Dear Torah Portion Reader...
I am very excited that the Spring Feast is just around the corner! We are now in the final preparation count-down, which for us at Lighted Way Ministries is an "all-hands-on-deck" scenario. In the next few weeks and days, I will be finishing the book "God's Amazing Star Secret" (which I pray to have fresh from the press at Passover, on April 1, 2018), I will be writing the sermons, putting together the children's program, cooking (and freezing) the casseroles to serve during the Retreat week, and more...
In order to accomplish all of this, I will not be taking time to write the Torah portion commentaries during this period of time. However, that does not mean that anyone need to get behind. The following is the Torah reading and study schedule for the next few weeks. As you keep up with this schedule, you will be on track to complete all 613 Statutes this year. So, from now to April 14, the Torah portions will be posted without comment. Commentary and the usual Torah portions will resume on April 15. Thank you for your patience! And happy studying in the meantime :-)
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Heaven's Arsenal: "Praise"Praise is one of the most powerful weapons in Heaven's Arsenal. Not just praise of anyone, of course - praise of God.
The Sword of the Word is mighty for personal conflict, parrying the devil's deceptive jabs, which might otherwise have wounded your soul or penetrated your heart. But, praise works like an invisible force field, changing the very atmosphere, rendering it inhospitable to the forces of Hell.
One of the reasons that praising God makes the environment unreceptive to darkness is that praise instantly puts us in the very Throne Room of God. Scripture tells us that God sets up His Throne where His people are praising Him. And the spirits of darkness just can't hang-out where God is enthroned!
Since darkness cannot hang around in God's Presence - praise drives the forces of darkness out of the presence of the one who is praising God! Once we get this perspective, discovering the Spiritual Warfare power of Praising God, we quickly discover the value of learning how to praise Him, most effectively. Playing good, Christian music is a powerful way to praise God. Speaking words of praise and thankfulness to God is another way to praise God. You can also sing praises to Him.
The book of Psalms is filled with powerful praises to God. So, if you're looking for a good place to get ideas of what to say when you're praising God, Psalms is a powerful resource. Psalm 150 and Psalm 103 are two of the greatest praise chapters in the Bible.
"Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy Name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; Who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; Who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's."
Not only does praise instantly put you in the very Throne Room of God, praise is also a powerful weapon against doubt, fear and even physical pain!
When my daughter was about 5 years old, she was afraid of the dark. Even going to the bathroom in the evening was difficult for her. This was because the restroom was at the end of a hallway with dark doorways lining the hall on either side. So, we told her about how praising God was a mighty weapon that defeats fear. We told her to sing praises to God every time she was feeling fearful.
From then on my little girl could go to the bathroom day or night. If the sun had set and there were dark gaping doorways along the hallway, she would charge into that hall singing Jesus Loves Me at the top of lungs. It worked! Of course it worked! For praising God is a powerful weapon which may be wielded against fear by young or old alike.
As I mentioned, praising God is also mighty against physical pain. I was blessed to discover this a few years back, while suffering from kidney stones. After running a fever and experiencing quite a bit of pain, I was diagnosed with them. Once I learned what was causing my trouble, I was quite concerned. I had heard that passing kidney stones is quite painful - some say its comparable to child birth!
I took some herbal remedies (hydrangea root and a few other things) to help dissolve the stones, drank lots of water, and prayed.
"Oh God, please help me through this," I prayed, fearing the intensity of pain I expected was yet to come. "Please just, be with me and give me the strength."
Suddenly an idea flashed into my mind, which I know wasn't my own. I was impressed to praise God - continuously, through the process! Immediately, I began praising Him. I sang praises. I spoke His praises. I read Bible verses that praised Him. And then I did it all over again. I kept it up for several hours - all during the time while I was passing the kidney stones. Only at night, when I fell asleep, did I stop the praising... But immediately when I awakened, I began praising God again. And - I kid you not, although it may sound incredible - God helped me to pass the kidney stones without any pain! Once I began continuously praising God, the pain lifted that I was already experiencing. The whole process took almost 24 hours.
After that amazing experience, where I learned how effective praising God is against pain, I have added praise to my Spiritual Warfare and natural remedies arsenal. Praise doesn't always take the pain away entirely, as God lovingly did during my bout with kidney stones, but it is always a tremendous help, lifting my spirits and easing the struggle.
Could it be that the followers of Messiah understood this principle centuries ago? Is this why we ready of famous Christian martyrs, like John Huss, singing even while they were being burned at the stake? Was singing until they took their last breath not only a marvelous display dedication to God but also a Heaven-inspired way to lift their pain and increase their courage?
Consider the unforgettable story of the Titanic, which sank to the bottom of the sea just four hours after hitting an iceberg. The final moments as the ship sank have produced many stirring tales heroism. But of them all, one of the most poignant stories of bravery and self-sacrifice was the band, who played hymns of praise to God amidst the disaster. Instead of seeking a position on a life-boat, these dedicated musicians played steadfastly on - until a cold, watery grave claimed them at last. Many survivors reported that the last hymn they played that night was Nearer my God to Thee.
Is it merely a coincidence that people who have heroically endured great hardship, even facing death itself, have often done so with the praises of God on their lips? I think not! Praise is one of Heaven's mighty weapons. It is more likely that they had the courage and strength to face these overwhelming trials, because they did so using the mighty Heavenly weapon of - PRAISE.
So, the next time you are facing something difficult - especially in the moments when you least feel like doing so - praise God. As you do, He will empower you with greater strength, comfort you easing your suffering, and even use you to encourage and inspire others. Remember to use the wonderful weapon of praise to God.
"... I will bless the LORD at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth."
Monday, August 29, 2016
Heaven's Arsenal: "The Sword of the Word"In battle, a warrior needs weapons. The better the weapons, the better the warrior's chances of winning. But there's more to it than that. To be effective, a warrior must also become skilled in using his weapons. Without practice and acquired skill, the best weapons are rendered next to useless in hands. Consider the following illustration, excerpted from Mark and Shauna Manfredine's book, Keys to Living Like You've Been Saved:
God's Word PROTECTS the believer from Satan's lies:A young woman with no weaponry experience or combat training suddenly developed a desire to possess the world’s most superlative sword. The desire grew to the point that she booked herself passage to the far off location of the most renowned weapon-smith the planet had to offer. For the purposes of our illustration, money was no object, so the young lady met with the master sword-maker and successfully commissioned him to fashion for her a sword so marvelous it was to be without equal.The master skillfully set about the task which, for the purposes of our illustration, he was capable of accomplishing. In a few months, the amazing sword was complete. Sending for the young woman, the master presented her with the nothing-short-of-the-world’s-best-sword. She thanked the master weapon-smith and paid him handsomely for his crafts-manship. Then, fabulous sword in tow, she returned to her home and mounted the remarkable piece above her mantle where she could frequently admire it.Some time passed, and then one night a dark man, dressed as a Samurai, snuck into the young woman’s home. Suddenly looking up from her evening reading, the woman gasped in horror to realize she was under attack. Leaping to her mantle she jerked her superior weapon from the wall and turned to face her masked assailant.We have gone far enough in our story to make the point. In this conflict, between the novice woman with the world’s best sword and the Samurai with the inferior weapon, who would win? Naturally, you say, “the Samurai would win.” We all understand that the knowledge of how to use the sword is critically missing from the young woman’s defense. The superlative sword would be practically useless in her unskilled hands. We can shake our heads at her futile attempt to defend herself, realizing that she is wasting her time having not learned to use the great weapon she possesses.And yet, sadly, this is how most Christians face the enemy of souls. We spend little or no time preparing for spiritual conflict. Thus, we are no more successful in withstanding the devil than this foolish woman would be in warding off a Samurai’s attack. If we would be victorious Christian warriors, we must become skilled in using the superlative Sword of God’s Word.
God's Word DELIVERS the believer from Death:
God's Word ENLIGHTENS the way of the believer:
God's Word (claimed in prayer) EMPOWERS the prayers of the believer:
God's Word is the Heavenly Sword which DEFEATS the forces of darkness:
Because the Word of God is a mighty Sword against the enemy, we are encouraged to read it, memorize Passages from it, study it, and even engraft it. If we will be victorious against the attacks of darkness, we need to the Word of God in our minds, in our hearts, in our souls. This requires preparation. It is a daily work. But the fruits of this effort are worth it. For when the enemy comes, we will be able to meet his onslaught with Scripture, just as Jesus did!
Sunday, August 28, 2016
Victorious Christian Living: Mission Possible!
The most often repeated teaching throughout the Christian world is the “Good News” of the Gospel. Ask most any Christian to rattle off a definition of the Gospel message, and he or she will likely be able to comply without very much difficulty. The Gospel, by the commonly understood definition, is the powerful “Good News” of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that provides full and free deliverance from the penalty of sin according to the grace of God through faith in Him.
Yet, in spite of the “power” advertised in this message, the number of shipwrecked lives among Christians today is staggeringly high. Church-attending Christians struggle with many ungodly situations like: adultery, substance abuse, addictions of all kinds, pregnancy out-of-wedlock, physical and emotional abuse, and destructive demonic compulsions of all kinds.
The leaders of Christian churches today are also succumbing to the devil’s enticements. In his book, Men's Secret Wars (Baker/2006), Patrick Means reveals a confidential survey of pastors and church lay leaders. Sixty-four percent of these Christian leaders admit that they are struggling with sexual addiction or sexual compulsion including, but not limited to, the use of pornography, compulsive masturbation, or other secret, sexual activity.
In our own experience, we have learned of church elders with gambling addictions. There are church members, and even pastors, who struggle to hide the immoral behavior of their teenagers. Numerous “Christian” spouses abuse their family members, and the list goes on and on…
It is no wonder that from the outside, the worldly person can see no real difference between the professed Christians and himself. The church-goers have the same weaknesses and failings as those lost in the world. Where is the life-change? Where is the evidence in the “born-again” life revealing that the Gospel is powerful?
Most excuse these failings in Christianity as being proof that there need not be a life change. For “sinners are saved by grace” and “churches are hospitals for the spiritually sick.” But, in fact, churches today are not like spiritual “hospitals” at all, for the spiritually sick find no cure there. Rather, churches have become more like thinly veiled support groups for the spiritually dead. And all of the singing, Bible study groups, clubs, and church classes do no more to bring real life-changing vitality to these poor souls than does performing C.P.R. on a mummified corpse.
So what’s wrong with Christianity today that it has left its adherents so little help for the here and now? The problem has largely been a lack of knowledge of the full Gospel message. As it says in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” The knowledge that is missing in this victory-less version of “Christianity” is the understanding of the other half of the Gospel message.
The Gospel is NOT the Good News that Christ died to save people IN their sins. The Gospel IS the Good News that Jesus died to save us FROM our sins. Thus, it isn’t just about the fact that Christ died and rose again, the Gospel is also about how the precious Name and Blood of our dear Lamb is powerful today. It is about how through the power of Jesus, we can walk FREE from the sins and demonic bondage that have held us enslaved.
As it says in John 8:34-36, “Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin… If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” And that really IS Good News! Presenting only part of the Gospel, as much of Christianity does, is really far more serious than it may sound at first. For telling only a partial truth is really leaving one to believe a lie. Thus, in sharing only part of the Gospel, Christianity has largely failed to share the true Good News at all, rather what is being taught is a perverted teaching—it is, in fact, the false Gospel the Apostle Paul warned us against in Galatians 1:3-8
“Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father… I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel. Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed…”
Here, in Paul’s warning against this false gospel, that had begun to be shared even in his day, is a key point: the false gospel is really a “perversion” of the true Gospel message. To “pervert” in this Scripture is from the Greek word metastrepho (from which we get metastasis) meaning: “to turn… transmute or corrupt…” In other words, to “pervert” the Gospel truth is to mix it with error, causing what was once good to become corrupted.
Not only does Paul warn against the false gospel, he also gives us keys to identifying the perversion in the false gospel teaching. They are found in 2 Timothy 3:1-7.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded,
lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away... Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Let us take a moment to look carefully at this important description of false Christianity as detailed by Paul in the above text. There are several characteristics which deserve our attention, as they are fruits of the false gospel.
1. The above text refers to professed Christians, because it states that these people “have a form of godliness,” or claim to be and look like Christians; “but deny the power thereof,” meaning they do not have a transformed life to accompany the claim.
2. This Scripture is discussing a condition of professed followers of God at the end of time, because it states that this will take place in the “last days”.
3. The characteristics of these nominal “converts” are the same character traits one would find in anyone enslaved to sin and under bondage to the destroyer of souls.
The identifying mark in the false gospel is its lack of life-changing power. As it points out in 2 Timothy, those caught up in its teachings will find they are still just as selfishly motivated as they were before being “saved.” They are still disobedient, unthankful, and unholy. And while they do have some affection for God, the truth is that they love pleasure more. It is this sick sort of pseudo-Christianity that is giving Jesus a weak image, rendering the life-changing power and Person of Christ virtually impotent.
But the real Good News is that this is a FALSE teaching! Jesus is our mighty Deliverer! He has come to set the captives free. He not only forgives us our past sins, but He also provides the power now to deliver us from every demonic tendency and every satanic enslavement. As it says so beautifully in Isaiah, “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children” (Isaiah 49:24-25).
The victorious Christian life isn’t about human weakness. It’s about our Heavenly Father’s strength. The Good News is that Christians aren’t supposed to be conquered by satanic suggestion and sinful inherited tendencies. “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). Our Heavenly Father expects us to overcome against every demonic downfall! As Paul put it, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
This Heavenly expectation of weak and sinful beings should not serve to discourage us. Rather, it should be taken as a great comfort, because our Heavenly Father never expects anything of us that His power isn’t present to accomplish. The very presence of the command to overcome is evidence of His promise to enable us to do so.
This is the other half of the Gospel message. Not only does the Gospel truth encompass justification (being made just as if we had not sinned), it also includes sanctification (being set free from sin and devoted to a Heavenly purpose). All of Heaven is committed to working out this wonderful plan in you. As it says in Jude 1:24 “Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.”
What does this mean to the worried Christian parent of a rebellious teen? What does this mean to the secretly addicted churchgoer? What does this mean to the church leader eaten up inside with bitterness and resentment? It means that the Saviour has the power to restore your life and home in righteousness. He can produce the beautiful Fruit of the Spirit in you while shattering these sinful chains that bind your soul.
Ultimately, the incredible Good News about the Gospel is that we can overcome through the power of Christ. Once we grasp the personal reality of Christ’s ministry on our behalf, we never need fall prey to another temptation again! We are forever changed through what He accomplished here as our Example of victorious living, through what He did for us on the Cross as our substitutionary Sacrifice, and through what He is now doing for us as our great Heavenly High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-16). This is the vital missing other half to the Good News of the Gospel.
(Keys to Living Like You've Been Saved, pp 1-2)
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