Stop. Look. Listen.
God has used COVID-19 to make me do all three. Forced isolation stopped me from my typical fast-paced lifestyle. I felt as if I was in “time out.” It reminded me of the day many years ago when I was teaching kindergarten and my students had misbehaved. The consequence of their disobedience was time-out on their rest mats, with no free-play time. The amazing thing about this “time-out” discipline was that I took advantage of the quiet space to plan a special new activity for my class. While they were being disciplined, I was actually planning their next blessing. Just like God. I am sure He has been planning a future blessing for us, His children, while the world has been in time-out.
I looked—at lots of religious programs on the Apple TV that my son Jonathan insisted I get. I was able to see Passover Seders in the homes of some of my favorite Messianic ministers. I saw fabulous worship services. I celebrated Shabbat with believers around the globe. I saw pastors of every denomination and persuasion preaching the Good News of the Gospel. I saw the Body of Messiah standing strong, a light in the midst of darkness. I saw Yeshua revealing Himself to people who were in confinement and fear.
I listened—as the Lord told me that were not created for isolation. People need people. Women, especially, need hugs. Both men and women are included in an exhortation given four times in the NeW Covenant: “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26). Personal contact. Holy and pure. I also heard the same two verses of Scripture mentioned over and over: Psalm 91 and 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 (both of which mention plagues/pestilences). Men and women of God were saying the same thing: Humble yourself. Pray. Seek God’s face. Repent. Return. Dwell in the Secret Place. Stay covered by the blood of The Lamb.
When I asked the Lord in early May what He wanted me to write about, what was on His heart for the month of July, I clearly heard: “The Body.” Messiah’s Body is the worldwide company of people called out from this present in world order to live and serve Yeshua HaMashiach, the Savior of the world. The Body of Yeshua is on God’s heart. I understood more clearly after the murder of George Floyd.
The Body of Messiah
Yeshua is the head of the Body. His headship is stated in Ephesians 1:22, “God placed all things under Messiah’s feet and appointed Him as head over all things for His community—which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” This translation from the Tree of Life Version uses the word “community” instead of “church.” The word “church” does not exist in either Hebrew or Greek. The Greek word that is used in the Bible is ecclesia. The closest English word would be “assembly.” The equivalent Hebrew word would be kahal (kah-HAHL), a community of people.
Derek Prince emphasizes in his book Prophetic Destinies that the “church” is not an organization, but an organism—a body—in which each member is directly related to all the other members through personal faith in the Messiah. These members are each a product of divine election: God’s choice. We did not choose Messiah; He chose us (John 15:16). God loves each member of His Body. He sees the nature of Yeshua manifested in them, including humility, love, and holiness.
I personally experienced the reality of the Body of Messiah, functioning as Messiah’s hand extended, when my husband, Neil, died a year and four months ago. Believers from all over the U.S., Israel, and other countries wrote, called, sent gifts, and ministered to me in deep, beautiful, loving ways. This includes many of you. You had no idea that you were fulfilling a prophetic word that God gave me when my natural mother died in 1986. He said to me, “The church will become your mother.” It has happened. And now, I pray that I will become like a mother to many others.
One Body. Many Parts.
Believers in Yeshua as one body are explained in Romans 12:4,”For just as we have many parts in one body—and all the parts do not have the same function—so we, who are many, are one body in Messiah and everyone parts of one another” (TLV). We have different gifts such as prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, and mercy. The gifts are from God and are to be exercised in love.
What should our attitude be toward others in the Body? “Be tenderly devoted to one another in brotherly love; outdo one another in giving honor. Do not be lagging in zeal; be fervent in spirit. Keep serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, enduring in distress, persisting in prayer, contributing to the needs of the kedoshim (saints), extending hospitality” (Romans 12:10-13 TLV).
Honor and humility are crucial characteristics in the Lord’s Body. God also desires death to the independent spirit as well as the spirit of entitlement. Philippians 2 says it well, “Do nothing out of selfishness or conceit, but with humility consider others as more important than yourselves, looking out not only for your own interests but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves, which also was in Messiah Yeshua” (Philippians 2:3-5).
Those of us who are part of Yeshua’s Body can learn a lesson on concern for our brothers and sisters in the Lord from the traditional Jewish community. There is a very strong concept of mishpacha (family) among Jews. A well-known tenant of Judaism is: Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la zeh, “All Jews are responsible for one another.” According to the World Jewish Congress, “This value has guided us through some of the darkest times in modern history and bound us together as one united Jewish family.” Can we say this of Yeshua’s Body? Do we stand together, support one another, love one another? Are we “others-centered” or “self-centered”? Are we our “brother’s keeper”?
It blesses me to see my son Jonathan networking with the young pastors in the South Florida area. They pray together and support one another, leaving their egos at the door when they meet. No competition. Encouragement and a common goal—to see God’s Kingdom come, here and around the world. This is Yeshua’s Body coming together, exemplifying Romans 12:10-11: “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (NKJV). (Jonathan preached a sermon recently that I think you’ll enjoy. We are offering the CD this month. Neil was an anointed teacher. Our son is an anointed preacher.)
Unity in the Body
In John chapter 17, the Messiah prays to the Father right before He returns to heaven. His fervent desire is expressed in the phrase, “that they may be one just as We are one,” referring to His talmidim (disciples), believers in Him. Yeshua prays this five times. This unity was very important to Him because, as He says in verses 21 and 23, this is how the world will believe that God sent Yeshua and that God loves them as He loves His Son. The unity of the Body of Messiah should cause faith to arise in the lost. Are we there yet?
Unity. Hineh ma tov oo-manayim shevet achim gam yachad. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1)! Unity in the Lord’s Body includes the ideas of oneness, fellowship, brotherhood, belonging, commitment, togetherness, selflessness, and love. The word ONE resounds in Ephesians chapter 4 as it relates to the body of Messiah. Ephesians 4:1 was Neil’s life verse. He walked worthy and cared deeply for the unity of Messiah’s Body. His love, gentleness, and humility bridged denominations and racial barriers. At the time of Neil’s promotion to Glory, he had been discipling a 21-year-old Haitian American young man for over three years. Jevann had asked Rabbi Neil if he would mentor him, and Neil was delighted to have the opportunity to make an impact on a special young man’s life. They met every Shabbat before our temple service, usually at Dunkin’ Donuts. Neil was very fond of Jevann, and not only taught him the Bible but he also taught him what it is to be a man—especially a man of God. Rabbi Neil loved Jevann like a son. Neil would want all of us to take to heart Rabbi Saul’s admonition in Ephesians 4:1-7, TLV, “Therefore I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you were called— with complete humility and gentleness, with patience, putting up with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Ruach in the bond of shalom. There is one body and one Ruach, just as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one immersion; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace was given in keeping with the measure of Messiah’s gift.” One. One. One. One. One. One. One.
Unity has been called a fundamental prerequisite for the Body’s success. Historically, denominations have challenged the unity of the Body of the Messiah, creating division and separation. But we can overcome that! We can love and show care and concern for one another. We can stop judging and start building up the Body. We can show compassion, develop empathy, and focus on our common faith.
Diversity: Good and Essential
Unity doesn’t mean homogeneousness. God’s Body must have unity with diversity. Diversity is a given since the Body is made up of people from every tongue, tribe, people, nation, and skin color. We are not supposed to all be the same. Each individual brings value to the whole. (See 1 Corinthians 12:14-25.) Our black brothers and sisters are hurting right now. Some have been murdered just because they are black, and for no other reason. We must be moved with compassion, following our Messiah’s example. “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26a). In a recent Tikkun Global article, Asher Intrater wrote about compassion. “In times of difficulty, faith expresses itself in acts of compassion as you care for someone else.” Asher exhorts us to ask, “What is my neighbor feeling?” If you have a close relationship with a person of color, ask them how they are doing—how you can pray for them. Extend a listening ear. Show love. Seek justice. Embrace unity in the Body.
There is no room for racism in the Body of Messiah. Justice and mercy are meant for believers of every color and race. The sad truth is that racism is woven into the fabric of our society, beginning with the Jamestown colony in 1619. Slaves may have loved Jesus, but they were not honored as part of His Body. They were not even considered fully human. I was deeply moved by an interview between African American pastor T.D. Jakes and Carl Lentz, during which Bishop Jakes explained that he has a hard time celebrating July 4th, since “liberty and justice for all” has not always been the experience of his people. He made some eye-opening (to me) statements that have since been confirmed by a few of my brothers and sisters of color in the Body. One of them was that black parents often feel the need to have conversations with their children in which they tell them to make sure that they save receipts in stores to show that they have not stolen anything. I never had to have such conversations with my sons.
My son Jonathan says that concerning racial equality, we have to “feel it” before we can “fix it.” This begins with the heart. We dare not dismiss our brother’s pain. He is part of the Body, the Family of God. Galatians 6:2 tells us to “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Messiah.” It is a law of love. Love, the bond of perfect unity (Col. 3:14). Abba, please help us press into relationships with members of Your Body whose skin is a different color from our own. Unity and healing must begin with us. Enlarge our hearts to embrace diversity in Your Body!
Jew and Gentile: One in Messiah
“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two…” (Ephesians 2:14-15).
Before Yeshua, Gentiles were separated from the Commonwealth of Israel, “strangers from the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). But through His sacrifice Yeshua’s desire of John 10:16 is fulfilled, one flock with one Shepherd: “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” One body.
Gentiles are grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel, becoming mishpacha with God’s Chosen People, part of the kahal (Romans 11:17-18). This is called a “mystery” in the Bible. They are circumcised, with the circumcision of the heart, in the Spirit (Romans 2:29). I was encouraged this past holiday season to see millions of Gentile believers join with Israel in celebrating the Biblical feasts of Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost). I sensed a new unity as, just like the very first Passover in Egypt, we sequestered ourselves in our homes, covering ourselves with the blood of the Lamb. Then, at Shavuot, we waited in prayer in our rooms for the Spirit to come. We expected revival fire. No one expected to see fires in the streets of American cities. As Jew and Gentile together, we must pray for our country and our world to experience the cleansing fire of the Ruach, bringing true repentance, revival, and resurrection.
Love and the Body
We should be known by our love for one another. Our Messiah said to His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Yeshua’s body is called to love—sacrificially and unconditionally. Rabbi Saul makes a profound statement about this: “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). Yeshua’s Body is to love one another, and love the lost. We should reflect the One who died for all of us—while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). The second great commandment is just that, a command. It is also called the “royal law”: Ve’ahavta l’reicha kamocha, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
Joseph Shulam, a pastor in Israel, commented on loving our fellow believers in the Body. “The Church is a community, a family, and one of the wonderful things about families is that we do not choose our children in a shop window. Neither do we choose our brothers and sisters in the marketplace. Whomever God gives us as brothers and sisters, children, and parents is whom we have for the rest of their lives. Sometimes dysfunctional children are born into the family of God, but they are my brothers and sisters, so I love them. Although I did not choose them, I love them because God gave them eternal life and filled them with His Spirit, and now we are family. The Church is all about this unconditional love.”
His Body/His Bride
The relationship between Yeshua and His Body is likened to a marriage relationship in Ephesians chapter 5. Messiah is Head and Savior of His Body; He loved her and gave Himself up for her to make her holy. “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it—just as Messiah also does His community” (vs. 29 TLV). There is a mystery of intimacy here. An intimate bond. A deep relationship. Our Heavenly Bridegroom is returning for a glorious bride without spot or wrinkle. We are being prepared even now. Do you sense it? May we strive to edify the Body in love (Ephesians 4:16).
One with all of you—Love—