New Article in the ‘Jailhouse’ Miracles Series

Jail ministry is, along with other ministries, a great way to serve brothers or sisters and share the gospel.  Yes, I said ‘serve brothers or sisters’ as there are many of those who follow Yeshua (Jesus) that make mistakes and end up in jail, and they need visits also.  However, the guest article is not about jail ministry per se, but about the author’s experiences of God while in jail!  He is slowly sharing his many stories about how God showed His love and care even while he was in jail, and that there is nothing that can snatch one out of His hand.

So far, he has shared two stories, but there are more to come.  The stories are a wonderful testimony to both God’s care and that He can use anyone anywhere at anytime.  He is not bound by any man-made boundaries!  Not even the theological boundaries that we so willingly and quickly put up.

I hope the stories challenge any boxes you may have put God in, as well as encouraging you in your faith.  Have a look at them and let the author know what you think of them.   The second story has a sobering message for those in jailhouse ministry or thinking about doing so (and the story isn’t about anything you would expect!)  Here are links to the two stories so far:

Jailhouse Miracles

Jailhouse Miracles 2 – the Bible Study and visiting Pastors

Shalom!

  • Yosef

What do the Sacrifices from the “Old Testament” have to do with Today? (Numbers 28-29)

Most Christians, when asked what they know about the sacrificial system will respond in one of these ways:

“They were done away with by Jesus’ death.”

“They were a burden.”

“They only atoned (covered over) sin.”

And this is almost always done so with a dismissive tone as if the sacrificial system was something bad and God did good to get rid of it.  Would you be surprised to hear that none of the above statements (with a partial exception for the first) are true, and that such statements hide some wonderful truths that Christians would be well to pay attention to.

Let’s start with a fundamental difference between Christianities point of view about the “Law of God” and the Jewish point of view.  Christians look at a law such as “don’t eat blood” and say, “I have to obey that?!”  It is a burden that has to be followed.  The Jewish point of view (including Yeshua’s point of view) would say, after having an opportunity to eat meat with the blood still in it, but not doing so, “I got to worship God by not eating blood just now.”  I hope you can get a glimpse of how fundamental this difference is as it affects you entire view point of the “old Testament.”

So, back to the sacrificial system.  Looking at Numbers 28 to 29, there is a long list of sacrifices to be given and instructions on how (this is just one place in the “Law” where sacrifices are discussed).  Note a few things.

First, the vast majority of the sacrifices have nothing to do with sin.  Nothing. 

This is true for all sacrifices.  There are sacrifices of thanksgiving, praise, finishing vows, and ritual purity (which is not about sin).  There are some sacrifices for sin.  Most are for the community (such as all those in the Numbers 28-29 passage).  There are some for individuals (such as in Leviticus 6:4-6).  Many of the sacrifices for sin are for ‘unintentional’ sin.

There are no sacrifices (with very few exceptions) for deliberate sin!  Consider King David and his sin with Bathsheba.  There was no sacrifice for that!

God forgave sin when people repented (actively turned from the sin).  This is the same in the “Old Testament” as in the “New.”  Consider 1 John 1:9,

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (ESV)

“But what about Jesus’ sacrifice?” you may ask.

Yeshua’s (Jesus’) sacrifice “takes away the sin of the world,” just as it is written of him.  That includes the sin that we don’t even know about, or we don’t even realize is sin (such as following age old traditions that are completely accepted within Christianity but not accepted by God).  But even with Yeshua’s (Jesus’) sacrifice, we need to repent when we sin.

Lastly there are a couple important lessons to learn from the sacrificial system.  Note that God required that the animals sacrificed be “without blemish.”  In other words, it was to be one of the best animals.  And He was very specific about how it was to be done.  No pagan practices were involved.

When we worship God, do we give our best?  How often do we buy something new for those in need instead of giving old stuff (which is good, but not worship as God sets forth).

If we can learn anything from the sacrificial system, it is this: Give our Best in all our worship of God, and worship Him as He wants.

[Note: ‘Worship’ here is not limited to singing, but in every facet of life where we can be obedient to Him, including in our helping others.]

  • Yosef

10 Commandments Series – 1: “I am the LORD your God”

In the typical Christian tradition, the first ‘commandment’ is, “you shall have no other God’s before me.”  However, that is the wrong place to start.  The first statement that starts off the “10 Statements” is,

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

The list must start with an explanation of who is giving the list.  Otherwise, there is no foundation for authority.  It could be anyone giving a list of rules if there is no authorship attributed to the list.  Perhaps this is a good part of the reason why the ‘battle’ for displaying the “10 Commandments” was so easily lost here in the USA.  Also, perhaps leaving out the authorship also points to an endemic problem in Christianity where the word of God receives less and less attention.

But the list does start with claiming who the author is.  He starts by naming Himself.  In most English translations, one wouldn’t even notice this as the word “LORD” is used in place of his name (this is true in both Christian and some popular Jewish translations).  But that is not His name.  That is a deliberate obfuscation of His name.  His name is clearly spelled out in the original Hebrew and is the four Hebrew letters, “yud hey vav hey”.  (See this post about His name).

In this beginning statement, we see both His name, and what He has done.  Both are important and foundational to our faith in Him and our obedience to Him.  Knowing His name is great, but what dos that mean to us?  Thus He clarifies even more and says that He is the author of salvation.  Author of salvation?  What?

God states that He brought us out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  Most think only that this is talking of what He did for the Israelites.  But it is so much more.  Elsewhere in scripture God tells the Israelites to think of these words as if they were the ones personally brought out.  That injunction stands for us today.

Think of it this way: ‘house of slavery’ as in slavery to sin;  ‘land of Egypt’ as in the world’s ways.  In other words, God is the one that brings us into His kingdom, freeing us from the slavery to sin and freeing us from the bondage to the ways of the world. 

If this foundation is not present, the foundation of who God is – YHVH – and what He did for us – freed us from bondage to the ways of this world, and from slavery to sin.  We are now free to serve Him!  Without knowing this, Yeshua’s (Jesus’) sacrifice would not have the meaning it has.  Without the foundation of who God is and what He has done, the 10 statements become the 10 commandments, and they become just part of the “dead” law God gave, instead of being the living, active words they are.

  • Yosef

What’s Your Life Goal?

What is your life goal?  I realized just recently that somewhere along the line of life, my life goal moved over to this:  I want a comfortable, quiet life where I can learn of God and follow Yeshua.

When did Yeshua (Jesus) ever promise us a comfortable or quiet life when we followed him?  He didn’t.  I strayed away from the greatest commandment,

Hear O Israel!  The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart; with all your soul; and with all your might.

God calls us to give completely of ourselves to Him.  Yeshua (Jesus) told us to ‘take up our cross and follow him.’  That certainly isn’t a description of a comfortable, quiet life.

The effects of not having my goal correct were becoming apparent in many aspects of my life.   Anxiety, stress, and even depression.   And yet I would tell myself that I was trusting God for all things.

What does my life look like when I have one or the other goals first in my life?  When comfort was my life goal, I’d be often thinking about material needs, entertainment, and stress reduction.  When Yeshua is my life goal, then I would be spending much more time doing what the word of God says: “speak of His law when I sit in my house and when I walk on my way and when I lie down and when I rise up” (paraphrase of Deuteronomy 6:7).  We see in the Psalms that King David did this.  Yeshua also tells us to not be anxious about our life (Matthew 6:25-34).  “Anxious” doesn’t have to mean worrying about something, but simply thinking about it and going after something.  Wanting it.

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV).

There is nothing wrong with having material things.  But for me, I was thinking of such things more often then God’s word.

What we spend our time thinking about and going after shows us what our life goal is.

So, measure your own life by God’s word and check what your life goal is.  Follow the words that are part of the verse that Jesus (Yeshua) called the ‘greatest commandment’ and transform your life (see Deuteronomy 6:4-9).  If you’re like me, it is best to start with small steps and increase as you go.  When our goal is correct our lives will be peaceful (which does not mean uneventful).  It is what God promised.  We can trust Him.

  • Yosef

Balaam, Balak, and the talking Donkey: Numbers 22 and 23

Before I start I have to say that this study isn’t about the donkey.  There are tons of teachings, preachings, and even songs about the donkey out there.  No, this study is about Balaam.  Specifically Balaam’s first encounter with the messengers from Balak, and his first message from the LORD.

Numbers 22:12-13, “God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them.  You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.”  So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balaak, “Go to your own land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” (ESV)

Notice something interesting in what Balaam told the messengers?  He didn’t tell them all of what God had said.  It reminds me of how a child may act when he asks his parents if he can do something.  They say no and explain why.  The child then goes to his friends, pouting, and says, “my parents won’t let me.”  Balaam is acting the same way, and in doing so, two things are set in motion.

First, Balaak is encouraged to ask again, but with more reward promised.  I wonder if Balaam didn’t hope this would happen…

Second, an opportunity to honor God was lost.  God’s words were changed in that Balaam only reported some of what God said.  Balaam never reported the explanation God gave.  Balaam dropped the bit about a blessing.  Balaam was looking for immediate rewards (from Balaak for cursing Israel) and thus chose to ignore God’s promise.

So to do we today change God’s words.  One way is that people who give “a word from the Lord” may interpret those words into something different – something the speaker thinks the hearers want or need to hear.  This is a dangerous thing to do.  It puts one into the ‘false prophet’ camp.  However, much more rampant is the other way God’s word is changed.

The majority of us take some of God’s word, ignore or explain away other parts, and then run with it.  We forget that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  I see way to many examples of this behavior to even begin to list, but here are two examples:

God said (somewhat contracted for emphasis ), “Don’t eat pork … therefore you should be holy for I am holy.”  (Levitcus 11 and Deuteronomy 14).   As Balaam only reported the first part of what God said, so people only report the “Don’t eat pork.”

The blessing is deliberately left off to make it easier to disregard the command in favor of the immediate rewards of the world (eating anything we want), just as Balaam didn’t say that Israel was to be blessed as he was looking for rewards from Balak.

Another example is this, “Don’t store up treasures for yourself… for where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”  (Matthew6:19-24).  All of us make excuses why we can’t give to charities or the poor.  We remember only the command “don’t store up treasures for yourself” and disregard it in favor of immediate “rewards”, forgetting the blessing that would come (in this case, our heart being in heaven).

So it comes down to this.  Yeshua (Jesus) never said that following God wouldn’t require hard choices.  Rather he said the opposite with such as the words, “take up your cross daily and follow me.”

It is making those hard choices that refine us into the holy people we are to be.  Choosing to follow His word, even when it goes against what we want to do, or what everyone around us is doing, refines us to be the set apart (holy) people God wants us to be.

  • Yosef