Repentance Without Change is Nothing

How often do we hear preachers tell us that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved? How many times have you heard missionaries tell you that Jesus died for your sins and once you accept Him, your sins are forever forgiven? How many people believe that by asking for forgiveness they are now set to go to heaven?

How many of you out there believe that anything I said above is true? If you do, please sit back, open your heart to the Holy Spirit and read on….WARNING: your comfort zone is about to be attacked.

Calling on the name of the Lord, accepting Yeshua (Jesus) and asking forgiveness from your sins in His name, repenting of sin (which is what this is all based on) is totally useless if you, yourself, do not change how you act from that moment onwards. You cannot be forgiven for sinning if you do not repent of sinning, and repentance means that you stop doing what you have been doing. That means changing how you act, changing what you think, and changing how you live your life.

Think about it: What if I stole from you, and then said I was sorry and won’t do it again? Later, I steal from you. Do you think that I really meant what I said when I promised not to steal anymore? If I continue to steal from you, then what you finally realize is that I am NOT repentant, that I am NOT sorry I stole, and that I am playing you for a sap.

God is not a sap. God is forgiving and compassionate and patient, but He is not stupid or easily (actually, I should say ever) fooled. He knows our heart, He knows out very essence, and when we ask for forgiveness, if we really don’t mean it, if we are just trying to get away with something, then He will know and He will not forgive.

Read the writings of the Prophets and see how God continually challenged the Children of Israel, in both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms, to truly repent, to change their ways. Read the book of Jonah- Nineveh did a real T’shuvah (turning from sin) and God recognized that, so they were not destroyed. Later, they went back to their sinful ways and eventually were used by God to punish the Northern Kingdom (who never even tried to repent), then they were also destroyed.

The way many missionaries and preachers gain congregants, and how they keep them, is to tell them what sounds good: “God will forgive you and God loves you just as you are.” Although these statements are true, they aren’t complete.

God does love you just as you are, but that doesn’t mean that He wants you to stay that way.

James tells us faith without works is dead, and that goes hand-in-hand with what I learned when I was a salesman, which is: people don’t mean what they say; they mean what they do. When we ask God to forgive us our sins, He is willing and desiring to do so, but He requires T’shuvah, which is demonstrated only through a change in our actions. Yes, God can see our heart, but that isn’t enough.

Forgiveness of sin is something that says more about God than it does about us, namely that He is wonderful, compassionate and forgiving, and when we talk about how Yeshua died so we can have a chance to live eternally in God’s presence, we are glorifying both Yeshua and God. And that is why we need to change what we do- repentance of our sins has to be shown by a change in our actions which glorifies the Lord.

We naturally will do and act the way we want to, so to change how we act we need to change who we are. People can’t do that, which is why we need the Holy Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh, to indwell in us. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit we can change our words, thoughts and actions. That is what we mean when we say “die to self.”

I once read a self-help book that made a lot of sense to me: the basic premise is that we cannot change how we react to things, but we can change how we act. I was not a Believer then and was thinking simply in humanistic ways, but now that I understand better I see that this is how the Ruach can help. I am sinful from birth, and iniquity (tendency to sin) is something that is part of me- I cannot just make it go away. BUT- I can control it, and I can act in a way that will allow me to overrule my desire to sin. The Ruach is how I do that, and that is what you need to do, as well.

What I mean is this: I can never be sinless, but I can always sin less. I can sin less tomorrow than I did today, and I can do that through repentance (true repentance) by asking the Ruach to help me. And by surrendering to it. When I put my pride and stubborn heart in subjection to the Holy Spirit, then I will have a change of heart, and I will act differently. And my change will demonstrate not to God, but to the world, the truth of my repentance. Our repentance must be obvious to the world in order to glorify the Lord.

That is the essence of today’s message. When we repent and mean it, we will have to change how we act and what we say because the repentance must be obvious to the world- what we do and say as Believers is not to reflect on us, it is to reflect on God and glorify Him.

When we change our words and thoughts, we show the world that our repentance is genuine and that glorifies God. If we tell people we are saved but they see us acting the same way we always have, what are they going to think? I’ll tell what they are going to think- they are going to think that whole “God thing” is a bunch of hooey! We will not only have lied to God but will have defamed Him, trampled the blood of Messiah into the dirt, and possibly prevented someone from being saved from their sin.

That is not a good thing to do.

So, remember what David said in Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit in me.

And while we’re at it, my personal prayer is from Psalm 19: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

Repentance must be real, it must be demonstrated through a change in your words and your actions.

Repentance that doesn’t change you is not repentance, and without repentance of sin there will not be forgiveness of sin.

Do you purr for God?

I have two cats, Shadow and Bowtie. Both males, both fixed (why do we say they are “fixed” when what we did is to make sure it doesn’t work anymore?), and both with different personalities. Shadow is an nudge, always crawling on the newspaper when we are reading it, always moaning at 0330 in the morning (it’s a miracle he is still alive!),  and Bowtie is the one who is the “good son”.

The other day I was petting Shadow and he started to purr. I did the same with Bowtie later in the day, and realized how often I do this. Yes, obviously they have me well trained, but here’s the interesting part: when I pet them and do good things for them, their purr tells me they appreciate what I am doing for them, and I start to purr. Not audibly, but in my heart. I like hearing them tell me how much they like what I do for them.

Then it struck me- God must also feel good when we tell and show Him how much we appreciate what He does for us.

I am not saying that God sees us as pets, but what He does for us is wonderful, and when we show that appreciation I just have to believe that he feels as good as I do, if not better, then when I hear Bowtie or Shadow purring as I do good things to them.

We don’t sacrifice lambs or bulls to show God our appreciation anymore because the Temple is gone, but we can sacrifice in other ways to show how thankful we are. We can sacrifice our time to help others through volunteering; we can sacrifice our income through charitable contributions to those organizations we know are really doing God’s work (so many charities seem to be doing good when you see their TV ads, but you need to be as wise as the Sages of old when giving to charities- make sure it is legit); we can also sacrifice our work time to be with family more often.

Yeshua told us that whatever we do to our brothers, we do to Him. And I don’t think He meant just fellow Believers; I think Yeshua and God want us to be kind and compassionate to anyone and everyone, whether they are a Believer or not.

So, nu? Do you purr for God? Do you show Him how much you appreciate all He has done, is doing, and has planned to do for you? It is all for your good, trust Him, and even when He throws you into the fire, it is to designed to make you (come out) more purified than before.

I challenge you all to think of one way you can “purr for God” today. Do something that you know will please the Lord- it doesn’t have to be big, it just has to be honest and heartfelt and thankful. God loves a cheerful giver, and He is pleased when we do what is right, so go out there and purr loud and strong for God today.

God’s word is the same for everyone

Here I am, sitting at home, writing in my blog and wondering how much longer I will be able to go before the caffeine (actually, lack of caffeine) headache starts to hit. Last night began Yom Kippur, and we had a Kol Nidre (Hebrew for “All oaths”) service. Despite technical issues, it went well. Normally there would be prayer services all day, which makes the time go by faster, but not this year. Maybe, if we grow more and get enough people who want to celebrate this day in prayer, we can hold the evening and all day services, as well.

I was talking with someone last night who was drinking something from a cup as we talked, and this person has been a Believer and Hebraic Roots Christian (the other side of the Messianic Jew coin) for a long time. Yet, here he is, drinking in front of me knowing that I am fasting.

He was telling me of plans for a break-fast together at the house of one of the people who has a home fellowship meeting every Wednesday, and they usually bring food and eat at around 1830 or so. Of course, Donna and I were invited but we have our own traditional break-fast that we have done for nearly 20 years and have no desire at all to stop doing: it’s called the Outback Steak House!

Anyway, back to the story: so, I tell him that it would be too early to eat since the sunset isn’t until around 1930, and you wanna know what he accused me of being? He accused me of being “legalistic”! He has no idea what an insult that is, and no idea of what he was talking about, either. Legalism, as Shaul (Paul) used it in the letter to the Galatians, means to follow the Torah only as a means to attain salvation; in other words, we do what God says so we can be saved. I don’t do what God says to be saved- I do it because God said to do it. God didn’t say to do it half-way, or in whichever way is easiest for us, or whichever way we want to. God said this is what you are to do, and this is how you are to do it. Period.

I am not really mad at this person for the sin he accused me of. He needs to re-read the word of God, and include those sentences that come after what he wants to believe. Such as when, in Acts 15, the Elders told the newly-converting Gentiles that they are expected to do 4 things. That was not the end or entirety of their expectations. The letter sent to the Gentiles who were converting to Judaism- if you followed Yeshua that is what you were doing- said that they need to immediately stop eating blood, stop eating anything strangled, stop eating anything devoted to an idol, and to stop fornicating. But that wasn’t the end of it-there was more. Most Christians like to think (or have been taught) it stopped there, and that all the other commandments in the Torah were left up to the individual Gentile to take it or leave it. Not true.

As Paul Harvey would have said, “And now for the rest of the story…”. These four commandments, so to speak, were to be immediately adhered to by new converts, but all the rest of the Torah was not thrown out- the next sentence says that these new converts will be hearing the laws of Moses in the synagogue every Shabbat. Why did they say that, if the Mosaic law (Torah) wasn’t important? They said that because the point is that these 4 restrictions are just the start, not the end, of the process these new Believers would be going through. These 4 restrictions are what the Elders felt could be reasonably expected from Gentiles who have spent their entire lifetime without any restrictions. To throw the full weight of the Torah on them, all at once, would be too much to expect of anyone. Even the Jews, who were expected to fulfill every command of Torah and who had been raised from infancy with those restrictions, even they still couldn’t obey them completely! To throw them all, all at once, on the Gentiles was unreasonable, and would only result in creating a stumbling block in their path to salvation.

That’s why I say we all need to read the next sentence. The Elders clearly expected that these converts would now be leading a Jewish lifestyle, and going to Synagogue every Shabbat where they would hear the words of God and learn the Torah. And, as such, it was expected that they would, eventually, be able to take on the fullness of the Torah.

The statement made to me by my brother last night, which was that Jews are expected to honor the entire Torah but Gentiles don’t have to, is ridiculous. It is nearly blasphemous, accusing God of playing favorites, and announcing that what God said is required (of those that follow Him) is not true for all people. Basically, he called God a liar.

GOD HAS NO RELIGION!  He has Torah. He gave the Torah to the Jewish people, His chosen people, who are chosen to bring the Torah to the world. There cannot be any discussion or argument against that; at least not if  you read the bible, either Old or New Covenant, and read all the sentences. And what I mean is that you don’t just read what you want, pull something from here and something from there: the entire bible is valid, from the first line in Genesis to the last sentence in Revelations. And there is nothing in the New Covenant that is new- and there is nothing anywhere that says some have to do what God says and others don’t- and there is nothing Yeshua (Jesus) said that goes against Torah- and there is nothing Shaul (Paul) said that goes against Torah.  There is nothing, anywhere, in the entire bible that says all laws are for Jews and only some are for Christians.

God is very clear that anyone who sojourns with His people, meaning anyone who wants to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and call themself one of God’s chosen, has the same rights and privileges as a natural-born Jew. That goes both ways- if you have the same rights and privileges, you are also subject to the same laws and commandments. You can’t have your Kugel and eat it, too.  If you believe in God, if you profess that you are saved because you have accepted Yeshua/Jesus as your Messiah and Savior, then you MUST honor His word and worship Him as He said to.

And how we do that is in the Torah.

When Yeshua died for our sins, it did not release us from obeying God’s word. I am spending today, this very moment, fasting and praying for forgiveness NOT because Yeshua’s sacrifice doesn’t cover me, but because I am still a sinner, and because God commanded that this day, the tenth day of Tishri, is a day to be devoted to asking for forgiveness. The fact that Yeshua has covered my sins doesn’t mean I don’t ever have to ask to be forgiven anymore.

Think about it: if you don’t ask for forgiveness of a sin, that means you don’t really feel any remorse, and if you feel no remorse, then you can’t be repentant. Yeshua’s sacrificial death will not save a sinner who is unrepentant.

I fast this day because God said to, and that means the entire day, sunset to sunset, as God decreed it should be done. That’s not legalism, my friends, that is called worship! That is called devotion! That is called demonstrating my love for God by being obedient!

My friends, my brothers and sisters out there somewhere, reading this now- I pray that the truth of God’s complete plan of salvation is fully revealed to you. I pray that the forgiveness provided by Yeshua’s sacrifice, which is the ultimate demonstration of God’s willingness and desire to forgive you when you do T’shuvah (repentance), is not diluted and perverted into some form of license to ignore Torah.

Thanks to Yeshua, I will not go to hell if I eat ham, and with or without Yeshua, I will not go to heaven just because I don’t eat ham. However, if I chose to obey the laws of Kashrut in Leviticus 11, I will demonstrate my desire to please God, to obey Him, and I will earn blessings for obedience.

Obedience brings blessings- it is the promise of God (Deuteronomy 28)-do you have so many blessings that you don’t want any more?

Do you feel that you don’t need to ask for forgiveness? Have you lead a totally sinless life since you accepted Yeshua? Do you think that just because Yeshua died for your sins you don’t have to stop sinning? What is a sin? Isn’t it disobeying God? If God said, “This is what you are to do”, and you refuse to do it, for whatever reason, isn’t that a sin?

If you think that because you are a Gentile you don’t have to follow the Torah, you are wrong. Sorry, don’t mean to burst your “Buffet Believer Bubble” that you can obey what you want and ignore the rest. But, the truth is that everyone, whether or not they accept God or Yeshua, EVERYONE is required by God to do what He says to do. That is the truth. If you doubt me or disagree with me, that’s your right- God gave us all free will to decide for ourselves. It is not just your right, it is your choice, your decision, and whether or not you make it because of what you believe the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) has told you, or what your religious leader has told you, or just simply what you would rather believe because you want to- it is your choice.

And when you come before the Lord, God, Almighty- and we all will come before Him – you will be held accountable for whatever choice you have made.

That is why I pray you make the right choice: the choice that is right in God’s eyes.

May God bless you all with peace, joy, wisdom and discernment.

And may you have an easy fast.

Shalom, Yisrael

Well, we have had a wonderful tour. The tour guide was wonderful, the driver actually was able to overcome the laws of momentum, physics and gravity by driving in such as way as the large, cumbersome bus was able to do things I couldn’t do in a Volkswagon Beetle.

One thing that was a problem, which is why I am writing this blog at 0125 in the morning, is that at 2200 (that’s 11 at night to you civilian types) I received a notification that our El Al flight leaving at 0840 was rescheduled to 1400 (2:00 PM) and would be on a Spanish airline. That means we would all miss our connecting flights back to Florida (and other places for some people) by the time we got to JFK airport in New York. So, we cancelled the 0400 wake-up call for everyone, called the rooms to let them know they could sleep in (hello, wake up, go back to sleep) and the Pastor who put this all together and I checked out alternatives. As we were thinking it through, El Al called me and we found out that we could take an earlier flight to Frankfurt (yes, the Frankfurt in Germany), then switch to Lufthansa and take that to JFK and arrive around 1335 in NY, which was about the same time we expected to land originally.

Well, that was good news and the El Al guy said there were plenty of seats (we needed to change flight plans for 14 people) and to call back if we wanted to do this, then he was gone. We called everyone, woke them up (again) and told them that the 0400 wake-up call would now be 0200 so we can be on the bus at 0300 so we can be at the airport in time to catch the 0610 flight to Germany.

Then we called El Al to confirm that we wanted to change everyone, but they couldn’t do that for me without the reservation /confirmation number for everyone, or their passport number. So, once again we had to wake everyone up, but this time we needed their passports; some of the others (since they were now up) went to the rooms and knocked on the doors: “Wake up, give me your passport, go back to sleep.”

I managed to get all 14 tickets changed, and El Al was nice enough to send all the change confirmations to my email. Well, almost all- I am listening to their MUZAK waiting to ask someone to send me two more changes I need to make sure I have confirmation of all the ticket changes.

Needless to say, I will be sleeping on the plane.

This last day we went to the Mount of Olives, Garden Tomb and Gethsemane. My poor little SD camera card gave up the ghost and I lost about 40% of the pictures I took today, but it was mostly just the garden tomb and that is OK. I have plenty of other pics and once I get home (assuming I do, that is) I will try to add a media page so you can look at the pics, too. If you want to , of course.

One of the most remarkable things about this tour is how well it has worked out (all except tonight, that is) but even with the flight screw-up, we will (probably) be OK . There are a number of people with me who have been Believers a long time, and have not had the chance to be really exposed to the Jewish thinking about Christianity, which our guide provided for us very well. I try to let people know how Christians need to “deal” with Jews, and this group was very open to the fact that Christianity has been, historically, Anti-Semitic. It can be very uncomfortable for a person who has a heart for Israel and the Jewish people, as all my traveling companions do, to hear the truth about why there is such a rift between Judaism and Christianity, when the only thing that makes sense is that we should all be working together. We are branches on the same tree- some natural, some grafted in, but we all feed off the same root and should be nourished the same way. Unfortunately, when the enemy lost the fight for dominance by reason of Yeshua’s resurrection, he made a very effective counter-attack. The general he used was Constantine, and the battle has raged since then, with the enemy gaining back a lot of ground.

Praise God that recently the rift is becoming thinner and thinner, as more and more Christians begin to understand how they need to work with Jews and to get back to the roots of their religion, which is God’s Word from Genesis through Revelations.

(I just got through the MUZAK and the El Al person came on. I gave her my name and reservation number and before I could explain what we have done she said, “Oh- you’re the one with the 14 tickets!” OMG- El Al knows me! She confirmed that the missing confirmations were in the queue and I would receive the tickets. I’m a celebrity!)

If you haven’t been to Israel, you really should come here. I am very impressed with all the history, everywhere, as well as the modern buildings and remarkable growth. The prophets all said the people would be regathered and the desert would become a garden- well, that prophecy isn’t a prophecy any more- it is now history.

(On my second cup of “room” coffee and the wake-up call just came in. So far, so good.)

I haven’t felt that change of life feeling that everyone I have heard tells me I should have. I wanted to come, I have come, and I have seen (no Romanized pun intended) and I am impressed. But, I have to admit, I have not felt some tugging of my spirit to make Aliyah (move here permanently) and I am almost a little defensive when my Christian travel companions have asked me, “Aren’t you going to make Aliyah?”

No- I am not. I am Jew and I am a Believer, and I love Israel and it is MY land, but it is not my country. I am an American by birth, I took an oath to protect America when I was commissioned into the Marine Corps, and just because I am no longer on active duty that doesn’t mean, for me, that the oath is no longer valid. Just because I am a Jew doesn’t mean I have to make Aliyah to be a “good” Jew. I almost feel that the question is close to racist, in that there is that assumption that all Jews want to make Aliyah. No- they don’t.

This isn’t like the 1920’s Jews that were invited to come here by both Britain and (believe it or not) Jordan, who stayed in Germany and Europe (and the US, too) because it was comfortable and they were assimilated. At that time God was calling us back (just for the record, I wasn’t born then) and we refused to go. The result was that they were there when Hitler took over. There is a passage in the bible (more than one, actually) that tells us what will happen when we want to join the world and no longer separate ourselves for God. According to our guide, Yosi, the Holocaust was the result of that refusal to return in order to assimilate. I think I will have to agree.

On the other hand, he also pointed out that without the Holocaust there would be no state of Israel. Zionism had already been around since the early part of the 20th Century, but after the Holocaust Jews had no where to go but Israel. So, God caused us to return, but we had to do it the hard way.

One way or another, God’s plan will be completed.

Will I ever make Aliyah? Probably not in this life, but there is land for me, somewhere, in Israel. I will see it when the resurrection is completed.

Would I like to make Aliyah? The answer is the same- probably. But I don’t see that as a possibility in the foreseeable future. I guess if God really wants me in Israel, He will make a path for me. Until then, although I believe in walking in faith instead of sitting around and waiting for it, I will continue to live my life as it is. Hopefully, Donna and I will be able to come back here on our own one day and if Donna wants to live here, we might. It isn’t all that easy since I have to prove my Judaism and all I have is my Bar Mitzvah certificate, and Donna (being a Gentile) may be allowed to join me but that will be harder to get done.

Look at the clock!  I have to get ready. I will (hopefully) recover enough by Sunday to work on getting the pictures uploaded to the blog site for you, so to those who are already following this site you will get a notice, and to anyone who is just reading this, maybe you would like to become a follower of the blog? Just look for the “Follow” button and add your email to the list. I would appreciate it, and if you like what you read, please buy my book (I also have a link to some sites where you  can get it) and get on board the “God has no religion” train.

I am soooo looking forward to holding my wife in my arms again. We both have already agreed that this is the last, absolutely last, separate vacation we will ever take.

Shalom.

 

 

Parashah Shemini (on the eighth day) Leviticus 9 – 11

This parashah starts with Aaron, who has been undergoing sanctification for the office of Cohen HaGadol for the past 8 days, beginning his duties as High Priest. Also his two oldest sons, Nadab and Abihu, were to start assisting him.

The problem is that the boys had been drinking (implied by what is commanded in 4:8-11) and offered up incense and fire that was not authorized, and which they had no right to do.

It cost them their lives, as God sent fire from heaven to kill them.

Aaron was told not to mourn, and to continue his duties so that more anger from God was not brought down on him, too.

Chapter 11 is the chapter for Kashrut, the Kosher laws and regulations regarding cleanliness. It makes sense to me that the cleanliness laws would come after the laws about sacrifice- after all, once you have presented your sacrifice and been cleansed, the next thing you need to know is how to stay clean.

What we need to understand from this parashah is how important the position of leadership is within the Jewish world, and even more so, in God’s sight. The devastating punishment that Abihu and Nadab suffered for their insult to God and disregard for His laws was commensurate with their position within the community as leaders and representatives of God to the community.  In James 3:1 we are told….no, actually we are warned….that being a teacher is a position not to be taken lightly:

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

This warning from Yacov can be traced back directly to this parashah. Moses told Aaron not to show any signs of remorse or mourning because Aaron was God’s representative, and as such to even imply he was unhappy about God’s judgment in this case would be a form of denying what God did as just. And since Aaron not only represents God before the people, but also acts as a representative of the people before God, if he was upset and unhappy with God’s judgment then the people would follow suit. And, as we have seen (and will see often during their 40 years in the desert) the people suffered for their distrust and rejection of God’s commands and judgments.

Performing ministry is a form of teaching; indeed, it is teaching the most important thing there is to know: who Messiah is and how to attain salvation and eternal peace. Therefore, ministry workers must be above-board and always represent themselves well. If you talk to people about God, then you represent God. If you tell people about being a Believer, then you represent all Believers.

And the non-believers will throw that up in your face every time you so much as sneeze without covering your mouth!

We will stumble, we will misrepresent God, and we will screw things up, royally. We may represent God’s goodness and love, but we are still human and, as such, will do stupid things. That is no reason to stop trying. A good lesson to teach anyone is that when you fall, brush yourself off, get back up, and keep walking. Maybe the best lesson we can teach about God is not all the wonderful things He has done, but to show how He strengthens us in the midst of our weakness. Just like Shaul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9:

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

We are, each of us, a member of the body of Messiah and we must do what God has placed us here to do. Seek out your gift from God and when you find it, use it. Invest the talents He has given you so that when you meet Him you can give Him back more than what He gave you (read the parable about the Talents in the Gospels.)

Be careful, be aware, but don’t be frightened or put off by the extra responsibility you have as a teacher or leader in the community- it is a great way to grow and have your spirit matured within you. Being in charge is a terrible, and terrific, responsibility, yet if you perform your duties with love, compassion, respect and humility you may be surprised to find yourself being supported by those that you are to support!  When I was a Platoon Commander in the Marine Corps, I would lead the PT (Physical Training) and we would run, as a platoon of 30 men, for miles and miles. I was always in the lead, setting the pace. I had been asked more than once how I can carry all those men with me, and I would reply that I wasn’t pulling them, they were pushing me.

Leadership in God’s community and teaching others about God is a position that is held in high regard by those you teach, is a position in which you are held doubly responsible by God for what and how you teach and live, and makes you a target to be constantly attacked by those who refuse to believe. Standing on the horizon your shadow extends farther than those who are in the valley. Be aware, be careful, and be strengthened by knowing God is not just watching you more carefully, He is strengthening you more completely.

As you do more and more for God, and humbly allow Him to work through you, the responsibility of your position will become heavier and heavier, yet at the same time His strength in your weakness will make that burden easier and easier to bear.

You don’t have to believe to like the bible

Before I was saved I didn’t know the bible, at all. I knew what I had been told, or what I thought they had said, and that was it.

And that was not always correct, either. How many people do you think would say yes if you asked them, “Does the bible say, ‘God helps those that help themselves.'”?

We who know the bible know that this is not said anywhere in the bible; the truth we learn from the bible is that God helps those that ask Him for help.

So, what brought me to the Word of God? It wasn’t the spiritual stuff, it was the social stuff. It was the fact that I realized (and we have to make others realize this by exposing them to these facts) the bible held many wise sayings and useful rules for how to act in society. I realized that there was wisdom that was available for me without having to believe in God. There was truth and understanding about people and how they treated each other in the stories it has, and there is history (I am a lifelong student of history) that is fascinating. It is very hard to argue, with all the archeological evidence and artifacts found over the centuries, that the bible is not an accurate historical document.

All of these things got me interested in the bible as a book. I read it as I would any other saga, and I recognized it as a history of the human experience.

But then the Word of God got into me. The bible does say, in Isaiah 55:11:

“…so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

The purpose of God’s word is to save us from ourselves, and it did that for me. I didn’t understand a lot of it, and what really helped me was to get my hands on a special type of bible- a messianic one. Being Jewish, the New Covenant writings were an anathema to me- I had been told by every Jew I ever knew, even ones that didn’t know the first thing about the bible, that Jesus was a Jew that turned against Judaism and created Christianity (what a crock that is, but even today it is accepted by most Jews as the truth.) And, as a student of history, I knew how well Christianity had treated the Jewish people over the millennia, so (naturally) I had no interest in anything Christian. However, the messianic version bold-printed every New Covenant reference to the Tanakh, and when I saw, page after page after page, that most of everything in the New Covenant came directly from the Old Covenant, I realized that (you’ve heard me say this before) there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant. It is a Jewish book!

So, nu? Let’s read our audience and ask only the questions we already know the answers to: let’s sell salvation the right way. If you are finding that your efforts to interest non-Believers is not working , stop telling them what you think is important and ask them what they think is important.  People only want to know what interests them, so with all there is in the bible you just have to be able to find something that is relevant to their interests.

That is how you get people to read the bible, or (at least) know something about it that is accurate. Just help them to understand that the bible is not just for believers, it is for everyone. The stories are the best stories that have ever been told (isn’t the Gospel called “The Greatest Story Ever Told?”), the wisdom of Solomon in Proverbs is easy to read and necessary for any and all aspects of life, the mitzvot regarding how to treat each other in a society are the foundation for most every civilized country in the world. The history is fascinating.

All of this is in there, and you don’t need to believe in God to enjoy and learn from it. Even within the bible there is a book that never once mentions God. Not a word about Him, not even His name, only a reference to His ability to achieve His goals (if you aren’t sure which book, it’s the Book of Esther {Hadassah}.)

People are afraid of the bible, and I don’t blame them-after all, it does tell us that if we reject God we go to hell. But, other than that, as a book it makes you think, it is a real “page-turner” (in most places- I will admit that the genealogies and the first 8 chapters or so of Numbers is a drag) and it can be read only a chapter or two a day.

Get people to see the bible as more than a religious book, teach them that there is more to the bible than God-related things, and get them just interested enough to read it. Even just one book, or a story. Get their face in the book, and leave the rest to the book.

Isaiah knew what he was talking about. All we need to do is get someone curious enough to read something in the bible.

If you can do just that one thing, God will take it from there.

Just because we don’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there

Ever see the wind? Do you see sound waves when listening to the ocean? When you get a sunburn, did you see the UV rays all around you?

There are many things we don’t see, yet they exist. And how do we know they exist? By their effect on our world.

We don’t see the wind, but we see flags moving in the breeze, we see trees bend over, we see waves in the pond and we see smoke traveling sideways. And we feel it.

We see the red skin and feel the pain when we are in the sun too long, we get a ringing in our ears when we go to a concert or have the radio too loud, or when a fire truck goes by blaring its siren.

There are so many things we don’t see that are there. We easily accept their existence because we see their effect on our physical world. Sometimes it is immediate, sometimes it takes a while to appear, but because we see the effect it has on our physical world we trust that it is real.

If it is so easy for us to accept the existence of UV light, of wind, of sounds we are incapable of hearing, of mesons, and so many other things that we have never seen, why is it so impossible for us to accept that God exists and that He is always there?

I am sure most people reading this already accept that God exists, but do you really, really believe that He is always there? Always watching and aware?  I do. Just because I don’t see His work in my life, at that time of my life, it doesn’t mean He isn’t present in my life.

God’s time is not like our time: we live in a lineal timeline, flat, one-way only, from this moment to the next one. We can’t go backwards, and we can’t go any farther into our future than right this second. God, on the other hand, is unrestricted by our timeline. He is in the ancient past at the same moment He exists in the distant future, all the time being right here with us, now. That’s why He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow: it is all the same time to Him.

When Joseph was in the dungeon for 12 years did he think God had abandoned him? When Daniel was praying for answers, did he think God was ignoring him? When David cried out his heart to the Lord through his psalms, while being chased for years by Saul, did he think that God was missing in his life? Did Yeshua think God was ignoring Him when He prayed to “let this cup pass by me?” When Shaul (Paul) was in jail and chained, did he think that he was singing to the wall?

When you are going through tsouris, are you praying to God and expecting relief right away? There’s nothing wrong with expecting God to answer prayers- He’s good that way. But we need to be doing much more than just faithfully expecting the answer: we need to be looking for it, too! The answer to prayer we receive is (I believe) more often not what we expect but it is always exactly what we need. God knows much better than we do what we need because He can see what will occur from what is happening to us right now. We can only hope and try to make things happen the way we want them to, but God can make things happen the way He wants them to. Every time.

That is why we can’t really know what He will do when we ask something of Him. Yeshua told us in the Gospels, when we ask in His name we will receive, and we need to be expecting to receive. But what we receive may not be what we asked for, yet it will be the answer to what our prayers were about.

That sounds a little convoluted, but it is true. At least, it has been for me. When I have thought that maybe God was too busy to deal with me, looking back I see that I was too busy dealing with myself to see what God was doing. And sometimes, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, it just wasn’t time for the answer to my prayer to be realized. God’s timing is perfect because, well, He controls time. Duh! When you make the rules you always win.

Just because we don’t see God at work doesn’t mean He isn’t doing anything. You know, sometimes just waiting is the best thing to do. Doing nothing is, in many ways, doing something.

In my high school was a guy named Mike Santoro (Mike, if you ever read this, how ‘ya doing?) Mike was the best wrestler we had, state-level champion. He taught me that my body could be maneuvered into positions that you couldn’t imagine. When Mike wrestled, he often just sat on the opponent- doing nothing. The other guy was face down on the mat, and Mike is sitting on that guys’ butt, just waiting. The ref would whistle and tell him to stop stalling, but Mike wasn’t stalling- he was prowling. He was stalking the prey, and the moment the other guy moved- POW!! Like a snake striking, Mike was intertwined in this poor guys limbs, and the next thing you knew the ref was on his belly smacking the mat three times.

That’s how God works. He waits for the right moment, and when He moves it is immediate and devastating. Just because we don’t see God doing anything doesn’t mean He isn’t doing something. And  when we don’t see God at all, it doesn’t mean He isn’t there, or that He doesn’t exist, and never means that He doesn’t care.

People who are agnostic, atheistic or just sheep believing what they are told to believe have doubts about God, and refuse to see His effect on their world. The bible tells us of all that God has done, and I am constantly disappointed in how people believe a priori what Huffington Post or Wikipedia says,  but doubt the bible. The people who wrote the bible didn’t do so to make themselves rich, or to appease some special interest group, or to make themselves look to be heroic. They were often ridiculed, stoned and killed for their writings. As a point in fact, we are currently celebrating Hanukkah, and the Maccabees are the heros, but when you read their story you find out that just about every single one of them was assassinated later. Not a very happy ending.

We need to stop looking for the Son of Man to come down with power and glory from the skies. It’ll happen when it happens. In the meantime, just look for the effect that God has on the physical world- that is what we can use to prove His existence when we are ministering to the world.

As for all of us, when we go through tsouris and feel that God is ignoring or forgetting about us, and we don’t see His presence in our lives, please remember that just because we don’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Is Your Flesh Weak or Strong?

Yeshua said of His Talmudim (Disciples), when they couldn’t stay awake with Him as He prayed that night after the Seder, that their spirit was willing but their flesh was weak.

I wonder if, with all due respect to Yeshua, He didn’t get that backwards.

I know that there are many times my spirit (actually, His spirit within me) tells me the correct thing to do, but my flesh outweighs it and I do something else. In that case, isn’t the flesh stronger than the spirit? Doesn’t Shaul say, in Romans, that he does what he doesn’t want to do, and doesn’t do that which he wants to? Is his spirit strong and willing and his flesh weak? It seems to be the other way around, doesn’t it?

We are creatures of the flesh- we have to be. We are born into the flesh, we live in the flesh, and we will be flesh until we die and are resurrected in new bodies which will be born of the spirit. Until then, we are flesh and the flesh is powerful.

When we have the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) within us, we are guided by that spirit to do what is right in God’s eyes and we are comforted by His presence, which that spirit brings. But we are still flesh, and when my spirit says to go get some food for a person who is asking for help, it is my flesh that makes excuses for not doing so: I am in a rush, I don’t have any small change, the cafe is all the way across the street, whatever. It is the flesh that says to do what I am doing and not care for that person in need, even when both the spirit and flesh say it will only take 5 minutes. The difference is that the spirit says, “Oh, come on- this will only take 5 minutes” and the flesh says, “You’re late- you don’t have even 5 minutes to spare.”

The spirit is right and the flesh is wrong, but the spirit requires discipline to follow and the flesh is always the easy way out. That’s the problem, isn’t it? When we are flesh, in a world controlled by flesh, the flesh is the easy way and the spirit is the hard way.

So the only thing to do is exercise your spirit until it is stronger than your flesh. Pray, force yourself to help others, make sure you get some time with other Believers and listen to their stories of how they have strengthened their spirit, and decide for yourself who is going to rule you. Yeshua said we are all slaves to something, so decide: will you be a slave to your flesh, or a slave to God’s spirit?

For me it is an easy decision: I want to do what God wants me to do. Yet, as much as I want to, it is a hard thing to actually do. Maybe that’s why so many are called but few actually get to the end. In fact, we are all called because God says (check it out in Ezekiel) that He is not happy with the death of any sinner; He would rather we all turn from our sin and live.  That means we are all called.

It’s only those who can exercise their spirit to be stronger than their flesh that will make it. Just saying you believe isn’t enough- even the Enemy and every one of his demons believe. It is the ones who believe, have turned from their sin and produced fruit (the offering of good works that we need to present to God at Judgement Day) whose spirit has been strong enough to win out over their flesh.

Are you exercising your spirit? If not, you had better hit the bricks, get on the bike, and start doing a few spiritual push-ups every morning. Only God knows how much longer you have, so don’t delay because He isn’t likely to give you any notice.

You Love Me? Really?

We all know that the Lord loves us. Whether or not we love Him, He loves us. His love is unconditional, it is forever, it is based on who He is and not who we are (thank God for that!), and it will cause Him to judge us fairly with mercy. Which we all need.

It is so much above human love, and so far beyond human understanding; how can any of us, really, associate with what He did when He sent His only son to die for us so that we could be close to Him. Something we could never have achieved on our own, even though it isn’t that hard. After all, Moshe told us that it isn’t so far away we need to send someone to get it for us, or so deep we can’t retrieve it, or so high above us we can’t reach it. It is right there, right in front of us.

But we can’t get hold of it, not a real good hold. So God did for us what we should have done for ourselves, at a great cost. Yeshua stripped His robes of righteousness and took on a mantle of flesh: filthy, dirty and mortal coverings that He wore just as the rest of us. Except despite this, He did not sin in the flesh that causes all the rest of us to sin. He survived unblemished, He showed us how to live, and He properly interpreted God’s word for us (which means Jesus/Yeshua did NOT create a new religion- those that followed after Constantine created a different religion, but Yeshua taught from the Tanakh and taught how to follow the Torah correctly.) Yeshua died so that I could live; so that you could live. It was, and is, a very personal thing.

Do you love the Lord? Most everyone I ever met who is Born Again says “YES!! Emphatically! Totally! Absolutely!”

I love God, too, but I don’t feel it.  I feel love for my wife. I feel love for my children (even though they have rejected me, so in that way I know a little about how God must feel), but I confess I don’t feel love for God- I know I have love for Him. Maybe because He is so wonderful, so far from me (in holiness, but not emotionally or relationship-wise), or maybe just because I am really selfish with using the word “love”, I don’t have the same emotional sense I feel with other humans. I love the Lord, and I am His bride (wow- to say such a thing in today’s world, and so close to election time, is scary) and those who read this most likely know the true meaning of that reference. But I just can’t honestly say I love God and feel it. I want to, I know I do, but I don’t feel it. I do feel unworthy, unresponsive, and undeserving of what He feels for me because I just don’t know how to return it. And I absolutely know that He deserves it.

Maybe my real problem is that I can’t separate the holy love I know for God from the romantic love I feel as a human. How many of you out there love someone because of how they make you feel? You feel whole, completed with the other person, right? My relationship with God has made me feel completed as a Jewish man, I feel that I have (finally) come full circle with God and we are on the same page, so to speak. My relationship is wonderful and fulfilling with the Lord- exactly what He planned when He sent Messiah. And more than anything or anyone else that ever was, God deserves my love. He has earned it because He gave me life, because of His sacrifice for me, through His devotion to me, through all He has done during my meager life that has protected me and kept me from harm, both physical and spiritual. God is worthy of my worship, my devotion, and more than anything, my love. He is worthy and deserving of everyone’s love.

However, I am not. That’s why I am confessing to you that I don’t “buy it” when a stranger, or even someone I worship with regularly and would call a friend or acquaintance, comes to me at the worship and says, “I love you, Brother!” I don’t doubt their sincerity, but I doubt they really love me. Not me. Maybe the spirit of God that they expect I should be housing? I could go along with that. But not me. They don’t know me. They haven’t seen me at my worst. They haven’t  heard the words I use when I am angry and frustrated (for me, those two emotions are so close together they are almost like Siamese Twins.) They haven’t heard my vengeful talk when I am wronged; I don’t take vengeance- that is for the Lord. But, I do plan it out for Him, now and then. They haven’t seen my evil twin, Skippy, at work when he locks me in the basement and takes over for me in real life, going to work and impersonating me. He angers the clients, makes trouble for the co-workers, he even gets my wife angry at him. It takes a lot to get Skippy to leave town; fortunately, he doesn’t get along with the Ruach HaKodesh so the closer I get to God the less often Skippy comes around.

But if you met Skippy, you certainly wouldn’t say to him, “I love you , Brother!” You would probably say something more like, “Oh Brother!”

I don’t tell people whom I don’t really know that I love them. I am not much of a hugger, either. I find it very impolite when someone hugs another person without asking permission. It isn’t their love for me that makes them want to hug me- it is their own desire to feel loved. They physically misuse my body, they assault me, in order to feel that they are loved. And if I should say, “I’m not really a hugger” their response more often than not is, “Well, I am.” and they proceed to violate my space, my body and my rights by hugging me. And if I should complain, guess who’s at fault? That’s right- they blame me for not loving as the Lord loves. They insult God’s love and cheapen what Yeshua did by ( as the psychologists call it) “projecting” their feelings at me instead of reflecting on what I said.

{By the way, to those who know me and those who worship with me, if you are thinking you should keep your distance don’t worry- I do hug people I feel comfortable with, and if you offer and I reply with a hug, it’s OK. If I should stick my hand out, that’s the signal that I am not comfortable enough yet. It’s not a rejection, it’s just caution on my part. Don’t stop asking, and please do not be upset or feel rejected if it isn’t time yet. It will be, eventually.}

You love me? Really? I don’t think so. I don’t think humans have that kind of love. Again, I don’t doubt your sincerity, and I appreciate your attempt  to be more like God, but love for others is worth a lot to me, and I don’t just throw it at the feet of anyone who says they are a child of God. It is like throwing pearls before swine, in my book. I pretty much start of with giving everyone the benefit of the doubt when I first meet them, or start to work with them, and I assume (and expect) they will be professional, dependable and trustworthy. I trust them and am looking forward to working with them, or knowing them as friends, whatever the relationship is supposed to be. It is up to them to give me cause to feel otherwise.

But it’s not like that with love. Love is something that the Bible teaches us we should have for each other. Love thy neighbor as thyself- Leviticus 19:18 (for those who don’t know this, when Yeshua gave us the “Golden Rule” He was quoting from Torah. There is nothing ‘New” in the New Covenant)- is the standard for all of us. Yeshua said the two most important commandments (in this order, by the way) are to love God, and love each other. He told His disciples that the way people will know they are His disciples is if they love each other. There is nothing but love in the life of a true Believer, a real worshipper of God. Shaul tells us, ultimately, no matter how many gifts he has been given, no matter how many talents he has, no matter how hard he works for the Lord, if he has not love, he has nothing.

I guess I am just a step or two above nothing. I have love, but I am selfish with it. I am too ensnared in the world, still, to separate the romantic version of love from the holy love that God feels for us. And, I am sorry to say, I don’t think I am that much different from most everyone else.  I believe that people cannot love the way God loves, but I do honor their attempt. That’s why when someone says they love me, I don’t argue with them. I may thank them, I most likely won’t say anything, and I guarantee I won’t say that I love them, too. I don’t know them that well, I am not that Godly, and I am certainly not that open with my feelings.

I hope you are different. I hope that some of you reading this will pity my weakness, my fleshly curse that prevents me from feeling love the way God does and keeps me chained to the emotional, romantic understanding of love that is a bane, in many ways, of humanity. Pray for me, if you will, and pray for yourself that you are really feeling the intercessory power that comes from truly loving as God does- not romantically, not selfishly, not humanly.

I doubt that I will ever feel that way, at least, not in this body. I do believe that once resurrected, I will be beyond the human level of emotions; I believe that we will all, those of us resurrected to the second life, no longer have emotional feelings as we do now. Our sense of love and emotional closeness to each other will be beyond the physical and it will be as God feels- love that is so powerful, so much a part of us that it is like breath, and as such we will be in total joy just being with each other.

I can hardly wait.

Moses, Man of God: CEO or GM?

We have been told that Moshe was a great leader. He led the people out of Egypt, he led the people through the Sea of Suf, he led the people through the desert, he led the people to the Promised Land.

But did he lead?

Look, I’m all for Moshe. He was a great man, although I think he would say he was nothing. After all, we are told he was the humblest of all men. I served as an Executive Office of a company of US Marines (over 365 men and millions of dollars of equipment), a manager in different businesses, had a business, been a worker and been a peon, I know the difference between leadership and management.

Leadership wasn’t Moses’s strength. God led the people. God provided the sustenance, the protection, and the ideas that brought them forth. God provided all they needed and it was all His plan.

Moses was a really good General Manager, in that he took the instructions that God gave him and made them work. Moses did as he was instructed, and made sure the people did so, too. That is the mark of a great manager. And, like all great managers (and leaders), he showed them how to do it by living it. If there was anything Moses “led”, it was that he led by example.

Is this a diss against Moses? No: it is a reality check. We need to remember that God is in charge, and He is the leader. He makes the plan, He gets the materials, He has the ideas. We are followers, we are the ones that do what God has planned for us. And the ones that are in charge of the people are God’s Management Team. The Pastors, Priests, Rabbis, Ministers, and all the other titled “religious leadership” are really not leaders, but managers.

Think of the believer Community as God’s employees. We have all applied for the position of Believer in the one, true God. The job is a lifetime commitment, with very few perks, low pay (if any) and often it is not viewed as an influential position by the World. Oh, yeah, it can be dangerous and even fatal in some parts of the world.

Given the above facts, you may ask, “Why even want to work for God and Son, Inc?”  It’s because they offer a really great retirement plan.

Therefore, let’s keep our perspective. Let’s continue to honor those who have managed God’s people, who listen to His plan and follow it. But lets recognize it for what it is so that we can give credit where credit belongs- to the Lord. Truth is, leadership and management are two sides of the same coin- you have to have a little of one to be effective as the other. But, ultimately, it is God who leads. He always has, He does, and He always will.

Why am I being so adamant about what some may consider just wordplay? It is because as humans we always try to take credit.  I don’t want to take credit for God’s work, I shouldn’t even take credit for managing His people (if I ever find myself in that position). I want to make sure I always give credit for the leadership of God’s people where it belongs- with God. Also, I want to make sure I never get the idea that whatever I hear God tell me to do, in His name, is something I might think of as my own idea. It’s hard to hear God when I am making too much noise of my own.

Again I say, if I do something good and wonderful, it is God working through me; when I do something totally stupid and useless, that’s when I can take full credit.

You know, this discussion borders on the dichotomy of Free Will and Predestination, two apparent opposites. In light of that, let me submit to you an allegory I heard once how Judaism combines these antithetical idealisms:

God is the captain of a ship, and this ship is going from Creation to Eternity. Those who ask to travel with God are allowed on (all who call on His name…) but we are also allowed to jump off. The work on the ship is hard, and we are expected to do our share of it. At the end, God’s ship will arrive, His plan will be done, whether we are with Him or not. The predestination of God’s plan will be realized, and throughout the journey we have the freedom to choose to stay on board or jump ship. It’s up to us where we will be when the ship arrives.

Considering all the Prophets whose names we know from the Bible, have you ever thought about how many may have been called but refused? Or maybe they didn’t do as they were instructed so their names aren’t mentioned?

Silly question? I have been told that you cannot make an argument from nothing, but I can think of 2 prophets who we are told about and their names aren’t mentioned. Their story is in First Kings, 13:24 through 20:36. Why is this important? Because it shows that what God wants to accomplish, will be accomplished. If God’s first choice won’t do it, then His second choice will. Maybe His third, or fourth. And so, my question is, how many of the Prophets we know might not have been the first choice? What great deeds may the visiting Prophet have performed for God if he had listened and lived?

I don’t know. And (frankly) it doesn’t really matter. It won’t affect my salvation if I know that Elijah wasn’t the first choice, or if I am never aware of the the name of the man in Matthew 19:21 who was told to sell all his possessions so he could follow Yeshua. Imagine! Yeshua invited this man to follow Him! Yet, the man refused. Imagine what that person might have done, imagine what plans God could have had for that man! But, even though he was asked to join the crew, he refused. And so, the ship sailed without him and God’s Will was accomplished through others. .

Back to Moses- each of us can be like Moses. Maybe not as empowered by God’s Ruach, maybe not as encumbered by responsibility, certainly not as humble. But we can be as faithful to follow God. Yeah, yeah- Moshe was The Man! You may ask, “Who can be as faithful as him?”  You can; I can; anyone who wants to be, CAN.

It’s hard, it’s going to make you stand out and be ostracized, and it’s not going to yield any worldly reward. But your reward in heaven will be great- that is God’s promise.

Be the GM of your life; help others to manage theirs, and remember to always let God lead.