Encouraging Blog Posts

Poised to Emerge - Reflections on Sukkot 

On Rosh HaShanah  we are awakened by the sound of the shofar to recognize our sin and to shake off our complacency to it. On Yom Kippur, we inspect our lives with a fine tooth comb to remove any unworthiness and unholiness from our walks with the Lord. Finally, on Sukkot God gives us a reminder of the finish line…of the end goal…to focus our now newly cleaned and purified hearts and minds on to greater things…to look heavenward for the eternal sukkah and the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. We are exhorted to not waste our precious, limited time here on earth with frivolous and worthless pursuits, or to occupy our minds with regrets of the past, or worries of the future. We are reminded to put away the earthly sukkah of our fleshly bodies, and to seek first His Kingdom and all things will be added unto us. 

As I was reflecting on the above affirmations this High Holy day season, I was reminded of my friend, Kim, who got a special word from the Lord this year. It dovetails with what God has been speaking to my heart, and I wanted to share it with you. 

We have all seen the images of a butterfly or moth’s lifecycle. It first begins as a caterpillar fattening itself on vegetation, and then it spins its new home, and finally, we await with anticipation the glory that follows. With this image in the back of her mind, God said to Kim a very simple yet powerful phrase, “Those who don’t transform, die in the cocoon.” 

Kim was dumbfounded. The truth of this statement was like a knife to the heart. We work so hard fattening ourselves up on the Word of God and gaining the wisdom of the world, then it comes time for us to spin our homes in preparation of the transformation that is necessary for us to fulfill our destinies, and sadly many fall short. We are too engrained in this world…in the earthly sukkah, or cocoon, that we do not want to leave our comfort zones, and transform into what God has called us to be. We have our eyes focused on the earthly sukkah and on fleshly pursuits, and not on God, His will, and His heavenly sukkah/Kingdom. It is only in this transformation that we have the wings of freedom to soar, to worship, to reflect the beauty of the Lord in this lackluster place. Sadly though, despite God’s call for change, many believers will still die in the cocoon never having reached their full potential.     

I want to exhort you this year to submit to God’s transformation. Do not fear it! Get excited! God wants to make you beautiful as you reflect His beauty. He wants to make you successful as He is successful. He wants to show in you His power to take an insignificant creature and reveal His majesty, His sovereignty, His goodness! Let Him in! 

Let us pray this year, Father God, remove any barriers to our transformation. Make us new this day, in the name of Yeshua. We bind a spirit of fear of the unknown. We are never alone with You, for You never leave us nor forsake us. Take us on this new journey. Hold our hands, hold our hearts. Give us new wine, in new wine skins. Ignite us afresh. Anoint us. Appoint us. Renew our fervor for You and the things of Your Kingdom, this day. May we reflect Your glory and Your awesome redemptive, and transformative power to all who have eyes to see and ears to hear. We long to soar with You. Meet us where we are this day, and answer our call for transformation! B’shem Yeshua! 

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom 12:1-2)

Elul & Psalm 27 

As many of you may know, it is traditional to read Psalm 27 during the month of Elul. Elul is the month preceding the beginning of the High Holy Days. It is a time of introspection, repentance and getting closer to our Creator. This month I decided to write an expose on Psalm 27, not through the lens of teaching, but through prayer. After each stanza, pray with me for God to “renew a right spirit” within us. We are the Bride of Messiah, holy, and chaste. Let us make ourselves ready for the return of the Bridegroom. Let us surrender to the Lord, and not fight the work of the Master Gardener. Let us desire to be pruned, to be corrected, to be cleansed. Let us allow the Lord to remove the branches in our lives that no longer bear fruit, and to fertilize and fortify the branches that do. Let us surrender to His work to remove the idle, worthless, and vain things, and to refocus us toward the things He created us to accomplish. 

 

PSALM 27 

The Lord is my light and my salvation; 

Whom shall I fear? 

The Lord is the strength of my life; 

Of whom shall I be afraid? 

When the wicked came against me 

To eat up my flesh, 

My enemies and foes, 

They stumbled and fell. 

Though an army may encamp against me, 

My heart shall not fear; 

Though war may rise against me, 

In this I will be confident. 

 

Build our confidence O God, build our confidence! Not in the temporal things, not in the material things, not in the works of our own hands, but in Your light, in Your salvation. Father help us to bind the spirit of fear that destroys our confidence. Let us stand firm in the power and strength of Your might, for there is no Savior but You. You are the Creator of the universe, what created thing could stand against You? Let us not fear the creation: the people that speak destructive words, the decrees of sickness or death, the many evils of this world and its influence on others, the deception of isolation. Let us not fear the outside world, or our own inadequacies. You are bigger, greater, far more able to build up the bars and gates of our hearts and fortify our inner cities. May we house Your Presence within us with courage, peace, and confidence, for there is NONE like You! 

 

One thing I have desired of the Lord, 

That will I seek: 

That I may dwell in the house of the Lord 

All the days of my life, 

To behold the beauty of the Lord, 

And to inquire in His temple. 

For in the time of trouble 

He shall hide me in His pavilion; 

In the secret place of His tabernacle 

He shall hide me; 

He shall set me high upon a rock. 

 

There is no place on earth where there is true safety. Only in Your complete authority over every storm, do I find refuge. Within Your pavilion there is no frailty, no fear of imperfection, no worry. Help me find that place in You where there is complete rest for my soul, where I can gaze into Your beauty, sit at Your feet, and where You remove every care of the world. Hide me, O Lord, in You. 

 

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; 

Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; 

I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. 

 

I praise You for Your righteous vindication. For You act not for my name, but for Yours…that the world will know our God is a Good God that He fights for His people. We will honor You in every trial, for You are the glory and the lifter of our heads. Selah! 

 

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice! 

Have mercy also upon me, and answer me. 

When You said, “Seek My face,” 

My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.” 

Do not hide Your face from me; 

Do not turn Your servant away in anger; 

You have been my help; 

Do not leave me nor forsake me, 

O God of my salvation. 

When my father and my mother forsake me, 

Then the Lord will take care of me. 

 

Help us to seek Your guidance as we allow You to be the Great Architect of our lives. We seek Your face, this month. We seek Your plan, Your way, Your outcomes. Answer us when we call, O Lord, for we want to be a friend to You in all things, abiding in You alone, relying on You alone. We have no hope, but You. 

 

Teach me Your way, O Lord, 

And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies. 

Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries; 

For false witnesses have risen against me, 

And such as breathe out violence. 

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed 

That I would see the goodness of the Lord 

In the land of the living. 

 

Help us to have the heart of Yeshua to see each other not as we are, but as we could be in You. Help our unbelief, help our lack of vision. We were once wayward, but You sought us, wooed us, taught us. Help us to pray for our enemies, for those who persecute us, hate us, misunderstand us. Help us to show love even when we don’t yet feel it, for we acknowledge its power, for YOU ARE LOVE and in You we have the eternal hope that we will live to see the goodness of the Lord. 

 

Wait on the Lord; 

Be of good courage, 

And He shall strengthen your heart; 

Wait, I say, on the Lord! 

 

Grow our patience! Help us to see Your will outside of time, outside of our human limitations. For Your deliverance is exact, never late, and never early. Always arriving on time, every time. Strengthen us as we wait upon You. Let us not falter in our flesh, for the truth of Your Spirit transcends time.

The Dual Nature (the Fear and Love of God) 

I read an article this month that reminded me of a special Word that God had given my friend many years ago. As I read this newsletter article from a Messianic ministry named Jewish Jewels, it reminded me of my friend’s story and I wanted to share it with you this month. 

It says in James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” My friend was fascinated with wisdom and had asked God for it on many occasions. Once when she was a kid around 12 years old or so, she was talking with the Lord about a verse in Proverbs on wisdom that puzzled her. As my friend mediated on the verse in Proverbs 9:10a which says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” she thought to herself, “If the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, what is the end of wisdom?” 

Immediately, she felt as though God spoke, “The end of wisdom is the love of God.” As she thought about this an analogy came to mind. When we are young we obey our parents out of fear of them…concerned only with avoiding punishment, but as we age to adulthood and mature, our relationship changes with our parents, we start to obey them not because we are obligated to do so, but because we know they speak out of love and experience, wanting us to walk rightly. We choose to obey them out of a spirit of love and respect. Our relationship changes from one of fear to one of love. Isn’t our relationship with God the same…we obey first because He is sovereign, because He can destroy both the body and the soul (Matt 10:28), but as we age, and we see His faithfulness and love, and we respond to His urgings with grace and a heart of submission knowing that He would never leave us wanting. 

While it will always be true that we should fear the Lord and marvel at His awesomeness, our relationship evolves as we grow in grace. A lifetime of experiences, seeing God move in ways that only He can, to benefit us, to bless us, and to honor us should help us to respond in kind with more trust, more faith, more love. 

This dual nature of wisdom is present in Judaism as well. In the Jewish Jewels newsletter for August 2019, Jamie Lash writes: 

“I was unaware that the fear of the Lord (Yir'at Elohim) and the love of God (Ahavat Elohim) are considered twin concepts in traditional Judaism. 

Jewish tradition says that ahavah (love) and yir'ah (fear) are the two wings on which the Torah soars through the heavens. We are called to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, and bodies, yet at the same time to fear (revere) Him, humbly submitting to His sovereignty. The basis for the twin concept of love and fear is found in Deuteronomy 10:12, "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul..." 

Isn’t it awesome? What God spoke to my friend as a child is confirmed once again! God wants us to fear Him in our flesh so that we walk on the straight and narrow, but to show our love for Him by being obedient also (John 14:15). We as believers need both to help us to walk worthy of the calling with which we are called. Let the two-fold wisdom of God minister to you today. Let us respond by giving God the reverence, fear and awe His Kingship deserves, as well as, the love His faithfulness, mercy, and compassion has earned. May this wise truth manifest in all aspects of our relationship, b’shem Yeshua (in the Name of Yeshua).

True Joy 

I have a friend who loves to study Hebrew from the ancient paleo letters. As many of you know Hebrew was originally a pictographic language like hieroglyphics. You can learn a lot from studying the very basic building blocks of Hebrew, and often times learn the true meaning of a particular word. I am going to show you what a friend taught me about the word for joy in Hebrew. Joy is simcha in Hebrew, pronounced SEEM-kha. There are at least 93 verses in the Hebrew Bible that use this word. It is often translated as delight, joy, rejoicing, pleasure or gladness. But what is true joy? 

I don’t know about you, but I can count on one hand the number of people in my life that exhibit true joy on a regular basis. Let’s look at some verses in context and see if we can get a feeling for how God and the Bible defines joy. The first time we see the word simcha is in Genesis 31 when Jacob, his wives, and his children leave Laban’s house to return home. Jacob leaves suddenly and doesn’t tell Laban he is going for fear of how he will react. But when Laban finds out he is very upset. Here is what he says to Jacob, “What have you done, that you have stolen away unknown to me, and carried away my daughters like captives taken with the sword? Why did you flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and not tell me; for I might have sent you away with joy and songs, with timbrel and harp? And you did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters. Now you have done foolishly in so doing. It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.’” So the first time we see the word simcha in the Bible it is being used in the context of joy even when you are losing loved ones that you may potentially never see again. This is not just a happy-go-lucky personality, it is joy in the face of loss. It is making a conscious choice to see good, and to see God, in your life. Let’s look at another example from Isaiah 35:10. Here God is talking about a time when Israel will return to her land: “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Here again simcha is being defined as joy in spite of exile, death, despair, frustration and hurt. 

We often look at people with a sunny disposition and think they must have it all together…they must have all their bills paid, on time and in full, without the pressure of debt, where their families and friends are all healthy and whole, and everyone lives in peace…otherwise, how can they display such joy? I know I don’t feel joy when life’s challenges hit me? How about you? This is, however, TRUE JOY! It is the joy in the trial. It is the peace that surpasses understanding. It is the ability to sleep soundly on a boat about to capsize in a fierce storm (Matt. 8:23-27). Joy is what is seen in contrast to sorrow NOT in spite of it. This is also what makes joy so powerful. When you see someone rejoice before the Lord with all of their heart like King David, it brings a strength to the community, and to the person, that is unsurpassed. This is why Nehemiah 8:10 says, “the joy of the Lord is your strength.” This is more than a bumper sticker slogan, it is a way of life. 

Within the paleo-Hebrew, we can see this true meaning of joy expressed. Although pictures can be subjective at times, this is what my friend showed me that I believe gets to the heart of true simcha. When we put the letters shin, mem, chet, and hay together we get the images teeth, water, fence and a man holding up his arms. Traditional interpretations of these letters shows the true definition of simcha: “to reveal or proclaim when chaos is devoured in the secret place.” WOW! Doesn’t this just make sense! We often think of the storms of life as what is hurled upon us, but the true storms of life are within…in the secret place…in the place we don’t like to talk about and don’t like to show to others. When God does a transformative work in your heart in the “garden enclosed” (Song 4:12) to eradicate the enemy, to tear out the weeds of doubt, and destroy the pestilence that ravages peace, we need to proclaim His works to another! Don’t be shy! Don’t hold back! Declare His mighty deeds! Our God is powerful to save! There is no stronghold He can’t devour. Submit yourself to Him, and allow the areas of your life that He has redeemed to SPEAK VOLUMES! As the iconic song Hava Nagila says, “Awake, my brothers, let us rejoice!”

Everything Lives Where the River Runs - A Shavuot Message 

Do you have a best friend?...That person that will help you move your couch that weighs a ton, that person who will call you when you are sick and bring you chicken soup, that person who won’t leave your side and stops their whole world when you lose a loved one, that person you can laugh, cry, vent your frustrations to, who sees your good and your bad sides and loves you anyway? Yeah, I didn’t think so…for most of us finding that one friend who can, or will, do all of these things is an extreme rarity. We often have friends who will do some of these things, but not all. And let’s be honest, are we that friend to someone else? Probably not. For most of us this kind of selfless, self-sacrificing love can only be found one place, in the Holy Spirit. Who else can manage to fulfill every need, exactly when we need it? The Holy Spirit is the best kind of Friend because He isn’t limited by fleshly concerns, and there is absolutely nothing that will stand in His way when He wants to minister to us. Who could find a better friend than that? 

As we are approaching Shavuot it brings back reminders of the marriage between Israel and the mixed multitude, and our Lord. Shavuot reminds us that we have a tie that binds to that Forever Friend, a Companion for life that we can always call on, no matter what. The sad part is WE OFTEN DON’T. How often do you stop when you can’t find your keys and say, “Holy Spirit reveal them to me?” or do you just look for 20 minutes till you get frustrated retracing every step. How often do you vent about a co-worker to someone, but you haven’t prayed for them or for guidance in dealing with the situation? How often do you try to move that proverbial couch without praying for the strength to do so and without injury? Let’s be honest, TOO OFTEN! It may seem like small little things, but they add up to a larger relationship that is devoid of intimacy. The Holy Spirit wants you to return to your first love. Come back to Mount Sinai where you were united in holy matrimony. Come back to the Garden of Eden where you walked with one another in the cool of the day. Come back to relationship! 

If you have been feeling lonely, rejected, ignored, or just in need of a good friend, look no further, John 14:16 says, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—.“ That is such a beautiful word FOREVER. Forever means that we cannot be separated by time, or distance, or emotions, or seasons of life, things that often separate our earthly friendships. To abide with the Holy Spirit forever is such an awesome gift. This Shavuot let us renew our love and commitment to ABIDE with the Lover of our souls. To seek His face and not just His hand. One of my favorite lines from a Christian song says, “Everything lives where the River runs, I come alive, I come alive!” The River is the Holy Spirit and truly everything and every aspect of our lives comes alive when He is there to infuse it with life giving water. Allow your love life, your work life, your friend life, your financial life, your home life, your health life, etc. to be touched this Shavuot. For truly we have a good friend in the Holy Spirit. Allow His cleansing flow to flood every area of your thirsty soul! Receive His love!

Unity through Sharing and Studying the Word 

This month I began to think about the topic of unity…not just a “kumbaya,” philosophical concept, but something more concrete and practical…how studying and sharing the Word of God in our communities, affects unity. God’s desire is not for uniformity of thought, but rather a collective, diverse understanding that enables people to see our God and Messiah from all sides. 

Traditionally, religious Jews study in a place called a yeshiva which means “to sit,” because you generally sit in a place of learning. A yeshiva does not run lecture style, meaning the rabbi does not preach and the students merely regurgitate what he said for testing purposes. Rather, a student is paired up with a study partner called a chavruta in Hebrew which means “friendship.” This study partner, who is ideally on the same intellectual level, is designed to challenge his friend in his ideas, opinions, and theological understandings of the Word of God. He is there to hold his friend accountable in religious interpretation. This is why Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” It is not in pleasant, non-confrontational conversation that this sharpening happens; it is when there is FRICTION, through the lens of accountability and brotherly love, that sparks fly and our skills as believers are honed. It is also why Paul says in 1 Peter 3:15-16, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Messiah may be ashamed.” The only way we get good at giving a defense is to actually practice defending our faith in a safe environment. This is the Jewish way of yeshiva. Sadly, learning to defend our faith is a lost art in Christian circles, by and large, choosing rather to focus only on the topics that everyone can agree on. It makes believers weak and unprepared for the battlefield.   

Though maybe not as organized into clear study partners like the Jews, some of us do have those particular people we run our religious and theological thoughts by from time to time. While others of us, for reasons of shame, embarrassment, fear, shyness, etc. prefer for one reason or another to study alone, and keep their thoughts to themselves. (Aside: I once had a classmate’s father say to me when I was a child that, “Shyness was the devil way of keeping you from being who God has called you to be.” I have never forgotten this truth!) This isolation is viewed as an unhealthy habit in Judaism, and it is strongly discouraged. In the Talmud (Rabbinic commentary on biblical concepts), Rabbi Yosi b. R. Hanina is quoted as saying that “scholars who sit alone to study the Torah…become stupid” (Berakhot 63b). 

Why? Because it is a deception to think, even in small part, that anyone could possibly possess all biblical truth alone. God has bestowed upon each of us different personalities, experiences, etc. that have birthed a wide range of personal testimonies. Each of us possesses some biblical truth, and we need each other in order to have a complete and full understanding of the Word of God. Therefore, the Torah’s understanding of unity is one that elevates rather than eradicates differences. This diversity is partly what makes studying together essential for true unity. 

It says in Numbers 1:2, “Raise up the head of the whole Israelite community…” A famous Hasidic rabbi of the 1800s interprets this verse saying: “The reason for raising the heads is as we have learned in the Talmud (Berakhot, 58a): ‘This one’s mind is not like that one’s mind.’ God has apportioned each person unique goodness and life, for no two people are the same. Therefore it says, ‘Raise up the head,’ meaning, each one has to be raised up in the appropriate spot, and through this, everyone in the right place will be seen to be special and unique…if one person would take the place of another, then the whole tribe is incomplete.” This sentiment is also present in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 12:20-26, “But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” 

So what’s my message on unity…we need to humble ourselves and be willing to share our biblical thoughts and interpretations with one another on a regular basis and to make time to listen to the ideas of others as well. (Remembering: God spoke through a donkey. He can speak through annoying, needy, ignorant, know-it-all people, too.) We must allow for righteous, holy, and fruitful rebuke or confirmation to come forth, and to find joy in raising up each other’s heads and sharpening the countenances of our friends. Failure to do so will make us an incomplete, disconnected, weak, and disjointed Body. 

The devil knows this, as well, which is why he is so hell-bent on causing division and DISLIKE amongst the community. (Yes, I said dislike. Sometimes the reason you can’t stand someone is because God wants to use that person to bless you and the devil will point out every flaw about them so you no longer see the good in them, and in so doing, never receive you blessing.) Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish pulls it down with her hands.” We must be builders of gateways of communication. We must have the Word of God on our tongues and in our hearts. We must make concerted efforts to engage each other in the study of the Bible for edification and reproof that we all feel and know that we have been heard. 

Talking about and debating about the Word of God encourages and enforces right thinking and right theology. It also dispels arrogant, deceptive, and false theology. Forcing one another to defend their beliefs, divides the wheat from the chaff, the goats from the sheep, and creates a healthier more unified community because of it. It ultimately brings the dark into the light, where often times the roots of bad teaching can be found, sometimes buried behind manipulation, bitterness, fear, hurt and misperception. Often times these roots don’t come to the surface until pressed. As a community of believers, we are our brother’s keeper, and it is our duty to make sure we are all walking on the straight and narrow. There is much we can learn from one another. I leave you with one final quote from a Jewish book called, Ethics of Our Fathers (Ben Zoma 4:1), which states, “Who is wise, one who learns from every man…”

What Matters in the End (A Passover Message) 

As I write this, the family of Neil Abraham Lash are making preparations for his burial. For those of you in the Messianic movement you may very well know this name. Neil Lash and his wife, Jamie, created the first Messianic television program named Jewish Jewels, and it has been running for over 40 years. The Lash’s also started one of the first Messianic synagogues in South Florida called Temple Aron HaKodesh. By all accounts, they are pioneers in our movement. 

Neil died on Monday, March 25, 2019 at the age of 82. Many of us in the Messianic world who knew of his sudden stroke prayed fervently for God to have His way. As my friend, who has known Neil all her life prayed, tears streamed down her face at what God spoke to her about Neil’s final petitions before God, his last request. 

When someone passes, or as Neil would say, is “promoted to glory,” it is a strong reminder of our own mortality and our own legacy or mark on this world. 

As we face our end, it is common to think of what matters most, to the exclusion of all others. For the rest of us though, we get so caught up in life’s affairs that we think very little of what really matters, or of what our priorities should be. We often get bogged down with day to day distractions and frustrations, and we lose perspective. If it is one thing that you learn from someone who is older and wiser, it is that life is short and fleeting, MAKE THE MOST OF IT! 

As we are celebrating Passover this month, I began to think heavily about Messiah’s last words and request before the Lord. What were His priorities as He breathed His last? What should ours be also? 

In Luke 23:34, Yeshua makes one final plea before the Lord, one final request before His crucifixion. He says “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” 

Messiah’s last words were of forgiveness, not for Himself, but for others. Even though He know of the excruciating fate that awaited Him, He also knew that He was the only one that could save them from the penalty their sins deserved. It is only through the blood of the Lamb of God, and this spirit of forgiveness that can we be reconciled back to Him. 

Messiah wanted us to remember this, which is why it is so richly recorded in the New Testament. God did not just want us to “think” Messiah thought of us on the cross, He wanted us to “know” that Messiah’s final moments were pleas for our salvation. He wanted us to “know” that we were always on His mind, that we were what mattered most. We were His end goal, His highest priority! 

So what should be our highest priority? When we look back on the legacy of our lives, what will matter most? Will it be the vacations we took, the job or career we worked at, the hobbies we occupied our time with, the people we loved, or will it be the fulfillment of our God-given destiny? 

When I look back on the life of Neil Lash, I see a life that was devoted to proclaiming the love and saving grace of our Messiah Yeshua. When I look back on the legacy of our Messiah, I see a Redeemer who saw us through eyes of forgiveness even when He was about to lose it all at our hands. 

Oh what love is this! “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:12-14). 

Let us not just focus on what matters most when death is near, but to remember each other in life also…to love one another, to sacrifice ourselves for our brethren, to obey Messiah’s commands. This is how we will know we have made the most of what Messiah has given to us, when we forgive those who have wronged us, and seek their highest good, proclaiming that they too can enjoy an eternity with Him, if they choose to. 

This Passover let us reorder our priorities. Let us focus on what matters most and let that be our life’s cry, not just in death, but always. Let us proclaim salvation: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).

Character through Adversity - A Purim Message 

This month we will celebrate the holiday of Purim: the celebration of how a lowly Jewish girl rose to become the queen of Persia, risked her life to advocate for her people, fought to reverse the evil decree against them, and gained justice for the displaced Jews. Purim is a joyous holiday, but also a solemn reminder that the Adversary is tirelessly roaming about seeking our destruction.    

This is just one of the many themes in the Book of Esther along with victory, humility, courage, etc. It might surprise you to know, however, that the Book of Esther was once filled with much controversy. It almost wasn’t even added to the Bible. The debate centered around one main issue, that the name of God is never mentioned! Not once! After much rabbinic commentary, it was decided that even though God’s name is never mentioned, He is clearly moving behind the scenes throughout the entire book, orchestrating every event and milestone like a patchwork quilt. 

Often times we as believers have to deal with a seemingly unfair hand in life, filled with pain, tragedy and loss.  We often find ourselves saying, “Where was God in all of this?” This, in my opinion, is the main message of the Book of Esther, “The Lord will never leave you, nor forsake you” (Heb.13:5). 

I remember a saying from when I was young that goes, “When you can’t see God’s hand, trust His heart.” God’s love for us is pure, and as any true love does, it fights for the highest good, ALWAYS! You can’t always see God’s hand moving in your life, nor could Esther see it in hers, but He was there, not just to bail her out of every dark situation but to build her character so she could rise to meet the challenges in the darkness. 

God, too, helps us rise to life’s occasions. He prepares our hearts, listens to our pleas and gives us courage to fight the good fight. Together there is no hurdle we can’t climb over, no obstacle we can’t move, no pitfall we can’t avoid. Sometimes it seems like God is silent, but the teacher is always silent during the test. I heard a saying on the radio the other day, “Life is like photography. You need character to develop.” 

The Book of Esther teaches many lessons, but probably the greatest is how God develops character through adversity. Esther was an orphan being raised by her cousin, yet she handled her loss with grace. She grew up in a foreign land, under religious, cultural, and spiritual persecution, yet she obeyed the laws of the land faithfully. Esther was chosen as Queen of Persia, a job that came with fear of death at the hand of a fickle king, loss of her personal freedom, not to mention her virginity, to become just one of many in a sea of forgotten, used, undervalued, and neglected women, yet she was humble. Esther faced an evil pursuer who sought to kill, steal and destroy both her, her family, and her people’s future, yet she acted with courage, wisdom, and strength from on high. 

It is undeniable to anyone who has read the Book of Esther, that her circumstances and life’s challenges helped to shape who she was, and who she desperately needed to become. It is also undeniable that if Esther had failed to rise to any of the above challenges, we would not have a holiday to celebrate, nor a lineage for our Messiah. There would be no Jewish people. 

But…that is not how the story ended, or how it began…God knew her path before she walked it; He held her hand through every trial; He helped her to soar above every storm; He stood with her in victory in the winner’s circle.        

Indeed her Hebrew name, Hadassah, means myrtle branch. It was a kind of laurel placed upon the heads of those victorious in battle and in games. Esther bore victory, before she was victorious. Esther bore victory, before she even faced her first trial. Esther bore victory, because she knew in Whom IS the Victory. 

We too bear the mark of victory, when we remember that God is moving behind the scenes to develop our film, when we remember “When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart.” because “Life is like photography. You need character to develop.”

Anticipatory Love - He Provides For All My Needs 

The weatherman said we were about to get some in climate weather tomorrow. As I was sorting through my winter items figuring out what to wear, I saw outside, the birds were looking very busy. They were preparing… 

Not sure if all their food sources would be available for the next few days, they were preparing for the worst by frantically looking for food and eating whatever was available. As I looked on, I was reminded of the parable in Matthew 6:25-27, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”  

Now I know that this parable is about not succumbing to worry, but it is also about something else, something even more powerful, the anticipatory love of the Father. 

I don’t know about you, but I have certainly experienced many times in my life when God would give me extra money in my paycheck as a bonus or what have you, just to have my car break down or some unforeseen bill pop up. While I was no doubt frustrated by losing my latest “windfall,” I was also equally thankful that God had provided for my needs even BEFORE there was a need.  It has become so commonplace that now whenever I get a “windfall” I pray a silent pray, “Please, God let me keep some of it,” because on the horizon almost always comes a need for that money to meet. 

I am truly honored that my Heavenly Father, thinks of my needs so often, with such frequency and diligence as to not let one fall by the wayside. It says in Isaiah 65:24, “It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.” How lucky are we to know such a God? One who is strong enough to handle every crisis, powerful enough to thwart any enemy, compassionate enough to clean up our every mess, and loving enough to do it again and again and again. Truly there is none like Him. As the psalmist said, “Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!” (Ps. 31:19). How awesome it is to bear witness to His goodness toward us, and to be able to share that goodness with others. 

I felt that we all needed a reminder this month of how awesome our God truly is. You, my dear brothers and sisters, are more precious than many birds and you should walk through life as though you know this truth deeply to your core, because it’s TRUE! 

His love for you is limitless, boundless and unstoppable! Your needs never go unnoticed, or unmet, you heart never goes unfelt, and your prayers never go answered. What a mighty God, we serve! 

I am privileged to know the ultimate anticipatory love of God, that while I was yet a sinner, He provided a covering and a replacement for my guilt and shame. Though I didn’t deserve it, though I still don’t deserve it, He gave His ALL for me on the Tree of Sacrifice, and still gives His all for me, each day! 

Tell someone this month, of the anticipatory love of our Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). Tell them, He prepared this message for them, too! 

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Messiah Yeshua (Jesus),  from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man,  that Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the believers what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Messiah which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the congregation by Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph. 3:14-21).

Listen to Hadassah's cover of the song "How He Loves Us." Just click here.

Made to Worship - A Message for the New Year 

I was listening to a beautiful song by the group Hillsong United called, “So Will I (100 Billion X),” and a line of the song jumped out at me. I have put the lyrics to this song at the end of the blog so you can enjoy its truths also. 

As I meditated on the line, “If the stars were made to worship, so will I,” I was reminded of a passage of Scripture in Revelation 5:11-13. Many Messianic congregations use these verses as part of their Shabbat liturgy. Some of you may not be aware that Jewish liturgy has a lot of responsive reading. For instance, the leader will say “Blessed is the Lord” and the people will respond “Blessed is the Lord, forever and ever!” This is much like the Christian responsive, “God is good,” “All the time,” “And all the time,” “God is good!” 

Well Revelation 5:11-13 is responsive also… 

“Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ 

And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!’” 

This portion of Scripture always captivates me…the thought of EVERY creature paying homage to our Messiah! There are no exceptions EVERY creature in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea, ALL giving praise and glory to our Lord! This is an amazing, awe-filled thought! Have you ever wondered what a blue whale praising Messiah looks and sounds like? Have you ever wondered what a hippopotamus, or humming bird, or eagle or shark look and sound like when praising our Lord! EVERY creature gives the Lord His due, so as the song says, “If the stars were made to worship, so will I!”   

I don’t know about you but this sounds like an amazing opportunity! Who wouldn’t want to join the angels, elders and living creature’s invocation to worship alongside EVERY living being? It seems obvious that the answer should be a resounding, “Yes!” but in case you haven’t noticed, humans are the ONLY creatures that often say, “No” and rather chose to live in constant rebellion. Not all of us, at all times, of course, but each of us at one time or another has refused to “respond” and answer the call to worship. 

A friend of mine told me a personal story once, of when she was just 14 years old and God was inviting her to worship in the dance. When she was younger, my friend was very excited to dance before the Lord, but now that she was older and at that stage where she was very self-conscious of people looking at her (a stage we sadly don’t grow out of), she stayed clapping and singing in the back row, as usual. The next service came, and the next, and the next…each time with further pressing from the Lord. Each time she refused, trying to convince herself, and the Lord, that she was worshipping by singing and clapping, and that that should be enough. True worship, however, is rooted in obedience, a lesson my friend would soon learn. 

After one service my friend was asked by a former schoolmate to help her sell her last few candy bars for a fundraiser. Being a good friend, she agreed to help. She managed to get rid of most of the candy bars but she had just two left and there were very few people left to sell them to. Finally, she stopped at one of the dance team members and asked him if he would contribute. His answer shocked her. He said, “Sure, I would be happy to buy your candy bars. For each candy bar I buy, you have to come up and do one dance.” “Oy,” she thought, “What to do!” My friend was in a dilemma. She would have to choose, help her friend or cling to her pride. It never ceases to amaze me how God knows exactly which buttons to press. God knew my friend’s self-sacrificing character would win out…and as such she chose her friend. Well, next week came and it was time to pay up…so with trepidation she joined the other worshippers in the dance. No sooner had the song finished, that she felt an immense weight lift from her shoulders! It was so heavy that she couldn’t even believe that she had carried it so long without even noticing! It was at that moment that she realized, the weight she carried was her own disobedience! God wanted to make her free in worship, and through her example, set others free as well. My friend would go on to join that dance ministry, and eventually lead dance ministries in other congregations. 

The moral of this story is not that it is easy to be obedient, because it comes at a cost, often our pride. The moral is that the enemy wants to keep us weighed down so we don’t respond to the call to worship. We were made to worship! There is no getting around that. It is our purpose, and our destiny to reveal our Messiah in all that we do. We need to stop convincing, or rather lying, to ourselves and to the Lord, that our restrained, restricted, half-hearted worship is acceptable. It is not! 

God wants all of us, not some of us! He wants us to know the value of His sacrifice and to proclaim it openly, no matter who is watching, listening, or judging. This is never easy as we all have allowed the devil to label us…well I’m not a good singer…well I have two left feet…well…I remind people all time that God didn’t say, “If you are worthy, worship Me,” He just said, “Worship Me.” 

As we begin this New Year, we each have a choice to make. Will this year be a year of obedience and blessing, of proclaiming freedom to the captives, or heavy burdens, fear and pride, and lack luster praise…I don’t know about you, but I know, “If the stars were made to worship, so will I.”

So Will I (100 Billion X) 

Hillsong United 

God of creation 
There at the start 
Before the beginning of time 
With no point of reference 
You spoke to the dark 
And fleshed out the wonder of light 

And as You speak 
A hundred billion galaxies are born 
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form 
If the stars were made to worship so will I 
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made 
Every burning star 
A signal fire of grace 
If creation sings Your praises so will I 

God of Your promise 
You don’t speak in vain 
No syllable empty or void 
For once You have spoken 
All nature and science 
Follow the sound of Your voice 

And as You speak 
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath 
Evolving in pursuit of what You said 
If it all reveals Your nature so will I 
I can see Your heart in everything You say 
Every painted sky 
A canvas of Your grace 
If creation still obeys You so will I 
So will I 
So will I 

If the stars were made to worship so will I 
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I 
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I 
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I 
If the wind goes where You send it so will I 
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I 
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy 
Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times 

God of salvation 
You chased down my heart 
Through all of my failure and pride 
On a hill You created 
The light of the world 
Abandoned in darkness to die 

And as You speak 
A hundred billion failures disappear 
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here 
If You left the grave behind You so will I 
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done 
Every part designed in a work of art called love 
If You gladly chose surrender so will I 
I can see Your heart 
Eight billion different ways 
Every precious one 
A child You died to save 
If You gave Your life to love them so will I 

Like You would again a hundred billion times 
But what measure could amount to Your desire 
You’re the One who never leaves the one behind 

Songwriters: Joel Houston / Benjamin Hastings / Michael Fatkin 

So Will I (100 Billion X) lyrics © Capitol Christian Music Group