Still Have to Ask, What’s in a Name?

The title for today’s message comes, obviously, from the play “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare. The point is that a name doesn’t really identify or dictate the type of person whom the name is assigned to. Juliet proves this later by pointing out that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

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Too many people have become zealous, actually to the point of being obsessed, with the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, the 4-letter word which God spoke as his name, as well as with the titles people have historically used to refer to יהוה, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

There seems to be little argument that the name God told Moses means “I am“, and in the context of a sentence (since Hebrew words are properly interpreted only by considering the context of the sentence they are within) it could also mean “I will be.”

So what the Tetragrammaton means is “I am that I am“, or “I will be that which I will be.”

No matter how we pronounce יהוה, it will always mean the same thing, which is that God is who he is. The name isn’t the important thing because no matter what we call God, whether Adonai, God, Lord, El, Yah, El Elyon, Adonai Tz’vaot…whatever…God will always be God.

And here is the most important thing that many “Holy Namers” forget: God knows the hearts and minds of his children, and when we pray to him, no matter what title or name or pronunciation we use, God knows who he is and who we are praying to.

I submit to you that when someone says using the term “Lord” means we are praying to Ba’al, or that when we use the title “God” we are praying to a false Semitic deity, these people are insulting the true God of Israel. They are implying that Adonai (which, by the way, means Lord) is incapable of determining who we are praying to. They are saying God is so prideful as to ignore a prayer from someone just because they call him what they have always known him to be, i.e. God or Lord.

In the Bible, we read how many referred to Adonai as the invisible God of the Hebrews.  In the Book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar refers to him as the God of Daniel, and the Philistines recognized Adonai as the God of the Jews. These people didn’t worship Adonai or even know what to call him, but they knew who he was. And when they called him an invisible god or the God of the Hebrews, it didn’t change who he was or who they believed him to be.

God is God no matter what you call him.

And this is the crux of the problem with people who insist on using their name for God: they have forgotten who God is. They have become so obsessed with the words “God” or “Lord” or the pronunciation of the Holy Name that they have forgotten all about the one who these names refer to. They now worship a name instead of the one who the name refers to.

I am not saying that a “Holy Namer” is wrong in their pronunciation, but I do say they are wrong in requiring others to use only the names they think are “right”, and that anything else is wrong and represents paganist prayer. Who are they to tell someone who they are praying to? Do they know the person’s mind? Do they see what is in that person’s heart?

Are they like Adonai, God Almighty, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob so they can say what is a proper prayer and what is not?

If you are someone who has is obsessed with what name is correct for God, please consider that we can pray to him any old which way we want to, and so long as our prayer is heartfelt and genuine, he will listen. He is not so stubborn and prideful about what we call him that he will turn away someone who is genuinely seeking him out, just because they use a word some other people use to mean someone else.

If I call a rose a tulip, clearly I am using the wrong name, but the rose is still a rose. I cannot change what a rose is by calling it a tulip, and if I hold up the rose and say, “This tulip smells wonderful!” people will understand what I mean, despite my using the wrong name for the flower.

And I would still be correct in saying that the flower smells wonderful.

Those of us who know the one, true God will always know who we mean, despite which title or word is used to describe him. But for those that do not know him, who are first learning about him, to teach them this wrongful idea that God must be called by a certain word or pronunciation, is no different than teaching that God can’t know what we feel and what we mean when we pray to him.

The idea that Adonai will ignore someone who is praying to him because of how they pronounce his name or which title they use for him is to teach a lie and is unfair to God! It totally ignores who God is.

If anyone says when using “God” or “The Lord” or not using their pronunciation of the Holy Name is really praying to a pagan god, that person is a liar. And they are insulting God.

I believe God knows who we mean when we pray to him, and whatever I call him doesn’t change who he is.

Thank you for being here; please subscribe, share these messages with others, and check out my website. I have written three books (so far), and if you like what I say in my ministry, you will like reading my books, as well.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Vayikra 2020 (He called) Leviticus 1 – 5

I should start off wishing you all a Happy New Year for yesterday was the first day of Nisan (which used to be called Aviv) and is what God declared to be the first day of our year.

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We have come to the central book of the Torah. These first 5 chapters define the sacrificial system, starting with a description of the different types of sacrifice, followed by the specific procedures for the sins of an individual and for the sins of the community.

All that God has instructed us to do regarding sacrifice is not possible for us to do anymore, not since the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. The reason we had to do these sacrifices at the temple was because of God’s instructions, which were that we are not to sacrifice anywhere we want to, but only at the place where he puts his name (Deuteronomy 12:.13). 

Each type of sacrifice, whether for sin, for guilt, for thanksgiving or the wholly burnt sacrifice is described in minute detail. God even accounts for those who cannot afford the required animal, allowing for them to substitute a different animal, one they can afford to give. This idea of being allowed to provide a substitute is something that will eventually provide for our salvation, many years later.

Every detail of how to perform the sacrifice is given in these chapters, but what I believe to be the most important part of the entire process is not explained.

The sacrifice is more, much more than just the spilling of blood. The physical actions we do, i.e. bringing the animal, killing it, dividing it up, splashing the blood and burning it on the altar are just physical things. We read throughout the Tanakh how these were being done but were, in many cases, unacceptable to God. In fact, through the prophet Amos God said that he hated the sacrifices and songs we made unto him (Amos 5:21-23), so if God wants us to perform these sacrifices, but in some cases, he says that he hates them, what was different? What was missing?

What was missing is something that is still missing today in many churches and synagogues: genuine repentance.

Let me share with you what I believe the sacrificial system should entail:

  1. We must sin. After all, if we do not sin, there is no need for a sacrifice to gain forgiveness, so for the sacrificial system to work, we need to sin (not that I suggest you should sin, only that this system is designed for when you sin);
  2. We must recognize and confess that we sinned. In today’s reading we are told that when we sin, whether or not we know it, we are still guilty. But to be forgiven, we must recognize that we did commit a sin. Too many people are taught that what God says is sin isn’t really sin anymore because the times have changed, or because all those laws were done away with by Yeshua. That is a total lie, but that topic is not something which we will be covering today;
  3. We must repent of our sin. This is probably the most essential part of the entire process because we can recognize and even confess that we sinned, but if we aren’t sorry we did it, then there can be no forgiveness, no matter what we do. It is repentance, more than anything else, which God is looking for from us. Not just that we are sorry we sinned, but that we are sorry we failed to do as God said we should. Repentance is not just feeling sorry we did wrong, but feeling sorry that we disobeyed God because in our hearts we should want to be obedient children. And, for the record, feeling sorry because you were caught does not count as being repentant;
  4. We must present a sacrifice. This step of the process was to be done with one of the prescribed animals but has been replaced by Yeshua. This is what is meant by the term “He died for our sins”; Yeshua’s sacrifice did not remove the sacrificial system or the laws that created it, but simply replaced the need to bring an animal to the temple in Jerusalem. This is one of the most misunderstood truths about what Yeshua did as our Messiah. Nothing of the Torah was removed or done away with, only the need to bring an animal to the temple when asking for forgiveness. Every step of the process I am describing here is still valid and necessary if one is to ask God to forgive their sins. And now, the last step is;
  5. We must ask for forgiveness. I know that seems to be an obvious step, but it is the one step that everything else before it leads up to. Forgiveness is available, and not only is God willing to forgive, but he desires to forgive. God wants every sinner to turn from his sin and live (Ezekiel 18:23), but forgiveness is NOT automatic. God will not automatically forgive us, so if you have been taught that because of Yeshua all your sins are always forgiven, you will be very unpleasantly surprised when you come before the Lord on Judgment Day. There is no such thing as once forgiven, always forgiven.

The truth is that God will always forgive us when we confess our sins, are genuinely repentant and ask for forgiveness by calling on the name of Yeshua, whose sacrifice was made as an eternal substitution for the animal we must bring to the temple.

Yeshua’s blood is the substitution for the blood of the sacrifice we are supposed to supply. It was never supposed to be our own blood, but the blood of an innocent. While the temple existed, that blood was supplied by a sacrificed animal and had to be performed for each and every sin we committed. Because of Yeshua, we do not have to bring an animal to the temple in Jerusalem.

That is why God sent the Messiah.

Throughout the Bible, we are told, over and over, that God knows our hearts and our minds, and whereas in today’s reading he outlines the physical steps of the sacrificial system, what really matters to him is not what we do, but why we do it.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages with others, subscribe and check out my entire website.  And remember that I welcome comments and conversation.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

Missionary Work is Selling

For the first half of my life, I thought the last thing I would ever want to do is be a Salesman. I, along with almost everyone I knew who never sold anything, thought that career was slimy and dishonest.

Besides that, who would want a job where you never knew how much money you would make?

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After surviving a failed business attempt, bankruptcy, and needing cash but also needing to be close to home to help with the high-risk pregnancy my (then) wife had (that was in my previous life), I ended up taking a local sales job selling baby pictures to people in their home. I was able to set my own appointments and work whenever I wanted to, so long as I made a certain quota, and I was paid on commission, only. That means if I don’t sell, I don’t eat.

During the next two years, after having several different sales jobs with different products (all commission only), I was much better trained and experienced, and that’s when I realized selling as a career was much more challenging and fun than I ever expected it to be. And I didn’t have to be a slimeball or liar or cheat.

And more than that, you wanna know something? I was making more money, more regularly, than I ever did as a “suit” working on Wall Street!

So, what does this have to do with God or missionary work? Everything.

Whether you like it or not, or whether you think sales is a bad career choice or not, the truth of the matter is that everyone is selling something at all times. If you are in a meeting, you have to sell your ideas. If you have a business you have to sell yourself to potential clients so they use you and not someone else. If you are a parent, you (sometimes) have to sell your children on why they should do the right thing. If you are interviewing for a job, you have to sell yourself as the product the employer wants to have.

One way or another, we are all in Sales, and the one thing I know from my experience is that Sales is not about talking, it is all about listening.

Those people who major in Marketing should change their major to Psychology because that is what Sales really is. It is knowing how to get people to bond with you, to open up to you, and to be able to get them to decide that what you want them to do is what they want to do, even when they don’t know what they want to do. And as an honest salesperson, you teach them what they need to know to make a proper and qualified decision; qualified meaning based on information, and not on their feelings, alone.

The mega-churches know all about how to sell God, but they don’t sell obedience to God. They know that people are self-centered and selfish, so they tell you all about the wonderful blessings God has for you when you do what they say God wants you to do, which is usually nothing more than to be a “good” person because all those hard things to do are just for Jews.

That is the psychology behind selling: find out what the person wants and explain how your product provides that for them. People want the easy way, and telling them that God will bless them if they are a good person sounds easy enough, right? The problem is that it is not selling the truth because it may be an easy way, but it is the wrong way.

In order to be a successful missionary, you have to know how to sell. The product we have to sell is salvation, eternal joy in God’s presence and peace of mind while alive. We are trying to get people to not sell their souls to the world but to devote their lives to God. It is a hard product to sell correctly because it involves self-discipline, sacrifice, and determination.

The proper way to do this is, just as with any sales job, first and foremost you have to know your product. To tell people about God, you have to know God; and you won’t ever get to really know him listening to other people tell you who he is. God has told us everything we need to know about him in the Torah, and that is where you need to start. Whatever God wants you to know about him, he will lead you to see in his Word as you read it more and more.

Now, when I say you need to know about God I don’t mean passages in the Bible about God, but who God is, what he wants from us, and what he is willing to do for us when we obey. Don’t tell people about hell or damnation because frightening people into something never works in the long run. For someone to truly make a decision they will stick with, they have to believe whatever they do is their idea; so, once you know about God, your next step is to ask questions.

Too many people in missionary work talk and talk and talk. They tell people what they are doing wrong, what they should be doing to be right, and flood them with spiritual statements that a non-spiritual person really cannot grasp.

In other words, they talk them to death…literally, because the more they talk, the less the people want to listen, and the attempt to teach them what they need to know to be saved is wasted.

To be able to help someone find God, you first have to find out what they believe they are missing in their life. Do not assume anything about them, and to get them to open up to you, you need to relate to them. People who are not spiritual will not relate to someone who can’t talk in their language or who spiritualizes everything they say.

The best salesman in the Bible was that Jewish tentmaker from Tarsus, Shaul (Paul) because he was willing to relate to everyone on their level:

1 Corinthians 19: 19-23 (CJB) For although I am a free man, not bound to do anyone’s bidding, I have made myself a slave to all in order to win as many people as possible. That is, with Jews, what I did was put myself in the position of a Jew, in order to win Jews. With people in subjection to a legalistic perversion of the Torah, I put myself in the position of someone under such legalism, in order to win those under this legalism, even though I myself am not in subjection to a legalistic perversion of the Torah.  With those who live outside the framework of Torah, I put myself in the position of someone outside the Torah in order to win those outside the Torah — although I myself am not outside the framework of God’s Torah but within the framework of Torah as upheld by the Messiah.  With the “weak” I became “weak,” in order to win the “weak.” With all kinds of people I have become all kinds of things, so that in all kinds of circumstances I might save at least some of them.

Shaul knew that in order for people to listen to him, they needed to trust what he says as true, and in order to get them to trust what he says, they need to trust him. And that comes from bonding, one person to another. They can have respect for his knowledge or because he was a Pharisee, or even just because he suffered so much for his belief. All of that is helpful, but it won’t get anyone to change their mind.

If you want to help people find God, you first have to let them find you, trust you, and bond with you, and the best way to do that is to ask them about themselves, shut up and listen.

When I taught people how to sell, I told them two things:

1. People don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do; and
2. When you ask the right questions and listen to their answers, they will tell you how to close them.

With regard to missionary work, this means asking them what they feel they are missing in their life, what they want, and how they think they can get it. Then once you know what they think they want, you can begin to show them how, in YOUR life, God has supplied these things for you. And don’t worry if they want something you never did- you can always find a relatable subject because most everyone wants the same basic things: love, appreciation, and security. This is why you need to know psychology because basic wants and needs are part of Maslow’s work about Self-Actualization.

I could give extended teaching on this subject but have done enough for the moment. Maybe too much, since everyone has a limited attention span. You might have noticed that most of my messages run 6-8 minutes, which is because after 10 minutes or so people zone out.

So, if you want to be able to talk about God to anyone, start by asking them questions. You will save more souls with careful listening than you ever will with enthusiastic preaching.

Thank you for being here and please share these messages with others, Also don’t forget to subscribe. I also welcome any and all comments.

If anyone would like me to expand on this subject and make it a teaching series, let me know.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

God Denies Original Sin Exists

Before we can start this discussion, we should make sure we all know what the term “Original Sin” means.

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There are many different definitions, and I found that Wikipedia did the best job. Here is what they say:

Original sin, also called ancestral sin, is a Christian belief in a state of sin in which humanity has existed since the fall of man, stemming from Adam and Eve’s rebellion in Eden, namely the sin of disobedience in consuming the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Theologians have characterized this condition in many ways, seeing it as ranging from something as insignificant as a slight deficiency, or a tendency toward sin yet without collective guilt, referred to as a “sin nature”, to something as drastic as total depravity or automatic guilt of all humans through collective guilt.
Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon first alluded to the concept of original sin in the 2nd century in his controversy with certain dualist Gnostics. Other church fathers such as Augustine (354-430) also shaped and developed the doctrine, seeing it as based on the New Testament teaching of Paul the Apostle (Romans 5:12–21) and 1 Corinthians (15:21-22) and the Old Testament verse of Psalms 51:5.

That’s a mouthful, or for those watching the video, an eyeful, but it is pretty good, overall, in identifying what we all knew already, which is that “Original Sin” is a Christian doctrine.

But wait a minute! Are you saying that Jews do not believe in original sin?  How can that be, if David in Psalm 51 says we are all shaped in iniquity, and that his mother conceived him in sin?

In fact, within Judaism – Talmudic Judaism, that is – there is a condition called the Yetzer Hara, which is an evil inclination and we are all born with it. It drives us to selfishness and material desires, which will (unchecked) lead us to do evil. The Yetzer Hatov, the good inclination, comes to us when we are about 13 years of age and it controls the Yetzer Hara. In Freudian language, the Yetzer Hara is like the Id, and the Yetzer Hatov is like the Ego.

The main difference between the Jewish view and the Christian view is that Judaism says we are born with the potential to become a sinner, and Christianity says we are born sinners, already, because of the “fall”.

Well, what does God say?

It seems that God agrees that the sins which our parents perform will also fall on our children because in Exodus 20:5 God says this:

You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

So it appears, at first glance, that God is going to make the children suffer for the sins of their parents. This fits in with the Christian idea of original sin, but not really with the Jewish Yetzer Hara, so did the Rabbis get it wrong?

But (again) wait a minute!  Look at what God says in Ezekiel 18:1-4:

The Lord’s word came to me:  What do you mean by this proverb of yours about the land of Israel: “When parents eat unripe grapes, the children’s teeth suffer”?  As surely as I live, says the Lord God, no longer will you use this proverb in Israel!  All lives are mine; the life of the parent and the life of the child belong to me. Only the one who sins will die.

So the Rabbis were right when they said we are born with the desire to sin, but not already in sin. But now what happens to original sin? I mean, when God told this to Ezekiel, that was sometime between 590 and 571 BCE. That was something like 800 years before Augustine said we all are born sinners because of the sin of Adam and Eve.

And what about what God says in the Second Commandment?

The main conflict seems to be between what God tells Moses, i.e. that he will cause the children to suffer the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation, and what God tells Ezekiel, which is that the children won’t suffer for the parent’s sins.

What happened? Did God change his mind?

No, God didn’t change his mind; the conflict isn’t with God, it is within our understanding of what God meant when he gave the second commandment to Moses.

Let’s look closer at what God said about the children suffering: he said that the iniquity (sin) of the fathers will be visited on the children “…of them that hate me.” In other words, if the children follow the parent’s rejection of God, worshipping other gods and disobeying the Torah, then God will visit on them the same punishment that he visited on their parents. The rest of that verse states that God will be merciful to the thousandth generation of them that love him. The real meaning is that those who hate God and teach their children to do so will cause their children to suffer the same punishment they do for 3-4 generations, but those that worship God correctly and teach their children to do so will be rewarded for a thousand generations.

Now we can see that these two verses (Exodus and Ezekiel), which seem to contradict each other, are actually saying the same thing. If you do the bad things your parents did, you will get the same punishment they did, but if you follow righteousness, whether or not your parents were righteous won’t matter because each person will be held accountable only for what they do, themselves.

I think the Rabbis got it right in the Talmud when they say we are all born with the Yetzer Hara, which the Bible calls “iniquity”, which can overcome with the Yetzer Hatov.

As for the Christian belief in original sin, well…God says that doesn’t exist, and if God says it ain’t so, then it ain’t so.

If you have been brought up believing that you are born a sinner and that your infant child has to be baptized because it is already under sin, don’t worry about it. We are all born with the inclination to sin, but we are not born sinners, already. Really, do you think God would send an infant to eternal hell and torture?

I don’t think so.

What we are born with is the desire to sin, but we are not born as a sinner, already. We are not accountable for ourselves until we are old enough to know good from evil, and in both Judaism and Christianity that begins at about 6 years old, when parents (hopefully) start to send their kids to a religious school.

Now that you know the facts about original sin, make sure that you do what is right in God’s eyes, and even more important than that, make sure you teach your children to do what is right, as well.

Children are not held accountable for what their parents do, but if you do not teach your children the right way to live and worship, then you are setting them up to be punished by God.

Thank you for being here; please share these messages with others and subscribe. I always welcome your comments.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

The Sin Yeshua Refused to Forgive

Do you recall the story about the adulteress brought before Yeshua? You can find it in John 8:3-11 (CJB):

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The Torah-teachers and the P’rushim brought in a woman who had been caught committing adultery and made her stand in the center of the group.  Then they said to him, “Rabbi, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in our Torah, Moshe commanded that such a woman be stoned to death. What do you say about it?”  They said this to trap him, so that they might have ground for bringing charges against him; but Yeshua bent down and began writing in the dust with his finger.  When they kept questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “The one of you who is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Then he bent down and wrote in the dust again.  On hearing this, they began to leave, one by one, the older ones first, until he was left alone, with the woman still there.  Standing up, Yeshua said to her, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, sir.” Yeshua said, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go, and don’t sin any more.”

When I last read this it occurred to me that there was no forgiveness given for the sin the woman was supposed to have committed. No one should be surprised that this situation was a set-up to disgrace and trap Yeshua; in fact, the Bible story tells us that is exactly what was being done. And the fact that the woman was caught in the act of adultery but the other party to that sin was not there is a clear indication that the whole thing was somewhat shady.

Of course, Yeshua didn’t fall for this trap. We know from what we read in the Gospel accounts that by reason of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) Yeshua knew what people were thinking, and although we will never know what he wrote in the sand, his actions were designed to show the accusers that he knew exactly what was going on.

I believe the woman was actually committing the sin of adultery, if for no other reason than the fact that it was the Pharisees who brought her before Yeshua. You see, to accuse someone of a crime that was not committed is a violation of the 9th Commandment about not bearing false witness. So, even though their intention was to trap Yeshua, I don’t think that a Pharisee would have violated one of the Big Ten just to trap Yeshua.

For the moment, let’s look past the actions of Yeshua and the men who brought her, and look to the woman. When Yeshua asked her who was there to condemn her, she said no one, but nothing else. She did not confess her sin, she did not ask for forgiveness, neither did she say one word about being falsely accused. If I was brought before someone and falsely accused, the first thing I would have said was that this was a frame-up. But this woman said nothing, and I believe her silence spoke volumes.

When Yeshua said he would not condemn her, he was obeying the Torah. In Deuteronomy 19:15 it says this (JPS Tanakh):

A single witness may not validate against a person any guilt for any offense that may be committed; a case can be valid only on the testimony of two witnesses or more.

Once everyone left, and Yeshua was alone with the woman, no accusation could legally be made against her, so Yeshua obeyed the law and told her to go.

But – and here’s the important part- he never said she was forgiven. In fact, he told her not to sin anymore. That statement (to me) clearly shows that she did sin, he knew she sinned, but since she never confessed her sin or asked for forgiveness, he didn’t give it. In my opinion, I think the woman had no intention of stopping her adulteress ways, which is why Yeshua warned her not to sin anymore.

In other words, she got off on a legal technicality and the judge told her she might not be so lucky the next time.

You might be thinking, “OK, so this is interesting, but what does it have to do with me?”

Everything! The lesson we learn from this story is that even though forgiveness is available to us, we must confess our sin and ask for that forgiveness. And if the confession is not a truly repentant one, God will not be fooled because he knows your heart and what is in your mind.

If you have been taught that because Yeshua died for your sins they are automatically forgiven, you have been taught a lie. No sin is automatically forgiven. Ever. We must first and foremost feel repentance: if you really aren’t sorry for the sin you committed, there is no chance of being forgiven. Next, your repentant attitude should cause you to confess your sin before God, which will then put you in a position to ask for forgiveness, which now, since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, can only be given by means of the sacrifice which Yeshua made on our part.

Even though Yeshua did forgive some people’s sins when he was performing his ministry, he is the Messiah, the Intercessor for all of us, and after his sacrifice, it is now only God who can forgive sin. Yeshua provided the means for forgiveness, but he is not the one who forgives anymore. Only after we accept Yeshua as our Messiah, repent, confess and ask God for forgiveness in Yeshua’s name, will we be able to receive forgiveness of sin.

And we need to repent, confess and ask forgiveness for each and every time we sin.

The “Once saved, always saved” policy is something some person created, and it is not a policy that God recognizes.

Thank you for being here and please don’t forget to subscribe. Share this ministry with others and I always welcome your comments.

Until next time, L’hitraot, Baruch HaShem…and don’t forget to wash your hands!

Those With Faith Have No Fear and Those With Fear Have No Faith

Do you think that fear is the lack of courage or is courage the lack of fear? I have always heard, and agree, that courage is when we overcome our fear.

Fear is an instinct, it is designed to help us survive, but when we let our fear rule us that is when we have lost ourselves to the enemy.

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The enemy of God uses fear: fear of loss is the strongest of all fears, but there is also fear of pain, fear of death, fear of loneliness, fear of success, and there is even fear of being afraid. When your fears are controlling you, they are called phobias.

Courage is how we overcome the basic and instinctive fears that we have. There are different ways that people can find courage, and I believe the best way is through faith in God.

Humans want to be in control of themselves and what happens in their life, and I think when people don’t believe in God or believe he exists but they don’t think it is important to follow his instructions, they believe that way because they don’t want to cede control to him. They fear losing control and that fear is why they have no faith.

I also know people who say they believe in God and are faithful but go through life afraid of everything. They won’t drive on the highway, they won’t take a plane ride, and they won’t try to improve their condition or even try to do something different. These people are afraid of living.

And yet, they believe they are in control. Oy!

The Bible is rife with verses that should encourage us, meaning to literally put courage into us. Verses such as these:

Psalm 32:8I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Romans 8:31…What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Joshua 1:9…Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

Psalm 23:4…Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 27:1…The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?

And this is just a small sampling.

To place our faith in God means, more than anything else, to accept his sovereignty and to trust him to always take care of us. That doesn’t mean we will never have tsouris in our lives: we need to have trials and tribulations because gold is only made pure after going through the fire. We can be anxious and even afraid of the suffering, but we must not be ruled by that fear. Again, fear is normal and we cannot help but feel it. That doesn’t mean we should be afraid of the fear or allow it to rule us: we gain the courage to overcome and control our fear through our through faith in God, knowing that even as we suffer he is working towards reducing or relieving that suffering.

Suffering, loss, and emotional trauma can, and often does, overwhelm people; we can find the strength to survive from our steadfast knowledge and faith in God, believing absolutely that he is always there to prevent our destruction.

Faith is not something that God will give us, and the kind of faith that comes from some miraculous event is fleeting, and (I believe) dangerous because a faith that is the result of a miracle is a faith that could be turned to Satan, who is capable of performing miracles. In fact, aren’t we told in Revelation that the prophets of Satan will perform many miracles and that many will be turned from the true faith?

Faith is a choice; it is a conscious decision to believe. It isn’t something we can see or feel (Hebrews 11:1), and our faith is strengthened when we follow the instructions God gave us in the Torah (James 2:14.)

When we choose to cede control of our lives to God and faithfully trust God to always take care of us, no matter what, we can be confident and encouraged because, well… who can beat up God?

(I just thought about something: when I said to “faithfully trust”, that’s actually redundant, isn’t it?)

Too many people today put their faith in technology or in someone in politics, or even in a sports figure or a newspaper. They trust quickly in what they hear and what they see, not thinking for a moment how easily those senses can be fooled.

Trust in God, choose to believe in what you will (probably) never see in this lifetime, and stick to that faith no matter what anyone else tells you. When you trust in God and demonstrate that trust through following his instructions, you will be given confirmation that your faith is well-founded.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share these messages with others. Check out the books I have written (available on Amazon or through my website) as well as some of the videos in my Picture Album of my vacations and other events in my life.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Which Books Make up the Torah, Really?

I mentioned in my last message to you that I would be talking about which books really make up the Torah, and what I mean is the Torah that Moses knew to be the Torah.

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Yes, we all know that the Torah is the first five books of the Bible, but when I did a search using the Complete Jewish Bible (because many other bibles – most, in fact- do not use the word “Torah” at all) I found that it was used only a few times outside of the book of Deuteronomy.

So let’s take a look at Deuteronomy, where Moses uses this word the most times.

But before we do that, let’s review the other books: Genesis talks about creation through Joseph, Exodus tells us of how God brought his people out of slavery up to the establishment of the Priesthood and construction of the Tabernacle. Leviticus gives the laws regarding food, worship, the sacrificial system, and moral standards. Numbers is the narrative of the travels through the desert and ends with the preparations for dividing the land when the people enter it.

Each of these books is a separate narrative, each dealing only with one aspect of the history of God and his chosen people.

Now we come to the last book of the Pentateuch (Greek for “5 books”), Deuteronomy. The Hebrew name for this book is D’Varim, which means “the words”, and these are all the words Moses spoke to the people of Israel just before they entered the land God promised them.

Remember, this isn’t the generation that left Egypt, all of whom died in the desert; this generation, the ones entering the land God promised to their fathers, are the children that were babes when Moses led them from Egypt or who had been born and grew up in the desert.  Moses takes this time, before he dies, to make sure that God’s rules and instructions are clear to them.

Within this book, we have Moses retelling how the people assigned Moses to be their intercessor with God. Moses reminds them of the sinfulness their fathers demonstrated throughout their travels, and how God punished them for it, yet here they are proving that God kept his promise to bring them, this new generation, to the land he promised their fathers.

In Chapter 5 he reviews the 10 Commandments; in Chapters 12 and 13 Moses instructs them about proper worship, warning against idolatry of any kind. Chapter 14 reviews the laws of Kashrut (Kosher), Chapter 15 is about societal rules, Chapter 16 instructs the proper celebration of the festivals of the Lord, and Chapter 17 instructs how to establish the government.

The remaining chapters deal with the penal system, torts, criminal and sexual crimes, and marital regulations.

At the end of this book, Moses tells the people that they are to confirm this covenant, and when they enter the land to write in on the mountains and declare it publicly to the peoples living there.

Throughout this book, Moses also promises that if they follow these instructions he is giving them that God will keep his promise to protect and bless them. If they choose life (i.e., to follow God’s instructions) then they will live long and happy lives; but, if they rebel and reject his instructions and live as the people that live there now do, then God will punish them and eventually the land will vomit them out, as it is doing to the ones there now. This is in Chapter 28, known as the Blessings and the Curses chapter.

This is important to Note: the instructions Moses constantly talks about throughout this book are the ones he is giving to the people then and there- these are found in all of the other books, but he is condensing them all in this one book and giving them to the people right at that moment!

Now we come to my original question: Which books make up the Torah, really?

My answer is that the Torah Moses speaks about is the book of Deuteronomy, alone. When he says to obey all the laws and regulations he is giving them that are in the book, he means Deuteronomy, alone. That one book has all the important aspects of worship and interpersonal relationships that God wants us to obey.

In the days when Moses first put all this down on parchment, although I couldn’t find any historical confirmation, I think it makes sense that we would not expect Moses to have written the entire Torah scroll we have today as a single scroll. Because of the diversity of the first 4 books, I believe that each was, at first, a separate scroll and only when they were put together did they become the one Sefer Torah (Book of the Torah) we use today. I believe that when we read in 2 Chronicles 34 how Hilkiyahu found the scroll of the Torah and it was read to the king, it seems to me that even though he had no plans to binge-watch Vikings on Netflix that night, to read the entire 5 books would have been too much at one time. However, to read through one book, Deuteronomy, would take only a few hours, if that much. And later, when they sought the advice of the prophetess Huldah, who said that Adonai will bring upon them all the curses written in this book, she must be referring to Deuteronomy, where curses are stipulated in Chapter 28, as well as in Chapter 11.

I believe the “Torah” Moses talks about throughout the book of Deuteronomy is just that one book, and the references to Torah in the other parts of the Bible were assumed scribal translations added later. The separate scrolls comprising the 5 books of the Torah we know, were probably put together sometime after the people entered the land, maybe in the time of Joshua or the Judges. The oldest known Torah dates back only to 1250 CE. The oldest Jewish manuscripts we know of, I suppose, are the Dead Sea Scrolls and they are all separate scrolls. According to Wikipedia:

Of the scrolls found, about a quarter (220 in all) are books of the Hebrew Bible, or what Christians call the Old Testament: all the books, in fact, except Esther and Nehemiah. The most common books found are Psalms and Deuteronomy.

So…Deuteronomy was, at one point, a separate scroll, which would seem to confirm my assumption that the scroll Moses refers to as the “Torah” is just the one book we know as Deuteronomy, which is the scroll found in the Temple by Hilkiyahu and read to King Yoshiyahu.

Does this message have anything to do with your salvation? Of course not, it is just something that I believe might help us better understand what Moses was saying to the generation of Israelites just before they entered the land, and also to help us better realize what Moses meant when he said that these laws were not so hard to know, or so far away from us. There are 613 separate commandments in the Torah we know today, the 5 books Moses wrote during the 40 years in the desert; however, all that Moses said we really need to know is found in the one book we call Deuteronomy.

Thank you for being here and I hope you found today’s message interesting, if not educational. Perhaps it will help someone, someone who doesn’t feel like reading the entire Bible but is interested in what it says. By reading Deuteronomy, they will get all they need to know.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Why Did God Give Us the Torah?

That seems to be an easy question to answer, doesn’t it? I would think we are all thinking the same thing: God gave the Torah to the Jews so they could know the difference between sin and righteous living.

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That’s true; in fact, according to Shaul, the Torah created sin (Romans 7) and without it, we wouldn’t know what was right or wrong.

Now, as true as the above statement is, I would call it a Christian view because many Christians believe the Torah is just for the Jews. Which is, of course, absolutely wrong.

A more Jewish view, if you will, is that God gave the Torah to the Jews, who he chose to teach it to the rest of the world. That is why God tells Moses in Exodus 19:6 that he is choosing the Jewish people to be his nation of priests to the world. That statement can only mean that the Torah is for everyone, not just for Jews.

It is the same thing as when someone learns all they can about mathematics and after becoming an expert in performing mathematical calculations and finding solutions, becomes a teacher of mathematics so that others can learn how to do it.

God chose the Jewish people, descendants of Abraham, to be trained in the way God wants us to worship him and treat each other so that we could then teach the world through example and education.

What went wrong was when men invented religion.

The Torah has always been referred to as the first 5 books of the Bible, and most often misinterpreted to mean “laws.” In truth, the word “Torah” means teaching. It is more than laws, it is a constitution, a marriage certificate (in Hebrew, called a Ketubah) and it is also a penal code establishing the rights, and legal remedies for the abrogation of those rights, of each citizen of the Torah-observant community.

The real answer to the question “Why did God give us the Torah” is so that we could live long, happy lives in the land we possess. This is told to us more than 4 times in the book of Deuteronomy, alone. When we follow the instructions God gave in the Torah, then we will live secure, happy, bountiful, blessed, long and protected lives in the land we possess. For modern people, that means where you live, now.

The next question is “What books make up the Torah, really?”, and that will be for my next message.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe, share this out with others, and check out my books on my website and at Amazon (just put my full name in the search window), because if you like what you read or see in my video’s, I can tell you that you will like what you read in my books.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch Ha Shem!

Don’t be Confused by Labels

I often see people posting, and this is exclusively by Gentile believers, asking if they can be called “Jewish”, or (most recently) if they can be a “Hebrew” if they are not Jewish by birth.

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Some people answer them with factoids, such as the word “Hebrew” means “crossed over”, so if they have crossed over to Yeshua then they are a “Hebrew.” Others say you have to be Jewish by birth because Jews and Hebrews are the same. And others answered with something in between these two extremes.

My answer was that it doesn’t matter.

There were some who took my answer as an insult to Judaism and to God since the Jews are his chosen people, but they didn’t see the deeper, spiritual meaning of my answer.

Hebrew, Jew, Christian, Believer, Protestant, Catholic…these and any other specification of one’s religious position or belief are nothing more than social connotations identifying a belief system. They are labels, and as such, they are only as accurate as what a person hearing that label understands it to mean.

In other words, getting all caught up in what people call someone is a form of legalism, concentrating on a social identifier instead of the spiritual condition of the person.

When Yeshua taught from the Torah, he didn’t teach the plain language meaning, which in the Jewish form of biblical exegesis is called the P’shat.

(If you are unfamiliar with this terminology, do a search for “PaRDeS.”)

What Yeshua taught was the Remes, the deeper, spiritual understanding of the law. You can see this best when you read the Sermon on the Mount, where he says they have heard one thing, (which is the P’shat) and then he says that he tells them this (which is the Remes); for instance, he says you have heard it said Do Not Murder (P’shat) but I tell you if you hate your brother in your heart, you have already committed murder (Remes).

My answer regarding labels is a spiritual answer because when we are with God, he doesn’t care about what people called us. He doesn’t care if we were Jewish, or Episcopalian, or Catholic or AME or Muslim, even: all God cares about is where are now, spiritually, and not where we were. And where we are doesn’t have a label, other than (if we have to have one, maybe this is the best label): “Faithful Follower of the Torah.”

That has to be the best label because if we believe in God and Yeshua, we have to follow the instructions God gave us in the Torah, which are the same instructions Yeshua taught us. Through Moses and the Pharisees, we were given a plain language understanding of God’s instructions, and when Yeshua came he took us into the next level of understanding, the spiritual one. Think of it this way: The people were going to God College and from Mt. Sinai until Yeshua, they were taking “Torah 101”, and when Yeshua came those who wanted to advance in their knowledge accepted him and were being taught the advanced class “Torah 202.”

And for those who are studying the Bible every day and striving to understand the deeper, spiritual meaning of God’s word, they are attending Torah graduate school.

There is so much importance given to things that are physical, things of the world, such as labels, pronunciations (if God knows our heart and mind, he knows who we mean when we pray), calendar dates, or anything else that is of the physical world. All of this is nothing more than social convention, something that is P’shat and useful only to identify a physical condition.

Anyone who is adopted or has adopted someone, please let me know if I am wrong about this, but I believe that when parents with their own biological children adopt other children, they do not introduce them as “Johnny is my real child and Harry is only my adopted child.” I believe they say, “These are my sons, Johnny and Harry.”  It is the same with God: when he sees us, he doesn’t care what label the world puts on us, he knows who we are he doesn’t care about what we are called.

I hope I have made myself understandable. It seems to me that there are people who are so passionate about labels, minutia, and non-salvation issues that they literally worship these things, and are so involved in the trees they can’t see the forest anymore.

Are you seeing only the trees? Do you think it is really important to God if you are able to say you are Jewish or a Hebrew, or that your calendar has the exact correct date for Yom Kippur this year, or that you know the only correct way to pronounce the Tetragrammaton?

God sees and knows the heart, which is something we are told throughout the Bible, so why would anyone think that a social convention such as a label or a name would have any importance to God?

I pray that this message gets through to someone because I really believe, and know in my heart, that God wants us to live our lives as best as we can in accordance with his instructions. What label we call ourselves by, what pronunciation we use when addressing God, or what calendar we go by is of no real importance to God- it is only important to people who have little spiritual depth and are concerned about what other people think of them. I am sorry if someone feels insulted or mistreated by that statement, but it is what I believe based on my understanding of God and what he has shown me in his Word.

Let’s finish today with you asking yourself this question: Does God know my feelings without me having to say anything?  If you answered Yes, then he doesn’t need words and therefore, all the labels, pronunciations and other things that are of social use are of no use to him, so work on seeing and learning the spiritual things of God and don’t let yourself get all wrapped up and misled by legalistic definitions or labels. They have no eternal value at all.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe, share this ministry with others, and I welcome comments. Even if you disagree, all I ask is that you do so nicely.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Yeshua: Rejected by Jews and Recreated by Christians

Pretty much everyone knows that when Yeshua walked the earth the Jewish population, for the most part, rejected him as the Messiah, although there were many who accepted him. After his resurrection, he was introduced to the Gentiles in the Middle East and Asia, and they much more readily accepted him as the son of God. By the end of the Third Century, the group called Christians far outnumbered the Jewish population, both in the land and within their own group and had separated themselves so much from how Jews lived and worshiped that they created an entirely new religion.

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By the end of the Second Millennia, Christianity had become so diversified that there are now dozens of Christian sects and religions, all purporting to worship the same God and believe Jesus Christ to be his son and the Messiah, yet their religious rites, doctrine and dogma are significantly different.

So, why do Jews, after all this time, still reject Jesus Christ as their Messiah?

The answer is simple, really: the guy that Christianity proposes to be the son of God and Messiah to the world not only has nothing to do with Judaism but has persecuted, murdered, and forced Jews to convert against their will since the 4th Century. PLUS…they have completely misconstrued and/or replaced what Yeshua taught when he walked the earth.

I mean, when you think about it, that’s a pretty good reason for Jews not wanting to have anything to do with this fair-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan You-Know-What who hates their guts.

Yeshua was, still is, and always will be Jewish. He is the Messiah who was promised to be sent to the Jewish people to bring them back into communion with God and lead them in their own country. He lived in accordance with the laws that God gave to the Jewish people (he had to- otherwise he would have been a sinner and as such, his sacrifice would not have been acceptable) and he taught others to do the same as he did.

“Wait a minute!”, you say, “If he taught the same things that the Jews already knew, why didn’t they believe him?”

That’s the problem, isn’t it? Why didn’t they believe him?

In my opinion, there are three reasons that the mainstream Jewish population has rejected Yeshua as their Messiah, despite his teachings and the miracles he performed. Two of them were present at the time he was actively teaching, and they were:

  1. The people were praying for a political Messiah, someone to free them from Roman rule and that was not why Yeshua came; and
  2. Jerusalem in the First Century had one of the most corrupt, if not the most corrupt, political and social environment ever within the history of the Jewish people. The king wasn’t a son of David, the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) wasn’t a descendant of Aaron, and many of the members of the Sanhedrin throughout the land were political “hacks” and not truly Levites. The Pharisees and Sadducees, despite their differences, were a strong political and social power, and Yeshua’s teachings were exposing their hypocrisy and corruption. In essence, Yeshua’s influence on the people was a threat to the Jerusalem “Power Elite” and, as such, he had to be gotten rid of. The people would do what their leaders said to do, so they rejected him not on a personal basis, but as a result of being told that if they followed Yeshua they would be ostracized.

The third reason didn’t really come into play until nearly 60 years after his resurrection.

You see, as more and more Gentiles converted from their pagan religion to what was, essentially, Judaism, they had trouble making that paradigm shift from a religion centered on hedonistic pleasure to a religion centered on self-control, righteous living and respect for others. So, the original Disciples who were now the first leaders of the people who had accepted Yeshua were trying to make that conversion more palatable, if you will, by initially having only 4 requirements that had to be immediately followed (Acts 15.) The assumption was that the other instructions that are in the Torah, which is what Yeshua taught, would eventually be incorporated into their lives as they continued to practice Judaism.

And that’s where the whole thing fell apart.

You see, the Jewish population in the First Century was in rebellion against Roman rulership and were being politically persecuted. These neophyte Believers, composed of both Jews and Gentiles, were being persecuted by the mainstream Jews (under orders of the Power Elite) and the last thing they needed was the Romans on their backs, as well. So, what they did was separate themselves from the Jewish population to avoid Roman persecution.

Of course, that backfired because the Jews were allowed to worship their religion but Rome would not stand for any new religion forming in a land they ruled.

In order to separate from Judaism, these followers of “The Way” changed the Shabbat to Sunday, they did not continue to follow the Torah and even disowned their Jewish roots. After Emperor Constantine got involved (circa 325 AD), the people who professed to follow the teachings of Yeshua were a totally different religion than the one Yeshua taught about! Modern-day Christianity is what Constantine invented, as well as this guy Jesus Christ. Jesus is nothing like Yeshua, doesn’t worship God as Yeshua did, doesn’t teach what Yeshua taught, and hates Jews.

Can you see now why Jews rejected, and still do reject, Jesus Christ as their Savior?

So, nu? Now that we understand the problem, how do we solve it? I am sorry to say that I see no way for this problem to be resolved by human means. We can pray for individuals to find the truth about Yeshua, as I did, and for the Christian leadership to retrace their steps back to where the schism between Judaism and Christianity began, and heal that fissure so that we are all on the same path.

Yeah- like that’s gonna happen.

Those of us who know the truth about Yeshua have to be able to present him in a way that Jews will accept him, meaning teach what he taught and try to overcome the many centuries of wrongful teaching regarding Yeshua. We need to show Jews who Yeshua is, and help them to realize that Jesus Christ is NOT the one God sent or the one to believe in: they must know about Yeshua that he is the one to accept.

We also have to teach those practicing all forms of Christianity so they know that the Jesus Constantine created is not the Messiah God sent, and what they have been told Jesus Christ taught is not what Yeshua taught.

This will not happen easily or quickly and we will be fighting an uphill battle because, to be frank, Christianity is a lot easier than Judaism. Jews have the Torah commandments to live up to, but Christians are told Jesus died for their sins and as long as they are a “good person” they go to heaven. They don’t even care about the Acts 15 requirements anymore.

When Yeshua returns and God’s plan of salvation is completed, there won’t be different religions anymore: in truth, there won’t be any religions, only the one way of life that God gave us from the start. Judaism is called a religion, but that is not what God intended it to be: God gave us the instructions on how to worship him and how to live with each other in the Torah and he didn’t expect us to do anything else.

The Torah was never meant to be the rulebook for a religion, but to be the User Manual for how to live.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe and share these messages with others to help this ministry grow. I always welcome your comments and until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!