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Manipulatives

I keep going back to the idea of manipulatives. I want my heart to always be kneeling towards the Father. I want Him to be in my thoughts all day long. I want the love of Him to saturate all of my actions. I want His esteem to be made known in everything I say or do.

I love manipulatives and discipline because they remind me of my Father all day long.

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Patience, Discouragement, and Prayer

Today James posted in his Morning Meditation about his efforts and discouragement in the Tent of David project. It can be hard sharing news about the Jewish Messiah, and most churches do not want to hear it.

I know exactly what James means. I am not in the position that I may have an impact on a church, because I’m still just a young adult. But I have been working in my college ministries. And by working, I mean that I try to have God-focused conversations, and if I feel someone is ready I will share awesome stuff about Hebrew studies. I receive a variety of responses which is probably analogous to what you find among working adults. Some students are interested in the sense that they say “Oh, that’s cool, I didn’t know that,” but it does not actually inspire them to go deeper. A few people will argue with me, but they are the minority. But those few people are usually closer friends.

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Family

Small group was wonderful today. The girl who was not able to make it last week came today, and we had so much fun. We were only supposed to meet for 90 minutes, but we ended up meeting for 3 hours! The girls just had so much fun in the presence of YHWH, and with each other. I am so thankful, because I have been praying for these girls. My prayer has been that we can become like a family.

I have been observing Sabbath for a while now, at least a few years. And although Sabbath is restful, sometimes I feel like I am lacking something, as if resting is its own kind of work. And as I have studied Hebrew culture, I learned that Sabbath was (and is amongst modern Jews) a family event. And I realized that I was missing a family in my Sabbath. I am the only in my physical family who observes Sabbath, except for my mother. But while I am at school, it is just me.

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Music

How Holy do You Want to Be?

Music is very important to me. I know a lot of people will tell you that, and for me it is true. (Not to say that it is not true for others.) I’ve been playing piano since I could talk, so I jokingly consider it my second language. I have learned many instruments, and I love to sing. I sing almost all day long.

We need to be careful what we listen to.

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The Gospel and Holiness

Holiness is so so so important. Actually, it is going to be the topic of a bible study I’m leading in my dorm this semester. I will probably chronicle much of what happens in my study, as well as thoughts along the way as I research and plan what to share.

I thought I’d share something that just happened on Facebook. I shared an article from Relevant Magazine entitled, “Is the Sinner’s Prayer Biblical?” And basically, the point of the article is that the gospel is so much more than redemption and salvation. A friend commented:

I was reading the bible last Sunday, after the first passover in Canaan, when a man took the devoted things from the plunder. God was no longer with the tribes of Israel so they were losing horribly. The man confessed and gave the things back because it’s the right thing to do. So god had the man and his entire family, all of his possessions, and his animals, stoned horrible, then burnt alive, then stoned again for good measure. Supposedly that pile of stones which buried the family in this brutal murder remains to this day, as evidence to the crimes committed by the people of Israel. It was horrible, and goes to show what prayers for forgiveness are worth to a vengeful god.

I wasn’t sure how to respond at first, and I first commented something about a repentant heart. Which is true. But later, I rushed back, deleted the comment, and added this instead:

You cite an excellent example. Thinking that the story you cite is about forgiveness is the same error as thinking that the gospel is only about forgiveness and redemption. It is so much bigger than that. It’s about God making us holy, and living a life of holiness, and pursuing God. The story of the Israelites coming into Canaan is part of the story of God setting Israel apart as a holy nation, a people dedicated to serving Him, and living with Him. The story is an excellent example of how our individual behavior does not only affect ourselves, but the lives of the people around us. The man’s sin in taking plunder wasn’t just about him, but it affected the holiness of Israel. Israel must be completely holy in order to dwell with God, and that man put that holiness in jeopardy. That is why it was such horrible crime, and why he had to be punished the way he was.
God wants to set us apart, to make us holy, so that we can dwell with Him, and anything that gets in the way must be removed.

The gospel is not just about getting to Heaven at the end of it all. The gospel is about ultimate redemption so that we may be holy, so that we may dwell with Yahweh, and to pursue a relationship with Him. Now we can encounter an unclean world, and sin as we tend to do, and still have a relationship with Him. We can encounter a deeper level of holiness than ever before. The set-apart one of Israel, whose spirit was so holy that if you did not go through the proper ritual you would be died, can now reside within our flesh. And now we can live life with our Father, for our Father. Our lives can be so much more than just trying to survive, but worshipping God in everything we do and giving all the glory to Him. And of course, there’s still even more to it.

The gospel is way cool.

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Food Philosophy

Hello! It’s been a while. I study literature, so I’ve had lots of papers to write in the past month–a total of about 65 pages! Now that I’m on break, I’ll have more time for writing. Plus, I’d like to add to the content here. From the beginning I wanted this to be about living a “Hebrew” lifestyle, but it’s turned into mostly theology. I say “Hebrew” because it is my own interpretation, or rather, what Papa has lead me in, not an accepted definition. Of course my theology is important to my lifestyle, and I will not stop posting theology. But I want to write more about how my love for YHWH has manifested in more than just how I read the scriptures.

So today, I’m starting with my food philosophy.

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Why Torah?

I shared James’ post, Christianization of Acts 15, on Facebook, and a friend commented and it turned into a small exchange. First, he asked about the purpose of the Law, and why observe it if it’s a shadow of Jesus? After my response, he asked about whether or not I am Jewish, and if not what is my reason for following Torah. He also asked about going to a priest for certain functions, and such. I don’t want to quote his entire comment, but below is my response. It was something that I had been pondering anyway, so his question hit me at a time when I was prepared. Thanks Papa!

I am a gentile, and proud of it! Thank you for your questions. The question of why I observe Torah is something I am often asking myself, to make sure I’m on the right track. Why would a gentile who has salvation through Yeshua need Torah, or even WANT Torah?

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Antisemitism

Are you antisemitic?  Of course you’re not, right? You love Jewish people. Of course you do.

But really, ask yourself. Are there aspects of your interpretation of scripture that are antisemitic? We like to say that the Jews just didn’t understand their own scriptures, that their system was defunct. We joke about foolish Israelites. And of course, Jesus did away with the Law. It was really bad.

Take a hard look at the teachings called Christianity. Where do they come from? Almost all Christianity today was birthed from Catholicism or Orthodoxy, which has its birthplace in the Roman empire in the first few centuries AD. The first century of Jesus-followers were almost entirely Jewish, but from the beginning of the second century onward the faith was dominantly gentile.

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Jesus, Love, and Torah Part I

Now one of the experts in the law came and heard them debating. When he saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”Jesus answered, “The most important is: ‘Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” The expert in the law said to him, “That is true, Teacher; you are right to say that he is one, and there is no one else besides him. And to love him with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered thoughtfully, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Then no one dared any longer to question him. Mark 12:28-34

This is a passage we are familiar with, at least I hope we are familiar with this passage. And I don’t want to disagree with Jesus here. No if, ands, or buts. The greatest command is to love YHWH, and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commands rest on these two commands (Mt 24:40).

Jesus is quoting the Shema in Deuteronomy 6, and the laws of Deuteronomy expand upon the 10 Principles which tell us how to love God and man. (Bithiah has a really awesome summary of Deut. here.) So I could go into how the law fulfills loving your neighbor, and about how by following the law we are walking in love. That is certainly true, but I want to focus on what Jesus is saying here.

One of the pharisees replies, “That is true, Teacher; you are right to say that he is one, and there is no one else besides him. And to love him with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Wait, what? Did you see that last part? Loving your neighbor is more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices. And Jesus tells him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” But wait, aren’t the sacrifices and such part of the law?

For I delight in faithfulness, not simply in sacrifice;
I delight in acknowledging God, not simply in whole burnt offerings.
Hosea 6:6

When Jesus quotes this passage in Hosea, He says, “I delight in compassion”. And when we look in Isaiah, He does not want sacrifices.

Listen to the Lord’s word,
you leaders of Sodom!
Pay attention to our God’s rebuke,
people of Gomorrah!
“Of what importance to me are your many sacrifices?”
says the Lord.
I am stuffed with burnt sacrifices
of rams and the fat from steers.
The blood of bulls, lambs, and goats
I do not want.
When you enter my presence,
do you actually think I want this –
animals trampling on my courtyards?
Do not bring any more meaningless offerings;
I consider your incense detestable!
You observe new moon festivals, Sabbaths, and convocations,
but I cannot tolerate sin-stained celebrations!
I hate your new moon festivals and assemblies;
they are a burden
that I am tired of carrying.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I look the other way;
when you offer your many prayers,
I do not listen,
because your hands are covered with blood.
Wash! Cleanse yourselves!
Remove your sinful deeds
from my sight.
Stop sinning!
Learn to do what is right!
Promote justice!
Give the oppressed reason to celebrate!
Take up the cause of the orphan!
Defend the rights of the widow!
Come, let’s consider your options,” says the Lord.
“Though your sins have stained you like the color red,
you can become white like snow;
though they are as easy to see as the color scarlet,
you can become white like wool.
If you have a willing attitude and obey,
then you will again eat the good crops of the land.
But if you refuse and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”
Know for certain that the Lord has spoken.

God is not looking for an outward appearance. He is not looking for religion. He is not looking for people who follow all the rules. He is looking for love. He is looking for love. Love YHWH your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. In other words,

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit. Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:1-7

Thus: If I follow all 613 commands, but do not have love, my obedience is worthless. If I set-aside Yah’s Sabbath but do not love Him, my time is wasted. If I pray the most beautiful prayer but do not desire to connect with the Father, my prayer goes unheard. If I abstain from unclean animals but do not love YHWH, my effort goes unrewarded.

Paul says, “do not let what you consider good be spoken of as evil” (Romans 14:16). That verse in Romans really stuck out to me. If your practicing of Torah gives you a self-righteous attitude, that you know how to follow Yah better than our brothers and sisters, how will that be seen? We must endeavor to love God and our neighbor in all things, especially in our practice of Torah.

My dear brothers and sisters, I believe that Torah is extremely important. But love is first and foremost the greatest commandment. However, if your obedience to Torah is not rooted in a deep love of God the Father, what is the point? If we do not practice Torah with joy, what is the point? It becomes empty and ceremonial. If our neighbors see us laboring in Torah, it loses its strength. Jesus says,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.” Mt 11:28-30

In the Semitic mindset, yoke refers to your interpretation of the Torah. Yeshua is saying “My interpretation of the Torah is easier than the load you are putting upon yourselves. Come, try mine. It’s easier. Trust me.” What is His yoke? Love, Love, Love, LOVE!

Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God. The person who does not love does not know God, because God is love. By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God resides in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we reside in God and he in us: in that he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God resides in him and he in God. And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has in us. God is love, and the one who resides in love resides in God, and God resides in him. By this love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment, because just as Jesus is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears punishment has not been perfected in love. We love because he loved us first. If anyone says “I love God” and yet hates his fellow Christian, he is a liar, because the one who does not love his fellow Christian whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And the commandment we have from him is this: that the one who loves God should love his fellow Christian too. 1 John 4:7-21

YHWH resides in us! That is so insanely awesome! He loved us first, so we must love one another. We’ve got the love of God inside of us, and we’re not going to share it? Come on! You’ve got the Almighty Creator of the universe dwelling within you, and you’re going to waste it on being awesome at scripture?

What does Jesus say?

“But I have a testimony greater than that from John. For the deeds that the Father has assigned me to complete – the deeds I am now doing – testify about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified about me. You people have never heard his voice nor seen his form at any time, nor do you have his word residing in you, because you do not believe the one whom he sent. You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me, but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.” John 5:36-40

It does not matter if you have perfect theology. It does not matter if you know exactly how the scriptures should be translated and applied. We must go to Jesus. He has the answers. He is love. Yahweh sent His son. Yahweh has given us His spirit. Love is the proof of God’s work, and it is perfected in us! Isn’t that exciting? His love is perfected in us.

This is a message that I need. I am easily tempted to be prideful and self-righteous of my Torah-adherence. But it doesn’t make me any better if I am not acting in love. If I am following rules because they are rules, and not because of a desire in my heart to love God out of following Torah, then it is pointless.

However, I do not approve of using love, using grace, as a reason for not following Torah. That is not love, but selfishness. That is something I will continue on in the next entry. Please look forward to the next entry. Shalom!

For the culmination of all things is near. So be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of prayer. Above all keep your love for one another fervent, because love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without complaining. Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God. Whoever speaks, let it be with God’s words. Whoever serves, do so with the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:7-11