Thursday, December 19, 2013


In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we see that the body of Messiah has been given workers “for the perfecting [Strongs 2677
kat-ar-tis-mos -  perfecting, complete furnishing, thoroughly completing or maturing] of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Messiah; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect [teleios: perfect, of full age, completeness] man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah” (4:12-13).  Just as a side note, the word “katartismos” is sometimes translated as “equip”, which is interpreted by some to mean a method or a technique on “how to do” this, that or the other, depending on what method they devised. These ‘methods’ will not necessarily mature the disciple unto full stature.   

Yeshua also spoke about the “perfect man”:  “Be therefore perfect [5046 teleios - tel'-i-os -  perfect, of full age, completeness, fully mature], even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect [teleios] (Matt. 5:48).

Recently I have been challenged to believe what Yeshua and the Apostles all taught about the saints (the set apart ones) maturation and ability to express the Father’s life and nature in its fullest sense, measure or stature in this lifetime.  Almost everyone, including myself, has been led to believe that the power of sin is a permanent feature and more influential, powerful or higher ranking than the Spirit of Holiness.  “Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin; for His seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9-10).

Paul was emphatic that our victory over the power of sin, the devil, the flesh and the world was only “through” Yeshua our Messiah and Lord (ref Rom. 7:25). The Greek word for lord/master is “kurios” and means “supreme authority or controller”.  Those of us who have lived within a democratic system are under the impression that we have the freedom to decide, “what is right in our own eyes”.  This predisposition got our ancestors into a lot of trouble, as it bred rebellion against the Creator and His Word/Torah.  Satan’s lies and deception led us to believe that we are our own gods and are lords over our life.  By using this little trick Satan actually set himself up on the throne, and we gullibly left him there thus making him our lord or master.   When we cooperate with sin, or anything that is not a part of our new creation life in Messiah, we come under the principalities and powers of Satan’s kingdom, despising the grace of our Heavenly Father and His way of redemption through His Son.
Forty years ago, after being filled with the Spirit, I had gone through a seminar called  “Life in the Spirit”. In that teaching we were admonished to “get off the throne of our life” and to “allow Jesus (Yeshua) to get on it”.  This teaching made most of my spiritual walk into an exercise of an “on again/off again” game of proverbial musical chairs with Yeshua, as it implied that I was actually lord over my life. Since I did not succeed in getting off the throne permanently, I had to give up and compromise by “letting” Yeshua become my helper to get me through life’s problems.  He could be Lord when I needed Him, but when things smoothed out a bit I could take over again. 

These past years I found out (not that I wasn’t told at the beginning of my spiritual birth), that when I became a believer in my salvation and redemption, and embraced Yeshua’s death (the cross), I actually died.  If that is the case, then how could I be on any throne ruling over my life?  With a little more teaching from the Holy Spirit and the Word, I found out that there is another spiritual kingdom, rule and authority that are operating in me and making their nature known through my ignorance of the truth of the apostolic Gospel.  If those spirits can make me believe lies or doubt the scriptures, or who I am in Messiah Yeshua, they will sit on the throne of my life and govern my thoughts, words and deeds.  In other words, they will have a ready channel to express the nature of their spiritual kingdom, and because they had a good start before I became a believer (through the “flesh”), it will not be hard for them to continue, as they have already worked their evil nature into my soul.  But there is a way out of this mess.  As stated above, we can be delivered by the power of the Spirit of Holiness as we embrace Yeshua’s authority/Lordship through the obedience to faith. The Word tells us that “anything that is not of faith is sin” (Rom 14:23), which is a pretty sobering statement.   “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).

In Hebrew the word for spirit (“ru’ach”) is masculine and for soul (“nefesh”) feminine. As we know from nature, the male provides the potency for life and the female takes it into herself, giving birth to the nature of that which came in from the male.  There are only two spiritual seeds/sperms that impregnate the soul of man, as is seen with Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac and Esau and Jacob. Paul tells us to cast out the bondwoman and her son. In other words, deliverance must be an integral part of our spiritual walk. “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever does not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loves not his brother” (1 John 3:10).  We are a new creation being, and as such any residue of the old nature inherited from Satan’s spirit sperm/nature must be sent away. “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting [epiteleo: perfecting, accomplishing, executing, performing] holiness in the fear of the supreme authority of our Heavenly Father”  (2 Cor 7:1).  We must work out our salvation by cleansing ourselves.  He has already put into us everything pertaining to life and godliness, as well as the power of His Spirit in order to accomplish His purposes, thus we have no excuse except to plead guilty of ignorance from lack of knowledge. The scriptures warn us that, “My people perish” or “are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Isa. 5:13; Hos 4:6).  This cleansing is necessary so that the bride (soul) will be without spot or wrinkle and can be fully merged with the New Spirit Man (Yeshua), who is wooing the soul into a divine love affair with Himself.  He is impregnating my soul with His fruit/nature: “The fruit [“karpos” -fruit of ones’s loins, i.e.his progeny, his posterity] of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance” (Gal. 5:22).

In calling Him Father/Abba we are proclaiming that we are His offspring and are just like Him. “We know that whosoever is born of God sins not; but he that is begotten of God keeps himself, and that wicked one touches him not” (1 John 5:18).

“He is the Rock, His work is “tamiym” [perfect, without blemish, upright, without spot]; for all his ways are judgment; an Elohim of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He” (Deut 32:4).


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Galilean Tapestry

Galilean Tapestry
Isaiah 9:1: “But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of the Jordan, Galilee of the Nations.  Galilee - “Galil” – province, region or district in Hebrew. The “province or district of the nations” has truly lived up to its name. Being Israel’s northernmost region, throughout history it has seen many civilizations come and go. Being a region of varied topography it has also drawn people of various interests for multiple reasons who were engaged in many types of occupations. During this past week’s visit to that colorful region, a window was opened so that we could gaze into the rich tapestry formed by time, people and place.  The Galilee was certainly the bedrock upon which the modern restoration of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel was established. This intricate process, which is by no means over, is commemorated and demonstrated in multiple ways in the Galilee’s towns and villages.
The Galilee’s western border is formed by the shore line of the Mediterranean Sea. Between Acre, an ancient port city that has seen Muslim and Crusader conquerors with memories even of Napoleon Bonaparte, and Nahariya, a seventy year old town that was founded by mostly German Jews, is the living monument to the European Holocaust – Kibbutz Lohamey Ha’geta’ot – “Ghetto Fighters” Kibbutz. The kibbutz type of settlement was the Jewish pioneers’ answer to millennia of oppression and repression of various forms. Agricultural communities of mutual help, accountability and egalitarianism of and for all of its members, was the new lifestyle envisioned by the young men and women who resolved to shake off the dust of exile and Diaspora. In the Ghetto Fighters’ kibbutz this takes on a far greater meaning. The founders of this kibbutz (in 1949), survivors and ghetto fighters, did not only shake off the dust of Diaspora, they were literally reborn from the ashes of the inferno of the crematoriums and burning ghettos and themselves became living monuments to a Jewry that perished in the Holocaust. In a totally new and vigorous lifestyle they, by their own admittance, “raised to the burning ghetto a monument of life… a life that will never cease…”   It was in the museum and study center which they established for the purpose of documenting the atrocities, the culture that was lost, the victims, the resistance fighters, the acts of heroism and yes… even the hopes, that we began our Galilee exploration experience. These salvaged firebrands themselves stocked the fires of life in order to enable others to participate in the life kindling, albeit tragic, memories.
On one of the walls, next to some poignant drawings and paintings, we read the following poem. It deals with Joseph’s counterpart, if you will, whose cry for redemption is still resounding:
The Coat of the Prison Camper
And his brethren envied him not
For the many-tracks* coat
With which they too were clad
When from the (train) tracks they were dragged.
And he did not dream, nor offer wise talk,
And there was no one to arise from the stalk 1.
And it was not a goat
That in blood was soaked.
Neither was it recognized by their father the sage
For many were the children of his old age,
And he only murmured, “A savage beast!”
And he never laid eyes on them again as long as he lived.
                                       (Translated from a poem by Avner Trainin)
* In Hebrew the coat is of “many stripes/tracks”, same word as the tracks of a train.
1 In Joseph's dream he saw himself as a stalk of wheat rising above 11 other stalks, which represented his brothers.
 Aside from the many exhibits dedicated to the Holocaust, there is an entire floor in which are depicted pre-Second World War Zionist activities among Jewish youth around the world. Tens of different Jewish youth movements existed from the end of the 19th century all the way to and through the Second World War, each with its own political slant, yet all focused on the need for the sons of Judah to unite as a viable entity and to act together. By far the majority of them set their goal on “aliya” (immigration to the Land of Israel), and on building a healthy, prosperous new life here. For that purpose they went into rigorous training in their homelands. They not only had to adjust to a new life style, but they also saw the need to adjust to a different mentality of the “new Jew”. They had to ward off objections from the older generation, from religious authorities and community leaders and sometimes from their own peers, not to speak of physical, financial and cultural challenges that their aspirations presented them with. And so, in order to take a journey into the Galilee, we had to go back to a past which nurtured the resettlement of this region in our times.
We then crisscrossed the central Galilee in order to get to our destination, which was the north-western shore of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), bird’s eye views of colorful valleys availed themselves to us. On one of the bare hilltops that we frequented lay the remains of Yodfat, a Galilean town which took part in the Great Jewish Revolt against the Romans in 66 A.D. In the year 67 the town fell after 47 days of heroic resistance. The leader of the revolt was captured in the town, and was one of the few not to be put to death. His name was Josephus, who became the historian of these battles whose writings are almost commonplace, even in our own day and age.
Traveling through the winding roads of Arab and Druze (a Middle-Eastern sect, the Druze are not regarded as Muslims by other Muslims, but they regard themselves as such, having no national aspirations they are generally loyal to their host countries) villages which pepper the Galilean hills, we finally ‘landed’ by the green and lush shores of the Sea of Galilee, in a guest house located on Kibbutz Ginosar. This Kibbutz is named after the biblical Gennesareth (Mat. 14:34). The Valley of Gennesareth (or Ginosar in Hebrew), and its fertility, is also mentioned in the Mishna part of the Talmud.
One of Kibbutz Ginosar’s founders, who was also at the helm of the battle for independence and one of the leaders of Israel’s Labor movement, was Yig’al Alon. Ginosar’s museum is named after him, and is a real open window into life in the Galilee, past and present. Although a military genius, Yig’al Alon’s vision and faith were focused on interrelationships with the Arab population, and thus the museum portrays not only the Jewish settlements in the Galilee, but also Arab life; both in the villages and in the towns; the Bedouin shepherd’s nomadic lifestyle against the artisans and merchants and their traditions. In fact, along the shoreline, at the back of the edifice, are placed environmental sculptures which are the result of a joint effort of Galilee Jews and Arabs.
Jewish life in the Galilee during the Mishnaic and Talmudic times is also introduced, as after the first and second Jewish revolts and the sacking of Jerusalem (first and second centuries A.D.), the Galilee became the center of Jewish religion and learning for those Jews that still remained in the Land. In the museum we learned about the (late) 19th and (early to middle) 20th centuries settlers’ dual role of building homes and farmsteads in desolate and unfriendly physical conditions, while having to deal with frequent Arab rioting and foreign overlords’ hostility (first the Turks and then the British). The difficult decision making in many an instance, where life threatening situations presented themselves to young and inexperienced leaders who shouldered heavy moral responsibilities, is featured prominently among the museum’s inter-active exhibits. Some of these documentations present a very different picture from the way life is experienced and understood in present day Israel, whereas in other cases, these past episodes are still lived and relived daily in this country.  The figure of Yig’al Alon embodies the character etched by the Father in the young leadership which was emerging in the nascent state. The crucial and critical actions taken by these pioneers were marked by not loving their lives even when faced by death, but rather by being each others' keepers and servants (to quote Alon himself).  They had preferred one another and were willing to take responsibility not only for successes but also for failures, all the way down from the commander to the last soldier. Whether or not they knew it, they were fulfilling Godly principles and so were able to stand up to the tasks placed before them.
Just as the present is supported by past centuries whose stories are told in the museum, so are the building’s four stories supported by the ground floor where a two thousand year old boat finds its resting place. This vessel was discovered in the 1980’s by two of Ginosar’s members, fishermen and armature archaeologists. After a fourteen year old treatment, designed to preserve its rotting wood, the boat was finally put on display, ‘flaunting’ all of its humble beauty. And whereas it was constructed mainly of one type of wood, eleven other trees were used to patch it up (when it was in use, two millennia ago). Thus the lumber of a dozen indigenous trees was needed in order to make this ancient boat workable!
The Valley of Jezreel, Israel’s bread basket, was also one of the main sites for many historical episodes. Situated just below the Lower Galilee, we made our way home through some of its interesting villages and towns. Our journey took us to Bethlehem of Galilee, mentioned in Joshua as being part of Zebulon’s inheritance. Among the many groups and individuals who had  Messianic aspirations and visions concerning the “Holy Land”, there was also a group of Germans known as the “Templers” who began to make their way here in the middle of the 19th century. These new comers engaged mostly in agricultural exploits and did very well for themselves. They withstood the many difficulties which the land presented at that time. Settling in various parts of the country, it seems that the Jezreel Valley was one that they particularly favored. When the British expelled them from the Land, during the Second World War (fearing Nazi sympathies on their part), Jewish settlers took over their villages. Bethlehem of Galilee is a beautiful agricultural village whose German stone houses, which retain their old charm, are still in use.
Aside from the kibbutzim, the pioneers founded another form of settlement, the moshav, which combines cooperation of assets, finances and produce, but maintains the privacy of family life. The first moshav, Nahalal (a name found in Zebulon’s biblical territory), was established during the first decade of the 20th century, and has become synonymous with agricultural ventures as  well as with security of the country. One of Israel's military chiefs, Moshe Dayan, hailed from Nahal. During the British Mandatory era, the Jewish defense arms were stockpiling ammunition and weapons for their defense needs in face of constant Arab threats and under the watchful eyes of the British, who forbade both Jew and Arab to own weapons.  These secret weapons caches were named “sliqs”.
The Nahalal sliq is a unique family museum which tells stories inextricably connected with the establishment and security of the State of Israel. The old sliq is situated on the family farm. Members of the third and fourth generation tell fascinating family tales, especially the story of the cache which was built under the guise of a pit for collecting cow urine for fertilizing purposes, making the story as humorous as it is fascinating. Israel’s formative history, with its various facets is well represented by this one family’s story. And as things are in this small country, while the story unfolded it was not without some very close family connections.  These caches, scattered throughout the country and especially in some of the leftist kibbutzim, apparently gave rise (in the first years of the independent state) to ideas among some malcontents, or those who subscribed to certain unsound ideals. This phenomenon, of course, had to be dealt with, or else it would have posed a danger to the security of the fledgling state. We thus found out some surprising facts about Rimona’s father’s tasks, while he served in those days in Israel's General Security Service.
Our visit to the Jezreel Valley was concluded by a trip to the local cemetery, where Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut, was laid to rest after the failed shuttle mission of the Columbia. The crew at large, made up of members of the "nations”, is also commemorated on his tombstone set on a hill that commands the valley which spreads below, ready, as always, for further fulfillments of what it's Creator has destined it for.

Shabbat Shalom