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!”

 

 

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.