meditating on Him without any intention of doing so – because my life has become an intentional one for Him.

If you want to hear His voice, take initiative to welcome Him into your life and seek to be part of His Word. Sit with Him at the family table without any outside influence to interrupt and build that relationship. Ask Him to show His presence and speak to you throughout the day the way you may meet up with friends at lunch or send a text message to someone throughout the day, prompt Him for feedback as a welcoming into your life the way you ask your significant other for feedback on things.

Make the effort.


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Teaching

The gifts of the Spirit used to be some mystical superpower in my mind. I struggled with what my “superpower” could be, if I even had one, and how I could possibly grow in them as if to force them. I even thought some of them would be better than others. “Who cares about the power of tongues?!” and later when I was able to better define myself as a servant, “But that’s not special at all.” I learned later that teaching was something more natural for me to fall into, and that’s when the greatest spiritual growth began to happen.
 
Studying on the topic of teaching was an eye opener that we are all teachers, all the time.
 
People sometimes misunderstand the calling to teach as a glamorous position that makes you highly regarded somehow. Particularly in this walk, and especially those new to their faith, it’s easy to find Truth and build your suit of armor, shield, and sword for battle. One of the biggest mistakes we make is using that armor to tear down the very covenant we have been called to serve, protect, and build up.
 
Teaching is more than standing in the crowd and giving a speech. There’s years of study under other qualified authorities, entire themes and ideas that have to be made into concrete steps of a path that leads to deeper relationship with Abba, different learning (or receiving) styles have to be considered to best get the message to those listening, hours of heartfelt prayer on where He is calling you to go next, and being the center example as a leader for what others are meant to be.
 
While you don’t necessarily have to have a following to be a teacher, the people around you every day are learning from you. They are learning how you speak to others, the way you dress, the energy you give off, what your actions reflect of your character. As Believers, what are we teaching to the people around us? The ones in our congregation, on our timelines, at work, strangers?
 
When we mistake teaching – or correction – for aggressive assertion, we are completely devaluing what we are called to do.
 
2 Timothy 2:22-26 “So, flee the passions of youth; and, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart, pursue righteousness, faithfulness, love and peace. But stay away from stupid and ignorant controversies — you know that they lead to fights, and a slave of the Lord shouldn’t fight. On the contrary, he should be kind to everyone, a good teacher, and not resentful when mistreated. Also he should be gentle as he corrects his opponents. For God may perhaps grant them the opportunity to turn from their sins, acquire full knowledge of the truth, come to their senses and escape the trap of the Adversary, after having been captured alive by him to do his will.”
 
While we can be so excited to share Truth with others, and equally frustrated when others can’t see it, it’s crucial to understand it’s not our job to turn hearts. It’s our job to be a light to people so that when they are ready because Abba calls them, they have others to look to and learn from – and most importantly – with. It’s also important to consider who your audience is when you’re speaking to them. Not everyone receives information in the same manner. When we speak with aggression and accusation, we can find ourselves calling the wrong people and teaching others the wrong things. Not necessarily because what we believe from Scripture is wrong but, instead, that Abba calls us to be anything but wise, gentle, and firmly grounded in Him.
 
Be careful not to be grounded in things not of Him.
 
Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

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Grief

by: Casey Carnicle

Grief – a deep sorrow usually caused by someone’s death.

Let’s talk about grief. Scripture has a lot to say about grief and eventually each and every one of us will experience it.

It is generally accepted that there are 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. There are some variations to the model, but this is the most widely accepted.

Grieving the loss of a loved one can be earth shattering, compounded by the physical effects that can manifest in the body.

“Grief increases inflammation, which can worsen health problems you already have and create new ones. It batters the immune system, leaving you depleted and vulnerable to infection. The heartbreak of grief can increase blood pressure and the risk of blood clots. Intense grief can weaken the heart muscle so much that it causes “broken heart syndrome”, a form of heart disease with the same symptoms as a heart attack.” – WebMD

One way I find solace in my grief is through reading God’s word. I know, I know…that might sound cliche, but I find great comfort in the continuity of the human experience from the beginning of time between the covers of my Bible.

Take for instance, David. This man was who you might call a “manly” man. He worked hard tending his father’s flocks as a boy. He fought off bears, lions, and eventually Goliath. He was made a general over King Saul’s armies and married the King’s daughter; only to then have the King turn around and put a hit out on his life. Eventually David becomes King, but how did a man like David deal with grief?

“Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.” 2 Samuel 1:11-12

David’s grief was so overwhelming that he tore his clothes and wept. It says he fasted until evening also. Have you ever felt pain that intense? Have you ever been so overridden by emotion that you have no desire for food? I have.

Another example of a people dealing with grief is in the Book of Lamentations. A little background here: whoever authored this book (probably the prophet Jeremiah) wrote it sometime after the third deportation of the people of Judah to Babylon. These people have been forced out of their homeland, their beloved city and Temple has been destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar.

The author describes his emotional state as:

“My eyes are spent with weeping;
my stomach churns;
my bile is poured out to the ground
because of the destruction of the daughter of my people,
because infants and babies faint
in the streets of the city.” Lamentations 2:11

He was all cried out, every last tear spent. I can imagine them red, swollen, irritated. I can identify with those types of tears. He goes out to say his “bile is poured out to the ground”. The destruction, terror, and death he was witnessing made him physically nauseous to the point of vomiting.

We’ve been blessed so far as to have not suffered any foreign invasions here in the US over the centuries. However, maybe you or someone you know has been displaced due to a fire or a natural disaster. You’ve lost all of your possessions. Your friends and loved ones are now scattered or lost. This is what the people of Judah were experiencing at the time Lamentations was written and matters only made worse by the cruelty of a foreign regime.

There are numerous qualified examples within Scripture to shed light on the most grueling of human experiences that we know of as grief; but this last one…Ah, this last one just gets me. When I read it, it’s like a thump to my heart.

I’m going to give a little background as to what is taking place here before I share those two little words that resonate so deeply in my soul when I read them.

Our Messiah loved people. He loved being among the common folk, partaking in the life experience. He ate, drank, celebrated all of the beautiful moments and gifts that life gives us such as weddings, and children. He laughed. He made friends. He partook of the human experience as we all do.

Jesus…Jesus was close friends with a trio of siblings; Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. While he was off on his travels sharing and ministering to people, Lazarus became critically ill.

We know Lazarus was on his death bed because we’re told the Jewish community in their village was there consoling his sisters. The women caught wind that Jesus was on his way to the village, and Mary, Lazarus’ sister, rushed out to find him. She knew he had the power to heal, yet when she found Jesus; well, you will see…

“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:32

Anger. Blame. Denial. She knew Jesus was a holy man. She knew to show reverence as he was anointed by God, that’s why she fell and knelt at his feet, but she was angry at the situation. Angry that not even her brother who was close friends with the anointed one of God could escape death. Angry that the one person who could have saved him was not there when her brother needed him most. She blamed Jesus, but really in all actuality, she blamed God; because after all Jesus was God’s image bearer.

Whewwww…Just pause. Just pause and reflect on that. If you have never felt that type of anger and emotion towards the Almighty, kudos to you. Really, much applause; but I have, and I can identify with the rawness of this encounter.

And how did Jesus take it?

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” John 11:33

Now this is important, so very important, for those of you who may not be grieving but know someone who is, or maybe you’re grieving to a lesser extent than the other person. It says our Messiah was deeply moved in his spirit. I imagine at this moment Jesus is empathizing with Mary’s sorrow and grief. We are told he is greatly troubled, as he begins to internalize the news and his own grief begins to rise. Maybe he was greatly troubled even because Mary just projected her anger onto him.

What is important is to watch how he responded to it all, and this is the part that sends a thump to my heart. Those two words that get me every time.

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

Just let that sink in for a moment…

Our Messiah knew he had been given the power to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew he was going to do it. But in that moment, seeing the brokenness of his people, his friends, he joined them in their mourning and “Jesus wept.”

That’s my kind of King right there. That is someone I’m not ashamed to give ownership and rulership of my life over to. Not some mystical deity that plays Cards Against Humanity up in the sky. No. Someone who lived the human experience. Someone who walked, talked, breathed, lived, laughed, loved, sweat, bled, and yes, wept.

It is these dark, grievous moments in life when sometimes all we have is our faith to carry us through. I think God knew that about us. He knew that we needed someone tangible whom we could relate to, so He sent Jesus.

And there’s hope in him. Hope is a very valuable force in the human experience.

Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

…and Scripture gives us that hope, in Jesus.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

If you are mourning or grieving, please know that you are not alone. It is part of the human experience. Consider finding solace in God’s Word. Talk with loved ones about your process. Pray. Get out into nature. Exercise. And if depression sets in, don’t be afraid or ashamed to talk to a medical professional to help you climb out of the valley. Many a great men and women before you have experienced the different stages of grief. You’re in good company and it’s just another part of the human experience.

 

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Come in whatever state you’re in. Just don’t stay there.

The best way we can seek Abba’s presence is through prayer. For me, this was something abstract and at the most in depth taught with an ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) method. While this was a very basic approach and helped, it didn’t build the connection that I needed to truly experience the Holy Spirit.
 
Even though I was seeking to build my relationship with Abba by studying Scripture and doing my best to live out His will through the Torah, I found myself shrinking away from actually speaking with Him. The truth was, my own shame was preventing me from being transformed because the judgment I was putting on myself was all I could see, and ultimately, I was making it too great for His forgiveness and presence, because I hadn’t really forgiven myself.
This is one of the most dangerous things we can do in the relationship is to be so ashamed – or even prideful and distrusting that He knows best – of where we come from that we run from Him rather than to Him with a genuine wholeheartedness.
“Come near to God, and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded!” James 4:8
There is genuine consequence of willfully being outside of the holiness of Abba’s presence, but more so, He invites us to seek Him because He wants to love us wholly. In the most unclean parts of ourselves, in the parts we want to hide and run from, is where the relationship deepens the most. Even though we have no deserving of our own doing to be welcomed, if we ask to be transformed, He comes near.
If you’ve ever had a valuable relationship (parent-child, significant other, friendships) that has gone through a trial, when true remorse took place and then true forgiveness, that relationship became much more solid than it was before. Something that had to be in place before remorse and forgiveness was a state of true vulnerability in being seen for everything that you are. When He accepts us in our raw state, we can begin to build a relationship of trust that when something bad happens, we can immediately run to him in earnest and say, “Abba, I messed up. I need Your help.”
Much more than only judgment and reflection, prayer is service of the heart. This is when we can connect with the spirit within us that is filled with His light and begin to cultivate growth. This is a fundamental tool that is graciously given and commanded as a practice to allow holiness to take place in our lives – this is for our sake. When we allow growth to happen through Him, we begin to shape the raw form we have come in into something beautiful and valuable for the work we are called to do. We can begin to cultivate the natural goodness we are created with into something powerful and holy – and reconcile the natural bad we struggle with so we can repair the relationship we have with ourselves and those around us.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13
When we use that goodness inside of us to want nothing more than genuine connection with Abba, we seek to be bound to Him. In my journey to learning how to pray, a teacher pointed out that we aren’t always great at seeking Abba the way we think we are. When we get sick, we go to the doctor before we pray. When we need information, we can seek other people or Google before we pray. In this man’s daily life, he says that he allows countless opportunities for Abba to play a role in his life by simply asking for His guidance in even the most mundane things. While there’s not always an instruction to be given, by opening himself up to being directed this way, his life has been much more aligned with Abba’s will and has allowed great blessing to be carried out for the good of others. Even this small window of opportunity is a way that prayer takes place as an avenue for us to be bound to Him.
If you’re coming from a place that keeps some part of you reserved from Him, whether it be shame or distrust or pride, I pray that you be brave enough to want to seek Him with every fiber of your being and truly experience the relationship that can take place because of it. While your relationship may be formal at best in the moment, laying everything about who you are at His feet and asking to go on the journey with Him is the only way you can come to a place of genuine peace, understanding, trust, and love.
 

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Emuna

by: Alyssa Goodeaux
 
Most of my life has been a string of events that shaped the foundation of who I am. These events were all-encompassing, trying to a great extent, and completely out of my control. Life was something of an event that I figured out how to survive in. It wasn’t until many years later, apart from those circumstances, that I could look back on my journey and see clearly what had been happening and how truly important all of the good, bad, and ugly were for where I am going.
There’s a neat idea that if you go back to the Torah portion told on the weekly Sabbath of your birthday, you can gain profound insight into your life. While this isn’t an end-all be-all to existence, the story that I resonate with most in Scripture does directly relate with the portion related to my birthday: Beshalach (Exodus 13:17–17:16).
This is the telling of His people, rescued from Egypt, going through the dessert and how they carried that out. While constantly being cared for, despite all they had been through, they were in a state of raw survival and from less than kind circumstances – and anything but gracious to Abba for being cared for. As we His children do, there were requests, defiance, and complaints. It’s what I think of as the period of transformation and transition for them and what I now can identify with in my own story.
Waiting in my own Egypt was more than a period of passivity that can be mistakenly associated with the word “waiting.” Waiting in my own Egypt was absolutely necessary preparation for where He leads me today. If you’ve been in Torah observant circles long enough, you’ve heard the coined phrase that there are only two periods of the year: the festivals and waiting for the festivals. “Waiting” for the festivals means lots of background planning. You don’t wait for the festival to come to start putting money aside or deciding where to go and who with and all the details that have to be addressed to properly carry out His will. In the same way, waiting became an intense period of preparation and especially one of building emuna.
Emuna means faith, faithfulness, and is closely related to “being sturdy or firm,” but not of oneself – being faithful and firm in Abba.
Even at a time when I barely understood who He really is, I would find myself desperately seeking Him for salvation from a situation that seemed hopeless. The reality is, I was being tempered into unshakable faith because what was inescapable before changed as my relationship with Him changed. After He drew me out and separated me, over time, I was able to recognize how His hand had been on my life all along, gently but consistently pushing me forward.
 
G‑d said to Moses: “Why do you cry out to Me?
Speak to the children of Israel, that they should go forward” (Ex. 14:15)
 
As they stood at the shore of the sea, the people of Israel split into four factions. One faction said: “Let us cast ourselves into the sea.” A second faction said, “Let us return to Egypt.” A third said, “Let us wage war against the Egyptians.” A fourth said, “Let us cry out to G‑d.” Thus Moses said to the people: “Fear not; stand by and see the salvation of G‑d, which He will show you today. For as you have seen Egypt this day, you shall not see them again anymore, forever. G‑d shall fight for you, and you shall be silent” (14:13–14).
To those who said, “Let us cast ourselves into the sea,” he said: “Fear not; stand by and see the salvation of G‑d.” To those who said, “Let us return to Egypt,” he said: “As you have seen Egypt this day, you shall not see them again anymore, forever.” To those who said, “Let us wage war against them,” he said: “G‑d shall fight for you.” And to those who said, “Let us cry out to G‑d,” he said: “And you shall be silent.”
(Mechilta)
 
These “four factions” represent four possible reactions to a situation in which one’s divinely ordained mission in life is challenged by the prevalent reality.One possible reaction is: “Let us cast ourselves into the sea.” Let us submerge ourselves within the living waters of Torah; let us plunge into the “sea of the Talmud,” the sea of piety, the sea of religious life. Let us create our own insular communities, protecting us and ours from the G‑dless world out there.
 
At the other extreme is the reaction, “Let us return to Egypt.” Let us accept “reality,” recognizing that it is the Pharaohs who wield the power in the real world. We’ll do whatever we can under the circumstances to do what G‑d expects from us, but it is futile to imagine that we can resist, much less change, the way things are.
 
A third reaction is to “wage war against them”—to assume a confrontational stance against the hostile reality, battling the “unG‑dly” world despite all odds.
 
A fourth reaction is to say: It’s wrong to abandon the world, it’s wrong to succumb to it and it’s wrong to fight it. The answer lies in dealing with it on a wholly spiritual level. A single prayer can achieve more than the most secure fortress, the most flattering diplomat or the most powerful army.
 
G‑d rejected all four approaches. While each of them has their time and place (it’s important to create inviolable sancta of holiness in a mundane world; it’s also necessary to appreciate the nature of the prevalent reality and deal with it on its own terms; it’s also necessary to wage an all-out war against evil; and it’s always important to recognize that one cannot do it on one’s own and to appeal to G‑d for help)—none of them is the vision to guide our lives and define our relationship with the world we inhabit.
Rather, when the Jew is headed toward Sinai and is confronted with a hostile or indifferent world, his most basic response must be to go forward.
 
Not to escape reality, not to submit to it, not to wage war on it, not to deal with it only on a spiritual level, but to go forward. Do another mitzvah, ignite another soul, take one more step toward your goal.
And when you move forward, you will see that insurmountable barrier yield and that ominous threat fade away. You will see that the prevalent “reality” is not so real after all, and that you have it within your power to reach your goal. Even if you have to split some seas to get there.
(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
I know I’m not alone in my journey. We all have beautiful, raw, and heartbreaking testimonies of trials we have had to go through to get to where we are.
If you’re going through one now, I pray you take heart and make yourself firm in His constant assurance and presence. Your life is a beautiful work of art with careful, decisive purpose for His will. As we wrestle with being the best parent we can be and sanity, balancing the necessity of work and spending time with our families, and navigating the waters of being Torah observant with family that challenges that, I pray that you move forward one step at a time, trusting that He has never left you in any of it. While the first steps can feel and look scary, you’re walking right into Abba’s arms by letting go and allowing the state of preparation to happen. The moment you allow His Spirit to work in you freely is the moment that He wins anything standing in the way.
 
To find out your birthday Torah portion:
 
 

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Identity: Who We Were

There is a strange and exciting phenomenon taking place all across the world. People from all walks of religious life and various denominational backgrounds are being drawn to a different way of living out our faith than they’ve ever considered. It is exciting yet uncomfortable, fascinating yet confusing, seemingly simple yet overwhelmingly difficult. For many, this change comes all of a sudden…often overnight. This change is summed up in one word…Torah. The main challenge can also be summed up in one word…Identity.
 
One of the questions that comes up when we come to terms with this understanding is, “Why me?”. Personally, I know of wonderful men and women who spent more time in prayer than I did. They gave more than I did. They were much better Christians than I was, so why would God open my eyes to the beauty of His Torah’s validity and not them? From experience I can say that there truly seems to be no rhyme or reason in who God calls to His Torah. God is moving in cities, small towns, through nearly all denominations, in the United States, and all across the world. So why did I begin to hear something different than those wonderful people I worshipped beside all those year? Simply put…“His good pleasure”. It’s not for us to know or question why He called us. It was His prerogative and we are to be thankful and diligent.
 
Another question that soon arises is “Why not you?”. As we begin to share what we’re feeling as we pray and what we see as we study the scriptures, we soon realize that not everyone is hearing what we are hearing. We can read the Sabbath scriptures with people and, to our amazement, they don’t see what we see, that the Sabbath is forever and is the sign that we are His people! When we turn down bacon or shellfish and get dirty looks and questions, it can be so difficult for us to understand how those we love can’t see things the way we do. It is so easy for us to say, “How can you not see what the scriptures plainly teach?” In this part of our walk it is important to remember two main things. The first is that it wasn’t very long ago that you and I didn’t see things the way we do now either. The second is that we would’ve likely carried on in our ways had God Himself not disturbed our shalom and opened our eyes to His instructions.
 
As we begin to parse out what Avinu (our Father) is showing us, there often comes a time of isolation. I, personally, believe this is a God-ordained time where we are to be alone with Avinu where we can study and pray intently without outside voices and opinions. It is a time for us to learn to stand on our own two feet, to begin to learn, possibly for the first time in our lives, what we believe. I have heard this time called “sponge mode”. I like that because I think it really speaks to what this season is all about. It is usually here when we really begin to get a grasp of the sabbath, feasts, and dietary instructions laid out in the Torah. It is a wonderfully exciting time as we focus whole-heartedly on getting our feet under us and fall in love with God in a way many of us have never experienced.
 
For the vast majority, this time of isolation begins to come to a close and we become hungry once again for fellowship. Here in lies a huge challenge. Many of us find that we are truly the only ones in our communities who have begun to follow Messiah Yeshua in living out Torah. Finding a fellowship of like-minded believers can be very difficult. This is a complex and unique challenge. You see, most of us are Gentiles and because of anti-semitism and dispensational theology from the church at large, who believe that “the law has been done away with”, we feel we have no common fellowship there.  This can be, but may not always be the case. Many may feel now more closely tied to a Jewish or Messianic lifestyle but sadly, many are not welcomed in these circles (where the Torah has been lived for centuries) because “the Torah is only for the Jewish people”. Many turn to the internet where there are a host of “cyber fellowships” and teachers that are easily accessible. While I am thankful for the aid that technology has given the Torah movement, we still need a physical connection to each other. Hugs, handshakes, smiles, and laughter are necessary. Relationship and community is vital to our well-being and maturity as the children of God. As I said (and as many of you know personally), this is a very complex challenge and the effects of trying to find who we are and where we fit can be devastating.
 
So how do we navigate these troubles waters? How do we stay healthy and balanced as we find our place in this new understanding? In the next several blog posts, we are going to look into the scriptures and see what both the Tanahk (Old Testament) and the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) have to say about who we are and where we fit in the grand scheme of the Kingdom.
 
If you would like to follow either the audio or video teaching series “Identity”, follow here.
 
 

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#Instablessing#InstaGod – What have we become…?

   I have been spending a good bit of time lately watching my little ones during their daily activities. Watching them complete their chores, the girls during their gymnastics practice, or just simply day to day interaction with us and each other. One single word keeps playing over and over in my mind as I watch each of them, and that word is “impatience”.  

   Now before I go any further, I want to make sure to put myself on the chopping block and admit that many of the things I am about to mention, I myself have been guilty of. That being said, I KNOW that I am not alone and that there are many out there just as guilty as I am…and I hope that this blog will help you all take a step back as it has caused me to do.

   My eldest daughter and I were discussing the whole concept of the internet, what it entails, how it came to be, etc. It was when she made a comment about how horrible it must have been having to wait for your computer to connect to the internet, which many youth today have a hard time even understanding the concept of “dial up”, that it really hit me. Technology has always been an amazing and exciting thing, intending to enhance, educate, and advance. Always “moving forward” the “quicker the better” and yet…never realizing exactly WHAT it is leaving behind or causing the “host” to become. You see, in the past 20 years or so, we have gone from waiting for everyone to get off of the landline so that we could log on the internet, to our laptops, cellphone, and tablets are constantly linked. All we have to do is tap the screen and start searching. It still amazes me that many today do not even know what a “landline” phone is or even the mechanics. 

   We have gone from small neighborhood grocery stores where you feel warmed and welcomed every time you go in, to mainstream SuperCenters where multi checkout lanes are not fast enough, so we have self checkouts as well as self scanners so we can bypass the checkout lines all together.
 
   Now let me stop right here because I know there is someone reading this right now ready to throw their “buts” and “howevers” in. I understand there are times when the self checkouts are useful and needed. I myself use them when I am truly in a hurry or if I just have a few items. We have even used the “self scanners” a few times when they were in our local Walmart….until it came to the point that every time we would use the scanner we would get half way through our list before it would start malfunctioning. Yay, technology right? We also have where you can order your groceries online, pull up to a parking spot, and someone will bring them out to your car.
 
    Banking is done online as well as apps where you can scan your deposit check from your phone and it go straight to your account instead of you using the drive thru. We pay our bills online or through apps because it takes too much time to drive to town. 
 
    Our fast food drive thru’s are now not fast enough to the point that you can order using your phone, and pull up to received your order instead of waiting in the drive thru line.
 
    I get it…many of our lives are busy, always on the go that without some of these quick and instant options we wouldn’t be able to get through our days. BELIEVE ME…I GET IT. However…what are these instant results, instant gratifications not just teaching our children, but how are they being carried over into our personal lives?
 
    How many times, and be honest, have you called someone on their cellphone or you sent them a text message, and you became frustrated because either you left a voice mail and they didn’t immediately call you back or you had no instant response back to your text? When just a few years back, we would have called someone, left a message on the answering machine, and gone about our business, unfazed knowing that person would get back to us as soon as they could.
 
    We started emailing instead of sending what we call “snail” mail because it was quicker. However, even email responses began taking too long, so we started going to text and messaging. To those who know what it is like to receive a letter in the mail, how great of a feeling is it to see a brightly colored, hand written envelope addressed to you, that ISN’T a bill? lol. There is nothing like receiving a hand written letter, because that person took the time our of their day to physically write their thoughts on paper to send to you. Miss these so much.
 

    How often do we get annoyed or short with our little ones because they do not response as quickly as we think they should? They may take a little longer to put on their shoes and socks, while we stand at the door tapping our foot, ready to leave. The long drawn out stories they tell us or when it feels like 45 minutes for them to ask one question…..and we are sitting there trying to hurry them along by answering the question before they can even finish… we all have done it or do it still…but I ask you as I have been asking myself lately, what have I become? Also, not only what have I become, but what is my impatience teaching my babies?

    I can answer that last question real quick with, it is teaching them to be impatient with each other AND themselves. I watch as my baby boy becomes frustrated when he can’t seem to form the words to get his thoughts across, so he just gives up. I watch as my girls may struggle to learn a new skill in gymnastics and get so frustrated with themselves because it doesn’t come quickly, that they have tears streaming down their faces. I watch as my eldest struggles with a algebra problem and because she can’t “GET IT” as quickly as she thinks she should, she wants to quit and give up. They talk over each other instead of waiting for the other to finish, have a tendency to not “wait their turn”, and are quick to turn in the towel when a task takes longer than they would like for it to take.  Parents…..we have truly got to do better.

   Not just on a personal level, but what is all of this instant/quick fix doing to our relationship with the Father? Bibles are now on our phones. We don’t memorize the books, we don’t memorize scripture….because why? It is all there for us in an instant? We don’t study anymore, we don’t search out anymore…we sit and wait for someone to tell us what a scripture means and how we are supposed to apply it to our lives….instead of us figuring out for ourselves what the Father wants from us and how to apply OUR lives TO His Word.

   We want instant blessings, instant relief, instant “way outs”… We spent too much on vacation or on a shopping spree and are now in debt up to our eyeballs, and pray to the Father for financial blessing to get us out of a bind. We have a few doctors bills that we know will be coming up, but instead of us cutting back a little here and there to prepare for them, we just live our lives carefree and figure that “God will provide”.  How many of us are frustrated with out weight or our health…but refuse to do what we need to do on our end to eat healthier and get our bodies back to where they need to be? Instead we pray to Abba for quick and instant healing, curbing our appetites, help us to “push the plates away”. 

   Now again, let me stop and clarify, do I believe in miraculous healing? ABSOLUTELY! Do I believe that the Father will bless you in an instant? WITHOUT A DOUBT! I also know there are some financial situations and health factors that are out of our control. However…no matter what, I DO believe that the Father ALSO expects us to do OUR part, do what WE CAN, live as righteous as we can, and then He will do His part.

   But, going back to the “InstaBlessings”, I also have a “part B” to that in, how do we know that the actual BLESSING is not in the outcome but in the knowledge we gain DURING the trial? We throw our hands up, say YOUR WILL BE DONE, IT IS ALL IN YOUR HANDS, I PUT MY TRUST IN YOU, and IN YOUR TIMING FATHER…however when His timing doesn’t line up with OUR timing we get anxious, frustrated, and start wondering “Where He is?” What if His answer, is the process? You want to get your finances back under control and you aren’t given a huge financial blessing to kick start, so you begin to cut back here and there, budgeting, and making smart purchases. All of a sudden, your finances are back where they need to be and maybe even better…but now, the thrifty and smart way of spending is now a lifestyle because of the process.

    What if you aren’t given quick healing with your illness or overweight situation, so you begin to take matters into your own hands and look at your eating habits, listen to your body, and find out what changes you need to make. Maybe you become more active, maybe you take a little extra time making sure to disinfect when around someone with the sniffles and then all of a sudden, you begin to feel energy again, clothes fit better, you feel healthier….and (again) the process has now become a lifestyle that will keep you on this track for the rest of your lives.

    Now I ask, would the instant healing, the quick financial blessings have taught you anything? Or would they have just been a quick means to an end and the reality is you probably would have found yourself in the same situation or one like it again down the road…
AGAIN…because I know someone is ready and waiting to pipe in…I am focusing on decisions that WE have made that we KNEW might not have been the right ones, but needed the “instant” gratification, and figured we would deal with the consequences later. Day to day situations that WE have caused due to our lack of self control. Self Control……we will save that one for another day. 
 

   My brothers and sisters…we have GOT to get out of this InstaGod/InstaBlessing mindset. He is not a genie whose lamp we rub, He is not a Santa Claus that we send our lists in to and expect every item to be filled, He is not a slot machine that we put our tokens in, pull the handle and expect a payout. There is SO much to learn and to gain from THE PROCESS, from TAKING OUR TIME and BEING PATIENT.

   So I encourage you as I am looking at myself in the mirror, take a step back. If not for yourself, for the little ones that are looking up to you and mirroring their lives after you. Take the long way from time to time, walk out the “test”, dance in the rain, teach and implement patience and understanding, learn how to grow through the process…and breathe. Experience life, give of yourself in your relationships, give more time and honor to the Father…because He DESERVES it. As children of the Most High, it is time we get off this “fast track” that the world is trying to preoccupy us with, slow down, and make the most out of what time He is giving us….because He is giving it to us for a reason…
 
Shalom
 

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Tolerance vs. Compassion

     These are turbulent times we live in, folks. The social and political climate of the world is changing rapidly. As society becomes more progressive, we are encouraged to be more tolerant. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with that ideal, and I genuinely believe people have the best of intentions with this message. The problem is that I’m afraid those of us in the Body of Messiah have taken the positive aspects of tolerance and spun it to our destruction. So, I have a couple of questions. If you truly love someone, do you allow them to behave in a way or put themselves in a situation that would ultimately harm them? Or, would you correct them out of love and concern for their well-being and prosperity? What I’m trying to say is that there is a HUGE difference between tolerance and compassion. Now, I do want to be crystal clear, so let me tell you what this is not. The word “tolerance” is pretty loaded, but I’m not implying that we should weaponize Scripture to be hateful in any way toward people who do not believe in God or the Bible, or maybe even more importantly, toward people who don’t walk exactly as we walk. See, that’s the irony, tolerance can easily become a vehicle for hatefulness. I’m speaking specifically to and for people who believe in the God of Israel, and for community, for people living life together. For people who know each other well and want what’s best for each other.

     Now that that’s out of the way, let’s examine these terms more closely. I like the idea of the “law of first mention,” therefore, I’ll be looking at the Hebrew here. Tolerance refers to the ability or willingness to accept something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. The Hebrew word is “sovlanut” (סוֹבלָנוּת/sohv-lah-noot), and is not found in Scripture, not even once. That in and of itself should tell us something. On the other hand, to be compassionate means to have concern, sympathy, mercy, or even pity for the suffering and misfortune of others. There are two Hebrew words most commonly used for compassion: “chamal” (חָמַל/khaw-mal/H2550) and “racham” (רָחַם/raw-kham/H7355). See Exodus 2:6 for the former, Deuteronomy 13:17 for the latter. Although these two words, tolerance and compassion, are often used interchangeably, can you see the difference?

     Because of Western society’s “leap forward,” an inaccurate profile of Yeshua has taken shape. Today, the Messiah is portrayed as a mild and meek martyr who would never do anything to upset anyone under any circumstances, no matter what, even if He disagreed with them. His words, actions, and teachings have been misconstrued in order to be more palatable. The truth is that Yeshua was and is not tolerant. “Huh? Did he really just say that?” Yes, I did, He was not tolerant. He was, however, compassionate. Please, bear with me, and let me explain. Opposed to the traits I already mentioned, Yeshua was not afraid to “step on toes” and make others uncomfortable to teach a lesson. He himself said, “I and the Father are one,” so is it so hard to believe that Yeshua showed His love like that of a father, or more specifically, the Father? When I mess up, my dad is often the first to correct me and put me back on track, even if it requires a bit of a “kick to the rear end,” so to speak. My father does this because he wants what is best for me, he wants me to succeed. It’s done out of compassion and love. Yeshua taught in the same way. There are plenty of examples throughout the scriptures that we could look to, but I want to use one in particular that you may even know by heart. However, there’s an important verse in this passage that is often completely ignored. Please read John 8:1-11. We love to use this passage for verse 7’s sake. We love to use it to justify ourselves and perhaps the behavior of others. Context is key here, though. As incredible as that verse is, it’s just a part of an amazing lesson the Master is teaching, not the whole lesson. This one passage, amazingly, shows Yeshua being compassionate for the woman (verse 7, verses 10-11), and intolerant of her sinfulness. He doesn’t command her to “Just believe in me and love me so that you can continue to live life your way.” No! He commands her to “…go and sin no more…” That might sound kind of harsh, impossible even, depending on how you understand sin. But, do you want to talk about the wisdom, grace, and mercy of Messiah? Here’s what he effectively said: “Hey, so now that you’re ok, take this experience and learn from it to avoid another mess like this.” If that is not compassion, I don’t know what is. He wants better for her, He loves her, and He wants her to align herself with the Word and with the Father. Period. So then, to truly love someone is to not be tolerant of their destructive behavior. We need to start to understand that correcting one another and holding one another accountable with love and tact is not “judgement” or “casting stones.” I know that I’m not always so great at this thing called “life,” and not if, but when I mess up please, help me out, help me get right. I would be more offended if you didn’t, because I’ll be held accountable at some point, and I’ll be worse off by then. In fact, I would argue that tolerance and compassion cannot coexist when it comes to building relationships for the Kingdom. We can’t grow if we’re not corrected. I’ve brought up the Kingdom a couple of times now and this passage is the perfect example of our walk and our responsibility when we come to Messiah and enter the Kingdom. We were all once “adulterous,” deserving of the consequences of our actions, but Yeshua stood in the gap and taught us how to live life correctly, and gave Himself up to save us from said consequences. Once we come into the Kingdom through Him, it becomes our duty to do our best to live as He lived, to do our best to “go and sin no more,” not to be saved, but because He saved us. We need each other for that. The secular ideal of tolerance isn’t completely off. It’s just not complete. If you make a minor change in the Hebrew word for tolerance you get “savlanut,” (סַבְלָנוּת/sahv-lah-noot) a word closely related, meaning “patience.” Its root is “saval” (סָבַל/saw-vahl), meaning to bear (a burden). We have to be patient with one another, help each other with the burdens we each bear, and encourage change in each other’s lives. Patience combined with compassion trumps tolerance any day. You know, there’s a certain commandment in the Torah that Yeshua thought was pretty important, that is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” With this in mind, ask yourself: When it comes to tolerance and compassion, which requires more understanding and maturity? Which would you want for yourself and in turn for your neighbor?

     I continue to hope and pray for unity in the Kingdom, so that we can benefit one another and grow in Messiah. I hope that you understand my heart here, and that this gives you a new point of view that will benefit you, your walk, and your relationships. Feel free to reach out to me so that we can grow together! Shalom


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What are our actions doing to His reputation?

What are our actions doing to His reputation?

I have been noticing a common thread lately floating through my Facebook feed and it really has both concerned and frustrated me. I see some criticized for their generations upon generations of traditions, some are attacked for following Torah, celebrating the Feasts, worshipping on the 7th day sabbath, and  some are screamed at because of their “pagan ways”. I watch how people are mocked or told that because they aren’t a part of a certain group or belief, that they are not allowed to study and understand certain things. Now I know that this is not a new occurrence and will be something that continues on because, as human beings, we are drawn to drama, anger, and aggression. However, I hope that if anything, my post will at least cause one to pause and consider the outcome of such actions.

For the past several weeks, I have read articles, watched videos, read comments threads, etc. on Facebook of different groups of believers that seem to do nothing more than attack each other. I have seen Messianic, Hebrew Roots, Christian, and Jew all attacking one another’s beliefs, understandings, view points and I find myself asking why? What good will come of this?

I heard a wise man once say that it doesn’t do any good trying to discuss or debate with someone that is not in your own family, which is SO TRUE!!! In our home, we have certain rules that our children follow. It is our “Torah” if you will. However, we have several neighbors around us who also have rules that function in their own homes. Now, do we go to their homes and start tearing them down and reprimanding them because they are not obeying OUR rules within THEIR homes? OF course not!!! That would do nothing but cause anger, bitterness, and possibly a broken relationship. So why are we doing that very thing to the different “families” of believers?

Now, we are all passionate about our beliefs, about our faith….and that is awesome. However, when we begin tearing down others because they may not believe or see the Scriptures the same way we do, what is that saying about the Father that we serve? If we are supposed to be walking AS the Messiah walked, if we are supposed to be mirroring HaShem in our lives, then what are our actions, how we handle people and other situations saying about His reputation?

For my Torah observant family, it is NOT our job to open their eyes, to reprimand them of their ways, or annihilate them in public and on Facebook. Our job is to be studied and ready for WHEN Abba opens eyes and draws them to this walk. It is our job to answer questions patiently and gracefully when asked, not debate or attack those who do not study as we do. We are meant to be the Psalm 1 tree, planted and immovable no matter who or what steps in our way. Yes, we will get frustrated when we see Scripture used incorrectly, misquoted, or used partially to justify a certain idea or lifestyle. However, remember we must never group everything into one pot, not all are the same, and not everyone has the same intentions. There are genuine people not following Torah who are loving the Father and serving Him the best they know how….and that IS O.K. Respect them for that and when/if they come asking questions or interested in learning this walk…do not belittle their understanding or mock their beliefs. Do not talk down to them or degrade them for not knowing what you know. Walk beside them, live with them, and be the light that HaShem needs you to be.

To my Christian brothers and sisters, stop labeling and criticizing those who are studying Torah, who are following the Father’s instructions, and who are wanting to live and walk as Yeshua did. The fact of the matter is, Yeshua was/is a Jew (he didn’t convert on the cross) and the Father’s Torah/instructions are still as valid today as they were when He spoke everything into existence….period. Any Scripture that is used to “nullify” this statement is being cherry picked and/or taken out of context. That being said, if you feel that this way of following the Father is not for you, that is o.k. Your relationship with Abba is between you and Him. However, be very careful of what you say and how you treat others in that walk, because the Father COULD draw you into following Torah and you will need someone to help support and walk with you. Stop being judgmental when you hear them speaking the Hebrew language. Stop accusing them or assuming certain things about them or their beliefs before you take the time to personally ask. I have heard many comments about groups in the Torah walk, even OAM, about how we do not believe in Yeshua, that we believe one has to follow Torah for salvation, they we are speaking blasphemy, or mocking/making fun of the Holy Spirit. All of which are furthest from the truth. I understand the way we read, study, and walk out the Scripture looks different, may seem a little weird and uncomfortable. I would have thought the same over 10 years ago before I started studying. I DO also know there are what we call “Torah Terrorists”, who thrive on intentionally attacking those not living/believing as they do. However, as I challenged my Torah observant family, I also will challenge you, do not lump everyone in the same pot.  So please, before you starting making false assumptions, consider the possibility that you might have misunderstood or misheard what they were saying or teaching. Instead of coming to quick conclusions, contact them and ask them to clarify so that way you can fully understand their heart and intent. We get frustrated when people make false assumptions about us….let us know be quick to do the same about others.

So my challenge and plea to you, stop arguing with those who are not walking in “your lane”. Stop attacking, baiting, and intentionally “poking the bear” to try to prove your point. Trying to make the other person stumble in their understanding does NOTHING for you as a representative of the Father, but instead makes you look like a jerk. We hear the argument all of the time “well Yeshua corrected and scolded the Pharisees so we are just following what He did”. My answer….YES HE did….HOWEVER…HUGE difference. Yeshua debated with leadership who were “IN HIS LANE”. He didn’t argue, bait, or poke those who were not living and following the Jewish lifestyle/beliefs. He CALMLY DISCUSSED when asked, TAUGHT and ALLOWED them to draw near, LIVED it before engaging. If we are going to be HaShem’s example until the Messiah’s return, then we have GOT to stop with the drama, anger, and attacking. Stop being “triggered” by those who are not in your “family” and BE the representation that you were put here to be. Remember that if you say you are part of THE Kingdom and are a follower of the Most High, then your actions, your words, how you live are going to affect how other’s perceive who you serve.

Make sure your life is all about the sake of His reputation…..


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And the Word became flesh…

“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon His glory, the glory of the One and only from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Like me, these are probably some of the first verses you ever learned. However, as I reflected on my life this week and asked myself the tough questions, this verse came to mind. I’ve spent countless Sunday school and “life group” meetings pondering the mysticism within this passage. Aside from being some of the most powerful (and poetic) verses in the Gospels, there is some pragmatic application here as well. Now, I’m not offering a new interpretation of this passage here, just a little perspective. What exactly is this passage about? The first chapter of John perfectly sums up the Messiah’s lifestyle; He was the Word made flesh. He was so obedient in his actions that His life was the personification of the Word. Think about that for moment, that alone doesn’t often get its due credit. It really isn’t all that mysterious, the Messiah was just that obedient. So, what exactly does that mean for us? I used to hear all the time that to be a “Christian” means to be “Christ-like.” Ok, perfect, I appreciate the sentiment, but can anyone quantify that concept in and of itself? Lord knows I used to have trouble. Consider the following: 1 John 2:5-6, “But whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God is truly made perfect. We know that we are in Him by this— whoever claims to abide in Him must walk just as He walked.” You see, the whole reason that Yeshua lived and taught was for our instruction, and as previously stated He is the Word made flesh. Interestingly, we are instructed to walk as He walked, to live as He lived. The question I’ve been asking myself this week is this, “Are you living your life in a way in which the Word is seen to be alive?” At work, at school, at home, am I in some degree personifying the Word? Does my life show the one and only of the Father, full of grace and truth? I can postulate, theorize, and study for countless hours, but if my life is no evidence of my study, it is all in vain. That may seem really basic and foundational, but it is also something we should be constantly examining within ourselves. Every day the Father allows us to wake up, we have the opportunity to be personifications of His Word. One of the biggest lies propagated by believers is that obedience is unattainable. That, my friends, is just simply not biblical. We need to stop lying to one another, and start empowering one another; the goal is not perfection, the goal is obedience. The Messiah says in John 14, “He who possesses My commands and guards them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I shall love him and manifest Myself to him.” We show our love for our Savior by keeping the commandments, and in turn Yeshua manifests in us and His love is shown to our neighbors. In this way, the image of God is perfectly transmitted. Be a living example of Scripture by guarding the commandments, this is how we can be like Messiah. I hope everyone has had an amazing Passover, and I hope this week has drawn you closer to the Father. Shalom, everyone!


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Consistency of Community

Have had something on my heart for the past several weeks and was given release today to finally post this in hopes to bring peace and encouragement.

So often we have received texts, private messages, or phone calls from both sides of the spectrum…either people just now coming into this walk, this Way of Truth or those who have BEEN walking in it and have their own fellowships. The common thread is the consistency of community. 

You see, before we began living a Torah observant life, many of us were involved in the mainstream church. It was always bigger is better, doing whatever it took to make people happy, even to the extreme of exhausting the ministry to the point of dry, emptiness just to keep everyone at peace and everything “looking” first class.  However, we HAVE to remember…..THIS AIN’T THAT!!!

Sadly, we are bringing a lot of the drama that we left into this Truth and are becoming the very thing we swore we never would. People are tearing each other apart, bad mouthing, and breaking community because not everyone follows the same calendar, we may not say the Father’s name the same way, the distance is too far to travel, I’m not going back to “church”,  or its just too hard to change “my” schedule to go. The list continues to grow……and it truly breaks my heart.

Here is the deal, Abba wants us to be in UNITY….not uniformity. Are we all going to agree all of the time? Of course not, that is impossible. We are human beings. We  each have thoughts, ideas, imaginations all unique, which the Father instilled in us for a purpose. And that is AWESOME! The main thing is….what is our final goal? That is where the “walking in unity” part comes in. The desire to please our Messiah, to walk AS He walked, live AS He lived, celebrate WHAT and HOW He celebrated, living out the ENTIRE Word….THAT is our common goal. If we can agree on that, then we should be able  to come together, to respect each other’s differences, and join in community to focus on the bigger picture…His Kingdom. And how important that coming together as a community truly is!

All of us remember when the Father began speaking to us, disturbing our shalom, unveiling our eyes. Our first thoughts were “What’s wrong with me? Why isn’t everyone hearing or seeing this? Am I crazy? “ Then as we began to listen to His voice and dig deeper…we began to wonder if anyone else out there was hearing the same. Were we alone?  All we wanted was to talk to SOME ONE who understood and were walking the same path as we were.  You see, THAT is where the community part comes in and WHY it is so vital.

I understand many of us are in rural areas where there might not be a Torah community within 10-20 minutes, many in our own OAM community drive 30 minutes to 2 hours just to be with their OAM mishpacha every Shabbat. You may think that is nuts and there is no way you would travel that far just to be with others….but wait. You HAVE to remember what it was like to be a new person in this Way…the excitement when you realized you were not alone, and that you were able to come together with a community of like minded people to talk, study, worship, to LIVE life. To be able to walk into a room and see so many that are hearing the same voice as you have been, gave you so much peace.

For those that have been walking Torah for a while, your community NEEDS you. They need your smiles, your hugs, your wisdom. But as much as your community needs you, YOU need your community. You NEED to be surrounded by others, digging out and discussing the Scripture together. You need a community of people who MIGHT NOT see the Scripture just as you do, challenging you, causing you to search out what you believe and why….Iron sharpens iron. Life is not easy, this walk is NOT easy no matter how long you have been walking, and we need to be with like minded people living, supporting, and searching out Word together while having the same end goal.

You need to be surrounded by believers who are new in this way, to help guide and walk beside them as they learn, picking them up when they fall and help guide them back when they get distracted.  AT THE SAME TIME, you need to be surrounded by those who have walked longer than you, have more wisdom and experience than you, so that YOU can continue to grow and learn yourself. Someone to help guide YOU back to the path whenever you become side tracked or distracted. A healthy Torah community is where all of that takes place, as a body, as echad (as one)…growing, living, breathing, as one body.

Consistency of the community is SO vital and SO important for the Remnant that is being called out. Whether you can make it every week or once/twice a month, those new people NEED to see you there, they NEED to see your face, HEAR your story, and FEEL your understanding and encouragement. Many of them either have or will find that this walk is not easy and can be very lonely. Family, friends, church members and leadership will cast them aside and break all ties and they need to see they have a community to run to for support, wisdom, understanding, and to share similar stories and experiences with. Your participation in your Torah community is so much bigger than you and is so important for the Kingdom.

So I encourage each of you across the country, the world or maybe just in our area. If you are hearing His voice calling you out to live a Torah life, a set-apart lifestyle, find a like minded community to celebrate with. Be active, be consistent, be supportive, but most importantly….BE THERE.  Whether it is every Shabbat, every Feast, or (due to distance) just once or twice a month….be there. This is a preparation season and it is all hands on deck. We have to prepare ourselves for what the Father is doing, to be ready for what He has coming, and there is no way we will be able to do that alone!!!

Shalom my Torah family and Shavua Tov


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Have you been looking for a sign???

How many times have you cried out to the Father for direction or an answer. In the midst of a storm or chaos, we cry out to Abba, many times for Him to simply give us a sign that He is still there, that He is listening. It seems many are those dry seasons where our valleys are deep, the air is silent, we have no direction, we seek and speak to the Father however, all we hear are crickets…and all we want is for Him to make His presence known and to remind us that we are still His, that His hand is still upon us. Those times can be some of the loneliest, most frustrating, empty and anxious times that we walk through. Many of us become desperate, taking matters into our own hands…HOPING that at some point…Abba will step in and move.

All we are asking for…..is a sign….

Through studying the weekly Torah portions, recently digging into the episode of the golden calf, the Father began walking me through some of my own scenarios that are not too much unlike those of the Hebrew children. You see….for so long we have taken this golden calf incident and began throwing stones at the Hebrews. What in the world would cause them to do such a thing? How evil were they to turn their backs on God. How could they forget all that they had been delivered from and go to that extreme level of forming an idol? They must not have loved Him as much as they “proclaimed”….the list goes on.

HOWEVER, we must (as we should do will ALL scripture) put what is going on into context, into perspective. Put yourself in THEIR shoes, understand WHO is a part of the equation, understand their culture and remember their experiences. Sooo, let’s go back.

The Hebrew children along with the mixed multitude had experienced plague after plague. What we have to remember is that they had been living in Egypt for hundreds of years. Picture the generations upon generations that lived and died, the whole time becoming more and more assimilated into Egypt and the people living there. It had become a part of their every day lives. They probably formed relationships with the Egyptians. For some, their children might have played together, some may even had married the Egyptians. So with each plague that went through, they watched places they used to go, people they had befriended, their neighbors animals and lively hoods be destroyed. Yes, they knew the reason for the plagues and that they were chosen for the Father’s master plan, however, they were human, they had emotions. So I have to believe, they still felt guilt, pain, and  sorrow for their loved ones. As Noah before them, I am sure many of them pleaded for their friends and family to follow them. Traditions tell us that there were only around 20% of the Hebrews that actually left. Many studies I read said that one reason they left in such a hurry was so that the ones who DID leave were not given time to begin second guessing and end up staying behind. So you can imagine…yes they were excited and ready for freedom and a new life…yet the pain and sorrow they felt of leaving family, friends, and their comfort behind was very real.

Fast forward through the many miracles they experienced as Pharaoh chased after them, the miracle of the manna that was supplied for them to eat, the many times they ran to Mosheh (Moses) for wisdom and direction on what the next step was to be. Now they are at Mt. Sinai and after hearing the commandments, the Torah given straight from the Father, asked Mosheh to go up and speak to God for them. THEY created a mediator between them and the Father, something which God had never wanted in the first place.

So Mosheh is up on Mt. Sinai, speaking with the Father, and the people begin to grow concerned by his delayed return. One study I read was that they actually had miscalculated the days of his return and that is what caused them to act. So, they go to Aaron for help, he tells them what to do, and the golden calf incident takes place. There is SO MUCH more happening here, and MUCH more study as to WHY Aaron would follow through with this…but that is another blog.

This is where many of us have gotten all high and mighty. We would NEVER do that, we would NEVER disobey God to the point of creating an idol to worship. But wait….let’s back up a moment. Let’s back up to the very beginning and put ourselves in their shoes.

Like them…many of us have had to leave our comfort zones. We have many family and friends that may not be living for God, and no matter how much we try to warn them…they refuse to follow the Messiah. Many of us have stepped into a new season the Father has called us to, having to change lifestyles, jobs, family, friends…..causing us to shed everything that defined us as US, all stepping out in faith that the Father has something bigger for us to do and be a part of.

Then….life begins to hit. You see…we were told when you begin to follow the Father…he will answer your prayers, give you the desires of your heart, and be your everything. Which is true….HOWEVER….#1 those come with requirements of following His commands…and #2 a life walking with the Father is NOT without hardships and sacrifices. So when life begins to rain down, when the storm begins to rage, the winds begin to blow, and our feet get knocked out from under us…we begin to doubt.  The Hebrew children had experienced miracle after miracle and yet, they still struggled with faith and doubt. How many times have we gone to the Father about a problem…needed help in finances, a loved one that was sick and needed healing, farmers needed rain for their crops to grow? The Father comes our rescue, providing the much needed rain, we are blessed with extra finances by an unknown source, our sick family or friend begins to make a full recovery from their illness and we praise Him for all that he is…for a while. Then life hits again…and even though (like the Hebrews) we saw and experienced those miracles…we too begin to doubt.

That seems to be the times where our dry seasons begin, where we hear no answers and feel like our prayers are hitting a brick wall. So like the Hebrew children with the golden calf….we get desperate…needing to KNOW that someone is hearing our pleas. You see, they weren’t forming an idol to worship instead of God. They had JUST come out of Egypt and therefore, in fear and desperation, were falling back on all that they knew. They thought that Mosheh was dead and were trying to create (as only they knew how) another “mediator” to go before the Father on their behalf. Were they in the wrong? Most definitely and they were severely punished for it. However, how much have we done the same? We search and seek out the Father…we pray and get restless. So instead of having faith and believing that the Father has this….we seek out a friend, we seek out a pastor, an evangelist, a “prophet” to give us the answers we need. We spend time and money flocking to conferences in hopes of being told the direction we need to take. Now…I am not saying that seeking your pastor or a wise friend for guidance is taboo, however, when you begin to go to them first before seeking out the Father time after time, when you begin to put the “pastor’s words” above anything and everything else, not checking them with the Word, and setting him up on a pedestal…THAT is where we get off track and are acting no better than the Hebrew children.

You see….the Father knew what was happening with the Hebrew children. He KNEW they were going to get anxious, that they were going to need a “sign” to not only remind them of who they were and whose they were, but also something to remind them that He was close. So he gives Mosheh instructions to give to them tangible reassurance of His presence and our relationship with Him. The last instruction He  gave Mosheh, before He descended with the tablets was to tell Israel that they “must keep My Sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and you throughout the ages, that you may know that I the Lord have consecrated you.”  God called the Shabbat (the seventh day Sabbath) a sign of the relationship between Himself and Israel. Because of Yeshua, we have been grafted into Israel, so this promise, this “sign” is for us as well. However….WE have to observe it. We have to set it apart and make it as special and significant as HE does.

From personal experience, there is just SOMETHING about setting apart the Shabbat. Now I am not going to get into a debate on “when the Sabbath really is”.  The Father rested on the SEVENTH day. Yeshua observed the SEVENTH DAY Sabbath. Yeshua DID NOT come and die to change the sabbath day…period. That out of the way, when you begin to spend time with the Father, studying His instructions, seeking Him out on the day that HE scheduled to meet with us……WOW. That will be all “the sign” that you need. When you begin to follow His instructions and observe the Sabbath day as HE intended, life may not get easier, difficulties will not stop from coming, storms will still rage from time to time…BUT you will begin to deal with them differently. There will be a peace that comes over you like never before, your head will become more clear and wisdom will begin to spill forth. You will begin to feel more fulfilled and more prepared for WHEN the storms come rather than trying to play catch up when they hit.

So my encouragement…take the step…if you are looking for “the sign” to get you through this next “plague”, this next “dessert”, don’t make the mistake that our ancestors did. Don’t be hasty. Don’t take matters into your own hands. Don’t seek out a person to be your mediator. You have already been given a sign. Observe the Sabbath, seek the Father and spend time with Him on THE DAY that HE has ALREADY set apart and made Kadosh (holy). Come together with fellow believers, as we are commanded, and dig out/wrestle with the Scriptures together.  Celebrate the Sabbath when and how the FATHER said, this in turn will set YOU apart…as His child.

Shalom


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