Raising children in the fear of the Lord
If you’re like me, you never gave much thought to children until your first child was born, then all of a sudden issues related to children went from the bottom to the top of your list of priorities almost literally in the blink of an eye.
Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
I don’t think it’s possible to point to one verse in the Bible and say that it’s “the most important one” but I do think this particular verse is of above average importance. So if you’re a parent (or you think there’s even a remote chance that you someday could be and/or if you think someone else you know and care about could be) I offer the following suggestions.
1. Have daily family devotional time. Family devotions don’t need to be complicated, they just need to include a short reading from the Bible (a children’s story Bible is ideal for this purpose if the children are very young) and then a short prayer and a worship song or two. This can be done in just ten minutes or so as you’re putting your children to bed at night. For families with small children, this is about as long as they even SHOULD take.
But a daily habit of spending time together with God as a family can and should start as soon as a couple gets engaged and it should continue for a lifetime, but it’s ESPECIALLY important for children. Don’t wait until they’re “old enough to understand” but start even when they’re just home from the hospital after being born. They’ll pick up more than you think they will and what they learn will stick with them for their whole lives. There are MANY testimonies of people drifting away from the Lord during their teen and young adult years but holding on to something they learned as a child and eventually having that play a part in them coming back to God later in life.
2. Pray daily for your own children, your children’s future spouse, your children’s friends and their parents and families and their teachers. This can be done as part of the daily family devotions and your children can join in when they’re ready to start praying out loud themselves.
3. Be part of a congregation which makes ministering to the children a priority. If you’re part of a congregation which struggles to find volunteers for the children’s ministry, BE THE PERSON WHO VOLUNTEERS!
4. Be as involved as possible in the school where your children attend. Get involved in helping with after-school activities, sports, clubs, etc. Many of the children your child attends school with are in a home without both parents and/or or with parents who don’t pay much attention to them. These children are growing up without the role models, love, support and attention they need to become successful adults. As followers of Jesus Christ, we MUST care for these children who fit the Biblical definition of “orphans and fatherless” because we’ve been directed to by God but also out of enlightened self-interest. These children will have an influence on our own children, and someday they’ll go from being our children’s classmate to being their co-workers, neighbours, and maybe even spouses. For our own children’s sake, we need to do whatever we can to make sure they’re cared for and given the best possible chance at a successful future.
There’s a cliché that “children don’t raise themselves” and it’s undeniably true. Our children are too important to leave their spiritual instruction to the pastors and teachers at the fellowship we attend, although that part of their instruction is vitally important. We have them in our homes 7 days a week, and every single one of those days should include “instruction” on how to follow the Lord. Needless to say, they won’t receive such instruction at school.
But in addition to that, remember that Psalm 68:5 says “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation”
So to be, as an old saying goes, “the hands and feet and eyes and ears of God” to do the work of His Kingdom on this Earth until Jesus Christ returns to it, should be a priority for EVERYONE who calls themselves a Christian. The Bible makes it clear that God cares a great deal for children, especially orphans and the fatherless, so if He cares about them you and I should too. We must start by taking care of our own children, but that’s just a start. We must make the care and instruction of their friends a priority too.
All of this requires a huge sacrifice of our time, energy and even our money. But there’s nothing more important.
Aaron is a member of Jerusalem Assembly, House of Redemption.
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Acts 3:19-21 – What does it mean?
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before whom Heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. – Acts 3:19-21
There are those who believe and teach and live as if the Apostle Peter preached that until we restore all things, the Lord Yeshua will not return; or else, that He will return after He has restored all things. Does anyone know what ALL things refer to, and are you sure you haven’t left out anything?
Others believe and teach and live as the Apostle Peter preached that when the time comes for the restoration of all things, then Yeshua will return to do that as He establishes God’s Kingdom back to Israel and over all of the nations. Satan is the current prince of this world, and will remain so until Jesus returns to imprison him.
Last year I was asked to speak at a conference based on v.21. I brought a dissenting view.
How one understands and interprets these verses, in which Peter meanwhile calls Jewish people and others to repentance in anticipation of Yeshua being sent back, will inform our worldview and the expectations we have leading up to that day.
What does it mean to you?
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, May 6, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Howard Bass is the congregation pastor/leader of Nachalat Yeshua (Yeshua's Inheritance) in Beer Sheva, Israel.
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The power of knowing God
“Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence. Let us know the Lord; let us press on to know Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:1-3
If you’ve walked any distance in this life, you will have gone through times where the circumstances didn’t line up with your personal understanding of the term “blessing”. Prolonged seasons like this can lead to us feeling weary or baffled in our spiritual walk, because we don’t understand what is happening. Pain, frustration, sickness, grief or rejection can cause you to retreat, losing sight of God’s perfect plan and destiny for your life. Pretty soon, you find yourself in a dry and parched place emotionally and/or spiritually. Why does this happen? and how do we come back from that place?
I have often wondered about Elijah’s decision to run from Queen Jezebel, less than twenty-four hours after God answers his prayer with fire from heaven. Consider it…Elijah, who in his own words, ‘stood before the Lord’, and whose walk with God had already resulted in tremendous spiritual authority and supernatural miracles, ran away.
Elijah had just returned, after being away from Israel, for the famous showdown on Mt. Carmel. At the end of this monumental spiritual confrontation, Elijah witnesses not only a national revival (the people choose God) but he decimates the prophets of Baal. Then he prays, and God answers him, this time with rain. Yet, after all these incredible events, at the word of Jezebel, Elijah runs. He turns away and flees to a dry, desolate place, deciding that he is the only one remaining who wants to pursue the one true God. Had he not just witnessed something few in the entire history of the human race would ever see? Had God not then given him the victory over the enemy camp and changed weather patterns to bring the rains of blessing? How could Elijah still doubt the power of God to answer and overcome the wayward rulers?
My life is dedicated to worshiping God and to creating a place where the hearts of men can meet the heart of God. I believe that this is where true transformation occurs, which leads to fruitfulness and the fulfillment of our calling in God. I have seen the amazing power and tasted of the goodness of God. Recently however, I walked through a very difficult season. It was long and drawn out. I cried out to the Lord in prayer until I couldn’t pray anymore. I tried everything I knew to understand the will of God and to overcome, but the seeming lack of response caused the hardship to seem overwhelming. I could not hear the voice of God regarding that for which I was seeking Him, and felt despair. Retreating, I found myself in a spiritual desert where the silence all around me was deafening.
“I have had enough Lord,” Elijah says (1 Kings 19:4). He was emotionally, physically and dare I say spiritually, spent. He had walked faithfully, and still in Zarephath Elijah had been accused by the widow of causing her son’s death. Elijah had dug deep then, and by the power of God raised her child from the dead. He expected the complete transformation of the rulers and the people, following the tremendous events on Mt. Carmel, but the king and queen refused to repent. Elijah could not see his way clear to the end goal which he knew was God’s ultimate desire – to restore the hearts of the nation to Himself. He knew if the leaders didn’t have a change of heart, the chances of true lasting transformation were small. Disappointed, afraid and having come to the end of himself, Elijah withdrew.
Right at that moment God comes calling. Just like in the garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve stepped out of His marvelous plan. While they were hiding God came looking for them. Here is God’s incredible response to Elijah’s plea in the desert, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord” (1 Kings 19:11). God’s call through the prophet Hosea is the same; that we come back to the Lord so that He may restore and heal us, so that we will live in His presence. How could we resist such a call by the Lord?
In the desert, God meets Elijah and gives him divine instruction and strategy concerning the future. God’s plan was different. He shows Elijah that he is not alone and commissions Elijah to further invest into his legacy by pouring into the next generation. Perhaps still feeling defeated, Elijah decides to press on.
If we press on, Hosea says that God will come to us like rain. To fully grasp the incredible nature of this promise, you have to understand it in its geographical context. During a recent trip to Malaysia I was joking with the conference delegates I was leading in worship, that singing the song “Let it rain” didn’t make much sense, and everyone laughed. It was funny because being so close to the equator it rains all the time there. Living in Israel however, you get a whole new level of appreciation for rain. Summer is very hot, long, dry and dusty. It doesn’t rain for months on end. So, when the rain finally does come the people, gardens, fields and animals are all eagerly awaiting it.
Since the land is so dry, the rains cause flash floods in the desert as the water runs down from Jerusalem through the Judean desert towards the Dead Sea. Immediately the desert comes to life, green shoots spring up everywhere, and what a short time earlier, was barren ground, is now vibrant with green life. It is like witnessing a resurrection. It is sudden and amazing. After the winter rains that soak the earth, come the spring rains that are gentler. The weather starts to warm and the land bursts into bloom, with flowers on the fruit trees which are the sign of the abundant fruit the trees will produce. So when Hosea prophesies that God will come like the winter and spring rains, this is the tangible imagery that he is referring to. A people blessed by a sudden transformation and abounding fruitfulness.
King David, an incredible worshiper and as the scriptures tell us, ‘a man after God’s own heart’, fled to a desert too. He was running from the man who held the very throne David was destined for. I believe the reason that God says that David is a man after his own heart, is first and foremost because David lived differently to most men. David lived with a unique perspective – he knew God’s heart. This knowledge caused David’s actions to run contrary to the logic of the people around him. He refuses multiple times to kill king Saul, even though Saul was out to kill him and the people around him council him to do it. David didn’t need to take matters into his own hands. He knew that God would fulfill His promise and chose not to take matters into his own hands.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Instead of the word ‘acknowledge’, the word in the Hebrew is ‘know’. It’s the same word that is used in the Hosea 6 passage above. In all your ways know Him. Know what God’s perspective is, on what is going on. What is God’s heart for you? For others around you? For the situations you face?
Consider what a magnified impact our lives would carry if we lived fully from this revelatory perspective. How do we do that? Like David, we press on, pursuing the very knowledge of God. God in turn will direct our ways, He will give us divine understanding, instruction and strategy for what is ahead. Knowing God’s heart means that we will live a life free from the world’s perspective, a life abundant with the sound of God’s rain and the fruit that is a result of it.
In this long personal season of hardship and retreat, I continued to press in and stand in His presence, even when it was the last thing I wanted to do. Growing weary of seeking answers with no apparent response, I wanted to quit. One day I changed the way I prayed and adopted an attitude of gratitude for what I was going through. I began to thank God for what I was not seeing…yet. I decided I would not “die on this hill” because God was greater than what I was I was facing. I determined to lay down my good ideas and plans and find a deeper place of surrender. This helped me to rest in God while enduring the hardship. Then I saw that God had a different perspective, a must greater plan than my own limited understanding would account for.
Then God started to move, bringing breakthrough, and much needed encouragement. I saw evidence of the small cloud, just as Elijah did, that would be the sign of the downpour that was coming. The trickle of a few drops has grown. Excitement is rising within me for the incredible things that lay ahead. I know that God is faithful and He is going to fulfill everything that He has said. You see, God’s silence is not his disapproval, it’s a way of development.
I want to encourage you today, to stop, and take hold of the amazing promises of God’s breakthrough, healing, restoration and revival we find in Hosea. Wherever you are at, no matter what the circumstance, determine to thank God because you know who He is. Do whatever it takes to spend time pursuing the knowledge of God. Gain that and your path will not be set asunder. You will be sure of His protection and provision no matter what – living an indestructible life because not leaning on your own understanding, you will live with His perspective.
Let us press on to know Him.
This article originally appeared on Ascend Music blog, March 7, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Sarah Liberman is an internationally acclaimed Israeli worship leader, speaker and recording artist. Sarah has devoted her life to blessing the heart of God and making a place for others to meet with Him. Sarah travels, singing and speaking, bringing the powerful new sound of this generation of Israeli worshippers to the nations. With millions of views on YouTube, and songs sung in congregations around the world, her music brings you into the real presence of God. Her first two albums “I Am Before You” and “A Pure Heart” include well known and loved songs such as ‘Fire of Your Spirit’ and ‘Gadol Adonai’.
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G-D’s plan A
In my travels speaking around the world, I have noticed a surprising amount of believers in Yeshua (Jesus) who demonstrate both great faith and great fear. Most know that fear is a spiritual, emotional, and physical result of lack of faith in an area of our lives. Yet, it is prevalent throughout the Body of Messiah, regardless of denomination, or if one lives within Messianic Judaism, or Christianity.
I believe that we can find the explanation for our fear in the mistaken belief that G-D has more than one plan. In other words, many believe that our choices and actions cause G-D to change from plan “A” to plan “B” and when we mess up plan “B,” He moves on to plan “C.” This faulty understanding comes from our failure to understand the Bible and G-D’s supremacy.
When our Creator spoke the world into existence and formed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with free will, He was not surprised when they sinned. He did not form a plan to redeem mankind from their sin as a startled response. As a matter of fact, not once in any Biblical narrative did a Biblical character do anything good or evil that caused G-D to step back and say to Himself, “Wow, didn’t see that coming.”
This isn’t to say that we are preprogrammed drones playing out the computer coding written for our lives. Not at all. Each of us has free will. We make millions of individual choices each day and each choice affects the outcome of our day and ultimately our life. Yet, even though we each have free will, none of our free will choices change G-D’s plan. Each choice, while completely our choice, is part of an already known outcome.
Now, I know this paragraph is an over simplified example, but we are talking about G-D whose ways are beyond our understanding, so even the most complex example would still be a simplification. Think about history as if it was a football game that you were able to watch in real time after you watched a recording of the same game. Just because you knew the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) would not mean you forced the events to take place.
Knowing that not one choice you have ever made or ever will make surprises G-D or causes Him to move on to plan “B” for your life does not excuse our bad choices or sins in any way. It does, however, allow for us to enter into a deeper understanding of G-D’s sovereignty and His forgiveness, which can free us in a real way from the fear of “messing things up so badly that G-D cannot use us.”
As believers, too often the reason we don’t walk in our full potential is because we are afraid to fail. We are afraid to let our Heavenly Father down. We are afraid we will let our family and faith community down. If we fail, then He will have to move on to plan “B” so someone else can fix what we messed up and restore the perfect “Will of G-D.” This thinking in fear can be debilitating, but this fear is based upon a lie.
In order to believe that our actions, whether success or failures, can cause G-D to change to a plan “B,” we have to throw away much of Scripture. For instance, Revelation 13:8, Galatians 4:1-4, Ephesians 1:9-11, and many, many more.
The point being made is that Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden didn’t cause G-D to change to Yeshua, His plan “B.” Yeshua’s redemption of mankind was always plan “A.” G-D doesn’t have a plan “B.” He doesn’t need one. We can overcome our fear of failure and walk in fullness of faith from the moment we realize that just as Yeshua was and is G-D’s plan “A,” we are also His plan “A.”
Eric Tokajer is author of With Me in Paradise, Transient Singularity, #ManWisdom, OY! How Did I Get Here?: Thirty-One Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Entering Ministry, Jesus is to Christianity as Pasta is to Italians, and his most recent book God Has No Plan "B".
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Parashat Behar: We have the power to change Torah
Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.
This week, we study Parashat Behar. It talks about of the sabbatical year, the year of Jubilee, and the redemption of land – the return of all real estate to their original owners. Further, it discusses the notion of helping others and lending money.
According to our portion, a loan is supposed to be free of interest, in order to help your neighbor get back on his feet. Likewise, it mentions that if someone is in a difficult situation, he can sell himself as a slave.
Therefore, our parasha also teaches us about the release of slaves during certain periods, including the right of redemption and paid redemption.
Why the Sabbatical Year?
One of the most famous quotes in the Jewish and Israeli world is the question that Rashi asks in regards to the first paragraph of this week’s Torah portion:
“What [particularly] has Shmita [the sabbatical year] to do with Mount Sinai?”
This phrase is used today as an expression of puzzlement over the connection between two matters that are seemingly unrelated to each other.
Rashi originally said that indeed all the commandments of the Torah were given at Mount Sinai. Therefore, why, in the case of the Shmita (sabbatical year) commandment, was the place where it was given mentioned? Of course, there have been many commentaries on this verse.
Past Rabbinical Amendments to the Torah
Today I want to touch on the ancient debate about the correction of the Prozbul (loans), the selling of the land, and the commandment of Shmita.
The difficult question that arises regarding the Shmita commandment has accompanied us since the renewal of agriculture in modern Israel from 1889, which was the first sabbatical year in the new era.
Until then, the commandment was not relevant because it is connected to the Land of Israel alone. However, the question and discussion still remains relevant, because similar questions have been asked on various subjects over the years, both in the Christian and Jewish world.
For example, the correction of the Prozbul was an amendment made by Hillel the Elder. Hillel lived around 100 BC, and he made a correction against the cancellation of debts near the sabbatical year simply because the rich were not lending money. They did so because they feared that the money would not be returned.
Hillel claimed that it was necessary to loan money to those who have none, for they actually need it. Thus it would be better for there not to be the cancellation of debts, in order so that the rich will continue to loan money to the needy.
The same is true of the question of the sabbatical year for Israeli agriculture. At first, it could not meet the Torah’s requirement that agricultural activity be halted for a year. Then, the Heter Mechirah (sale permit) was approved, in which the land of Israel was sold to a foreigner, so that it became possible to continue to work the land which would technically no longer belong to you.
The argument in favor of this idea was that the most important thing was that the momentum of settlement and agriculture in Israel should not be stopped.
The Debate Over the Torah’s Flexibility
Rabbi Kook, who was the rabbi of the renewed Jewish settlement in Israel, believed that his duty was to find a way that would enable agriculture, economy, and agricultural exports to continue. He believed that the community should not go bankrupt.
Further, he saw Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel as the beginning of redemption. He believed that his duty, as a religious leader, was to stand alongside the renewal of the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel.
Those who opposed the idea of selling land placed the center of the debate on the need for devotion to the observance of the Torah. For them, the ability and willingness of the public to stand financially during the sabbatical year was not under consideration.
There is the obligation, the commandment, as well as the promise from God to bless those who will keep the Shmita year. The opponents claimed that we must observe the sabbatical year and prove the eternity of the Torah, the eternity of the Word of God.
Personally, I very much agree with Rabbi Kook’s ruling at the time. Such a decision, which changes the Torah’s commandments and influences an entire economy of settlers, requires great faith and emotional strength.
I appreciate the religious leader who understands that the Torah was given to human beings in order to help them build a healthy and correct society.
The Purpose of the Torah
The purpose of the Torah is to bring closeness between a man, his society, and God. The leader must be attentive to the society in which he lives, bend the laws, and even cancel the Torah’s commandments when they may harm the public.
As believers sometimes it is hard for us to be flexible on God’s Word, to find the middle way. Many times we think that God’s Word is above our economy, comforts, and above our society’s needs.
The truth is that there isn’t a black-and-white answer. Rather, every public leader must examine his society’s current situation and alter it according to their needs.
Therefore, Rabbi Kook’s decision to sell the land and bypass the Shmita commandment was the right decision for that time. The obligation should be to support the poor, even if a million other problems might be a higher priority.
Why Torah Amendments are Important for Us
Today, however, the economic ability of the Israeli economy to fulfill the commandment of the sabbatical year must be re-examined. We will have to find creative solutions to strengthen the economy and specifically the agricultural sector. Even more, we ought to find a solution in which farmers can live in dignity even while keeping the Shmita.
In this day and age, we can import all our crops from other countries during the sabbatical year, but the real question is: What will happen to farmers? They’ll go bankrupt, and then what? What is the future of Israeli agriculture?
This kind of thinking is important for us as believers. One of our greatest challenges is to develop the Messianic body so that it will emerge from the cultural, religious, and social background of Israel. In fact, we must strive to adapt Messianic Judaism so that it can deal with these kinds of complicated questions and problems of the public.
Yeshua Gives Us Authority, and Responsibility
Yeshua, the New Testament, and the Torah itself give us authority and responsibility. Thus their relevance lasts throughout life and through all generations.
The Torah is eternal, it continues to be relevant for thousands of years. It has both a fixed and flexible nature. God has added the human mechanism to the Torah, so that it can be adapted and continue to be relevant and guide life.
The Torah is not in heaven, it is here on earth, given to human beings, and God Himself entrusted authority to human beings by means of the government.
Yeshua went so far as to teach us the meaning of this authority and said Peter:
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 16:19 [NIV]
In other verses :
“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” – Matthew 18:18 [NIV]
I think that this authority was given to every head of a community, each one has great authority. Yet such power comes with a price; the punishment for a teacher is in proportion to his responsibility. This can be seen in a teaching from James:
“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” – James 3:1 [NIV]
These verses give us responsibility and authority. The main emphasis in this verse is balance. On the one hand, it is our duty to understand the spirit of God’s Word, to teach it, internalize it, and to live by it.
On the other hand, it points out that we should not get caught up in religious legalism. In which religion, beliefs, and Torah are becoming more important than the people around us.
The Human Element in the Torah
Why did God put the human element into the Torah? A Torah that is complete and finished, that does not require the study and reasoning of human beings, would leave us out of the picture.
The human element, the changing variable, is the component that God chose in order to maintain the relevance of the Torah and the commandments for generations to come.
The challenges we face today are very large. Each generation has its own difficulties, advantages, and disadvantages.
However, in our generation, the entire institution of the family is at risk. People are becoming more and more individualistic, each one living in his or her own bubble.
The Importance of the Next Generation
The biggest challenges and something that I find to be of utmost importance, is teaching the children and youth, the development of the next generation. For the next generation is our future, it is the direct continuation of our lives and our work.
In recent times, there has been an awakening in the world regarding the education of youth and children. It needs to be one of the burning issues today, because there can be no continuity of values, culture, or faith without the education of the youth.
I believe that the education of the next generation is a top priority in the Bible. In fact, most of the holidays are meant to teach the children about God, Yeshua the Messiah, redemption, the Torah, and about doing the work of God.
I pray that God will give us the power and the wisdom to find the right balance in the commandments of the Torah between man and God, and between man and his fellow man.
This article originally appeared on Netivyah, May 5, 2018, and reposted with permission.
The teachings of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context. Netivyah is an Israeli non-profit organization that teaches God's Word and helps those in need.