The Spiritual Atomic Bomb

In August 1945 two atomic bombs were dropped on Japanese cities (Hiroshima and Nagasaki). The destructive force was unlike anything ever seen before. The explosions caused death and injury to people and destroyed buildings, created high winds that added to the tremendous damage, intense heat and fire, and later the horrible effects of radiation poisoning. Though ethical questions regarding the use of the atom bombs lingered, these bombings surely brought the war to a quicker end – and saved the lives of thousands of American soldiers that would have been involved in an all-out invasion of the Japanese mainland. The end of the war brought thousands of soldiers back to their homes and families, allowed businesses and factories to return to civilian use, and ushered in a period of population growth, economic health, technology expansion etc. etc. An incredible power, unknown and unseen prior to 1945, had hastened the end of World War II – the worst military conflict the world had even seen.

For those of us who understand something about the terrible spiritual conflict that the world has known since the days of Adam and Eve as recorded in Genesis 3, there is hope and expectation of that spiritual conflict ending soon. In an apparent parallel to World War II, there is coming a tremendous spiritual explosive force (never seen before) that will hasten the end of this terrible spiritual conflict.

The coming spiritual explosion is related to national repentance. Though the world has seen the effect of regional waves of repentance/revival etc, the world has never seen, nor experienced, the explosive effect of clear, corporate, national repentance. National repentance is when an entire nation experiences a move of God. That type of national repentance will have an impact beyond anything yet experienced. The coming spiritual atomic bomb of national repentance is soon to explode in the tiny nation land of Israel. Predictions of an atomic bomb before 1945 were either non-existent or summarily dismissed. Yet, it came anyway. National repentance for the nation and people of Israel seems incredibly unlikely, and many might dismiss it – but it is coming anyway. As surely as God promises, as surely as the certainty of His Word – a national repentance in the people and nation of Israel is coming and is coming soon!!

Zechariah 12 tells us, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” Verses 11 to 14 tell us that a tremendous mourning through the land of Israel will occur. Chapter 13 then opens with “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness”. This is a tremendous turning – repentance. It is in the light and understanding of the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, of Isaiah 53.

In the last 100 years there has been a definite increase in the number of Jewish people coming to believe in Y’shua – but that has been limited to essentially one or two Jewish people at a time. Zechariah prophesied of this turning this repentance coming on a national scale.

Both Ezekiel 36 and Ezekiel 37 talk about this great change in the nation and people of Israel. Ezekiel 36 gives us a unique order of events concerning Israel. The prophet talks about the scattering of the Jewish people all over the IsraelIsrael Flagworld. Then God (for His own name sake) gathers the Jewish people from those nations where He has scattered them and brings them back to the Land of Israel. Then He begins to work on their heart and their spirit. He cleanses them and gives them a new heart. He blesses the land and their produce. Then in the light of that goodness and blessing, Israel as a nation remembers it own ungodly ways, and turns in repentance. Israel then begins to be a powerful witness of God’s goodness to all that are around them.

Jeremiah 33 and Romans 11 give us a foretaste of the incredible nature of this coming national repentance. Jeremiah 33:9 “And it shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honor before all the nations of the earth, whichshall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it.” The Apostle Paul in Romans 11:15 states: “For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” This national repentance is a goodness that causes trembling, and is as amazing as bringing life from the dead. That tells us something about the impact and nature of this great event coming to Israel.

Unfortunately many people struggle with God’s word and His promises. Sometimes it is a struggle believing that God is really as good as His word tells us. Israel surely does not deserve great blessing in this way, but really none of us do. Yet, God has promised to demonstrate the incredibleness of His mercy and kindness through the national repentance He pours out upon Israel in these coming days. And through that – He will bless many others also. Paul made that clear both through His writings, and through His life.

Paul was one Jewish man with a life-changing encounter with Messiah Y’shua. There was a tremendous and wonderful change in Paul’s own life – that change also brought much blessing to many others. Paul’s preaching, ministry, and His Epistles in the New Covenant scriptures have helped to communicate the wonder of God’s love to countless people. Though burdened for the Jewish people and their reconciliation with Messiah, Paul’s ministry and life blessed many more Gentiles than Jews. Repentance in the light of Messiah enabled this blessing through one Jewish man’s life. One Jewish man changed by Messiah brought great blessing to many people. An entire nation of Jewish people repenting in the light of Messiah will be multitudes of Jewish people changed and becoming great blessings to others. Paul’s one life affected and blessed so many people, especially outside of Israel. What will it be like when there are multitudes of Jewish people, leaders, rabbi’s etc. coming to faith in the Messiah. So many Jewish people will be radically changed by Messiah. There will be many Jewish people becoming great blessings to the world in a manner similar to that of the Apostle Paul. In a sense it will be like multitudes and multitudes of Apostle Pauls. This will be a spiritual atomic bomb of God’s incredible and magnificent grace. This writer likes to say “it is not be business as usual” and “we ain’t seen nothing yet! Glory to God in the Highest!

This Relentless, Magnificent, Grace (Part I)

In this issue we complete a three-part series on “This Relentless Magnificent Grace”.

The articles have been given in reverse chronological order.  This article shares how the author first came to believe in Jesus.

I did not want to believe in Jesus.  It was never my intention to end up believing in Jesus.   To this day, I often ponder the simple reality that somehow, for some reason, my heart has opened to the scriptures, and to the message and salvation of the simple carpenter from Nazareth.

1974 was the year of my bar-mitzvah. I was quite zealous at this time.  Normally, a bar-mitzvah boy chants the Haftarah portion, and maybe shares a short speech.  I did these two barmitzthings, but also led the Musaf service, which is the second half of the Shabbat service.  After my bar-mitzvah, I continued to attend services on a regular basis.  The Shabbat service is full of form and ritual.  There are sections (such as the torah reading) where side conversations are not unacceptable.  Often at these times, I would think and ponder about God.  I realized that our forefathers such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, David, Daniel, etc., walked closely with God.   They had a personal connection with God.  God was important to them.  As I reflected on the ritual and form of the synagogue, I realized that there could be a difference between going through the religious motions; and genuinely believing in, and wanting to follow God.

In High School, I fell out of the pattern of attending Shabbat services regularly. I was a rather typical, secular-minded, student; spiritual thought, synagogue etc. all took a back seat.  In 1980, I started my first year of college.  I had a non-Jewish friend named Bob.  He was not a “born-again” Christian, nor did he express anything like that.  One night he invited me to go bowling with some friends of his.  I did not know them, but he thought that I would like them. They turned out to be “Christians.”  They had a small Bible reading and devotional before we left.  I felt like a fish out of water.  On the way to the bowling alley, one of these “Christians” (to me, he was like a ring leader) asked me; “so Art, what do you think about Jesus?”  I put up my hands like a stop sign and said, “I’m Jewish”. I was hoping that answer would end the conversation.  It did not.  He said, “okay, you are Jewish, but you did not answer my question: what do you believe about Jesus?” I answered something like, “maybe he was a good teacher or a prophet, but I do not believe He is the son of God.”  The conversation did not go much further, but I began to realize that these “Christians” were different.  They had a peace, a confidence, and a love that was different.  I also began to recognize that, for them, the issue of Jesus was not a matter of religious affiliation; it was a matter of historical and spiritual reality.  Either He was the Son of God or not.  Either He was alive, or He was not.  My belief or unbelief did not change that reality.  Yet, there was no desire to affiliate with them, no desire to ask questions, not the slightest thought or imagination that someday I might believe what they believe.

Throughout my college years, my life seemed to be salted and peppered with more of these “Christians.”  Their convictions, and confidence in Jesus, did not make me want to jump on their bandwagon.   Yet, their conviction about a knowable God did impress me.  Going to church, or reading the New Testament did not attract me.  So, I did what it seems a lot of Jewish people do when confronted with the gospel: I began searching for God and truth, in non-western, non-Judeo-Christian sources.  I read about Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Confucius’ writings, and even some of the Koran.  Each time, I read some literature, I tried to go as close to the source as possible.  I did not want to read someone else’s comments about Buddhism or Taoism, etc.  I wanted to read English translations based on original writings.  I read them with an open heart, genuinely wanting to connect with God, or a life force or whatever was really out there.   I did believe that if God was God, and that if He was knowable, and if He wanted to be known, He would be able, and wanting, to show me what was true.   I also knew that if I was genuinely open to various sources, I would also need to be open to reading the Bible, probably Old and New Testament.

Though the Christians kept saying that the Old Testament (or Hebrew Scriptures) prophesied about Jesus, I never asked them to show me these passages.  I was not interested in their “slanted” view of scripture.  Though I doubted that Jesus was part of the message of the Hebrew Scriptures, I would be open to Jesus if the scriptures themselves indicated this without pressure or interpretation from someone else.   I did not want my mind “twisted” by the Christians’ “pre-conceived” notions about Jesus.  I also knew that if I went to a rabbi, he would have the opposite “pre-conceived” notion about Jesus, and might interpret scripture in a way to argue against Jesus.   I knew that I should eventually read the Bible, but I was not excited about dealing with this issue.  Then, an interesting conversation happened.

It was the spring of 1983.  I was at my parent’s home during a break from school. I was sitting around our kitchen table with my maternal grandfather.  He was not academically well educated, but wise in years, wise in common sense, and having a sincere heart toward spiritual things.   I told him about my “spiritual searching,” how I was reading Eastern Philosophy and such.   In my pride; I thought it was quite impressive.  I am not so sure he was impressed.  In all my life, I never remember him giving me direct advice, except this time.  He was a quiet man, and not quick to voice his opinion or give advice.  He looked at me and said very directly and earnestly, “Arthur, you know what you should do: you should read the Bible, the Old Testament, and the New Testament”. His giving direct advice in this manner was alone surprising; the reading the Bible was not that amazing; but his advice about reading the New Testament was a real stunner.  I asked him about it.  It turned out that he had read the New Testament, and he believed it was a good book, maybe even scripture.  He believed that Jesus was a prophet, a good teacher, and his teachings were very good.  His positive view toward the New Testament and toward Jesus seemed quite unusual.

Although I was thinking that I would eventually read the Bible, his advice encouraged me, and gave me a greater openness toward the New Testament and toward Jesus.  It was not long after this conversation that I began reading the Hebrew Scriptures. I had been given a copy of the scriptures (translated to English) at my bar mitzvah.  My desire or goal as I read the scriptures was to allow God to lead me and guide me, to show me what He wanted to show me.  As I read cover to cover from Genesis to 2Chronicles (the traditional order of the Hebrew Scriptures), there were two things that especially impressed my heart.  The first thing was something about the Jewish people. Yes, the nation of Israel was called and chosen by God.  Yes, God wrought wonderful miracles amongst our people.  Yet, as the scriptures indicated, despite God’s calling, and working amongst us, we were spiritually stiff-necked and stubborn.  It was very easy for us to walk contrary to God, rather than with Him.  This was the case from Jacob through the prophets.  It was not unusual for the majority of Israel, to be cold to the genuine message of God Himself.  God’s care, and love, and purpose for Israel remained solid; yet, our receptivity to God was often an issue. It was conceivable that this pattern could have continued beyond the Biblical period, and even to our present age.

The second thing that impressed me was the existence of prophetic passages that sounded something like the Jesus that the Christians believed in.  At the time, I knew nothing about quoting chapter and verse in the scripture, but I did keep track of these passages by underlining them and writing down their page numbers in the over-leaf of the Bible.  Though no Christian had shown them to me, these are some of the passages that I listed by page number in a column titled “pro-Jesus”: Deuteronomy 18:15, Isaiah 9:1-6, Isaiah 11:10, Isaiah 42, Isaiah 53, Proverbs 30:1-4.   These references were all significant messianic passages.

After reading the Hebrew Scriptures, I knew that I would read the New Testament.  At this time, I was in my last year of college. I was an English minor, reading a lot of classic literature conceived and written by excellent human authors.  In my heart, I knew that the Hebrew Scriptures were not the same.  There was a different quality to them.  They were not written and conceived by human authors, even the best of human authors.   As I began reading the gospels, my heart knew that this too was like the Hebrew Scriptures.  Men had not conceived or contrived this account of Jesus.  His words were not man’s words.  In the Hebrew Scriptures, I had been given a taste of the character of God.  He was the Maker of heaven and earth.  He was “I am who I am” that appeared to Moses at the burning bush.  He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.   As I read the words of Jesus, my heart saw and sensed the same Eternal One.   I was still not excited about following this Jesus who seemed so contrary to Jewish thinking, but I also knew that He was who He claimed to be: The Messiah, the Son of the Living God.  My heart yielded, I began to ask Him into my life, to be my direction, and my savior. This was the spring of 1984.

bicyclingThroughout my college years I had become a bicycling enthusiast.  I would take longer and longer trips, often traveling 35-70 miles in a day.  In the spring and the summer of 1984, I took my first over-night bicycle trips, often camping in a small tent. In the late summer of 1984 I embarked on a solo bicycle trip from Bar Harbor, Maine to Miami Florida.  Each morning and evening I would spend time reading a small pocket Bible (including Old and New Testaments).  My understanding and faith continued to grow.  This was away from  church influence, away from Christian influence.   As I traveled and camped,  I just kept praying and reading the Bible.  It was also during this trip, while bicycling, I experienced what is called the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

After completing the trip, I decided to spend a year in Florida.  In Florida, I first met other Jewish people who believed in Jesus or Y’shua. I began to worship and fellowship with them regularly.  I continued to grow in my faith, and began to see that many of the things that I had learned from my own time before the scriptures were things commonly believed by others who genuinely believe in Jesus.   Though my faith in Jesus was to cause tremendous tsouris in my family, and has been a source of rejection from other Jewish people, “I Know in Whom I have believed” (2Tim. 1:12).  It was never my intention to become a follower of Jesus.  Yet, I cannot say that the sky is not blue.  I cannot say that the sun revolves around the earth.  I cannot say that there is no gravity on the earth.  Similarly, I cannot say that Jesus is not the Messiah.  I cannot say that He is not the one He claimed to be.  I cannot say He is not resurrected from the dead.  As Peter and John said before the Jewish leaders: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, you judge.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).  My heart has seen and heard that message: “Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father except through Him” (John 14:6).

(This article first appeared in the first Smiling Maven Newsletter November 2006)

This Relentless, Magnificent,Grace (Part II – Inclusive)

To the Jew first, and to the…….ah…….umm…..???

In 1991, my wife Sandy and I, along with our newborn daughter, Ruthe, moved to the Zion Faith Homes.  We may not have known exactly why we made this move, but Y’shua2 our teacher and Lord, is not aimless.  As ministerial interns we served in various capacities.  We were strongly encouraged in our personal seeking of the Lord. We were challenged to live in his kindness while living with other dear brothers and sisters in Messiah.   Early in 1994, while anticipating the birth of our second child, my mind and heart began to rumble in regards to my Jewish heritage, and the possibility of the birth of a son.  Unbeknown to me, though Sandy (and others) knew, there were some unresolved issues in my heart over something that had to do with Jews and Gentiles.

During a Faith Home worship meeting, I shared some words of “testimony”, regarding Joseph in Egypt, and my being a Jew in a non-Jewish setting. I shared something about not feeling or being at home while living in a non-Jewish setting.   I shared these things with a seemingly deeper level of emotion than I usually expressed while speaking.  Internally, I was thinking something like: “this must be pretty good stuff – I am deeply moved on the inside.”

The next day I was asked to come to a small meeting. That meeting included three Faith Home ministers.  It was expressed to me that there was something amiss in the words that I had shared the previous night.  It had something to do with my being a Jew among Gentiles, something about my belonging to the body of Messiah, regardless of the cultural mix.  My mind was defensive. I had felt deeply emotional about my statements and wanted to defend myself even attempting to use certain scriptures; yet, the unique combination of ministers along with a confirming dream, were not to be pushed aside.  I was learning that sometimes spiritual growth comes at the expense of our usual thinking, even heartfelt thinking. I was given one direct instruction – spend definite, consistent, worshipful, time in the Book of Galatians, and continue to spend time open in heart before this book.

After the meeting, sometime within forty-eight hours, I moved towards the instruction given to me and to devotional time with the Book of Galatians.  There was some willingness to yield to God rather than my own ideas.  I opened the Bible to Galatians and an amazing thing happened.  I became stuck on the first words of the book.  I am not talking about chapter one, verse one.  I am talking about the title:  The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians.  I looked at it, and I looked at it, and I looked at it: nine simple words, yet, potentially powerful words.   Did I believe them?   Did I really believe them?  I sat there, or kneeled there, stuck on the title.  Time went by.  I knew that truly believing the title meant believing all of the title.  The Epistle of Paul, a letter written by Paul – Paul who had been Saul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, trained as a Jew, a Pharisee, a rabbi, in every way zealous as a Jew, with a desire to follow God.  He was one who had persecuted the church out of his zeal.  He was the one who had been on the road to Damascus going to persecute Christians, and while on that road, Saul had a real life encounter with the resurrected Jesus.   The Apostle, this Saul/Paul had been transformed by Y’shua and had become a leading Apostle (One that is Sent – by God).  He had a right and a responsibility before God to communicate the gospel to Jews and Gentiles.  As a Pharisee of Pharisees, and Hebrew of Hebrews, transformed by Jesus Himself, Paul had the qualifications and the understanding to properly convey the liberty and freedom of the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles.  He had the right to instruct me as a Jew in my walk with Y’shua, and in my relations as a Jew both to other Jews and to non-Jews.    To the Galatians, there had been a struggle over these issues in the church at Galatia and this was written to address this subject.   Did I believe this book was legitimate canon (divinely inspired scripture) as much as any other book of the Bible?  I knew that it was not for me to pick and choose what parts of the Bible to believe.  To believe the word of God meant to believe this book.  To believe this book meant to believe the significance of all of the title, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians.

I sat transfixed before the title and in a sense before the Lord.  Time went by.  I cannot tell how much, but it was not seconds.  It was minutes, maybe tens of minutes.  Slowly, I acknowledged to the master of the universe that I believed the title and all that it comprised. Yes, it was a letter written by Paul. Yes, Paul was Saul who was transformed by Y’shua. Yes, Paul was an Apostle, and had a right to speak into my life, even against my own thinking.  Yes, this book of Galatians was written to address Jewish/Gentile issues.  Yes, this book was inspired scripture as much as any other book of the Bible.  Yes, it was written for me, to instruct me and to teach me.

As I slowly continued through the book, my heart continued to open in new ways.  I began to appreciate the liberty and freedom, and the inclusiveness of the gospel (in a fuller way than ever before).  Gentiles were genuinely set free from sin, brought into the commonwealth of Israel by faith in Messiah.  Jews were set into a right relationship with Y’shua through His blood, just like Gentiles. The gospel was about freedom, about liberty and God’s incredible love through Messiah Jesus.  Two verses from Galatians that were to become favorites were  6:15 and 5:6, one a commentary on the other.  “For in Messiah Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”   “For in Messiah Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.”  The new creature is not a matter of circumcision;, it is about a new creature which is faith working (in the heart of the believer) by love.  Hallelujah!!

As I continued to worshipfully approach this wonderful book, my heart continued to discover light where there had been darkness.  I had known that anti-Semitism was an awful evil, but I began to realize that anti-Semitism has a reverse image twin.  It is anti-Gentilism.  It had been there in my heart.  Maybe it had been hidden to me, but it had been there.  It had influenced my understanding of scripture.  It had influenced my attitude towards living in non-Jewish settings, and had influenced my own understanding of my Jewish background.  It had surely affected my walk with Y’shua.  Repenting from this spirit had become a key position before the Lord.  It is surely not an accident that the Lord opened the door for me to minister in Oshkosh WI for ten years.  Oshkosh is the most un-Jewish area that I have ever lived.  Now, I miss Oshkosh more than I could have ever realized.  Through this divine encounter with the Book of Galatians the master of the universe has been able to grow some of his incredible inclusive love and grace in this Jewish heart.   It is not an accident that this article has been  written as I prepare for my first trip to Israel.  May the Lord never allow me move away from the wonder and freedom of His word:  The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians.


Thank you Lord, for lovingly, and kindly, banging me over the head with the book of Galatians.   Continue to do so as needed.

This Relentless, Magnificent, Grace (Part III)

Recently I heard the following statement “God insists on grace.”  He insists that we treat others (even ourselves) with grace.  We ought to be living as grace creatures, as vessels of grace, as grace dispensers.  Why we emphasize anything else is quite amazing.  All that we possess (physically and spiritually) is because of His grace.  The opening of our understanding to that reality may be a life-long process.  I will be sharing some of my journey in the experiencing of this relentless, magnificent, grace.

There has been a deep valley in my life.  In nature, valleys usually start gradually, and end gradually. They do not often start or end with a cliff.  This has been true in my life.  There have been many aspects to the deep valley in my life, it did not start all at once, nor has it ended all at once.  As I look back over that valley, I can see at least three facets to the valley: physical, spiritual, emotional.   There has been difficult non-life-threatening, yet painful, and uncomfortable physical struggles, a terrible church/ denominational type split, and the emotional crater of my wife’s death along with single-parenting two young children.  Also included in that mix, has been the emotional friction with my natural family exacerbated by my faith, and my marrying a non-Jew.   It is a mix that I would not want to wish upon anyone. Incredibly, I find myself on the other side of the valley, not wanting to trade this experience for anything.  The simple reason for this: grace.   It was in the very depth and darkest part of the valley that I had the most needed and most valuable lesson in grace.

The second and third year after Sandy’s death were the hardest and darkest years of my life.  I was still spiritually worn by the church issues, emotionally beaten by my wife’s death, struggling to raise two young children, and feeling physically miserable.  My attitude was not pretty.  Much of the time, my attitude, my mumblings, did not look very “Christian” (or Messianic Jewish).  I cannot completely explain that atmosphere and attitude with words.  It was hard; my inside was just yucky.  One night, after a particularly hard day, wrought with physical pain, earthly responsibility, and “unchristian” like disposition, I reached my dead end. I was finished on this road of mine.  I had had enough.  I had had enough of trying to be a Christian, trying to be a pastor.  I was finished with being a Christian, really, honestly, forthrightly.   I expressed this to the Lord, and expressed it in many less-nice words.  I was not thinking; oh, I will feel differently in the morning; I will ask the Lord’s forgiveness in the morning.  I was throwing in the towel of my Christian life. I was hanging it up. I was finished with this Christian thing. It was in this state and disposition that I went to sleep.

I had come to a dead end.  My faith had brought me to a dead end. I mean that very sincerely, and without maliciousness.  It is not the end of the story though.

The next morning, early, before I was fully awake, in that half-way state between awake and asleep, something incredible happened.  No, I did not have a great vision.  No, a lightning bolt did not come down and fry me (like I deserved, and deserve every day of my life).  No, I was not instantly healed.  In that not fully conscious state, without any willful decision on my part, I was singing. I was singing a simple song over and over again.  I was singing: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so”.   After singing it a number of times, “Jesus loves me this I know, the Bible tells me so”, I became conscious – awake, and flabbergasted.  I remembered the attitude and condition in which I had gone to sleep.  Since falling asleep, I had had no intention, no willful decision to repent, no remorse over my attitude, no change of heart. Yet, my spirit was singing, “Jesus loves me this I know…..”  As I considered this, I only had one explanation, Jesus was in my life to stay, and it was not dependent on me.  2 Timothy 2:13, “If we believe not, yet he abides faithful: he cannot deny himself”.  Philippians 1:6 says “that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”.  The Almighty was faithful, even if I was not.  My relationship to the Messiah was not dependent on my faith, it was dependent upon Him.  He was completely faithful, regardless of my whimpering, complaining, and even regardless of my giving up.  Wow!

This was a paramount turning point in my life.  That is not only in regards to my suffering and tsouris2.  It was in regards to my entire spiritual-life orientation.  Grace was really grace, a gift, something we do not make happen. It is free.  It is not dependent on us.  True Christianity is a relationship with Jesus.  Relationship means at least two beings.  The solidness of this relationship is built on the solidness of Messiah, not the maybe, sometimes, solidness or mushiness of our faith.  He had started something in my life; He was going to finish it, even if everything (including me) seemed contrary to that.  True faith is not faith in ourselves, or faith in our own faith.  It is faith in, and the faith of, the Faithful One.

This was so liberating. True grace is liberating.  No, everything did not go fantastically that day or that week.  Everything does not go fantastically now.  A change has happened though.  Jesus loves me.  I know Jesus loves me.  And it has nothing to do with anything that I do. I can live in that certainty all the time.  When I am doing well, and when I am doing terribly.  No spiritual activity on my part: positive, negative, or neutral, increases, maintains, or diminishes that love.  That love is always.  Oh that is basic scripture and basic theology, yet how many of us live as though we really believe it for ourselves.  How much of my life had I only stated it, yet not fully believed it.  “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye sees thee” (Job 42:5).  I had heard of grace, but now I had seen the wonder of Y’shua’s3 relentless grace in my own life.  I now turn away from my self-righteous, self-trying efforts to impress, convince, or help God to love me more.  I simply rest my life in the certain reality: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”. This relentless, magnificent, grace!!


(This article first appeared  in Smiling Maven Newsletter January 2006)



  1. I am sharing three major turning points in my experience with grace. They are being shared in reverse chronological order.
  2. Tsouris (Yiddish)—Trouble.
  3. Y’shua – ישוע (Hebrew) Jesus

Why the “Smiling Maven”?

‘Maven: a person who has special knowledge or experience; expert {Yiddish meyvn < Hebrew מבין }’3   ‘An expert or connoisseur; someone with profound knowledge of a subject.’4 A maven is someone that you go to with a question (on a particular subject) in the expectation that he will have an answer.  In practice a maven is often well-versed in a number of subjects.   To consider oneself as a maven may be an indicator of pride.  I have some experience and expertise in a number of areas, a jack of all trades and master (or maven) of none.   Yet there is one thing that I am increasingly convinced to excel in.   It is an area that I believe the Lord wants me to become a maven.  That subject or topic is grace.

The Apostle Paul told Timothy “Be strong in the grace that is in Messiah Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).  There are many good definitions of grace, of God’s grace.  Here is one that I believe is an excellent working definition: the smiling face of God’s favor.  When God chose to send His son, the Messiah Jesus, to die for fallen humanity – He was not frowning upon us, he was smiling upon us.

There is a connection between grace in our lives and our capacity to smile. I don’t claim to smile enough.  I am not sure that I could consider myself an expert on grace.  Yet, I have experienced that the Lord is gracious.  He has smiled upon me.  In my darkest, my most unfaithful, my most run awayish, rebellious, complaining attitude, Jesus has been gracious to me.  By his graciousness to me, I can see God’s desire for this Jewish boy from New York to become a smiling expert on God incredible grace; To be a smiling maven for the true smiling maven (master) of the universe.

Why the Maven

(This article first appeared  in the first Smiling Maven Newsletter November 2005)

  1. American Heritage Dictionary (Houghton Mifflin Company 1985)