Is God Your True North?

Is God Your True North?

How do you know when you’re on the right path?

Lots of scriptures tell us to follow God’s ways. But are we sure we’re walking in the Light?

When Luke set out to write his gospel to the “most excellent Theopolis,” he used his exacting skills as a physician to write an account of the days of Jesus’ life among the Apostles and the common, everyday people with whom He lived. Luke greatly relied upon Mark’s gospel for information, since he was a contemporary of Paul and never actually met Jesus in the flesh.

In his gospel, Luke credits John the baptizer’s father, Zechariah, with saying because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace (Luke 1:78-79).”

Zechariah was a priest, and he knew the scriptures. He knew that the Light of God was promised to Israel, as we read in the following:

(Num 24:17) A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.

(Is 9:2) The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

(Is 60:2) See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.

(Mal 4:2) But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.

The Jewish believers looked back to the law to see how they ought to behave. And that’s a good thing, because what God had said was good remained good, and what He declared evil stayed that way. Looking at the law was good for showing us our sin; but did it light our path?

Doing away with the law and the prophets was not Jesus’ purpose here on earth. (Matthew 5:17) Instead of destroying what God had so carefully and compassionately revealed to His people, His Son came to fulfill it in Himself.

So to what would they turn to know how to walk properly?

During Luke’s days (right before the destruction of the Temple in 70AD), the Jews were trying to figure out their new lives as believers in the Messiah. Grasping the concept that Jesus’ work was all-inclusive and did not require Gentiles to “convert” to Judaism was difficult for them and shows that they did not see this new faith as separate from Judaism.

They did not understand that Jesus came to deliver a relationship, not a religion.

Photo courtesy of Paul Gilmore on Unsplash

The Jews who recognized the Messiah were understandably confused. They knew that God had given them the Torah and they loved it. To know what to do meant that they knew the path that they should take by always relying on the law. So when the Apostles proclaimed freedom and they really didn’t know how to live it.

The relationship that Jesus brought was meant to shine light upon the path of all who believed. He modeled the perfect life, but never belittled those who could not live a perfect life with Him. He did it in their stead, showing them the perfect way to reflect His light to those around them, but never requiring or expecting perfection from them.

How do we know we’re walking in the Light?

We know the things that Jesus taught: love the Lord your God, love others, honor your parents, respect those in authority over you, give unconditionally… we know what He said.

But what about when you are struggling to find a new job or your marriage is breaking up, or you’re being attacked without cause by your coworkers? What about when you face serious illness or your children come home from school sobbing over the way a bully treated them? What about when you’re at a crossroads and don’t know which way to go?

What about the realities of life?

First things first. Remember that Jesus said that we would suffer tribulations. He said as He faced every trial and tribulation we would every face, He understood and had the answer.

 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

Trials and tribulations do not mean you have wandered from the Light.

If you’re not feeling that “peace that passes understanding,” perhaps it is because you are trying too hard to understand it. To make it somehow fit the ragged emotions you struggle with.

Before we go a bit further, I want you to understand that I am NOT talking about blind faith. But there are times when we must simply acknowledge that God is greater and can stand at the beginning of our lives and see all the days He has ordained for us. His understanding is so deep and so wide that oftentimes our human minds cannot fathom what is happening.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Finley on Unsplash

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all my days were written in Your book and ordained for me before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).”

Trust in God’s goodness and faithfulness brightens the darkness.

There are many reasons we may not be seeing the Light in our circumstances. We may be facing the wrong way. Perhaps we have our eyes closed. Maybe we’re simply not attuned to the truth about our situation. And sin can blind us to His Light, too.

Harboring sin in our lives is a sure-fire way to keep the Light out. Once we allow God to shine His Light into the darkest recesses of our minds and spirits, sin is revealed and His reconcilliation comes flooding in. We have the ability in Him to conquer sin in our lives, and when we confess it before God, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

This by no means implies that we will understand all His ways in our lives.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).”

What is that picture you see there on the left? It looks like it could be a crack in the earth, a place in the desert where we could easily lose our way in the shifting sands. But that’s not what it is. It’s simply a regular plastic disk magnified to where all we see are the scratches in it. It isn’t dangerous even though until we know what we are looking at, we may feel frightened.

It all comes down to the object of your faith.

Do you trust that God has you? Are you truly safe in His mighty hands? If so, then spending time with Him will shine His Light on your path so that you can see. Perhaps only one step. Perhaps not even that much. Maybe He’s calling you to step out in faith and let Him lead you into the Light.

The Jews back in the gospel of Luke were trusting in the Torah to guide them. But once the Son of God came, a relationship began that is superior to the laws they had never been able to keep.

The Mighty One of Israel is His name. The Bright Morning Star cannot help but shine. It is His character to do so. The very first thing that God did was create light. Genesis 1:3 reminds us that God said, “Let there be light;” and there was light. He continues to shine His Light on His creation. In Exodus, while the plague of darkness covered Egypt for three days, the scripture tells us that “all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings (Exodus 10:23).” Elihu in the book of Job proclaims “Look, He scatters His light upon it (Job 13:30).”

There is a scripture in Isaiah that tells us how to know if we are walking according to the direction of God.

“You will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way. Follow it, whether it turns to the right or to the left (Isaiah 30:21).”

If you are a child of God, He promises light for your path. Jesus declared that those who believe in Him would not walk in darkness, but in light (John 8:12). Job assures us that: “You will also decree a thing, and it will be established for you; And light will shine on your ways (Job 22:28).”

So when you wonder where your true north is, when you don’t think that you can see your compass in the dark, remember that God promises that not only will you have light, but it will shine brighter and brighter.

 

Trust God. He is the Light of the World.

“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day Proverbs 4:18).”

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The Truth About Faith: A Messianic Perspective

The Truth About Faith: A Messianic Perspective

When you think of faith, what comes to mind?

Is it a religion (“my faith”), a friend who is always there, or a belief in something, perhaps God?

The Hebrew word for “faith” is emunah, pronounced eh•moo•NAH. (Most Hebrew words are accented on the last syllable, as you will see.) Let’s define faith three times and see if our notion of faith agrees.

Dictionary definition of faith (Dictionary.com)

  • Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
    “This restores one’s faith in politicians”
    Synonyms: trust, belief, confidence, conviction
    Antonyms: mistrust
  • Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
    She gave her life for her faith”
    Synonyms: religion church, sect, denomination, (religious) persuasion, (religious) belief, ideology, creed, teaching, doctrine
  • A system of religious belief
    Plural noun: faiths
    “The Christian faith” 
  • A strongly held belief or theory
    “The faith that life will expand until it fills the universe”

Biblical definition of faith (Christian)

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” Hebrews 11: 1

Faith is the connecting power into the spiritual realm, which links us with God and makes Him a tangible reality to the sense perceptions of a person. Faith is the basic ingredient to begin a relationship with God.

Faith is the assurance that the things revealed and promised in the Word are true, even though unseen, and gives the believer a conviction that what he expects in faith, will come to pass.

Jewish definition of faith

Emuna is trust and reliance upon God, both of which call forth behavior consistent with that stance of trust and reliance. It begins with acquiescing intellectually and by that means allowing a change in the heart to occur. At least twice a day, the Jews pray the “Aleinu.” In part it says: As it is written in Your Torah: “And you shall know today, and take to heart, that Adonai is the only God, in the heavens above and on Earth below. There is no other.”

They also pray the “Sh’ma”:

Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One. This prayer is essential to the Jewish faith. In Hebrew, it says: Sh’ma YIS-ra-eil, A-do-NAI E-lo-HEI-nu, A-do-NAI E-chad.

There is controversy over whether this essential Hebrew shows the Trinity or not. Many Christians and Messianic Jews assert that it does, indeed, show a “more than one, one.” They point to two words that certainly seem to imply more than a singular one.

The first word is E-lo-HEI-nu. It is translated “our God” (the “nu” at the end is the 1st 

person plural suffix meaning “our”). Elohei is plural and can mean gods as well as God. (One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes Hebrew uses pluralization to mean greatness.)

The second word is e-CHAD (ch is pronounced like the end sound in the name Bach).

Then they came to the Valley of Eshcol, and there cut down a branch with one אֶחָד, (echad) cluster of grapes; they carried it between two of them on a pole. They also brought some of the pomegranates and figs (Numbers 13:23).”

So you can see that the word can mean “one comprising many.” Taken together, it is said that the Sh’ma itself, crucial to the Jewish faith (emunah), can actually be translated “Hear O Israel, the Lord your Gods, the Lord is one (comprising many).”

A Jewish response to this is that echad is used many times to mean one and only one.

Deuteronomy 17:6 says: “At the mouth of two witnesses or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one אֶחָד (echad) witness he shall not be put to death.”

Thus, there are legitimate arguments on both sides. However, it is not the Sh’ma alone that establishes the Trinity, but the preponderance of Scripture that reveals the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Thus, it is by emunah that we receive the knowledge of the Trinity as Christians that Jews do not see. With them, intellectualism 

comes first followed by faith; with Christians and Messianic Jews, first is emunah, which then opens up our minds and hearts to receive knowledge.

 

Emunah is knowing God, not knowing about God.

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Offerings to God: A Messianic Perspective

Offerings to God: A Messianic Perspective

For premillennialists (those who believe that Jesus will have an earthly reign after the rapture of the church), it’s difficult to understand why there would be animal sacrifices during the millennial reign. After all, Hebrews 10 makes it very clear that God does not desire sacrifices and that Jesus’ death was the ultimate sacrifice once for all.

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law),  then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second.  And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:8-10)

  “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to Him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be His

servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast My covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered (Isaiah 56:6-8).”

Perhaps the best description of the Holy Temple of the Millennial Kingdom occurs beginning in Ezekiel 40. In Ezekiel 43:18-46:24, God gives explicit instructions concerning sacrifices and how they will be performed. So we know that there will be animal sacrifices then. In fact, without them, Daniel 9:27 would have to be completely misconstrued.

“He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an

abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him (Daniel 9:27).”

So why would God set up animal sacrifices in the Millennial Kingdom?

First, it is important to note that Jesus’ sacrifice offered the perfect atonement for all the sins of mankind from the beginning of time until the end of time. Do not think for one minute that sacrifices made in the Old Testament took away the sins of the Israelites. According to Scripture itself, that would be impossible.

But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins (Hebrews 10:4).”

The reason most Christians don’t agree that there will be sacrifices once Jesus is reigning is because they don’t understand what sacrifices were supposed to do. Animal sacrifices were designed to make men face their sins and realize that they were in need of God. The sacrifices were meant to bring the Israelites to repentance.

The Hebrews of early Judaism were not cold, unfeeling people. They actually loved their flocks, sometimes allowing kids and lambs inside their own houses, particularly before Passover. That Paschal lamb was taken into the house four days before it was to be slaughtered. These Jews, as I said, loved their flocks. (That’s precisely why Jesus used the analogy of taking care of sheep and calls us the sheep of His hand.) If you have a pet, you know how fond of them people can be. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m NOT saying that the Jews looked at the Paschal lamb as a pet—far from it! But having an innocent, baby animal in your home for a protracted period of time brought them severely up against the seriousness of their sin. It would require an animal being slaughtered on their behalf, shedding its own blood when it had done nothing wrong. In fact, it was to be a perfect lamb.

Sacrifices were never provided to win God’s favor.

The Psalmist  makes it abundantly clear that the sacrifices that God has regard for are a contrite heart and a humble spirit. Those, God will accept. God made the animals for His and mankind’s enjoyment. And the very first sin caused an animal to be sacrificed to cover man’s sin, not take it away!

For You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You take no pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:17).” “The LORD God fashioned garments from animal skins for Adam and his wife, and clothed them (Genesis 3:21).” 

So what will the sacrifices do in the Millennial Kingdom?

The exact same thing they did in the Old Testament. God has never delighted in the shedding of blood. Sacrifices are not pleasing to Him. They will be then as they ever have

been for mankind’s benefit. To bring us up short and show how serious it is to violate God’s commands.

Sin separates us from God. When the sacrifices on the altar in the New Kingdom take place, in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year.

The saints who are ruling with Jesus in that time will not be offering sacrifices even as a reminder of past sins. Because when a person—whether Jew or Gentile—receives light and life through Jesus’ sacrifice, that person is made completely new. The sinner he was no longer even exists. He does not need a reminder of sin, because sin belonged to a different creature, and because he will joyously be serving God as a creation who no longer sins.

 

And that’s Good News!

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).”

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