Month 6:15, Week 2:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5940:163 AM|
TESHUVAH 15/39, 2Exodus 1/40
Gregorian Calendar: Tuesday 9 September 2014
Evangelism and Sin Roots
Continued from Part 14
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and may the grace of our Master continue being with us on this the fifteenth day of Teshuvah (Repentance) as the sands of time marking the filling up of the cup of iniquity of the nations rapidly run out. I was talking to one of the brethren a couple of days ago and we agreed that this was a Teshuvah season like none we have ever experienced before. Those who are in earnest about their discipleship know that we stand on the cusp of great and important change both for the Kingdom of our Elohim (God) and for the kingdom of darkness. Certainly the inspiration has been pouring down every day since the season began.
Lettie Burd Cowman
I myself have been spending considerable time with an amazing woman of Elohim (God) through her writings. Born in 1870 in America and finally departing this world in 1960, Lettie Burd Cowman produced a series of devotionals, most famous of which was Streams in the Desert, that have sold in their millions in many languages over the last century. She was one of the cofounders of the Oriental Missionary Society and in 1901 left the USA with her husband Charles to be missionaries in the rural communities and villages of Japan in collaboration with Juji Nakada. Ernest Kilbourne joined them a year later to make a foursome.
The Necessity of Evangelism
Evangelism is the lifeblood of the Messianic Community (Church) and always results in generous endowments of the Ruach (Spirit) from Heaven and this shows in Lettie's writings. Our discipleship is incomplete, and indeed defective, until we receive a love and passion for lost souls. I would like to suggest that this be one of the themes of our personal and corporate repentance at this time of Teshuvah both because this is dear to the Father but also - if I might examine the selfish angle too - because evangelism builds character, matures the soul, and heals many of our mental, emotional and spiritual issues by our simply being immersed in the Great Commission (Mt.28:19-20). The Besorah (Gospel) isn't simply for us to consume upon our lusts - it's for our neighbour's blessing too.
From Missionary to Author
Thanks to the work of the Cowmans and their two allies, by 1918 (the conclusion of the First World War) 60 million Japanese had heard the Davar Elohim (Word of God) preached to them, and whilst great numbers were not saved, many were and a seed was planted. Sadly Charles Cowman did not live long and passed away in 1924, leaving Lettie a widow for 36 years before their reunion in the eternal worlds above. It was during the time of her husband's illness as he steadily weakned that Lettie conceived of writing devotionals, and through the pain and hardship of watching her beloved suffer and finally slip away, a marvelous work of Elohim (God) was accomplished. She chose, as the title for her work, a passage in Isaiah 33:6 that so much exemplifies the fruit of turning suffering into productive labour for Yahweh:
Leaving or Transforming the Desert?
"Then the lame shall leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the dumb sing.
For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness,
And streams in the desert" (Isa.35:6, NKJV).
Far too many people, alas, when they find themselves in the desert, in whatever form it may take - isolation, ill health, failed relationships, financial failure, imprisonment, social ostracisation, or whatever your problem may be - devote their energies to finding their way out of the desert instead of understanding that the desert is a gift to make us productive and useful. The desert is also given to mould us, to shape our character in an image of Messiah. Rather than escape the desert, we are to transform it, by watering it in situ as channels of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). What, in any case, is evangelism, if it is not going into a spiritual desert anyway, amongst the unsaved and spiritually dying, in order to irrigate it with the mayim (waters) of Heaven, that souls might be saved. You can't be a believer and avoid the desert unless you are running away from your calling. Evangelism is for the evangelist as well as for those being evangelised and as such brings a double blessing to both.
The Fruits of Lettie's Writings
Lettie's writings had an effect she could not have dreamed of. As one commentator remarked, they "spoke to those who had difficulty relating their own sufferings to the noble and eternal purposes of a loving and all-wise Elohim (God)" . As we immerse ourselves in the problems of others, and seek remedies for them through the ministration of Messiah, we find many of our own problems dissolving in the process too as self-centredness and pride, amonmgst other ailments of the flesh, evapourate as we partake of their sufferings and therefore Messiah's.
Preparing Ahead Prophetically
Lettie's devotionals were seeded in Europe prior to the conquests of the nazis and communists and helped prepare and strengthen believers there for what was coming. Much of what I myself write, through very definitely for the here-and-now by and large, is also with the future in mind. As the Ruach (Spirit) moves me I am constantly seeing ahead into the labour of the last generation. I am able to sense the trials and tribulations that they will face, the theological questions that will need answering, the mindset of the enemy, and much else besides, and it is my earnest desire that they will find comfort and direction in what I have written in their time of need as generations have in Lettie's.
A Dead Husband's Wish
After Charles' death in September 1924, Lettie found a note to her in her husband's Bible with the words, "GO ON WITH MY UNFINISHED TASK". Should you not find a similar request and commission in one of my Bibles or books after I have gone, I hope you will know that this is my request and commission too, especially to my family and closest colleagues in the Besorah (Gospel). Prosecute the Five Commissions. Yahweh will guide you until Yah'shua (Jesus) returns and sets in order the affairs of this world.
The Occasion for Displays of Divine Power
As we grow and mature in the Besorah (Gospel) we come to learn, like Lettie Cowman, that:
Assuming Responsibilities Not Ours
"In the pathway of faith...the [Master's] thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor His ways our ways. Both in the physical and spiritual realm, great pressure means great power. Although circumstances may bring us into the place of death, that need not spell disaster - for if we trust in [Yahweh] and wait patiently, that simply provides the occasion for the display of His almighty power. 'Remember His marvelous works that He hath done; His wonders and the judgments (mishpatim) of His mouth' (Ps.105:5, KJV)" .
This Teshuvah I have been learning some important things, and in some cases relearning them - we are apt to forget so quickly, aren't we? As you know, I have been struggling for years with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Several times, and most especially the last few days, it has sometimes felt as though I could feel death itself breathing on me, an experience I would not wish on anyone, though I know this is not uncommon as we wrestle with Yahweh seeking to overcome the flesh. Part of our problem is that we try to carry things we were never designed to, which only the Crucified One can. We assume responsibilities that are not ours and weigh ourselves down unnecessarily to the detriment of both our health and spiritual life, and loved ones around us who must shoulder what we no longer can because of incapacity. Though our motives may seem noble and good, they actually rob Elohim (God) of His privilege to carry our load and to bless us.
Permission to Serve
I still vividly remember a true story of an ordinary suburban Christian American family. A new family had moved into the neighbourhood who wanted to be good neighbours. The new resident saw the Christian father working on a car in his front yard, fixing something, and went over and offered his help, as he was himself skilled in automobile matters. But the Christian man kept on refusing his help because he was fully able to do the job himself. The new neighbour went away disappointed. Afterwards, while the Christian man was praying, Yahweh spoke to him, and told him that he had robbed his new neighbour of blessings He wished him to have - the blessing of service: "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Ac.20:35). Not only do we rob others of the blessings Yahweh wanted them to have in serving us but we rob Yahweh Himself, because He could not bless that new neighbour after the Christian refused his help.
Opportunity to Bless and Be Blessed
We have got to stop viewing circumstances in the flesh and to squarely see them in the spirit. We must have Yahweh's perspective. This isn't primarily about us, but about others. Blessing others is not just giving but allowing others the simcha (job) of giving to us, and so receiving Heaven's approbation and favour! Whatever our reasons are for denying such blessings to others, we must stop doing so if it is clearly Yahweh's will. That, of course, means we have to be tuned to the Ruach (Spirit), anf the only way we can be sure we are tuned to the Ruach (Spirit) if we are in habitual communion through Scripture study and prayer, to name two. We do ourselves, and others seeking to serve, no favours when we deny them Yahweh's favour for the loving kindness that moves their hearts when they want to serve! Service is a privilege and a blessing - we don't stop small children from doing things to help us which we could do better ourselves, do we? So why do the same to adult brethren and sisters? All anyone in the spirit ever wanted was opportunity to bless and be blessed. And it is more blessed to give than to receive.
Giving First-Timers a Chance
If we never allowed others to try and make mistakes in the process we would never grow ourselves. We all need first chances...and sometimes second chances, and in some cases, hundreds of chances. For years I have been asking Yahweh to give explanations for my illness and part of the problem has been taking on added responsibilities because I felt I could do them better. But that's not the point. As a professional educator I have assumed much of the responsibility for home teaching my children. My wife is nnot actually so keen on it because she feels inadequate to the task, even though she has done a perfectly good job, and the temptation has been to assume all the responsibility, but Yahweh has had to remind me not to do that. Though I still do a lot, I do not do it all. It is not for me to rob her of her blessings to serve or enable her to grow in strength and confidence. Learning to delegate is an essential lesson that all leaders must learn - simply following the maxim, "if you want a job done, give it to a busy person", will not do. We should all be busy about serving the Master and building the Kingdom and to share the load evenly based on our gifts and callings.
Those Who Serve are Blessed
I learned this lesson, in part, I hope, from my late father, who loved to chop firewood for old ladies in our neighbourhood. He even used our own wood. I am sure he enjoyed being fussed over and appreciated which was part of his reward for serving, no doubt. It makes me think of one of the brethren here who has done so much work helping us around the house repairing our windows as well as those of one or two others in our village with disabilities. I want him to know how much we truly appreciate him. It is a blessed thing to serve and to be served and we should not hinder Yahweh's blessings to any of them. When we deny them, we deny ourselves and hold Yahweh at bay.
Pay It Forward or Pay It Back
The way the universe is constructed in this way ought to interest us keenly because it is a part of divine tavnith or pattern. Since Yahweh's character is built into the cosmos and all its laws, we will never really understand ourselves or life in general until we come to a full appreciation of this nature and align ourselves to it. It is not as evolutionists teach and it is not as other religions teach with their ideas of debt or karma. This is the reality. There are debts but they are not paid off in the way the flesh expects them to be. Spiritual justice and 'natural' justice are not the same - indeed, the latter is, after all, an invention of the devil. Everything around us is a construct of Yahweh's grace - of His undeserved loving kindness - and we are supposed to immiate that construct in everything. When the Son of Elohim (God) washed the feet of His talmidim (disciples) He wishes this fundamental emet (truth) to be re-iterated. I think that's one of the reasons I like the movie, Pay It Forward, which I highly recommend as an illustration of this principle. Yah'shua (Jesus) 'paid our sins forward' by atoning for them on the Cross and we are to imitate Him by treating others with kindness more than they deserve. Satan's way is 'pay it back', or take revenge. Only Yahweh, however, is capable to executing judgment impartially and scrupulously fairly; therefore we may leave all such matters to Him. Satan tweeks the divine way by placing justice before mercy and then finally eliminating mercy altogether, which he never believed in in the first place. Nor does he actually believe in justice, for he is the Torahless or lawless one (2 Thes.2:9). His aim is simply to create chaos and destruction.
Placing Mercy Before Justice
In this continuing season of teshuvah (repentance) we therefore face a choice to either place justice before mercy (grace) or mercy (grace) before justice. This is not an easy way to live because it requires supernatural empowerment if it is to be done without bitterness or regret. The default nature of the flesh is to seek revenge - to 'pay it back'. We don't have to 'overcome' any kind of nature to do this, it is quite spontaneous. Rather, we have to fight to overcome in order to show grace, which means yielding sovereignty of our emotional and mental impulses to Yah'shua (Jesus). It means resisting - fighting - according to the scriptural formula:
Get to the Root of Sinning
"Therefore submit to Elohim (God), resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to Elohim (God) and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded" (James 4:7-8, NKJV).
The battle, then, is against the devil-originated fleshy nature so that we can truly submit to Elohim (God)! This runs contrary to everything the world stands for and represents. We are taught to 'fight evil', which is true, of course - we are but it's the way we do it that counts. If we fight it in our own flesh nature, which is itself evil, how can we hope to prevail? Not only that, but what is to stop some other version to evil to then replace the evil we originally strove against and, as we supposed, defeated. You know the maxim, "knock down one slum and ten more appear". And that is because the root social issues aren't being dealt with. We have to deal with evil the same way Yah'shua (Jesus) did and that is by getting to the root:
The Lernean Hydra Illustration
"And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matt.3:10, NKJV).
It is good and right that we repent of our sins but it really doesn't serve our interests to simply hack away at the branches of a tree of sin - we have to get to the roots for if we do not, those branches will simply regrow and the tree get even stronger. I am sure some of you know the Greek myth of the Lernean Hydra which was a many-headed snake whom Hercules eventually killed. Cutting off the wrong head would result in two more growing back - only by cutting off the 'immortal head' with a golden sword could the beast be finally slain.
Don't Waste Time and Energy Thrashing Around in the Branches
Many of our sins have a single root and by dealing with that root all the other sins that have budded from the original one are dealt with simultaneously. It's the same principle in deliverance ministry. A person may be infested with demons and you can spend forever casting every one out individually. But once you can identify a presiding demon, who is associated with the original sin - and once you know its ground - then by casting that one out all the others that it presides over will leave at the same time when you bind them together. The flesh nature would have us thrash around in the branches trying to treat the symptoms instead of the causes (like much of modern medicine) but the Ruach (Spirit) wants us to get to the core of our problems and to lay the ax there. By dealing with these key issues we can spare ourselves the endless labour of facing the same old sins year after year. So may I encourage you to 'cut to the chase', that is to say, to get to the point - to the root - without wasting further time and energy because for many people there isn't any more time. We're needed for the Kingdom Mandate to save souls and we can only do that if we're not endlessly struggling with demons keeping us bound and impotent.
Let us invite Yahweh to show us the core and to weild the ax of deliverance on our behalf, courageously and with determination, because this will not happen without a struggle. There is no armchair salvation. Start evangelising and teaching what you know as you work out your own salvation in fear and trembling (Phil.2:12). May He bless you with this courage and firm resolve to do what is right (Dt.6:18; 1 Jn.3:10) is my prayer in Yah'shua's (Jesus') Name. Amen.
Continued in Part 16
 Edward & Esther Erny, No Guarantee But God (OMS International, Inc.: 2000)
 L.B.Cowman, Streams in the Desert (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1996), p.7