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.

Yadda-yadda-yadda.

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.

 

Where Does Our Hope Come From?

I just read this morning that Robin Williams, that comic genius, is dead. A possible suicide.

How can someone who was so intelligent, so funny, so able and gifted by God to make people laugh have been so depressed to take his own life?  It’s almost as if he gave so much enjoyment and fun to others he had none left for himself. It is so sad.

Only those with no hope could ever think of ending the life they have. It’s often referred to as the cowards way; to take your life instead of standing up to the challenges of it, to travel the ultimate escape route.

I have thought of suicide. As a teenager and again during the last couple of years of my first marriage (my second is the last and the best that could be.) Those times were before I knew the Lord, before I had hope.

That’s where our hope comes from- the Lord, and (more than that) His promises. We know that this life is cursed, it has been since Adam threw Eve under the bus for the apple thing, and even Shaul (Paul) tells us that the Enemy was thrown from Heaven to the Earth. Not to Sheol (hell), but to the Earth. Hmmm…I guess that means that life on Earth is hell. There are plenty of times it feels like it, doesn’t it?

That’s why it is so important for those who believe in God and His promises, having found the ultimate hope in Yeshua ha Meschiach, to show those who haven’t any hope the hope we have found. This supernatural source of hope is what helps us overcome the world. That which is in us in more powerful that that which is in the world. If only Robin had known this. How many of us know (or know of) people who have committed suicide? How many were close to you?

Here’s the hard question: how many did we know needed God but we didn’t approach them? This isn’t to make anybody feel guilty, it’s for us to think about. Most likely it wouldn’t have made a difference. After all, Yeshua didn’t say it’s the path most taken, and throughout the Tanach God tells us there will be a remnant, not a majority, that accept and will be saved. We can’t expect that we will save everyone, and we shouldn’t even think we can. We can only plant the seed because God is the gardener. He is the one who will make it happen. But even if we only plant a seed, we need to be working in the fields.

Remember the story of Johnny Appleseed? He was a missionary, of a sort. He planted seeds and moved on, and that is what we must do.

We who have hope must give it to those who do not. The best way, I think, is by example. It’s easy to talk about how much hope we have in God, but to live it, to walk the walk, is hard. And yet, it’s the only way to make people believe you. I have said, and always will say, that which I learned as a salesman: people don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do. We need to “do” hope in our lives. We need to demonstrate to others that there is hope, and we need to fearlessly tell them where our hope comes from.

Maybe, just maybe, we can plant a seed that will save someone from hopelessness.

Does God Laugh?

What do you think?

This isn’t really a midrash, maybe more of a discussion. I read an article this morning about a comedy show that portrays Jesus as a black man that smokes weed, hangs with gangsters, curses, etc. Pretty much representative of the general disrespect that TV has for God and anything religious. I stopped watching History channel shows about the Bible years ago because they only want to prove that God doesn’t exist. Have you noticed how they have half a dozen experts that show how everything from God can be explained (which today means it isn’t God) and then maybe one poor schmo who believes in God, and he or she is made to look like an innocently mindless person. The one voice in the desert calling out is always going to be seen as not-fitting-in.

So what happens in the heavens when God sees this junk. Does He shrug it off? Does he laugh about it? Or does He get angry?

We know He has emotions; after all, He is a jealous God. He is a loving God, He is compassionate, slow to anger and quick to forgive. These are all very strong emotions. How can He not have a sense of humor?

I read once where it said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” That’s funny.

So, nu? Does God laugh? Personally, I think He does. I also think He sees us as we see our children when they do something foolish. We have to shrug it off and say to ourselves, “Well, they’ll have to deal with that one day.”

Why do we do that? Maybe because we can’t do anything else. God gave us free will, with which we can love and obey Him, or reject Him. And once we reject Him, then the gloves are off and we can satirize Him, insult Him, and generally make anyone who is a Believer look like a fool.

How can a true worshipper of God allow this? I think we have no choice. God gave them the right to choose, so who are we to tell them what or what not to do? Proverbs tells us that we are not to return evil for evil, but wait upon the Lord.  The Bible also tells us not to judge others, because God will judge. I am not saying we shouldn’t speak up against this blasphemy, but we shouldn’t do anything more than demonstrate God’s compassion and understanding.  After all, think of what it will be like for them when they come before Him and realize, all too late, how wrong they were. And when we are before Him, believe me, it will be too late. No ,”Gee, you are real. Well, then, I take it all back.” Uh-uh. Not buying it. Off to the hot tub for you.

Should this show be taken off the air? I would like to see that, but it opens a very dangerous can of worms. Namely, who determines what is acceptable under “free speech”. There are organizations for rating shows, but today even pornography is allowable, so long as you air it on special pay-for-view channels. We can’t stop people from speaking their minds, we just have to learn not to listen and to give a real-life example of what God does for us, how His Ruach (Spirit) allows us to get past these horrible shows and demonstrations of God-hating in the world.

I believe God does laugh. Sometimes because we are just so funny. I laugh at a lot of the things I have done that are just so stupid, I mean, really stupid. Of course, it may take a while after doing them when I am able to laugh, but I do. Mostly. Well, for some things. Kinda.

Where was I? Oh, yeah- so, I believe God laughs. I also believe God cries, especially when He sees His children so lost and without hope that they mock and ridicule Him just to try to get others to like them. To fit into the world. The world is a cursed place, so loving God and acting in ways God wants is not doing what the world does. That’s why Yeshua said we need to be prepared to carry our own execution stake if we want to follow Him.

It ain’t easy being Godly.

Was Yeshua a Man or Was He God?

I think it’s the type of question we call a conundrum.

Taking some ideas from my book (there are links to it on the Homepage) we can explore this question a little.

Yeshua Himself said, after reading from Isaiah 61, that “before Abraham was, I am!” It certainly sounds like He was declaring Himself more than human, and it almost got Him stoned. Yet, for almost every single miracle that was performed by Him, He didn’t take any credit for the power behind the miracle, and gave credit to the person’s faith as the reason they were cured.

He told his Talmudim (students, or Disciples) that when they call Him “Lord” they were right to do so, because He was their Lord. Then later He says that they will do more than He has done, referring to the miracles that were performed.  And they did. In fact, He did not do any miracles that weren’t done before Him, or after Him.

He was born of a virgin, and that certainly wasn’t as a human is born. Yet even though not totally of  human origin, He was fully human. He was subject to human frailty and temptation but He was also so completely filled with the Ruach HaKodesh He was , as no other person ever has or will be, able to overcome His humanity.

In the end, He had to be totally human or he could not have taken on the sin of the world. God cannot be anything but completely and purely sinless, so Yeshua had to be a human to do what He came here to do.  And let’s not forget that Yeshua never once even implied we should worship Him, only His Father in Heaven. The Manual is full of references that God is deserving of worship, but Yeshua was clear that we should not worship Him, so He certainly didn’t think He was God.

Yochanan (John) tells us (in his Gospel) first there was the Word, and the Word became flesh. The Word is not human, but the flesh is human. The prophecy of Isaiah says that the Moshiach (Messiah) will be just a regular guy, who knows what it is like to be sick and will have human frailties; in fact, He won’t be anything to look at or recognize as “special” in His appearance. Just an average Schmo.

I know, I know…this sort of “He was – He wasn’t” back-and-forth can give you a headache! Was He human? Yes. Was He God? Yes. Did He die? Yes. Well, if He was God how could He be human, and if He was God how could He have died, and if He was human how could he be God, and if He was human how could He do those miracles, and if and if…. YIKES!!

That’s why it is so much easier to just take things on faith. However, being faithful doesn’t mean accepting ignorance. We still need to know what the truth is, and the only way is to hear it from His own mouth. The way He allows us to hear Him is through The Bible,  or as I like to call it, The Manual. Reading that, and asking Him to guide our understanding by the Spirit, is the best and most productive way to know His word. And, since the Word became Him, that’s how we get to know Him.

God is above and beyond all human understanding. Can God be human and God at the same time? Who knows? Me? You? Scientists? How can we even think that we can understand what God can or can’t do? He created the physical laws we are just starting to understand, so He must be above those laws, i.e., not subject to them. If we can’t understand the way the laws of physics works, how can we expect to understand how they apply to the One who created them?

Look, just take it as it is: Yeshua is the Messiah. Does it really matter if He was God or not? I don’t think so, because His job wasn’t to be God, it was to be the Messiah. As Messiah, He provided the path to salvation. That’s what He is- the pathfinder, the most important pioneer ever, because He didn’t create a path to the New World or through the North American forests to the West, but through the dark world of sin to the salvation of God.

One final thought: we need to take a lesson from the Book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) and stop trying to understanding God. Didn’t Yeshua say that we must be like children to enter the Kingdom? Children don’t try to understand, they just do. They trust in what they are told and they do. We need to stop putting labels on Yeshua that He doesn’t need to wear just so we feel more comfortable. There is only one label He should wear, and that is Messiah. After the Acharit HaYamim (End Days), when all is said and done, when we have the new Earth, the New Jerusalem, when the Enemy is eternally subdued and you’re sitting under your pistachio tree enjoying your wine, will it really matter whether Yeshua was human or God?

It won’t to me. I’ll just be happy to be there.