SoulBreaths

Lightning Bolts: Watchword [Listening]

 

A divine spark. A flash image. A scripture suspended before me. Impressed on me for this season, hour, moment that we’re in.

 

But this time it was a sound . . . my ears dialing into what was around me. Rousing me. Pricking my attention. Causing me to climb out of a sleepy, internal-driven existence—even for a few moments.

 

“I will take my stand at my watchpost and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what He will say to me.” —Habakkuk 2:1

 

© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

READING TIME: 3 MINUTES.

 

WATCHWORD GIVEN: DECEMBER 6, 2020

 

Listening. That was the point of the walk I took around my housing community. I didn’t know that when I headed out. It started out like any other walk. A break in my day. A short time to shake off things . . . but too often these days, to walk around in my thoughts.

 

And then at some point, a sound happened. It was . . .

 

Like when you’re on a walk alone, lost in thought,
then hear a tinkling something.
A hint of a noise that softly awakens.
A cool breeze that you hadn’t noticed before encircles you, sweeping by,
closer, then upward to a neighbor’s balcony
where it gently nudges an unobtrusive wind chime.
It rings, bashfully.
Airy, shiny, merry like silvery tinsel dangling on the limb of a holiday tree.
Then you stop and look and listen.
Aware for the first time—probably in a long time—of the sounds around you.
The swish of a bird’s feathers.
A car door subtly closing.
Hurried footsteps across the street.
Murmuring voices drifting from a backyard.
Your soul smiles, quiets, and releases.

 

THE STILLED—YET ENGAGED—SOUL

 

So just how much have I been missing, despite my seeking Him, keeping in His Word, and listening to biblical teaching? The LORD is recalibrating my hearing. Fine-tuning the frequency. Rousing me from a sleep-awake dimension. What about you?

 

There are levels of awareness. In the natural world and the spiritual. Too often we may think we’re aware when really we’re not fully aware (hearing, engaged) at all.

 

Think of how little aware you probably are when doing the rote things of life—making the bed, getting a shower, turning off the lights before heading out the door. How many times have you later wondered if you really did unplug that hair dryer before you left the house or closed the garage door?

 

Stopping . . . waiting . . . stilling our souls. That’s what’s needed. Even for a moment to realign, regroup, hear what might have otherwise been missed.

 

Just like that tinkling wind chime that alerted me to other sounds and woke me from my daily drudge thinking. The sound was in the natural—but with a spiritual lesson . . .

 

We can distance our souls from the outer chaos and demands and be quieted within while striving through the natural in Him.

 

Awake in Him.

Awake in His Word.

Awake in His Holy Spirit.

Awake in our Messiah, Jesus (Yeshua, His Hebrew name).

 

THE STORM MAY BE AROUND US, BUT HE IS IN US, WITH US.

 

The issue then is spiritual—especially in this hour that we’re in.
It’s critical that we stay aware and alert in the spirit.
Tune into God, take every thought captive. Keep awake in Him.
So our ears aren’t dulled even in the mundane moments of life.

 

Consider these scriptures . . .
 

Matthew 13:16, Jesus says . . .

But blessed are your eyes,

because they see; and your ears, because they hear.

 

Matthew 7:24, Jesus says . . .

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine

and puts them into practice

is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

 

James 1:19 says . . .

This you know, my beloved brethren.

But everyone must be quick to hear,

slow to speak and slow to anger.

 

Isaiah 28:23 says . . .

Give ear and hear my voice,

Listen and hear my words.

 

May the Lord anoint your soul’s ears, fine-tuning them to His frequency so that you’re not caught unaware or distracted or derailed in this hour.

 
 

CREDITS: Lighthouse with lightning photo by Michael Krahn on Unsplash.com

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.

Combat Zone Series: Part 4—Soul Via A Film Noir Lens

 

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 is the foundational post for soul basics. The original article was created/posted in 2009, but for easier reading divided into four posts in 2020. Judaic scripture number references.]

 

GET THE SOUL BASICS FIRST. READ PARTS 1-3. START HERE: COMBAT ZONE: PART 1—YOUR SOUL

 

READING TIME: 4 MINUTES

 

Life has its ragged edges. The God-breathed soul in its earth-tethered body has a job to do. But things can get messed up, turned upside down, or totally d-e-r-a-i-l-e-d.

 

Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini may not have been thinking about the soul-body dynamic when he made Nights of Cabiria (Le Notti di Cabiria), but there is a parallel nonetheless.

 

CHARACTER’S SOUL

 

Fellini’s 1958 film is hauntingly compelling, a gritty window into the human condition. Protagonist Cabiria, a tragic-comedic, quirky personality wiggles into your heart, in the raw places. The uncomfortably-yet-so-real places we know but too often pushed down.

 

She is a . . .

darkened

lonely

wandering

soul

who wants to break loose of herself.

 

She’s a lady of the night, but her true self— her soul’s identity—longs to be freed. Her plight could just as easily be yours, mine, or anyone else’s on the planet. After all, there are trenches and stench holes even in the finest high places and people.

 

Her life is a series of abuse, being used, deceived, unloved, lost, and nearly killed (twice) for her money. From the beginning when her boyfriend pushes her into a lake and steals her purse to being set up and ridiculed at a magic show and on to the cruelest betrayal of a would-be fiancé, Cabiria streetwalks for her profession while her soul walks the inner streets of its journey, with slowly unfolding realizations.

 

Compared to her cohorts, there’s something distinctly different about Cabiria. They’re contently oblivious to their boxed-in existence. Not her. She’s clothed in an unexpected resilience. Dares to hope. Dares to find ways to be free from the civil war within and around her.

 

Swept along the Roman religious processional—priests, candle-carrying altar boys in garb, followed by suit-clad men and penitent, scarf- covered women drudging behind on their knees—Cabiria seeks religion as a cure and cries out for a miracle in her default, Roman Catholic style.

 

She stands, her face painful, nearly angelic, amid the lonely, the crippled, the children, the women and men, the poor, the forgotten.

 

Cabiria reaches up to find her soul's release.

Cabiria looks to a familiar source, her default religion, hoping to find her soul’s release.

 

But the next day, she’s sitting with a few others on the processional grounds. Scattered debris surrounds her, the aftermath of the previous evening’s religious fervor. A musician is strumming his guitar. Teens are playing ball. Her friends are eating, drinking, dancing. The reality crashes in on her.

 

We haven’t changed.

Nobody’s changed.

We’re all the same as before, just like the cripple.

Nights of Cabiria, Fellini film

 

Mise-en-Scène. Let’s look at the real elements in her story. Which, in the big-picture view, are not all that different from yours or mine on any given day.

 

She is breathed by God, yet her nefesh, one of three soul nuances, clings to the ways of her world-tethered body and follows it down spiritually deserted corridors—instead of clinging to Him. Over time, spiritual darkness consumes her soul, causing a spiritual chasm. Her soul can’t breathe or flow as it was designed to do. Despite her religious attempts, a real transformation, that coming-full-on-to-God moment in her soul, isn’t happening. She’s still looking for something spiritual amidst something physical.

 

So when the cripple isn’t healed and her friends return to their worldly ways . . . hope is MIA, nowhere to be found. And her soul is right where it was before, unable to breathe in and breathe out the truth of God.

 

CABIRIA’S SOUL MOMENT

 

The invisible iron bars of Cabiria’s physical slave market pierce through her soul-body. She dreams of freedom, but is incarcerated emotionally and spiritually wherever she goes.

 

Her cries upward are genuine. But the earthbound religious exercises leave her chained, her soul in bondage. There is only One who can deliver her, from the inside out. Will He step in, remove the veil, awaken her soul, letting her see His beauty, sparking a deep-calling-to-deeep type of miracle?

 


We can all pretend to be cynical and scheming . . .
but when we’re faced with purity and innocence,
the cynical mask drops off and all that is best in us awakens.
—Nights of Cabiria, Fellini film


 

Toward the end of the film, Cabiria is manipulated and discarded yet again, left with mutilated expectations.

 

Her soul hits ground zero. Physically, she collapses on an elevated drop-off, deep waters below. All a deft portrait of her soul-life journey.

 

But then . . . a stirring. Emptied, teary-eyed, she pulls herself up and starts to walk through the wooded area.

 

Children and young people come out and walk with her, singing, playing music, happy, filled with life.

 

And hope. A different level of hope seen through a new soul lens.

 

A mascara-stained tear rests under one eye—and slowly her visage morphs. She looks around her and sees new life bursting from the young people and music. It’s then that she turns to gaze into the camera for a few seconds.

 

She’s showing us something—something deeper that’s rising from the nuances of her soul.

Saddened eyes filled with a thousand stories.

 

The soul's awakening.

Cabiria . . . her soul’s awakening.

 

Battle-scarred emotions . . . her spirit (Soul Nuance, ruach in Hebrew) daring to stand.

 

Humbled soul . . . her previously self-driven life force (Soul Nuance, nefesh in Hebrew) finally beginning to remove itself from the worldly wanderings and tasting the “rest” within.

 

Then a frail smile breaks through . . . her breath of God, attached to Him (Soul Nuance, neshama in Hebrew) kindles her inner soul lamp.

 

And maybe . . . hope. The kind  that can only come from the One who is truth, who gives abundant life the way He designed.

 

Go further with your soul story. Read the Combat Zone’s soul basics series for ways to maneuver your soul battle. Start here:

COMBAT ZONE SERIES: PART 1—YOUR SOUL

Resurrection, Real or Not: Part 2b—Real-Life Accounts Cont’d

Seven more resurrection accounts nudge the spiritual ball further—much, much further.

 

© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

READING TIME: 6 MINUTES.

 

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

 

Besides God’s three sneak-peek resurrection accounts in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh)—He gave us seven more (in the New Testament) that take on even greater momentum.

 
 
 

And since even rabbis study the New Testament, let’s check out those accounts. Six are in this post . . . the seventh account deserves its own post.

 

Drum roll, please . . .

 

#1. JEWISH LAZARUS—FOUR DAYS ENTOMBED

[John 11: 1-44]

 

Lazarus of Bethany and his two sisters—Miriam and Martha—were Jewish followers of Jesus [Yeshua] and close friends of the famed rabbi. One day, Lazarus fell sick. His sisters sent a message to Jesus to please come, knowing of his healing miracles. But Jesus opted to stay two more days where he was and prophetically said, “This sickness will not end in death . . . it is for God’s glory.”

 

The days passed and Jesus told his disciples that Lazarus was “asleep”—meaning he died. “I’m glad I wasn’t there so that you will come to have faith. Let’s go to him.”

 

By the time they arrived, Lazarus had been dead four days. That’s right—four days in the tomb. But Jesus nudged the sisters’ faith.

 

Jesus said to Martha, “Your brother will rise again.”
In true Jewish fashion, she answered, “I know that he’ll rise again at the Resurrection on the Last Day.”

 

But Jesus wasn’t referring to the end-of-days resurrection. He meant now. This is the part when it gets really, really good—and why this is one of the most dramatic resurrection accounts in the Bible. Adonai was about to reveal the resurrection-and-life power in Jesus as Messiah.

 

Jesus, the two Jewish sisters, the many Jewish mourners, and the Jewish disciples walk to the tomb. It was a cave with a large stone covering the tomb’s entrance.

 

“Take the stone away!” Jesus says.

But Martha warns him,
“By now his body must smell—it’s been four day since he died!”

Jesus answers,
“Didn’t I tell you that if you keep trusting,
you will see the glory of God?” 

 

So they remove the stone. Jesus looks upward and says, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know you always hear me, but I say this because of the crowd standing around, so that they may believe you have sent me.

 

Then Jesus called out. “Lazarus, come out!”
The man who had been dead came out.
His hands and fee wrapped in strips of linen
and his face covered with a cloth.
Jesus said, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

 

Unlike the prophets Elijah and Elisha who had to continue to pray over a body and stretch out over it, etc. before the body was resurrected, Jesus merely commanded life with the words and power of God—and it was done.

 

Not surprisingly, many of the Judeans who had come to visit the sisters and seen what Jesus had done believed in him as Messiah. But not all. Nope, some ran to the Pharisees and told them about the resurrection. Well, you can imagine how that went.

 

The head cohanim (priests) and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. They weren’t pleased and began plotting to not only kill Jesus but to do away with Lazarus as well, since it was because of his resurrection that large numbers of Judeans were leaving their leaders and putting their faith in Jesus as Messiah. (John 12: 9-10)

* * *

 

#2. JEWISH SYNAGOGUE LEADER’S DAUGHTER

[Mark 5:21-24, 35-43]

 

Jesus [Yeshua] had been ministering to a crowd of people near the Sea of Galilee—casting out demons, healing the sick, etc. A Jewish synagogue official named Ya’ir fell at the feet of Jesus, pleading desperately. “My little daughter is at the point of death. Please! Come and lay your hands on her so she will get well and live!”

 

Jesus agreed to go, the crowd of people pressing in on him on all sides. A woman touched the hem of his garment and was healed of her twelve-year bout of hemorrhaging. Then people from the synagogue official’s house arrived and said, “Your daughter has died. Why bother the rabbi any longer?”

 

Ignoring what they said, Jesus tells the synagogue official, “Don’t be afraid, just keep trusting.”

 

Jesus let his disciples Peter, James, and John follow him to the man’s home. At the house, there was great commotion—understandably. Weeping and wailing. “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead, she’s just asleep!” Jesus said. The people jeered at him, so he put them all outside, then took the child’s parents and his three disciples with him to the child.

 

Jesus took the twelve-year-old child by the hand and said, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” At once, the girl got up and began walking around.

 

Everyone was amazed. Jesus told them to give her something to eat—and gave strict orders for them to say nothing about the event to anyone.

 

Yeah, I’m not so sure they obeyed that last request . . . especially since we’re still reading about it and telling the miraculous event 2,000 years later.

 

* * *

#3. JEWISH WIDOW OF NA’IM’S SON

[Luke 7:11-16]

 

Jesus, his twelve disciples, and a large crowd went to a lower-Galilee town called Na’im, just south of Mount Tabor within the boundaries of the Tribe of Issachar. As he approached the town gate, a dead Jewish man was being carried out for burial. Surrounded by a sizable crowd, the man’s mother—a widow with no other children—wept and walked with the others. A bleak future lay before her.

 

When Jesus saw her, he felt compassion for her and said, “Don’t cry.” Then he came close and touched the coffin—the pallbearers stopped.

 

Jesus said,” Young man, I say to you, Get up!”
The dead man sat up and began to speak. And Jesus gave him to his mother.

 

They were filled with awe and gave glory to God. The report about Jesus spread throughout all Judah and the surrounding countryside.

 

* * *

 

#4. MANY JEWS RAISED SIMULTANEOUSLY

[Matthew 27:50-53]

 

Right after Jesus breathed his last on the crucifixion stake, the earth shook, rocks split, and tombs were opened. After Jesus was resurrected, many bodies of the righteous were raised and appeared in the Holy City to many. When the centurion and his fellow soldiers who had been guarding the tomb of Jesus saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly, this was the Son of God.”

 

* * *

 

#5. TABITHA, A MESSIANIC JEW & WIDOW

[Acts 9:36-41]

 

This resurrected record happened well after Jesus had been crucified, buried, resurrected, and forty days later, ascended into heaven.

 

The Messianic community was being built up in Judah, the Galilee, and Samaria. Their numbers, multiplying. A beloved woman named Tabitha—Dorcas in Greek—lived in the Mediterranean port city Joppa, about 30 miles south of Caesarea. A believer in Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah, she was esteemed for her tireless charitable work making clothes for the poor, widows, and others.

 

In time, Tabitha grew ill and died. After washing her, they laid her in a room upstairs.

 

The Messianic believers heard that Peter—a well-known disciple of Jesus—was in nearby Lydda and sent for him to come without delay. When he arrived, all the widows were standing around Tabitha’s body, sobbing and showing Peter all the dresses and coats she had made for people.

 

Peter put them outside, knelt down, and prayed.
As a Jewish believer in Jesus as Messiah, he was indwelt with the power of the Holy Spirit and had learned how to step into that heaven-earth soul connection to hear God’s voice and know what He was doing, what He was saying, how He was leading.

 

In obedience to God’s voice, Peter turned to the body, he said, “Tabitha, get up!” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up.

 

He offered his hand and helped her to her feet, then called the believers and widows, presenting Tabitha to them alive. Many people put their trust in Jesus as Messiah because of what God had done for Tabitha.

 

* * *

 

#6. EUTYCHUS, GENTILE

[Acts 20:7-12]

 

Pharisee Saul Paulus had a Damascene encounter with the ascended Jesus—and thereafter became a believer in Yeshua (Jesus) as Messiah. He traveled extensively to spread the truth of the Messiah—often amid great persecution.

 

At one point in his travels, Saul Paulus spent five days in Troas, an ancient Greek city on the Aegean Sea, near Turkey’s northern tip. He taught and ministered to followers of the Messiah. On the first day of the week, he gathered with believers to break bread. Since he was going to leave the following day, he prolonged his message until midnight.

 

There were many oil lamps burning in the upstairs room where they were meeting. A young man named Eutychus was sitting on the window sill. As Saul Paulus continued teaching, the young man eventually grew sound asleep and fell from the third-story window.

 

When they picked him up from the ground, he was dead. But Saul went down, threw himself onto him, put his arms around him. His faith went into action. Saul said, “Don’t be upset, he’s alive!”

 

Then Paul went back upstairs, broke the bread and shared it with everyone. He continued teaching until daylight—with everyone greatly relieved the boy was brought back to life.

 

* * *

 

READ THE NEXT POST IN THE SERIES

The Resurrection Thunderbolt From Heaven

Rabbi Scholars Defend Jesus’s Resurrection

Why A Bodily Resurrection

His Righteousness Can Be Yours

 

HAVE YOU READ THESE POSTS IN THE SERIES?

What God Revealed

Real-Life Accounts

Real-Life Accounts Cont’d

 

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

 

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

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

 
 
elia-pellegrini-kV_u_GsXnwQ-unsplash
 
 

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


 
diana-simumpande-ABrC7X4_gLY-unsplash-2
 

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 [Sarah]

SARAH (SARAI) from barrenness of soul to prophet—and the world’s matriarch

 

© 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.

 

Flashes of His light. A moment of revelation. The soul pricked with divine sparks. That was Sarah as every crack of lightning cut through her story. The call from the polytheistic, cosmopolitan Ur to Haran, move from Haran to Canaan, dealings with Lot, battle with the five kings, sweepings into pharaoh’s and Abimelech’s harems.

 

Something had to be learned here, absorbed here, infused here, stripped here in order to birth something of greater magnitude later.

 

Sarah was strong, independent, vocal, and faithful to God’s calling on her soul. Rashi, a renowned medieval French rabbi, said the various meanings of her name reveal Sarah’s identity, her soul’s ascent as it were: divine spirit, beauty, royal leadership, and prophetic gifting that surpassed Abraham’s.

 

After all, God did say, “Everything Sarah says to you—listen to her voice.” Genesis 21:12.

 

Yet the catalyst of Sarah’s story—barrenness—could reveal even more.

 

Sketchy pieces of her earlier story appear in Genesis 11:29-31, before God renamed her (Sarai to Sarah) and her husband (Abram to Abraham). “The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai . . . And Sarai was barren; she had no child . . . And Terach took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there . . . And the days of Terach were 205 years; Terach died in Haran.”

 

The next line begins chapter 12 and jumps right to God giving Abram the “lech lecha” command. Meaning, go for yourself, to yourself, into yourself. But hold up. How did Abram know God at this point? There’s no introduction—unlike when God introduces Himself to Moses in Exodus 3 at the burning bush.

 

Not to mention that Terach, Abram’s father, was an idolater and an idol maker, per midrash. And why was Terach moving Abram, Sarai, and the rest of the clan initially to Canaan? And what was the point of stopping in Haran, staying there instead of reaching their destination?

 

 

BACKSTORY: WHAT’S NOT SAID

 

Some rabbinic teachings suggest that Abram got the call of God—or perhaps, the introduction to Him—earlier in Ur, where he convinced his father to head out toward Canaan. Rabbi Meir Schweiger of Pardes Institute posited in a 2008 podcast on the Lech Lecha Torah portion that Terach may have thought, why not? Change your locale, you could change your luck. [1]

 

Couldn’t hurt. Sarai was barren, after all. Things just may do a turnaround.

 

But Canaan wasn’t Terach’s calling—it was Abram’s. Terach stopped along the way after setting eyes on Haran . . . perhaps distracted by what it offered or perhaps seeing it as a place to profit for his idol business. He apparently wasn’t someone with “spiritual” endeavors in mind, someone who could keep his eye on the goal and finish the task—namely, Canaan.

 

As a result, Abram and Sarai were interrupted from their destiny call to Canaan until Terach dies. They lived those years with their souls compressurized in a pagan family that had a pagan business, in a pagan city, in a pagan world. When the lech lecha command came forth in Genesis 12, Abram is 75 and Sarai is 65.

 

Her soul had to be freed from its barrenness.
Even though she had met the one true God,
her life had been steeped in the lie of paganism.

 

It was as if God were saying . . .

 

You’ve met me, but I need to take you through a series of events
to tenderize your soul and work out the toxic lies of satan
and the human viewpoint that has been polluting your soul.
I need you to come away with me
to remove any earthbound holds on your soul . . .
to remove all ties with darkness
so my Presence can flood every part of your soul
(breath, spirit/wind, rested breath/life force)
where I will release My voice, My truth of who I am
so you can discover the truth of who you are in me,
what I’ve called you to be.

 

alexandru-zdrobau-4bmtMXGuVqo-unsplash

 

THE DAYS IN BETWEEN

 

Anticipation. Frustration. Each month, watching for signs of a pregnancy. Years passed. Was it a curse or sin? A divine abandonment? Something more . . . something different?

 

Sarai had her questions, maybe her doubts.

 

Could her soul even breathe in its barren exile—or did that empty nest, as some rabbinic teachings suggest, give rise to her independence and a more visible position along side her husband?

 

Was she consistently inundated with her in-law’s pagan fertility rituals, which added more pressure, physically and spiritually?

 

Did she eventually bury the hope of a child and learn to find contentment in her relationship and gifting from the one true God?

 

Actually, there’s a possibility that, in time, Sarai started growing and flowing in her barren state, and perhaps—with God’s strength—even getting a bit comfortable in her motherless wife role—free to move about, spiritually partnering with her husband.

 

But perhaps . . . perhaps that hope kept gnawing down deep within.

 


BELOVED, gaze in thine own heart,
The holy tree is growing there;
From joy the holy branches start,
And all the trembling flowers they bear.

The Two Trees, W.B. Yeats


 

engin-akyurt-0bgCyhlq9oU-unsplash

 

PHYSICAL JOURNEYS MIRROR THE SOUL’S INNER JOURNEY

 

Pressurized, stark, or barren situations in the natural reflect, ignite, and even move the tensions within the soul.

 

Like you and me, Sarai’s come-away-with-me, lech lecha call from God was no different.

 

She and Abram sojourned in the physical desert—living nomadically, in infertility, leaving all that was common, their land, birthplace, and relatives, entertaining guests and angels—while traversing the untapped spiritual terrain within their souls. [2]

 

Up probably felt like down. Down felt like up. A sojourn wrought with emotional, physical, and spiritual trials—not to mention those infamous family matters. Certainly, no cakewalk.

 

Promises from God were still sitting on the table.

But they couldn’t be touched or lived out until decades later.

 

When God gave 86-year-old Abram the promise of having a child by his loins, the bold, faithful Sarai came up with a plan of how they could fulfill God’s decree—a “solution” in the natural that lagged lightyears behind God’s intentions.

 

Enter stage left, Hagar.

 

Sarai’s so-called plan (using her Egyptian maidservant as a surrogate vs. God’s plan, having a child birthed by Sarai) resulted in another 13 years of deconstruction-reconstruction soul work for her and Abram—enduring and resolving the consequences of her prior getting-ahead-of-God decision to use Hagar.

 

Since Hagar’s son with Abram—Ishmael—was outside of God’s instructions, the Abrahamic covenant couldn’t be honored/fulfilled via him. However, Ishmael is considered the father of the Arab world.
 

GOD’S PLAN MOVES FORWARD

 

Count on it. God’s purposes will be fulfilled—even when we go rogue.

 

He voiced a promise and a new name into Abram and Sarai that impacted their destiny . . . a move from having “a” mission to having a worldwide calling, per the Talmud.[3]

 

Ninety-nine-year-old Abram—his name meaning father of a nation—became Avraham, father of many nations.

 

Eighty-nine-year-old, Sarai—meaning my princess, of a tribe/household—became Sarah, princess of the world, mother of every Jewish convert.

 

At age 90, counterintuitive to any human logic, Sarah was finally ready in God’s eyes to exhale her soul’s purpose . . . not just the birth of Isaac, but becoming a vessel in God’s hands to birth a nation out of a wilderness womb that would transform the world.

 

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.

 

RESOURCES & CREDITS

 

[1] Rabbi Meir Schweiger’s newer podcasts can be found on Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies.

[2] Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 13, Genesis 14, Genesis 15:1-6, Genesis 18, Genesis 22:16-18

[3] The Talmudic concept regarding Avraham and Sarah moving from a particular mission to a universal one is from Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Berachot 13a.

CREDIT: Camels in Israel photo by Cole Keister on Unsplash.com

CREDIT: Woman’s eyes photo by Alexandru Zdrobău on Unsplash.com

CREDIT: Hair-blown woman photo by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash.com

Article created July 26, 2015.

Soul Remodeling Series: A Wilderness Hero [Moses]

MOSES (MOSHE)
fugitive prince turned bride guardian—who almost missed his calling

 

©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.

 

Ever since my younger years—later elementary school and decades forward—God has used Moses as an example to awaken and stir my soul, guiding it into a deeper understanding of God’s Word, God’s character, God’s name, God’s holiness, God’s immensity, and God’s desire for humbled, obedient leaders and followers.

 

Moses was a surrendered soul, truly in love with his God. But even with all he was allowed to do under God’s hand, he was still a man.

 

Egypt proved a blessing for the twelve tribes of Israel during the famine years when Joseph held a high position. Then the shift emerged and Israel experienced over 400 years of oppressive enslavement.

 

But God’s precision timing was about to unfold—not only for Moses’s soul, but also for Israel’s.
 

God begins by separating Moses from the common—his birth tribe and his adopted, privileged position in Egypt—for a series of deconstructing-reconstructing encounters—meetups with God to beat all others.

 

God’s lightning revelations flashed through Moses’s soul
time and time again.
Moses was humbled at the burning bush,
silenced at the sight of God’s glory,
illuminated at God’s giving of the Torah.

 

It was a process of discovering who he was in God.

 

Lightning cracked through Moses’s soul when he first encountered the Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave. His response was a natural one. He brought down the Egyptian to help raise up that slave.

 

Moses’s destiny burst forth for a moment, like a firefly flash . . . a hint of what was to come, what would be birthed . . . a foretaste of the servant redeemer that his soul was meant to be.

 

From that major lightning crack across the sky at the burning bush, his soul’s relationship with the living God rose to such a magnitude that the flashes of lightning became his new norm.

 

Times on the mountain, glory times in the tent. It all was part and parcel of what it would mean—for him and us—to flow in God’s presence, spirit, and the prophetic.

 
ricardo-arce-cY_TCKr5bek-unsplash
 

BUT MOSES ALMOST MISSED IT

 

Torah scholar/commentator/author Avivah Zornberg gave some insight about “The Transformation of Pharoah, Moses, and God,” during an interview by OnBeing.com’s Krista Tippet.

 

Moses argued with God for seven days no less when he was first called to lead Israel. His thinking was rooted in earthly, physical standards, not in a heavenly perspective.

 

Internal resistance was stirring in his soul.

 

Psychologically, Zornberg says, Moses—like Pharoah and the Hebrews—has an unwillingness to open himself to an alternative reality.

 

He blames it on his speech—in the Hebrew the wording is heavy (kaved, kah-vehd,כָּבֵד). Moses says he’s got a heavy/impeding mouth and heavy/impeding tongue: כְבַד-פֶּה וּכְבַד לָשׁוֹן. Clearly, a negative connotation.

 

There’s another word association, per Zornberg.

 

The Hebrew word for heavy (kaved) is the same word used to describe Pharoah’s hardness of heart during the ten plagues—with the negative connotation of being closed in/off, impervious, resistant.

 

[Note: Kaved is not kavod—ka-vohd (long o sound) (כָּבוד) means glory or honor. Same shoresh (root), so there’s a link. Yet, as we’re seeing, kaved often reflects a negative usage; kavod, a positive one.]

 

Was the heavy (kaved) tongue of Moses also closed off, resistant to God?

 

Moses, per Zornberg, appears willing to forego the whole opportunity to redeem Israel, seeing himself as not the right person for the job. He does recognize, she posits, that an “operation” of sorts is needed—since Moses is like a babe in need of a circumcision and refers to himself as a man of uncircumcised lips.

 

However, this “heaviness,” an inability to open up to God and His word—psychologically, spiritually, emotionally, or otherwise—appears to go well beyond Moses, Israel’s exodus years, and Pharoah.

 

The Cambridge Bible commentary states the “closed in” or “impervious to good impressions” wording in regards to a “heavy, uncircumcised heart” appears elsewhere in the Tanakh: Leviticus 26:41, Jeremiah 9:25(26), and Ezekiel 44:7,9.

 

The wording also is used similarly when speaking of the ear, in Jeremiah 6:10, revealing that the nation heard imperfectly.

 

I dare say this “heaviness” is a human condition. One that only a spiritual surgery in God’s wilderness venues can heal. Turning a no into a . . . teetering if-you-say-so.

 

REDUCED SMALLER - iStock_000009489613XLarge

 

QUESTIONABLE BRIDE—REDEEMING BRIDE GUARDIAN

 

Fortunately for us, Moses surrendered to God’s soul deconstructing-reconstructing process and embraced his soul’s calling—as Israel’s leader, intercessor, shepherd, bride guardian.

 

So much so that the Torah’s final words in Deuteronomy (Devarim) 34 say that “no prophet in Israel has since arose whom God knew face to face” and that Moses “evoked great terror before the eyes of all Israel.”

 

Rabbinic commentary says this great terror is none other than Moses’s shattering of the first set of tablets—which is linked to a midrash (exegesis/commentary on biblical narrative, sometimes reimagined to consider possible explanations). It goes something like this.

 

So there was a king, a bride-to-be, and her maidservants.

 

The king heads out of town on some business, putting the maidservants in care of his bride. But their character was lacking, big time. They engaged in harlotry, consequently smudging the betrothed bride’s character.

 

That pushed the king’s anger into overdrive. To the point where he wanted his betrothed killed and out of his life. Clean and tidy.

 

But the bride’s guardian was quick on his feet. As soon as he learned of the king’s intentions, he swooped in and destroyed the marriage contract: “Even if she was found wanting, she wasn’t your wife yet. So all’s good. She’s not accountable to the contract.”

 

Presto. No need to kill her. That appeased the king, which was a good thing because he later discovered his bride’s behavior really hadn’t been awry—just her maidservants’.

 

The bride’s guardian stepped in and suggested the king write a new marriage contract.

 

The king agrees. “Fine. But since you tore up the first one, you provide the paper and I’ll write it in my own hand.”

 

kelly-sikkema-E8H76nY1v6Q-unsplash

 

SOUND FAMILIAR?

 
Israel is found wanting—though not all of them. Moses protects her covenant with God by destroying the first marriage agreement, the first set of tablets that God had carved and written on.

 

Then when God is willing to redo the marriage contract, He has Moses co-labor with him by carving out the tablets that God will write on.

 

But the Ramban—Nachmanides, a Spanish Sephardic rabbi and noted medieval Jewish scholar—adds another component. He says Moses had a temper, i.e. killing the Egyptian and striking the rock incidents. So it wasn’t all about his acting as defender of the bride.

 

I tend to merge the two thoughts. When you have a critical position that has to be assigned to someone—maybe a person who will handle significant aspects of your business or oversee your health directive or your will—you need to choose someone who won’t be intimidated in making tough, God-led, wise decisions. Someone who can do that in a split moment, if needed.

 

That’s why I think God chose Moses. Yes, he had passion, a temper even. For Moses, when something was wrong, it was wrong. He acted on it. The excessive actions of the Egyptian, the excessive rebellion of Israel at the rock.

 

In his talmudic commentary Shabbat 87a, French medieval rabbi Rashi played with the reading of “ashur” (meaning “that” or “which”) for “ishur” (meaning “affirm” or “praise”) to basically suggest that when it comes to the shattered tablets, it’s as if God thanked or praised Moses for his actions.[1]

 

Was God saying this? “Thank you, bride guardian, for having the passion, wisdom, boldness, and courage to make the hard decision when needed to defend Israel and allow me to still make covenant with her via a new contract.”

 

Quite possibly.

 

One thing’s for certain. Through all his soul’s wilderness travails with Israel and within himself, Moses humbly steadies the course at all costs—relinquishing any rights to a personal life or family legacy . . . God’s people became his legacy.

 

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] Rashi’s comment per an article called “The Marriage Contract,” appearing on www.meaningfullife.com

CREDIT: Blurred Arrow Target photo by Ricardo Arce on Unsplash

CREDIT:Broken Heart photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

 

Article created August 17, 2015.

Soul Remodeling Series: A Wilderness Hero [Jeremiah]

JEREMIAH (YIRMEYAHU)

Running with Horses

accidental prophet—cohen (priest) turned vessel of holy fire

© SoulBreaths.com. All rights reserved.

 

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

 

READING TIME: 8 MINUTES.

 

Personally, I really like the 1998 Lux Vid film Jeremiah, directed/written by Harry Winer and starring Patrick Dempsey as the weeping prophet. Yes, it weaves in a non-Biblical, yet quite plausible, plot line here and there—but it also breathes life into Jeremiah’s soul story.

 

Dempsey hits the right emotional notes, delivering a spiritually encouraging performance—equally matched by the rest of the cast. And if you haven’t guessed, I watch it often.

 

Jeremiah’s real story begins with God awakening the soon-to-be prophet’s soul, pronouncing his destiny. There would be no discussion, no fiery bush, no staff-turned-snake demonstrations as Adonai had done with Moses.

 

It would begin with a stirring, voiced in the womb.

 


Heaven and I wept together,

And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine.

—The Hound Of Heaven, Francis Thompson


 

Back story: Around 755 BCE, Amos and Hosea prophesied to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, who had long meshed their Judaism with paganism. Israel ignored the warnings and landed in the middle of God’s divine discipline: Assyrian captivity, 721 BCE after a three-year siege.

 

But the Southern Kingdom, Judah, wasn’t so quick to learn from the idolatrous falterings of its fellow tribesmen.

 

According to the Lord: Truth had perished—vanished from their lips. They clung to deceit, no one repented, they refused to return to the Lord’s ways. Each pursued their own course like a horse charging into battle.

 

And so, along came God’s love call to His nation: Jeremiah.

 

Born in Anatot—a town given to the tribe of Benjamin, per Joshua 21, about three miles northeast of Jerusalem by way of the Mount of Olives—Jeremiah’s call-to-action probably occurred sometime before he was 25 or 30 . . . old enough to marry, but not yet beginning his rightful cohen (priestly) duties as son of the High Priest, Hilkiah.

 

Then the Lord reached out His hand
and touched my mouth and said to me,
“Now I have put my words in your mouth.
Today, I have placed you over nations and kingdoms
to uproot and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish,
to build and to plant.”
—Jeremiah 1:9

 

Jeremiah would be strategically placed in God’s archery bow—launched into dark moments taking him to near death. Yet along the way, spiritually transformed deeper and deeper and deeper still.

 

Jeremiah, a prophetic voice to a rebellious nation.
A cohen, standing in for Judah before the Lord.
God’s relentless love would trigger
deconstruction (tearing down/captivity) to breathe forth
reconstruction (humbled souls realigned with Him,
a return to their Land,
and Temple restoration).

 

For twenty years, Jeremiah sounds the alarm of the impending seventy-year Babylonian captivity—which is gradual, done in waves, beginning around 605 BCE, taking princes (like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah) for positions. Then toward the end, the captors deport the poorest of the poor Judeans as slaves.

 

photo by Eddie & Carolina Stigson on Unsplash

 

LIKE MOSES, FEELING UNREADY

 

Jeremiah’s calling wouldn’t be easy. He pretty much knows that going in. What’s ahead—a lonely soul experience with twists, turns, and chasmic drops—would break off any hardness and self-focus to uncover the soul’s holy hiddenness.

 

By God’s further command, there would be no wife. And no children. And no living his priestly heritage. No normality on any level.

 

Only risks and danger—on the wings of a prophetic calling that would voice sorrow, pain, surrender, exile, and the promise of a future redemption for Judah, a nation whose “soul” was under the power of its earthbound vessel. Unwilling, prideful, rebellious, delusional.

 

But you [Jeremiah], dress for action, stand up,
and tell them everything I order you to say.
Don’t break down or I will break you down in front of them.
For today, I have made you into a fortified city, a pillar of iron,
a wall of bronze against the whole land—against
the kings of Judah,
against its princes, against its cohanim [priests],
and the people of the land.
They [Judah] will fight against you, but will not overcome you,
for I am with you and will rescue you, declares the LORD.
—Jeremiah 1:17-19

 

Jeremiah’s knee-jerk reaction? Like Moses, he thought God should look elsewhere.  His “I’m only a young man” response—the word is na’ar (נַעַר) in the Hebrew—reveals Jeremiah’s take on his lack of abilities and readiness.

 

A na’ar is a young man, defined by age (teen through twenties) or of marriageable age, and sometimes, rabbinically defined as not yet ready to fulfill his duties/position. (As an aside, 17-year-old Joseph in Genesis 37:2 was called a na’ar.)

 

Based on Jeremiah’s writings regarding his prophetic calling spanning five kings, his birth is set around 655 BCE. His prophetic calling began in the thirteenth year of King Josiah’s reign—putting him around age 25–29, as mentioned earlier in this post.

 

Jeremiah 1:6-7

 וָאֹמַר, אֲהָהּ אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה, הִנֵּה לֹא-יָדַעְתִּי, דַּבֵּר:  כִּי-נַעַר

אָנֹכִי. 

And I said, “You are my LORD, ADONAI, here I am (or alas/behold), I  don’t know a thing because I am a young man.

 

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֵלַי, אַל-תֹּאמַר נַעַר אָנֹכִי:  כִּי עַל-כָּל-אֲשֶׁר

שְׁלָחֲךָ, תֵּלֵךְ, וְאֵת כָּל-אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוְּךָ, תְּדַבֵּר.

And the LORD said to me, you shall not say I am a young man: because wherever I send you, you will go and all that I command you, you will say.

 

In the natural, I get why Jeremiah tried to excuse himself. To a young man who had yet to spread his wings, the call must have seemed like a galaxy beyond his skill set.

 

Human viewpoint would say that a man trained in spiritual matters, matured, married, and long observant in his priestly duties is far better suited to attempt the task.

 

And yet.
Jeremiah may have studied Torah,
but he’d yet to swim in God’s deep, His secret place.

He may have a cohen lineage,
but he’d yet to personally know the power of God.

The journey wasn’t ever about Jeremiah’s strength, knowledge,
bloodline, or abilities.

It was—and always will be—about God and His strength,
plan, power, will.

 

iStock_000002760657Small fire ice

 

FIRE IN THE SOUL

 

This isn’t a mission designed for a single man. God is working in Jeremiah’s soul for his own edification—while working through Jeremiah for Judah’s soul.

 

Making Jeremiah a fire-and-ice instrument in God’s hands.

 

A prophetic instrument that would see what God sees, feel what God feels, and experience in the physical what Judah is doing to God in the spiritual. Soul to soul.

 

Two realms begin to clash—with Jeremiah as both the scapegoat of Judah’s contempt for God’s ways and the conduit for God’s convictions, discipline, and hope.

 

Jeremiah is becoming God’s prophetic lightning rod.

 

He attracts the seething anger of Judah . . . while being consumed by God’s righteous, fiery words. Within those blasts of light, Judah’s soul condition is exposed.

 

There’s no place to hide. No place to run. There’s only surrender.

 

At times Jeremiah is sad, angry, appalled, and even feels abandoned by God. Other times he’s overcome with grace, mercy, and hope, empowered by His presence.

 

Don’t know about you, but that emotional flip-flop sounds way too familiar.

 

I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me . . . so the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. —Jeremiah 20:7b, 8b

 

But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior; so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. —Jeremiah 20:11a

 

It’s always a matter of who’s on first.
Your soul surrendered to God or
entangled with your earth-focused vessel.

Therein is the battle within the battle.

 

Jeremiah learns that. The wilderness journey and the battle humble him. Knock the wind out of him along the way. The timing. The disappointments. The rage. The angst. The depression.

 

Tensions roll over him in every form, on every front. He once walked among the privileged, a cohen. Then he becomes an outcast.

 

But he can’t, won’t stop. Why? Because he knows his calling. He has surrendered to his king.

 


Accepts and bears the yoke of the kingdom of heaven—עֹל מַלְכוּת שָׁמַיִם.

 

photo by Michael Anfang on Unsplash

 

RUNNING WITH HORSES

 

If I say, “I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,” His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.—Jeremiah 20:9

 

Atmospheres are challenged when God’s words flow through Jeremiah. But the cost is high. Extremely, gloriously high.

 

If you’ve run with the footmen and they’ve exhausted you,
then how will you compete against horses?
You may feel secure in a land of peace,
but how will you do in the Yarden’s thick brush?
—Jeremiah 12:5

 

What is God conveying to Jeremiah? If you can’t keep up with the easier battle campaigns on the ground (footmen) when things aren’t that intense, how will you handle the thick of war?

 

A slightly closer look via the Hebrew fleshes it out . . .

 

כִּי אֶת-רַגְלִים רַצְתָּה וַיַּלְאוּךָ,

If you’re running/as in “rushing” (רַצְתָּה) with soldiers/footmen and they’re tiring you out (וַיַּלְאוּךָ)

וְאֵיךְ תְּתַחֲרֶה אֶת-הַסּוּסִים;

then how will you vie for/rival against (תְּתַחֲרֶה) horses [symbolic of army strength, an animal used for war times]

וּבְאֶרֶץ שָׁלוֹם אַתָּה בוֹטֵחַ, וְאֵיךְ

and in the land of peace you confidently trust in (or feel secure in), then how

תַּעֲשֶׂה בִּגְאוֹן הַיַּרְדֵּן.

will you do in the thicket (or raging/swelling or magnificence) of the Jordan?

 

In its glory days, the Jordan—which means “descender”—had umpteen curves with varying widths, from 75 feet to 200 feet. Many rapids and falls were along its course, which usually had a rapid, strong current.*

 

Sounds similar to a soul wilderness journey to me.
Being called down into His murmuring deep, descending into a place with rugged terrain and raging waters . . . an uncommon place where God alone is your road map.

 

Along his destined journey, Jeremiah learns how to focus on what God is doing—not what He’s removing during that soul wilderness process.

 

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? When God places any of us in a pressurized soul situation, we see what’s missing.

 

What’s been taken away.

Diminished.

Lost.

 

We mourn for what was—and wonder when, if ever, we will return to some state of our previous “normal.”

 

We long for release and hope for a new normal—the promise of something within that immerses us into His holiness and transforms us so we aren’t even a shadow of our former selves.

 
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PUTTING IT INTO PERSPECTIVE

 

Life isn’t easy. And trials of any magnitude are disturbing. But the point is . . . are you first seeking God and believing His Word, following His leading, and getting covered in prayer from trusted believers in Him—or is your soul-dial set for auto-tilt?

 

You know, your spiritual compass hitting a “10” on the frustration richter scale.

 

Believe me, I’ve been there and can return in no time—if I’m not staying in His flow.

 

That’s why Jeremiah 12:5 is special to me. God used it often to encourage me during one of my extremely difficult wilderness journeys.

 

When I didn’t think I could take another step, another hit, another disappointment—newly widowed, family issues, uncertainties on so many levels—He’d given me a vision . . . allowing me to see and hear the stampeding hooves of mighty horses.

 

Would I run with them or fall to the side? If these spiritual battles—in times of relative national peace with challenges common to humanity—get me down, how would I ever finish the race against tougher enemies?

 

And what would I do in times of more difficult hardships or even persecution?

 

My soul knew the answer. It had to keep pushing forward in Him and with Him. But I had no strength on my own.

 

Throughout that five-year process (and counting), I had to take it step by step, soul breath by soul breath.

 

I’m in process, learning to rest on this truth in Jeremiah 20:11.
God is with me like a mighty warrior.

 
 

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.

 

*Stats on Jordan from biblehub.com

 

CREDIT: Horse photo by Michael Anfange on Unsplash

CREDIT: Desert photo by Eddie and Carolina Stigson on Unsplash

CREDIT: Girl Looking Out photo by Edgar Hernandez on Unsplash

Article created July 28, 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.

 
martin-brechtl-13oKgzu4oNs-unsplash
 

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.

 
taylor-wilcox-ZHY7-YaGG2U-unsplash
 

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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