What Does “Torah Observant” Mean?

The most likely answer would be obeying everything the Torah says we should do. However, we all know that this is something which no one can do. Only Yeshua was able to be 100% human and still 100% Torah observant. In fact, He went beyond just doing what the Torah says we should do- He not only did it, He felt it, He thought it, He breathed it. He was, and is, the Living Torah.

In Judaism we say the Torah should be a mirror, so that when we look into it we see our own reflection. It is a shame that, even though there is nothing in and of itself that is too difficult for us to do in the Torah, we just can’t do it all, all of the time.

We are told that to disobey or transgress even a single stroke of the Torah is to transgress the entire Torah, and that no one is without sin, so if observance is impossible then how can anyone really be Torah Observant? Or even say they are?

The answer is obvious: no one can say they are completely Torah observant. However, I do say I am Torah observant, and I will share with you why I feel justified in saying so.

I consider myself “Torah observant” not because I do everything the Torah says I should, but because I want to. My heart wants to be observant, and I try to be observant. I respect the Word of God, and honor what He said we should do. Being Torah observant is the goal of my spiritual and physical life.

I know that on my own I can never be completely and perfectly obedient to the Torah, so I ask the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to guide me in what I do and say, constantly helping me to better understand what Yeshua was teaching about the Torah: not just the P’Shat (literal meaning of the words), but the Remez, the Drash and the Sod (the deeper spiritual and mystical meanings) as well.

Most of Christianity has been taught that the Torah, as far as Christians are concerned, was “nailed to the Cross with Jesus”: totally wrong, totally inaccurate, and totally against everything that Jesus and all His Apostles taught in the New Covenant writings. Yeshua died so that those areas of Torah which we cannot perform will not be a stumbling block with regards to our ability to be with God forever. Without forgiveness of sin we cannot come into God’s presence, and Yeshua made that forgiveness available through His sacrifice. The only thing that was “nailed”, if anything, could be the need to bring a sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem. That requirement in the Torah no one can obey anymore, yet thanks to Yeshua we don’t have to. Everything else in Torah is still valid.

Torah observance is like that ultimate goal we know we may never reach, but is what drives us to be better than we were. As you have heard me say many time before, we can never be sinless but we can always sin less. That is the goal, that is the light at the end of the tunnel, that is the laurel wreath we all seek: to be in accordance with what God wants in our life and to be pleasing to the Lord in all we say and do.

The first step in being Torah observant is having the desire to be so. Just like accepting Yeshua starts with T’Shuvah (repentance), we must want to obey all of God’s commandments. When you have that desire in your heart, then you will be able to say you are Torah observant, despite what physical things you do or don’t do.

prayer spam

When the Talmudim (Disciples/students) of Yeshua asked Him how they should pray, well….we all know His answer. But do we think about the line that goes, “Give us this day our daily bread…”? Do we think about what He might have meant by that?

Not the P’shat, which means the written word as it is written, but the Drash– the underlying, spiritual meaning.

I believe what Yeshua was saying was that when we pray, we need to ask only for what we need, then and there. Not for success in life, not for riches or fame, not for next week’s presentation to the Board, but for now. Right now, and only right now, and only what I need right now. I also think that God wants our prayers to go to Him, to the Father, to be delivered in the name of the Son. Not to the Son, not to a “Saint” who is supposed to, what? Intercede with Yeshua (Jesus) to intercede with God? Didn’t Yeshua say the ONLY way to the Father is through the Son (John 14:6)?

What does that mean? It means that our prayers are to be sent to the Father in the name of the Son, and not to the Son for Him to bring to the Father. When we pray to anyone, or anything (even worse!) other than God, Himself- God the Father, God the Creator, God the one and only and God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob- then we are committing idolatry.

And when we pray to God, do we pray for what we need now, and only what we need now? I have heard people pray, and I believe their prayers are earnest, but they pray for the same thing over and over, they use “Father God” over, and over, and over- the way a “Valley Girl” uses the work “like”- until I have to think that God is saying to Himself, “All right, already- I know who I am! Just ask for what you want and leave all the ‘Father God this’ and ‘Father God that’ out of it! Oy!”

Don’t pray spam to God. He wants to hear from your heart. I have seen people pause during prayer and I can see them start to sweat trying to think of something else to say. If you have nothing more to say, than what you should say is: nothing more. Just stop. Just end the endless stream of useless words and catch-phrases that are supposed to make you sound like Solomon blessing the Temple. That was a long prayer, and it was a really good one. But long doesn’t mean better. How about Moses’ prayer (Numbers 12:13) when Miriam was struck by God with leprosy? Did he go on and on, or did he just say, “Oh Lord- please heal her!”

Moses found those 5 words to be as effective and meaningful as an entire thesis presented by a graduate student in Theology. God doesn’t just see the heart, He hears the heart.

We see someone who is homeless and downtrodden and (usually) think the worst, yet God sees Job during his trials of faith. We see someone who is mentally or physically challenged and thank God it isn’t us, and God sees a caring, faithful and compassionate person who is thankful that no one else they know has the same problems.

The words we use when we pray are not as important as the condition of our heart. When King David prayed for forgiveness in Psalm 51, he said that God will not despise a broken heart and a contrite spirit. It is the condition of our heart that generates prayer pleasing to the Lord; the fancy King James style words we use, the number of times we say “Oh Lord” or “Father God”, or the length of prayer is all totally meaningless. That is only pleasing to humans who know only what they see and hear. People only see the P’shat of the world, and not the Drash of humanity. I think people just pray “spam” when they use fancy words and long, poetic phrases meant to impress the people around them, and I just have to believe that God is thinking, “Your prayer is to Me, but I know the way you are praying is to impress those around you, so let them answer your prayer.”

Remember: when you pray, God already knows what you need. He knows what you want, He knows is best for you, and He will deliver it when He knows the time is right for you. What you say will not influence His decision but what you feel in your heart will.

When you pray remember the advice Yeshua gave His Talmudim in the Gospels- do not worry about what to say because the Ruach (Spirit) will give you what you need. Trust in the Spirit to guide your prayer and don’t pray from your mouth: pray from your heart.

 

 

Wanting what I do or doing what I want

It’s the dilemma that (I believe) all those who are Born Again suffer with: am I doing what I want to do to please God, or am I doing what I want to do because it pleases me?

Shaul (Paul- that nice Jewish boy from Tarsus) had this problem, too. He tells us about it in his letter to the Roman Believers (7:15):

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

The Talmud tells us we are all born with the yetzer hara (the evil inclination) and only years later does the yetzer hatov (the good inclination) develop. The yetzer hara can, when controlled by the yetzer hatov, be made useful for it is the desire to have things that are pleasing to us, and so having a spouse, a house, a job- all these can be attributed to the yetzer hara and, when controlled by the yetzer tov, these desires of our hedonistic hearts can be channeled into useful and Godly activities.

However, what we really need to do is that which is pleasing to God, and to know what that is is to first learn to not trust ourselves. We are, by nature, self-centered, self-important, self-absorbed and NOT self-controlled. That which is of us is not that which is of God; that which is of God (the Ruach HaKodesh) is in those of us who have accepted Messiah Yeshua and asked for the Spirit, which we must learn to listen to. It is the small, still voice of God that Elijah heard, and not the loud shouting of the yetzer hara that Ahab listened to.

The Ruach tells us what God wants us to do whereas the yetzer hara tells us what we want to do, which is to please our physical bodies, to be the center of all things and to have more toys than everyone else, no matter what it takes to get them.

The yetzer hatov is not, in my opinion, the same as the Ruach HaKodesh. The yetzer hatov is, in Freudian terms, the ego, controlling the basic, animal desire for self-gratification, which is the Id. The Ruach HaKodesh is more like the Superego, which deals with the morality of what we take (Id) or ask for (Ego) from the world.

I am not an expert in the field of  psychology, but I think the above simile is feasible as an example. We all want what we want- that is as primal as the need for self-preservation. Maslow (back to the Psych 101 class) had 10 levels of self actualization, which describes how he believes the human psyche works. We start at the very basic needs- food, water, shelter, and advance from physical needs, to safety, to love, to esteem, and finally to the highest levels where we have morality, understanding and acceptance.

The science of human psychology is fascinating, and having been in sales for a long time, I am glad that I have a fair understanding of human nature- it is essential to being a successful salesperson. But what really helps is to know the Lord, to know what He wants from us (that means to read the bible, duh!) and to have the Ruach HaKodesh to lead us. It’s OK if you have developed your Superego, if you are at the tenth level of self-actualization, if you have studied under the Guru, whatever- it’s all good to be a “humanly” moral and self-actualized person. But that isn’t someone with the spirit of God leading them. The Ruach will never lead you incorrectly, whereas human leadership is more based on what we want and what the world says you should be. It can’t be any other way: social morality is defined by the culture, right? It may be OK to cane a child in the Philippines for breaking the law, but not in the USA. Therefore, to be a morally upright person means to be in accordance with the moral and ethical norms of the society in which you live.

To be a godly person means to be within the moral and ethical norms of God’s word- the Torah. Human morality is based on your social or geographical environment, but God’s morality is based on what God says it is. It is universal. The bible tells us over and over what God wants of us; Old Covenant or New Covenant doesn’t matter- both are based on the Torah. Yeshua (Jesus) taught nothing but what is in the Torah, so the Torah is where we all need to start and where we all need to stay.

Religion is in the same category as social morality- each one is developed by people and each one has it’s own rules about right and wrong. The Torah is the foundation for all the Judeo-Christian religions, but so many different religions have built on the Torah in so many different ways that it is now buried under so many rules and canon that we don’t even see it anymore. Even within Judaism, the one religion that is closest to honoring the Torah as it was given to us by God, has almost over-ridden it with the Talmud, a document made by people. And there are 7 different forms of Judaism today: how can that be? One God, one Torah, but 7 ways to worship?

Oy! No wonder we’re all so screwed up!

The bottom line is the one that counts, right? So, nu? what’s the bottom line? It’s this:

God has no religion.

Read the bible, forget what religion tells you to do, and when you (if you haven’t yet) accept:

  1. that Yeshua is the Messiah God promised us;
  2. accept Him in your heart;
  3. ask God for forgiveness through the sacrificial atonement Yeshua completed for you;
  4. ask that the Comforter, the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, be given to you and indwell within you

then you will have the ability to know what to do and what not to do from God’s perspective (so long as you teach yourself to listen to the  Ruach.) 

In the meantime, try to live by this rule:

If the world likes it, most likely God doesn’t.

That’s easy enough to understand, isn’t it?

Why It’s So hard to remain faithful: Part 1 of 2

What makes faith so difficult to have? It’s probably because you have to believe in something that isn’t really there- you can’t touch it, you can’t see it, you can know it’s presence and you can see it’s effect on the world around you, but still- it’s not like you can grab it and hold it up for all to see.

And once you have faith, after you have forced yourself to accept the truth that what you see and feel is indicative of something else, you then need to strengthen your faith. That will also be hard to do, maybe even harder than getting faith, because the world doesn’t have faith and doesn’t want you to have it, either. Misery loves company, right?

Not to mention that the closer you get to God, the more of a threat you become to the enemy of God, so while you are of the world he will not only leave you alone, he will probably make things happen well for you. The enemy wants you to remain in, and of, the world. As you get closer to God, he will attack you.

But as far as why it is hard to keep faithful, although the enemy’s attacks are definitely a concern, that’s not what I  am talking about today.

How many paper towels do you go through in a week? If you have young children still in diapers, are they cloth or Luv’s? Do you use paper plates? When was the last time you bought soda in a glass bottle?

Getting my drift yet? We live in a disposable world- use it than lose it. And that’s OK if we are talking about utensils and things (so long as you properly recycle), but the sad thing is that this apathetic attitude towards things that we use, maybe abuse, then just toss away isn’t just represented by what’s in our kitchen cabinets or linen closets: it has also infiltrated and polluted our interpersonal relationships.

People used to stay married because that’s what you did- now it’s pretty much the opposite. You having troubles? Talk to a lawyer. And at the workplace: it used to be you would get a job and work your way up the ladder. Pension plans used to be based on not even being eligible until after the first year, and usually you had to be at the company for (at least) 11 years after the first year before you were 100% vested. That was done away with way back in the 70’s when the Keogh Plan (HR10) first started, which is (today) the 401-K. In fact, whatever vestment is left is 100% within 5 years. That’s because people don’t keep their jobs much longer than that anymore.

In the 1980″s I was on Wall Street, and I had 4 jobs within 8 years, but I went from a $10K clerk to a $50K Department Manager/ Bank Officer. When I was in Sales I had so many different jobs over a 10 year period I can’t remember them all now. That’s because when the leads ran dry, I ran somewhere else.

And when I was first married, in my “previous life”, I realized it was a mistake somewhere around year 3. I lasted until year 9, and the suffering I endured for those years was nothing compared to the estrangement, suffering, and belittling I have endured since. Resulting in both my children being turned against me so that now I am dead to them.

I tell you this because I want you to know I can talk about having a disposable lifestyle because I lived it for many years. And, consequently, faith came to me late in life, and has been difficult to maintain. But thanks to God and good friends, I have maintained it and now, some 18 years later, I no longer worry about it. I have had enough experience with God to see Him, not with my eyes, but in everything there is. In my life, in my jobs, in my second marriage (which is the one I will have forever because we both got this one right), in everything around me. I am comfortable in my faith and secure in my belief. Still, I work at it because it is too easy to be fooled.

I still use too many paper towels, and we are actually working on that. I try to reuse things, and like every other “real” man, I have clothes that date back to when Yeshua was just a Corporal (that’s a Marine Corps saying.)

Today’s world is made up of disposable things, from diapers to plates to butane lighters, even to our cars which we trade off or sell usually before the warranty is up. About the only thing people keep is their computers: those should be upgraded every 3-5 years but some people just won’t let go.

If only we were as unwilling to give up our faith as we are with our favorite pair of pants or favorite coffee cup. 

The parable about the sower of the seeds, where some fall on poor soil and others fall on good soil, is a demonstration of the disposable attitude we still have, today. The seed that was eaten by the birds, blown away by the winds and choked by the weeds, these represent the enemy and the world (same thing, really) making getting rid of the new faith easier than keeping it. And that’s the root of the evil of a disposable mindset- it is easier to get rid of something than to keep it. Quitting is preferable to maintaining.

If you have overcome the disposable nature towards faithfulness, seek out those that are new Believers to help them maintain their battle to have faith. It is a battle- that’s why Shaul (Saul) tells us about the Armor of God in Ephesians 6:11-18. We need to run the good race, not fall out and say the ‘stitch’ in our side was too much to bear. When I was running cross-country in High School, we learned that the first mile always hurts- you can never get past it if you let the pain in your side overcome you. Once you run it out, then you get your “second wind” which can carry you further than you ever thought possible.

The world wants you to throw away faith because there are so many other things to replace it with, and they are easy to get and easy to get rid of. I think we all have heard the adages, “You get what you pay for”, and “If it’s worth having, it’s worth working for.” Well, God is worth working for, and salvation is definitely worth having. Just because salvation is available for free doesn’t mean it won’t take hard work to maintain it, and it may be free to have but it costs to keep. Oh, yes- it costs! You will pay with lost friendships, lost jobs, lost family, and the pain of watching those you love and care for literally throwing themselves into the pit of fire. And laughing at you for believing they are going to be condemned. There is a heavy payment for having and maintaining faith.

Even Yeshua tells us that we must pick up our execution stake every day to follow Him (Matthew 16:24), so we have been told from the very start faithfulness would not be easy. Much of Christianity teaches that salvation is not a disposable item, it can never be lost, but that is not true: your salvation can be lost if you throw it away. God will never take away the promise, but you can’t be saved if you are sinning on purpose and continually ignoring God’s commands in the Torah. God isn’t stupid, and salvation is not a joke. If you know someone who constantly sins, and says, “God is a forgiving God and will forgive me because I asked Him to”, do you really think that God will accept that person into His kingdom? We are all sinners, and we will all always sin, but the difference is whether we do it by our own will or against our will. Shaul said he was a wretch because he did what he didn’t want to and didn’t do that which he wanted to (Romans 7:15.) Each of us sins, but the one who does it constantly with no desire or intention of stopping because the bible says ‘all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved’ so he or she thinks all they have to do is ask for forgiveness, well, he or she has a big, unhappy surprise coming.

There are so many things in our world that are disposable, but the only really important thing we should dispose of is our sin. God can take that from you, the stain of sin is removable by Yeshua’s blood, but you have to want to dispose of it, all of it, and you have to constantly work at getting rid of it. That’s because the faith we need so desperately is just as disposable as a paper plate. We need to hold on to our faith in a world that says just chuck it and get something easier to keep. It’s easy to get rid of something when there’s always something else to get that’s better.

I am here to tell you there is nothing better than God, nothing more important to hold onto and never let go than your faith, and nothing else that can replace the salvation God has promised us through Messiah Yeshua.

Faith is hard to get, and harder to keep, but there is nothing more important to maintain.

We Will Always Have Less Than What Is Available

Remember when Yeshua told us not to worry about what tomorrow may bring because today has enough trouble of it’s own? He also told us to ask for our daily bread, not to request enough food for more than that.

And what about the manna from heaven? They were to only collect enough for one day, except on Shabbat when they were allowed to gather two days worth.

And what about the promise in Malachi, that if we tithe correctly God will open the storehouses of heaven and bless us more than we could ever imagine?

I believe (and I hope you agree) that one of the real problems we humans have is that there never seems to be enough. Even in the Garden, it wasn’t enough to have all the food and water and peace and joy that Adam and Eve had- they wanted more. With only a little enticement, they just haaaaad to have the one and only thing that was forbidden to them. They had everything they could ever need, but it wasn’t enough.

And we haven’t changed. Enough is never enough for us, whether we are talking about food, or income, or pets (everyone knows at least one person with 4,000 cats) or cars, or toys, or whatever. We just always have to have more.

With God, there is always more. But that’s not what He wants us to desire. God doesn’t want us to gather, He wants us to sow.

The river Ezekiel sees in his vision of the End Days starts small and gets larger as it flows farther from the source. Now that ain’t normal, right?

And Job- all he had, he lost; but, in the end, he had twice as much as he started with.

God doesn’t love a cheerful receiver, He loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6.)

And how many times in the Tanakh are we told about taking care of the widow and the orphan?

If you really, really absolutely must have more, than give more of what you already have to others.

This is how it works: the more you share what God has provided to you, the more He will continue to provide, provided you provide for those with less provision. (Say that three time fast!)

Maybe that’s why Yeshua tells us we will always have the poor among us: that is the way God can test us. He will always provide us with someone to share His blessings with.

That’s the lesson for today: there’s never enough, God never runs out, so to get what God has for you give what He has already given you to those with less than you have.

Don’t believe me? Then “test me on this” (ooh, we’re back in Malachi!) and see if God won’t do wonders for you when you do what pleases Him.