Thursday, March 15, 2012


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

I recently read an article about the decline of the church on our days. It stated that 4000 churches are closing their doors every year. In another study 6 out of 10 young people will leave the church by the age of 15. I know many people ask and wonder why this is happening. Most of the responses come back stating that to fix this issue we need to "win more souls to the Kingdom". Other strategies focus their efforts on church growth principles of invitation style churches. They provide facilities that are business-like, warm, welcoming and esthetically appealing. They offer music like you hear on the radio, inspirational messages that leave you feeling good about yourself and a place to leave your kids for someone else to teach them. Although arguments can be made, these churches usually do a great job of attracting people and filling seats. This has been the most popular style of church since the mid 1990's which was perfected by Willow Creek in Chicago and Saddleback in California. But over the past 20 years, after learning how these two churches have inspired a country to change its style of church to become more attractive, why are so many churches closing every year? Why are so many people still walking away from God? Why are 6 out of 10 children leaving the church never to return?

Maybe because this style of church is more cultural than it is Biblical. Maybe leaders have missed the point that instead of making disciples, converts were the bigger priority. And just maybe this is the cause of the decay of the country over the past 20 plus years. Hence, we even bring up the fact that four years ago, Bill Hybels. Sr. pastor of Willow Creek came out and said in an interview that the model he helped create and perfect failed at making disciples. Yet nobody seemed to care what Bill had to say. The machine kept going and decay continues to deteriorate our country and this world.

So what is the answer? If we actually listen to Hillel and study the words of God, things become a little more clear. As we learned last week, this is what Yeshua was commissioning us to do-to raise up many Talmidim. Talmidim comes from the root word lamad, which means to study. And what are we to study? We are to study all of God's word and then we are to apply it to our lives. This was the most important form of worship in the days of Yeshua; to study and apply God's word in daily living. Imagine what would happen if parents studied God's word and applied it to their families. Imagine what would happen if kids actually saw demonstrated for them what it truly meant to live out the words of God. Imagine what would happen if parents actually took on the role prescribed for them in the Torah to teach their children the ways of God (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

If we learn from the Rabbis, Yeshua, Paul, Peter, Hillel, Gamaliel, etc., we would see that learning how to follow God isn't something we do once a week. Learning the scriptures takes time, energy and effort.

"If he learns Torah and does not go over it again and again, he is like a man who saws without reaping" (Sanh. 99a) "One who repeats his lesson a hundred times is not like him who repeats it a hundred and one times" (Chag. 9b).

Learning always begins with questions. Do you questions things? Do you ask the tough questions? Do you ask the tough questions of yourself? In the first century, the followers of the Messiah were in the thousands and they were all "zealous for the Torah" (Acts 21:20). It was in these days that whole communities were being transformed. Whole cities like Ephesus, Thessalonica, Rome and elsewhere were learning about the Hebrew Messiah Yeshua from the words of Torah.

My prayer is that St. bernard will be one of those places that the Messiah Yeshua and His Kingdom break into this place and Shalom is brought back to the broken and His people are "zealous for the Torah".

Friday, March 2, 2012


The missional mindset, missiology, or outreach-these are things I have studied and read about from several authors, teachers and lecturers. I have studied for years what this looks like and how we are to reach people for Christ. Every year there is another book that comes out telling us how to do these things. It's like self help books for the church. It's interesting how God can break our foundations to their beginnings sometimes. It's interesting how God can change our path and our direction if we truly have hearts that are open to Him. It's amazing what happens when we start asking questions rather than just accepting what is taught or as my friend always says, "drink the Kool-aid". Instead of looking for ways to be missional or manufacture missional ideas, doesn't the Bible already teach us how to be missional? Doesn't the Torah teach us that by the lifestyle He asks us to live, we will be missional? By living according to the Torah, our lives will be seen as different from the world's. Doesn't Yeshua himself say to those listening in the crowd that they, as Jews, are to be the light of the world, and that by their deeds people will praise God and give Glory to Him? Maybe we should ask the question, is it in our obedience to God that we are truly missional? Isn't it our obedience to Him that makes us stand out, look different, handle money differently, speak and talk about others differently, eat different, etc, etc... It's our obedience to the Father that makes us stand out in this world. It's what opens doors of trust and influence in the community. It's in our obedience that the Holy Spirit moves us to do the unthinkable, the unexplainable, the undoable. Maybe instead of focusing on being missional to win more souls, maybe we should focus on being more obedient and the boldness that it takes to live differently. Then maybe, people might start praising our Father in Heaven... Matthew 5:14-16English Standard Version (ESV)14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a]they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


"The longer I live the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change  the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how i react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes." 
Charles Swindoll 

As I was digging through some old files today, I came across this old quote from years ago. As I read it, many emotions came rushing to my mind from the past and those days when this statement impacted my life in the days I needed it most. Today is not much different than those days years ago. Oh how I needed to be reminded of this. Oh how, even after speaking about "Lashon Hara" and "baseless hatred", I am reminded how my attitude is what dictates my speech. Lord, forgive me for my attitude. Forgive me for allowing my negative attitude to affect my negative speech. Forgive me for allowing the enemy to make me believe in such negative thoughts. "Restore unto me the joy of your salvation and renew a right spirit within me"... Psalm 51:12

As a community, may we be reminded everyday that the enemy, the accuser, Ha-satan is constantly trying to destroy the Temple with baseless hatred. We must be on our guard against gossip and negative speech. Instead encouragement, exhortation and reconciliation should be on our minds.

"Be angry, but don't sin - don't let the sun go down before you have dealt with the cause of your anger; otherwise you leave room for the Adversary. The thief must stop stealing; instead, he should make an honest living by his own efforts. This way he will be able to share with those in need. Let no harmful language come from your mouth, only good words that are helpful in meeting the need, words that will benefit those who hear them. Don't cause grief to God's Holy Spirit, for he has stamped you as his property until the day of final redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, violent assertiveness and slander, along with all spitefulness. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted; and forgive each other, just as in the Messiah God has also forgiven you". Ephesians 4:26-32 CJB

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"How Long Will You Refuse"

Exodus 16:22-30
On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much—two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. He said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of sabbath rest, a holy sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’”So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it. “Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today. Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.” Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none. Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions? Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” So the people rested on the seventh day.

Do you ever read portions of scripture and ask questions? In the passage above, a whole host of questions could be asked, like, why does God ask the people to not go out to find food on the seventh day? Why can't He just give them food seven days a week? Not to mention what is this stuff He's giving them anyways?

As we read the story of Moses, it is amazing to see God's power, His mercy, grace and lots and lots of patience. This is just one example of the many times the followers of YHVH chose not to obey the Lord or refused "to keep" His commands and instructions. After just witnessing the greatest miracles the world had ever seen, these people failed to trust God for food AND in resting on the Sabbath. They lacked trust. For whatever reason, they didn't trust that God would provide for them nor did they trust that they could take a day of rest.

It's interesting that even though these events took place thousands of years ago, they still apply to us today. Do we too struggle with trust? The FFOZ commentary had a great quote regarding this,

"Manna can teach us about money and materialism. God provides the bounty of the material world for our welfare. He provides adequately for our needs, sometimes in scarcity, sometimes with abundance, but always with sufficiency. “He who had gathered much had no excess, and he who had gathered little had no lack” (Exodus 16:18). When we try to hoard wealth, though, it can turn into something spiritually ugly. Just as the manna turned rancid and wormy, hoarded wealth sickens the soul. It causes us to cling to material things. We no longer need to rely on God because we can rely upon our savings and investments. We no longer need to pray for our daily bread, as Yeshua taught us to do. As Yeshua warned us, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23).

We can also be challenged by the Sabbath. According to Biblical calendar, beginning in Genesis 1, the Sabbath is a Holy day. A day God ordained for US! A day for us to rest and to spiritually recharge in HIM. This day begins, according to the Greco-Roman calendar on Friday night at sundown and ends Saturday at sundown. A day for our rest and a day that God provides for us, physically and spiritually. For the followers of YHVH, the sabbath was a big deal. God wasn't merely giving a suggestion, it was something He became quite upset with upon their lack of observance.

I wonder, do we have that same lack of trust? Does materialism and the world's idea of monetary security control us? Does the Sabbath mean anything to us, or is it just a day for chores and to do lists? I wonder, is God asking us, "how long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions?"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


"I will sing of the 'hesed' of the Lord forever, with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations." Psalm 89:1

What does it mean to sing of God's loving kindness, His mercy, His grace forever? Does it mean we sing on Saturday night, or does it mean something more than that? I know what it's like to "go to church" on the weekend then live my life the rest of the week. I know what it's like to wonder, God where are you in the midst of everything going on right now. I have played that game before-wanting the God of creation to come in and fix my situation so i can get back to "my" life. To pray to Jesus because things aren't going the way "I" had planned them, only to find myself still stuck in the same problems, just a different day.

Maybe if I were to sing of God's hesed, I would be reminded of the mercy He has shown me. Maybe if I were to sing of His hesed today I would be reminded that He is involved in my daily activities right now. Maybe if I were to sing of His hesed, I would be reminded of the grace He has shown me which I do not deserve. Maybe if I were to continually sing of His hesed I would be reminded to show hesed to others. To give grace to those I want to judge and condemn. To give mercy to that one person who I want nothing to do with. To give steadfast love, to actively love my neighbor not only with words of kindness, but with action. 

May we be a community that sings actively of God's hesed in our lives. 

Grace and Peace,

Connections, Connections, Connections

I continually find it amazing the more I dig into scripture how I see more and more connections that I never saw before. Hopefully you've been reading your homework from two weeks ago when I asked everyone to read Malachi. I said that there was a tremendous amount of nuggets that come glaring off the page after reading Yeshua in context for the past few years. Verses like "Behold i will send my messenger and he will prepare the way beforeme." Malachi 3:1 or "For I the Lord do not change"...3:6, then there is the same voice saying "Remember the Torah of Moses my servant, the statutes and rules I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel." 4:4

We then moved to last week where Yeshua himself says, "I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would also have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." John 14:6,7 Here we see Yeshua doing a few things that if you only see the surface, you can easily miss the depth of this statement. First you should see the connection from Malachi. Who did God say would come after the one to prepare the way? Himself! God the Father would come. Yeshua says if you knew the Father you know me, if you know me you know the father, why? Because "I and the Father are one" John 10:30. 

Now let's go even deeper. Yeshua says I am the way, the truth and the life... As we have pointed out before, Yeshua is a Rabbi of the first century. He speaks in a way the people in his day would understand and he teaches as the rabbis did. Rabbis would often quote scripture or allude to different texts often by just using a sentence and sometimes even a word. Here we see the Rabbi Yeshua quoting three different passages of scripture in just one sentence. "For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life."Proverbs 6:23; Your righteousness is righteous forever and your law is true." Psalm 119:142; "In the path of righteousness is life and in its pathway there is no death." Proverbs 12:28 Here are three different passages proclaiming that the Word of God, The Torah, are the way, the truth and the life. We shouldn't be surprised at this statement because doesn't John himself tell us at the beginning of his gospel that "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God." 1:1 and also "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." 1:14.  Yeshua is the word of God, the walking talking Torah in the flesh. He is God and He is Father.  

It's pretty significant to notice that Yeshua was raised in the Torah, lived by the Torah, taught others how to live their lives according to the Torah and who himself was the Torah. Our first question should then be, how important is the Torah in our daily lives? Do the words of Torah (i.e.. the words of God/Yeshua) play a role in our daily decision making?

May we be a community that lives following what is true, what is life and what is the way...

Grace and Peace,