Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, August 13, 2023
Shavuah Tov,

And The People Cheered, “Give ‘Em Hell, Tennessee” – Part 2
by Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: I continue and conclude this two-part series on whether we Believers may “give someone Hell” through our failure to share the Gospel.

America’s college football season is almost here. A University of Tennessee Vols’ cheer I remember from the past, when I attended games, was: “Give ’em Hell, Tennessee.” While this cheer is meant as goodnatured  taunting of an opponent, I wonder if some fans actually harbor the real-life attitude of “giving” our neighbors Hell through inaction of not sharing the Gospel message with them.

SHARING THE GOSPEL: Have I shared the Gospel with someone who will keep the Blessed Hope (see Titus 2:12-13) alive for someone in the future? Have you? If you and I have been faithful in this matter, we may receive crowns at our Bema Judgment. Some of these crowns involve spreading the Gospel, such as:

● Crown of Rejoicing for the Soul Winner << See 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20: For who is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Yeshua at His coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy! >>

● Faithful Servant’s Crown << See 1 Peter 5:1-4: Therefore I appeal to the elders among you– as a fellow elder and witness of Messiah’s sufferings, and a partaker also of the glory about to be revealed– shepherd God’s flock among you. Watch over it not under compulsion but willingly before God, not for dishonest gain but eagerly. Don’t lord it over those apportioned to you, but become examples to the flock. When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. >>  ; and

● Crown of Joy for Converts << See Philippians 4:1: Therefore, my brothers and sisters whom I love and long for, my joy and crown– stand firm in the Lord in this way, my loved ones. >>

We never know who receives and benefits from our testimony. Someone in North Carolina years ago shared the Gospel with a young Billy Graham. Believing that testimony, he grew up to be a young man. Over the years, he shared the Gospel with millions of people throughout the world. Neither you nor I will have this impact, but the soul or few souls we influence to receive the message of the Ruach ha-Kodesh are all precious in the Lord’s sight.

You or I may have a person unknown to us walk walk up to us in New Jerusalem, and say, “Thank you for telling others about Yeshua. I’m here now because you cared enough to share. I told others, and they are here, too.”

You and I may have persons unknown to us walk up to us in New Jerusalem, and say, “Thank you for telling others about Yeshua. I’m here now because you cared enough to share. And, I told others about Yeshua, and they are here, too.”

Sharing the Gospel is important. So, too, is the public life of a Believer. Can a Believer profess what difference Yeshua has made in his/ her life, while leading a satanic life? There is an old saying that applies here– “actions speak louder than words.” A quotation often attributed to Francis of Assisi is: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” Researchers cannot confirm that Francis actually said this, but whoever did nailed a Believer’s testimony. Words may occupy second place to a Believer’s life.

FAILING GOD, FAILING OUR NEIGHBORS: Salvation is one of God’s  mysteries. The Apostle Paul and others struggled with and we still struggle with understanding God’s mysteries. See: What are Paul’s Mysteries of God? (helpmewithbiblestudy.org) to review some of Paul’s struggles with these mysteries.

I find it a mystery why the all-powerful, perfect God of the Universe would involve weak, flawed humans in reaching other humans to worship and follow Him. For some reason, God forms a partnership with humans to spread the message that we should follow and love Him.

We have many questions that need to be answered during eternity. Every educational program or new job I have entered has begun with orientation sessions. I hope we have orientation sessions upon entering New Jerusalem’s pearly gates. Imagine sitting in sessions headed by angels or apostles– or, maybe even Yeshua Himself. An end-of-the-session bell will not ring (we live in eternity, remember?). What glorious things we could learn! What questions of this life could be answered!

Yeshua emphasized that the two greatest commandments are: love God with one’s entire being and love one’s neighbor, as self is loved (see Matthew 22:36-40). When a Believer fails to be concerned with the salvation of others (that is, he/ she is not concerned whether his/ her neighbor spends eternity in Heaven or Hell), he/ she fails both God and the neighbor. Such cavalier attitude about others is a sign of the end times. For example:

● Yeshua lamented His concern that faith will be lacking in the last days. << See Luke 18:8b: [Yeshua said] “… But when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” >> Faith can be kept alive only if there are untold millions of modern-day apostles (Believers who take Yeshua’s two greatest commandments to heart, loving God and neighbors enough to take action to “give ’em Heaven,” rather than inaction to “give ’em Hell”).

● The Apostle Paul warned of failure of God’s spokespersons, the leaders of the faith. << See 1 Timothy 4:1-2: Now the Ruach clearly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, following deceitful spirits and teachings of demons through the hypocrisy of false speakers– whose own conscience [sic] has been seared. >> << See also 2 Peter 2:1-3: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies. They will even deny the Master who bought them– bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their immoral ways, and as a result the way of the truth will be maligned. In their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction does not slumber. >> I receive satellite television, which carries  numerous religious channels. I can easily find “God’s spokespersons” who preach and teach what I consider to be false doctrines according to the Bible.

● In His Olivet Discourse warning of the signs of the last days, Yeshua taught that false teachers and messiahs will be as an important sign. << See Matthew 24:24-25: [Yeshua said] “For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and show great signs and wonders so as to lead astray, if possible, even the chosen. See, I have told you beforehand.” >> In fact, Yeshua’s first warning in the Olivet Discourse was to warn us of those who would lead people astray. << See Matthew 24:4-5: Yeshua answered them, “Be careful that no one leads you astray! For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will lead many astray.” >>  How can we counteract false teachers and false messiahs from leading people astray? We must show them the true path, based on Bible teachings and we must prepare their hearts to be receptive to the ministrations of the Ruach ha-Kodesh.

● Even Believers will fall away (become apostate) before the coming of the Lord. << See 2 Thessalonians 2:3: Let no one deceive you in any way, for the Day [of the Lord’s return] will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the one destined to be destroyed. >>

● Multiple other verses, including much of The Revelation, warn us that the enemies of God– including the Antichrist’s regime– will come in great strength to attempt to divert people from Heaven to Hell. If we love God and if we love our neighbors, we will prepare our neighbors to withstand this evil.

DISCIPLES AND APOSTLES: Yeshua chose people to be His disciples. A disciple is a learner (a student). Twelve disciples walked with Him for three and one-half years, as He (the Rabbi or Teacher) taught His disciples (the students). When it came time to leave His ministry, Yeshua elevated the Twelve to be  apostles (emissaries). An apostle is one who is sent out with a mission among the people.

Yeshua’s model of elevating disciples (learners) to apostles (emissaries) should resonate with us as Believers. We should learn about Adonai (we must start as  disciples) by attending churches, synagogues, or other religious meetings. There comes a time, though, when we should graduate from students (disciples) to persons who spread the Gospel message about Adonai (apostles). As Yeshua ws preparing to leave the Earth, He gave us all “general orders” to act in His place. << See Matthew 28:19-20: [Yeshua said] “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Ruach ha-Kodesh, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you. And remember! I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” >>

Each Believer should ask him-/ her-self: Am I still in the disciple stage, or have I graduated to the apostle stage? Are you a disciple or an apostle? I spent thirteen years as a university student, medical school student, intern, and resident (a disciple). Then, I accepted a position at a local hospital as a staff pathologist, and became the equivalent of an apostle.

SIDELIGHT: Yeshua would like to use you in reaching lost persons in your community, bringing them spiritually into His Body (a Messiah’s community). He has established a five-fold ministry for those who serve Him. << See Ephesians 4:11-12: He Himself gave some to be emissaries, some as prophets, some as proclaimers of the Good News, and some as shepherds and teachers– to equip the kedoshim for the work of service, for building up the body of Messiah. >>

The Tree of Life Version is sometimes not as easily understandable as other versions we may have grown up with. Using more familiar titles, maybe this example will help, as shown in: What Are the Spiritual Gifts in the Bible? (learnreligions.com) . Look at your hand and consider the five-finger analogy of ministry offices:

● The apostle is the “thumb.” He/ she is sent out to reach other. He/ she can turn to touch the other “fingers,” as the thumb is the only finger that can touch all others.

● The prophet is the “index finger.” Serving as God’s voice, he/ she points to the future and points out sin.

● The evangelist is the “middle finger.” He/ she is a witness for God, bringing people to a Messiah’s community where they can be discipled about (taught) the ways of God.

● The pastor is the “ring finger.” He/ she is the shepherd of a Messiah’s community. This finger supports a ring in marriage, and a true pastor is married to his/ her congregation.

● The teacher is the “pinky finger.” He/ she teaches Scriptural detail to others. Although seemingly small and insignificant, this little finger is best designed for digging into tight, dark places to shine the bright Light (Yeshua) and separate the Word of Truth from false teachings.

There is a place in the five-fold ministry for you. Some ministries require a calling from God. If you are not called for certain ministries, you cannot attain this office. For example, I have not been called to be a prophet, and I do not prophesy, “Thus saith the Lord….” You can at least be a teacher. Teach your family… teach your neighbors… just teach people about the goodness of God. END sidelight.

A TALE OF TWO MESSIAH’S CONGREGATIONS: The Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, is interesting to study. Yeshua dictated seven letters to existing Messiah’s congregations (churches) in Roman Asia (today’s Turkey). Yeshua discussed characteristics of the congregations, sometimes praising and sometimes condemning their works.

Scholars note characteristics of these seven congregations (Ephesus through Laodicea) and the seven stages of Yeshua’s congregations from the Day of Pentecost (AD 33) until the end of the Age of Grace (still in our future). Five of these congregations have passed, being folded into or replaced by subsequent congregations.

Characteristics of the last two congregations still exist– the congregations at Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) and Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-21).

The “on-fire,” obedient, neighbor-loving Philadelphian congregation actively spread the Gospel and was concerned that their neighbors find Adonai’s grace and join them in New Jerusalem some day. Yeshua loved the Philadelphians and had no condemnation for them. << See Revelation 3:10: [Yeshua said] “Because you have kept My word about patient endurance, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.” >>

The lukewarm, indifferent, self-centered Laodicean congregation was the opposite. The congregation was interested only in themselves and showed little concern whether the congregation is about the welfare of their neighbors. Yeshua did not love the Laodiceans, as He loved the Philadelphians, and He had no praise for them. << See Revelation 3:15-16: [Yeshua said] “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. Oh, that you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spew you out of My mouth.” >

I repeat, characteristics of both congregation types exist today.

● The Philadelphia-style congregation is typically small and generally not well regarded by society. Every effort is evangelical. Mission activities are heavily supported and participated in by members. Their chant would be, “Give ’em [our neighbors] Heaven.” Yeshua and His apostles would be comfortable worshiping in this type of congregation.

● The Laodicea-style congregation is often large and generally well regarded by society. Most efforts are internally directed. That is, programs are generally not mission-directed, but are directed toward members’ interests and benefits. It would be difficult to be certain whether such congregation is part of the Body of Yeshua or a social club. Their chant would not be to give anyone anything. They want their programs to benefit themselves– good music, good clubs, good educational opportunities, good promotion of social concerns of the day, and so forth. They are far more interested in saving the environment than in saving souls. Evangelism? Oh, someone else can surely take care of evangelism. Yeshua and His apostles might be uncomfortable worshiping in this type of congregation.

Over the years, I have worshiped in both Philadelphia-style churches and Laodicea-style churches. You may have a more limited worship history, but I assure you there is a very different “feel” to these congregations.

● The Philadelphia-style congregation is warm, welcoming, and ever-ready to help anyone attain salvation. Local and foreign missions are the highest form of service. Concern about the eternal destiny of people is the primary reason the congregation exists.

● The Laodicea-style congregation is cold or lukewarm, unwelcoming (self-centered), and seems unconcerned about helping anyone attain salvation. Self-improvement programs replace mission activities.

If Yeshua should visit Shomair Yisrael Synagogue some Shabbat morning, which of the following two thoughts would enter His mind? “This congregation reminds Me of My beloved congregation in Philadelphia.” OR “This congregation reminds Me of My indifferent congregation in Laodicea.”

May all of us seek to model Shomair Yisrael Synagogue after the congregation in ancient Philadelphia. Such an ideal congregation incorporates Yeshua’s teaching of the two greatest commandments– congregants love Adonai with their entire being and they love their neighbors as they love themselves. And, the congregation incorporates Yeshua’s new commandment– they love their fellow congregants, as Yeshua loves all members of His congregation.

In brief, Yeshua’s worship community should be based on love– love God the Father with every fiber of one’s being, love neighbors as one loves self, and love other congregants. This simple, love-based model is easy to support mentally, but is difficult to put into practice. Few congregants practice this model perfectly.

“BUT, I HAVE LITTLE TO OFFER THE LORD:” Many Believers are weak and ineffective because they belittle their strengths and influence. They reason they have insufficient knowledge of Scriptures, or they have no audience, or they are too timid to approach a nonbeliever, or someone will mock them, or….

When you approach a nonbeliever you carry with you a mighty “team.” You are a witness for what God has done for you and what He can do for the nonbeliever. Yeshua did the hard work for you and the nonbeliever– He was crucified for our sins. The Ruach ha-Kodesh will multiply your efforts through His incomparable reasoning and urging

You have the Holy Bible for your use. God has given you gifts of His Ruach to use for His Kingdom. See 1 Corinthians, chapters 12 and 13. Of the gifts outlined in chapter 12, Paul discussed the greatest gift– love (see 1 Corinthians 12:31b- 1 Corinthians 13:1-13). If a Believer loves His neighbor as him-/ her-self, he/ she will want to share the most important message of all time (the Gospel message).

Small works for God often go unnoticed by us, but God notices.

● God sees our heart and our efforts, which cannot be seen by man. << See 1 Samuel 16:7: But Adonai said to Samuel, “Do not look at his [David’s] appearance or his stature, because I have already refused him. For He [Adonai] does not see a man as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but Adonai looks into the heart.” >>

● Small efforts may be greatly appreciated and rewarded by God, if these efforts represent pure motives and the best we can offer. Yeshua apprteciated more  the two small copper coins, worth a few cents today, the poor widow contributed to the Temple treasury than the great sums given by the rich,  worth thousands of dollars today. << See Luke 21:1-4: Then Yeshua looked up and saw the rich dropping their gifts into the treasury box. He also saw a poor widow dropping in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all the rest. For all these put in their gifts from their surplus. But she, out of her poverty, put in all she had to live on.” >>

If you only have “widow’s mites” of ability to give to God, give it with your best effort (best abilities) and your best motive (your love for God and your neighbor). God will appreciate your love and efforts given to Him, even if others may think you have contributed little. I stopped many years ago having any concern about what others think about me. Unfounded criticisms glance off my thick skin with no effect. But, I do have great concern what my family and my God think about me. My tender heart is always open to hearing from my family and the Ruach ha-Kodesh. This difference in the impact of God and human critics is a variation of Scripture. << See Acts 5:29: Peter and the emissaries replied, “We must obey God rather than men. >>

In this regard, think of a mother sitting in the yard with her four year-old son. The son picks a few dandelion flowers from the yard. He opens his chubby, little hand to reveal a few crumpled dandelion flowers. He gives the flowers to his mother, and says, “I love you, mommy.” Would the mother ask, “Johnny, why are you giving me these worthless weeds?” No. She is greatly touched by the love Johnny showed her. He gave her the finest bouquet of flowers he had and he spoke from the heart, “I love you, mommy.”

Give God a “bouquet of dandelion flowers,” if it is your finest gift. Knowing your heart, He surely will be touched.

CONCLUSION: I have attended churches that have a sign at the parking lot entrance. On the side facing the street, the sign reads, “Welcome.” On the side facing the parking lot, the sign reads, “You are now entering your mission field.”

This sign should summarize the attitude of every Messiah’s community meeting house. The public is welcome to enter and worship God. Members are reminded to enter the community and put into practice what they have learned.

Tell someone about Yeshua this week. You may help that person receive a gift of eternal life. That person will be your spiritual son or daughter throughout eternity.  Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.

<< All Scripture quotations are from the Tree of Life Version. >>

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarsson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 13 Aug 2023 26th of Av, 5783
De 16:18-17:13 Ez 46 1 Ch 25 2 Ti 3 (Jn 12:1-19)