Category Archives: His Ways Are Not Our Ways

The LORD Is In Control; Trust Him And Do Things His Way

Never doubt the LORD is ultimately in control, even when facing difficult circumstances. We are not promised an easy path with no trouble. Quite the contrary. We are warned that we should build our lives on the solid rock of Christ and his teachings so that when the storms come, we can stand firm. (Matthew 7:24-29)

The people of Israel lost the ark and it was out of their power to confront the Philistines and get it back. The LORD brought it back in his own timing after showing his power and glory to the Philistines.

We can also be reminded that, even when we celebrate and want to give glory to YHWH, be sure to do it his way, rather than our own. He smote over 50,000 Israelites who looked inside the ark. Only the Levites were supposed to handle the ark. In their excitement, the people disobeyed, and suffered greatly for it. The ark indeed represented the presence of YHWH. He is holy and the people were to approach him only in the ways he had prescribed, not in whatever way they wanted. There could clearly be a lot of study on this point alone.

1 Samuel 6

The Ark Returned to Israel

      1Now the ark of the LORD had been in the country of the Philistines seven months. 2And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, “What shall we do with the ark of the LORD? Tell us how we shall send it to its place.” 3They said, “If you send away the ark of the God of Israel, do not send it empty; but you shall surely return to Him a guilt offering. Then you will be healed and it will be known to you why His hand is not removed from you.” 4Then they said, “What shall be the guilt offering which we shall return to Him?” And they said, “Five golden tumors and five golden mice according to the number of the lords of the Philistines, for one plague was on all of you and on your lords. 5“So you shall make likenesses of your tumors and likenesses of your mice that ravage the land, and you shall give glory to the God of Israel; perhaps He will ease His hand from you, your gods, and your land. 6“Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? When He had severely dealt with them, did they not allow the people to go, and they departed? 7“Now therefore, take and prepare a new cart and two milch cows on which there has never been a yoke; and hitch the cows to the cart and take their calves home, away from them. 8“Take the ark of the LORD and place it on the cart; and put the articles of gold which you return to Him as a guilt offering in a box by its side. Then send it away that it may go. 9“Watch, if it goes up by the way of its own territory to Beth-shemesh, then He has done us this great evil. But if not, then we will know that it was not His hand that struck us; it happened to us by chance.”

      10Then the men did so, and took two milch cows and hitched them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. 11They put the ark of the LORD on the cart, and the box with the golden mice and the likenesses of their tumors. 12And the cows took the straight way in the direction of Beth-shemesh; they went along the highway, lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right or to the left. And the lords of the Philistines followed them to the border of Beth-shemesh.

      13Now the people of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley, and they raised their eyes and saw the ark and were glad to see it. 14The cart came into the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite and stood there where there was a large stone; and they split the wood of the cart and offered the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD. 15The Levites took down the ark of the LORD and the box that was with it, in which were the articles of gold, and put them on the large stone; and the men of Beth-shemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices that day to the LORD. 16When the five lords of the Philistines saw it, they returned to Ekron that day.

      17These are the golden tumors which the Philistines returned for a guilt offering to the LORD: one for Ashdod, one for Gaza, one for Ashkelon, one for Gath, one for Ekron; 18and the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both of fortified cities and of country villages. The large stone on which they set the ark of the LORD is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua the Beth-shemite.

      19He struck down some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. He struck down of all the people, 50,070 men, and the people mourned because the LORD had struck the people with a great slaughter. 20The men of Beth-shemesh said, “Who is able to stand before the LORD, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?” 21So they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim, saying, “The Philistines have brought back the ark of the LORD; come down and take it up to you.”

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Remember The Words Of the Prophets and Of Our Savior

The commandments of our LORD and Savior are consistent with the words spoken by the holy prophets. They are not different. Peter calls us in his second letter to remember both as he then goes on to remind us of what they both said. Yeshua fulfilled the message of the Torah and the prophets. He did not change the message or end it. Let us remember as Peter encourages us to do.

We are also reminded to look forward to the coming day of the LORD. For those who gladly follow him now, this is a great hope and expectation. For those who reject and rebel against him, it will stand as a day of judgment. Let us keep this coming day in mind as we choose to live our lives daily.

2 Peter 3

Purpose of This Letter

1This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles.

The Coming Day of the Lord

            3Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 5For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 6through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. 7But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.

      8But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

A New Heaven and Earth

     10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.

      11Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

      14Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Do not miss the warning Peter gives regarding Paul in verses 16-18. Paul is still misunderstood and has been since he started teaching. If he was misunderstood then by people who shared his culture and language and customs, then it is easy to imaging how so many Christians today misunderstand him and what he was teaching. As an example, many  say he taught against the Torah and the law, but this is wrong. He taught against the law for salvation. He did not teach against obeying the law. This is one simple example. He is perhaps the most misquoted and misunderstood of any Biblical figure and often his letters are used as an excuse to behave differently than how Yeshua (and his disciples) actually demonstrated for us. (For more on this: Understanding the Law – What Does It Mean For Us Today, Is God’s Law A Burden?, Remember the Sabbath)

I truly encourage you to test everything you are taught against what the word actually says and pray for wisdom and discernment.

I include some helpful links on my website at Focused Ministries – Understanding Hebrew Roots.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

The LORD Is In Control

The LORD is in control, even when we face defeat. Sometimes the defeat is more about us and our relationship with our Father than it is about the physical enemy before us. The LORD can grant victory or defeat. He wants his people to obey him and be in proper relationship with him.

Even when the ark was taken in defeat before the Philistines, YHWH seems to have a plan for how to use the situation to rebuke the Philistines and bring the ark back home. He was not surprised by the capture of the ark. As a matter of consideration, he may have even led to its capture in battle as part of disciplining Eli’s sons and possibly Israel more broadly. He also used it to show his power to the Philistines and in quite a unique way to show how powerless Dagon, whom they worshiped, remained.

1 Samuel 5

Capture of the Ark Provokes God

      1Now the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it to the house of Dagon and set it by Dagon. 3When the Ashdodites arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and set him in his place again. 4But when they arose early the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen on his face to the ground before the ark of the LORD. And the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off on the threshold; only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5Therefore neither the priests of Dagon nor all who enter Dagon’s house tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.

      6Now the hand of the LORD was heavy on the Ashdodites, and He ravaged them and smote them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territories. 7When the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for His hand is severe on us and on Dagon our god.” 8So they sent and gathered all the lords of the Philistines to them and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel?” And they said, “Let the ark of the God of Israel be brought around to Gath.” And they brought the ark of the God of Israel around. 9After they had brought it around, the hand of the LORD was against the city with very great confusion; and He smote the men of the city, both young and old, so that tumors broke out on them. 10So they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And as the ark of God came to Ekron the Ekronites cried out, saying, “They have brought the ark of the God of Israel around to us, to kill us and our people.” 11They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines and said, “Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it return to its own place, so that it will not kill us and our people.” For there was a deadly confusion throughout the city; the hand of God was very heavy there. 12And the men who did not die were smitten with tumors and the cry of the city went up to heaven.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

It Is About YHWH, Not The Ark

In 1 Samuel 4 we read about some significant events in Israel. Some can be puzzling to consider, others should give us pause to reflect in our own lives. We learned in 1 Samuel 3 that Samuel became a well known prophet guided by the LORD. We see here in 1 Samuel 4 that “the word of Samuel came to all Israel” preceding the Israelites going to battle (and losing) against the Philistines. This may seem puzzling, it does to me. The LORD was guiding Samuel, clearly identified at the end of 1 Samuel 3. Samuel brought the word to Israel and they got defeated in battle. The missing piece is perhaps that we always think that YHWH wants us to win. But we will learn as we read that the defeat in battle actually accomplished YHWH’s purpose which he previously spoke through Samuel to Eli. Eli and his family were being punished and held accountable for the sin and rebellion of Eli’s sons against YHWH in their service as priests and in Eli’s failure to correct his sons effectively.

The people of Israel, instead of pausing to ask YHWH why they had lost decided to go in to battle with the ark. They were defeated again. The power is in YHWH, not the ark. They carried it as if it was an idol that would, by itself bring victory. They should have turned to the LORD to seek an answer.

We should surely pause to consider what in our lives we need to consult the LORD for as we face defeat. Let us seek him genuinely and wholeheartedly. Let us repent if needed and do things his way. Let us not just keep going back to defeat over and over on our own power.

1 Samuel 4

Philistines Take the Ark in Victory

     1Thus the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle and camped beside Ebenezer while the Philistines camped in Aphek. 2The Philistines drew up in battle array to meet Israel. When the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines who killed about four thousand men on the battlefield. 3When the people came into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us take to ourselves from Shiloh the ark of the covenant of the LORD, that it may come among us and deliver us from the power of our enemies.” 4So the people sent to Shiloh, and from there they carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts who sits above the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

      5As the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth resounded. 6When the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, “What does the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews mean?” Then they understood that the ark of the LORD had come into the camp. 7The Philistines were afraid, for they said, “God has come into the camp.” And they said, “Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. 8“Woe to us! Who shall deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods? These are the gods who smote the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues in the wilderness. 9“Take courage and be men, O Philistines, or you will become slaves to the Hebrews, as they have been slaves to you; therefore, be men and fight.”

      10So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent; and the slaughter was very great, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

      12Now a man of Benjamin ran from the battle line and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes torn and dust on his head. 13When he came, behold, Eli was sitting on his seat by the road eagerly watching, because his heart was trembling for the ark of God. So the man came to tell it in the city, and all the city cried out. 14When Eli heard the noise of the outcry, he said, “What does the noise of this commotion mean?” Then the man came hurriedly and told Eli. 15Now Eli was ninety-eight years old, and his eyes were set so that he could not see. 16The man said to Eli, “I am the one who came from the battle line. Indeed, I escaped from the battle line today.” And he said, “How did things go, my son?” 17Then the one who brought the news replied, “Israel has fled before the Philistines and there has also been a great slaughter among the people, and your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been taken.” 18When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for he was old and heavy. Thus he judged Israel forty years.

      19Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’s wife, was pregnant and about to give birth; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was taken and that her father-in-law and her husband had died, she kneeled down and gave birth, for her pains came upon her. 20And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have given birth to a son.” But she did not answer or pay attention. 21And she called the boy Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” because the ark of God was taken and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 22She said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken.”

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

The Intriguing Beginning of a Great Prophet

1 Samuel 1 records events in a family life, some which we can easily relate to and some which seem very hard to get our minds around given how different our culture and time is to that recorded in the scriptures. We see once again how badly it goes for a man to have more than one wife. There is rivalry and it is not fruitful, but rather hurtful. We see favoritism from the husband, which is also not helpful.
Perhaps what is interesting is that we know the LORD closed Hannah’s womb, but we don’t know why. We can speculate that perhaps it was his intent all the while to prepare Hannah to give her son to him, but that is speculation. The scripture does not tell us. Most of us probably think that was harsh or “unfair”. We must trust our LORD and Father, even when things go the way we don’t understand.
Hannah offers a son to the LORD and he then opens her womb. She is honorable and true to her vow to the LORD. Most of us probably have a hard time with her “giving her child away”. However, the LORD used Samuel as a great prophet, honoring her dedicating her son to him.
Let us learn to trust our Father and come to him with our supplications and with thanksgiving. Let us be careful in making vows to him, but when we do, let us fulfill them.
Elkanah and His Wives
      1Now there was a certain man from Ramathaim-zophim from the hill country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. 2He had two wives: the name of one was Hannah and the name of the other Peninnah; and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

      3Now this man would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests to the LORD there. 4When the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and her daughters; 5but to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the LORD had closed her womb. 6Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. 7It happened year after year, as often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she would provoke her; so she wept and would not eat. 8Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”

      9Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. 10She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. 11She made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.”

      12Now it came about, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli was watching her mouth. 13As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk. 14Then Eli said to her, “How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.” 15But Hannah replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the LORD. 16“Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation.” 17Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him.” 18She said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.

Samuel Is Born to Hannah

      19Then they arose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD, and returned again to their house in Ramah. And Elkanah had relations with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. 20It came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked him of the LORD.”

      21Then the man Elkanah went up with all his household to offer to the LORD the yearly sacrifice and pay his vow. 22But Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “I will not go up until the child is weaned; then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD and stay there forever.” 23Elkanah her husband said to her, “Do what seems best to you. Remain until you have weaned him; only may the LORD confirm His word.” So the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. 24Now when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with a three-year-old bull and one ephah of flour and a jug of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD in Shiloh, although the child was young. 25Then they slaughtered the bull, and brought the boy to Eli. 26She said, “Oh, my lord! As your soul lives, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the LORD. 27“For this boy I prayed, and the LORD has given me my petition which I asked of Him. 28“So I have also dedicated him to the LORD; as long as he lives he is dedicated to the LORD.” And he worshiped the LORD there.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Instructions for Godly Living, Not For the Faint of Heart

We are continuing in 1 Peter 3 after he writes about servants honoring and obeying their masters in chapter 2, even if they are unreasonable masters. He writes about how Christ is our example in how we react to the way in which others treat us. Then we pick up in chapter 3 and continue into some important and deep guidelines for how we are to live in a godly way.

1 Peter 3

Godly Living

      1In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.

      7You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.

      8To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

10For,
“THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS,
MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT.

      11“HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD;
HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT.

      12“FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS,
AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER,
BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.”

      13Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, 15but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.

Sadly, our culture continues to depart from godly virtuous living. Women are taught they should not obey their husbands, or only if the husbands deserve it. Peter paints a very different picture and with a purpose that goes well beyond ego or pride or hurt feelings that one may struggle with while submitting… Peter points directly to how this behavior may win souls for Christ.

Similarly, husbands are guided to dwell with understanding with their wives, not to dismiss them and run roughshod over them.

All together we are to be kind and humble and, when necessary, suffer for doing what is right. We are not to trade insult for insult, but rather return blessing.

Prayerfully reflect over this guidance and how to apply it in your life today. Let our lives preach the gospel to our spouses and to the world.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

 

 

Fond Memories of Holiday Traditions

I have many fond memories of holiday traditions growing up. As a child my family participated in many common traditions such as hunting for Easter eggs. My family has celebrated this way for generations. It is quite difficult even to consider changing these ingrained generational traditions.

Is that reason enough for me to continue these traditions? What does God have to say about common holiday traditions? If we are honest with ourselves, most of us never even think about it. We just continue with what is “normal” and “traditional” based on how we have been raised on based on culture around us.

The truth is that if we have really decided to model our lives after Jesus, then we should take time to explore and study what He celebrated and also the origins of what we may be celebrating. Don’t assume traditions are pleasing to God just because “everyone else is doing it” or even because “everyone else at the church is doing it”. Test everything against the truth of God’s word. Challenge yourself to truly seek to honor Him without bias toward rationalizing and accepting certain traditions because they are associated with fond memories or because it would upset your family to change. After all,  what is more important… pleasing people or pleasing God?

I encourage each of you to take some time and really study the origins of the common traditions and celebrations you take part in. Many are based on pagan worship which have been adapted with “new meaning” whereby people basically have accepted copying and participating in what was once a pagan worship rituals, only now they just call it something else. If you put lipstick on a pig… it is still a pig.

Ask God for help and then challenge yourself to really seek the truth. You can start with any number of sources like online encyclopedias or web search. If there is conflicting information… seek out the truth objectively. Do not just seize upon the rationalization that supports your current practice.

God does not want us to worship Him in the way that the pagans worshiped their gods. Jehovah has provided specific information on how He wishes to be worshiped… we must study the Bible and pray to learn and understand.

Deuteronomy 12:1-8

1“These are the statutes and the judgments which you shall carefully observe in the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth. 2“You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3“You shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place. 4“You shall not act like this toward the LORD your God. 5“But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. 6“There you shall bring your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the contribution of your hand, your votive offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. 7“There also you and your households shall eat before the LORD your God, and rejoice in all your undertakings in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

8“You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes

 

Deuteronomy 12:28-32

28“Be careful to listen to all these words which I command you, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.

29“When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’ 31“You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

32“Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.

We are to be set apart and holy, different from those that do not worship YHWH. We are not to follow after Him and worship Him in the way that others worship their gods. We are not to simply do what everyone else is doing or what our parents did… but rather what our Lord instructs us to do.

Pray for wisdom and discernment. Don’t ignore what scripture teaches because it is unfamiliar or uncomfortable at first. Explore it and seek to understand it. You can get more information to understand these holy days of YHWH fairly easily, but you need to test everything against scripture. Some aspects are not completely clear and people have varying opinions on them. I suggest starting with Leviticus 23, but I have also included some additional websites I have found helpful below.

Hebrew For Christians

119 Ministries

Set Apart People

The Moedim

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The LORD Was With Samson, Despite His Flaws

I sometimes find myself in a bit of awe at how much YHWH was with Samson despite the fact that he was not living in a holy manner or fully in accordance with his Nazirite vow. None the less, Judges 14:4 tells us that the LORD was “seeking an occasion against the Philistines” and was going to use Samson to get it.

We see a constant “revenge” approach from Samson resulting in escalating the conflict with the Philistines. This is not righteous and we should not seek to emulate this approach. It really creates a mess, but as noted above, in this case it seems the LORD was looking for conflict with the Philistines and seems to have used Samson’s flaws to get it.

Judges 15

Samson Burns Philistine Crops

      1But after a while, in the time of wheat harvest, Samson visited his wife with a young goat, and said, “I will go in to my wife in her room.” But her father did not let him enter. 2Her father said, “I really thought that you hated her intensely; so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please let her be yours instead.” 3Samson then said to them, “This time I shall be blameless in regard to the Philistines when I do them harm.” 4Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail and put one torch in the middle between two tails. 5When he had set fire to the torches, he released the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines, thus burning up both the shocks and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and groves. 6Then the Philistines said, “Who did this?” And they said, “Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he took his wife and gave her to his companion.” So the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire. 7Samson said to them, “Since you act like this, I will surely take revenge on you, but after that I will quit.” 8He struck them ruthlessly with a great slaughter; and he went down and lived in the cleft of the rock of Etam.

      9Then the Philistines went up and camped in Judah, and spread out in Lehi. 10The men of Judah said, “Why have you come up against us?” And they said, “We have come up to bind Samson in order to do to him as he did to us.” 11Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so I have done to them.” 12They said to him, “We have come down to bind you so that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines.” And Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you will not kill me.” 13So they said to him, “No, but we will bind you fast and give you into their hands; yet surely we will not kill you.” Then they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

      14When he came to Lehi, the Philistines shouted as they met him. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily so that the ropes that were on his arms were as flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds dropped from his hands. 15He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, so he reached out and took it and killed a thousand men with it.

16Then Samson said,
“With the jawbone of a donkey,
Heaps upon heaps,
With the jawbone of a donkey
I have killed a thousand men.”

17When he had finished speaking, he threw the jawbone from his hand; and he named that place Ramath-lehi. 18Then he became very thirsty, and he called to the LORD and said, “You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant, and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” 19But God split the hollow place that is in Lehi so that water came out of it. When he drank, his strength returned and he revived. Therefore he named it En-hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day. 20So he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

Though we do not want to act as Samson did, we can be encouraged that the LORD can still use us to his purposes despite our flaws. We should also be reminded that sometimes situations that look like chaos or conflict or violence are actually occasions being used by YHWH for his purposes. Let us take care, however, not to assume this is constitutes approval by YHWH of Samson’s poor behavior, lest we rationalize all manner of sinful behavior.

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Blessed Is The Man Who Perseveres Under Trial

The book of James is very direct and to the point. There is a lot of solid guidance inside and I find I must go more slowly in order to avoid skipping right over some. As such, I will break James 1 into more than one article.

James 1:1-18

Testing Your Faith

      1James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.

      2Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

      5But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

      9But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.

      12Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.

Considering it joy when we face trials is certainly not the reaction of the flesh and self. James highlights one way in which YHWH uses such difficulties to develop us personally. It is a great attitude and if you need to ask YHWH to help you experience your trials with that attitude, go ahead and ask for his help.

James encourages us to ask for wisdom if we need it. Who doesn’t! I do indeed ask the LORD for wisdom and often. I can try to study and think and understand a situation, but sometimes he has something in mind that I will not possibly put together on my own. I need his wisdom.

The warning from James is also a good reminder… don’t ask if you don’t expect him to answer. Ask with confidence that he is able and will help you. Ask with faith. This does not mean you will always get what you ask for, but the LORD does want us to approach him with a confident faith.

The next round is a bit challenging. For a person of humble background to glory when in a high position sounds easy enough, but the flipside for a rich man to glory in his humiliation… that sounds tough. I believe the context is that rich people may have a tendency to be self reliant instead of reliant on YHWH. When they  face defeat or challenges (e.g. humiliation), perhaps that brings more humility to help them submit more fully on YHWH and recognize their dependence on him.

James also warns about a common misunderstanding that still is around today. YHWH is not the one who tempts you. He may allow you to be tempted, but he does not tempt you into sin. That comes from our own lusts. James does not even point to Satan here, but to ourselves. Let us remember we inherently have a sin nature. Through Yeshua we are made clean and through the Spirit we are led to more holy living.

I find it very interesting that the next chapter talks about every good and perfect gift coming from above, after talking a lot about humiliation and hard times. These can indeed be gifts to the one who endures and grows stronger and more faithful in the LORD. I would definitely say in my life that enduring trials has helped me to grow closer to the LORD, though I still don’t ask for more trials!

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

 

Arrogance, Manipulation, Mistrust and Anger Lead To Trouble

Samson was very strong indeed, when the spirit of the LORD was with him. However, we see in Judges 14 a flaw that ultimately becomes his downfall even more than what he experiences here. He seems to lack wisdom in whom to trust and allows himself to be manipulated by women with whom he is interested.

One can have a debate about whether or not he should be marrying someone he did not feel he could trust for sure. However, he knew he did not trust her and thus was not telling her the secret at first. However, he allowed her crying to manipulate him and ultimately gave up his secret for the wrong reasons. He did not do so because of a loving and trusting relationship with a woman who was to become his wife. He did so because of crying and manipulation. He ultimately is manipulated again similarly by Delilah and to his ultimate downfall.

Let us take care and use wisdom in whom we trust and why. Let us neither be the person who makes a decision based on manipulative tears nor the person who uses the manipulative tears to coerce someone.

Imagine if she could have simply come to her soon to be husband and told him the truth, that she and her father were threatened. Perhaps Samson could have protected her and they could have built a trusting relationship. It is also fair to point out that Samson brought on some of this situation by pursuing a Philistine instead of an Israelite wife and also by arrogantly making a wager about his riddle. The Philistines and Israelites did not like one another and he antagonized the situation. We see also that he has an unrighteous anger and he goes and kills others who were not even involved and steals from them to pay his debt. Samson is not a righteous man, and yet the LORD saw fit to grant him strength and use him to bring victory to the Israelites against the Philistines. YHWH’s ways are not our ways. He chooses at times those whom we would not expect.

 

Judges 14:12-20

Samson’s Riddle

     12Then Samson said to them, “Let me now propound a riddle to you; if you will indeed tell it to me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen wraps and thirty changes of clothes. 13“But if you are unable to tell me, then you shall give me thirty linen wraps and thirty changes of clothes.” And they said to him, “Propound your riddle, that we may hear it.”

14So he said to them,
“Out of the eater came something to eat,
And out of the strong came something sweet.”
But they could not tell the riddle in three days.

      15Then it came about on the fourth day that they said to Samson’s wife, “Entice your husband, so that he will tell us the riddle, or we will burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us to impoverish us? Is this not so?16Samson’s wife wept before him and said, “You only hate me, and you do not love me; you have propounded a riddle to the sons of my people, and have not told it to me.” And he said to her, “Behold, I have not told it to my father or mother; so should I tell you?” 17However she wept before him seven days while their feast lasted. And on the seventh day he told her because she pressed him so hard. She then told the riddle to the sons of her people.

18So the men of the city said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down,
“What is sweeter than honey?
And what is stronger than a lion?”
And he said to them,
“If you had not plowed with my heifer,
You would not have found out my riddle.”

19Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of them and took their spoil and gave the changes of clothes to those who told the riddle. And his anger burned, and he went up to his father’s house. 20But Samson’s wife was given to his companion who had been his friend.

Perhaps one aspect which I find very interesting to reflect on is easy to miss as we think about the mess Samson made. There seems little argument that Samson was like a bull in a china shop. He breaks things. He is not acting in a righteous manner. Yet YHWH was using this situation to create “an occasion against the Philistines”.

Judges 4

4However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the LORD, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Now at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel.

So I am once again reminded to take care in what assumptions I make about whom YHWH chooses to use and how. I am also reminded not to assume every time something gets messy that somehow it is not YHWH’s plan. Sometimes he does use conflict for his purposes, sometimes he uses unrighteous people to his righteous purposes.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.