In the Void: Reflections from Israel

Do you ever struggle with finding your purpose in the day-to-day things? Do you ever feel like the things you do every single day don’t really matter? I think we all feel this way during the various seasons of life, but it’s especially difficult in the weeks following Sukkot.

In the months leading up to Sukkot, we intensely prepare. We must first walk through the extremely difficult month of Elul then we celebrate Yom Teruach and continue preparing for the Day of Atonement. We are then closely examined on the day of Yom Kippur and conclude the season with the marriage celebration of Sukkot. But throughout all this time, we have purpose. We are driven on by our preparations for Yom Kippur and Sukkot; our preparations to be found pleasing to our Bridegroom on that day. Even the smallest of our actions and circumstances take on significance.

But after Sukkot? What do we do in the ordinary days? How do we find purpose in the monotony of our daily routines?

This is what the Temple Institute in Jerusalem had to say about the days following Sukkot:

The current month of Mar Cheshvan is the only month of the Hebrew calendar that does not feature even a minor observance – not even a fast day. Especially given the fact that this month comes right after the action-packed month of Tishrei – which is host to the High Holidays and Sukkot, with its high-profile, action-oriented mitzvoth [a good deed] – this month of Mar Cheshvan seems particularly drab and colorless… a fitting introduction to winter. After the rush of adrenalin we experience in Tishrei that manifests itself in every aspect of our prayers and spiritual pursuits, is this month not something of an anticlimax?

From “Mar Cheshvan: The Dedication of the Third Temple”

What this tells me is that everyone struggles at times with finding purpose. There are seasons that come and go; mountain tops and valleys low. But in the midst of every season, we can find hope and purpose for the future.

Her Gates are Empty…
So this year on my trip to Israel, I stayed a few extra days in Israel alone after my group had gone home. It was a wonderful time spent reconnecting with YHVH and simply resting in His Holy City. It was exactly what I needed.Jerusalem Parade

It was a completely different experience than the trip I had just been on. The day my group left, so did the other tourist groups that had come for Sukkot. Suddenly, Jerusalem was calm; quiet. I had never seen it so still before!

During our time together in Israel, our group had participated in a parade honoring Israel with the participants representing nations from around the world! It’s quite the amazing experience to see the nations of the world gather in Jerusalem to celebrate the nation of Israel.

We also saw the Water Libation ceremony, which has not taken place in over 2,000 years, performed by the Third Temple Institute inWater Libation Priests Jerusalem. We walked the same path that the priests and kings of old would have walked and watched at the Pool of Siloam as the priests drew water with the silver vessels and danced with the hundreds of people who came to celebrate this miraculous occasion! As a reference point, the Pool of Siloam was the same water source used during the Temple periods for TemplWater Libatione ceremonies. It was also the place where Yeshua healed the blind man.

Our group also stood on the Temple Mount where we were shielded by His hand from prying eyes and were allowed to worship on the Temple Mount. To convey just how much of an extraordinary miracle this is, let me describe Temple Mount protocol.

Only in the past year have Jews even been allowed to walk on the Temple Mount. When Christians go on the Temple Mount, Bibles are confiscated…so leave them in your room. There is absolutely NO prayer allowed on the Temple Mount by Jews or Christians. And there are Muslim plain clothes police always roaming the Temple Mount checking and watching for these things.

So for us to have a few brief minutes to FREELY worship on the Temple Mount is more of a miracle than I can describe with words!

Climbing MasadaI climbed Masada, found the Ark of the Covenant (not the real one, of course), prayed at the Holy of Holies, got caught in a Palestinian riot, went to an Israeli concert, saw archaeological digs of 1st Century villages, and rode the waters of the Sea of Galilee. The list could go on and on and on but you get the point. We were busy. We saw a lot of amazing things. Each one of us experienced miracles in our lives. We received the healing touches we needed and we experienced YHVH and His love in ways like never before.Ark of the Covenant

But then, the party was over. The people left and Jerusalem went back to day-to-day life. The streets that just days ago had been filled to the breaking point with people, were empty. The gates that had been flooded with people from the nations of the earth, were bare. The city had gone quiet. The atmosphere was still. It was almost as if the city itself was also resting from the festivities of the previous weeks.

But even though the gates of Jerusalem were empty, her heart, and the heart of her King, was full.

…But Her Heart is Full
One of the things YHVH spoke most clearly about with me was resting. I struggled with finding things to do for myself on the days after my group went back home. I kept asking Him which museums to go to, or if I should take any day trips. I wanted to be busy and doing something…anything.

But then His voice came through so clearly and so gently.

“What? I can’t rest. I need to find things to do.”
“Because I don’t want to waste my time.”
“Would it really be wasting your time to rest with Me?”

I was cut straight to the heart with that one. He was right. I needed to rest. I had been non-stop for weeks in preparing for this trip and then the actual trip itself. I was tired and needed Him to mend me. He showed me that it’s never a waste of time to rest…especially with Him. And even more especially with Him in Jerusalem.

So I decided to rest. I would take my time getting ready in the mornings and would ask Him where He wanted me to go that day. He always led me somewhere peaceful where I could be with Him. The time I spent alone with YHVH in Jerusalem was priceless.  It was a time to renew my love for Him; a time to be refreshed by Him. And I desperately needed that.

As the days went on, He began to teach me an important lesson about being still. image

Sometimes I feel that if I am doing nothing, then I’m wasting my time or not doing anything worthwhile. But what I fail to see is that strength is found in stillness and trust. In quietness, I can better hear His direction. When in the void, I can hear Him clearer than ever before. When I allow myself to be still and embrace the nothingness, it is then that I am able to receive His direction for the next steps He wants me to take.

As I walked the streets of Jerusalem, and again noticed how quiet everything was, I began to reflect on Jerusalem’s emptiness.

Being in Jerusalem after Sukkot is like being the last guest at a party after all the other guests have gone home. It’s quiet and peaceful; more real somehow. It’s during this quiet time that you can talk with the Host in a different way than when He was hosting the party. It’s more intimate. You get to see the house as it always is; when there aren’t any guests and only the family resides there. You get a private look into what it’s like to be in the House during the day-to-day.

I was again reminded that the gates of Jerusalem were empty but her heart, and the heart of Her King, was full.

In the Void
So how do we find meaning in the void? How do we find purpose in the mundane seasons? How do we come off the highs of life into the regular days? How do we go from standing on mountain tops to sitting at a desk all day?image

How do we find this same fullness even when our own gates are empty?

A few days ago, in yet another confirmation of the lesson YHVH is trying to teach me, I read from Frances J. Roberts’ devotional Come Away, My Beloved. I think this particular devotion, narrated in our Beloved’s voice, says it best.

“Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 6:17

My beloved, you do not need to make your path, for I go before you. Yes, I will engineer circumstances on your behalf. I am your husband; I will protect you, care for you, and make full provision for you.

I know your need, and I am concerned for you; for your peace, for your health, for your strength. I cannot use a tired body, and you need to take time to renew your energies, both spiritual and physical. I am the God of battle, but I am also the One who said, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 4-:31).

I will teach you, as I taught Moses on the back side of the desert, and as I taught Paul in Arabia. In the same way, I will teach you, and it will be a constructive period, not in any sense wasted time. Like the summer course to the schoolteacher, it is vital to you in order to become fully qualified for your ministry.

There is no virtue in activity in and of itself – nor in inactivity. I minister to you in solitude that you may minister to others as a spontaneous overflow of our communion. Never labor to serve, nor force opportunities. Set your heart to be at peace and to sit at My feet. Learn to be ready but not to be anxious. Learn to say “no” to human demands and to say “yes” to the call of the Spirit. These may sometimes be at variance. Do not be distressed by the misunderstanding of people. Let Me take care of them Myself. They too must learn this same important lesson, and you can help them by setting the example; but if you try to please them by answering every demand, you will both fall into the same snare.

I am a jealous God, and I am always at peace with Myself. I would have you also to be at peace with My Spirit within you. As you give Me My rightful place and do not allow others to intrude, you will be at peace with Me. Be very serious in this. I am not speaking to you lightly. I was never more earnest in any message I have brought to you. Do not fail Me. I have brought you this message at various times in the past. It was never more urgent than now.

For people are experiencing a new awakening, and they are searching for My Truth more than ever. I must speak through My prophets; and if they are not set apart for Me, how can I instruct them? Yes, I will nourish by the brook as I nourished Elijah; and I will speak to you out of the bush as I spoke to Moses and reveal My glory on the hillside as I did to the shepherds.

Come away, My beloved; be like the doe on the mountains; and we will go down together to the gardens.

So even when I’m in the void, He is preparing me for the next step; for the next season of my life. And just like the gates of Jerusalem, even when all is still and quiet around me, I can find fullness and strength by allowing Him to restore me. In His arms, I am rejuvenated. In His presence I am made whole again.

So even in the void, will your heart be full?

Conversations with an Atheist

This week, I had the opportunity to talk with someone who is a “devout atheist” about what he believes. It was an interesting conversation to say the least. I learned several things about my faith, myself, and what I believe because of it.

1. Faith And Belief Is Not For Those Unwilling To Lay Aside Their Own Knowledge and Intellect 

Faith in God means we don’t always understand the way everything works; that we may not always have the answers to every single question. But that’s ok. I don’t have to understand the way the world works. As long as YHVH does, I’m ok with that. This doesn’t mean we stop our pursuit of knowledge or wisdom, it simply means that we recognize our limited abilities and that we can only take ourselves so far. Because really, isn’t it just pride to think we could ever have all the answers anyway?

We should also recognize that the wisdom and knowledge we pursue as believers is not the same wisdom the world seeks after. The world seeks after its own wisdom. They seek to have the answer within themselves. We, as believers, are seeking after YHVH’s wisdom. He tells us in His Word, “Your ways are not My Ways; your thoughts are not My thoughts. My thoughts are higher than Yours.” As believers, we are first seeking the One who has the answers and second we are seeking His wisdom. The world is primarily seeking the answers within itself and apart from God.

In case I haven’t made it clear, let me clarify what I am and what I am not saying: I am NOT saying that as believers we give up our right to think or to be intelligent or to seek answers. God tells us in Hosea 4:6, “My people die from lack of knowledge.” I am NOT saying that believers can’t be intelligent or smart or should just give up trying to learn altogether and just accept what they are told. I AM saying that as believers, we should accept that we won’t always have the answers and what we believe won’t always make sense to nonbelievers. However, that’s kind of where faith comes in. It’s not a cop-out answer, it’s just the way it is.

2. No Matter What Reasons You Give, To The World It Will Always Sound Like Gibberish

Yeshua tells us that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we are to become like children. Think back to when you were little. It was much easier to believe in “fantastical” things and to believe in the things you didn’t fully understand. Again, going back to my previous point, this doesn’t mean that believers should be ignorant or simply accept whatever they are taught; rather, that we believe human wisdom and understanding can only take us so far and we must leave the rest up to faith.

Because of this belief, there will never be an argument that will appease an atheist or an intellectual who is relying solely on their own understanding. Our beliefs and our faith in the unseen will never make sense to those who rely on their own strength to comprehend. But guess what? It’s not supposed to. The Word constantly reminds us that the message is for those “who have ears to hear and a heart to understand.” This means that not everyone will “hear” or understand the message. That’s ok. It’s not our job to be the Holy Spirit and convince others of God’s truth. That person may come to believe in God one day but it will be when they have a personal encounter with God, not when your words or defense of faith is perfect.

I love the way Frances J. Roberts puts it in “Call of the Turtledove” in Come Away My Beloved:

The voice of the Bridegroom is calling His Bride. It is the call of love, and those who truly love Him will respond. Those whose hearts are fixed on things above will not be held by worldly entanglements. Those who are listening to the voice of their Beloved will not be deafened by the cries of men. In a world filled with noises, each demanding attention, they will hear him. Another stand besides them and hears only the voice of the preacher. Another may be giving attention to the opinions and arguments of men. But you need not fear that you will miss it. Be it ever so soft, you shall hear. Your heart shall hear, and your heart shall leap with joy.

3. God’s Truth is Not for Everyone

Here is where I’m going to get emails and calls…but stick with me on this one. Like I said before, a person might come to develop a relationship with God when they experience a personal encounter with Him. However, some people may never have this experience. Or if they do, they may chalk it up to something entirely different than God.

At dinner, my “devout atheist” was asked if he had ever had a spiritual or supernatural encounter. He responded with two stories. The first experience he admitted was definitely of the supernatural but it was not enough to convince him that God is real. The second example was in moments of complete contentment and happiness. He said that in those moments he desires to attribute it to something beyond himself and wonders in those moments if there is something more to life, but eventually dismisses the feeling altogether and instead decides to attribute the feeling of happiness to himself.

My point is that some people, even after having spiritual encounters, will still refuse to believe there is a God. That is their decision. You cannot do anything to change that. If someone is so prideful that they can experience God and desire to believe in Him but continue to fight it, then nothing you say or do is going to change that person. Again, only the Holy Spirit can do that. The Word also tells us in Revelation that even in the last days when the earth is being destroyed and the world is crumbling before their very eyes, there will still be those who refuse to acknowledge or humble themselves before God.

4. It Truly is Pointless to Argue With Someone Who Has No Desire to Have a Conversation

The Word tells us not to engage in pointless arguments that only bring division. This is a healthy boundary to have in your life in any relationship. If a conversation is clearly going nowhere and its going there fast, then stop. Clearly it’s of no benefit for either party…unless of course the person you’re engaging is thriving off the conflict, in which case you should really really stop the conversation. Besides the fact that it is a waste of time to engage in pointless arguments that lead nowhere, you’re only going to push them further away from the truth and deeper into their own beliefs. The more you challenge someone, the tighter they will hold to their beliefs. So if your goal is to be a witness, share your faith and then leave it at that. Don’t get yourself into a conversation where it benefits neither side and doesn’t bring glory to God.

5. God Doesn’t Need You to Defend Him

You will never convince someone that YHVH is loving or just or true or even real for that matter, if they truly don’t want to be convinced of it. But guess what? YHVH doesn’t need you to defend Him. This is something I have been struggling with lately, “Am I doing a good job of defending who YHVH truly is?” YHVH used Roberts’ “Sing, My Children” to deeply minister to me when I was struggling with this.

Do not be concerned for My reputation. I have withstood many storms, and I will survive this one. Human strivings are like the waters around Gibraltar. They have beat upon the rock, but they have not changed it. I am not disturbed, and I forbid you to be anxious.

You can stand your ground and stand firm in your faith, but like I said before, no matter what argument you try to use it’s never going to make sense to them…if they don’t want it to make sense. Do you know why? Because you’re not the Holy Spirit. Only God can convict someone’s heart and only His Spirit can stir someone to believe. Your job is to be a vessel and speak only when He gives you words to speak. If you don’t have the words and the person clearly doesn’t have an interest in learning about what you believe, it’s as foolish as “throwing your pearl to the swine.”

Ukraine, 18 yr Old Suing Parents, Being a Voice in the Desert

A Sabbath Prayer: A Quiet Pool

“Quiet Pool” is from Frances J. Roberts’ book Come Away My Beloved. God has been showing me these past few weeks that I need to lay aside my worries, fears, doubts, questions, and anything else that keeps me from Him and His perfect peace…His shalom. This is really a great devotion any day but I thought it was especially perfect for ShabbatI pray this Sabbath you will enter into His rest. Enjoy and be blessed!

Wait upon Me.

Let your life be as a deep, quiet pool. Let your heart rest in My hand as a bird in a nest. Let your eyes be still. Let your hands be free. For then I shall fill all your vision, and then I shall take your hands into Mine and My power shall flow forth into you.

If you would only make yourself a place apart, yes, removed from the pressure and turmoil, and there I will meet you. Yes, I wait for your coming. For I long to pour out My blessings upon You, and I long to give you My fullness. Only be still before Me. Never let the toils and cares of the day rob you of this sweet fellowship with Me.

For I know what you need, and I am concerned about your duties and responsibilities. You will find your cares vanish, and your load is lightened by an unseen hand. I would have you bring Me your love, and even as you are bringing Me your love, I shall in turn bring to you My power, so that I work for you in a twofold measure.

I will give you the power to discharge your duties with greater efficiency. I am actively engaged in working for you in ways you cannot see, to make your path clear, and to bring about things you could never accomplish, and which would otherwise absorb your energies and wear out your patience.

So I say again…Rest in Me. Wait upon Me. Come apart with Me. Seek My face. Seek My fellowship.

O YHVH, what shame that You should need to beg us thus! Better that others might find us unavailable because of our occupation with You, rather than for us to be so slow to come, so dull to hear, so cold of heart, so indolent of soul.

O God, spare us Your wrath! Do not let Your anger be kindled against us. Let us ask only one thing more, and do not turn away.

Grant this one prayer more, O YHVH, that You would give us all that is lacking in us; intensify our hunger and fire our devotion; take the indifference from our spirits; and have within us Your wonderful way and perfect will, O YHVH, we pray. Amen