Worship: The Sacrifice of Isaac

Welcome to the fourth installment of our worship series, the third recorded sacrifice in the Bible, and the first one our Father ever actually asked for. I’ve had a lot of difficulty writing this one because every time I’ve reached the conclusion I’ve been unable to find the words to end with, so I’m starting this section with the end.

The first sacrifice the Creator ever asked for was a human sacrifice, the sacrifice of a promised son. Abraham regarded this sacrifice as an act of worship, which is why I haven’t been able to find a good way to finish. You see, today we’re taught that worshipping during tragedy or extreme difficulty is “an act of sacrifice”. People experience tragedy and go to church and sing praises to God and are told they are offering “a sacrifice of praise” as the tears stream down their faces and they ask through those tears, “Why, God? Why?”

The phrase, “sacrifice of praise” comes from Hebrews 13:14, but the context of that verse has nothing to do with tragedy. The writer of Hebrews is talking about our joining Jesus in his suffering when we are persecuted for following him. The writer goes on to say that doing good and sharing what we have when we don’t have much – and may actually be in need – is the sacrifice that is pleasing to God (Heb 13:16). Nowhere does the writer indicate that overcoming our feelings of loss and anger is any kind of sacrifice.

I know parents who lost their child to suicide or illness, and I have personally been in a situation where I lost very nearly everything. I want to be sensitive to the legitimate feelings of loss, anger, sadness, and the myriad other emotions that these situations cause, but if sacrifice costs us something, should we really be told that releasing these feelings in praise is “sacrificing” something? Is there a true cost to releasing painful emotions that will eventually damage our relationships with ourselves, other people, even with our Father himself? Shouldn’t we view releasing painful feelings through worship as the first step to healing?

These are the questions I ask myself as I read, study, and think about what Yehovah asked Abraham for, the literal blood sacrifice of his son by his own hand, and Abraham’s response to the request. The request itself boggles my mind since it’s a human sacrifice. We discover in Leviticus that child sacrifice is one of the things that got the Canaanites into trouble with Yehovah in the first place, so my first reaction is confusion and revulsion in no particular order, and I always imagine that Abraham’s reaction wasn’t much different. However, Abraham’s behavior is significantly different from my own; Abraham obeyed, and I can tell you that my faith is not strong enough to obey that request. And not only did he obey, he called it “worship”.

We all know the story, so let’s slow down and fully experience the conversation. As they approached the place of the sacrifice, Abraham told his servants to wait while he and Isaac go to worship Yehovah (Gen 22:5). As Abraham and Isaac continued on, Isaac asked about the sacrificial victim, to which Abraham gave the cryptic answer, “Yehovah himself will provide.” I sometimes wonder about that answer; after all Isaac was a miracle and the requested sacrifice, so perhaps Abraham meant that Yehovah had already provided the sacrifice. Either way, I can’t imagine that the answer brought much comfort to Isaac. He probably knew about child sacrifice in the area they lived, and then his father bound him as the sacrificial victim and grabbed the sacrificial knife! Abraham was there to worship the God who had kept his promise, and if a sacrifice to show his gratitude was what was required as an act of worship, then that was the worship Abraham would give.

I know Abraham was there to give honor and glory to Yehovah, that things were different back then and this kind of thing was “normal”, but it couldn’t have been as easy on Abraham or Isaac as Moses made this sound. Yehovah himself acknowledged that Abraham loved his son (Gen 22:2) (sacrifice costs something) and slaughtering something (someone) you love is never this easy (hence the term “sacrifice”).

Once again, I’ve reached the point where I must conclude this section, and it’s still hard. As always, reading about Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice the precious life of Isaac as worship makes me question the logic of calling the act of worship during tragedy or difficulty a “sacrifice” unless we are counting our healing as our sacrifice.

Yet some may read the words I just wrote and experience them as cruel. Some may feel as if the pain is their only connection to a lost loved one and so giving it up is a sacrifice of that connection, while others may feel they have a right to be angry over the loss of a job and therefore giving up the anger is the sacrifice of the right. I don’t want to minimize these legitimate feelings, but I do want us to understand sacrifice as worship, and I believe that taking the words “sacrifice of praise” out of context has contributed to our misunderstanding of sacrifice, and therefore our minimization of it. I also think it limits our ability to experience the Father’s comfort and healing if we think giving up painful emotions is “sacrifice”. Sacrificing Isaac would cost Abraham dearly both emotionally and physically. Each of us needs to carefully consider if giving up our painful emotions is truly costing us something and is therefore an acceptable sacrifice, or if releasing those emotions is our positive response to our Father’s invitation of comfort and healing, meaning that letting them go is not a sacrifice, but a deliverance.

In the end, Abraham didn’t have to slaughter Isaac and the sacrifice only cost him the time and effort it took to unravel the goat from the bushes, which I’m fairly certain he did with great relief. When he and Isaac slaughtered that animal, they did it with thanksgiving for delivering Isaac. In my imagination I see them singing and dancing just like so many of us do when we worship, but in their case the scent of a burning goat would have accompanied their songs. Those songs and a pleasing aroma went up to Yehovah, probably putting a smile on his face. I know that when we release our painful emotions “with great relief” and worship in thanksgiving (in our case, without the burning flesh) for our deliverance from that pain, we, too put a smile our Father’s face.

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“Moms’ Night Out” – The Movie

In 2014 I wrote a post I titled “Feminism”. The impetus for the post was not my having seen the Mom’s Night Out movie, but some of the negative reviews from feminists. At that point I had not actually seen the movie.

Well, I saw the movie last night and not only are those reviewers wrong, the movie proves that Christians are more than capable of producing high quality comedy. I haven’t laughed so hard and so long in years. Plus, the reviewers completely missed the point. The reviews that incited my earlier post all focused on the desire for a night out, but the real point of the movie was that we can have everything we want and still feel like we don’t measure up to everyone’s expectations, including our own. Sometimes we just need a break from our “everyday” to be reminded that we are more than what we “do”. Everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, should be able to relate to that feeling, including men, by the way. My husband enjoyed the movie as much as I did.

So if you haven’t seen the movie yet, rent it and watch it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a stay-at-home mom, a career woman with or without kids, a dad with a family, or a man on his own. You won’t be disappointed.

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Seriously???

Christians have been duped. Yes, you read that correctly. We have been taught to ignore the lion’s share of scripture because we now have the “Gospel of Christ”. Well, that’s just great. The “Gospel of Christ” is almost completely from the Word of God given to the Jews at Mt. Sinai and during the “wilderness wandering”. Again, you read that correctly. Jesus didn’t say a whole lot of new stuff; he quoted his Father’s Word over and over again, and when he wasn’t specifically quoting it, he was explaining it while also refuting the traditions of men that had been added to it. But we wouldn’t know that because we ignore what God said in the first five books of the Bible, except the really cool stories, of course. Those we know because they make such exciting stories for the youth in the church. (I know, we also prove Jesus through them, but I’m aggravated so I’m painting with a large brush. Go read Psalms. They weren’t afraid to do it.)

A few years ago, I wrote a post called “Divorced from God’s Word”. On Friday night I finished a book that revealed to me in shocking clarity just how bad it is. The book is written by a speaker and author who also happens to be Jewish. Eric is a political speaker and author, but his passion is making people laugh, which I did quite a bit of while reading his book.

Okay, there’s the set up. Eric was invited to a Christian, political women’s group to speak and they served dinner afterward. Everyone was given ham plates, except Eric who was given a special plate containing turkey.

Can anyone reading this tell me why Eric got a special plate? Anyone? Anyone?

One woman at the event wanted a turkey plate, too but was told by the woman hosting the event that Eric got the special plate because he was Jewish and couldn’t eat ham (which she didn’t know until two days earlier through Wikipedia!). Eric was very understanding, explaining that he didn’t expect Christians to know that much about Jewish customs. What a sweet man.

I’m not that sweet! I’m angry and I’ll tell you why. Christians know the great stories of the “Old Testament”, and they have attempted to recreate the Tabernacle in any number of ways. They have the 10 Commandments plastered all over their churches and can tell you how many years the Jews “wandered” the desert. And they love that God knocked down the walls of Jericho, but they can’t tell you anything about what God told His people to do and not do? They sit there and tell you that “Jesus made all food clean”, but they can’t tell you why he apparently did that? Really?!

People, Jesus and all his followers were Jewish (even Luke was considered a God-fearer at the very least, which means he followed Torah). Everything they said and wrote was from the perspective of the Law of Moses, whether you believe they were refuting or explaining it. Eric and other Jews can be understanding, I can’t be. We have purposely and methodically divorced ourselves from the very words John says Jesus was (“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14)). What do you think that word was and still is? It’s the Word He spoke to Moses nearly 6000 years ago. If we don’t understand the Word spoken to Moses, we don’t understand Jesus.

Seriously, we need to stop ignoring the largest part of the Bible, that which Paul called the foundation of the Law and the Prophets (Eph 2:20). Jesus didn’t think they were obsolete and neither did his Jewish followers. Why do we?

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“…Come to You and Bless You”

This is not one of my more cogent posts; it’s more of an attempt to figure something out that I’m sharing with my readers. You will now have an insight into where some of my posts begin.

“And in every place where I cause my Name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you” (Exodus 20:21b, JPS; English Bibles, 20:24b).

Okay, I know it’s a not a magic incantation, but really, I mention the Name all the time everywhere I go, so how come I’m not being blessed like crazy?

Good question, right?

The Gospels record that Jesus couldn’t do many miracles in his own home town because of the lack of faith in his ability to do them. That’s always struck me as odd. How on Earth could his power be dependent on someone else? Does he have it or not? I think I get it now; his ability was the same everywhere he went, but he didn’t force his power on those who didn’t want or believe in it. It’s not that he physically couldn’t perform miracles, but forcing his power on people who didn’t want it went against his nature.

I think this is what’s going on between Yehovah and me. Sure I mention His Name, but I’m not sure I’m expecting anything. I don’t want to be greedy or self-serving so I don’t expect Him to keep the promise He made in that passage. Giving something to someone who doesn’t want it goes against His nature. Our Father is only pushy when He needs to be (think Exodus), and He doesn’t need to be pushy in this case because I know who He is, He doesn’t have to prove it to me. What He’s waiting for is my acceptance of what He wants to do, what He can do if I’m willing to receive.

Have you ever tried to give someone a gift, something you know they want or need, and they flat refuse to accept it? It’s not a very pleasant experience for you or them. The same is true of our Father. He wants to bless me but forcing it on me isn’t going to be pleasant for Him or for me, so He’ll just wait until I’m ready to receive.

That being said, I’m still going to say His Name everywhere I go, blessing or no blessing.

May the Name of Yehovah be sanctified!

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Noah: The Second Recorded Act of Worship

My last post was about Cain and Abel, and the first official act of worship recorded in The Bible. I discussed the fact that there is no recorded instruction from Yehovah to sacrifice or offer anything of value; actually, there isn’t even any instruction to worship. In the end we had to conclude that we really don’t know very much about this first recorded act of worship. Anything beyond the written word is pure speculation. We’re left with the words of Yehovah, that if Cain does well he will be accepted, and by those words we can extrapolate that if we do well we, too will be accepted. I actually take great comfort in those words because there is grace in them. As long as I’m doing the best I know how to do to “rule over sin”, our Father in Heaven will accept my acts of worship, just like He accepted Abel’s act of worship.

Offerings and sacrifices must have continued because Noah “made burnt offerings” after he and his family were delivered from the flood (Gen 8:20). The word here is “’olah” a different word than that used when describing the offerings of Cain and Abel. “’Olah” describes only a burnt offering which is fully consumed by fire. Once again we have no record that Yehovah asked for these offerings. However, since Yehovah established His covenant – that He would never again destroy the earth by flood – after these offerings, it’s safe to assume that Yehovah accepted animal sacrifice as a form of worship from Noah. Of course, it was also after these offerings that Yehovah made all the animals afraid of humans and told Noah that he could eat them. Is it possible that Noah’s offering of animals which were saved along with Noah’s family was not really okay but only kind of okay? At this time, there’s no way for me to answer my own question, so all I can do is wonder.

Another intriguing aspect of this section is the way the animals are described; they are described as “clean”. How did Noah know the difference between clean and unclean? Before the flood animals weren’t considered food, so what does “clean and unclean” have to do with anything? While I hate assuming, we have to do so when reading chapter 7. Yehovah tells Noah to take 7 of the “clean animals” with him instead of 2. I assume that “clean” was defined for Noah, but we don’t actually see that. My theory is that Moses decided it didn’t need to be described here since he’d already explained it to the Hebrews at Mt. Sinai and written it in another scroll. Since he was writing this for his people, maybe he didn’t think it necessary to add the definitions of clean and unclean here. This is just my theory. Perhaps my readers have others; I’d love to discuss them.

There are approximately 1000 years between the first recorded “offering” and Noah’s, perhaps a little more or less. When he made the offering there were only 8 people in the entire world. Noah was thankful that he and his family had survived and wanted to honor Yehovah, the One who saved them. He worshiped the savior of his family with burnt offerings which the savior (Yehovah) seemed to accept. After all, a covenant was made with all of creation because of Noah’s faithfulness to obey the Creator, and while I think the offering was only partially accepted, I see mercy in even that partial acceptance. Our Father knows our hearts are evil from our youth (Gen 9:21) and yet He loves us enough to see our imperfect worship as worship none-the-less. There are consequences to our incorrect actions, even those done in ignorance, but Yehovah knows we’re trying because we love Him, too. Later on He even gave people a way of atoning for “unknown sin”, but we’ll get to all that soon enough. For now it’s enough to know that our worship is accepted because our Father knows we love Him, so we can worship Him even in our imperfection.

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Cain and Abel’s Worship

And so we begin our study of worship.

I’m not sure about you, but for many years the word “worship” brought images of music and singing and dancing. If you go to college to be a worship leader, you’re expected to learn music and play an instrument, or at least sing. Plus the average church splits services into two basic portions, the worship portion with music and/or singing, and the message portion. But the first example of worship encountered in the Bible is in Genesis chapter 4, the record of Cain’s and Abel’s offerings.

In English we often use the words “sacrifice” and “offering” interchangeably and frankly I haven’t studied the significant differences between the two. In Genesis there are 2 different Hebrew words translated “offering” and two different words translated “sacrifice.” No matter what word is used however, something is destroyed by fire. The word used in this passage of scripture is minha and is translated “offering,” so I’ll be using the word “offering” here when I’m talking about what Cain and Abel brought to the Creator.

Cain worked the ground and Abel was a shepherd. They both brought a portion of the fruits of their labor to the Father as an act of worship, an offering by fire. However, nowhere is there any recorded instruction from Yehovah to Adam and Eve to “offer” anything which begs the question, what made their sons bring something to a specific place in order to destroy it and call it an “offering”? What made them believe this was an acceptable act of worship?

I’ve heard sermons and read commentary that blood sacrifices were instituted when the Father put “coverings of skin” on Adam and Eve, but none of the words I mentioned above are found in that passage. Even if the Father killed animals for their skins, nothing in the words indicates that those animals were used as offerings or sacrifices. Again, there are no recorded instructions for Adam and Eve to make offerings and sacrifices of any type to Yehovah, so where did Cain and Abel get the idea?

The answer is, we really don’t know. We don’t even know if Adam and Eve ever brought offerings to Yehovah; all we know is that Cain and Abel thought burnt offerings were a good way to worship the Father of creation.

What I’ve heard and read about this passage of scripture assumes that the offerings were sacrifices for sin, but that’s not what is actually written. Nothing in the passage tells us what kind of offerings these were, just the items that each brought to put on the fires. Later on, when the Father does give instructions for different offerings and sacrifices, He includes first fruit offerings (grain) and thank offerings (animals), so we could just as easily conclude that the brothers were bringing these types of offerings. There isn’t even a reason given for why one was accepted and the other rejected, only that Cain did not “do well.”

Let’s summarize what we do know from the written record and what we don’t. What we don’t know is why Cain and Abel chose to make burnt offerings as a form of worship since there is no instruction to do so. We don’t know what type of offerings these were, and we don’t know exactly how Cain did not “do well.” (Yes, the author of Hebrews said that Abel’s was “better” than Cain’s, but that still doesn’t tell us how it was better.) Any time we think we know these answers, we’re really just speculating, and speculation never makes good doctrine.

What we do know is that they brought these offerings to the Creator and laid them on the fire, and we know that one offering was accepted, the other rejected. We also know that Cain did not “do well.” That’s it, that’s all we can say with certainty that we truly “know” about this incident. Is it disconcerting to realize how little we actually definitively know about this incident? Are you challenged to check this for yourself? Good. We need to check for ourselves that what we believe is true, otherwise we’re simply following what man has given us to believe instead of following what our Father in Heaven has given us to believe. You should check everything you ever read or hear for yourself, just like the Bereans did.

And be willing to accept that we don’t always get an answer to our questions. Our Father apparently didn’t think we needed to know what type of offerings these were or precisely why one was rejected and the other accepted. Apparently He thinks that what we need to focus on is that He won’t always accept what we think is an acceptable act of worship.

While we don’t know what it was that Cain did wrong it’s obvious that he did do something wrong or the offering wouldn’t have been rejected. The bigger problem for Cain comes after the offering was rejected. He continued to go down the “wrong” path instead of simply doing what was right, whatever that might have been in that context. When the Father talked to Cain about the rejection, He didn’t even rebuke him, but questioned him; “Why are you angry…? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, will you not be rejected?” (Gen 4:6 – 7a, ESV) We’re human, there’s always room for improvement.

Yehovah’s next statement to Cain intrigues me: “If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Gen 4:7b, ESV, emphasis mine). We don’t know exactly how Cain did “not do well” with the offering, but apparently Cain hadn’t yet “sinned.” Instead, sin was “crouching at the door” and if he chose to do so, Cain could have overcome that sin. Sadly, he chose to let sin overcome him and the rest is history.

In conclusion, worship isn’t just music and dancing. The first recorded acts of worship were burnt offerings brought by two brothers, children of the first humans the Father created. We don’t know why the brothers chose this as an act of worship, but that’s what it was. It’s hard for modern people to think about “worship” in this way, but that’s the way they did it “way back when.” The smell of burning grain and flesh, the heat of the fire, the smoke rising (or maybe not) are all part and parcel to early worship. The worship was intended to please God, but obviously our worship doesn’t always do that. Instead of focusing on all the reasons why Cain’s offering was rejected (wrong sacrifice, wrong attitude, etc., etc.), maybe we need to focus on Yehovah’s words in the end; “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, will you not be rejected? If you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

We can’t help Cain overcome sin in his life no matter how much we try to figure out what he did wrong, but we can rule over the sin in our own. And when we do, our worship will do what Abel’s did; become a pleasing aroma that rises to Heaven and pleases our Father and Creator.

 

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Praise and Worship Series Intro

Praise and worship: what are they and why do we do it?

What does praise and worship look like, feel like, and smell like?

How should we praise and worship?

I don’t think these are really new questions. Every culture and religion has tried to figure out how to worship. Some believe with all their hearts that their debauchery and/or violence is the proper way to worship “God”, while others believe that their “anything goes” attitude is the correct way to worship. Everything in between has wound up creating new religions, splitting denominations, and destroying churches. The upcoming articles are my exploration of biblical and extra-biblical information concerning the history of worship, leading into an exploration of what Yeshua meant by “worship[ing] in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).

Since I don’t want to be overwhelming, I’m going to break this series into many small pieces, each focusing on one particular aspect of praise and worship. At first the articles will focus on the history of worship in the Hebrew Scriptures, then the history of worship in the Christian church, and finally I’ll bring it all together and discuss what our Father might want our praise and worship to look like today in the 21st century.

The subject of worship is important because worship is a significant way that we act in love toward our Father. Love is not something that’s selfish, so if we want to show Him our love we’ll do it in a way that He will truly receive it. Love is also something we grow in. When my children were very young they gave me toys that they would also enjoy, like cars and stuffed animals. I received them with joy because my children were young and didn’t know how to find out what I really liked and shop accordingly. If they liked it they thought I would, too. After all, I played with them, didn’t I? But they are much older now and yes, I would be disappointed if I were still getting gifts that appealed to them without thought as to what I really like. It would indicate that they were still “loving” me in a selfish way.

For years I’ve watched and participated in a number of forms of worship; no musical instruments to rock-and-roll style jammin’, simple hand raising to leaping and dancing before the LORD, a loose order to a highly liturgical one. Yes, I’ve experienced and participated in most types of worship and I’ve realized that there’s always something missing, like we’re still giving our Father the stuff that we like to play with as our gift to Him. Paul told us that we are to reach the fullest measure of maturity like Jesus did (Eph 4:13), and I believe that worshipping the way our Father wants us to is a key step to having that kind of maturity, a maturity that will allow our worship and praise to be a lifestyle, not simply an event.

My next article will begin our journey in the book of Genesis discussing sacrifice as a form of worship. I’m looking forward to this journey and pray that it leads us all to a greater maturity, and a deeper relationship with our Father in Heaven.

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Warning: Change is Coming

Years ago I had a crazy thought which I’m not quite ready to share publicly. This thought has taken me on a crazy journey of discovery that has drastically affected the way I read, study, and understand the Bible. A few weeks ago I accidentally placed myself in a position where I had to defend what I’m doing to a group of people who I really believed would applaud at least most of what I was doing. I didn’t expect a full acceptance of it, but at least some encouragement and maybe even some partnership in studying these textual and translation questions I’ve recently come across. Instead I was accused of spiritual immaturity and of being led astray by false teaching.

So why am I sharing this on my blog? Because this argument caused me to accept that what I’m about to start sharing is going to cause extreme consternation for those who want to follow the Father. The accusations will continue and quite possibly become quite vicious. Am I ready for that? Probably not based on the reaction I had to the group a few weeks ago, but I can’t hide anymore. When I learn something I have to let it out whether people hear what I’m saying or not. I will simply have to accept the reactions of those who read or hear my words, the positive and the negative. Our Father in Heaven knows my heart and His approval is really what I need to be striving for.

That being said, I’m going to start sharing some longer articles here with quite a few historical and biblical references. I’ll try not to be too dry about it, but I did come out of academia and I might very well revert sometimes. Other times I may become overly passionate (a failing of mine that contributed to the meltdown a few weeks ago) and become overly critical, possibly leaning towards mean. For those times, I’m deeply sorry. If you follow this blog regularly, please tell me when I’ve gone beyond the bounds of grace and I will do my best to soften my words. Of course, on the other side of that, my passion may lead me to become giddy and say things that are, strictly speaking, opinion without remembering to share the basis, the references I used to come to that conclusion. Again, I ask that you tell me and ask me to post those references. And as always, I want my readers to engage me. There are going to be serious challenges to the doctrine that we as Christians have been taught and that’s okay. Challenging doctrine to make sure it lines up with the original language and cultural context of the Bible is exactly what the Bereans did to make sure that the “doctrine” Paul was preaching was based on the Father’s written word. Paul was not offended by this, he praised them for it, so let’s be like those Bereans together!

Matthew West sings a song called “The Center.” One of the lines says, “I wanna know how it feels to be/standing in the center of Your will for me.” Sometimes it feels like a crown of thorns and nails in your hands and feet after complete and utter rejection by those who said they would always stand beside you. I believe that I am fully entering the Father’s will for me and yes, I’m beginning to think it’s going to feel a lot more like a crown of thorns than a padded cross. And if you continue on this journey with me, you might be wearing a crown of thorns, too. Are you ready? Neither am I, but let’s do it anyway. Our Father will be so proud.

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A Modern-Day American Moses?

Israel prospered greatly while living in Egypt until a king took the throne who was afraid of them. No one really knows why he decided these people who had lived peacefully within the borders of Egypt for over 200 years would suddenly decide to join an enemy who attacked Egypt, but that’s what he was afraid of and his idea for preventing this was to make their lives miserable. I’m fairly certain that’s when he completely lost their support, but it also forced them to remember the God of their forefathers and it is to Him they began to “cry out” to. I doubt they were expecting a murderer and poor speaker to show up as their redeemer.

I often recognize America’s history in the history of Israel and as I read the first 6 chapters of Exodus the similarities struck me again. When Reagan left the office of American president in 1989, America and the world were in the midst of economic and political prosperity, a cause for celebration seeing as how the last decade or more before Reagan saw economies falling and worldwide evil expanding. But as Reagan stepped down, Communism was falling apart, Israel was at semi-peace, our allies were stronger and our enemies were weaker. Like Isrealites in Egypt, Americans relaxed and became complacent.

Over the next 20 years, America’s leadership slowly eroded what Reagan, the American people, and our allies accomplished. Those who loved America believed that they could continue to live alongside those who hated them, complacently compromising their freedoms for the sake of “peace.” Sadly it was this continual compromise that led to the election of a person whose stated goal was the fundamental transformation of America because America was “too prosperous and too mighty” (basically what Pharaoh said about Israel).  This man began the process of transforming America by “brutalizing” those faithful to America, both economically and politically.  Eventually even physical brutality was used as violence against those who loved America dramatically increased and the very president who should have stopped that violence only encouraged it. While Reagan lead a renewal through encouragement, communication, and empowerment of people, Obama lead the creation of a great depression though discouragement, secrets, disempowerment of people and finally, violence in the streets.

Over the years there have been those who recognized the downward trend, but many remained complacent. But then, President Obama. Overnight it seemed that we went from peaceful coexistence with those among us who disliked America to “slavery and brutality.” Much like the Israel story, those who had been complacent suddenly began to cry out for deliverance, but things kept getting worse.

For the Israelites, enter Moses, a murder and apparently not particularly eloquent. Technically he hadn’t even lived among his people since he was weened, having grown up in a palace and then spent 40 years in Midian. What could he possibly do for Israel? But Yehovah had chosen him as His tool to deliver Israel.

On January 20, 2017 a man of some questionable ethics and not particularly eloquent was sworn in as America’s 45th president. He faces much the same situations that Reagan faced, though in some ways much worse. And he brings much the same message that Reagan brought to America, that together America can be truly great and truly free, exactly what Moses told the slaves in Egypt about Israel. And like Moses, Trump has questionable ethics and is not particularly eloquent, but it would seem that like Moses, Yehovah has raised him up as a tool for America’s deliverance. Trump may not be what we would have anticipated, but Moses wasn’t exactly what Israel anticipated, either.

So let us praise our Father in Heaven, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for sending a deliverer. Let us pray for him and support him to the best of our abilities. May the Name of our Father be sanctified!

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True Forgiveness is Tough

True forgiveness is tough, especially if we really were wronged. Someone undermines you at work and it costs you a promotion; another student steals an answer key but you’re blamed; a loved one has abused you in some way, your child was murdered. The list is truly endless but the answer is always the same; forgive. But how do we that? Our reputation is forever damaged, or the emotional pain of our innocence being ripped away leaves lifelong relationship problems, or the hole left by the missing child feels like it will never heal.

I have really struggled with forgiveness this year and it has left me emotionally and spiritually drained, often leaving me wondering if I will be able to continue this ministry. I’ve been thoroughly stuck in disillusionment and I’ve hated it.

But God…

The pain I feel isn’t healed yet by any stretch of the imagination, but I do see the light and this is where I’m headed. My pain stems from a situation where I was accused of things I didn’t do. Sadly I couldn’t prove that and the situation deteriorated to the point that I had to remove myself from it. This rocked my world to the core because I had believed the situation would lead to an immeasurable growth and reach of Jesus Is Knocking. My reputation is damaged and considering what I’m trying to do here, I have been angry and scared. My reputation is pretty much all I have. Was I witnessing the end of Jesus Is Knocking before it ever really began? I wanted vindication and an apology, at least vindication. Here’s what the Father showed me.

What if my vindication came at the cost of the souls of those involved in the situation? Would people going to hell be worth my reputation being restored? Would I be willing to stand there at the Judgment and sentence them to hell because of what they’d done?

No, no I wouldn’t be. The horror of that was too much for me to bear. Even someone like Hitler going to a place so far from Yehovah’s love that they suffer eternal pain makes me flinch, and he deserved it. What was done to me is not worth the eternal fire of hell; and yet I have been acting as though it is. What if I’m not the only one this has happened to? What if they never repent and do it to more people? Then the Judgment will be up to the Judge, but not up to me. I must free them from my judgment so that I am not standing there later cheering on my vindication that sent them to hell. When the Judgment Day comes I want to know that I have forgiven everyone to the best of my ability. I want them to repent, to find forgiveness at the Judgment Seat just like I will. My reputation may be damaged, but what is that compared to eternal suffering? Nothing, nothing at all.

So how do we forgive? Think about hell – the fire, the pain, the constant darkness, the absence of anything good and lovely and true for all of eternity, the never-ending torment. Is what was done to you really bad enough to send a person into that? Are you willing to be the judge that sends this person into it? Is that loving your enemy like Jesus taught us to?

Allow yourself to be horrified by the thought that your enemy might have to endure the eternal torment of hell for the limited amount of time that he or she hurt you. Allow your heart to be softened to pray that your enemy will repent and turn to the Father to learn how to live this life to honor Him. I did and cried for my “enemy.” The pain is still real, but I have truly forgiven and I pray that you can, too. In most personal circumstances, what has been done to us by others is not worth eternal torment. I pray that Yehovah helps you to see that, too.

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