By Eitan Shishkoff
My least favorite letters are probably “N/A.” Why? Because it means that the item or service I want is Not Available. If we get frustrated when we see N/A, what does God experience when He’s seeking to get our attention, or to instruct us/ warn us/lead us—and He sees those initials next to our name?
We live anticipating the fulfillment of Joel’s attention-grabbing prophecy. In the last days, God will pour out His Spirit upon the sons and daughters of Israel and upon all flesh ( Joel 2:28ff). Yet I’ve asked myself, “Am I ready for such an outpouring?” I have this hunch that it’s not going to be like I expect. Rather, it will be unpredictable, radical, and even offensive to many. How will I respond? Will I be ready? Will it pass me by? Will I become the harvester I long to be, during the final harvest before Yeshua returns? A key ingredient will be AVAILABILITY.
To what can we liken availability? It’s like the soil that is freshly plowed and ready to receive seed. As hippie farmers we learned about soil. When it was full of clay, it baked quickly to a hard crust when water was scarce. Too much sand and the seed had nothing to grab onto. Thick sod, unworked for years became impenetrable – packed with countless interwoven grass roots.
In Yeshua’s parable He emphasized the need for our hearts to be like rich, open soil in order to bring a lush crop. If the seed lands on the road, or the soil is filled with rocks or weeds – no crop. These resemble our stubbornness, our coveting more things, and our fear of others’ opinions. His imagery questions our availability. Is my heart ready to receive the seed of God’s word, of His requirements, of His transforming interaction with me? “Break up your fallow ground,” the prophet Hosea challenges, “for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12).
Like the Womb
Miriam was caught off guard by Gabriel’s bizarre announcement. How could she bear a child, conceived of the Holy Spirit, without normal marital relations? Despite the shock she replied,“Be it unto me according to your word.” She made her womb available to God for His purposes. No way could she comprehend the consequences. From her availability came eternal world redemption!
The womb is a place of conception, a place of creation, a place that brings forth new life. Is my life available to God in womb-like receptivity? Guys, this is not a female thing. This is a human thing. The Lord is looking for those who, like Isaiah, will see Him, confront their own need for cleansing, receive His purification, and make themselves wholly available.“Here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:8).
Of course there are barriers to availability. You and I are not inclined to open our life wide to God or others if we’ve been abused, betrayed, unfairly criticized, ridiculed, or rejected. If that’s the case, our heart needs the power of repentance, healing, and renovation. True availability happens in the heart.
Like a Tender Heart
Availability consists of surrender, imagination, breaking down walls. Surrender is setting aside our private agenda. Imagination is inviting God to create through us. Breaking down walls? Well you know what that is. It’s removing the places of insecurity and fear that drive us away from God’s purposes and our best self. Spiritually speaking, new life is conceived in the heart. As fertile soil or an empty womb, our heart is designed to receive the seed of God’s word, His life, His Spirit. We have to remove the off-limits, “do-not-walk-here” sign we’ve put up—selfishly declaring that our life is “private property.” Then, it is time to deny ourselves, and open our heart wide to God, without fear of abuse or exploitation. Then He will pour out His Spirit upon us. Then we will be an open channel for His healing and salvation.
The cliché is true: “The most important ability is availability.”May you be fully available for the history making purposes of God in the days ahead.
Tikkun Network Celebrates 30 Years
What were we doing in 1984? It seems so long ago. Still in our 30’s, we had discovered the Lord’s heart for congregations to gather together in covenant cooperation and mutual upbuilding. We began with four or five congregations (Beth Messiah, Ohev Yisrael, Rosh Pina, Ahavat Yeshua, and El Shaddai). Since then the American network has grown to twenty and the related kehilot (congregations) in Israel number seven (five with Tents of Mercy and two with Revive Israel).
This year’s gathering in Ellicott City, Maryland began with leadership equipping and fellowship. Wonderfully applicable messages helped equip congregational leaders for their essential tasks of feeding the flock and building the body. Teachers included David McQueen, Frank Susler, Don Finto, Dan Juster, Eitan Shishkoff, and Chad Holland. The sessions were punctuated with tension-releasing self-deprecating humor. It was good to laugh at ourselves and to realize that we all walk through similar struggles. At the same time, challenging standards were placed before us, reminding us that we are charged with the progress of the Jewish movement for Messiah Yeshua. We believe that the timing of His coming is closely related to Israel’s spiritual harvest.
Noticeable was the increased role of next generation leaders. These men and their wives, already near or beyond 40 years of age, led meetings, provided organizational cohesion, and exuded “ownership.” These essential contributions signal a successful “hand-off” of top level leadership from the generation of founders to the sons.
Marty Goetz moved the general conference to tears and laughter with his passionate praise, worship, and testimony. Our dear veteran brother poured himself out, touching deep cords of love for Yeshua. He helped us experience the feeling of being a family, hanging out together, enjoying our shared heritage and valuable future.
That dynamic of family hit me more than ever before. I found myself looking out on the many hundreds of attendees and thinking “Wow. I’ve known some of these people more than thirty years. What a history we’ve been given together! I’m so thankful that, as congregational leaders, we didn’t split up, but chose to walk the costly road of keeping covenant. I love these folks so much. What a gift to be a part of this family of the Messiah’s communities.”