For the last seven or eight years, my family has attended a wonderful, large independent charismatic church in Jacksonville called Celebration Church. The lead pastor, Stovall Weems, and his wife, Kerri, are responsible for some 20,000 people on three continents! By this time, you may have even seen Pastor Stovall and I along with Jonathan on one of the Jewish Voice broadcasts telling the story of how Yeshua visited Celebration Church last year on Passover (go to: jewishvoice.org/watch/all). As you might imagine, it was a transformational moment in the life of pastor Stovall and the entire church family!
Why mention this here? Let me take a few lines to explain. Prior to Passover 2018, Celebration Church was a dynamic, Spirit-filled, evangelistic, worshiping church ... but with no real understanding of the importance of Israel, the Jewish people, the Feasts, the Kingdom, and more. The large and anointed staff was concerned with growing a large church even larger and becoming more influential in the cities where they were planted. The theme or motto of the church was “The God First Life,” and they were doing just fine until a divine interruption changed everything.
From the very first moments after Pastor Stovall had his encounter (an open vision) with the living Jesus, his perspective on many things gained a Kingdom supercharger. He became a voracious reader and student of all things Kingdom. One of the major shifts was the emphasis on the Table of the Lord, communion. Others were water baptism, the Feasts and the Shabbat in particular. One of the biggest motivators toward all this was found in what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer” found in Matthew 6:9–13. The phrase that really began to take on a whole new meaning is verse 10, which says, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth … AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.” How so? You see, while we were celebrating the Passover here in Jacksonville, Florida, it appears that Heaven was celebrating the Passover there at the appointed time!
Do you see what I am saying here? The intention for us all being “a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a people belonging to God” is that we would be a mirror reflection of heavenly life right here on earth … as it is in heaven! And this has carried over into all aspects of our lives ever since this divine encounter. The language of our worship has changed to a more intimate expression, taking time to listen for the voice of the Spirit and to minister His life to one another during the services. Our homes have become a focal point for raising up sons and daughters in faith, dad and mom as the priests of their home, opening up their doors to welcome neighbors and guests, and to introduce them to Yeshua. The table of the Lord has been extended to our homes, and the covenant of His body and blood is shared in most homes on Shabbat.
Giving has also been radically affected by this Kingdom download. Offerings and tithes are now brought to the house of the Lord and placed in tzedakah boxes mounted on the walls. We no longer pass buckets or offering baskets after a lengthy teaching on the blessing of giving. People will come during worship as families and present their tithes and offerings to the Lord with thanksgiving and prayer. “So what about Israel and the Jewish people?” you might ask. Well, this year, for the very first time, Celebration Church celebrated the Feast of Firstfruits by receiving a ‘first fruits’ offering that is being placed into ministries we know and love in the land of Israel! In fact, on a recent trip to Jerusalem together, Pastor Stovall whispered in my ear, “no Jew left behind.” I knew what he meant, and he is demonstrating his convictions with remarkable results.
You see, giving, like anything else in the Kingdom, is the result of a relationship, not done out of necessity or obligation. The Kingdom operates on an entirely different system from the kingdoms of this world. The world’s system is one of buying and selling, debt, percentages, obligations, bills, etc. But God’s Kingdom is built on sowing and reaping, seedtime and harvest. In fact, Yeshua himself said that if you do not understand this principle, then you will not understand anything about the Kingdom! In Romans 1 the Apostle Paul tells us that the Gospel is to the Jew first and also for the nations. Again, sowing and reaping, in their proper order, done as a result of a relationship, will yield incredible blessings.
There were three times every year when the Lord told Israel to come up to Jerusalem to meet with Him. The instructions were very simple: come before the Lord – and do not come empty handed. We are finding that simple obedience is much more effective than a sacrifice. I admit, some of these things we have been walking in are not familiar to the western church world. But, they are firmly rooted and grounded in Scripture, and when done in the Spirit, out of love and relationship, the fruit is undeniable.
So this High Holiday season, I pray for you and your house to have an encounter with the Living Yeshua
that will see His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth … as it is in Heaven!