A Real Life Example of How Patient Prayer Works

If you have been to the About Steve page on my website you would have read that children have kicked me out of their lives, and how I have been praying fervently every day for reconciliation. I have always stated I know it is, ultimately, a choice my children have to make, and I appreciate and am thankful for whatever God can do to help them make that choice.

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I say it that way because I know God will not force someone to love or forgive- he will give us plenty of opportunities, he will send angels and people in our path to help steer us to that goal, but he will not force anyone to do something.

On each of the birthdays of my children, I send them a letter or email. My daughter doesn’t have an email address I know of, so I send her a letter, and my son has an email.  I sent my son his birthday greeting and (as usual) a request to please reconcile last October (2018). As always, I said a little prayer over that communique before I sent it.

Last week I was checking my email and guess what was there? That’s right- an email from my son saying all the things I had been praying he would say. We have exchanged some emails since then, I am getting caught up on what he has been doing (it has been nearly 6 years since we last spoke) and he seems to be much more open to having a relationship than ever before.

I will be taking this step-by-step because I don’t want to ruin things, again. I am pretty sure what I had done in the past to help alienate him, and although I was trying to do what I thought best for him, even at my own expense, clearly I could have done whatever it was I wanted to do in a better way. I will do my very best not to make that mistake again.

Even though we are not of the same belief regarding God and Messiah, he is willing to read my books which I am sending to him today.

So, prayer works! Not always the way you want it to, not always like you want it to, and almost never when you want it to, but overall….it works.

In fact, it works even on those who don’t necessarily believe in God, so long as the one praying does.

I am so happy that my son has returned to me that I had to share this today with you, as encouragement to all of you out there still waiting for an answer to your prayers. Be patient, keep on asking, and faithfully trust that even if you don’t see any results, God is working on it for you.

 

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

How Do We Discern What is Important to Know?

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As most of you who are reading this blog today already know, I am a member of half a dozen (or so) “Christian” or “Messianic” discussion groups. Constantly I see the same type of discussion being raised, and the main ones that generate the most passionate responses (which are often not very “Christian”, if you know what I mean) are ones dealing with the pronunciation of the name of God and the need to obey the Torah once you have accepted and asked forgiveness through the Messiah, which we call being “saved.”

The people who consider it paramount that we know and use the “proper” pronunciation for the name of God (and Messiah) are called “Holy Namers”, which is a somewhat derogatory epithet, but is accurate in that the names are holy. God’s holy name, which is made up of 4 Hebrew letters, is called the Tetragrammaton.

I, myself, do not use God’s holy name simply because I am Jewish and we don’t do that. It is our way of showing respect for God, as well as a “fence around the law” about not using his name in vain (which is Number 2 on God’s Top Ten Hit Parade of commandments.) I understand that there are those who use it often, and I have seen no less than 4 different pronunciations, each one being the only correct one.

When we talk about obedience to the Torah, well, we can go almost anywhere with that one. I mean, really- even within Judaism, there are 6 different sects that each have different ideas about how to obey the Torah. Not to mention the additional requirements under the Talmud! Oy! If we Jews can’t make up our own minds, how can we expect the Gentiles to make up their minds? Am I right?

Besides these two issues, there are other questions that come up: when does the day really start; how do we really know when the holy days begin (is it only when they see the moon in Jerusalem?); should we celebrate Hanukkah or any other traditional holiday if it isn’t specified in Leviticus 23?

These questions and many others are not invalid or unnecessary, but we need to ask ourselves: Are they important?  And to answer that, we need to know just what is important. And I don’t mean what is important to us, I mean what is important to God.

I think it is, first and foremost, important for you all to know this: I cannot tell you absolutely how to determine what is important. Sorry- I am raising an issue I do not have an absolutely correct answer for. The best answer I have is that we each have to determine what we believe God wants us to know. If you are absolutely certain that you need to know an answer to something that you read in the Bible but don’t understand, then ask God first (I think we can all agree that is the best place to start) then ask others, those you trust and know to be spiritually mature. I suggest you also keep an open mind because, at least for myself, I truly do not trust my own judgment, and what I may think I am “hearing from God” may really only be my own voice with an answer I want to hear.

Sidebar: when I think I am getting an answer from God and it goes against what I would like the answer to be, then I feel pretty certain that it is from God.

Discernment should start with learning, which comes from reading the Bible and listening to others who have shown they have both a high level of biblical knowledge and spiritual maturity. Also, pray to God to show you through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) the truth he has for you and to place in your path through life those who God wants to teach you.

He definitely did that for me, and I am very grateful to him for that.

I always use an “Acid Test” question when trying to discern what is important to know and what isn’t: I ask myself, “How does this affect my salvation?”  To answer that question also takes a bit of discernment and spiritual guidance, simply because we humans want to know everything there is to know about everything, and God doesn’t work that way. He keeps those things secret that he wants to, and reveals those things that he will (Deut. 29:29), and I believe he will reveal different things to different people so what may be important to me may not be important to you, and vice-versa.

There is no end to learning about God and the Messiah. From this moment on, until you get to meet them face-to-face, be open-minded, be studious (a “Berean” of the Word), and be flexible and compassionate with others who may have different priorities than you do. If you know someone is on the wrong track, gently and lovingly advise them. If they refuse to listen, so be it. Maybe they really do have a valid reason to know what you consider to be nothing more than biblical minutia. Who knows?

Finally, trust in God that what he wants you to know he will make sure you do, and what you don’t know but want to, well….always ask yourself if it is really that important? Are we saved by knowing exactly when the moon rises on the 10th day of Tishri? Is God going to condemn you to hell forever if you mispronounce his name?  If you celebrate a holiday that is a traditional celebration of God or Messiah but has a history that dates back to a pagan holiday, will your worship and prayers be rejected because of what that day used to represent, even though you are earnestly praying to the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?

I will end with something I do believe is important to know: I don’t think God is so thin-skinned to be upset by what something used to mean or how you pronounce whichever name you use when praying to him, so long as your prayers to and worship of God is from your heart and an attitude of faithful obedience and love for him.

 

Kol Nidre Message 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Careful What You Ask For

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I love golf. I have been playing since I was a teenager. For about 30 years I didn’t swing a club and now that I am retired, I am able to get back into the game.

My game hasn’t been as good as it was: no surprise there. However, I should be capable of playing what we call “Bogie Golf” and I am getting closer to that goal.

What’s this got to do with anything? I’m getting to that.

When I pray, I constantly ask God for better self-control so that I can pray as David prayed: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to Thee, oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer”  “(Psalm 19:14.)  I have often written how God always answers prayer, and sometimes (in my life) he has told me that when I ask him to change me that he will, but I have to work at it, too. I have to learn to call on his Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit) to help me achieve that change. This is what happened to me earlier this week while playing a round of golf- God answered my prayer by giving me the opportunity to practice self-control. Here’s what happened…

I was playing a pretty good game for our 9-hole round (league play) but starting at the 6th hole I screwed up a number of shots and ended up with a really bad score for that hole. I got a little teed-off at myself, and from that point on the game went downhill at an alarming speed until I ended up with a score that was nearly 10 strokes higher than I usually get. For 9 holes, no less!

I was angry, using language I shouldn’t, and smacking my club into the ground (at least I wasn’t throwing it like I did when I was a teenager.) I was also embarrassed because later, after cooling down a bit, I realized that I failed to do what God had been giving me a chance to do- be acceptable before him, and also honor him by acting in a way that others would see my self-control, which is one of the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23.)

Needless to say, I apologized to my golf partner for my actions next time we got together, which was two days later to play on a different course.

I am patient with others when I teach but I confess I have little patience with myself, never accepting less than what I think I should be able to do. So, on my way to this next game, I was praying and asking forgiveness for my lack of self-control. I also asked God to continue to help me, and that’s when I knew, yes I just knew, that I was going to have another bad game.  Not that I wanted another bad game but I knew that even though he is God of all the universe, he would give me another chance to show that I could pass the test. Which meant that, no matter how hard I tried, I was going to hit into the water, duff shots that I shouldn’t duff, find nearly every sand trap on the course and probably end up with another really lousy score.

But this time I was ready for it!

(I did have a lousy score, again, but not as bad as the other day and this time I maintained my self-control throughout it all.)

This story is the reason today’s message is about being careful what you ask for. God always answers prayer: sometimes it is “OK”; sometimes it is “OK, but not now”; and other times it is just plain “NO!” The tricky part is that when God is willing to answer our prayers, his answer isn’t always what we expect or when we expect it, but it is always just what we need, just when we need it. God answered my prayer to have better self-control by giving me the opportunity to work on it through my golf game. At first, I didn’t realize this, and that is why I failed so miserably at it. Through more prayer and the leading of the Ruach, I was able to discern what really happened that day I did so poorly: God was answering my prayer. I asked, he answered and I messed it all up. I wanted God to just intervene, to just re-wire my brain-housing group so that I would automatically have better self-control so I could be more like he wants me to be.

I forgot how a long time ago when I asked God to change the way I think about something, he gave me this answer: “It doesn’t work that way.” He gave me the insight to see that the way it’s done is we each have to work at those things we ask God to change in ourselves. It is up to us to work with God to make that change happen. And God will provide the opportunity, which is why we need to remember that through the experience of having tsouris in our life, even something as insignificant as a golf game, we can learn how to channel his Spirit to overcome our troubles.

I am somewhat proud to say that I was able to figure this one out fairly quickly and hope that going forward I will remember when I ask God for something to remain always on the alert for his answer.

I recommend that you do the same.

Minority Rules in America

I live in Melbourne, Florida, which is located in Brevard County in East Central Florida. In Brevard County we have Atheist groups that have not been asked or allowed to give the invocation at the beginning of a government or organization meeting. Consequently, one of the Atheist groups, calling itself the Central Florida Freethought Community, filed a lawsuit (they had other atheistic groups join) to force the county government to allow them to give an invocation at it’s meetings. The judge ruled that refusing them was a violation of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and ordered them to be allowed to give the invocation.

I agree with the judge- the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, and the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees all citizens equal protection under the law, which means that the Atheists should be allowed to have their freedom of speech. What I don’t agree with is that they have to be allowed to give an invocation: if I want to ask for God’s blessing on a meeting, then I should also have the same 1st and 14th amendment rights to do so, but apparently it doesn’t go both ways in America. The minority rights win out over the majority rights.

Let’s not forget the blatant hypocrisy of this entire lawsuit: an invocation, according to Webster’s Dictionary (1993) is:

  A appeal to a deity or other agent for inspiration, witness, or help; a prayer which is used at the opening of a ceremony or service.

So, if I do not believe in God or a superior being, who am I going to invoke for help? Who am I  praying to if I do not believe that there is anyone up there? Do you see the hypocrisy, or more accurately, the ridiculousness of this claim? They are an organization which says it doesn’t believe in God, a superior entity or prayer demanding that they be allowed to perform a prayer to a superior entity! Huh??

But this is America- the land of the free, the home of the brave, and the judicial system that doesn’t want God involved in anything it does. We did when we started, and we were blessed. Just look at the wonderful things we did when we were a young country: we defeated the greatest military and sea power in the world (twice!); we had some of the greatest leaders the world has ever known; we formed a government that was the first truly representative government and has outlasted nearly every other government that has existed; we were THE world super-power. All of that shows God’s blessing on us. But today? Today we  have kicked God out of our schools, our courtrooms and our government. And what do we have to show for it? Our system of education is much lower than the other developed countries, our economy is weakened, our government is  laughing stock (and not just the current administration), our media lies and misleads the country worse than the town gossip, and the most important things for our youth today are their cell phones and violent video games. We are no longer the leader of the world, in terms of the rest of the world looking up to us- we are a fat, sloppy and lazy giant that once was feared and admired, but now we are the world’s laughing stock. I served this country in the Marine Corps and still love it- it is still one of the best formed governments in the world and we are a sleeping giant- if we ever get our heads back in the game, no other country has a chance against us.

But our heads aren’t in the game, their up our…well, they’re somewhere else. This court case demonstrates absolutely that today the minority does rule in America. The case where the baker refused to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage is at the Supreme Court level- how stupid is that? What?- there isn’t any other bakery around they could get their cake? Will the government force a business to have clients that the business doesn’t want to have? Since when does the right of a business owner to run his or her business the way they want to take second place to someone who wants to force them to accept their business? If I went to a business and they didn’t want to serve me, why would I force them to? What in the world could ever make me think I would get good service from someone who is forced to do something against their personal, religious and/or business ethics?

And if I do not believe in a spiritual entity or prayer, why would I force some organization to allow me to give their invocation? There is only one answer- I want to do it not because I have something to offer, but simply because you said I couldn’t. Oh, yes- I forget to mention that the organizer and leader of the Freethought Community added that he would prefer prayer be completely done away with, but he is willing to accept that his group be allowed to give an invocation. In other words, these “free thinkers” are suing for the government to force others to stop thinking freely.

Oy! And the government agreed, and I understand why. What I don’t understand is how this even got to a courtroom. The judge should have thrown it out as frivolous and unfounded. We all have the right to free speech and to practice our religion (or lack of same) as we choose, so long as we don’t infringe on the rights of others. Well, if I don’t believe in prayer or God and demand that you do not prayer or even mention God, then aren’t I infringing on your rights?

The enemy is at the bottom of this, and he is influencing the government, which he will eventually be in charge of. That is why although I can’t stand to see our government and court system so brutally and obviously manipulated, it is what will be happening more and more, here in America and all around the world, until Yeshua returns and we get things back on line.

HOW GOD ANSWERS PRAYER

This is a spiritually mature topic, and without years of study in the Word, and even then only with the guidance of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), many still may not be able to understand the answer, so please don’t be upset if what you read below is confusing.

The answer to the question, “How does God answer prayer?” is this:

It’ll be either “Yes” or “No.”

Actually, that isn’t all that hard to understand, after all… is it? What is hard to accept is that when all is said and done, God always does what is best for us, even though we may not agree with Him at the time.

If you get a “No”, that’s the easier of the two to handle, because it’s final. With God, “No” is “No”- even Yeshua (Jesus) knew that, and told His disciples that is what they should do, in Mattitayu (Matthew) 5:37 when He said:

 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

So if you get a “No” from God, accept it, and move on.

It’s when God tells you “Yes” that you will have hard work ahead of you.  Why? Because when God answers you with a “Yes”, that means He has a plan for you with regard to what you asked.

If you are one of the rare exceptions where God answers you with what you asked for, and when you asked for it, WOW!  That is really a rarity, and you should get on your face and thank Him.

Most likely it will not happen that way, and His answer will come to you in three phases.

Phase One: When God says yes to a prayer request, it is almost always because what you asked for is in His will for you, and He will have something that you must do. After you have received His answer, if you fail to recognize or act on it, you will have rejected God’s command- that is never a good thing to do. Just ask Jonah. So, if you get a “Yes”, you’d better get ready for the other shoe to drop.

Phase Two: The prayer you presented to God is going to be answered, but what you asked for may not be exactly what you get. We don’t always know what is best for us; in fact, we rarely know what is best for us, and almost always know what is the worst thing we can do to ourselves, which is almost always exactly what we do. It’s remarkable that we live long enough to realize how foolish we are! God’s plan is not always your plan (there is an old adage” If you want to make God laugh, tell Him what your plans are.”), and what He wants to be done is what will, eventually, be done. Since the answer to your prayer may not be what you were expecting, you need to remember that an answer is coming and constantly be watching for it.

Which brings us to Phase Three.

Phase Three: You never know when the answer is going to come. You may want such-and-such, and want it now, but you will more likely get so-and-so, and whenever God knows is the right time to receive it.  God’s plans and His timing are perfect, and our plans and timing stink; God will give you His answer exactly when you need it, which is rarely when you expect it to come.

So there you have it: if you ask for something from God in prayer, always (of course) invoking the name of Yeshua Ha Maschiach, He will answer you, which will be either “Yes” or “No“.   If you get a “No”, you get off easy.

If you get a “Yes”, better be prepared to follow up: be alert for the answer and steel yourself to accept His answer and act on it.

Otherwise, you’re better off not asking for anything, at all.

Parashah Yitro (Jethro) Exodus 18-20

This parashah starts with the reunion of Moses to his wife and children, whom he had sent away while still in Egypt to be with her father, Jethro, the Priest of Midian. Now in the desert and with Egypt no longer a threat of any kind, Jethro brings Moses’ family back to him.

The next day, while watching Moses dispense justice all day long, Jethro suggests that Moses delegate his authority so that he, alone, doesn’t have to hear every single case. Moses accepts this advice and does as Jethro suggested.

Proverbs 12:1– “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.”

The rest of this section of Torah takes us to the mountain of God, Sinai (also known as Horeb) and the people are told to prepare to meet the Lord, who came down to the mountain in fire and smoke and gave us the Decalogue, the Ten Commandments.

Before reading the Torah, we recite this prayer:

Blessed art thou, oh Lord, our God, king of the Universe, who has chosen us from all peoples and given to us his Torah. Blessed art thou, oh Lord, giver of the Torah. 

And after we read from the Torah, we recite this prayer:

Blessed are thou, oh Lord our God, king of the universe, who has given us the Torah of truth, and placed everlasting life in our midst. Blessed art thou, oh Lord, giver of the Torah.

Why were the Jewish people granted this wonderful election- to be given the Torah, which provides everlasting life? The answer is simple: God loved Abraham, who was a righteous and faithful servant, and since one of the 13 Attributes of God is to bless those who love him to the thousandth generation (Exodus 20:6): that is why the descendants of Abraham were chosen, and blessed with receiving and being the guardians of the Torah.

Notice I said “descendants of Abraham” and not “the Jewish people”: I did that because once someone accepts the God of Abraham as their God, that person is considered by God’s commandment to be an adopted child of Abraham (Romans 9:8 and Galatians 3:29), and as such is afforded all the rights and privileges under the Torah (as well as the obligation to obey the Torah) as any “natural born” descendant.

The Torah was given to those who are descendants of Abraham: the purpose not being for their use only, but to show the world how God wants us to worship Him and treat each other (Exodus 19:6.)

Christians are descendants of Abraham because they accept Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah, and so through that relationship are worshiping the same God who sent Yeshua. That means they are adopted sons and daughters of Abraham, and as such, have also been given the Torah to provide them everlasting life.

Why then do so many Christian organizations teach that the Torah is (essentially) dead, and the laws and commandments in the Torah (which God said to obey) are not binding on Christians?  It’s like they want to have their cake and eat it, too- give us the everlasting life that Torah provides, but don’t expect us to obey the Torah.

Huh? Really?

I use this analogy when teaching about the split between Christianity and Judaism:

Remember the Bugs Bunny cartoon where Elmer chases Bugs into a tree? Bugs is sitting on a branch, and Elmer is on the tree sawing the branch, laughing derisively as he knows Bugs will fall to the ground. But when the branch is cut through, it is the tree that falls to the ground while the branch remains suspended in air. That’s what Christianity thinks is possible when they teach that they can ignore the Torah.

The Torah is what God gave to the world– the Jews are nothing more than the first ones to learn the lessons. God’s commandment to the Jewish people is to follow, then teach others to follow. That is how the descendants of Abraham are to be a blessing to the world (Genesis 22:18), and why it is so important to realize that accepting Yeshua means becoming a descendant of Abraham, which carries the obligation (even the commandment) to teach the nations and the peoples of the world about the Torah, which was, and is, part of God’s plan of salvation.

To put it more succinctly: if you teach that the Torah is not necessary, you are working against God’s plan of salvation. If you think faith is all you need to be saved, you are right, but without obedience then your faith is empty; everything (EVERYTHING) Yeshua taught us to do is directly from the Torah. Everything His Talmudim (Disciples) taught the newly grafted branches onto the Tree of Life to do was directly from the Torah.

I am not saying to be a Christian you have to convert to Judaism, and because I am Born Again that doesn’t make me a Christian- I am a Jew. But everyone who accepts Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah and Savior becomes a descendant of Abraham and, as such, is required to obey the commandments God gave to the descendants of Abraham- the same ones we read in the Torah, starting with this parashah and the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments is the “Reader’s Digest” version of the entire Tanakh, the first 5 dealing with our duties to God and the next 5 with our duties to each other. As Yeshua said, the most important commandments are to love God and love each other, and on those two commandments pivot all the writings and the Prophets (Matthew 22:36-40.) These 10 commandments teach us how to love God and each other, but neither God nor Yeshua ever meant that we should exclude all the other commandments found in the Torah. That is what Yeshua meant when He said that the writings and the Prophets pivot on, or are contained, in these two things. He wasn’t saying we can ignore the rest, He was saying that the rest will come more naturally from doing these two things.

We need to get back on line, back in the proper groove, which is to honor the Torah, which honors God, and try to obey all that God said we should do. There shouldn’t be differences in religions, in fact, there shouldn’t be different religions, at all! There should only be God and each other- that is the game plan He gave us to follow. Apparently, we didn’t like a lot of God’s rules, so we’ve made up a bunch of our own, from Talmudic laws of Halakha (Way to Walk) to Christian Canons and rites. And whom do these rules honor?  Not God, because they are man-made and their main purpose is to provide a few with power over the others.

Anything different from what God told us to do is not from God- think about that.

Salvation comes from faith, but faith without works is dead, so prove your faithfulness by your works: the works God, Himself, gave us in His Torah.

salvation: easy to get, hard to keep

“All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32) is a very comforting thought.

Are any of you reading this surprised to see me cite Joel? Were you perhaps thinking this is from Acts 2:21 or, maybe, it’s in Romans 10:13? You are correct: we do find this verse in each of those letters, but the writer was quoting Joel. In fact, there is nothing “new” in the New Covenant- it is all, every single word, based entirely on what is found in the Tanakh.

And when Joel said this, just like when Shaul (Paul) repeated it centuries later, the meaning was not that calling on the Lord is all you have to do, but that calling on the Lord is only the start of what you have to do, and continue to do for the rest of your life.

What is “calling on the Lord?” Is is asking for forgiveness? Yes. Is it asking to be rescued from a dangerous situation? Yes. Is it asking to be saved from your sinful lifestyle and the consequences that come from it? Yes, of course it does. But does it mean call on Him once and that’s it? You don’t need to do anything else?

Not a chance!

The Lord is wiling and able, and even more than that, desiring to forgive you. He wants to forgive you, He loves to see a lost soul return to the flock. In Ezekiel 18:23 he tells us:

 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

Being forgiven is something that comes easily because the One who forgives wants to do so. It wasn’t so easy for Yeshua (Jesus) to provide the pathway to salvation, but it is easy for us to get on that road. There is no toll booth, no “Exact Change Required”, and no traffic.

However, it is a rough road to travel.

As we go along our way, we need to stop in to the churches and synagogues that are along the road to get refreshed, and we need to avoid the “tourist traps” that have billboards all along the road. They want you to get off the road and travel to their hotel, or inn, or restaurant. They offer free drinks, free food and free accommodations. They are enticing and very hard to resist when you have been travelling a bumpy and dusty road.

What I am talking about is the “world”- everyone else who has chosen to take the smooth, paved highway to hell, with all it’s earthly pleasures. They want you to join them on their road as badly as God wants you to stay on His road. He knows it’s a hard road to travel, He knows that our very nature is to get on that smooth surface and glide through life, and He knows that what He is asking is hard for us. Not impossible, just hard. It’s designed that way, because the only way to prove we are serious and honest about our call to Him is to have us go “through the fire.”

And this isn’t to prove to Him how serious we are- God sees the heart, He knows our desires and our inner-most truths. The reason we have to go through hell-on-earth to avoid going to hell-for-eternity is to prove to each one of us that we are serious.  We are the ones that need to know what is truly in our hearts because, as humans, we lie to ourselves. If we lie to ourselves, then when we tell others the same lie it isn’t really a lie, right? After all, we believe it to be the truth, so when we tell someone else it isn’t lying, right?

Wrong. It is a lie, but it is not a lie of volition, it is a lie of omission. We omit the truth about something by pretending and convincing ourselves that it doesn’t exist or that what we are being told is not the truth.

For instance, if you thought that the quote at the start of this message was original to the New Covenant, that is a lie, but a lie that you were taught is the truth by someone who also was taught it was the truth. The lie is not where the verse originated as much as the lie that it is a Christian “thing.” Many Christian teachings are designed to ignore the Old Covenant because that is for Jews, and not for “us”. They are saved by their Torah but we have the Blood of Christ!

That is also a lie. Christians aren’t the only ones who have the Blood of Christ because Jews have the blood of Christ, too. Muslims have the Blood of Christ, as well. Buddhists, Hindi’s, Atheists, Skin-heads, Nazi’s, everyone has the Blood of Christ to save them!  He didn’t die just for Christians- He died for everyone. His blood doesn’t care who you are or what you believed in- when you call to the Lord for salvation, it is there for you. I, you, we are saved by the Blood of the Messiah, no matter what we did before we called on His name.

And when we call on His name, that is just the start.

Once you have been given salvation, it is not set in stone. No one can take it away, that’s true, but we can easily (as many do) throw it away. God gives you a ticket to get into the Garden of Eden, but you have to get there yourself. He provides the divine GPS, the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to lead us and help keep us on the pathway, but there are all those billboards. Come in for free drinks; children eat free; get a free night’s stay for every night you sleep here (Hotel California); take this short cut to the same destination because our road is smooth, and the gas is free!

The signs are enticing, they are overwhelming, and they are constantly in our faces. But they do not lead us to the place we want to go. That is why salvation is easy to get, and hard to keep, because the world we have to live in is cursed and sinful and it wants us to join it as badly as God wants us to be separated from it.

That is why almost every prayer we have starts with:

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu, Melech Ha Olam, asher kidshanu, b’mitzvotav, vitzivanu… which means: Blessed are you, oh Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments….

To be sanctified, to be made holy, means to be separated. And what we need to be, and remain separated from, is sin. Sin is all around us, not to mention living inside of us. It is our nature to sin, and that is why the road is so bumpy and difficult to travel: we have to overcome our own desires, and it is so much harder to do that when all we see, every mile, at every exit ramp, is the sinful world calling out and beckoning to us with rich and pleasurable rewards if we would only return to it.

Don’t be fooled. Stay the course, keep running the good race, and keep your eyes on the prize. Please believe me, or better yet, believe God when He tells you that the rewards at the end of your trek will be more than worth the effort it takes to get there.

prayer spam

When the Talmudim (Disciples/students) of Yeshua asked Him how they should pray, well….we all know His answer. But do we think about the line that goes, “Give us this day our daily bread…”? Do we think about what He might have meant by that?

Not the P’shat, which means the written word as it is written, but the Drash– the underlying, spiritual meaning.

I believe what Yeshua was saying was that when we pray, we need to ask only for what we need, then and there. Not for success in life, not for riches or fame, not for next week’s presentation to the Board, but for now. Right now, and only right now, and only what I need right now. I also think that God wants our prayers to go to Him, to the Father, to be delivered in the name of the Son. Not to the Son, not to a “Saint” who is supposed to, what? Intercede with Yeshua (Jesus) to intercede with God? Didn’t Yeshua say the ONLY way to the Father is through the Son (John 14:6)?

What does that mean? It means that our prayers are to be sent to the Father in the name of the Son, and not to the Son for Him to bring to the Father. When we pray to anyone, or anything (even worse!) other than God, Himself- God the Father, God the Creator, God the one and only and God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob- then we are committing idolatry.

And when we pray to God, do we pray for what we need now, and only what we need now? I have heard people pray, and I believe their prayers are earnest, but they pray for the same thing over and over, they use “Father God” over, and over, and over- the way a “Valley Girl” uses the work “like”- until I have to think that God is saying to Himself, “All right, already- I know who I am! Just ask for what you want and leave all the ‘Father God this’ and ‘Father God that’ out of it! Oy!”

Don’t pray spam to God. He wants to hear from your heart. I have seen people pause during prayer and I can see them start to sweat trying to think of something else to say. If you have nothing more to say, than what you should say is: nothing more. Just stop. Just end the endless stream of useless words and catch-phrases that are supposed to make you sound like Solomon blessing the Temple. That was a long prayer, and it was a really good one. But long doesn’t mean better. How about Moses’ prayer (Numbers 12:13) when Miriam was struck by God with leprosy? Did he go on and on, or did he just say, “Oh Lord- please heal her!”

Moses found those 5 words to be as effective and meaningful as an entire thesis presented by a graduate student in Theology. God doesn’t just see the heart, He hears the heart.

We see someone who is homeless and downtrodden and (usually) think the worst, yet God sees Job during his trials of faith. We see someone who is mentally or physically challenged and thank God it isn’t us, and God sees a caring, faithful and compassionate person who is thankful that no one else they know has the same problems.

The words we use when we pray are not as important as the condition of our heart. When King David prayed for forgiveness in Psalm 51, he said that God will not despise a broken heart and a contrite spirit. It is the condition of our heart that generates prayer pleasing to the Lord; the fancy King James style words we use, the number of times we say “Oh Lord” or “Father God”, or the length of prayer is all totally meaningless. That is only pleasing to humans who know only what they see and hear. People only see the P’shat of the world, and not the Drash of humanity. I think people just pray “spam” when they use fancy words and long, poetic phrases meant to impress the people around them, and I just have to believe that God is thinking, “Your prayer is to Me, but I know the way you are praying is to impress those around you, so let them answer your prayer.”

Remember: when you pray, God already knows what you need. He knows what you want, He knows is best for you, and He will deliver it when He knows the time is right for you. What you say will not influence His decision but what you feel in your heart will.

When you pray remember the advice Yeshua gave His Talmudim in the Gospels- do not worry about what to say because the Ruach (Spirit) will give you what you need. Trust in the Spirit to guide your prayer and don’t pray from your mouth: pray from your heart.