Month 3:29, Week 4:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5940:87 AM|
2Exodus 3/40, Yovel - Year 50/50
Omer Count - Day-After-7th Sabbath #21
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 3 July 2016
Futile Religion VI
Righting False Perceptions of Elohim
Continued from Part 5
Shabbat shalom kol beit Israel and mishpachah and welcome to this sixth study of the issue of futile religion.
The First Exodus Idols
Last week we looked the question of how best to break idolatry's grip and especially at the cunning hiding places we build for them so as to minimise the risk of detection by other believers. We saw how in the First Exodus the Israelites took their idols with them - those in their hearts - and we recalled how they recreated the chief of them, the vile worship of Apis the sun-god which we know of as the 'Golden Calf'.
The First Exodus and the Second Exodus Generations That Perish
The first generation all died in the wilderness, with the exception of two men (Joshua and Caleb), because they would not relinquish them. And sad to say, in this Penultimate Generation of the Second and Last Exodus, those of you who are of the Last Generation will witness the death of mine, with sadly most of the men and women of it likewise perishing with their idols brought along with them from their previous religious practices - yes, practices claiming the identity of 'Christian' or 'Messianic'. There will be, I dare say, more than two from the Penultimate Generation who will accompany the Last than were in that First Exodus, for there must be, given that this last one will consist of 12 bodies corresponding to the Twelve Tribes coming from twelve different directions. So you may expect 24 of my generation at the very least least!
This Generation Will Not Forsake its Idols
It is a hard, and sometimes traumatic, thing to smash internal idols when you have been brought up with them and have sought life and breath from them, miserable substitutes for the real Chayim (Life) though they are. Though I would not wish to admit it too often, I have to confess that I have little confidence in a full repentance and forsaking of idols in my own generation. Therefore my message is directed primarily, though by no means exclusively, to the younger generation being raised in the emunah (faith) and righteousness of Yahweh.
Evangelistic Crusades and Heart-Penetration
Over the years I have remarked on the long-term failure of the big evangelistic campaigns and often cite the example of one of these in the Ukraine many years ago. What was interesting about this particular one was that the organisers did a follow-up on those who had professed faith in Yah'shua (Jesus) to see what had happened to them one or more years later. The results were appalling with somewhere around 95% of those who 'converted' falling away. I have always blamed a failure by the churches and assemblies to disciple these precious believers and there is no doubt that was a big part of the problem. However, though I have entertained such thoughts before without crystallising them out too much, I believe now that one of the major reasons for such 'fallings away' may be accounted for because of a lack of proper heart-penetration. There is inadequate stirring of the emotions, or if such takes place, it is at a superficial level only.
Emotional Intelligence in Education
As a professional educator, I have found parallel problems in the teaching of children. Increasing numbers of writers like Ken Robinson, John Gottman and Robert Witkin  have come around to the position - which I consider unassailable - that one of the problems in modern education is the failure to recognise what might be called 'emotional intelligence'. One of the reasons homeschooling is so much more successful than state schooling is that the homeschooling environment of committed and loving parents is so very conducive to cultivating the emotional life and creativity. Whilst this is not to say that some individual teachers in the state system don't have a similar impact, it is too diffuse and lacks the intimacy that the home provides. Indeed it has been conclusively proven that emotionally intelligent children not only perform better in intellectual skills but are more self-confident, healthier and have better social relationships.
The Whole Person Must Be Penetrated
The Besorah (Gospel) of Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is not merely for the mind. It's appeal, claim and challenge is to the whole man or woman, from the intellect, to the emotions, the physical body and to the spiritual self. For salvation to work effectively it must penetrate all of these - the complete person. There is a danger, particularly in the Messianic Movement but by no means confined to it, to intellectualise the Besorah (Gospel) to such an extent that it becomes mostly or entirely about responding to the written Torah - commandment-keeping in the external sense becomes the 'main thing' which, as we all know, can so easily flip into legalism if we're not very careful.
What Do Unbelievers and Converts Actually Feel?
Michael Wells make the point that "one of the greatest weaknesses in Christianity today is that we ask a person to accept Jesus Christ (Yah'shua the Messiah) into his life or we tell the defeated Christian to make Him Lord (Master) without taking the time to find out who the unbeliever feels is coming into his life or who the believer feels he is making Lord" .
When Mind Drowns Heart
He reaises this question because in a large public meeting like an evangelistic crusade, people tend to make their confession of faith based more on the intellect than emotions, with the mind (which is much 'faster' than the emotions) literally swamping feelings out. The trouble with this kind of evangelism, if there isn't proper backup, the emotions can at length appear out of nowhere and reverse the whole process, by drowning out the intellect.
An Emotional Approach to Elohim
Our emotional Concept of Elohim (God) is no less important than our intellectial one. What we're going to do today is look at the Besorah (Gospel) in terms of how you feel about it rather than what you think about it. And as far as Yahweh is concerned, what you feel about Him at your worst moments counts for a great deal in your life because they define the true condition of your soul.
When you ask believers (or unbelievers) what they feel about certain aspects of the Besorah (Gospel) - and in particular, men - you will not uncommonly get a theological response. Michael Wells once asked a man who had been a missionary for 20 years what he felt about being with Yahweh at his worst moments - when he was alone in bed, when everything was going wrong and his world seemed to be falling apart. Do you know what happened? He started cursing Elohim (God)! There was a huge gap between what he believed mentally and what he felt emotionally.
The Fourteen Questions
Intrigued by this, Wells drew up a list of 14 questions to ask a large number of defeated and struggling believers from a wife range of cultures and the typical responses he got back threw him somewhat. I am going to go through this list now and then, after a very brief pause when I invite you to consider your emotional responses - what you feel rather than think about them, I am going to share some of the typical answers he got:
- 1. When I think about being with Elohim (God), I feel...fear, loneliness, that He is not there;
- 2. When I have to trust Elohim (God), I feel like...like He won't really help me;
- 3. When I think about Elohim (God), I wish...I could see Him or that He would change me;
- 4. Sometimes I get angry with Elohim (God) when...He doesn't seem to hear me, He leaves me alone, He doesn't help.
- 5. It frustrates me when Elohim (God) wants me to...do the impossible, which He always does. He gives me mitzvot (commandments) I cannot keep.
- 6. I really enjoy Elohim (God) when...He forgives. (If people really enjoy Yahweh when He forgives, and they are not experiencing much simcha/joy, we can safely conclude that they don't really believe that He does forgive!)
- 7. The one thing I would change about myself to please Elohim (God) is... everything. (This answer reveals feelings of being unacceptable to Yahweh, of needing to do more for Yahweh).
- 8. When I think about Elohim's mitzvot (commanmdments), I feel...inadequate because I so often have not been able to keep them, or judgment for failing.
- 9. Sometimes I wish Elohim (God) would...take me home. (This person is saying, quite simply, that life with Yahweh has been miserable).
- 10. I can really depend on Elohim (God)...for nothing.
- 11. In my relationship with Elohim (God), I am always sure that He will...judge me, get me, reveal my faults to everyone.
- 12. The one thing that frightens me most about Elohim (God) is...His judgment.
- 13. Elohim (God) surprises me when...He answers or is there.
- 14. One thing I am afraid Elohim (God) will do is...kill someone I love to get my attention.
Substituting for Yahweh
Everyone knows in their heads, especially if they have read the Scriptures or heard lots of good preachers, that Yahweh, and Yahweh alone, will meet our deepest needs. We all recognise this in our minds but what about your emotions? Is there anything in our emotions that might keep us from running to Yahweh to have these needs met? Typically, when we have lost our Messiah-focus, we embark on an endless journey trying to find that one person, that one thing, or that one incredible place - yes, that adored idol - that we believe will meet our needs.
Response of the Defeated Believer
Look how those defeated believers described Yahweh in their emotional response to those 14 questions! Although we know in our heads that Yahweh is none of those things described by our emotions in our worst moments, the defeated believer often feels that this is whom he is praying to, whom he worshipping, and whom he is trusting to meet his needs.
What Kind of a Testimony Do You Have?
Every honest believer can identify with this. And were we to bear testimony of an Elohim (God) like the one we emotionally react to in our worst moments, what would people conclude? "If that really describes Elohim (God), then I don't want anything to do with Him!" Could you blame them? If an 'unbelieving believer' bore such a testimony to me, I wouldn't want anything to do with his god either! If Yahweh is such a fearful and cold-hearted being as our emotions are wont to believe in our worst moments, there is every reason in the world not to open the door and let him have control our lives. In fact, the emotional description at ones lowest ebb is the very opposite of who Yahweh really is!
Reality and Coping
When people who have these fears and false pictures of Yahweh hear the Besorah (Gospel), they will either reject it or they will accept it out of fear of going to hell. Because of the lies they believe about His character, they will view Yah'shua (Jesus) as a 'Saviour of the future' - from hell - as opposed to a Saviour and Deliverer in the present. When confronted with the Saviour of the present, because of their emotional fear and unbelief if He is allowed to start involving Himself in their present, they may seek to find a way of coping with life outside of Elohim (God)...even if they know intellectually better.
Our Earthly Fathers and Yahweh
OK, let's ask the next question. If these answers aren't describing Yahweh, who are they describing? People will answer 'Satan' or maybe even 'self'. But do you know that the person who most often resembles the false description of Yahweh actually turns out to be earthly fathers. The way people view their Heavenly Father seems to be heavily influenced by the way they viewed their earthly father.
The Failure of Earthly Fathers
We could ask some more questions. Did you fear your father? Did he help you? Was he there for you? Did he set aside time for you? Did he judge you? Could you ever please him, or no matter what you did would he tell you to do no more? Did he criticise and require of you what you felt to be the impossible? To this day, do you feel disapproval from him? Did he ever take anything dear from you?
Learning About Authority
Michael Wells discovered that more than 90 per cent of the time their concepts of Elohim (God) really describe their fathers...or their mothers or some other influential figues in their lives. You see, all we can know of authority is what we have learned from those around us. Doesn't it then make sense when we are commanded to call Yahweh our Father in Heaven, that this would stir in our emotions a concept of our father in earth?
Bad Fathers and Loss of Trust
Those poor young girls who have been molested by their earthly fathers typically transfer their anger and disappointment with the earthly fathers to their Heavenly Father. This can be a huge revelation and emotional release for those struggling with such things. And it doesn't have to be something as bad as molestation. Simply being an absent father can have a similar affect. The issue boils down to an inability to trust. And it's perfectly understandable. I have heard of people who had this moment of truth either convert to Yah'shua (Jesus) or cease being unbelieving believers.
Judahite Fathers of the First Century
We find a perfect illustration of this in the Letter to the Hebrews:
Tha audience - Judahites - has an issue and it is unbelief - they are unable to trust and Paul battles with their false concept of Elohim (God) derived from interaction with their earthly fathers. Their religious leaders with their loveless ultra-legalism, whom their fathers will have emulated, will have added even more woe into the mix.
"For [our fathers of the flesh] disciplined us for a short time according to their pleasure; but Elohim (God), for our advantage that we may become partakers of His Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit)" (Heb.12:10, AENT).
Imaging and Imitating
How great a responsibility, then, is fatherhood! Your fathers are imprinting the minds and hearts of your impressionable youngsters. So be godly that in you they may get a glimpse of their Heavenly Father and be advantaged rather than handicapped when they become old enough to search Him out for themselves. Everything is about imaging and imitating. We are supposed to be imagers of Elohim (God), passing down that image to our sons, as mothers to their daughters. And these days, increasingly - and tragically - the faceless and impersonal state, which can often be so abusive, has come, through relentless school and media political indoctrination, to replace parents, compounding the the sense of alienation in our generation.
A Simple Experiment
I should like to make a suggestion to those who have an unrealistic conception - a false impression - of who Elohim (God) is, and it's this. Open up the 13th chapter of Paul's first Letter of the Corinthians, and wherever you see the word ahavah or love, substitute in the word Elohim (God) or Yahweh. This is not at all an unreasonable exercise given that Elohim (God) is defined in the B'rit Chadashah Scriptures (New Testament) as ahavah (love) (1 Jn.4:8,16).
Substituting in Yahweh
How many sermons have you heard that have left you thinking, "I have got to love more", yet what simcha (joy) it is to read this chapter by making this substitution to realise that this is the Elohim (God) who loves us and lives His chayim (life) through us:
Learning Patience and All Virtue
"Yahweh (ahavah/love) is patient, Yahweh (ahavah/love) is kind, Yahweh (ahavah/love) does not boast, Yahweh (ahavah/love) is not proud. Yahweh (ahavah/love) is not rude, Yahweh (ahavah/love) is not self-seeking, Yahweh (ahavah/love) is not easily angered, Yahweh (ahavah/love) keeps no record of wrongs. Yahweh (ahavah/love) does not delight in evil but rejoices with the emet (truth). Yahweh (ahavah/love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Yahweh (ahavah/love) never fails..." (1 Cor.13:4-8a, NIV)
What a wonderful and coveted virtue because patience is not easily found on our planet - it comes only from Heaven. How little patience people exhibit nowadays. Ask your spouse a question twice in a row (or if you are brave, three) and see how little patience there is. How little patience there in the Messianic Community (Church) for those growing in the emunah (faith), even though Elohim (God) is patient. Yahweh is kind, not jealous (in the negative sense), not a boaster, nor arrogant or too proud to be seen with us, He will not act unbecoming toward us (He will never abuse us), and He never seeks His own, but rather what is best for us. In other words, anyone of us under discipline, stress, disease or physical handicap can be assured that he is allowing it for for our good.
Not Easily Angered
He is not provoked. Do you realise that you are never going to make Him so angry that he throws you down to the ground and tramples you? Yahweh does not take into account wrongs because He isn't keeping a list of offenses as most of us do. Yahweh hates unrighteousness - any evil that has happened to any of us, He will always bear with us, believe in us, endure all things, and He will never fail us. He will always be there!
When Earthly Fathers Fail
Why do we find it so hard to believe this? Because our earthly fathers, who imaged fatherhood into us, failed. People spend their whole lives trying to get their spiritual needs met. Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) is the only One who can meet those needs, but so often we run from Him because we feel He is something other than the Elohim (God) of 1 Corinthians 13. But He is.
Give Elohim a Chance
Those who are running away from Elohim (God) are not running away from the Elohim (God) of Ahavah (Love) described by Paul to the Corinthians but for, a self-made god in the image of their fathers. When those who do this realise what it is that they have believed, they find it considerably easier to give their lives over to the Saviour. So many people have never given Elohim (God) a fair opportunity to prove Himself because they are rejecting who they feel He is before He can be given a chance to act on their behalf.
Silence Your Lying Emotions
So may I make this suggestion? The next time you fail, do not listen to your lying emotions from your corrupt heart and say: "Yahweh will get you; he will never help you again; He will now make others suffer for your sin." Don't go down that road because it's a dead-end - it doesn't lead anywhere other than misery and defeat. Rather, be a person of emunah (faith) and believe - trust - in the Elohim (God) of 1 Corinthians 13, pressing on in the ahavah (love) and redemption of so great a One. And if you have let your lying emotions control for years, you have a struggle ahead. They do not easily give up the reins to the control of the Ruach (Spirit).
Work to Change or Work to Believe?
The bottom line in all of this is both simple and easily missed or forgotten: we are not supposed to work to change what we are, but rather we are to work to believe what we already are in Messiah. It's never easy for those accustomed to being miserable. We are like the boy raised by wolves. When captured by men, he continually fought against those who were trying to help him. He constantly wanted to escape and return to the old familiarity of the wet, cold and harsh existence he had had before. Why? Because he had become comfortable with being in a wretched state, and many of us are in a similar condition! We have lived so long cutting ourselves off from Yahweh, walking in unbelief, and utilising our idols, that we are more suited to being unhappy - dragging ourselves from one thing to the next looking for contentment - than we would be to say no to our emotions and trust Yahweh for who He really is. The choice is ours. If we remain miserable with such a great Elohim (God), we can blame none but ourselves.
Open the Door to His Life
It is a huge but necessary step of emunah (faith) to go against all the lying emotions one has concerning who Elohim (God) is and to just open that door to His chayim (life) one time, for one time is all it will take for you to discover the abundant chayim (life) for which you have searched so long. There is a verse in Scripture, written, in fact, for unbelieving believers and not for unbelievers, which I should remind you of:
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me" (Rev.3:20, NKJV).
The invitation is for an intimate communion now, not in the future. Today is the day of salvation, today is the day of deliverance, today is the day of choosing, today is the day of ending misery, unhappiness, loneliness, turbulent emotions, wild thoughts, restlessness, impatience, hopelessness, etc., because none of these things are necessary. You are not being punished by Yahweh, you are not in any wilderness that He willed for you if your desire is Him, if you believe in Him and His Besorah (Gospel). You're simply in unbelief and leaning on lifeless idols. And you can return to belief and quit those idols by simply saying no unbelief and idols, and yes to Yah'shua (Jesus). You may not get a vision, have a revelation, or have a malak (angel) suddenly appear before you - mostly these things do not happen - but you can have shalom (peace), you can have intimacy, you can have freedom and you can put an end to striving in the flesh.
My Own Story
By way of a parting testimony, I can say I have been wrestling with the very things I have been preaching about today. I grew up with an absent father and a manipulating mother. I lay no charge at their feet because they never knew Yah'shua (Jesus) in any personal, real, immediate sense. They were both bitter and angry with Elohim (God), my mother because her first husband was killed shortly after they were married in the last Word War and my father because his first wife - a minister's daughter, incidentally - committed adultery and deserted him. Both made lots of bad mistakes after that and sought comfort in the wrong places, which I will not go into here. Suffice to say I had a lot of defective imaging that I have wrestled with all my life. Yes, the impact can negatively change your whole life, as many of you listening to me and reading this will be able to testify. What was worse for me, when I was 9 years old, I was sent to boarding school across the other side of the world so that I only saw my parents once a year, which I experienced as total abandonment.
The Unhappiness of My Parents
I had no real knowledge of Elohim (God) even if I had an ethical Christian upbringing, so my morals were strong. Naturally I did not know much of what went on behind the scenes in my parents' lives until I was much older so they shielded me from all that. Most parents today do not and children find themselves in a battleground, confused and frightened. My parents were not happy. Neither was I after I was packed off abroad. And so much of what a husband and father should be I never saw and had to learn the hard way, first by turning to mentors, many of whom betrayed me and just made things worse, forcing me - reluctantly - to turn to Yahweh as my Heavenly Father. And, yes, I had my idols, my coping mechanisms, and thought that people would fill the gap that only Yahweh could fill, only to be disappointed.
You Cannot Carry Others
I was born-again in 1977. Not everything was healed in a day, because of those blocking idols. Indeed, some issues have taken decades to fix. Many turn to their spouses - husbands and wives - as their substitutes for Yahweh, an impossible burden for them to carry, because when you do that, you are seeking for the kind of perfection that can only be had in Yah'shua (Jesus). Marriages fail when spouses do that - inevitably - because the pressure to be Elohim (God) is like expecting someone to carry sin, which is impossible. I have tried it and been manipulated into carrying things no human being can ever carry, even in part, but I did it because I was taught it was my duty to do so, and that I should not reveal my feelings by maintain a stiff upper lip. Letting go of all of that and giving it to Yah'shua (Jesus) who paid the price to do just that is the only solution. I know this as one who, before being born again, wandered through occultism and Buddhism. They cannot deliver you. There is no 'inner christ' that can do it and the universe, which is mostly nothingness, certainly can't.
I have been carrying things for years I never should have until yesterday when I just broke down in tears and told Yahweh I could not do it any longer. For years I had been confused being a spiritual covering - as all fathers and husbands are supposed to be - with carrying others, which only Yah'shua (Jesus) can do. This morning I saw a vision of a really high brick wall, maybe 20-30 feet high. I have seen it before, in dreams. But this time there was a roughly hewn archway - a door - in the wall and I chose to go through it. I had assumed the wall could only come down like the walls of Jericho. It only takes Yah'shua (Jesus) to punch a small hole through it to render the wall useless. One breach and what it is protecting is exposed completely. So what I have been talking about today is aimed as much at myself as everyone else. And I can tell you there are a lot of miserable, defeated pastors out there. But they know how to hide their idols. They do it so as not to disappoint their flocks or to lose their confidence. They are men most lonely...and ineffective.
I saw more this morning, in a dream. I saw myself protecting a little girl from a not-so-nice parent figure. I ran out into the pouring rain with her and sough refuge in a tent but the parent figure came after us in hot pursuit. He did not touch the girl because he knew I would not let him near her, and I yielded to his authority as an exchange. Of course, when I awoke, I knew exactly what had happened and went into prayer and renounced the false parent figure...which, by the way, shapeshifted into a woman at one point...and invited my Heavenly Father, to assume that rôle now. How did I get that demon? By watching my parents 'cope' and 'compromise' in a fleshy way in order to survive together. I imitated. I imaged. And we all do it. Yes, even born-again, Torah-obedient believers. If you don't believe that, check out out Deliverance website.
A Harvest of Righteousness and Peace
So I return to the Scripture I shared earlier with you but reading on into the next verse this time:
Even If You are Slow...
"Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but Elohim (God) disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and shalom (peace) for those who have been trained by it" (Heb.12:10-11, NIV).
I will not tell you that Yahweh has not needed to discipline me because it would not be true. There has been a lot of it, it has been hard at times, often seemingly unbearable. But it has most definitely produced a harvest, though that is for others to remark on and not me. Each abandonment of an idol, each renouncing of a coping mechanism, each repudiation of anything that stands in the way of an intimate, here-and-now relationship with Yahweh the Father, brings more righteousness and shalom (peace) into your life. That I can without hestitation bear witness of. My only regret is that I have been so slow, but even saying that is not helpful, is it? Now is what matters. Now is the day we need saving. As Paul said to the Corinthians, those immature and rebellious early qodeshim (saints, set-apart ones) who had been raised in so much paganism which they learned from their unsaved parents and peers:
Make the Choice Now
"As Elohim's (God's) fellow workers we urge you not to receive Elohim's (God's) grace (undeserved loving-kindness) in vain. For He says:
"I tell you, now is the time of Elohim's (God's) favour, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor.6:1-2, NIV).
"In the time of My favour I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you."
So, please, just let all that unbelief fall away, let those idols go and turn around and face Yah'shua (Jesus). He is knocking on the door of your heart right now, right this minute, not your brain, and seeking permission to come in. It takes only a sincere 'Yes', without doubting, with the emunah (faith) of a little child. Just run to Him. he will not turn you away.
We shall be taking a break from this series of sermons and will return to them, Yah willing, after Shavu'ot (Weeks) or possible a week before that. In the meantime, I pray that these thoughts will sink deep and that you will allow Yahweh entrance in to awaken you wither for the first time, or even more, so that your emotions may be cleansed of their corrupt fleshy base and be yielded to the Ruach (Spirit), the source of Emet (Truth), where they cannot lie or deceive you about our Father in Heaven. May you seek for, and enjoy, His shalom (peace) and simcha (joy), is my prayer in Yah'shua's Name. Amen.
Continued in Part 7
 Ken Robinson, Our of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative (Capstone, Chichester, W.Sussex, England: 2011); John Gottman, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child (Simon & Schuster, New York: 1997); Robert W.Witkin, The Intelligence of Feeling (Heinemann Educational Books, London: 1976)
 Michael Wells, Sidetracked in the Wilderness: Find the Way Back to a Victorious, Abundant Life (Devotional Life Press, Littleton, Colorado: 1991), p.57