Attaining Spiritual Maturity in the New Covenant

On Being Spiritual Mountain Climbers

From the time that YHVH revealed himself to the children of Israel while they were enslaved in Egypt, he has been calling his people to be spiritual mountain climbers. He first called the Israelites out of Egypt and up to Mount Sinai, and then up to Mount Zion in Jerusalem. He then called his people to come even higher yet to the upper room on the day of Pentecost, and he is now calling his people to come up even higher to the New Jerusalem that is above us and is the mother of us all. This highest mountain of YHVH is the ultimate source of our spiritual sustenance, the source of the river of life along which the trees of life are situated. From this spiritual wellspring comes all divine revelation and ultimately immortal life as children of the Most High.

The beginning of the upward spiritual journey of YHVH’s people is memorialized in the counting of the omer, which starts on First Fruits Day occurring during the Feast of Unleavened Bread and culminates fifty days later with the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost (Heb. Shavuot; Lev 23:4–16). Each new step in this journey is a stepping stone or a launch pad to the next. For the Israelites, the journey started at sea level in the flat-land river delta of Egypt (a metaphor for this world, Satan and death) and then continues climbing higher and higher until it reaches heaven itself—the abode of Elohim.

The problem is that most people only climb so far in their spiritual journey and then stop, or they grow weary along the way or become comfortably complacent at the level they have thus far attained and never move past that spot. This is dangerous! 

To not move forward spiritually is to stagnate and to die. YHVH wants a people that are on the move, who will obediently follow him wherever he leads, and not stop and park along the way only to construct their religious monuments with their fossilized customs, rituals and traditions. Heaven is a long way above the earthly plane, and YHVH wants children who will seek him no matter what, who have a heart to follow him no matter where, and no matter the cost. Although eternal life is a free gift from heaven, it won’t be given easily. It costs nothing, but, at the same time, it costs everything! Man must be willing to sacrifice his all—to lose his earthly life—to gain eternal life. YHVH refuses to give out his priceless gift of eternal life willy-nilly to anyone and everyone! YHVH requires that his saints be determined, tough and gritty mountain climbers who refuse to give up until that summit is reached. He has no pleasure in those who turn back, or refuse to go on. Only those who doggedly overcome the world, the flesh and the devil remaining lovingly loyal and obedient to him will receive the highest reward he has to offer.

The Spirit Versus the a Letter of the Law—the Two Covenants

Let’s now explore what it is to climb the mountains that YHVH has placed before us to ascertain where we are at on the journey and how far we have to go to reach the ultimate summit.

Continue reading
 

Is “the ministry of death” the Torah?

2 Corinthians 3:7, Ministry of death. Is this a reference to the Torah law that YHVH gave to Moses and the Israelites (and which was passed on down to us)? If so, which aspects of it are the “ministry of death”? Just previously in verse six, Paul is speaking about the new covenant and the letter bringing death and the spirit bringing life. What is he referring to here? Is the spirit of the Torah-law all that is applicable to the believer today, and not the letter?

If the Torah has been done away with, then why did Yeshua in his Sermon on the Mount excoriate the Jews for keeping the letter and not the spirit of the Torah? In fact, he strongly affirmed that his disciples must keep both the letter and the spirit of the Torah. To keep only the spirit would be tantamount to saying it’s all right to murder as long as you don’t hate the person, commit adultery as you don’t lust in the process, and so on. It should be plain to see that his notion is absurd. Yet this is what many Christians believe. They assert that they only have to keep the spirit of the law, but don’t have to keep the letter of the law (except the so-called “moral law”; i.e., don’t murder, steal, lie and commit adultery, etc.), and they will use this passage of Scripture to justify their belief. If this is not what Paul meant here, then what is he talking about when he is favoring the spirit of the Torah over the letter? If Paul is not referring to the Torah as the “ministry of death” in this passage, then to what is he referring? 

Paul references the stone tablets containing the Torah that Moses brought back the second time from Mount Sinai. Some aspect of this Torah (i.e. “the ministry of death”) brought the curse of death. Was it the Torah law itself, which tells man how to love Elohim with all of his heart, soul and strength and his neighbor as himself that brought death? It seems inconceivable and counter to the Torah itself that Paul would be referring to the aspect of the Torah that tells a man how to love his Creator and fellow man as causing death. After all, the Torah itself tells us that if a man follows the Torah, he will live and that Torah brings life (Deut 30:15, 19) ­—not death.

Conversely, disobedience to the Torah (or Torahlessness) is considered death (ibid.). So, in Paul’s mind, if he is to stay consistent with the Scriptures, Torah-obedience can’t be considered causing death. So what aspect of the Torah is Paul referring to then that kills? He must be referring to the penalty imposed on one for violating the Torah. Violating the Torah brings penalties and curses and sometimes even the death penalty (Deut 27 and 28). Elsewhere, the Scripture tells us that sin is Torahlessness (1 John 3:4). Moreover, the person who sins ultimately brings on himself the death penalty (Ezek 18:4; Rom 6:23) if he fails to place his faith in Yeshua and repent of his sins or violation of YHVH’s Torah-laws (Rom 6:23–26; 1 John 1:9). 

Continue reading
 

Let’s all grow up and stop acting like Balaam!

Face it, each of us acts a little (or a lot) like Balaam from time to time!

Numbers 22:21–22, A willful, selfish manipulator. Balaam was willful, greedy, arrogant, rebellious and presumptuous in the face of YHVH’s revealed will. Balaam was attempting to manipulate YHVH through soulish means for his personal gain, but YHVH always has the upper hand.

YHVH Elohim is sovereign over the affairs of men regardless of men’s machinations. The will of YHVH cannot be manipulated or bent to accommodate men’s selfish ambitions. After all, how can man—a created being—hope to play mind games with the Sovereign Creator of the universe and win? In the end, man will be humbled and YHVH will be exalted as was the case with Balaam—an arrogant and internationally acclaimed “prophet.” He was made to look like a fool through a talking donkey and all this occurred in front of the accompanying delegation of Moabite leaders. 

It was evident to all that Balaam was but a pawn in the hands of YHVH, and that if YHVH could make a brute beast speak, then he was certainly capable of putting his words into the mouth of mortal man, albeit a sorcerer. 

What lessons can we learn here? Is it wise to toy with or tempt Elohim or try to manipulate him to fit our will? How often do we attempt to bend his will to fit our own? How often do we attempt to push forth our own carnal and selfish agendas, and then attempt to convince ourselves and others that it is the will of YHVH? What are the end results? How many people go through life on this basis and never mature, since they continually act like wilful, bratty and rebellious children who always demand their own way and refuse to grow up spiritually? They have never learned to distinguish between their own carnal will and that of the Almighty. 

The good news is that when we finally submit to YHVH and let go of our own selfish agendas, it is then that we start to have the breakthroughs in our lives and begin to experience his joy, shalom and victory not to mention an intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father.

 

What does it mean to cross over—to become a Hebrew, the Israel of Elohim?

Abraham, the father of the faithful, was one who left Babylon and crossed over to become a Hebrew. Crossed over from what? Read on…

Numbers 22:5, Pethor … by the river. Balaam was from the land of Pethor, which is “by the River.” This is a reference to the Euphrates River, the great river of Babylon (The ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash, p. 857). Thus Balaam was a Babylonian, although he may have been a transplanted Edomite according to some Jewish scholars (see The ArtScroll Bereishis/Genesis Commentary on Gen 36:32). 

One of the aspects of Babylon of the last days is her religious system (Rev 13:11ff) the head of which is the false prophet (Rev 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). The Babylonian religious system of the end days is a blend of both good and evil (reminiscent of the tree by that name in Eden from which the serpent beguiled Adam and Eve away from YHVH’s path of truth and righteousness into a false religious system). 

In the last days, YHVH is calling his people out of that false religious system (Rev 18:4) with its false prophets who prophesy a mixture of good and evil. 

Is not modern traditional Christianity a mixture of good and evil, truth and error (i.e. doctrines and traditions of men along with some paganism mixed in)? Reflect on the implications of this. To what degree have you heeded YHVH’s call to “come out of her”—namely, any man-made religious or church systems that has components that are contrary to the Word of Elohim? 

Like many in mainstream Christianity, the Scriptures seems to indicate that Balaam had some knowledge of the truth of YHVH, but he refused to wholeheartedly submit to YHVH’s word and will (2 Pet 2:15). 

Let us not forget Yeshua’s warning about false prophets arising in the last days who might deceive the very elect (Matt 24:24).

Numbers 22:10ff, Crossing over. Many carnal people—especially those playing at religion—want to be like YHVH’s saints, and to be the recipients of the blessings of Israel, and to be numbered among YHVH’s chosen, but few want to walk the difficult walk of holiness and righteousness required to receive these blessings and privileges. These may very well be the spiritual tares that surreptitiously exist along side the saints within their congregations.

Many people will “court YHVH” by getting as close to him as possible without actually crossing over that spiritual river that divides the land of Israel from the rest of the world. Those who actually cross over become an Ivrit or a Hebrew—a word which means “to cross over.” Abraham was one who crossed over. He forsook Babylon and crossed over the Euphrates and Jordan Rivers in his journey westward en route to the Promised Land as he followed YHVH’s leading. He was the first Hebrew (Ivrit) or “one who crossed over.” 

Crossing over means going from being a worldly Babylonian to becoming the Israel of Elohim (Gal 6:16; Eph 2:11–13) and a child of Abraham (Gal 3:29). It also means surrendering one’s life totally to the Elohim of the Hebrews who is YHVH. 

The sacrifice of crossing over is too great for most people to make and requires the payment price of a high price—the death of self, pride, one’s own will and perhaps a change in lifestyle and the loss of one’s friends and status in the world. To leave the world or spiritual Babylon and to cross over the Jordan River to YHVH’s side and come into the land of Israel as a spiritual Hebrew means that the fame and fortune that this world has to offer must be laid aside and one must become a servant-slave of YHVH. Moreover, it means embracing YHVH’s Torah as the law of life—Elohim’s instructions in righteousness. 

Balaam couldn’t cross over all the way. He still preferred the riches and fame Babylon had to offer. He was willful, carnal and greedy (Jude 11). 

Many religious game-players or cultural Christians in the mainstream church are like Balaam. They want the Savior part of Yeshua, but not the Lord part. How serious are you about serving YHVH? 

The Scriptures say of the end-times saints that they loved not their lives unto death (Rev 12:11). Paul declares that followers of Yeshua must become “living sacrifices” in the service of YHVH (Rom 12:1). Yeshua gave his very life for you. 

Are you holding back some of your life for him? Do the cares of this world, the desire for pleasures, material goods, money, entertainments or acclaim still have a grip on your heart? Are they preventing you from moving into your spiritual calling and destiny—to truly walk by faith in obedience to YHVH?

 

The Truth Behind Castles, Palaces and Mansions

Dunrobin Castle, northern Scotland

Castles, palaces and mansions dot the landscape in many regions of Europe. These edifices are silent monuments of the wealth that has been concentrated into the hands of a few over the millennia. The sizes of these homes are staggering. It becomes especially evident when one tours these palatial residences—some of which boast hundreds of rooms and vast acreages. What are castles, palaces and mansions really all about? What’s behind it all. How does YHVH Elohim view what they represent? These are the questions I found myself asking on my recent trip to the British Isles, Ireland and Paris.

Kensington Palace in London where Queen Victoria was born and England’s royalty lived until they moved to Buckingham Palace.

In many cities you visit, the castles, palaces and mansions of the wealthy “elite” top the list of the most popular tourist attractions. Everyone wants to experience the lifestyles of the rich and powerful if only vicariously. People the world over flock to them in droves as they purchase their tickets, board buses and often travel great distances to some remote and exclusive location with commanding view on a mountain or cliff top,  beach or lake side or some other venerable piece of real estate, where they will spend the better part of a day touring the extravagant grounds, gardens and residences. We did! Some palaces are so elite that photography is even forbidden. It’s hard not be awed at the sight of throne rooms, mirrored ballrooms with frescoed ceilings and dozens of yards of rich tapestries, exotic wood carvings and paneling and marbled flooring and enormous art galleries with paintings up to the gilded ceilings. 

Formerly a palace for the kings of France, now the Louvre Museum in Paris—one of many such rooms.
A ceiling in Kensington Palace, London

But all of this richness is, in reality, a pathetically thin veneer covering, in most cases, a sinister and evil side of palaces, castles and mansions. The tour guides, while giving the awestruck tourist the front story, will every so often allude to the backstory of how these wealthy “elite” obtained their vast lands and wealth. Yes, this background information paints a completely different story that betrays the rich but superficial patina of tree lined boulevards leading up to these grand estates as you drive past the high stone walls and gate houses, through the wrought iron gates to these homes surrounded by formal botanical gardens with their lakes, fountains, statuary and Greek-styled columned verandas, porticos and even garden sheds.

Buckingham Palace in London where Queen Elizabeth II lives.

Yes, the tour guides don’t want to ruin the fun for their bedazzled paying guests, but the honest guides, when pressed with questions, will let slip out the truth of how these rich folks often acquired their land, and it’s not a pretty picture—certainly not as nice as the homes they left behind.

Continue reading
 

Blog Scripture Readings for 7-14 Through 7-20-19

Aside


Parashat Balak — Numbers 22:2 – 25:9
Haftarah — Micah 5:6 – 6:8
Prophets — Ezekiel 19:1 – 24:27
Writings — Daniel 8:1 – 12:13; Ezra 1
Testimony — 1 Corinthians 15:50 – 16:24; 2 Corinthians 1:1 – 5:21

Most of this week’s blog discussion points will be on these passages. If you have general comments or questions on the weekly Scripture readings not addressed in a blog post, here’s a place for you to post those. Just use the “leave a reply” link below.

The full “Read Through The Scriptures In A Year schedule, broken down by each day, can be found on the right sidebar under “Helpful Links.” There are 4 sections of scripture to read each day: one each from the Torah, the Prophets, the Writings, and from the Testimony of Yeshua. Each week, the Torah and haftarah readings will follow the traditional one-year reading cycle.

Weekly Blog Scripture Readings for 7/14/19 through 7/20/19.

 

Dear Natan: Is it a lack of faith in Elohim to have insurance?

Sonja asked a very good question:

Q. Perhaps this is the right spot to ask a question in regard to faith. I have been pondering a lot lately whether it is a lack of faith in the Lord to have a house insurance. It is very expensive and I would love to give it up. But then I wonder whether I would be putting Adonai our Elohim to the test? Is there anywhere in Scripture where God makes a promise in regard to the protection for our homes? What are your thoughts on this issue?

A. Here is my best answer:

I would answer your question by asking a series of questions:

Is it a lack of faith to:

  • carry a spare tire in your car?
  • to carry a first aid kit when you go camping or hiking in the mountains?
  • to wear a life preserver or have lifesaving equipment when on a boat?
  • to have locks on your home and car?
  • to have a fire extinguisher?
  • to wear a seat belt when driving in a car?
  • to take vitamins and supplements when sickness is going around?

I could go on, but you get the point.

I can’t answer your question directly yes or no. Faith is a personal matter, and each person has to make those decisions based on their faith.

Scripture says that we’re not to tempt Elohim by doing stupid or fool-hardy things.

In my view, there is often a fine line between “living by faith” and “tempting YHVH,” which is foolishness. I cannot tell a person where that line is for them. YHVH may be telling a person to do something that another person with less faith may find to be fool-hardy or tempting YHVH. Samson did a lot of things that could have been considered tempting Elohim by some people’s standards, yet YHVH was with him, and his glowing example of obedient faith is recorded in Hebrews 11.

One more thing. If one can afford to have insurance, door locks, seat belts, spare tires, take vitamins and supplements, and so on, then it seems to me that we should do so. If, however, one is in a place where we either can’t afford it, or such it is just not available to us (we’re living way out in jungle or something), then at that point, I know that YHVH will take care of us.