Force-fed spirit

Have you ever seen a horse get a pill? They take a sort-of gun, stick it deep down the horse’s throat, put the pill inside and push a plunger that forces the pill down its gullet. It’s not very easy to do, and it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun for the horse, either.  I am willing to bet the more you do it, the less likely the horse will be willing to cooperate. And I guarantee he will hate that gun!

It is the same way with humans and religion. When we are brought up with religion as a part of our lives, it can be either an edifying and pleasant experience, or it can be a pain in the tuchas, generating resentment. I wanted to have a Bar Mitzvah, and I am appreciative that my parents went along with it, but they didn’t really care one way or the other. I know many Catholics who went to Catholic school, all the way through high school, and never learned one thing about God. They didn’t want to because it was force-fed to them. They read the Catechism, studied hard, and at their Confirmation, when the Priest told them they had the spirit of Christ in them, all they felt was relief that it was over.

I am sorry, but no one can tell you you have the spirit of God in you- you need to accept it yourself. You are saved by faith, not by giving the correct answer on a quiz.

How many of you know someone who has turned from God only because they had Him shoved down their throats from an early age? I met a woman once (and that was enough) who was raised Ultra-Orthodox, and as soon as she grew old enough to be on her own, she converted to become a Quaker. Then she started to find any other Jew-turned-Quaker person she could. I met her when I was leading the Shabbat services for an assisted living facility. I did a totally Jewish (i.e., non-Messianic) service and the funny thing is: there were only 1 or 2 Jewish people, and about 10-12 Gentiles attending. Yet, this “converted” woman raised a stink that I was teaching about Jesus and she insisted (now remember- she turned her back on Judaism and became a Quaker) that Jesus has nothing to do with Shabbat services. She even told me, after I confirmed that I was Messianic, that we were alike, both of us have given up our Judaism.

No, I didn’t hit her, although…..

It ended up that I stopped doing the services because the management was afraid of upsetting her. That’s what comes from force-feeding people religion. They grow up hating the religion, but still feeling tied to it, so they end up confused and bigoted. It turns them away from God.

Whether Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, whatever- when we raise our children we need to teach them about God, not about religion.  Remember: God has no religion, only people do. And look how we screw up everything we touch, so maybe it’s best to teach our kids about God and let them decide about religion on their own.

Yes- this is a somewhat radical thought. I confess I can’t give any experiential advice since I didn’t get to raise my children. All I can suggest is that they be taught the word of God, straight from the Bible. If you are a church-going worshipper, taking them along is necessary when they are too young to be on their own. But once they can be left at home, they should get to choose. It is important that the parents show them the “fun” side of worship, keep them involved in the congregational and social aspects of worship. If the place where you worship doesn’t have children-friendly activities, you should find another place.  It is important that children are raised with God representing fun and peacefulness. We need to fill them with the joy and wonder that David felt.

Of course, this means the parents have to know the Lord, intimately. Everyone of the people I know who is not “saved” is religious by practice, but they don’t practice their religion. They just go through the motions: go to services on Shabbat or Sunday, go to the main Holiday or Holy Day celebrations, write a check for what is comfortable (i.e., not tithing correctly, but tithing conveniently), follow the regulations they are comfortable with and find excuses to ignore the ones they don’t like. You know what I am talking about, don’t you?

And this isn’t just for non-Believers. Oh no! We all know some “Buffet Believers”, too.

The Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, is available to all of us. In the days before Yeshua, it was given and then taken back. Once the breach sin causes between God and people was repaired by the sacrificial death and resurrection of Yeshua, the Ruach became available for us to have and keep. It is now a lifetime gift. We need to treat it with the respect and awe it deserves, and not hand it out like someone calling for the next deli customer:

“OK. Number 17- got your answers ready? Hello? Number 17?  Number 17!- speak up now or you will go to Hell!”

No, no,no…the giving of the Holy Spirit can only be from God. It always has been from God, and can only be from God. And only when someone of age asks for it. The Elders of the Messianic Community laid hands on people and they were given the Spirit, but it didn’t come from the Elders- it came from God! The Elders were nothing more than a conduit for the Spirit to transfer through. Just as the miracles that were done were from the power of God and not from the power of men, so ,too, the Spirit is transferred through us. It can be given directly from God, or through those God chooses to use. But it is ALWAYS from God. And we must want it.  We must ask for it; at least, if we want to keep it. There are some stories in the Bible when God did give His Ruach for a time, even though the people didn’t ask for it: for example, the few elders who refused to attend Moses’s meeting when he called for the 70 Elders and Shaul, the King, when he first was to be anointed.

But if we want to have God’s Holy Spirit in us forever, we must ask Him for it. It can’t be handed out like Halloween candy or grade school test papers. It is way too valuable to just throw to someone who may not even care about it and are just doing what they are doing because they are told they have to. That’s not how to teach others to love the Lord with all their heart, soul and might.

Here’s the hardest part of all- the best way (I think) to teach our children, and anyone else (for that matter) about God’s wonderful peace and the joy of salvation, is to show them what it is. We need to be living water ourselves, and to demonstrate how accepting the Ruach has changed us for the better. How it has given us peace in a world full of disarray, how it holds us together during times when we just want to fall apart, and how it gives us hope for the future. I don’t see how anyone can feel peaceful when they think everything that exists, everything that has ever happened, and anything that might ever happen, is all by chance. No control, no plan, no way that anything you want will come to be except by luck. How can anyone live with that? No wonder they are so lost; in fact, they are so lost they think they know where they are. They think they are in control. It is the blind leading the blind.

Teach your kids, your friends and loved ones, even your enemies, about God by showing them what He has done for you. Make them jealous for His spirit, make them desire the peace you feel (which you need to show) and the joy you get when you worship. If they don’t go to worship, talk about it. Don’t ram it down their throat, just mention it in passing. And always find a way to bring God into the  conversation; gently, just as an aside (‘you know, there is a story about that I read in a book once….’ Don’t tell them it’s from the Bible until after you have told it. They will think it’s gossip and be all-attentive, so by the time you tell them the meaning and the source, God’s word will have been spread. And His word never returns void.)

OK, that is a little sneaky, but we are lambs in a fold of wolves- we need to be gentle as doves and wise as serpents (that’s from the Bible, you know. I’ll give you a hint- look for it in Mattitayu.)

This is a hard thing to do- live as God wants us to live. None of us do it totally correct. I confess I don’t do it well, at all. But I try, and I know that it does work sometimes. I am so totally blessed when someone asks me if I am a Believer because they noticed how I act. I am so proud of myself, and happy that I must be pleasing the Lord to get asked that question. Oh, Lord- if only I was asked that question daily! I am so sorry that I am not.

How do your kids feel about God? How do your friends, the ones that aren’t Believers, feel about God? Do they see Him in you?

No Pain; No Gain

Having been very active in sports during High School, and throughout my life, I have a deep and intimate understanding of the title for today’s Drash.

It’s not wise to hurt yourself, but when you push your muscles to their limit, you will feel it over the next couple of days. It is a “good” hurt because, although having sore muscles does hurt, it represents that you have done a good job, you pushed yourself to the limits of your ability, and (so far as physical exercise is concerned) that means you will gain more muscle and endurance.

Real muscle grows when you destroy it. When you feel that “burn” and your muscle is “pumped”, the excess blood flow that causes that feeling is going there in order to help the destroyed tissue. The destroyed tissue isn’t just replaced; the body builds more tissue than there was originally. That is how body-builders get those large muscles (even without the ‘roids’). The constant destroying of muscle and careful rebuilding through proper diet and rest results in larger and stronger muscles, with greater endurance.

Faith is a spiritual muscle that we need to work with, every day. And, just like biceps, pecs and abs, we need to push it to it’s limits; indeed, we need to destroy it so that we can rebuild it to be stronger and more enduring. The way we exercise our faith is to live  in a way that pushes us to do more than we want to do. In other words, we need to force ourselves to get outside our spiritual comfort zone.

Get more involved in activities at the place where you worship, witness to friends and family, even strangers, more often. Risk their disapproval. Go on mission trips, help the homeless and needy, volunteer, just get off your butts and do something that takes faith. Pray more often (see my section on Prayer for some ideas about that), read the Bible more often, trust more often (oh, that is a hard one). And here’s the really difficult one: forgive more often, and more completely.

Exercise your faith by using it. I gave you some ideas above, but I don’t know what you need to do. I don’t know where your faith is weak…but you do. You know what makes you feel uncomfortable, you know what you don’t like to do, and you know what God is telling you to do. Finally: it’s all about you now.

Search your heart, seek those things that God tells us we should all be doing and that you know you don’t do, and do it!

That’s pushing your spiritual muscles to the limit. And just like the professionals, rest and eat properly. The proper diet is to read the Word of God (Man doesn’t live on bread alone but every word from the mouth of God) for food to nourish your spirit, and rest through intimate and private prayer time with the Lord. Prayer is refreshing to both your soul and your spirit, and even to your physical body.

So get on out there and work those spiritual muscles! Feel the burn, get pumped; Yeshua worked His spiritual muscles completely and showed us how we are to do it. Stop being a Weakling of Worship, and become a Schwarzenegger of Spirit!

Remember: Yeshua was the first one to say, “I’ll be back!”

Where Did the Salvation GPS Go Wrong?

How did it happen? In the First Century, if you were a Gentile (read that as Pagan, ’cause that’s all there was if you weren’t Jewish) and you accepted Yeshua as your Messiah, you were becoming Jewish. In Acts we read how the Elders decided, in regards to what the new Believers had to do, on four things (not eat food sacrificed to idols, not eat anything strangled, not eat the blood, and no fornication) that were initially forbidden. These were never meant to be the only things that were forbidden, it was just a stepping stone. When you read the rest of that section you see they justified this as being the start because the law of Moses would be read every Shabbat, indicating (clearly) that the new Believers were expected to be worshipping at Shabbat services and they would learn the other laws and requirements there. So, in essence, being a Gentile who wanted salvation during Yeshua’s time meant becoming Jewish.

Today, when a Jewish person wants to accept Yeshua as his or her Messiah, the Gentile world, which has overall rejected Torah, tells that person they must stop being Jewish and become a Christian. And what requirements are there? Do they have regulations regarding food- no. Do they have regulations regarding the Ten Commandments- not really, since Grace is supposed to cover everything. Actually, the only regulation they have is that you must reject the Torah and Judaism! I have been told, and I have heard from many others that they were also told, “You aren’t really under the blood of Christ if you still do those Jewish things.”

So sad.

When I was studying for my Certificate in Messianic Studies, I had an essay question asking how the separation between Judaism and Christianity occurred. Here is what I said:

As more and more Gentiles came to be grafted in, the Jewish representation became less and less. As persecution of the Jews grew during the 3rd and 4th centuries it actually was safer for believers to be “less Jewish”. Of course, Constantine didn’t help things, either. Eventually the Jewishness was overwritten with Gentile ideals and cultural ways, so that the church grew apart from the roots. It is like the scientific principle of phototropism. Phototropism is the tendency for a plant to grow towards the sunniest area, which explains why so many trees have trunks that are weirdly shaped. The church, which was grafted in and at first learning about the light (of the world) grew towards that light. What happened was the Enemy shone another light that detracted them from the true light and their branches grew in the wrong direction.

Did I mean to say that the “Church” is now of the Devil? As dangerous as this may be to admit, the truth is: that is exactly what I meant.

Now, now…don’t get all up in a fury. It is a hard word to hear, but before you send hate mail and stop following my ministry-blog, think about this: God gave us the Torah. He gave it to everyone who is to follow and worship Him. John says that there was the Word (Torah- it was the only word of God there was then), and the Word became flesh (he was talking about Yeshua- duh!). Now, later on Yeshua tells us that a house divided against itself cannot stand. So…if the Word/Torah became flesh, that means Yeshua is the living Word of God, or the Living Torah. If He taught that we should not obey or follow Torah, He is a house divided against Himself. In fact, it would be the same as Yeshua saying, “Don’t pay attention to what I say.” Now, no one will argue that Ha Satan is the enemy of God, right?  And does the Enemy want us to become closer to God, or does he want to drive a wedge between us and God so that we get so far from God we will worship the Enemy, instead? Okay- I am hoping we are all on the same page here, which is that the Enemy of God doesn’t want us to be close to God.

God says the way to be close to Him, and Yeshua says the way to show we love Him, is to (get ready- here it comes)… OBEY HIS COMMANDMENTS!!!

And where are His commandments? (three guesses, and the first two don’t count)… IN THE TORAH!!!

Get it? Telling people that want salvation that they do not have to obey the Torah separates us from God, it rejects Messiah and demonstrates we do NOT love him. That is the work of the Devil, and anyone who teaches that Yeshua did away with even so much as single stroke of the Torah is doing the work of Ha Satan because it is drawing that person away from God.

Judaism and Christianity should not be different, they should be the same thing. The Manual warns us that in the Acharit HaYamim (the End Days) there will be one world religion and one world government. This is not a bad thing, in and of itself; what makes it work or not work will be who is the one in charge. The Enemy will initially be the one to run things but he will be put down forever and then Yeshua will be the Eternal King of the Earth. Actually, if there is going to be only one religion throughout the world, there really won’t be any religion, will there? It will be  just us and God and the way we live.

In the beginning, salvation was for the Jews. “Jews” meaning anyone and everyone who worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as He commanded us to worship Him. As early as the Exodus we see many Gentiles sojourning with the Jewish people, converting to their way of life and way of worship. When Messiah came, many Jewish people (maybe as many as a quarter of a million Jews) accepted Him and the Grace that God gave through Him. They never stopped practicing Judaism. And through Messiah, salvation now came not just to the Jews, but to the Gentiles, as well.  They were grafted in and thereby saved, so long as they took their spiritual nourishment from the root of the Etz Chaim (Tree of Life, i.e., the Torah.) Gentiles who were saved were becoming Jews, accepting and worshipping a single way before God, as God said they should. That is the way it was at the very beginning, and how it was supposed to be. But we lost our way.

We need to get everyone back on the path that God said to follow. We all need to be getting closer to God, not further away. We need to reset the spiritual GPS so that we follow the straightest path to God, and that leads us to the Torah trail, not the Christian crossroads.

God has no religion, only Torah. Yeshua taught nothing different from Torah. Shaul never taught anything but Torah. John tells us that Yeshua is the Torah.

Hello? Christianity? You there? You listening?  Get with the program and return to working for the right guy.

 

 

Parashah Bereshith (In the Beginning)

This Shabbat we joyfully open our Torah, and just like in this parashah , we begin at the beginning.

This first of the cycle of parashot is a little long, going all the way to Chapter 6, verse 8. It covers the beginning of everything, takes us through creation of man, Cain and Abel, and ends with God’s reluctantly regretting His creation and deciding He needs to start over. The whole Earth is full of sin and wickedness, all except Noah.

What I see in this is the entire plan of God’s salvation. I see creation, the world forming, people coming to know each other and God, then rejecting His rules and killing each other, lusting after their own desires. I see God patiently waiting for people to come back to their senses, which will eventually lead them back to God. But it doesn’t happen. Noah is the only righteous one in the world, and through him there will be a new life, a new beginning, and his descendants will live in a new Earth that will be formed from the remains of the previous one.

It’s not a perfect picture of the Messiah and the Tribulations, true, but I see the same elements in this parashah as we will see when all things come to pass. We have mankind (Adam and Eve) in union with God, but then they break their union by sinning. They are mercifully allowed to live, but no longer in perfect communion as they are ejected from God’s presence. They are fruitful and multiply (one of the more enjoyable commandments to fulfill) but sin is still here, in a cursed world, and although there are some who will form a union with God (Abel), there are those who will not (Cain). And we see that evil will hate and attack righteousness, out of jealousy and frustration. These emotions are the children of the mother of all sin, Pridefulness. Cain’s pride was hurt when God accepted Abel’s sacrifice but rejected his. The Soncino version of the Chumash explains that Abel gave the best he had and his heart was right, but Cain’s heart was not right and his sacrifice was, therefore, unacceptable. Cain’s pridefulness resulted in jealousy, which led to the inevitable result: murder.

Here’s my take on the way things played out, and (if I may say so) I think it is a good template for most every sin:

1.Cain’s pride prevented him from humbling himself;

2. Unhumbled, his frustration grew each time his sacrifice, still unacceptable, was rejected;

3. His frustration grew into anger as he continually saw Abel accepted while he was continually rejected;

4. His anger grows, and without humbling himself he couldn’t direct it at the source (himself) so he projected it against God and Abel;

5. Cain couldn’t do anything against God but he could take out his anger on Abel;

6. Result: the first murder.

Maybe the ultimate sinful expression of our own situation won’t be murder (God forbid!) but it could show itself as gossip, maybe hating in our heart (which Yeshua said is murder, anyway), maybe violence, verbal abuse, adultery, who knows? I believe that pridefulness is the foundation stone upon which almost every sin rests. It is a vicious cycle.

Now the world’s population grows and sin grows with it. There is righteousness, which we see coming through Seth’s bloodlines, but (just like today) the sin is greater than the righteousness. Even in the beginning, those who are God fearing are but a remnant, and it has remained that way even until today. Ultimately, judgement comes with only one chance of survival, and that is through only one man, Noah.

I am not saying that Noah is the Messiah, or ever was supposed to be. What I am saying is just that I see the plan of salvation being shown to us, in a way, in this parashah. It is a “teaser”, like the TV commercial about a new movie shows you pretty much what the story is about, without giving away the details. Creation, sin, loss of perfect communion with God, sin vs. right throughout the world, one righteous man chosen to begin a new relationship with God, judgement and destruction, renewal and a new beginning on a new Earth.

Of course, with Noah things started going downhill almost right away. We can be thankful that with Yeshua, and the “real” final judgement, those  of us who are of the remnant (the Believers who follow God’s laws and commandments as He gave them, not as religion tells us)  will have eternal communion with God, basking in His presence. We will see the new Heavens and the new Earth, and we will return to the way it was in the beginning, before sin entered the picture.

Every Simchat Torah we can look forward to what the Torah, and particularly this parashah, is showing us- that we will return to Gat Eden, we will once again be in the physical presence of the Lord God (Adonai Elohim), and we will be eternally joyful and serene.

I love each time I start reading God’s Word all over again.

Self-Absorbed Salvation

When we become saved, are we better off? Let’s see: saved=Eternal joy; not saved=Eternal suffering.  I would say being saved is better off, wouldn’t you?

When we become saved, do we treat people better than we used to? Being saved should produce good fruit, we should be treating others as we would have them treat us, fruits of the Spirit should be growing within us …yeah, I think it’s safe to say we will be better to people when we are saved, don’t you?

But, when we are saved , does that make us better people?

There are some who treat the Jewish people as reprobate, and say they are rejected by God because they rejected His son. These are called Replacement Theologists. They think that they are the “Israel of God”, as Shaul put it at the end of Galatians (what was he thinking when he wrote that? I don’t know!) They say they are the “real” Jewish people, the true Israel.

They think they are better than real Jews because they are saved.

I don’t know what Bible they read, but it isn’t the one that God gave Moses, that has the writings of the Prophets, or the one that the Talmudim of Yeshua wrote, or the one with the  letters that Shaul sent to the Messianic Congregations he started throughout Asia. I just don’t know how they can think, for a moment, that God lied to the Jewish people when He said they are the apple of His eye, that He will never (note: N-E-V-E-R) forget or forsake them. That unless the heavens above and seas below are measured they will not stop being His people.

But, despite all that God said, these Replacement Theologists think that the Jews are rejected and that they, the Born Again Christians, are better than the Jews. And not just better on Earth, but better in God’s eyes, too.

In Romans, Shaul wrote to the Gentiles warning them against bragging about their salvation and becoming proud and arrogant. He reminded them that if God was willing to lop off a natural branch to graft them in, how much more will He be willing to lop off a branch that never belonged! And how much easier will the natural branch be able to be grafted back in, which is the plan. And when God makes a plan, He sticks to it, and it gets done.

We need to remember that we are all sinners, and no matter what particular sin you do the most, from telling lies, to murder, to adultery, to homosexuality, to stealing, to refusing to celebrate the festivals, to being unforgiving, to …well, the list goes on and on, doesn’t it? The point is that no matter whether or not you are “saved”, you are no better a person than anyone else.

Yeshua warned His Talmudim (Disciples) not to “lord it over each other, as the Gentiles do” but that whomever wants to be the greatest must be the least. If you want to know how a truly saved person should be, he or she should be humble.

Before I was saved, I was a sinner who rationalized my sins; now, I am a sinner who regrets my sins. And because I have asked God’s forgiveness, and accepted the sacrificial death of Yeshua, who I acknowledge as my/the Messiah, I am “saved” from the spiritual consequences of my sinfulness. By the way, note that I am saved from the spiritual consequences- sin still causes injury and will always have serious consequences in the natural world.

Replacement Theology is a lie from the pit of Sheol. All I can say about it is this: in the vision (revelation) given to Yochanan when he was on Patmos Yeshua warned against the Synagogue of Satan. In the Greek, synagogue doesn’t mean a Jewish place of worship. That is a modern meaning. The word refers to a gathering, or collection. You could have a synagogue of chairs, of rocks, or a synagogue of people with a common purpose. The pagan temples were synagogues. So, a “Synagogue of Satan”, in First Century terminology, meant a group of people who were of Satan. Yeshua also went on to define who these people are: they are people who say they are Jews but are not.

Gee, that sounds like the exact definition of Replacement Theologists- people claiming to be Jews who aren’t Jews.

Whether you are a Replacement Theologist or a Gentile who has been grafted in and appreciates God’s wonderful gift of Grace that He made available to you, unless your blood is Jewish blood passed down from your parents and grandparents, you are an adopted son or daughter of Abraham. You are a member of the Family of God, if you will, but an adopted one. The Jews are God’s chosen people- not chosen because they are better, but because they are no better. In fact, in some ways, they are worse. Throughout our history we have been stiff-necked, we have rejected God over and over, and the ultimate rejection is, truthfully, that congregationally (pardon the pun) we have rejected our own Messiah. And, to make it even more embarrassing, the Gentiles have welcomed Him. Doesn’t sound like anything to brag about to me.  But we are still God’s chosen- He is absolutely clear, with no chance of mistake, and repeated throughout His Word,  He reminds us that despite how stupid we have been and still are, despite how stubborn, despite how foolish, and despite how adulterous we have been over the Millennia, He will always accept us back when we do T’Shuvah and just as God always has been, is, and always will be, we (Jewish people) have been, are, and always will be God’s chosen people.

Chosen not because we are better, but chosen because of one man’s faithfulness, and the faithfulness of many others after him, and the continued faithfulness of the Messianic community within Judaism. And the faithfulness of the “mainstream” Jewish people- don’t think that not accepting Messiah Yeshua means that all Jews are faithless. Most are just ignorant of the truth because they have been taught that Yeshua is not the Messiah. They are just what Yeshua called them- lost sheep. But they have not lost their faith in God or His promise of a Messiah- they faithfully wait. They just don’t realize, yet, His true identity.

Being saved should make us better to other people, but it doesn’t make us better than other people. And it certainly doesn’t make you a “Jew” if you are saved.

Be appreciative for God’s plan of salvation, partake in it wholly and joyfully, and help others to find their way back to God through Messiah Yeshua. But never, never, never think you are better than anyone because you are saved. You, I, all of us- we are still sinners, and being saved makes us no better than anyone else in the world.

It just makes us saved.

 

Holy Day or Holiday?

I would like to start this Drash with an excerpt from the chapter in my book (see link at bottom right of page) dealing with this topic:

“Two men talking…,”…so I came to the conclusion that I’m agnostic, but when I realized they don’t have any holidays I thought it best to just stick with my reform synagogue.”

    Why is it important to know the difference between a holiday and a Holy Day? After all, don’t they both mean the same thing? Probably so, to most people. But I think there is a difference between the two, and I also think it is important to know what that difference is. And, since it’s my book, I get to write about what I want to.

   Seriously, it is important to know the difference, and in that light I will ask you to accept (for the purposes of this book) the following definitions: a Holy Day is a celebration, or festival, which God has commanded to be observed. A holiday is a celebration, or festival, which has been created by humans and is a traditional, not biblical, observance. 

   Please understand that I have absolutely nothing against man-made celebrations. I also have nothing against traditions, EXCEPT when a tradition is given more importance than the actual word of God. Traditions are fine, but He comes first.”

We are just about at the end of the High Holy Days in Judaism. Tomorrow is Simchat Torah (that means the Joy of Torah) when we read the last part of Deuteronomy and then, while we sing and dance, roll back the scrolls to the very beginning and read the first few lines in Genesis. Often this holiday (note: holiday, not holy day) is also celebrated by parading the Torah through the streets (And the Word shall go out from Yerushalayim…) with Shofar blowing and joyous singing. It is truly a wonderful thing to start reading the Torah all over again. Ya gotta love the Bible!

But it is not a festival that God told us to celebrate. It is a holiday– a man-made event that is a traditional celebration, just like the netilat yadayim (hand washing) ceremony that we read about in Mark. Just like promising a Korban (again, see Mark) or any of the many, many other Rabbinic traditions and ceremonies that are Talmudic but not Biblical. And if you really want pomp and ceremony, check out some of the Gentile holidays and traditions. You’d think they would have learned from the Jews, but it was not to be.

Why care about the difference? Maybe it doesn’t matter. I guess you could make an argument that every religious holiday (I am not talking about anything in Leviticus 23) is meant to honor God, and how can that be wrong? I think that would be a good argument, and I wouldn’t have a problem with that, except that today most of these holidays do not honor God: they only create more retail sales. They honor the economy more than they honor God.

I mean, it’s not even Halloween (clearly, no one can think that Halloween honors the Lord!) and already I see Christmas commercials on TV, stores are putting up Christmas decorations, and I haven’t even partaken of my November tryptophan yet!  Oy! If we keep going at this rate, we will “lap” Christmas and by April of 2016 they will be running Christmas 2017 sales!

The traditions of our people (Jews and Gentiles, alike) are not bad, in and of themselves. Traditions help create solidarity, a common foundation, and can often help one to get closer to God, so long as they do not interfere or overrule what God has commanded of us. This was the point that Yeshua was making during His ministry. He didn’t have an issue with the traditions, He had an issue with the Pharisees forcing the people to perform traditions at the expense of what God said they should do. There are plenty of examples of this throughout the Good News books.

We need to be careful about this, i.e., knowing the difference between what God has told us to do and what our religious leaders tell us we should do. And we need to know the difference, especially now, as we see prophecy coming to fruition all around us.

I believe the Enemy will make Himself known slowly, and we will not know what he is doing to us until it is already done, unless we keep our spiritual eyes open and trust no one. Not the Rabbi, not the Priest, not the Minister or Chaplin…not no one, not no how, not no way.

What we need to do is trust in the Word of God. You need to read it and thereby learn the difference between what is man-made and what is God-commanded. Like I said, I believe the Enemy will take charge slowly, and the best way to do that is through what we are all comfortable with. He isn’t going to jump out of a cake and say, “Hiya!! I’m the Son of Perdition and I am here to destroy you. Line up and take the mark- be the first on your block to suffer in hell for  all Eternity. Order your very own mark now…operators are standing by.”

Uh-uh…not going to happen that way. He will appear, at first, to be somewhat powerless. A nobody that came up with a popular notion or fad. Then the fad will become a tradition, just like the other traditions we all find comfortable and easily follow (like sheep) and practice. Eventually, once we are suckered into the traditional practices, the tradition will become a regular part of our life, and he will introduce activities that are God-less and satanic, but it will be so subtle, it will fit so easily into what we are doing already, that before we know it we will be lining up for the mark and not even realize what we are doing.

OK, maybe I am getting a little too apocalyptic, thinking that celebrating Simchat Torah will lead me to satanic worship. Honestly, I don’t think that’s a concern. But human stupidity, ignorance and pride is a concern, and it is as much a part of us as breathing and eating. If we aren’t watching with spiritual eyes, and discerning using the Ruach, we are doomed. The Enemy is much more devious than we are, and he knows how to get in our brains, in our daily lives, and how easily we can be led (or misled, for that matter.) And he has no fear of God. He knows he’s lost, he just doesn’t want to admit it to himself, so he is going to take as many down with him as he can. Remember this: in Revelations it says that “most” will be apostatised. Not a few, not a lot, but most- that means a lot more than just half . That means more like 70-80% of all Believers will reject God and throw away their salvation.

Worship God as He said to worship Him- celebrate the Holy Days that God has commanded we should celebrate. And I mean everyone- these are not “Jewish” holy days, these are the festivals that God (your God and mine) said that those who worship Him are to celebrate. Everyone! Start there, and slowly, carefully review and scrutinize every non-Biblical holiday you have ever enjoyed. If it seems “correct” according to the Manual, celebrate it as it should be celebrated- in a way that honors God. Leave K-Mart, Target, Amazon, et.al. out of it.

As the old saying goes, “Keep the Christ in Christmas.” And be careful to celebrate only those celebrations, and only in those ways, that give glory to God.

Parashah Chol HaMo’ed Sukkot (Intermediate Reading for Sukkot: Exodus 33:12 – 34:26)

Sukkot is one of the Holy Days which we are commanded to celebrate in Leviticus 23. It is one of the three Holy Days when we are to go to the Temple in Yerushalayim (Pesach and Shavuot being the other ones.)

At this time we build a Sukkah, which is essentially an open roofed tabernacle or tent, and we are to live in it for the next 7 days. This is a reminder of how our fathers lived in the desert.

This festival is more than just a memorial to our ancestors; it is a celebration of our relationship, our close relationship, with God. And not just as a people, but individually.

This parashah relates how Moshe asked God to go with the people- it comes after the people rebelled against God while Moshe was on the mountain, when Moshe destroyed the first set of tablets God gave him. Moshe is back on the mountain, and begging God to continue to live with the people as they travel through the desert. In fact, Moshe asks God to just  leave them there if He won’t go with them because it is not the people that matter, it is God’s presence with them that demonstrates who they are.

When God is with us, it proves we are His people. His presence is what separates us from the rest of the world, and for those who accept Messiah Yeshua as being the Messiah, the Anointed One of God and the promised salvation, and who have received the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit), they have God’s presence with them, just as the children of Israel had His presence in the desert.

In the desert, He traveled as a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night, but today as we walk through this desert we call “life”, God is with us always by means of the indwelling Ruach. That means that our bodies are, in a way, the ultimate Sukkah. This correlates to what Shaul said when he told us that our bodies are the temple housing the spirit of God. I have heard Christian teachings that allude to this, too, calling our bodies the Church.

As a Jewish man, I am not, and probably never will be, comfortable with the idea that I go to “church”, let alone that I am a “church.” I know it’s just a word, but words have power and the image and memories that the word “church” bring forth are not pleasant to me.

On the other hand, I like considering myself a Sukkah, where God and I congregate. Add to that how joyful it is to tabernacle with the Lord God, and that is an image I can live with!

Sukkot lasts seven days, but we celebrate for 8 days. The eighth day is called Sh’Mini Atzeret, and that is also called the holiday of Simchat Torah (note: holiday, not Holy Day.) This is a Rabbinical day of celebration, not a biblical one. The Rabbinical explanation is that God was so happy being with His people during those seven days that He extended it an additional day. Again, not in the bible as a God-declared festival, but a nice thought and a joyful way to celebrate the Torah, which is also God’s presence with us, is it not?

See: I’m not against everything that is traditional, just those that go against what God wants or says.

Final thought for today: in the desert, God’s presence was shown through His manifestation as a cloud and as fire. Moshe wrote the Torah, and after they came into the Land, God’s physical presence no longer went with them. But they had the Torah, which is not just God’s laws, regulations, and (overall) teachings, but it is, in a way, God, Himself. He tells us who He is (this portion also contains the 13 Attributes of God, which He announces as he passes by Moshe) and who we are, in relation to Him. Therefore, in my thinking, the Torah is God; not a manifestation, but it is who and what He is. Yochanan says that first there was the Word, then the Word became flesh. Do you think the “Word” he refers to is the Torah? I do. That’s why I feel comfortable believing that the Torah is God- not a manifestation of Him, but His essence and (thereby) His presence.  In the same way that our bodies are a Sukkah, the Torah is God; it is a spiritual relationship expressed by a tangible thing.

So, the Torah is with the people always, representing God’s presence. And the ultimate demonstration of God’s presence with His people is the Ruach HaKodesh. Unlike the cloud or fire, which appeared visible to all, and unlike the Torah, which is  tangible thing, the Ruach is His presence living inside of us. Every breath, every heartbeat, every thought…He is here sharing our life, living every moment of it in total communion.

Sukkot is one of the more joyful Holy Days we have, and for those who have accepted the Grace of the Almighty, we get to celebrate Sukkot every single day, and for the rest of our life.

Sweet!

Forgive Yourself as You Would Forgive Others

This evening is Kol Nidre, the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is all about forgiveness, and usually we concentrate on asking God to forgive us. We ask that He move from the Throne of Judgement to the Throne of Forgiveness, and we are to “afflict our souls” as we request His forgiveness. But it shouldn’t be just about God forgiving us, or about us forgiving others. It should also be about us forgiving ourselves.

It’s strange, isn’t it? That we should be able to forgive others but often we can’t forgive ourselves?  The Manual tells us we should do unto others as we do unto ourselves, and that we will be forgiven as we forgive others. Isn’t the converse true? Are we as willing to forgive ourselves as we are others? If God is willing to forgive us, but we don’t forgive ourselves, then isn’t that the same as saying we are above God, in that He is willing to let it go but we won’t? We think what He does isn’t good enough, He’s too easy- we should be punished! If we think that, then we are saying what we think and feel is more important than what God thinks and feels. That’s idolatry- we put ourselves before God and above Him when we refuse to do what He is willing to do.

If you feel there is something you have done which is so bad you can’t believe God will forgive you, then you just don’t understand Grace. In Romans 5 Shaul tells us that as sin is increased, so to is Grace. Basically, there isn’t a sin big enough that God’s Grace can’t cover it. In fact, Kippur (as in Yom Kippur) doesn’t really mean “atonement”, it means “covering.”  God is covering our sin, like a mother hen protects her chicks by covering them with her wings.

What I find wonderful is that God is not just able to forgive, and not just willing to forgive, but that He wants to forgive!  He even has a means to forgive us for sins we committed in error (see Numbers 15.) In Ezekiel He says He gets no pleasure from seeing the sinners die, but that He would rather they do T’Shuvah and live. His forgiveness is more than just something He does- it’s what He wants to do. I can’t imagine that anyone who even thinks God could exist is not able to grasp that we are sinful and He is willing to overlook that if we only ask Him to do so.

But God is no fool. Just because He will forgive sins doesn’t mean that it’s OK to sin. Today Christianity is teaching that Grace covers everything to the degree that sin is not an issue anymore. We are “under the blood of Christ”; He died for our sins so we are forgiven.  All who call on His name are saved and we are forgiven everything. Just so long as you say you are a Believer and you call on His name you are saved, your sins are forgiven and you get to go to heaven. Just confess and ask forgiveness and you are clean. Hallelujah!  That’s not Grace from sin they are teaching, it’s license to sin. People are being taught that their sins are forgiven simply by asking God to do so, and although that is technically correct, it implies that to continue to sin will have no detrimental effect on your salvation.

That is a lie from the pit of hell! If you continue to sin, without concern, without truly being repentant, you better bring along an umbrella and plenty of Coppertone when you meet the Lord before the Throne. You can ask, and it will be given unto you, but not if you don’t really repent. And the way to be repentant is to stop sinning.

Atonement is not a one-time, slam-blam-I-forgive-you-Ma’am thing. It’s a process. First and foremost, you have to own your sin. That means to recognize your own sinfulness and take responsibility for it. Next, you must do T’Shuvah, that is, turn from your sins. You must really, really want to not sin anymore. Once you have done this, you “own” your sin. And when you own something, you have the right and ability to give it away. That’s the third step- give that sin to God. Ask Him to take it from you, and then “go, and sin no more” (see if you can find that Bible quote.)

This is the start of one of the holiest of the High Holy Days. Even though we have been forgiven, even though we, Believers, understand and accept the Grace of God made possible through the ultimate and final atonement that Yeshua made on our behalf, we still should observe Yom Kippur. Why? Well, first off, it’s a commandment. Duh!! Second, Shaul tells us we should suffer with those that are suffering- not eating or drinking for 24 hours is certainly my idea of suffering!

No, seriously, we should observe this festival because God said we should and to show our non-accepting (of Yeshua) Brothers and Sisters that Messianic Jews do what God said we should do, that we follow the Torah and that being Born Again/ Messianic is not a different religion- it is what being Jewish is all about. It is the epitome of Judaism; to not just follow Torah and hope for a Messiah, but to know the Messiah and be part of God’s plan of redemption. Actually, it is beyond Judaism, it is beyond any religion- it is doing as God said we should do. It is following His commandments. It is being faithfully obedient.

Remember- God has no religion. If you say you believe in God and want to follow Him, to do as Yeshua did, then you better know Torah because that’s the User Manual for the program called Salvation.

When we pray this evening and throughout tomorrow, remember that you need to forgive yourself, too. Also understand that the solidarity we have with the unsaved Jewish people is in our prayers. Look at the prayers- they are often not asking for individual forgiveness, but for corporate forgiveness. The Prophets accepted responsibility for the sins of the people, the Cohen Ha Gadol (High Priest) transferred the sins of the people to the goat or bull to be sacrificed. We are not just asking for our individual forgiveness, but we are interceding for all the people, everywhere. This day is not just about you- it’s about all of us.

Lastly, let me ask you to think of Yom Kippur not just as a holy day, but as an every day activity. In Judaism this day is the culmination of the Days of Awe and leads us into the final festival of this time (Sukkot) when we (now clean) can enter into communion with God as our Fathers did, by living in Sukkot (Tabernacles, or tents.) After this week of intimate communion, we begin our cycle again with turning back the Torah (Simchat Torah) and starting our love affair with God, all over again.

L’Shana Tovah- A Rosh HaShanah Drash

For me, a Holy Day is described by God in Leviticus 23, and a holiday is something religion created. This day is sort of both, since the Holy Day is a memorial (Yom Teruah, or Day of Trumpets) and the holiday is the Jewish New Year. Actually, the new year as God tells us, is Pesach (Passover). In Exodus He tells us that the first day we are free from slavery to Egypt is to be the first day of our calendar.

On this day, the traditional Torah reading is the Akedah, or binding, of Isaac (Gen. 21:1-24.) In keeping with this tradition (not all traditions are bad), I would like to offer this Drash:

The fact that God tests us is seen throughout the Tanakh. He does so not to tease or tempt us to do wrong, but to strengthen us. To help us mature, spiritually.  The way to be prepared for a test, any test, is to study. But to study correctly, in other words, to study that which will help you overcome the challenges you are to face, you need to know the subject matter. You don’t study Algebra for a History test, and you don’t develop spiritual maturity through blessings.

That’s right- blessings are the gold star you get after the test. The test is the hard part, and the test stinks to high heaven. The tests are difficult, and never too much for us, so long as we remember to look to God for the strength to pass.  If we try to pass God’s spiritual testing on our own, we will most likely fail. We can’t do it, we need the Ruach to help us overcome our natural sinful sinfulness.

Isn’t that redundant, Steve? Sinful sinfulness? Maybe; the point I want to make is that we don’t just sin, we are sinful, too. We don’t just sin, we want to sin, we need to sin, it’s our natural state of mind. So, we don’t just sin, we live to sin, we desire to sin, we are sinfully, sinful. Thank God that Yeshua overcame this for us.

That’s why testing is so hard, but it doesn’t have to be. God’s tests are an open book test because the Bible is always close at hand, the Ruach is waiting for us to give it a “Shout Out”, and God is standing all around us, waiting to catch us.

Yet, we fail. We manage to avoid the safety net, the harness and the protective gear (that’s in Ephesians) and find a way to still fall flat on our faces. And sometimes when we fall, we land hard on someone else.

That brings us to another tradition: to ask forgiveness of those we have, or may have, sinned against during the past year. This is a Jewish tradition that Jews (probably) don’t know is also confirmed by Yeshua. Yeshua tells us before we bring our offering to God, if someone has something against us we should leave the offering at the altar, go to that person, and ask forgiveness. Gee- you mean Yeshua did something Jewish? Duh!!!

The next 10 days are called “The Days of Awe”, when we become introspectively aware of the many ways we have fallen short of what God has wanted of us. It is time to take off the blinders, to see ourselves as we are, to ask forgiveness of others and at the end, repentant and contrite of heart and spirit, to ask forgiveness of God when this period culminates on Yom Kippur.

I call it the “Days of Aw”, as in ,”Aw, shucks!” because that’s how I feel when I realize how much I know about what God wants, all the knowledge and insight I have gained from His spirit, and look at me- still stupid, still unwilling, still sinning and still trying. I guess the last part is the difference that His spirit has made in me- before I was saved, I was a sinner that rationalized my sins, now I am a sinner that regrets my sins. And even though I sound down on myself, I am glad that I sin less, that I want to do what is right, and that I am improving. Slow as molasses going uphill against the wind in January, but….making progress.

We all fail now and then, Brothers and Sisters, but do not let your failures make you sad- let them be a “test” to strengthen you to do better. And when we fail we only need to remember that Yeshua did not fail, that He passed every test presented to Him, and that because of His success we can get back on track. We must always strive to do better. Do not allow a letdown to cause you to give up on His calling in your life. That’s a cop-out!

Praise the Lord, because when we ask His forgiveness He forgets our failures, and praise the Lord that He always remembers our successes.

One last thought for the day: the Akedah introduces martyrdom to the Bible (even though Isaac was not killed, he was willing to die.) This will become a sadly regular part of the devoted Believer’s life for the rest of history (until the final victory is accomplished.) It is the ultimate testing of faith.

A modern Jewish poet named J. L. Gordon wrote this poem in memorial of a tragic slaughter that occurred in England at the Castle of York in the year 1190:

“We have sacrificed all. We have given our wealth.
Our homes, our honours, our land, our health
Our lives- like Hannah and her children seven-
For the sake of the Torah that came from Heaven.”

Yeshua is the living Torah and when He died on that tree the Torah that was a works-driven Torah died with Him. When He was resurrected, the Torah also was given new life, as a faith-driven path to Redemption. That means that nothing has changed in the Torah: it is still Torah (2nd Timothy 14) and is still valid for everyone who worships the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What cannot be accomplished through the works-driven Torah, can be accomplished in the  faith-driven Torah that lives in us! Yeshua fulfilled the Torah, in works, in interpretations, in the sight of all the peoples. He is in us, and through Him we can be victorious over sin.

Use these next 10 days to look into yourself. The Torah is supposed to be a mirror that we look into. Look in the mirror- what do you see? Look harder- Torah is there, Brothers and Sisters. How can I be so sure? Because God Himself told us in Jeremiah 31:31 that it will be written on our hearts, and I believe God!

Each of us who have accepted God’s Grace through Yeshua Ha Meshiach, all of us who are children of the Everlasting God- we all are one in Messiah and He is in us!

Look deep within yourself over these next 10 days and seek Him out!

A Short Introduction to the Torah

I am going to discuss, briefly, what the Torah is for the benefit of any readers who may not be all that familiar with it. I could do an entire Bible study on the Torah, not the scripture it has but for all the other aspects of it. However, all I really would like to do today is just give you a brief outline, one I have used in Bible and Messianic 101 classes

Let’s begin with the word, “Torah.” Although it is often referred to as “law”, it’s actual meaning is “Teaching.” The Christian world uses the connotation of “law” as a means to dissuade people from believing they need to obey Torah. The general teaching is that the regulations, laws (mitzvot) and rules that God gave to His people contained in the Torah represent legalism. This is not true, and meat for another discussion. Leave us to say that the commandments are for anyone who wishes to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, at any time, and for all time.

The Torah contains the Five Books of Moses, and is also called the Pentateuch (Greek for Five Books). That is the Torah. The Tanakh is the entire Old Covenant, and is an acronym made of Torah, Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings, such as Ruth, Psalms, Proverbs, etc.) The writings of the Prophets are broken down into the major and minor Prophets.

The Torah is more than just five books telling the history of the Jewish people and the laws God gave us. It serves as a Ketuba, or marriage certificate, between God and His people. It is also a Covenant made between God and His people, specifically the Noadic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic and “new” covenant, which was fulfilled when Yeshua was resurrected and the Ruach HaKodesh was given to those who accept Yeshua as their Messiah.

The Torah also serves as a constitution, essentially listing the civil and penal laws that form a nation. Finally, the Torah teaches us about sin, and teaches us right from wrong (Shaul talks about this in Romans.)

The Torah contains a total of 613 commandments, about 1/3 of which describe the sacrificial system that was only valid for use at the Temple. With the destruction of the Temple, non-Messianic Jews have had no place to atone for sins. For those who have accepted that Yeshua is the Messiah, His death was our atonement, so we have to feel great pain and fellowship with the Jewish people who believe they have no atonement. It’s so sad for them to think they have no atonement and are anxiously waiting for the Messiah to atone for them, and He has been here, waiting for them, for over two thousand years. Well, that’s (also) another discussion.

The laws are broken down into different groups:

Mishpatim are regulations:

  1. Mishpatim- those regulations which we can understand why they exist;
  2. Dupah- those regualtions that need to be, and are, explained why they are given to us; and
  3. Hucah-those that are unexplained and/or unknown why we have them (but we still have to follow them)

Mitzvot are laws and Chukim are ordinances. I have never really found anything that definitively identifies the differences between regulations, laws, and ordinances. The important thing for us to remember is that no matter what they are called, they are all what God wants us to do, and are all important to obey.

The Oral Torah (Sheb’al Peh)  is a traditional compilation of regulations supposedly given to Moshe which he did not write down. They are today the Rabbinic interpretations of the Torah and have expanded into the Talmud. Talmud details for us Halakha, or ‘The Way to Walk”. In other words, it tells us how to live a Jewish lifestyle, in every part of our daily activities. And I mean, e-v-e-r-y part. The origins are pre-Christian Era, and they come from two “schools” of thought- the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud.

The Talmud started as the Oral Torah, which was eventually compiled and written as the Mishna, an explanation of the laws. The Mishna didn’t quite cover it all, so they added the Gemara. Together these make up the Talmud, which is a magnificent Tome of some 20 plus volumes of Rabbinic lore, written in groups called Orders and Tractates.

Although considered to be scripture by Orthodox Jews, it is (I say this respectfully) not scripture. It is wonderful wisdom, and helps to identify what a Jewish person is, how to live, and how to perform the things in the Torah we are told to do, but not always how to do it. It is based on the Word of God, but it is not His Word. It is Rabbinic wisdom and Jewish folklore.

Overall, due to the differences in how people (meaning religion) say to worship God, even within the “purity” of Torah, Jews have split into different sects:

1. The Ultra Orthodox, or Chasidic;

2. The Orthodox (leftover from the Pharisees);

3. The Conservative (less reliance on Oral Law)

4.  The Reform (believe only moral laws are mandatory, less concerned about “ceremonial” laws);

5.  The Reconstructionists (believe in the traditions more than the written laws);

6. The Messianic Jews (believe that Yeshua/Jesus is the Messiah God promised and follow the laws and regulations throughout the Torah.)

We see evidence of the Torah in Jewish lives in different ways: people wearing Tzttzit (the fringes commanded to be worn in Numbers) and a Kippur (covering, also called a Yarmulke). A Mezzuzah on the lentils of the doorways, those who follow the laws of Kashrut (Kosher laws- I follow them according to Leviticus 11, not according to the Rabbinic laws, which are extremely difficult to follow) and the celebration of Shabbat (Sabbath) on the proper day, Friday night through to Saturday night.

The New Covenant writings have been very tough on the Torah. It amazes (and disgusts) me that the teachings of Yeshua have been turned into polemics against the Torah, the very book He helped write! In the Gospel of John, Yochanan (John) tells us there was the Word of God, and the Word became flesh. That was Yeshua. Yeshua told the Pharisees that a house divided against itself cannot stand: so, if Yochanan was correct that the Word of God became flesh (don’t forget- the only Word they had was Torah) and Yeshua was correct that a house divided against itself can’t stand, then how can Christianity teach that Yeshua did away with the Law, which is the Word, which is Him? Oy! Where do they come up with this stuff?

Check out  Matthew 5:17, 2nd Timothy 3:16, Romans 7:12 and Isaiah 56. These references all make an apologetic argument for the validity of Torah. Yet, if you look at Galatians 3:10 / 3:28 / 5: 1-4 / 2:15-16, these are historically used as  a polemic against the Torah.

The final part of today’s little lesson is to ask: “Who should follow Torah ?”  Should it be just Jews? Should it be Jews and Believers (Born Again)? After all, since Born Again Christians accept Yeshua/Jesus as their Savior and are trying to do as He tells us to do, which is to obey Scripture, the only Scripture He taught was Torah. It makes sense and follows, naturally, that they should live in accordance with Torah, right?

My answer is that everyone who professes to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob should follow Torah because (here it is again):  God has no religion. If you say you follow God, if you say you accept Jesus/Yeshua as your Messiah, and you love to say how much you love Him, He told us that the way we show how much we love Him is to follow His commandments, which are/is/always have been/ always will be: the Torah!

That’s right, boys and girls: if you profess to follow Yeshua, and you love Him, then you need to obey every rule, regulation, ordinance and law in the Torah, as best as you can. That doesn’t mean pick and choose, that means try to do them all. The only ones that you don’t have to do are the ones you physically can’t, i.e., the sacrifices at the Temple. Therefore, if you haven’t been reading the Tanakh, better get started- that’s where the background and teachings of the entire New Covenant are based and found. There is nothing “new” in the New Covenant.

If you don’t read everything from Genesis through Revelations, you aren’t getting the whole teaching.