Category Archives: Money / Finances / Wealth

You Will Always Have The Poor

Helping the poor is good, and it is consistent with the teaching of Yeshua. However, it is not an excuse to disregard Yeshua as Lord of our lives. We should not place others in a place of higher priority in our lives than we do Yeshua. He must be first.

John 12:1-11

Mary Anoints Jesus

     1Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. 3Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, 5“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?6Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. 7Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. 8“For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”

      9The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. 10But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; 11because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus.

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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.

Grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you.

Spending and Debt – The Christmas Hangover

Sharing this message originally written by our partnership website, GrowGodsMoney.org.

Christmas is over and many of us are back at work. This is a good time to reflect on how we celebrate Christmas and brace for the credit card bills that are coming our way in January.  A good time to reflect on the last few weeks and look ahead with a plan for next Christmas.

Most people in our culture get drawn into the heavy marketing and traditions of the season which tell us that we should buy many things for everyone we know in order to show them that we love them or even care about them. As a result, they are facing heavy credit card debt from well-intended spending. For those who put it on a credit card and can not pay it off right away they will now also pay high interest until it is paid off, increasing the bill for the season.

It goes well beyond the money alone. Gift exchanging actually becomes a stressful distraction from celebrating Christ at Christmas. It can consume even those with the best intent for one whole month out of every year. It centers gift giving and getting as the important part of celebrating instead of Jesus Christ.

While you are experiencing your Christmas financial hangover, please consider a few alternatives or suggestions for next year.

1- Reduce the number of people for whom you buy gifts.

Buying gifts for everyone you know is not necessary. Instead of buying gifts out of obligation for many with whom you are not close, just make a point to be nice to them all year round. Treat them with kindness and sensitivity and they will know you care for them even if you do not give them a gift. If they only like you when they receive a gift, then they are not really your friend anyway. If you are concerned they will buy for you and you will not have something for them, just have a real conversation with them about managing your expenses and budget responsibly and encourage them not to give something to you. If they are not close enough to you to have this conversation, then why are you even exchanging gifts with them? In some cases, it may be very important to someone close to you to exchange gifts… go ahead if you want to.

2- Reduce how much you spend on each person

Contrary to advertising… you do not need to buy a car, a diamond, gold jewelry, expensive electronics, etc. for people just because it is Christmas. If you don’t show them you love them throughout the year, you will not fool them with an expensive gift in December. For those with whom you want to give or exchange presents, you can set a reasonable budget for each person and then stick to it. This helps you set your overall Christmas budget in a predictable instead of impulsive way.

3- Save up your Christmas budget in advance and avoid credit cards you can not pay back before you have to pay interest.

Once you decide who you will get gifts for and how much to spend, you have a good estimate for your budget planning. Now divide by 11 and start saving it each month starting in January and continuing through November. Inevitably you will still have surprise expenses in December from the season’s activities, so you don’t plan on taking money for gifts from that months budget.

4- You can even consider replacing your current gift exchange traditions with a donation to a charity or family in need… someone you can give to in God’s name with no hope of receiving a gift in return. You will spend less money and honor God more.

5- Simply agree not to exchange presents. Enjoy spending time together without the high expense and extra distraction.

If you find yourself condemning me as “Grinch”… I do not mind. You are not alone, but you are in fact also not correct. If Christmas is all about giving and getting gifts as the centerpiece and focus, then it has nothing to do with Jesus Christ and is simply a pagan festival where people want to get a lot of expensive stuff from each other. I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically reject giving (and receiving) gifts on the basis of obligation.

The alternative is to recognize that gifts are intended not as the focus, but as a means of showing those closest to us that we were thinking of them. That does not require spending lots of money, despite what our culture would have us believe. Besides, you can  give gifts to those you love any time during the year… it does not all have to be at Christmas.

Many tell us that giving gifts is a tradition originated to honor God’s gift to us in the birth of Jesus Christ or because of the acts of the real man who came to be known as Saint Nicholas. Though many give with this in mind, the fact is that this is not the accurate origin of gift exchange. In fact gift giving to children in late December did not start with Christian origins, but rather as part of a pagan celebration of the sun god, Saturnalia, in ancient Rome. It is easy to research for yourself… even in Christian history encyclopedias such as by Zondervan.

Let’s explore the gift giving tradition further and test if it is even consistent with celebrating Jesus’ birth according to the principles of the Biblical record of that glorious event. Does this tradition point to or honor God, or is it just a tradition of men and a potential distraction from God?

Mary and Joseph did not get gifts for one another or even for Jesus and they knew who He was and that He would be born soon. The shepherds came to celebrate and honor God. They did what they were commanded by God to do… which did not involve bringing gifts. The wise men did not even come when Jesus was born… contrary to common tradition.  Scripture tells us they came and found Jesus in a house, not a manger. Herod killed all the male children two years and younger… not a week and younger, or even a few months and younger. It was likely they arrived over a year after Jesus was born. When they did come, they brought gifts to honor God. They did not exchange gifts with each other, nor did they expect to receive gifts in return from Joseph and Mary. I should not fail to mention that God came down as Jesus to die for us and while this is a great gift, He expects no gift from us in return.

So if you really want to focus on giving gifts to honor Christian traditions… give in a way that honors God to those who will not be able to give anything in return and convince others to do the same. You will honor God more, find more joy instead of stress, and spend less.

If suggestions number 4-5 seem overwhelming… start with suggestions number 1-3. The less focus you put on gift exchange, the more focus you will find is available to consider God’s gift to us in the person of Jesus Christ. You will have more time and less stress to enjoy the holidays and hopefully next year you will not have the Christmas hangover in January.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you.

Avoid The Christmas Hangover – Spending, Debt, and Stress

Christmas is a holiday with many competing areas of focus. Some manage to stay focused on the Lord, but there are many distractions. Some focus on family, but one can easily get caught up in a month long stress about the “perfect holiday” and “who is or is not coming” and “do we have the perfect gifts for everyone”,  etc. I have seen people who strive to genuinely follow Jesus yield a month of every year to stress associated with the Christmas holiday.

Others get lost in debt, convinced by marketing and our culture that to celebrate Christmas requires spending lots of money, often money they don’t have. For the record, even “good sales” cost you money unless you were going to buy that item anyway. It costs even more if you buy other stuff along with the thing that was on sale. That is why the companies selling you things run the sales… to make money, not to save you money! Often this debt creates stress that lasts for months after Christmas is over as the credit card bills roll in.

Rather than waiting for that after Christmas “hangover” to set in along with the credit card bills and extra 5 pounds you put on by eating too much… consider challenging some of the holiday cultural norms.

1- Reduce the number of people for whom you buy gifts.

Buying gifts for everyone you know is not necessary. Instead of buying gifts out of obligation for many with whom you are not close, just make a point to be nice to them all year round. Treat them with kindness and sensitivity and they will know you care for them even if you do not give them a gift. If they only like you when they receive a gift, then they are not really your friend anyway. If you are concerned they will buy for you and you will not have something for them, just have a real conversation with them about managing your expenses and budget responsibly and encourage them not to give something to you. If they are not close enough to you to have this conversation, then why are you even exchanging gifts with them? In some cases, it may be very important to someone close to you to exchange gifts… go ahead if you want to.

2- Reduce how much you spend on each person

Contrary to advertising… you do not need to buy a car, a diamond, gold jewelry, expensive electronics, etc. for people just because it is Christmas. If you don’t show them you love them throughout the year, you will not fool them with an expensive gift in December. For those with whom you want to give or exchange presents, you can set a reasonable budget for each person and then stick to it. This helps you set your overall Christmas budget in a predictable instead of impulsive way.

3- Save up your Christmas budget in advance and avoid credit cards you can not pay back before you have to pay interest.

Once you decide who you will get gifts for and how much to spend, you have a good estimate for your budget planning. Now divide by 11 and start saving it each month starting in January and continuing through November. Inevitably you will still have surprise expenses in December from the season’s activities, so you don’t plan on taking money for gifts from that months budget.

4- You can even consider replacing your current gift exchange traditions with a donation to a charity or family in need… someone you can give to in God’s name with no hope of receiving a gift in return. You will spend less money and honor God more.

If you find yourself condemning me as “Grinch”… I do not mind. You are not alone, but you are in fact also not correct. If Christmas is all about giving and getting gifts as the centerpiece and focus, then it has nothing to do with Jesus Christ and is simply a pagan festival where people want to get a lot of expensive stuff from each other. I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically reject giving (and receiving) gifts on the basis of obligation.

The alternative is to recognize that gifts are intended not as the focus, but as a means of showing those closest to us that we were thinking of them. That does not require spending lots of money, despite what our culture would have us believe. Besides, you can  give gifts to those you love any time during the year… it does not all have to be at Christmas.

Many tell us that giving gifts is a tradition originated to honor God’s gift to us in the birth of Jesus Christ or because of the acts of the real man who came to be known as Saint Nicholas. Though many give with this in mind, the fact is that this is not the accurate origin of gift exchange. In fact gift giving to children in late December did not start with Christian origins, but rather as part of a pagan celebration of the sun god, Saturnalia, in ancient Rome. It is easy to research for yourself… even in Christian history encyclopedias such as by Zondervan.

Let’s explore the gift giving tradition further and test if it is even consistent with celebrating Jesus’ birth according to the principles of the Biblical record of that glorious event. Does this tradition point to or honor God, or is it just a tradition of men and a potential distraction from God?

Mary and Joseph did not get gifts for one another or even for Jesus and they knew who He was and that He would be born soon. The shepherds came to celebrate and honor God. They did what they were commanded by God to do… which did not involve bringing gifts. The wise men did not even come when Jesus was born… contrary to common tradition.  Scripture tells us they came and found Jesus in a house, not a manger. Herod killed all the male children two years and younger… not a week and younger, or even a few months and younger. It was likely they arrived over a year after Jesus was born. When they did come, they brought gifts to honor God. They did not exchange gifts with each other, nor did they expect to receive gifts in return from Joseph and Mary. I should not fail to mention that God came down as Jesus to die for us and while this is a great gift, He expects no gift from us in return.

So if you really want to focus on giving gifts to honor Christian traditions… give in a way that honors God to those who will not be able to give anything in return and convince others to do the same. You will honor God more, find more joy instead of stress, and spend less.

If suggestion number 4 seems overwhelming… start with suggestions number 1-3. The less focus you put on gift exchange, the more focus you will find is available to consider God’s gift to us in the person of Jesus Christ. You will have more time and less stress to enjoy the holidays and hopefully you will not have the Christmas “hangover” in January.

Our special thanks to our friends at GrowGodsMoney.org, who partnered with us on this article.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you.

Give To YHWH What Is His And Follow His Commandments

Let us remember to give to YHWH what is His and to follow His commandments faithfully and joyfully. This includes giving Him our first and finest of whatever harvest we may bring in. (That applies for us non-farmers also!) This is a way of showing our love and thanksgiving to Him for all He provides.

Deuteronomy 26

Offering First Fruits

      1“Then it shall be, when you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it and live in it, 2that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground which you bring in from your land that the LORD your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name. 3“You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time and say to him, ‘I declare this day to the LORD my God that I have entered the land which the LORD swore to our fathers to give us.’ 4“Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the LORD your God. 5“You shall answer and say before the LORD your God, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; but there he became a great, mighty and populous nation. 6‘And the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, and imposed hard labor on us. 7‘Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression; 8and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and wonders; 9and He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.10‘Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O LORD have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD your God; 11and you and the Levite and the alien who is among you shall rejoice in all the good which the LORD your God has given you and your household.

      12“When you have finished paying all the tithe of your increase in the third year, the year of tithing, then you shall give it to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. 13“You shall say before the LORD your God, ‘I have removed the sacred portion from my house, and also have given it to the Levite and the alien, the orphan and the widow, according to all Your commandments which You have commanded me; I have not transgressed or forgotten any of Your commandments. 14‘I have not eaten of it while mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor offered any of it to the dead. I have listened to the voice of the LORD my God; I have done according to all that You have commanded me. 15‘Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel, and the ground which You have given us, a land flowing with milk and honey, as You swore to our fathers.’

      16“This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. 17“You have today declared the LORD to be your God, and that you would walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and listen to His voice. 18“The LORD has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments; 19and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the LORD your God, as He has spoken.”

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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.

Grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you.

Delight Yourself In The Lord

It is very easy to focus on how much evil there is in our nation and our world… there are plenty who reject YHWH and His ways. We can get so wrapped up in that sometimes that we can start to miss out on the joy of the Lord. YHWH reminded me recently to delight in Him. I hope Psalm 37 can encourage you as well. We should be living joyful lives in relationship with our Creator and Father. Not only will this make our lives more enjoyable, but it is consistent with scripture and will actually help us be a light to draw others to the truth.

Psalm 37

Security of Those Who Trust in the LORD, and Insecurity of the Wicked. 

A Psalm of David.

     1Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.

      2For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.

      3Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.

      4Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.

      5Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.

      6He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.

      7Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.

      8Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.

      9For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.

      10Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more;
And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there.

      11But the humble will inherit the land
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.

      12The wicked plots against the righteous
And gnashes at him with his teeth.

      13The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees his day is coming.

      14The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow
To cast down the afflicted and the needy,
To slay those who are upright in conduct.

      15Their sword will enter their own heart,
And their bows will be broken.

      16Better is the little of the righteous
Than the abundance of many wicked.

      17For the arms of the wicked will be broken,
But the LORD sustains the righteous.

      18The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
And their inheritance will be forever.

      19They will not be ashamed in the time of evil,
And in the days of famine they will have abundance.

      20But the wicked will perish;
And the enemies of the LORD will be like the glory of the pastures,
They vanish—like smoke they vanish away.

      21The wicked borrows and does not pay back,
But the righteous is gracious and gives.

      22For those blessed by Him will inherit the land,
But those cursed by Him will be cut off.

      23The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.

      24When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.

      25I have been young and now I am old,
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
Or his descendants begging bread.

      26All day long he is gracious and lends,
And his descendants are a blessing.

      27Depart from evil and do good,
So you will abide forever.

      28For the LORD loves justice
And does not forsake His godly ones;
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off.

      29The righteous will inherit the land
And dwell in it forever.

      30The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
And his tongue speaks justice.

      31The law of his God is in his heart;
His steps do not slip.

      32The wicked spies upon the righteous
And seeks to kill him.

      33The LORD will not leave him in his hand
Or let him be condemned when he is judged.

      34Wait for the LORD and keep His way,
And He will exalt you to inherit the land;
When the wicked are cut off, you will see it.

      35I have seen a wicked, violent man
Spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil.

      36Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more;
I sought for him, but he could not be found.

      37Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright;
For the man of peace will have a posterity.

      38But transgressors will be altogether destroyed;
The posterity of the wicked will be cut off.

      39But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
He is their strength in time of trouble.

      40The LORD helps them and delivers them;
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
Because they take refuge in Him.

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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.

Grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you.

Love God and Love One Another… By Following God’s Law

Many say the law of YHWH through Moses was harsh, outdated or barbaric. I say it was way ahead of its time. So much of it is based on protecting and helping people. The rest is based on honoring God. We would do well to take it more seriously today and apply it in our lives.

Deuteronomy 24:6-22

Sundry Laws

      6“No one shall take a handmill or an upper millstone in pledge, for he would be taking a life in pledge.

      7“If a man is caught kidnapping any of his countrymen of the sons of Israel, and he deals with him violently or sells him, then that thief shall die; so you shall purge the evil from among you.

      8“Be careful against an infection of leprosy, that you diligently observe and do according to all that the Levitical priests teach you; as I have commanded them, so you shall be careful to do. 9“Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam on the way as you came out of Egypt.

      10“When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not enter his house to take his pledge. 11“You shall remain outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. 12“If he is a poor man, you shall not sleep with his pledge. 13“When the sun goes down you shall surely return the pledge to him, that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you; and it will be righteousness for you before the LORD your God.

      14“You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. 15“You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry against you to the LORD and it become sin in you.

      16“Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.

      17“You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow’s garment in pledge. 18“But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and that the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.

      19“When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20“When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow.

      21“When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 22“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.

Carefully reflect on each of these laws. Who is being helped in each case? How? Do we still help others in this way today? What can you do in your life to help others in a similar way to how these laws were created to help people?

Matthew 22:36-40

 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEARTAND WITH ALL YOUR SOULAND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38“This is the great and foremost commandment. 39“The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’40“On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

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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.

Grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you.

All Scripture Is Inspired By YHWH

Deuteronomy 23 has a collection of instructions. Let’s review after you read the chapter. Read through, you may be surprised by how much is relevant today to our lives.

Deuteronomy 23

Persons Excluded from the Assembly

     1“No one who is emasculated or has his male organ cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD. 2“No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the LORD. 3“No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of the LORD, 4because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. 5“Nevertheless, the LORD your God was not willing to listen to Balaam, but the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the LORD your God loves you. 6“You shall never seek their peace or their prosperity all your days.

      7“You shall not detest an Edomite, for he is your brother; you shall not detest an Egyptian, because you were an alien in his land. 8“The sons of the third generation who are born to them may enter the assembly of the LORD.

      9“When you go out as an army against your enemies, you shall keep yourself from every evil thing.

      10“If there is among you any man who is unclean because of a nocturnal emission, then he must go outside the camp; he may not reenter the camp. 11“But it shall be when evening approaches, he shall bathe himself with water, and at sundown he may reenter the camp.

      12“You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, 13and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement. 14“Since the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you or He will turn away from you.

      15“You shall not hand over to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. 16“He shall live with you in your midst, in the place which he shall choose in one of your towns where it pleases him; you shall not mistreat him.

      17“None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any of the sons of Israel be a cult prostitute. 18“You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog into the house of the LORD your God for any votive offering, for both of these are an abomination to the LORD your God.

      19“You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. 20“You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess.

      21“When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you. 22“However, if you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you. 23“You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God, what you have promised.

      24“When you enter your neighbor’s vineyard, then you may eat grapes until you are fully satisfied, but you shall not put any in your basket.

      25“When you enter your neighbor’s standing grain, then you may pluck the heads with your hand, but you shall not wield a sickle in your neighbor’s standing grain.

Doubtless, this is another passage which seems strange to us in our culture and time today. It may stir up some questions for those who wish to dig below the surface meaning. If we at first do not understand, remember who YHWH is and that He is holy and just. Start with that and we realize that if parts of this are troubling, we should study more to fully understand the context of the times when it was written. I am not an expert in these matters to be sure. My surface thoughts are as follows:

  • First, I ask myself what it means to be excluded from the assembly of the Lord. There are different views and I am not sure which is right. Does it mean excluded from the worship gathering? excluded from marriage? excluded from temple service? excluded from leadership? I am not sure which is right. Worthy of study for those who want to find out more.
  • Other nations would at times make eunuchs to serve in a palace or temple. Such a disfigurement is not pleasing to the Lord. I do not believe this was intended to punish victims but rather to prevent doing this to God’s people.
  •  It may seem harsh to exclude illegitimate children. However, this puts more emphasis on families following YHWH’s instructions and being holy. I believe the intent is to deter people from having illegitimate children, rather than intending to punish the children. It was not something to be normalized and accepted. Depending on the meaning of forbidden from the assembly of the Lord, this could also simply mean that they were not to be working in the temple, which is set apart and holy.
  • Amonites and Moabites were held accountable in memory of the sins of their people against Israel. We as a nation may face similar consequences for rebellion against the Lord. Though not all of us may rebel or reject Him, we may all face certain consequences together as one people.
  •  The people were then specifically told not to hate the Edomites and Egyptians. Interesting to note that YHWH never makes an equivalence of all people groups as equally righteous and valued. Those who rebel and fight against YHWH and His people are not to be accepted. Others, are specifically called out to not be hated. Our culture today must surely think this odd as many try to say that “all cultures and all nations” are to be respected and accepted as they are equally, with none better than the rest. YHWH seems to indicate differently.
  • There are certain behaviors that make us unclean. Rather than trying to excuse it and reject it, try to understand what and why and try to avoid them. If we become unclean, take time to seek to be cleansed. Spend that time with the Lord in prayer. Seek forgiveness.
  • YHWH takes the term “walking among us” seriously. He intends for us to keep our “camp” (or our home) clean with no indecent thing among us. Think about your home today. Are there indecent things among you? It may be idols. It may be pornography. It may be inappropriate clothing. It may simply even be television programs and music that is indecent. Cleanse your home and let nothing indecent be among you so that the Lord may walk among you.
  • Be kind to an escaped slave. Do not return them to their owner. Let them live among you. This is very gracious, in particular in a time when it was written when slavery was more common. I could also derive perhaps that we are to help those escaping difficult circumstances and not treat them badly. Rather help them to get free, even if it is from abuse or addiction. Note it does not say let entire nations and tribes of foreigners come into your midst (e.g. open borders). Rather it is focused on helping individuals, which could be assimilated and helped more effectively in smaller numbers.
  • Prostitution is wrong. YHWH does not even want money from such objectionable and offensive behavior. He wants no part of it. I hypothesize also that He does not want any part of many other objectionable behaviors even if they bring profit… perhaps drugs, human slavery, abortion, and many more.
  • As a follower of YHWH, we are not to loan to other believers for interest. If we loan it is to help them, not make money off them by increasing the cost burden to them by adding interest.
  • You are not required to make vows to YHWH, but if you do… take it seriously and do not delay in fulfilling it. Better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Further, you can ask YHWH to help you without making a vow.
  • We also see more guidance in reference to grain and grapes. We can share from our neighbors hospitality, but do not become greedy and become a burden by taking more than you should.

I for one am always surprised when I try to reflect on passages like this one. My first reaction is that none of it applies and I can “skip” it or read quickly. After prayer and a serious attempt to understand, even without lengthy, detailed study, I am amazed how relevant this guidance still remains for our lives.

May the grace and peace of our Lord, Yeshua, be with 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.

Grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you.

Blessed Are Those Who Delight In YHWH’s Commandments

What a simple message overall… blessed are those who fear the Lord and delight in His commandments. How often we dismiss this concept of blessing today. We somehow have come to convince people that obedience to YHWH has no consequences. Even those who claim Christianity grab hold of this concept thinking they are saved by grace and thus do not “have to” obey or will receive no blessing for obedience and no curse for disobedience. I think this is more of a problem because there are examples of people who suffer who are submitted to Christ and examples of others who appear to prosper who are wicked. While this is understandable, we should take care to believe YHWH’s word.

Some of it is obvious… if we individually and as a group obey YHWH, we will be blessed simply by each other and how we live together as a community or nation. Life is better with less sin. However, blessing is more than that. It is not always material gain or wealth, though it can be that. No matter what situation you are in, whether in difficulty or prosperity, it is better when you are going through it with the Lord. In other words, the blessing makes the “valleys” easier to navigate and the “mountain tops” more enjoyable. There is so much more to it than just trying to do the bare minimum with YHWH to be “saved”.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord and greatly delight in His commandments.

Psalms 112

Prosperity of the One Who Fears the LORD.

     1Praise the LORD!
How blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
Who greatly delights in His commandments.

      2His descendants will be mighty on earth;
The generation of the upright will be blessed.

      3Wealth and riches are in his house,
And his righteousness endures forever.

      4Light arises in the darkness for the upright;
He is gracious and compassionate and righteous.

      5It is well with the man who is gracious and lends;
He will maintain his cause in judgment.

      6For he will never be shaken;
The righteous will be remembered forever.

      7He will not fear evil tidings;
His heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.

      8His heart is upheld, he will not fear,
Until he looks with satisfaction on his adversaries.

      9He has given freely to the poor,
His righteousness endures forever;
His horn will be exalted in honor.

      10The wicked will see it and be vexed,
He will gnash his teeth and melt away;
The desire of the wicked will perish.

Pray the Lord would help you to delight in His commandments and to seek Him more and to experience the fullness of blessing of a life lived submitted to Him in actions and attitudes and not just in words.

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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.

Grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you.

Claim Your Inheritance

The more I study the Torah (1st five books of the Bible), the more I come to realize that YWHW was really trying to emphasize the importance of His instructions to the people. He repeats Himself to generations of Hebrews, which we now experience if we read and study the Torah. It was important enough to mention over and over again. He wanted to make sure we understand and do not ignore it or forget it.

Deuteronomy is one of those sections of scripture. It reminds us of YHWH’s intent for the Levites to be focused on Him and not working their own land or flocks or herds. He was their portion… their inheritance. He provided means for them to be provided for by the rest of the tribes.

I am not going to propose that the Levitical priesthood is replaced by missionaries and pastors today. However, it is not a stretch to conclude that the Lord would approve of our supporting those who set aside their lives to teach others about Him. However, we do need to take care. We are warned in many places, though not in Deuteronomy 18, beware of false prophets or wolves in sheep’s clothing. There are many teachers that teach a false doctrine, whether or not they realize it. The Lord does not want us supporting them but rather avoiding them and rejecting them. There is no way around it… we are each accountable to read and study the Bible so as to test those who preach and teach and minister in the name of our Lord.

Deuteronomy 18:1-8

Portion of the Levites

      1“The Levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the LORD’S offerings by fire and His portion. 2“They shall have no inheritance among their countrymen; the LORD is their inheritance, as He promised them.

      3“Now this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those who offer a sacrifice, either an ox or a sheep, of which they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach. 4“You shall give him the first fruits of your grain, your new wine, and your oil, and the first shearing of your sheep. 5“For the LORD your God has chosen him and his sons from all your tribes, to stand and serve in the name of the LORD forever.

      6“Now if a Levite comes from any of your towns throughout Israel where he resides, and comes whenever he desires to the place which the LORDchooses, 7then he shall serve in the name of the LORD his God, like all his fellow Levites who stand there before the LORD8“They shall eat equal portions, except what they receive from the sale of their fathers’ estates.

As a perhaps deeper point of reflection, we should also consider that YHWH considered Himself to be the inheritance or portion for the Levites. He was not “shorting” them or giving them a “raw deal”. Rather, they got the best of it. They were invited to serve YHWH full time and He provided for their needs.

We should not overlook that we are now all invited to have a direct relationship with YHWH thanks to Yeshua. Do not miss the opportunity to claim that portion and inheritance for you in your life just because you are pursuing business and other affairs. You will truly be missing out on a glorious invitation from our Creator to personal relationship with Him.

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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.

Grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you.

Lending Money, Forgiving Debts, And Helping The Poor

What a beautiful way to take care of one another… and it it not unique to the book of Acts. This is Deuteronomy. YHWH instructs His people regarding how to help the poor and how to forgive debts. Surprisingly to most of us, He explicitly says we are not to avoid this situation by not lending money, but rather lend generously for those in need, and then forgive the debts every 7th year. Imagine how our society could be transformed if we could live more closely to how YHWH instructs us.

Keep in mind, however, this is not socialism. The government has no role in this. Further, this passage, similar to the church in Acts, is focused on brothers and sisters of faith. This is not to be overlooked. It is not because we don’t want to help strangers and non believers, but non believers can take advantage of this type of situation and wreck it through sloth, laziness, and demands for what everyone “owes” them, though they do little or no work. Surely, not all non believers are like this, but some are and this is why you cannot simply apply this form of godly living to godless people who are only thinking of themselves. The godly will take only what they need and try to repay it, even if they know it will be forgiven. The ungodly choose not to pay their debts and demand they be forgiven.

Deuteronomy 15

The Sabbatic Year

      1“At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts. 2“This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the LORD’S remission has been proclaimed. 3“From a foreigner you may exact it, but your hand shall release whatever of yours is with your brother. 4“However, there will be no poor among you, since the LORD will surely bless you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, 5if only you listen obediently to the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today. 6“For the LORD your God will bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.

      7“If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; 8but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. 9“Beware that there is no base thought in your heart, saying, ‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near,’ and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing; then he may cry to the LORD against you, and it will be a sin in you. 10“You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings. 11“For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’

      12“If your kinsman, a Hebrew man or woman, is sold to you, then he shall serve you six years, but in the seventh year you shall set him free.13“When you set him free, you shall not send him away empty-handed. 14“You shall furnish him liberally from your flock and from your threshing floor and from your wine vat; you shall give to him as the LORD your God has blessed you. 15“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today. 16“It shall come about if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he fares well with you; 17then you shall take an awl and pierce it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your servant forever. Also you shall do likewise to your maidservant.

      18“It shall not seem hard to you when you set him free, for he has given you six years with double the service of a hired man; so the LORD your God will bless you in whatever you do.

      19“You shall consecrate to the LORD your God all the firstborn males that are born of your herd and of your flock; you shall not work with the firstborn of your herd, nor shear the firstborn of your flock. 20“You and your household shall eat it every year before the LORD your God in the place which the LORD chooses. 21“But if it has any defect, such as lameness or blindness, or any serious defect, you shall not sacrifice it to the LORD your God. 22“You shall eat it within your gates; the unclean and the clean alike may eat it, as a gazelle or a deer. 23“Only you shall not eat its blood; you are to pour it out on the ground like water.

Do not miss that nowhere in this is YHWH telling people to lend so they may charge interest and make money themselves, thus taking advantage of the poor. The money is loaned without personal benefit to the one loaning it to someone else. It is all about helping our brothers and sisters in faith. And because they share the faith, they do not take advantage and ask for more than they need and they intend to pay it back.

Deuteronomy 23:19-20

   19“You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. 20“You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countrymen you shall not charge interest, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you.