What is Obedience?

What is obedience?

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According to the Webster dictionary, it is willing to do as one is told; when I looked it up on the Internet, it says obedience is compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority.

The Bible tells us to be obedient to the commands, laws, and regulations that God has given to us in the Torah. The question of whether or not Yeshua (Jesus) made those laws obsolete is not part of this discussion, but we are basing this entire message on the idea that the Torah was not done away with, as many Christian religions have taught.

The real problem with obedience to God is that the Bible tells us to be obedient, if for no other reason than to receive blessings (Deut. 28), but then it also tells us that we are all sinners from birth. You can find this in Ecclesiastes 7:20 or Romans 3:10 or Psalm 143:2 or Jeremiah 32:30, just to name a few places, so we are told to be obedient but the Bible tells us we can’t be obedient. At least, not all the time.

Do you remember the drash Yeshua told in Matthew 21:28-32 about the father and his two sons? The father asks his two sons to help in the field, one says he will do it but never does, the other says he won’t, but later changes his mind and goes out to help. Yeshua asked which son was obedient and they answered the one who actually went out to help. The point is that it doesn’t matter what we say, what matters is what we actually do. Even if we initially decide not to obey God, when we do it is considered to be obedience. And those who say they will obey, even if they want to when they say it, if they don’t actually obey then they are disobedient.

But, I gotta go back to the Bible telling us we are all sinners, which is the same as saying disobedient. So if I want to be obedient, but I cannot be obedient, then what’s the use of trying?

My take on this is that we have to be a little bit of both: willing to be obedient and being obedient as best as we can. No one will ever be sinless, no one will ever be perfect, and no one will ever not sin. That is, by definition, being disobedient, yet there are so many sinners throughout the Bible who were considered righteous! Abraham pimped out his wife… twice! Jacob disrespected his father when he lied to him. Judah slept with his daughter-in-law. Moses was a murderer. Samson had serious anger management issues. Need I go on?

I believe that true obedience begins with the desire to obey. Shaul (Paul) wrote about being “under the law”, which meant obeying as the means to gain righteousness and, thereby, salvation. The desire to obey had nothing to do with this form of obedience- it is what we would call “going through the motions.” The Prophets tell us, continually, that God sees the heart and cares not for the blood of bulls and sheep but that he desires our obedience. I believe this means that God doesn’t want us to just go through the motions but expects us to want to obey, and whether we do so perfectly or only partially if our heart is in the right place then we are considered to be obedient.  We can say faith is more than just believing that Yeshua is the Messiah, it also incorporates a heartfelt desire to obey God. And, as James says, when we have faith we will have works that demonstrate that faith.

My belief (and you may disagree) is that the kind of obedience God expects from us is, first and foremost, a willingness and desire to do as he says. Then we must do as he instructs us which, because of our innate iniquity, means we will never be able to do so perfectly. This is where God’s compassion and understanding come into the mix. Just as loving parents know their children will do wrong, even when they want to do right, God understands our weaknesses and incompetence. He accepts us when we want to do what he has told us we should, and do so to the best of our individual ability. Of course, we must also feel true remorse when we fail to obey and have a humble, contrite spirit when we come to God to apologize and ask for forgiveness.

Time out for a moment…let me ask you: Do you ever apologize to God? I do. I don’t just come to ask for forgiveness, but because I really feel bad when I screw up I also apologize to God for not doing what he wants me to do.  After all, if I apologize to people to show respect for their feelings doesn’t God deserve at least that much?

Let’s finish up today’s message with the answer I would give to the original question “What is obedience?”, and that answer is: obedience is first and foremost the willingness to do what one is told and secondly, actually doing what one is told as best as one is able.

My friends, we can never be sinless but we can always sin less, so go forth with both the willingness to obey God and demonstrating how genuine that willingness is by actually doing what he says, as best as you can. That is the kind of obedience that, I believe, God will honor.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe, share me out, buy my books, and make comments so I know if what I am doing is actually helping anyone to better know God and what he expects of us.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Too Lazy to be Saved

Have you wondered why people who have intelligence and profess to believe in God still hold to the wrongful teachings that their religion has given them? Even when they admit they don’t really think their religion is all that great?

Why do these intelligent people continue to reject the simple, and easy to understand, Word of God for the difficult and obtuse traditions their religion teaches? Why?

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If you ask me (and since this is my ministry, even if you don’t ask I am going to tell you), the reason is that they are too lazy to change. Even though what they know is more difficult to practice than what God says to do, they are comfortable with it because they have done it all their life. They don’t want to relearn, they don’t want to develop new habits while dropping old, bad ones, and they fall back on the old, lame excuse that God is a forgiving God and will accept them.

Oh, yes – God is a forgiving God, but he is also a Judge who is fair and will obey the rules he has set up. He may be merciful, but mercy (I have written about this before) is not absolution. Mercy is not just simply forgetting about it, it is not allowing sin to proliferate, and it is not going to get you off the hook. The mercy that God gives is that when he punishes the unrepentant sinner, his mercy will make the punishment less than the sinner really deserves.

But punish, he will!

Now, forgiveness is not mercy. Forgiveness comes when we ask for it with a truly repentant heart, and we ask for forgiveness by means of the blood that Yeshua gave on our behalf. Forgiveness cleanses us of the sin we committed when we ask for it correctly, and mercy is receiving less of the punishment we deserve when we have to be punished.

This is a simple truth that those who are too lazy to want to change will learn when they face the Lord at the final judgment. The sad thing is at that time, it will be too late to stop being too lazy.

If you know someone who is like Herod was, a man who listened to Yochanan the Immerser and felt convicted by him but was too lazy to take action on what he heard because he was too immersed in his own comfort zone, tell that person that they are lazy. Smile when you do it, and do not judge them as being unfaithful or sinful, just tell them they seem to be too lazy to want to change what they have learned, even though in their heart they know that what they have learned is wrong.

You most likely will not change them; in truth, no one can change anyone else, the one that needs to change has to be the one who wants to change. It’s like the old joke:

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
Only one, but the lightbulb has to really want to change.

Maybe we all should take a look in the mirror and ask ourselves what is it that we feel led to change but haven’t because it is too hard or too uncomfortable? If you even think there is something that fits that description, ask yourself if it is serious enough to keep you from your salvation?

If you are already “saved”, are you really doing what a “saved” person should be doing? Are you acting saved? Are you still holding onto something that is of the world, which is always going to be against God, but that you just can’t let go of?

These are tough questions to answer. I confess that there are still things that I am too lazy or too comfortable with to change, even though I want to. It is all up to me to get it together and develop the self-discipline to make that change. Fortunately, these are relatively minor things that I do not believe will affect my salvation, and I do come before God every day and ask forgiveness for my weaknesses. And I am sharing this with you because I am not any better than you are, probably a little worse.

James tells us in his letter to the Messianic Jews in the Diaspora that teachers, of which I am one, are held up to scrutiny by God much more than those who do not teach, so I have to become better than I am.

And on that thought, let me end today’s message with what I think this is the best prayer anyone can pray:

“Dear Lord, help me to be just a little bit better in your eyes tomorrow than I am today.”

Amen.

Thank you for being here and please don’t forget to subscribe, share out this message and please consider buying my books if you like what you receive from this ministry. I haven’t sold many, but I can honestly say those who have read them tell me they liked what they read.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Are We Being Conditioned to Sin?

How many of you are familiar with the movie called “The Manchurian Candidate”?  It is about a man who was conditioned (in the old days we used to say “brainwashed”) by the Communists to assassinate a United States figure in the hope of taking over the United States.

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Conditioning isn’t always a bad thing: it is used to help people break their addiction to drugs, it is used to train animals to save lives, and it is used to make athletes more proficient. But there is also bad use of this psychological tool which is being used against us through the media.

Newspapers tell us nothing but bad news; TV news shows horrible events of death and destruction; video games are designed so we can kill zombies and other aliens or “enemies” with reckless abandon, and the more destructive and murderous you are the more points you get. All of this exposure to violence, death, and destruction is conditioning us to become inured to it. We are, unconsciously, being conditioned to accept murder, violence against others, and illegal activities (I am thinking of the video game Grand Theft Auto) as not only acceptable but commendable.

Now, you may say, “Steve- what harm is there is killing zombies? I mean, they’re already dead?” There is no harm to the dead, but there is harm to our children because they are being conditioned to accept that they can randomly kill a certain type of being without remorse or responsibility. What I see is not a video game that has children killing zombies: what I see is a systematic approach to teaching children it is acceptable, even commendable, to kill zombies.

The next step is simply to identify a class of people as “zombies”, and the conditioning will be complete.

Hitler didn’t start by telling the German people to kill Jews, he started by identifying the problems in the country and then associated those problems to the Jews. Subsequently, people didn’t see a Jewish man or woman anymore, they saw their own suffering, they saw the food they want but can’t afford to buy, the clothing they can’t give their children and the destruction of their country. They didn’t see the person, they saw what they were conditioned to see: a thing that needed to be gotten rid of. Hitler, through his propaganda regime, made the German people see Jews as zombies.

This is, of course, a simplistic explanation, but I hope it serves the purpose of making you think about what is happening today.

The example I gave above about killing zombies is only the tip of the iceberg. We are also told what to eat and how to invest. We are told that someone else has a better deal, which erodes loyalty. It may not be a big deal when I switch from Crest toothpaste to Arm and Hammer, but the constant exposure to TV ads telling us to switch products or services for a better deal is a form of conditioning, which erodes loyalty and teaches us that we should only look for the best “deal” and ignore anything else.

From a spiritual viewpoint, the Enemy is teaching people that they should take what they want now and forget about the future. And when we forget about the future, we forget about doing what needs to be done in order to keep our salvation.

Salvation is a free gift from God, achievable through faith in Messiah Yeshua. It is a gift to us, which we cannot buy or earn. And, being a gift, it is something that once received is totally under our control. In other words, whatever is yours today you can get rid of tomorrow. The Bible is clear, especially in the warnings we find in the New Covenant letters from Shaul and Yacov (James), that apostasy is a real threat to Believers. Revelation tells us most will fall away from the faith, and Yakov tells the Messianic Jews in his letter that once someone has known Messiah but then falls away and returns to their sinful life, they are impossible to save.

The only way to prevent yourself from being brainwashed to sin is to recognize the process. This message is your wake-up call to get your kids away from games that teach them killing anything is commendable. You should make sure that what they watch (as well as yourself) on TV and in the movies is not teaching that killing is a good thing. Killing the bad guy has been part of the movies for decades, but the Bible tells us that God is the one who judges and God is the only one who should avenge.

We love to see the good guy kill the bad guy, but is that going to help you or your children become more spiritually mature?

I don’t think so.

We all need to be aware and selective of what we are watching and reading because we are being conditioned that murdering others is acceptable behavior, that leaving something we have used and trusted for years just to save a few dollars is wise, and that other sins are good because it demonstrates that you are a compassionate and understanding person. Things such as abortions at birth, drag queen pedophiles at libraries reading to toddlers, children who aren’t even producing hormones allowed to change their gender surgically, and many other sinful and perverse activities that condition us to sin, and not just to sin, but to sin and think we are doing what is right.

That’s how Satan wins souls: not by coming right out and telling you to do evil, but by conditioning you to think that doing this or that is not only acceptable and correct behavior, but he makes it fun and attaches both physical and social rewards to it.

Just because something feels good to do doesn’t automatically mean it is a bad thing, but it very well could be. That is why we all need to think about what it is we are doing and being told to do, and compare it with what God tells us to do in the Bible. If there is the slightest doubt that what you want to do is not what God says you can, then don’t do it!

Thank you for being here and if you like what you read or hear in my videos, please share me out, subscribe so you will be notified when I post and consider buying my books. I appreciate your interest and welcome any comments or suggestions.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Are We Strong Enough to Give Up?

What do you think of when you hear “Give up?”

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Do you think that it means to quit trying to do something, like in a prizefight when one contender throws in the towel and by doing so shows that he gives up?

Or do you think of ceding land, as in a war, when one side gives up land to the other?

Or maybe it is when you tell a secret to someone else, and give up the information?

In some cases, giving up shows cowardice; in some cases, giving up shows compromise; in some cases, giving up shows the strength of will and dedication to something greater than yourself.

From a spiritual viewpoint, it could mean to surrender our life, meaning the way we live now, and allow another life to take over, one led by the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit. This is the type of giving up I want to talk about today.

Too often I see people who are fighting with each other, verbally, about things of the Bible. The pronunciation of God’s name, the importance of speaking it, the idea of the Trinity, and even arguments about which tribe they are from or what will really happen during the Tribulation.

These topics are really hot buttons, as we say, and it is not much different than when we are in a social group and everyone knows better than to get into a political discussion (especially today) because the emotions are so strained and people are so passionate they end up not discussing as adults but arguing and throwing insults like little children on the school playground.

Frankly, I am surprised I haven’t seen someone react with “Oh Yeah? Well, my Daddy can beat up your Daddy, so there!”

The strength I am talking about is the strength that comes from humility, which allows us to overcome our own prideful need to have people tell us we are right or to know that we were able to change their way of thinking to what we think.

The Prophets of old were instructed by God -actually, they were warned- to tell the people what God wants from them and that they need to do what God says. If the Prophet refused, then the bloodguilt of the people would also be on the head of the prophet; in other words, God would consider the prophet to be as guilty as the people. If, however, the prophet told the people what God instructed him to say, then even if the people failed to listen or change their ways, their bloodguilt would be on them, alone, and the prophet would not be held guilty of their sins.

I would like to point out that as often as we read about the Prophets in the Tanakh being ignored, persecuted and even killed, there is not one reference I can recall where the prophet was insulting or judgmental.

When we discuss topics that are God-related, or what we consider biblical truths (which, if you are willing to admit it, are always going to be what you think is the truth) and the discussion begins to turn heated, do you have the strength to give up? Are you able to say, “I see we are at an impasse, so we will have to agree to disagree” and then move on?  If not, I would ask you to please think about why you can’t give up. Many people use what I consider to be the lame excuse that they are only telling the truth, which (apparently) in their mind gives them the right to be insulting, judgmental, and to badger people with Bible references until the other person blocks them. Then they brag about being blocked.

I don’t know about you, but I would never brag about being blocked because what I am bragging about, in reality, is that I was so stubborn and prideful that I purposefully rejected someone who I could have brought to a better understanding of God. If I am willing to give up this battle, I may be able to win them over in another battle. And, if I can maintain the communication, then maybe if I AM right about the topic I previously gave up on, I may get another chance to help that person see the light.

Now, there are cases when we should block people, or when we should not just stop trying, but ignore them, altogether. Shaul’s letters to Timothy and Titus advise them to stay away from useless arguments and discussions about irrelevant topics. This is something that we should do in discussion groups, as well. People who insist on arguing for the sake of arguing need to be avoided because they are doing the Devil’s work and we shouldn’t encourage that by participating. Also, those who are nasty, judgmental and insulting need to be avoided because they are slaves to their own egos and don’t really care about whether or not you are helped because they only want to hear themselves talk and have people confirm how wonderful and spiritually mature they are.

A meaningful and mature discussion is like walking in a field of flowers, where the more you walk, the more lovely scents you encounter. However, an argument that is a battle of egos is like walking in a field of sheep: no matter where you step you will end up stepping in something that smells terrible and you will wear that smell on you when you leave the field.

We must try to bring people to an understanding of God, an understanding and appreciation of the Messiah and what he did for us, and ultimately to the goal of salvation through Messiah. It is also important to teach the instructions God gave us for worship and treating each other so that we can persevere through tough times. These are important topics because they are eternal topics, and our very salvation is based on these things. Anything else might be edifying, it might educate us, it might even help someone to come to faith, but if it leads to argumentation and division, it is not being used in a godly way.

If you find yourself in an ongoing discussion that is going nowhere, and it is because (now, be honest) you are still trying to change someone’s mind, then you need to give up. Give up your pride, give up your stubbornness, and give up throwing pearls before swine. Yeshua told his Talmudim (students/disciples) that when they entered a town that refused to listen to them, to leave it and shake the dust off their sandals as a warning to that town. When you are in this same situation in a Facebook or internet discussion, other than sending some sandal-shaking emoji to someone just tell them, respectfully, that you will have to agree to disagree. I often use this phrase, “I appreciate your side of this, but we seem to be at an impasse so let God be the judge between us.” Honestly, if someone is going to argue that God should not be the judge, then don’t shake your sandal at them- slap them upside their head with it! (I’m kidding)

Here’s today’s lesson in a nutshell: when you realize the discussion has mutated into an argument, it’s time to flex your spiritual muscles and show that you have the strength to give up.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe if you like what you hear, and share these messages with others. I also welcome your comments, confirmations, and even your disagreements.

My hope is to give people the right information so they can make the right decisions: I never tell anyone what they should think or believe, my ministry is a teaching ministry. I want you to know that whatever you choose to do, you will be held accountable for it, so make sure you are choosing what you want to and not just what someone else told you to choose.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Parashah B’resheet 2019 (In the beginning) Genesis 1:1 – 6:8

The High Holy Days are over for this Gregorian calendar year and will start again with the real Jewish New Year on April 8, 2020, when Pesach (Passover) begins.

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We have turned the Torah back to the very beginning, and this parashah starts with the creation of the universe, takes us through Adam and Eve, their sin, the murder of Abel, and the lineage of people up to just before the Flood.

There is, of course, the never-ending message of new beginnings, resurrection, and original sin. We could talk about the way the Enemy of God uses our own desires to cause us to sin, and how sin so overtakes us that it is like a small bit of hametz (leavening) which works its way through an entire batch of dough.

But that isn’t what I want to talk about.

I want to talk about the future, about when there comes a day we will not have to turn back the Torah. In fact, there is coming a day (maybe sooner than we all know?) when we will not even read the Torah anymore because it will be written on our hearts.

The completion of the work of Messiah Yeshua is when we, through faith in him, will be resurrected into our spiritual bodies, and those bodies (although we don’t know what they will be like) will be pumping the word of God throughout us.

This is why in Leviticus we are told that the life of a creature is in the blood. God gave us all the Torah so that we know how to worship him and how to treat each other. When we obey God we are considered righteous in his eyes- that is clear in the example Abraham set. He didn’t ask why or do some of what God wanted, making excuses for not doing the rest. No, Abraham simply did as God said: no questions, no delay, and no excuses. And because that is what he did, his faithful obedience was credited as righteousness.

When we obey God, doing what he says we should, we will also be considered righteous. And remember that Abraham did not live a sinless life, but he lived a faithful and obedient one.

When we sin, we have the opportunity to have that sin forgiven because Yeshua shed his innocent blood to act as the “life” for us. Sin is death, and faithful obedience is life, but since no one can be perfectly obedient, no matter how faithful they are, we have Yeshua as our “stand-in” so that through his righteousness, we can be seen as righteous, also.

As joyful as it is to turn the Torah back to the very beginning so that we can read it all over again, the joy of this event will be multiplied a hundred-fold when the Torah is not turned back, or even read because it will be our very lifeblood!

Now that is something to look forward to!

Thank you for being here and please subscribe. I welcome comments and if you like what you read or watch, please share this out and also consider buying my books.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

The Greatest Counterattack That Ever Succeeded

For those of you who may not know, I was a First Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.  And, as such, I was very well trained in combat skills, including all types of attacks and counterattacks.  One thing I learned is that it is very important to pre-organize a counterattack because the best time to do so is immediately after you lose a battle. That is when the foe is the most vulnerable because they have just taken over your position and are trying to organize themselves.

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The battle between God and Satan has been raging for quite a while. Like most wars, there are victories and losses on both sides, and often even after the war has been won, the winning battle is not the last skirmish.

When Yeshua rose from the dead, the war which Satan started against God was won, then and there, but the battles did not stop. Yeshua’s victory over death is complete, but there is still a lot of “mopping up” that needs to be done, and we know (from the vision given to John on Patmos) that there are more battles yet to come before this war is completely finished.

Satan was defeated with Yeshua’s victory, but he organized a counterattack that has been devastating to that victory. And what was that counterattack?

It was separating the Gentile Believers from Judaism, resulting in the creation of what we call Christianity.

It started as soon as the people began referring to the Gentile converts to “the Way” as Christians. That separated them from the Jewish population by name. Then, in or around 98 CE, the early Gentile leaders of what was now being called Christianity declared Sunday to be the Sabbath for those who follow Christ. Later they also rejected the idea that Judaism and Christianity could be compatible. By the end of the Second Century, new Christians were almost exclusively Gentiles, and by the time of the Council of Nicene, the New Covenant was being composed by Gentiles. From that time forward, Christianity (in nearly all its forms) has ignored or rejected the Tanakh, teaching only from the New Covenant.

And by ignoring the Tanakh, they never learned about all the mistakes the Jewish people made; consequently, Christianity has made all those mistakes, all over again. And what is worse, they have added new ones to it.

In Romans 11:25, Shaul warns the Gentile Believers not to become proud simply because they are accepting Yeshua as the Messiah, whereas the mainstream Jewish population did not. He tells them that if God was willing to lop off the natural branches from the Tree of Life for lack of faith, how much more so will he lop off the unnatural branches that have been grafted on if they also lose faith?

Yet, despite this warning, Gentile Believers have, from the start, ignored the instructions God gave in the Torah, organized their own holidays, rituals, and soon after Constantine they actually began to persecute the Jewish people in order to separate them from Judaism, as well.

Christianity has not learned the lessons that God’s Chosen people learned. These lessons were learned when they were in the desert, and later when they were in Canaan, and later when their kingdom was divided; in fact, it is my opinion that we Jews still haven’t learned our lesson and are making mistakes, even today. I have heard or read of some synagogues that celebrate people or activities that are clearly identified as a sin in the Torah, but they do so in order to appear “politically correct”; in other words, they are seeking the approval of human beings instead of seeking the approval of God.

The “Church” has done even worse things than that! In the Catholic churches, there are statues that people bow before and pray to; in some non-Catholic sects they have gay ministers; in some other sects they celebrate Halloween. There are so many things that they do wrong, and I believe it is because they haven’t learned from their Jewish ancestors because the Enemy made it easy to sin by separating Christians from Jews.

I won’t even start with the generations of Christians who have been taught to ignore the Torah because of the misinterpretations of the letters that Paul wrote to his congregations, all of which were composed almost exclusively of Gentiles. He wrote to them in a way that would help them to slowly learn about God’s instructions by feeding them a little at a time and specifically telling each congregation only what they needed to hear to keep them on the right path. Unfortunately, since the Gentiles didn’t learn or want to deal with all of God’s instructions, Satan taught them that Jesus nailed the Torah to the Cross.

That’s right, that’s what I said…the idea that the Torah isn’t valid for Christians is a lie that comes straight out of the depths of hell!

So, nu? What do we do? How can we breach this 2,000-year-old gap between God’s instructions and Christianity that Satan has succeeded in creating?

Don’t look to me for an answer because I don’t know what can work.  Actually, I don’t think it will be possible for us to close this gap. God will have to do this on a case-by-case basis. I am doing what I can by having this ministry. This is a teaching ministry, and as the tag line at the bottom of my Home Page indicates, I am here trying to get the correct information to people so they can make an informed decision about how they will worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the truth about what the Messiah, Yeshua, taught.

Only after the Acharit HaYamim (The End Days) is upon us, the final battle is won, Yeshua is ruling the world and the new heavens and new earth are in place, will this gap be closed. But, I am sorry to say, I do not see it happening until then. Humans can’t close it, and I don’t think God wants to until it is time for all things to be completed.

Maybe this is what Yeshua was talking about when he told the parable about the and the tares and the wheat (Matthew 13.) The owner of the field planted wheat, but the enemy came in at night and planted tares. When they were growing together the owner said to leave them growing together and only after the harvest will they be separated. I think we are living this parable in real life.

The separation of Christianity from Judaism is the greatest counterattack that has ever succeeded. If you are a Christian who has been separated from your roots, you can still win your individual battle against the enemy of God by studying the Tanakh (Old Covenant) and re-reading the teachings of Yeshua that are in the first three Gospels. Ignore John and only concentrate on Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And forget about reading any of the Epistles by Shaul (Paul) until you have had a chance to get a Messianic Bible or Messianic Commentary on the New Covenant so you can see where he wasn’t really against following the instruction in the Torah, but was trying to spoon-feed it to his Gentile congregations. He did that because he knew it was very hard for these Gentiles to make the paradigm shift from a self-serving hedonistic lifestyle to one of selfless love for others and righteous living.

The war has been won, but there are still battles raging, and they will not stop until Yeshua returns to do a final mop-up of the mess the Enemy has created with his counterattack. Be prepared for that day by learning how God told us we should worship him and treat each other, which is in the Torah. Then decide for yourself what you will do.

When Yeshua returns and you face the Lord at his Judgement throne, whichever way you have decided to live is what you will be judged on. Make sure that what you choose to do it is your own decision and not just what someone else told you.

Think about this: God said not obeying the Torah was a sin, and Satan knows that sin separates people from God, so the best way to win souls for himself is to make sure that the Torah is ignored.

One last piece of advice? The easiest road to travel leads to death.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe to this website and my YouTube channel, as well. Share this out with everyone you know so they can also have a chance to be judged on their own decision instead of what someone else tells them.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Shaul of Tarsus: Saint or Salesman?

The New Covenant, not the scriptures but the actual promise from God, is found in Jeremiah 31:31, and it will be fulfilled through the Messiah.  It is a promise made by God, through the prophet Jeremiah to the Jewish people. God has also said, through other prophets, that the Messiah will also be a light to the Gentiles, which means that the Gentile New Covenant is the same one that God gave to the Jewish people.

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That being said, the New Covenant (now I am talking about the scriptures) tells us about the Messiah who came to deliver the new covenant we read in Jeremiah. The 4 Gospels tell us about the Messiah: his birth, life, ministry, teachings, his death, and his resurrection, through which we can all receive forgiveness of sin.

Yet, the story of the Messiah is less than 1/3 of the entire NC scriptures! In fact, nearly 2/3 of the scriptures that have served as the foundation for Christianity are letters written by a Jewish tentmaker to the Messianic congregations he formed throughout Asia. His name was Shaul of Tarsus, but most people know him as Saint Paul.

But was he a saint, or a salesman?

I was a professional salesman for quite a few years, and I can tell you that the general picture of a salesman is someone in a loud suit with a glib manner of speech whose purpose in life is to do and say whatever he needs to in order to get his commission. That is not true…well, not always true. In fact, the best salesmen are the ones who listen more than they speak, and who are truly interested in getting their clients what the client really needs.

The first step to making a “righteous” sale is to ask the client the proper type of questions to find out what it is that they really need. You see, people don’t buy what they need, they buy what they want. Once we know what someone needs, we then present our product, assuming it meets that need, in such a way that they want it. That is the essence of a good sale: provide what the client needs and to do so in a way that will make them want it.

Now consider the problem Shaul had: he was going to a class of people who had been practicing a religion based on the precept of multiple gods, who had the same weaknesses as humans, and their rituals involved hedonistic activities such as gluttony, cult prostitution, and sexual perversion.  Now here comes this little, Jewish Pharisee telling them that it is better for them to give up all that fun and turn from their self-centered religion to one that preached selfless giving, righteous love, and a single God who sent his son to allow them to be forgiven of sins.

Now that has got to be a hard sell!

If you don’t like me telling you Shaul was a salesman, he said it, himself! In 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 (NIV):

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

Essentially, he is saying is that he will adjust his spiel to his audience, and we can see that in his letters. Each letter is to a congregation where Shaul is, in truth, trying to “save the sale.”

When a sale is made, people often have what is called “Buyer’s Remorse”, which happens because the excitement of finally getting to have what they’ve always wanted to have suddenly disappears the moment they recall the amount of the check they wrote. Shaul’s congregations all had their own unique battles: the Corinthians were arguing about who to follow, the Ephesians were having trouble relating to the message, the Galatians were being duped into legalism…each congregation was in trouble and in danger of apostatizing. Shaul was trying, constantly, to bring them back into the same mindset they had when he convinced them of their need and their desire to worship God and accept Yeshua as their Messiah.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Shaul often talks about the secret knowledge that he has been given regarding salvation. This is a clear and unmistakable reference to the Gnosticism that was prevalent in Ephesus.  He is tuning in to his audience and using terms and ideas that they can relate to. He doesn’t talk about “secret knowledge” in his other letters, except in 1 Timothy, but (then again) Timothy was ministering in Ephesus at the time.

I am not trying to degrade or insult Shaul. Quite the opposite: I acknowledge that what he did was ingenious. He was able to be anyone to everyone, and when it comes down to it, people buy from people. Bonding with the client is an absolute essential if you want to make a sale that will not only “stick”, but to get referrals. Shaul was referred by the leaders in Jerusalem (we call that Third Party information or a “Bread and Butter” Letter) so that those who were not familiar with him, or had heard the bad reputation about him, would be open to hearing him. And, because he could relate to them, they listened.

Each one of us has to realize that we must utilize sales techniques in order to be able to get the word of the Lord out to people who may not be open to hearing it. We have to Match and Mirror, we have to ask the proper type of leading questions, we have to ask questions we already know the answers to in order to get small agreements along the way before the final close, and most important of all, we have to know our product! Which is, of course, the word of God.

You will be unsuccessful in telling someone what they need to do. The moment most people hear, “If you don’t, then…” their defensive shields will be up and you will have lost your opportunity to save them. You must be patient, use discernment, ask questions to help them realize what they want in life, identify what they are missing in their life and get them to agree they want it. Then, and only then, will they listen when you tell them how God can fill that emptiness.

Most people convince themselves they are OK when they aren’t, and it is up to us to open their eyes to what they are really longing for, then show them how God can give them what they want.  Everyone needs salvation- that is a given, even those who don’t believe in God still need to be saved. It is up to each of us to be a good salesperson and help those who are spiritually blind and deaf to see and hear.

Yeshua did it physically by the power of God, and we can do it spiritually by the power of good salesmanship.

Of course, it is really God who will close the deal.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe. I welcome comments and look forward to our next time together.

Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

The Spirit of Bilyam in the Modern Body of Messiah

In the book of B’midbar (Numbers), Chapter 22 tells us the story of how Balak, the son of the king of Moab, hired a man named Bilyam (Balaam is how most Christian Bibles spell it) to curse the Israelites, who have just defeated the Emori and now are on the border of his land.

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I think we all know the story: Balak sends messengers to summon Bilyam to curse the Israelites, God tells Bilyam not to go but he ends up going. An angel is sent to stop Bilyam but his ass continues to sidestep the angel until Bilyam gets so angry he beats the ass. That’s when the ass speaks to him and Bilyam sees the angel with drawn sword. God tells Bilyam to continue to go but say only what he is told to say, and Bilyam ends up blessing the people instead of cursing them.

Balak then sends Bilyam back to his own country and right after Bilyam leaves (Numbers 25) the people of God commit the sin of Ba’al-Peor. They were seduced by the Moabite and Midianite women to partake in their paganistic rituals and worship of the Moabite gods, which resulted in God’s anger being poured out on the Israelites in the form of a plague which took 24,000 lives.

Now, do you recall that even though Balak was infuriated with Bilyam, Bilyam gave Balak advice on how to get God to destroy his own people? No? Well, we are told about it in Numbers 31:16; that is when we find out the sin of Ba’al-Peor was the brainchild of Bilyam!

The Israelites had just defeated Midian and saved the women as spoils of war. Moses is infuriated with the leaders, saying (JPS Tanakh):

Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Bilyam, to revolt so as to break faith with the LORD in the matter of Peor, and so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD.

Aha!! So, even though Bilyamblessed the people, he reverted back to his sorcerer ways and told Balak how he could get the people to make their own God curse them.

That brings me to today’s topic. The same thing that Bilyamdid which resulted in the people of God sinning, which forced God to punish them, is alive and well in the body of Messiah, today!

Anything that is done against the people of God we know originates with Satan, the enemy of God, and what Satan has done is cause dissent, arguing, pridefulness and personal attacks against each other to promulgate itself throughout the congregation of Believers in Messiah, causing them to sin. This sin that Satan introduces within the body of the Messiah weakens the entire body and will cause, just as the advice of Bilam did, God to take action against his own people.

So, nu? How has Satan done this terrible thing? He has introduced the idea that we need to know exactly how to pronounce God’s name and the idea of the Trinity. And just as the people sinned against God when the Moabite women seduced them into worshiping their gods, so, too, people within the congregations who argue and fight against each other about God’s name or whether or not Yeshua and God are the same or different cause God’s people to sin against God.

Please forgive this next statement, but I am sorry to say, these arguments never were an issue before Gentiles were grafted in. Jews have been substituting Adonai, HaShem, Elohim, and other names for God instead of pronouncing the Tetragrammaton for millennia, and God never once had a problem with that. Also, Jews knew of God’s Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) since Day 1, but never ever thought it was the same exact entity as God, himself. And the Messiah was never, in the Jewish mindset, to be God.

This type of seduction into argumentation as a means of separating God’s people is not new: as far back as the early congregations formed by Shaul, he was warning his Gentile Believer congregations against arguing with each other. Here are a few examples:

2 Timothy 2:14Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.

Philippians 2:14-15Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” 

Titus 3:2They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.

1 Corinthians 3:3…That’s because you are still worldly. As long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, you are worldly and living by human standards, aren’t you?

Besides these warnings, we should also remember all of the warnings in the Book of Proverbs against useless arguing.

I have seen, as you have, so many times when people who are supposed to be Christian or Messianic argue about things that really have nothing at all to do with salvation or knowing God’s desires for us. They start off defending their position, then when the other person refuses to agree, they begin to argue, reverting to name-calling, judging the other person as unfit for God’s kingdom or heretical, calling them spiritually immature or a non-Believer, and eventually reverting to childish, insulting and degrading personal attacks.

These are sins against God. Every sin we commit is first and foremost a sin against God. King David knew this and said so in Psalm 51.

I am not exclusively blaming Gentile Believers for this problem, even though I do believe it started with Gentiles at the end of the first century thinking they can just change all of God’s rules. Today, I see this dissension from all Believers, whether Christian, Hebraic Roots, Messianic, or what-have-you. It is not righteousness that is behind this, but the spirit of Bilam infiltrating the body of Messiah.

The answer to this problem is actually not very complicated: focus on what saves, maintain a position of humility, don’t allow pridefulness to overcome you to the point where you find yourself insulting someone, and never, ever, ever let yourself be drawn into an argument when you can plainly see that the other person is not going to change their mind.

What I do is to state my case and if the other person is not open to even hearing it, which I know immediately because they don’t address my points but just repeat their side, then I simply tell them we must agree to disagree, and let God judge between us.

If that doesn’t stop them I will stop replying. And in most cases, since they really only want to hear themselves talk, my not being there doesn’t stop them. Eventually, I have to block them.

I do have discussions with people where we are at opposite ends of a topic, but we can discuss it without insults or arguments. These few and far between events are refreshing and renew my hope that we can allow God’s spirit to rule over our own sinful pride when dealing with each other.

Listen to someone as compassionately as you want them to talk to you and when you are in a discussion, always focus on what edifies. Insults, arguing for the sake of arguing, and personal attacks are prideful, unnecessary, and a sin. Follow the example of the archangel Michael (Jude 1:9) who was arguing with Satan but instead of condemning him said, “The Lord rebuke you!

God’s people should be an example of how God tells us to treat each other, and if you can’t be a good example, then at least don’t be a bad one.

Thank you for being here. Don’t forget to subscribe and share this message with others. I welcome comments, even if you have a different opinion, as long as we can discuss things in a godly way.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Is Salvation Really Free?

How many of you have heard the expression that salvation is the free gift of the Lord?

It is something that we cannot buy, cannot earn, and can have simply for the asking, so it certainly does sound like it is free, doesn’t it?

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But what is “free’? One definition of free, as an adverb, is without cost or payment. Another definition of free, as a verb, is to release from captivity. And we can also define it, when used as an adjective, as not being under the control or power of another.

So something that is “free” can mean a number of things, and let me add that just because something has no cost doesn’t mean it isn’t priceless.

When we are saved, we are supposedly freed from captivity to sin and no longer a slave to it. But, then again, Shaul writes in 1 Corinthians 7 that while once free we are now to be a slave to Messiah, so in that sense, salvation doesn’t really free us, it just exchanges masters (for the better, of course.) And if being free means not being under the control or power of another, accepting God’s gift of salvation frees us from the control of Satan, but we need to be under the control (guidance?) of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) in order to grow in the Lord and become more spiritually mature and strong enough to maintain our freedom from being controlled by the Enemy.

Forgiveness of sin is free, but freedom from sin is not the same as salvation. Of course, salvation comes through forgiveness of sin- we can’t be “saved” if we are constant and unrepentant sinners. But when our sins are forgiven, that is just for then and there; God forgives what we have done, and understands that we will probably sin again. But asking for salvation is a lifetime commitment: forgiveness of sin is now, but salvation is from now on.

Let me say this again: salvation cannot be bought and it cannot be earned, no matter how hard we try. It can be ours simply by asking for it, but there will be a cost.

It might cost you friends; it might cost you family; you may lose worldly status, you may even suffer all three of these losses! And sometimes, it may even cost you your life.

Faithful worship of God and Yeshua is something that the world hates, so to be “saved” and, more importantly, to remain “saved”, you will pay!

Why do you think Yeshua says that to be his disciple we need to pick up our execution stake and follow him? (Mark 8:34) It means that, as I said earlier, the world hates what God loves. Throughout the Tanakh (and it is confirmed within the New Covenant) we are told that what the world considers wise, God considers foolish, and vice versa, so if you are for God, then you are against the world, and the world will be against you. Job loss, being persecuted verbally and physically, losing friends, being ostracized by family…all of these things, and maybe even more, can and have happened to the faithful.

So don’t be fooled by someone who is trying to “convert” you with rose-colored glasses and promises of peace, joy, and contentment because it is a lie. To be truly faithful to God and Yeshua means to be separated (holy) and different from the rest of the world, and that puts you in a position that is not very pleasant.

True, we can find solace in prayer and God will protect us in many ways from the world’s evil. Not only that, but we can also find comfort in the knowledge that this tsouris is only temporary, and we will have that eternal joy in the Olam Haba (world to come.)

But in the meantime, it ain’t no bed of roses.

Today’s lesson is that the next time someone mentions how salvation is free, set them straight. They have to understand that salvation is something that is going to have a cost to them. Only when people are properly prepared to know what asking for salvation will mean to them will they truly be able to make a decision they can stay with. Too many people hear the words “free” and “eternal joy” and “answer to prayer” and think that faithfully following God is a cakewalk.

It isn’t: it is a hard choice to make, it is costly to maintain, and it is difficult to do well but…it is certainly worth it in the end.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe to my website and YouTube channel. I welcome your comments and suggestions and wish you all a blessed day.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Secular Judaism is an Oxymoron

One of my oldest, dearest and closest friends discovered she was Jewish on her mother’s side. This was a family secret that had been one since her mother was a child in Germany, born just before Hitler’s rise to power began. Her family converted and changed their name, which is what many Jewish families did during the late 1930s and early 1940s to protect themselves.

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Having a desire to know her Jewish roots better, she recently told me she is going to attend services at a local synagogue, which she explained to me is a Secular Jewish synagogue.

When she told me that I thought I heard her incorrectly, but she confirmed that this synagogue follows a humanistic theology.

Huh? Jews that aren’t centered on God but on humanism? That can’t be. But…it is.

Here is what I found on Wikipedia about Secular Judaism:

According to historian Shmuel Feiner, the onset of modernism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witness the appearance in Europe of Jewish communities who rejected the religious norms and discipline demanded by the rabbinical elite and whose identities as Jews were increasingly separate from beliefs and practices from the Torah or the commandments.

As far as I know, the Reconstructionist sect of Judaism is close to this description, although they do have some deist factions. Here is the Wikipedia definition of their theology:

Most “classical” Reconstructionist Jews (those agreeing with Kaplan) reject traditional forms of theism, though this is by no means universal. Many Reconstructionist Jews are deists, but the movement also includes Jews who hold Kabbalistic, pantheistic (or panentheistic) views of God, and some Jews who believe in the concept of a personal God.

To settle this confusion, one could simply identify what being a Jew means, or to rephrase my statement, we could ask, “What is a Jew?”  This is a question that seemingly has no one answer. Some say it is by birth, some by spiritual attachment to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Some say it is those who live a Jewish lifestyle, but that opens up an entirely new can of worms, for what is a Jewish lifestyle?  Is it being Torah observant? Is it celebrating all the holidays that are identified as “Jewish”, or just the ones God specified in the Bible? Is it wanting your son to grow up to be a lawyer or a doctor?

Frankly, there are as many opinions as to what a “Jew” is as there are people answering the question, but there is one thing that I do not believe any can argue against, which is that the Bible has told us God chose the Jewish people, meaning the direct descendants of Jacob (later called Israel) to be his nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) and gave them the Torah to learn, then teach to the rest of the world.

Yes- the Torah is for everyone because when you are a priest to the world that means you teach the world how to worship God.

So to be “Jewish” according to the Bible is to worship God as he said he should be worshiped, and to live our lives in accordance with the instructions he gave us in the Torah. Not that anyone can do that perfectly, but if we want to- if we try our best to live as God says to in the Torah- then we are, by definition, “Jewish.”

This means there is no way to separate Judaism from God, or vice-versa: God is the very foundation of Judaism, the roots of the Tree of Life, the rock upon which the house of David (Messiah) is built. According to the Bible, you cannot reject God or his Torah and still be Jewish.

You can reject much, if not all, of the Talmudic regulations, called Halacha (the Way to Walk) because they are man-made traditions and rules, but to reject God and his rules? No way, Jose!!

Judaism has been identified as a religion for thousands of years, but when God told Moses how we are to worship him and treat each other, it wasn’t a religion -it was how you were to live your life. The Torah is more than just a set of laws; it is a marriage certificate between a people and their God, it is the Constitution for a nation outlining the organization of the government, creating a justice system, establishing a penal code, and defining societal standards of behavior.

The idea of secular Judaism is an oxymoron. For me, you can’t be Jewish when you reject God as the way he presents himself in the Bible.

We will never know exactly what a “Jew” is, and that doesn’t really matter. What matters is how we feel towards God, other people, and how hard we try to live according to the instructions God gave to all human beings (through the Israelites) in the Torah.

Jews, the Torah, and God are inseparable.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!