Forgiveness is For Later

The Bible says that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. That’s comforting to know, but what does it mean, really?

It doesn’t mean that you are going to be free of the consequence of your sin. At least, not until you are dead.

Oh, my! That’s not quite as comforting. Can’t we change that? Sorry, no. Forgiveness of sins is something that God does for us, and through the sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua we are all able to ask for, and receive, forgiveness of sins. But the actual, temporal consequences of our sins are something we can’t avoid. When we sin, it is always, and foremost, against God. The next level is against someone else. When God forgives us, it is the sin against Him for which we are forgiven, and that forgiveness will be realized most when we meet Him at Judgement Day.

In the meantime, we have to deal with what we did, here and now. Look at David, who sinned against God (he knew the proper order, as you can see in Psalm 51), against Bathsheba, and against Urriah.  The result of his sin was the birth of a baby boy, and the consequence of his sin was the death of the innocent baby.

Sin is bad, and the worst part (I think) is that the one who seems to suffer the most from my sin is the one I sin against. Sometimes it’s just an innocent. Well, wait a minute! That kinda makes sense, doesn’t it? Not that this is a good thing, but doesn’t the Manual require the blood, i.e. the very life, of an innocent to atone for sin?  Isn’t that absolutely clear? You would think that knowing this we would be more careful, right? On the other hand, sinfulness implies that the person doing the sinning doesn’t really care, doesn’t it?

I sin, and I don’t want to. I know I am a sinner, the Bible tells me everyone sins, we are all born with a sinful nature (whether the Christian thought of original sin or the Talmudic thought of the Yetzer Hara), and we have no hope for overcoming this ourselves. God knew that from the beginning, which is why we can see His promise of a Messiah all the way back to Abraham. The Old Covenant tells us what happened right up to before Messiah comes, and the New Covenant tells us of the Messiah and what will happen when it all comes to an end. That’s one of the many things I love about the Bible,: it takes us from the very beginning to the very end, from what has happened to what will happen, and all the time we see what it is like, even today, in how things and people were then.

Hmmmm….that sounds like “was, is, and shall be”. That should sound familiar to you: it is how we describe God. He was, He is, and He always shall be.  Yochanan (John) tells us (at the beginning of his Gospel) there was the Word, and the Word became flesh. In the D’var Adonai (Word of God) we see this description of the Almighty, and the Word tells us of what was, which we can relate to what is now, and it also describes what will be.

Nice correlation, don’t you think?

Anyway, back to sin.

This is an easy lesson for us to learn. The consequence of our sin is twofold: there is the immediate, earthly consequence and the future, spiritual consequence. We are saved from the spiritual punishment sin deserves by Messiah, but there is no escape from the physical, here and now, consequence. The person(s) sinned against will suffer, and (hopefully) the sinner will also suffer. I don’t mean that as a vengeful statement, but as a hopeful one- if the sinner feels the pain of the sin he or she committed, then there is a hope for the future. Maybe they will do T’Shuvah and save themselves. For the sinner that doesn’t care, the future will only get darker.

I don’t think that anyone who sins against God and doesn’t care is really going to feel the pain of their sin, whereas I know, for a fact, that others will feel it. We need to first and foremost ask forgiveness from God, then we need to ask it from those we have sinned against.

With the approach of Rosh Hashanah, I am reminded of a tradition performed at this festival. We are to go to those we may have sinned against and ask for forgiveness. It is an old Jewish tradition, and for those who don’t think that Yeshua did Jewish things, read Matthew 5:24. Yeshua tells the people to do exactly what this tradition says to do. It’s as I always say (besides “God has no religion”): there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant.

Those of you who think that you may have sinned against someone, either in word or thought or deed, go ask for forgiveness. First from God, then from the person. If your heart is truly repentant, God will grant you forgiveness when you ask in the name of Yeshua Ha Mashiach. However, you don’t know what will happen when you go to the human being you sinned against. That person may not forgive you; in fact, you may get a real tongue-lashing. Accept it, and move on. You did right in God’s eyes by asking for forgiveness, and you will do much, much better in His eyes when you forgive those who sinned against you. It doesn’t matter whether they ask you or not. You are commanded, as we all are, to forgive. Check it out in Matthew 6:14-15. There are other places, too, throughout the Tanakh and B’rit Chadashah: check it out for yourself.

Since we are commanded to forgive, if we don’t forgive, we are actually sinning, aren’t we? Isn’t a sin defined as doing something God said not to do?  If so, then is not doing something God said we should do the same thing? A sin? I think so…what do you think?

Heck, why argue? Just forgive; if for no other reason, it is the only way to make the pain go away. Anywho, this is getting into a totally different topic.

Sin stinks. It reeks to High Heaven. Fortunately, God provided a way for us to avoid the Eternal consequences of our sins. Praise Him and thank you, Yeshuah!

In the meantime, be careful. Guard your tongue, control your feelings, always pray to Adonai that He guide you with the Ruach HaKodesh. And if you haven’t accepted your own sinfulness and come before Yeshua asking for Him to intercede with God, you better hurry up. The times, they are a’changin’, and not for the better.  Think about it: since the End Days are in the future, that means every day brings us closer, not further, from the time we will all face God at His judgement throne.  If Yeshua isn’t your defence attorney(everyone wants a Jewish lawyer) , you is in big trouble!


Where’s Your Bible?

I suppose that just about everyone reading this ministry blog has a Bible, aka The Manual. If you are reading this and you don’t have one, please find one. You can always go online to Bible study sites, but it is best if you have one in your hand, paper and binding, so that you hold it. It is to be loved and cherished, and you can’ t do that with an I-pad. Also, I challenge everyone to not take what I say as true, but to look it up in the Manual and verify for yourself the veracity of what I say. I try to discipline myself to never teach about what is in the Bible that you can’t go in there and find for yourself, and I pray that God leads my teachings to reflect only what is right in His eyes. Besides that, you need to develop the habit of checking what you are told.

Someone once told me never believe what you hear, and I took it with a grain of salt. 

So, nu? Where’s your Bible? Is it on a shelf? Is it in a place of honor (collecting dust)? Wanna know where mine is? 

It’s in my bathroom. That’s right- right there on top of the toilet covering the Readers Digest from April of 1995. 

Oy! How disrespectful! How could you do that to the Word of God? 

Before I answer that, let me ask you, “Is it really disrespectful to keep my Bible in the bathroom?” I am sure some of you will say yes, and some will say no, and some just won’t know. That’s how it is with questions.

As you are thinking about your answer, let me submit what I think is the most disrespectful way to keep your Bible: to keep it closed. Whether on a shelf, prominently displayed in a case, or under the table leg to keep the table steady, in my opinion not reading your Bible is disrespectful to the Word of God. He gave us His word so we would know how to worship, how to live, and (consequently) how to be saved from ourselves. He tells us how we got here, where we are going, and about Messiah, who will lead us to Him, forever. It’s all there, but it’s useless if you don’t read it.

“Oh, but I go to church every Sunday”, or “I attend synagogue every Shabbat. When I’m there they tell me what it says.” Lazybones! That’s not going to float your Salvation, Brothers and Sisters. You need to read it, for yourself. You need to let the Ruach guide you. There are three levels of understanding when reading the Bible: the P’Shat (written word- that’s all you get when you listen to someone else read the Bible), the Drash (this is like reading between the lines- it is a hidden message that the Ruach makes clear to you), and the Sud ( this is a deeply spiritual, almost mystical understanding that comes from Ruach-led reading and a deep knowledge of the Word). 

I don’t believe you can really get the deepest and most fulfilling understanding of what God wants to tell you if you don’t hold the book in your hands and read it. 

“But I am sooooooo busy! I have my job, I work out, and then the kids take up all my free time. I really want to read the Bible every day, that’s my intention, but I just don’t get to it.”

Every hear this old adage: The road to hell is paved with good intentions? 

Look, I had kids, I worked a job with a 2-hour commute (one-way) and I know what “too pooped to poop” means. So, take the Bible to work and read it on the train or bus. If you drive, take it to work and read it during your break or lunch.

Or, do what I do- leave it in the bathroom. The Bathroom! Ah, yes! The one and only place where everybody can be guaranteed about 10 minutes of peace and quiet every day, alone with their thoughts. That’s why I keep my Bible in the bathroom. I read at least one chapter every time I…, well, let’s just say I read a chapter daily.

Is this a disrespectful place ? I dunno! Maybe it is, but it is not disrespectful that I read His word every day. And it is not disrespectful that I come to Him as humbled as can be (what’s more humble than on a toilet seat?) I can even say every day I come before His throne while on my throne.

Ouch!! Okay, maybe that was a little too far.  🙂

Seriously, though, I do not believe it disrespectful, otherwise I certainly wouldn’t do it. And because of where I keep my Bible, I easily get to read a chapter or two every day. I like to go in order, from the beginning of Genesis straight through to the end of Revelations. When I reach the end, I do what every Jewish person does on Simchat Torah, which is to take great joy in turning back the Torah (in my case, I go to the front of the book) and starting all over again. I don’t like the idea of these daily devotionals that skip around and jump all over the book. I know that it is OK to do so, in that what I read in one place will confirm what I read in other places (this is known as hermeneutics), but the book has a rhythm, a pace, and a hierarchy. How can I really feel the pain of watching Judea fall deeper and deeper into sin as we approach the end of 2 Kings if I am in 2 Kings, then John I, then Leviticus, then Mark, then…then…then…?  I want to feel the joy as God reveals Himself and I want to feel the pain as we fall further and further from His grace through our own sin. I don’t want to just have someone tell me what it says, I want to live it. I want to experience the full emotions of the history of my salvation. I can only get that from reading it and letting the Ruach Ha Kodesh lead my understanding. After more than 17 years of being saved and having read the Bible cover to cover dozens of times, I still get chills and cry at certain parts. And I thank God that I do: I don’t ever want to become inured to His word.

I’ll ask again: where’s your Bible? If you aren’t reading a chapter every day, and it’s not in the bathroom, maybe you should put it there?

Who Really Killed Jesus?

Growing up during the 50’s and 60’s I often was called “Christ Killer” by those nice Catholic kids from Christ the King High School. I didn’t know the Lord, but knew enough to counter with, “If Jesus came to die for your sins, then all we Jews did was complete God’s plan- you should be thanking us!”

It’s funny that with so little understanding I actually wasn’t that far from the truth.

It’s indisputable that the Romans killed Jesus. After all, Pilate condemned him, the soldiers flogged him and they nailed him to the tree.

Oh, but wait a minute…. Pilate wanted to set Him free and the Jews said to crucify Him in place of Barrabus. So it really was the Jews who killed Jesus.

Oh, but wait a minute… it wasn’t “The Jews” that killed Him, for there were (probably) more than 250,000 followers, nearly all of whom were Jewish, so it wasn’t really the entire Jewish population. In fact, the trial was illegal under Jewish law, so it was really just a few politically empowered people that rallied the mob, using mob mentality, that caused Pilate to succumb to their demands. It was just the Pharisees and Sadducees leaders that killed Jesus.

Oh, but wait a minute…Herod could have set Him free but he chose not to, so really Herod was the reason Yeshua was killed- Herod did it!

Oh, but wait a minute…Yeshua said that if He wanted to, he could have had God send legions of angels to protect and save Him, and He had been telling the Talmudim (Students / Apostles) for days that He would be handed over to the Goyim (Nations) and caused to suffer and die, and that this had to happen. So Yeshua actually committed suicide! Sort of like when people shoot at the police to get the police to kill them because they can’t shoot themselves.

Oh, but wait a minute…we always say that,  “He died for our sins”. So then, actually, we all killed Him.

Now we’re getting close.

Here is the definitive, correct, and absolutely valid answer to the age-old question, “Who Killed Jesus?”: I did. That’s right- it was me. Me, and me alone.

Whoa! Stop the music! C’mon, Steve- you weren’t even born then!  That’s right, I wasn’t even born then. But I am a sinner. I was born into sin, my nature is to sin, I have sinned, I still sin (thanks to the Ruach and my love for the Lord, I sin a lot less and am getting better at not sinning) and I can guarantee that no matter how hard I try, I will continue to sin until I am dead.

The purpose of the Messiah is to bring us all back into relationship with the Almighty. That is a simple, but (I think you’ll agree) accurate description of His purpose. Since God cannot abide or even be in the presence of sin, the sacrificial death of the Messiah is what cleanses us of our sins. By this cleansing we can now approach God. Messiah comes, Messiah dies, we are cleansed by His blood sacrifice, we now have a right relationship with God and can be in His presence. Job done.

I think the expression “He died for our sins” is misleading and is designed to make us feel good about ourselves, like , “Oh, I’m really a good person and good people get to go to heaven.”

What a crock!

Yeshua died for my sins! If the rest of the world was sinless, if every single person born before me and after me lived a Torah-perfect life, Yeshua would still have given up His majesty, taken on a mantle of flesh, lived a Torah-perfect life, died a painful and torturous death, and bled out His last drop of blood…for ME! I believe, absolutely, He would have done that just for me. Doesn’t He tell us so? In the parable about the man who had 100 sheep and if missing one would leave the other 99 to find the missing one. And when he finds the one missing and brings it back, he is overjoyed. And the parable about the woman missing a valuable coin. Upon finding it she is so happy she entertains people at a party (I’m taking some cultural liberties here) to celebrate.

Yeshua did what He did not for us, but for me. It is soooo important that each one of us understand this, because we need to own our sin. We each need to own-up to our failure to live as God wants. Not to beat ourselves up (that is from the Enemy), but to really understand how much Yeshua went through for my sake. Yes, for your sake too, but it is absolutely essential I feel that He did it for me.

Why? Because when we “own” our sin, we can give it away. You can’t really give away something you don’t own, so to give up our sin we need to first own it. The “religious world” teaches everything about sin in a third-party format. Sin is shared with others. He died for our sins, We are saved, by his blood we are freed.  I think this is a bad teaching because when you are part of a crowd you don’t feel individually responsible. You don’t have that sense of personal accountability for what happened, and your devotion cannot be as strong as when it is you, and you alone.

That is why I killed Yeshua. It was my fault he had to die because I needed to be able to escape the spiritual consequences of my sins. The physical and immediate consequences of sin are inescapable. Messiah didn’t die so I won’t have to face the results of my sins in this world (there’s an entire Drash on this topic- I’ll have to make a note to do that one) but so that I won’t have to suffer for them throughout Eternity. It is my fault He died, He died for my sins, I killed Him. I own my sin, and that’s why I can give it to Him.

You need to own your sin. You need to accept that you are a sinner. I know many people who think (because it’s what they have been taught) that if they are a “good person” they get to go to heaven. I feel so bad for them. They don’t own their sin, they see it as something that, frankly, isn’t a problem because it’s all covered. Jesus has their back, and it’s all third-party, non-committal understanding. It’s not really them. It’s everyone else. It’s also a lie from the pit of Sheol (Hell) and I feel so bad for them because they have a really nasty reality check coming up.

I have rambled a little bit more than usual. I keep repeating this over and over, that we need to own our sin, we need to feel personally responsible for Yeshua’s death, we need to understand that He would have done this just for me, or for you, even if no one else on Earth needed it. We need to feel this way so that our commitment to Him is solid, built on rock, and with deep roots. When a person feels that they are just a part of a group, it is easy to place the onus on the group. That’s mob mentality. When it comes to my salvation, I am the only one responsible for it.

My salvation is between me and Messiah Yeshua, and no one else. He died because I needed Him to do so, because I can’t be Torah-perfect. It’s because of me He died, which means I killed Jesus.

I pray that you, every single, individual person reading this Drash today, will walk away with the absolute conviction to say, “I killed Jesus. He died for me, and because of me. No one else is involved.”

Feel it, believe it, own it.

Are You Saved Because You’re Selfish?

Huh? What you talkin’ about?  I’m saved by the promise of the Almighty. Yeshua died for me. I called on the name of the Lord and He saved me. God loves me.


Oh, yes, it is true that Yeshua died so we could be saved, that God is forgiving and loves us, that all who call on His name will be saved, and all that other stuff that makes us feel warm and cozy inside.

But are you saved because you love the Lord or because the Lord loves you? That’s the question we need to ask ourselves. Too often I hear people that are talking about salvation and how God loves everyone. It’s all about how God loves them. But here’s what I think, and maybe it’s just me, but I think we should love the Lord because of who He is and not because of what He does for us.

God deserves our love. God is worthy of our devotion, obedience and worship. He does love us, but does He really love us as we are? For what we are? I don’t think it’s quite as “rosy” as all that; after all, he does require us to obey Him. And I don’t think anyone will argue that when God commands us to “be holy for I am holy” that He is asking us to change.

That’s right- let it sink in. God loves us as we are and for who we are, but He wants us to be different if we are to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. C’mon, get real- we are sinners. Throughout the Manual we are told that everyone is a sinner, and that God is holy, so if we want to be with God, and God is holy, we need to be holy. Right? God can’t abide sin, so we need to be sinless to be with Him.

When Yeshua died for us His death atoned for our sin. That is how we get to be with God, but it’s not a ticket to continue sinning. We still have to die to self, to allow the Ruach to guide us, to be different than we were before we were “saved.”

I hear people talking and preaching and ministering to others, talking all about how God loves you and forgives you. What they are selling is Dr. Feelgood; snake-oil salespeople getting people to accept the Messiah as their personal Saviour only because of how He loves us. It’s all about me, me, me and how much I need to be loved and forgiven for who I am and what I do. Me…me…me!

I think this is wrong because it doesn’t allow people desperately looking for someone to love them to realize what their commitment really means. It all sounds so nice, especially to people who have a sense of loneliness and just want to feel loved. I know people who are loved but they are such a pain the the tuchas they reject the love people give them and ostracize themselves. Then they kvetch about how no one cares about them, but when we do call or show we care they only complain and carp about their lives. They are totally self-centered. These are the types that are ripe for the picking when it comes to telling them about how Jesus loves them and they can be saved and be in heaven, etc.

This is not what Yeshua said. In Matthew He says that anyone who wants to follow Him must reject parents and family, they won’t have a place to sleep or a home, and they must pick up their execution stake and follow HIm. He says he is a wedge between mother and daughter, father and son, and that the world will hate those who follow Him.

Doesn’t sound much like a good time, party-hearty atmosphere, does it?

I think of the parable of the sower of seed. Those people who are ministered to and proselytized on the basis that God loves them, no matter what, are the people who hear the Word and accept it but are shallow soil. Why? Because they are accepting salvation for selfish reasons. Their interest isn’t in doing what God wants because He is worthy of our worship and obedience, but only for what God can do for them.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I am VERY grateful for God’s forgiveness, and it is a good feeling to know He loves me and that Yeshua did what He did for me. But I am saved because I want to have a relationship with God, I want to fill the emptiness I have felt my whole life not knowing who He is. It’s all about Him, and very little to do with me. That’s the kind of soil where roots grow deep because we are centered on what God is, what God deserves, and I worship Him because He is worthy of my worship.

I don’t want to sound holier than thou. I accepted Yeshua because, as Shaul says, I was jealous. I knew Christian’s who had a peace and joy that God gave them and I wanted in. I did want what salvation offered for selfish reasons, too. But that wasn’t all of it, and it shouldn’t be. As I have matured, spiritually (anyone who knows me can vouch that the only maturity I have is spiritual) I have come to realize that we need to be different, that although God loves us He wants us to be better. And salvation depends not just on asking, but on our doing, too. That’s right- it’s a free gift but it’s like having muscles: if you don’t use them,they atrophy and die. Our salvation is meant to be used to bring others into the Kingdom, to be fishers of men, to be a lamp, a light and to spread the Word by showing people how much God has changed us.

When we read of Yeshua’s ministry, how many times did He preach “God loves you?” It certainly was evident in the way He talked, but didn’t He really preach repent? Didn’t He make it difficult? Didn’t He warn us (by means of how He warned His Talmudim) about how difficult it was going to be  following Him? I don’t recall from the Gospels Yeshua droning on and on about God’s love and forgiveness and how happy you will be and how wonderful that you will get to be in heaven. Yeah, He made mention of it, sure. But it wasn’t what He really stressed, was it?

I want people to know the peace and joy that comes from His indwelling Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit of God. It has calmed me and helped me through rough times. I know God loves me and wants me to be saved; He says it over and over throughout the Bible. I would rather be with God than anywhere else,especially throughout Eternity. And because this is so important, I want everyone to know how difficult it is to be godly in a cursed world. I don’t want to “sucker them in” with promises of a rose garden for them to find out it’s really more like a brier patch. It’s tough being holy, it goes against our nature. And if all someone is told about is how wonderful they are, how God loves them, and only how about good they can feel knowing that the Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, the Lord, God, the Big Guy Himself, is only interested in making them feel loved, well…they will fall. They are accepting salvation on a premise that God is here for them, and the truth is we are here for God. If you really mean it when you say it is all about God, then you understand why I am so concerned about not pushing just love, love, love but making sure I tell people that it is tough, tough,tough out there when you accept salvation because you have to be different, you have to change. God loves you but He wants you to be different than you are now.

God is our Father in heaven, He is also our Judge, Jury and Executioner; He is Love, and He is justice and vengeance. When people accept His gift of Grace, it shouldn’t be only because of what God is doing for them. That won’t cut it when the going gets tough. Yeshua told the truth. He didn’t preach how wonderful it would be for everyone, He preached how everyone should be so it can be wonderful. We need to follow Yeshua’s example and preach the truth, both the wonderful and the not-so-wonderful aspects of salvation. We need to be tough and make sure people know what they are in for.

General “Chesty” Puller, a Commandant of the Marine Corps, and 5-time Medal of Honor winner, used to say that the more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war. This is war we are in, spiritual war, yes, but war all the same. We need to make soldiers for God and we can’t do that with people who are in it just to be “Hollywood Marines” (that’s a name we gave people who joined the Marine Corps just to look cool in the uniform.) We need to tell about more than just how God loves us because people who are “saved” so that they can feel loved are not going to last, and if we do that to them, if we tell them only the good and don’t prepare them for the worst, we are doing them an injustice and trampling the blood of Messiah into the dust.

I love the Lord because He is deserving of it. Not just for what He has done for me, but because He is deserving of it! If He never gave me a blessing, never did a single nice thing for me, He is still worthy and deserving of my love and obedience because of who He is.

And because of who He is, He does do nice things for me. He showers me with blessings I don’t deserve, and I am eternally grateful. Be grateful, be happy in the knowledge that you are loved, and that the Almighty wants you to be with Him. But don’t forget that we need to steel ourselves for battle, to put on the armor of God, and to focus on what we can do for His glory.

If it isn’t all about Him, it isn’t going to last.

Moses, Man of God: CEO or GM?

We have been told that Moshe was a great leader. He led the people out of Egypt, he led the people through the Sea of Suf, he led the people through the desert, he led the people to the Promised Land.

But did he lead?

Look, I’m all for Moshe. He was a great man, although I think he would say he was nothing. After all, we are told he was the humblest of all men. I served as an Executive Office of a company of US Marines (over 365 men and millions of dollars of equipment), a manager in different businesses, had a business, been a worker and been a peon, I know the difference between leadership and management.

Leadership wasn’t Moses’s strength. God led the people. God provided the sustenance, the protection, and the ideas that brought them forth. God provided all they needed and it was all His plan.

Moses was a really good General Manager, in that he took the instructions that God gave him and made them work. Moses did as he was instructed, and made sure the people did so, too. That is the mark of a great manager. And, like all great managers (and leaders), he showed them how to do it by living it. If there was anything Moses “led”, it was that he led by example.

Is this a diss against Moses? No: it is a reality check. We need to remember that God is in charge, and He is the leader. He makes the plan, He gets the materials, He has the ideas. We are followers, we are the ones that do what God has planned for us. And the ones that are in charge of the people are God’s Management Team. The Pastors, Priests, Rabbis, Ministers, and all the other titled “religious leadership” are really not leaders, but managers.

Think of the believer Community as God’s employees. We have all applied for the position of Believer in the one, true God. The job is a lifetime commitment, with very few perks, low pay (if any) and often it is not viewed as an influential position by the World. Oh, yeah, it can be dangerous and even fatal in some parts of the world.

Given the above facts, you may ask, “Why even want to work for God and Son, Inc?”  It’s because they offer a really great retirement plan.

Therefore, let’s keep our perspective. Let’s continue to honor those who have managed God’s people, who listen to His plan and follow it. But lets recognize it for what it is so that we can give credit where credit belongs- to the Lord. Truth is, leadership and management are two sides of the same coin- you have to have a little of one to be effective as the other. But, ultimately, it is God who leads. He always has, He does, and He always will.

Why am I being so adamant about what some may consider just wordplay? It is because as humans we always try to take credit.  I don’t want to take credit for God’s work, I shouldn’t even take credit for managing His people (if I ever find myself in that position). I want to make sure I always give credit for the leadership of God’s people where it belongs- with God. Also, I want to make sure I never get the idea that whatever I hear God tell me to do, in His name, is something I might think of as my own idea. It’s hard to hear God when I am making too much noise of my own.

Again I say, if I do something good and wonderful, it is God working through me; when I do something totally stupid and useless, that’s when I can take full credit.

You know, this discussion borders on the dichotomy of Free Will and Predestination, two apparent opposites. In light of that, let me submit to you an allegory I heard once how Judaism combines these antithetical idealisms:

God is the captain of a ship, and this ship is going from Creation to Eternity. Those who ask to travel with God are allowed on (all who call on His name…) but we are also allowed to jump off. The work on the ship is hard, and we are expected to do our share of it. At the end, God’s ship will arrive, His plan will be done, whether we are with Him or not. The predestination of God’s plan will be realized, and throughout the journey we have the freedom to choose to stay on board or jump ship. It’s up to us where we will be when the ship arrives.

Considering all the Prophets whose names we know from the Bible, have you ever thought about how many may have been called but refused? Or maybe they didn’t do as they were instructed so their names aren’t mentioned?

Silly question? I have been told that you cannot make an argument from nothing, but I can think of 2 prophets who we are told about and their names aren’t mentioned. Their story is in First Kings, 13:24 through 20:36. Why is this important? Because it shows that what God wants to accomplish, will be accomplished. If God’s first choice won’t do it, then His second choice will. Maybe His third, or fourth. And so, my question is, how many of the Prophets we know might not have been the first choice? What great deeds may the visiting Prophet have performed for God if he had listened and lived?

I don’t know. And (frankly) it doesn’t really matter. It won’t affect my salvation if I know that Elijah wasn’t the first choice, or if I am never aware of the the name of the man in Matthew 19:21 who was told to sell all his possessions so he could follow Yeshua. Imagine! Yeshua invited this man to follow Him! Yet, the man refused. Imagine what that person might have done, imagine what plans God could have had for that man! But, even though he was asked to join the crew, he refused. And so, the ship sailed without him and God’s Will was accomplished through others. .

Back to Moses- each of us can be like Moses. Maybe not as empowered by God’s Ruach, maybe not as encumbered by responsibility, certainly not as humble. But we can be as faithful to follow God. Yeah, yeah- Moshe was The Man! You may ask, “Who can be as faithful as him?”  You can; I can; anyone who wants to be, CAN.

It’s hard, it’s going to make you stand out and be ostracized, and it’s not going to yield any worldly reward. But your reward in heaven will be great- that is God’s promise.

Be the GM of your life; help others to manage theirs, and remember to always let God lead.

Humility Takes Strength

Here’s something I can really talk about, but not necessarily relate to: humility. I can talk about it because of the old adage, “Those who can’t do, teach.”

As a Marine (once a Marine, always a Marine) I used to say, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re the best”, and that’s true for the Marine Corps, but not always for me.

When I think of a humble person I think of a shy, quiet person who won’t speak up, who will follow the crowd so as not to make a scene or be set apart, and of someone who is, generally, ineffective at leadership.  This is the kind of picture I think many people have of someone who is called “humble.”

Then I think of Moshe. The Manual says he was the meekest/humblest of all men. Yet, he led over a million people for four decades. He stood up against the most powerful ruler in the world at that time. He gave up riches and power (being raised in the Pharaoh’s household) to become a shepherd, and he had anger management issues (he did commit murder, remember?)

When I feel humble it’s usually because I have been knocked down by someone, belittled and made to feel unimportant. That is not a “godly” humility: that is absement. Negative thoughts about ourselves and feelings of despair are the tools of the Enemy. God wants us to acknowledge His authority and His power, without feeling belittled. We should be awed by Him, not embarrassed. And if someone abases us, because of the Spirit that dwells within us we should be strong enough not to react with anger but with understanding.

Humility takes strength because we need to be strong enough to accept our position in relation to God, and our position within society.  We need to overcome our selfish and egocentric inclinations to “get back” at someone who hurts us or embarrasses us and understand that they must be hurting terribly to do such a cruel and heartless thing. Moshe was a strong leader, yet he remained humble. When the people threatened to stone him and Aaron, he didn’t call down fire on them or curse them; instead, he fell to the ground before the Lord and asked for forgiveness for them. When offered the opportunity (more than once) to become the progenitor of a great nation, he refused and reminded God about His promises. In the light of this great honor, all Moshe could think of was God’s glory, and God’s reputation.

Now that is a humble person. Moshe showed great strength, spiritual maturity and concern not for himself but for God and the people that were his responsibility. He wasn’t weak, not by a long shot!

There is another old saying I will remind us of: “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Just look throughout history at leaders, all leaders, in all countries. Despots, tyrants, Presidents, Emperors, whatever the title, those in power have often (too often) fallen down from the high position of humility and sank to the lowest position of self- importance. Isn’t that how it ends up? Doesn’t the Bible teach that God will bring the haughty down and raise up the meek? We are told this in the book of Proverbs, and Yeshua said it when He gave the Sermon on the Mount. Throughout the Tanakh we see how the humble who trust in God are protected and often raised up to positions of great importance, while those who are mighty and reject God become humbled by Him. Think of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar, when the king was made to eat grass for 7 years as Daniel made sure the kingdom was kept secure. Not for himself, as he could easily have been able to manipulate, but safe for the king because Daniel knew that God was going to restore him. Daniel was the second most powerful man in the most powerful kingdom in the world at that time, and he remained humble. How? Because he was a Godly man who knew his place, and what God wanted from him.

That’s our challenge. To remain humble, not as a result of telling ourselves how little we matter, or how terrible we are, but by understanding who we are: who we are in God, that God is in charge and we are here to serve Him as He directs. We are important, we are one step below the Almighty, above the angels and cherubim, and Sons and Daughters of Avraham (whether born that way or adopted.) And the best and most useful thing we can do is to give the Glory and the Honor to God, who made it all possible. We have talents, we are wonderful creations, renewed each day by His Spirit, we are the Temple of God’s Spirit itself! We are tremendously blessed and honored by the All Powerful Creator of Everything!

And without God we are nothing. Want to stay humble? Remember that it is God who made us what we are, and when we do wonderful things it is because of Him. We should not revel in our own “greatness”; instead, we should honor God by giving Him the glory and the honor that what we do has earned. People seek honor and glory, but we who know the Lord and have been saved by His Grace through Messiah Yeshua should seek honor and glory for God.

That’s the big difference: the unsaved seek glory for themselves, and the Godly seek glory for God. That’s how we remain humble.

It’s like I always say (and anyone who knows me will confirm that I am always saying something): What I do that is wonderful and good is from God doing it through me; when I screw something up, then I can take full credit.

What’s Holding up Your House?

Anyone who has ever built anything knows that a strong, stable foundation is essential if you want your project to stand on it’s own.

Our spiritual strength, the roots of our beliefs, must be firm and sound, too.

When enough people who feel the same way get together, they form societies with like-minded ethics.

OK, I know. BORING!!! I am not in the mood for Poli Sci in the morning, Steve!  What’s this got to do with God?

Our society reflects who we are and what we believe. Our society defines who we are because it is a reflection of the members that form it. Today, where God fits in is becoming harder to see in our society.

Our comedians always pick on politicians, yet the politicians are placed there by us. So, if we think that politicians are unethical and untrustworthy, since they represent us, what does that say about our society? Are we that blind that we can say politicians are all crooks, and in the same breath be proud that we vote?

I know that as the End Times (Acharit HaYamim, in Hebrew) approach (and, believe me, they are approaching at a fast pace) society will degrade more and more. It was made up of  people with like minds, but the scary thing is that it seems to be reversing, where the whole isn’t made up from the parts, but the parts are being made into the whole (wow- that sounds really “Zen-like”, doesn’t it?)

Society is becoming less Godly and more self-centered, and we who believe in God and worship Him will be shunned as outcasts. We need to deepen our roots, strengthen our foundation and stand firm against the sea of troubles and hardships that will be coming.

I am so blessed: I have a wonderful wife and marriage, a good job that pays well, we own our home, I am working for a good company with nice people, and we enjoy some level of financial stability. Don’t get the wrong idea- we’re not wealthy, and I’m still buying lottery tickets, but I am so blessed. And yet, I expect it all to go away one day. Not because I am pessimistic or fearful, but because I am hopeful in the coming of Messiah. I read the Manual and understand that tribulation will be coming. Israel will have the whole world against it, and there will be nothing but strife, heartache and problems for the Believers. And I mean PROBLEMS!!

Now is the time to work on your foundation. Make sure you know the Word because the Enemy knows it better than you do, and he will use it against you. Our society, once formed by those who were looking for the freedom to worship God and keep God at the core of our ethics and laws, now reject Him and are ripe for the coming of the Anti-Christ. TV, radio, movies, magazines: take a real good look at what is popular. Kardashians, Bridezilla, Hoarders, Cops, Twilight, Marriage at First Site, Wife Swap…I could go on and on. And it’s not the fault of the producers and editors- they are only looking to make money. In an economy based on supply and demand, they are simply supplying what the people demand. And the people demand blood. Ilaya, Fix my Life, My 600 Pound Life, etc. etc. etc. all are showing us people who are suffering. Why are these shows so popular? Because we look at how terrible things are for these people and think, “I’m not so bad off!” We feel good by watching them feel bad. That’s why we are ripe for the picking by the Enemy- we want others to suffer so we feel better, instead of feeling worse when watching others suffer.

Forget about fitting into society- our society is not a robe of many colors; today society is an ugly, moth-eaten foul-smelling rag that is made up of people who would rather be told what to think than take the time to decide for themselves.

Here’s my final rant for today: Yeshua said, in Matthew 7:26, do not build your house on sand because when the wind blows it will be swept away. The world is made up of people, and the people form societies. Today’s societies are based on, and totally dependant upon, technology. Technology is rooted in the silicon chip- that is the very heart of it. And what is silicon?

It’s sand.

Without Hate We Can’t Love

Which came first? Hate or love? Good or bad? Chicken or egg?

The Talmud tells us that we are born with the Yetzer Hara, or Evil inclination, and that the Yetzer Tov (Good inclination) doesn’t come until we are older (around the time we start to learn Torah, as I recall.) The Christian world calls it Original Sin. Either way, is is our inheritance from Adam.

In the book of Yacov (James) this is confirmed when he tells us that through one man (Adam) sin entered the world.

This seems to be a good argument that evil, hate, and bad things were here first.

Not so. God existed before anything, and He is good. Adam and Eve were not evil, and did not know good from evil until evil was thrust upon them.  So the answer to which came first, good or evil is easy- good was here first.

The answer to the question are we born good or evil is very different: we are born with the Yetzer Hara. That’s how the world is, a cursed place from the time of Adam. Through a mortal the world was cursed, and through a mortal the world was saved, that mortal being Yeshua ha Mashiach. There is another difference, though, one that the 1st Century Jewish population, as a whole, missed: the first man’s actions are completed and affect us while we are in this world, and the second man’s actions won’t be complete until we leave this world. Sin is of the body and of this physical world, but salvation is of the Spirit and the Kingdom of God.

So, why do I say we can’t love without hate? Because in this physical world there is no way to understand something without it having an opposite. Can I know cold without knowing heat? Can I understand the concept of courage if I don’t know fear? Someone who doesn’t know fear can’t be brave. Fear is something God gave us so we can protect ourselves (yes, yes, I know you are saying the Bible tells us we have been given a Spirit of victory not of fear, but this isn’t a spiritual discussion right now. If God hadn’t given us fear of death or pain or solitude we wouldn’t survive.)

Hate is here, and has been since the snake did the nasty to Eve. And we humans really caught on to evil. Within one generation we went from trickery to murder. I guess we are fast learners, but of the wrong things.

So, nu? What are we to do if hate, anger, murder, selfishness, and all these other evil, hedonistic feelings are, by definition, the natural state of being for us? Should we embrace them? I don’t think so.

Through the gift of the Ruach haKodesh, the Holy Spirit, we can overcome them. The Ruach is given freely, all we need to do is ask for it, and then the hard work begins. Like giving up an addiction to drugs, or food, or TV (Oy!- I have to give up TV, too? Nah- you’re OK with TV, just stay off the those nasty pay for view channels) we need to continually remember that we cannot stop these evil inclinations. They are a natural part of us and we will not be fully rid of them until the natural is over. Our only hope is in the Ruach, which can help us to control and overcome these inclinations.

Shaul (that nice Jewish boy from Tarsus many call Paul) said he was a wretch because he did what he didn’t want to, and couldn’t do what he wanted to do. If Shaul admitted that he struggled with his Yetzer Hara, how much more so will we have to struggle with it?

We can’t love until we know hatred. Ergo, we can’t want to love others until we have felt what it is like to be hated. I am amazed (not in a good way) that many minorities, people who have suffered hatred, are themselves hateful. I guess that’s the old Yetzer Hara at it, again.

I am glad that the Ruach teaches me that those who are hateful and mean are hurting, inside. I know because when I am hateful and mean it’s because I hurt. My hurt pride causes me to want to lash out at everyone and everything. In my natural being this is fine, in my Spiritual being I know this is wrong. The more hurt I feel, the more I should pray to God to remind me what it feels like being at the other end of hate. That’s when the Ruach can wake up the Yetzer Tov and remind me of what God wants of us.

You can always get someone to hate something by hating it, but it is much harder to get someone to love something by loving it. In this world, hate is the natural order of things, and love is not.

The truth, as I see it, is that hate is stronger. I know that sounds bad, and love can sometimes conquer hate, but hate is stronger because it is natural for us. Selfishness, hate, pride, all these feelings are of the natural world and we are born into them. They fit us like a custom made suit, and the world confirms this to us, daily. Just read the news.

We need God’s Spirit and His love to help us overcome these things. We can love someone and still hate some things about them, but we can’t hate someone and love anything about them, can we? Do you think that is possible? I don’t. I hope I am wrong.

But I do know that although there is nothing I can do, on and of my own, that will overcome my natural tendencies, with God all things are possible.

Hate sucks, love is wonderful. Look to God and ask for His love, His Grace, accept it and start to live a wonderful life. But be ready for hard work- it isn’t easy living the life of a reformed addict.

Our Gift to God

God already owns everything. David said it, the Prophets said it, we are told this throughout the Tanakh. God is the Creator of everything.

When we tithe, we only give Him back what He already owns.

When we give to the poor, the orphaned and the widow, we give them what God gave us. It was His to begin with.

Our property- His; our gifts and talents- His; our very life- that’s right, it’s His, too. He gave it all to us, and we only give Him back that which He already owns.

Nu? What gift can we give God that is really a gift? What can we give God that is something we own, totally ours and no one else’s, something that He cannot have without us giving it to Him?

What can we possess that God doesn’t have, wants to have, but can’t have unless we give it to Him?

The answer is: our love and our faithful obedience.

God has given each one of us Free Will. We decide what we will do and what we won’t do; consequently, He made us in such a way that He doesn’t already own our love or obedience. And He wants it. He tells us so, doesn’t He? In the Bible, from front to back, we are told that what God wants is faithful obedience. More than sacrifice (maybe because He already owns the animals?), more than lip service, more than anything else. The V’Ahavta prayer (found in D’Varim/Deuteronomy right after the Shema) tells us, first and foremost, we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and strength. The Prophets tell us constantly to return to the Lord, and that means to do as He says we should do. Why? For His sake? No, for our sakes!  In Ezekiel God says that He is not glad to see the sinner die, but rather that the sinner turn from his sins and live. God isn’t concerned with this corporeal existence when He says “live”, He means to have everlasting life in His presence. And He desires our love and obedience.

We are told  God can do anything, but that isn’t true. I remember a funny paradox that George Carlin used to say, even though some may think it’s not all that respectful (God has to have a sense of humor- I mean, He created us, right?): George would ask, “If God can do anything, can He make a rock so big He can’t lift it?” I’m sorry, but that’s funny.

But, I digress.

There is one thing God can’t do, and that is sin. Oops! Make that two things God can’t do- sin, and make us love Him. Well, He could make us love Him, I suppose, but He won’t! As much as it hurts the Lord to see even one of His children suffer, He is just and fair. He laid down the rules and we can follow them or reject them.  It’s totally up to each one of us.

I just remembered a story I once heard. No idea where it comes from, and I don’t even know if it’s valid as Jewish folklore, but it certainly sounds correct. I will put it out here and you decide if you like it or not.

Just after the Hebrews safely crossed the Red Sea, and as the waters engulfed the Egyptian army, the angels in heaven said to God, “Let’s sing a song of joy, for the children of Israel are safe!”, but God was sad. When they asked why He was sad, God said, “Because my children are dying.”

If you love the Lord, and you want to give Him something that is truly from your heart that really means something to Him, something He doesn’t have already, then love Him. And show that love by obeying Him.

Yeshua told His Talmudim that if they love Him, they will obey Him. He was just repeating what His Father has always said.

Give God your love and faithful obedience, and you will give God the only thing that exists which He doesn’t already own.



The Acid Test Question

I am going to “cheat” a little this morning and insert an excerpt from my book, “Back to Basics: God’s Word vs. Religion.”  If you like this short sample, please don’t hesitate to use the links on the Home page and get the whole book. It’s an easy read, and (so far) I have gotten positive feedback. That means both people liked it.  🙂


One of the basic beliefs I hope that we all share is the hope of salvation, i.e., resurrection from the dead and eternity with God. This is essential to the acid test question of what to believe and how to act that I will be presenting throughout this book. That acid test question is this, “How does this affect my salvation?”

That’s it. That’s all that we really need to ask ourselves, isn’t it? If something we are told to believe or something we are told to do (or not to do) doesn’t make sense, we should check it out in the Bible and then ask God to help us decide how this thing affects our salvation.

   For instance, let’s take numerology. Personally, I think there are some valuable associations we can make. Such as 3 is representative of the Godhead, 4 is the Godhead and man, 7 is the number of completion, 40 is important, too, although I am not sure why, but it seems to be a regularly appearing number. 40 days for the flood, 40 days for Yeshua in the desert, 40 days spying out the Land, 40 years wandering in the desert (this one we do know because God told Moses the generation that refused to enter Canaan would spend one year wandering for every day they had spies in the Land).

   Anything much past a simple association concerns me because we start to look for things that may not be there. You know, they say, “Figures don’t lie but liars figure” and when I apply this to the many different numerological associations I have heard people make I come back to the acid test question, “How does this affect my salvation?” Will I be saved by knowing that a certain word adds up to the number 8, which is associated with a new beginning? Is knowing some deep, hidden meaning of a sentence that has been manipulated to show a number, that has an association to another sentence, that results in another number, that someone thinks means something, going to get me into heaven? I don’t think so, do you?

   As I will say over and over throughout this book, we need to see what God says. We always need to go right to the User Manual. With regards to Numerology, the Manual (Bible) tells us over and over that Salvation comes through faith, not through accountancy. So the answer is that number crunching the Bible may have some usefulness with better understanding some things, and may even be interesting, but it is not going to save us. It fails the acid test and we can move on to more eternal things.


I once was told that you can’t make an argument from nothing. This was when I was being instructed how to properly interpret the Torah, which also is an important lesson when formulating a Drash, or sermon. How many times have people told you about hidden meanings they see in the Bible? Or maybe how, as I state above, certain words have a numerical value (in Hebrew the letters also represent numbers) that has the same numerical value as another word which is a bad thing?

I was taught there are three levels of interpretation: the P’shat, or plain written word: what you see is what it means. The Drash, or underlying meaning: read between the lines. And the Sud, or a deeper, almost mystical meaning that only the Spirit can reveal: what you been smokin’, man? These three levels of interpretation are how we should look at the Word. My admonition about being careful is because if it isn’t there, it isn’t there. Too often people try to find meaning that they want to be there, and there is so much meaningful stuff in the Manual that we can pull a line here, and a line there, and make almost anything we want to seem true appear justified.

That’s why we need to use the Acid Test question over and over- is this really important to my salvation? Is it important to realize that when Abraham took Isaac to Mount Moriah to kill him, Isaac was probably in his thirties? If Isaac was a pre-teen, as many suppose, does that make what happened different? If the numerical value of the Tetragrammaton ends up being equal to something, will that allow me entry into God’s presence?

No. What does matter is that Abraham was faithful, and that faithfulness was credited to him as righteousness. Now that’s important! That will pass the Acid Test question because we need to understand and accept that by faith we are saved.

Keep listening, because there is nothing wrong with listening- that’s how we learn. But do so with more than your ears- use your brain, be skeptical, verify for yourself what you are told and let the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit) guide you. And above all, don’t forget to give anything you hear the Acid Test.