Friday, June 29, 2012

Don't Have the Word Choked Out of You

We are studying the teachings of Yeshua as found in the Parable of the Sower. Mark 4:7 reads: "Other seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain." Yeshua is describing someone who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of riches choke it resulting in no fruit being brought forth. The word "choked" is the Greek word sympnigo and it means to suffocate by compression. Figuratively, it means to overcome. Yeshua is describing the effect of the lust of the world overcoming and suppressing the truth of the word in someones life. If you allow it, the world will choke the word of God right out of your life.

Yeshua's teaching through this verse can be summarized as follows: (1) Some people hear the word and begin to act on it; (2) The cares of the world, which include the lure of riches, can suppress or suffocate the word out of the one who has received it; and (3) When the word is choked from you, you will be able to recognize it because there will be no fruit in your life. Remember the harvest is for others also and not just for yourself. Everyone can partake from the harvest in the field. Yeshua is warning us to make sure that our ground stays good. It can start good and end bad. Repentance is essential to maintaining good ground.

Today, examine your harvest. Is it what you want? How would you describe what you see as your harvest? Remember, in Hebrew thought, it is about action and not just correct thought. Perhaps today is a good day to look for a plow.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

What Type of Ground Are You?

In Mark chapter 4, verses 3-9, 13-20, Yeshua both tells and explains the Parable of the Sower. In this parable, He tells of a person that went about sowing seeds and they fall on four types of ground: the wayside, stony, thorny, and good. All humans fall into one of the four types of ground. The wayside are those where Satan comes and steals the seed immediately. The stony ground is those that receive the seed, but when trouble comes, they abandon, or give up what they have received. The thorny ground represents those that hear the word, but the desires of the world are too strong and the truth is choked from them. Of course, Yeshua explains that the seed is the word. All three types have an encounter with the word, but it yields no lasting results. Only the fourth ground produces a yield; the good ground represents those that hear the word, receive it, and act on it.

Remember Yeshua's first teaching becomes central to what Yeshua is teaching in this parable. His first message was, "Repent, for the Kingdom of Elohim has come." Repentance is central to being in the Kingdom. In this parable, don't dismiss who the audience is; they are all in an agricultural community. They understand that ground can be changed. Stones and thorns can be removed. Ground can be broken up to become good ground. The breaking up of the ground will keep Satan away from your land. You can become good ground; this is Yeshua's message in the parable. If you choose to be bad ground you can, or you can choose to become good ground through a life of repentance. What type of ground do you what to be? This is an underlying principle of this parable.

You are a type of ground. The issue is, what type will you be when it comes to receiving the words of Yeshua? Will you embrace His teachings and become a disciple, or will you cling to a man made religion that makes you feel good with no lasting results? The choice is yours.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Being Related to Yeshua (Jesus)

Right after Yeshua explains the power of unity, his blood family comes and calls for Him. Verses 31-35 read: And His mother and His brothers came; and standing outside they sent to Him and called Him. And a crowd was sitting about Yeshua; and they said to Him, "Your mother and Your brothers are outside, asking for You." And Yeshua asked, "Who are My mother and My brothers?" And looking around on those who sat about Him, He said, "Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does the will of God is My brother, and sister, and mother." Was Yeshua discounting His family? Absolutely not! Family was extremely important to the first century Jewish culture. Plus, there is substantial support for the view that Yeshua's family was a vital part of His ministry. Scholars make a strong case that three of the original twelve disciples were from Yeshua's blood line. James, His brother, lead the Jerusalem church from Yeshua's resurrection in 30AD until James was killed in 62AD. Then another blood relative of Yeshua took over the Jerusalem work until his death. Then another blood relative was appointed to lead the work. It is same to say that at some point, Yeshua's family was very supportive of His ministry at least during its later stages. So what was Yeshua teaching with His question?

Remember chapter 1:15; Yeshua taught that the Kingdom of Elohim was at hand for those that would repent (tear down their house and receive the new Kingdom). Yeshua's point is that His family is the Kingdom of Elohim, which is made up of those that repent and believe the gospel. It is not restricted to His natural family. It is open to all. The other point that Yeshua makes is that His spiritual family is not composed of those that think right, but those that do right. Whoever does the will of God is Yeshua's brother, and sister, and mother. This is the Hebrew way. It is not about creeds and doctrines; it is about what we believe as evidenced by what we do, not what we pledge to believe. Yeshua's message is that Elohim's Kingdom is composed of those that do His will as expressed in the commandments of God. God has told us how to live and if we are going to be a part of the Kingdom, we must obey.

Are you part of the Kingdom of Elohim? What do your actions say about what you really believe? Are you the brother or sister of Yeshua? Look into the mirror and answer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

We are looking at the words of Yeshua in His discussion with the scribes concerning casting out unclean spirits. The scribes accused Yeshua of being possessed by Beelzebul. He explains that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Then, in verses 28-30: Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Ruach haKodesh (Hebrew for "Set Apart Spirit") never has forgiveness, but is guilty before the eternal judgment."--for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit." Yeshua is teaching that there is something as the un-forgivable sin. The inquiry now is, what did Yeshua mean? To unlock the meaning, we need to remember Who is talking and to whom is He speaking.

Yeshua was a first century Jewish rabbi. Both He and His audience would have been monotheistic Jews (this means that they believed in only one God). The doctrine of the trinity would not develop until three or four centuries later. So eliminate the interpretation that Yeshua is saying that you can sin against the Father or Son and be forgiven, but to sin against the Holy Spirit brings everlasting death. Instead, read the words as they are meant to be read. Yeshua is saying that if one accuses Him of being possessed of an unclean spirit, then there is no forgiveness for him or her. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is to reject Yeshua as being possessed by Satan. Remember, this is the context we find the teaching. Yeshua is addressing those that have said He is possessed by Beelzebul, cannot be forgiven. It is one thing to reject Yeshua; it is quite another to accuse Him of being possessed by Satan.

I have known several over the years that feared that they had committed the un-forgivable sin. The enemy of their souls would batter them mentally. Once explaining to the fearful one what this verse actually meant, they found peace. The bottom line is, that if you feel the guidance of Ruach haKodesh in your life or even the conviction of sin, you may rest easy as He has not left you.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Power of One

Mark 3: 22-27 reads: And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And Yeshua called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. The scribes said Yeshua was possessed by Beelzebul. Beelzebul was a derogatory name for that Adversary. Further, it was the name of a Philistine god and in Hebrew means, "lord of a fly." In post-biblical Hebrew, the root z-b-l means "dung." The Pharisees were no doubt seeking to insult and discredit Yeshua by saying He was possessed of a disgusting spirit. How does Yeshua respond?

He speaks a parable. A divided kingdom will not stand. Division brings weakness. If Yeshua is of Satan, then Satan's kingdom will fall. Now we can understand why division and disunity in the church is so destructive. Yeshua is teaching on the power of unity. While Jewish exorcists existed, casting out a blind, deaf, and dumb demon was a major miracle that only the Messiah could perform. By His actions, Yeshua is teaching that He has absolute authority over unclean spirits. By His actions, He is establishing Himself as the Messiah. He has demonstrated His absolute authority because Yeshua is in perfect unity with the Father. During His ministry, Yeshua will demonstrate the power of unity.

Today, have you forgotten about the power of one? When we are in unity with Yeshua and He is in unity with the Father, absolute authority over unclean spirits is available to us. Yeshua wants no division in His body. Yet, do we not see division at every turn? Perhaps this is a reason that the body is so weak and ineffective. Is there someone you need to make peace with today?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Healing on the Sabbath

As we begin Mark 3, we see Yeshua in a place of controversy again involving the Sabbath. Verses 1-6 read: He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there whose hand was withered. They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on Shabbat, so that they might accuse Him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on Shabbat, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately began conspiring with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him. The Pharisees had developed 39 specific prohibitions based on the work performed in the building of the Temple. For example, you could not grind or crush building materials. One of the reasons that the Pharisees condemned healing on Shabbat was that you could not make medicine that would bring healing because that would involve grinding herbs to make medicine. However, Yeshua doesn't make medicine. He doesn't violate any of the 39 prohibitions. He merely speaks the Word of healing. He says, "Stretch forth your hand."

According to the Pharisees, the following rules applied to healing on Shabbat:
1. Healing to save a life was a duty;
2. Caring for the seriously ill was allowed; and
3. Treating minor ailments was prohibited.
Since a withered hand was not life threatening nor serious, it would have been prohibited by the Pharisees. However, since Yeshua followed the teachings of the House of Hillel which emphasized concern for others and demonstrating love, healing on Shabbat was not prohibited. Yeshua did not violate Torah by healing on Shabbat. In fact, it could be argued that Yeshua did not violate the Pharisees rules concerning Shabbat since talking was not prohibited.

Shabbat means rest. That rest belongs to us and not us to the rest. When we begin to see Shabbat not as rules to be obeyed but as a joy to be encountered, it becomes a real treasure. Just think, that treasure comes to us every week. Do you receive it?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Conflicting Rules

Mark 2:23-28 reads: And it happened that He was passing through the grainfields on Shabbat, and His disciples began to make their way along while picking the heads of grain. The Pharisees were saying to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on Shabbat?” And He said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; how he entered the house of Elohim in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?” Yeshua said to them, “Shabbat was made for man, and not man for Shabbat. “So the Son of Man is Lord even of Shabbat.” Some scholars have suggested that Yeshua had three "conversions." This does not mean that He was saved three times; instead, it refers to changes that occurred in the direction of His ministry. The first conversion influences Yeshua's teaching concerning Shabbat. The conversion arguably took place when Yeshua left the fundamentally conservative village of Nazareth and moved His base of operations to Capernaum. Capernaum was much more moderate in its theological views and favored the more lenient House of Hillel. Rabbi Hillel stressed love for our fellow men and was not as strict as the House of Shammai. The House of Shammai stressed observance of rules without regard to their impact on others. The difference in the two approaches can be seen in how they addressed the issue of whether one should tell an ugly bride that she is beautiful. Shammai said it was wrong to lie, and Hillel said that all brides are beautiful on their wedding day. Generally, Yeshua followed the teachings of the House of Hillel.

Hillel was a great lover of peace who urged his followers to "be of the disciples of Aaron [who was famed as a peacemaker according to rabbinic lore]; loving thy fellow creatures and drawing them near to Torah." "Judge not thy neighbor till thou art in his place, " he pleaded. "If I am not for myself, who will be for me, yet if I am only for myself, then what am I?" he taught. He also preached the social tenet, "Do not separate thyself from the community." As we can see, Hillel was very concerned about how people treated each other. With his teachings forming a basis for Yeshua's theology, His answer to the Pharisees makes complete sense. The disciples were very hungry so they violated a Sabbath rule to preserve their lives. Only a strict legalist would elevate a law over the needs of a person. Yeshua refuses to do that because of His love for His disciples.

A Greek thinker must make all rules consistent with each other. However, a Hebraic approach realizes that rules can conflict. In other words, one rule can disagree with and be superior to another. In this case, the need to preserve life through eating trumped the law of keeping the Sabbath.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Old Wineskins New Wineskins

Today, we look at a passage that is often misunderstood because it is taken out of context. Mark 2: 21-22 reads: And no man places a new patch onto an old garment and sews it, or else the new patch be taken away from the old and the tear becomes larger. And no man puts new wine into old wineskins or else the wine burst the wineskins, and the wineskins are destroyed and the wine is poured out. Rather, they put new wine into new wineskins. We must remember that Yeshua is a Jewish rabbi talking to Jewish listeners. The old garment is Judaism; the new patch is the coming Kingdom of Elohim through Yeshua. The point to be noticed is that Yeshua does not want the old garment destroyed. The first part of His teaching is that the old garment, i.e. Judaism, must not be destroyed. He is saying that the new patch is not to replace the garment. Think about it; have you ever seen a patch that covered a coat? No, the patch would be part of the garment. The new patch, i.e. the coming Kingdom will take place within Judaism.

However, the second part of the teaching explains that the new wine, i.e. the coming Kingdom of Elohim, cannot be put within the old wineskins of Judaism as it existed in the first century. Judaism in the first century were composed primarily four groups: Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots, and the Essenes. The Sadducees controlled the Temple and were the rich and the elite. They were in partnership with Roman oppression to enable them to continue to control the Temple and the profit that came with it. The Pharisees had allowed the traditions of men to dominate the teachings of Torah to create an unfair burden on the people. The Zealots wanted a military commander to win a war with Rome and remove them from Palestine. The Essenes were a separatist movement that had withdrawn from the other three groups and believed that only they had the truth. The old wineskin of Judaism was not the vehicle for the new Kingdom. The new Kingdom would have the Torah of Elohim written on the heart of man and not tablets of stone. This is the promise of Jeremiah 31, the Renewed Covenant.

Yeshua was teaching His disciples that repentance was the path to receive the new Kingdom. His intent was not to destroy Judaism; instead, He sought to bring a Kingdom to a people that had torn down their house to receive the new one. That was the new wineskin. Which do you reside in?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Yeshua's Teaching on Fasting

In response to the inquiry by some Pharisees concerning the failure of Yeshua's disciples to fast, Yeshua said: "As long as the bridegroom is among them, the sons of the wedding feast are able not to fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them. In that day they will fast. Mark 2:19-20 Yeshua was teaching that His presence brings joy,i.e. a joyous life. This is a reason Yeshua did not teach His disciples to fast as a religious ritual. There was no need to fast when the presence and joy of Yeshua fills a life. He used a clear picture to teach what His mission was.

What was that mission? Yeshua was inaugurating the Renewed Covenant. It is most regrettable that many older Bibles translate the Greek word diatheke as "testament." It gives a wrong impression that Yeshua has left us something pursuant to a Last Will and Testament. That approach underlies an "easy believe-ism" so popular today in the church. The word should be translated as "covenant." Covenant brings a different message; a message that includes responsibilities on both sides. If we are going to be in the Renewed Covenant, we must adhere to the terms. Those terms are found in the Torah as explained by Yeshua. What Yeshua was doing was like a wedding. He said, "I am launching a new marriage of people to Elohim. I am the Bridegroom (the Son of Elohim Himself) who is to wed people to Elohim, and My chosen disciples are the friends of the Bridegroom. A wedding is a joyful, not a sad occasion that requires fasting. My presence brings joy, not sadness to those who will follow me." Yeshua's presence brings joy and that is not the time to fast.

Don't misread Yeshua's teaching today to exclude the need to fast. He has been taken away in the flesh. Therefore, we are to fast. The Pharisees fasted two days a week. How do we measure up to them? The problem is not that we don't fast enough; the problem is that we rarely think about it until something goes really wrong in our lives and we try to bargain with Elohim. Today, consider fasting as an act of worship. Skip a meal and pray instead.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Are You A Called Sinner?

After Yeshua called Lewi, He had a meal with the tax collectors and sinners in his house. This is culturally very significant. To share a drink of water with someone meant that you would be friends for a year (think about Yeshua and the woman and the well), but to share a meal with someone meant that you would be friends for life. By His act of eating with the "sinners," Yeshua was pledging to be their friend for life. Now you can see why some of the religious people took note. In fact, some of the Pharisees and scribes complained to Yeshua's disciples. Mark 2:17 reads: But when Yeshua heard, he said to them, "The healthy have no need for a physician, rather those who are very ill. I have not come to call the righteous, rather the sinners." The Greek word for "very ill," is kakos and it means both physical illness and moral depravity. As we have seen, Yeshua intertwined forgiveness and healing. Here, He again affirms His desire to deal with both issues.

Yeshua is calling sinners. Who are they? One Hebrew word for sin is aham and it means to fail in duty and to transgress. Man failed to carry out God's Torah and went past the, "Off Limits" sign. When man chose to disregard God's instructions for living and developed his own (like Eve in the Garden of Eden), he became a sinner. Yeshua is calling those that recognize their sin; those that acknowledge their failure to live according to the Torah of God. Remember that to repent requires you to tear down your house and receive the Kingdom of Elohim. Those that believe that they are well see no need to tear down their house. They think it is fine the way it is. Now we can understand who Yeshua is calling; He is calling those that agree that their old house needs to go.

Today, are you one that knows that the old house has to be destroyed? If so, you are a sinner and Yeshua is calling all sinners to exchange their old kingdom for the new one. The Kingdom of Elohim brings heaven to earth one person at a time.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Are You a Disciple?

Mark 2:14 reads: And while passing by, he saw Lewi, the son of Khalpai, who was sitting at the custom house, and said to him, "Come follow me!" And he arose and went and followed him. In this passage, we see the call by Yeshua to Matthew to be His disciple. What did the call to discipleship mean in the first century. It meant four things: (1) the disciple was to memorize the words of his teacher; (2) the disciple was to learn the traditions of his teacher; (3) the disciple was to imitate his teacher; and (4) the disciple was to raise up more disciples. Notice Yeshua didn't ask Lewi to "get saved" or "be filled with the Holy Spirit." He called him to follow in His footsteps and to become a learner of His ways. Compare this method with those of the modern evangelical church and you will easily see the difference.

It would have been very exciting for Lewi to be called by Yeshua. In the first century, children started learning at the age of 5 from the Book of Leviticus. By the pre-teen years those that showed some talent for learning would be selected to continue their studies of Torah. By the teen years, those who showed real potential would be selected by a rabbi to become a disciple and go deeper in their studies. Those that did not show promise would be taught trades and skills to be able to support their families. The point is that all of Yeshua's disciples did not make the grade; they were not selected to be a disciple of the established religious leaders. In other words, they were failures academically. Now, consider how they would have felt when a Jewish rabbi comes walking by and call them. It would be like having a second chance. That pattern has continued since the first century. Yeshua still calls men and women, boys and girls, and offers a second chance at being a success. Lewi would have been thrilled to be His disciple.

Today, have you heard the call? This is not a call to say a prayer or make a commitment to a creed or doctrine. This is a call to a lifetime of learning; a lifetime of submission to Yeshua's teachings. Are you ready to "follow?"

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hearing the Word

Mark 2:8-12a reads: But Yeshua knew in his spirit these things that they were thinking in themselves. And he said to them, "Why do you think these things in your hearts? Which is easier to say to the paralytic that, 'Your sins are forgiven you' or to say, 'Get up! Take your pallet and walk?' But that you might know that it is Lawful for the Son of man to forgive sins on earth," he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, arise and take your pallet and go your house." And at once he arose.... From this passage, Yeshua asserts His power and authority to forgive sins on earth. There are no animal sacrifices or "pray after me" prayers. He finds a repentant heart and announces forgiveness.

Second, from this passage we learn that Yeshua connects forgiveness with physical healing. Some believe that healing is not for today. If it isn't, is forgiveness for today? They are interconnected. The Hebrew approach does not divide the person into three separate categories of spirit, soul, and body. There is an inner person and a body, but they are connected. You can't say that your inner person is right with God and at the same time have a body that is in willful disobedience in sin. Yeshua comes to bring wholeness to both the inner person and the body. The words of Yeshua to the paralytic to "arise" is in the aorist imperative middle. This means that Yeshua is commanding a singular as opposed to continuous action. The middle tense means that the paralytic will be affected by his own action or is acting on himself. Yeshua has spoken a word of healing, but the paralytic must appropriate that healing for himself by acting on Yeshua's words. Deliverance, wholeness, redemption, and healing have been provided for us, but we must act on the word.

Is there something today that you need to act on? Has the word been spoken to you, yet you fail to move? Today, Yeshua still says "arise" to those that will hear and obey.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Forgiveness According to Rabbinic Thought

Yesterday, we considered repentance and forgiveness from Yeshua's actions in Mark 2:1-5. Today, we continue with the concept of forgiveness according to rabbinic thought because Yeshua was a Jewish rabbi. When some Pharisees took offense by reasoning in their hearts that Yeshua's forgiving the paralytic's sins was blasphemous, Yeshua was able to read their hearts, i.e. their inner person which includes thoughts, will, and emotion. Verses 8-9 read: But Yeshua knew in his spirit these things that they were thinking in themselves. And he said to them, "Why do you think these things in your hearts? Which is easier to say to the paralytic that, 'Your sins are forgiven you' or to say, 'Get up! Take your pallet and walk?'" Yeshua was making a positive claim to be able to read minds and forgive sins.

In Hebrew, forgiveness is kaphar and it means to cover, to expiate (i.e. satisfy) for an offense, or to appease. These definitions probably seem more suitable to defining atonement; however, in Hebrew, they mean forgiveness. Yeshua is pronouncing without an animal sacrifice, that the paralytic is forgiven. Gentiles have been taught that the Old Testament taught forgiveness through animal sacrifice only. Apparently, Yeshua didn't know that. The truth is that animal sacrifices assisted human beings to have the right approach to sin and repentance. However, without the proper heart condition of sorrow, there was no forgiveness no matter how many animals were sacrificed. The word picture for kaphar is to cover the mouth of a man. Just as a man with his mouth covered can make no noise, neither can sins that have been forgiven have any voice in our lives. This is a beautiful reminder of God's forgiveness in the Hebrew Scriptures.

As we continue to study the actual teachings of Yeshua, we may find ourselves changing our view of certain long held Christian doctrines. The point is that if you are going to be a disciple of Yeshua, should you not follow His teachings as opposed to those that developed centuries later about Him?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hebraic Faith versus Greek Faith

Mark chapter 2 begins with Yeshua teaching in a crowded home. In fact, it is so packed that some friends can't get their paralytic friend to Yeshua. They devise a plan to climb on the roof and lift part of the covering and lower their friend down. Verse 4 reads: And when Yeshua saw their faith he said to that paralytic, "My son, you are forgiven your sins." First, notice that faith was something capable of being seen. Hebraic thinking focuses on action. Greek thinking focuses on faith as a noun, i.e. what you believe about a person, place, or thing. The Christian faith focuses on having the correct creed or doctrinal statement. The emphasis is on correct thinking as opposed to correct action. Yeshua, being a Jewish rabbi, thinks like a Hebrew. Faith is seen and not just heard according to Yeshua. The faith of the friends in believing that Yeshua could heal was seen in their actions to get the paralytic to Him.

Second, notice that Yeshua believed that He had the power to forgive sins. Do you see from the text any request for forgiveness? What about repentance? Where was the blood sacrifice required for the forgiveness of sin? Yeshua on His own simply forgives the man. This could indeed cause problems for orthodox Christianity. Yeshua is teaching, by His actions, that He doesn't need any of our "requirements" that have developed during the church age to obtain forgiveness. Is Yeshua's method consistent with the granting of forgiveness under the law? To the Hebrew, Teshuvá is the key concept in the rabbinic view of sin, repentance, and forgiveness. Repentance requires five elements: recognition of one's sins as sins (hakarát ha-chét'), remorse (charatá), desisting from sin (azivát ha-chét'), restitution where possible (peira'ón), and confession (vidúi). The five elements are seen in David's cry found in Psalm 51. How did Yeshua know the heart of the paralytic? We know that in verse 8, Yeshua was able to read the hearts of the Pharisees. Therefore, it would be fair to assume that He could also read the heart of the paralytic. Forgiveness, like the Kingdom, is obtained through repentance. Yeshua must have seen a repentant heart. Yeshua's teachings are very consistent.

Today, ask yourself, "Does my view of repentance align itself with Hebraic thought?" Should it? Do I take repentance seriously? Is my life characterized by repentance? These are tough questions, but necessary ones to live in the Kingdom.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Upholding the Torah

Today we examine Mark 1: 40-44: And a leper came to him and fell upon his feet and was beseeching him and said to him, "If you desire, you are able to make me clean." And he, Yeshua, had compassion on him and stretched out his hand and said, "I desire, be clean." And at that moment, his leprosy departed from him and he was made clean. And he rebuked him and he went out. And he said to him, "See to it that you tell no man, rather go show yourself to the priests and offer an offering for your purification as Moshe commanded for their testimony." In this passage, we see a definite statement concerning the answer to the question, "Is it God's will to heal?" Yeshua's response to the inquiry is a straight forward, "I will." In law, if a contract provision is clear and unambiguous, it is interpreted according to its plain meaning. To refute that interpretation, it is required to find an equally clear statement for the opposite position. Applying those principles to the issue of healing, if one was going to argue that Yeshua's will might not always be to heal, we would need an equally clear statement that He does not so will. There is no such statement.

In addition, this passage affirms Yeshua's upholding of the Torah. After healing the leper, Yeshua commands him to go to the priest and obey the law of Moses. There was a prescribed method of verifying the removal of leprosy before the person could re-enter the community. Yeshua doesn't create a new method; instead, He affirms the procedure as set forth in the Hebrew Scriptures. Further, Yeshua affirms the offering of sacrifices as commanded in Leviticus. If Yeshua did not remove the offering for healing, then who did? There is much for us to consider here. Yeshua is a Torah observant Jew. He is not a blond haired, blue eyed Caucasian. We need to remember who Yeshua is, if we are going to follow Him.

Today, remember Yeshua's words. It is His will to heal and it is His will to obey the Torah. Ask yourself, who removed the Torah requirements? Then, an equally important question is, "Why were the Torah requirements removed?"

Monday, June 11, 2012

Belief Versus Actions

Mark 1:38 reads: He said to them, "Walk into the villages and into the cities that are nearby, for I will also preach there. I have come for this reason." Yeshua's message was that the Kingdom of Elohim had arrived. Some translations use the phrase, "at hand," which is an idiom for within reach. From this passage, we learn that Yeshua is going to go into the surrounding areas and bring this message of repentance as a requirement to being a part of the new Kingdom. Verse 39 says: And he would preach in all their assemblies in all of Galeela and cast out demons. The assemblies were the Jewish synagogues. This geographical area was more moderate in their theological beliefs than Nazareth, which was more fundamentalist and conservative. The area including Capernaum was more favorable to the School of Hillel, which emphasized love of our fellow man than strict observance of the Torah. This message was more compatible to Yeshua's teachings and perhaps this is a reason He set His base of operations in Capernaum.

If we compare Yeshua's early message with that would develop later, we see immediate tension. Yeshua stressed repentance and the casting out of demons. Consider the words of the Apostle's Creed which is the basis of Christianity today:
1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:
5. The third day he rose again from the dead:
6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:
9. I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:
10. The forgiveness of sins:
1l. The resurrection of the body:
12. And the life everlasting. Amen.
Admittedly, paragraphs 4,5,6, and 7 had not occurred yet; however, notice that the creed stresses what we think about God as opposed to what we do. Yeshua stressed repentance which is based on what we do. As Christianity developed its creeds and doctrinal statements, the emphasis shifted to what we thought about God and "Jesus" as opposed to what we did.

Today, what is most important to your religion? Is it what you think about God or what you do about what you believe? In Hebraic thought, you don't know something unless it impacts your actions. So, what do you know about YHWH and His Son Yeshua?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Taking Authority

The Book of Mark chapter 1 verses 23-26 reads: And there was a man in their assembly in whom was an unclean spirit, and he cried out, and said, What have we to do with you Yeshua the Nasraya? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, you are the Set Apart One of Elohim. And Yeshua rebuked him and said, "Shut your mouth and come out from him!" And the unclean spirit threw him down and cried out in a loud voice and came out of him. First, notice that Yeshua recognized the existence of the unseen spirit world. Today, many have become too educated and have forgotten the reality of demons. Demons are real and they torment human beings. Spirits can influence people and create physical manifestations as are evident in this passage. Second, notice Yeshua'slack of fear in dealing with the unclean spirits. His response was to rebuke the spirit. The word "rebuke" in Greek is epitimao and it means to punish, rebuke, or charge. Yeshua took immediate authority over the unclean spirit. Third, notice Yeshua's method of removing the spirit from the afflicted one. He simply told it to shut up and come out. Fourth, notice the power of Yeshua's words. Yeshua spoke and the results were immediate. From this passage, we learn Yeshua's understanding of the spirit world and how to deal with it.

How does Yeshua's method compare to some approaches we see today? There was no big work up, no spitting, no continual screaming, no discussion with the demon, and no gradual removal. It was instantaneous. There was no process of recovery; there was complete deliverance to the afflicted at the spoken word of Yeshua. The Greek text expresses the total domination over the unclean spirit by Yeshua. The words, "Shut your mouth," is the Greek word phimoo and it means to muzzle, as an ox. It is in the aorist imperative passive. This means that Yeshua did a specific work of muzzling the unclean spirit which the spirit passively received. Picture a farmer placing a muzzle on a farm animal and you have the picture. The unclean spirit had no choice but to receive the command to shut up and obey it. We see that Yeshua taught a complete domination over demons through the spoken word.

Today, if you are a follower of Yeshua, then He has given this same authority to you. If you encounter the forces of darkness, you need not be afraid or confused. You simply speak what Yeshua spoke and have faith in His words. Unclean spirits will have to passively receive the spoken word over them and obey. We are to set the captives free and speak words of deliverance in the name of Yeshua. It is time to take authority.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Hebraic Approach to the Scriptures Part 4: Being Active

Note: Today, we are continuing our study on the actual teachings of Yeshua or Yahushua in the New Testament. We are in the Book of Mark. The translation will be the Aramaic English Testament. We are going to emphasize what He taught versus what was taught about Him later. Be prepared for a paradigm shift.

Mark 1:17 says: And Y'shua said to them, "Come follow me and I will make you fishers of the sons of men." We must remember that Yeshua (or as the translation quoted writes "Y'shua") spoke either Hebrew of Aramic. They are very similar languages, like first cousins. Yet, Mark comes to us in the form of a Greek text. There will be times we look to Hebrew and other times we will draw from the Greek language. We want to know what Yeshua actually taught. The passage today comes right after Yeshua has taught the importance of repentance. There is no following of Him unless it is preceded by repentance. Repentance is the beginning of following Yeshua. He says "come." The Greek word is deute and it is an adverb. An adverb qualifies the meaning of a verb. The ones that are following are the ones that have come through the door of repentance. We repent, but do we make ourselves fishers of men?

The word "make" in the text is the Greek word poieo and it is in the future tense. This means that Yeshua is describing something that He will do in the future. Some translations say, "make you become fishers of men." The word become is ginomai and it is in the aorist infinitive passive. This means that we that are being made fishers of men will passively receive the work of Yeshua in our lives so that we can do what He has called us to do. Our duty is to repent and Yeshua's promise is to make us fishers of men. It is not through our hard work and struggles; we are to passively receive His workmanship in our lives. This is done because we live a life of constant repentance, i.e constantly destroying our house (remember yesterday). If we are faithful in our responsibilities, then Yeshua will be faithful to make us what He wants us to be. And, He wants us to fish for men for the Kingdom of Elohim.

Today, are you passively receiving His workmanship in your life? Remember, while we receive passively, we must actively work in repenting. Keep destroying your old ways. Make your paths His paths. Truly follow Yeshua. (If you do, will this affect what you eat, when your worship, or your obedience to the Torah?) Perhaps, it is in the following of Yeshua that He makes us fishers of men.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Hebraic Approach to the Scriptures Part 3: Destruction

Note: Today, we are beginning an extended study on the actual teachings of Yeshua or Yahushua in the New Testament. We are going to start in the Book of Mark. The translation will be the Aramaic English Testament. We are going to emphasize what He taught versus what was taught about Him later. Be prepared for a paradigm shift.

The first words spoken by Yeshua in the Book of Mark are found in chapter 1 verse 15: And he said, "The time is complete and the Kingdom of Elohim has arrived. Repent and believe the Good News." The word "Elohim" means "Mighty One." The arrival of the Kingdom and the concept of repentance were intertwined. The word "repent" comes from the Hebrew word shoov. It means to destroy the house and leave nothing behind. The word comes from the word for to be taken captive. Repentance always involves a changing of kingdoms, i.e. where you reside. Yeshua is telling His audience that if they are going to be a part of the arriving Kingdom, they are going to have to destroy their present life and embrace the new Kingdom. Elohim's Kingdom means the active working of His influence in the lives of its members. If you want to be a part of this Kingdom, you have to destroy the old one. The word "repent" in the Greek text is in the present tense imperative mood. This means that it is a command to repeated or continuous action. Yeshua is not asking you to repeat a prayer and be saved. He is calling you to a life of repentance.

Notice that this is Yeshua's first message. he doesn't come promising health or prosperity. There is no doctrinal statement about Himself that He requires adherence to; instead, He comes with a message of destruction. Your old life must be destroyed in order to receive Elohim's Kingdom. Consider what is promoted today as the message of the Messiah. "Come, let me introduce you to my friend." "Jesus wants to take all your hurts and pains and give you a real purpose for living." While the preceding may be true, the point is that is not what Yeshua taught first. He taught repentance.

Today, ask yourself, "Have I destroyed the old way of living?" "Have I left it all behind for the Kingdom of Elohim?" Yeshua is still calling people to repent. It was His first message in Mark. Have you heard it?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Hebraic Approach to the Scriptures Part 2: Facing the Impossible

The study of the culture and idioms of the first century Hebrews assists us to more completely understand the Scriptures. It is not that we won't get a message from reading independently of Hebraic culture, but it probably won't be the complete message. Today, we want to look at the story of the raising of Lazarus. Yahushua was very good friends with this family: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Lazarus fell sick and died. While he was living, his sisters sent word to Yahushua hoping He would come and heal their brother. Yahushua gets the message and waits two days before making the journey to see him. By the time Yahushua arrives, Lazarus has been dead four days. Is the number four significant? Why did Yahushua wait the two days before leaving? Without an understanding of Hebraic culture, the numbers don't seem too significant. However, they are very important and the local Hebrews certainly would have understood their significance.

It was the belief and custom of first century Hebrews that when a person died, their spirit hovered above them for three days. On the fourth day, that spirit descended into Sheol, the place of the dead. There was a belief that within the first three days, a miracle could occur and the spirit of the departed could return to the dead. However, on the fourth day, there was no possibility of a miracle because the spirit had departed. Now the four days make sense, don't they. Yahushua waited four days to demonstrate His divinity and power over death. Now read John 11:24-25: "Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Yahushua said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." Martha knows that her brother's spirit has departed and the only hope is a last day resurrection; however, Yahushua is about to demonstrate that with Him nothing is impossible. Yahushua then calls forth Lazarus and he is raised from the dead. This was an impossibility to them, but Yahushua was demonstrating that He is the God of the impossible.

Do you have an impossible situation today? If so, know that He is the God of the impossible. He will not fail you. Even though it may look like He is too late, He is never too late. Trust Him completely today for your every situation!

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Hebraic Approach to the Scriptures Part 1

We are going to continue to spend time developing a Hebraic approach to the Scriptures so that the Word of Elohim (Heb. "Mighty One")will become more meaningful for us. We want the Word of God to be properly understood and interpreted. We will do this by studying the Scriptures from a Hebrew perspective. Today we look at John 18:4,5: "Yeshua therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Yeshua of Nazareth. Yeshua saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them." The crowd was looking for Yeshua and Yeshua responds to them by asking the question in verse 4. Modern translations do not translate what is really occurring. Yeshua's response in the original language is "I AM (and not "I am he")." There is no "he" in the writing. The translators added "he" in attempt to clarify. Their clarification almost serves to mislead us. Instead, Yeshua is making a clear connection to the words spoken by Elohim to Moses in Exodus 3:14: "And Elohim said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." Actually, the better Hebrew translation is : "I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE." This means that our Elohim will be whatever He needs to be to bring Him esteem in our lives. He is the great I WILL BE!

Yeshua was identifying Himself with the Father and voicing His authority. The power of this authority is seen in the results: they fell backyard and to the ground. Yeshua repeats the phrase "I WILL BE" in verses 6 and 8. The Jews present clearly understood what Yeshua was saying. Some "scholars" argue that Yeshua never claimed to be the Son of Elohim . If one relied on English translations, one might be tempted to give their claim some consideration. However, once one understands the Hebraic meaning behind the actual words of the text, all claims that Yeshua never identified Himself as Messiah fall backward to!

Today, remember that Yeshua spoke with the power and force of the great I WILL BE. His words are just as powerful today as they were then. His words still bring salvation, deliverance, healing, and protection. He is Elohim ; He is our Savior. He has given His authority of I WILL BE to His disciples. May our lives demonstrate His power.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What Will He Find At Your House?

In Mark 6, Yeshua travels back to His home town of Nazareth. His hometown was very critical of Him. His neighbors could never accept the fact that He was the Messiah. The fact that a person from among their midst could really be Israel's Messiah was beyond their ability to comprehend. Notwithstanding some gnostic writings about Yeshua's childhood which detail the performance of miracles, it seems likely that His early life was unremarkable. There was nothing from His days in Nazareth that would have caused this small community to believe that Yeshua was the Messiah. This resulted in nonacceptance and unbelief concerning Him among the people of Nazareth. Mark 6: 2 reads: "And when the Sabbath had come, Yeshua began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were amazed, saying, "Where did this man get this type of wisdom? And what type of wisdom is this that is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands!" First, notice that it was the Sabbath, not Sun-day, that Yeshua went to teach. Yeshua was a Torah observant Jew and on the Sabbath, He would be found in the synagogue.

Second, notice that the unbelief on the part of the local community affected the ministry of Yeshua. Whereas the woman with the issue of blood and Jarius walked in faith which resulted in the occurrence of the miraculous, the unbelief of those in Nazareth hampered Yeshua's work there. Verse 5 reads: "Now Yeshua could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them." Unbelief and fear is a deterrent to the work of God in a community as well as individually. The teachings over the last several days clearly reveal that we can have a role in the results when we seek Yeshua's assistance. He wants us to know that role and that role is to act in faith. Yeshua was not as concerned with what they believed mentally as He was concerned with what they did as a result of that belief. To the Hebrew, it is all about faith as an action.

Today, if Yeshua visited you, what would He say about what you are doing? How would He describe your faith? Notice that it was considered a rejection of Him to act in fear. Verse 4 reads: But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house." Now fill in the blank: "Now Yeshua came to the house of ________________ (insert your name), and He found great _____________ (insert "faith" or "fear") and as a result He was able to do ____________ (insert "many" or "few") miracles there."

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Are You Following the Messiah?

After seeing the unbelief in His hometown of Nazareth, Yeshua leaves for the surrounding villages. Mark 6:6 reads in part: "And Yeshua marveled because of their unbelief (their lack of action based on His teachings). And He went about among the surrounding villages and continued teaching." What exactly did Yeshua teach in the surrounding villages? Most likely, it was His consistent message, "Repent because the Kingdom of Elohim has come." Yeshua knew that for His followers to be a part of the Kingdom of Elohim, they would have to destroy their old way of living before the new path of God's ways could take effect. Just as the lack of faith had restricted Yeshua's ministry to heal, the failure to repent would prevent the coming of the Kingdom of Elohim into the lives of individuals. Yeshua is teaching the importance of our actions as revealing our true faith.

Yeshua is also teaching the importance of obeying the Torah of God. Exodus 20:8-11 reads: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it set apart. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is a sabbath unto Elohim thy God: [in it] thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days Elohim made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Elohim blessed the sabbath day, and set it apart." Yeshua remembered the Sabbath by evidence of His being at the synagogue and reading the Scriptures. We know that He read from the prophet Isaiah. While there is some uncertainty on first century customs, we do know that Jews would read from the Torah and the haftarah (this was readings from the Prophets and Writings). Yeshua's reading from Isaiah would have been for the haftarah. It is unclear whether Yeshua would have been reading from an assigned portion or whether He would have selected the passage Himself. The essential point is that on the Sabbath, He was meeting with God's people and reading the Scriptures.

Today, consider how closely are you following the teachings of Messiah? Do you bring His message of repentance, or do you tell a gospel that focuses on what God's benefit package is for signing up? Where are you on the Sabbath? Will you be found in the Scriptures or at the mall? Do you remember the Sabbath day and keep it set apart to God?

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Ability of Yeshua to be Surprised

Yeshua is amazed at the lack of faith He sees in His home town of Nazareth. Mark 6:6 reads: "And Yeshua marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching." The word "marveled" is the Greek word thaumazo and it means to wonder, marvel, or be struck with admiration or astonishment. It is in the imperfect tense. The imperfect tense is only used in the indicative mood (which describes a statement of fact) and refers to continuous or linear action in past time. Yeshua is describing a statement of fact, i.e. the lack of faith or trust in Him, that occurred in the past. It is absolutely true that the community of Nazareth did not believe in the words of Yeshua. He is astonished at this fact. To be astonished is to be filled with a sudden and an overpowering surprise or wonder. The reaction of the Nazarenes was new information to Yeshua. Their sudden rejection of Him was a surprise. The point is that Yeshua did not know the future choices that a person would make. Too often, we minimize Yeshua's humanity in an effort to deify Him. When we reduce His humanity we misunderstand who He really was. Yeshua was not aware of the specific future choices being made. This is very important because that fact should cause us to appreciate Him even more.

While we have previously read that Yeshua could read minds, today's verse makes clear that Yeshua's had the ability to be surprised. You really can't be surprised if you know what is going to happen before it does. This teaching inspires us to confront ourselves with the choices we make. We can't excuse our bad choices because they are, "All under the blood." There are consequences that have to be faced if we sin against God. Those consequences affect us now, in this world, in the life we live. There were people in Nazareth that did not receive a healing or deliverance because of a lack of faith (which is sin); they made the choice not to act in faith and received the consequence of not receiving. Too often, we are always thinking about heaven and the "sweet by and by." We need to focus on the reality of now.

Today, would Yeshua be surprised at your faith, or lack of faith? Would He be filled with amazement or surprise? Do you focus more on heaven rather than the needs that exist now? Begin to focus on the needs of others; begin to be the work of God on a desperately sick world. When you do, you will surprise and amaze Yeshua with your faith!