Torah Commentary – Nitsavim (Standing) / Vayelekh (He Went) – Are We There Yet? – SCRIPTURES FOR September 16, 2017

Torah Commentary
Nitsavim (Standing) / Vayelekh (He Went)
Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30
Isaiah 61:10-63:9
Romans 9:30-10:13
Hebrews 12:14-15

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Are We There Yet?
Last week we looked at a “Today” which would happen sometime in our future. It would be a day of bringing our offerings in a basket to Jerusalem. We will set our basket down in the presence of Messiah and give thanks for the good land and blessings He has brought us to. Before that “Today” can happen, there has to be an event called the end of exile. We read of this promise in Deuteronomy 30.
To set the stage for these words, let’s consider the setting. First of all, we are reading words first spoken around 1400BCE or over 3600 years ago. Moshe is telling a people who have never stepped foot in the land that their time in the land will not be very long and because of disobedience they will be exiled from the land and driven to the four corners of the earth. Side note, these are four corners yet to be discovered by man.
Stop and consider this. You are Nitzavim (Standing) in front of Moshe with great anticipation, considering just how long this last sermon of his is going to take. Your mind has been wandering just a bit because just over his shoulder you can see your destiny. Suddenly your mind kicks in as you hear him say you will be driven out. “What, he must be kidding. We haven’t set foot in the land yet.” Right on the heals of those words is a promise of return and re-gathering from exile. You decide to just dismiss the last words and focus again on where you are soon heading. Focus as you may, generations to come will live the words of exile, a time and place you and I find ourselves today.
So here is the question, are we there yet?
I seldom use stories of my own children for their privacy, but today I am going to break the rule. It was family vacation, Kathy and myself with two children are heading to Disney World. Our oldest son Steven was pretty small but old enough to have a good grasp on where we were going. We had been telling him for months that we were going and his excitement was off the scale by the time we finally got in the car for the journey. His “Are we there yet” statements were too many too keep track of and even though each “Are we there yet” brought a firmer and more impatient “No”, he never lost sight of his dream. We would stop at gas stations and restaurants and he would engage anyone who would listen with the dream of his destination. Some people would become so caught up in his excitement they would ask if they could come with him. I think a couple of them may have gone home and planned their own trip based on his enthusiasm.
The time finally came when his “Are we there yet?” was answered by “Almost.” Shoes on, poised in position to bound out of the car, he was ready and yes, it was a time he would not forget.
Do I need to ask if you know where I am going with this? Just in case, I will continue.
I read these words of return and I can just feel the words “Are we there yet” bubbling up from down deep inside of me. As I write, it dawns on me that my daily reciting of the Shema is turning into my own “Are we there yet?’ Watching wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, interaction with my Jewish brothers and sisters; it is all causing those words to form more rapidly in my spirit.
What saddens me in the midst of my own excitement is how much easier it was for Steven to get people excited about going to Disney than it is for me to get people excited about going “Home.” I am not talking about people outside of covenant, but rather those who profess to be within it. Yes, there are a few who are excited, but it is a small remnant today. As I speak of “Home” and ask forms of the question of are we there yet, I am still met with so many glassy eyed stares. This causes me to wonder and consider if the excitement I am portraying is more surface than I want to admit. Is my excitement proved in my actions or is it merely words people are seeing through to be phony?
This past week I attended a small congregation in our area. It was my first Shabbat home in over a month. The group will normally study the Torah, but leave the other writings for personal study. As we came to the end of the portion our daughter-in-law asked if we could read the Haftarah of Isaiah 60. When I saw the first few words, a lump formed in my throat. It is hard to explain the feeling of hearing her read the words. She read as a person who has not only walked The Land, but as someone whose heart and life are connected to The Land and her people. She read with gentle passion of a time when our exile is over, the tribulation is behind us and Messiah has set up His Kingdom. It is a day Torah is going forth from Jerusalem and the nations are streaming to her to learn to walk in His ways. As she read I was looking at their son, my grandson, and wondering, could these verses be of a day he will grow up seeing with his own eyes?
I held back the tears as she read. As she completed the last words, I simply said, “May it be soon and in our day.” By the way, that is now my Hebrew idiom for “Are we there yet?”
May we, in Him, be found worthy to be the generation which sees the end of exile. May our children and grandchildren be part of the first generation raised in His Kingdom. May our Heavenly Father grant to each of us the longing and excitement which will pierce through the glassy eyed stares of those still without a vision of where “Home” truly is.
May it all come to pass soon and in our day, or as we used to say, “Are we there yet?” (Click to Site)

 

Torah Commentary – Ki Tavo (When You Come) – Until “Today” – SCRIPTURES FOR September 9, 2017

Torah Commentary
Ki Tavo  (When You Come)
Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8
Isaiah 60:1-22
Matthew 13:1-23
Acts 28:17-31
Romans 11:1-15

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Until “Today”
As I have shared, there are many themes in the book of Deuteronomy. We see the importance of taking responsibility for our actions, treating others with respect, walking in blessings and walking in curses through our disobedience. All of these instructions give us rich teachings to abide in during our life of exile. But there is an underlying theme that brings focus to our walk that is inherent to grasp. It brings greater joy and purpose to this life in exile. The theme I am referring to is Israel!
My heart for Israel overflows in my teachings which is why you will often hear me express concern for the apparent disconnect I see in the Hebraic and church communities. I have attended conferences where Israel isn’t mentioned! When I do talk about Israel, I am often met with glassy, clueless stares. It appears many people are more concerned about building their lives here in Egypt than allowing Father to turn their hearts to our true Home. For those people, I pray that as they read Scripture, Father will open their eyes and change their hearts. There are those who say that we really have nothing to do with Israel today until Messiah sets up His Kingdom. For them I will share modified words of Dietrich Bonheoffer, “I have no right to participate in the reconstruction of life in Israel in His Kingdom unless I participate in the trials of this time with my people.” We need to identify with Israel our people, Israel our home in this day, not tomorrow!
What about the rest of us? In the first chapter of this Torah portion it speaks of a time in which we will bring an offering in a basket and place it before His appointed priests. Read the words from Deuteronomy 26:3-11. Don’t those words give you a longing for that day? For me the word “Today” in verse 3 jumps off the page and grabs my heart. My soul cries out for “Today” to be today. For now we are left longing for “Today” but have to live in today. What can we do with our today’s as we long for “Today?”
In just a couple of weeks we will be into the Fall Feasts. Many will celebrate Yom Teruah with apples and honey. Now I understand it is a tradition, but it is a “sweet” one! I like apples and honey and really appreciate the meaning of entering into the Fall Feasts with a sense of sweetness. What if that delicious jar of honey was not from bees in your neighbor’s backyard, but from bees in our Father’s backyard, Israel? It is easier than you may think. Go online and type in Israel Honey. It can be shipped right to your door. We also look forward to Sukkot. Eight days of finding out things about people you are not sure you wanted to know! In Leviticus 23 we are told to bring the four species and worship before Him. My tradition is to order my lulav and etrog (can be spelled etrog or esrog) from Israel. It is fun to see the expressions on people’s faces when I tell them my bumpy, bright yellow fruit is from Israel. Ordering is easy. Go to myesrog.com and order your own citrus fruit from the Land! If you do so by Sept 20 you can use the code myesrog2017 for a discount. Imagine standing in the midst of the community waving a lulav and etrog that has just days before been in the place your heart is longing to be.
There is another issue to prayerfully consider. Today there are needs all over the world. In America we do not have to look farther than southern Texas. I urge people to do whatever they can to help whoever they can in that area. Even in the midst of this, please remember Israel? Are the verses in Deuteronomy not telling us that our first offering should be there? Take a look at Romans 15:25-27. It is absolutely a good thing to help those in Houston, but it is also our Scriptural duty to help those in need in Israel.
In mid October I will be leading our annual tour to Israel. As has been the case now for over 15 years, I will be taking funds to help those in need. If you would like to be a part of this, a Sukkot offering to our home, you can go to our web site and put “Israel” in the note section of your donation. Or if it is easier, you can send a check or call with a credit card. Every dollar will go to Israel to help those in need.
For today, Messiah has not returned, the Temple of His home has not been built, Torah is not flowing into the nations from Jerusalem, but that does not mean we cannot be involved in what may be hastening our today’s to become “Today.” May your longing for Home bring forth joy in your life, purpose and preparation! (Click to Site)

 

Torah Commentary – Ki Tetze (When you go out) – Protecting the Back of the Pack – SCRIPTURES FOR September 2, 2017

Torah Commentary
Ki Tetze (When you go out)
Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Isaiah 54:1-10
Mark 10:2-12
Luke 20:27-38
1Tim 5:17-18

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Protecting the Back of the Pack
As I read through these middle chapters of Deuteronomy I sometimes want to put my head back and say, “Well duh!” For me, I find many of the instructions here are common sense. I really cannot think of a time in my life that I needed to be reminded to not wear a dress or makeup! Then I recall something simple, yet profound, a friend said, “If common sense is supposed to be so common, then why isn’t it?” While watching the news it is rather evident that there are many folks across this world in need of reading these verses and putting them into practice in their lives.
Why are these instructions difficult for so many people? The very simple answer is no relationship with Yeshua, no Torah, no life!! Torah teaches us about taking responsibility for our actions. Consider it this way. Let’s say your ox walks through a hole in your fence and falls in a ditch. You ponder the issue. The blame goes to the ox for walking through the hole in the fence and falling into the ditch. Then you consider maybe a demon spooked the ox which made him run through the hole and into the ditch. The obvious issue is not what the ox did wrong, but the fact you needed to fix the fence. Had responsibility been taken the ox would not be in the ditch!
For the prepper at heart think about the verse that asks you to include a trowel in your pack. How do feel when you realize what the trowel is needed for? Wait, you want me to use that trowel? Do you shutter at the idea that you might get it dirty requiring you to clean it? Are you wondering why someone else can’t clean up the mess you made in the camp? Do you avoid taking responsibility?
The Torah also teaches us what is referred to as the “Golden Rule.” It is amazing how many people actually think the words “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is really a verse in Scripture. No, it is not a verse of Scripture, but it is a principle derived from It. Things like not charging a brother or sister interest, respecting others physical and spiritual boundaries are all instructions taught in these Torah portions. (Click to Site)

 

Torah Commentary – Shof’tim (Judges) – Giving Yah Our Best – SCRIPTURES FOR August 26, 2017

Torah Commentary
Shof’tim (Judges)
Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9
Isaiah 51:12-52:13
Matthew 5:38-42; 18:15-20
Acts 3:13-26; 7:35-53

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Giving Yah Our Best
The deeper I read into the book of Deuteronomy I find such richness in its Truths.  Each week I am challenged to single out only one or two points to reflect on. It is important to me to help set the stage for your own focus in seeking Father within these words. Seeking Him first and honoring Him with our best is the focus of this weekly commentary.
This week we are told to seek righteousness, by making sure Torah is being written upon our hearts not simply a quick read. With passion we are to be like Moses in upholding Torah. We read about preparing ourselves to live in cities and houses we did not build. There is a message revealed within this Torah portion that is inherent to understanding so as to comprehend the rest of its meaning.
In Deuteronomy 17:1 we are told not to bring a sacrifice with a defect or anything wrong with it. This is to not only be a starting point for this Torah portion, but a necessary instruction to understand more of our relationship with our Father.
You might be saying to yourself, “We don’t have sacrifices to bring today.” Rethink this thought and consider these actions as sacrifices for today. Our time spent in prayer, especially in the busyness of today’s society. Adding a 9:00am and 3:00pm alarm on your phone as a reminder to recite the Shema requires a commitment. What about the dedication to honor and observe Shabbat? Include the time set aside for Bible study. Even consider preparation and observance of Father’s Appointed Times. Along with preparation, what about setting aside ten percent of our income, as well as the additional funds for the Feasts, the widow, orphan and restoration of the Land and people of Israel? All of these actions require a sacrificial commitment of time, thought and energy to carry out for the glory of our King! Are we setting aside the best of our “flock” that is without spot or blemish or just whatever feels good to us?
There are many events and people that stand out in my childhood. Probably the most influential was my grandmother. She taught me many things about God through her actions. I recall one specific act that stood out to me regarding her giving unto the Father. Granny was not a rich woman and yet she never went without. Her life of faith impacted many people. This memory is especially important to me and reflected my thoughts in this commentary regarding giving your best.
At probably the age of eight or nine I would go with granny to the bank so she could deposit her social security check. I especially enjoyed the trip because the teller had a sucker for me! Granny would hand the check to the teller to be deposited and receive some cash back. The cash back was her preset tithe. Sure, this is normal procedure for many people. The point that stuck out to me was that Granny always asked for the withdrawal to be in new bills. The following Sunday when the offering plate was passed through the pews granny would sometimes give me the envelope with those crisp new bills to put in the plate. She did not have to explain to me her reasoning. I understood the lesson lived before my eyes. Granny wanted new bills; she saw it as a way of giving her best. That story may sound a bit silly to some, but even as I am writing, the memory brings tears to my eyes. The lesson I learned from that small action as a young child was to bring your best to the King in respect and reverence. (Click to Site)

 

New Moon – the month of Elul – the Biblical Sixth month

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Shalom,
New Moon
The New Moon has been sighted in Israel! We enter into the Biblical Sixth month. This is the month of Elul, the month of harvest leading up to the Fall Festivals.
Look toward the western sky at sundown tonight and celebrate the goodness of HaShem in our lives.

Celebration Tips
Lighting of the Menorah
Reading Psalms
Sounding of the shofar
Celebration dinner
Special time of thanks and blessing.
Prayer for peace of Jerusalem (Ps 122:6) and regathering of the family of Israel.
(EZ 37)
 

May HaShem open His floodgates of blessing upon you in this new month.
Chodesh Tov. (Good month)
Be Strong,
Mike Clayton
Joined To HaShem
 
Disclaimer: This email is not intended to set a calendar or appointed time. It is only to announce the sighting of the New Moon in Israel. It is to be a reminder to those in exile that Jerusalem should be the focus and center of all we do.

Torah Commentary – Re’eh (See) – See, Perceive or Selah – SCRIPTURES FOR August 19, 2017

Torah Commentary
Re’eh (See)
Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
Isaiah 54:11-55:5
1Corinthians 5:9-13
1John 4:1-6

yeshuatheMessiah

See, Perceive or Selah
The title of this Torah portion is translated very simply with the word “see.” This small simple word can be taken for granted by some.  For the vast majority of the people in this country, “seeing” is the first thing they do every morning. People wake up, open their eyes to see, or depending on your optical ability, at least look at the images our eyes are allowing their brains to discern. I question whether there is a difference between seeing or looking?
In Hebrew the word is re’eh. The word has the meaning of looking at something with our eyes, but that is not the context in how it’s being used here. The Hebrew meaning is for us to perceive and consider something so as to bring forth discernment. Many of you may relate to the example I’m going to use to explain my point. Most people wake up in the morning head to the bathroom to begin their daily routine to make themselves presentable before leaving home. Many of us find in the mirror the proverbial “bed head” look with hair going every direction. As one makes sense of the new style their pillow created they might find a few gray hairs that certainly could not have been there the day before.
How you handle these sneaky little gray hairs is what brings forth my point. Will you make a mental note of the location of these sly little hairs to pluck them out, hide them with a new hairstyle or run to the local Wal-Mart to grab a bottle of hair color? Are these little gray hairs a frightful unwanted sight or do they bring you to a place of introspection? Do you just “see” the gray hair or do look deeper to evaluate the Scriptural meaning behind gray hair and how it’s interpreted. Do you perceive what is happening in your life regarding your maturity and reflect on decisions you are making? The gray hair is a sign to us to ponder if we are learning the lessons life has been trying to teach us or traveling around the same mountain of mistakes. Are you gaining wisdom through maturity or just going gray? (Click to Site)

 

Torah Commentary – Ekev “Because” – The Longing Within – SCRIPTURES FOR August 12, 2017

Torah Commentary
Ekev “Because”
Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25
Isaiah 49:14-51:3
2Kings 1-3
Matthew 4:1-11 Luke 4:1-13
James 5:7-11

yeshuatheMessiah

The Longing Within
A few weeks ago Kathy and I had the pleasure of hosting Barry Phillips of Remnant of Yisrael . Barry is a cherished friend of many years now. In the early 2,000’s, I had the privilege of taking Barry and his wife, Laura, on their first trip home to Israel. Through the years I have had the privilege of bringing hundreds of people to the Land. Surprisingly some have treated the trip as a checkmark on their bucket list while others are forever transformed by Israel. Barry and Laura are part of the latter group.
During his visit with us, Barry taught a message which I think ties into this Torah portion. It was titled ‘Exiles or Captives”. This message is available on his web site. To summarize the message I ask the question, “Are our lives today defined by the word exile or captive?” The answer lies in where your heart’s desire or focus. It might seem strange to define oneself by these two terms, exile and captive, so let me explain.
During a recent conference I shared a message titled “Longing for Home.” After my title was submitted I questioned whether maybe I should have called it “Longing for Home, Israel.” Unfortunately the thought came in late, so I let it go. Interestingly enough I had more than one person come to me to share they had seen my message title but did not come because they didn’t know the subject I would be speaking on. I was asked, “Where is home?” My question to them, “Are you an exile or a captive?” You tell me.

(Click to Site)

Torah Commentary – Va’etchanan “And I besought” – The Call to Return – SCRIPTURES FOR August 5, 2017

Torah Commentary
Va’etchanan “And I besought”
Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11
Isaiah 40:1-26
1 Kings 19-22
Matthew 4:1-11; Romans 3:27-31
James 2:14-26

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The Call to Return
This Torah portion is so rich that it is difficult to not write pages and pages of commentary. Instead I will focus on a great work which is happening in our day, a work based upon just one verse. In Deuteronomy 6:4 we find the Shema, “Hear oh Israel YH VH our God, YH VH is One”. For many people this is the first verse in Scripture they learn to say in Hebrew! The importance of this verse for the Jewish and Messianic communities is likened to John 3:16 in the Christian church. These verses are foundational in faith.
It was the mid 2000’s when the Shema took on fuller meaning for me. It was then I learned the verse in English and Hebrew. Later on, while I was at a speaking engagement in Lucerne Valley, California a dear friend and brother brought this verse to life for me. He, his wife and congregation had the alarms on their cell phones set to ring at 9am and 3pm. When the alarm went off they would stop whatever they were doing to recite the Shema. I liked the idea and set my alarm also. For a year or so I followed the tradition. In time the alarm and recitation lost interest in my daily life, subsequently the alarms were deleted. I found it was never a heart’s desire to do this, but more an interest in joining in with my friends.
I am not sure what prompted me, but a couple of years ago a change of heart occurred. I decided to set my alarm again. In meetings, conferences and daily life I have encouraged others to do the same. It is quite the experience to be in a meeting and hear alarms going off all over the room at 9am or 3pm so we can join together as one to give honor to the One that brought us together in the first place! Even more exciting is being on a tour to Israel with a busload of folks, or even just a few people in a restaurant, rise, turn toward the Temple Mount and begin to recite the Shema. Rather interesting conversations and events have happened around this as you may imagine.
Why the Shema and why now?
The Shema is not a prayer, but rather a call and declaration. As we honor Elohim, it is a call to those who turned away from Him. It is our voices being used to call out to the “Lost sheep of Israel” to make teshuvah (repentance and return) unto the Elohim of Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’akov through the covenant of Messiah. When you and I recite the Shema our voices are going to the far reaches of the earth to call our brothers and sisters to nasa (lift up their heads) and return unto Him. It is a declaration of the revelation that the Elohim we serve is Echad, (One).
The words of the Shema are few, but filled with great meaning. Here is an amplified version by Barry Phillips of Remnant of Yisrael.
“So hear, grasp and comprehend, Yisrael, You covenant people chosen by YHWH, full of colors, nations, and tribes, YHWH, He Who is Mercy and Lovingkindness is our very own Elohim, our personal Creator and Judge Who will repay. This YHWH, the second mentioning, the revealing of the first mentioned, Y’shuah, is a mystical and wondrous unity of One; The first and the last together.” (Click to Site)

 

Torah Commentary – Devarim “Words” – A More Excellent Work – SCRIPTURES FOR July 29, 2017

Torah Commentary
Devarim “Words”
Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
Isaiah 1:1-27
1Kings 16-18
John 15:1-11
Hebrews 3:7-4:11

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A More Excellent Work
This week we begin the Book of Deuteronomy, which includes the final message of Moses to the people he has grown to love. Although they have given Moses many days of heartache through the forty year wilderness journey, in the end his love for them cannot be measured. I am not sure the Hebrews could grasp the depth of his love. Moses’ calling is near completion as he stands, possibly with tears running down his cheeks, to give one last message to Israel. Moses completed the task he was called to. He delivered the people out of the bondage of Egypt and took them as far as he could go. Now he must turn the reins over to another chosen by HaShem. Joshua will take Israel the final steps home.
As we continue through this last book of Torah we will learn that even Moses knows they will not remain in the Land. Sadly, forty years in the desert and the death of all those that were twenty and older, has not completely cleansed the community of the Egyptian mindset. The heart of Egypt was passed down to their children. Yes, their children will enter the Promise Land, but in the end they will not be allowed to remain. The physical deliverance from Egypt would not be enough to sustain them in the Land. A power far greater than Moses was needed to complete the inward work of true deliverance from the Egyptian culture for the Hebrews to be able to maintain the set apart lifestyle needed to abide in Israel.
I see this scenario of the Hebrews being lived out once again today. The “Hebrew Roots Movement” has repeated history in leading a type of physical deliverance as Moses did centuries ago. Hebraic Roots is empowering people with important knowledge to bring about a mighty exodus from paganism. It has been a deliverance involving mostly external choices. We no longer dress up as horror characters for candy, decorate trees or hide eggs. Our menu selection at the grocery store and restaurants has dramatically changed. Worship celebrations have Scriptural foundations tied to Biblical dates of observance. Many of us even look to the New Moon because we understand further the first verse of Genesis which tells us to see the moon as a sign. What I want to evaluate is whether our journey has just been physical. Have we truly made more progress in the crossing over than the Hebrews? Are we still standing on the wrong side of the river?  Have we opened our hearts to a deeper relationship with the Most High so that His Spirit can passionately flow through us to overflow onto others? Are we maintaining a solid relationship with our King that we forget life across the river? Will the bond be so tight to guard us from being expelled from the Land before we ever arrive? (Click to Site)

 

Shalom, – New Moon

New Moon

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The New Moon has been sighted in Israel! We enter into the Biblical Fifth month. This is known as the month of Av, one filled with tragedy through the centuries. Let us pray protection for His Land and people during this crucial time.
Look toward the western sky at sundowntonight and celebrate the goodness of HaShem in our lives.

Celebration Tips
Lighting of the Menorah
Reading Psalms
Sounding of the shofar
Celebration dinner
Special time of thanks and blessing.
Prayer for peace of Jerusalem (Ps 122:6) and regathering of the family of Israel.
(EZ 37)

May HaShem open His floodgates of blessing upon you in this new month.
Chodesh Tov. (Good month)
Be Strong,
Mike Clayton
Joined To HaShem
 
Disclaimer: This email is not intended to set a calendar or appointed time. It is only to announce the sighting of the New Moon in Israel. It is to be a reminder to those in exile that Jerusalem should be the focus and center of all we do.