Parashah Vayikra 2020 (He called) Leviticus 1 – 5

I should start off wishing you all a Happy New Year for yesterday was the first day of Nisan (which used to be called Aviv) and is what God declared to be the first day of our year.

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We have come to the central book of the Torah. These first 5 chapters define the sacrificial system, starting with a description of the different types of sacrifice, followed by the specific procedures for the sins of an individual and for the sins of the community.

All that God has instructed us to do regarding sacrifice is not possible for us to do anymore, not since the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. The reason we had to do these sacrifices at the temple was because of God’s instructions, which were that we are not to sacrifice anywhere we want to, but only at the place where he puts his name (Deuteronomy 12:.13). 

Each type of sacrifice, whether for sin, for guilt, for thanksgiving or the wholly burnt sacrifice is described in minute detail. God even accounts for those who cannot afford the required animal, allowing for them to substitute a different animal, one they can afford to give. This idea of being allowed to provide a substitute is something that will eventually provide for our salvation, many years later.

Every detail of how to perform the sacrifice is given in these chapters, but what I believe to be the most important part of the entire process is not explained.

The sacrifice is more, much more than just the spilling of blood. The physical actions we do, i.e. bringing the animal, killing it, dividing it up, splashing the blood and burning it on the altar are just physical things. We read throughout the Tanakh how these were being done but were, in many cases, unacceptable to God. In fact, through the prophet Amos God said that he hated the sacrifices and songs we made unto him (Amos 5:21-23), so if God wants us to perform these sacrifices, but in some cases, he says that he hates them, what was different? What was missing?

What was missing is something that is still missing today in many churches and synagogues: genuine repentance.

Let me share with you what I believe the sacrificial system should entail:

  1. We must sin. After all, if we do not sin, there is no need for a sacrifice to gain forgiveness, so for the sacrificial system to work, we need to sin (not that I suggest you should sin, only that this system is designed for when you sin);
  2. We must recognize and confess that we sinned. In today’s reading we are told that when we sin, whether or not we know it, we are still guilty. But to be forgiven, we must recognize that we did commit a sin. Too many people are taught that what God says is sin isn’t really sin anymore because the times have changed, or because all those laws were done away with by Yeshua. That is a total lie, but that topic is not something which we will be covering today;
  3. We must repent of our sin. This is probably the most essential part of the entire process because we can recognize and even confess that we sinned, but if we aren’t sorry we did it, then there can be no forgiveness, no matter what we do. It is repentance, more than anything else, which God is looking for from us. Not just that we are sorry we sinned, but that we are sorry we failed to do as God said we should. Repentance is not just feeling sorry we did wrong, but feeling sorry that we disobeyed God because in our hearts we should want to be obedient children. And, for the record, feeling sorry because you were caught does not count as being repentant;
  4. We must present a sacrifice. This step of the process was to be done with one of the prescribed animals but has been replaced by Yeshua. This is what is meant by the term “He died for our sins”; Yeshua’s sacrifice did not remove the sacrificial system or the laws that created it, but simply replaced the need to bring an animal to the temple in Jerusalem. This is one of the most misunderstood truths about what Yeshua did as our Messiah. Nothing of the Torah was removed or done away with, only the need to bring an animal to the temple when asking for forgiveness. Every step of the process I am describing here is still valid and necessary if one is to ask God to forgive their sins. And now, the last step is;
  5. We must ask for forgiveness. I know that seems to be an obvious step, but it is the one step that everything else before it leads up to. Forgiveness is available, and not only is God willing to forgive, but he desires to forgive. God wants every sinner to turn from his sin and live (Ezekiel 18:23), but forgiveness is NOT automatic. God will not automatically forgive us, so if you have been taught that because of Yeshua all your sins are always forgiven, you will be very unpleasantly surprised when you come before the Lord on Judgment Day. There is no such thing as once forgiven, always forgiven.

The truth is that God will always forgive us when we confess our sins, are genuinely repentant and ask for forgiveness by calling on the name of Yeshua, whose sacrifice was made as an eternal substitution for the animal we must bring to the temple.

Yeshua’s blood is the substitution for the blood of the sacrifice we are supposed to supply. It was never supposed to be our own blood, but the blood of an innocent. While the temple existed, that blood was supplied by a sacrificed animal and had to be performed for each and every sin we committed. Because of Yeshua, we do not have to bring an animal to the temple in Jerusalem.

That is why God sent the Messiah.

Throughout the Bible, we are told, over and over, that God knows our hearts and our minds, and whereas in today’s reading he outlines the physical steps of the sacrificial system, what really matters to him is not what we do, but why we do it.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!

The Sin Yeshua Refused to Forgive

Do you recall the story about the adulteress brought before Yeshua? You can find it in John 8:3-11 (CJB):

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The Torah-teachers and the P’rushim brought in a woman who had been caught committing adultery and made her stand in the center of the group.  Then they said to him, “Rabbi, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.  Now in our Torah, Moshe commanded that such a woman be stoned to death. What do you say about it?”  They said this to trap him, so that they might have ground for bringing charges against him; but Yeshua bent down and began writing in the dust with his finger.  When they kept questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “The one of you who is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Then he bent down and wrote in the dust again.  On hearing this, they began to leave, one by one, the older ones first, until he was left alone, with the woman still there.  Standing up, Yeshua said to her, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, sir.” Yeshua said, “Neither do I condemn you. Now go, and don’t sin any more.”

When I last read this it occurred to me that there was no forgiveness given for the sin the woman was supposed to have committed. No one should be surprised that this situation was a set-up to disgrace and trap Yeshua; in fact, the Bible story tells us that is exactly what was being done. And the fact that the woman was caught in the act of adultery but the other party to that sin was not there is a clear indication that the whole thing was somewhat shady.

Of course, Yeshua didn’t fall for this trap. We know from what we read in the Gospel accounts that by reason of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) Yeshua knew what people were thinking, and although we will never know what he wrote in the sand, his actions were designed to show the accusers that he knew exactly what was going on.

I believe the woman was actually committing the sin of adultery, if for no other reason than the fact that it was the Pharisees who brought her before Yeshua. You see, to accuse someone of a crime that was not committed is a violation of the 9th Commandment about not bearing false witness. So, even though their intention was to trap Yeshua, I don’t think that a Pharisee would have violated one of the Big Ten just to trap Yeshua.

For the moment, let’s look past the actions of Yeshua and the men who brought her, and look to the woman. When Yeshua asked her who was there to condemn her, she said no one, but nothing else. She did not confess her sin, she did not ask for forgiveness, neither did she say one word about being falsely accused. If I was brought before someone and falsely accused, the first thing I would have said was that this was a frame-up. But this woman said nothing, and I believe her silence spoke volumes.

When Yeshua said he would not condemn her, he was obeying the Torah. In Deuteronomy 19:15 it says this (JPS Tanakh):

A single witness may not validate against a person any guilt for any offense that may be committed; a case can be valid only on the testimony of two witnesses or more.

Once everyone left, and Yeshua was alone with the woman, no accusation could legally be made against her, so Yeshua obeyed the law and told her to go.

But – and here’s the important part- he never said she was forgiven. In fact, he told her not to sin anymore. That statement (to me) clearly shows that she did sin, he knew she sinned, but since she never confessed her sin or asked for forgiveness, he didn’t give it. In my opinion, I think the woman had no intention of stopping her adulteress ways, which is why Yeshua warned her not to sin anymore.

In other words, she got off on a legal technicality and the judge told her she might not be so lucky the next time.

You might be thinking, “OK, so this is interesting, but what does it have to do with me?”

Everything! The lesson we learn from this story is that even though forgiveness is available to us, we must confess our sin and ask for that forgiveness. And if the confession is not a truly repentant one, God will not be fooled because he knows your heart and what is in your mind.

If you have been taught that because Yeshua died for your sins they are automatically forgiven, you have been taught a lie. No sin is automatically forgiven. Ever. We must first and foremost feel repentance: if you really aren’t sorry for the sin you committed, there is no chance of being forgiven. Next, your repentant attitude should cause you to confess your sin before God, which will then put you in a position to ask for forgiveness, which now, since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, can only be given by means of the sacrifice which Yeshua made on our part.

Even though Yeshua did forgive some people’s sins when he was performing his ministry, he is the Messiah, the Intercessor for all of us, and after his sacrifice, it is now only God who can forgive sin. Yeshua provided the means for forgiveness, but he is not the one who forgives anymore. Only after we accept Yeshua as our Messiah, repent, confess and ask God for forgiveness in Yeshua’s name, will we be able to receive forgiveness of sin.

And we need to repent, confess and ask forgiveness for each and every time we sin.

The “Once saved, always saved” policy is something some person created, and it is not a policy that God recognizes.

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Until next time, L’hitraot, Baruch HaShem…and don’t forget to wash your hands!

Parashah Miketz 2019 (At the end) Genesis 41 – 44:17

Joseph is still in jail after the Cupbearer was restored to his position, yet forgot to mention Joseph to the Pharaoh, as he had promised to do.

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Two years pass and Pharaoh has a dream, the dream of the 7 healthy and 7 sickly cows, followed by the second dream of the 7 healthy and 7 sickly ears of corn. No one in his kingdom, none of the Soothsayers or magicians, can interpret these dreams. Now, the Cupbearer remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh, who summons Joseph.

Joseph interprets the dreams and tells Pharaoh to appoint a wise man to store grain during the years of plenty. Of course, who else could do this but Joseph (maybe that’s why he suggested it to Pharaoh?), so Pharaoh appoints Joseph as second in charge of all Egypt. No one except Pharaoh is above Joseph throughout the land. He also renames Joseph with an Egyptian name (my Chumash suggests that being given a new name, which was standard in those days to do when someone was promoted in status, may have helped hide his identity from his brothers.)

Joseph is given a wife who bears him two sons, the first one named Manasseh, which means “making to forget”, for Joseph says (Genesis 41:51) “…for God has made me forget all my toil, and all my father’s house.”  In other words, the blessings that God provided to Joseph overtook the tsouris, injustice, and pain he suffered for years.

After the years of plenty the famine starts, and Jacob sends all his sons to Egypt, except Benjamin, to buy grain. Joseph immediately recognizes them, but they have no idea who this Egyptian in charge of the food supply is. Joseph accuses them of being spies and puts them all in jail. After three days he tells them he will keep one as a hostage, and if they bring the missing brother back to him he will believe they aren’t spies. Otherwise, they will never be allowed in the land, again. He takes Simeon as a hostage until they return with their youngest brother to prove they aren’t spies. In the meantime, he returns their money in their sacks and when they are almost home they realize this. They are frightened when they see this, thinking Joseph will assume they stole their money back. They return Simeon-less to their father and say they must bring Benjamin with them to get Simeon released and to buy more grain. Jacob refuses to let Benjamin go, and only after Judah promises to take full responsibility for Benjamin’s safety and tells Jacob that if they don’t take him they will all starve to death.  Jacob relents and allows Benjamin to go back to Egypt with the brothers. This is where today’s parashah ends.

We all go through painful times in our lives, we all suffer some form of injustice, and we all receive blessings from God. Too often we concentrate on the painful things and ignore the blessings, causing us to not be as thankful to God as we should be.

Joseph suffered the worst kinds of emotional pain: his brothers hated him and tried to kill him, he was sold into slavery, he was wrongly accused of a heinous crime, his boss unjustly threw him in jail, and the man Joseph helped while in jail forgot his promise to return the favor.  Yet throughout all this, Joseph remained faithful and eventually, he was lifted up from being a slave in jail to being the second most powerful man in all of Egypt.

Now his brothers come before him and they need his help to survive. What does Joseph do? He throws them in jail! But this is important to know: he doesn’t throw them in jail as punishment or revenge, and he does so at his own personal, emotional pain. We know it causes him pain because we are told that Joseph cries when he does this. And we know he doesn’t do it as revenge because, as we were told earlier, with the birth of Manasseh Joseph has forgotten (or we could also say forgiven) his brother’s cruelty to him. The reason he threw them in jail, we later learn, is to test their loyalty to Jacob and to see if they have changed their attitude of jealousy to one of brotherly love.

We all suffer pain in our lives, both emotional and physical, and that pain never leaves until we forgive the ones that caused it. That sounds nearly impossible to do, but the only way to be rid of the pain is through forgiveness. Joseph was able to rid himself of his pain through forgiveness, and the motivation for his forgiveness was the blessings God gave to him. He was given authority and power, he was given a wife, two sons, and a boss that held him in the highest esteem. These blessings came as a result of his faithfulness and patience (two of the fruits of the spirit Shaul tells us about in Galatians), and what is most important for us to remember is that he recognized these blessings and was thankful for them, despite all the pain and suffering he underwent.

People have a tendency to dwell on the bad things and ignore the good, but what we, as faithful and trusting Believers, need to do is the opposite: we need to look to the future, to trust in God that these tough times will be replaced by times of plenty and rest, and stay the course, so to speak, until we receive those blessings. This is what Joseph did, and we can see how well it worked out for him.

Forgive those who have wronged and pained you. It isn’t easy, I know, but we MUST forgive. It is what God wants from us more than most anything else, and if you don’t think I am correct in saying that, read Matthew 6:14-15.

Let me share with you the two ways in which I have learned to make forgiving someone possible: First, I remind myself that the one who hurt me must be in terrible pain because people aren’t mean and thoughtless by nature. The mean people in the world have to have suffered much pain themselves, and whatever they did to me is probably less painful than what they have gone through. When I consider the pain they must be in, I can actually feel for them, and as such I know they need the love of God more than most, and that is why I can pray for them and mean it.

The second way I help myself to forgive someone is to think of all the blessings that God has given me, and how I have him to turn to whereas the one who wronged me probably has no one to turn to but him (or her) self. I have God on my side, and they have no one but themselves, so who really is worse off? Who really needs to be prayed for?

One other motivation for me to try to forgive someone is, as I mentioned above, Matthew 6:14-15. If you aren’t sure what that says, I sincerely recommend you read it, now.

Joseph is a wonderful example to us of how remaining patient, faithful and trusting in God to know what to do and when to do it will result in blessings that far outweigh the suffering we go through while waiting for him to act.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe, share me out to everyone you know, and if you like what you hear then you will like my books, which you can order directly from my website.

Until next time, Shabbat shalom and Baruch HaShem!

Grace isn’t Forgiveness

Too often I hear people talking about grace as if it is synonymous with forgiveness, and forgiveness as if it is synonymous with mercy.  It isn’t, and they aren’t.

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Grace is the way God shows his love for us. The best form of grace we have is that God sent Yeshua the Messiah to make a way for us to be able to avoid the punishment we all deserve.

Grace isn’t mercy, either. Mercy is nothing more than a reduction in the severity of some action, such as being punished. For example, we may be eligible for 10 years of hard labor, but a merciful punishment will take into account extenuating circumstances and maybe reduce the time to 5 years. Mercy doesn’t absolve us from punishment, it simply makes the punishment less severe.

Forgiveness is not grace or mercy- it is the removal of guilt. When we do something wrong, we are guilty and forgiveness removes that guilt. On a spiritual level, it allows us to come back into communion with God. On a physical level, it can allow a relationship to be restored, either fully or partially.

Forgiveness does not automatically absolve us from the consequences of what we did wrong. In the physical world, we almost always will have to face the consequence of our sin, whether forgiven or not; however, in the spiritual realm, when God forgives our sin it means our guilt against God is removed, meaning there will be no eternal consequences.

Grace is what God feels because he loves us so much, and because of his grace he will have mercy on us when we do wrong, and when we accept Yeshua as our Messiah, through him God will forgive our sins and remove our guilt.

So, in a nutshell, here is how it works: God’s mercy results in people being punished less than they deserve for their sins, and his forgiveness is available to remove our guilt when we accept the ultimate form of his grace, which is Yeshua the Messiah.

Any questions?

Thank you for being here. Please subscribe and share this out if you like what you have read. I welcome your comments and look forward to the next time we are together.

Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

 

Too Lazy to be Saved

Have you wondered why people who have intelligence and profess to believe in God still hold to the wrongful teachings that their religion has given them? Even when they admit they don’t really think their religion is all that great?

Why do these intelligent people continue to reject the simple, and easy to understand, Word of God for the difficult and obtuse traditions their religion teaches? Why?

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If you ask me (and since this is my ministry, even if you don’t ask I am going to tell you), the reason is that they are too lazy to change. Even though what they know is more difficult to practice than what God says to do, they are comfortable with it because they have done it all their life. They don’t want to relearn, they don’t want to develop new habits while dropping old, bad ones, and they fall back on the old, lame excuse that God is a forgiving God and will accept them.

Oh, yes – God is a forgiving God, but he is also a Judge who is fair and will obey the rules he has set up. He may be merciful, but mercy (I have written about this before) is not absolution. Mercy is not just simply forgetting about it, it is not allowing sin to proliferate, and it is not going to get you off the hook. The mercy that God gives is that when he punishes the unrepentant sinner, his mercy will make the punishment less than the sinner really deserves.

But punish, he will!

Now, forgiveness is not mercy. Forgiveness comes when we ask for it with a truly repentant heart, and we ask for forgiveness by means of the blood that Yeshua gave on our behalf. Forgiveness cleanses us of the sin we committed when we ask for it correctly, and mercy is receiving less of the punishment we deserve when we have to be punished.

This is a simple truth that those who are too lazy to want to change will learn when they face the Lord at the final judgment. The sad thing is at that time, it will be too late to stop being too lazy.

If you know someone who is like Herod was, a man who listened to Yochanan the Immerser and felt convicted by him but was too lazy to take action on what he heard because he was too immersed in his own comfort zone, tell that person that they are lazy. Smile when you do it, and do not judge them as being unfaithful or sinful, just tell them they seem to be too lazy to want to change what they have learned, even though in their heart they know that what they have learned is wrong.

You most likely will not change them; in truth, no one can change anyone else, the one that needs to change has to be the one who wants to change. It’s like the old joke:

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?
Only one, but the lightbulb has to really want to change.

Maybe we all should take a look in the mirror and ask ourselves what is it that we feel led to change but haven’t because it is too hard or too uncomfortable? If you even think there is something that fits that description, ask yourself if it is serious enough to keep you from your salvation?

If you are already “saved”, are you really doing what a “saved” person should be doing? Are you acting saved? Are you still holding onto something that is of the world, which is always going to be against God, but that you just can’t let go of?

These are tough questions to answer. I confess that there are still things that I am too lazy or too comfortable with to change, even though I want to. It is all up to me to get it together and develop the self-discipline to make that change. Fortunately, these are relatively minor things that I do not believe will affect my salvation, and I do come before God every day and ask forgiveness for my weaknesses. And I am sharing this with you because I am not any better than you are, probably a little worse.

James tells us in his letter to the Messianic Jews in the Diaspora that teachers, of which I am one, are held up to scrutiny by God much more than those who do not teach, so I have to become better than I am.

And on that thought, let me end today’s message with what I think this is the best prayer anyone can pray:

“Dear Lord, help me to be just a little bit better in your eyes tomorrow than I am today.”

Amen.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Speaking Can’t be Erased

There is a story I once heard that provides the basis for today’s message.

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A man once spread gossip about his Rabbi. Later, he felt bad about it and went to his Rabbi to apologize. He asked if there was anything he could do to make it better, and the Rabbi asked him, “Do you have a feather pillow?” The man, a little taken back, said that he did. The Rabbi told him “Take the pillow into a large field of grass on a windy day, split the top open and swing the pillow around your head. Then, come back to me.”

The man did as he was told, and when he went back the Rabbi asked what happened. The man said, “It was really beautiful, Rabbi. The feathers floated here and there, everywhere, and it looked like snow. But, Rabbi…what does this have to do with my spreading gossip about you?”

The Rabbi said, “Go back out to that field and pick up all the feathers.”

Gossip isn’t the only thing we do that cannot be taken back. Angry words, nasty comments, and a discompassionate attitude are all things that, once done, cannot be retracted.

Oh, yes- we can apologize, and we may be forgiven, but for most people, the rule is “Once bitten, twice shy.” And many people, to their own detriment, will take the attitude that once you do something to them they don’t like, they will never have anything to do with you, at all.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean trusting again, it doesn’t mean loving again, and it doesn’t mean wanting to be friends again. Forgiving others who hurt us is something we must do, not for their sake but for our own. We will never get past the hurt until we forgive. But, as I said, forgiving doesn’t mean having to re-establish the previous relationship. I can be forgiven for saying something, but that person doesn’t have to trust me or even speak to me, ever again.

The Bible is clear that we must always watch what we say. We read about it in Proverbs, in Psalms, in the Gospels and the Epistles. We must always be wary of what we say and how we say it, if not only to avoid hurting someone but (more importantly) not to do or say anything that will dishonor God.

Remember in Psalm 51, when David asked God to forgive him for the sin he committed against Uriah, the Hittite and with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba? He said (Psalm51:4):

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;

Any and all sins we commit are, first and foremost, against God because we have done something he said we must not do. And when we ask for forgiveness, it must first be from God. When we come to judgment, it will be God who is the judge, so we better make sure we have nothing for him to hold against us. If we only go to the one we sinned against to ask forgiveness, even if he (or she) forgives us, they are not God.

When God forgives us, we have re-established our relationship with him; when someone else forgives us, it doesn’t have anything at all to do with our relationship with God. It affects their relationship with God, but not ours.

No one other than God can forgive your sins, and because there is no longer any temple in Jerusalem (where the Torah commands we must bring our sin sacrifice) the only way to receive forgiveness of our sins today is through the substitutionary sacrifice that Yeshua ha Maschiach made for us.

Therefore, be very, VERY careful what you say. Always think before you speak, and if you have even the slightest doubt that what you are saying (or writing) may be taken the wrong way, then shut up!

I say this not as someone who knows how to shut up, but as someone who has made a profession of not shutting up in time.

I know all about sin because I have so much experience doing it. God forgive me for my weakness and strengthen me to sin less each day.

Amen!

Thank you for being here and please share me out to help this ministry to grow. I never ask for money, I just want to spread the truth about God so that people can make an informed decision, based not on their religious doctrine but on what God says.

Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch haShem!

Right Relationship is More Important Than Being Right

I just had three wonderful days with my two sisters visiting me. One from North Carolina and the other from Austin, Texas. I am the middle child (which probably explains a lot) and we each had our differences growing up, although my (8 years) younger sister didn’t have the same “issues” with either of us as my (2 1/2 year) older sister and I had.

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We all three have different ideas about many things, and each of us, separately, has been upset by or upset with each other about one thing or another over the years. But here’s the point: we forgive each other and continue to work on having a good relationship instead of dwelling on whatever thing had upset us.

The important thing for everyone is to be able to forgive automatically so that we can maintain our family (and other) relationships, even through tough times. This is also a biblically correct thing to do, as we are not commanded to ask for forgiveness, but we are commanded to (or, at least, warned we’d better) forgive each other.

Most of us know the “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:9-13, right?  “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done”, ….got it?  Well, do you remember what Yeshua said after he gave that template for prayer? Let me help you; it’s Matthew 6:14-15:

For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will not forgive yours.

Forgiveness is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves, and it is the glue that holds people together when certain acts or words try to tear them apart.

I am so very, very grateful to God for always giving me a forgiving heart, even before I knew him. I was able to reconcile with my mother long before she passed away, and have been able to maintain friendships for decades, more than a handful going all the way back to elementary school, all because I have learned to forgive people.

I know people who have not reconciled with family, and when the opportunity to do so was gone, they realized what they missed. The fact that once someone is dead you can never fix that relationship can often be devastating.

And here is another important fact: forgiving people is not supposed to be a reaction to someone asking for it. You are to forgive those that hurt you whether they ask for it or not!  

That’s right- you are to forgive them whether they want you to or not, whether they even care if you do or not. Your forgiveness of them doesn’t have anything at all to do with what is going on between them and God, but it has everything to do with what is going on between YOU and God.

My older sister and I have very different views on many things, especially politics, and we tend to walk gingerly when we discuss them. And often the room starts to heat up, and when that happens we simply agree to not agree. Because, even when things get a little “heated”, we will not allow it to affect our feelings for each other or our relationship because for us, being together is more important than being “right.”

What is important is that you maintain your good relationships, try to reconcile the bad ones, and remember that you don’t need to be right with people but you do need to be right with God.

And the only way to do that is to read the Bible so you know what God wants from you.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

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.

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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.

Parashah Metzora 2019 (laws for the leper) Leviticus 14 – 15

These two chapters deal with the instructions for cleansing a person from the skin disease usually identified as leprosy (Tzara’at in Hebrew), as well as cleansing of the house if there is a form of Tzara’at (probably an infectious or dangerous mold) in the plaster of the house.  Chapter 15 deals with the instructions regarding any issuance of a bodily fluid.

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The prior chapters taught us how the Cohen (Priest) is to identify Tzara’at in a person and these chapters give God’s instructions for the cleansing, once it has been determined that the person is no longer unclean (or infectious.) Only after the person has been completely cleaned may they re-enter the camp and the Sanctuary.

The basic formula is to bring two animals for sacrifice: one is a sin sacrifice and the other a burnt offering. The sacrifices are performed in this order since the sin sacrifice cleanses the person (spiritually) and the burnt offering represents their rededication to total commitment in obeying God’s instructions.

What I would like to talk about is the instruction in Leviticus 14:14, which is the placing of some of the blood of the guilt offering on the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the big toe of the right foot.  This is the same procedure when anointing a Cohen.

This placing of the blood represents a consecration of the entire body. We know that placing the blood of the sacrifice on the horns of the altar, as well as sprinkling it on something, makes that thing holy. So, too, the placing of this blood on a person makes them holy, or more correctly in this case, re-consecrates them to the Lord.

The reason for placing it on the ear, thumb, and foot is explained in the Chumash this way: the priest must have his ears consecrated so that he will always be attentive to the commands of God; his hands are consecrated so that at all times he will do God’s will; and his feet consecrated to walk from that time on in holy ways.

When we review the anointing of the Cohanim and the cleansing of people from their sins, we see a pattern. We first ask for forgiveness through the sin and/or guilt sacrifice (this places us in a spiritually clean condition), followed by a burnt sacrifice which represents our total devotion to God. Finally, the blood which cleanses us from the sin is also used to anoint and consecrate us to doing as God instructs.

Only after we have been made “whole” again can we re-enter the camp (physical world), the community (spiritual world), and the Sanctuary (presence of God.)

Today, we don’t bring our sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem for two reasons: first, it isn’t there anymore (DUH!) and second, we don’t need to because the sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua replaced that one part of the sacrificial system. Thanks to Yeshua, we can be forgiven of our sins right in the comfort of our own home. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t perform, at least in our hearts and minds, the placing of the blood on our ear, thumb, and foot! That action was very important because of what it symbolized, and if we forget about it (because we don’t really have any blood with us) we might neglect to mentally and spiritually rededicate ourselves.

You may ask, “Why do we have to rededicate ourselves at all?” The answer is because when we sin we separate ourselves from God: sin places us outside the camp of the Almighty. We are not under his wings, not in his presence, and thereby unable to properly serve him in whatever house of worship you go to.

This is a hard word to hear, but the Torah tells us it is a fact: when we sin, we are separated from God and outside of his presence. In order to reenter his presence, we must first be cleansed of that sin, then rededicate ourselves to hearing, doing and walking as God directs. Those directions are on the roadmap called the Torah.

So, the next time you ask for forgiveness in Yeshua’s name by means of his bloody sacrifice, don’t forget to place some of his blood on your right ear, thumb, and foot. Mentally, emotionally and spiritually present yourself before the Lord with a heartfelt desire to start all over again, but this time with an even stronger will to sin less than you had sinned before. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you won’t sin again- we all will. Sinning is something God expects of us, and he assumes it might be by accident. That is why he gave us instructions in Leviticus 5:17 specifically for sins we committed accidentally or didn’t know we had done.

Every time we sin we are in the same position Yeshua was just before he gave up his spirit and cried out:

“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (“My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”)

He was forsaken, meaning ejected from God’s presence, the very moment he took on the sins of the world because sin separates us from God.

Don’t beat yourself up when you sin, but do make sure when you ask for forgiveness by means of the blood of the Messiah that you remember to place that blood on yourself; consecrate yourself to hear, work and walk in obedience to God’s instructions, and rededicate yourself to do better.

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I welcome your comments and suggestions, all I ask is (you’ve heard this before) …be nice.

This being Friday, I wish you all Shabbat Shalom and until next time, Baruch HaShem!

Mercy Isn’t Amnesty

The Bible is rife with passages that talk about the forgiveness, compassion, and mercy that we can expect from God. He (usually) waits a long time before issuing his punishment only because he is giving us that amount of time to repent, and even when he does punish (which is often terrible to endure), he does so with mercy.

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There are too many houses of worship (meaning all religions) that teach only about the love and mercy of God, up to the point where people begin to believe that because God is merciful they will not have to suffer for their sins once they repent and ask for forgiveness.

Let’s get real people- that ain’t how it works.

God does not desire that anyone, at any time, should ever die in their sin. He says so, twice, in the Book of Ezekiel alone; the first time in Ezekiel 18:23 and then again in Ezekiel 33:11. He tells us he gets no pleasure at all from someone who dies in their sin, and that he would rather they turn from that sin, and live.

He also tells us that a righteous person who begins to sin will be guilty and die in their sin, yet a guilty (sinful) person who repents and does what is right will be forgiven and live (eternally.)

There are always consequences to sin, and more often than not, the innocent are the ones that suffer as a result of these sins. I am sure we all have seen people who are sinful and evil, yet it appears they go free, untouched by the legal authorities and blessed with wealth, success and what the world sees as rewards. That may be, but in the end, they will come before the Judge of the World and there won’t be any high-priced shyster to defend them.

For the purposes of this discussion, I would like to define “sin” as mindfully rejecting God’s  instructions and being unrepentant about it, whether that unrepentance is because you choose to not care, or because you have been taught it is acceptable (i.e., the Once-Saved; Always-Saved teaching of many Christian religions.)

Too many religions teach that because God is merciful we can be forgiven of our sins, which is accomplished through faith in Yeshua Ha Mashiach (most know him as Jesus Christ); although this is correct, the implied lesson is that once forgiven, we are “off the hook.” Well, the Bible shows us this is not the case.

David was a person after God’s own heart, yet when he sinned with Bathsheba the child born of that sin was taken by God as punishment; Aaron’s sons were not unrighteous, but when they sinned by offering unknown fire they were killed immediately; Dathan and Abiram were leaders and important men within the community, yet when they were unrepentant of their rebellion against Moses (who was doing God’s will) they were swallowed up by the earth; and we can even include the fig tree Yeshua cursed (Matthew 21:18)  in this list.

In case you are wondering how a tree can sin, the cursing of the fig tree was to demonstrate that someone who pretends to be righteous but is faking it will be judged correctly and suffer for their deception.

Sin always comes at a price that the sinner must pay in this world. The forgiveness we receive from God through Yeshua is only found in the spiritual realm, reserved for the Acharit HaYamim (End Days) where we spend eternity in God’s presence. The horrible truth of the matter is that the forgiveness we receive through Yeshua is not going to grant us amnesty from the consequence of that sin while still living on the earth. This is a hard word to hear, but it is one that we must accept because when we do, we will be less likely to sin again.

The idea that forgiveness through Yeshua means amnesty from the consequence of sin is traditional Christian teaching; I say this because I have never heard this teaching in any synagogue or read it in any Jewish theology book, but I see it all over the Internet and from many Gentiles (Believing Gentiles, too) whom I have met.  This teaching is nothing more than a lie from the pit of Sheol and is setting us up for death. We must always remember that sin is hurtful to us and to others, usually the ones we love.

Don’t be fooled by those who seem to escape the consequence of their sins in this world- you can be sure they will suffer in the next. As for me, I would rather take my medicine now and get it over with, and know that when I repent of my sin and ask forgiveness through Yeshua I will have eternal peace and joy.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!