Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I think every season is my favorite as it comes around because I'm always ready for the next change, but spring is my favorite of favorites. In America, we celebrate the new year in January, in the middle of the winter. According to the biblical calendar, however, the month of Nisan is the beginning of the year, which always falls around March or April of the gregorian calendar, and I love how the spring season fits with this. It is such a time of renewal when the world around us is springing to life after a long, cold winter. What a great time for fresh starts!

It is amazing to me how the Lord has worked His timing to reveal important events to us. First, Passover, where we're redeemed from our slavery (to sin), then the Feast of Unleavened Bread, where we begin our journey away from our personal Egypt and our slavery. Now, we're counting the Omer, which is basically counting out 50 days to the day of Shavuot, more widely know as Pentecost. This is traditionally known as the day of the giving of the Torah at Sinai, and Christians also know this day as the day of the giving of the Spirit after Jesus' ascention. Both of these, the written Word and the Word written on our hearts, give us the tools we need to take further steps away from the sin in our lives and to bear fruits of righteousness.

What a wise and awesome God we serve! He has taken the physical world around us and used it as yet another teaching tool for His wayward children. The birds gathering once again in the budding trees, flowers sprouting and the grass greening...all beautiful reminders to allow Him to melt our cold, hard hearts so that we can bear fruit once again!

"Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; And uphold me with a willing spirit." Psalm 51:10-12

Monday, April 20, 2009

Crack in the Track

Have you ever read the story, "A Crack in the Track?" Well, my kiddos love this story, so it's one we get to read often around our house. Thomas the train felt that a train could do anything. He learned, however, that life doesn't always work that way.

Along his "route" that day, a terrible storm hit, which cracked the track that Thomas was travelling on. He couldn't back up because there others on the track behind him and he couldn't go forward because the track was broken. He was stuck on his own track. As I was reading this story the other night, the thought occurred to me that Thomas' delimma is not unlike our lives in so many ways!

How often do we think that we can accomplish things through our own abilities? Thomas learned, in the end, that a "train is only as good as it's track." The same is so very true for us! We can accomplish nothing in and of ourselves...our success in life is fully dependent upon the track that we're travelling on.

In our lives, there are two tracks...the one we build for ourselves and the one that God builds for us. If we attempt to build our track ourselves, the track will most likely end up very twisted and broken, for track building is not our purpose. Our purpose is simply to travel along our track , wherever it may lead. The track building should always be left up to the professionals who know what they're doing. As believers, God should be our track builder.

For those of us who already know the Messiah (we've been saved through faith), we're faced with the question of, "I'm saved...so now what?" What are we to do on this faith journey, this new track that God Himself has built for us? Once we're saved, we have the high calling of being a disciple, but what does that mean? Where does this track lead?

The Bible tells us in Romans 6:22 that we are are now "...freed from sin and enslaved to God, you do get the benefit — it consists in being made holy, set apart for God, and its end result is eternal life." God has set us apart to walk in holiness. So, how do we do that? If we are truly free from sin, we must allow our outer man to mirror our inner man and cast off this sin outwardly as well. 1 John 3:4 says, "Whoever commits sin transgresses the law, for sin is transgression of the law." God set Israel apart by taking her out of Egypt so that she would be free to serve God alone, and then He gave her the law to allow her to live as the set apart nation that He had made her. In Romans, we learn that we are set apart as well, as a holy people unto God. Then in 1 John we learn that we are to cast of our sins the same as Israel was told to do, by turning from transgression of the law. This is the track God has given us to lead set apart lives.

Matthew 7:12-14 says, "Therefore all things, whatever you desire that men should do to you, do even so to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets. Go in through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in through it. Because narrow is the gate and constricted is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it." God's track will lead you there!

Aren't we taught in many congregations that this "law" is done away with? In Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus specifically says, "Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to destroy but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, till the heaven and the earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall in any way pass from the Law until all is fulfilled. Therefore whoever shall relax one of these commandments, the least, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of Heaven. But whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven." The "fulfill" here can also mean "to complete, fill up, or fully preach." The "law" that this is referring to is the Old Testament law, also known in Hebrew as the Torah. Torah means "instruction." Jesus came to fully preach God's instructions to His people! Heaven and earth have not yet passed away just as God's Word has not passed away!

Many teachers say that we are no longer under the law. And right they are...we are not under the condemnation of the law, that curse of the law, which is eternal separation from our Father in heaven. Jesus drew us near through His sacrifice and we no longer have to be separated, for He is our Passover Lamb! We are not under the law, but we should not exalt ourselves above it, either. We are to line ourselves up with God's instructions for our lives and, "Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt. 5:48) In this manner, we submit our lives to God as His slaves as Romans 6:22 teaches. There is only One who is above the law and that is it's Creator, our Creator. Even He, in human form, fully submitted Himself to this law in order that He would be the sinless sacrifice. Remember, in 1 John we learned that sin is "transgression of the law."

Belief alone is not enough, for "even the demons believe and tremble." (James 2:19) "But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:20) A saving faith spurs us on to walking as Jesus walked. He led the way in rejecting lawlesness and we as His disciples, are called to follow His track, for His is the track to life. Salvation isn't just moment in time where our train jumps off it's track onto a new one. Salvation is also travelling down that new track until we reach the end of it, that great and glorious reward!

Now all this talk of "law" seems very daunting. Keep in mind that this is not a track that we conquer all in one moment...it takes a lifetime. The point is that we are on this track. A lifetime of baby steps, crawling along God's track and learning how to live in righteousness, because this is an entirely new track for us to be on! But with Jesus our Messiah leading the way, and God's Spirit living in us, we are well on our way. May we follow God's track and learn a little lesson from our sweet blue friend, Thomas, that a "train is only as good as it's track."

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Matzah Mayhem

I just wanted to share my joyful experience with you. In the last 4 years, I've come to learn about and love God's Torah, which means "instruction" in Hebrew. The term "Torah" is primarily speaking of the first five books of the Bible, Genesis through Deuteronomy. Included in the Torah are instructions to observe the Passover as a memorial to the wonderful works of God and it is also a prophetic holiday (holy-day) speaking of Jesus' sacrifice. It is a beautiful way to teach our children of God's wonderous works on earth and my children have come to really anticipate this feast.

We are the only ones in our extended family that celebrate the Passover, with the exception of a couple out-of-state relatives. Sometimes it is difficult and lonely when nobody rejoices with us on such a day. However, for the last two years, I have been the hostess of a Passover Seder in my home. Last year, about half of the invitees came, so I expected a similar turnout this year. This year, I invited 20 or so people and every person I invited came, as well as a few extras! Yikes! Well, I was quite nervous about fitting all these people into my small home, but it worked out so perfectly, and God definitely blessed the event. With the removal of most of my living room furniture, we arranged additional dining space to fit everyone. It was such a joy to share what the Lord has done for us as believers with such a crowd in our home!

Nearly every guest was a first time Passover participant, so I worried that some who attended might be put off by some of the traditions (as I am well aware that they can become a snare, as my previous post reveals!); so my prayer was that those who attended would see the meaning behind the traditions we do keep, and that God would be glorified through the evening. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, we had a wonderful time of fellowship, and we received many comments about how meaningful it was for them to experience the Seder. What a joy when God uses us in such a way...I feel so humbled and so blessed!

May you have a blessed Passover season!

Tradition or Teaching?

Sometimes the lines between Biblical teaching and traditions are very easily blurred. How do we prevent the traditions of man from becoming the standards by which we hold ourselves, and others, accountable? It's a very fine line.

If we are constantly in the Word, I think it is much easier to discern the truth from tradition. I have to say that I love traditions. I enjoy taking part in ancient traditions as well as creating traditions of my own. I think that they're a wonderful way to make our lives more beautiful and enjoyable. The danger is that these beloved traditions can become a snare. At the very least, they create feelings of guilt for some believers when they may not be able to keep certain man-made rules. I think it is extremely important to discern between God's teachings and our personal preferances.

In Judaisms of Jesus' day, oral law became rules that it's followers had to abide by and Jesus' taught repeatedly against such things because God does not hold man accountable to OUR standards...we will only be held accountable to HIS standards. For Christianity, it has become much of the same. This is a very hard thing to articulate because at what point does one draw the line and say that a tradition is preventing us from doing the will of the Father? Often in congregations, we create a set of rules that members of the congregation must abide by if they want to continue as (or become) a "member." Usually, these rules include things taught in the Bible, but quite often they also include some extra rules as well. By whose authority do we rule over our brothers and sisters in such a fashion? Too often, we hold these man-made rules as a higher standard than the teachings of the Bible; we don't want to judge our brothers and sisters when it comes to obedience in regards to Biblical teaching, but we will readily judge someone according to a rule we've made for our congregation...I personally have never been the recipient of this type of judgment, but have witnessed it in virtually every congregation I've been a participant in. This is the very reason there are so many believers who truly are believers, but they will have nothing to do with a church institution.

The only solution I can see is that each believer be immersed in the Word themselves (not simply relying on others to teach them what the Bible says) so that we all know the difference between true Biblical teaching and what is tradition. When a situation arises where a Believer is being judged by other believers because of a man-made rule, we need to speak up for the truth. We must first remove the log from our own eye before picking at the splinter in our brothers eye (Matt. 7:3-5).

Mark 7:6-9, "Jesus answered them, 'Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites — as it is written, these people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from Me. Their worship of Me is useless, because they teach man-made rules as if they were doctrines.' You depart from God's command and hold onto human tradition. Indeed,' He said to them, 'you have made a fine art of departing from God's command in order to keep your tradition!'"