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KINGDOM RICHES

(c) Morris Ruddick

Our recent visit to Israel again brought home to me the cost and realities of living in the land of promise.

Aside from the constant threat of terrorism and the uncertainty of the future is the reality for the majority --- of simply making ends meet. Since our last journey to Israel poverty has increased. Unemployment is up. And peace has become even more fragile and allusive.

The pressures and threats and tragedies created by the insanity of the Intifada have a broad segment of Israel’s secular community struggling with hopelessness and asking questions. Many recent immigrants have left Israel disillusioned. Even some Israeli-born citizens have given up and immigrated to nations that have taken public stances against Israel’s very existence.

Yet within Israel is a community with hope, a community of Jewish believers. For our ministry, these are the ones at the forefront our Lord Jesus was speaking of with His admonition in Luke 22:32 to “strengthen the brethren.” They are the “nationals;” the locals comprising an infrastructure of Israeli citizens; a community of what some estimate to be 7000 Israeli Messianic Jewish believers.

They are the ones best equipped to reach their neighbors, co-workers and leaders --- with both spiritual and practical answers and solutions. And they are paying the cost like their neighbors and co-workers. But it is a cost that is compounded by an organized persecution directed by a small, but politically powerful minority who view Jews who believe in Jesus as a curse to Israel --- and who make every effort they can to drive them out.

We’ve traveled to other nations where the Body is persecuted and only operates underground. But in Israel, operating underground is neither an option nor desire for those Jews who have found their Jewish Messiah. The spotlight is on Israel --- and it is the spiritual focal point for believers around the world. This is the Holy Land --- the Land of Promise. But with the persecution of the Body in Israel is emerging a Body that is engaging the incredible spiritual onslaught to destroy them — and is bearing fruit. One congregational leader, born in Israel, shared with me that ten years ago it was considered a major accomplishment for an Israeli Messianic congregation to have a handful or two of new, born-again believers in a years time. But today, individual congregations are seeing those same numbers coming to the Lord on a weekly basis. And these new believers are largely Israeli-born.

PRACTICAL ANSWERS AND KINGDOM PRINCIPLES

At least part of the reason for the change is the fact that in an environment of hopelessness and uncertainty, people will listen to spiritual answers from those offering help with practical ones. When Jesus came 2000 years ago, He announced His ministry with the words, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Using the standard of the Old Covenant, He taught the Jewish people about the Kingdom of God. Through the parables he unveiled principles that underlie the operation of the Kingdom of God. And with those Kingdom principles, He taught about practical things that might be summed up as Kingdom riches.

While Jesus pulled aside a smaller group who traveled with him and received special focus, His typical audience, as He imparted these practical truths of how the Kingdom of God operates --- were everyday people. People who were disillusioned by the heavy requirements laid upon them by the religious community. People who lived in an occupied land filled with uncertainty and hopelessness. People in need who were hungry spiritually and looking for something real. People who were looking for answers --- practical answers. People not unlike the people of Israel today.

Kingdom principles are practical. They serve to strengthen, mobilize and equip those with hearing ears and seeing eyes. And when these truths are embraced, along with the Author of Truth, they transform lives, build communities and impact nations. And they serve to make the adherents of these truths to be the head and not the tail.

The practical and the spiritual dimensions of God’s Kingdom are uniquely tied together throughout Scripture. The practical provides principles and wisdom needed for the social (community) and economic requirements of life. The spiritual deals with our souls, with standards of righteousness and our relationship with the Lord. The approach my wife and I have to our ministry incorporates the spiritual, the social and the economic dimensions of what we see in Scripture. They work in concert with one another.

KINGDOM RICHES: SPIRITUAL, SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC

A clearer grasp of the operation of the spiritual, social and economic dimensions outlined in Scripture can be gleaned by viewing what the Word refers to as “riches and wealth.” Riches and wealth are referred to again and again in both the Old and New Covenants.

The operation of the “spiritual, social and economic” dimensions of Kingdom riches is uniquely tied to the dynamic operating when faith is released and the promises received.

The Western Church is very big on the release of faith to obtain the promises on an individual level. So am I. But within the Jewish culture; within the culture that brought us the Word of God and the Messiah; and within the realities of a pressure-cooker type of environment like Israel, the connection between “the release of faith and the promises received” has got to flow at the community (social) level --- for there to be the “release” needed to overcome the incredible forces of darkness arrayed against this most spiritually significant people and land.

The operation of our faith is tied to a Kingdom principle referred to in scripture as dominion. Spirit controls matter. That’s the foundation on which prayer is based. It’s tied to the authority the Lord has invested in us as His emissaries. An authority that reflects service and humility.

Around the world, there is a fierce battle underway over dominion. It is a battle that can be summed up as the clash of all ages --- the battle between good and evil. But no where is that battle more evident than in Israel. Globally, Israel is the pivot point. Evil hates and would like nothing better than the destruction of those who are God’s people. While that certainly involves those grafted in as God’s people, the Church, it especially hates those who are the original covenant people of God. The people the Scripture refers to as God’s chosen. The Jewish people. And within those who are God’s chosen are a remnant who by the Spirit of the Lord have had the revelation of their Jewish Messiah — and are walking out a most strategic calling for our day.

This issue of dominion ultimately deals with the hearts and minds of people --- which is the spiritual dimension. But dominion also involves “ruling over the work of His hands” --- the economic, practical side of things --- that is time and again referred to in scripture as wealth and riches.

So while the foundation in this clash between good and evil is spiritual, and the clash between good and evil most clearly manifests in the struggle over control (dominion) of the economic and political; the impact is upon the social or community level. But the leverage point over the quest for the spiritual and social (community) is the economic dimension.

The Bible gives keen reference to each of these dimensions of riches or wealth --- the spiritual, the social and the economic. My dear friend Dr. Bill Bolton very aptly describes them as biblical dimensions of spiritual, social and economic capital. He describes a wonderfully apt analogy of the fixed versus the working capital that are tied into our inheritance in the unsearchable riches of Christ. But Dr. Bolton’s observation is that far too many within Christendom try to stand on only one leg of the “three-legged” stool of this truth. These three dimensions of riches or wealth are developed very well throughout the Old Covenant --- with one example being the spiritual of Isaiah 53, the social of Isaiah 58 and the economic of Isaiah 60. The book of Deuteronomy is rich with the principles of how you operate an entrepreneurial community. And Jesus’ parables land strongly on all three.

The fact is that the dynamic operating between the spiritual, social and economic reflects a progression that has its foundation in the spiritual. And it is the balance of this progression that reflects the principles that enable the Lord to operate in every dimension of our lives.

The world has tried to seize the economic, but without both the spiritual and social, it is destined toward cyclic ups and downs. Likewise, the social can’t operate without both the spiritual and the economic. And far too often, the Church’s approach to the spiritual is a focus that ignores God’s place regarding the social and economic.

THE CHALLENGE IN ISRAEL

So how does all this tie into our recent ministry journey to Israel and what I see emerging within Israel’s Messianic Jewish community?

It’s this. As a whole, the Church has floundered in its operation of the community (social) and economic dimensions of God’s riches. Unity is required for God’s riches to operate together.

We all talk about Paul’s strong Ephesians 4 admonition for unity in the Body. But we’ve fallen short. This passage in Ephesians says that without this unity that we will all be tossed about by craftiness and every wind of doctrine. It says basically that if we fall short on the issue of equipping the saints for the work of service that builds up the Body, we will be like children being tossed about.

Likewise, if we expect there to ever be a time in which “all Israel is saved,” we are going to have to take a look at another dimension of what we refer to as the “full Gospel.” Because the teaching of Jesus --- on how God’s Kingdom operates --- is based on Kingdom principles that connect the dots from the truths forming the basis of Judaism. And these truths involve the melding and operation of the spiritual, community (social) and economic riches outlined in Scripture.

Scripture indeed refers to a time in which “all Israel will be saved.” But to have a realistic expectation of the fulfillment of this event, the Church is going to have to rethink how it views its essential role of standing behind and strengthening that remnant of believers in Israel, who represent the front-line of those called to reach the Jewish people.

Yet, the Church is fractionalized. And that “divided house” is just not a reflection of the Gentile segment of the Body. The Messianic Jewish community in Israel is just as fractionalized. So, with the spiritual forces of darkness arrayed against Israel, the Body in general is approaching this most significant spiritual task of “all Israel being saved,” --- divided and on a one legged stool.

Likewise, these issues of division and the short-sided approaches to the community and economic dimensions of how the Body generally operates --- the practical outworkings of our faith --- become the basis of our witness.

Another friend of mine, a ministry leader in Israel recently shared this story with me: “The Orthodox Jewish community in Israel has created such a network of Tz’dakah (charity) that virtually no one who is part of the community is ever on the street. No one goes hungry. No bride goes to her wedding impoverished, no one is forced to remain alone and lonely. Among the Orthodox, an entire social system exists to care for the needs of their own people. One believer we know lived among the Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox), and experienced the warmth and security of this community. But when she became a believer in Yeshua (Jesus), she was forced out of her home. Then, as a Messianic believer, things got worse. She wound up on the streets of Jerusalem. She has been hungry. She has been lonely. She laments the fact that ‘Believers in Yeshua (Jesus) should be putting those who do not believe in Him to shame in their acts of Tz’dakah (charity), but instead they put us to shame.’”

So, in light of the economic struggles and poverty that have impacted Israel’s Messianic community; and in light of the persecution directed against believers in Israel, the question is “how.”

How can the Israeli believing community stand-up to become the head and not the tail? How can Israel’s Messianic Jews assume the mantle of their calling — perhaps for such a time as this — while figuratively being shot at from both sides? That’s the issue. And that is what is at the crux of our ministry to Israel’s Messianic Jewish community, “to strengthen the brethren.”

THE KEYS OF UNITY AND INTERCESSION

Kingdom “riches,” in essence connect the dots to the operation of the Kingdom of God when the spiritual, social and economic capital the Lord has made available to us begin operating together.

My observation is that most congregational leaders in Israel are doing all they can to nurture and build up their flocks --- from the spiritual riches dimension of these Kingdom principles. Some are instituting programs to help those impacted by the mix of poverty and persecution. But for the most part, they are operating on a one-legged stool with one hand tied behind their back, due to the issue of the Body being fractionalized.

Essentially, the Body in Israel is doing what the Body elsewhere is doing in a quest to grow and to bear fruit. Yet the spiritual warfare surrounding Israel is in some instances far more intense and in others, far more subtle.

But Ephesians 4 calls for an equipping that results in a mature Body --- and a mature Body is one that operates together. A mature Body is one that builds bridges, rather than burning them or tearing them down. A mature Body is one that is equipped for “the work of service” as it is phrased in verse 12 of Ephesians 4 of the NAS version.

But while we all generally agree on these points in Ephesians, the key is tied to unlocking these principles of God’s Kingdom and putting them into practice.

The answer to “how” Israel’s Messianic Jewish community can be released as the head and not the tail, against an incredible array of odds, is tied to the release and balance in the operation of these three dimensions of Kingdom riches.

Each of these dimensions of Kingdom riches are incorporated in the principles of the Kingdom of God taught by Jesus during His earthly ministry. But the answer to “how” our Israeli Jewish brethren can begin to most effectively implement them with the result of operating with the vibrancy of the early Church is not one that can be approached simply in the natural.

I personally believe that unity will unfold as the prayer initiatives toward this end mount and begin amassing --- prayer initiatives that are initiated from within and among Israel’s Messianic community. And it wouldn’t hurt to have an army of intercessors from around the world mobilized and praying with them toward these ends.

But on this issue of unity, we all need to be wise to the schemes of the evil one.

Unity doesn’t mean everyone has to agree on everything. But it does mean you start working together. Unity is tied to the operation of that working capital of the truths of His riches. Truth among the brethren is not brittle. At least not when it operates in love. The precepts of men are brittle and create dissension. Our salvos of ammunition need to be directed toward the enemy’s camp, rather than our own.

Unity based on community is an operational reality that is the outworking of truth on more than an intellectual level. It is Spirit and Truth operating together. And it operates on service and charity --- both the 1Corinthians 13 charity and the Tz’dakah type charity. This Hebrew word “charity,” Tz’dakah interestingly is the same one used in Proverbs 14 where it says that “righteousness” exalts a nation: Tz’dakah (charity) exalts a nation. The implication of the Hebrew word flows both ways --- there is a righteousness in Tz’dakah charity and charity in Tz’dakah righteousness.

Yet, even the best of us can be blindsided by the subtle ways the enemy works overtime to undermine this factor of unity within the Body. Many years ago, a major Christian leader was invited by the heads of one particular Native American tribe to speak to their people. He was met by a delegation of leaders from this Indian nation. They dressed him in the traditional headdress of one of their tribal chieftains and with accompanying pomp and ceremonies had him lead a parade through the reservation. Afterwards he preached. And a number in the audience came to the Lord. But despite the appearances of a marvelous event, something very significant was missing. There wasn’t one Christian leader from this tribe in the delegation invited to meet with him. And after this man of God left, the tribal leaders faced their tribe’s Christian leaders and told them: “Your big Christian leader came here and honored our traditions and religion. And he didn’t even need you, and neither do we.” According to Christian leaders of this tribe, that event set the efforts of the believers in that tribe back a decade.

THE ISSUES FOR CHANGE

And this is not unlike what has been happening in Israel. The Church genuinely loves Israel --- and tends to be enthralled at the prospect of invitations from secular and pseudo-religious sources to play a role in events and initiatives in Israel. But in most cases, these “opportunities” tend to ignore the believing community. It’s time for change.

It’s time for the Church to understand what it truly means, “to stand alongside of Israel.”

It is also time to begin employing the full range of Kingdom principles and the “working capital” of the riches the Lord has entrusted us with --- so that the spiritual, the social and the economic begin operating together.

There are initiatives underway and others in the birthing stage that hold much potential of enabling our Israeli brethren to face the issues before them with the strength needed to be that vibrant Body the Lord has called them to be. To be the head and not the tail. The efforts of Carol’s and my treks to Israel have been and will continue to be focused on initiatives that bear on these goals.

It is time for the Church is to recognize and come behind what the Lord is doing through the fervent pioneers comprising Israel’s Messianic Jewish community. It is time for the Messianic community’s infrastructure to be strengthened through the development of business enterprises. It is time for wholeness and healing to begin manifesting so that our brethren are equipped individually --- but also as a community to be that light shining in the darkness they are called to be.

It is time for intercessors is to embrace this incredibly strategic issue of seeing the release of God’s Kingdom riches. It’s time to face the realities of the one-legged stool and begin coming together with the wisdom, strategies and initiatives that will begin changing the posture of the Body from being on the defensive to advancing His Kingdom on the offensive.

It is time for both the Church and the Body in Israel is to begin addressing the practical side of this issue of unity and begin working together in their efforts of service that provide the tangible outworkings of the social and economic riches of His Kingdom.

I’ve seen Kingdom initiatives in operation in which the fullness of His riches ARE operating together and it is an awesome thing. And I know that as the release of the three sides to His Kingdom riches gains momentum, we can expect to see unusual signs and wonders and miracles. Signs and wonders and miracles that will change lives, build communities and change nations.

AGAINST ALL ODDS

Against all odds, it is time for the operation of the faith that receives the promises. But the missing link for the really strategic issues unfolding is the Body working together.

There is no question that for many, the issues our brethren in the Land of Promise are standing for are ones they have been praying for, for years. I have repeatedly heard the statement from believers in Israel that it is hard for those who live in the economy in Israel. But God’s Word says that He has made them to be the head and not the tail. There is no question that the spiritual battle over Israel is intense and deadly. But it is time for this community of our brethren to start entering a new dimension of realizing the promises. And against all the odds arrayed against them, it is time for them to begin embracing the full availability of the working capital of God’s unsearchable Kingdom riches in Messiah: the spiritual, the social and the economic.

Our return from this visit to Israel has left us with a deeper burden for our Messianic brethren than on any previous trip. Our heart-cry is to see the dots connected in the release of initiatives of service that will bear on making them to be the head and not the tail.

The simplicity of our efforts of obedience through my wife’s trauma counseling and my activities with entrepreneurial Kingdom business startup workshops often seem meager to us in light of the significance of the issues unfolding in Israel. But the fact is that it is through this Spirit-led simplicity of our service that we have time and again seen the Lord intervene and begin doing “far exceedingly above all that we might ask, think or even imagine.” We likewise have come to recognize that the Lord often sends us into situations at timely, pivot points --- to serve as catalysts for what He is releasing from His throne-room.

So, as we reflect on our recent visit to Israel and those we spent time with --- we find our hearts filled with an earnest expectation of what the Lord has in store for these wonderful pioneers we have been honored to serve. And we would implore you to be praying with us for these our brethren in Israel, and for these most significant unfolding issues.

The world is looking for answers. Answers we’ve already been given --- answers tied to the principles of the riches of His Kingdom. Lord, grant us seeing eyes and hearing ears to enable us to recognize and employ the keys needed to enter more fully into the operation of Your Kingdom.


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