Themes of Elul – Part 1

Elul - Song of Songs

Repentance, Prayer, & Tzedakah annul the evil decree.1

Come away, my Beloved…

Today I begin a series of posts speaking on the themes of the month of Elul, the sixth month on the Biblical calendar. It is the month just prior to the onset of the High Holy Days of the Fall. Here are some ways to understand this holy month from a Messianic perspective.

Each day in the month of Elul the shofar is blown in anticipation of the approaching High Holy Days of Rosh Hashannah & Yom Kippor (and then immediately followed by Sukkot/Tabernacles). On Rosh Hashannah (in the Bible it is only referred to as Yom Teruah – the Day of Sounding), the sound of the shofar is said to awaken the slumbering soul and rekindle a yearning to return to its Creator. For thirty days prior to Rosh Hashannah, the day the books of Life and Death are opened, the shofar reminds us of our need for a spiritual renewal and a reconnection with our Spiritual Source.

Let us hear the sound and be called to remembrance. Continue reading “Themes of Elul – Part 1”

  1. Unetahneh Tokef / y.Ta’aniyot 65b

Narrow Road Concert Message

Narrow Road Concert

You may or may not have known that my old band (Narrow Road) had a reunion concert this past Saturday night. It’s been 20 years since the band first formed, 10 years since it’s last performance and around 15 years since I was involved personally. However, many of my old bandmates and I got back together and played a reunion gig at the local Christian college and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback so far. We played around 20 original song and had a really great time. I had an opportunity to share the Word during the performance and I thought I would share my notes. I integrated not only the name of the band (and the intent behind it), but also a few of the song lyrics as well. The challenge I presented integrated many of the thoughts on discipleship that I’ve shared on my site over the last year. I would love to hear your thoughts…

TODAY

Today Is The Day

Today is the day… The day to be born.
The day to be free. The day to be warned.
Today is the day… The day to decide,
for darkness or light… for wrong or for right.

The author of the book of Hebrews reminds us of our responsibility for “today.”

Scripture:

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?
(Hebrews 3:13-18)

KINGDOM CITIZENS

The message of both John the Baptist and Jesus was “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”  We have long since forgotten this message, particularly its original meaning in its original context. We should understand the message of Jesus to be calling us to lay down our own lives and agendas and surrender them to his kingship. But how do we do this and how do we spread this message of his kingship?

Typically, we think that the solution is either to focus on the fear of God (hell and damnation) or to focus on the love of God (grace and acceptance). When our focus is hell and damnation, we lose the intimacy between ourselves and our Creator. When we focus on grace and acceptance, God becomes molded into our image and his standard of righteousness is thrown out the window. When we are consumed with only the mechanics of the “do’s and don’ts” of our faith, our relationship to Christ easily becomes distant. When we say that we love Jesus wholeheartedly and this is all that matters, it becomes easy for us to justify walking in a life of sin. “After all, Jesus loves us, right? It doesn’t matter if we’re not perfect.”

But we fail to recognize the need for both love and fear of an Awesome God who both created us for companionship, and will one day judge us according to our deeds. To live life as a Kingdom citizen is to be subject to the laws of his Kingship and to enjoy his companionship.

Of Jagged Rocks and Cornerstone  

Does anybody know where their soul’s gonna go?
Does anybody see the rocks below?
I see the land approaching as the storm clouds roll
We’re living for the body when the life is in the soul

What are we living for? Are we living our lives for the next adventure, the next paycheck, the next moment? Or are we living our lives for our King?

Scripture:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
(Matthew 6: 19 & 20)

Vampire Christians

Deepest December

“Royal blood: poison to the vampires
which encircle your soul”

The reasoning behind these lyrics is that when the Royal Blood of Christ in our veins, our blood becomes poison to anything in this world that tries to suck the life from us. Through Christ, we should be “more than conquerors.” However, most Christians live a defeated life. Let me explain why…

A. W. Tozer said, “Salvation apart from obedience is unknown in the sacred scriptures.” Dallas Willard takes this a step further by saying,

“This ‘heresy’ has created the impression that it is quite reasonable to be a ‘vampire Christian.’ One in effect says to Jesus, ‘I’d like a little of your blood, please. But I don’t care to be your student or have your character. In fact, won’t you just excuse me while I get on with my life, and I’ll see you in heaven.’”

Willard has spoken out loud the silent thoughts of all Cultural Christians. He has exposed the heart of those who would invoke the blood of Christ in order to wash away their sinful past, but continue to proudly live a life in which the Risen Lord has no place.

They say the definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. The same is true in our spiritual walk. Paul tells us that if we have life in the Spirit, then our daily walk (life) should also be “in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). If we are walking on our own path, rather than following in the dust of our Master, how can we expect any different results than the ones we are already getting?

Are we a “vampire Christian”? Has our Cultural Christianity lulled us into a spiritual coma from which we cannot awaken? The gift of grace through the blood of the Risen Messiah is entirely free. Yet it cost Jesus his very life. Shouldn’t we at the very least give ours back to him, rather than merely feeding off of his blood?

Repent, because His Kingship is calling…

SPARK

Too many times we want to go out and change the world and start off by trying to “fix” everyone else. But the path to permanent, lasting, sustainable change has to begin with ourselves. Yes, we should be working to change the world, but it must begin with ourselves. It’s like one empty vessel trying to fill another, because we’ve been trying to fill empty people with the emptiness inside of us.

At one point the crowds begin abandoning Jesus because of his difficult teachings. Jesus asks Peter if he would do the same. Peter responds with the beautiful truth, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). But what were those “difficult” teachings of Jesus that caused his followers to give up and turn away?

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58)

Is this saying that in order to have a relationship with Jesus all we need to do is take communion? No, it is saying we must partake in his sufferings and that we must give our entire lives to and for him. In other words, we must allow his life to become our own by “feeding” on him, the incarnate Word of God, daily.

This is my challenge. I want to ignite a spark in you that will eventually become a flame. I want to set you on fire for Jesus, but not just in your emotions, but in your day-to-day living.

Sure, we know Jesus and may have even said the Sinner’s Prayer at some point of our lives. But the question is, “Does Jesus know us?” Have we spent time walking in his dust, sitting at his feet, filling ourselves with the Words of Life? If we truly believe that Jesus is the “Word made flesh” then the entire Word of God should inform our day-to-day choices, rather than sit on our shelves collecting dust. Does our daily life reflect a relationship with the One Whom we serve?

On A Whim

Should we even have to say
Should our actions show the way
Should we feel it every day
Or is it all a game we play?

CONCLUSION

The name of the band is Narrow Road. This name was chosen for a reason:

The Narrow Road

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

The wide road is believing in Jesus. The Narrow Road is living and dying for him.

Someone once said, “Repent one day before your death.” Jesus said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”

Today is the day… The day to be born.
The day to be free. The day to be warned.
Today is the day… The day to decide,
for darkness or light… for wrong or for right.

Pirkei Avot 1:13 — Messianic Commentary

Hillel used to say: He who aggrandizes his name, loses his name. He who does not increase his knowledge, decreases it. He who learns not, forfeits his life. He who makes unworthy use of the crown (of the Torah) shall pass away.

Rabbi Hillel is one of the most famous rabbis of the Second Temple period. He lived during late first century prior to the common era through the childhood years of Yeshua. He was originally from Babylon, but came to settle in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) around the age of forty. He took up residence in the Galilee and came to establish his own rabbinic school, known as Beit Hillel (The House of Hillel), which became the dominant rabbinic school of thought at the end of the Second Temple period. Since his life briefly overlaps that of Yeshua’s and his ministry being located in the Galilee, as well as the fact that nearly all of his teachings align with Yeshua’s, many have suggested that Hillel could have possibly served as a mentor for Yeshua in his childhood. Another New Testament connection and well known fact is that Hillel was the grandfather of Gamaliel, Paul’s teacher and the nasi (president) of the Sanhedrin during Paul’s life. These are some of the words of this great sage…

“He who aggrandizes his name, loses his name.”

If this is true, then the converse should also be true: “He who loses his name, aggrandizes his name.” When we look at the words of our Master, we see that this is indeed what he taught. He said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). He also taught his disciples that in order to become great, one first had to become a servant:

And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

“He who does not increase his knowledge [of Torah], decreases it.”

In Irving Bunim’s classic commentary on Pirkei Avot, Ethics from Sinai, he begins his comments on this section with the following illustration: “A man’s knowledge must keep step with his general development. It is considered an achievement when a one-year-old child begins to speak. But we can hardly continue to admire the child of twelve for his ability to talk. If he has not progressed since one, the child is a case of arrested development.” This may sound harsh, especially to the ears of those who have been under the impression that the serious study of Scripture is reserved for the elect; however, if we believe the Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God, then our knowledge of Scripture should be ever increasing, informing our day-to-day living. The author of Hebrews shows his frustration with a group of people who are slow to learn, saying:

“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:11-14).

Bunim’s observation is correct. The Word of God is the daily sustenance for our souls. In reference to the Word being spiritual nourishment, even Yeshua himself, quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, says that “Man shall not live by bread alone.” We are responsible for the teachings of the Holy Writ, particularly the words of our Master. Yeshua confirms this concept by saying, “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away” (Luke 8:18). We generally associate these words of Yeshua to that of our spiritual abilities, i.e. our “talents” (from a sub-conscience association with the English homonym of the same name, rather than “talent” being correctly understood as a unit of currency). However, in this instance, Yeshua is clearly connecting this instruction with our responsibility as stewards of his teachings. His words are our very life. Peter came to this realization with his confession, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

“He who learns not, forfeits his life.”

As we stated earlier, the Word of God is life. If man does not “live by bread alone,” his existence, therefore, is sustained by the Word of God. Again, if we think about the reverse, it should bear to reason that without the Word of God in our daily diet, our lives fade from existence.

“He who makes unworthy use of the crown (of the Torah) shall pass away.” The author of Hebrews says that the Word of God has the ability to discern our motives: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). If we are making use of Scripture for personal gain, we will be sorely disappointed in the end.