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Hallow-What?


Halloween Kitten by Flickr Users Bill & Vicki T aka Great Grandpa & Grandma T, CC License = Attribution

Halloween Kitten by Flickr Users Bill & Vicki T aka Great Grandpa & Grandma T, 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.

This is a day of many mixed emotions for me. I love cute little images like the kitty and pumpkin above, kids dressed up in all variety of adorable outfits, and the smile on a child’s face when they score big candy treasure. I have never been one to like the dark side of the day, like witches, vampires, and zombies, but an abundance of superheroes and princesses roaming the streets is adorable.

Many years ago, I was in a “no TV” phase of my life, so reading and a shortwave radio were my main entertainment. I found a book at the library that is out of print but one of the best books I’ve read on the history of Halloween and other American festival days. It’s called Celebrations: The Complete Book of American Holidays, and it’s co-written by the editors of Hallmark Cards, so it’s unbiased and probably more accurate than many such books. It was through this book that I learned, not only the history of “All Hallows Eve” but the history of many traditions for the day as well. It’s not pretty.

The main thing I learned about the day (and no, I won’t call it a “holiday” since that’s a shortened form of “holy day”) concerns the spiritual elements. In spiritual terms, it compares to “hell night” when kids have one last night of partying before trying to buckle down for nine months of school. In this case, spirits have a wild fling before the religious season that begins with All Saints Day aka All Hallows Day. So, the eve before, called All Hallows Eve or Halloween, is a last chance for evil to run amok and get away with it. Sure.

Anyway, people would perform all sorts of rituals to try and appease the spirits to keep themselves free from harm. The rituals may have been partly based in religion, but they were most certainly pushed because of fear. Some rituals included dressing up as that year’s deceased, a feast to appease the spirits, or a parade to lead evil spirits out of town. Where a virgin girl was demanded to appease the spirits, parents would put candles out in pumpkins or gourds to show they had an available daughter.

As God’s own people, we know we have a Power (Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world) that will protect and defend us. No rituals are needed except maybe prayer and fasting as Yeshua said to the disciples in Mark 9:14-29. We are told in James 4:7 that all we have to do is resist the devil and he will flee. Note in the Scripture that it does not say “rebuke the devil” and the resist part comes in only AFTER we have submitted ourselves to God.

Still, even with that authority, Yeshua reminds the disciples not to rejoice because of their authority over evil. Instead, they should rejoice because their names are written in Heaven. That speaks of humility before God and gratefulness for the blood of The Lamb over our repented lives. It’s why I have some trouble with songs that rejoice over the enemy and say things like, “I’m marching through the enemy’s camp to take back what he took from me.” I worry about the arrogance in that. I worry about the dark “Christian metal” bands with names like “Demon Slayer” that sound as if they are arrogantly bragging about their authority over evil.

So, should we celebrate this festive day that coincides with Day of the Dead celebrations around the world? Personally, I don’t like it. I don’t even like that my husband wants to give out candy, but I understand both sides. I understand the joy of making a child smile, so for parents that dress them up and nice neighbors who treat them, it can be fun and festive. For those who do want to play dress up though, if they call themselves Christian, I believe they should avoid anything dark. I would even suggest trying to dress kids (or yourselves) up like Bible characters, so when candy-givers ask what you are, you can share God’s word. 🙂

Whatever people believe and do, I encourage you to study the word of God, and I suggest you find out more about whatever festivals and recreations you take part in. Whatever you do… Do all things as unto The Lord (Colossians 3:23), and Abstain from all appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). On this holy Sabbath eve and day, I bid you Shabbat Shalom in The Lord, and I leave you with these words from The Amplified Bible

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

November 1, 2014 Posted by | Bible, Bible Study, Nonfiction, Slice of Life | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hugging Porcupines


Have you ever tried to hug a porcupine? No? Well, me either. But even if I had the opportunity, I don’t think I would want to do so. I have hugged someone wearing wool, and the itchy scratchy feeling that makes me feel like I have little pins sticking me all over doesn’t make me want to continue for long. It’s just not pleasant to hug something that hurts. Well, sin is like that to God. He wants to spend time with us, but He doesn’t want the prickles of pain caused by our being covered in the sin in which we immerse ourselves. So, He asks us to “come out from among the unbelievers and be separated from them.” (See 2 Corinthians 6:17.)

In today’s reading from Genesis 19 verses 1 through 20, God sends angels to Sodom. Abraham’s nephew Lot recognizes them, and he knows the situation in the town is something these men should not have to deal with, so he asks them to come stay at his house. Maybe he feels that if he hides them out of sight, they will be protected, but the sinners in that city are so bent on defiling all that is good, they show up at the house and demand that Lot send his guests out to them as playthings for their disgusting lust. It’s as if they can smell purity and innocence and will not be satisfied unless they can destroy it.

Since Lot has lived with these people for so long, maybe he has learned to ignore much of their behavior thinking that as long as he is not part of it, it doesn’t matter if he lives in the midst of it. But he doesn’t realize how much can change just by being in the constant presence of sin. So, while he knew it was wrong to let the men have their way with his angelic guests, he apparently did not see the harm in trying to appease them by offering them his virgin daughters. In that moment, he forgot that part of his role as a father included protecting their innocence.

In the end, the angels pulled Lot in from trying to make deals with the evil men, and then they blinded the men at the door so they could no longer find the door. They protected Lot and his daughters and then warned them not only to walk away, but to run away, from the coming destruction. Unfortunately, though freedom was also offered to his other children who lived in different parts of the city, they chose to stay rather than to heed the warning.

I guess the moral of this story, whose ending should come in tomorrow’s reading, is that it is better for us to come out from among unbelievers and keep ourselves pure and separate than to try to pry ourselves away when we finally get a clear vision of where sin is leading. Lord, please separate us and keep us out of the miry clay. Set our feet upon You–our Rock and our Salvation.

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Battle in Clay


I know some things may seem to just be things, but I am one of those who believes that everything and everyone has a purpose. In today’s reading from Genesis 14, verses 1 through 20, we find a battle among kings. Five kings to four kings to be exact. And if you want to read all their names and such, just click the link since The Complete Jewish Bible has them listed mostly phonetically. Anyway, in this battle of kings, they are fighting in a valley filled with clay pits where many fall in.

When I read of clay in the Scriptures, I always think of the flesh. So, here are a bunch of kings (people with authority–some to do good and some to do evil) fighting not to fall into clay pits (flesh). And I don’t think it’s just chance that this valley is near the Dead Sea. The evil kings have kidnapped Lot, the nephew of Abram who we introduced in yesterday’s reading. Abram calls on those born and trained in his own household to go out to battle with him and rescue that which belongs to him (Lot) who is likely in the valley of pits himself. They succeed and bring back Lot, his possessions, and all the women and children that were taken with him.

Not only is this a battle with which most who serve God and reject the flesh are acquainted, it ends with the kind of victory most of us seek. They get help from like-minded soldiers, and they take back what the enemy has stolen. When it is all said and done, Abram goes to meet the King of Salem (later called Jerusalem), aka King of Peace, and the King, Melchizedek, blesses him. When we get victories over the flesh, we praise God for His mercy and deliverance, and since Melchizedek was a high priest for God, it was a similar action. As part of their meeting, they shared bread and wine, and at the close, Abram gave the first recorded tithe (tenth) I’ve read about.

So next time you feel like you are in a valley of pits, gather some prayer warriors and fight to win. Scripture tells us that we have more who stand on our side than we have who stand against us. It also says that He who is within us is greater than he who is in the world. We can win in our battles if we open our eyes and take care not to fall into the pits of flesh. Oh, and when we win, we can offer our praises to Christ our King of Peace.

And here’s a nice chorus about the subject from the song, He Brought Me Out of the Miry Clay

He brought me out of the miry clay,
He set my feet on the Rock to stay;
He puts a song in my soul today,
A song of praise, hallelujah!

Also, if you’d like to read some interesting information about the connection between Melchizedek and Jesus, check out an article from Hebrew for Christians where you can also find more commentary on this Torah portion.

October 15, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Only Evil Continually


I mentioned one of today’s verses in a previous post when I talked about it being strife for God to dwell within man because of our flesh. To clarify, it is because of the evil of our flesh using the definition of evil to mean “minus God.” The whole of today’s reading is from Genesis 5:25 through Genesis 6:8, and it tells about the multiplication of mankind which includes the multiplication of evil because of the sheer abundance of flesh.

While I’m not sure what is meant here by the “sons of God” vs. the “daughters of men,” I wonder if God created more men from “scratch” than just Adam. And then in chapter 6, verse 3, God says, “My Spirit will not live in human beings forever, for they too are flesh.” I think it’s talking about the “oil and water” mix of flesh that yields evil and God’s Spirit that yields good.

In verse 5, we find that men are filled with wickedness and that all the imaginings of the hearts of mankind are of evil only. The King James Version states it as that their thoughts were “only evil continually.”

Some years ago, I was told that the truest definition of evil is, as I mentioned above, “minus God.” Another statement I read states that evil is a living thing with all of its molecules flowing in a direction that is opposite God. That makes sense when compared to Genesis 8:21 where it says that men’s thoughts are inclined toward evil from their childhood. The flesh by itself is minus God. So, while wickedness is not the definition of evil, it is caused by evil; by those whose thoughts are always in and on the flesh instead of in and on God.

So in chapter 6, we read that it was a constant state of mind–always thinking of self and never thinking of God. In the new testament, in Luke 17:26-27, we read that in the days when Christ returns, things will be just like they were here in Chapter 6. And the thing is, that doesn’t just mean what we would consider to be wicked men. The idea of men thinking more of themselves than thinking of God happens plenty with “the church” as well. When men pray, worship, preach, etc., just to be noticed, they’re thinking of themselves. When men think more about what they can get from God instead of what they can give to Him, they too are thinking of themselves. And when men worship the creation more than the Creator, well, that’s definitely thinking of self.

I asked someone one time, after they told me about an altar call where almost every person in the congregation went forward, “Would the same number of people move to the altar if the preacher asked how many wanted to give something to God as did when he called to everyone who wanted to receive something special?” The thought that fewer are willing to give than receive grieves me because I feel that God is worth more than a “genie in a magic lamp.” If the last thing we received from God was our salvation, it’s still deliverance from eternal death, and that makes it worth more than anything else–especially considering that it is a gift of God’s love to us.

I desire to worship God for who He is more than for what He does. I believe that will keep my thoughts from resting in the thoughts of the flesh, whether those thoughts lead to wickedness or just self-centeredness. For those who are followers of Christ, I find this perfectly summed up by author Chip Brogden from The School of Christ, in the following statement: “What is greater than the work of the Lord? It is, the Lord of the work.” May we always keep it in this perspective.

October 4, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fall Before the Fall


Today’s reading comes from Genesis 2:4 through Genesis 3:21. As usual, there is so much I could comment on, from God Himself breathing the breath of life into the first man, to the heavenly garden in Eden where mankind could eat fruit planted by His Creator, to man and wife being as one flesh. But I’d like to focus on the verses from 3:1 through 3:6.

So imagine Adam & and his new companion walking along a path and just enjoying the beautiful creation that surrounded them. Somehow, they end up right in front of the one tree of which they are not to partake. A voice comes from a serpent also hanging around this very tree. (Of course, this makes me wonder if all the animals talked since neither the man or woman seemed to have been surprised to be conversing with a snake.) And the first thing the snake does is challenge their Creator on whether He is a good provider. My translation: The serpent asked, “Hey, you people, did God say you could not eat from EVERY tree in the garden?

Wait a minute–ONE tree vs EVERY tree? That lying snake was trying to make the one forbidden tree look like it was of more value than all the other trees put together. The focus was shifted from all they did have to the one little thing they didn’t have. And that’s not a new trick. I think it contributes to much of the depression in today’s world. Sure, I’d love to live a cushy life where all my big desires are covered with plenty to spare. But I have the blessing of remembering times when I’ve had less, so those memories often bring me back to a place of gratefulness. The newly created couple didn’t have that to lean on, so all they could do is imagine that maybe they were missing out on something.

Next, the woman restated the rule of the tree of knowledge. Now, it could be that God said more to them with the first given orders, but if not, I’m wondering why the woman enhanced God’s words and added the part about not touching the tree. Did she fill herself with extreme fear to make sure she stayed on the straight and narrow? Or, maybe the law was spoken to Adam, and in his overly zealous desire to protect his wife from disobedience, he told her that she was not only to avoid eating it but also to avoid touching it. (Kinda like when parents tell their kids things like, “If you keep doing that, it’ll stay that way forever.”) Unfortunately, even strong warnings of never and forever don’t always work, and the fear of discipline in front of the woman was not enough to stop her from listening to the next lie.

So, in verse 4, the serpent flat-out calls God a liar. The husband is standing there, (we see that in verse 6), but he doesn’t seem to be getting defensive about all these lies. I wonder why he wasn’t shouting, “Come on, Honey, let’s get out of here. This little wimp has challenged our Creator on His ability to care for us, and now he’s calling Him a liar! We don’t need to hear anything else that snake has to say.” But they just stood there and listened, and the lying words started sinking in.

Now the woman takes a more deliberate look at the tree and begins a thinking process that has gotten man into trouble ever since. 1 John 2:16 says, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” Now look at the thoughts it says were going through the woman’s mind: When the woman saw the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh), pleasant to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and a tree to desirable to make one wise (pride of life), she was enticed. She imagined trying to BE like God rather than to SERVE her Creator, and in that, she imitated the very thoughts that got the voice behind the lying serpent thrown out of the Heavenlies in the first place. This was the fall before the fall. Before she even partook of the forbidden fruit, she engaged in evil thoughts and let the flesh win. And because her husband did not challenge the lying voice, she took him down with her.

But I do not want to stop here with hopelessness. It is evident that sin is something born into the flesh from its inception, or she would not have been able to sin in her mind before acting on her thoughts. But knowing this gives us a way to fight when those same thoughts try to bombard our minds. And even better, we are told in Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” How was Yahshua (Jesus) tempted on all points? In Luke 4:1-13, we read of “the temptation in the wilderness.” The temptations included the lust of the flesh (turn these stones to bread), the lust of the eyes (look at all the kingdoms I can give you), and the pride of life (cast yourself down and make a show of the angels not letting you fall). He was truly tempted in EVERY way we can be tempted, and thus continually delivers us from what started with a liar at the beginning of creation.

October 1, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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