What Others Mean for Bad God Can Change to Good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Isaiah tells us (Isaiah 54:17):

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

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

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

One Way the Enemy Attacks

They say evil succeeds when good people do nothing about it. But what if the good people don’t even know there is evil being done?

Have you ever really watched and thought about some of the TV commercials we are saturated with?

We are being conditioned to accept as good that which is evil.

Special Reading for Sukkot- Chol Hamoed (Weekday of the Festival) Exodus 33:12 – 34:26

This reading is from the parashah Ki Thissa, and recounts Moses asking God to stay with the Israelites as they travel through the desert. Moses also asks God to show His Glory, which God agrees to do but Moses can only see His back as He passes by. God tells him He will put him in a cleft of a rock and cover Moses’ face as He passes because no one can see God’s face. As God passes He declares (what in Judaism is called) the “13 Attributes of God’s Nature” to Moses, and (consequently) to us. The reading ends with God reiterating commandments regarding idolatry, ransom of the first-born, not allowing intermixing with other cultures, the Shabbat, the festivals of Shavuot, Bikkurim (First Fruits) and Sukkot and certain Kashrut (Kosher) laws.

The way Moses prayed when he asked God to forgive the sins of the people is one of the most identifying aspects of Jewish prayer: we pray communally, not individually. Moses certainly was not one of the sinful, rebellious types that were rampant within the million or so Israelites he was leading, but yet when he asked God to forgive the sins that they (not him, but they) committed, he included himself with them. Jewish prayer is communal, we know that in God’s eyes we are one entity, one nation, one people, and when one of us sins we are all covered with that sin. It is one of the things that is really unique about the Jewish relationship with God. This is not meant as an attack or accusation, but most every Christian prayer I have ever heard is on an individual relationship with God; it is a one-to-one, personal relationship that doesn’t include anyone else, take responsibility for anyone else, or even acknowledge anyone else as part of that relationship. When a Christian prays for forgiveness it is only for themself.

In Judaism we pray differently. Yes, we ask God for forgiveness of our own sins, but we also always take responsibility for the sins of the nation. On Yom Kippur we recite the Ashamnu prayer which translates as “We are guilty”; the prayer “Act for the Sake of” ends with asking God to act for His sake if not “our” sake; the Al Het (All Sins) prayer is a recitation of every sin you could ever think of, and we ask for forgiveness of each one, but (as I said) it is not “For the sin I committed in Your sight”, but it is “For the sin WE committed in Your sight”, and what is repeated throughout this prayer is:

ועל כלמ, אלוה סליחות, סלח לנו, מחל לנו, כפר-לנן  (Forgive us all sins, O God of forgiveness, and cleanse us.)

Jewish prayer and relationship with God goes way beyond just “You-and-me.” And even though we pray as a nation, we still have a personal relationship with God: being one people doesn’t mean we aren’t each uniquely loved and known by God.

After Moses has interceded for the people and gained God’s forgiveness, God hides Moses in the rock cleft and passes by announcing His 13 attributes (these definitions are from my Chumash):

1. and 2.- The Lord, the Lord. The Rabbis interpret this as meaning God is the same before we sin, and the same after we sin, indicating that change must be from the sinner’s heart because God is the same all the time;

3. God– the allmighty Lord of the Universe;

4. Merciful– full of affectionate sympathy for the sufferings and miseries of human frailty;

5. Gracious– assisting, helping, consoling the afflicted and raising up the oppressed. In Man these attributes are temporary but with God they are inherently eternal.

6. Long-suffering– slow to anger and not rushing to punish the sinner but affording opportunities for the sinner to retrace his evil courses;

7. Abundant in goodness– plentiful in mercy and blessing beyond what Man deserves;

8. Truth– eternally true to himself pursuing His plans for the salvation of mankind and rewarding those who are obedient to His will;

We need to take note that the Hebrew used here is “v’rav chesed v’emet“: loving-kindness (rav chesed) comes before truth (emet), indicating that we are always to tell the truth, but to tell it in love.  We see this message often in Yeshua’s teachings and the Epistles of the New Covenant…Gee, I wonder where they got it from?

9. Keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation– remembering the good deeds of our ancestors and reserving reward to their descendants;

10. Forgiving iniquity– bearing with indulgence the failings of Man;

11. (forgiving) Transgression– deeds that spring from malice and rebellion against God;

12. (forgiving) Sin– the shortcomings of Man due to heedlessness and error; and

13. Will by no means clear the guilty– no matter how willing or how strongly God desires to forgive us our sins, He is also holy and will not allow the impenitent to go unpunished.

 

So nu…  there you have it! You want to know God? Here He is. This is what God wants us to know about Him, and for me that is all I need to know about Him. I think the most important attributes we human beings (and especially worshipers of God) need to remember above all are long suffering and willingness to forgive. The old saying, “To err is human; to forgive, Divine.” is absolutely in line with Torah.

We are to imitate God, but (of course) we can’t imitate God- He is eternal, spirit, holy and ineffable. But we can imitate some of His attributes, such as His forgiveness, His charity, His love for others, His desire to help the needy and to prosecute the guilty. Love of righteousness and hatred of evil: these things we can imitate, and I believe God wants us to do exactly that- imitate those of His attributes which we can imitate!

God gave us this “To Do” list, so let’s get to work on it.

 

Minority Rules in America

I live in Melbourne, Florida, which is located in Brevard County in East Central Florida. In Brevard County we have Atheist groups that have not been asked or allowed to give the invocation at the beginning of a government or organization meeting. Consequently, one of the Atheist groups, calling itself the Central Florida Freethought Community, filed a lawsuit (they had other atheistic groups join) to force the county government to allow them to give an invocation at it’s meetings. The judge ruled that refusing them was a violation of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and ordered them to be allowed to give the invocation.

I agree with the judge- the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, and the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees all citizens equal protection under the law, which means that the Atheists should be allowed to have their freedom of speech. What I don’t agree with is that they have to be allowed to give an invocation: if I want to ask for God’s blessing on a meeting, then I should also have the same 1st and 14th amendment rights to do so, but apparently it doesn’t go both ways in America. The minority rights win out over the majority rights.

Let’s not forget the blatant hypocrisy of this entire lawsuit: an invocation, according to Webster’s Dictionary (1993) is:

  A appeal to a deity or other agent for inspiration, witness, or help; a prayer which is used at the opening of a ceremony or service.

So, if I do not believe in God or a superior being, who am I going to invoke for help? Who am I  praying to if I do not believe that there is anyone up there? Do you see the hypocrisy, or more accurately, the ridiculousness of this claim? They are an organization which says it doesn’t believe in God, a superior entity or prayer demanding that they be allowed to perform a prayer to a superior entity! Huh??

But this is America- the land of the free, the home of the brave, and the judicial system that doesn’t want God involved in anything it does. We did when we started, and we were blessed. Just look at the wonderful things we did when we were a young country: we defeated the greatest military and sea power in the world (twice!); we had some of the greatest leaders the world has ever known; we formed a government that was the first truly representative government and has outlasted nearly every other government that has existed; we were THE world super-power. All of that shows God’s blessing on us. But today? Today we  have kicked God out of our schools, our courtrooms and our government. And what do we have to show for it? Our system of education is much lower than the other developed countries, our economy is weakened, our government is  laughing stock (and not just the current administration), our media lies and misleads the country worse than the town gossip, and the most important things for our youth today are their cell phones and violent video games. We are no longer the leader of the world, in terms of the rest of the world looking up to us- we are a fat, sloppy and lazy giant that once was feared and admired, but now we are the world’s laughing stock. I served this country in the Marine Corps and still love it- it is still one of the best formed governments in the world and we are a sleeping giant- if we ever get our heads back in the game, no other country has a chance against us.

But our heads aren’t in the game, their up our…well, they’re somewhere else. This court case demonstrates absolutely that today the minority does rule in America. The case where the baker refused to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage is at the Supreme Court level- how stupid is that? What?- there isn’t any other bakery around they could get their cake? Will the government force a business to have clients that the business doesn’t want to have? Since when does the right of a business owner to run his or her business the way they want to take second place to someone who wants to force them to accept their business? If I went to a business and they didn’t want to serve me, why would I force them to? What in the world could ever make me think I would get good service from someone who is forced to do something against their personal, religious and/or business ethics?

And if I do not believe in a spiritual entity or prayer, why would I force some organization to allow me to give their invocation? There is only one answer- I want to do it not because I have something to offer, but simply because you said I couldn’t. Oh, yes- I forget to mention that the organizer and leader of the Freethought Community added that he would prefer prayer be completely done away with, but he is willing to accept that his group be allowed to give an invocation. In other words, these “free thinkers” are suing for the government to force others to stop thinking freely.

Oy! And the government agreed, and I understand why. What I don’t understand is how this even got to a courtroom. The judge should have thrown it out as frivolous and unfounded. We all have the right to free speech and to practice our religion (or lack of same) as we choose, so long as we don’t infringe on the rights of others. Well, if I don’t believe in prayer or God and demand that you do not prayer or even mention God, then aren’t I infringing on your rights?

The enemy is at the bottom of this, and he is influencing the government, which he will eventually be in charge of. That is why although I can’t stand to see our government and court system so brutally and obviously manipulated, it is what will be happening more and more, here in America and all around the world, until Yeshua returns and we get things back on line.

No One is Replaceable

We have heard the old adage, “No one is irreplaceable” many times in work, in sports, at church or synagogue, but it is not correct because the focus of this saying is on the person, not the position.

You see, the position a person holds in the world can always be taken over by someone else. Maybe not as well, maybe better, but one way or another, if I hold a position of authority or importance, someone else out there can do that job, too.

But me, you, whomever is the person holding that position, well…that person is irreplaceable. We are all individuals, each one of us blessed with different gifts so that the entire human race has all it needs to survive.

Unfortunately, we aren’t doing the best job we can with the gifts we have.

We need to learn to appreciate people for their uniqueness, whether that is a good thing about them or a bad thing. Even the most evil of all God’s creations, people like Hitler, Charles Manson, Jim Jones, Xerxes, Caligula, Nero, Herod (and the list goes on) all were in positions that other people took over for them, although they, themselves, were irreplaceable (thank goodness for that! One of each of them was more than enough.)

All the political upheaval with Clinton, Obama, Trump, e-mails, Russian hacking, etc. is all a lot of fluff that means nothing. It has gone on before, and will continue to be a part of our culture. Yes, it is in our very culture- I believe any student of History will confirm that political unrest and underhanded activities are part and parcel of the American culture. These sneaky, illegal and nasty things that politicians (and many business executives) do are still a gift, although a misused gift, that these people have for getting things they want done, done.

Now, for those of us who follow God’s word, we need to demonstrate the gifts God gives us in ways that please the LORD, not in ways that please the world. The evil use of God’s gifts is a satanic activity, not because Satan is totally behind it, but that whatever isn’t for God is against Him, so anything we do that doesn’t honor and glorify God, honors and glorifies the enemy of God (scary thought when you really think on it), so we need to be aware of everything we do and also how we react to what others do. We need to show distaste for evil, and compassion for those subjected to evil, but not to get overly maudlin about it. After all, as bad as things are, we are to be in the world but not of it, and if we let the world get to us, then we are reacting in a worldly way.

The point is this: don’t get all caught-up in politics and the bad things that are happening in the world. The reason I say this is because getting all riled up because of what happens in the world is like working in a fish market- the more exposure to the fish, the more you will smell like one. We need to keep a distance, emotionally, from the evil in the world so that we can shine forth and demonstrate that with God, we are above and out of reach of the enemy’s activities. Even if we are tortured and put to death, it is only our bodies that are being affected, not our souls. That is what Yeshua told us to be prepared for, and I believe (hopefully you agree) that if we allow ourselves to have our kishka’s  (intestines, or guts) churned up over the things happening in the world, we will become too involved with it to remain out of it. In other words, the more we allow ourselves to be lured into the problems of the world, the more we are like everyone else and less like God.

That’s not where we want to be.

I don’t read the news, except once in a while, and I don’t get myself involved in political discussions (all right, maybe once in a while, but rarely) because I know that things will get worse before they get resolved. Yeshua is the resolution to the world, the end of the problems, and the beginning of an eternity of peace, so I will stay as far away from the drek of the world as I can, and remain focused on what is really important- glorifying God and honoring Yeshua with the way I talk, I work, I live and how I treat others.

How about you?

 

does God ever change His mind?

Let’s start by remembering who it is I am going to talk about: it’s God. The one and only, the Lord of lords and King of kings, the Everlasting, the One who created everything and everyone. He never slumbers nor does He ever sleep, He remembers, He knows, He is always present and ever lasting. He is the Eternal One.

He is also the same today, yesterday and tomorrow and whatever He wants to do, He does. Whatever He wants done, gets done, and whatever He says is absolutely absolute.

Got it? So, nu? With all that going for Him, does He ever change His mind? Does He say He will do something then decide not to do it? Does He say a thing will happen, but then prevent it? I have often said that what God says will happen is so certain that it is already history. Yet….

He told the Hebrews coming out of Egypt that He would bring them into a land filled with milk and honey, the land He promised Abraham, but they never entered it.

He told Moses He would destroy the Israelites in the desert, yet He didn’t. More than once.

He had Jonah tell the Ninevites they would be destroyed in 40 days, but they weren’t.

He told King Hezekiah (2 Kings, 20) that he was going to die, but instead He added 15 years to his life.

In each of these cases God told someone that He was going to do something, and it didn’t happen. It really does look like God changed His mind.

But He didn’t- what happened was that the conditions upon which God made the decision changed.

The Hebrews coming out of Egypt were brought to the land God promised, but they refused to go in.

God said He would destroy the Israelites and make a nation out of Moses, but Moses refused that option. God was ready, but Moses didn’t want to do it, so the conditions changed.

Nineveh repented of their evil and asked for forgiveness- up to then, they were rebellious and didn’t fear the Lord. They changed the condition of their hearts when they did T’shuvah (repentance), thereby changing the conditions on which God decided their fate.

Hezekiah cried bitter tears and prayed to God to spare him. God didn’t have Isaiah tell the king that God was going to kill him, just that he was going to die. But when Hezekiah cried to the Lord and reminded God (not that God forgot) about all the good he had done, God granted the prayer of the king to live. The king’s prayer to be cured changed the conditions of the situation.

I am sure there are other examples of when something in the bible makes it look like God changed His mind. I submit that God can change His mind, if He wants to. He is, after all, God, and can do whatever the heck He wants to. However, we have to remember that the timeline we live in has no effect or bearing on God- He is above all the laws of physics that we understand. So when God says He will do something, if the conditions for that decision remain unchanged, that something will be done. It may not be done in a straight, chronological line, but it will be done.

The Israelites did come into the land God promised; Nineveh was destroyed for it’s evil; Hezekiah did (eventually) die; and the best part is still yet to come- God will gather all His people from the four corners of the Earth and settle them back in Israel. In fact, that is happening as we speak. Today we see the promise of God’s regathering His people and judging of the nations coming true before our eyes.

We also saw God’s promise to send a Messiah come true, some 2,000 years ago, and that promise is just as alive and active today as it was then. Yeshua (Jesus) is alive, He sits at the right hand of God, and all who accept Him as their Messiah and do T’shuvah will be saved.

Although it seems somewhat contradictory, God’s decisions are based on the conditions at the time He announces them to us, but those conditions can change, henceforth the events based on them change. God doesn’t change, His decisions don’t change, but the conditions can change, causing new decisions to be made.

That means you can be an unrepentant sinner today and are (thereby) condemned to death, but any time you change the conditions of your heart, you change the conditions of God’s decision.

Think about that- you have the potential to change God’s decision! What an awesome thought. All you need to do to change God’s decision is change your attitude, your actions, your heart. If you are evil you are condemned to death, yet if you turn from your evil ways you will be saved. If you are a God-fearing person who decides to apostatize and turn your back on the Lord to do evil, then whatever righteous deeds you had performed will be forgotten and you will die in your sin (Ezekiel 3:20.)

God’s promises are absolute; what God says will happen, will happen; what God wants to be, is. The only thing that changes is you, is me, is us. If we change, then the conditions upon which God has said something will happen will change, and God will make a new decision based on the new conditions.

God’s plan for salvation is like a willow tree in the breeze: it stands firm and will not be moved, but it is able to sway with the wind and bend as it needs to.

God’s plan of salvation is like a ship sailing from one port to another: the beginning and the end are set and unmovable, but the ship may stop at different ports, tack against the wind, or sail around an obstacle while on it’s journey. Those on the ship can stay on board or leave anytime they want to, and those on the land can come aboard any time they want to. The captain has set the destination, and even though the course may be here and there, the ship will arrive where it is going to when the captain wants to be there.

God does not really change His mind, but when the conditions of His decision change He will re-evaluate the situation and make a new decision based on the new condition. You are in total control of the conditions of your life, so make it easy for God to decide to do good for you.

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.

 

 

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.

Right to Choose is Right to Reject

One of the harder concepts to grasp in the “religious” world is that of Predestination- if God knows what will happen and His plans will always be fulfilled, then how can anyone really have Free Will?

Jeremiah 1:5 says God formed him in the womb, as David also said in Psalm 139:13. David also said he was born into sin. In fact, the whole idea of Original Sin is a form of predestination, is it not? When we think about it, we have no choice about whether or not we are born innocent or guilty because the choice is already made for us.

I once read (and don’t believe everything you read) that the Jewish way of understanding the dichotomy of Free Will and Predestination is that God is the captain of a ship, sailing from here to there, and when you sail aboard this ship you are expected to perform your duties (obey the Torah); by staying aboard you get to the final destination. However, you always have the opportunity to get off at any port you wish to. If you perform a certain duty (have a calling) and jump ship, someone else will fill that position. This way, the ship gets to where it is going, the captain is always in charge, and the crew may turn-over any number of times, but there will always be a crew with enough people doing what needs to be done for the ship to arrive at its final destination. Its up to each of us if we want to get on, and its up to each of us if we want to stay on.

The best example I can think of that shows this is in the Book of Esther (Hadassah) 4:12-14 when Mordecai tells Esther:

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

God’s plan will be accomplished, period. If He calls you to do something and you refuse, then He will call someone else. If no one can do what God wants them to do, then He will do it, Himself.

Salvation? Yeshua? Hello? Anyone home, McFly? God has already accomplished that which no one else could accomplish, through Messiah Yeshua. And it has been written about over and over… and over. So Predestination is not needed because God is able to do whatever He needs or wants to do.

Free Will is, at it’s very core, the right to choose. Conversely, it is also the right to reject. It is the right to vote, or the right to abstain. It is the right to do good, and it is the right to do harm.

There are legal rights which are secured by human laws, and the right to refuse to work within the limits of those laws has consequences. Jail time, specifically, and the resulting violence in one’s life that is almost inescapable when working outside of the law.

From a spiritual viewpoint, it is not really any different: when we do as God requires (obeying the Torah, which Yeshua taught was valid and necessary) we receive blessings, which are (in fact) protection from the evil and cursed world we live in. When we refuse to accept God’s sovereignty and obey His commandments, we have to deal with the world as it really is.

The times are coming, and sooner than most people realize, when one of the biggest and most important choices we will ever make is going to be upon us- to take “the mark” or reject it. Just as accepting God separates us from the world, so, too, will rejecting the Antichrist separate us from the world, except instead of being teased or ridiculed, we will be tortured and killed.

Big difference. And it is already happening in many third world countries throughout the world- people doing God’s work are being murdered in the name of Yeshua (Jesus.)

If you believe that you have a right to choose, respect the fact that other people have a right to reject. Too often we make a bad impression on people because we tell them what they have to do, just because we believe it to be the right choice. No one has to do anything they don’t want to- that is what Free Will is about, and it is a gift from the Almighty, Himself. God gave us Free Will to choose to accept and love Him, or to reject and hate Him. That translates from believing in God or not, to accepting Yeshua (as your Savior) or rejecting Him, to voting for someone to be President or abstaining, to choosing the salad or the soup as your appetizer. Free Will is the gift God gave to us and when we tell anyone what they should do with that gift, we are interfering in God’s plan for that person.

“But Steve- what if God wants us to interfere? How do we know what we are doing isn’t part of God’s plan?”

We don’t- that’s a good point, so I guess what we are left with is to respect the right of someone to make their own decision, and when we want to help influence them to choose what we believe is right, we can tell them why we choose this way, and then demonstrate in how we live and treat others the value of our choice. In other words, don’t tell people how they should act but show them how by the way you act!

“Live and let live” is really a form of apathy- you do what you want and I’ll do what I want. As Believers, that is not what we are supposed to do: we are supposed to live and be an example of how to live according to God’s rules. We all have the right to choose, and we need to respect that right as a gift from God.

“People don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do”- How many time have I repeated this? It is up to us to be the exception to the rule and live as an example of doing what we say.

People have the God-given right to be stupid, to be smart, to be whatever they want to be. If you ask me, most choose stupid, but what the heck! That’s their right, right? What I choose is God, and as Joshua said to the people of Israel, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” Now it is up to me to demonstrate that choice in how I live and treat others.

It ain’t easy.

 

 

Freedom through forgiveness

We all struggle to be free of things that bother us, don’t we? We want to be free of our debts, free from the drudgery of a meaningless job with no future, free of our bad habits, and more than anything, I think, free of our pain. Especially emotional pain.

We can be free of debt through careful financial management, we can be free of a go-nowhere job by educating ourselves and making ourselves more valuable in the job market, and we can free ourselves of bad habits through group rehab.

Many people seek therapy, but to be rid of emotional pain therapy isn’t always the best answer. I believe the best way to gain freedom from your emotional pain is to forgive the causer of that pain.

In my experience people just don’t understand how forgiveness works. They think that forgiving someone makes that person right with God, and by forgiving them it justifies what they did.

Not so.

Forgiveness actually has nothing to do, whatsoever, with what they did or their relationship with God, and has everything to do with your relationship with God.

Yeshua (Jesus) tells us we are commanded to forgive; in fact, in Matthew 6:15 He tells us if we do not forgive on earth then we won’t be forgiven in heaven. That’s a pretty powerful statement; it comes right after He teaches us the way we should pray, which tells us to ask that we be forgiven as we forgive others. That is a statement of cause and effect: forgive me for my sins against Thee using the same level of forgiveness that I extend to those who have sinned against me.

In other words, when it comes to forgiveness, I am asking God to do unto me as I do unto others.

The sinner who has hurt you will have to face God in the Acharit HaYamim (End Days), and your forgiveness of that person will have no bearing on that case. It will, however, be considered when you are standing “on the carpet.”

One of the the fruits of your salvation can be shown through your willingness and ability to forgive others. The end result, the reward (if you will) for doing as God says is the release from the pain. When you forgive, you are released from the pain of that event. Not right away, and not always completely, but it will happen (eventually) and you will feel better.

One “trick” I have learned is to pray for the one who has hurt you. Pray for their salvation because, as in my personal life, someone who has hurt me terribly is also someone that I know is in great pain herself, and needs the love of the Lord more than anyone I have ever met. I feel pity for this person, who will have to face God; and when she does, He will strip the Teflon off her body and all that she has done will come back upon her and stick to her skin like shingles. When you think of that pain and suffering, the emotional futility of having lived a lifetime of being unaccountable, then suddenly and completely, without any means of escaping the truth, have all the things you have ignored and shuffled off as everyone else’s fault come down on your head like a ton of bricks…I can’t imagine the horror and pain that will cause. And to top it off, you get a one-way ticket to Hell.

When you think of it, if you know the love and compassion and forgiveness that God has had for you, how can you feel anything but remorse and pity for this poor soul? The imagery just makes you want to forgive them, doesn’t it? If not, you’ve better do some serious talking with God.

It’s simple- forgiveness is God’s aspirin for the emotional pain of being sinned against.

Take two, and call me in the afterlife.