Matters of the Heart Part I

lev 2

We all have our own ideas of what we mean when we say things like:

“God knows my heart.”

“My heart just isn’t in it.”

“She has a good heart.”

“My heart is breaking over this issue.”

“His presence makes my heart skip a beat.”

“Just accept Jesus into your heart.”

 Heart Defined

But what exactly is our heart, biblically speaking? Is it merely the blood pumping organ in your chest? Is it just an idiom for your deep seated emotions and convictions? How does the heart differ from your mind? Is our heart deceitful or has Messiah given us a new heart?

The Hebrew word most often translated as heart is “lev or levav”. These Hebrew words are also used to refer to the mind, reasoning, will, and understanding of a person. As a matter of fact, there isn’t a single Biblical Hebrew word to express the western idea of the “mind” or even the brain. When you see the English word “mind” in your Bible translation, it is usually the Hebrew word lev or levav.

Why does this matter? According to Jeff Benner’s Hebrew pictograph’s, the lev, depicts the staff or authority (lamed) with the tent or house (vet). In other words, the lev is a pictograph of “the authority within”. The question becomes one of authority. Who is on the throne of your life? You or the Creator?

What about those times when you feel pulled in two different directions? Could this be an indication that you are fighting YHWH for the throne? For example, have you ever been faced with a decision where you truly felt like you knew the obvious answer in your mind, but your heart didn’t want to follow your own sound reasoning? The heart wants what the heart wants, right?

You might have felt like your heart and mind disagreed in these instances. But in Hebrew thought, your heart and your mind cannot be in opposition to one another. This is because biblically and Hebraically speaking the heart and the mind are one and the same. Thus, a conflict of your seeming heart and mind means that in reality you are double-minded. Ouch. Perhaps the sound instruction you knew to be true (God’s Word) or even good common sense, just isn’t what you desired.

James’ answer is to SUBMIT to God. Apparently that inward struggle is us trying to take the reins and have our own way. We are told to resist the “devil” or the enemy (which can very well be our own flesh) and the “feeling/drive” will flee.

Jam. 4:7-8 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (8)  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Circumstances such as these are indicators that our lev needs to be purified, because we are suffering from double-mindedness. You see, the real battle you are experiencing is between your “renewed” mind/lev and your flesh or nephesh. The nephesh is that big bundle of appetites and desires that we share with all living beasts. Sadly, the things we generally associate with our heart are really no more than this animalistic nature.

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve been faced with such inner conflictions, I KNEW what I SHOULD do (my renewed mind); it’s just that my DESIRE was to do to the opposite (my heart). My nephesh wanted what it wanted, regardless of logic or the Word of God. This is why James calls a double minded person “unstable”. (Jam. 1:6-8) They don’t have a legacy of overcoming the desires of the flesh, making them more akin to a beast than a human. This can also be a maturity issue. The beast (flesh) must daily be placed on the holy altar — something we must learn.

The Occupied Mind (Lev)

Knowing that we each have this warring nature within, YHWH gives us the remedy.

Dt. 6:4-5 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! (5)  “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart (lev) and with all your soul (nephesh) and with all your might (meod).

Loving YHWH begins in the mind (lev) which encompasses our emotions and will. This leads to us making our flesh/nephesh come into obedience (self-control). The more we exercise this type of submission, the stronger we become spiritually. But, the key is our lev as the next verse attests that the Word/commandments of God are to be UPON our lev. (Dt. 6:6) We must on purpose choose to meditate on the Word of God day and night. This will strengthen our lev (mind) and we will have much better chances of overcoming our greatest enemy, our flesh.

So far, we have discovered that:

  1. The lev is more than our heart; it is our MIND.
  2. The lev involves thinking, planning, feeling, knowing, remembering, intent, etc.
  3. The lev can listen to your nephesh (flesh/desires) or the truth (Word of God).

Now let’s consider some verses that use the Hebrew lev and read them with this fuller understanding. There are hundreds of verses to choose from; I encourage you do to your own concordance search for more detail.

It searches:

Dt. 4:29 “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.

It speaks to you:

Dt. 8:17 “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’

It’s in need of circumcision:

Dt. 10:16 “So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.

Ps. 51:10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

It can be changed and enlarged:

1 Sam. 10:9 Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day.

Ps. 119:32 I shall run the way of Your commandments, For You will enlarge my heart.

It can carry you away:

Job 15:12  “Why does your heart carry you away? And why do your eyes flash,

It can rejoice:

Ps. 13:5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

It can meditate and be taught:

Ps. 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.

Ps. 86:11 Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.

It has a tablet or record that must be guarded:

Pr. 3:3 Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart.

Pr. 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.

It can deceive you:

Jer. 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

Our hearts/minds must be guarded and “fed” a healthy diet of God’s Word in order to stay steadfast and righteous. It truly is a well spring of life —- or death. Thoughts are like seeds. They have the power to produce fruit/deeds. Our natural inclination will be to produce death. This is because a sinful person is really sick. The virus wants to reproduce itself. The only remedy we have or need is the Living Word of YHWH.

The good news is that YHWH is not only willing, but desires to renew our minds. But it will require us to relinquish ourselves to Him. Which brings me to a quandary that I often meditate upon (a faculty of my lev).

Does YHWH supernaturally place or write His Word and Commandments on our heart (lev) upon receiving Yeshua? Or is this a “process” that we must choose to allow by the washing and watering[1] of His Word? My meditations have caused me to consider that this isn’t a real either/or question. Both are true, if you can take off Greek/western lenses. Let’s look at a familiar story in the Scriptures that forces us to look at the “heart of the matter”.

cropped-exodus1.jpgPharaoh’s Hard Heart

The passages concerning the Passover and exodus from Egypt are read every year in the Torah cycle and are commemorated each spring with the first moed (feast) on YHWH’s calendar. I don’t think that it is a coincidence that Pesach (Passover) is FIRST on YHWH’s calendar. This story retells the Israelites redemption and release from slavery. Followers of Yeshua also understand that He is our Pesach Lamb year after year. Like Israel of old, we are redeemed and saved by the blood of the Lamb. We are released from the bondage of Egypt and Pharaoh. Not because we deserve it, worked for it, or earned it. YHWH’s great compassion, mercy, and loving-kindness moved Him to act on our behalf.

But after our release, we must get to know our Redeemer. We must choose to trust and follow Him. We will all face the wilderness. In the wilderness we will be tested and tried, so that our true lev or heart/mind will be revealed. This is life, folks. Will we die in the desert or move on to the Promised Land?

Dt. 8:2 “You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.

Each year as we commemorate Israel’s and our freedom, we are faced with a seeming paradox in regards to the heart. In the account of the plagues of Egypt, sometimes we see YHWH hardening Pharaoh’s heart and sometimes Pharaoh hardens his own heart. These verses were most confusing to me in the past. How could Pharaoh be held accountable for his resistance to God’s Word if YHWH was pulling all the strings? You might have asked the same question. YHWH loves an honest question—— it requires us to exercise our mind. We have just learned that it was actually Pharaoh’s lev that was hardened. But first, let’s look at this “hardening”.

The Hebrew word for hardened is chazak. This word may be familiar to you if you have a Jewish Bible. There is a traditional phrase that is chanted at the completion of each book of Torah in the reading cycle. It is chazak, chazak, v’nit’chazek! It means: Be strong! Be strong! And let us be strengthened!

Thus, what should our lev be strengthened by? The Torah! Isn’t this what the Shema and V’ahavta are all about? (Dt. 6:4-9)

When I looked up the Hebrew word chazak, I was rather amazed by the fact that this word is only translated as “hardened” in reference to Pharaoh’s heart. It is most often translated as “be strong”. It literally means to seize, to grab hold, to strengthen.

What actually occurred was that Pharaoh’s mind (lev) was strengthened. He had convinced himself or “set his mind” to keep Israel subjugated. He wouldn’t even allow the evidence of miracles and plagues to change his mind. He wanted what he wanted. Unfortunately, this strengthening was against the will of God. If you look closely at the text, Pharaoh hardens his own heart toward Israel throughout the first five plagues. And then YHWH hardens Pharaoh’s heart during the last five. It seems that YHWH eventually turned Pharaoh over to his own desires. Paul tells us this is very possible:

Eph. 4:17-19 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, (18)  being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;  (19)  and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

Sadly, if we continue to resist the Holy Spirit’s direction to appease our flesh, God will let us have our way. Paul urges us to lay aside the “old self” or the evil inclination and be RENEWED in the spirit of our mind.

Eph. 4:20-24 But you did not learn Christ in this way, (21)  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,  (22)  that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,  (23)  and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,  (24)  and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Paul continues in the Book of Ephesians by advising us to be imitators of God. The process of laying aside the “old man/self” and taking on the “new self/man” is often called sanctification. It is NOT salvation. It is a process. A journey. A walk. A way of life. This is the wilderness experience.  But how do we know what to kick aside and what to take on? Paul again exhorts us:

Eph. 5:8-11 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (9)  (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth),  (10)  trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  (11)  Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;

Eph. 5:15-17 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, (16) making the most of your time, because the days are evil.  (17)  So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

We must be careful and diligent as we follow the Lord. We must seek YHWH’s will and learn what is pleasing to Him. This is much different than pleasing men, their tradition, and their theology. Nevertheless, we can do this without sinning in anger or speaking evil of those that aren’t in the exact place we are on the path. In other words, our lev must become obedient to YHWH.

The only instructions we have is the Bible. Thus, the Words of Life are contained within its leaves (pages). I can either reject them or follow them. But this is where the controversy arises. Is the whole Book meant for my instruction or are there parts I should ignore? When I stand back from all the theological arguments and the thoughts of men, the answer seems rather simple.

Ecc. 12:13-14 The end of the matter, all having been heard: fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole man(adam). (14)  For God shall bring every work into the judgment concerning every hidden thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil. (JPS)

A whole (restored/complete) adam or man will fear God and keep His commandments, because he has a mind (lev) set on serving the Creator. This is a person that has given his inner authority (lev) over to the ultimate Authority of the Universe.

 

But there is more to come, controversial as it might be for some, as I share my lev in the Matters of the Heart in Part II.

 


 

[1] Eph. 5:6

Categories: Messianic Issues, Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Fruit Loops

photo (1)When describing her experience with the Messi-antics movement at a recent women’s retreat, my new friend, Deborah F., used the most clever analogy to describe the people she encountered. She called some fruit loops, some fruit punch, and others fruit snacks. Therefore, I must give her credit for inspiring me with this post. Thanks Deborah, I’m very grateful that the Father saw fit for our journeys to cross paths and I look forward to a great friendship.
 

 

 Fruit of the Spirit

There is no mystery that the followers of the God of Israel and His Messiah are supposed to produce godly fruit. After all, that is how we are told we will know one another… by their fruit. But there is some controversy as to what that fruit will look like. Regardless of your view, if you follow the God of Israel, we can all agree to this:

Gal. 5:22-26 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23)  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  (24)  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  (25)  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  (26)  Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

Fruit is definitely associated with our deeds or works in Scripture. And what we do (and don’t do) matters greatly to the King of the Universe. But this post isn’t about what commandments we are to keep or how much or how little Torah we are to observe. It is about the fruit of the Spirit.

If we belong to the Messiah, there should be nine obvious qualities that perfume everything we do. If these qualities are NOT present, then we are missing the mark and are in need of repentance. Thus, as people of the “Book”, we should be great “fruit inspectors”. We should well know the difference between good and bad fruit, works, or deeds. But sadly, there is an awful lot of stuff out there that poses as fruit that in reality is nothing more than human flesh.

Unripe Fruit

Ironically, I have noticed that many of those that are returning to the Torah of Messiah struggle with producing real fruit.  It’s as if they have forgotten the weightier matters of Torah as they learn to keep Shabbat, festivals, and kashrut (dietary laws).

My personal experience and opinion on this phenomenon is that what occurs is an “over” purge. Like throwing the baby out with the bath water. Seeking to rid your life of error requires you to revert back to an immature state. It’s one in which you must separate and discern the basics all over again — except this time, the arrangement and configuration is different than what you first believed.

The paradigm of living outside of the Torah most your life produces different works or deeds (and beliefs) than one that has been nurtured from birth inside of a Torah lifestyle. Thus, coming into the knowledge of a whole new worldview requires you to search out every nook and cranny of your walk and reassess its relevance and godliness. It’s difficult. This is not something you want to ever experience again. You want to know that you know what you know! And why. And where. And when. And how. Many people that have experienced such a profound paradigm shift have told me, “It’s like being born again—- again!”  And I must agree with that statement. The experience is very much like this for non-Jewish people who embrace the fullness of God’s Word AND keep the testimony of Yeshua.

This process requires a period of separation and examination. Things you thought you knew have been turned on their head and others have been revealed to be flat out lies! Thus, there is also a great level of caution and dare I say, doubt, when it comes to receiving new information OR embracing old information. Everything is weighed in the balance and sometimes that scale is unwittingly unjust.

If you happen to meet someone in this process (for some it can take years), their behavior may have been perplexing to you. You see they are keeping “truth”, but the fruit is inedible. I have come to realize that these are all maturity issues. Hopefully, they will move from a place of separation to a place of gathering. For separation that doesn’t lead to gathering of like kind and unity, is nothing more than death.[1] You might know about the Sabbath, feast days, dietary laws, and even the Hebrew language, but if you cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit, then you are a baby. Your fruit isn’t ripe and should not be eaten by ANYBODY. Partaking of your fruit will only produce stomachaches and diarrhea. In other words, your antics make people sick.

Fruit Punch

The simple truth is that all the Torah observance in the world doesn’t matter and profits you nothing if you do not FIRST walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those that try to force others to accept their idea of obedience or observance are like a rebellious toddler trying to get her way. She thinks she knows what’s going on, but really she knows nothing.

They use their Bibles to PUNCH others in the face. They especially like to beat up on those still in the church or denominational Christianity. Any fruit they may possess is not eaten but used as a weapon of war. My Mom calls them watermelon throwers. A watermelon can be refreshing and healthy if eaten one bite at a time, but if thrown at the head, it can cause considerable damage, even death. Be careful where you think you stand, lest you fall.[2]

When will we stop beating people up with our truth? Fruit punch has very little real fruit juice in it. Most of it is chemicals, colored dyes, and corn syrup. It’s not healthy and gives the Body no sustenance. The same is true for those that try to bully the Body into doing things “their way”. If it’s all you consume, it will “kill” you. (This is why the letter of the Law must be balanced with the Spirit. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.)

Fruit Snacks

I think most people will find themselves in this category at some point or another. Fruit snacks also contain some real fruit juice but with the addition of dyes and artificial flavorings. Sometimes real fruit gushes out and other times it’s just a bunch of junk.

I freely admit I’ve been nothing more than a fruit snack at certain times in my life. However, I’m better than I used to be and with Abba’s continued mercy and grace, I grow every day. A fruit snack person is very similar to the unripe fruit people in that they lack maturity. They differ in that they also have a weaker foundation in the Word of Truth.

Fruit snacks aren’t as annoying as some of the other fruit people, but written right on their labelling it clearly says, “Not intended to replace fruit in the diet.[3] We need more vitamins and nutrients than these people can offer us. We might find them cute and entertaining in the short term, but they just can’t go the distance. They will run out of gas because they are not filled with the Ruach (Spirit). When their gas goes, so does any semblance of fruit.

Often, they just won’t let the Spirit of Adonai have full reign of their lives. Unfortunately, this means there is still a lot of junk that needs to be worked out of them. (Flesh) The trials of life are meant to goad us unto maturity. Fruit snacks usually resist this process. May they learn to produce fruit in keeping with repentance[4] and leave all the sugar, fluff, and “fakeness” behind.

Fruit Loops

I think this is by far the most bizarre of the bunch. I think of a fruit loop as someone that’s way out in left field. These guys believe they have discovered or cornered the truth. (They’ve found the secret “loopholes” everyone else has missed!) As such, they are usually in the corner of the field yelling to everyone else that home base is really in left field. For example, they may claim that Sabbath is actually on a different day of the week than Saturday. Some people may call them LUNAtics, but I think the term fruit loop is more fitting.

Often, they are gung ho on observing some “new” thing (secret revelation). Or, perhaps they believe they have figured out the Creator’s “correct” calendar— and all others are false. They forget that Judah not only holds the scepter and authority on these issues, but they childishly blow off centuries of wisdom, care, and diligence that only the Jewish people have maintained for the rest of us.

Sadly, fruit loops do not contain ANY real fruit. They might look and taste good, but again there is no real sustenance. You can eat and eat them and still starve to death. Fruit loops sometimes engage in fruit punch tactics when dealing with the Body. But instead of throwing a watermelon (real fruit) they want you to eat a sugary substitute (falsehood). Beware!

 

Fresh Fruit

There is nothing more succulent to our taste buds than fresh, ripe fruit. (Non GMO and organic, of course!) Consider for a moment not only how sweet, juicy, and tasty real fresh fruit is, but what it does for our bodies. Real fruit gives LIFE to our being. It nourishes, sustains, and sates hungry souls.

fruitNow let’s think back to the fruit of the Spirit. Truth (the Word) can only nourish, sustain, and satisfy a hungry soul if it is given in the form of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If these qualities are not present, the fruit tastes bitter, it has added ingredients, and it cannot produce LIFE.

This is such a simple concept. Why do we have so much trouble “getting” this? Why do we walk over to the dessert table and CHOOSE junk or the likeness of fruit instead of the real thing? I think it is because we have been fed the artificial stuff for so long that we no longer can tell the difference; or worse, we actually prefer it.

By the way, where we seem to lack the most discernment is when examining our OWN fruit. We might be producing fruit punch, fruit snacks, and fruit loops and really believe it is proper. But, it’s very simple. Does my walk, life, and mouth produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Remember, this isn’t a box of cereal; you don’t get to choose which qualities you will produce. The fruit is singular. It’s ONE fruit with nine beautiful qualities. If something is lacking, it’s not the real thing. (Think GMO)

Answer for yourself:

  • Am I loving? Do I grant others mercy and forgiveness when they hurt me?
  • Do I have joy? Or do I wallow in pity, regret, and anger?
  • Do I have peace? Or am I a discontent murmurer and complainer?
  • Am I patient? Or do expect to have everything go “my way”?
  • Am I kind (even to those who are unkind to me)?
  • Do I act with goodness (to benefit others and not myself)?
  • Am I faithful to YHWH and others? Can others count on me or am I unstable?
  • Am I gentle and respectful with others? Or am I judgmental and hyper critical?
  • Do I have self-control? Or am I ruled by my emotions?

If our walk fails to produce even one of these qualities, then there is need for REPENTANCE. I don’t know about you, but I have some more work to do…

 

 


 

[1] These ideas were first impressed upon me while learning the Creation Gospel by Dr. Hollisa Alewine.

[2] 1 Cor. 10:12

[3] http://www.generalmills.com/Home/Brands/Snacks/Fruit%20Snacks/Brand%20Product%20List%20Page.aspx#{FC107858-D028-4A34-AF2B-BB1714F13E12}

[4] Mat. 3:8-10  “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;  (9)  and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.  (10)  “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Categories: Messianic Issues, Musings | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

One Torah, Two Approaches to God?

K. Gallagher:

In my post on “Biblical Equality” I mentioned a scathing treatise put forth by some leaders in Messianic Judaism. I have since linked to their paper in that post for clarity. This blog post is offered by some of those that were slandered in the MJ paper.

I urge you to consider their response and defend their position. Thanks, Jane, for posting this. The body needs to hear “both sides of the story”; we must hold the IAMCS accountable for their actions!

Originally posted on janediffenderfer.com:

Root of our Faith

A Critical Look at the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations

and Synagogues (IAMCS) Steering Committee Report

of False Accusations Against the Hebrew Roots Movement

 

We, as Messianic leaders and teachers, have become increasingly concerned that there are a small number of individuals and groups today promoting the idea that the Torah is not valid in the lives of Believers in Messiah Yeshua [Jesus Christ]. These people, headed by the Steering Committee of the IAMCS, state that all Believers – Jewish and Gentile alike – ought not to walk as Messiah, by honoring the Torah, particularly the Shabbat, the Feasts of the LORD, and eating a Biblically kosher diet. This erroneous understanding of Scripture, which has been around since the fourth century, and the days of the Roman Emperor Constantine, is the subject of this paper. This doctrine promoted by the IAMCS leaders causes them to conclude that the…

View original 2,351 more words

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