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.

When poison tastes great

One of the biggest “problems” I have had when dealing with people is that I am too straight-forward. I have a hard time being what some would call “tactful.” I call it “sugar-coating.”

Of course, it is easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar, and over the years I have learned to think more about what I say before I say it. Maybe this book I read all the time (you know it) that tells me to treat others as I would want to be treated (actually, that is part of the problem- I would rather people just tell me what they think), how the tongue controls the entire body and it is full of evil, a well can’t give forth fresh and salt water at the same time, etc. is influencing me to be more compassionate in my treatment and dealings with others. I kind of hope so, but on the other hand (I’m Jewish, so there is always an ‘other hand’) I don’t want to get so nice and make everything so palatable that people want to hear what I have to say because it makes them feel good, and the point I am trying to make is lost in all the “sweetness.”

We need to tell the truth to each other, even if it may mean that their feelings get hurt or that they may not like us.

I’m not sure how to explain this correctly. Obviously, if we just tell people how we feel without any consideration for their feelings we won’t edify or help them. We’ll just piss them off and, since most people are more prideful than humble, the point will be missed, the relationship will be damaged (making any further help less likely) and the whole thing will have been a waste.

I pray that each time one of us feels led to ‘rebuke’ someone we are being led by the Ruach. The Bible does tell us, right where it says to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19), to rebuke your neighbor. That seems to be an oxymoron, but I see the same message- don’t let them hurt themselves. God tells the prophets if they don’t warn the people to turn from their sins then the blood of the people will be on the head of the prophet! That’s a hard word to hear, and a heavy burden to bear. God says in Ezekiel that He is not happy with the death of a sinner; indeed, He wishes that every sinner would turn from his sin and live. Proverbs tells us that if we don’t discipline our children we condemn them to death, and Shaul talks about how a loving Father will always discipline his children and that is why God will discipline us. Throughout the Bible God, Himself, is telling each one of us that we must, for love’s sake, rebuke our neighbor when they are doing something that is harmful to themselves, physically or spiritually.

Just like many other things in the Bible, God tells us what we should do, but doesn’t always supply the instructions telling us how to do it. Like the animal sacrifice: He tells us which animals are acceptable, what condition they should be in, what to do with the blood and the body parts, but not how we should kill them. The Talmud is good for many things, and one of those is for filling in the blanks, so to speak. For instance, it describes the manner in which to kill the sacrificial animal (it’s called Shechita.) I am not a student of the Talmud so I am not sure if it goes into detail about how to rebuke people, but something tells me it does, somewhere.

For those of us who are not Talmudic Talmudim (students, or Disciples), we need to think about what we are saying so that the truth is made plain.If we ‘sugar-coat’ the truth so much that it is tasty to the person, the point will not be made. In other words, poison tastes bad as a warning, and if the words we tell to others are so sweet that they enjoy them, well, the warning is missed.

In nature God has very clear signs of warning with regards to poisons. Poison Ivy is very easy to recognize, it is always three leaves and one of the very few plants (botanists and horticulturists please be kind if I am off a little here) that is very waxy looking. Many bugs that are poisonous to animals are very brightly colored. Warnings that not only protect the bugs life, but by their very nature of being a warning, they protect the life of the predator, too.

We need to protect people’s life by rebuking them when they are doing wrong, and we need to make sure it is loving and compassionate, but still has the bad taste of poison so that they know this is serious stuff and they can recognize the deadliness of what they are doing.

My fear is that in today’s world we are more concerned about how we say something than what we are saying. I know that is how it is, and it frustrates me because I am not tactful, I am not always able to get through to someone who is more concerned about their precious little feelings than they are about their eternal soul. See? Don’t I sound frustrated? I can only imagine how Jeremiah, or Elijah must have felt. Of course, when you can call fire from heaven on people, it does tend to get their attention. All I seem to get is their dander up. I am not against talking to each other compassionately, but I wish that people who want to be talked to nicely would take some responsibility to listen as compassionately as they want to be talked to. It’s all about MY feelings, how you talk to ME, and what I feel. No one seems to listen with compassion enough to hear the “hurt” in the other person’s voice.

Maybe the best thing is to show by example. I always tell people to just let me know what they are saying, or what I did. I hate, hate, HATE it when I am told, third-party, that something I said was inappropriate or hurtful to someone. Then when I ask to know what I said, and to whom, so I can apologize (that is definitely the Ruach in me, and not me, myself, wanting to apologize) I am told that I can’t be allowed to know who it is or what I said (because then I might guess who it was) because the person is afraid or doesn’t want to have a ‘confrontation’ with me. Well, if I have done something wrong, and I am not told what it was, and I am not given the chance to make it better, then why tell me? Telling me I did something wrong doesn’t help if I don’t know what I did wrong! It doesn’t edify me to know I hurt someone then not be allowed to rectify the situation; it just makes me frustrated and frightened because now I don’t know who I offended and now I am afraid to talk to anyone. This is not helpful or in any way bringing people together. It is not working towards communication, it is creating division.  And here’s the real kicker!: I see this all the time from Human Resources people. The very ones whose job it is to repair and inspire communication within the working environment, and what they are really doing in order to “protect” people is to foster division and discomfort between the employees. It’s come down to the first one to complain is the winner.

Hmmm…seems I am a little off topic. Obviously, I have some personal ‘issues’ with certain parts of the modern corporate environment, and I digress.

The Enemy loves it when people are more concerned about how others talk to them then with what they are saying. I am absolutely convinced that he is overjoyed at our current means of communicating to each other. Why? Because it is our obsession with how we talk and not what we say that gives him the opportunity to sweet-talk us all into apostasy and sin. He is a smooth talker, no doubt about that! As my wife would say, “He’s got the gift of the Blarney about him, he does, he does.” Actually, she’s Irish but doesn’t talk with a Brogue. I like to involve her now and then in these discussions because she does read them (Hello, Sweetheart!)

Back to Satan…if a rebuke is so sugar-coated that people actually like the taste, the message “You are taking poison and you need to stop taking it or it will kill you” is lost. A rebuke should sting, it should taste bad, and it should warn with the warnings poison has. The deadliest poison is the one you don’t know you’re taking, isn’t it? The one without odor or taste can be consumed over and over, and you won’t know you’ve been poisoned until you are dead. That’s what too much sweetness when rebuking will do- it will cover the bad taste of the poison so much that you don’t know you are killing yourself.

What are we left with? I hope you agree that there is a problem with how we communicate to each other today, that there is need to rebuke people that are killing themselves through sinfulness, and that we need to allow the Ruach to lead us in how we talk to each other when rebuking. If we are all on the same page here, I am sorry to confess that I don’t know what to tell you beyond that. I am the “don’t do as I do” type, not the “do as I do” kind. Shaul was able to tell many of the Messianic Congregations he helped to form that they should do as he does, because he did what we should be doing. I can’t say that because I am not doing what we should do.  I guess we all need to look to the Ruach to help us to save the eternal souls of those we deal with that need a good rebuke. Each one of us will have to do this in our own way, and each situation is unique.

I, myself, will do what I can as best as I can to help those that need to be saved from themselves. I will try to let the Ruach lead me in knowing when to rebuke, and when it isn’t necessary; sometimes you just need to move on and let it go. Sometimes you need to stop it dead in it’s tracks. I believe that only with trusting faithfulness, knowing what God wants of us, and asking the Ruach to take charge can I be able to rebuke correctly so that the poison is recognized, the feelings not hurt, and the love that I must have to care enough for someone to risk my relationship with them just to save their soul, will be appreciated.

Whew! I’m asking for a lot, ain’t I? Well, with God all things are possible, even to the point of me being nice to people.

Where do you go for answers?

When we are alive, we have questions. Some are easily answered, like a child asking their parents about things they see. Or, like a student asking the teacher to clarify a point about the lesson. Or like the questions I deal with every day as an IT support person. I remind people that “Google is our friend”, but they are usually too lazy to try to answer their own questions.

My life experience has shown me that people, in general, are too lazy to answer their own questions. They are especially stuck for an answer when the issue is not about something physical, like how to reset security on a browser window or how to take out a stain from a silk blouse, but is deeper and more metaphysical or spiritual. Like, “Who am I?”  “What is the meaning of life?”  “Does God exist?”  “Why did my loved one have to die?”  “How do I handle someone doing me harm?”  “How do I answer someone who I don’t like when they ask me to a party?”  “How do I deal with suffering?”

And where do they go?

They go to Miss Manners, they Ask Amy, they write to Dear Abby, they read their Zodiac, now they go to Google! They go almost anywhere else but the best source for answering all our questions, the Bible.

This is a really short and simple Drash today. It is so simple I almost feel guilty about not going on and on, but more often than not, the simple way is the best way.

If you are unsure about your situation in life, about God, about suffering in the world (yours or anyone else’s) and especially about whether or not Jesus (Yeshua) is the real Messiah, you need to go to the Manual. The ultimate, absolute Manual for Life and Afterlife called Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.

That’s the place to go. What is really sad and often the case is that even the people who do believe in God, whether or not they accept Yeshua as the Messiah, will go somewhere other than the Bible. They go to their religious leaders, and that’s not really bad because they are, after all, teachers of God’s word and people we should go to for instruction. However, as I say in my book (you should buy it and read it) our leaders are just as much traditionalists as their leaders were, and with all due respect to their training and devotion, we should, each one of us, go to God, first. God first, then if we are still confused, let God work through someone we trust and know. God often intercedes by using other people that He sends into our life.

So, go to the source. Go to the one who has the answers to all your questions, even the questions you don’t know you have yet. If you need an answer, ask God.

Don’t be lazy, don’t be stupid sheep following blindly, and don’t be convinced that just because someone has some degree they really know what they are talking about. They might, but the bottom line is this: you are going to have to answer for what you do and say. God will not buy that you were just following orders: that didn’t hold water at Nuremberg,  and it won’t hold water at the Throne of Judgement, either.

You are responsible for yourself, so take charge of your afterlife and get the answers from the one who knows them: His name is God.

Reply to my post from yesterday

Thank you, John, for your interest and comments. I am replying here because I think the points you brought up are so important that I need to make sure they get a separate posting and not be hidden in a comment thread.

For those that didn’t see John’s comments, go to the post for yesterday, November 10, and scroll down.

Here is my answer to your counterpoints (good ones, and well made):

Your comments are the very reason I tell people to read the Bible for themselves- you point out that Yeshua did, indeed, give the authority (or so it seems) to the Disciples (except Thomas) to remit or forgive sins in John 20:19-24.I forgot about that part, and stand corrected. At least, in that there is a reference indicating authority over sins. I’m not quite ready to agree that this is absolutely for every “priest” to have. There is no reference that this authority was transferable. Your comment that it was thereby conferred to their successors is not specifically confirmed in the Bible. I learned a long time ago that when reading or interpreting the Bible one cannot make an argument from nothing. If Yeshua did give authority over forgiveness of sins to these men, He did not say it was transferable. If you would, please verify if there is anything else in the writings, either in the Gospels or the letters that follow, that specifically mentions these Elders transferring the authority over forgiveness of sins.

I read a few commentaries about this verse, and I have some questions. One is if Yeshua gave authority to forgive sins, and the same authority to not forgive sins, then is He saying that there are sins that can’t be forgiven? He did say that blaspheming the Ruach HaKodesh is an unforgivable sin, but if say, Kefa (Peter) said someone was going to die in their sin, does that mean there are sins that the Grace of God cannot overcome? Isn’t that against what Shaul (Paul) says? Doesn’t he say (I believe this is in Romans) that as sin increases so too does Grace? Can a man state that a sin will not be forgiven, and then God has to abide by that? I agree that Yeshua did give more authority to the Disciples at that time than He did when He sent them out, but I don’t necessarily agree that they were allowed to forgive or to convict the sins of others. I believe (maybe only because I choose to) that what Yeshua was saying was that these men had the authority to identify sins, to hold people responsible for the sins they committed and accuse them of such, and to lead people to forgiveness when they ask for it, by praying to God for them. Hermeneutically,this makes sense since God often has asked others to pray on behalf of sinners. Abraham for Abimelech and Job for his friends, just to mention a couple of examples. I believe that is what Yeshua meant. No commentary, no “true” interpretation, just me, Steve, saying what I believe. No one has to agree.
Next: I am Messianic- thank you for noticing. I also believe that Yeshua was/is God in the flesh, but He was 100% human when He walked the Earth for those 30+ years. He was also 100% human when He died- if God dies, then raises Himself, big deal, right? I mean, after all- God can’t die. Something else God can’t do- He can’t sin or be associated with sin. But Yeshua took on the sin of the world, so how could He be God and take on sin? He had to be human.

Another question: did Yeshua come to Earth and do what He did to replace God? If you worship Yeshua as God, or even just pray to Yeshua for forgiveness, then you place Him between you and God. That’s the definition of idolatry, isn’t it? To have something that is between us and God?

Thirdly, Yeshua is the Messiah, yes? As such, His role (if you will) is to be the ultimate High Priest, in the manner of Melchizedek, forever. As High Priest, He intercedes between us and God. Not replacing God or coming between us by superseding God’s position, but interceding. The purpose for His “birth”, life, death and resurrection is to be the Messiah, and to rule the Earth. If we continue to worship Him as God, we are rejecting the whole reason He came to Earth, aren’t we? Unless you can show me the new Temple, the New Earth, and Messiah ruling the world from Jerusalem, His role is still the Messiah. When the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) have come and gone and we are all resurrected and the Enemy is in the Lake of Fire with all his pals, then, and only then, will we see what is what and who will be whom. For now, I still see Yeshua/Jesus as the Messiah, the Saviour of the World, God’s son and God in the flesh but not the one, true, and only God. Dad is still Dad, and the Son is still the Son.

The Trinity exists and it is a Trinity- three in one, yes; three the same, yes; but three. I think the best example of this impossible to understand idea is ice in boiling water. You have a solid, a liquid and a gas- all three exactly the same at the atomic level, but in different forms physically. All three the exact same thing, but each one performing a different function. Ice to cool, water to slake thirst and cleanse, steam to heat up and provide power. All three the same exact thing, all three different in form and function. The function of Messiah, His “job”, if you will, was to bring the Good News of God’s salvation to the world and provide the means for everyone to be reconciled to God through the blood of His perfect sacrifice. After that His job is to intercede for us, to be our High Priest. Finally, His last position will be to rule the world. After the final battle, when all is done and we are all in the presence of God, well…I don’t know what Yeshua will do then. I don’t know what will happen to the Holy Spirit. Will they return to God? Once we are all perfect beings, will we need the Spirit or Yeshua? Will the ice and steam return to the Living Water and be one, again? Was it ever just One? Heck- I don’t know! The Bible doesn’t really help here, does it? John says there was the Word, and the Word became flesh. That implies a physiological change of existence. Something non-physical became physical, so can we assume or expect that when the plan of salvation is complete that things will go back to what they were? Again- I don’t know. Frankly, if I am there, I don’t care what happens. I’ll be there, and (for me) that’s all that matters.

One more final note, my new friend in the Lord: you say that Catholics don’t pray to statues. I have read some of the prayers that are directed to saints, and heard people pray TO Saint Peter, or pray TO Mother Mary. It makes no sense at all to “remember” a Saint when you are praying for something for yourself. And if the Saints don’t have special powers or authority, why is there an entire menu of things to pray for, each with it’s own Saint? Pray to Joseph for healing, pray to Mary to intercede with Yeshua, Pray to St. Jude for this, pray to St. Paul for that…c’mon, face it. Catholic people pray to the Saints.

The prayers of the saints, as mentioned in Revelations, is not the saints carrying the prayers of people to God- the context of that verse is that the saints (those who have died for Messiah and God- not the ones some Pope declared as a Saint) are sending God their own prayers. That’s why they ask, “How much longer?” Their prayers are for themselves. Yeshua said the only way to the Father is through the Son. “Only” doesn’t mean “only me, but you can also get to me through these others.” It means “only me.” Das ist alles! Nothing else, no interpretation, no malarkey about praying to others doesn’t affect the unique mediatorship of Christ (I saw that on a Catholic Answers web page.) Really? Praying to someone else doesn’t affect Yeshua’s unique position as the only path to God? How can something be unique if it is not singularly available? If I can pray to a saint, that does interfere with my prayer to Yeshua or to God. It is another level, an additional plea to another person.  I understand this is a doctrine of your faith, but it seems to be in direct conflict with what Yeshua said. I guess Jews could never make good Catholics: why pray retail to second-level saints when we can pray wholesale, right to God? It just don’t make sense! No-how, no-way.

God wants to hear our prayers, and He wants us to turn to Him for help. Not ourselves, not someone else, but to Him. That is clear throughout the Tanakh and the New Covenant. God is in charge, and He is the one to go to. Yeshua said when we look at Him we see the Father because He was the reflection of God’s holiness. Just as the Talmud says when we look in the Torah it should be a mirror in which we see ourselves. It is not literal, it is metaphoric. When Jeremiah told us about God’s New Covenant in 31:31 he was telling us that the Torah will be in our minds and written on our hearts- in other words, we will be living Torah, just as Yeshua. That’s why John said the Word became flesh- it is in keeping with Jewish thought about the Torah being a mirror.
One more, last, final note: you mention Paul writing about how no one is without sin. Not to pick on you, directly, but that is representative of the anti-Semitic attitude the Catholic church has had since day one! Paul did NOT say those things- he was quoting from David, Elijah and other prophets of the Old Covenant. That is the Catholic “uber-holy” mindset- they give all credit for God’s word to the New Covenant and are so adamant about not having any relationship or reference to the Jewish roots of Christianity that they plagiarize the word of God and associate all that he said in the Tanakh to being solely from the New Covenant. I don’t hate Catholics, but I have very little respect for the way the Catholic church has treated the Jewish people, and the very root of their “religion”. Yeshua said he won’t come back until Jerusalem (the Jewish people) say He is welcomed (I am paraphrasing) and Shaul confirms that by stating He won’t return until the full compliment of the Gentiles are brought into the kingdom, making the Jewish people jealous for their Messiah (implying the influx of Believing, or Messianic, Jews). The Catholic church is way, way behind a lot of the rest of Christianity in that they don’t want to recognize their Jewish roots. It is still as it has been: the Catholic church doesn’t want anything to do with the Jewish people, and they just don’t want Jews around, apparently. Convert them all to Catholicism, the only “true” religion. Until they get that rid of that ridiculous attitude, they are going to be unpleasantly surprised when the stuff hits the fan.