The King is in the Field

The King is in the Field

Complete Jewish Bible Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) 5:9 says: “But the greatest advantage to the country is when the king makes himself a servant to the land.”

A Paradox: Holiness among the common.

Elul is the 12th month of the Jewish year, a period of paradox just before the new year and high holy days begin. It is a time of introspection, when Jews examine their hearts and repent for their sins. At the same time, it is when God showers His mercy on them.

[bctt tweet=”The month of Elul in the Jewish calendar is a paradox; holy days filled with work.” username=”suzi59344978″]

In Judaism, there are holy times and there are “profane” (or common) times. The entire month of Elul is considered holy. I once heard it called “a haven in time, a city of refuge from the ravages of material life.” I love that analogy because it reminds me that in the end days, God will make a place of refuge for those who believe in Him.

Psalm 27:5: “For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.”

The name Elul is an acronym.

Elul is pronounced eh-lool. It is spelled (in Hebrew) aleph-lamed-vav-lamed. These letters represent acronyms that convey spiritual aspects of life during this special, unusual period of time. (In 2018 the month of Elul begins at sundown on August 11 and ends at sundown of September 9.)

“Eina L’yadi V’samti Lach” means that the Messiah will have express knowledge of the Torah, and so this is a time for studying Torah for Jews as well. As Christians and Messianic Jews, we know that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Word of God. He proclaimed that He came not to abolish the law (Torah) but to fulfill it. 

In John 1:1 we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Then we find His words concerning the law in Matthew 5:17 where He says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

[bctt tweet=”The Talmud says, divrei torah koltin (the study of Torah provides refuge).” username=”suzi59344978″]

Interestingly, The Talmud says, “divrei torah koltin” (the study of Torah provides refuge).

The next acronym is “Et L’vavcha V’et L’vav” meaning “teshuvah” or repentance. This refers in Elul to turning back to God, repenting of our sins and seeking God’s ways. Believers in Yeshua know that they are given everything necessary to live life in a godly manner according to 2 Peter 1:3, and that they are already forgiven for their sins both past and future. We know that it is God’s lovingkindness, His mercy, that brings us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Photo by GoodMan_Ekim on Creative Commons

Next comes the acronym “Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li.” This comes from the Song of Songs 6:3 and translates to “I’m my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine.” It speaks of love and commands “avodah” (prayer) during this holy month as well.

The fourth acronym is “Ish L’rei-eihu U’matonat L’ev-yonim,” which means gemillut/chassodim (charity/kindness). God’s people are focused on taking care of the poor and treating everyone with kindness.

Finally, there is one more acronym which I find particularly interesting. First of all, you have to read it backwards to get the acronym right. “L’Hashem Va-yomru Leimor Ashirah” which comes from Exodus 15:1, singing to the Messiah.

But what does all this have to do with the king being in the field?

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi has a metaphor that helps explain the paradox of Elul being a holy month yet made of workdays (work is commonly forbidden during holy times such as the Sabbath and festivals of God).

Imagine a king in Israel. If you, being a common person, wanted an audience with him, you’d have to travel to Jerusalem from wherever you are. You’d have to pass through all the gates and checkpoints, go through all the ministers and secretaries (all the bureaucracy) before you could be granted an audience. Then you would have to behave in a specific way, use specific language, and follow a specific dress code. That’s the way it is on common days.

[bctt tweet=”But in the month of Elul, the king leaves his palace and stands in the field with the common people.” username=”suzi59344978″]

But in the month of Elul, the king leaves his palace and stands in the field with the common people. They can approach him freely, even in the midst of their work, and he will listen to them with a smiling face and open arms. Even the highest ranking person in his court does not have this kind of access to the king when he is in his palace. But for this one month, the king is in the field.

As we celebrate this month of holiness in our common workaday world, remember that the reason this is a holy month is because God is with us (Immanuel)!

As Yeshua said, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).”

Yes, the King in in the field!

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10 Ways to Appreciate Your Husband

10 Ways to Appreciate Your Husband

When was the last time you said that you appreciate your husband?

I don’t mean things like saying “I love you.” You may be doing that all day, every day, or you may wait for special occasions to utter the L word. Lea Rose Emery, in writing for Bustle.com, says it depends. “I looked around into how often couples say the L word, and instead of being all over the map, there were definitely two major camps— people who say it all the time and people who hardly say it all. Neither is wrong, neither is right. But for the people that say it, they really, really say it.” However, saying “I love you” doesn’t necessarily mean “I appreciate you.”

Jeremy Nicholson, a psychologist who writes for Psychology Today, reveals that “Saying ‘I love you’ on a regular basis is not always indicative of relationship status. A better indicator is how the partners actually treat and care for each other. Without loving behaviors backing it up, saying ‘I love you’ is just an empty expression.” And that’s where appreciation comes in.

A study reported in Scientific American’s December 2009 article, “The Happy Couple: Secrets to a Long Marriage,” indicates that gratitude acts like a booster for romantic relationships, and the more often appreciation is expressed, the less likely the couple is apt to break up.

Okay, so I missed National Husband Appreciation Day (it was April 21).

But how about deciding to make some changes that will let your partner know that not only do you love him (or her), but you appreciate her (or him), too? Here are 10 easy ways to make appreciation something you’ll do because you notice the gift you have in your husband.

1. Thank your husband.

Yes, maybe it’s his job to help with household chores. But don’t take his work for granted just because you also do household chores. Appreciate your husband because he cares enough to help you.

2. Express your thanks creatively.

When you tell your husband “thank you,” after awhile it can lose its meaning. Think of more creative ways to say it, like: “I appreciate it when you…”, “I’m grateful for…”, “It means a lot to me when you…”, etc.

3. Even negative circumstances have positive aspects

When he calls and says, “Honey, I have to work late tonight” do you complain? Show your husband some appreciation for the positive—he called! And then thank him for his hard work, too.

4. Say thank you for the small things, too

Your husband doesn’t have to make your life easier by helping you around the house. It’s a choice (or should be). Saying thank you for the things he does all the time lets him know that you notice even the small things.

5. Public praise is a great way to appreciate your husband

Perhaps you say thank you at home, but neglect to make your appreciation known in public. (Or maybe you thank in public but ignore the effort at home!) Saying publicly that you are grateful to your husband can have a huge impact on your relationship, both publicly and privately.

6. The big things need praise, too

When was the last time you thanked your husband for being a great dad? Or because he works for an awful boss and still comes home in a great mood?

7. Appreciate your husband for contributing to your success

Whether it’s work, education, parenting, spiritual growth, or work in the community, your husband has impacted your success. Be sure to tell him that achieving your goals is partly his success, too.

8. Say thank you with a gift

Extravagance isn’t necessary. It really is the thought that counts, something he would love but wouldn’t buy for himself is a great way to say thanks. Maybe something representing his favorite sport, or a book you know he’s been wanting to read, or time out with his buddies. A dinner date or a gift card to his favorite store works, too.

9. Jump the gun when he needs help

Don’t wait for your husband to ask you to do something for him. Anticipate the need and offer before hw mentions it. He could use some time away from the kids, and he could use a nap. Offer to let him do the things that he leaves unsaid.

10. Date your husband

Your husband needs to know that not only do you love him, but you like him, too. Ask him out on a date, even if life seems too busy. Make dating your husband a priority, and have a real conversation when you go out. Enjoy both dinner and discussion.

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Taming Dragons: The Crisis of Compromise Part 2

Taming Dragons: The Crisis of Compromise Part 2

Continued from last week.

So far, I’ve used objects that have no volition of their own. Obviously, neither a flame nor a sheet of paper has the ability to want companionship. Nor do bacteria have a conscious desire to do us harm. However, the enemies of our souls—led and empowered by Satan—do have volition. And it’s that volition that causes the decay in our spiritual life, and which can have repercussions for our physical existence. According to 1 Peter 5:8, our enemy is prowling around like a lion, looking for someone to devour.

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).”

Our battle, then, is not against material, unconscious enemies against which we can affect a defeat and expect it to remain defeated. It is more akin to standing in a nest of vipers and thinking that killing one will render the others harmless. Not so; this enemy of ours wants to destroy our souls (Ephesians 6:12)!

Photo courtesy of Jean Wimmerlin on Unsplash

Let’s look now at how the Bible portrays Satan.

  •   He is a created being; thus we know that he is not equal to God.

“You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you” (Ezekiel 28:15).

  •   God will use even Satan, to His purpose.

“The Lord works out everything for His own ends—even the wicked for the day of disaster” (Proverbs 16:4).

  •   Satan defies God and is incapable of truth.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

  •   God grants Satan limited power.  Although we may not understand why, we do know that Satan can attack even the elect.

“Then the LORD said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.’

‘Does Job fear God for nothing?’ Satan replied. ‘Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.’

“The LORD said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.’ Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD” (Job 1:8-12).

  •   If there’s one thing that the dragon does not want you to know, it is that he was defeated at the cross.

“That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be the head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:20-23).

  •   Satan is always seeking an opportune time to tempt us.

“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13).

  •   The dragon has but one purpose.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”  (John 10:10).

  •   To that end, Satan will twist anything, including God’s very word, to achieve his own ends.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden”?’

The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”’

“‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:1-5).

 

[bctt tweet=”When we actively listen to the lies of the enemy, we are in essence denying that we know God. — Susannah Wollman” username=”suziwollman”]

 

  •   Satan is the ruler of those who are separated from Christ.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1-3).

  •   He also rules a hierarchy of demons.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:10-12).

I’ve heard people calling Satan a “toothless lion.” I’ve sung songs that flippantly tell Satan to “sit on a tack.” I’ve not believed what the Word of God tells me about this dragon, for if I did, I would have been more sober about our very worthy adversary. Yet, God does not laugh at Satan’s activity, as though it were some freak show. He is not amused when we do not heed His warnings, and unless we wake up and begin to fight the good fight, our own dragon will swallow us whole while those who watch laugh and marvel.

We have but little chance—in fact, none at all—in defeating the devil, unless we heed the word spoken to us through James and John.

Therefore, submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts…Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:7-10, emphasis mine).

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:11, emphasis mine).

Next week we’ll look at The Song of Dragons.

Until then, press in to God. His peace belongs to His children!

Doesn’t God Want Me to be Happy?

Doesn’t God Want Me to be Happy?

Ravi Zacharias, this century’s indisputable leading Christian apologist, said in a video recently that the greatest lie mankind believes today is that unbridled pleasure is the means to the greatest happiness. As I listened to him, I realized that believing lies (particularly that lie) produces the world’s most rabidly anti-Christian beliefs.

Photo courtesy of Gus Ruballo on Unsplash

Why is that?

Let’s back up a minute and see why people so eagerly believe this particular lie.

Zacharias told the story of a journalist asking Tiger Woods during the time of his great discretion, “How could you lie to so many people for so long?” Putting aside the obvious irony here, Woods’ answer was eye opening. He said, “Because I lied to myself first.”

Photo courtesy of Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any amount of time, you know that my go-to solution to most problems is allowing Christ to shine His light on them. Exposing anything to His light will accomplish one of three things. It cleanses, or heals, or dissolves. Anything from the enemy dissolves when exposed to His light, exactly like when you turn on a light in a dark room. Suddenly what seemed true in the dark is shown for what it truly is in the light.

We often tell ourselves lies. It’s not always the enemy’s thoughts we’re listening to so much as it is our aligning our own thoughts with his.

Eden (as in the garden of Eden) means pleasure, and God placed Adam and Eve there. Didn’t they have unbridled pleasure? Didn’t God want them to be happy?

Let’s look more closely at that idea.

In the beginning, Adam and Eve had perfect pleasure. They had perfect, immortal bodies, they had each other, they had a pristine universe, and they had God’s fellowship. But their pleasure had limits. They could enjoy the bounty of their perfect lives so long as they did not do one thing: eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So why weren’t they happy with what they had?

Enter the serpent.

That wily snake knew something Eve didn’t know. He knew that disobeying God in this single command would bring down the whole of humanity, even those not yet born. But that’s not what he told the woman. Oh, no! He said that eating the forbidden fruit would give her unbridled pleasure.  The serpent said that she would be just like God, implying that God was holding something back from her.

Debate abounds on whether or not Adam knew better and chose the approval of Eve over the approval of God. I tend to think that is so. He stood by and did nothing when she listened to the serpent, yet the Bible tells us in unequivocal terms that he was not deceived (1 Timothy 2:13).

Photo courtesy of Frank Fiores on Unsplash

Genesis 3:6 tells us the story: So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

Since he wasn’t deceived, we can’t blame the devil for Adam’s sin. Notice that it was HIS sin that brought humanity to its knees. And that’s where we need to stay, figuratively speaking, on our knees before our Great God.

Eve, on the other hand, thought the snake was telling her the truth. It sounded like it could be true. It certainly looked like it could be true. And she was sure it would taste as wonderful as it looked. That’s what gets us, every time we align our thoughts with the devil’s suggestions. We look for the bits of truth in his lies and ignore the flaming red flags trying to get our attention.

Photo courtesy of Daria Litvinova on Unsplash

Eve’s sin was the exact same sin as Adam’s. She willfully chose to disobey God. Her being deceived by Satan does NOT in any way mitigate her sin before God. She knew that He had said they were not to eat of the fruit from that tree, but she aligned her thoughts with the devil’s because she liked his outcome better than God’s.  Her Maker had said that in the day that they ate of that fruit, they would surely die (Genesis 2:17). Trying to make Eve less culpable because she wasn’t there when God told Adam not to eat of it is not an excuse. Either God told her or Adam did, because she told the snake. She knew the rules.

Adam and Eve both sinned equally by disobeying God. Even if Eve didn’t know why she shouldn’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she did know God had said not to. That should have been enough.

But the devil came in with a “mixed truth” statement. He told her that when she ate of the fruit, that “your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” That much is true. But he also said she would not die, and that was a blatant lie.

It’s good to remember that a partial truth is a total lie. Click To Tweet

Satan always holds out on the entire truth. He didn’t tell her that the good and evil she would know would condemn her, just as God had said it would.

So she aligned her thoughts with the serpent’s, and then she acted upon them. And things went downhill from there.

Eve was under the impression that embracing the serpent’s “version of the truth” would make her happy. It would give her complete fulfillment and ultimate pleasure. In this case, aligning her thoughts with the enemy’s was devastating, not only to her and her husband, but because all of their future children would bow down to Satan’s hand.

So, as to the question “Doesn’t God want me to be happy?”

The answer is a resounding yes! He wants you to be ridiculously happy and filled to overflowing in joy. But true, everlasting happiness doesn’t come through getting our own way. We need God’s way.

To wrap it up, let’s look at 2 more things.

First, Satan wants you to believe his lies so you will never be happy. He wants to destroy you body, soul, and mind.

Second, the Dictionary of Bible Themes defines happiness as “a state of pleasure or joy experienced both by people and by God.” He wants you to experience His happiness and joy and He has given you an eternity to enjoy it with Him.

Even if you have to drag them kicking and screaming into the light of God’s presence, submit your thoughts to the purifying Light and let it cleanse you, heal you, and make you happy. Only in His presence is there fulness of joy!

You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

52 Reasons Not to Fear

52 Reasons Not to Fear

We live in a terrifying world.

In fact, we live in a world gone so wrong that it would be easy to agree with the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland who said everyone in Wonderland was mad.

Things seem to be falling apart around us. From terrorist attacks like 9/11 to school shootings, life in America seems more dangerous by the day. Turn on any news channel, pick up a newspaper, or read a blog post and you’re sure to find madmen running amok.

My daughter and her family are moving today from a leased apartment because in the seven months they have lived there, they’ve

experienced shootings twice. The first time was a blazing gun battle in the parking lot outside her window. It was witnessed by two of her three children. The second was just last night. A drive-by shooting left TEN bullet holes in the apartment next to theirs. Had the shooter aimed at her apartment instead, their son would be dead today.

Their oldest daughter (she’ll be seventeen in about a month) was so traumatized by the first incident that she was afraid to go to school. Afraid to eat in the cafeteria, because so many kids congregate there that it would be the logical place for a bad person with a gun to start shooting. She kept to herself in the library.

 “But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here.

From a purely personal viewpoint, when your frame of reference involves school shootings and the city you live in has the dubious distinction to have a murder rate of 12.5 per 100,000, you can easily get paralyzed by fear. So while we have to be aware of the violence around us, it is the extraordinary person who can be relaxed inside.

Are you that one?

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Photo courtesy of Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash

I am. That’s because I have the assurance that nothing is going to happen to me that my God does not allow. And not even the bullet fired at me close range can take my life one second before God calls me home.

How did I gain such peace in the midst of turmoil? By hiding God’s word in my heart. In Psalm 119 the writer tells God he has hidden His word in his heart so that he wouldn’t sin against God. But there are other benefits to knowing Scripture.

One such benefit is relegating fear to hell where it belongs.

That’s why I wrote a devotional about how to speak to the devil when he fills your mind with fearful thoughts.

It’s a weekly devotional and contains 52 reasons why you do not have to be afraid even though life around you seems really dangerous. Since you’re reading this blog, it is reasonable to assume you live in a modern country with access to a Bible. If you don’t have one, contact me and I’ll be sure to get one in your hands.

Meanwhile, enjoy the free devotional download!

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