Monthly Archives: February 2009

Shema

The Shema has been called the central prayer of Judaism.  You may not know it as the Shema, but if you are a follower of Christ you are probably very familiar with his teachings regarding it.  Just as it is for Jews today, the Shema would have been the centerpiece of Jesus’ daily prayers.  The Shema consists of three passages of Scripture in the Torah that are prayed every morning and every evening.  It was also common to pray the Shema throughout the day. The Shema was so core to the Jewish faith that one would hope to pray the Shema as their last words when dying. 

The Shema begins in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 with the words:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Here we find the declaration that there is one God, the LORD, and the command to love him with everything in us.  This, Jesus says, is the greatest command (Matthew 22:34-40).  It also talks about the importance of remembering God’s commands, of passing them on to the next generation.  Here we also see the command for the mezuzah and the tefillin.

The second portion of Shema comes from Deuteronomy 11:13-21.

So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the LORD your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul- then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.

Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.

In this portion we read about God’s promise of provision to those who love Him and a warning for those who would turn away and forget His commands.  Also we once again see the command to teach the next generation and for tefillin and mezuzah. 

The final passage of the Shema comes from Numbers 15:37-41. Continue reading

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Filed under Christianity, Discipleship, Faith, History, Jesus, Scripture

The Very Words of God

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Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8 NIV

 

 

My confession – most days reading Scripture is hard for me. There I said it. For me, most days diving deep into God’s word is a challenge. I know it is important. I believe that what I am reading are the very words of God. I want to understand His word, to wrestle though the implications for my life and my walk with him. I want to have the desire, the hunger for more, but most days I don’t. This is something I struggle with and I know that I am not alone.

For me, some days picking up the text is the last thing I want to do. My mind wanders as I read and I don’t seem to be getting anything out of it. Some days I push on, some days I put it down in frustration and some days I don’t even pick it up.  Then there are the days when I start reading and I just can’t put it down. Last week I had one of those days. I started reading and the next thing I knew it was 3 hours later. It was wonderful, but the joy was mixed with the frustration that every day isn’t like this.

Back in college I had an elderly bible professor who shared an illustration that has stuck with me all these years. He likened reading Scripture to his walking routine that his doctor had put him on. He said that when the alarm went off the last thing he wanted to do was get up and walk that day. But he did because he knew that he needed to in order to be healthy. That first mile was just dreadful, but as he continued he began to enjoy the walk. At the end of his workout he felt great and was really enjoying it. However, when the alarm went off the next morning the routine began again. He was not able to pick up where he left off, but had to have the discipline to take those first steps again even though he didn’t necessarily want to.

For me, this picture is an encouragement. I need to have the discipline to pick up His book and read it, even when I don’t want to, because I know that it is necessary for my spiritual health. One thing that has been helping me is having a plan – much like an exercise routine. There are many out there. LifeChurch.tv has one called YouVersion that is pretty popular right now. For a while I was reading through the Gospels every month. This year I am reading a copy of The One Year Bible. So pick a plan and stick to it.

If you struggle, find a work-out partner or two. Hold one another accountable and challenge each other to run the race that is before us well. After all, these are the very words of God and He wants to talk to you.

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Filed under Christianity, Discipleship, Scripture

Feet for the Path

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My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped.  Psalm 17:5

 

 

 

 

“God is good, His ways are not our ways, His paths are better than ours.”   These are all things I know to be true.  They are phrases that  I have said to others before.  And despite how “Christian”, how hollow or cheesy they sound, I believe them with everything in me.

Lately I have been given the chance to put these to the test in multiple levels.  We have had numerous friends who have lost their jobs over the past few months.  This has been a difficult time seeing people you work with and care about have a life change of this nature forced upon them.  But, I believe that God is good, His ways are not our ways, His paths are better than ours. 

A few weeks ago, my 38 year old brother-in-law went in for a Dr. appointment and came out with news that there may be something wrong with his heart.  Days later he was in the hospital due to ventricular tachycardia and a few days later he received an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.  This is not the path that he, my sister and their six young children would have chosen, but I believe that God is good, His ways are not our ways, His paths are better than ours.

My mother-in-law is battling cancer.  She has been for a little over a year now.  She has a few good days, but most are not.  She also has COPD so not only is she dealing with the pain of the cancer, but also struggles to get her breath after walking across a room.  The COPD is a result of years of smoking cigarettes and the path she has chosen to walk, but His path would have been better.  But despite her health condition, I know that He is good and His ways are not our ways.

Yesterday we received a call to let us know that the company my wife is working for is re-structuring and that as of next Friday they will no longer be needing her services.  Needless to say it wasn’t our best day, but it was far from our worst.  We don’t know what God has in store for us next, but we trust in His provision.  I’m sure that we will experience many emotional roller coasters and times of doubting what we say we believe, but I know that God is good, His ways are not our ways, and His paths are better than ours.

picture-1One day when I was hiking in Israel I saw several ibex (think as the deer pants for the water)  on the steep cliffs of the Judean wilderness.  These ibex were able to move quickly on steep, narrow paths where other animals dared not set foot.  These ibex were made for this, their feet designed for the rocky, slippery, terrain of the cliffs.  They were given the feet necessary to walk the path God had created for them.

This is my prayer for our family, our friends, for you if you are reading this.  I pray not for a smooth, easy path.  Not for the path that I would choose. You see, I believe that He is good, that His ways are not our ways, and the His paths are not our paths.  May He grant us the feet to walk the path He has for us, no matter how steep and difficult that path may seem, and may we be faithful to simply put one foot in front of the other.

 

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Filed under Faith, Provision

Green Pastures

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“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures”

 

 

 

 

 

One of the things I have come to appreciate is the importance of reading Scripture and trying to understand it not only through the lens of 2009, but also in the context in which it was written and originally read. I attempt to mentally put myself in their place, both culturally and geographically and view the words of Scripture through that lens.  Psalm 23 is a passage that looks significantly different when viewed from a cultural and geographical perspective than if viewed simply through a contemporary filter.

Israel is referred to as the land flowing with milk and honey.  While this description provides a picture of a land that flows with God’s provision, this phrase is also an illustration of the geography and topography of the land.  The land of honey is a reference to the area suitable for farming, of crops and therefore bees.  This is the area in the west.  It runs from the Judean mountains to the foothills and the coastal plain.  This is a lush, but a relatively small area and important for providing food for the people of Israel.  The land of milk is reference to the domain of the shepherd.  This is the area from the Judean mountains eastward.  This is arid wilderness, a land not suitable to grow crops, but sufficient to sustain flocks of sheep and goats. Due to the relatively small amount of farmland, herds would not graze where food for the people was being grown. Thus a land of milk and a land of honey.

 

Continue reading

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Filed under Desert, Israel, Provision