How You Can Be Wrong When What You Say Is Right

One of the nicest left-handed compliments I ever received was from a Regional Vice President under who I was a Sales Manager for a large home remodeling company (if you’re reading this, Jim, thank you so much for setting me straight back then.)

He told me that what I say is almost always correct, but because I say it the wrong way no one wants to hear it.

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I have heard and seen people who profess to be Christians telling others about what they believe to be the truth, and when someone disagrees with them, they attack that person with both spiritual and personal insults. What they often do that really pisses me off more than any other thing is this: when they are asked to be polite, they claim they are only telling the truth and that if we don’t listen to their wisdom then God is not in us and we are defending the wrong religion, or we are satanically influenced, or some other reprehensible attack.

To those people, I say this: because of your lack of respect for people, who are also God’s children, and because of your pride and self-righteous attitude, even if what you say is correct, you will be wrong because you will never convince anyone by insulting them. Beyond that, you do nothing more than present a poor example of a Christian and when you use the word of God to justify being a self-righteous sphincter muscle, you insult God.

I recently had a discussion with someone about the calendar. He has done a lot of research, using non-scriptural books from the Apocrypha, and insists that because I am comfortable using the standard Jewish calendar that most of the world uses, I am defending a specific religion which is teaching us to celebrate pagan holidays.

Let me digress for a moment: we all know about the “Holy Namers”,  and we also have “Flat Earthers”, but now we can add one more overly-zealous group, who are absolutely obsessed with the “correct” calendar for identifying the Shabbat and the festivals, and I am calling them “Lunartics.”

I never said he was wrong, or that I was right, I simply said I don’t agree. As for the details of our discussion, I’m not going to go into that here because they are not relevant to this message.

What is relevant about this event is that because he was so nasty and insulting, even though I asked multiple times for him to not insult me or my faith, and if he didn’t stop I would have to block him, I ended up having to block him.

And you know what? I’ll bet he is bragging about being blocked. I have seen other people do that, always telling others that they should listen and never listening to others until they get blocked, and then they brag about it as if they were like those Yeshua talks about being happy because they have been persecuted for his sake.

If someone asks you to please not be nasty, don’t defend yourself- apologize. You may not think you were nasty, but if they do, then you were. It’s that simple.

There are Bible verses telling us to speak the truth, how the wise accept correction and that fools reject correction. Often enough, these are used by nasty people preaching their own beliefs as justification for their attitude. They don’t realize how much of a hypocrite they are: they accuse others of refusing to hear the truth (which is their truth), and when asked to please be nice or not so nasty, they ignore the correction being given to them. They don’t want to be nice, or respectful, or even to recall that they were once also neophytes in the Lord and didn’t know things. I’ll wager they were taught with compassion, patience, and understanding, which they now sorely lack.

There is one Biblical verse I believe can never be taken out of context because it is universally applicable. That verse is found in 1 Corinthians 13:2, and it goes like this:

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

People who get angry, who become insulting on both a spiritual and personal level, who judge you and accuse you of being ignorant and refusing to hear the truth, all because you don’t agree with what they believe, can’t possibly have the love that a spiritually mature person has. Even if what they are saying is valid, no one will pay attention to them. They will be blocked or ignored, and that is the most shameful thing that can happen because maybe, just maybe, they really have something important to hear.

For my money, if someone is blocked because of what they say, it is more likely the way they are saying it instead of what they are saying. Once blocked, they haven’t performed a service for the Lord, they have helped the Enemy of the Lord because they have turned someone away from hearing God’s word. They leave a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who might be interested in learning about God, especially someone who may not be a Believer and is seeking knowledge.

They place themselves on a pedestal alongside the likes of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Matthew, James, and Shaul, speaking as though they are the only ones with the true understanding of God’s word.

They aren’t full of the spirit, they are only full of themselves, and their mannerisms are shameful, loveless, and not just useless, but harmful to God’s plan of salvation.

As far as I am concerned, if you can’t talk to people compassionately, with understanding, patience, and love, then just shut the heck up because what you say, no matter how correct, will be ignored; and all you will be doing is making it that much harder for the next person God might send to them to make any headway.

To conclude today’s rant, I want you to know that I have thought about this topic and asked God to show me if it is a result of my personal peeve or if it is something that stems from righteous anger. I confess I am still not sure, so I leave it up to you: do you think I am just venting on a personal level or am I justified in being angry and saying what I have said with regard to those people who behave as I have described?

Thank you for being here and please don’t forget to subscribe, check out my whole website (messianicmoment.com) and maybe consider (if you like what you hear from me) to buy a few of my books.

And, as always, I welcome your comments and only ask whether you agree or disagree, just be nice.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Do You Really Love Me?

The answer has to be, “Of course, not. I don’t really know you at all.”

But how many people say “I love you” to each other because that is what they think they should do as Believers? Frankly, I don’t do it, and I don’t appreciate it.

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I also don’t appreciate being called “Brother” by people I barely know, such as (for instance) Facebook friends who are friends only because we share the same discussion groups or like each other’s postings. I have two sisters and no brothers, and a name my parents gave me that everyone calls me. They call me Steve or Steven, but no one calls me Stevie (the last person to call me that is recovering well and has recently been moved out of the ICU.)

I am a brother to the other members of the body of the Messiah, but that is a spiritual connotation. I find too many people throw around the terms “brother”, “sister”, and say “I love you” like it is a hot potato.

To me, love is a very serious thing and not to be taken lightly. It carries with it more than affectionate feelings for another: love demands obligations and responsibilities to each another, and strangers saying it to each other is something that is not only a misuse of the feeling but is, in fact, a lie. It is over-spiritualizing a relationship, and (I will probably offend someone now) I think it is done by those who want to show how “spiritual” they are. If you want to show me how spiritual you are, then do spiritual things, do good works, and stop thinking that calling me “brother” or telling me that you love me is proof that you are a godly person.

Too often people over-spiritualize things. You know who I mean (and if it is you, I am sorry if you feel offended): they always speak in biblical terms, they only talk about God and his wonders and how they love him, and they always answer your questions or address your problems with a biblical quote, as if that will magically fix things.  Hey! I know the Bible as well, if not better, than many, and if I am still struggling with something, quoting Proverbs or what Shaul wrote to a congregation of Gentile Believers isn’t going to be of any real use to me. I already know it…what I need is a real-life way to apply it told to me in plain language that I can understand.

People struggling within the world need a real-world solution, or (at least) a spiritual solution that they can understand in real-world terms.

It’s true that those of us who have accepted Yeshua as our Messiah and have the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) dwelling inside us can receive spiritual knowledge and understanding. That is a good thing, but if we can’t interpret it into real-world understanding, then that knowledge is useless to the ones who really need it, meaning those without the Ruach HaKodesh.

It is like what Shaul wrote when he wrote about Glossolalia (speaking in tongues) in 1Corinthians 14. What he said, essentially, was that when someone is speaking in tongues, it is spiritual communication between that person and God, but if no one else is around to interpret it the person should remain silent. The message received is useless to edify or help others if it cannot be interpreted into plain, everyday English (or Hebrew or Greek, as the case may have been back then.)

Birds can see light waves that humans cannot; dogs and cats can hear soundwaves that humans cannot; people speaking a language can’t be understood by others unless they also speak that language. When we accept Yeshua as our Messiah and have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are no longer of this world, but we are still in it!

We are to be a light to the world by spreading the Good News of the Messiah and how he makes it possible for us to enter the Kingdom of God: but, if we operate in a light wave that no one can see, or if we speak only in spiritual soundwaves that a non-Believer can’t hear, what good are we? The message we want to deliver will not be understood and we will have failed to help that person find salvation.

When someone hugs me without my permission or tells me that they love me or calls me brother, and we are really nothing more than acquaintances or friends, I feel uncomfortable. I know many others that feel that way, both Believers and non-Believers. Those who are Believers won’t be offended if you call them by name, and (in my opinion) it is better for you to address them as you would anyone else instead of acting and speaking “spiritually.”

If anyone is still willing to talk to me after this message, then please respect my wishes and don’t call me “brother” (except for my sisters Wendy and Gayle, of course) and don’t tell me you love me when it is just in a spiritual sense.

I believe the love we share together is not really for each other, but for God.

Thank you for being here; please subscribe and share me out. I always welcome your comments and don’t forget to check out my website, messianicmoment.com.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

What Does “Freedom in Christ” Really Mean?

I did a search on the Internet asking what freedom in Christ really means. Now, I know you can’t trust the Internet, but it does give us an idea of what others are being told.

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One site said it means freedom from regulations and following rules. Another said it is freedom from being a slave to sin. Another said it was freedom to make our own choices (I thought we could do that anyway), and still, another said it is freedom to see things clearly.

The prevalent idea seems to be freedom from being under the curse of the law, which means freedom from sin since we are taught that Yeshua took our sins upon him when he was crucified.

All of these ideas have a grain of truth to them, but I think it is simpler than what they say. Yes, Yeshua made it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins because he is the substitution for the animal we are commanded to bring to the temple in Jerusalem. God’s Torah states we cannot sacrifice to him anywhere other than where he places his name (Deuteronomy 12:13); when the temple was destroyed in 73 AD, Jews had no way to be forgiven of their sins.

Except through Messiah Yeshua.

Yeshua and his Disciples never taught that the freedom in Yeshua was the freedom to disobey. That is what the Enemy of God wants us to think; it is no different than the line he used on Eve (Genesis 3:4) when he told her, “you will surely not die“, and we all know how that turned out.  Anyone who teaches freedom in Christ means freedom from the law is working for the wrong guy.

I believe that the true freedom in Christ is simply and solely what the Bible tells us it is: freedom from the second death.

Isaiah 25:7-8 says:

On this mountain he will destroy the veil which covers the face of all peoples, the veil enshrouding all the nations.  He will swallow up death forever. Adonai Elohim will wipe away the tears from every face, and he will remove from all the earth the disgrace his people suffer.

which is referenced by Shaul in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 when he says:

When what decays puts on imperishability and what is mortal puts on immortality, then this passage in the Tanakh will be fulfilled: Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and sin draws its power from the Torah; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Yeshua the Messiah!

The freedom we have when we accept Yeshua as our Messiah is not so much freedom from our sins, but freedom from the spiritual consequences of our sins, which is the second death. All will die, and all will come before God for judgment. Those who do not have Yeshua as their Intercessor will have nothing more than their own righteousness to save them from eternal separation from God’s presence.

And we all know how righteous we are compared to what God wants from us: as Isaiah said, all our righteous deeds are but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6.)

Yeshua did not free us from obedience to God; in fact, he reinforced everything that we are instructed to do in the Torah. What he did that was different was that he taught us the Remes, the deeper, spiritual understanding of the law.  The Pharisees only taught the P’shat, the literal meaning of the words, but Yeshua gave us a deeper, more spiritual and more intimate understanding of God’s instructions.

We still need to do as Yeshua did, which is to follow (to the best of our ability) the instructions God gave to all people that are in the Torah. We can’t be perfectly obedient, and that is why God sent the Messiah to us: through the Messiah, we can find freedom from the second death. We all sin and therefore we all deserve death, and ever since that day when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, without Yeshua, there is no forgiveness of sin.

The true meaning of freedom in Christ is that when we accept Yeshua as our Messiah, we will be free from the spiritual consequences of our sins.

One last point and warning: being free from the spiritual consequence of our sins doesn’t mean we won’t suffer those consequences while we are still alive.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe if you haven’t done so, already. I welcome your comments and look forward to our next time together. Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Can We Have Too Much Knowledge?

I know there are probably (at least) some of you who are thinking to yourselves, “We can never have too much knowledge!”, and you may be right. I think knowledge is a weapon, and like any other weapon -knife, gun, club – it isn’t the weapon itself that is dangerous but how we use it.

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I accepted that Yeshua (Jesus) was the Messiah Adonai (Y-H-V-H) promised to send us and that as a Jewish man I could accept him and not be a traitor to my people or to our 5,000-year-old history.  That was about 21 years ago, and since then I have constantly been learning more about God, the Bible, and the history and culture of my people.

I have also joined more than a few (and left more than a few) “Christian” or “Messianic” discussion groups on Facebook. I have done this so I can spread my ministry and also learn from others. In all this, I learned one thing that I believe is absolutely necessary for all of us to be aware of: everyone thinks that what they know is the absolute truth.

I am just as guilty of this as anyone else, except I do give myself credit for this…I know I may not always be right. I still think what I think is right, but I leave room for doubt, and that is why I believe I can say to you that you need to leave room for doubt, as well.

Too much knowledge can lead us to idolatry. Really! In our heartfelt desire to know more about God and what he wants from us, we can become so obsessed with knowing that we begin to worship learning instead of the one we are learning about. We get crazy over the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton; we get crazy over the proper calendar; we get crazy when someone disagrees with us; and we get crazy when someone else tells us it isn’t that important, which I have done many times and am doing again now.

I think the most important thing to know is what is important to know.

For example, let’s say someone learned something new about the pronunciation of God’s name, do you think that when you prayed to him before, using that “bad” name, he ignored you? Do you believe that if you had never learned what you believe now to be the correct pronunciation that despite your prayers, worship, and works you would have gone to hell because you used that “wrong” name?

I hope not! From what I have learned about God, he is not just compassionate and understanding but he desires to forgive us when we repent of something we did that was wrong. And if you are thinking about Leviticus 5:17, where he tells us that even if we are ignorant of sin we committed, we are still guilty, well…you’re right! So, what do we do then?

We ask for forgiveness of the sins we did not know we committed, and (this is what I do) pray to be guided by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to recognize sin before we do it, and to be given the strength to overcome it.

Yeshua says that unless we come to him as a child, meaning innocent and trusting, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If you believe that, then the search for knowledge is dangerous in that a child is not a scholar. Wanting to know everything will drive you crazy, just as it did Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), and may lead you down the wrong path. What I mean by that is this: what if, just IF, what you think you know is wrong? Then you would be sinning against God while trying to be obedient. People who ignore the instructions God gave because they have been taught that could be in that group, as well as those who do what God instructs only because they want to be “right” instead of doing it because they want to honor God.

The Gnostics believed in secret messages within the Scriptures, and that this special knowledge was necessary for salvation. It wasn’t, and it still isn’t.

For the record, and to make sure no one misunderstands me, I am not saying knowledge is a bad thing, or that learning should not be a life-long endeavor. What I am saying is that you need to be careful when you are learning not to become so obsessed with learning that you neglect to trust the one you are learning about; trust that he is more concerned about your desires than your pronunciation, trust that he knows your heart and what you truly want, and trust that God can lead you where you need to go, even if you don’t know the way.

And, finally, trusting God enough to not need to know why.

I have used the pronunciation of God’s holy name as an example, and I will, undoubtedly, get responses justifying a particular pronunciation of his name, which will be a shame. It will only prove that the ones responding with that are so obsessed with their desire to demonstrate their knowledge that they have completely missed my point, which is that the search for knowledge can lead to idolatry and Gnosticism, and take us away from the path of righteousness.

Continue to read, continue to study, and continue to seek out God and knowledge of him. There is nothing wrong with this. My warning is that you need to make sure that your need to know doesn’t outweigh your ability to simply trust without knowing.

As for me, I like to learn and will continue to do so, and the most important thing I have learned is what I don’t need to know.

Thank you for being here and please, if you like what you hear, subscribe and help this ministry to grow. I also welcome your comments and suggestions.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

What God Cannot Do

“What? What are you talking about? How can you say that the creator of the Universe, the all-mighty and all-powerful God of our Fathers can’t do something? He can do anything!”

No, he can’t.

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He can’t sin. He can’t abide with sin. He can’t judge unfairly. He can’t allow the unrepentant to go unpunished. He can’t do evil, although he will allow evil to be done.

He is all-powerful, true, but he is also restricted by both his faithfulness and his holiness to do only those things that he allows himself to do.

“But what about what he says in Deuteronomy 28? He promises to curse us if we are disobedient, and his curses are terrible. That’s evil, isn’t it?”

The curses he promises to fall on the disobedient are terrible, but God doesn’t actively curse us. He actively protects us from the curses that are already in the world.

We live in a fallen and cursed place, and those who live in the world without the protection of God will be affected by the curses that already exist. The reason the world is a cursed place is that this is where HaSatan was thrown when he was ejected from heaven (Revelation 12:7) and he is the Prince of the Power of the Air (Ephesians 2:2.) Satan rules the world (for the time being) and anyone living in the world is subject to his cursed realm. When we are obedient to God, God will protect us from the world.

That is why when we read the blessings and the curses in Deuteronomy 28, we see that the curses are the exact opposite of the blessings.

For the record: there is a difference between failing to follow God’s instructions and refusing to follow them, so don’t think that you will be punished every time you mess up. Yes, God tells us in Leviticus that anyone who sins, whether they know it or not, is guilty. But God is understanding of our weaknesses and is very compassionate; he isn’t just willing to forgive, he desires to forgive the repentant sinner. Therefore, when you mess up, repent and ask forgiveness (in Yeshua’s name, of course) so you will not have to suffer the curses.

When we have health problems or tsouris in our life, we shouldn’t automatically blame God, and we shouldn’t automatically assume we are under satanic attack, either. Sometimes bad things happen for no other reason than we live in a bad place, and you can’t walk through a sheep pen without getting something on your shoes, no matter how careful you are.

The great comic George Carlin once asked, “If God can do anything, can he make a rock so big he can’t lift it?” I have always thought that to be a wonderfully thoughtful and funny joke. I don’t see it as impertinent or disrespectful, but as something for us to ponder simply because it raises a legitimate point, i.e. is there something that God can’t do?

Today’s drash is all about what God can’t do. But what is even more important is to realize that those things God can’t do should be a comfort for us. Because he can’t sin, we can trust him to always be there for us in a supportive way.

Because he can’t do evil, we can always count on him to keep evil away from us (when we walk in his will.)

Because he can’t judge unfairly, we know that those who sin against others will be punished.

There are so many things that God can be counted on because there are things he can’t do.

Trust God to always be there for you, and even in the midst of your trials and tribulations, God is standing by with a towel and a refreshing drink of cool water for you when you turn to him, and that is because one other thing that God cannot do is to not love you.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share me out. Check out my website and consider buying my books if you like what you hear in these messages.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Thanksgiving Day 2019 Message

Here in the United States, today is Thanksgiving Day.

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It was originally a day that our first President, George Washington, designated as a day to give thanks for the creation of our National Constitution. Today most people believe it started when the earliest settlers in this country shared their first harvest with the Native Americans who literally saved their lives by showing them how to farm the land.

I believe the most important thing people should be thankful for is the sacrifice that Yeshua (Jesus) made when he allowed himself to be crucified, becoming a substitution for the animal that was to be brought to the temple in Jerusalem.

The Torah states that we can only sacrifice to God where he has placed his name (Deut. 12:14):

Be careful not to offer your burnt offerings just anywhere you see, but do it in the place Adonai will choose in one of your tribal territories; there is where you are to offer your burnt offerings and do everything I order you to do.

When Yeshua rose from the grave, that was proof that his sacrifice was accepted by God, and from that moment on, we were able to receive forgiveness of sin through Yeshua’s sacrifice, which meant that receiving forgiveness was no longer geographically restricted. After the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, only those who have accepted Yeshua as their Messiah are able to receive forgiveness of sin.

As a Jew, I am exceptionally thankful to Yeshua for what he did for me, as well as the many people God placed in my life, both for good and for evil, who eventually helped me find and accept Yeshua. It is very hard for a Jewish person to accept Yeshua because of what Christianity has done to him. They have removed everything Jewish from him, and modern Christianity is based not on what Yeshua taught, but what Constantine (and all those who followed after him) created. Not to mention how many millions of Jews have been tortured and murdered over the past two millennia, all in the name of Jesus Christ.

We should be thankful for what we have, and not worry about what we don’t have. Sometimes we want more than we really can afford and even though we make ends meet, we find that the sacrifice we have to make to have something, just to have it, isn’t really worth it. Instead of being thankful for that thing, we begin to resent it because of all the other things we might have had.

We should also be thankful for all that we don’t have: if you’re not sure what I mean, think of everyone you know or have heard of with tsouris in their life that you don’t have in your life, and I think you will understand.

The apostle Shaul (Paul) once wrote (Philippians 4:12-13):

I know how to live humbly, and I know how to abound. I am accustomed to any and every situation— to being filled and being hungry, to having plenty and having need. “

He accredited this to finding his needs and strength in the Messiah. That is what we can do, as well.

Finally, just as everything else humans get their grubby little hands on, this day dedicated to thanksgiving has been polluted with sports events, parades, and marketing mania. Instead of being a day we can get together with family to give thanks for so many things, we get together with family, all right, but it’s to watch football and eat until we burst. Maybe there is a general sense of being thankful, but is it real? Are we genuinely taking the time to thank God for all we have? Even if all we have is a little, it is better than nothing, and even those with nothing still have their life and the opportunity to make it better.

As you enjoy your holiday (and yes, the turkey, too), be thankful for all that you have and all that you have yet to receive. Today is for you to appreciate what God has given you, and whether you have a lot or a little, whatever you have is more than someone else has, so be thankful.

One last thought: this holiday is just one day of the year, but we should be thankful every moment of every day, all year long.

I am thankful for you, and appreciate you being here. Please subscribe and share this ministry with others, and remember that I always welcome your comments.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Obedience or Legalism?

I suppose before we begin this discussion you should know what I mean by “legalism.”

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For the purpose of this discussion, legalism is obeying the instructions God gave in the Torah, but not because we want to do what pleases God. On the contrary, legalistic obedience is when we obey because we want to earn God’s acceptance; in other words, faithfully and respectfully doing what God says because we recognize his authority and only want to do what pleases him is NOT the motivation behind legalistic obedience. Legalistic obedience is doing what we are told to do in order to earn salvation, and to be a “good little Believer.”

Obedience is also something that we need to identify. I wrote about obedience recently, and if you haven’t already read it, I suggest you take a moment or three and read it now before we go on. Here is a quick link to it: obedience message.

Now that we have these definitions out of the way, the question I want to discuss is this: Can our faithful desire to be obedient mutate into legalism?  I believe it can, and it does once we become more interested in the details of how to observe than the reason why we observe.

As an example: I have seen many people who are absolutely infatuated and obsessed with the lunar calendar. They are asking which lunar cycle to observe, and when a festival or Shabbat really begins. This is, in my opinion, a form of legalism because the moon phases aren’t what God wants us to observe- he wants us to observe the festival that the moon phases initiate.

In the ancient days, they didn’t have ABC news and weather to tell them the exact moment the new moon begins. They didn’t have the Internet or even a set of walkie-talkies so that the northern tribes could know when the moon was seen over Jerusalem.

What they had was a system of lighting fires on the tops of selected mountains as a signal to the other parts of Israel. Once the new moon (Rosh Chadosh) was officially spotted over Jerusalem, the word went out to the other parts of the country by means of these alert fires. And if the night sky was cloudy or they had bad weather, the new moon might have been already a day or two in that phase before the word went out that the festival started. Yet, we don’t read about God denying the people rains and making them infertile because they were a day late when celebrating Sukkot, do we? No, we don’t.

God, himself, tells us that legalistic obedience means nothing to him. The best place we see this is in Isaiah 1: 11-17 (CJB):

“Why are all those sacrifices offered to me?” asks Adonai“I’m fed up with burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened animals! I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls, lambs and goats! Yes, you come to appear in my presence; but who asked you to do this, to trample through my courtyards? Stop bringing worthless grain offerings! They are like disgusting incense to me! Rosh-Hodesh, Shabbat, calling convocations — I can’t stand evil together with your assemblies! Everything in me hates your Rosh-Hodesh and your festivals; they are a burden to me — I’m tired of putting up with them! “When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; no matter how much you pray, I won’t be listening; because your hands are covered with blood. “Wash yourselves clean! Get your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing evil, learn to do good! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, defend orphans, plead for the widow.”

God is not looking for the type of obedience that is performance-oriented. He wants us to do what is right! He wants us to treat each other with love and compassion, and understanding…just as he does when we try to do what he wants from us. That is why if your observance is a day late, or based on the Gregorian calendar instead of a lunar calendar perfectly oriented to Jerusalem, God doesn’t care. What he cares about is that you do observe the festival.

Remember that a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day to God (Psalm 90:4); do you really think he is so nick-picky that a couple of hours or starting your celebration half-a-day or so off from Jerusalem will make it unacceptable to him?
I don’t think so.

Other legalistic activities that I have seen deal with God’s holy name, which is the four letters we call the Tetragrammaton. Too many people want to use his name as often as they would use anyone else’s name. They justify it with the improper interpretation of the biblical terms that are similar to “call on his name” or “proclaim his name”; the proper meaning of those types of terms, given the cultural usage at that time, was meant to proclaim who and what God is, with regards to his renown, his authority and his reputation. To call on the name of the Lord doesn’t mean to pronounce the Tetragrammaton; no, it means to look to God for salvation, help, and guidance. To call upon his name is to pray to God. It doesn’t mean you have to know how to pronounce his name, and it certainly doesn’t mean to use his name whenever and as often as you want to. In my opinion, those who we would label as “Holy Namers” are being legalistic and missing what calling on the name of the Lord really means.

There are other versions of legalism, and there is probably at least one version of legalistic observance for every commandment God gave. The difference is not in what you do, but why you do it.

If you are really into details and want to be as perfectly observant as you can be, there is nothing wrong with that SO LONG AS your heart is set on pleasing God and doing what he says because he says to do it. That is faithful obedience. Even when you miss the mark, forget a festival, eat a Hostess pie during Hag haMatzot (by accident, of course) or go out to buy something you need on Shabbat, God understands. I am not saying that to sin is OK, but being perfectly obedient to earn God’s acceptance will not be accepted.

God knows the heart, and he knows who you are praying to when you seek him. Don’t get so involved in the details of what you are doing that you lose sight of why you are doing it. Be obedient because you love God and your obedience is the result of your trust in his judgment, your desire to please him, and your faithful belief that whatever God says to do, it is for your own good. Don’t try to understand why, don’t make excuses why you don’t have to, just be honest with God and with yourself and do what you can because God said you should.

Anything more than obedience from love, thankfulness, respect, submission to his authority, or desire to please him will lead you to legalism, and then no matter what you do or how well you do it, it will be a waste of time.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Grace isn’t Forgiveness

Too often I hear people talking about grace as if it is synonymous with forgiveness, and forgiveness as if it is synonymous with mercy.  It isn’t, and they aren’t.

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Grace is the way God shows his love for us. The best form of grace we have is that God sent Yeshua the Messiah to make a way for us to be able to avoid the punishment we all deserve.

Grace isn’t mercy, either. Mercy is nothing more than a reduction in the severity of some action, such as being punished. For example, we may be eligible for 10 years of hard labor, but a merciful punishment will take into account extenuating circumstances and maybe reduce the time to 5 years. Mercy doesn’t absolve us from punishment, it simply makes the punishment less severe.

Forgiveness is not grace or mercy- it is the removal of guilt. When we do something wrong, we are guilty and forgiveness removes that guilt. On a spiritual level, it allows us to come back into communion with God. On a physical level, it can allow a relationship to be restored, either fully or partially.

Forgiveness does not automatically absolve us from the consequences of what we did wrong. In the physical world, we almost always will have to face the consequence of our sin, whether forgiven or not; however, in the spiritual realm, when God forgives our sin it means our guilt against God is removed, meaning there will be no eternal consequences.

Grace is what God feels because he loves us so much, and because of his grace he will have mercy on us when we do wrong, and when we accept Yeshua as our Messiah, through him God will forgive our sins and remove our guilt.

So, in a nutshell, here is how it works: God’s mercy results in people being punished less than they deserve for their sins, and his forgiveness is available to remove our guilt when we accept the ultimate form of his grace, which is Yeshua the Messiah.

Any questions?

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Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

 

Faith is Only the Beginning

We are saved by faith…how many times have you heard that said? When you hear it, do you ever think “Am I really faithful?”

I do. Every day I try to be more faithful, but what does that mean, really?

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Is being faithful believing in God? Is it enough to believe he exists and that the Bible accurately describes him and all he has done? That is not enough- every demon from hell has seen him on his throne and was there when he created everything. And they’re not saved.

Does it mean believing that Yeshua is the Messiah? Yes, that is necessary, but that’s not enough (again) because every demon from hell doesn’t just believe Yeshua is the Messiah, they know it…absolutely! They have seen him and they know he is God’s son. But they’re not saved.

So, nu?  If believing in God and Yeshua as the Messiah isn’t enough, what do I have to do to be “faithful” enough to be saved?

The answer was given to us two millennia ago when Yacov (James) wrote in his letter to the Messianic Jews in the Diaspora that faith without works is dead.

James notes that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness not only because he believed what God told him, but because he acted on it! Abraham took his belief to the next, and necessary step to be faithful, by doing what God told him to do. His belief wasn’t just passive, it was active and demonstrated by his actions.

You may say, “But God knows the heart, and if I really want to be good and if I fail, God will know and forgive me.”

I have heard this from people more than a few times, and I worry for them because they are, without realizing it, telling God what he will do. I recall how God felt about the friends of Job when they assumed to know what God does and why.

God is forgiving, and he will forgive, but not automatically- you have to ask for it. And, you have to really be repentant in order to receive it.

When it comes to being faithful, we have to have a LOT more than just believing that God is God and Yeshua is the Messiah: we have to become better. And when I hear people say they will try to be better, my answer to them is the same as Jedi Master Yoda gave to Luke Skywalker, “Do or do not: there is no try.”

“But I am weak, I am a sinner from birth, no one is without sin!” Yes, that is all true, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be better than you are. If you want to be with God forever, you need to do more than just believe: you must have faith that is strong enough to spur you to action.

“But what must I do? How do I know what God expects of me?” The answer is in the Bible, specifically the first 5 books, which we call the Torah. No one can perform every law, regulation, commandment, and requirement that is in the Torah, but we can certainly do more than we are doing now.  When your faith causes you to become more of what God wants you to be by acting more in the way God wants you to act, then your faith is strong enough to ensure your salvation.

So long as you maintain it. Faith is something that comes to us with difficulty because it means giving up what we are used to, and for that very same reason, it is something that is too easily lost.

Shaul’s letters were written to Gentiles just learning about God and his instructions. Their faith was tested daily because their entire environment was against them, and they had to make a total U-turn in their behavior to show their faithfulness. You can see this in every letter Shaul wrote to the Gentile Believer congregations he started because he addressed the problems that their weak faith caused, which was human selfishness and other sinful activities. His admonishments regarding the Torah were not meant to teach people to ignore it but slowly learn how to live it. He was teaching people raised in a hedonistic and sexually perverted lifestyle how to live in a completely righteous way. Not an easy task, and so he didn’t try to force the entire Torah down their throats all at once, but instead to have them drink milk until they could have pureed Torah, and eventually they would be able to handle the “meat” of God’s word.

But a discussion of Shaul’s influence on the early Gentile Believers is beyond the scope of this message.

Your faith is measurable by your actions. There is a scale that God will use to judge each and every one of us, so we need to make sure that the side of the scale we want to be heavy on is our obedience to God’s instructions.  That is what James tells us is the true measure of our faith.

I will leave you with this last question: if you saw a hand writing a message on the wall, are you absolutely positive that the things you have said and done will demonstrate that your faith is enough to measure up?

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Can You Handle the Truth?

Was the first thing you thought of when you read today’s title the movie, “A Few Good Men?”  Jack Nicholson, when told by Tom Cruise that he only wants the truth, delivers the now-iconic line, “You can’t handle the truth!”, which meant Cruise’s character wasn’t able to properly understand or appreciate the truth.

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I want to look at this statement from an entirely different viewpoint, i.e. not that someone cannot handle hearing the truth, but can we who know the truth handle it? And what I mean is, can we handle it correctly?

Often we know someone who states a biblical “truth” that we know, absolutely, is wrong. Now, of course, we can never ignore the option that we are wrong, but when we know in our spirit, and when we can confirm it objectively (that is an important part of being “right”) from what is said in the Bible (and not just once in one sentence, but hermeneutically throughout the Bible), and also when it is confirmed to be truthful by others who we know are spiritually mature and biblically knowledgeable (wow, what a long sentence!), THEN we can be absolutely certain of what we believe.

Where was I? Oh, yeah- so, when we know someone says something that is wrong, do we handle the truth by stating it in a way that it can be handled by the one hearing it?

Do you see what I mean? Handling the truth is a two-way street: the one hearing it must hear the truth in a way that makes it possible for him or her to understand and accept it, and that will depend almost exclusively on how well the one with the truth presents it.

I was a salesman for many years, and I sold high-priced items on a one-call close basis. I was very successful because I did not tell the customer what they should do but instead, I presented my product in a way that allowed them to decide it was the best thing for them.  The way I did that, which is how we must teach others, is to start with finding out what they think about something, then make them doubt their position by asking leading questions. The questions must be delivered in such a way that the only answer they can give is one that shows they aren’t certain about why they think something is true.

Here is what I have learned to be the best way to teach someone: don’t start by telling them what you know, start by asking them what they know, and then ask them why they believe it to be true?  Only after you know what they think they know can you begin to show them that what they know is, as the song says, ain’t necessarily so.

You cannot get anyone to believe what you say until you get them to doubt what they say. 

Once they realize that they might not be correct, THEN you have an opening to slowly, compassionately and respectfully tell them what you believe and immediately follow it up with why. Hopefully, the proof of your belief will convict them and then, and only then, it is possible they will realize they were wrong. That is if they’re willing to do so because, after all the work you have done, if they really don’t want to know anything other than what they believe you will not be able to change their mind.

And when they can’t handle the truth, do not try to force it upon them. Many people, if not most, will not want to hear the truth because they don’t want to move out of their comfort zone. They will refuse to relearn what they already think they know because they do not want to know anything different; they do not want to stop doing what they have always done, and they most certainly do not want to chance losing friends and family by separating themselves from their current environment.

And, as we all know, being holy means to be separated from the common.

The truth is something that will set us free; what is a hard truth to handle is that most people do not want to be free. They want to remain slaves to sin because it is a lot easier (and in many ways more fun) than being a slave to God. Besides, most people don’t even realize they are slaves, and that truth is the hardest thing to initially overcome when we minister to the unsaved.

You may disagree with what I am saying, but I know from experience and from confirmation (having been a top salesperson) that your truth cannot be accepted until after their truth is proven to be wrong.

So, nu? …now that you know the truth about handling the truth, can you handle the truth?

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!