Inevitably, the work of the ministry that we have been called to walk by faith, always seems to be full of unexpected twists and turns—where the Almighty One is consistently teaching us more about Him and His ways, so we might come to know Him even more intimately. For whatever reasons over the past several decades, the last few weeks of August and the beginning weeks of September, typically have major life altering events occurring within our family. This past month and into September is no different, especially with the homegoing of Margaret’s one hundred year and nine month old mother, Mary Ruth Franklin Jeffries, on August 30 in Jacksonville, FL, and followed by her burial in Birmingham, AL on September 9. An epoch definitely closed in our family, that we are significantly reflecting on!
In a beautiful way, the Lord allowed “M.R.” to slip into His presence on the seventy-ninth anniversary of her wedding eve, where on the next day in 1940, she entered into “marital bliss.” But now she has been reunited with her husband and her predecessors, and will forever enjoy “celestial bliss” with her Savior and a host of saints. Additionally, her funeral took place at the very church in Birmingham where she was married on August 31, 1940 by her father, Bishop Marvin A. Franklin, the senior pastor. Amazingly, the Believers in the crowd were in awe of not only her godly life example, but how the Lord timed her numbered days so that all of the signposts of His fingerprints were evident throughout the transition from life, to death of the physical body, and entrance into Paradise with Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel.
Contemporaneous to these events, ministry ventures never cease, as John continues to expand and refine the outreach of Messianic Apologetics, utilizing many of the tools available at our disposal. This year, with the 2020s on our doorstep, Outreach Israel Ministries has begun another “volume” in our efforts to help the Messianic Jewish community mature and grow, as the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21) moves along at the Father’s foreordained pace. In addition to our service at our local Messianic Jewish congregation, as elder (Mark), accountant (Margaret), and New Member/Foundations class teacher (John)—and with all that those responsibilities entail—in my work as a fundraiser for the MJAA’s Joseph Project, coupled with a Labor Day weekend spiritual retreat, and a few books I recently read, the Lord has really been pointing out some very elementary principles that should have been known for quite some time. After all, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29, NASU).
First of all, back in the mid-1990s when the weekly study of the Torah, Haftarah, and applicable Apostolic Writings became my disciplined routine, I had an image appear in my mind that bolstered my desire to diligently consider the designated passages on a regular basis. After all, I had learned that around the globe for millennia, the scattered, God-fearing, Jewish people, faithfully gather to honor the weekly Shabbat in synagogues, congregations, and fellowships where they would worship the Holy One of Israel and study the Word of God. Providentially, the great majority of those seeking communion with the Creator God continue to review the identical Scriptures that the Sages and Rabbis in the Diaspora cataloged centuries ago, back to the time of Ezra, and the return from Babylon. In a systematic way that would allow the student of Torah to complete the “Torah cycle” in 54 parashot or readings, complimented by an appropriate Haftarah selection chosen from the Prophets, Writings, or Psalms. As a result, the command to hear (shema) or listen to the voice of the Lord, and teach children and grandchildren, preserving God’s Word, has been adhered to faithfully in order to preserve the oracles of God (Romans 3:2).
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, NASU).
In recollection, the vision I had was simply that of an extremely high radio tower (like what one used to see in broadcasting ads about “Radio Free Europe”) towering over the planet and emanating concentric circles of radio-like waves that were traveling with penetrating power in every direction throughout the universe. Down through the centuries, whether in Shanghai, London, Johannesburg, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, or where ever a synagogue was located, whenever a Jewish businessman attended a Shabbat service—since he would typically know what was being studied that week—the local rabbi would often ask that traveler to share his thoughts or insights on the weekly portion, with the congregational members during the course of the Sabbath rest. Hence, current news and events from around the world were being shared.
In addition to general information, God was also communicating His Word throughout the created order and speaking His voice to those who had properly tuned into His broadcast, like the old analog dial radio receivers. The revelatory impact was available, if one was focused and listened to the designated “channels,” in order to recognize and interpret events or issues that were happening globally, or in their nation, state, county, city, neighborhood, congregation, family, or even individual setting. Such a revelation made me appreciate and better comprehend how the scattered Jewish people have been able to maintain some relative cohesion among themselves, despite the many attempts to eliminate their existence! Consequently, five years of study resulted in the TorahScope series of commentary books. Now, after about a decade since completing these volumes, I simply marvel at God’s desire to instruct His children from the weekly portions, and contribute a weekly “mini-drash” on the Torah reading at our local congregation when I am in town.
Currently through August and September, the Book of Deuteronomy is being studied, as the Hebrew civil calendar year is winding down to Rosh HaShanah, the head of the year celebrated at the end of September, initiating the Fall High Holiday season. In many respects, the last book of Moses’ Torah is essentially a “last will and testament,” and a reiteration of many of the experiences of the forty-year sojourn in preparation for the Israelites to enter the Land of Promise. A considerable amount of instruction deals with Israel establishing a righteous and just society, with details about how they are to live in peace and unity, and rule, govern, and adjudicate when the Promised Land, then filled with pagan peoples, was divided among the Twelve Tribes of Israel.
In addition, because the approach of Yom Kippur occurs on the Tenth of Tishri, the seven weeks of consolation beginning with the Shabbat around the 9th of Av (Shabbat Nachamu-comfort), are preparing people for Shabbat Shuvah (return), which occurs just prior to the Day of Atonement. During these weeks there is a heavy emphasis on Haftarah readings from the Book of Isaiah, because this prophet not only warns about the falling away and coming diaspora, but in contrast, continues to give hope that the Almighty will eventually restore Israel to the Land and fulfill all of His promises.
With the consistent study of Torah as a backdrop this past month, I was led to read two books by Messianic Jewish authors, and a book by a Hebrew Roots teacher, which each gave me some insight into what the Lord is doing at this time with those who are seeking His face, albeit with various motives that only the Holy One knows. Nevertheless, by reading books about (1) the incessant attacks of various demonic spirits, (2) the reality of how the Scriptures have forecast actual historical events up to this very hour, and (3) an autobiography that delineates how mixing diabolical encounters with godly events creates unknown confusion, my faith was actually bolstered. After all, we are all looking through a glass darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12), and even though we pray that the eyes of our heart (Ephesians 1:18) will be opened to God’s revelation, He only reveals to us individually exactly what He wants us to spiritually know and understand at any point in time.
For a few days, I was led to focus on the reality of the spiritual and tangible “authority,” specifically the Greek word exousia, often translated as authority, power to act, domain, et. al., that the Holy One has purposed to be a part of His created order and delegated as He chooses. Naturally, this led to meditating upon Yeshua’s Great Commission recorded in the last words of the Gospel of Matthew, the temptation of Yeshua by the Devil, the distribution of Earthy powers, and how God expects His children to obey what He has put in place:
“And Yeshua came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority [exousia] has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20, NASU).
“And the devil said to Him, ‘I will give You all this domain [exousia] and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours.’ Yeshua answered him, ‘It is written, “YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY” [Deuteronomy 6:13]’” (Luke 4:6-8, NASU).
“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities [exousia]. For there is no authority [exousia] except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority [exousia] has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority [exousia]? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake” (Romans 13:1-5, NASU).
Of course, while meditating upon these Scriptures, the realization that men and women are subject to each of the various authorities that exist, whether seen or unseen, became abundantly clear! Then, the further understanding that the ultimate solution, to operating in the Spirit-led life, can substantially be found by employing the antidote to combat unseen forces with vigilant and constant faith, and requesting and receiving the spiritual armor referenced in this passage from Ephesians:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers [exousia], against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH [Isaiah 11:5], and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS [Isaiah 59:17], and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE [Isaiah 52:7]; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the HELMET OF SALVATION [Isaiah 59:17], and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:12-17, NASU).
With all of this in mind, it conclusively dawned on me that our Heavenly Father, through His Word, has ultimately given us the insight, wisdom, understanding, and discernment to fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). But in addition, if we are prayerfully listening, fervently asking, desperately seeking, and persistently knocking (Matthew 7:7)—He even gives us tangible evidence that He is absolutely in control of everything that takes place in His Creation. Thus, we can corroborate actions seen and unseen by evidence found in the Scriptures, and the historical records of things actually done, to affirm and prove that He is orchestrating the prophesied “restoration of all things” just as stated in Acts 3:19-21 by the Apostle Peter:
“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Yeshua, the Messiah appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:19-21, NASU).
In fact, if we are perceptive, and follow the further advice of Peter, the Holy One will open up even more of His secrets and remind us of His hand upon all things we are entertaining in our respective walks with Him. Now how awesome is that!
“For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Yeshua the Messiah will be abundantly supplied to you. Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Peter 1:4-13, NASU).
One final “reminder,” from the concluding statement made by the Apostle John in his first epistle, comes to mind: “little children, guard yourself from idols!” (1 John 5:21, NASU). Now remember, for most people, their favorite idol is themselves. But if you take the words of Jonah literally, “those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness” (Jonah 2:8, NASU), the Hebrew word translated as “faithfulness” is chesed, which can also mean lovingkindness or mercy.
In other words, if for whatever reasons, we as Believers worship anything more than Messiah Yeshua, we just might be jeopardizing our ability to not only hear the voice of the Good Shepherd (John 10:3, 16, 27), but disobey rather than obey His words. However, if we do not have the listening ears to hear or the pursuing eyes to see what He is doing at various points in time, then it is quite possible that His lovingkindness would not be descending upon us. After all, we could be listening to others or looking somewhere else for truth or interpretation of what is transpiring in the present, and not seeking Him for His revelation and inspiration. That obviously is a place where no true follower of the Messiah ever wants to be located! Instead…
May the Lord bless you and keep you, and may His face shine upon you, and may He turn His countenance toward you at all times, and give you His peace….To Him be all the glory!
And by the way, thank you for supporting our efforts to advance God’s Kingdom on Earth, each and every day, through your prayers and financial offerings. We are blessed!
Advancing God’s Kingdom on Earth until the restoration of all things…
Shalom and Shanah Tovah!