Welcome to Home Shalom!
Welcome to Home Shalom and Shalom Farm. We pray your visit here be blessed. We are learning to walk in the Ways (Torah) of our Father YHWH and follow Y'shua, His Messiah until He returns to "set things straight". We call it a "Messi-Life". Our walk is neither tidy nor perfect, but it is filled with passion, devotion and desire to serve our King. We are learning to be humble servants, and to be good stewards of the things that He has entrusted to us: His Word, our marriage, our children, our family, our community, our health, and our farm. Hitch your horse and stay a while--our door is always open!
Friday, October 22, 2010
Recently, we have had the opportunity to have some long and deep discussions with several Christians who do not see The Bible in the same way we do. None of us, refreshingly, even hinted that the other was ‘lost’ or ‘unredeemed’, based on our differing points of view. I began to wonder what the ‘New Testament’ benchmark really was for separating the “sheep and the goats”, when it seems more and more obvious that YHVH (that’s the actual Name of God—pronounce it the way you feel led to) allows for wide diversity of belief and lifestyle within His people. As a former “main stream” Christian, I would have certainly looked upon the people who are on my current path as either ‘lost’ or at least severely mislead and on a slippery slope. Most Catholics would declare Protestants as ‘lost’ -- and vise versa. The Jews have a 3000 year head-start on their relationship with The Father, yet most Christians would consider them ‘lost’-- and vise versa. There is a popular saying, “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship”, but what does that even mean? Messiah Himself said, “There is no way to The Father but through me,” (John 14:6) but if someone says they trust in Jesus (“Yahshua” in Hebrew) but then don’t obey Him, can you still go to The Father through Him? Does the Messiah give us any benchmarks to discern our “status” in His Kingdom?
It seems like in the New Testament, The Father separates people into three groups. Have you ever played the game where something is hidden and the searcher is given clues (cold, colder, warmer, hot, hotter!) to find it? YHVH seems to like this game. “It is the glory of God to hide a matter, and the glory of kings to search it out.” (Proverbs 25:2) Apparently, because of his abundant mercy and grace, He allows for two sets of winners, in this Holy version of ‘Hide and Seek’. Read this carefully worded warning of Yahshua: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-17) Who are these ‘cold’, ‘lukewarm’, and ‘hot’ believers? Let me be clear, while this hypothesis is based on scripture, this discussion is not an attempt to fully explain the heart of YHVH or boil down his Judgment to a simple analogy or nutshell formula. No one truly knows the heart of a person other than their Heavenly Father, nor is it our job to be the judge. Trying to see ourselves and our brothers and sisters through YHVH’s eyes, however, is useful and will help us reach and teach them more effectively.
That being said, it seems like those who are ‘lukewarm’, and therefore disqualified and spewed are those that pretend that they are playing but aren’t really--they are always ‘lukewarm’, since they’re not even searching or even getting up out of their seat. Yahshua said, “I know your deeds…” which reinforces James’ statement that “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). They claim to have faith but their works are empty. Many of these disqualified people follow “Christian traditions”, but have never been born again by the Spirit. People in this group could also be wolves in sheep’s clothing, or simply just apathetic, hypocritical, or backslidden sheep. From a faith perspective, there is essentially no difference between these people and non-believers. Simply just knowing that God exists is certainly not enough since “…even the demons believe that and tremble.” (James 2:19). The Old and New Testaments both teach that ‘trusting faithfulness’ in the Messiah and the blood of the lamb is the key to salvation, NOT works alone—but Yahshua himself in Revelation 3 is looking at behavior (deeds) as the outward proof of faith. Another group of ‘lukewarm’ people will say to Yahshua, “'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” He will declare to them, “I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.” (Matt 7:23) Just because someone declares themselves to be a Christian, even those who talk about Jesus a lot, and even produce what seems like good fruit, does NOT mean that they are known by The Father or The Son. The essence of YHVH’s heart as revealed to Moses, and therefore the essence of Yahshua’s teachings, revolves around ‘loving YHVH’ and showing that love by ‘loving your neighbor as yourself’(Lev 19:18). Throwing His name around or making a big show of miraculous power is not the benchmark. For those that think that His amazing grace makes our behavior irrelevant, or are trusting in the false doctrine of “once saved always saved” remember that Paul writes about a brother who is cut off from earthly fellowship due to improper behavior (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). Also, the couple struck down by YHVH in Acts for lying shows that even in the earliest post-resurrection Messianic community, there were frauds masquerading as believers and the penalty was death (Acts 5:1-10). Unfortunately, these ‘warm’ and disqualified players may make up the majority of those who claim to be followers of Messiah. As He said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt 7:12-14)
Honestly, in my own head, I have always confused the cold group and the lukewarm group. The verse however clearly says that it’s the lukewarm people that get vomited; the cold folks are as safe as the ‘hot’ folks! Unlike the masses, the cold folks, have some level of a true relationship with YHVH through His Son, and are searching to deepen their relationship with Him. They have been “born again” and perhaps even baptized; they have recognized and have repented from a certain amount of their sinfulness, and do not yearn to return to the ways of their former lives. Sadly though, many have been mislead by false traditions, and therefore even their new “Christian” lifestyles may poorly represent many aspects of The Father. They understand that “Love thy neighbor as yourself, and love YHVH will all of your might…” “…sums up the law and the prophets” (Matt 7:12) yet, ignorantly believe that most of the law has been done away with. As Yahshua said, in Matt 24:12 "Because lawlessness [i.e. being ignorant of the Torah] is increased, most people's love will grow cold.” YHVH knows that their hearts desire is to be ‘hot’ for Messiah, although they are facing the wrong direction in so many different ways, and looking for His love in all the wrong places-- mostly due to their lack of understanding of the Holy Scriptures and the Law. Many of these ‘cold’ folks truly believe they are RED HOT, because they have yet to experience anything ‘hotter’ than ‘cold’, and because they are comparing themselves to the world, to their own past, or to the ‘lukewarm’ crowd. Some are so in love with certain magnified aspects of ‘Jesus’ that they ignore many of His teachings, and are completely ignorant regarding the Torah observant Hebrew culture that was the root of everything He, His Disciples, and the Apostle Paul said and did. Most “born again” believers live their daily lives with little conviction of hypocrisy, and are genuinely insulted by the notion that they are worshiping a ‘false Messiah’ or following ‘pagan practices’. These people have made it through the ‘small gate’; some may even be stuck in the gate (like a rope through the eye of a needle (Matt 19:24 in the Aramaic NT text)) but are having trouble walking upon the “narrow way”. Individually, each of these believers still has a chance to listen to the Spirit, overcome the false traditions they have inherited, reread the Scriptures, and progress further down that narrow path to becoming truly ‘hot’. Note that “warm” is an OK place to be because it’s part of the transition from cold to hot. “Lukewarm”, however, is stagnant and dead. There is no doubt that The Father is calling the cold to a hotter relationship, but being the creator of our ‘free choice’, He will not force people to open their eyes.
The ‘hot’ folks are those who are following the Torah in the manner that the Messiah did, because they understand that, “A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”(Luke 6:40) They recognize what Yahshua taught…that every single commandment is eternally useful and valid. “Until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle of the Law will pass away…” (Matt 5:17) The ‘hot’ folks understand that Yahshua is the “Word made flesh” (John 1:14), and therefore there is no difference between obeying the Torah (the Word) and obeying the Messiah (who obeyed The Father perfectly by obeying the Torah perfectly (1 John 3:4)). Rather then looking for scriptural fine-print to legally escape the hundreds of useful commandments in the Torah, the ‘hot’ folks look for opportunities to grow ‘hotter’ through trusting and worshipful obedience . Because they value the Torah and love the Messiah so much, many ‘hot’ folks choose to live so that as many commandments apply to their lives as possible. Yahshua said, “If you love me, keep my commandments”, so isn’t that the highest form of Worship…to be as obedient as possible? (John 14:23-25) Also, instead of simply assuming that they are ‘hot’ and risking sin through pride and ignorance, truly ‘hot’ folks are humble and are consistently trying to fine tune their faith through study of the written word. The more they learn, the more they realize how much they still don’t know. It is quickly discovered that the pleasant heat felt on this walk gets stronger and stronger, and that there actually is no such thing as “hottest”. However, even the ‘hot’ folks risk becoming ‘cold’ by following the letter of the law rather than the spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6), forgetting that Love of YHVH is ultimately the source and power of the Torah, or by being fooled into following the traditions of men that masquerade as YHVH’s commandments (Matt 16:12). Some ‘hot’ folks become victims of ‘cults of personality’ and follow teachers who promise even “deeper truths” than those printed in the Scriptures (Matt 24:24). Perhaps the greatest satanic temptation is treating believing brothers who do not understand The Torah as ‘second-class’ believers by breaking fellowship with them or by treating them with contempt rather than with understanding and compassion. “Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:1-4).
The heavenly and earthly rewards are not equal between the ‘cold’ and ‘hot’ groups, but being ignorantly cold sure beats being spewed out of the mouth of the Living God. The words of Yahshua in Revelation 3 are by no means the only place where these distinctions between His people are made. YHVH uses similar analogies in other places in Scripture, too… each referring to His people--not to non-believers. Obviously, FALSE prophets and teachers who are purposely telling lies are excluded from the Kingdom along with non-believers and those who are ‘hearers only, and not doers” (James 1:22). But, there are those who trust in Yahshua, yet ignorantly teach that the Mosaic Commandments are no longer important--they will be called “the least in His Kingdom” (Matt 5:19a). Those who understand the value of the Torah, Yahshua calls “The greatest in His Kingdom” (Matt 5:19b).
In other verses, such as 2 Timothy 2:20, Paul mentions that in the Kingdom there are “vessels of dishonor, and vessels of honor”—again noteworthy that even the dishonored vessel is ‘in the Kingdom” and not smashed outside the gates.
The author of Hebrews, a book specifically written to those who should understand The Torah, chastises his audience for forgetting to study The Torah, and therefore not understanding the teachings of Messiah. These could be called the “milk” group and the “meat” group. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:11-14).
During Yahshua’s earthly ministry, we also see two groups split between His ‘Disciples’ and ‘the multitudes’. The Disciples were the ones that walked and talked with Him in person daily. They followed the Torah in the precisely the same way that the Master did; the very nature of a disciple is one who desires to emulate his master. The multitudes seemed to believe that Yahshua was The Messiah and witnessed many miracles, etc… but there was no evidence that they adhered closely to His teachings.
The “wise builders” and the “foolish builders” describe another split among believers, noted in a Messianic parable in Matthew 7:23-25. Both builders listened to the master and built a house for themselves. Despite what you may have been taught, this parable is not about NON-believers contrasted with believers. The rock that is spoken of is The Father and His holy instructions given to Moses that Yahshua walked and talked. The Torah proclaims, “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just;” (Duet 32:4). These Holy Commandments are the ‘building code’ for His Kingdom! Both the group that dismissed the Torah and those that embraced the Torah both had nice houses--they aren’t described as shacks or faulty looking, or crooked. The point is that when life’s storms come, one will stand and one will be destroyed. The one who built and who dwelled in the house is not destroyed; they still have a chance to rebuild—this time hopefully according to code!
Peter also writes about two groups of believers; there are those who are wise in the Torah and then there are those who are untaught and unstable in their understanding of the ‘Old Testament’. “…our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all of his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). Again, it seems silly to think that unbelievers and atheists would be the ‘untaught’ here, since those people couldn’t care less about Paul’s letters. It is those who care deeply about the Messiah, who are passionate about Him, and recognize His spilt blood as precious and Holy who are passionate about Paul’s writings. However, it is the very nature of the ‘cold’ group to not even realize that they are unstable in regards to the ancient Scriptures, and therefore they consider Paul’s letters to be an entirely new set of doctrine, rather than a deep and complex teaching on the truest way to keep all of the commandments given to Moses in the Torah. It is this misunderstanding that Peter was warning about, that is keeping the ‘cold’ believers from the path to becoming ‘hot’.
In Romans 14, Paul also writes about those “weak in the faith” and those “strong in the faith”. This is commonly interpreted as the “weak” ones trusting in rules and behavior, and the “strong” ones having greater faith and therefore being able to ignore commandments…trusting that Jesus had done away with them on the cross. After close inspection of this situation, Paul is actually saying that the “weak” are the ones who are still learning Torah, and are therefore more likely to follow the “when in doubt…leave it out” approach to the faith. Paul uses the example of “weak” brothers taking the extreme position of avoiding meat altogether simply to avoid the possibility of spiritual “contamination” of pagan idols. The “strong” brothers, fully aware of the Torah commandments related to food, and more experienced with the subject, know that avoiding all meat for this reason is taking an unnecessary precaution. Nevertheless, Paul’s wise admonition is for the “strong” brother to be humble enough to adjust their behavior for the sake of the “weak”, so as not to cause the brother to stumble. In this example, Paul suggests that the “strong” one skip the meat, even though he knows that idols are simply powerless statuettes.
The overarching point of Romans 14 is unity in Messiah of all believers whether cold or hot, weak or strong, milk drinking or meat eating, foolish or wise in the ways of Torah, stable or unstable, the least or the greatest. This unity is an overarching characteristic of the heart of YHVH. He says in Torah, “Hear oh Isreal, YHVH your Elohim is UNITED…He is ONE (echad).” (Deut 6:4). This is the often skipped but crucial part of The Greatest Commandment, as Yahshua taught the Torah (Matt 12:28-29). Apparently, this is an even greater commandment than the top 10 set that were set in stone...dispelling the myth that only the 10 commandments are eternal. The Father knows that our walk is a spiritual one far more than it is an earthly one; therefore it is our hearts that He desires to effect through His Torah. If we follow the letter of the commands perfectly, but have lost the truth in regards to his Unity, we are missing something huge. Likewise, if our first instinct is judgment of our own brothers rather than love, we are also missing the heart of YHVH. “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”(1 Cor 13:2) If Torah observers miss these points, they are heading in a cold direction if they aren’t already freezing cold. Christianity is about relationship, not simply the prerequisite relationship vertically with YHVH through Yahshua, but also a horizontal one with our brothers in the faith through Yahshua.
Of course the idea of unity can be taken too far and diluted into heresy, as Paul confirms in 2 Cor 6 “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Messiah with Satan, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as YHVH said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM, AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says YHVH. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the YHVH Almighty. This New Testament quote is mostly Paul re-quoting the Torah (as he was a very HOT observer of the Torah and follower of the Messiah).
This is the tricky part of unity--if any believer in Yahshua is “lawless” and “touching what is unclean” but they are ignorant of these things, YHVH’s grace abounds. But if they are fully aware of the commandments and their eternal Holiness, but still choose to disobey, that creates a reason for a valid split between brothers. It’s the rebelliousness and the conscious choice to turn from the known truth of Torah that is the real heart issue. This is what living in Sin means, according to 1 John 3:4 “Sin is the transgression of the Law”. This has been the case from Adam, from Moses, and even continuing passed Yahshua’s resurrection, and into our very lives today. The bar of YHVH’s expectation of our behavior toward Him and one another is raised with each revelation. The author of Hebrews speaks adamantly of this idea…” For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which He was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY. And again, YHVH WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:26-31) The capital letters in that verse denote the Old Testament verses the New Testament author was quoting, thus once again affirming the eternal aspects of YHVH’s nature.
All of His true family shares two attributes: We all Love YHVH our God with all our hearts and with all our soul and with all our strength (Deut 6:5); and secondly, all of us have fallen short of the glory of YHVH (Romans 3:23), and therefore our own righteousness (simply through good and proper behavior alone) appears to Him, as Isaiah 64:6 says in the original Hebrew, “as filthy menstrual cloths” (a garment that would forbid the wearer from approaching YHVH at all according to the Torah).
If you feel convicted after this discussion, that you might be a ‘cold’ Christian, be encouraged. The path you are on has been, in His wisdom and sovereignty, controlled by The Father. Before now, the timing was likely wrong for any number of reasons. Many good-hearted believers have gone decades as unknowingly cold before discovering the Torah. You are getting hotter already. Start by re-reading your Bible from Genesis 1:1, remembering that each and every covenant, every promise, and each and every commandment that applies to Israel, applies to you (Eph 2:11). Ask the Holy Sprit for guidance, and continue to explore the resources on this website to help you when you are challenged.
If you already consider yourself ‘hot’ I remind you to remain humble and teachable. Remember how much you thought you knew last week, and how much you have learned since then. Remember how many course corrections it took to get you to your current level of relationship with The Father, and realize that there are likely just as many adjustments and epiphanies ahead of you still in your walk. Be ready at all times to guide and feed others on this path, as the times are now near for a flood of ‘cold’ folks looking for the Truth and perhaps angry about the distorted path they had been following and the lies that they have inherited. (Jer 16:19)
If you think you may be ‘luke-warm’, or perhaps you have been so turned off by hypocritical religion that the idea of “accepting Christ” or needing a savior seemed like foolishness, the fact that you made it to this last paragraph may be the very proof of a divine hand that you have been asking for. There are no magic words to start your walk The Messiah to The Father, there is no formula or standard. Just reach out from the very heart of your being and cry “help” in your own words to your Creator. Thank him for offering a chance to be re-born. Thank him for allowing someone else, His very own Son, to die as punishment—in your place-- for all of the things you have ever done wrong. This can be a week long tear-filled event, or a sober, simple, and almost audible “click” in your sprit. No matter what you have ever done to deserve death, or judgment, or condemnation…no matter what lies you may have been taught about God’s nature or His ways…He deeply desires to offer you a fresh start. No more sin, no more condemnation, no more lies…a fresh start. Grab whatever Bible that you have handy…YHVH knows what you’ll grab, so don’t panic…and start at the beginning. Seriously, start at the preface and the introduction; don’t just skip straight to the good stuff. Read the notes that explain who translated the very book in your hand, and from what languages, and what all the little notes and bold face print and italics mean. Read the notes about the very Name of God, and how it may be purposely disguised in your text. Then, take the lead of the very first group of Torah keeping believers in the Resurrected Messiah in Acts 15. When directing new believers onto The Way of the Messiah, they reasoned: “For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath." Read the words of Moses in the first 5 books (The Torah), and then take the Sabbath (7th day) off every week to reflect on what you are learning. Take complete ownership your Bible, and let the Sprit of the Heavenly Father guide you to the all truth.