Crystal Writes A Blog

A place to read what Crystal writes

Don’t Bring Me Cows


Cattle on a Hill by Flickr User thskyt, CC License = Attribution

Cattle on a Hill by Flickr User thskyt, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

There was a time in my life when I thought I wanted to become an animal trainer, so I went to a presentation at a school for that. When I asked about financial aid, I was told with a wink, “We can work something out.” I never went back. I was much younger (and much thinner ūüôā ) then, so it wasn’t the only time someone tried to manipulate me for my affections. “Be my girlfriend, and I’ll give you a nice home to live in,” said a few guys who were old enough to be my father, but I wasn’t interested in them no matter what their offerings.

Most people like to be wanted for who they are, not purchased for what they can give, and I think God is the same way. He doesn’t have a price on His love. We can’t, as it says in the song in the video at the end of this post, pay off The Lord.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 26:12 through Deuteronomy 26:15, Moses tells Israel how to offer the three-year tithe on produce. At four verses, it’s a short enough reading that I’m going to paste it, but since you can click to read it in the Complete Jewish Bible, I’m going to paste it here from The Message Bible

Every third year, the year of the tithe, give a tenth of your produce to the Levite, the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow so that they may eat their fill in your cities. And then, in the Presence of God, your God, say this:

I have brought the sacred share,
I’ve given it to the Levite, foreigner, orphan, and widow.
What you commanded, I’ve done.
I haven’t detoured around your commands,
I haven’t forgotten a single one.
I haven’t eaten from the sacred share while mourning,
I haven’t removed any of it while ritually unclean,
I haven’t used it in funeral feasts.
I have listened obediently to the Voice of God, my God,
I have lived the way you commanded me.

Look down from your holy house in Heaven!
Bless your people Israel and the ground you gave us,
just as you promised our ancestors you would,
this land flowing with milk and honey.

God wants an offering that comes from a lawful heart, so the statements that accompany the offering are a chance for the one making the offering to proclaim his love for his Creator. His prayer, like the words above, might say, “Lord, I love You so much, I’ve kept every one of Your commands; I haven’t changed anything about any of them, and I haven’t forgotten any. I set this special offering aside for You, and I didn’t use it for anything else because You’re special to me. Look down to me as I look up to You in praise.”

No one wants others in their lives who are only there to buy affections. They want to be wanted. We all want to be wanted. We don’t want gifts with strings attached that make it seem¬†like the gifts are not really gifts but payoffs instead. God feels the same way, and He deserves our best. He wants us to come to Him with love great enough that it stirs us to holiness for His sake. He wants us to bring Him gifts that we choose¬†for Him out of love, not just leftovers we couldn’t give to someone else.

By the way, God doesn’t hate cows, but He would rather have your pure and true love than every cow on every hill in the world. Besides, He already owns the cows on a thousand hills, so keep it simple; don’t bring God cows, bring Him your heart.

And now, enjoy this ApologetiX parody of ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down” called¬†Don’t Bring Me Cows

August 31, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Harvest of Joy


David and Crystal's Harvest of Joy--1st Garden, Summer 2014, Dutch Street, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

David and Crystal’s Harvest of Joy–1st Garden, Summer 2014, Dutch Street, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

When I was a child, I helped my grandparents with a few garden plants, but the only one I grew on my own was the peanut plant inside the house. It wasn’t until this year, my fiftieth year of life, that I actually knew the joy of harvesting food from my own garden. I’ve been excited to share it with others, too. Somehow, I get this feeling from growing my food from a seed or small plant that feels like God grew a treasure just for me. And then I look at the seeds and how these wonderful foods provide what we need to regrow them right there inside. The whole thing has really amazed me. It’s hard to tell in the pictures, but the zucchini grew so huge that I cut one in big slices and had a friend grill the slices. Then, I put a slice on a hamburger bun and added all the usual condiments and toppings. I was surprised at how much it tasted like a grilled hamburger.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 26:1 through Deuteronomy 26:11, we begin a new week and a new portion. Parashah 50 is called Ki Tavo in Hebrew and means “When You Come” in English. Moses talks all about the harvests in the new land of Israel’s inheritance, and he tells them what to do with the first fruits of their harvests. Moses tells the Israelites to put their first fruits in a basket and go to the place God has instructed to keep His name (the temple). They will present their basket to the priest who will place it before the altar of God.

After the basket is sitting at the altar, the presenter will recite the history of his ancestors as they came to Egypt few in number and left as a great nation. He will tell about their slavery and how God delivered them with strength and with signs and wonders. He will then lift up a praise that talks of how God has brought them to this new land as he speaks of that being the reason he is able to bring the first fruits of his harvest to the priest and to God. As he places his basket before God, he will bow down on his face and take joy in his harvest. Here’s how verses 10 & 11 read in the New Living Testament…

And now, O Lord, I have brought you the first portion of the harvest you have given me from the ground.’ Then place the produce before the Lord your God, and bow to the ground in worship before him. Afterward you may go and celebrate because of all the good things the Lord your God has given to you and your household. Remember to include the Levites and the foreigners living among you in the celebration.

The Complete Jewish Bible uses “take joy” where the NLT says “go and celebrate,” but both are true. And I love that God has passed along to His people that He wants them to take joy and celebrate the bounty that He has given them. Part of the celebration includes sharing with the priest, sharing with neighbors, and enjoying some of first fruits themselves. God was generous with Israel every step of the way, and He is generous with us each step of the way as well.

While we can bring first fruits to our church representatives now, in the form of tithe, we have another harvest that will bring us even more joy. I don’t know about you, but I never got to share and partake of my tithe, so this harvest is the one that I can see true joy within. Yeshua told the disciples that the fields were white and ripe for harvest, but there were not enough disciples to work the fields. Those ripe fields are still with us, and we are the disciples who are needed for the harvest now. It may seem hard at times to just speak out about God, but if you remember the power of your own testimony of salvation, you can tell it to others and use it to draw them in. When they come in, you will reap a harvest of joy, and you will celebrate.

In the meantime, here’s another old favorite song about that harvest of joy from God’s perspective. The song is originally by Lanny Wolfe, and it is called¬†My House is Full… (Plus, this one has beautiful images behind it)…

August 30, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do The Widow and The Orphan Cry Alone?


From the first time I heard songs by Don Francisco, I cried. He really gets to the heart of the gospel with his lyrics, and as a lyricist myself, I truly appreciate his honesty.¬†The Steeple Song is one of those that asks the tough questions, including the one in the title. In addition, the song asks, “Do you make the poor man beg you for a bone?” It’s a song that reminds us what it means to ask and answer WWJD. I recommend a view of the video at YouTube where you can read the lyrics as the video plays; though the clarity of Don’s voice is such that you should be able to understand them either way.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 24:14 through Deuteronomy 25:19 (the end of the chapter), we conclude another portion and another week. Shabbat Shalom. It’s a pretty long reading, but the theme is pretty much about caring for others. It begins with Moses warning Israel not to exploit any hired workers who are poor and needy. Whether they are brothers or foreigners, if they don’t pay them as they earn, Moses says they will cry out to God, and the sin will be on the boss who is withholding pay.

In addition to pay, Moses tells Israel not to withhold justice from the foreigner or orphan, and to remember they were once the same in Egypt. He also tells them that fathers and sons shouldn’t be executed for each other’s crimes.

Moses then talks to the people about sharing with the foreigner, orphan, and widow. He says that if they forget to harvest a grain, or if they beat an olive tree, or harvest a vineyard, they should not go back to make sure all the harvesting is done with nothing left. Any food remaining in the field, on the tree, or on the vine should be left for those in need. (My note: I notice that neither God nor Moses said to feed the needy by just giving it to them without making them do some kind of work for it. We should freely give to others, and our money is often our produce now, but it’s not wrong to want those in need to do their part–whatever they can do.)

As the chapter changes, Moses talks to them about disputes. When a judge decides in a dispute that one person is wicked, that person¬†must be flogged in the judge’s presence. The number of strokes must match the crime but never be more than forty.

Now Moses comes back to the subject of husbands and wives. If a husband dies while his wife is still childless, his brother must marry his widow and deem her first child as if it belongs to his brother. If he refuses, she will take him to the elders and perform a ritual that includes spitting and removing one shoe. It’s kind of funny to read about a family that all in town would then call “the family of the man who had his sandal pulled off.” But, that’s still better than being called the family of the woman who had her hand cut off, which is what will happen if a woman grabs a man’s private parts in an attempt to break up a fight between him and her husband.

Last, Moses talks about balance. Men should not carry two sets of weights in their packs since all people should be treated the same, including when it comes to weights and measures. Correct and fair weights and measures come with a promise of prolonged life in the promised land of inheritance. And then Moses tells Israel to remember what Amalek did to them while they were tired and weary on the road from Egypt. He wants them to remember being vulnerable, so they can see that Amalek has no fear of God, and needs to be dealt with. He says that when they have had their rest, they are to pursue Amalek until their names are blotted out from under Heaven.

That’s a lot of teaching for one sitting, but all of it has the theme of how to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ and how to care for others whether or not they are brothers or foreigners, and whether they are poor adults or widows or orphaned children. Well, maybe the part about the wife’s hand isn’t on that theme, but all of it still has the theme of not mistreating others. In God’s plan of perfection, there will not be one person who thinks he is so much better than others that he has a right to harm them. Israel is always reminded to look back at Egypt, so she will not forget that life is about God’s provision, and He deserves all the praise for her deliverance and day to day life.

We, too, can look back at our own form of Egypt and remember that God’s grace is sufficient enough that we can become givers and offer love to everyone, no matter what their status. There are a lot of hurting people out there, and it’s not only our church cliques or our families that need a smile, a hug, or maybe a meal. If there is a need that God wants us to fill, and we turn our heads, we may be in for a “movie” one day where we see that head turn saved and shown at judgment. But, by God’s wonderful and amazing grace, we can repent now before it becomes a major box office flop. (No one wants to see a movie about selfishness, right?) May there be many who will care for the widows and orphans and foreigners instead of letting them cry alone.

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

War Brides and Common Sense Collateral


Marching Off to War by Flickr User Cenz, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Marching Off to War by Flickr User Cenz, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I had finally met the love of my life, and he was too far away for me to see him in person. We spoke over the phone for the first time on February 12th, 1991. He was in Kentucky, and I was in Massachusetts with a traveling photo studio with whom I was employed to travel all around the United States. At the same time, Operation Desert Shield had just become Operation Desert Storm, and I was afraid David would get sent over to Iraq before we ever got to meet. I figured that would be even worse than being a war bride, so I prayed.

I read in the Bible about the battle between Gideon’s army and the Midianites, and I asked God to create¬†the same scenario and cause the enemy to fight each other to save the lives of U.S. troops. It didn’t happen exactly that way, but many on the enemy’s side did decide that the offer we made them, when we dropped pamphlets explaining how to surrender, was better than risking dying while fighting for Saddam Hussein. So, David didn’t have to go fight, and we were able to meet and eventually marry.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 24:5 through Deuteronomy 24:13, I can understand why Moses told men who just got married that they were not subject to military service for their first year of marriage. I used to laugh at how the King James Version of the Bible said they were to stay home for a year to “cheer up” their wives. I wondered why they needed cheering up if they had just married the men of their dreams. The Complete Jewish Bible simply says they should stay home to make their wives happy. Of course, that would likely give them a chance to help their wives through pregnancy and see their firstborn come into the world as well.

Moses then teaches some common sense about loans and collateral between members of the community of Israel. He tells them not to take the upper part of the millstone (the top wheel in a grinding mechanism) as collateral. Doing so would take away the person’s ability to earn income and repay the loan. I guess it’s kind of like why the government should not tax¬†a small business to closure, so they can’t pay any taxes at all anymore. It’s just simple logic. In addition, Moses tells the lenders they cannot go into homes to collect collateral, but they are to wait outside for the borrowers¬†to bring it to them. For the poor that need a loan, Moses tells the lenders to restore the collateral by sunset, so the borrower will have his clothing to sleep in, and he will bless the lender. Moses calls this an upright deed before God.

There are a couple more rules thrown in the mix of verses for tonight, including the command for the people to remember all they have been taught about cleanliness if they must deal with an outbreak of leprosy. There’s also a rule about kidnapping a brother and making him a slave or selling him. The rule is that the kidnapper must die. I’m certain that rule resulted because¬†of what Joseph’s brothers did to him and because¬†that is what eventually caused Israel to end up in Egypt and in slavery.

As usual, I can see plenty of common sense in the rulings God passed down to Israel through Moses. It seems especially logical for a small community versus the whole world. I believe Israel would have had the closest thing to Heaven on Earth since the Garden of Eden had they kept all these rulings to heart. We should know that God always has our best interest in His heart, as is evidenced by His desire to make sure a marriage was secure before allowing a husband to go to war. Even when we don’t understand it, God knows which behaviors will bring us closer to a heavenly life, and which will eventually lead to darkness and bondage. Real faith is trusting that God loves us and that His plans for us are always for our well-being¬†and always to bless us with hope and a good future.

Now, speaking of marriage and war brides, the beginning subject in this passage made me think of an old song from 1974 called¬†Billy, Don’t Be A Hero. I like the version by Bo Donaldson and The Heywoods, and I still have most of it memorized from all the times I sang it with a hairbrush microphone. ūüôā Take a walk down memory lane, or enjoy it for the first time…

August 28, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cabernet and Cornbread


Grape Ice Cream by Flickr User Mi Mitrika, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Grape Ice Cream by Flickr User Mi Mitrika, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr where you can find a link to her blog with the recipe–but you’ll need to translate it.

Did you know that there is supposedly no such flavor as grape? I mean, we have what we consider to be grape flavoring, but an article I read said that no one can accurately duplicate the actual flavor of grapes the way they can other fruits. Even grape juice has added flavoring to make it taste like people think a grape should taste. Oh, and according to the article, the hardest ice cream flavor to find is also grape ice cream. I remember grape sherbet at the Thrifty Drug and Discount Store when I was a child, and it was good, but if you didn’t eat it fast, you turned purple.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 23:25 through Deuteronomy 24:4¬†(23:24-24:4 in versions other than CJB) we won’t read about grape flavoring, but we will read about grapes. Moses tells people that they may go into their neighbors vineyard and fields for food, but they may only take what they can eat at that time. They are not to put any of the produce that does not belong to them in a basket to take home with them. So, they can’t take grapes to make Cabernet, and they can’t take home ears of corn to grind into meal to make cornbread.

At the chapter change, Moses talks about marriage. If a man marries a woman and then finds her displeasing, he can divorce her and send her away. If her second husband also finds her displeasing, or if he dies, the first husband cannot take her back. By this point, she is considered to be defiled to her first husband, and his taking her back would be detestable to The Lord. Moses reminds them not to bring about sin in the land of their inheritance.

Since the Scriptures tonight are short, I took a look at some commentary on the above verses, and I learned a few interesting things. The fact that God said fields should be shared by those passing through them (whether they were traveling or were workers and the allowance was the same as not muzzling an ox) was a statement about how abundant their produce would be in the new land. They should be able to share with any who are hungry and not have any lack themselves. And apparently, the rule about not doing that on Sabbath or with unwashed hands was an added rule by the Pharisees.

As for the woman who was divorced, according to the commentary, she was free to get married again since the divorce decree set her free as if her husband had died. But, to keep Israel from copying the Egyptian practices of exchanging wives as they got bored with them, God declared that once a man put away his wife, he could not take her back.¬†And, even without taking her back, we know that Yeshua further qualified these rulings by telling people that the idea of divorce was only given due to the hardness of men’s hearts¬†except for matters of infidelity, but it has never been God’s intention. He wants us to be as willing to commit to seeing our relationships through as He is to seeing His relationship through with us even when we deserve for Him to drop us like a hot potato.

Sometimes, we look at all these instructions, and we see trouble in keeping them. But, like I said last night about exposure making you like something, the more I read God’s written word, the more attracted I am to seeking to please Him in what I do. I believe God wanted a set apart people who didn’t act like those around them with their worship if false gods and their pleasure-seeking ways. He was trying to set up a place for them that would be like Heaven, pure and inviting to Him, so He could spend time with those He loves. Though we are not in Heaven yet, we can work to cleanse ourselves and our lives to be more and more inviting to the presence of God. That will always be the closest we get to Heaven on Earth.

August 27, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Mere Exposure Effect


Mere Exposure Effect Quote on Purple Tessellated Background by Crystal

Mere Exposure Effect Quote on Purple Tessellated Background by Crystal A Murray
Click the image to visit my album of kaleidoscopes and tessellations at Flickr.
P.S. I wonder if I like tiled & mirrored images because they are multiple exposures of beauty.

Okay, so I’m gonna get a little psychological tonight. I found the definition and explanation about the above-titled effect while I was looking up the definition of the word “exposure,” and I just have to share it. Basically, the more familiar something or someone becomes, the more we begin to accept, and even like, that something or someone. If we are exposed to good somethings and positive someones, that can be a good thing, but if the opposite, not a good outcome. I can see how the effect might even be what causes the “stress bonding” of¬†Stockholm Syndrome. More importantly, what I see in Mere-Exposure Effect is an explanation as to why sin will never be allowed to dwell in the holy presence of Yahveh.

In tonight’s reading from Deuteronomy 23:8 through Deuteronomy 23:24 (verses 7-23¬†in versions other than the Complete Jewish Bible), Moses will instruct Israel about the things God does not want to be exposed to. He begins, though, with a reminder for them not to hate the Edomites (they are descended from Esau), or the Egyptians because Israel stayed for a time as strangers in their land. The third generations from both of these are even allowed to join the assembly of The Lord, unlike the Ammonites and Moabites who are forbidden forever.

Moses now reminds Israel that when they are at war with an enemy, it is more important than ever to keep the camp clean. If a man becomes unclean because of a nighttime emission, he must leave the camp, bathe, and return at sunset. There should be a latrine area outside the camp, and the tools there should include a shovel to dig a hole and bury any excrement. The necessity for cleanliness is because Yahveh Almighty walks through the community to help defeat the enemies, and they do not want to expose Him to anything disgusting that would drive Him away when they need Him.

I like the next instruction where Moses tells the people that if a slave runs away from his master, they should take him in and treat him kindly, and they should not send him back to his master or mistreat him. I’m always thought that if I were alive during slavery, I would have been part of the¬†Underground Railroad in helping people get away from abusive slave owners. We read all through the Torah about Israel owning slaves, but this tells me that God did not expect them to put up with abuse just because they were slaves.

The passage then goes back to the cleanliness issue, only this time it is about moral cleanliness. God says there must not be prostitution, either heterosexual or homosexual, in Israel or in the house of The Lord. God detests these things.

Moses repeats a previous command, reminding Israel to never charge interest on loans they make to their brothers, and it doesn’t matter if the loan is on money, food, or something else. They can charge interest to strangers, but never the family of Israel. Instead, they should trust that all their increase will come through The Lord, and that He will provide all they need. The act of not charging interest to a brother comes with a promise that God will prosper Israel in all they set out to do in the new land.

Our reading closes with a reminder that promises are not made to be broken, and that it is better not to make a promise at all than to make one and not keep it. If any kind of vow crosses the lips of one who has the ear of The Lord, He says the person who made the promise must take care to perform whatever they have spoken aloud. Trying to take something back once it goes into the atmosphere is more impossible than putting toothpaste back in the tube. God doesn’t want the atmosphere filled with broken vows.

For those who regularly stop by to read this blog, I am happy to be exposing you to words that will hopefully cause you to love God and His word even more. I encourage you to read more for yourself, so you will be drawn to His desires. I also encourage you to spend as much time with Him as possible, so you will be drawn to His presence. And, from the bottom of my heart, I urge you to pray for discernment of all things and people in your life. This goes for me also, and it includes our friendships, our entertainment, what we watch and¬†read and listen to, and those we bring into our lives to teach us. May God¬†open our eyes and help us to discern what should and should not be regular parts of our lives, and may He¬†prevent us from¬†accepting those things He¬†does not want in¬†our lives simply because we’ve become comfortable with them as an effect of mere exposure.

August 26, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shotgun Wedding


Shotgun Wedding by Flickr User Matthew C Wright, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Shotgun Wedding by Flickr User Matthew C Wright, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I once witnessed a shotgun wedding, and it was pretty funny. It wasn’t the usual case where a woman is pregnant and her father uses a shotgun to make sure the father of the baby will “do the right thing,” but all parties involved got the message. Of course, I only got to see the video tape because I was not a store employee, but they captured the event quite well. The store employees at the K-Mart store in Kingman, Arizona, had a great relationship with their managers and with each other, so they all pulled together for a unique wedding event that involved all of them. Here’s how it went…

Early one morning, a manager showed up for work as usual and was met with a shotgun and a tuxedo. They took him to the back of the store and informed him that he would be representing K-Mart “upper echelon” in a marriage ceremony. My Aunt Shirley was the bride who represented all non-management employees, dubbed “lower echelon” on the marriage certificate. She is one of the few people that could get away with something like that. With a shotgun behind him, the managing groom made vows detailing how management would treat employees from that day forward, and the employee bride made vows detailing how employees would be faithful and respectful all the days of their employment.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 22:8 through Deuteronomy 23:7 (23:6 in versions other than Complete Jewish Bible), Moses issues some more¬†common sense rulings for living at peace in the new land of Israel’s inheritance. He begins by instructing the people to build low walls around the roofs of their houses to keep people from falling off. Then, he explains problems with planting two types of seeds between vine rows or weaving two types of material into cloth, or plowing with an ox and donkey together. None of those ideas will work as smoothly as people might hope.

The next parts of the reading all concern sexual acts, so I recommend reading them yourself, but I’ll give a quick summary. If a man suddenly decides he’s no longer in love and tries to get out of a marriage by saying his wife wasn’t a virgin, then if the man is proven to be lying, he is not allowed to divorce the woman and must pay a fine for publicly humiliating a virgin of Israel. If a man sleeps with a woman who is married to another man, they are both to be stoned. (Yeshua could’ve written this verse in the dirt when the men brought only the woman caught in adultery.) If a man rapes an engaged woman and she doesn’t cry out, they are both killed, but if she does cry out and no one hears her, only he dies. If he rapes an unengaged woman, he is sentenced to marry her and never file for divorce.

That last one is my favorite because I can imagine the scenario with guys blaming a woman for how she’s dressed and how he couldn’t help himself. I see the lonely woman admitting to provocative clothing and then winking when the judge sentences them both to marriage. There were likely situations where the guys wished for imprisonment instead, and I think this is God’s idea of a shotgun wedding and includes a bit of His sense of humor even though it’s¬†not a humorous situation.

What would be the last verse of Chapter 22 is the first of Chapter 23 in the CJB (and he explains his reasoning for these differences in the front of the Complete Jewish Bible), and it reminds men they are never to take their father’s wife. From there, it gives a list of those who cannot enter into the assembly of The Lord, including a man with damaged private parts, a man with no father, or any Ammonite or Moabite because they would not care for the children of Israel when they passed through their land. Oh, and because they hired Balaam to try and destroy them too. Because of these things, God says for them not to seek their peace or wellbeing for as long as they live.

When I read that last part, I became concerned because of knowing that Yeshua’s genealogy contained Ruth the Moabitess. If they were never allowed in The Lord’s assembly, that could create quite a problem. I made a guess and was correct that the lineage in question was in Joseph’s line, so Yeshua had no Moabite blood in Him. This may actually be another reason God chose to overshadow Miriam (Mary) to create the “Unique Son” that is Our Messiah. God would never violate His own commandments, even if someone were standing over Him with a shotgun. ūüôā

August 25, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pride, Pity, and Proverbial Prudence


Proverbs 22:4 by Flickr User Dr. Michael D Evans, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Proverbs 22:4 by Flickr User Dr. Michael D Evans, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

What do you find in common with the following idioms/proverbs?

  1. Finders, keepers; losers, weepers.
  2. Move your meat, lose your seat.
  3. Paybacks are paid back.
  4. He who laughs last, laughs best.
  5. Every man for himself.
  6. Talk to the hand, the hand understands.
  7. Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.

Me, I find selfishness, self-centeredness, and a total lack of compassion. I have never liked any of these idioms or ones like them. In them, I find a world of darkness with no joy and no peace, and it’s a place most of us likely have dwelt, but I’d guess few want to live there. While there are times our compassion may be unappreciated, and maybe even times where we’re used and abused for being kind and compassionate, the inside feeling is better than the emptiness of living only to ourselves. God created our world for receiving by giving. His word puts it this way in Luke 6:38 (KJV for familiarity)…

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 21:22 through Deuteronomy 22:7, Moses recaps a bit more from the law under which Israel will live in the land of their inheritance. He begins by telling them that in cases of capital crime where an offender is hanged on a tree, the community needs to take him down and bury him the same day because of the curse associated with death by hanging. Leaving the body in the tree will defile the land. Personally, I like this command because I don’t think I’d want to see death displayed before me day after day. It can only create pride or pity, neither of which are good for us.

At the chapter change, the subject changes to how men should treat properties belonging to their brothers. The first command speaks the exact opposite of the first idiom mentioned above. It says that if someone sees his brother’s animal wandering off, he should not act like he didn’t see anything, but he should take it back to the rightful owner. If his brother is gone, or if he doesn’t know who the owner is, he should keep it and¬†care for it until it can be returned. This command goes for animals, clothing, and anything else someone loses. If the people find anything a brother loses, they must not ignore it, and this also applies if the animal is collapsed in the road and needs help getting up. This certainly defies idiom number 5.

The next command tells the community how to dress to impress. A man should not wear clothes that belong to a woman, and a woman should not wear clothes that belong to a man. Whoever dresses in the other gender’s clothing is detestable to God.

I want to note here that I believe this is talking about clothes that actually belong to the other gender, as in having been worn by them and carrying bodily chemicals that are gender-specific, but I’m not certain. It makes sense because of¬†women and anything they touch being¬†considered unclean during their time of the month. If it is talking about actual “cross-dressing,” I can’t see it being detestable to God to dress in a costume for a play, or for a woman to put on her husband’s jacket when she’s cold. I can, however, see it being detestable for someone to purposely try to become something other than what God made him or her to be.

The last command in today’s reading speaks of finding a bird’s nest in a tree or on the ground. If the mother is sitting on chicks or eggs, the finder is to let the mother go but may keep the chicks. In the reading, it says this will cause things to go well with the community and prolong people’s lives.¬†I don’t know if this is for the purpose of raising the chicks or eating the eggs. Either will allow the mother bird to be free to lay more eggs.

Much of what we’ve studied in almost a year of Torah reading seems to come down to two things: common sense (prudence), and trusting in God’s perspective–which is also common sense. If we believe that God created the world, it is common sense to think He will know the best way to live in it and take care of it. If we believe He created us, then trusting His instruction for our life manual also seems sensible. Simply looking at the laws of the harvest (only gaining a harvest by planting something¬†and only¬†growing¬†whatever we plant) should be enough to show that living only to ourselves will not result in growth or abundance. If we think our lives will work any differently, it’s pride. If we think someone else doesn’t deserve to reap what they sow, that’s unearned pity. If we can tell the difference in proverbs to live by and those to avoid, that’s proverbial prudence, common sense, and Godly wisdom.

August 24, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rejection Hurts


Everyone Says Love Hurts by Flickr User Live Life Happy, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Everyone Says Love Hurts by Flickr User Live Life Happy, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I watched her from the bus stop, and I cried. A young girl, probably about 15 years old, approached car after car offering her “services,” and driver after driver rejected her. A part of me wanted to run up to her and bring her the message that God would not reject her, but I was scared. I was in an unfamiliar area of downtown Los Angeles, it was getting dark, and I wouldn’t have known what to do with her if she said she wanted to talk more since we were miles from where I went to church. I prayed for her; and whoever and wherever she is, I still pray for her and others like her.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 21:10 through Deuteronomy 21:21, we begin a new week and a new portion in the Torah. Parashah 49 is Ki Tetze in Hebrew and means “When You Go Out” in English. Moses brings more of God’s words to Israel, and begins this section telling them how to deal with prisoners of war. If a man sees a female prisoner and decides he would like her for a wife, he is to bring her home for a month. While there, she will shave her head, cut her fingernails, and remove her prison clothing, and then she can mourn her parents for a month. After that, the man may consummate a marriage with her.

The next instruction is to the man should he lose interest in his POW bride. If that happens, he must let her go where she wishes, and he must not sell her or treat her like a slave because he has humiliated her. I’m not certain if the humiliation is from taking away her purity, shaving her head, or simply rejecting her, but I’m glad that God makes a way for even enemies to not have rejection heaped upon rejection.

We humans sure can be an unloving bunch of folks, though. The next part of the reading instructs a man who marries two women and loves one but not the other. If they both bear his children, the man is not allowed to show favor to the child of the loved wife if his firstborn seed actually belongs to the unloved wife. All rights that go to a firstborn (and remember that God said all firstborn are His and are blessed by Him) are still due him, and the father must give him a double portion of everything he owns.

While God makes a way for those rejected by others, He also makes a way for those parents rejected by their children, but it’s not quite as rewarding as freedom or double portions. If a parent complains that his child is stubborn, rebellious, lives drunk & wild, and refuses to listen, they are tasked with taking the child before the town leaders. All the men of the town are told to stone the boy to death in order to put an end to anymore such bad behavior. I know a few young men that would no longer be with us if we still did things according to this order.

I can see from reading all of this that God is not a big fan of rejection anymore than I am. Maybe He even suggested marriage for the enemy prisoner because He knew the pain would be less than rotting in prison, or maybe God hoped the community would draw the woman into His love. It appears God is using every opportunity, whether it’s making a father keep his priorities with his first-born son or having the townsmen deliver parents from a troublesome child, to relieve people of their rejection.

I believe God still wants us set free from rejection and other hurts. I think He was watching that girl I saw from the bus stop, and He put that compassion and prayer for her in my heart. I hope God sent someone to rescue her, that she accepted the help, and that God will be able to introduce her to me when we get to Heaven. Rejection hurts. That’s why God took the greatest rejection in existence upon Himself. I mean, what could be worse than offering the greatest love one can give¬†and having it rejected by so many? But, for those of us who accept it, all of Heaven rejoices. So, even though rejection hurts, when God walks onto the scene, His love heals.

I’ll close with this great Gaither video (with lyrics) of one my old favorite Larry Bryant¬†tunes called¬†That’s When the Angels Rejoice

August 23, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Siege The Day


Are You in The Spirit or In The Flesh? by Flickr User BeggartoBeggar, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Are You in The Spirit or In The Flesh? by Flickr User BeggartoBeggar, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I’ve often wondered how a world that started out knowing the truth about God–who He is, what He is, what He does, etc., could end up in the state of chaos (and especially religious chaos) we’ve seen repeated time and time again throughout history. Did Adam fail to teach his children all he learned of God before¬†the fall? Did Cain blame God and falsely teach that his marks and troubles were God’s fault, or did Cain feel unworthy to seek Yahveh Almighty, so he created some kind of a false deity¬†just to have a god in his life? Or is it all brought about just by our desire to appease the flesh and its desires? Maybe it only takes a few great, great grandkids to be the last ones in the game of¬†Telephone to twist the message around so far that the truth is no longer visible.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 20:10 through Deuteronomy 21:9, we complete another week and another portion. Shabbat Shalom to all. The passage begins with instructions to Israel about how to advance on a distant town to attack it, and the first thing God tells Israel to do is to offer terms for peace.

My note: There’s a big difference in offering peace just for the sake of calling it peace and offering “terms for peace,” so it can be the real thing. God tells us we are to be peace-MAKERS and not necessarily peace-KEEPERS.¬†Now, just as back then, true peace can only be made when all parties involved come to an agreement, and it can only be kept when all parties keep their promises. (Don’t even get me started on how supposed peace agreements with Israel are rarely¬†done in the favor of Israel–or how many of them were first violated by the enemies of¬†Israel.)

Now, back to our reading: When a town agrees to the terms and opens its gates to Israel, the terms will include them working for Israel. But, when a town will not agree to the terms, God calls it an act of war and tells Israel to put the town under siege. At that point, God’s promise is to hand the town over to Israel, and their part is to put every male to the sword. The women, children, livestock, and all the spoils of the town will then be booty for Israel to live from.

For the nearby towns, the ones that are included in the inheritance God is giving to Israel, God says they are to completely destroy all the people to avoid them converting any Israelites to doctrines of false gods. God tells them that they should destroy the people with their abominable practices, but they should not destroy the trees because they are not humans. They can use the trees to build siege-works in longer periods of war, but they can only use the ones that do not bear fruit.

At the chapter change, we learn how God says to deal with an unsolved murder. In God’s eyes, a murder without proof of a perpetrator¬†still carries guilt with it. God gives the priests a method of sacrifice and washing that will absolve Israel of the crime. It’s a promise from God that if they do as He instructs, they will be doing what is right in God’s eyes, and they will cleanse the guilt of murder from the community.

I know that reading some of these acts of war to give Israel her inheritance may sound a bit harsh, but we have to remember to consider perspective. We think from our own perspectives and how it might feel to be these people. But we live in sinful flesh, and it is fleshly decisions that got those who serve false gods in the positions they¬†were¬†in, and in the places they’re in now. We need to see things from God’s perspective. He is tired of seeing people worship themselves and their own personal comforts in the names of whatever they happen to be worshipping at the time. He gets extremely upset when he sees these people sacrifice their children to these false gods for the sake of appeasing them and keeping their own creature comforts.

Our world right now is under attack by the enemy of our souls who has no problem with putting us under siege by convincing us to sacrifice morals, ethics, and Godliness for the sake of what he calls peace. Our eyes are under siege with sex scenes and now even same-sex scenes. Our ears are under siege with foul language that often includes derogatory statements against Our Creator and God who loves us and saves us. Our freedom is under siege by those who want the servants of God to allow them license to kill, steal, and destroy while they take away even our rights to pray or bless others.

The enemy knows his time is short, so he is trying to “siege the day” against any and all who are made in the image of God. That means even those who don’t serve God are under attack because their image is like His, so they are fighting God for no reason. They cannot become evil enough to appease one who only cares about himself, but because he is “the father of lies,” he tries to convince them they can win his favor. They can’t, and they won’t. On the other hand, as long as they are in God’s image, His desire is to see them carrying that image in truth and holiness. It is not God’s desire for any to perish, but He wants all to come to His saving grace.

Believers, our job is simple but not easy. We need to lay the enemy under siege. We need to raise up a standard that uplifts The Savior above all our desires, comforts, needs, hurts, and ways of the flesh. We’re not told to rebuke the enemy to make him flee from us, we’re told to resist the enemy to make him flee. Our resistance is built of walls and gates. Our walls are God’s salvation. Our gates are praise. That’s why we’re told that before we resist, we must submit ourselves to God. We’re promised that The One within us is greater than he that is in the world. Let us praise Him in holiness and purity; not for what He does but for who He is. Let us praise Him in humility by being obedient to His word and by glorifying Him in our words and deeds. Let us praise Him in spirit and in truth, in and through all times and all things, from now until the end of eternity. HalleluYah!

August 22, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Some Old Fantasy


Fantasy by Flickr User Pier-Luc Bergeron, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Fantasy by Flickr User Pier-Luc Bergeron, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Imagine a fairy tale where each thing the villain¬†tries to do to the hero gets repaid with exactly the same devious scheme against the villain instead of against the innocent victim. Sleeping Beauty’s spinning wheel pricks the finger of the witch as she is setting it up for her. Snow White trips and her poisoned apple flies up in the air and hits the queen right in the mouth–poison side in. Cinderella’s mean step-sisters come in to demand more service and slip on the newly waxed floor only to land face first in a pile of cinders and ash, dirtying their ball gowns. Admit it, a part of you likes the idea of people being bested by their own worst intentions. We all love vigilantes who bring justice by making the bad guys, who think they can get away with anything, pay a price for their own bad behaviors. And it’s even better when that price means¬†drinking their own poison.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 19:14 through Deuteronomy 20:9, we will see that God likes to hold up a mirror in the face of those who plan evil against the innocent. The first word from God that Moses gives Israel is for them to leave the landmarks in place when they move into their inherited lands. And then Moses reminds them that the word of one witness is not enough to convict a person in a “he said–she said”¬†case. And then, as if Moses was thinking, “And, speaking of witnesses…,” he goes on to tell them what to do in the case of a false witness.

When a controversy involves two people, both are to stand before The Lord, the high priest, and the judges at the time. If it turns out that one testimony is false, and the witness has malicious intent to harm the innocent, then whatever the false witness requested be done to the¬†intended victim¬†will¬†be done to him instead. It’s sort of like Haman being hung on his own gallows. The community is not to show pity, but to act out exactly as the person who willed harm would have done–an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, etc.

At the chapter change, Moses begins talking to the soldiers to prepare them for battle against those who currently reside in Israel’s inherited land. First, he encourages them that if an army comes against them that seems bigger and stronger, they should not let it create fear in them. They can trust that The Lord will go before them to fight for them and give them victory.

Moses then tells the military leaders to talk to all who show up to fight and ask them questions to weed out those who may have other life issues to deal with. He says if they have built a home and not yet lived in it, planted a vineyard and not yet harvested it, or proposed to a bride and not yet married her, they should go home instead of fighting the war. Otherwise, Moses tells them, someone else may live in their new home, drink from their vineyard, or marry their bride. Once those men are sent home, Moses says to also send home any who are fearful or fainthearted, so they will not demoralize their fellow soldiers. When all that is done, they can select commanders.

I love how perfectly God orders things.¬†He doesn’t tell the community leaders to select army commanders until all the unprepared soldiers are sent home. He knows that those who are afraid will not bring strength and courage to those under their command. He also knows that those whose minds are on new homes or waiting fianc√©es will not be effective commanders in battles that need their full heart and attention. His word tells us in Luke 14:26 that unless we are willing to make everything currently in our lives less important than God, we cannot be His disciples. We can love Him, but we can’t effectively work for Him.

God’s ways of dealing with harmful intentions, protecting the innocent, strengthening His armies, and creating a perfect society without all the chaos we see these days are not fantasy. His mercy gives us the chance to live a perfect life in eternity, but because of those who abuse His longsuffering and mercy, we must deal with a world of chaos first. When He gave instructions for dealing with bad intentions, or those who harm the innocent, He instructed the community to deal with them immediately, as a deterrent to¬†future occurrences. God knows that we cannot have peace as long as people think they can get away with intentionally hurting others.

If anything qualifies as fantasy, the idea of peace without God’s perfect rule definitely does. The flesh is unruly and selfish. It takes focus on God and not ourselves to bring an end to the war of my way versus your way. Self-centered motivations will always create chaos, but God-centered motivations will bring true peace. God’s word is not just some old fantasy, and neither is His promise of a happy ending in eternity. I hope to see you there.

P.S. I couldn’t find a video for the ApologetiX song whose title, Not Some Old Fantasy, I used for this post. Click the title for a link to the lyrics at the site. It’s a parody of¬†Rock and Roll Fantasy by “Bad Company.”

August 21, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s…


It's a Bird ... It's a Plane ... It's Super Jimmy!!! by Flickr User Kerri Lee Smith, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

It’s a Bird … It’s a Plane … It’s Super Jimmy!!! by Flickr User Kerri Lee Smith, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Superman. No, wait, maybe it’s Underdog. I guess it depends on the era in which you grew up. I was definitely more Underdog than Superman, but when I grew up, we got great Superman movies, so my affections changed. I still hope that Underdog eventually got to marry Sweet Polly Purebread, though. ūüėČ No matter which one of the characters was your favorite, you know that people said all kinds of stuff about the blur in the sky and never knew exactly who it was until he got closer.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 18:14 through Deuteronomy 19:13, we begin with Moses telling the people that God will soon¬†raise up a new prophet in his place. He reminds them how there was a time when God wanted to dwell with them, but they rejected God for fear He would kill them, so God used Moses to speak for Him instead. Now, Moses is getting ready to go away, and because the people cannot hear from God directly, they will need a new person to speak God’s words.

To prophesy is to speak, and to prophesy for God is to speak for God. It’s an awesome place to be and not one to¬†take lightly. If you’ve followed these Torah passages with me, and especially if you’ve read any of the passages yourself, you know that God’s words to the people through Moses were more often harsh than sweet. It’s hard to be a prophet (or prophetess) for God because most of what He has to teach us after we are saved is how to get the junk out of our lives when it becomes a wall between us and hearing His pure voice.

Moses has to give the hard words again in this passage. He warns the people that while God will raise up a prophet from among them, they are responsible to test the words of that prophet. If the prophet speaks words in the Name of Yahveh and the words are not something God told him to say, or if the prophet speaks in the names of other gods, that prophet must die. Moses then tells the people that if they are not sure if the words have been spoken by The Lord, they can tell by the outcome. If the prediction does not come true, that is, if the word is not fulfilled, then it was not spoken by God. If the prophet has spoken presumptuously, there is nothing to fear from his words.

At this point in the passage, the chapter changes, and Moses goes into repeating the instructions for building the cities of refuge. You can read the verses in Chapter 19 for yourself if you need a refresher because I want to focus on the parts in 18. It’s interesting that the information about the cities of refuge would directly follow the teaching about the new prophet since the replacement prophet for Moses points directly at Yeshua. It’s even referenced in Acts 3:22¬†and Acts 7:37. The first of those verses (in the Amplified Bible) reads…

Thus Moses said to the forefathers, The Lord God will raise up for you a Prophet from among your brethren as [He raised up] me; Him you shall listen to and understand by hearing and heed in all things whatever He tells you.

Of course, those of us who have New Testament history know that Yeshua never spoke presumptuously, and everything He prophesied did come to pass.¬†As our Prophet now, we have many warnings that Yeshua offered for us to be protected from those who would come in His name and testify falsely. In Matthew 24:24-26 (Complete Jewish Bible) we read…

For there will appear false Messiahs and false prophets performing great miracles ‚ÄĒ amazing things! ‚ÄĒ so as to fool even the chosen, if possible.¬†There! I have told you in advance! So if people say to you, ‚ÄėListen! He‚Äôs out in the desert!‚Äô don‚Äôt go; or, ‚ÄėLook! He‚Äôs hidden away in a secret room!‚Äô don‚Äôt believe it.

The part that concerns me is where Yeshua said they could come close to deceiving even those chosen by God, but as I cast my concerns and anxieties upon His shoulders, I am reminded that if I keep my heart and mind in His word, I have nothing to fear. If I strive to walk in His holy presence at all times, I can become more and more sensitive to even His still, small voice. And if I pay attention to all the warnings in His word (see all of Matthew 23-25 for full context), both Old and New Testament, I will know to make sure that any words spoken in His name are true. Even if someone claims to speak as a prophet for God, I will not believe that it’s a bird, a plane, or anything else until it lands and proves itself.

Last minute addition here: I just realized how much this reminded me of an old Hinson’s song I used to love. It is called¬†The Original Superman and I was able to find it on Youtube…

August 20, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

With Almost All of My Heart


Concrete Love Declaration of David to Crystal, Decorated and Photographed by Crystal A Murray

Concrete Love Declaration of David to Crystal, Decorated and Photographed by Crystal A Murray
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access my full photo stream at Flickr.

When my husband David first declared his love for me, he said he would love me forever and three days because forever and a day just wasn’t long enough. After a hard year in 2009 that included a huge flood in our basement, David decided to re-declare his love for me by adding a permanent reminder to the new cement work we put in as part of our future flood prevention efforts. On the morning of our 19th wedding anniversary in 2010, I decorated the heart and took the above picture as a forever memory.

Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that a couple can stay together for a long time and still keep saying they want to keep each other forever. So many things happen on the way to forever, and it takes more than romance to get all the way there. Both of our first two initials are enclosed the heart image to show our dual commitment. We share far more than a last name. We share a lot of good times, but we also share some¬†bad times. It’s in getting through the bad times that you learn whether someone is really in it for the long haul. If you love someone with almost all your heart, you may not have the heart you need to make it through the inevitable difficulties of life and love.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 18:6 through Deuteronomy 18:13, we have two main subjects. In the first, Moses tells Israel what to do should a Levite that is not part of the ministry decides he wants to join the ministry team. I was a little confused on first reading because I thought they were all only ministers with no inheritance. With some research, I was reminded that some Levites could own land passed along to them by parents who received it as an offering. It appears they did not have to work in the temple, but this passage says that if they decide to serve in the presence of The Lord, they are to receive the same share as the other Levites plus whatever they may receive from the sale of their ancestral property.

The next part of the passage deals with some of what God considers to be abominable practices. Moses reminds Israel that these horrible practices are why God is driving out the former inhabitants, and he gives Israel a warning not to follow the ways of the former tenants of the land. Among the abominations are all types of witchcraft and sorcery. Here’s the exact words from today’s text in verses 10 and 11…

There must not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through fire, a diviner, a soothsayer, an enchanter, a sorcerer, a spell-caster, a consulter of ghosts or spirits, or a necromancer.

Apparently, participating in these things takes away part of the heart a person promises to God. I’m guessing that because, after telling the people that these things are abominations to God, Moses says (in verse 13), “You must be wholehearted with Adonai your God.” I knew that tapping into those things could open the door to evil spirits, and I knew that it meant taking on power and authority other than what God gives us according to His will, but I never thought of it as taking away part of the heart we say we are dedicating to Him.

Many years ago, I had friends who owned a discotheque in Southern California. I was a valley girl¬†who loved to dance, so I was there about four nights a week.¬†When disco died down, the owners turned the club into a magic club, and I continued to hang out there. I was always enthralled with illusion and slight-of-hand tricks, and at seventeen, I thought maybe I would like to be a¬†part of that sparkly world. I talked to one of the magicians who was a member at L.A.’s ¬†famous “Magic Castle.” While he couldn’t reveal the actual secrets of¬†a¬†membership there, he did share¬†things about the beliefs of some of the members that made me second-guess my desires.

I was not saved back in those days, but I also wasn’t totally sold out to a life of Godlessness. Thankfully, the part I was holding back was because of a fear of committing some kind of unforgivable sin. Even though¬†I was not yet following Yeshua, I was a believer in God Almighty, and I knew some Bible teaching from years of Sunday School. Something in my heart felt a weirdness associated with those that claimed to practice “real magic.” I now know that “something” was a “Someone” and that it was the Holy Spirit leading me away from a world that could have trapped me in darkness.

Having lived with part of my heart set aside from the life I was living, I have experienced how to give only some¬†of myself and how to hold back the most important parts. In a life of sin, it was a method of self-protection, but I don’t have to live that way anymore. Now, I serve a God who loves me and cares for me to the point that He has every hair on my head counted and numbered. I no longer have to hold back because of fear or for any other reason. I serve God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength, and I can understand why it’s exactly what He desires. I’m grateful that God protected me even when I didn’t know it, and that He only allowed me to love a world without Him with almost all of my heart.

 

August 19, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fruits (and Vegetables) of The Spirit


Fruit Mix by Flickr User Graela, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Fruit Mix by Flickr User Graela, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Scripture and reference added by me.
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

What’s better for you; fruits or vegetables? Is¬†a tomato a vegetable or a fruit? How about hot peppers? Avocado? I think most of us have the idea that if it’s sweet, it’s a fruit, and if it’s not sweet, it must be a vegetable. At least that’s how I always thought of things until my first battle with someone over tomato. I was sure it was a vegetable. Truthfully, I don’t know if either is better for you since I’m not a nutritionist, but I found the information at the Mayo Clinic’s¬†Expert Blog pretty cool. They confirmed that avocados and peppers are fruits; and would you believe that so are sunflower seeds? Click above for a list and for information on how to tell a fruit from a vegetable.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 18:1 through Deuteronomy 18:5, we have just a few short verses about the high priests and the Levites. I’m not sure if it’s Moses or God that wants to keep bringing it to the attention of the people, but it would seem that one of the two wants to make sure the community does not forget those that do the work of the tabernacle. This passage begins with another reminder that the Levites, including the high priests, do not have a share in the inheritance with Israel. Their share is literally The Lord Himself.

Because the Levites’ share comes from¬†a portion of the inheritance of the other tribes, it is important for the other tribes to remember to bring that share to them. Without it, those who work in the service of God and His tabernacle will have no place to live and nothing to eat. The share they receive is actually God’s portion. We’ve read before how the people give land, shelter, and food to the Levites. In this reading, we see that they are to bring the first fruits of all their abundance to the high priest. According to God, the first of their increase in all things–fruit, grains, new wine, olive oil, and even sheep’s wool–belongs to the high priest because God has chosen him from all the tribes to stand and serve in the name of The Lord forever.¬†He and his sons will serve forever.

I have met people who work in such a sacrificial capacity for The Lord, that it made me wish I were rich enough to buy them everything they could ever need, so they would never want for anything. When people truly sacrifice what they could have in their lives for the sake of doing God’s work, I believe they deserve to be cared for, so they can continue to do the work. Even if there is no longer a tabernacle and animal sacrifices that require the amount of work we’ve read about in Torah history, those who make themselves available 24/7, 365, for God’s work are a rare and special breed. Of course, I’m not talking about schmoozing and doing talk shows in the name of The Lord, I’m talking about working in the spiritual trenches.

Even those who don’t work full-time in ministry are worthy of support from those who do not work in any type of ministry capacity, and that’s why I think it’s important¬†to support them. For those in writing and music ministries, we can purchase¬†their wares, and if we like them, we can help their marketing efforts by spreading the word about their products. The hard part for me is trying to be a good steward with my money when I’ve got less time to read than I have space on my bookshelf. At the same time, I’m also trying to keep to the golden rule since I hope people will read my novel when I get it finished. ūüôā

I don’t think any Christian disagrees with the idea of supporting those in ministry, but there are differences of opinion as to what constitutes ministry and how we should support it. In Old Testament history, we know it was fruits and vegetables, grains and oils, etc. Now, our increase is mostly in the form of money, so most are satisfied to tithe directly from their paychecks. But, since the fruit ¬†of God’s Spirit is not financial, I would like to encourage people to give more offerings from God’s fruit, and not just to those in ministry. As God shares His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control with us (Yeshua modeled all of these), let us share those same virtues with others.

If we are not receiving these things from God where we can find an abundance of them from which to share, we may need a trip back to the altar to discover what is hindering our growth. Maybe it’s as simple as needing to eat more vegetables. A regular habit of opening God’s word to get some holy nutrition may be all we need to abound in the fruits (and vegetables) of The Spirit.

August 18, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A King of Hearts


As the song in the video says, God is¬†The King of Who I Am. To be that King, God must also be a “King of Hearts.” For me, He is the king of my heart, and He sought my heart even when my fleshly desires drew me away from what I believe He planted deep within each of us in our creation. He longs for us to obey Him, not because He wants servants, but because a servant’s heart is a tender heart, and He can lead and guide us better if we are tender to His guidance. As I have drawn nearer to Him, here are a few things I have learned about God…

  • He is not a king of clubs¬†(and bats) who beats us into submission to do things His way;
  • He is not a king of spades¬†(and shovels) who says we must work for His gifts;
  • and He is not a king of diamonds¬†(and gold) who is only in it for riches and pride.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 17:14 through Deuteronomy 17:20 (the end of the chapter), Moses speaks God’s words¬†to Israel about a desire Israel will have when she enters into the land God is giving her. God knows that when Israel looks at the people of all the lands surrounding her, they will see kings in those lands, and they will likely desire a king for themselves. When this happens, God’s word is that Israel must appoint the king that He chooses for them. The king must be one of their own kinsmen and not a foreigner, and he can’t be in it for himself.

The king God will choose for Israel must meet strict standards. First, he must not acquire many horses because that requires a trip back to Egypt, and God has told the people never to go back that way again. Next, the future King of Israel must not acquire many wives for himself because it will turn his heart away from God. Finally, the king must not acquire excessive quantities of silver and gold. We’ve all sin what the love of money can do to those in leadership, and we know that the selfishness that creates a love for money is the root of all evil.

While this part of the portion is a short reading, I find it powerful. The next few verses give all the advice the king will ever need to prolong his own reign and that of his children in Israel. God says that the king should have a copy of the¬†Torah from the scrolls used by the high priests and the Levites. The king is to keep it with him, and he is to read from it every day, as long as he lives. His reading will teach him to fear The Lord and keep God’s words and laws in his heart that he may obey them. He should not turn to the right or left from the good deeds God desires, and above all else, the king should never think he is better than his kinsmen.

We know from the rest of biblical history that God always desired humble kings with servant’s hearts. Those kings who thought themselves better than others, both in the Bible and in other recorded histories, have often come to humiliating ruin. I’ve read stories of King Herod that were disgusting in their descriptions of his loss of limbs to diabetes and the insanity he faced from multiple STDs. We know that King Nebuchadnezzar¬†went crazy and crawled around in a field like a wild animal. Kings and kingdoms where the kings exalted themselves as if they were the gods of their people (a fool says in his heart that there is no God), crumbled and died the deaths of fools.

Oh, but how God loves a servant leader. He loved King David because David was a man who sought God’s own heart. When He robed Himself in flesh, Our Emmanuel (God with us) came as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and yet He did not exalt Himself above other men. He was born humble, He was convicted in humility, and He even allowed Himself to die in humiliation. He proved that what He asked Israel to do in appointing a king, He was willing to do and become Himself. He rules over our hearts, and He rules from His heart, so He is¬†a King of Hearts, and He is THE King of my heart. What about you?

August 17, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Obsolete Man


By and far my favorite episode of¬†The Twilight Zone is The Obsolete Man starring Burgess Meredith. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you dedicate 25 minutes to seeing what would be become of a society that decides “Logic is an enemy, and truth is a menace.” (Plus. the ending is sooooo worth it.) Our current world has a difficult time not swinging the pendulum to either the far right or the far left when it comes to judgment versus love when the balance of judgment and love is the real truth.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 16:18 through Deuteronomy 17:13, we begin a new portion and a new week. Parashah 48 is titled¬†Shof’tim in Hebrew and means “Judges” in English. It begins with Moses’ instruction from God to Israel that they are to appoint judges for the people. These judges will rule city by city and tribe by tribe, and they are assigned to offer righteous judgment that does not show favoritism or pervert justice. This assignment even comes with the warning that bribes and gifts blind even the eyes of the wise and twists even the words of the upright.

As the portion continues, God’s words of warning move into sacrifice and worship. No one should plant a tree or sacred pole beside God’s altar, and no one should set up a standing stone because God hates these things. They should never sacrifice anything defective because it would be an abomination to God. And then the warning gets really strong. If a man or woman is found doing anything that is wicked in the eyes of God, such as worshiping the sun, the moon, or anything in the sky, the judges first and then the community is to stone whoever worships that which is forbidden by God. Moses tells them this is how to put an end to any wickedness among them.

We all know of issues where we find it difficult to judge, especially with sins being under the blood of Yeshua and Scripture that warns us that if we judge, we will be judged. Apparently, this is not a new thing. As our reading comes to a close, God tells the city judges what to do when a matter becomes too hard for them to make a judgment. The higher court will give a verdict, and the tribal judge must act on it exactly, not turning to the right or left of the judgment. If that judge acts presumptuously and does not obey the word he has been given, God says he should die to put out all such disobedience from the community.

I can say that I would not have wanted the task of being a tribal or city judge back then, but I also understand how a society can move from presumptuousness to becoming devoid of all truth and logic. We need pure judgment. God is the Supreme Judge and Justice who represents perfect truth. If we do not use His holy word as a guide to determine light from darkness, we become a society with boundaries determined by a godless majority. Instead of seeing darkness for darkness, they will put us in a world of gray that men refuse to see as gray but declare only as different levels of light and truth. But there are no different levels of truth and light, and gray is a lukewarm condition that Christ will spew out when it is presented before Him to judge.

What are we to do when we see someone who claims to serve God walking in what the Bible calls sin? If we bring up the Bible, the sinner¬†may thank us for loving him enough to point out the truth, and he¬†will repent. That’s the best-case scenario. Sadly, however, too many are defensive and resistant to change. They will just accuse us of¬†being judgmental. The Scripture that warns “because of sin, the love of many will turn cold” is talking about agape or “Christian” love. The Complete Jewish Bible says it this way…

“…and many people‚Äôs love will grow cold because of increased distance from Torah.”

It’s a hard truth, but because people want to remain comfortable instead of confronted, we are allowing¬†the enemy of our souls to succeed in making men of conviction obsolete–even in the church.

August 16, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How Two Flocks Become One


The Good Shepherd by Flickr User Waiting For The Word, CC License = Attribution

The Good Shepherd by Flickr User Waiting For The Word, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Have you ever wondered exactly how God plans to merge the two flocks talked of in Scripture? Ezekiel tells us of a vision where God takes the stick of Judah and the stick of Ephraim and merges them into one stick. It says there will be one people with One Shepherd. Ephesians 2 speaks of Gentiles who are bought with Messiah’s blood, so they will be able to join with Israel and become one. And John 10:16 (CJB) puts it this way…

Also I have other sheep which are not from this pen; I need to bring them, and they will hear my voice; and there will be one flock, one shepherd.

I think the Christian walk has been designed from the beginning, and I believe that we have imitated pretty much everything biblical Israel did in the Scriptures, but we do it in different ways, so we may not see it. The more I read Torah and the rest of the Old Testament, I can see the repeated behaviors and truly understand that there is nothing new under the sun; or “under The Son” in our case. So the promise that we will become one flock with one Shepherd is a beautiful one for both Jews and Gentiles. Think about these things when you read all the Torah portions I share on this blog.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 15:19 through Deuteronomy 16:17, we complete another week and another portion. Shabbat Shalom (Sabbath Peace) to you as we conclude another week of study. Today’s portion begins with instruction for setting aside the firstborn cattle and sheep for God. Though God should not have to say it, He reminds Israel not to give anything to Him that has a defect. Either way, they get to eat it, but to eat as a sacrifice in the presence of God, it must be perfect.

The next parts of the portion discuss the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. In Hebrew, they are¬†Pesach,¬†Shavu’ot, and¬†Sukkot. Part of Passover is the feast of¬†matzah or “unleavened bread” that follows for a week after the day of Passover, and these three feasts are the three times a year God calls for all the men to appear in His presence. God says He will tell them where they are to gather to celebrate His name at the appointed times.

The last of these festivals, Sukkot, is also called “Booths” or “Tabernacles” because it represents the temporary dwellings of Israel before she takes her promised possession. It is also the big gift-giving season for God as He says that no one should come to this feast empty-handed. He doesn’t give a set amount or type of gift, but He says that each person should bring a gift based on how God has blessed him in the previous year.

I encourage readers to click on the link above to read this portion for yourself as the summary of these feasts is such a perfect representation of our walk with God. We don’t celebrate these feasts and festivals to look good before God, or to get God to do anything special for us. We celebrate them because God has given them to us as His gift and as a remembrance. He says these are His feasts that He is sharing, and He wants us to celebrate them forever–so forever includes the “grafted in” as well as the original children of Abraham. Here’s a brief summary that compares the feasts with our walk in Messiah.

Passover shows His sacrifice for us. It is followed immediately by the week of unleavened bread that represents deliverance from Egypt and symbolically from sin and pride. Seven weeks later, we have a summer harvest celebration with Pentecost that can represent our growth as children of The Lord. The celebration of growth may be considered a celebration of obedience since obedience brings growth.¬†Finally, we have the “season of our joy” at Sukkot with the fall harvest. This celebration ends the year and fills us with the promise of good crops and harvest for the next year.

If you’ve read my previous posts on Sukkot, you know that I wholeheartedly believe this to be the time of Messiah Yeshua’s birth. With it being the last time in the year where men were to appear before God’s presence, it fits for why Miriam (Mary) and Joseph were traveling. Plus, the eighth day is “The Joy of Torah” (the day I started all of this last year) and can represent the day of circumcision for the baby. And what better¬†Reason is there for a season of joy and hope for the harvests of the upcoming year than for our Savior to promise the abundance of mercy we need to gather for Him. Hmm, I just realized,¬†as I was¬†writing, the significance¬†of Sukkot also being called “The Feast of Ingathering.”

Just before Sukkot, we also have the feasts of¬†Rosh¬†Hashanah¬†and¬†Yom Kippur. Those two holidays represent the new year (or maybe “new you”) and “The Day of Atonement.” I find it interesting that a person¬†can¬†celebrate them wherever he is at, and when we first come to God, He accepts us as we are and wherever we are at. So, if we add those two feasts to the mix, we now have deliverance from bondage, sacrifice, humility, growth, newness, reflection and atonement, and then appearing before God for a time of joy. For me, this pattern¬†most certainly represents the Christian walk, and that means it comes with the promise that our real season of joy will come when God gathers all those who love Him into that one flock under one awesome and wonderful Shepherd Messiah. Hallelu-Yah!

August 15, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Statute of Limitations on Our Debts


Debt Free by Flickr User Simon Cunningham, CC License = Attribution with Request to Link to Lendingmemo.com

Debt Free by Flickr User Simon Cunningham, CC License = Attribution with Request to Link to Lendingmemo.com
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

So my nephew comes into the room tonight to warn me about this purge night¬†that is supposedly going on in Louisville this weekend. His girlfriend has mentioned the possible need to stay indoors while people do various acts of violence in the theory that for 12 hours, nothing is illegal. The idea scared me, so I researched it¬†and found a¬†media campaign created by a couple of movies from 2013 & 2014 and set in the years of 2022 & 2023. In the night celebrated in the movie, people give in to their “natural” instincts of violence, there is no help from police or medical aid, and it’s 12 hours of chaos while people purge themselves of their baser instincts. Sadly, however, there are young people who don’t realize a media-induced frenzy when they hear or see it. (Now I can see how so much trouble came from¬†the original radio broadcast of¬†War of the Worlds.) Maybe they believe Richard Castle is a real book author too. ūüėČ

I’m thankful it is just a big joke in reality, and anyone who looks up¬†the group “New Founding Fathers of America” should realize it’s not real just by¬†reading their statements about how¬†the economy is strong and crime is down as a result of earlier purge nights. As of last check, crime is up and the economy is a mess. Still, I can see where the authors of the screenplay are going with their story in wanting a night where vigilante justice is not punishable, and in acknowledging that if such a night did take place, many would cross the line, and there would be criminal chaos. Such is the result when mankind tries to solve its problems according to the ways of our flesh instead of purging the world of sin and debt God’s way.

In tonight’s reading from Deuteronomy 15:1 through Deuteronomy 15:18, we will read about God’s plan¬†of forgiveness and letting go,¬†in this case about letting go of unpaid debts. God does it with a Statute of Limitations to keep from building up debts forever. We know from previous readings that God offered mercy even for some criminal behavior by the use of Cities of Refuge. We know from our own walk with Him that He still offers mercy for sin, and the limitation on the wages of death for our sins happens when we repent and turn to God. Now we will learn how He told Israel¬†to deal with her debtors.

The reading begins by explaining that at the end of every seven years, there should be a¬†sh’mittah which is Hebrew for “a release.” In that year, every creditor is to release whatever he has lent to his neighbor, and he is not to require a return or anymore payment for it. Foreigners are not included in the release, but all brethren of Israel are included.

Early in the instructions (right at verse 4), God comforts the people by telling them that even with the release, they will not have to worry about going broke or becoming poor. God’s promise to them is that He will bless them for their obedience to the point that they will lend to many nations and not have to borrow; they will rule over many nations, but none will rule over them. The instructions go on to warn them that there will always be poor people among them, and they are to care for them and treat them the same according to the laws of release. He warns them to give freely from their hearts, not grudgingly, and to not hold back in their giving just because the year of release is near.

The portion then turns to slavery and tells them how to let go of their Hebrew slaves during the release. They are not only to let them go freely, they are to send them away with goods to begin a free life. If the slave has decided he loves his master so much that he wants to stay with him, the owner will still set him free but will pierce his ear with an awl to mark him as a free servant. If a slave does want to leave, however, God tells the master to be grateful that he has had the service of this slave for half of what it would have cost him to hire an employee. God reminds the people of their own (unfair) slavery in Egypt, and then He reminds them that He is the one who blesses them in all they do.

Sometimes, it¬†seems difficult to live in the current culture with its dishonesty and unfairness. It’s worse when it enters¬†the church with people who act as if they are believers but are only there for the handouts. It makes it harder to be a giver, and even harder to give without a grudging spirit. But, we can¬†be sensitive to the leading of God’s Holy Spirit,¬†so we won’t hold something against a true brother or sister in The Lord to the point¬†it becomes unforgiveness.

Think of it like this: Have you ever had an issue in your past where you forgot a debt you owed to someone? Maybe you thought that if you contacted them, they would hate you because of what they might perceive as your thoughtlessness. Maybe now you cannot contact them for one reason or other, so you can’t change anything.¬†Imagine if we still had that year of release every seven years. Nothing like that would build up between brothers or sisters in Christ. We could live as we pray in The Lord’s Prayer to “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Doesn’t that seem like a better way to purge the mistakes of our flesh than of a night of criminal chaos? Of course, it’s always better when we do whatever we do, including getting rid of our sins and debts, God’s way.

August 14, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Party God’s Way


image

Hamburger cake my friend Julie made for her husband on his 50th birthday. I'm amazed at her talent with fondant.

Did you know that getting saved does not mean we must stop having fun? As a matter of fact, I’ve had more real fun since I started serving God than when I served my own selfish ideas of fun. See, a lot of people defend their right to, as was said in the days of my youth, party hardy, but you’ll never hear them defending the right to pay the hardy fees that follow the party. Anything we do to excess comes with an excessive price tag. And if we’re not willing to pay the associated costs, we’re not only looking to party, we’re looking to do it selfishly, and that’s where the problem starts.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 14:22 through Deuteronomy 14:29, we will learn about how to party God’s way. We begin with instructions on an annual tithe that God says to take to a specific place and eat in His presence. And right there is your first hint that God isn’t trying to create a miserable people. He wants us to enjoy even that which we would give as a sacrificial tithe.

As the reading goes on, we learn what God says to do when the place of sacrifice is too far away for the people to get to. In that case, God tells them to take their tithe to another location where He sends them, and once there, they are to sell their tithe in exchange for money. With that money, they are told to have a good time with their families. They can buy whatever they want, including intoxicating liquor, as long as no one is left out–especially the Levites on their property since they do not have their own inheritance.

The last instruction for the tithe of the people is to take a tenth of their produce every three years and store it in towns for the Levites, the orphans, and the widows.

What I find amazing is how the tithe that is set aside for the Levite towns is only a tenth of what comes in for one out of every three years. From that, the ministers must also share with the widows and orphans. In the other two years, the people are supposed to find joy in their own tithes. Imagine telling most of our modern preachers to live like this. :-\

I see a running theme in all of this, and what I see is simply that no one should live selfishly and unto himself. People should share with ministries, ministries should give to the needy, and everyone should make sure that no one else is forgotten. And something tells me that if we all lived that way, all provisions would be taken care of.

Even our fun and celebrations should include sharing and not selfish drunkenness. They should never include drugs because drugs put the mind in places that are only self-focused. You can’t think of others, or of personal responsibility, when you can’t think clearly. But, if everything we do, including partying, is done with God and others in mind, and if we stay fully aware and responsible no matter what we do, we can have fun and still not bring harm to ourselves or others. And that is how to party God’s way.

August 13, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Good China


Page Scan from a Shakespeare Book by Flickr User Internet Archive Book Pages, No Known Copyright Restrictions

Page Scan from a Shakespeare Book by Flickr User Internet Archive Book Pages, No Known Copyright Restrictions
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.
By the way, if you click on this one, it includes a portion of the Shakespeare novel in the book from where they scanned the picture.

I have never owned a set of “good china” dishes. I do have a few pieces of red glass in my china cabinet, and those pieces get the same treatment I would guess most people give their special plates, though mine are not made for food service–even for special occasions. I have been served on special dishes, recently in fact, and I know how special it makes me feel to be considered a priceless friend who is worthy to eat from the best dishes. I also know, however, that if my friends used Debbie’s mother’s china every day, it would not change how she feels about either her friends or her heirloom dishes. It’s not how often she uses them that matters, but the care I see her use in the serving that shows how much she values both.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 14:1 through Deuteronomy 14:21, Moses talks to Israel about God’s value on the seed of Abraham. He begins by telling to not to cut gashes in their skin or shave above their foreheads as some do when in mourning for the dead. And then Moses tells them why God doesn’t want them to do these things. He tells them they are God’s special treasure out of all the people on the earth. Because they are His, God wants them set apart as holy to Him. They are his “good china” dishes, and their care and proper use is important to Him.

As the reading continues, Moses covers many of the dietary laws we have already discussed in former portions, such as not eating anything disgusting. He reminds them of the list of animals that have cloven hooves and chew the cud because they are okay to eat, and then he lists those that are unclean for them because they either have cloven hooves and don’t chew the cud, or they chew the cud but don’t have cloven hooves. The same goes for water animals which should have both fins and scales to be considered clean.

Moses also presents the people with a list of unclean fowl that is not okay for them to eat. I couldn’t find anything in common with them other than some (maybe all) of them being scavengers. He tells them that winged swarming creatures are unclean, but clean flying creatures they can eat. I guess that leaves out the termites I’ve seen pictures of while viewing missionary slides. Apparently, they remove the wings and fry them up to top salads in the same way we use crunchy bacon bits. Yuck! I’m glad they’re unclean. Even if I’m not on a totally kosher diet, it’s a good excuse not to eat bugs. ūüôā

It may not be a requirement anymore to eat only kosher food, but I don’t find it a simple coincidence that the dietary laws are given in the same reading as remarks about the value of God’s people to Him. We know that what God calls unclean in the animal kingdom are often found to carry diseases and cause digestive troubles. If we are like fine china to God, He just wants us to treat our bodies with the value He sees in us as His people. It’s all together possible that if the whole world had always kept God’s dietary conditions, there would be no cancer, no infertility, no chemical imbalances etc.

When viewing any of the laws of God, I can only recommend that each of us–myself included–look through a lens of God’s love toward us as His unique treasure and special people. Let us ask Him how He would have us treat ourselves and each other as if we were God’s good china. In the meantime, if you enjoy the¬†Chicken Soup for the Soul books, I found one I remember from the 2nd book, and I’d like to share it with you. It’s about another way to value fine china that does not include hiding it in the cupboard most of the time. It’s a great story, and you can read it at Google Books by clicking on the title. It’s called¬†The Little Glass Chip.

August 12, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There Will Be A Test


Exams Start Now by Flickr User Ryan M aka shinealight, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Exams Start Now by Flickr User Ryan M aka shinealight, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

What if every moment of our lives was actually a test? When stuff just doesn’t seem to go our way, we often think, “Hmm; maybe I’m being tested,” and when we think we’re being tested, we try harder to pass. But what if the good times are also part of the test? When everything is at peace and going smoothly, it can be too easy to forget Who brought us that peace and comfort, let alone to think it might be part of our testing and refining.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 12:29 through all of Deuteronomy 13, we will read about the not-so-surprise tests given by our Greatest Teacher. We start out with a warning to Israel. Moses tells them to be careful after God destroys the nations He is driving out of The¬†Promised Land and not to question how they served their gods and seek them out. He tells Israel not to do that to The Lord, Yahveh, because the things the former inhabitants did for their gods including burning up their own children.

Moses then tells them not to add or subtract anything from the laws he is passing along to them. And then he tells them that even if a prophet has a dream or vision of a sign or wonder, and that sign or wonder comes to pass, if with it the prophet tries to entice the people to follow after a god that is not Yahveh, it is a test from Yahveh to see if they really love Him. They are to kill that prophet or dreamer used in the test because he urged them to turn away from the God who delivered them from Egypt and slavery and turn instead to a false god.

Next, Moses says that even if someone’s¬†own flesh and blood brother, his child, his loving wife, or his best friend tries to convince him to follow another god, do not listen. Beyond that, he should not even feel pity for that person. No matter how close the two are, the one who is being enticed is not to spare or even conceal the one trying to entice him. He must not only kill him, but his own hand must be first in making a strike of death against him. God’s reasoning for these rulings includes that when the rest of Israel sees the person die for trying to entice someone away from Him, all Israel will fear God and avoid such wickedness.

The warnings continue. Moses tells them that if they hear of a city among them where deceivers spring up to draw people away from Yahveh Almighty and toward serving other gods, they should investigate. If the rumors prove true, they must put the inhabitants of that city to death by the sword. They are even to destroy all the livestock. When all are dead, Israel must toss all the dead and the spoils into heaps and then set them on fire. They are to burn every remnant of the city to the ground. Once burned, the city must remain a heap of ruins forever and never be rebuilt. The law-abiding Israelites will not bear any curse or guilt for taking out the city, and they will be fine as long as they obey God and do what is right in His eyes.

All those warnings are pretty dire. I read the part about not having any pity even to the point of not concealing a wrongdoing, and I knew it was talking to people like me. I will stand firm in my own behaviors, but if someone goes another way, I’ll usually just keep my mouth shut for fear of offending that person. But this is saying that any person who tries to turn you against the Almighty God who delivered you from sin should be destroyed without pity. Yikes! I mean, I know we have the law of our land to contend with now, so I don’t have to take anyone out, but it does mean¬†I need to get over my fear of even offending those types of people by correcting them.

So what do true believers do these days with all the false and apostate witnesses spreading through our lands? I wrote just a brief overview of my battle with other believers over the whole Todd Bentley thing, but there was so much more to it. I did not start out seeking to find any fault with the man. I asked God if I should seek his ministry for a healing to avoid surgery, and it was through that request that God showed me the apostate spirit spreading rapidly through the church with Todd Bentley greatly fanning the flames. An adulterous and sinful generation seeks after a sign (or signs and wonders), but people who follow God in honesty and purity of heart will have signs follow them without trying to manufacture them. And when the signs do follow them, they will not worship the signs and wonders, but they will continue to worship Yahveh Almighty and Him alone.

The biggest argument I faced (and sometimes still face) with those who do not discern the apostasies of our times is that they see real miracles. While there are multiple Scriptures warning that false ministers can conjure up real miracles, today’s reading puts it in yet another light. This shows that God Himself may allow the dreams, visions, signs, and wonders to come to pass and show true just to test the children of God. The test is to find out if people love God or just what He can do for Him; if they worship the miracles or the Creator of miracles; or¬†if they are more concerned about what they can give to God or just what they can take from Him.

Even if believers pass those tests, we may still be tested with how we deal with the apostate teachers who try to use the powerful to distract from the All Powerful. Even with proof of Todd Bentley’s pending divorce, other apostates like Rick Joyner and John Arnott are refusing to deal with him in God’s way. Instead, they’re saying, “We do not judge him unworthy of a second, third, or even fourth chance.” But that’s not how you deal with someone who calls the pulpit his own, says that God told him he doesn’t have time to study to show himself approved of God because time is too short, and who kicks people in the face to bring a “move of God” on the congregation. Truth is hard, but it will set us free. The study materials are not easy to get through, but we need to be prepared because–you guessed it–there will be a test.

August 11, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joy to the World


Not of This World by Flickr User Sharon at Art4TheGlryOfGod, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Not of This World by Flickr User Sharon at Art4TheGlryOfGod, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

This world is not our home, so it’s not always comfortable. Sometimes, though, our homes here become a place to hide. Sure, home may be where the heart is, but home is not the place to keep our salvation.¬†And neither should we keep ourselves holed up like rabbits only hopping from fellowship to fellowship between church friends and church services. We will have a chance to fellowship and rejoice together when we cross over into eternity, but right now, we have a gift of joy we need to share with the world. We are not of this world, but we can’t forget that we are¬†in it.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 12:10 through Deuteronomy 12:28 (the portion starts at 11, but it’s in the middle of a sentence, so I’ve included what I left off yesterday), we read about God’s place in the midst of Israel’s new place of inheritance where they will have peace and safety from their enemies. (Now I see why the old hymns compare Heaven to The Land of Canaan.) Their place in Canaan was more like our place will be in Heaven–their reward for their journey through the world so far.¬†Moses¬†tells them to remember to bring their offerings, sacrifices, and promised gifts to God at the place God¬†chooses within their new land. He¬†tells them to be careful not to take their offerings¬†just anywhere they choose, but to go to the place God designates within one of their tribal communities.

Because of God’s blessings, they can slaughter and eat meat whenever and wherever they want, even to the point of both clean and unclean eating it now, but they must not consume the burnt offerings and the tithes on their grain, new wine, and olive oil, at their own homes. They must eat them in the presence of The Lord. After God¬†expands their territory, however, if it causes the place of His name to be too far away from them, they can slaughter and eat all the meat they want on their home property. As before, they can¬†serve both the clean and the unclean, but they are not to eat anything still alive or eat any of the blood. Moses also reminds them to never forget the Levites since they do not have their own shares in the new land. (Boy, if that’s a type and shadow that says preachers won’t get their own mansions, but will have to live with others in eternity, I wonder how many would still want to be preachers.)

So,¬†Hebrews 13:10-16 (NLT) talks of Yeshua being crucified outside the camp and how God’s people should be willing to go outside the camp and bear the disgrace with Him. It says we do this because this world is not our permanent home. It goes on to say we should bring a continual sacrifice of praise to God by proclaiming allegiance to His name. I see this as comparable to Israel being outside versus¬†inside their new land. (Anything in the book of Hebrews is speaking to Messianic Jews, so they understood this comparison.) I think it means that while we live on this side of Heaven, it will feel like a sacrifice to proclaim The Lord, but when we move into His permanent presence, we can praise Him right where we live, and it will be out of desire instead of by requirement.

Our meat for sacrifice is no longer one with blood since¬†the perfect blood of Yeshua finished that work for all mankind. Now, we bring a sacrifice of praise, and God’s designated place for that sacrifice is outside the camp since we still live outside of “Canaan.”¬†We take our sacrifice¬†into the world, so we can lift Him up where He will draw all men to Himself. And even though¬†people in the world may try to disgrace us for our stand (that’s part of what makes it a sacrifice after all), we can still give that sacrifice as a blessing of thanksgiving to the One who promises us eternity in His holy presence.

I’m just going to change one word in the first line of a popular chorus…We bring sacrifice of praise OUTSIDE the house of The Lord. And when we bring our sacrifice of praise to the world, we bring His joy to the world.

August 10, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Blessing and A Curse


Time is Too Slow...by Flickr User QuotesEverlasting, CC License = Attribution

Time is Too Slow…by Flickr User QuotesEverlasting, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

How many things on this earth can bring¬†both a blessing and a curse? Time most definitely fits that description. When it runs out too fast, it can send¬†people to their knees as they beg for more.¬†When one has lived a long and prosperous life, he may go to his grave singing praises to God for all his days on earth. Fire is another thing that fits. When it warms us or¬†allows us to cook, it’s a great blessing, but when it burns or¬†causes pain or loss, we may wish it never existed.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 11:26 through Deuteronomy 12:9 (the portion changes at 10, but it’s in the middle of a sentence, so I’ll add verse 10 tomorrow) we begin a new week and a new portion. Parashah 47 is called¬†Re’eh in Hebrew and means “see” in English. It begins with the sentence, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse.” Moses continues with a description of the blessing and the curse and how Israel can receive the one they want.

The blessing, Moses tells them, comes from honoring and keeping all the laws of God that he is giving them before they cross into¬†The Promised Land. The curse comes if they don’t listen, and especially if they turn aside to follow other gods. The blessing is to be kept on Mount Gerizim, and the curse on Mount Ebal. Both mountains are west of the Jordan River, where the sun sets in the land of the Canaanites. I find it interesting that they are both in the new land of promise, and both are in close proximity to each other.

Moses tells Israel to be watchful to keep the ordinances of God, and then he tells them of the laws concerning how they are to deal with the people in the land they are getting ready to take possession of. He tells them they are to destroy every place, whether high on a mountain or under a tree, where the nations before them have worshipped other gods. He also tells them to break down and crush their altars, graven images, and pillars that are built to other gods, and he tells them to burn all the poles they set up to honor the false gods. He tells them to totally exterminate the names of the false gods from the new land.

After telling them to destroy all that is against God, Moses tells the people to make sure not to treat Yahveh Almighty that way, but instead, they are to come to the place where He designates for His Name, and there they will worship Him. He will choose the place, and they are to seek it out. When they find it, they are to bring all their sacrifices and offerings there. And then Moses tells them something that sort of shocked me. He tells them that life will be very different for them on the other side of the Jordan River because they will no longer be able to live doing things their own way as each sees fit. While I thought they were already under the law, apparently they were not. Moses tells them that they weren’t yet required to change things because they had not yet arrived at the rest and inheritance God promised them.

I can see a correlation in these proclamations from Moses to¬†Israel. In life, before we begin serving God, we are not under the same set of directions as we are once we have entered into His rest. Those who are not yet serving Him are not expected to honor His word the same as those of us who have claimed Him as our Lord, but that doesn’t take them off the hook for their sin. The wages of sin are death. This makes it clear why we should present reasons for people to leave their lives of sin and live for God. We can’t condemn them for living opposite a word they do not yet trust, but we can’t let them feel okay and comfortable living in opposition to God either.

Brenda, a friend and fellow writer, says it well when she explains why all people on earth are not the children of God. She points out how ridiculous it would be to invite a stranger into your home just because the person says he or she is family. You need proof. God wants evidence that people truly want to be in His family too. I imagine that some of the people God and Israel are driving out of the new land are nice people. They might have been the sort of people the media would now do stories about, telling the world how we must be kind to them because they are humans and have rights like the rest of us. But God Almighty was looking at their hearts and how they were sold out to false gods.

The word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword as it divides the false from the truth. God loves all people and desires to see all people saved, but that doesn’t mean that He’s suddenly okay with people rejecting Him–whether they do it on their own or in His holy name. His mercy does not make allowance to keep sinning, it makes allowance to repent before it’s too late.

God’s mercy is¬†a blessing, but for those who refuse to even try to seek Him, that mercy will become a curse when they miss out on it because of their rejection of the gift. Scripture tells us in Acts 17:30-31 (English Standard Version) that there were times of ignorance God overlooked, but now He commands all men everywhere to repent before the Day of Judgment in Christ. Even those already living in the land of promise had to make a decision about whom to serve. Even those of us already claiming to live according to God’s promised blessings must choose Him each day. Salvation is more than accepting God one time and then forgetting our promise, it’s about refusing to reject Him for the rest of eternity.¬†Let God’s mercy be a blessing and not a curse to you by keeping your heart wrapped up in His gifts every day.

August 9, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Will Follow Him–Will You?


I remember the first time I watched the movie¬†Sister Act. I expected nothing but comedy, but my emotional reactions to the movie surprised me. When the shy nun who barely sang above a whisper came out of her fear to belt out her lyrics, I cried because of the victory I saw in that. There is something about seeing someone get over whatever obstacle her or she is facing that really stirs my inner cheerleader. And I think it’s the same way with God when He watches His children move through this life.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 11:22 through Deuteronomy 11:25, we complete another week and another portion. Since there are only four verses this time, I’m going to start with just pasting them here. Since you can click the link to read it in the Complete Jewish Bible, I’m going to paste it here from The Message Bible¬†at the Bible Gateway site…

That‚Äôs right. If you diligently keep all this commandment that I command you to obey‚ÄĒlove God, your God, do what he tells you, stick close to him‚ÄĒGod on his part will drive out all these nations that stand in your way. Yes, he‚Äôll drive out nations much bigger and stronger than you. Every square inch on which you place your foot will be yours. Your borders will stretch from the wilderness to the mountains of Lebanon, from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea. No one will be able to stand in your way. Everywhere you go, God-sent fear and trembling will precede you, just as he promised.

Of course, the actual details of these promises were from God to Israel, like the promise that every place they walked would be theirs, but those of us who follow God today can claim similar promises. We know that if we faithfully follow God as our Lord, and if we trust Him to lead us, we will not end up in places not meant for us. Even if we see obstacles that seem bigger and greater than we can handle, if we follow Him, He will lead us up and over those obstacles.

I believe, with all my heart, that God watches us with a desire to see us succeed in this life. His idea of success and our idea of success are not¬†exactly the same at times, but He never wants us to come to failure. He is our loving parent, and He only wants the best for us. In Luke 11:5-13, Yeshua talks about our requests to God being like that of a¬†friend to a friend or a son to a father. He points out that fathers would not give¬†their sons snakes when they ask for fish, or scorpions when they ask for eggs. God won’t give us failure when we ask for success either. As a matter of fact,¬†I think that when God sees us build our strength, push through the hard parts, and pull ourselves over obstacles, He rejoices with us in our victories.

We can find a thesaurus full of synonyms for what Israel might have felt before they crossed over the Jordan river, and I’m fairly certain that most of us have felt the same when asked to follow and trust anyone–including God–in faith. We all have our share of trepidation, apprehension, consternation, fear, dread, and maybe even some collywobbles. But God would have us replace those feelings with some other synonyms like confidence, conviction, optimism, hope, trust and faith. As long as it is God and His perfect will that leads us, we can follow Him wherever He will go, and we can own every step we take in faith. He will never leave or forsake us, so we can follow Him even to the end of the world. I will follow Him–Will you?

August 8, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Talk Too Much…For a Horse


1962 Studebaker Lark Skytop Hardtop on Set of Mr. Ed TV Show by Flickr User Alden Jewell, CC License = Attribution

1962 Studebaker Lark Skytop Hardtop on Set of Mr. Ed TV Show by Flickr User Alden Jewell, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

How about starting with some trivia tonight? First, what’s the name of the horse in the pictured TV show? And do you remember the name of his humans? How about this: what trick did they use to get the horse to “talk” on command? I’ll give you the answers in the comments tomorrow, or you can click on the picture and read the comments at Flickr to find out the names of the actors and their characters. Oh, but I will tell you the trick for the horse’s mouth movements. I’ve heard they used peanut butter, but I’ve also heard they used chewing gum.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 11:10 through Deuteronomy 11:21, we will read about good times to talk too much. We begin with Moses talking about gardening in the new land. He tells the community of Israel that the new land won’t be like Egypt where they had to use their feet to run the irrigation systems. (And now I’m curious and want to know the history of Egyptian irrigation. ūüôā ) In the new land, because of the hills and valleys, the ground will absorb the rain more easily. Plus, God has His eye on this land and gives it rain to bring forth more vegetation. He wants the land and the people to be prosperous.

Moses then shares the promises of God that if the people will keep all of God’s laws, He will give the land its rain in the right seasons, including the extra rains in early fall and late spring. These rains will help bring in plentiful wheat, new wine, olive oil, and grass for the livestock. In this same promise, however, is the warning that if the people turn aside to worship other gods, Yahveh Almighty will shut up the sky, and there will be no rain. If that happens, the ground will not yield its produce, and the people will quickly perish in the land.

So Moses tells them to store up all the good words of God in their minds and hearts. They are to talk about them when they get up in the morning and when they go to sleep at night. They should discuss them when they sit down at dinner. Moses advises them to bind them on their hands and foreheads, and he says for them to write them on their door frames and gate posts. He says to diligently teach them to their children, and to talk of them while at home and while traveling. Remembering the laws of God will help both these people and their children to live long in the land that The Lord promised to their ancestors as a possession for as long as their is sky above the earth.

You know who wouldn’t be accused of not talking about it enough? Mr. Ed. (Oops, I gave you another answer.) Mr. Ed loved to talk even when no one was listening. And when he couldn’t get his human host to hang around the barn long enough, he would just make a phone call and talk to someone. He loved to talk.

I was reading all these places where Moses was telling the people to talk, and I imagined myself getting up in the morning to talk about God, speaking to my husband about Him before bed, and talking to the boys around the dinner table. And then I imagined them all saying, “Aunt Crystal, you talk too much.” I have been accused of talking about God too much, but He is the center of my universe, so I just can’t help it. The days when stress tries to pull my thoughts and words away from Him are my hardest days. Oh, but those days when I think about Him, sing about Him and to Him, and take moments (many moments) to tell others about Him; those are my¬†best days.

Mr. Ed (or actually his voice actor) spoke from a script. Well, so do I. My script is Scripture, and it tells me to talk about God every chance I get. My Heavenly Father loves to be remembered and praised, and He has done more than enough to be worthy of that. He wants all of us thinking about Him and talking about Him from morning to night.

Just imagine if we focused our talk directly on The Creator instead of on His creations. We talk about Him more than we talk about His people. We praise Him more than we praise His miracles or great works. We uplift what He has already done more than we beg Him to do more for us. We humble ourselves and desire Him as we talk of how pleasant it is to keep His word in our hearts, thoughts, and actions.¬†We cherish His presence. He has promised that if He is lifted up above the earth¬†(first on the cross, now above all our ways here on earth), He will draw all men to Himself. If all men were to turn to Him instead of false gods or doing things their own way, I don’t think even horses¬†could talk too much about the wonderful ways our world would change.

August 7, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Worth the Weight


Lift Me by Flickr User Keith Davenport, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Lift Me by Flickr User Keith Davenport, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I’m a fan of the show¬†America’s Got Talent, and the one thing I notice about the majority of acts that get closest to the finish line is their amount of practice. If getting there truly matters, some of these people will drop almost everything else in their lives to become dedicated to the perfection of their talents. The strong men and weightlifters are not my favorite categories, but I have to admire the perseverance they have given¬†to get to where they could lift and support at the levels they demonstrate. Imagine someone coming out in a leotard¬†and demonstrating how strong they are by lifting a toothpick with a gumdrop on each end. Yeah, I wouldn’t be convinced either. ūüôā

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 10:12 through Deuteronomy 11:9, Moses talks to Israel about the value of serving and loving God with everything they’ve got to offer Him. Moses says, “…fear Adonai your God, follow all His ways, love Him and serve Adonai your God with all your heart and all your being.” He then tells them that The Lord asks them to obey these things for their own good.

Moses points out that all the earth and everything on it, plus the sky and the heavens beyond the sky, all belong to God. But God found favor in the ancestors of the current generation, and He chose them and their descendants to love and bless. Moses encourages them that to honor this great love, they should circumcise their hearts and be stiff-necked no longer because they serve the God of gods and the Lord of lords. His love is so great that He helps the widows, the orphans, and the foreigners, and He desires for His people to do the same because they were once foreigners in Egypt.

As Moses continues, he reminds the people that he is talking to them and not to their children because their children have not seen the greatness of God as He delivered them from Egypt. They did not see God open the earth to swallow the grandsons of Reuben when they created an uprising against Him and against Moses. But these people have seen the mighty hand of God, and they know how God has turned only seventy that went down to Egypt into a multitude like the stars in Heaven. And God asks that this multitude would honor and respect Him by following all His laws, so they will be strong enough to go in and posses the Land of Promise and dwell there for a long time.

I notice that Moses keeps referring to the blessings of keeping God’s law. He says that God only gives the law for their own good. He says that keeping the law will make them strong, and living according to God’s law promises a longer life. Sometimes the laws of doing right, can seem heavy. Staying moral and upright when sin comes in to tempt you and tries to tell you that you’re living a boring life (especially when you’re young) can be a battle. Being forgiving when someone has¬†done you wrong can be difficult. Doing things God’s way, especially in faith and without question, can be as hard as swimming against the current when you’re fighting your own fleshly desire to have complete understanding before you move forward.

But just because life is hard and weights are heavy, we cannot quit. We all know that professional weightlifters do not start out lifting the heaviest set. They work up to higher amounts through repetition and practice. What seemed heavy for them at the beginning may seem light to them now. We, too, must continue to push ourselves and to practice until we build spiritual muscle that enables us to lift more and more as we work to become strong in The Lord.

Too much of the world wants to feel sorry for those who have a bit more weight to lift in this life, and they want to take the weight away, but it only creates weaker people. All the helpful do-gooders would be more help and do more good if they would become spotters rather than taking away the weights altogether. When we see someone who has it hard, we can give him a boost, but we should not steal his chance to become a strong person by doing his job for him. We should encourage, pray for, and watch over those in need, and then we will be blessed in helping them become strong in this life and in The Lord.

Yeshua told us to take up our own cross each day because He knew the blessing of spiritual muscle-building, and He knew we would receive help to bear it simply by asking for it. As each of us lifts the weightier matters in life and in things of The Spirit, we will reap the rewards of perseverance and faith. Let me encourage you now. Keep on pressing toward the mark of the high calling in Christ, and may we all rejoice when we cross that finish line with the power and strength God desires for us. It will be worth the weight.

August 6, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Box of Words


Magnetic Poetry Created Online by Crystal A Murray

Magnetic Poetry Created Online by Crystal A Murray
Click image to open a new tab/window to go make your own poem at the Magnetic Poetry(TM) online site.

Whether it’s song lyrics, simple rhymes, or silly parodies, I have always liked to write poetry. I learned when I taught a lesson during National Poetry Month (April of each year) that I can put out some rhythm and rhyme without even taking much thought, so it must be one of those natural gifts. I struggle a little more when I play with my refrigerator magnets because I want all the articles and proper verb tenses and such, but sometimes, the struggle to work with only what’s available stirs my creativity in a different way. If you like playing with words, be sure to click on the image above to visit the online site for¬†Magnetic Poetry(TM) where you can build and share some of your own creations.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 10:1 through Deuteronomy 10:11, we’ll read as Moses gives details on the story of God giving him the covenant on stone tablets. Yesterday, it mentioned the entire covenant, so I thought it might be more than what we call¬†The Ten Commandments, but today it lists what Moses receives as “The Ten Words,” so I guess maybe that is all that was on them.

Moses begins with God giving him the command to cut two stone tablets like the first ones he broke. Then God tells him to build an ark (basically, a box) out of acacia wood before he comes up on the mountain. Timeline wise, I tried to determine if this is the same ark that will be stored in¬†The Holy of Holies and covered with gold, and since it’s called¬†The Ark of the Covenant, I guess it’s the same one. I just never realized that it was Moses who built it originally. Anyway, Moses obeys and after God inscribes the new tablets, Moses brings them back down the mountain and puts them in the ark. He tells the people that they remain there to the day he speaks with them.

Moses then tells the people of Israel’s travels. He shares the journey to where Aaron died and was buried, and he tells of Aaron’s son, Eleazar, taking over as high priest. He talks of traveling to a place filled with streams called “Gudgod” which other translations list as “Gudgodah.” To me, it sounds like the words could mean “Good God,” and maybe were a place where the people named it in honor of God’s goodness to them. He does share that this is the place where God assigns the Levites to carry the ark for the covenant and to stand before God to serve Him and bless Him. He tells them that The Lord is Levi’s inheritance, and that’s why he has no possession among his brothers.

As he speaks to Israel, Moses reminds them of God’s desire to destroy the people for their rebellion, but he tells them of how God listened to him as before and agreed to spare them. And then God tells Moses to go back down the mountain, so he can lead the people to the land He promised to their ancestors.

I love the part in verse ten where Moses says The Lord listened to him. Sometimes, it’s hard to imagine with all God has to keep an eye on–and an ear out for, that He could actually find time to listen to each one of us, but He does. Of course, while God does hear us as we holler from the bottoms of some of the pits we get ourselves into, something tells me He is more attentive when we do like Moses and make our way up closer to Him. I notice that Moses listened to God before he spoke to Him, and I see Moses going into God’s presence with reverence and an obedient spirit.

See, we’re not just a box of words that God put on this earth to play with when He gets bored. We are a testimony written in such a way as to glorify God and lift Him up, so that all men can be drawn to Him. We may seem like a jumbled mess while we toss around trying to do things our own way, but I believe God has a plan to use every moment of our lives to bring glory and honor to Him. If we seek and search for Him with all our hearts, and if we humble ourselves before Him, He will rewrite the mess we’ve made. We have His promise in Romans 8:28 that¬†ALL things work together for good, so we can trust that He will take our jumbled¬†up days and moments and pull them together as a beautiful letter (hand-written and edited by God Himself) for all men to read and find His¬†mercy, grace, and love.

August 5, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surgery for a Stiff Neck


Neck Surgery Staples by Crystal A Murray as Flickr User CrystalWriter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Neck Surgery Staples by Crystal A Murray as Flickr User CrystalWriter, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access my full photo stream at Flickr. This image is one of my most viewed because so many people look for images of surgery before having their own. I’ve seen far worse though. ūüôā

It seemed to come out of the blue. I went to lift my head off the pillow, and I couldn’t do it because of the pain. I figured I must have slept wrong or let a draft get to it. After three months of non-stop pain, I gave in and went to the doctor. Much testing revealed a severely ruptured disk and the recommendation of surgery. I tried every other avenue first, including prayer and chiropractic treatments, but since I kept getting worse, I set date to have it fixed.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 9:4 through Deuteronomy 9:29 (the end of the chapter), we read about people with a stiff neck that didn’t have the option of traditional surgery. The first thing Moses tells them here is not to think they get to go into the land of promise because of their good works or righteousness. To the contrary, he tells them that they are only going in because of God’s love for them and His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They also get to go in because of the extreme wickedness of the nations that now live there; nations that God is driving out to make room for His people.

Moses calls the people “a stiffnecked people” and goes on to give them examples of why they have earned that title. He tells them of his time on the mountain with God, and how they were on the brink of annihilation if not for his intercession on their behalf. He talks of staying on the mountain for 40 days and nights without food or drink, laying down before The Lord just to plead for their lives.

Moses continues the story and tells them how he emerged with the two stone tablets containing all the words of the covenant God made with Israel (sounds like a bit more than just The Ten Commandments), and how he arrived to find the people worshiping a golden calf instead of Yahveh. He was so upset with them that he crushed their calf into dust and sprinkled it into the water supply. Here he had been excited and ready to share this blessed covenant, written by the finger of God Himself, and instead he found the people restlessly worshiping a false god that could not see or hear, let alone make a covenant with them.

After Moses recounts more incidents of testing and rebellion on the part of Israel, he talks of going back to the mountain to plead for the lives of the people. He says that even though they never trusted The Lord and always rebelled against Him, he begged God to spare them because they were His own inheritance. He tells them of how he reminded God of all He had done for the people so far and of what their enemies would say if God did not spare them. And because Moses reminded God of the value of His inheritance, God spared the people who were there that day to cross over into a new land.

After forty years, I would think people had heard these stories multiple times. Is it really possible to tell a history often enough and with enough passion for people to figure out its importance? I mean, after all they had seen and heard, shouldn’t the people have been convinced by then? But apparently they were not. Moses was still saying they were stiffnecked, and apparently the many “neck surgeries” he and God had tried on them were not yet successful.

My post-surgical picture above is from my second surgery. ¬†The first may have been successful if I was not so stiffnecked in being a people-pleaser. I went back to work too soon because my boss was complaining about the quality of work from my replacement, and while there, I fell and snapped away the fusion before it had fully set. The second surgery, though more detailed and with a lot more metal in place, has never been quite right, so I’m now stuck in pain and numbness unless and until God decides to heal me His way.

Even now, as I shake my hand after so much typing just to make it feel better, I am frustrated with my constant stiff neck and the irritation in the associated muscles and nerves. When I hear the crackles from turning my head, I become aggravated with myself for putting myself in a situation that took away my chance to heal correctly.

I imagine God was frustrated in having to deal with people to whom He gave so many opportunities for change. They could have repented and let God’s love do surgery on their rebellious hearts, but they just kept going back to the ways that got them in trouble time and¬†again. As I’ve read through the Torah this year and seen new groups of people doing the same stuff, making the same accusations against God and Moses, and getting into the same situations¬†over and over, I’ve often said, “Not again!.” But, yes, it happened again and again with them, and in reality, it happens again and again with us.

Maybe neck surgeries aren’t really that successful because surgery always creates scar tissue. The scarring then puts pressure where the ruptured disk once put it, so though not as bad, there’s still nerve irritation. Maybe enough surgeries to remove the scarring could eventually thin it out though. And the same goes with our repentance before The Lord. I think if we put our stubbornness and rebellion at the foot of the cross often enough, we could eventually cut away the fleshly reactions of going back to doing things our own way. Then again, the most successful surgery might be the one that separates us from this flesh for eternity and gives us our new bodies that are like Yeshua’s glorified body. Somehow, I don’t think He ever has to worry about a stiff neck.

August 4, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Forgetting to Remember


Forgot What I Wanted to Remember by Flickr User Flood G, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Forgot What I Wanted to Remember by Flickr User Flood G, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Oops, I forgot. Oh, I meant to do that, but it slipped my mind. Doggone it; I totally spaced that one. Ugh!

Any of these sound familiar? I’m known for having a good memory, but I get frustrated because sometimes I remember the most mundane details and forget the most important tasks. At times, it feels as if my mind is so full of things to remember that it just has to let some of its content fall out to make more room. It’s like those days when you head to a certain room with a certain task in mind, and when you get there, you stand in the middle of the room just hoping you’ll remember why you’re there. Oh well, a little extra exercise was good for you, right?

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 8:11 through Deuteronomy 9:3, Moses gives the community of Israel some important things to remember, and some extremely good reasons to remember them. He begins by telling them to be careful not to forget The Lord. How could they forget Him? By not following the laws and rules (mitzvot–Hebrew plural for laws) Moses is passing along to them from God.

Moses tells Israel¬†that if they forget God, they will become arrogant. They will live in fine houses, eat and be filled, and have plenty of cattle and flocks, and they will forget Who made it possible for them to have all their goodies. They will start thinking that they gained all their wealth by the power of their own hands when it was God who gave them the ability to earn the wealth and to live comfortably. The Lord is giving¬†them all they will have in order to keep the promise He swore to their ancestors, but pride and self-reliance will make them forget–and¬†with dire consequences.

Moses tells Israel that if they forget The Lord and go after other gods to serve and worship them, they will perish the same way the nations are perishing that God is driving out before Israel’s eyes. Like the other nations, Israel will suffer for not acknowledging Yahveh Almighty as their Creator and Provider, especially after¬†all Israel has seen Him do since He brought them out of Egypt.

The Scripture here reads as if Moses is shouting, “Listen up, Israel! Today is the day of your salvation!” He tells them that on this day, they will cross the Jordan River and go into the new land to dispossess¬†nations bigger and greater than themselves. With all that’s at stake, Moses wants to make sure Israel pays attention and remembers that God Himself is going over the Jordan before them, and He is marching through their new land as a consuming fire to drive out the current inhabitants and make the land ready for His chosen people.

Maybe there’s no comparison here to forgetting why you just walked into the kitchen, but there is a comparison to forgetting who your Provider is as you consume the generous blessings He showers on you. That kind of forgetfulness is arrogant and prideful. And, since pride goes before destruction, it’s not a place we want to be. Whether a blessing has come to us by the power of our hard work, or it has shown up in some miraculous gesture or gift, the source is still Yahveh Almighty, the Father of Lights from whom comes EVERY good and perfect gift that enters our lives.

As I read this portion, I thought of those who try to work or will good into their lives by way of deeds or rituals. Even if they give God the credit in the end, if people think they can pray certain words or perform some ritual behaviors in order to get God to answer them, they are taking credit for something that is beyond their abilities. God doesn’t tell us to ask for our needs because it is necessary for Him, but He tells us we have not because we ask not to increase our faith in how important we are to Him. He wants us to know that He is listening and paying attention to even the smallest details in our lives.

We must not¬†forget to remember that God is God and we¬†are not. Sometimes God says, “No,” but only because He knows there is something better in our future. God is more interested in our faithful obedience to Him than in any work or deed we might do to “win His approval.” God is our Provider, God loves us, God wants to give us good things, and God desires to communicate both ways with us. I think of it like this: It’s all about God, and it’s not about me–except to God.

Also don’t forget to remember: God will not be manipulated, so whether it’s by our sacrifice in a fast, or our pious position in a prayer, our gifts to God should be without strings attached. What we¬†do in words and deeds is to change us, not God. We should give what we give to Him¬†out of thanksgiving and humility for what He has already done, and out of an obedient spirit that yields to His leading for what He wants us to do through Him. In that way, we will not forget to remember who we are in Him, who He is to us, and who we are together with Him.

Amen, and blessings on your week ahead.

August 3, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pinky Promise


Pinky Promise by Flickr User Ali Holding, CC License = Attribution

Pinky Promise by Flickr User Ali Holding, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

I used to think the whole “pinky promise” or “pinky swear” thing was just for little kids–girls in particular, but lately I’ve been seeing it happen between adults of both genders. Have you ever made a pinky promise to someone? If so, how hard did you try to keep your promise? Keeping promises is an important part of friendship, and unkept promises have ended even long-term relationships. Of course, it depends on the promise and how gravely it was broken, but I doubt I could find a single person who desires that promises made to them go unkept.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 7:12 through Deuteronomy 8:10, we begin a new week and a new portion of Torah. This portion, Parashah 46 is called “‘Ekev” in Hebrew and means “Because” in English. It begins with a statement that basically says, “Because you are keeping your end of the deal, The Lord will keep His end of the deal.” It goes on to express how God will love Israel, increase her numbers, and bless the fruit of her body and of her ground in the land He promised to her ancestors.

Moses is still speaking to encourage Israel before the community crosses over the Jordan, and he tells them of promises that include how this people will be blessed above all other people. Moses tells them there will not be a sterile man or woman among them, and it will be the same for their animals. God will remove all sickness from among them, and they will not suffer any of the diseases they knew from the Egyptians.

For Israel’s part of the promise, they must totally destroy all those who hate them and that The Lord hands over to them. Moses tells them that if they show any pity to them, or if they serve any of their gods, it will become a trap for them. If they look and worry about their numbers, they are not to fear but instead remember all the signs and wonders God performed in delivering them from Egypt.

God promises Israel that He will go over with them to show Himself as a great and fearful God, and He will expel the nations that hate Israel. But, He tells them it will not happen all at once, or the wild animals would become too numerous for Israel, so God will send disasters one after another to destroy them. Moses reminds the people again to burn up and destroy all the false gods and statues of the people, and when they are gone, Israel should not covet the gold and silver left behind because it has a curse on it. He tells them not to bring anything God hates into their homes, or the objects will bring curses with them.

Moses tells Israel to remember everything they’ve learned from forty years in the desert while God humbled them and tested to see if they would obey His laws. He reminds them of their hunger and how God fed them with manna, and¬†he shows them how their feet never got tired or swollen. He tells them to think deeply about these things that they won’t forget. He promises that if they will keep the laws of God that he is passing along to them, they will live long and prosperous lives in the land of promise. The land is filled with fruit and grains, so they will eat abundantly and lack nothing. Israel will eat and be satisfied, and in return, they will bless The Lord who gave them the land.

I think most of us know that promises work both ways. Whether it’s a handshake deal, a wedding vow, or a documented and signed contract, there are always promises to be kept by all people who enter into the relationship. Why, then, does the world seem so upset with the idea that God wants us to keep promises in return for all the promises He has made to us? He tells us He will give us blessings in this life and in eternity. He tells us He will have mercy and grace on us that He will pour out new every morning. He tells us that we do not have to pay Him back for the blood and suffering at Calvary.

Little girls and grown women, plus little boys and grown men, will grasp a pinky, or hold up a pinky, to swear their loyalty to a friendship or to a promise. Neither party desires for the other party to walk away thinking or saying something like, “Great, now that I’ve got what I want, I can just forget about my end of the bargain.” When we go to an altar and ask God for His forgiveness, we are entering into an exchange of promises.¬†He offers salvation freely to those who want to be saved out of (and “out of” if the important part) whatever bondage this life offers, and we offer a promise to repent from doing things our way and do our best to follow Him.

God is so merciful that He gives wonderful gifts and promises even to those who do not offer Him anything in return. He gives life, love, blessings, and wonderful days in spite of our lifestyles where He is not the center of our attention and often where He is left out. He continues to pour out these gifts in spite of people who raise their fists to curse Him when things aren’t going just right yet never raise a hand to praise Him when things go as they want. If you have made a promise to serve God, remember your promises to Him. And next time you lift your hands in praise to Him, imagine Him extending His pinky from Heaven to remind you of how much He believes in and appreciates you and every effort you make to keep your promises to Him. Try it one day soon. I pinky promise you’ll like what you feel.

August 2, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When God Makes an Investment


Treasure Chest by Flickr User Tom Praison aka TommyClicks, CC License = Attribution

Treasure Chest by Flickr User Tom Praison aka TommyClicks, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

The Christian singer, Carman, had a song with the lyric line, “When God talks, even E.F. Hutton listens.” Apparently, Carman believed that even E.F. Hutton would know how good God is when it comes to investing. (In case you don’t know, E.F. Hutton and Co. was an investment firm with a commercial slogan that included, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”) If you are a believer, and if you have felt the move of God in your own life, you too know how good God is at investing because you know that He invests in the hearts and salvation of people.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 7:1 through Deuteronomy 7:11, we conclude another week and another portion of Torah. Moses is still speaking to the community of Israel and reminding them of their past while preparing them for their future before the enter into¬†The Promised Land. Moses begins by reminding Israel that The Lord their God is the one bringing them into their new homeland, and He will drive out all the inhabitants that are currently there.

There are seven nations in the land that are bigger than Israel, and Moses tells the people that when God hands these nations over to Israel for victory, Israel is to completely destroy them. Because they are not going to be neighbors, Moses tells the people God’s commands to not make any covenants with them, and he tells them not to show them any mercy. He also advises them not to intermarry. He tells them that if they allow their sons to marry the daughters of the current inhabitants, or if they allow their daughters to be taken as wives to the men of the land, they will turn their hearts away from the true God, and it will cause God’s anger¬†to flare up against them.

Through Moses, God tells them to treat the people as follows: break down the altars they have built to false gods, smash their standing stones to pieces, cut down their sacred poles, and completely burn up their carved images. God doesn’t want any of these things in the land He has chosen for a people He has invested in. Moses tells them how God chose them out of all the people on the earth to be His special treasure. God did not choose the people because they were a large group of people since they were actually one of the smallest people groups on earth, but He chose them because He loved them and wanted to keep the promises He swore to their ancestors.

Moses reminds Israel that God being a promise keeper is how they can know that He is indeed God Almighty. He redeemed Israel from slavery and brought them out from Egypt because He is faithful, and because He keeps His promises. God extends grace to those who love Him and keep His laws to a thousand generations, but He repays those who hate Him to their face, and He destroys them. Because God is not slow in repaying those who hate Him, Moses encourages Israel to keep all the laws and rulings he is giving them and to obey them.

As we enter into our time of resting from our own ways and honoring God for His ways and His wisdom, let us remember that we are able to do so only because He chose to invest in us just as He invested in Israel. God did not choose us because we were anything special or great, or because we deserved to serve Him, but simply because He loves us. He doesn’t have some firm watching to see which of us will¬†be the most beneficial to the kingdom and choosing investments for Him. Instead, He is putting Himself out there as an investor to¬†whosoever will seek Him, come to Him, and receive Him. Know that God does not invest in junk, so you are worth as much to Him as any of His interests.

If you already serve God, rejoice in your value to Him. His Word tells us that where our treasure is, our hearts will be, so since we are His treasure, we know where His heart is at too. HalleluYah! Now, if you are reading this and haven’t made a choice to turn to Him, I urge you to consider the investment He already made for you through the blood of Yeshua, and know that He would’ve paid that price if you were the only option for Him to choose. Our Creator has the wisdom to know when and what to buy and sell, and He wants you in His portfolio because when God makes an investment, He knows what He’s doing.

Shabbat Shalom to all, and may you have an abundantly blessed rest that gives you all you need for a fruitful week ahead.

August 1, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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