Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Doing What Matters

I spend a lot of time speaking with young people about life. Many of them publicly project confidence and self assurance, while privately harboring feelings of uncertainty and insecurity. I often find that young people today lack deep or meaningful relationships with their parents or other adult role models, hurting their ability to trust, be vulnerable or speak openly about their concerns and their need for advice. And, unfortunately, when young people project this attitude of self confidence, it sure makes it hard to provide much advice. So it’s really hard to mentor them!

In Matthew 28:19 Messiah Yeshua commanded his eleven disciples to “Go therefore and make talmidim (disciples) ….” What is a disciple? A disciple is a learner! You have to be pretty teachable to be a learner according to the Scriptures, and vulnerable, transparent, trusting … and humble wouldn’t hurt either. It’s also important to remember that to be a talmid requires desire on the part of the learner to want to learn from someone. Unfortunately, again, all of these traits and attitudes are not too common in our American society today, nor unfortunately all that common among too many self-professing followers of Messiah Yeshua. It’s hard to make disciples today.

At the same time, older and mature believers need to be willing to be vulnerable, transparent, trusting … and humble in order to be the spiritual influencers people need, especially young people. They need also to be willing to give of their time and resources (what I call “Time and Material”) to become relevant and authentic to those who need them. It’s not easy. Unfortunately, too few older believers care enough to really try.

Maybe this is why so much of ministry is programmatic and project oriented today instead of personal. It’s all about the big event or cool project or the exciting service, when the question we should be asking is, “show me your disciples?” I have my simple “Life Purpose” statement that I will share with you: That I may know Messiah Yeshua and make him known, entrusting to faithful people what Truth I have been shown, so that they will do the same; in order that I will finish the Fight well in the Faith, not becoming disqualified.” (Phil 3:7-10; 2 Tim 2:2,4:7; 1 Cor 9:27)

Making talmidim for Messiah Yeshua, especially among young people, isn’t easy. It just happens to be all that really matters for eternity.

Forward for Messiah,

Kirk Gliebe

Rabbi & Director


Monday, December 6, 2021

Faith is Not for Faint of Heart

Our calendar in December encourages us to remember two important historical events that are at their core, dates that celebrate faith. As Messiah Yeshua stated in Luke 18:8, “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (TLV) The context for this statement is the illustration of the persistent widow and the stubborn judge. Yeshua was challenging his disciples then, and us today, to persist in prayer, which is to persist in faith. Unfortunately too many of us I believe have allowed our zeal for faith living to cool. Let’s face it, living out faith today in our society isn’t perceived to be cool.

Hebrews 11 is recognized as a chapter that celebrates faith in G-d. The first verse makes the point of trying to both define faith and articulate what it does in the life of a person of faith. I sum the verse up in two points:  

First, Faith is Confident Assurance about our Future.   Faith gives us genuine certainty regarding what G-d has stated in his Scripture about our eternal future with him! 

Second, Faith is G-d given Conviction about the Unseen Reality. Faith is the motivation that leads us to test for what G-d has stated in the Scriptures about the reality of the spiritual realm and, by testing, to prove that it is real! 

What does this have to do with Chanukah and Christmas? Both of these holidays remember people of faith who took deliberate, risky and painful steps of faith! The Maccabees who stood up against the corrupt religious establishment of their day and the paganism of the Syrian King who reigned over them practiced great faith. They took G-d at his word, understanding what he expected from them, and brought great spiritual renewal for our Jewish people. Mary and Joseph, Anna and Simeon, also lived out faith in what G-d revealed to each of them in quite inconvenient and socially awkward ways. Just to think that Mary humbly agreed to become the mother of the Messiah, knowing the stigma this would cause her; Joseph also, knowing he would need to bear the difficult role of fathering a son, not his own, but G-d’s! Why did they do this? They were confronted by the reality of G-d’s will for their lives and they chose, by faith, to fulfill G-d’s will for them despite the difficulties it would bring. They each chose to trust G-d! 

This holiday season take time to renew your commitment to faith living. What steps can you take that will force you to test the reality of G-d’s unseen spiritual realm: More time for Scripture reading? A greater commitment to G-d’s service in an environment way outside your comfort zone? Really prioritizing G-d with your finances? Setting aside your plans for your life in order fulfill G-d’s plans for your life? G-d’s Word is truth and Messiah calls us to grow our faith in him through prayer and action. Something to think about! 

Happy Chanukah & Merry Messiahmas! 

Kirk Gliebe

Rabbi & Director

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Coalescence: The Result of Trust Building!

Several years ago I was honored to be a part of a small group leadership gathering in Dallas. As a member of the Steering Committee for the gathering I was asked to facilitate a discussion regarding ways of building and growing trust among ourselves as ministry workers from different organizations. One word that popped into my mind relevant to trust building was coalescence.  Coalescence can most easily be illustrated, if you think scientifically, as “the process by which two or more droplets, bubbles or particles merge during contact to form a single daughter droplet, bubble or particle.” For my simple mind, coalescence is most easily defined as the process by which two separate entities grow closer together until they ultimately become one.

I find this to be particularly interesting in my current capacity, both as the leader of a congregation and as the leader of an outreach ministry. Developing trust between individuals within religious organizations is critical to ministry effectiveness. But trust grows slowly, demanding accountability, transparency and clarity of understanding between people, and yet is easily lost. Without these three values held closely, honestly and passionately among an entity’s constituents, “togetherness” can never be more than a superficial reality for any organization. Without these values an entity will inevitably and easily suffer division and chaos, and ultimately dissolution.

Patrick Lencioni in his book The Advantage speaks of four disciplines required for a healthy organization: Building Cohesive Leadership Teams, Creating Clarity in Purpose and Policy, Over-Communicating that Clarity and Reinforcing that Clarity

Demanding real accountability, transparency and clarity from members of a congregation or ministry is critical if there is to be any hope for the organization to be healthy and to function in the way God intends it to. If these three values are not being carefully adhered to, trust will be diminished and ultimately lost, regardless of whether that entity is your local congregation or an outreach ministry like Devar Emet.

Our faith in Messiah Yeshua demands that we live lives before one another of accountability, transparency and clarity. I agree it’s not easy, but Messiah Yeshua never promised us more than an execution stake in this world, so learning to build genuine trust with one another seems a small price to pay to living as effective members of the Messianic Kingdom.

Forward for Messiah,

Kirk Gliebe

Rabbi & Director

Monday, October 4, 2021

More Prayer – More Power!

As a new follower of Messiah Yeshua I heard someone preach these words: Much Prayer – Much Power; Little Prayer – Little Power! I am sure that the preacher had heard them from someone else, but they were new to me. A simple phrase, but with such profound meaning; don’t we all need to develop more powerful prayer lives if we really want to be more useful for G-d’s service! Yet, do we really believe this? Do we really believe in the power of prayer?  Consider what this text is actually teaching us:

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of Messiah’s community, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. So confess your offenses to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous person is very powerful. (James 5:13-18 TLV)

Too often our commitment to prayer is superficial. Many are just not really interested in wrestling in prayer, crying out for G-d’s intervention in the lives of people. We are too busy watching a drama on television or crying about our personal problems with others. All excuses aside, let’s be honest: we don’t seem to value prayer the way we know we need to! Prayer is a hard thing to really do well. It requires our time, our focused attention, our energy and our emotion. G-d desires that we choose to intentionally and deliberately seek him in personal prayer! This takes work! Are you willing?

Setting aside specific time each day for intentional, unhurried and well thought out prayer is a sign of a maturing faith. If we really believe the Scripture’s teaching to take our concerns to G-d, then we must make prayer a clear priority in our schedule, both personal prayer on our own as well as communal prayer with others. When was the last time you prayed in an unhurried manner, carefully seeking G-d’s action in regards to specific needs? How much time do you set aside for deliberating prayer each day, each week? How do you prioritize opportunities for communal prayer with other believers? Remember that G-d expects us to prioritize intentional prayer! More Prayer – More Power!

Forward for Messiah,

Kirk Gliebe

Rabbi & Director

Friday, September 3, 2021

Are You Too Old to Change?

There’s a great deal of expectation for children to develop and grow. Why not? If they didn’t we would be changing our teenager’s diapers! I see our kids working really hard to teach our grandchildren to properly use the bathroom. It’s not only good for the kids, the parents benefit too!

Do you know that adults struggle with change? It seems to me that after about age 25 or 30, many people stop growing and developing. They slide into “life habits” and start coasting. It’s very unfortunate. In childhood and young adulthood, the young are subject to structured education in school, forcing them to grow and learn. But real education, life education requiring serious change and development, really becomes necessary in adulthood, and it never ends until death. Most people coast because they become comfortable, and therefore complacent about their life development. They don’t have the interest or motivation to change.

The Scriptures are written almost exclusively for adults, and yet the Scriptures command people to change. One key passage is 2 Timothy 2:15, which is part of a larger set of instructions for people to take their spiritual growth and development seriously, else they lose it!

“Make every effort to present yourself before G-d as tried and true, as an unashamed worker cutting a straight path with the word of truth.” 

A big requirement for change has to be community. It’s hard to change all by yourself; you need others who know you very, very well, to help you make serious change in your life. That’s why the Scripture commands close community, something very rarely practiced among believers today in America. We are too busy for one another it seems, too busy for G-d as well. Too busy to really make any serious spiritual change. But Hebrews 10:24-25 commands us otherwise:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good deeds. And do not neglect our own meetings, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another—and all the more so as you see the Day approaching.”

Rosh Hashanah starts on Monday night September 6. Take time during the High Holidays this year to reflect on your life: your priorities, the use of your time, your values, your commitment to G-d. What needs to change? I don’t care how old you are! What needs to change so you can better fulfill G-d’s expectation for your life. You’re never too old to change!

Forward for Messiah!

Kirk Gliebe

Rabbi & Director

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Are you open for Replacement?

Each month I write a column of encouragement or challenge that hopefully is as relevant for you as a reader as it is to me as the writer. This month I simply want to write about the importance of personal replacement. Too many spiritual leaders (Rabbis, Pastors, Missionaries, Elders, Sunday School Teachers, etc…) forget that their primary task is to spiritual impact individuals in such a manner that those impacted individuals become capable of spiritually impacting others. We need to be replicating ourselves as followers of Messiah and as spiritual leaders! In reality, if we are doing our work well, we ultimately are raising up others who will be proficient to take on spiritual leadership, potentially even replacing us in our own positions of leadership.

Now think about this for a moment. How does it feel to understand yourself as replaceable? That might make you feel uncomfortable, but it should make true leaders exhilarated! This is what we see modeled in Scripture, even by our Messiah Yeshua, and it’s certainly the basis for Paul’s words to Timothy:

“And what you have heard from me among many witnesses, entrust to faithful people who will be capable to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:2 TLV)

At camp this year both my wife Carla and I played support roles for the first time ever. We saw young people we had mentored and trained up assuming all the key roles of leadership, and they performed those roles very effectively. This is what it means to make talmidim (learners). One of those individuals was Zeke, who right after camp moved from Chicago after 9 months of ministry service to study at graduate school in Israel for the next year. Zeke joins the over two dozen individuals we have had the joy to mentor and train up for spiritual service, most of whom serve G-d outside of Skokie. In making talmidim we must remember that they serve G-d where he wants them, they don’t serve us.

I look forward to being replaced by someone G-d raises up. I hope it’s someone I have mentored, but whoever they are, they will be someone’s talmid for G-d!

Forward for Messiah!

Kirk Gliebe

Rabbi & Director

Monday, July 5, 2021

Optimistic, Idealistic yet Pragmatic

Life is a real pain sometimes! I have been feeling this lately because once again, after a lot of work, I have had to cancel our annual HaDerekh Youth Israel Aliyah for a second year! There was nothing I could do about it. It wasn’t a matter of planning or preparation. It was an “Act of G-d” as they say. Of course, I blame the virus variants and a skittish Israeli government for being overly cautious.

In order to do what we do here at Devar Emet, we must maintain an attitude both of optimism and idealism. Optimism is hopeful confidence about successful outcomes, and idealism is believing in some perfect vision or outcome. Those in service for G-d must remain optimistic and idealistic regarding G-d’s calling for their lives to accomplish ministry work; we must remain confident in G-d’s ability to make his plans happen regardless of current situations and seeming limitations. Yet we must also apply at times a healthy dose of pragmatism to our ministry work, because G-d most often works and directs through the normal circumstances of this broken world, through its deficiencies and troubles, to achieve his perfect outcomes. Much good work for G-d comes out of the trials of those holding onto their optimism and idealism while being tempered by reality. This reminds me of Paul’s words:

I know what it is to live with humble means, and I know what it is to live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment—both to be filled and to go hungry, to have abundance and to suffer need. I can do all things through Messiah who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:12-13 TLV)

Just being pragmatic is not the will of G-d for believers. We need to take steps of faith and believe in      G-d’s ability to work through us to do amazing things! Yet steps of faith are rarely leaps of faith. Walking with G-d requires a firm foundation!

Forward for Messiah!

Kirk Gliebe

Rabbi & Director