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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

Bugs in the System


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donkey Talk Blues


I think it’s been a while since I shared from my favorite band, ApologetiX–That Christian Parody Band. The song in the above video is called Donkey Talked With Him and it’s a parody of Honky Tonk Women by The Rolling Stones. It uses music to tell the story of Balaam’s donkey saving his life, and if you click on the link with the title, you can read the story of how ApologetiX came to write this particular parody. The words in my title are in the song, and I just couldn’t pass up using them for this post, especially since it’s quite a bit later than usual, and I’m getting sleepy. (I haven’t been to sleep yet, so it’s still in my Monday, so even if you found it posted on Twitter on Tuesday, you’ll notice I’ve backdated it as Monday’s post.)

So, in today’s reading from Numbers 22:21 through Numbers 22:38, Balaam gets up with the servants of Balak and heads out to meet the King of Moab. Now, yesterday, God told Balaam that if these guys summoned him, he should go, but today this behavior stirs up God’s anger against Balaam. I can only think there was something in Balaam’s heart about his decision to make this journey, something that made it more than just obedience to what God had spoken to him the night before, that could make God rise up against Balaam.

The Angel of The Lord stood in Balaam’s path, but Balaam couldn’t see Him. Balaam’s donkey, however, noticed the Powerful Being and the sword in His hand and decided to run out across the field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road, and this time the Angel stood in a narrow path that went through the vineyards and had stone walls on both sides. The donkey went to the side and crushed Balaam’s foot between herself and the stone wall, so Balaam beat her again. When the Angel of God stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right or the left, the donkey lay down under Balaam, so he hit her with his staff.

After the last beating, God opened up the mouth of the donkey, and she began asking Balaam why he was beating her. Balaam, seemingly unimpressed and not at all surprised that this animal was talking, spoke back to the donkey about her behavior. He even told her he wished he had a sword because he wanted to kill her. She continued her side of the conversation with some logical reasoning about her faithfulness to him and how she’d never done anything like that before. As the truth dawned on him, God opened Balaam’s eyes, so he could also see the Angel standing there with the drawn sword.

God asks Balaam why he beat his donkey when she was only trying to save his life. He tells Balaam that He had come out against him and would have killed him for opposing him if she had not stopped it from happening. Balaam hung his head and bowed before God, and he repented and confessed his sin. He told God that if what he was doing was displeasing, he would turn around and go home, But God told him to go on, and reminded him again to only do what He directed.

When Balaam got to Balak’s palace, Balak asked why he had not come sooner. He wondered if Balaam thought he would not be able to pay enough. Balaam told Balak that he had come to him as he asked, but he could not speak to his requests unless God told him what to say. He told Balak he would only be able to speak whatever words God put in his mouth to speak.

When all was said and done, Balaam did the right thing and became willing to fully obey God and His word and to communicate that to the King of Moab, but it took a near-death experience for him to make that decision. How close to death do most of us have to be to make a decision to fully follow God in every word and deed of our lives? I hope it doesn’t take nearly dying at the hand of God for most of us. His ways may not always seem clear right off, but if we keep on asking, seeking, and knocking, we will hear His voice, so we can follow Him instead of giving Him or us the “donkey talk” blues.

Well, it’s late, so I’ll sign off for now, but I can’t leave you without adding one more video from YouTube. Many years before ApologetiX, I listened to the humorous telling of the Balaam story by Don Francisco. The last line is the best, so be sure and listen to the whole thing even though you already know the story. Enjoy.

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

Scared of a Little Leaf


Dried Leaves by My Sister & Flickr User Candiece Nelson, CC License = Attribution

Dried Leaves by My Sister & Flickr User Candiece Nelson, CC License = Attribution
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

You’re walking down a country road at dusk. No one is around, and the only sounds you hear are the birds and the light rustle of the breeze blowing through the trees. All at once you hear a loud crunch, and you jump and start running. You never look back to see that it was simply a loose branch that fell into a pile of dried leaves left over from winter.

In today’s reading from Leviticus 26:10 through Leviticus 26:46 (the end of the chapter), we will see what might make a whole community of people jump and run at the sound of a leaf. The reading actually starts with a paragraph of promises. God tells Israel they will have such an abundant harvest, they will need to throw away food from last year to make room for this year’s harvest. He says He will put His tabernacle among them and not reject them, and that He will be their God, and they will be His people. He reminds them how He broke the bars of the yoke of slavery from Egypt, so they could be free and walk upright before Him.

But the remaining paragraphs paint a grim picture for those who do not want to keep the laws and commands of Him who set them free. God basically says, (in paraphrase), “Because you do not value the freedom I’ve given you, and you do not honor Me for giving you that freedom, I’m going to show you a life of what it’s like to live without the peace and true freedom of My presence.”

The warnings are numerous. God tells Israel that if they reject His covenant and worship other gods, He will bring terror upon them. The terror will be so bad that the sound of a driven leaf will frighten them. More than once He tells them that they will flee when no one is chasing them, and they will stumble and fall as if they are running from the sword. In addition to terror, He will bring them wasting disease and sickness that saps their strength. And He promises them the opposite of the promise of harvest when He says they will plant seeds, but their enemies will eat the crops.

A few different times in the reading, He breaks to say something like, “If these things don’t make you listen to me…,” and concludes with a warning of punishments that are seven times worse. Those worse punishments include such things as not being satisfied with bread, cities laid to waste, desolation of lands, and the inability to rest. (Unfortunately, this sounds like many metropolitan areas in the United States.) He goes on to warn them that when He turns His face against them, they will eat the flesh of their own children.

Finally, however, He tells them that if the uncircumcised in heart will humble themselves and turn to Him, and confess their sins and the sins of the ancestors, He will remember His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even though the lands they left will lie desolate without them, He will not forsake them while they dwell in the lands of their enemies, and He will not loathe them to the point of breaking His covenant with them. Instead, He promises that, for their sakes, He will remember the covenants He has with His people.

There is so much more in the actual reading, but it’s hard to read because the warnings are so grievous. I can hear the pain of a Creator who gave His children everything only to have it completely rejected. His laws are not grievous, but the breaking of them certainly can be.

For each of us who has been delivered from our own Egypt–from the bondage of slavery to our sins or ways of living that did not glorify our Creator, we have the promises of His covenant with us no matter what land we now dwell in. And because He paid the debt we owed for that deliverance with the blood of Yeshua, that covenant has been sealed for us forever. We have the greatest peace and the least fear when we walk according to His life-giving laws instead of walking according to the ways of the flesh where there are no good promises. We can choose to fear a loving God, and let that fear keep us fenced in on a land of spiritual prosperity, or we can reject God and end up in some desolate place where even the sound of a leaf can startle a man to death.

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

God’s Way IS the High-Way


Highway 1 at Sunset by Flickr User namealus, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Highway 1 at Sunset by Flickr User namealus, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab/window to view original image and to access user’s full photo stream at Flickr.

Proverbs 16:17 in the Amplified Bible (AMP) says, “The highway of the upright turns aside from evil; he who guards his way preserves his life.” With all we are seeing as consequences for the use of drugs, and all I have been learning from the doctors, the idea of doing things God’s way to preserve our lives is making more and more literal sense. We have a relative that completely looks past what our nephew did to bring on the consequences, and she refuses to acknowledge her own part in it or to repent of her continuing sins. Yet, she continues to claim that there will be a miraculous healing just because she is claiming it in Jesus’ name. But is there communion between holy and unholy just because the unholy uses a holy name?

Today’s reading from Leviticus 9:24 through Leviticus 10:11 shows that God is picky about the purity of what is offered to Him and whether or not our offerings are given with a spirit of obedience. After the offerings and blessings that brought forth the presence of Yahveh, we see His Spirit consume the offerings with fire. The people shout and fall on their faces in His holy presence.

But the next thing you know, two of Aaron’s sons (apparently he had four sons who were becoming priests based on this reading), march up all big in their britches and try to put on a show. They take unauthorized incense in their censers and try to light it from the holy altar of God. Not smart! As the fire of God’s presence comes down upon the altar, it consumes these boys who gave an offering other than what God had commanded to give. (Some versions use the term strange fire.)

Oh, but shouldn’t God be merciful just because they were offering something to Him? After all, they were called by God to be priests, right? In today’s theology, it would seem that anything done in Jesus’ name (or by a person who calls himself or herself a pastor or a prophet) is supposed to win God’s favor. Yes, we are made holy by the blood of Christ, but we still have to be led by the Spirit if we want to be free from the curse of the law. It’s all about our hearts, and if our lips are simply declaring the word of God while our hearts are far from Him, then we are an evil tree that cannot bring forth truly good fruit. But if we are sincerely following God, we will walk on His “high above sin” way, and we will bear good fruit.

As the reading continues, God declares that He will be glorified before all the people, and Aaron keeps silent, Then Moses calls Aaron’s other two sons and tells them not to perform any of the rituals of mourning, so that God will not be angry. He tells them to let the community of Israel mourn for them instead. And then he tells them to stay by the entrance to the Tent of Meeting because if they go out while God’s anointing oil is on them, they will die. They are also given a warning to never enter God’s presence having consumed wine or other intoxicating liquor because they must be able to know the difference between clean and unclean, holy and unholy.

The last statement makes me wonder if the first two of Aaron’s sons were intoxicated, and that’s why they couldn’t tell the difference in which incense to offer. If not, I’m guessing they just had disobedient spirits. We don’t get to see a lot of information about them, but we know they had been anointed and consecrated as priests for God, we know they were dressed in holy garments, and we know they had been in the presence of Yahveh. But none of those things compared to the moment they decided to follow after their own ideas instead of being led by God’s Holy Spirit. Living God’s way is about abandoning our own thoughts and ways because we love and trust God, and because we know that His thoughts are above our thoughts, and His ways are above our ways. His way really is the high way.

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

Leftovers Again


Leftovers for Dinner by Flickr User Avi and Elina Flax, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike

Leftovers for Dinner by Flickr User Avi and Elina Flax, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike
Click image to open new tab with access to original image and user’s photo stream at Flickr.

Well over twenty years ago, I read a story in Reader’s Digest from the Life In These United States section. It was a story of a mother who was talking about how much television was beginning to influence her family. She served leftovers for dinner, and one of her children complained loudly, “Aw Mom, reruns again?” For some reason, it was cute enough that it pops into my mind almost anytime I think about leftovers.

In today’s reading from Exodus 10:1 through Exodus 10:11, Pharaoh should have thought about his leftovers with gratefulness. In this new portion, Parashah 15 titled “Bo” in Hebrew and meaning Go, Yahveh is talking to Moses about going to Pharaoh with another warning. He encourages Moses by reminding him that the great works He is doing in front of Egypt will be stories Moses can pass on to his children and grandchildren, so that future generations will know that He is God.

The warning to Pharaoh is that if he does not allow God’s people to leave for worship, God will send, as plague number eight, so many locusts that they will eat up every growing thing that is left over from the hail damage. He warns it will be worse than anyone in his generation, or in previous generations, has ever seen, and that it will fill all the houses of Pharaoh and his servants. Moses gives his message, and then he turns his back and leaves.

After he’s gone, Pharaoh’s servants begin to beg him to reconsider. They basically ask Pharaoh how long Moses must be a thorn in their side, and Pharaoh relents and calls Moses back in to tell him the people can leave. But, he does add one caveat. He asks who they will take with them, and when Moses tells him it will be men, women, children, livestock, etc., Pharaoh tells him there’s no way they can all go and assumes it’s a trick. He tells them that only the men can go, or no one can go. And then Pharaoh drives the men out of his presence.

Because Pharaoh did not know God, he did not understand that it is not up to mankind to question God’s request or try to make changes to God’s will. He opened the door to allow even more loss into his life, and the hardness of his heart would cost him a greater price than he could ever have imagined. It would do us all well to take this lesson to heart and to use it to teach others that they do not have to lose everything before they turn to God. Resistance will not change God’s mind no matter how much those in sin might think it will. It’s as simple as this: God is God, and we are not.

January 4, 2014 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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