Requiem for a Saint

I recently attended the memorial service for a friend.  To summarize his life, he loved people, loved to help others, and loved God’s word, and it showed throughout his life.  Even in his old age, when problems were making it difficult for him to get around, he would go help those in need; take part in Bible studies for people in trouble (drugs, etc); and simply always be available.  I didn’t know him long, but what struck me almost immediately was his attitude of accepting people as who they were, with any and all baggage they had, and his ability to connect with just about anyone.  And he thirsted for the word of God, and was not afraid to ask questions of God, and listen to various interpretations of His word.  He lived a righteous life.

I also knew some of his darkest secrets, yet those did not define the man.  ‘Righteous’ does not mean perfect, but it does mean living one’s life with God in the forefront.  And he certainly did so.  I will always have him in mind when I think about what it truly means to walk as God wanted us to, as summarized in this verse from the Bible: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart; with all your soul; and with all your strength.”

When we encounter such people, or have them in our lives, we typically do not recognize all that they are.  Perhaps that is why God tells us several times that He does not see us as we see others and ourselves.  And I’m fairly certain that people like this do not want recognition.  They live as they do as it gives them joy.

So, George is now with Yeshua (Jesus), but his family is with us, grieving his loss.  Yet I hope and pray that they will take comfort in knowing that they were privileged to know this man who knew how to enjoy life and live for God through his actions.  His fruit will live on for years to come, and it will multiply.

(And I finally learned, during the memorial service, why he had an old school bus sitting in his backyard!)

  • Yosef

Numbers 16 – Korah’s Rebellion

In Numbers chapter 16 we find Korah, a Levite, and a number of other leaders of the people of Israel, rising up and challenging Moses.

God had already ordained how the Israelite society was to run, and had given specific jobs to the Levites and to the priests (who were also Levites, but descendants of Aaron).  Korah and those others thought that they should have more responsibility as they regarded themselves as also “chosen”, though they veiled their complaint by saying that the entire community was holy (set apart to God) and therefore all should have more privileges in drawing near to the tabernacle.

It’s interesting to note God’s response.  He had every one of them bring a censor to burn before the LORD.  At first, this doesn’t sound odd as burning incense before the LORD is one of the things that is done in worship (service) to God.  Numbers 16:49 reminds us, however, that no one other then the priests are to do so.  Korah and the others knew this, yet they figured that should also be allowed to serve God in that way anyway.  They wanted to choose themselves.  If they had paid attention to God’s words, they would not (hopefully) have done what they did.

This isn’t the only place in scripture where God apparently tests people by asking them to do something against His word.  In the other three places I can think of, though, the situation was not people rebelling against God, but person’s following God, and He asks them to do something odd anyway.  The three situations I can think of are:

Abraham was asked to offer up Isaac.  Human sacrifice is abominable to God yet he asked Abraham to do so.  Interestingly, Abraham was about to do just that, but God did not allow it as that would have been an anathema to Him.  In this instance though, Abraham never questioned why God was asking Him to do something abominable.  He just started to do it.

The next situation is God asking Ezekiel to bake bread on human dung.  Ezekiel objects and God then says to use cow dung.  This is a very interesting situation and worthy of its own study.

The last situation is known as “Peter’s Vision” where God lets down a sheet full of animals and tells Peter to rise, kill, and eat.  Peter counters that he has never eaten anything unclean.  God goes on to use this incident to make a very powerful lesson to Peter and to us (and that lesson has nothing to do with food!).

Why do I bring up these situations?  Does God really test people?  What do you think?

From the story of Korah we can learn the following.  God is not a reed blown about in the wind depending on human desires and wants.  His way is set and He wants us to follow it.  I know many Christians will counter that “we are under grace, not law.”  But does freedom truly mean that we can do things as we see fit, as long as we say “the Spirit showed me” or add “in Jesus’ name” to it?  I find the story of Korah a strong caution against such rationalizations.  Of course we need to be led by the Spirit of the living God, but Korah and his group were using a similar comment (saying all were holy) to justify their actions.  Korah did not fool God, and neither can we when we try to go against His word by using “Jesus” as a justification.

  • Yosef

 

 

 

Craving God

What do you crave, really?

In Psalm 42, the author writes that as a deer craves or longs for water, so his soul craves after God, even though the situation at the moment may be dire.

What does it mean to “crave after God?”  Interestingly, God gives us the answer in His word.  Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a key, fundamental passage in Judaism, and Yeshua (Jesus) quoted from it when asked “what is the greatest commandment?”  Yeshua quoted the part that says, “Hear O Israel, The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul and strength.”  Any Jew, then or now, would recognize that verse as part of the entire passage that goes on to clarify what it means to “crave” after God.  The rest of the passage is this:

“And these words which I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the door posts of your house and on your gates.”  (ESV)

Craving God would have us teaching our children (not just taking them to Sunday school), and talking of His ways and laws all the time, and writing reminders of His law (and grace) on our houses.

And yet when we gather or take a trip with our families or friends, what is our conversation mostly about?  Rarely do I find people who live these words.  Not even in the churches do I find a craving for God.  People would rather discuss anything but His word.   Try it.  At a ‘Christian’ gathering, try to start a discussion about the Bible or even a recent sermon.  You may be surprised at the result.

As one of many examples, the topic of having the 10 commandments displayed in public or in schools has been in the news off and on for years.  When it does hit the news, I often hear of Christians objecting to the removal of the display.  And yet, how many of those objecting have the “10 commandments” displayed in their own houses?  In their churches?  Unfortunately, very few.  We simply do not crave God.

Many crave what is seen as “outpourings of God’s spirit” as a substitute for actually craving God himself.  I refer you to Yeshua’s (Jesus’) words in Matt. 7:21-23 (see this blog post on Matt. 7:21-23, as well as the comments to it).

Many ‘modern’ Christians would call this fanaticism, yet God often calls to us in His word to remember what He has done and said.  If that is fanaticism, then this world needs more of it!

  • Yosef

LORD – God’s Name

When I ask people, “what is God’s name”, I get many different responses.  Almost never do I get the answer as given almost 7000 times in the “old Testament”.

God clearly gives his name in Exodus 3:14-16.

In the Christian world there is much debate and discussion as to what those verses actually mean.  Many come up with saying that his name is “I AM”.  This confusion does not exist in the Jewish world.  It is clear in the Hebrew (no, I am not a Hebrew scholar and will not try to give Hebrew lessons.  However, there are many linguistic scholars out there that can explain it, and even some Christian scholars.  For example, Nehemia Gordon is a Jewish linguist and Keith Johnson is a Christian scholar.)

His name is composed of 4 Hebrew letters, yud-hey-vav-hey.  English translations, both Christian and Jewish, hide his name most often by using the phrase, “the LORD” (Lord in all capitals).

There may be differences on how to pronounce His name, and I’m not going into that here, but what His name is is clear.

Does it matter if we know His name?  Throughout scripture God refers to His name (one minor example: Isaiah 52:6).  Do a search on the phrase ‘my name’ in the Bible.  It’s an interesting quick study.

Both in the Christian and Jewish worlds, many different words are used in place of His name.  LORD, HaShem, ADONAI – are some of them.  In scripture, there is a shortened form of His name that is used.  It is, “Yah”.  Most often you will find this name tacked on to the back or front of a word or person’s or place’s name.  Most people know the word, “Hallelujah”, which means ‘praise to Yah.’

In this blog, I will most often use LORD or God, as this blog is mostly targeted to Christians.  However, I may at times also use “Yah”.

  • Yosef

Knowledge vs Thankfulness

This is the first posting after the “official” launch of the blog, so I thought I’d keep it upbeat.

In our world we are inundated with all the woes of life and our society.  It is often so much that we simply want to retreat and block it all out.  But what should our response be?  God’s answer is for us to be thankful.   Take a look at Psalm 100 or 1 Chronicles 16 or 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which are a small sampling of the places we are encouraged to give thanks.

I often run into people who are down or overwhelmed.  Actually, it happens to me quite a bit.  I remind them (and myself) to remember the things God has done and thank Him for them.  Remembering God’s deeds is even in the “10 commandments” (see Deuteronomy 4:15).  By the way, did you know that the “10 commandments” are not called “commandments” in the Bible, and that they are listed in two places with some very seemingly minor, but important differences?  (See this posting, or the blog tag, “commandments”).

But what about knowledge?  The author of the blog “Help Me Believe” makes an interesting point about knowledge (see his posting about apologetics).  Knowledge is important and of great benefit.  But knowledge alone doesn’t bridge the gap to faith.  Consider the apostle Peter and the others when they were in the boat crossing the lake and a storm came up (see Mark chapter 6).  The disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) ‘knew’ about the recent miracle of the loaves and the fish but they didn’t remember about it or, apparently, give thanks about it.  If they had, perhaps more of them would have “stepped out of the boat!”).

This blog is about knowledge and faith.  The two go together.

To sum up, here is what Jeremiah 9:23-24 says, “Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth.  For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”  (ESV – English Standard Version – emphasis mine).

  • Yosef