Are Last Rites Valid for Jews?

There won’t be any video today.

I wrote this earlier this morning, and I planned to record the video after we took our cat, Shadow, for his two-week steroid shot, which he has been getting for 11 months due to him having cancer. He has been having trouble for the past week or so with urinating, and he has been uncomfortable and in pain. When we saw the Vet, she talked to us and we all knew, with her confirmation, that it was time to put him down.

Understandably, I am not in the mood to talk to anyone about anything right now, so since this was already written I will post it. I am sure you all feel for us, and Donna and I thank you for your compassion.

 

I was reading Dear Abby this morning and there was a Reform Jewish man who wrote about his wife, who had converted to Judaism and on her deathbed (she was comatose) her family asked if they could have a Priest administer the Last Rites of the Roman Catholic church. The man agreed as a way to be kind to the family, but now is having second thoughts about it.

Abby, in her usual politically correct answer, said the woman was comatose and whatever was said didn’t matter to her, so it was OK and he shouldn’t feel guilty.

I thought about this, as my initial response was, “No! You didn’t do that, did you, Mister?”, but I didn’t want to be unfair. After all, Abby is right that the woman didn’t have any idea what was going on. But, then again, when administering the Last Rites to an unconscious person are the statements the person is supposed to make made for them? I know when a baby is baptized, the godparents speak on behalf of the baby, so if a person is being given Last Rites, and they cannot speak for themselves, will the Priest intercede on their behalf?

I researched Last Rites and it reads like Tax form instructions. There are actually three different rites or sacraments that are given, and part of the rite is to have the person repeat the Apostolic Creed, which is this:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.

If the person cannot do so because they are unconscious, then (from what I have read) they can either receive a Plenary Indulgence or a partial indulgence, which is essentially saying that they will be given a “bye” on the consequences of their sins since they cannot ask for forgiveness.

Overall, I think when the husband allowed his Jewish wife to have someone say the Last Rites over her, he did the wrong thing. I see this as just another example of the typical Roman Catholic stance that Jews are wrong and they need to be converted. This was, maybe (a BIG maybe) asked by the family because they truly were concerned for the soul of their “lost” family member, but it still is disrespectful to her. She chose to convert to Judaism, and the Catholic family members should have respected that.

But Catholicism has never really respected Judaism, or any other religion (for that matter), and I believe in this case they wanted the nearly dead person to come back to Christ before it was “too late.”

People have a right to choose what they will believe in, and whether or not we like their choice, we must respect it. I think this request by the family to have Last Rites administered is not just disrespectful, but an abomination- a sad attempt to convert someone who has already made her choice but is now unable to fight them. And to request this from a man who is watching his wife dying, and probably not fully able to make decisions due to his grief, is just disgusting.

I can understand that the family may have been doing what they thought was best for the woman, but it is just another example of Roman Catholic disrespect for any beliefs other than what they believe. I think the Priest that administered the Last Rites was also at fault- he, of all people, should have respected the choice of the comatose woman and said that no one can accept Yeshua by proxy.
Oh, wait- that is what the Roman Catholic Church does, isn’t it?  The baptism ceremony has the godparents accepting Jesus for the baby. Later, at the Confirmation ceremony (the child is 7 or 8 years of age), they perform the catechism now (supposedly) the child now speaking for him or herself accepting Jesus as their “Lord.”

I asked my wife, who was raised Roman Catholic and went to a Catholic school if she knew anyone that refused to go to Confirmation, and she said of course not. In Catholic school, you do it, period. Between the Nuns and your parents, you really have no choice. The Church tells you this is what you must do.

This is the attitude of the “Church”, in general, whether Roman Catholic, Protestant or whatever other denomination of Christian there is. They see Jews and other religions as inferior and feel the need to convert them, misinterpreting the statement Yeshua made in Matthew 28:19 when he was ascending to heaven and told the Talmudim (Disciples) to make disciples of everyone.

I think it should be understood since he also told them (Matthew 10:14) to wipe the dust from their sandals if they were rejected, that to make disciples doesn’t mean to force people to be a disciple, but to give them the opportunity to choose to be a disciple.

Unfortunately, from my experience, the only religion of the “Big Three” that does not actively try to convert everyone is Judaism.  We do not try to make Jews out of everyone, and I don’t believe that is what Yeshua meant when he said to make disciples out of everyone. I believe, based on his being Jewish, that he meant to spread the word to Jews (remember- he came only for the House of Israel) about their Messiah. Not to actively convert the Gentiles. However, God did allow the salvation of those Gentiles who CHOSE to accept Yeshua and, thereby CHOSE to convert to Judaism. Christianity, as we know it today, didn’t come about until Constantine in the Third Century. Back in Yeshua’s day, and for the next hundred years or so, accepting Yeshua meant becoming a Jew.

In conclusion, there may be some reading this who feel I am being unfair and coming down on the Roman Catholic’s too hard, and maybe I am. As a Jewish man brought up being called “Christ Killer” and other such insults, I may be a little extra sensitive when I see any Christian forcing their beliefs on someone else.

But that doesn’t mean that what they are doing is acceptable. We each have to choose God and Messiah on our own, without coercion or threat, and I truly believe that any form of conversion which is not our own, free will choice will not be acceptable to God.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

A Real Life Example of How Patient Prayer Works

If you have been to the About Steve page on my website you would have read that children have kicked me out of their lives, and how I have been praying fervently every day for reconciliation. I have always stated I know it is, ultimately, a choice my children have to make, and I appreciate and am thankful for whatever God can do to help them make that choice.

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I say it that way because I know God will not force someone to love or forgive- he will give us plenty of opportunities, he will send angels and people in our path to help steer us to that goal, but he will not force anyone to do something.

On each of the birthdays of my children, I send them a letter or email. My daughter doesn’t have an email address I know of, so I send her a letter, and my son has an email.  I sent my son his birthday greeting and (as usual) a request to please reconcile last October (2018). As always, I said a little prayer over that communique before I sent it.

Last week I was checking my email and guess what was there? That’s right- an email from my son saying all the things I had been praying he would say. We have exchanged some emails since then, I am getting caught up on what he has been doing (it has been nearly 6 years since we last spoke) and he seems to be much more open to having a relationship than ever before.

I will be taking this step-by-step because I don’t want to ruin things, again. I am pretty sure what I had done in the past to help alienate him, and although I was trying to do what I thought best for him, even at my own expense, clearly I could have done whatever it was I wanted to do in a better way. I will do my very best not to make that mistake again.

Even though we are not of the same belief regarding God and Messiah, he is willing to read my books which I am sending to him today.

So, prayer works! Not always the way you want it to, not always like you want it to, and almost never when you want it to, but overall….it works.

In fact, it works even on those who don’t necessarily believe in God, so long as the one praying does.

I am so happy that my son has returned to me that I had to share this today with you, as encouragement to all of you out there still waiting for an answer to your prayers. Be patient, keep on asking, and faithfully trust that even if you don’t see any results, God is working on it for you.

 

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Yitro 2019 (Jethro) Exodus 18 – 20

In today’s Torah reading we come to one of the most earth-shattering and influential statements ever made throughout the history of Mankind: God gives the world his Ten Commandments.

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I am so unworthy of commenting on God’s commandments- where do I start, and even more difficult to determine than that, how do I stop?

Let me cover some basic things without going into a lot of detail.

The first two commandments are generally thought of as one: the first is only that God is our God- I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of Egypt. That is it. It is the second commandment that tells us not to have any other gods before the one and only true God.

The third commandment not to use the Lord’s name in vain to a Jew means not to use it at all, unless in a court of law. We do not use the Tetragrammaton (Y-H-V-H) at all, substituting Adonai (Lord) or HaShem (the Name) or Elohim instead of pronouncing the Name. This is done as a sign of respect for the holiness of God’s name.

As far as the Sabbath day commandment, I find it interesting that here God says to remember the Sabbath because, after creation, God rested on the 7th day. However, in Deuteronomy 5:14 God says to remember the Sabbath day because he freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. This remembrance of being slaves in Egypt is repeated throughout the Tanakh. I read that this is wrongly accepted as the reason to celebrate the Sabbath is to remember freedom from Egypt, but it really refers to the 7 days a week that they had to work when in Egypt. The Sabbath is (originally and still) a remembrance of God’s rest after creating the world.

The commandments also have a definite order of priority: the first four commandments are about our relationship with and duties to God, the next commandment about our duties towards family, and the last 5 commandments about our duties towards our fellow human beings.  This shows us how we should live our lives: in obedience to God, with respect for our family and with respect for others.

Too many religions teach that these commandments are the only important ones, and if we obey these alone we will be in heaven. Yet, there are a total of 613 commandments in the Old Covenant, and the New Covenant is based entirely on the Old one. There is nothing “new” in the New Covenant: Yeshua taught from and about the Torah (he was, after all, the Torah in the Flesh) and the Disciples and Apostles also taught from and about the Torah. The only thing that is new, if anything, in the New Covenant, is the fact that Yeshua taught us the spiritual meaning of these commandments. The Pharisees taught the literal meaning (P’shat) and Yeshua went beyond that to the spiritual (Remes) through the use of Parables (Drashim) so that we could grow stronger in spirit.

Yeshua told us that the two most important commandments are to love the Lord your God with all your strength, heart and mind, and to love each other, right? Did you realize these are not in the Ten Commandments? Yes, the first commandment tells us that the Lord is our God, but Yeshua quoted the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4), which is not in the Big Ten. The commandment to love God with all our heart, soul and strength is from the V’ahavta prayer, which is in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Numbers 15:40. The other commandment he quotes is in Leviticus 19:18, to love your neighbor as yourself. So does that mean Yeshua has done away with the Ten?

Of course not!

The Ten Commandments are absolute and the other 603 (from both the Torah and the Talmud) are the ways in which we obey these ten. What Yeshua gave us was (again) the spiritual understanding of what these Ten Commandments spell out in physical terms. We see this when he gives the Sermon on the Mount, saying, “You have heard it said…., but I tell you….”; he was confirming the Ten Commandments and expanding on their meaning.

I suppose this message is nothing more than just a simple reminder of what we are reading in the Torah. I don’t feel any particularly deep spiritual or revelatory statements coming from me. Perhaps something in here will spark an idea or God will use what I am saying to show you something you haven’t seen before. I hope so because I am drawing a blank as far as spiritual insight for today, so I will leave you with this last thought…. if you believe in God, accept Yeshua as your Messiah, and keep these commandments in your heart and daily activities, I think you will be alright.

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Tonight begins Shabbat, so Shabbat Shalom! May you have a restful and blessed Sabbath.

There is a Fine Line Between Scare Tactics and Sugar-Coating Salvation

Like it or not, those of us who are to make disciples and be a light in the darkness have to realize we are Salespeople- selling the most important product that anyone could ever have: salvation and eternal joy.

It’s remarkable when you think of the benefits of this product, yet the vast majority of people either don’t want it or are willing to buy a “knock-off” (i.e., a religion that rejects God’s word) and they are happy with it. As Hosea said:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:6)

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The other day on Facebook a friend posted a beautiful message, all about God’s presence in our lives and how he protects us, loves us and wants the best for us. It talked of his ability to provide and his desire to save us. I replied that we need to also remember that he is our Judge and Jury, as well as Executioner and that these promises are not all that we have to look forward to. For those people who accept God and Messiah, there will be trouble and tribulation throughout their life. Following God has many advantages, but the very best of them we will not receive in this lifetime.

In my past, I was a professional salesman (for about 15 years) and I can tell you that to have a good sale, meaning one that will not cancel on you, you must be truthful and not give wrong expectations. You can’t make it sound like accepting God and Messiah will solve all your problems, nor should you use negative selling or scare tactics; these styles will never produce a “good” sale. Preaching “fire and brimstone” scare tactics might convince some people to accept Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah. In the same way, preaching that God loves you just as you are, you can be saved simply by asking for it and once saved you will receive all sorts of blessings will create unrealistic expectations, and that seed will be like the seed the weeds choked them or the birds came and ate (Matthew 13.)

To follow God faithfully we must also love him- you can’t scare people into loving someone; likewise, you will set them up for disappointment if you make salvation sound like heaven on earth. To put rose-colored glasses on unsuspecting and biblically ignorant people, convincing them that once they accept Yeshua they will be saved and blessed, is to send them into battle with a gun that has no bullets.

Following God is hard work- Yeshua didn’t say follow me and have it easy, he said we must carry our execution stake on our shoulders in order to follow him (Mark 8:34.) To obey God and follow Messiah means you might have to give up much: friends, family, sometimes your job, maybe even your life!

For those to whom we are preaching salvation, we must let them know, right at the start, that this is not going to be easy. That they will, over time, have to sacrifice things that they may not want to. We keep them interested in reminding them of the afterlife rewards, as well as the many blessings they can receive while alive. We shouldn’t sugar-coat what they are deciding to do, but we shouldn’t scare them to the point where they lose bowel control, either.

That is the thin line we must walk when we talk to non-believers about God and Messiah. We should be an example of the proper way to act towards God and each other, and we must also tell them that we are still human, frail and weak, and it is expected that we won’t always act in the godliest way; for example, the words I will probably be using when it takes me three strokes to get out of the stinking sand trap! Failing to be godly now and then doesn’t mean we aren’t trying, and this is one of the best things about God: he knows our heart, he forgives our failures and he strengthens us when we ask him to help us be better.

I always try to slide some hint or suggestion in a conversation that will let me see if there is a positive reaction from someone regarding God and the Bible. I might interject a biblical reference or repeat a proverb in a conversation and say I read it in a really good book. If they ask which book, I can then say it is in the Bible, and ask them if they have ever read it? There can be any number of ways to “test the waters” when conversing with someone to see if they are open to hearing about God without tackling them to the ground, sitting on them and asking, “Do you believe in God?”

I can tell you, absolutely, that approach will not work.

My suggestion is that you think of ways you are comfortable with when approaching people about God during a conversation that is subtle and non-threatening to them. Here are some examples of what I do:

  • I work a biblical story or proverb into the conversation and start it off with, “I read this in a book”, and if they ask what book, I tell them. Then I ask if they ever read the Bible?
  • I turn the conversation towards the current social unrest, and ask if they believe there are more problems coming in the future? Carefully I work in that the Bible has stated these sorts of things will happen and ask them if they believe the Bible or if they believe in God?
  • If someone asks advice, I give them a proverb or story from the Bible to justify my advice. I’ll then ask if they knew the Bible covers many inter-personal relationship issues.

These are just some ways I turn the conversation towards God, and I never, ever push myself on people. If they are interested, I go with the flow but slowly, and carefully. It is like walking on thin ice- if I put too much pressure on, I will fall through.

When someone talks only about how good God is and all the wonderful things he does for us, I feel bad for them and the people they are talking to because they are setting themselves up for disappointment; how often have you heard people reject God because he didn’t meet their expectations? That is what preaching only the “happy-happy” side of salvation does- it gets a lot of people to join in, but it also sets them up for disappointment and eventually doesn’t help them. On the other hand, preaching fire and brimstone only scares people, and that will also fail to help them.

There are many blessings awaiting those who love the Lord and accept Yeshua as their Messiah, both now and throughout eternity, but they come at a price. We like to say “salvation is a free gift from God”, but it really isn’t.  Oh yes- you can have it for the asking, but to keep it you will have to give up much.

We must never push people away from God, and it is just as important that we must never leave them with the wrong expectations. The saddest thing about missionary work is that when we fail to make the right impression, it isn’t we who suffer- it is those we are trying to help. If we leave a bad taste in their mouth regarding God or Messiah, we may end up causing them to lose any chance of salvation, or (at least) we might make it that much harder for the next person.

It’s a thin line we walk when trying to help people come to God.

 

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Thank you for your interest and please don’t hesitate to leave comments or suggestions (just be nice.)

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Is the Truth Any Good if It Isn’t Practical?

What is “practical“? According to Google dictionary, it is:

of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas.

OK- so that’s what practical means. Next, we need to know what the “truth‘ is, don’t we?

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The truth is, for all practical purposes, whatever someone wants to the truth to be. I know certain truths from the word of God of which I have no doubt about their meaning, but those same verses which convince me of one truth, convince someone else of a totally different and (often) opposite truth.

So, again, what is the truth? Didn’t Pontius Pilate ask that of Yeshua at his trial? And what did Yeshua answer him? It was in John 18:37-38 so let’s see what Yeshua says the truth is:

 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 

Wait a minute! Yeshua never told him what the truth is…or did he? He did say that everyone on the side of truth listens to him, and he preached from the Tanakh, so I suppose what Yeshua was saying is that the truth is in the Tanakh- the word of God.

But that brings us back to the first thing I said, which is that the truth comes from the Word of God.

Here is the real truth as I see it: any given Bible verse can mean different things to different people depending on what they want it to mean!

I recently posted on how Bible verses can’t always be trusted; click here to go to that message. It is because Bible verses mean different things to different people that we find the truth so difficult to find.

Here is my suggestion on how to tell what the truth is: is that “truth” practical? Can it be used in everyday life to make a change for the better?

For example, some say that the Mosaic Law was done away with when Yeshua was hung on a stake. Others say it wasn’t, so who is telling the truth? I mean, really- you can’t have both.

If the law was done away with, the practical application of that “truth” would be lawlessness, resulting in a lawless society of Believers (there’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one!) who live their life without law and, thereby, without repentance but they still get to “go to heaven.”

I don’t think so.

On the other hand, if the law is still valid, then those that follow the law would be showing that obedience to Torah in their daily lives., They wouldn’t cheat people, they would be considerate of others, they would respect God and worship him as he said we should, and they would be an example to the world of how God tells us to behave. Not perfect examples, of course, but certainly much better than someone who has no obligation to follow the rules.

I am not making a case either for or against Mosaic Law here- what I am making a case for is that whatever we want to prove as “true”, specifically regarding God and the Bible, if it isn’t something that can be used in a practical way, it probably isn’t a real “truth.” It is more likely someone else’s “truth”, and as such we should reject it.

I read posts all day long from many different people in a half dozen or so discussion groups on Facebook, all of them Christian or Hebraic Root or Messianic, and do you know what I find? Truths that have no value because they aren’t practical.

I see people post the same exact truth over and over, in different ways saying the same thing, and it is always impractical, meaning that they never tell me how to apply it to my daily life? If I know God loves me, how do I apply that when I am going shopping?  If I know God will always care for those that obey him, how will that help me when I am sick or financially strapped?

James gives us a good example of what I am talking about in James 2:16:

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that?

The same holds true for posting about the wonders and graciousness of God without providing the way to experience or (better yet) demonstrate it to others.

If you believe that you should love your neighbor as yourself, then go out and show others you believe it by giving to charity, volunteering where you can help others, or doing something for someone else without expectation or desire for reward. And remember that Yeshua said when doing a mitzvah or Tzadakah, don’t make a big show of it; don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.

When I used to preach at Shabbat services I led, I always ended up with some practical way for us to be an example of the biblical truth I was talking about. We need to be able to not just teach people about God but to teach them how to live in a godly way. We need to take the truth of the Bible and perform it in a practical way so that those in the dark can see the light.

Just talking and posting about the wonderful things of the Lord is putting a lamp under a cover, if you ask me. Yes, tell us God’s truth but then tell us how to make practical use of that truth in the real world. Our God is not a God of words and ideas, he is a God of action!

Here’s my final word on this: in order for God’s word to be proven as true, we need to take it off the pages of the book and make it practical in the real world.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch haShem!

Parashah Beshallach 2019 (It came to pass) Exodus 13:17 – 17

The Israelites are now out of Egypt, and roaming in the desert. God places them against the Red Sea and Pharaoh decides he wants them back, so sends his entire army against them. God splits the sea and the Israelites walk safely across, with the army of Egypt following. God brings the waters down on the Egyptians and they are destroyed.

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After this miraculous salvation, Moses composes a song of praise to the Lord. The people continue on, and start to complain about no food or water. God sends manna and quails for them to eat, and when they come to a large pool of poisoned water God shows Moses how to make it potable. The parashah ends with the attack upon the Jews by Amalek, and through God’s help, Amalek is defeated.

Before I talk about today’s message, I would like to share a bit of interesting information regarding Amalek and the Torah. Some of you may be familiar with the stringent requirements for writing a Torah, which is done by a specially trained scribe called a Sofer. To test the ink and the quill pen used, the Sofer will write the name “Amalek” on a piece of parchment and then he crosses it out with a number of strokes in order to fulfill the commandment of blotting out the name of Amalek, in accordance with what is written in Deuteronomy 25:19.

 

What I want to point out from this Torah reading are the events just before the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:10-16), which is when the Israelites saw the army coming after them and cried out to Moses, asking why he brought them into the desert to die. Moses, faithfully believing God will do something, tells them not to cry to him but to wait for the salvation that God will provide. Then what does God do? He asks Moses, essentially, “What are you waiting for?  Raise your rod and part the sea, then walk across it.”

We are continually told throughout the Bible to be faithful and trust in God, which Moses unquestionable did when in the face of certain destruction he told the people to wait for God to take care of them. But God wasn’t happy with that- he chided Moses for not taking action. That is a problem I see with too many people who profess to trust in the Lord, but who really think he is a God of enablement. He is not! He is a God of action.

In Isaiah 40:31 we are told to wait upon the Lord for renewed strength, but that doesn’t mean to literally sit around on your tuchas and wait for God to do something. Yes, sometimes we are to be patient and wait, such as when waiting for an answer to prayer, but for the most part, we are to walk in faith (2 Corinthians 5:7.)

We have all heard the expression “Take a leap of faith”, but what does that really mean? Does it mean to trust someone without any reason to do so? Yes, it can. Does it mean to take a chance and hope for the best? Yes, it can mean that, too. Does it mean to blindly rush into a situation and pray to God that he will make it come out alright? Well, that might be a little further than I would take it, but I suppose you could do that as well. I wouldn’t recommend it, though.

A real leap of faith is when we trust God, as he tells us we should, but not to the point where we are foolishly taking chances and expecting him to make it turn out well- that isn’t faithfully walking, that is testing the Lord. And we all know that is not something we should do (Deuteronomy 6:16, and again in Matthew 4:7.) What we should do is to trust in God by asking for his help in what we have discerned is the right thing to do, then instead of throwing the fleece before the Lord, we should just go ahead and start doing what we ask God to bless. If we are doing what is right, he will support and help us. If what we are doing is not in his will or is wrong in his eyes, we will fail. But, either way, we should be walking in faith by taking that first step to getting the ball rolling, and trusting in God to provide as we go.

Do not be like those people who always seem to be complaining that they are cursed or the Enemy is ruining their chances to do anything: sometimes they may be right, but in my experience I believe that most of the time people are just making up their own excuses and faithlessly waiting for some sign from God that he approves. They want to do something but are, in truth, afraid and faithless, so they blame God for their inaction by saying they are waiting for his sign of approval.

They will probably be waiting a long time- God wants us to walk and he will clear the path, but not until we start walking. It is our act of faith that generates God’s provision.

Therefore, if you have something you want to do that you believe is a calling from God, don’t be like the man in Matthew 8:22 who told Yeshua he wanted to follow him but first had to bury his father; if you feel a calling from God to do something, get out there and do it! Don’t wait for confirmation from people or from God- just get started. If God is with you, you will know it. And if God is not with you, then you will know that, too. I believe that when you ask for guidance and discernment from the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), both before you start and all during your work, God will answer you.

We are to walk in faith, not sit around waiting in faith, so as the old song lyric says, “Boots- start walking!”

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Tonight begins Shabbat, so Shabbat Shalom and Baruch haShem!