Week 35 Past the Cross – (Finding a Foothold)

Looking Through a New LensWeek 35 Past the Cross – (Finding a Foothold)
By Terri C

I love that I had to check back through the archives to find which week I was on in relation to deciding to walk past the cross and into an one-on-one relationship with The Father! The “newness” is gone, it is simply how I now live my life. I am journaling my first year for myself to look back on and for others who are new at this to have a place to come for encouragement. Although each experience in discovering that God is indeed One is unique, there are also common battles. It is these I will will address today. I will go in the order that I came across each one, but certainly, these may not have “hit you” in the same order! If you see some of your own journey in here, by all means, please share your own battles and triumphs in the comments section. I was blindsided by some of these events, but you, Dear Reader, don’t have to be. God has a way of giving us just what we need, just when we need it, to understand these new concepts. I hope that in telling my story, you might find relief from the issues you are facing, and be encouraged to continue seeking God with all your heart. That is, Scriptures say, when we will find Him. Here are some of the challenges I have faced and overcome since passing by that cross 35 weeks ago:

 

Not Just One Doctrinal Change. At first I thought that my walk would look exactly the same, except I wouldn’t be crediting Jesus with my salvation. As I set aside the writings that call themselves the “new testament” I realized how much doctrine I held came only from those writings, they aren’t presented in Torah or anywhere in the Tanakh. Even the “new testament” isn’t foretold of! In fact, the Tanakh says that there will be a time when the “New Covenant” will be written on our hearts…it isn’t going to be penned on paper! The idea of “original sin” is absent in the Tanakh, as well. The doctrine on “hell” I’d held was wrong, according to Tanakh. The “end days” the “coming of Messiah” the “great commission”….none of these in the “new testament” match what is written in the “Old”. The “new” teaches that the Jews were deceived, blinded, yet Zechariah tells us that “in those days” men will take hold of a Jew because they have heard that God is with them. Not take hold of a cross, or a man-god-savior. A Jew. Nowhere will you find in the Tanakh that Jews aren’t God’s chosen. Christianity claims that God “divorced Israel” but the very verse they use to stand on that claim shows exactly God’s stance. Check out the verses that follow the “divorce” statement:

~Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith YHVH; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith YHVH, and I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith YHVH.~from Jeremiah 3

Hmmm, “Return”, it says. Not “believe on” not “ask into your heart” and definitely not “cleanse though a human sacrifice” (something Torah calls abomination). Return.

 

My “Authority” I read that I could do all the things the man named Jesus did and more. I had authority, the writings said, to trample serpents. To heal. To ask anything from The Father and get it….especially if two people asked it. Anything. Really? When I looked into Tanak alone for my “authority”, I learned that all things come from God. All things. There is no opponent for Him. Should I then pray against this thing He has allowed for His reasons, which are above my own? I saw in Tanakh that my “authority” was in one thing, and one thing alone. My “authority” is in having free will. Period. I have the authority to choose His Way or my way, and that’s all. I will live the human experiences while wearing this flesh. I will both mourn and celebrate, and have seasons of darkness and seasons of illumination. Seasons of tragedies and ones of triumph. Good and bad will come my way, and because I have used my authority and chosen His Way, He is with me through them.

 

Prayer. Hand in hand with the above paragraph, my prayer life had to change. That change wasn’t easy for me and it will be tied to the next item on our “list” today. Suffice it to say I was happy with my prayer life, it was a neat little formula. It was set on the vision I had for my own life. My will. And then I studied the examples of prayer in the Tanakh, and saw how they were centered on exalting  God. Seeking His will, His Way. Yes, they also asked for their hearts’ desire, but they didn’t “name it and claim it” they sought Him and honored Him in His authority. In retrospect, I now give thanks for not praying for my will, but His. I can’t imagine the trainwreck my life would be if God beckoned to my authority instead of me to His! He knows the desires of my heart, and knows that above them, I desire His will. As I mentioned, grasping these new concepts wasn’t easy for me, it takes time, study and much… you guessed it…. prayer. I’ll give a very personal account so that you can see this “new kind of prayer” concept applied. A very sweet friend was recently in a very bad car accident, and left in “critical” condition. I love her very much, and wanted to cry out to God to just heal her the moment I heard the news. I saw on social media that some people who loved her were doing just that. Proclaiming her healed in a name that isn’t God’s. Knowing what I know now, I had to pause and think of how to best pray for her. Nothing touched her that God hasn’t allowed. And so I prayed for His will for her to unfold. I thanked Him for His authority over the whole situation. I hoped out loud that many would turn to Him and recognize that authority, too. Twenty four hours after the accident, I saw people thanking God she was spared her life. It reminded me that He has reasons for everything. The accident will be, I’m sure, a dividing line in my young friend’s life. I’ll looking forward to learning where it fits for her in the “bigger picture”. The one thing I am sure of is that it does fit.

 

“Bloodstains” I said that this paragraph will tie into the above one, and it does. There are times when we feel pressured, like our back is against a wall, and what’s inside of us takes over.  Call it auto-pilot, call it instinct, or call it indoctrination, it happens. In the beginning of my new journey, it sometimes took me several weeks to discover that I was still looking at any given situation through Jesus-colored glasses, complicating a simple situation. For so long I believed that I was “covered in the blood”, that I’ve come to call this mindset “blood stained”. Christianity made God’s plan about me. The Messianic movement added tzit-tzit, Feasts and Sabbaths, but was still centered on man, and what he “knows”. I am learning that everything is centered on God, and not on me. I’m learning to take my focus off myself, and to live like I trust Him. If He has favor, mercy and grace to bestow upon me for His Name’s sake, than nothing will stop Him. If He sends me hardship, struggles or peril, He is with me, and I will be refined. I am slowly being cleaned from these “bloodstains” as they show up in my life, and am learning to trust God in ways I never thought possible!

 

Who am I? A friend likened walking away from the cross to flailing like a newborn. I think that’s an apt description. Humans enjoy the feeling of community. The Scriptures certainly encourage it. It’s all about relationships! It’s pretty easy to describe who we are when we switch from being a “Baptist” to a “Methodist”. Even going from Catholicism into Judaism is self defining. We can say we are “this” or “that” in terms of religion, and most people have at least a minimal grasp of that concept. What, then, do we call ourselves when God has not led us to convert to Judaism, and we are certainly not Christian or Messianic? Who are we now, here? I see that question often, and had to work through it, myself. But maybe “Who are we?” is not the right question. We are dust, the Scriptures say. I see words like “Ger” and “sojourner” and “Noahide” but they just don’t fit to me as well as the word “dust”. For me, “dust” puts it all into perspective in a nutshell. I am dust with a soul that belongs to God. It came from Him and will return to Him when this flesh finally fails me (and it will). This is all about Him, and none about me. I do not devalue myself in calling myself dust. Because of that spark that makes me “me”, I am dust that has the authority to follow The Creator. To live and love and laugh and sing. I’m happy to be me, no “label” is required! I have learned not to ask “Who am I?” but instead “What can I do?”

 

Without question, the journey past the cross is one with unique new concepts and will offer  brand new facets of our God to meditate upon. On this side of the cross, He is bigger and we are smaller. We learn that our focus shouldn’t be so much of what lies beyond this life but instead what we can do to be light right here in this life. Since walking away from the cross, I seek God’s Way, thus opening myself to change, and I help others. Even in times when I feel like a newborn flailing, I’m still secure in my knowledge that my God, YHVH, is sovereign. Even as I blunder, and and bad, are an opportunity to be propelled closer to Him. I trust that He will protect me, because the last line of Psalm 91 says so, along with many other passages of Scripture. Whether He chooses to protect me in the physical sense, or to protect this soul in me by returning it to Him, I will leave up to Him and His will. It’s enough for me to know that I have that protection. It’s a win/win situation. Looking through this new lens is freeing, and not binding. It is allowing God to be God and me to be me, following Him! I’ll “see” you next week. Until then, be strong and courageous!I do blunder, I am driven ever closer to Him. I know that all things, good 

 

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Rise and Shine! In Times of Crisis

Rise and ShineWeek 34 Past the Cross – (Doorways)
By Terri C

Turning on the evening news during dinner is sure to ruin your appetite! Without question, things are getting ugly out there. Oops, did I say “getting ugly”? I’m sorry, that’s not the truth. Things have been ugly since Cain killed Abel. Maybe they got ugly exactly when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, but the story of the first brothers is our first example of the atrocities that  man is capable of bestowing upon man. We know that Ecclesiastes says “There is nothing new under the sun”.  And there isn’t anything new, is there? Only the finer details differ. Only the ways in which these atrocities are administered differ. Mankind was so horrible at one time that God regretted creating them, and wiped everyone off the face of the earth, except for the “house” of Noah. Murder, sexual immorality, the exploitation of the innocent, crooked dealings and religious extremism have plagued mankind as far back as we can read in Scripture, or even in history. The numbers of occurrences have simply risen according to the rise in population. But the nightly news isn’t reporting “new” news. Unfortunately, the top stories won’t vary in their ugliness until God’s Messiah takes his reign on the throne of David. The world-wide web has simply “lifted the veil” so that we are able to witness so much more bad news than what we were privy to an hundred years ago. But it isn’t new. How, then, do we go about shining God’s Light into a world that seems to be under the cover of darkness? How do we let our faith, and not our fear, increase as we witness these events? Is there anything we can do to be helpful to those who are crippled with fear? Can we bring hope in the midst of so much mayhem? Absolutely!

 

Before we go about shining God’s light, we first examine our own connection to The Source of that light. If we haven’t allowed Him to illuminate us, we can do more harm than good. If we are crippled in fear ourselves, or if we are living in unrepentance ourselves, we are casting shadows, instead of shining light! Through repentance, prayer and Scripture study, our lives are transformed, and God’s light becomes manifest in our own lives. It is then that we can go about sharing that light, even in times of world-wide crisis. Especially in times of world-wide crisis! For what we can’t do, we trust God. But there are things we can, and should be, doing! I hope you will add to this “list” for even more ways to go about being light:

 

 

  • Pray! Prayer isn’t our last resort, it is our first defence! What can we pray for in a world gone awry? We can pray for God’s messiah to come quickly, bringing peace. We can pray for God’s will to unfold in each and every area that is dark. We can pray that many will cry out to God in their time of crisis, even those who have never turned to Him before. We can pray for His mercy on the innocent, and for His justice to come to pass. We can pray for repentant hearts, and for courage and strength. We pray, friends, because He instructed us to.
  • Check Facts: In this age of social media, every “like” and every “share” is our stamp of affirmation of information. Or misinformation. Let’s take a moment before we click anything and consider the source. Is it reliable news that will be helpful to share with our friends? If we can’t confirm it, or if it is even questionable, let’s just skip it for now. We can always go back to it once we’ve gathered more facts.
  • Don’t fuel flames of fear! If there is a common theme in the Tanakh, it is this: God is in control! Do not fear, be strong and courageous. Trust in Him. In my humble opinion, the only thing worse than our own fear would be to encourage fear in others! In the ugliest case scenario, God is still in control! There is no force in existence more mighty than Him. We remember the Proverb that says ~The horse is prepared against the day of battle; But victory is of YHVH~ The media wants us to live in fear. Every time we tune in, their ratings go up. Social media wants us to live in fear. With every clip that “goes viral” their site hits go up. But, friends, God wants us to only fear Him. Period.
  • Do something. The world has enough “arm chair quarterbacks”. That is to say, many people do a lot of talking about what they would do in any given situation, but few rise to the occasion by actually doing. Back your beliefs with some actions! Get involved. Give from your resources, be it money, talent or time. God told us to extend our hand to the needy, to go about doing good. Instead, too often, we extend our hand to the keyboard, spouting opinions and beliefs that stop there, on a post or comment thread. To utilize an old adage, we must “put our money where our mouth is”. Let’s make it two old adages for a second witness; “Walk the talk”. If we don’t like what’s happening around us, we must stand up and be a part of reformation. We begin in ourselves, and expand to the extent we are able to. Our home, community, state, country or world. But we mustn’t forget where reformation begins: with us.
  • Get in Scripture. Since, as I stated earlier, we know there is nothing new under the sun, then every issue we face has Scriptural guidelines to it. Scriptural concepts. Scriptural solutions. Sometimes they are glaringly apparent, and sometimes they have to be studied at length and in many different passages. Nothing in that Tanakh is there for entertainment purposes, and nothing is there just to appease us so that we will continue reading. And everything in Scripture is tied together, one big flowing account. And so we read about, let’s say, Sarah. Next we ask ourselves, what can we learn from Sarah, and how does it apply to our lives? How does Sarah hold a clue to what we see on the nightly news? We ask the same about Creation Week, or the Psalms, or the Proverbs. If we are inclined to wonder if this world is, indeed, in its “end times” then we turn to the prophets, and ask the same questions. It is in Scripture that God fills us with Himself, first our eyes and brains, and then the verses permeate our hearts and souls. The more firmly we are grounded in God’s Words, the more our feet are under us as we stand though these times of crisis!

 

 

We needn’t feel helpless or hopeless when we do tune into the news, we are neither. If this world, as we know it, is in its final stages, what a time to be alive! Not only do we know that our eyes will see God’s salvation after they have seen times of crisis, we are given the instruction and the ability to Rise and Shine His Light through them. Be encouraged! Be strong and courageous! Be all that God has called you to be! In the end, nothing else will matter.

 

Psalm 91

You who live in the shelter of YHVH,
who spend your nights in the shadow of Shaddai,
who say to YHVH, “My refuge! My fortress!
My God, in whom I trust!” —
HE will rescue you from the trap of the hunter
and from the plague of calamities;
HE will cover you with His pinions,
and under HIS wings you will find refuge;
HIS truth is a shield and protection.
You will not fear the terrors of night
or the arrow that flies by day,
or the plague that roams in the dark,
or the scourge that wreaks havoc at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand;
but it won’t come near you.
Only keep your eyes open,
and you will see how the wicked are punished.
For you have made YHVH, the Most High,
who is my refuge, your dwelling-place.
No disaster will happen to you,
no calamity will come near your tent;
for HE will order HIS angels to care for you
and guard you wherever you go.
They will carry you in their hands,
so that you won’t trip on a stone.
You will tread down lions and snakes,
young lions and serpents you will trample underfoot.
“Because he loves me, says YHVH, I will rescue him;
because he knows MY name, I will protect him.
He will call on ME, and I will answer him.
I will be with him when he is in trouble.
I will extricate him and bring him honor.
I will satisfy him with long life
and show him MY salvation.”
~~~

Why Jacob Over Esau

Jacob%20and%20Esau

https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies

By: William Jackson

There hasn’t been twins more diverse than Esau and Jacob in the history of mankind.  As we see in Genesis 25:27 it tells us that “Esau became a skillful hunter, an outdoorsman; while Jacob was a quiet man who stayed in the tents”.  In short we have a jock and a homebody.  So why wouldn’t a warrior type like Esau be fitting to establish God’s chosen nation? Warriors like King David where Israel’s best leaders 1?  Also this would have been an especially good fit since it was Esau’s birthright to begin with.  Conversely, what seems more confounding is why should such an unadventurous type, like Jacob, who is prone to deception establish the beginning to this great nation. Let’s go back to a time when we first see tension in there relationship.

Jacob&Esau

We are first introduced to Jacob’s descriptive nature when he trades a bowl of soup for his brother’s birthright.  But we need to investigate a little deeper.  Jacob never deceived Esau here, he simply asked an unrealistic price for a service.  The confounding part is that Esau agreed to it.  I now when I am confronted by an over marked “price tag” I walk away but Esau didn’t.  Yet some might argue Esau was “starving” and Jacob’s soup held the power of life and death, this makes Jacob out to be an opportunist.  Before we fully believe this let’s look at the Hebrew, the word some Christian bibles use for “starving”.  The word is “ayeph” which actually means exhausted, famished or weary.  We must admit that the consequences behind “self-preservation” and being fatigued are very drastic.  The point of this story really isn’t about Jacob’s scheming.  If it was, Jacob would have received the birthright and would not have had to deceive his father for it some 50 years later. The point of the story is addressed at the end of verse 34 “…Esau showed how little he valued his birthright.”

biblestoryofisaactogerar

Then we move onto Chapter 26 which appears almost inconsistent with the flow of the story because it focuses on Isaac and a famine, instead of the twins.  At the beginning of this chapter God reestablishes His blessing, which is the Abrahamic covenant, with Isaac (Genesis 26:2-4) but with the conditions that Isaac will be a foreigner in a foreign land when he relocates to Gerar (Genesis 26:3).  On the surface this appears to equate to saying “when you’re going into another nation remember to behave like you would at home”.  The problem is that Isaac was actually born in Canaan (Genesis 20:1, 21:5, 14).  So how could he act like a foreigner in his country of birth?  Simple, the inhabitants of his homeland, the Canaanites, were pagan2 and Isaac was not to abandon God’s ways and adopt the ways of the pagans.  This is further reinforced in verse 5 where God uses an example of Abraham for Isaac by saying “…he followed my mitzvot (commandments), my regulations and my teachings.” As out of place as this story may appear to us the reader just remember there is nothing written in Torah that inconsistent.

esau3

Before Chapter 26 ends, in verse 34 we find out that Esau does the unthinkable, he marries foreign women. Bear in mind a half century earlier Abraham was very specific in warning against marrying these types of women (Genesis 24:3, 37). So as we draw a close on Chapter 26 we see Esau’s parents being embittered about what he had done (Genesis 26:35). Esau has forfeited his right to the Abrahamic blessing well before Jacob tries to steal his birthright.

isaac%20jacob

Than we return to the story of the twins in Chapter 27 which shows us Jacobs’s most sinister side.  Here he lies (Genesis 27:19) and deceive (Genesis 27:22) his very own father for his brother’s birthright.  This “kick starts” Jacob into getting out of his comfort zone as he flees an understandably enraged Esau.  The journey forces Jacob to grow.

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1st Travels over 600 miles (v 28:10-29:1)

2nd Shows leadership (v 29:7) and strength (v 29:10) in Haran.

3rd Labors 20 years as a shepherd (v 31:38)

4th Becomes the husband (v 29:23, 29:28)

5th Becomes a father (v 29:32 – 35:18)

6th Wrestles all not for God’s blessing (v 32:24-30)

7th Makes amends with his brother (v 33:7-9)

This were certainly not the accomplishments of a “home body”.  Jacob got out of his comfort zone and grew. Whereas Esau continues on his pagan path.  Even after Jacob and Esau make amends Esau marries two other Canaanite women (Genesis 36:2), this guy is out of control.

jacob_at_bethel-bereanbiblestudygroup1

We also need to harken back to when Jacob first left Beersheba. God confronted him at Bethel about 80 miles into the trip.  He reinforced with Jacob the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 28:13-15).  Esau already began to violate the conditions of this covenant 49 years3 earlier in Genesis 26:34.

References

(1) Barbara Cohen, David: A Biography, Clarion Books, New York: 1995

(2) Pagan Religion In Canaan, Internet Bible College.net

(3) Bible Timeline

Week 34 Past the Cross – (Doorways)

Looking Through a New Lens
Week 34 Past the Cross – (Doorways)
By Terri C

This week, my face has been set in a fiction novel. I’m not currently reading one, I’m writing it! The experience in itself is freeing and wonderful. What a great way to introduce and investigate concepts found in Scripture with readers who wouldn’t necessarily be inclined to find there themselves! There was a time when I read three fiction books in a week, but never opened the family Bible on my bookshelf. I’m sure that isn’t an unique scenario in many living rooms even today. My prayer is that my fiction suspense novel will pique the curiosity of the less-than-religious reader to crack open Scripture and have their own look-see at the God who looks little like they’d been taught in “Sunday-School”. Because my mindset has been running  on a fictional course this week, this post follows suit. My characters might be fiction here, but they just as easily could be real. The concept God has laid on my heart is certainly not fictional. This week, the God of all has been showing me “doorways” and the deeper implications of them. Bear with me on my course, if you will, and look at four doorways with me. Since this week presents some fiction, feel free to engage your imagination as you look at each doorway! If you feel so inclined when you’re through, write your own “doorway” experience in the comments section at the end. I think that if every reader would do just that, it will become very apparent that there are many, many doorways to God, and that it is He who creates each one, and not some man-made “formula”.  Are you ready? Here we go!

~The First Door~

Running Buck was up before anyone in his tribe. He was wide awake even before the sun. He knew that soon, he would be honored in a ceremony marking his passage to manhood. He would be expected to perform the duties of men after that day, he knew, and to put his childhood antics and folly behind him. For the first time, Running Buck wondered about his purpose; the meaning of his life. Moving silently to not wake the others, he made his way down a winding path to the stream. He splashed cool water on his face, took a long drink of it from cupped hands, then stood and experienced the scenery around him with all of his senses. He saw the perfection of everything that morning! The water’s surface was glittering with the colors of sunrise, and tasted pure and refreshing. Birds swooped overhead with their songs of joy. Small creatures in the forest scurried around on the ground all around him. Flowers freshly opened perfumed the air with fragrances as varying as their colors. The sublime beauty and harmony of everything around him gripped his soul, and brought Running Buck to his feet with his arms lifted to the sky. “I see now that everything is perfect and everything is connected” he said with his face upturned. “This is my purpose, to be a part of it all! You will be my guide, Great Spirit in the sky, and I will follow where you lead.” That morning next to the river, God opened a doorway to Himself for the young man to walk through.

~The Second Door~

Cora had grown up in the church. She knew many Scriptures, but never knew the One who’d inspired them. By her twentieth year, she’d lost both parents, and with them, the desire to even bother going to church anymore. She was, however, passionate about the plight of the homeless in her town. On a particular winter night, she was handing out blankets in the back alley where the needy tended to congregate. A young mother was huddled with two toddlers. Cora gave them a warm quilt and sat listening to the mother tell their story. She had heard so many stories, and this one wasn’t much different. They were all so very sad! As she returned to her own warm efficiency apartment, Cora couldn’t shake the memory of the children’s eyes as they’d watched their mother speak. To keep her sanity, Cora had learned to do what she could for the homeless and then disconnect to be able to care her her own needs, as well. But for some reason, she felt all too connected with that tiny family. Overcome with emotion and the feeling of being insufficient to solve such large problems in this world, Cora dropped to her knees and poured out her heart, all of her frustrations, all of her tears, all of her questions, and  all of her angst, to a God she’d never really known. As she wept and prayed for all the hurting people she’d met in her time of handing out blankets, God opened a doorway to Himself for the young woman to walk through.

~The Third Door~

Jack was a retired physicist. One of the most successful in his field. His stock portfolio testified to his financial prowess, as did the home he now felt entombed in. In his nineties, he was confined to a state-of-the-art hospital bed, the best his money could buy. His wife had left him when they were in their forties, and his children invested as little time in him now as he had invested in them during their youth. Yes, Jack was a great success on paper, but was empty and broken in the areas that seemed to matter most to him now. All of his days blended together, except for his Thursdays. They were different, and Jack found himself very much looking forward to each one. On Thursdays, Maria came to clean his house. As she cleaned, she sang and talked in Spanish to her unseen God. Maria spoke no English, but joy and peace, Jack discovered, needed no translation. Before hiring her, Jack had done a routine background investigation on the woman. He knew she she was poor, and lived in a small mobile home community with her seven children. Her financial records showed her to be far below the poverty guidelines. Yet each Thursday, his home felt transformed by her sweet voice singing hymns. Not one of his successes had offered him such feelings of joy. Before Maria left each week, she would cheerfully fluff Jacks pillow, adjust his blanket around him, and say a prayer over him. Every Thursday, God opened a doorway to Himself for the old man to walk through.

~The Fourth Door~

A forty year old atheist sat on an inverted bucket next to a crackling fire in her front yard on a warm August evening. She had just been through a day that she knew would never be erased from her memory. A day she’d spent huddled under the kitchen table as a category four hurricane blew by, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. The woman was quiet, although others were with her, lost in her own thoughts as she watched the flames dance across the single log burning. Suddenly, in her mind, she was lifted above and away from the scene she was part of. Higher and higher she rose until the woman she knew was herself looked like a speck next to a spark, sitting there in the yard. From that perspective, she was able to see for the first time how small her life really was. In an instant, she saw something that would take her years to fully grasp. She saw that there was more than the life she knew. She saw that there was a bigger design, and that there was a designer behind it. That night, in the twilight after a hurricane, God had opened a doorway to Himself for the woman to walk through.

Okay, dear reader, I’ll admit it. The last paragraph wasn’t fiction, it was ripped from a page that is part of my own story. I don’t know the ending yet, but that was certainly my own true beginning! I know God today because He gave me a doorway to Himself that night.

It didn’t take long, though, for the teachings of men to cloud the experience I had that night. It only took a few months for me to fall into those teachings, and to begin to believe that there was only one doorway to God, even though it looked nothing like my own. After all, the writings that call themselves the “new testament” teach the “one doorway” doctrine. In retrospect, I see how small God I made God when I sat under that doctrine! The doctrine, though, offered a neat little formula, and we humans like those, don’t we? The formula is comforting. It takes the pressure off of us. It allows us to lay down at night believing we have it all figured out! But we don’t. The formula I believed then looks like this:

  • Say the “sinner’s prayer”
  • Ask Jesus into your heart
  • Believe He has paved your way to Heaven
  • Believe you are no longer accountable for your own deeds, but that you are now accountable according to his.

Easy peasy, isn’t it? The things that don’t make any sense under that doctrine (because they fly in the face of Torah teachings) have to be accepted “on faith” I was told.  Like why God would impregnate another man’s betrothed, which Torah calls adultery. Or why Jesus would teach us about symbolically drinking his blood, when Torah calls drinking blood is sin. Or how a man could pay for another man’s sin, when Torah states over and over that we are accountable for our own sin. Those things, we are taught, have to be taken “on faith”. “Jesus did it all” that doctrine teaches. Nothing for us to “do” but believe in him! Really? How presumptuous of us to limit God to working through only one man, and how contrary to Torah!

Even after I began to understand that Torah was God’s eternal instructions to humankind, I was still sitting under man’s doctrine of “one doorway”. Understanding that the “Old Testament” was the ancient foundation to stand on, I strapped Tzit-zit and a prayer shall onto Jesus and began calling him “Yeshua” but I was still announcing that the only way to touch God was through him. Eventually, though, I had enough questions that I came to a point where, even if I’d have to admit I’d been wrong, I wanted God’s truth!  That was when I decided that if a doctrine didn’t align with Torah, I dismissed it as being truth. Only when I was willing to be wrong did I finally begin to see some truth. God is not confined by time or space.  That is truth. He is not measurable in human terms. That is truth. He has no form that can confine Him. That is truth. He is One, the only number not divisible by another whole number. That is truth. Everything was created by Him, and everything exists within him. That is truth. And friends, God makes doorways to Himself for us to walk through, in His perfecting timing and according to His will. In many different ways and in many different circumstances, He makes doorways to Himself. That is truth. Your door may have looked different than the doorways I presented today from my imagination, and certainly your doorway looked different than the doorway He opened for me back in 2004, but you had your own doorway, and I had mine. That is truth!

Christianity’s Concept of Free Will

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https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies

By: William Jackson

Did you ever notice how the New Testament is riddled with passages about demon position (Matthew 9:32-33; 12:22; 17:18; Mark 5:1-20; 7:26-30; Luke 4:33-36; Luke 22:3; Acts 16:16-18)?  Yet in the Tanakh when an evil presence came over anybody it was from God (Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 13, 22, 9:12, 10:1, 20, 27, 11:10, 14:4, 8, 17, Deuteronomy 2:30 , Joshua 11:20, Judges 9:23, 1 Chronicles 5:26, 1 Samuel 16:14-15, 23, 18:10-11; 19:9-10).  The Tanakh is very clear about saying there is only one God and He is responsible for ALL things; good & bad (Isaiah 45:6-7, 46:9-10, Amos 3:6, Ecclesiastes 7:13-14). So when did the shift of power leave God and go to Satan?  It appears to be at the birth of the Christian messiah.  Think about it, in the Tanakh Satan works for God (Job 1:6-12 and Zechariah 3:1-2) but in the Gospels Satan is a free-lance agent who challenges the Christian messiah (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:13-15, Luke 4:1-13).  When you get right down to it, it is the New Testament that has established Satan as the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4, 1 John 5:19, Ephesians 2:2). Sadly this is in violation of the Tanakh since we are not to worship idols (Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 106:37).  Remember acknowledging a Satan and giving him status is part of worship.

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In the pages after the Old Testament (Tanakh) Demons and Devils have become a crutch, instead of man being responsible for his own actions.  Through the theology of Christianity we have become a tension point between dueling powers.  My wife, Danielle, said it best years ago.  At that point we were still Christians.  We were talking about Satan and she posed what if Satan is “self”?  Looking back on her comment, she made more sense than all those Christian sermons about Satan put together.  Other great people have revealed this truth,

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There’s too much tendency to attribute to God the evils that man does of his own free will.” – Agatha Christie

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Why did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.”

-C S Lewis

Common sense implies that there cannot be these superpowers making decisions for us.  However, if we consult the Christian Hand book (NT) the assumption is that we are being pulled in either direction like a rag doll. There is Satan who is pulling us into evil (1 Peter 5:8, 1 John 3:8, 2 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 4:27) and the Christian messiah who appears to be recruiting us for “team virtuous” (James 4:7, Romans 16:20, 1 John 5:19, Ephesians 6:11).  Actually Paul the Apostle letter to the Ephesians does a nice job in summing it all up;

Ephesians 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

If one subscribes to these ideas, you then need to ask yourself “where is our personal accountability in this equation?”

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Jumping to the big picture we all know what the “end game” is, it is having a worthy continuation after our physical deaths.   In order to have this, the Bible tells us we must be righteous while we are here on earth (Numbers 23:10, Ezekiel 18:9, 22, Psalm 37:27, 29, Proverbs 2:21),  One of the challenges that makes Christianity work is their definition of “righteous”.  Christianity makes righteousness sound unachievable (John 16:8, Romans 9:31, 11:7, Galatians 5:4). So the answer becomes the Christian messiah who is the only source that can extend righteousness (Romans 10:4, 1 Corinthians 1:30, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 2:21, Galatians 5:5, Philippians 3:9).  Thus the Christian messiah becomes like the only vaccination shot of “righteousness” that saves lives.

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As beautiful as this might sound to some, it is problematic.  There is about 4,000 years’ worth of righteous people that the Tanakh accounts for and that the Christian messiah cannot;   Noah (Genesis 6:9, 7:1), Abraham (Genesis 15:6), Lot (Genesis 18:25), Job (Job 1:8), King David (2 Samuel 22:21, Psalm 7:10-11, 18:23-24), King Asa (1 King 15:11, 1 Chronicles 14:2), King Josiah (2 King 22:1, 23:25, 2 Chronicle 34:1),…etc.  Yes I have also sat through those sermons that tried to explain this away.  They usually try to fit in a time and place where the Christian messiah could evangelize these people, as if God having a relationship with them isn’t enough.  Nevertheless, these teachings are not scripturally sound, they are just a Pastor’s opinion.

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The problem sometimes when we see “righteous” we think perfection but the bible is specific about the righteous battling with sin and sometimes losing (1 Kings 8:46, 2 Chronicles 6:36, Isaiah 53:6, Ecclesiastes 7:20, Psalm 143:2) It is us turning to God and changing that makes us righteous, Psalm 51:19, 147:3, Ezekiel 18:21, 27.   Ezekiel 18 goes into painstaking details about our personal contributions in being righteous.  The challenge is not somebody else’s, the challenge is ours.

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The End Days

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https://www.facebook.com/CenterforTanakhBasedStudies

By: William Jackson

The concept of the apocalypse has caused many to turn to the religion of Christianity.  Image a world of war, despicable evils, death and destruction.  No wonder why the topic of human survival has taken center stage over the last three decades.  Even our media plays into this with popular movies like “Left Behind” and TV shows like “The Walking Dead”.  After leaving Christianity I became curious about what the Tanakh actually said about the “end of the world” (as we know it) verses what was influenced by the Christian New Testament. In the Tanakh actual word for these times is “eschatology” as opposed to “tribulation” and “rapture” which are part of the Christian theology.  Eschatology stands for “the end of days” and “deals primarily and principally with the final destiny of the Jewish nation and the world in general…”1. Listed below are verses arranged by topic for a better understanding:

There will be only ONE God recognized by the World:

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The whole world will worship the One God of Israel (Isaiah 2:11, Zechariah 3:9, 14:9).

Knowledge of God will fill the world (Isaiah 11:9, 52:10, Habakkuk 2:14).

The wicked will be punished (Isaiah 2:11, 13:11, 26:21)

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Death will be eliminated:
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The dead will rise again (Isaiah 26:19, Daniel 12:2, Ezekiel 37:1-14)

Death will be swallowed up forever (Isaiah 25:8, Hosea 13:14)

Paradise on Earth

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There will be no more hunger or illness, and death will cease (Isaiah 25:8, 35:10, 51:11)

Weapons of war will be destroyed (Ezekiel 39:9, Psalm 46:9)

God will take the barren land and make it abundant and fruitful (Isaiah 51:3, Amos 9:13–15, Ezekiel 36:29–30, Isaiah 11:6–9)

As for the Jews;

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All Israelites will be returned to their homeland (Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 23:8; 30:3; Hosea 3:4-5, Zechariah 10:6)

God will seek to destroy all the nations that go against Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:9, Isaiah 60:12)

Israel and Judah will be made into one nation again (Zechariah 11:12-14, Ezekiel 37:16-22)

The Jewish people will experience eternal joy and gladness (Isaiah 35:10, 51:11, Ezekiel 16:53)

Nations will recognize the wrongs they did Israel (Isaiah 52:13–53:5, Zechariah 12:8)

The peoples of the world will turn to the Jews for spiritual guidance (Zechariah 8:23)

The ruined cities of Israel will be restored (Ezekiel 16:55)

The Temple will be rebuilt (Ezekiel 40) resuming many of the suspended mitzvot (commandments)

The Messiah

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The Messiah will be a messenger of peace (Isaiah 2:4), this is opposite to the Christian messiah who said “…It is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword!” (Matthew 10:34). Another point to ponders is that the Messiah talked about in the Tanakh will not be God (John 10:30, 38, 14:11), instead God will put His ruach (spirit) on this man giving him understanding, knowledge and the ability to counsel (Isaiah 11:2).  This power provided by God will bring justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:1) and destroy the wicked (Isaiah 11:4).  This is contradictory towards the Christian messiah whose world view was more diplomatic.  We see this in Mark 12:17 where he tells us to “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”  Once the “true” Messiah is established other nations will look towards him for guidance (Isaiah 2:4). Obviously this did not happen while the Christian messiah was on earth.  In Christianity the “work around” for this is to say there is a “second coming”.  Yet, this “second coming” is completely absent from the pages of the Tanakh. So in order for this concept to be in the bible Christianity added it to their New Testament (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, 2 Peter 3:1-16, and Revelations).

The Book of Daniel

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Many look towards the Book of Daniel when it comes to the “End Days”.  John the Apostle certainly did this in writing his book of Revelations2.  In Daniel 11:31-45; 12:1-13 it talks about a time of terror that marks the end.  In reading it, one finds these end days could fit into many pivotal eras in human history.  Still many more feel it is talking about a time frame that has not happened yet. Actually the background to the book was the persecution of the Jews by the Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167-164 BCE3.  If you read these two chapters you will find that they line up with the book of the Maccabees.   This took place about 400 years after Daniel’s prophecy. Danial conveys a lot and he does it with symbolism.  Chapter 7 also goes into detail about the “End days” but when you read the entire chapter you will find Daniel’s vision is explained by an angel and it will fit into the passages outlined by this article.

References

(1)  Kaufmann Kohler, ESCHATOLOGY, The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia

(2) Eric Lyons, M, Minister, Revelation and the Old Testament, Apologetics Press

(3) Levine, Amy-Jill (2010). “Daniel”. In Coogan, Michael D.; Brettler, Marc Z.; Newsom, Carol A. The new Oxford annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books : New Revised Standard Version. Oxford University Press.

Week 33 Past the Cross (on Wrestling)

Looking Through a New Lens
Week 33 Past the Cross (on Wrestling)
By Terri C

As much as I would love to impress you with my firm grip of Scriptural concepts and ease in understanding the Hebrew language, I can not. Oh, I have “lightbulb moments” to share occasionally, but for the most part, my time in this blog is about sharing that which I do not know. The things that illustrate the frustrations that can come with wearing this coat of flesh. The things that make me human, and you human, too. The things that let you, the reader, know that you are not alone when your own walk becomes a crawl. I learn very little from those who proclaim to have it all together spiritually, how about you? Great wisdom and great understanding come at a great price, wouldn’t you agree? Even peace can be elusive, often not found until the end of many, many tears and many dark lonely nights. Perhaps I learn things the hard way because I’m hard-headed. But what if? What if God allows me to learn the hard way so that what I do learn becomes a part of my very being? It has been the things I’ve struggled for in my life that are the most precious to me. The things that came easily, I find, left just as easily. Today I present to you that wrestling for something has its place in the life of a believer. Let’s take a look together, and see if my theory holds weight.

For ten years, I was able to blame my struggles on some other entity. The writings commonly called the new testament told me I wasn’t wrestling against flesh and blood, but…(blah blah blah, you know the rest). It was easy for me to believe that I was under attack by some force that (they claimed) had enough power to usurp God’s authority and will in my life. A force that had the ability to “devour me”.  Oh, let’s just go ahead and use the name they offered me in those writings! That ole devil! Everywhere I turned, I imagined him lurking. Waiting. Ready to deceive me and lead me away from God. If the day was horrible, I blamed him. If I gave into my temptation, I blamed him. I chuckle now when I think of the times I walked through my house “banishing” him. Oh, the hours I spent in “spiritual warfare” against that devil! Surely, I thought, he had a hold of my kids. And I most certainly believed his goal was to ruin my life. I fought him day and night, always feeling like I was just short of the victory. And always afraid of his prowess. It wasn’t until I walked away from those doctrines that I realized my struggle, in most cases, WAS against flesh and blood…my own! I wanted things “my way” but was proclaiming to be walking in “God’s Way”. In a few instances, the flesh and blood I was struggling with belonged to another person, whose intentions toward me were less than righteous. But mostly, friends, it was my own flesh who wanted to “devour” that which was good in me, and selfishly feed itself. I was, and continue to be, my own worst enemy.

It was when I realized that I was responsible for my own sin and for having it atoned through my own repentance that I took a fresh look at Jacob’s wrestling match through this new lens. My old lenses had me take note that  Jacob demanded a blessing from God, and got it. Period. I’d seen many “sermons” about doing the same thing. Name it and claim it! Have a “life verse”! Believe it and receive it! Oh, boy…pretty presumptuous of me, wasn’t it, to think I got to select which Scriptural example would be the will of God for my life? I noticed some brand new things about Jacob’s wrestling match through this new lens! The first thing that stood out was that Jacob was not wrestling evil or the devil, but an angel. An opponent surely assigned to the match by his Creator. The second thing I noticed was that this Heavenly being left Jacob with a limp for the rest of his life. I walk with a limp, too. It’s very painful! Yes, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel and we are still studying him thousands of years later, but I had never noticed until recently that it had cost him. Maybe he had trouble walking to his mailbox and back like I do. Maybe it took him hours to find a position in which to comfortably sleep, like me. Maybe he cried out to The Father to heal his limp, I have! Those details are left out of his story, but the blessing he sought certainly came to pass! At a cost.

My first series of struggles while wearing these new lenses had me taking a new look at Job’s wrestling match, as well. It seemed to me he was the one in Scripture that had the most prolific struggles. They just kept coming at him! Job’s story is one of the few instances, in fact, where we see a spiritual adversary in the Tanakh. Holding Job’s ordeal up to this new lens showed me some different facets about his adversary, who many have claimed was the devil. Job’s adversary seemed to like provoking God by accusing  His followers of this and of that. I used to think it was the devil, too, about to devour. But I was wrong. It was a being quite obviously under God’s authority. He was bound within the limits God set. He was never a threat to Job on his own, he first required permission. And God gave it, which could be a whole other post, in itself. Even though Job’s story left him doubly compensated for his losses, I don’t believe for a moment that he wasn’t left with a limp for the rest of his days. It may have been in spirit, but those limps are just as painful as the physical ones, wouldn’t you say?  It was his story, though, that a brought new light to a Scripture I’d read many years ago, but didn’t pay much attention to when I wore a different lens. Finally, the concept behind the words took root in my understanding.

~I form light and make darkness. I make peace and create evil. I am YHVH, and do these things~ (From Isaiah 45)

There it is. In black and white. There isn’t an opponent able to stand against God. All spiritual beings act at His behest. Good and bad from the unseen realm will have an influence on the seen, but only with a nod from God first. When we see accounts of angels or invisible adversaries in Scripture, something HUGE is going on. Something that pertains to God’s plan. Not every person we read about had “Jacob” or “Job” experiences, though.  A few more did, but most of our Scriptural reference specimens were, indeed, fighting flesh and blood. Their own flesh, or another’s. They fought their own flesh to prevail over pride and self-serving tendencies, like you and I do because we love God. Mankind was given free will to do right or to do wrong. We choose blessings or curses, life or death. To know that the choice is ours tells us that we are each capable of acting on either end of the spectrum. Right, wrong, blessing, curse, life, death. Here’s the thing. The “bad guys” we might face in our lives have that free will, too. Even if it means they choose the opposite of everything we have chosen. Just as we will have an effect on others with our choice to do good, so does their choice to do harm have an effect. For me, knowing this has helped me understand a little better why bad things happen to good people, even to a child of our El Shaddai (God Almighty). Without the consequence of harm being inflicted, or good coming to pass, would free will mean anything at all?

And so, yes, I wrestle. Mostly with myself. Even when it is someone else who caused me pain, by exercising their own free will in an unfavorable manner against me, the wrestling match is still my own. In finding forgiveness, in not being angry that God allowed such travesty in my life, in finding the wisdom in the worst of circumstances that befall me. I wrestle with myself  knowing that the only thing that holds me back from having a deeper walk with God is my own lack of discipline. I wrestle with self-pity, sprinkled with a little self-doubt and self-loathing for knowing I am not living up to our Scriptural examples of Godly women. But in my wrestling, I learn to cry out. I learn to be humbled. I learn that sometimes that which I fear the most must come upon me so I can learn to face it. Better yet, to conquer it. Even when I am wrestling with my own grief, there is much for me to learn about the value I place on people, and their proper place in my life. Most of all I am learning that the wrestling itself is a good thing. It brings me to where I most need to be, on my knees. Wrestling has been the arena in which my eyes are opened to certain truths about myself and others. Wrestling has taught me to pray in the ways where words won’t suffice. Wrestling shows me how wisdom and understanding can be costly. At the end of the match, it is my Creator, Himself, there with a towel for my sweat and tears. It is Him who offers the cool water with which I can refresh myself. It is Him who provides a stool, that I might rest and catch my breath. Finally, as I leave the arena, I can almost feel His love around me like a strong arm, as He whispers to me that even my limp can be a blessed thing.