Walk According to His Commandments

Truly it is not hidden, but in plain sight. Yet many Christians and Christian churches act as if Yeshua redefined God’s instructions when he became man. Yeshua lived and was judged perfect according to the standard of God’s commandments. We are not talking just about the top 10, but about all of the law and the prophets. Yeshua lived them and taught them. He warned people he did not come to do away with any commandment and those who teach that he did will be least in the kingdom, while those who continue to teach obedience to his commands will be great. Yeshua was not abolishing or changing the law, but fulfilling many prophecies of the coming of the Messiah.

Matthew 5:17-19

  17“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18“For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19“Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

It really makes no sense that we would look at Yeshua’s example to obey the law, the Torah, and his teaching that we do the same and then we suddenly change everything and act like there is a new standard he never spoke of that means the law, or most of it, is no longer relevant. People even teach about loving one another as if this was a new commandment. We see in 2 John 1, that it is not. This is after Yeshua died and rose again. He speaks of walking according to the commandments and of loving one another and that these are not new instructions, but what has been since the beginning. Loving God is walking in his commandments and this is not new.

2 John 1

Walk According to His Commandments

      1The elder to the chosen lady and her children, whom I love in truth; and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2for the sake of the truth which abides in us and will be with us forever: 3Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

      4I was very glad to find some of your children walking in truth, just as we have received commandment to do from the Father. 5Now I ask you, lady, not as though I were writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another. 6And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.

      7For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

      12Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full.

      13The children of your chosen sister greet you.

This is a powerful reminder that we are not to make up our own way of living or try to redefine God’s instructions on the basis of man’s teaching on how things have changed. We should study and understand all the commands of God as written in the first five books of the Bible, the Torah. We should not quickly cast any aside without careful consideration and study. Many we can no longer do as prescribed, such as any involving the Levitical priesthood and the temple. Hebrews 10 states the case that Yeshua’s sacrifice in blood is sufficient for cleansing the sins of those of us who accept him as Savior and Lord and thus  one can make the case we no longer need to do animal sacrifices for remission of sin. This is surely so, in particular since the temple and priesthood no longer exist and are part of that process.

However, I encourage each of us to reject the commonly taught notion that the law in its entirety is not relevant. Obeying God’s commands is how we love God and others. John reminds us this in 2 John 1:6 and Yeshua also told us this himself in Matthew 22.

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 HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND 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.”

Let us remember that God, not man, defines how we show love for one another and for God properly. He has given us these instructions and we should strive joyfully and eagerly to learn them, understand them, and apply them in our lives.

Do not be unteachable and foolish, clinging only to what man has taught you in church. Much doctrine that is taught is wrong and always has been. We are repeatedly warned about false prophets and teachers and instructed to read and understand God’s word directly to ensure the teachers we follow are teaching God’s word and not their own. These warnings are found in Deuteronomy and in Paul’s letters and in 2 John 1, above. Let us take them seriously and test every teaching and spirit against the written word of God. Let us pursue learning and knowing God’s ways as we would to please a loving father or to court a spouse. Dig. Search. Seek. Do not be complacent where you are in your relationship with him, wherever that is today.

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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 Parable of the Widower Who Remarried

Just to be clear, this is not a biblical parable, but one based on biblical teaching and one that is true many times over.

There is a story about a young man who was happily married. He loved his wife very much. To show it, he learned her favorite flowers, favorite candy, learned how to help around the house the way that she liked, he even bought her the style of clothes she liked to wear. Of course, holiday celebrations were no exception. He honored her in the ways that she told him she appreciated and she knew that he loved her. They were married many years and many of their ways became strong habits and  traditions.

After a time, his wife grew ill and died. He truly missed her. He grieved for a time and eventually remarried.

His second wife did not like the same things or do things the same way as his first wife. He would tell his new wife how much he loved her but than continue in the old habits and traditions he created for his first wife, even buying the same style of clothing for her and giving her the flowers that his first wife enjoyed instead of the ones she liked. His second wife asked him gently many times to change how he tried to honor her and explained what she liked and did not like. Despite her many efforts to communicate clearly, the man refused to change from his habits and traditions to learn to show love and honor his second wife the way she appreciated and desired.  He simply would tell her that he was doing it for her to show his love and that it was all for her. She was deeply hurt and at times very offended. She grew to doubt whether he loved her at all or rather she was just a replacement because the one he still loved was no longer there.

How obvious it must seem to all of us that the man is making a big mistake and certainly not showing love by insisting he do things his way or the way of his first wife. How is the parable going to end? If it is to end well, the man must admit he was wrong and decide to visibly repent of, or turn away from, his ways and learn the ways of the one he wishes to love and honor.

In a way you get to finish the story… you see many of us treat God the same way as the man in the parable treats his second wife. We have learned and accepted certain ways of doing things. In some cases they are now traditions with happy memories that have been accepted for hundreds or thousands of years. None the less, God has clearly communicated what He likes and does not like… what is good and bad in the holy scriptures.

Not being aware that we are doing what is bad makes it no less offensive to Him. Why did we not take time to learn what He values…what He wants from us?

Claiming we can take something that is bad in God’s eyes and make it into something that is good is like saying we can give someone a weed, but call it a rose and everything will be great.

We must each decide if we are to cling to our traditions of man, like the Pharisees and Sadducees who came against Jesus, or if we are to stand up and do things God’s way as Jesus and His disciples did, even if we are mocked for it.

Would it surprise you to know that Christmas trees, evergreen wreaths, mistletoe, gift exchange, even celebrating on Dec 25 are all  based on pagan worship practices which the church originally banned but later accepted because people would not stop doing them? Of course much of Easter celebration also has origins in pagan worship as well. The church decided if we can’t get people to stop their detestable pagan worship, then we will join them but make up a new story to explain the items previously used in pagan worship. They took a weed and called it a rose.

If you truly love God, and submit your life to God… take the time to learn more about what He wants and not just stick to traditions of men that are offensive to Him. You can easily study online even using Christian encyclopedia’s like Zondervan or other encyclopedias. The origins are not secret, only that it has been accepted to celebrate God in ways that were developed by pagans for their gods.  119Ministries.com is putting together an effective summary in video form you can watch, but the project has not been completed yet (The Christmas Question). They have previous teachings already available you may consider as well (Sunburned – Part 1 and Sunburned – Part 2).

I recognize that this is an emotional subject for many and admitting that we should change is very hard. Even if we accept it and change our behavior, there will be much difficulty among family. This is to be expected when we stand for Christ above all others. Jesus said so himself in Matthew 10:23-39.

32 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.

34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36     Your enemies will be right in your own household!’[l]

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

We each must decide whether or not we submit to God fully or hold tightly to the traditions of man. By the way… study of the new testament clearly shows that clutching to the traditions of man was the way of the Pharisees and Sadducees, not the way of Jesus.

God wants his people to be holy (set apart for God’s use) and righteous (living according to God’s commands rather than the world’s). He wants us to put Him first, above everything else.

Challenge yourself to objectively evaluate your traditions and seek first the kingdom of God. Do not dismiss this quickly but rather prayerfully seek God to show you the truth of His word and how to apply it in your life.

Pray that God would give you courage and boldness to pursue him with how you live.

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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.

Torah Portions

The Torah and the writings of the prophets are the scripture that Yeshua studied and taught from and likewise his disciples and Paul. There are many references to them throughout the New Testament. They are the foundation. They are not obsolete and meaningless as some would imply, but they can be challenging to understand in parts and in how to apply today. In large part this is because churches and seminaries do not teach all of it as relevant content to help is draw near to the LORD today.

We have all heard about plans to help read the Bible in a year. There is a similar, long standing concept by which the Torah portions are scheduled to be read over a year. I have started doing this with my family. There are many sites  available as reference and some not only provide the  references for each week, but also some teaching to support it. Some have broken it down for children as an audience and some have even 15 minute or less summaries for folks who may feel they can only invest that much each week. Others go deep and have hours of teaching.

I encourage you to try it and stick with it. You may be surprised what you learn. These are not meant to take you away from also studying the New Testament, but help you dive into all of God’s word.

  • TorahPortions.ffoz.com by First Fruits of Zion
  • BillCloud.com/audio-page/ has Torah Portions and Torah Tidbits by Shoreshim Ministries. It also has an excellent series I recommend called Returning to Our Roots.
  • Ruach Life with Yitro has some teaching available on youtube, simply search ‘Torah Portion Yitro’
  • MTOI.org by Messianic Torah Observant Israel has a weekly Torah study video you can join live or watch later on YouTube or Facebook.
  • Psalm119 Ministries has a series of weekly short videos called Parashah Points at 119ministries.com/teachings/video-teachings.
  • MessianicTorahPortions.com also included suggested New Testament scriptures alongside Torah portions weekly.
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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.

Be Careful What You Ask For, You Might Get It

Sometimes our Father withholds something from us that we ask for and it is a good thing. Sometimes he may give us what we ask for and it is not good. Israel asked for a king. They got one. Samuel makes the case why this was a mistake, but they are stuck with it. They looked at how all the other nations were run and desired to be like them. God’s intent was for them to be special, set apart, his own people. He was to be their king.  Samuel makes it plain… with or without a king, they will do well to obey the LORD and do poorly if they do not.

We do well to remember that we must develop relationship with our Father. Our government can not save us.

1 Samuel 12

Samuel Addresses Israel

     1Then Samuel said to all Israel, “Behold, I have listened to your voice in all that you said to me and I have appointed a king over you. 2“Now, here is the king walking before you, but I am old and gray, and behold my sons are with you. And I have walked before you from my youth even to this day. 3“Here I am; bear witness against me before the LORD and His anointed. Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? I will restore it to you.” 4They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.” 5He said to them, “The LORD is witness against you, and His anointed is witness this day that you have found nothing in my hand.” And they said, “He is witness.”

      6Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the LORD who appointed Moses and Aaron and who brought your fathers up from the land of Egypt. 7“So now, take your stand, that I may plead with you before the LORD concerning all the righteous acts of the LORD which He did for you and your fathers. 8“When Jacob went into Egypt and your fathers cried out to the LORD, then the LORD sent Moses and Aaron who brought your fathers out of Egypt and settled them in this place. 9“But they forgot the LORD their God, so He sold them into the hand of Sisera, captain of the army of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the king of Moab, and they fought against them. 10“They cried out to the LORD and said, ‘We have sinned because we have forsaken the LORD and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth; but now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve You.’ 11“Then the LORD sent Jerubbaal and Bedan and Jephthah and Samuel, and delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around, so that you lived in security.

The King Confirmed

     12“When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, ‘No, but a king shall reign over us,’ although the LORD your God was your king. 13“Now therefore, here is the king whom you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the LORD has set a king over you. 14“If you will fear the LORD and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the LORD, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God. 15“If you will not listen to the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the command of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, as it was against your fathers. 16“Even now, take your stand and see this great thing which the LORD will do before your eyes. 17“Is it not the wheat harvest today? I will call to the LORD, that He may send thunder and rain. Then you will know and see that your wickedness is great which you have done in the sight of the LORD by asking for yourselves a king.” 18So Samuel called to the LORD, and the LORD sent thunder and rain that day; and all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.

      19Then all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king.” 20Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. 21“You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which can not profit or deliver, because they are futile. 22“For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself. 23“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way. 24“Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you. 25“But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away.”

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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.

Pray Humbly and Wholeheartedly for Personal Repentance

For those of us who wish to truly submit to Yeshua and follow him, we must be willing to humbly admit our faults in order to change them. Yeshua provides a wonderful example of a sinful man who genuinely comes before YHWH for repentance and contrasts that with someone who is praying in a noticeably prideful manner. I encourage each of us to thoughtfully and humbly read the scripture from Luke and then come before our father in genuine humility, admitting our sins, and ask for genuine forgiveness with wholehearted commitment to repent and sin no more.

Luke 18:9-14

9And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11“The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13“But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14“I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

All of us remain sinful, no matter where we are in our journey. Take time to identify an area in which you need change and come before YHWH with pure motive and pure heart, privately, and ask forgiveness and ask his help with repentance. Then work consciously to change your wrong behavior and he will help you. Avoid the trap of just asking forgiveness and then continuing in your sin, without repentance and change on your part. If you refuse to change, that is not true repentance and acknowledgment that you are wrong. There is a distinction between having difficulty changing and refusing to change or not trying. Often we will need his help to change our ways as it is difficult for us.

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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 Parable of the Two Fathers

This is not a biblical parable, but one based on biblical teaching and in fact it is a true story many times over.

In a certain town there were two fathers who were neighbors, each of whom had a son. Both men wanted to honor God. They both went to church every Sunday and prayed with their sons every night. They both read the Bible with their sons.

The first father truly wanted to submit his life and that of his family to God, even if it was difficult at times. The father was sometimes mocked for being different from those around him when he was standing up for God, and his son noticed. The father refused to lie to his son, and his son noticed this also. This father always remained clear that there is only one God, whom we can know through Jesus Christ. He taught his son that God has already defined what is good and bad and there are real consequences for sin, which is to say… rebelling against God’s instruction and authority. As the son grew older, he sometimes wondered how he could know Jesus was real since he could not “see” him or “touch” him but accepted it because his father was always honest with him. He learned to stand for Jesus even when it was hard, because he learned by watching his father.

The second father was content to continue living his life in the traditions of his parents and grandparents. It felt comfortable, most of his friends and neighbors lived their lives in a similar manner so there was no conflict. He did not feel that God really cared that much about some areas of how he and his family led their daily lives. He told his son that Jesus was the way to God, but he also liked to tell his son seemingly harmless made up stories about make believe characters. He enjoyed telling his son about the tooth fairy, Easter bunny, and of course Santa Claus. He continued the stories for many years until finally his son would learn on his own that each story was not true. The father even went out of his way to provide false evidence that the stories were true… like money under the pillow for a tooth, or telling his son that the bunny hid the eggs and brought him a basket, and of course having lots of presents at Christmas… all from Santa.  He even ate cookies and milk on behalf of Santa. After all, it’s just a bit of fun. What harm can it do?

As the son of the second father grew older, he was confused. The son sometimes wondered how he could know Jesus was real since he could not “see” him or “touch” him. He loved his father, but throughout his life his father had lied to him and even gone out of his way to fake evidence in many make believe characters. He could not help  but wonder if Jesus and the Bible were like the rest of the made up stories and he had many doubts.

Ask yourself about each of the made up stories that you may tell… “Is lying to my children about this really honoring God or teaching God’s message effectively?” (To be clear, lying is when you convince your child the made up story is true… not just telling them a fictional story.) But let’s go further, beyond even lying to your children and the possible mistrust that creates for more important issues later.

Let’s take the story of Santa Claus as a representative example and see what it teaches. I will name a few, you can probably think of more.

  • The focus of Christmas, especially for kids, is “What stuff do I get?” With Santa, the story does not even focus at all on giving but rather only on getting. Trying to tell a child Christmas is about Jesus, but then overwhelming them with presents and made up stories about Santa is like telling a child to eat a carrot and then putting in front of them a table full of cookies, brownies, cakes, and ice cream. At the very least, the table of desserts is a major distraction. In most cases, the children will remember the desserts long after they forget the carrot.
  • Gifts are not received from parents out of love, but rather you receive gifts because you deserve them. You were “good”.  Rather than a sign of love and sacrifice from parents who worked to earn money and chose to spend it on presents… it is a right to get gifts.
  • Supposed accountability for “bad” behavior (e.g. coal in the stocking) never really happens. There really is no punishment for poor behavior… or perhaps we just need to do more good than we do bad… and then the bad is ok.
  • There is another person, different from God, that has god like powers. He is essentially all knowing, very powerful, and can be in many places at the same time. He is eternal. He judges who is good and bad.
  • After spending years lying to children and convincing them that Santa is real, even when they start to recognize it and ask questions, we will then tell them it was all in fun… but trust me about Jesus.

Santa is in fact accepted around the world by many because he is absolutely not pointing to God, but rather distracting attention away from God or replacing God completely. Christians and non-Christians alike  accept him. In one very recent example, Santa’s picture was used as a spokesman for a billboard campaign by atheists basically saying we can be good without need of God. “Go ahead and skip church! Just be good for goodness sake.” (link to article here). [How an atheist can define “good” while claiming there is no God is an interesting conversation for another day.]

I recognize that this is an emotional subject for many and admitting that we should change is very hard. Even if we accept it and change our behavior, there will be much difficulty among family. This is to be expected when we stand for Christ above all others. Jesus said so himself in Matthew 10:32-39.

32 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.

34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
36     Your enemies will be right in your own household!’[l]

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

We each must decide whether or not we submit to God fully or hold tightly to the traditions of man. By the way… study of the new testament clearly shows that clutching to the traditions of man was the way of the Pharisees and Sadducees, not the way of Jesus.

God wants his people to be holy (set apart for God’s use) and righteous (living according to God’s commands rather than the world’s). He wants us to put Him first, above everything else.

Challenge yourself to objectively evaluate your traditions and seek first the kingdom of God. Do not dismiss this quickly but rather prayerfully seek God to show you the truth of His word and how to apply it in your life.

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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.

Key Points From 1 John In His Own Words

John summarizes and emphasizes why he wrote the letter to his audience. It is a good summary from his own perspective.

1 John 5:13-21

This Is Written That You May Know

      13These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.

      16If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. 17All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.

      18We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

      21Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

Quick recap… We who submit to and follow Yeshua have eternal life. We know he hears us when we ask anything according to his will and that we will have what we request. Let us take care not to overlook the phrase “according to his will”. It is not about God being at our beck and call to deliver everything according to our will.

When we read the section about sin leading to death and not leading to death, we should remember that the penalty for all sin is death, but through Christ our sins can be forgiven and thus not lead to death… but only through Christ. John seems to be encouraging us to pray for others who we see sinning and the prayers will be answered, if it is according to God’s will. But we should take care also to remember the “unpardonable” sin Yeshua describes… this is the sin leading to death.

Matthew 12:30-32

The Unpardonable Sin

      30“He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

      31“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32“Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

It is another opportunity for prayer and study to try to understand this unpardonable sin. I think it is often understood to be the continuing rejection of the Holy Spirit. When we couple this with the use of the term “brother” it seems that this is a description of seeing a brother or sister in Christ sinning, but not rejecting the Spirit. We pray for them to be forgiven of this and they will be according to God’s will.

We are encouraged again as John approaches his closing to trust in God who will keep us and we are warned that this world lies in the power of the evil one. Let us not expect righteousness and godliness from the world.  We are reminded that Yeshua came so that we could better know the Father and there is one last warning about avoiding idols.

Please prayerfully reflect on this and ask YHWH to help you gain clarity and understanding of how to apply it in your life.

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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.

We Love God By Keeping His Commandments, And They Are Not Burdensome

We show love and respect for our parents through obedience, especially as we are children growing up under their charge. The same is true for our relationship with our heavenly Father. He shows love to us through grace and forgiveness. We show love to him through our obedience to his instructions and commandments. If we take that comparison a bit farther… is a child showing love by picking which rules he or she obeys from her parents? Put simply, no. It is disobedience and rebellion if they choose not to obey some. It is the same for us with our Father. We do not show love by picking and choosing which commandments we will follow and leaving others behind. We show love and respect by obeying all the rules. Further, we seek to clearly understand the rules and how to properly apply them because we want to please him… if we truly love him.

We are also reminded clearly that “his commandments are not burdensome”. If we think they are, we have the wrong attitude. We obey all sorts of rules and guidelines based on man’s determining for a home or a city or a state or a country. We have rules at work and rules at school and rules at home and think nothing about it. It makes sense to make everything run smoothly and keep people safe. Why then is it so easy to complain about changing our lives to live according to God’s laws? Why do we try so hard to dismiss the parts of his rules that we don’t really want to follow? It is really an issue of the heart, as with the metaphor above comparing it to a family and their children in how they relate to their parents. Are you driven by love and respect for your Father and wanting to please him? or driven by self and desires to live your life your way?

1 John 5:1-12

Overcoming the World

      1Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. 4For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

      5Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 6This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7For there are three that testify: 8the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. 10The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. 11And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

Too many Christians dismiss the entirety of the Old Testament as obsolete or no longer meaningful. As such, they often don’t study it to fully understand all that God has laid out in his instruction for us to do. The Torah is the heart of God’s instruction to us. Yeshua taught from the Torah and the writings of the prophets. We should pay attention and study it like he did. We should seek to understand what we should still be doing and what has been fulfilled through Christ. We should test this against scripture with effort on our part to study it rather than just accept what is taught by pastors in churches without testing it.

To learn more, read Understanding the Law, What Does It Mean Today? and Is God’s Law a Burden?

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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 Spirit of God Came Upon Saul

We can read 1 Samuel and reflect on the dramatic historical events that are recorded here. If we are not careful, we can come to the same wrong conclusion that some of the people who were rescued came to… that Saul saved them. Saul, however, clearly declares that it was the LORD and not himself… and it was indeed.

If we read carefully, we see that “the Spirit of God came upon Saul”. He was  behind a plow, recently named king and still plowing his own field. He was not prepared with strategic or military training. He was a simple farmer empowered by the Spirit of God.

I also admire the early record of Saul in that he was not proud, but humble. He did not seek to harm those who had questioned him becoming king. He gave all the glory to God. It would seem that later as he had reigned for a longer period of time he gradually changed in his desire for attention and glory from the people, which was ultimately his undoing before God as he chose to seek the approval of the people over that of God. But early in his reign, here in 1 Samuel 11, we see a pure heart and humble man, giving glory to God rather than himself. There is a lesson for all of us to prayerfully reflect on.

1 Samuel 11

Saul Defeats the Ammonites

      1Now Nahash the Ammonite came up and besieged Jabesh-gilead; and all the men of Jabesh said to Nahash, “Make a covenant with us and we will serve you.” 2But Nahash the Ammonite said to them, “I will make it with you on this condition, that I will gouge out the right eye of every one of you, thus I will make it a reproach on all Israel.” 3The elders of Jabesh said to him, “Let us alone for seven days, that we may send messengers throughout the territory of Israel. Then, if there is no one to deliver us, we will come out to you.” 4Then the messengers came to Gibeah of Saul and spoke these words in the hearing of the people, and all the people lifted up their voices and wept.

      5Now behold, Saul was coming from the field behind the oxen, and he said, “What is the matter with the people that they weep?” So they related to him the words of the men of Jabesh. 6Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul mightily when he heard these words, and he became very angry. 7He took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout the territory of Israel by the hand of messengers, saying, “Whoever does not come out after Saul and after Samuel, so shall it be done to his oxen.” Then the dread of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out as one man. 8He numbered them in Bezek; and the sons of Israel were 300,000, and the men of Judah 30,000. 9They said to the messengers who had come, “Thus you shall say to the men of Jabesh-gilead, ‘Tomorrow, by the time the sun is hot, you will have deliverance.’” So the messengers went and told the men of Jabesh; and they were glad. 10Then the men of Jabesh said, “Tomorrow we will come out to you, and you may do to us whatever seems good to you.” 11The next morning Saul put the people in three companies; and they came into the midst of the camp at the morning watch and struck down the Ammonites until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together.

      12Then the people said to Samuel, “Who is he that said, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Bring the men, that we may put them to death.” 13But Saul said, “Not a man shall be put to death this day, for today the LORD has accomplished deliverance in Israel.”

      14Then Samuel said to the people, “Come and let us go to Gilgal and renew the kingdom there.” 15So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal. There they also offered sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.

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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.

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 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. You do not need Christmas as an excuse to give a present.

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.

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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.

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