Can We Have Too Much Knowledge?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

What God Cannot Do

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

No, he can’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Obedience or Legalism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Grace isn’t Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any questions?

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Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

 

Faith is Only the Beginning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

The Greatest Counterattack That Ever Succeeded

For those of you who may not know, I was a First Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.  And, as such, I was very well trained in combat skills, including all types of attacks and counterattacks.  One thing I learned is that it is very important to pre-organize a counterattack because the best time to do so is immediately after you lose a battle. That is when the foe is the most vulnerable because they have just taken over your position and are trying to organize themselves.

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The battle between God and Satan has been raging for quite a while. Like most wars, there are victories and losses on both sides, and often even after the war has been won, the winning battle is not the last skirmish.

When Yeshua rose from the dead, the war which Satan started against God was won, then and there, but the battles did not stop. Yeshua’s victory over death is complete, but there is still a lot of “mopping up” that needs to be done, and we know (from the vision given to John on Patmos) that there are more battles yet to come before this war is completely finished.

Satan was defeated with Yeshua’s victory, but he organized a counterattack that has been devastating to that victory. And what was that counterattack?

It was separating the Gentile Believers from Judaism, resulting in the creation of what we call Christianity.

It started as soon as the people began referring to the Gentile converts to “the Way” as Christians. That separated them from the Jewish population by name. Then, in or around 98 CE, the early Gentile leaders of what was now being called Christianity declared Sunday to be the Sabbath for those who follow Christ. Later they also rejected the idea that Judaism and Christianity could be compatible. By the end of the Second Century, new Christians were almost exclusively Gentiles, and by the time of the Council of Nicene, the New Covenant was being composed by Gentiles. From that time forward, Christianity (in nearly all its forms) has ignored or rejected the Tanakh, teaching only from the New Covenant.

And by ignoring the Tanakh, they never learned about all the mistakes the Jewish people made; consequently, Christianity has made all those mistakes, all over again. And what is worse, they have added new ones to it.

In Romans 11:25, Shaul warns the Gentile Believers not to become proud simply because they are accepting Yeshua as the Messiah, whereas the mainstream Jewish population did not. He tells them that if God was willing to lop off the natural branches from the Tree of Life for lack of faith, how much more so will he lop off the unnatural branches that have been grafted on if they also lose faith?

Yet, despite this warning, Gentile Believers have, from the start, ignored the instructions God gave in the Torah, organized their own holidays, rituals, and soon after Constantine they actually began to persecute the Jewish people in order to separate them from Judaism, as well.

Christianity has not learned the lessons that God’s Chosen people learned. These lessons were learned when they were in the desert, and later when they were in Canaan, and later when their kingdom was divided; in fact, it is my opinion that we Jews still haven’t learned our lesson and are making mistakes, even today. I have heard or read of some synagogues that celebrate people or activities that are clearly identified as a sin in the Torah, but they do so in order to appear “politically correct”; in other words, they are seeking the approval of human beings instead of seeking the approval of God.

The “Church” has done even worse things than that! In the Catholic churches, there are statues that people bow before and pray to; in some non-Catholic sects they have gay ministers; in some other sects they celebrate Halloween. There are so many things that they do wrong, and I believe it is because they haven’t learned from their Jewish ancestors because the Enemy made it easy to sin by separating Christians from Jews.

I won’t even start with the generations of Christians who have been taught to ignore the Torah because of the misinterpretations of the letters that Paul wrote to his congregations, all of which were composed almost exclusively of Gentiles. He wrote to them in a way that would help them to slowly learn about God’s instructions by feeding them a little at a time and specifically telling each congregation only what they needed to hear to keep them on the right path. Unfortunately, since the Gentiles didn’t learn or want to deal with all of God’s instructions, Satan taught them that Jesus nailed the Torah to the Cross.

That’s right, that’s what I said…the idea that the Torah isn’t valid for Christians is a lie that comes straight out of the depths of hell!

So, nu? What do we do? How can we breach this 2,000-year-old gap between God’s instructions and Christianity that Satan has succeeded in creating?

Don’t look to me for an answer because I don’t know what can work.  Actually, I don’t think it will be possible for us to close this gap. God will have to do this on a case-by-case basis. I am doing what I can by having this ministry. This is a teaching ministry, and as the tag line at the bottom of my Home Page indicates, I am here trying to get the correct information to people so they can make an informed decision about how they will worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the truth about what the Messiah, Yeshua, taught.

Only after the Acharit HaYamim (The End Days) is upon us, the final battle is won, Yeshua is ruling the world and the new heavens and new earth are in place, will this gap be closed. But, I am sorry to say, I do not see it happening until then. Humans can’t close it, and I don’t think God wants to until it is time for all things to be completed.

Maybe this is what Yeshua was talking about when he told the parable about the and the tares and the wheat (Matthew 13.) The owner of the field planted wheat, but the enemy came in at night and planted tares. When they were growing together the owner said to leave them growing together and only after the harvest will they be separated. I think we are living this parable in real life.

The separation of Christianity from Judaism is the greatest counterattack that has ever succeeded. If you are a Christian who has been separated from your roots, you can still win your individual battle against the enemy of God by studying the Tanakh (Old Covenant) and re-reading the teachings of Yeshua that are in the first three Gospels. Ignore John and only concentrate on Matthew, Mark, and Luke. And forget about reading any of the Epistles by Shaul (Paul) until you have had a chance to get a Messianic Bible or Messianic Commentary on the New Covenant so you can see where he wasn’t really against following the instruction in the Torah, but was trying to spoon-feed it to his Gentile congregations. He did that because he knew it was very hard for these Gentiles to make the paradigm shift from a self-serving hedonistic lifestyle to one of selfless love for others and righteous living.

The war has been won, but there are still battles raging, and they will not stop until Yeshua returns to do a final mop-up of the mess the Enemy has created with his counterattack. Be prepared for that day by learning how God told us we should worship him and treat each other, which is in the Torah. Then decide for yourself what you will do.

When Yeshua returns and you face the Lord at his Judgement throne, whichever way you have decided to live is what you will be judged on. Make sure that what you choose to do it is your own decision and not just what someone else told you.

Think about this: God said not obeying the Torah was a sin, and Satan knows that sin separates people from God, so the best way to win souls for himself is to make sure that the Torah is ignored.

One last piece of advice? The easiest road to travel leads to death.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe to this website and my YouTube channel, as well. Share this out with everyone you know so they can also have a chance to be judged on their own decision instead of what someone else tells them.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Shaul of Tarsus: Saint or Salesman?

The New Covenant, not the scriptures but the actual promise from God, is found in Jeremiah 31:31, and it will be fulfilled through the Messiah.  It is a promise made by God, through the prophet Jeremiah to the Jewish people. God has also said, through other prophets, that the Messiah will also be a light to the Gentiles, which means that the Gentile New Covenant is the same one that God gave to the Jewish people.

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That being said, the New Covenant (now I am talking about the scriptures) tells us about the Messiah who came to deliver the new covenant we read in Jeremiah. The 4 Gospels tell us about the Messiah: his birth, life, ministry, teachings, his death, and his resurrection, through which we can all receive forgiveness of sin.

Yet, the story of the Messiah is less than 1/3 of the entire NC scriptures! In fact, nearly 2/3 of the scriptures that have served as the foundation for Christianity are letters written by a Jewish tentmaker to the Messianic congregations he formed throughout Asia. His name was Shaul of Tarsus, but most people know him as Saint Paul.

But was he a saint, or a salesman?

I was a professional salesman for quite a few years, and I can tell you that the general picture of a salesman is someone in a loud suit with a glib manner of speech whose purpose in life is to do and say whatever he needs to in order to get his commission. That is not true…well, not always true. In fact, the best salesmen are the ones who listen more than they speak, and who are truly interested in getting their clients what the client really needs.

The first step to making a “righteous” sale is to ask the client the proper type of questions to find out what it is that they really need. You see, people don’t buy what they need, they buy what they want. Once we know what someone needs, we then present our product, assuming it meets that need, in such a way that they want it. That is the essence of a good sale: provide what the client needs and to do so in a way that will make them want it.

Now consider the problem Shaul had: he was going to a class of people who had been practicing a religion based on the precept of multiple gods, who had the same weaknesses as humans, and their rituals involved hedonistic activities such as gluttony, cult prostitution, and sexual perversion.  Now here comes this little, Jewish Pharisee telling them that it is better for them to give up all that fun and turn from their self-centered religion to one that preached selfless giving, righteous love, and a single God who sent his son to allow them to be forgiven of sins.

Now that has got to be a hard sell!

If you don’t like me telling you Shaul was a salesman, he said it, himself! In 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 (NIV):

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

Essentially, he is saying is that he will adjust his spiel to his audience, and we can see that in his letters. Each letter is to a congregation where Shaul is, in truth, trying to “save the sale.”

When a sale is made, people often have what is called “Buyer’s Remorse”, which happens because the excitement of finally getting to have what they’ve always wanted to have suddenly disappears the moment they recall the amount of the check they wrote. Shaul’s congregations all had their own unique battles: the Corinthians were arguing about who to follow, the Ephesians were having trouble relating to the message, the Galatians were being duped into legalism…each congregation was in trouble and in danger of apostatizing. Shaul was trying, constantly, to bring them back into the same mindset they had when he convinced them of their need and their desire to worship God and accept Yeshua as their Messiah.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Shaul often talks about the secret knowledge that he has been given regarding salvation. This is a clear and unmistakable reference to the Gnosticism that was prevalent in Ephesus.  He is tuning in to his audience and using terms and ideas that they can relate to. He doesn’t talk about “secret knowledge” in his other letters, except in 1 Timothy, but (then again) Timothy was ministering in Ephesus at the time.

I am not trying to degrade or insult Shaul. Quite the opposite: I acknowledge that what he did was ingenious. He was able to be anyone to everyone, and when it comes down to it, people buy from people. Bonding with the client is an absolute essential if you want to make a sale that will not only “stick”, but to get referrals. Shaul was referred by the leaders in Jerusalem (we call that Third Party information or a “Bread and Butter” Letter) so that those who were not familiar with him, or had heard the bad reputation about him, would be open to hearing him. And, because he could relate to them, they listened.

Each one of us has to realize that we must utilize sales techniques in order to be able to get the word of the Lord out to people who may not be open to hearing it. We have to Match and Mirror, we have to ask the proper type of leading questions, we have to ask questions we already know the answers to in order to get small agreements along the way before the final close, and most important of all, we have to know our product! Which is, of course, the word of God.

You will be unsuccessful in telling someone what they need to do. The moment most people hear, “If you don’t, then…” their defensive shields will be up and you will have lost your opportunity to save them. You must be patient, use discernment, ask questions to help them realize what they want in life, identify what they are missing in their life and get them to agree they want it. Then, and only then, will they listen when you tell them how God can fill that emptiness.

Most people convince themselves they are OK when they aren’t, and it is up to us to open their eyes to what they are really longing for, then show them how God can give them what they want.  Everyone needs salvation- that is a given, even those who don’t believe in God still need to be saved. It is up to each of us to be a good salesperson and help those who are spiritually blind and deaf to see and hear.

Yeshua did it physically by the power of God, and we can do it spiritually by the power of good salesmanship.

Of course, it is really God who will close the deal.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe. I welcome comments and look forward to our next time together.

Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Secular Judaism is an Oxymoron

One of my oldest, dearest and closest friends discovered she was Jewish on her mother’s side. This was a family secret that had been one since her mother was a child in Germany, born just before Hitler’s rise to power began. Her family converted and changed their name, which is what many Jewish families did during the late 1930s and early 1940s to protect themselves.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

Having a desire to know her Jewish roots better, she recently told me she is going to attend services at a local synagogue, which she explained to me is a Secular Jewish synagogue.

When she told me that I thought I heard her incorrectly, but she confirmed that this synagogue follows a humanistic theology.

Huh? Jews that aren’t centered on God but on humanism? That can’t be. But…it is.

Here is what I found on Wikipedia about Secular Judaism:

According to historian Shmuel Feiner, the onset of modernism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witness the appearance in Europe of Jewish communities who rejected the religious norms and discipline demanded by the rabbinical elite and whose identities as Jews were increasingly separate from beliefs and practices from the Torah or the commandments.

As far as I know, the Reconstructionist sect of Judaism is close to this description, although they do have some deist factions. Here is the Wikipedia definition of their theology:

Most “classical” Reconstructionist Jews (those agreeing with Kaplan) reject traditional forms of theism, though this is by no means universal. Many Reconstructionist Jews are deists, but the movement also includes Jews who hold Kabbalistic, pantheistic (or panentheistic) views of God, and some Jews who believe in the concept of a personal God.

To settle this confusion, one could simply identify what being a Jew means, or to rephrase my statement, we could ask, “What is a Jew?”  This is a question that seemingly has no one answer. Some say it is by birth, some by spiritual attachment to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Some say it is those who live a Jewish lifestyle, but that opens up an entirely new can of worms, for what is a Jewish lifestyle?  Is it being Torah observant? Is it celebrating all the holidays that are identified as “Jewish”, or just the ones God specified in the Bible? Is it wanting your son to grow up to be a lawyer or a doctor?

Frankly, there are as many opinions as to what a “Jew” is as there are people answering the question, but there is one thing that I do not believe any can argue against, which is that the Bible has told us God chose the Jewish people, meaning the direct descendants of Jacob (later called Israel) to be his nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) and gave them the Torah to learn, then teach to the rest of the world.

Yes- the Torah is for everyone because when you are a priest to the world that means you teach the world how to worship God.

So to be “Jewish” according to the Bible is to worship God as he said he should be worshiped, and to live our lives in accordance with the instructions he gave us in the Torah. Not that anyone can do that perfectly, but if we want to- if we try our best to live as God says to in the Torah- then we are, by definition, “Jewish.”

This means there is no way to separate Judaism from God, or vice-versa: God is the very foundation of Judaism, the roots of the Tree of Life, the rock upon which the house of David (Messiah) is built. According to the Bible, you cannot reject God or his Torah and still be Jewish.

You can reject much, if not all, of the Talmudic regulations, called Halacha (the Way to Walk) because they are man-made traditions and rules, but to reject God and his rules? No way, Jose!!

Judaism has been identified as a religion for thousands of years, but when God told Moses how we are to worship him and treat each other, it wasn’t a religion -it was how you were to live your life. The Torah is more than just a set of laws; it is a marriage certificate between a people and their God, it is the Constitution for a nation outlining the organization of the government, creating a justice system, establishing a penal code, and defining societal standards of behavior.

The idea of secular Judaism is an oxymoron. For me, you can’t be Jewish when you reject God as the way he presents himself in the Bible.

We will never know exactly what a “Jew” is, and that doesn’t really matter. What matters is how we feel towards God, other people, and how hard we try to live according to the instructions God gave to all human beings (through the Israelites) in the Torah.

Jews, the Torah, and God are inseparable.

Thank you for being here, and please share me out, subscribe, like my Facebook page and buy my books. I appreciate your comments and welcome them (just be nice, okay?)

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Yom Kippur 2019 Message

Today I would like to share a message that I had given every Yom Kippur service when I was still living in Northeast Philadelphia and attending Beth Emmanuel Messianic Synagogue. For about 2 years we didn’t have a Rabbi and the Council members (of which I was one) kept the temple going, with me serving (pretty much) as Rabbi-pro-tem. The following is an updated version of the sermon I had been giving on this day.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video. 

There is an undeniable relationship between Yom Kippur and Passover, and together they provide total atonement which allows us to have life everlasting. Yeshua is called the Lamb of God, the Pesach Lamb, and by means of his death and the blood he shed, we can find atonement for our sins. But, it wasn’t just as the Passover lamb that He accomplished this.

It’s important to know that the sacrifice of the Passover lamb, as we read of it in Exodus, Chapter 12, was not a sin sacrifice: it was a thanksgiving sacrifice. And the blood was not a sin atonement, but rather a kippur, a covering, which was meant to identify the people of God. It was spread on the sides and over the doorway of the house and as the identification of God’s people, it protected those people from being killed by the angel of death.

The blood from the sacrificed lamb on Passover provided protection from physical death for the people of God, and today Yeshua’s blood not only identifies us as God’s people, but also protects us from spiritual death. Yeshua’s sacrificial death may have occurred on Passover but is actually what the sacrifice of the Yom Kippur goats is all about.

The Yom Kippur goats (the one killed and the one released) together provide for our atonement (Lev. 16:9-10.) The scapegoat (which is the one released into the desert) had the sins of all the people transferred to it before being released into the desert, or as the Bible tells us, to Azazel. Let’s take a moment and talk a little about Azazel:

  • The Talmud interprets this word to mean a steep mountain, and for many years the scapegoat was not released into the desert but instead was thrown off of a steep mountain;
  • In the Book of Enoch, Azazel is a fallen angel. Of course, it is unthinkable that we would be told by God to sacrifice a goat to a god-like satyr in the desert;
  • According to Rabbi Hertz, the Late Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, in his 1965 edition of the Chumash, Azazel is a rare Hebrew noun that means “dismissal”, or “entire removal”. The transference of the sins of Israel by the Cohen HaGadol onto the goat released into the desert symbolized the total removal of sin from the community of God’s people.

I had always wondered why we needed two goats. If all the sins were removed by the scapegoat why kill another one? It’s because sin can only be forgiven by the shedding of blood (Leviticus 17:11) so the goat’s blood had to be shed.  That still leaves me with the question, what did the scapegoat represent?

The scapegoat released into the desert represents our T’ShuvahIt represents our willingness to let go of our sinful desires and remove them totally from our lives. That is why all the people were present when the goat was released. It meant that we all were giving up our sinful ways and desires.

Atonement is a five-step process:

  1.  You commit a sin (after all, without sin there is nothing to be forgiven for);
  2. Recognizing and taking responsibility for that sin;
  3. Doing T’shuvah (repentance);
  4.  Shedding innocent blood to atone for the sin, and finally
  5.  Asking forgiveness from God by means of the first four steps we took.

Yeshua’s sacrifice was more than just as the “Passover Lamb”; his death fulfilled the meaning of the two Holy Days most associated with freedom from both physical and spiritual death: Passover and Yom Kippur.

On the execution stake, Yeshua took upon himself all our sins just as the Yom Kippur scapegoat does, and when he died, just as the scapegoat sacrificed to Azazel, he carried them not just into the desert but beyond the grave. He also fulfilled the role of the goat sacrificed on the altar, the one whose blood atoned for the sins and made it possible for God to forgive us.

The blood of the Passover lamb gave protection from death and the Yom Kippur blood allows forgiveness of sin. Passover and Yom Kippur, although two separate Holy Days, through Yeshua have become spiritually one and the same thing.

In the Acharit HaYamim (the End Times) when Yeshua returns and we are all gathered up into the clouds with Him, then will the ultimate fulfillment of both of these festivals be realized. Yeshua is both the Passover Lamb and the Yom Kippur scapegoat. When He said He was the beginning and the end it meant more than just some timeline: he is the beginning of our eternal life and the end of our sin.

Praise God for his goodness and mercy, and give thanks to Yeshua, ha Maschiach for his sacrifice so that we could all be saved.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share me out to friends, family, and anyone seeking to know the Lord and Messiah better.

Until next time, L’hitraot and may you have an easy fast.

My Problem with the Gospel of John

In case you didn’t get the hint from the title, let me give a caveat to those reading this who are infatuated with the Gospel of John: you ain’t gonna like what I am about to say.

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Before we begin I want to point out that many scholars doubt the authenticity of the author of pretty much every book in the Bible. From my research, it seems most scholars agree that the Gospels were not written by the ones they are named for, and the true writers of the Epistles in the New Covenant are also subject to doubt. We know for certain that scribes interpreted the Codex’s and letters they had been given when formulating the New Covenant and that men decided which books and letters should be included, and which should be excluded (meaning not a divinely-inspired item), and those men were mainly Gentiles who had accepted Yeshua. I have found anything to indicate that there was a single Jewish person who was part of the group that decided what would be included in the New Covenant.

So is the Bible the exact word of God? Is it God-inspired teaching? Or is it the work of men writing what they think God meant? The answer is this: each of us must choose what we will believe.

Let me tell you a little something about me, so you know where I am coming from.

I was brought up in a Jewish home, am Jewish by descent, and over 20 years ago I accepted Yeshua as the Messiah God promised to send to the Jews, and then to the world.  I have been studying the Bible ever since; I have a Certificate of Messianic Studies and have served in two separate houses of worship (a Messianic synagogue and a Hebraic Roots church) on their Counsel and as one of the leaders of the Shabbat services. I say this to establish that I do believe in Yeshua (Jesus) and have a good, working knowledge and understanding of the entire Bible, which has been independently confirmed to me by more than just a handful of spiritually mature people.

Now, let’s talk a bit about the Bible so we are all on the same page.

The Torah (first 5 books) is more than just a set of laws: it is a historical narrative that tells us how God created everything, made mankind to be a steward of the world he created, and gave us free will so we could choose to love and worship him. He chose a man (Abraham) and told him his descendants would become a nation (“The Jews”) and be a blessing to the world (Genesis 22:18), and God told Moses that the Jews are to be his nation of priests to the world (Ex. 19:6.) For that to happen, God gave Moses the Torah, which is the instructions from God telling us how we are to worship him and how we are to treat each other; Moses was to teach the Torah to the Jewish people so they could teach it to the world.

Before Moses dies he tells us of one who will come to lead the people and will be a prophet like him, and throughout the books of the Prophets we read of God’s continual confirmation of this promise to send us a Messiah, who will gather the Jews back into their nation and, with them, all the Goyim (the other nations) into eternal communion with God.

The Old Covenant, which is misnamed “The Jewish Bible”, ends about 400 years before the coming of Yeshua, with the rebuilding of the Temple and the wall surrounding Jerusalem. The New Covenant is the continuation of this narrative, which begins with the Gospels, telling of the arrival of Yeshua, his ministry, teachings, death and resurrection which (along with the miracles he performed during his ministry) prove that he is the Messiah God promised to send.

The rest of the New Covenant is composed of one book telling of the events that occurred during the early years of the acceptance of Yeshua as the Messiah (Acts), followed by the letters written by Shaul (Paul) to the congregations of Messianic Gentiles he formed throughout Asia and the Middle East, as well as letters which were written by other disciples to both Believing Gentiles and Believing Jews. It ends with (in my opinion) the almost impossible to interpret or understand Book of Revelation, the spiritual vision given to John on Patmos of the End Times, known in Judaism as the Acharit HaYamim.

Now let’s get into the main point of today’s rather long message, and thank you for staying with me this far.

The first three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are called the Synoptic Gospels because they are fairly straight-forward in their style and writing. Matthew is the most “Jewish” identifying Yeshua as King (some 35 times), Mark identifies him as a servant, and Luke identifies him as the Savior. All three are written in a way that is easy to follow.

Now we come to the Gospel of John, called the Spiritual Gospel. It is anything but easy to follow, using many series of verses that are so circular that by the time one is done reading it one forgets what the point was. Another difference is that the other three show Yeshua to be human endowed with power from God, but in John, we are told that Yeshua and God are one. This is a significant difference between John and the other Gospels and has been misinterpreted (or purposefully misused?) to provide the basis for forming the Doctrine of Trinity.

John isn’t just different from the other three Gospels, it is in opposition to them; let me give you some examples.

In the three, Yeshua does not make public the fact that he is the Messiah.

After cleansing men of their diseases:

Mark 1:43-44Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

Matthew 8:4…Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 

After exorcising demons:

Mark 1:23-25… Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!”

Luke 4:41...Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.

After Kefa (Peter) proclaims he is the Messiah:

Matthew 16:20…Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

However, in John Yeshua publically announces he is the Messiah on more than one occasion:

With the woman at the well:

John 4:25-26The woman said, “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”

In the synagogue:

John 5:46…If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.

At the temple in Jerusalem:

John 7:28-29Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”

One exception is in Luke 4 when we read how Yeshua, after reading from the scroll of Isaiah about the Messiah, tells the people there that what he read to them is now fulfilled.

One other major difference between the three and John is that in the three, Yeshua never claimed to be divine, yet in John, he constantly claims to be one with the Father, implying he is the father. In the three, here are examples of where he talks of the father as a separate entity:

Matthew 11:27…All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Matthew 26:39…Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Luke 23:34…Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Matthew 18:14…In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.

Yet in John, Yeshua constantly claims he is divine and that he the Father are the same:

John 10:30…I and the Father are one.”

John 8:58Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!
                    (In Judaism, God is often referred to as “the great I am!”)

John 1:1…In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

I am sure we can find more such examples within the Gospels, but I am not trying to overload people with biblical quotes, only to show the difference in the intent of these Gospels: the first three show Yeshua to be a man empowered by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and who tells no one (except his Disciples) that he is the Messiah, and never claims to be God. Whereas in John’s Gospel, Yeshua constantly makes a public announcement that he is the Messiah and claims to be equal with God.

How much more in opposition can you get?

A more subtle issue I have with John is John 8:17, where Yeshua is arguing with the Pharisees and says, “In your own Law (some versions have Torah) it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true.” Now, at the very beginning of this Gospel John tells us that Yeshua is the Torah come to life (John 1:14) so why then does Yeshua say “your law”? Why didn’t he say “in the law”? Or better yet, because he is Jewish, say “in our law”? The way this verse is worded is a subtle implication that separates Yeshua from the Law (Torah), which became one of the foundation stones on which the early “church” built the teaching that Yeshua and Christians are separate from Judaism, altogether.

And THAT is my major problem with the Gospel of John – its wording and the constant reference to Yeshua and God as one entity is so far afield of Judaic thought that I cannot believe it was written by a Jewish follower of Yeshua.

We also have to consider that it is the youngest of the four Gospels, written probably at the very end of the First Century, certainly not by the same John that lived with Yeshua, and during a time when the (now called) Christians, composed mainly of Gentiles, began to separate themselves from the mainstream Jewish population. John was written around the same time Ignatius of Antioch proclaimed Sunday as the Sabbath and that Christians and Jews cannot possibly be together.

These were the days when the Gentile Messianic congregations, who were initially converting to Judaism (since there was no other religion except the Roman one) wanted to be seen as separate from the Jews in Judea. They didn’t want Rome to come after them like they were going after the non-believing Jewish population, which was in a political rebellion.

The separation between followers of Yeshua and Judaism was made complete at the Council of Nicene when Emperor Constantine created the dogma, traditions, holidays, and doctrine that is modern Christianity.

My opinion is that the Gospel of John was written by Gentile Believers who wanted to turn followers of Yeshua away from Judaism.

If it was up to me, I would take the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, the Book of Acts and the Book of Revelation, add them to the Tanakh and that would make the Bible complete. It would be a homogeneous narrative of God and his works, from creation through mankind, their failures and their successes, the Messiah coming and the final Judgement.

The letters from Shaul and the other items aren’t really necessary for the completion of the narrative God gave us through Moses and the Prophets.  The letters from the apostles were all written mostly to Gentiles converting to a form of Judaism who were confused and having troubles within their congregations. These letters speak of God and his laws, and of Yeshua and his teachings, but they have nothing “new” in them. And because Gentiles back then didn’t understand the cultural nuances and forms of argumentation that Jews use, and also (as I mentioned earlier) because they wanted to separate themselves from the Jews Rome was persecuting, they misinterpreted these letters and  have taught this wrongful understanding throughout the centuries, so that today Christians believe the Jews have their Torah and Christians have Jesus.

I don’t think the letters of the Apostles are valid as scripture and I would get rid of the Gospel of John, too, which (from my experience) many Christians I have known find to be the “best” Gospel for new Believers to read. And I can see why- it confirms Trinitarianism and separates Jesus from Jews. Add to that the traditional Christian misinterpretations of the Epistles and you come up with the “Jesus nailed the Law to the Cross” and the “Once saved, always saved” lies, leading people away from God’s instructions and into lawlessness.

So there you have it! Label me a heretic!

You have to decide if you think I have a valid point or not, and if you want to discuss it I am open to discussion, but I can tell you right now that you will not change my mind about this. I have prayed an awful lot on it, and if I am doing John, God or Yeshua an injustice, then that will be between them and me.

Today I wanted to share with you my misgivings about the Gospels of John, and that is what I have done.

Thank you for being here and especially for staying through this message, one of the longest I have ever given through this ministry.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!