Send Messiah a Thank You Card

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I was reading Dear Abby the other day and a Grandmother wrote that she is upset her teenage grandchildren never send her a thank you card for the gifts and money she sends them. Abby agreed it was wrong and said when people do not send thank you’s for gifts they receive, the message it sends is that the receiver of the gift has no respect or appreciation for the gift or the sender.

When I read this I thought how nice it would be to send Yeshua a thank you card. After all, he gave me the greatest gift anyone could- eternal joy in the presence of the Almighty. It is wrapped and I already took possession of it, which anyone else can do with their gift of salvation at any time they want to, although it does have a card that says, “Do Not Open Until After the End Times.”

Of course, we can’t really send him a thank you card- we don’t have his email address and the post office delivers nationally as well as internationally, but not spiritually. So what can we do?

How about we do what he said we should do in order to show our appreciation? He told us this in John 14:15 when he said:

If you love me, keep my commands.

The problem here is that too many different religions will argue over what his commands were. That’s a shame because he never really made any commands- he always quoted from and obeyed the Torah. So, his commands were what we find in the Torah.

If you wanted to, you could say his only real commandment to us is found in Matthew 22:36-40. This passage starts with a man asking Yeshua what is the greatest commandment, and Yeshua’s answer is:

Yeshua told him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength. This is the greatest and most important commandment. And a second is similar to it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. All of the Torah and the Prophets are dependent on these two commandments.

And even these commandments are not original: the first one is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-7 and the second one in Leviticus 19:18.

Do you want to send the Messiah a Thank You card for all he has done for you?  If you do, then all you need to do is obey God’s commandments in the Torah as best as you can.

Obedience is not the way to get to heaven (faith is), but every Torah commandment you do obey sends a “Thank You” card to Yeshua.

Parashah Va-Ethchanan 2018 (I pleaded) Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11)

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Moses is telling the people that they must remember the commandments that God has given them. He warns them against adding to or taking away from any of these commandments, as well as worshiping anything else, in any form, other than God. He also prophesies about their future, telling them that when they forget God they will be scattered throughout the earth, but when they later remember God he will gather them back into the land of their fathers.

Moses reminds them that he is not allowed to enter the land because of the incident at Meribah, and again warns them against becoming ensnared by the surrounding peoples when they enter Canaan and that those who God tells them to destroy must be destroyed completely to prevent pollution of the Holy people by pagan ways. They are not to marry or enter into covenant with any of the people living in the land now.

This parashah ends with Moses telling the people- actually, chiding them- that they need remember they aren’t in this beautiful land flowing with milk and honey because of anything they did or because they deserve it. In truth, they get to be all comfy-cozy in houses they didn’t build, with cisterns they didn’t dig out, and vineyards they didn’t plant only because God loves them.

Within this parashah are some of the most important Judaic teachings and prayers (for both Jews and Christians) found anywhere else in scripture. Specifically, I am talking about the 10 Commandments, the Shema, and the V’Ahavtah. This book is all about remembering, all about warnings to do as God commanded, and all about obedience to God in order to remain in the land. Deuteronomy can be considered the heart of all that is in the Torah, with regards to obedience and worship. It is a recap of all that happened and a prophetic warning of all that will happen once the people have settled in the land.

Of all that there is in here to talk about, what struck me today is right at the beginning, verse 3:26, which says (Chumash translation):

But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and hearkened not unto me; and the Lord said unto me: “Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter.”

This was God’s answer to Moses when he, again, pleaded with God to allow him to go over into the land. There were a few times that Moses tried to get God to change his mind regarding his judgment against Moses that he will not enter the land because of the faithlessness he showed at Meribah (Numbers 20:10-13) in front of all the people.

This reminds me of the prayer of another one of God’s people, many centuries later, who also pleaded with God for something and was told, “My Grace is sufficient for thee.”  That’s right- I am talking about 2 Corinthians 12:8 where Shaul (Paul) asked God 3 times to remove a “thorn from his side” (whatever that was) and this is what happened:

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.”

Moses showed what would be considered to be his own strength when he struck the rock, even to the point of saying “Must we bring you water out of this rock?”  Clearly, the people would have thought that it was through Moses and Aaron that the water came forth, not from God. Shaul was in a similar position, explaining that the “thorn” was placed there by God to keep him humble.

This thought, about remaining humble in the light of receiving God’s Grace and blessings, is exactly what Moses was saying to the people throughout this parashah, and continues to repeat throughout the entire book of D’Varim (Deuteronomy.) We will be blessed when we do as God commands (which he tells us later in Chapter 28) and those blessings can easily be turned into pridefulness if we forget that God is behind them.

God may give you a talent for music that makes you a big star, but with all the worldly accolades you receive will you remember that without the gift from God you wouldn’t be there?

God may give you a gift for teaching and you might have a large gathering of followers on your online ministry (I wish!), but when you are “Liked” all over FaceBook and have thousands of subscribers, will you remember that without God giving you that insight and directing people to your website, you couldn’t accomplish anything?

When we have tsouris (troubles) in our lives we are fast to go to God for help. Sometimes we may even find ourselves blaming him for letting us suffer and ask, “Why me?” when we should already know the answer. But what about when we are in the midst of blessings? When the job is good, family life is joyful, finances are secure and the car doesn’t even make funny noises anymore, do we thank God? Do we give him the credit and the glory for the wonderful life we have?

The answer to that question is one for each of us to fathom on our own. At this moment, are you thanking God for whatever is in your life now? If you are in the middle of a difficult time, can you still recognize the blessings that God has given to you? I start every prayer with a “Thank You” to God, no matter what the situation. Even if I am praying from a broken heart and in the midst of a terrible situation, I thank God for all he has already done for me and for the way he will save me from my current problems. That is the sort of faith we are supposed to have, isn’t it?

I am not saying this to puff myself up- Lord knows, as should all of you, that I confess my weaknesses often in this blog and screw things up (royally!) often enough that I am not a great example of a godly person. But this one thing I am happy to say I remember- to thank God no matter what the situation. If for no other reason, the fact that I am in that situation means I am not dead. That, alone, is something to be thankful for, although at times it doesn’t feel like it.

Let’s go forth from this moment on taking Moses’ advice to remain humble and thankful, in all situations and at all times in our life. If you can do that you will find it much easier to do as God has commanded you to do, which will result in even more blessings.

Who Dumped Who First?

Remember back in the Old Days when we were first leaning about relationships between boys and girls? We would be attracted to each other, fall hopelessly in love, and within a few weeks or so one would dump the other for a different beau.  The argument always came down to, “Who dumped who first?”

When Yeshua (Jesus) started His ministry, announcing the Good News to the Jewish people, many Gentiles began to believe in God’s plan of salvation. They accepted Yeshua, along with (probably) hundreds of thousands of Jewish people throughout the Middle East and Asia at that time, as the Messiah of God. As such, they began to live the lifestyle that Yeshua preached, which was a Jewish lifestyle. Yeshua was a Jew, and followed the commandments in the Torah, as Jews are expected to do. Despite what many Christian churches try to tell you, He died being a Jew, and when He was resurrected He was still a Jew. His Disciples were Jews and lived according to Torah, as did Shaul (Paul), which he confirms in his letters to the (what was really) Messianic communities he began. The Gentiles that were accepting and following Yeshua’s teachings were given 4 immediate changes to their (prior) Pagan behavior (Acts 15) , which was only the starting point for them. James said that they would learn the words of Moses in the synagogue every Shabbat, which clearly indicates it was expected of these converts to Judaism that they would, eventually, follow the lifestyle outlined in the Torah just as Yeshua, His Disciples and the early Jewish followers of Yeshua did.

But that’s not what happened. What happened was a combination of misunderstanding of many of Shaul’s letters (no real surprise there- he wrote like a Pharisee, which he was, meaning his logic and statements were drawn out and somewhat convoluted), geopolitical activities that made being Jewish in a Roman controlled land dangerous, and human’s trying to enforce their will on people who didn’t know any better (I am referring to the early “church” elders.) The “Judaizers” , as they are called, that Shaul talks about in Galatians were trying to get the new converts to accept circumcision as a necessary part of salvation. Shaul blasted them for that, and much of what he wrote seems to say the Torah is not important, but instead the Spirit is how one should be led in his or her worship of God. That is, of course, correct, but he didn’t mean to ignore the Torah. Shaul was saying to let the Spirit lead you to obey the Torah, but not to gain salvation through obedience; what Shaul meant was that we should be led to be obedient to God as a thankful and loving expression of faithfulness.

As things got politically worse for the Jews, those Gentiles becoming Jewish decided that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to embrace Torah as much as the Jews, since they were being targeted by Rome. So they stepped away from total observance of, or even trying to observe, Torah.

In other words, the Gentiles that were now worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (instead of the Roman gods) decided that they were going to worship their own way, and break from traditional Judaism.

In other words, the Gentile Believers dumped the Jews.

As time went on, the (now called) Christians began to separate even further from their roots; their leaders changed the Sabbath day, created their own holidays, canonized the writings of the Jewish Disciples without a single Jew on their Council, and even started to denounce living a Jewish lifestyle, announcing officially that if you were living a Jewish lifestyle you couldn’t be “saved.”

Today, the separation between Christian worship of God and Jewish worship of God is so different it is almost at opposite ends of the pole. Thank the Lord that the proper Spirit, the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh) of God is beginning to lead Christians back to Him and to the proper worship of Him. The Messianic Christian and Hebraic Roots movements are making headway in the Christian world. People are beginning, in these End Days, to know the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as He wants them to know Him. More and more churches are supporting Israel and wanting to observe Torah for the correct reasons.

The correct way to observe Torah is not as a means to gain justification, and not as a means to prove ones worthiness for salvation, but because that is what God said we should do. Through observing Torah we will earn blessings (Deuteronomy 28), but more than that, God has given us the Torah so that we can have life eternal; the life we gain through Torah is not gained by performing the actions correctly (what Shaul calls “legalistic” observance) but because of our heartfelt desire to please God and  the simple fact that observing the Torah demonstrates by our actions our thankful and loving faithfulness.

That is what Christianity lost when it dumped the Jewishness of it’s worship. It cut itself off from the very root that feeds it. In  my not-humble-enough opinion, the main reason there are so many different Christian religions is because they have no root, no foundation upon which to settle themselves. They are, as Yeshua warned, a house on sand, being shifted and blown in all directions because they are not solidly rooted on the Rock of God’s Word.

Until Christianity comes back to the root, it will forever waiver, change and grow further away from God. Judaism is not a religion, it is a way of life; it is not a set of rituals and rites so much as it is the form of worship God commanded. Christianity thinks it is grafted onto the Tree of Life, but it has mutated itself so much that it is no longer even the same species.

I pray that the Prodigal Son returns soon.

Parashah Nitzavim (standing) Deuteronomy 29:9 – 30

Moses foretells the future, and warns the people about turning from God to idols. He tells them that they are making a covenant with God not just for themselves, but for their descendants, as well. The world will offer them opportunity to turn from God, and if they do then all the curses of the book shall come down on them. Yet, after God has justifiably thrown them out of the land and ravaged the land, if they turn back to God with all their heart and soul, God will regather them from the farthest parts of the world and resettle them in the Land. The curses that fell on them will fall on their enemies and the people shall again find favor in God’s sight.

Finally, Moses tells them that these laws and commandments, which provide life, abundance and blessing, are not far away or hard to do; they are right there, in reach, and the offer God is making is life or death: life through obedience and death through rejection.

Moses suggests they choose life.

So, Nu? How much more can I say than what Moses has said? Here we are, again, a people blessed by God that are about to receive the greatest blessing that God has for us-life in a land of prosperity. And life forever after that. So what do we do?

We screw it all up. This generation that has seen so much makes the covenant and under Joshua, for the most part, this covenant is kept. But after Joshua dies, very quickly they devolve into a rabble of sinfulness- that is in the Book of Judges. Up and down, love the Lord then love the idols, in and out of sin and rebellion for generations. God raises a Judge to save, they do well under that Judge, the Judge dies and the people fall back into sin.

Today we see the prophetic promise of returning to the land that Moses told of coming to fruition. We see Israel being regathered, and the curses coming down on the nations. America isn’t being left out of those curses, either, because we have stopped being a godly country.

Moses said the people there were making a covenant, but also the people not there- in other words, the children and their children’s children were also to be under this covenant. I think that is where things went wrong.

When I read the bible it seems that for every generation that did well, the next one did poorly. One king does what is evil, the son does what is right, then his son does what is evil. And it seems that there is always some chametz (leaven, representing sin) left over from the evil generation that survives. Either the queen mother, or the wife of the past king, or a relationship with another evil king. The Northern tribes (Israel, later called Shomron, now referred to as the West Bank) never had a righteous king, but the Southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin had a number of “good” kings, whose children weren’t always the same.

My point is that we can’t really make a covenant for someone else. The baptism rights for babies today are, to me, a waste. First of all, I cannot see God sending an infant to hell because his or her parents failed to have a clergyman pour water on their head. Baptism is an outward expression of an inner desire, a desire to be cleansed of sin and turn to God. An infant can’t make that decision, and I think the history of the Jewish people proves that a child’s parents can’t make that decision, either. Godparents standing in for the child and making oaths of servitude to God are never going to be binding on the child because God gave us all Free Will. It is up to the child to make that decision, and only after the age of decision has been reached. Until the child is old enough to make up his (or her) own mind, that child is a child of God and will not be sent to eternal damnation in the event it dies.

That is my opinion- I have nothing in the bible to quote to you to prove it true, but everything I have read and feel and know about God tells me it must be so.

The best way for us to ensure the life (eternal) of our children is to be an example to them of God’s goodness and love, as well as demonstrating the truth regarding His promise of justice. God is all about love, and all about truth, and all about trust and all about faith. That means that as faithful as God is to forgive when someone truly does T’Shuvah (turn from sin), He is just as faithful to punish those who reject Him.

The world wants what it considers to be fair: “If I choose to love and obey You, then bless me. However, if I choose to ignore and reject You, then just leave me alone.” That’s what the world wants, but that isn’t how the game is played. God is supreme, whether or not someone wants to accept that is irrelevant. God reigns supreme: you obey and live or you reject and die: that’s how it is; that’s how He is; that’s why His name is “I am.”

We can’t choose for others, but we can be an example and a light to others. That’s how the covenant we make with God can be applied to others- through our example. It is up to them to choose for themselves.

That’s a hard word to hear, but the history of mankind and the stories in the bible, I believe, prove it to be true. We all are responsible to make up our own minds, and we all will be held accountable for our decisions. If someone else tells you what to do, and you do it, it is your decision to do it. It is your responsibility. Likewise, if you are told not to do something and you don’t, it is, again, ultimately your choice.

I often say that when you go before God, and we all will, and tell Him, “But that’s what the (fill in religious leader title) said I should do”, God will look gently and lovingly upon you and say, “I understand that, My child, but it is what I say that counts. Here’s some SPF 10,000 and a bottle of cold water; take the elevator to your left going down. Next?”

Every single day, from this moment forward, we each have before us the blessings and the curses, life and death- I have chosen life.

What is your choice?

 

 

Parashah Ki Thavo (when you come in) Deuteronomy 26 – 29:8

We start with the end of the Second Discourse of Moses when we finish Chapter 26. The First Discourse was a review of the journey, the Second Discourse a review of the laws and codes given by God, and the Third Discourse (beginning with Chapter 27) is the enforcement of those laws.

Chapter 28, one of my most favorite of all the chapters in the Torah (in the entire bible, in fact) is known as the “Blessings and Curses” chapter.

Covenants have three components: first, you tell what the conditions of the covenant are, second the rewards of complying, and third the punishment for not complying. Following this format, the Second Discourse of Moses told of the conditions of the covenant, and Chapter 28 tells us the rewards for obedience and the consequences of disobedience.

The rewards, the blessings, are wonderful, and impact every part of our lives. Going in and coming out, in the fields (our work), the fruit of our body (happy, healthy family), the fruit of our herds and flocks (financial stability) and ultimately we will be known as a people blessed and protected by God (that would make a wonderful epitaph, wouldn’t it?)

But that’s not why this is my favorite.

After we are told all the wonderful things God will do for us when we obey, we are then told what will happen to us if we disobey. And these curses are the exact opposite of the blessings, except they go way beyond one-for-one, curse for blessing. Initially, we will be cursed going in and out, barren wives, failed crops, herds dying, enemies attacking and winning, we will be the tail not the head, but then it gets worse. We will suffer all the plagues of Egypt and, well…let’s just leave it at it gets worse. Ultimately, we will be known as a people cursed and abandoned by God.

Obviously, the curses aren’t why this is my favorite chapter, either.

What makes this my favorite chapter is because it demonstrates the true nature of our God- a loving, compassionate and fair Father who wants only to do good for us.

Let’s start with the first curse- Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve screwed up royally and God cursed the Earth (not them- the earth). Down the road a-ways, in the B’rit Chadasha (New Covenant), we get told who has rule over the earth- it isn’t God. Oh, yes- God is in control of everything, all the time, but we often read how He cedes rule to others. God has ceded rule (not control) over the earth to the Enemy, the Evil One, Satan.

You don’t believe me? Read Revelations 12: 7-12; read Ephesians 2:1-2; read John 12:31; read 1 John 5:19: the New Covenant tells us that the Enemy has dominion over the Earth.

So, what it comes down to is this: the curses that we read about in Chapter 28 aren’t things that God does to us, they are things that happen because we live in a cursed world with a really nasty guy running the show. Just being alive is a curse.

God does not curse us, He protects us from the curses!

The blessings of God are a kippur, a covering, which protects us from the world we live in. It’s like a golf umbrella that covers us and even the wind won’t make it turn inside-out. It’s stronger than the weather, which is the rain (or reign, if you will) of the Evil One falling down on us.

In other words, we receive curses when we show that we are so stubbornly rebellious we don’t have enough sense to come in out of the reign (of the Evil One.)

God’s blessings are what He does for us; the curses are what happens to us (when we walk away from God’s Kippur.)

That’s why I love this chapter so much: it tells me how wonderfully compassionate God is, how much He wants to do good for us, how He doesn’t do anything bad to us and when bad things happen it’s because we have left God’s protection by disobeying Him.

The blessings are what we receive for doing what is best for us and when we don’t, God will leave us on our own because He gave us Free Will. And He gave us Free Will because He loves us so much that He wants us to love Him back by our choice to do so.

What’s really unbelievable to us humans, self-centered and hedonistic as we are, is that even when someone hates God, rejects Him, and curses Him to His face, even that person will receive a blessing now and then. Just because God still loves him (or her) and even when being hated, God will love you enough to give you an occasional blessing.

It is said He rains on both the righteous and unrighteous, which I believe demonstrates His love for all.

So, that is why I love this chapter- it shows us how much God really loves us, and His wonderfully compassionate, forgiving and accepting nature. It also shows that He honors His word and does what He says He will do, which gives me confidence in His promise of salvation.

We can’t earn salvation but we can earn blessings. That is comforting, challenging and hopeful all at the same time.

Go earn some blessings today- all you need to do is read the Word, honor the Torah (as Yeshua/Jesus did) and get blessed.

For me, I try to do one less sin every day. That doesn’t mean not do a sin today, then never do that sin again- that can’t be done, at least, I can’t do that. But what I can do is one less sin every day.

We can never be sinless, but we can always sin less.  So, do one less sin today.

I can trade a sin for a blessing? Oy! Vot a deal! 

Parashah Ekev (because) Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25

This parashah has Moses delivering the same message to the Israelites repeated three times; essentially, Moses is telling them that “God has your back!”

He retells about the 40 years in the desert, the way God handled the Egyptians (and will be able to handle the Canaanites, just the same way), about how God gave the tablets to Moses, about how God fed them in the desert (in 8:3 Moses tells us we do not live by bread alone) and provided water from the rocks. He reminds them how God punished them for their rebellions, but only to test them and make their faith stronger. Moses reminds them of the sin of the Golden Calf, and how he often had to beg God not to destroy the people.

This message- God protected you, God fed you, God brought you to this land, yet you have constantly rebelled against Him, causing you to suffer. And, despite all this, God has always forgiven you and as long as you obey Him He will continue to watch over you, as He has for the past 40 years- is repeated three times throughout this parashah. But do you think they remembered?

Moses also warns them not to fall into worshiping the idols of the people they are to soon conquer or they will be forsaken by God and ejected from the land.

Moses also tells them, in no uncertain way, to never get so comfortable with the wonderful things they will have when they are settled in the land that they start to think they actually deserve it- not so. They are to remember that they are there only because God loved their fathers and keeps His promises.

Throughout this book Moses pounds into their skulls, over and over and over, that God will take care of them so long as they obey Him. Over, and over, and over….and over!

It didn’t seem to do any good, did it?

And have we learned from this? Every bible-based religion that has come after the Jewish people, from Catholicism to Protestantism to Methodism to whatever: every single one of these religions that profess to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have not only made all the same mistakes that the Israelites made, but have made worse ones, yet! They have not just ignored the Torah, they have taught that the very living Torah, Jesus (Yeshua) told them to ignore it! They teach that the Torah is only for Jews, and they only need the blood of Christ to give them freedom from sin.

Yo, Bro- hate to tell ‘ya, but that blood was shed so that you could be free from sin; it wasn’t shed so you could be free from Torah. Yeshua taught from, of, and about the essence of Torah, and His Talmudim (Disciples) after Him did nothing but confirm Torah. The only difference is that the Gentile converts to Judaism (that is what you were in the First Century when you accepted Yeshua as your Messiah) ) were not held as strictly accountable to every law in Torah AT FIRST when they accepted Messiah Yeshua. AT FIRST– that means they were given 4 restrictions (Acts 15:19-21) only as a start to learn all the laws in Torah. It is clear in the bible that the Elders expected these converts to Judaism to pick up the rest as they heard the Torah preached and taught in the temple.

We have heard from God, we have seen His wonders, we have known His punishment and we have received His love and forgiveness. Everything that we ever needed, need now or ever will need, God has taken care of for us. Yet, we still rebel, we still forget, we still do wrong.

OY! Was Mashuganas!

It’s all really simple- God gave the Torah to the children of the Patriarchs so that they could learn from it how to live, and as such, be an example to the rest of the world. When that didn’t work, He gave up His only son to provide the ultimate Get Out of Jail card for us, but that did NOT overrule Torah. It simply provided another means of salvation that the Torah couldn’t- not because Torah is unable to do so, but because we are unable to follow Torah.

This parashah holds the same message for us that it held for the children of Israel before they entered the land God promised them- do what is right in God’s eyes, remember how He cares for you, remember how unworthy you are of that care, be grateful and show your gratefulness through obedience.

God’s got our back and we should be humbly grateful to Him. Our gratitude should be demonstrated every minute of every day by following, as best as we can, the instructions He gave us about how to worship Him and treat each other.

Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? So, then, why can’t we do it?

Who’s fault is it?

Remember the days when, if you needed a medical specialist, you could go to your family doctor and ask for a reference? Not a referral of someone in the HMO Group, but someone who that doctor thought would be good for you.

Remember when you could call a former employer about someone who is seeking to work for you and they would tell you the truth about that person? In fact, they would talk to you and not send you to an HR robot who would tell you the dates the person worked for them and nothing more.

Remember when people used to feel responsible for what they did or said to others?

Deuteronomy  24:16– Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.

Ezekiel 18:20– The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.

Galatians 6:4-5– Each one should test his own work. Then he will have reason to boast in himself alone, and not in someone else. For each one should carry his own load.

The bible tells us that when we come before God we will be held accountable for what we have done in our lives. It won’t be like an American courtroom, where we can claim that the malpractice we suffered is not just the fault of the doctor who worked on us, but can also be blamed on the doctor that told us to go to him. We won’t be able to sue someone for telling a prospective employer (who turned us down) we were fired for having stolen from the company. We won’t get a multi-million dollar payout from the manufacturer of a lightening rod for not telling us we shouldn’t install it in the middle of a thunderstorm.

We won’t be able to blame Satan for suggesting we worship him instead of God when we apostatize.

The world is all about being a victim, and it doesn’t matter who did what to whom: all that matters is that you are the first one to complain. The one who makes a stink about something and claims to have been hurt, or abused, or made to feel uncomfortable, is the one who wins. The accused is immediately considered guilty. I mean, why not? After all, when I told this person they didn’t do a good job and they need to do better in the future, I caused them great suffering and mental anguish: what if they can’t do better? What if they are fired and lose their home? They can’t sleep, they can’t eat, their ulcers are acting up and now they have a cavity in their tooth! It’s all my fault!

Uh…wait a minute. Didn’t they fail to perform their job as they were instructed? Didn’t they refuse to work at getting better?  Didn’t they have anything at all to do with their own actions?

Not in today’s world they didn’t.

Yeshua (Jesus) told His disciples that they should love each other because that is how people will know they are His disciples. The Torah was given to us (all of us) to separate us from the pagan practices of the ancient world, so that society could look at God’s people and see how wise, thoughtful and compassionate they are towards each other and from that example learn to be better, themselves.

Everything about being a person who fears the Lord has to do with becoming more holy, more separated from the world, and (thereby) a monument to the wonder and awesomeness of God. We are to be examples for others to follow.

One way to be an example is to be responsible for yourself. Take onus for what you do and say, accept responsibility for your actions and don’t throw Red Herrings and smokescreens up when you do something wrong. And when someone accuses you of wrongdoing, if you are innocent, stand up for yourself and fight for righteousness.

I once was accused of something and stood up for myself. I took a senior executive of the company to his boss and filed a complaint against him for wrongly accusing me and not following corporate procedures. I won that battle, and lost the war. When my evaluation came up, my immediate supervisor gave me a 3.5 out of 5 score, which was supported by many people writing how much they appreciated me and enjoyed working with me. His boss, the one I complained about, reduced that to a 2.0: his justification was that I usually did a good job but usually isn’t good enough.

Can you believe that? A CIO, a senior executive of a company, wrote that; and, what is worse, is that the HR Director never even reviewed it! Where I come from, when someone gets an unsat evaluation, it has to be justified with documentation and must be reviewed by HR.

The point is not that I was mistreated (which led to me getting a better job with 150% pay raise, so God always takes care of those who love Him) but that when we stand up for ourselves the world may come down on us. So what? We still must do the right thing. In this case, I did not allow myself to be a victim by standing up for what was right. When people accuse us of being wrong we need to stand up for Godly righteousness.

And when we are in the wrong, when we have done or said something that has been harmful or incorrect, we need to be just as willing to accept blame for it. That is also something that will separate us from the world, and demonstrate that one can be “holy” and still make mistakes. Being holy doesn’t mean we are any better or any more efficient, it just means we are separated, that we are different (in a good way) from everyone else.

And, in today’s world, to accept blame for what you do or say is certainly different from what everyone else does.

Parashah Va-Ethchanan (I besought) Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11

Moses completes his First Discourse, going into detail about how God has separated the Jewish people from the other nations by his laws, ordinances and (more than anything else) His continual presence and the miraculous works He has performed for His people. These all show the world who God is and who He has chosen as His inheritance.

Moses then assigns the cities of refuge and starting in Chapter 5, verse 1 Moses goes through the 10 Commandments, recites the Shema and the V’Ahavtah: the Shema being the watchword of the faith, the statement of monotheism which separated the Jewish people from the rest of the pagan world. The V’Ahavtah (‘and you shall love’) follows the Shema, and is the way we follow the Shema- to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might. Yeshua told us that to love God (from this passage) and to love each other (Lev. 19:18) are the two most important commandments of all.

Moses also tells us, throughout this parashah and (indeed) throughout the entire book of Deuteronomy, that we are not to make a graven image of anything; nothing in the sky, nothing on earth and nothing in the sea. Maybe someone should tell that religion with all the statues in their churches about this commandment.

Chapter 5 also starts the Second Discourse of Moses, which is all about the foundations of the Covenant.

Well, all we have here today to talk about are the two most important prayers in Judaism and how important it is to follow God’s commandments in order to secure our future. Let’s see- maybe we can cover this completely in, oh say, …a LIFETIME!! We have been studying these things since we received them, some 3500 years ago. Oy!

I am going to keep this simple. The bottom line, the acid test question to be answered (“How does this affect my salvation?”) is that we are to remember to follow God’s lead. That’s it, really. Here’s salvation in a nutshell: do as God says.

Of course, since we can’t do that because of our sinful nature, God has provided Yeshua the Messiah to get us over that “hump”, but that hasn’t happened yet for these people.

God has given us the Torah- not “us” meaning just the Jewish people, but “us” meaning everyone.  The Jewish people are the chosen people (sorry to tell you, Replacement Theologists, but you are so wrong you aren’t even in the same universe where what is right is found), but chosen only to be the custodians of the Torah. We are to be teachers, Levites (priests) to the nations; by learning and following the Torah, we are to present to the world the example of how we all should act.

All nations will be blessed by Abraham’s seed- that is the promise God made to Abraham (Genesis 22:18) and we have seen that happen throughout history. Just as a small example, here is an excerpt from Wikipedia regarding the contribution Jews have made to the world resulting in being awarded the Nobel Prize:

 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to over 850 individuals, of whom at least 20% were Jewish or people of Jewish descent, although Jews comprise less than 0.2% of the world’s population (or 1 in every 500 people). Overall, Jews or people of Jewish descent have won a total of 41% of all the Nobel Prizes in economics, 28% of medicine, 26% of physics, 19% of chemistry, 13% of literature and 9% of all peace awards.

Less than 0.2% of all people have contributed over 20% of the most beneficial discoveries and contributions to society that have occurred in the modern world. I would call that a good example of blessing the world, wouldn’t you?

Moses tells the people (over and over) how God chose them, saved them, protected them, and will continue to do so, as long as they continue to worship Him and obey His Torah. It’s really that simple- do as He says, live in peace and comfort, the end; close the door on your way out.

That is today’s message: do as God says, not as we do.

Of course, you will counter with, “But, I can’t obey the Torah fully- there is no temple for the sacrifice, and besides that, (now comes the string of excuses that religion has taught you), and that’s why I can’t follow Torah. Oh, yeah- I am not under the Law but under the Blood of Christ!”

Religion is not something God created- mankind created religion. God has no religion. So, what religion has taught you may or may not be correct in God’s eyes. The Torah, on the other hand, is correct in God’s eyes. I mean, well, He gave it to us- how much more correct can it get than that? The only logical and sensible thing to do is try to follow the Torah to the best of our abilities.

Being under the Blood of Christ is a very good thing- a VERY good thing- but it is not license to ignore God’s commandments that are in the Torah. Being under the blood is being born again and having Yeshua (Jesus) as your intercessor: your unrighteousness before God is covered by His blood, which washes clean the stain of your sin. Being “under the blood” is how you are able to be saved from yourself at Judgement Day, but if you haven’t really done T’shuvah (turning from sin), if you use the suffering and sacrifice Yeshua underwent to save you as an excuse to continue sinning (on purpose), then there will be no blood shed for you! God and Yeshua want you to be saved from yourself, even to the point where Yeshua gave up His divinity to take on a mantle of flesh and die so that you can be welcomed into heaven.

BUT– neither God nor Yeshua are stupid. If your heart is not truly repentant, if you don’t truly try to sin less every day, if you have’t really done T’shuvah, then you aren’t fooling anyone. You may think you are under the blood, but you are, in fact, under a curse.

The whole Torah comes down to this, as I have said before, am saying now, and will continue to say: just do what God says to the best of your ability, and what He says in in the Torah. It’s not what the Rabbi, Priest or Minister tells you (although they are trying to help guide you), and it’s not what I tell you (Oy! Who, me? I am just like you!): it’s what God tells you! God is the Boss, the Big Kahuna, the Macher, the Holy One of Israel, the Lord of lords and King of kings. God is all there is, ever was, or ever shall be.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the One and Only God, and that is all there is to it. His business is salvation, His CEO is Yeshua, His office is in heaven, and if you want to want to work for Him you need to follow His business practices.

And the Employee Handbook is called…..Torah.

 

Parashah D’varim (words) Deuteronomy 1 – 3:22

This is the 5th and last book of the Torah. Moses gives three discourses: the first is review of their 40 year journey, the second (beginning at 4:44) deals with the foundations of the covenant with a review of the laws and commandments God has given, and the third discourse begins in Chapter 28, that one being on how to enforce the laws now that they are entering the land of promise.

At the end, Moses warns that no one should take away, or add to, any of the words written in this book. Does that mean the entire Torah, or just Deuteronomy?

If you ask me, it’s the entire Torah because the chapters and books are not very distinguishable in the Torah. The Torah is a single scroll, and the only way to tell where one book ends and another begins is that there is more space between the end of the sentences. Here is a sample of what the Torah looks like when there is a clear separation between a chapter or a page.

It is one book and it is one story. It is all about the one and only God and His choice of a people to represent Him; a people who were chosen to present His laws and commandments to the world. These laws and commandments are what will help lead us away from the sinful life our nature desires and to the sinless life that will bring us closer to God.

The Torah is a road map that leads us away from destruction; it shows us the path to salvation.

The Torah was given to the Jewish people because Abraham was so faithful that God chose him to be His means of salvation for the world. Before Abraham, it was Noah. Since Abraham, there have been many people that have saved the Jewish people from their own, well-deserved punishment, and with Messiah Yeshua there was no longer any need for Judges or Kings, because He is all of that, and more.

Deuteronomy, which is the Gentile name for the book called D’varim, reviews what we are told in the previous 4 books and serves as a reminder of what the people must do to faithfully follow God’s commandments. It is the recap, the “Reader’s Digest” version of the first four books. If you only read this fifth book of the Torah, you would still get the meaning and gist of the first four books, although you wouldn’t have the deeper understanding, the Drash, that you can enjoy when you have read the entire Torah.

The most wonderful thing about the bible, and the Torah is just the “warm-up”, is that God’s word has new revelations every time we read it. You could read this 50 times, but when you go over it the 51st time the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) will suddenly reveal to you something new, something that will help you to understand God better and to have a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with Him, and you will think to yourself, “How could I have not seen this before?”

It’s because we need to have spiritual eyes and spiritual ears when we read the Torah. For that matter, when we read anything in the Bible, since it is all the word of God. And these spiritual things take time to develop.

As we go through this book together, let’s read what is there and remember where we read it before. D’varim is the reminder to the people of all they have been through and what they were taught: how to live, how to worship, and how to treat each other. I think it is (no surprise here) very appropriate timing that this book of the Torah, which is a reminder and sort of memorial, comes right on the eve of Tisha B’Av, the 9th Day of Av, a day of mourning and memorial of the worst things that have happened to the Jewish people ever since we refused to enter the land.

That’s exactly where D’varim starts- Moses reminding the people that they refused to enter the land. Did you know that day was the 9th day of Av?