Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Sea of Forgetfulness

When I am tempted to beat myself up over some past sin, I gratefully remember God's great love and forgiveness.

 Psalm 103:8-14 (KJV)
8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
13 Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
14 For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

For those who fear God, He has great mercy (verse 11). (To fear God means to reverence God or to have awe for Him, but it also means literally to fear God, if we think we can live in habitual sin!) He has removed our sin from us as far as east is from the west (verse 12). He pities us and knows that our human frame is weak (verses 13 and 14).

Although the phrase "sea of forgetfulness" does not appear in the Bible, the concept is.

Hebrews 8:12 (KJV)
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

When God forgives sin He no longer remembers it.

Micah 7:19 (KJV)
19 He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

And God does cast all our sin into the depths of the sea.

This may raise a question for some. If God no longer remembers our sins, how can we be judged at the end of the age?

Believers are "judged" when they come to saving faith and are born again.

The only other judgment that pertains to believers is the "judgment seat of Yeshua." We read about this in Romans and 2 Corinthians.

Romans 14:10 (KJV)
10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:10 (KJV)
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

This judgment is not about whether or not the believer is saved, but about reward and loss. Once saved, forgiven sins will never haunt us again. God will not bring them up. It is the good and wonderful things that we have done that God will review. If there are many, our rewards will be great, but if there are few, we won't receive as many.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (KJV)
11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
13 Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

So, dear believer, if you are saved and have trusted in Yeshua as your righteousness, don't dwell on those past sins. They are gone forever! They truly have been cast into the Sea of Forgetfulness!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Most High God - Daniel 4:1-3


Chapter 3 ended with King Nebuchadnezzar making a decree that no one could say anything against Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego's God. While this is a step in the right direction, the king didn't actually state that God was the only God, just that He was the most powerful. What happened next?

Daniel 4:1-3 (KJV)
1 Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.
2 I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me.
3 How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.

Notice that this section is written in the first person. It appears that these are the actual words of King Nebuchadnezzar.

Verse 1 serves as an introduction to the speaker of this section. It is Nebuchadnezzar, himself. Who is he writing (or speaking) to? He is addressing all people, nations, and languages that dwell in the earth. Obviously, this really only included the peoples and nations that were under his rule, but it does point to the great extent of the Babylonian Empire. What did the King wish to be multiplied to these people, nations, and languages? He wished peace for them.

What is the topic of Nebuchadnezzar's speech (verse 2)? He wanted to show all the signs and wonders that God had done. What signs and wonders was he talking about? Actually, the signs and wonders haven't been revealed yet. They will be discussed in Daniel 4:4-37. So, this first part of chapter 4 is a kind of introduction to the rest of the chapter.

What does King Nebuchadnezzar conclude about the signs and wonders of God (verse 3)? They are great and mighty. He further stated that God had an everlasting kingdom and His dominion (authority) lasts from generation to generation. In other words God's kingdom will last forever.

This is pretty amazing considering that we're talking about a pagan king. What ever God revealed to the king in chapter 4 made a great impression on him. However, the question is, did the message reach his heart? Stay tuned to find out.

What has God shown to you? Have you realized that He is great and mighty and that His kingdom will last forever? More importantly, has the realization of God's might and power reached your heart and caused you to turn to Him, to desire a relationship with Him, and to serve Him? Perhaps, Daniel chapter 4 will be a help to you!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

In Memory of Joshua

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (KJV)
3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

These two verses ooze "comfort." First God comforts us in our tribulations and then we turn around and comfort those in trouble. These are verses that we can rely on, grab onto, and lean on. Praise God for His mercies and kindness!

On June 12, 2013, my newest grand baby, Joshua, arrived. He shouldn't have been born until October, but an ultrasound revealed that he no longer had a heartbeat. All our hopes and joy for this little boy were dashed. Our arms ached with desire, wanting to hold him. Our tears fell.

But quietly, God was still there, waiting to hold Joshua's parents, grandparents, and all who, even before birth, loved this little guy.

The loss of a baby is devastating. Even in our day of modern medicine, tragedies occur. It is something that you never get over. But we can help those around us who are hurting in their own troubles. Our grief has caused our hearts to be tender. We can comfort those around us with the same comfort that we receive from God.

Joshua, we will see you again, when we, God's born again children, enter into God's kingdom. We will hug you then and never let you go!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Adopted by God

Adoption is beautiful! A child without parents, or whose parents are unable to provide for him or her, is taken in to another home and made a part of the family.

On earth this is huge. The consequences are life changing and can result in blessings beyond belief. In spiritual terms, adoption is that and so much more.

When we are born again and believe on the work of Yeshua's death and resurrection for our salvation, we are adopted into the family of God. We will live forever in the presence of God and He accepts us in the righteousness of Yeshua, His Son. There is nothing more important or more wonderful!

Romans 8:15-17 (KJV)
15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

From Romans 8 we see this adoption at work. We leave bondage to fear behind and can call God, the Creator of the universe, our Father, or Abba. We become heirs with Yeshua, in suffering as well as in glory.

But into what are we adopted?

Romans 9:4-6 (KJV)
4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

In Romans 9 Paul was concerned about his fellow Jews, who had not become believers in Yeshua. Yet, he began the passage by listing all of the "gifts" that God had given to the Jews; adoption, God's glory or presence, the law, the service of God, His promises, the patriarchs (the fathers), and finally Messiah Yeshua, who was born a Jew. Paul was stating that as a nation, the Jews were God's adopted family. However, in verse 6, Paul made the astounding claim that not all Israel was truly Israel. In the verses following this passage, Paul explained how Ishmael and Esau, although sons of Abraham and Isaac respectively, were not a part of Israel. In like manner, not all the Jews were a part of Israel. In fact, God did an even more marvelous thing.

Romans 9:24-27 (KJV)
24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.
27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:

God called Gentiles into His family!

The original adoption by God consisted of the Jewish nation, Israel, but God also accepted believing Gentiles into His family Israel. Although unbelieving Jews are still a part of physical Israel and will receive all of the promises that God gave regarding the land, etc. they are not a part of the remnant that shall be saved (verse 27). (In the final stages of history, Israel, as a nation, will one day accept Messiah Yeshua and as a whole will be saved.)

Ephesians 2:18-19 (KJV)
18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

Israel is God's family, whether the members are Jewish or Gentile. Belief in Messiah is the entrance requirement. This also means that all those "gifts" belong to all of the family; the adoption, God's glory or presence, the law, the service of God, the promises, the patriarchs, and Messiah Yeshua!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Tefillin and Mezuzahs


In my last post we looked at Deuteronomy 6:4-9 where it describes how we are to love God. Following that are several commands that both Jews and Christians observe, like "teaching your children God's Word" and "speaking of God's Word constantly." Finally, we are given two further commands about what we are to do with God's Word. We are to wear it on our hands and forehead and we are to put it on our doorposts and our gates. These last commands are not viewed as very essential to most Christians.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (KJV)
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

Yet, here they are, in the midst of how we are to demonstrate our love for God. In fact, these two commands are two more ways of showing our love. We are to wear tefillin, in other words, we are to bind some of God's Word upon our hands and on our foreheads. Traditionally, only males wear tefillin. They are little boxes attached to a long strap that are placed on the arm and hand, and another one on the forehead. Inside of the box is a small piece of Scripture.

Secondly, we are to place mezuzahs on our doorposts and gates. Again, a small piece of Scripture (the mezuzah) is placed inside a small case that is attached to the doorpost of one's house.

Why did God feel that these two rather obscure commands were necessary? In order to ascertain why, we need to look further at the passage in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 6:10-15 (KJV)
10 And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not,
11 And houses full of all good things, which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full;
12 Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
13 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.
14 Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;
15 (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.

Once the people came into the Promised Land and they were living well, God warned them not to forget Him (verse 12). They were to fear God, serve Him, and not go after the gods of their neighbors (verses 13 & 14). For if they did, God would destroy them from off the face of the earth (verse 15). The advice given in verses 4 through 9 were meant as helps in remembering God's Word and His commandments. Again, God was trying to keep the people safe by giving them tools to help them stay in Him.

As Christians are we so arrogant to believe that we don't need help in remembering God's commands? Perhaps we are just naive. In any case, it is time to reclaim the commands of God and put them to practice.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hear, O, Israel! But Forget The Tefillin and the Mezuzah!

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 is a beloved passage in Scripture for both Christians and Jews.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (KJV)
4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

In a way, this passage is our statement of faith!

This is not surprising that the Jews believe this, since it is plainly addressed to Israel. However, Christians also accept this statement. Those in Replacement Theology believe that God is done with Israel, so therefore everything supposedly for Israel is now for the church, except that the Law has been fulfilled by Yeshua and is no longer applicable. This statement of faith, however, does apply. For the Dispensationalists, this is one of the few times that they will admit that the passage is for both Israel and the church, even though, again, the Law has been fulfilled and is no longer applicable.

The reason for Christians accepting this statement undoubtedly has to do with Yeshua's repetition of it in the New Testament.

Matthew 22:37 (KJV)
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Therefore, even though it is in the Old Testament, it is applicable to Christians. But why does the passage end with verse 7, when the topic of this statement of faith continues for at least two more verses? Let's look at those verses.

Deuteronomy 6:8-9 (KJV)
8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

These verses contain commands from God Almighty. Can it be, that Christians will accept a statement of faith, but will stop at following the commands that result from that faith statement?

The reasoning is again that Yeshua has fulfilled the Law and any commands are over and done with. However, no Christian seriously believes that the commands against murder and theft are done away with even though Yeshua also fulfilled those commands. It is only those "Jewish ritual" type of commands that seem to be repugnant to the Christian.

Christians again would respond that Old Testament Law is applicable to Christians only if Yeshua repeated those commands. Therefore,  the commands against murder and theft are still in force.

Although Yeshua did not verbally repeat the commands to wear tefillin or to put up a mezuzah on one's doorpost, He would have worn tefillin in obedience to God's command and He would have lived in homes where mezuzahs were placed on the doorposts. To do any other would have disqualified Him from being the unblemished sacrifice for our sin. Why would we not want to emulate our Savior and God?

But what exactly are tefillin and mezuzahs? Stay tuned for next time! We'll also discuss the reasons for them.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Command to Wear Tzitzit

Traditional Christianity has believed that the Torah is no longer applicable to us since Yeshua fulfilled the law. Yet, how is the following fulfilled in the sense that Yeshua did this or that so that we don't have to?

Numbers 15:37-41 (KJV)
37 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
38 Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:
39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:
40 That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.
41 I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.

In this passage in verse 38, the people of Israel (Traditionally, this has been interpreted to be a command only for men.) were commanded to make fringes on the borders (corners) of their garments. The Hebrew for fringes is "tzitzit." Then there was to be a ribbon of blue (wool) inserted into the fringes. Notice, that this was to be done throughout their generations. (This is another way of saying "forever.")

Yeshua did wear tzitzit. He was faithful to observe all the Lord's commands. The wearing of tzitzit has been fulfilled by Yeshua. Does this mean that we, as believers, don't have to? Aren't we to fulfill the law, as well?

Verse 39 tells us the reason for wearing the tzitzit. It was so that when the people saw them they would remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them. The end of the verse gives us a clue as to why this command was necessary, "(so) that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring." Right before this command is the account of the stoning of the Sabbath breaker.

God had compassion on His people. He gave them a visual aid that would help them to remember and observe His commandments. He cared for their physical safety as well as the condition of their souls. Do we no longer need to be reminded of God's commands? Are we so much more spiritual than the Israelites that we would never go off on our own way and stray from the Lord? We are naive if we think so. And we are foolish to ignore God's gracious command to wear tzitzit, thinking that the need has been done away with by Yeshua's fulfilling the law.

Verse 40 restates why the tzitzit are needed. Added is that by wearing the tzitzit and thereby remembering and doing the commandments we will be holy unto our God, set apart and ready for service to Him.

The benefit of wearing tzitzit is obvious. If we are believers and are committed to Him in relationship, do we dare ignore His commands? If we do, we have already gone our own way and are not following the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Most High God - Daniel 3:28-30


God chose to deliver Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego from the fiery furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar was amazed, but what did he do after getting the men out of the furnace?

Daniel 3:28-30 (KJV)
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.

What was Nebuchadnezzar's reaction (verse 28)? He praised the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. According to the king, who did God send to deliver the three men from the furnace? God sent his angel (perhaps the Son of God himself). Nebuchadnezzar then acknowledged that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had trusted in God, went against the king's command to bow down to the image, and yielded their bodies to the consequences of their actions. Why had the men done this, according to the King? They wouldn't serve or worship any other god, except their own.

The king's tone seems to imply that he approved of what the men had done. He went on to make a decree in verse 29. What was it? No one could say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. If someone did, he or she would be cut in pieces and his or her home would be made a dunghill. What did the king admit to? He admitted that no other god could deliver as the three men's God had.

Finally, what did the king do for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (verse 30)? The three men were promoted.

Again, King Nebuchadnezzar seemed to have embraced the right understanding of God. Yet, he really had not left his gods behind, but rather seemed to have believed that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego's God was the most powerful one of all the gods. At the same time, the king had not lost his arrogance and cruelty. While he was willing to accept God's power, he still ordered his subjects to his way or else, and the punishment for disobedience was barbaric. Perhaps the Lord would have more for him to learn!


Monday, June 3, 2013

God + Pagan = Holy?!

God's instructions to mankind are pure and holy! Yet, the history of mankind shows us that man is not content with what God desires. Rather, we, in arrogance, seem to think we know how to improve on those instructions. Paul, understanding our penchant for joining the unholy with the holy wrote this:

2 Corinithians 6:14-7:1 (KJV)
14 Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. 

Traditionally, this passage of Scripture has been used to encourage our sons and daughters into marrying other like-minded believers. This is an appropriate use of this Scripture, but too often, it stops there and we don't see the significance of this advise in all areas of our lives.

We need only to look at the form of Christianity that exists today to see that we have lost sight of Paul's advice. Some of the most glaring examples are the celebration of Christmas and Easter. Both holidays originally were pagan holidays. Somehow our ancestors believed that we could Christianize those pagan holidays and make them acceptable to both the nominal believers coming out of paganism and God. According to 2 Corinthians, they had no business doing this. Besides, we are left today, in the church, with traditions that are pagan in nature and many may not even realize it. Do we continue this fraud? Do we continue to disobey God by combining the holy with the pagan? If we truly are God's, let's leave the pagan behind and commit to God's ways. Let's make our children's traditions pure and holy by celebrating those holidays that God commanded in Leviticus 23.

Another example is the switching of the Sabbath to Sunday. Again, it was our ancestors who wanted to distance themselves from anything Jewish and began worshiping on a day that was not commanded by God, but by pagans. Over time, without the Bible's influence, work became acceptable to do seven days a week. Let's return to God's ways and restore the holy and leave the pagan behind!

Then what about music and various activities that Christians participate in? These areas may be somewhat more complicated since God has not defined in His Word, all the situations that can arise. But in all things we should remember to keep our actions holy! We should examine what we do and insist that the pagan or unholy should be kept out of our lives. Much of the music that is used in the Christian church today is appalling. Somehow it is believed that by taking a worldly type of music that comes from a depraved origin and mixing it with holy lyrics makes the music holy. It does not. Music is powerful and just like the written word, can cause emotional responses that are inappropriate. 2 Corinithians says to come out from among them and be separate. Why should a church service sound like a rock concert?  Again, let's examine everything that we do with the lens of Scripture. We are witnesses to those around us. We were meant to be different. We were meant to be holy as God is holy!