One for the Road?

Some mornings I am just blank. Nothing has happened in the past day or so to give me an inspiration, nothing in my prayers comes up that I feel is a message worth sharing, and worse than all that: this morning the comics section (with the crossword) was missing and I have to wait an hour before I can even call them and complain.

When these “brain-fart” days occur, I go into my “God Stuff” folder and look for things that I have done over the years to see if I can find a message in there God wants me to share. Please don’t think I mean God talks to me all the time, but I do believe He is guiding me when I write, and I usually find something in there I sense I should share. That’s how it is this morning.

I reviewed one of the chapters in my book (my blog’s Home page has links to the book- it’s not expensive and comes in digital form) and want to share something I believe is timely, and also a little controversial (Lord forbid I shouldn’t stir up the hornets nest now and then.)  🙂

With the holiday season full upon us, turkey still be used for leftovers and Christmas light season officially started,  one of the things that happens so much during this season is…no, I am not going to say good will abounds and people start to act like they should (although sometimes we see that)…people drink alcohol more than they usually do.

Here is an excerpt from my book, from the chapter about drinking:

Before we even get started I need you to know that I agree with anyone who says that drunkenness is a sin, and the Manual tells us this is so. It represents laziness, lack of self-control (two Fruits of the Spirit already missing), and under the influence we all do the wrong things. We act foolishly, we sometimes become mean and cruel to others, we sometimes act in sexually inappropriate ways, and many other activities that are a sin against God and others.

   It’s also just as important to remember that a sin against someone else is always and foremost a sin against God. David knew this when he wrote Psalm 51. In it he said (to God) that it was against Him that he sinned, Him and no one else. He wasn’t ignoring what he did to Uriah and Bathsheba. He was emphasizing the importance of knowing that sinning is always against God, no matter who it is directed at. Yeshua confirms this when He tells us that what we do to the least of His brothers we do to Him.

   There are some Christian sects that will not allow drinking at all. This is not a biblical commandment; at least I have not found anywhere in the Manual where it tells us to drink intoxicating liquids is a sin. It does tell us in more than one place about the sinfulness of drinking to excess; however, I haven’t found any commandment against having a martini.

As you can see, I do not believe that drinking, in and of itself, is a sin. I also did not find anything in the Bible that says drinking is a sin. There are, however, more than one or two places where we see drinking to excess is a sin. So where is the line drawn?

I don’t want to give away everything, or you won’t ever buy the book, but I will say this: in my opinion it comes down to your intentions when you take the first drink, and your self-control with regards to the next one.

In AA they say one drink is too many, and two drinks aren’t enough (or something to that effect), which is a strict mantra for people who have a serious problem with stopping when they start. I have not had any problems stopping, although I have (more than once) drank enough to get myself in trouble.  Not legal issues, or anything substantial, but socially damaging.

I don’t believe drinking is a sin. After all, if it was sinful to drink alcohol, why did Yeshua turn water into wine? Oh, yes, there are those that argue the “wine” was grape juice and there are those that can interpret the original Greek and say sometimes “wine” is a fermented drink and other time “wine” can be interpreted as a juice drink without fermentation. I do not doubt they are correct, as they are scholars, they can speak Greek and Hebrew, and they are trying to interpret in a way that glorifies God.

I don’t think it really matters, because my belief is that what we do when we sin is the lesser part of that sin because to God it is our intentions that matter.  I justify this belief by pointing to the Beatitudes (Matityahu 5), where Yeshua told us that what we do or don’t do isn’t all there is to it; it is also what we think and feel that matters. We should not commit adultery but if we lust, we have; we should not commit murder but if we hate in our heart, we have. These are clear statements that God is looking at our intentions, at our heart, to see the origin of the sin we commit. I don’t think anyone will argue that the Bible is rife with references to how God doesn’t see us as we see each other, but that He “sees the heart” and knows what we are thinking and feeling.

Therefore, it isn’t having a drink that is a sin, but what you want to happen when you take that drink. If you drink with control and responsibility, you are not committing any sin against God. If you drink with the intention of getting so totally wasted that you won’t be able to lie on the floor without help, you are sinning because a Believer that is that far out of control is not glorifying God in any way, whatsoever. If you want to have a social drink and it hits you before you know it, and you act a fool, your intentions were OK but you still sinned because of what you did. Not wanting to sin is good, but if you sin anyway, it’s still a sin. Remember that the sacrificial system includes a sacrifice for the sin we didn’t even know we committed. Clearly God doesn’t like sin, whether by volition or accident. A sin is a sin, period.

Intending to sin is a sin, even if you don’t end up doing the sin. King David asked God to create a clean heart in him, and renew a right spirit within him.  He also asked that God make the words of his mouth and the meditations of his heart acceptable at all times. Yeshua verified this as a proper attitude when He told us that it is what comes out of the mouth, which comes from the heart, that makes us clean or unclean.

Look to your heart and call upon the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to guide not just your actions, but your intentions. We need to fill ourselves with the Ruach, constantly becoming more like Yeshua and less like ourselves. When we are spirit led, we don’t lose who we are. I haven’t lost who I am- all that nastiness and sinful desire is still there. I have learned to repress it, and to get rid of some of it. All this through the Spirit. Not by me, but by us- God and me.

Letting God and the Ruach rule over your thoughts (and thereby, your actions) doesn’t mean you have to lose who you are; you’re still you, just a better you.

So, as the TV commercials say, drink responsibly. Actually, as Believers, let’s take it a step further- if you drink, do so with the proper intentions, and maintain the proper control. Don’t drink to get drunk, and when you start to hear the beehive in your head, put the glass down and grab a coffee. Use Godly discernment, don’t drink on an empty stomach, and for the love of God, make sure there is a designated driver. Enjoy this season, enjoy the company parties and the get-togethers. Be appropriate, be of good cheer, and have good intentions followed up with self-control. That way you will not only have a good time, but will be a good example to others.

The greatest joy we can feel doesn’t come from a holiday, or a sale, or a bottle- it comes from Yeshua ha Mashiach, it comes from the Ruach HaKodesh, and it comes from God.

 

giving thanks and asking forgiveness

I read an article somewhere yesterday (I can’t remember where- getting old stinks, although I have to say I have waited my whole life to be this age) that made me think about how God charged us all with stewardship of the world. Starting with  Adam and Eve, God put us in charge of the animals and greenery of the world.

I don’t think we’ve done a very good job, do you?

On this day, when we give thanks to God for all He has provided, let us also just diminish our joy a touch ( a very Jewish thing to do) by also asking His forgiveness for our poor stewardship of His wonderful creation.

Have you ever asked yourself why there are so many diseases? Yes, we live in a cursed world, yadda-yadda-yadda, but God has provided for us. Ask anyone in the medical field, or disease research, whether or not they believe the Amazon Rain Forest is the world’s cornucopia of (still to be discovered) beneficial drugs. They’ll tell you that there are probably natural cures to almost any disease we have somewhere in there.

Unfortunately, we are destroying the rain forest by hundreds of acres, every day! As you watch football today, imagine that entire football field as a dense forest being cut down or burned. Then multiply that by 365, because that’s (at least) how much rain forest is destroyed annually. Now, think of how many trees and bugs there are in that football field forest, and you can begin to feel the enormity of the destruction we are causing.

The cure for cancer, for aids, for sars, for e-bola, and who knows how many other diseases that devastate the world may be in that forest. Now, think of all the animals that God created, for whom He made those trees and bugs, that are dying from starvation or being killed during the deforestation; all of which we are supposed to be protecting and shepherding!

Revelations tells us that the tree of life will bring forth fruit and leaves that cure any disease. Maybe that tree is already there, or any number of trees, bushes or bugs that produce the cure for our current diseases. We may never know.

The good news is that we are getting better. Up to the last 70 or 80 years we pretty much just destroyed everything without any consideration for the future. Now we understand what we are doing to ourselves when we do this to the world. I guess the next step will be to stop this craziness, and I believe we are getting there; we used to run to destroy, but even though many still do that, more and more today we are trying to preserve. Progress is slow, but we are going in the right direction.

Enjoy your day, thank God for all He has provided, and for His ultimate provision- Yeshua Ha Mashiach. And ask forgiveness for not being a good steward, even if you are one of those doing your best. The prophets prayed for the people, and they also took on the responsibility for the failures of the people. All of us are responsible for the world, and if you haven’t done something to protect it, to be a good steward of God’s creation, then get off your butt and get on the ball. Do something to show God your appreciation for all He has done.

It’s one thing to say thank you, it’s another thing to show it! Let’s start to show our appreciation by taking care of the world God gave us.

Enjoy- setz und essen!!

Thank God for what you have by giving it away

That’s right- thank God for what you have by giving it away. Not all of it, but share the blessings you have received with others. That is what God wants us to do, not just as a means of doing Tzedakah (charity) but because He commands us to care for the widows and the orphans. I take this not just literally, but more metaphorically to mean all people in need. If a family has father, mother and children but they are homeless and poor, they are no less important than a widow or orphan with regards to us sharing what we have with them.

I found this answer to a question on a  test I took when attaining my Messianic Minister Certification. I don’t have the exact question, but you can glean from the answer what the question must have been:

    It was expected that anyone living in a town would accommodate strangers (as long as they were Jews) in their own homes. A curtain would be hung from the main doorway as a  “Vacancy” sign would be turned-on in a modern hotel. Sometimes a table would be placed outside to show food was available within that house. The host would attend to the traveler himself, making sure every need was looked to. The host was always to be pleasant, have a happy disposition and be generous with a willing attitude as if he was receiving the Shekinah glory itself. He was to promise little but give much. The traveler was expected to thank the host graciously, ask about his family and stay in the place he was first welcomed into. He should eat whatever was served him gladly, and when leaving to give a blessing to the host and the household.

There is the story of Lot trying to protect the angels coming to Sodom, the story of the man who took in the travelling Levite (the last chapter in Judges), and other references throughout the Tanakh about the generosity and willingness to share with others. God also commanded not to reap the edges of your fields so the gleaners would have something to eat, not to go back and re-reap the trees or vines so that what you missed would be available for the poor, and Yeshua told us we would always have the poor with us: perhaps they are here as a means for us to faithfully follow God’s commandments. If God says to share the blessings He has given us with those in need, doesn’t it make sense that we would always have to have someone in need? If no one is in need, then God gave a commandment we can’t follow- that doesn’t sound right, does it?

As we are (almost) forced to be thankful tomorrow, let’s share what we have with those that have less. Invite someone you know who can’t afford a real dinner to your dinner (and give them a big “doggie bag” when they leave), contribute to your favorite charity, donate to a shelter food or items of clothing (nice stuff!) that you can part with (we can always part with things; really, we can) and think of ways to continue to do Tzedakah after tomorrow.

President Washington declared this a holiday as a means of giving thanks for the Constitution being ratified, and (thank God) it has grown into more. It does force some people to be thankful, even if it is just for a paid day off from work. I guess that’s a start.

God is generous, and not because He expects something back from us, as humans usually do. I mean, really…God owns everything, He can create whatever He wants with a thought, so what can we possibly give Him back He doesn’t already have? That’s how we know, absolutely, that God is not altruistic in giving out blessings, but totally loving and generous. We need to be that way. Giving thanks should be a daily occurrence, and we should not just give thanks but show our thankfulness by sharing that which He has given to us with those that don’t have.

I believe this is a test: God has allowed some to go without so that we, those who have, can demonstrate God in us by sharing, willingly and gladly, with others; the Manual says God loves a cheerful giver, that’s why we need to give to the needy. We need to give to those who can’t pay us back, so there can’t be any thoughts of reciprocity. That’s how God gives- without any thoughts or expectations of receiving anything back but thanks.

If you have never done anything totally out of generosity, you are missing something exceptionally rewarding. You want something back? OK- try this: give what you want to keep to someone who needs it and has nothing to give you back. Then, after you’ve seen their look of appreciation, and how unbelievably happy they became to have what you gave them, tell me that you didn’t cry at the joy your soul felt at that moment.

King David tells us, in the Psalms, to “taste of the Lord and see that He is good.” When you give without any thought of receiving, and you give what is important to you, something you know God has provided to you, that is true Tzedakah. I guarantee when you do this you will feel a joy that will fill your soul and elevate you to a height of spiritual pleasure you won’t ever forget: that’s how giving the way that God gives makes us feel.

Nothing like a good thunderstorm to remind us who’s in charge

Living in Florida, where there are more lightning strikes than almost any other state in the country, I am constantly reminded of God’s awesome power. And I love it!

I don’t want to be in the middle of it, oh no! Lightning is not something I want to sample up close, but when the wind blows the trees back and forth, the rain pummels the roof, and the lightning literally turns night into day I am reminded of how powerful and awesome God is. It helps me to reflect on my own powerlessness, my own inability to turn even one hair on my head from brown to white, or to know what will happen even in the next 5 minutes.

In the Manual we read of fire falling from the sky, and (I think) most people see a lightning bolt coming down and frying whatever was the intended target. When King Ahab sent men to bring Elijah to him, and Elijah called for fire from the sky to destroy the men, was that lightning that came down, or a real fireball? I don’t know, but either works.

Later when Elijah was on Mt. Carmel and calling for God’s fire to take the sacrifice he offered, and the fire fell from the sky and took the bull, the wood and even the water, was that a gigantic bolt of lightning? It doesn’t really matter, does it? Lightning, fire, or whatever it was, it was God showing His power and majesty. It also showed that He listens to the prayers of His people.

There isn’t a whole lot to this morning’s drash. I just love the humility I have to feel when I see God at work. Of course, God also shows His power in much more destructive ways, punishments that cause earthquakes and storms of hail that turn to fire on the ground, Tsunami’s and horrible, devastating tornadoes and hurricanes. These are also proof of God’s wondrous power, and (maybe) of His judgement. There is definitely a sense of humility when faced with such awesome destruction.

I just like a good thunderstorm. Some loud thunder, a clap that shakes the house, lightning that blazes across the sky and illuminates the earth, and rain that falls in sheets all around the house.

By the way, I love watching this from under my roof, not from under the open sky. Warm and dry is my preferred state of being during one of these big storms.

That’s what knowing the Lord and being “saved” is like: while the world around us is being pummelled by God’s judgements, we will be warm and dry, safe and sound under His wings. Maybe some of us will be there, right in the middle of the Tribulation, but we will still be safe, protected from the second death by our faithful obedience and trust in the Lord and in Yeshua, His Messiah.

Next time the storm rages all around you, don’t be afraid- what can it do to you? If you know the Lord, you know where you will be when this life ends, and you know that you are secure and safe, for eternity. Let the rain come, let the lightning strike…you are safe and sound, protected under the Kippur (covering) of God.

We all have heard the expression (I think there was an old-time movie by the same name), “God is my co-pilot”; have you ever thought that He should be driving, not you? I prefer this expression (maybe it will go viral?): “God is my umbrella.” He protects me from the fallout of the world, from the rain and the snow, and keeps me dry and safe in the midst of the storm.

If you don’t have God as your umbrella, when are you going to have enough sense to get out of the rain?

Nice to know how it all ends

You know those movies, thrillers, comedies, whatever, that have a complicated plot line and you don’t really know what is going to happen? Sometimes they’re OK, but I really don’t like it when you can see everything going wrong and you just don’t know what the end is going to be.

I guess I like things simple. That’s why I like God. He doesn’t pull you this way and that way, although occasionally it can feel like the world is falling apart around us. But God is always there: He is always the same, He doesn’t change His mind or twist the rules. And His plan has been openly discussed and made known for centuries.

He chose a people, not a large and wonderfully holy people, but a small and insignificant people who, through His works, will show the world God’s glory and majesty and power. Then they will provide the means for everyone to become holy by showing us how to worship God, and finally give us the only pathway to spending eternity in God’s presence through accepting the Messiah He provided through this people. That’s all there is to it: God chooses a people, they survive to accomplish His plan, they bless the world and give us a Messiah to bring all the nations to salvation.

Simple. Complete. You know how it all ends long before the end comes. That’s my kind of story.

Of course we don’t all see it that way. There are many people who think His name is Allah or Shiva, there are those that worship a totally different being, an Enlightened One; there are also those that worship the Enemy of God instead of God, and there are so many (too many, unfortunately) who just don’t know Him at all. They don’t worship anything; oh, well, maybe they worship a movie star or a professional athlete. They want to “be like Mike” or grow up to be like some person they respect and admire (that’s not bad, in and of itself, but can lead one away from God) or they just wander about, not sure if God exists, or not even sure if they care. What they are really saying is that they are too lazy or disinterested to make a decision.

How many people do you know like that? They don’t realize that not making a decision is making a decision.  They are a sad and lost group of sheep, and if they are not heading to God then they are heading to slaughter. Again- it’s a simple thing. Life or death, heaven or hell, eternal joy or eternal suffering. There is only one way this all ends, and there is no escape clause and no loopholes. There is only Messiah, Yeshua, who is the shepherd that we must follow if we want to be led into Paradise.

I believe we are living in prophetic times. I see the people of the world growing more sinful and decrepit everyday. We haven’t ever been worth looking at, but we are getting worse. The weather is showing us times of terrible destruction are coming, the society is accepting sinful and demonic activity as not just normal, but acceptable. The world governments are trying to force Israel to give up it’s lands to those that want to destroy her, and the world is coming apart because of technology, which is tearing at the very fabric of the nuclear family. My profession is technology, and I am afraid of it’s overwhelming power to  separate parents and children. It has become the babysitter and caretaker of our children. Toddlers learn how to spell and talk from an electronic tablet or a PBS children’s show instead of from Mom and Dad. Teenagers communicate to each other by electronic signals on a screen instead of talking face-to-face. Even when they are 5 feet apart! They aren’t outside playing Tag or Hide and Seek- they are inside paying Grand Theft Auto or Halo! Adults send emails to each other and post statements on Facebook instead of calling and talking to each other. Christmas card sending is going the way of the Dodo.

Just like in those movies where the plot turns and twists, so, too, is our way of life being turned around on it’s head and people twist the truth to fit their sinful desires. TV shows that purport to discuss the truth, such as “Who was Jesus” or this new one, “Bible Conspiracies” are attracting people who are interested in learning more about the Bible and God. The problem is that these shows are not speaking the word of God with respect or fear- they are debunking Him and all He says. Secret messages, conspiratorial actions by the Patriarchs and “religious” people throughout the ages; whatever they are doing, it is to debase and reject the truth about God. Remember this: TV, and all the media, is sent through the air, and the Devil is called the Prince of the Air. Duh!!

I am just glad to be among the small group who haven’t bent the knee to Ba’al. But I am not so stubborn and foolish to think that because I haven’t, I won’t. We have to stay alert. Just because we know how it ends doesn’t guarantee we can’t be swayed or fooled. We need to be ever alert and vigilant, we need to put on the armor that Shaul talks about in Ephesians every day, and we need to know the word of God, front to back (that’s Genesis to Revelations) so that we won’t be as easily fooled as those following the History channel for their salvation.

I feel terrible for those poor, lost and foolish people who will be watching TV or listening to some televangelist and think that they are hearing the truth. They figure these people are on TV or radio and so must know what they are talking about. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t: you will never know for sure if you don’t read the Bible and verify what you hear.

I know how it all ends, and I know I am on the right pathway. I walk carefully, and keep my eyes on the finish line. It’s because I know how it all ends that I can see the finish line. Can you? Do you see the finish line? Can you make it out through the haze and thick forest that you need to walk through to get there? If not, read God’s word, accept God’s Messiah as your guide, and find your way to eternal peace.

When it comes to God it’s OK to look at the last chapter and see how it all ends. In fact, knowing how it ends is the best way to understanding how we get there.

Hope to see you at the finish line.

Parashah Tol’dot (History) Genesis 25:19 – 28:9

This section of the Torah recounts the well-known story about how Esau sold his birthright. The first part of the parashah also shows us how much “like father, like son” is Yitzchak (Isaac). When a famine comes and Yitzchak takes his family to the land of the P’lishtim (Philistines) he said Rivkah was his sister, hiding her true relationship for fear of his life. He also became very wealthy from the Lord giving him success in everything he did, which caused the surrounding people to fear him and reject him. Just as it happened to Abraham.

There is unquestionably a Drash from this, dealing with the Jews being a hated people, and not just for the spiritual battles fought over them. God has blessed us, and through us the entire world, but that blessing is a two-edged sword in that some people see the Jews as special and become jealous of their successes. Instead of following their example and worshiping God as He wants, they take the opposite action and persecute them. If only those that hate the Jewish people understood that they are “killing the goose that lays the golden egg” because God said He would bless those that bless the Jewish people, and curse those that cursed them. In trying to “get back” at the Jews, those that hate them have only cursed themselves.

That’s not what today is about, though. I want to talk about what I see in the birthright selling story as a picture of what could happen to those who have been saved and think that their salvation is totally “in the bag.”

Reality check, Folks: it isn’t! Irrevocable gift of Grace means it won’t be revoked, i.e., taken back. However, we can lose it, we can throw it away, and we can just never use it, which will have the same effect as throwing it away. Read the chapter in my book called, “Use it or Lose it” to get a more in-depth discussion of this.

Esau had the blessings of the firstborn guaranteed as his from his very birth. Nothing could change the fact that he was first out. However, because of the temptations of the world he gave it up. I can somewhat understand how he felt that day. Next time you are really, really hungry, go into a supermarket and stand where they do all the cooking. Take a long, deep breath and smell the bakery items and the warm cooked  items, then try , just try, to go buy a single apple or bag of carrots. Of course, understanding is not condoning. He gave away the most valuable asset he had, one that was his by rights and irrevocable. But, he did give it away. He sold it for a bowl of soup.

What might we sell our “birthright” (salvation) for? Riches?  A trophy mate? A new car? A better job? These are all real temptations in the world we live in, and the Enemy knows what humans like. He can get under our skin, he can smell like fresh baked bread to a hungry person, and he can not just promise, but deliver. His power on Earth is very strong and very, very real. And it is also very hard to see. He is a sneaky little bugger, and he will have you selling your salvation before you even know what is happening.

If you are saying, “Oh, no- not me, Steve. I am too smart for that.” then you are lying to yourself. I am scared to death of being fooled, that is why I believe it will be harder for the Enemy to fool me. Not impossible, but harder. I am holding on to my salvation with both hands.

Those who have been taught, or just stubbornly want to believe, that their salvation is an irrevocable gift from God that no one can take away, they are right. It will not be taken back and it cannot be taken away;  it can, however, be given away. They don’t want to hear that part, they just want to ask God for forgiveness, say “I am saved by  the blood of Messiah” and go on with their lives as before. Happily thinking they are “in” and nothing can change that. Blind fools!

Esau had it made in the shade, but he gave away that which was guaranteed to him. The things of the world, his own selfishness and weakness of spirit caused him to lose that which could not be lost.

We are all in the same boat. Understand , please, this is a real life fact: salvation is something we can give away . We can spend eternity in Sheol for something as insignificant as a bowl of soup, so hold on to your salvation. The Enemy wants it, and he will do whatever he can (which is a lot, believe-you-me!) to get it from you.

Hold on to it with both hands, and never let go. Be aware, keep alert, stay saved.

The hopeful and the hopeless

I like the comic Pearls. I appreciate the humor, although it is edgy. I must confess, I associate more with Rat than I do with Goat.

The other day there was one where Rat is drinking at their favorite hangout and Goat asks why he drinks so much (Rat likes beer- I can’t stand beer.  I just don’t trust something that looks the same going in as it does coming out) and Rat answers that he isn’t sure about life or God and you never know until it’s too late (or something to that effect- I left the strip at home this week and I am in Tampa at a training class.) When Goat, who is the more logical and elitist of the characters, hears what Rat says, the next panel has Goat also drinking and saying, “We should do this more often.”

It’s funny, but it is also sadly true of so many of us. Not the drinking part so much as the hopelessness that many people feel. Especially those that refuse to accept God’s existence as real, and also for those that refuse to make a decision about God.

When I say they refuse to make a decision, that is exactly what I mean- they hem and haw, think He probably does exist, or (as I heard yesterday) they believe in Him but not in the religious teachings they grew up with so they just make up their own religion. They believe in God and Yeshua as their Messiah, but it stops there. The laws, regulations and way God says they should live are left to be thrown away with the religious teachings. This is sad and I have seen it more than once, haven’t you? People get fed up with the religious traditions and teachings so ignore all the rules and laws God gave us, lumping them all together with “religion” so that they are, in essence, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. {Isn’t that a great, old expression?}

God is the only real hope any of us have, and refusing to accept Him means that you are hopeless. Not so much you, the person, but your existence as a person has no hope. Oh, sure…there is luck, there is chance, and there is (this is really the case) God taking care  of you even when you reject His very existence because He is, well, He is God, and that’s how He rolls. He loves you whether you love Him back or not, and He will take care of you, even if you are a sinner. Remember we are told that Yeshua died for us even though we were sinners. He didn’t wait until we “earned” His sacrifice, He died because we could never earn His sacrifice. I have heard it said that “mainstream” Judaism has explained, as one of the reasons the Messiah hasn’t come, that we are too sinful to be worthy of the Messiah. How could such intelligent and learned people miss by so far the purpose of their own Messiah? Nu- if we were worthy of being brought into the very presence of the Lord, we wouldn’t need a Messiah! DUH!!

Back to the hopeless…all I can feel is sadness and pity on those that reject God, and his laws. His laws are what make life good, they lead us in ways that will bring us closer to God and to each other, and they are so simple and functional. They are, as is God, perfect. If we just hold on to them and follow them we will have a wonderful society, we will care for each other, and every Miss America since the 1950’s will finally get their wish- we will have peace on Earth.

If you know someone who is hopeless (maybe it’s you?) please introduce them to the founder and provider of hope- God. And tell them of the hope we get from Him that came to us in human form, Yeshua the Messiah. Hope is, in and of itself, ethereal and intangible. Yeshua is the hope of the world, and He was very tangible; He was real flesh and blood. He was, and is, a physical representation of the hope we have in God. Accepting Him as your Messiah is receiving hope, which gives you the power to continue in any situation.

Shaul said when he is weak, that is when he is strong because, as Yeshua said, with God all things are possible. That is what hope is- the belief that something is possible. When we have our hope in God, then anything, and everything, is possible. If the only source we have is in chance, or luck, well…in reality, we have no hope. Hope needs something more than randomness to be of any value- it needs to be based in something. A buoy in the water is a marker that identifies where it is safe to go, and it gives the ship’s pilot the hope of  reaching the shore safely. If that buoy isn’t anchored on rock or solidly in the ocean bed, it can’t offer any hope because it is not stable.

God is totally stable- He was, He is, and He always shall be, never changing and eternally powerful and trustworthy. That’s the kind of buoy I want to navigate by. That’s the kind of hope my decision has given me- hope that is always, always, always there for me.

Is that the kind of hope you have? If so, shout out, “Hallelujah!!”  If not, please consider taking stock of your life, making a decision to decide, and join the club.

God has been waiting for you and has a healthy, heaping helping of hope, just for you.

why are you happy God loves you?

Sounds like a silly question, doesn’t it? I mean, really? Why shouldn’t I be happy that God loves me? What’s it matter why I am happy?

Maybe it doesn’t matter, in the long run. Maybe I am on a personal bent here, but I think it is important that we understand our reasons for choosing to accept God’s Grace and to follow Messiah Yeshua because if we don’t understand why we do something, when challenged we may not be strong enough to keep the faith that first saved us.

I know why I am happy God loves me, and why I am so grateful to both God and Yeshua for all they did to provide for me the only option I have to reconcile with Him forever. My reason is simple- He has saved my soul; beyond that, He has made my life on Earth better, my love for my wife, Donna, richer and deeper and more intimate than I could have done in my normally sinful and self-absorbed emotional state, and He has strengthened me constantly through the indwelling Ruach (Spirit) so that I may server Him better.

Although my joy and appreciation is for what He has done for me, it is also for what He has made possible for me to do for others. I can love more deeply, I can forgive more readily, I can be more patient and compassionate. All of these aren’t for my sake, but by me being so much better than I was I can show how God has changed me. I can relate to people that He has made me different and better, both to the world and to Him, but I am still myself. There is nothing to be afraid of, and all of this is designed to give glory to God.

That is why I am so happy God loves me- because through His love and salvation I can be an example to others of the wonder and glory of the Lord. I can be a mirror of Torah (although I really have a long way to go) and I can, through my witness and testimony, maybe save a soul from condemnation and eternal suffering.

One soul would be enough, many souls would be a blessing beyond what I could have ever hoped for. Of course, I can always count my own soul as one, since it was my choice to save it. I guess that means that every other soul I may help bring to salvation is a blessing, right?

What is really at the crux of my concern for you to understand your reasons why you are happy that God loves you is so that you will not falter when the challenge comes. When you are asked to take the mark, for we all will be asked, will you still understand why you shouldn’t? Even to the point of death? That’s what will happen. If you are happy that God loves you because it makes you feel good, because no one has really loved you like the Lord does, and the reasons all seem to be centered (you need to take a good look at yourself when you do this) on you and how you feel, your reasons are based in self-importance and are weak. And there is a good chance, if the joy of your salvation is only for what it has done for you and not what it has done for God and others, then you will be fooled into taking the mark.

Let’s get real, people: the Enemy isn’t going to walk up to you and say, “Hi, there! I’m Satan, the Evil One, and I want to separate you from God so that you will suffer eternal torture in Sheol. Sounds good, right? Just sign here….”

Not going to happen! He is sneaky, he is wily, he is so well versed in God’s word and ways that he will come up from behind, he will gently push you based on your selfish and sinful desires (which we all have and will always have while in this body) and before you know it, you will be kneeling before the wrong guy and thinking you are doing God’s will.

This is a hard word to hear: the fact that we (I include myself here) may be happy God loves us for selfish reasons and not because our salvation gives glory and honor to God. It is all about Him, and not at all about us. He made it possible, Yeshua suffered for us and we should be happy He did the job correctly, but at the same time we should feel small and useless remembering what Yeshua had to endure because of our weaknesses and selfishness.  As for me, the joy of my salvation is a bitter-sweet emotion: joy at what God and Yeshua accomplished for me, yet also sadness and remorse at what He had to suffer through to accomplish it.

When I was a child I was often called “Christ Killer” by some Gentile friends I had. Now that I am older, and I know the word of God, I am saved by Yeshua’s blood, and I have the Ruach HaKodesh living inside of me and guiding me, I know that what those children called me out of ignorance and bigotry is, in fact, true. I did kill Christ. I caused Him to suffer by taking on the flesh, and living a tortured existence as a sinless person in a sinful world, and having to undergo a painful and humiliating death. All just for me. All just for you.

If you feel a little “down” right now, a little sad, and you want to say, “C’mon, Steve- it’s early in the morning. I felt really happy and now you are making me feel unhappy reminding me that Yeshua had to undergo all that suffering. Lighten up, Man! Be happy!”, my (loving) response is, “Grow up!”  I am happy, but not so much that I will forget what Yeshua did for my sake and that my salvation is for His glory and good. If I don’t remember that even for a second, the Enemy can get a finger hold on my eternal soul. Our joy must be balanced with the constant understanding and feeling of sadness that Yeshua went through all this and it is by His actions we are saved, so our salvation is about Him, not about us.

Let your joy be centered on God and what Yeshua did for you, and let your joy also be tempered with the sadness of all He had to endure to secure your salvation. These two things keep you focused on God and not yourself, and when we are looking at God we can’t see anything else which will distract us from the goal.

Shaul (Paul) said to keep our eyes on the prize and to run the good race. You win a race by focusing on the finish line and not on the things around you. If you stay focused on God, if you let your joy be for Him and not for you, then the Enemy will not be able to turn you from the goal because when he tries to tempt you or deceive you, you will be looking at the finish line and you won’t see the goodies all around you with which he will try to win you over.

It’s all about God, it’s all for His glory, and while we can be happy we are saved so that we won’t be separated from God after the Acharit HaYamim (End Days), we need to be happy for unselfish reasons. We are here to serve God, and that service should be the real foundation of our joy.

Just doing my job

How often do we hear that God is love? How many times are we reminded by our leaders and fellow Believers that God loves us and cares for us, and that He is all about love? Love, love, love….we all love to talk about God’s love.

But are they really just talking about affection, and not thinking about what it means to be loved by God; at least, not the way God describes it?

Let’s start with Proverbs 13:24, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.”   Now let’s go to Hebrews (Messianic Jews), 12:5-7 in which we are told,”…“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

These are the two verses that I remember best, and I believe there may be a few more. These indicate that discipline is as much a part of love as compassion is. In fact, compassion that extends to truly wanting to do what is best for someone requires that you discipline them when needed. Not in anger, and not cruelly, but to the degree that it is required and with the goal to teach the person how to live.

God’s discipline is designed to do just that- help us to live. Not as useful members of society (although that is a side-benefit) but to LIVE: not die the second death and spend eternity with Him. Certainly more important than getting the Man of the Year award, don’t you think?

And we can see this discipline throughout the Bible, from the Genesis story of Esau’s eviction to the death of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts. Yes, their deaths were for sinning against the Ruach HaKodesh, but isn’t that a form of discipline? And doesn’t it also teach and discipline those that saw it happen, and (probably) knew them personally?

We live in a world today that is full of victims. Everyone is being attacked and harassed and bullied by everyone else. It has come down to such a level of disgusting childishness that in a corporate or formal environment, the first one to complain wins. The other person is guilty, just as long as someone complains. There doesn’t have to be merit or even evidence, just complain about another person being abusive in language or mannerism, and they are in trouble.

Likewise, since we are all victims without any real responsibility to be accountable, we think that we are also entitled to whatever we feel we deserve. I should get a raise at work because I come in pretty much on time, most of the time. It’s not my fault I did poorly on this test but I paid for the course and so I should be given a passing grade. I didn’t do what you asked of me as a partner or child or spouse, but it’s not all my fault. I should still be given my allowance or whatever.

“It’s not my fault”; “I am not responsible”; “I still should get what I want.” That’s what it boils down to: I want what I want and if I don’t get it it’s not my fault. You have to make sure I get what I want.

You know what I want? I want to get to the Throne of Judgement and hear Yeshua say, “This one is mine, Father.” And then have the Lord God Almighty, Creator of all things, King of kings and Lord of lords, Host of the Heavenly armies and the One and only true God look down at me and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come into your Master’s rest.”

That’s it. If I get a shack of wood to live in, that’s OK. Anyplace He wants to put me, in heaven or on Earth (the new one, of course) will be fine. I won’t argue about the living quarters, or ask where are the riches I built up, or complain that person has a better home, or anything like that.  Just let me be there because I did my job well.

Yeshua tells of a servant that had worked in the field all day long, then came in and cleaned up the master and served the master his food. The slave was working hard all day and the master was served first. The slave came in dead last for food, rest or anything else. You might think this unjust and cruel- the master should have shown compassion to the poor, tired slave.

Not so. Yeshua, the loving Messiah, the compassionate Son of God, the one who is all about loving each other, said that the slave was doing what he is supposed to be doing. The slave serves, the master is served. That’s how it is, and the slave shouldn’t expect to be given extra credit or treated extra nicely for doing what he is supposed to do.

That’s a hard word, but you need to hear it, just as I do, just as we all do. God does love us, but that doesn’t mean He is an enabler. He expects us to do what we are supposed to do without looking to any special treatment or expecting extra reward for it. We are to pick up our execution stake and follow, we are to run the good race, we are to die to self and we are not just expected to do this, we are required to do it. Without any expectation of reward other than what has been promised. No extra credit, no superior status in heaven. Just do your job as you are told to do it.

Will there be people with higher status in heaven than others? Absolutely. Yeshua tells us that there will be those who are considered great in heaven, so a comparison is made. Those who sin and teach others to sin will be considered the least in the kingdom of God. Your efforts in serving the Lord are going to earn you a place in heaven, but that’s not what matters; you are to do what you are expected to do and not expect anything for it, other than the most wonderful reward that there ever was or ever  can be- eternity with God.

Act on earth as you are expected to act in heaven- do you work as if working for the Lord and not for men, and don’t expect more than what you are promised. If the other guy works much less and still gets the full denarius you received for working in the blazing sun all day, don’t kvetch about it. Take your denarius and be happy.

A job well done is reward enough- desiring and wanting anything more than that is from the Enemy. Be like the Marshall of the old Westerns who, after saving the town, receiving their affection and being asked by the lovely and unmarried school Marm (who secretly loves him) to stay simply says, “Shucks…t’wer nuthin. I was just doing my job.” Then he rides off into the sunset.

If it happens as I hope, and God tells me I did well, I want to simply say, “Thank you, Father… just doing my job.”

 

Are you defragging your spiritual hard drive?

I am that guy you call when you don’t know why your computer isn’t doing what you expect it to do. One of my personal peeves is that people work with their computers all day, and it’s almost impossible to find a job, other than manual labor, that doesn’t require you to have a modicum of skills when operating a computer. Yet, all I hear all day long is, “I just don’t know anything about computers.”

You know to check the oil, water and tire pressure in your car, you know to oil the iron cooking pan, to change the filters in your air conditioning system (you should know these things, you know!), but people don’t know how to care for their computers! Think about it: you can take a bus to work if you don’t care for your car and if your pots and pans are rusty and filthy you can order food in, but if your computer isn’t working you can’t do your job. And what happens to people who don’t do their jobs? Do you think it’s important to know enough to (at least) maintain the computer in fairly good working order?

One of the things that is important to keeping the computer running well (not so much with Windows 7 and newer operating systems) is defragging the hard drive. All this is, essentially, is removing all the space between the bits of data (all zero’s and one’s) so that all the little bits line up neatly. This saves space and makes searching for the data faster.

So, nu? What’s any of this got to do with my spiritual life?

We hear so much stuff every day; there is so much information in the world, and so much of it is so easily absorbed through web sites, ebooks, radio, cable TV news that is 24/7. Yet, out of all this information, there is so very little of it which you can trust. We get all types of fertilizer coming into our brains, and to sort it all out is nearly impossible. We hear televangelists telling us to touch the screen so they can heal us, our own Rabbi’s, Pastors, Ministers and Priests telling us what we should believe because this is what our religion teaches us, and then we have the everyday people, telling us that these laws were for health reasons, those don’t count because the world is changed (although they forget that God doesn’t change), and the worst part is the Discovery Channel. Although Discovery, History and TLC are some of my favorite channels, I never watch anything they do regarding the Bible or religious history. That’s because they are TV, the air waves are controlled by the Enemy (he is called the Prince of the Air, remember?) and their point, always, is to make God seems like a fantasy, explaining away His wonderful works and interventions and making science the real cause for celebrity.

All of these bits and bytes of data going into our brains, every day. And we can’t really stop it, unless we wear blindfolds and stuff our ears with wax. That would give us some peace, but it makes getting anything done really, really hard to do.

That’s why we need to defrag our spiritual hard drive. We need to clean out and delete the stuff that is wasteful, not-edifying and confusing. Then, after a good clean up of the temp files and deleted items folder, we need to re-arrange the data that we want to keep. We do this by getting back to basics (hmmmm…nice title for a book- check out the one I wrote) and re-establishing our relationship with God by simply sitting, in a quiet place, turning off all the data-streaming drek in the area, and letting God come in and clean up our spiritual hard drive. Let the Ruach take over- you can pray, think of heaven, concentrate on your favorite scripture, meditate on His word (King David did that often) or (one of my favorites) create a list of all the things you are grateful to God for giving you. Start with your birth and work your way forward.

We need to keep it simple (the KISS Rule) when we worship. No fancy-schmancy prayers; get real, people- we don’t live in the 17th Century so don’t pray like you are reading from the Kings James Bible. How can you be pouring your heart out to the Lord when you need to concentrate on getting all the fancy words right? God sees the heart, He knows what we want and (thank God) He gives us what we need, so just let Him do what He does best. Let His shalom fill your soul.

Be careful, also, what you download. The best way to keep a computer running well is to “feed” it correctly- no viruses, no malware, be careful what you buy, and watch where you “surf.” Always have a good anti-virus running that keeps up to date. This translates, spiritually, into reading the Bible every day. The best antivirus, in this case ‘anti-Satan software’, is the Word of God.  Read it every day to keep your spiritual hard-drive clean. Be careful of what you download means when you are watching the TV specials or reading extra-Biblical books and magazines about where the Ark is, who Jesus really was, and all the other apparently useful shows to help us understand the truth about God and the Bible, be very cautious and wary. Never take what they say as valid or truthful, and check it out against the Bible. If there is archaeological proof, or at least evidence, of a biblical event, that is fine, but listen carefully. I have rarely gotten more than 10 minutes into one of these shows before I start to hear the message between the lines of script. That message is (almost) always that there is some physiological reason for the event, that science can explain it and their “experts” are almost always agnostic in their approach. The one or two “religious” people that will give glory to God are made to seem like fools. By the end of the show miracles and Glory to God are reduced to seismic events and explainable anomalies.

Science thinks that because it can explain something and understand how it happens that means God didn’t have anything to do with it. That’s something we have to overcome- the thinking that says if it can be explained it isn’t a miracle or a divine intervention. God created everything, including science. So why can’t He use what He created to intervene? How many cancer patients die after undergoing every known treatment type? Yet, others go into remission and the cancer never returns. They’re both humans, they’re both treated the same way, yet it works in one and not in the other. And no one can explain that, but no one sees the cure as a miracle. It’s science, it’s modern medicine, it’s explainable so it can’t be divine. Oy!

There is so much garbage, so many bits and bytes of data that we take in, without even knowing it is happening, and we need to defrag ourselves daily. Meditate, read the Word (best bet for success) and pray to God. Pray simply, pray honestly, and don’t try to be different than who you are when you pray. Just pray from your heart, do it without interruption, and get all those little zeros and ones in your spirit back in alignment.

Computers are binomial- it all boils down to a zero or a one. God is also binomial: it’s His way or the hell-way. Don’t let your spiritual hard drive become corrupted with the viruses and malware of the world; keep it defragged through prayer and keep it clean with a daily install and upgrade of God’s word. It’s the best anti-Satan software in the universe.