Friday, September 1, 2023

Observance because of our Love!

The Jewish High Holy Days are coming up, and with it the many services, traditions and special readings specifically related to this holiday season. One book from the Bible that is read on the Shabbat during Sukkot is Ecclesiastes. Many struggle with understanding why this book is even in the canon of Scripture, let alone being the focus of one of our most important holidays. I believe Ecclesiastes is included because it reminds us to contemplate the intentions of our life: “Why do I do what I do?”

It is so easy to go through the motions of “religious practice”, even for people who say that their religious practice is “free”, without old “man-made” liturgies and service structures. I see this often when I am speaking in churches: people barely singing along in a hymn book or when the worship band is leading. They are present, but not fully engaged. Certainly in my own synagogue I see this way too often: mouthing words from the siddur liturgy is not the same as reading the liturgy with heartfelt and passionate love of G-d!

The Hebrew Scriptures often use the word שָׁמַר (shamar) in relation to diligence before G-d, especially regarding his instructions. The word means to keep, guard, watch … observe. Interestingly enough, in the prophetic literature G-d is constantly rebuking Israel for their observance, but not because they are not being observant in their practice, but because of the lack of diligence and proper intent in their observance. As Isaiah 42:20 states:

“You have seen many things, but you do not pay attention. Though ears are open, no one hears.”

We must remember that our actions (attending services, reading Scripture, serving others) must be the result of our active and intentional relationship with G-d. We should not do these things simply out of duty or ought, even if G-d commands us to do them (which he does in the Scripture). G-d wants us to keep his commandments because we love him! As Messiah Yeshua said in John 14:15:

 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

I still firmly believe that there are people around us sincerely seeking to know the truth of who G-d is. Are they able to see the truth of G-d in our observance? When they walk into our religious services, will they observe us in heartfelt and passionate worship of G-d because of our love for Him? When they observe us at work, at the store or in the neighborhood, are they able to see the diligence and watchfulness of our faith shining out in the details, values and priorities of our lives? 

If we say that we love G-d and our Messiah Yeshua, we each must be diligent that our observance is truly heartfelt, and as a result of this, obvious to those around us who need to know G-d’s love for themselves.

Forward for Messiah,

Rabbi Kirk Gliebe

Friday, August 4, 2023

Training Up a Child!

In our “instant gratification” focused world today, it’s no surprise that children and youth are suffering! It doesn’t help that parents seem to have forgotten how to parent, leaving kids to learn how to grow up and mature on their own. Even parents who profess to believe in Messiah Yeshua and G-d’s Biblical principles seem to be failing at passing this down to their kids. This month, I would like to share what I have learned about what it means to spiritually train up children and youth. No kids of your own? These principles can be helpful for mentoring anyone!

The first principle is that training up a child starts by recognizing who the Boss is: G-d!  Deuteronomy 6:4-9 makes clear to us as parents that we must model committed faith if we hope to see it develop in our children.

The second principle is that training up a child requires a lot of work over time! Proverbs 22:6 is used by too many parents who seek to console themselves with the hope that their child is eternally saved. They hope that a prayer said at 4 years of age seals their eternal status, even though they haven’t attended a place of worship since they were teens and are living godlessly in their current lives. Parents & Grandparents, this Hebrew text doesn’t refer to teaching little kids, instead it speaks about intentionally working to spiritually form adolescents: our teens and young adults!

The third principle is that training up a child demands a proper relationship in the home! Ephesians 6:1-4 is clear: children are to obey and respect their parents. At the same time, parents had better be disciplining and discipling their children with intention, consistency and in love. Knowing your role, position and expectation in the home is critical!

G-d’s calling for our lives is to make talmidim (disciples), especially with our own kids. How are you doing with that?

Forward for Messiah,

Kirk Gliebe

Rabbi & Director

Sunday, May 7, 2023

The Cure for Loneliness!

Shavuot is a critically important Jewish holiday that often is forgotten about by the less observant members of the Jewish community. Why? Shavuot kind of sneaks up on people since its just a one day holiday with Scriptural observances mostly related to the agriculture calendar.  It does help that we are commanded to count 50 days from Passover in order to get to Shavuot, but then many people forget to count! Life’s busy! There’s a lot going on! Who needs one more thing to do!!

I have read several news articles recently about a new pandemic in our world: loneliness. This pandemic is unique in that it is mostly self inflicted due to misplaced priorities and poor decision making. It also seems to be very much an affliction among the world’s educated, successful and wealthy. There’s also clear evidence that its deadly, causing serious illness and even death in those infected with it.

Shavuot does seem in some ways to be an inconvenient holiday, until one remembers what the holiday is all about: its another opportunity to set aside our daily isolating activities and gather with others to celebrate our relationship with G-d! An opportunity to gather with others for communal worship, reflection, and to express gratitude to G-d for all that he has done for us. Actually we don’t have to wait for a holiday to gather with others for this. We can gather with others like this every week! And we don’t really need to wait until a weekend service to do this, we can get together with others any time!! Unless we are too busy prioritizing things that might ultimately lead to loss of relationship with G-d and others, opening us up to catching loneliness.

The author of Hebrews wrote a prescription for loneliness almost two thousand years ago: “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.” (Hebrews 10:25 TLV) How deeply do you pursue your relationship with G-d? How deeply do you pursue relationships with others? All the Scriptures teaching can be summarized simply as “Relationship with G-d; relationship with people”. Something to think about!

Forward for Messiah!

Kirk Gliebe

Rabbi & Director

Monday, April 3, 2023

The Mysterious Afikoman

There are many traditions of the Passover Seder, but the most mysterious is the Afikoman. Why is a piece of matzah broken in two, with one half hidden, returned, and then eaten in small pieces ceremoniously after the meal?

Some speculate that the Messianic Jewish community added the tradition of the breaking of the middle matzah and the Afikoman. This customs does seem to relate to the person of the Messiah who was sent forth from G-d to be broken by and for us, as well as the eating of a small piece of matzah in remembrance of Messiah’s death after the meal. Yes, the body of the Messiah was wrapped in a burial cloth and hidden away. Yes, Yeshua’s followers went to anoint His body and found it missing. And yes, Messiah Yeshua rose from the dead on the third day after his burial and appeared to his talmidim.  It’s true that there is no evidence that Messiah Yeshua’s seder included three matzot, with the middle matzah removed, broken and wrapped in a cloth. The 3rd Century Jewish book, the Mishnah,tells us there was no Afikoman; it was prohibited in the days of the Temple. Instead a small piece of the Passover lamb was eaten ritually after the meal in rememberance of the first Passover lamb from Egypt, after which no other solid food was to be eaten! It is probable that after the eating of this small piece of lamb, Messiah Yeshua might have used broken matzah as a way to ritualize remembrance of his death as providing freedom from slavery to sin. We just don’t know for sure because there isn’t enough textual evidence.

At Passover, Jewish people will take a final piece of matzah after the meal in remembrance of a lamb. As Messianic Jews, we take this piece of matzah in remembrance not just of the Passover Lamb from Egypt, but more importantly in remembrance of our ultimate Passover Lamb, Messiah Yeshua, who died as our sacrifice so we could be forgiven our sins and have a relationship with G-d.

Forward for Messiah,

Kirk Gliebe

Rabbi & Director

Monday, March 6, 2023

Taking that First Step!

Getting out of bed on a winter morning can be tough. Its dark and cold, and its winter. But taking just that first step out of bed is critical if one is hoping to have a reasonably successful day! The work of ministry service regularly begins with that kind of first step, in a lot of different directions: beginning a conversation, taking on a new responsibility, starting discipleship relationships, hiring staff! 

Last month Sarah joined Devar Emet’s staff. To us this was a VERY big step of faith; she’s our first full time staff member! It was also a big step of faith for Sarah as well. Despite what some might think, Devar Emet keeps only enough cash on hand for about half a normal month’s expenses. We are usually pretty broke. You might think that’s terribly irresponsible! Hiring someone without secured funding? I agree with you! I keep asking G-d for a million dollar endowment, but so far his response for the last 27 years has been to bless us based on Messiah Yeshua’s prayer, “and give us this day our daily bread.”  Bread for today, not necessarily for tomorrow, is exactly how G-d has provided for this unique outreach work. If this bother’s you, go complain to G-d about it. Maybe he’ll give you the money and you can give it to us!

Taking steps of faith, even seemingly small ones, allows us to see G-d at work in our lives and in the lives of others. We can see his power and appreciate his ability to move, whether its things or people. Its not easy, but Messiah Yeshua also said that if we have faith like a mustard seed, we could move mountains! Do you want to see mountains move? I know that I do!

Let us together takes steps of faith, even if we start off with small steps. G-d is pleased when his children grow their faith in him!

Forward for Messiah,

       Kirk Gliebe

Rabbi & Director

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

It’s all about the People!

The beginning of 2023 has taken off with lots of ministry and blistering cold weather! Sometimes we feel like we must be in Alaska instead of Illinois. Regardless of the weather, we work to keep our focus on the goal: encouraging people to consider the truthfulness of the Besora (Good News) that Yeshua our Jewish Messiah brings Salvation for all who will believe in him!

That being said, ministry is a people business and so ministry is often busy and messy! Certainly it’s possible to do “religious work” without actually spiritually ministering into the lives of real people, but at Devar Emet it is our vision to connect with people, Jewish people, so that G-d might work through us for their spiritual benefit.

I have often noticed that the farther away one is from directly interacting with people, the more money one can make. Compare the pay of the retail employee working directly with the customer with their boss or the CEO behind the desk. Unfortunately, this sadly is often true of people in ministry as well! Consider the local congregational leader or outreach worker dealing with the constant pressures of serving the spiritual needs of real people, overworked and underpaid for their effort, compared to those in administration of secular or religious non-profits far removed from the daily stresses of personally meeting people’s needs, yet paid significantly more for their efforts!

Ministry can never be about the money, yet Yeshua’s words remind me never to forsake the hard work of people ministry for the easy pay of management: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest that He may send out workers into His harvest field.” Pray for us to keep our focus clear and pray for others who will answer Yeshua’s call to the Harvest as well!

Forward for Messiah,

 Kirk Gliebe

Rabbi & Director

Thursday, January 5, 2023

A New Year's Secret!

At the beginning of our new civic calendar, it is natural for each of us to hope and plan for bigger and brighter blessings and opportunities in the New Year. I have always given much thought and prayer during this season regarding goals and objectives for the New Year: for my relationship with G-d, my family and my ministry. I hope you do as well. The truth is that such efforts are really an act of faith. No one can predict the future and assure for themselves success, regardless of how well they plan out their lives. At this season especially, it is important for us to remember to firmly place our faith in G-d, the One who does know the future, and to be sure that our plans and goals have Him at the center.

 When we maintain our faith in G-d and in his plans and goals for our lives, we will truly live successful lives.

Are you a successful person in the eyes of the World? Are you a successful person in the eyes of G-d? The Scripture teaches us the secret to a successful life: trust and obey! We will conquer the most overwhelming challenges if we just do what G-d tells us to do and trust in him regarding the unknown settings of the future. If we resist G-d like Moses initially did, then we will fail to know G-d's perfect plan that he has for each one of us. If however we listen and learn to trust in G-d, as Moses eventually did, we will come to find that G-d had everything perfectly planned out all along; all we had to do was ride it out by trusting for G-d to guide us to where we needed to go.
Remember the New Year’s Secret: When we maintain our faith in G-d and in his plans and goals for our lives, we will truly live successful lives. May your New Year be full of many blessings and opportunities!

Forward for Messiah,

Kirk Gliebe

Rabbi & Director