Worship The Lord His Way, Not Your Way

Most of us who have followed Yahweh for awhile have had the opportunity to see His hand at work in our lives. I have marveled that He takes such an interest in someone so insignificant as me, but nonetheless He does! He loves each of His children. As we get to know Him more closely, we more easily recognize His hand at work in our lives.

We must take heed, however, and not turn away when we feel distant from Him or when we do not feel His presence. At those times, we must continue obeying His commands and His ways, faithfully believing that He is there, even if we do not see His hand at work. Often we can point back to events in our lives where He intervened to encourage us to remember Him. Do not turn from Him.

Consider His people as they left Egypt. Yahweh delivered them from slavery through many mighty miracles. There were ten plagues, parting of the Red Sea, defeat of Pharaoh’s army, God appearing as fire  and smoke to lead them, manna and water miraculously to meet their needs in the dessert. Surely we would think that generation could never turn from God, but they did.

Exodus 32:1-10

The Golden Calf

      1Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 5Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” 6So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

      7Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8“They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” 9The LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. 10“Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”

I think we can all see clearly that Yahweh was not pleased with His people for making this idol and worshipping it. He was going to destroy them and start over. Let us consider carefully what happened. If we read to quickly we may conclude, as many have, that the Israelites were worshipping an idol of a false god and that is why Yahweh was upset… but this is not the case.

Look closer. Indeed they had created an idol and began to worship it, but in fact they were using the idol to represent Yahweh Himself. Consider the following verses:

“This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 5Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.”

In fact, the people were worshipping Yahweh, and He was very upset! Why? Yahweh does not want His people to worship Him in the way that the pagans worship their false gods. It disgusts Him. He wants us to worship Him in the way He tells us.

Deuteronomy 12:30-32

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

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

The Israelites may have been worshipping Yahweh, but they were doing so in like manner to how the Egyptians worshipped their false gods by making idols.

While this may seem like it does not apply today, it certainly does! Yahweh has not changed His opinion on what is good and what is bad. He still does not want us to worship Him with idols or with any of the manners or traditions with which the pagans worship false gods. If we take the time to study our common Christmas and Easter traditions (and other traditions as well), we will certainly find the history of many of these traditions are derived not from God’s word, but from pagan worship practices. Christians have created new meanings for many of these traditions, but they still are derived from pagan worship. Yahweh is not pleased, even if we say it is He whom we are worshipping.

Do not repeat the error of the Israelites, which drew great anger from Yahweh. Instead, learn the history and true origin of the traditions you practice. Reject the ones that are derived from pagan worship. Instead, study and learn the practices and worship that Yahweh instructs us in His word. There is so much to learn!

I feel like I have been on an archaeological dig for a decade to understand and lay down traditions rooted in pagan worship and instead to focus on and adopt practices and traditions that are commanded in God’s word in the Old Testament.

I encourage you to invest time to get to know Yahweh. If He is Lord (and He certainly is!), then we should take time to learn His ways and reject the ways of the pagan worship… even if done in Yahweh’s name. Do not accept something just  because it is a family or cultural “tradition”. Test and explore to understand the true origin and whether or not it may be offensive to our Lord. Choose the Lord’s ways over even dear traditions that may be emotionally difficult to walk away from.

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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.

Who Is Your Father? Whom Do You Really Follow?

John 8 includes a very tense interchange between Yeshua and those who were wanting to kill Him. He makes a striking point. Our actions will clearly reflect our hearts and reflect the desires of the one we follow. The one whom we truly follow is not revealed by what we say alone, but by what we do. What we do reveals if we follow our Creator or the father of lies.

For those that believed in Him, Yeshua said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine”. He goes on to highlight how they will know the truth and it will truly set them free. It does not set them free from the law. It does not set them free from physical bondage. It sets them free from the power of sin over their life.

For those who seek to kill the One sent by the Father, their rejection of Christ reveals that they do not know or follow the Father. Yeshua highlights that they are in fact following Satan, albeit unwittingly. The same is still true for us today. We are either sons and daughters of God or of Satan. Only Christ can set us free from the power of sin and reconcile us with our Creator.

John 8:31-59

The Truth Will Make You Free

     31So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”

      34Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35“The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37“I know that you are Abraham’s descendants; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word has no place in you. 38“I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.”

      39They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham. 40“But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. 41“You are doing the deeds of your father.” They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.” 42Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. 43“Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 44“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45“But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. 46“Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 47“He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”

      48The Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50“But I do not seek My glory; there is One who seeks and judges. 51“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he will never see death.” 52The Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets also; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste of death.’ 53“Surely You are not greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets died too; whom do You make Yourself out to be?54Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’; 55and you have not come to know Him, but I know Him; and if I say that I do not know Him, I will be a liar like you, but I do know Him and keep His word. 56“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57So the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” 59Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.

You can ask yourself whom you really serve. However, we often rationalize our own actions and beliefs. Seek a godly friend you can trust. Ask the Spirit to reveal to you the answer. Read the Bible critically and challenge what you do to see if it is really consistent with God’s word. Pursue the Creator as Father. Change yourself to become more in line with His image rather than redefining Him to your image.

     31So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You will become free’?”

      34Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.

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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.

Do You Walk In Light Or In Darkness?

There are two kinds of people in this world… those who walk in the Light and those who walk in darkness. 

Many will argue that there is relative truth. Something is true for me may not be true for you. This is nonsense. The fact that people reject what God says is true does not change the fact that it is true. In fact, if every person on the planet rejected it, it would still be true… just like if everyone on the planet agreed there was no gravity it would still be true that gravity exists. They would just be living their lives with a wrong view of the world, which has bad consequences. It leads to bad decisions. 

Some will accept that there is a single truth, but define it according to the world or their own opinion rather than the word of God. When they see a conflict between what God says in the Bible and their own views, they prefer to redefine God and perhaps dismiss or make up new interpretations of the Bible rather than confronting and changing their own wrong behavior and attitudes. 

The righteous, those who choose to walk in the Light, will choose to believe God’s word rather than their own world view. When they are in conflict, they choose to accept God’s truth and change their own ways. Please take careful note that it is living according to God’s word in the Bible, not just according to the teaching of a particular church. We can easily see the rapid and significant change in the church that reflects opinions of the world rather than the unchanging word of God. There are many false pastors and lost churches who claim to follow Christ. I would not choose to walk in the dark blindly with someone else leading me if I could instead get a flashlight and see for myself… would you? So why do we do this with something as important as instructions our Creator gave to us? Test everything against the truth of the Bible yourself. Spend time to study it. We spend time to get to know new friends or our spouse or children… why would we not do the same with our Creator? 

John 8:12-30

Jesus Is the Light of the World

      12Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” 13So the Pharisees said to Him, “You are testifying about Yourself; Your testimony is not true.” 14Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. 15“You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. 16“But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. 17“Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. 18“I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.” 19So they were saying to Him, “Where is Your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” 20These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come.

      21Then He said again to them, “I go away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.” 22So the Jews were saying, “Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23And He was saying to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. 24“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” 25So they were saying to Him, “Who are You?” Jesus said to them, “What have I been saying to you from the beginning? 26“I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world.” 27They did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father. 28So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. 29“And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” 30As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.

Yeshua came to die for our sin. Our sin is created from our choices to live according to our own ways rather than those of God. Let us accept His gift, His sacrifice, and seek to follow Him by changing our lives, even when it is uncomfortable. Let us choose to walk in the Light. It brings us to close relationship with our Creator and to more joyful, righteous living amongst people as well. 

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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 Adulterous Woman

In John 8, Yeshua is confronted by scribes and Pharisees who bring a woman who they say was caught in adultery. There was a trap here. They were not interested in His opinion. They wanted to catch Him in some error. Perhaps they wanted to draw Him into denying or rejecting the law given to Moses so they could condemn Him. Perhaps they tried to trap Him by only bringing the woman? Should not the man be there also for punishment? We also don’t know what Yeshua wrote in the ground. There is much speculation. Was it about the sins of the accusers? We don’t know.

What we do know…

  • Yeshua in no way denied or rejected the law given to Moses. If He had, the accusers would have had what they wanted and seized Him.
  • Yeshua did not say it was ok to commit the sin. He did not excuse the sinner from the associated guilt.
  • Yeshua did not rebuke the accusers for confronting the woman in her sin. He rebuked them for the hardness of their hearts to use her life as part of a trap for Him. They were seeking neither justice nor God.

All who were there, seemingly even the woman accused, accepted that the behavior was wrong and she was guilty. Yeshua pointed out the hypocrisy of those who had come to trap Him. He brought to their minds their own guilt for their sins… their need for asking God for forgiveness.

John 8:1-11

The Adulterous Woman

      1But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. 3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court,4they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. 5“Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” 6They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. 7But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. 10Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” 11She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”]

The last guidance He gave to the woman was to go and sin no more. Repentance, not acceptance of the sin, which is demonstrated truly when we stop repeating the sin.

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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.

 

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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.

Mutual Delight In Each Other

Sometimes our culture chooses to portray sex and sexual attraction outside of marriage as “exciting” and sex inside marriage as non existent or boring. Some in the church even get misled to thinking somehow they are not supposed to be excited about it. God created sex as a gift in our relationship between husband and wife. We are to enjoy it and through it we are to strengthen our bond of intimacy. We are supposed to find delight in each other in this way.

Song of Solomon 6

Mutual Delight in Each Other

1“Where has your beloved gone,
O most beautiful among women?
Where has your beloved turned,
That we may seek him with you?”

      2“My beloved has gone down to his garden,
To the beds of balsam,
To pasture his flock in the gardens
And gather lilies.

      3“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,
He who pastures his flock among the lilies.”

      4“You are as beautiful as Tirzah, my darling,
As lovely as Jerusalem,
As awesome as an army with banners.

      5“Turn your eyes away from me,
For they have confused me;
Your hair is like a flock of goats
That have descended from Gilead.

      6“Your teeth are like a flock of ewes
Which have come up from their washing,
All of which bear twins,
And not one among them has lost her young.

      7“Your temples are like a slice of a pomegranate
Behind your veil.

      8“There are sixty queens and eighty concubines,
And maidens without number;

      9But my dove, my perfect one, is unique:
She is her mother’s only daughter;
She is the pure child of the one who bore her.
The maidens saw her and called her blessed,
The queens and the concubines also, and they praised her, saying,

      10‘Who is this that grows like the dawn,
As beautiful as the full moon,
As pure as the sun,
As awesome as an army with banners?’

      11“I went down to the orchard of nut trees
To see the blossoms of the valley,
To see whether the vine had budded
Or the pomegranates had bloomed.

      12“Before I was aware, my soul set me
Over the chariots of my noble people.”

      13“Come back, come back, O Shulammite;
Come back, come back, that we may gaze at you!”

“Why should you gaze at the Shulammite,
As at the dance of the two companies?

In fact, sex in marriage is so important that we are told not to withhold it from one another. It is to be given and enjoyed freely, not withheld for power or to force someone to agree to something else. The Biblical view is really anchored in the concept that the two have become one. They are no longer separate individuals.

1 Corinthians 7:3-5

3The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Do not deprive one another such that Satan can utilize that opportunity to tempt you into sin. Do not use sex or withholding of sex as a negotiating tactic. Enjoy sex together as husband and wife and let it strengthen your intimacy.

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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.

Choose Life

We have the same offer today from YHWH, the same choice. He has set before us each a choice. It is up to us to choose life and blessing over the curse. However this means we must choose Him, we must choose to love Him, walk in His ways, and keep His commandments, His statutes, His judgments… rather than our own or those devised by man. The source of truth is not what is taught in churches. The source of truth is God, Himself and He has provided to us a written record of His instruction in the Bible, which is available to all.

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Choose Life

     15“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; 16in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. 17“But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. 19“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, 20by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

To choose God and the ways of man is not to truly choose God. We can each have only one master. Choose and choose wisely. There are eternal consequences in addition to the trials and / or joy we can experience in this world. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. To do so, we realize that we must be open to change our understanding of His instructions as we study further the Bible and learn more of the ways in which the instruction found in churches today does not line up in many cases with the Bible itself and God’s instruction. Praise the Lord, we find His instructions are not burdensome, but draw us nearer to 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.

Our God Is A God Of Forgiveness And Restoration

Deuteronomy 30 surely seems to apply to God’s chosen people, Israel. He prophetically foretold that they would sin and separate from Him, face the tough consequences, but that they would return to the Lord and be restored, even gathered back to the promised land… and they have been. It remains powerful evidence to the reality of God and the truth of His word.

We can also reflect that we serve the same God. One who offers us a choice of the blessing of obedience or the curse of disobedience… as a nation but also as individuals. Though we may choose poorly and make many mistakes, He is ready for us to return to Him, with humble and repentant heart… in obedience to Him and on His terms. What a wonderful God we serve!

Deuteronomy 30:1-14

Restoration Promised

      1“So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the LORD your God has banished you, 2and you return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, 3then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you. 4“If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back. 5“The LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.

      6“Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. 7“The LORD your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate you, who persecuted you.8“And you shall again obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments which I command you today. 9“Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; 10if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.

      11“For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. 12“It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 13“Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 14“But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.

What He asks of us is not too difficult. It is not out of reach.  Our God has made it very achievable to do as He asks and don’t let the world tell you different. However, He does require us to come to Him on His own terms, not our own. We can not submit to Him halfheartedly and expect His full approval and embrace.

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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.

People Are Divided Over Jesus And Will Remain So Until He Returns

Yeshua invites us to come to Him. Those of us who realize our lives are empty without Him and are called by the Lord will accept Him and come to Him. Others will remain opposed to Him. Do not expect everyone to unite around Him before He returns. Do not let the fact that others oppose Him stop you from following Him. Choose Him over the world and be ready to deal with conflict. Pray for strength and help from the Lord to stand firm in living your life for Christ when others come against Him and possibly you as well.

John 7:37-53

   37Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Division of People over Jesus

      40Some of the people therefore, when they heard these words, were saying, “This certainly is the Prophet.” 41Others were saying, “This is the Christ.” Still others were saying, “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He? 42“Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the descendants of David, and from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43So a division occurred in the crowd because of Him. 44Some of them wanted to seize Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

      45The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, and they said to them, “Why did you not bring Him?” 46The officers answered, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks.” 47The Pharisees then answered them, “You have not also been led astray, have you? 48“No one of the rulers or Pharisees has believed in Him, has he? 49“But this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed.” 50Nicodemus (he who came to Him before, being one of them) said to them, 51“Our Law does not judge a man unless it first hears from him and knows what he is doing, does it?” 52They answered him, “You are not also from Galilee, are you? Search, and see that no prophet arises out of Galilee.” 53[Everyone went to his home.

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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.

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