The above video has beautiful lyrics to celebrate Our Messiah. I pray it blesses you to listen to the group “Lamb” and their excellent worship music.
You can see by the copyright date that I wrote the below poem many years ago. It came about just as I was learning about the Hebrew/Jewish roots of the Christian faith in which I was raised. Learning the Hebrew roots of my faith changed my walk with God more than I can put into words. It made the “Old Testament” come to life for me, and it explained so many of the words of Jesus I had grown up with. Through studying, especially in using The Complete Jewish Bible, I learned that Jesus/Yahshua actually quoted many Old Covenant words as He ministered. I recommend the above study Bible, which also comes with some great notes and appendices. I enjoy it in print and on my Kindle.
I have shared my testimony in previous posts, so I thought it was a good night to share the poem that came from my new understanding of The One who was both The Jewish Messiah and the Christian Messiah I had grown up with.
YAH-SHUA THE JEW
© 1999 By Crystal A. Murray
If Yahshua had come teaching
All the things we teach these days;
If He came not as a Rabbi,
But taught modern “Christian” ways;
If He said, “Stop being Jewish
For their laws & feasts are old;
Just form a church on Sundays
And give the pastor all your gold.”
If He taught multi-religions,
And many-faceted beliefs & ways
Religious & sin tolerance:
No judgment, no prices to pay;
If He taught that love means acceptance
No matter what other people do,
Would ANYone have believed in Him
As Messiah, King of the Jews?
See, it’s not the miracles He did,
Or the hungry that He fed.
Or His interpretation of the Scriptures,
Or any fancy words He said,
It’s the old, anointed, prophecies,
The promises of a virgin-born Son,
That proved He was THE Messiah,
Lion of Judah, and The Holy One.
‘Cause He could not have grafted anyone;
Into a vine of Love, pure and true,
If He, Himself, was not The Vine,
The Lamb, Son of Yahveh, and a JEW!
I love this song, and I really like to travel on trains. I like the little ones in amusement parks, and I like the big Amtrak trains that cross the country. I love the clickety-clack sounds, the views, the well-dressed staff, the observation car, and so much more. The video above has some great train footage in addition to the song Life’s Railway to Heaven sung by Johnny Cash. I hope you enjoy it. Me; I like trains so much that if I didn’t have to drive about 2 hours to get to a train station, I would likely travel as often as I could get away–even if it was only for a day trip.
You know, I’ve heard that travel on trains can be less safe than commercial airlines, but that’s not something that causes me even as much anxiety as getting on the road in a car. I think it has something to do with the safe feeling of being on a straight track that can only go where it is directed. The only dangers come when the train leaves the track or something crosses the track at the wrong time or place. Of course, the engineer makes most of the difference in whether the train does what it has been built to do.
So, what would happen if the engineer just decided to jump off the train and let it run on its own? Okay, and what if all the staff, including the brakeman, jumped off? Yep, we’d likely have a runaway train. Would it be any fun then?
I know I am beyond the month of sharing the Infinite Supply newsletters by The School of Christ dot org, but the one shared today is one of my favorites. In about 6 years, I’ve probably seen the devotion at least 3 or 4 times, and it resonates with me each and every time. Plus, it goes so well with my point about our need for The Engineer to be on our train. Here’s the main text from the devotion entitled “To Be With Him”…
You are called to be with Jesus. That is your calling. That is the primary thing, the highest ministry. Going forth to preach or do anything else is of secondary importance. We should be with Jesus; after that, He might send us forth to preach. But before Jesus said, “Go into all the world” He said, “Be with Me.” (John 17:24)
The call of the Lord is not more important than the Lord of the call. The work of the Lord must not replace the Lord of the work. No amount of ministering FOR the Lord will make up for a lack of ministering TO the Lord. And knowing the Word of God does not necessarily mean that we know the God of the Word.
Source: The Church in the Wilderness by Chip Brogden ©1997-2013 TheSchoolOfChrist.Org.
I underlined the last sentence in the first paragraph. I love that it says that before Yeshua sent anyone out into any ministry, He first called them to be with Him. To be with Jesus/Yeshua is to have Him on board your train of life to make sure you don’t end up without an Engineer. Wherever we go, we need Him running the show. Without Him, life will be chaos and violence (like we see all around us), and we will be a wild runaway train.
I’ll end with one more video that adds to the idea of needing The Lord in our lives. This one is by Don Francisco, and the first line of the chorus says, “If you’re not livin’ by the word of God, you’re flyin’ by the seat of your pants.” Enjoy!
You’ve seen the slogan, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” It comes out every December to remind people that Christmas should not be focused on selfish things like gift-giving and wish lists. Still, because most of us have grown up with it being a holiday about gifts, decor, and Santa Claus, it can be difficult to put the focus on the birth of Christ. How much easier would it be if His birthday was actually at a different time that has not yet been so commercialized? Imagine this fictional but possible scenario…
It’s the first holiday of the new Jewish year where the men are called home for worship; the fall festival of Sukkot. Joseph will follow both the Jewish law and Caesar’s law to go to his home town even though his wife is ready to have a baby at any moment. As the couple arrives in Bethlehem, it’s bustling with activity. Caesar seemed to know that this time between two feasts, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, would draw a big enough crowd to make census-taking easier. Miriam (Mary) just admired the many booths built behind every home and business and longed for the day she would have her own home and a place for Joseph to build their sukkah.
“Oh, no, Joseph, I think the baby wants out,” cries Miriam as the donkey stumbles over another rough patch of road.
“Don’t worry, Honey, I’ll find us a place to rest soon,” says Joseph while trying to hide his own level of panic. He knows how important it is to take care of this pregnancy and delivery. The angel told him the baby was Emmanuel; God with Us, and Joseph does not take that lightly. But there doesn’t seem to be any place available for them to stop. Finally, at the last inn at the other end of town, the inn’s proprietor sees the pregnant girl and whispers something to his wife before letting the couple go on their way.
“Listen. We have our sukkah in back, and we were going to stay in there ourselves, so we know it’s suitable for you. Why don’t you just rest in there for the night. The basket is already stocked with bread, so you can eat something if you like,” says Mr. Innkeeper. Meanwhile, Mrs. Innkeeper is quite happy to agree since it means she will have a reason to sleep in her own bed instead of the floor of a tent.
Joseph and Miriam take their place in the booth as the labor begins. We don’t know if there was an available nurse or if the labor was difficult, but we do know that she soon delivered a bouncing baby boy. She knew who He was. Joseph knew who He was. Joseph extended the special blanket he retrieved from their bags. With the baby’s lineage from the tribe of Judah sewn into the fabric, Joseph wrapped the blanket around Yeshua to swaddle the newborn in warmth and comfort.
Weary from travel and delivery, the new family desperately needed rest. “Where will be put the baby?” asked Miriam.
“You know how I sleep, Dear. I’m afraid I might roll over on Him.”
“Joseph, the bread basket!” shouted Miriam as she quickly began to move the loaves to a small corner table. “This will make the perfect cradle for Him.” Joseph agreed. “Happy birthday, Lord,” Miriam whispered as she nestled the baby and His blankets snugly into the makeshift cradle before lying down to rest herself. Did she know, as she curled up to sleep in Joseph’s little town of Bethlehem (meaning “House of Bread”) that she had just placed the Bread of Life into a bread basket? How fitting, huh?
I find it difficult to go very long without finding one of the ApologetiX parodies that lines up with something in the reading portions. I’m so impressed with a band that can teach strong messages from the Scriptures and still make them fun to learn. In this video, they parody the theme song from the movie Grease and do a great job with the new lyrics. They teach about the blessing of having Yeshua (Jesus) in our lives in spite of what the secular theories try to teach about Christ being bondage to people. And they also talk about confession, faith, divine grace, and searching God’s word. The lyrics are on the YouTube page, and you can also find them here.
In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 4:41 through Deuteronomy 4:49 (the end of the chapter), we begin with Moses separating out three cities on the east side of the Jordan River that will be used as cities of refuge. He names Bezer in the desert for those from the tribe of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead for those from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan for those from the half-tribe of Manasseh. These cities will allow those who have killed accidentally and without hatred in their hearts to have a place to run for mercy and to live without fearing for their lives.
After Moses names the cities, the reading proclaims, “This is the Torah which Moses placed before the people of Israel–these are the instructions, laws, and rulings which Moses presented to the people…” Said in another way, “This is the Word of God.” It goes on to describe how God delivered the people out of Egypt, the victories they won, the kings they defeated, and the borders of the new land God is giving them to possess.
God gave Moses the word to give to Israel after they were delivered from their bondage in Egypt. I hadn’t really put that together before, but it wasn’t the words of God’s law that originally set the people free. God’s love for His people came before His commands to them. The laws and commands of God have their own delivering power, but their best power is what they can do to prevent us from going into (or back into) bondage.
What sets people free from bondage to sin now? First, it is the love of God for His people. Few unbelievers will get an understanding of that from just the written words, so God gives each of us a testimony to share with the circle He places us within. Our testimony of God’s love toward us works to draw people away from the darkness and emptiness that steals their joy of living. It draws them toward a place of repentance. That place of real, heartfelt repentance when they first meet Jesus the Word heart to heart is when their chains fall off and they find themselves set free to walk away and avoid the sins that have plagued them (go and sin no more).
Once people have stepped out of their initial “Egypt” of bondage, they need direction just as the community of Israel needed direction. The written word of God gives us the direction to continually walk a path that leads away from bondage. For the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus the Word gave them a more excellent reason (His love) to follow the laws and commands that had become their own form of bondage. He wants us to study His written word to find wisdom to lead ourselves and to teach and lead others. And, He wants us to stay in communication with Him as our Living Word to help us walk in the joy of His holy presence. The lyrics at the end of the song above say it perfectly…
Research the Word, yes the Word that you heard
It’s God’s truth, it’s God’s teaching
(It’s the truth, I mean it)
This is the time, it’s the place, it’s the moment
Now Jesus is waiting receive Him
Jesus, the Word, yes the Word, yes the Word…
There are many ways to minister to our fellow man, and only a small portion of them include being up behind a pulpit. Those in front of the crowd do get noticed more than the mammas on their knees begging God to have mercy on their wayward children, but are they one bit more important? Granted, we need confident speakers to spread the good news across the airwaves, but we also need the missionaries who are willing to sacrifice comfort and convenience to carry the good news around the world. And we need the home missions preachers who survive on a small budget to bring the gospel to the streets and towns where others fear to tread.
In today’s reading from Numbers 3:14 through Numbers 3:39, we see the breakdown of the census for all those within the tribe of Levi. They are the servants for the tabernacle, and they each have duties that are to be done with complete obedience to God’s commands. We have three sons of Levi who are the fathers of the clans of the Levites, aka “the preachers.” The people from each clan will camp around the tabernacle, and each will have specific duties in the care of God’s house.
The children of Gershon (about 7500 males a month and older) are told to camp behind the tabernacle, to the west. They will be in charge of the tabernacle itself including all the coverings inside and out, the screens at the entrances, the curtains that surround the courtyard, and all the fixtures and ropes used for these items and for maintenance.
The children of K’hat (about 8600 males) are told to camp next to the tabernacle to the south. They are to be in charge of The Holy Place. They are responsible for the ark, the table, the menorah and altars, the curtains, and all the utensils used by the priests when they serve in The Holy Place.
And, the children of M’rari (about 6200 males) are told to camp next to the tabernacle to the north. They are assigned responsibility for the frames of the tabernacle. That includes maintenance for the crossbars, the posts, the sockets and fittings, and the posts that surround the courtyard with their sockets, pegs, and ropes.
Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons who were in charge of The Holy Place were to camp at the front of the tabernacle, in the east, toward the sunrise. They were told to carry out all their responsibilities on behalf of the people of Israel, and anyone else who tried to do the job without being called to that responsibility would be put to death. But there were plenty to do the job since the total number of Levite males a month or older was 22,000.
Now, I know there weren’t televisions, fancy church buildings, and all that we have today back then, but I just can’t equate the jobs this tribe of preachers has been asked to do with anyone who is up doing it for accolades from the crowd. If anything, I’m guessing there were more than a few of the boys who were sorry they were born into the tribe of Levi due to all the work it required. But for those who did the job from their hearts, the rewards of knowing The Almighty Creator was pleased with them was likely pay enough.
In answer to the song title in the video above, no, I don’t believe Jesus would wear a Rolex. Some televangelists, pastors, etc., have jobs outside their preaching positions that enable them to afford a comfy life, so I can’t say they don’t deserve it anymore than I can say a doctor who barely survived internship shouldn’t find some luxury once in private practice. But I definitely have concerns about the ones who use the funds from the flock to pay themselves as if they are a higher shepherd than The Shepherd to whom all our allegiance should be given. And the free-spending on things like gold faucets for a yacht makes it more clear to me why some religions make those in ministry positions take a vow of poverty.
Yeshua asked one man who wanted to follow Him if he was okay with the idea of sleeping on a stone. He pointed out that even though He was The Messiah and The One in charge of the ministry, He Himself did not have a pillow to lay His head on. I am thankful for some of the outreach that is done with the funds going into the big ministries, but I wonder how much could be done if more funds went to actual needs and less into the art of attraction.
The video, and the requirements we read for the Levites, should prompt us to ask this question about all whose ministries we follow and support: WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) if He were walking around in human form and ministry these days? Are all these who say they are called to minister for God camping around the tabernacle and keeping up the care of God’s house, or are they camping out in their own comfortable houses while starving sheep foot the bill?
When we say something is finished, we may mean it is hopeless, or that we’re giving up. We can be finished with something before it is even complete. But when God says something is finished, it is all the way done, complete, finalized, and has nothing to be added to it. When Yeshua said these words on the cross, He was completing the task of paying the price of salvation for all who lived then, all who lived before, and all who will live until the end of time here on earth.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 27:29 through Leviticus 27:34 (the end of the chapter, and the end of the book of Leviticus), we finish another week of the year. As the portion begins, it makes the statement that any man condemned to die cannot be redeemed, he must be put to death. The statement here makes a bit more sense in The Amplified Bible where it explains that redeemed means freed from having to die as sentenced.
When Yeshua, under Jewish law, was condemned to die, there was no way to turn it around and free Him from the obligation of the cross. He was going to go there no matter what. But, because His perfect blood fulfilled the law, He set us free from having to pay the wages of our sin that condemned us to death, and therefore, we can be redeemed from it. Halleluyah! The law that was our curse became our blessing because our High Priest finished all that was necessary to fulfill the requirements that left so many in bondage.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been angry as I’ve watched reenactments of the crucifixion. Sometimes, I have wanted to jump through the screen and beat the ones who issued the death sentence to The Savior. I’ve also felt great frustration in watching the Jewish priests as they did nothing to stop the false condemnation, and in watching the people use their chance to free him to free a murderer (Barabas) instead. Now, however, on reading this, I can understand why the condemnation had to stand. They had to keep the laws intact in order for The Messiah to fulfill them.
The next few verses talk about tithing. The word says that if a man tithes of his land, that land will be holy to God. The same goes if he tithes from his animals. If he tithes on his animals, he is not to examine the animals at all, but one tenth of his flock as it walks under the herdsman’s staff will belong to God and become holy to him. And if a man wants to redeem any of his tithes, he is to add twenty percent to its value.
The last verse finishes the laws and commandments given by God to the people of Israel through His speaking to Moses on Mt. Sinai. God was finished giving laws, Moses was finished receiving laws, but the people were not finished learning the laws. Some laws had to be relearned because they were forgotten. Some laws had to be taught to the new children who were born after the laws were given. And some laws had to be relearned the hard way by watching the punishment on someone else who had forgotten. But the day came when no one was required to learn the laws anymore, not because they were bad laws, but because they were no longer necessary to cleanse people from unrighteousness. When Yeshua hung on the cross and said, “It is finished,” He concluded all the work necessary to cleanse us, so when our lives on this earth are finished, we can dwell in unending joy with our Creator.
I love to sing karaoke, and yes, I’m a country girl, so my favorite tracks are usually a country flavor. I’ve always liked the Lynn Anderson song, Rose Garden because I feel like it tells a truth about life in general and not just relationships. It’s true we can’t have just sunshine and no rain, or we’d be dry as deserts and nothing could grow. And there are a lot of people to whom we would love to gift the world on a silver platter, but if it took that, or promises of the moon, to get them to love us, we wouldn’t really want them in our lives. Fortunately, God wants our commitment to Him, but He doesn’t require perfection to receive His wonderful gifts.
In today’s reading from Leviticus 26:3 through Leviticus 26:5 (that’s right, only 3 verses), we begin a new week and a new portion, Parashah 33. The Hebrew name is B’chukkotai and it means “By My Regulations.” In the reading, God shows Israel a simple demonstration of cause and effect. He shows how doing things His way will yield the results they really want to see. Since it’s so short, here’s the complete reading for the day from The Complete Jewish Bible…
3 “‘If you live by my regulations, observe my mitzvot and obey them; 4 then I will provide the rain you need in its season, the land will yield its produce, and the trees in the field will yield their fruit. 5 Your threshing time will extend until the grape harvest, and your grape harvesting will extend until the time for sowing seed. You will eat as much food as you want and live securely in your land.
See, He does promise a garden, and He promises the rain to water it. And, while much of what He promises is simple common sense, such as reaping what we sow, doing things God’s way is also sensible because He’s the original Creator. He knows how things are supposed to work based on the way He created them to work. A modern world example would be that we must click the “start” button to shut down Microsoft Windows(R). It doesn’t seem like a normal or sensible response, but it is the way that works because it is the way the creators built it.
So, as the song says, “Smile for a while, and let’s be jolly: Love shouldn’t be so melancholy. Come along and share the good times while we can.” We can praise God for the sunshine and for the rain; for the seed-time and for harvest; and for all our going forth and coming in because He walks with us through every moment of it. God may not have actually promised us a rose garden, but He does promise a garden of provision to sustain us in this life and a garden of eternity to give us hope. As He promises in His holy word, He will never leave nor forsake us, and He will be with us always–until the end of time.
So, we know that Abraham has learned to trust God in everything, and we know that his belief has paid off. His trust in and of itself was so great that it was counted as righteousness. That’sbig trust. What we will read today is going to take every bit of that big trust. The last part of this week’s portion is the entire chapter; Genesis 22:1 through 22:24. It is the story of when God gives Abraham the ultimate test of his life.
First, a little note, if you read this in the King James’ Version, you will see the word “tempt,” but I looked up the Hebrew word used here, and it means, test, try, or prove. I have heard people argue because of the New Testament quote that God does not tempt any man, so I wanted to clear that up. Of course, I’ve also heard people change that to say that God doesn’t test anyone, but I believe this shows us that there are times when testing can prove us like the trying of gold in the fires of purification. However, I also believe that God will never make or allow something to happen to us that is not ultimately for our own good.
Now, back to the story. At this point, Isaac is said to be in his early twenties. God wakes Abraham with a command to take his only begotten son, the son who Abraham loves and has all his hopes and dreams resting in (italics mine), and offer him up to God for a burnt offering. I feel like Abraham would’ve needed to wrestle that one through a bit to convince himself, but maybe not. I do know, however, that by the time they got to the foot of the mountain where the sacrifice was to take place, Abraham was convinced enough of God’s promises to him that he said the following from verse 5:
“The boy and I will travel a little farther. We will worship there, and then we will come right back.” (NLT)
Do you see the faith and trust there? Can you hear the hope in his words? He didn’t say, “I’ll be back,” he said WE will be right back. Somehow, Abraham knew God would keep His promises. He knew that either God would change the way things were planned out, or he knew God could raise his son up from the ashes. Abraham was known as a man of his word, so if he said “we” to his servants, then he meant both of them would be returning.
If you’ve read the story, you know what happens next. Abraham stacks the wood and stuff on Isaac’s shoulders, and they head to Mount Moriah. (This is also thought to be the same mountain where Jesus was crucified. I found an interesting article on the archeology of the place at the Discovery News site.) Anyway, Isaac takes note of the lack of sacrifice and Abraham tells him that God will provide Himself a sacrifice. Whether that wording was intentional or not, I can’t be certain, but that it has arrived to us saying that God would provide (or make) Himself a sacrifice, I think is definitely in His plan.
As the story closes, Abraham has Isaac bound and ready for sacrifice, and he even has the knife raised to do the deed when The Angel of the Lord tells him to stop. He also tells him that now He is certain Abraham will hold nothing back from Him. Somehow, I think God already knew that about Abraham, but I’m sure now Abraham knew it about himself. We can all say we won’t sell out our beliefs for a million dollars or a bag of gold, but until someone offers us a million dollars or a bag of gold, do we really know that for sure? Well, if Abraham ever said he would do anything for God, he just proved it to himself beyond all doubt. And then, just when Abraham needed it, God provided a lamb stuck in the briars, so Abraham was able to worship God with a proper sacrifice.
On a personal note here, I want to say that some years ago, I went to Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Florida and saw an amazing movie about this subject. It was sort of a triple story showing Abraham and Isaac, Jesus on Calvary, and the destruction of the temple, all in tandem. It was quite powerful to watch in that fashion. One of the most beautiful parts showed Isaac putting his arms out, willingly allowing himself to be bound and laid on the altar of sacrifice. I wish they would make that available as a DVD, but last time I checked, it was not. If any of you have seen it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you have not been to Holy Land, I recommend a visit. I’m sure some things have changed with the new ownership, but I loved my visits there each time, and I hope to go again someday. Let me know if you have been there and what you took away from your visit.
With all the shorter readings earlier in the week, today’s reading from Genesis 19:21 through Genesis 21:4 was a bit longer. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to focus on in the story until I got to verse 37 of the first chapter in the reading. But let me start with the background.
The angels have granted that Lot would not have to run to the hills where he was afraid to go and have allowed him to go to a small city called Zoar. But, after Lot got there with his daughters (minus his wife because she turned back toward the destruction and became a pillar of salt), he became afraid that somehow people might know that he had favor to escape God’s judgment and would try to kill him. He ran for the hills he tried to avoid.
While he was hiding there, his daughters decided that, since all their brothers were now incinerated, it was their job to carry on the family name. They got their father completely drunk, and both of them went to him to become pregnant without him knowing about it. This has never been my favorite story. I don’t like that kind of drunkenness, and I think it’s pretty gross for the daughters to even make that kind of decision. But then I learned something particularly interesting in verse 37. It says, “The older bore a son, and named him Moab [of a father]; he is the father of the Moabites to this day.”
So, why does it matter that the oldest daughter is the mother of the Moabites? Well, do you remember the sweet story of Ruth and Naomi? Ruth was a Moabitess. She had married one of Naomi’s sons and after becoming widowed, she chose to stay with her mother-in-law. This is where we get that oft-repeated “where you go, I will go” statement made between friends. But Ruth also told Naomi, “Your God will be my God.” And this is where it gets good.
In Matthew 1:5, in the New Testament account of the genealogy of Jesus, you’ll find Ruth in the lineage of our Messiah, Jesus. So, we start with Abraham whose belief is counted to him for such righteousness that God even has mercy on a nephew who lived in the midst of a vile city. Then, after Lot runs and his daughters engage in incest with him, a child from that unholy union produces a lineage that includes a daughter who goes from curse to blessing and finds herself carrying the grandfather of King David. It is a beautiful and amazing story of mercy and redemption, and it encourages me that even from destruction, fear, and debased situations, God can bring His Perfect Light out from the midst of darkness. Wow!
The content of this poem I wrote many years ago says a lot about everything I’ve written to this point, especially about the covenant made by God in the post for October 17th. I felt this was an appropriate time to share it.
I FOLLOW HIM
By Crystal A Murray – (C)2005
I follow Him…
…Around the corridors of Heaven, where beings created for worshipping Him fall at His feet. He sighs, and I hear Him say, “How I long for a friend with whom I can commune, and who will worship Me and desire to commune with me–because he loves Me.” A few heavy sighs later, I see His breath flowing into His new friend. He smiles and says, “It is very good.”
I follow Him…
…through a garden, where He walks and talks with man and woman. I see His despair on the day He can’t find them because a veil of sin now separates Him from His new creation. I watch as, in pain and desperation, He slays an animal to cover their nakedness and then uses the animal’s blood to temporarily pierce sin’s veil, so He may commune once more with His friends. I hear Him lament that all communication with mankind will now be strife for Him because of sin, but He loves them, and He will not give it up. He will never leave nor forsake them.
I follow Him…
…to His drawing board and see His plans for a temple in Heaven and its counterpart on earth. I also see plans for an ark; a covenant; splitting a sea; how blood sacrifice should work and why it doesn’t; and a way to bring Perfect Blood before the Heavenly altar and permanently destroy the veil of sin.
I follow Him…
…to Bethlehem on a star-lit night; to a carpenter’s shop; to a temple service; to a wedding in Cana and a pool in Bethesda.
I follow Him…
…now to another garden. In this one, called Gethsemane, His flesh and Spirit wrestle. I hear Him pray for my salvation–and yours. The flesh bleeds, but the Spirit prevails. I watch as His betrayer kisses Him … and then flees with Perfect Blood on his lips.
I follow Him…
…to the judgment hall and the whipping post.
I follow Him…
…to the death stake: where Perfect Blood stains the ground … the Centurion’s sword … and the hands of His killers. I see a tomb where His body lays still while His Spirit descends into Hell to take the keys of death and forever deliver His creation–His friends–from bondage. As He returns to His tomb, I watch as His Spirit awakens His body with the dawning of a 3rd-day’s sun.
I follow Him…
…as He comforts those who grieve at His tomb, makes Himself known to disciples walking a lonely road to Emmaus, and fills the nets of forlorn fishermen. I hear Him tell of a Comforter. Soon, I watch as He ascends in a cloud back to Heaven, where He goes to prepare a place for me–and for all who love Him. I see that, even today, He works in Heaven’s Holy Temple as our High Priest continuously offering His Perfect Blood to atone for our sins.*
I follow Him…
…because I love Him and desire to commune with Him. He makes a way because He loves me and desires to commune with me. And someday, with the sounds of a trumpet and a shout, He will split the skies and call His people to come home. And then…
…I will follow Him for eternity!
I know some things may seem to just be things, but I am one of those who believes that everything and everyone has a purpose. In today’s reading from Genesis 14, verses 1 through 20, we find a battle among kings. Five kings to four kings to be exact. And if you want to read all their names and such, just click the link since The Complete Jewish Bible has them listed mostly phonetically. Anyway, in this battle of kings, they are fighting in a valley filled with clay pits where many fall in.
When I read of clay in the Scriptures, I always think of the flesh. So, here are a bunch of kings (people with authority–some to do good and some to do evil) fighting not to fall into clay pits (flesh). And I don’t think it’s just chance that this valley is near the Dead Sea. The evil kings have kidnapped Lot, the nephew of Abram who we introduced in yesterday’s reading. Abram calls on those born and trained in his own household to go out to battle with him and rescue that which belongs to him (Lot) who is likely in the valley of pits himself. They succeed and bring back Lot, his possessions, and all the women and children that were taken with him.
Not only is this a battle with which most who serve God and reject the flesh are acquainted, it ends with the kind of victory most of us seek. They get help from like-minded soldiers, and they take back what the enemy has stolen. When it is all said and done, Abram goes to meet the King of Salem (later called Jerusalem), aka King of Peace, and the King, Melchizedek, blesses him. When we get victories over the flesh, we praise God for His mercy and deliverance, and since Melchizedek was a high priest for God, it was a similar action. As part of their meeting, they shared bread and wine, and at the close, Abram gave the first recorded tithe (tenth) I’ve read about.
So next time you feel like you are in a valley of pits, gather some prayer warriors and fight to win. Scripture tells us that we have more who stand on our side than we have who stand against us. It also says that He who is within us is greater than he who is in the world. We can win in our battles if we open our eyes and take care not to fall into the pits of flesh. Oh, and when we win, we can offer our praises to Christ our King of Peace.
And here’s a nice chorus about the subject from the song, He Brought Me Out of the Miry Clay…
He brought me out of the miry clay,
He set my feet on the Rock to stay;
He puts a song in my soul today,
A song of praise, hallelujah!
Also, if you’d like to read some interesting information about the connection between Melchizedek and Jesus, check out an article from Hebrew for Christians where you can also find more commentary on this Torah portion.
Something came to me about the readings for the last three days, and I want to bring it up before I jump into today. In Genesis 6:8, Noah found grace in the eyes of God. In Genesis 6:9, Noah was righteous & wholehearted, and he walked with God. In Genesis 6:18, God told Noah He would establish a covenant with him. In Genesis 6:22, Noah did all that was commanded of him. In Genesis 7:1, God says to Noah, “I have seen that you alone in this generation are righteous before me.” In Genesis 7:5, Noah did all that God ordered him to do. Can you see a pattern here?
Remember, this was before any of the levitical laws were given, so what do you suppose made Noah find grace in the eyes of the Lord? And that brings us to our reading for today from Genesis 7:17 through Genesis 8:14. Verse 17 tells us that the ark was lifted up above the earth. And that’s where I want to focus.
Noah, whose name actually means “rest,” had a spirit that was above (not obedient to) the flesh. He was, like the ark that he built, lifted up “above the earth” if you think of earth as representing flesh since that’s what we are made from. None of the Scriptures I found say anything about his wife, sons, or sons’ wives being holy, obedient, or finding grace in the eyes of Yahveh.
So, we can sum it all up this way: A man called Rest (and remember our Savior Jesus is The Rest wherein the weary may rest) was righteous. He built a vessel (like our Savior robed Himself in flesh) that would be lifted above the earth (like Christ was lifted up on Calvary and lifted above sin) to save those he loved from complete destruction. Now go back and read the story of Noah as if you’re reading the story of salvation, and ask yourself yesterday’s question…will you get in the ark?
Today’s reading comes from Genesis 2:4 through Genesis 3:21. As usual, there is so much I could comment on, from God Himself breathing the breath of life into the first man, to the heavenly garden in Eden where mankind could eat fruit planted by His Creator, to man and wife being as one flesh. But I’d like to focus on the verses from 3:1 through 3:6.
So imagine Adam & and his new companion walking along a path and just enjoying the beautiful creation that surrounded them. Somehow, they end up right in front of the one tree of which they are not to partake. A voice comes from a serpent also hanging around this very tree. (Of course, this makes me wonder if all the animals talked since neither the man or woman seemed to have been surprised to be conversing with a snake.) And the first thing the snake does is challenge their Creator on whether He is a good provider. My translation: The serpent asked, “Hey, you people, did God say you could not eat from EVERY tree in the garden?”
Wait a minute–ONE tree vs EVERY tree? That lying snake was trying to make the one forbidden tree look like it was of more value than all the other trees put together. The focus was shifted from all they did have to the one little thing they didn’t have. And that’s not a new trick. I think it contributes to much of the depression in today’s world. Sure, I’d love to live a cushy life where all my big desires are covered with plenty to spare. But I have the blessing of remembering times when I’ve had less, so those memories often bring me back to a place of gratefulness. The newly created couple didn’t have that to lean on, so all they could do is imagine that maybe they were missing out on something.
Next, the woman restated the rule of the tree of knowledge. Now, it could be that God said more to them with the first given orders, but if not, I’m wondering why the woman enhanced God’s words and added the part about not touching the tree. Did she fill herself with extreme fear to make sure she stayed on the straight and narrow? Or, maybe the law was spoken to Adam, and in his overly zealous desire to protect his wife from disobedience, he told her that she was not only to avoid eating it but also to avoid touching it. (Kinda like when parents tell their kids things like, “If you keep doing that, it’ll stay that way forever.”) Unfortunately, even strong warnings of never and forever don’t always work, and the fear of discipline in front of the woman was not enough to stop her from listening to the next lie.
So, in verse 4, the serpent flat-out calls God a liar. The husband is standing there, (we see that in verse 6), but he doesn’t seem to be getting defensive about all these lies. I wonder why he wasn’t shouting, “Come on, Honey, let’s get out of here. This little wimp has challenged our Creator on His ability to care for us, and now he’s calling Him a liar! We don’t need to hear anything else that snake has to say.” But they just stood there and listened, and the lying words started sinking in.
Now the woman takes a more deliberate look at the tree and begins a thinking process that has gotten man into trouble ever since. 1 John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” Now look at the thoughts it says were going through the woman’s mind: When the woman saw the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh), pleasant to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and a tree to desirable to make one wise (pride of life), she was enticed. She imagined trying to BE like God rather than to SERVE her Creator, and in that, she imitated the very thoughts that got the voice behind the lying serpent thrown out of the Heavenlies in the first place. This was the fall before the fall. Before she even partook of the forbidden fruit, she engaged in evil thoughts and let the flesh win. And because her husband did not challenge the lying voice, she took him down with her.
But I do not want to stop here with hopelessness. It is evident that sin is something born into the flesh from its inception, or she would not have been able to sin in her mind before acting on her thoughts. But knowing this gives us a way to fight when those same thoughts try to bombard our minds. And even better, we are told in Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” How was Yahshua (Jesus) tempted on all points? In Luke 4:1-13, we read of “the temptation in the wilderness.” The temptations included the lust of the flesh (turn these stones to bread), the lust of the eyes (look at all the kingdoms I can give you), and the pride of life (cast yourself down and make a show of the angels not letting you fall). He was truly tempted in EVERY way we can be tempted, and thus continually delivers us from what started with a liar at the beginning of creation.
THE POWER OF FAITH – Revision One
By Crystal A. Murray 05-16-12
(This is a revision of the line-numbered article as linked to in my first post. The revisions are extensive, so please consider reading it even if you have already perused the first post or the article as I wrote it for my Scribd documents. Thanks.)
This study on the power of faith is a result of studies I conducted while walking through my personal valley of decision some years ago. I began to study after seeking God’s wisdom about the current “movements” in the churches about things considered as being in the realm of God’s Spirit. What many called “revivals” were cropping up all over, and they were lauded by all kinds of Christian media. It seemed to be real and to have proven results, so I sought God as to whether I needed to visit one of these “faith healers” about a desperate physical need in my life.
I had always wondered about the depth and value of my faith, and whether it was truly enough to “move mountains” in my life. I battled with episodes of guilt for not having enough faith, such as when I did not receive a miracle healing to conceive children. At other times, it seemed my faith was huge—especially when I prayed for others, and people would come to me requesting me to pray for them because they thought my faith was so much better than their own. I sought God to ask that my faith would always be within His perfect will for my life.
For many years, voices have echoed inspirations to “act in faith,” or to “believe to receive,” or “name it to claim it.” They told me to come boldly before the throne of God and to remind Him of His promises in Scripture, and to proclaim as my own whatever I am asking for in faith. I’ve been told that I would only receive what I believed and even reminded to “fake it until you make it” to encourage myself in faith. As part of the revival movement that started all this, I was even advised that a way to strengthen faith is to exercise it. The suggested exercise as being taught by many at the time was to command one of my own fingers to grow, return to its original size, grow again, return again, etc. People were getting results with this, but I had to wonder if the results were actually from God.
After being introduced to these kinds of powers, and to other teachings I felt might border too closely to mysticism, I felt it necessary to seek God and His wisdom from the depths of my heart. I asked Him to show me, by causing my finger to grow, if this was of Him. No fingers grew, though I knew I had faith since I had experienced this exact phenomenon when I watched my leg grow nearly two inches.
An important factor in the leg growth situation is that the growth came after God specifically directed me to believe in Him for a miraculous healing in my back that day. The growth has since been medically verified, so I had no reason not to believe God could do this type of thing, but only needed to know if He would and if it was His will.
When my finger did not grow, I had to believe it was God’s way of showing me that “practicing” faith was not something He was directing me to do. Still, people who were seeing results from this practice warned me that if I didn’t have enough faith when I asked for healing, I would end up getting worse instead of better. This did not sound like the God I knew from Scripture or the God I knew from my personal testimony of His love toward me. I knew He had plenty of power to share, but I never wanted to think of Him like some kind of “genie in a lamp” type of god.
The more I sought to understand these things, the more I continued to hear about the wave of miracles that was spreading wildly through the churches. The biggest of these “shows” was coming out of Lakeland, Florida, with a man named Todd Bentley. I had no desire to find fault with these events, especially since it would have been in my best interest physically to find them as true and to seek healing through the miraculous rather than through surgical means. However, God was about to open my eyes to things I never expected to find. I won’t cover it all in this article, but I will cover the main points of Scriptures I found about faith as God walked me through them.
My first answer came with just one section of Scripture. From two verses, I understood how people like Todd Bentley, (and other last days’ seducers and apostates as warned of in Scripture), could perform the miraculous, even if it was not of God. However, even knowing this wisdom came from God, I felt it necessary to continue studying to make certain I had more than one Scripture on which to base my understanding. The following Scriptures and commentary are a result of that study.
(All Scriptures used are KJV. Scriptures are bolded with Jesus’ words in red.)
First, the Scripture that tells how people can work miracles and yet not be of God:
Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?” And then will I profess unto them, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
But wait, didn’t they just say they prophesied, and cast out devils, and did wonderful works of God? Furthermore, didn’t they say they did all these things in Jesus’ Name? So how can He then say to them that He never knew them? The answer is in the word “knew” which is translated from the same referral to intimate knowledge as when Adam “knew” Eve and she bore him a son. Jesus was saying that He never planted His seed within them. They were worshiping the miracles rather than the Giver of the miracles; the creation more than the Creator; the power more than the All Powerful. Because they had faith, and because—as I will show later—faith works, those referred to in this Scripture (people we will likely see in the “last days”) were able to do good works in the right name, but their hearts were wrapped up in the works of the Lord rather than in the Lord of the work, so their righteousness became as filthy rags. The remedy to this is found in the next verse, a command from Jesus to His disciples.
And Jesus answering saith unto them, “Have faith in God.”
Have faith in God and not in ourselves or a man. This is the beginning of an admonition to the disciples after they asked Jesus about the power He had over the fig tree. He is making sure they understand that it’s not just about power or faith in general, because (or verily)…
For verily I say unto you, “That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.”
Understand that faith in and of itself is so powerful that even if a man asks for an impossible thing like moving a mountain into the sea, faith will cause it to happen. God created faith with infinite possibilities–even the possibility to go against His perfect will if believers do not connect their will and their faith directly to Him. In reality, I don’t imagine God would want men running around changing nature and the ecosystem as He has created it, but because of the power of faith, they most certainly could do so.
Therefore I say unto you, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
Therefore, or because of how great the power is that is found in faith, when you have a desire, make sure you pray and THEN believe. Notice Jesus did not say, “if you pray” but rather “when you pray” because it was important for the disciples not to use the power of faith incorrectly. Those things desired should be asked in prayer to God, not just spoken like a man talking to a mountain. This goes back to Jesus’ very first statement, “Have faith in God.” He was giving them a command and then informing them of how to act on it. First, make sure the faith is in God, and then check your desires against that faith by taking it to God in prayer, and then you can have confident belief in it because you know it is His true will for you.
Here’s another look at the same scenario by a different writer:
And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith. And the Lord said, “If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.”
The mustard seed here is used as an answer to the disciples’ request for Jesus to “increase their faith.” He says, basically, that the amount of their faith had nothing to do with the works they could do. He used something small to drive home that even if it was a tiny bit of faith, they could do great things with it. It wasn’t about the size of the faith but the source of the faith. Jesus was telling them they didn’t need to ask for an increase in faith but rather a change in the use and purpose of their faith. The purpose was to use it in obedience to His command to have all their faith in God. The next part follows this reminder with a story that would seem to be unconnected.
“But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, ‘Go and sit down to meat?’ And will not rather say unto him, ‘Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?’ Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.’ “
So why would Jesus follow the admonition about faith with the story about the servant doing what was commanded of him? Because, He was reminding them that having faith was a command. It was not something He was praising them for having, and it was not something they should praise themselves for having. They needed to be obedient and humble so that even when they operated in a power great enough to move a mountain they would say, “No big deal. We just did our duty.”
And let me add here that I am extremely uncomfortable with hearing someone say, “He’s a great man of faith” or “She’s a mighty woman of faith.” I believe this goes exactly against what Jesus was saying here about our obedience not making us anything more than unprofitable servants. When we use faith in Jesus, we are simply doing what He has commanded us to do. We are even reminded in Philippians 2:13 that God is the one who gives us the desire to serve Him, so we can’t even brag if we have a desire for faith, let alone if we carry it out. If He wants to see us more highly, that’s fine, but we should see ourselves as nothing more than obedient servants…
And here is a longer example from Matthew:
And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying, “Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.”
Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.” And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, “Why could not we cast him out?”
And Jesus said unto them, “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”
In this example, we can see Jesus again telling the disciples that faith is so powerful, even a little bit can cause a mountain to be cast into the sea. And yet, He reminds them that demons only respond to that which is in the power of God. He goes on to say that He understands they may not be able to have that true and focused type of faith in God required to fight the enemy unless they subdue their flesh through prayer and fasting. This drives home that it’s more than just practicing faith over body parts, or proclaiming what we want to believe. It must be wholly wrapped up in God and His perfect will to be the kind of faith that pleases Him and yields the right results.
Furthermore, to have any kind of power in the spirit realm, we need even more to be sure we are working with God’s power and not our own “faith” which may not be motivated by obedience or love toward God. In Acts 19:13-16, the seven sons of Sceva had faith enough to get the attention of demons, (they were vagabond Jews so they knew the difference in God and the enemy,) but because they had no true relationship with God, and because they were not directed by God to cast out demons, they were overcome and wounded.
And here’s one more example after the disciples watched Jesus curse the fig tree…
And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, “How soon is the fig tree withered away!” Jesus answered and said unto them, “Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.”
Again, Jesus tells them if they have pure faith, they will not only be able to have power over the fruit of a tree but even greater things. And again, He follows it with the reminder that belief is not enough and that all things should be asked in prayer.
Important note here: Prayer is not the time to speak our beliefs, it is the time to make certain our beliefs are in God’s perfect will for us. Once we have that answer, we can go on to confident belief, which is the meat or evidence of things not seen until they come to pass. Jesus is giving the disciples an exact diagram here of how to have faith. And it works the same for us. Pray first and pray always. Or, as it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, pray without ceasing.
And this one does well in wrapping it all up for me.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.
I believe it is first saying we should make sure our motives are correct, so we will do God’s will and not our own. We do not want to be like the world in trying to feel better about ourselves by judging someone else—especially not concerning something like faith that is a gift God gives to all of us. This thing we do where we pat people on the back because they appear to have “great faith” or condemn people because they don’t have enough faith is too much like the servants of flesh that unwisely compare themselves among themselves.
My idea of how Jesus might tell a parable that would explain the power of faith:
“There once was a man who wanted to see a demonstration of the power of God, so he prayed about it and asked God to use him. God handed him a cup of water and sent him to the desert with the command to splash it on a man he would find there. When he splashed it on the man, what do you suppose happened? ”
The disciples correctly answered, “The man got wet and it cooled him off.”
“Right,” said Jesus. “The water had the power to get the man wet and cool him off at the same time. If you have faith in God, you too can take a cup of water and splash it on any person or object and it will get that person or object wet. Even a little water will still cause whatever it touches to get wet. But always pray before you splash so you won’t be tempted to revel in it when a hot and dry man praises you for cooling him off.”
Since faith has power even apart from God, in the same sense that water gets someone wet even if God is not the one splashing it on, we must remember to think clearly about our use of it. In other words, if God gave us a cup of water, and we used it to get someone wet, would we brag about how they got wet because we were the ones that splashed it? If he gave me a smaller cup of water and you a larger cup of water, should you brag that you were able to get more people wet than I was? Would that change the properties of the water having the ability to wet things, or would it change who gave the water these properties?
We should never think, just because we obey God’s command and use what God has given us to perform something, that we are more highly valued than anyone else, or even that we have any greater power in God. Unlike what was done to Todd Bentley, our actions in faith do not deserve a special robe and ring, and a declaration from other “mighty men of the faith” that we have some special anointing. That is simply pride that goes before destruction, like the embarrassing truth that came out about Mr. Bentley cheating on his wife with one of the members of the ministry team.
The fact is, just like God made water with the properties to get things wet, He made faith and made it to yield power. The power of faith, like the wetness of water, will work whether or not it is God’s perfect will for us to “splash” it around. We are not special because we are able to use the gift of God’s faith, but by God’s grace we are able (and even commanded) to operate in His gifts–even in this mortal flesh. We should praise God for His grace to trust us with such power, but even when we rejoice in that, we must remember Jesus words to the disciples in the 20th verse of Luke 10: “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”
Final Notes: The remaining verses in Romans 12 list many gifts in the body of Christ and remind us that we are to use them as a duty, just as Jesus reminded the men when He talked about the servant. By having an obedient and humble spirit, we can remain joined as a body, yielding to our callings, preferring others above ourselves, instant in prayer, not influenced by “high” things, and compassionate. These things culminate with not being overcome by evil, (or subdued by empty worthlessness), but rather taking victory over worthless things by sticking to the right, the good, and the beneficial things. Have faith in God, not because of the power of faith but because of the power of God.
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