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A place to read what Crystal writes

He Leadeth Me…To The End


With Sukkot beginning this coming Wednesday (evening of October 8th, 2014), I knew we were nearing the end of Torah, but I didn’t expect it this quickly. As it turns out, I actually started this week’s portion prematurely. The last two books of Deuteronomy are supposed to be coupled with the beginning of Genesis when Torah readings begin anew during Simchat Torah (Joy of Torah). However, since I didn’t start with the end of Deuteronomy last year, I need to finish it here to be complete.

Sunset tonight is actually the beginning of the high holy day, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). It is a day of fasting and introspection as believers prepare themselves for the upcoming year. In the days of the wilderness tabernacle, it was the day when God would forgive all sin for the year. Because of Yeshua, we now have atonement anytime someone steps under His cleansing blood through repentance. Because repentance is brought forth by self-examination, I think it is a good idea for Christians to take advantage of Yom Kippur to silence some of life’s noise and spend a day seeking God’s Holy Spirit. I plan to write tomorrow night about any discoveries God brings me through my introspection.

So, in today’s reading from Deuteronomy 34:1 through Deuteronomy 34:12 (the whole chapter), we close out the book of Deuteronomy, the books of the Torah, and another week. Shabbat Shalom. Because this Yom Kippur is also falling on a Shabbat (Sabbath) , it is considered a Shabbat of Shabbats and is very special. Please read the chapter yourself, and consider reading the first chapter of the book of Joshua to watch the baton pass from Moses to Joshua the son of Nun.

Moses’ blessing is now complete, the Torah is done, and Moses life is ready to end. Studying straight through like this has given me a more realistic picture of Moses, so my heart actually grieves his passing. I can see why reading through the Torah every year can be a life-changing experience.

The chapter begins with Moses going to Mount Nebo, at the summit of Pisgah which is opposite Jericho. As he stands on the summit, he’s 120 years old but still with youthful strength and perfect eyesight. God shows Moses all the land He promised as an inheritance to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He tells Moses that he may look on all of it with his eyes, but he may not cross the Jordan to enter it. So Moses dies in the land of Moab, and though they were unsure of his actual gravesite, they know God buried him in the valley near Beth-Peor. All Israel mourned and wept over their great leader for thirty days.

When the days of mourning Moses were ended, Joshua the son of Nun stepped up. He had wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him, so the Israelites listened to him and did as the Lord commanded Moses. The last three verses of the chapter are powerful, and I want you to see them for yourselves, so here they are from The Complete Jewish Bible

Since that time there has not arisen in Isra’el a prophet like Moshe, whom Adonai knew face to face. What signs and wonders Adonai sent him to perform in the land of Egypt upon Pharaoh, all his servants and all his land! What might was in his hand! What great terror he evoked before the eyes of all Isra’el!

We know, of course, that Yeshua showed up on the scene many years later, and He made the holy presence of God available to all mankind. When the temple vail tore in half from the top to the bottom, God’s throne became a place where we could come and speak to God face to face as a man speaks to a friend. The blood cleanses us, so we won’t die in God’s presence. But remember that “as a friend” part because it makes an important distinction. We don’t have the invitation to God’s throne to command Him to do things our way, we have it to ask Him in person how we can do things His way.

Moses is one of the patriarchs in what we often call “The Faith Chapter,” the 11th chapter of Hebrews. I looked through some different translations, and I like the wording from the Easy to Read Version (ERV). Here is Hebrews 11:24-28

Moses grew up and became a man. He refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose not to enjoy the pleasures of sin that last such a short time. Instead, he chose to suffer with God’s people. He did this because he had faith. He thought it was better to suffer for the Messiah than to have all the treasures of Egypt. He was waiting for the reward that God would give him.

Moses left Egypt because he had faith. He was not afraid of the king’s anger. He continued strong as if he could see the God no one can see. Moses prepared the Passover and spread the blood on the doorways of the people of Israel, so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons. Moses did this because he had faith.

Notice it says,”…better to suffer for the Messiah.” Other versions say “for Christ.” Moses could have sang the song in the video above just like we can today. “By His own blood, He leadeth me.” May all of you, my regular and visiting readers, enjoy the song He Leadeth Me as performed by Candi Pearson, and may you all be able to sing along. May we walk with faith like Moses as we trust God to lead us every moment, every day, from the beginning to the end. HalleluYah and Amen!

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

Cringing Enemy, Trampling Victor


Trampling Triceratops by Flickr User Alex Morales, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Trampling Triceratops by Flickr User Alex Morales, 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.

If you read the article at “Got Questions dot org” at the link I gave in yesterday’s post, you know that the tribe of Asher had a future that sounds much like our own future. God gave Asher power and strength to take out the enemy’s of Israel that occupied the land of their inheritance. Asher backed down and did not drive out the Canaanites. That left Asher in bondage that God did not intend. As Christians, we often back down while trying to be harmless as doves, and we too can end up in bondage. We let enemies in our gates because we think our Christian example will win them to The Lord.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:27 through Deuteronomy 33:29, we’ll finish the chapter, and we’ll read about the power given to all Israel. I thought the blessing for Asher was to continue, but Moses tricked me and switched gears. 🙂 Anyway, it’s only three verses, so I’ll paste the text here from the Complete Jewish Bible

The God of old is a dwelling-place,
with everlasting arms beneath.
He expelled the enemy before you
and he said, ‘Destroy!’
So Isra’el lives in security;
the fountain of Ya‘akov is alone
in a land of grain and new wine,
where the skies drip with dew.
Happy are you, Isra’el!
“Who is like you, a people saved by Adonai,
your defender helping you
and your sword of triumph?
Your enemies will cringe before you,
but you will trample down their high places.”

Moses sure knows God well. He captures God’s power and authority, but he also captures His parental and protective love. I find comfort just in the words about God’s “everlasting arms” being beneath the dwelling place of Israel. Because Israel is safe with God, and because God made the first strike against the enemy, He enabled Israel to finish the job and destroy all that was left standing against them.

With authority over the enemy, Israel can live securely in places of abundance and pleasure (grain and wine). Israel is happy under the cover of God’s blessings and dwelling in His salvation. God is Israel’s defender, and Moses speaks this blessing to Israel beautifully. He calls Yahveh Israel’s “sword of triumph” and promises God’s authority over Israel’s enemies. Moses says the enemies will cringe before Israel, but Israel will trample the places where they worship false gods (high places).

I almost named this post Crouching Enemy, Trampling Victor because I wondered whether “cringe” was really the right word in the Scripture. However, when I looked it up in other translations, the cringing is right but there’s more to it. In the Amplified Bible, it reads this way…

Your enemies shall come fawning and cringing, and submit feigned obedience to you, and you shall march on their high places.

It appears the fawning and cringing and acting like they’re in obedience is to save their own lives, not to crouch as if ready to pounce. Maybe the enemy here hopes that if they play the game right, God and Israel will let them worship their false gods without interruption. Obviously, they are wrong because God will never allow people to worship that which represents His enemy.

It’s interesting this should be the Scripture portion for today as our family has just had another major upheaval this very day. If you’ve been following me, you’ll remember the nephew that was in a coma due to an overdose on heroin and morphine from snorting a pill called Opana. You know that God did a great miracle and brought him out of it, and he came home with us 8 weeks later. While he was in therapy and all of it was real to him, he was grateful and knew it was God who brought him through. He even mentioned getting saved.

But, the question is, was he grateful or was he “fawning and cringing in feigned obedience” to get all we offered? Having lived with us before, he knew our rules, but today he tried to sneak out early in the morning. He said we had too many rules about his not spending hours on the phone with strange girls he met on dating sites. He didn’t like that we found out he was getting high again. And who was there to help him? Why, the mother who brought him into the world of drugs and demons to begin with.

Yes, I’m talking about the mother who caused so many problems when he was in the hospital. Read the old posts starting on March 13th to catch some of the details. This mother, whose first words to her comatose son were to call him an idiot, has encouraged him to leave a good future for a bad one. The mother of his baby won’t bring his daughter around him if he’s using drugs or living with his own destructive mother, so now he won’t be seeing his daughter. If his mother takes his disability money, he won’t be able to pay his child support, and he’ll do the five years in prison that is currently on diversion. He definitely won’t see his beautiful daughter then.

So, now you’re back up to date on that situation. We’ve been wounded, but through prayer and friends, we are at peace. We are sheltered in God’s everlasting arms, and we know He is the victor & all things work together for the good. We’re sorry this young man could receive a miracle directly from the hands of a loving God and turn it down for freedom to party and get in trouble. Why should we think free rent, food, transportation, and lots of love would be enough for him when the cross was not? But God will trample the places of the false gods that wish to kill, steal, and destroy any good God wants in his (or any) life. We pray he gets away from the enemy’s camp before it happens. If not, he will be one of the cringing enemies in the way of a Trampling Victor.

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

Big Kitties and Pedicures


Here Mousy Mousy Mousy Image on Mousepad at Zazzle by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Here Mousy Mousy Mousy Image on Mousepad at Zazzle by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original product at Zazzle.

Have you ever seen those cute little poodle pedicures? I think they’re especially nice when you see a standard white poodle with hot pink or red nails. Apparently, you can now get something similar for kitty cats when you don’t want them to scratch your furniture. Because most people know you couldn’t hold a cat still enough to apply nail polish, someone came up with colored caps they call “Soft Claws.” I’m guessing I would still have to trim quite a bit from the nail tips first though. You’ll notice the “spikes” on the kitty above. That’s my Midnight kitty modeling for a mouse pad at my Zazzle store.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:22 through Deuteronomy 33:26, we have a few more tribes addressed by Moses in his final blessing to Israel. He speaks greatness to the tribes of Dan, Naphtali, and Asher, though the blessing for Asher is not complete and will continue in tomorrow’s reading. Again, the post is short and filled with lots of little blessings, so I’ll paste the text here from the Complete Jewish Bible

Of Dan he said:

“Dan is a lion cub
leaping forth from Bashan.”

Of Naftali he said:

“You, Naftali, satisfied with favor
and full of blessing from Adonai,
take possession of the sea and the south.”

Of Asher he said:

“May Asher be most blessed of sons,
may he be the favorite among his brothers
and bathe his feet in oil.
May your bolts be of iron and bronze
and your strength last as long as you live.

“Yeshurun, there is no one like God,
riding through the heavens to help you,
riding on the clouds in his majesty.

Dan, the lion cub, speaks of youth. Old lions mostly just roar to scare the prey while young lions capture and subdue. It seems like a short blessing, but it is a blessing filled with promise and power for a long time. Moses blessing to Naphtali seems simple enough in giving them beach-front property, but there’s so much more to it that I didn’t even catch at first. Moses blesses this tribe with enough favor from God to be satisfied. No lacking in His favor, no want to try and earn more favor, just the perfect amount of favor to bring comfort and satisfaction. Oh that we could all know this kind of favor from Yahveh.

Asher gets the bulk of the blessing, and they will not only be blessed by God but by the other tribes. Instead of just a simple foot-washing when they visit their brothers, they’ll receive a pedicure. Now, I’m not sure what they used bolts for, but if they were for houses, they’d have strong ones. If the bolts were for weapons and/or shields, it sounds like Asher was being blessed to be victorious in wartime. What’s interesting in that is how later in Asher’s history, the tribe backed down and failed to drive the Canaanites out of the land. There’s some great info about this tribe in an article at “Got Questions dot org.” It’s called “What Should We Learn from the Tribe of Asher?” Just click the title to visit.

The last three lines are simply a declaration from Moses to Israel. He takes every opportunity to uplift God and let Israel know that God is there to help them. As He says, there is NO ONE like Yahveh, and He who rides on the clouds in majesty comes through the heavens just to help you. That’s a huge blessing that applies to us now just as it did Israel then. We have a God who was willing to leave the comforts of Heaven to robe Himself in flesh and shed His own blood for us. Greater than that, when that earthly temple was destroyed, He Himself raised it up on the third day to give us victory over death and the grave. I like big kitties and pedicures, but victory in Yeshua is truly the greatest blessing any of us can receive. HalleluYah!

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

Treasures in Sand


Glass Flowers by Flickr User Arizona Shona, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Glass Flowers by Flickr User Arizona Shona, 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.

Sand is not just dirt. It is filled with treasure whether by what is buried in it, what can be made with it, or what can be made from it. I love to search the web for creative sand sculptures, and I also love glass work. I find it amazing how blown glass is made from super heated sand and pigments for color. And in case you haven’t seen it, there is some great sand to glass art done by God (with lightning) in the movie Sweet Home Alabama.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:18 through Deuteronomy 33:21, we will read more of Moses blessings on a couple more tribes of Israel. It’s another short set of verses, so I’ll post the text here from the Complete Jewish Bible

Of Z’vulun he said:

“Rejoice, Z’vulun, as you go forth,
and you, Yissakhar, in your tents.
They will summon peoples to the mountain
and there offer righteous sacrifices;
for they will draw from the abundance of the seas
and from the hidden treasures of the sand.”

Of Gad he said:

“Blessed is he who makes Gad so large;
he lies there like a lion,
tearing arm and scalp.
He chose the best for himself
when the princely portion was assigned.
When the leaders of the people came,
he carried out Adonai’s justice
and his rulings concerning Isra’el.”

What do you suppose Moses meant when he spoke to Zebulun of abundance from the seas and hidden treasures of the sand? Was he saying they would be fishermen? Was he telling them they would find buried treasure or become seashell merchants? Whatever they became, we know that God can bring treasure from anything if we walk with Him, and in our world today, we live in the midst of great treasure. So much of what we have used to be something else, and God opened the door to teach men how to use it for their blessing. His gifts to us include glass from sand, pigment from plant life, and clothing from animals and plants.

The blessing to Gad is one of power and makes the tribe princely and like the king of the jungle. But, Moses doesn’t stop there. These princely leaders with the strength of lions are blessed to use their power the right way. They carry out the justice of the Lord, and they enforce God’s rulings over Israel. I guess Gad would be the “PLPD” otherwise known as the “Promised Land Police Department.”

I’m still blessed in seeing what was important to Moses before he went on to his eternity with his Creator and Friend. I love that he first made sure Israel had an understanding of their history and of God’s laws to them. From there, he wrote the song of prophesy which would be against them if they didn’t learn from their history and if they disobeyed God’s laws. Now, though, Moses is giving them great blessings of abundance for their future. Maybe it was because of his face to face conversations with God, but somehow, I think these blessings are about Moses seeing through God’s eyes. Where most men just saw a people not much greater than dirt, Moses knew God had made Israel His own treasure in sand.

P.S. Here’s a clip from Sweet Home Alabama with Melanie in the glass shop. At 12-33 seconds, look at the lightning glass…

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

Only the Best for God’s Kids


Simply the Best by Flickr User Ray Larabie, CC License = Attribution

Simply the Best by Flickr User Ray Larabie, 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.

We all want the best of everything in life, but those of us who truly care about others don’t want them to have the worst either. So, most of us either become highly competitive or totally non-competitive. The fact is, life is filled with bests and worsts. There are best-case and worst-case scenarios, there are best-in-show designations, and there are bests in our gardens. We have the best of the times and the worst of times, and we have ratings from best (five-star) to worst (one-star). The middle-of-the-road average is just not acceptable to most of us, so the idea that everyone can have the same thing in a world of bests and worsts is pure fantasy. So, since it won’t work that way, then we should see the value in following a God who wants His children to have only the best.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:13 through Deuteronomy 33:17, we will read Moses’ blessing to the tribe of Joseph. It includes a blessing for the half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh–his children by non-Hebrew wives while he lived in Egypt. It’s short enough that I will go ahead and paste the Scripture here from The Complete Jewish Bible

Of Yosef he said:

“May Adonai bless his land
with the best from the sky, for the dew,
and for what comes from the deep beneath,
with the best of what the sun makes grow,
with the best of what comes up each month,
with the best from the mountains of old,
with the best from the eternal hills,
with the best from the earth and all that fills it,
and the favor of him who lived in the [burning] bush.
May blessing come on the head of Yosef,
on the brow of the prince among his brothers.
His firstborn bull — glory is his;
his horns are those of a wild ox;
With them he will gore the peoples,
all of them, to the ends of the earth.
These are the myriads of Efrayim;
these are the thousands of M’nasheh.”

Simply the best, and only the best, of everything from crops to gold to the favor of God. Now THAT is a blessing! If someone said these things to us these days, we’d be saying something like, “From your mouth to God’s ears,” and we’d hope for it all to come true. That said, I see this as a reason to bless our brothers and sisters in Yeshua as much as possible, and let the greatest blessing we offer be one of a deeper walk with our Creator.

If you’re like me, you might sometimes withhold blessing others with your lips for concern of sounding like you carry the apostate messages of our current generation. We don’t want to speak the blessings of God above the God of the blessings like so many “prosperity preachers,” but prosperity in the perfect will of God is not a sin. God says He gives us the ability to make wealth to bless others, so speaking blessings on our brethren for the sake of lifting the needy and spreading the gospel is a good thing. Speaking it only for selfish gain and benefits is what we must avoid.

Readers, I bless you now with the wisdom of Yahveh Almighty to know when to speak blessings and how to speak them–both toward others and toward yourselves. May you have only the best of what God has to offer in your lives that you may draw closer to Him as you walk through this life with Him. And, may you always remember that when all else seems to fail, if you have God in your life and heart, you have the best already.

P.S. Just for an off-the-path side note: If you grew up on Dukes of Hazzard, you probably remember “Sheriff Roscoe P Coltrane” as one of the quirky characters. Well, the actor who played him, James Best, was born in Kentucky and raised in the cute little town of Corydon, Indiana, where I live now. I also remember him from a number of old episodic shows like Twilight Zone and Bat Masterson. Click here for his Wikipedia page just for the fun of it. 🙂

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

Riding on Daddy’s Shoulders


On Daddy's Shoulders by Flickr User scott.hoag, CC License = Attribution

On Daddy’s Shoulders by Flickr User scott.hoag, 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 memories of being small enough to be hoisted up onto someone’s shoulders are vague, but they’re still in my mind. When I see a child on his or her daddy’s shoulders, I associate it with feelings of comfort and security. It’s just like the feeling of waking up just enough to know I was being carried from the back of a car to my own bed. Although my childhood was filled with many traumatic events, those times when I felt protected and comforted offer a balance I need–even now.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:8 through Deuteronomy 33:12, Moses is still offering a final blessing to the tribes of Israel before he dies. Today, he will begin with a blessing to the tribe of Levi. Because Levi is required to execute judgments for Israel, Moses tells them to let the balance of those judgments (the urim and the tumim) rest in the hands of God.

Moses speaks of the past and future of the Levites, and he testifies that they chose the word of God even over family. Because they put God first, they will teach God’s law to all the children of Jacob, and they will offer incense and sacrifices in the temple of The Lord. With this prophesy, Moses also begins to request a blessing for Levi. He asks God to bless Levi’s possessions, to accept the work he does, and to crush his enemies that those who hate him would rise no more.

Next, Moses changes his attention to the tribe of Benjamin, the youngest of all the children of Jacob/Israel. He calls Benjamin “The Lord’s Beloved” and says God protects him day by day. He says Benjamin lives securely between the shoulders of Adonai.

Because God is everywhere, maybe the idea of dwelling between God’s shoulders is exactly what it says, but I lean more toward thinking it’s an analogy for safety and security. It’s that place above the world, hoisted on daddy’s shoulders, where the rider can see better even if he’s little. Yahveh, through His mercy and grace, gives us the privilege to call Him Abba Father. He would most certainly be the kind of daddy that would lift His littlest one up on His protective shoulders.

Another awesome things about the shoulders of God is found in Isaiah 9:6. Here is that verse from the New Living Testament

For a child is born to us,
    a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
    And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Do you see that? The government is on His shoulders. That means His protective laws and boundaries are right there in that place where He, as our Father, puts His children. I’ve said before that if we read this verse in order, we’ll find that He becomes our Wonderful Counselor, our Mighty God, our Everlasting Father, and our Prince of Peace only AFTER our government is on His shoulders. There is a great blessing in obedience to a Loving Father who cares for us. When we follow His word and walk in His presence every day, there’s no better place than riding on Daddy’s shoulders.

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

Moses and His Sunrise Serenade


At every time and in every place
    from the moment the sun rises to the moment the sun sets—
    may the name of the Eternal be high in the hearts of His people. (Psalm 113:3 VOICE)

A serenade seems to be the perfect way to use song for a blessing. It comes from the word “serene” and usually means a song sung in the open air–often from a man to his lover. The big band leader, Glenn Miller, called many of his songs serenades. Having watched the movie, The Glenn Miller Story, and having seen the beautiful love he had for his wife, I’d guess they were likely all tunes he wrote for her. Sunrise Serenade is one of the most famous, and you should recognize the tune on the video above where you will also find beautiful sunrise and sunset images. (By the way, I would highly recommend this movie starring James Stewart and June Allyson.)

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 33:1 through Deuteronomy 33:7, we begin a new week and a new portion of Torah. Parashah 54 is V’Zot HaBrachah in Hebrew and means “This is the blessing” in English. In this portion, Moses will bless the tribes of Israel before his upcoming death. He begins here by blessing the Lord and speaking of his love, his power, and his holiness. And, since we’re talking about sunrises, Moses makes an interesting statement here in speaking of God as if He is the sun. He says, “Adonai came from Sinai; from Se‘ir he dawned on his people, shone forth from Mount Pa’ran.

I think Moses was a poet at heart since now he speaks again in a poetic form. He speaks of God truly loving His people, and He says God is holding all His holy ones in His hand. He sees them sitting at God’s feet and receiving His instruction. And then Moses begins speaking the blessings to the individual tribes. He speaks of all Israel in Jacob and blesses them with an inheritance and a king. He says the leaders will gather all the people together. He asks God that Reuben would live and not die even though his numbers have become few. And finally, for today’s reading, Moses blesses Y’hudah (Judah) this way…

“Hear, Adonai, the cry of Y’hudah!
Bring him in to his people,
let his own hands defend him;
but you, help him against his enemies.”

We know that Judah received these blessings and brought forth our Messiah from their tribe. God Himself helped Judah against his enemies, especially since those set against that tribe are against the tribe of King David and King Yeshua. God robed Himself in flesh to help fight those enemies with His own blood, so we have victory against those enemies now by simply resisting evil in The Name of Yeshua.

We have so much to be thankful for in all the battles God has won for us since the beginning of time. He has proven His love for us over and over, and He is worthy of the song of our love toward Him. We can serenade our loving God in praise for His mercy and grace in our lives. We can lift Him up in our hearts from sunrise to sunset and every moment in between. May the people who love and follow Yahveh Almighty bless His name in their hearts and with their praise throughout our every moment. Each day when we rise, may we offer Yahveh our own Sunrise Serenade.

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

Not Such A Trivial Pursuit


Trivia by Flickr User surfzone™ aka Ruben, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Trivia by Flickr User surfzone™ aka Ruben, 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.

Trivia comes from the Latin word trivium and means “The place where three roads meet.” Currently, we define trivia as pieces of information and details that are unimportant or meaningless. Somehow, a place where one must decide which of three roads to take doesn’t seem unimportant or meaningless, so I’m not sure how the root word could lead to the current definition. Decisions on a path to follow are definitely not trivial to me. How about you?

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:44 through Deuteronomy 32:52, we complete another week and another portion of Torah. Shabbat Shalom to all who read along and study with me and with God’s holy word. As we complete this week, we also complete the Song of Moses as God has been dictating to him throughout the entirety of Chapter 32. This song/poem is God’s testimony against the people of Israel who will follow after false gods in the future. When future generations read the writings, they will not be able to say that their ancestors were ignorant of the costs of their actions.

Moses speaks the words to all the people of Israel and to Joshua the son of Nun who is called “Hoshea” here for some reason. When he finishes speaking, he tells the people to take the words to heart. He says they should use them to direct their children to be faithful and obedient to the words of Torah. He tells them, “This is not a trivial matter for you; on the contrary, it is your life!” He says the obedience of God’s word will grant them a long life in the land they are about to inherit on the other side of Jordan.

When Moses finishes speaking to the people, God begins speaking to him. God tells Moses to go up to the top of Mt. Nebo to be gathered to his people in death. He tells Moses that He will be able to look on The Promised Land, but he will not be able to enter it. God explains that it is the same for Moses as it was for his brother, Aaron. Both of them had to die instead of being able to enter the land of promise because their disobedience failed to demonstrate God’s holiness among the people of Israel.

All of the Torah that God gave to Moses shows that God’s word and God’s will are not trivial things. Obedience is not trivial. Holiness is not trivial. The plans that God has made to have a people that would follow Him are not trivial plans, and His plans for an eternity with these people are not trivial. God is a dreamer. His word tells us that our hearts have not even conceived how great God’s plans are for us.

We humans may think we are big dreamers. We may even think we have great imaginations. I know I love many of the imaginative thoughts that occupy my mind. Oh, but what we create in our minds or on this earth cannot be compared to all that God has created and still plans to create. Our biggest ideas are trivial compared to God’s smallest ideas. Isaiah 55:8-9, in The Complete Jewish Bible, puts it this way…

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not my ways,” says Adonai.
“As high as the sky is above the earth
are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Sometimes, we may think it’s difficult to keep walking in the ways of The Lord, but His word tells us that it’s the way of the transgressor that’s hard. Matthew 11:30 (CJB) says, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” He knows our battles on this earth, and He wants to help us through them, but He will not bless us if we are not holy and obedient to Him because it can harm us. Like hardened soil that only builds a harder crust from the rain, if God blesses us when our hearts are hard toward Him, it can make it more difficult to reach us later. It is when we break up that hardened (fallow) ground (by repentance) that His blessings can penetrate and grow what He has planted in us.

When we come upon a choice in life, especially a choice of which path to take, let us seek God and His perfect will for us. Seeking God’s path for our lives is important because only He sees the ends of our directions and the results of our decisions. His grace makes a way on to God’s path, and His mercy gives us the strength to keep walking in it. If we seek Him, we will hear His voice. As it says in Isaiah 30:21 (CJB), we will hear a voice that says, “This is the way; stay on it.” This should convince you that seeking and following God’s will is not such a trivial pursuit.

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

A Very Bad Hair Day


Kelly Has Crazy Hair by Flickr User Jonathan McPherskesen, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Kelly Has Crazy Hair by Flickr User Jonathan McPherskesen, 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.

Whether it’s one wild hair, a cow lick, or a head full of unruly locks, we’ve all had days when we just couldn’t get the keratin on top of our heads to cooperate. Models make wild hair look good, but for most of us, a look like we’ve just walked through a tornado isn’t exactly our goal. Of course, the eighties punk look with spikes and rainbows might be an exception, but I’m sure even those who sported that look had bad hair days. I mean, too much hair spray and a low ceiling and one of those wild spikes might just pop right off, right? I don’t know for sure since I’ve never truly been “en vogue” with that or any other cultural style.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:40 through Deuteronomy 32:43, we continue the poetry and lyrics from the Song of Moses, and we find out why it could be scary to have a bad hair day. These verses are back to a shorter section, so I will paste it here from The Complete Jewish Bible

For I lift up my hand to heaven and swear,
“As surely as I am alive forever,
If I sharpen my flashing sword
and set my hand to judgment,
I will render vengeance to my foes,
repay those who hate me.
I will make my arrows drunk with blood,
my sword will devour flesh —
the blood of the slain and the captives,
flesh from the wild-haired heads of the enemy.”

Sing out, you nations, about his people!
For he will avenge the blood of his servants.
He will render vengeance to his adversaries
and make atonement for the land of his people.

This follows up from yesterday where God declared Himself the One and Only God. He is speaking to those who would create or worship false gods, and He is definitely not happy. We see God here as a warrior, and He is arming Himself for a battle against those who hate Him. His picture of the enemy with wild hair shows that He sees them more like animals than people. And, since He could see their hearts, maybe they were more like that.

The next few lines show us that these wild-haired enemies have been making victims of God’s people. If you have ever been a victim, or known a victim, of someone who just seems to have no concept of the value of human life or dignity, you can understand why God would take the warrior stance described here. Even though His own people have not been faithful, He will not stand for their being victimized. He promises He will avenge all the attacks against them.

Something came to me as I read these verses. God did not create people for unkind and uncaring behavior. Every person alive is, at the core, made in the image of God, and God is love, so anything outside of love is not His will. When He looks at us and sees people destroying and dishonoring that image, it hurts Him. Like a protective Father or Big Brother, He is ready to take vengeance both for His image and His children.

I don’t like violence or punishment, but I know it is sometimes a necessity–even from a God of love. We’ve gotten the definition of love mistranslated to mean allowing people to destroy the image of God without any judgment whatsoever. But God’s image is holy, and those who destroy it by hurting others or themselves, need to pay a price as a deterrent. God, in His love and mercy, knows when someone acts out of ignorance and simply needs to be lead in a new direction. He also looks at hearts and knows when He has found a very real and unchangeable darkness in that person’s heart. I don’t believe He destroys anything or anyone that is redeemable, and I am certain He doesn’t destroy anyone just because they’ve had a very bad hair day.

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

When Your Rock Rolls Away


Late Morning at Bonsai Rock by Flickr User Bill Shupp, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Late Morning at Bonsai Rock by Flickr User Bill Shupp, 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.

Life can change in a moment. Something we depend on to be strong for us, there for us, or perform for us may change direction and leave us wondering what happened. Imagine if the disciples had really taken Yeshua at His word and told mountains, or even just big rocks, to move into the sea. How many people would come by and wonder what happened? How many who depended on the mountain for geographical direction would then be lost? The Rock of Our Salvation is an identity that tells us our salvation is sure and true, and we know we can depend on Him to always be there. That’s the usual nature of rocks anyway.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:29 through Deuteronomy 32:39, we continue with the poem aka Song of Moses as dictated from God to Moses as a testimony against rebellious Israel. As this section of the poem begins, we’ve got God speaking of Israel’s lack of wisdom and her destiny. God says that if they were wise, they could figure out that the only way to defeat the enemies in the land they wish to occupy will be if He (their Rock) goes before them. God says the enemy has no rock that is comparable, so the people should know that it is God that gives them victory.

As the poem goes on, God says Israel has a root of Sodom and Gomorrah. He says their grapes are poisonous, their clusters are bitter, and their wine is snake poison. There are Scriptures where grapes and clusters refer to a woman’s upper body, so if they are poison and bitter, maybe it’s a meaning of men rejecting them or women worshiping each others’ bodies. Pray for yourself on this because I haven’t studied it out as of yet. Whatever the meaning behind these statements, it’s not good, and the next stanza speaks of God’s vengeance and wrath to pay Israel back for this wickedness.

The final verses speak of The Lord measuring out both judgment and pity on His people. While He will allow them the troubles they bring on themselves by rejecting Him and serving false gods instead, God will be watching them and caring for them. When they cry out in their troubles, He will tell them to seek the gods they served instead of Him, but then He will stand and proclaim that it is Him they need. Here’s the last verse from The Complete Jewish Bible

See now that I, yes, I, am he;
and there is no god beside me.
I put to death, and I make alive;
I wound, and I heal;
no one saves anyone from my hand!

Those of us who know God already know that salvation is not found anywhere else. Many of us have tried other gods like money, fame, friends, possessions and maybe drugs, alcohol, and the wild life. Those of us who have both lifestyles to compare can tell you that the life Yahveh Almighty offers is far better in every way. It makes it hard to imagine how the children of Israel could not see that, but maybe the difference is in having God’s Holy Spirit dwelling within us and not just within the camp.

God is so desirous of our relationship with Him that He has gone all the way to extreme of giving His life and blood for our salvation. He is The Rock we can depend on and trust; the One who will be there for us both now and for eternity. He was a Rock for Israel, and He is a Rock for us now. We learn in 1 Corinthians 10:4 that The Rock that followed Israel was Messiah.

If you are not serving Him or committed to Him, please consider it. He is trustworthy. If you find things in your life that you thought were strong are now just rocks rolling far away from you, open the door to The Rock who will never roll away.

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

Adoption Plans


Cute Cockatoo at Parrot Mountain by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Cute Cockatoo at Parrot Mountain by Crystal A Murray, 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.

The word “adoption” comes from a Latin word that means “choosing.” So, when we adopt a child, we choose the child. When we adopt a pet, we choose to bring it into our lives and care for all its needs. Hubby and I have adopted eight kitties. We are actively working on an adoption of one of our adult nephews because we want him to feel the value of being chosen as a son. And, I would love to adopt the beautiful cockatoo above, but I don’t think the kitties would like that. I mean, you can clearly see that it was asking to come home with me, can’t you?

By the way, if you click on the image and go to my Flickr feed, you’ll see the golden conure that buddied up with me and refused to go back to his perch. I had a wonderful time at this place called “Parrot Mountain” in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and I would love to have adopted all the birds available in the nursery. It’s a Christian-owned sanctuary with Scripture plaques throughout the park and well-cared-for animals. I highly recommend a visit if you are ever nearby.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:19 through Deuteronomy 32:28, we will read of the desire for adoption created by great wrath stirred up in God’s heart. He desired to choose children who wouldn’t reject Him and seek after false gods. But, He didn’t desire that to replace the original children; He desired it to create jealousy in the Seed of Abraham. This part of the poem is too long to cut and paste, so please click the link to read it for yourself.

The poem begins with God telling the children how He would hide His face from them because they were untrustworthy. And then He sets up the adoption plans…

They aroused my jealousy with a non-god
and provoked me with their vanities;
I will arouse their jealousy with a non-people
and provoke them with a vile nation.

Now, I know it’s hard to think of all the people on the earth that were not of Abraham’s seed being a non-people and being vile, but they were. Because they all started out with the same truth and ended with serving false gods, they had become vile. Israel was well on her way to the same end, and this prophesy tells of God’s answer for that. He would extend His mercy to those in ignorance in order to provoke those who knew better.

As the poem continues, God talks of His fiery anger and plans for punishment. God says He will heap disasters on Israel and use all His arrows against them. He says they will be fatigued by hunger, consumed by fever and defeat, and attacked by wild beasts and poison reptiles. Their troubles will be outside and inside with swords that create childless parents and deaths of young and old alike. The last stanza reads like this…

I considered putting an end to them,
erasing their memory from the human race;
but I feared the insolence of their enemy,
feared that their foes would mistakenly think,
“We ourselves accomplished this;
Adonai had nothing to do with it.”

The poem ends with God saying that Israel is a nation without common sense or discernment. I can see a similar situation happening within Christianity as they bring in the apostate spirits of messages that cause people to focus more on themselves than on God. I think we must be careful not to so harshly judge those who rejected God as if we are unable to duplicate that behavior. Any person who puts the flesh and the soul above being led by God’s Holy Spirit can easily end up just like historic Israel.

There was a time in my walk with The Lord that I accepted “replacement theology” as it was preached because I didn’t know any better. When the church used the Scripture from Revelations 2:9 about those who say they are Jews and are not, and then said, “We are the new Jews,” it seemed to make sense. But I was a new believer. Now I know that adoption of those who are grafted into the original root does not dispose of the original seed. I have a heart for Israel, and I have met Jews who’s love for God is more evident than many who proclaim Christianity. I know that God loves those that do not reject Him. I also know He will make a way for them to spend eternity with Him because we have a promise of a day when the two flocks will become one. But, the door that opened for adoption of those of us not naturally born into Abraham’s seed opened up way back in The Song of Moses.

I am thankful for the open door that allows you and me, our families and friends, and many whom we love, to have the right to call God our “Abba, Father.” We have been purchased and grafted in to a holy root by the blood of Yeshua. I believe that even though we see various methods used throughout history in order to draw a people to God, these methods and changes are not surprises or sudden turns by God. I think that God has always wanted all people to come to Him, and that it has never been His will for any to perish. Knowing what is required to dwell in His presence, I believe that–from the beginning, God made adoption plans.

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

Spoiled Fat Cats


Big Fat Cat by Flickr User -Tripp- aka trippchicago, CC License = Attribution

Big Fat Cat by Flickr User -Tripp- aka trippchicago, 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.

Okay, I’ll admit it; I’m a cat lover. I own multiple kitties, and I spoil my kitties. I love to hold them and hear them purr, to have them snuggle next to me while I sleep, and to hear them meow at feeding time. I talk to them like they can understand me, and I admire them just for being cats. I will often do whatever it takes to not disturb them, even if it means sitting still under a sleeping cat when I would rather stretch my legs or run to the restroom.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:13 through Deuteronomy 32:18, we continue with the Song of Moses, and the verses are short enough again that I will paste them here from The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)…

He made them ride on the heights of the earth.
They ate the produce of the fields.
He had them suck honey from the rocks
and olive oil from the crags,
curds from the cows and milk from the sheep,
with lamb fat, rams from Bashan and goats,
with the finest wheat flour;
and you drank sparkling wine from the blood of grapes.
But Yeshurun grew fat and kicked
(you grew fat, thick, gross!).
He abandoned God his Maker;
he scorned the Rock, his salvation.
They roused him to jealousy with alien gods,
provoked him with abominations.
They sacrificed to demons, non-gods,
gods that they had never known,
new gods that had come up lately,
which your ancestors had not feared.
You ignored the Rock who fathered you,
you forgot God, who gave you birth.

Moses is still talking about the people of God’s heritage here. He speaks of God’s love toward Israel with passionate emotion. Riding on the heights of the earth, drinking honey from rocks, eating olive oil from crags, eating the finest wheat flour, and drinking sparkling wine all speak of God’s poetic love for Israel in an almost eccentric manner. Remember, these are words God has told Moses to write, so this abundant and amazing love is exactly how God feels toward those He calls His own. He wants to spoil His children and give them the very best of everything!

So, Abba (Father) Yahveh did spoil them. He poured abundant blessing out upon Israel, and then He reminded them to not forget Him when they were taking advantage of all His blessings. But they did forget. God allowed measured troubles to come into their lives, so they would turn to Him and seek Him to fulfill their needs, but when they were comforted again, they would forget again. And then, as the poem says, Yeshurun (Jeshurun is a poetic name for Israel) got too comfortable, too spoiled, and too fat. This prophesy against the house of Jacob has Israel turned to the false gods of the land and abandoning Yahveh, their Maker. As the poem says, they scorned their salvation and provoked God by worshiping false gods and demons.

The last lines show how this broke God’s heart with the personalization God adds in. He says they ignored the Rock who fathered them, and they forgot God who birthed them. The “father” and “birth” terms show the kind of deep love God has for His people as His children. Because He loved them so much, it was a lot easier for them to break His heart when they abandoned Him for gods that did not love them at all–as children or otherwise.

I remember watching one of my “furkids” play one day and thinking how he wasn’t doing anything to try and please me, yet I was pleased and amused with him just being himself. It made me wonder if God looks at people the same way. I think of how happy I get when I pick up or talk with a kitty, and the kitty expresses its happiness by purring. Does God feel as good about our praise as I do about my kitty’s purr-praise?

But for all the enjoyment I get from snuggling and purring, I can get let down when a cat becomes aloof and rejects me. I begin to think of all the times I’ve held my bladder for the sake of not interrupting a cat nap. I think of feeding the cat, watering it, wearing its fur in public places, cleaning up after it, etc. If the cat understood my thoughts, he would hear something like, “After all I’ve done for you, how can you reject me?” I may even say out loud, “Fine! Just be that way!”

It’s no fun to be rejected, and it’s even less fun to be rejected by someone or something we have coddled and spoiled and loved. God is not asking too much when He wants us to remember where all our benefits come from. We may have a paycheck because we have a job, because we went to school, because…because…because. But, God is the One who gave us the ability to learn, and He put all the pieces in place for us to get the job and continue to work. People are quick to blame God for any loss, like an accident that creates a physical disability, but they are slow to thank Him for all the days they are not disabled and are able to work, get out of bed, etc. May we all return to Him with hearts that are grateful for all His benefits, and may we repent for the days when we have acted like spoiled fat cats.

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

In Christ Alone


Here in the death of Christ I live.” That’s one of the closing chorus lines for the lyrics in the attached video. It’s a beautiful lyric line founded on the words of Galatians 2:20. Here is that Scripture as written in the New English Translation (NET) Bible…

I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

We must live our new lives, the ones we walk after repentance for living unto ourselves, in a way that blesses our Creator, so He can dwell within us and bless us. This is His desire, and it has been His desire since the beginning.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:7 through Deuteronomy 32:12, we will continue in Moses’ poem/song, and we will see God’s plans for His children. Again, this is short enough to share, so I will paste the text from The Complete Jewish Bible here…

Remember how the old days were;
think of the years through all the ages.
Ask your father — he will tell you;
your leaders too — they will inform you.
When ‘Elyon gave each nation its heritage,
when he divided the human race,
he assigned the boundaries of peoples
according to Isra’el’s population;
but Adonai’s share was his own people,
Ya‘akov his allotted heritage.
He found his people in desert country,
in a howling, wasted wilderness.
He protected him and cared for him,
guarded him like the pupil of his eye,
like an eagle that stirs up her nest,
hovers over her young,
spreads out her wings, takes them
and carries them as she flies.
Adonai alone led his people;
no alien god was with him.

After asking Israel how they could repay God (who delivered them) with rebellion, now Moses is taking them back to the beginning. I think He wants them to consider both where they came from and where God comes from. He wants them (and us) to know that the whole idea of salvation belongs to The Creator. It is His design to be able to draw close to people who would otherwise not even be allowed in His presence.

I love how this says that when God divided all the people groups on the earth, He wanted His own people, and He chose the house of Jacob/Israel as His heritage. It made me wonder what led up to the heritage, so I looked up when He divided the people at the Tower of Babel, and it was in Genesis 11. Then, I searched for other significant events in Genesis, and I saw an interesting pattern.

With Adam, God put His creation in a garden, separate from the rest of creation. He wanted a one-on-one relationship, but evil got in and made a play. After Adam and his family were sent out from the garden, the amount of men who lived for God thinned out until it seemed most of the world lived as if there was no God at all. And then there was Noah. After the flood, God started again with eight people to spread His truth, and this time, they were not set apart. The enemy got in again, this time using the pride of man. They decided to–literally–build themselves up to the heavens to meet God. Then, when the people at Babel were divided, the ideas of God got divided like the misunderstandings in a game of “Telephone,” and suddenly there were almost as many gods as there were men. And then God found Abraham.

In the midst of the darkness and pride of man, God found a pure heart that actually believed in Him, and He rooted His people from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These men gave a solid foundation to build on for service to the One and Only God Almighty, and it was a foundation the enemy could not so easily attack. So, the enemy put fear in the hearts of unbelieving men to attack them in yet another way. God blessed Jacob, but fearful men made the house of Israel into slaves. And then God found Moses who now writes of that slavery in his song.

Tonight’s poem wraps up with God’s protection and leading of His people. He led them from Abraham; He led them at the time of the poem; and those of us who serve Him now know He still leads His people. He leads His people Himself–no other gods with Him. In Yahveh alone, people will find everything they sought in a tree of knowledge, in a tower of Babel, in making gods of themselves, and in multiple false gods. Now, we have salvation that allows us to be called the children of God and become part of this wonderful heritage because of the newness of life we find in the blood that is… in Christ alone.

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

Moses Starts A Poetry Journal


Poetry and Dreams by Flickr User Cher Amlo, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Poetry and Dreams by Flickr User Cher Amlo, 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 imagine a majority of my readers are writers. I know that many are anyway since I post links to my posts in my writer’s group. For you writers who include poetry among your styles and genres, I’m sure you remember when you first began to gather your poetry into some type of compilation. You may have even started it like a journal with subject matter based on the events of the day. I began my foray into poetry as cathartic exercise in a class of young girls who were invited to use poetry to deal with some issues in teen life. The active writing of poetry made me fall in love with it.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 32:1 through Deuteronomy 32:6, we begin a new week and a new portion. In this one, Parashah 53 called Ha’azinu in Hebrew and “Hear” in English, Moses begins writing the song that God has asked him to write as a testimony against the rebellion of Israel. Since we don’t have music, we can see the lyrics as poetry. And, while I may not post all of them each day, I do want to post the beginning so you can see the flow. So, here are the first three lines of The Song of Moses from The Complete Jewish Bible

Hear, oh heavens, as I speak!
Listen, earth, to the words from my mouth!
May my teaching fall like rain.
May my speech condense like dew,
like light rain on blades of grass,
or showers on growing plants.

For I will proclaim the name of Adonai.
Come, declare the greatness of our God!
The Rock! His work is perfect,
for all his ways are just.
A trustworthy God who does no wrong,
he is righteous and straight.

He is not corrupt; the defect is in his children,
a crooked and perverted generation.
You foolish people, so lacking in wisdom,
is this how you repay Adonai?
He is your father, who made you his!
It was he who formed and prepared you!

I love how Moses starts this with the poetic blessing on his words; asking that they would fall to the earth like rain, dew, and showers. Then, as soon as he sets up how he wants others to hear his words, he begins to lift up The Lord with wonderful poetic description. He proclaims His name, declares His greatness, and calls Him “The Rock.” Just in that statement, he shows what his own heart is toward his Creator. And then he goes on to say God is perfect, just, trustworthy, and that He can do no wrong.

It’s all so flowing and beautiful, and then we get to the third stanza. There’s a twist in the first line: “God is not corrupt; the defect is in His children.” Boom! The truth that underpins all our lives on this earth. God is perfect and we are not. God is God and we are not. And then Moses asks the question we should all ask ourselves when dealing with our failures: Is this the way to pay back the God who loves you? The God who is a Father that made you His own?

If we can come to the reality that God deserves more than our present behaviors, we can come to a place of repentance, and that’s when life changes for the better. That works from the first time we repent to every time we fall to our knees in repentance before God after that. Remember this…God is more interested in our repentance than in our perfection!

If you battle with your imperfect and defective form, first, remember that God knows your form, and that’s why He paid the price in the blood of Yeshua. Next, humble yourself before God to confess and forsake those defects and imperfections with your whole heart and with the best of your ability. Then, trust God to take them as you rise to walk in the newness of life. Read the praises recorded in the Torah and other places in God’s holy word, and repeat them from your own mouth as you read and learn them. If it helps, consider writing your own thoughts (and maybe poetry) to God to lift Him up in your own words and to chronicle your experiences as a testimony to others with similar events in their own lives. May God bless your words as you write for Him.

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

Mistakes of Titanic Proportions


What Really Sunk the Titanic by Flickr User Russ Seidel, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

What Really Sunk the Titanic by Flickr User Russ Seidel, 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.

Today, I visited “The Titanic.” Well, maybe not The Titanic, but the museum built to make you imagine you are touring the actual ship while viewing some history, pictures, and artifacts. By the time I got to the end of the tour, I was exhausted by the display of pride, class distinction, and other forms of egotism that came together to help create the disaster that shook the world on April 14th, 1912. It wasn’t all bad in that there were many heroes once the situation became catastrophic. For example, there was the preacher who tried to get a man to accept Christ and even gave up his life jacket for the dying sinner just before the 28-degree waters took him under. Oh, but there were so many who seemed to taunt God with rejection of safety procedures, ignoring warning signs, and continually saying how unsinkable the ship was. And we know how that worked out.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 31:25 through Deuteronomy 31:30, we complete another week and another portion of Torah. Shabbat Shalom to all of you. In this passage, we will read of people with a similar attitude to some of those on board the Titanic. If you click on the Scripture link, you’ll see that I’ve started with verse 24 because it leads into the story.

So Moses finishes writing the book of Torah, of all the laws God has instructed him to write for the people. He kept writing until they were completely done, and when he finished, he handed them off to the Levites who carried the Ark of the Covenant. He tells them to put them next to the ark with the covenant inside, so it can be there as a witness against the people.

Now, Moses tells the Levites that he knows how they will behave as soon as he dies. He says the people are stiff-necked and rebellious even while he is there to see them, so it can only get worse when he is gone. Then he tells the Levites to assemble all the leaders and heads of tribes from Israel, so he can tell them the same things. He wants to present them with the truth of their future, so they cannot claim any kind of ignorance. Moses tells them they will do what is evil in the eyes of The Lord and provoke Him with evil deeds. And then he begins to sing them a song of their corruption and their wicked future, and I believe the verses of the song will be the topic of most of our readings for next week.

One woman who was interviewed on the audio tour at the Titanic museum said she was afraid to go on the ship because all the things the people were saying seemed to fly right in the face of God. They were certain it was unsinkable; certain the metal was impenetrable; and certain disaster was impossible after all that was invested in the building and crew of such a special ship. They were proven wrong on all counts, and sadly, had they not decided they were invincible, they would have done as other ships in the same waters and not tried to push through the floating ice. Oh, and the guy who was supposed to watch for icebergs sure wouldn’t have gone to sleep without a replacement while they were going through the hazardous waters.

We know from our own history, and Moses knew from the prophesy God had given him, that Israel had a similar prideful attitude. Somehow, they felt invincible and untouchable. They knew they were special to God, but they didn’t take time to contemplate why. So God decided to show them just how easily a house built on a foundation other than God can crumble. Trusting anyone or anything more than Our God and Creator of the Universe is a big mistake. He breathed the world into existence, and He pulled Israel together to become His special treasure–not because they had anything on their own that made them special, but because He chose them. The moment we think we’ve got it all together to the point where we no longer need God, then like Israel and many aboard the Titanic, we are making a mistake of titanic proportions.

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

When God Writes a Heartbreak Song


Forgiven [ Redeemed [ Restored [ Reborn [ & Set Free by Flickr User ashley.adcox, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Forgiven [ Redeemed [ Restored [ Reborn [ & Set Free by Flickr User ashley.adcox, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image with a wonderful testimony about God helping this girl overcome depression and changing her life, and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

“Sin doesn’t only break God’s laws, it also breaks His heart.” That is one of my favorite quotes on my Pinterest board about truth. It’s like the chorus in that older Ray Boltz hymn (video at bottom) that says,

Does He still
feel the nails
every time I fail?
Can He hear the crowd crucify again?
Am I causing Him pain;
Then I know I’ve got to change.
I just can’t bear the thought of hurting Him.

In today’s reading, we will find God commissioning Moses to write a song for Him. His reason for wanting it written will show His broken heart. I’m going to link to Deuteronomy 31:19 through Deuteronomy 31:23 because that covers the subject completely. However, for some reason, the way the verses are divided had the reader ending yesterday with one line about the song and ending today with half a sentence and at a comma. Still, if you want to see the exact daily portion, look at Deuteronomy 31:20-24.

The reading, including the last sentence from yesterday, begins with God telling Moses and Joshua to write a song and teach it also to the children of Israel. God says He wants Israel to learn it by heart, so it can be a witness from Him and against them when they violate the covenant. He says that when Israel comes to her inheritance and has eaten her fill, grown fat, and turned to other gods while hating Him, the descendants will still be singing the song and not have forgotten it. God tells Moses that He knows how Israel thinks now, and that her thoughts were the same even before He brought forth the promise of the new land.

So Moses writes a song the very same day, and he teaches it to Israel that very day. At the same time, The Lord commissions Joshua, the son of Nun, to be strong and courageous as he brings Israel to The Promised Land. He reminds Joshua once again that He (God) will be with him (Joshua) as he leads the people to their inheritance.

So Moses is not only God’s scribe, he’s also God’s lyricist. Unfortunately, the lyrics God wants Moses to write will carry a painful message to all those who stand against God in spite of how good He has been to them. Most of us want to hear nothing but hope and mercy and love, but there are times when it takes a song for people to truly understand heartbreak. Country music has always been very good at that in the form of what they always called tearjerkers. I’ve always liked those types of songs (think Dolly Parton’s Me and Little Andy, or Red Sovine’s Roses for Mama) even though they provoke sadness. Sometimes, a little sadness can help us look at where we stand; be it in gratefulness or in self-examination.

You know, it’s easy to think of people and their needs when they’re brought before us. It seems the news and other television shows are always interviewing someone who talks about what they or someone else does or doesn’t deserve. Oh, but what would happen if we all began to think of what God does or doesn’t deserve? He deserves our trust. He deserves our devotion. He deserves our praise. But He doesn’t deserve to have a broken heart or to need a song written about it. What do you think God deserves from you?

Here’s the video of Does He Still Feel the Nails (with lyrics)…

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

Talk to The Hand


Heart Line by Flickr User David Goehring, CC License = Attribution

Heart Line by Flickr User David Goehring, 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.

Hands can mean all sorts of things in this life. If you give someone a hand, you help them. If a bunch of people gives someone a hand, they’re usually praising them for some entertaining act or talk. If someone glad hands us, they may be offering a seemingly warm greeting, but they may also be totally insincere. Most hand gestures mean the same in all cultures, like thumbs up being yes or okay and thumbs down being no good. And a hand gesture that has a person putting the palm of their hand toward someone who is talking to them, especially if the hand is between their faces and the person holding up the hand is turning his or her face away, the unspoken statement is usually, “Talk to the hand.” It’s a way of telling people we’re not interested in what they have to say.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 31:14 through Deuteronomy 31:19, we might imagine God giving the palms-out sign to Israel as He prophesies to Moses about their future. In this passage, God calls Moses to the Tent of Meeting and tells him to summon Joshua as well. The cloud descends over the entrance, and God meets there with both Moses and Joshua. He tells Moses that it is about time for him to die and be gathered to his ancestors, and then He prophesies to Moses about what’s going to happen after he passes.

God tells Moses that after he goes to sleep, the people will begin to prostitute themselves to the foreign gods in the land of the inheritance. He says they will abandon Him and break the covenants He has made with them. Their behavior will cause God’s anger to flare up against them, and many calamities will come upon them. When they suddenly realize they have brought their troubles onto themselves, they will blame God and say it’s happening because God is not there with them. Instead, God says He will be hiding from them because of all their evil in worshiping other gods.

This is where I can imagine God saying, “Talk to the hand.” He will turn away and hide His face because of the many times He has warned them to serve and worship only Him. But, because He will never leave or abandon them, His hand is still there with them–even if it is turned palm out. Even in His righteous anger, and in His frustration over their abandonment of Him, I can still see God as being a part of their lives in spite of their repeated rejections. He is longsuffering and merciful beyond anything we can imagine.

If you ever feel you have rejected God one too many times, just remember that you have never left The Potter’s hands, and He can always remake you into a better vessel than before. Don’t run away or give up. Keep returning to Your Creator, The God who loves you forever. Don’t run away; just talk to The Hand.

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

Come Hear and Listen to Learn


If Today You Hear His Voice by Flickr User Sharon of Art4TheGlryOfGod, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

If Today You Hear His Voice by Flickr User Sharon of 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.

They say God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we can listen twice as much as we speak. I’ve never really liked that saying because I often learn while speaking, especially when I speak something that needs to be corrected. Somehow, that stays with me better. But, that doesn’t mean listening isn’t a skill we should all learn to perfect, and it doesn’t matter how many ears we have. The skill of listening is about process and application far more than it is just the ability to sense sounds.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 31:10 through Deuteronomy 31:13, we will read about the importance of hearing the Torah (word) of God. Again, because the verses are short, I will paste them here from The Complete Jewish Bible

Moshe gave them these orders: “At the end of every seven years, during the festival of Sukkot in the year of sh’mittah, when all Isra’el have come to appear in the presence of Adonai at the place he will choose, you are to read this Torah before all Isra’el, so that they can hear it. Assemble the people — the men, the women, the little ones and the foreigners you have in your towns — so that they can hear, learn, fear Adonai your God and take care to obey all the words of this Torah; and so that their children, who have not known, can hear and learn to fear Adonai your God, for as long as you live in the land you are crossing the Yarden to possess.”

Notes: Moshe = Moses, Festival of Sukkot = Feast of Tabernacles/Booths, Sh’mittah = Freedom (from debt), Torah = Word/Law, Adonai = The Lord/Yahveh, Yarden = Jordan River

So, every seventh “Feast of Tabernacles,” when the children of Israel would build temporary shelters (one is a tent or sukkah, and the plural for tents is “sukkot”) to remind them of their time of wandering without having the word and law of God, they will read the whole law to everyone. They will read to all the seed of Abraham of every age, and to all the foreigners. No one should go without hearing the word of God, so all can have the chance to hear, learn, fear, and obey Him. No one will be able to claim ignorance of God’s law.

What’s interesting is that the Feast of Sukkot is the last of the fall feasts. It comes after Trumpets and Atonement. That means, people don’t hear a full reading of the law until the new year has begun, they have gone through the days of self-examination that precede Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and they have experienced the sacrifice for their sins. Basically, for Christian believers, that means we apply the word of God to our lives after we have become new through repentance and through atonement in The Blood of Yeshua. This gives yet another understanding to not putting new wine into old bottles.

As God calls us to teach others, we need to remember that our best lessons will come directly from our own testimonies. Call people to you to hear what God has done for you, and they will be able to learn what He can do for them. In Revelation 12:11, we learn that the children of God defeat the enemy by the word of their testimony and the blood of The Lamb. While Bible verses are living and powerful, they have much greater effect on those who have become new in Christ. We must be careful to lift God up by sharing what He has done for us far more often than throwing Him at people by using His Word as a condemning sword.

In The Complete Jewish Bible, there are 1620 instances of the word “hear” and another 445 of the word “listen.” If there’s that many more times that people hear but do not listen, maybe it has something to do with who is hearing the word. The smaller portion of instances go to listening because it takes a certain kind of heart to listen, but anyone with ears should be able to hear. It’s time for those of us who know God and have His word hidden in our hearts to make our testimonies known. Our praise and our stand on God’s word in our own lives will work to resist the enemy far more than shouting the written word at people who do not even care. Just remember to take your “vitamins,” that is “Vite ’em in” to your life story to come hear and listen to learn.

My prayer of blessing. May God bless many more of my sisters and brothers with the desire to write their testimonies, either in nonfiction devotions and articles or given through the words of their fictional characters. When you have a story and are not able to write it yourself, may God send you a scribe as He sent to the unlearned men with great testimonies of walking with Yeshua. Amen!

September 16, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Espresso Your Faith


Espresso Expression by Flickr User Rob Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Espresso Expression by Flickr User Rob Murray, 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.

Life is like a cup of coffee. Whether people like it bold and strong, very mild, or full of any variety of flavorings; we drink it in a style that is pleasing to each individual palate. With coffee opinions as varied as coffee beans, there are those who feel that the way they drink their coffee is the only way anyone should drink it. We may not agree, but we can admire their passion, and sometimes we can give their chosen concoction a try. Me, I like a lot of extra flavoring in my coffee, but I also like the punch of an espresso shot to leave that lingering coffee taste in my mouth.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 31:7 through Deuteronomy 31:9, we have just three short verses, but they’re all about the way some people like their coffee: strong and bold. Here’s the text from The Complete Jewish Bible

Next Moshe summoned Y’hoshua and, in the sight of all Isra’el, said to him, “Be strong, be bold, for you are going with this people into the land Adonai swore to their ancestors he would give them. You will be the one causing them to inherit it. But Adonai — it is he who will go ahead of you. He will be with you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you, so don’t be afraid or downhearted.”

Then Moshe wrote down this Torah and gave it to the cohanim, the descendants of Levi who carried the ark with the covenant of Adonai, and to all the leaders of Isra’el.

(Note: Y’hoshua = Joshua; Isra’el = Israel; Adonai = The Lord or Yahveh; Torah = word; and cohanim = priests)

Moses knows the future of Israel based on his past experience and on the prophetic words God has given him. He knows Joshua will need to be strong and bold for a number of reasons. He will need to be…

  • strong to fight the enemy
  • bold to lead the people
  • strong to resist sin
  • bold to stand against false gods
  • strong to encourage the people
  • bold to discourage the enemy
  • strong in his faith to trust God
  • bold in his witness to testify to Israel and others

Joshua will need to think like a cup of espresso in every area of his life. Hot water can only make him stronger, and brewing under pressure will prepare him for things like his future battle at Jericho. But, no matter how strong and bold he is, and even with the word that he is the one helping Israel to inherit their promise, Joshua must never forget to keep it in the boundaries of knowing that God is the One truly leading them. God is the One he must trust to never leave nor abandon him or Israel. Espresso outside the cup wouldn’t be much good (unless you like licking the counter), and Joshua’s boldness outside of God would not have what Israel needs to claim their inheritance.

At the end of the Torah, Scripture picks up in the first chapter of Joshua with more on these commands and encouragements to Joshua. Here’s what it says in verses 5-9 (CJB)…

No one will be able to withstand you as long as you live. Just as I was with Moshe, so I will be with you. I will neither fail you nor abandon you.

“Be strong, be bold; for you will cause this people to inherit the land I swore to their fathers I would give them. Only be strong and very bold in taking care to follow all the Torah which Moshe my servant ordered you to follow; do not turn from it either to the right or to the left; then you will succeed wherever you go. Yes, keep this book of the Torah on your lips, and meditate on it day and night, so that you will take care to act according to everything written in it. Then your undertakings will prosper, and you will succeed. Haven’t I ordered you, ‘Be strong, be bold’? So don’t be afraid or downhearted, because Adonai your God is with you wherever you go.”

Just as it was for Joshua, our strength and boldness are found in God’s word. He tells us to trust Him, to find our strength to do all things in Him, and to lift Him up that He may draw all men to Him. Paul was bold and strong in his proclamation of The Gospel, but even he knew that he needed God to help him stay that way. He asks the Ephesians to pray for him (in Ephesians 6:19) “that whenever I open my mouth, the words will be given to me to be bold in making known the secret of the Good News.” Let us pray for ourselves and for each other that we will always trust God to make us bold, to make us strong, and to help us “espresso our faith.”

PS: Just when I thought I was being so creative in coming up with a cool title for this post, I found a book on Amazon by the same title. It actually looks like a great book, especially for coffee lovers, so I’ve added it to my wish list. If you want to look at it for yourself, it’s at http://www.amazon.com/Espresso-Your-Faith-Rhonda-Rhea-ebook/dp/B00AYJESIM

September 15, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Keep Following the Leader


Follow the Leader by Flickr User Blair Gannon, CC License = Attribution

Follow the Leader by Flickr User Blair Gannon, 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.

Do you remember our childhood games of “Follow the Leader”? I have a vague memory of them, and it seems to me that it was all about trying to keep an eye on the leader in case he or she did something unexpected. It was sort of like playing “Simon Says” only with a “Simon Does” routine that could throw you off if you blinked. The best followers were those that paid perfect attention and stayed in perfect step. I was just klutzy enough to make that difficult.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 31:4 through Deuteronomy 31:6, we have another short reading, so I’ll paste the text directly here…

Adonai will do to them what he did to Sichon and ‘Og, the kings of the Emori, and to their land — he destroyed them. Adonai will defeat them ahead of you, and you are to do to them just as I have ordered you to do. Be strong, be bold, don’t be afraid or frightened of them, for Adonai your God is going with you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.

Unlike our childhood games, God as a leader makes it clear to Israel exactly what He is going to do and what He expects them to do. There’s no sudden trickery or twists to try and throw them off. There’s no effort to trip them up. God only has their victory in mind. He knows they are not strong enough to battle the enemies and take the land of promise on their own, so He leads them in both direction and battle. He guarantees them a win if they will only follow Him, and He guarantees that He will be with them to the very end.

God knows our form as well. He has promised that He will never leave or forsake us. He knows we cannot fight our enemies on our own, so He promises to go before us and to fight the battle ahead of us. He gives us His armor, and He strengthens us with His strength. And, above all else that we have, we are equipped with His love to lead and guide us in every aspect of life. Just in case you wonder if love is all you need, here are some things love does (from 1 Corinthians 13:4-7)…

  • Love is patient and kind,
  • not jealous, not boastful,
  • not proud, rude or selfish,
  • not easily angered,
  • and it keeps no record of wrongs.
  • Love does not gloat over other people’s sins
  • but takes its delight in the truth.
  • Love always bears up,
  • always trusts,
  • always hopes,
  • always endures.

And, from the beginning of verse 8 in a few different versions, we get Love never fails. We know that God is love, and He has said over and over again that He will never fail us, so we can put His name in front of each item above. We can know that He will be a leader in all these things even as He asks us to follow Him. God is patient and kind. God is not jealous, boastful, proud, rude, selfish or easily angered. God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not gloat over people’s sins, but He takes delight in truth. God always bears up, always trusts, always hopes, always endures, and…God never fails!

And because God will keep being God no matter what, we know that we can keep following The Leader forever.

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

Holy Moses, Happy Birthday!


Happy Birthday Mo by Flickr User Scott Fitzgerald, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Happy Birthday Mo by Flickr User Scott Fitzgerald, 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.

If this post sounds like I wrote it tired, I did. I’m not complaining because I had a wonderful day that led up to this tiredness, but I thought I should let my readers know in case I have trouble making sense with my sleepy brain. 🙂 That said, I’m going to try and talk a little about good and not-so-good birthday gifts. A good birthday gift is one the receiver wants to get. A not-so-good gift is one the receiver knows he’s going to get but isn’t exactly excited about. A good birthday gift celebrates your time on the earth. A not-so-good birthday gift might make you wonder if your time on earth was just a bunch of wasted days.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 31:1 through Deuteronomy 31:3, we begin a new week and a new portion of Torah. Parashah 52 is titled Vayelekh in Hebrew and means “He Went” in English. In it, we’ll find out what kind of birthday gift Moses was about to get for his 120 years on this earth. Since the portion is only three verses, I’ll paste the text from The Complete Jewish Bible here…

Moshe went and spoke the following words to all Isra’el: “I am 120 years old today. I can’t get around any longer; moreover, Adonai has said to me, ‘You will not cross this Yarden.’ Adonai your God — he will cross over ahead of you. He will destroy these nations ahead of you, and you will dispossess them. Y’hoshua — he will cross over ahead of you, as Adonai has said.

In case you don’t recognize a few of the words in this one, Moshe is the Hebrew for Moses, and the Yarden is Hebrew for “The Jordan River.” Adonai means “The Lord” but is also sometimes substituted for the use of God’s memorial name, Yahveh. The other name you may not recognize is “Y’hoshua” and it means “Joshua” but it also the same word for Yeshua and/or Jesus. So, our three verses can be summarized as follows:

Hey, Israel, it’s your old friend Moses with a message from The Lord. For my 120th birthday, I don’t get to cross into The Promised Land with you, but God will go before you to kill your enemies, and then Joshua will lead you there just like The Lord said would happen.

All the parts of the portion for this week will be short like this, so it may be a bit difficult coming up with commentary no matter how awake I am, but I’ll do my best. All I can think about in this one is that, after 120 years on the earth, it would have to be pretty hard to know your birthday gift does not include following a people you have been willing to lay down your life to save and lead. I’m certain that God would rather have had it go differently as well since He Himself said He thought of Moses as a friend. But, if you thought Israel was hard to keep in line with strict laws, imagine how much worse it would have been if God wavered even a little–or even for a friend.

The good part of Moses birthday present was that at least two of the men he lead, Caleb and Joshua, turned out to be great leaders themselves. Joshua had learned well enough from his mentor that he would take Moses’ place in going before Israel to the land of their inheritance. Besides that, Moses had to have known that without his intervention on the part of Israel, there may not have been a promised land or an opportunity to destroy the enemies of his “Best Friend.”

I truly hope Moses realized just how much he did as a patriarch for not only ancient Israel but the grafted-in seed of Abraham now. We can look to his dedication and obedience for an example of how to walk uprightly before God. We can look at his love for God to learn how to share true friendship with Our Creator. We can look at his longevity, and where he is at 120 years old, as an inspiration to persevere even to the end. If Moses couldn’t look at himself and see the gifts in these things, we certainly can now. And just in case Moses is able to look down and read this blog, won’t you join me in wishing him a hearty Happy Birthday, Mo for all of eternity?

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

The Purpose of Your Life


Hearts and Lace with CJB Scripture Deut 30-20 by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Hearts and Lace with CJB Scripture Deut 30-20 by Crystal A Murray, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open a new tab/window to access my full photo stream at Flickr.

Where there is no vision, the people perish, but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18 KJV)

Vision gives us reason to go forward like a finish line gives a runner purpose to keep running. Vision tells us where we should be headed and helps us establish our purpose in life. Without reason, life is simply chaotic. It has no destination, no purpose, and no finish line. How can we know which way to go without a destination? And how can we reach our destination without a map that shows us how to get there?

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 30:15 through Deuteronomy 30:20, we complete another week and another portion of Torah. As we conclude the chapters for this week’s portion, we find Moses presenting Israel with a choice. First, he tells them to look at him, so I’m guessing he’ll be animating his hands to signify the two choices he will present. “On one hand,” says Moses, “there is life and good. On the other hand, there is death and evil.” Since they are likely between the two mountains and within hours of the shouts of blessings and curses, he may even be pointing to each mountain as he illustrates that Israel must choose one hand or the other.

As Moses continues, he tells them it’s not really a choice in what they do but a choice in what end they will achieve. Because he wants them to achieve life (just as God wants for them and for us), he orders them to follow God and His ways. He tells them that if they obey God’s commandments, laws, and rulings; God will extend their lives, increase their numbers, and bless them in the land they are about to enter. He lays out the direction, the finish line, and the prize.

Moses then shows the “prize” if Israel chooses the other option. He tells them that if their hearts turn away from Yahveh Almighty, they refuse to listen, and they prostrate themselves before false gods; they will perish, and they will not live long on the other side of Jordan. Verses 19 and 20 offer a summary with some familiar words for us…

“I call on heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have presented you with life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore, choose life, so that you will live, you and your descendants, loving Adonai your God, paying attention to what he says and clinging to him — for that is the purpose of your life!”

At the end of the last verse, Moses tells them that their decision is the foundation that will determine how long they live in the land promised to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

While vision is necessary to move forward, God’s vision is what we need to move forward in the right direction. Without God’s vision, we are forced to choose from among innumerable ideals, thoughts, and destinations. Some may move us in a general direction of good; some may only look good but lead straight to destruction. To guarantee that we are not blind followers of blind leaders, we must make certain our vision is directly from God. Without His vision, we are certain to perish.

God has set before us His finish line, His destination, and His prize. Unlike most of the races people run in this life, the prize isn’t reserved only for the fastest or the first to cross. All we must do to obtain God’s prize is get across the finish line. If we stay on the path God has chosen for us and mapped out in His holy word, we will reach the destination He has prepared: an eternity in His presence and glory. We may falter, but we can get back up. We may fail, but we can repent. But, no matter what, if we keep God’s goal and vision in mind, if we don’t quit, and if we just keep running to the end, we will have achieved the purpose for our life.

Shabbat Shalom (Sabbath Peace) to you, my readers, and may you walk humbly before God Almighty today and always. In the meantime, enjoy this wonderful classic poem (video with narration) called The Race

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

Over the Rainbow Across the Sea


Rainbow Over the Atlantic by Flickr User Nemossos, CC License = Attribution, No Derivative Works

Rainbow Over the Atlantic by Flickr User Nemossos, 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.

Do you ever wish the laws of God were easier to follow? Does it sometimes feel like pleasing God is a pie-in-the-sky goal that is as unreachable as a pot of gold, over the rainbow and across the sea? I think we have all felt, at one time or another, that staying in step with His commandments was unattainable. Sometimes, we look in the mirror of His word, and we feel like failures. If we’re not careful, we’ll let that feeling push us in a direction close to giving up. But don’t give up. In God’s word, we have promises that He will never give up on us: His mercies are new for us every morning, and He will never leave or forsake us. No matter what we have done, His arm is not too short to reach down into the miry clay and lift us out.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 30:11 through Deuteronomy 30:14, God speaks to Israel through Moses and explains just how attainable following His commandments can be. It’s short enough that I’ll paste it here and let you read it for yourselves…

For this mitzvah which I am giving you today is not too hard for you, it is not beyond your reach. It isn’t in the sky, so that you need to ask, “Who will go up into the sky for us, bring it to us and make us hear it, so that we can obey it?” Likewise, it isn’t beyond the sea, so that you need to ask, “Who will cross the sea for us, bring it to us and make us hear it, so that we can obey it?” On the contrary, the word is very close to you — in your mouth, even in your heart; therefore, you can do it!

We can do it! We can please God and keep His commandments (mitzvot). We can walk in a way that lifts Him up above our fleshly desires, so that He can use us to draw other men to Himself. And that’s the key. If we keep the two commandments upon which, as Yeshua told us, hang all the other laws, it will mean we keep the whole law. If we love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our strength, we will desire Him more than we desire sin. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we will desire their salvation like we desire our own.

We are told in 1 John 5:3-4 that God’s commandments are not burdensome or grievous. I love the way these verses read in the Easy to Read Bible version…

Loving God means obeying his commands. And God’s commands are not too hard for us, because everyone who is a child of God has the power to win against the world.

Everyone means everyone, and to everyone is the promise that we can do all things through Christ who gives us the strength and power to please Him, so we can keep His commandments. God’s commands are not standing on golden sands beyond the sea, waiting for us to sail to them. They’re not somewhere over the rainbow evading us until we fly up to get them. God says His commandments are in our mouths and even in our hearts. We’re born with His direction in the depths of our being, but–from the beginning–the flesh wants to steal it. That battle between spirit and flesh is first done by the discipline of our parents whose job is to drive foolishness far away from us, and then we take over. Even though the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak, so we can use the tool spoken of by King David in Psalm 119:11

Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You. (NKJV)

Serving God, loving God, loving our neighbor, and keeping God’s ways in our hearts is a gift all of us can receive every day. We can receive it in prayer, and we can receive it by studying God’s holy word. If you’re reading the Scriptures in this blog, you’ve already begun. 🙂

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

The Lord of The Dance


Do you know what it takes to get God dancing? The simple answer is…US! God loves His people so much that when we are blessed, He is happy. I mean, for how many years has He been preparing a place for us that where He is we may be also? He wants our company, and He wants our happiness. Why do you think it is not His will for any of us to perish? If He didn’t want our company, He would be happy to let us pay the wages for our sin. But, no, because He has such a longing to spend eternity with us, He paid a debt He did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 30:7 through Deuteronomy 30:10, we continue on yesterday’s reading of the prophesies that will come to pass when Israel has experienced both God’s blessings and His curses and it brings her back to herself. When Israel examines herself and returns completely to God, we arrive at today’s passage which begins with a promise from God to put all the curses on her enemies. When Israel returns to listen to God and obey His commands, then God will rain all the curses upon those who have hated and persecuted her.

Now, it really starts getting good. God promises that He will give Israel more than enough for everything she sets out to do: “The fruit of your body, the fruit of your livestock, and the fruit of your land will all do well,” He says. And then the passage declares that The Lord will once again rejoice over His people just as He once rejoiced over their ancestors. Can you see God dancing here?

Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there is a time to dance. What better time to dance and rejoice than when God is rejoicing? The reading goes on to explain the atmosphere that makes God rejoice. The caveat to all the blessings God promises is simply that the people must pay attention to The Lord, God Almighty, and obey the commands written in His word. When they turn to Him with all their hearts and all their beings, He will rejoice with great joy in the privilege to pour out blessings upon His children.

There are a lot of Scriptures that include dancing; mostly for good purposes. Unfortunately, there are references to wrong dancing when people danced before false gods or sacrifices they prepared for false gods, but Miriam and the women of Israel danced before God in celebration of the defeat of Egypt. and David danced before God in praise at the return of The Ark of The Covenant. If our bodies are the temple of God’s Holy Spirit, then if He dances, we will feel that in our spirits.

There is a wonderful new interpretation to the old Footprints poem. It includes God rejoicing with one of His children. Since the author has been found and a copyright attributed, I will link you to the page with the full poem and author info. Just go to… http://www.wowzone.com/prints2.htm

Of course, we can refuse to dance when God moves us, and then we will get to the other new version of Footprints. It’s called “Butt prints in the Sand.” Yes, it’s a bit humorous, but it’s also an important way to take a look at ourselves and the level of trust and obedience we have in Yeshua, so we can follow Him in ways that will make Him rejoice. 2 Corinthians 13:5 puts it this way…

Examine yourselves to see whether you are living the life of trust. Test yourselves. Don’t you realize that Yeshua the Messiah is in you? — unless you fail to pass the test.

So, in summary of the last two days of Torah reading, if we as the grafted-in seed of Abraham receive the prophesy given to Israel, then we have some wonderful promises right along with her. If we examine ourselves, come back to God and His word, learn from all the blessings and curses we’ve experienced, and turn to God to love and obey Him with all our heart and being, we can trust that He will rejoice. When He rejoices, maybe He will dance. And when He dances, maybe we will dance with Him.

And that brings me to one more video, a beautiful Messianic worship song by Paul Wilbur called Dance With Me

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

It’s About (End) Time


One problem with an abundant memory can be how to focus on just a little piece of it. For the subject of tonight’s post, my mind has taken me all over the place. I’ve searched my blog to make sure I haven’t already written about “end time revival” (I did), and I’ve checked for other posts on time or with pictures of clocks and watches. My mind has also sent me looking for pictures on Flickr about driving through history, scattered things, time and watches, and more. Oh, and I’ve been remembering lots and lots of songs.

For music, my playlist includes gospel songs about revival; ApologetiX parodies like Stay in the Light (from “Stayin’ Alive”) and Life Restored from (Last Resort); and finally, the song above from a television show I’ve never seen but heard my husband talk about. (Yes, even things that I’m not familiar with but have been spoken to me by others seem to stay in my mind.) I hope Hubby and others enjoy the trip down TV memory lane, and if you want the full lyrics, including the ones that were changed when the astronauts went forward in time, visit TV Acres.com.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 30:1 through Deuteronomy 30:6, Moses gives Israel a prophecy of their future–and what may well still be in the future for all of us. The first thing Moses says to them is, “When the time arrives that all these things have come upon you, both the blessing and the curse.” He continues by bringing it to their attention that a day will come when they have experienced all the blessings and curses written in the Torah. At that time, they will be scattered to wherever God has driven them as a result of their disobedience.

While this may sound hopeless, it’s not. Moses tells them that these events will make them finally start thinking about what has happened. Moses even tells them they will return to God (that’s a really good thing) and listen to His words and obey with all their heart and being. Moses adds to their hope by telling them that in those says, God will reverse their exile and show them mercy. God will gather them from all peoples where they have been scattered. Paul speaks of this in the eleventh chapter of Romans, beginning at Romans 11:1-2a (Amplified Bible) where he says…

I ask then: Has God totally rejected and disowned His people? Of course not! Why, I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin! 

No, God has not rejected and disowned His people [whose destiny] He had marked out and appointed and foreknown from the beginning.

Moses tells them that even if someone was scattered to the far end of the sky, God will gather them back.  He will personally go and get them Himself! And, when God brings His people back, He will make them prosper more than their ancestors, and the best is still ahead. When He brings them back, God will circumcise their hearts, so they will love Him with all their heart and all their being, and thus shall they live.

I love that last line…thus shall they live! Circumcised in heart and loving God with all that is within them, thus shall they live. I cannot imagine a better way to live. I cannot imagine a better definition for life. A people who were in the wilderness are home. A people who were scattered are gathered. A people who were dull of seeing and hearing and understanding are fully aware and fully in love with their Creator. This sounds like an end time revival to me; a happy ending. It’s about (end) time!

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

Dry Spell


Journey of Discovery by Flickr User Land Rover MENA, CC License = Attribution

Journey of Discovery by Flickr User Land Rover MENA, 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 think everyone goes through dry spells at one time or another. We may feel a bit dried up in our creativity, or we may experience a dryness in our emotions where we just sort of exist for a time without being deeply moved. People have dry spells in business where things just aren’t booming and growing quite the way they desire. What we really don’t want, though, is to end up in a total drought. It’s okay to have to cross the beach to get to the ocean now and then, but an ocean without any water at all is a desert, and it can be pretty hard to survive there.

And speaking of deserts, our reading today from Deuteronomy 29:15 through Deuteronomy 29:28 (in The Complete Jewish Bible; verses 16-29 in non CJB versions) is winding down Israel’s journey through the desert before they cross into The Promised Land. It begins with Moses reminding the people of their journey from Egypt and how the lands they passed through were filled with those who built idols to false gods. Moses tells them to not let there be among them–a man, woman, family or tribe–who heart turns away from Yahveh Almighty to serve the false gods of those other nations.

As Moses continues, he increases his passion against the false gods by saying there should not even be a root of that evil in Israel because it is bitter poison and wormwood. However, he also tells them that if there is such a root, the person who adheres to it has no truth in them. Instead of yielding to warnings of the curses in God’s Torah, that person will tell himself he is fine as he is, even though he will continue to stubbornly do things his own way instead of God’s way. The deluded person will go so far as to tell himself that, event though he is “dry” (sinful), he will be added to the “watered” (righteous).

Now Moses gets fierce. (I can imagine him becoming quite animated and getting his “preacher voice” going.) He tells Israel that God will not forgive that hypocritical person but will blaze against him in fury. He will rain every curse down on him and blot out his name from under Heaven. When the next generations, and foreigners from distant lands, come upon the scene of destruction, they will ask what brought about God’s frenzied and furious anger, and the people will answer, “It’s because they abandoned the covenant of Adonai, the God of their fathers.” They will also tell them, “They went and served other gods, prostrating themselves before them.”

The next part in the passage sounds as if it was written after Israel was removed from the new land and scattered. It says that The Lord, in His fury and anger, threw them out into another land, and it adds, “–as it is today.” I’m not sure when these writings were put in print, but I’m thinking this is long after Israel both entered and exited their place of inheritance. It’s not something to take lightly because we know how much God loved these people and only wanted to give good to them. In the last few verses, Moses reminds the people that there are hidden things that remain with God but revealed things that belong to God’s people and their children forever, so that they can keep the words of His Torah forever.

Like so many other passages in Israel’s history, I can see the development of Christians in their walk before God as well. Those hidden “things” in God are likely another word for understandings since there isn’t actually a Hebrew word for “things” or “stuff” or other words like them. God has a bundle of understanding that He longs to share with those who love Him, so they (we) can follow Him in obedience. As it is written in the 27th verse of the 10th chapter of John (Amplified Bible)

The sheep that are My own hear and are listening to My voice; and I know them, and they follow Me.

If we are His sheep, we hear His voice, so we should be listening and following Him. Even though we may cross through deserts, He will lead us from stream to stream, so we can refresh ourselves in Him. We have promises that will help us through the dry places like…

  • Ephesians 5:26 (CEV), He made the church holy by the power of his word, and he made it pure by washing it with water.
  • Psalm 51:2 (AMP), Wash me thoroughly [and repeatedly] from my iniquity and guilt and cleanse me and make me wholly pure from my sin!
  • 1 Corinthians 6:11 (CJB), Some of you used to do these things. But you have cleansed yourselves, you have been set apart for God, you have come to be counted righteous through the power of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah and the Spirit of our God.

And, above all else, we have daily mercy to help us through even the driest times and places. We may go through a dry spell, but we don’t have to go through a drought. I’ll end with this wonderful praise from Lamentations 3:22-23 from The Message Bible

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!

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

The Home of the Future


1957 House of the Future, Shared by Flickr User James Vaughn, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

1957 House of the Future, Shared by Flickr User James Vaughn, 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 remember the first time I saw a futuristic attraction at a Disney(R) theme park. So many cool inventions and ideas, and what did I remember the most? The TV phone. I mean, it hadn’t been that long since we got our first touch tone phone (and The Pushbutton Telephone Songbook, Vol. 1 to go with it 🙂 ), and here they were telling us we could talk to each other face to face on the phone. Wow! And while I never saw, in person, The House of the Future shown above, I did see it in books and thought the concepts were amazing. (The attraction was demolished in 1967, and even the story of the demolition is interesting. Learn more at the Yesterland site and at Wikipedia as well.)

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 29:12 through Deuteronomy 29:14 (Complete Jewish Bible) we’ll read just three verses again, and these are about God’s plans for a home of the future. I’ll paste the text from the New Living Testament (NLT) which has the same verses as Deuteronomy 29:13-15 because the CJB tries to match the Tanakh

By entering into the covenant today, he will establish you as his people and confirm that he is your God, just as he promised you and as he swore to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

But you are not the only ones with whom I am making this covenant with its curses. I am making this covenant both with you who stand here today in the presence of the Lord our God, and also with the future generations who are not standing here today.

I consider those of us who are now of the seed of Abraham, and those of us who have become the seed of Abraham by being grafted in with a circumcised heart, as the audience to whom God was referring when He says, “…future generations who are not standing here today.” We are blessed and privileged to be able to step into the promises of God’s covenant to His people. As it says above, by entering into that covenant, we are established as God’s people.

When we read the news of wars, terrorist groups, spreading diseases, etc., we may be tempted to feel hopeless about the future. We may wonder if we’ll ever get to the innovations being dreamt up by Disney’s current Imagineers. But, even if we never get to some of the futuristic ideas now being created, we have a futuristic hope planned by the greatest “Imagineer” and Creator ever. He wants us in His “Home of the Future” attraction with such desire that He paid our admission price for us, and it was a huge price. More than an E-ticket* attraction, this one cost Him His all.

*Before one-price park admission, patrons used to buy ticket books with rides designated by the letters “A” through “E.” Of course, A-rides were the lightest and slowest, or kids’ rides while E-rides were the ones everyone wanted to go on. It seems there was also a park admission, but I don’t remember for sure. As an FYI, the Monsanto House of the Future above was actually a free attraction and didn’t require any lettered ticket.

Think about this: If Heaven was a theme park with pre-paid admission, and the throne of God was an E-ticket attraction, would we be willing to pay something more than just accepting His gift of salvation to go before His presence? Do we desire to fall at His feet and worship Him enough to lay down our own will and ways and walk in obedience of His word? As it says in the last verse of the song This is Just What Heaven Means to Me (made popular by Vestal Goodman of “The Happy Goodmans”)…

And when at last we see the face of Jesus
Before whose image other loves all flee,
And when they crown Him “Lord of All” I’ll be there,
For this is just what Heaven means to me.

And that’s my idea of a home of the future.

September 7, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I Stand Under


You Can Stand Under My Umbrella by Flickr User Linh H. Nguyen, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

You Can Stand Under My Umbrella by Flickr User Linh H. Nguyen, 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.

When you’re married, sometimes you speak in a language that only belongs to you and your spouse. For me and my husband, that can mean all sorts of things, but one of the things it sometimes means is backward talk. For example, instead of saying, “I understand,” one or the other of us might say, “I stand under.” I’m also fond of saying, “KO” instead of “OK.” I don’t know why.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 29:9 through Deuteronomy 29:11, we begin a new week and a new portion. The Hebrew title for this portion, Parashah 51, is Nitzavim, and it means “Standing” in English. This portion also begins another leap-year reading, so a few of the sections (like today’s) are extremely short. Since we have only three verses today, I’m going to paste the text here on the blog. I’m going to use the Easy to Read (ERV) version since the link above takes you to The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). In the ERV & others, the verses are actually Deuteronomy 29:10-12…

Today all of you are standing here before the Lord your God. Your leaders, your officials, your elders, and all the other men are here. Your wives and children are here and also the foreigners living among you—the people who cut your wood and bring you water. You are all here to enter into an agreement with the Lord your God. The Lord your God is making this agreement with you today.

Moses has gathered every person who is ready to cross over into The Promised Land, and he is asking them to stand before God whether they are leaders or followers, men or women, adults or children, Hebrews or foreigners, masters or servants. The instruction from the throne of God to the people who will live in His promise applies to every person there, and every person there is expected to enter into an agreement of obedience to God’s requirements. It’s a Landlord/tenant agreement of the highest order.

So God asks us not only if we understand His laws, mitzvot, and rulings, but He also asks if we are willing to stand under them. Mercy follows closely on the heels of those who humble themselves before God and His requirements because God knows we are making our best efforts even when we fail. But, while mercy is a free gift to “whosoever will” receive it, Scripture also tells us in multiple passages that God resists the proud and arrogant but gives His grace to the humble. I like the way the Phillips New Testament quotes James 4:4-6

“You are like unfaithful wives, flirting with the glamour of this world, and never realising that to be the world’s lover means becoming the enemy of God! Anyone who deliberately chooses to love the world is thereby making himself God’s enemy. Do you think what the scriptures have to say about this is a mere formality? Or do you imagine that this spirit of passionate jealousy is the Spirit he has caused to live in us? No, he gives us grace potent enough to meet this and every other evil spirit, if we are humble enough to receive it. That is why he says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ ” (Emphasis mine.)

It’s not always easy to be humble and yielding to God’s law or any law, but obeying Him is trusting Him. Trusting God is not just a thought process, but it will be followed by visible evidence. If He says, “My umbrella is over here,” we will move near Him to get beneath it for protection from the storm. If we truly believe that God has only our best interest at heart, and we trust that He will cause all we experience to work for the good, we can obey Him. Then, even before we understand what He is asking of us, or wanting for us, we can choose to humble ourselves and stand under His rulings–which also puts us under the shadow of His protective wings. Do you stand under?

       He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge.
        His truth is your shield and armor.
         (Psalm 91:4–God’s Word version)

September 6, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Real Prosperity Gospel


The Prosperity Gospel poster by Flickr User Brett Jordan, CC License = Attribution

The Prosperity Gospel poster by Flickr User Brett Jordan, 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.

Anybody want to know the secret to real prosperity? Of course, who wouldn’t? Certainly, no one actually wants to be less than prosperous, right? Then again, I suppose that depends on the definition of the word. What if God said that true prosperity, the stuff He promises to give us just because He knows the good plans He has for us, has little to do with money or possessions? Would everyone still want it?

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 29:1 through Deuteronomy 29:8 in The Complete Jewish Bible (29:2-9 in The Amplified Bible and other versions), we complete another week and another portion of Torah. That means, it’s time for me to wish all my readers Shabbat Shalom (Sabbath Peace), and may you prosper in all things even as your soul prospers.

Moses summons Israel to remind them of what they have seen in The Lord. He tells them they saw what God did in Egypt to Pharaoh, his servants, and his land; great testings, signs, and wonders which Israel saw with their own eyes. But then, Moses tells them that, in spite of all they’ve seen and heard, God has still not given them hearts of understanding, eyes to see, or ears to hear. For whatever reason, they still just don’t get it.

As Moses goes on, he reminds them how they fared as he led them through the wilderness for 40 years. He talks of their super durable clothing and shoes, and then he reminds them how they did not eat bread or drink any intoxicating liquor because God wanted to make sure they never forgot that He is The Lord. Moses reminds them of the battles they faced when they first arrived to where they are now. Two kings came out against them, but with God’s help, they defeated them both and gave the land to the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

In the final verse for the passage and the portion, Moses says, “Therefore, observe the words of this covenant and obey them; so that you can make everything you do prosper.”

We’re nearing the end of the Torah and of Moses’ life, and while Moses pours out instruction and reminders, he also pours out blessings. I find a lot of instruction and inspiration in that last blessing. First, Moses is telling this group of people who have no understanding and cannot truly see or hear, that they are to observe and obey. Observation should need eyes and ears, and obedience should need understanding, but since God has not yet given these things to them, they must observe and obey on pure faith.

I looked up the word “prosperity” in Strong’s Concordance to see what Moses meant in this blessing, and it turns out that the word means pretty much the same in all places it is used. It means to do well and have success, but the full definition expands that to becoming circumspect–intelligent enough to look at things from all angles. Some other words in addition to intelligent include expert, prudent, skillful, and understanding. The prosperous person should be able to teach, instruct, consider, and to guide wittingly. Interestingly, it also says those who prosper will behave themselves. That last definition sure doesn’t describe rich, self-indulgent, party-animal types, does it?

In addition to biblical prosperity meaning something more like abounding in God’s character than abounding in His riches, I also noticed that Moses told the people that they would make everything they do prosper. They, themselves, are responsible to bring that prosperity into their own lives, and it is apparently possible for anyone since these are the same people listed earlier as pretty much ignorant, blind, and deaf. The instruction for bringing themselves this prosperity? Observe the words of God’s covenant with them, and obey. Simple. Put God first. Trust and obey. Seek first the kingdom of God.

In 3rd John 1, an elder of the church writes to Gaius and sends him blessings of prosperity as well. Like the blessing I spoke above, the writer says, in verse 2, that he wants Gaius to prosper in health and all things even as his soul prospers. That he considers prosperity to be like the Strong’s definition is evidenced in verse 4 where the writer says, “Nothing gives me greater joy than hearing that my children are living in the truth.” Truth is found in God’s word, and living in it is observing and obeying. Those things will prosper your soul, so they will also prosper your health and other areas of your life. So, just as Israel, we bring ourselves to biblical prosperity by living in God’s truth; observing and obeying His Holy Scriptures.

God is not a respecter of persons, so the gospel (good news) must be able to work for all mankind. A false “prosperity gospel” cannot be equally applied to the rich and to those who have no ability to increase in riches. This true prosperity gospel can be preached to everyone: From the rich to the poor, the old to the young, the free to the slave, and even from the genius to the ignorant. The message will work for anyone who follows God, whether they live in the bush or the big city, a cave or a mountain top, a mansion or prison cell. That makes it real, and that makes it truly good news; a real prosperity gospel.

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

Bugs in the System


Searching by Flickr User Paul Bence, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial

Searching by Flickr User Paul Bence, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

It all started with a moth. Well, maybe it didn’t all start there since the term bug had already been in use to define issues that made technology unworkable, but the moth in the system in 1947 did make the term more accepted and widely used. In software, one tiny blip of code can throw off everything to where the program refuses to perform as planned. No one likes their systems, or any of their electronics, to become buggy, but if you’d like to read a bit more about bugs and their origins in electronics, visit the Wikipedia page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_bug.

In today’s very long reading from Deuteronomy 28:7 through Deuteronomy 28:69 in The Complete Jewish Bible (through Deuteronomy 29:1 in other versions like The Amplified Bible), we learn that no one likes their crops and trees to be buggy either. Moses continues the words from yesterday’s promises to Israel, beginning with more blessings. The first one promises that enemies who come against Israel will come at them one way but flee seven ways. God will command blessings on Israel as He establishes them to be a holy people to Himself.

The reading lists an abundance of blessings and prosperity upon the people, their lands, their offspring, their livestock, and the offspring of their livestock. It focuses on the blessing as a result of the people keeping God’s laws, so that all the world would know He is God and they are His people. God says He will make Israel the head and not the tail. God adds that all the people of the earth will see that Israel is called by God’s name, and they will be afraid.

All these promises are given to any who will walk straight in the paths of God and not turn to the right or the left of their own ways or the ways of false gods. If the people disobey, they still have promises, but they’re not the kinds they want; they’re curses! Through Moses, God tells Israel that if they are not watchful to keep His commandments, He (God) will send curses, rebuke, and confusion in every thing to which Israel puts her hand. The curses will devour Israel until it is destroyed, and she has become the tail and not the head.

The abundant curses include consumption, fever, inflammation, sword, drought, mildew, and all the boils and diseases of the Egyptians. Israel will plant vineyards and fields and never consume them; build houses and never live in them; and have other nations eat the fruit of her labors. In addition, their animals will be slain before their eyes, and their children will be taken by others. The people will become blind, but when they can see, they will be driven to insanity by what they view, and that view will include constant bugs living in all their trees and produce. Eventually, Israel will come at an enemy one way and run from the enemy seven ways.

God tells Israel that all these curses will be signs and wonders to warn other nations, and Israel’s descendants, that Israel is in bad shape because she did not follow the Lord with heartfelt joy and gratefulness for all the abundance God gave her. Her promises of uncountable seed will turn to a nation of few people, and she will be scattered. She will be a slave to false gods, have no assurance of life, become hopeless, and never be satisfied–always wishing in the evening that it was morning, and in the morning that is was evening. Eventually, she will end up in bondage in Egypt again.

There are more curses than blessings, and much of this appears to be prophesies that have already come to pass for physical Israel. I know that God never gives up on His promises, so I trust that He has ways to deal with those that have been blinded to The Messiah, but in the meantime, we who are grafted into Abraham’s seed should take these prophesies to heart as well. Like Paul said in Romans 11:21, if God didn’t spare the natural branches, what makes the grafted-in branches think He will spare us?

The curses of God are the opposite of the blessings, but that also means that the blessings are the opposite of the curses. We don’t have to be cursed! If we seek first the kingdom of God and ALL His righteousness, and if we serve Him with gratefulness and joy, we have an abundance of blessing to lean on, including that He will protect us from any enemy that comes against us. God’s programs and systems are perfect, written and designed without any bugs, but mankind has brought in corruption in the form of sin. Fortunately, God also designed a failsafe in the Holy Blood of Christ, so He can “debug” our lives and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Repent, and turn your life-program over to God. Let Yahveh Almighty be your Systems Engineer today–and forever.

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

A Tale of Two Mountains


Geography of The Holy Land from The Internet Archive on Flickr--No Known Copyright Issues

Geography of The Holy Land from The Internet Archive on Flickr–No Known Copyright Issues
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access the user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

You know the old idea of having a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, and then having to choose which one’s voice you will listen to? Well, I think it comes from two mountains in Israel. The two mountain, Gerizim and Ebal are twin mountains on the two sides of the Shechem Valley. Supposedly, they create a natural amphitheater, and you can hear what is said on one mountain from the other, and you can hear from both when you’re in the valley. The valley is located in what is present day Samaria.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 27:11 through Deuteronomy 28:6, we will read of the blessings and the curses shouted over Israel from these two mountain tops. The passage begins with Moses commissioning which six tribes will stand on Mount Gerizim and which six will stand on Mount Ebal. From there, the Levites will shout the curses and blessings of God over the people of Israel.

As the curses are shouted, each is to be followed by a loud Amen from all the people. The curses include…

  • Anyone who makes a carved or metal image, something God detests, and sets it up in secret. (People say, “Amen.”)
  • Anyone who dishonors his father or mother. (People say, “Amen.”)
  • Anyone who moves his neighbor’s boundary marker. (People say, “Amen.”)
  • Anyone who causes a blind person to lose his way on the road. (People say, “Amen.”)
  • Anyone who interferes with justice for the orphan, foreigner, or widow. (People say, “Amen.”)
  • Anyone who has sex with his father’s wife, his sister, his mother-in-law, or any kind of animal. (People say, “Amen.”)
  • Anyone who secretly attacks a fellow member of the community. (People say, “Amen.”)
  • Anyone who accepts a bribe to kill an innocent person. (People say, “Amen.”) And,
  • Anyone who does not confirm the words of The Torah by putting them into practice. (People say, “Amen.”)

At the chapter change, Moses promises that if the people listen to what God says, observing and obeying all of God’s commands, will receive blessings that include God raising them up above all nations on earth. The following blessings will be given in abundance to whomever does what The Lord says…

  • A blessing in the city, and a blessing in the countryside.
  • A blessing on the fruit of the body, the land, livestock, and young of cattle and flocks.
  • A blessing on the grain basket and the kneading bowl. And,
  • A blessing on going out, and a blessing on coming in.

I find it interesting that God insists on a shout of “Amen” (so be it) on each of the curses but not on the blessings. I think it’s because He wants to freely bless His people, but He doesn’t want to issue curses, so He wants to be sure the people clearly understand what will bring curses upon them. The people themselves will dwell between the mountains of blessings and cursings, which is symbolic of being in the middle of good and evil and having to choose who and what we will serve.

As for me and my house, we will serve The Lord. What kind of choice will you make when you are between two mountains?

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

No Skipping Stones


Skipping Stones by Flickr User iamNigelMorris, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Skipping Stones by Flickr User iamNigelMorris, 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.

Even if I find the perfect flat rock for stone-skipping, chances are, there will be more splat than skip. I guess it’s all in the wrist, and I don’t have enough of whatever it is. One time, as a teenager, I recall getting one to skip a bunch of times, but that was a rare and wonderful thing.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 27:1 through Deuteronomy 27:10, we will read of God’s laws regarding skipping stones. I’ll bet you didn’t know it was in the Bible, but God told Israel not to do it. Really. He told them not to skip setting up standing stones on which He wanted them to record the words of His Torah. (I’ll bet you were wondering just where I was going with that, huh?)

So, Moses and all the leaders of Israel stand before the crowd and tell them to observe every law they were being given that day. To help with the observation, they tell them that, after they cross the Jordan into the land that God is giving them, they are to set up standing stones, put plaster on them, and write the words of Torah on them.

After they set up stones, God wants them to build an altar out of stones and without the use of any tools. His command is that they build the altar of uncut stones and offer burnt offerings on it. They should also offer peace offerings there, and they should eat and be joyful in the presence of The Lord. The next verse restates that they are to write the words of Torah on the stones very clearly.

Next, it is Moses and the high priests that speak to Israel. The first thing they say to them is, “Be quiet and listen, Israel!” They continue with a reminder that today is the day Israel becomes the people of The Lord. Because of that, they should listen to God and obey all the laws and commands Moses gives them on that day.

I wonder how people would react if Scripture actually said we could not skip stones. I mean, it’s not like God would be asking something that difficult, but could we just obey even though it doesn’t seem to make any sense? For me, the hardest thing to do is follow commands that don’t seem to have logic or reasoning behind them. For the sake of obedience, I have done so before, and sometimes it has turned out to be just a man’s interpretation or idea. But, I still believe God rewards an obedient heart and spirit.

God is merciful and He knows our form, so our task is to do our best to honor Him in everything we do and think. He sees when that includes obeying some man-made law because we are told it is required of us. For example, there is at least one church I know of that teaches it is a sin to wear the color red. (I know some Louisville Cardinals fans that would be very upset with that one. 🙂 ) Those who attend there likely follow the rule with their whole hearts because they want to please God, so God will recognize their lawfulness.

Have you given in to things you later found out through spiritual maturity were not necessary? If so, did it make you decide you would never listen again to commands of men? I hope not. I hope you see that God blesses your obedient heart and spirit. I hope, instead, that you use your experiences to gain perspective, and that you seek God’s wisdom to gain discernment. If we do our best, I believe God will lead us in His path as we learn here a little, there a little by seeking Him and studying His word. And if some blogger comes along telling you not to skip stones, pray about it–and then read the rest of the post.

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

You Raise Me Up


My first car was an old Toyota Crown Deluxe; 1966 I think. I wasn’t into old cars, so I probably didn’t think of it with the value it actually had. Instead, I was just frustrated with things like the manual transmission (I kept getting hiccups in the middle of intersections) and the pull-out choke that liked to get stuck. But it did get me from point A to point B until one fateful night when it got stuck on some train tracks and, yes, hit by a locomotive.

When it became clear that the car was staying put and the train was not going to stop, I went running into the desert, screaming at the top of my lungs. I plugged my ears and screamed as loudly as I could, so I wouldn’t hear the explosion, and I kept screaming until someone tapped me on the shoulder to ask what was wrong. I looked up, saw the flames, pointed to what was once my car, and said, “What do you think is wrong?” I wish I could apologize to the guy. He was just trying to help, and he didn’t deserve my anger.

Anyway, he walked me toward the scene where an ambulance, some firetrucks, and a number of police cars parked with lights flashing on the other side of the now-stopped train. Workers beckoned me to come to them, and it required my crawling between the flat rail car and the raised semi-truck trailer it was holding. By the time I reached the other side, I saw arms reaching out for me, so I just collapsed into them. The comfort of being caught and supported until the stress left my legs where I could feel strong again was worth a thank-you note to all the rescue workers, and I put it in a letter to the editor of the local paper. Having someone to raise you up when you are weak, and help you until you are strong again, is an indescribably wonderful blessing.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 26:16 through Deuteronomy 26:19, we will read about that kind of offering from God to Israel. The passage is another four short verses, so I’m going to paste them from the Complete Jewish Bible to here…

Today Adonai your God orders you to obey these laws and rulings. Therefore, you are to observe and obey them with all your heart and all your being. You are agreeing today that Adonai is your God and that you will follow his ways; observe his laws, mitzvot and rulings; and do what he says. In turn Adonai is agreeing today that you are his own unique treasure, as he promised you; that you are to observe all his mitzvot; and that he will raise you high above all the nations he has made, in praise, reputation and glory; and that, as he said, you will be a holy people for Adonai your God.

I love that Moses confirms to Israel that if they will observe God’s ways, He will raise them up. Moses begins with an order from God, and then he tells them why they should follow it with all their hearts and souls. He tells them that following God is a confirmation that Yahveh IS their God, and that He is worthy of their obedience–not only of His laws, but of His mitzvot (divine commandments with reason), and His rulings.

We who serve God today can also claim this as our promise. If we respect and honor God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, we will follow and obey Him. We don’t follow Him in the legalistic pursuit of perfect lawfulness, but we obey His divine commandments because we trust that He gave them with logic and reason. The laws separate us from the unlawful; the mitzvot (which include good deeds toward others) are our walk of faith and our trust in God; and the rulings are those commands we do just because God is worthy–like the command to praise Him.

As a result of following God with everything in us, we can trust that God Himself will raise us up to (as the song says) more than we can be: More than we can be on our own, more than nations who live without Him, more than those who serve false gods, more than those who serve only themselves. Like the natural seed of Abraham, we who are born of the water and The Spirit, who are the seed of Abraham by way of a circumcised heart, are His unique treasure. We are holy and loved by Our Creator, and He will raise us up in praise, reputation, and glory both now and forever. HalleluYah!!!

P.S. See yourself being uplifted by Our Messiah as you watch the above video with clips from The Passion of The Christ and the song, You Raise Me Up as performed by Selah.

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

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 🙂 ) 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. 🙂 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. 🙂

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 fiancées 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. 😉 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 — amazing things! — so as to fool even the chosen, if possible. There! I have told you in advance! So if people say to you, ‘Listen! He’s out in the desert!’ don’t go; or, ‘Look! He’s hidden away in a secret room!’ don’t 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. 🙂

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’s 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 PesachShavu’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. 😉

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


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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

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