Perfection vs Excellence

Have you ever felt uncomfortable around a perfectionist? Or perhaps you have gathered a long retinue of disappointments from people who you thought should have done something better.  Perfectionism, whether you are on the receiving end of someone else’s expectations and have failed to meet them or you as the perfectionist find yourself constantly disappointed by others, both are doomed to a life of misery and eventual isolation.  Some perfectionists turn their unrealistic expectations upon themselves and live with debilitating low self-esteem. Perfectionism allows no room for weakness, mishaps or lack in the area the perfectionist deems is most important.  Perfectionism creates fear of failure.

Excellence on the other hand makes room for the imperfect missteps all people occasionally experience by recognizing the worth of each individual and seeing the potential that resides in all people.  Excellence takes realistic inventory of a person’s strengths and weaknesses and celebrates the accomplishments of hard work, no matter the outcome.  Excellence looks to the character of a person and casts light on the possibilities that exist rather than failures.  Excellence provides the incentive for those who are weak to aspire and attempt something they may have otherwise not due to fear of failure.  Excellence forgives and graciously accepts the weaknesses of others and self while encouraging hope for a positive lesson that can be used to strengthen their area of weakness.

God calls us to a life of excellence not perfection.  Yeshua the Messiah took upon Himself the penalty for all our sins and imperfections. When we repent, He helps us live lives filled with His love and  grace.  His grace bestows us with the power to live a life of excellence.

I Corinthians 12:31 (NIV) says, “And now, I will show you the most excellent way.” The chapter following that verse is the well-known chapter on LOVE.  So loving others God’s way is the excellent way to live.  Philippians 4:8 (NIV) says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.”

Blinded by Expectations

As this is the week leading up to Passover, the crucifixion of the Passover Lamb – Yeshua, and His resurrection, I ask the question, what are your expectations surrounding a Messiah, a Savior?  Are they based on tradition?  Are they perhaps mixed with cultural fables or even personal imaginary expectations? Let’s look at Yeshua (Jesus) and His disciples and what they expected.

Even Yeshua’s own disciples had flawed expectations of what Israel’s Messiah would look like.  In Luke 22:49, we read that one of His disciples took his sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the High Priest when Yeshua was being arrested.  The mistaken belief of the Jewish people then and apparently now was that Messiah would come as a deliverer and king who would rule with military force.  Yet, many prophets tried to correct that thinking and prepare the people to turn to Adonai with a pure heart.  Isaiah 53 clearly depicts Messiah as the Suffering Servant who would die a gruesome death to ransom the lives of those who put their trust in Him.

Acts 1:6-7 recalls a conversation between Yeshua and His disciples when they asked Him when He would restore self-rule of the Kingdom to Israel.  They didn’t understand that He must first come as Redeemer before He would come as King to establish His Kingdom rule where Torah would be written on their hearts.  Throughout the Tanakh (Old Testament) the term, ‘world to come’ is cited. Ezekiel 36:24-28 describes the new heart where the Holy Spirit would reside so Israel could live in the Land and walk out the Torah in the way they live (and those who embrace the Messiah of Israel.)

It is interesting to view the conversation found in Luke 23:43 between Yeshua and the repentant thief who was on the execution stake beside Him.  Yeshua said, (in many translations) “Today you will be with Me in Paradise.” David Stern’s notes in “The Complete Jewish Study Bible”  tells us that literally it can be read in Hebrew as Gan-Eden or Garden of Eden. Gan-Eden is the expression for ‘Paradise’ from the Greek paradeisos in the LXX (see Gen.2:8).

May I suggest that the world to come will be a restoration of the Garden of Eden before all creation was altered when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Yeshua Messiah will come again as King of Israel in Jerusalem, where the Jewish people will all know Him and have His Torah written upon their heart along with all the nations that embrace Him as Messiah of Israel and Savior of the nations of the world who put their trust in Him.

Misplaced Expectations

Have you ever had someone say to you, “I need you to … (fill in the blank) for me to … (fill in the blank)? That is a classic example of misplaced expectations. Many people, like me, who have grown up in dysfunctional families develop an inflated sense of responsibility.  Instead of politely responding to the unreasonable projected expectation by saying, “While I respect your need to have… (fill in the blank) to meet your need for …. (fill in the blank), I am not able to fulfill that request.” That response respects the other person’s need and respects your choice as to whether it is something you can or are willing to do it or not.

However, most people come from some type of past dysfunction and respond to another’s misplaced expectation by either making an excuse, getting angry or by avoiding the other person.

Sound familiar? I must confess that I am still a work in progress and tend to internalize, the unrealistic expectation, make and excuse and follow it by avoidance.  However, I don’t need to stay there!  Sometimes, I do respond in a healthy and respectful way, but when I don’t, I can stop right there, thank the Lord for showing me my brokenness and surrender it to Him.  I can choose to short circuit the destructive dysfunctional cycle and allow God’s grace to meet my repentant heart with forgiveness, and then I can go to the other person and ask for forgiveness for my broken response.  That doesn’t mean I agree to do what was inappropriately expected.  It just means we can go back to the point of exchange and respond in a respectful, kind and appropriate way. In Matt. 18, Yeshua instructs us to go to the other person to make right our part of the wrong, with the hope of reconciliation.

But, if after doing that, the other person chooses not to reconcile, we can forgive and pray for the other person and rest in God’s shalom. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Although we can’t choose for another, we can choose to live our lives in the way of the Lord that brings His shalom.

“Who said it is Law versus Grace?”

In the Gospels, when reading about the woman caught in adultery, have you ever tried to guess what Yeshua wrote in the sand? Instead, did we think to ask where the “other person” with whom she was caught in the act with was?  Isn’t he guilty of the same sin? What sin might the crowd gathering around her be committing?

In the Law, Deuteronomy 17:6-7 clearly spells out the conditions and purposes for exacting judgment on those committing sins worthy of death. Verse 8 tells us the purpose for judging the sin – to purge evil from the community of God.  Was she the only one committing evil? Where was her partner?  How were they able to catch her in the act without also catching her partner in the act? Two to three firsthand witnesses were required, who possessed a humble, righteous heart filled only with the purpose of keeping evil out of, not perpetuating evil in the community, to condemn the guilty.  These witnesses had to be so convinced of their own righteous, godly heart in the matter and that the guilty party was totally deserving of death, that they were assigned the responsibility of being the first executioners, after which the community would follow them.  For one to do this, he had to be confident he would not be risking judgment on his own unrepentant heart.

Now – with that in mind, why do you suppose Yeshua said to the crowd, “He who is without sin, you cast the first stone.”  Because it was legal!  The Torah required those who committed adultery to be put to death.  Yeshua said He didn’t come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it. He is the Lawgiver who said until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or tittle would pass away. Matt. 5:17-18.  Yeshua did not have an issue with the Law.  His issue was with those who were attempting to twist it for their own ends.  Adonai, in His infinite mercy, built into the Law His grace that seeks all people to repent of sin and be forgiven.  Yeshua, in His infinite love came to pay the ultimate price for our sin.

When truly understanding the Commandments of God, we will learn that Grace and Mercy are at the very core of them.

What’s in a Name?

What's in a name? Yeshua or Jesus?

Messiah didn't seem to be concerned about how I addressed Him.  He was more concerned with what was in my heart concerning his Name.  I struggled with Yeshua at first, then I realized how when I met someone from another country who adapted or translated her name to make it more comfortable for us in this country, I was struck by how willing, even desirous I was to learn her name  as it was given to her out of love, honor and respect for her.  So, why was there hesitation within me regarding my Savior's Name?  Was it the intimacy I had known when calling Him Jesus or was it something else, age old, not on the conscious mind that brought resistance?

He was happy for me to call Him Jesus, but was silent as I pondered the internal turmoil. He was present in the turmoil but allowed me the grace and freedom to wrestle with my own soul.

Today, I interchangeably call Him by both names but have found His sweet intimate desire to commune with me as I call Him either one.  Yeshua is the name He was given and will have for all eternity.  Jesus, like any of the other translations and pronunciations of that name various cultures use will all fade away someday, but Yeshua was His given name and still is to this day and will be for all eternity.  So, why the resistance?  Could it be the way we view the Jewish people?  Israel?  The Church?  Just as my foreign friends appreciated my effort to call them by their given name but in no way ever expected or requested it, how does our Savior think about our calling Him by His given name?

I propose that it is all a matter of the motivation of the heart.  If it is to find favor, seek to get "in" closer (by our effort) or for others recognition, I would think He would prefer we call Him what is true, honest, and truly honoring Him, not any man made exaltation.  But if it is because we "see" who He is as Israel's Messiah who gave His life for us all, and come with truly repentant hearts and humbly with sincere gratitude desire to know Him for who He is and not merely who we have been taught that He is, then He is pleased when we call Him Yeshua.

It isn't about the name, but rather the relationship we have with "haShem" the Name, that is for the Jewish people too holy to speak or write.

Let us approach His throne of grace boldly, asking Him to reveal the true condition of our heart, knowing He has already purchased our forgiveness and invite His cleansing work to purify us until we become His holy Bride.

So Who is Your Real Enemy?

Ephesians 6:12 tells us our real enemies are not people.  Does that mean that people never pose a real threat to us? Absolutely not! In fact, for those who find themselves victims of abuse, sometimes removing oneself from the abusive situation is the ONLY right action to take.  But from there, once a person is away from danger, there is another enemy we can't escape - the prince of this world, satan our adversary.  Yeshua said, "In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33

So, how do we live in that tension?  The most effective weapon our real adversary, who is not of human origin, uses is the lies he convinces us are true.  It isn't the abuse in my life that truly damaged me but rather the lies I believed as a result of them.  Those lies took on a life of their own and influenced many of my bad choices.

So, what is the Good News? Yeshua came to set the captives free!  How does He do that daily for me?  He teaches me more about His character, through His Word and causes Truth (He is Truth - John 14:6) to rise up within me and He who is Truth sets me free from the cycle and bondage that enslaved me.

So, is it a once and for all event?  No, it is by walking with Him in  daily relationship and fellowship that He transforms our lives.  We are in a process of change that won't be fully realized until we are living in the world to come.

Be encouraged - He who began that good work in you (or for some who have not yet begun that journey with Him) He is faithful to complete it. Philippians 1:6