By Direction of the Commanding Officer

For those who have served in the military, the signature line “By Direction of the Commanding Officer” should be very familiar. For those who aren’t familiar with it, it means that whatever has been written has been done so by someone under the authority of higher command and although the letter (or orders, whatever) come directly from the writer, they are done so as if the commanding officer had issued them, personally.

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For example, when I was in the Marine Corps I was a Company XO (Executive Officer), and as such, I had authority over 350 men and millions of dollars in equipment. What I said, went, but I was under the authority of the Company Commander. I was most often the one issuing commands, but when the CO (Commanding Officer) issued a command through me, written below my name was the signature line “ByDir“, which meant that what I said was an order directly from the Company Commander.

Yeshua is the Messiah God sent to the world: to the Jew first, then to the Gentile. What Yeshua told us about how to live, worship and treat each other was not just from his own authority as Messiah, but was “ByDir” of God.

And when Yeshua used “ByDir” it was from the universe’s Million-Star General, the Lord, God Almighty!

Many times Yeshua told us that he does only what his father in heaven tells him to do or to say. There are too many references in the Gospels to annotate each time this is done, but when you read the Gospels (especially in John) you see this often. We read how people say of Yeshua that he speaks as no one ever did and that his teachings have the tone of authority to them. Well, of course, they do! He is speaking ByDir of the Lord! Yeshua’s every teaching, parable, riddle or lesson was directly from Adonai.

When we consider the above, we have to ask this question:

“How can anyone say that Yeshua did away with the instructions God gave us in the Torah if he was always speaking “ByDir” from God?”

Anything Yeshua said that was not in accordance with the “commands” God had already given would be like disobeying a direct order, wouldn’t it? If God told us to eat certain foods, but Yeshua said we didn’t have to do that, then he would have been disobeying God, right? Or, if Yeshua had taught that the Sabbath was on the first day of the week and not the 7th, he would have been in a state of sin, wouldn’t he?

The fact is Yeshua never disobeyed God or taught anyone to do so. His authority was given to him directly from God and was evident in the miracles he performed. And when people praised him, Yeshua always gave the credit to that person’s faith in God and in Yeshua, who was only acting under the ByDir authority from God as God’s Messiah.

When people preach to us, they should be preaching not from their own authority but ByDir; however, too often they don’t. They preach what they want to, such as when the Shabbat day was changed, the kosher laws were said to be only for Jews, and the festivals God ordered to be celebrated should be replaced with man-made “Christian” celebrations. These, and many other unauthorized doctrines and teachings have polluted God’s word and his plans for humanity. The ByDir from God has been misused and abused by those who teach not to edify but to create and maintain power over others.

We all have the God-given right to choose what we will believe, and God has given us all the information we need to make a choice. He has instructed us how to live and how to worship and how to treat each other. And through the Prophets, he has advised us to choose life (meaning obedience) because the only other option is death.

Don’t find yourself in the Brig for all eternity by refusing to accept the ByDir of Yeshua. Always question what your religious leaders tell you God meant and read it for yourself in the Bible, asking God to show you what he really meant.

God is the ultimate power and authority in the Universe, and there have only been two XO’s God has assigned: Moses and Yeshua. Those two, and only those two had God’s ByDir authority Remember that when you are reading the New Covenant Epistles, so you can understand them correctly, or when you hear people telling you that you are saved by the “Blood of Jesus” and the Torah is just for Jews.

Those people do not have ByDir and you don’t have to listen to what they say.  You are responsible for what you do, and what you don’t do, so make sure you know exactly who gave what commands so you follow the ones that are under God’s ByDir.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember this story- we will return to it soon.

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

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

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

Everybody with me so far?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parashah Pekudey 2019 (These are the accounts) Exodus 38:21 – 40

We come to the final reading in the Book of Exodus. For the last couple of chapters, we have read about the details of the building of the Sanctuary, as per God’s instructions, and in this reading, we are told how the work was completed, exactly as God had instructed.

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The parashah ends with the separate parts of the Tabernacle being put together and the entire structure being set up on the first day of the first month, in the second year of the freedom from Egypt. Once built, the holy items are placed inside the tent, and God’s Shekinah glory fills the tent, so much so, that even Moses cannot enter it. At the end of this book, we are told how the cloud stays over the tent during the day, and fire during the night, and how the people moved only when the cloud moved.

When I read this parashah, and came to Chapter 39, verses 42-43 I thought about Nehemiah. In Exodus we are told:

And Moses saw all the work, and, behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, even so had they done it. And Moses blessed them.

and in Nehemiah 6:14-15 we read:

So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, when all our enemies heard thereof, that all the nations that were about us feared, and were much cast down in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.

What struck me about these two passages is what they have in common: when the people did exactly as God had commanded them to do, with glad hearts and zeal to please God, they accomplished great works in a very short time.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows about God and certainly isn’t some great revelation that I have had, but it is significant and important (I believe) for us to remember and repeat.  When we do as God instructs, we accomplish much that we would never have been able to do if it was just for us, alone.

I love my wife, and when I do something that I know will please her, I put much more effort into it than I would if it was just something I wanted for myself. We are told throughout the Bible about love; we are told God loves us, we are told to love each other, and we are even told that without love we are nothing. All good stuff, no doubt. But there is something else about love that we aren’t told, which is obvious in the two passages, above: when we do something out of love for God, we are capable of performing miracles.

I am sure that I could wax prolific about that one sentence, but I won’t. It is something that you either understand and agree with, or you don’t. For those that do understand and agree, there is nothing else I need to say; for those that don’t, there is nothing I can say.

So I will leave today’s message with this: when you love God and show it through your actions and obedience to his instructions (which is what “Torah” really means) you will accomplish so much more than you ever thought possible, and just as Moses blessed the people, God will shower you with blessings.

I wish you a joyous and peaceful Shabbat, and as we say after reading a book of the Torah:

                                                          Hazak, hazak, v’nit’chazek!

                                         (Be strong, be strong, and let us be strengthened!) 

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

What Does God Really Want From Us?

I was reading Isaiah 56 the other day and thought about what he was saying.  It starts with “Here is what Adonai says:” and goes on to tell us:

Observe justice, do what is right, for my salvation is close to coming, my righteousness to being revealed. Happy is the person who does this, anyone who grasps it firmly, who keeps Shabbat and does not profane it, and keeps himself from doing evil.

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As I was thinking about how simple a commandment this is, I realized that God really doesn’t expect or demand too much of us. Let’s take a look at what God tells us he really wants from us…

Matthew 18:4– Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 

Micah 6:8– He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Leviticus 19:18– Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. 

Exodus 19:5– Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. 

Deuteronomy 11:27– There will be blessing if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am giving you today.

Malachi 3:10- Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

There are many, many more instances throughout the Bible where I can find the same kind of message from God, but these should suffice to show that what God really wants is humility, love, and obedience. That’s it! That doesn’t seem to be too much, does it? It doesn’t require a PhD in Theology; you aren’t commanded to know how to pronounce God’s Holy name; there’s no extra credit for being able to read ancient Hebrew or to know Greek.

In fact, it is even easier than what we have already seen to find salvation through faith by doing what Yeshua told us to do:

Matthew 22:36-40Yeshua replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments: what does that mean? Does that mean that loving God and others is enough? No! And the reason I say “No” is because too many people throw the word “love” around like it is a hot potato and cry at the top of their lungs how they love the Lord and they love Jesus and call each other “Brother” or “Sister”, or even “Beloved.”

Then they go home and do whatever they feel like doing, eat whatever they feel like eating, ignore the Sabbath and celebrate only those holidays that they like.

To love the Lord is to obey his commands- God told us that throughout the Tanakh and Yeshua confirmed it. Yet, even in trying to be obedient people will create their own problems.

We have seen in recent times many Gentiles desiring to get back to the Jewish Roots of Christianity because they realize just how far afield modern Christianity is from what Yeshua taught. That is a good thing. However, what is bad is that in their zeal they have created a new form of the same type of legalism that Shaul (Paul) fought against when Gentiles first started to accept Yeshua and learn about God’s instructions in the Torah.

Here is what is so remarkable about this: in the beginning, it was the Jewish Believers who were telling the Gentiles that they had to be absolutely obedient to every word of the Torah. Today, it is the Gentile Believers who are telling everyone else, including Jews, that they have to be absolutely obedient to every word of the Torah. And they have taken it one step further than that: just a few examples are arguing about lunar calendars, how we must pronounce God’s Holy Name, and why the names we have always used for God and Messiah are wrong. These matters have nothing to do with salvation, but to these people they (apparently) do.

Despite my exhaustive search throughout the Bible, I have not found where God says you must know how to pronounce his Holy Name to be saved. I found nothing that requires us to know the exact day of the week Yeshua rose from the grave to receive blessings and eternal life. I tried and tried but didn’t find even one commandment which says if we begin a Holy Festival based on a lunar calendar that isn’t the exact same one used in ancient Israel, then our celebration is unacceptable to God.

And I looked and I looked and I’m sorry, but I couldn’t find where God tells us our salvation is based on knowing anything other than that he wants us to be faithful, humble, to love each other and obey his commandments.

And, just for the record, there is no place anywhere in any Bible that says when you tell the “truth” you are allowed to be nasty, judgmental, accusatory or insulting. If you want to use that age-old, cliche’ excuse that Yeshua told it as he saw it, then first live your life exactly as Yeshua lived his. You want to talk as he did, then live as he did; if you aren’t doing that, then either be nice or shut up!

As far as serving God is concerned, I recommend using the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Schlemiel) and just live your life trying to humbly accept God’s authority and show both God and people that you really mean it by obeying him and loving others, meaning treat all people with justice, compassion and patience.

I know that isn’t as easy to do as it sounds, but on the other hand, it ain’t that hard, either.

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I welcome any comments- just be nice- and I look forward to the next time we are together.

Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

 

Legalism in a Nutshell

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Legalism- just what is it? Many Christians have, for centuries, been taught that it means people who follow the Torah and the Jewish lifestyle are not really saved because they don’t have faith in Jesus. To a Jewish person, following the Torah is the ultimate indication of faith.

So, what legalism is, in a nutshell, is a belief that one can achieve eternal glory and be welcomed into the presence of God (i.e., be “saved”) through the performance of activities, specifically those which God gave in the Torah. I call it performance-based salvation.

Faith is not a necessary element of legalism, but it is not absent in those who are legalistic. In other words, one can have faith in God and still be legalistic. The main issue is whether or not salvation is considered to be the result of faith, which inspires obedience, or if obedience is how we attain salvation, which also requires having faith in God.

Legalism is a form of putting the cart before the horse.

We need to have the right type of faith: is our faith in God to “save” us based only on obedience, or is it because we believe God knows what is best for us so we do as he says? Isn’t that the type of faith Abraham had? Trusting in God so much that he obeyed without question.

Here is what I see as the foundation of wrong teaching in all religions- Abraham trusted without needing to know why, but “religion” tells us why we should trust, why we should obey and that we need to do what our religion tells us is the proper thing to do. God has no religion, but men have created “religion” in order to have power over other men by pretending to know best how to do what God said to do.

I believe that organized religion is the ultimate form of legalism.

For me, salvation is the result of faith, which inspires obedience, and together they result in salvation…but that is too simplistic a definition. What I should say is that proper faith will lead us to the desire to obey God, and when we are obedient for that reason it will strengthen our faith even more; ultimately, just as iron sharpens iron, our faith will strengthen our desire to obey which will enhance our faith. It is a win-win situation.

There are more than a few times in the Bible that God has told his people, through the Prophets, that lip-service to him is unacceptable. It is clear from the Bible that just doing what God says, just to do it, is not true worship- it is nothing more than being an automaton. God doesn’t want automatons, he wants worshipful, thinking human beings who love him and show that love through faithful and unquestioning obedience.

I am not saying we cannot ask God for explanations- he is always there and always listening to us. But (I believe) with the proper faith you will ask God without demanding an answer, and be thankful if he decides to give you one. Usually, this is done through prayer, and we all know (or should) that prayers are always answered, but God’s answer may be “No”, or it could be “Maybe later, but not now”, or “Yes, but it isn’t going to be what you expect and it won’t come when you expect it.”  And sometimes we get an immediate answer that is just what we asked for- but if it should happen to you, don’t get used to it!

Legalism is still around today- not the same kind that Shaul (Paul) argued against, but from (mainly) Gentile Believers who are getting back to their Jewish roots. However, their form of legalism is so exacting that they forget faith is more important. They argue over how God’s name is pronounced, and stating that if you use what they consider to be the wrong name or pronunciation you are praying to idols. They are “anal” about when the moon sets and what calendar is the absolutely correct one. They universally reject all Jewish tradition, yet follow many traditional Christian teachings, such as Yeshua said all food is clean so we don’t have to be Kosher (Mark 7 or Acts 10), or Christians really only have to obey the 4 commands given by the Elders in Jerusalem (Acts 15), and other teachings like these. Their desire to be obedient is so strong that the pendulum has swung from one far side to the other, and their attempts to be correctly worshipful has caused them to stray off the path of true worship.

It is really simple: trust that God knows best, and believe that what he says is what we should do. Without question, without rationalization, without needing to know why- we should just do as God says because we trust in him and because…well, he’s God and we’re not!

Anything more than that is walking down a path that may lead us away from salvation.

No Way Out of This One

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I am hoping that you find this title- No Way Out of This One– interesting because it makes you wonder, “No way out of what?” And, remarkably enough, I have the answer, which is, “No way out of obedience to the Torah!”

You see, Yeshua preached and taught from the Torah, but later the Gentile Christian leadership (most notably Constantine and his cronies) changed the dogma and structure of Christianity.

When Yeshua walked the earth, what he taught was something that those Jews who accepted him as their Messiah already knew, i.e., the Torah. And that was the same thing that the Gentiles who chose to follow Messiah and worship God were being taught, which effectively meant they were converting to Judaism.  But after Constantine took charge of Christianity, he created a totally different religion based on Jesus Christ as the Messiah, rejecting everything Messianic (i.e., Jewish) about him, except for the teaching that through him we can receive forgiveness of sin.

The main difference between modern-day Christianity and its root, Judaism, is the Torah. Christians have been taught that the Torah is for Jews, and they only need the blood of Christ. Obedience to all of God’s instructions has been reduced to simply loving each other and being a “good” person; they have been taught that is all you need because this guy Jesus has got your back, so long as you ask him to forgive you.

In Catholicism you don’t even need to ask Jesus to forgive you- the local Priest can do that!

The reason I say you can’t get out of this one is that the Torah, whether anyone likes it or not, is the direct word of God given to Moses. God gave it to Moses to bring to the entire world. It is not, and never was, intended just for Jews. The Torah is not a set of laws, so much as God’s instruction to everyone about how he wants us to worship him and how he wants us to treat each other.

Let me go off on a bit of a tangent: there are parts within the Torah that are specific to a certain class of people, such as certain requirements for the High Priest and the Levites are different than for everyone else. Also, there are some instructions that apply only to women (for physiological reasons.) However, overall the Torah (which means “instruction”) was given to the Jews to learn so they could live it as an example to the rest of the world to show them how they should live.

Now that we know what God intended the Torah to be, let’s address the wrongful teaching that it is only for Jews. To do this we first have to establish some basic “givens”:

  1. God gave the Torah to the Jewish people;
  2. God has stated throughout the Bible that all who sojourn with the Jewish people (i.e., live with and worships as) are subject to the same treatment as natural-born Jews (Lev. 24:22; Numbers 15:15);
  3. God says eventually the entire world will worship him (Isaiah 60:1-3; Zech. 8: 22-23)
  4. God wants the people to learn Torah from the Jews (Deut. 4: 6-8);
  5. Yeshua’s Disciples preached obedience to the Torah (Luke 24:47; John 14:15; Romans 3:31; John 2:3-6; Rev. 22:14)

All of these statements from the Bible lead us to the same conclusion: the Torah is what God gave to the world so we can live and worship as he wants us to so that we can have eternal life.

And it is most clearly stated in Numbers 15:15 (your bible may have it as 15:14 or 15:16):

As for the congregation, there shall be one statute both for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you, a statute for ever throughout your generations; as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. 

That’s it! If you profess to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which means if you are a Christian you are included in that group, there is no way you can argue that God or Messiah say you are not subject to the same requirements for worship and interpersonal relationships as the Jewish people are.

God said it- one law for Jews and anyone who sojourns with them. And the New Covenant writings also confirm, absolutely, that if you have faith in God and Messiah you are an adopted son or daughter of Abraham- in other words, like it or not, as an adopted child of Abraham you are required to live subject to the same rules as his natural-born children.

Period; end of argument; close the door on your way out.

I know many of you have been taught differently, and you may not only dislike what I am saying but will passionately refute it. Go ahead- try. Look throughout the Bible and find the place where God says his commandments are just for Jews. Find where Yeshua says forget what my Father told you- it isn’t for you. Show us any place in the entire Bible where God or Yeshua or any of the Disciples say Christians don’t have to obey any of the laws or commandments in the Bible.

Obedience to Torah just makes sense, doesn’t it? If you are going to worship God then you should want to do as he says. Abraham did, David did, the Prophets did, the Apostles did, and even that nice Jewish tentmaker from Tarsus did. And the Gentiles that were accepting Yeshua as their Messiah, and worshiping God instead of their pagan deities were converting to Judaism… and THEY also were doing as God said to do in the Torah. Not all at once, but slowly over time they were expected to learn it (Acts 15:21.)

Starting right now, if you have been living your life separated from God’s instructions, read the Torah. What can it hurt you to learn how God wants you to live? And once you know what is in the Torah, if what some “person” has told you is the way to worship God but it is not confirmed by the Torah, ignore it.

Most people know that if something is really easy to do it probably isn’t all that worthwhile doing, and believe me when I tell you that worshiping God correctly, as he said to do it in the Torah, is not easy. But it is the most worthwhile thing you will ever do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parashah Ki Tavo 2018 (When you come) Deuteronomy 26 – 29

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As Moses finishes his Second Discourse (review of the laws) he starts the Third (and final) Discourse in Chapter 27, which is the enforcement of the laws.  This culminates in Chapter 28, the Blessings and the Curses chapter in which we are told what blessings we will receive for obedience, and the horrible litany of curses that will befall us for disobedience.

All of which happened: we were mightily blessed when we obeyed, and when we disobeyed we were even more mightily cursed. 

One interesting point of detail before we start: in 26:1 we are told to bring the first fruits of the land to the Cohen as a sacrifice to God, and in 26:12 it is referenced that this is the third year tithe. So if we are in the land for three years, why are the first fruits in the third year? In Leviticus 19:23-25 it says:

When you come to the Land and you plant any food tree, you shall surely block its fruit [from use]; it shall be blocked from you for three years, not to be eaten. And in the fourth year, all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the Lord. And in the fifth year, you may eat its fruit.

So the first fruits given unto the Lord after possessing the land could be only done in the third year. 

I have often written how Chapter 28 in this book is one of my favorites because it shows that God’s blessings are what he actively does for us, and his curses are really not active, but passive. In other words, God gives us blessings but when he curses, it is really just the absence of his blessings.  We live in a cursed and fallen world so when God isn’t blessing us (i.e., protecting us from the real world) we are subjected to the world as it is. 

But today I want to talk about something different. I want to talk about how much obedience does God really expect from us? I mean, really- no one has ever lived the Torah perfectly, except (of course) Yeshua, and he is the son of God and was filled with the Ruach Ha Kodesh (Holy Spirit) from birth. I know it says that the Spirit fell upon him like a dove in the Gospels, but it is clear from what we read in the Gospels that there was something unique and special about Yeshua from his birth and throughout his youth.

So, if no one can live up to the standards of the Torah, and God knows this, why require us to do everything that is in the Torah?  On the surface it seems really unfair, doesn’t it? 

But then again, we know God is fair. He wants us to live the Torah as he gave it, which he reminds us at the end of this book (“Do not add to or take away…”), but he knows we can’t. That is why he also gave us the sacrificial system outlined way back in Leviticus 1-7 (and repeated throughout the other books.) It is through the sacrifice of innocent blood that we can be forgiven of our sin.

That is really a wild concept- sin can only be forgiven through the shedding of innocent blood (Hebrews 9:22, based on Leviticus 17:11), which means the one who is guilty cannot shed his or her own blood to atone for their own sin. It must be the blood of another, an innocent. Perhaps that is why God created the animals that are acceptable for sacrifice- just so that we have something clean and innocent to atone for our sins? Hmm…maybe? Maybe the other things we get from them– food, milk, cheese, yogurt, clothing, etc.- is all just a perk?

Why would God give us commandments we can’t follow completely and create animals that are destined to be killed so that our sins can be forgiven? My answer is… I don’t know why. Really- I have no idea why we are given commandments we can never live up to and why the guilty are not allowed to atone for their sins with their own blood.

Perhaps, just maybe, it’s because God thinks and sees things from an eternal viewpoint and these things I am asking about are finite? Perhaps it is because the real horror of sin is that the sinner must live with the memory of a poor, innocent having to suffer because of what that person did?

Again, I don’t know. This is a sort of conundrum, an unanswerable question which will forever haunt us. I don’t even think there is an answer, but there may be a solution to the problem of trying to know why and never being able to: trust that God knows what he is doing, even when you don’t.

We have been reviewing everything that happened in the prior four books of the Torah in this last book, and we have been told that pork is bad and deer is OK; fruit trees must not be used for 3 years for first fruits but we still have to wait a full five years before we can eat the fruit- it is holy after three years but not allowed to be eaten for 5. The Red Heifer ashes are used to cleanse us but everything involved in creating the ashes makes us unclean. A woman is unclean for 7 days after giving birth to a boy but for two weeks if it is a girl.

In Judaism, we have different types of “laws”-  Mishpatim and Chukkim.  The Mishpatim are laws easily understood, such as do not kill and do not lie. The Chukkim are laws for which we do not understand the reason, such as why can’t we wear clothes of different types of material and why pork is unclean. The Torah tells us that Mishpatim are to be guarded but Chukkim are to be done.  This could mean that because we can understand the reason Mishpatim have been given, we must make sure that we do not change or rationalize why we should ignore them. With regards to Chukkim, because we cannot understand why they have been decreed, we really can’t justify or rationalize changing them so they should just simply be obeyed.

As an example, a “mercy killing” violates the Mishpatim not to kill, but we can rationalize by saying we aren’t really committing murder, we are doing a form of humane Tzadakah (charity.) However, since there is no reasonable or easily understood justification for not mixing wool and linen in a shirt, how can we rationalize disobedience? We just have to accept that’s how it is and this is what we must do, period; end of story; don’t slam the door on your way out.

That, of course, is very hard to do for us prideful, curious humans who need to know “Why” for everything. We question, we analyze, we change, we reject and we adjust things to fit our own desires. But God doesn’t allow us to do that, which may be one of the reasons we can never be completely obedient.

I think this is why Yeshua told us we need to pick up our execution stake in order to follow him. We must be ready to die to self, to kill our own curiosity and desire to know “why” in order to be able to accept the Ruach HaKodesh and be led by it. Yeshua also said we need to be like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of God; in other words, accepting, trusting, and unquestioning (although I think he meant kids older than 2 or 3 who can’t say anything without asking, “Why?”)

What we should carry away with us from this parashah is that we will not ever understand why God wants us to do all the things he requires of us.  Furthermore, even when we understand the “why” of certain Mishpatim we are not to rationalize disobedience. Overall, whether we understand the reasoning for a commandment or not, we should obey all of God’s commands without question.

It’s this simple- he’s God, we’re not, so we do what he says.

Born-Again Christians and Legalism Born Again

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First and foremost let me say that I am ecstatic to see more and more Christians wanting to know their Messiah and who he really is, and what he really taught. They are realizing that the Jesus they have been told about is not the Yeshua who lived, preached and taught from the Torah. This is a wonderful and prophetic happening and will lead to the fulfillment of the prophecy that one day all knees will bow and all tongues confess that Yeshua is Messiah; on that day we will all be one in Messiah, worshiping God as he said we should.

That being said, let me go a little further and point out that with this new-found love for their Hebraic roots and for Hebrew, both Modern and Paleo, I see a really upsetting dark cloud on the horizon. That cloud is a new form of the legalistic mentality that was prominent in the First Century, which both Yeshua and Shaul (Paul) were totally against.

Let’s get something else clear before we go on: “Legalism” is the system under which faith is not important or needed to gain salvation. Under a legalistic system (which is what the Pharisee’s taught) you can be saved ONLY by strict and complete adherence to the Torah, as well as the rabbinic traditions that the Pharisee’s added to one’s activities and worship. Again, so no one misunderstands: under the system of legalism, faith is not needed to be saved. All we need to attain salvation is absolute obedience to everything we are supposed to do stated in the Torah, as well as strict and total adherence to Halacha (Talmudic, or Oral Torah) requirements.

Now, on to today’s message.

I have been blogging for over 5 years, and am a member of a number of different “Christian” or “Messianic” discussion groups, and one of the most prevalent arguments that constantly comes up is how to pronounce God’s Holy name (called the Tetragrammaton), how it is spelled, how to pronounce the name of the Messiah and how these things are absolutely necessary to prevent one from being fooled by the Enemy and (even worse) to not call out to false gods.

In a word, these concerns are ridiculous! A bunch of drek that no ones who really knows the Lord would be worried about. God isn’t going to condemn someone to Sheol (hell) because they call out to Jesus, or when praying to God use the name Jehovah or Yahushua, or if they call Yeshua Yahshua. If the person praying is praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in their mind and heart, and invoking the name of the Son of God, the Messiah God sent to earth to save mankind, it doesn’t matter what name they use. God knows the heart and the mind of everyone, as does Yeshua, so believe me when I tell you they know who you are talking to.

Not only is the name issue important to these people, but I see other ridiculous issues- we should pray after we eat and not before because it is a commandment to thank God for our food only after we have eaten it. As such, they imply (or even state) that praying to God and thanking him for the food on our table BEFORE we eat is a sin! Imagine! Thanking God is a sin! Who woudda evah tought’ it?

This need to be absolutely accurate using God’s name, or taking one single sentence from the Torah (specifically, Deuteronomy 8:10) and expanding it out of context, to indicate that we must perform some physical act correctly or we cannot be saved is Legalism.

They may not say this that way, i.e. if we don’t pronounce God’s name correctly we won’t be saved, but the indication is clear- not doing this is a sin, and since we all know sin prevents us from being in God’s presence, well…you can all add, I’m sure.

I am concerned that the zealousness I see from a number of people for this minutia, this useless straining of gnats while swallowing a camel, is going to choke the seeds that were sown and are starting to grow, just as it did to the new Gentile converts to Judaism in the First Century.  This is why I call it a new form of Legalism, the same thing that Yeshua, Shaul, and the Disciples fought against when Yeshua’s ministry was first growing.  Once the Council of Nicene got in the picture, then this issue of new converts to Judaism being taught the wrong message was totally overridden by the separation of Yeshua’s followers from mainstream Judaism. Essentially, after Constantine, obedience to the Torah as necessary for salvation was no longer a concern for Christians.

For those of you who are reading this and thinking that I am wrong, so be it. If you really believe God will condemn me to hell for calling him Adonai, or God (many even think the word “God” is pagan!) then I can tell you right now, absolutely, you have no idea who God is or what he is about. I pray that one day he will open your eyes and minds to the truth that he is a forgiving and compassionate God, and not as thin-skinned as you seem to think he is.

“Legalism” is a tool that the Enemy can use to cause dissension and confusion within the body of Messiah. It was used thousands of years ago to dissuade new Believers from the truth and tie them up in traditions and activities that didn’t lead to salvation, and today it is still being used to do the same thing. Those who are adamant that God’s name is spelled or pronounced a certain way are leading us away from the truth of who and what God is, and not edifying anyone. Those who take one sentence out of context and imply that praying to God to thank him for our food before we eat is a sin are just being silly, and misinterpreting the Torah (which is the real sin.)

PLEASE!!!  Stop worrying about how to pronounce the name of God; stop worrying about when you are supposed to thank God (I can tell you absolutely that God will never, ever be upset with you when you thank him for his blessings and provisions); stop worrying about ancient Hebrew; stop worrying about minutia and insignificant details. What you should be worrying about, if you must worry about something, is being led off the path of true faith in God. Too much emphasis on detail and performance is going to lead you into a hole, and when you make it necessary for others they will fall into that hole, with you. God is compassionate and understanding, God is looking for faithful obedience and not proper grammar or pronunciation, God wants you to obey him with a contrite and humble heart, not puffed up pride from the study of ancient scrolls and a Gnostic attitude towards salvation.

We do not need to understand God or even understand his word to be saved- we only need to be like little children, obeying as best we can out of love for our Father. Faithful obedience to Torah is an act of love, a response of thankfulness and trust that God knows what is best for us.

I am not saying be totally ignorant, but instead read the Torah, ask the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to guide your understanding, and don’t get all tied up in minutia and details. Yeshua told us to love God and love each other is all we need to do.

I believe that studying the Bible is a wonderful thing, and should be a life-long activity. But- when it becomes more important to do every little thing, know every little detail, study every ancient manuscript and tell others they must do what you think is right otherwise they are in sin, you have gone too far. Once you place “doing because it says to” over “doing out of faithful desire to please”, you are legalistic.

I can’t speak for God, but I am pretty sure that so long as what we do, we do to please him and try to be in obedience, he will be pleased.