One Dark Step

Palestine becomes member of UN cultural body

PARIS (AP) — Palestine became a full member of the U.N. cultural and educational agency Monday, in a highly divisive move that the United States and other opponents say could harm renewed Mideast peace efforts. U.S. lawmakers had threatened to withhold roughly $80 million in annual funding to UNESCO if it approved Palestinian membership. The United States provides about 22 percent of UNESCO's funding.

Huge cheers went up in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization after delegates approved the membership in a vote of 107-14 with 52 abstentions. Eighty-one votes were needed for approval in a hall with 173 UNESCO member delegations present. "Long Live Palestine!" shouted one delegate, in French, at the unusually tense and dramatic meeting of UNESCO's General Conference.

While the vote has large symbolic meaning, the issue of borders of an eventual Palestinian state, security troubles and other disputes that have thwarted Middle East peace for decades remain unresolved. Palestinian officials are seeking full membership in the United Nations, but that effort is still under examination and the U.S. has said it will veto it unless there is a peace deal with Israel. Given that, the Palestinians separately sought membership at Paris-based UNESCO and other U.N. bodies. Monday's vote is definitive. The membership formally takes effect when Palestine signs UNESCO's founding charter. The U.S. ambassador to UNESCO, David Killion, said Monday's vote will "complicate" U.S. efforts to support the agency. The United States voted against the measure.

Israel's ambassador to UNESCO, Nimrod Barkan, called the vote a tragedy. "UNESCO deals in science, not science fiction," he said. "They forced on UNESCO a political subject out of its competence. They've forced a drastic cut in contributions to the organization," he said. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week called UNESCO's deliberation "inexplicable," saying discussion of Palestinian membership in international organizations couldn't replace negotiations with Israel as a fast-track toward Palestinian independence.
Associated Press writer Angela Charlton contributed.


Sorrow & Simplicity

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” ~ Albert Einstein

There really are so many things in life about which to be concerned. Our personal lives and walks with G-d, the ever-growing complexities of current events and global turmoil, the pain and suffering we see every day and the limitless depravity of mankind - all these things, and so many more, constantly compete for our concern. Even the believer that has built their house on the truth of G-d's Word can sometimes encounter seemingly insurmountable obstacles or experience paralyzing despair in the face of life's many challenges.

When we allow encroaching shadows to envelop the light, we can forget where we are and eventually lose our way. In life's darkest times, it helps tremendously to focus our cares on the simple truths that HaShem has placed in our hearts. Our various aspirations and goals, while often rooted in healthy ambition, can overwhelm us in seasons of adversity. Meditating on the simplicity of G-d's love for us has the power to restore hope and peace to our beleaguered souls. When we seek the calibration only G-d provides, His priorities become our own. His peace becomes our strength. In this spiritual winnowing, the Ruach HaKodesh breathes a calm focus into our now quieted and attentive hearts.

If there is one thing we know about Rav Shaul, it's that he had a great many things to deal with in life. Harsh persecution nearly everywhere he went, feelings of alienation from many leaders in the Jewish establishment, and the burden of being responsible to grow Messianic Judaism and shepherd congregations throughout the known world, surely weighed heavily on his shoulders. In Romans 9, he spoke of a wish he had. The word "wish" seems somewhat lighthearted to us today, though. It was more of a incredibly deep, heartfelt plea - one borne out of terrific stress, unyielding anguish, and an indescribable love. He appears to have felt somewhat powerless to change this situation - and his mind began to entertain the unthinkable. Somehow, in Shaul's despair, he actually wished that he could be cut off from Yeshua in order to bestow salvation to Israel. He wished that he could, literally, be damned so that they might be saved.

"I am speaking the truth in Mashiach. I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Ruach HaKodesh - that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Mashiach for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of Torah, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is Mashiach Yeshua who is G-d over all, blessed forever. Amen." ~ Romans  9:1-5


The Walk

Romans 8 is one of the most beautifully informative and tragically misunderstood passages in the writings of Rav Shaul. Too often, it seems, many believers tend to equate its idiom of “walking after the Spirit” to be living a self-determined, boundary-less adventure. They're comfortable handling the things of G-d however they like – nestled in some nebulous state of "freedom" – while they often view those “walking after the flesh” as living according to regulations, legalism, and the commandments of G-d. In this errant rendering, Yeshua died to end the standard, rather than lived to provide us one. This misunderstanding can largely be traced to the text of Romans 8, where many have mistaken an exposition on how we cannot, in our flesh, measure up to the holiness of G-d's instruction - or obtain salvation based on our own merit - to mean that we are not to, in the Spirit, pursue the holiness of G-d's instruction - walking righteously before HaShem.

The spiritual life of "make it up as you go along" and "do what (spiritually) feels right" is somehow made superior to the legalistic life of simply adhering to the commandments of G-d – even though, our Master, Maran Yeshua, lived in complete obedience to the instruction of G-d, and further, instructed us numerous times to do the same (Matt 5:19, 19:17 & 23:3, John 14:15, 21 & 15:10). This "no rules" misreading, I believe, is nothing more that a vestigial perspective from the era when gentiles usurped the fledgling Messianic faith, and eventually, seeking to distance it from Judaism, severed theological ties with its basic tenets and Torah appearances. Bolstering the distorted framework that enables this chasm between what we clearly read in the text and what many have been taught, is a time-honored tradition - and one that has been so tenaciously maintained, and for so long, that many are completely unable to perceive its existence, much less, error.

Having come to understand Romans 8 differently, it is apparent to me that the “walking”, the halacha, is non-negotiable. You either walk after the flesh or after the Spirit, but still, you must walk. You must adhere to the commandments of HaShem. The question is, how do we “walk”? How do we keep G-d’s teaching? Do we keep it according to His will, through His Spirit – allowing Him to live out His holy life through us? Or do we tend to walk things out in our own flesh – picking and choosing what we will obey, deem necessary, important, “outdated”, “legalistic” or “done away with”, in direct contrast and disobedience to His Spirit? Further, do we keep Torah to somehow obtain our own salvation or standing before G-d - or do we keep it because our Master did and commanded us to be a light to this darkened world? Yes, everyone walks - some with HaShem, some in the wrong direction, and some in the right direction, but without ever reaching the destination that their loving Father has prepared and intended for them.

"If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love." ~ John 15:10


I never knew you!

Maran Yeshua said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'L-RD, L-RD,' will enter Ha Olam Haba, but those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that Day, many will say to me,`L-RD, L-RD! Didn't we prophesy in your name? Didn't we expel demons in your name? Didn't we perform many miracles in your name?' Then I will tell them to their faces,`I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness!' ~ Matityahu 7:21-23

The Greek word that is translated in verse 23 as "lawlessness" is anomia - which is basically, "no law", but not simply. This word, like many Greek words, has an unspoken depth. It is sometimes translated as "iniquity" or "unrighteousness", but is best defined as: the condition of being without law - either because one is ignorant of the law, is guilty of violating the law, or possibly, even holds contempt for the law.

This passage has always astounded me, but not nearly as much as peoples' reaction to it. The tendency of many to overlook what is being said can be likened to attempting to gaze past an enormous mountain while standing at its base. Yeshua speaks an extremely challenging message here. He speaks of someone who is actively pursuing the things of G-d. This person cries out, "L-RD, L-RD!" - the repetition implies emphasis and is used by Yeshua to illustrate sincerity on the part of this person - one who also prophesies, casts out demons, and performs other miraculous works in His name. This is not a casual believer being described, and notice that Yeshua doesn't take issue with their statement. He doesn't deny that this person has accomplished many miraculous works. He simply says, very boldly and to this person's face, that He never knew them and that they must get away from Him. He says that they have worked as if He never gave them any law. Apparently, "lawlessness" is the only blemish on this believer's accomplished record. This is, perhaps, one of the most sobering passages in all of scripture, in my opinion. We would do (more than) well to pour over it, (really) pray about it, and examine our hearts (and actions) concerning it.

Where do we stand? What do we do with the Torah of Yeshua - the commandments of HaShem? Do we make the will of HaShem our highest priority? Does He know you?


1 = 1,000

Gilad Shalit is finally free! 
Baruch HaShem!!!

"Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, 
I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life."  
Yeshayahu 43:4


The Secret Jews

While Jews being forced into hiding during the reign of totalitarian regimes is nothing new, who would've imagined that many Arabs today are concealing their Jewish ancestry - practicing the faith of their fathers in secret - away from the watchful eyes of Islamic leadership and PA factions? Still more fascinating is that this has been going on for quite some time, apparently.


Chag Sukkot Samech!

In lieu of any information on SukkahCity 2011, please enjoy revisiting SukkahCity 2010 - especially if you're unfamiliar with last year's incredible exhibit - where the sukkah was "reimagined and renewed". I was a bit surprised and disappointed to not find a continuation of this innovative project this year, especially with all of the entrants and awesome concepts introduced last year. If anyone knows anything about this year's exhibit, please let me know.

At any rate, I wish you and yours a very blessed Sukkot - as you gaze at the stars from beneath the branches.



It would be an understatement to say that beginnings are important. Looking back at my past successes and failures, it is evident that the systems or plans in place at the beginning of an undertaking usually foretold the outcome. The likelihood that I would miss the mark and fail in an endeavor or achieve my goal was often spelled out at the onset. If only I had paused to perceive the signs and taken the necessary steps, I would've been much more fruitful in times past.

5771 was a tremendous and eye-opening year. I was blessed with a new job, started this blog (which has already seen over 3,000 visitors in just a few months) and I've made some great connections with others in our community. I have been blessed to learn much from so many in a brief amount of time. I've gained many new understandings concerning the things of G-d, as well as been made aware of myriad areas in which I need to improve personally and gain further understanding still. When I consider the things I failed to accomplish this past year, the foundational issues are obvious. Beginnings are so very important. G-d is merciful, though, and I thank Him for continuing to work on, in and through me. What an exciting time!

5772 has had a great beginning so far. I've experienced an enormous benefit from introspection during the Yamim Noraim - unlike any year prior, in fact. G-d has shed His light on the depths within me and the parts I've long concealed. He has made me more conscious of my sin and even dissolved relationships with others that were apparent impediments to my growing closer to Him. While I didn't understand this at first, and endured some degree of pain in resisting the process, I'm now so very thankful for His impartation of vision and nurturing hand in my life. As is readily seen in the entirety of scripture, HaShem creates by division. Time from eternity. Light from darkness. Land from water. Woman from man. His people from all the earth. He separates to accomplish His more glorious end - and it's to our utmost benefit to perceive His methodology and embrace His direction.

The supernatural - that which is above the physical realm - permeates all and absolutely. The natural is contained within the supernatural - not the other way around. In other words, the supernatural is not only above the physical, natural realm, but below it, around it - enveloping it completely. We perceive only what we're able to see, hear, touch, smell and taste - failing to realize that physicality is actually contained within, suspended, and affected by that which we are unable to perceive - the metaphysical. As a fish that is completely surrounded by water, and guided by its various currents, is able to find sustenance, opportunity, benefit and community - while remaining very much oblivious to the water itself - so are we surrounded, suspended even, in the supernatural realm - so much so that we are unable to see it. We may swim - and swim well, but who can truly say which outcomes are derived of our own efforts and which of the current that sweeps us all along? The supernatural permeates, supports, and manifests all reality. It is the flow, the tempest, and the tide. Let us, this year, move that much closer to true perception of the realm in which all others are contained - that in which we live, and move, and have our being.