Parashah Bo 2019 (Come) Exodus 10 – 13:16

We continue with the plagues God is sending on Egypt, yet sparing the Israelites in Goshen. Finally, the 10th plague, the death of the firstborn comes and God tells Moses how to protect his people living in Goshen from this plague. After such a terrible loss of life, including Pharaoh’s own son, the people are told to leave. They take many gifts (spoil) from the Egyptians, who are more than happy to give them anything to get out of Egypt, and God institutes the Passover and states this shall be the beginning of our year.

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The parashah ends with the commandment that every firstborn, whether human or animal, belongs to God as the substitution for the firstborn God took from the Egyptians.

There is a term used during the narrative of the 10 plagues that comes up very often; actually, two terms which appear no less than some 19 times. One is that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (9 times) and the other is that Pharaoh hardened his heart (10 times.) Now, for God to purposefully harden someone’s heart so that they sinned, then punish them for that sin is obviously unfair and sinful, in and of itself, so how could a sinless and perfectly holy God do that? The answer is: he didn’t.

First off, we must understand that in the biblical days, everything that happened was ascribed to God. God has a plan for the universe, and whether things happen as a direct result of Divine intervention, or just unfold as God knew they would, in the Bible it is considered a direct result of God’s will. So, even if someone does something entirely on their own, it is (in the Bible) considered to be a direct act of God.  This is not meant to blame God, it is just the cultural understanding of that time.

We all have the freedom to decide if we will obey God or not. There can be a million and one reasons why we shouldn’t, and really only one reason why we should. That one reason is simple: He is God and we are not. As for why we shouldn’t, or don’t have to (anymore), people can rationalize any desire to be justified, at least in their own mind. What happens is this: we make up our own reason for disobedience, and repeat it to ourselves. Once we succumb to sin, it gets easier and easier to continue to sin, and harder and harder to overcome it. I learned from many years as a Salesman that the more you tell someone something, even if it is ridiculous, they will eventually believe it. God knew about Pharaoh from the start, and the warning to all of us is the same warning he gave to Cain in Genesis. 4:7

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.

The first response Pharaoh had to Moses was in Exodus 5:2, where he said, “Who is Adonai, that I should obey when he says to let Israel go? I don’t know Adonai, and I also will not let Israel go.” Pharaoh had the opportunity to obey God, and he chose to reject God’s command. God knew this would happen, as he told Moses in Chapter 3 (Ex. 3:19- “I know that the king of Egypt will not let you leave unless he is forced to do so.”), so the first “hardening” came from Pharaoh. And as I stated earlier, because the Bible states everything is from God, when it continues from this point on to say “God hardened his heart:” that is not an actual accusation but an expression. Pharaoh was the sole cause for the plagues coming upon the Egyptians, and Pharaoh had the opportunity to obey God every step of the way, but HE chose not to.

We have the same freedom to choose that Pharaoh had, and we have sin crouching at our door, just like Cain did. I remember the comedian Flip Wilson, and his character Geraldine always said, The Devil made me do it!” That was funny, but in truth, the Devil can’t make us do anything- we do it. Old Nick may provide opportunity and even give us a strong incentive to do evil, but in the end, it is our choice.

You have no one to blame but yourself for what you do.

God is in control of everything, but that doesn’t mean he does control everything. God allows us to make up our own minds, and to choose whether we accept or reject him. And don’t think for a moment there is a middle-of-the-road position with God- he is totally binomial. It is or it isn’t, right or wrong, black or white, you is or you isn’t. Period.

Moving forward, next time you think the Enemy is attacking you, or that God is punishing you, think again. Think about what choices you have made recently, and make sure that if you really are under a curse that you didn’t bring it on yourself. Thank God that when we do screw up, we have forgiveness available to us through Messiah Yeshua. Do Teshuva (repentance), ask forgiveness in Yeshua’s name and make a better decision in the future.

If you ask me, this is the pathway we must walk. We will always sin, and as long as we continue to repent, ask God for forgiveness through Messiah and also through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) guidance and the strength to improve our ability to resist sin, working to sin less and less every day, we will be walking the path of salvation.

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Tonight begins the Sabbath, so Shabbat Shalom, and may you have a blessed weekend.

Can God Save Someone Who Doesn’t Want to be Saved?

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We are all familiar with the passage that says anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But what about those we pray for who are not saved, and who really don’t even care about it?

Maybe they don’t believe in God, maybe they don’t care, or maybe they think they are already saved because people have taught them the popular lie that many Christians have been taught, which is the “Once saved, always saved” theology.

How often have you prayed for someone who is sinning and likes it? Have you prayed that famous prayer, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do?”   Will that work? Personally, I doubt it.  I have read the Bible many times and have experienced God’s blessings and also know what it is like to live outside of his Kippah (covering), which was for the first 40 years or so of my life. 

In my opinion, God can do whatever he wants to do, but he doesn’t want to make us love him or to defy the free will he has given each one of us.  That means if we pray for someone who doesn’t want to be saved, even when we invoke the name of Yeshua ha Maschiach, God will not force someone to be saved if they don’t want to be saved. 

Another way to look at it is to ask, “Will God forgive an unrepentant sinner?” I think we can all agree that although God, in his mercy and compassion may give blessings to one who rejects him (Matthew 5:45 says, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”), when it comes to forgiveness we must first do T’Shuvah (repent) in our hearts, then ask for forgiveness. When we do that, God will forgive. But if we do not repent, then he will not forgive.

I pray for my children and even for their mother (we divorced many years ago) because my children have been brought up by her to be ungodly (they’re not evil and horrid creatures, just like the rest of the world- ungodly) and I don’t know anyone who needs the love of the Lord more than that woman.  So I pray, in Yeshua’s name, over and over, nearly every day, and I trust that God is doing something. But I also know that it is, ultimately, up to them to turn to God.

He may strike them down, humble them, and give them some real Tsouris to make them realize they are not really in control and force them to look up to him. But he will not change their minds or use his awesome power to force them to worship him. He will influence their lives, but not to the point where they are made to love or worship him. Not even to the point where they have to admit he really exists.

I am not saying God will never make a miraculous appearance; he has done things like this in the past- Abraham, Jonah, Gideon, the parents of Samson, and Shaul on the road to Damascus, just to name a few. But overall, I trust that God will do exactly what needs to be done to convince someone to trust in him, but only to the point where anything more would be effectively taking away their right to choose. 

Where that fine line is drawn no one can tell, except God, and I trust him totally to do everything up to that point. If my children never turn to God or reconcile with me (my two constant prayers) then it isn’t God who I will blame, but them. They are old enough (more than old enough) to make up their own minds and even though their mother has been a constant bad influence on them, it is their own fault for rejecting God. And when I write this, believe that it hurts me to write it, and I believe it hurts God even more because he loves my children (who are also his) more than I ever could.

Does this mean we should stop praying for those that reject God? Heavens no!! We should continue to pray for those that need to be shown the path to salvation. If we do not pray for them then who will? God will intervene in their life to help them come to know and accept him, and we also should do so by showing them a good example of what it means to worship God and demonstrate to them God’s blessings in our life for obeying him.

Through our prayers and our example people can be convinced to choose God, which is to choose life. God won’t force them to choose him, but he can be very, VERY convincing. 

So, continue to pray for those that reject God and be an example of a godly person. Pray especially for those that think they are godly people because they have been taught that the Torah is only for Jews and they don’t need to obey any laws or commandments. They have been taught that they don’t need to obey anything in the Torah because are under the blood of Christ and saved by Grace. That is not true: by being told they don’t need to obey God or ask forgiveness because they are already saved, they are being taught to be unrepentant.

Be an example of an obedient, godly person, one who obeys from love and trust but not as a means of trying to earn salvation, and continue to pray for those that reject God. 

Our prayers are powerful and useful to everyone, godly or ungodly

Without God There Cannot Be Free Will

Free Will and Predestination are two of the topics that we hear about a lot in “religious” discussions. They are considered polar opposites, since one states we can make up our own minds and the other says we have no choices since everything that will happen throughout our life is already set in stone.

These discussions are usually between people who have one very important thing in common- they believe in God.

What about those that are unsure, or reject the existence of God? Many of the Atheists and Agnostics I have talked with seem to have the belief that they are in charge of their lives- no one makes them do anything, no superior entity or power rules their life. They are in charge of their destiny!

Let’s work with that idea for a moment: if there is no God, no all-powerful, all-knowing eternal presence in the Universe that created and formed everything, then where did it come from? It must have been created randomly, by trillions upon trillions of chaotic collisions between sub-atomic particles that, every now and then, resulted in some newly formed atom, which banged into another atom that was electrically compatible, which banged into another, until eventually there were enough compatible atoms to form something. A planet, a rock, flesh, whatever- eventually, out of total chaos, you get enough random collisions between enough things (let’s throw in some climatic events, just for fun) and Viola! We have the Universe as we know it today.

If this is how we were created, the universe and everything in it, all the life-forms, the stars, etc., then everything that is, or will happen, also has to result from the same process, right? That means there is no control at all, from the sub-atomic level all the way up to making personal choices. Everything that happens is from randomness, which excludes any means of control. Therefore, if someone rejects God, that person rejects (at the same time and for the same reason) the idea that they have Free Will, that they can control their life, or that they can form their own destiny. They can’t because everything that happens is based on a random event.

However, if we accept that there is a God, an all-powerful, all-knowing spiritual entity that created everything and is in total control, we can have Free Will. That’s because God makes the choices about what happen, and all He has to do is decide to allow us to have the right to decide what we will do. The good news for those that want to be in total control of their lives is this: God does give us Free Will. More than that, when we need or want something, and we ask God to help us, if what we want is keeping in His will for us then we have the most powerful ally anyone could ever want to help us get what we ask for. Isn’t that the epitome of self-control? To have the ability to get what you want? There isn’t anything that is or might ever be that God cannot give to you.

And because God grants you Free Will if you choose to reject Him, He will let you, although that means you will be left with no means of control over anything because God will not interfere with your life. Well, maybe that’s not exactly accurate…God will interfere, in a subtle way, to help you find Him and come to Him- but only of your own free will. He will send angels of mercy (human and spiritual) to help you when you are in need, or He will allow terrible things to occur when you go off in the wrong direction, to humble you to the point where your prideful desire to be in total control is weakened enough to seek out His help. He might block you to prevent you from doing harm to yourself, or He may allow it, but He will always intercede with opportunities for you to change your mind. It is sort of like He might give you a little nudge in the right direction, but He won’t grab you by the ear and pull you where you don’t really want to go.

So, there you have it. For those that want to be in charge of their own life and reject the belief in God or a supernatural power that controls everything, what I say to you is: “Good luck! Let me know how that works out for you.”

Actually, don’t bother letting me know because I know already how it will end up.

Hopefully, those that think they are in control and reject God will feel that nudge and accept the leadership of the Lord so that they can, through God’s total control, finally have real control of their life.

Parashah Re’eh (See) Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17

Moses continues to review all the commandments that God has given to the Israelites over the past 40 years. He tells them that as soon as they cross over the Jordan and enter the land He has given to them they are to place the blessing for obedience on Mt. Gerezim, and the curse for disobedience on Mt. Ebal.

Interesting note: these are called the “Shoulder Mountains” because they are across from each other, like a pair of shoulders, and below them is the Valley of Shechem. When all the people, split between the two mountainsides, repeat the blessings and curses aloud, all the inhabitants of the valley below them will hear it.

Moses orders that all pagan memorials and standing stones, idols, etc. be completely destroyed and that Israel is never to do any of the things these pagans did. The people are also told that God will choose a place for His name, meaning a single location where sacrifices to Him will be performed. He orders that no one is to sacrifice just anywhere, but only where God tells them they can. If the tithe to be brought is too much to carry to where the Temple is, it can be converted to money, then when the person gets to the location he can buy the items from someone else.

Another interesting note: One of the reasons Yeshua (Jesus) turned over the money changing tables and threw the merchants out of the Temple courts when He came into Jerusalem (John 2:15) was because the animals they sold to the people for sacrifice were way overpriced, and many were not fit to be a sacrifice.

Moses reviews the laws of Kashrut (Kosher) and the regulations regarding the Festivals of the Lord. He gives the regulations regarding the Shemittah, which is the release of debt every 7 years, and warns against any one who is trying to seduce people to worship other gods, whether a prophet or a family member, decreeing they should be put to death.

Throughout this book Moses keeps telling the people that they are to choose which way they will live: in accordance with God’s laws or in accordance with the pagan practices of the people surrounding them. Even though God ordered every vestige of the pagan practices and people to be be utterly destroyed, He knew that there would always be a remnant of evil left behind.

Seems whether of good or evil, there is always a remnant, somewhere.

The bible verifies God gave us Free Will to choose our path. Too often I hear people make excuses for their actions, blaming the enemy or someone else, or just saying that “God is forgiving so I’ll be OK”, as if God will automatically forgive us for sinning against Him even if we don’t really repent of it. This is one of the wrong teachings of Christianity over the centuries, i.e. that because Yeshua died for our sins we are automatically forgiven.

We are NOT automatically forgiven! Everything in the bible tells us that, and although we do have forgiveness through Yeshua’s sacrifice, it is not automatic. Think about it: if we were automatically forgiven, then what is the use of Free Will? If we are automatically forgiven, then the need to choose right over wrong becomes unnecessary, because no matter what we do we will be forgiven. Automatic forgiveness is, effectively, saying that we don’t even have to do T’shuvah (repent) from our sin.

How many of you out there really think that God will forgive an unrepentant sinner? If you raised your hand, you are way off base and will be very, VERY disappointed at Judgement Day.

God holds us responsible for everything we do and say. Us, me, you- the excuse “But that’s what they told me” is not acceptable at God’s Throne of Judgement. Moses repeats the commandments from God to the people many times so that it will, hopefully, sink in! I think Moses knows what is going to happen; I believe that when God showed Moses the Promised Land He also showed Moses the future. When we read the passionate plea of Moses as he reviews the laws and warns the people against rejecting their God for the gods of the Canaanites, you can hear his heart breaking as he tells them what will happen when (he doesn’t always use the word “if”, and often uses the word “when”) they reject God by rejecting His commandments.

The Torah is not just for Jews and the Blood of Christ is not just for Gentiles; there is not one bible for Jews and one bible for Gentiles. The Torah is for everyone, and the bible is one book- the first part (Tanakh) telling us how we got here and that a Messiah will come, and the second part telling us about that Messiah and letting us know what will happen in the end. One God for everyone, one Messiah for everyone, one set of rules for everyone, and one choice for everyone: joyful life eternal or eternal suffering.

It’s your choice- no one can make it for you and God will not allow you to let someone else take the blame for what you end up doing. No matter what you are told by humans, God says that He, Himself, is going to hold you individually and completely responsible for what you do during your lifetime on earth.

You may be thinking you can change later, or will think about it at some other time, but here’s the problem with that: you will never know when you’re out of time!

What if Moses Had Said, “OK”?

Do you recall reading in Exodus 32:9-10 how God was so angry with the Children of Israel that he told Moses to stand aside so that He could destroy that nation, then make a new nation from Moses? Moses, fortunately for them, tells God why He shouldn’t do that, so God relents and allows the people to survive. It was a pivotal moment in the history of the Jewish people, that’s for sure.

Have you ever asked yourself what would have happened if Moses had said, “OK, Lord- let’s get ‘er done!”?

After all, Moses was not happy that he had to care for this multitude, and to have a nation of your own descendants, well, what’s so bad about that? It’s not like Moses solicited God to do that. On the other hand, maybe Moses was thinking God would want to have another 12 tribes, so for Moses (and Zepporah, too) that would involve some physicality that, at their advanced age, may not seem as enticing as it would have some, oh, 60 years earlier.

We know that the plan, as it is today, started with God creating Adam, who sinned and was sent out of the garden, bringing everyone into sin from their birth. A few generations later Noah was a type of Messiah, in that through him mankind was saved. But there was still original sin, so we fell back into rebellion. Next we have Moses, who is another type of Messiah, saving not the world (as Noah did) but the Jewish people from eventual destruction under Egyptian rule. The next step in God’s plan was Yeshua, the Messiah promised throughout the Tanakh. Yeshua saved more than just the Jews, He provided salvation for the entire world.

BUT…what if Moses had agreed? Would the plan of salvation come from a different angle?  For instance, there were 12 Apostles, but was that because God wanted 12 or only because there were 12 Tribes, initially? If God had made a nation from Moses, since Moses was a Levite, wouldn’t the nation of priests that God said he was creating (Exodus 19:6) be accomplished in one fell swoop? There wouldn’t be a need to have a tribe for kingship (Judah) and one for worship (Levi), but instead we would have the prophet/king/priest role all in one, right from the start. Moses is a precursor of Yeshua in that not only did he free us from slavery, but he was also king and prophet and priest, all in one. That is what Yeshua will be when He comes into His kingdom on earth. So if Moses had been the “new” Patriarch, would we need to have more than one tribe? And would we have had to see the Temple destroyed? Would Yeshua have come sooner? Would the enemy already be subdued and we would all be in God’s presence?

Who knows? I have my degree (undergraduate) in History, and I learned then about the danger of conjecture, i.e., assuming what would have happened “if” things went differently. It is fun to think about “what if…”, but we shouldn’t use conjecture when we are studying history. The same holds true when studying the bible.

The fact is that Moses knew better than to have a nation come from him because the nation was already there. Most will say that God really had no intention of destroying the people- He was only testing Moses. I believe that God does test us, but I also think too often we use that explanation when we don’t understand, or feel “uncomfortable” with the idea that maybe God really did want to do something we don’t ordinarily think God would do. I feel we pull the “God was just testing him” card out too quickly when we don’t understand what God was really planning. Sometimes we just don’t know what God intended; for me, I feel that if He wanted us to know it, He would have made it clear to us.

So what’s the bottom line to today’s drash? It’s that there could have been many different ways throughout history to get us to where we are today, and although it is fun to think about “What if?”, the thing that matters is not what if, but what is. We need to keep focused on the present and work towards the future. I love History and will never stop reading the bible, but I am not concerned with understanding why God did what He did or what might have happened- I am concerned with maintaining my relationship with God today and to strengthen it in the future. We need to understand the past so that the mistakes that have been made are not repeated in the future.

Know the past, but commit yourself to learn what God’s plan is (for you), and appreciate that He knows what is best for all of us. Don’t get stuck in the past thinking about “What if”: people who can’t get past their past have no future.

having control doesn’t mean being in control

Anyone who believes that God is the Supreme Being who created the Universe, and who created life on Earth, and who has done all the things we read about in the Bible doesn’t have any problem also believing that He is in charge of everything. Believers believe that God controls everything.

Or does He?

My answer is: no, He doesn’t. Not that He can’t, just simply that (I believe) often He just chooses not to.

You see, being in control of everything doesn’t mean that you are controlling everything.  The word we use for this phenomena is: delegation.

When we read the stories in 1 and 2 Kings we see how God uses other rulers, such as Pharaoh (a couple of them throughout the ages) and Nebuchadnezzar, for example, to be His means of punishing the Israelites for their rebellion and idol worship. God sent them, so He was in control, but He also punishes them afterwards for their unusually cruel, sadistic and self-centered actions when doing His work. So, if God is in total control all the time, and he sends “Nebbie” to kick Tzidkiyahu’s tuchas, why punish Nebbie for just doing what he was supposed to do?

According to the bible it was because of what Nebbie did that he wasn’t supposed to do, by (as I mentioned above) being extraordinarily cruel and later thinking himself higher than God. So God was in control of what He wanted to get done, but He delegated the means and ways of doing it to Nebuchadnezzar, who did what he wanted to and not what God sent him to do.

God was in control, in that He sent the army against Israel to punish them, but He wasn’t controlling what happened because He gave that control to Nebuchadnezzar.

We can see this in the story of Job: God delegated authority to Satan to do harm to Job, but He was still in control in that He limited what level of harm was allowed.

We see this in the story of Shaul ben Kish (Saul, the first King of Israel), in that God caused Saul to prophesy even when he was unwilling to do so, yet Shaul did many things wrong, which caused God to take control back and appoint David as King.

We see this in the story of Yeshua (Jesus) at the rock in Gethsemane,  who prayed that He be delivered (if possible) from what was going to happen to Him. God could easily have stopped that whole affair, but He delegated the authority to Pilate and allowed the slaughter of His son to take place. God had control over it all, but He let the people be in control of the events.

Jonah was called, then he took control and ran away; God took control back and sent a storm (which was destroying the ship.) Eventually, Jonah took back control of the situation and sacrificed himself to save the others on the ship. God took control and sent the fish to save Jonah, and left the rest up to Jonah. It was Jonah who ultimately made the decision to go to Nineveh- if not, he might still be there today, trying to get a good cell signal from the belly of that fish. God called Jonah, Jonah took control and fled, God took control back and sent the storm, Jonah took control back and saved the ship and crew, God controlled the fish to let Jonah think about it for three days. Again, God controlled events just enough to let Jonah decide; God gave Jonah control of his own decision.

How many times do we hear this question, “Why do bad things happen to good people, and how can God allow that to be?” The answer is because we live in a cursed world and bad things happen. God is in control; yet God has said He causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, alike (Matthew 5:25.) He also said that He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy (Exodus 33:19.) What that means (to me) is that God is in control but He chooses not to control everything that happens.

We have free will, mainly so that we can decide to worship God; if God controls our will, then we can’t choose to worship Him, and that is NOT what He wants from us. God will often (as we see above) control the periphery of our life, make things happen that lead us to a decision, but ultimately we are in control of what decision we make. Who knows how many people over the millennia God has called to do His work but at the last minute they decided not to. God could have made them, but He didn’t, and because He is in control, total control, He called someone else until the plan God had was accomplished. This is what Mordecai meant when he told Hadassah (Esther) in the Book of Esther 4:14:

 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father’s house will perish: and who knoweth whether thou art not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

This is the same position every one of us finds ourselves in, every moment of every day: maybe we are here for a purpose we aren’t aware of, and standing on the precipice of being able to do something wonderful that will, maybe one day, affect all mankind?

If only I knew what the heck that was!!

God is in control of everything, which is the very reason why He doesn’t have to control everything. Whatever He wants to happen will happen, but it is up to each of us to do our part of that plan, to meet and accept the calling God has for us. I don’t know what that is for me- maybe this blog? Maybe my book? Maybe my position at the Zionist Revival Center here in Melbourne? I really don’t know, but I am trying to keep my ears open and my eyes open to see and hear His calling on my life. I don’t want to “pull a Jonah” when the opportunity comes.

Do you see how God has influenced your life? The times He took control and the times He allowed you make your own choice? We can be confident that God’s plan for salvation is true and will be accomplished, in fact, already has been accomplished through Messiah Yeshua. We can also be confident that whatever God wants to happen will happen. The only thing we can’t have any real confidence in is ourselves, and you are the final ingredient in God’s recipe for the calling in your life.

Don’t screw up the stew- keep looking for the opportunities to do God’s work that He will place along the pathway as you walk through this life, and when you see them, choose to do God’s work. God is in control, and he is letting you control what you do.

Choose to do what pleases Him.

 

 

Right to Choose is Right to Reject

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It ain’t easy.

 

 

Will I or Won’t I?

Will I or won’t I …what? What is this thing I am supposed to do or not supposed to do?

That thing is: make a choice.

We are all given free will so that we can make our own choices, yet we abrogate that right, over and over. How? By allowing others to make that choice for us.

Do you read the entire bible? I mean, from Genesis all the way through to Revelations? And if you do, that’s good, because like it or not, you are going to be held responsible for everything that is in that book, from Genesis through Revelations.

In the bible God tells us what He wants from us: how to worship Him and how to treat each other. Yeshua said on these two laws, to love God and to love each other, rest the entire meaning of the bible.

Yet, how many people accept what they are told they should do without reading it for themselves? How many people (maybe you, too?) accept from “learned” men and women what the bible means, and what God wants you to do?

Wait a minute! Didn’t I just say God told us how to worship Him and treat each other? If God has said what we should do, then why is someone else telling me something different? If we all worship the same God, then why are there so many ways to worship Him? Why do some religions say drinking is OK and others call it a sin? Why do some people only eat what God said to eat and others ignore it? Why do some people think that it is OK to do some things and others say it is a sin?

The answer is: God has no religion, but people do. People created religion in order to further their own goals, to make you do what they want you to do, and to gain power and authority over you that they should not have.

Will I or won’t I? Will you or won’t you? That’s the question: will you accept what you are told to do and follow whatever form of worship you have been raised with, or will you read the word of God, the ENTIRE word of God, and accept only that whatever God said, in the old and the new, is what He wants from us. If you can start with this, just make a choice to read what God says and willfully accept that His words are just as valid today as they were that day when the Israelites heard Him on the mountain, then you are beginning a journey that will bring you closer to God, gain you more blessings on Earth (when you start to obey all His commands) and help to secure your salvation.

I am not saying to disrespect your spiritual leaders, but I do ask that you remember they are human, and just as full of human weaknesses as we all are. They are also just as willing to accept what they have been told (or maybe I should say, just as unwilling to question what they have been told) as you are.

The people who worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have been led astray from the pure word of God. When God showed Himself to the Israelites, and (consequently) the world, there was only God’s laws or paganism. That was it. And for the next 1600-1700 years or so, there were Jews that worshiped God and there were the pagans. After the resurrection of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) and the giving of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), the pagans began to convert. Not to Christianity- there wasn’t any such thing then. They were converting to Judaism, or more accurately, they were converting to the belief in a single, all -powerful God whose commandments about how to live were in the Torah. They were learning how to worship God as He said to.

Then all heck broke loose- the government took over the religion. The Jews became separated from the converting pagans, and out of the midst of that confusion came Christianity. Government regulated, government decreed and government ran. Worship of God became state-run religions: Italy and Spain are Catholic, Great Britain is Protestant, Germany is Lutheran, …must I go on?  Yes, and Israel is Jewish, but there is a difference- Israel has always been Jewish because that is where Judaism began and because that is what God decreed. God didn’t come down from the mountain and tell Henry VIII to separate from the Roman Catholic Church, Henry did that so he could divorce his wife.

I could go on, but the point is being lost in the history- you have to make a choice. Like it or not, you are going to be held accountable for how you worship God, and that will be weighed against is what is in the Torah. It is not going to be based on what your Priest, Minister, or Rabbi told you is allowed, and when you try to use that lame, childish excuse, “But that’s what they told me to do” you will not get very far with that, at all.

I am very concerned for people. I am intolerant of what I call “Programmed Stupidity”, which is people misusing their gift of free will to freely choose to not choose but be told. Faith is all about making a choice. We all choose what we will believe, and that choice will follow us not to the grave, but beyond the grave to the Throne of Judgment.

They say you can’t take it with you, and they are right, except for one thing: the choice we make about God. That will follow us past this life into the next. You can’t tell me I am wrong, anymore than I can tell you you are wrong, because neither of us has died and come back from beyond the grave. However, I respect your right to make your own choices and you should, at least, respect my right to do the same.

Will we or won’t we? We are all in this together- there is only one planet, only one species dominating the planet (the different colors and facial formations don’t matter- they are only skin deep), and there are many, many different religions, each with it’s own god. Even within Judeo-Christian religions, each religion has it’s own god, because the god of Lutherans says to do things differently than the god of Jews, than the god of Western Orthodox, than the god of Latter Day Saints, then the god of….well, you get the picture.

One God, one way to worship, one way to treat each other- what God told Moses, Yeshua told His disciples- nothing new, nothing different, just a more detailed and thorough explanation of the same thing. God told us what do do, Yeshua showed us how to do it.

That is what I have chosen to believe, and that is what I will take past the grave. When I present myself to God, I will be able to say, if nothing else, that I tried to follow what He told me to do from the commands He gave us.

Will you be able to say the same thing?

free Will or predestination?

I was reading (in the New Covenant writings) some of the Epistles to the Messianic Communities in the Diaspora this weekend and noticed how Shaul (Paul) and Kefa (Peter) write in a way that seems to indicate God has predestined those who will be saved.

We have Ephesians 1:5 (“Having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,…“) and Romans 8:29-30 (“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”)

Even in Psalm 139: 16 it says, Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

There are other verses in the Bible that seem to indicate we were chosen beforehand, that we are the elect, the special ones who have found favor, yadda-yadda-yadda. It got me wondering if there really is something to the idea of predestination, which says God has already made His decision about who will go and who will not.

But then I came to my senses. I thought that if we are predestined, then the prayers for my children, and everyone else’s prayers for those who are not saved to be saved, are useless. The divine commission to make disciples is a waste of time because those who are chosen will become disciples without us and those who are rejected , well, tough luck! Why waste my breath, why “kick against the goads”  to make Believers out of non-believers if those who are to be will be and those who are not to be are already screwed?

Ridiculous, isn’t it?  All these verses don’t mean that an individual is chosen and another individual is rejected, it means that God has formed the way for everyone to find salvation through Messiah Yeshua. It means that what He has done is to choose life for us and provide the means for us to take hold of it.

In Ezekiel 18 God says that he doesn’t want anyone to die and that He wishes all sinners would turn from their sin, and live. God isn’t a liar, so if He wants people to turn from their sins, then he must have made it possible for us to make our own decisions about what we do or don’t do.

Ergo: Free Will.

Another argument for free will is that God owns everything, He is in control of everything (although that doesn’t mean He does control everything- He can, but He chooses what to control and what to leave alone) and yet, there is one thing that He cannot control or have unless we give it to Him: our love, faithfulness and obedience. If we have the ability to choose to give God our love and faith, then we have the ability to choose to reject Him.

Ability to choose is called Free Will.

Next time you run into a Calvinist, or anyone who says that God has predetermined or predestined those who will be saved, enlighten that person with Ezekiel 18 and the above argument for free will. You can even throw this in, if it comes down to it: if God has chosen who will be saved and who won’t, then why did He need to send Messiah Yeshua to die for our sins?  After all, those chosen are already in and those rejected have no chance, so why provide a means through which your fate can be changed?  If your fate is sealed before you are born, then why tell us that all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved?

Without free will, this whole Messiah “thing” makes absolutely no sense.

God has given us free will: it was evident in the Garden, it is clear throughout the history of the Jewish people and the writings of the New Covenant. It is clear from the many times God has stated through the Psalms and the prophets that He wants us to turn from our sin so that we can live. Why ask us to turn if He has already decided?

I’ll tell you who really doesn’t want you to have free will- religion. That thing called “religion” is dogmatic, stoic, and enabling. It doesn’t want you to think, it wants you to follow. It doesn’t want you to question, it wants you to obey, blindly. It doesn’t want you to decide for yourself what is the truth, it wants you accept without question what it tells you is the truth.

God has no religion, only rules. He tells us how to worship Him, and how to treat each other. And we have the right, the God-given right, to decide for ourselves if we will do what God says or not.

Free will is a two-edged sword: it cuts both ways. Do as God says and the world will hate you, do as the world says and you have to reject God (He still loves you, but His judgment will be righteous.) So, whatever you choose, understand that it is your choice. If you choose to do what you are told by religion, without question or investigation, that is a choice.

We all have been given free will to make out own choice- better make sure it’s the right one!

Parashah Re’eh (Behold) Deuteronomy 11:26 – 16:17

With this parashah we leave the First Discourse of Moses, the historical discourse,  and come into the Second Discourse of this book, which is the Rehearsal of the Code. Essentially, Moses reviews (as is pretty much what D’varim is- a review of all that has happened since leaving Egypt) the laws that God has given to the Israelites. These laws deal with religious institution and worship (although God doesn’t have any religion), criminal law, domestic life and concludes with tithing, first fruits and accompanying prayers.

The very first thing that God tells the people in this Parashah is that they have a choice, the freedom to choose for themselves, individually and corporately, whether or not they will obey the laws given to them. Obedience will bring blessings, and disobedience will bring curses. Seems easy enough, doesn’t it?

BTW…God doesn’t do bad things to people, but He does allow bad things to happen to those who reject His kippah (covering) of protection. God’s curses are not evil intentions designed to hurt us; those curses are actually self-inflicted. They are the direct result of “walking away” from God, which means leaving the protection He offers us from the world.

The world is a cursed place, full of evil and godlessness. When we obey God, it is like walking under an umbrella during a thunderstorm: we are protected from that which is all around us. Sure, our feet get wet, maybe from the knees down our pants are soaked, but overall we are not drenched by the rains. However, when we reject God’s laws, we are stepping away from the umbrella and showing that (to coin a phrase) we don’t have enough sense to get out of the rain.

The blessings are active actions, things God does on purpose to help and protect us. The curses are passive actions, things that happen to us when God is not protecting us. And it isn’t His choice to not protect us- we are the ones who choose to reject His protection.

Some may say, “Oh, yeah? Well, we aren’t really free, we don’t really have a choice because if we want the protection we have to do as God says.” That’s right- you do have to obey God to be protected. But the world has rules, too. Their rules are ones where you must conform, you must “take the mark” to be able to fit in with everyone else, and the world is not compassionate or understanding. If you screw up in the world, you’re dead meat.

God, however, is not like the world. If we should stumble and fall, He will move to cover us when we reach out to Him. He will bring the umbrella to where we are, lift us up, and let us come back under His protection. He will clean off the mud and the dirt and we will be able to keep walking with Him. Even when we totally walk away, we are always welcomed back when we realize our mistake and ask for His forgiveness and for His protection.

That ain’t happening in the real world.

So, yes- we do have a choice. As Yeshua said, we are all slaves to something, either to God or to sin. We choose, we decide, and we need to remember that to choose God is to choose a way that will  have us walking separately from the rest of the world, but under His kippah. If we choose the world, we will be uncovered in the storm. The problem is that once you get soaking wet, you don’t feel the rain anymore so you think you are OK. That’s how sin stays in our lives, and multiplies, until we get so soaked in disgusting things that the stench is no longer noticeable.

We do have a choice, we do have free will, and we do have the exact same options that the Israelites had some 3,500 years ago: we can choose blessings or curses, we can choose to obey or reject, we can choose life or death. And when we choose God, we choose His laws as He gave them- that means living within the rules of the Torah. The whole Torah, not just the parts we like.

The world will make you live with your choice, and God will always let you change your mind, either for the good or for the bad. His gift of blessings and salvation is irrevocable. That means it will not be taken back, but that doesn’t mean we can’t throw it away.

The choice is yours, so choose well and remember this: whichever choice you make, the longer you stay with it, the easier it becomes to stay with it.

Those that have ears, let them hear.