Every Family Has One.

Every family has one, and that “one” I am talking about is the “Black Sheep”; the one member of the family that has wandered off, done wrong and as a result has ostracized himself (or herself) from their family.

Today’s message is based on an event that recently happened to a family I have known for a long time.

If you prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

From this large family, one brother had lied, cheated and even stole from his siblings, and abandoned the children he produced from different wives. After years of this type of behavior, he ultimately lost the trust and friendship of every one of his siblings, exes, and children. Essentially, he had used up his ability to mooch off his family. When that happened, he re-connected with a woman who had stalked him for many years (she also had her own issues) so that he was able to find the ultimate Meal Ticket. For nearly a decade no one in the family had heard from him.

This past week one of the family members was contacted by the police in the area where he was living to advise them that he had been found in his apartment, deceased.

Not one of the family wanted to claim the body, yet all were saddened by his passing. He died alone, he never married his partner who had died years before (he never let anyone know this), and they know almost nothing about his life for the past 10 years.

I want to quote just the first 4 verses from David’s Psalm 36 (CJB):

For the leader. By David, the servant of ADONAI: Crime speaks to the wicked. I perceive this in my heart; before his eyes there is no fear of God. For, the way he sees it, crime makes his life easy that is, until his wrongs are discovered; then, he is hated.  His words are wrong and deceitful; he has stopped being wise and doing good. He devises trouble as he lies in bed; so set is he on his own bad way that he doesn’t hate evil.

This morning when I read this psalm, I thought of this man. A man who had been a friendly, sweet and gregarious person as a youth, but who somewhere had turned from that path. He became solitary, self-centered, irresponsible, and so lazy that he believed everyone else in the world was responsible to make sure he got whatever it was he wanted. And if that meant to cheat, lie or even steal from them, that was OK. His moral compass wasn’t pointing in the right direction; in truth, he had no morals at all. He had given in to evil and subsequently ostracized himself from his entire family, all of whom loved him.

They wondered how he could have done this to himself, as well as how he could have done this to them. He was such a fine brother at first, but he changed.

Do you remember what Adonai (God) warned Cain about in Genesis  4:7? He said:

If you are doing what is good, shouldn’t you hold your head high? And if you don’t do what is good, sin is crouching at the door – it wants you, but you can rule over it.”

 

The reason I am sharing this story with you today is that this could be about any one of us! Sin is always there, like a stalking lion, and it takes very little to turn from the path of righteousness. The world is an evil and cursed place, where sinfulness is not just accepted, but expected! It is so easy to do evil, and so hard to do what is right, and once we choose to do evil it becomes easier to do more evil.

Yes, Virginia- there is a Dark Side.

But we can overcome the darkness with the light of the Lord, the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) which we can receive simply by asking for it, with an open and humble heart that wants to do good and be obedient to the Lord. Accepting Yeshua (Jesus) as the true Messiah God promised to send, we can then find forgiveness for sin and be led by God’s own spirit.

But there is a catch. Before we can receive forgiveness through Messiah Yeshua, and before we can receive the Holy Spirit, we first have to do something: we have to repent. And not just for what we have done, but for all time- we have to do T’shuvah (turn from evil ) and only desire to do only what is right.

To be saved from yourself, you must choose to want to do good: not good as the world sees good, but good according to God.

What does God see as good? It’s simple- love God and love each other. When we truly love someone more than we love ourself, we will do for that person what we would like them to do for us. The “Golden Rule” is a great start, but we need more than that. There also has to be obedience to God’s word, the instructions he gave us in the Torah which define what he sees as “good.” Yeshua said no one is good but God (Luke 18:19), and God tells us many times throughout the Tanakh (Old Covenant) that we should be holy as he is holy; for me, this means that even though God is the only one that is truly “good”, he wants us to emulate him as best as we can.

There will be more for this family of the “black sheep” brother to suffer through. They need to decide how to dispose of the remains, to find out if he even has an estate, and if so what to do if that estate is worth trying to salvage from being escheated to the State he lived in. Someone will have to go through his possessions, and it will be very hard because of all the remorse they feel. There is remorse over the fact that that he did not change his ways and return, as with the Prodigal Son; remorse that he died all alone; and, I am sure some (if not all) feel remorse that they didn’t do more to intercede in order to put him on the right path. I am sure they feel they shouldn’t have lost contact, that despite what he did and what he was they should have at least kept in touch, somehow.

I can tell you that if it were up to me, I would tell them they did all they could. I know that each sibling was lied to and cheated, and some were outrightly robbed. He chose to be that way, and there was nothing more they could have done- it wasn’t anyone’s fault but his own that he ended up that way. Despite our best efforts, we can’t change people. The best we can do is try not to be hurt by them, and let them know that we are always there for them when they want to repent.

I know for a fact from my personal contact with this family that each sibling wanted him back in the family, and I believe their brother knew that.

I pray that by sharing this sad story we can all remember and be aware of how easy it is for anyone to fall from grace. And once we have fallen, it is very, VERY hard to get back on the path of righteousness. Even with friends and family that love you, when you constantly misuse that love you will end up cutting yourself off from what could be the best chance you have to be saved from eternal damnation.

Perhaps, in the last minutes of his life, this poor soul was able to repent and ask forgiveness. We can only hope that he did so- no one knows what the last moments of life are like, and perhaps God, who is so understanding and desiring to forgive, gives us all one last chance. That is a wonderful thought.

Personally, I don’t think that’s how it is so I will do everything I can to stay on the right path! If you know someone who is a “Black Sheep”, try to keep in touch with him or her. Don’t allow them to separate themselves from your life; you never know- they may choose to repent. And for someone trying to get up out of the pit, it really helps to know there is someone’s hand reaching out to grab hold of yours and help pull you up.

Thank you for being here, please do not hesitate to comment (just be nice) and share this story out to others, and please subscribe to this website and to my YouTube channel, as well.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

PS: Please pray for this family to forgive this man so they can have peace in their heart.

Passover Message 2018

If you would prefer to watch a video, click on this link: Watch the video.

 

Chag Sameach!! Pesach Tov! Shabbat Shalom!

These are the greetings we will be giving to each other this evening because Passover (Pesach) starts at sundown, and this year (2018) so does Shabbat. Our preparations are twice as important today: not only do we prepare for Shabbat but we also prepare for Pesach.

For those people who keep their home Kosher according to Talmudic (also called Rabbinic) tradition, the plates might be the special, once-a-year Pesach servings. The house will not just be cleaned of dirt and dust, but also everything with any form of leavening in it. The Orthodox will even have the Rabbi confirm this and give them a certificate to state their house is “clean.” The removed foods will be given to the (Gentile) poor.

The Seder plate will be set: we will need chicken (the traditional meat for the Seder since we cannot sacrifice a lamb), a roasted egg, charoset (an apple, walnut, honey and wine mixture), matzo (lotsa matzo!), wine that has been approved as Kosher for Pesach, horse radish, parsley and salt-water. A lamb shank bone is also needed.  All of these food items are part of the Seder, which we celebrate with the reading of the Haggadah.  That is the Passover story, taken from Exodus 12, and as we read from the Haggadah we sample the foods and remember the bitterness of their slavery as we taste of their bitter tears when we dip the parsley in the salt water and eat it. In the middle of the story, just after they’ plagues are recited, we eat the Passover meal. After dinner the children look for the Afikomen (a hidden piece of matzo) so that we can then have desert and complete the reading of the Haggadah.

All told, it is more than a meal- it is an experience.

Over the past twenty years or so Donna and I have shared our Seder with different friends each year, trying to invite those friends who have never experienced a Seder. We use a Messianic Haggadah so that our Gentile friends can see where Yeshua (Jesus) fits into the Seder. It is surprising (I should say, disappointing) that so many of our Gentile friends have no idea that this Seder was what they know as the Last Supper. Their Christian training has done nothing to help them understand their connection to Judaism.

I want to leave you with this interesting thought: did you know that even though Yeshua is called the Passover Lamb because he died for our sins, the real Passover lamb was NOT a sin sacrifice? It was a peace offering, also called a Thanksgiving sacrifice. However, the Yom Kippur sacrifice (which was a goat, not a lamb) is a sin sacrifice. So Yeshua really was a Yom Kippur sacrifice but he performed that function on Passover. Do you know why?

I don’t! But…I do know that because we are cleansed of our sin by Yeshua’s sacrifice we can then come into the presence of God. What Yeshua did was actually perform two sacrificial functions at one time: he made it possible for us to be cleansed of sin which allows us to come into the presence of God and share our thanksgiving meal with him.

If you are having a Seder tonight then may God’s blessing be on you and all with you.

If you are enjoying an Easter ham this Sunday, well…I wish God’s blessings on you if your heart is for Messiah and God, but please consider this: you will be eating something that the person you are celebrating would find to be an abomination on his table.

I will end today’s message with the phrase that concludes every Seder:

לשנה הבאה ב’רושל’ם

(Lashanah haba’ah bi Yerushalayim)

Next year in Jerusalem! 

A Friend in Need….

I am certainly blessed to have friends that I have been close with for many years. Some date back to my childhood, as far back as elementary school.

One of these friends is a quiet, private person who takes on many things without sharing or even thinking of calling, just to blow off some steam or have a friendly ear to listen to his problems. He is solitary and sometimes a little self-absorbed: not in an egotistical or narcissistic way, but in that he will force himself to take on responsibilities and do too much for caring for family, and he does this at the expense of his time for friends.

The reason I am sharing this with you is because as Believers, we will often have people in our lives that ignore us because of what we believe, and will change conversations with us because they are uncomfortable with talking about God and salvation. Even if we are just blowing off steam, kvetching about the world from our viewpoint, and only want them to lend an ear. And when they do that, or when (like with my friend) they do not tell us things that are going on in their life, we feel sort of insulted. Not really insulted …how do I put it? I guess we feel unimportant in their life. Yes, that is how I feel when he doesn’t even call me to let me know that a close family member passed away.  In this specific case, more than one.

So, although he says it isn’t anything personal, and I believe absolutely in his mind he never thought to purposefully leave me out of his life, I still felt left out. Did it bother me? Yes. Will it affect my friendship? No.

Why? Because a friend in need is a friend indeed, even when that friend doesn’t want to recognize that he (or she) is in need. My friend needs me to be there in case anything happens where he does need to reach out to someone. I need to be there for him whether he wants me to be or not because that is how I show my love for him. And whether or not he loves me as much as I love him (I am taking brotherly) doesn’t matter, and (frankly) shouldn’t matter. Loving and friendship is great when it is reciprocal, but it is godly when it is not reciprocal. I am not talking about unrequited love, but about the difference in a relationship where two people are friends but one seems to be the giver and one is the taker. I have friendships like that, and they aren’t completely one-sided, but it feels often like I am the one” chasing them down” to stay in touch.

I have asked one or two if they still want to be friends, and they have said they do, so I still do most of the  work to stay in touch. And that is why these friendships are so dear to me- they help me to see God’s side of relationships. Many, in fact most, people reject God, His word, His commandments and even those that are “religious” have turned their back on God and Messiah simply because they go through the motions without the emotions. Yet God loves every one of them. He is the ultimate example of unrequited love, which we learn when we read the bible.  God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to die so we have a chance to live, and He did that not because we were sinless, but because we can’t stop sinning! Think of that…would you die for someone who acts as though he or she doesn’t care if you are alive or not?

The best way to show the love of God is to love like God- without requiring that the other person love you back, or pay for the next meal, or even return your calls. I am not talking about the ones that take advantage of you or the ones that do not want you to be part of their life and have said so. I am talking about those people you know, friends and family, who are still interested in having a relationship with you but make it really hard to get together. They are the ones who are always busy doing something (I often think they are so busy doing things so that they don’t have to face up to things), or rarely return calls or emails, or just “disappear” sometimes.

These are the ones who need us the most, even though they don’t know it. Because one day they will find themselves with nowhere to go, and no one else will still be putting up with the “I’ve got too much I am dealing with right now” excuse to be there for them anymore. That’s why we need to always be there, just as God is always there for them, too.

If you truly know the love and forgiveness of God, then you have to show it to others. That’s how it works.

Glitter Ash Wednesday- really?

There was an article in our Florida Today newspaper the other day about churches adding purple glitter to the ashes for use on Ash Wednesday. Why? To show support for LGBT Christians.

LGBT Christians- that sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? According to the word of God, homosexuality and cross-dressing is an abomination.

Now, don’t go flying off the handle at me if you are an LGBT person- I am NOT homophobic: I have family members and friends who are Lesbian and Gay, and I love them, accept what they are doing as their choice (note that I say accept what they do as their choice, not that I accept what they do) and I have nothing against anyone who has that type of sexual preference. I just agree with God that it is not right.

Actually, because God sees any and all sin as sin, homosexuality is no different than lying, murder, adultery, etc., right? So, if we are going to show support for LGBT Christians (and the Jews are no different in this- there are relatively as many LGBT synagogues as there as churches), why not support murderers, rapists, child molesters, crooks, adulterers, embezzlers, and all people who perform any one of the plethora of sinful activities that humans do to each other?

What I believe is this: churches and synagogues should not demonstrate any kind of support for any sinful activity. For me, to add glitter to ashes to show support for homosexuality is no different than throwing those ashes back in God’s face and telling Him that what He says we should do is less important to us than what the world says we should do.

The two greatest commandments are to love God and love each other- it should be in that order! When we do things to be “politically correct” instead of to follow God’s commandments, we have already taken the first step to accepting the mark of the Beast. That’s right- when you start to act in ways that honor the opinion of this fallen and sinful world instead of standing against it and acting the way God said we should, then you have bowed to the enemy of God and are rebelling against the Almighty.

If you don’t like the sound of that- tough! The truth is there is no middle of the road with God: you are with Him or against Him, there is only black or white, evil or good, with no in-between. Again, if you don’t like that, tough luck, Buddy- that’s the way it is!

So if you do Ash Wednesday and your church has added glitter to some of the ashes, I suggest you find another church because when Yeshua returns, that place is going to be in trouble. The leadership of any church or synagogue that is openly accepting of any sinful activity is leading you away from proper worship of God and will be marked for destruction.

Strong words, I know, but I am for God and not for the world. To paraphrase a godly and righteous man, “As for me, I will serve the Lord ” (Joshua 24:15), and if that means any of my friends or family members will no longer have anything to do with me because I reject some of their lifestyle choices, then so be it (although I know that won’t happen because we have been through this already, and we respect each other’s right to an opinion, and we love each other even when we disagree- that is the correct way we serve God.)

No one who worships God is perfect;  we are all sinners who continue to sin. The real issue isn’t what that sin is, but whether or not we are repentant of it and wish to overcome it. I believe that is what separates the sinners who are forgiven from the sinners who aren’t forgiven- the ones who ask for forgiveness receive it. That is the simple and direct  way God works. If you are sinning (any sin) and you repent of it, then clearly you would not want to do that sin anymore because when we sin, it hurts God. Yes, it does- when you see someone you care for doing something that is hurtful to themself, don’t you feel bad?

If not, you’ve got bigger problems than I can help you with!

So, then, when God sees us hurting ourselves by rejecting His rules and commandments (which provide immortality and eternal joy), He is hurting, too. God is a better parent than any human could ever be, so if we are hurt seeing loved ones suffer, imagine how much more painful it must be to God to see us (literally and spiritually) killing ourselves.

Let me bring this down to a simple statement: if your place of worship supports sinfulness, leave it! If you don’t then you are the blind man being led by another blind man, and you will both fall into a hole (that leads directly to Sheol.)

 

Here we go, again

It’s 2017, and most of the world is starting a new year. Resolutions to make (then break), hope for a better future (while reviewing the past) and a sense of foreboding as we begin a new journey into an unknown future.

Except for those who believe in God. We trust Him to protect us and look forward to His return. For us, all we should consider with regards to the new year is that we are that much closer to seeing God’s kingdom on Earth become a reality. We should not be afraid of the future, and should not dwell on the past.

Yeshua said that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks behind them is not fit for the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62), so let’s let the old year be a memory and not a memorial, and look to the future with a trusting faithfulness that God is in charge, so no matter what comes our way we can handle it.

And what we can’t handle, God can.

With the passing of the “holiday season” we also see (hopefully) the passing of the “holiday blues”, the condition that causes many people to feel saddened and depressed during the holidays. With all the celebratory advertising- happy families loving and caring for each other, kids getting more presents than anyone should have, husbands buying cars for their wives (really? What average American does that?) and everyone being happy, in love, and sharing wonderful things with each other- it’s no wonder anyone who is single without a special someone, or someone far away from family, or families that are normal (meaning dysfunctional) become depressed seeing all that they want everywhere else but in their life.

These are the people who need God the most. We are supposed to be a light in the darkness, which is a very hard thing to be because, in truth, we all need to strengthen our faithfulness. We all need to work hard to overcome the sadness all around us. It is like working at the fish market: even if you aren’t handling the fish, just being around them all day makes you stink like fish when you get home.

God gave us the Torah to sanctify us, to make us holy (meaning separated from the world), yet Yeshua (Jesus) tells us we are to go out into the world to make Disciples.  How do we work in the fish market and not come home smelling like fish?

The answer is that we wash ourselves every day with the cleansing of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit. Yeshua’s blood cleansed us of our sins, and the Holy Spirit can cleanse us of the stench of the cursed and fallen world whenever we read His word, whenever we are blessed for obeying a commandment, and whenever we commune with God and others who are like-Believers.

If you haven’t yet come home stinking of fish, let this year be the one where you do. If you haven’t yet done so, it’s time to go to the fish market and become fishers of men, find the darkness and bring the light of Messiah into it, and when you get home, read the Word, pray, join with others in a spiritual mikvah that will cleanse the stench of the world off of you make you smell like baby oil.

Or, better yet, you will smell like anointing oil.

I pray that you all have a better year in 2017 than you did in 2016, and that you look forward to seeing what God has planned for you. Forget about who’s the President, forget about your job issues, forget about the economy, don’t give the global warming issue another thought- just go forth trusting in God and knowing that all His plans for you are for your good. Look for the blessing in the Tsouris, find the peace the Ruach gives in the midst of suffering, and be comforted by the knowledge that this will all be forgotten and totally unimportant when you are basking in the light of God’s presence, for all eternity.

Now that’s what I call a good way to start the year.

Parashah Chaiyei Sarah (the Life of Sarah) Genesis 23-25

The end of the beginning, and the beginning of the promise happen in this Parashah. Abraham and Sarah, the beginning of the Jewish faith, both die in this parashah, and between the passing of Sarah and Abraham, Isaac is married to Rivkah (Rebekah) and it is through his progeny that we have the founding of both the 12 tribes of Israel and also the nations of the Arab people (In Gen. 25:23 God tells Rebakah she has two nations in her womb.)

The burial cave of Abraham is in Hebron, a very dangerous place for Jews to visit as the majority of Hebron is Arab controlled, with a few Jewish settlements. I have been told by people who have made multiple visits to Israel that, as sad as it is, a place so important to Judaism is so dangerous to see that most Jews going to Israel will not be able to visit it.

The Chumash (a “Chumash” is a commentary of the 5 books of Moses, the Torah, as well as the Haftarah readings.  The one I have is the Soncino edition, and was a present from my Reform Temple when I had my Bar Mitzvah) states that when Sarah died the blessings and pious customs of the Patriarch stopped, and were not re-initiated until Rebekah came into the tent. This is understandable because the wife is the one in charge of the household. The Father is the leader of the family, but the wife is, traditionally, the one who runs the house.

Here is an excerpt from the chabad.org website which describes the role of the Jewish wife (I bold printed explanations I have added):

She has been entrusted with, and is completely in charge of, the kashrut (ceremonial cleanliness) of the foods and beverages that come into her kitchen and appear on the dining table. She has been given the privilege of ushering in the holy Shabbat by lighting the candles on Friday, in ample time before sunset. Thus she actually and symbolically brightens up her home with peace and harmony and with the light of Torah and mitzvot (laws, as well as good deeds). It is largely in her merits that G-d (many Jews will not misuse God’s name, even in the spelling of it) bestows the blessing of true happiness on her husband and children and the entire household. This is the great task and mission which G–d gave to Jewish women – to observe and disseminate the observance of Taharat Hamishpachah (Laws of the Family) and of the other vital institutions of Jewish family life. For besides being the fundamental mitzvot and the cornerstone of the sanctity of Jewish family life, as well as relating to the well-being of the children in body and soul, these pervade and extend through all Jewish generations to eternity.

Too often we hear people tell of the misogyny of the bible, but in truth both in the New and Old Covenants, woman are respected and honored. The problem people have with the bible is the separation of the roles of men and women. That would be, in my opinion, like saying (I really don’t like sports analogies, but have to admit they often work really well) the pitcher of a baseball team should also play in the outfield, and the catcher should be allowed to pitch. If you are not familiar with baseball, this is a ridiculous thought, since each of these positions are unique in the skills needed. True, there may be someone talented enough to pitch well and play the outfield, but you can’t do both at the same time, or do both interchangeably and do each one well. The wife has her role, the husband his role, and when they work together they can achieve something impossible to achieve when everyone does the same thing- that is called synergy.  Synergy is defined as when the total is greater than the sum of its parts.

In my world, the world of technology, we need to have anti-virus programs to protect our data. However, if you have two anti-virus programs running simultaneously (both checking every single data stream, both reading through every file for something unusual, both tracking and dissecting every attempt to read or change anything on the hard drive), instead of having twice the efficiency, what happens is that you can’t get anything done! The computer resources are so over-worked that even opening a web site takes longer, editing a Word document takes a lifetime, and you end up with less productivity than if you had no anti-virus running at all. Now, if you have an anti-virus program and you supplement it with an anti-malware program, which doesn’t interfere with the anti-virus but adds to its effectiveness by checking things the anti-virus doesn’t, now you have a synergistic effect.

This is what we want in the Jewish home. Actually, in every home there should be the proper separation of roles that husband and wife play so they can show their children how well people can get along when they are different, have different things that they do, and work together as a team.

When Sarah died, a very important team member of the family was missing, so that role, that position on the field (so to speak), was left unoccupied. When Rivkah (Rebekah) joined the family (in Hebrew, family is “Mishpachah”) that role was again filled. Hence, the blessings that the wife provides within the family unit returned to Isaac and Abraham.

This is what is so wonderful about the bible- you read about Sarah dying and with the appropriate commentary and understanding of the cultural and historical context, you receive a message that is not directly given in the text. We read about Sarah’s death and then Isaac took his new wife into his mother’s tent, indicating that Rebekah took over the role of Sarah, and with that the family was once again made whole and the blessings available that are based on the role of the wife returned to the Patriarch.

How do you distribute the responsibilities in your home? Are they seen as a burden or as a blessing?  Does the husband help the wife and the wife help the husband, or do you both just do what you want to do? I clean the dishes because Donna usually does the cooking, and since I will be retiring at the end of this year I will be able to cook more often and when I do, Donna will clean up. Donna does most of the outside gardening, and I do most of the heavy lifting and work in the yard. We know that we each have our own duties to perform as a team, which doesn’t mean we always do the same things but that we do what we each need to do and work together to accomplish getting everything done; we each work within our best skill sets. It may not be “perfectly biblical” with regards to what we each do, but it is biblical in that we each have our own role to play and we are responsible to do what we are supposed to do for , as well as with, each other.

Don’t let the world’s view rule your life. The world says that everyone should be the same, everyone gets the same treatment, and that everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want to: C’mon, let’s get real!- having the right to do whatever you want to do doesn’t mean you have the ability.  The truth is that we are all different, blessed with talents that are meant to serve the Lord (not ourselves) and when we use the gifts God gave us to serve Him and each other, then we will live such a blessed existence that heaven will almost appear to be anti-climatic!

Treat each other with respect, work together to achieve synergy, do what you are supposed to do before you worry about what the other person is supposed to do, and if that person needs help, then help. Teamwork is not doing something for someone else, it is doing what you are supposed to do and then, if the other person needs help, supplementing their duties. That is how you achieve synergy, and I believe God wants us to be synergistic in our relationships with each other and with Him.

 

Know when to hold ’em; know when to fold ’em

I read Dear Amy this morning. As I have often mentioned, Dear Abby and Dear Amy provide wonderful fodder for this ministry because the people that write to them are so lost and confused about the relationships in their life, and almost never do I read a letter from a Believing person asking for advice. Maybe, just maybe, that’s because we have a better adviser to ask.

In any event, the letter this morning had to do with someone whose friend is emotionally unstable and despite being close for many years, the writer is concerned about her own health and how dealing with her friend is draining her. She wants to know how to break away without totally closing her friend out.

I feel the same way, often, about family and friends who are not Believers, who desperately need God in their lives, and whom I try to tell about God and about the wonderful peace I receive from knowing Him and having the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit) in my life (despite the sad truth that I often fail to show this peacefulness, I DO have it.)

I try to tell people of God, I bring him up in conversation, even with clients (which is not always appropriate so I am very careful in how I do that) and I throw out my line with a little bait to see what I can catch.

What I do is simply add to the conversation something from the Bible, but I won’t say “The lord tells us this or that”; instead, I will lead off with, “I read this in a really good book about relationships, and the book said…..”. If they ask me the name of the book, then they have taken the bait. After I tell them it’s the Bible, and it was said by (whomever), I will follow up with , “Have you ever read the bible?”

This is an example of how I bring God into the conversation, slowly, deliberately, and with an open-ended aim: all I want to do is plant a seed. That is what the aim of today’s message is about: we need to plant a seed, we need to know when we can “hold ’em” (keep going on with the conversation) and know when to “fold ’em” (let it go if they don’t want to discuss it.)

People don’t like having something jammed down their throats, especially something as exotic tasting as spiritual things. They don’t want to hear that they are wrong in what they say and do, and that most everyone they know (friends, family and acquaintances) have all steered them in the wrong direction. Remember the old adage: birds of a feather flock together. That means people who aren’t “saved” won’t be hanging around with Believers. So, when we start to tell them about God, about the Torah and Yeshua, and what it means to be saved, and what it takes to stay saved, they are hearing the kind of stuff they have been ignoring their whole life.

And they don’t really want to hear it.

It is up to us to be patient, to understand what they are going through. I think the fact that so many Believers have been raised that way, or accepted Messiah at a young age, could make them poor missionaries simply because they can’t relate to what the people are going through when they hear the Good News.  I know what it is like to have people preach the Good News to me before I was saved by it- it was annoying. Because I spent so many years on the “outside”, I know when to hold and when to fold. And because I remember what it was like, I have the patience to allow them to accept what they will and reject what they need to.

And, yes- they NEED to reject what we tell them because if they don’t, they have to admit they have been lied to by everyone they have ever trusted and admired their whole life.

What we need to do is allow them the time they need to process that the people who have misled them have done so innocently, because they, too, were misled by those they trusted and admired. The incorrect teaching of the “Church” goes all the way back to Constantine in the Third Century CE. It’s been going on for quite a while.

When you talk to people about God, remember to say little and watch very, very carefully their response. You need to play your hand well, to watch what they discard and what they pick up, and (ultimately) when to call and when to fold.

Missionary work is not spiritual- it is sales. You have to ask what they feel they are missing, listen to what they think they want and make sure you only tell them what they need to hear, and it all starts with listening. Too often people go out there and just talk talk talk about God, without letting the other person tell them what they feel they need.

David says, in Psalm 38, that we should “taste and see that the Lord is good“; well, when you have something rammed down your throat you don’t get a chance to taste it. We need to let them savor the flavor of salvation, let them smell the steak sizzling on the grill, smell the bread fresh from the oven, let the aroma of peace and joy fill their nostrils to the point where they want more.

And when they ask, that’s the time we can, bite by bite, let them taste more of the Lord.

Most people will not make a leap of faith- they won’t go “all in” right away. They will make small bets, watch their cards and be very wary of the other players.  We need to deal honestly with them (pun intended) and go at their pace, not ours.

Offer, wait, watch, listen, and most important of all, be patient- those are tools you need in your creel when you go fishing for people. Also, know when to cut the line and re-bait your hook.

It’s not how big the fish is, but how many you end up catching.

 

Parashah Acarey Mot (After the death) Leviticus 16 – 18

After the death, as in, after the death of Aaron’s two sons, who came before the Lord with unknown fire, drunk and ambitious. They learned the hard way you shouldn’t “Drink and Daven!”

Chapter 16 deals with the preparation and ceremonies for Yom Kippur, specifically regarding the preparations and duties of the High Priest (Cohen HaGadol.) The other chapters deal with slaying of animals and improper relationships, specifically improper sexual relationships.

From Chapter 18 to the end of Leviticus must be read to understand the origins of all that Yeshua taught us. These chapters deal with relationships between each other, which (ultimately) affect our relationship with God, and cover both familial and social relationships.

Chapter 16 teaches us that we must prepare ourselves before coming to God by cleansing our own sin, and the sin within our household. Many, if not most, Believing families aren’t composed of generations of Believers on both sides, so (in reality) I feel safe in saying that we all have close family members and friends that do not share our beliefs. Maybe they go to church or synagogue every week, and observe their holidays, but they haven’t really accepted Yeshua as their Messiah or really done T’shuvah. Although we must clean ourselves of sin, we can’t just destroy every relationship we have with an unbelieving person; in fact, we should not disown them because they are living in darkness and we are supposed to be the light for them.

We can ‘clean our house’ by not condoning or enabling sin. If we have a child that rejects God, when in your house he or she must not blaspheme or insult God, and the rules you live by as a God-fearing person must be obeyed by everyone in your house. What someone does on their own, outside of your home, is their business; but, if they live in your house, while they are there they will honor your beliefs and not sin.

You want to do drugs, fornicate, drink to excess?  Go somewhere else to do it, and I refuse to help. If you get stuck somewhere, find your own way home. When you are in this house I will treat you well, but if you leave it to sin then find your own way back or sleep on the street.

This isn’t mamby-pampy love; if you are the type of parent who says about your child, “Not my Baby! My Baby is a good boy/girl” as the cops drag them away, you need to clean your house! Actually, you need to wake up and clean the sin out of your own heart!

Yeshua tells us, clearly, that family can get in the way of having a clean heart and house:

Luke 9:62-“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.

Luke 14:26- “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”

Matthew 10:34-37- Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—36   a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

These are tough lessons for us, but necessary ones.

Look, I’m not telling you to divorce your spouse and kick your child out into the streets, then quit your job, tell all your non-Believing friends to hit the road and ask the Pastor if you can sleep in the sanctuary from now on. What I am saying is that you need to recognize the sin in yourself and your “house”, meaning the relationships in your life, whether they are intimate, familial or public and keep them as clean as you can. Do not sin, hate the sin but love the sinner, and make sure that everyone you know knows where you stand, which is on God’s side.

Joshua told the Israelites that he and his family will serve the Lord. Can you say the same thing? Maybe you can’t because not all of your family are saved, but you can keep your house clean by being the example that God wants you to be and not enabling or condoning sinfulness.

I lost my children to their mother’s unforgiveness, hatred and spite because I refused to allow my children (whether I was visiting them or they were visiting me) to do what was wrong, to be disrespectful to adults or God, and to act sinfully. Their mother didn’t care, and that didn’t make it any easier for me. I lost my children because of what she has done, and also because of what I did. But I know that what I did was right in God’s eyes, and although it hurts today (and always will) I can suffer with the loss because I want to be what God says we should be. I pray that one day God will send angels to show my children the truth and we will be reconciled, to each other and to God, so that we can be Mishpocha (family) centered on Adonai.

Being right is never easy and, since the world is wrong, being right also means being separated from the world.

You know what? Being holy also means to be separated from the world, so although it is tough, often lonely, usually persecuted one way or another, being holy is what we are supposed to be, and these chapters in Leviticus, from 18 to the end, tell us how to be holy.

If you think that the Old Covenant is not needed anymore because Yeshua is all we need, think again- these next chapters are, essentially, the main lessons that Yeshua taught.

John said that the Word became flesh- the only “word” was Torah, and the flesh it became is Yeshua. So, if Yeshua, being the Living Torah, is still alive then Torah is still alive.

Think about that the next time someone says the Old Covenant is only for Jews.

 

Love is a Muscle

Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lou Ferrigno. Steve Reeves (you have to be in my age group to remember him.)

When we think of those names we think of one thing- muscles! Big, well-developed muscles.

They got those muscles through hard work, dedication and sacrifice. And after all that work, after all that strenuous activity, hours upon hours in the gym, proper diet, and loss of personal time with friends and family, if they don’t keep at it, those muscles get weak and flabby.

No, muscle doesn’t turn into fat- totally different things, but they do get flabby and weaken. Muscles need to be worked constantly to remain strong.

We all know that the heart is a muscle, but love is only a feeling right? Is it? Most people would say that love is an emotional thing, not a physical thing; however, if you have ever been in love you know that it can affect you physically.

I submit that love is a muscle. You know that old saying, don’t you? The one that goes:

“If it looks like a duck, and it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it must be a duck.”

Love has a physical effect, love is something we feel and experience; when we are unloved, it hurts and when we are loved, it is better than the best adrenalin or endorphin high any athlete can experience. Love acts like a muscle, it works like a muscle, it hurts like a muscle, and it grows like a muscle. Sounds to me like it’s a muscle.

Love needs to be nurtured and it needs to be constantly worked at. It takes sacrifice, it takes hard work, it takes humility, it takes compassion. It takes as much work as any physical effort you would make to build any other muscle in your body.

And like the muscles you get when you work out steadily, you need to keep at it to maintain what you have gotten. I am no muscle-man by any stretch of the imagination (although I do have a pretty nice set of guns for an old fart) and I work twice as hard at just maintaining what I have as I ever did building it up. I also work just as hard, if not harder, to maintain the love I feel for Donna (my wife) and my family and friends. I don’t do social media because I believe that is more like broadcasting than committed communication. I call and email people one-to-one to demonstrate that I am willing to take the time to be with them, and them alone.

Today everything is cocooned- yes, FaceBook, Twitter, etc. have made socializing easier, but is it the right kind of socializing? Is it really intimate? Is it really one-on-one? Does it take effort? These technological forms of communication have taken something very valuable out of communication- it has taken away the love. It has taken away the intimacy of talking to someone and replaced it with the cold, unemotional and unattached simplicity of just posting something on a bulletin board for any and all to see. In other words, it takes no effort and building love takes effort.

Love needs to be personal. How can it not be? Love for one’s fellow man (or woman), love of art, love of nature- these are all good, but impersonal.

There are so many passages in the Bible about love I won’t even put one here, except the most important one- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your might.

See? Didn’t I tell you that love is a muscle? God tells us to love Him with all our might and you need muscles to be strong.

The message today is really simple- we are commanded to love God and to love each other- this takes a lot to do. We are, by nature, self-centered, self-absorbed and selfish. We are sinful and hedonistic. We can overcome our Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclinations) with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) leading us if we follow what it says, and if we exercise our love.

I am not one to talk. I am saying do as I say (actually, do as He says) and not as I do. I try to do what pleases God and fail many times. And when I do something good, I revert back. If backsliding was an Olympic sport I would hold many gold medals. But I keep trying, and that is what we all need to do. To run the good race, to keep our eyes on the prize, to build muscles of love and not let them get flabby.

The V’ahavta prayer (Deuteronomy 6:5-9) tells us to love God, and remember His commandments, to speak of them when we arise and when we sleep. I do. I also make sure that when I arise I tell my wife, Donna, that I love her. And when we go to sleep, I tell her that I love her. And I tell her that I love her as often as the feeling hits during the day (and it hits a lot.) I also remember to tell my sisters Wendy and Gayle that I love them. I would tell my children, Alexandra and Bryce, that I love them (if they would talk to me.) I do this not just because I do love them, but it is also how I exercise my love. It’s how I keep it strong.

You really want to build up a sweat exercising your love? Tell your spouse how much you love them next time you are in the middle of an argument! Yes, right there in between the “You always” and the “Why don’t you ever”  statements say, “You know, despite all this I love you and I am so thankful we are married. Even though I am pissed right now, I am still very much in love with you and never want to be with anyone else. Ever.”

Then go back to arguing… if you can.

Love is really strong when you exercise it regularly, and it has the strength to knock out anger and hatred in one punch. Wouldn’t you like to be that strong?

 

 

Who is a Jew?

I have always heard that Judaism is passed down through the mother’s bloodlines, but the bible lineages are always patriarchal.

I have heard that if you are born with Jewish parents you are Jewish, but there are so many people I know who call themselves Jewish just because they found out they have some Jewish ancestors.

The bible says that anyone who sojourns with the children of Israel is to be treated with the same rights and privileges as a native born Jew (this assumes they are living a Jewish lifestyle.)

Hey…wait a minute! Maybe we’re onto something there- maybe it isn’t only who your parents or ancestors were, or what religion they practiced, or (even for that matter) what religion you were brought up practicing. Maybe it’s your chosen lifestyle, or how you worship now, that defines what you are?

I always say that people don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do. So, if I am right (even a little bit), then being Jewish can be defined by how we worship and how we choose to live.

I was born Jewish, both my parents were Jewish, but they never lived like a Jew. And neither did I, for the first 44 or so years of my life. So was I a Jew? By birthright and family lineage, yes; however, by how I lived, no. I was born into Judaism but I was not living as a Jew should live.

If I had been born into a Christian home, to Christian parents and raised in a Christian way, I certainly would not have been considered a Jew. But what if I later adopted a Jewish lifestyle? What if I was being Torah observant, celebrating the holy days defined in Leviticus 23, eating as God said I should eat in Leviticus 11, and worshipping the Shabbat on Fridays and Saturdays?  Would that make me a Jew?

According to the bible, I would say it does. If you choose to be subject to the laws and regulations God gave us (His laws are for everyone, every one of them) then you would be allowed all the rights and privileges of any other child of Israel. In other words, you were a Jew.

Let me tell you this: since I have accepted Messiah Yeshua, I have never been more of a Jew, and am more Jewish now than most Jews I have ever known.

I say the question, “Who is a Jew?” should be answered by, “How do you live?” If you live like a Jewish person should live (Torah observant, worshipping God, celebrating the holy days outlined in the Torah) then you are a Jew.

If it looks like a duck, and it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it must be a duck. Right?

Those who are born Jewish and live a Torah observant lifestyle, and those who were not born into Judaism but have chosen to live a Torah observant lifestyle, are no different in God’s eyes- He is clear about that in the bible. So if it’s good enough for God, it should be good enough for us, too.

It all boils down to this (excuse me, Mr. Shakespeare): “To Torah, or not to Torah: that is the answer.”

God has no religion. He gave us the Torah, the teachings of how to live and worship Him. Remember Torah doesn’t mean ’law’, it means ‘teachings’ and what it teaches us is how God wants us to live our lives and worship Him. There is nothing in the bible anywhere, whether you look in the Old or the New, about how some religions must do these things and other religions must do those things. Everyone who wants to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob must do what the Torah says to do, and that is it.

It is only because we have so many different religions, all man-made, that the ones who live in accordance to the Torah are defined as “Jews” and the others are defined as “Gentiles.”

Another answer to the question, “Who is a Jew” could be, “Anyone who doesn’t reject the Torah.” If Torah defines us as a Jew, then anyone who rejects the Torah is not a Jew. Many who may be Jewish by birth, but don’t observe the Torah, are not really a Jew; at least, not as God sees it. They may be Jewish by birth, but they ain’t no Jew.

God knows what is in our hearts, and if the Torah is not important to someone, then they have rejected it. And if any religion teaches that the Torah is no longer valid or necessary, they have, by definition, rejected it. Reject the Torah and you reject the one who wrote it, and I don’t mean Moses!

If anyone asks me what makes a Jew a Jew, I will answer the Torah makes a Jew a Jew. In our prayers we say that we are sanctified by His word; we thank God for choosing us, out of all the nations, to give us His Torah. It is Torah that is the defining element that makes one a Jew, and anyone who worships and lives in accordance with the Torah is, as God defines it to be, a Jew.

Now that I have finally answered one of the most difficult theological questions in the world, don’t get all hung up about being Jewish or not being Jewish. It doesn’t matter what label you place on yourself because God doesn’t respect or really care about our silly labels. He sees the heart, He sees the way you live, how you treat others and how you worship Him.

Yeshua/Jesus is the Living Torah, and if you believe in Him you should be a living Torah, too. We see these cute little bracelets all over, WWJD, and the answer is, “Look in the Torah if you really want to know what J would D because that is who He was, and who He still is. And what He still expects of us.

If you want to be Jewish, then be Torah observant. It’s that simple.

And if you say you are Jewish by your standards because you have Jewish bloodlines, but you don’t live a Torah observant life, you are not Jewish by God’s standards.

And guess whose standards will count when you are before Him?