Less Obvious Fruitbearing

A few moments ago I took time to look through posted photos of the destruction left in the wake of the West Virginia floods. There were homes scattered like lawn toys in their neighbor’s yards and lying in heaps of rubble. Cars and trucks were submerged in Main St. ponds or lying at the bottom newly formed sink holes, resting in impossible positions by any normal standards. “Those poor people” I heard myself whisper. Perhaps it’s not a quiet whisper that this carnage requires but rather a thunderous cry toward the heavens that poured its fury out on these desperate lives. Oh Yah! Will You not show mercy and grant deliverance for these suffering souls?”

This viewing of West Virginia’s devastation was followed by a seemingly unrelated conversation with my wife about disappointments and deemed failures at attempts to accomplish significant ministry. We have tried hard to leave deep footprints in our efforts to touch people. We want to do more than go through the motions of teaching, leading worship, writing, administrating, or organizing Feast Day celebrations. We want to see people’s daily lives producing more of the heart and character of Y’shua, where they also are making impact on the lives of co-workers, family members, and neighbors. When you don’t see obvious results the conclusion seems to be that “We must have failed somehow. What have we done wrong or not done right enough?”

At this point you might have well meaning friends seek to encourage you with reminders of how seeds planted take time to germinate and break through to produce fruit. Well, after seeds have had almost 35 years to produce something, you would think results would be seen by now! And they have. We’ve had solid successes that we can look back at and rejoice over for years to come. As much experience as we’ve gained however, impatience and frustration still mark the more recent plantings which have not yet produced. Because the current crop yet lies dormant, one might assume nothing has been done. Of course, that is a failed way of determining results.

In Yochanan/John 6, Y’shua has just finished an incredibly insightful and yet stern teaching in which it seems He intentionally offended everyone who had any targeted sensitivities. He stated, “…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Adam and drink His blood, you possess no life in yourselves.” [The Scriptures, 2009] In verse 60 we read, “This word is hard, who is able to hear it?” The result of His teaching is found in v.66 “From then on many of His taught ones withdrew and were not walking with Him any more.” Wow Y’shua. You just preached a sermon that ripped Your congregation wide open! Y’shua looked at the remaining 12 and asked, “Do you also wish to go away?”

What do we want to do? When efforts are not producing desired results, we might easily walk away and leave the field abandoned. Y’shua chose to follow His own teaching in Yochanan 15 about pruning to gain more and higher quality fruit. He knew these people were mainly following Him for miracles and free meals instead of fully recognizing Him as Ben Elohim and accepting the call of His coming Kingdom. He knowingly pruned the crowd down to the ones who chose to stay with Him saying, “Master, to whom shall we go? You possess words of everlasting life.” The crowds were not His fruit. These 12 men were and then only 11 would prove faithful. Actually only 1 would follow Him through His trial and subsequent death. But, these frail pieces of fruit proved to be enabled to turn the world upside down with their report of Him.

So thenshould “those poor people” I saw from West Virginia look at the mess and destruction and determine to walk away to some other place to start over again? Should they leave their friends and neighborhoods because the task appears overwhelming? Or should they remember the generations who survived storms before them and the pleasant memories of living in their towns, while rolling up their sleeves to start the clean up process?  It’s natural and predicable to overwhelmed and in shock. It’s heroic and fruit bearing to start over. You can’t reap what you fail to sow.

From their plight I take a personal lesson. When I’m disappointed in the lack of apparent fruit, frustrated with people’s lack of participation in my efforts to minister to them, or wishing for greater results, I need to offer praise for what has already been accomplished. If I take time to offer thanksgiving for all the successes and benefits I can see, lives changed, paths recognized and taken. If I thank Yah for my family, my home, my health and strength, my friends and partners, my congregational family, my tools and means of getting my jobs done, my transportation, my gifts, callings, opportunities, and the rest of the list, I may have much less to ask Him for. My home is not in the middle of a newly formed lake on Main St. My neighborhood is intact and mostly at peace. My family loves each other and desires to be together. After 33 1/2 years, Laura and I are still in love and wanting to stay together. Yah has been good and gracious, and merciful, and faithful. He has also granted me fruit for my efforts. He has provided seed for new attempts. He gives the rain and the sun of His Presence to grant new results. I can offer no other response than “I am most thankful O Yah, especially for the fruit I can’t see; yet!”

 

 

Consequential Collusion

The last thing I’d want to do here on “The Returning” would be to delve into the arena of politics, especially with the American nomination process as volatile as it is currently. The latest news items are focused on plans by two of the Republican candidates to strategically maneuver through the remaining primaries in such a way as to thwart the frontrunner’s ability to win the nomination outright. This would result in a contested Convention where anything could happen. Such is the American Election process. It doesn’t seem to matter very much what the popular votes of the citizens might reflect, as the powers that be appear to have the ability to do as they please. Like I said at the beginning, I really don’t want to go here at all.

As tasteless and corrupt as politics are, I’d like to nevertheless draw a point from our current scenario. Men and women of ability, rank, wealth, and connection seem to be able to approve an agenda and move it forward, even against the will of the masses. We may know or more likely don’t know who these people are, but they are the real authority in the world order of things; at least as far as human ability goes. And that’s the point. Man has always had an agenda, based on his opinion as to how things ought to be. One contrives the story of a better world, preaches his perspective to the disgruntled, raises an enthused mob seeking his version of justice, and overthrows by some means those who have held them down.

The Who recorded a major hit with Won’t Get Fooled Again. The opening lines state, “We’ll be fighting in the streets, with our children at our feet…” Toward the end of the song we hear the words, “There’s nothing in the streets, looks any different to me.” Of course the familiar tag line from the tune is at the end of the chorus, “Then I’ll get on my knees and pray…We don’t get fooled again.” Seems the revolution only changed who ends up at the top of the same old system.

For all our fighting and striving against man made systems of government or economics, or religion, we are really no better in most instances than when we began our revolts. The problem is not in the desire to improve one’s lot in life or to raise up humanity around us, but rather in the fact that we are yet men. As such we are extremely prone to corruption, power, and greed. Our cause somewhere morphs and mutates from one of throwing off oppression and fear to becoming the newest oppressor who rules through the same old fear. So why do we buy into what is doomed to fail and fall to the vices we war against?

Maybe we should realize that behind the scenes of the behind the scenes crowd is the ultimate Puppet Master, hasatan, the Accuser, Slanderer, Tempter of man. For his own advantages and desires to overthrow the Throne of the Most High in the heavens, he manipulates the lusts of men to stage the world for his purposes. So men gain popularity and crowds with promises of a brighter future while the Puppet Master pulls the strings, laughing at our gullible naivete’. Again The Who sing, “Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss.”  So what are we to do? Let’s examine a few Scripture texts to see.

Tehillim/Psalms 2:1-3 “Why do the nations rage, and the peoples meditate emptiness? The sovereigns of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together, against YHWH and against His Messiah and say, ‘Let us tear apart Their bonds, and throw away Their ropes from us.’ ” [The Scriptures, 2009]

So men’s attempts to self rule according to their own designs and systems of control are actually acts of rebellion against the Most High and His Messiah. Yeshayahu/Isaiah 14:12-15 says,

“How you have fallen from the heavens, O Helel, son of the morning! You have been cut down to the ground, you who laid low the nations! For you have said in your heart, ‘Let me go up to the heavens, let me raise my throne above the stars of El, and let me sit in the mount of appointment of the sides of the north; let me go up above the heights of the clouds, let me be like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to She’ol, to the sides of the pit.” [The Scriptures, 2009]

Those then who are in collusion with hasatan will suffer the same fate. By the way, collusion may be defined as secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, especially in order to cheat or deceive others. Those who bank their improved futures on such devices will ultimately end up either in grave disappointment or included in Yah’s wrath and judgment against such things. We should understand that we vote for imperfect men/women to rule over imperfect societies through imperfect systems of government. We should not then expect perfection. Whatever means or men that we employ, we will end up with less than ideal and often oppressive results. Are we then doomed to suffer under these systems? No, not at all. Let’s go back to Tehillim 2 and read verses 4-6. 

“He Who is sitting in the heavens laughs, YHWH mocks at them. Then He speaks to them in His wrath, and troubles them in His rage, saying, ‘But I, I have set My Sovereign on Tsyion, My set apart mountain.’ ” [The Scriptures, 2009]

Let’s also read Revelation 11:15, “…The reign of this world has become the reign of our Master, and of His Messiah, and He shall reign forever and ever!” [The Scriptures, 2009]

The current collusion of hasatan and his minions have consequences of disappointment, failure, and probable judgment for most involved. For the rest of us who seek the best means and men possible to lead us forward, at least for the present moment, these failures of men are able to motivate us to pray for the coming Kingdom of Heaven, the Rule and Reign of Y’shua the Messiah of YHWH upon the Earth. If YHWH is laughing at the antics of the behind the scenes crowd, why should we panic or fret ourselves that there is no hope. We should pray for Yah to seat His Messiah on His Throne and overthrow the puny kingdoms of man. They will never last while His Kingdom is forever. The climatic achievement of the hasatan’s collusion is that men and women will cry out from under their oppression, “Come Messiah, even so, come quickly!!”

 

 

 

Seeing Eye to Eye

Venturing into the world of credentialed ministry was an eye opening experience for a naive, idealistic young man like myself, and I quickly found my principled foundation a bit shaken. Sitting in Minister’s Meetings and around meal tables with men in suits, with titles, and esteemed reputations should cause the novice to feel a sense of inclusion and elevation. I did indeed find seasoned men of renown who were worthy of their reputation. They guarded their words, prayed with devotion and sincerity, and genuinely wanted to help those within their reach. I also encountered those with a different agenda.

When one has studied to show themselves approved, taken the test and passed, they may have the moment of accomplishment sealed with the placing of the framed certificate on their wall. They can look at the script, the shiny seal of authenticity, their name in bold letters and breathe deep in satisfaction. The accompanying title gained lengthens their name and can be used to immediately garner a raised eyebrow of respect when being introduced. The terms Reverend, Bishop, or Rabbi can open doors, afford acquaintance with those in high standing, and solicit privileged benefits. Such title can also encourage elitism. They can convince the holder of such title that they are entitled and that they should be held to a different, more lenient standard. The unspoken but yet acknowledged reality is esteem and honor bestowed to clergy gains one a more favorable standing in Yah’s eyes. Sometimes such men actually believe that.

So the naive novice stood among the ranks of the professionals, discerning the difference between those who served with a sense of humility and those who sought the dignity of their official status. Behind the scenes, away from the crowds and lofty pulpits, how would the beat of the young heart steer his dreams and visions? Would he preach a word that drew the fillers of pews, or would he patiently seek to grow basic folk into mature pillars of stability? What would be his agenda?

In Matthew 8:2-4, Y’shuah encounters a Metzora, a man afflicted with Tz’ar’at, commonly translated as a leper. This actual malady is not Hansen’s Disease or leprosy but rather a ailment of the skin that is rooted in a spiritual deficiency. The common rabbinical explanation is Tz’ar’at is caused by Lashon Hara/Evil Speech/Slander or Gossip. The classic example is Miryam, Moshe’s sister, who chided and spoke in negative fashion about her brother and was subsequently covered with the skin disease. So the man who stood before the Messiah had been guilty of separating others with his words and was now likewise separated from society. His speech had not pitied others and likely drew very little pity then from those who met him. His guilt was as obvious as the sores on his body. What would Y’shuah’s agenda be with him?

“Master, if You desire [if You want to], You are able to make me clean. And stretching out His hand, Y’shuah touched him, saying, ‘I desire it. [I want to] Be cleansed!’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”

I rarely fail to weep when I read that passage. I am struck by the compassion and yearning of Y’shuah to not only declare the man healed and cleansed, but to also stretch out His hand and actually touch one so diseased. His agenda was not to remain aloof and distant from that which would compromise His standing and dignity. Rather it was an agenda of Hands On Restoration. If we are to follow His example we must do more than raise up a call and shout at a crowd. We must stretch out our hands and get them dirty enough to realistically meet someone’s need. Such people fill our paths on a daily basis if we are willing to recognize them, but there is one group in particular that I want to mention. Those returning to Tzyion/Zion; the Lost Sheep of the House of Yisrael.

Yeshayahu/Isaiah 52:7-8 “How pleasant upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings good news, who proclaims deliverance, who says to Tzyion, ‘Your Elohim reigns!’ The voice of your watchmen! They shall lift up their voices, together they shout for joy, because eye to eye they see the return of YHWH to Tzyion.”

These who see that YHWH is returning those lost and cut off from Yisrael, bringing them back home, will also see that this rag tag bunch is a possible poor sight at first glance. They are indeed like the Metzora in that they have obvious sins. They have engaged in idolatrous and pagan practices. They have maligned the commands of Yah Himself. They have warred against their brother Yehudah, the Jews. Those who see their restoration have every reason to resist the Hebrew Refugees from returning. But, the prophet declares that they will rejoice and shout for joy, seeing eye to eye, sharing the same agenda with YHWH. We must learn to rejoice at the sight of those coming home. Remember that the Prodigal in Luke 15 came home smelling of swine, filthy and unkempt. We might have held our nose and called for soap and water but the Father fell on his neck weeping with joy, kissed, and adorned him like a prince. Why does He do that? Because He wants to, He desires to cleanse them and bring them back home.

He will indeed need you and I to take part in His Hands On Restoration for people who are broken and wandering, seeking the way back to Tzyion. It’s not enough to throw out teachings and calls, but we will be required to stretch out our hands. They hear us, but can they sense our compassion without our touching them? A man who had not be touched in a long time felt Y’shuah’s hand on him. He was never the same again.

If we are to see eye to eye, in agreement with Y’shuah and share His agenda, we must be willing to do the same. This means not only sharing the message to the Last Days Restoration of the House of Yisrael, but also walking with those who are learning, guiding them through the long process of seeing a different paradigm that what they had been exposed to. People have issues. They’re angry at religious systems, frustrated with professional men of title, and struggle with others who don’t understand their new journey. They need the hand of one who has compassion and a gentle touch to encourage them. They need their sores healed, not just diagnosed.

We have a tall order and challenge. Let us see with Y’shuah’s eyes, seeing eye to eye, changing lives and offering Hands On Restoration.

 

 

 

 

 

Weapons Not Carnal In A War On Carnality

Some many years ago, in the mid to late 90’s, I was pastoring a crusty old church tucked away in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. The area is rugged, the economy is challenged, and the people are unique and interesting. In the public arena, you will find most folks friendly, warm and apt to smile while they call you “Sugar”, “Sweetie”, and “Darling”, even to perfect strangers. I remember going to the local Piggly Wiggly [Supermarket Chain] and the lady checking out my groceries called me “Sugar”. I went home and confessed to my wife that a woman had been flirting with me and I didn’t know what to do about it. After a few weeks in town I realized the local custom and understood that I wasn’t that special after all.

In the church arena, things were and are much more challenging and difficult to understand. There was an often repeated phrase of “…the real power of God…” that spoke of their desire to get back to something they believed was missing. Lost somewhere in the 40’s and 50’s was a fervor and intensity of spiritual experience that had since become  legendary. Much time and talk was given to searching for the missing formula to accomplish the return of power and presence, and unfortunately, determining the hindrances that prevented the legend from being realized again. These hindrances most often were found in people, who were then put at arm’s length and corporately shunned until they found themselves somewhere else to go. My family and I were so charged and found guilty. After 2 years of struggle and mistakes, theirs and my own, we found somewhere else to be, embarking on our own search for the legend of Yah’s Real Power and Presence.

When insulted our normal response is to return words in kind. When we are accused, we tend to defend ourselves by finding fault in the accuser. Y’shuah’s teaching about “…turn the other cheek…” must have some sort of mystical application because it can’t work in real life or so we reason. There is a better way, a more righteous way to deal with accusers and slanderous defamation of our character. Rabbi Shaul of Tarsus wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:4 “For the weapons we fight with are not fleshly but mighty in Elohim for overthrowing strongholds, overthrowing reasonings, and every high matter that exalts itself against the knowledge of Elohim, taking captive every thought to make it obedient to the Messiah…” [The Scriptures, 2009] Note that the goal is to fight spiritually against the flesh and its carnal tendencies, bringing it to obedience to Messiah. When rebellion of flesh has been transformed into obedience to Y’shuah, we win and not until then.

It is the weapons of humility, brokenness, and obedience that conquer religion, that overcome accusations, and destroy the strongholds of wrong thinking. It was the assumption among my former congregation that if they could achieve unity, then power could be more than legend. But the form of unity sought was more accurately named uniformity. They pushed aside anyone or anything not thought to be like themselves. In all honesty, these dear people didn’t realize that they were only doing what had been taught to them by people they loved and respected. They fondly remembered an era of time filled with excitement and fervor, but forgot the reality of hard lines drawn and the many people that were shunned out of not conforming to someone’s ideal example. That kind of thinking is but a stronghold of religion and the very thing that prevented their finding what they were yearning for. Until the minds and hearts are changed, the power and presence of Yah will remain but a legend.

Rav Shaul says that there is a better way. We must change our minds and renew our understanding from justifying ourselves by accusing others to walking in humility and seeking ways of obedience. Familiar strongholds teach us to reason and explain away our failures while pointing long fingers at those whose sins are less than our own. But our most effective weapon is to be totally obedience to Y’shuah and His Commands; the Torah. Revelation 14:12 “Here is the endurance of the set-apart ones, here are those guarding the commands of Elohim and the belief of Y’shuah”   [The Scriptures, 2009]

In Mattithyahu/Matthew 5:25, Y’shuah taught us to be well minded with or to agree with our opponent promptly. We know that our accusing opponent in hasatan, who stands before the Father slandering and accusing us of not be righteous and faithful to His Word. When he accuses you of not praying enough, agree with him and ask the Father to teach you to pray more and more effectively. When he says that you haven’t forgiven or that you don’t love others, quickly agree and seek to release those who have wounded you and love them instead. When his accusations only urge us to grow in Messiah’s likeness, he will cease…for a season. Kefa/Simon Peter instructed us in 1 Kefa 5:6 “Humble yourselves, then, under the mighty hand of Elohim, so that He exalts you in due time.”  [The Scriptures, 2009] The way up is down, in humble servanthood, preferring others over yourself. In the right moment, at the time of our maturity, we will find a place higher to stand before Him.

Finally, I’ve learned over the years to not fight battles not worth winning and to never engage in a war that can’t be won. I knew that I could not win that former congregation over to a new way of understanding and I certainly wasn’t going to die on that mountain trying. But this warfare, this struggle against the prevailing religious mindsets and strongholds of our day, is one that can indeed be effective and one that we can be victorious in. Our overcoming is found in not resisting religious carnality with carnality, returning in kind what we are assaulted with. Rather, it is in humility, choosing to find a place to quietly serve without fanfare, and walking in obedience to Messiah that grants us a crown. Y’shuah prayed, “Father, if it be Your counsel, remove this cup from Me. Yet not My desire, but let Yours be done.” Luke 22:42  [The Scriptures, 2009]. Rav Shaul spoke of his fight saying, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race I have guarded the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7  [The Scriptures, 2009] Keep fighting the war worth winning.

Going Against the Grain; Again

So we’re at the climatic stages of the football season, with the Super Bowl in sight and the College Championship being played tonight, as of this writing. I’ve been a major fan of the game for as far back as I can remember, and to be honest, I can very easily get too wrapped up in it. In fact, I was watching my team play last evening in its first playoff game and they lost. I yelled at the officials, I pleaded for the blitz, and I groaned at missed opportunities. In being a little transparent here, I HATE TO LOSE. I’m not a sore loser, but I hate to lose, at anything from board games, to cards, to party games, and especially sports. I have to admit it. I am too competitive.

This urge to win is complicated by my tendency to choose the less popular brands or teams and follow my Dad’s propensity to cheer for the underdog. Growing up, most of my friends and family preferred Chevy’s, but I’ve always liked Fords. The popular team was the Dallas Cowboys, but I’ve been a Washington Redskins fan forever. As a musician I play Fender, when the popular choice for many is Gibson. Why can’t I simply go mainstream and take the popular choices and be happy with the majority when they win? The answer is I’m just not wired that way. I was designed with a preference to go a bit against the grain and see things from a different angle.

I found myself in the middle of mainstream church life, pastoring and shepherding, leading worship, and administrating a local church. I preached the acceptable and standard doctrines that were expected, trying to keep them fresh and appealing, but to a desired result. However, that thing that makes me different, that part of the wiring schematic that is unique started to affect my heart. I became discontent and wanted to find a sharper spiritual edge. I grew dissatisfied with the status quo and the urge, no, the urgency to find more depth in my prayers began to consume me. I had to go beyond talking at my Redeemer up there somewhere to finding the place where I could look into His Face and into His Eyes. I had to know Him, not just about Him. This pursuit of Him cause my reference point to turn completely to the opposite direction. I was now going against the grain and finding myself out of the mainstream; again.

In the wisdom of Mishlei/Proverbs 27:17 we read, “Iron is sharpened by iron, and a man sharpens the face of his friend.”

For an effective edge to be gained there has to be something abrasive, capable of removing that which is not needed, and able to refine and hone. When it comes to applying this thought to your friends, you don’t want to destroy them, rendering them dulled with no edge at all. You want to refine them, reveal the unnecessary parts and help them become their best. This is my hope and desire for you. You may have found the opposing grain too rough to endure and no longer can simply go with the popular flow. But there are others like yourself and others who understand how you feel. Remember that I tend to choose the underdog and the less popular. This wiring that Yah chose to put inside me causes me to believe that hurting and frustrated people can find Him and look into His Eyes. They can learn to discern the tone of His Voice. People such as yourself can absolutely find His Heart and determine what and who it beats for. It requires a process and a commitment to letting go of whatever stands in the way. You will have to choose to go against the popular and the mainstream, but that’s the path that leads to Him.

I’m just offering a word of encouragement. I choose you. I believe that Y’shuah chooses you. We may disagree and even get abrasive, but let’s sharpen one another until we both find the edge we need. Come on. Take the more narrow, less traveled road that leads to a place worth finding. That’s where Y’shuah waits.

 

Shalom, shalom

 

 

 

A Full Count and a Curve Ball

So we’re in the middle stages of the “Boys of Summer” doing their thing, trying to make it to the World Series. As a kid I’ve stood with a bat in hand , pretending to be facing a full count, and of course, belting one out of the park. Fat chance, as I tried out for Little League and never made a team; too many kids and not enough coaches to field them all. Oh well, I don’t have to make a living standing at the plate in front of thousands, millions by TV, and whiff at an unexpected curve ball. A fast ball dancing around the corners of the plate is one thing, but a curve ball starts one place and suddenly takes a dive down and away, making the batter look rather foolish.

I’ve had that same look on my face when out of no where a circumstance appeared unexpectedly, leaving me scratching my head, realizing I had just struck out. In front of the hosts of heaven and all my peers and family, I whiffed and came up empty. We all have had those moments when life just pitched us something unfair. We reasoned that no one should be expected to hit something like that, no matter what size the bat or how much practice was taken. That reasoning doesn’t change the results however. We might turn around and yell at the Umpire/YHWH, and question the legitimacy of the call. We might charge the mound and take it out on hasatan, but the reality is we tried, believed in our attempt, gave it all we had, and missed.

I took a new pastoral assignment in 1995. a LONG time ago, and moved my family to the far Southwest Virginia mountains. The Appalachians are full of great people, and full of churches, which are full of tradition and religious expectations. Our first encounter with the new congregation went exceptionally well, leaving me with a feeling of being able to hit home runs on a regular basis. I went into the “batter’s slump” after about 6 months, watching my average go down with each appearance on Sunday morning. Almost two years to the day, I struck out for the final time and was traded to another team. While I blamed the pitcher and my team at the time, I now look back and realize that my own arrogance and pride might have had just a little to do with my departure. Nevertheless, I whiffed at the curve and it was my empty swing that sat me down.

So, the truth of the matter is this. We need to strike out every once in a while. If we only face token fast balls down the middle, knowing every life pitch before it’s released, we would lose the integrity of the game and become bored. I can hear you hollering, “Bring on the boredom!!” I understand the sentiment, but we all know life is not designed that way. Challenging the Umpire or charging the mound may make you feel better, but you are stuck with the same results. Striking out, failing in spite of your best effort, keeps us honest. We realize that we can’t take anything for granted, that all things come through the effort of prayer, seeking after His wisdom and instruction. Our adversary is not likely to walk us, so we are going to have to put the bat on the ball and make something happen. So what do we do?

Well, for one thing, stop swinging for the fence on every pitch. We all want to be the hero and get the applause for doing something spectacular, but life is more about base hits. Doing the right and honest thing on a daily basis is the most important part of being on your team; your family. They need to see you try again, to make strong efforts at living above reproach, to encourage your team mates, and to play defense as well as standing in the box. Showing up for team events, even those as boring as practice. Your heart, your attitude, your integrity, and your patience are far more productive than home runs. You still score, it just takes a little longer around the bases.

Another thing is to know the pitcher. Kefa [Peter] said to “…be sober, watch because your adversary is like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour…” [1 Kefa 5:8] We shouldn’t be surprised when the serpent acts like a serpent and seeks to strike at us. Knowing where he gained advantage over us before and knowing his tactics enable us to not be caught off guard. If he exposes your weaknesses, rejoice! Now you know what to work on and what to cry out to Yah for deliverance from. Throwing things in the dugout won’t change you; it’s just a mess you’ll have to clean up. Get focused. Be smart. Don’t let him fool you twice. Go to your Father about your failure and cry out to Him for the skill and wisdom that you need. We didn’t start out on this journey to end up on the bench, pouting about what hasn’t gone right. This game is not about you, it’s about Him and about us. At this stage of the season, every game counts, as a loss might just send us all back home. We don’t have time for that. So realize that we all need you. No pressure right?

The count is full, you’re at the plate, and we need your successful at bat. Everyone in the dugout is counting on you. Old Slick is winding up and you just know a curve is coming. Don’t get fooled again, just get on base. The next guy up will get you home. Y’shuah never strikes out!

Spiritual Dehydration

Summers here in Virginia can be quite hot and humid, especially along the coastline where I live. I have been “blessed” to have some side work that’s very physically demanding and done outside, in the sun, where it’s hot, and you sweat; a lot. Last week the forecast was for an overcast, cloudy day, but the weather guy missed it badly. The sun was full strength and the temperature was 90 degrees plus. Though I had consumed a good bit of water during the day, I found myself getting weak and exhausted, struggling to get my job done. My mouth tasted like cotton and I was drenched in sweat. I felt completely wiped out and a bit concerned about myself.

I weakly climbed a hill to my vehicle and grabbed my remaining water bottles to rehydrate my body. After about 20 minutes I was able to drive home, but it took the rest of the afternoon and evening to get back to feeling normal again. That feeling of being desperate for water, of total exhaustion, and of struggling to focus reminded me of Shemot [Exodus] 6:9 which says, “And Moshe spoke to the children of Yisrael, but they did not listen to Moshe, because of shortness of spirit, and from hard slavery.” The word used here for “shortness” is m’kotzerfound only here in Scripture, and means “impatience or anguish”. The slavery situation had worn these people out to where their spirits were depleted and exhausted in impatience for deliverance. But when their Deliverer actually showed up, they had lost their ability to listen to him.

The word translated as “spirit” is ruach, wind or breath, and is symbolized at times as water. The prophet Yo’el [Joel] speaks of the former and latter rains falling and then references the outpouring of the Ruach. Yeshayahu [Isaiah] said, For I pour water on the thirsty and floods on the dry ground. I pour My Spirit on your seed, and My blessing on your offspring.”  And of course Y’shuah spoke of giving us “Living water” in Yochanan [John] 4:10,14 and in 7:38-39, He spoke of waters of the Ruach springing up like a well from within us. As the Ruach then can be seen as water, is it not possible for us to become dehydrated of the Ruach, being spiritually depleted and worn out?

My being aches and grieves for those who are sitting by a barren river bed, where they desperately need to drink of the Spirit, but are just thirsty. You can listen to sermons about the Spirit and about outpourings and revivals, but if you are thirsty and dehydrated of Him, you have to move to a real source of water; or you will die. Remember that Yisrael cried out for help and deliverance, but when Moshe showed up, they couldn’t hear him. Their spirits were too weakened to receive the answer to their own prayers. You need the authentic Messiah to give you His Living Water and transform you into a well of waters, springing up from within you. A religious icon of a failed system, full of compromised doctrines and which rejects His commands cannot offer you deliverance or one drink of life giving water. NOW, right now, is the time to move! Cry out to Him for Water and He will give you His own Ruach in abundance.

We are not supposed to be dying of spiritual dehydration. There is no need to become depleted in spirit. The waters of the Ruach are available without measure to those who are thirsty. Again, from Yochanan 7:38-39, “…out of his innermost shall flow RIVERS of living water. And this He said concerning the Spirit/Ruach, which those believing in Him were about to receive.” We are given rivers, not streams, creeks, or trickles. We are supposed to be a source of His Ruach, flowing in Him and getting our surroundings wet! OK, so the real question is, “How?” “How do I stay in the Spirit/Ruach?

We start by finding the real Y’shuah, the One Who says, “…let all who are thirsty come to Me…” This is the same One Who also said, “If you ask whatever in My Name, I shall do it. If you love Me, you shall guard My commands. And I shall ask the Father, and He shall give you another Helper, to stay with you forever, the Spirit/Ruach of Truth…” [Yochanan 14:14-17]. Did you notice that in the middle of His offering us His Spirit is the injunction for us to walk in obedience to His commands? The religious system of churchianity only requires our adherence to its doctrines and structures, giving our time and money to support it. We have been taught that we are to obey the “Law of Love”, trust in the icon, and receive the abundance of grace to cover our dark deeds. It’s going to be alright in the end, so don’t worry about it. And so we drink the dust that the serpent spits out of its mouth [B’reshith/Genesis 3:14] and choke on it.

Life giving water flowing from the Throne of YHWH, given in abundance through Y’shuah, is available to all who ask, who are truly thirsty, and who are willing to show their love for Messiah by choosing to walk in obedience to His real Word. This isn’t mere rule keeping, but learning to live the life of Messiah, letting Him demonstrate His obedience to the Father through us. Yearn for Him. Thirst for Him. Wash your dirty vessel and let Him fill it until you overflow. It can indeed happen. We’ll take this a little further next time. Now, go get a glass of water.