A New Beginning
As we complete the Torah cycle for another year, finishing with the book of Deuteronomy, we end with V’zot HaBerachah, ‘And This is the Blessing’. With the words, ‘Chazk! Chazak! V’nitchazek! Be Strong! Be Strong! And May You Be Strengthened! we end – and yet we begin again - another year, another Torah cycle, and more precious moments to study Scripture.
To begin again, to have a new beginning must mean that we have put the old away. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a new beginning but rather a continuation of the same momentum which would render us in the same season, just redoing it. So let us make this an opportunity for a new beginning, a new day, and a new season.
Isaiah 43:18-19 states: ‘“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.’
Ephesians 4:22-24 ‘You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.’
Every moment to study Scripture with the mindset of Yeshua, not the mindset of a religion of man, gives us a possibility to move closer to the God we serve. It will be a new beginning with Him as our leader, author, guide and Master. We leave our baggage behind, we leave our opinions behind, we leave character traits of pride, arrogance, fear, and bitterness behind; and we begin again.
Isaiah 5:20 ‘Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!’ Proverbs 8:13 ‘The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.’
Evil and evil actions have been since creation. The fleshly evil began with Adam and Eve, rebellion against The Creator. There was Cain, there were the people that surrounded the Ark, there was Absalom, Balaam and Balak, Jezebel, Haman, Herod, Abimelech, and more.
But one person in particular stands out – Esau. Why? Malachi 1:1-5 tells us that it is Esau who God ‘hated’. Not only did Esau rebel against God, but he vowed to kill Jacob - ‘So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.’ Genesis 27:41.
Esau – Edom one and the same. The hate for the line of Jacob continued throughout history and it is continuing today. There is such evil sweeping the earth, an influence that is not isolated to one country or another, but rather the earth. It is an influence that births evil, hate and death. It is an influence that twists evil for good and good for evil. It is an evil that makes rational people align with representatives of death.
We are to not partake in evil. We are to align ourselves with The Creator, His Word and His Ways. We are in this world but not of the world, and there is a difference. We are to stand for what is good and right according to the ways of God, but we are not to seek fleshly vengeance. If we have aligned ourselves with an entity or influence of hate, violence, plunder, arrogance, vows to kill, vows of death, or death itself we have succumbed to the influence of Esau.
May we turn to the Creator of all and align with Him!
Narrow Mind vs. Spacious Mind
Within the teachings of Mussar, there is a concept of narrow mind and spacious mind.
Narrow mind sees itself as separate from the world, family, community and friends and even though involved with each, they see themselves as isolated and often alienated. Often, the view is that something was done to them by someone. They are in essence, the eternal victim. They have lost, or never had, the big picture that God is in control of all things. He is being in Himself. He is and was and is to come, therefore, what is and what isn’t at any given moment is the orchestration of God.
Something as drastic as a car accident will often be perceived as ‘they caused the accident’. Yes, it is true that someone will be held accountable in the earthly courts. But why did God allow it? He did allow it, it was not happenstance, or He would not be The ‘I AM’.
Spacious mind allows us to distance ourselves from the ‘happening’ and seek the truth rather than seek the perpetrator. Seeking the villain puts us in the victim seat, and God did not create victims, He created us in His image and likeness, and He allows events to take place in our lives. Some events in our lives we have created by bad choices, which would be operating in narrow mind, for our bad choices are the result of ‘self’ and ‘ego’. Narrow mind is concerned with ‘I’.
Spacious mind opens up the closed heart to view life as a whole.
May you be blessed…
A lady in our bible study often references sunflowers. I began to think about this infamous flower and discovered some amazing facts.
Each sunflower is actually thousands of teeny flowers: The iconic yellow petals and fuzzy brown centers are actually individual flowers themselves. As many as 2,000 can make up the classic sunflower bloom.
You should harvest sunflowers in the morning, not the afternoon.
Each sunflower can contain as many as 1,000 to 2,000 seeds.
There are about 70 species of sunflowers: Their genus name is Helianthus (which comes from the Greek words for "sun" and "flower"). While many varieties look bright and cheery, their shapes can be quite different. For instance, these funny "goldie" sunflowers look like puffballs.
The French word for sunflower is "tournesol," which means "turns with the sun." In their bud phase, sunflowers will literally seek out and face the sun. This trait is called heliotropism.
This last fact was the one that caused me to look up information regarding sunflowers. ‘Tournesol’, turns with the sun.
We have a savior that is referenced to the sun in Malachi 4:2, ‘But for you who revere My Name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap live calves released from the stall.’ And in Revelation 22:16 He is called the bright and morning star.
If the sunflower knows to turn towards the sun, shouldn’t we adhere and turn our faces, our walk, our life towards the true Son?
Back in the day, unkind speech was just that. Unkind. Today, however, it has seemed to morph into a point of view, ‘you don’t think the way I do, therefore you are unkind.’ Those that digress into that mindset seem to display sarcasm and criticalness. So, the person that is not kind, displays the point of view that the other is unkind.
To be sarcastic one conveys contemp. It is defined as: "a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt". Sarcasm may employ ambivalence, although sarcasm is not necessarily ironic. Most noticeable in spoken word, sarcasm is mainly distinguished by the inflection with which it is spoken and is largely context-dependent.’
Any sentence can begin with a kind word, even if people disagree on a topic. Any topic should be able to be discussed without being rude. It’s when one feels threatened that they lash out with unkind speech and sarcasm.
Proverbs 29:11 states ‘A fool vents all his feelings, But a wise man holds them back.’
There is a group of people that have lost the grace and power of kindness of the tongue. Anger and bitterness has led way to rage and violence. This is toxic and the anti-thesis of God. These types of people crave to be ‘right’ at any cost.
1 Samuel chapter 25 is a good example of sarcasm, the toxic tongue and the results there of.
Words have become swords, and are used without a thought. A good thing to use in our lives is: 2 Corinthians 10:5 ‘… casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Messiah.’
Who Do We Follow?
If you Google the word ‘follow’ up pops a slew of ‘how to get more followers…’ on all the social media sites. There are also instructions how to follow major entertainment channels and entertainers. Do we all want followers? Do we all want to follow something or someone? Maybe. Is it our focus? It shouldn’t be.
When we make a conscious decision to follow The Lord, we walk after Him. Not in front of Him, or next to Him as a coequal, but after Him, following His footsteps. The walk that we follow must include His ways, or we are simply not following Him.
Deuteronomy 5:33 ‘Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.’
Deuteronomy 13:4 ‘It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him.’
Deuteronomy 31:8 ‘The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.’
Psalm 119:133 ‘Direct my footsteps according to Your word; let no sin rule over me.’
John 8:12 ‘When Yeshua spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Just these five verses completely obliterates the theory of following God, but not following His Torah, His commands and His instructions. The two cannot be separated; following The Lord and following His ways.
John 12:26 ‘Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me.’
Who are we following?
Positive and negative influences can either be readily visible in someone or extremely sneaky and hidden, only to show up at a later date. We often say to ourselves, ‘wow, what happened to them?’ Or we compliment their change in character, ‘I don’t know what happened, but so&so seems so much more at peace…’
Negative and hidden underground influences are the ones that sneak up on us and can infect our peace. Suddenly we are listening to gossip, becoming depressed, rebellious or disenchanted.
One of the greatest protections we can give ourselves is to acknowledge that we might be operating under an influence other than that of God and anything that is contrary to His will, love and peace is another influence.
In the Torah portion Re’eh, God clearly tells his people to not listen to the prophet that tries to sway them away from God. What is God? His Torah, His commandments, His Son. If you are bargaining with yourself, in that you don’t have to do His commandments, you have been swayed and are leaning away from the protection of Elohim.
Turn back to Him, and seek the influence that will encourage you towards Elohim, not away from Him.
Calming Our Stormy Seas...
In Matthew 8:21-2 Yeshua calms the stormy seas. So often our lives are filed with the stormy seas. Our emotions are churned up by the crashing water as it knocks us down. Sometimes we feel as if we are holding the waves of the ocean back. But what does Yeshua say? He told the disciples in the boat, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”
God is not crashing waters. He can be changing waters, and speaks of His water as life. He moves upon the face of the waters… Genesis 1:2. The Voice of the LORD is upon many waters… Psalm 29:3. He leads me besides still waters…Psalm 23:2. He is the fountain of living water... Jeremiah 17:13. We are to be as a tree planted by the waters… Jeremiah 17:8. The rivers of Judah shall flow with waters... Joel 3:18. There shall flow rivers of living waters… John 7:38.
God is calm waters, flowing over the cracks of the dry earth bringing life. I have never felt anxiety or agitation when I am in prayer. On the contrary, I feel at peace, humble and cool as if fresh water is running over my feet.
Life is far from a constant calm. Life is complex filled with many dynamics. Through Yeshua we gain tranquil back as He fills us with His calming waters.
Probably more often than not, the first thing that needs to change in our lives is our thoughts. Our thoughts will then change our attitude. Changing our attitude to that of a positive attitude changes our outlook on life. Thus, we change the direction of our life.
We might complain about the status of our life, yet resist change. We complain about another person, yet fail to see our fault. We wonder why we are miserable, yet force another to hear our woes, only to watch them tune out. We live what we perceive; we are what our habits dictate us to be.
Remember the Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schults? In one strip, Lucy says to Charlie Brown, “I would like to change the world.”
“Where would you start?” Charlie Brown asked.
Lucy replies, “I would start with you.”
That’s so typical – we say to another: you change….then it’ll be right. Change has to begin with us. That does not mean by any means that we change to fit someone else’s lifestyle, or someone else’s perception of what we should be like. But we change towards God. Get that? We change to/towards/near/because of God. We emulate Him. We change to be more like Him.
There comes a maturity point in our life where we have to ask ourselves with all honesty – ‘who am I and what do I represent?’
Are we the loudest at a bible study? Do we need to be heard? Do we crave attention? Do we cut others down? Do we belittle? Do we search for approval? Do we gossip? Do we partake in anything that the Father would not? Then change is needed.
Change is good – if it directs us towards The Father and His Word. So bring it on!
Our Words Our Thoughts
There is an interesting exchange of words in Luke 7:36-40 ‘Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”
In verse 39, the Scripture states that the Pharisee, Simon, spoke or said to himself. Right after that it states that Yeshua answered him. Do you understand this exchange? Simon did not speak aloud, but rather to himself, in his mind or under his breath. Nonetheless, Yeshua answered.
Are you grasping the severity and the depth of this verse? Matthew 5:28, Yeshua tells us that if we even look we sin. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 reproves us to keep every idol thought captive. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to be careful what we think because our thoughts run our life.
Our speech comes from our thoughts, our heart. ‘Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.’ Matthew 12:34.
So to curb our speech we curb our thoughts. ‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.’ Philippians 4:8. ‘We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’ 2 Corinthians 10:5.