Thursday, September 27, 2012

More holiness give me

The words below are the lyrics to a song that haunts me, especially after Yom Kippur.  It’s a song we used to sing in church often when I was young, but I don’t believe anyone sings it any more.  It is, in my opinion, one of the great songs & prayers each of us should know.  I wish someone could put newer music to this so it would be appealing to younger folks … but even just memorizing it as it is will be a blessing to you.   

Holiness is very important.  It means “pure,” or “clean,” in simplest terms.  As we offer our bodies as living sacrifices in service, they must be holy.  Several scriptures refer to us as “saints,” which are holy people – which is what we should always be, but often fail.  May we fail less often.  May God bless us with a purer spirit and heart! 

I’ll leave you with just the lyrics to this song/prayer, and some related scriptures.  Consider including these ideas in your prayer life and make holiness a priority in your lives, as I am in mine. 

More holiness give me, more strivings within,
More patience in suffering, more sorrow for sin,
More faith in my Savior, more sense of His care,
More joy in His service, more purpose in prayer.

More gratitude give me, more trust in the Lord,
More pride in His glory, more hope in His Word,
More tears for His sorrows, more pain at His grief,
More meekness in trial, more praise for relief.

More purity give me, more strength to overcome,
More freedom from earth stains, more longings for home;
More fit for the kingdom, more useful I'd be,
More blessed and holy, more, Savior, like Thee.

Colossians 3:12-17
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved:
Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;
Bearing with one another, and
Forgiving each other (whoever has a complaint against anyone); just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect [teleios] bond of unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…
…to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…
…with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, & spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. 

Hebrews 12:14
Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification [sanctification means ‘holiness’] without which no one will see the Lord. 

1 Peter 1:14-19
As obedient children, don’t be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” [Leviticus 11.44, 19.2, 20.7] If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you weren’t redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yom Kippur - Redemption Day

Here is another message from our brother Joseph in Israel.  I post it here today because tonight at sundown is the beginning of a holiday instituted by Yahweh through Moses called: The Day of Atonement, which in Hebrew is Yom Kippur. (see: Lev. 16:3–10; 23:26–32; and Num. 29:7–11)  This is one of the three major holidays all Jews are commanded to observe.  It’s mentioned in Hebrews 9-10, where the readers are reminded that the High Priest would only enter the Holy of Holies once a year (on Yom Kippur) and then only after first having offered sacrifices for himself, so he’d be clean enough to approach God for us.  Now we have Jesus who performs this priestly function for us, having offered himself on the cross as the Lamb of God. 

Remember that atonement is more than mere forgiveness, it’s redemption.  A price was paid for our sins!  (Isaiah 53)  Consider your own sin & guilt before God, and let today be a reminder of the great price that redeemed us from our life of sin and folly.

We are at the gate of Yom Kippur this week-end.  If you have not seen Yom Kippur in Jerusalem you have never seen how important atonement really is in your whole life.  There is nothing anywhere in the world like Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) in Jerusalem.  Generally speaking Christians talk about Grace, God's saving Grace.  This of course is true and important, but for most Christians the issue of forgiveness of sins and atonement is not at the top of their charts.  In fact in the modern churches, the big and famous ones, sin is not a topic that is very popular, prosperity, getting rich, having the good life, five cent psychological massage, these are the topics that ring the church bells today.  All these things that are in fashion now are not bad at all, and most of them are important, but forgiveness of sins is the most important asset of the Good News that Yeshua is the Messiah.

I believe that there are three steps that must be restored in the church:
  1.  Admission of guilt and recognition of sin.  I don't mean the Adamic sin from the Garden of Eden, I mean my sins and my shortcomings, the ones that I am aware of and know that I committed them. 
  2. Confession and repentance of my sins that includes restitution for all that is possible to restore. 
  3. A commitment to give grace to each other like the grace that we have received from God's love in Yeshua the Messiah. 
The church needs to restore these steps and teach them and drill them back into the hearts and minds of the people who fill the pews.  I don't mean to bring a message of condemnation to the people and making them feel guilt.  I mean giving the people the hope and the power to be delivered and cured from guilt by accepting the grace of God offered for our transgressions.
Yom Kippur the Jewish Day of Atonement is very effective to bring to our awareness this issue of sin.  Israel is generally speaking a secular country.  Only 25% of Israel is religious and what we would call Orthodox Jewish, but on Yom Kippur 70% of the nation fasts 25 hours without food or drink.  There is no transportation on the streets of Jerusalem, there is no shops, no restaurants and no movies and no T.V. and no radio.  The country is paralyzed in the most wonderful way.
The Synagogues are full of people who normally don't go to Synagogues to pray.  The prayers are long and a very long list of sins is repeated several times during the day with a list of more than 150 sins.  There is not a human being alive that would not take a mental note of 20 or 30 sins from that list that he is guilty of.  A person can't help it, he instinctively feels the heavy burden of his own life and sin and at least for that moment knows that he needs to repent and fix his life by seeking God.
Israel is the only nation that has such a day of fasting and meditating on our sins, as a nation and as individuals.
There are people who after the Day of Atonement when after 25 hours of fasting go home and turns on the Television and returns to normal life.  At that point a person forgets the fasting and the praying and the commitments that he made during the long hours of fasting and worship and essentially say to himself, "I have done what is right.  I have gone to Synagogue and prayed.  I have fasted from food and drink.  I can now return to my normal life with a clean page, because God forgave my sins.  I am a good person!"  The feeling of commitment and holiness at times does not last too long.  This is not only true for Jews it is also true for Christians who have a moment of spiritual enlightenment and soon forget the commitments that they made to God. 
We are all in the same situation and that is why we need each other and the community of the saints to enhance our awareness of sin and the great big door of God's Grace that in Yeshua can wash us clean from sins, guilt, and make us eligible to receive the Spirit of God.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

High Holidays

I encourage our churches to return to the bible and attempt to restore the practices of the first churches.  All of Jesus' first disciples were Jewish, and most disciples probably for the first century were Jewish.  As such, they continued to study the bible we call the "Old Testament," and they used it to teach Jesus (whom they call Yeshua).  They also celebrated the holidays instituted for God's chosen people.  Today we call these "Jewish Holidays."  But the truth is that most so-called "Christian holidays," like Easter & Christmas are really just pagan holidays modified by Roman Catholicism.  So I try to encourage everyone who is a disciple to study and (hopefully) celebrate the "Holy Days" commanded by Yahweh in His Torah.  

One group who does this very thing is a church in Jerusalem who is mostly Jewish disciples of Jesus, and also interested in restoring the primitive church, and they faithfully adhere to the Jewish Holidays.  The rest of this post is from the lead Rabbi at that church.  This is something he said last weekend, just before Rosh Hashanah (New Year).  Next post I'll include something he wrote about Yom Kippur, which is upon us.  

Read what our brother Joseph wrote: 

The High Holidays are upon us.  We are now in preparation for Sunday evening celebration of Rosh HaShana with the congregation.  The celebration of the Holiday together is always a high point of fellowship for the congregation.  It is an opportunity to do things together that we don't do every week in the worship service.  We read the holiday texts from the Word of God and we eat the traditional foods and say the prayers and blessings with all of Israel.  Of course Yeshua is in everything and it is all about Him in everyone of the Biblical Holidays.  Peter says that all the prophets prophesied about the Messiah, and the Rabbis say the same thing.  Paul said in Colosians 2:16-17, that the Holidays and the Sabbaths are all a shadow of the things to come, that is the return of the Messiah. A part of the restoration process is to re-read the Word of God with a fresh view and with the intention to discover truth, God's truth revealed in His Word.  If the words of the Apostle Paul in the letter to the Colosians are true we need to re-read and re-learn some of the false traditions inherited from the Catholic Church and passed on to the Evangelicals, i.e. the attitude that is diametrically opposed to Paul’s' Words. Let us note what Paul says in Colosians 2:16-17, So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”
 Let us take this text from Colosians apart and look at it:
  1. Paul says: Let no one judge you.  In fact Christian History especially during the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition the doctrine developed that it is wrong and in fact a heresy for anyone who believes in Yeshua to keep anything from the Torah!  Jews who were forced to convert to Catholicism were burned at the stake if they celebrated Sabbath or any biblical holiday.  Many Christians totally ignored the instruction of the Apostle Paul:  “Let no one judge you.”  They judged and many continue to judge anyone, Jew or Gentile, who celebrates any of the Biblical Holidays.
  2. Paul in this text mentioned the following things: food, drink, festival, new moon, and Sabbath. All these thing are deeply significant for the Jewish Identity.  These are some of the main expressions of Jewish Identity.  The last words that we have from Paul are in Acts 28:17, and in the text there Paul states to the leaders of the Jews in Rome that he has done nothing against the Jewish Nation or against the traditions of our Forefathers.  This means that Paul was keeping the Sabbath and Holidays and dietary laws and traditions.
  3. Paul states in Colosians that all these thing, the food, drink, sabbath, festivals, are a shadow of the things that the future holds and the substance of all these things is of the Messiah.  In other words these Jewish signs of identity are significant in the Messiah.  If something is a prophetic sign of the future and a substance of what is in the Messiah Yeshua – should we respect it and enjoy it or condemn it?  Should Jewish disciples of Yeshua judge the Gentile disciples for not keeping the Festivals and Sabbaths or New Moons, or for eating bacon for breakfast?  The answer is obviously, No – don't judge one another concerning these things.  Should someone judge someone who is not eating bacon or celebrating the holidays and the sabbaths and the new moons?  No, – don't judge one another concerning these things.
  4. These occasions that present the shadow of the things to come are great opportunities to tell the world who is going to be coming and what is going to be happening and what our human existance and the future of our world going to be like.  The Word of God is a map for History and it speaks of what happened in the past and points out to the future that is all in the Messiah Yeshua.
 In conclusion these words of the Apostle Paul in Colosians chapter 2 are of great importance and in fact they teach the very same thing that Paul teaches in Romans chapter 14 and it is worth going there and reading it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Most “Christians” see themselves as ‘saved.’  They move from lost to saved in one motion.  Something happens and suddenly they believe now they’re walking around as people who used to be lost, but now they’re saved. 

Disciples are different.  We used to go our own way, and now we go God’s way.  The first change in our lives when we go “all-in” is that we change direction.  We become people who WANT to live for God, and die for Him (if we are so blessed). 

Then comes the moment of ‘conversion,’ when we are born again through baptism (John 3.5).  Having first committed to God to be disciples of Jesus, now we have our sins washed away and the Holy Spirit enters us (Acts 2.38) and we become parts of God’s spiritual temple, with Him living in us.  We become “new creatures” (Romans 6), dead to sin and alive to Christ. 

Babies in the spiritual sense are just like babies in the physical sense.  We eat and we grow.  As babies in the physical world grow, we talk about what they are becoming, and we let their unique qualities reveal themselves.  As new spiritual babies, we start out as new little ones, and then we grow.  We’ll be tomorrow from what we were yesterday, for we are getting stronger, wiser, more loving, and more durable.  We EXPECT to change as we grow, even our personalities! 

So let’s consider ourselves differently than the world does, and even differently than typical “Christians.”  These people talk about themselves as if they are made a certain way, and that’s just the way it is.  But we are being made into something as we develop faith-muscles and grow stronger through the work of God. 

Yesterday we cried at small things … tomorrow it will take much more to upset us.
Yesterday we had very little patience … tomorrow we will have more
Yesterday we couldn’t do without … tomorrow we will fast, we will give, and we will smile
Yesterday a slight insult upset us … tomorrow we’ll endure beatings and not even flinch

This is us becoming strong.  We are becoming the kinds of people who can weather a storm and stand strong (Matthew 7.24-27). 

So how does this happen?  It happens when we submit.  When we make it a habit to submit to God’s will instead of our old selfish desires, we grow.  Read that sentence again: As we make it a habit to submit to God’s will instead of our old selfish desires, we grow.  We become teleios.  We become otherful.  We become people of character, not weak people who cave in to every desire of our flesh, or every impulse of our physical selves. 

On Sundays we’ve been studying love from Romans 12, and are spending some time in 12:12 especially.  This passage below has several of the same words as in our passage, and it also tells us something about how we become this way:

Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus,
- and -We exult in hope of God’s glory.
And not only this, but
We also exult in our tribulations,
knowing that:
  • tribulation brings about perseverance; and
  • perseverance, proven character; and
  • proven character, hope;  and
  • hope doesn’t disappoint…
…because God’s love has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5.1-5

How do we BECOME people who are not disappointed?  Develop Hope, which comes from our character, which comes from our perseverance (hupomone) which comes from our tribulations (thlipsis).  And that is why we can rejoice in hope and sing in prison, and patiently endure beatings, and mistreatment from others – because we know this is developing us into something like Jesus! 

Of course in our case, we often have to ‘volunteer’ for tribulation.  Our lives are very comfortable here in OC.  So how can we develop this strength and character even here?  We submit to God’s will.  We abandon our comfort to reach out to the lost.  We work hard when we could be resting.  We give when we could be self-indulgent.  We endure when we don’t have to.  We take time to devote ourselves to one another.  We ‘volunteer’ to “Go,” to “Seek” … just like Jesus left heaven and came to earth.  Just like Jesus accepted death on a cross.  We choose the narrow door – the hard way – the way of love. 

Our tribulations bring us perseverance, which develops our character and “proves” it … and then we see our hope shining brightly and making it possible for us to fight on another day. 

What about you?  Will you deliberately choose to submit to God and let Him lead you down the narrow path, or will you join the flocks of sheep without good shepherds and be lulled into a fat, lazy complacency and the frailty that comes with it? 

It’s God’s grace that gives us the choice: we can be spiritual wimps, or we can be men and women of character, strength, grace, dignity & love. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Goal is Love

Why does Godwor exist?  There are many answers.  One is because some of us have had bad experiences in traditional churches, and have been seeking something different.  Others of us have come to the Lord and found that among those of us who are “all-in” fully committed disciples … there is a kind of sweet fellowship that cannot be found elsewhere.  And there are others who feel differently. 

But there’s one thing I want to insist upon for Godwor: that we become a group who are pursuing a common goal, not merely leaving somewhere else.  Leaving somewhere, or rebelling against something is like trying to find Hawaii by leaving California in a boat headed west.  We’re certainly going in generally the right direction, and definitely leaving CA, but will we ever find aloha this way?  The right way to find any place is to set our destination and then pursue it directly. 

Godwor has many benefits over any other group of so-called “Christians,” in that we deliberately help each other to grow stronger, we stay more closely aligned to the truth of God’s word, and we endeavor to do good things for others.  In short, we “teach, heal & reproduce” exactly as Jesus did – no deviations.  In the process we find that we can grow in strength and peace in ways unheard of in traditional churches.  And others are helped without a big “ministry” or a fancy church building or all the other stuff of this world.  Among us, it’s just one person helping another in Jesus’ name, and to God’s glory.  Pure and simple 

But these benefits are not why Godwor exists.  They are side-effects. 

The real reason for Godwor is: love.  We’re learning to obey the two most important commands of all scripture: To love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and – to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Our God “so loved the world” that He sent His Son to die for us.  That Son (our Lord, Jesus) loves us so much that He left perfect heaven, came to an ugly world, served, loved, and gave his life as a ransom for us to rescue us from eternal death.  Everything we are about is love. 

And why is there an association of disciples at all?  Why can’t we each serve God on our own?  After all, we will stand alone on Judgment Day … no church will stand with us.  The answer is love.  The great Apostle Paul wrote this to a young minister:

But the goal of our instruction is love
…from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.  For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they don’t understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.  (1 Timothy 1:5-7)

This excerpt from a letter Paul wrote was to explain that although the church was full of discussions about doctrine and all sorts of things, and led by men who seemed to be smart leaders … only one thing really matters: love. 

It is our goal to create an environment where disciples – true disciples, who have sold all they have to buy the pearl of great price (Matthew 13.45-46); and have died to themselves and are taking up their cross every single day to follow Jesus (Luke 9.23) – where these unique people can find a common love, and grow to love more.  We want to love like God loves, like Jesus loved, and like all great men and women loved.  We expect never to arrive at their level of love and maturity (teleios), but it’s our goal.  We strive together to see how much we can love, and how much we can discard in single-minded pursuit of that goal. 

And so we study Romans 12.9-21, but more importantly, we strive to make it real in our lives.  We want to love sincerely, completely, without hypocrisy.  We want to love when times are hard, and we want to love each person and group as God would have us do.  Everything … EVERYTHING is about love. 

And so in every situation of life, the one universal answer that applies to everything is this one: What’s the “Golden Rule” response?  How can I “do to others” right now – as God would have me do? 

If I speak in tongues but don’t have love, I’m just annoying noise.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and
If I know all mysteries and all knowledge; and
If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
…but don’t have love, I’m nothing.
If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and
if I surrender my body to be burned
…but don’t have love, it profits me nothing. Now abide faith, hope & love - but the greatest of these is love