Prosperity, What the Bible Really Teaches

In the 1970s and 1980s, a new doctrine swept part of the charismatic world.  It was the prosperity doctrine, which some have dubbed the Prosperity Gospel.  One day I was having lunch with Steve Strang, the owner of Charisma magazine.  After sharing my concern, he invited me to write a book which is published by one of the Charisma companies.  The teaching of prosperity in some circles devolved into teaching that believers were King’s kids and had a right to live in opulent wealth.  Some of their leading proponents live in mansions, literally 25,000 square feet, have fleets of cars, one with a Rolls Royce and a fleet of Mercedes, another with one of the most expensive jets.  One leader, when asked why he drove a Rolls Royce, responded that a leader like him requires good reliable transportation.  The late Jamie Buckingham who told this story used it as an example to show how a person can be so out of touch.  Wow, I wish I could have given this prosperity teacher the Consumer Reports car edition which shows that a Honda is more reliable with much fewer repairs.  Some have gone so far as to teach that giving to their ministry is the key to wealth since their faith and prayers for their doners to prosper is especially powerful.  Forget giving to the local church.  Give to the faith minister.  

Generally, it is taught that prosperity is built through generous giving by faith.  If one gives and believes, and then is diligent in work, then one can expect to get rich. There are conferences that teach this and hundreds of thousands who believe it.  There are whole churches that believe this, and sometimes large ones.  Sometimes the facilities are gaudy rich.  

I believe that such teaching is contrary to the Bible.  When Paul’s life is given as an example,  some have said they have more revelation than Paul.   When Jesus’s example is given, it is said that he became poor so that we might become rich.  That the disciples lived with great modesty and sacrifice is not presented as an example.  Nor are texts much used like I Timothy 6 that warn of the danger of desiring to get rich or to be satisfied without riches.  

Yet in a true way, the Bible does teach prosperity.  However, the definition is not living in opulent wealth. Rather it is that “God will abundantly supply whatever you need for whatever you are called to do.”  That abundance is assured by giving our all to Him, tithing, and giving generously by faith. Yes, faith is a key to biblical prosperity. This faith comes by building the word into our souls.  There are many texts that present this promise.  Even the person who is in jail for the Gospel has God’s provision to enable faithfulness and survival as long as God wills since no one can take the life of one in the will of God unless it is time for that sacrifice.  Generally, God supplies food, shelter, and education for our children and often far more for his followers.  However, there is no right to live in opulent wealth in this life in the Gospel.  Some in the business world are called to wealth for the Gospel. They will manage that wealth for Him.  However, the standard for full-time ministers of the Gospel is modesty, which we define in the book.  It is not a poverty mentality.  The false prosperity teaching has hurt our witness for the Kingdom and made a mockery of us among the lost.  Let’s learn and build faith for true prosperity. Do obtain my book.  It also has advice for investing and retirement.  Steve also encouraged me to tackle two other areas of his concern.  I will report on these two as well in a future post. One is on teaching on spiritual warfare.  The other is on heaven, hell, and the afterlife. Will everyone be saved?


Social-Political Action and the Antichrist

Some Christians have criticized other Christians for being too political.  Can we clarify what too political means?  

As a student of Wheaton College in the 1960s anti-war years, the Evangelical faculty held up the examples of the great reformers of the 19th Century.  We were inspired by the examples of ministers of the Gospel who also engaged fully in the political and social issues of their day.  The great revivalist Charles Finney and his fight against slavery is an example.  So also, Jonathan Blanchard, the founder of Wheaton who stated as written on his memorial plaque in the old main tower, Blanchard Tower, that his purpose and motivation was to see, “The Law of God become the law of the Land.”  This orientation continued until the end of the century when the Evangelicals fought against child labor and got child labor protection laws passed, also anti-prostitution laws.  The driving motivation was those matters that were foundational in Biblical law, morality, and ethics. Then what happened?  A theology developed in England under a teacher who taught that working to improve this world was a diversion from our effort to get people into heaven. This theology was marginal until World War I.  Two things then happened.  First, many of the large denominations began to accept German critical theories of the Bible and undercut confidence in the Bible and the Word of God.  Evolutionary ideas were part of this.  Secondly, the war-shattered confidence that Christian efforts could improve society in any meaningful way.  It would be a very short term gain at best, so our efforts should be to get people into the lifeboat to go to heaven.  Of course, people had to make a living so there would be vocations for Christians, but this was a secondary matter.  The great philosopher Dr. Arthur Holmes of Wheaton used to say in our class, “We have lost a hundred years.”  The consensus of Wheaton was for prayer, revival, evangelism, and also passionate social involvement.  The idea of influencing the cultural formation centers of society was a common desire.  

How much is too much social/political action?  I think we understood that if evangelism and discipleship were not strong the other spheres of society could not be influenced for good over the long term.  Prayer and the power of God were necessary to all.  A strong Church was the center and church vocations were highly valued. Everyone has to know their calling and the proportion of their investments in time and energy in different spheres of society, but also to recognize the importance of the whole.  When I left Wheaton, I did come to realize that most of Evangelical Christianity did not share the passion of Wheaton for this comprehensive emphasis. 

However, beyond this, there is another point.  When do we seek to mobilize the whole Church for political and social action in an unusual thrust of emphasis? Beyond normal responsibility.   History tells us that this is when the issues are foundational issues of Law and morality in the culture and matters of life and death.  The issue of slavery is a primary life and death struggle.  Those Evangelicals who believed this responded with great mobilization. This includes William Wilburforce at the beginning of the 19th century in England and those named above in America.  Of course, there were those of a more quietistic bent who criticized the involvement.  We at Wheaton were all in on the social involvement orientation and did not want to give the culture to the devil.  

There are issues that are matters of scientific-social study that do not rise to the level of primary life and death struggle.  For example, economic policy is a matter of what will produce the greatest good for the greatest number in the population.  Believers try to study the issues and take the best position they can.  We should be chastened by noting that there were Christian Socialists and not just anti-Christians socialists who wanted the state to control all and to shut down charities and churches.  Socialism is in my view is a wrong economic theory, but it is not inherently atheistic.  Christian socialists looked at the harsh individualism of unbridled capitalism as anti-Christian!  They certainly wanted robust Christian freedoms and human rights.  Many political issues are judgments about programs and policies that are debatable on an empirical basis. 

In the 20th century, two movements produced Christian mobilization for social and political action.  Sadly, both largely failed in the short term, but the witness they gave was important.  The two were the Christian resistance to Communism and Nazism.  Both were perceived as from the spirit of the Antichrist and had to be resisted at all costs.  It was a minority who made such resistance in martyrdom.  These resisters stood for human rights, conscience, and liberty. One great example is the Barman declaration which was signed in 1934.  This was early in Hitler’s reign before serious killings began.  However, they saw the tyranny of Hitler’s making the state dominant over the Church. Would that the greatest number of the churches would have been mobilized behind these courageous leaders.  History would have changed greatly for the good. They were criticized for their stand, but today we look back on this group of German pastors and theologians and see them as a bright testimony.  They saw the spirit of the antichrist and sought a mobilization of resistance.   However, most missed it and stayed submitted to the tyranny.  And most denied that things were so drastically bad.  This is one reason why the church in Germany is powerless today and constitutes a small minority. 

The spirit of the antichrist was also behind and is behind Marxist atheistic communism.  In Russia, the push back required small cells and underground action.  Many Christians were soon killed in the blood bath.  Yet, how many even in the west thought communism would be progress. Today we think of these resisters as heroes. 

The spirit of the antichrist coming into political control or potentially coming into political control justifies unusual mobilization for social and political involvement.  We need to resist the gathering storm and now wait until the full destruction comes upon us. If we perceive potentially life and death issues form an antichrist spirit gaining control in our nation, then an emphasis on mobilization, on promoting our cause, on information is justified.  We cannot shrink back at the cost of job loss or marginalization. We must speak out and live boldly.  No, those who do such are not overly political.  Yes, they have to always lead with the caveat of the centrality of prayer, evangelism, and discipleship wherever possible.  However, the mobilization is a fight of life and death.  When the great Detrick Bonhoeffer joined in the plot to kill Hitler, he did not have sufficient prayer support to bind the powers of darkness that protected Hitler. He was executed.  Today we see him as a hero.  

Christian survivors from Nazi and Communist oppression (some experienced both) warn us of the signs here.  Soft totalitarianism is here.  They argue that this is the time of resistance.  Christians often see it when it is too late.  They rationalize that it is not so bad.  Then great tragedy and death take place.  I would recommend Mike Brown’s great book Jezebel’s War on America.  He could have easily said Antichrist’s war on America.  There he gives an account of these life and death issues.  Cancel culture seeks to persecute Christians who preach God’s Law and traditional morality.  The issues of abortion to the 9th month, loss of religious freedom, cancel culture, and the loss of jobs for failure to salute to anti-Biblical agendas is a growing movement.  The LGBTQ agenda does not just foster basic freedom for their group but fosters shutting down those who have a different moral vision and accuse them (us) of hate speech.  Due to the cancel culture arising from this, people have lost jobs, low and high positions over the intimidation of these people.  It is life and death, not only in the matter of abortion, but the destruction of traditional norms in the society will lead to literal death.  The suicide rate of transgender people who do transition surgery commit suicide at a rate of more than 40% of the average.  See Mike Brown’s video, “In His Image,” on that.  The breakdown of sexual morality for relativistic sexual ideas leads to more criminality, violence, and death.  We can look at other issues that motivate.  Coddling Iran will lead to more death and indeed did so.  I believe that the anti-Israel orientation is of the antichrist spirit as is of course anti-Semitism.  More Christians will die in other lands from persecution without strong advocacy from the United States.  Then we have social media that has the ability to control buying and selling and communicating.  Pay Pal cancels accounts!  Banks refuse to lend. This is eerie and anticipates the mark of the beast as a requirement for buying and selling.   China has this down to a T.  My evaluation is that Christians did not become overly political.  Rather, they also bathed their involvement in prayer.  Were some carnal in their approach. Yes, maybe a large number but still a minority.  But I think the motive was an intuitive grasp, many unnamed, to rise up and push back against the antichrist.  One book I am loving that makes this so clear is by Rod Dreher, Live not by Lies.  The testimony of those who lived under antichrist oppression is key, and they are warning us that the country is drifting toward this.  Do I think our push back can succeed without revival?  No, but we must both seek revival and push back. Thank God for someone like Mike Brown who is so pushing and mobilizing others to resist.  So also Denis Prager, and Jorden Peterson.  Someone might ask about the radical right white supremacists.  Yes, this also is the spirit of the antichrist and must be resisted.  However, these folks do not control large corporations nor are they visible in legislatures and government leadership.  So, our battle has to be focused on where the problem is. With prayer, revival, and resistance, we can win.  If we don’t and we see more darkness and the tribulation is fully upon us, then our total victory is near. 

Is Belief in God Necessary to Maintain Morals and Ethics?

In a recent survey, only 46% of Americans said that belief in God was necessary to maintain morals and ethics.  In the Philippines, 98% said it was necessary.  In an interview, the famous Christian theologian at Yale, Miroslav Wolff, argued that affluence produces a sense of self-sufficiency and idolatry and is part of the reason for the survey results. Canada and Western Europe were much lower than in the United States.  Two generations ago, the results would have been very different.  

I have written before on the proposition that all historic cultures grounded their moral, social, and ethical laws in their religious world view.  A transcendent grounding was universally embraced as necessary.  Western culture and communist societies (China) are the first in history to think they can produce a lasting ethical order without this transcendence.  The great German philosopher at the end of the 18th century, Immanuel Kant, argued that maintaining a civilized order requires belief in God, freedom, and immortality (and afterlife).  God as the judge is crucial since if our behavior will not be ultimately judged, and there is no fear of God, then morals will decline.  We must see humans as free to be responsible or morals will not be possible.  Finally, life after death is a crucial belief that all might get their just reward or punishment.  That is good insight from someone who was not a Christian.  

Some who answer the survey are not indicating that belief in God is not important, but only that there are moral or ethical people who do not so believe. Some unbelievers maintain faithful marriages, act in ethical ways in business, and give to those in need.  Some believers do not. This is true. However, the larger issue is the drift of the culture over time.  The famous Christian philosopher, D. Elton Trueblood, in his book a generation ago, Philosophy of Religion, argued that a moral life is possible without the fear of God, but only for one or two generations.  He looked at the United States and saw that the country was going to be a cut-flower civilization.  Cut a flower from its roots, and it looks like nothing has changed.  However, it will wither.  Civilization will also wither. 

Today the atheist and agnostic argue that God is not necessary to maintain morals and ethics.  However, there is one slight of hand.  Since Trueblood’s time, and more than in his time, people are redefining what is moral and ethical.  Since he wrote his textbook, abortion has been accepted, living together in a sexual relationship before marriage is now seen as ethical, as is same-sex relationships and marriage.  Sexual relationships between consenting adults even without commitment is not considered unethical.  And amazingly the new standards are a new orthodoxy used to vilify and cancel those who disagree as haters.  In the 1960s Jack Wyrtzen, the known youth evangelist, argued that the new morality is really the old immorality.  If one defines immorality as moral, then the slight of hand is very disturbing.  A recent survey also found that we now approach 50% of children born out of wedlock.  We know what that will lead to in maladjustment and crime.  This is no longer a problem of the poor. 

The problem is intensified due to a weak and compromising Christianity.  Thankfully there are many who are not weak and compromising.  However, the compromisers have lost confidence in the Bible, Yeshua as the only way to salvation, and to Biblical morals as the only legitimate way to live   Yet, there is hope.  I have never seen so many gatherings for prayer for revival, in person, and on Zoom and worldwide.  Some prophets are hoping for a great third awakening.  I hope they are right. 

The Talmud Part One: The Mishneh

As a new leader in the Messianic Jewish world, 1972, I wanted to learn much more about Judaism. I began reading many books.  One project still amazes me, and that was going through the Soncino English version of the Talmud.  How deep was my understanding? I cannot evaluate it.  I will say that such an exercise does give a person much more of a sense of Talmudic Judaism than many would think possible without years and years of study with Rabbis.  Some years later, I studied other books on Rabbinic Judaism and especially Rabbi Jacob Neusner’s large volumes summarizing Rabbinic literature.  Neusner, in my view, was the greatest scholar of Rabbinic Judaism who was not an Orthodox Jew (he was conservative).   Then some months ago, I began to ask if I needed a review of the original source and decided to go through the Mishnah.  I wanted to refresh my memory.  The English version can be read and is just over 800 pages.  

The Mishnah is the first part of the Talmud.  It was passed down orally until written down by Rabbi Judah the Prince at the end of the second century.  It is amazing for us moderns to realize how much was memorized and passed down, and this includes the Talmud part two.  The second part of the Mishnah which covers more than 300 years after the Mishnah, is called the Gemara.  It explains and expands on the content of the Mishnah.  

The Mishnah is invaluable for describing both the Judaism of the first century Pharisees, but one has to be careful here and not read too much back into the first century.  It also gives the consensus of practice from the end of the second century.  It provides details on Israel’s Temple services, sacrifices, Feast celebrations and practices, Sabbath laws, and the basic practices of Synagogue prayer from that time.  It also gives us applications of Torah, the laws of Moses, and how Rabbis of the time sought to apply the Torah including tort law, penalties, and capital offenses. Sometimes the applications are very wise and sometimes I scratch my head.   

The largest amount of material in the Mishnah deals with laws of purity and holiness.  This was a major emphasis of the Pharisees and sometimes was a source of conflict with Yeshua.  The details of law upon law are stunning.  It is building a fence around the Law so the law will not be violated, but then it builds a fence around the fence.  So many of the decisions as to what counts as making one unclean and to what degree seem arbitrary and cry out for the greater explanations given in the Gemara.  The level of legal hair-splitting in the Mishnah astonishes anyone who looks at it objectively without an overarching ethnic prejudice.  Surely much in the Jewish heritage is good and beautiful and true, but in these legalistic pages upon pages, the question naturally arises.  Is this what God wanted for our people: to give their primary attention to pages upon hundreds of pages of legal arguments and conclusions over matters that do not seem consequential and go way beyond the text of the Torah.  The arguments often focus on what if questions?   The Biblical law on what makes one clean and unclean and hence qualified for Temple involvement can be readily understood for 98 or 99% of the cases.  The genius of the Rabbis is to focus on those 1% or 2% of questions of possible contamination with arguments of what does and does not contaminate. They want to cover every possibility of contamination even if remote.  Once a conclusion is given, then the new question of a new 1% or 2% that arises from that can continue a new argument.  

It is hard to not ask a question.  Is this really what God is concerned with and what he really wanted our people to spend untold hours studying and arguing about, day after day, year after year, and century after century.  Of course, outside of Orthodox Judaism, now a minority of Jews, Jews today take a much more flexible approach to these traditions and generally do not live by the strictures of the centuries past.  Certainly, this did produce a great separation of our people and was used by God to preserve our people.  But was this the necessary way of preservation?  I do not believe that this reflects the ideal will of God. Is such focus a result of the failure to recognize Yeshua and his approach to Torah in the first century and the failure to recognize the post-resurrection apostolic witness?  That is my conclusion.  When Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel or America say they are studying Torah, they mean the Talmud and the Rabbinic traditions that continue the debate to this day.  Rarely is Torah studied, though it is read through every year.  

That They May be One: A Primer in Church History and Restoration

I wrote this book that people might have a very brief introduction to Church history.  Why? Because it is important for all followers of Yeshua to know of their roots, not only in Israel, but in the history of the Christian Church.  However, I also wrote it because I think there is a great pattern of the working of the Spirit where one can see both God’s preservation of truth as well as the losses and restorations of truth and emphases.  I believe we are in an ultimate period of restoration that that began with the Reformation.  That restoration is two steps forward and one step back. It would be a great mistake to think that due to the terrible shortcomings and sin in the institutions of the Church that we are to write off the historic churches and think that what is important is only with us today.  It is foolish to think we do not learn from the best of the history of the churches.  It is as Peter Hocken wrote, The Glory and the Shame. The book is also written with the hope that in the final times before Yeshua returns, He will bring us to the unity for which he prayed in John 17:21, that we may be one “that the world might believe.”   The book answers many questions. 

What great truths were preserved and written down in the early Church, its declarations and creeds?  How did they come to believe in the role of bishops?

  1. Where did the early Church go astray?
  2. What were the great developments during the history of the domination of the Church by Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christianity.  
  3. What was restored in the Reformation?  Where did they get it right and where did they miss it?  Who discovered the continued election of Israel? How the Puritans fit in. 
  4. What was restored through John Wesley and Methodism?   How did this prepare the way for Pentecostalism and its restoration?
  5. How did the 19th century British Church come to believe in the restoration of Israel and to prepare for it?
  6. What was restored in the Latter Rain Movement?  Where was it off?  What was restored in the Charismatic movement and in Five Fold Restoration Movements?  Where has it been good and where not so much?

And finally, where is all this going as we see all coming together, all the truths from the historic churches, the Reformation, to recent restorations unto the unity and blessing of the last days harvest and the return of Yeshua. 

This book is an easy read.  It will help you!


Sukkot (Tabernacles) is Coming

Friday evening begins the Feast of Sukkot.  In some ways, it will be sad here because the wonderful joyful harvest feast will be nothing like normal due to the virus shut down.  Sukkot has great meaning, not only for Israelis and for all Jews, but for all committed Christians. 

The command in Lev. 23 notes that this is to be a 7 day festival with the 8th day as a special assembly, Shimi Atzeret.   Historically we recall the time in the wilderness before Israel entered the promised land.  This was a time of supernatural provision despite the judgment.  Those who experienced that judgment who were under 20 years of age when it began, would have survived that judgment of almost 40 years and would have had great memory.  There was supernatural manna, meat, and water.  Their clothes did not wear out.  The Feast, therefore, is the supreme testimony from this memory that the LORD is our provider. This is why the directions for remembering the desert period were given for the largest and final harvest festival of the year.  Can you imagine being a parent and not having your kids’ clothes wear out?  Israel in the Land, now living in stable houses, with stable seasons and harvests, is not to think that their provision is any less from the LORD.  To drive this truth home, Israel is to dwell in tents as she did in the wilderness, to know that all provision is from God.  It is a testimony of the New Covenant Scriptures that for those who walk with God and live in generosity that “God will supply all your needs according to His riches in Messiah Yeshua.” (Phil 4:19)  

Probably, Yeshua was born during this Feast. The evidence is not absolute.  If so, according to the calculations from the division of Abijah’s time to serve in the Temple, the division of the father of John the Immerser, one probable calculation leads us to the time of Sukkot.  Since this is a pilgrim festival and families traveled to Jerusalem, it would explain why there was no room in the Inn.  It indeed, would be so fitting and appropriate for Him to be born on the first day of Sukkot and then circumcised on the 8th day, Shmini Atzeret. He tabernacled among us. 

The Feast is chosen by God to be the Millennial Feast for international celebration, for all nations in that age will send their representatives to celebrate the Feast.  Therefore, it is the Feast of the Kingdom of God.  In wonderful anticipation, organizations like the Christian Embassy, bring representatives of the churches from the nations in anticipation of that Age.  It is therefore in Judaism and should be in Christianity, the Feast of the Kingdom of God International under the rule of the Messiah.  If one adds the idea of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb that takes place after his return, which is rooted in the symbolism of the High Holidays, Rosh Hoshana to Yom Kippur, then it could well be that the Feast is the reception gathering of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.   We also cannot overlook that the largest and final harvest is a fitting symbol of the great harvest of the nations at the end of the Age.  

The celebration of this Feast by all believers in Yeshua therefore is a prophetic act of intercession in longing for its fulfillment.  


The High Holidays

People connected to the Messianic Jewish movement and Evangelicals with passion for Israel often have a significant understanding of the High Holidays in the Bible and in Judaism.  This is the period between Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kippur.  Some have a depth of understanding.  However, it amazing how many have no significant understanding at all, maybe the majority. 

The High Holidays are the holiest time of the year on the biblical Jewish calendar. Sadly, in my view, the name Rosh Hoshana and part of the theology of the day in Judaism obscures some important meanings.  It was not wrong for Israel to adopt the New Year date of the ancient Near East just as we in the West celebrate January 1st.  However, the idea of that the date is really the anniversary of the creation of the world is speculative.  By calling this the first month, we obscure the meaning that stems from Nissan, Passover month, being called the beginning of the year in the Torah.  So yes, we can have new year meanings for the 1st of Tishri, but this should be secondary, and the emphasis should be on Tishri being the seventh month, the primary meaning.  Seven is the time of perfecting.  

In the seventh month on the first day, we hear the sound of the shofar, hence the Biblical name Yom Teruah, or the blowing of a trumpet.  Teruah is the sound of that blowing.  The Bible also notes silver trumpets at this time, but this has also been obscured.  We do have a new beginning due to the meanings of these holidays.  The blowing of trumpets means that we are to get ready, for we are entering into a time judgment by God and seeking forgiveness and atonement whereby we will not fall under God’s judgment but his mercy, forgiveness, and grace.  This is why we have the trumpet emphasis in the book of Revelation, and the last trumpet emphasis in I Cor. 15 that is sounded at the return of Yeshua.  Rightly, in Jewish tradition for this season, we are reminded of the last judgment and the Age to Come.  The day is fraught with eschatological meanings. The trumpets are connected to Passover and exodus as well, the trumpet was heard at Mt. Sinai.  Therefore the book of Revelation includes both meanings.   Following this day, a Sabbath, we have the intermediate days leading up to Yom Kippur on the 10th of Tishri.  The Sabbath in that mid-period is called Shabbat Shuva, the Sabbath of return and repentance.  Repentance is a daily exercise but is especially emphasized now so that all will repent. 

The holiest day, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a time or fasting, of self-searching, repentance, recommitment, and receiving of forgiveness/atonement.  The prayers of the synagogue are mostly corporate.  We pray for the sins of Israel since the sin of any is part of the corporate sin of the nation.  Lists of sins are comprehensive.  Unless one understands this corporate dimension, he or she will not think that all of it is relevant to them, though the lists can point of individual sins.  Westerners are so individualistic.  We need to learn the importance of corporate intercession.  We especially thank God for the book of Hebrews which shows us the great fulfillment of the meaning of Yom Kippur in Yeshua.  He is both our High Priest and our sacrifice.  He enters into the most holy place in heaven with his own blood procuring the fullness of our forgiveness and the perfecting of our conscience.   The sacrifices of old in themselves could not take away sin. Their meaning is participation in the sacrifice of Yeshua who is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the World.  We can see an anticipation of this in the Jewish teaching that all the sacrifices were only efficacious because they participated in the sacrifice of Isaac who was offered in the place where the Temple would be built.  However, Isaac is not divinity and is only a type, a foreshadowing of the great antetype, Yeshua our High Priest and Sacrifice.  All the images of atonement in the Torah find their fullness of meaning in him.  

There are also last days (eschatological) predictions of atonement that show Yeshua’s sacrifice will be provided for the sins of the whole world.  In John, we read, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World.”  The vision of the conversion of the nations who all go up to Jerusalem in Isaiah 2 is only possible if the sacrificial atonement of Yeshua is applied to them.  In Zechariah 13 we read that a fountain will be open to Israel for her cleansing.  From this text we get the famous hymn, “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains.”  I also believe optimistically in interpreting Rev. 1:7 when all the nations see the returning Yeshua and morn.  I think they mourn for their sins and rebellion against Yeshua, the King.  This is why the survivors of the last wars can go up to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem to worship the King every year, a fitting parallel to Isaiah 2.  Yom Kippur looks toward the future application of the blood of Yeshua to all the nations on earth. 

Mutual Blessing

Some people find the word blessing to be vague.  However, the word could be translated enrichment, a gift that brings benefit.  I wrote a book entitled Mutual Blessing, to argue that the whole universe is arranged in an order of mutual blessing or enrichment through interdependence.  The beginning of the Bible reveals God’s order of mutual blessing while the very end, Revelation 21, 22, shows this order brought to its climactic fulfillment.  Understanding mutual blessing enables us to understand God’s purposes and gives us a glimpse of our eternal state.  

Genesis 1 presents the six days (cosmic days in my view-see Gerald Schroeder, The Science of God), and as the days progress we see an expansion of wonderful variety and beauty.  God blesses each day and declares the creation good.  He is blessed by it.  God, by his own choice, makes himself partake of interdependence for mutual blessing.  God and nature are in a relationship of mutual blessing.  The seventh-day rest is best understood as the day that the great Artist steps back from what He had done to enjoy it!  Human beings and nature are in a relationship of mutual blessing. That human beings are to care for the garden shows that the garden will bring blessing and human beings bring a greater quality of fruitfulness and beauty to the garden.  The plants and animals are dependent on one another for mutual blessing. The bees pollinate the fruit flowers and provide the bees with their food.  The fruit trees provide fruit for animals and human beings.  Human beings care for and bless the trees.   Science tells us that the very position of the galaxies are exactly tuned to provide for life on earth.  The beauty of nature blesses humankind.  Humankind is charged to be a good steward of nature, which is implied by ruling as a vice-regent of God, the meaning of being in the image of God.  

In human life itself, there are arrangements of mutual blessing that astonish us when we think about it. The artist and his patrons and those who enjoy his art.  All are enriched.  The entrepreneur who cares about his employees enriches them, and they him in return.  The inventor blesses with his invention and is enriched by the benefit it brings along with the income.  The manufacturer produces a product to enhance the lives of those who purchase the product.  He and the employees are enriched in return. The teacher and student are mutually enriched.  Parents and their children are in mutual relationship of interdependence for mutual blessing.  It is an awesome relationship.

The male-female distinction is one of the greatest examples of distinction and interdependence for mutual blessing. From such blessing comes the enrichment of children. This distinction for mutual blessing, especially in biblical based marriage, is so enriching, I can hardly begin to get my arms around it. I am awed by it daily.  It is overwhelming.  God’s design in covenant monogamy is the greatest fulfillment of this distinction for blessing. 

However, the greatest of all mutual blessing of all is the human relationship with God.  God finds fulfillment somehow in our love and relationship with him.  We find our fulfillment in God’s love and relationship with us.  He is the one who makes all the distinctions in creation for mutual blessing.  

The eternal state, everlasting life, is an enhancement and perfection of these aspects so that we can enjoy God and one another along with nature, art, and beauty as it will be in that age forever.  

The Devil is the great leveler.  He desires to destroy distinctions, destroy the order of mutual blessing, and then destroy the creation in his hatred for God and humankind.  Can we see some of this both in environmental destruction and in the rebellion against the biblical order for the male-female distinction?   

This book was written so that you might enjoy life with greater fullness and that you are prepared for eternity.  The best is yet to be. 


Is God a Narcissist

One of the objections I periodically get from people who question biblical faith is that it appears to them that the God of the Bible is a narcissist. The Bible is filled with exhortations that we are to love God, honor God, obey God, worship God, and on and on. Indeed, it seems that He desires to have all the glory and says so.

It is not until we get to the pages of the New Covenant Scriptures that we find a very different picture. I first understood this solution from lectures given by the great Francis Schaffer at Wheaton College in 1967. The solution is in understanding more deeply the nature of God. Yes, the solution is in his Triune nature. Our one God is a God of three persons, in such deep unity that we can say that we have one God, but in sufficient distinction that a relationship of love is the eternal basis of all. That eternal love is the love of constant giving and receiving. The images in the New Covenant Scriptures and especially the Gospel of John give us this new foundation. We can now understand the meaning of “God is Love.” How can God be love before He created? Was he just loving himself as a narcissist? But before the world was created, this love existed in God. Yeshua says in John 17:5, “Father, glorify Me together with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world came to be.”

John 16:17, “The Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me.’
John 15:9, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I also have loved you. Abide in my love.”

Yeshua tells us the nature of this love; it is self-giving to the other, not selfish. In John 15:13 we read, “No one has greater love than this; that he lay down his life for his friends.” The Father in himself will greatly suffer in the sacrifice of his Son since he so deeply loves him.

In John 16:6, we read that it is to the advantage of the disciples that Yeshua go away because He will then give the Spirit. He will convict the world. He is part of that relationship of love. Abiding in the Spirit is abiding in Yeshua.

Eternal self-giving love is the foundation of all reality. The commandment to love God is a call to participate in the self -giving love. We love him because He first loved us, but we cannot enjoy the mutual blessing of this love unless we return it and love God. If we do not enter into receiving God’s love and loving Him in return, then we will eventually be given to more self-centeredness. The narcissism that is in all people, will then dominate those who will forever be lost. So, the objection of narcissism is actually the opposite of what is claimed, and loving God is what delivers human beings from it. Those who glorify God will themselves be glorified!

Sadly, when we share this understanding with Jewish people and ask how it is that their God is not alone and loving Himself and how that is not narcissism, they have no answer. They appeal to mystery, but do not want to see the richness of the answer of the New Covenant Scriptures and the Triune nature of God. So, yes, a person can claim God is love but have no way to convincingly present the idea of God to show this. However, Messianic Jews and Christians do have the answer to the dilemma.

The Exchanged Life

In 1978, I became the leader of Beth Messiah Synagogue outside of Washington, D. C.  A young couple in the congregation soon became friends, Jerry and Jo Miller, who had met and married during the days of my predecessor Manny Brotman.  Jerry became a young elder and eventually served as the primary local pastor after Eitan Shishkoff made Aliya to Israel.  Recently Jerry completed a book on the grace of God, what it is, and how it works in bringing transformation to our lives and conformity to the image of Yeshua.  It is the best book on grace that I have ever read.  We hope to see it published. 

Sometimes in my devotions, I sing old hymns and meditate on them if they have depth.  This seems strange to some of my Messianic Jewish friends.  Yes, I enjoy the traditional prayers which are often very biblical in content but at best they are prophetic of Messiah and not able to convey the fullness of what is ours in Yeshua.  As the doctrinal statement of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations says, we are to be enriched by the best of the Christian tradition.  Many hymns fit this tradition.  Jerry’s book on grace is wonderfully summarized in a hymn that I recently rediscovered.  I probably have not sung it since high school.  It was written by William Sleeper, a prominent congregationalist pastor in Maine in the 19th century.  It reflects a teaching on grace called the exchanged life.  This became part of the Keswick Conference in England and then in New Jersey.  They also believed in a second blessing and with Methodist influence were predecessors of Pentecostalism.   Here is the wonderful verses on what is available to us through grace.  Yes, it is all of grace. 


  1.  Out of my bondage, sorrow and night, Jesus I come, Jesus I come;

 Into thy freedom, gladness and light, Jesus I come to Thee;  

 Out of my sickness into Thy health, Out of my want and into thy wealth

 Out of my sin and into Thyself, Jesus I come to thee.


  1. Our of my shameful failure and loss, Jesus, I come, Jesus I come

Into the glorious gain of Thy cross, Jesus I come to Thee.  

Out of earth’s sorrows into Thy balm, Out of life’s storms and into Thy calm;

Out of distress to jubilant praise, Jesus I come to Thee


  1. Out of unrest and arrogant pride, Jesus I come, Jesus I come;

Into Thy blessed will to abide, Jesus I come to thee;

Out of myself to dwell in Thy love, Out of despair into raptures above, 

Upward for aye on wings like a dove, Jesus I come to Thee.


  1. Out of the fear and dread of the tomb, Jesus I come, Jesus I come; 

Into the joy and light of Thy home, Jesus, I come to Thee.  

Out of the depths of ruin untold, Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold, 

Ever Thy glorious face to behold, Jesus I come to Thee.    Amen.