The Shepherding Movement

Some fifty years ago the Shepherding Movement was started as a network of congregations.  It was led by five very significant leaders in the charismatic movement.  Charles Simpson, Bob  Mumford, Ern Baxter, Don Basham,  and Derek Prince.  These five were very mature and experienced leaders.  Derek Prince was the first to leave this movement.  I was able to be with him when he was still a part of it (1981) and after he left (1982).  When I came to our congregation in the Washington, D.C. area I hosted a discussion time in my basement recreation room (February 1978).  I shared my goal to strengthen the shepherding of the flock.  One woman cried out, “You mean we are becoming part of the shepherding movement?”  With total innocence, I then said I wanted to foster discipleship.  I did not know that this would have the same reference for this woman and that the Shepherding Movement was also known as the Discipleship Movement.  I said that I was a Presbyterian (I still was in the denomination) and a Messianic Jew, and I had no idea of this movement and what she was talking about.

Later, I looked into the movement and found some good things.  However, there were also very disturbing things.  Leaders usurped the leading of the Holy Spirit and required that all submit their personal decisions to leaders for acceptance or veto.  All but one of the top five, known as the Ft. Lauderdale Five, repented.  The one who did not repent professed that he never taught this error.

However, the Shepherding Movement was addressing a real problem.  They just went overboard in the way they addressed it.  They were reacting to anarchy and damage in the charismatic moment of the 60s and 70s.  Prophecy given to people on who to marry and terribly bad decisions ruining lives with the claim that the “Spirit told me” were frequent. There is mature and immature hearing the Spirit. The congregation Patty, my future wife, and I attended in our Wheaton College Days went into heresy and Gnosticism.  We left in May 1969 never to return.  This congregation was not accountable beyond itself for an appeal with regard to moral and doctrinal error.  It is interesting that Derek Prince and Ern Baxter spoke in this congregation before it went off.  I also know that Ern Baxter was appealed to when he was ministering in a Chicago pastorate about the issues but had no power to do anything about it.  I often wonder if the Shepherding leaders had this church in mind when they formed their association.   

The question that arose was how to bring order and balance to the chaos and lack of accountability in the charismatic movement outside the denominations.  My reaction to the error and chaos was to become a rationalist and to reject the charismatic gifts, prophecy, and the supernatural.  Then when I returned to embrace the Spirit in a charismatic way, I began to work out my views on these issues more explicitly.  They were largely solidified when I wrote my discipleship doctrine guide, Growing to Maturity.  This was developed more in my book Relational Leadership and in the book Dynamics of Spiritual Deception.  Here are the principles that have guided me for the last 41 years.

1.  Congregations are in better order when they are linked in associations, denominations, and apostolic streams.  Those congregations and leaders in these associations pledge to accountability on basic doctrinal and moral foundations.  The overseeing board or team of such associations is a court of appeal for error and such leaders can also investigate reports of abuse, sin and error.

2.  It is important to put guard rails on the prophetic.  Mature leaders confirm congregational prophecy.   Also, they assure that prophecy is always in accord with the Word of God.

3.  Individuals and families are indeed free to follow the leading of the Spirit for their life’s directions.  They are ultimately accountable to God for such decisions.  Every private in God’s army has access to the top general, Yeshua.

4. However, in addition to #3 above, it is important to teach people to seek confirmation from friends and wise leaders before making life directional decisions.  Going through this process of seeking confirmation and agreement can prevent rash decisions and directions that do not end well.  When there is confirmation there is the strength and power of faith agreement. “Plans fail for lack of council but with many advisors they succeed.” (Prov. 15:22)  We have seen that this mitigates against bad decisions.

5. In addition to #4, when there is not confirmation, there should be seeking the Lord and praying again.  If the person cannot shake the conviction of God’s leading them in the non- confirmed direction, it is very important that friends and leaders give affirmation and support for the person to follow their conscience.  In a family it is ideal that the husband and wife agree, if at all possible.  This is also a check.

IF the leaders of the Shepherding Movement had been balanced in their principles, then it would have been great gain for all.  The Shepherding Movement’s demise set the Body back and anarchy ensued again.  However, we see more and more getting this right.

Rosh Hoshana 

The fall Holy Days begin in just two days. Sometimes I assume that my Official Page followers already have a grasp of the Holiday and their meaning in Yeshua. The Fall Feasts include Rosh Hoshana, then ten days later, Yom Kippur-the Day of Atonement, and five days after this, the seven days of Sukkot or Tabernacles.  After the seven days, there is an eighth day assembly, a day of no work, Shimini Atzeret. 

Rosh Hoshana translates literally as the head of the year or the new year.  It is mentioned in the post exilic prophets but is not emphasized as the head of the year in the Torah. Rather it is called Yom HaTeruah, The Feast of the Blowing (of the shofar-the horn of the ram).  It is a day of rest with no work. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the calendar and recounts the atonement ceremonies in the Temple while including many prayers of the confession of sin that connect us to forgiveness.   Sukkot recalls the days in the desert when we lived in tents in the desert for 40 years, and ate supernatural food and drink.  Our clothes did not wear out. 

However, today’s article is on Rosh Hoshana.  There is very little about the meaning of the Feast in the Torah.  The instruction is that everyone needs to hear the sound of the shofar and then take the day as a day of rest unto the Lord.  Jewish tradition fills in the vacuum.  The prayers for the day emphasize the Kingship rule of God and God’s judgment.  It is as if Yom Kippur meanings blend into the meaning of Rosh Hoshana.  There is a festive meal on the evening when the Feast begins and plenty of food the following day.  However, the prayers are solemn.  Maimonides, the famous rabbi of rabbis of the middle ages, said that the shorfar was an awaking call, to wake up from sleep and deal with the issues of God, sin, judgement and eternal life. 

For me, as a Messianic Jew, the most noteworthy tradition of the day is the reading from Genesis 22 on the sacrifice of Isaac.  We recall in in Genesis 22 that God gave the strangest command, that Abraham was to sacrifice his only son of Sarah on the altar.  In the history of Christian interpretation this text is seen as prophecy of the sacrifice of Yeshua, the only Son of his Father in heaven, who sacrifices him on the altar for our sin.  Some Christians have also argued the act of sacrifice was an intercessory act of Abraham giving his all, his most important relationship, to God at such a level that it called forth from God to give his all, the most important gift of his Son as our sacrifice.  In this interpretation, both were necessary and are tied together.  Of course, the Father’s will was to give his Son as a sacrifice, but could He find someone that would give his son in a like way to call forth His great gift?

Judaism finds amazing and helpful meaning in the sacrifice of Isaac.  The sacrifice of Isaac (vicariously though not in actuality) was an act of such merit that it is the foundation for all the sacrifices in the Tabernacle and Temple.  The location of the sacrifice was on Mt. Moriah where the Temple would be built.  Was it actually where the Most Holy Place would be?  This leads to the rabbinic teaching that the sacrifices of the Tabernacle and Temple were only efficacious became they participated in the meaning of the sacrifice of Isaac.  Of course, we would say they are efficacious because they participated in the in the sacrifice of Yeshua.  There is a question as to whether or not the sacrifices were efficacious at all on the basis of Hebrews 7 which says that the blood of bulls and goats and not really take away sin.   My view is that since Messiah is the Lamb slain form the foundations of the world, these sacrifices did provide forgiveness on the basis of Yeshua’s shed blood.  I understand that the argument in Hebrews to say that the blood of bulls and goats in themselves cannot take aways sin, but point to and participate in the blood of Yeshua.  Only due to Yeshua’s blood do we have atonement. 

Jewish tradition does provide meanings that are helpful in enriching our celebration of this day.  Of course, Gentiles are not responsible to keep these sabbath days.  But if they are in Messianic Jewish congregations we join together in common life.  Those in the church world do well to at least teach on the meanings made full in Yeshua. 

Miracles of Different Categories

In my apologetics evidence for our biblical faith, The Biblical World View, An ApologeticI argue that there are different levels of God’s intervention in healing. Today we have miracles galore worldwide done in the name of Yeshua/Jesus. It is less prominent in the West due to skepticism, but it is happening significantly here as well. I recently attended a conference of Global Awakening with Randy Clark where many miracles took place. 

The most astonishing miracle and sign of Gospel confirmation is a creative miracle. Creative miracles range from resurrections from the dead, the most wonderful and astonishing of all, to replacing organs or creating organs where they are missing. Eyes have been created. Blind people have been given sight which in the most amazing cases means that missing eye parts are created instantly. Parts of bones have been created, limbs have grown out, and so much more. In my book, I mention the testimony of Barbara Comiskey, who on her death bed with advanced MS, was instantly healed, flesh put on her calves, and organs recreated. Such creative miracles are described in Craig Keener’s book Miracles, almost 1000 pages of documented evidence. 

Just shy of creative miracles are instant bodily healings of cancer and other debilitating diseases, deaf ears healed from nerve damage conditions, diseases of hearts, lungs, kidneys, livers, and cancers, etc. When these healings are instantaneous, they are really almost in the first category. A miracle is the only reasonable explanation, supernatural intervention. 

The third category of God’s intervention reverses the course of a disease, but the full healing takes place after time of improvement. Some explain this as the body’s own amazing functions kicking in. Stage four cancer that is not instantly healed but which after prayer goes into decline with eventual full remission is an example. This can be the case for heart disease, kidney disease, liver diseases, lung diseases and so many more. Diabetes and high blood pressure are other examples. Doctors who do not believe in God’s healing power will speak of spontaneous remissions or the bodies rejuvenating power. When this process of reversal begins after prayer, we are justified in saying that this shows the intervention of God. 


The Love of God

Dan and I just returned from a powerful conference, Greater Things, and we were blown away. All the speakers were of high caliber and exhibited such humility and “Messiah-likeness.”  And the worship was electrifying. The presence of God was palpable, and Yeshua was exalted above all. It is hard to put into words. How can one describe the Grand Canyon?

On Friday night as I was crying out for a deeper revelation and experience of the love of God my heart exploded with new understanding. One of the main speakers, Francis Chan, gave a powerful message on the love of God. He gave an illustration that when we think of the most intelligent person alive, it is a no-brainer to attribute to God an even greater intelligence that is “beyond beyond”—incomprehensible. The same goes for when we imagine the most powerful person in the world and compare him to the awesome power and majesty of God. However, when we think of the most loving person we know we get hung up. How can God be more loving towards us than our friend, or spouse, or parent?  Then Francis went on to explain how we can only comprehend the love of God in the context of His community of believers. Only together with them are we able to comprehend the depth, and width, and breadth of the love of God that is in Yeshua. Our hearts have to be strengthened in order to grasp his great love for us.

So many of us have a hard time receiving God’s love because we consider ourselves unworthy. We have a tendency to focus too much on how far we fall short. I thought of how in a marriage it sometimes takes a while for each other to be confident in the other’s love and often requires proof of the other’s love. Understanding the teaching of the five love languages often unlocks the spouse’s ability to give and receive love from the other. For example, one of my main love languages was serving, and Dan’s was words of affirmation.

It was not until Dan got this revelation that he understood that I felt most loved when he served me by taking care of the children or doing the dishes. I think that sometimes we need to comprehend that God ministers to us in all of the five love languages (serving, giving, affirmation, quality time, and touch), and what we need to do is to identify how he conveys his love to us. One of the biggest of God’s love languages is giving.  “For God so loved the world that he GAVE…” Then the light bulb went on. God loves us so much that he gave us apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip the body to do the work of ministry (serving, loving, encouraging, etc.,  and he also GAVE gifts (faith, prophecy, healing, words of knowledge, etc.) to reveal his great love. The gifts of the Spirit are for the building up of the body, for mutual edification. God supernaturally meets the needs of his people in the context of community. He heals, delivers, empowers, helps, and encourages us by expressing His great love through others.

I hope you can grasp this. It is only through a functioning body of believers ministering God’s love that we are able to gain understanding of His great love that is incomprehensible.  Together we grow in unity and into the fullness of the Messiah. As God’s Spirit is poured out this will become more and more the reality in which we live. Those who isolate themselves from a local body are cutting themselves off from the nourishment that can only come from living in a community of believers in a context of eldership.

Scripture says that if we receive a prophet we receive a prophet’s reward. If we receive the members of His body, we receive the benefits of community life—God’s love expressed through each member. As we grasp this truth we will be able to receive His love in an even greater measure. God gives us gifts, people, to show us His great love!


Communion and Passover

I recently read a wonderful book by a Catholic scholar, Brant Pitre, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Passover.  Not too long ago, I read a wonderful book by the late French Catholic scholar, Louis Bouyer, Eucharist. It is wonderful to see a developing interest in the original context for understanding the Bible. I will not emphasize Bouyer’s book in this post. I will write a bit about it. I should note that the term Eucharist, meaning thanksgiving, is very Jewish in rooting and comes from the blessing prayer, or thanksgiving prayer Yeshua prayed before the bread and the wine. “Blessed are you Lord our God” … is the Jewish thanksgiving formula. 

Boyer argues that the liturgy for the Communion service in the ancient Church was based on Jewish synagogue liturgy which itself was based on Temple liturgy. He presents a strong case that the most basic prayer, the Amidah or the Shemoneh Esreh (the 18 Benedictions) formed the basic prayer for the communion liturgy. Grace after meals and elements of the Passover liturgy were integrated into the liturgy as well. For post Temple Judaism, the Amidah prayer is prayed as a substitute for sacrifices with the hope that God will accept this prayer in lieu of bringing an actual sacrifice. Hence the prayer is repeated in the morning and evening as were the sacrifices. In the Christian version of the prayers, the worshipper does not offer the prayer as a substitute for the sacrifice, but as a liturgy to enter into the meaning of the sacrifice of Yeshua and to receive the life that flows from His death and resurrection. When we sing the Holy, Holy, Holy in the Amidah worship prayer, we enter into the experience of being in very Holy place of God (Eph. 2:5). This leads to taking the bread and the wine. 

Some of the elements of Pitre’s presentation are worth evaluating and probably worthy of our embrace as Messianic Jews. Pitre presents the case that Yeshua’s discourse in John 6 in a Passover context about eating His body and drinking His blood has Passover roots. There are several emphases the bread and the wine in this that some do not see in their celebration of communion. 

First of all, the Bread of the Presence (literally the Face) in the Temple, eaten by the priests is connected to eating the bread of the Lord’s supper. The Mishnah, the Jewish application of Law in early rabbinic Judaism going back to the Pharisees, presents the Bread of the Presence as a manifestation of God’s love. This bread is offered with sacrificial wine. In the three pilgrim feasts, the table with the bread is carried out and shown to the people in the words, “Behold, God’s love for you.” The bread and wine of the Last Supper is the bread and wine of His Presence as a sign of the New Covenant. 

Secondly, the feeding of the five thousand has overtones of the miracle of the manna in the wilderness, which was supernatural bread, the bread of angels. Those who asked afterward for Yeshua to do an actual miracle of manna from heaven are asking that He do an actual repeat of the miracle of manna. Why? This was expected in some Jewish traditions at that time as a miracle of the Messiah as the new Moses. However, Yeshua was offering Himself as the supernatural manna, and He is our supernatural bread in fulfillment of the manna expectations. 

Thirdly, Pitre argues that the lambs killed for Passover were impaled after their slaughter. The lambs looked like a crucifixion. The crucifixion of Yeshua as the Lamb of God would have presented an image of the lambs that would find association by first century Jews who experienced Passover every year due to the annual Passover pilgrimage festival. 

Fourthly, Pitre also argues that the seder celebrated the four cups of wine as in the Seder today. This is found in the Mishneh as well. Luke presents us with two cups. The one after the supper, Pitre argues, is the cup of redemption, the third. This is a common view in Messianic Judaism. He also presented a new argument for me.  That is that Yeshua said he would not drink of it again until he would enter into his Kingdom. There was no recording of Yeshua eating the Lamb or drinking the last cup. Yeshua was the Lamb and many have noted that Yeshua and his disciples did not eat the Passover lamb. Pitre also believes Yeshua ended the seder early before the last cup. He then notes that just before He died, He drank the wine offered to him on the sponge, and then gave his spirit up to the Father. Was that the fourth cup? I find this to be more speculative, but possible. 

Pitre is a proponent of the Catholic view that when the bread and wine is blessed and set apart by the priest (a necessary act for the transformation) it becomes the real body and blood of Yeshua. However, this is qualified because he argues that it is not the earthly body and blood but a partaking of his resurrected body and his actual life. This becomes, in my view, closer to the Lutheran view of the real presence. What is the actual body and blood really if it is not the earthly body and blood but resurrected and supernatural? I have argued that the Baptist view that the bread and wine are only part of a dramatic way of remembering and do not really convey the reality portrayed is wrong. Rather we participate in the symbol and receive the real life of Yeshua. Catholics, Anglicans, Moravians, Lutherans and Reformed all explain this in different ways, but say we really enter into and renew the reality of his death and resurrection in us as we partake. It should be the same for Messianic Jews.

I think this book by Pitre richly adds to our Messianic Jewish theology. 

The Power of The Spirit and the Prophetic in God’s People

47 years ago, after an honest evaluation of the Scriptures, I concluded that I had been wrong to reject the charismatic gifts of I Cor. 12 and 14 as for today. This was a matter of intellectual honesty. Did I believe that the Bible in context supported a charismatic orientation that would continue between Pentecost (Shavuot) and the Second Coming of Yeshua, or did it support a cessation of these supernatural gifts and manifestations after launching the Yeshua movement and seeing the canon of the Bible established? It was a matter of intellectual honesty. In addition, did I believe in a distinct experience of being immersed in the Spirit, distinct from the salvation experience. Again, a study of the Bible and history convinced me that this distinct experience was essential. It sometimes is simultaneous with being born again, sometimes as part of water immersion and sometimes after that. This was my an intellectual conclusion. What would I do about it?

Shortly after these conclusions, I found myself in ministry to hurting people for whom ordinary counseling was ineffective. I discovered prayer ministry for overcoming strongholds, healing from traumas and releasing from demonic oppression. Many were healed. I found that when I prayed in tongues, I knew much better how to proceed in the counseling and in healing prayers. Then, I also began to pray for people to be filled with the Spirit and prayed to see the gift of speaking in tongues released in them.

As I connected to the charismatic world, I was impacted by men and women who walked powerfully in the gifts of the Spirit and the prophetic. I somehow believed that such levels of gifting were for specially chosen vessels in leadership.  The ordinary or normal believer could expect to prophecy in exhortation and to pray for people with some results, but ministering at a high level of gifting was for special leaders. After all, did not Paul say that in exercising the power gifts, he showed himself to be an apostle? Did we not see the greatest gifting through people who one prophet called “God’s men of power for the hour?” Did I experience some amazing signs and wonders in my own ministry? Yes, but it was periodic. I was not a “power minister” but a teaching and governing minister. 

There were indications that my orientation was skewed. One prophet at a Vineyard conference with John Wimber, preached that God said that He would raise up a last days movement of the people empowered. Signs and wonders and Gospel progress would come from the people and not primarily the leaders. This would be characteristic of the last days before the coming of the Lord, no longer “God’s man of power for the hour.” Yet we drifted back into the understanding that the only special leaders were to walk in great power in a more constant way. 

Recently, I have been challenged by the ministry of Dr. Randy Clark. His writings and the writings of the theologian Dr. Jon Mark Ruthven to which he referred, the late Professor of Theology at Regent University in Virginia Beach, have convinced me finally that this theology of the greater power being mostly limited to those specially chosen leaders was wrong. Rather, a life of miracles in the supernatural power of God though His prophetic gifting in his people should be normative.  

Mark 16:17,18 speaks of the miraculous signs following “those who believe,” and not only specially chosen leaders. The list is astonishing: “that they will drive out demons, speak with new languages, … handle snakes, drink deadly things without harm, lay hands on the sick and they will get well.” 

This text is an addition to Mark 16, in my view an apostolic addition, that summarizes what was believed by the communities of Yeshua’s followers at the end of the first century. 

John 14 is just as clear, “Amen, amen I tell you, he who puts his trust in Me will, the works that I do he will do, and greater than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (TLV)

I can hardly believe how I explained away these texts in my rationalistic period many years ago. I and others taught that the greater works was preaching the Gospel after Pentecost and seeing people born again. We argued that it did not have to do with miraculous works. It is so obvious that in context Yeshua was talking about the same kind of miraculous works that characterized his ministry. These texts say the works were done by those who believe, not only leaders who believe.  Leaders add to these works the ability to establish congregational movements and govern them. 

I recall some years ago our dear prophet leader, David C. Rudolph would release people into accurate prophetic words of knowledge. Yet, somehow, we did not see our people characterized by walking a more supernatural walk in an ongoing way. As I look at the ministry of Dr. Randy Clark, I see him being an instrument to activate many people to believe and walk in such way. Signs and wonders on the cutting edge of preaching and sharing the Gospel of the Kingdom are taking place, especially in Southern Global Christian movements. It is growing here in the West as well, though such power is not widely known. I now believe that the day is coming that we will see the fulfillment of the prophecy giving at the Vineyard some 34 years ago. I want to be part of that fulfillment. In addition, I want to see this in Jewish ministry, in a movement of Gospel power in Israel and the Diaspora.   

We should all be instructed that living in such a way only comes from walking in intimacy with Yeshua, a depth of devotional life individually and corporately. As Yeshua said, it flows from abiding in the Vine. (John 15:1-6). Dr. Randy Clark’s great book Intimacy with God is a great book on walking in intimacy and in the supernatural life of his prophetic leading. 

The Orthodox Response to the Worship and Prayer at the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount

A great culmination of the 21 day fasting and prayer for Israel’s salvation and world harvest took place on May 28 when 100-120 million joined in prayer.  The central event was at the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount where 800 gathered including Lou Engle, Dr. William (Billy) Wilson, the President of Oral Roberts University, Messianic Jewish leaders and so many more. It was a great day. Before the event, a very negative article came out in the Jewish press vilifying this as a missionary event. My readers need to understand that the Orthodox Jewish leaders see all followers of Yeshua, who maintain the hope of Israel embracing Yeshua, as missionaries. The article was, of course, imbalanced, and foolish. Here is what I wrote to the IHOP leaders:  

I wanted to write something more since my response was so brief.

Over the years, I have noticed such articles, and some even say that Israel should not partner with Christian Zionists since they think Israel will believe in Yeshua at the end of this age!  Why should they be so upset that people believe this?  If the end of this age comes and Yeshua is revealed, then their arguments against his messiahship are defeated.  But until then, why not partner with Christian Zionists? Somehow all who believe in Romans 11:11-15 and Matthew 23:39 are suspect. Both texts teach that Israel will turn to Yeshua. But other, wiser Jews have argued that holding such a view of the final end is without practical effect, unless coupled with overt efforts of Jewish evangelism in this time before the end. They argue that believing in the final revelation of Yeshua should not cause a rejection of Christian Zionist support since such an eschatological vision does not mean that Jewish people will not be rightly treated. For liberal Jews such point will never come. For them, the answer to this article would be “so what.” For Orthodox Jews the Messiah will come, and it will not be Jesus. They could declare their conviction they look for as the time that the world will all accept the true Messiah, but not Jesus.  And should Christians not support Orthodox Jews and Israel since they believe this? This is all so very stupid. It is true that there is an issue with those who seek to follow the Bible and bring Jewish people to faith in Yeshua. 

There are three types of Christians Zionists.

1.  The first group eschews Jewish evangelism and does not support Messianic Jews who are winning their  people. But they do believe that Israel/Jewry will ultimately confess Yeshua. (Romans 11:15, 25, 26)

2.  The second group does not engage in overt evangelistic efforts. This group might contain individuals who discretely share their faith with Jews.

3. The third group believes that Romans  11:15, “Israel’s full acceptance” implies a growing movement of Messianic Jews (Rom. 11:14-some of Israel) and therefore they strongly back Messianic Jewish works that seek to bring a witness for Yeshua to our people. This is a necessary prelude to all Israel being saved. 

All three of these groups can easily support the 100 million prayer for Israel’s salvation and protection from destruction.   When Mike Bickle speaks about salvation, he is not only speaking of embracing Yeshua, but of being protected from destruction which is a big emphasis right now in this difficult time.

Note as well the Roman Catholic Catechism paragraph 674 below!  This is the unifying idea for all.  It is amazingly so well stated. Is the author in the Jewish Press so ignorant that she does not know this? Probably she is that ignorant and is not aware of what all true Christians confess form all streams of the Church.   

674 The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel”, for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus. St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.” St. Paul echoes him: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?” The “full inclusion” of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of “the full number of the Gentiles”, will enable the People of God to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”, in which “God may be all in all”.

This is amazingly so well stated

Event Response 

Since writing the above, I attended the amazing gathering of 800 at the Temple Mount Southern Stairs.  A few hundred ultra Orthodox protestors sought to block our entrance to the Davidson Center entrance to the Southern Steps. They shouted “Missionaries go home.  We don’t want you here.” Many Messianic Jews attended the gathering at the steps and Israel is our home! They pushed and shoved. A few fell down or were hit. Then the police opened up the way into the entrance.  During our meeting they gathered below our site and chanted during the whole time, but they were at a distance. It did not disturb our gathering but actually gave all a sense of the spiritual warfare over Yeshua. We prayed blessing over them to overcome their cursing. 

Articles in the Jewish press were mixed in response. Some were more negative to the Ultra-Orthodox Protestors than to the gathered Christians. One Ultra-Orthodox Jew, Aryeh King, who is one of the Deputy Mayors of Jerusalem said the gathering was a desecration of a Jewish holy place which has nothing to do with Christianity. This is historically totally wrong since this is the area of the water immersion of the 3000 who came to faith on the day of Pentecost (Shavuot). It was place of the immersion into the Holy Spirit of thousands. The location has everything to do with Messianic Jews and Christians. What a foolish and ignorant response! We were all thankful for Mayor Lion who did not cancel the event and for the police who enabled us to enter. 

Losing the Presence and Power of the Spirit 

I have almost 60 years of observing the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. For a time, I rejected the Pentecostal/charismatic orientation (June 1969 to Spring 1974), but then, through Bible study and experience, I fully embraced this orientation as biblical and essential. The evidence is dramatic. As Philip Jenkins documents in The Next Christendom, the progress of Christianity in the majority of the world is with amazing miracles and is Pentecostal/charismatic.  The leaders of the World Evangelical Alliance told me last spring that of 600 million people connected in denominations and streams through the WEA, 400 million are Pentecostal/charismatic.  They are not in name only but practice preaching a Gospel with signs following and gatherings where the gifts and power of God are the norm.  The amazing books by Heidi Baker on her work in Africa and the great scholar Craig Keener in his world survey of the miraculous (1000 pages), The Credibility of New Testament Miracles, gives irrefutable testimony of God’s ways in extending the Kingdom.  This is a key part of the Gospels teaching on the Gospel of the Kingdom. 

We see also the classic teaching on the importance of the power of the Spirit from famous leaders of the late 19th century, D. L. Moody, R. A. Torrey, A. B. Simpson (Christian and Missionary Alliance) A. J. Gordon of Gordon College fame, and V. Raymond Edmond, President and Chancellor of Wheaton College (1940-1967).  Edmund’s book They Found the Secret emphasized being baptized in the Spirit as a definite crucial experience for all believers. 

However, there is another phenomenon in the West and in Israel.  It is the decline of the reality of Holy Spirit power, signs and wonders and the practice of the charismata. In the early 1980s, in America while I was in the Washington area, I connected to a growing charismatic movement both in denominational churches and new apostolic stream churches.  Our own Messianic Jewish congregation was very much part of all this.  I was so optimistic.  I saw growing unity, people coming to faith, and frequently with a supernatural element.  Then it declined.  What happened?  One of the key charismatic pastoral leaders in Israel, a disciple of the renowned Derek Prince, noted a significant decline form the 1990s in Israel.   How did that happen?

My answer is that the presence and power of the Spirit needs to be always zealously pursued or there will be decline.  Fostering the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit is to be pursued as part of this.  If it is not done, it will decline.  Then, as with some mega churches in the United States, social psychological methods that attract will replace the Presence and Power.  For a season the replacement can look successful, but it is as with Rehoboam, there is a replacement of bronze shields for the gold, and the glory is in the gold. Human beings given what they are, with a tendency for laziness, fear, and offense, eventually are giving to a decline in the Presence and Power. Openness to the Spirit will sometimes produce manifestations that offend the mind but may be legitimate. There needs to be discernment. 

I have a name for this phenomenon.  It is the Spiritual Second Law of Thermodynamics.  The Second Law is known in science as the axiom that the energy of the universe as a whole is running down, dissipating, or going from useable energy to dissipated.  This used up energy is always increasing (the law of entropy increase).  This is why scientists agree that the universe is slowly moving towards energy death.  It will take eons, but this is where it is going.   The only answer is a new infusion of energy from outside the universe itself. Of course, science knows of no such source of new energy but is limited to knowledge in this universe.  It is the same in spiritual life.  We will tend to run down in spiritual power and energy unless we have new infusions of that energy by the Spirit of God.  

Those who are part of movements of congregations with great evangelistic gains tell us how they have maintained their spiritual energy.  Here are some pointers. 

  1. Fostering praying in tongues to build up our inner person is important. As I Cor. 14 says, the one who so prays edifies his spirit. 
  2. Regularly giving invitation for people to receive the gift of immersion in the Spirit. Many charismatic in name pastors do not have confidence to do this since they are in doubt.  They fear nothing will happen.  I recommend that it is Yeshua who does the work, and we need to pray for it regularly and trust him. 
  3. We need to teach people how to hear the voice of the Spirit and how to walk in a sense of His prophetic speaking and leading.  This is not just for prophets but for all (“the testimony of Yeshua is the Spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10).  “You can all prophecy.” (I Cor. 14:31)).  We should train them to expect this to happen in our witness to those who are not followers of Yeshua. 
  4. We need to foster the practice of spiritual gifts in our congregations until we see that most do practice the word gifts of I Cor. 12 and 14.  In larger assemblies, people can be vetted by appointed elders before they are released to the public. The reason this is not done is that leaders fear that it will be messy, and they are uneasy about governing. As someone who has done this for over 40 years now and fosters this in our related congregations, I say to these leaders, get over this.  If you want spiritual power, you need to learn how to foster and govern. 
  5. We need to see the leaders and people regularly lay hands on others for blessing and for healing and not give up until we see it happening.  
  6. Of course, all of this depends on motivating our people into personal devotional life where they daily receive new renewal in the Spirit and learn to live their day in the Spirit. 

The great last scholar, Jon Mark Ruthven, argued that life in the prophetic and the power of the Spirit is part of the essence of the New Covenant. We also do pray for revival and trust that revival will lead us back to these emphases. 

Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., Biology of Belief

I consider the Biology of Belief to be an important book. For many years, I have heard the statement from Dr. Lipton, a Ph. D. cell biologist formerly of Stanford, that a person always does what he or she believes in their heart – not what they profess.  

Over 50 years of pastoral experience has taught me how true this is!  How many times I have been disappointed by passionate professions that came to nothing!  More than 50 years ago I remember a couple who were about 30 years old.  The husband spoke to me at the end of our service and stated that his experience at our services was the best thing he had experienced in a congregation.  They said they would become part of the community.  We were a small congregation, and I was excited.  We could use an energetic, young, and enthusiastic couple who were excited about my preaching and the worship service.  That was the last time I ever saw them.  This pattern of profession without follow through was repeated countless times in my experience, for congregational commitment, marriage recommitment, financial discipline, devotional life, breaking bad habits, disciplining children, and so much more.  Time after time, people would make a profession of commitment and then?  This is a common pattern seen in some circles where there are invitations to come forward and repent of sin.  Some come forward over and over and never change.  I came to understand that a person may think they mean what they say, but it is not a heart commitment.  The goal of preaching, small group formation, and the presence of the Spirit in power is to bring profession to real belief, that is heart conviction.  When heart conviction is established, real change happens.  This has been so in our in our marriage where we have learned to live in love. 

Lipton’s book, though ending with new age spirituality and a belief in life after death, provides a philosophical/scientific case to explode the mechanistic materialistic understanding of science.  He shows that cell biology itself disproves such mechanistic views. Rather the cell itself, and its very membrane shows a level of purpose and adaptation.  I think he proves his case that we are not determined by our genes, but genes and cells respond to environments.  In the debate between genes (nature) and nurture, he comes down on the side of nurture.  He also notes that quantum physics presents us with an ultimately spiritual world and the physical is a manifestation of that reality.  While not positing the design thesis like Dr. Gerald Schroeder, The Science of God and The Hidden Face of God, Lipton’s book would give credibility to those who so argue.  We see in the book by one of America’s most famous philosophers, Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos, an amazing rejection of Darwinism as usually understood.  He still seeks to remain an atheist but notes that evolution seems to be connected to something of mind that permeates the material world, maybe in a more animistic sense.  As C. S. Lewis said, “An atheist can not be too careful nowadays.”  There are dangers everywhere to challenge that atheism.  Bruce Lipton’s book is one of those challenges. 

Most of Lipton’s writings are presented to disprove the materialistic science that has dominated western culture.  He then goes on to show that our lives are determined by our beliefs, but not the superficial level of belief of the conscious mind, but the deep level of beliefs in the subconscious.  This level of belief actually changes our cells.  A joyful and successful life is all about establishing the right beliefs.  This requires reprograming our subconscious.  Lipton is not just arguing for positive thinking (Norman Vincent Peale- The Power of Positive Thinking). He states that this usually does not work.  Rather methods are presented to get to the deeper subconscious.  This almost seems like a new age parallel to Word of Faith teaching (Kenneth Hagin) were the confession of the Word goes deep into our inner man, heart or spirit, and changes our lives.  It produces deep belief/conviction.  

The book is moving in the right direction but is quite short of biblical faith.  The Bible teaches the importance of faith and it does not mean just mental ascent or even profession, but something deeper and more settled.  In the Bible, such change comes from the power of the Word that becomes grafted into our hearts.  It comes from community formation whereby the individual changes on the subconscious level.  In the Life Model Works movement, Jim Wilder and Michael Hendricks (The Other Half of Church) argue that discipleship formation produces habits and settled conviction that can only happen in the sociological context of committed community together with mature people who impart themselves.  The challenge is that we have to get our beliefs deep down inside and really agree with what the Bible says in its promises and its moral and behavioral instruction.  This is a key to seeing spiritual and physical healing in our ministry to others.  

My takeaway from Lipton’s book is to remember that for ourselves and those whom we pastor, we are seeking to see belief formation on the deeper levels of both the conscious and unconscious mind, both the left and right brains!   It is also to be confident that we live in an ultimately spiritual world. 

Are we moving to an amazing replay of first century Israel history?

It is commonly taught that we are seeing a lineup of nations against Israel, a setup that seems like a replay of the first century but with one amazing difference.  Instead of Jerusalem’s destruction, the last days’ final war against Jerusalem will lead to Israel’s full victory with the return of Yeshua.  Zechariah 12 and 14 make this very clear.

One aspect for those who do not live in Israel might seem quite amazing.  It is that the divisions in Israel seem in some ways quite analogous to the first century.  We have Jewish secularists who still desire to be Israeli Jews but are like those who were very Hellenized in the first century.  They like the Sadducees do not believe in angels, demons, or the inspiration of the prophets.  The Ultra-Orthodox are like the strict Shammai Pharisees who believed that living strictly in accord with myriads of multiplied laws would make us so holy that the Messiah would come and bring us victory.  We also have the Zealots of our day who want to take the whole Land now and push the Arabs out of the Land.  Recently, in response to a terrorist attack, some of these modern Zealots have rioted against the nearby Palestinian village, burning cars and houses and shooting at civilian innocents.  These folks and their leaders are not democratic libertarians. The Prime Minister spoke out against this anarchy, but two of the party leaders in his coalition support the reactive violence and are frustrated at him.  Yeshua warned that the Zealots would gain ascendancy and Jerusalem would be destroyed.  As in the first century, there are also religious Jews of a more open and tolerant stream like the Hillel Pharisees of old.  Will the nations unjustly invade, maybe in some kind of U. N. action in response to zealot policies?  Maybe. Or will it be a Muslim invasion of the surrounding nations supported by the rest of the nations (writers W. Shobat and J. Richardson)?  We don’t know.

However, as in the first century, there is a growing Messianic Jewish community.  In the first century, the destruction of Jerusalem did not lead to repentance and the embrace of Yeshua, though the prophecies He gave were clear and fulfilled.  However, this time, the witness of the Messianic Jews with the whole Body of Believers will lead to the embrace of Yeshua before Jerusalem is destroyed.  He will return to rule and reign forever.