The key to successful leadership
Moses was 120 years old and was standing in front of the nation of Israel, sharing his last words with them. As a part of this statement he says the following words found in Deuteronomy 31:2:
“He said to them, “I am 120 years old today. I am no longer able to go out and come in…”
At first glance the reader might conclude that Moses had become physically weak with his advanced years and was telling his people why he was transferring leadership to Joshua. However, we know from Scripture that this cannot be the case because in Deuteronomy 34:7 the Torah tells us:
“Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was not dim nor his vigor gone.”
So, if Moses wasn’t saying that he was too old and weak to lead Israel anymore what was he saying? One of the best ways to find an answer to a Biblical question is to look through the Bible to see if the word, expression or phrase is used elsewhere. It is important when comparing words and phrases that we make sure the context the word or phrase is used in is similar because context can dramatically change the meaning of a word or phrase.
In this case we do see this phrase used again in a context that is connected to leadership. We find the same phrased used in 2 Chronicles 1:7-10:
That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, “Ask! What should I give you?” Solomon answered God, “You have shown great lovingkindness to my father David and now You have made me king in his place. Now, Adonai Elohim, let Your word to my father David be fulfilled for You have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. Now give me wisdom and knowledge that I may go out and come in before this people. For who can govern this great people of Yours?”
and 1 Kings 3:5-7:
At Gibeon Adonai appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said: “Ask for what should I give you?” Solomon said: “You have shown my father Your servant David great lovingkindness, as he walked before You in truth, righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You. Indeed, You have kept this great lovingkindness for him by giving him a son to sit on his throne, as it is today. So now, Adonai my God, You have made Your servant king in my father David’s place. I am but a youth. I don’t know how to go out or come in.
Notice that the expression to go out or come in is used in reference to leadership by both Moses and Solomon. It is also important that we notice the direction reference used in these words. First go out and then come in. This seems backwards at first if we are looking at the words in relationship to the people. In other words, if Moses and Solomon were using these words in relation to the people of Israel wouldn’t they say I don’t know how to come in and then go out of the presence of the people? Think about it, neither Moses nor Solomon was concerned with how to come in or go out from the people. It wasn’t going in and coming out that they needed help with. It was going out and coming in. These words are not in relation to the people that G-D had given them leadership authority over. They are in relation to going out and returning to the presence of G-D. Moses was not saying he was old and weak and therefore couldn’t do his lead anymore. He was saying that it was no longer his place to be the mediator for Israel, now it was to be Joshua. This same change of leadership is taking place as Solomon is replacing his father David as king and mediator for Israel. Solomon knew the key to successful leadership was spending time in the presence of G-D and then coming out of G-D’s throne room to the people and then returning to the throne room again. Both Moses and Solomon understood that their job wasn’t about leading the people as much as it was about following G-D.
It is this exact lesson that today’s leaders need to remember. It isn’t about entering and exiting the people that makes someone a great leader. It is exiting and entering G-D’s throne room that does.
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, God Has No Plan "B", and his most recent book Galatians in Context.
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Why American Jews are tuning out on their faith
A recent Jerusalem Post article entitled, “The Faith Crisis of American Jewry” (9/12/18) caught my eye, citing the devastating rate of intermarriage, lack of synagogue attendance and even a considerable amount of those who have no belief in God.
Having been an Israeli citizen for the last 25 years, I turned to some American Jewish friends to find out why they, too, seem to have tuned out on their faith. Their responses are probably typical of many secular American Jews, and so here is what they had to say:
- I would have still been involved with the synagogue and more devoted to Judaism, but my husband and my kids gave me a hard time.
- My husband didn’t like the rabbi, so we changed synagogues, but it eventually closed.
- My husband was not really brought up very Jewish. His parents didn’t celebrate holidays or go to synagogue.
- My husband has had a strong influence on my children, making it impossible to be observant.
- I wasn’t educated as a Jew even though my mother was religious. I never had a Bat Mitzvah or studied Hebrew, so I couldn’t understand what was being said at the synagogue.
- The childhood Jewish melodies I knew changed throughout the years, and so when I finally attended synagogue as an adult, I was out of the loop and in unfamiliar territory.
- When my brother goes to temple, all he does is talk. He doesn’t pray.
- My husband and I know we’re Jews, we’re proud of it, keep kosher, make holiday meals, donate to Jewish charities, light memorial candles and that’s enough for us.
- The rabbi didn’t offer any support when my father was dying even though he came to the hospital daily to visit a rabbi in the next room.
- The cost of good seats was unaffordable.
- They wanted control from cradle to death – everything including yeshiva (instead of public school), membership on the Jewish youth sports’ teams, daily involvement and unreasonable financial support. We were not willing to make such a commitment.
- We felt services were boring, not relevant to our daily lives and lacking in spiritual inspiration.
- The only synagogue in our area was not one to our liking.
A common thread in all of the above reasons seems to be a lack of something genuine and fulfilling as well as a good dose of suspicion concerning the control factor. Let’s face it, aren’t those the things which cause most people to tune out?
All of us are seeking to live our lives as best as we can, balancing work, family, social activities and also desiring to be inspired along the way. That source of inspiration is often expected to come from those who point us back to our faith and why it helps us to be a better version of the fallen person we are. When that source is tainted by elements of control, excessive financial gain, social climbing or just plain indifference to our needs, we tune out. After all, there’s no spare time for a counterfeit that doesn’t satisfy.
American Jewry has lost its way from the early turn of the century when most of our grandparents arrived from European shtetls to the shores of what hoped to be a better life. Living clustered in urban neighborhoods which reflected their culture, language, lifestyle and faith was what kept Jews as a closely-knitted group which almost never sought intermarriage, leaving the fold or breaking ranks. Yet today’s American Jewry no longer live that way. With the exception of the very orthodox, most American Jews have totally assimilated, consider intermarriage as a completely viable option and are only loosely connected to a tiny smattering of Jewish tradition which may include circumcision, bar-mitzvah, a Passover Seder, lighting Chanukah candles, sitting shiva (a week of mourning) when a Jewish person dies and marrying under a chuppa (canopy). There just isn’t much beyond that.
Ziona Greenwald, writer of the Jerusalem Post Article states, “For multitudes of Jews to have not only eschewed their heritage but completely shucked off any shred of faith, any relationship, however fraught, with their Divine Creator, gives new meaning to the term “lost souls… The apparent drift toward godlessness among American Jewry should set off alarm bells for Jewish leaders and major organizations.”
I couldn’t agree more with Ziona Greenwald, but the real soul-searching must come from those who hope to entice American Jews to turn towards their faith, but, in this case, it seems to be a classic case of the blind leading the blind. A successful spiritual leader must possess a heart for his constituency – which means real empathy, feeling and genuine love and concern for each individual. The absence of those characteristics will be felt and internalized by the potential members, and the creation of something real and meaningful will be replaced by dry ritual, showy performance and forced commitment, none of which are attractive or appealing.
As far away as this “withering faith group,” as Ziona calls it, may have wandered, it is my fervent belief that there is a dormant seed inside of every Jew which longs to burst through the hard and fallow ground of their sleeping faith. The desire to really know God and feel intensely connected to Him, does not entirely dissipate. It is there, but it must be nurtured. It begins by someone taking a personal interest especially when times are tough. It grows as you remain committed to that individual, and it blossoms as they feel inspired and valued. God does this for us, and we need to do it for one another. Faith is so much more than a weekly trek to the local synagogue. It is truly a daily lifestyle with a daily commitment to be to one another what God calls us to be in order that others can see and feel His love and care extended to them. If we were to live that way, there is no doubt that it would attract not only every Jew, but every non-Jew as well.
I am reminded of Zechariah 8:23 which says, “In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” This is no portrait of a “withering faith group.” To the contrary, this is a compelling picture of the most attractive, appealing and vibrant Jewish faith which makes “trending” look minor. It is a must-have and a “like” to the extreme. According to the scriptures, this is the place where the Jewish faith will arrive. How will it get there? It starts with you and your own need for the real, the genuine and the sincere expression of God. Find it, live it and then spread it to others in real and tangible ways. I guarantee you – No one will tune out on that!!!
Cookie is the former managing director of Makor HaTikvah Messianic School in Jerusalem.
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3 reasons that mornings are awesome
I love the morning. There is something new, fresh and amazing about a new day. It is a gift from God. I want to share with you three awesome things about morning.
1. Fresh Manna
Yeshua, when He taught His disciples to pray, said that we are to ask God for our daily bread. Surely this means provision. God has promised to meet our needs. After many years of seeing the faithfulness of God, I rarely panic over provision. I used to…for sure. But that is for the immature. When your relationship with someone grows, so does the trust factor. If someone has been faithful to you for ten years, you know he can be trusted. It is the same with our Father.
But, this is more than just filling our stomachs. God wants us to ask him for spiritual bread,as well. We get a picture of this from our ancient examples, the Israelites. When God introduces manna, He starts by saying this: “I will rain down bread from heaven for you.”
Wow! God will rain down bread for us. What a promise! But did you notice that the Israelites were expected to collect the manna every morning? Moses told them that “no one is to keep any of it until morning.”When they did, it was gross, full of maggots, and inedible. The point is that we cannot live on yesterday’s manna. We need to seek God daily for our spiritual sustenance.
2. Mercies are New
Each morning the mercies, or compassions, of the Lord are new. This is what we are told in Lamentations. This entire book is about the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. It is a sad book. God has judged His people. But the author doesn’t leave us hopeless. God will not judge us forever—His mercy, love and compassion is renewed to us each morning.
It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday. Maybe you did something stupid. Maybe you sinned. You didn’t want to, but, perhaps, you gave into temptation. Yes, it was wrong. Sin is gross; hideous in the eyes of the Lord. But, as Peter says, “Love covers over a multitude of sins.”(1 Peter 4:8) While we don’t make light of sin, neither do we limit the ability of the blood of Yeshua to forgive us.
Lift up your head this morning. Confess your sin and receive the cleansing of the Lord. John gives a great promise:
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
3. Joy Comes in the Morning
There is no question that God gets angry. Sometimes He is angry at us. Hebrews tells us that His discipline is an extension of His great love for us. What kind of good father doesn’t discipline his child?
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. (Heb. 12:7-8)
Don’t let His discipline get you down. If He disciplines you, He loves you! And there is more good news.
For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. (Ps. 30:5)
His anger is quick, but His blessing, favor and smile over your life lasts forever! Yes, you may spend a night weeping, but that weeping will lead to sweet victory in the morning.
In this context, David is under attack. His enemies want to kill him and it looks like they might succeed. In addition, it appears he is suffering from an ailment (v. 2-3). When I think of weeping through the night,it is not only because of the Lord’s discipline. It can be for many reasons. You might be under spiritual attack and need to intercede through the night. Maybe you are praying for healing from a sickness. David was – God heard him and healed him.
Maybe you are fighting a temptation. Often temptation comes at night. Most sexual sins are committed at night. Partying happens mostly in the evening. I remember being at a sales convention when I was a car-phone salesman in the late 1980s. At night, there were cocktail parties. Everyone was having fun. I was in my room trying to figure out how I would provide for my new wife and baby. Depression and oppression attacked me. I wanted to go to the parties and drink with everyone else. I wanted to fit in. But I sought the Lord. The next day, I had a great spiritual breakthrough that lasted for many months and I learned how to fight off the lies of the enemy. Had I given in I would not have learned and joy would not have come in the morning!
So, there you have it! Three reasons that mornings are awesome!
Bonus: Yeshua always got up early in the morning to spend time with His father. If He needed that time, then surely I do!
This article originally appeared on Messiah’s Mandate, September 8, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Ron and wife Elana make their home in Tel Aviv. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua—the Glory of Yeshua—a Tel Aviv-based, Hebrew-speaking Messianic congregation. Ron is a published author with Destiny Image Publishers, having written books like “Identity Theft”, “Leave Me Alone, I’m Jewish” and “The Jerusalem Secret”. Ron is a sought-out conference speaker and shares passionately about the Jewish Roots of the New Testament and God’s broken heart for His ancient people Israel.
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Influence in our society vs passion for His return
I believe that we are to influence all areas of society with biblically based solutions, yet I am disturbed by those who embrace the “post-millennial” understanding in their teaching on The Last Days.* This understanding says that we can now go forward to conquer the whole world for Jesus without His actual return.
Wherever one “places” the great tribulation – whether in the past or in the future, like both classic Protestant and Catholic views – the real concern with this thinking is the loss of passion for the return of Yeshua. The New Covenant Scriptures exhort us to long for the return of Yeshua.
- Peter notes in Acts 3 that the Jewish people need to repent, “that He might send Yeshua the Messiah appointed for you.”
- In Philippians 3:20-21 we are told that, “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from there we eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.”
- In Colossians 3:4 we are to hope that “When Messiah, who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
- In I Corinthians 16:22 we read the word Maranatha, “Come Lord.” This was a greeting among believers in the first century.
- In II Peter 3:12, we are encouraged to live in such a way that we are “looking for and hastening the coming Day of God.”
Now of course, we know there has been delay. Yet the Bible does not explicitly command us to, “Go forth and influence every sector of society and bring it into obedience to Biblical principles.” I do believe in such influence as an implication of the Good News of the Kingdom. I see that slavery would not have been eliminated in England and America if it were not for believers who acted.
However, the passion of the New Covenant Scriptures is our relationship with our returning Lord, not taking control of the so-called “seven mountains.” The passion for His return, like the passion of the bride for her bridegroom, should supersede other desires. We live in the light of His return. When I was a child, I thought as a child. I did not want the Lord to return until after I had experienced marriage and raising my own children. But now I know that whenever He comes, it will be the best for all of us. Let us by all means influence society in our journey, but let us embrace the passionate, New Testament sense of the soon return of Yeshua. We can do both.
*The so-called “Seven Mountains” teaching is one such understanding. The post-millennial view teaches that the great tribulation has already passed. This view was embraced by Charles Finney and Jonathan Blanchard (founder of Wheaton College). Wheaton’s motto, “For Christ and His Kingdom,” was originally, but not currently, understood in post-millennial terms. Many today have the view that the church will come to rule the nations without the return of Yeshua literally. They speak of a victorious Church, but they imply post-millennialism. This teaching is closely entwined with the widely discredited ideas of dominionism.
This article originally appeared on Tikkun International, August 28, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Dr. Daniel Juster, founder and director of Tikkun International, has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972 and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel, from where he serves and supports the Messianic movement worldwide. Dan was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for 9 years, the senior pastor of Beth Messiah congregation for 22 years, and a co-founder of the Messiah Bible Institute in several nations. Dr. Juster serves on the board of Towards Jerusalem Council II, provides oversight to 15 congregations in the USA as well as overseeing emissaries in Israel and the Former Soviet Union. Daniel has authored about 20 books on topics ranging from theology, Israel and the Jewish people, eschatology, discipleship, and leadership.
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The desperate ones
I grew up in a Latin household in which food was central to our home. No celebration was ever held without mass quantities of food and competitions with all of the aunts vying to be the best cook. So, as I began my journey into Messianic Judaism, I was surprised at a holiday (Yom Kippur) without food? It was unthinkable!
In Leviticus 16:29-31 we see the instructions, “This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is to be a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute.” The word for humble (anah) in this case means to “humble oneself by fasting” according to Brown Driver-Briggs.
Let’s first define fasting as refraining from food for a spiritual purpose. In Judaism, a fast is usually considered an absolute fast where the person refrains from food and water. There are two other fasts that people talk about: a normal fast (no food but drinks water) and a partial fast (giving up particular foods/drinks for an extended time). For Yom Kippur, it is usually an absolute fast. Now, a person should fast if they are in good physical condition, but they are exempt if they are ill. Children also are exempt from fasting.
It has always been a challenge for me to fast on Yom Kippur. We all find that it’s difficult to not eat for an entire day. Let’s be real people, no one is excited about the prospect of not eating! I had a breakthrough about fasting a few years ago that I want to tell you about. I had an intense desire to establish a deeper connection to God. I needed to hear him desperately. There were really tremendous, overwhelming situations that I was facing and I could not see any solutions. So, I resolved to fast one day a week with two other women. Right now, you might be thinking, “wow, she’s such a spiritual woman”. The truth was that I watched the clock feverishly and counted the hours until it was over! But, something happened during this period of time. As we prayed and fasted we heard the Lord. As we fasted, we developed a sensitivity to His voice and His leading. He answered us with what was important to Him, which was interesting, because we wanted Him to answer our requests. The Lord gave us specific things to pray about and He gave us His agenda. Many people will tell me, “the only thing that I can think about when I’m fasting is food!” When I started fasting that’s exactly what was happening to me and some weeks were easier than others. The challenge is that at some point you have to decide, is your stomach going to be king over your life, or is the Lord going to be king? Are you desperate enough, thirsty enough? Psalm 42:1-2 was how I felt at that time, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;………”
There is something extraordinary on Yom Kippur that happens to us as we fast as the community of Israel. We have a sensitivity to His voice, we can see Him in the details of our lives and we are alert to what is important to Him. A couple of years ago, we were sitting in the sanctuary, between the teaching sessions and prayer that we have going on all day on Yom Kippur. I looked over and saw a woman, who was crying. As a Jewish woman, she was fasting for Yom Kippur, and had been invited to our services. We had just finished a teaching session on forgiveness and this woman was a mess. I was reluctant to go over, but, I felt the Lord wanted me to go and sit by her. As we spoke my arm went around her, and she wept and told me that her daughter hadn’t spoken to her in many years. This woman was heartbroken as she told me that she had asked her daughter for forgiveness but, her daughter refused to have anything to do with her. She had not seen her grandchildren for many years. I encouraged her to forgive her daughter and then asked her if I could pray for her situation. We prayed together. Several months later, she related to me how her daughter had called her out of the blue, and they had reconciled! This same woman came to services beaming as she introduced me to her grandchildren that were visiting with her. This is what happens when we fast. We are sensitive to the Lord’s leading, we hear His voice, we minister to one another with a greater anointing, and we are open to receive from the Lord.
The fast that the Lord desires is not an ascetic exercise, but, a dynamic connection to our Father in heaven. The connection develops our heart to be one with His. In Isaiah 58, the Lord lays out his whole heart about what is important to Him about fasting. The first twelve verses are a must to read, but I want to point out what kind of fast the Lord desires for us to have:
1) He wants us to divide our bread with the hungry and take care of the homeless. He wants us not to “hide” ourselves from our own “flesh”.
2) The Lord desires that we remove the yoke from our midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness.
Then, if we have a fast like that He promises us:
1) That our righteousness will go before us. The glory of the Lord will be our rear guard.
2) When we call out to Him, He will answer and He will say, “Here I am”.
3) The Lord will continually guide you, satisfy your desire in scorched places and give you strength to your bones.
This year as we all fast for Yom Kippur let us choose the fast that the Lord desires for us. Let us not fast out of obligation, but, with expectancy that we will connect in a deeper way with our God. That He will say to us, “Here I am.”
Diana Levine is the Rebbetzin of Kol Mashiach Messianic Synagogue in Melbourne, Florida. She has spoken at national conferences, regional conferences, women's retreats and bible studies. She is also the co-founder of the Daughters of Righteousness Conference.