A “Thriller” Passover!

One of my new favorite things about the Passover season are the awesome parody videos out there! Last year, I was obsessed with the Passover version of “Uptown Funk” — here’s my post from last year in case you missed it — and this year is no different. I give you, “Seder” based off of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller!” Trust me, you won’t want to miss it!

You’re welcome.

Echad: Many Communities, One People

Echad. United as one.

We hear this phrase used a lot when we talk about the Church or the Bride of Messiah. We stress the importance of being united in Christ and in being one body. But oftentimes, we don’t really understand the meaning of this.

As those of you who follow me on social media know, I recently moved to a new state. Everything is new and every day is an adventure and I navigate through new streets, meet new people, learn a new job, and create a new normal for myself.

Part of all the newness also means searching for a new congregation to call home. I’m always nervous when visiting new groups – you never know what you’re going to find! But so far, I have been pleasantly surprised by the groups I’ve attended. But visiting new groups has opened my eyes to a whole new aspect of what it means to be echad.

Oftentimes, when we think of being echad or “one,” we think of being one with Messiah Yeshua or one with those in our congregations. But it also means being echad and united with other believers around the world.

I realized something beautiful as I’ve visited new congregations: we are many communities, and yet we are one people.

Each congregation may do things a little differently, but we are all doing the same thing. For instance, one group may sing the Shema in a different tune than another, but they are both singing the Shema. Another group may meet at a different time but we all gather on Shabbat. One group may say the prayers in a different order but we are all saying the same prayers. It was a beautiful sight to see!

This past weekend, I fellowshipped with a group that welcomed me in as if I had always belonged there with them. As worship began, I felt so excited to hear songs I was familiar with and loved being sung. It was comforting to see tallits being put on; to see the menorah being lit. It made me feel at peace to hear songs welcoming the Holy Spirit and worshipping Our Heavenly Father. And it made me realize that even though we are different congregations, we are all one people when we come together to worship our Father.

So let’s not let the little things get in the way of being echad. In the end, the little things are important, but they’re not the most important. In the end, all that really matters is bringing glory and honor to YHVH. And that can only be achieved when we are echad with one another.

Resting with God: Filling Our Empty Cups

I have never understood the importance of resting in YHVH more than in the past few weeks. It is here, in this place of stillness and rest that He restores my soul; that He refreshes my being.

“YHVH is my Shepherd; I do not lack. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my being, He leads me in paths of righteousness.”

Throughout the week, we empty ourselves to our work, family, friends, volunteering activities but on Shabbat YHVH refills our cups. If we never let Him lead us to these still waters and lay in green pastures with Him we miss out on having Him refill our cups. And if we go several weeks without being made whole and rejuvenated, it’s a recipe for disaster.

“When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil. For You are with me. Your rod and Your staff comfort me.”

If we don’t rest in Him, eventually you reach a point where you can’t go on anymore — and this is not the best plan YHVH has for us. He has so much He wants to bless us with and so much love to fill our cups with. But do we let Him?

What does it mean to rest in Him? It’s not just about not going to work and sitting home and doing nothing all day. Resting in Him means connecting with Him. It means establishing and cultivating your own personal, intimate relationship with YHVH. It means taking time away from work, the stressors of the week, our to-do list and even all our godly work to simply be with Him. If we don’t actually connect with Him, we’re not really being filled by Him. And if we’re not being filled by Him, we will remain empty. When we are empty, we have nothing to give to Him or others.

Unfortunately, I’ve found this out the hard way. Even though I observe Shabbat and take time to read the Torah portion each week and study His word, I wasn’t doing the work to really connect with Him — and that’s the real key to unlocking the mystery of Shabbat.

No other people or religion has anything that compares to the beauty that is Shabbat. It’s called the weekly festival; a special time between YHVH and His people. It is on Shabbat that we are given a gift — the gift of connecting with our God and King in a way not possible during the rest of the week. A time where we can cast our burdens on Him, let go of the cares of this world, and lean completely on the One who holds the universe — and our lives — in His hands. But if we aren’t taking the time or putting forth the effort to connect with Him, then we miss this precious gift from our Father.

I’ve missed the fullness of this gift and have felt the emptiness as a result. But this week, I commit to drawing close to Him and just being with the lover of my soul. What about you? Do you hear Him calling to you? He desires to be with you. He longs to love you and be loved by you.

“You have anointed my head with oil, my cup runs over. Only goodness and loving-commitment follow me all the days of my life. And I shall dwell in the House of YHVH forever!”


It Is Well….

Are you in the midst of a struggle? Maybe you feel as if you are losing a battle that will never end. Have you ever felt hurt and confused with God? You’re not alone.

Like me, do you find yourself asking YHVH the tough questions?

“Why have You not acted on my behalf?”

“Did I do something wrong?”

“When is this battle going to end?”

“Do You even hear me?”

“Are You even there?”

Sometimes, when I have given everything that I have and am completely emptied out, I ask, “Why?” Just why.

I ask it to no one in particular and I’m not even sure what I’m asking about anymore, but nonetheless, I ask. I hope one day I will have answers to the millions of questions that flood my mind.

Probably not….but I still hope.

I was listening to this song by Bethel today. The lyrics are familiar words: “It is well with my soul.” I thought to myself as I sung the words, “but things aren’t well with my soul. And I’m not happy with the way things are. I don’t like the situation I’m in and I certainly don’t want it to be like this forever.”

But then I heard the gentle whisper of the Spirit telling me, “Choose for it to be well with you even when things are not well.” 

It was a concept I hadn’t considered before. I could choose that YHVH’s way, no matter how difficult or challenging it may be, is well with me…even if my current circumstances aren’t perfect. I could choose to say His way is the best way for me…even if it is the harder, more difficult path. Because the end result of whatever YHVH is working in my life will be so worth it. That’s the prize I seek. That’s the hope I cling to. That’s the promise I wait for.

Choose for it to be well, even when things aren’t well. 

Consider the lyrics from Bethel’s song “It Is Well”:

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see

And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name 

It is well with my soul

When we choose to say it is well even when things aren’t well, we are reaffirming our trust and belief in YHVH El Elyon…YHVH the Most High God. We are returning Him to His rightful place as Ruler of Our Life and Director of Our Steps. We are confirming His power, wisdom, and ability to save and defend us. We are choosing to focus on Him and Him alone, rather than focusing on our situation.

YHVH is our refuge and strength, a help in distress, soon found.
Therefore we do not fear, though the earth reels and mountains topple into the heart of the seas.
Let its waters rage, foam; Let mountains shake with its swelling. Selah.
A river whose streams make glad the city of YHVH, the set-apart dwelling of the Most High.
Elohim is in her midst, she does not topple; Elohim does help her when morning turns.
The nations shall rage, kingdoms shall topple; He shall give forth His voice, the earth melts.
YHVH of hosts is with us. The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
Come, see the works of YHVH, the ruins He has wrought on the earth,
Causing all fighting to cease, unto the end of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the chariot with fire.
Be still, and know that I am YHVH; I am exalted among nations, I am exalted in the earth!
YHVH of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
– Psalm 46

 Thus says the Master YHVH, the set-apart One of Israel, “In returning and rest you are saved; in stillness and trust is your strength.” – Isaiah 30:15

So today, in the midst of trials, doubts, and questions, let us choose to say, “it is well….”


The Myth of Easter and the Redemption of Passover

It’s that time of year again! Spring is upon us and the flowers are blooming, folks are coming out of their winter hibernation, and the sun-filled days last a little longer. Everywhere you turn people are anxious with spring fever! This is also the time when people pull out the bunny decorations, dye Easter eggs, and wish each other a “Happy Easter!” But where is the connection between chocolate, bunnies, colored eggs, and the resurrection of our Messiah? I know I’m going to step on a lot of toes with what I’m about to say but I encourage you to read this to the end before you make your decision.   

Have you ever wondered what bunnies and chocolate and dyed eggs have to do with the resurrection of our Messiah? Seriously, take a minute and think about the connection. < pauses to think> Come up with anything? Don’t feel too bad….neither could I.

The reason we couldn’t come up with a connection between the “symbols” of Easter and Messiah’s resurrection is because…there aren’t any. You see, while these symbols have become a staple of spring time and the modern Christian holiday of Easter, that wasn’t always the case. They were originally the images of the pagan festival of Ishtar (pronounced “easter”). Chocolate is the only exception here…hopefully there is no pagan association with chocolate!!! But other symbols such as hot cross buns, the “sunrise service”, searching for dyed eggs, and the traditional Easter ham are all associated with ancient pagan traditions.

In fact, there are numerous pagan fertility celebrations of death and resurrection with which these icons were associated. For instance, the Babylonians worshipped Tammuz and Ishtar. The Phrygians (modern day Turkey) worshipped Attis and Cybele. The Phoenicians and Greeks worshipped Adonis and Astarte. The Egyptians worshipped Osiris and Isis. The Canaanites worshipped Baal and Ashtoreth. This Canaanite system of worship eventually seeped into Israel which resulted in the splitting of the nation of Israel and the eventual diaspora/captivity of both nations. Similarly, the Anglo-Saxons worshipped Eostre or Ostara. These are just a few of the different gods and goddesses that tell the same pagan story of fertility celebrations of death and resurrection that have pervaded history…and infiltrated modern Christianity.

The Legend/Myth
Let’s go through the basic story together. We’ll use the story of Tammuz and Ishtar (again, pronounced “easter”). As we go through the ancient myth, I will put emphasis on elements that we might recognize as part of our modern-day worship or that will be important later. Also, keep in mind that another name for Ishtar is Ashtarte.

The story begins with Nimrod, a man-god in ancient Babylon. Genesis 10:8-10 tells us of Nimrod, “And Kush brought forth Nimroḏ, he began to be a mighty one (i.e. “god”) on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before YHVH, therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimroḏ the mighty hunter before YHVH.’ And the beginning of his reign was Baḇel, and Ereḵ, and Akkaḏ, and Kalnĕh, in the land of Shin‛ar.”

According to legend, Nimrod married his mother Ishtar, the fertility goddess of ancient Babylon known as the Mother of God” and the Queen of Heaven, whose symbol was a rabbit or hare. Ishtar claimed she had been miraculously conceived and that she came to earth in a giant moon egg that fell into the Euphrates River, which came to be known as “Ishtar’s egg.”

One day, Nimrod was killed and his body was cut up and sent to various parts of his kingdom. Ishtar claimed that he had ascended to the sun and was now to be called “Baal,” the sun god. She also claimed that he would take the form of fire when used in worship. At the time of the spring equinox, Ishtar “miraculously” became pregnant by the rays of the sun (her husband, Nimrod, reincarnated) and gave birth to a son she named Tammuz.

Tammuz was eventually killed by a wild pig and Ishtar told the people that he had ascended to his father, the sun. Ishtar also claimed that some of his blood fell on the stump of an evergreen tree and the stump grew into a full new tree overnight. This made the evergreen tree sacred in Babylonian worship. Ishtar proclaimed that a period of mourning for Tammuz must occur before the anniversary of his death. During this time of mourning, people were to refrain from eating meat, meditate on the mysteries of Baal and Tammuz, make the “T” sign of Tammuz in front of their hearts as they worshiped, and they also made sacred cakes with the “T” on top. The “T” sign of Tammuz eventually evolved into a cross-like symbol.

In order to bring Tammuz back from the dead, legend says that Ishtar (who, by the way, had married her son Tammuz by this point) descended into the underworld and had to pass through the seven gates of Hades. At each gate, Ishtar had to remove one symbol of her power, either clothes or jewelry, until she stood at the last gate completely naked. Once the Queen of Heaven humbled herself before her sister, the Queen of Hades, she is plagued over her entire body. She is then sent back through the gates of Hades, picking up her items along the way. The Queen of Hades then tells Ishtar that she has ransomed her husband-son and that Tammuz can return for 6 months out of the year to her, but that he must return to Hades for the other 6 months.

Every year, on the first Sunday (sun worship, remember?) after the first full moon of the spring equinox, a celebration was made to celebrate Tammuz’s resurrection or rebirth. At this celebration, a pig was eaten to remind them the pig had killed Tammuz. Tammuz’s death is usually commemorated at the time of his birth on December 21, the time of the winter solstice. There is a connection to Christmas here but I think our hands are full enough for right now. We will discuss this connection as the Christmas season approaches.

How Did This Happen?!
Ok…do I still have you? These pagan myths get extremely confusing and convoluted very quickly! That is why it is so important to remember that YHVH never changes and He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever.” I encourage you to do some research on your own about this topic. However, be aware that when dealing with ancient myths about gods and goddesses, there are usually several versions of the story where the main theme stays the same but some minor details might change.

So how did all this paganism infiltrate early Christianity? The Roman Catholic Church had a practice of incorporating pagan festivals and symbolism, replacing them with “Christian” names, and then calling them “Christian.” This was done to make Christianity more palatable and familiar to heathen worshippers, whom the Church was trying to attract.

It can now be better understood why the apostle Paul wrote the Corinthians to beware of the subtle deceit of “another Yeshua whom we have not preached.” He said,

“But I am afraid, lest, as the serpent deceived Eve by his trickery, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Messiah. For, indeed, if he who is coming proclaims another Yeshua, whom we have not proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different Good News which you have not accepted, you put up with it well enough!” — II Corinthians 11:4

So the question is now, do the pagan roots of our modern worship really matter? The answer is “YES!”

Why is This Important?
Now that we understand the pagan ritual and myth associated with Ishtar and Tammuz, let’s take a look at some scriptures where the pagan festival of Ishtar (again, pronounced “easter”) is explicitly condemned. Again, keep in mind Ashtarte/Ashtaroth is another name for Ishtar.

“Then the children of Israel did evil in the eyes of YHVH, and served Baal, and forsook YHVH Elohim of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and went after other mighty ones, of the mighty ones of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them, and provoked YHVH. So they forsook YHVH and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. And the displeasure of YHVH burned against Israel. Therefore He gave them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them. And He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, and they were unable to stand before their enemies any longer.” – Judges 2:11-14

“The children are gathering wood, the fathers are lighting the fire, and the women are kneading their dough, to make cakes for the queen of the heavens, and to pour out drink offerings to other mighty ones, to provoke Me…But this word I did command them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I shall be your Elohim, and you be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, so that it be well with you.’ But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in the counsels, in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward.” – Jeremiah 7:18, 23-24

“And He said to me, ‘Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each one in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘YHVH does not see us, YHVH has forsaken the land.’ And He said to me, ‘You are to see still greater abominations which they are doing.’ And He brought me to the door of the north gate of the House of YHVH, and I saw women sitting there, weeping for Tammuz. Then He said to me, ‘Have you seen this, O son of man? You are to see still greater abominations than these.’ And He brought me into the inner court of the House of YHVH. And there, at the door of the Temple of YHVH, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the Temple of YHVH and their faces toward the east, and they were bowing themselves eastward to the sun. And He said to me, ‘Have you seen, O son of man? Is it a small matter to the house of Judah to do the abominations which they have done here? For they have filled the land with violence, and turn back to provoke Me. And see, they are putting the branch to My nose. Therefore I shall indeed deal in wrath. My eye shall not pardon nor would I spare. And they shall cry in My ears with a loud voice, but I shall not hear them.’” – Ezekiel 8:12-18

Do We Need to Change Our Ways?
I know that this might seem like a drastic change or that I’m suggesting to abandon the celebration of our Messiah. But please, hear the Father’s heart on this. I am certainly not suggesting that we no longer celebrate the victory of our Messiah on Calvary. I am, however, saying that it is time to repent and turn away from our wicked ways.

 “and if My people, who are called by My Name, shall humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I shall hear from the heavens, and forgive their sin and heal their land.” II Chronicles 7:14

Now that we know the truth, it is our responsibility to make a choice about how we will live our lives. We can no longer live unaware of the truth. For far too long we have been erroneously taught that the pagan roots don’t matter; that somehow these things YHVH calls evil have been redeemed and are a worthy offering to bring before Him. That we can go on living life and worshipping God our way. NO MORE!

The time has come to repent and draw near to YHVH! To leave our wicked ways behind us and RUN towards His glorious face! He is waiting for us with open arms, if only we would repent and humble ourselves and turn from the wicked ways of the world. Yes, it’s true that we have been lied to and deceived, but now we know the truth. Don’t let your stiff neck keep you from receiving the blessings YHVH so desperately wants to bestow upon you! Don’t miss everything He has planned for you.

“Truly, then, having overlooked these times of ignorance, Elohim now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has set a day on which He is going to judge the world in righteousness by a Man whom He has appointed, having given proof of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” – Acts 17: 30-31

The time is now. The time has come to rise up and be the Bride of Messiah! He is looking for a spotless Bride; one who has not tarnished herself with the evil of this world. A Bride who has humbled herself and can admit she was wrong. That is the mark of a strong, warrior Bride; someone who is not so prideful that they refuse to correct their wrong and begin to walk a new path.

But we never walk alone, especially when we walk the path of YHVH. He is always with us; teaching us, correcting us, encouraging us. People may not understand your decision. But it’s not people you must stand before on Judgment Day. It is not people who will say “Well done, My good and faithful servant.” We do not seek to please man, but, rather, we seek to please our heavenly Father who has so graciously given us His instructions that we may live a life pleasing to Him.

Passover…It’s Not Just for the Jews
The story of Passover is one of repentance, restoration, and forgiveness. It begins in the book of Exodus with Moses going before Pharaoh with a message from YHVH: “Let My people go!” Pharaoh refuses and the ten plagues are sent on the land of Egypt. What most people don’t realize is that the ten plagues had several purposes. Not only did they each attack an Egyptian god, but they also served as signs to the Hebrews. Click here to read my notes on the Exodus story.

You see, for four hundred years, the Hebrews had lived in the midst of the Egyptians. They had been so steeped in the pagan traditions they didn’t even know who YHVH was! Don’t we find ourselves in a similar situation? We too have been so steeped in a pagan culture that we don’t even know who YHVH truly is. If we did, we would know that YHVH does not desire these pagan ways but, instead, desires we live our life according to His Torah. So, in order to introduce Himself to the Hebrews, He sent the plagues on the Egyptians. Let’s not push YHVH to the point of sending plagues on our “host nation” ok? Perhaps we should just humble ourselves now instead of making Him humble us.

As the Hebrews fled from Pharaoh, they didn’t have enough time to let their bread rise so they instead ate unleavened bread. When Pharaoh chased after them, YHVH parted the waters of the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) and swallowed up their adversaries. You see, when we turn from our wicked ways and obey the voice of YHVH, as the children of Israel did when they covered the door to their homes with the blood of the lamb, YHVH fights for us! He hears our cry and never leaves us defenseless!

After all this takes place, the children of Israel begin their 40 years in the desert until they eventually enter the Promised Land of Israel! They are redeemed from the hand of the enemy and from the pagan ways that kept them in bondage. But the story doesn’t end there.

You see, fast forward to the time of Yeshua and you can see the Passover story of redemption, restoration, and forgiveness continuing. But it’s not really a “new” story, but rather, another layer or a continuation of the one started all those years ago in Egypt. It is here that we see the fullness of YHVH’s plan being accomplished.

Yeshua, the blameless, spotless Lamb came to earth and was our Passover sacrifice so that we could be restored to our Heavenly Father. He redeemed us from a life apart from Him and from the man-made laws that keep us in bondage. The Torah of YHVH is not man-made but God-breathed. The man-made laws are the additions and subtractions made to this perfect, life-giving Torah that can still be seen today. On one side of the aisle we see rabbis that tell us there are many more laws we must keep and obey. On the other side, we see pastors that tell us we no longer have any laws to keep. Both are wrong. Both are sin. And both keep us from understanding the simple truth of YHVH:

“See, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil, in that I am commanding you today to love YHVH your Elohim, to walk in His ways, and to guard His commands, and His laws, and His right-rulings. And you shall live and increase, and YHVH your Elohim shall bless you in the land which you go to possess. Choose life, that you and your children may live and not die!” — Deuteronomy 30:19

Passover is not just for the Jews. It is for all the children of God who seek to live in His house and live a life that is pleasing to Him. The Jews are only 1 of 12 tribes that make up Israel. The complete 12 tribes are made up of Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah (the Jews), Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph (Manassah & Ephraim), and Benjamin.

The Bible speaks of being “grafted in” to the House of God. Have you ever taken time to think about what that really means? It doesn’t mean that we are automatically in some spiritual House of God. It literally means we become a child of Israel. Only a son/daughter will receive the blessing of the father. Only the heir will inherit from the father…to him who has ears to hear, let him hear what the spirit is saying. If we do not consider ourselves part of Israel, we are not a legitimate child and we have no claim on an inheritance.

“And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, have been grafted in among them, and came to share the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. And if you boast, remember: you do not bear the root, but the root bears you!” – Romans 11:17-18

“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of Elohim, and if children, also heirs – legitimate heirs of Elohim, and co-heirs with Messiah, if indeed we suffer with Him, in order that we also be exalted together.” – Romans 8:16-17

So How Do I Keep Passover?
Each of YHVH’s feasts has a theme or a message for us. Let’s take a look at some of the themes of Passover.

During Passover, which lasts 7 days, we are not to eat of leavened bread. Leaven and leavening agents symbolize pride which puffs up (leavening is what “puffs up” bread). So for him who has ears to hear, we rid our homes of leaven for these seven days and we also take time to rid our hearts of any pride that may be hiding. Everything that is done in the physical must also be done in the spiritual. If there is no spiritual application, then it simply becomes a ritual and we know that the “Word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting through even to the dividing of being and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

At our Passover Seders, we recount the miracle of the first Passover and how YHVH brought out our forefathers with a “mighty hand and an outstretched arm!” In the same way, we ask YHVH to reveal any “spiritual Egypts” in which we may still be living in bondage. Remember, Passover is a season of miracles and redemption. If there are any areas of your life that you are struggling to be free in, this is the time to petition YHVH to free you! Of course, you can be free any time but this is the special season in which He has chosen to reveal His redemption.

His redemption also came in the form of Yeshua. We celebrate and praise Him for sending Yeshua our Messiah to be the Passover lamb whose blood covers us and keeps the angel of death away from our lives. We thank YHVH for providing His lamb and praise Him for the miracles He has done in the lives of those who have gone before us and in our own lives as well.

Passover, like all the feasts of YHVH, is a time to be with family and friends. It is a time to reflect on the miracles YHVH has done and is doing in our lives. It is a time to remove pride, which so easily ensnares, from our lives and families. It is a time to do some spring cleaning in our homes and hearts. It is a time to be free from the things that keep us in bondage. We are a free people! We are not meant to live in bondage!

It is a time to celebrate and praise YHVH for His miracles that bring about our repentance, restoration, and forgiveness. It is a season of redemption!

“And when these matters begin to take place, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” – Luke 21:28

“Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and guard what is written in it, for the time is near.” – Revelation 1:3


Just a Few References:

  • http://rcg.org/books/ttooe.html
  • Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edit., Vol. 8
  • The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, Vol. 5, p. 6
  • Albert Henry Newman, D.D., LL.D., A Manual of Church History
  • Will Durant, Story of Civilization
  • Francis X. Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs
  • James Bonwick, Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought
  • A. Nock, Early Gentile Christianity and its Hellenistic Background
  • Bill Cloud, Shoreshim Ministries, “http://www.billcloud.com/”>http://www.billcloud.com/

“And Enoch walked with YHVH…”

Genesis 5 gives us the genealogy from Adam to Noah. This might have been one of those chapters you read through really quickly without giving it much thought. But if you read too quickly, you will miss something important in those verses.

For every single man that is mentioned, the Bible tells us he lived a certain amount of years, brought forth sons and daughters, and then died. Except for one man.

And after he brought forth Methushelaḥ, Enoch walked with Elohim three hundred years, and brought forth sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with Elohim. Then he was no more, for Elohim took him.

Enoch didn’t just live; he walked with Elohim.

What does it mean to “walk with Elohim?” Think about going for a walk with someone. There are times when you both are talking with one another but there are also times when it is quiet; peaceful. There are times when you both might face a fork in the road and must decided which path to follow. Even though you might change direction, you always go together. There might be times when the road before you narrows and one must go in front of the other. One time you might follow and another you may be in front.

The same is true when we walk with YHVH. There are times in our walk through life when we hear YHVH clearly. And then there are times when there is silence. Neither is wrong, they are just different seasons. We must know and trust that even when He is silent, He is still walking with us.

There will be times in our walk when we face a fork in the road. We might face this fork in a time of talking or in a time of silence but we know that YHVH will always guide us…if we allow Him. His guidance may look different depending on the season we find ourselves in. Sometimes His direction is Him audibly telling us which direction to go; other times, it’s the gentle hands on our shoulders that point us in the right direction without a word being spoken.

And then there are times when the road in front of us narrows and one must walk in front of the other. When YHVH walks in front of us, we see Him paving the way and fighting our battles and all we must do is follow and keep up with His pace! It’s a glorious time of seeing Him working in our lives and it’s so easy to trust Him and see how He is working in our lives!

But then there are times when He tells us we must go in front and allow Him to be our rear guard. This is when we are facing the battles head on and when it sometimes feels as though YHVH has left us. We can’t see Him because He is behind us but we must trust that YHVH has never left us. He is still working in our lives. He is still our shield and our strength. He is still there fighting with us. It simply looks different than when He was in front and we were following.

So here is the question: Are you going to just live and get through life or are you going to walk with YHVH?

APD Protests, Kobe Bryant, How to Tell Time According to YHVH (Passover pt 2)

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Purim: The Story of a Courageous Bride

Her name was Hadassah. You might know her as Esther. She was a Voice in the Desert who saved her people from destruction and death. She was beautiful. She was obedient. She was courageous. She was a Jew. Hers is a beautiful story of love, courage, and obedience. The story of Purim is most commonly associated with the Jews of Persia (modern-day Iran) being victorious over their enemies. However, there is so much more to this story. Purim is a lesson in being courageous, what it means to be obedient, how to be a voice in the desert, and how to be a Bride that is worthy of her King. This and so much more is what we learn from Hadassah and the story of Purim.

Over the course of time, King Ahasuerus gained victory over his adversaries and brought peace to his kingdom. To celebrate this peace, he held a large banquet for the royals in his kingdom. At the end of this long banquet (and much drinking), the king summoned Queen Vashti to come before him so he can parade her as his prize to the other nobles. Queen Vashti refused to come before the king and the king’s wise men advised him to send out an edict that Vashti be queen no more and was to be replaced by someone better and more worthy.

Enter Hadassah. When Hadassah was a young girl, her parents were killed and she was left an orphan. The text does not tells us how her parents were killed but we can presume it had something to do with a battle during the captivity of the Jews. As an orphan, Hadassah is taken in and raised by her older cousin Mordecai. When the edict goes out to the kingdom that all “lovely young maidens be sought for the king,” Hadassah is taken to the citadel of Susa. Mordecai instructs Hadassah not to reveal her Jewish identity and she is obedient. After 12 months of preparations, Hadassah is brought before the king.

Each young woman could ask for anything to take with her to go before the king. While the other young women asked for jewels and gold, Hadassah asked for only what the guardian of the women advised. When she went before the king, he “loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and loving-commitment in his eyes more than all the maidens. And he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”

In time, there arose to power an evil man named Haman. He hated Mordecai and sought to have him killed. Haman devised a plan that would not only kill Mordecai but all the Jews in Persia. He manipulated the king into signing a decree which would destroy all the Jews in the province. When Mordecai learned of Haman’s plan, he told Hadassah that she must use her position with the king to stop this annihilation from happening. At first, Hadassah does not see a way to do this as she has not been summoned by the king…and no one can appear before the king unless called upon.

In one of the most famous passages of the book, Mordecai tells Hadassah,

“Do not think within yourself to escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep entirely silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise from another place, while you and your father’s house perish. And who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

In the second most famous passage, Esther responds, “Gather all the Jews in Susa and fast for me. Then I shall go to the king, which is against the law. And if I perish, I shall perish!”

Hadassah goes before the king and after two strategic banquets, exposes her true identity and the deceit of Haman. The king then signs another edict allowing the Jews to bear arms and defend themselves against their enemies and Haman is hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. It was a great victory for the Jews of Persia.

However, there is so much more to this story than just the victory over Israel’s enemies. Underneath all the layers, there is a story of a courageous bride; one who has made herself ready and has done the hard work so that she is found ready when she appears before the King.

Hadassah had to leave the life she knew and move to the palace where the king dwelt. We envision life at the palace as this glamorous life of food, fun, and freedom. But in reality, the palace was a harsh place for a woman. She could only stay in the women’s quarters, unless of course, she was summoned. She had to essentially compete with the other women and concubines for her place in the palace and her life certainly was not her own. But Hadassah was obedient to go and when she arrived, she won favor by being submissive to the servant of the king.

In the same way, we need to leave our life and all we envisioned for our lives behind when the King calls us to His palace. We should never expect our King to leave His palace and come to live in our house. We have to conform to His ways, not Him to our ways.

Hadassah underwent twelve months of preparations before she could go in to the King. Twelve months. That was just for their one night, that doesn’t include the waiting period afterwards for him to decide which girl to make queen! Hadassah obediently and patiently waited and went through all the preparations that were given to her. She understood that she would not be ready for the king without them. She did not fight the hard work or deny the areas in which she lacked. Instead, she embraced this time as a time to make herself perfect and ready for her king. And it paid off! We read that she found favor in eyes more than all the other maidens and that he loved her.

Often times, the Holy Spirit will send people or circumstances our way that highlight the areas in our lives in which we lack. Many times we fight these changes because we don’t think we need to change, we don’t see the point, or we don’t want to wait the time it will take in order to complete the work. Don’t fight these preparations…embrace them as a gift from YHVH. It is in these times of hard work and preparation that we are making ourselves more beautiful, more pleasing, for our King. And how worth it will it be when our King says to us, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

When she appeared before the king, we see that she only took that which her guardian advised her. This is key; it’s what set her apart from all the other women vying for the king’s affections. She took the time to seek the king’s desire by asking his servant. Often times, we think we can pick what gift we bring to our King. We think that just because we bring Him a gift that He should accept it. That’s not how His kingdom or any earthly kingdom works. When you bring someone a gift, especially the King of Kings, you should always ask what He wants to receive. She desired to know what would please him. Again, we should conform to His ways instead of making Him fit ours. The fact that Hadassah sought the servant about what the king desired, demonstrates her willingness to obey and submit.

Unlike Vashti, Hadassah knew to whom to submit herself. Hadassah started with her family, Mordecai. She obeyed his command to not reveal her identity and she listened to his counsel when it was time to rise up in order to save her people. We can assume that as a young girl, she obeyed him and learned to submit herself to authority. Vashti, who clearly had an issue with authority, had gotten prideful in her place as queen. So prideful, she thought she was even above the king himself! Sometimes we can get too comfortable with where we are in life and this can produce a sense of pride. When we no longer listen and obey, shema in the Hebrew, to the voice of our King, we put ourselves in a dangerous situation. We set ourselves up to be removed. If we learned anything from the book of Esther, its that everyone is replaceable if they refuse to play their part. Vashti’s rebellion towards her husband and her unwillingness to submit to her king caused her to be removed from her position for someone “who is better than she.” Don’t be a Vashti.

Hadassah was not only beautiful and lovely, she was incredibly courageous and strong. She was a warrior. When the time came for her to lay down her life for her people, she was ready and prepared. Had she not submitted and done the hard work, she may not have been ready at the right time. And just like we learned from Vashti, “do not think you will escape because you are in the king’s palace. For if you remain completely silent, relief and deliverance will arise from another.”

Hadassah had lived her whole life as a sacrifice to God. YHVH never leaves us unprepared. Think back to the circumstances you have faced or are facing. All of these things are actively being used by YHVH to prepare you for His destiny for your life. Don’t doubt your abilities; don’t doubt the call on your life. God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

It’s not about us; it’s always about bringing Him the glory He rightfully deserves. Because everything is to bring YHVH glory, if you refuse your position, like Vashti, there will be another to replace you. We tend to think that God will go on begging us to play our part and to do His work. The truth is that He doesn’t need us to accomplish His work. He wants us and desires us to be part of His plan, but He is King of the Universe, He doesn’t need us to do anything! So how merciful and beautiful that He would choose us to bring Him glory. Don’t refuse Him. There is always someone else who would love to take your place.

Hadassah also had to face the enemy seeking to destroy her and her people. She did not cower and she did not back down. She was smart and cunning when dealing with Haman and was able to find favor with the king on behalf of her people. We all face the enemy seeking to destroy us every day. Our enemy is not flesh and blood but the one who seeks to destroy the people of YHVH. He will try everything he can to deceive us and destroy us. He will whisper in our ears lies that keep us deceived. Lies that tell us we aren’t good enough. Lies that we didn’t really hear from God. Fear is one of his favorite tactics. If he can make us so afraid that we refuse to act, then he will be victorious over us every time.

Being afraid is normal, but it doesn’t have to stop us. Think about skydiving. You can be afraid, but you can’t let it stop you from jumping out of the plane. Don’t be afraid to stand up and be a voice in the desert. YHVH will never leave you alone; He will never leave you unprepared. Never be afraid to stand for what is right, even if it is against the law. Seek the Lord and ask for His wisdom and He will be faithful to provide and show you the way in which to walk.

This year, Purim begins on Saturday, March 15 at sundown and ends Sunday, March 16 at sundown. As you celebrate Purim, reflect on the story of Purim and the life of Hadassah, a courageous bride who saved her people.

Conversations with an Atheist

This week, I had the opportunity to talk with someone who is a “devout atheist” about what he believes. It was an interesting conversation to say the least. I learned several things about my faith, myself, and what I believe because of it.

1. Faith And Belief Is Not For Those Unwilling To Lay Aside Their Own Knowledge and Intellect 

Faith in God means we don’t always understand the way everything works; that we may not always have the answers to every single question. But that’s ok. I don’t have to understand the way the world works. As long as YHVH does, I’m ok with that. This doesn’t mean we stop our pursuit of knowledge or wisdom, it simply means that we recognize our limited abilities and that we can only take ourselves so far. Because really, isn’t it just pride to think we could ever have all the answers anyway?

We should also recognize that the wisdom and knowledge we pursue as believers is not the same wisdom the world seeks after. The world seeks after its own wisdom. They seek to have the answer within themselves. We, as believers, are seeking after YHVH’s wisdom. He tells us in His Word, “Your ways are not My Ways; your thoughts are not My thoughts. My thoughts are higher than Yours.” As believers, we are first seeking the One who has the answers and second we are seeking His wisdom. The world is primarily seeking the answers within itself and apart from God.

In case I haven’t made it clear, let me clarify what I am and what I am not saying: I am NOT saying that as believers we give up our right to think or to be intelligent or to seek answers. God tells us in Hosea 4:6, “My people die from lack of knowledge.” I am NOT saying that believers can’t be intelligent or smart or should just give up trying to learn altogether and just accept what they are told. I AM saying that as believers, we should accept that we won’t always have the answers and what we believe won’t always make sense to nonbelievers. However, that’s kind of where faith comes in. It’s not a cop-out answer, it’s just the way it is.

2. No Matter What Reasons You Give, To The World It Will Always Sound Like Gibberish

Yeshua tells us that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, we are to become like children. Think back to when you were little. It was much easier to believe in “fantastical” things and to believe in the things you didn’t fully understand. Again, going back to my previous point, this doesn’t mean that believers should be ignorant or simply accept whatever they are taught; rather, that we believe human wisdom and understanding can only take us so far and we must leave the rest up to faith.

Because of this belief, there will never be an argument that will appease an atheist or an intellectual who is relying solely on their own understanding. Our beliefs and our faith in the unseen will never make sense to those who rely on their own strength to comprehend. But guess what? It’s not supposed to. The Word constantly reminds us that the message is for those “who have ears to hear and a heart to understand.” This means that not everyone will “hear” or understand the message. That’s ok. It’s not our job to be the Holy Spirit and convince others of God’s truth. That person may come to believe in God one day but it will be when they have a personal encounter with God, not when your words or defense of faith is perfect.

I love the way Frances J. Roberts puts it in “Call of the Turtledove” in Come Away My Beloved:

The voice of the Bridegroom is calling His Bride. It is the call of love, and those who truly love Him will respond. Those whose hearts are fixed on things above will not be held by worldly entanglements. Those who are listening to the voice of their Beloved will not be deafened by the cries of men. In a world filled with noises, each demanding attention, they will hear him. Another stand besides them and hears only the voice of the preacher. Another may be giving attention to the opinions and arguments of men. But you need not fear that you will miss it. Be it ever so soft, you shall hear. Your heart shall hear, and your heart shall leap with joy.

3. God’s Truth is Not for Everyone

Here is where I’m going to get emails and calls…but stick with me on this one. Like I said before, a person might come to develop a relationship with God when they experience a personal encounter with Him. However, some people may never have this experience. Or if they do, they may chalk it up to something entirely different than God.

At dinner, my “devout atheist” was asked if he had ever had a spiritual or supernatural encounter. He responded with two stories. The first experience he admitted was definitely of the supernatural but it was not enough to convince him that God is real. The second example was in moments of complete contentment and happiness. He said that in those moments he desires to attribute it to something beyond himself and wonders in those moments if there is something more to life, but eventually dismisses the feeling altogether and instead decides to attribute the feeling of happiness to himself.

My point is that some people, even after having spiritual encounters, will still refuse to believe there is a God. That is their decision. You cannot do anything to change that. If someone is so prideful that they can experience God and desire to believe in Him but continue to fight it, then nothing you say or do is going to change that person. Again, only the Holy Spirit can do that. The Word also tells us in Revelation that even in the last days when the earth is being destroyed and the world is crumbling before their very eyes, there will still be those who refuse to acknowledge or humble themselves before God.

4. It Truly is Pointless to Argue With Someone Who Has No Desire to Have a Conversation

The Word tells us not to engage in pointless arguments that only bring division. This is a healthy boundary to have in your life in any relationship. If a conversation is clearly going nowhere and its going there fast, then stop. Clearly it’s of no benefit for either party…unless of course the person you’re engaging is thriving off the conflict, in which case you should really really stop the conversation. Besides the fact that it is a waste of time to engage in pointless arguments that lead nowhere, you’re only going to push them further away from the truth and deeper into their own beliefs. The more you challenge someone, the tighter they will hold to their beliefs. So if your goal is to be a witness, share your faith and then leave it at that. Don’t get yourself into a conversation where it benefits neither side and doesn’t bring glory to God.

5. God Doesn’t Need You to Defend Him

You will never convince someone that YHVH is loving or just or true or even real for that matter, if they truly don’t want to be convinced of it. But guess what? YHVH doesn’t need you to defend Him. This is something I have been struggling with lately, “Am I doing a good job of defending who YHVH truly is?” YHVH used Roberts’ “Sing, My Children” to deeply minister to me when I was struggling with this.

Do not be concerned for My reputation. I have withstood many storms, and I will survive this one. Human strivings are like the waters around Gibraltar. They have beat upon the rock, but they have not changed it. I am not disturbed, and I forbid you to be anxious.

You can stand your ground and stand firm in your faith, but like I said before, no matter what argument you try to use it’s never going to make sense to them…if they don’t want it to make sense. Do you know why? Because you’re not the Holy Spirit. Only God can convict someone’s heart and only His Spirit can stir someone to believe. Your job is to be a vessel and speak only when He gives you words to speak. If you don’t have the words and the person clearly doesn’t have an interest in learning about what you believe, it’s as foolish as “throwing your pearl to the swine.”

Ukraine, 18 yr Old Suing Parents, Being a Voice in the Desert