SoulBreaths

Combat Zone Series: Part 1—Your Soul

 

Connected upward, yet pulled downward.

That is the battle within your soul.

But it’s for a purpose. And it’s good.

 

© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

Combat zone series is the foundational post for soul basics.

 

READING TIME: 3 MINUTES.

 

Italians might wish a newbornbenvenuti alla lucewelcome to the light—but whenever I see a baby, one of my first thoughts is “Welcome to the battlefield.”

 

The dynamics have begun. Within that little body lies a great commission . . . its soul’s journey, purpose, identity.

 

It won’t be easy because the soul-body (a uniquely fused form for physical/spiritual life) will engage in a no-holds-barred tug of war vs. resting in a holy balance.

 

I know that battle well. More than likely, you sense it too. It is, after all, the stuff within all of us residing on this side of heaven.

 

IN A BEGINNING

 

Mine, that is. One word kept popping up through my life: soul. And it’s been unshakably linked to my longtime awareness of God and my relationship with Him.

 

My earliest recollection of God’s presence . . . hearing Him on some level and having a deep desire to be with Him (and return to Him) . . . started around age four. I’d think of Him, spend time in quiet places outdoors to be with Him, and sometimes lie across the bed for an afternoon nap, asking if I could leave this world to be with Him.

 

But every time I’d wake up from those hoping-to-be-with-God naps, there I was. Still here. I’d get sad and cry because He hadn’t taken me.

 

I believe that was my young soul reaching for what it instinctively hungered for: Him.

 

But it’s been a long and

w

i

n

d

i

n

g

road since then—with a hiatus or two (or more) from that earlier panting for Him.

 

A seriously real spiritual battle had pulled my soul in various directions, trying to eclipse Him and derail me from His plan and goodness, from the Light of the world.

 

But then . . . He stepped in. And the deep-dive into my soul’s restoration in Him began—again.

 

Those back-and-forth soul struggles can get frustrating, right? Understanding what’s going on behind the scenes of your soul’s battle can help.

 


 

So here’s the game plan for this series:

 

1. Scan the perimeter of what’s warring within and without.

2. Step into the soul-body matrix—and your soul’s three nuances.

3. Learn five rules of engagement to finish your race well.

4. Consider the soul dynamic within a Fellini film—via a film noir lens.

 


 
 

 
 

WHAT’S WARRING WITHIN

 
 

Let’s discuss basics—some pretty amazing basics at that.

 

Your soul is breathed from God. It holds the identity of what God made you to be in Him vs. the illusion that whispers to you from the world and other sources.

 

An unseen God and an unseen soul. Both real, tangible in a unique and mysterious way. Both hidden, yet sensed, felt, and evidenced in this physical world.

 

Your God-breathed soul is called upward to Him—but its visible vessel, the body, is made from the earth (dust to dust) and is tethered to this world.

 

Like in a theatrical production, both players (soul and body) move downstage. The power struggle begins. The soul’s battle-heavy glory work ignites.

 

And a cast of characters join in and muddle your soul story with a gazillion subplots—many opponents on many soul-body battlefronts, spiritually and physically:

 

(1) the world—earthly, mundane, carnal, temporal pursuits

(2) your DNA

(3) outer impacts—cultural/environmental

(4) relationships—family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, congregant members, etc.

(5) life encounters/experiences

(6) your since-the-beginning-of-time adversary, satan

 

And let’s not forget free will. After all, humanity’s plan (way of thinking, choosing, thinking)is what got us in trouble to begin with—i.e. the Garden of Eden.

 

It doesn’t take much to stir up an inner battle that impacts your life with others and with God—instead of doing what the soul-body should be doing: stirring up its entire being to love and serve Him.

 

(1) our hearts (the seat of our emotions and thoughts) are deceitfully wicked—and so God searches the heart, tests the mind to give us according to the “fruit of our deeds” [Jeremiah 17:9, 10]
 
(2) standing before God’s holiness, our most “righteous” acts are like filthy menstrual rags. Our sins (missing God’s holy mark) cause us to be withered like a leaf, carried away like the wind [Isaiah 64:5(6)]
 
(3) our imaginings (rooted in our hearts) are evil from youth [Genesis 8:21b]
 
(4) none of us are righteous [Ecclesiastes 7:20, Psalm 53:3-4, Psalm 14:2-3, 1 Kings 8:46, among many others]

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

 

Plenty, actually. But let’s take it gently, get more understanding, and start with the nuances of the soul based on what the Hebrew reveals.

 

READ PART TWO NOW. COMBAT ZONE SERIES: PART 2—SOUL NUANCES

 

CREDITS: Canyon crevice photo by Joe Gardner on Unsplash.com

[Combat Zone is a foundational post for this blog. The original article was created/posted in 2009, but for easier reading divided into four posts much later.]

Combat Zone Series: Part 3—Rules of Engagement

 

Connected upward, yet pulled down ward

That is the battle within your soul.

But it’s for a purpose. And it’s good.

 

© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

[Combat Zone series is the foundational post for soul basics.

 

SUGGEST READING PARTS 1 & 2 FIRST: COMBAT ZONE: PART 1—YOUR SOUL and COMBAT ZONE: PART 2—SOUL NUANCES

 

READING TIME: 3 MINUTES plus end scripture list.

 

Symbiotic. That’s what some rabbis say about the soul-body dynamic. You are a God-breathed soul that has three nuances—breath, spirit/wind that rises/descends, and a “rested” life force—clothed in a body that’s from the earth and tethered to this world.

 

Your soul is called upward, the body downward. And so the battle ensues, along with a host of other factors that complicate your soul story (mentioned in Combat Zone, Part 1).

 

Here are five rules of engagement to help you stay the course and finish the race . . . well.

 

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT #1:

SECURE YOUR POSITION

 

We’re teetering on a broken bridge. Since the Garden of Eden debacle where rebellion exposed our desire for self vs. God, the dividing line was clear. God alone is holy. There are none righteous among us per His Word, often shared in this series and throughout this blog:

 

Genesis 8:21b, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Isaiah 59:1-2, Isaiah 64:6, Psalm 14: 2-3, Psalm 53: 3-4, 1 Kings 8:46, Jeremiah 17:9-10, Romans 3:23, Romans 3:10, Romans 8:6, among others.

 

But God is love, merciful, and l-o-n-g-suffering. So He made a way to restore that relationship with Him. There were temporary measures at first—blood sacrifices that had to be repeated daily, annually.

 

But those were mere shadows of what was coming, the greatest gift . . . a one-time holy sacrifice. A doorway giving us access to the Father, ADONAI, our Lord, our Master.

 

Fulfilling the soul’s journey begins with receiving the restoration gift from God: Jesus (Yeshua, in the Hebrew), our promised Messiah, the Son of God.

 

From there, your soul grows and is transformed by letting your soul [neshama], its wind/spirit [ruach] rest [nafash/nefesh] within the fibers of His presence, His Word, His ways . . . being hidden in Him, where you’re surrendered. Total white-flag territory.

 

It’s where your soul-body gets into sync,
working as a whole with God, bowing before Him.

 


God’s way of restoring relationship with Him:

“I am the Truth, the Life, the Way . . . no man comes to the Father except through me.”

— John 14:6. The Messiah, Jesus (Yeshua, his Hebrew name)


 

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT #2:

HONOR YOUR KING, YOUR COMMANDER IN CHIEF

 

It’s our human default to lean on our own understanding and to even get caught up in the emotions and mindset of the world at large.

 

But a good soldier needs to stand under his commander.

 

This slight paraphrase of Isaiah 8: 12-14 helps draw some clear-thinking guidelines. I’ve fleshed out the meanings of “fear” and “awed” from the Hebrew for a better visual.

 

Don’t fear (be shaken, swept into conspiracies) what people fear
(what they call conspiracies) nor give strength to it
or be awed (shaken terribly, oppressed) by what awes them.
Let G-d be the object of your awe (trembling holy fear) . . .
consecrate Him.
He alone is to be your sanctuary.

 

For this battle, your nefesh—that Soul Nuance known as the life force that can cling, negatively or positively—needs to obey orders.

 

Clinging to God means He’s in front and you’re behind Him. That’s how you stay in position. That’s how you follow and honor your Commander-in-Chief.

 

Psalm 63:2, 9 (1, 8). O God, You are my God, I seek You. My soul [Soul Nuance nefesh] thirsts for You, in an arid and thirsty land, without water. My soul [nefesh] clings to your hind parts; Your righteous right hand upholds me.

 

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT #3:

KEEP YOUR EYES RIGHTLY FOCUSED

 

You are battling on two main fronts—the spiritual world (your soul against the principalities and powers of the enemy) and the physical world. Like in any war, things shift, take on different patterns.

 

Do you know what you’re really seeing—or is it a delusion, a camouflage? There’s only one way to hold your position while waiting for intel about what’s really going on in a realm you can’t physically see or physically touch. Stay mindful, focused, in God’s presence.

 

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18

 

What is unseen . . . is God. Yet you are called to fix your soul’s eyes on Him, the Eternal One, to see more clearly in the battles down here. To not lose heart.

 

Although the body (“outer man”) is decaying and warring, your inner essence, your soul’s nuances (breath from God/neshama, spirit/ruach, inner living substance/nefesh) is being renewed day by day in Him.

 

The next two scriptures reveal what your stance should be in battle . . . do what He has ordered to the best of your ability, then STAND.

 

Don’t leave your post. Stand, confidently, expectantly, faithfully in Him. Even (and especially) when the order is to simply wait.

 

“Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”—Joshua 1:9.

 

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
—Ephesians 6:10-14a

 

READ THE LAST TWO RULES OF ENGAGEMENT NOW:

COMBAT ZONE: PART 3b—RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
 
 

CREDIT: Sniper Girl photo by Piotr Will on Unsplash.com


 

Combat Zone is the foundational post for soul basics. The original article was created/posted in 2009, but for easier reading divided into three posts in 2020. Judaic scripture number references used with Christian numbering in parentheses when it’s different.

Resurrection, Real or Not: Part 3—The Resurrection Thunderbolt From Heaven

The resurrection event that shifted the world and eternity in one mighty move—on both sides of the Judaic-Messianic bridge: Jesus of Nazereth.

 

© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

READING TIME: 8 MINUTES.

 

HAVE YOU READ THE FIRST POSTS IN THIS SERIES?
What God Revealed
Real-Life Accounts
Real-Life Accounts Cont’d

 

This resurrection event—factual, real, historic—was heaven thunderbolting our earthly dimension. Victorious over death’s grip . . . physically and spiritually.  For your soul and everyone who ever lived.

 

Unlike the other resurrected people mentioned in the Bible, Jesus didn’t have to die a second time. He conquered death.

 

JESUS (YESHUA): JEWISH MESSIAH
THE LEAD-UP 

 

It was prophesied. He was to suffer. You may even know the Isaiah 53 Messianic prophecy—given 700 years before it was fulfilled. The same prophecy rabbinic sages knew . . .

 

The arm of the Lord (his salvation power, Messiah) would be wounded (pierced) for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities . . . upon him was the punishment that brought us peace . . . by his wounds, his scourging, we are healed.

 

It is the glorious and unimaginable plan of God. His Messiah, holy and blameless, yet oppressed and afflicted.

 

And us, Jew and Gentile—both fractured like those shattered tablets of Moses, yet made whole in our Messiah, the one sent by God.

 

That fractured state—our sin—was the reason the crucifixion was needed.

 

Because no one does what is right . . . our best works are viewed as “filthy menstrual rags” before our Holy God: Genesis 8:21b, I Kings 8:46, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Isaiah 59:1-2, Psalm 14:23, Psalm 53: 2-4 (3-5), and many others.

 

So ultimately, it was God’s love that put the Messiah on the cross.

 

Not the Jewish authorities.

Not Roman rule.

Not the angry mob.

 

Jesus (Yeshua, his Hebrew name) makes it clear in John 10:17-18:

 

For this reason the Father loves me,
because I lay down my life
that I may take it up again.
No one takes it from me,
but I lay it down of my own accord.
I have authority to lay it down,
and I have authority to take it up again.
This charge I have received from my Father.

 

Jesus/Yeshua became the way for us—the only way—to bridge a restoration, an eternal relationship with the eternal God.

 

He was a Tzadik, a righteous person. Fulfiller of the Law and Messianic prophecies. Teacher. Healer. Miracle worker.

 

God’s Truth manifested on Earth . . . the Light of heaven piercing humanity’s darkness.

 

Born a Jew, Jesus/Yeshua lived as a Jew—and was crucified as King of the Jews.

 

But he resurrected as King of Kings, Lord of all.

 

In sync with what Isaiah 35:5-6 said about the Messiah, Jesus made the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute speak . . . and he cleansed the lepers, healed the sick, delivered people from demonic possession—and raised the dead.

 

John, an early disciple of Jesus/Yeshua says in the last line of his gospel account: Jesus also did many other things. If all of them were to be written one by one, I suppose that the whole world couldn’t contain the books that would be written. —John 21:25

 

Many Pharisees, even some members of the Sanhedrin, and multitudes of Jewish lay people and others witnessed these fulfillments, recognizing and believing that Jesus was (and is) the Jewish Messiah, the Son of God.

 

But other Jewish authorities didn’t . . .

 

 

COUNTERPOINT

 

The proverbial pot brewed to a feisty, rolling boil. The top three reasons why the Jewish authorities were nearing the brink . . .

 

Reason #1: Truth Spoken. Many of the Jewish authorities of the day flowed in pride and religiosity and burdened the people with added laws and demands. Jesus, the voice of God, called them out on it—many times.

 

At one point he referenced Isaiah, saying he’d prophesied right about them:

 

And the Lord said:
“Because this people has come near;
with their mouth and with their lips they honor Me,
but their heart they draw far away from Me,
and their fear [reverence] of Me
has become precepts of people
[doctrines of human origin].”
—Isaiah 29:13, Matthew 15:8-9

 

Jesus also called them “blind leaders of the blind” (Matthew 15:14) and
said they appeared righteous on the outside but were full of hypocrisy and wickedness on the inside. Like whitewashed tombs—appearing clean but dead within.

 

“The scribes and the Pharisees sit in the seat of Moses;
therefore all that they tell you, do and observe,
but do not do according to their deeds;
for they say things and do not do them.

They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders,
but they themselves aren’t willing to lift a finger to move them.

But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men;
for they broaden their tefillin (phylacteries)
and lengthen their tzitziyot (garment tassels)
.

They love the place of honor at banquets
and the chief seats in the synagogues,
they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces
and to be called rabbi by others
.”
Matthew 23:2-7

 

Reason #2: Rome. The throngs of people in the street following Jesus . . . the hot debates erupting among the crowds about whether or not Jesus was the Messiah . . . the Pharisees butting up against Jesus and his followers . . . were all catching the unwanted attention of Rome who demanded obedience from their conquered population—not commotion or unrest.

 

The last thing the Sanhedrin wanted was their distinguished perch rocked.

 

Reason #3: Miracles. The movement of God couldn’t be stopped. Everywhere Jesus walked, he said what the Lord told him to say, did what he saw the Father doing, and prayed what the Father prayed.

 

Healings and miracles resulted. So much so that one of his close disciples, John, wrote this at the end of his gospel account:

 

“Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”— Gospel of John 21:25

 

And that brought things to a mega tipping point when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead—because Lazarus had been in the tomb four days.

 

In fact, the chief priests wanted to kill Lazarus just as much as they wanted to kill Jesus since even more Jews were now believing Jesus was the Messiah.

 

So they forged a plan. One that dovetailed into Messianic prophecy.

 

Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees
convened a council and were saying,
“What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs.
If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him,
and the Romans will come and take away both our place
and our nation
.”

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year,
said to them, “You know nothing at all,
nor do you take into account that
it is expedient for you that one man die for the people,
and that the whole nation not perish.”

Now he did not say this on his own initiative,
but being high priest that year,
he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not for the nation only,
but in order that He might also gather together into one
the children of God who are scattered abroad.

 

So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.
—John 11:47-53

 
tom-barrett-7FNOH-qSxMI-unsplash
 

THE CRUCIFIXION

 

It was a holy journey of love . . . paved with treachery. Jesus was taken in the night to stand before the High Priest Caiphus and the Sanhedrin.

 

He was struck by a soldier, later blindfolded and mocked, spat on. By morning, he was marched to Pontius Pilate, handed over to Herod, and afterward brought back to Pilate, where he was flogged.

 

The Roman flagrum:
a short whip with several heavy leather thongs—
with two small balls of lead attached near each end.

 

The “heavy whip is brought down with full force” repeatedly
across the shoulders, back, and legs.

The whip cuts through the skin,
then deep into subcutaneous tissues,
eventually spurting arterial bleeding.

The skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons . . .
an unrecognizable mass of bleeding tissue.

[Roman whipping information from the Dr. C. Truman Davis article
“A Physician’s View of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ”]

 

Per John 19:2-3 and Matthew 27:28-32: The governor’s soldiers stripped Jesus of his clothes, put a purple robe on him, twisted thorn branches into a crown and placed it on his head—causing tremendous bleeding—and put a stick in his right hand, kneeling before him mockingly saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

 

They spit on him and used the stick to beat him about his head. Then they removed the robe—an excruciating moment as it tore against his deep wounds—and redressed him in his clothes before leading him through Jerusalem in his extremely fragile state.

 

Their destination: a place called Gulgotha [the Skull], outside the city.

 

Roman soldiers drove iron nails through Jesus’ wrists and feet. Pilate ordered a sign be posted on the cross in three languages, Hebrew, Latin, Greek: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

 

I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint;
My heart is like wax; it has melted within Me.
My strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and My tongue clings to My jaws;
You have brought Me to the dust of death.
For dogs have surrounded Me;
the assembly of the wicked has enclosed Me.
They pierced My hands and My feet;
I can count all My bones.
They look and stare at Me.
—Psalm 22:14-17,
prophetically written by King David about the Messiah’s death

 

It was Friday, a day of preparation for the Shabbat [Sabbath]—a special one because it was Passover week. The Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies remaining on the crucifixion stake past sundown—Jesus’ body and those of the two criminals crucified on other side of him.

 

So they asked Pilate to hasten the deaths of the three men by breaking their legs. The soldiers first broke the legs of the men on either side of Jesus, but when they went to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead.

 

One soldier took his sword and pierced Jesus’ side. Immediately, blood and water poured out. He died without one of his bones broken, fulfilling Psalm 34.

 

Joseph of Arimathea—a Jew, a man of means, a respected member of the council, and a follower of Jesus—asked Pilate for Jesus’s body. Pilate granted him permission.

 

Joseph and another Jew, Nicodemus—a Pharisee, member of the Sanhedrin, and follower of Jesus (John 3)—took the Messiah’s body, wrapped it in linen sheets with the myrrh-and-aloes spices, in accordance with Judean burial practice, and placed the body in a new tomb (previously purchased by Joseph of Arimathea for himself), located in a nearby garden.

 

Afterward, a huge stone locked the entrance—and Pilate placed soldiers to guard the tomb, worried about the stories of Jesus’s promised resurrection.

 

jon-tyson-XmMsdtiGSfo-unsplash

 

GLORIOUS RESURRECTION

 

Early on the first day of the week—Sunday—when it was still dark, Miriam from Magdala along with Miriam (the mother of James), and Salome went to the tomb in hopes of finding someone to roll the stone away, so they could anoint the body with spices. [Mark 16]

 

But the stone was already rolled away.

 

Miriam Magdala ran to tell the disciples Peter and John, who immediately went to the tomb and saw that it was empty. Not understanding, they returned home, perplexed. Miriam stood outside the tomb crying, then bent down and peered into the tomb.

 

Two angels sat where the body of Jesus had been—one at the head and one at the feet.

 

Familiar, right? Like the two angels facing one another on top of the Ark of the Covenant.

 

“Why are you crying?” the angels asked Miriam.

“They took my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him,” she cried.

Just then, she turned and saw Jesus standing there.

 

In the evening of the same day—the first day of the week—the disciples were gathered behind a locked door, fearful of the Judeans.

 

Jesus appeared, stood in the middle, and said, “Peace be upon you!”
He showed them his hands and his pierced side.

 

Throughout the next forty days, he appeared to many people, per convincing proofs, and spoke of things regarding the Kingdom of God.

 

He appeared to  . . .

 

(1) several women immediately afterward (Miriam Magdala, Miriam, Salome, Joanna)

(2) Simon Peter

(3) his disciples at various times (e.g. in an upper room and at the Sea of Galilee and on a mountain in the Galil)

(4) two disciples on the Emmaus Road

(5) James, his half brother

(6) over 500 people at the same time (1 Corinthians 15:6)

 

While he was blessing the disciples, Jesus ascended into heaven, returning back to the Father. His followers evidenced him being taken up into a cloud (Acts 1).

 

His ascension was witnessed by his disciples: Simon (Kefa/Peter), Andrew, John, Ya’akov ben Zavdi (James, son of Zebedee), Philip, Bartholomew (Nathanael, Bar-Talmai), T’oma (Thomas), Mattityahu (Matthew), Ya’akov bar-Halfai (James, son of Alphaeus), Simon the Zealot, and Taddai (Thaddeus, also known as Judas—not Iscariot, but the son of James).

 

Right afterward, two men clad in white robes said to his followers:
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?
This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven,
will so come back just as you saw Him go into heaven.”

 

And there’s so much more to that story . . . coming in a future series.

 

But for now, let’s talk about you.

 
franck-v-0La7MwJhSyo-unsplash
 

BACK TO YOU

 

The Messianic prophecies in the Bible (108 minimal, some classify 300 or more) point in just one direction—Jesus (Yeshua).

 

The chance of fulfilling just 16 [of the minimal 108 Messianic prophecies] is 1 in 1045. Accidentally fulfilling the prophecies is “beyond the realm of possibility,” per Lamb and Lion Ministries’ website.

 

Multitudes of people in the first century CE, from Jewish leaders and lay people to Gentiles, recognized Jesus as the Jewish Messiah sent from God.

 

But others considered the miracles and said he must be John the Immerser/Baptizer (crazy idea because John was Jesus’s contemporary and his same-age cousin). John was beheaded earlier in Jesus’s ministry per Herod’s orders.

 

Others thought Jesus might be one of the ancient prophets, Elijah or Jeremiah.

 

And now there’s you . . .

 

Jesus asks you the same soul-transforming question
that he asked his disciples
in Matthew 16:13-17:

 
BUT WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?

 

* * *

 

READ THE NEXT POST IN THE SERIES

Rabbi Scholars Defend Jesus’s Resurrection

Why A Bodily Resurrection

His Righteousness Can Be Yours

 

HAVE YOU READ THESE EARLIER POSTS IN THIS SERIES?

What God Revealed

Real-Life Accounts

Real-Life Accounts Cont’d

The Resurrection Thunderbolt From Heaven

 

Resurrection series initially created between March 30, 2016 – July 3, 2016

 

RELATED RESOURCE

Here’s more in English/Hebrew about Isaiah 53 at One for Israel Ministry

 

Photo Credits:

CREDIT: Resurrection/Tomb photo by jchizhe, purchased on iStock.com (Stock photo ID:1243063771)

CREDIT: Blue/Red Chairs photo by Chris Barbalis on Unsplash.com

CREDIT: Storm-light clouds photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash.com

CREDIT: Good News photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash.com

CREDIT: Arrow photo by Franck V. on Unsplash.com

 

ABC Roadmap to Heaven: The Broken Bridge

 

The Heaven-Earth expanse. How can our fractured, earth-driven souls be guaranteed an eternity with God in His holy place? God made the Way. But accepting that way is up to you.

 

© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

BE SURE TO READ PART 2 NEXT: ABC-ROADMAP TO HEAVEN: THE ABCs OF SALVATION

 

READING TIME: 4 MINUTES.

 

Worldview insists that there are many ways to reach God and enter heaven—and that God is whatever He means to you. Don’t fall for that. There’s no “harmonizing” of various religious ways or bundling it all under global religio-culturalism.

 

One World Religion and a whatever-you-do-is-cool spirituality are LIES from the master deceiver—satan—and a deceptive, self-desired-focus human soul.

 

God is clear in His instruction manual—the Bible—about who He is . . . and who we are. And what He requires for worship and salvation. Understanding that is the critical first step before you’re able to walk on His one-way road to heaven.

 

So let’s start our path toward those ABCs of Salvation by setting worldview aside and getting down to some straight facts about who God is—a quick 4-1-1—according to what He says about Himself in His Word, the Bible. Then we’ll take a look at how we stack up to who He is.

 

#1. HIS NAME IS HIS CHARACTER

 

The Great I AM. El Elyon, the Most High.

Faithful. Justice. Righteous. Truth.

Ha Kadosh, the Holy One.

Perfect. Steadfast. Mercy. Grace.

A Strong Tower. El Shaddai, the Almighty God.

El Gibbor, the Powerful Warrior, Hero, Mighty Champion.

Adonai, the LORD, Master.

Adonei ha’adonim, the LORD of lords.

The Living God, King of Kings, our Judge, the Rock.

He alone is God. There is none like Him.

Haggo’el, the Redeemer. Sar Shalom, Prince of Peace.

There is no salvation apart from Him.

He knows all things and declares the end from the beginning.

His decisions stand, His rule is forever.

 

#2. THERE ARE NONE LIKE HIM

(more scriptures at end of post)
 

I AM the LORD, and there is no one else.
I have not spoken in secret, in some dark land . . .
I, the LORD, speak righteousness,
Declaring things that are right . . .
There is no other GOD besides Me,
A righteous GOD and a SAVIOR,
There is none except Me.
Turn to Me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth.
Isaiah 45: 18b, 19, 21b, 22

 

But the LORD is the true GOD;
he is the living GOD and the everlasting King.
—Jeremiah 10:10a

 

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.—Isaiah 40:28

 

You are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing.”
—Psalm 16:1

 
 
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HOW DO WE STACK UP?

 

Ever since the Garden of Eden, humanity has shown its propensity for rebellion against God—choosing our selfish desires over His ways and falling for satan’s trickery.

 

Here are just a few (of many) scriptures revealing humanity’s soul condition. These are from both sides of the Judaic-Messianic bridge.

 

For there isn’t one righteous person on earth who does [only] good and does not sin. —Ecclesiastes 7:20 (CJB)

 

The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of mankind to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, together they are corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.—Psalm 14:2-3 (NASB)

 

The imaginings [inclinations] of a person’s heart are evil from his youth.
—Genesis 8:21b (CJB)

 

True, I was born guilty, was a sinner from the moment my mother conceived me.—Psalm 51:7 [5] (CJB)

 

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of the Lord (ESV).
—Romans 3:23
 

OUR SINS SEPARATE US FROM HIM

 

Adonai’s arm is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear, rather it’s your own crimes [sins] that separate you from God.
—Isaiah 59:1

 

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil from your perspective; so that you are right in accusing me and justified in passing sentence . . . Turn away your face from my sins, and blot out all my crimes.—Psalm 51:6,11 (4,9)

 

THE HUMAN HEART LIES TO OUR SOUL

 

The heart is deceitfully wicked, who can know it? I, Adonai, search the heart. I test inner motivations in order to give to everyone what his actions and conduct deserve.—Jeremiah 17:9-10

 

If we claim not to have sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and
the truth is not in us.—1 John 1:8
 

HUMAN GOOD FALLS SHORT

 

All of our righteousness are like menstrual rags [filthy], misdeeds blown in the wind.—Isaiah 64:5 [6] (CJB)

 

For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.—James 2:10

 

Yep, that’s us: we all break His Law every day . . . one way or another, at any given moment. In thoughts, words, actions. And it’s by those thoughts, words, actions that we’ll be judged.

 

HOPE UP AHEAD

 

With that reality check, how can any of us bridge the relationship gap with a holy God? We’re only human, right?

 

READ THE ANSWER in Part 2. ABC ROADMAP TO HEAVEN: THE ABCS OF SALVATION

 
 
 

* * * * *

 

MORE REVEALS ABOUT GOD’S CHARACTER

 

The Bible is filled from page one to its last page with truths about God’s character and our fractured state. The scriptures below are but a few more revealing His majesty and power.

 

For I am GOD, and there is no other;
I am GOD, and there is no one like Me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, “My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose.”
—Isaiah 46:9-10

 

There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
—2 Samuel 2:2

 

The LORD passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed,
The LORD, the LORD, a GOD merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
keeping steadfast love for thousands,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
but who will by no means clear the guilty,
visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children
and the children’s children,
to the third and the fourth generation.”
—Exodus 34:6-7

 

For I will proclaim the name of ADONAI.
Come, declare the greatness of our GOD!
The Rock, his work is perfect,
for all his ways are justice.
A GOD of faithfulness who does no wrong,
he is justice and righteous.
—Deuteronomy 32:3-4

 

For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways, declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
—Isaiah 55:8-9

 

CREDITS: Lit cobblestone photo by Ray Fragapane on Unsplash.com

CREDITS: Person in red photo by Elia Pellegrini on Unsplash.com

Soul Remodeling Series: A Wilderness Call [Part 1]

It can feel like you’re walking on a high wire. Deconstructing . . . for your soul’s reconstruction.
Breaking free from preconceived “factions”—
becoming
Divergent, your unique self in the Lord.

 

© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

The original article was created in late 2014 and posted in early 2015 with some picture additions and post divisions later. Judaic scripture numbering references used.

 

READ TIME: 4 MINUTES.

 

He said, “Go.” But I wondered, “Where? When? For how long?” A shift was in motion. It was palpable, stirring in the pit of my soul, pushing me to the edge of a cliff and onto a high wire across a chasm with no way back.

 

So I waited. Waited for His move that would move me. I stood before Him . . . praying . . . pacing . . . questioning . . . seeking . . . kneeling . . . then standing some more. But He wasn’t “moving” me anywhere. I’d been dropped into no-man’s-land.

 

That doesn’t mean things were stilled. I had become a girl interrupted—on a cliff in a God-designed wilderness. Recently widowed, followed by what felt like an avalanche of even more losses, relationship changes, twists, and turns. Suspended.

 

I was free falling. I couldn’t breathe. My body, yes. My soul, not so much. It was suffocating. I’d lost my tribe in more ways than one and didn’t know where I fit in any more, if any place. And the uneasiness of where else this journey was taking me (soul wise or otherwise) was escalating. I felt like a character in one of my favorite YA movies, Divergent.

 


It will be difficult to break the habits of thinking . . .
instilled in me, like tugging a single thread
from a complex work of embroidery.
—Tris, Divergent by Veronica Roth


 
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GOD’S LOVE CALL

 

God is in the soul business. And He was moving deep within mine to set it apart for His purpose, taking me off the grid of my life and into a six-year-and-counting process called in Hebrew lech lecha (pronounced lek leh-kah, לֶךְ-לְךָ).

 

Totally à la Abraham in Genesis 12:1 where God told him to leave his land, father’s house, all that he knew to follow God to a new place.

 

A lech lecha journey is God-appointed . . . the soul traverses deeper, going to itself, within itself, and for itself, for a higher purpose.

 

A special period of time God sets apart. On a special journey. Not always a physical move. Not a disciplinary action. It’s a love call.

 

A wooing-from-God wilderness journey
away from the common,
into the holy,
uncovering the soul’s hiddenness.

 

It’s where He does the deepest work in your soul so it can emerge in another level of its potential in Him—a matter of the soul where it becomes its purpose, which is always linked to bringing forth the kingdom of God.

 

He removes any heaviness in your soul that’s hindering its movement . . . anything that’s muffling His voice or words . . . anything that’s blinding the soul from seeing or receiving His visions and revelations.

 

It’s like God is parting the Red Sea inside you. Rabbinic thought says that God peeled back the sea to reveal a mystery. The earth represents the physical, what is visible, tangible. But the hidden under the sea represents the spiritual, what isn’t discerned in the physical and natural.

 

During your soul-remodeling process, God peels your life back. He removes you from what’s been your “natural” way of moving and being to expose what is flowing in those subterranean waters within your soul, within its nuances.

 

Those soul nuances are revealed through three Hebrew words from scripture—words interchangeably used for soul: neshama (breath), ruach (wind/breath, spirit), and nefesh (life force, rested breath, living being).

 

[Get more soul basics later: Combat Zone series.]

 

When your soul is free to stream the light and heart of God unhindered, it is in alignment and flooded with things of God. But when sin and self prevail and your soul—more specifically the soul nuance “nefesh”—partners with your world-tethered body (your soul’s vessel), things can start to go spiritually south and spiritually dark.

 

That’s because the nefesh—also referred to as the soul’s life force—clings, negatively or positively, has self-awareness, yearnings, appetite, and is enmeshed with the body.

 

The deconstruction-reconstruction process doesn’t necessarily occur because you’re steeped in sin and out of alignment . . . although that can happen. The deconstruction-reconstruction process is first and foremost a time when God wants to go deeper and draw you closer.

 

It’s a time where things are stripped away so the soul can get newly aligned with Him, away from the earthbound/world-focused body, making room for what is to come.

 

The process isn’t comfortable or easy. It may seem as if everything you put your hand to doesn’t work. Even if it flowed smoothly before.

 

Losses may surround you—like in finances, personal endeavors, work, relationships, family matters, health issues. The way you and God used to communicate and interact takes a hard right turn—your prayer life, study time, worship time.

 

Things may seem . . .
abandoned,
disconnected,
uncertain,
foreign,
not your norm.

 

Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

You might be tempted to see things rapidly sliding
d
o
w
n
h
i
l
l
without any end in sight.

 

BUT. HANG. ON. He is there with you in the center of it all. There will be flashes of light. His light of revelation, understanding, direction. Maybe small flashes like a firefly—or greater, like lightning cracking the sky.

 

In time, in bits here and there, you’ll get a glimpse of where your soul is, what’s going on, and what He expects through the deep-work process.

 

And at times, you just might find your unsettling feeling starting to converge with an inner lightning bolt of excitement.

 

You also might start to realize that He is journeying with you for a specific purpose through unchartered territory where your soul will mature, awaken, and soar in unimagined ways. Ways it couldn’t have if you were still living in the old and familiar.

 

What you need is God’s game plan. Yep, He has one.

 

Read about it next: Soul Remodeling: The Wilderness Call, Part 2

 


I throw my arms out to the side and imagine that I am flying . . .
My heart beats so hard it hurts, and I can’t scream and I can’t breathe,
but I also feel everything, every vein, and every fiber, every bone
and every nerve, all awake and buzzing in my body
as if charged with electricity.
I am pure adrenaline.

—Tris, Divergent by Veronica Roth


 

CREDITS: Boat photo by Zoltan Tase on Unsplash.com
CREDITS: Woman praying by Diana Simumpande on Unsplash.com

Soul Remodeling Series: A Wilderness Hero [Joseph]

JOSEPH

favor lost, favor regained—in spite of himself

 

© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

First—click this pop-up for a 1-2-3 recap of God's soul-wilderness tactic.

 

READING TIME: 6 MINUTES.

 

Position doesn’t just happen. It’s given by God. Joseph’s prophetic dreams aren’t a free pass to ride the tails of his royal or priest-like, multi-colored coat.

 

The word for coat in the Hebrew is k’tonet pasim, כתנת פסים—the name of the high priest’s garment.

 

And perhaps a hint of Joseph’s future soul story.

 

Those dreams are something else. Manifestations of a calling that would first become a lightning rod in God’s hands—a tool that would spark situations and form a wilderness path for Joseph’s soul.

 

It begins with his father’s favoritism and skyrockets to his brothers’ actions and reactions to Joseph’s golden position and arrogant dream-talk.

 

Sforno—Italian rabbi and regarded Torah commentator (late 1400s)—chalks up Joseph’s behavior to “youthful immaturity.”

 

Meh. Maybe. But his dream-flaunting, scandalous reporting of his brothers and overall swag demeanor are firefly flashes . . . peeks into Joseph’s soul character at that moment.

 

And then there are the flashes of revelation from God that Joseph experiences earlier on. So he isn’t suffering from a lost soul identity or ignorance of his destiny.

 

It’s a matter of Joseph’s soul not understanding, not being prepared to walk in that identity. And so, sure, immaturity plays a part when he “sees” a glimpse of his future calling but then walks about “as if” it’s already occurring.

 

With that, he starts sharing it with his father. And then with his brothers—who aren’t amused.

 

Per Genesis 37:8, his brothers hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. So, like any of us, Joseph has to learn about prophetic gifting . . . and timing.

 

Here’s the point. We’re not always meant to share the secrets Adonai gives us from the secret place. It shouldn’t matter who sees or learns what God revealed to us . . . or who recognizes our gifting.

 

We need to remain intentionally prayerful on if, when, where, to whom, and how much to share.

 

And if we believe things need to be shared, we should double-check our motivations. Is it to seek self-glory, recognition, position, approval?

 

And that’s the thing with Joseph. His motives behind the dream-boasting may be viewed as suspect. Certainly by his brothers.

 

They don’t recognize him, don’t approve. The only position they want him to have is the bottom of that animal pit or somewhere outside of Canaan altogether.

 

Nonetheless, Joseph is destined to become the linchpin—a sustainer for B’nai Israel (children of Israel)—in spite of himself.

 

GOD STEPPED IN

 

aaron-burden-lPCu8HnGU2E-unsplash copy 2

 

My heart was wandering in the sands,
a restless thing, a scorn apart;
Love set his fire in my hands,
I clasp’d the flame unto my heart.
—My Heart Was Wandering In The Sands, Christopher Brennan

 

Separated from the common in his life, Joseph is brought down physically to Egypt—signifying his soul being brought down to a lowly place spiritually.

 

A place where he’ll become deconstructed and then reconstructed into the holy.

 

Where Joseph would first have to become one with his barrenness (personal desert experience).

 

Unshackled from all he feels due him.


Freed from all he previously owned.

 

Including physical and spiritual gifting, positions as prophesied, favor with his father, and even his initial favor with Potiphar.

 

Distanced from his prior owning . . .
Joseph becomes the ownerless (hefker,הֶפְקֵר).
Left, lost, unclaimed, renounced.
No hope of being, reclaiming his perceived entitlements,
his perceived identity.
All that he thought he was vanished.
Unfulfilled position, status, prophetic dreams.
Instead, he’s regarded as a derelict.
Imprisoned.

But the love call is sounded.
The wilderness journey begins.
Relying on God for transformation, promotion, and release.
However, only in God’s timing, His way.

 

It would take a while.

 

Becoming ownerless isn’t easy on the soul-body. The earth-focused body/vessel is pulled to things of this world—and its old habits die hard.

 

Even with all Joseph had gone through, he still attempts to wield matters in the natural to force the birth of his prophesied future position.

 

CASE IN POINT: GENESIS 40

 

Egypt’s king sent his chamberlains (cupbearer and baker) to prison where they serve for a year along side Joseph. The king’s duo each have a dream that only Joseph can interpret.

 

Despite his physical imprisonment and its boa constrictor–like grip on his soul, Joseph knows on some level that God is keeping the communication channels open . . . breathing into him, flowing understanding.

 

It’s undeniable. God’s authoritative words are echoing within Joseph’s soul.

 

Flashes of lightning awaken the prophetic-anointing within him. Joseph recognizes it, steps up, speaks out. After all, don’t interpretations belong to God?

 

But like in any dim room after a single flash of light, darkness returns.

 

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TRUST: FAITH BECOMING REAL

 

Does Joseph still believe, remember, his early prophetic dreams? Is he encouraged by God’s lightning flashes through his soul over the years? Not right then.

 

In fact, he doesn’t merely ask the cupbearer to remember him before the king when the dream comes to pass—that would have been understandable.

 

The Hebrew reveals that Joseph pleaded, graveled, begged (nah, נא ) with the cupbearer to have lovingkindness/compassion (chesed, חסד) on him before the king so he could get out of prison. Because he was, after all, innocent.

 

Joseph may have been thinking, enough already.

 

My soul can’t breathe in this uncertain darkness any longer.
My mind is exhausted. My heart is weakened.
Favored in this prison pit or not, I want out—and I want out now.
And what about those prophetic dreams God clearly spoke to me?
I’ve waited long enough . . . time to take action.

 

There’s a difference between faith (אמונה) and trust (בִּטָּחוֹן), per commentary in The Stone Edition of the Chumash (Parasha Vayeishev, Genesis 37-40:23, pg 221).

 

Believing God exists is faith. But trust is having the certainty, the confidence, that God is “involved in events and that their outcome accords with His will.”

 

Joseph’s faith is sure. God existed. God speaks to His people. God can do the impossible. God gives flashes of light to reveal our steps along the way.

 

Trust is faith in action. It would take his soul-body dynamics to move and work in tandem, listening and daring to believe upwardly . . . maintaining a firm standing, going beyond what the physical eye and natural mind could perceive.

 

I so appreciate Joseph’s soul moment. It’s the stuff these biblical soul-remodeling stories are made of.

 

All these people are real. Human. Broken. Quivering or questioning themselves, others, God—even in their moments of faith and trust, regardless of who they are and what amazing things they’re about to do with God.

 

They are you, me, and everyone else on the planet.

 
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GOD KNEW: JOSEPH’S SOUL POTENTIAL

 

The Lord cast His light through Joseph’s soul to reveal things from a different perspective on high. Much had been gifted in Joseph. Now more would be required to birth it forth.

 

Two more years in the pit—his wilderness journey. Two more years of impatience, uncertainty, wavering beliefs pulverized. Two more years walking with God toward the uncommon, a holy place within the soul.

 

Pride is worked out, and humility worked into the new fabric of his soul.

 

Grace is deposited, mercy is infused, and forgiveness (especially for his brothers) is birthed.

 

Joseph isn’t just physically delivered from prison, he’s spiritually delivered . . . his soul freed, raised to a new level, a more honest relationship with God.
 

Deconstructed along his wilderness journey and reconstructed for his destiny, he’s able to wear that prophetic garment in humility and servanthood.

 

Finally Joseph can be lifted into a position of authority among his captors—and later, be elevated in the eyes of his brothers and father—who also have undergone a level of wilderness transformation before God.

 

Read all the Soul Remodeling stories:

 

I’ve had my God- designed wilderness journeys to deconstruct-reconstruct my soul. How about you? These posts can shed some light and encouragement: Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 1 and Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 2.

 

CREDIT: Prayerful man photo at sunset photo by Aaron-burdenon Unsplash.com

CREDIT: God is faithful photo by Tony Eight Media on Unsplash.com

CREDIT: Sapling photo by Lugo Minar on Unsplash.com

Article initially created August 17, 2015.

Soul Remodeling Series: A Wilderness Hero [Saul Paulus]

persecuting zealot—turned God’s messianic servant

© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

First—click this pop-up for a 1-2-3 recap of God's soul-wilderness tactic.

 

READING TIME: 9 MINUTES.

 

He’s the famed pharisee who some Jews and some Christians love to hate. His story—a real page-turner. His name, Saul Paulus from Tarsus.

 
 

So who exactly was this love-him-or-hate-him Saul Paulus? The guy who was privileged and free—yet caged behind bars of religious zealousness. The guy who later would be caged by man—but amazingly set free in the Spirit of God.

 

Let’s start here . . .

 

SAUL PAULUS: THE 4-1-1

 

  • A Jew. From the tribe of Benjamin, born in Tarsus of Cilicia (estimated 10 CE), circumcised on the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, a Hebrew born of Hebrews, in regards to the law, a pharisee—per Saul Paulus in his letter Philippians 3:5 and the book giving an accounting of the first Jewish believers, Acts 22:3.
  •  

  • A pharisee. Descended from pharisees, a scholar, highly intelligent, moved to Jerusalem to be a talmid (devoted student of the law)—which typically began by age 16 with deeper study to follow in early 20s until age 25 or 30, potentially putting Saul Paulus in Jerusalem for his rabbinic/pharisaical schooling somewhere shortly after 30 CE.
  •  

  • Educated under the renowned Rabbi Gamaliel. Saul, as an excellent, serious student, would have gone deeper into his studies, including rabbinic interpretation and scripture memorization, possibly scroll writing, then finally, scholarly study under the famed Rabbi Gamaliel.
     
    The Rabbi taught strictly according to the law of the patriarchs—”being zealous for God”—from approximately 22 CE to 55 CE and in the more lenient, more welcoming of converts, non-radical, nonviolent tradition of his grandfather, the great Hillel.
  •  

  • Yet, overzealous, persecuting—students were to become like their masters (rabbis), but Saul Paulus at times appeared more like the stricter, Jews-only traditions of Shammai (a sage opposing Hillel’s more lenient teachings) or in step with the oft blinding pride of the religious Sanhedrin.
     
    However, after his messianic conversion, Saul Paulus became more tender, more focused on love, promoting the one-new-man convergence—Jew and Gentile becoming one in Messiah, with joint access to ADONAI, per Amos 9:11-12 and Ephesians 2:14-15, 18, 22.
  •  

  • Jew and Roman citizen. The Roman citizenship was purchased by his presumed “moderately wealthy” family, hence his Jewish-Roman name, Saul Paulus . . . although it wasn’t unusual for Jews to have both a Hebrew name and a Roman/Latinized one.
  •  

  • A tentmaker of goat’s hair. Saul Paulus learned the trade from his father’s successful business and later on employed the trade to bear the expenses of his messianic ministry—Acts 18:3, I Thessalonians 2:9, II Thessalonians 3:8, I Corinthians 4:12, I Corinthians 9:6-18.
  •  

  • Did not witness or interact with Jesus (Yeshua, Hebrew name) during the Messiah’s years of teaching/miracle works . . . the first time Saul Paulus encountered Jesus is via his Damascene experience with the resurrected/ascended Messiah, per Acts 9.
     
    He would later write in 1 Corinthians 15:8 that he was “untimely born”—the other apostles had walked with Jesus and witnessed the miracles and all the other eternal-shifting events. And he viewed himself as the “least of the apostles” and “not fit to be called an apostle” because he “persecuted the church of God.”

 

But now the rest of his story.

 
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SOUL MATTER

 

Saul Paulus may have had Torah knowledge. Pedigree. Been a rising star among the pharisees.

 

But

his

soul

was

stuck.

Resistant.

Turned around.

 

Sure, his dedication to Torah/Tanakh learning was good, painstaking, exhilarating, a worthy life immersed in the things of God.

 

But then I recall something the Lord had said to me. 

 

It was back in 2005 as I sat reflective on the lower part of the southern steps in Jerusalem. Herod’s southern extension of the Temple Mount where Jews, including Jesua/Yeshua and the disciples, would have ascended to reach the Temple’s entrance, particularly during Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot.

 

In fact, Jesus (Yeshua) often taught on those same steps.

 

God’s words came to me along with a soul-penetrating vision: Jesus standing beside me on those steps, his long robe, his feet, and an impression of the disciples standing behind him. I followed his gaze, which looked passed me and outward to the city, the people.

 

Then I heard these words from the Lord:

 

“I gave them the law,
but they loved the law more than Me.”

 

About three years later, the Lord led me to share His words with an orthodox rabbi at a synagogue I’d attended now and then. When he’d heard those words, he sat back, silenced.

 

As I explained it further, he nodded, understanding and agreeing.

 

I’d told him that Adonai gave the law, but the law can become an idol too—anything that takes the place of God is idolatry.

 

Perhaps Saul Paulus had made that blurry-line transition without knowing it.

 

Perhaps he’d became more enthralled by the religious elements, position, and spirituality—the law itself, the halachic steps, the learning, discussions about God, debates, commentaries, Hebraic word plays, standing apart from the masses.

 

And perhaps without realizing it, his world-bound vessel
was more in love with and actually worshipping the stuff of the law, spiritual gifting, and heritage  . . .
rather than falling in love with and worshipping . . .
God, the giver.

 

It’s a tricky business: Being spiritually minded, spiritually driven—yet misaligned in the soul. The swelling and swelling of knowledge . . . which can cause deeper fissures in the soul, releasing toxic, legalistic vapors.

 

Like manmade laws. Manmade separations. Self-driven interpretations. Performance and self-ambition waif upward, act slick, and claim center stage in the soul.

 

Just consider what the life of a first-century pharisee looked like:

 

Set apart.

Meticulously living the law.

Focused.

Unmistakably robed.

Honored by the majority.

 

And at philosophical odds with the Sadducee sect, who denied resurrection of the dead, destiny, and the soul’s permanence.

 

Despite all that—or perhaps because of it—Saul had become a dogmatist, fueled by youthful zeal. Not to mention, the heated indoctrinations of some rabbinic teachers, sadducees, and Sanhedrin members who unabashedly made defamatory comments against Jesus (Yeshua).

 

I say some because followers of Jesus
included pharisees, sadducees, members of the Sanhedrin,
Torah teachers, the wealthy, the poor, the middle class . . .
a multitude of Jews from every walk of first-century life.

 
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TWO SANHEDRIN

 

Take a look at the religious-political stew Saul Paulus swam in—the same milieu that confronted Jesus, and later on, railroaded Saul.

 

The political/secular Sanhedrin during this period functioned like a supreme court—with 70 (or 71 counting the president) aristocratic members, who met in a chamber of the Temple or elsewhere.

 

It held varying functions per the Roman government’s restrictions, was presided over by a president (the Jewish high priest held this position), heard criminal cases, and could impose capital punishment. (1)

 

There was another Sanhedrin at the time—a religious council called the Great Bet Din (or Bet Din). It originated as Kenesset ha-Gedolah/the Great Synagogue during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah—who were regarded as being the highest religious authority.

 

It had two titled officers at the head: a Nasi (“prince,” held by the high priest, but prevented at times from presiding over the meetings) and Av Bet Din (father of the court, the director).

 

The Great Bet Din had 70 members (some Pharisees and/or Sadducees, depending on who held influence at the time).

 

Qualifications? Scholarship, modesty, popularity among their fellow men, as well as being courageous and strong.

 

They sat daily (not on shabbat or feast days) on the southern side of the Temple’s inner court, between morning and evening services. (1)

 

The Great Bet Din supervised over . . . women charged with adultery, religious-law disputes, ritual acts, Temple service, burning the Red Heifer, water-purification prep, city selection for atonement of a murdered person, harvest tithes.

 

No wonder these Pharisees, Sadducees, Sanhedrin had rushed to Jesus (Yeshua) with coy questions—healing on the sabbath, hand washing, fasting, the adulterous woman, paying taxes, eating the grain from the wheat fields, etc. (Matthew 12, John 8, Luke 11:38-54, Matthew 6:16-18, Luke 18:9-14.)

 

Yet each time, Jesus had countered them with the words of the Father . . . and with demonstrations of miraculous power and wisdom beyond their realm. Leaving them speechless. See Matthew 7:28-29.

 

And now, these so-called esteemed authorities were the molding the mind of Saul Paulus—particularly regarding Jewish believers who were followers of the crucified (resurrected and ascended) Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

 
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SAUL: ZEALOT EXTREMES

 

The regarded Rabbi Gamaliel had one idea of how to handle Messianic Jews . . . later on, Saul Paulus would have his own.

 

But one of the members of the Sanhedrin rose to his feet, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Torah highly respected by all the people. He ordered the men be put outside for a little while; he then addressed the court:

 

“Men of Isra’el, take care what you do to these people. Some time ago, there was a rebellion under Todah, who claimed to be somebody special; and a number of men, maybe four hundred, rallied behind him. But upon his being put to death, his whole following was broken up and came to nothing. After this, Y’hudah HaG’lili led another uprising, back at the time of the enrollment for the Roman tax; and he got some people to defect to him. But he was killed, and all his followers were scattered. So in the present case, my advice to you is not to interfere with these people, but to leave them alone. For if this idea or this movement has a human origin, it will collapse. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them; you might even find yourselves fighting God!

 

They heeded his advice. After summoning the disciples and flogging them, they commanded them not to speak in the name of Jesus [Yeshua], and let them go. The disciples left the Sanhedrin overjoyed at having been considered worthy of suffering disgrace on account of him. And not for a single day, either in the Temple court or in private homes, did they stop teaching and proclaiming the Good News that Jesus [Yeshua] is the Messiah.—Acts 5:34-42

 

That didn’t stop Saul Paulus..

 

He oversaw the stoning of Stephen—the first Messianic Jew martyred—and continued to keep his persecuting pedal to the metal.

 

 I persecuted this Way [Messianic Jews] to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished.—admission by Saul Paulus, Acts 22:4-5

 

They [Stephen’s executioners] began yelling at the top of their voices, so that they wouldn’t have to hear him [Stephen]; and with one accord, they rushed at him, threw him outside the city and began stoning him. And the witnesses laid down their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.—Acts 7:58

 

 
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SAUL: REBORN

 

Saul Paulus was a threat to contend with. But then God stepped in. It was deconstruction-reconstruction-of-the-soul time.

 

Just as we stand on the shattered tablets of Sinai and hold the second set of whole tablets in our hands, so Saul would be shattered in order to become whole.

 

On his way to Damascus, Saul experiences a physical and a spiritual flash of light. Not a bolt of lightning cracking the sky. It was the glory of the resurrected and risen Messiah, Jesus/Yeshua. A lightning moment that penetrated Saul’s body and soul—his physical and spiritual man—a light that physically blinds him for three days . . . and spiritually awakens him so he can finally, truly see.

 

The intensity of the heavenly lightning equated to the intensity of the calling on Saul’s life. He spends three days wondering where it all would lead. Three days of going from an honored, intellectual pharisee to a stilled soul before God.

 

Saul regains his physical sight and emerges with a radically different spiritual sight. It took years—including three years of solitary time in the desert with God and near abandonment from his fellow messianic believers—to grow through his deconstruction process before his soul was readied for its destiny. A destiny as a chosen vessel to bear the Messiah’s name “before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel,” per Acts 9:15.

 
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BECOMING A SERVANT

 

Saul had lost everything with his conversion and soul reconstruction process. Position. Jewish community. His pharisaical robes. His honor by the majority. Indeed, he now was at odds not only with the Sadducees, but the Pharisees, unbelieving Jews, and Rome itself.

 

Saul, the one who once hunted . . . became the hunted.

 

The one previously seated with the Pharisees and Torah teachers who occupied the “seat of Moses”—per Matthew 23—was unseated from everything he thought and was.

 

He had a new seat at the feet of the Messiah. There, Saul surrendered everything to be deconstructed in order to be reconstructed for a humble purpose in the service of the living God.

 

In fact, he was ecstatic about it. In his letter to the Philippians 3:8-11, Saul writes this:

 

I consider everything a disadvantage in comparison with
the supreme value of knowing the Messiah Jesus [Yeshua] as my Lord. It was because of him that I gave up everything
and regard it all as garbage,
in order to gain the Messiah
and be found in union with him,
not having any righteousness of my own based on legalism,
but having that righteousness
which comes through the Messiah’s faithfulness,
the righteousness from God based on faith.
Yes, I gave it all up in order to know him, that is,
to know the power of his resurrection
and the fellowship of his sufferings
as I am being conformed to his death,

so that somehow I might arrive at being resurrected from the dead.

 

Read all the Soul Remodeling stories:

 

I’ve had my God- designed wilderness journeys to deconstruct-reconstruct my soul. How about you? These posts can shed some light and encouragement: Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 1 and Soul Remodeling Series: The Wilderness Call, Part 2.

 

(1) Information on the political/secular and religious Sanhedrin is from various sources presented on the site http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13178-sanhedrin
 

CREDIT: Tree by Martin Brechtl on Unsplash.

CREDIT: Torah Scroll photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash.

CREDIT: Stone Pile photo by Markus Spiskeon on Unsplash.

CREDIT: Man’s Arm/Light photo by Elia Pellegrini on Unsplash.

CREDIT: Humbled Man photo by Ben White on Unsplash.

 

Article created October 14, 2015.

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