Sunday, July 22, 2018

Daily Bible Reading - July 21, 2018

Today's Reading:

1 Corinthians 8

1 Kings 22

Amos 6

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

In 1 Corinthians 8, we find an interesting concept - one that will hugely impact your personal ministry capacity: the concept of not causing a brother offense, through your liberty.

Each of us has issues which might be characterized as spiritual "grey zones". An activity falls into the "grey zone" if we think of it as spiritually neutral. In other words, carrying out this activity or behavior is (in our opinion) neither bad (black) nor good (white) - its just neutral. "Grey zone" activities don't have Scriptural prohibitions against them. "Grey zone" activities also don't have Scriptural support for them. "Grey zones" are just...  neutral (so there's nothing wrong with them right?) Actually, just because they're "neutral" doesn't mean they're harmless.

The problem with the "grey zone" is that not everyone agrees that something you or I might class as "neutral" will also be neutral in everyone else's eyes.

In Paul's time, eating meat which was left over from the meat which was offered to idols was considered by many to be a "grey zone". Now, don't get me wrong, Scripture does tell us that eating meat sacrificed to idols was forbidden (see Acts 15:29). But Bible commentators state that this reference in 1 Corinthians 8 is regarding meat that was not actually sacrificed to idols, rather it was meat originally purchased to sacrifice to idols, but was leftover - and not actually sacrificed. Still, it had originally been prepared with that intent. 

Since the meat hadn't actually been sacrificed, but was left over, there was no Torah command saying that you couldn't eat it, so long as it was "clean" meat. And those who chose to buy this meat and eat it reasoned that such meat was cheaper in the market - and the fact that it had been left over from the meat sacrificed to idols meant nothing, since the Christians understood that idols aren't really divine - there is only one God (1 Corinthians 8:4-5).

But when those Christians who felt at liberty to buy meat leftover from idol sacrifices did so, engaging freely in this "grey zone" activity, many other believers were offended. To them, this was not a "grey zone" at all - it was an abomination in their eyes! Paul refers to this group as "weak" in "conscience" in this matter. And when those who were "weak in conscience" about eating meat which was leftover from idol sacrifices observed their brethren eating this meat, they were spiritually weakened by it. 

How so? To these offended ones, eating this meat was a form of idolatry. Was it really idolatry? Probably not, according to Paul. But that was how it appeared to these weaker ones. And when these Christians observed their brethren engaging in what they considered to be idolatry, they were at first offended. But actually over time, what at first offends us, eventually becomes more and more acceptable. Thus, seeing what they considered to be "idolatry" being practiced among the believers eventually caused these weaker ones to let down their guard against things which Torah actually does call idolatry.

Thus, while they never meant for this to happen, those Christians who ate the cheaper meat with the dubious past were responsible for spiritually weakening the Body of Christ! This is why Paul was trying to show that just because an activity is "neutral" in my mind, doesn't mean its harmless - in the bigger picture. Spiritually, we are our brother's keeper. And we are each responsible to do all we can to spiritually strengthen and encourage each other.

Today, eating meat leftover from idol sacrifices is probably not the most relevant scenario. But the principles found in 1 Corinthians 8 are very relevant. So how might this principle play out in the Body of Christ today? Here are a few examples (please don't be offended by this list) of things which some Christians believe the Torah doesn't directly forbid. Thus, these things appear as "grey zones" to some Christians, while to others they appear evil!

(Please also note that I am neither supporting nor attacking the activities on the following list. I am merely trying to give relevant examples of things which some Christians consider neutral, which others find offensive.)
  • Wearing jewelry of any kind
  • Wearing a sleeveless blouse or top
  • Having a beer in the house, where someone could see it, that is used exclusively for gardening.
  • Inviting people over to your house for a social event and showing a PG-13 movie at the party.
Regarding "grey zone" activities, Paul concludes that the cost is too great. One shouldn't engage in them lest it hamper one's God-given purpose. Let me explain:

To illustrate, the people on the right (with the green bracket) all agree with you that your "acceptable" grey zone activity is spiritually "neutral". However the people on the left (with the red bracket) all find it offensive. Thus, if you choose to engage in this "grey zone" activity, you will be effectively cutting your ministry potential in half. The green bracket folks will still be blessed by the working of Yahweh through you. But the red bracket people will be unreachable and unable to be positively influenced by you any further.

Losing the ability for God to use you in someone's life is a cost so high that Paul concluded it would be better if he never ate any meat of any kind ever again, then to offend (1 Corinthians 8:12-13) someone, losing the potential for God to use you in their lives!

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that we all need to walk on eggshells lest we cause someone offense. That is not Paul's point. Even Yahshua, Who was perfect, caused some people to be offended (Matthew 13:55-58). Followers of Christ are not expected to walk through this world without ever offending anyone. But we should take prayerful thought to the choices we make. Grey zone choices may cause needless offense.

I remember an experience that really taught me this concept in a lasting and memorable way. My husband and I were not yet parents, being married about 2 years at the time. I was the leader of the youth division in our church.  Early in our marriage, I saw nothing wrong with wearing a necklace. I understood that Scripture tells us not to pierce our bodies - so I never would have worn ear rings. But I wore a wedding ring and a necklace whenever I was not a church. This was a grey zone activity, in my mind. I saw nothing wrong with it.

The reason I didn't wear jewelry to church was that I noticed Israel always took off their jewelry when they were going to meet with God. Thus, I reasoned that wearing jewelry on a normal basis was fine, but it shouldn't be worn in a worship service.

One Friday afternoon, I was in the grocery store getting a few needed items for the weekend and I chanced to run into one of the parents of a teen who was in my youth group. Up to this point, this teen had been truly experiencing a great deal of spiritual growth by being in the youth class. And his mother had expressed her appreciation to me for doing this class, which she felt was changing his life for the good (glory only to God!). But that day, as she greeted me, her eyes fell to my necklace. The genuine smile on her lips faded, becoming almost frozen on her face. Throughout our uncomfortable and brief conversation, my necklace was never mentioned, yet her eyes repeatedly glanced at it. 

Without anything being said about it, I realized the sight of me wearing a necklace had offended this woman. She didn't believe that a spiritual leader could be operating under the unction of the Holy Spirit, while wearing jewelry. 

That day, when I got home, I took off the necklace and put it in my jewelry box - never to wear it (or any other) ever again. But it was already too late. The woman's son never returned to my youth class.

Too late, I recognized the high price which my grey zone activity would cost. And regrets wouldn't regain my ability to be used of God in that boy's life. In that moment, I understood Paul's meaning with all my heart:
1 Corinthians 8:12-13 "But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat (or in my case, wearing a necklace) make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend."
 There are two purposes for which we exist:
1) to be saved
2) to help others find Salvation
Evaluate your "grey zones" carefully and prayerfully. If they prevent either of the two purposes for which God created you, then that activity is harmful and too costly. While the world stands (as long as time lasts), let us agree with Paul to curb our own freedoms where ever exercising them might cost us our Heavenly purpose.

Daily Bible Reading - July 20, 2018

Today's Reading:

1 Corinthians 7:25-40

1 Kings 21

Amos 5

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

There is an oblique statement in Amos 5:7-8, one which must be understood, especially in this day and age. As a society, we are engaging in something which Bible prophecy calls spiritual "wormwood".
Amos 5:7-8 "Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth, Seek Him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: Yahweh is His Name."
But in order for this prophecy of Amos to do us any good, we must first understand what the Bible means by "wormwood". David ben Yisrael has a well-done Youtube video on the Wormwood Prophecy which addresses this concept most powerfully. It is just about 6 minutes long - and well worth the time to watch!

May we turn from all spiritual wormwood, just as the prophet Amos is calling us to do.

Daily Bible Reading - July 19, 2018

Today's Reading:

1 Corinthians 7:1-24

1 Kings 20

Amos 4:4-13

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

Years ago, I observed a young Christian woman who began dating a non-Christian man. As their relationship progressed, they began to fall head-over-heels "in love". The young woman worried about marrying this man, who didn't share her faith. But in the end, she concluded that their love was enough and that her marriage with him would be protected - even divinely sanctioned - because of the promise found in 1 Corinthians 7:13-14:
1 Corinthians 7:13-14 "And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."
At first, everything seemed to go very well. She always came to church alone, while he stayed home and watched TV, but she reasoned that at least he didn't ever try to prevent her from coming. 

As time went on, the spiritually mismatched couple brought two beautiful children into the world: a boy and a girl. Throughout their infancy and childhood, the Christian mother always brought her children to church on Sabbath. And the father always stayed away and did his own secular things. Of course, when church was over those secular things were hard to ignore for the rest of the family.

The mother was shocked and grieved when those children grew into rebellious teenagers who refused to join her for church or worship time any further. After all those years of trying, she had failed. The children both became godless, just like their father - only worse. The mother couldn't understand how this could have happened! Hadn't God promised to protect her children and that it was okay to have a spiritually divided home?

Time and again, over my life, I have witnessed these two verses in 1 Corinthians being used to justify a saved person forming a marriage with an unbeliever. But, in actuality, 1 Corinthians 7:13-14 is a conditional promise. Yahweh isn't saying that His followers can marry non-believers and still have the blessing of Heaven. Rather, the promise of 1 Corinthians 7:13-14 is for unsaved families in which either the husband or wife converts to Christianity after they are married. In such cases, God gives extra Grace to the saved spouse for the salvation of the children. 

But for those who wish to claim these verses as a justification to enter into a spiritually mismatched marriage, there is no provision. In fact, Yahweh's Word speaks out strongly against it. In fact, becoming spiritually "yoked" with darkness is one of the most dangerous and destructive things any believer can do. Consider the story of Balaam, by way of illustration.

So long as Israel was obedient to Yahweh, they were uncursable. But, as Balaam knew, this mighty Shield could be removed if Israel, willfully, removed themselves from the protection of their all-powerful God.

In this story, there are some interesting insights for our own warning, given even in the meanings of the names. Balaam, as a double agent, walked with King Balak, whose name means “the Devastator,” through the fields of Zophim, which means “watchers,” Numbers 23:14. “Watchers,” in this context, is an ancient reference to fallen angels or demons. Balaam would offer sacrifices to the God of Israel so as to appear to be compli-ant with His ways.  It, too, was a lie, and our God cannot be fooled.191

“Watchers,” is the title given to the fallen angels, according to the Book of Enoch. But the Almighty God also has watchers, to warn and protect those who serve Him. In a later time, the pronouncement against Jerusalem, then in complete rebellion, would be made by the “watchers from a far country” (Jeremiah 4:16).

In Daniel 4:13, the watcher is a holy Angel “…Behold, a watcher and an holy One came down from Heaven.” But in Daniel 4:17 and in Jeremiah 4:16, the watchers are destructive, emissaries from Hell:

This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will, and setteth up over it the basest of men, Daniel 4:17.

Notably, these are the same enemies whom the Children of Yahweh will face in the final fulfillment of Revelation. And the only way we will be rendered vulnerable to the attack from these foes, is if we willfully remove ourselves from the protective Hand of Yah, just as Israel was seduced to do.

When an outright curse could not be placed upon Israel, Balaam resorted to a less direct and more seductive means to destroy the people: deception. What Balaam failed to do overtly, he was able to accomplish by seduction. We would be wise to heed the warning found in this story.

What Balaam failed to do overtly, he was able to accomplish by seduction.

Josephus adds the account of how Moab entrapped Israel by positioning beautiful women at the doors of their linen-sales tents. It was a scenario designed to cause the Israelite men to fall into fornication and idolatry.192 If they did so, Balak’s desire to remove Yahweh’s Protection, would be accomplished. Then, and only then, could Israel be defeated. This was Balaam’s insidious plan. Sadly, it worked. The Book of Jasher records the story in greater detail. 

And the children of Israel approached Moab, and the children of Moab pitched their tents opposite to the camp of the children of Israel. And the children of Moab were afraid of the children of Israel, and the children of Moab took all their daughters and their wives of beautiful aspect and comely appearance, and dressed them in gold and silver and costly garments.

And the children of Moab seated those women at the door of their tents, in order that the children of Israel might see them and turn to them, and not fight against Moab. And all the children of Moab did this thing to the children of Israel, and every man placed his wife and daughter at the door of his tent, and all the children of Israel saw the act of the children of Moab, and the children of Israel turned to the daughters of Moab and coveted them, and they went to them.

And it came to pass that when a Hebrew came to the door of the tent of Moab, and saw a daughter of Moab and desired her in his heart, and spoke with her at the door of the tent that which he desired, whilst they were speaking together the men of the tent would come out and speak to the Hebrew like unto these words: Surely you know that we are brethren, we are all the descendants of Lot and the descendants of Abraham his brother, wherefore then will you not remain with us, and wherefore will you not eat our bread and our sacrifice?

And when the children of Moab had thus overwhelmed him with their speeches, and enticed him by their flattering words, they seated him in the tent and cooked and sacrificed for him, and he ate of their sacrifice and of their bread. They then gave him wine and he drank and became intoxicated, and they placed before him a beautiful damsel, and he did with her as he liked, for he knew not what he was doing, as he had drunk plentifully of wine. Thus did the children of Moab to Israel in that place, in the plain of Shittim, and the anger of (Yahweh) was kindled against Israel on account of this matter, and He sent a pestilence amongst them, and there died of the Israelites twenty-four thousand men. Jasher 85:53-61

Scripture tells us that Balaam was the brains behind this terrible plot to remove Israel from the Anointing and Protection of the Almighty.

Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against Yahweh in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of Yahweh, Numbers 31:16.

Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, 2 Peter 2:14-15.

The Protection of Yahweh was removed by Israel’s choice to sin. Thus, sexual and idoltrous spirits were unleashed upon the people of God, causing a pallor of spiritual dullness. This active sensuality weakened the congregation. There were also the demons of entertainment, deception, and perversion called into action. This deceptive entrapment is called a “stumbling-block” in the Book of Revelation. But, it might as well have been said that Balaam cast a spell upon Israelwhen they let down their guard, “among friends.”

…And the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people (Israel) did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of Yahweh was kindled against Israel, Numbers 25:1-3.

Is this sort of entrapment being repeated now against Christians? Absolutely! We know that the curses against Yahweh’s people come in cunning and clever disguises, otherwise we would recognize our danger and cry out to our God to “lift up a standard” against the enemy, Isaiah 59:19.

The joining process of fellowshiping with darkness is some-thing we are warned against, lest the protective Shield of the Almighty be taken from our lives, just as it was among ancient Israel.

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteous-ness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith Yahweh, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters, saith Yahweh Almighty, 1 Corinthians 6:14-18.

Why does Yahweh warn that fellowshipping with darkness causes an abominable joining of Christ with Belial? Sexuality and spirituality are deeply linked. When the men of Israel committed fornication with the heathen women—both Moabite and Midianite women participating—the  idolatrous worship of their false gods quickly followed.

While some were tempted by the sight of the scantily-clad heathen women, others in Israel were taken out by the entrapment of a “holy cause.” Linen merchants were used to destroy even Israel’s priests. Priests needed white linen. And Moab was encouraged to provide it, at a high, spiritual cost.

From ancient He-brew records, we read:

So he erected curtained tents selling linens from Hermon (Hermon - means “anathema; devoted to destruction”) as far as Beth haYeshimoth (which means the “house of desolation”), and placed harlots in them -- old women on the outside, young women within. And when an Israelite ate, drank, and was merry, and issued forth for a stroll in the market place, the old woman would say to him, “Do you desire linen garments?” The old woman offered it at its current value, but the young one for less. This happened two or three times. After that she would say to him, “You are now like one of the family; sit down and choose for yourself.” Gourds of Ammonite wine lay near her…. Said she to him: “Would you like to drink a glass of wine?” Having drunk, his passion was inflamed and he exclaimed to her, “Yield to me!” Thereupon she brought forth an idol from her bosom and said to him, “Worship this.”

When Israel was no longer pure, there was within them no power to withstand curses placed upon them by Balaam’s demons. Many had separated from their God in going the way of Baal Peor. They then removed themselves from Yahweh’s Protection. Oh, they still believed in Yah, but they had become “double-minded” (See James 1:8; 4:8). The Children of Israel had come under the curse of Balaam, after all. Now, they must be purged, separating the faithful from the guilty.

“Look,  these  women caused the children of Israel,  through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against Yahweh in the incident of Peor,  and there was a plague among the congregation of  Yahweh,” Numbers 31:16, NIV.

May we pay attention to the clear warnings written for our admonition.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes; but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise, Proverbs 12:15

Daily Bible Reading - July 18, 2018

Today's Reading:

1 Corinthians 6

1 Kings 19

Amos 3:3-4:3

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading   

I love Biblical archaeology! It just makes the Bible come alive. So, for today, I'm going to share with you a short video which is an 18 minute long portion of Revealing God's Treasures by Wyatt Archaeological Research. Did you know that Elijah's cave has been found, which he fled to in 1 Kings 19? It is on Mount Sinai, today known as Jebel al Lawz. Here's the link. The actual video starts at 2.23 minutes in.