Archive for the ‘New Circumcised Heart’ Category

Pebble in My Shoe

When I was in junior/senior high, I was part of a Christian singing group that traveled around the east coast performing evangelistic folk musicals. We also included a small medley from the popular Godspell that had “By My Side” as one of the songs.

I never really understood the words “I’ll put a pebble in my shoe and walk” when I was a child. Who would make themselves uncomfortable when they walk? As an adult those words took on more meaning when facing struggles in my life from miscarriages to persecutions from other believers. I always knew that Yeshua was ‘by my side,’ and I would sing praises to him to encourage myself through the struggles. Eventually with time the pebble would wear down or it would be shaken out of my shoe.

When reading about the encounter between Jacob and the ‘angel of the LORD,’ in Genesis 32 that pebble took on a more intense purpose. During their wrestling match, the ‘man’ touched Jacob’s hip which caused him to limp.

The ‘pebble in his shoe’ was never removed nor did it wear down, it caused him to limp for the rest of his life! It was this ‘pebble’ that changed him from being a carnal man to a spiritual man. It was this pebble that revealed his ‘walk with Elohim’ to the world in which he lived. He could never hide his faith nor the the personal encounter with the man of ‘salvation’. It was obvious to everyone he encountered from that moment on – he limped.

He limped when he met Esau the next day. He limped when he met with Shechem to discuss the rape of his daughter, Dinah. He limped to Beth-el with his family where he received the blessing of faith from Elohim. He limped when he grieved the loss of his beloved Rachel. He limped when his sons brought him the bloodied garment of his son, Joseph. He limped all his days in Canaan. He limped to Egypt. With that limp, he met his ‘resurrected’ son Jospeh and his grandsons. With that limp he entered the presence of the Pharaoh of Egypt as the patriarch of a nation called Isra’el. With that limp no one who met him would forget the God of Abraham and Isaac was ‘by Jacob’s side.’

“Therefore, to keep me from becoming overly proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from the Adversary to pound away at me, so that I wouldn’t grow conceited. Three times I begged the Lord to take this thing away from me; but he told me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is brought to perfection in weakness.” Therefore, I am very happy to boast about my weaknesses, in order that the Messiah’s power will rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).

Sha’ul too had a ‘pebble in his shoe.’ He called it a ‘thorn in his flesh.’ It was given to him by the Adversary to keep him from becoming arrogant. Though there are many speculations about what that thorn was, it was a thorn, a pebble that challenged him every day of his life. As would be common for any man or woman, he prayed for its removal and the Elohim told him that ‘His power is brought to perfection in weakness.”

The Scriptures do not suggest that the limp that Jacob received was from the Adversary, but Jacob, whose name means ‘Deceiver,’ struggled like the Adversary against the plans of Elohim for his life. It was only through his years of deceptions that the truth of the Messiah became a real and vibrant prophetic vision in his life.

Through Sha’ul, the message of Messiah Yeshua came to the nations. Through Jacob, Isra’el became the nation of God’s chosen people from whom salvation comes. The next time Elohim would put a ‘pebble in my shoe,’ I’m not going to pray for the day it is removed or wears down, but stop and give thanks for the blessing that He sees me as a vessel for His purpose and a powerful reminder that Yeshua is ‘by my side.’

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing.

Encountering the Ark

“For the Son of Man’s coming will be just as it was in the days of Noach” (Matthew 24:37).

Ken Ham and ‘Answers in Genesis’ made a significant impact on my children’s Biblical world view when we heard him teach in Denver, Colorado. They never forgot his “billions of dead things buried in rock layers laid down by water’ to support a worldwide flood. When friends suggested we visit the life-sized Ark he had built, we couldn’t miss the opportunity as we drove through Kentucky.

“First, understand this: during the Last Days, scoffers will come, following their own desires and asking, “Where is this promised ‘coming’ of his? For our fathers have died, and everything goes on just as it has since the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

Reading some of the reviews on The Ark Encounter before we went was discouraging. Atheists mocked the whole project inside and out while one young Millennial writer from Christianity Today thought the whole thing obsessive and expensive even though the funds for the project were all raised privately. There was a Washington Post article mocking the Ark because rain eroded the roadway and had to be reinforced. There was another article about taxes and how Answers in Genesis had figured out a way not to pay property taxes that support local schools. I wanted to laugh if it wasn’t so sad. Public schools don’t teach anything about Creation nor do they want to and, if I were Ken Ham, I wouldn’t want to support those institutions through taxes either. They want the money, but not the worldview.

“And he did not spare the ancient world; on the contrary, he preserved Noach, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, and brought the Flood upon a world of ungodly people” (2 Peter 2:5).

With all of the negative comments, I wasn’t sure what I would ‘encounter’ when I actually experienced the Ark, but I know that Yeshua said the world would be like ‘the days of Noach’ before he returned. Those days were full of scoffers; those who reject even the idea of God.

The original Ark was not built to be evangelistic even though that is how the The Ark Encounter creator’s view it. The original Ark was built to protect eight faithful people from the judgment of God against wickedness and violence on the earth. Even in the short movie entitled “An Interview with Noah” shown on the Lower Deck, Noah states that if someone came knocking on the door because they believed, he would let them in. In reality, no one did. That wasn’t God’s plan for the Ark. Strangely enough, my Bible reading for the day included the following showing that it was Yeshua who explained the message of the flood and God’s patience.

“For the Messiah himself died for sins, once and for all, a righteous person on behalf of unrighteous people, so that he might bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh but brought to life by the Spirit;  and in this form he went and made a proclamation to the imprisoned spirits, to those who were disobedient long ago, in the days of Noach, when God waited patiently during the building of the ark, in which a few people — to be specific, eight — were delivered by means of water” (1 Peter 3:18-20).

We arrived as the visitor center opened at 9 a.m. and watched a 25-minute video on the making of the Ark – from purchasing the land, to hiring all of the people God called to design, build, and detail the Ark to the ribbon cutting ceremony. Ken Ham was asked if the Ark was everything he imagined it to be. He answered, “No, it was more than he could have ever imagined.” Yes, I’m sure it is. It is more than anyone could imagine!

The Ark

From the huge auditorium, we began our journey toward the Ark which took up nearly the whole horizon before us. Elephants and giraffes made from bushy trees seemed to be trudging toward the ramp up to the huge door near the bow. This Ark is made to be life-size according to the directions given to Noach in cubits. They used the royal cubit length of 20.4 inches, making their cubit a little less than the longer 21.6 inches. With this measurement this Ark is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet tall.

Listening to God

We entered the Ark from below deck as it is built on a foundation rather than sitting on the ground waiting for another worldwide flood. We walked up the first ramp to the Lower Deck and entered a side door to the sounds of thunder and rain. Animal cages made from bamboo and outfitted with food and water receptacles greeted us. The sounds of the animals eating, moving around in their cages and even going to the bathroom came through the cage doors. (No real animals in these cages – just the sound ambiance of them.)

Bamboo Animal Cages with Smart Feeders

When we turned the corner, we watched Noach and his family praying for God’s protection while lightning flashed in the background behind him. We were blessed that he was praying in Hebrew; however, we are pretty sure he didn’t have an altar with fire in the Ark. We were also blessed at one point in the film, when they proclaimed in detail the Hebrew names of the Creator from El Elyon, El Shaddai and Adonai to Ehyeh, the I Am.

Noach’s Prayer for Protection

We continued to walk around the first deck to the Bow. Bags and bags of grain for food and large clay jars probably holding water and small jars for oil lined the side of the Ark. In the middle of the Ark were small cages for moths and other slimy things that some of the animals would eat. It was overwhelming to consider all of the necessities for living in a boat with so many different kinds of animals for over a year.

We wandered along the numerous bamboo cages looking at the pre-flood creatures. Many of the animals that were on the Ark do not exist in the forms we see today. They were designed by engineers who used 3D printers to re-create the animal bodies and skeletons while painters and fur people made each animal look realistic.

Not every species of animal was taken on the Ark, only kinds of animals: Stalhleckeriid Kind, Canids (the dog kind), Hyena Kind, Felids (the cat kind), Alligator Kind, the Cattle Kind, Pongids (the great ape kind), the Giraffe Kind, the Horse Kind, the Hippopotamus Kind and so on until there were about 1,398 KINDS on the Ark. Within each kind were 10s, 50s and 100s giving them at most 7,000 land animals and birds.

Juvenile KInd of ‘saurus’

The second deck contained exhibits that answer many questions about the the Ark. For example, where did fresh water come from to drink, bathe and wash clothes and dishes? How long did it take to feed and water all the animals? What was done with the tons of animal waste? What kinds of lighting was in the Ark? Various ingenious examples of mechanical and technical designs showed the intelligence of Noach and his family who were called to build this huge boat for their protection and provision.

One inch of rain water per week from the roof of the Ark funneled into large cisterns would have kept Noach’s family supplied with fresh water. Once the rain stopped, evaporation of the flood waters would have also caused rain to fall to keep the cisterns full. Gutters and piping from the cisterns transported water to each of the animals cages.

With regard to waste, I noticed that some of the cages had trays or small wagons underneath the slats that could be removed. Smaller animal cages had gutters where waste would flush out. The waste could easily be removed and then it could be taken to what is called a ‘moon pool’ and removed from the Ark.

Near Bow of the Ark, there were ‘moon pools.’ These were large tubes that were open from the top of the Ark through the bottom. As the Ark rocked on the waves water would push up into these pools circulating fresh air. One pool was used for waste and as the Ark rose and the water rushed out, the waste went with it.

There was a lot of artistic license taken when designing this Ark, Some of it, however, was taken from other sources like the Book of Jubilees as well as the creativity of the designers. Each part of the system of feeding, water and waste removal seemed very plausible because each system also helped to manage the enormous work load put on eight people.

Also on the second deck was a small petting zoo. I believe I saw porcupines and I hope no one would pet them. I did have the opportunity to feed an alpaca and receive a kiss.

The Alpaca Kiss

The third deck contained exhibits of life for Noah and his family on the Ark. Each life-size diorama depicted a different scene of Noah, Shem, Ham, Japeth and their wives. I’m not sure with so many animals to feed and take care of that the depiction of Japeth playing the flute is realistic, but I hope they did have time for each other and some relaxing moments.

The structure of the Ark is quite overwhelming. It is made completely of wood with huge tree trunks as center standing beams. Looking up there were skylights to allow some light inside. Looking down there were holds for more food and supplies. As we were reminded in the first film, this Ark is not really a boat, but made to look like the boat. It is made for people to come inside and see an idea of how the Ark may have looked. All of the empty space for visitors and exhibits would have been filled with more food, cages, feeding troughs and excrement tubes for animals.

We had a nice little buffet lunch at Emzara’s Kitchen. Emzara is the name of Noah’s wife from the Book of Jubilees. Apparently, the little stories they gave about each of Noach’s sons’ wives came from other sources as well because some of the I actually recognized from books I have read.

We took a stroll around the Ararat Zoo near Emzara’s and watched kangaroos boingy boingy, an ostrich stretch its head, some pigs trying to get out of their pen, horses and a zebra just chilling, and camels saddled up for rides. Many of the animals, especially the birds, are gone for the season. It would be a much better zoo in the summer!

One of my pet peeves when teaching children Biblical accounts is Veggie Tales. Suffice it to say that I do not believe that anyone should take courageous and strong men and women of faith and give them cartoon caracatures or make them into vegetables. It diminishes the value of their testimony of God and allows for the Bible to become ‘just another storybook.’

Beware of ‘The Lie”

The same is true about Noah’s Ark and making it look like a fairy tale. The ‘days of Noah’ were not fairy tale days and the Ark was not a bewitched pumpkin transformed into a floating vessel by some magic spell. The animals weren’t squished on the Ark and they weren’t hanging out on some exterior deck. It is these types of deceptions that take hold in the hearts of children and turn them away from trusting in the Creator of the Universe for life and hope. It was interesting to see that one exhibit dealt with this ‘lie’ and actually had nearly every children’s book ever written that propelled the deception.

The Lie of the Serpent

“So long as the earth exists, sowing time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night will not cease” (Genesis 8:22).

After our Ark Encounter and a bag of books and souvenirs, we went back to the auditorium for a lecture on Global Warming by Dr. Alan White. He holds a PhD in organic chemistry from Harvard University. He has been granted 41 US patents and is an author on 18 scientific publications. He is retired from Eastman Chemical Company and spends time speaking on creation science especially in the area of climate change. From all of his graphs and diagrams, it seems there is no real evidence for such an event as global warming because records have only been kept for 150 years. Even for those who believe in ‘billions’ of years and evolution, that’s not much time to gather the evidence needed to prove our earth is dangerously warming. Instead, there is much evidence for changes in climate – some temperatures going up and some going down. Whether or not one believes in destructive global warming really is dependent upon their world view: faith in God or faith in mankind. I choose God and the Truth of the Word:

“God added, “Here is the sign of the covenant I am making between myself and you and every living creature with you, for all generations to come:  I am putting my rainbow in the cloud — it will be there as a sign of the covenant between myself and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth, and the rainbow is seen in the cloud;  I will remember my covenant which is between myself and you and every living creature of any kind; and the water will never again become a flood to destroy all living beings. The rainbow will be in the cloud; so that when I look at it, I will remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of any kind on the earth” (Genesis 9:12-16).

Dividing the Word of Truth

“Do all you can to present yourself to God as someone worthy of his approval, as a worker with no need to be ashamed, because he deals straightforwardly with the Word of the Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

I know those who created the Ark Encounter studied extensively the  how and why everything from animals to food to people fit together,  however, there were a few issues that when I ‘divide the Word of Truth,’ I found lacking.

“… keep my shabbats holy; and they will be a sign between me and you, so that you will know that I am Adonai your God” (Ezekiel 20:20).

As much as I appreciate Ken Ham and his vision as a Creationist in this secular world of scoffers, his days of creation fall short of the entire week.  only saw one sign, and that in the main building, that even mentioned the seventh day with  ‘on the seventh day, God rested.’  Apart from that there was nothing regarding God sanctifying the seventh day, setting it apart from the rest of the days of creation.  Sanctification of the seventh day or Sabbath, as this day was also given a name, is just as important as knowing on which days God created sun, moon and stars or sea creatures. I have read many of his books over the years and he never addresses the seventh day as a created day.  In fact, many years ago I wrote to him on this issue. From his response I know Mr. Ham avoids the Sabbath because he wants to avoid controversy and he’s more interested in promoting creation over evolution, but the Sabbath is the ‘sign’ that we grasp Creation in its entirety.  This is what has been lost in the ‘changing’ of the Sabbath to Sunday and has allowed for more Christians to believe in evolution and deny the literal seven days of creation.

“I am the gate [door]; if someone enters through me, he will be safe and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).

Much of the Ark Encounter focuses on the message of salvation and uses ‘the door’ to emphasize this message.  Yeshua (Jesus) is the ‘door’ no less than ‘the door’ to the Ark was the entrance to salvation from the flood for Noah’s family.  It was cool how they had a photo op place set up to take pictures of individuals standing at ‘the door.’  My only concern is ‘the cross’ that was projected on it.  One of the commands for believers of the nations is to make the Jew envious for their own Messiah and salvation.  It always grieves me when Christians push ‘the cross’ when it is really offensive to Yeshua’s brothers and sisters.   After all, millions of Jews over the past 2000 years were murdered by those who donned the cross.  Though I understand the concept of the idea, perhaps another depiction could have been projected or nothing at all.  Allow the allusion to stand for itself.  

“Then I saw standing there with the throne and the four living beings, in the circle of the elders, a Lamb that appeared to have been slaughtered” (Revelation 5:6).

Within the exhibit “Museum of the Bible,’ another key comparison was depicted.  Just as Yeshua is ‘the door,’ he is also ‘the lamb who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).  This is represented by the ‘ram’ that Abraham found in the thicket, ’the blood of the lamb’ put on the Hebrews’ doorposts and lintel at the Passover, and all of the sacrificial lambs within the Temple services.  Yeshua is referred to as a ‘lamb led to the slaughter but didn’t open his mouth’ (Jeremiah 11:19, Isaiah 53:7).  Yet, in the exhibit of Adam and Eve sinning, some archaic dinosaur or amphibian was used as the sacrifice for their sin.  They wore furry clothes (not explicit in Scripture) which would not have come from the skin of a hairless creature.  I’m not sure why a ‘lamb’ wasn’t used to tie the sacrificial account from the Garden to the ram and the blood, but it seemed very silly.  

There were wonderful explanations about the number of ‘unclean’ animals vs. ‘clean’ animals that entered the Ark.  The explanations included the question of whether or not Noah understood the difference, but most likely learned from the differing numbers God brought to him. 

“Of every clean animal you are to take seven couples, and of the animals that are not clean, one couple; also of the birds in the air take seven couples — in order to preserve their species throughout the earth” (Genesis 7:2-3).

Correctly, Noah sacrificed ‘clean’ animals after the flood as worship of Elohim.  This had to be the case or the ‘unclean’ would never have been able to reproduce.  At this time, Noah is told that he may eat the flesh of animals like he ate plants.  Again, this is correct though it’s probable that not all green plants were edible: poison ivy or the leaves of rhubarb were not edible.   The explanation went on to say that the idea of not eating ‘unclean’ animals was for a certain time in a certain culture.  This belief system is unfortunate for several reasons.  First, each of the covenants built on each other.  Noach was given meat to eat while the Israelites were given more specifics of those meats in the Torah.  No one was to eat blood! Each covenant is based on faith – taking God as His word.

“And there is one Lord, one trust, one immersion, and one God, the Father of all, who rules over all, works through all and is in all” (Ephesians 4:5-6).

Second, rather than challenging all of the people walking through the Ark to consider that Yeshua didn’t die on the cross to save them from God’s teachings and instructions, such theology allows the faulty interpretations from Acts 10, 11 and Romans 14 to continue. Third, once again this theology divides the Bible into sections – one section for one group of people (Christians) and another for another group (Jews).  This is heresy when the Bible is one book written for all men for all time – also explained in one of the exhibits.  Yeshua himself stated in Matthew 5 that the Torah would not disappear until there’s a new heaven and new earth.  Perhaps what Noah was given in his new heaven and new earth was for THIS heaven and THIS earth until the restoration of all things!

“Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah — not until everything that must happen has happened” (Matthew 5:18).

Our day ended with a sunset over the distant Ark, not a rainbow of a covenant promise. Still, my Ark Encounter, even with my concerns, was one to remember – something everyone should do at least once ‘in these days of Noach.’ It brings with it a perspective of God and His Word in Biblical proportions.

“By trusting, Noach, after receiving divine warning about things as yet unseen, was filled with holy fear and built an ark to save his household. Through this trusting, he put the world under condemnation and received the righteousness that comes from trusting” (Hebrews 11:7).

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article,  please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.  

The Swallowing of Overwhelming Depression

“Now if someone has been a cause of pain, it is not I (Sha’ul) whom he has pained, but, in some measure – I don’t want to overstate it – all of you.  For such a person the punishment already imposed on him by the majority is sufficient, so that now you should do the opposite – forgive him, encourage him, comfort him.  Otherwise such a person might be swallowed up in overwhelming depression.  So I urge you to show that you really do love him” (2 Corinthians 2:5-7). 

Have you ever known someone who has struggled with ‘overwhelming depression?’  Have you ever considered it was caused by a state of pain where there was a lack of forgiveness, encouragement and comfort? from others, from themselves? 

Deeply-Rooted Pain

The person who lives with overwhelming depression has pain whether it is self-inflicted or from someone else.  Many try to mask that pain with alcohol, sex, and illegal drugs. For many who suffer they turn to the modern-day option of pharmeceuticals. They rely on medication because they are told their depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in their body.  Of course medical science can prove this is true, but from where did that chemical imbalance originate?  What is the root of the depression?

According to Scripture, the Body of Messiah imposes punishment on such people by their actions or inactions.  This can be done to unbelievers as well as believers causing a gigantic chasm between the healing power of our God and the lost and dying soul. According to Sha’ul the punishment (being ignored, judged, ostracized) of those in the congregation is sufficient, but he states more is needed – congregations are admonished to forgive, encourage and comfort the suffering individual. I would add this needs to be done outside the Body of Messiah as well as inside.

“Dear friend, I am praying that everything prosper with you and that you be in good health, as I know you are prospering spiritually” (3 John 2).

A book entitled “A More Excellent Way” written by Henry Wright delves into the spiritual roots of disease using the Scriptures along with his medical background.  

He suggests that in order to be healthy ‘mind, body, and soul,’ each of us needs to be in right relationship with God, with others, and with ourselves.

Forgiveness by God

First and foremost, forgiveness.  Forgiveness begins with the relationship we have with God.  By Yeshua’s blood forgiveness of sin and guilt is allotted to each of us as individuals.  Our relationship with God can be restored through forgiveness, but without Yeshua, our relationship with our Creator/Father remains broken.

“Bear with one another; if anyone has a complaint against someone else, forgive him.  Indeed just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).

Forgiveness from those with whom we fellowship is also necessary.  Yeshua commanded that we forgive our brothers and sisters in order to receive personal forgiveness from the Father.  We can’t have one without the other.  He commands we forgive a brother or sister 7 times 70 or until forgiveness brings healing to the individuals involved (Matthew 18:22). 

Forgiveness of Oneself

Forgiveness of oneself is often the most difficult because in wounding another we wound ourselves.  This can become a never-ending cycle of blame and hurt.  Forgiving ourselves when another refuses to forgive us can also be an insurmountable wall.  Tucked away in the second part of the two greatest commandments includes loving others as we love ourselves.  Loving ourselves includes forgiving ourselves in spite of Satan reminding us of our fallen nature  and judging our hearts with words like, “You’re not good enough to be forgiven.  You have to flesh this out!”  

Because the Adversary is the father of lies, these words are blatant lies.  Yeshua ‘fleshed’  everything out by taking on our sins, our sickness, our diseases, our guilt issues, our depression on the cross. 

Knowing that our Father has forgiven us and Yeshua died so we could receive that forgiveness can set us free from “overwhelming depression” because standing on Truth refutes the accusations of the enemy.  

Recently I read a sad article about a young woman in the Netherlands who was euthanized because she could no longer ‘live with herself.’  She had been sexually abused as a child and then raped twice as a young adult.  By 17, she felt she could no longer live and that death was the only way out of her pain.  Doctors agreed with her decision because in the Netherlands it is legal for anyone over 12 to make the decision to commit legal suicide.  Her mother also felt that because her daughter struggled with anorexia and nearly died, she should be allowed to die.   

Because the Netherlands is now post-Christian, placing those who trust in the God of Israel and the Messiah Yeshua, behind glass like in a museum as something ‘cute’ and in the past, this woman died because of pain – pain that Yeshua took upon himself so she could be healed –  body, soul and spirit.  Instead, she allowed the ‘father of lies’ to speak into her mind and she is lost for all eternity.  

This is not an example of the pain inflicted by the Body of Messiah, but it is the result of the fields being white for the harvest and few workers.  Death is not the way out of pain and ‘overwhelming depression’; Yeshua is.  

“Instead be kind to each other, tenderhearted and forgive each other, just as in the Messiah God has also forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

Encouragement from The Body

To encourage others in the relationships we have is the reflection of Yeshua’s life in us.  The journey to healing and restoration includes encouragement to continue walking through and eventually out of the pain one has suffered.   It is important for someone who struggles guilt and the ensuing depression must learn how to overcome and not revert into the same emotionally destructive patterns.   Encouragement from those in the Body of Messiah, the spiritual family of believers, becomes key to progressing the healing process. 

“Let the Word of the Messiah, in all its richness, live in you as you teach and counsel each other in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your heart to God in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16).

In what is your identity?

Each of us can become consumed by the disease of depression that we need to be reminded to see ourselves as God sees us – whole and healed being transformed into the image of His son.  Our identity should never be in the pain, the depression or the disease, but in Yeshua who set us free from the spiritual roots of disease. 

I knew a woman who asked that God put the sins of her husband on her so he could be saved.  God answered this woman’s prayer and gave her a very rare cancer.  Consequently, she embraced her disease as part of carrying her husband’s sin!  When she told me what she had done, I told her to immediately repent because we, mere jars of clay, are incapable of taking on our own sin let alone those of someone else.  Her cancer did not go away, but she lived years longer than expected and only passed because of something that had nothing to do with the cancer.

Awhile back I was part of a group of people praying for someone who was ill.  Different supplicators asked God to put the person’s burden of the illness on them!  We can carry the burdens of the one who is ill by taking care of them, encouraging them, ministering to their spiritual needs, but we were not created to carry the illness or diseases of anyone.  That is the reason and purpose for Yeshua’s death and resurrection.

“In fact, it was our diseases he bore, our pains from which he suffered; yet we regarded him as punished, stricken and afflicted by God.  But he was wounded because of our crimes, crushed because of our sins; the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him, and in fellowship with him, we are healed” Isaiah 53:4-5). 

Job was afflicted with horrible sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.  He scratched himself with a piece of pottery and sat in ashes.  He never blamed God for what was happening to him.  He never ‘cursed God and died’ as his wife suggested.  Though there was great discourse between Job and his friends, his righteousness before God had been tested because the Adversary challenged that righteousness.  In the end, Job learned about God’s Sovereignty and his life was restored with greater blessings.  In all of his struggles, he never embraced his afflictions as his identity and willfully consoled his pain by believing he suddenly has some inspiration as to how he was going to die!  

Though disease and working through the pain of disease may be allowed by God to transform us into the image of Messiah through suffering, God does not give us diseases to teach us a lesson or show us the way we are going to die.  One of the names or characteristics of God is the El Rafa or the Healer.  It confounds me as to why a Healer would inflict illness on His people and why people actually believe such nonsense.  Perhaps the only reason a person has a disease is because it’s the only way to send a faithful servant to a place where someone needs to hear the message of salvation in Yeshua.  

Praised be God, the Father of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, compassionate Father, God of all encouragement and comfort; who encourages us in all our trials, so that we can encourage others in whatever trials they be undergoing with the encouragement we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

At the last Passover as Yeshua spoke of the new covenant instituted by his blood, he promised a Comforter when he ascended to the Father.  The Comforter gives us the power to overcome sin in our lives.  Many of the sins with which we find ourselves entangled are rooted in our weakness as a human being, but by  embracing the Ruach, the Spirit of God, we receive the power to stand against those sins and the Comforter  becomes the ‘medication’ that not just manages the disease, but heals our mind and soul and ultimately our bodies.  

“May the God of shalom make you completely holy – may your entire spirit, soul and body be kept blameless for the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

The Conflict of Soul and Spirit

Henry Wright suggests that depression is a spiritual battle caused by a conflict between the spirit and the soul.  If that is the case, then what does that mean?

It means that when we are diagnosed with an illness like “overwhelming depression,” we need to stop and look at what is happening in our spiritual lives and how it’s affecting our souls.   The famous hymn says, “It Is Well With My Soul,” but is it?  Is there an emotional conflict between what you know is Truth in your spiritual man and what your soul (mind) is telling you? Have you embraced that you have a renewed mind (Romans 12:1-2)?

“For who has known the mind of Adonai?  Who will counsel him? But we have the mind of Messiah” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

Death from Suicide

I have known three people to take their lives.  The first was a man with whom I worked for several years.  I lost touch with him only to reconnect several months before he made that fateful decision.  Those who lived near him heard him fighting with ‘someone’ the night he died though he was alone!  He was not a believer, but very much into mysticism.  What battle was raging in his soul?

The second was a woman who claimed to follow Christ.  She never had any outward sign of depression though after she took her life, it was revealed she struggled with depression for many years.  Why, as a believer, did she succumb to the lies of the evil one?  Was there no one ministering to her the power of God over the enemy’s lies? What were her last moments like?  Did her spirit and soul battle? 

The third was a young man I had known since he was born.   As I tried to understand the reasons for his action,  I just could not fathom making the decision to ‘end it all.’  He had a wife and two very young sons.  Yet, he also believed the lies of the evil one who came to steal, kill and destroy his life and his family.  From the evidence surrounding his death, there was an obvious spiritual conflict going on between his spirit and his soul. 

The most famous Biblical suicide was Judas.  Once he betrayed Yeshua, he went to the authorities and said, “I sinned in betraying an innocent man to death.”  He, too, had a struggle between his soul and his spirit.  The leaders didn’t care that he had a conscience and he hurled the pieces of silver into the sanctuary of the Temple and hung himself (Matthew 27:1-10).

“We have God’s power for demolishing strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every arrogance that raises itself up against the knowledge of God; we take every thought captive and make it obey the Messiah” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  

Eternity and Self-Inflicted Murder

With each of those that I knew who took their own lives, much discussion ensues.  Some believe that the person loses eternal life; others believe they never have it.  Still others say, ‘once saved, always saved’ or believe that just because the person had loved one, they receive a special place with God.  Though each person has their reasons for their viewpoint, they never really dealt with the consequences of ‘murdering’ oneself. I had no real opinion so I put it in the same category of Pharaoh who’s heart was hardened by God because there was an eternal plan.  Only God knows the destiny of the one who commits suicide since it’s not definitively laid out in Scripture.

When I was in Israel I asked a man who claimed to be a cohen how Judaism viewed suicide. This man said the Scriptures clearly state that we will each stand before God and give an account of our lives.  In Judaism it is believed that the one who takes his life will also give an account of his death.  That was a new perspective for me to ponder.  Giving an account of our individual lives and every word spoken is quite overwhelming, but what a burden to carry to give an account of one’s death.  What would it be like to stand before my Creator and Father and explain why I didn’t want His breath of life any longer flowing through my body?  What would it be like to say, “I choose the day I’m going to die, not You?”

“It is the Spirit of God that made me, the breath of Shaddai that gives me life” (Job 33:4).  

After considering the words of Sha’ul to the Corinthians, I began to see another side of the ‘account of death.’  What if those who take their lives stand before God and say, “No one forgave me, no one encouraged me to walk in faith like Yeshua, no one comforted me with the comfort of the Spirit when I struggled?”  What if the Body of Messiah will ultimately accountable for the death of one of those who was struggling with “overwhelming depression?”  What if the Body of Messiah has lost the command to forgive, encourage, and comfort? What if the Body of Messiah has lost its connection with the Father, Yeshua (who has the Words of eternal life) and the Spirit that gives us that life? 

Sha’ul sayas in 1 Corinthians 11 that those who ‘eat the body and drink the wine’ in an unworthy manner, who don’t recognize the Body of Messiah,  drink judgment upon themselves.  He explains that is why there are many who are weak and sick within the congregation.  Could the same be said for those who don’t forgive, encourage and comfort those with “overwhelming depression,” suffering a debilitating conflict between spirit and soul?

Ultimately the answers to these questions will be answered by the Father in the world to come.  Until then, as another man, considered a believer, succumbs to suicide, I wonder what his resurrection moment will be like when he stands before God and gives an account of his death.  Will it be about a battle between his soul and spirit that he had no power to overcome – he lacked the power of the Spirit of God and walked a life of defeat?  Will it be that he just didn’t know and understand that his identity wasn’t in the pain he suffered, it was in Messiah Yeshua who took on the pain so he could be free from his suffering?   Or, will it be that he never had truly accepted the forgiveness offered by God through Messiah’s blood and, though he was a good man had a broken, unrestored relationship that will keep him from an eternal Paradise?  Whatever brought him to be ‘swallowed by overwhelming depression’ will be given an account. Whatever condition his/her soul, believer or non-believer, whose burden will it be?

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. 

Whatever happened to forgiveness?

Recently I had a discussion with my brother about forgiveness. It began with his question, “Whatever happened to people forgiving one another instead of always being offended?”

The dictionary defines forgive as the ability to stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake; to cease to feel resentment against. Within that definition is the word offense or the annoyance and resentment brought about by a perceived insult or disregard for one’s standards or principles. These definitions of forgiveness and offense make the question even more intriguing.

What happened to people that they can’t stop feeling anger or resentment toward others and continue to embrace perceived insults for one’s standards or principles?

“Every scheme of the wicked in his arrogance [says], “There is no God, [so] it won’t be held against me” (Psalm 10:4).

The answer to that question is quite simple though somewhat complex and begins with our culture’s loss of belief in God (Elohim) as a Sovereign King, loss of their identity as a human being created by Him, and loss of humility before this Sovereign King. Arrogance stands in direct opposition to Him and is the seed of fruit eaten in the garden.

“So repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord. Perhaps you will yet be forgiven for holding such a thought in your heart” (Acts 8:22).

Years ago I read a book entitled, “Out on a Broken Limb” by Shirley McLaine who has no fear of her Creator, but believes herself God. There was a little description of her standing on the shore of a great ocean punching her fists in the air screaming at the top of her lungs, “I AM GOD!” over and over confirming her stance in the presence of the Almighty that She. Is. God. Yet, in the ears of the Creator of the Universe, her voice sounds like a mere ant standing on a minute grain of sand. He could barely hear her tiny high-pitched squeal and only laughed at her arrogance. Such arrogance breeds offense and not forgiveness.

Yeshua taught in “The Lord’s Prayer:” “Forgive us what we have done wrong, as we too have forgiven those who have wronged us.” Yet, arrogance never allows for personal wrongdoing. Arrogance judges others as the wrong doers and therefore responds with offense and unforgiveness. This arrogant attitude destroys personal relationships in families between parents and children, marriages, friendships and even fellowships. Forgiveness is an act of humility and as taught by Yeshua has a condition, “but if you do not forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will not forgive yours” (Matthew 6:12, 15).

Herein lies what I view as the problem. We live in a culture where a heavenly Father no longer exists in the minds and hearts of His creation. So, who cares if He forgives us or not? We are ‘little gods’ and create Him in our image just like Shirley McClaine standing on the beach. We should care because without forgiveness we will continue to live in a culture of offense that will escalate in strife, anger, bitterness and murder while we wonder what is happening in the world.

“Bear with one another; if anyone has a complaint against someone else, forgive him. Indeed, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).

Love. Social media is filled with memes about love. Love is constantly preached in our culture, but it’s not a Biblical love that forbears, politely or patiently restraining an impulse to do something. It’s a Beatles kind of love that is humanistic making the individual the center of the universe. It is a deceptive love that speaks tolerance, but never forbears. This redefinition of love is not the authentic, unconditional love that each person’s soul truly seeks. In fact, it appears to be a type of love that actually promotes dissension and division between individuals and groups of people.

“Love covers a multitude of sins …” (1 Peter 4:8).

First Corinthians 13, the chapter in the Bible that actually defines authentic sacrificial love, says keeping a record of wrongs is not love and neither is being easily angered, rude or selfish. Yet, the greatest kindness we can give to one another is to bear with one another and not keep a record of the offenses, allowing them to build until they explode which is what we are seeing in our godless culture.

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted; and forgive each other, just as in the Messiah God has also forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).

According to the definition of offense, it is ‘perceived’ and not necessarily something finite or real. It is something that the minds of men embrace to the point that it takes over their entire thought process until it defines who they are. We were not created to be defined by a political view or morality issues; we were created to be transformed into the image of Yeshua, the one who gave his life so that we could not only be forgiven our offenses, but have the ability to forgive others. Offense, like forgiveness, is a choice and matter of the condition of one’s tender heart or having a kind, gentle, or sentimental nature. Again, tenderheartedness is not the norm in our godless culture because our hearts have become hard toward our Creator and we define ourselves and our lives apart from Him.

“You bring frail mortals to the point of being crushed, then say, “People, repent!” (Psalm 90:3).

In Hebrew, the word ‘repent’ is teshuvah which means to make a 180 degree turn in your life and return back to God. According to the prophet Isaiah, the solution to sin, wickedness and evil arrogant thoughts that bring offense, is a return to God and His ways which includes forgiveness (Isaiah 55:7) As mortal human beings we become easily offended by ideas and opinions that differ from ours, however, our Sovereign King is offended by sin, actions that are highly reprehensible to Him. These actions are outlined in the Bible that no one wants to read because we are such modern people and the words of our Creator have been deemed as outdated. Obeying them would be like going back to the 1700s. Really, it would be like going back further than that, back 4000 years. The underlying message of repentance is missing in today’s spiritually diverse culture. Fear of being intolerant or unloving has made acknowledging sin and its consequences a judgmental action rather than truly loving. Yet, forgiveness is magnanimous when repentance is true.

When post-modern individuals care about the actions that are reprehensible to God can they understand the depth of their weakened human state that focuses on offensive ideas and opinions and not the power of God’s forgiveness. We live in a culture that mocks God and pounds their fists in the air at those who do put their faith in Him. They still cannot see they are not ‘little gods’ and those voices raised in arrogance against God and His people still sound like a mere ant standing on a grain of sand. He laughs at every teeny weeny voice trying to be so bold as to redefine His world and His standards. It doesn’t matter what the government defines as right or wrong by law; governments come and go. It only matters what God defines as right and wrong whether it’s abortion, fornication, adultery, stealing, lying and the worship of the false god of self because His laws are eternal. Only through humility will anyone understand the depth of God’s love for humanity’s pointless arrogance against Him and be able to forgive others rather than hold onto an offended, judgmental attitude based on ideas and political concepts that will pass away when we do.

“Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). 

I find it almost laughable when godless people quote Yeshua’s words “Don’t judge and you won’t be judged” so they sound knowledgeable about a God they don’t want to accept or deny exists. These are the same folks who judge and condemn those who read the Bible as being judgmental! If only they would take one second and open a Bible, they would see the rest of that verse, “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” There is less judgment in the Bible than lovingkindness, mercy, grace and forgiveness. Instead of focusing on forgiving, forbearing and being tenderhearted, these misinformed people focus on judging and condemning others’ views they do not understand while pontificating Scriptures they know nothing about. It’s unfortunate that most of these people base their knowledge of the Bible on the behavior of many who claim to be Bible believers, but deny the reality of God’s commandments in their own lives.

“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered over …” (Romans 4:7).

Forgiveness is the willful act of covering over the sins and offenses of another. This is not the same as giving a thumbs-up to their sins and offenses for sins against God are established until the world to come and will ultimately be judged by Him. This type of forgiveness is the ability to overlook the offense and accept the individual in the state in which they live and think. When there is this type of forgiveness, relationships are established that may bring peace, joy, and hope into an individual’s heart.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in that the Messiah died on our behalf while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8).

While offense brings arguments, divisions, civil unrest and broken relationships, forgiveness brings restoration and blessing. In Hebrew the word for blessing is barak and means ‘to kneel down and show respect.’ This is the epitome of forgiveness – to kneel down in front of the one who has offended you showing respect for that person’s humanity as one created in the image of God. This is the greatest act of Biblical love, forbearance, tenderheartedness and forgiveness that the world not only is searching for, but needs desperately to see emulated by those who have had their sins forgiven by God through Yeshua and know the power and blessing of that forgiveness.

“Claiming to be wise, they have become fools! In fact, they have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for mere images, like a mortal human being …. In other words, since they have not considered God worth knowing, God has given them up to worthless ways of thinking…. They are filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and vice; stuffed with jealousy, murder, quarreling, dishonesty and ill-will; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God; they are insolent, arrogant and boastful; they plan evil schemes; they disobey their parents;  they are brainless, faithless, heartless and ruthless. They know well enough God’s righteous decree that people who do such things deserve to die; yet not only do they keep doing them, but they applaud others who do the same” (Romans 1:22-32).

Back to the original question: “Whatever happened to people not forgiving and holding onto offenses? Simply. Without God, no one knows or understands the concept of forgiveness and therefore holds onto their personal perceived offenses. Without God, we are nothing but bumbling fools who have been deceived into believing that we, mere humans, can make the world a kinder, better, more loving place. And, we can’t.

©2019 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. 

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