By Direction of the Commanding Officer

For those who have served in the military, the signature line “By Direction of the Commanding Officer” should be very familiar. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it means that whatever has been written has been done so by someone under the authority of higher command and although the letter (or orders, whatever) come directly from the writer, they are done so as if the commanding officer had issued them, personally.

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For example, when I was in the Marine Corps I was a Company XO (Executive Officer), and as such, I had authority over 350 men and millions of dollars in equipment. What I said, went, but I was under the authority of the Company Commander. I was most often the one issuing commands, but when the CO (Commanding Officer) issued a command through me, written below my name was the signature line “ByDir“, which meant that what I said was an order directly from the Company Commander.

Yeshua is the Messiah God sent to the world: to the Jew first, then to the Gentile. What Yeshua told us about how to live, worship and treat each other was not just from his own authority as Messiah, but was “ByDir” of God.

And when Yeshua used “ByDir” it was from the universe’s Million-Star General, the Lord, God Almighty!

Many times Yeshua told us that he does only what his father in heaven tells him to do or to say. There are too many references in the Gospels to annotate each time this is done, but when you read the Gospels (especially in John) you see this often. We read how people say of Yeshua that he speaks as no one ever did and that his teachings have the tone of authority to them. Well, of course, they do! He is speaking ByDir of the Lord! Yeshua’s every teaching, parable, riddle or lesson was directly from Adonai.

When we consider the above, we have to ask this question:

“How can anyone say that Yeshua did away with the instructions God gave us in the Torah if he was always speaking “ByDir” from God?”

Anything Yeshua said that was not in accordance with the “commands” God had already given would be like disobeying a direct order, wouldn’t it? If God told us to eat certain foods, but Yeshua said we didn’t have to do that, then he would have been disobeying God, right? Or, if Yeshua had taught that the Sabbath was on the first day of the week and not the 7th, he would have been in a state of sin, wouldn’t he?

The fact is Yeshua never disobeyed God or taught anyone to do so. His authority was given to him directly from God and was evident in the miracles he performed. And when people praised him, Yeshua always gave the credit to that person’s faith in God and in Yeshua, who was only acting under the ByDir authority from God as God’s Messiah.

When people preach to us, they should be preaching not from their own authority but ByDir; however, too often they don’t. They preach what they want to, such as when the Shabbat day was changed, the kosher laws were said to be only for Jews, and the festivals God ordered to be celebrated should be replaced with man-made “Christian” celebrations. These, and many other unauthorized doctrines and teachings have polluted God’s word and his plans for humanity. The ByDir from God has been misused and abused by those who teach not to edify but to create and maintain power over others.

We all have the God-given right to choose what we will believe, and God has given us all the information we need to make a choice. He has instructed us how to live and how to worship and how to treat each other. And through the Prophets, he has advised us to choose life (meaning obedience) because the only other option is death.

Don’t find yourself in the Brig for all eternity by refusing to accept the ByDir of Yeshua. Always question what your religious leaders tell you God meant and read it for yourself in the Bible, asking God to show you what he really meant.

God is the ultimate power and authority in the Universe, and there have only been two XO’s God has assigned: Moses and Yeshua. Those two, and only those two had God’s ByDir authority Remember that when you are reading the New Covenant Epistles, so you can understand them correctly, or when you hear people telling you that you are saved by the “Blood of Jesus” and the Torah is just for Jews.

Those people do not have ByDir and you don’t have to listen to what they say.  You are responsible for what you do, and what you don’t do, so make sure you know exactly who gave what commands so you follow the ones that are under God’s ByDir.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Changing the Way I Talk About the Torah

The Torah is the first 5 books of the Bible, which most of you already know, and it contains all the commandments (also referred to as “laws”) God has given to us. The rest of the Old Covenant is more of a historical narration, which shows us how we have failed to live up to our side of the covenant God made with us, in which those laws reside.

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For Jews, there is no problem with the Torah being God’s laws because the Torah is all that almost every non-Messianic Jew in the world cares about, meaning they do not accept anything from the New Covenant as scripture or even valid.  So, for those Jews who do not accept Yeshua as their Messiah, law=Torah=commandments=regulations, and that is fine.

The problem I want to talk about today is that Christians, in general, have traditionally been taught that the Torah- in truth, the entire Tanakh- is just for Jews. Jews have the Torah and Christians have Jesus Christ.Add to that the traditional Christian teaching of the Epistles Shaul (Paul) wrote, which is that obedience to the ‘Law” is legalism and wrong because faith and love are all you need to be saved, and you have the incorrect belief that law=Torah and neither apply to Christians.

As a Messianic Jew, I understand the truth about the relationship between Yeshua (Jesus) and the Torah, in that Yeshua was (as John tells us in John 1) the living example of the way we are to live in accordance to the Torah. Not only did he NOT do away with Torah, but he confirmed it in everything he did and said.

Consequently, understanding the above I also know the truth about the letters Shaul wrote, which (again) did NOT deny the validity of the Torah, but confirmed it. Albeit, the way he did so was very convoluted and confusing to Gentiles who couldn’t grasp the underlying cultural and religious meanings of much of what he wrote.

So, what I have decided to do (which will take me a while to incorporate into my messages) is to not refer to the Torah as “law”, or “commandments” or even “regulations” (which, by the way, they are) but simply as God’s instructions to us.

When we look at how God tells us what we are to do, it isn’t so much a decree as a choice. There are way too many passages to quote, but I doubt that anyone with any knowledge or familiarity with the Bible will be surprised when I say God tells us (repeatedly) what we are to do and what will happen if we don’t. To some, this may be a decree or even seen as a threat, but to me, it is a choice.

Through all the Prophets, God constantly told his people that he wanted them to choose life so that they would live. When he says to choose life, he means to obey his instructions in the Torah. Yeshua did not give any new instructions: yes, I know he said: “I give this new command, to love one another” (John 13:34) but that really isn’t “new”- it is from Leviticus 19:18. Yeshua did not create a new religion (this is what Jews are taught), nor did he change any of the existing instructions from the Torah or do away with them (this is what Gentiles are taught), so since Torah and Law and commandments all have the same connotation to both Jews and Gentiles, I will use “instructions” because that won’t sound like the same rhetoric everyone has already heard.

Maybe, just maybe, if people take a new view of the Torah as just instruction, which we have the right to choose or refuse, then maybe they will begin to see the entire Bible in a different light, one that might shine the truth through the cloudy and darkened misinterpretations that both Jews and Gentiles have been force-fed for generations.

One last thing: there are probably some of you out there who are thinking that I am wrong to refer to God’s commandments as something that is not mandatory, and I can understand why you would feel that way.  After all, he is God, right? The Almighty! The Creator of the Universe! The holy I Am! And when God says we should do something, it isn’t a suggestion, so where do I get off saying we have a choice?  The reason I say we have a choice is, well…because God tells us we do. When God says we should “choose life” he is giving us an option. If God didn’t want us to have an option, he would have not told us we have a choice. And he would not have given us Free Will, either. But God doesn’t want automatons, and he won’t make us love him; the only thing we can give God that he doesn’t already have is our love. He wants our worship, obedience, and love for him to be our choice.

Following God’s instructions shouldn’t be done because you are afraid of punishment but as a love-response.

The Torah is God’s instructions to the world (not just the Jews) teaching us how to worship him and treat each other. It is like the instructions you get when you have to put a child’s toy together: you can do the usual manly thing and ignore them, or you can read them carefully and follow them. And for all of you (like me) who have tried to put something together without reading the instructions, you know how that almost always turns out.

The question I leave you with is this: knowing how the toy turns out when you don’t read and obey the instructions, do you want your eternal soul to end up the same way?

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I welcome comments and discussion, and all I ask is that you be nice.

I look forward to the next time we are together, and until then…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Are Last Rites Valid for Jews?

There won’t be any video today.

I wrote this earlier this morning, and I planned to record the video after we took our cat, Shadow, for his two-week steroid shot, which he has been getting for 11 months due to him having cancer. He has been having trouble for the past week or so with urinating, and he has been uncomfortable and in pain. When we saw the Vet, she talked to us and we all knew, with her confirmation, that it was time to put him down.

Understandably, I am not in the mood to talk to anyone about anything right now, so since this was already written I will post it. I am sure you all feel for us, and Donna and I thank you for your compassion.

 

I was reading Dear Abby this morning and there was a Reform Jewish man who wrote about his wife, who had converted to Judaism and on her deathbed (she was comatose) her family asked if they could have a Priest administer the Last Rites of the Roman Catholic church. The man agreed as a way to be kind to the family, but now is having second thoughts about it.

Abby, in her usual politically correct answer, said the woman was comatose and whatever was said didn’t matter to her, so it was OK and he shouldn’t feel guilty.

I thought about this, as my initial response was, “No! You didn’t do that, did you, Mister?”, but I didn’t want to be unfair. After all, Abby is right that the woman didn’t have any idea what was going on. But, then again, when administering the Last Rites to an unconscious person are the statements the person is supposed to make made for them? I know when a baby is baptized, the godparents speak on behalf of the baby, so if a person is being given Last Rites, and they cannot speak for themselves, will the Priest intercede on their behalf?

I researched Last Rites and it reads like Tax form instructions. There are actually three different rites or sacraments that are given, and part of the rite is to have the person repeat the Apostolic Creed, which is this:

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.

If the person cannot do so because they are unconscious, then (from what I have read) they can either receive a Plenary Indulgence or a partial indulgence, which is essentially saying that they will be given a “bye” on the consequences of their sins since they cannot ask for forgiveness.

Overall, I think when the husband allowed his Jewish wife to have someone say the Last Rites over her, he did the wrong thing. I see this as just another example of the typical Roman Catholic stance that Jews are wrong and they need to be converted. This was, maybe (a BIG maybe) asked by the family because they truly were concerned for the soul of their “lost” family member, but it still is disrespectful to her. She chose to convert to Judaism, and the Catholic family members should have respected that.

But Catholicism has never really respected Judaism, or any other religion (for that matter), and I believe in this case they wanted the nearly dead person to come back to Christ before it was “too late.”

People have a right to choose what they will believe in, and whether or not we like their choice, we must respect it. I think this request by the family to have Last Rites administered is not just disrespectful, but an abomination- a sad attempt to convert someone who has already made her choice but is now unable to fight them. And to request this from a man who is watching his wife dying, and probably not fully able to make decisions due to his grief, is just disgusting.

I can understand that the family may have been doing what they thought was best for the woman, but it is just another example of Roman Catholic disrespect for any beliefs other than what they believe. I think the Priest that administered the Last Rites was also at fault- he, of all people, should have respected the choice of the comatose woman and said that no one can accept Yeshua by proxy.
Oh, wait- that is what the Roman Catholic Church does, isn’t it?  The baptism ceremony has the godparents accepting Jesus for the baby. Later, at the Confirmation ceremony (the child is 7 or 8 years of age), they perform the catechism now (supposedly) the child now speaking for him or herself accepting Jesus as their “Lord.”

I asked my wife, who was raised Roman Catholic and went to a Catholic school if she knew anyone that refused to go to Confirmation, and she said of course not. In Catholic school, you do it, period. Between the Nuns and your parents, you really have no choice. The Church tells you this is what you must do.

This is the attitude of the “Church”, in general, whether Roman Catholic, Protestant or whatever other denomination of Christian there is. They see Jews and other religions as inferior and feel the need to convert them, misinterpreting the statement Yeshua made in Matthew 28:19 when he was ascending to heaven and told the Talmudim (Disciples) to make disciples of everyone.

I think it should be understood since he also told them (Matthew 10:14) to wipe the dust from their sandals if they were rejected, that to make disciples doesn’t mean to force people to be a disciple, but to give them the opportunity to choose to be a disciple.

Unfortunately, from my experience, the only religion of the “Big Three” that does not actively try to convert everyone is Judaism.  We do not try to make Jews out of everyone, and I don’t believe that is what Yeshua meant when he said to make disciples out of everyone. I believe, based on his being Jewish, that he meant to spread the word to Jews (remember- he came only for the House of Israel) about their Messiah. Not to actively convert the Gentiles. However, God did allow the salvation of those Gentiles who CHOSE to accept Yeshua and, thereby CHOSE to convert to Judaism. Christianity, as we know it today, didn’t come about until Constantine in the Third Century. Back in Yeshua’s day, and for the next hundred years or so, accepting Yeshua meant becoming a Jew.

In conclusion, there may be some reading this who feel I am being unfair and coming down on the Roman Catholic’s too hard, and maybe I am. As a Jewish man brought up being called “Christ Killer” and other such insults, I may be a little extra sensitive when I see any Christian forcing their beliefs on someone else.

But that doesn’t mean that what they are doing is acceptable. We each have to choose God and Messiah on our own, without coercion or threat, and I truly believe that any form of conversion which is not our own, free will choice will not be acceptable to God.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Parashah Bo 2019 (Come) Exodus 10 – 13:16

We continue with the plagues God is sending on Egypt, yet sparing the Israelites in Goshen. Finally, the 10th plague, the death of the firstborn comes and God tells Moses how to protect his people living in Goshen from this plague. After such a terrible loss of life, including Pharaoh’s own son, the people are told to leave. They take many gifts (spoil) from the Egyptians, who are more than happy to give them anything to get out of Egypt, and God institutes the Passover and states this shall be the beginning of our year.

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The parashah ends with the commandment that every firstborn, whether human or animal, belongs to God as the substitution for the firstborn God took from the Egyptians.

There is a term used during the narrative of the 10 plagues that comes up very often; actually, two terms which appear no less than some 19 times. One is that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (9 times) and the other is that Pharaoh hardened his heart (10 times.) Now, for God to purposefully harden someone’s heart so that they sinned, then punish them for that sin is obviously unfair and sinful, in and of itself, so how could a sinless and perfectly holy God do that? The answer is: he didn’t.

First off, we must understand that in the biblical days, everything that happened was ascribed to God. God has a plan for the universe, and whether things happen as a direct result of Divine intervention, or just unfold as God knew they would, in the Bible it is considered a direct result of God’s will. So, even if someone does something entirely on their own, it is (in the Bible) considered to be a direct act of God.  This is not meant to blame God, it is just the cultural understanding of that time.

We all have the freedom to decide if we will obey God or not. There can be a million and one reasons why we shouldn’t, and really only one reason why we should. That one reason is simple: He is God and we are not. As for why we shouldn’t, or don’t have to (anymore), people can rationalize any desire to be justified, at least in their own mind. What happens is this: we make up our own reason for disobedience, and repeat it to ourselves. Once we succumb to sin, it gets easier and easier to continue to sin, and harder and harder to overcome it. I learned from many years as a Salesman that the more you tell someone something, even if it is ridiculous, they will eventually believe it. God knew about Pharaoh from the start, and the warning to all of us is the same warning he gave to Cain in Genesis. 4:7

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.

The first response Pharaoh had to Moses was in Exodus 5:2, where he said, “Who is Adonai, that I should obey when he says to let Israel go? I don’t know Adonai, and I also will not let Israel go.” Pharaoh had the opportunity to obey God, and he chose to reject God’s command. God knew this would happen, as he told Moses in Chapter 3 (Ex. 3:19- “I know that the king of Egypt will not let you leave unless he is forced to do so.”), so the first “hardening” came from Pharaoh. And as I stated earlier, because the Bible states everything is from God, when it continues from this point on to say “God hardened his heart:” that is not an actual accusation but an expression. Pharaoh was the sole cause for the plagues coming upon the Egyptians, and Pharaoh had the opportunity to obey God every step of the way, but HE chose not to.

We have the same freedom to choose that Pharaoh had, and we have sin crouching at our door, just like Cain did. I remember the comedian Flip Wilson, and his character Geraldine always said, The Devil made me do it!” That was funny, but in truth, the Devil can’t make us do anything- we do it. Old Nick may provide opportunity and even give us a strong incentive to do evil, but in the end, it is our choice.

You have no one to blame but yourself for what you do.

God is in control of everything, but that doesn’t mean he does control everything. God allows us to make up our own minds, and to choose whether we accept or reject him. And don’t think for a moment there is a middle-of-the-road position with God- he is totally binomial. It is or it isn’t, right or wrong, black or white, you is or you isn’t. Period.

Moving forward, next time you think the Enemy is attacking you, or that God is punishing you, think again. Think about what choices you have made recently, and make sure that if you really are under a curse that you didn’t bring it on yourself. Thank God that when we do screw up, we have forgiveness available to us through Messiah Yeshua. Do Teshuva (repentance), ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name and make a better decision in the future.

If you ask me, this is the pathway we must walk. We will always sin, and as long as we continue to repent, ask God for forgiveness through Messiah and also through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) guidance and the strength to improve our ability to resist sin, working to sin less and less every day, we will be walking the path of salvation.

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Tonight begins the Sabbath, so Shabbat Shalom, and may you have a blessed weekend.

The Meaning of Life in a Nutshell

There won’t be a video today because coming off a cruise Donna and I were on last week we both got sick, which has left me voiceless. Apparently an answer to someone’s prayer.

 

Today I would like to talk about something that seems complex but is really quite simple: the meaning of life.

This is what we call the “Eternal Question,” one that people have always wondered about and no one has really ever answered to everyone’s satisfaction.

My answer is simple and it is based on my understanding of the instructions God gave to us in the Torah. I also have considered the writings of Moses, the Prophets and especially the teachings of Yeshua. I have studied and thought about these with my focus on what the future holds.

And what the future holds is destruction on a universal scale. It started with the iniquity of Mankind destroying the ideal world God created. He chose the descendants of Abraham (through Isaac, the son of the Promise) to bring order back into the world, but they failed to do the job well. Ultimately, it resulted in the dispersion of God’s people throughout the world. God sent his Messiah to bring us back into communion with him, but (again) people screwed that up and it resulted in man’s creation of many different religions, most of them losing sight of the original instructions God gave us. We are now at the point where the next major step will be the end of everything through the Tribulation, which I believe we are seeing come to fruition today.

What the future holds is death and destruction like no one has ever seen before, not even those in the Flood, which will result with the end of humanity as we know it.

Not too happy a prospect, is it? Well, it’s not my idea- that’s what we are told to expect. So we may also ask what meaning can life have if everything we do is going to be for nothing?

The answer is: we aren’t doing it for this life!

From birth through death the existence we all suffer through is only a “Waiting Room.”

The meaning of life is this: we are given this life to decide where we want to live for eternity. 

That’s it! Like I said from the beginning, it’s simple- what we do while we are alive in this physical plane of existence is going to determine where we spend eternity. God gives us two lives: the one we live for a short period of time and the one we live forever.  What we do during this short life God has given us will determine where we will live for all eternity.

Now all that is left for each of us to ask ourselves is this: Where do I want to spend eternity? The good news is that you have the right to choose: the bad news is you don’t know how much time you are given to make that choice.

My advice is don’t waste whatever time you have thinking about it.

 

Parashah Re’eh (See) Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17

Moses continues to review all the commandments that God has given to the Israelites over the past 40 years. He tells them that as soon as they cross over the Jordan and enter the land He has given to them they are to place the blessing for obedience on Mt. Gerezim, and the curse for disobedience on Mt. Ebal.

Interesting note: these are called the “Shoulder Mountains” because they are across from each other, like a pair of shoulders, and below them is the Valley of Shechem. When all the people, split between the two mountainsides, repeat the blessings and curses aloud, all the inhabitants of the valley below them will hear it.

Moses orders that all pagan memorials and standing stones, idols, etc. be completely destroyed and that Israel is never to do any of the things these pagans did. The people are also told that God will choose a place for His name, meaning a single location where sacrifices to Him will be performed. He orders that no one is to sacrifice just anywhere, but only where God tells them they can. If the tithe to be brought is too much to carry to where the Temple is, it can be converted to money, then when the person gets to the location he can buy the items from someone else.

Another interesting note: One of the reasons Yeshua (Jesus) turned over the money changing tables and threw the merchants out of the Temple courts when He came into Jerusalem (John 2:15) was because the animals they sold to the people for sacrifice were way overpriced, and many were not fit to be a sacrifice.

Moses reviews the laws of Kashrut (Kosher) and the regulations regarding the Festivals of the Lord. He gives the regulations regarding the Shemittah, which is the release of debt every 7 years, and warns against any one who is trying to seduce people to worship other gods, whether a prophet or a family member, decreeing they should be put to death.

Throughout this book Moses keeps telling the people that they are to choose which way they will live: in accordance with God’s laws or in accordance with the pagan practices of the people surrounding them. Even though God ordered every vestige of the pagan practices and people to be be utterly destroyed, He knew that there would always be a remnant of evil left behind.

Seems whether of good or evil, there is always a remnant, somewhere.

The bible verifies God gave us Free Will to choose our path. Too often I hear people make excuses for their actions, blaming the enemy or someone else, or just saying that “God is forgiving so I’ll be OK”, as if God will automatically forgive us for sinning against Him even if we don’t really repent of it. This is one of the wrong teachings of Christianity over the centuries, i.e. that because Yeshua died for our sins we are automatically forgiven.

We are NOT automatically forgiven! Everything in the bible tells us that, and although we do have forgiveness through Yeshua’s sacrifice, it is not automatic. Think about it: if we were automatically forgiven, then what is the use of Free Will? If we are automatically forgiven, then the need to choose right over wrong becomes unnecessary, because no matter what we do we will be forgiven. Automatic forgiveness is, effectively, saying that we don’t even have to do T’shuvah (repent) from our sin.

How many of you out there really think that God will forgive an unrepentant sinner? If you raised your hand, you are way off base and will be very, VERY disappointed at Judgement Day.

God holds us responsible for everything we do and say. Us, me, you- the excuse “But that’s what they told me” is not acceptable at God’s Throne of Judgement. Moses repeats the commandments from God to the people many times so that it will, hopefully, sink in! I think Moses knows what is going to happen; I believe that when God showed Moses the Promised Land He also showed Moses the future. When we read the passionate plea of Moses as he reviews the laws and warns the people against rejecting their God for the gods of the Canaanites, you can hear his heart breaking as he tells them what will happen when (he doesn’t always use the word “if”, and often uses the word “when”) they reject God by rejecting His commandments.

The Torah is not just for Jews and the Blood of Christ is not just for Gentiles; there is not one bible for Jews and one bible for Gentiles. The Torah is for everyone, and the bible is one book- the first part (Tanakh) telling us how we got here and that a Messiah will come, and the second part telling us about that Messiah and letting us know what will happen in the end. One God for everyone, one Messiah for everyone, one set of rules for everyone, and one choice for everyone: joyful life eternal or eternal suffering.

It’s your choice- no one can make it for you and God will not allow you to let someone else take the blame for what you end up doing. No matter what you are told by humans, God says that He, Himself, is going to hold you individually and completely responsible for what you do during your lifetime on earth.

You may be thinking you can change later, or will think about it at some other time, but here’s the problem with that: you will never know when you’re out of time!

having control doesn’t mean being in control

Anyone who believes that God is the Supreme Being who created the Universe, and who created life on Earth, and who has done all the things we read about in the Bible doesn’t have any problem also believing that He is in charge of everything. Believers believe that God controls everything.

Or does He?

My answer is: no, He doesn’t. Not that He can’t, just simply that (I believe) often He just chooses not to.

You see, being in control of everything doesn’t mean that you are controlling everything.  The word we use for this phenomena is: delegation.

When we read the stories in 1 and 2 Kings we see how God uses other rulers, such as Pharaoh (a couple of them throughout the ages) and Nebuchadnezzar, for example, to be His means of punishing the Israelites for their rebellion and idol worship. God sent them, so He was in control, but He also punishes them afterwards for their unusually cruel, sadistic and self-centered actions when doing His work. So, if God is in total control all the time, and he sends “Nebbie” to kick Tzidkiyahu’s tuchas, why punish Nebbie for just doing what he was supposed to do?

According to the bible it was because of what Nebbie did that he wasn’t supposed to do, by (as I mentioned above) being extraordinarily cruel and later thinking himself higher than God. So God was in control of what He wanted to get done, but He delegated the means and ways of doing it to Nebuchadnezzar, who did what he wanted to and not what God sent him to do.

God was in control, in that He sent the army against Israel to punish them, but He wasn’t controlling what happened because He gave that control to Nebuchadnezzar.

We can see this in the story of Job: God delegated authority to Satan to do harm to Job, but He was still in control in that He limited what level of harm was allowed.

We see this in the story of Shaul ben Kish (Saul, the first King of Israel), in that God caused Saul to prophesy even when he was unwilling to do so, yet Shaul did many things wrong, which caused God to take control back and appoint David as King.

We see this in the story of Yeshua (Jesus) at the rock in Gethsemane,  who prayed that He be delivered (if possible) from what was going to happen to Him. God could easily have stopped that whole affair, but He delegated the authority to Pilate and allowed the slaughter of His son to take place. God had control over it all, but He let the people be in control of the events.

Jonah was called, then he took control and ran away; God took control back and sent a storm (which was destroying the ship.) Eventually, Jonah took back control of the situation and sacrificed himself to save the others on the ship. God took control and sent the fish to save Jonah, and left the rest up to Jonah. It was Jonah who ultimately made the decision to go to Nineveh- if not, he might still be there today, trying to get a good cell signal from the belly of that fish. God called Jonah, Jonah took control and fled, God took control back and sent the storm, Jonah took control back and saved the ship and crew, God controlled the fish to let Jonah think about it for three days. Again, God controlled events just enough to let Jonah decide; God gave Jonah control of his own decision.

How many times do we hear this question, “Why do bad things happen to good people, and how can God allow that to be?” The answer is because we live in a cursed world and bad things happen. God is in control; yet God has said He causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, alike (Matthew 5:25.) He also said that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy (Exodus 33:19.) What that means (to me) is that God is in control but He chooses not to control everything that happens.

We have free will, mainly so that we can decide to worship God; if God controls our will, then we can’t choose to worship Him, and that is NOT what He wants from us. God will often (as we see above) control the periphery of our life, make things happen that lead us to a decision, but ultimately we are in control of what decision we make. Who knows how many people over the millennia God has called to do His work but at the last minute they decided not to. God could have made them, but He didn’t, and because He is in control, total control, He called someone else until the plan God had was accomplished. This is what Mordecai meant when he told Hadassah (Esther) in the Book of Esther 4:14:

 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father’s house will perish: and who knoweth whether thou art not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

This is the same position every one of us finds ourselves in, every moment of every day: maybe we are here for a purpose we aren’t aware of, and standing on the precipice of being able to do something wonderful that will, maybe one day, affect all mankind?

If only I knew what the heck that was!!

God is in control of everything, which is the very reason why He doesn’t have to control everything. Whatever He wants to happen will happen, but it is up to each of us to do our part of that plan, to meet and accept the calling God has for us. I don’t know what that is for me- maybe this blog? Maybe my book? Maybe my position at the Zionist Revival Center here in Melbourne? I really don’t know, but I am trying to keep my ears open and my eyes open to see and hear His calling on my life. I don’t want to “pull a Jonah” when the opportunity comes.

Do you see how God has influenced your life? The times He took control and the times He allowed you make your own choice? We can be confident that God’s plan for salvation is true and will be accomplished, in fact, already has been accomplished through Messiah Yeshua. We can also be confident that whatever God wants to happen will happen. The only thing we can’t have any real confidence in is ourselves, and you are the final ingredient in God’s recipe for the calling in your life.

Don’t screw up the stew- keep looking for the opportunities to do God’s work that He will place along the pathway as you walk through this life, and when you see them, choose to do God’s work. God is in control, and he is letting you control what you do.

Choose to do what pleases Him.

 

 

Don’t fence me in

Anyone remember that old song? It was actually the title song to a Roy Rogers movie from the 1940’s.

Basically, it tells of a man who doesn’t want to be restricted, a man who wants to be free to choose what he does and where he does it.

God is like that, too: He doesn’t want to be restricted into doing or being what others think He should be. Yet, we do that to Him- especially within many religions. Some teach only of His loving kindness and the salvation He provides, and that He is all about love. That’s true, God is love, but He is also justice, and He is demanding, and He is definitely willing and able to punish. If God will not punish the sinner as He promises He will, then His promises aren’t trustworthy. Yet, many religions don’t even like to mention that. They work on your emotional need to be unconditionally loved, and ignore the other aspects of God and (especially) His requirements for worship. Basically, they only want you to know the New Covenant writings and teach the Old Covenant is really just for the Jews.

Wrong!

Let’s be clear about what I mean when I say “punishing the sinner”: we all are sinners, who are sinful (meaning it is our nature to sin), but when those who truly fear the Lord sin, they are rueful and repentant. That is not the sinner who will be punished. A rueful and repentant person, one who goes before God with a contrite and humble heart and asks forgiveness, will be forgiven.

The sinners who will be punished are the ones who are unrepentant, the ones who reject God, willfully and obstinately, and who do whatever they want to do and justify doing so using worldly ethics and morals.

It seems funny using the words “ethic” and “moral” when talking about the world, doesn’t it?

So, sinners who will be punished are the ones who do what they want to do and reject God.

But, what is “rejecting God”? Is it simply to say He doesn’t exist? Is it to admit He may exist? Is it to worship Him and say you are a “Believer” but only do what you want to do and make excuses to ignore what you don’t want to do?

WHOAAAAHH, NELLIE!!!  Steve: are you implying that a Believer, someone who has accepted Messiah Yeshua as their personal Savior and fears the Lord, who goes to church every Sunday and tithes, and makes cakes for the fund-raisers, and doesn’t cheat at Bingo….are you saying this person, this godly, wonderful, angelic representative of the Almighty is rejecting God because he or she doesn’t do everything God says we should?

In a word…yes.

And to add to that, I also confess that I am one of those people. I don’t wear Tzit-Tzit, even though it is a commandment (Number 15: 38-40);often on Saturday I will do work around the house and I will spend money shopping or getting a haircut, and I also do other things I shouldn’t regarding speech and jokes and ….well, I could go on. I am sure everyone reading this could go on, as well. So I am not preaching to you as much as I am preaching to myself.

We are all guilty of not performing all the commandments God gave us, and that is why He needed to provide Yeshua (Jesus) as our “Get out of Hell” card so that when we do T’shuvah (repentance) and try (note I am saying try) to do better, I believe that God, in His mercy and compassion, sees our attempts to do better and our heartfelt desire to obey Him, as the next best thing to actually living a sinless life.

As I often say: we can never be sinless, but we can always sin less.

But what about religions that teach you don’t have to do what God commands? Religions that teach Torah is just for Jews and Christians have the Blood of Christ, and that is all they need. What about a religion that tells you you have to be totally abstinent if you want to be a spiritual leader? What about a religion that teaches you drinking and dancing are sins? What about a religion that tells you it is a sin to eat a cheeseburger? What about a religion that teaches you the Jewish people have been rejected forever by God and that Christians are now the Chosen people of God (Replacement Theology)?

Aren’t they rejecting God when they reject what He has said?  God gave the Torah to the Jewish people not for them exclusively, but for them to learn to live the way God wants us to live, and then teach the rest of the world by example. The fact that (in Acts) the Jewish Elders were amazed when God’s Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) came to the Gentiles shows that they didn’t understand this, either. God gave the Torah to the Jews so that they could bring it to the world.

Which means that Torah is what God wants us to do, how He wants us to worship Him, and to teach us all that we need to know.

God has no religion. He has Torah, and His Torah took on flesh and lived among us to demonstrate what the Jewish people were supposed to be demonstrating all along. Jesus showed the Jews in Israel how to live as a God-fearing person. Not as a “Jew”, but as someone who wants to obey the Lord. He was obedient to the Father, and (as John describes Him in the Gospel of John), Jesus was the Word of God become flesh.

Well, what was the “Word of God” in the First Century? It was the Torah.

If you are being taught that the Torah is for Jews and you, as a Gentile, are not subject to it, you had better start stocking up on Coppertone. I mean it- you need to read the bible, you need to read my book, and you need to make up your own mind about what God wants you to do.

I can help here: God wants you to do as He says you should and the world wants you to do what it says you should. In the end, there will be a fight between God and the world (Satan’s realm), and only one wins.

I’ll give you three guesses to tell me who wins, and your first two guesses don’t count.

I would love to be able to do everything in the Torah that God tells us to do, but I can’t. And, yes, I confess (and ask forgiveness) for the things I am too weak to control and discipline myself to do, such as wearing Tzit-tzit and observing the Shabbat fully. In fact, today I am going to work and it is the first day of Sukkot- I should be celebrating a Sabbath rest. But I’m not doing that, by choice. I have no vacation or personal days left, and already have taken two days without pay for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

I am sinning, I am rejecting God, and I know I am doing it. And, I really feel lower than whale poop. I pray God will forgive me, and strengthen me to do better in the future.

That’s the difference between who I was and who I am: I used to be a sinner that rationalized my sins, and now I am a sinner who regrets my sins.

Please read the word of God and let Him guide your understanding: don’t be lazy and just take what you are told as God’s truth. Religion is not for God, it is for itself, and teaches you what it wants you to do. Not all the time, and not all the commandments, but all religions teach something that is against what God wants. And when you face Him at Judgment Day, He will hold you responsible for what you have done or failed to do, and the reasons for it will be yours. That old cop-out, “But that’s what they told me to do!” won’t hold water with the Big Guy upstairs.

So, do what you do, don’t do what you don’t do, but (at least) know what the rules are before you decide what choice to make.

Because it is your choice to make, and you will be held accountable for making it. .

God is not my Co-pilot

People from my generation may remember the title of this blog comes from a book (made into a movie) about a WWII pilot. The saying and idea that God is our co-pilot has been picked up and used to show how God influences our life and is with us.

But God isn’t a co-pilot.

Technically, the co-pilot is the second in command of the aircraft, junior to the Captain. Although he has the same skills and training, the Captain is (usually) the more experienced.

I don’t think God is ‘junior’ to anyone. And when we put God in the job of co-pilot, we are taking away His authority and replacing it with our own.

Actually, I think God is the Navigator. Although the Navigator is an NFO (Non Flight Officer), he is , in his own rights (or hers), the one who directs the plane.

The Navigator is the one responsible for making sure the flight path is known and that the plane stays on course, and the Captain and Co-Pilot follow the directions of the Navigator. Even though the Captain is the one driving the plane, the Navigator is the one who tells him where it goes.

That sounds more like how God influences our lives.

God knows what is best for us and He can see where we need to go; He directs us through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) so that we stay on course. When we ignore His directions, we get lost. That is why so many people, both saved and unsaved, are flying at hundreds of miles per hour, making distance but not getting where they need to be. And some are not even flying a parallel course to salvation, but are going in the opposite direction. They are lost and getting farther and farther from their God-given target.

We all want to feel like we are in charge -it is almost a part of the human psyche to want to be the one giving the orders. It’s my choice, it’s my life, it’s my decision and I have a right to do what I want to do. Yes, you do have that right. God gave each of us Free Will so that we can make our own decisions.

He is hoping that we make the right ones, the most important (I think) being that it may be my life, but God gave it to me and He never really gave me full title to it. It is His to give and His to take away.

As Job said when he lost everything in the world (or, should I say, everything of the world) that meant anything to him, all within the span of a few minutes:

The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

Everything that there is, ever has been or ever shall be belongs to God. We may be given many wonderful blessings, but what we have is still His- He has made us governors, managers and tenders of His creation, but He has not given it to us as a permanent possession. Even the land, which is promised to us as an inheritance, was given to us from others, and God clearly and unabashedly warns us that if we do not treat the land with respect and keep it free of sin (specifically the sins of the prior owners) then we, too, will be ejected. We read this warning in Deuteronomy, in Leviticus, in Isaiah, in 2 Chronicles- throughout the Tanakh we are told, over and over, that the former occupants are being ejected because of the sins they polluted the land with, and that if we also turn from God’s commandments and pollute the land with those same sins, we will be ejected, too.

And that is exactly what happened.

We may be driving the plane, but we need to listen to our Navigator- he is really the one getting the plane where it needs to go. He has the maps, he knows the way, and he can see how far off course we are getting. We are in control of the plane, no doubt, but if we don’t listen to our Navigator we will never get to the landing field; we will fly naively thinking we are really going somewhere, but when we run out of fuel we will crash and burn.

Especially burn.

Listen to your Navigator, respectfully obey His directions, and keep on the life course that God has given you. We all get to do what we want to do, and when we want to listen to our Navigator we will fly sure, with good weather and clear skies. Even if we do have to fly through some heavy clouds and we can’t see where we are, our Navigator knows; all we have to do is go where he tells us to go.

Letting God run your life is not giving up being in charge of it, it is simply making the decision to let God tell you which direction to take. You are still in charge of where you go. And you are also able to let someone else tell you where to go- that is the real problem we all face. Knowing which Navigator to listen to.

When you read the bible you learn who God is; when you accept Messiah Yeshua as your Savior and ask for the Holy Spirit, you will receive it; knowing who God is, accepting Yeshua and having the Ruach haKodesh is the only way you will know God’s voice from the voice of the enemy.

Then, knowing God’s voice, you will be able to pick the Navigator who will direct you to Eternal joy.

 

Bad news is the news

Doctor to Patient: “I’ve got some bad news, and I’ve got some even worse news.”

Patient: “OK- so, what’s the bad news?”

Doctor: “Your test results are back and you have only 48 hours to live.”

Patient: “Yikes! If that’s the bad news, what could possibly be worse?”

Doctor: “I’ve been trying to reach you since yesterday.”

If you read the newspapers (and if you read this blog, you know that I don’t) it is pretty much all bad news. Death, crime, destruction (both natural and man-made), corruption. All bad news.

Why? The answer is simple: bad news sells. In all fairness, newspapers are not public service announcements, they are a business. And the way a business stays in business is by selling their product in such a way as to make a profit. If bad news sells, then put out bad news.

But why does bad news sell? Ah- as Shakespeare would say (and he did): There’s the rub!

I only wish I knew the answer.

I can guess the answer, and even if I am not correct, 100%, I ‘ll bet I am awfully close…..it’s because people want to feel better about themselves, and they do when they see others in worse condition. We are a competitive species, so we compare ourselves to others in order to see how well we “rate” in the world.

Is my car newer? Is my house bigger? Do I make more money? Am I prettier? Do I turn out more work? Is my grass greener? Is my hair nicer? Are my teeth whiter?

We need to compare ourselves to something, anything, in order to understand ourselves better and to find our place in the world. And here’s the kicker charge, Folks- der ain’t nuttin wrong widdat! It’s who and what we are- if not for a competitive spirit, there would be no progress, no improvement, no growth. It is our need to compare ourselves to others that drives us to improve ourselves and our society.

The question is: to whom should I compare myself?

In my opinion, the problem is that we compare ourselves to the world, to other people, and to what is expected by our society.

You may ask, “Yeah, so? What’s wrong with that?” What’s wrong with that is that people are stupid: self-centered, self-absorbed, hedonistic, and sinful from birth.

The world will do much better when we stop trying to beat out the next guy and just try to be more like the only guy we should emulate: Yeshua ha Mashiach (Jesus).

When we compare ourselves to other people we are working with a bad role model, so even all the wonderful things that have resulted from this competition- improvements in technology, medical care, science, etc.- are good, but came about in spite of ourselves, not because of what we intended.

Oh, yeah- there are many, many things that have improved our lives that were intended to do so, but overall when you start with hedonistic, self-absorbed beings what you get is a drive to be better than the other person for the sake of being better.  What we need is to stop trying to be better than the other person and concentrate on being a better “me.”

The only role model we should be looking to is Yeshua.

I believe when we compare ourselves to what God wants us to be we will have plenty of room for improvement. Don’t you worry about that! And, when we are driven to create, we will create for the betterment of society. And when we are driven to do something, it will be for someone else’s sake and not for our own fame. And when we give to others, it will be without concern for recompense because we will do it to glorify God, not us.

Then, maybe in this idealistic dream of mine, the newspapers will tell of the kitten that was saved, the way people worked together to prevent a tragedy; instead of focusing their report on the death and destruction from an earthquake, they will report that there was an earthquake and this is how people helped each other….

We all need role models, especially the children, because once you get to about 7 or 8 years old, most of what and who you are going to be is already formed. With good role models in our life we can become better people and be role models for others. Eventually the “chametz” (yeast, biblically representing sin) will be removed from the dough instead of the other way around. Shaul (Paul) said only a little chametz can leaven the whole batch of dough (Galatians 5:9) and the dough of this world is pretty well leavened, wouldn’t you say? But for purity, that which we present to the Lord, there must be no chametz in the bread:

Lev. 2:11– Every grain offering you bring to the LORD must be made without yeast, for you are not to burn any yeast or honey in a food offering presented to the LORD.

What we present to God, which should be our everyday thoughts, actions and words, should be matzo- unleavened bread worthy of presentation to God.

One of my favorite (and most often repeated) prayers to God is from two of David’s psalms:

Psalm 51:10– Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Psalm 19:14– May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

These prayers ask God to make me into what I really want to be: matzo presented to Him without chametz.

Forget reading the newspapers- they are full of dreck. Read the Bible, instead. A little Bible every day will work it’s way through you, and make you a better person. Compare yourself to God, to Yeshua, to what they want you to be and forget what the world has to offer you. It is fleeting, it is temporary, it is superficial.

The world is never going to have anything more than a finite effect on you and you on it, but what you do for God is eternal. And what God offers you is eternal, as well.

We all have the God-given right to make our own decisions, and that includes picking the role model we want to emulate. And don’t ever forget- we will all have to answer for who we chose to be like when we come before the Lord.

I suggest you chose well.