Something I Have Learned

Before I even start, let me say that this is what I have learned for myself- it may not be right for you. If, after reading this, you disagree with what I am saying because you feel differently, that’s OK. I am not telling anyone what they should do or how they should feel, I am simply sharing what is right for me and if it seems right for you, that’s great.

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Let me give you a little background: I have had a lot of experience in the Financial world, from retail banking to processing securities to insurance and even to estate planning. When I was selling Revocable Living Trusts, I used to tell this to my customers after they had purchased a trust as a way to prepare them for when their children tell them they have to cancel it. I would say:

…when your children were very young, they thought that you both knew everything about everything; when they became teenagers, they thought they knew everything about everything, and now that they are adults and you are senior citizens they think you don’t know anything about anything. But you do know what you are doing, and you have just made a good decision based on knowledge of what you have purchased, so hold fast to your decision.

This is what we in the Sales world call the “Cool Down”- it is absolutely necessary after a sale, especially for a big ticket item. It helps people to avoid making a real mistake, which is to cancel the deal simply because someone who doesn’t have any idea of what they are talking about only saw the dollar signs.

What’s all this got to do with God, the Bible, Yeshua or salvation? It lays the foundation for my message today, which is that most of the times what we believe about God and the Messiah is based on what someone tells us. And because this is about our eternal soul and where it will be, we need to discern what is good information and what information doesn’t help us at all.

Too many times I see people asking questions that lead us to nowhere, such as these actual conversations I have seen in discussion groups:

Who really wrote one of the Psalms?
What tribe am I from?
How do we pronounce the Tetragrammaton?
Is tithing only for a farmer?
When does the Sabbath really begin?
Why are pigs unclean and cows are not?

and other such questions.

I ask you- will knowing the answer to any of these questions save you from death? Will knowing the answers make you more “saved” than someone who doesn’t know the answer? Is anyone saved by knowledge alone?

Here is what I have learned from my 20+ years as a Believer: faith is not caring why something is the way it is but just accepting that it is that way. Knowledge is a two-edged sword: it can help us to better understand God, but the pursuit of in-depth knowledge to prove why something is what we are told will lead us away from faithful acceptance because “proof” is the antithesis of faith.

Here are the answers I have for the questions posed above:

It doesn’t matter who wrote the psalms, they are still beautiful, and those that are Messianic prophecies are still valid.

No one can really know what tribe they are from, and it doesn’t matter because salvation is not based on heritage.

It doesn’t matter how to pronounce God’s Holy Name because we are saved by faith, not pronunciation. Besides, God knows who we are talking to when we pray.

Tithing is giving back to God, no matter what type of income you have.

The Sabbath begins on Friday night, and the moon phase in Israel doesn’t matter so long as on Friday evening you rest until Saturday evening.

Pigs are unclean and cows are not because God said they were…period.

I don’t care to know every single little detail about the Bible or to know Paleo-Hebrew or to be an expert in biblical exegesis. I only want to know what I need to know, and when other people start to tell me I should learn more, I respectfully say, “Thank you for your concern, but I know enough: I know who God is, I know who Yeshua is, and I know that my salvation is secured because of my faith in them and my obedience to their instructions.”

For the record, I am not always obedient, but that is an entirely different topic.

I am not saying we shouldn’t study the Bible- we must! We need to know God’s word and God’s instructions so that we can do as he tells us we should and also to be able to recognize the Enemy when he comes. These are important things to know!

Everything else is, to me, just fluff. It won’t make me any more “saved” than you, special knowledge won’t make me more important in heaven (this is part of what Gnosticism teaches), but what it will do (and I have seen this happen too often) is lead people into arguments that result in pridefulness, sinful attacks against brothers and sisters in the Lord, and confusion.

Read the Bible, stay away from extra-biblical works, unless they are specifically useful in helping to understand the Bible, such as commentaries or reference materials like the Interlinear Bible or Strong’s Concordance. And talk with people about salvation-related topics, but only those things that edify and teach people what they need to know.

How will we know which topics are useful and which are not? Only by discernment, and that comes from God. So when you pray, ask for discernment, for wisdom, and for patience when dealing with those who just have to know everything. I often see topics on Facebook that in my opinion are just ridiculous, so I ignore them. I also have seen people start conversations just to be able to argue with others- they don’t even care what is true or valid or important, they just want to argue.

Finally, let’s all remember what we are told in Proverbs 6: 16-19. The writer (and No!-I don’t care who wrote it) is saying there are 7 things that the Lord detests, and the last one (in 6:19) is this:

“…and him who sows strife among brothers.”

I don’t want to be someone the Lord detests because I have caused strife among my brothers and sisters.

I am open to discuss anything, but if the topic won’t help to save anyone or leads into an argument, I will simply state the answer doesn’t matter to me. God gave us each free will to decide what we will believe and what we will do, and we all will be held accountable for our decisions, no matter why we made them.

And that is my number one reason for basing my faith on the KISS rule.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

 

 

Christian or Constantinian?

Wait a minute! Isn’t Constantine the guy who ran the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, where some of the modern Christian doctrines were first formalized?  Didn’t they say Christ was divine there? Didn’t they set up the Christian holidays, such as Easter?

(Actually, they had Easter but couldn’t decide what day to celebrate it.)

So if we are asking whether someone is Christian or Constantinian, isn’t that the same thing?

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To answer this, let’s go to the Cloud and ask Wikipedia.

Here is what it says about Constantine (I have condensed this to save space):

Constantine was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity. Although he lived much of his life as a pagan, and later as a catechumen, he joined the Christian faith on his deathbed, being baptized by Eusebius of Nicomedia. He called the First Council of Nicaea in 325, which produced the statement of Christian belief known as the Nicene Creed. He has historically been referred to as the “First Christian Emperor”, and he did heavily promote the Christian Church.

As for the definition of Christianity, Wikipedia says:

Christianity is divided between Eastern and Western theology. In these two divisions, there are six branches: Catholicism, Protestantism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Assyrians. Restorationism is sometimes considered the seventh branch.

To add to what Wikipedia says, within these major divisions there are many sects, such as Amish, Mennonites, Anabaptists, etc.  In all, there are over a dozen different religions that call themselves “Christian”, even though some Christian religions have beliefs in opposition to other Christian religious beliefs.

For the record, Judaism isn’t too far behind, with Chasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Messianic (although the other sects of Judaism would not recognize Messianic Jews as being Jews.)

Getting back to the original question, let me set some ground rules. Christianity is, for the purposes of this discussion, following the teachings of Jesus Christ, who is Yeshua ha Mashiach. A Constantinian is someone who follows the doctrines of “The Church”, meaning the doctrines established at the Council of Nicaea and at Ecumenical councils since then. A Constantinian is someone who celebrates Christmas, Easter, Sunday Sabbath, ignores the Torah because it is just for Jews, fasts during Lent, obeys the 8th-day baptism, goes through Catechism, etc., and so forth.

Now we need to identify what is different, if anything, from the teachings of Yeshua and the doctrines of the “Church”, which I will refer to as Constantinian doctrine.

(Yes, I know Constantine did not create all the doctrines of the modern church, but for the purposes of this discussion we will use the term “Constantinian” to refer to modern church doctrine.)

Well, this is actually pretty simple to understand. If Christianity is following the teaching of Yeshua, then whatever is in the Old Covenant is Christianity because Yeshua didn’t teach anything else. In truth, there was nothing else to teach from- even the Talmud wasn’t written down in its complete form at that time. The Talmud is composed of the Mishna and the Gemara; the Mishna was written in 200 CE and the Gemara in 500 CE.

Everything in the New Covenant was not written until well after Yeshua was resurrected and raised back into the heavens; the earliest versions of the Gospels and letters from Shaul (Paul) to his newly formed Messianic congregations throughout the Middle East and Asia were not written until sometime around 50-60 CE. So, because there was no New Covenant, Yeshua could not have taught anything from it.

You might be thinking, “Well, DUH! Steve. Of course, he didn’t teach from the New Covenant, because what he taught became the New Covenant.”  I would say that makes sense, except for one thing- it is wrong.

Within the New Covenant, we have the Gospels, which are eye-witness accounts of the life and ministry of Yeshua, and the letters that were written by the Apostles, ending with John’s Revelation. Nearly 2/3 of the entire N.C. is made up of the letters from Shaul to the congregations he formed, and their intent was to help these newly converted Believers to stay on the course he set them upon, with regards to learning how to follow the teachings of Yeshua, which (as I stated earlier) are the instructions in the Torah.

The major source of confusion between Christianity (following Yeshua) and modern church doctrine (Constantinian) is that Shaul’s letters were not written to become doctrine, but were only meant to help guide these neophyte Believers in learning how to go from the gluttonous, sinful, sexually perverted lifestyle that they lived their whole lives as worshipers of paganistic gods to righteous, humble and self-controlled followers of God and Messiah. That’s quite a paradigm shift, and no one could do that “cold turkey.”  Shaul’s letters were never meant to be absolute and permanent doctrine but instead just “stepping stones”, designed to help get his congregations past their immediate problems and further along the pathway to living (what we would call today) a Jewish lifestyle.

When we compartmentalize God’s instructions in the Torah as “Jewish worship” we are restricting what God wanted to give the whole world to only about one-fourth of one percent of it. The Torah was given to the Jewish people to learn so that they, as a nation of priests to the world (Exodus 19:6) could bring it to everyone.

God has no religion, only those instructions for how to worship him and how to treat each other, and that is what Yeshua taught. The Pharisees had been teaching only the written word or the literal meaning of the Torah (called the P’ shat) but Yeshua taught us the spiritual meaning (called the Remes) so that we would know not just what God wanted us to do, but why we should be doing it.

For me, the answer to the original question is that “true” Christianity is the religion which follows what Yeshua taught, which means following the instructions found in the Torah, which the world would call Judaism.

That means Christianity is Judaism, but with one difference: Christians accept that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised to send, and the “mainstream” Jews do not. Given how many doctrinal differences there are just between Orthodox and Reform Jews, one would think that this difference (Yeshua being the Messiah) would not keep us that far apart, but it does. The reason is because of how Constantinian doctrine has become known as Christianity, which separated itself from Judaism so much that they became totally different religions.

If you call yourself a Christian but ignore the instructions in the Torah, you are a Constantinian. If you are a Gentile who accepts Yeshua as your Messiah and lives according to the Torah (i.e., a “Jewish” lifestyle and worship), you can call yourself a Hebraic Roots follower, a Messianic Gentile, or a Christian, but you are not a Constantinian. And, if you are Jewish (by blood), live according to the Torah and believe Yeshua is the Messiah, you are not a Christian or a Constantinian- you are a Messianic Jew, which means you are still a Jew.

There you have it.  A Constantinian will follow the modern day Christian doctrines, but a “true” Christian will follow the Torah. Also, a “true” Christian and a Jew should worship and live the same way, and only disagree on the matter of Yeshua.

One day, when the Messiah comes to straighten this whole “religion” thing out once and for all, we will have no more religions, no more doctrines, no more confusion, and no more hatred and bigotry. We will only have God, Messiah, and eternal peace.

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

What Does it Mean to Strain Out a Gnat and Swallow a Camel?

In the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 23), Yeshua is chastising the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and false teachings. One of the things he accuses them of is straining out a gnat while swallowing a camel (Matthew 23:24.)

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The use of this hyperbole was to show the people that although the Pharisees were knowledgeable and well trained in Torah, while they did things in a legally correct manner they taught (by example) to do things that were not in accordance with what the Torah really wanted. Whereas they gave their tithe carefully measured out, they neglected the spirit of the law with regards to how they treated others.

I see this same straining/swallowing problem in the Messianic and Hebraic Roots movements, mostly from Gentiles, and not from ignorance or hypocrisy, but from a misdirected zealousness to know God better and be obedient to the Torah.

I see arguments, passionate and even hateful at times, regarding how to spell and/or pronounce God’s Holy Name, the Tetragrammaton. God never said that our salvation was based on our pronunciation.

I see people arguing over exactly which day Yeshua was raised, and was it at night or in the light of dawn? When Thomas doubted Yeshua’s resurrection, at the time Yeshua met him he didn’t tell him what the time was when he left the tomb to prove he was raised.

I see people arguing over the calendar days, solar or lunar, and even within the lunar calendar, they argue over which day a certain festival really starts on. Don’t they know that in the ancient days no one knew when the days started or ended until they saw a signal fire? There was a 2-3 day “grace period” for every important festival simply because they had to have 3 witnesses in Jerusalem agree that the moon phase was verified. If that was OK with God then, why would it be any more important now?

I see people arguing over topics that have absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with their salvation- it is just biblical trivia. And the worst thing of all is the biblically knowledgeable people arguing over these irrelevant and non-salvation issues as if they were as important as faith in God and trusting that Yeshua is the Messiah!

What do you think this does to neophyte Believers? I have read posts by people complaining that they joined a “Believers” discussion group to get answers and help and all they see are arguments, where people are nasty to and insulting each other, and are now more confused than ever.

If you think you are biblically knowledgeable and want to help others know the truth about God and Yeshua, and also about the Torah, then PLEASE stick to the important things. What are the important things?  They are the things that God told us we need to do, which are the same things Yeshua taught about.

God taught us how to worship him and how to treat each other, and Yeshua taught us the deeper, more spiritual meaning of the instructions God gave us, which he discussed in the Sermon on the Mount. Neither God nor Yeshua are into minutia, but they are very much into compassion, trust, faith, love, forgiveness, and just living humbly and with treating each other with respect.

God and Yeshua were never concerned with how to pronounce The Name, or when the moon is really in phase, or even whether you tithe from gross income or net.  All God or Yeshua cares about is how you treat others and your faithfulness, which is demonstrated by obedience and accepting that what God said we need to know is all that we need to know.

We don’t need to know when the End Times will start; we don’t need to know when Yeshua will return; we don’t need to know if ducks are kosher or not (yes- I have seen that question); and we don’t need to know “Why” about anything!

All we need to know is that God wants us to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with him (Micah 6:8.)

And if you aren’t sure what walking humbly with God means, it means to stop asking so many useless questions in order to poof up your own pride and to show off how knowledgeable you are. It means to accept that all you need is to be faithfully obedient, faithfully trusting (without asking why) and faithfully treating each other with respect, love, compassion, patience, and forgiveness.

If you find yourself asking things that are not directly related to salvation, think about whether or not you really need to know the answer.

I know what I am talking about because I have always been the “Duty Expert” in every job I have worked; I have been the one with the technical knowledge of every detail. I still want to know everything about everything, but when it comes to God, Yeshua and my own salvation I have learned what the writer of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) learned the hard way: trying to know everything about everything is like chasing the wind.

I have taught myself to be satisfied knowing that God exists, that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised, that I am to do my best to obey the Torah (which I read every day, along with the rest of the Bible), and that I can learn about the culture and history of the people in the Bible but when it comes down to it what matters is to trust God to do as he said he would, if I do as he said I should.

That is all you need to know to be- and to stay- saved.

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I welcome your comments, even if you disagree: all I ask is that you be nice.

Until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Whose Definition of “Good” Counts?

I know many Catholic’s who tell me they believe in God and they believe in Jesus (of course they do- they never had a choice) and when it comes down to everything else, they know that so long as they are a “good person” they will be able to go to heaven.

I agree we all should try to be good, but what we need to know for this to work as a means of staying saved is…what is “good?”

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Using Strong’s Concordance to see all the places where “good” is used in the Bible, we start out right at the very beginning with creation, when we are told the day was good, the earth was good, the lights in the sky were good, the trees and plants were good, and after creating all things God saw that everything was good. So far, “good” seems to be associated only with God and what he does.

In Genesis 3:5 the serpent tells Eve that if she were to eat of the Tree of Knowledge that it would make her and Adam like God, knowing good and evil. This indicates to me that knowing what “good” is still is exclusively something of God.

The use of “good” throughout the Bible (there are way too many examples to use them all) is almost exclusively as an adjective, such as good fruit, saying good or bad about someone, living for a good long time, etc., or relating directly to God or what he has done.

The Land of Israel is often referred to as that “good land”, but (again) that is because it was made by God.

I have found a few references where “good” is used to describe a person:

2 Samuel 18:27: Achima’atz is coming to give the King news of the battle with Absalom and he is described as a “good man”;

Psalm 37:23 says the steps of a “good man” are ordered by the Lord. However, this may not be a good example because the Jewish interpretation doesn’t use the term “good man” but says that “God makes his steps firm” or “God leads him”, so the better interpretation does not use “good” as a description of a man.

NOTE: Strong’s Concordance uses King James Version, a very Catholic interpretation, and I believe this is where the idea that a person can be “good” originated.

But Psalm 14 tells us there is no one that does good!

Let’s see what the Son of God, the Messiah says we should consider as “good.” We find that in Matthew 19:17 when a young man asks Yeshua what good he must do to attain salvation. Yeshua answers him:

Why do you ask me about what is good?” Yeshua replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”

According to Yeshua, only God is “good.” This goes along with what we’ve seen where the use of “good” throughout the Bible is only when directly associated with God. There are some few exceptions where “good” is used referring to people, but the number of times this happens is so rare it wouldn’t even be considered statistically significant.

To conclude today’s lesson, I won’t say what you should believe “good” is, but for me, I will believe Yeshua.

I believe only God is truly “good”, the things God created for mankind are “good” and that no person is “good”, so far as God is concerned. Even his son, Yeshua, said he wasn’t “good”, so if the Messiah, the only human being to live a sinless life in perfect obedience to the Torah, says he isn’t “good”, what chance do you or I have to be considered “good”? I’ll tell what chance we have- NO CHANCE!

Finally, for those of you who have been taught and still believe that being “good” will get you to heaven, let me help you put that in the proper perspective. Being good as the world defines good is useless; what the world considers to be good is usually the exact opposite of what God considers good:

  • The world thinks prayer in school is not good, God tells us prayer is always good;
  • The world thinks killing babies in the womb is good, and God says murder is not good;
  • The world says fornication is good and God says it is not good;
  • The world says …well, you get the point.

If you want to be a “good person”, then do what Yeshua told the man in Matthew 19 to do: you must follow the commandments. And not just the ones you like, or just the ones some “religion” tells you to follow, and certainly not any religious doctrine or dogma which is not in the Bible.

You must follow the commandments God gave to everyone, which you will find in the Torah.

And if you do your very best to live as the Torah says you should, I think God will consider that to be a “good” try.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Going Through the Fire is Necessary

Learning new things can be a lot of fun, especially when it is in a nice, safe environment like a school or college. But there are some lessons that have to be learned out in the real world, and although they are valuable they are more often than not much less enjoyable than reading from a textbook.

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The lessons we learn from school are designed not just to give us knowledge, but to give us the skillsets we need to be able to find the knowledge. At least for me, this is the quintessential gift of education: to learn how to continue to learn. Once we think we know it all, we do. That’s because when we stop learning we know all that we will ever know.

God’s textbook is what I call the Ultimate User’s Manual for Life, better known as the Torah. These five books contain everything that God wants us to know with regards to how to worship him and how to treat each other. Everything else, from Joshua through to the end of Revelation, is just commentary.

After learning what God wants from us, our life from that point on is continuing education. Reading, studying the languages, learning ancient Hebraic runes, etc. is a part of that education, but the real lessons are the ones we learn after we have left the classroom.

Recently, I have gone through the consistently constant pain of a kidney stone. I have, over the past two weeks, been unable to sleep, doubled-over with pain and not getting any real relief even from morphine I received. This all started right in the middle of a 7-day cruise Donna and I were taking to celebrate our anniversary! Last week I underwent two separate operations 4 days apart. The second one resulted in a lot of pain for about a day or so after the operation. I feel better now and, God willing, the worst is passed (pun intended.)

Donna was sort of kidding with me yesterday, saying this was the work of the Enemy, attacking me to ruin our vacation. I really doubt that; in truth, I wish I was doing enough in God’s service that I was a threat to “Old Nick”, but I don’t think that was the case. I think I was simply learning a life lesson that was designed to help me become more refined, like gold, after being placed through a fire. I tried my best to suffer through without taking out my frustration and pain on Donna, who supported me wonderfully throughout this. I think, in some ways, the pain I was suffering (which was only physical) was worse for Donna because she saw her loved one going through anguish and pain, and there was nothing she could do about it.

And that brings us to the lesson I learned from this experience! Yes, I was the one going through “the fiery furnace” but what was the most painful thing for me was watching Donna’s emotional suffering. I hurt so much but she was in even more pain than I was, and I couldn’t do anything more about her pain then she could do about mine. It was like a double-edged sword: my suffering was causing her suffering, which upset me, and neither of us could help the other.

This sort of experience is a necessary part of learning how to be a God-fearing person who will not submit to the Enemy or the will of the world. We will have to go through persecution: the Bible is rife with warnings about the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) and anyone who thinks they will just be swept away before the faecal matter hits the air circulation unit may be just fooling themselves. Maybe there will be a pre-trib rapture, maybe there won’t; people will choose to believe what they want to about this topic. As for me, I am expecting to have to deal with it if it happens before I die. I would rather be prepared to go through the Tribulation than to expect to be saved and find out I was wrong.

That is why going “through the fire” is so necessary for us to experience now, while we are able to fail the test and still have another chance to pass later in the semester. We need to learn these lessons while we have a sort of safety net to work with, before the real Tribulation hits. There is an old saying: “The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war.” We are already at war, the ultimate war, which is a spiritual war. Physical strength can help us survive adversity and suffering in physical war, but since we are in a spiritual war we need spiritual strength, which I believe is far superior and will outlast any physical attributes we may possess.

Most people will just say I had bad luck and feel sorry for me having to deal with a kidney stone, especially on a cruise, but I see it as a learning experience. I learned what I can deal with, and I learned how hard it is to see the ones I love to suffer through watching me suffer. I will use this experience to strengthen me so that in the future I can be more supportive of those watching me suffer. This may sound almost like an oxymoron, supporting those who should be supporting me during a time of suffering, but I think that is the answer to this test that God has placed before me. I am correct, then I graduate this class and will be promoted to the next level.

Are you in class right now, or are you in between semesters? Look at your life, every day, and when something happens that makes you feel that you are going through the fire, accept it and work with it. Embrace the suffering and realize it is not only necessary but making you stronger. James 1:2 says,

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

He goes on to show how this testing brings perseverance and spiritual strength. Also remember that those who love you will be suffering as well, so use this time to teach them the lessons you are learning so that they, too, will be able to appreciate and thereby learn from what is happening. 

Suffering sucks- there’s no two ways about it, so what we need to do is to try to get past it honourably and faithfully. And, just for the record, you can certainly do whatever you can to reduce the suffering by using whatever God provides for you (doctors, medications, etc.) while you are in the furnace.

Finally, here’s the good news: when you successfully get through this fire you will then be advanced enough in God’s Kingdom to get to go through another one, which will be even hotter! Praise the Lord because he never stops giving us a chance to continue learning, unless (of course) we drop out of school.

Don’t be a spiritual dropout; be a graduate student of the University of God and maybe one day you will become a Professor of Righteousness.

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Until next time, Baruch HaShem and L’hitraot!

AT&T Recognizes Gay Marriages as a Viable Market

No video today. I have been gone for almost two weeks because I was on vacation (I don’t post on a public forum that I will not be home for a week.) The first week Donna and I were on an anniversary cruise, the second week I have been home suffering from a kidney stone that appeared the third day of the cruise (it didn’t ruin the cruise but it certainly placed a damper on it.) Today is the first day I feel better, after two operations over the past five days.

Watching TV last night I couldn’t believe what I saw.

I saw a commercial for AT&T services. It had a young female with short dark hair saying she was an “okay” babysitter. Her part was written so that she is a Bimbo, and the two parents are getting more and more concerned about leaving their children with her because she just doesn’t seem to know what she is doing. The point being that okay isn’t good enough, so we should use AT&T to get the most reliable service.

What does this have to do with my title? The two parents were both men.

Now, before anyone who is a member of the LGBTQ community comes down on me, I am not saying anything against you. In fact, I have often posted that homosexuality is as normal a part of society as anything else because it has been around as far back as the ancient world.

As a God-fearing man, I don’t condone or accept homosexuality and recognize it as a sinful lifestyle, but then again, so is lying, adultery and all the other sins people commit that are just as normal a part of our society.

I am writing about this because there are two messages here: one is obvious and the other is more subliminal.

First off, you need to understand that Sales and Marketing is not a social or economic science- it is based on the science of psychology. I was in Sales for over 15 years and I can tell you, absolutely, that it is based solely on psychological manipulation. To be a good salesperson or marketing professional you need to understand how people think, their basic nature and how to get them to tell you what they desire, even if they don’t really know what it is, themselves. In other words, you have to be able to make them believe that, on their own, they came to the answer you have given them.

Next, you need to also know that when a section of society is viewed by marketing professionals to have enough economic influence to be a target for their advertising, they will advertise directly to them.

Now, back to the messages: the obvious message is that AT&T’s marketing experts have determined the LGBTQ community has enough economic power to be addressed as a separate and unique market. For those people who are members of that community, this should be seen as a major feather in their cap, so to speak, because to some degree it shows they are an accepted member of our society.

The subliminal message that is of concern to me is the same exact thing: that this lifestyle is being shown to be as acceptable as the traditional heterosexual family unit. The subtle psychological manipulation is while people are consciously focused on the Bimbo babysitter, subliminally they are made to believe that a same-sex parent family unit is normal.

No matter how anyone feels about homosexuality, history has shown it to be a failure with regards to societal advancement. Look at Sodom, Gomorrah, ancient Rome, ancient Greece, and other nations throughout history that have had homosexuality as an accepted part of their society. Those that have survived until today are in ruins, and the others, well…they just aren’t here anymore.

How can there be gay Pastors marrying each other? Whoever heard of an LGBTQ church or Gay Christians, which is the epitome of an Oxymoron? And what about the traditional synagogues and churches who are supporting the LGBTQ community? One would think this couldn’t be, yet these things exist in our society, so what are we to do about it?

I don’t think there is anything we can do about it.  It is here, we don’t have to like it or accept it, but we do have to learn to live with it. It has been here since Day 1 and will not go away until the Messiah returns, the Apocalypse is over, the new Jerusalem comes down from heaven, yadda-yadda-yadda. When God’s plan of salvation is complete, then this lifestyle will no longer exist. For those who are members of this community, all I can say is you still have time to reconsider.

There can be no argument that human sexuality is proven by science to be composed of both physical (hormonal) and psychological influences. With today’s technological advancements in medicine, anyone can choose to change their sexual orientation and even their physical gender. Even if one wants to argue there is no choice, there is the opportunity to make a choice.

So there you have it! Those of us who worship God as he says we should and have traditional, heterosexual relationships are going to have to get used to homosexual relationships. We don’t have to condone or like it, we can talk against it, but it will not go away. This is what the Bible says will happen, so in some way, I am willing to embrace it as a necessary part of the overall plan of salvation.

It is like the kidney stone I have been struggling with for nearly two weeks now. I drink water to clear out the system, knowing that evacuation of that water will be very painful, but I still drink more. I know that I have to deal with this and that it won’t go away until it goes away.

So, too, with the way the world is heading. Destruction is coming and the society we live in, as well as the political events happening all over the world, are telling us, absolutely, that the end is really getting close.

We all have free will to choose how we will live. I have made my choice, and you have to make yours. All I can say is that I hope you choose wisely.

 

There is a Fine Line Between Scare Tactics and Sugar-Coating Salvation

Like it or not, those of us who are to make disciples and be a light in the darkness have to realize we are Salespeople- selling the most important product that anyone could ever have: salvation and eternal joy.

It’s remarkable when you think of the benefits of this product, yet the vast majority of people either don’t want it or are willing to buy a “knock-off” (i.e., a religion that rejects God’s word) and they are happy with it. As Hosea said:

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:6)

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The other day on Facebook a friend posted a beautiful message, all about God’s presence in our lives and how he protects us, loves us and wants the best for us. It talked of his ability to provide and his desire to save us. I replied that we need to also remember that he is our Judge and Jury, as well as Executioner and that these promises are not all that we have to look forward to. For those people who accept God and Messiah, there will be trouble and tribulation throughout their life. Following God has many advantages, but the very best of them we will not receive in this lifetime.

In my past, I was a professional salesman (for about 15 years) and I can tell you that to have a good sale, meaning one that will not cancel on you, you must be truthful and not give wrong expectations. You can’t make it sound like accepting God and Messiah will solve all your problems, nor should you use negative selling or scare tactics; these styles will never produce a “good” sale. Preaching “fire and brimstone” scare tactics might convince some people to accept Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah. In the same way, preaching that God loves you just as you are, you can be saved simply by asking for it and once saved you will receive all sorts of blessings will create unrealistic expectations, and that seed will be like the seed the weeds choked them or the birds came and ate (Matthew 13.)

To follow God faithfully we must also love him- you can’t scare people into loving someone; likewise, you will set them up for disappointment if you make salvation sound like heaven on earth. To put rose-colored glasses on unsuspecting and biblically ignorant people, convincing them that once they accept Yeshua they will be saved and blessed, is to send them into battle with a gun that has no bullets.

Following God is hard work- Yeshua didn’t say follow me and have it easy, he said we must carry our execution stake on our shoulders in order to follow him (Mark 8:34.) To obey God and follow Messiah means you might have to give up much: friends, family, sometimes your job, maybe even your life!

For those to whom we are preaching salvation, we must let them know, right at the start, that this is not going to be easy. That they will, over time, have to sacrifice things that they may not want to. We keep them interested in reminding them of the afterlife rewards, as well as the many blessings they can receive while alive. We shouldn’t sugar-coat what they are deciding to do, but we shouldn’t scare them to the point where they lose bowel control, either.

That is the thin line we must walk when we talk to non-believers about God and Messiah. We should be an example of the proper way to act towards God and each other, and we must also tell them that we are still human, frail and weak, and it is expected that we won’t always act in the godliest way; for example, the words I will probably be using when it takes me three strokes to get out of the stinking sand trap! Failing to be godly now and then doesn’t mean we aren’t trying, and this is one of the best things about God: he knows our heart, he forgives our failures and he strengthens us when we ask him to help us be better.

I always try to slide some hint or suggestion in a conversation that will let me see if there is a positive reaction from someone regarding God and the Bible. I might interject a biblical reference or repeat a proverb in a conversation and say I read it in a really good book. If they ask which book, I can then say it is in the Bible, and ask them if they have ever read it? There can be any number of ways to “test the waters” when conversing with someone to see if they are open to hearing about God without tackling them to the ground, sitting on them and asking, “Do you believe in God?”

I can tell you, absolutely, that approach will not work.

My suggestion is that you think of ways you are comfortable with when approaching people about God during a conversation that is subtle and non-threatening to them. Here are some examples of what I do:

  • I work a biblical story or proverb into the conversation and start it off with, “I read this in a book”, and if they ask what book, I tell them. Then I ask if they ever read the Bible?
  • I turn the conversation towards the current social unrest, and ask if they believe there are more problems coming in the future? Carefully I work in that the Bible has stated these sorts of things will happen and ask them if they believe the Bible or if they believe in God?
  • If someone asks advice, I give them a proverb or story from the Bible to justify my advice. I’ll then ask if they knew the Bible covers many inter-personal relationship issues.

These are just some ways I turn the conversation towards God, and I never, ever push myself on people. If they are interested, I go with the flow but slowly, and carefully. It is like walking on thin ice- if I put too much pressure on, I will fall through.

When someone talks only about how good God is and all the wonderful things he does for us, I feel bad for them and the people they are talking to because they are setting themselves up for disappointment; how often have you heard people reject God because he didn’t meet their expectations? That is what preaching only the “happy-happy” side of salvation does- it gets a lot of people to join in, but it also sets them up for disappointment and eventually doesn’t help them. On the other hand, preaching fire and brimstone only scares people, and that will also fail to help them.

There are many blessings awaiting those who love the Lord and accept Yeshua as their Messiah, both now and throughout eternity, but they come at a price. We like to say “salvation is a free gift from God”, but it really isn’t.  Oh yes- you can have it for the asking, but to keep it you will have to give up much.

We must never push people away from God, and it is just as important that we must never leave them with the wrong expectations. The saddest thing about missionary work is that when we fail to make the right impression, it isn’t we who suffer- it is those we are trying to help. If we leave a bad taste in their mouth regarding God or Messiah, we may end up causing them to lose any chance of salvation, or (at least) we might make it that much harder for the next person.

It’s a thin line we walk when trying to help people come to God.

 

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Thank you for your interest and please don’t hesitate to leave comments or suggestions (just be nice.)

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Is the Truth Any Good if It Isn’t Practical?

What is “practical“? According to Google dictionary, it is:

of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas.

OK- so that’s what practical means. Next, we need to know what the “truth‘ is, don’t we?

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The truth is, for all practical purposes, whatever someone wants to the truth to be. I know certain truths from the word of God of which I have no doubt about their meaning, but those same verses which convince me of one truth, convince someone else of a totally different and (often) opposite truth.

So, again, what is the truth? Didn’t Pontius Pilate ask that of Yeshua at his trial? And what did Yeshua answer him? It was in John 18:37-38 so let’s see what Yeshua says the truth is:

 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”  “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 

Wait a minute! Yeshua never told him what the truth is…or did he? He did say that everyone on the side of truth listens to him, and he preached from the Tanakh, so I suppose what Yeshua was saying is that the truth is in the Tanakh- the word of God.

But that brings us back to the first thing I said, which is that the truth comes from the Word of God.

Here is the real truth as I see it: any given Bible verse can mean different things to different people depending on what they want it to mean!

I recently posted on how Bible verses can’t always be trusted; click here to go to that message. It is because Bible verses mean different things to different people that we find the truth so difficult to find.

Here is my suggestion on how to tell what the truth is: is that “truth” practical? Can it be used in everyday life to make a change for the better?

For example, some say that the Mosaic Law was done away with when Yeshua was hung on a stake. Others say it wasn’t, so who is telling the truth? I mean, really- you can’t have both.

If the law was done away with, the practical application of that “truth” would be lawlessness, resulting in a lawless society of Believers (there’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one!) who live their life without law and, thereby, without repentance but they still get to “go to heaven.”

I don’t think so.

On the other hand, if the law is still valid, then those that follow the law would be showing that obedience to Torah in their daily lives., They wouldn’t cheat people, they would be considerate of others, they would respect God and worship him as he said we should, and they would be an example to the world of how God tells us to behave. Not perfect examples, of course, but certainly much better than someone who has no obligation to follow the rules.

I am not making a case either for or against Mosaic Law here- what I am making a case for is that whatever we want to prove as “true”, specifically regarding God and the Bible, if it isn’t something that can be used in a practical way, it probably isn’t a real “truth.” It is more likely someone else’s “truth”, and as such we should reject it.

I read posts all day long from many different people in a half dozen or so discussion groups on Facebook, all of them Christian or Hebraic Root or Messianic, and do you know what I find? Truths that have no value because they aren’t practical.

I see people post the same exact truth over and over, in different ways saying the same thing, and it is always impractical, meaning that they never tell me how to apply it to my daily life? If I know God loves me, how do I apply that when I am going shopping?  If I know God will always care for those that obey him, how will that help me when I am sick or financially strapped?

James gives us a good example of what I am talking about in James 2:16:

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that?

The same holds true for posting about the wonders and graciousness of God without providing the way to experience or (better yet) demonstrate it to others.

If you believe that you should love your neighbor as yourself, then go out and show others you believe it by giving to charity, volunteering where you can help others, or doing something for someone else without expectation or desire for reward. And remember that Yeshua said when doing a mitzvah or Tzadakah, don’t make a big show of it; don’t let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.

When I used to preach at Shabbat services I led, I always ended up with some practical way for us to be an example of the biblical truth I was talking about. We need to be able to not just teach people about God but to teach them how to live in a godly way. We need to take the truth of the Bible and perform it in a practical way so that those in the dark can see the light.

Just talking and posting about the wonderful things of the Lord is putting a lamp under a cover, if you ask me. Yes, tell us God’s truth but then tell us how to make practical use of that truth in the real world. Our God is not a God of words and ideas, he is a God of action!

Here’s my final word on this: in order for God’s word to be proven as true, we need to take it off the pages of the book and make it practical in the real world.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch haShem!

Do Bible Verses Really Prove Anything?

Based on the title of today’s message, I promise not to give one verse or quote from the Bible.

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There are many, many people who believe the Bible to be the infallible Word of God. Yet, how can that be if there are literally dozens of different versions of the Bible and under the law of copyright, each version has to have a significant difference from the other versions?

Also, we have interpretations of the original Hebrew and Greek into many different languages, and we all know that there is no such thing as an exact translation from one language to another due to cultural and linguistic differences between the many different people of the world.

So, in light of these facts, how can we even think that what we are reading in our Bible (whichever version it may be) is truly infallible?

The truth is…it can’t be! After all, the Bible is just a book. It is not God, himself. It tells us about God, it tells us what God wants us to know, it even tells us how to live our lives in the way that pleases God, but it is not God. It is not infallible, and it is not exactly what he said, even when it is supposed to be a quote.

Now that I have angered a number of you who are absolutely fixated on the Bible as being the absolute, infallible word of God, let’s raise the bar on your frustration.

When someone tries to prove a position, spiritual, ceremonial or social, that is based on what is written in the Bible, their argument may not trustworthy. And I am not talking about just those arguments that I don’t agree with. Why do I say this? Because the way people use Bible verses to support their position is too often an improper use of biblical exegesis.

As an example of what I mean, let’s take two of the most hotly argued issues regarding the Bible: the Trinity and Mosaic Law.

There are many people who argue that the Bible tells us, absolutely, that God, Messiah and the Holy Spirit are three-in-one, all the same entity but appearing in different forms. Then again, there are just as many people who say the Bible tells us, absolutely, that God, Messiah and the Holy Spirit are separate and unique entities, that there is only One God, one Messiah who is not God, and the Holy Spirit. Both sides have biblical evidence that supports their argument, and often the Bible verses they use as support for each side of these polar opposite beliefs are the same verses!

As far as the “Law”, meaning the commandments given to Moses on the mountain which are written in the Torah, still being required for those who have accepted Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) as their Savior, there is the one side quoting from the New Covenant to show the law was done away with when Yeshua was crucified, and there are those who use quotes from the New Covenant to show that those who accept Yeshua are still required to obey God’s Torah.

Now…before you start to comment on which position is correct, please stop right there and remember this message is NOT about the Trinity or the Law- it is about the fact that Bible quotes cannot be trusted as absolute proof of a position. The reason why I say this should now be obvious: because the same verses can be used to support either side they can’t really support any side.

The reason this can be is because there is so much in the Bible, so many different messages and ideas and statements, that if I want to prove whatever I choose to believe in, if I take enough time, look long enough, and pull enough words and statements out of context, I can make the Bible “say” pretty much anything I want it to say.

So, nu?  If this is true, then how can anyone learn anything from the Bible? How can we use the Bible to show what God wants us to know and how he wants us to behave? How can we trust anything anyone tells us about God?

We do so by interpreting the Bible correctly. We use proper biblical exegesis, which is a combination of Circles of Context and Hermeneutics.

Circles of Context is the system where we take the word within the sentence, the sentence within the paragraph, the paragraph within the book, and the book within the entire Bible. We make sure that when we are reading or quoting anything from the Bible that the interpretation considers who is writing it and to whom is it addressed. We have to consider what the topic is; for instance, Shaul (Paul) wrote to the different Messianic congregations he formed that were having problems. Each letter he wrote was specifically meant to deal with that congregation’s problems, and so each letter is unique to that audience. What he wrote to the Jews in Rome has to be interpreted and understood using Jewish culture, linguistic, and religious context. On the other hand, the letter to the Galatians was to a congregation of mostly Gentiles in the process of converting to Judaism. In that case, Shaul wrote using a form of Greek logic and terms from the Septuagint because the Gentiles there would not understand the nuances and cultural mores of a Jewish argument.

Once we have reviewed the biblical passage in its full context, we also need to ensure it is hermeneutically validated. Hermeneutics, simply stated, is the idea that everything we find in the Bible will be consistent with everything else in the Bible. As such, what is said to be a sin in Genesis will still be considered a sin in Revelation; what Shaul says is in the Torah in his letter to the Philippians will be consistent with what Moses tells us is in the Torah in Exodus.

Just as we are told that God is the same then, now and always, hermeneutics uses this same idea to validate what we read in the Bible- the meaning of the passage we read here must be the same everywhere else in the book. The true word of God does not contramand itself.

When we read the Bible, we need to always use these two exegetical practices. We must consider the cultural and linguistic usage of the words and events we read about that were used at the time they were written. We cannot use current or modern definitions of words or, for that matter, current social and moral values for what was done in ancient days. We must accept what we read in the Bible from the viewpoint, morally, culturally and linguistically, of the people that lived back then. If we really want to understand what we read in the Bible, we need to transplant ourselves into the culture and walk a mile in the shoes, or sandals as the case may be, of the people at that time.

Can we trust the Bible? Yes, we can. We can trust what is in the Bible when we use the proper tools I have given you today. And always, ask God to show you what he wants you to see. There is a legitimate argument that God may give a different message or meaning to you than he will to me, even when we read the same passage. So long as what we each believe that passage to mean is contextually accurate and hermeneutically validated, we can both be right. For instance, some prophecies have dual-meanings, and if you see the current meaning and I see the future meaning, we are both saying something different about the same thing, and we are both correct.

I know this is confusing and may make some of you feel uneasy and doubtful. That is good! Never accept what anyone says as correct, not even me- always verify it for yourself in the Bible using the proper tools of interpretation. And always, always, always ask God for guidance and understanding.

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

What Others Mean for Bad God Can Change to Good

Please remember to click the SUBSCRIBE button in the right-hand margin, and I will not be doing a video today. However, this will be a short read.

When Jacob died and Joseph’s brothers were concerned that now, with their father dead, Joseph would unleash his revenge on them, Joseph calmed them by saying (Genesis 50:20-21):

You planned to harm me. But God planned it for good. He planned to do what is now being done. He wanted to save many lives.  So then, don’t be afraid. I’ll provide for you and your children.” He calmed their fears. And he spoke in a kind way to them.

When we do what is right in God’s eyes, it is almost always going to seem wrong in the eyes of those who are of the world. And it is because of our righteousness, which is a stench in their nostrils because it has the smell of death (2 Corinthians 2:15-16):

For we are to God the sweet aroma of Messiah among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one, we are an odor of death and demise; to the other, a fragrance that brings life.

When we obey God we will be put through trials and persecutions of all kinds: at work, in our home, within our group of friends; and these persecutions may range from being verbally assaulted to being ostracized to being physically attacked. These things are bad things.

If, and when, this happens, won’t we be in the same position Joseph was when he was persecuted by his brothers and sold into slavery?

Those who perform evil deeds against those who are trying to act in accordance with God’s word will never succeed because what anyone determines for evil against the Lord or his children, God will turn to good. Maybe not in our lifetime, maybe not right away, but all that is done to attack God will always result in victory for God.

As Isaiah tells us (Isaiah 54:17):

No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LordAnd their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord.

So when you are being persecuted, when you feel that it just doesn’t seem worth it, when all hope seems to be lost- that’s when you must really knuckle down and keep going. Faithfulness is the way we receive strength when we are totally out of strength, therefore remain faithful even unto death, and whatever evil has been used against you God will turn to good for you and for his glory.

For those of you who are enjoying a time of Thanksgiving today, may it be a blessing to you and those you with whom you are sharing it.