Forgiveness for abortion

According to the Catholic church, abortion is such an awful sin that it can result in a woman who gets one being excommunicated from the Church.

Pope Francis, widely being hailed as a pope who is far more inclusive and tolerant than former popes, has allowed priests to forgive women who have had abortions during the Roman Catholic Church’s upcoming Holy Year or “Jubilee” which runs from December 8, 2015 to November 26, 2016.

Pope to allow all priests to forgive abortion

Sounds like good news, right??

I have even better news… You don’t need the forgiveness of any of these priests or even the Pope.

Don’t get me wrong, I like this Pope. I respect him. But I have always questioned some of the teachings of the Catholic Church, especially when it comes to the whole concept of priests and the power they have. I don’t believe we have to ask for forgiveness for our sins from a priest. We don’t need the middle man, that is what Jesus is for. We confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, and no, we are not excommunicated in return–God forgives us when we approach him honestly and humbly. It is more important that we acknowledge that we have sinned against God first, and whatever person, if applicable, second. There are passages of Scripture related to church discipline of members who are willfully, openly sinning, but even then, that is to bring the person back into fellowship with God, THEN his people.

Once we have accepted Jesus there is nothing we can do to relinquish our saved status. If that were the case, most of us wouldn’t be saved for long, because we sin constantly. Can you imagine going to a priest every time you sinned? So basically you’d be sitting up under a priest for the vast majority of your day. Forget having a day job. When you think of the things that are considered sinful–even sinful thoughts–you’d be spending a ton of time with your priest.

Instead, you can take all of that to our Priest, Jesus, our Intercessor and Advocate.

I was also confused about the whole Jubilee year, because last I checked this was something given to the Jews. And the forgiveness of abortion, unless extended, is only for this particular year. Nah. You don’t have to wait until a special time of year to get forgiveness. As soon as you commit the sin, you can tell God about it and request his forgiveness right away.

As we can see in chapter twelve of Numbers soon Miriam and Aaron are going to have to request some forgiveness. For whatever reasons, after all this time, now they decide to grow jealous of Moses’s position. It is always easy for someone to think the grass is always greener when they don’t have to deal with what the person they idolize is dealing with. Recall in the previous post, Moses basically petitioned for God to let him die rather than continue dealing with the people. Miriam and Aaron apparently haven’t seen exactly how difficult and burdensome the job is that Moses had. And they did not appreciate their own jobs. Miriam played an integral role in the lives of the prophets, and Aaron, of course, was the High Priest. They should have just been happy with their own standing in God’s plan, but they weren’t. They became jealous and sinned. (Is it possible to become jealous and not sin? I don’t know. I can’t think of a time when I had a jealous thought that was not immediately followed by another negative thought).

They begin their assault by whispering back and forth about Moses’s Cushite (Ethiopian) wife. Recall that Moses had a wife named Zipporah. This Cushite wife was a different woman, because the Bible refers to Zipporah as being a Midianite. They ask what appears to me to be two preposterous questions:

“‘Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?’ they asked. ‘Hasn’t he also spoken through us?’ And the Lord heard this” (v. 2).

OF COURSE the Lord heard that. If God can hear our thoughts, it is only natural that he can hear our evil thoughts when verbalized. But let’s acknowledge these questions. It seems like it should have been obvious by that point that Moses had been appointed by God to be the head dude in charge. Everything that has happened has been because God has been using MOSES. Not Miriam, not Aaron, not anyone. God has spoken to Moses face-to-face, not Miriam, not Aaron. I wonder if their question was rhetorical or had their jealousy really clogged their minds that bad. God is not pleased. This is Moses’s brother and sister, and if anyone should have had his back, it should have been them. Why couldn’t they just be proud? The Bible says that “(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth)” (v. 3). If Miriam and Aaron had been thinking, perhaps they would realize that perhaps their lack of humility was why they were second-fiddle. And again, what is wrong with being second-fiddle? In the grand scheme of things, no matter what our role is in advancing the kingdom of God, we will be rewarded for it. There isn’t one role in building the Church that is more important than another in God’s eyes. God knows who he has equipped for which task, and he is happy as long as we do what he has equipped us to do. He had fully equipped Moses to lead the nation. He had equipped Miriam to be a prophetess, and he had allowed her to be a part of saving Moses’s life and bringing him back to his mother! He had equipped Aaron to be a priest and gave him a position of very high standing as well. There was no reason for these people to be discontented, but they were. So God has Moses, Aaron and Miriam come out to the tent of the meeting, where he comes down in a pillar of cloud, stood at the entrance to the tent and beckons Aaron and Miriam to come forward. (I wonder if they knew they were about to get it). I love what the Lord says, so I am going to post it:

“….he said, “‘Listen to my words: When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions. I speak to them in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?'” (vv. 6-8).

God is angry. He speaks his piece and leaves, but that is not the end of it. When the cloud lifts from the tent, it is discovered that Miriam’s skin has become white as snow with leprosy. Aaron’s had not–I assume because since he was the priest, he could not be expelled from the camp due to uncleanness. Interestingly enough, when Aaron sees that Miriam is leprous, he turns right to the brother they had just been talking about and addresses him as “my Lord” (v. 11). Aaron asks for Moses not to hold against them the sin they had just foolishly committed. Moses loves his sister. He cries out to the Lord for her to be healed.

However, the issue of her uncleanness must be dealt with. He asks Moses what her punishment would have been if her father had spat in her face. Spitting in one’s face was a major insult (and still is, in my opinion–I’d rather be punched with a closed fist than spit on)–Jesus was spit on by the religious leaders. Someone whose father spat on them would have been excluded from the camp for about a week (I am going to have to look this up, because why isn’t the offender (the one who does the spitting) punished for such disgusting behavior? Are we to assume that a daughter has to do something awful for the father to spit on her? I know as a girl, I was upset if my father even raised his voice to me. I can’t imagine doing anything so egregious that he would spit on me. But I also can’t see a father getting angry enough to spit on his daughter. I just don’t get it).

Either way it goes, Miriam is to be confined outside the camp for seven days, and then brought back in. And so it goes. After her period of exclusion is over, the people left Hazeroth and camped in the Desert of Paran.

Chapter thirteen involves a major failure on the part of the people of Israel, save two, Caleb and Joshua. This spills over into the next chapter. It is time to check out the new land and see what enemies are there. Knowing what I know about God, I tend to think this is just a test of the people’s faith, because once again, let’s recount what they have seen–The Plagues. The parting of the Red Sea. Manna and quail. They have seen countless demonstrations of God’s power and ability. There should have been no question as to whether or not they could rid the Promised Land of its current inhabitants, if only they had been thinking in terms of God instead of their own limited abilities.

The Lord instructs Moses to send some men to explore the land of Canaan, that he is giving them. One man is selected from each tribe. (Verse 16 tells us that Moses refers to Hoshea, son of Nun as Joshua, so there is no confusion). Moses instructs them as to how they are to go about their journey and what they should pay special attention to:

“…Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land. (It was the season for the first ripe grapes)” (vv. 17-20).

The explorers spend forty days exploring the land. When they came back, they bring a report to Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite community and show them the fruit. This is the account they gave:

“….We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there” (vv. 27-28).

(The Anaks were supposedly giants).

I wonder if the explorers had any conversation before they talked? Perhaps they shouldn’t have influenced the entire community with such a negative first report. Imagine how the community reacted when they heard this, particularly when they heard of the Anaks. People are influenced by their leaders. These twelve explorers were definitely in a role of considerable influence. Had they given a glowing report of the land, the people would have moved forth boldly. But that is not what the twelve explorers, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, do. Caleb “silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it” (v. 30).

He said certainly. Caleb had faith. He was certain that God would be the same protective God he had been the entire journey, and that God would help them be victorious in the new land. But the men of little faith continue to protest. Not only that, they take their protest to the people and frighten them. I’ll bet they even exaggerated a little: “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are”. (This comment here makes it clear–these men had absolutely no faith at all. It’s like they had completely forgotten who was on their side). It continues: “And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw were of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (vv. 31-33).

Need we run down the list of miracles the Israelites have seen again???????

Of course, after having listening to the frightening report given by the ten faithless explorers, the people begin to rebel in chapter fourteen. That night they cry and complain and moan about how they should have died in Egypt or in the wilderness. They concluded that God was trying to set them up to be cut down by their enemies in the Promised Land.  They even go so far as to discuss electing a new leader to lead them back to Egypt.

This amazes me. God has done everything these people have asked him to do. They asked for deliverance from slavery, he did that. Every need they have had, he has taken care of. And not because they have done anything to deserve it. Go back to Exodus and do some skimming–you can see for yourself that God has done marvelous things for Israel, and this is the thanks he gets. When the going appears tough–not when the going is tough, because the going for the Israelites would never have gotten tough if they had just trusted their Lord–they forget all about him.

It is something we often discuss in church–how it is easy to trust the Lord and give him praises when things are going well. Then when a test of faith comes up, people can fail miserably. It reminds me of a story I read a long time ago where a young lady had been raised Catholic but became an atheist, no longer believing in God, after her dad died. Even now, dealing with the loss of my own Dad, I do not understand how someone can claim to be Catholic and believe in God and go that far left when a tragedy hits. That is when you ought to pull closer to the Lord, because who else can comfort you? Who else can answer your questions? Who else can reunite you with the loved one, if they were a saved person? I question as to whether or not the young lady ever believed in the first place, or was she just accustomed to Catholic teachings because her parents dragged her to Mass. This young lady went so far as to protest prayer in her school and the presence of some religious symbols (such as the 10 Commandments). Then I remember being told that Catholics aren’t allowed to read the Bible. If the young lady had read the Bible she would know that the one who created her dad had every right to take him when he determined his time was over. The same goes for my own Dad. Who am I to get upset with God when he is the one who made my Dad? Yes, I am upset that he is GONE from this earth and I miss him terribly. Yes, I wonder why his life couldn’t have been extended, because I know that God has all power and could have healed my Dad’s failing heart and lungs. But I also know that just like Dad did not live to be 90, I might not live to be 90… None of us are guaranteed to live a long life.

That was an example of a young lady who failed God. God never fails us. God never breaks a promise, not back then with the Israelites and not now. And look at where this world is. It is in the same situation it was way back then. People like to believe God when it is convenient for them, and in ways that are convenient for them. Some of us will go to church, but get upset if the pastor really gets into his message and “runs late”, without even bothering to consider that perhaps God has told the pastor to keep preaching because he is reaching that unsaved person cowering in the back row. Some of us choose our churches based on their prominence or the hype around the preacher and will willfully accept a watered-down Gospel message. When everything is going our way, we’ll praise God all day. But as soon as something goes differently from what we had planned, we forget that God is in control and if our plans do not align with his, he is going to reign supreme, and ultimately it is all done for the good!

Moses and Aaron are absolutely distraught by what they are hearing. They fall facedown in front of the whole Israelite community. Our two heroes of the story, Joshua and Caleb, join them in their mourning by tearing their clothes. They reiterate their good report, saying that the land they explored is “exceedingly good”. They further beseech their brethren: “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them” (vv. 8-9).

Notice the sequence of a couple phrases here. First Caleb and Joshua tell the Israelites not to rebel against the Lord, then they tell them not to be afraid of the people. This is acknowledging that the Israelites first sin here is in relation their lack of faith. They have sinned against the Lord. Only after first reminding the people that their fear is a form of rebellion against the Lord, they tell them not to be afraid, because while they have God with them, victory is guaranteed. Caleb and Joshua are wise–they know that those nations in the Promised Land have no protection, because they do not have God. God is with them, and there is no need to be afraid.

So is the case today. The world may seem to be a very scary place. Sometimes it is easier to compromise our faith than stand firm. But those who do not believe in God, although they seem to abound and sometimes even prosper, ultimately will not see the victory we will see. There is no need for those in Christ to be afraid. We are already victorious.

But look at what the Israelites do after Caleb and Joshua’s impassioned plea: They discuss stoning them!!!! The two men had said nothing offensive, but it wasn’t what the people wanted to hear. Look at the example of bravery shown by these two young men here. Remember how big the Israelite community was. These two were standing before the entire Israelite assembly, boldly proclaiming their faith in God. We can aspire to be so confident in the Lord.

Of course God intercedes for the faithful few. The glory of the Lord appeared at the tent of meeting. (I wonder if the people knew what they were in store for? I wonder if they thought about the incident with the quail, or the fires that had consumed numerous brethren??). God addresses Moses: “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they” (vv.11-12).

So basically we see that God has had enough, and has resolved to wipe out the Israelites and build a new nation through Moses. Remember just a post ago when Moses was ready to be done with the Israelites himself? Now he is looking out for the reputation of his loving holy God instead of himself. He could have gone along with God, and been relieved to finally be done with such stiff-necked people. He could have thought in worldly standards about how cool it would be to have a nation built solely with him. But he didn’t. Instead, he reminded God how things would look to Israel’s enemies if they were destroyed: “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it.They have already heard that you, Lord, are with these people and that you, Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. If you put all these people to death, leaving none alive, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, ‘The Lord was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath, so he slaughtered them in the wilderness” (vv. 13-16).

Again, we see how much Moses has grown. Think about all that Moses has dealt with. What would you have done? The other thing I like about this exchange between Moses and God is how close of a friendship these two had. Look at the conversations between the two of them. God speaks to Moses face to face, and look how Moses talks God down from his anger. What a blessing to have that kind of connection to God! Now, Moses understands that the people should be punished. He says that God should display his strength, but he also reminds God that he is “slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion” (v. 18). Yet God also has a just obligation to punish those who sin against him, even punishing the children for the sins of their parents, down through three and four generations. Moses asks for the Lord to forgive the people, as he has done all throughout their journey.

God responds that he has forgiven the people, but the punishment, although seemingly harsh, makes sense: “Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times–not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it” (vv. 21-24).

There it is. The Lord continues speaking with Moses and Aaron, again wondering how long the wicked community of Israelites will continue to grumble against him. He reminds the men that he has heard every single complaint. Now the Lord tells Moses and Aaron to relay a message to the Israelites: Since they have grumbled so hard about dying in the wilderness, God is going to allow the very thing they have been complaining about to happen. Everyone who is twenty years of age or older at the time of the census will die in the wilderness–they will not enter the Promised Land. The exceptions, of course, are Caleb and Joshua. The Israelites had complained earlier that the feared inhabitants of the Promised Land would take their children as plunder, but now God tells them that those same children they were so concerned about would be brought into the Land, but not before being shepherds in the wilderness for forty years–one year for each day that the explorers were in the Land. God says that their kids will “suffer for their unfaithfulness” (v. 33).

There is a lot I can infer from this entire situation. I can’t help but think about how the Israelite’s journey mirrors the Christian journey. Before we accept Jesus we live as slaves to the bondage that comes along with a sinful, unsaved life. When we accept Jesus, sometimes as spiritual babes we mess up and think that maybe things were easier before. Just like the Israelites, we get accustomed to living in the world. We get so tied up in it that we can’t even see a way out. That is because our faith is new, and we’re still trying to lean on our own strength instead of relying on the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

Maybe we get discouraged because those old vices and temptations don’t go away as soon as we accept our Lord and Savior. We get impatient. In church and in Moody classes we often talk about our society being an “instant” society, where people expect results and gratification right now. Sometimes as spiritual babes we fail to acknowledge that our will does not always align with the will of God, and we get upset when things don’t go our way. We’ve all known backsliding Christians who dip back into their former ways, if only for a short while, in a moment of spiritual weakness. I’ve done it too. Our faith in God is supposed to mature as we deepen our relationship with the Lord through prayer and reading his Word. We see that the Israelites have been so programmed by their time in Egypt that they are blinded the power and goodness of God.

I also think about how children today are suffering due to the unfaithfulness of their parents. Look at how many parents are not even bothering to teach their children about God. So many “modern” parents think their children should determine whatever religion works for them. I’m confused as to how children are expected to process such complex information without the guidance of their parents. I’m also confused because Christianity is not just a religion, it is a lifestyle, and its major doctrine is that of salvation. Why do I teach my kids my beliefs? Not only because I want them to be good, loving people, and because I know that Jesus is love. Nope. The main reason is because I believe that those of us who accepted Jesus will have eternal life, and when I get to heaven I want to see Jayden and Layla there.

Where has this gotten us, where parents want to be friends with their kids instead of their guide? Where parents are afraid to discipline their kids and tell them “no”? It seems like everyday now we are hearing a story of some young person who has committed a heinous crime that, in days of old, no one would expect for a child to have the capacity to commit. This one comes to mind for me–Girls in Slenderman killing to be tried as adults. What would compel thirteen-year-old girls to offer one of their friends as a ritual sacrifice to a fictional online character named Slenderman??? Now, I am not pretending to know the parents or to know how they raised these girls. I am just using this case as an example. These parents could very well have taken these girls to church and tried to raise them right. Sometimes kids just go astray. There are plenty of other examples I could post of young kids gone amok, and I guess I just wonder that if our society as a whole did what schools did back in the seventies and before then–with prayer in schools, allowing kids to focus on God for a few minutes as a community with their peers, undeniably building relationships with each other and God–and educated our children morally as well as academically, how much we could cut down on that kind of stuff.

The ten men who explored the land and came back with the negative report were struck down and died of a plague before the Lord. Joshua and Caleb, of course, survive. I imagine the Israelites felt pretty dumb after seeing those men struck down. Finally they acknowledge they have sinned (although it shouldn’t have taken all of that for them to realize they were wrong, right??). Upon finding out that the ten have perished, they mourn the dead. In the morning they have a new attitude, setting out for the highest point in the hill country. Now they are ready to go up into the land, but it is too little, too late, as Moses says: “Why are you disobeying the Lord’s command? This will not succeed! Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies, for the Amalekites and the Canaanites will face you there. Because you have turned away from the Lord, he will not be with you and you will fall by the sword” (vv. 41-43).

I don’t know about you, but to me this seems to be a pretty clear warning, and Moses appears to be a pretty reputable guy, don’t you think? Apparently the Israelites thought they could prove themselves?? I have question marks there because I don’t understand their next actions: “Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the highest point in the hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord’s covenant moved from the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah” (vv. 44-45).

So apparently their admission of guilt was all lip action because they wasted no time disobeying God yet again, and paid a humiliating and much-deserved price. In my curiosity, I wonder whose idea it was to do this, and how humiliated he must have been to have led the community right into a ridiculous defeat. This also shows me that the people still do not understand God–not only had they disobeyed him, they hadn’t bothered to realize that the reason for their privileged status was because of God’s presence. When they moved without the presence of God, they failed.

That mirrors our lives today. We have to invite God to be a part of every aspect of our lives, lest we fail. One of my favorite billboard sayings is this one below:

Involve God in EVERYTHING, especially our marriages and families. If God is not a part of our family life–and our family life is usually what defines us, other than our relationship with the Lord–it is destined to be a hard road. I slack sometimes, but I am trying to get better at consulting with God about everything–what preschool to send my daughter to? Is this job good for me? What should I do about my health? Everything. Nothing is too big or too small for God.

If we as Christians make a conscious decision to continue on in a sinful lifestyle or pattern, we are quenching the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19).  If we continue for so long, the Holy Spirit will get quieter and quieter until we can’t even hear Him anymore. He’ll leave us to our own devices and let us wander in our wilderness until hopefully we turn back to the Lord.

The plot thickens. Now that God has meted out his punishment for Israel’s disobedience and lack of faith, the wilderness wandering begins. That’s where we will be next.

me and dad

Always missing you Dad. Thanks for everything. You deserve your rest.

Stevie Smith, 8/29/1956-8/11/2015

Ignorance astounds me.

There is far too much information available for someone to sit on television and make so many dumb comments. I have never been a fan of Elisabeth Hasselbeck but there are a couple of things she has said in the last few months that have really infuriated me. First, she suggested, out of nowhere, that perhaps Sandra Bland could have flicked her lit cigarette at the officer who had pulled her over, Trooper Brian Encinia, which in her mind would have made everything that happened from then on completely justifiable. This considering the fact that in his own statements and report Encinia said NOTHING of the sort. Hasselbeck just decided to pull that supposition out of her behind, which is apparently from which she pulls a lot of her information.

Unfortunately supported by some self-hating Black dude named Kevin Jackson (I hope he is getting paid very well for what he is doing to himself), Elisabeth Hasselbeck questioned why the Black Lives Matter movement hasn’t been labeled a hate group.

Probably because it’s not???

Has she not noticed that this same group has called attention to the deaths that had not had much publicity of several non-Black victims of police violence?

While we are getting gunned down by the police that are supposed to protect and serve the citizenry, are we supposed to just roll over and fuggidabout it?

I do not condone any random acts of violence against ANYONE. At all. Someone guns down a cop, I am not for it. A cop kills a citizen (unless the force was necessary, and in a lot of the instances we have seen recently, it has NOT been), I am not for it. A Black person kills another Black person, I am disturbed. A White person kills a White person, I am disturbed. And on, and on, and on.

Black people have work to do in our communities. We definitely have issues related to poverty, first and foremost, that need solutions. I don’t believe government intervention is the way. We do need to get back to the spirit of the days of old, when our ancestors assembled peacefully and got things done. We are too separate. There is no unity. We were stronger when we stood together, raised our children together, pooled our resources together, and worshiped together and supported one another.

But our problems do not mean that it is okay for police to kill us, then have the media trash us AFTER that happens. Yet Hasselbeck, in her super-privileged wealthy White woman status, has no idea what her race and socioeconomic status shields her from, and unfortunately for her, she chooses not to educate herself. I am disgusted that she calls herself a Christian. Here’s to you, Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

This needed its own post.

Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders fame says some rape victims have to take responsibility

According to Hynde, rape victims who dress provocatively or are drunk have to take some responsibility for what happened to them.

I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with that one.

Hynde is obviously uneducated when it comes to rape. Like a lot of people, she apparently thinks rape is more about sex than it is about control, violence and humiliation.

It is absurd coming from a woman who says that at age 21 she accepted a ride from a man in a biker gang who said he was going to take her to a party but instead took her to an abandoned house where she was forced to perform sexual acts on multiple members of his bike gang.

Here are direct quotes from Hynde, and I promise I didn’t make this slop up. It’s in the article:

“If I’m walking around in my underwear and I’m drunk? Who else’s fault can it be?” she asked, calling it “common sense.”

“If you don’t want to entice a rapist, don’t wear high heels so you can’t run from him.”

WHAT? WHAT? WHAT????

How about trying to figure out what is wrong with a man who is so enticed by high heels that he forgets he is expected to CONTROL himself, not another human being? How about educating men to keep themselves in check? I cannot believe we have an actual alleged rape survivor who is victim-blaming herself instead of holding the perpetrators accountable for their own actions.

I don’t know what Chrissie Hynde is on but she needs to get professional help. Sooner than later. Do I think it was a good idea for me to get drunk February 16, 2003? No. But did that give S.L. the right to rape me?? NO! In that situation, there is only ONE bad guy and it is HIM, not ME, and not ANY victim!

Thanks for setting back the developments made in the fight against rape about thirty years, Chrissie Hynde.

Golden Time of Day

I have a few precious moments of free time, so what better way to spend it than in the Word?

It has been a relatively…regular…day… I’ll venture to say. It still feels irregular because one of our key players (Dad) is not here, but we have been trying to go on with our lives. I can only imagine how much more difficult this task is for my mother, who has been deluged with paperwork required by every company on the earth to take care of the business that unfortunately comes along with the death of a spouse. Paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork. She has had to arrange for the pickup or mailing of multiple medical equipment items that my Dad had been using. The difficult process of making arrangements does not end when the funeral is over. But my mom has been the epitome of superwoman strength. We’re talking over forty years of constant companionship, a love story that began in second grade.

Mom and Dad wedding Aunt Anna Aunt Rita Teneisha and Eboni
Chapter eight in the book of Numbers begins with a discussion of the lamps. The Lord speaks to Moses and commands him to give Aaron instructions as to how to set up the lampstands: “When you set up the lamps, see that all seven light up the area in front of the lampstand” (v. 2). Then the chapter moves apart to the sanctification, or setting apart, of the Levites, the priestly tribe. This process requires that they be made ceremonially clean by sprinkling the water of cleansing upon them, having them shave their entire body and wash their clothes. Offerings are in order as well. Before the entire Israelite community, the Levites are to stand in front of the tent of meeting, and the entire Israelite community is to lay hands on them. Aaron is to present the Levites as a wave offering to the Lord, thus setting them aside for service to God. The Levites then lay their hands on the heads of the bulls that will be offered up, symbolic of the transference of sin.
Once the purification and sanctification ritual has been completed, the Levites are considered ready to go do their work in the tent of meeting. God then reminds the Israelites of the position of the Levites:

“They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. And I have taken the Levites in place of all firstborn sons in Israel. From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary” (vv. 16-19).

What is interesting to me is that ALL of the Israelites were supposed to be set aside for God. Didn’t he initially intend for the entire nation to be the priests to the world? Well, that is over and done with, which is made obvious by Israel’s consistent failure to commit to their loving God, but guess what—those of us who claim to be Christians have, like Nazirites, voluntarily committed ourselves to a life of dedication to the Lord. However, it is God who sanctifies us. When we accept Jesus as our personal Savior, God does the sanctification work of making us holy and acceptable to Him. We can’t do it on our own. This whole Christian journey is not to be taken lightly. It is more than just a title, like I discussed yesterday.

Moses, Aaron and the entire Israelite community do as told, and the Levites begin their work in the tent of meeting under the supervision of Moses and his sons. God then informs Moses that Levites are to serve in the tent of meeting beginning at 25 years of age until they turn 50. After they achieve fifty years, they get to retire, although they can still assist their brothers in performing their duties.

My goodness. Can you even imagine—go with me for a minute—if, in our society, you were guaranteed a good job for twenty-five years, and made to at the tender age of 50? It makes sense, because moving the tabernacle and performing all of the associated tasks requires the strength and energy that usually comes along with younger age. However, me and my modern mindset couldn’t help but think how wonderful it would be to have gotten into a great job at the age of 25 and be able to retire at 50.

So let me go off on a tangent here, because I have a problem with work here in America. Yes, everyone who can work should, but there is no reason people should be working their lives away. Something I read a while ago resonated with me. AARP published an article where people who were at the end of their lives discussed their top five regrets. EVERY SINGLE WORKING ADULT should read this, and re-arrange their priorities accordingly.

Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

One of the regrets listed, particularly by male respondents, is that they worked as much as they did. Of course we have the understanding that in most families, one or both parents has to work to keep the family economically afloat. That to me is pretty unfortunate. As I have said before, I think society was a lot better off when a parent (as we know it was usually the mother) was able to stay at home with the children (although I definitely support moms who can readily admit it is not for them). I just think that when two people have kids they have to make the best decision for the kids, and sometimes that might mean a smaller house or an older car to cut down on monthly bills so maybe Mom (or Dad) can stay home, or at least spend less time working. The following is a link that discusses how the U.S. is overworked (and yet companies treat their employees like garbage, SMH)…

The U.S. is the Most Overworked Developed Nation in the World–Where Do We Draw the Line?

It is just not right to me. Our kids are getting the brunt of it. My best memories of my childhood were the times when my family was altogether, for vacations or just Friday night dinner (we ate out on Friday evenings). And now, my best times with my husband and kids are when we are altogether. Doesn’t matter what we are doing. Of course they get on my nerves sometimes (I told you I will not be one of those people who pretends that family life is always rosy–sometimes I get irritated) but I would not trade my time with them for anything in the world. Even something as redundant as grocery shopping can be an adventure :-)

Before I get too far into it, and I definitely can because I hate seeing how American people are getting screwed, let’s get into chapter nine. Here is an exciting event–the celebration of the second Passover, to be celebrated at the appointed time–on the fourteenth day of the month, commemorating when the Israelites had been delivered from Egypt.

Of course this celebration does not come without a little drama. Some of the Israelites had come in contact with a dead body, and thus were ceremonially unclean and unable to participate in the Passover, which they had all been commanded to do. They come to Moses and Aaron with their dilemma. I like what Moses says: “Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you” (v. 8). It is so obvious that Moses had done a ton of growing throughout this entire process. He doesn’t jump to a rash judgment. He knows this a matter of the Lord, and he depends on the Lord for an answer. I have learned that my entire LIFE is a matter of the Lord, and I can and have to do depend on him for answers. Even things that might seem insignificant or embarrassing ought to be discussed with our God.

The answer is given–any Israelite is still to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, even if they have become unclean because of a dead body, but they are to do it the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are still to eat the lamb, unleavened bread and bitter herbs, but must not leave any of it til morning or break any of its bones. A warning is given that everyone, foreigner or not, is to celebrate the Passover, and the Israelite who fails to do so will be cut off from his people.

I like the principle that foreigners were expected to be included in the Passover. It kind of reminds me of how we as Christians ought to live our lives. I do not believe in pushing my beliefs off on people, although I will discuss them with anyone whenever the opportunity prevents (meaning I do not believe that Christians should wage wars or persecute non-believers. Not saying that we should be quiet, meek or timid when it comes to discussing Jesus). However, when someone comes into my house, they know right away that as for me and my house, we serve the Lord (paraphrased from Joshua 24:15). There is no smoking or alcohol in my home, no fighting or strife. When we have people into our house, whether or not they do it at home, they join us to pray before we eat. The hope is that for those who haven’t made prayer and thanksgiving a practice, that perhaps they follow the example we set there. I keep hearing about parents who for whatever reason allow their teenagers to have their significant other spend the night–HOW ABOUT NEVER. (My adult children too, for that matter, if they are still living with me when they are grown. Don’t even ask unless it is an emergency, and if they stay in my house, they are sleeping on a different floor or in a separate wing or something).

During the last part of this chapter God discusses how the Israelites are guided during their journey to the Promised Land. We are reminded that a cloud had settled over the tent of the covenant law of the tabernacle the day it was set up. From night until the morning, the cloud appeared like fire, and this is how it shall be–a cloud during the day and fire at night. Whenever the cloud lifts, this means that the Israelites were to do some walking; when the cloud settled, that told the Israelites to camp out. At the end of the chapter we find that the Israelites are obedient to this command.

In chapter ten a situation begins to unfold. The Israelites are getting close to where they can make their first approach to the Promised Land. All of the preparation has been leading up to this. God instructs Moses to make two trumpets of hammered silver, which are to be used to call the entire community together and for having the camps set out. When both trumpets sound, that means the entire nation is to meet at the entrance to the tent of meeting. If only one is sounded, only the leaders are to assemble before Moses. When the trumpets sound and the camp is to move, the tribes of the east set out first (Judah, Issachar and Zebulun); at the second blast, the camps on the south set out (Reuben, Simeon and Gad).  The blasts that indicate when the camp is to set out is to differ from the blows that indicate when the community is to assemble. Aaron and his sons are charged with blowing the trumpets, and this is a lasting ordinance. No one else is to blow the trumpets. When they go into battle against an oppressive enemy, they are to sound a blast on the trumpets. They are also to use the trumpets at their times of rejoicing–their appointed festivals and New Moon feasts. Here we see the many uses of the trumpet–to call people to assemble; to signify war or victory; and to tell people when the move. It is safe to say that all three of these uses are symbolic of what will happen when Jesus returns: In Matthew 24:31, there is a passage of Scripture that talks about trumpets sounding when Jesus gets back:

“And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other”.

Looks like that trumpet call will fulfill all three of those criteria. Imagine that day. Those of us who are believers will hear the trumpet, know that our God has come, and thus we will assemble and move–we will be caught up in the air (raptured). Victory already is the Lord’s, but imagine that day–can you imagine what the unbelievers will do? How loving of our God to take us out of this world before the Tribulation begins, but look at how loving he is–the Tribulation is still a time where people can come to Jesus, and many will, according to the Bible. (I won’t get too far of myself, but the Revelation is a fascinating, albeit difficult, read).

The journey continues. It is the second month of the second year after their delivery from Egpyt, and the cloud lifts, instructing the people to move. The camp moves until the cloud settles, and there they camp out. This occurs in the Desert of Paran, which was located around the area of Midian. The next several passages of Scripture describe the order in which the tribes set out.

Now Moses makes a request of his brother-in-law Hobab. He asks Hobab to come with them as they go to the Promised Land. At first Hobab declines, saying he is going to go back to his own land and his own people, but Moses manages to convince him, saying that since he is a Midianite and familiar with the land, he can be an asset to the Israelites. In return for his eyes, they will treat him well and share with him all the goodness God bestows upon them. They set out and travel for three days. At the end of chapter ten we see the verbal commands Moses gave to the people whenever the ark of the covenant sets out before the people to find them a place of rest:

“Rise up, Lord! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you” (v. 35).

Whenever the ark came to rest, Moses said:

“Return, Lord, the countless thousands of Israel” (v. 36).

Now we have reached chapter eleven. Here we see yet another instance of discontent and grumbling among the Israelites. They waste no time in verse 1, and also in the same verse, God wastes no time getting angry:

“Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp”.

Wow. God has done amazing things for these people, yet they are never satisfied. Again I dare to say that we get like that sometimes today. I am guilty, although not as often as I used to be. You know what helps me when a situation looks bleak? A list. Even in the midst of my Dad’s death, it has helped me gather my thoughts. I can write down what is negative about a situation and what is positive. In every instance I have ever encountered, the positive side is longer than the negative, and then I have to apologize to God for my negativity or ungratefulness and ask his forgiveness. What is positive about my Dad’s death?? Number one, the fact that because of my Jesus I’ll see him again. Number two, I had 33 wonderful years of a very active and present father. A lot of people don’t get that.

Let me move on :-)

Of course, probably before they even acknowledged what had brought on the fire anyway, the people cry out to Moses, and he prays to the Lord. God answers Moses’s prayer by allowing the fire to dwindle. The place is then called Taberah, “because fire from the Lord burned among them” (v. 3).

Some people think there is no harm to complaining, but complaining actually shows that you do not appreciate what God has given you and/or you don’t have faith that he will come through for you. Complaining often reflects some worldliness that has set in. A lot of times we complain when we notice we don’t have something that someone else does. We are to be like Paul and be content. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having dreams or goals. I still want a house with a big backyard for my kids and a garage for my husband’s cars. But for now, I am perfectly content with what we just bought, and I take care of it. Sometimes God wants to see whether or not we will be responsible with the little bit that he has given us before he blesses us with a lot. Complaining shows that perhaps we are not ready to receive what he has to offer.

Verse four includes an interesting term: rabble. Apparently, the word refers to a group of people, not native to Israel, who had followed them out of Egypt. Interesting that they are the ones to complain about the food and cause the Israelites to start wailing about having meat to eat–remember that the Israelites were supposed to be setting an example for others to follow, not the other way around? No sooner had the rabble started craving food other than what was being provided, the Israelites followed suit. I find their complaint to be absolutely appalling, considering the food they ate in Egypt was given to them while they were being enslaved:

“If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (vv. 4-6).

A short description of this unappetizing manna follows: “The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin” (v. 7). Even as much as I like to eat, I tend to think that what nothing the Egyptians could have been as good as what God provided. I think I’d stick with God’s provision. Let’s think–if I had the choice between the food grown down here by man, with all the chemicals, preservatives and other toxins and poisons in it and God’s manna, I’m sure I’d go with the manna.

The process for preparing the manna is then described. The people would gather up the manna, grind or crush it, cook it in a pot or make it into loaves. It tasted like it had been made with olive oil. Every night, manna would come down, in time for the Israelites to have a manna breakfast.

(From http://www.holyobserver.com)

Moses overhears the people wailing, and is troubled. The Lord is angry. And I am confused. How long had passed since the people had the Taberah incident???? And they are complaining AGAIN??? Are they gluttons for punishment, or should I say, fiery deaths? Moses is frustrated, and understandably so. He asks the Lord why he has been burdened with the Israelites. His appeal shows that despite his growth, he is still human:

“Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where can I get meat for these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me–if I have found favor in your eyes–and do not let me face my own ruin” (vv.11-15).

I took several things away from this passage. In my own grief, I have had some questions, and there have been some people who have insinuated that we are not supposed to question God. I don’t agree. I can look to this passage, and the entire book written by the minor prophet Habakkuk, as well as other examples in the Bible to find people who have asked “why”? I keep in mind that my understanding of the world and God’s ultimate plan is extremely limited in the major scheme of things, and I know some things I will not understand until I see Jesus for myself. However, I do not see how it is disrespectful to petition God. Doesn’t he want our honesty? Aren’t we to go to him when we are frustrated and seek answers? I mean, who else am I going to ask about my Dad’s death except the one who created him, and the one who took him home?

I also noticed that as irritated as Moses is, he does at least ask where he is supposed to get the meat for the people. So either he actually did care about the Israelites, or he just wanted to shut them up, or a combination of both.

Finally, I couldn’t help but consider the job of a pastor, and the job of each and every Christian. A pastor is supposed to be responsible for the spiritual needs for a large, and usually diverse group of people, all living at different levels of spiritual maturity (or immaturity). I can only imagine how often they think their responsibility is too heavy to bear. Oftentimes our spiritual journey can be difficult, because we get into situations that may seem hard. I’m talking everyday situations. Of course as I grow in the Lord it gets easier to deal with difficult people, but that doesn’t mean that sometimes when someone yells at me I don’t want to say something back. I have to remind myself who I represent. Sometimes as Christians we have to bear the brunt of worldly people’s bad behavior.

The Lord hears Moses’s plea and offers him some help. He tells Moses to bring seventy of the nation’s elders to him at the tent of meeting. He will come down and speak to Moses there, and take some of the power of the Spirit that resides on Moses and transfer it to them so that they would be able to help him bear the burden. There are some that debate whether or not Moses should have asked for help. I tend to think that since God so readily agreed to it, that perhaps it was okay, but some people think that Moses had a lack-of-faith moment and didn’t seem to realize that God could provide all the help he needed. Keep in mind that Moses was probably pretty old by this point, and it kind of makes sense that he would have assistance. I think that allowing the elders to help was a part of God’s provision for Moses.

The Lord then tells the people that they are to consecrate themselves; they will have meat to eat tomorrow. I am sure God’s feelings were hurt–he informs the people that he has heard their cries and complaints. In response to their ungratefulness, they will not only have one day of meat, they will have a whole month of nothing but meat (absence does make the heart grow fonder, does it not??), “until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it” (v. 20). The Lord tells them by their complaint they have rejected the Lord.

Now, I was with Moses until his next statement, where he basically questions God’s ability to provide enough meat for a month for millions of people:

“Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?” (vv. 21-22).

Sigh. You’d think by now Moses knew better. However, I did find a bit of comedy in God’s response:

“Is the Lord’s arms too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you!” (v. 23).

I just know God had to be too fit to be tied. The plagues. Deliverance. The Red Sea. The guidance of the cloud and the fire. And these people still doubted him.

Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said involving the seventy elders. An interesting exchange occurs here. Some of the Spirit that was on Moses is taken and transferred to the elders. When that happens, they prophesied, but only at that time. Then, two men who apparently were elders but hadn’t been chosen to be a part of the seventy, Eldad and Medad, had the Spirit rest on them as well. Why? Only reason that makes sense is because God had chosen them. Maybe there was something about them that God recognized that Moses had not. The elders had to be people that were known as leaders and officials among the people. Maybe two of the seventy that Moses had chosen had characteristics that would make them harder to work through, and maybe God saw a bit more flexibility in Medad and Eldad. Whatever the case, the two men begin to prophesy as well, and Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ longtime aide and next leader of Israel, tells Moses to stop them.

Moses knows better. He knows that God can use whomever he wants. I like his response: “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (v. 29). I love that Moses is not afraid to share the spotlight. Imagine if you were at church today, and you were one of the choir’s main soloists, and had a particular song that you claimed as your own. Imagine if you showed up one Sunday and someone else was singing your song. Would you be jealous, or would you be happy that someone else has the capacity to minister through song? There is no place for jealousy in church.

Now Moses gets to see where doubting the Lord will get him. God allows a strong wind to come out from him and drive quail from the sea. The Bible says

“It scattered them up to two cubits deep all around the camp, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. Then they spread them out all around the camp. But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people who had craved other food” (vv.31-34).

Just for references: A cubit is roughly the measure from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger, and a homer is a measure of volume, the equivalent of about 220 liters.

Why do you think the Lord allowed the people to start eating, then struck them with a plague? I’ll bet it’s because they didn’t even have the decency to thank the Lord and apologize for their initial ungratefulness. I’ll bet they forgot that fast that another prayer had been answered, although it had not been because of anything they had done, but because of Moses’s intercession, and that they had just witnessed a miracle… I’ve never heard of a strong wind driving quail in such a manner.

Either way, God’s anger against them was justified.

The chapter ends with the group moving from Kibroth Hattaavah to Hazeroth.

The plot will continue to thicken, but now it is time for me to do what I discussed above… have a little time with my peeps :-)

Daddy and minis with Benz Daddy helping Layla fix her pizza Jayden and his pizza Matt, Jayden and Layla fixing pizzas

We had homemade pizzas for dinner :-)

I took the title of today’s post from one of my favorite songs by Maze featuring Frankie Beverly. Enjoy.

This is when times get difficult. Yet I still rejoice.

These past few days have brought some victories and a lot of crying.

When something good happens to me the first person I always wanted to tell was Dad. There was nothing like the look of pride on his face when he found out I was graduating, had gotten a new job, or become a Sunday school teacher. A few days ago, my husband and I became the proud owners of our first home. It was a major milestone for us both. As I have mentioned, the house is not entirely big, but it is perfect for my family now and our current situation. We have been blessed with continued growth financially and, as a result, our opportunity to provide our kids with a stable home life.

It was a bittersweet moment after we signed the 2,000,000 pages of paperwork we had to sign, because I so wanted to go and tell my Dad. On top of that, I had a job interview that went pretty well. I never got to show him the pictures of me at the Traverse City Film Festival, where I joined the very knowledgeable associates of the Bode & Fierberg law firm as a part of a panel to discuss the movie The Hunting Ground, which was about something personal to me–sexual assault on college campuses (this movie is a must-see for ALL young adults and their parents). I am thankful that my affiliation with RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) enabled me the opportunity to participate in the speaker’s panel and am looking for more ways to involve myself in the fight against sexual abuse. A link for the movie is here:

The Hunting Ground

Pictures of me at the event, along with the associates from Bode & Fierberg (Bode & Fierberg, LLC)

On stage at the TCFF

Speaking at the TCFF

(I’m the Black one :-))

I would encourage everyone to visit the website for Bode & Fierberg and see what these dedicated, extremely knowledgeable fight against. Their work is definitely admirable and unfortunately, very necessary. I saw some reviews of the movie and was upset. Some people took umbrage to the fact that a popular athlete was discussed, as though athletes are above unsavory behavior (I think we all know that is not the case). Others thought it was feminist propaganda. I wonder if they would listen to me tell my story and make the same comment.

Doubt it. No one can deny what happened to me. My story was the same as those girls in that movie. I was raped, went to the campus officials fully expecting help, didn’t get it. But on the positive note, and yes there is one, I am now in a unique position to help those many women AND men who become victims of sexual violence.

But I digress. Back to the last few days.

To top things off, yesterday would have been Dad’s 59th birthday. We had been planning this huge party for him–we were telling people that he had had such a rough summer, we wanted to make sure his birthday celebration would be EPIC. Instead we went to his grave site at the cemetery, released some balloons for him, and watched them disappear into the clouds.

Happy Birthday Balloons for Dad

In the future, I fully plan to spend August 29th differently. It is still a day to be celebrated. It is the day Stevie Smith came to be, and had August 29th 1956 not occurred, there would have been no marriage to Brenda Weatherspoon and no Stephanie Smith. It is still way too raw now to look upon the harsh reality of having an August 29th go by without him being here, but in the future, we will make August 29th a day of celebration, remembrance, and praises to God.

Speaking of God…

Last I checked, we were at chapter six in Numbers. Here God talks about the Nazirites. Nazirites were not a separate tribe or even a clan or family within one of the twelve tribes; they were individuals who voluntarily gave themselves over for a life of servitude to God. Men or women could take this vow. There were, of course, requirements of these people: They had to abstain from wine and other fermented drinks; vinegar made from wine or other fermented drinks; and grape juice, grapes and raisins. Interestingly, God says that “As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins” (v. 4). Doesn’t that first part of the verse seem to indicate that Nazirites didn’t have to remain Nazirites?? We shall see. And although it made sense that anyone who has dedicated himself or herself to God should stay away from alcohol, I wondered what was the harm in grapes or raisins. The only conclusion I could think of is the fact that grapes are used to make alcoholic beverages. (Shrugs–I need to do more research here. I know it is not that big a deal, but I STAY curious).

Here is another sentence that indicates that the Nazirite vow was for a specific period of time: In verse 5 the Lord says “During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over, they must let their hair grow long”. Yours truly also wondered why it was important that the Nazirites kept their hair long. Is it so people could identify them? Was it simply a sign of the times, where long hair and beards were looked upon favorably? Or is it because the cutting of hair and shaving of a beard often indicated mourning, and those fully dedicated to the Lord are to be joyous? I will definitely add this to my ever-growing list of things to research. Just out of curiosity more than anything.

Also indicative of the Nazirite vow having a beginning and an end: “Throughout the period of their dedication to the Lord, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body” (v. 6). Even if the deceased was a parent, the Nazirite had to remain set apart and prepared for service to the Lord at all times. They would be unable to be purely dedicated to the Lord if they were unclean. And God does not make exceptions. He has already established his Law: Contact with a dead body made someone ceremonially unclean. He cannot and does not go back on his word. Even though the Nazirite had made a vow to God did not make them exempt from following all of his laws.

In verse 9 we see that there is only one occasion when it is acceptable for a Nazirite to shave their head: If someone were to die suddenly in their presence. God says of their hair that it “symbolizes their dedication” and says that in this situation, the Nazirite is to shave his or her head on the seventh day to cleanse himself or herself, and on the eighth day sacrifices are in order. This is a prime example of unintentional sin. It shows that technically, a Nazirite in this situation did not violate the regulation… maybe someone keeled over in front of them, having showed no signs of illness or distress, and the Nazirite is stuck in this situation. But notice that God still calls it a sin in verse 11.

Here is definitive, final proof that the Nazirite vow could be temporary: “Now this is the law of the Nazirite when the period of their dedication is over” (v. 13). They have to present offerings to the Lord. After the offerings have been presented, the Nazirite then shaves his or her hair off, the symbol of their dedication. Once they have offed the hair, they put it in the fire that is under the fellowship offering.That their hair is referred to as “symbolizing their dedication” (v. 19) leads me to  believe that the long, uncut hair serves more as a marker or identifier than any of the other explanations, but I am still going to look it up.

Later on in the Bible we encounter several notable Nazirites. I’ll mention Samson, because his story is one of my favorites. My son likes when I refer to him as Samson because of his long hair. Now, although Nazirite vows in the Scriptures above appeared to have start and end dates, parents could dedicate their children to the Lord in this manner and make them a Nazirite for life, as what happened with Samson. What I am not sure about is whether or not the child who has been dedicated to service as a youngin was able to change his mind when he or she got older. Not saying it’s a good idea, but just wondering.

Anyway, after the hair has been cut and roasted, and the offerings have been given, the Nazirite is allowed to drink wine.

So within Israel, we have the Levites, the tribe that God selected to be the priestly tribe, and the Nazirites, men and women from various tribes who willingly gave themselves over to the Lord. Not saying that the Levites shouldn’t have had a whole-hearted commitment to service, but I often wonder, particularly because I know of what happens in the later books of the Bible, particularly those of the major and minor prophets, that the priests got to where they felt as though their work was tedious and burdensome. I just wonder if people had been given the opportunity to volunteer for priestly service, would it have turned out better?

I doubt it.

We know that our God is a God of order. We know that the Israelites were a stiff-necked people who had not yet learned to shed the attitudes they had picked up as slaves in Egypt. Can you imagine Moses trying to pick out volunteers for priestly service from that many people??? Would there have been some who would have accepted just for the possibility of having their basic needs provided by the offerings provided by the people? Would some people have been like people today, interested only in the status?

People today get so wrapped up in titles. Bishop so-and-so. “Apostle” so-and-so. “Prophet” such-and-such. “Prophetess” yada-yada. (Notice that some are in quotations–that is because there are no more apostles, no more prophets, and no more prophetesses. When you see quotations, picture me doing this):

What is truly disheartening is while people are so quick to give themselves a title, they fail to research exactly what that title meant in Biblical contexts. I get annoyed when I hear someone refer to themselves as a prophet when what they are really doing is acting like a psychic, or when someone calls himself or herself an “apostle” to try to make it seem that their connection to God is deeper than someone else’s. It kills me that usually people bestow the titles upon themselves. Just like a nickname, I’ve never given myself a title. For what? For whose glory? Not my own, never my own!

The devil is certainly busy. He is using a lot of “Christian” people to fuel the apostasy. SMH. A lot of people are falling for the okey-doke.

Back to numbers.

At the end of chapter six is a great blessing. I like it so much I have to post it in its entirety:

“The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (vv. 24-26). Can you imagine if you are having a bad day and someone comes up to you and says that? Wouldn’t your mood automatically be lifted? That short bit of Scripture covers a multitude: A petition is given for the Lord’s blessing and protection; and that his face shine on you in a manner that shows he is happy with you; his grace is given to you–he is merciful, supplies your every need, and does this just because he is a good God, not because of anything you have done; his face turns toward you-not away, as he would do if you do something sinful; and peace! In my humble opinion, that is a good way to approach a brother or sister who needs an encouraging word. In this context, the Lord instructs Moses to tell Aaron and his sons that this is how they are to bless the Israelites.

Now we have arrived at chapter seven. Moses finishes setting up the tabernacle, anoints and consecrates it, along with all its furnishings, as well as the altar and all its utensils. He then counts the leaders of Israel, and each of them make offerings. They brought to the Lord “six covered carts and twelve oxen–an ox from each leader and a cart from every two” (v. 3). These gifts are to be used in the work at the tent of meeting and are to be given to the Levites for their work. Moses does this, diligently dividing the offerings up among two Levite clans–the Gershonites and Merarites. Nothing was given to the Kohathites because their job was to carry the holy things on their shoulders. They did not need to carts or oxen.

What follows is a listing of the offerings brought forth by the representative from each tribe. I’ll let you read that. They all gave the exact same thing, and I’ll admit when I first read Numbers, I was flustered, wondering, why couldn’t this have been condensed? Here is what all twelve tribal leaders presented as their offerings:

One silver plate weighing 130 shekels and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing 70 shekels, filled with the finest flour mixed with olive oil–these comprised the grain offering;

One gold dish weighing 10 shekels, filled with incense;

One young bull, one ram, and one male lamb a year old for a burnt offering;

and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old for a fellowship offering.

Interesting that the most was taken up for the fellowship offering. Recall that the fellowship offerings allowed for community meals of sorts, where the person who has made the offering eats it with the priest and the people. After I got over how redundant this was (sorry, God) I realized the reason for its redundancy. We can see that right now, the people are being obedient and there is uniformity throughout the nation. As I have read in later books in the Bible, Israel eventually came to be a nation that was lazy and stingy with their offerings, giving God the diseased, lame or sickly animals instead of the best ones.

(Side note: For anyone who is lacking a Bible or is like me and likes to study using multiple translations, a hard-cover Bible and an Internet Bible, I go to Online Bible–Multiple Translations to read online).

My eyes have grown heavy. I assume that with school starting back up soon I will be able to get to this earlier in the day and get more accomplished :-) I’m going to have to find more time during the day to get to this. I am always satisfied when I am studying the Word. It is the best way to start and end any day :-)

Although I am tired, I have been having a hard time going to sleep, thinking about my Dad. I’m going to give it a shot though.

For those of you who still have your Dad, go see him tomorrow. And if you do, give him a hug for me. If you can’t see him, call him. If you have differences, hash them out. I am so glad my Dad knew how much I loved him, and from what I am hearing from other people, he talked about me with pride all of the time. Although my heart is still broken, I can find some solace in knowing that when he laid his head down for the last time here on earth, he knew that his baby girl thought the world of him, has always respected him, and would have done anything for him.

me and dad

I’m pressing on…

There is too much work to be done for me to be consumed by my grief.

This world is a crazy place, and a scary place. There are reports that claim that our nation is actually safer than it used to be, and that it only appears to be the opposite because of the onslaught of constant media coverage, but I am not so sure I believe that.

I’m sure that most people saw or heard about the jerk who killed the newscaster and cameraman and injured an interview subject in Virginia. I saw the entire video, and watched as he took his time to point his gun at the deceased woman, Alison Parker and started shooting, killing Parker and Adam Ward. Supposedly, the shooter, Bryce Williams, formerly worked for the same WDBJ network that the decedents worked for. He alleged that he had been treated badly there due to his race and sexual orientation (he was gay).

I had a ton of questions about this, but when I saw some of the things Williams had written I got my answers. I wondered how he knew where Alison Parker and Adam Ward were going to be at 6:45 a.m., but it is my humble opinion that his hatred for them had been burning for awhile, and he was probably stalking them. His focus was actually scary–in the video that he shot himself, as he was in the act, he can be seen pointing his gun right the victim. Not only did this guy film himself killing people, he posted the video and tweeted right after it.

It is truly sad that we walk the same streets as people like that everyday.

I cannot pretend to know whether or not this guy had a valid claim. Maybe he was mistreated at his job. Most adults I know have had at least one or two bad incidents at work, whether it was an insensitive boss, a bully of a human resources manager and boss who lied on their performance review, or a co-worker who does not pull his weight, sometimes people can make work unbearable. However, imagine what would have happened if this guy fully knew the Burden Bearer, if he had ever read the Scripture that tells us that vengeance belongs to God. Would his actions have been any different? Maybe. I don’t know.

What I do know is that people need to know who Jesus is, more than ever. My Dad knew Jesus; I am secure with that. He was concerned about some of our family members that were not saved. I am too, and even for those who are not my family members. People who reject Jesus have no idea in what they are in store for. It grieves God to know that some of his beloved creations will ultimately end up in Hell, so it grieves me too.

I know I stopped rather abruptly last night, so I am hoping to get through a few more chapters of Numbers before I get too tired. Unfortunately, I have been feeling ill again—I ended up sleeping most of the day yesterday. I was exhausted for no apparent reason. I have also been finding random bruises on my body where there should be none, and I have weird itchy bumps that seem like bug bites but aren’t. Well, maybe they are, but I think it odd that I am the only one in my family with bug bites all over the place.

Although I am feeling stronger every day, my Dad’s death is still heavy on my heart and mind. Today we cleaned some things out of the basement and seeing his laundry still folded neatly in one of the baskets, waiting to be put away, bothered me. As did dinner yesterday. At one point in time, while he was still hospitalized, Dad had requested as a welcome-home meal a thick, T-bone steak. In anticipation of him coming back home, Mom, ever the loving and devoted wife, had went out and bought steaks. Eating them without him yesterday was bittersweet. At times we talked about him and smiled, but it was also hard. I keep thinking that I’ll walk in the house and see him sitting at his spot at the head of the dinner table.
I hate to keep talking about it, but I must. It is my reality. Even as I attempt to move forward, I know I will never get over losing my Dad. I will learn to live with it, but never fully recover from such a loss. Whenever something good happened in my life, he was always the first person I wanted to tell. I knew he’d be so proud, and when he smiled, his whole face beamed with happiness and pride. When I was little I liked doing things that would bring that smile to his face, and my devotion continues up to this very day.

Return from Ohio mom n dad in cutouts mom n dad in black and white granddad play with layla GQ Smooth Daddy Dad the Distinguished Gentleman Stephanie and Dad prom pic   Me and Dad capella grad

I still can’t believe he is gone.

But he is, and what would he want me to do? How would he want me to spend the rest of my life?

Serving the Lord.

I remember one of my most recent, proudest moments of Dad was when he was in the choir stands with the rest of our church’s Male Choir. They were singing, “It’s in my heart to serve the Lord…” My Dad was not really one to sing solo, but one of the other members happened to put a microphone to my Dad’s mouth and I was surprised to hear him singing, strong, clear, and GOOD! I’ll never forget that moment, to hear my Dad praising the Lord.

With that being said…

We are at chapter four in the book of Numbers. This chapter begins with the Lord requesting a census of all of the men between 30 and 50 years of age in the Kohathite branch of the Levites. There are 2,750. These are the men who will carry out the duties ascribed to them in the previous chapter (“They were responsible for the care of the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the articles of the sanctuary used in ministering, the curtain, and everything related to their use” (3:31)). As is his usual fashion, God has specific instructions as to how the Kohathites are to go about these duties, specifically as to what they are to do at the tent of meeting. They are charged with caring for the most holy things. Instructions are given as to what the Kohathites are to do when the camp moves. Special care must be taken when the Israelites are moving from one location to the next, and everything has to be covered–the ark of the covenant law, the table of Presence, the plates, dishes and bowls, the lampstand, the altar, etc. There is a catch–only Aaron and his sons can do those tasks. Only when everything has been properly secured and covered can the camp move, with the Kohathites doing the carrying. They cannot touch the holy things or they will die. Eleazar, son of Aaron, the priest, is placed in charge of the oil for the light, the incense, regular grain offering and the anointing oil, as well as the entire tabernacle and everything in it. A major responsibility indeed. I assume, knowing what happened to his two older brothers previously, that Eleazar had learned from their example and took his responsibility very seriously (I know I would).

Next, we move on to the Gershonites. Their charge, from 3:25, was as follows: “At the tent of meeting, the Gershonites were responsible for the care of the tabernacle and tend, its coverings, the curtain at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the curtains of the courtyard, the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and altar, and the ropes–and everything related to their use”. Moses is commanded to conduct a census of Gershonite men in the same manner as that of the Kohathites. The 2,630 Gershonite men are told the carry the coverings, curtains, ropes and all their equipment. Ithamar, Aaron’s other surviving son, are to direct them in their duties.

Lastly, we get to the Merarites. Again, a census is to be taken. Three thousand two hundred men between the ages of 30 and 50 will share responsibility (under the direction of Aaron) in taking care of “the frames of the tabernacle, its crossbars, posts, bases, all its equipment, and everything related to their use, as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs and ropes” (3:36-37).

In each case, these 8,580 men were to be assigned their specific duty by the priest who has been placed in charge of their clan (Eleazar, Ithamar, or Aaron).

Wow. When I look at these numbers I am amazed. Remember, there were millions of Israelites. Only a small fraction of them were serving in this capacity. An even smaller number (only three-Aaron and his sons) were the managers, if you will, of the most important, central aspect of Israelite life. Then I remind myself that just like in the case of Aaron and his sons, if we are doing the will of God and seeking his guidance in all things, there is nothing that we cannot do, even if it means managing thousands of people. I also imagine how tedious these censuses had to be. But here is what I like about Moses: “Thus they were counted, as the Lord commanded Moses” (v. 49b). The Bible does not say that Moses complained, grumbled or got overwhelmed. It just says he did it. Imagine if all of us (myself included) completely yielded to the will of God in this manner? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we earnestly sought to daily please God and not other people, to satisfy God and not ourselves?

Chapter five begins with a discussion about the purity of the camp. We saw these regulations in Leviticus. Israelites with defiling skin disease or discharge are to be sent from the camp, as are people who are ceremonially unclean because they have had contact with a dead body. The next passage of Scripture deals with Israelites who have wronged another Israelite. I like the way it is phrased so I’m just going to post it in its entirety:

“Say to the Israelites: Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed” (vv. 6-7, italics added by me). Once again, this shows that sin is first against God, secondly against the person we have offended. God tells us how to live good lives, and when we make bad decisions, our first rebellion is against him. I also like that the offender is to confess their sin. That part interests me because I think we all know people who, even when faced with clear evidence, refuse to admit when they are wrong. Who are they really hurting? Themselves. When we sin, we have to talk with God about it, and be honest. He already knows when we sin; it’s not like we can hide it. But he is the only one who can help us overcome our sin. If we’re not honest about it, and don’t have an honest conversation with God about it, sin–whatever our vice is–can easily consume us.

A person who has sinned against another Israelite, after confessing, has to make full restitution to the person they have victimized, and add a full fifth of the value to it. The restitution belongs to the Lord and can be given to Aaron, along with a ram for atonement, if the offended person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong. Interesting that God tells Israelites not to charge interest when they loan someone money, but interest of sorts is expected when they wrong someone.

The Lord then gives Moses a test for an unfaithful wife. Looking at it with modern eyes, it appears to be a strange ritual. Basically, if a woman has a sexual affair and her husband does not know but has a suspicion, or if he just becomes jealous or suspicious and she has not been impure, he is to take her to the priest along with a grain offering. This grain offering is “for jealousy, a reminder-offering, to draw attention to wrongdoing” (v. 15). The priest will then have her stand before the Lord and make a substance made of water and dust from the tabernacle floor, put into a clay pot. The woman’s hair will be loosened, her hands placed in the reminder-offering, while the priest holds the water that “brings a curse” (v. 18). The priest then puts the wife under oath, and tells her that if she has not done her husband wrong, the water will do her no harm. But if she has, when she drinks the water she will be unable to have children, and if she is currently pregnant the baby will die. The woman is expected to agree to these consequences if she lies. (Interjection: I would think that at this point, a woman might be convinced to tell the truth if she had been unfaithful, rather than suffer the consequences, but maybe not). The priest is to write the words on a scroll and wash them off into the water. Then the grain offering is raised to the Lord and the woman is instructed to drink the water.

Soooo… I must admit my 20th-21st century mindset immediately kicked in here. Umm, so what standards were the husband held to if he was unfaithful? Why was so much focus on the woman? And what right did a husband have to subject his wife to all of this humiliation just because was suspicious? There were only two possible results to this test–the wife was proved to be innocent, and the husband would have to acknowledge his trust issues; or the wife was proven to be guilty and now the couple would have no children. Sounds like a no-win situation to me.

I had to consider other Biblical examples and Scriptures to kind of understand this. God has ordained the man the head of the household, and Christ is the head of man, and man is the head of woman. Again–that is not saying that man is superior to woman. Just that there is an order. Also, there are many Scriptures that compare God’s relationship with his people to that of a husband and wife. One of my favorite Scriptures comes from Jeremiah 31:32, where we can see the sting of the rejection Israel leveled against their loving God:

‘It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD”.

The relationship between husband and wife is supposed to be one of order, communication, mutual trust and respect, and of course love. I’m not sure I’ve explained it well, but this and other passages in the Bible seem symbolic to me of how God relates to his people. Look at the joy a good wife brings to her husband–consider the passages about the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10-31. A woman who delights in her husband is blessed. Those who delight in the Lord will be blessed as well.

My asthmatic son is coughing a bit so I must go. (He had a doctor’s appointment today and took four shots like a little champ!).

Heeere we go…

Sigh.

Soooo… I am not sure how to ease into this, so I am going to post a couple links and a short description:

So You Think You Can Preach

So You Think You Can Preach TV Show Site

Okay, a little background here.

I was pleased when the show “Preach” that featured four “prophetesses” was yanked from the air. I was hoping that the producers, creators, participants of said show had learned a valuable lesson–that Christians can and will stand up. I was hoping that people who may have saw fit to capitalize on God would see what happened to that show and think again.

Welp, I was wrong.

The website for the show is super basic, contains numerous spelling and grammatical errors and it doesn’t seem as though this show has a very high budget or a well-thought through plan. Aspiring preachers have a chance to compete on this show and win $25,000, a new car, and a lifelong position in two megachurches (two?). Sadly, the first auditions are to be held in October in Detroit. Detroit is not doing so well–in June a Satanist organization unveiled a Baphomet statue, and I am sure people are aware of the problems that already plague the city–corruption, poverty, and crime. That city needs strong Godly leadership and I don’t see where they are getting it.

The judges, whom I have never heard of, are Cashma Bryan, “Pastor” Darlene Bell, and Sean Hardin. I attempted to click on their names, assuming that since these individuals have been chosen to judge preachers that they MUST have strong credentials. There was no information given about any of those people, leaving me to a Google search.

Cashma Bryan, a.k.a Brian Cashma, (am I wrong for finding irony in the fact that his name has the word “cash” in it) is the creator of the show. He is the Bishop of the Holiness Church of Jesus Christ in the Apostles Doctrine in Detroit, Michigan (WHAT?? What is the Apostles Doctrine???). To research him even further, I googled his church and found something alarming in the “About” part on their Facebook page, again with unacceptable misspellings:

“Holiness Church of Jesus Christ in the Apostles Doctrine is a religious organization that follows the beliefs and tecahings of the apostles. We believe the blessed Holy Spirit of God, and the Baptisn of Jesus Name.”

What do you mean, “follows the beliefs and TEACHINGS of the APOSTLES?”

Aren’t we supposed to be following Jesus?

Isn’t Jesus the one who taught the apostles???

Certainly the work done by the apostles was admirable. Those men sacrificed their lives to build what is now the modern-day church. Almost all of them met violent deaths due to their beliefs. HOWEVER, at the end of the day they were still MEN. Not divine men like our sinless Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus is God, the apostles are not. That is why, although we can definitely appreciate the apostles and how diligently they worked to build the church despite persecution, we follow the teachings and beliefs of Jesus Christ.

As for Darlene Bell, either I didn’t search for her correctly or no information on her is widely available on social media. On the show’s website, she is listed as a pastor and artist. When I Googled Sean Hardin, the name Deitrick Haddon came up right away. Interesting, I thought. Deitrick Haddon was on that detestable Preachers of LA show, which caused me to stop listening to his music. I didn’t like who he was on the show, and that put a bad taste in my mouth when it came to his music. However, I must admit that I liked the sampling of Sean Hardin’s music that I was able to find on Youtube:

Not to take anything away from any of these people, and I definitely don’t know them personally or professionally. Yet, we’re talking about JUDGING preachers. Preachers are supposed to be anointed by God. True preachers have received a call directly from God, exhorting them to preach the Gospel. Therefore, it seems as though any preacher who truly delivers and lives the Word of God has already won and doesn’t need this type of competition. Also, I was confused as to how the preachers would be judged, because true Gospel preaching includes the fact of Jesus’s sacrificial death, burial and resurrection–if that is included in a sermon, then the preacher has truly PREACHED. That led me to the criteria the judges will be using:

65%=Originality

78%=Creativity

92%=Delivery

So even if I were to discount the fact that apparently someone has a problem with their arithmetic, because that adds up to 235%, I am confused as to how these criteria can be met. What exactly is “originality”? How original is their message expected to be? A Christian preacher builds a sermon by interpreting the Word, empowered by the Holy Spirit. There is nothing in the Bible that is open to a preacher’s originality. I guess what I am saying is that a preacher cannot add to or take away from the Word–they have to speak according to the Bible, not what they think or believe. So how original can they possibly be?

Creativity. Perhaps creative preachers use illustrations, metaphors, PowerPoint presentations, etc.? I don’t know. We shall see.

Delivery. I expect those that hoop and holler the most or use fancy words or over-the-top gestures (such as the preachers on Youtube who rode into their church on a horse, in a car, etc.) will get the most points for delivery. I find it interesting that delivery is given the most weight, as if the delivery of the Gospel message is more important than…the actual Gospel message itself.

I just don’t know about this one. I don’t see how regular everyday people can appropriately judge those who have been called by God (and that is assuming that a small fraction of these people have actually been called by God–that is questionable). I just never think God is to be taken lightly.

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