We Can’t Reject Our Cake and Eat It, Too.

No video for this one, but please take a minute or two to read it.

This message came to me in the middle of the night, and I couldn’t sleep until I shared it with you.

There was once a small town in a valley that was protected by a dam. In this town, there was a man of God who constantly professed faith in the Lord.

One day the dam began to fail and the townspeople had to be evacuated. The man of God ran around warning people to leave. The water level was up to his knees and he was wading through it when a truck came by and the driver said for the man of God to get on so he could be taken to safety.

The man replied, “God will protect me and save me- go save someone else.”

The water was now up to his waist and climbing quickly, and a rowboat came by. The people asked the man to get in, but he replied, “God will protect me and save me- go save someone else.”

Now the water was up to his neck and he was half-walking/half-swimming when a helicopter came overhead and through a loudspeaker, the pilot said, “Man of God- get on because the dam is about to burst!”

The man replied, “God will protect me and save me- go save someone else.”

Finally, the dam burst and the man of God was drowned.

In the heavens, the man saw God and said to him, “Why did you let me drown? I told all those people you would save me and you didn’t!”

God replied, “What are you talking about? I sent you a truck, then I sent you a rowboat. I even sent you a helicopter!”

Remember this story- we will return to it soon.

Yeshua told us in Matthew 5:17 that he did not come to change the law.  He also told us, in John 13:20 that whoever accepts someone he sends, accepts him, and whoever accepts him accepts the one who sent him. And in Luke 10:16 he tells us the converse is true, which is that whoever rejects him (Yeshua) rejects the one who sent him (God.)

One more verse- John 1:14 tells us the Word (meaning the Word of God, which is the Torah) became flesh and dwelt among us, who was Yeshua.

Putting these together, we see that the written Torah is from God, Yeshua (also from God) is the living Torah, so they are one and the same thing. Yeshua said he did not come to change anything in or about the Torah, and that when we accept him we accept God but if we reject him we also reject God.

Everybody with me so far?

Shaul said in Colossians 2:14 that the crimes against us were nailed to the cross with Yeshua, which is true, but those were only our own sins which we had already committed. Traditional Christian teaching is that this means the Law (Torah) was nailed to the cross and through faith in Yeshua we don’t need the law anymore. In other words, once saved, always saved and the need to obey the Torah was done away with.

This is the exact same thing that the snake said to Eve when he told her it was okay to eat the apple because she wouldn’t really die.

You cannot accept Yeshua as your Messiah and reject the instructions God gave us in the Torah because they are both one and the same thing. 

Now we can see the true meaning of the story: God has been telling us, first through Moses (the truck), then through the Prophets (the rowboat) and finally through Yeshua (the helicopter) that people who are trusting traditional Christian rhetoric to save them are really rejecting the salvation God has provided and will end up drowning.

For those who profess faith in God and Yeshua, but reject the Torah, they will be in the same situation as the ones we are told about in Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

How can anyone say that the law was done away with and not admit that they are practicing lawlessness?

Faith is how we are saved, and genuine faith will motivate us to obedience. You can’t have one without the other- they are both sides of the same coin. It is a never-ending circle of righteousness: faith generates obedience, obedience brings blessings, blessings confirm faith, faith generates obedience, ad infinitum…

Let go of the comfort zone that Christian teaching has provided by telling you that all you need is “faith in Jesus”! Yes, you need to have faith in Yeshua as the Messiah, but that doesn’t replace faith in God, and true faith (as James says in James 2:14) is shown through good works, meaning obedience to the instructions God gave us how to worship him and how to treat each other- which are found in the Torah!

You can’t accept the living Torah and reject the written Torah at the same time.

 

Parashah Shemini 2019 (the 8th day) Leviticus 9 – 11

This parashah picks up from last week’s reading, where we left Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu in the Tent of Meeting for 7 days as part of their anointing to be Cohanim (Priests) to the Lord.

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Now, on the eighth day, they are to perform a series of sacrifices to complete their anointing ritual, but after doing so Aaron’s two sons present their own incense before the Lord, which was not part of the ritual, and the punishment for that was their immediate death. Moses commands that drinking alcoholic beverages when serving the Lord is forbidden, which the rabbis have understood to mean that Aaron’s sons were drunk, causing their irrational and sinful behavior.

The next chapter, Chapter 11, is the one that gives the instructions for Kashrut, the kosher regulations.

This is probably one of the most argued against instructions in the entire Bible. Christians have misinterpreted Mark 7 and Acts 10 for centuries as doing away with these instructions; even within Judaism, Reform Jews (within my experience) generally do not keep Kosher and many Conservative Jews I have known may maintain a kosher home, but when outside their home will disregard these instructions.

Rabbinical thought categorizes the Kashrut instructions as Chukim, which are regulations we are expected to obey, although the reason for them transcends human understanding.

We can know this one thing about the instructions in Leviticus 11: they help to make us holy, where holy means to be separated.

I keep kosher according to the instructions in the Bible, but I am not kosher according to the rabbinic regulations in the Talmud, which greatly expand the ones in this chapter. As such, I can tell you, absolutely, that I am separated from those who do not maintain this diet.  For instance, when I go to an Italian restaurant I have to ask if there is pork included in the meat that they use for their lasagna and meat sauce. For breakfast, I have to double-check that there is no bacon fat added to the home fries, which many chefs use to enhance the flavor. When going out for breakfast, I know the turkey sausage I order will probably be cooked on the same grill with the regular sausage, but the heat of the grill is enough to destroy the treif (Yiddish for unclean) germs left behind. The fact that the heat of the grill makes it OK to have kosher next to treif comes from the same reasoning the Rabbis give for using the same plates for meat and dairy (fleishig and milchig), so long as the dishwasher is hot enough to sterilize the dinnerware.

My obedience to Kashrut is what separates me from the rest of the patrons, and when asking about the food preparation I have an opportunity to demonstrate obedience to God’s instructions and (maybe) set an example to others.

What presents a serious problem, to me, is when people argue about why certain animals are kosher and why others aren’t. The problem I see with this is that it shows a need to know why God does something.  We are allowed to question God, but this human need to know everything works against faith.

Faith is believing that which can’t be seen or proven, and I believe when we have to know “why” it represents a lack of faith: I say this because by having to know why we apparently don’t trust that God will only have us do that which is good for us. When it comes to obedience to the instructions God gave us on how to live, worship and treat each other, I think we should follow the motto from the Nike shoe company: Just do it!

I am not saying we cannot ever question the Lord; he is big enough and compassionate enough to allow this. My concern is that constantly questioning God’s reasons might result in losing faith when we don’t get the answers. This is what the writer of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) found out- trying to understand God at God’s level is like chasing the wind. It was impossible and resulted in disappointment and depression.

Obedience to the instructions in Chapter 11 of Leviticus, as well as any other instructions God gave to us throughout the Torah, should not be based on understanding the reasons why God gave them. Obedience for the sake of obedience is what many think will help us earn our entry into heaven- it won’t. This is what I call “Performance-based Salvation”, and is the “legalism” that Shaul spoke against when he wrote to the congregation in Galatia.

Obeying the instructions for Kashrut (as well as every other instruction in the Torah) should be based solely on faithfully accepting that God would not tell us to do anything other than that which is good for us. He says, over and over throughout the Tanakh, that we should obey so that we will live. He doesn’t mean live this life but to live eternally with him. When we are truly faithful, that faith generates a desire to obey. The more faithful, the more obedient.

What is really sad is that there are many, many people who do have faith, but their obedience has been stifled with wrongful teaching through traditional Christian (meaning Constantinian) doctrine that was not designed to honor God. Neither was it created by the early ‘church” fathers to separate Christians from the unholy, but to separate Christians from the Jews.

God sent the Messiah to bring all people back to God, but men have distorted that event into further separating people from God by teaching disobedience.

Each one of us has the right to choose what we will do. God has given us all the instructions he wants us to know, which are all the instructions we need to know. And we do NOT need to understand why he has given any of them, we just need to faithfully accept they are what is best for us, and obey them. God has said many times in the Tanakh that he has presented to us life and death, and tells us to choose life, that we may live.

So, nu? You can choose life or death- which one do you want?

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Tonight is Shabbat so Shabbat Shalom, and until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Going Through the Fire is Necessary

Learning new things can be a lot of fun, especially when it is in a nice, safe environment like a school or college. But there are some lessons that have to be learned out in the real world, and although they are valuable they are more often than not much less enjoyable than reading from a textbook.

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The lessons we learn from school are designed not just to give us knowledge, but to give us the skillsets we need to be able to find the knowledge. At least for me, this is the quintessential gift of education: to learn how to continue to learn. Once we think we know it all, we do. That’s because when we stop learning we know all that we will ever know.

God’s textbook is what I call the Ultimate User’s Manual for Life, better known as the Torah. These five books contain everything that God wants us to know with regards to how to worship him and how to treat each other. Everything else, from Joshua through to the end of Revelation, is just commentary.

After learning what God wants from us, our life from that point on is continuing education. Reading, studying the languages, learning ancient Hebraic runes, etc. is a part of that education, but the real lessons are the ones we learn after we have left the classroom.

Recently, I have gone through the consistently constant pain of a kidney stone. I have, over the past two weeks, been unable to sleep, doubled-over with pain and not getting any real relief even from morphine I received. This all started right in the middle of a 7-day cruise Donna and I were taking to celebrate our anniversary! Last week I underwent two separate operations 4 days apart. The second one resulted in a lot of pain for about a day or so after the operation. I feel better now and, God willing, the worst is passed (pun intended.)

Donna was sort of kidding with me yesterday, saying this was the work of the Enemy, attacking me to ruin our vacation. I really doubt that; in truth, I wish I was doing enough in God’s service that I was a threat to “Old Nick”, but I don’t think that was the case. I think I was simply learning a life lesson that was designed to help me become more refined, like gold, after being placed through a fire. I tried my best to suffer through without taking out my frustration and pain on Donna, who supported me wonderfully throughout this. I think, in some ways, the pain I was suffering (which was only physical) was worse for Donna because she saw her loved one going through anguish and pain, and there was nothing she could do about it.

And that brings us to the lesson I learned from this experience! Yes, I was the one going through “the fiery furnace” but what was the most painful thing for me was watching Donna’s emotional suffering. I hurt so much but she was in even more pain than I was, and I couldn’t do anything more about her pain then she could do about mine. It was like a double-edged sword: my suffering was causing her suffering, which upset me, and neither of us could help the other.

This sort of experience is a necessary part of learning how to be a God-fearing person who will not submit to the Enemy or the will of the world. We will have to go through persecution: the Bible is rife with warnings about the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) and anyone who thinks they will just be swept away before the faecal matter hits the air circulation unit may be just fooling themselves. Maybe there will be a pre-trib rapture, maybe there won’t; people will choose to believe what they want to about this topic. As for me, I am expecting to have to deal with it if it happens before I die. I would rather be prepared to go through the Tribulation than to expect to be saved and find out I was wrong.

That is why going “through the fire” is so necessary for us to experience now, while we are able to fail the test and still have another chance to pass later in the semester. We need to learn these lessons while we have a sort of safety net to work with, before the real Tribulation hits. There is an old saying: “The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war.” We are already at war, the ultimate war, which is a spiritual war. Physical strength can help us survive adversity and suffering in physical war, but since we are in a spiritual war we need spiritual strength, which I believe is far superior and will outlast any physical attributes we may possess.

Most people will just say I had bad luck and feel sorry for me having to deal with a kidney stone, especially on a cruise, but I see it as a learning experience. I learned what I can deal with, and I learned how hard it is to see the ones I love to suffer through watching me suffer. I will use this experience to strengthen me so that in the future I can be more supportive of those watching me suffer. This may sound almost like an oxymoron, supporting those who should be supporting me during a time of suffering, but I think that is the answer to this test that God has placed before me. I am correct, then I graduate this class and will be promoted to the next level.

Are you in class right now, or are you in between semesters? Look at your life, every day, and when something happens that makes you feel that you are going through the fire, accept it and work with it. Embrace the suffering and realize it is not only necessary but making you stronger. James 1:2 says,

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

He goes on to show how this testing brings perseverance and spiritual strength. Also remember that those who love you will be suffering as well, so use this time to teach them the lessons you are learning so that they, too, will be able to appreciate and thereby learn from what is happening. 

Suffering sucks- there’s no two ways about it, so what we need to do is to try to get past it honourably and faithfully. And, just for the record, you can certainly do whatever you can to reduce the suffering by using whatever God provides for you (doctors, medications, etc.) while you are in the furnace.

Finally, here’s the good news: when you successfully get through this fire you will then be advanced enough in God’s Kingdom to get to go through another one, which will be even hotter! Praise the Lord because he never stops giving us a chance to continue learning, unless (of course) we drop out of school.

Don’t be a spiritual dropout; be a graduate student of the University of God and maybe one day you will become a Professor of Righteousness.

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Until next time, Baruch HaShem and L’hitraot!

Parashah Beshallach 2019 (It came to pass) Exodus 13:17 – 17

The Israelites are now out of Egypt, and roaming in the desert. God places them against the Red Sea and Pharaoh decides he wants them back, so sends his entire army against them. God splits the sea and the Israelites walk safely across, with the army of Egypt following. God brings the waters down on the Egyptians and they are destroyed.

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After this miraculous salvation, Moses composes a song of praise to the Lord. The people continue on, and start to complain about no food or water. God sends manna and quails for them to eat, and when they come to a large pool of poisoned water God shows Moses how to make it potable. The parashah ends with the attack upon the Jews by Amalek, and through God’s help, Amalek is defeated.

Before I talk about today’s message, I would like to share a bit of interesting information regarding Amalek and the Torah. Some of you may be familiar with the stringent requirements for writing a Torah, which is done by a specially trained scribe called a Sofer. To test the ink and the quill pen used, the Sofer will write the name “Amalek” on a piece of parchment and then he crosses it out with a number of strokes in order to fulfill the commandment of blotting out the name of Amalek, in accordance with what is written in Deuteronomy 25:19.

 

What I want to point out from this Torah reading are the events just before the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:10-16), which is when the Israelites saw the army coming after them and cried out to Moses, asking why he brought them into the desert to die. Moses, faithfully believing God will do something, tells them not to cry to him but to wait for the salvation that God will provide. Then what does God do? He asks Moses, essentially, “What are you waiting for?  Raise your rod and part the sea, then walk across it.”

We are continually told throughout the Bible to be faithful and trust in God, which Moses unquestionable did when in the face of certain destruction he told the people to wait for God to take care of them. But God wasn’t happy with that- he chided Moses for not taking action. That is a problem I see with too many people who profess to trust in the Lord, but who really think he is a God of enablement. He is not! He is a God of action.

In Isaiah 40:31 we are told to wait upon the Lord for renewed strength, but that doesn’t mean to literally sit around on your tuchas and wait for God to do something. Yes, sometimes we are to be patient and wait, such as when waiting for an answer to prayer, but for the most part, we are to walk in faith (2 Corinthians 5:7.)

We have all heard the expression “Take a leap of faith”, but what does that really mean? Does it mean to trust someone without any reason to do so? Yes, it can. Does it mean to take a chance and hope for the best? Yes, it can mean that, too. Does it mean to blindly rush into a situation and pray to God that he will make it come out alright? Well, that might be a little further than I would take it, but I suppose you could do that as well. I wouldn’t recommend it, though.

A real leap of faith is when we trust God, as he tells us we should, but not to the point where we are foolishly taking chances and expecting him to make it turn out well- that isn’t faithfully walking, that is testing the Lord. And we all know that is not something we should do (Deuteronomy 6:16, and again in Matthew 4:7.) What we should do is to trust in God by asking for his help in what we have discerned is the right thing to do, then instead of throwing the fleece before the Lord, we should just go ahead and start doing what we ask God to bless. If we are doing what is right, he will support and help us. If what we are doing is not in his will or is wrong in his eyes, we will fail. But, either way, we should be walking in faith by taking that first step to getting the ball rolling, and trusting in God to provide as we go.

Do not be like those people who always seem to be complaining that they are cursed or the Enemy is ruining their chances to do anything: sometimes they may be right, but in my experience I believe that most of the time people are just making up their own excuses and faithlessly waiting for some sign from God that he approves. They want to do something but are, in truth, afraid and faithless, so they blame God for their inaction by saying they are waiting for his sign of approval.

They will probably be waiting a long time- God wants us to walk and he will clear the path, but not until we start walking. It is our act of faith that generates God’s provision.

Therefore, if you have something you want to do that you believe is a calling from God, don’t be like the man in Matthew 8:22 who told Yeshua he wanted to follow him but first had to bury his father; if you feel a calling from God to do something, get out there and do it! Don’t wait for confirmation from people or from God- just get started. If God is with you, you will know it. And if God is not with you, then you will know that, too. I believe that when you ask for guidance and discernment from the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), both before you start and all during your work, God will answer you.

We are to walk in faith, not sit around waiting in faith, so as the old song lyric says, “Boots- start walking!”

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Tonight begins Shabbat, so Shabbat Shalom and Baruch haShem!

Who’s Truth is the Real Truth?

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What is the truth?  Often, what was “truth” at one time was later shown to be a lie: the earth is flat; cigarettes are good for you; the moon is made of cheese; I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.

Even those things that have been taken as absolute Gospel, for instance, well…uh..the Gospels- even within these there have been truths that have been proven false. For instance, Jesus was the name of the Messiah- that’s wrong, it was and still is Yeshua (or, to be fair, some form of this name.) We celebrated (and still do) his birth as being on December 25th- that is wrong; most every biblical scholar today agrees he was born in the fall, sometime around Sukkot.

The Bible is known to be the true word of God, yet there are over 2 dozen different English translations of the Bible, each one with significant differences in many of the verses. And these English versions are translations of the Hebrew and Greek versions that came before them. Then we have to include the translations from English into many different languages, making dozens upon dozens of different translations. And as we all know, Hebrew to Greek to English to whatever other languages won’t translate exactly the same. When we look at any one line within the Bible, we can find many different ways to say it, each with its own cultural, linguistic, and historical influence which can significantly change the understanding of that line.

So even with the Bible, how can we know the REAL truth about God, Messiah, and God’s plan of salvation?

I know the real truth of it all, but that is only my truth. Your truth may be slightly different. Your truth may be slightly different from mine, but someone else’s truth may be way out there!

As an example, what about the law being “fulfilled?” Matthew 5:17 is one of the most misused verses there is in the entire set of Gospels: some people say “fulfilled” (as in the law being fulfilled) means that it is done away with. Others say that the term means that the law was properly interpreted. Still, others say that the “moral” laws remain in force but the ceremonial laws (as if anyone is able to know one from the other) are done away with.

So who do we believe? Who really knows the absolute, undeniable truth of God’s Word? There is only one who does know the absolute truth about everything in the Bible, and that is- God.

And he isn’t talking about it. Why? Because he has already said all he needs to say.

God doesn’t have the ego problems we humans have; he can say what he wants to say and stop there. Humans, mainly the ones who insist they know the truth, can’t shut up about it. You discuss it with them, but they ignore what you say and keep going on with their version. If you disagree and cite biblical verses to prove your point, even if you do this properly by explaining within the written, linguistic, spiritual, and cultural context, they still insist that you are wrong. And when you say that it is time to agree to disagree, they keep at it, still saying you are wrong, pagan, stupid, need to study…whatever insulting and condescending verbiage they can muster in order to make you admit that they are telling the truth.

And maybe they are, but it’s not for them to say. In fact, I don’t think anyone should say what is the absolute truth or what is an absolute lie. We each should believe what we choose to believe, and allow others to believe what they chose to believe. Yes, we should (if we are certain we are correct) try to show them why we believe what we do, but they have a right to disagree. That is from God, who gave each of us Free Will to choose what to believe. We have to respect that right, even if we are absolutely, undeniably, and positively correct (in our own mind) about the truth.

What is the real truth? Who cares! Really! What matters is not so much truth, as faith.

In the Gospel of John, Chapter 8 Yeshua talks about saying only what the Father has told him to say. He says in John 8:31-32 (CJB):

So Yeshua said to the Judeans who had trusted him, “If you obey what I say, then you are really my Talmudim, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

The “truth” Yeshua is talking about here is the truth that he is the Messiah God promised to send and to obey what he said meant to honor the Torah, of which he is the living representative. In other words, when Yeshua said to obey him he was saying that we should obey the Torah, and that obedience has nothing to do with earning salvation but is the result of believing, faithfully, that Yeshua is the Messiah.

But, then again, that is my truth. That is what I believe, and you can accept that as your truth or reject it altogether as a lie. That is your choice.

Let me conclude by saying, straight-out, what today’s message is: speak your truth, listen to the truth of others, and choose to believe what you will. No matter what anyone else says, God is the only one who knows absolutely what he meant, what he means, and what he wants you to know from his Word. And that may be different for you than it is for me.

Each one of us will choose truth and justify it for ourselves. What we choose may be wrong, and if so we will have to face God when the time comes and explain why we chose that particular “truth.” And, although I can’t speak for God, as I have said many times, if what we chose to believe is only what someone else told us, we will still be held accountable for it.

So whatever you choose to believe, make sure that belief system is founded in the belief in God, the belief in the Messiah that he sent, and the trusting belief that God’s promises are forever and trustworthy. That’s your starting point- from there, you better be able to verify and justify anything else with proper biblical exegesis and understanding, which you can get from the author when you ask for it.

And that’s the truth!

Parashah Nitzavim 2018 (You are standing) Deuteronomy 29:9 – 30

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The previous parashah ended with the blessings and the curses, and this one continues from there. Moses advises the people that everyone listening to him is subject to this covenant and he then prophecies that when the people turn to their own desires and sin, all the curses will fall upon them and they will be a byword to the other nations, asking “Why has this happened?”, to which the answer will be because they rejected God and his commandments.  

But as with all prophecies of destruction for disobedience, Moses assures the people that once their hearts turn back to Adonai, no matter how far he has scattered them, he will bring them back to their own land and bless them. 

Moses ends with the decree that these laws are not too hard to do, and he offers them the options of live or die, blessings or curses, and the suggestion that they take the blessings.

My message today is regarding what Moses says about those that bless themselves in their heart (Deut. 29:18-20), meaning those that hear the word and purposefully disobey, thinking that because God promises to regather the people they will be selected with the others. Moses assures that person that this will not happen; indeed, the one who persists in indulging himself (or herself) in evil will certainly not be blessed or forgiven. That person will be cut off from the people and all the curses of the covenant will fall on his head. 

When I read this I thought of all those that have been taught that once they are saved, they are always saved. Shaul (Paul) refutes this in his letter to the Romans. In that letter he says (Romans 6:15-16):

For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that when you offer yourselves as obedient slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey, whether you are slaves to sin leading to death, or to obedience leading to righteousness?

The sins we commit can be forgiven through the Messiah’s sacrifice, but that is only those sins we have committed to that point, i.e. to the exact moment we confess, repent and ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name.  Whatever sins we commit after that are on our head until we repent of that sin and, again, ask for forgiveness. 

If we sin and continue to sin, without asking forgiveness, then we are- by definition- unrepentant. There is no doubt in my mind after reading the Bible over and over for 20 years and more that God will not forgive an unrepentant sinner, whether they know they are unrepentant or not.  We may feel sorrow in our heart for doing something wrong, but if we do not confess that wrongdoing and ask forgiveness, it is NOT automatically given. We need to have a contrite and humbled heart when we repent and ask forgiveness, but we need to do it all: heartache, repentance (T’shuvah), request for forgiveness (in Yeshua’s name.)  

I also thought of all those who have been taught that Yeshua did away with the law; all those poor souls who blindly follow the blind. Even if they think they are obeying God, they are not. And this is a form of blessing themselves in their heart and they WILL be held accountable. The covenant Moses made was not just with who was there, but those who were not there, as well (Deut. 29:13-14). In other words, this covenant is for all who claim to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Not just the Jews, but all people: those there at that time and those who are not there. 

What this means for you is that you need to make sure you read the entire Bible- Genesis through Revelation- and accept that if you worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob then you are also under this covenant. You may not like hearing that, you may want to argue (as if it will do you any good with God) that God didn’t mean Gentiles who accept Yeshua as their Messiah ( remember that Yeshua taught the Torah) or that Believers aren’t under the law but under Grace (remember what Shaul said to the Romans) or even that Yeshua did away with the law. 
Which is a total lie: Yeshua is the living Torah, the Word that became flesh so how could he have done away with himself? Duh! 

The Torah is still valid: God said these commandments were to be throughout all your generations. That means forever. And those that join themselves to God’s chosen people are not only able to enjoy all the rights of natural born Jews, but they are also subject to all the laws natural born Jews are subject to, and that means the Torah. 

What it boils down to is this: God gave the Jews the Torah to learn and teach the rest of the world, and those that obey are blessed while those that disobey are in BIG trouble. 

The Pharisees were teaching performance-based salvation, and Yeshua gave us faith-based salvation. We obey God’s commandments as a love-response to God’s goodness and because we are obedient children.

Grace is not a license to sin, it is the means by which we can avoid the eternal consequences of our sin; however, faith doesn’t overrule obedience. 

Parashah Pinchas 2018 (Pinchas) Numbers 25:10 – 30:1

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We left the last parashah with Phinehas (Pinchas) killing the Israelite man and Midianite woman to stop the plague. Now God makes a covenant that the lineage of Pinchas will be the High priests forever because of his jealousy for God. God commands Moses to go to war with Midian but first, a new census is taken because the prior generation has died in the desert.  No further mention of the war is given at this point but we return to it in Chapter 31.

The daughters of the Zelophead (who had no sons) request an inheritance and God makes a new statute which identifies the Order of Inheritance regarding family inheritance of land in Israel.

God tells Moses his time has come so Moses asks God to place someone in charge of the people, and God chooses Joshua.

This parashah ends with God having Moses remind the people of the requirements for the offerings that were to be made daily, as well as the festivals that he first told us to honor in Leviticus.

Moses is told he is going to die and his first thought is of the people he has led for the past 40 years. He isn’t concerned about how will he die, will it hurt, will he be taken up into God’s bosom- no thoughts for himself and total concern for those that he will leave behind. This action on Moses’ part shows us the type of person he was: thoughtful, concerned for others, humble even unto death (sound familiar?) and obedient.

Today what I would like to talk about is why God is having Moses repeat the offering instructions to the people before he dies. When I read this I had to ask myself, “Why? Why is God having Moses remind the people about something that they already have been told and have written down for them?”  The answer seems to be because God knew that these offerings were a central part of the daily life of the Children of Israel and, as such, must be followed. They are so important they bear repeating.

Again, why? Because without those daily activities of worship and annual celebrations of the Lord the people would easily fall into corruption. And we see that happening throughout the remainder of the Tanakh: when the leadership fails to enforce the daily offerings and festivals, the people fall into sin and worship the gods of their neighbors.

It is like the old adage: good habits are hard to develop and easy to lose, whereas bad habits are easy to develop and hard to lose.

We need to remember to pray daily, to worship the festivals God gave and when we celebrate holidays (not to be confused with Holy Days: the former are man-made and the latter are God commanded) we should celebrate only those that still honor God and do not replace the festivals he gave us in Leviticus, which are repeated here in this parashah. Only by repetitive worship can we maintain our faith and the strength of that faith, especially in light of our leader’s sinfulness and distracting activities.

When I say “repetitive” I do not mean to repeat prayers and perform actions robotically: what I mean is that we need to develop a regular prayer life and to remember the festivals God told us to celebrate. The ones he reminds us of in this parashah are the daily offerings, Shabbat and new moon, New Year, Day of Atonement and the pilgrimage festivals. Daily, monthly and annually we perform these rites and celebrate these festivals so that worship becomes a regular part of our lives. Every time throughout history that this cycle of worship was broken, the people fell into corruption.

What is your personal worship cycle? Do you pray every day? Do you honor the Lord by celebrating his festivals as he said you should? Too many people (both Christians and Jews) do not honor the Lord by celebrating the festivals as instructed. God isn’t very pleased with a half-way attitude when it comes to our worship of him. Another thing I have noticed: when you pray, who are you praying to? Is it to God or is it to Jesus? Jesus isn’t the answerer of our prayers- he is the intercessor. There is a big difference between intercession of prayer and interception of prayer.

The take-away for today is that we all need to develop a regular cycle of worship: daily and continual prayer, festival celebration as God said to (excepting for the sacrifices, of course) and constant reading of the Bible to remind us of who we are worshiping. Look at your life with spiritual eyes and see all that God has done, and is doing for you, and above all be appreciative for whatever you have. It may be great or it may be small, but if you have anything then thank God for it. He will hear and, knowing what you need, provide what is best for you.

Sometimes it is very hard for us to believe God is working for good in our lives, and that is what faith is all about- steadfastly believing God loves you and wants only the best for you when your life at that moment makes it impossible to believe. These are the times when the cycle of worship we have been talking about today helps us maintain our faith.

 

Who’s Faith Saved Daniel From the Lions?

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In the Ketuvim of the Tanakh (writings in the Old Covenant) we read of Daniel. In that book Chapter 6 is the story of Daniel and the lion’s den.

Most everyone knows that story, how the other chiefs assigned to rule the kingdom of King Daryavesh tried to find some wrong with Daniel, who the king had appointed above all of them, but no matter how hard they looked couldn’t find a single thing wrong with him. So they fooled the king into issuing a decree that they knew Daniel would not follow, which was to not ask anything of any God other than the king or the king’s gods. Knowing that Daniel prayed to his God every day, after the order was signed they found Daniel praying to God while facing Jerusalem and brought him before the king. The king was forced to throw him into the lion pit. We are told how Daniel’s faith in God protected him from the lions, and the next morning when the king went to check on him Daniel was unharmed. The the king threw the other chiefs who conspired against Daniel into the pit, and they didn’t fare so well.

The bible states it was his faith in God that saved Daniel. No doubt about that. But…was it just Daniel’s faith? We are taught that, but let’s look closer at what it says in that chapter.

Starting with verse 16 in the NIV version, this is what is written:

So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”  A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed.  Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.  At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den.  When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”  Daniel answered, “May the king live forever!  My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.” The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.

There is no argument that Daniel’s faith was a contributing factor, but I think we need to also consider the faith of King Daryavesh. Look at what he did after being forced to send Daniel to his death:

  1.  When he sent Daniel to the pit he acknowledged God as someone able to save;
  2.  He fasts and afflicts himself all night, which culturally was a means of sacrificing to obtain the favor of one’s god; in this case the God of Daniel;
  3.  When he goes to check on Daniel the next morning he asks if the Living God- another acknowledgement of God as unique- has been able to save Daniel;
  4.  The letter King Daryavesh sends throughout his kingdom after this further acknowledges and recognizes the God of Daniel as a powerful and living God whose kingdom will never be destroyed.

I do not think that what Daryavesh did indicates he converted, but it does show that he had faith in Daniel’s God and recognized God as an all-powerful and “true” God. I believe the humility, faith and respect Daryavesh showed for God also contributed to Daniel’s rescue.

In the Book of Daniel we see similar actions by King N’vukhadnetzer (Nebuchadnezzar), such as when he lost his sanity for 7 years and when Daniel’s friends were saved from being thrown into the fire.

This is one of the many wonderful things about our God: not only is he willing and able to save but he is also willing to accept the prayers of anyone, even those that do not worship him exclusively, so long as they come before him humbly and repentant.

God will use even those who do not worship him for good as long as they come before him respectful and humble. Daryavesh had many gods but he showed great faith in the God of Israel, which I believe contributed to the saving of Daniel from the lions.

The Finite Can Never Understand the Infinite

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Can you imagine what 1,000,000 candles would look like if they were all lined up in a row?

Can you picture in your mind what 1,000,000 dollar bills would look like if they were stacked one on the other?

I can’t.  My mind, although it is often in a state of flux, is still pretty sharp and yet I cannot picture what one million anything looks like. I cannot “see” it or imagine what it is.

This is the problem we have when we try to imagine or understand the awesomeness of God. He is so far out of our range of understanding, so distant from the furthest edge of the Bell Curve of our knowledge that we can never even come close to knowing what he knows. Or understanding why he does what he does. Or even understanding the things he tells us about.

In Judaism we have three types of laws:

  1. Mishpatim– these are the laws we can understand that are mostly “civil” laws, such as do not kill or do not commit adultery;
  2. Edot– these are ceremonial laws regarding the rites and practices such as rules for Shabbat and the sacrificial system; and
  3. Chukim– these are laws God gave to us that seemingly have no rationale at all. For instance, changing the sacramental bread every week or not wearing clothes of different cloths.

Human nature almost demands that we know the “why” of something. When someone asks us to do something, how many times is our first response, “Why?” This is no different with God because I hear and read, over and over…and over…so many people “explaining” why the Kosher laws are better for us or why we need to wear Tzitzit.

The answer I give is this,” Because God said so.”

That is all the answer we need, and the easiest answer to understand. I will go even further than this and say that if this answer isn’t enough for you, then you need to start asking yourself what your faith is based on?  If we say we have faith, but can’t accept God’s commandments without understanding the reason why we should, then we aren’t faithful at all. How can I say that? Easy!- if you cannot accept what God says without knowing the reason why, it is because you do not trust that God knows what he is talking about. That is an a priori truth, as far as I am concerned.

When we trust someone we do what he or she suggests, especially when we are unsure of what we are doing. We seek out confirmation that we are doing the “right” thing in the “right” way. I saw this when I was a Salesman: so many people needed to see articles from Consumer Reports or Better Business Bureau ratings or letters from customers justifying using my company because we did such a great job. Did they really think I would show them complaint letters? And I realized that these people had no faith in their own decision-making ability but total faith in other people’s ability to decide. In a similar way, so many congregations are constantly preached to about God’s love and compassion and forgiveness, all of which are good things, but when these are the only things that are talked about, the congregation is not given the chance to trust God as they should. Talking only about love and forgiveness is like third party confirmation- the people hear all about what they want to hear but they don’t learn what they need to know. And what they need to know is that God is there even when troubles are all around them. The leaders of God’s people must be trusted, and that trust must be turned to God.

We can (and should) question our human leadership, and we can ask God why (he can handle that), but we must not ask God to prove why what he says is something we should do. That is disrespectful and demonstrates lack of faith. Yes- ask God why things happen; Yes- ask God why whatever you are going through is happening to you; Yes- ask God why he is allowing something to happen. You can always ask God why he wants you to do something but you should never ask God to prove to you why you should do it.

Can you see the subtle but very important difference here? It is OK to ask God to explain something to you but it is not OK to demand he prove what he says to be something you agree you should do.  When God says do not eat pork, there are those who can explain why pork is unsafe using health studies about pork and Trichinosis, and others will use that to explain why we don’t need to obey that law anymore because of the USDA. In both cases, what we are doing, really, is trying to understand the “why” of Gods’ law so that we can justify obeying it.

My point is that the moment we try to understand something in order to justify it we are showing distrust in God. There is absolutely no reason why we need to understand any of God’s laws- NO reason! He is God, and that is all the justification “why” anyone needs; anything more than that and you are being faithless, obstinate, stiff-necked and rebellious.

So do yourself a favor- just forget trying to understand why when it comes to God and his commandments. It’s a useless and impossible thing to do because the finite (us) can never understand the infinite (God.)

Apathy or Patience?

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In many of my messages I mention that I do not read the newspapers or listen to the news on TV. Nor do I pay much attention to who is in Washington or what they are doing.

Consequently, I have sometimes been accused of being apathetic. Frankly, if someone thinks I don’t care…they are right: I don’t care what they think.

I do care about what is happening in the world, and there are times I could just SCREAM!! at the many people who follow the crowd running from one extreme to another, like a pendulum that is swinging from one apogee to another.

And when I see this happening, as with the recent gun control issues and the constant badgering of the Presidents (both present and past), I think of the many verses in the bible that tell us how we must wait on the Lord. You may ask, “Wait for what?” and my answer would be….justice. I don’t believe we will receive an answer to the problems we face, but eventually, in God’s good time, there will be justice served on the ones who are the cause of the problems.

When David’s own son rebelled against him, David accepted the situation and waiting for God to make the decision about what would happen. Let’s look at some of the things David said during this terrible time in his life:

2 Samuel 15:25, when they were taking the Ark with the king as he fled Yerushalayim:  “Then the king said to Tzadok, “Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again.  But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.”

2 Samuel 16:11-12, when David was being cursed at by a member of Shaul’s family: “Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to.  It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”

 

I could list many, many examples here of the bible telling us to wait upon the Lord, which is the same as saying have hope that God will make everything right (in the end.) So I ask you: am I really apathetic because I do not care that much who is in charge or what the maddened crowds are screaming about, or am I patiently waiting for God to act as he sees fit?

My answer to you is that I am trusting in God to make things right in the end. I don’t care that much for the news, which is always sad, designed to evoke emotions of fright and concern, and is untrustworthy. I don’t care who the President is, why or how he or she got there, and what they want to do. The United States government is not a race horse, and the worst thing that any President has done is to leave behind the programs he wanted to get done for the next President to sort out.

No…I am not apathetic, I am faithful. Faithfully waiting on the Lord to make things right; faithfully hoping in God that I will be rescued from the tsouris we are all experiencing in the world, and faithfully looking forward to the day when I will be in his presence.

I respect those who are advocates and trying to make a change for the better, and do not deny their tremendous value in our society.

I just ain’t one of ’em.