Forward in Love

Ephesians 4:7 Now grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of the Messiah’s gift. 8 For it says:
When He ascended on high, He took prisoners into captivity; He gave gifts to people.
9 But what does “He ascended ” mean except that He descended to the lower parts of the earth? 10 The One who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. 11 And He personally gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, 12 for the training of the saints in the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit. 15 But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head —Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, fitted and knit together by every supporting ligament, promotes the growth of the body for building up itself in love by the proper working of each individual part.(HCSB)

It was the Messiah who gave the duties of being an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor and a teacher.  He did not give them just because He felt like it, but for a very specific purpose.  The One seeks for His people to be one.  Do not miss that.

On a corner of one of our seminary buildings was verses 11 and 12 and it always bugged me because it stopped there.  But Scripture does not stop there.  These duties are assigned so that the saints can properly do ministry in such a way that grows the body up.  You see, ministry can be done in such a way where the body does not grow up and it stays an infant.  So, the question is, what does it look like when the body of Christ is grown up?

Verse 13 gives the answer to that question.  You see, we are headed in a specific direction, not meandering aimlessly around on our own.  With the help of the Spirit and those God equipped to lead the body the church is supposed to come to a place where they reach unity in the faith and the knowledge of God’s Son. 

This part is very important, this unity is in doctrine.  This is the area we like to ignore, but according to this passage we cannot.  We must have unity in how we live for Him and in our doctrine.  We cannot have unity in one and not the other and expect the world to see the Light of Truth in our lives.  That is why so much of this book is given to this subject of oneness and unity.

I have often wondered how it is that so many people inside the church want to insist that there can be unity of the body and not unity of doctrine.  It has also amazed me that no one really seems determined, within orthodox Christianity, to sit down together and pray together and pour through Scripture together until unity becomes reality. 

You know, do the hard work our founders here in The United States did when they shut themselves up in a room, prayed, searched the Scriptures and talked together coming out of that hall with the Constitution.  Where are those in the faith willing to do that?

The issue to my past wonderings may be found in the next phrase in verse 13, “growing into a mature man with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness”.  This can also be translated this way, “into a complete man with a maturity measured by Christ’s completion.”  Look at that again, it says, “a complete man”.  Does this remind you of anything already talked about in the book.

Back in chapter two Paul talks about the Messiah taking the two, the Jew and the Gentile, to make one man.  You see we are not complete without each other.  Up until recently in history the Jews were not coming into the faith of the Son of God in very large numbers.  However, that is changing and with them we are seeing a resurgence of understanding in the faith. 

Could it be that they had to be grafted back into there own tree before we who are in the faith could sit down and really seek unity, complete unity.  Did they need to be at the table?  I believe so.  Why?  Because they hold the key to so much that the Gentile church had left behind long ago and frankly no longer made much sense to us.  That is why some could think it O.K. to abandon the Old Testament.  But it is not O.K., we need each other.

I have often said that Yeshua/Jesus does not want a dysfunctional Bride, yet that is what we have been giving Him for quite some time.  No, He seeks oneness, complete unity (John 17) for His Bride.  The pieces are in place and we can learn from one another again.  Jew and Gentile are no longer separate, but in Christ have become one man, a complete and mature man.

This is why we will not be tossed to and fro by the waves that sail our way.  As one, knowing our faith and standing firm up against one another, the waves break on us instead of us breaking on them.  False teaching does not stand a chance when the body stands together as one.

No, we speak the truth in love instead of following after false teaching and saying it’s O.K. to do so.  We follow the one who is the One.  We grow to be like Him who is our head.  We grow by each one of us doing our assigned duty in love.

We have been given our marching orders and they are to stand up against one another in love and not to allow any false teaching in. 

We must act and think as one, a properly trained military unit.  We are His body.  He is the head, the commander of the unit.  No unit can do anything without the commands of it’s commander.  And no unit will succeed when it disobeys its commanders explicit instructions.  That is what we have, explicit instructions, commands, to follow.  It is up to us to do the following.  That is why Jesus said to His disciples, “Come, follow me”.

In the weeks ahead I hope to create a page on this website where we can come together in love to discuss our differences and learn from each other as we hear each others hearts. 

It will be a place where we can be honest about what we think we understand, but at the same time are willing to hear from others who disagree with us. 

It will be a place, not to win an argument, but a place to follow the leading of the Spirit. 

Please invite people to come and join us here at Esther’s Legacy, people from different orthodox Christian backgrounds. 

We need each other.  The Gentile Christian needs the Messianic Jew and the Messianic Jew needs the Gentile Christian.  Lest we forget, the different Gentile denominations need each other too.

Forward in Love,

Vicky

Hold The Line

Ephesians 4:1– “Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility  and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, 3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us. 4 There is one body and one Spirit —just as you were called to one hope at your calling — 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”(HCSB)

Knowing the mystery and that he had been given the administration of this mystery, having prayed for the believers to know God’s power and love, Paul basically says “with that in mind let’s get down to brass tax”. 

That is what he means by the “therefore”.  To add weight to what he is about to say, to let his readers know that he understands how hard it is and will be he calls himself the prisoner of the Lord.  He has chosen to walk this path that has taken him to prison and he is calling the others to walk it with him.

This is the life they had been called to and are expected to walk in a way that is worthy, worthy of the calling.  And who called them? 

The Lord did, not Paul – God called them to this life. 

Is living the mystery as God wants it to be going to be easy? 

Absolutely not.  Loving and living as one will require their all and nothing less.  It will take the Spirit filled life. 

I want to break down this passage because it is so much weightier than how we often translate it to be in the English.

Beginning with the word “humility” we see that God is asking us to do something very contradictory to the flesh.  This word means to think lowly of ones self, having humiliation of mind. 

This is the exact opposite of the worldly message of self-esteem where we are called by the enemy to think highly of ourselves, to esteem ourselves instead of others and God.  This is by no means easy, but highly necessary.

Our next word is “gentleness “.  It is really the word “meekness”.  Unfortunately we do not really understand this word. 

It is not an absence of power, but a very intense power that is restrained and in control.  Meekness means knowing you have power, but not always exerting that power, or right, on others. 

Jesus is our greatest example of this.  He had the angels at His disposal before His arrest and He restrained that power for the joy that laid before Him, for the sake of His Bride and in obedience to His Father.  This is what this word is calling us to be.

Then comes “patience”, a word we simply do not understand.  This word does not mean just sit around and wait while we twiddle our thumbs. 

This word is the idea of fortitude, standing guard, being fortified.  It is being longsuffering in action.  Knowing you may be fortified, standing guard, for a long time, but willing to keep standing guard until God moves you.

Are you beginning to think, “O.K. that’s enough, please that’s enough”?  Like I said this is not easy, but God does not stop here. 

He talks about accepting or bearing with one another.  However, the word for “accepting” really means to “hold yourself up against”, in this case, one another. 

Are you getting the picture?  We are to hold ourselves up against each other in love. 

Now here is the idea.  The idea Paul is trying to create is a military line.  Like troops in formation, we are holding up against one another as a military line and the thing that glues us together is love.

I want to take the next phrase together. 

It is “diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit”.  The word “diligently” means to make every effort with speed. 

O.K. what are we doing with speed and with every effort?  We are keeping. 

The word “keeping” means to watch as in a watchman on the wall, to guard from loss or injury or to hold fast.  

We are on the ball, so to speak, and keeping watch on, guarding, and holding fast the unity or oneness of the Spirit.  We do this with the peace or oneness that binds us together– our love for one another.

Oneness or Unity is hard work, work that requires every effort and determination to stay the course. 

It is also something that does not automatically happen just because we are one body with one Spirit who lives in each of us. 

No He will not force this upon us but gives us the directions to achieving it through the power of His Spirit. 

We as the body are not one because we do not want it or seek it. 

We do not think lowly of ourselves.  We do not restrain our power or rights.  We have little fortitude and longsuffering and are unwilling to hold up against one another in love. 

We do not stand guard over the unity and oneness of the Spirit through any bond of peace.  We do not love one another as He has commanded us to do.

We do not do this and I am sad to say that for the most part I am afraid we do not even really attempt it.  We are comfortable being apart especially in our different denominations.  This should, just as it was for Paul with the Ephesians, be a matter of prayer and concern for us today.

We are to hold fast or hold the line, so to speak, on the matters of doctrine and life that follow in the book.  Staying firm on the fact that there is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, above all, through all and in all.

Church… you must hold the line, hold fast.  You must stand guard over the oneness of the Spirit with all diligence. 

Let us live the mystery in such a time as this.

Vicky

The Administration of the Mystery

Ephesians 1:9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him  10 for the administration  of the days of fulfillment —to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.(HCSB)

Ephesians3:3 The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written above. 4 By reading this you are able to understand my insight about the mystery of the Messiah. 5 This was not made known to people in other generations as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit: 6 The Gentiles are co-heirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.(HCSB)

Ephesians 3:8 This grace was given to me —the least of all the saints—to proclaim to the Gentiles the incalculable riches of the Messiah, 9 and to shed light for all about the administration of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.(HCSB)

Ephesians 3 defines the mystery for us as Gentiles and Jews sharing in the promise as co-heirs together in Christ Jesus.  This is a true mystery that for ages past had been kept hidden although hinted at.  The Old Covenant spoke of people of other nations and tongues coming to worship God, but the actual understanding that Jews and Gentiles would share equally in the promise was not even thought of by those who worshiped The Name.

As we saw in chapter 2 not only were these two to be co-heirs, but would become one man.  Yeshua came to make us one together so that we can be presented to Him as a spotless bride without wrinkle or defect.  Our God is so awesome and His ways are truly above our ways and His thoughts truly far above our thoughts.

God, however, does not stop by just revealing this mystery to us and then leaving us to figure out how to make this reality in our time for ourselves.  Most of us, I would venture to say, do not even think it is really possible for us to truly act and be as one this side of the Messianic Age or heaven.  We tend to leave things alone as they are and not strive for true oneness in this world where sin is still a reality.  But Beloved, God’s plans are greater than ours and not only does He expect us to act and be as one now, He also gave us the road map of how to achieve it.  That is what the rest of Ephesians is about.

Chapter 3 lets us know that God gave Paul the administration of this mystery or to say it another way, He gave Paul the way in which the body of Christ, the blessed bride of The Lamb, could actually carry out this mystery.  It is that reality that speaks of God’s wisdom to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.  When they see God’s Spirit filled people living out the mystery of being one with each other and with Him it screams volumes to the unseen realms of how only God could have thought of this awesome mystery.

It is with this truth that Paul prays the prayer of Ephesians 3.

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. 16 I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, 17 and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, 19 and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us — 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.(HCSB)

Paul begins pretty much where He left off in the prayer of chapter 1, with praying for power among God’s people.  Remember this is no ordinary power as the world defines power, but the power that raised Jesus from the dead.  That is what he prays will be in us, in our inner being through His Spirit.  He prays that through faith, being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, faith that leads us to action not just intellectual awareness that Yeshua the Messiah will dwell, be tabernacled in us (we are the temple of God).

Paul assumes our rooting and firm establishment in love.  The believer is rooted deep in God’s love, the love that sent His Son to die for us, and firmly established in our love for one another, a requirement for the believer based on the command of Jesus.  He (Paul) knows that it is only in this love, the love God has for us and our love for each other, that we will together with all God’s people even begin to be able to comprehend the love of Christ – the width, depth, length, and height of His love. 

It is only together that we will have our full strength to eagerly take hold of that kind of love.  It is His love being made manifest in all of us toward each other that makes His love knowable to us just as us living out that life of the mystery makes His wisdom known to the unseen realms.

Paul prays for us to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God, which harkens back again to the prayer in chapter 1.  We can only be all that God desires us to be as we live in power, faith, and love together.  This life baffles the world, but also lets them know that the Father sent His Son. 

Can this generation of believers live this life?  Yes it can!  And the rest of Ephesians instructs us in just how to live out this mystery.  So as we study the rest of the book we will be approaching it from this perspective.

In His love,

Vicky

My Thoughts

My family and I took a trip to Nashville this past Saturday and worshiped our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ/Yeshua the Messiah, with Kol Dodi Messianic Congregation.  It was a heart warming experience.  Heart warming because the people of Kol Dodi were very loving and welcoming from the first Shabbat Shalom to the last goodbye. 

We spent six hours with them and by the end of our time with them felt like we were one of them.  The first two hours were spent in worship with songs in both Hebrew and English, readings from Scripture, teaching, communion and prayer.  I have to tell you it did not seem like that much time went by. 

Our daughter spent the teaching time with the children after a blessing upon the children was given under a prayer shawl/canopy.  While with the children she made a pottery communion cup and met a new friend.  One of her teachers has a son who helps with the BCM here at our local university, what a small world.

It was a congregation made up of both Jew and non-Jew.  A congregation worshiping in the Hebrew way together with the walls of hostility gone in the Name of Yeshua.  It reminded me of the passage in Zechariah 8 where God says that ten men would take hold of one Jew because they know the Lord is with him.  What an awesome sight to see Jew and non-Jew worshiping together and being a part of it. 

The rabbi’s wife was very welcoming at the picnic as we talked and she invited me to visit with the other ladies and introduced me.  I thought, “this is how it should be”.  It was a great honor to visit with those ladies and hope to do so again soon.  

The mikvah was amazing and started with the call of the shofar.  We stood on the bank of a creek as two children and two women went into the water to be baptized in the Name of Yeshua.  The two women gave awesome testimonies, one even including a confession that was something only God could accomplish, I pray she will continue to allow God to change her and transform her into the image of His Son.

I could not recommend more highly that each of us find a Messianic Congregation in our region to visit, worship with and participate with in their work.  It will bless your heart and you will be awestruck at what God is doing in His Bride.

Shalom,

Vicky

The Two ONE

In the book of Acts we see the apostles having to learn to accept Gentiles into the faith.  This took a dramatic event in the life of Peter when God lowered a sheet with unclean animals for Peter to kill and eat.  God did this three times and the message was not the food, it was “do not call unclean what (God has) made clean”, meaning the Gentiles.  Immediately following this Peter goes to a Gentile home and shares the good news of Jesus with them in their home, something that was forbidden for a Jew to do. 

We then see Paul becoming the apostle to the Gentiles.  He took the good news as far as he could, no matter the personal cost.  Immediately on his heals were the Judaizers who claimed that the Gentiles first had to become Jews before becoming a believer in Jesus.  Paul flatly rejected this in very graphic terms.  In fact, I want to be clear on this point, once one is a believer in Jesus they are no longer a Gentile because a Gentile is a foreigner and alien, but in Christ we are made citizens of His nation, the holy nation of Israel over which He is king.  This was the situation in Bible times.

Fast forward 2000 years and what do we see happening in the land of Israel today?  We see many who want to separate the Arabs and Israelis living in the land onto different sides.  Truth is they are on different sides.  On one hand Jews have the right of return to the land of Israel, the land promised to them, and on the other side the Arabs want the Jews completely out of the land and consider the Israelis to be occupiers and colonialists.  There are those who wish to divide the land calling a part of it the West Bank.  What some like to call the West Bank in indeed a part of the historical land of Israel once known as Judea and Samaria. 

This land is proportioned specifically in Scripture among the tribes of Israel.  It was to eventually be the Israelis land.  So how can this be resolved?  How is reconciliation in a land that just about everyone seems to want to divide possible?  There is only one answer to this question.

Those who believe in Yeshua the Messiah are the light in a dark situation.  For the Arab believers in the land there is a group called Musalaha (www.musalaha.org), which is Arabic for reconciliation.  They organize camps for Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians to come together as brothers and sisters in Christ.  This effort needs our prayers. 

Musalaha also puts events together so that Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians can come together in worship experiencing how both sides worship Messiah.  At the same time they also reach out to Muslim Arabs in the land to show them the love and truth of Christ through different outreach opportunities.

On the other side there are Messianic Jews in the land who want a strong bond relationship with Arab Christians as well.  These Messianic Jews are trying to reach out to their fellow Jews with the love and truth of the Messiah.  One such ministry in Israel is Heart of G-d Ministries (www.heartofg-d.org).  While Heart of G-d seeks to encourage Aliyah (Jewish right of return) of all Jews both Messianic and not Messianic, there are some elements of the Israeli government that are trying to keep Messianic Jews from having the right of return, claiming they are not real Jews.  They too need our prayers.

Both sides report a good relationship with the other.  A relationship that is only possible through Christ.  These two sides are coming together.  As they do they will begin to look more and more like each other.  Why?  Because they will look more and more like the Savior. 

The Arab does not have to become a Jew and the the Jew does not have to leave behind his roots, on the contrary they are both the spiritual nation of Israel.  Both grafted into the one tree that is Israel, God’s nation of princes, His holy nation and priesthood.  The root of that tree being the Old Testament (Covenant) fulfilled in Yeshua who spilled His blood, the blood of the New Covenant.

It should be our prayer that as more and more Jews come into the land they will come to know their Messiah as they are surrounded by the truth of who they are and who He is.  Also, that the Arab Christians will spur them on to jealousy as they continue to grow in their own faith and grow closer and closer to the Messianic Jews. 

Jesus is the answer for the peace of Jerusalem and the land of Israel, ONLY Yeshua.  What an awesome time we live in.  We have before us a living example of the two becoming one if only we will take the time to see.

Yes, Jesus has put to death their hostility.  Now it is up to these believers to live that out in a land and an environment that would rather them not.  Yet it is the life that Yeshua calls them to live.  A life that the cross of Christ demands.  They must pick up their cross daily and follow Him where others do not want to go.  How blessed they are as they daily live out the mystery.  May God grant them His grace and His power to live this life.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem and all the land.

Vicky 

True Peace

In Ephesians 2:11-22 Paul discusses peace, but do we today really understand what this peace Paul is speaking about is.  Typically when we hear the word peace we think of quietness, stillness and rest.  To be sure that is part of what Paul is talking about, but there is also something much more profound in the word “peace”.  It is rest that can only be found when we draw near to God.  When we find our rest in Him.  Even more it means oneness with each other and God.  Being made whole.   This idea is carried out repeatedly in this passage.  Read this passage with that in mind.  You might even want to substitute the word “oneness” for “peace” and see how that opens up the passage for you.

 EPH 2:11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)– 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.  14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.     19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

This whole passage is about God making the two – those who were far and those who were near – one.  One with each other, putting to death their hostility and hatred for each other by the death of Jesus on the cross.  In Isaiah 57 the Lord says, “Peace, peace to those far and near.” This passage in Ephesians is stating that this has been fulfilled in Yeshua, who came to proclaim the glad tidings of oneness (peace) to those who were far and those who were near.

Let’s back up.  As God’s light of grace shone on those who were aliens to His people, Israel, they were brought near to His people and to Him through the cross and blood of the Messiah.  Also, those who were already “near” through the covenants and promises were brought truly near by the cross and blood of Christ.  For even they, though they had been given the covenants and promises, could not come near enough to God by following the commands and regulations of Scripture – no one can.  As Scripture says, “No one is righteous, not even one”(Psalm 14:3, 53:3 and Romans 3:23).  Humanity, whether Jew or Gentile, is not capable of coming near, truly near, to God on his own.  Sin always separates us, that is why Jesus died.  Only the God-Man could live a sinless life and therefore fulfill the commands and regulations of Scripture becoming the perfect sacrifice of the New Covenant.

It is with the New Covenant, promised back in the book of Jeremiah that God says, “I will be their God and they will be my people”.  He promised a  heart and mind that had the law of God written on them ready and willing to follow Him.  It is the blood of the Messiah that is the blood of the New Covenant – the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats could never be enough, only the blood of The Lamb of God was sufficient.

With the New Covenant Gentiles of the flesh were made citizens of Israel, citizens together with the Jews – all having faith in the Messiah.  It is the Messiah that is our peace, our rest, our stillness, our oneness.  I heard a really wonderful illustration of this recently.  It is actually one that is in Scripture though we have lost the mental picture of it.  In Israel when a wild olive shoot comes up next to a cultivated olive tree that shoot literally raps itself around the tree and after a time you can no longer distinguish the wild shoot from the original tree.  That is an awesome picture to me.  In this way Christ made the two, the Gentile and the Jew, one tree.  Both indistinguishable from the other.

Taking this new tree (made from the two), this new man, Jesus then reconciled both to God through the cross.  Again, Paul states that through the cross their hostility was put to death.  The Jew and the Gentile were hostile to each other then in Paul’s day and they still are today.  Yet in the cross of Christ, the Messiah, this hostility has been put to death and this is also seen today.  Next week I want to highlight some of the ways God is doing this in our generation.

Paul ends by saying the through the Messiah both Jew and Gentile (now both part of the spiritual nation of Israel, God’s people) have access to the Father by the one Holy Spirit.  It is the first time in this passage that Paul uses the plural pronoun “we” purposely bring the two together.  This new man is being built into a holy dwelling built on the foundations of both the prophets and the apostles.

The Old Covenant points directly to the New, even prophesies it – the prophets.  It was the apostles who first proclaimed its fulfillment in Christ.  Therefore, together the prophets and the apostles make up the foundation of God’s household.  This foundation, however, would be worthless without the chief cornerstone, Yeshua the Messiah.  It is on Jesus that the whole house is joined together as one and rises as one holy temple.

The final verse (22) reads in the English as if Paul goes back to just talking about the Gentiles.  However, I do not believe that is the case.  Instead, the “you” is plural, meaning both the Jew and the Gentile in the household of God, the church or assembly of Israel (in this case in Ephesus).  The household of God, both Jew and Gentile, are being built together into one to become the dwelling of God where He lives by His Spirit.  Paul is summarizing what he had already said in detail.

We are one, both with each other and with God through the cross of Christ and by His Spirit and our hostility has been replaced by love for each other and our God.

Peace,

Vicky