The Bible is Quite Clear on Immigration

immigrant

Months ago I considered writing about immigration but decided not to. Now, I no longer have a choice. It seems that many Christians seem to have forgotten what the Bible says about immigrants. It’s baffling when you consider that a significant portion of the Biblical narrative centers on being a foreigner in a strange land.

There are dozens of scriptures that address immigration in both the Old and New Testament. Because of Israel’s history in Egypt, there was an expectation that they would treat foreigners with kindness because they too had been in the same position. Exodus is full of teachings on how to deal with those who are immigrants, but Exodus 23:9 provides an excellent summation by stating – thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. And if it weren’t enough, God repeatedly advocates for the immigrant, encouraging the nation of Israel to love the foreigner within their land and remember that they too were once ‘strangers’ in Egypt.

God understands the unique and vulnerable plight of the immigrant. He knew that people might legally mistreat those in the vulnerable position of being an alien in a foreign land. In Deuteronomy, God forbids Israel from using the court system to mistreat those who had newly arrived in the land and lacked inherited rights. The ominous warning issued in Deuteronomy 27 in regards to those who harm immigrants is clear. It states; Do not deprive the foreigner of justice. And to be sure that this law isn’t neglected God connects a curse to those who mistreat foreigners through the legal system.

What’s particularly interesting is that the Biblical narrative of journeying through foreign lands and being an alien isn’t confined to Moses or Abraham. The narrative continues in the life of Yeshua, who while in the womb of His mother fled persecution as Herod issued a decree to kill all the children in the region who were two years old and under. To save the life of their unborn child Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt.

You could correctly state that Mary and Joseph sought asylum in Egypt.

In the New Testament, Yeshua reiterates the message of the Old Testament in regards to how to treat those who are not native born. In a moving display of what love looks like, He tells his disciples, and all that will listen:

For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger, and you invited me in.

In Matthew 25:35 the word stranger in this context refers to a traveler in a land not his own. It is the Greek word used for a foreigner or an alien. Just as God advocated for the immigrant in the Old Testament, His character is unchanged as He identifies with the immigrant in the New. We have to remember Yeshua’s words that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Him.

 

Exodus 16 – Lessons in the Manna (Bible Study)

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In the Book of Exodus 16, we see the first instance of God providing food for the Israelites – manna to be exact. There are several lessons that I’ve learned about this particular chapter.

The first lesson in the manna is that we MUST trust God for our daily provision.

When God first provided the manna, the Lord gave specific instructions to gather what they needed for the day. Of course, not everyone listened to God’s instruction. Some people gathered enough for two days. The people who gathered for two days discovered that their manna had maggots in it. They couldn’t eat it. The lesson is that we have to trust God for our daily provision. When we try to provide for ourselves we fail – and by fail, I mean that we cannot rise to the competence of what God can provide for us when we trust in Him. We have what we need when we allow God to provide for us.

Only God can provide for us physically and spiritually. When a person tries to provide themselves with what they think they need spiritually – it’s called religion. Religion can do very little for a person’s soul. It’s far better to be spiritual than religious. Only the Holy Spirit can provide the spiritual abundance we need to sustain and strengthen us.

The second lesson in the manna is that what God graciously gives, we must industriously gather.

God provides, but we must do our part too. We can’t sit idly by and do nothing. Faith without works is dead. We are co-laborers with Christ. We have a role to play, and it’s easy to become unbalanced – some people rely on themselves completely and have lots of work without faith – and others have faith and no works. You have to trust God completely and solely, but God expects you to do your part. We must pray, seek His Face, listen to His voice, walk in obedience and love, and make good decisions. God expects us to choose blessings and life. God provides everything we need to live a godly life, and He has equipped us for the work that He’s called us to do, however, let’s not forget that we have a role that we must fulfill. As God provides, we must be industrious in using what He has provided.

The third lesson in the manna is that when you honor God’s Word, He provides everything you need for the following day.

God told the people to gather twice as much on the sixth day so that they could rest on the seventh. Once the Sabbath day arrived, some people went out into the fields expecting to find manna to gather. But, there was no manna. However, because of God’s instructions to gather twice as much on day six, the people still had provision. The Israelites were learning that God prepares a person for their future when they are obedient to Him and listen to His instructions. The Matthew Henry’s Commentary says this; none are ever losers by serving God.

The final lesson in Exodus 16, is that Christ, Himself is the True Manna.

Yeshua calls Himself the Bread of Life, and indeed, He is. Manna sustained the Israelites for many years, and they had all the nourishment that they needed. If you’ve ever studied nutrition, then you know that the body needs many vitamins and minerals to function. Whenever there is any deficiency of any kind, illness and sickness creep in. A deficiency in any vitamin or mineral will cause symptoms.  For example, if you’re feeling fatigued you might be lacking vitamin D; or if you’re cold all the time, there might be an iron deficiency. However, the Israelites were healthy and strong – Scripture says there was none feeble among them. The manna had everything they needed to stay strong and healthy – and so it is with Christ – He is everything we need! Everything we need is in Yeshua – He is the Bread of Life, the True Manna.

Biblical Meditation – John 20:22

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John 20:22: And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

For the second time in scripture in John 20:22, God breathed on man. The first time in scripture that God breathes on a man is when the Creator breathes on Adam in Genesis 2:7.

When God breathes life into you, it’s not possible for you to die.

Adam, from creation, was immortal. Something profound and spiritual had to take place for death to enter the picture. Later in the Edenic story, we learn that Adam and Eve ate the fruit that would lead to death – and it wasn’t necessarily the fruit, but the disobedience that opened the door to death.

Rebellion is dangerous.

When Adam and Eve rebelled, the death process began. And it wasn’t just a physical process, but a spiritual one as well. Mankind was left to die – not just in his body, but also in his sin.

And then Yeshua came.

When Yeshua came He did something profound – He breathed on His disciples. Yeshua was giving them the Holy Spirit, but I also believe that Yeshua was breathing spiritual life back into mankind. I think he was correcting the brokenness that occurred when man was disobedient.

The Greek word for Holy Spirit is pneuma – which means wind, breath or spirit. I think that the breath of life in Genesis 2:7 was also HOLY. Logic dictates that God’s breath is Holy because He is HOLY, HOLY, HOLY.

When God made man, man was Holy because God had breathed on Him – man had an impartation of God. You cannot have a piece of God within, without having some holiness in you. When Yeshua breathed on His disciples, He was imparting the Holy Spirit.

When you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, you are filled with the Breath of Life. It’s our duty to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be filled with life. We are to be life in the midst of darkness.

I used to think that if I prayed more, fasted more, read more scripture, recited the Psalms and the Lord’s Prayer more I would have more of God’s spirit within.

Can you image the relief I felt when I learned in the Bible that the way to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to simply ask God and walk in obedience to Him.

We need to ask for the Holy Spirit.

The Bible clearly says you’re supposed to ask for the Holy Spirit. God gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask. Ask God to fill you with His Breath of Life.

God’s Presence Causes Anxiety to Flee

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It was around 3 AM, and I knew that unless I opened the door, she would never go away. Her cries were desperate and difficult to drown out. I was tempted to let her in, but my husband gently pulled me back to bed. Her cries echoed like wailing stars outside the block of wood that separated her from us.

I lay there for ten minutes as the intense firestorm at the door increased in pressure. As I leapt towards the door, her body rushed past me. She jumped into the bed with my husband and began to purr. Each day, it was becoming increasingly clear that the cat we rescued suffered from extreme anxiety.

At first, we thought Isabella’s constant desire to be in our presence was endearing. We thought it funny when we’d awake with her perched on top our heads. But then, her fearfulness and anxiety became more pronounced. Each time my husband took a business trip, she gnawed the fur from her body. It was a violent and cathartic way in which our cat dealt with his absence. We knew that the bald patches weren’t the result of allergic reactions or parasites but anxiety.

When the Huffington Post asked people to describe what an anxiety attack feels like, they were flooded with a plethora of responses. Some people said that it feels as if you’re drowning, others described it as feeling as if you are facing a terrorist attack or being chased by dinosaurs. But the consensus is that when a panic attack comes, the walls close in, and a person’s own body becomes their worst enemy. But you can’t escape your body – which is why panic attacks are so tormenting. The attack makes a person want to literally crawl out of their skin. An anxiety attack feels like you are going to die. 

Physiologically, when a person experiences a panic attack, the amygdala, which is the fear center of the brain becomes hyperactive. The amygdala is the same region of the brain that kicks into gear when a person senses an imminent threat. Panic attacks cause the region to overreact, and it’s an extreme reaction. The fight-or-flight response is magnified. And then the harrowing experience of panic ensues.

Southern Methodist University conducted a rare study where patients were monitored around-the-clock for physiological instabilities before an attack. The team of researchers discovered that panic attacks are not unexpected. They start about an hour before the patient is fully aware of what’s happening to their body. Although the body is in a panic mode for an hour, it’s only within those last few seconds or minutes that one finally realizes that they feel as if they are going to die. Unfortunately, there is no way to emotionally or mentally survive an hour-long panic attack. Therefore, it is a grace, relief and mercy that the person isn’t aware of what’s happening to them until those last few moments.

The anthesis of anxiety is peace. The book of Philippians, which is called the Book of Peace, also happens to be one of the few places in scripture where the word anxious comes up. In Philippians, the reader is told not to be anxious about anything, but in every situation to pray with a heart of thanksgiving and present requests to God. Prayer is the answer to anxiety.

In the summer of 2014, a study published in Sociology of Religion released its findings on how prayer and anxiety connect, and whether or not the anxious really do find relief. The study acknowledged that prayer helps people manage and reduce negative emotions. The study also noted that how a person envisioned God while they were praying made a difference in their anxiety. Those who benefited the most from prayer were those who saw God as loving and intimate. When people saw God as distant and cold, there were no real, tangible benefits and no ease from the anxiety. The studies’ implications are clear. One’s perception of God interacts with both their spirituality and health.

Philippians 4 is devoid of instructions to think of God as loving and intimate. The book of Philippians is a letter written specifically to the people of the church of Philippi – a group of people who believed God to be both loving and merciful, holy and just.

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No one really knows where anxiety disorders originate. The general thought is that anxiety is a combination of nature and nurture. It is an amalgamation of anxiety-riddled DNA and a life built upon a fault line that ruptures often. A person who grows up in an environment full of abuse or contention may find that they are increasingly anxious as they age. Eventually, they find themselves on a cream colored couch with a prescription for Xanax in their hands. These are the same people that might experience their first panic attack in their mid-twenties. It’s as if a culmination of the all the stress over the years has finally taken its toll on the body. The body wants out.

In The Concept of Anxiety, Kierkegaard describes anxiety as the dizziness of freedom, but he couldn’t have been further from the truth. Anxiety traps a person within the most uncomfortable, primitive confines of their imagination. When one suffers a panic attack, the mind and body are imprisoned. The innocent party desperately wants to escape. There is no freedom in anxiety.

The apostle Peter echoes the sentiments of Paul in the Book of Philippians. Peter tells the Christians to cast all their anxiety on God because God cares for them. God becomes the place to hold the anxiety, and the path through which to transport the emotional baggage is prayer. In Philippians 4:5, Paul tells the church that the ‘Lord is at hand.’ Upon first glance, one might assume that the apostle was referring to the Second Coming. However, Lead Pastor Sam Storms believes that Paul is speaking about the nearness of Christ in terms of time and space.

And so, we are to be anxious for nothing and remember that the Lord is at hand. Before anxiety comes to lodge, we are to remember that God is with us, beside us. And His Presence is the antithesis of anxiety.

This essay is an excerpt from Pieces of Prayer

Six Dieting Rules that Might Actually Work

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Dieting has become far too complicated. We overthink food. There are a million diets out there and most of them don’t work. And when they do work, the results are often short-lived. The simple answer to health is to eat less and exercise more – but there are a million rules surrounding what we should eat. Below are six unconventional dieting rules that actually work.

Rule 1 – Eat from the Old Testament. I think that anything the Israelites ate in the Old Testament is probably safe. Some of the things that they ate include raisins, figs, grapes, dates, olives, lentils, beans, honey, flatbread, roasted lamb. Yes, they were feasting. Anything mentioned in the Torah is probably safe to eat (unless God calls it unclean).

Rule 2 – Eat once a day. If a man can master his stomach, he can master his destiny. You must master your stomach. I was a little surprised when I learned Herschel Walker (a man I highly respect and admire although I know nothing of football) only eats one meal a day. Have you seen him? He hasn’t aged. He looks phenomenal, and he only eats one meal a day. There isn’t a nutritionist in the world that would recommend one meal a day, but for Hershel and thousands of others, it works.

Rule 3 – Skip breakfast. Recently, I learned from a Ted Talk that breakfast is NOT the most important meal of the day. Breakfast as the most important meal is just marketing and advertising. You can’t trust marketers.

Rule 4 – Ignore Government Dietary Guidelines. You can’t trust marketers, and you can’t trust the government either. If you look closely at our federal, nutritional guidelines and compare them to other countries, you’ll notice they vary considerably (sometimes dramatically) from country to country. My son wasn’t born in the states. I remember how confused I felt when all of the things that were off-limits in the States for pregnant women (things like coffee and sushi) were green-light items for pregnant women in the Netherlands. It was completely acceptable to drink the incredibly strong, black Dutch coffee that other pregnant women in Holland were drinking in the morning. It was no longer forbidden, simply because I changed my geographic location.

Rule 5 – Enjoy your food. God put food on the earth for our enjoyment. Savor every bite. Food is like sex; it’s supposed to feel good. Sometimes we take it too far, and turn what was designed for nourishment and pleasure into a gluttonous catastrophe. Many people have a difficult time staying within the sexual parameters that God defines as sacred; it’s no different with food. People abuse both. Remember that your body is a temple, respect it by eating healthy.

Rule 6 – Let your food be your medicine. God didn’t just create food for our enjoyment; he also created it for our healing. Foods from the earth have healing mechanisms embedded in their DNA. The Holy scriptures state that the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Stay away from processed foods and remember that God’s apple is better than a lab apple. Eat things that are good for you. Eat things that are healthy. Make amazing, delicious meals with the food God has put on the earth.

Trust God

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The key to the blessed life is to trust in God. Don’t trust in man, in money, in things, or in a career.

Just trust in God.

There are a few places in Scripture where God teaches His people how to be firmly grounded and prosperous. Jeremiah 17:7-8 is one of those places.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Most people find themselves inadvertently putting their trust in something or someone other than God. People trust their spouse, their children, their bank card, their boss, their friends, and their pet. And struggle when it comes to trusting in God.

Why is it difficult to trust in God?

The simple answer is faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. In essence, trust in God requires faith… and having faith means that you are trusting in what you CANNOT see.

You see your spouse, so you trust him or her. You see your bank statement, so you trust it. You see your boss, so you trust them.

We need to see God… and the way to see the Father is through the son. John Piper speaks of our advantage over the Old Testament prophets who longed to see the Divine life and glory of God incarnate, but did not. We have the vision of Yeshua through the New Testament – we can clearly see His Divine Glory, Life, and Redemptive Work.

Focusing our eyes on Yeshua is how to produce faith – and it’s through that faith that we begin to trust God. If you are finding it difficult to trust God, then it’s time to look at Yeshua – look at His life, His ministry, His work, His death and resurrection, for faiths’ sake.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. – Romans 10:17 

 

The Feast of Unleavened Bread

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This week is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The first year we honored the feast, my husband and I frantically called around trying to find a restaurant where a meal was yeast free…

Grocery shopping was quite the experience. The ingredient list on the back of of nearly every product contained yeast. I can remembering lamenting that “Everything is full of yeast! Yeast is everywhere!”

Sin is everywhere.

That is the point of the feast. The Feast of Unleavened Bread is meant to heighten our spiritual sensitivity to sin. Our first celebration was incredibly enlightening. We all felt a little bit more spiritual by the time the feast was over, and we were thinner too. You can only gain so much weight on Matzah.

Our diets have changed over the last few years. We simply don’t eat as much bread as we used to. Ezekiel bread is the only “bread” brought into our home. So, the feast is less of a challenge now. We have also grown spiritually, which helps.

This week we’ve avoided the croissants from the cozy French baker downstairs.. During the feast, croissants are replaced with prayer and an acknowledgement that the world is full of yeast… and sin.