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?”

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

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.

Thank you for being here, and please don’t forget to click on the SUBSCRIBE button in the right-hand margin. Also, use the link above and subscribe to my YouTube channel, as well.

Please share me out, help this ministry to grow, and I welcome comments…just be nice.

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.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video. Don’t forget to click on the SUBSCRIBE button when you are watching.

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.

If you like what you have read, please go to the right-hand margin and click on the SUBSCRIBE button to be notified next time I post.

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)

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

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.

 

If you like what you have read, please SUBSCRIBE in the right-hand corner, and go to my YouTube channel (use the link above) and subscribe there, too.

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?

If you would rather watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

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.

If you like what you have read, please share me out and help this ministry to grow. Check out my other messages and also look at my books. If you like what you read here you will like my books, too, since I write using the same style.

Thank you for your interest, please SUBSCRIBE and also go to my YouTube channel and subscribe there, as well.

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.

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

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.

If you like what you have read, please SUBSCRIBE in the right-hand margin, and go to my YouTube channel (use the link at the beginning of this message) and subscribe there, too.

Share me out and please don’t hesitate to make comments: all I ask is that you be nice.

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.

There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Disagree

Please don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE by clicking on the button in the right-hand margin, and if you prefer to watch a video, click on this link:  Watch the video.

When I was a “suit” working on Wall Street back in the 80’s, and you said I should be a Salesman working strictly on commission, I would have told you that you were NUTS!! Yet, as the old saying goes: If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans; my plans were turned around and by 1992 I was working as a commission-only salesman, doing the hardest of all types of sales- in the home from a telemarketing lead. And God helped me by placing good trainers in my path so that after about 2 years in that field I was one of the top two salesmen in the country selling siding, windows, and kitchen refacing.

You may wonder what this has to do with the title of today’s message, and I’ll be happy to tell you how:

Nowhere, in all of my experience throughout three different career paths, did I learn as much about human nature and how to get my ideas across successfully to others then when I learned how to sell.

Selling is the “Poor Man’s” career in Psychology. It isn’t so much manipulation of people as it is getting them to reject their own pre-conceived ideas and actually listen and absorb what you are saying to them. They still get to make up their own minds, but a good salesman will do three things:

  1. Make them realize that what they think they want is not what they need;
  2. Show them that what he has is really what they need;
  3. Allow them to come to their own conclusion that what he has is not just what they need, but what they want.

People don’t buy what they need but they do buy what they want, and when we take this from the commercial applications to the spiritual, we need to be able to “sell” the idea that what they need and want is Messiah and obedience to God which must come about through proper interpretation of God’s Word. .

Now we get into the real meat of today’s message- how do we get past that first step in which we are disagreeing with their pre-conceived ideas without making them kick us out the door? I can tell you this, absolutely…it isn’t by slapping them in the face with the truth.

I am a member of half a dozen different “Christian” or “Messianic” discussion groups, and too often I run into people with ideas totally opposite to my understanding. And no matter what their ideas are, or mine (for that matter), if we cannot discuss or argue in a respectful and proper manner, then we achieve nothing. 

The proper way to disagree with someone is not to tell them they are wrong, and never, never, NEVER attack them on a personal level.  You can’t win someone over by insulting them (remember that old saw about how you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?) I am not saying you should agree with them or say something like “You might be right” if you really believe they are wrong, but disagree with them and do it with respect for their right to choose what they want to believe.

God has given each of us Free Will to choose, and when people tell me (as I often have to deal with) that I am wrong and I have to change, they are (in my opinion) abrogating my God-given right to choose.

NOTE: did you catch that style of disagreeing? Starting off with “in my opinion”, or “for me”, or even “what I have been taught…” is a way to disagree and get your opinion out there which will allow them to listen without feeling the need to defend themselves. Thats’ becasue the focus is on you, not them.

I will try to respectfully disagree with people without attacking them, although I might attack what they have been taught. When I do this I make sure that first I have a biblical reference to justify my position. I state how proper biblical interpretation must account for historical and linguistic context, hermeneutics, etc. in justifying my position, but I will not come right out and tell them they are wrong.

Having said that, there are times when I will be very straightforward and say they are wrong, but not in a way that blames them for being wrong. I will say that what they have been taught is wrong- attacking what they have been told without attacking them. I will say that they have been taught is a form of traditional doctrine, that what they have been told is not in compliance with the Bible (showing them the Bible reference), or some other means of demonstrating that what they are saying is not accurate but not saying that THEY are inaccurate.

At some point, usually after two or three back-and-forth discussions, if I can see that they are not ever going to even consider what I am saying, I ask them if we can just agree to disagree and let God judge between us. If the other side is spiritually and emotionally mature, we will end friends. But, unfortunately, too many times pridefulness overrules spirituality and the other side just can’t let it go. They will continue to post their side, and from the frustration that comes from my not bending to their will, they stop talking about the Bible and begin to attack me, personally. They call me spiritually empty, unknowing, ignorant, demonically possessed (yes, there have been people who have accused me of that), and any number of nasty, virile attacks against me. That is why God invented BLOCKING on Facebook.

When the discussion turns from your ideas and beliefs being argued to you being insulted and berated, it is time to shake the dust off your sandals and move on. Let them have the last word, you be the humble one and accept that you can’t make someone change their mind if they don’t want to.

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the lightbulb has to really want to change.

People are the same way. And remember: there is very little good soil out there to begin with, and we are just here to sow the seeds.

After having read this, if you disagree with me about any part of it, that’s OK- you have a right to! And if you agree with me, that’s much better, but the hard thing is not to just understand what I am saying but to actually use it in real life. When people are so passionate about what they believe that they can’t stand the thought of someone else not agreeing with them, the situation can become very tense and hurtful before you even know it is happening. Practice makes perfect, as with any skill, and if you find that your arguments keep falling on deaf ears, first I would suggest you verify that you are correct. Review your position with an open-minded approach and, if after doing so, you still believe your original position is the correct one but no one is listening to you, consider that you might need to change your method of argumentation.

No matter how “right” we may think we are, if we can’t get people to listen to us we might as well say nothing.

 

Parashah Noach 2018 (Noah) Genesis 6:9 – 11:32

Before we begin, please remember to SUBSCRIBE in the right-hand margin. If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

Who doesn’t know the story of Noah and the Flood? That’s right- everyone knows it, so I don’t need to review it now.

I do wonder about one thing, though: do any of you also think that it seems awfully cruel of God to have killed so many innocent animals? He took only one male and one female (for each species) of the millions upon millions of animals that existed. Yes, for the animals that were known to be “clean” he took 7 of each gender, but still and all, the odds for being picked to survive were pretty enormous against you. How would you have felt if you happened to be a cow in the pasture, eating the grass and waiting to be milked, then suddenly you find yourself drowning? Sometimes what God does seems to be unfair or even cruel, as in this case, but what can we do about it? After all, he IS God, right? That is an interesting study in itself, but not the one for today.

Back to the Flood: with regard to the (possibly) millions of humans that were alive at that time, we are told that only Noah was righteous. Did any of you notice that Noah’s sons and their wives are not mentioned as being righteous?  Only Noah found grace in God’s eyes, but God saved the immediate family of Noah. Of course, if only Noah had survived and his wife, sons, and daughters had perished, that would have been the end of humanity. So, naturally, unless God intended to change the whole gender dynamic for humans he would have to also save (at least) Noah’s wife, and by also saving the sons and daughters he made it easier to repopulate the earth.

Which brings us to an interesting and (I believe) important question: was Noah “unevenly yoked,” and if so, did his righteousness save his family?

There is nothing specifically stating that Noah’s family members were as sinful as the rest of the world, but there is also nothing to denote they were as righteous as Noah. I think we are safe to assume that Noah’s righteousness “saved” his family. After all, if Noah hadn’t been righteous then they would all have been destroyed with the rest of humanity and we wouldn’t be here discussing this. And we can be sure that one son wasn’t the most righteous of people.

We read in Genesis 9:20-27 that Ham was a disrespectful son. Because of his disregard for his father’s “exposure,” he and his descendants were cursed by his father to be a slave to the other brothers and their descendants. Add to this the fact that God had stated in Genesis 8:21 that people were evil by nature. The Bible tells us that although Noah was righteous and remained so throughout his lifetime, the offspring of his children weren’t any better than the people God destroyed. In this section of the parashah, we are told the names of the descendants of the sons of Noah, in which we recognize the tribes and peoples that became sinful and idolatrous, many of which were (and still are) enemies of God’s Chosen people.

So was this whole Flood thing just one big waste of time? It seems so, doesn’t it? God rid the earth of all the evil people, yet within just a few generations they were at it, again. The end of this parashah tells us about the Tower of Babel, which was intended to reach heaven so that the people could make a name for themselves.  When referring to a “name”, they meant to create a reputation that would exalt them. In other words, they wanted to become powerful by their own actions and able to do as they wanted with no regard for God. That is why God frustrated their plans.

Let’s finish by getting back to the question: can an unevenly yoked person save an unsaved spouse or child? My answer is Yes….and No.

Yes, we can eventually save them by showing them the blessings we receive from God for having faith in him, his Messiah and being obedient to his word (Torah.) By being a good example of a faithfully obedient Believer in God and Messiah we may generate an interest or even a jealousy within them to have what we have (this is what Shaul talks about in Romans 11:11.)  In fact, this jealousy is what saved me- God placed many spiritually mature Believers in my life and I wanted to have the peace and joy that I saw they had, even in when they were having as much tzuris as I had.  On the other hand, because God has given everyone free will to choose whether we accept or reject him, even the best of all examples may not have the effect we want it to have. Just like with Noah and his children.

Here is the point of today’s message: we can help to bring others to salvation by our example, but it is always up to them to choose life. Noah was a great example to his sons and their sons and daughters after them, yet look what happened. We cannot force people to choose God, and threats of fire and brimstone and death won’t do it, just as the Flood did not really change anything.  Each of us must choose for him or herself whether to be faithfully obedient to God or not.

The best any of us can do is show the world, starting with our own family, the blessings and joy we receive from God for being faithfully obedient to his word and accepting his son, Messiah Yeshua, as our Messiah. And when the world floods us with persecution and name calling, we need only remember that God brought Noah through a much bigger flood, and he will do the same for us.

Is the “Israel of God” a What or a Who?

Don’t forget to look for the publishing of my newest book, “Parashot Drashim- A Commentary on the Weekly Torah Readings for Both Jews and Gentiles” due out in September.   

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

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.  Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule—to the Israel of God.”

This is the ending of the letter Shaul (Paul) wrote to the Messianic community he had started in Galatia.  His letter was written for a specific purpose, which has been terribly misunderstood, pretty much since the time he wrote it. It has been used as a polemic against circumcision, as well as justification that Torah observance is just for the Jewish people.  

The worst usage of this line has been by Replacement Theologists, who claim that “Christians” are now the Chosen people of God, who rejected the Jewish people as his because they rejected his son.

Poppycock.  But that is for another time. 

I always found this one line to be very confusing, and have tried to figure out what he could have possibly meant by writing that. I am glad to say that finally, after having read this particular letter too many times to count, a revelation came to me recently about what it could mean.  

That’s one of the best things about reading the Bible over and over: suddenly, one day what you couldn’t understand for years will be made clear to you. I like to think that this happens when God thinks you are ready for it. 

So, nu?  What’s the big revelation? I’ll let you in on it…Shaul wasn’t talking about a who; he was talking about a what!

Let’s go back to the reason for writing this letter. The members of this congregation were being “Judaized”, meaning the Gentile converts to Judaism were being told they had to undergo B’rit Milah (circumcision) in order to be saved. This was under the system called “Legalism”, which was being proliferated by Believing Jews who were infiltrating the new Messianic communities composed of Gentile Believers. Shaul was never against obedience to the Torah; he was against this legalistic approach to it.

Let’s stop here for a moment to make sure we’re all on the same page. Legalism was the belief that no one could be “saved”, i.e. found to be righteous in God’s eyes, unless they obeyed the Torah commands. Under legalism, faith is secondary to performance. Shaul’s constant battle against Legalism is why he has been so misunderstood. Shaul never said not to obey the Torah at all, he said not to obey the Torah as the means to become righteous. 

This letter was to get the Galatians back on track by obeying the Torah as a result of faithful obedience and not resulting from a system of performance-related salvation.  That’s why he said being circumcised was useless to them if they were doing it to be legalistically obedient. He never said they shouldn’t be circumcised, just that they shouldn’t do it as a means of gaining salvation.  

I always have known there was a battle going on in Galatia; the new Believing Gentiles were wrestling with legalism vs. faith. I understood that this dynamic was the reason Shaul contacted them. And my revelation came when I suddenly remembered what “Israel” means.  We are told this in Genesis 32:29 (taken from the Soncino issue of the Chumash)- 

And he said: ‘Thy name shall be called no more Jacob but Israel; for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” 

The comment notes in the Chumash state that the name “Jacob” meant “the Supplanter,” who prevails over others by deceit. “Israel,” on the other hand, is said to be a title of victory, probably “a Champion of God.” The children of Israel, the Israelites, are Contenders for the Divine, conquering by strength from Above. 

Remembering what “Israel” means I realized why Shaul called the Galatians “the Israel of God”: he was identifying them as ones battling with both men and God. They were being wrestled with by men who wanted them to be legalistic in their actions, and with God who wanted them to show faithful acceptance and not try to earn their salvation through performance. The Galatians were just like Jacob: on the one side they had to deal with men (as Jacob had to deal with Esau) and on the other side they had to deal with faith in God (Jacob wrestling with the angel, representing his faith in God to save him from Esau.) 

The “Israel of God” could be used to describe each of us as we struggle with our faith in God and Messiah Yeshua against worldly pleasures and our naturally sinful tendencies and desires. Christians also wrestle with the (usual) teaching that the Torah is only for Jews against the faithful obedience that God has required of all who worship him. 

To the Replacement Theologists out there, sorry; the “Israel of God” is not meant to be Christians. It isn’t really who someone is, it is what condition someone (or some people) are suffering through. And that condition is wrestling with our iniquity and with God’s will for our lives. Obedience to Torah is only one form of this battle between flesh and spirit, which was the message Shaul was addressing to the Galatians.

As we wrestle with our salvation, being pulled between earthly desires and spiritual fulfillment, we also go through that same “Israel” experience the Galatians did. Let us fight the good fight so that we, too, can be the “Israel of God”- one who has conquered by strength from above.