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!

Can Sinners go to Heaven?

You would think the answer to the question posed in today’s message title would be a resounding, “NO! Of course not!” However, considering that we are all sinners from birth, I (for one) am hoping that the answer isn’t as obvious as it seems.

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We all know that God gave us commandments through Moses which he wants us to obey. These commandments are fairly simple for us to understand: there are some just for women, some just for the members of the Priesthood (whether Rabbi, Priest, Minister, Pastor, Chaplain, or whatever), and the rest are for everyone. Traditional Christian teaching has reduced the number of these commandments significantly, in that it has identified some laws which they classify as only for Jews, others as “ceremonial”, and then there are the ones they agree they should obey which they label as “moral” laws.

Overall, pretty much everyone agrees that we are sinners and that iniquity (the innate desire to sin) exists within us from birth. Even within Judaism, we have the Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination we are born with) and the Yetzer Tov (Good Inclination), which doesn’t come to fruition within us until we are old enough to study and understand the Torah and the Talmud.

Understanding this, let’s go back to the original question: “Can sinners go to heaven?” Sorry to say, the answer is  still “No!

However, God has made salvation available to us through the sacrificial system, which allows us to be forgiven of our sins. And the ultimate sacrifice, the last one which provides forgiveness throughout all time, is the sacrifice of Yeshua ha Maschiach (Yeshua the Messiah), which is available to us despite the fact that the Temple in Jerusalem (the place where the sin sacrifice must be presented) no longer exists.

So, when we take into consideration the sacrifice of Yeshua, the answer to our title question changes to, “Yes- sinners can go to heaven, so long as they have been forgiven through their acceptance of Yeshua as their Messiah.”

But wait a minute!!  There is a missing piece to the puzzle we haven’t discussed, but it is the keystone for salvation: acceptance of Yeshua is necessary, asking forgiveness for each and every sin is necessary (there is no such thing as Once Forgiven, Always Forgiven- I have written about that a few times), but none of this works without true repentance.

Repentance is an absolute necessity for forgiveness. Without repentance, why would God forgive us? If someone stole from you and asked forgiveness, but never said they were sorry for what they did and that they would do it again if given the chance, would you think them worthy of forgiveness?

I hope not! If so, then you aren’t forgiving- you’re a fool.

Repentance, true repentance, is is the first step on the path to salvation which God has provided. . If someone sins and doesn’t repent of that sin, God is not a fool. He knows the heart of everyone, and if someone sins, likes to sin, and intends to continue to sin, they can repeat the “Sinners Prayer” until they are red in the face, and God will ignore them.

The final answer to the question, “Can sinners go to heaven?” is this: repentant sinners who ask forgiveness through the Messiah Yeshua can be forgiven of their sins, and by means of that forgiveness they will be in God’s presence forever.

In reality, no one goes to heaven, we stay on the new Earth- read the Prophets and Revelation.

I have said many times and will continue to do so, that before I was saved, I was a sinner who rationalized my sins; now I am a sinner who regrets my sins.  And it is only because of that regret, that repentance and constantly, daily, hourly asking God to forgive me through Yeshua’s sacrifice, that I know I will be able to spend eternity in the presence of the Almighty.

We all know people who profess to believe in God and Messiah, and who have been taught that once they say the “Sinners Prayer” they are forgiven and so long as they are a “good” person, they will go to heaven. Some even say that they know they do wrong, but the Bible says God loves them and is forgiving, so they know that he will let them into heaven.

Sorry to bust your rose-colored bubble, but that ain’t how it works.

When we sin we need to ask forgiveness, each and every time, and we need to ask with genuine repentance. I still sin, and there are sins I know I do and have not overcome, and every day I ask forgiveness and strength to overcome sin in the future. Because of this attitude of repentance and humility, I believe that I will be in God’s presence, a forgiven sinner, in the Acharit HaYamim (End Days.)

Let me end this with a statement that I believe we all should live by: We can never be sinless, but we can always sin less

 

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Parashah Vayeshev 2018 (And he dwelt) Genesis 37-40

 

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Jacob has now settled back in the land of his father, and we are given the story of Joseph. I think most everyone knows this- Joseph, the favorite son of his father (because he is the firstborn son of Rachel) is given a coat of many colors to signify Jacob’s love for him. This special treatment doesn’t stand very well with his brothers, which should come as no surprise, but then we add to that Joseph having ratted them out to Jacob, not to mention telling them of his dreams in which they are all bowing down to him.

Joseph doesn’t show a lot of common sense here, does he?

Eventually, an opportunity arises in which the brothers can kill Joseph, but Reuben convinces them not to, so they take his coat and throw him into an empty cistern, thinking they will do the deed after they have lunch. In the meantime, the brothers see a caravan in the distance of Yishma’elim (descendants of Yishmael) and decide to sell Joseph to them, But while they are still having their lunch (you have to read the passage very carefully to see how this happens) some other Arabs (Midyanim) find Joseph, raise him out of the cistern, and THEY sell him to the Yishma’elim.

Reuben comes back to save Joseph himself but finds him gone. He reports this to the brothers, and now no one knows what happened.

Time Out: I believe that Reuben saved Joseph only so that he could get back into good standing with his father because he was still in hot water after sleeping with one of Jacob’s concubines.

Joseph gets sold to Potiphar, and God blesses all that Joseph does. However, Potiphar’s wife wants to sleep with Joseph, who refuses and she tricks him into being alone with her and tries to force him to sleep with her. He runs away but she has his robe and accuses him of trying to rape her. When she tells her husband, Potiphar throws Joseph into jail. In jail, Joseph is still blessed by Adonai and made a Trustee, eventually also serving the Pharaoh’s Cupbearer and Baker, who teed off Pharaoh somehow and were also thrown in jail. They each have a dream, which Joseph interprets, and the interpretation proves true, with the Cupbearer being returned to duty and the Baker being hung. However, the Cupbearer forgets his promise to Joseph to ask Pharaoh to have him released.

In the middle of the story of Joseph, we have one chapter devoted to Judah and how he failed to give his third son to Tamar. Tamar was married to Er, Judah’s firstborn who was killed by God because of his evil ways, then given to Onan. Onan refused to give her children to protect his own inheritance, so God had him killed, too. Shelah, Judah’s remaining son, was too young so Judah told Tamar to go back to her father until he could give her to Shelah. However, it seems Judah had no intention of doing so. Later, Judah (now a widower) was seduced by Tamar (who hid her identity) who took his seal and staff as collateral until he could send her payment. She returned to her father before Judah could recover his things, and three months later when her pregnancy was discovered, she sent Judah his seal and staff to prove he was the father. Then Judah confessed his sin of not giving her to Shelah.

Wow! There’s a whole lot of stuff in here, but we have time for only one lesson, so I am going to talk about one line, a single sentence uttered by Joseph to the wife of Potiphar. It is found in Genesis 39:9. Joseph has been asked by Potiphar’s wife to sleep with her, and he tells her that his Master has put everything in the household under Josephs’ control, everything but his wife, and in explaining why he won’t sleep with her he says:

“How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

Notice that Joseph has been talking about his Master, Potiphar, and his Master’s house and his Master’s wife, but when it came down to it he would not sin against God. God- not Potiphar, not his wife, not because he would break the trust, but because the sin would be against God!

Joseph knew what King David also knew about sin (Psalm 51:6) – any and all sin is always first and foremost against God. We may do things to other people that are sinful, but when we ask forgiveness, we must first ask God because every sin is a sin against God.

Forgiveness is something that we are commanded to do for each other, and that forgiveness is not only between us and the person who sinned against us but also between us and God.  God requires us to forgive each other, Yeshua tells us this in Matthew 6:14:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

When we sin against someone else we must first ask God for forgiveness, then we go to the person we sinned against and ask them to forgive us. Once you have done that, whether they forgive you or not is between them and God and no longer between you and them. I believe we should allow people a few chances to forgive us- for their sake, not ours, and maybe even try to explain that to them. But, if someone refuses to forgive you your sin, then the sin now lies between them and God and no longer between you and them.

The best thing, of course, is to never sin (DUH!!) but being human that will not ever happen. We will always sin, one way or another, sooner or later, and God knew about us. Why do you think he created the sacrificial system? Yeshua replaced the need to bring a sin sacrifice to the Temple in Jerusalem, so now, through his sacrifice, we can be forgiven. That is, forgiven by God. Once we have gone to God, we must still go to the person we sinned against and ask their forgiveness.

Here’s an interesting tradition you may not know about… in Judaism, one of the things that we do at Rosh HaShanah is to go to anyone that we think we may have sinned against during the year and ask them for forgiveness. Does this sound familiar? Maybe because Yeshua said to do this in Matthew 5:24. You think, maybe, he knew of this tradition?

To finish this up, let’s remember that any sin committed by anyone is first and foremost against God; Joseph knew this, King David knew this, and now we know it, too. Try to not sin, but when you fail, go to God and then to the person you sinned against, and you will be doing what is right in God’s eyes, and doing it in the right order.

 

 

God Crashed My Pity Party

No video today, but please take a moment to Subscribe if you haven’t already done so, and check out the deals for my new book, “Parashot Drashim” on my Kickstarter campaign page. 

About a month ago, when I began the Kickstarter campaign to sell my newest (third) book I was feeling rather low. I have had this online ministry for about 6 years, and only have about 70 followers. I am a member of half a dozen discussion groups (Christian and Messianic) but still haven’t made book sales or even gained subscribers. My other two books are very dear to me and writing them was a cleansing for me, similar (I suspect) to how Jeremiah felt when he gave God’s word.

Of course, we know Jeremiah wasn’t the happiest of prophets, and I felt the same way he did. I couldn’t figure out why so few people were interested in what I have to say and began to think that I wasn’t treating God’s Word, or God, with the honor he deserves. Maybe I thought I was preaching truth but I wasn’t…could that be why God hasn’t blessed this blog/ministry with more followers? 

So I sent out a post (maybe some of you remember it?) asking for confirmation. This wasn’t an Ego Trip…not at all! I wasn’t asking or fishing for compliments- I wanted to know, really, if I was doing anything that edified or helped anyone. If what I do is useless to people, why should I continue to go through the time and financial expense of doing it? Right?

I did receive some confirmation from people, and again, felt bad that I only had one or two people answer. None of my own friends and most of my family did not reply, either (then again, we all know a prophet has no honor in his home town), so even though I was somewhat uplifted by the couple of confirmations I received, I didn’t feel useful.

The Pity Party was well underway and I was praying to God (as I rode my bike to the gym) asking why he wasn’t helping me. And he answered me: I felt him telling me to look at the “popular” sites to see why they are so popular. So I did, and I also recalled many of the postings from people with many followers. And you know what I realized? 

I wasn’t a “happy” site. I don’t constantly post messages about the love of God and the forgiveness of Messiah. I don’t constantly post quotations from the Bible that relate how God saved me, how God has helped me, how God has been my shield and my salvation. I have never implied or stated that salvation is a “Come as you are” party (although, in a way, it is.) These are the types of things the “popular” sites post, and when I thought about it, it was also the type of messages you hear from the mega-churches. 

I don’t do that. Oh, well, every once in a while I do post about forgiveness, but it is mostly how God requires us to forgive others, not how he has forgiven us. I do post about God’s love, but it isn’t about how he loves us but how we should work to love others as he tells us we should. In fact, I rarely post about what God does for us and almost always post about what we are supposed to do for God.  

And that is what God was telling me: I am not popular because the messages I post aren’t about how God does things for people; I post about what people are supposed to do for God. 

In other words, I am preaching about what God wants from us instead of what God does for us. 

Yes-salvation is a “Come as you are” party, but it is NOT a “Stay as you were” party.  The popular messages are all about how Yeshua did away with the law, all food is good to eat, and you are forgiven now and always, known as “Once saved, always saved.”  The messages that are popular are the ones that tell you all about how God loves you and you don’t have to do anything different, just call on his name and be saved.  Don’t worry about changing your lifestyle or your desires, and when you make a mistake God will forgive you because Jesus loves you and died for your sins, so you are cleared for life. 

You will not hear any of that dribble from me. What I preach is what people need to know to continue in their salvation: the Torah is valid, God’s commandments are still necessary to obey, and salvation is given for free but costs a lot to keep. You must change, you must truly do T’shuvah (repent), and you must be an example to others of how God has changed you through your actions and your words. You are commanded to forgive or you will not be forgiven: how you judge will be the way you are judged: if you really want to follow Yeshua, you must pick up your execution stake and walk as he walked, which means in accordance with the Torah.

“Hey- this isn’t fun! Are you really telling me I can’t be forgiven unless I change? You’re saying that if I ask for forgiveness but I don’t change I won’t be ‘saved’ anymore? I can lose my salvation? You say I have to obey the Torah? Well, if that’s what you preach, forget you, Pal! I am going to listen to the other people who tell me how wonderful I am, how I am saved forever and no one can take it away from me. I want to hear how much God loves me just as I am; I want to be told I don’t have to do that ‘Jewish’ stuff because Jesus nailed it to the cross. I want to be assured that I will be in heaven for eternity no matter what I do because I called on Jesus’s name once.” 

Yes, that is what I am telling you. And I will take my lead from Hosea 4:6: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” 

That is how God crashed my Pity Party, and am I ever glad he did. I realize now that I may never be “popular” because I speak the hard truth that most people don’t want to hear. When I trained people (in the corporate world and as a mentor to volunteers) I did not hold back from telling the truth, even when it wasn’t pleasant for them to hear. I didn’t do that to hurt them but to help them become better. If everyone that takes a class passes, then the class work was too easy, and the students probably didn’t learn what they really needed to know. Just like when preachers tell all about the goodness of God and what he does for you- yes, God does much for you but he expects you to do much for him. And that is what people, who are naturally self-absorbed and selfish, do not want to hear. 

So I will remain unpopular. I will continue to speak the truth that God has, through his Ruach HaKodesh, inspired me to teach. I will not sugarcoat salvation or preach all about God’s love and forgiveness as a one-way street, only traveling from God to you.

Salvation is free to have but hard to keep. God says we are to be holy as he is holy, which means we are not to do as the world does. We are to separate ourselves from the world, spiritually and actively, so that when people see us they see what God wants us to be. Not what we want to be, but what God wants us to be. That is a message that will be popular only to the truly spiritual mature person, to the one who is humble before God, to the one who is here to serve and not to be served. 

My Pity Party was all about the fact that I wasn’t “popular” and because I didn’t have so many followers on my website and FaceBook that they were coming out of my ears. God crashed that party by showing me I would never be popular preaching the hard truths of salvation and T’shuvah.  He showed me that, like Jeremiah, like Elijah, like Elisha, and like most every single prophet we read about in the Bible, I was not going to be asked to the A-List parties.  

I was looking for human confirmation but God stepped in and took over, showing me that I was in good company by being unpopular. 
And you know what? I felt G-R-E-A-T when he did that! 

Kol Nidre Message 2018

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

This night, September 18, 2018, is Kol Nidre, the eve of Yom Kippur. As such I would like to share the traditional message I used to give when I was “acting” Rabbi (for about 1-1/2 years) at the Northeast Philadelphia Messianic Synagogue I had attended for 17 years.

Before we go into the message, I have a beautiful rendering of the Kol Nidre prayer which you can watch by clicking on this link: Kol Nidre.

For centuries, the Kol Nidre prayer has been used as a polemic against the Jewish people, accusing us of being untrustworthy and stating that our word is useless.  At one point there was even a movement within Judaism to remove this prayer. That movement came to a stop once it was discovered that the prayer dates back to 17th Century Spain, where persecution of the Jews was taking place under the Inquisition. Many thousands of Jews were forced to forgo their beliefs and swear allegiance to Christianity or suffer torture and death.  That is why even though the Torah requires us to strictly adhere to any oaths we take, this prayer seems to be an anomaly; however, we are not asking to be released from valid oaths and contracts we make but only from those oaths we were coerced into making.

On this day, when we ask God to forgive us our sins, we must realize that we have an obligation to forgive those that have sinned against us.  And not just to forgive others, but to forgive ourselves, as well.

It is strange that we are willing sometimes to forgive others their sins against us but we will not forgive ourselves for sins we have committed against others. After all, if we love others enough to forgive them their sins, shouldn’t we love ourselves enough to forgive our sins? Doesn’t it say in Leviticus 19:18, “Love thy neighbor as thyself?” If we love our neighbor enough to forgive them, then shouldn’t we do the same for ourselves?

If I ask God for forgiveness but refuse to forgive myself, then I am placing myself above God!  So many times I have heard someone say, “How can God possibly forgive me for this?” That person doesn’t understand Grace and doesn’t understand that God is able to do so much more than we can.  In Romans 5:20 we are told that where sin is increased, so too is Grace.  There is no sin too great or too horrible for God to forgive. 

And God is not just willing to forgive: he desires to forgive! He is so compassionate that he assumes our sins are accidental.  Numbers 15:25-26 states that we will be forgiven from our sins we did “in error”; in other words, God assumes that we did not intend to sin but that we did it by accident!  What a wonderful demonstration of the compassionate understanding and forgiving nature of God! 

But let us not forget that disobedience of the Torah is still rebellion and a sin. And the wages of sin is still death (Romans 6:23.) However, because of God’s forgiving nature, he is willing to see our sins as his children making a foolish mistake.  However, that is no reason for you to get comfortable with your sin- sin MUST be removed from our lives if we want to be with God eternally. He may look upon us with compassion and love but he is still God, and there can be no sin in his presence.

Too many people have been taught that “Once saved, always saved” is how things work under the blood of Yeshua. That is a lie. We are not to take advantage of God’s willingness to forgive us and just assume he will, which can only lead to an attitude of unrepentance. If we think it is OK to sin now and then, that is like trampling the blood of Messiah into the dirt. Even though God understands it is our nature to do so, it is NEVER acceptable to sin.

Because we cannot overcome our nature, Yeshua came to earth and sacrificed himself for us so that through his goodness we have the opportunity to overcome our sinfulness.

Today we pray for forgiveness and ask God for the atonement of our sins. This is a process:

  1. First, we must recognize our sin and take responsibility for it so we recite the Al Chet prayer, also called the Ashamnoo (we are guilty);
  2. We must choose to do Teshuvah (repent) and remove sin from our lives;
  3. Once we have done these two things, only then can we ask God to forgive us. Because we cannot sacrifice at the Temple in Jerusalem, we ask forgiveness through the blood of the Messiah, who gave his life as a ransom for us over 2,000 years ago and through his innocent shedding of blood we can receive forgiveness (Messianic Jews/Hebrews 9:22.) 

Some of you may be asking why bother to go through fasting and prayer to ask forgiveness when we already have it through Yeshua ha Mashiach?  The answer is simple: because it is a commandment! Besides that, don’t we still sin? Don’t we still need to ask forgiveness? “Once saved, always saved” is hogwash and a lie from the pit of Sheol which is designed to keep us out of God’s Grace. We need to ask forgiveness of our sin(s) every single day! Maybe even more than once per day. So, nu? If we are to ask forgiveness any time we sin, why should we not ask on this day, the one day that God specifically said we should?  

Another reason is to show solidarity with our unsaved Jewish brothers and sisters. Look at the prayers we recite on this day (the Al Chet and the Amidah) – they ask forgiveness for the sins WE have committed. Not the sins I have, but the sins we have committed. These prayers are community prayers because in Judaism God sees the entire nation of Israel as a single entity. We are not just responsible for our own sins, but for the sins of all Jews; those who came before us and those who are with us. 

One last word: what we do on this day is not to be left in the Synagogue or Church- we are to take this attitude of Teshuvah and forgiveness for others out into the world. Going to Shul on the High Holy Days isn’t enough. We meet together to reinforce each other and to strengthen each other so that we are able to go back out there- back into the darkness to be a light. What we do today is what we should be doing every day.

So whether you are attending Shul all day or staying home and worshiping with God alone, take what you do out into the world with you tomorrow and every day thereafter.

Should We Forgive Abusers?

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

As I have often said, I read Dear Abby every day because it provides great fodder for spiritual understanding and teaching.

Recently someone wrote to her who had been abused as a child by her family, and now as an adult and parent is asking how she should react to those who constantly tell her that she should try to reconcile with her family.  Abby answered that when one has been abused they do “NOT” have to forgive the abusers.

Those who are God-fearing should know better than to follow that advice. True, it is hard to forgive someone who has damaged you, whether it be physically and/or emotionally. The pain and anger, unresolved anger, is very hard to live with and even more difficult to get over. In truth, I don’t think we ever really get “over” it, we just learn to get past it.

Yet God tells us that forgiveness is what we must do. We are told to be holy as God is holy, and part of what God does is forgive. He forgives because he is a compassionate and loving God, yet if we do not ask for forgiveness, it will not be given automatically. The reason for that is simple: if we do not ask to be forgiven, that means we aren’t repentant for the sin we committed, and God will not forgive an unrepentant sinner.

Here’s is the thing about forgiveness that (I believe) many people do not understand: forgiving someone else for a sin they committed against you does not make them right with God but it does make you right with God. Each and every one of us must ask God to forgive us for the sin(s) we commit. I can ask God to forgive others, but if they are unrepentant it doesn’t seem likely that God will forgive them. We can ask him to be merciful, but God will judge fairly and mercifully, anyway, whether or not we ask him to do so. What is good about us asking God to forgive or be merciful is that we can show God we are forgiving of others.

Yeshua tells us in Matthew 6:14 that if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven. OUCH!! That means that we must forgive if we are to maintain our salvation.

That’s right- it sounds bad and is a hard word to hear, but it’s right there in the Bible. If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven. We are also told that the rod we use to measure out others will be used to measure us (Matthew 7:2), which is another way of saying the same thing. If we judge others unfairly and refuse to forgive them, that is how we will be judged and how we will receive forgiveness (or not.)

There is another aspect of forgiveness that (I believe) many people do not know: the only way to make the pain go away is to forgive! Without forgiveness, the pain will never go away. Even when you do forgive, it will take time. I try to remember that I need to pray for those that have sinned against me (per Yeshua’s command in Matthew 5:44), and when I pray for them I find that it is easier to forgive them.

The old adage, “To err is human; to forgive, divine” is absolutely correct, and totally biblical.

Usually, Dear Abby’s advice is on the mark, and I understand that her column is not a religious one, but it sure would be nice if she was less PC and more GC (God Correct) for then her advice would be truly good advice.