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The Feast of Tabernacles: A Home in the Wilderness

One summer Saturday, I looked at my backyard and I envisioned it. I saw the wood frame of my very own sukkah.

*A sukkah is a temporary dwelling place made with natural materials*

It took me a month, but I used tree stumps as the foundation, scrap wood for the frame, and greenery to decorate the outside. Why did I do this? Because I was getting ready for the Feast of Tabernacles!

What is the Feast of Tabernacles?

This feast is also referred to as Sukkot in Hebrew. The Bible translates it as the Feast of Ingathering or the Feast of Booths. Five days after The Day of Atonement, this feast is one that is more focused on a celebration than a sobering observance. It’s instructed to be a festival for seven days.

Why are we celebrating?

The Jewish people celebrate this conclusion of the fall feasts to commemorate the fall harvest as well as the power of God, who sheltered them in the wilderness after fleeing Egypt. Not only did God protect them, but He also dwelt in their midst as a cloud of smoke by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). Finally, when they built the first tabernacle, He dwelt in the Holy of Holies.

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My first Sukkah! 2018

Scripture References

Leviticus 23:33

Leviticus 23:39-43

Nehemiah 8:17-18

Numbers 29:12-16

1 Kings 8:1-2

Zechariah 14

 

How do we observe?

The people build small, temporary shelters called sukkahs. Out of natural elements, they build their sukkah to commemorate the beauty and fragility of an earthly shelter. For seven days they treat it like a typical living space, eating just about every meal inside, and some even sleeping in it at night.

This is one of three feasts where God commanded all males ages 13 and older to travel to Jerusalem to observe it. As a result, present day Jews and Gentiles alike go to Jerusalem to worship together with singing and dancing. Like I said, this is one of the most joyous festivals, and it warms my heart with the reminder of how God will always provide for His people.

How does Jesus fit in?

“Every good and perfect gift is from God” (James 1:17). Nothing could be truer than when God sent His Son to dwell among us. No other moment in history demonstrated such empathy, and as a result, we can be more connected with Him than ever before. Jesus said He was the light of the world and the living water, in other words, He was the guidance and protection of His people (John 7:37-39).

I loved my sukkah. My morning devotions, my meals, and my prayer time was spent inside. I felt like Jesus and I had a space to connect more. And the process–I would almost describe as holy as building an alter to God, and that’s what made it special for me. It was disappointing having to take it apart at the end of the week.

But the good news is, Jesus dwells with us even now, through both the everyday moments and the life altering ones. And one day, He will welcome us into eternity with open arms where we can tabernacle with Him forever.

Enjoy a collage of different styles of sukkahs!

Read Fall Feast Intro

Read about Fall Feast no. 1

Read about Fall Feast no. 2

God bless!

-LJM

 

The Day of Atonement: Down to the River

Dressed in white, my family made our way to the nearest river in our hometown. It’s a beautiful spot to watch the falls cascading down the rocks while a few ducks and geese float along the gentle rapids. We found a clearing near the water, and there, we opened our Bibles in observance of the second fall feast: The Day of Atonement.

What is The Day of Atonement?

Ten days after the Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement arrives as one of the highest holy days of the year. When the Israelites first built the Tabernacle, the Levitical high priest would perform a ceremony in order to cleanse the nation of their sin from the previous year. The Atonement ceremony included laying hands on the head of one of two goats. The chosen goat would then ‘receive’ the sins of the people and be released into the wilderness to die.

Only then could the high priest enter the Holy of Holies without being struck dead. Once the ceremony was complete, the Israelites were cleansed, symbolizing their readiness to dwell with God.

How do you observe?

The Days of Awe are the ten days after Feast of Trumpets, and it’s a time of prayer, repentance, and settling debts. The people have a feast the evening before Atonement, but on the actual day, they deny themselves with a fast to recognize God’s holiness and to hate their sin. Temples have several services during the day with blessings, prayers, and Scripture.

The Tashlich ceremony, typically done on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, is where the people cast bread crumbs or stones into a body of water to represent casting off their sin.

⇑ Keep reading to see why this is relevant ⇑

Scripture References633fa63917d243f219ff007e292e9fac--scripture-quotes-bible-scriptures

  • Hebrews 9:14
  • Matthew 6:14-15
  • Micah 7:19
  • Leviticus 16:29, 23:27, 17:11
  • Isaiah 58

Why is it important?

God instructed His people to observe this day, not because laying hands on a goat took away sin, but because it was a rehearsal to prepare them for when the Messiah, Jesus, would come and redeem them. He was the high priest who bridges the gap between us and God in the Holy of Holies. He was also the sacrifice, who took the weight of our sin, so we can be ready to dwell with Him in eternity.

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How do I apply?

Remember the stones I mentioned in my last blog? I’d passed them around earlier, and now was the time to bring them out. Mine was colored with different symbols revealing my sin. Holding onto our stones, we took communion, remembering Jesus’s blood shed for the world.

*This next part is something I added and is probably not done in other congregations. *

I poured the wine (juice) over the stones and then I poured water over them to represent the blood and water that gushed from Jesus’ side when he died. Then, we threw the rocks into the river, believing in Jesus’ gift of washing our sins away.

Hurling my rock into the water uniquely touched my heart. I sent the stone that kept reminding me of all my weaknesses and failings careening into the river, and once it left my hand, I realized I could never retrieve it again.

Going back to the person we were before the blood of Jesus would be just as impossible as me wading in the water trying to find my rock. Just like that stone, that sinful person is dead and gone never to remind me of who I used to be.

Our sins have been washed away, and now we can walk in the newness of life hand in hand with Jesus! Praise God!

The Day of Atonement is just the beginning. Are you ready to dwell with Jesus? That will lead us into my next and final feast blog: The Feast of Tabernacles. I hope you’ll join me!

 

God Bless!

-LJM

The Feast of Trumpets: The Jewish ‘New Year, New Me’

Welcome to Fall Feast number 1 as seen through the eyes of a Christian!

 

What is The Feast of Trumpets?

The Feast of Trumpets, also known as Rosh Hashana or Yom Teruah, is widely known as the Jewish new year. It’s partially because this time of year is significant in terms of renewal, re-dedication, and rebirth.

There’s something about a trumpet, that when it blasts, it awakens something in your soul.

The Feast of Trumpets is the opening preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus. For thousands of years, even before Jesus was born, Jewish people have been rehearsing and preparing for the moment the God of Israel would usher them into eternity with Him.

Why is it important?

The trumpet sound reminds us of the reality that Jesus is coming again. Knowing that eternity and judgement is real can be a sobering thought, because it reminds us that what we do in this life matters.

At the trumpet (shofar) blast, the people of God come together to worship and pray. The Feast of Trumpets first guides us in a time of repentance, or the Hebrew word teshuvah. This is a big season of introspection. It’s a time to look back on the year and inspect our hearts, our words, our actions, and our decisions and face them in all their glory and ugliness.

The good news is, when you repent, you can be washed of all the ugliness in your life through the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:9).

What can we do?

What in your life needs to be cleansed? Is your thought-life dark and getting darker? Are you treating people with kindness, compassion, and love, or are you treating them with disrespect, selfishness, and hate? Are there things in your life that you hold higher than God? Have you been drifting away from Him ever so slowly this year only to find yourself in a rut you can’t seem to get out of?

I know these are things I come up against in my heart, and if you do too, maybe now is the time to make a change.

Not only is this a time of introspection, but it’s also a time of settling debts, seeking forgiveness from the people you’ve wronged, and forgiving those who’ve wronged you. It’s a time of making the negative things in your life right, and that alone can be so freeing.

Is it based in Scripture?

To observe this feast, my family and a few others had a dinner to discuss the themes of this holy day and appreciate the importance of the customs. We take turns reading the Scripture associated with the feast.

Feel free to check out the verses listed below!

Leviticus 23:24-25

Isaiah 27:13

Zechariah 9:14

1 Kings 1:34

Nehemiah 8:2-3

1 Thessalonians 4:16

Numbers 10:9-10, 29:1

Matthew 6:14

Psalm 81

 

My personal application

I collected a few stones with smooth and flat surfaces. I passed them out to the family and told them that it was a representation of their sin. We could use the stone to pray over our sins, or we could carry it to symbolize the unnecessary baggage we carry every day. I chose to paint symbols on my stone that represented my specific struggles. Every time I looked at it, I was reminded of the areas in my life that I needed to work on with God.

I really liked the physical representation of my sins so I could focus on repenting from them and look forward to Jesus taking them away. I’ll get into that more with my article on The Day of Atonement, Fall Feast number 2.

Not all holy days are meant for celebration, but know we’re always working toward the goal of forever celebrating our Lord in eternity. I do believe that these days are meant for our good, designed for us to practice being sanctified by Jesus and to live in that freedom and love by sharing it with others.

Reach out to the person you hurt, pray for the person who has damaged you, and pay back the money your friends lent. Make something right today. It’s never too late.

 

God bless!

LJM

Behold, the Coming of the Lord!

Do you ever wonder what it’ll be like when Jesus returns?

“Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

-Revelation 22:12-13 (NASB)

Blowing trumpets, fasting, praying, camping, dancing, laughing, crying. If you want to understand about what these actions have in common, you must first understand the season. August to October is a busy time of the year for one group specifically.

Jews, Jewish people, or God’s people.

This time of year is more than just Autumn, with leaves turning and people donning warmer clothes. It is a time of preparation.

For what? The Fall feasts of the Lord!

  1. The Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah)
  2. The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)
  3. The Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)

Three separate feasts–one common theme: the final coming of the Lord, our Savior.

“These are the feasts of the Lord, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.” -Leviticus 23:4 (KJV)

As Christ followers, I feel like these feasts are just as important to us as we await the second coming of Jesus (Yeshua). This season, my family got a little taste of the spiritual applications of these special days and I know I will never live the same.

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I want to take you along to discover why the God of the universe declared these holy days and how Jesus has a vital role in them. For the next few weeks, I’ll be going into more detail of the history, the culture, and the spiritual application of these feasts.

I’d love for you to join me!

By the end, I hope you’ll gain a better understanding of the holy days God personally gave to Moses to teach His people, and how we, as Christians, can still apply those truths today.

Shalom and God bless!

LJM

Tower of God

The name of the Lord is a strong and mighty tower where the righteous can run and be safe…but sometimes Life tries to shake that tower and we watch as brick after brick falls to the ground. Overcome with dread, you wonder how much longer this tower will stand.

Then the Wind stirs from within the walls and sends your face to the ground.

Suddenly, your voice isn’t tight with despair, and the tears streaming from your eyes aren’t heavy with sorrow, they are merely overflow from a well filled with joy.

And on your knees in humility, you can only look up to the sky in awe and cry “Yahweh! You are God! And though I’m not worth it, I am loved by you. And I will spend the rest of my days trying to return your love.”

Just for a moment, that tower stands tall and no amount of fear, doubt, or anger can pierce its walls.

∼Proverbs 18:10∼

 

Stand strong in the Lord. Run to Him and be safe.

God bless!

-LJM

Message in the Stars

I received a message from God in my driveway.

Let me back up. For those of you that may know me, you may know that I adore the night sky. Whenever the moon swells and the stars begin to fill-in their map of the universe, I get captivated. With my neck craned back, I gaze upward in silent admiration at God’s artistry.

Well one night, when evening had settled, I burst out the back door and laid down on the warm asphalt of the driveway. With the midnight curtain spread above me, I prayed and praised God for the vastness of His work. It was such a peaceful moment, but one that didn’t last long.

The tingling against my leg made me think of the bugs that could be crawling about on the driveway, heading toward my skin. The dog barking in the distance reminded me of the coyotes that may be lurking on their nightly prowl.

The seemingly rational fears disrupted my serenity and laying on the driveway was no longer comfortable for me. After a few minutes of trying to relax and focus on the hope of a shooting star, I had to stand up, looking around me with more paranoia than I’d like to admit.

But even while I checked my skin for bugs and shook the gravel out of my hair, God was speaking to me.

“Do you see what happen here?” I felt Him say.

“How I spooked myself?”

“And yet, no bugs under your feet and no coyotes hiding in the bushes.”

“But I am in the mountains, it’s not unheard-of to find coyotes in the area.”

“Don’t you know that I am with you? You were dwelling in so much peace. Quiet–meditating in my presence. Wasn’t it great? But you let your fear take over.”

“I’m sorry, Father, I couldn’t help it.”

“Fear is out to rob you of your peace and joy in Me. It doesn’t take long before its ideas capture your mind.”

“Barely five minutes.”

I chided myself for letting the “what-ifs” creep into my thoughts and not only ruin my prayer time, but also my star-gazing time. I realized just how quick and easy Satan can use something so little to disrupt our connection with God.

I learned that to continue inviting the thoughts of God into my life, I must train myself to push away the thoughts of the Devil: fear, doubt, pride. They will work to steal everything good God has been working in my heart and will stop at nothing until they succeed.

But I have the love of the God of the Universe. I have the hope of His promises. I have the peace of His plan. And I have the blessings of His favor.

So when Satan attacks next time, maybe I’ll be ready to stand firm in victory with my eyes pointed toward the stars.

God Bless!

LJM

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Honing Your Spiritual Craft

Two best friends grew up playing instruments. One did right by her craft and the other let it fall by the wayside.

Hannah has been playing the viola religiously for over ten years. She understands the importance of discipline when it comes to her instrument. For her undergrad and masters she spent endless hours in practice rooms, sitting in the middle of orchestras and quartets, and standing in front of a crowd performing with the skill God gave her.

Even on vacation she sets aside time to practice, because she knows how easy it is for the discipline to slip away. And when the discipline goes, the skill follows and everything she worked for falls apart.

Take me as an example.

I took piano lessons for nine years. After high-school I went to college, free from the drudgery of practicing. I kept telling myself I would keep up the skill, and every once in awhile I would find a piano to plink out some tunes.

But over the years my memory of the songs dwindled, my coordination faded, and the natural talent my teacher said I had felt more like a rusty piece of machinery.

Hannah’s dedication is inspiring to me. She is a picture of the drive every Christian should have in their walk with Christ. Following our loving Savior takes just as much discipline as any other trade.

Why do you think His followers were called disciples? They grew to understand the difficult training in their journey with Jesus. The moment they stepped away from their world, they entered a life of developing and practicing through their faith in Jesus and their knowledge of Scripture. And they strove to live life as an iron spear, in constant sharpening.

The Apostle Paul writes in Colossians that we “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.” Colossians 1:9-12

God has given us the power to be steadfast, to keep going on this journey with Him. Our faithfulness is evidence of the discipline that we walk in. The way of a disciple is guided by the promise of an eternal inheritance from our Father, our ultimate end goal.

If you want to hone your craft of discipleship, you must put in the time, fueling the dedication with the end goal in mind, just as you would with any talent or career. If you don’t, your spirituality will fray and become sparse just like my piano playing skills.

Don’t fret though, you can get it back, but it will take hours of hard work and true persistence. In the end, your perseverance will be evident as you shine with the glory and the love of God to the world.

Happy practicing!

-LJM