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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

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

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

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 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

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

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 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

God’s Good China


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There Will Be A Test


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy to the World


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Blessing and A Curse


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Talk Too Much…For a Horse


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth the Weight


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Box of Words


Magnetic Poetry Created Online by Crystal A Murray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surgery for a Stiff Neck


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgetting to Remember


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen, and blessings on your week ahead.

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

Pinky Promise


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When God Makes an Investment


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hear Oh Israel


Shema Yisrael by Flickr User Yaniv Ben-Arie, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Shema Yisrael by Flickr User Yaniv Ben-Arie, 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 trying to have a close relationship over a long distance and without ever getting to know your partner. Could you even call it a real relationship? Two people who are acquainted with one another have a type of relationship, but they do not have an interactive, loving, and intimate relationship. They can’t. An intimate relationship requires truly knowing who your partner is.

God knows us because He made us, but it takes more than a set of repetitive prayers, a few glimpses at Scripture, and a weekly visit to a church to get to know God. All the gold stars, volunteer duties, and memory verses in the world will not take the place of seeking God with your whole being in the effort to get to know Him deeper and better. His word even tells us that when we seek and search for God with all our hearts, we will find Him.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 6:4 through Deuteronomy 6:25 (the end of the chapter), we begin with God’s main introduction of Himself to the people of Israel. In Hebrew, the first verse is called The Shema. It means “hear” or “listen.” You may even have heard it sung in your church in either Hebrew or English or a mix of both since some Israel-friendly churches like to add it to the worship songs. There’s some great information with a breakdown of words and such for the subject at Wikipedia. For our reading today, the verse that begins it all goes like this…

Hebrew: Sh’ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad — English: Hear Oh Israel, The Lord Our God, The Lord is One

The reading continues with what Yeshua quoted as the greatest of all commandments…

And you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources.

Moses then tells the people that these words should always be on their hearts, and they are to teach them carefully to their children. They should talk of them when they are at home, when they travel, when they lie down, and when they rise up. They are so important, they should be written on something strapped to their hands, tied around their foreheads, written on all their door frames, and engraved on their gates.

As the chapter continues, Moses reminds the people that when they are living in the land of promise, in houses they didn’t build, using water from wells they didn’t dig, and eating from vineyards and olive trees they didn’t plant, to remember who delivered them from Egypt and brought them to the land. He tells them to fear The Lord, serve Him, and swear by His Name. Then, he reminds them to never follow other gods, especially those chosen by the people that surround them because Yahveh is there with them, and He is a jealous God. Moses reminds them to never again test God like they did at Massah and to always do what is right in His eyes.

The last paragraph gives us the first representation of the power of personal testimony. Moses tells them that someday their children will ask them why they have so many laws and rules. When that happens, they are to tell their children that the community of Israel was once in slavery to Pharoah in Egypt, but The Lord brought them out with a strong hand. They should tell them of the signs and wonders God worked against Egypt, and that He brought them out for the purpose of bringing them to the land He promised to their ancestors. And they are to share that He gave them all the laws and statutes for their own good because it is righteousness for them to observe all that The Lord commands.

I love how Moses keeps referring to the laws of God being for the good of the people, and how that should even be part of their testimony to their children (and I’m sure to others). Their testimony should include the bondage they were in before they were delivered, and it should include the powerful ways in which God brought them their deliverance. Our reasons for keeping the laws of God are the same. They bring us righteousness, and they are for our own good. By living a holy and separated life, people will ask us why we’re not like everyone else, and then we will have a chance to share the testimony God gave us when He delivered us from whatever bondage we were in.

No matter how many laws we keep though, if we forget God, they become nothing but legalism. We must know who He is to know why we would want to walk with Him. The longer we serve God, the more we should know Him and know about Him, but it must begin somewhere. That somewhere for Israel was Deuteronomy 6:4-5, so it should work just as well for us. When we know God as who He is, we can have an intimate relationship with Him that becomes more than doctrine or legalism.

So how does that translate to those of us now who serve under the blood of Messiah? Well, since God never changes, it means that even for those of us who consider ourselves to be Christian, God is still One. We won’t be able to fit that infinite concept into a finite mind easily. Even Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:16 that Godliness is a great mystery. He reminds Timothy that God was manifested in the flesh, seen by angels, preached to the Gentiles, and received up into glory. God could only have done those things in the body of Yeshua.

Because of my personal testimony and studies, I have much more to share on this finding out who God is and how we can draw closer to Him, so if you want to read the rest, just click for more at the end. If you must come back to it later, or you’re just not ready now, I ask you to pray specifically to ask what God meant when He told Israel that He is One Lord and why that is important. I bless each one of you, my readers, with a desire for more wisdom in your walk that you may also have more intimacy in your walk with our wonderful Creator. Shalom and Bye for now.

Continue reading

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

She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain


Do you remember this old family sing-along song? If so, I’ll bet you have some verses for it that I’ve never heard, and I’m certain I have at least one you’ve never heard because I think my family added some verses for their own fun. What I didn’t know until I looked it up tonight at Wikipedia is that it was an old African spiritual song that refers to the return of Christ and the rapture. The original includes verses like “King Jesus, He’ll be driver when she comes,” and “She will take us to the portals when she comes.”

Our family just sang it for the fun of it and for the sound effects at the end of each line. For example, at the end of the first (title) verse, we’d all say, “Hi, Gal!” And after the six white horses verse, we’d shout, “Whoa, Bill!” After singing about how we’d all have chicken and dumplins, we’d say, “Yum, yum.” And my favorite was always the sort of sawing sound we’d make when we sang about killing the old red rooster. The most fun was at the end when we would try to make all the sounds, one after another, and in the right order.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 5:19 through Deuteronomy 6:3 (in the Complete Jewish Bible) and Deuteronomy 5:22-6:3 (in the Amplified Bible and other versions), we begin this section as Moses reminds Israel of God’s words to them from the midst of the mountain covered by fire. Now, they have all gone around the mountain, and they have much to remember, including the words God etched in stone with His own hand.

Moses tells the current generation how their forefathers sent tribal leaders to Moses requesting that only he go up and speak to God rather than them. The people bring up that most who had ever heard God’s voice no longer remained alive, and the elders tell him that people have decided they don’t want to take a chance of God speaking to them in their imperfections and it costing them their lives. When Moses arrives to communicate their message to God, He tells Moses He has heard it. He also tells Moses that it is a wise decision, and that He desires the people always have that kind of respect and reverence for Him, so things will go well for them and for their children forever.

God then tells Moses to have the people go back to their tents. Afterwards, Moses is to come back and stand near God while He tells him all his commands and laws for them to do when they possess the land of promise. Moses tells the people to be watchful to do exactly as The Lord commands and not to turn to the right hand or the left. He says that if they follow God’s ways, it will go well with them, and they will live long in the land.

At the chapter change, the writing changes to where it seems more in the present tense as Moses tells the people, “These are the laws and commands of God for you to obey in the land you are going to possess.” He tells them the laws are written that they will fear The Lord and obey all his rulings in every generation–parent, child, grandchild–as long as they live. Verse 3 from the Complete Jewish Bible reads with authority but also as a blessing…

Therefore listen, Israel, and take care to obey, so that things will go well with you, and so that you will increase greatly, as Adonai, the God of your ancestors, promised you by giving you a land flowing with milk and honey.

Much like the way I reworded The Ten Commandments in yesterday’s post, this gives the “why” in fulfilling the laws of God. As God shows in His comments to Moses about desiring the people to always have respect and reverence, He wants things to go well for us forever. He is creating both a new Heaven and a new Earth because He wants an abundance of people to join Him for eternity. His arm is not too short that He cannot reach to the depths of sin to pull a person toward Him. No matter how far away someone has gone, remember that God wants them for His own. He wants to reward those who come to Him, and leave their temporary sin, with blessings that will last an eternity. He desires to see many waiting there with joy and praise when He comes around the mountain of return to bring His people home.

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

10 Ways to Live a Happier Life


Ten Commandments by Flickr User Gerry Dincher, CC License = Attribution, Share Alike

Ten Commandments by Flickr User Gerry Dincher, 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.

TEN WAYS TO LIVE A HAPPIER LIFE…

  1. Don’t prioritize anyone (or anything) that doesn’t love you with the greatest love ever offered. In other words, put God first because if you gave your all to someone, that’s what you would want too.
  2. Remember that statues cannot see, hear, or answer prayers, so it’s useless to worship them. Besides, if you were the one who sees and hears, you wouldn’t want to be ignored for a statue.
  3. Don’t call out to God unless you want Him to answer because when you call, He wants to respond.
  4. Remember Who gives you rest and Who came up with the idea of rest on the last day of the earth’s creation.
  5. Give honor to the ones who didn’t abort you and who set you on the path of life. Be thankful God used them to create life for you, and honor Him by honoring them just as you like someone to respect gifts you give them.
  6. Don’t murder unless you like the idea of someone else murdering you.
  7. Don’t cheat on the one you promised your faithfulness, especially if you don’t like being cheated on yourself.
  8. Don’t take or harm something that does not belong to you. Respect the property of others as you want yours respected.
  9. Don’t lie about other people, and remember how bad it feels to have someone tell a lie about you.
  10. Don’t be jealous of the properties and gifts of others since you don’t want someone to make you feel bad about your own gifts and properties.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 5:1 through Deuteronomy 5:18 (in the Complete Jewish Bible), and through 5:21 (in the Amplified and other versions), Moses takes Israel back through God’s commandments and laws for them to live long and happy lives in their new land of promise. He reminds them of the covenant made with them in Mt. Horeb when God spoke to them face to face from the fire. Moses says he stood between them to receive the commandments so they could live, but the covenant was between God and His people. Moses begins with God’s words that say, “I am The Lord that brought you out of the bondage of Egypt” and then goes into a reading of the Ten Commandments given to them during the covenant.

We read these same commandments when we did our studies in the book of Exodus, so I won’t rewrite the actual Scriptures again, but I did write my own version of them with a bit of a twist; I wrote them with the “why” factor. I believe God’s laws make perfect sense, and we can reason among ourselves why it is good to follow them. If we cannot find any other good reason, we have the reason that all of God’s commandments are to treat others the same way we want to be treated.

Think about it this way: If any one of us were God, we wouldn’t want to give our everything to someone only to have that someone give their lives and thanks to someone who didn’t love them with the ultimate love. We also wouldn’t want them to say “thank you” to a brick wall when we are the ones actually answering their queries. And we wouldn’t want a person to keep calling our name only to ignore us when we answer.

The commandments God gives us will bring us to a happier life because they help us to think of others and not just of ourselves. The saying is true that a person all wrapped up in themselves makes a very small package. We will always be happier if we consider our effect on the world instead of always trying to judge how the world affects us. The two greatest commandments, to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourself, follow the same rule of not making ourselves number one but of putting others first. That’s why the other ten can hang on those two. Whether it’s stated in ten, or two, or just the golden rule, the secret to living a happier life is always to think of others first.

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

Jesus, The Word


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…

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

A Love of Titanic Proportions


Nearer My God to Thee by Flickr User Tim Green aka atoach, CC License = Attribution

Nearer My God to Thee by Flickr User Tim Green aka atoach, 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 is a theory that the last song played on the RMS Titanic, was the song Nearer My God to Thee. We can see how fitting it seems for the members of a band that has chosen to calm fearful passengers instead of getting rescued themselves to wish to be nearer to God before each takes his final breath. And, of course, this wish is also a wonderful blessing on others whose lives are coming to an end. However, even before we face our final moments, we should desire to become nearer to our Creator, and that desire should be the strongest ache in our heart if we claim to love and serve Him. After all, we want to be like Him, and it is His desire to be nearer to us, so our response in kind would bring us nearer to Him.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 4:5 through Deuteronomy 4:40, we read of Moses’ encouragements to the community of Israel before they enter into The Promised Land. He tells them to observe and follow the laws he has taught them as he received them from God, so that all people will see them as having wisdom and understanding. He says that as others see Israel living under the laws of God, they will say things like, “This great nation is surely a wise and understanding people.” And then Moses quotes one of my favorite verses (verse 7, Complete Jewish Bible)…

For what great nation is there that has God as close to them as Adonai our God is, whenever we call on him?

Moses goes on to ask what other great nation has laws like the Torah he is giving them, and he reminds them to be watchful and not forget what they have seen with their own eyes. He says they should make the laws known to their children and grandchildren, so they will never vanish from their hearts. And then he reminds them of the day they stood at the foot of the mountain and heard the voice of God coming out of the fire as God proclaimed His covenant to them.

Moses reminds the people how when they heard the voice and saw the tables of stone, they did not see any image or shape of God at that time, so they should never try to make God into any kind of image later. He says for them to not make any representation of male or female human, animal, bird, fish, etc. For the same reason, he tells them not to look up at the sun, moon, and stars and see them as gods or as anything they should worship because God Almighty has allotted these things to all people on the earth.

Next, Moses reminds Israel that God pulled them out of the smelting pot that was their life in Egypt specifically to make them a special people for Him. He again tells them how he himself cannot go into the land because of them and to watch themselves, so they will not corrupt themselves and become separated from God in their hearts. Moses says he will call on the sky to be a witness for him that on the day this people forgets their God and carves and worships false gods to serve instead, The Lord will scatter them throughout the earth, and they will disappear from the land they are about to possess.

Moses then encourages the people that–on the day they have given themselves over to false gods that cannot see, hear, eat, or smell–if they will call out to The Lord in their distress, and if they will seek and search for Him with their whole heart, they will find Him and He will answer. He tells them that Yahveh is a merciful God who will not fail or destroy them, and He will not forget the covenant He has made with them or with their ancestors.

I love what Moses says to them in verses 32 and 33 (CJB)…

Indeed, inquire about the past, before you were born: since the day God created human beings on the earth, from one end of heaven to the other, has there ever been anything as wonderful as this? Has anyone heard anything like it? Did any other people ever hear the voice of God speaking out of a fire, as you have heard, and stay alive?

He goes on to ask them if God ever tried to take any other nation from the bowels of the earth and used His might to make a people especially for Himself. Moses reminds Israel that with signs and wonders and an outstretched arm, God did exactly that right before their eyes. He tells them these things were shown to them, so they would know that Yahveh is God, and there is no other like Him. He, as their God, wants them to know His instructions because He loved their ancestors, and because He wanted to bring these present people to their new land. He closes today’s words with a message for them to keep all of God’s laws so they can do well and live for a long time in the land God is giving them forever.

It’s a little hard for me to condense these words and still let you see how big they are. Click on the link above to read the portion for yourself, so you can see just how much power and love is in God’s laws for His people. Many of the commands and words are repeated, and I think it’s for emphasis both to them and to us today. God wants a people for Himself forever, and by keeping His commands, we keep ourselves separated from anything that would try to come between us.

As God’s children, we have a promise of God’s big love for us. His word tells us the following in Romans 8:39 (New Living Testament)…

No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

God loves us with the greatest love that exists, as He proved when He laid down His own life for us on the cross at Calvary. It is a love of titanic proportions, and He desires that we give it back to Him by willingly seeking His wisdom in everything we do and say, in all our desires, and in every day we live. May all of us who love God be constantly praying to draw nearer to Him today and always.

 

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

This Hurts Me More Than It Hurts You


Our Great Niece, Elie, in Tombstone (AZ) Jail by Crystal A Murray, All Rights Reserved

Our Great Niece, Elie, in Tombstone (AZ) Jail by Crystal A Murray, All Rights Reserved
Click image to open a new tab/window to view the original image and to access my full photo stream at Flickr.

Did your parents ever tell you that whatever punishment they were about to give was going to hurt them more than it hurt you? I know mine did, and I never believed them until I had to play the parent role. Whether the punishment was to sit in the corner, or something bigger like taking away a favorite toy or object, having to dish out any kind of pain to someone we care about causes us immense sadness even when we know it’s for the good of the one receiving it. Even with the above photo showing my great niece in a fake jail, seeing the sadness on her face is painful even knowing she was doing as she was told and making a sad face for the picture. There’s just something inside of us that does not like to cause pain to others–especially when those others are people we love.

In today’s reading from Deuteronomy 3:23 through Deuteronomy 4:4, we begin a new week and a new Torah portion. Our week’s Parashah is number 45 titled Va’etchanan in Hebrew and meaning “I Pleaded” in English. We begin with Moses pleading with God about His decision to keep Moses out of The Promised Land. Moses begins with praise, telling God how he is just now learning how truly great He is and how mighty his works are. He asks God to please let him cross the Jordan River and see the wonderful country and Lebanon.

Moses then tells the people how angry God is with him because of them, and he says God will not listen to his pleas. Instead, God tells Moses to be quiet about it and not talk to Him anymore on the subject. He tells Moses to go up to Mount Pisgah and when he gets there, he will need to make sure he can see north, south, east and west. God promises Moses he can look with his eyes, but he absolutely will not be allowed to cross the Jordan.

God tells Moses to encourage Joshua as the new leader of Israel because he will lead them into the new land. Moses explains this and goes on to remind them to listen to all the laws and rulings he is teaching them because the laws will enable Israel to live long and to take possession of the land promised to their ancestors. He tells them not to add anything to what he is saying, and not to subtract anything from what he has told them, and then he reminds them of what God did at Ba’al Peor and how God destroyed all who followed the false god, Ba’al Peor. But God spared all those who chose to follow only Him, and Moses reminded them how every single one of them who followed The Lord was still alive and ready to enter the promise.

Somehow, without the Scripture actually saying it, it seems I could hear the pain in God’s words to Moses about no longer bringing up his desire to cross over. Even though it says God was angry, it was more like, “Enough, Moses. This is hurting me more than it is hurting you. I want you to cross over, but I must keep my word because I am The Lord and I change not. Now get up to the mountain where you can see everything, and don’t bring this up to me anymore because it hurts me too much to discuss it.” And the fact that Moses joined Yeshua and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration would appear to line up with the fact that Moses did go to Heaven even if he didn’t get to go into The Promised Land.

I imagine that even now, in order to show us mercy and keep us from being lost in our sins, when God has to send us some kind of painful “wake-up call,” it still hurts Him to do it. Because no sin can enter the Heavenly realm, He must push us toward a place of repentance where we will let go of our sins and willingly cast them under the blood of Yeshua. It’s not about how big or little the sins are, and it’s not about how many good deeds we do in this life to try and make up for any evil we have done, it’s about turning away from the ways of the flesh that seem right to a man and totally surrendering to the will of God. When we do that, we become dead to self and all things become new, so we can enter Heaven washed and clean. Then, God will say, “Well done, my true and faithful servant. It was worth the pain and suffering I had to bring to be able to spend eternity with you dwelling in the fullness of my presence and joy.”

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

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