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Tradition

So check out Michael Rood’s video on Christmas and Easter: http://www.yah-tube.com/videos/rood/1_rood_tradition/index.html

I had heard a lot about these pagan holidays reading Come Out of Her My People by C.J. Koster, but I learned even more from this video. Some interesting highlights include that Easter eggs were originally dyed with infants’ blood, and the treasure brought by the Magi was from Daniel. I recommend checking it out.

Abandoning these traditions and honoring Yahweh’s appointed times is a little challenging. It’s not hard to make the mental switch, I was decided as soon as I heard a sermon on it from Pastor Mark McLellan of the Harvest congregation in Colorado. But actually implementing them?

Not doing Easter this year was easy. I was in Japan, so there was no Easter dinner or service I was obligated to. The spring festivals? I was still (and am still) new to it all, so I wasn’t sure how to observe them. For example, the festival of unleavened bread is a challenge because I can’t eat bread anyway. So was I supposed to tell my host mom I wouldn’t be eating bread, even though I wasn’t eating it already? I did count the days of Omer…That wasn’t too hard.

But now I’m looking forward to the fall festivals. I bought a (kindle edition) book on how to observe the festivals, and I’m going to organize events to include my friends and introduce them to the true appointed, set-apart days. I’ve already booked space for Yom Kippur, and I’m thinking I should book the same space for Rosh Hashanah too. Sukkot? I’m thinking I’ll rent some tents to live on the quad for a week. I’m pretty serious about that, and seriously excited.

The challenge comes with Christmas. Of course my family is deeply rooted in Christmas. So what do I do? Keep my family from decorating? Forbid them from giving me presents? Will I not even go to Grandma’s on the day? I am praying about it, and I know Yahweh will give me wisdom when the time comes. That doesn’t mean it will be easy. It will be a trial, and continue to be for at least the first few years.

But I take joy and strength in all of it. I have begun to feel the joy of obedience, and it is wonderful. I read Kedoshim Ministries’ post from yesterday, and although I am not at the stage in my journey that Bithiah is, I feel more of that “true joy” everyday. I will obey Yahweh because I love Him, and He loves me. It’s so exciting!

(Side ramble: The Hebrew romanization system is different from the Japanese system, so I get confused on both spelling and pronunciation. Oy vey.)

Yahweh bless you and keep you
Yahweh make His face to shine upon you
Yahweh lift His face upon you and gives you Shalom

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Substance

I was going to write about something completely different, but a friend on facebook linked to an article/interview by famous Christian blogger Rachel Held Evans, about why millennials are leaving the church. She makes a good point that young people don’t care about “hip” worship, what we want is substance. What we want is Jesus (Yeshua.)

Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions  Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.

I don’t %100 disagree with anything Rachel has to say. I certainly agree that “We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.”

But why should we stop at Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy? Why not go deeper? Why not go into ancient Hebrew practice? If anything has true authenticity and substance, wouldn’t it be to worship as the Hebrews did?

When I start to bring up Hebrew roots to my friends, they get distracted by all the sacrifices and all the obligations in the Torah. We are taught to harshly judge and criticize the Hebrews.

What!

No!

Say it ain’t so!

Oh, but it is.

Our modern Christianity is the child of Catholicism, and there’s no argument around it. It is a fact. Catholicism was birthed in 2nd-4th century Rome, a time when Christian worship was being merged with Pagan Sun-god worship, and many anti-Jewish traditions were built in. (More in C.J. Koster’s Come Out of Her My People) Thus, Catholicism and all Christianity birthed from it have indoctrinated antisemitism.

Moses says to the Hebrews in Deuteronomy,

“For this command which I am commanding you today, it is not too hard for you, nor is it far off. “It is not in the heavens, to say, ‘Who shall ascend into the heavens for us, and bring it to us, and cause us to hear it, so that we do it?’ “Nor is it beyond the sea, to say, ‘Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, and cause us to hear it, so that we do it?’ “For the Word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart – to do it. “See, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil, in that I am commanding you today to love יהוה(Yahweh) your Elohim, to walk in His ways, and to guard His commands, and His laws, and His right-rulings. And you shall live and increase, and יהוה(Yahweh) your Elohim shall bless you in the land which you go to possess.

If you really love Yahweh, you ought to follow His commands. And as Moses says, they are not too hard for you.

Is it really that hard not to make images of deity? Okay, so no more Jesus-fish or crosses or paintings of Jesus, but did you really gain anything by that anyway?

Is it really that hard not to use the name of Yahweh idly? We have more of a problem of not using His name, rather than using it wrongly.

Is it really that hard to honor Sabbath? Oh no, no work on the seventh day of the week. Your grades will fall apart and the economy will crash. Whatever shall we do.

I could go on and on with the laws. And yes, there are some laws that we simply cannot follow today, like tithing. But I don’t need to go through the entire list of the right-rulings in the Torah to justify them. They speak for themselves.

And it shouldn’t even matter how hard they are. Because, as it also says in Deuteronomy,

“When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is the meaning of the witnesses, and the laws, and the right-rulings which יהוה(Yahweh) our Elohim has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Mitsrayim, and יהוה brought us out of Mitsrayim with a strong hand, and יהוה(Yahweh) sent signs and wonders, great and grievous, upon Mitsrayim, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes. ‘And He brought us out from there, to bring us in, to give us the land of which He swore to our fathers. ‘And יהוה(Yahweh) commanded us to do all these laws, to fear יהוה(Yahweh) our Elohim, for our good always, to keep us alive, as it is today. ‘And it is righteousness for us when we guard to do all this command before יהוה(Yahweh) our Elohim, as He has commanded us.’

Okay, so it will certainly look like a challenge to most people, to change your thinking toward the scriptures and how you practice scriptures. But it is for our good! Follow Yahweh’s commands and His blessings will follow.

So, back to how I started this topic. Yes, millennials want substance, they want Yeshua. But don’t just revert to Catholicism or Orthodoxy, go back farther. Go back to the Hebrews. I am sure, that if you closely examine the Hebrew scriptures from a Hebrew mindset, there are NO contradictions. There is NO hypocrisy (ideally). In other words, there are no followers of Yeshua who celebrate the birthday of the Babylonian Sun-deity (“Christmas”) or the Babylonian fertility festival (Easter), thus breaking Yahweh’s commands about not following any Pagan worship at all whatsoever in any degree. (Come Out of Her My People explores deeply the Pagan worship that Christianity is steeped in.)

There is so much substance in Hebrew worship that I’ve been studying for six months and I don’t even have the basics down yet. There is so much beauty and depth in the ritual offerings system. Or the parallels between the Hebrew festivals and Yeshua. I love Moses’s conversations with Yahweh. Keeping Sabbath is awesome, and it goes back to creation. Kosher? Yes Yes Yes. I love eating Kosher.

Christianity focuses on us, on our actions, on our personal salvation (at least mainstream Christianity does). The Hebrew scriptures tells the story of Yahweh, and our reaction to Him. HE is the main character of the story. If you want to seriously follow Yahweh, it is not about, “which branch of Christianity suits me?” No. It’s about, “How has He commanded me to follow Him? How does He say I can have communion with him?”

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Piece

On my college ministry group page on Facebook, someone asked,

What makes being a Christian so great, and why should a non-believer believe in God?
(You can’t say it’s cause you get to go to heaven)

And so I answered

Being a Christian is so great because it’s about having a personal relationship with Yahweh. He loves you so super duper much, and He’ll do anything to prove His love for you. As you lean on Him, and trust in Him, you learn more and more about who He is, and thus ultimately who He has created you to be.
To answer the last question, as part of the process you cannot help but love the people around us. We are all made in Yahweh’s each image, each a different facet of who He is. If you are to love Him, you are to love each individual around you because they are a reflection of our Creator. You receive Yahweh’s love, love Him back, and then pour it out on everybody around you.
Of course this explanation sounds very idealistic, it is the (an) ideal after all. There are challenges and obstacles along the way. We wrestle with Yahweh and our lives. We rebel and turn the other way. But He is always there, He will never let you go. Even when it seems that all is lost, He is there. He will always be there.
And that is (part) of why it is so awesome to be a Christian because the love of Yahweh, the love of the Messiah Yeshua, is so much more wonderful and joyful than anything you can physically see. (And He reveals Himself physically in many ways every day, but that’s a different topic for another day.)

If you read all of that, cool.

But I have more to say than just that. Actually, it times perfectly with an essay I am starting. There’s a writing contest for my school, and the prompt is a quote from John Muir.

“Most people are on the world, not in it — have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them — undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.”

How is this related to my Facebook discussion? Well, after looking up more about John Muir, Yahweh gave me a really awesome idea. John Muir was a nineteenth century environmentalist, known as the Father of National Parks. He was also an avid evangelist, and he believed that nature was proof of God in many ways. He was also part of the evangelical movement to throw away tradition and go back to the scriptures. (Sound familiar?)

My thesis? Yahweh (God) created the world and man in it to function in a specific way in relation to Yahweh, the natural world, and our fellow man, and when we function in that way there are abundant blessings upon blessings, but instead of heeding Yahweh’s loving commands, we have turned away and decided to do things as we see best, resulting in a selfish people, dedicated to our own needs, and neglecting to foster a good relationship with Yahweh, with nature, or with each other, leaving us touching, commingling, but ultimately separate identities, not part of a whole.

Okay, that is a really long sentence, and a wordy thesis. The thesis I turn in will probably look different, and be much more refined.

I will divulge parts of my ideas and probably parts of a final draft on here as I go along. Tomorrow I will give a fuller outline of what I have in mind, although it is still very rough at this point. But to connect back to my opening section, ideally, (keyword:ideally) if, as a Christian, you follow Yahweh as He intends for us to follow him, then bit by bit you become less like a piece of stone, touching but separate, and more a part of a whole. You will slowly feel unity with Yahweh, with nature, with other people. I am far from reaching full unity, and I won’t until Yeshua comes again. But I definitely feel that this topic is something that Yahweh has put on my heart to write, even if I don’t win the contest.

Look for more tomorrow. Shalom!

Oh, and PS about the second part of the question? A non-believer should believe in Yahweh because He smote the Egyptians and rescued the Hebrews in a mighty way. Enough said.

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Shema

Hear, O Yisra’el: Yahweh our Elohim, Yahweh is one! And you shall love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart, and with all your being, and with all your might. And these Words which I am commanding you today shall be in your heart, and you shall impress them upon your children, and shall speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up, and shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

So goes The Shema, a Jewish prayer said by Orthodox Jews every morning and evening. Of course they would say it in Hebrew, or if not in Hebrew, the words might be a little different. There is also more to it before and after, as well as a different version for bedtime.

When I learned of the Shema and its practice, I started implementing it. It got to the point that I would say it immediately upon rising, without a second thought. Although I have fallen out of the habit, I think it is a beautiful thing to keep on your mind.

However, there is a bad habit among the body to study scripture in fragments, and lost the meaning in context. This past week I read Deut. 3:23-7:11, and reading the Shema in context, in The Scriptures translation, brought new light on the Shema for me.

I had thought “these words” meant the part about loving Yahweh and such. Of course it does, but it means so much more than that too. The section immediately before the Shema is…

(drumroll)

The Ten Words! (The Ten Commandments)

Wait, what? If Yahweh wanted us to keep the Ten Words on our hearts and on our tongue at all times, why wasn’t it a part of the Shema?  I did some *Wikipedia* research, and I learned that after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, they took the Ten Words out of the Shema.

Wait, what?

Why would they take the Ten Words out? Is it too lengthy? Or is it just too much spiritual burden?

I have not yet researched the reasons why the Ten Words were taken out, but still I am shocked. It’s actually quite sad that it was taken out. BUT, a portion about the importance of tzitzit was added.

Tzitzit…really? So the ten most important principles of all the scriptures was taken out, but a little thing like tzitzit was added in?

Well, regardless of what happened to the tradition of the Shema, I have been convicted to start praying the Ten Words. And I mean the original Ten Words in which Word #1 is, “I am Yahweh your Elohim who brought you out of the land of Mistrayim, out of the house of bondage.”

I have so much more I could say about the Ten Words, and about the other sections in that Torah Portion. Target Torah has an excellent entry, linked below, on the same portion. Maybe I will continue this discussion another time, but I challenge you reader to revisit those chapters of Deuteronomy and see what Yahweh has to say to you about it.

Shalom!

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Mistakes

I’m really good at making mistakes. I spent too much money grocery shopping. I forgot the nuts I had specifically bought for the trip yesterday. I dropped, and thus lost, my boyfriend’s shirt. And the climax: I cut off my pinky tip using a vegetable slicer the wrong way, after taking off the warning label.

The Roman soldiers had all of their successful battles engraved on their helmets. When Paul talks about wearing the helmet of hope, he was in prison and saw those helmets every day. Wearing a helmet of hope, we remind ourselves of all the good things we have done. The helmet of hope helps us not focus on our mistakes.

The enemy wants us to focus on our mistakes. When we mess up, we lose our peace. Our plans got thrown off track, and we’re so focused on the map that we don’t look at our surroundings.

But it’s not about me. It’s about Yahweh, and His work. His plan is not depended on my ability or inability. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me, including typing with a heavily bandaged pinky finger. Yahweh is bigger than my ability to manage my money, or my ability to prepare food, or my ability to keep track of a T-shirt.

Thank you Yahweh that I spent too much on groceries. Thank you Yahweh that I forgot to bring my food on the trip. Thank you Yahweh that I lost my boyfriend’s shirt. Thank you Yahweh that I cut off my pinky tip.

I will not let my mistakes define me. I am a child and a royal priest of Yahweh. What I judge myself for, Yahweh may use to his esteem. I have no idea what the next hour holds, so who am I to say that He can’t work a miracle from my mistakes?

That’s one of the cool things about Yahweh. When I mess up, He doesn’t scold me, judge me, or hold it against me. Instead, He wraps me up in His love, gives me peace, and gives me healing. He loves me. He loves me. He loves me. He takes my mistakes and works good out of them.

For example, I felt He wanted me to pray for the owner of a used bookstore we stopped by at. I was too nervous to do at that moment, but leaving the store I knew I should have done it. But I didn’t dwell on it and just gave it to Yahweh. Later, after another errand, we ran into him leaving the store. I knew he had somewhere to go, but I asked anyway.The shop owner said no. My reaction?

Joyful! I was so happy that Yahweh had given me a second chance, even if the guy said no. It was an awesome reminder that it’s not about me. The man wasn’t rejecting me, so I had no reason to be upset. Yahweh gave me a command, and I followed through. With Yahweh, it’s not a matter of successful or unsuccessful. There’s only obedient and disobedient. That’s encouraging.

May Yahweh bless you and keep you
May Yahweh make His face to shine upon you
May Yahweh lift His face upon you and give you peace

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Intention

No one saw my last post because I didn’t tag it…oh well.

Yesterday a friend came over for lunch. Before she came, I bathed the meeting in prayer and asked Yahweh to bless it and that His Spirit would move. Well, without even planning it, the conversation started with talking about Hebrew roots and Torah. Cool, huh? Praise Yahweh for moving in such a way that I did not even expect.

Moreover, she was receptive to every thing I had to say. I told her about some of the Pagan aspects of modern Christian worship and practice, and she was appalled. She couldn’t understand why those changes had been made in the first place, and her heart to love and worship Yahweh in a pure way was just a joy to me.

And she was even excited to borrow and watch Finger of God, by Darren Wilson. So many people are skeptical of the material. “Why would God give someone gold teeth? Why gem stones?” As if the silliness of it would detract from the reality. Yahweh moves in the way He moves because He loves us. Period. Anyway, it was refreshing that she was eager to watch. Unfortunately, she didn’t have time to watch it with me, but we will discuss it at a later date. Yay!

The one part of the conversation that was not smooth, was when she was talking about how the Israelites abused the ritual offering system, simply offering an animal every time they sinned. That didn’t sound right to me, but I didn’t know why. All I could say was that it would be a waste of their income to kill an animal every time they sinned. But praise Yahweh, He gave me the answer later last night.

I was watching the Torahclass.com lesson of the introduction to Leviticus, part two. I learned an important lesson about sin, that Yahweh categorizes sin as unintentional and intentional. Only unintentional sins were covered by the ritual offerings. There was no atonement for intentional sins. If you sinned intentionally you were executed or outcast, forced to live out the rest of your days under the “curse of the Law.”

So in answer to my friend, the Hebrews could not have abused the offering system. If they sinned intentionally they were doomed. The Hebrews must have been exhausted, trying to keep themselves from intentional sin. But that’s the beauty of what Yeshua did.

Of course Yeshua fulfilled the Levitical offering system, that much was obvious to Paul. But more than that, He “redeemed us from the curse of the law.” (Galatians 3) Indeed, they were no longer a slave to sin. Although that phrase is usually interpreted to mean a slave to sinning, it actually refers to the punishment of intentional sin. We are free from being enslaved to the punishment of our sins. Furthermore, Yeshua is also the Passover lamb, which means that we are saved from eternal death. (Tom Bradford, Torah Class teacher, talks about that more in the lesson, linked above.)

The sad thing is, as Tom points out, modern believers generally commit intentional sins. We know that what we do is wrong when we do it. Does having freedom from punishment also give us the right to break the Law? If not, then why do we have a body dedicated to doing what they want and justifying it with the Word, rather than a body dedicated to following the Word?

Pray that Yahweh would restore pure worship.