Month 10:22, Week 3:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5939:288 AM|
Gregorian Calendar: Monday 12 January 2015
Life and Everything
An Important Dream and Vision
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and may Yah'shua's (Jesus') undeserved loving-kindness (grace) toward us be the guiding star in our relationships with each other as we come together to hear His Davar (Word) today. I hope that what I have to share with you will encourage you and build up your emunah (faith) in these last days before the Great Upheavel changes all of our lives permanently. In some parts of the world you may already have made contact with this wave and are in that respect ahead of us here where relative calm still prevails, Muslim attacks in Paris notwithstanding. Your stories of emunah (faith) edify us as much, as I hope, as ours can bless you in your particular journey.
What the Immediate Future Holds
If you are one of those persons wondering what the immediate future holds for you and what your part in it is, you are one of very many souls busily engaged in trying to discover what the continuing purpose of your life. I have much to share with you in that respect today. Why are you in your present circumstances and what is the path you are to travel as you negociate your way through what can be challenging and often painful experiences? Or are you in a kind of no-man's-land, unsure what your next move should be, whilst knowing that any decision you make is going to be critical for the rest of your life? I know some of you face such challenging decisions.
Two night's ago I was up having one of those 'big wrestling bouts' with Yahweh. It was one of those nights when all of life's unanswered questions came off the top shelf at the same time and I felt I was drowning. Some questions you can't keep postponing for they will demand an answer. When your spirit knows it and if your mind has been potsponing seeking answers, then your spirit will come to a point of saying, 'No more procrastination! Now we must have answers!' Conversely, the mind may demand answers which the spirit knows cannot be had yet, in which case another kind of struggle ensues, in which case we must continue in emunah (faith) until in life's particular divinely-ordained journey Yahweh steps in and says, 'Now is the time!' Then it is unwise not to act because you don't know how many years more you will have to wait until that prefect opportunity will come again. Our responsibility is to be sensitive and responsive to those moments when Yahweh ordains change precise because He knows we are ready for it. One thing is certain: you cannot postpone indefinitely, important chances will not keep cropping up indefinitely. Like a tin of food, grace too has a sell-by-date of sorts. If we keep on spurning the Creator, then the time for creative change will eventually pass by never to return again. That goes as much for choosing the all-important, eternity-determining moment of salvation as it does for key elements in our life's calling and our ongoing salvation. We are in a long and complex life process that only Yahweh understands perfectly at any one moment of time - our joy is to respond obediently in emunah (faith) and watch Him do miracle after miracle in our life.
We, as a family, have been listing to some Andy Stanley talks about developing strong emunah (faith), and one thing that has been made clear is that strong emunah (faith) is not the reward of the lazy or the procrastinating. And though this is an emet (truth) that our flesh does not want to hear, George Müller of Prussia was absolutely right when he said that "to learn strong faith is to endure great trials. I have learned my faith by standing firm amid severe testings." No one enjoys trials and suffering when they occur but please believe, if you do nothing else, that so long as you stand firm in your emunah (faith) during these times, when nothing apparently makes sense, that the reward, once you have passed through such trying times, is enormous. This is how strong emunah (faith) is born and unless there is something I have fundamentally missed in my own spiritual journey, I have not learned of any other way that the human soul grows to thus become strong.
Rocking of Boats
Before I share with you what happened two nights ago and my own very recent and fresh emunah (faith) may I give everyone a word of sober counsel. All of us are called, at some time or another, to rock one another's boats in order to awaken one another out of spiritual stupour and sleep. I underline 'at some time or another' because there are those who mistakenly believe that they have a mission to do this permanently to others, as a navi (prophet) might be called to prophesy or a pastor might be called to give pastoral ministry. There is no such calling as 'boat-rocker' and if you do that too much - and worse, if you do it out of Yahweh's will and in your own flesh - you may very likely find that you capsize or sink lives in the process, and that is a great sin. Yahweh does use us to rock others' boats but Satan will also try to use us to sink them. We need to know the difference and one way to know it is to never take pleasure in it nor think of ourselves as someone who doesn't need rocking either. Both priest and lay member need rocking, and sometimes, indeed, Yahweh uses our enemies to do that job. I would prefer to be rocked by a friend than an enemy, but if I refuse to let my friend do it, you can be sure Yahweh will employ your enemy. So be rocked, preferably, by your friend. Be corrected by a friend rather than by an enemy, but if you have refused to let your friend do it the kind way, in ahavah (love), then when your enemy does it, thank Yahweh, because if that fails, then you're in serious trouble: you have failed. And Yahweh may send an even worse enemy to do it, out of His mercy and loving-kindness (which we are yet blind to), which will cause us much extra unnecessary pain (unnecessary in the sense that there was an easier way but we refused it because of stubbornness and pride), in which case rejoice because it is for your salvation. I believe that is why Paul said:
"For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of Elohim (God)" (2 Cor.4:15, NKJV)
It took me years to understand what Paul meant by this but now I think I do for the one who suffered terribly for the sake of His Master.
"Giv[e] thanks always for all things to Elohim (God) the Father in the Name of our Master Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), submitting to one another in the fear of Elohim (God)" (Eph.5:20-21, NKJV).
Quality vs. Quantity
Yahweh always has been more interested in quality than quantity. As one minister observed, "what's in the hearts of the people in the pews is more important than how many people are warming the pews." I suspect that is why we have never been a large assembly and it's one of the reasons why Yahweh took 32,000 soldiers away from Gideon, leaving him only 300 to fight his battles. Then, as now, Yahweh was looking for quality.
Not a Seeker-Friendly Ministry
That is why NCAY is absolutely not a 'seeker-friendly' fellowship. We do not give people what they want but what we believe Yahweh wants them to have. We do not avoid disturbing people's equilibrium as the seeker-friendly churches do. Yet we are not out to do that for its own sake. It's not one of our 'hobby-horses'. Our philosophy, which is Scripturally-based, is that Yahweh disturbs us enough so that we can make teshuvah (repent) in order to to give us authentic shalom (peace), and not the counterfeit 'peace' of those who hate rocking the boat or having their boats rocked. We're not here to appeal to what people think their needs are but to prophetically - and that means living by the Ruach (Spirit) in revelation - give them what Yahweh knows they need.
Now obviously, if it's numbers you're after, then the seeker-friendly method works most admirably. But unfortunately, what people feel they need doesn't always correspond to what they actually need. That goes for ministers as well as for those still not serving as cohenim (priests and priestesses) which is why the ministry does the same thing to its ministers. To some it may seem to be 'tough love', to others even 'cruel love', but in truth it's the only kind of ahavah- or agapé-love because it's heavenly love that turns fleshy believers into true, liberated talmidim (disciples). Every child thinks righteous parents are cruel sometimes, just as we as Yahweh's children accuse Him of the same.
Like John the Baptist
We're all called to be ministers in some capacity or another so this is not just addressed to the shamashim (deacons and deaconesses) and zaqenim (elders and eldresses). If you're not ordained yet, you're still called. Who was the greatest minister in New Testament times, aside from Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself? John the Baptist. This is what Yah'shua (Jesus) said of him:
John the Baptist's Way of Preaching
"For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater navi (prophet) than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of Elohim (God) is greater than he" (Luke 7:28, NKJV).
Now does anyone believe that John the Baptist was 'seeker-friendly'? How would he have responded to believers and unbelievers today? This is how John did evangelism:
Preparing a People
"But when he (John) saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, 'Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of teshuvah (repentance), and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that Elohim (God) is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 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.3:7-10, NKJV).
There are for sure those who believe that they are of a special master race and are not in need of some gospel egalitarian 'tough love' - they are sorely mistaken. There are those who believe they have 100% correct theology and are special and are not in need of 'tough love' and a rude awakening - they are sorely mistaken. There are those who believe they belong to the one-and-only true church or messianic assembly and are not in need of 'tough love' to put them on a level playing field - they are sorely mistaken. And there are those who believe that their feelings are emet (truth), who need or feel entitled to a special tailor-made gospel that won't offend their feelings and therefore do not need 'tough love' - they are sorely mistaken. We do these people no service if we pussy-foot around them, afraid to drive them away by telling them something they don't want to hear. John's call was not to develop the largest congregation in Jerusalem, but to prepare a people for the soon coming of the Messiah. We have an identical calling on our ministry today. We are here to deliver the emet (truth) in ahavah (love), not to recruit for an organisation. We are not politicians.
Entitlement vs. Fear as Two Opposites
Now it's true we can go too far in the opposite direction and think we have a spiritual anointing when what is driving us is in reality psychic power or our flesh. There are those who positively relish the 'hellfire-and-damnation' way of evangelising the world and controlling the flock who are spiritually dead and doing the work of the devil by keeping people suppressed and in bondage. I am not talking about them. They need rebuking and correcting every bit as much as the 'entitlement' and 'needy' brigade. There has to be proper balance. All correction must be followed up by a super-abundance of ahavah (love) so that the people have tiqveh (hope) and can leave the battlefield edified, not crushed to a pulp. So please don't categorie me, or our ministers, as 'hell-fire-and-damnation' salesmen - we are not. I don't believe in frightening people into the Kingdom but nor do I believe in letting them pursue a lukewarm path that eventually freezes over.
Let's Play It Safe?
One thing is clear from the preaching of Yah'shua (Jesus), John and Baptist, and the Apostles is that they did not purse a 'let's play it safe' way. One of our members years ago thought we should befriend people - socialise with them, get to know them well - before we sharted sharing the Besorah (Gospel) with them. Sometimes that is the way but when it comes to believers or those visiting our assemblies as investigators, 'playing it safe' by watering down the Besorah (Gospel) or pandering to the flesh is doing them a terrible injustice and disservice. So never 'play it safe' when it comes to worship or preaching. Yah'shua (Jesus) and the Apostles never said, 'Don't ever do anything that might offend someone because they might not return'. It's not what the Master did with the rich young ruler who had an inordinate attachment to His money, but neither did He preach 'hellfire and damnation' to him either. He spoke the emet (truth) to him kindly but firmly and unapologetically and did not pursue him when he turned away and left.
The Element of Risk
Yahweh did not in any case send us into this world to 'play it safe'. There's always an element of risk if you are passionate about salvation and emet (truth). And serving Yahweh wholeheartedly has never been the safest course to pursue. In fact, it often can lead to martyrdom. Let's take careful note of Yah'shua's (Jesus') first recorded worship service after he came out of the wilderness of temptation.
Uncompromising But Seasoned Preaching
"Yah'shua (Jesus) returned to Galilee in the power of the Ruach (Spirit), and news about Him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised Him" (Luke 4:14-15, NIV).
His preaching was tough and uncompromising but it was seasoned with compassion and ahavah (love). It was obvious by His behaviour that He cared for people and was willing to anger those who hated Elohim (God) and did not want to make teshuvah (repent) for the sake of those who did want salvation and emet (truth).
What Ministers Crave
Everyone was praising Yah'shua (Jesus), it says. Isn't that what ministers crave? Isn't that what we as witnesses want? We want to be received, we want to be praised for our labours, and we want to be loved! It's human nature. And when we come with a bold message with great and wonderful promises, there is nothing but praise until people start realising the cost and what Yahweh demands of them in terms of obedience and discipleship. We all like to be roused by a good speech but most would rather remain as passive onlookers. Most who hear the Davar (Word) come to be entertained. But whenever you speak rousing emet (truth), trouble always follows, because Satan has a grip on the hearts of those who either want to remain passive or who suddenly feel threatened when it becomes clear they have to radically change their lives in order to live this message. They have to quit being sinners. And, yes, warning about hell does need to be included from time to time but not as the predominant theme.
Comforter, Helper, Advocate, Counsellor and Redeemer
When we think about the promised "Comforter" (Jn.14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7) to those who would remain on the earth after Yah'shua's (Jesus') Ascension, and those born afterwards - if you come from a King James Bible (KJV) and New American Standard Bible (NASB) background - you're apt to think in terms of something soft and fluffy. This Paraclete (Gk. for 'Comforter') does much more than comfort us in our distress, though. She can also be described as a "Helper" (NKJV, NASU) and "Counsellor" (NIV). Some versions translate it as "Advocate". But did you know that in Aramaic the word translates as "Redeemer" (AENT) because the word comes from two Aramaic roots meaning to 'end', 'save' or 'finish', and to 'curse'? Thus our 'Helper', 'Advocate', 'Comforter' and 'counsellor' is the 'One who ends the curse', redeeming our sinful predisposition that is our inheritance from Adam. She transmits from the Redeemer, Yah'shua (Jesus), the power to overcome! Thus we receive His Chayim or Life through Her administration.
Power of the Ruach
It is important we understand this. Yes, absolutely, the Ruach (Spirit) is Comforter too, to assure us as a Mother, but She is also the bearer of the Master's Salvation, acting in male position. Yes, Yah'shua (Jesus) is our Advocate with the Father, but She is the transmitter of that Advocacy in real terms - as real power. When Yah'shua (Jesus) "returned to Galilee in the power of the Ruach (Spirit)", it was in that same anointing power that we today receive through the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) in order to cause spiritual earthquakes in hearts. A minister must have that when he preaches, or his preaching is of the flesh and ultimately in vain. And all of us, as witnesses of Yah'shua (Jesus), must have that too, or we become either lukewarm seeker-friendly appeasers of the flesh, daring not to upset anyone or disturb their comfort zones, or we veer off to the opposite extreme as vessels of hellfire-and-damnation, bringing a spirit of fear rather than of ahavah (love). There has to be proper balance. And, yes, godly fear as a fruit of preaching is necessary sometimes too so that we may not become lax.
False Spirits Comfort Pew-Warmers
The Ruach (Spirit) is both a Comforter and the instrument of Yah'shua's (Jesus') redemption but She has never proven to be a real comfort to pew-warmers. If there is a spirit present that comforts the pew-warmers, I guarantee that it is a counterfeit. Either it must be rebuked or you need to leave such an assembly fast before you are sent to sleep by a masquerading demon operating in the flesh, rendering you ineffective and burdensome for the Kingdom.
Positive Response to Grace
When Yah'shua (Jesus) stood up and read from the scroll of Isaiah He was still on safe ground because the people were well grounded in Scripture. Do you remember their first response?
When Yah'shua Changed Gear...
"So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, 'Is this not Joseph's son?'" (Luke 4:21-22, NKJV)
You see, He read the Scriptrues in the power of the Ruach (Spirit) and the people loved it, because He was full of grace. But then, to use the modern vernacular, He changed mode and 'blew it'. How did He do that? He dared to make a clear application of the Scripture He had just read. It ceased being general and became personal. And observe the reaction then!
Responding to Unspoken Thoughts
"He said to them, 'You will surely say this proverb to Me, 'Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country'" (Luke 4:23, NKJV).
He anticipated their response prophetically. He knew what they were thinking and announced it before they could open their mouths. He knew they were thinking to themselves, 'Why don't you do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum?' And again, before they could open their mouths, He responded to that question that was in their hearts:
From Comforter to Judge
"Assuredly, I say to you, no navi (prophet) is accepted in his own country" (Luke 4:24, NKJV).
Was He accurate? Always. Consider the people's response. A few monments before they were standing in awe of Him because the anointing of the Ruach (Spirit) that gave Him such grace as one bearing the Comforter - but then be became the Bearer of the Message of Salvation and of Judgment for rejecting it, no longer of the Comforter for there was nothing good to comfort - Yahweh did not allow Him tickle their ears or massage their egos or protect them in their comfort zones of sin. He went on to preach in power:
The Response of the People
"But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian" (Luke 4:25-28, NKJV).
He spoke to their arrogant racism and pride. Their response quickly revealed what spirit governed their hearts, and I'll give you a clue - it was not the spirit of humility or of teshuvah (repentance):
Demonic Fury Unleashed
"So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way" (Luke 4:28-30, NKJV).
Yes, the people in the synagogue were furious. They tried to push Yah'shua (Jesus) over the cliff! Murder was in their hearts because demons ruled their hearts! Now please do not suppose for one minute that Yah'shua (Jesus) had made some terrible mistake in provoking them 'unnecessarily'. This was no blunder. This was with very clear intent. He wasn't carried away by a hellfire-and-damnation spirit either. He was a very intelligent and wise man. Even in his own hometown he cared too much for the people to merely play it safe. He spoke the emet (truth) at the command of His Heavenly Father, and as a man of flesh-and-blood like ourselves, was empowered to speak boldly and in a way so as to confront them with their sin. This was no seeker-friendly message. He spoke in such a way to separate the righteous from the wicked, so that He might save the righteous. And that is how we are supposed to preach, teach and witness too.
Our Various Situations
Now I don't know what all your situations are but I can guess that everyone is struggling with something and that some of you feel you have stagnated. A common spiritual malady in this world of apathy and indifference is without a doubt lukewarmness, something, as you know, that Yah'shua (Jesus) hates (Rev.3:6). And lukewarmness often comes about because of doubt:
"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (Rev.3:15-17, NIV)
We can get too comfortable and when that happens Yahweh sends someone (or something) to shake us up - first, friends, and then, if we fail to respond to them, enemies, and then worse enemies the more we resist reformation from lesser enemies. I speak to you as a friend, as a brother, as a father, and as a husband. We are awfully comfortable, even with bombs going off and bullets being fired in distant places, though ever getting slightly closer to home. The recent Paris killings may seem distant to us in Scandinavia but I assure you our brethren in Kenya live in fear of religious extremists and gangs of crooks murdering them every day. Today we ate a hearty breakfast but some of our brethren are going without food because the government has not paid its workers. We have subsidised medicine but they do not. They are awake because they have to be. Soon it will be our turn but, please, let me be the one who wakes you now, or another minister like me, or a family member, or one of your brethren or sisters in the Covenant, rather than the enemy.
We all carry this fatal disease called the Adamic nature and it is constantly lying to us and pulling us down. It is most successful when it does so slowly, in small increments, because then we don't notice its effects until we are deep in its grip. We postpone things we need to get done, issues that need resolving. Sometimes we don't know how to but that doesn't mean Yahweh doesn't. We just have to go to Him and risk, in emunah (faith). For some this is easy, for others more difficult because of their temprement - nevertheless we all have to make the same choices at some point when it comes to deliverance. The seeker-friendly way of life is not the way of the talmid (disciple) - we are constantly challenged, constantly urged to move forwards, because to stop is to fall asleep and eventually die. That's why so few have bothered to make preparations, or have otherwise only done so half-heartedly.
Twelve Cans of Beans
I was reading last night about Professor Robert Gilford, environmental psychologist from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, who confessed to a journalist that his preparation for a big earthquake should it strike the region (the Province is in a high risk area, like California) was 12 cans of baked beans in his basement. He admitted he got hungry one day and ate two of them, leaving 10, which it turns out have been sitting around for so many years they may already have gone bad. We are, by default, because of our lazy Adamic nature, exactly like that in both physical and spiritual preparedness. Preparation of all sorts requires discipline, organisation and effort. We have to do the preparation, Yahweh won't do it for us. Yes, when necessary, He parts seas, makes water come out of rocks, sends manna out of heaven, but He didn't make the Israelites' decision to leave Egypt and He didn't carry them to the water's edge either. They had to make their own choices and do their own walking.
Collapse By Degree
I really, really hope you are all prepared physically and spiritually for what is coming, and has already started. Collapse won't occur in one day, even though currency may become valueless in one day and certain services stop in one day, but it has been happening gradually for years. And even after the currency collapses, the 'collapse' in general will go on for a long time after that as the things we take for granted are no longer available and as society's infrastructure breaks down, like for our Kenyan brethren whose salaries have stopped coming. What are they to do? They have some storage but they are poor and don't have the opportunities that we have. I can tell you for a fact that some of them, and their children, have not been eating square meals for some days. They have at least made the effort to buy, plough, plant, tend and harvest some fields. And when the collapse comes, they will be able to replant and reharvest them. What about us? or are we relying on a box of baked beans to last us for a few months or years?
Answering Important Questions
Yes, we can readily identify with something external that we can see, but really what I most want to talk about is the invisible, what's inside. I guarantee, absolutely, that all of you have difficult, unanswered questions about the Besorah (Gospel), your own life's purpose, and life in general, some of which may be of fundamental importance. We have shelved them and have chosen to continue by emunah (faith), oftentimes sitting in Egypt waiting to be carried to the Promised Land. For some questions, this is necessary because we oftentimes need to acquire the tools to understand certain things like enigmatic Scripture (like knowing more Hebrew), but there are other ones which we can get answers to and so strengthen our emunah (faith) but we don't because we are too lazy to do the spade work of study. I talked a bit about this in the last Mishpat Yahweh (If), reminding you of things Yahweh has told us many times over the years - of the need for emunah (faith), ahavah (love), obedience and knowledge. We are not supposed to be an ignorant people. We have to know Messiah, we have to know about Messiah and we have to know His Father's Torah.
The Thirteenfold Relationship with Messiah
The first principle of the Besorah (Gospel) is emunah (faith), the second is ahavah (love), the third is daat (knowledge) and the fourth is obedience. Emunah (faith) and ahavah (love) must combine to give heart-felt dependence on Messiah; Ahavah (love) must combine with obedience to give heart-felt obedience; Obedience must combine with knowledge to give studious obedience; Knowledge must combine with emunah (faith) to give studious dependence, and all must combine to give heart-felt, studious, obedient dependence on Yah'shua (Jesus). This is a 13-fold relationship which correspond to the 13 Sukkot or Tabernacles Sacrifices and (to a lesser extent) to the 13 months of the Hebrew Leap Year. The number 13 in Scripture represents the oneness or echadness that is brought about by divine ahavah (love). This is the fullness of the Besorah (Gospel) and of the Sukkot (Tabernacles) Annointing that we teach and are called to live precisely for this last time when anything less would expose vulnerabilities to the Enemy. Faith in Messiah, love for Messiah, study of Messiah's Davar (Word) and obedience to Messiah's Mitzvot (Commandments) - remember these.
Doubt and Faith
One of the great sabateurs of the spiritual life, and therefore of the 13-fold integrity of the Sukkot way, is DOUBT because it is the antithesis of the first principle, EMUNAH (faith). Sometimes doubt arises because of a lack of study or a lack of obedience or a lack of ahavah (love) or any combination. Undermine emunah (faith) and everything else eventually crumbles away. Two nights ago, like I said, my whole stack of unanswered personal and theological questions came tumbling off the top shelf of my mind and overwhelmed my heart. I was in a major panic, a spiritual crisis. This is not the first time nor, I dare say, will it necessarily be the last. We all have such times and it is vitally important we know how to handle them right. This crisis of my own had been caused by some friends who have wandered from the emet (truth) and into dangerous spiritual waters. I felt obliged, out of love for their souls, to address their questions, as indeed I shall as time and health permit, for I must do much work in researching these matters out thoroughly. These people simply added to my shelf of unanswered questions by challenging some of the assumptions we must all make in order to have emunah (faith), forcing me to fall back on my personal relationship with Yah'shua (Jesus) as I have done so many times before. This happens with friendships, marriages and fraternal relationships, when we must make choices to believe the claims of one set of people over another set.
Two Rules of Thumb in Dealing With Challening Situations
As a general rule of thumb in such situations, there are two pieces of advice I make which, though they don't necessarily apply to all situations, have proven valid for most, in my experience:
How Satan Destabilises Us
- 1. Be neutral about new claims so that you can carefully study them dispassionately and objectively; and
- 2. Stick with what you know until you are absolutely sure you are wrong and need to make a change in your life.
Satan most spectacularly succeeds by destabilising us, leading us to make hasty and often disasterous decisions. Even if we are wrong about some things (and we all are), this does not mean we should dismantle our whole spiritual house while we deal with new challenges. You'll see in a minute what I mean when I share a vision with you that Yahweh gave me two days ago. Structure and system in life is important, and even if it contains wrong elements, it is always better than anarchy and chaos. For instance, I always advise people investigating the Creation Calendar to stick with the calendar (Gregorian or Jewish) they are using until they are absolutely sure what's right and have had time to talk matters through carefully with others (in a family, for instance) before implementing it, because it will affect the whole pattern of their lives, including education and career.
Changing Clothes, Changing Faith
Likewise, if you're a Pentecostal (for example) and investigating NCAY, we counsel you to remain Pentecostal until you are sure Yahweh has called you to NCAY. It's common sense really. Who, for instance, upon learning that the clothes they are wearing will be inadequate for a new climate in a country they may be moving to, suddenly rips all their clothes off and stand in their underwear while they research the matter out. No, they continue wearing the clothes that are adequate for their present purpose, purchase the new clothes they will need, and then quietly change at home on their way to their new destination. This is how it must be when we confront difficult questions. It's common sense, really, but there are those who are reckless and often bring great trouble on themselves because they are too hasty.
Opposites in balance
Obviously, we must also warn against pursuing the dismetric opposite course to such recklessness, which is postponement caused by laziness or doubt. As in so many things, there has to be a balance, because we ourselves are designed and constructed upon the principle of various sets of opposites. We have seen this in the four principles of relationship - faith, love, study and obedience. There are times to risk and times to be cautious. In a healthy diet we must balance various biochemical components. There's a time to listen and a time to talk, a time to work and a time to rest, a time to be close and a time to be distant, a time to eat and a time to fast. That's how Yahweh made life. Some of the most dangerous predicaments we get into are the result of getting these elements out of balance. We can be uncomfortably over-familiar with people or we can be unpleasantly cold toward them.
I return to my experience two nights ago. As I said, hard and painful questions all came tumbling off that upper shelf at the same time. I was ill and tired, and I was overwhelmed. For a moment I panicked and I want to share with you what can happen spiritually when you have such a crisis.
Dream of the Mountain Top and Descent
I struggled until early in the morning, studying but really too tired to do so. I was very disturbed indeed. I went to bed in this unstable state and I had a dream, a very powerful dream, and a very instructive one too. I found myself on top of a mountain. Below me was a valley concealed in a dense fog. I could tell it was winter. I saw above my head a rope, quite taught, that appeared from behind me from some point onto which it must have been secured on the summit and descended in a straight line into the clouds and beyond, I supposed, into the valley below. Without thinking, I suddenly got the desire to get away from the mountain top and onto that rope - I wanted get off the summit. There was no rhyme or reason to do this decision - it was a sudden impulse to get away and off the mountain and what it represented. With singular determination I grabbed the rope and started sliding down it, lifting my legs up and wrapping my feet above it too, going down feet first. The descent was exhillarating, exciting, and an act of faith, for I had no idea where I was going, but I was enjoying the ride immensely. It was something different, something new, something thrilling. I felt the wind rushing by me and at length I entered, at great speed, into the fog below. Seconds later I hit the ground safely.
Life in the Wintery Valley
But the valley was not what I imagined it to be. In fact, I'm not sure I imagined it would be anything in particular, just better than the mountain top. It was mid-winter and there was snow everywhere. It was bleak...and I was at the foot of the mountain and knew I had to ascend it again, for as you know valleys do not symbolise good things in Scripture. The "valley of the shadow if death" is one such valley (Ps.23:4) requiring a lot of help from Yahweh to get through for nobody in their right mind wants to remain there. Yahweh's Kingdom is depicted symbolically as a mountain (as are its counterpart kingdoms of the world) and that is most definitely what we are supposed to be on top of. So this cold, wintery valley was not a good place to be and I knew it. Ahead of me was a man and what looked like a large animal nearby, like an elk or a yak. There was something strange about the man, something dark, and he appeared to be going up the mountain, for that is the direction he was pointing when I first saw him. He had thick animal furs on like one of those trappers in the late 19th century. I watched as he pretended to befriend this animal, I suppose in order to use it to get up the mountain, and it came to him trustingly. When it did, it seemed to transform into a man, though it remained theis animal too. I saw him embracing the man as though in gratitude but to my horror he was holding a large dagger to the man's back and slowly sank it deep. I was shocked at the cool and calm way in which he murdered this man or beast of burden. This was a man evidently pretending to be one thing but was, in fact, another altogether.
Appalled at My Folly
I awoke from that dream, appalled by what I had seen and at my stupidity for having impulsievly abandoned the mountain to get away from perceived, unbearable difficulties and for an equally impulsive and very short-lived thrill indeed. Truth told, I was bored and frustrated with the mountain and wanted something different. I was in such a panic before sleeping, all those unanswered questions crowding my mind, and to be perfectly honest, not a little frustrated and angry, because the foundations of my Bible emunah (faith) were being apparently threatened - and I underline the word 'apparently' because I already had deep and strong foundations in the emunah (faith) which had never let me down. Though in that moment I was surely in denial about it, I somewhere must have believed that those deep foundations weren't secure after all, and that maybe a new paradigm - a new way of seeing and doing things (which don't line up with Scripture, of course) - would somehow free me from all my theological and situational problems.
It is So Easy to Fall
This experience taught me HOW EASY IT IS TO FALL from grace and security, no matter how long you have been walking with Yahweh, no matter how much you know about Him, no matter how theologically correct you are. We dare not be so casual or rash about things that determine our eternity as well as our temporal security - ever. I saw how easy it is to fall away, and all it takes it letting go of emunah (faith), being dissatisfied with ones lot, and being totally irrational in order to justify flesh-based discontentment. I knew who my Messiah was and I had no intention of ever letting Him go. I knew that this universe was created, not evolved, and much more. And I knew these things when I made that fateful choice to slide away from my problems on a rope that offered the promise of instant change and a doorway to a new paradise. It didn't take long for me to realise that the other side of the metaphorical mountain was not greener and it didn't take me long to understand that the thrill of jumping over that cliff sliding along that rope, or the thrill of the ride into the unknown, held no promise whatsoever. Indeed, the Enemy was waiting for me there, pretending to be a fellow-traveller, the Enemy in the form of the carnal, Adamic, fleshy, psychic murderer.
Be Content With What You Have
Yes, I repented as soon as I awoke. I knew what my mistake had been. We don't like John the Baptist's counsel very much, do we? When some poorly paid and evidently very dissatisfied soldiers came to him for advice, he told them to be content with their salary. Paul gave exactly the same advice:
That is not to say we should be content with starvation or being naked, of course, because Yahweh does promise us the necessities (Mt.6:28; Lk.12:27). So Paul would also say:
"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because Elohim (God) has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you'" (Heb.13:5, NIV).
Taking this one step higher, the apostle said:
"Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the emunah (faith) and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Tim.6:6-10, NIV).
It is when we wander away from this counsel that trouble follows.
"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (Phil.4:11, NIV).
Those Who Let Go
Sadly, others I have known have not done that, including those near and dear - they have taken the plunge into the valley below, made common cause with the Enemy, and remained there, slowly dying spiritually. And that is painfully tragic. It is very easy to let go of emunah (faith) in Messiah - VERY. Do not suppose for one minute that because you are a seasoned minister that you cannot fall away. You can, and it happens, and those who knew better gradually forget all they once knew to be true, and it becomes as though they never knew the Messiah. Yet deep down they still do.
Vision of the Tablets - the Orderliness of Our Lives Revealed
That was not the end of the matter. After this shocking dream, I was repenting and praying, and Yahweh opened a vision up to me, to show me how emunah (faith) works. This, I think, will interest you as much as it interested me. He showed me what looked like small tablets, two thirds as long as an ordinary computer keyboard, but they were alive, and each one contained a set of self-contained learning experiences. These tablets were floating around, disconnected, yet invisibly drawn to one another so that they were always apart at about the same short distance, rather like atoms in a solid, I suppose. Each of these tablets, contained sets of experiences, as I said, related to phases of life, truths learned within the bounds or context of certain environments and sometimes people. They were no necessarily boxes of events but more principles that had to be learned, by means of the 13-fold Derech (Way), like lessons or units in a university course. More than that, they were ALIVE and very real, units of character and self. They corresponded on one level to the Annual Festivals and on another to parts within the principles contained in those festivals. Each had to do with a unit of character development made complete by emunah /(faith), ahavah (love), obedience, and daat (knowledge). They were kept purposefully separated, yet connected by some invisible forcefield, and I understood that they would one day integrate into a whole, at which point all things would become crystal clear and thus our emunah (faith) would be justified. That's the promise, that though we can't see all these events and experiences relative to the whole and to time - past, present and future - but Yahweh could, and does. I SAW, ABOVE ALL, THAT THERE WAS ORDER, SYSTEM AND PURPOSE TO EVERYTHING IN OUR LIFE. Nothing was left to chance, nothing was accidental, and when change was called for by Yahweh, the doors would open and the opportunities present themselves. We are, in the meantime, to be content with what we have and where we are and with our life circumstances and not going comparing them with others.
Needless to say I am back on the mountain again - I didn't want to remain in that valley of despair for a moment longer than necessary. And, yes, the mountain summit is still bleak, but I know I am supposed to be there. We're not here on vaccation but on service for our Master. Our salvation is not, in any case, complete until we have finished this life - we are not our own masters or misstresses but servants of the Most High on the most important journey of our existence - more important that what came before our birth and more important than the place we inherit after this life is over. I still have a shelf full of unanswered questions but I am, I hope, a tad less impatient and dissatisfied than I was before. I know the struggling isn't over but I know in whom I am trusting and why I am here. The alternative is bleak. This is a good place to be, and though the weather here is not always very pleasant, there are clear, sunny and glorious days to enjoy too. I know absolutely that I am pointing in the right direction even if I cannot see beyond the vista of each day - I am to continue living by emunah (faith), growing in love, growing in knowledge and wisdom, and learning to be more and more obedient so that I can be a more useful servant and secure for myself what really matters - an inheritance in the world to come whilst resting in the surety of my Messiah in this one. Amen.