Monday, January 16, 2012

Choices and Companionships

Choices. Life is full of choices. We choose whether to get up in the morning and when. Then we choose what to wear, what to eat, what to do, where to go. Somewhere in all of that choosing, we choose our companions. The book of Proverbs in the Bible has quite a lot to say about our companions. For instance, Proverbs 13:20-"Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm." Another verse that is pertinent: 1 Corinthians 15:33 AMP - "Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character."

When my kids were young, we had a cassette tape by The Bill Gaither Trio titled L.I.F.E. On that album was a song called "Primary Data." Maybe some of you reading this have heard the song. It's a good one and I wish I could get my hands on a copy. Part of the lyrics went like this, "...input, output, what goes in is what comes out; input, output, that is what it's all about. Input, output, your mind is a computer whose input output daily you must choose. Let the Bible be your primary feed; it's got all the data you need..."

I've been thinking about that song and the connection between the input we receive from various companionships/associations and the level of trusting obedience to the LORD which we manifest in our lives. The world we live in is filled with all sorts of possible companions--music, movies, TV shows, magazines, books, internet sites, and all sorts of other media, as well as actual people. Even things that may seem "good" or "okay" can draw us away from our first love or distract us from the work that the LORD would have us doing.

You've probably heard that saying, "a little leaven leavens the whole lump." Leaven is used to portray sin in Scripture. If you've ever baked bread or watched bread being made, you know that it takes just a little bit of yeast to make a batch of 2 or 3 loaves rise into nice tasty bread. Likewise, when we listen to that song about illicit sex or watch a movie where two people who are not married to each other are involved sexually with each other or listen to jokes that may be just a little "off," thoughts take root. We might be more inclined to yield to the temptation to imitate what we have seen or heard. Or we could become dissatisfied with the spouse we have because he/she isn't as sexy or romantic or whatever as the man/woman we saw in that movie. Or maybe we just become more desensitized to sin. It doesn't seem to take much desensitizing and before we know it, we're tolerating all sorts of sin in ourselves and in our brothers & sisters of faith.

That's how we become powerless believers who look no different from anyone else in the world. That's how Christians can have divorce rates that rival non-Christians. That's how Christians can lie and cheat and steal and commit all sorts of sins and not even think twice about it.

James 1:12 "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Jas 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.

Jas 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.

Jas 1:15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

Jas 1:16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren."

It all starts with a choice. What kind of input, what kind of "companions" will we choose?

2Ti 2:21 AMP So whoever cleanses himself [from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences] will [then himself] be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work.

2Ti 2:22 AMP Shun youthful lusts and flee from them, and aim at and pursue righteousness (all that is virtuous and good, right living, conformity to the will of God in thought, word, and deed); [and aim at and pursue] faith, love, [and] peace (harmony and concord with others) in fellowship with all [Christians], who call upon the Lord out of a pure heart.

The Deceitfulness of Sin

Thinking about the deceitfulness of sin and how easy it is to justify its presence in our lives…It makes no difference what kind of sin it is—could be sexual, could be idolatry or covetousness, could be gossip or lying, could be stealing, could be something like racism—as long as it’s “private” or “small” or “socially acceptable,” we seem to be experts at rationalizing it or denying that it’s present in our lives. Why is that? We don’t seem to have a problem identifying “big” sins like murder, but those “little” sins—they trip us up all the time.

I think part of the problem—a BIG part of the problem—is that many Christians seldom, if ever, open the Bible and read it any more. Along with that, many Christians seldom, if ever, take a look at God’s original instructions for His people, contained in the first five books of the Bible. Without an understanding of the “law,” God’s Torah, we can no longer identify what is sin and what is not; without Torah, there are no absolutes. It then becomes a matter of what seems “right” to me. Therefore, if it feels good, do it. God knows that we are human and He’ll forgive us. But is that really the way sin and God’s forgiveness works? I think not. That smacks just a little too much of “easy believe-ism” or “greasy grace” as some call it.

God set aside a people to bear His name and walk in His ways. Then He gave them instructions to guide them as they followed Him because His desire was for His people to be holy as He is holy. We call those instructions “the law.” These instructions are not impossible to follow. What made them so difficult to keep involved all of the rules and regulations that men attached to them. Yeshua kept these instructions perfectly, showing us through His example how they were meant to be followed, and elaborating on them in His teaching , restoring their original intent, and putting them in context for us.

However, we are born into sin, our hearts are desperately wicked, and without a constant focus on God’s Word and hiding that Word in our hearts, we so quickly slide into sin. The Bible tells us that sin is deceitful. It doesn’t present itself as some terrible, evil thing that we should fear it and run the other way. No, it whispers to our mind and our flesh, telling us how pleasant it is, how satisfying to our desires, how much pleasure we’ll experience by indulging in it, how “happy” it will make us. And then, like Eve, we think, “well, sure, why not?” Then the next thing we know, we’re entangled in it and find that getting free of its enslavement is not so easy and the pleasures that it promised more often than not leave us feeling empty and decidedly NOT “happy.” Trust me, I’ve been down that road more times than I can to remember and I KNOW. On the other hand, obedience to God’s instructions, although it might mean crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires (Gal 5: 24), brings joy and peace (Rom 8:6).

So how DO we know what sin is and how to identify it in our hearts and lives? Romans 3:20: Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 7:7: What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET." 1 John 3:4 AMP: Everyone who commits (practices) sin is guilty of lawlessness; for [that is what] sin is, lawlessness (the breaking, violating of God's law by transgression or neglect--being unrestrained and unregulated by His commands and His will). CJB Everyone who keeps sinning is violating Torah — indeed, sin is violation of Torah.

For further study:

Colossians 3:5-17

Romans 6 (all), 8:1-18

Galatians 5: 16-26

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Ephesians 4:21-24, 5:1-17

Hebrews 12:1-17

Romans 12:1-2

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A New Year, A New FOCUS

You might think that since I haven't posted much here that I've fallen by the wayside. Well, not exactly. Life has been happening. I'm still a fulltime college student, which keeps me quite busy during the school semesters. In 2011, I also took summer classes. In a week I begin what many say is the busiest semester in my teaching degree program. If they are right, I may not have time to get back here to post until summer; we'll see.

So am I still committed to following Yeshua and walking in all of His ways? Absolutely! Have I got it all figured out and down pat to the point that I'm doing it perfectly? Absolutely NOT! :o) I am still a "work in progress." However, I believe even more firmly, if that's possible, that YHWH's Torah is still in effect, that it applies to ALL of His children (Jewish or Gentile), and that I bring Him pleasure when I do my best to walk according to His Torah. I am still "going it alone" as far as my family goes; my precious hubby is on board with me, praise YHWH, but my children and grandchildren have not come to this understanding yet. I continue to pray that YHWH will work in their hearts and open the eyes of their understanding. They have a love for the Lord, make no mistake, as do so many Christians, but they have not grasped the place that Torah obedience has in the life of a believer. It's not about salvation--salvation is by faith, not by works--but works follow faith and are the evidence of a changed heart; Torah obedience is about sanctification, about holiness, about pleasing the Father and being unspotted from the world.

Over the past year I felt so pulled by the world and the flesh; at times it felt like my anchor was slipping. When a challenge was issued in one of the cardmaking groups that I belong to (the group Anything Goes at Papercraft Planet) to make a papercraft project highlighting a word or phrase that you want to work on this year, I knew this was an answer to prayer. As I thought about what word I wanted to make my goal for this year, FOCUS came to the forefront. In a way, that word wraps up the whole idea of Staying the Course and of my decision to follow Yeshua. I believe that the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-6 says it quite well: "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 strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart." If that's not FOCUS, I don't know what is!

But beyond that, I knew that FOCUS, while my key word, was also to be expressed as an acrostic. So here's what I've come up with:

F--focus on being faithful (Matt 25:23), fruitful (Col 1:10), and fearing the LORD (Prov 9:10, 14:27)

O--focus on being obedient (1 Pet 1:14) and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Messiah (2 Cor 10:5)

C--focus on choices: being content (Heb 13:5), crucifying the flesh (Rom 6:6), contending for the faith (Jude 3), compassionate (1 Pet 3:8), and my conduct (1 Tim 4:12, Phil 1:27, Rom 13:12-14, 1 Pet 1:15, 2 Pet 3:11)

U--focus on being unashamed (Rom 1:16), unconformed (Rom 12:2), upright (Psalm 143:10, Prov 11:20, and unspotted (James 1:27)

S--focus on having a servant's heart (Eph 6:6-7), being spiritually-minded (Rom 8:5-6), being a slave of righteousness (Rom 6:9), self-controlled (Gal 5:22-25, 2 Pet 1:5-8), and studying to show myself approved unto God, a workman who needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Tim 2:15)

In one of the newsletters I receive, this one from Jewish Jewels, a Messianic Jewish ministry to the Jews & the unsaved in general, I learned that the word "shema" does not mean just "hear;" it also means to "do." That takes me back to one of my favorite verses from James 1:22: "But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James continues (vs. 23-27): "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." The "perfect law of liberty" is the Torah and the "work" that YHWH says we are to do is the Torah, which also teaches us how to stay "unspotted from the world."

In that same newsletter (Jan 2012 issue), they said that the Jewish understanding of prayer is that it is a "service of the heart" to YHWH; I like that!
Not only are we to bless the LORD as we go through our day, thanking Him for all that He has given us, but we are to pray without ceasing, bringing our petitions to Him as well. Cool!

At any rate, I now have a FOCUS for 2012. I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out and what the Holy Spirit does in me as I strive to stay the course towards the high calling of YHWH.
Take care and may the grace of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah be with you!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

I AM Still Alive!

Oh boy! Where does the time go? It's hard to believe that it's been over two years since I posted anything here. I don't have much time today, either, so this is just going to be a really quick update.

I returned to college in September 2009 and have been fulltime ever since, working on a bachelors degree in elementary education/special education-learning disabilities. School keeps me quite busy. I think I've had 5 classes each semester, plus a 2 hour round-trip drive each day. I'm doing well in my classes--A's and a few B's. Right now I am enrolled in summer classes. I have one week left in the current class--Health & Physical Education for Elementary Teachers--then I will begin a 4 week class on literature for children. Enjoying all that I'm learning a lot, even though it has been stressful keeping up with all the assignments at times. Looking forward to next semester and 5 new classes. I still have 4 semesters to complete before I can expect to graduate in spring 2013. What happens after that, I really don't know. I am trusting the LORD to make direct my path in due time. For now, I am focused on preparing for whatever place the LORD is preparing for me where my particular life experiences, my appearance & age, and the person I am will be most useful.

Besides schoolwork, I'm trying to keep up with things here at home and in our family. There's always something going on or that I need to do.

At times I feel like I'm drifting spiritually, not spending as much time in His Word or studying, but I have made some progress with my prayer life. I've gotten in the habit of reading a chapter from Proverbs each day of the month--the chapter that has the same number as the day of the month. Last month I decided to write my family members' names in beside the chapter number that matches the number of the day they were born. Now when I am reading that chapter, I am also praying for that person. I find that it also keeps their names fresh in my mind so that I am praying more often for them even on other days of the month.

I know that one of the things that has been a drawback spiritually is the lack of consistent fellowship with other believers. Our home fellowship group had been meeting at least twice a month until about this time last year when one of the couples ran into some serious marital issues. Praise the LORD that their marriage is back on track and stronger than ever, but our group has lost momentum with fellowship meetings since then. This couple's home had been our primary meeting place. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that we all live so far apart. Rising gas prices haven't helped on that matter at all. I have thought about going to a Sunday fellowship, but just don't have any peace about doing that. It's not that I have anything against Sunday fellowships or Christianity as a whole, but I know that I won't fit in and that is a situation I just don't have the energy to deal with.

So I feel sort of like a plane that's been put in a holding pattern as it waits for its turn to land. I know this is just a season in my life. I know that I am learning things about myself that I've needed to learn and that the LORD is doing some needed pruning. Consequently, I try not to grow complacent and to keep growing in His grace and my knowledge of Him.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Where, O Where Has She Gone?

Just wanted to post a quick update to say that 2008 was a busy year with little time to post here, but I will soon be joining the ranks of the unemployed as the company I work for is closing the plant I work at in mid-March, which means I should have time to get back into the swing of things here. At least, I am looking forward to being home fulltime again for awhile and having time in my day to utilize this blog. I've already got quite a project list waiting for the day when my job is finished so the days will still be busy, but I'll be able to set my own schedule. Posting here is towards the top of that project list. So if you've been reading my old posts and hoping to see more, check back in after the middle of March to see how I'm progressing.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Only One Thing Is Needful

My title comes from the account in Luke 10:38-42 where Yeshua and His disciples entered the village where Mary and Martha lived. Martha welcomes Him into her home and is busy with much preparation and serving of food, while Mary sits at the feet of Yeshua, listening and learning as He shares. Martha gets frustrated and approaches Yeshua, attempting to get Him to tell Mary to help her with the serving, but instead Yeshua says: "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her. "

Lately, Yeshua's words, "But one thing is needed," have echoed in my thoughts quite often. Like Martha, I have gotten distracted with much busy-ness. It's not that the things I've been busy with have been bad or worthless things, either. But even good, worthwhile things can be a distraction.

Our discipleship study yesterday included the passage from Luke 14:26-33. We were particularly challenged by verses 26-27: "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple." Then in the discussion time, we were presented with this question: Assume for a moment that Yeshua is not instructing us to live a life of complete poverty and solitude, yet He does expect us to actually forsake things in order to be His disciples. What is the Spirit prompting you to abandon, turn your back upon, or hate in order to follow Him?

Keeping in mind that only one thing is needful and that is focusing on Yeshua, I have to say that He's been prompting me to eliminate the distractions from my daily schedule as much as I can. By eliminating things I've been busy with on-line, for instance, I should have more time to spend studying His Word, sharing the insights He's giving me, praying, and reading other books that I've been wanting to read which will encourage me as a follower of Yeshua.

And so that I will be reminded, I write it here.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Looking Unto Yeshua

I wanted to get down a couple of recent thoughts before they fade from my memory. One of the things that has been bothering me quite a bit since we've begun exploring the Hebraic roots of our faith is the emphasis on things Jewish within the Messianic community. It's as though everything that is Jewish is wonderful and to be embraced whole-heartedly, while everything else is bad, is "pagan", and is to be cast aside. I have to admit that I find myself rebelling against this idealogy.

Yes, I am a believer in and follower of Yeshua the Messiah, who was born a Jew of the tribe of Judah. I am grafted into the olive tree of Israel, by faith in the Messiah, and so am a child of Abraham by faith, part of Israel. However, I am still a Gentile by natural birth. Yeshua prayed that we would all be one, even as He and the Father are one. So the Jewish believer in Messiah and the Gentile believer in Messiah are now ONE through faith in Yeshua our Messiah. In discussing this with a friend yesterday, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the husband-wife relationship, that Yeshua said that from the beginning, a man was to leave his father & mother, be united to his wife and the two of them would be one flesh. In a marriage, you have two separate, unique individuals who come together, embrace each other, and become a new ONE. Yet, each still retains their own individual uniqueness. I am the wife of my husband Tim; I am one with him in our marriage, yet I am still ME. I still have my own thoughts, feelings, talents, abilities, likes & dislikes, as does he. Somehow I think this is a picture of what God intended in making of Jew & Gentile ONE body. I think the Holy Spirit is showing me that it's okay if I don't embrace all of Jewish tradition and culture, that it's okay to still be distinctly Gentile, even though I am obedient to Torah. I haven't fully explored all that this means to my walk of faith, but will continue to pursue this line of thought and see how it is supposed to impact what I DO as a follower of Yeshua.

Another thought that came up in that same conversation with my friend was this: she was dealing with some struggles in calling herself Torah-obedient when she wasn't embracing all of the Jewish stuff, either. Like me, she's felt the pressure from others in the Messianic community for those who want to obey Torah to also embrace all things Jewish. In a flash, I saw it! We ARE Torah-obedient, only NOT in the way that these define it. Yeshua IS the Living Torah and we are obedient to Him. HE is our focus, not the written Torah, and certainly NOT the oral Torah (rabbinics).

And now it is time for me to close this up as we need to leave for Sabbath fellowship, where we are studying what it means to truly be a disciple of Yeshua. Perhaps I'll have more to share here tomorrow...

Shabbat Shalom!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I'm Still Here!

I'm not entirely certain where all the days of this year have disappeared to, but find it disconcerting that it's already November 11th! It seems that the older I get--and I'm drawing closer to 51 with each passing day--the faster the days go by. It's been an interesting and busy year so far, occupied with my job, my family, my home, and ministry, not necessarily in that order. I have continued to read & study God's Word, to learn and to grow. Right now we are embarked on a discipleship study from Perfect Word in our Sabbath fellowship. I had referenced quotes from the writer of this study back in my post #4 To Be His Disciple. Now he has put it all together into a book/study to be used in small groups. It's challenging, too!

We started the beginning of this month with this study and are doing one lesson every two weeks. In the first lesson, one of the questions was about who in our lives had discipled us. I cannot think of any one person who spent time & energy discipling me. However, I do believe that the Lord has used a multitude of believers and Christian resources to bring me to the place where I stand today. I HAVE been discipled, even if it hasn't been in one-on-one, face-to-face discipleship. I would also have to say that because of how I have been discipled, that it has been the Lord Himself who has discipled me. That's kind of an awesome thought! He loves me and cares enough about me to personally direct my discipleship.

With that thought, I need to get back to my studies. These early morning hours on the weekend are my best time for studying. So til my next post, which I hope won't be so long in coming...take care and may the grace of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah be with you!