Draw Near

If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. (Exodus 12:48, ESV)

If any one term is the closest to the reason I follow the whole Bible, this is it. The term I’m speaking of is “come near.” In my view this is what Torah is all about. The term can be used for simply getting together (if we are talking about a pair or group of people), but when one of the parties is God it takes on a whole different character. We can “come near” God for judgment as in Malachi 3:5, or we can come near in love and intimacy. A similar term is “draw near.”

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8, ESV)

We “draw near” to God as we do what He says. The more we do, the closer we get. In humility we use His living oracles to wash the parts of us that get dirty. Though He has cleansed us wholly, we still need to wash occasionally.

Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” (John 13:10, ESV)

We are clean, but we still need to wash some in order to continue “drawing near.” Notice that Jesus did the foot washing during the Passover meal. Jesus continues to wash our feet by the washing of the Word as we “draw near” to Him through His commands. There is a continual cleansing by His Law because we are in a dirty world and sometimes we step in something odoriferous that needs to be removed. If we judge (cleanse) ourselves and wash our hands (or feet) then Jesus doesn’t have to judge us. His eye is on us for good and not for evil.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. (Psalm 32:8–9, ESV)

Shalom

Am I a Violent Person?

A few years ago I was a participant in a forum of which I’m no longer part. A lady asked everybody for help in determining how to respond to a professor teaching a church Sunday School who was giving her a hard time about her beliefs. My response encouraged her to be bold and challenge him on the Bible, and I used some western gun-fighting illustrations. I love Louis L’amour westerns. I also love being bold and strong in the Lord. So I encouraged her to stand up and not let the professor mow her over.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. (Ephesians 6:10, ESV)

One guy got on my case, telling me that I was an “anti-Semite” and that I was “speaking in crass language” and using “an incredible amount of violent terms.” This is the same thing as calling me violent. He was always getting on my case. He didn’t like the fact that I was against many traditions that I thought led away from the Word both Christian and Jewish. He had spent years learning orthodox Judaism (though he was a Gentile) and bristled every time I pointed out where that kind of stuff wasn’t in the Word or would detract from the Word.

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. (Proverbs 28:1, ESV)

I’m not sure what constitutes an “incredibly violent” person. Scripture says we will know people by their fruits, so I would think there would have to be fruit in my life that was “incredibly violent.” Like maybe felony convictions for violent crimes. Or testimony from others (like police officers or judges) as to my “violent” nature and actions. This guy had none of that. All he had was some gun fighting analogies I used. I told him I would accept his name calling if he would accept a label of “pompous self-important Jewish wannabe windbag who uses knowledge like a hammer to make himself feel important at the expense of others.” For some reason he didn’t want the even exchange!

He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:36–38, ESV)

Jesus told us we would need swords. I’m sure He didn’t mean for beating up on people, but that things were going to get rough and believers would have to be bold and strong.

The guy falsely accusing me had nothing on me. He twisted the Word, when he bothered to use it at all, for his own wicked ends. There was no investigation as the Word requires and sadly the forum leadership went right along with him and punished me. But Jesus warned me about wolves in sheep’s clothing. The truly violent are those such as the hypocrites who arrested Jesus using trumped up empty charges and murdered Him for threatening their power. That’s what I was doing, threatening the name-caller’s power. He demanded adherence to traditions of which he approved. He wanted to be in charge, but I was a biblical thorn in his side. I was bold, I spoke the Word of power with the hand of the Lord strong upon me. Violent men are those who divert attention from themselves by decrying the actions of the teachers of the kingdom of God, calling them names. Jesus knew the nature of their agenda.

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12, ESV)

Jesus means that violent men were taking hold of Godly men and throwing them in jail or killing them. John, Jesus, most of the prophets and apostles such as Paul and Peter and more suffered violence from violent people with pious traditions. Darkness is always fearful of the light, and takes steps to quench it. They were killed by people who thought they were doing God a favor. But we will not be cowed; we will be bold in the Lord and continue to teach His Word. I’m not a violent man, but I am a man capable of action. I will defend my people and land against those who would try to take it by the hidden violence of the cowardly. I will not be fearful of wannabe Jews (or wannabe Christians) steeped in plausible arguments captivating people with philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition. I have the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6), and I’m not afraid to use it. That’s not violence. That’s just the power of the Spirit. The minions of darkness are right to be afraid and to fear the violence of the fiery wrath that is coming. All they have for defense is name calling.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10, ESV)

Shalom

When Is Love Not Love?

You ever read those articles, books or blogs that get all weepy about how much has gone wrong in the writer’s life and how God has given them more than they can bear? Or on the flip side the ones that just go on and on (and on and on) about how God’s love or grace is enough and how wonderful everything is no matter how much cancer has destroyed their bodies, how many relatives died horribly, or how many limbs are missing? I have, and they bother me. Sometimes they make me wanna throw up. Other times they disgust me. Occasionally I want to reach through the computer monitor and shake the living crap out of them.

It’s not that I don’t sympathize with people who are going through tough things in life. Like is hard. God told us when we drew back from Him in the Garden that thorns, thistles, pain and sweat would mark our days. It’s not that I don’t think God can or will intervene (or should). He can and does. He doesn’t want suffering, He wants us to come to Him and live.

I think I’ve figured out two reasons the weepy stories bother me. For the ones who lose it and claim God has given them more than they can bear it torques me that while telling me that “we are not under law” they break down and blame God. This shows the depth of their faith. Right up to the ankles. So much for freedom in Christ. The other reason, for the ones who act like everything’s peachy because they “have Jesus,” is that they are really saying that sentiment is the answer (not obedience). As long as they feel all warm inside then love must be happening. As long as they can get hugs from each other everything is fine. Both of these types of writings (and lifestyles) have one thing in common: they are self-centered instead of God centered.

I’ve gotten self-centered on occasion. Perhaps that’s why I recognize it in others so easily. But living the Law helps me see it when I am tempted to blame God for what is happening and take steps to correct it. God is righteous; nothing He does is wrong or out of sync with His gracious character. His Laws are gracious and teach us love. We, on the other hand, are quite selfish on a daily basis. We shrug off the Laws as if “shadows” don’t mean anything. We do not ask Him if we should do such and such a thing; we merely do it. Do we modify our diet based on His recommendations? Usually not. So why do we complain if we get sick? Do we ask Him if we should get a shot of so-called “medicine?” No. Then why do we complain about auto-immune diseases such as cancer? Do you ever watch those shows about strange, weird or horrible diseases people get? Did you ever notice that they have two things in common – pork and shellfish? Just coincidence? Let me ask you. DID YOU ASK HIM if you should do something? Did you ask Him if you should drive that car, fly in that plane, or leave the kid alone for just a minute? Did you ignore His Word then wonder what hit you? You don’t ask Him first, and you’ve got the nerve to sit around and whine about the consequences of your “freedom in Christ?”

The Love (or grace) is Enough (and we don’t need the Law) people really get me because they don’t know love. They’re usually just plastering over the pain with some superficial smiles and a couple verses. How do I know? Because it doesn’t last. As soon as circumstances change a little, the smiles turn to snarls. Give ’em a little truth and they turn on you. If you were friends before you won’t be now.

Love rejoices with the truth, it is not offended by it. Love doesn’t need a smile to be love. We can cry and still love God. We can hurt and still do what He says. Love doesn’t need the whitewash of a grace created by man that is thinly veneered permission to sin. Real love exists along with pain, endures in spite of pain, and sustains us through the pain. Love knows that God is ruler of the universe and orders it as He sees fit. Love knows we are in His hands even when it doesn’t feel like it. Love continues to follow Him and His ways of Life though we might cry out for deliverance from our own stupidity. It is not led by feelings of sentiment, but generates them. Love does what God wants first all the time.

Trials hurt. People get sick and people die. There’s no getting around it. The reason it usually hurts so much is that we are selfish and we want a pain-free life and we want the dead to still be around (though it’s better for believers to be with Jesus). I do not mean to say that there should be no trials, nor am I saying that they should be lightly dismissed. But a heart centered on abiding in His Word, doing all of His living oracles (the Law), can weather the worst trials without losing it or glossing over it. That’s one of the many blessings of learning obedience through abiding in the whole of His Word (including the Law). Abiding is love; love is abiding.

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:9–11, ESV)

Shalom

Distractions, Part Four, Boring stuff

Boy there are a lot of distractions from the Word. I may run out of numbers eventually.

 

This distraction is kind of a reverse distraction. It is a distraction because it is not distracting. What I mean is, God’s message is simple. Easy to understand. Repetitive. And boring. It does not have bells and whistles, dramatic lighting, big screen TV’s, shocking YouTube videos, celebrity endorsements, titillating gossip, vampires, salacious tweets, soap opera story lines, or Oscar winning computer graphics. It’s pretty mundane on the surface. Right up until you try to do it.

 

I’m speaking of abiding in His Word. Doing what He says. That’s it. It’s just not enough for a Hollywood party.

 

Obey is the original four-letter word.

 

It doesn’t appear sexy, or exciting. Unless you actually try it on for size. Take His Word out for a spin and you’ll find out just how stimulating it really is. That is, if you truly intend to follow God with a whole heart of flesh.

 

Sabbath, for instance, is not as easy as it looks. Sounds great – just take Saturday off. No work. No chores. No sweat. But just try to do it out of love for God. You would not believe the stimulation in just resting. It goes against the world. It goes against commerce, because Saturday is a big “buying and selling” day for the unbelievers. It goes against our own natures. It looks tame, but fireworks really go off when we try to actually do what the Father says. We can feel His life flowing through us when we allow Him to write His Word on our heart with the Spirit, and actually do what Jesus did.

 

Or try to avoid pork and shellfish. Think it’s just another diet gimmick? Try it and you’ll think again. You will be amazed at the tremendous amount of this trash in a worldly meal you didn’t know was there. When love for God drives you to eat His body and drink His blood (His Word and will) instead, it charges up your walk with energy from the Spirit you didn’t know you had at your disposal. It’s like removing sticks from a dam across the flow of a stream. Soon the dam gives way and all that pent up power can move through your soul.

 

His feasts (Leviticus 23) are beautifully timed to regenerate your enthusiasm and bring biblical teachings right into your living room. The reality of His grace, mercy and justice is driven home with concrete practices right from His heart to yours. We remember the past, remind ourselves of His presence and promises while teaching our children about them, and reinforce hope for our future deliverance. What a blast. We are invited to regular parties by the King of Kings, and He really knows how to throw a bash. Get high on the Spirit with no hangover. And you remember every detail.

 

On the surface, viewed with a heart of stone, His Word can appear boring. The benefits are hidden to those who are so easily distracted by the ear-tickling shiny baubles of emotional detours. Try following every part of His living oracles as much as you can, however, and that’s when the excitement truly begins. If His Word appears boring, perhaps it’s not the Word that is the problem at all.

Father of Mercies, God of Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:3–5, ESV)

 

It’s tough to find comfort in the middle of sadness, and it is usually tough to offer comfort too. My mother-in-law passed away recently after a few years of not knowing who her family was and not hardly being able to feed and dress herself. Comfort was a little easier in her case because she had lived a pretty full life. My dad died from a brain disease at 62, a nephew died by his own hand recently at 30, and a friend died from cancer a few years ago in middle age after adopting five children. A six year-old girl I know is fighting leukemia. I have trouble finding comfort in understanding sometimes, but I do find comfort in the Father of mercies and God of comfort.

 

Believers have comfort because we know this life is not all there is. Our hope is that we will be reunited with loved ones who have gone before. This life is hard and death abounds because of sin, but it’s not going to stay that way forever. God is righteous, just, merciful and loving and has offered us a way out of the eternal consequences of sin.

 

It is a comfort to realize in a way that we MUST die once in order to enter eternal life. Sometimes it happens sooner than we want, but it must happen. None of us is getting out of this alive. We have a resurrection hope, that even if we lose life in this age we will regain it in the next. It is a comfort that God is in control, and He knows what He is doing.

 

Pagans are a different story in the comfort department. It’s a super tragedy when someone dies without God. There is no hope there, except perhaps that we might be wrong, they really did have God, and maybe God will look with favor on them somehow. The other hope is that people will be moved to make their own position with God secure by accepting His mercy in the form of His only begotten Son Jesus the anointed.

 

Before we get uptight about bad things happening to good people, we really should make sure of our definitions of bad and good. We can take comfort in the fact that just because something feels bad doesn’t mean it really is. And we might think we are good, but is that really true? Are we really doing everything we can to pursue His kingdom? Yet even if we are good, we live in a sinful, wicked world and sometimes we suffer because of other people’s sin. In all of it believers find comfort that God is a God of reason and all things work together for good for those of us who love Him.

 

The bottom line is the mercy of God. We need to recognize that He doesn’t owe us anything. We owe Him everything. Pagans don’t acknowledge this (even though they owe Him everything too) so they have no comfort. Believers do, so we throw ourselves on His mercy and ask humbly for things to be different. If not, then we continue in comfort knowing that we are in the household of the Father of mercies. We suffer as sons and daughters of the most High God, brothers and sisters to the Messiah who makes adoption possible, and have the mercy of eternal life. In 10,000 years or so, we will look back on this life as a wisp of a memory, and only our walk with Him will remain.

Declaration of Interdependence

I thought it would be appropriate today to list some of the facts behind our ultimate Declaration of Independence, or more properly Interdependence. All other government comes from God, God gives them permission to rule, and they are supposed to rule according to His Word. Sad for us that they mostly don’t. The U. S. was founded and has endured on many of His rules, but now we are in danger of passing into history because we have departed from them.

His book gathers His principles together and is like no other, ever.

    Written over 1,600 years by 40 different authors in three languages (not to mention the many languages spoken by the authors) representing three continents yet having amazing unity and continuity.

    Each testament is built around a historic section, a didactic section, and a prophetic section (past, present, and future or history, teaching, and proclamation).

    The Bible tells a single story of God’s people who still exist as a nation when all others have been relegated to the dust bin of history.

    All prophecy in the Bible though separated by time and distance forms an unbroken agreement on the future.

    The Word is unified like no other around the promise of God to provide a solution to the problem of sin and death and a return to a whole and right relationship with God the father in the person of our Messiah Jesus the Christ.

    The Bible has power greater than the sum of it’s parts to change lives, impart hope, soften hearts, and transform the world.

    It is unchanging, steady, and true. Many people have tried to destroy it and instead have been destroyed themselves. It is the best selling book ever produced in 6,000 years, and the only one which has had thousands of people willing to die to defend it and actually dying because of following and preaching it. Pascal famously said, “I prefer to believe those writers who get their throats cut for what they write.”

    No other religion or religious writing, from Atheism to Zoroastrianism, comes close to the wisdom, love, and peace of God’s living oracles. Every other religion imagined contains elements of God’s Word and testifies to some of His works but fail to answer questions of why we are here and where we are going. His writings give rest and direction to humble hearts willing to give up the false idea of their own godhood to acknowledge, worship and obey His.

Truly His Declaration will continue and lead us to real freedom in a kingdom without end ruled by a righteous, just and loving King of Kings Yeshua haMashiach. It is a rod of iron and a sword of steel to those who rebel, but life and health and all things good to those who humbly receive it into a heart of flesh filled with His Spirit.

Encouragement

This is kind of an odd time in the history of man for communication. We can instantly speak with almost anyone anywhere in the world. In spite of knowing this we sometimes lose sight of the fact that when we post on our whole Bible blog and our Facebook page we have brothers and sisters in many other countries who have liked our pages and read what we write. When you live in the U.S. with all of the freedoms we have it is very easy to forget that things are not so great in other parts of the world. Especially for Christians.

 

We have battles here too, but they are pretty tame in comparison. We don’t have to worry about getting raped and shot on the way to the grocery store like Bernadette in Egypt does (unless we live in Chicago or Detroit). We don’t have to think much about what we’d do if somebody threatened to hang us unless we converted to Islam as one brother suffered recently. We don’t have to figure out if we can forgive the person who is cutting our throat or the throats of our children or grand children. Nobody here threatens us with economic or physical harm (well, maybe a little economic harm sometimes) for our faith like they do in many Muslim or communist countries. When we wear tassels on our pants we don’t have to think that they might make us a target for a pagan bullet. If we rest on Sabbath or observe the Passover here it only marks us as a little weird. The church might not be comfortable with it, but they aren’t plotting to burn down or blow up our houses. At least not yet.

 

But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. (Ecclesiastes 9:4, ESV)

 

So it seems a little lame for us to try and encourage those brothers and sisters who are suffering as we don’t have to at the moment. But it is not lame for God. Our Messiah Yeshua suffered as many of us have suffered since the beginning. He was (and is, and will be) victorious, and promises we will be too if we persevere. Everything is in His hands, and not even a sparrow falls to the ground without Him knowing about it. He sees, and He knows what is going on with His children. He will repay, and no unbeliever will escape His vengeance. I hope I can remember this and cling to it when it comes my turn.

 

Truly the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and shield. Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. (Psalm 33:18–22, NRSV)

 

We feel helpless to do anything to alleviate your terror and suffering, and “praying for you” just doesn’t seem adequate. But we do pray, and we do speak of you often to the Father. We give to certain organizations that help somewhat with some needs, and can perhaps get you to another country where it’s safer. (Consider Israel if you can’t make it to our country. As dumb as they are sometimes and even though they are at the center of the storm God will protect the apple of His eye.) Our God is bigger than all of this, and will supply all your needs. There is a plan, and a promise, and He will always be faithful and will never let us down.

 

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (Lamentations 3:21–24, ESV)
It’s going to get worse for us all before it gets better, but it will get better. We win. This is our hope.

 

Shalom

Left Behind is a Good Thing

In Matthew 24 and Luke 17 Jesus gives us an outline of what will take place at the “end of the age” as the apostles asked. At one point Jesus says, “Two men will be in the field, one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill, one will be taken and one left.” Most Christians think these are verses about the rapture. There was a nifty song in the ‘70’s that spoke of people being taken as being raptured (I Wish We’d All Been Ready by Larry Norman), translated into imperishable bodies to be with Jesus forever. The people remaining were “left behind.” It’s a good thought, but wrong. It is clear from the context that ‘taken’ means destroyed.

Jesus compares this time to the time of the flood, when people were going about their daily living as sudden destruction came. “They were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away.” If the proportion (50%) is intended to be exact, that means at least half the world’s population will be destroyed.
There are other places where ‘taken’ is obviously related to destroyed or killed.

Therefore I am full of the wrath of the LORD; I am weary of holding it in. “Pour it out upon the children in the street, and upon the gatherings of young men, also; both husband and wife shall be taken, the elderly and the very aged. (Jeremiah 6:11, ESV)

To be “taken” is not a fun thing. To be consistent with the rest of the Word, ‘taken’ in the context of what Jesus is talking about is not fun at all.

‘Whole Bible Prophecy’ manuscript by Bruce Scott Bertram