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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Friday, June 23, 2006

Prayer as a Path to Maturation

This Sermon was presented June 22, 2006 at Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue, Beverly Hills, CA, as part of a series on prayer.

3 God's power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowing the One who called us to his own glory and goodness. 4 By these he has given us valuable and superlatively great promises, so that through them you might come to share in God's nature and escape the corruption which evil desires have brought into the world [2 Peter 1:3-4].

1 Meanwhile, Sha'ul, still breathing murderous threats against the Lord's talmidim, went to the cohen hagadol 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Dammesek, authorizing him to arrest any people he might find, whether men or women, who belonged to "the Way," and bring them back to Yerushalayim. 3 He was on the road and nearing Dammesek, when suddenly a light from heaven flashed all around him. 4 Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, "Sha'ul! Sha'ul! Why do you keep persecuting me?" 5 "Sir, who are you?" he asked. "I am Yeshua, and you are persecuting me. 6 But get up, and go into the city, and you will be told what you have to do." 7 The men traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 They helped Sha'ul get up off the ground; but when he opened his eyes, he could see nothing. So, leading him by the hand, they brought him into Dammesek. 9 For three days he remained unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank. 10 There was a talmid in Dammesek, Hananyah by name; and in a vision the Lord said to him, "Hananyah!" He said, "Here I am, Lord." 11 The Lord said to him, "Get up and go to Straight Street, to Y'hudah's house; and ask for a man from Tarsus named Sha'ul; for he is praying, 12 and in a vision he has seen a man named Hananyah coming in and placing his hands on him to restore his sight." 13 But Hananyah answered, "Lord, many have told me about this man, how much harm he has done to your people in Yerushalayim; 14 and here he has a warrant from the head cohanim to arrest everyone who calls on your name." 15 But the Lord said to him, "Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name to the Goyim, even to their kings, and to the sons of Isra'el as well. 16 For I myself will show him how much he will have to suffer on account of my name." 17 So Hananyah left and went into the house. Placing his hands on him, he said, "Brother Sha'ul, the Lord - Yeshua, the one who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here - has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Ruach HaKodesh." 18 In that moment, something like scales fell away from Sha'ul's eyes; and he could see again. He got up and was immersed; 19 then he ate some food and regained his strength. Sha'ul spent some days with the talmidim in Dammesek, 20 and immediately he began proclaiming in the synagogues that Yeshua is the Son of God. 21 All who heard him were amazed. They asked, "Isn't he the man who in Yerushalayim was trying to destroy the people who call on this name? In fact, isn't that why he came here, to arrest them and bring them back to the head cohanim?" 22 But Sha'ul was being filled with more and more power and was creating an uproar among the Jews living in Dammesek with his proofs that Yeshua is the Messiah [Acts 9:1-22].

We will need to grow in prayer if we are to grow into the fullness of our divine human potential. Our highest destiny is to become partakers of the Divine nature, to grow into the fullness of Messiah—to become people who mature and become Christ-like. We cannot do this without a full, deep, consistent and costly prayer life.

First, prayer matures us by allowing, forcing, and emboldening us to face the things we are afraid of.

I recently wrote the following to a friend:

“I am at one of those junctures of life when I must reach out to God for stability, for moorings. for perspective. Life is full of ‘things that go bump in the night,’ things at the fringes of our perception, neither seen, nor recognized for what they are, but inspiring fear and destabilizing confidence and certitude. For me, at least, life is an island in a sea of dread, and the trick is to stay inland and avoid the shoreline. [But God calls us to the shoreline.]

Of course these are the rantings of a man who is still, at heart, a little boy, like most men, just as most women are at heart still little girls. We all need to call out and reach out for the hand of our heavenly Father, recognizing that we are not as grown up as we pretend to be, and to reach out for His hand, and let him explain to us that what we fear is not fearsome at all from His perspective.

The trick is to get over our pride and to call out.“

There are many things that "go bump" for us: the fear of sickness, pain and death, the fear of failure, the fear of not finding the kind of love that makes life worthwhile, the fear of meaninglessness, the fear of being rejected for the hidden things we know, or cannot face, about ourselves. All of these fears become the subject of a true prayer life, and true growth involves coming to terms with these fears, and encountering God's provision and perspective on each one of them.

Second, prayer matures us by allowing, forcing, and emboldening us to learn about real relationship, which includes learning to remain connected to someone who disappoints you and doesn’t always do what you want, but with whom you choose to stay connected because overall, the relationship is worthwhile. Staying connected with someone who pushes us beyond our comfort zone, and won’t settle for us being less than what we could be.

I think that people who learn to stay connected to God have the greatest potential for learning to stay connected in human relationships. Furthermore, I think that people who cannot stay connected in genuine, give and take, difficult, human relationships face twin dangers. First, they may not choose to connect with God at all. And second, they may only connect with God in an immature, narcissistic manner, so that they are only prepared to use God, like they do people. Their image of God will be but a reflection of their own needs and preferences. Also, such people, unprepared for the difficulties of real relationship, will tend to keep both God and people at arms length, keeping relationships superficial, eliminating vulnerability and risk.

This is a big problem for me, and I think for all of us. I have begun to think that most if not all difficulties we have building community here at Ahavat Zion could be solved if most of us became more deeply people of prayer. And prayer is not simply spiritual shopping. It is at its heart, seeking the face of God, pursuing relationship with Him, standing before the glory.

Third, prayer matures us by allowing, forcing, and emboldening us to face the truth about ourselves. When we pursue a true prayer life, we cannot avoid facing our own sinfulness—our pettiness, our self-indulgence, our willing bondage to certain appetites, our selfishness and indifference to others. You cannot truly stand in the presence of God without becoming aware of these things. And this is painful. Frankly, it is something we prefer to avoid. However, knowing that God pities us as a father pities his children, and that he does not deal with us as our iniquities deserve, and that He who spared not His Son, but freely gave him up for us all, will surely with him freely give us all things, knowing this level of mercy and forgiveness emboldens us to approach a holy God and to face our horrible immaturity, selfishness, and sinfulness. And if we avoid facing the truth about ourselves in this manner, regularly, in fact, constantly, we will simply fail to mature.

Fourth, prayer matures us by allowing, forcing, and emboldening us to live for greater, more beautiful, and less egocentric things. God calls us out beyond our small ambitions and our shrunken horizons, just as God called Paul out to a deeper and greater life than he had ever known

Fifth, prayer matures us by providing a context in which we can encounter and respond more fully to the Holy Spirit, who seeks to conform us to the image of Messiah. It seems obvious that it is those most engaged with God in prayer who will be most engaged with and by the Holy Spirit.

I believe that I have trouble praying because I have trouble denying myself. Contrary to the monstrous fantasies and caricatures that we sometimes see on TV, prayer is NOT a way to get whatever you want from God. Rather, the path of prayer is the path of maturation and of deepening relationship with God and with ourselves. In this maturing relationship, God will purify us, mature us, deepen us, call us to higher goals and values, and also teach us what it means to deny ourselves. Many of us do not want that—because we do not want to deny ourselves, we instinctively avoid prayer and avoid going on in our relationship with God.

But any parent can tell you that children mature through learning to deny themselves what they want, exchanging immediate gratifications for later ones, learning the principle of deferred satisfaction. So it is no surprise that we read of Yeshua who knew the path of denial and deferred gratification: “He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterward. Now he is seated in the place of highest honor beside God's throne in heaven. Think about all he endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don't become weary and give up” [Hebrews 12:1-3].

Today’s New Covenant reading from Acts concerning Paul’s call to apostleship and his prayers at that time is crucial in what it has to teach us about prayer,

First, Paul is praying because he is in crisis. He is praying out of desperation. This will also be true of us. Some of our truest and best praying will be prayer out of desperation. Perhaps it is only then that we truly pray.

Second, the answer to his prayer will include some kind of relief from his despair and affliction. This will also be true of us, although sometimes the relief will simply be the knowledge that God knows and cares. Even when the affliction remains, God can change our relationship to the affliction.

Third, a deepened prayer life will lead to a deepening of his call from God. This will be true for us as well. A life of true prayer inevitably changes what your life is about.

Fourth, a deepened prayer life will lead to a transformation of his relationship with others. We see how his relationship with Yeshua believers is revolutionized. His relationship with the Jewish establishment will be transformed as well. This will be true for us too. Our relationships will be transformed. And people who are unwilling to revisit their relationships with others will tend to avoid prayer, or will convert prayer into either meaningless going through the motions or into out-of-touch subjectivism.

Fifth, a deepened prayer life will lead to a deepening relationship with God includes a call to suffering and self-denial. This will also be true of us.Do you want a deepening relationship with God? If so, prepare to learn about self-denial, the kind of self-denial that won’t matter as much to you as will the privilege of knowing God deeply and having work to do to which He has specifically called you.

We will not mature as persons without maturing in prayer. We will not become godly without maturing in prayer. Each and every one of us will remain childish, petulant, self-deceived, and relationally stunted. We will live self-protective lives with shrunken horizons and meager goals. Is that what you want?

If you want a bigger, better, broader life, a life that includes risk and self-denial, but also maturation in every area, growing to become people of divine stature, then you will want to pray as a constant habit of life.

There is no better way to grow up. And, I would suggests there is no other way to grow up.

I think we will all agree that there is something very sad about someone who never grew up.

There are really only two choices: We can choose to be like Yeshua the Messiah, the image of maturity, or we can choose to be like the boy who never grew up, Peter Pan.

Which will it be for you? Your prayer habits will demonstrate which choice you’re making.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Liturgical Offering and New Hymn for the Messianic Movement

(The following is a new hymn, copyrighted, thank you, which I have written for the Messianic Jewish Movement. Hopefully, some day all of you will sing it. For you Scripture mavens out there, see how many passage sof Scripture are alluded to here. I will say one thing: The entire hymn grows out of themes and concepts found in 1 Kings 8, the Dedication of Solomon's Temple and his prayer on that occasion. If it is a good hymn, then it is deeply theological, not trite, and, please God, not blemished with forced rhymes. Of course, I am still tweaking this a bit, but here it is, subtantially as it will be, b'ezrat Hashem. Tentative title, "Solomon's Prayer").

O Lord God, there is none in heav’n like you, nor your like on earth below
Israel’s King
O Lord God, keeping faith with those you claim
Walking in your holy name our off’rings we bring

Neither heav’n nor earth constrain you
Nor can Temple walls contain you
For your glory fills the earth,
The sky and the sea
Bringing prayer and supplication
We, your chosen seed and nation
Now return our adoration
Offering praise, all of our days
Honoring you in every way
For you are our King

Please listen to our cry and hear us Adonai
Your people day and night are turned toward your throne
Forgive us when we sin, drive famine from our land
Enable us to stand, don’t leave us alone

Lord from your dwelling place turn now your holy Face,
Hear us now as we pray
For you are our Lord


O Lord God, with your hand you now have kept
The great promise that you made to David the King
O Lord God, our Messiah now has come,
He is David’s Greater Son, Yeshua is He

Here we stand a royal priesthood through the one who stood where we stood
Bearing shame and condemnation, and death on the Tree
He is building now a Temple, not of stones but made of people
Lauding Him who has no equal, we offer our praise, to Him who was raised
Honoring Him in every way, for He is our King

By very nature God, He did not think it odd
To come to us, a baby formed in a womb
And fashioned as a man, fulfilling Heaven’s plan
He lived, he died, and then was laid in tomb

He suffered for all our sins,
The Father exalted Him,
Now we confess him Lord, and bow to his Name


O Lord God, like the tables in the ark
Your Torah is in our hearts, eternal and true
O Lord God, like the cherubim we stand
Reaching out with holy hands uplifted toward you

As your Shekhinah filled the Temple, rest upon your holy people
May your Ruach breathe new life into us again
Causing flesh, and bone and sinew by your Spirit to made new
May we be raised in these last days
That we might obey in every way our Sovereign and King

Descend upon us now and fill us with your power
Then send us forth to keep your holy commands
In blood, and fire, and smoke fulfill what sages spoke
Make prophets of your women, children and men
Then will the Piercéd One be honored as David’s Son
And Israel be reborn
And everyone, home

Monday, June 12, 2006

Different Folks, Different Strokes, One New Man

The following is a study I did by invitation for a group of Gentile Christians in the Los Angeles area. It questions certain commonly held presuppositions which distort people's perspectives on the Jewish people and the nature of the people of God whom God is forming out of Israel and the Nations.

A. Paul and the Jew/Gentile Distinctive

Many people imagine that in Christ distinctions between Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles) disappear, and are no longer in effect. Notice the following four quotations from the Apostle Paul, written to Gentile Christians in his congregations. Do these support the idea that for him there is no longer any such thing as Jew or Gentile in Christ?

I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles (Ro 1:13)

I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry (Rom 11:13)

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men) (Eph 2:11)

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles – (Eph 3:1)

From the above passages alone, it is clear that Paul did not adhere to the "third race" perspective that has prevailed in the Church since the late second century Epistle to Diognetus, whereby Yeshua believers are neither Jew nor Gentile, but rather, "a third race." Although Paul does say that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, he is speaking about matters of status with God, and comparative dignity in the Body of believers. In these cases, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, bond nor free. But it should be clear that he continued to recognize that Jews were Jews and Gentiles, Gentiles. Indeed, his teachings as the Apostle to the Gentiles are indecipherable and open to grievous misinterpretation when this distinction is ignored.

How would you resolve the following “contradiction” in the writings of Paul?

Romans 3:1 What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2 Much in every way!

Gal 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

The answer of course is different communities of reference. For Jews, ritual circumcision is an initiation into a Divinely given covenant of responsibility and favor. For Gentiles, Paul's chief audience, circumcision is a non-issue, because the God of Israel has, in Christ, established a way that Gentiles can become part of the people of God apart from the Jewish covenantal sign, circumcision and the obligations entailed.

"Obligations"? Consider the following.

Gal 5:3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.

What did Paul say was expected of persons who were sealed with the covenant sign of circumcision? And how about this next passage from 1 Corinthians 7?

1 Cor 7:17Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God's commands is what counts. 20Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him.

In accordance with the earlier quotation from Galatians 5:3, what did Paul expect the lifestyle would be of people who were marked with the Jewish covenant sign?

Since Paul is writing to Yeshua believers here in 1 Corinthians, what did he expect would be the lifestyle of Jewish Yeshua believers?

What assumptions do you usually encounter about Jews and Gentiles who believe in Yeshua as far as “keeping the law” is concerned?

Were you taught that Jews and Gentiles in Christ should have exactly the same life-style, or different lifestyles? In other words, was the assumption that Jews who believe in Yeshua had one relationship with the Law and Gentiles another? Or was the assumption that the expected lifestyle was the same for everyone?

Paul is saying here that each group, Jews and Gentiles, should keep the Law of God that is appropriate to their station in life, but that, in Christ, covenant partnership is open to Gentiles, apart from becoming Jews.

B. The early Church and the Jew/Gentile distinctive in the Body of Christ [different folks].

Read Acts 15:1-21 and then answer the questions following:

1Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." 2This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. 3The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad. 4When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

5Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses."

6The apostles and elders met to consider this question. 7After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. 8God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. 9He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. 10Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

12The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. 13When they finished, James spoke up: "Brothers, listen to me. 14Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. 15The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

16" 'After this I will return
and rebuild David's fallen tent.
Its ruins I will rebuild,
and I will restore it,
17that the remnant of men may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who bear my name,
says the Lord, who does these things'
18that have been known for ages.

19"It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood. 21For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath."

What was the matter under dispute in this early Church Council? (Whether Gentiles would be required to ___________________________}

Here is the big question: What must we assume was true for these Jewish believers in Jesus for this discussion to make any sense at all? The answer is, they must have themselves continued to be Torah true Jews [and indeed we explictly find this to be true in Acts 21]. If the Jewish believers in the Jerusalem congregation had not been observant Jews, then the issue of whether Gentiles needed to become such never would have been seriously entertained nor vigorously debated, as was the case here.
C. Different strokes for different folks

We saw in the previous passage from Acts 15 that among the early Yeshua believers, Gentiles were NOT required to adhere to the same standards of Torah observance as were Jewish believers in Yeshua.

Acts 21:17-26 reinforces both the fact that the Apostle Paul believed that Jewish Yeshua believers should keep Torah, and that the early Church taught that Gentiles ought not to keep the Law. These events took place about 22 years after Pentecost—the Yeshua-believing congregation in Jerusalem is over 20 years old. Paul and his entourage are making a trip to Jerusalem to meet with the leaders of the Yeshua congregation there, especially Ya'akov (James) who is the most authoritative leader of that generation.

17 In Yerushalayim, the brothers received us warmly. 18 The next day Sha'ul and the rest of us went in to Ya'akov, and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, Sha'ul described in detail each of the things God had done among the Gentiles through his efforts.

20 On hearing it, they praised God; but they also said to him, "You see, brother, how many tens of thousands of believers there are among the Judeans, and they are all zealots for the Torah. 21 Now what they have been told about you is that you are teaching all the Jews living among the Goyim to apostatize from Moshe, telling them not to have a b'rit-milah for their sons and not to follow the traditions. 22 "What, then, is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 So do what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow. 24 Take them with you, be purified with them, and pay the expenses connected with having their heads shaved. Then everyone will know that there is nothing to these rumors which they have heard about you; but that, on the contrary, you yourself stay in line and keep the Torah. 25 "However, in regard to the Goyim who have come to trust in Yeshua, we all joined in writing them a letter with our decision that they should abstain from what had been sacrificed to idols, from blood, from what is strangled and from fornication." 26 The next day Sha'ul took the men, purified himself along with them and entered the Temple to give notice of when the period of purification would be finished and the offering would have to be made for each of them.

What do we learn from this passage about the relationship of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem toward the Jewish law, 20 years after Pentecost?

What do we learn here about the Apostle’s own level of Jewish observance?

What is explicitly said here about an apostolic policy dictating different lifestyles for Jewish believers and Gentile believers? Read carefully and you will see that in each of these cases, the presuppositions of the earliest layer of Yeshua-believing tradition differ markedly from those most prevalent today.

D. One New Man

Read the following passage, Ephesians 2:11-3:6. Notice the oneness language and the two-ness language, both of which are important to the argument.

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men) - 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles - 2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

In the passage, is Israel described as replaced by the Church as the New Israel?

Who are the two partners in the One New Man?

Is everyone the same in the One New Man or is everyone equal? What is the difference?

What is the difference between unanimity, uniformity, and unity? Which is presented here?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Being Friends of God

(This message was delivered on Shabbat Naso, June 10, 2006, at Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue, Beverly Hills, CA. It is a meditation upon our responsibility to be friends of God.)

Do you have friends or relatives you call frequently? If so, you might do well to ponder why you call them so often. Among the answers often given to such a question are, “To stay in touch,” “To find out how they are,” “Because I love them.”

Another reason we maintain close contact with such friends or relatives is that we know ourselves to be part of each other—we share a common life. God forbid, were such persons to die, or the friendship otherwise end, we would be effected as if a portion of ourselves had died as well. We share a common life.

God wants us to have this kind of common life with Him as a people and as individuals. This is also one of the emphases of the Newer Covenant: “They shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” and repeatedly in the Scripture, "I will be their God, and they shall be my people, and I will dwell in the midst of them." This knowledge of God is meant to be an intimate knowledge—the kind of intimacy you share with your very best friend.

It is interesting to note that today’s Torah reading begins and ends with references to God speaking to Moses. The very first words and the very last words of the passage name this speaking. Moses and Hashem had a relationship, a friendship.

In Exodus, we read that God spoke to Moses as a man speaks to his friend, and in next week’s parasha, we read that the Holy One spoke with Him “mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in dark speech; and he beholds the form of the LORD.” Moses and God had a friendship, as did Abraham our ancestor, who is called “the friend of God” [Isa 41:8; James 2:23; 2 Chron 20:7]. And as we learned last week, this kind of intimacy is part of the Newer Covenant and the Shavuot Blessing.

Yeshua and His Father had an even deeper friendship and relationship than did Moses and Hashem. And part of the marvel of Messiainic Judaism is that Messiah Yeshua invites his people into sharing the intimacy He himself experiences with the One whom He called “Abba.” Father.

A story is told.

Once, Rabbi Baruch's grandson Yehiel was playing hide and seek with another boy. Yehiel hid himself well, and waited for his playmate to find him. He waited a long time, and finally decided to emerge from his hiding place. When he did, he saw that the other boy was nowhere in sight, at which point Yehiel realized that the boy had not looked for him. Weeping, he came to his Zayde to complain of his faithless friend. Rabbi Baruch's eyes, too, brimmed over with tears, and he said, "God says the same thing: I hide, but no one wants to seek Me!" (found on line at http://www.narayever.com/rabbi/yk5762.htm)

God wants us to share with him a common life—even as Yeshua speaks of it so deeply in today’s New Covenant passage. This sharing of a common life is very much what our relationship with God is meant to be like in our Union with Messiah Yeshua. Paul spoke of this common life when he said, “It is no longer I who live, but Messiah lives in me.”

He means that the old sense of self he had, of simply being Paul, the religious Jew, has been upgraded to seeing himself as Paul, an extension of Messiah’s life in the world. In Yeshua's words, "I am the vine, you are the branches."

God invites us to seek Him that we might find Him . . .and not once and for all but over and over and over again.

On the subject of friendship with God, consider the following text from the Newer Testament.

1 "I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 Every branch which is part of me but fails to bear fruit, he cuts off; and every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes, so that it may bear more fruit. 3 Right now, because of the word which I have spoken to you, you are pruned. 4 Stay united with me, as I will with you -- for just as the branch can't put forth fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can't bear fruit apart from me. 5 "I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who stay united with me, and I with them, are the ones who bear much fruit; because apart from me you can't do a thing. 6 Unless a person remains united with me, he is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Such branches are gathered and thrown into the fire, where they are burned up. 7 "If you remain united with me, and my words with you, then ask whatever you want, and it will happen for you. 8 This is how my Father is glorified -- in your bearing much fruit; this is how you will prove to be my talmidim.

9 "Just as my Father has loved me, I too have loved you; so stay in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will stay in my love -- just as I have kept my Father's commands and stay in his love. 11 I have said this to you so that my joy may be in you, and your joy be complete. 12 "This is my command: that you keep on loving each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than a person who lays down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends, if you do what I command you. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a slave doesn't know what his master is about; but I have called you friends, because everything I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, I chose you; and I have commissioned you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last; so that whatever you ask from the Father in my name he may give you. 17 This is what I command you: keep loving each other! (John 15:1-17)

In interaction with this text, we may identify at least eight characteristics of that friendship into which God calls us through the Messiah. To make this lesson more memorable, it is helpful to link these characteristics to the word E.M.B.R.A.C.E.S.

Election - Just as people choose to become friends, so God chooses us to be His friends and we must reciprocate. Friendship does not “just happen.” There is an irreplaceable element of choice.

Merging - True friendship involves an intermingling of lives. Yeshua uses this kind of language of Himself and the Father, and of us and Him, more than once. See John 17, for another example. It is not that we lose our identity in that of the Beloved. On the contrary, we add something to our own identity by becoming one with Him--we not only become larger, it is more than that. We become larger by becoming One with the Infinite One.

Betterment - A healthy friendship improves one’s life. Certainly, that is what happens when we live as friends of God. And any human friendship that doesn’t bring betterment should probably be abandoned. Having the right friends is crucial, which is why Psalm 1 comments on the disastrous consequences of associating with the wrong crowd.

Respect – No friendship can endure without proper respect. We need to learn to treat God with proper respect: he is our friend, but not our chum. We must always be mindful of who it is before whom we stand.

Appropriate frequency - Friendships grow stale if not maintained. When I moved to Southern California at the age of 45, I came to realize I was lonely. I called my best friend from High School only to be strongly rebuffed. He rightly wondered why I was contacting him after a hiatus of a quarter of a century, since I had last seen him.

This brings up the question that lies at the core of our lesson today. What kind of friends are we being to God? Usually we are preoccupied with considering what kind of friend he is to us—but today, I want to put the shoe on the other foot.

Are you putting the effort in to maintain your friendship with God, or do you take Him for granted? Are you too busy for maintaining the relationship, suggesting that God understands how busy you are?Remember in this regard also the principle of respect.

Relationship with God can only be maintained if we remember who He is. What priority is your relationship with God . . .your time for God? In the Older Testament, we learn again and again that the God of Israel would not allow Himself to be but one priority among many, or one God among many! By definition, God must be priority one. What priority is He to you?

- There are many kinds of prayer, and ALL are important. Today we are focusing on prayer as conversation with God. No friendship can endure, thrive, or grow without ongoing communication. If we fail to spend time in prayer it like not bothering to call our friends and keep up with the friendship. The quality of the friendship will suffer.

- By engagement I mean commitment. True friendship takes work and commitment. Otherwise you are not and cannot be close friends with anyone, including God.

How committed are you to God, to His concerns, to the things that matter to Him? What does your schedule demonstrate or fail to demonstrate? Giving God His rightful place usually seems to us to be excessive, inconvenient, unnecessary, and fanatical. This is because we are all and every one of us natural born idolaters.

Again. It is a question of priorities, just as with any friendship.

- Yeshua said that the greatest measure of friendship is laying down one’s life for one’s friends. How sacrificial is your friendship with God? If your relationship with God is not sacrificial it can only be superficial.

So how shall we then live, in view of today’s lesson?

We begin to conceive of our relationship with God as a friendship, and evaluate ourselves by criteria such as these as to whether we are or are not being good friends to the Holy One.

In Prayer, in Bible Study, in Obedient action God and we share a common life. We can learn to go into daily life for Him, with Him, partnering with Him moment by moment, in constant conversation as if we had a Blue Tooth device in our ear.

We can be encouraged realizing that extemporaneous prayer is different every day, just as each phone call to a best friend is different, depending upon what is going on, moods, how you you’re doing, common concerns, news, etc.

This kind of prayer is not so much a duty as it is checking in with one’s best friend.

Our day to day life should be an experience of living one’s life in each other’s presence –Yeshua of course did this. So it was that He could say, “he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him,” And “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.”

What are you doing and how are you doing in maintaining your friendship with God?

Psalm 78:1-8 challenges us that we must share this friendship with the next generation as well.

1 O my people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter hidden things, things from of old-
3 what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD ,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
5 He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our forefathers
to teach their children,
6 so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
7 Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.
8 They would not be like their forefathers-
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
whose hearts were not loyal to God,
whose spirits were not faithful to him.

What we have to share with the next generation is not only information about God, the stories of His deeds, and His commandments, but also relationship with Him: spirits, hearts, wills hammered out and molded around our friendship with God.

This is more than respectability, theism, or Jewish identity. We can make our children respectable, theistic, and proud to be Jews on a part time basis, as a sideline. But passing on this kind of relationship with God cannot and will not happen that way. It is ever growing depth of relationship and friendship with God. And like all deep friendships it takes work. If we don’t have it, we cannot share it with our children, and our children will not have it either. We must not kid ourselves here—if we set low expectations we will surely meet them. If we set high expectations we may meet them as well, but it cannot be a sideline.

If the Shema means anything, and if the Bible means anything, it means this: God cannot, must not, and will not be treated as a sideline, even an honored sideline. If He is not priority one, then we are simply idolaters with a safety net.

What are we doing to nurture our friendship with God? What are we going to do to nurture our children’s relationships with God? What is to keep these relationships from going stale and becoming inoperative?

These question must be answered: this friendship above all others must be maintained that it might flourish and effect all of life and that the next generation might put their trust in God, having hearts loyal to Him, and spiris faithful to Him.

Can we call ourselves friends of God if we settle for anything less?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Shavuot Blessing

(This is a Sermon for Shabbat Shavuot, presented June 3, 2006 at Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue, Beverly Hills, CA. It concerns the quality of life which should be the norm of all who claim to be part of Yeshua's Messianic people, a quality of life too often conspicuous in its absence.)

Today we are celebrating Shavuot, the time when we give thanks for both the gift of the Torah/Scriptures and the gift of the Spirit, this, in addition to the original agricultural significance of the holy day.

As Messianic Jews, we believe that through Yeshua’s faithfulness and our faith in Him, we become heirs of a deeper relationship with the Scriptures and with the Presence of God than is otherwise possible, what we might call “The Shavuot Blessing.” Consider this statement from the Prophet Jeremiah.

31 "Here, the days are coming," says ADONAI, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Isra'el and with the house of Y'hudah. . . . 33 "For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Isra'el after those days," says ADONAI: "I will put my Torah within them and write it on their hearts; I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will any of them teach his fellow community member or his brother, 'Know ADONAI'; for all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest; because I will forgive their wickednesses and remember their sins no more."

Three blessings are promised here: forgiveness of sins, deeper relationship with God, and a more intimate relationship with God’s word. Today, we are going to concentrate on the latter two blessings— a deeper relationship with God and with Torah/Scripture.

We learn from the Prophet Joel that, through the Shavuot blessing, we all become “prophets” in a sense—that is, we become heirs to a prophetic kind of intimacy with God. This is why our Newer Covenant passage, referencing Joel, says this:

14 Then Kefa stood up with the Eleven and raised his voice to address them: "You Judeans, and all of you staying here in Yerushalayim! Let me tell you what this means! Listen carefully to me! 15 "These people aren't drunk, as you suppose - it's only nine in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken about through the prophet Yo'el: 17 'ADONAI says: "In the Last Days, I will pour out from my Spirit upon everyone. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my slaves, both men and women, will I pour out from my Spirit in those days; and they will prophesy.

This brings me to a question for all of us, a question I have been pondering for a while, and here it is: If we are supposed to have this supernatural intimacy with God and with His Word, where is it? Please, it is not enough to say “The Bible says we have it therefore we have it!” Frankly, too few of the Yeshua believers I know experience any sort of remarkable intimacy with God and with His Word. The best we can say is “The Bible says we should have it, but where is it, and how do I get it?”

Let’s take a deeper look at this prophetic relationship with God by examining today’s haftarah from the Prophet Habbakuk, who lived and prophesied during the time when Judah was attacked by the Babylonians, and the Temple destroyed. This is why, at the beginning of the book that bears his name, the Prophet Habakkuk says this:

How long, O Hashem, will I cry and and You not hear me: how long will I cry out to you regarding injustice and You not save? Why do you allow me to see iniquity and You look at evil deeds, with robbery and injustice before you while the one who carries strife and contention still remains? That is why the Torah is weakened and justice never emerges. Since the wicked surround the righteous, therefore justice emerges distorted. Look among the nations and observe, and be utterly astounded, for God is bringing about an oocurrence in your days that you will not believe when it is related. For behold, I am establishing the Chaldeans, that bitter and impetuous nation that will go across the breadth of the earth to possess dwelling places not its own. . . . It comes utterly for plunder. [Habakkuk 1:2-6, 9].

As we examine today’s Haftarah, chapter three of the prophecy, notice the texture of the prophet’s spirituality—feel the grain of it. What is going on in this man’s relationship with God?

Chapter 3
1 A prayer of the prophet Habakkuk. In the mode of Shigionoth.

2 O Lord! I have learned of Your renown;
I am awed, O Lord, by Your deeds.
Renew them in these years,
Oh, make them known in these years!
Though angry, may You remember compassion.

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
And no yield is on the vine,
Though the olive crop has failed
And the fields produce no grain,
Though sheep have vanished from the fold
And no cattle are in the pen,
18 Yet will I rejoice in the Lord,
Exult in the God who delivers me.
19 My Lord God is my strength:
He makes my feet like the deer's
And lets me stride upon the heights.

Let’s take Habakkuk as the prototype of the prophetic people of God, whom we are supposed to be. What characteristics of such people can we identify here? I detect seven.

Seven Characteristics Of People of Prophetic Faith Who Know the Shavuot Blessing

1) They are people whose prophetic faith is due to Holy Spirit enduement.

2) They are persons of prayer, so much so that they even write down their own personal prayers, at least at times.

3) They know the Scriptures, and study them as a habit of life

4) They have trusting faith that the Scriptures are a dependable record of the dramatic interventions of God.

5) They deeply long to see these works and deeds renewed in their own day.

6) They trust in the faithfulness of God despite dire threat and circumstance and God’s apparent absence.

7) They live out their spirituality in the givenness of their social context—as members of their people and their context, contemporaneously connected.

Let’s look at these characteristics briefly, each in turn.

1) They are people whose prophetic faith is due to Holy Spirit enduement.

Clearly, prophets were people who were especially anointed by the Ruach haKodesh the Holy Spirit. This is axiomatic in the Bible, as may be seen, for example, in Bamidbar/Numbers, chapter 11:

24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and placed them round about the tent. 25 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was upon him and put it upon the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did so no more. 26 Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested upon them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. 27 And a young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the minister of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, "My lord Moses, forbid them." 29 But Moses said to him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD's people were prophets, that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!"

In a very real sense, the anointing of the Spirit of which the Messianic Jewish Day of Shavuot speaks, and of which Joel prophesies as mentioned in today’s Newer Covenant reading, is God’s affirmative response to Moses’ prayer.

In addition to being part of the chosen people, Messianic Jews know ourselves to be those who are made right with God through the faithfulness of Yeshua, our Messiah, leading to an assurance of such right standing for those who have faith in Him. We also know ourselves to be in Messiah and he in us—there is a mystical union whereby He is the vine and we are the branches, and as we abide in union with Him we bear much fruit. But on top of this, more than anything else, the early Yeshua believers knew themselves to be the community of the Spirit. As one scholar puts it, “the sect of the Nazarenes was marked out within first-century Judaism by its claim to have been given the Spirit of God in a new and exceptional way” [James Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998:417]. It seems clear that there was a widespread belief in Second Temple Judaism that the prophetic Spirit had been withdrawn from Israel, such that prophetic activity had ceased. But the early Yeshua believers claimed to be that community upon which and through whom the prophetic spirit had returned to Israel.

The Newer Testament is unself-conscious in repeatedly making reference to the fact that the early Yeshua believers were the community of the Spirit, so that, for example, Paul could ask the Galatians “did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by the hearing of faith?” This question would have been nonsensical unless the Galatians knew themselves experientially to be the community of the Spirit. Similarly, in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the Spirit having been given to us as a downpayment on the greater inheritance we are yet to receive. This also makes no sense unless the Ephesians had an experiential sense of having received that downpayment.

So fundamental is this gift of the Spirit to Messianic self-consciousness, that Paul could say this in Romans Chapter 8:9 But you, you do not identify with your old nature but with the Spirit - provided the Spirit of God is living inside you, for anyone who doesn't have the Spirit of the Messiah doesn't belong to him.

He continues:
11 . . . if the Spirit of the One who raised Yeshua from the dead is living in you, then the One who raised the Messiah Yeshua from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you. 12 So then, brothers, we don't owe a thing to our old nature that would require us to live according to our old nature. 13 For if you live according to your old nature, you will certainly die; but if, by the Spirit, you keep putting to death the practices of the body, you will live. 14 All who are led by God's Spirit are God's sons. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to bring you back again into fear; on the contrary, you received the Spirit, who makes us sons and by whose power we cry out, "Abba!" (that is, "Dear Father!"). 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our own spirits that we are children of God; 17 and if we are children, then we are also heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with the Messiah - provided we are suffering with him in order also to be glorified with him [Romans 8:11-17].

Of course, ultimately, we Messianic believers are supposed to be people of the Spirit because this was the case for our Messiah, whose first words of public ministry in Nazareth, referring to the Prophecy of Israiah, were these: “18 The Spirit of ADONAI is upon me; because he has anointed me to announce Good News to the poor; he has sent me to proclaim freedom for the imprisoned and renewed sight for the blind, to release those who have been crushed, 19 to proclaim a year of the favor of ADONAI."

2) They are persons of prayer, so much so that they even write down their own personal prayers, at least at times.

Clearly, the prophets were people of prayer, Habakkuk was a person of prayer—prayerful communion with God, struggle with God, praise of God, all took place in an almost continual dialogue with God, which was the atmosphere in which the prophets lived, moved and had their being. Prayer was not so much something they did, as it was the air they breathed, and the environment in which they encountered and interacted with the Holy One.

We read of Yeshua as well, “he made a practice of withdrawing to remote places in order to pray”( Luke 5:16). As is the case with the Prophets, and certainly with our Messiah, of we are people of the prophetic Spirit, if we are people who know and exhibit the Shavuot Blessing, we must become and remain people for whom prayer is our spiritual oxygen—the environment where we strengthen and sustain our life in God.

3) They know the Scriptures and their holy tradition, and study them as a habit of life

Habakkuk, others of the prophets, Yeshua and the Emissaries, and prophetic people of God throughout the ages are not only people of the Spirit, as evidenced in an ongoing and growing life of prayer. They are also people whose spiritual vitality is sustained and nurtured through living in the Scriptures.

It is not simply a matter of knowledge, so that a person could say, “O, I already know the Bible, I’ve read it many times.” That is like a person saying, “O, I know what food and drink taste like! I’ve eaten and drank many times!’ One must revisit the food of the Word again and again, or else one risks spiritually withering and dying, just as surely as the person who foolishly stops eating. And by the way: if you don’t have much of an appetite for the Bible, do not fear. It is an appetite that grows with the feeding—the more you prayerfully and intensely interact with the Scriptures, the more you feel sustained by them and the “hungrier” you will get.

But if you do not know, study, and live in the Scriptures and in the intergenerational dialogue of your community concerning them [also known as tradition], then you will almost certainly not have a vibrant, real, Shavuot Blessing relationship with God. Your spiritual life will be anemic, flat, isolated and dead.

4) They have trusting faith that the Scriptures are a dependable record of the dramatic interventions of God.

We all need not only the gift of the Spirit, of prayer, and of the Scriptures, we also need the gift of faith, and faith is a gift—it is something that is kindled in our hearts by God, whether we realize or not. This is why, whenever you feel faith stirring, when you find yourself unaccountably drawn to or excited by something connected with the things of God, it is a good idea to pay attention to that—carefully tend these now warm embers of faith, and to ask God to blow upon them by the wind of His Spirit. In addition, we should each cultivate in ourselves a confidence that the Bible is the reliable account of what God did among people just like us, in times past, and of what God stands ready to do in the future and even in our day. We need to read, and pray in an atmosphere of trust, of hope, of anticipation. Paul puts it this way: “everything written in the past was written to teach us, so that with the encouragement of the Tanakh we might patiently hold on to our hope” (Romans 15:4).

5) They deeply long to see these works and deeds renewed in their own day.
Holy people, prophetic people, God’s people, will be people of longing—people who want to see the hand of the Lord in the land of the living.

“ADONAI, turn us back to you; and we will come back; renew our days, as they were in the past”
[Lam 5:21]

Adonai, all my longing is known to you; my sighing is not hidden from you [Psalm 38:9]

“My soul yearns, yes, faints with longing for the courtyards of ADONAI; my heart and body cry for joy to the living God” [Psalm 84:2]

“Just as a deer longs for running streams, God, I long for you. 2 I am thirsty for God, for the living God! When can I come and appear before God? 3 My tears are my food, day and night, while all day people ask me, "Where is your God?" 4 I recall, as my feelings well up within me, how I'd go with the crowd to the house of God, with sounds of joy and praise from the throngs observing the festival. 5 My soul, why are you so downcast? Why are you groaning inside me? Hope in God, since I will praise him again for the salvation that comes from his presence”
[Psalm 42:1-5]

27 "Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say - "Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." [John 12:21-28].

“1 After Yeshua had said these things, he looked up toward heaven and said, "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that the Son may glorify you -- 2 just as you gave him authority over all mankind, so that he might give eternal life to all those whom you have given him. 3 And eternal life is this: to know you, the one true God, and him whom you sent, Yeshua the Messiah. 4 "I glorified you on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 Now, Father, glorify me alongside yourself. Give me the same glory I had with you before the world existed” [John 17:1-5]

Glorifying the Father, seeking the glory and honor of God was Yeshua’s core motivation.. If we are people of the Spirit, the same will be true for us—we will want to see God glorified, and we will want to finish the work we sense he wants us to do in the world. Why? For His Name’s sake.

6) They trust in the faithfulness of God despite dire threat and circumstance and God’s apparent absence.

Lately I have been praying in the Psalms, and I have been repeatedly struck with how the Psalmist cries out to God in faith, and praises God, remembering His great faithfulness, amidst threatening and dire circumstances. Too many people run hot and cold on God—when things go well, they have a good word to say about Him, but when things are going badly, they either have nothing to say, have something negative to say, they complain about Him, or want to bail out on the whole religion thing. Such people do not really know what the Scriptures and the history of God’s people have to teach us. People who know the Shavuot Blessing will be people whose faith in God, whose praise of God, whose expectation of God, are not responses to pleasant circumstances, and are not quenched by threat and disaster. No: such people give evidence that they know God and His character, even when they do not know what God is doing or where He seems to have disappeared to. They trust in the faithfulness of God despite dire threat and circumstance and despite God’s apparent absense.

7) They live out their spirituality in the givenness of their social context—as members of their people and their context, contemporaneously connected.

This kind of spirituality and relationship with God is not an isolated, private thing, it is not the province of loners. This kind of prophetic spirituality is demonstrated, proven, and nurtured in the full orb of human social identity and relationship. Such people demonstrate themselves to be part of their people, and part of their people’s history with God. They are not hermits and superstars but prove what they are made of in how they relate to family, friends, the people of God, general society, the school, the workplace, the marketplace, the worlds of entertainment, commerce, ideas, education, politics. They demonstrate how they are related to God by how they relate to others. And again, they are not isolated, but see themselves as rooted in their people and their people’s heritage of faith, living respectful of that heritage and taking responsibility to pass that heritage on to others.

By way of summary, think of matters this way:

1) Yeshua is our link with God
2) The Scriptures are our outlook from God
3) The Holy Spirit is the Life of God among us
4) Faith is our outlook toward God
5) Our longing is for the will of God to be accomplished in our time
6) Our perseverance is a life of long of obedience in the same direction
7) Our connection is living as part of our people, contemporaneously connected.

"The essential thing in heaven and earth is ….that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living." [Friedrich Nietzsche, of all people, also quoted by Eugene Peterson in his book, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”].

I am suggesting today that without these seven things working together in our lives, and without us working on all of them as a habit of life, we will fail to experience and demonstrate the quality of life which we claim to be ours and which Yeshua came to provide. We will fail to enter into the Shavuot Blessing, we will fail to exhibit prophetic faith. Conversely, the more we give ourselves to these priorities and the disciplines and habits of life that support them, the deeper will be our relationship with God, with the Scriptures, and with that life which is truly worth living.