Many Communities, One People

Echad: Many Communities, One People

Echad. United as one.

We hear this phrase used a lot when we talk about the Church or the Bride of Messiah. We stress the importance of being united in Christ and in being one body. But oftentimes, we don’t really understand the meaning of this.

As those of you who follow me on social media know, I recently moved to a new state. Everything is new and every day is an adventure and I navigate through new streets, meet new people, learn a new job, and create a new normal for myself.

Part of all the newness also means searching for a new congregation to call home. I’m always nervous when visiting new groups – you never know what you’re going to find! But so far, I have been pleasantly surprised by the groups I’ve attended. But visiting new groups has opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of what it means to be echad.

Oftentimes, when we think of being echad or “one,” we think of being one with Messiah Yeshua or one with those in our congregations. But it also means being echad and united with other believers around the world.

I realized something beautiful as I’ve visited new congregations: we are many communities, and yet we are one people.

Each congregation may do things a little differently, but we are all doing the same thing. For instance, one group may sing the Shema in a different tune than another, but they are both singing the Shema. Another group may meet at a different time but we all gather on Shabbat. One group may say the prayers in a different order but we are all saying the same prayers. It was a beautiful sight to see!

This past weekend, I fellowshipped with a group that welcomed me in as if I had always belonged there with them. As worship began, I felt so excited to hear songs I was familiar with and loved being sung. It was comforting to see tallits being put on; to see the menorah being lit. It made me feel at peace to hear songs welcoming the Holy Spirit and worshipping Our Heavenly Father. And it made me realize that even though we are different congregations, we are all one people when we come together to worship our Father.

So let’s not let the little things get in the way of being echad. In the end, the little things are important, but they’re not the most important. In the end, all that really matters is bringing glory and honor to YHVH. And that can only be achieved when we are echad with one another.

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Resting with God: Filling Our Empty Cups

I have never understood the importance of resting in YHVH more than in the past few weeks. It is here, in this place of stillness and rest that He restores my soul; that He refreshes my being.

“YHVH is my Shepherd; I do not lack. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my being, He leads me in paths of righteousness.”

Throughout the week, we empty ourselves to our work, family, friends, volunteering activities but on Shabbat YHVH refills our cups. If we never let Him lead us to these still waters and lay in green pastures with Him we miss out on having Him refill our cups. And if we go several weeks without being made whole and rejuvenated, it’s a recipe for disaster.

“When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil. For You are with me. Your rod and Your staff comfort me.”

If we don’t rest in Him, eventually you reach a point where you can’t go on anymore — and this is not the best plan YHVH has for us. He has so much He wants to bless us with and so much love to fill our cups with. But do we let Him?

What does it mean to rest in Him? It’s not just about not going to work and sitting home and doing nothing all day. Resting in Him means connecting with Him. It means establishing and cultivating your own personal, intimate relationship with YHVH. It means taking time away from work, the stressors of the week, our to-do list and even all our godly work to simply be with Him. If we don’t actually connect with Him, we’re not really being filled by Him. And if we’re not being filled by Him, we will remain empty. When we are empty, we have nothing to give to Him or others.

Unfortunately, I’ve found this out the hard way. Even though I observe Shabbat and take time to read the Torah portion each week and study His word, I wasn’t doing the work to really connect with Him — and that’s the real key to unlocking the mystery of Shabbat.

No other people or religion has anything that compares to the beauty that is Shabbat. It’s called the weekly festival; a special time between YHVH and His people. It is on Shabbat that we are given a gift — the gift of connecting with our God and King in a way not possible during the rest of the week. A time where we can cast our burdens on Him, let go of the cares of this world, and lean completely on the One who holds the universe — and our lives — in His hands. But if we aren’t taking the time or putting forth the effort to connect with Him, then we miss this precious gift from our Father.

I’ve missed the fullness of this gift and have felt the emptiness as a result. But this week, I commit to drawing close to Him and just being with the lover of my soul. What about you? Do you hear Him calling to you? He desires to be with you. He longs to love you and be loved by you.

“You have anointed my head with oil, my cup runs over. Only goodness and loving-commitment follow me all the days of my life. And I shall dwell in the House of YHVH forever!”


 

Voice in the Desert & Children in Prayer

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

A Quiet Pool

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

 

Young men rejoicing in the Shabbat at the Western Wall. Notice the Torah is the center of their joy.

The Blessing of Sabbath

Shabbat. Sabbath. The Lord’s Day. A day of rest. The seventh day. A holy day. The weekly holiday. These are just a few of the many names Shabbat or Sabbath goes by. But what is Sabbath really? The Torah, or the Word of God, tells us that this day is many things for the people of God. It is an everlasting sign of our covenant with YHVH (God) to be observed throughout our generations, it is a joy, it is a holy day, and it is life-giving to all those who guard it.

My grandmother raised my mom to observe Sabbath, who then taught me and my sister about Shabbat. While I can’t say that we always observed sabbath growing up, we did our best to try and now, because of the faithfulness of my grandmother, her children’s children love and guard the Sabbath of YHVH just as much as she does.

We always knew that the true day of Sabbath was Friday night to Saturday night and this confused me growing up in a church that said it had been changed to Sunday. It wasn’t until I was in college that I would find out the truth behind why this holy day was changed from the Friday/Saturday model to Sunday.

In Daniel 7:25, we are told, “and it [the fourth beast/the anti-Christ] speaks words against the Most High, and it wears out the set-apart ones of the Most High and it intends to change appointed times and law, and they [the set-apart ones] are given into its hand for a time and times and half a time.” From Daniel’s vision, we are told that the spirit of the anti-Christ is to change the appointed times and the law; change can include adding or taking away. What are the appointed times? In Hebrew, the word moedim means “feasts, appointed times, celebrations.” The word for “law” in Hebrew is Torah. However, Torah tends to get a bad reputation from this translation. Hebrew is a language of depth and rich with meaning. So to simply say Torah is “law”, we miss so much of the fullness of what it really is. Torah is truly God’s instruction book for His people. It is the righteous right-rulings that we are to live by. Just as our earthly father would establish rules for living in his house, our heavenly Father has rules for His house. So when any person tells us something that changes Torah, whether by adding or taking away from, we know this to be the spirit of the anti-Christ trying to destroy the ways of God and His people.

In 325 AD, Constantine, Emperor of Rome, held the First Council of Nicaea. It was through the Council of Nicaea that Constantine established many of the fundamental elements of Christianity as we know it today. Constantine was a relatively new ruler and many riots were breaking out at this time due to religious clashes between the Jews of conquered Jerusalem and the Romans who were now flocking to Jerusalem. In order to quench the riots, Constantine made a compromise between the two religions. He took the Nazarene faith (believers of Yeshua/Jesus) and mixed it with Mithraism (sun worship). He took the Nazarene’s belief in Yeshua and the sun worship of the pagan Romans and created the new “universal” religion of Catholicism. By taking elements of both religions, Constantine hoped to unite these warring factions and bring the people together in unity. We see many examples of this still happening today. We hear messages of “Coexist”, “we all worship the same god”, and “no one’s belief system is wrong.”  One of the elements Constantine kept from sun worship was their most holy day of the week…..SUN-day. This is how Sunday came to replace Friday/Saturday as the Sabbath.        

We can obviously see that the enemy has great motivation to change the system of God and to keep God’s people in the dark on these matters. Genesis 1:14 tells us that the sun, moon, and stars are to be “for signs and appointed times,” meaning that from the beginning there was a system in place that God designed to point us to the times and seasons He had ordained to meet with us. By changing this system, the enemy keeps us from knowing the times to meet with YHVH and keeps us from knowing the times and seasons we are in. Hebrews 4 tells us that Sabbath here on earth is a foreshadow of the ultimate sabbath rest we as believers will enter into one day…meaning dwelling in His Kingdom in the New Jerusalem. But if we don’t understand Shabbat, and more importantly His Torah and all the feasts of YHVH, we will never understand the fullness of the plan He has for us.

I know several people who had said that since they have begun to guard Shabbat, they have seen huge changes in their lives. For instance, they have drawn closer to God, they have seen spiritual blessings multiply in their lives, and they feel the peace of God covering their lives. Isaiah 58:13-14 says,

“If you do turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My set-apart day, and shall call the Sabbath ‘a delight’, the set-apart day of YHVH ‘esteemed,’ and shall esteem it, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in YHVH. And I shall cause you to ride on the heights of the earth, and feed you with the inheritance of Jacob your father. For the mouth of YHVH has spoken!”

So you see, keeping Shabbat is a blessing to those who guard it. We can also see YHVH feels very strongly about Sabbath and that it is to remain a holy, set-apart day. We also see from these verses that we are not to do “our own ways nor find our own pleasure” on Shabbat. This doesn’t mean that you should be unhappy or bored when celebrating Shabbat; it simply means that we are to find our delight in God on this day and not in the common things of life.

For example, keeping the Shabbat holy doesn’t mean you veg out, watch tv and never leave the couch. It means you spend your time with family and friends celebrating all that God has done for you this week. It means setting aside special time with YHVH to tell Him you love Him and in turn, letting Him refresh you and revive you. Setting this day apart as a holy day means not finding your pleasure in the common things of this life but in the holy things of above.

Many people ask, “But I’m not Jewish. Does the Sabbath still apply to me?” The answer is a resounding YES! Isaiah 56:1-7 tells us that any son of a foreigner who joins himself to YHVH, who guards the Sabbath, and holds fast to His covenant will be brought to the mountain of God and will rejoice in His house of prayer. God says He accepts the offerings of the son of a foreigner who joins Himself to YHVH. So we don’t have to be Jewish in order to keep Sabbath; we just have to be willing to join ourselves to the house of God.

There are some people who say that say that the Sabbath doesn’t have to be on a specific day of the week because any day is a good day to worship God. Yes, it is true that you can worship God any day of the week and not only on Sabbath but that doesn’t change the command YHVH gave us to keep this specific day holy. Keeping the Sabbath doesn’t negate worship on any other day and neither should it keep us from worshipping Him every, single day of the week or any time He calls us into prayer and worship. It simply means that there is something special about this day; something that can only happen on this day of the week. When we submit ourselves to our Husband, something incredible happens. We are free. As YHVH draws us close to Him on this day, we are made free to live the life that He desires for us. It is through obedience that we gain life and freedom. So when we choose to be obedient and live our lives as an offering to our Father, it is then that we gain a freedom we have never felt before; it is then that He breathes His spirit into us and refreshes our life.

I have heard it said that by keeping the Sabbath and guarding the Torah, that a person is put back “under the Law” and that these things somehow cancel what Jesus did on the cross. However, Yeshua kept the Sabbath. The Word is clear that He went to synagogue, read the Scriptures, spent time in prayer, taught and fellowshipped with His disciples, and even performed miracles on this day. If we are to strive to live our lives as Yeshua did, why don’t we strive to keep Shabbat as He did? I have never heard anyone say that the command “do not murder” is not to be kept because of Jesus’ death on the cross. We have no problem obeying “do not murder”, “do not commit adultery”, “honor your mother and father” and so on. So why do we have such a problem with Sabbath?     

YHVH and His Word are the same yesterday, today and forever. This means He does not change. His Word does not change. His Word does not contradict itself. YHVH is not the author of confusion; the enemy of the believers is, though. The enemy has a reason to keep us from knowing the truth about YHVH’s Torah, the truth about YHVH’s Ways, and the truth about Shabbat. If he can keep us in the dark and keep us from knowing the truth, it’s only that much easier for him to deceive us. We MUST seek the truth with all our heart! And when we find it, we cannot harden our heart to it. It may go against our traditions or what we were brought up to believe, but ultimately, if our hearts are seeking after YHVH’s truth, we have to let those things go. When we come before YHVH, we conform to His ways; we never make Him conform to our ways. We must be like Ruth who said, “Your God will be my God and your people shall be my people. Ba’asher telchi elech. Wherever you go, there I shall go.” It might be hard. Others may not understand or agree with what we are doing, but really, our goal in this life is to be a pleasing sacrifice to YHVH, not man.

Shabbat Shalom!