Guest Post “Reflections on the New Moon”

Shabbat Shalom, and Adar Sameach!

I am blessed with a brother who is sincere and insightful, who wrote the piece below. I wanted to share it with you all, because I think he is right on, and this should have wide application. Thanks, Teresh, for letting me post it! – Rivkah 😉

“Reflections on the New Moon”

I heard something a while back that got me thinking and praying about the new moon, asking God why He asked us to gather together at the new moon rather than the full moon.

I’ve also been asking Him how to teach His simple truths in a way that easily imparts HEART knowledge rather than lofty head knowledge. Then I began to study Yeshua’s teaching methods. He frequently pointed to objects within eyesight of the people He was teaching . . . (whited sepulchers, fig trees, etc.).

Imagine Yeshua attending your new moon celebration . . . he would stand up, point to the moon and teach us something. What would say?

Consider:

1. The moon doesn’t generate any light of its own – it reflects the light of the sun.

2. We are instructed to gather together at the new moon, when the moon is reflecting the least light of its cycle.

3. When the moon is the darkest we Teruah . . . we give a shout or a shofar blast, proclaiming His Kingship and we dedicate/sanctify the month to Him, to His purposes.

4. The moon then proceeds through its cycle to fullness, then back down to complete darkness.

Perhaps God invited us to gather together at the new moon to help us understand that, like the moon, we too reflect His light to varying degrees throughout the month. Sometimes we feel His presence in our lives and we seem to radiate the Glory of God magnificently. At other times, we feel dark, discouraged, even depressed . . . as if we and God have nothing in common. Perhaps we meet at the new moon for precisely this reason. God wants to remind us that even in the darkest time we need to have faith. Not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit we will again cycle back around and reflect the light of God in fullness.

In our difficult times the enemy of our souls wants to lie to us and tell us that we are no good failures. He wants to cut us off from our spouses, our children, our families, our friends, our community . . . our fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

But God wants to remind us of His faithfulness. He wants to remind us to shout out to Him and proclaim His victory. Just as the walls of Jericho came crumbling down, and as the Red Sea parted, He will deliver us. He will set us free. He is faithful and unwavering. And He wants a people of faith . . . especially when their faith is tested by difficult circumstances whether they’re internal, external, or both. In those times, He wants us to gather together as one rather than isolate ourselves in loneliness, shame, and defeat. He wants His kids to gather together, proclaim His victory with a shout, and have faith that just as the moon cycles through varying degrees of radiance, so too do we. If we’re not reflecting much light right now, soon enough we will. And if we’re reflecting lots of light right now, we are reminded that it’s His light, and not our own that is shining bright and luminous.

Wherever we find ourselves in this cycle, we choose obedience. We choose to acknowledge Him as King of the Universe and King of our lives. We proclaim His victory. We declare His faithfulness. And in faith, we continue through the seemingly endless cycle of waxing and waning, thankful that He does not change. His brilliant light shines forth day and night.

“Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!

Let them lead me;

Let them bring me to Your holy hill

And to Your tabernacle.

Then I will go to the altar of God,

To God my exceeding joy;

And on the harp I will praise You,

O God, my God.”

~ Psalm 43:3-4

Prayer To Live in Awe and Wonder at God’s Miracles

Days pass and the years vanish and we walk sightless among miracles. Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing. Let there be moments when your Presence, like lightning, illuminates the darkness in which we walk. Help us to see, wherever we gaze, that the bush burns, unconsumed. And we, clay touched by God, will reach out for holiness and exclaim in wonder, “How filled with awe is this place and we did not know it.”

Christmas Journey Update

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Oil Menorah Shamash Candle for Hanukkah – 2013

It has been several years now, since I originally wrote
“Our Christmas Journey”, and several things have changed for us. Chief among them is that my family (Dad and Mom, my 2 brothers and a sister, as well as my sister-in-law and her family), after examining the issue, have likewise chosen to let their traditional Christmas celebrations go by the wayside.

This means that I no longer have to tick off the minutes of that day in my head, knowing exactly what traditions are being practiced by my family at that moment – without me and my husband and children! It makes a huge difference in my personal sadness level at leaving those things behind. I am grateful for the further freedom from criticism we are enjoying and the greater fellowship available between us, after the strife that was caused by our initial decision several years ago. So, I’m happy to report that having been faithful through the more difficult trials in the beginning, things have gotten much easier as the years have gone by since making this life-changing decision to abandon Christmas. (My husband’s family does still have their own celebrations, but as their family tradition, growing up, was to sit on the beach in Hawaii for Christmas Day, it has been less difficult, overall, for them to understand our “abandonment” of the classic snowy, tree-centric view of the whole thing. There have been good discussions through the years, on that side, too.)

The other big and surprising change since this story was first written has been how hugely popular this same decision has become, among fellow believers! When we took this fork in the road, it was a barely recognizable bunny trail through dense forest, and now it has become a much broader path tread by many! We were prepared for loneliness, difficulty, and misunderstanding, and instead have found an ever-increasing community of like-minded folks who have put similar thoughts together and chosen to follow more whole-heartedly after truth untainted by historical and nostalgic misunderstanding.

More and more, when we explain our stance to others, we are met with comments like “well, that makes more sense!” and “I always wondered about that, too!” Several hardy families have joined us and our predecessors on this journey and come through their own difficult initial pull-backs, finding it easier to breathe on the other side.

The scripture that comes to mind is from Jeremiah 16:19-21: O L-rd, my strength and my fortress, My refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come to You from the ends of the earth and say, “Surely our fathers have inherited lies, Worthlessness and unprofitable things.” Will a man make gods for himself, Which are not gods? “Therefore behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know My hand and My might; And they shall know that My name is the L-rd.

The Father has challenged us as Gentile believers differently than He did our Jewish elder brothers and sisters. They were given the job of being “a light to the nations,” and holding up the standards of the Torah (G-d’s ways) high, for all to see. Our job as “the nations” is to identify the places our fathers have been in error and set them aside, in order to walk uprightly before our pure, holy and undefiled G-d.

The story of Gideon, from the book of Judges, comes to mind. How hard was it for him to destroy his own father’s idols? So hard that he did it in the middle of the night, when the men of the city couldn’t see what he was about! And as timid as he was with his obedience, the L-rd honored it, and his faith and valor, as well as his honor, grew from that point forward.

If you are among those taking timid (or bold) first steps in this direction, be encouraged! He is faithful, and offers many rewards for obedience, especially in the face of difficulty.

I could go on, with all the lessons we have learned since taking these steps, but I will leave you with one more prophetic scripture that seems apropos for both G-d’s covenant people and His adoptees at this point:
Isaiah 30:20-22 – And though the L-rd gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers. Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left. You will also defile the covering of your images of silver, and the ornament of your molded images of gold. You will throw them away as an unclean thing; you will say to them, “Get away!”

Where are you in this journey?

Guest Post: Afraid of Food?

glutenfree

In looking back at my life over the past several years, I have now come to realize that I have been held in bondage to the fear of food. I know that to many this may sound silly, weird or like some kind of super-spiritual madness. But to those who are willing to read my “note,” I ask that you bear with me and read on; I do have a purpose in sharing this, and I’m pretty sure I’m not “off my rocker.”

For numbers of years, I have been afraid of eating highly-processed foods, foods prepared in an improper way, pasteurized or denatured foods, foods with man-made garbage in them, and the like, all under the guise of “conviction.” It was about a week ago that I realized the fear that had gripped me – the bondage I was in, and the dues I’ve been paying for in my surrender to it. The moment my eyes were opened was the point at which God spoke through me to respond to my father on the subject of eating kosher. He asked me if we had a problem with eating half a pizza, with the other half having pork on it. I said to him: “We’re not afraid of eating pork; we eat kosher because we fear and love God.” I sometimes feel like I open my mouth to talk to someone and God starts speaking through me. It’s as though I stop in my own mind and listen to what’s coming out and think, “oh. . . that’s true, that’s good, I never thought of it that way.” And in speaking to my father. I found one of those moments.

In the week that followed, I believe that God spoke to my heart saying such things as these: Don’t deceive yourself any longer into believing that you eat “healthy” because you fear and love me. Don’t believe the lie that you are protecting yourself from “destroying God’s temple, the dwelling of the Holy Spirit” (your body) by eating healthy. You eat the way you do not to honor and glorify the Lord, and not because it’s right or good, but because you are afraid of what will happen if you don’t. You have said that you eat healthy because you are “convicted” to honor the Lord by taking care of the gift God gave you in the body you have. Who convicts you? Are you compelled by love, or driven by fear? Is it not that which comes out of your mouth and not what goes in that makes you unclean?

“When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” – Mark 7:14-16

How do you then justify your biting unkindness toward others who come between you and your fear? In whom have you put your trust – in God or food? In God or herbs and naturopathy? In God or man? If man has said that a certain food will kill you and you avoid it at all costs, are you not putting more trust in man than in God – for who alone numbers your days? Or are you afraid that you will not have quality of life? Is God not good? Is He not just? Is He not the blessed controller of all things? Has God not promised to work all things toward your good? Has God not promised to care for and protect you? And though there will be troubles, will God not deliver you from every one of them? And is God’s love and peace not better than life? How much time do you spend learning about and preparing food? How much money do you spend on that which fades? Are you storing up your treasures in heaven or on earth?

Lay down your sacrifices and cease your idolatry of self. Work no longer to stay the hand of an angry god who threatens you with death, disease and affliction unless you bring your sacrifices. Worship the Lord, the Lord only.

I have responded to the Lord with “YES, I want to worship you alone! And I am SO, SO sorry, Lord for my waywardness and idolatry; please change my heart.” I was amazed to find out after sharing with my husband that he had long believed I’d been deceived and duped into self-idolatry with regard to food. He had been praying for me, and trusting in God to save. It is very humbling for me to confess this to you all, but I feel compelled to share for a couple of reasons. First, our God is SO AMAZING. He is not like the god I once served who is without compassion and whose only motivation is fear. The Lord is patient, gracious, gentle, kind, good, merciful and full of everlasting love (to start with). I stand in awe of the fact that He is faithful even when I am not. And though to you the words (above) that I felt God speak to my heart may sound harsh, to my ears they were gentle and full of compassion. His words were true and to the point, convicting but not defeating. For in fact, godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to life and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. The second reason I am sharing this with you is in the hope that if any of my dear friends are suffering under this same deception, I might encourage you through my own experience that you might recover yourself from the snare of the devil. I am not writing this to point a finger. I’ll leave the job of convicting up to God. I do, however, want to encourage you to seek God and ask Him if you’ve made an idol in your heart, so that you might repent and be free. Now, for those of you who may still be wondering, no I don’t believe it is the good or right thing to (purposefully) be unhealthy and dishonor God with our bodies. The kicker to the lies and deceptions of our enemy is that they are mixed with the truth. The truth, I believe, is that it is a good and right thing to honor and glorify God with all that we are, think, say and do – including the way that we eat. In fact, God has told us how to eat to glorify Him (i.e. eating “kosher,” but of course, man always wants to add to or subtract from the words of God). It is also written that man was not made for food, food was made for man. Food ought not to control us, we ought to be in control of food, without love or fear. Perhaps the question we ought to train ourselves to ask in order that we might guard against idolatry is: “do I glorify God in what I am doing?” For if we were created to bring glory to God, to love Him, to fear Him, and to enjoy His love – then all that we do should bring forth that very fruit. So I ask myself, “is my eating bringing glory to God – or does the glory fall elsewhere?” The only one worthy of our love and fear is the Lord. So the question is, are we sacrificing ourselves to another, and is there something or someone we love or fear more than or along side of God? If so, let us repent, for the rewards of freedom are great!

Grace and peace be with you my friends!

Jen

I really appreciate what Jen shares here, and I just want to say that I was also living in fear of food for many years. My family was bound up with food allergies, and when the Father graciously started opening my eyes, I was in the grocery store, and I went down the aisle with the Holy Spirit looking over my shoulder, pointing out that I was afraid of that and that, and that . . . Then more scriptures spoke to me about this.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons . . . and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. – I Timothy 4:1-3

It is really amazing how many in believing communities these days have food allergies, and troubles with gluten. I have even seen a communion table in a church with labels for gluten-free communion wafers. The question I can’t get out of my mind is, “If Yeshua called himself ‘the Bread of Life,’ then isn’t bread not only good for us, but as essential to our long-term physical well being as He Himself is to our spiritual life?

Another thought to consider, along the lines of Jen’s note: anything you give up because you are afraid of it becomes a sacrifice on the altar of fear, in your life.

On to cleaning for Pesach! (Conversely, it must be good for us to go without chametz for one week a year, right? I wonder how many gluten problems might be cleared up by following this commandment . . . )

Blessings and Shalom to you all!

The Sin of Moses

Now, to sober things up a bit – or at least humble them up for me! I got a new insight today, on how the sin of Moses has crept into my life.

moses_water_rock_strike

I’ve always wondered what, exactly, the sin of Moses was – you know, the one for which he was punished by not being allowed in to the Promised Land? Well, I’ve been struggling for awhile with knowing how to positively motivate my children. I’m ashamed to say I’ve resorted to guilting them way too often. Instead of encouraging and building up like the wise woman I want to be, I become a foolish woman, tearing down my house with my own hands. (Proverbs 14:1)

sledgehammer

As I was praying today, asking for freedom from this tendency, the voice of Moses rang in my head, as he cried out, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” (Numbers 20:10) My heart sank into repentance almost immediately, as I recognized the tone all too well. He is pushing guilt on the people, when they are asking for his help. Many times, when overwhelmed by all that is being asked of me by my large brood, I am prone to lash out instead of simply praying for patience and answering the requests in order of their immediacy.

moses-in-desert

The hardest thing, of course, is seeing the ugly fruit come out in my children’s interactions with each other. I hope and pray that we can all shake off the rotten fruit, and that I am able to be a better example to them from here on out. My hope is that we WILL be free, because this answer came directly in response to my prayer, and I asked for help in the right place – from the one who came to set captives free!

(I’m not saying this is ALL Moses was being punished for in this instance, but the L-rd has definitely used it to get my attention today. I also did look at the Rabbinic sources, and found out that this factor is one of the main 5 theories on the identification of Moses’ sin. (Thanks, Rambam!)

I have repented to my Father and my family, and pray for His help to keep this idea before me when temptation comes. And yes, it is also important to forgive myself and move on. If Moses, the meekest man on earth, was subject to this sin, I shouldn’t be surprised that it comes knocking at my door.

It is humbling to post this. It’s not something to be proud of, but I hope this can help someone else who might have the same tendency or temptation.

While writing this, the following song came on (available here: Psalms of Ascent CD), as a lovely underscore.

Psalm 130

New King James Version (NKJV)

Waiting for the Redemption of the Lord

A Song of Ascents.

130 Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord;
2 Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.

3 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.

5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
6 My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning—
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.

7 O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is mercy,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
8 And He shall redeem Israel
From all his iniquities.

Hallelujah!

“Gingerbread” Temple

Chag Hanukkah Sameach!
Just wanted to share with you our first day of Hanukkah crafting success. (I don’t have many crafting success stories, so let me gloat just a minute! 😉 My sis-in-law had the marvelous idea to do a gingerbread version of the Temple in Jerusalem, as a craft with our kiddos. We decided that the surface of matzah actually looks more like Jerusalem Stone than graham crackers with white chocolate or whatever else we would have used, so that’s what we went for.

We used a stack of Rolos for each of the columns – with Ferraro Rocher for the capitals, and Hershey’s gold-wrapped Nuggets for doors and altar. Since we couldn’t manage a cutaway, we brought the interior colors of the Temple (blue, red, purple) to the outside top with colorfully-wrapped Hershey’s Kisses. We have an “animal sacrifice” in the form of a (yes, non-kosher) licorice Scottie Dog. (Anybody have a better idea?) My daughter put a red Hershey’s Kiss on top of that for flames, and we have a small tuft of cotton candy ascending as “smoke.” We had to resort to a Lego priest, as we didn’t manage to acquire any sour patch kids. We have rock candy scattered around the courtyard.

Because the temple we are talking about (the one the Maccabees had to cleanse) was Zerubbabel’s, not Solomon’s or Herod’s, we took plenty of artistic license. Zerubbabel’s temple was pretty bare-bones. We asked the children, “if you were Herod, and had plenty of money and giant candy, how would YOU have chosen to decorate the temple?” Ours was, of course, a cooperative effort, with various children adding their favorite details. 🙂

Happy, happy Hanukkah to all!!

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Lessons from Barefooting in the Vineyards of Israel

My bare foot – Resting on the Solid Rock, in the Land of Israel

Shalom!

I know – It’s been an extended absence, but how worth it! My family and I recently returned from an amazing experience, helping harvest the vineyards in the mountains of Israel. (See Isaiah 61:5, Jeremiah 31:5 – Our G-d keeps His covenants!)

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
Your God reigns!” – Isaiah 52:7

Several months before our departure, I started hearing “prompting” to go barefoot over there. Though I had been to Israel before, I hadn’t been to the vineyards, and those I asked about the barefoot possibilities were pretty skeptical. “Lots of thorns!” they said. But I kept noticing things about feet in the Scriptures. The main reasons we found there were:

1. Holy Ground – We consider the entire Land of Israel to be holy ground, and following Moses’ example seemed appropriate.

Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. – Exodus 3:5

2. It speaks of humility, since we were coming as servants, and not as conquerors. Historically, foreigners who came to the land shod were desiring to conquer and subdue the Jewish people. Our desire was to come as servants to assist them in their own efforts to reclaim the land.

Now I say that Yeshua the Messiah has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers – Romans 15:8

3. It seems to be part of the process of claiming the land, scripturally, to tread with the soles of your feet, particularly.

Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours – Deut. 11:24

Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.- Joshua 1:3

Then my daughter found an article in Answers magazine about the health benefits of barefooting. (Click here for the article: The Barefoot Professor.) That led us to some sites on barefooting, and were amazed to find quite a subculture of barefoot enthusiasts. Notably one article, The Barefoot Path in the Western Contemplative Tradition, resonated with us. This is an article on bare feet in history, tradition and symbolism in Judaism and Christianity, including very interesting discussions. If you don’t have time to get into it, the bare bones is here:
Thus going barefoot in the religious tradition of the west is serious symbolic business, representing by turns:

  1. A sign of proximity to holy ground
  2. A token of humility, mortification, or penance
  3. A prophetic “sign to the Nations”
  4. Obedience to Jesus’ advice to ministers
  5. Unstinting reliance on Providence
  6. Identification with the poor
  7. Experiencing the holiness of the redeemed earth.

I will argue that the seventh representation, walking in unity with the redeemed earth, is the symbolic center of the barefoot path in the contemplative tradition.

We started looking more seriously, and taking practical steps by removing our shoes for the summer, nearly everywhere we went. We wanted to toughen our feet for the potential thorns, and be ready to obey what we were hearing. We cleared the plan with our group’s coordinators – and prayed.

When we arrived at our vineyard workers’ base camp, we were amazed by the sheer number and variety of the thorns! Let the lessons begin!!

vineyard hand

My hand, after a few hours’ work in the vineyard. Just so you know I wasn’t watching my feet the WHOLE time!

1. Hazards are many – thorns, glass, ants, etc. – but they only inflict temporary damage. Fear of them is not a reason to quit! They are only temporary distractions. You learn to step lightly, and pick them right out. They also puncture less easily, when you have callouses built up.

2. The path of obedience doesn’t promise to be easy. The instruction to “possess the land by treading with the soles of your feet” doesn’t exclude thorns and difficulty.

3. Watch the road ahead. Plan every step carefully.

3. Stick to the path that has been laid out for you.

4. It only works in the light. Darkness hides the thorns, so you can’t avoid them.

5. Sometimes, when you are busy watching your feet, you get smacked in the head by a tree branch.

6. A large part of redeeming this land from its previous curse is removing thorns and thistles, products of both the original curse on the earth – the price of disobedience in the Garden (Genesis 3:18), and also the curse that came on this Land when its inhabitants were spewed out for disobedience to G-d’s laws (Isaiah 5:6, 7:23-25). Seeing the obvious fulfillment of the previous curse only highlights the truth of the promised restoration that is beginning before our eyes!

7. The safest, most sure footing is only found on the Solid Rock!

Maybe these seem obvious, but it’s always fun, to me, to see how G-d’s truth pervades His natural world.

For the record, I didn’t manage to go barefoot the entire time, but I obediently did SOME in each location we visited, which included Jerusalem, Shiloh, and Hebron, in addition to the vineyards. Per the above lessons, there were things I wanted to look at in the Land, besides my feet!

Here are just a few examples:

Sunrise at Elon Moreh

A fun morning’s work ahead!

Grapes with morning dew!

There’s so much more I could share, but it’s bedtime!

P.S. Credit where credit is due – these last three shots were all taken by my 11 year-old son. 🙂

Sibling Challenge

Shabbat Shalom!

It’s before 7 am on Shabbat morning, and I just changed a diaper. All is peaceful and quiet at my house – like it was for most of yesterday, amazingly!

Usually, since there is so much to do to prep for Shabbat, Fridays are generally our least “peaceful” day of the week. I think that to a certain extent, G-d wants it that way, since it sets up the contrast with Shabbat! However, my Friday yesterday was an unusually peaceful one, due to the fact that my older four children decided at 9:30 in the morning that they would use the day to try their friend Kolby’s “sibling challenge.”

Kolby is a 14 year old friend of ours who is writing a blog you can find here: The Sibling Challenge. It is a challenge for siblings, based on The Love Dare from the movie Fireproof. Check it out!!

I’d like to publicly thank my children (and Kolby) for my relatively peaceful Friday. I suspect that my children had a bit easier time of it because they were all doing it together, but I know they did have some tough moments (especially because the two year old doesn’t get it). Good job, kids!!

And thank you, Kolby, for stepping up and making kindness and self-control
cool!!

PS – In reference to my previous post, maybe we should try to start a “Body of Believers Challenge” next?