Free Will

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https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies

By: William Jackson

God made man in His image (Genesis 1:27, 5:1), so “what does this truly mean?”  Well we know where we are not completely like God; for example  we are not omnipresence (Jeremiah 23:24, Psalm 139:7-10, Proverbs 15:3) or do we look like Him (Exodus 33:20) but we do share certain characteristics He has gifted us with.  Some of these are our emotions and desire for justice (Psalm 2:4, 5:6, 7:12, 11:5, 37:13, 135:14).  One gift that can also be considered a curse is our “free will”.  This understanding that a human can express personal choice and that he or she is not simply influenced by physical or divine forces has caused a historical divisions within both world philosophers and religions.

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To capsulize it; free will means that a man is capable of choosing his own course of action whether it be good or evil.  The first instance we see this is in  Genesis 2:16-17 when God tells Adam “You may freely eat from every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. You are not to eat from it…” and then God gives consequences if Adam (Hebrew for man) chooses wrong.  God could have saved himself a lot of grief if He just programed man (Adam) to do right but where is the sincerity in that? As both a sovereign and compassionate God (Psalm 86:15, 103:8, 145:8), He laid out the rules and probably out of love gave the consequences for doing wrong.  Since we were made in his image sometimes understanding ourselves allows us to understand Him, our Creator.  For example, many of us parents and leaders know that we can control people by creating an environment of constant restriction but we also know the benefit of having those that we mentor “skin their own knees”. Sadly, without the freedom to choose wrong our ability to develop is stymied.  If we are placed here on earth to develop and learn (Proverbs 1:5, 9:9, 25:12) the liberty of “free will” is necessary.  

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Some boil down the definition of “free will” to mean the ability to choose between “good” and evil” but this abridged answer is misleading because it lacks a major component, God.  If we think on it “all” people think that they choose “good”. Hitler rationalized that the Jews were the enemies of the world, so in his mind he justified that as doing “good.”1  To do good we must have a reference point, if God is not our higher authority than we become our own authority.  This is equivalent  to grading your own report card.  No wonder when we evaluate truly evil men like Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein they appear justified in their testimonies.  This is because without God they are only accountable to themselves.  It takes walking with God as the patriarch’s did (Genesis 5:22-24, 6:9, 17:1, 48:15) and studying His word to make the right ethical decisions.

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So since “free will” is so controversial why give it to us?  For our answer we need to answer the bigger question “Why did God make us?”.  This answer is handed to us by the Prophet Isaiah, who states our purpose to glorify God’s name (Isaiah 43:7, 21, 29:23).  Yet, nature was design to glorify Him (Isaiah 55:12, Job 12:7-10, Psalm 19:2-5, 148:1-6) and so weren’t the angels (Ezekiel 3:12-13, Psalm 148:2, Job 38:7).  The difference between us and God’s other creations is that these things have no choice but to glorify Him and humans have a choice.  If we look at the angels we will find how “free will” creates a difference between us and them.  For instance, the Hebrew word for angel is “malach,” which also means messenger.  This is interchangeable throughout Torah because  the angels are God’s messengers to perform specific missions2.  We reaffirm this again in Psalm 103:120 where it says  “Bless Adonai, you angels of his,you mighty warriors who obey his word, who carry out his orders!” and in 2 Kings 19:35, Psalm 78:49-51, Joel 2:11.  The angels do not have “free will” this sets humans apart from angels and all of His other creations.  Simply said, they must believe and we can choose to believe or not.  Yet in Psalm 8:6 it tells us that God made us less than the angels, this certainly speaks to the heavenly missions of angels but the same verse adds that God has crowned humans  “with glory and honor”.  Which makes the motives of humans who freely worship the Creator more sincere than those programed to worship Him.  However let us not forget that with the value being higher, the stakes are higher.  In Deuteronomy 30:19  it reminds us that God gives us a choice of life or death so “… choose life…”, this is further amplified in Deuteronomy 11:26, 30:15, Psalm 119:30, Proverbs 8:36.  

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Conversely the majority of Christianity, follows Calvinism which does not believe in the conventional idea of “free will”.  They believe that as humans we are too deprived to choose God as our savior but God elects certain ones of us to be saved.  This removes our “free will” and gives us the programmed desire to worship God like all things without a soul.  This topic is quite loaded and we will expand on this further in two weeks.  

As we explore “free will” we find that God doesn’t cast a blind eye towards our actions.  He doesn’t just allow us to make mistakes without either helping or punishing us dependant on our motives but he does not control us either.  So how does this Lord who is our shepherd guide us ( Psalm 23:1, Isaiah 40:11, Ezekiel 34:11-12) ? For starters He gives us His Holy Word, the Tanakh but he also gives us His “divine intervention”.  We will discuss that next week as we expound this topic.  

References:

(1)  Rabbi Noah Weinberg, Free Will – Our Greatest Power, Aish.com

(2) Baruch S. Davidson, What Are Angels?, Chabad.org

(3) Schaff, Philip. “Protestantism”. New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge IX. pp. 297–299

29 Weeks Past the Cross (Reestablishing Family)

Looking Through a New Lens

29 Weeks Past the Cross (Reestablishing Family)
By Terri C

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.~Jesus quoted by “Matthew” KJV (Matthew is in quotation marks because “Matthew” wasn’t who wrote “Matthew”. But that’s a subject for another post, go ahead and research it if you don’t want to wait)

When I read those words for the first time my heart broke! There is nothing in this world that I love more than I love my kids. Even though I was an atheist when I raised them, I can still remember explaining to them that they were welcome to look for God themselves, but I just couldn’t find Him. Maybe the spark that is my soul knew the truth even then, while my mouth was denying Him. But I digress. My kids were grown when I started my journey on this Narrow Path. Two of them were parents, themselves. They were shocked and surprised at the huge changes that were occurring in me. Some of the changes, my kids celebrated with me. The peace and joy I found were abundantly apparent in my life. My kids were happy to see me happy! After all, they were raised by the version of me that worried, despaired, feared and leaned toward hopelessness. This “new” me was the opposite. Some of the changes, though, put a huge wedge between my kids and me.

Suddenly, I was this woman who thought (at that time) that what is commonly called the “great commission”  was my comission. I was determined to see all four of them “accept” the one Christianity calls “The (big T) Messiah (big M). I never missed an opportunity to remind them of that! If they came to me with a problem, he was the solution, I’d insist. But you know what? They just stopped coming to me with their problems. The more they avoided conversations with me, the better I thought I was doing, according to the above passage, but the worse I felt. I missed ten years of them sharing their heart with me because they knew what my reply would be. That “he” was their answer, and the only way they could touch God. It didn’t make sense to me then that I should have to lose my close relationships to follow that guy, but there it was, in what I thought then was Scripture! I had to take it all on faith, you know? It didn’t need to make sense, they told me. And none of it made sense! A god who told me to hate my family if they didn’t follow Jesus? A god who impregnated another man’s betrothed? A god who would delight in the brutal, painful death of the innocent to atone the brutally guilty? There was something I wasn’t getting, and I knew that with every fiber of my being! But I was trying (however unsuccessfully) to take it on faith.

It was only when I was willing to be wrong in exchange for truth that truth washed over me in waves. The truth that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is ONE. The truth that worshipping another is idolatry. The truth that each one of us stands before Him alone. The truth that the writings in what is called the “new testament” are far removed from any personal accounts of encounters with the man called Jesus. The truth that God will deal with each one of us, including our children, exactly how He sees fit. Who was I to ever say He is so small, there could only be one door to Him? All these waves of truth left me in a place where I don’t have to accept anything “on faith”. Without the Jesus Glasses, and #LookingThroughaNewLens, my journey on this Narrow Path makes perfect sense!

I’ve apologised to my family for thinking I knew the all the answers and expecting them to believe me, even though my answers didn’t make sense. I have repented of thinking (and preaching) that  anyone only has “one way” to touch God. I have learned to trust God to deal with my family as He will, and to protect them on the path that I know will eventually lead to Him. Do you know how I am assured that all paths will lead to Him? Because He said so!

~By Myself have I sworn, The word is gone forth from My mouth in righteousness, And shall not come back, That unto Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall swear.~

(Isaiah 45, JPS Tanakh)

Little by little, my kids are sharing more of themselves with me. Little by little, my grandchildren are sitting with me, and asking questions. More than ever, my honey is willing to discuss a circumstance we face from a Scriptural standpoint. The REAL Scriptures, the Tanakh. Do I still talk about God to all of them? Count on it! But I do it in a different way. I let my actions speak louder than my words, and I let my words be few and carefully chosen. And I love my family, exactly where they are in their own journey. No longer do I lay awake at night and wring my hands concerning their salvation. God in Heaven has shown me (and my family) His salvation, over and over again. Salvation, in the real Scriptures, is a very literal (and physical) thing. There were times we should have died, but He showed salvation. Without any action on our part whatsoever, we got His grace and salvation, instead of what we deserved.

I trust God with my eternity and with the eternity of my family. I know there is a world to come, and that’s wonderful to imagine!  But my focus while I’m wearing this flesh should be on navigating this world. On being Light. On doing good. On doing right. My focus should remain on my God in the realm just above mine, but not out of my reach at all. When I am going about achieving these things, others will naturally be drawn to the Light that shines from within me, which isn’t coming from me at all, but from He to whom I am anchored. When they are drawn, He will give them a door, and handle things from there. The most important thing I can do for my family is to pray for God’s will to unfold in their lives, that they may achieve His purpose for their lives, all to bring Glory, Honor and Praise to His Name alone!

“See” you next week, and until then remember….the messiah who is coming will bring peace in his wake!

The Wicked That Was Destroyed In The Flood

Noah flood

https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies

By: William Jackson

We have all heard that the reason for the great flood was to wipe out the wickedness of humanity but if that is true why is there still evil1?  We can’t say that God didn’t know that this wasn’t going to work, He knows all things; past present and future (Isaiah 43:13, 45:21, 46:9-10, Psalm 33:11,  Proverbs 19:21).  Yet, even after the flood God promises“…never again will all living beings be destroyed by the waters of a flood…” (Genesis 9:8-11). So if you set out to destroy the world to get rid of the wickedness, knowing in the end you wouldn’t, why would you ditch your chances to do a “do-over”? This beacons the real question “why would you even go out to accomplish something that you know isn’t going to work? The answer is that what we were taught doesn’t fit.  This is usually and indicator that we need to dig a little deeper in scripture.

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N’filim

Most of what we are talking about nests in Genesis Chapter 6.  Here, before getting into how much God regretted making us because of our wickedness (Genesis 6:5-7), it talks about the birth of the N’filim (nef·ēl’).  These N’filim (H5307) were giants born of human women and “the sons of God”.  Introducing the N’filims at this point implies that this is possibly the evil that is talked about. So many presuppose that God is not trying to destroy the world to remove human wickedness but rather these N’filim which are demigods2 that the Torah calls “…ancient heroes, men of renown” (Genesis 6:4).  This would make sense but the flood did not destroy them.  We know this because over a millennium later (2500-1446 BC) the Israelite Scouts returning from Canaan give eye witness report claiming to see these N’filim (Numbers 13:33).  Many might say that these Israelites were lying about these “giants” because they did not want to return to Canaan but in Numbers 13:32 when the scouts give the report the Hebrew word used is “dibbah” (1681) which means a bad or evil report or even bad news.  If they were lying about the giants the Hebrew word “kazab” (3576) which is to lie or “sheqer” (8267), which is to deceive would have been used.  Granted the Israelites did not want to go into Canaan at this point but they did not lie about giants, they embellished the negative aspects of their account in an attempt to scratch the mission. Also Genesis 6:4 states “   The N’filim were on the earth in those days, and also afterwards…” So the verse that introduces the N’filim also admits they would be around for a while.

So if the evil that is talked about is not the N’filims maybe we can find our answer in focusing on who was spared verses who was destroyed.  This leads us to Noah. Scripture tells us that although Noah wasn’t perfect he was righteous (Genesis 6:9).  So it made sense that He would want Noah’s bloodline to be the only one remaining. The problem is that God knew that he could not remove all wickedness and allow man to have “free will”3 not even with Noah.  God admits this after the flood in Genesis 8:21 where His says…“I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, since the imaginings of a person’s heart are evil from his youth…” So God knows that we have evil in our heart and it can’t be removed.  Even when we investigate this point in the Tanakh (OT) it tell us we are all born sinners; Job 15:14, 25:4, Psalm 51:7.  And as we read further we find all have sinned, even the righteous 1 Kings 8:46, 2 Chronicles 6:36, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Isaiah 53:6, Psalm 143:2.  Noah even showed poor judgement as we see in Genesis 9:21 where he was naked and drunk.  Although what Noah did are not “formal” sins they are certainly vices that could lead to a severe evil (Deuteronomy 21:20, Isaiah 5:22, Proverbs 20:1, 23:20-21).

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Noah Drunk

So the concept that the world was wiped out to remove all sin doesn’t seem feasible.  So let’s look at Genesis 6:5 a little deeper.  We read “God saw that the people on earth were very wicked, that all the imaginings of their hearts were always of evil only”.  “All’ and “Always” leave no room for anything else in a man’s heart.  No room for mercy, charity or love of God. But Noah was different than most of mankind, “he walked with God” Genesis 6:9, “he did all that God ordered him to do” (Genesis 6:22). This would be a bloodline worth allowing into the renewed world.  Sure he may not have been perfect but he was righteous.  The evil that was destroyed are the ones who didn’t have room for God in their hearts which meant this was no room or ability for repentance.  This is further backed up in Proverbs and the Psalms (Psalm 7:17, 94:23, Proverbs 2:22, 5:22).

References

  1. Emil G. Hirsch, W. Muss-Arnolt, and Hartwig Hirschfeld, The Flood, The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia
  2. Dr. Alan Cooper, Why Did God Flood The World? Learn Inspired Jewish Learning, October 1, 2013

3. By William Jackson The Good Inclination, Yetzer HaTov (Pt. 1 of 2), Center for Tanakh Based Studies, August 6, 2015

The First Holocaust, The Christian Crusades

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https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies

By: William Jackson

The Crusades conjure up images of knights clashing their swords against curved Muslim sabers.  We see visions of shields adorn with crosses, a Holy quest, Nobel Kings with righteous Armies apposing dastardly enemies to Christ’s Kingdom on earth.   These are the things legend are made from and fairy tales are written of.  Yet, when we study it out, we are soon to discover that the motives of these Christian Soldiers were not as poise as is portrayed.

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What ignited this Holy War?  In 1095 CE it seems that the Roman Empire, which fostered Christianity, was divided between east and west.  Not only were these two parts of the kingdom divided physically but the people were opposed to each other in commerce, politics and even Christian leadership.  The Western Emperor, Alexios I Komnenos, sent word to the Pope in the east that his Empire was under threat by the Turks which were Muslim.  Pope Urban II sent a call out rallying Christians to be part of a Crusade, the first Crusade.  The intent was to eliminate the Turks and open the way to the Holy Land which was a priority to Christianity.  You see, pilgrimages by Christians to Jerusalem had been important as far back as Constantine’s reign about 700 years earlier.  Another motive behind the Crusades was that they would help to unify the churches in the east and west.  These Crusades would go on for the next 175 years.

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During this First Crusade, before the Crusading Army left for its destination, it practiced its violence on imagined heretics. This took the form of lethal antisemitism on the Jewish populace in both France and Germany1.  The event has been historically called “the Rhineland massacres”.  Some historians have even deemed it “the first Holocaust”2. It started in May of 1096.  This would begin the wholesale slaughter of Jews.  In Worms, Germany no fewer than 800 Jews were massacred for refusing baptism3. Other areas of the Rhineland experienced murder at the hands of the Crusaders with the highpoint being in Mainz, Germany where over 1,100 Jews were killed.  Three years after this butchery in Europe, after Jerusalem was seized, Jews were burnt alive in their Synagogue in the Holy City by the Crusaders4. It didn’t end here, during the Second Crusade a French monk by the name of Radulph preached the message “that the Jews should be slain as the enemies of the Christian religion”5. This inspired the massacres of Jews in the Rhineland, Cologne, Mainz, Worms, and Speyer.  These incidence of genocide go on with almost every Crusade.

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In our current day we witness globally evil powers like ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) torturing and killing all in the name of (their) god.  At no point do we think that there will be a future date that their past should be forgotten.  Like ISIS the Crusaders took God’s name in vain and through greed and violence committed despicable acts all in the name of their battle cry “God wills it”.  Some might liken these Crusades to God calling the Israelites to war (Numbers 31:2, Deuteronomy 20:16–17, 1 Samuel 15:3,18, Joshua 4:13, Ecclesiastes 3:8) but there is a big difference here.  Israel’s Army was controlled and inspired by the one true God and at certain points the Israelites were punished by God for doing wrong (Numbers 32:22-23, Joshua 7).  Conversely, The Crusader Army was inspired by a pope.  The pope in the catholic religion “represents Jesus Christ Himself”6.  The idea that God willed this narcissistic evil through a human representative of the Christian messiah is outrageous.

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Many of us who have left our Christian walk to get closer to Tanakh have been pressured and insulted by the Christian need to keep us in the fold.  It’s like they abandon their own teachings (Matthew 7:12, 1 Corinthians 16:14, Romans 12:9) to attack those that are not like minded.  As for me, as despicable and hypocritical as the Crusades were I definitely see that same mindset alive and well today.

References

  1. Norman Golb (1998). The Jews in Medieval Normandy: a social and intellectual history. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
  2. Riley-Smith, Jonathan (1991). The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading. University of Pennsylvania
  3. Jim Bradbury (2004). The Routledge Companion to Medieval Warfare. New York, NY: Routledge. p. 182.
  4. Brown, Michael L. Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 1992
  5. Gottheil, Richard; Joseph Jacobs. “The Crusades”. Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2007-02-
  6. Cardinal Sarto, as quoted in Publications of the Catholic Truth Society Volume 29 (Catholic Truth Society: 1896): 11.

Rise and Shine! On Pornography

Rise and Shine
Rise and Shine! On Pornography
By Terri C

Pornography is no longer a  “back alley” event. In this day of technology, it is readily available to anyone with an internet browser. Even when I peruse images to use in my  articles about God, I am inundated with nakedness. Without question, our bodies are beautiful, fearfully and wonderfully created! Able to produce and experience deep joy and contentment. But also without question, our Heavenly Father left guidelines and boundaries for this kind of pleasure. Believers aren’t exempt, male or female, from falling into the pit that is pornography. Some might think it’s a “victimless crime”. Some might think that an addiction can’t develope in a very short time. Some might think it won’t hurt their mate, because it isn’t “real”. In each instance, someone would be wrong! Pornography promises pleasure, but leaves a trail of destruction in its wake. Whether you’re single or married, if you are pulled into the lure of pornography, you are on a slippery slope, physically, psychologically and spiritually! You are not, however, powerless to break its hold on you.

The most common way porno does its damage is to place a wedge into an otherwise happy relationship. I realize that this isn’t an addiction uncommon only to men, but because of the high percentages of marital problems caused by men who watch it, hurting their wives in the process, I am aiming this piece toward those couples. If you don’t fit into that category, you may still glean some wisdom here by continuing to read.

As believers, we must address the things that keep us distanced from God, even if they are unpleasant. The Torah has much to say about whose nakedness we should be seeing. Does God set these kinds of limits just to take the  fun out of our lives? Hardly. He knows the end result of all intentional sin. He knows it destroys. Lives, loves, marriages, and most of all, our spirit. We can shine God’s Light on pornography and the issues it causes in our relationships. Whether you are the one stuck in front of the computer screen, lured in by false promises of pleasure, or the one hurt when you discovered your mate’s browsing history, pornography isn’t bigger than God! Before you go about trying to shine light, though, be sure you are securely connected to its source through repentance, prayer and Scripture study. Only then are we ready to shine God’s light, instead of casting shadows. If pornography has slithered into your life, here are some tips to put it where it rightfully belongs, in a pit without you:

  • Get informed! Men, did you know that a long-term addiction to porn leads to impotence? Don’t take my word for it, utilize your search bar! The inability to achieve your fantasy in real life leads to frustration and dissatisfaction over time. Women, get yourselves informed, too! The reasons your husbands are watching porn aren’t the ones you may think. Hop on over to your search bar and learn why men are watching. This isn’t to justify the porn in his life, but only to help you understand that it isn’t dissatisfaction with you or your body. A little understanding can go a long way in finding a solution that leaves you both happy and whole.
  • Take what you have learned before God. Sometimes, the only way for us to find success is to have Him help us sort things out. He is faithful and willing to guide us when we come to Him ready to get honest about ourselves and our lives. Men, He will help you to understand that the women you are looking at are His creations. They are daughters, sisters, and even young mothers! There are some women enslaved by the industry, brought in as teens. When you watch, you are contributing to their downfall! Women, You also need to get honest with God with what you have learned so that you aren’t undermining your man’s efforts to quit watching. Handing out guilt trips, being constantly paranoid that he’s watching when you aren’t in the room, and  belittling or berating your man won’t help bring resolution. It will only bring more problems. If you let Him, God will empower you to be forgiving, and help you to understand your own beauty through His eyes. We might not be able to trust a human 100%, after all, we are all flawed, but we can always trust God to lead us through the dark valleys. Always.
  • Communicate with your mate. Have an old-fashioned, honest conversation about what’s going on in each of your heads. This should be a conversation about finding resolution, and not an argument. Without insulting or accusing, share your sexual feelings, needs and desires with each other. Men, realize that making your wife feel less than desirable will not make her feel more amorous, but less. Women, understand that your husband is more “sight” oriented than you when it comes to sexuality. When you have this conversation, be transparent. You are not doing the relationship a favor if you are anything less than completely honest about your feelings.
  • Set a barrier between yourself and porn. There are settings on your browser to limit adult content. Through your service provider, there are web guards that can’t be changed without a phone call to customer service. Again, a little research will reveal what method will best work for your household. If you are tempted by magazines, strip clubs or adult stores, do what you need to do to keep away from them. Only stop at convenient stores that don’t offer porn mags, take a different route home from work, whatever it is that you can do to assure your own success. There is never, ever a good reason for a married man to be at a strip-club! Learn to say no to your friends, or no to a boss who wants to hold a meeting at one. Surely, there is a better way to entertain out of town clients! Sometimes it will boil down to sheer self-discipline, but do whatever  it takes! No doubt about it, the marriage and sex life you save will be your own!
  • Keep Communicating! It’s worth mentioning twice. Women, understand that men tend to leave something behind once it has been exposed and hashed out. Keep that in mind when you are still hurting, but it seems like he has already moved on. He may be oblivious to the fact  that your heart is still aching, and you are still feeling insecure. It’s okay for you to share that with him in a loving, non confrontational manner. Men, understand that your wife thinks differently than you, and lingers on her hurt longer than you may think. It may be advantageous to your marriage for you to offer her reassurance from time to time. Share with her what you have learned about yourself in conquering your addiction. If you are struggling, share that with her, too. Pretending that it didn’t happen or that it didn’t do any damage only leaves a door open for more damage to occur. Both of you need to be able to talk about this subject openly with each other. If you are struggling to do that, the problem may be way deeper than pornography, and needs to be discovered, too. The person you have vowed to love and keep until the end of your lives should be the easiest person in this world to talk to!

As the days grow darker in the world around us, there has never been a bigger need for those who are shining God’s Light! Pornography is one of the many things that will dim your light (or even extinguish it), even if not a single soul knows you are viewing it! I assure you that God knows! Pornography is a solid wall between how God says your life could be and how it actually is.

~He that turns his ear away from Torah, even his prayer is an abomination~ Proverb 28

He can deliver you and He can restore your thoughts, your heart and even your  marriage, but He won’t do it forcefully and He won’t do it all. Your part is in being honest, with Him and with each other. Your part is repentance from what you know is sin. Your part, if the porno has interfered in your marriage, is forgiveness toward each other, and a willingness to seek solutions, instead of tearing each other down. No, pornography isn’t bigger than God, and you don’t have to let it grow to be bigger than you! The sex life God gave us is a splendid and glorious thing…in the marriage bed. Anywhere else, it becomes darkness, broken hearts and broken lives. We can never be whole when we succumb to our own brokenness. Rise (and shine) above it!

28 Weeks Past the Cross (Unpacking my Box)

Looking Through a New Lens
28 Weeks Past the Cross (Unpacking my Box)
By Terri C

One of my favorite quotes goes like this:

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” (M. Oliver)

During this Sukkot week, I discerned that God was asking me to drag that box out from where I keep it carefully locked away in my heart. I found that to be a peculiar request during a time set aside for rejoicing and celebration. Having experienced God as teacher, though, I’ve learned not to be surprised by what He will use as a lesson plan! And so I dragged the box out. I’ll be honest, it took me a whole day to open it. At 51 years of age, I think that box is the fullest one I have, aside from my box of God’s grace and mercy. I don’t rifle through it often, yet am ever aware of its existence and weight, just below the “surface”. As much as I didn’t want to darken my sukkah experience, I wanted more to be obedient, and to know what God had for me to learn. And so, I cracked that box open.

I pulled out the memories of a childhood that was more like a nightmare. I unpacked years of battling poverty. I stacked regrets in one corner and mistakes in another. I laid the broken heart pieces carefully on a pillow. I took a look at my own sin, a darkness all its own. Sin that took me further than I thought I would go, kept me longer than I thought I would stay and cost me more than I’ll EVER be able to pay. As I continued unpacking the box, I came to understand that I had shared from it through the years, unknowingly handing others darkness, myself. There I sat that day, with the darkness from my own life threatening to overwhelm me. It was impossible for me not to notice that I had even added to the box since I started my journey on this Narrow Path. I walked in man’s ways instead of God’s alone. I allowed man to teach me instead of Scripture, even when I saw certain truths with my own eyes. In turn, I shared man’s teachings with others. Sharing darkness. “What now?” I cried out to God. “What do You want me to do with all of this darkness?” Faithful as He is, the answer wasn’t long in coming. YOU aren’t going to do anything with it except behold it. I am going to repack it with light!”

For the next hour or so, with my darkness exposed before my God, He began to shine His light on it. He showed me the good things that came out of the darkness where it was applicable, and showed me the lessons I needed to learn in the instances where it was I doling out darkness. Above all, He assured me that it will all fit into the bigger story of my life, the story I do not know the ending to yet. But He does, oh He does! He showed me how this year’s cycle of Holy Days hold  profound meaning for my life. I stepped out of idolatry right before Passover, the Holy Day that declares His ability and willingness to deliver us. I accepted His Torah on Shavu’ot, just as if I was standing at the bottom of Mt Sinai at the first presentation. I went through the process of honest confession and repentance during the Days of Awe, and afflicted my soul on Yom Kippur. I’ve spent Sukkot understanding that everything I see and everything I have is temporary. He is the only eternal in my life, and all I have is from Him. I happily anticipate the next day I will mark in my journey, Simchat Torah, where I will begin my first cycle of Torah reading with only one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I began to understand there, during my sukkah experience, that everything fits together, the good, the bad, and the oh, so ugly.

I looked around at all the darkness, but somehow none of it looked as dark as it had when I unpacked it. I can’t change anything about the past, I can only extract the light from the dark and decide to carry it instead. I can’t take back any darkness that I doled out, only be aware that I will share what’s in my box, whether I intend to or not, be it light or dark. I come out of this Holy Day cycle washed clean and forgiven; a new me, if you will. Before my very eyes, my box of darkness was transformed by God into a vessel of light. His light. I replaced some of the items that I had painstakingly unpacked since they now had light coming from them. My past and my journey are, after all, part of who I am. The items that held no light at all didn’t get repacked. I gave them to God for disposal. The hardest things to decide what to do with were the heartbreaks. Giving them up left me feeling vulnerable. In many instances, these heartbreaks changed the course of my life! To let go of them felt akin to denying them. I could almost feel God’s arm around me as I looked at them, wondering what to do with them. After a few minutes, He slipped the Scripture into my spirit that says:

~A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.~ Ezekiel 36

I knew then the answer. I left the broken pieces of my “old”  heart there, with Him. I prayerfully gave thanks for what I learned, and spent a spell just being still, and knowing He is God.

As I stood to return to the duties that are in my day, I glanced back at all the darkness I had carried for so long one more time, using the eyes of my spirit. The piles of darkness I had stacked dissolved under God’s brilliant light. The box in my heart felt light and brand new…like me! Although I will experience seasons of darkness in this human experience, I will never look at it in the same way again. And I will certainly never carry it around in a box like it is mine to keep!

I hope that God is revealing new things to you as you seek Him during these Holy Days, and that your walk with Him is ever deepening. I’ll “see” you next week!

Melchizedek Identity

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By William Jackson

We are introduced to Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18-20 after Abraham rescues his nephew Lot in a commando style raid (Genesis 14:14-15).  After this intense engagement like out of nowhere Abraham runs into this Priest named Melchizedek.  This man prays for Abraham.  It’s also interesting that at this point Abraham gave him 10% (Genesis 14:20), this is where we get the word tithe from.  Tithe is an Old English word that means ten percent of something. So who is this guy “Melchizedek (Malki-Tzedek)”? Well scripture tells us that he was both the King of Shalem and God’s most High Priest. As for Shalem, this would become Jerusalem, how appropriate.

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Many Christians, believes that Melchizedek was Jesus Christ. Herbert W. Armstrong1, a Christian author, points out that scripture reveals that Melchizedek is contentiously God’s priest (Psalm 110:4). Also in Hebrews 7:17 it states the Jesus will be a God’s priest forever.  Yet, when we read the NT book of Hebrews Chapters 5 through 7 we see that Jesus is “like” Melchizedek and belongs to the order of Melchizedek, so why not say he is Melchizedek if he is?  Mr. Armstrong, like many others, see a strong connection between Melchizedek and Jesus. This is clearly a case of over spiritualizing which is very common in Christianity to make their messiah fit into the Tanakh (OT). If you consult their own Testament, as before stated, it doesn’t hold up.

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On the rabbinical side, Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki), the Medieval Jewish commentator, believes that Melchizedek is Shem the son of Noah2.  This is the assumption throughout most of Judaism.  If we look at Genesis 9:26 it states “Then Noah said, “May the Lord, the God of Shem, be blessed, and may Canaan be his servant!”  Thus Shem could become the High Priest of Jerusalem. So why two separate names for the same person?  The name Melchizedek is considered a title not a proper name, Shem is the name.  Also Shem would have still been around during this time.  The flood subsided about 2,500 BCE and this event took place with Melchizedek about 2084 BCE3.  Shem lived to be 600 years old (Genesis 11:10-11) so this fits.  The problem is when we look at Psalms, here in Psalm 110:4 it appears as if Melchizedek is timeless.  If Melchizedek is forever this would rule out Shem because he had an expiration date.

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I believe when it comes the Melchizedek there are things that operate independent and separate from us in God’s realm and sometimes these worlds intersect.  Take for example Joshua, he meet God’s Army Commander (Joshua 5:13-14) and with the same level of mysticism as with Melchizedek the meeting was over never to happen again.  We also saw this with the three men visiting Abraham (Genesis 18) and with the stranger giving Joseph directions (Genesis 37:15-17).  Turning people into the Christian messiah or something beyond what they are not might make a snappy sermon but we straight from the truth.  God did put within us a desire to explain things, but sometimes we just need to bask in the privilege of seeing into this unknown world.

References

  1. Herbert W. Armstrong, The Mystery of Melchizedek Solved!, Church of the Great God, 1972
  2. Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, Rashi: Chapter 14, Commentaries on the Pentateuch, Reggio di Calabria, Italy, 18 February 1475
  3. Complete Bible Timeline, Bible Hub